Sunday, March 18, 2018

GREAT BALLS OF FIRE (1989) (Olive Blu-ray Review)


Label: Olive Films
Duration: 108 Minutes 
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Jim McBride
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Dennis Quaid, Trey Wilson, Winona Ryder

This biopic of wild man rocker Jerry Lee Lewis documents the singer's early career,  as played by Dennis Quaid (Jaws 3-D) the pic is pretty glossy and one dimensional but it does showcase the piano-rocker's exquisite pumping piano sound and Quaid is actually pretty damn good as the piano-man, he's got his sexual energy and charm down pat, including his goofy faces and manic stage presence. Then we have Winona Ryder (Beeteljuice) as his enraptured teenage cousin Myra Gale Brown, and yes, they do end up married, which is a stone-cold truth, and while the movie seems to be taking liberties with the truth to a degree there's no denying that Jerry Lee married his then thirteen year-old cousin, which just makes Lewis all sorts of creepy. The revelation is still a shocker today, but back in the 50's it was a bombshell, inspiring the whole of the country of England ( and the U.S.) to turn their back on him, throwing his burgeoning career straight into the toilet pretty much overnight. 

Aside from the capable presence of Ryder and Quaid we have Trey Wilson (Raising Arizona) and Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog's Day) as the founders of Sun Records, a small (now legendary) label who signed Jerry Lee Lewis and started up his career shortly after he cut his first demo at the studio. The label was still smarting from recently having sold off Elvis' contract for the paltry sum of thirty-thousand dollars, they acted quickly to exploit Jerry Lee's raucous rock n' roll piano sound which becomes all the rage on the radio. Alec Baldwin shows up as Jerry's cousin Jimmy Swaggart, who tries to steer his cousin away from the influence of the devil's music, rock n' roll. Swaggart himself would become something of an infamous figure himself in the 80's when his money-grubbing Evangelical ministry was brought down by the revelation that he fornicated with a New Orleans' hooker, I love it when the pious are brought down by their own hypocrisy 

The film glosses over a lot of the finite details of the story, but what it gets right are the incendiary live performances and huge ego of the star, as I've already said I think Quaid really nailed it, aside from some questionable lip-syncing from time to time. It's sort of a brave performance playing a lusty child-bride fornicator, but he goes for it with a lot of bravado, and somehow doesn't come off too awful though that aspect of his life certainly is reprehensible. More reprehensible perhaps are the parents of Myra Gale Brown, especially the father who was Jerry Lee's cousin and the bass player in his band. For starters they don't see the alarming chemistry between the kin, though to be fair her father does after Lee with a pistol at one point, but when the cash starts rolling in they just go along with it! 

The film has some great performances of Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis setting his piano on fire in a successful attempt to upstage the legendary Chuck Berry during a concert, plus a sultry roadhouse show with a lusty group becoming entranced by the piano-pounder, it's good stuff. My favorite aspects of the film are the burgeoning Memphis music scene, Jerry Lee cutting his first record at Sun Records, meeting Elvis, I love all that scene-type stuff.   

The film  was based on a biography by Myra Lewis, so there's some authenticity to it but it seems that director/co-screenwriter Jim McBride took some liberties with the story, while rooted in reality there's clearly some creative license in evidence. Notably Jerry Lee Lewis re-recorded a few of his best known tunes from inclusion in the film, including "Great Balls of Fire", "High School Confidential", "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On", "Breathless", "Crazy Arms and more. They sound great but lack the rollicking lo-fi venom of the original Sun Records recordings in my opinion, but I am sure these more refined songs  probably went over a bit better with the masses who went and saw it at the cinema. 

This was movie I watched many times on cable in the 90's, it was my introduction tot he music of Jerry Lee Lewis, and I don't quite love the way I used to, there's no denying the power of that wild man's rockin' piano sound, too bad he fucked it up by buggering his own cousin. 

Audio/Video: Great Balls of Fire (12989) arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films in  1080p HD widescreen framed in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, it looks a bit dated but it looks solid enough for a catalog title, the image is a bit soft and lack crispness, but the grain is adequately managed and colors look natural. The lone audio options is an English DTS_HD MA 2.0 Stereo track, it's not robust but does the job, the Jerry Lee Lewis tunes sound great as does additional soundtrack contributions, including  "Rocket 88" from Jackie Brenston and The Delta Cats. This is a bare-bones release but offers optional English subtitles are provided. 

The single-disc Blu-ray comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork, I find the Olive Films style a bit hit and miss, it's not bad in that it's easily identifiable as an Olive Films release, but your mileage will vary based on your appreciation of the artwork-style, this one reminded of the 1950's style typography used on vintage concert posters of the era which is appropriate. The disc itself featuring an orange background with the same logo-font as the artwork.   

This biographical film isn't exactly deep in it's portrayal of the rock n' roll wild man, it paints in broad strokes and doesn't dwell overly long on the incestuous teen-bride stuff, but it does manage to get across the man's persona and the music shines through. Glad to this get a Blu-ray finally, surprised it took so long. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

UNEARTHED AND UNTOLD: THE PATH TO PET SEMATARY (2015) (Special Edition Blu-ray Review)

Special Edition Blu-ray 

Label: Synapse Films
Rating: Unrated 

Duration: 97 minutes
Region Code: Region All
Video: 1080i HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround
Director: John Campopiano, Justin White
Mary Lambert, Denise Crosby, Dale Midkiff, Miko Hughes, Brad Greenquist, Andrew Hubatsek, Susan Blommaert

If you ask me what my favorite Stephen King movie adaptation is I will say Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) without hesitation, and yes I know it's not truly an adaptation, Kubrick strayed from the source material and did his own thing, and thank you Mr. Kubrick for doing so. Now if asked what's my second favorite, it's gonna be Pet Sematary (1989) every time, when I saw it at the cinema my freshman year of high school I thought I was too much of a horror fan to let a studio horror movie get to me, but I was fucking wrong - the movie is creepy and frightening as Hell, and even when I watch it these days it still gets right under my skin, the issues of the loss of a child are only more poignant now that I am a father, the movie is still a powerhouse of a fright film which is a testament to the script, the excellent cast and director Mary Lambert (Urban Legends: Bloody Mary). I own Pet Sematary on Blu-ray and the disc has some very minor extras plus a decent audio commentary with Lambert, but it doesn't get into the nooks and crannies of making the movie, and that's where this new making-of doc come into play, Directed by John Campopiano and Justin White, two average horror fans who had a calling to deep-dive into the making of this cult film, a project that started as a five hour road-trip to Maine to scout out some of the filming locations in  Ellsworth, Maine. Keep in mind that they had to do the hard work themselves because this is a movie that did not have a dedicated episode of Horror's Hallowed Grounds to do it for us, though that would be cool, though it would be a bit redundant at this point because these guys pretty much went everywhere and found out everything about this friggin' movie that you could ever want to know! 

The doc has interviews with director Mary Lambert, and the stars Denise Crosby, Dale Midkiff, Miko Hughes, Brad Greenquist, Andrew Hubatsek, Susan Blommaert, the Berdahl twins, Michael Lombard, all the main cast are here, and then it goes deep into the local peeps in Maine who worked on the production doing carpentry and landscaping to bring the otherworldly horror flick to the big screen. There's also are behind the scenes footage of the making of the film, location visits and a brief archival video of Stephen King speaking about writing the book, there's even a university professor espousing some psycho analysis of the Lewis character and his questionable yet somewhat logical actions throughout the film. The film opens with a quote from producer/studio exec Lindsay Doran (Ferris Bueller's Day Off) who speaks about her failed attempt to bring the movie to the silver screen in the early 80's at Embassy Pictures when the script landed on her desk, and then moving to Paramount where she again tried to pitch the script only to have it once again fall on deaf ears, finally getting the green light when the studio was scrounging for completed scripts during the writer's strike of 1988. It's that sort of cool insight into the process of making the movie that I love about this doc.  I loved the loads of interviews from non-Hollywood types who worked on the film locally, speaking about the impact of the film on their lives and their community. 

Reversible Artwork 
The doc runs along pretty briskly at 97 minutes but does have a few slow moments, I have to wonder if it would drag more for someone not too keen on movie docs, it would have to, but then again why would you buy it if you weren't, right? Anyway, I originally watched this a few months streaming on Amazon Prime ( I think it's still on there), and at the time my attention did waver a bit, but I tend to wander mentally when watching streaming movies for some reason, not sure what's that about, but I tend not to value the streaming experience as much as when I watch physical media, I guess that's why I am a collector of physical media. I will say that when I popped in the Blu-ray disc I was thoroughly entertained and properly enthralled by the re-watch, if you love Pet Sematary and have the yearning for an in-depth and thorough making of doc with some cool local-flavor about it this is an easy recommend. 

Onto the extras we get quite a few, this sucker is packed to the rafters with content, beginning with an audio commentary from directors John Campopiano and Justin White, there's also a second track that's a podcast commentary/interview with the duo. onto the video extras we get 8-min of edited/alternate scene, 18-min of deleted scenes that were cut because they strayed from the narrative of the film, but there's some cool stuff in there. Actress Dawn Crosby speaks about trying to buy a car from a local Maine guy who scared her something fierce, and a story of how the local carpenters were a bit taken aback when the painters showed-up to distress the house to make it look work by taking bats and chains to the exterior. Creators John Campopiano and Justin White show up for an 18-min video interview discussing their love of the film and the grassroots origins of the doc and how what started as a filming location scout tuned into a years long process, and I would just like to say thank you to them for doing it, it certainly doesn't seem like an easy undertaking. 

The disc is finished-up with some rare behind the scene VHS footage of the shoot running about 7-min, poster art concept gallery a location photo gallery, promotional trailer and a sizzle reel for the doc. The single-disc Blu-ray release comes housed in a standard blu-ray keepcase with a reversible sleeve of artwork featuring art by illustrator Alexandros Pyromallis which really captures the vibe of the film, and also brought to mind Guillermo Del Toror's The Devil's Backbone in a way. The disc itself features the say illustration from Pyromallis

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Creators John Campopiano and Justin White
- Podcast Commentary with Creators John Campopiano and Justin White
- Edited / Alternate Scenes (9 min)
- Video Interview with Creators John Campopiano and Justin White (8 min)
- "PET TALES - From the Cutting Room Floor" Featurette (18 min)
- PET SEMATARY Location Photo Compilation (2 min)
- Documentary Poster Art Concepts (2 min)
- Rare On-Set Video Footage from Rhonda Carter (7 min)
- Documentary Sizzle Reel (4 min)
- Promotional Trailer (3 min)
- Reversible Art Design by Alexandros Pyromallis

Unearthed and Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary (2015) goes in deep and leaves no stone at the Mic Mac burial ground un-turned, if you're a fan of the film and crave an insightful, well-rounded and incredibly thorough making of doc look no further - this is essential stuff for fans. Synapse have put out a few impressive making-of movie docs through the years, from Document of the Dead (1995) to Michael Felsher's Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow (2007), and now we have this one, quite a trio of movie docs they've got there, hope to see more soon, I love these things.  

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I, TONYA (2017) (Blu-ray Review)

I, TONYA (2017)

Label: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: R

Duration: 119 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.39;1) 
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Margo Robbie, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale, Julianna Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser 

Synopsis: Based on the incredible true events, I, Tonya is a darkly comedic tale of American figure skater, Tonya Harding, and one of the most sensational scandals in sports history. Though Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy was forever defined by her association with the infamous attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan.

As someone who was in his twenties in the nineties I have a pretty vivid recollection of this whole professional figure skating incident that rocked the world in '94, an event that was in the news for what felt like way too long even at the time, let alone in retrospect. IN fact when this movie was first announced I zeroed it out in my mind, it barely registered as a blip on my cinema-radar, and I had no interest in an overly-dramatic retelling of the story for the big screen. However, when I saw a trailer for the film I began to change my tune, the film seemed to be going for an off-kilter Coen Bros. tone, and having watched the film now I can say that initial impression was right-on. 

Here we have a mockumentary-styled confessional documentary mixed with dramatic footage and what reports to be vintage news reel footage, not told soley from Tonya Harding's (Margot Robbie, Suicide Squad) perspective, but also that of her abusive mother LaVonna (Allison Janney, Drop Dead Gorgeous), her ex-husband Jeff Gillooley (Sebastian Stan, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and her dip-shitted bodyguard (Paul Walter Hauser). This is one of the unreliable narrator stories only this time we have four unreliable liars and none seem to agree on their intent, involvement and/or guilt in the proceedings, often times break the fourth wall to address perceived inaccuracies about the public record of the event or to contradict a confessional of another narrators, it makes for an uneven but awesomely entertaining watch. 

The cast is great, Robbie as Harding is a tough-as-nails slice of white trash trying to make in the world of figure skating, a sport apparently ripe with class warfare, and Tonya didn't quite fit the wholesome profile they'd hoped for, which spurred the rivalry with figure skating princess Nancy Kerrigan, leading to the knee-capping that eventually ended Harding's professional career. The characters are a mix of losers and abusive family that surrounded Harding for her entire life, we have her venomous mother verbally and physically abusing her, and a lover who regularly beat her. The domestic abuse is not glossed over either, it's hard to watch it happen, but the weird and wacky Coen Bros. tone of the film makes it feel like an odd juxtaposition, it really brought to mind Fargo in that way.  The violence and degrading is presented matter-of-fact, as if to show this this what Harding grew up with and not surprisingly fell into as an adult. 

While Robbie is impressive in the role it's the insanely wonderful Allison Janney who steals the damn movie, her abusive character often wearing a fur coat with a parrot perched on her shoulder, constantly chain-smoking and eschewing the worst sort of motherly verbage, certainly not a nurturing woman to say the least, and just when you think she's about to redeem herself she blows it! I, Tonya (2017) might just become my new favorite ironic mother's day movie, this was blast.  

Audio/Video: I, Tonya (2017) arrives on Blu-ray/DVD combo from Universal framed in 2.39:1 widescreen looking sharp and vibrant, the early 90s aesthetic comes through with great detail. The surround DTS-HD MA 5. is solid, the mockumentary stuff doesn't ask a whole lot of the surrounds but the soundtrack sounds great, we have fantastic song selections from ZZ Top, Supertramp, Fleetwoood Mac and the Violent Femmes among others, optional English subtitles are provided.  

Extras include an audio commentary with the director, a behind the scenes featurette featuring interviews and a glimpse of the making of the film, trailers and 18-minutes of deleted scenes. The 20disc dual format release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of one-sided artwork, featuring an embossed slipcover (o-card)) with the same artwork. 

Special Features: 
- Deleted Scenes (18 min) 
- Behind-the-Scenes (16 min) 
- Feature Commentary with Director Craig Gillespie
- Trailers (6 min) 

I, Tonya is a very very fun film, it's not what I was expecting but it exceeded all my expectations, making me laugh and wince in equal measure. If you're a fan of the Coen Bros. off-kilter comedies or mockumentaries along the lines of Drop Dead Gorgeous definitely give this one a watch, a high recommend.  


SCHLOCK (1973)

Label: Turbine Media
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 79 Minutes 
Audio: English, German DTS-HD Master Audio Mono with Optional German and English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: John Landis 

Turbine Media Group in association with director John Landis present John Landis' long out-of-print first feature film, the cult comedy SCHLOCK, in its Blu-ray world premiere in an exclusive dual-format mediabook Blu-ray/DVD worldwide-playable combo set limited to 2000 copies, releasing April 27th, 2018.

A love stronger, and stranger, than King Kong and Fay Wray! The long-slumbering banana monster Schlock wakes up after 20 million years and escapes from his cave, befriending a blind girl who thinks he's a dog, and causes mass panic in the small town with a shocking bloody massacre setting the scene. Schlock tries to escape but the military is fast approaching…

This low-budget prelude to Landis' brilliant career which includes ANIMAL HOUSE, THE BLUES BROTHERS, and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, SCHLOCK is an ingenious monster comedy filled with wild movie references and absurd gags, with the then 22-year-old filmmaker paying respect to some of his favorite films like KING KONG, 2001, THE BLOB, and FRANKENSTEIN. SHLOCK is also the beginning of Landis' partnership with makeup artist extraordinaire  Rick Baker, and early feature from the gifted artist

Now being released for the first time ever in high-definition from Turbine Media Group, this exclusive limited 2000-copy Blu-ray/DVD combo mediabook edition contains the main feature in full HD sourced from an all-new, detailed 4K frame-by-frame restoration on Region Code–Free Blu-ray for worldwide playback, and an NTSC SD 4:3 full-frame open-matte DVD version, just like in the good old days of VHS. The mediabook packaging features original artwork and a bound-in, fully illustrated booklet with rare pictures and new writing on the film in German and English.

Exclusive new introduction by creator John Landis
- Exclusive newly shot interview with John Landis (approx. 41 min.)
 -Vintage audio commentary by John Landis & Monster Maker Rick Baker (from the 2001 Anchor Bay DVD)
- Trailers from Hell clip: John Landis on SCHLOCK
- Original trailers (theatrical release, re-release, "Banana Monster" title, the original German 35mm trailer, and a new transfer of the German version)
- Original 1970s radio spots
- Bilingual edition: menus and booklet in English and German

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

LIQUID SKY (1982) (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray Review)

LIQUID SKY (1982) 

Label: Vinegar Syndrome

Release Date: Date: April 24th, 2018
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rated: R
Duration: 112 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Slava Tsukerman
Cast: Anne Carlisle, Paula E. Sheppard, Bob Brady, Susan Doukas

Synopsis: Liquid Sky – a term referring to heroin in the New York City slang of the day – aliens arrive in the city in miniature flying saucers in search of heroin. However, an experiment reveals that the chemical released in the human brain during orgasm is just as powerful, even preferable to the drug they crave. Hanging around the young Margaret’s apartment, the aliens are able to achieve their desired fix. However, Margaret’s numerous casual sex partners soon each begin to die a mysterious death.

Liquid Sky (1982) is a strange one, a new wave art damaged slice of science fiction set in NYC during the early 80's new wave fashion scene, a place that is populated by vibrant, often annoying, face painted fashionistas with angular coifs of hair that are hopelessly addicted to fame, drugs and casual sex. The film could stand on it's own as just an exploration of this self-absorbed new wave scene, but director Slava Tsukerman adds into the equation a science fiction element, the arrival of tiny invisible aliens that fly into NYC inside a pie-tin sized flying saucer, perching themselves atop an apartment building where they hope to score their Earthly drug of choice, heroin. The aliens begin to observe the life of a young fashion model named Margret (Anne Carlisle) who lives in the penthouse flat of the apartment, she's an androgynous bi-sexual model who has multiple sexual partners and a long list of issues. When the aliens discover that the chemical produced by the human brain during sexual orgasm is even better than a heroin high they begin to feed on her various lovers, who seem to evaporate after sex, victims of the tiny, invisible alien menace - who are never seen, they're just represented by a Predator-vision sort of POV, it's the rare sci-fi film that doesn't showcase the aliens, I'm sure this is a budgetary limitation. 

As I said before, this cult-classic is weird, real weird, I had toAlice Sweet Alice), who memorably performs a song in the film, singing a tune called "Me and My Rhythm Box".
watch it twice before I could even grasp the plot such as it was, it's thin on narrative, but awash with day-glow new wave style and shocking exploitation elements, including drug culture, rape and eventually incest. Margaret's world is populated by a cast of underground weirdos and fashion-culture enablers, from her sibling fashion rival Jimmy (also played by Carlisle in a deliciously twisted dual role), and her heroin dealer/performance artist flatmate Adrian (Paula E. Sheppard,

As the movie carries along we see a fashion show and a photo shoot, Margaret is deeply unhappy and constantly sparring with her rival Jimmy, sleeping with various hanger-ons, including her former acting teacher, an older man named Owen (Bob Brady) who is one of the first victims of the aliens. Margaret is later raped by in a stairwell by a TV actor, who escapes the alien post-sex alien harvesting because he does so out of the sight in the stairwell, but when Margaret comes to realizes that aliens are murdering her lovers she tracks down the rapist and seduces him at a club, luring him back to her place, empowering herself through the knowledge that he will be killed. 

Separate from all this we have a German scientist named Johann Hoffman (Otto Von Wernherr) who for some reason is well aware of the alien menace and what they're about, he observes them from a building adjacent to Margaret's, a apartment owned by a shrimp-loving woman named Sylvia (Susan Doukas) who is seriously lusting after her new found German friend whom she has only just met, but the determined scientist rebuffs her as he spies on Margaret through a telescope. 

The finale is a bit of a head-scratching/shocker, with Margaret giving an incestuously fatal blow-job followed by a series of events I'm still not quite sure I comprehend fully, if there is any such notion with this strange art-damaged slice of cult-cinema. I don't think I particularly enjoyed Liquid Sky the two times I watched it, but I was fascinated by it, I couldn't look away and it kept my attention right up until the end. 

Audio/Video: Liquid Sky arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome restored in 4k from the 35mm original negative, framed in 1.85:1 widescreen. The strange film looks truly fantastic, the 80's new wave patina is vibrant and glorious, grain is nicely managed and skin tones look natural. The lone audio options is an English language DTS-HD MA Mono 1.0 presentation, the electronic/synth score from the director is overpowering (and often annoying) but comes through powerfully, often drowning out bits of dialogue. Optional English subtitles are provided. 

The extras on this release are mighty extensive, we have an optional intro from the director, a nearly hour-long making of retrospective, an audio commentary with director Slava Tsukerman and Actress Anne Carlisle, an Alamo Drafthouse Q/A, rehearsal footage outtakes, an isolated score, alternate opening sequence, and a series of promos, trailers and TV spots for the film.    

The dual-format release comes housed in a clear Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of artwork, one side featuring the original movie poster and the other a new illustration from Derek Gabryszak, the discs themselves feature the same artwork as the reversible sleeve. 

Special Features: 
- Introduction by Director Slava Tsukerman (1 min)  
- Audio Commentary with Director Slava Tsukerman and Actress Anne Carlisle 
- Interview with Slava Tsukerman (16 min)
- Interview with Actress Anne Carlisle (10 min) 
- Alamo Drafthouse screening Q/A with Tsukerman, Carlisle and Clive Smith (co-composer) (37 min) 
- “Liquid Sky Revisited” (2017) (53 min)
- Behind-the- scenes rehearsal footage (12 min) 
- Never-before-seen outtakes (13 min)
- Isolated soundtrack
- Alternate opening sequence (10 min) 
- Photo gallery (2 min) 
- Reversible cover artwork by Derek Gabryszak
- Multiple Trailers (4 min) 

Liquid Sky (1982) doesn't have the most coherent of stories but it certainly has it's own unique identity and language, there's certainly no other movie quite like it, this highly recommended to dedicated seekers of strange avant-garde cinema, and the Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome looks and sounds phenomenal. 

Get ready to unlock the secrets of Winchester, coming to Digital April 17th and Blu-ray™ Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand May 1st


The Haunting Tale Inspired by True Events Arrives on Digital April 17th and on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD on May 1st from Lionsgate

The Winchester Mansion’s sinister secrets are revealed in Winchester, arriving on Digital April 17th and on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand May 1st from Lionsgate. Directed by The Spierig Brothers (Jigsaw, Predestination) and co-written by Tom Vaughan and The Spierig Brothers, Academy Award®-winner Helen Mirren (Best Actress, The Queen, 2006) stars as the infamous and eccentric heiress Sarah Winchester, who stops at nothing to protect her family from the evil spirits haunting them. The hair-raising thriller also stars Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Mudbound, Chappaquiddick), Sarah Snook (Steve Jobs, Predestination), Angus Sampson (Mad Max: Fury Road, Insidious), and newcomer Finn Scicluna-O’Prey (TV’s “True Story with Hamish and Andy”).

Inspired by true events, Winchester is set on an isolated stretch of land outside of San Francisco where there sits the world’s most haunted house. Seven stories tall with hundreds of rooms, the house has been under construction for decades. But heiress Sarah Winchester (Mirren) is not building for herself, for her niece (Snook), or for the troubled doctor (Clarke) she has summoned. She is building it as an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts.

The Winchester Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD includes a never-before-seen “making of” featurette, which includes cast and crew interviews, and will be available for the suggested retail price of $39.99 and $29.95, respectively.

- “Driven by the Spirits: The Making of Winchester” Featurette

Year of Production:  2018

Title Copyright: Winchester © 2018 Winchester Film Holdings Pty Ltd, Eclipse Pictures, Inc., Screen Australia and Screen Queensland Pty Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Artwork & Supplementary Materials © 2018 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Type: Theatrical Release

Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, drug content, some sexual material and thematic elements.  

Genre: Thriller
Closed-Captioned: N/A
Subtitles: Spanish, English SDH  
Feature Run Time: 99 Minutes
BD Format: 1080P High Definition 16x9 Widescreen 2.39:1 Presentation
DVD Format: 16x0 Widescreen 2.39:1 Presentation
BD Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio™, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, English Descriptive Audio
DVD Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, English Descriptive Audio

GATE II (1990) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

GATE II (1990)

Label: Scream Factory

Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 93 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Tibor Takacs
Cast: Louis Tripp, Pamela Segall, Simon Reynolds, James Villemaire, Neil Munro

Gate II (1990) picks up a five years after The Gate (1987), gone is Stephen Dorf's character Glen, the family apparently moved away after the weirdness of the first film. In his place we catch-up with Terrence (Louis Tripp) who still dabbles in demonology, even after all the trouble from the first film! He was a troubled adolescent before and has grown into an even more troubled teenager, still mourning the loss of his mom and now his father's an unemployed alcoholic. At the start of the film Terrence returns to the still-in-ruins house from the original, returning to the portal to once again conjure demons to do his bidding, not for nefarious personal gain, but to wish a better life for his father, which is sort of sweet. His motivations are pure, but when you summon demons in a movie things tend to go wrong as we learned in The Gate (1987) and countless other movies, and when his ceremony is interrupted by a pair of local bullies John (James Villemaire) and Moe (Simon Reynolds), along with John's cute girlfriend Liz (Pamela Adlon), it seems that the conjuring was a dud, until a lone Minion (the little demonic entities from the first film) appears, but John pulls out a pistol and shoots it dead on sight! 

Terrence takes the lifeless corpse of the mini-minion home where after a few days it re-animatess, after which he keeps it in a birdcage as a demonic pet, and it turns out that the ceremony might have worked takes a liking to him, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend, who in turn steals the Minion, but both he and Moe are attacked by the creature and they begin to tun into demons themselves, kidnapping Liz with the intentions of sacrificing her and unleashing demonic Hell upon the Earth.

This sequel certainly tries go in a slightly different direction than the first film at first, but eventually it all comes back to having to close the damned portal again. The special effects hold up pretty damn well, I love these old school visual effects, there's some fun matte paintings and slightly rope-y forced perspective miniatures used to achieve the kiddie-horror madness, it has a nice look to it with oodles of atmosphere, and though we only get one minion this time around they really get their moneys worth out of it, achieved through both both animated miniatures and a person in a rubber suit. The make-up effects used to transform John and Moe and decent, particularly a scene of John in bathroom at an upscale restaurant as waiter inquires if he's okay as he begins to painfully transform into a bad-skinned demon, fun stuff. 

The movie has a lot of heart, I found it easy to sympathize with Terrence as he tried to use demonology for good, only to have it turn to shit (literally in one scene), he's a good guy. The 80's teen romance with Liz is decent too, not too drippy with schmaltz, but real enough. The one character that annoyed me was lead bully John, he's a standard issue 80's bully, but I like how they have his sidekick Moe a defective heart to humanize him. I will say that for all I loved about it the hokey and overly saccharine ending is almost a deal-breaker, it's real bad, but not bad enough to derail the whole film. 

Audio/Video: Gate II (1990) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory framed in 1.85:1 widescreen, sourced from a new 2K scan of the interpositive. The source is clean and free of dirt and debris, colors are nicely saturated and there's a fine layer of natural looking grain. The image has nice depth and clarity, and the fine details look very good. The HD is so nicely crisp as to accentuate some of the limitations of the special effects, but I sort of like that! The lone audio option is an English language DTS-HD MA Stereo track, it lacks depth and crispness, but is serviceable, optional English subtitles are provided. 

While not a Collector's Edition, Scream Factory still offer up some quality new Red Shirt Pictures produced extras, beginning with a 27-min making-of retsrospective, it's a group chat with Director Tibor Takacs, Screenwriter Michael Nankin And Special Visual Effects Creator Randall William. A warts and all conversation, speaking about the genesis of the first film, it's success and hatching the sequel. They go into how the effects were achieved, including working with Hungarian dancer Andrea Ladanyi who wore the minion suit in the film, I chuckled when Williams refers to her as having "danced for the commies since she was six". Also discussed is the studios insistence that this be an R-rated film against the director's intentions, and how it did at the cinema and with critics.

There's also a 15-min interview with Make-up Effects Artist Craig Reardon, who is always fun to listen to about his experiences on movies, speaking about the use of forced perspective, and creating the demonic make-up appliances for the characters of John and More, going into detail about John's gooey reptilian transformation. The supplements are fleshed-out with what looks to be a VHS-sourced trailer, an image gallery and a cool audio-only extra, a vintage cassette recording sent out to video store retailers back in the day, which is awesomely cheesy. The single-disc release comes housed is a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, neither of which are very impressive. The disc itself featuring key art from the original home video release which is also featured on the sleeve.  

Special Features: 

- NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
- NEW Return To The Nightmare – A Look Back At Gate II – Featuring Interviews With Director Tibor Takacs, Screenwriter Michael Nankin And Special Visual Effects Creator Randall William Cook (27 min) HD 
- NEW From The Depths – An Interview With Make-up Effects Artist Craig Reardon (15 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (1 min) HD 
- Video Promo And Video Store Contest Promo (2 min) 
- Still Gallery (5 min) 

Gate 2 (1990) isn't on par with the beloved original but it's a fun and entertaining sequel that tries to do something different while maintaining some familiarity. It has a lot of heart, plus the added benefit of some cool special effects. It's great to live in an age when we have The Gate and Gate II on Blu-ray and loaded with extras, I seriously feel spoiled sometimes when these previously hard-to-find titles get the deluxe treatment.