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Shark Night Blu-Ray and DVD Reviews

I never expected Shark Night rank up there with Jaws. In fact, I expected it to be pretty bad. And it is, but for all the wrong reasons.

Simple plot. Several bimbos and hunky douche bags (even the obligatory nerds in this one act like douche bags) travel by boat for a weekend on a lake, only to be picked off one-by-one by a variety of sharks. Yeah, I know you’re asking yourself how salt-water fish can accomplish this, but it’s explained (lamely) pretty early on, but I was willing to accept the explanation for the sake of the story. It turns out some sleazy locals brought these sharks into the lake so they can make some quick cash shooting videos of people turned into fish food.

Dumb? You bet, but on paper it sounds like a quick & dirty sleaze-fest that could be a fun way to kill 90 minutes. You would think, if nothing else, the thing would at least be loaded with enough gratuitous gore and T&A to make the thing worth sitting through.

And you’d be wrong.

Shark Night commits the ultimate cardinal sin of horror films…it’s boring. The best cinematic trash, especially if trying to appeal only to the yahoo crowd, is fun, and that‘s the bottom line. This should have been something on par with Snakes on a Plane…total crap alleviated by an audacity to throw everything (including the kitchen sink) on the screen, and since director David Ellis also made Snake on a Plane, I expected that very thing. Instead, we get watered-down PG-13 violence and special effects not much better than the made-for-cable movies SyFy vomits up every Saturday night. I watched this snooze-fest with my seven-year-old daughter and the only time she was scared was when she thought the dog was going to die.

Movies like this need earn their hard-R rating, with more blood, more boobs and Samuel L. Jackson screaming “I’ve had it with these motherf**kin’ sharks in this motherf**kin’ lake!” We’re not looking for anything more than cheap thrills, which Shark Night doesn’t provide. However, I must admit there is one intentionally humorous moment involving the local sheriff (Donal Logue) as he explains the reason for all the shark attacks. It’s a minor hoot.

The theatrical release was in 3-D, but based on what I saw here, even that overused gimmick wasn’t exploited too much, save for the film’s one truly great scene involving a great white shark and a Jet-Ski.

Shark Night is pretty-much a waste of time. You are better off dusting off your old copy of Jaws, or even Deep Blue Sea, or even the remake of Piranha, which is everything this film should be but isn’t. Leave it on the shelf.

Shark Attack! Kill Machine! -a montage of the film’s death scenes.
Shark Night’s survival Guide – fun facts about shark with a semi-amusing voice-over.
Fake Sharks, Real Scares – a short feature on how they created these totally phony fish.
Ellis’ Island – actors gushing about how great their director is.
Digital copy of the film.

The DVD only includes the “Shark Attack! Kill Machine” and “Ellis’ Island” featurettes.

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Blu-Ray review, DVD review | , , | Leave a comment

The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Overall, the episodes in this 14th boxed set of the long-running animated series pale in comparison to the heyday of its first eight-or-so seasons. But, at the same time, there’s still a lot to love here, and I defy you to name ANY series that still manages to have this many consistent moments. That’s sort of a trick question, since most TV shows don’t even make it to 14 seasons (in fact, as of this writing, “The Simpsons” is now the longest running series of all time).

“The Simpsons” has reached the point where comparison to other shows is pointless and redundant; one can now only assess each season by comparing it to previous ones. That being said, there isn’t a single episode that compares favorably to those made several years earlier, yet at least half of them are funnier and more original than any current “Family Guy” episode.

Which raises the question…should the longtime “Simpsons” fan invest in this set? For completists, the answer is obviously yes. For fans who only wish to relive the greatest moments of the show overall, the answer is probably no; in my humble opinion, the show’s best years were seasons three through eight, and season 14 falls into that netherworld where the show itself seemed to have exhausted most of its original ideas. But to the newbie who has never experienced the show? Hey, there might be two or three of those left, and for them, there are a lot worse ways to spend your cash. Starting with the annual “Treehouse of Horror” episode, there are a lot of laughs to be found in the episodes here, many of which warrant repeated viewings.

“The Simpsons” may no longer be considered the cutting edge of TV comedy but it is still one of the more consistently entertaining programs. This 14th boxed set doesn’t not feature the show at its best, but it is still a decent collection of sharp and humorous satire.

DVD Extras:
A Haunting Invite From Matt Groening
Audio Commentaries on every episode with Executive Producers Al Jean and Mike Scully, joined by Writers, Actors and Directors
It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll
The 300th Episode Featurette
In The Beginning
The Halloween Classics
Foolish Earthlings
Deleted Scenes with Commentary
Multi-Angle Animation Showcase
Original Sketches
Special Language Feature

The Blu-ray set features two exclusive episodes (Treehouse Of Horrors V and VI).

December 29, 2011 Posted by | Blu-Ray review, DVD review | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

James Coburn Double Feature DVD Review

Two decidedly minor 70’s-era films on James Coburn’s extensive resume are now available on a single disc from Shout Factory.

Personally, I always thought Coburn was a far more effective supporting actor than a leading man, having been part of the of the greatest action films of the 60s in that capacity (The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven). He’s also been allowed to shine in a few quirky leading roles (the spoofy & campy Flint series). Over the years, he developed sort-of a tough guy persona, though he was never in the same league as the Waynes, Eastwoods or McQueens. He’s been in a lot of great films, but he also appeared in a lot of crap. The two films in this collection, The Last Hard Men and Sky Riders, fall into the latter category.

The Last Hard Men plays like a Wild Bunch wannabe. In this, Charleton Heston plays a retired lawman forced back into service when his long-time nemesis (Coburn), escapes from prison and vows revenge by kidnapping his daughter. But what made The Wild Bunch great was the theme that progress was leaving the film’s outlaws behind. The Last Hard Men briefly touches on those ideas before focusing more going ‘squib happy’ in depicting gunshot wounds. Coburn is the best part of the film, engaging in some fun scenery-chewing, but the story itself is unpleasant and often really boring.

Sky Riders is more entertaining, though it’s the type of 70’s-era movie that most people probably saw as the second half of a double-bill. In this one, Coburn is recruited to perform a rescue from one of the old standard impenetrable fortress, since time leading a team of hang-gliders onto a mountain top. It’s kind of fun, but is definitely a product of its time and instantly forgettable, and hasn’t aged all that well.

This disc is recommended for Coburn completists only, and not those who seek his greatest films. To see the man at his best (or most amusing), you’d be better off with such better films as The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, Affliction, Charade, Hell is for Heroes or one of the Flint films.

December 24, 2011 Posted by | DVD review | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Water for Elephants Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

“Water for Elephants,” based on the bestselling novel, is an interesting misfire. Then again, maybe I’m the wrong guy to be reviewing this. Continue reading

December 8, 2011 Posted by | Blu-Ray review, DVD review | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monte Carlo Blu-Ray and DVD Reviews

“Monte Carlo” is harmless fluff aimed at the tween crowd. Continue reading

December 8, 2011 Posted by | Blu-Ray review, DVD review | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

“Wrong Turn 4” (a prequel this time) delivers absolutely no surprises whatsoever, and is mostly an exercise in which the filmmakers seem to be saying, “Hey, watch how we kill THIS uninteresting character.” I think that as sort-of a compliment, because in the gore department, this one delivers. Just don’t expect much in the way of originality or suspense.

It helps if you’re already a fan of the series (why else would you be reading?). Personally, I never cared for the first film, but was pleasantly surprised by “Wrong Turn 2: Dead End.” That one put a fun spin on the premise, featured a few spectacular death scenes and a terrific scenery-chewing performance by none-other than Henry Rollins. Admittedly, I never watched the third one, but do not feel my life is incomplete because of that.

And prior viewing isn’t really a prerequisite for “Wrong Turn 4,” which is yet-another ‘origin’ story. That’s usually a sign a franchise is out of ideas, and horror prequels are seldom very effective from a narrative standpoint, since the outcome is always a forgone conclusion. “Wrong Turn 4” is no exception. We already know these inbred hillbillies will live to kill again. This film offers a slightly different (though not very original) setting, a abandoned hospital. But other than that, it’s business as usual. The performances are adequate, but the only concern we have for the dumb college kids to wander into this hospital is how (not if) they meet their demise.

If carnage is what the viewer wants, mission accomplished. The death scenes are well-executed and extremely graphic. At the very least, the filmmakers (the FX artists in particular) earned their paychecks. And admittedly, for a film that has no real reason to exist (was anyone REALLY pining for a “Wrong Turn” origins story?), it’s reasonably fast-paced and seldom boring.

I think this series has run its course, but that probably won’t stop the inevitable “Wrong Turn 5” from oozing onto video shelves in a year or two. For that, I humbly suggest they launch these hillbillies into space. Hey, it worked for Jason Voorhees.

Blu-ray and DVD Extras:
* Fox trailers.
* 14 deleted scenes.
* “Wrong Turn 4” music video with The Blackout City Kids.
*”Director’s Die-Ary’s”- Nearly 8 minutes of director Declan O’Brien’s video diaries. He mainly just takes footage on set and interviews various cast and crew members.
* “Lifestyles Of The Sick And Infamous”- A featurette about the Brandon Mental Health Centre (where “Wrong Turn 4” was shot).
* “Making Another Wrong Turn”- Discussions about the origin of the 3 brothers, the script, the F/X, shooting in cold weather, etc.
* Commentary by director Declan O’Brien and producer Brett Levinson. Lots of chatter about directing, shooting locations, set stories, etc. Worth a listen if you dig the film.

November 5, 2011 Posted by | Blu-Ray review, DVD review | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Atomic Brain DVD Review

Of course, MST3K is always fun, and this episode, featuring the 1964 stinker, “The Atomic Brain,” is no exception. But why is Shout! Factory is choosing to rerelease episodes that have been available on DVD for years?

Actually, I probably already know the answer to that. This episode was originally part of a boxed set (Volume 3) back when Rhino Home Video was still putting them out and is now out of print (a new copy currently costs $133 on Amazon). So I guess I kind of understand the rationale. But it is also very likely that only die-hard fans (are their any other kind?) would find MST3K episodes worth buying, and probably already own the original DVDs, anyway. I think most ‘misties’ would rather Shout! Factory work on putting out the episodes which have still never seen the light of day on home video.

Plus, this single disc (like other episodes recently released) contains no extras of any kind. Just the film, preceded by the hilarious short, “What About Juvenile Delinquency?”. So if you already have the Volume 3 Rhino set, there is absolutely no reason you’ll need this. Still, it is good disc for the budget-minded, and a very funny episode.

November 5, 2011 Posted by | DVD review | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The House by the Cemetery – Special Edition

Let’s face it…unless your last name is Bava or Argento, as an Italian horror director, you suck.

Yeah, I know a lot of people throw Lucio Fulci’s name in there with the greats. But really, aside from some classic gore scenes in his best-known films (probably “Zombie” and “The Beyond”) can anyone really argue with a straight face that he possessed any distinctive talent as a director? No, Fulci is a cult-legend because of his audacity, not his ability. He simply had the balls not to turn the camera away during scenes of eyeball-puncturing, organ vomiting or skull drilling.

As a storyteller, he sucked. His only true gift was creating unusual and grisly ways for people to die. That’s not always a bad thing, but once you run out of those ideas, you still have to tell a story. Which is why “The House by the Cemetery” is a depressing and colossal bore. Coherent narrative was never Fulci’s strong point (what he has, in the past, euphemistically described as surrealism), and despite some savage scenes of carnage in this film, not only are they nothing the seasoned horror fan hasn’t seen before, they are few and far between. Fulci inserts a few half-assed gore set-pieces into a flimsy ghost story with irritating characters we don’t give a damn about (the most obnoxious being a child character whose voice is laughably dubbed by an obviously-adult voice actor).

Still, a lot of horror fans love the guy (though they should probably direct that love more towards Fulci’s special effects teams). This disc is probably one completists will want in their collection, since it includes a lot of extras the original Anchor Bay DVD did not). But even fans are likely to admit “The House by the Cemetery” does not rank among Fulci’s most audacious efforts. If you really want the definitive Fulci film, pick up “Zombie” or try to find the Grindhouse release of “The Beyond.”

October 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zombie – 2 Disc Ultimate Edition

“Zombie” is Lucio Fulci’s best film. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great one, or even a good one. But it is his most polished and coherent horror effort, and the one most beloved by hard-core horror fans (and there’s a lot them).

I may be crucified for saying this, but it really is a crappy film. The acting is terrible, the dialogue is laughable, the dubbing is atrocious and the music score sounds like it was composed on a cheap Casio keyboard (and don’t get me started on the piss-poor editing job). Go ahead, you zombie cultists…tell me in all honesty that I’m wrong about any of those points I just made.

Arguably the main reason “Zombie” continues to enjoy its status as a cult classic lies in its gore effects, which, while not always convincing (sorry, the classic eyeball-skewering scene really does look pretty phony, especially since the victim never blinks), are still pretty fun to watch.

More importantly, despite its numerous flaws, at least “Zombie” never commits the sin of being boring. As bad as it is, it still manages to entertain (sometimes by virtue of its awfulness).

Since anyone reading this is likely already a fan, and who probably already owns the 25th Anniversary Edition released in 2004, is there a real reason to fork-out for a second 2-disc “ultimate edition”? I guess it depends on your level of zombie geekness. Shriek Show’s 2004 release sported a pretty damned good transfer, and to be honest, I didn’t notice the overall image quality of this one being so much better that it’d be worth buying again.

That leaves the extras, most of which are all new, and are the best part of this set, especially the featurettes on the second disc. I especially enjoyed the cast interviews, since some of them, like Ian McCullough, were quite candid when discussing their experiences and opinions of Lulci himself (not everybody had a lot of love for the man). The interviews with producers, writers and the composer tended to be a bit self-congratulatory, but the segment featuring the make-up artists were admittedly fascinating. Also of interest is a short feature in which filmmaker Guillermo del Toro talks about why he loves the film so much. Rounding out the extras are the usual trailers, stills and radio spots. If acquiring every little tidbit of trivia about “Zombie” is your thing, then you’ll be in hog heaven.

For the casual fan, however, “Zombie” ranks far down the list of truly great films about the undead, and can be credited (or blamed) for the surge of depressing and god-awful gore flicks which oozed out of Italy in its wake (many of which were made by Lulci as well), and make “Zombie” look like “The Exorcist” in comparison.

October 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Robot Chicken Season Five Blu-Ray Review

If you love the show, you’ll love this.

I hate admitting this at my age, but “Robot Chicken” is often pretty damn funny. It isn’t always consistent, and some of the sketches do not know when to stop. But overall, this is some of the sharpest satire on television, like an R-rated MAD Magazine.

And make no mistake, this uncensored fifth season of the show is absolutely loaded with scenes and language originally bleeped or blacked-out during the original broadcasts. And sometimes I think it tends to detract from the overall effectiveness of some sketches (where the bleeps actually made them funnier). I’ve personally got nothing against language, sex or violence, but the least successful “Robot Chicken” sketches have always been the ones where the writers and animators went to extremes to show how shocking they could be. The best ones are those which skewer all sorts of media or pop culture, no matter how obscure, and there’s a lot of that here. I’d be willing to wager that MOST viewers would never get the 20-second sketch poking fun at the film, “Overboard.” RC has always been a show BY pop-culture geeks FOR pop-culture geeks.

There’s nothing in season five that reaches the comical heights of RC’s “Star Wars” parodies (still the funniest things Seth Green has ever been associated with), but it’s at least as good as any other season.

Though a single disc, it is loaded with deleted scenes, featurettes and commentary for all 20 episodes. And I gotta admit, these little clay puppets look pretty awesome in HD.

October 24, 2011 Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , | Leave a comment