Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Drive Hard (DVD Review) - Image/RLJ

Directed By: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Written By: Chad Law, Evan Law, Brigitte Jean Allen, Brian Trenchard-Smith
Starring: John Cusack, Thomas Jane, Zoe Ventoura
Color/96 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: November 11, 2014

The Film
Thomas Jane plays a retired racecar driver who is struggling to pay the bills now while he works as a driving instructor. A seemingly normal day takes a wild turn when he's hired for a lesson and subsequently kidnapped by a thief (John Cusack) for his superior driving skills. A heist and shootout have the pair on the run and put in various tight and sometimes funny situations.

Ring, ring, it's two great actors phoning it in. Thomas Jane and John Cusack can be great but they take whatever kind of payday was attached to this movie and run with it by putting very little into their performances. I don't think their best performances would have mattered too much as there's not much to go with in the script. The movie plays out like more of a road trip comedy than any sort of crime thriller. DRIVE HARD has little excitement and none of the adrenaline rush that better films of this nature have. It all comes across very bland and halfhearted and I'll be damned if I wasn't waiting for John C. Reilly to show up and sing his Dewey Cox song but instead of "walk hard" he'd sing "drive hard". At least that would have been interesting.

The Audio & Video
Image/RLJ release DRIVE HARD on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks as good as you'd expect a current release to look. The picture is sharp and clean with no damage and overall nice quality from top to bottom. The Dolby 5.1 audio is just as good. The mix is spot on and has great clarity.

The Extras
Extras? What extras?

The Bottom Line
If you're a big fan of either John Cusack or Thomas Jane and are curious about the film I'd recommend a rental viewing otherwise you're just as well off skipping it.

DRIVE HARD is available HERE

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pretty Peaches (Blu-ray Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Alex de Renzy
Written By: Alex de Renzy
Starring: Desiree Cousteau, Juliet Anderson, Joey Silvera
Color/92 Minutes/X
Region FREE
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Limited Edition: 1,500 Copies

The Film
Peaches is on her way to her father's wedding but when she arrives things don't go as she'd hoped and she leaves upset. She crashes her speeding Jeep leaving her unconscious. While she's out a couple of sleazeballs find her and have their way with her and decide to take care of her as she wakes up and is suffering from Amnesia. Peaches can't remember her name, where she is or why she's there and her adventure is about to take some weird twists and turns encountering all sorts of weirdos and doctors and experiences everything from forced enemas to swinger party orgies where some unexpected guests are among the lovers.

PRETTY PEACHES is a fun X-rated romp that is even sillier than it is sexy. There's plenty to laugh at as Peaches struggles to find out who she is and her despicable caretakers try to get their rocks off and make money off of her situation.  Desiree Cousteau and Julet Anderson make their film debut here and would both go on to successful careers as porn stars. Whether you're a die hard of the genre or have just a sneaking interest in checking out vintage smut, PRETTY PEACHES is a great one to check out.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome swings and drives one to deep center field... home run! This transfer, maintaining the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is damn near pristine. There are moments of very light speckling but the sharpness and clarity to the picture is phenomenal. Detail levels from clothing to textures and surfaces is very high and skin tones are fleshy and natural without a hint of waxiness. The English mono soundtrack is great as well. There's no damage to the track and no background noise to distract you. The levels are steady throughout.

The Extras
-Archival interview with director Alex de Renzy
-Interview with film historian Ted Mcilvenna
-Alex de Renzy trailers

The Bottom Line
A classic of the adult film genre gets a gorgeous limited edition Blu-ray release. Highly recommended. 


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fantastic Orgy/Champagne Orgy: Peekarama Double Feature (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Carlos Tobalina
Written By: Carlos Tobalina
Starring: Lesllie Bovee, Annette Haven, John Holmes
Color/149 Minutes/x
Region FREE
Release Date: November 18, 2014

The Films
In FANTASTIC ORGY a woman takes on a job with an adult film production team and through voice over narration tells us of her longing to have sex with the legendary John Holmes. As she arrives on set for her work she begins to get all hot and bothered by the action going on in front of the camera and begins to pleasure herself while still giving us the narration about how she wants to suck and fuck everyone. Eventually her dream of John Holmes comes true and she tells us about how she's climaxing over and over.

How about the CHAMPAGNE PARTY director Carlos Tobalina host's for his cast, crew and friends after a tough movie shoot that ends up being a giant orgy long before the host even shows up. Loads of beautiful girls and guys hooking up with each other while being served champagne... In the words of Robin Leech Champagne wishes and caviar creams... or something like that. This double feature of Carlos Tobalina features very little besides a few dozen naked bodies getting it on together and that's okay because who doesn't love a good old fashioned orgy? The films are everything you'd expect with no surprises or strings attached.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome delivers a pair of beautifully restored transfers here, both in their original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. These anamorphic widescreen presentations have a crisp look with a good sharpness to them. Colors and skin tones look natural and vivid. There's virtually no damage to these transfers at all. The audio tracks are also in great condition. There is quite a bit more to listen to in FANTASTIC which is the better of the two. While both tracks are free of any background noise or damage the recording quality on CHAMPAGNE is thin and weak, sounding like it was recorded in an empty hall. This is simply the nature of the production. Overall a fantastic job by the Vinegar Syndrome gang.

The Extras
A trailer for each film is included

The Bottom Line
There's no surprises here as both films perfectly some up what they're about in their title. We get nearly 150 minutes of orgy footage between the two movies and if you've looking for some of that then there is nothing better.

FANTASTIC ORGY / CHAMPAGNE ORGY Peekarama Double Feature is available HERE

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Housebound (DVD Review) - XLRator Media

New Zealand/2014
Directed By: Gerard Johnstone
Written By: Gerard Johnstone
Starring: Morgana O'Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru
Color/112 Minutes/Unrated
Region 1
Release Date: November 18, 2014

The Film
After being convicted of a crime Kylie is sentenced to house arrest where she will spend the next several months locked up with her mother in their country home. Kylie and her mother don't exactly getting along, as Kylie acts more like an angsty teen than a grown adult. Kylie begins to notice food and clothing going missing and has a creepy encounter in the basement. Her psychologist doesn't believe her that the house is haunted but Kylie is determined that something not exactly kosher is going on in the house and is going to get to the bottom of it with the help of her ankle monitor who happens to be an amateur paranormal investigator on the side and they uncover the shocking truth behind the history of the house and exactly what evil is lurking around.

HOUSEBOUND at its best is interesting. The twists and turns the story take are engaging and it does have some memorable moments. The film immediately suffers from a completely obnoxious and annoying relationship between the mother and daughter. Their domestic fights are meant to be played up and offer a bit of humor to the film but it is grating on the nerves. There really is nothing funny about it. I think the performances in the film are good as is the direction. The overall tone of the film is just too muddy and doesn't manage to juggle the horror and the lighthearted aspects.

Unfortunately, HOUSEBOUND reminds me of a take on The People Under The Stairs without elevating itself above the middle-the-road- quality that Wes Craven's film has. I would be lying if I said HOUSEBOUND is all bad because it really isn't but I did find myself a bit bored or even worse, annoyed by characters, more often than not.

The Audio & Video
XLRator Media gives HOUSEBOUND a home on DVD under its Macabre line. The release is a good one overall. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has a nice sharpness and quality to it. Colors and detail levels are good and there's no damage to speak of. The Dolby Digital (2.0 or 5.1) track is clear and free of any hiccups or background noise. The mix is good so there's no need to reach for the remote to adjust volume level. 

The Extras
-Audio commentary with the director
-Deleted Scenes

The Bottom Line
HOUSEBOUND may not have clicked with me but I wouldn't doubt that it finds an audience that appreciates its offbeat humor and thinks it works. I suggest giving it a rental viewing to see for yourself. 

HOUSEBOUND is available HERE

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pumpkinhead 2: Blood Wings (Blu-ray Review) - Scream Factory

Directed By: Jeff Burr
Written By: Ivan Chachornia, Constantine Chachornia
Starring: Ami Dolenz, Andrew Robinson, Steve Kanaly
Color/88 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: November 18, 2014

The Film
Years ago a tormented boy was murdered during a mean spirited prank by other kids. Now a group of teens has unwittingly unleashed the monster known as Pumpkinhead and the tortured boy's soul is guiding the monster's vicious killings. Pumpkinhead has to be stopped but how do you stop him without further hurting the innocent child within?

PUMPKINHEAD 2: BLOOD WINGS is simply an underrated sequel. I almost never see it discussed on horror message boards or at conventions but it is an entertaining film and is another example that the 90s weren't the terrible years, barren of any good horror movies that they sometimes get called. The thick atmosphere and mood of the original is instead replaced with a bit more excess and camp here but it doesn't hurt the film. The plot is something that has been done before but it is tried and true and it allows Pumpkinhead to be brutal, perhaps even meaner than before.

I don't think we'll ever see the day when PUMPKINHEAD 2 is considered a classic, though I'm sure it does have its fans that  would call it that, but it is a really fun horror movie. It doesn't have to be a classic, or art, or this or that. It is a campy, early 90s horror movie with some gore and good entertainment value. And it doesn't have to be anything more than that.

The Audio & Video
Scream Factory delivers a beautiful Blu-ray for this film that was mainly overlooked on DVD with only a crappy fullscreen release that looked like crap. Scream Factory has given fans the release they've wanted and deserved with an attractive 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer that has very good sharpness. Colors are warm and vivid without looking artificially boosted. Skin tones look natural and healthy and have good detail as do textures and surfaces. The English DTS-HD stereo audio track is a quality mix, with crystal clarity and no background noise. There's also no damage to the track and the level mix is well done. A great job overall. 

The Extras
A decent lineup of extras here inlcuding:
-Interview with director Jeff Burr
-"Re-creating The Monster" - a 32 minute+ featurette featuring interviews with Greg Nicotero, Gino Cragnale, and Mark McCracken
-Behind-the-scenes footage
-Audio Commentary with Jeff Burr

The Bottom Line
PUMPKINHEAD 2 is one of the more entertaining and well made early 90s horror films. It stands up well to the Stan Winston classic and deserves a bigger audience. 


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Werewolf Woman (Blu-ray Review) - Raro Video

Directed By: Rino Di Silvestro
Written By: Rino Di Silvestro
Starring: Annik Borel, Tino Carraro, Howard Ross
Color/97 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: October 28, 2014

The Film
After being raped, a woman secludes herself in her family's countryside estate where she becomes obsessed with a family myth that her relative had been a werewolf several generations earlier. It doesn't help that the supposed werewolf looks identical to the woman and her fractured mind allows this obsession to consume her and lead to numerous murderous encounters with men and anyone she encounters on the night of a full moon.

WEREWOLF WOMAN is a unique take on werewolf movies. There are some bizarre sequences with lycantrhopes that feature some makeup effects that on the surface don't look very good but somehow work for the bizarre scenario they're a part of but this is film is driven more by the madness of a woman with a psycho-sexual disorder, than by silver bullets and wolf men. I knew very little about this movie going in to it so all I could hope for was to be a fan of it and I immediately found myself enjoying what I was watching. The acting and writing are solid which isn't always the case in bizarre horror productions of the 1970s. There's an understated score that adds to the film without having to make itself the star of any particular area and there's a good bit of nudity and blood flowing as well.

The film takes a bit of an awkward turn during the final act where it suddenly loses all of its personality and becomes every bit of a rape/revenge film ala I Spit On Your Grave. The shift in tone is a bit jarring and while it does eventually lead back to the film's true tone for the finale the film never quite recovers from it, not giving the viewer enough time to digest what just happened or why. It doesn't make WEREWOLF WOMAN a bad film, not by any stretch, but it does knock it down a notch.

The Audio & Video
Raro Video's 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer is very nice. The picture has a good sharpness to it with high levels of detail in surfaces, textures and close ups of actors. Skin tones are natural and not at all waxy. There's no overuse of DNR and no edge enhancement noticeable. The audio comes in a 2.0 Italian track with English subtitles. The audio is crisp and clear, free of any distracting background noise or imperfections. It features a good mix between dialogue and the score. The English subtitles are perfectly timed and seem to be translated nicely as they read quite naturally. 

The Extras
-Video interview with the director
-English theatrical trailer
-Italian theatrical trailer
-Booklet on the film by Chris Alexander of Fangoria Magazine

The Bottom Line
I highly recommend WEREWOLF WOMAN for fans off slightly offbeat but fully exploitative and raunchy horror films. 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mondo Cannibal (DVD Review) - Intervision

Directed By: Bruno Mattei
Written By: Bruno Mattei, Giovanni Paolucci
Starring: Helena Wagner, Claudio Morales, Cindy Jelic Matic
Color/91 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: November 11, 2014

The Film
A famous news reporter's network is on the verge of shutting down due to poor ratings when she gets the station and co-workers on board with a story that will take them into the heart of the jungle to a do a story on a tribe of cannibals. The story isn't juicy enough and the news group quickly takes advantage of their situation by faking stories, and terrorizing the natives by killing and raping them until the native tribe fights back.

I'm a big fan of cannibal and jungle horror films. I can overlook quite a bit of bullshit in them and simply enjoy their excess of gore, nudity and explicit content but there's just not a good movie hiding underneath the surface of MONDO CANNIBAL. This is a lazy and totally unexceptional jungle horror film that is weak and low rent even for Bruno Mattei standards. It looks cheap, it feels cheap and beyond that it is an obvious ripoff of every other cannibal horror film, even one done a year earlier by Mattei himself. It's more than a bit disappointing.

MONDO CANNIBAL is weaker than I could have ever hoped and certainly meets the lowest expectations I could imagine for an early 21st century cannibal horror film. There's some graphic content full of gore and sex that does give the film a bit of splatter factor including a forced C-Section that is rather nasty that gore hounds may enjoy but overall MONDO CANNIBAL isn't a good film.

The Audio & Video
Intervision gives MONDO CANNIBAL its North American debut on DVD with a 4x3 full frame transfer that maintains the film's original aspect ratio. The digital photography is middle of the road material. It looks decent but far from great or "film like". Sharpness is good and color reproduction is solid. Overall this early 2000s production takes advantage of cheaper production techniques and manages to look decent despite not being a truly proper aspect ratio. The 2.0 English audio track is a dub track, as the movie didn't record live sound. The track mixing is fine and while the audio is nothing special it gets the job done.

The Extras
A trailer for the film is the lone extra.

The Bottom Line
I'm a huge fan of jungle and cannibal horror and consider the Italian cannibal cycle one of my favorite cycles of film but MONDO CANNIBAL is simply a very weak film that I suggest only the biggest fans of the genre check out.