Saturday, April 4, 2020

Hidden Gems to Stream NOW! A Film Lovers Guide to Boredom Part 1

I am taking a break from my typical Blu Ray reviews and doing something a little different. Recently I made a list for a couple of friends who were looking for some movies to stream, because well what else do we have going on right now?

So I decided why not make you guys a list as well. Included is: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Shudder and HBO Go. Please note: This of course isnt a complete list of all the goodies streaming, just some of the highlights from both big studios and small indie films. I also am still working through my 'Watch List' so hence why maybe a certain acclaimed title might not be here. E everything is in random order.

Will be breaking this into two parts Part 1: Netflix, Hulu and Shudder

The Invitation
The Evil Dead
The Monster
Rosesmarys Baby
A Serious Man
The Lobster
Swiss Army Man
Blue Ruin
The Gift
Maps to the Stars
The Irishman
Green Room
Murder Party
Tucker and Dale Vs Evil
Scream 2
Scream 3
Velvet Buzzsaw
Horse Girl
The Queen
Paris is Burning
Wicker Man (Original)
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
The Ritual
The Witch

Digging up the Marrow
Killer Joe
The Tenant
Sorry to Bother You
I, Tonya
Elvira Mistress of the Dark
Notes on a Scandal
Rare Exports
The French Connection
The Art of Self Defense
Beyond the Gates
The Cabin in the Woods
The Den
Ghost Stories
Pooka- Into the Dark
Pooka Lives -Into the Dark

The Exorcist
One Cut Dead
The Wailing
Creepshow 2
Creepshow The Series
Cursed -Series
The Old Dark House
Better Watch Out
The Ranger
Tigers are not Afraid
Summer of '84
Street Trash
The Changeling
Joe Bob Briggs -Series
Deep Red
Escape from NY
City of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead
The Beyond
Friday the 13th 1-8
Dog Soliders
A Tale of Two Sisters
Chopping Mall
Bloody Birthday
Tourist Trap

Friday, April 3, 2020

Malabimba (1979) Vinegar Syndrome Blu Ray Review

Malabimba (1979) Vinegar Syndrome March 31st 2020

Directed By: Andrea Bianchi

Starring: Katell Laennec, Enzo Fisichella, Ellsa Mainardi

    There have been a lot of The Exorcist rip-off's, some good like Beyond the Door (1974) but most are pretty awful. Malabimba is another sleazy Euro spin on the classic film but how does it stack against the others? After a medium conducts a seance the spirit of a former relative with a, shall we say trampy past inhabits sixteen year old Bama. Now locked away in a big Gothic castle, Bama starts acting out, and though her Father thinks its just puberty, we know she is possessed and out for revenge. In the meantime the family on hard times try to scheme wealth out of crazy uncle Adolfo.
Whew! So this was a movie I had often heard about but actually never got around to watching until now. If you are familiar with Andrea's other films like Burial Ground (1981) you know you are in for a grimy sleazy sex fest and Malabimba does not disappoint. While not my favorite of his out put I will say the movie delivers in shock value. In the film our main character Bama is suppose to be just sixteen (Dont worry she was actually nineteen) so seeing her do stuff french kiss her father or have sex with a nun or other naughty romps adds an extra icky factor. The sex itself is actually pretty steamy and Bianchi doesn't hold back on the hardcore action. The plot defiantly feels like it only serves to get to the next horny set-piece.  I think the plot or lack-thereof is what feels like the biggest let down. Between the spicy parts the film lumbers between soap-opera level melodrama and just a sprinkling of supernatural hi-jinks but clearly Andrea is not that interested. Fans of this might say this movie is more about the racy sex scenes but I dont think its asking too much to have a good plot to compliment it. Gore hounds expecting the same level of splatter as Andrea Burial Ground (1981) will be sorely disappointed. The film is virtually bloodless and even the one death in the film is pretty Meh. Having said that, Malabimba does have its own low-rent charms. Surprising the film looks like a bigger budget affair by utilizing a sprawling Italian estate and mansion with a nice production design at play. With all the films short comings there is a fun, cheesy so-bad-its-enjoyable element that helps make the film serviceable. It does this by doubling down on the weird, sleazy and perverse and this is where the film truly finds its voice. Andrea may not care about narrative polish but damned if he doesn't find ways to make me want to take a shower after his films. Bravo. As I stated above, this isnt a favorite of mine but I did think the sex is actually pretty hot, the nutso factor is high and every corner of the film is covered in a thick coating of grime which it wears proudly on its sleeve. Vinegar Syndrome presents the film fully uncut with all the hardcore scenes placed back into the feature.

Vinegar has done the best job it possibly could restoring this film and I think it looks great. Some moments in the film are yes, less than desirable but given VS track record I am willing to give them a pass. Clearly they have done amazing restorations in the past and compared to previous releases this looks miles better. Colors are bright and skin tones look natural and balanced. The film also sports a nice Mono track which is clear and easy to understand. Bonus features includes a great new interview with actress Mariangela Giordano and cinematographer Franco Villa. I love that VS goes out of their way to track down people from films like this, as it provides an interesting and invaluable look behind the scenes. Rounding out the features is a wonderful commentary by film historian/authors Samm Deighan, Heather Drain and Kat Ellinger. As regular readers will know I love commentaries and this trio have a lot of fun with this, but also its choked full of information. Clearly all three historians know their stuff but also keep it light/not stuffy. A trailer is provided as well as reversible artwork. 

Overall if you like sleazy, sexy Euro trash Malabimba is worth blind buying or if you are already a fan -well it goes without saying its high time you upgrade.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Woman Times Seven (1967) Kino Classic Blu Ray Review

Woman Times Seven (1967) Kino Classic April 21st 2020

Directed By: Vittorio De Sica

Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Peter Sellers, Alan Arkin,Michael Caine, Rossano Brazzi

    Vittorio De Sica best known for his Italian neorealism masterpieces like Umberto D (1952) and The Bicycle Thieves (1948) comes this screwy sex comedy. From attention seeking wives to widows to a custom dress to kill Woman Time Seven (1967) tells seven non-connected stories all starring Shirley MacLaine as different characters all against the beautiful and lavish Paris backdrop. Like any anthology film some segments work better than others. Some I found so brilliant and funny and others felt like they didnt have the same punch. I was excited to see Sellers in the cast but he is woefully under-used in this. Overall though I think there is more hit than misses and even the less engaging segments still have this wonderful sardonic and sometimes dark sense of humor which I adore.
     Woman also has a great look to it. The gorgeous backdrop gives the film a grand and romantic scope and the legendary French cinematographer Christian Matras brings a polish to the entire affair with his skillful and inventive camera work. Being filmed in the '60's add's a delicious layer of kitsch. If you are new to the work of Vittorio De Sica, Woman makes a nice place to start. The film is not only very accessible but you get to soak up his trademark style. Also its largely American cast might ease some into Sica's world. Speaking of, the big draw for me was the incredible collection of stars. Headlining the film is Shirley MacLaine, and she is tasked to basically not only carry the entire film but also portray seven different characters. With grace, beauty and talent she is more than up to the task. MacLaine simple dazzles in Vittorio's anthology. Certain things she does with looks and body movement help make each character alive and wholly unique.  Of course, she has a lot of great co-stars including Peter Sellers,Michael Caine, Rossano Brazzi and a young Alan Arkin in a incredibly funny and morbid segment. While some of the segments may not land, overall the film finds a tonal harmony that is very tricky with anthologies and its tight direction and writing carries it far.   Cheeky, wry and over-the-top funny, fans of sixties Euro comedies will be delighted by this release!

Kino Classics provides a nicely done new HD restoration which brings this film alive in all its '60's color-filled glory. The image is bright and clear and highlights Matras's photography and the beauty of the locations. Kino never sleeps on the job when it comes to cleaning up and their films and dirt and artifacts have been scrubbed, giving a very vibrate look. Similar we are treated to a great 2.0 Mono which is clear and dialogue comes through very well. The film features an audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger. Ellinger takes us through the film and is clearly not only very entertaining to listen to but, she knows her stuff. I found it very informative and its no wonder she has done so many commentaries in the past. Truly a treat to compliment this film. Rounding out the features is a series of Trailers.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Olivia (1983) Vinegar Syndrome Blu Ray Review

Olivia (1983) Vinegar Syndrome April 28th 2020

Directed By: Ulli Lommel

Starring: Suzanne Love, Robert Walker Jr, Jeff Winchester

     Ulli Lommel has had a very interesting career, having worked as an actor in over ninety projects and has worked with icons like Andy Warhol and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. He was also a director with over sixty directing credits to his name. Thanks to Vinegar Syndrome his '83 film Olivia comes to HD Blu Ray for the first time. At age five Olivia (Amy Robinson) witnesses her Mother being brutally killed by John in a kinky sex act gone wrong. Now all grown up Olivia (Suzanne Love) meets a American engineer named Mike Grant (Robert Walker Jr) who is working on the London Bridge. The two have a hot affair but Olivia is also in a abusive relationship with another guy. Five years passes and Mike finds Olivia living as an American real estate agent having dropped her accent. The two pick up where they left off but it seems like her past is about to catch up with them both. Ulli Lommel presents a naughty thriller and while its sexy, the thriller aspects are weak and confusing. Olivia as an adult kills a John pretty early into the film and I was expecting this to follow her carnage- as a way of turning the tables on what happened to her mother. Yet strangely this murder is never brought up again. Instead the film turns shifts right into a steamy affair/romance with a dash of revenge at the finale. Characters are set up and dropped at will, leaving the audience feeling unsatisfied. Its a film that feels like big chunks of it are missing, with plot holes and threads that are left totally unexplored. Like why did Olivia disappear for five years, did she kill more people? Why did it take so long for her ex to come after her? Ulli isnt very interested in any of this and one is left more questions than answers. Son of the legendary actor Robert Walker plays Mike Grant and is great given the silted lines he has to work with. Sadly though, Walker Jr is not given anything very interesting to do and is unceremoniously exited out of the film. Olivia seemed like it was going to have the main femme fatal act as a murderous spider-woman but sadly this isnt really the case. The entire movie feels aimless and could have used some major re-writes both in plot and dialogue. I will give the director credit for some spicy scenes with Love.

    Vinegar Syndrome presents this film using the best possibly elements. The new 4k transfer is incredible looking with colors that pop and skin tones that look natural. At the out set VS warned that the elements they had to work with was not the greatest but I still think it looks great. Night scenes for seems like they benefit the most from this cleaner, sharper print. The film sounds great as well with a nice clear 2.0 Mono track. As always VS puts a lot of love with their bonus features as much as they do with the look and sound. First off we get FOUR brand new interviews including star Suzanna Love and cinematographer Jon Kranhouse and writer and asst. director John P Marsh and editor Terrell Tannen.  All are very entertaining and shed light on not only the film but the legendary Ulli Lommel. Rounding out the features is an ultra rare 8mm behind the scenes footage narrated by John P Marsh and the original trailer. It also includes a reversible cover artwork.

Syndrome always is so exciting in what the release and though I wasnt a huge fan of this movie, some of you might be and this disc is jammed PACKED with great bonus features.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Hell Riders (1984) Vinegar Syndrome Blu Ray Review

Hell Riders (1984) Vinegar Syndrome March 31st 2020

Directed By: James Bryan

Starring: Adam West, Tina Louise. Ross Alexander, Frank Millen

    Every wonder what it would be like if Batman's Adam West and Ginger from Gilligan Island fame starred in a crappy '80's biker film? Well like it or not Hell Riders from 1984 answers that question and more. A woman named Claire (Tina Louise) traveling from Las Vegas breaks down only to discover a savage gang called The Hell Riders. The thugs assault her but she is able to flee. She travels to the nearby town for police aid but they are no help. After that she is patched up by the local doctor named Dave (Adam West) the gang invade the tiny town. Um...Yeah. So where to even begin. I've seen a lot of bad movies in my day and Hell Riders may not be the worst but certainly a mess. James Bryan is no doubt a fan of biker mayhem films but the film lacks any kind of cohesive story. We dont really understand why things happen and there is also this weird sub-plot about a local wedding which James really leans into and has no real bearing on the story. It also has a really jarring tonal problem which ranges from lighthearted hi jinks to hard to watch sexual assault/murder. This really reminded me of an early over-the-top Troma film with the people that inhabit it acting more like cartoon characters.Not to mention you can tell this was made on a dime.

     Thankfully James Bryan knows he's making a z-grade film and is clearly having a lot of fun with it. Its what kept me from actually hating this movie because despite some legit hard to watch rape, the film maintains a b-film charm and its local color in the form of the small town adds a hickspoltation flavor to the mix. West and Louise play everything straight while everyone around them either way over or way under acts. I will say the action scenes are pretty solid with some great Grind house style balls-to-the-walls stunts. And while not overly gory there is plenty of splatter and nudity if thats your bag. Hell Riders is no doubt a bad movie but Bryan seems to bask in the films low budget exploitation charms and has a lot of mean-spirited enjoyment with it all. This sense of tongue-in-cheek awareness helped gloss over the many issues this film has. If you want a mindless bit of junk food cinema you could do worse-and thats not a back handed compliment.

The film sports a great new 2k transfer from original 35mm camera negatives. Digital artifacts are scarce and colors are clear and vibrant. Its not without some flaws but overall it looks damn good, especially for an over thirty year old obscure film. I wager that this is the best this film has ever looked and probably will ever look. Nature and outdoor scenes really showcase just how clear this new print is. The sound is great as well with a nice 2.0 Mono soundtrack. As always Vinegar puts some love into each release and we get some fun extras. The main feature is a really entertaining interview with director James Bryan entitled "Straight to Hell" which runs just over fifteen minutes long. Say what you will about Byran's filmography but I think its awesome as hell that we VS has taken the time to interview and record a artifact like this. Rarely seen original story board gallery is also included. The movie is a limited edition of 3,000 and includes a great fold out poster with reversible cover art (same with the cover on the Blu Ray). I actually found this is to be a really fun bad movie and as always the good folks at Vinegar provides a great release. Worth owning.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Kinetta (2005) Kino Lorber Blu Ray Review

Kinetta (2005) Kino Lorber March 3rd 2020

Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring:Evangelia Randou, Aris Servetalis, Costas Xikominos

     In just a short amount of time Yorgos Lanthimos has emerged as one of the boldest and interesting directors to come onto the indie scene. Needless to say I am a big fan of his raw and devastating character driven films. So, imagine my excitement when Kino Lorber has released his second film to Blu Ray. A filmmaker, a Chambermaid and a detective form a weird group, their goal, to recreate murders based off a local serial killer. If you are looking to get into the films of Yorgos Lanthimos I woulds say this is probably not a great one to start with. Kinetta is extremely slow paced and it has the feeling of a budding filmmaker that is more interested in playing around with the conventions of the medium rather than crafting a narrative. As I stated above this film is almost mind numbing in its pace and often times we see characters just doing their day-to-day stuff like eating or just sitting in complete silence. I dont mind a slow burn film as long as its entertaining and I find myself engrossed in the world the director and actors have created. I struggled to connect with Kinetta though I will say you can still see his raw talent in how he crafts shots and directs. I did find some aspects to be worth while. Yorgos employs hand held cameras and, since this film is about a filmmaker I liked this meta-approach.  But the thing I think I found most interesting is how there is very little in the way of dialogue or music. Its not to say its totally silent but we get very long stretches of no talking, which only adds power to when he chooses to have his actors speak.

      This film is one of the rare times I think a director remake would be a brilliant idea. At the core there is a very cool concept and he could take that and build upon what he has learned since the early '00's as far as pacing and storytelling. The result would no doubt be an intoxicating and engrossing psycho-sexual thriller. Kinetta premise seems to get lost in the directors glacier pace and experimenting within the medium. I have seen five our of seven of the directors films thus far and narrative wise this is so different as its not even super clean if you hadn't read the plot summary. I enjoyed seeing this despite not enjoying it nearly as much as his later work because its always great to see how a filmmaker grows and matures. Worth while for die hard Yorgos fans but probably way too slow for the casual film fan.

The film looks great and Kino has taken care to provide a print that looks clean and sharp. Face tones look natural and outdoor scenes dont look washed out or overly bright. The transfer truly highlights the work of Yorgos collaborator DP Thimoios Bakatakis (Dogtooth, The Lobster). Despite its pace the film is certainly visual and Kino celebrates that this with release.  The sound mix is a healthy 2.0 Mono track. Dialogue comes through crystal clear. The bonus features includes a commentary by film critic Amy Simmons. Simmons is very engaging and I actually walked away listening to with a greater understanding for this film upon my second viewing. Rounding out the features is a series of trailers for this and other Kino releases.

Deadline (1984) Vinegar Syndrome Blu Ray Review

Deadline (1984) Vinegar Syndrome March 31st 2020

Directed By: Marlo Azzopardi

Starring: Stephen Young, Sharon Masters, Cindy Hinds, Jeannie Elias

    Nothing lights a fire under a writers ass like the dreaded 'deadline'. Having authored two books I know all too well that stress is part of the business. So, when I learned there was a horror movie that dealt with this very premise I knew I wanted to see it. At the time I learned of this movie it was not widely available but now thanks to Vinegar Syndrome it is, in HD! Steven (Stephen Young) is a horror author and screenwriter that is controversial but popular. Despite making a good living Steven's life is anything but idyllic, with a horrible wife and a bad case of writers block on this latest project. His fantasy life and reality begin to blur as he struggles to keep his grip on his sanity.

      Made while the genre was still riding high on slashers, Deadline attempts something a little different with the genre, but is it successful? Despite  being a very basic premise I think its strong because its something a lot of people can relate to on one level or another. Sadly though the concept is feels woefully wasted. I dont often come a crossed this but I found the films narrative flow to be its biggest issue. For example, and without giving anything away Steven suffers a tragedy which feels like a perfect set-up  for the second act. Yet strangely this comes at an hour into the ninety minute run-time. Its incredibly baffling as at this point it feels too little too late. Deadline suggests a thriller but plays more like a soap-opera style drama intermixed with over-the-top horror scenes (that mostly are only in the writers head or current film production). It also doesn't help that all the characters are extremely unlikable especially the writer Steven (a not so subtle nod to Stephen King). Azzopardi attempts some humor but it too falls flat. A film of this ilk suggests it would be tailor made for social commentary about horror and societal ill's, and while it touches upon this briefly I felt like it never goes far enough to be effective or meaningful.  All of this might have been forgivable but the film takes itself far too serious for its own good. The end result is a dull melodrama that only kind of flirts with the horror genre. I think that had the story been streamlined with a tighter focus on plot I could see this having the makings of a great psychological horror film. I hate to trash all over a movie like this but it seems like it lacks even the basic story structure. Whats worse yet the characters are all awful and not engaging and therefore making it difficult to invest in them or the lack-luster story.

At the start of the film Vinegar Syndrome states the following:

The following presentation of DEADLINE is sourced from producer Henry Less' personal 35mm print. The original negative is believed to be lost. Although extensive image restoration and color correction work was performed, certain instances of damage were unable to be repaired without causing digital artifacting, and were therefore left intact. The soundtrack on the print also suffered some damage and was poorly printed, resulting in some inherent hiss and crackle. 

While has there are times when damage is noticeable its honestly not enough to be distracting in the least. The film probably will never look as good as it does now and the new 2k transfer looks sharp and clear despite the issues mentioned above. I know the kind of love and hard work VS puts into their releases and so I dont fault them for issues out of their control. Having compared this to the un-restored trailer the difference is night and day. I think overall they did a great job and should be proud of their work on this. The sound is good as yes, as mentioned above there is some distortion in the soundtrack but again, its not bad enough to be distracting. Dialogue and music comes through clear. The extras include two brand-new interviews with producer Henry Less and cinematographer Manfred Guthe. They share some interesting insights into the production.

Great release for a obscure horror film, which is what Vinegar Syndrome is known for.