Resolution Blu-ray Review

  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: New Video Group
  • Release Date: October 8, 2013
  • Run Time: 93 minutes



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            Resolution has elements of terror, but is hardly a horror film. If anything, it fits more in the small sub-genre of independent time-travel science-fiction horror. Even without having elements of time travel, it is Timecrimes, Triangle, and Primer that this film most resembles. Rather than providing thrills which fall apart upon further examination, as most spectacle-filled horror films excel at doing, Resolution is a slow-moving film filled with occasional eerie sequences between extended scenes of naturalistic dialogue between two characters in a cabin.

     

            When Mike (Peter Cilella) receives a mysterious video via email from his meth-addicted friend, Chris (Vinny Curran), he plans a forced rehabilitation. Mike finds Chris squatting in a cabin on the edge of an Indian reservation, forcing him to quit cold turkey. There are many obstacles from Chris’s druggie lifestyle which Mike is forced to handle, including money debts and permission to stay in the cabin for a limited amount of time. There are also many reasons to leave the cabin as quickly as possible, including mysterious pictures and videos of tragic death stories left in and around the cabin for Mike to discover. There is something unique about the cabin which is as much a mystery to the audience as it is the two men residing within its walls.

     

    Static 3D Blu-ray Combo Review

  • Actors: Milo Ventimiglia, Sarah Shahi, William Mapother, Sara Paxton
  • Director: Todd Levin
  • Format: Color, NTSC, 3D, Widescreen, Multiple Formats
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: NEW VIDEO GROUP
  • Release Date: October 8, 2013
  • Run Time: 90 minutes


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            There are many unique problems with Static, Todd Levin’s directorial debut, but all of its assets are borrowed from better films. The premise is similar to The Strangers or The Stranger Within, with a young girl (Sara Paxton) appearing at the door of a troubled couple late at night, and all hell erupts from her visit. If only it were enough to take the best from better films, but it doesn’t outweigh the amount of originally poor decisions made in Static. The most difficult aspect is the weighty storyline of grieving parents at the center of a genre film.

     

    Jonathan Dade (Milo Ventimiglia) is a famed author grieving the loss of his son with his wife, Addie (Sarah Shahi), giving us protagonists who seem to have come from a Stephen King novel. The mysterious girl’s intentions quickly come into question, and then become irrelevant as all three are attacked by a group of men wearing masks. Even locked in their own home they aren’t safe from the faceless attackers with unknown motivation. When all is finally revealed, it resembles a number of other films with cliché twist endings. Perhaps if this film had done it first we may have been impressed, but now it just feels like lazy filmmaking.

     

    Dead in Tombstone Blu-ray Release

  • Actors: Danny Trejo, Mickey Rourke, Anthony Michael Hall, Dina Meyer, Richard Dillane
  • Director: Roel Reine
  • Writers: Shane Kuhn, Brendan Cowles
  • Producer: Mike Elliott
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • Release Date: October 22, 2013



  •         Danny Trejo is a one-note-wonder character actor who has achieved slightly greater fame through the help of Robert Rodriguez and the Machete franchise, and he has cashed in on opportunities wherever they have arisen. The latest is a visually polished western that is out-of-sync in just about every other way imaginable, including Trejo’s believability with a gun. Trejo may be muscular, but he is no action star. Physicality is not his thing, always appearing slightly awkward or forced, perhaps due to all of the camera trickery done to attempt to make him look taller than he is.

     

            But it isn’t fair to lay the failure of Dead in Tombstone at the feet of Trejo, because the action choreography and editing of the action sequences does absolutely nothing for the performances, much less the logic of the entire film. Characters conveniently stop shooting and stare while our not-so-nimble star makes his big move, in a series of awkward and unconvincing actions scenes comprised of individually flawless shots. It resembles a cheap stunt show you might see at Universal Studios.

     

    Throwback Thursday Review: About Last Night

     
  • Actors: Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, James Belushi, Elizabeth Perkins, George DiCenzo
  • Director: Edward Zwick
  • Writers: David Mamet, Denise DeClue, Tim Kazurinsky
  • Producers: Arnold Stiefel, E. Darrell Hallenbeck, Jason Brett, Stuart Oken
  • Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: 1986
  • Run Time: 113 minutes


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            The Brat Pack seems to have finally grown up and stopped all of the self-obsessed whining. Although About Last Night is not about completely wise, mature, or grown up adults, they are at least heading in the right direction. We see them growing through the course of the plot, which surprisingly dead-on in the honest portrayal of adjustments needed for any new relationship. The film even takes into consideration the strain that comes with the relationship from the view of the friends, based on a similarly smart stage play written by David Mamet.

     

            Although Mamet did not write the screenplay for the film (instead adapted by Tim Kazurinsky and Denise DeClue), there remains the biting humor from the play, as well as James Belushi who played the same role in the film as on stage. The film revolves around an impulsive sexual relationship that turns into a committed relationship; and all of the pitfalls and dangers that come with the territory. Danny Martin (Rob Lowe) and Debbie (Demi Moore) meet at a park softball game, and when they see each other at a bar later the same night, they end up sleeping together. After that they only have getting to know each other left, and begin spending inordinate amounts of time together, as is common at the beginning of a relationship.

     

    New ABCs of Death Video Contest!



    THE ABCs OF DEATH became one of the most talked about genre films of 2012/13. Hugely ambitious and immensely challenging, it was unlike anything fans had ever seen. Many loved it and a hell of a lot detested it - but the film was such a creative and financial success that Timpson Films, Drafthouse Films and Magnolia Pictures set forth on the creation of a sequel. The producers signed up 25 of the most exciting and innovative genre directors from around the globe... but there are 26 letters in the English alphabet - and once again, the search is on to find… THE 26TH DIRECTOR!


    Last year,  UK's Lee Hardcastle wowed critics and audiences alike with his claymation tribute to commode chaos, and his "T is for Toilet" short was ultimately included in the final film - shown in theaters, festivals and homes around the world. Watch last year's winner below.


    One lucky winner will become the ABCs OF DEATH 2's 26th director, receiving five thousand dollars cash and have their work included in the finished feature film alongside some of the world's most established horror directors.  Every submitted short will be featured on the ABCs OF DEATH 2 website to intrigue, sicken, terrify and crack up audiences across the globe. Also, a selection of the audience favorites will be included on the DVD/Bluray.
    So how will the winner be chosen?

    Two methods:
    1. SIX will be chosen by PUBLIC VOTE, calculated by facebook likes on the website. To vote, click the 'like' button above the video.

    1. SIX will be selected via a panel of genre aficionados made up of ABCs OF DEATH producers Tim League and Ant Timpson, Associate Producer Ted Geoghegan, Horror-Movie-A-Day Founder and Badass Digest contributor Brian Collins, Entertainment Weekly Senior Editor Clark Collis, author Grady Hendrix, and Fangoria Managing Editor Michael Gingold.
    This way, the top 12 finalists will be a combination of audience and judge selections. These lucky finalists will then go on to the final judging round, where the sequel's 25 other directors - esteemed names such as Alex De La Iglesia, Bill Plympton, Vincenzo Natali, The Twisted Twins, and Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo - will select the final winner to be included in ABCs OF DEATH 2!

    Though I encourage all of my readers to vote regardless of preference, I have a personal investment in one particular short and would greatly appreciate the support. To watch M is for Messiah, CLICK HERE! And don't forget to click that 'like' button on top of the video.

     

    The Heat Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demian Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport
  • Director: Paul Feig
  • Writer: Katie Dippold
  • Producers: Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: October 15, 2013
  • Run Time: 117 minutes


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            The buddy action comedies of recent years have far more comedy than action, but that may be the saving grace for an otherwise unbelievable film like The Heat. As entertaining as the premise of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as law enforcement officers is, neither one are very believable when it comes to the physical aspects of the role. The action serves as a catalyst for further jokes rather than taking on their own spectacle, and that allows for the film to retain focus.

     

            There have been many attempts at finding the right leading role for McCarthy after her breakout performance in Bridemaids, but this is the first part that truly seems to fit. Working again with director Paul Feig, McCarthy is joined by Sandra Bullock, who also plays into her persona for the role of a prissy and uptight F.B.I. agent. Special Agent Sarah Ashburn is accustomed to being the smartest one in the room, which is precisely why none of her colleagues want to work with her. In an effort to prove that she can be a team player, Agent Ashburn is forced to partner up with a local cop while on assignment in Boston.

     

    Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) also works alone, though it is because her co-workers are frightened of her. Both have the ability to take down criminals and do so without any partnership with their male colleagues, but their similarities stop there. Their partnership is The Odd Couple of law enforcement, and a surprising majority of the film is just dialogue between these opposing characters as they wait in-between brief spurts of unconventional crime fighting.

     

    The Blu-ray combo release of The Heat includes the theatrical version of the film, as well as an unrated cut. With a Blu-ray disc, a DVD and a digital copy, there are also many ways of watching this film. There are also plenty of special features, with a remarkable five commentary tracks for the film, including Paul Feig and Mystery Science Theater 3000. There are also a few featurettes, and a plethora of additional footage, from deleted scenes and alternate takes to bloopers. 

     

           

    Entertainment Value: 8/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10

    Historical Significance: 7/10

    Disc Features: 10/10

     

     


     

    Drug War Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Louis Koo, Honglei Sun, Michelle Ye, Crystal Huang
  • Director: Johnnie To
  • Format: Blu-ray, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: Cantonese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: October 15, 2013
  • Run Time: 107 minutes


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            Drug War blew me away. There has been an influx in action films in Hollywood these past years, with a return to the brawn of the 1980s and many of its stars. Mass and size has taken over, with veteran and new stars of unnatural proportions and large caliber weaponry to accessorize with. These spectacle-inducing films of indulgence have their place in the world of entertainment, but occasionally I enjoy using my brain while watching action and Drug War had me captivated the entire run time. Not knowing what is going to happen next in a film is a rare experience, but I was sincerely surprised by each direction this film took. The balance of intelligent filmmaking and indulgent action makes for a brilliant crime film unlike anything I have seen in quite some time.

     

            Crime and underworld films are familiar territory for director Johnnie To (Election, Exiled), but it is the simplicity of the narrative which sets Drug War apart from some of his other great films. The film begins with two opposing characters who will spend a majority of the film with each other, after the initial tragic events take place. Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) is a high-level producer of methamphetamine, which is an automatic death sentence in China. In order to find a way to survive after being arrested, Choi quickly turns on his criminal cohorts and becomes an asset to Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei). In the 72 hours following his capture, Choi does anything he can to ensure self preservation.

     

    Maniac Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder
  • Director: Franck Khalfoun
  • Format: Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: October 15, 2013
  • Run Time: 89 minutes

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            Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac stays true to the narrative of the original 1980 cult horror film which it is remaking, but I’m not certain that this was a selling point for me. The original had the make-up guru Tom Savini attached as both performer and creator of the more convincingly bloody aspects of the film, but it was still a movie many called depraved rather than a classic. Roger Ebert walked out of a screening after one of the more infamously graphic sequences. Just the same, I will review this remake as a stand-alone film. This also does not ensure any positive feedback, however, but not because of the film’s graphic nature. Violence is entirely acceptable tool if it has a purpose or some kind of statement, but it seems a pointless venture in stylistic violence in Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac.

     

            Shot almost entirely from the point-of-view of the killer, a pathetic mannequin restorer named Frank (Elijah Wood), Maniac forces the audience to participate in the murders. In my review of the anniversary Halloween Blu-ray release, I discuss the brilliant use of POV to force the audience's participation in the film’s opening murder. Maniac over-uses this effect, essentially allowing for Wood to spend a minimized amount of time onscreen despite constant voice-over, but the biggest issue is the contradictory effect it seems to have on the narrative. We are placed in his point-of-view to see what the killer is seeing, but the narrative never allows for an understanding of his motivations. The camera may be in the place of Frank’s eyes, but the audience is never allowed into his head.

           

    Free Samples DVD Review

  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: October 29, 2013
  • Run Time: 80 minutes




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            Free Samples is everything you would have expected from an independent film in the 90s; it has over-written dialogue with amateur acting and limited locations. There are a few bright spots in the film, mostly coming from more experienced actors who briefly appear to show how the contrived dialogue can be convincingly spoken. Perhaps I am being too harsh, because aside from the plot, the dialogue, the main character and the leading actress, Free Samples isn’t a terrible film.

     

            The glaring issue I had with this film was a completely unlikable protagonist. Jillian (Jess Weixler) is a law school dropout who moved to Los Angeles to drink heavily every night and sleep with random men in frequent succession. This is clearly due to an event which will inevitably be revealed in contrived emotional monologue, but by the time we find out it is too little and too late to make up for such an acidic personality. She is not only a drunken mess, but also condescendingly talks down to everybody she meets, which is not enjoyable in a film where that is essentially all the plot has her doing.

     

    Shrek the Musical Blu-ray Review

  • Language: English (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: DreamWorks
  • Release Date: October 15, 2013
  • Run Time: 120 minutes




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            As much as I love film, there are some experiences which are not the same when they aren’t experienced live. I don’t care how clear high definition gets or how realistic 3D becomes, stage performances are best seen in person. No Cirque Du Soleil film has ever compared to a live performance, regardless of how impressive the feats, and Broadway musicals are somehow even more unimpressive. Shrek the Musical is no exception, though it is a musical where it may matter less because of the younger target audience.

     

            Personally, I would much rather watch the cartoon film than this musical. There are seventeen all-new songs, but most of them were forgettable and somewhat sloppily written. I know that I am speaking poorly of a Tony Award-winning musical, but it simply wasn’t the type of play that I would choose to go see. I found it distracting when the actors sounded so different than their film counterparts, and that is the danger of adapting something so familiar.