Thursday, August 27, 2015

FLESH AND BULLETS (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome


USA/1985
Directed By: Carlos Tobalina
Written By: Carlos Tobalina
Starring: Glen McKay, Mic Morrow, Cydney Hill
Color/85 Minutes/R
Region FREE
Release Date: August, 18 2015

The Film
A pair of divorced men fed up with their ex-wives bleeding them dry meet in Las Vegas and make a plan to kill each other's wife. The catch? If they fail to do so they're fair game to be killed as well. The plans get tangled when each man begins to fall in love with their respective target.

Carlos Tobalina is known for his extensive work directing X rated films in the '70s and '80s, plenty of which have been covered here on Celluloid Terror. He's no stranger to creating entertaining films and this rare venture outside of the X rating finds him creating a sexy thriller based on Alfred Hitchock's Strangers On A Train.


While the film doesn't have the budget, beautiful camerawork, top notch performances or signature Hitchcock moments, FLESH AND BULLETS does have well, flesh and bullets. The artistry of Hitchcock's classic is replaced with lots of nudity and sex (no hardcore shots), including scenes with adult stars Mai Lin and Sharon Kelly and some tense action scenes.

Is it fair to really compare the two films? No, probably not. There's no way FLESH AND BULLETS could live up to the film it is mimicking but Carlos Tobalina works within his limits and makes a largely successful skin and guns thriller that will appeal to a wider audience than his normal output.

The Audio & Video
It's immediately apparent that the film elements for FLESH AND BULLETS have been kept in pretty good condition because this DVD from Vinegar Syndrome is nice. The 16x9 transfer has a nice sharpness for a standard definition release along with an overall clean presentation and nice colors. There's some speckling and minor damage but nothing major or distracting. The mono audio sounds good with about as much wrong with it as the picture quality, that's to say nothing much.


The Extras
-Alternate cut of the film under the title "Wife Contract" sourced from a VHS
-Theatrical trailer


The Bottom Line
Sexually charged but not reliant on being hardcore, FLESH AND BULLETS is a fun, tense and seductive thriller that takes Hitchcock on a cab ride through 42nd street. Recommended!

FLESH AND BULLETS is available HERE

Monday, August 24, 2015

RUN, HIDE, DIE (DVD Review) - Image/RLJ Entertainment


USA/2012
Directed By: Collin Joseph Neal
Written By: Allison Monda
Starring: Allison Monda, Alicia Mendez, Ivey Bronwen
Color/75 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: September 1, 2015

The Film
A year after the tragic death of her husband, Addison and four of her friends get away from the real world with a trip to her in-laws cabin for a brief moment of peace and fun however one of the girls is hiding a secret and they're not alone as their trip quickly turns into a night of terror.

The best thing about RUN, HIDE, DIE, originally titled "The Anniversary" which I feel is a far better fit and doesn't have the cheap direct to video feel than the title it has been released under does, is that it knows when to end. The film is a quick 75 minutes, it doesn't linger around like that last late night guest at a party who refuses to leave. The script which was written by star Allison Monda gets us where we need to be and tells us what we need to know without as much as pumping the brakes. This is like riding in the carpool lane to splatter town.


The main draw of the film will be for slasher and torture fans as that makes up almost the entire second half of the film. There's no shortage of bloody violence and the gore is on display here. There's no real surprises here and the film is quite predictable but it doesn't make it any less enjoyable. This is popcorn horror through and through. The real downfall of the film is Addison's friends being quite the annoying and/or entirely too Plain Jane bunch. The supporting girls are plain and bland. I'm not expecting Shakespeare or anything, after all this is popcorn horror driven by bloody torture, but the attempts at creating interesting and developed friends for our lead are weak and half-assed.

The film feels that it could have been made at any time between the 1980s and today and I love that fact. No it isn't amazing and the characters are thin and the script isn't amazing but sometimes being average is good enough for a night's viewing.

The Audio & Video
The DVD from RLJ Entertainment looks okay but for a film shot digitally I expect better. There's a lot of compression issues and pixelation even in scenes without rapid motion or that are particularly dark which are usually the problem areas. When these issues aren't present the 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has a neutral color palette, and moderately sharp detail level. A 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound audio track is more than capable of handling the English dialogue and score. The mix is well done and the track is free of damage or distortions.


The Extras
Extras? What extras?


The Bottom Line
It's predictable, you've seen it before and the DVD release isn't the best and somehow I still can't knock it too hard. RUN, HIDE, DIE knows what it is and despite its shortcomings it isn't the worst film of the type I've seen recently. Or maybe I'm just in a good mood today.

RUN, HIDE, DIE is available HERE

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I-LIVED (DVD Review) - XLRator Media


USA/2015
Directed By: Franck Khalfoun
Written By: Franck Khalfoun, Brian Breiter
Starring: Jeremiah Watkins, Sarah Power, Nic D'Avirro
Color/96 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: August 11, 2015

The Film
I won't go into great depth on the film itself as our previous review perfectly sums up my feelings toward the film and nothing changed on a 2nd viewing. It's a rather unspectacular let down from a director I had hoped would continue making great movies after his remake of Maniac.

The Audio & Video
XLRator Media gives us a nice DVD for the film however with an anamorphic widescreen transfer that has good sharpness for a standard definition release. Detail is decent and the picture is quite clean and attractive overall. The English audio is handled with a 5.1 Dolby Digital track and sounds very clear and crisp and has a well done mix with the score. There's no damage or distracting background noise present.

The Extras
Aside from a trailer the lone special feature is a downloadable app second screen experience that syncs up with the film's dialogue and soundtrack to offer a unique viewing experience. Unfortunately my phone doesn't have a current enough operating system (and my phone is not particularly old) to try it out.

The Bottom Line
I'm not a fan of the film but the DVD is solid and though I'm not a fan of gimmicks that take the viewer's attention away from the film itself I must admit that the app download feature fits very well with the theme of the film and is an interesting idea.

I-LIVED is available HERE

Friday, August 21, 2015

EXTREME JUKEBOX (Blu-ray Review) - Troma


Italy/2013
Directed By: Alberto Bogo
Written By: Andrea Lionetti, Alberto Bogo
Starring: Alessio Cherubini, Elisabetta Loi, Guglielmo Favilla
Color/80 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: August 18, 2015

The Film
The town of Nova Springs is a hotbed of musical talent and fandom. Hard rock and metal rule and you're either a star on stage or a groupie or fan hanging out at the local record store or nightclub. Unfortunately a masked killer known as Naughty Rocky Boy is butchering people with a variety of instruments turned weapons. Naughty Rocky Boy isn't the only killer though, as one of the local hands has unearthed a cursed record of a deceased rock legend unleashing the mythical Killer Of The Woods on the town.

EXTREME JUKEBOX is Italy's answer to heavy metal horror. This slasher has a bodycount that Jason Voorhees wouldn't snicker at and a good bit of blood to go with it. It also feels like it should have been made around the time Jason was found on the silver screen on an annual basis. The film so badly wants to be cool but it feels like a middle school student in a rock band t-shirt awkwardly standing against the wall at a school dance all alone. The music references and styles are so far out of date that it is almost embarrassing. I was ready for an Axl Rose cameo, really. Both killers have a goofy get up that look silly and one reminded me of the DVD artwork from Full Moon's The Dead Hate The Living. Intentionally cheesy doesn't have to equal stupidly bad.

Watching the film is awkward, as it is choppy and at times all over the place jumping back and forth between storylines that hardly intersect. It isn't that the film is difficult to follow, and it shouldn't be, it is after all a slasher film, but the editing makes the film feel all over the place. It's one of several big problems that plague this movie.

What I had hoped would be a great addition to rock 'n roll horror movies such as Rock 'N Roll Nightmare, Hard Rock Zombies and Black Roses, all of which use their scripted music to add to the genuinely cool vibe of the film and are campy in the best of ways, EXTREME JUKEBOX is the exact opposite. It tries to force itself in to being cool and is low quality cheese instead of being that expensive imported stinky stuff it could have been. I hate to use the word but EXTREME JUKEBOX is a "poser" of what it longs to be.

The Audio & Video
Troma releases this Italian production on Blu-ray with a 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer and things looks good with a nice sharp picture and a strong color palette. Detail levels are high while black levels are good but suffer a little bit from crush. The Italian audio features English subtitles that are timed perfectly and are usually translated very well, only occasionally suffering from the odd awkward translation. The audio is well mixed and levels are steady with no signs of damage and no background noise.

The Extras
-Behind the scenes documentary
-Slide show
-Trailers

The Bottom Line
I wish EXTREME JUKEBOX lived up to the quote on the back cover of the Blu-ray that reads "The most brilliantly demented Italian film since Argento's Deep Red." but unfortunately it is far from brilliant and in absolutely no way, shape or form in the same league as even Argento's worst efforts.

EXTREME JUKEBOX is available HERE

Thursday, August 20, 2015

GARM WARS: THE LAST DRUID - Press Release (Arc Entertainment Acquisition)

ARC ENTERTAINMENT ACQUIRES GARM WARS: THE LAST DRUID


LOS ANGELES (Aug. 19, 2015) – ARC Entertainment has acquired US rights to the action-sci-fi thriller GARM WARS: THE LAST DRUID.  Directed by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) and co-written by Geoffrey Gunn (Siren), the film stars newcomer Melanie St-Pierre (Barney’s Version), Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and Lance Henriksen (Aliens).  ARC Entertainment will be releasing the film in-theaters and on VOD on October 2, 2015.  The deal was announced today by ARC Entertainment’s Head of Acquisitions Scott Moesta.

“Mamoru Oshii’s creative vision shines brilliantly throughout this film, with remarkable action and special effects from beginning to end,” said Moesta.  “We’re excited to bring this unique story to the big screen for audiences, and especially genre fans to enjoy across the U.S.”  

Visionary director Mamoru Oshii is best known for his seminal film Ghost in the Shell, a work famously cited by the Wachowski’s as a direct influence behind their iconic film The Matrix. 15 years in the making, GARM WARS: THE LAST DRUID is a live action/CGI hybrid about a world on the brink of total collapse. The planet Annwn, inhabited by the Garm, is engaged in perpetual warfare among three tribes.  One Columba fighter pilot, Khara (St-Pierre), embarks on a quest with an unlikely trio: Kumtak tribal elder Wydd (Henriksen), a sacred dog Gula, and one of the last remaining mystical Druids from a long forgotten time. A Briga soldier, Skellig (Durand), accompanies the small band after forging an uneasy truce with Khara. As they struggle across the land in the search for answers to their existence, they encounter raging storms, fierce giants, and mechanical mayhem. They survive these trials only to meet their most difficult challenge yet, a desperate battle against impossible odds for the truth they seek.
 
Joining forces with his longtime collaborator, composer Kenji Kawai (The Ring), and three-time Oscar Nominated Sound Designer Tom Myers (Up, Toy Story) of Skywalker Sound, Palme D’Or Nominee Mamoru Oshii delivers a feast for the eyes and ears. Lending their VFX artistry is acclaimed Toronto company Intelligent Creatures (Orphan Black). GARM WARS: THE LAST DRUID is produced by Makoto Asanuma (Gundam Wing), Tetsu Fujimura (Tekken), Mitsuhisa Ishikawa (Ghost in the Shell, Attack on Titan), and Lyse Lafontaine (On the Road).

Recent ARC Entertainment releases include The Barber starring Scott Glenn and Chris Coy; Molly Moon starring Emily Watson, Raffey Cassidy, Joan Collins and Dominic Monaghan; and Safelight starring Juno Temple, Evan Peters, Ariel Winter and Kevin Alejandro. 

 


# # #

 


 ABOUT ARC ENTERTAINMENT

ARC Entertainment (www.arc-ent.com) is a fully integrated distribution company providing both physical and digital distribution and sales services for entertainment-based products.  ARC Entertainment monetizes Content in multiple revenue streams including: Theatrical Distribution, DVD, Blu-ray, Digital, Electronic Sell-through, Streaming, VOD, PPV, Pay and Free TV.  ARC Entertainment’s unparalleled relationships with national retailers, coupled with strong sales and marketing expertise, enables the Company to explore unique programs and business models for its content partners.

Katrina Wan
KATRINA WAN PR
(d) 323-240-9996
(o) 424-284-4065
9465 Wilshire Boulevard, 3rd Fl.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
katrina@katrinawanpr.com

Friday, August 14, 2015

NORTHMEN: A VIKING SAGA (DVD Review) - Anchor Bay


Germany/2014
Directed By: Claudio Fah
Written By: Bastian Zach, Matthias Bauer
Starring: Ed Skrein, Ryan Kwanten, James Norton
Color/97 Minutes/R
Region 1
Release Date: August 11, 2015

The Film
A group of vikings wash ashore in Scotland after their longship sinks in rough waters. Immediately having to fight the group is able to capture the king's daughter and plans to hold her ransom to buy their freedom. After learning that the warriors the king sent out to retrieve his daughter may have other motives than retrieving his daughter, the vikings, a christian monk and the princess have to fight their way across the land for their escape and survival.

I'm a sucker for any sort of viking or middle ages knight and king fantasy adventure and NORTHMEN: A VIKING SAGA is one of the better ones I've seen in recent years. Director Claudio Fah really captures the intensely violent and beautifully choreographed action with skill and without a heavy hand towards annoying slow motion. The movie was filmed on location in South Africa and Ireland and the settings are expansive and gorgeous. I never once questioned that this was Scotland around the time of the Dark Ages.


NORTHMEN is filled with all of the pre-requisites in a viking movie- talk of Valhalla, debates with Christians over religion, burning their fallen comrade and so on. There's no raping or pillaging here. Our protagonists' valor and honor is never in question and it is a refreshing change to see the vikings presented in a positive light instead of the typical story of a Christian army battling the invading viking savages.

I can't overstate how violent and purely brutal this film is. It never enters the realm of corny or cheesy which plagues many fantasy films of the ilk. There's a bit of CGI used for bigger scale moments but it is rendered decently and doesn't stick out too bad. There's also a decent story here but not one that we haven't seen a hundred times and not one that needs digging into too deeply.

NORTHMEN is credits to credits fantasy action not for the faint of heart and is more entertaining and better made than many similar films.

The Audio & Video
Anchor Bay gives NORTHMEN its home video release in the USA with a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks quite good. The film has an intentional cold look and tone and the color palette backs that up. You won't see lush greens and bright vibrant yellows here, instead you get cold hard grays and dirty browns. The film has a great look and the disc represents that nicely. The English audio is handled with 5.1 Dolby Digital track and sounds very good. There's no damage or background noise and the track is crisp and clear.


The Extras
-Northmen: A Look Inside A Viking Saga - A 12 minute behind the scenes featurette


The Bottom Line
Awesome, entertaining fantasy adventure packed with epic violence and good performances top to bottom. Get the popcorn and the beer stein out, blow your viking horn to call your friends over and have fun with this one.

NORTHMEN: A VIKING SAGA is available HERE

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

CUB (Blu-ray Review) - Artsploitation Films


Belgium/2014
Directed By: Jonas Govaerts
Written By: Jonas Govaerts, Roel Mondelaers
Starring: Maurice Luijten, Evelien Bosmans, Titus De Voogdt
Color/85 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: August 18, 2015

The Film
A cub scout troop takes a weekend camping trip to the forest where things take a turn for the worse when Sam who believes in the scary stories his troop leaders have told. After encountering a feral boy and his brutally psychotic father Sam's fears of the supernatural have become frighteningly real and the whole troop is in danger.

CUB touches on themes of fairy tales, ghost stories, urban legends and fantasy stories. It is a killer in the woods style slasher film without the campiness of many slashers. CUB is a mean film and it doesn't take more than a single look at how Sam is treated by just about everyone or the scene with Baloo's dog. Director Jonas Govaerts wasn't interested in making a horror film that plays nice with its audience. This is a visceral viewing experience.

The acting is quite good, especially for a cast made up mostly of young teens. There's never a single moment where I think that a character is acting or that any performance takes me out of the movie. It's all very natural and organic feeling in front of the camera. The great performances are aided by wonderful direction and cinematography by Nicolas Karakatsanis. But perhaps the best part of the film's visual look and soundscape is the score by Steve Moore of the synth rock band Zombi. Moore is no stranger to scoring films as he is responsible for the scores for The Guest and Gutterballs among other horror films. The electronic score perfectly adds to the emotion and feeling being visually expressed on screen without forcing itself upon the audience. It is perfectly melded into the movie so you pay just enough attention to the score itself to enhance the rest of the film.

The action in CUB starts a bit slow but the film never drags because of it. The characters are developed nicely so we learn enough about the handful of main characters so that we develop the proper feelings toward them without slowing down the entire film because of it. There's no shortage of horror and action in CUB even if it takes a bit to kick in to full gear and nobody and no thing is off limits. CUB has some excellent special effects on display with a mix of practical and mostly very well rendered CGI.

I can't speak highly enough of CUB. From viewing the trailer months ago I was anxious to see it but leery that I'd be let down as I frequently am from films that look promising from their trailer. Finding new high quality horror isn't as easy as it may have been at one time but the quality stuff is still out there and CUB is proof of that.

The Audio & Video
Artsploitation Films delivers CUB on Blu-ray in a beautiful full HD 1080p anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 scope transfer where colors are vibrant and skin tones are fleshy and natural. There's no signs of waxiness from excessive DNR or any signs of edge enhancement. Black levels are deep and inky and artifact and compression issue free. Detail level is strong and the picture is quite sharp. The Flemish and French audio track is handled by a very crisp and crystal clear 5.1 HD track with optional English subtitles. The audio is free of any distortions or background noise and sounds really nice and has a fantastic mix between dialogue and the score. The subtitles are timed perfectly and translated perfectly.

The Extras
-"Of Cats & Women" short film
-Deleted scenes
-Special effects reel
-Music Video
-Trailer

The Bottom Line
CUB is one of the best all around horror productions I've seen in the last five years and is five years from now we'll still be talking about it as one of the best horror films of the decade.

CUB is available HERE