Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New Blu-ray reviews: Best Seller, FireWalker, Cooley High, Hollywood Shuffle, Teachers




BEST SELLER from Olive Films 
Original Theatrical release date: September 27, 1987
Blu-ray release date: March 24, 2015

One of the many good things about watching Movies in the 80’s was discovering gems that were seemingly being swept under the carpet. Best Seller was one of those Movies for me in 1987. It didn’t have any heat at the Box Office, it was released on the same day as The Princess Bride and brought it about $4 million dollars during it’s entire run. I missed the Theatrical release by Orion Films so I ended up, like many others, discovering this Movie on Home Video. 

James Woods and Brian Dennehy make for a great team as a hitman and writer slash cop join forces to uncover some political corruption and come up with one helluva story for a new book. This one was written by Cult Director favorite Larry Cohen, and his very unique sense of humor comes through even though it was directed by someone else (John Flynn of Brainscan, Rolling Thunder and the gentle Steven Seagal takes on Bensonhurst tale Out for Justice). 

Check out this Blu-ray as it’s transfer and sound is top notch and if you’re in the mood for a cross between Film Noir and the 80’s buddy cop genre. Recommended. 

Running time: 95 Minutes 
Aspect ratio: 1080p 1.85: 1 transfer 
Sound: DTS-HD 2.0
Region A

Includes Theatrical Trailer. 




FIREWALKER (1986) from Olive Films
Blu-ray release date: April 21, 2015

Running time: 105 minutes 
Aspect ratio: 1080p 1.85:1 transfer
Sound: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Region A

Those of us who grew up in the 80’s know Chuck Norris Movies very well. And for a lot of us, he sent a rocket launcher into our hearts. What some fans might not be as keen to is some of his lighter fare, and I suppose you could say FireWalker with it's PG rating is one of those. I think it’s fairly action packed, and a fun cheesy riff on The Indiana Jones Movies, complete with a brassy, pratfall-y blonde (Melody Anderson) and a fun sidekick (Lou Gossett Jr). 

I remember going to see FireWalker with a friend of mine in 1986. We were totally in the mood for an Adventure buddy Movie and got exactly what we wanted. Revisiting it on blu-ray, I have to say that it holds up nicely. Just don’t expect Spielberg quality and budget. This is from Cannon Films, after all. 

Great score by Gary Chang, too. Co-stars John Rhys-Davis, Sonny Landham, Ian Abercrombie and Will Sampson. 

The Blu-ray has a top notch transfer and sound. Recommended. 




COOLEY HIGH (1975) from Olive Films
Blu-ray release date: April 21, 2015

Running time: 107 minutes 
Aspect ratio: 1080p 1.85:1 transfer
Sound: DTS-HD mono 
Region A

I first saw Cooley High on VHS when it came out via Orion in 1994, I fell in love. I even started wearing a page boy cap like one of the characters in the Film. I’ve always been a big fan of Coming of Age stories, and Cooley High is one of the better to come out of the 70’s, a decade chock full of them. 

Cooley High is often lumped into the Blaxploitation genre, but it really isn’t. This is a sincere Comedy-Drama about young people that transcends the era it was filmed in and crosses over to all sorts of cultures. The characters are relatable and endearing, and that’s whats sorely missing in the Teen Films of today. It’s either raunchy stupidity or the overwrought melodrama that can be found in most of the YA adaptations. Of course there is some heavy stuff in Cooley High as this is the Movie that the G.C. Cameron hit song “It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday” came from. You may know where things are heading when recalling the lyrics to that track. 

Great Film, great Motown Music and actors who all stand out. Curiously enough, this Movie served as the basis for what became the hit sitcom What’s Happening!! (1976-1979) though the ABC network changed things and it’s very different in tone. 

The Blu-ray looks very handsome for a Movie that’s now 40 years old. I was happy with the transfer and glad it doesn’t look digitized. 70’s Movies always look better with a little grain and grit. The Motown tracks come through nicely on the mono soundtrack. Highly recommended. 




HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE (1987) from Olive Films 
Blu-ray release date: April 28, 2015

Running time: 82 minutes 
Aspect ratio: 1080p 1.85: 1 transfer
Sound: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Region A

Hollywood Shuffle was one of those sleepers that seemed to come out of nowhere in 1987. Remember when tiny independent Movies could still cross over into the mainstream? Shot on a tiny budget of $100,000 it ended up grossing over $5 million dollars for The Samuel Goldwyn company. 

Robert Townsend’s directorial debut is still funny after all these years. Movies that are essentially a bunch of skits don’t always work, but Hollywood Shuffle is one of the few that absolutely does. A lot of the humor is coming from a real place rather than people trying to shock or go for cheap laughs. Something else missing in modern Movies. No wonder why I turn to Retro Movies so much…

The Blu-ray’s transfer is rather good for a Movie with such a low budget and the sound quality is perfectly fine. Just don’t expect a busy mix. Recommended. 




TEACHERS (1984) from Olive Films 
Blu-ray release date: April 28, 2015

Running time: 107 minutes 
Aspect ratio: 1080p 1.85:1 transfer
Sound: DTS-HD 2.0
Region A 

Honestly, I was depressed when I watched Teachers. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but perhaps it has something to do with it’s tone that teeters between Comedy and Drama, and the grittiness of it’s story of a bad school and the teachers who have lost interest in trying to reach their students. I didn’t have such a great High School experience myself, it was a far cry from the John Hughes world, and I should probably relate to the kids more in Teachers. Maybe I prefer the fantasy of the John Hughes suburbs and angst that is derived from there. I can watch those Movies over and over. A Movie like Teachers is a bit more or a challenge. 

What does really fascinate me about this Movie are the actors. Nick Nolte, JoBeth Williams, Judd Hirsch, Lee Grant, Richard Mulligan, Morgan Freeman, Allen Garfield… And then you have the kids like Raph Macchio, Laura Dern and Crispin Glover. Such an amazing cast. It’s worth picking it up for them alone. 

Olive Films delivers another good transfer and audio to accompany. Would have loved extras with the Filmmaker and Cast interviews. Recommended with some reservations. 


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