April 29, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: RINGS

Starring Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D'Onofrio, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan. Directed by F. Javier Gutierrez. (2017, 102 min).

Seasoned horror fans might vividly recall the iconic scene in 2002's The Ring, when Noah Clay watches his TV in horror as malevolent child spirit Samara Morgan climbs from the well where she died, shuffles closer and closer, then crawls out through the screen. It was a memorable, chilling twist that arguably turned what could have been a standard ghost story into a modern American classic.

The Ring was also responsible for Hollywood's brief infatuation with adapting popular Japanese horror for American audiences. Some were pretty good - most were pointless - but The Ring remains the best of them by a wide margin. An inferior sequel, The Ring Two, immediately followed, of course. Like so many other horror franchises, the basic premise was really only effective the first time, meaning Samara, that perpetually damp emo child of our nightmares, joined such former luminaries as Michael Myers and Pinhead...horror villains whose power to scare diminishes with each sequel.

It seems odd to be getting another one 12 years later. Usually, horror sequels are made in quick succession to strike while the iron is hot and their primary audience - teenagers - still have a lot of discretionary income. But I suspect Rings isn't necessarily intended for fans of the original, but those weaned on such recent mallrat horror hits as Ouija and Lights Out.

In terms of quantity, Rings may offer more, but nothing really new. In the original, Samara was rarely actually seen, which made her big appearance during the climax especially terrifying. In Rings, Samara shows up early and often, popping out of a variety video screens (including cell phones...sign o' the times, I guess) to kill anyone dumb unfortunate enough to have watched the now-infamous videotape. In an opening scene that's both creatively exciting and narratively ridiculous, she takes-out an entire airliner because two of her victims happen to be on the same flight.

Cheap wall anchors can be dangerous.
The song remains the same, of course: Anyone viewing the tape will die unless they personally make a copy for someone else to watch within seven days, which a college professor and some of his students foolishly do...on purpose. One of those kids is Holt (Alex Roe), whose girlfriend, Julia (Matilda Lutz), saves him in the nick of time by watching the tape herself. If that ain't love, I don't know what is. But what she sees is slightly different than the video that killed the others, prompting her and Holt to head to Samara's old stomping grounds to find out where she was buried 30 years ago.

It's at this point Rings turns more-or-less into a reboot of the first film, with Julia and Holt trying to solve the mystery. However, they aren't as interesting as Naomi Watts' character in the earlier films...more like two meddling kids in the Scooby-Doo gang, though Vincent D'Oonofrio arrives to liven things up a bit. If you're unfamiliar with the original, some of this is interesting, often pretty creepy, too. If nothing else, great effort was obviously put into giving Rings the same look and feel of the original. The same could be said for the fairly nifty - and suggestively apocalyptic - twist ending.

But that's only if the viewer is new to the franchise. For everyone else, more is definitely less, and there's nothing here that equals the dread of watching Samara climb from a television screen for the first time in the original. Not only that, since we're already aware of her nature, not even the ending provides any real surprises.

Rings isn't a bad film, and a strong argument can be made that it's an improvement on the second film. But as sequels go, it's completely unnecessary. However, if the premise is completely new to you, the movie kind-of works, and has enough obligatory jump scares to amuse those too young to recall the glory days of J-horror.

"Terror Comes Full Circle" - Behind the scenes and interviews;
"Scary Scenes" - The cast discuss their favorite scenes from Rings;
"Resurrecting the Dead: Bringing Samara Back"
DVD & DIGITAL COPIES (including digital copies of The Ring & The Ring Two)


April 27, 2017

Blu-Ray News: Purrworthy May Releases from KINO LORBER

Kino Lorber Studio Classics 
Announces its May 2017 Home Video Releases
3-D Musical Those Redheads from Seattle, Newly Remastered in HD and 3-D; Billy Wilder's Cold War Satire One, Two, Three starring James Cagney; Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case starring Gregory Peck; Classic Spaghetti Westerns Adios, Sabata starring Yul Brynner and Return of Sabata starring Lee Van Cleef, plus Collections of the DePatie-Freleng Cartoon Classics The Blue Racer and Sheriff Hoot Kloot & More Coming to Home Video from Kino Lorber Studio Classics in May 2017. 

Following the death of his father, nine-year-old Joey finds himself at the center of a frightening series of phenomena, including telekinesis, phone calls from beyond the grave and one very sinister ventriloquist dummy with extremely homicidal instincts. But when the authorities arrive to investigate Joey's gifts, they unknowingly unleash a horrific supernatural force that no scientist can comprehend and only one boy can hope to stop. Roland Emmerich, the director of blockbusters Independence Day, Stargate, The Day After Tomorrow and Universal Soldier, wonderfully directed this haunting shocker.

Legendary spaghetti western producer Alberto Grimaldi (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) produced this rousing chapter of the Sabata series, which sees screen icon Yul Brynner (Taras Bulba, Invitation to a Gunfighter) stepping into the title character's boots. Under the brutal rule of local garrison leader Colonel Skimmel and European tyranny, a group of Mexican revolutionaries hire gunslinger Sabata (Brynner) to rob a transport of Austrian gold in order to buy weapons. But Colonel Skimmel has other plans, taking the gold for himself and blaming the revolutionaries, but no scheming colonel is going to keep Sabata from earning his pay. Gianfranco Parolini (Sabata, God's Gun) directed this rip-roaring, action-packed western filled with fabulous gadgets and wicked humor.

The man with gunsight eyes is back and this time, he's judge, jury and executioner. The great Lee Van Cleef (Death Rides a Horse, Barquero) returns as the famous freewheeling gunslinger Sabata. This third and final go-round for the enigmatic sharpshooter who administers a unique brand of justice in the American West in the years following the Civil War finds Sabata in the role of victim. Sabata's skills as a gambler and thief are unparalleled. However, when a shifty band of desperadoes bilks him out of $5,000, he wants revenge. Legendary producer Alberto Grimaldi (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) and director Gianfranco Parolini (Sabata, We Are No Angels) took the Sabata series to another level, delivering the best and most action-packed film in the trilogy.

Only one man has the power to stop the war! Screen Legends Kirk Douglas (The Devil's Disciple) and Walter Matthau (The Laughing Policeman) co-star in this exciting account about a man who made his name fighting Indians, but now must use his peacekeeping skills to keep wronged Sioux warriors from massacring a wagon train and a nearby fort. After the Civil War, Johnny Hawks (Douglas), the Indian Fighter, returns to the West and establishes a treaty with the Sioux Indians. But when renegade frontiersmen seeking a legendary Indian gold mine murder the brother of the Sioux chief, tensions escalate, endangering every man in the territory. The great Andre De Toth (Pitfall) directed this action-packed western featuring a stellar cast that includes Lon Chaney Jr. (Big House, U.S.A.), Elsa Martinelli (The Oldest Profession), Alan Hale Jr. (A Man Alone) and Elisha Cook Jr. (I Wake Up Screaming).
Hollywood legends Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry) and Kirk Douglas (The Indian Fighter) star in this upbeat, action-packed comedy adventure. Set free after 30 years in prison, train robbers Harry Doyle (Lancaster) and Archie Long (Douglas) discover that they have a lot of catching up to do as they face the high-tech, new-wave, whirlwind lifestyle of the 1980s. And with crooked cop (Charles Durning, The Rosary Murders) and a myopic hitman (Eli Wallach, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) hot on their trail, Harry and Archie find the straight life a little too tough to handle. That's when these two old pros start doing what they do best... making plans for their boldest, most explosive train heist ever. Jeff Kanew (Revenge of the Nerds) directed this final teaming of the two screen giants. The wonderful cast also includes Alexis Smith (Night and Day), Dana Carvey (Wayne's World), Darlanne Fluegel (Freeway) and Billy Barty (Foul Play).

April 26, 2017

Rest in Peace, Jonathan Demme

Blu-Ray News: A CURE FOR WELLNESS Arrives on Digital HD May 30, on Blu-ray/DVD June 6


From the director of The Ring comes this psychological thriller and “fantastically creepy experience” (Kyle Smith, New York Post) about an ambitious young executive sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from a remote and mysterious “wellness center.”  When he begins to unravel the retreat’s terrifying secrets, his sanity is tested, as he finds himself diagnosed with the same curious illness that keeps all the guests there longing for the cure.

Featuring hauntingly mesmerizing performances from Dane DeHaan (Chronicle), Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter films) and Mia Goth (Everest), the Blu-ray and DVD includes a deleted sequence, a behind-the-scenes look at the scoring of the film and individual meditations from the wellness center.

Digital HD, Blu-ray & DVD Special Features Include
  • Deleted Sequence: “It’s Wonderful Here”
  • Meditations
    • Water is the Cure
    • Air is the Cure
    • Earth is the Cure
  • The Score
  • Trailers
    • Theatrical trailer
    • Red Band trailer
    • International trailer

April 25, 2017


Starring Ha Jung-woo, Bae Doo-na, Oh Dal-su, Nam Ji-juyn, Kim Haw-sook, Park Hyuk-kwon. Directed by Kim Seong-hun. (2016, 127 min).

I take life for granted everyday during my morning commute. During this twenty minute drive, I listen to the radio, think about the day ahead, plan my weekend and drink enough coffee to keep from killing my co-workers. You know...mundane stuff. Never once have I worried about the bridge I cross every morning suddenly collapsing, effectively canceling those weekend plans...forever.

Driving to work isn't like bungee jumping, where you're constantly aware of your own mortality because there's always the small chance this activity could be a game ender. What if the bungee cord is faulty? Or someone misjudged the length of the drop?

Watching movies like Tunnel, I'm reminded that the things we casually use each day have the potential to kill us. Still, we entrust our very lives with objects we take on-faith are safe enough, and that those who built them didn't cut any corners.

But sometimes, bridges do collapse, furnaces do explode and, as this Korean film horrifically depicts, tunnels do cave in.

Lee (Ha Jung-woo) is an automobile broker on his way home to celebrate his daughter's birthday when a miles-long tunnel he's driving through suddenly collapses. He's trapped in his car under hundreds of tons of earth, rock and concrete, but manages to call 119 (Korea's 911) with his cell phone. However, since the entire tunnel has collapsed, rescue chief Dae-kyung (Oh Dal-su) cannot pinpoint exactly where Lee is, but assures him it'll only take a week to dig him out.

A powerhouse, award-worthy performance. Oh, and Ha Jung-woo is pretty good, too.
Only a week? Imagine that...a week trapped in the dark confines of a still-crumbling mountain with only an imploding car, two bottles of water and a birthday cake keeping you alive. Not only that, Lee must conserve his phone's battery, though he still chooses to phone his wife, Se-hyun (Bae-Doo-na), to assure her and his daughter he's okay for the moment. Lee does manage to find another injured survivor, but she soon dies, leaving him alone with her dog (who amusingly eats all the cake Lee's been conserving).

One week becomes two...then three...and Lee's forced to find other ways to avoid dying of thirst and starvation. Meanwhile, his plight has become a media sensation, not to mention photo ops for a Korean minister. However, after digging in the wrong place, hope for Lee's survival diminishes, especially after his phone finally dies and they can no longer verify if he's even alive.

Despite running a lengthy 127 minutes and considering the claustrophobic premise, Tunnel is a pretty engaging disaster film. Intense, suspenseful and often very funny, it tells a smart story that, not only has us invested in Lee's situation, but cleverly skewers opportunistic media and self-serving politicians in equal measures. It's only near the end that the story begins to run out of steam (and plausibility), not helped by a previous bit of foreshadowing that more-or-less gives away the outcome. Until then, though, this is a gripping tale of survival, bolstered by interesting characters and convincing performances.

One thing is certain...it'll have you wondering about the safety of the next tunnel you drive through.


April 24, 2017

CELL and the True Terror of Technology

John Cusack, Samuel L .Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Stacy Keach, Wilbur Fitzgerald, Alex ter Avest. Directed by Tod Williams. (2016, 98 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON

You do realize the zombie apocalypse has already begun, don't you? For all I know, you may already be one of them.

I don't own a cell phone. I used to have one, an old fashioned flip phone given to me for Christmas one year. I think I used it three or four times during the first few months before retiring it to my office drawer, where it stayed for several years. As someone who’s simply not important enough to be available 24/7 (none of us are), I’ve just never needed one. I still don’t.

While preparing to move not too long ago, we decided to purge much of the crap we'd collected over time, either donating it to Goodwill, recycling it or throwing it away. My phone ended up in one of those purge piles. My two daughters were somewhat amused when they saw this ancient artifact, which required the supreme physical effort of flipping it open and actually punching in a phone number. You couldn't use it to text or send emojis in lieu of actual words and sentences. Life was hell back in them olden days.

To this day, I refuse to carry a cell phone, arguably the worst thing to violate society since Fox News. That probably makes me sound like a cranky old curmudgeon who resents and fears advancing technology. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. I depend on my computer, personally and professionally, on a daily basis. I love playing games and socializing on Twitter or Facebook with my iPad. I’m able to do 80% of all my holiday shopping in less time than takes to find a parking space at the mall. I haven’t written a physical check in over a decade because I pay my bills online. And like every other red blooded American male, I look forward to the day
Debbie Does Dallas is adapted into a VR game. As someone who vaguely recalls the dark days before there was a microwave oven in every home, I'm reminded how wonderful it is to enjoy a piping hot burrito in only a minute or two and still complain about how long it takes. The ways modern technology has enhanced our lives is nearly boundless (though it has taken some of the fun out of buying records).

Romero had it only half right.

Cell phones, though? They haven’t enriched our lives in any meaningful way. They haven’t advanced us as a species or rendered us more intelligent. What they
have done is alter our behavior. Computers and tablets are wonderful, but still essentially luxuries we could conceivably survive without. However, we’ve made cell phones extensions of ourselves like vital appendages. Many people feel as naked and helpless without one as leaving the house without pants. Cell phones have turned each of us into our own tiny island, oblivious to any part of the world that isn’t presented as text or a grinning turd. In public places where people congregate, you see legions of the Cellular Dead shuffle about like zombies in the Monroeville Mall as they tap, tweet and live life
vicariously through a 3x5 screen.

With the possible exception of automobiles, cell phones are also responsible for more deaths than any other device not specifically built for the purpose of killing people. We’re so entranced by their power that we’ve walked off cliffs, stepped in front of trains and plowed into pedestrians during morning commutes. People have died in house fires, drowned in rivers and been crushed in trash compactors trying to rescue their phones. Wikipedia even has an
entire page listing notable selfie-related deaths since 2013 (it numbers in the hundreds). Since humans have advanced to the point where we no longer have natural enemies and can cure once-fatal diseases with a quick inoculation, perhaps the cell phone is God’s last-ditch attempt at culling the herd.

But there's a more horrific depiction of the current zombie apocalypse brought on by the Cellular Dead. The only difference is we don’t return from the grave to feast on the living (though we certainly kill a shitload of 'em). That’s the basic concept of
Cell, based on one of Stephen King’s better recent novels.

"When I  said 'shoot the student body,' I meant pictures."

John Cusack is Clay, a comic book artist arriving at an airport. During the opening credits, nearly everyone around him is talking, texting or taking selfies. Like the undead, they shuffle about the terminal by the thousands, heads down and oblivious of others, all completely absorbed in their own activity. The only reason Clay himself isn’t among them is because his battery is dead. Then a malevolent cell phone signal suddenly turns everyone using one into violent maniacs. This long, bloody sequence is brutal and harrowing. Whether intentional or not, the fact this signal turns nearly
everybody into monsters sends a strong message of how prolifically cell phones have insinuated themselves in our daily lives.

Clay manages to escape the mayhem, hooking up with Tom (Samuel L. Jackson), a former soldier turned subway engineer. Along with a few others (some who live, some who die), Clay heads off to try and save his son, whom he’s convinced has survived unaffected (though I'm not sure why). Meanwhile, those affected by the signal (“phoners”) begin to evolve. No longer mindlessly homicidal, they become something resembling Romeroesque zombies (you know...like
real cell phone junkies look). They gather and travel en masse, behaving as a collective mind as if telepathically driven by some unknown force (though they’ll still occasionally pause their journey to slaughter any unaffected individual they run into).

The first thirty minutes of
Cell are so intense that it’s a shame the rest of it plays like one of those Walking Dead episodes where the cast literally spends the entire episode walking. Secondary characters arrive often, only to die long before we learn much about them, though Stacy Keach appears in a memorable scene on a college campus, where the group douses thousands of sleeping phoners in gasoline before torching them to death. In addition, there are some impressive scenes showing the massive, migrating zombie hordes which remind me of every airport terminal I’ve ever visited.

"Say 'what' again! I dare you! I double dare you, motherf**ker!"
But Cell is ultimately a missed opportunity. Despite my love for horror and much of Stephen King's work, none of it is really all that scary. What really would have been horrifying is if the entire opening airport slaughter was simply triggered by everyone's service simultaneously shutting off. No need for some mysterious signal to fry their brains because I've seen firsthand what losing service does to some poor bastards - including members of my own family. It turns them into monsters, screeching like pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers before going into a trancelike state, shuffling like mindless zombies, no longer in control of their own faculties because they're no longer connected.

It's how I imagine our population would probably react if their precious phones were simultaneously taken away. If the entire world was made up of junkies and all the heroin suddenly disappeared, it's highly unlikely they'd collectively shrug and sigh, "Oh well, it was fun while it lasted."

Who knows what atrocities the masses are capable of when denied something they seem to value as much as food & water? Would they fight amongst each other, or take out their rage on the few dozen hapless folks (including yours truly) who never succumbed to the cell phone's seductive siren song?
Not that's fucking scary.

April 23, 2017

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956): A Burning Bush of Nagging Questions

Starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne DeCarlo, Debra Paget, John Derek, Cedric Hardwicke, Vincent Price, John Carradine, Nina Foch, Martha Scott. Directed by Cecil B. DeMille. (1956, 220 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON

Easter has changed for me over the years.

I'm not even remotely religious and, with the exception of weddings and funerals, my parents never took me to church. For us, Easter was never about the resurrection. If Jesus were to miraculously rise from the dead, I'd be one of those idiots mistaking him for a zombie.

Growing up, it was all about Easter eggs and candy. Lots & lots of candy. My sister & I woke up to baskets filled with bags of our favorites, along with coloring books, a few small toys or a token stuffed animal. The tooth rot didn't stop there, either. Our Easter Bunny was never sadistic enough to hide real eggs around the yard. Dozens of plastic K-mart eggs packed with M&Ms and jelly beans awaited discovery. Sweet treasure spilled into our laps when we popped them open (Mom would keep finding lint-covered candy in the carpet & between cushions for months afterwards).

I always felt sorry for poor little bastards forced to search for real, hard-boiled eggs. The Easter Bunny must've really fucking hated them. Sure, the hunt is still fun, but have you ever met a child who was excited to celebrate a holiday by snacking on poultry products? And no matter how colorful they are, once the novelty has worn off, don't most of hard-boiled eggs simply sit in the fridge until they're too rotten to sneak into your kids' lunch box?

Gee...thanks a lot, Easter Bunny.
Oh, but then you miss out on the fun of coloring them! Really? Unless vinegar & food dye somehow brings out your inner Claude Monet, coloring eggs is time consuming, messy and smelly. It's a thankless task, which I can attest to when my wife suggested trying traditional eggs one year, coloring two dozen of them late into the night one Easter's eve. Most of 'em ended up in potato salad a week later.

Easter egg hunts lost their allure around the time I turned 13, as it did with my own daughters. There's still candy in abundance, but at my house, candy isn't really exclusive to the holidays. I guess the only difference is, for a few weeks during spring, my M&Ms sport holiday colors and my wife gets her annual fix of Cadbury Creme Eggs. In fact, Easter doesn't really have much meaning in our household at all anymore. We didn't even sit down to a traditional ham dinner this year (since my wife and I are the only two who actually like it).

However, one Easter tradition has remained constant: For as long as I can remember, I've sat down after dinner to watch The Ten Commandments. I'm not sure when that started...maybe as far back as 1973, when ABC began their own tradition of airing it each and every Easter Sunday. For me, the holiday just isn't complete without capping it off with a heaping helping of Hebrew heroics.

Moses ponders nights with Nefretiri vs. life in the mud pits. Yes, Moses is a complete moron.
I'm almost ashamed to admit that nearly everything I know about The Bible I learned from The Omen, Iron Maiden lyrics and The Ten Commandments. I suppose that's all the churchin' I need since it's gotten me this far, and really, can't all ten commandments be just as effectively summed up with "Don't be an asshole?"

But I don't watch The Ten Commandments every year to reaffirm my faith or remind myself of God's laws. I watch because I've always loved Charlton Heston. Growing up on films like this, Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man, Chuck was my definition of a badass. Ditto Yul Brynner, so it's always fun to watch these two square off. I also watch because, quite frankly Yvonne DeCarlo and Anne Baxter are both smoking hot in this movie, and every year, I'm almost positive I can see Baxter's breasts under that nearly-transparent Egyptian gown. I watch because Hollywood horndog John Derek is not only mesmerizingly awful, it's a perversely amusing reminder that his ultimate legacy would be directing his future fourth wife (Bo Derek, who was born the year The Ten Commandments was released!) in a batch of 80's soft-core sex films.

But mostly, I watch because the whole thing is absolutely epic in the purest sense of the word. The story is epic, the special effects are epic, the characters & costumes are epic. Hell, every single line of dialogue is epic, belted out by a cast that's...well, epic. Whether or not The Ten Commandments qualifies as a great film is certainly debatable (there is a lot of overacting and heavy-handed sermonizing), but it's unarguably Hollywood storytelling on the grandest of scales. As such, it's irresistible.

"You guys look like you wanna ROCK...AND...ROLL!"
But lately, two nagging questions have begun to vex me.

First, why is Easter the only day I ever feel compelled to watch The Ten Commandments, even after buying my own DVD copy to avoid sitting through 80 minutes of commercials? If I love the film that much, isn't anytime a good time? Still, during the other 364 days of the year, it just sits on the shelf next to my Holiday Fireplace disc. I don't give the film a single thought until Easter rolls around again, at which time I feel, not only a desire to watch it, but an obligation. Have I been so conditioned by ABC over the years that, even in this day & age of being able to watch virtually any movie ever made with the touch of a button, I'm powerless to make different viewing decision on that particular day?

I've always considered myself an independent thinker, seldom influenced by anyone else's idea of good, bad, popular or culturally relevant, to say nothing of engaging in anything just because a billion dollar corporation dictates it. Yet, since ABC decided decades ago to ring in Easter with The Ten Commandments, the two are synonymous with each other.

Which begs my other question: Why The Ten Commandments? I may know almost nothing about the Book of Exodus beyond what Hollywood has told me, but I'm pretty damn certain the Resurrection is conspicuously absent. What prompted ABC to choose The Ten Commandments as the best way to ring in the holiday? Why not Ben-Hur? Or The Robe? Or even The Passion of the Christ? At least those are somewhat related to Jesus and the crucifixion, though you have to be one masochistic son-of-a-bitch to enjoy The Passion (essentially Christian torture porn) on Easter.

But other than being another character in The Bible, the story of Moses has as much to do with Easter as Happy Gilmore. Perhaps the decision was made by the same network executives who decided the Dallas Cowboys must always play on Thanksgiving. After all, what better way to celebrate fucking-over Native Americans than watching football, especially a team called the Cowboys? Maybe the decision to air The Ten Commandments every Easter was just as simplistic: a religious holiday, a movie about God. Yeah, that'll work.

It works for me, anyway. I might just a tad resentful at being manipulated into this annual tradition, but it's one I'll likely continue until I die. It just ain't Easter without The Ten Commandments.

April 21, 2017

Movie News: Michael Mann’s HEAT Returns to Theaters One Night Only on 5/2 Featuring Livestreamed Q&A with Director

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Alamo Drafthouse to Showcase New Restoration Overseen by Mann in Theaters on May 2

Arrives on Digital HD, Blu-ray and DVD May 9
Michael Mann’s crime masterpiece HEAT is returning to theaters for one night only on Tuesday, May 2. Presented by Alamo Drafthouse and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, the newly restored print overseen by Mann himself will be screened in over 20 theaters across the country and feature a Livestream Q&A with Mann from the Regency Village Theater in Los Angeles.

Fans can get tickets to the Los Angeles event and see the Q&A live and in-person at http://www.gofobo.com/heatla. Tickets for theaters livestreaming the event throughout the U.S. can be purchased through https://drafthouse.com/event/heat-with-michael-mann-livestream-qa. This event is in honor of the all new HEAT: DIRECTOR’S DEFINITIVE EDITION, arriving on Digital HD, Blu-ray and DVD May 9.
Participating Locations and Theaters
  • Live Screening and Q&A with director Michael Mann
  • Alamo Drafthouse Livestream Q&A Theaters (all times local) - https://drafthouse.com/event/heat-with-michael-mann-livestream-qa
    • Austin Drafthouse Village; Austin, TX – 7:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse Mason Park; Houston, TX – 7:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet; Kansas City, MO – 7:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse Littleton; Littleton, CO – 6:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse Loudoun; Ashburn, VA – 8:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse Lubbock; Lubbock, TX – 7:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse Laredo; Laredo, TX – 7:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse Marketplace; New Braunfels, TX – 7:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse Omaha; Omaha, NE – 7:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse Richardson; Richardson, TX – 7:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes; San Antonio, TX – 7:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse Winchester; Winchester, VA – 8:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse El Paso; El Paso, TX – 6:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse Chandler; Chandler, AZ – 5:30pm
    • Alamo Drafthouse Corpus Christi; Corpus Christi, TX – 7:30pm
    • Tampa Theater; Tampa, FL – 8:30pm
    • Normal Theaters; Normal, IL – 7:30pm
    • Cinema Detroit; Detroit, MI – 8:30pm
    • Brattle Theater; Boston, MA – 8:30pm
    • Michigan Theater; Ann Arbor, MI – 8:30pm

April 20, 2017

Blu-Ray News: James Gunn’s Twisted Horror, THE BELKO EXPERIMENT on Digital HD 6/13 and Blu-ray & DVD 6/27


From writer, producer James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek, Rogue, The Darkness) and producer Peter Safran (The Conjuring, Annabelle), comes the story about a group of 80 American employees who are tested in a twisted social experiment of bone-crunching horror! Belko Industries, a normally calm workplace, gets a rude awakening when a mysterious voice on the intercom orders them to participate in a ruthless game of kill or be killed in a blood-soaking battle royale at their office building in Bogotá, Colombia. As the terror escalates, so does the body count. Everyone is a competitor and everyday objects become deadly weapons. Let the corporate carnage commence!

Presented by Orion Pictures, an arm of MGM, The Belko Experiment stars John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane), Tony Goldwyn (Scandal), Adria Arjona (True Detective), John C. McGinley (Stan Against Evil), Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station), Josh Brener (Silicon Valley), Sean Gunn (Ordinary World) and Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy). The mind-blowing bonus features include Rules of the Game, Lee Hardcastle’s Survival Tips, deleted scenes and more.


April 18, 2017


Starring Mike "The Miz" Mizanin, Bo Dallas, Heath Slater, Curtis Axel, Naomi, Anna Van Hooft, Nathan Mitchell, Maryse Ouellet Mizanin, Sandy Robinson. Directed by James Nunn. (2017, 91 min).

Maybe Jake Carter (WWE star Mike "The Miz" Mizanin) should consider re-enlisting in the Marines. In The Marine 3, he pummels and slaughters half the residents of a small town before the ink on his discharge papers is dry. And wasn't he putting those formidable fighting skills to work for a security agency just one movie ago? Whatever happened to that job? He's an ambulance driver in The Marine 5: Battleground, but still clearly better at taking lives than saving them. Civilian life just doesn't seem to be working out for him.

The "battleground" in question is a parking garage, where most of the movie takes place. Carter and his cannon fodder partner, Zoe (Anna Van Hooft) find themselves trying to save a wounded ex-con from a gang of vicious bikers whose leader he just shot and killed. The bikers consist mostly of other wrestling stars, all of whom are capable of two expressions (menace and rage, even when pounding a beer). At least "The Miz," here for his third go-round, has enough experience under his belt to manage three (looking dumbfounded isn't something you often see on a wrestler's face).

When eating barbecued ribs, careful not to "Miz" your mouth. Get it? MIZ your mouth?
Of course, no one watches a movie like this for a heartfelt soliloquy by Bo Dallas. I suppose WWE fans will enjoy watching a half-dozen of their idols punch, kick, stab and shoot each other. For everyone else, The Marine 5 is a dreary, low wattage Die Hard knock-off, with The Miz methodically dispatching exceptionally dumb villains in a setting slightly more cinematic than an elevator. The action shifts to an empty amusement park for the climax, which is a far more interesting location, but not enough to make the preceding 70 minutes worth enduring.

While no classic by any stretch, at least The Marine was an earnest effort to entertain undiscriminating action fans and suggested John Cena might just have a reasonably successful career outside of the ring. But like the previous direct-to-video sequels, The Marine 5 is little more than another cynical product from the WWE to promote its brand. Wrestling fans will undoubtedly eat it up, which is probably enough to make The Marine 6 inevitable. No one else need apply.

FEATURETTES: "Evening the Odds"; "Superstar Studded"


Blu-Ray News: Vestron's THE UNHOLY Arrives on Blu-Ray 6/27

The Vestron cult classic horror title releases continue with The Unholy, coming to Blu-ray on June 27, restored & remastered with all new special features!

Say your prayers before the Vestron Video Collector’s Series releases the demonic horror classic The Unholy, arriving for the first time on limited-edition Blu-ray on June 27 from Lionsgate. Following the mysterious murders of his predecessors, a newly appointed pastor must battle a powerful demon to save his parish and the world. The Unholy is packed with all-new special features, including an audio commentary with director Camilo Vila, isolated score selections, interviews with the cast and crew, the original storyboard gallery and more! Plus, this special edition includes the film’s original ending with optional audio commentary from producer Mathew Hayden.


OVERLOOK FILM FESTIVAL: Opening Night Film and Visionary Award Announced

Following the Screening of STEPHANIE, Goldsman and Blumhouse Will Unveil and Screen Their Favorite PARANORMAL ACTIVITY Film.

Full program schedule & tickets on sale now:

The Overlook Film Festival reveals further details about its line-up today including its Opening Night film - STEPHANIE from Akiva Goldsman, a special screening and its Visionary Award winner. In its first year, the festival is bringing 39 films (22 features and 17 short films from 16 countries) to Mt. Hood's Timberline – the hotel used as the exterior setting of the infamous Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece THE SHINING, located just one hour east of Portland, Oregon.

The Opening Night Selection of the 2017 edition of The Overlook Film Festival will be the world premiere of STEPHANIE, a supernatural horror-thriller from director Akiva Goldsman and Blumhouse Productions. The film is written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski and stars Frank Grillo (Blumhouse's The Purge franchise), Anna Torv (Fringe), and Shree Crooks (American Horror Story, Captain Fantastic). STEPHANIE reunites two forces behind the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise - executive producer Goldsman and Blumhouse. Following the screening of STEPHANIE, Goldsman and Jason Blum will participate in a Q and A and unveil and then screen their favorite PARANORMAL ACTIVITY film.

The festival’s Visionary Award will also be presented to Blumhouse Productions for the company's work with directors like Goldsman on unique, micro-budget genre films. Jason Blum will accept the award on behalf of the company. The Visionary Award was established to honor a contemporary horror figure or company elevating the genre, while fostering the community by providing opportunities for new talent to thrive.

“We couldn't be more pleased to have STEPHANIE as the Opening Night film on this first year of the festival,” said Festival Co-Director Michael Lerman. “With this film, Akiva Goldsman has crafted a horror thriller that's going to take audiences to unexpected places. We're proud to be its site of premiere,” added Festival Co-Director Landon Zakheim.

Opening Night Film:
World Premiere
Director: Akiva Goldsman
United States, 2017

Stephanie re-unites Blumhouse with Academy Award winning writer and director Akiva Goldsman (director: Winter’s Tale, writer: A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code, executive producer: the Paranormal Activity franchise) for this supernatural horror-thriller. In the not too distant future, after a global crisis, Stephanie is left alone in her remote home, while a dark supernatural force looms in the background. When her mother and father return to claim her, the malevolent power spins out of control with Stephanie at the center.

Special Presentation:
Surprise Paranormal Activity Event and Visionary Award Presentation

The Overlook Film Festival's Visionary Award will be presented to Blumhouse Productions, after which Blum and Goldsman will screen their favorite PARANORMAL ACTIVITY film in the franchise that helped launch Blumhouse.


April 15, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: MARS (2016)

Starring Jihae Kim, Oliver Martinez, Ben Cotton, Clementine Poidatz, Sammi Rotibi, Alberto Ammann, Anamaria Marinca, Cosima Shaw, John Light. Directed by Everardo Gout. (2016, 283 min).

Now available on Blu-Ray

Mars is National Geographic's ambitious six-part miniseries that's part documentary, part speculative fiction which takes place in the years 2033 & 2037. While it's initially a mixed bag, things do improve as it goes along.

The story involves an international crew embarking on a privately funded journey to the Red Planet. The goal is to eventually establish a permanent, self-sustaining colony, a process expected to take several years. The endeavor is fraught with obstacles and complications, such as the physical effects of longterm space travel, creating a livable environment under severe Martian conditions and the psychological impact of living in relative isolation. For the most part, the crew is only one mechanical malfunction or screw-up away from certain death.

The crew felt like proud pioneers...until one of them spotted a discarded beach ball.
Interspersed throughout the story are interviews with present-day experts (including astronomy's resident rock star, Neil deGrasse Tyson) who discuss the feasibility of such a journey in real life. We also see ample footage of experiments conducted on and around Earth which might help prepare us for life on a hostile world. Incidents and dramatic turns in the plot are supported by evidence confirming their authenticity. And if nothing else, Mars is painstakingly detailed in its effort to present Martian life as realistically as possible.

Of course, being that this is a National Geographic production, the science is irrefutable and often quite fascinating. The series does a terrific job showing us that, not only would simply getting to Mars be a herculean task, actually living there would, for the most part, really suck.

However, what makes interesting science doesn't always translate into compelling drama. From a narrative standpoint, the first few episodes are almost too methodical in presenting the struggles of the crew, few of the whom are interesting enough characters to care about. Additionally, the frequent shifts back-and-forth from the story to present-day interviews are difficult to get used to.


But Mars improves dramatically, right around the time a months-long dust storm threatens the colony and a botanist starts to use his marbles. Similarly, when scientists discuss the psychological impact of extreme isolation on the human psyche, we develop a certain amount of admiration for anyone willing to subject themselves to it (such as astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent an entire year on the International Space Station). The show also finds a more consistent rhythm in segueing between reality and fiction.

With top-notch production design, mostly-convincing special effects and effective use of terrestrial locations, Mars is visually impressive; we seldom feel like we're watching actors on a soundstage. It takes awhile to get going, but while the story and characters pale in comparison to The Martian (and you will make such a comparison), Mars is a fairly enjoyable and informative miniseries. It also leaves the door open for another season (which National Geographic just recently announced).

MAKING MARS - A full length episode about the miniseries;
BEFORE MARS - A 30 minute prequel focusing on Hanna & Joon as teenagers
"Getting to Mars," "Living on Mars" & "More Mars" - several promotional mini-docs (though not explicitly related to the show);
"Behind the Scenes" - A three-part featurette;
"Cast & Crew Interviews";
"Before Mars: Behind the Scenes"