New TV on DVD and Blu-ray: American Horror Story, Bones, Hart of Dixie, Robot Chicken, and White Collar

  • Actors: Evan Peters, Jessica Lange, Lily Rabe, Sarah Paulson, Frances Conroy
  • Directors: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Bradley Buecker, Craig Zisk, David Semel, Jeremy Podeswa
  • Format: AC-3, Blu-ray, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Blu-ray Release Date: October 8, 2013
  • Run Time: 572 minutes



  • American Horror Story: Asylum

     

            I was not crazy about the debut season of “American Horror Story,” perhaps because I find ghost stories to be somewhat tiresome. Although there are elements of American Horror Story: Asylum” which I found less enjoyable than others, I found the intensity level and the mysteries far more compelling this time around. There are many elements or horror being utilized in this season, with a pilot that combines an alien abduction and a bloody serial killer into the storyline, with demonic possession and mad-scientist experiments to be folded into the fray as well.

     

            While the main portion of the initial season of “American Horror Story” took place in the present with revealing flashbacks mixed in, “Asylum” places the majority of action in the past with the occasional flash-forward to frame the storyline. We open with a bookend present day segment in which a couple breaks into the abandoned mental institution for kinky sex and thrills, only to discover there remains something deadly within the hospital walls. The remainder of the storyline takes us back to the period in the early 1960s when an infamous serial killer was brought into the hospital for evaluation.

     

    The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Collector's Edition DVD Review


  • Actors: Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Don Rickles
  • Director: Greg Garrison
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 6
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Time Life Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: September 24, 2013
  • Run Time: 1080 minutes




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            Comedy Central has taken over the task of broadcasting the latest incarnation of celebrity roasts, first made famous by Dean Martin and NBC in the 1970s. Celebrity roasts have become a tradition in entertainment, allowing us to see famous people elevated and teased in the oft alcohol-fueled comedy show. This six-disc set includes twelve of the most iconic roasts, featuring a historic collection of comedians and performers who join Martin in an evening of laughter and lush behavior.

     

            Nobody knew how to drink like Dean Martin, no doubt the greatest source of humor for the first celebrity roasts in 1973. Even when Martin is the host and not being roasted, there are plenty of excuses for the guests to poke fun at the excessive alcohol consumption by Dino. Created as a sort-of spin-off in the final season of “The Dean Martin Show,” the celebrity roasts became a regular special that Martin hosted until 1984, making a total of 54 roasts.

     

    New BBC TV on DVD: Halloween Horror Releases

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: October 8, 2013
  • Run Time: 180 minutes




  • In the Flesh

     

            It is completely unfair to make even the slightest comparison of “In the Flesh” to “The Walking Dead,” although it is inevitable that this association will be made between the two zombie television events. For one thing, “In the Flesh” is not a post-apocalyptic storyline. We join the story after civilization has recovered almost entirely, and it instead becomes a story about integration and acceptance. The horror elements are all but removed and zombies instead become a symbol for diversity and a metaphor for homosexuality.

     

            The main narrative decision to remove the horror from this story is the choice to make the protagonist a zombie, and to make those monsters nearly indistinguishable from humans. Normally this might add an element of fear, as if having them hidden amongst us would make them dangerous in new ways, but not in this miniseries. Instead they are integrated back into society in secret for their own protection, with the humans being the monsters with the capacity for destruction. My biggest issue with the zombies in Dominic Mitchell's “In the Flesh” is that they don’t really resemble zombies in their monstrous form. The storyline almost seems to insert the zombies simply because they are the hot-ticket horror monster of the moment, although it seems to be a narrative better suited for vampires or werewolves.

     

    Silent Cry DVD Review

  • Actors: Emily Woof, Douglas Henshall, Frank Finley, Clive Russell, Kevin Whately
  • Director: Julian Richards
  • Writer: Simon Lubert
  • Producers: Peter La Terriere, Tim Dennison
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: JINGA FILMS LTD
  • DVD Release Date: August 20, 2013
  • Run Time: 85 minutes


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            Silent Cry is far from a bad film. It is a subtle suspense drama with a somewhat compelling mystery at the center of the storyline. The acting is very good, the script is solid and the directing is effective albeit a bit safe. The biggest problem with the film is the level of expectation that the DVD cover art provides. The image brings to mind a horror film, not a conspiracy mystery. And expectations can be sent even further in the wrong direction if you are to read the blurbs for the film on the front and back of the DVD case. Jay Slater of Darkside says that Silent Cry is a “brutal thriller with sucker-punch violence.” I think it would be more accurate to describe this as an emotion-driven thriller with mild suspenseful violence which would be tame by today’s television standards.

                   

            Rooted in a tradition of British melodrama, Silent Cry begins as a film about loss. Rachel Towne (Emily Woof) is a single pregnant woman with all the optimism in the world until she is told that her newborn baby has died overnight. Suspicious of the hospital, doctors and everyone else involved, Rachel makes it her mission to find out what really happened to her newborn baby. What could have easily been dismissed as the grief of a mother is quickly confirmed when corrupt police officer Dennis Betts (Clive Russell) threatens her safety.

     

    Throwback Thursday Review: A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop

  • Actors: Sun Hunglei, Xiao Shenyang
  • Directors: Zhang Yimou
  • Language: Cantonese
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
  • Blu-ray Release Date: February 1, 2011
  • Run Time: 95 minutes


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            The Coen Brothers have had waves of popularity in the United States. Fargo brought them critical acclaim, and O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? brought them box office success. After No Country For Old Men they also had a rise in popularity, but the rest of the time their unique and creative style sometimes goes unnoticed. Internationally, however, is a different story entirely. They have been largely popular overseas even when failing by Hollywood’s standards, so it should come as no surprise to see their debut feature adapted.

     

            Directed by the legendary Zhang Yimou, A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop is an undeniably successful adaptation of Blood Simple. The dark and seedy modern noir has been changed to a period dark comedy, but essential moments of visual filmmaking are imitated from the original in a clever homage. Although the setting and tone is completely different, there are little winks and nods to the source material. Both films are beautifully shot, though this remake has the advantage of a polished look that comes from years of experience as a filmmaker.

     

    After Earth DVD Review

  • Actors: Jaden Smith, David Denman, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo, ZoĆ« Kravitz
  • Director: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Writers:  M. Night Shyamalan, Gary Whitta
  • Producers: Ashwin Rajan, Caleeb Pinkett, E. Bennett Walsh, Jada Pinkett Smith
  • Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen, Multiple Formats
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Dubbed: French
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: October 8, 2013
  • Run Time: 100 minutes


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            I sincerely feel bad for M. Night Shyamalan, though the consistency with which he continues to release films, despite his numerous critical and box-office failures of recent past proves that he doesn’t necessarily need my pity. Still, it must be difficult to go from being called the next Steven Spielberg to becoming the next Uwe Boll. Even when his films are not terrible, they are light-years away from the quality of his first few features.  

     

    With all that being said, After Earth is not as terrible as you might imagine. It also isn’t exactly great, but I would place far more blame on the Pinkett/Smith family for the biggest issues the film has. This became a family project, and I think that paired with Shyamalan’s overly imaginative science fiction narrative led to a sillier film than necessary. Tamed down a small amount, this may have been a wonderfully adequate family film. Kids are less inclined to notice awkward acting or absurd plot twists.

     

    Curse of Chucky Blu-ray Review

  • Actor: Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Maitland McConnell, Chantal Quesnelle
  • Writer/Director: Don Mancini
  • Producer: David Kirschner
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Studio: Universal
  • Release Date: October 8, 2013





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            Many of the horror icons from the 1980s have returned to the big screen in recent years, though all have been reincarnations of the infamous monsters rather than a continuation. Jason returned with a steroid-affected physique, Freddy lost his humor and replaced it with stronger emphasis on pedophilia, and Leatherface became more sympathetic with several films giving us unnecessary back-story. The one villain from the 1980s to remain the same is Chucky, from casting to driving force and creator Don Mancini. The only thing that has changed over the years is the amount of damage done to his plastic face.

     

            Since Child’s Play brought the ginger doll to life for the first time in 1988, creator Don Mancini has remained involved as screenwriter, and more recently as director. Mancini’s career has consisted of little other than Chucky, with nearly all screenwriting credits belonging to the demonic doll. It wasn’t until the last film, Seed of Chucky, that Mancini made his directorial debut. Curse of Chucky is his second film as a director, and though he still shows an inability to retrieve believable performances from any of his breathing actors, it is actually the screenwriting and a lack of Chucky’s personality which drags this latest sequel into forgettable territory.

     

    Thankskilling 3 DVD Review

  • Actors: Daniel Usaj, Joe Hartzler, Marc M, Wanda Lust
  • Director: Jordan Downey
  • Writers: Jordan Downey, Kevin Stewart, Mike Will Downey
  • Producers: Ricky Fosheim
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: GRAVITAS VENTURES
  • DVD Release Date: October 15, 2013
  • Run Time: 95 minutes


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            I vaguely remember watching the first Thankskilling film in mild amusement. Puppet horror films have become a very small sub-genre, with an obvious emphasis towards the comedic elements of felt blood and gore. Thankskilling 3 is far more than just a horror movie, or a sequel, for that matter. For one thing, it is a sequel called Thankskilling 3 with a storyline about Thankskilling 2, which was never actually made. The tag line for the film is “The first movie to skip its own sequel.”

     

            Funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign, Thankskilling 3 is a bizarre labor of love with a bold comedic vision meant to shock and baffle audiences in its irreverence. Turkie, the killer holiday bird from the first film, is on a mission to find the only existing copy of Thankskilling 2, leading him to meet a variety of new characters both human and puppets. Sex and violence with puppets dominate the screen time, fueled by an electronic soundtrack by Zain Effendi. Even more remarkable is the skill with which the film is photographed, making Thankskilling 3 far more gorgeous than a film this disgusting has a right to be.