Friday, June 26, 2015

New Blu-ray Reviews: Thrashin' (1986), The Mean Season (1985) & Stone Cold (1991)

THRASHIN’ from Olive Films
Original Theatrical Release Date: August 29, 1986
Blu-ray release date: June 23, 2015

The 1980’s was a grand time for every boy and girl into wheels of some kind. You had Rad, The Dirt Bike Kid, BMX Bandits, Quicksliver, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, The Wraith, the Doleron from Back to the Future I & II, Kitt from Knight Rider, the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard, The Fall Guy’s pickup truck, the Batmobile, the Ecto-1 and on and on and on. Naturally skateboarding would have it’s own movie and Thrashin’ lead the tiny pack (the other 80’s skateboard Movie Gleaming the Cube would come out 3 years later in 1989). I’m happy to report that Thrashin’ still holds up this nearly 30 years later.

To say a Movie is dated is an easy way to dismiss something old, but we here at Cinema Du Meep and Retro Movie Love revel in Movies that look their time period. Thrashin’ is so designed to be of it’s time, to really represent the skating culture of Southern California, that you can help but be lost in it all. And you know how some sports Movies have barely any sports in them? Well, there is no shortage of skateboarding in Thrashin’. This Movie is packed to the gills with impressive skateboard skills. Also, I really love to say the Movie title Thrashin'

Future bonafide Movie Star and Oscar Nominee Josh Brolin (Milk, No Country for Old Men) gets his own Movie after showing a lot of charisma in the previous year’s The Goonies. He does a fine job here, and you are along for the ride along with him. The same can be said of his co-star Pamela Gidley (Permanent Record, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me) who’s paired well with Brolin. And then there’s Robert Rusler as Hawk. Now he plays Gidley’s big brother (they look absolutely nothing alike) and in true Angsty Teen Movie mode, plays the rival of Brolin. Naturally he’s angry when Brolin makes eyes with his sister. Robert Rusler is outstanding in this Movie. Now that I think about it, he really was a standout in a lot of the smaller roles he had in the 80’s (Vamp, Weird Science, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2, Shag). He has a good look and plays the bad boy very well. In some ways, he really should have had George Clooney’s career. And more Movie villains should have dangly dagger earrings.

I had a blast watching this one. And my three year old son very much so as well. He’s really into this and Rad (not on DVD or blu-ray, sadly), and I can’t blame him. Riding fast, being young and living it up the Cali way. It’s totally bitchin’.

The Blu-ray’s picture and sound are pretty good. The colors popped nicely and I got to oogle at all the eye candy quite easily. No posers here. This is the real deal, dude. 

Running time: 93 tubular minutes
Aspect ratio: 1080p 1.85: 1 transfer 
Sound: DTS-HD 2.0 
Region A

THE MEAN SEASON from Olive Films
Original Theatrical Release Date: February 15, 1985
Blu-ray release date: June 23, 2015

I love Kurt Russell. He’s is a god to us Retro Movie lovin’ kids. When we think of 80’s Kurt Russell naturally we think of his John Carpenter efforts: Escape From New York, The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China. I know I saw The Mean Season when it came out to theaters in 1985, but I sometimes forget that he was the star of this Movie along with Mariel Hemingway.

Not to say that The Mean Season is forgettable or anything. I don’t think it is at all. It’s a very atmospheric thriller that makes the most of it’s sweaty Florida locations and bubbling tension. Kurt Russell does disappear a bit into his role of a Miami Newspaper reporter who receives telephone calls from a murderer informing him of his next kill, pulling him back into a job he desperately wants out of. Mariel Hemingway plays his girlfriend, and Richard Jordan (The Secret of My Success, Interiors, Logan’s Run) is the caller. Look for standout supporting performances by: Richard Masur, Richard Bradford, Joey Pantoliano, Andy Garcia and William Smith. If anything this Movie is very well cast! 

If you’re in the mood for a good little suspenser, The Mean Season should fit the bill nicely. It won’t completely knock your socks off or anything, but it’s the kind of neat little Movie that I appreciate among the other, more high profile affairs that dominated the Video Stores, Movie Theaters and culture of my younger days. And Kurt Russell is in it. That should be reason enough for you guys. Captain Ron? Remember that Movie? You should. He’s great in that one, too. 

The Mean Season’s Blu-ray has a clean transfer and sound, and looked quite nicely on my High Definition Television. No extras, sadly. Would have loved to see cast interviews, though sadly Richard Jordan passed away in 1993. 

Running time: 103 minutes of sweaty thrills! 
Aspect ratio: 1080p 1.85: 1 transfer 
Sound: DTS-HD 2.0 
Region A

STONE COLD from Olive Films
Original Theatrical Release Date: May 17, 1991
Blu-ray release date: June 23, 2015

The Boz (Brian Bosworth) stars as Joe Huff, a cop who never plays by the rules who ends up going undercover for the FBI to infilarate a rowdy biker gang led by the evilicious Lance Henriksen and the batshit crazy William Forsythe. 

Stone Cold is basically Point Break with bikers instead of surfers. That other Film just so happened to be released that very summer, with Stone Cold beating it to the screen by only 3 weeks. Granted, Stone Cold is nowhere near as well made as Katheryn Bigelow’s Point Break, but it can’t be discounted. I find it to be a lot of fun, with a very memorable bad guy performance by Lance Henriksen. I also think the Boz is used very well here. Sure, he’s still in big, stiff muscly football player mode, but he has a charm about him that suits the role. I wish he had better efforts after this one. Also, his mullet is quite the co-star. Plus he has a dangly earring. Clearly a Movie must. 

Another highlight for me are the Action set pieces and stunts. This Film was directed by Craig R. Baxley who previously made the rather kick-ass I Come in Peace (AKA: Dark Angel) and was considered one of the best stunt men in the business. This guy really knows how to mount an Action scene. Sadly he was sent to TV-Movie jail after this Movie didn’t catch fire at the Box Office.

Stone Cold for me is a straight up Action gem. It may have been a Box Office bomb (only $9 million dollars on a $17 million dollars budget), but it’s gained a loyal fan base since with good reason. This is one of my go-to Action flicks from the era. Don’t expect anything deep and you’ll get what you need. Enjoy it with your favorite pet lizard or biker babe. 

Stone Cold was revved up and ready to go on my TV. Looked and sound great. Early 90’s Movies strangely haven’t presented well on some discs I’ve seen in the past, but Olive Films is pretty good at making sure these Movies are presented well. 

Running time: 92 Minutes of hot mullet action. 
Aspect ratio: 1080p 1.85: 1 transfer 
Sound: DTS-HD 2.0 
Region A

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Deadly Adoption (2015) Review

A Deadly Adoption (2015)
by Michael J. Ferrari 

“The Hand That Rocks The Cradle is the hand that rules the world” started out as a poem, and then became Julianne Moore’s signature line in one our favorite Thrillers. The early 90’s was a glorious time for the “Fill in the Blank From Hell” sub-genre. So many of those Movies occupied our cultural landscape. I had almost forgotten how much fun it all was, even if critics at the time were constantly sneering in disfavor (they probably still do). 

Since then, Lifetime Television and its ilk have been developing their own brand of “…From Hell” Movies - adjusting them to be a bit softer, easier to consume and meant to fit right into the status quo. Enough (lack of) thrills and (lack of) tension to satisfy the least discriminate viewer. If that sounds like I’m being harsh on the Network, well, I don’t mean it quite so cruelly. Those Films have their place in a world where we flock to shitty Michael Bay “Transformers” Movies and the latest cheap “Found Footage” Horror flick. There’s a lack of craftsmanship in a lot of what’s coming out today, but it doesn’t mean you won’t always be entertained. No-frills entertainment is, after all, what it’s all about in two hours or less, including commercials for cars, coffee, detergent and spots for annoying reality shows. 

"A Deadly Adoption", which stars Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig, is, I’m happy to report, a sly satire of the Lifetime “...From Hell” cycle. It’s played so straight you forget that there is a joke here. More perceptive audiences will be hip to it. Yes, it’s one, long joke, but played with the best poker faces imaginable. Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig are mixing it up here, allowing themselves to become second rate Actors in a second rate Movie because it’s just fun. The idea of Will Ferrell, who is gloriously (and scarily!) wigged and bearded and Kristen Wiig playing only to the drama of such a ridiculous scenario for me makes it far funnier than letting everyone in on the joke with a wink. These Movies are not meant to be taken seriously, so naturally it’s funny that they are taken that way. Though I’d imagine the actors having a good laugh about it away from the Production.

The face of a man no exclusively baby doll dress wearing pregnant hottie can resist. 

The Movie has a bunch of setups and payoffs and twists and turns that any viewer of Lifetime or some of the lesser 90’s Thrillers would see coming a million miles away. And that’s exactly what was fun about it. You can sit there and say, oh, that illness is coming back to haunt this person, and oh, so and so was a former boozer, you just know a bottle of whiskey is coming out. And, oh boy, that one’s being noisy!! Notice I’m trying to be tip toe to avoid any spoilers. Funny since you know exactly what you are getting into by the first few minutes. My favorite moment in the Movie? When Will Ferrell rattles off the full name for a certain disease. It’s such a subtle, funny moment. 

I miss a time when actors would try to break out of the conventionality of their careers. Kristen Wiig is easily one of the best to emerge from the last several years. She landed herself a huge hit with “Bridesmaids” and has refused to do a sequel in lieu of more interesting and dark projects like “Welcome to Me”, “The Skeleton Twins”, “Girl Most Likely” and “Hateship Loveship”. Soon she’ll be in the potential blockbuster “Ghostbusters” reboot and several other big projects, but we know her heart is in taking chances along with paying the bills (but let’s forget that "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" ever happened). Will Ferrell is also no stranger to satire. He and Adam McKay (who both produced this Lifetime Movie) supply steady streams of it in their bawdy Comedies and online videos. I would point out that ‘Stepbrothers” from 2008 had a nice, surprising heap of it. 

I feel like a lot of people will shrug this Movie off for being generic. But it’s generic quality is both comforting and on point with what the Lifetime Network does and will continue to do after the dusts settles from such stars headlining one of their projects. I’m of the mind that more Movie stars took such chances in their career. You have very popular actors like George Clooney and Brad Pitt, but you don’t see them starring in such trivial stuff. They are happy to sit squarely in their big budget, high-minded fare, hopefully baiting an Oscar or two in the process. I would love to see them in a Slasher Movie. Why can’t it be Meryl Streep revealed as the killer in a new "Scream" Movie? That would be glorious. She does have that Wes Craven connection, after all... You know someone like Charlize Theron is down for it. We need more people willing to surprise, even if it’s in something your grandma would approve of you watching like "A Deadly Adoption". Bravo guys!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Satan's Blade (1984) Blu-ray Review

SATAN’S BLADE (1984) from Olive Films 
Blu-ray Release date: May 12, 2015 

Sometimes you ask yourself, why don’t they make Movies about lesbian bank robbers who flee to snowy lodges only to find themselves at the hands of an obscured killer who’s sole weapon is possibly satanic anymore? 

They sure don’t make ‘em like they use too, kids! Satan’s Blade was released in 1984, the tail end of the Slasher Movie golden age cycle, though it seems to have been shot in the late 70’s/early 80’s where everyone has a mustache or looks like they really want to escape to the Disco dance floor. I know if I was of age during that era I would have been dancing along with them. Though preferably with Jamie Lee Curtis of Prom Night (1980)

I hope I didn't get your hopes up with all that Disco dance talk. There isn't any in Satan's Blade. There aren't any particularly good performances, either. So why check it out? Because it's called SATAN'S BLADE. I know my curiosity is piqued by the very idea of the evil one himself resorting to such instruments to do his bidding with. Doesn't he, like, use mind games to turn people on each other like in Needful Things (1993) or something? How about a pitchfork? All the slutty girls who wore those Devil costumes (that blonde from Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) who likes to get busy in the barn immediately comes to mind) will be sorely disappointed that Satan himself doesn't even use that. I guess you could say that the "Satan" in Satan's Blade is freestylin'. I can't vouch that this particular "Satan" is stylin' and profilin' like Ric Flair. I'd like to imagine that he is.

Being somewhat of a Retro Slasher Movie completist myself, I enjoyed revisiting this Movie after all these years, but mostly because it’s in a neat little package from Slasher Video and Olive Films. The transfer is brighter and much better than my old ratty VHS Tape and there are several extras to sink your own knife into if you’re into low budget Filmmaking from a Director’s point of view. Recommended. Especially if you love knives stuck in trees as metaphors for the human body. 

Satan's Blade, or a Wrigley's chewing gum commercial?
You decide. 

Blu-ray Special Features Features include:

Interviews, Deleted Scenes, Instrumentals, Trailer, Photo Gallery & more.

Running time: 82 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1080p 1.35:1 transfer
Sound: DTS HD 2.0 (English)

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. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My 5 Favorite Underrated Movies of 1975 list for Rupert Pupkin Speaks

I recently did a blog post for my pal Brian over at the great Rupert Pupkin Speaks. Here are some of my favorite Movies from 1975 that haven't had as much attention as say Jaws, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest or even Nashville:

And here's my list for underrated 1985 Movies I did for RPS a couple of months ago:

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