Wednesday, July 1, 2015

AWAKEN (DVD Review) - Arc Entertainment


USA/2015
Directed By: Mark Atkins
Written By: Mark Atkins, Ryan Priest
Starring: Natalie Burn, Vinnie Jones, Robert Davi
Color/89 Minutes/R
Region 1
Release Date: July 7, 2015

The Film
A young woman wakes up on an island to find a group of others just like her and is immediately thrown into a fight for survival with the others while they all attempt to find out why they're on this island and being hunted by mercenaries. After escaping the island, only to be brought back the group finds out the shocking truth that they're being hunted in an organ harvesting operation.

AWAKEN is directed by Mark Atkins who is no stranger to direct to video fare and knows how to keep things entertaining enough to keep the viewer's attention without having huge production values or sharply written scripts. AWAKEN is a simple enough idea that allows for as many action scenes as the filmmakers want to put in, and there's plenty of them.

Vinnie Jones co-stars as Sarge, the head mercenary and is a badass, like always. The man has a natural presence as a hardass in front of a camera with his hardened look and real life ability to kick ass. He is matched against Natalie Burn who shows herself as capable of handling an ass kicking role in her own right. The acting is hammy from just about everyone involved but we don't watch movies like AWAKEN for much else other than the action so much is forgiven.


Daryl Hannah and Edward Furlong appear as well and Furlong is one of the least likable parts of the movie. He just oozes shittyness. The movie only has a couple of locations but makes the most of them to make it feel like a bigger world than what it really is. The island the victims briefly escape to is an interesting one and almost gave me a similar vibe that the town of Innsmouth does in HP Lovecraft's stories.

AWAKEN won't go down as a classic action film but for someone looking for something they haven't seen yet for some easy weekend viewing you can do a lot worse.

The Audio & Video
Arc Entertainment brings AWAKEN to DVD with a 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks very good. Colors are bright and vibrant and the picture quality is sharp. The English audio track is handled with 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound and is free of any damage or distracting background noise. The mix is nicely done as the score compliments the dialogue without drowning it out.


The Extras
A trailer is the lone extra


The Bottom Line
AWAKEN is a fast paced straight to video action flick that is high on violence and adrenaline.

AWAKEN is available HERE

Monday, June 29, 2015

THE NEW BARBARIANS (Blu-ray Review) - Blue Underground


Italy/1983
Directed By: Enzo G. Castellari
Written By: Tito Carpi, Enzo G. Castellari
Starring: Timothy Brent, Fred Williamson, George Eastman
Color/91 Minutes/R
Region FREE
Release Date: June 30, 2015

The Film
The world has been shattered by nuclear war and the remaining survivors fight to survive amidst the roving gang known as The Templars led by their vicious leader One. A solitary warrior known as Scorpion (Timothy Brent) rescues a beautiful woman from The Templars and teams up with Nadir (Fred Williamson) and a fairly rag tag group in a fight against the brutal gang in hopes of reaching a distant land where a society is rumored to exist.

THE NEW BARBARIANS was one of my post-nuke type films to come in the wake of Mad Max being an international hit. The film is brimming with futuristic costume designs, charismatic characters, gore and extremely clever and downright cool vehicle and weapon designs. As cheesy as it may be there is a natural swagger and cool factor that comes along with THE NEW BARBARIANS.

The story is a simple one of survivors trying to find their way to a place where life isn't just about surviving but flourishing and adding to a community. Things are never that easy, especially with George Eastman leading The Templars' thirst for violence and supremacy over the wasteland. Eastman's group has the coolest cars and bikes that are packed with guns, lasers and various implements of death such as rockets and rotating blades. There's no shortage of heads and limbs flying in THE NEW BARBARIANS.

THE NEW BARBARIANS may be a product cashing in on the success of a better known film but it goes heads and shoulders above and beyond almost any other movie in the post-nuke apocalyptic action film category.

The Audio & Video
Do I need to go into at this point? Blue Underground's transfer is stellar. Anamorphic widescreen  very natural looking grain structure, beautiful vivid colors and great detail and sharpness coupled with the DTS-HD 1.0 mono track that takes the original audio and makes it sound perfect. Yeah, I'd say that's stellar.

The Extras
-Audio commentary with Enzo G. Castellari
-"Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 2"
-"Tales Of The Hammer- Interview with star Fred Williamson"
-Theatrical trailer
-Poster and stills gallery

The Bottom Line
THE NEW BARBARIANS out Mad Max's Mad Max and is a wonderful slice of post apocalyptic cheese. Highly Recommended

THE NEW BARBARIANS is available HERE

Thursday, June 25, 2015

ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX (Blu-ray Review) - Blue Underground


Italy/1983
Directed By: Enzo G. Castellari
Written By: Tito Carpi, Enzo G. Castellari
Starring: Mark Gregory,
Color/89 Minutes/R
Region FREE
Release Date: June 30, 2015

The Film
A corporate mega power has decided to redevelop the Bronx which has long been declared "no man's land" and a lost cause. Relocation efforts to send residents to "lovely New Mexico" has resulted in hold outs from lifelong residents and the gangs that run the territory. The relocation efforts have turned into death squads being sent in to eliminate any hold outs which starts a war as the remaining gang members and residents have armed themselves and are ready to kill for their right to stay.

The sequel to 1990: The Bronx Warriors was shot a mere 18 months after the success of the first film and ramps up the action quite a bit. What the original gave us in terms of creative characters and eye catching and attention grabbing costumes and set pieces on top of plenty of action takes a more is more attitude for the violence and it pays off. Trash and various survivors from the first film are back to take on the faceless, silver clad, flame thrower wielding death squad goons and there's almost non stop fights, shoot outs and explosions.

ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX also seems to be a bit gorier than its predecessor. This isn't Fulci level horror gore but there are some effects going on in terms of blood and burns. The acting again is hit or miss and our handsome muscular lead from 1990 is now a jacket wearing leader here as he lost most of his muscle mass between shoots much to the chagrin of director Enzo Castellari.

Where 1990: The Bronx Warriors shows its obvious influences, ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX takes those influences and just blows them to hell. I really can't sum up how fucking fun this movie is. There are multiple moments where vehicles are blown up with only one or two gunshots from a long distance. It's that attitude that drives the entire movie. Enzo Castellari isn't worried about keeping things grounded, and we shouldn't care that things are far from grounded. The more is more attitude really works in making ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX an immensely entertaining film.

The Audio & Video
This is how it should be done! Blue Underground's 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has a wonderfully vibrant color palette. The colors are bright and beautiful while the overall picture quality has a great crispness and sharpness. Skin tones are natural without any waxiness. The English audio track is a DTS-HDMA mono track with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles. This audio track is crystal clear and is free of any background noise or damages such as crackling or popping.

The Extras
-Audio commentary with Enzo G. Castellari
-Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 3 of 3 - the fantastic conversation continues and concludes with more great stories. A complete joy to watch these two friends and collaborators reconnect.
-"The Hunt For Trash" - Interview with BRONX WARRIORS superfan Lance Manley - This featurette documents Manley's search for Mark Gregory who starred as Trash in the Bronx Warrior films and dropped out of the public eye in 1989. Pretty fascinating stuff.
-Theatrical trailers
-Poster and stills gallery
-DVD copy of the film

The Bottom Line
I've seen ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX numerous times and have loved it since my first viewing of it on a shoddy Vipco import from the UK years ago. I don't think I've ever had more fun watching it than I did this time getting to see it in beautiful HD in all of its glory. It is long overdue to become a cult classic.

ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX is available HERE

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

TIME LAPSE (DVD Review) - XLRator Media


USA/2014
Directed By: Bradley King
Written By: Bradley King, BP Cooper
Starring: Danielle Panabaker, Matt O'Leary, George Finn
Color/104 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: June 16, 2015

The Film
Three friends living together discover their neighbor across the way has discovered the ability to time travel with a camera that takes pictures 24 hours into the future. The group does what most people would do and use it for personal gain and wealth but quickly find out that trying to change the outcome that the photos predict will lead to their demise. Unfortunately their relationships are twisted and torn with each new photo.

Director Bradley King makes his debut feature film with TIME LAPSE that he also co-wrote and he's made a name for himself already and he should be on your future radar if he can continue to make films of this quality. King's direction isn't super flashy, really nothing about TIME LAPSE is but every element of the movie is rock solid. There's enough suspense and action in the script to keep you glued to the screen in anticipation of the twists and turns the story will take which there are plenty.


Don't think that this is a piece of M. Night's out of left field style shit that has become so cliched over the years. The turns this story take all fit within the confines of the boundaries this story creates and make perfect sense. The rather small cast are damn good, particularly our main trio. There are a couple of plot holes that you will question but I find them to be minor and don't take too much away from the film.

Imperfect but quite good especially when considering this movie probably had a small budget and that it was the first feature film made by its director. TIME LAPSE is tightly knit and fast paced science fiction thriller with virtually no wasted time that deserves to be seen.

The Audio & Video
XLRator Media gives TIME LAPSE a nice 16x9 widescreen transfer with good clarity and sharpness for standard DVD. A Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix handles the English audio that is crisp and damage free. There's no problem at all with the levels as dialogue and soundtrack compliment each other nicely.


The Extras
-Audio commentary with Bradley King and BP Cooper
-"Filmmaking 101" audio commentary with Bradley King and BP Cooper
-Behind the scenes featurette (22 minutes)
-Deleted scenes


The Bottom Line
TIME LAPSE is proof that a good script and direction and performances that hold up the quality of that script are enough for a good movie and this movie has that. Recommended.

TIME LAPSE is available HERE

Monday, June 22, 2015

1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS (Blu-ray Review) - Blue Underground


Italy/1982
Directed By: Enzo G. Castellari
Written By: Dardano Sacchetti, Elisa Livia Briganti, Enzo G. Castellari
Starring: Mark Gregory, Vic Morrow, Fred Williamson
Color/92 Minutes/R
Region FREE
Release Date: June 30, 2015

The Film
The years is 1990 and the Bronx has been delcared a lost cause, no man's land. The only inhabitants are various gangs that fight for territory over the borough. When the daughter of a corrupt mega power in Manhattan runs away and joins Trash and his gang The Riders he sends in a mercenary and killing squads to retrieve his daughter and wage war on the gangs that have joined forces to fight back against their oppressors.

1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS is a glorious piece of trashy action in the vein of Escape From New York and The Warriors but ramps up the violence ten fold and stands toe to toe with those classic films in terms of memorable characters. Mark Gregory's Trash, Fred Williamson's The Ogre and George Eastman's Golem are all quite colorful and classic. Vic Morrow is perfectly maniacal in the role of Hammer, the main mercenary.

Acting can be a bit hammy from time to time but it doesn't detract from the film at all in my opinion. This is a world built in the decaying slums that the rest of America has written off and the acting being a bit rough around the edges just adds to that world. What isn't rough around the edges is Castellari's direction, the man is an action film master. From fight fights and shootouts to flamethrower massacres 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS rollerskates (quite literally) around its clubhouses, subterranean hideouts and dramatic costumes with flair and elegance while remaining gritty and wild.

It's funny to me that a film such as this one may be viewed as a ripoff of certain other classic films that are certainly deserving of their status as classics but I would prefer to back to the "ripoff" time and time again. I have probably seen 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS more than a half dozen times and I keep coming back for more because it is a movie steeped in coolness. The sets, the actual Bronx locations, the characters, the score, they're all wrapped up into this little package with a ribbon tied around them by Enzo Castellari's direction that pulls it together into a brilliant package of trashy action.

The Audio & Video
Blue Underground is going to serve 25 to life because they killed it. This Blu-ray looks and sounds as good as looks and sound can look and sound. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is pretty much pristine. A gorgeously sharp picture quality is the base for vivid colors, a natural grain structure free of DNR or edge enhancement and fleshy, healthy skin tones. The English audio (optional English, French and Spanish subtitles) is handled with a DTS-HD Master Audio mono track that takes the original audio recording and makes it sound as beautifully crisp and clear as posisble. There's no damage or background noise so this is purely the prime example of how this film should sound.

The Extras
-Audio commentary by director/co-writer Enzo G. Castellari
-Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 1 of 3 - a 14 minute conversation between the director and producer who have a lively and extremely entertaining and informative talk remembering their time spent making movies together including on 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS
-"Sourcing The Weaponry" - Enzo G. Castellari visits the Italian Weapons Rental House of Paolo Ricci - 12 minutes of Castellari and Ricci acting like two kids in a toy store sharing stories of making movies together and playing with all of the prop knives and guns.
-"Adventures In The Bronx" - Interview with actor/stuntman Massimo Vanni
-Theatrical trailers
-Poster and stills gallery
-DVD copy of the film

The Bottom Line
I love movies like this and this one is damn near the top of the mountain. When I heard Blue Underground was putting this one out on Blu-ray my excitement climbed with each passing day until I was able finally to view the disc and there was not a single moment of disappointment. From the technical side of the disc, to the great selection of special features this is not only essential viewing, it is a must buy.

1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS is available HERE

Sunday, June 21, 2015

HEAD CASES: SERIAL KILLERS IN THE DELAWARE VALLEY (DVD Review) - Wild Eye Releasing


USA/2013
Directed By: Anthony Spadaccini
Written By: Anthony Spadaccini, Mark Cray, Derek Rushlow
Starring: Paul McCloskey, Brinke Stevens, Mark Cray
Color/109 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: May 19, 2015

The Film
Between 1979 and 2007 Wayne Montgomery committed 41 murders, making sure to document each and every one. Now his legacy is being carried on by proteges and copycats who are just as nasty as their inspiration.

HEAD CASES is a raw horror film. The production is a pseudo documentary focusing on some of the most brutal serial killers the nation has seen. The script is competent without being anything super original, it handles the subject matter with enough skill that we don't ever really question it. The direction is perhaps the strongest point for the film, which gives the film a natural rawness that is hard to create. There are scenes in this movie that make you feel like you're watching an actual killing.


That rawness can be lost at times with some poor acting. Former 80s scream queen Brinke Stevens is probably the biggest offender of the bad acting and unfortunately she plays a rather large role in the film. Eventually you get used to it and are able to get beyond it and it doesn't drag the film down too much.

HEAD CASES manages to overcome its shortcomings in some acting and running too long to be a successful piece of serial killer horror that manages to be truly disturbing at times and offer what I feel can be looked at as an honest look into what a fucked up mind can do.

The Audio & Video
The DVD from Wild Eye Releasing has a nice anamorphic widescreen transfer. The more recent footage has good clarity and definition while the footage that is meant to be older has a genuine aged look to the older low end camcorder footage but the DVD keeps things very much watchable. Audio is handled with a stereo track which is clear and crisp with no hissing, popping or other noise.


The Extras
-Two audio commentary tracks featuring the director and cast and crew members
-Theatrical trailer
-DVD trailer
-Deleted scenes
-Extended scenes


The Bottom Line
Is this film perfect? No. Does it succeed at what it set out to do? Yes. Recommended.

HEAD CASES: SERIAL KILLERS OF THE DELAWARE VALLEY is available HERE

Thursday, June 18, 2015

THE LAZARUS EFFECT (Blu-ray Review) - Fox


USA/2015
Directed By: David Gelb
Written By: Luke Dawson, Jeremy Slater
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Donald Glover
Color/83 Minutes/PG-13
Region A
Release Date: June 16, 2015

The Film
A group of medical researchers has developed a serum that will extend the amount of time a doctor has to revive a patient after death, hopefully without any adverse side affects or implications to the patient. An accident during a test leaves one of the members electrocuted and without a pulse so the group makes the decision to use the serum on her to attempt to revive her and what wakes up isn't the same person they knew.

THE LAZARUS EFFECT features a capable main cast that are all quite good and likable. The ability to connect with these characters makes the film that much more personal. The film's horror elements come from both a realistic medical and a bit more of a post-mortem "pseudo reality" which I found elevated the film above the standard demonic possession type movie I was prepared for.

The trailers for THE LAZARUS EFFECT didn't play up the medial or moment of death angle that the movie takes from what I remember and I think it sells the film a little short. The film raises interesting theories about the human brain and what happens at the moment of death and put it into a horror film that is unfortunately held back by its PG-13 rating. I have no doubt that this film would have been more successful and a better horror film overall had they been able to go farther and more extreme with the horror elements.

The audience deserved to be completely blasted by disturbing images of the moment of death instead of the poorly rendered CGI visions we received (which managed to still almost work). The medical side of things could have been nastier and more exploitative for our fallen protagonist as bringing her back was sort of a life or death scenario and certainly ended up being that way.

THE LAZARUS EFFECT isn't bad. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would from the trailers and TV spots but it left me wanting more from it. This is a watered down version of a good movie that is lurking in there somewhere and it's a shame we didn't get to see the full unadulterated product.

The Audio Video
If there's one thing we weren't cheated on it was the Blu-ray presentation from Fox. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio is flawless with a sharp presentation, beautiful skin tones and not a hint of DNR or edge enhancement. The picture is crisp and I couldn't ask for nicer. The DTS-HD Master Audio track is a 5.1 surround mix that is bold and boisterous when it needs to be. The mix is spot on and crystal clear. There's no damage or background noise to mention. A really well done job on the A/V side of things.

The Extras
-"Creating The Fear: The Making of THE LAZARUS EFFECT" - a behind the scenes featurette that runs about 15 minutes
-"Playing God: The Moral Dilemma" - another featurette looking at one of the questions the film asks
-Deleted and extended scenes
-Theatrical trailer

The Bottom Line
While I'm disappointed that this film didn't give me more of what it had I have to admit that it surprised me by not being terrible. The film holds itself back and the PG-13 rating doesn't help but THE LAZARUS EFFECT is worth a watch for less jaded fans and fans of recent fare such as Insidious and Sinister.

THE LAZARUS EFFECT is available HERE