Recent Sci-Fi Posts

May 26, 2006

DVD Review: Godzilla (1998) - Monster Edition

It's impossible to describe the sheer hatred Godzilla fans have for this American adaptation. While there are a small number of closet fans, they would be wise to keep their thoughts to themselves. Dean Devlin's own admittance to not liking the previous films, a cheap shot at Godzilla fanzine G-Fan's editor JD Lees, and the abomination of the creature itself doom this film into the lowest depths of summer blockbuster history.

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April 20, 2006

DVD Review: Resident Evil - Apocalypse

If a video game movie is good enough to earn enough to produce a sequel, this is usually the point where you know there's no chance at success. After utter duds like Mortal Kombat Annihilation, Resident Evil Apocalypse unsurprisingly follows suit for gaming movie sequels. The problem is that the original wasn't that great to begin with, and if you haven't seen that, be sure to avoid this on all counts.

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April 16, 2006

DVD Review: The Cave

The Cave is an example of being over anxious. First time director Bruce Hunt struggles greatly with this underground creature feature, and his time spent working second unit on The Matrix only shows during the jarring quick cuts. This is also another victim of the "PG-13" horror movie syndrome, with only brief moments of the genres highlight.

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April 9, 2006

DVD Review: A Sound of Thunder

A massive flop for Warner Bros. after Franchise Pictures went bankrupt, A Sound of Thunder didn't even trickle into theaters back in 2005. It was quietly slipped out to regain anything from its $50 million budget, and it really didn't even do that ($1.8 million total gross). It's a shame too since aside from the glaring plot holes, Thunder had some potential.

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March 31, 2006

DVD Review: The Triangle

While falling to some of the usual mini-series issues, The Triangle is wildly successful in keeping its viewers entertained. It's clichéd to say it "has everything," but that's the case here. This is one of the best pieces of original content the Sci-Fi Channel has produced in years, and it's a pleasant break from their usual Saturday night atrocities.

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March 29, 2006

DVD Review: The Real Ghosbusters 3-Pack

Spinning off the hugely popular film, the cartoon version of Ivan Reitman's Ghostbusters may be toned down, but it's still a lot of fun. The designs, sarcasm, humor, and occasionally linked storylines still make it a joy to watch 20 years after its debut. You'd never know how fondly remembered it was from Sony's DVD treatment though.

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DVD Review: King Kong (2005)

Impossibly beating all odds, destroying every bad memory about the 1976 remake, and setting a new standard for creature features, King Kong is a remarkable film. It's intense, brutal, and draining on every emotion. You're actually tired after watching it. Peter Jackson's remake is a $207 million gift for every Kong fan in the world, and except for a few ugly spots, it's hard to imagine a better way to resurrect one of cinema's all time greats.

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March 7, 2006

DVD Review: The Island

The Island is a rare movie from action director Michael Bay. Instead of quickly setting up the story to give more time to the action, the story here is the constant focus. With its intriguing mystery, the entire Island experience succeeds as entertainment. Fans of Bay need not worry either; the action sequences are stunning achievements.

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March 1, 2006

DVD Review: Space Amoeba

Definitely one of the oddest kaiju movies to come from Toho, Space Amoeba (or Yog: Monster from Space), was the first 1970s effort. It also became the final one from the combination of composer Ikira Ifukube and director Ishiro Honda. It's a minor effort, with a lack of scale that severly hurts the story.

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January 14, 2006

DVD Review: The Monster that Challenged the World

With the 50's monster cycle almost over, The Monster that Challenged the World is one of the "lost" entries of the era. While it does fall victim to typical and expected clichés, it also builds some strong character, a rarity for not just the time or the era, but the genre too. It's the best thing going for this low budget piece of filmmaking.

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January 1, 2006

DVD Review: Mighty Peking Man

They've ravaged London. Tokyo is no more. Korea is off the map. New York's landmarks underwent unscheduled demolition. Where's a giant monkey to go anymore? How's Hong Kong sound? That's the new playfield for Mighty Peking Man, a 1977 Kong knock-off and re-released with Quentin Tarantino's stamp of approval from his Rolling Thunder studio.

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DVD Review: A*P*E

Bringing with it a new breed of awfulness, A*P*E is a classic example of a knock-off film. It doesn't seem to know what it wants to be, and since it's so pathetic it should be straight camp. At times, it acknowledges this, and other points, it's all played straight. It doesn't matter how the audience takes it as A*P*E is unquestionably awful and possibly the most grating giant monkey "epic" we'll ever see.

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December 29, 2005

DVD Review: Konga

The world needs more mad scientists. They may screw up once in a while and unleash some huge terror that rampages through a major metropolis, but it’s all worth it. Besides, who else could come up with a movie like Konga and label it entertainment besides the criminally insane? And what would we do without it?

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December 14, 2005

DVD Review: Godzilla: Final Wars

There's one thing going for Godzilla: Final Wars. It's not the 1998 American travesty called Godzilla. Final Wars knows this, and few references to that ugly mess are the only real highlights here. It's an attention deficit disorder nightmare of a film, radically altering a concept (admittedly quickly going stale) that's worked for decades.

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November 30, 2005

DVD Review: King Kong vs. Godzilla

The story of how King Kong vs. Godzilla came to be is likely more interesting than the film for most people. Originally envisioned by Willis O'Brien as a sequel to the original King Kong where the ape fought a giant Frankenstein monster, the film ended up at Toho after various dealings where Godzilla was inserted. There are meager connections to either creature's brief history (at the point of release), and it was created only to put two of the world's biggest monsters on screen at the same time.

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DVD Review: King Kong Escapes

Not a sequel to King Kong vs. Godzilla five years earlier, King Kong Escapes is a childish take on the giant ape. It should be though, closely involved with Rankin/Bass Productions animated cartoon series that would follow four years later. All the strange Japanese fun makes this lighthearted approach fun, if completely absurd.

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November 24, 2005

DVD Review: War of the Worlds - Season 1

Picking up after the 1953 classic film version, War of the Worlds is a rather weak TV series, bad enough to wreck most of the positive memories from the film. It's not the best premise to serve as a backdrop for a long running show (and that was proven with only two seasons), and some of the new concepts introduced are just awful. The first season is the only one worth watching, but even this is tough to sit through.

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DVD Review: Mighty Joe Young (1949)

Mighty Joe Young is the King Kong sequel Son of Kong should have been. Actually, it's not a sequel at all, but given the cast, directors, and writers, it should be. The final oversized ape epic to come from the team of Schoedsack, Cooper, and O'Brien, Young is just a small notch below the original Kong.

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November 22, 2005

DVD Review: War of the Worlds (2005)

While almost completely devoid of logic or sense, Steven Spielberg's adaptation of War of the Worlds offers spectacle. It's what anyone sitting down to watch an alien invasion movie should expect to see. Anything more is a bonus, and while those pieces are missing, it's the images that make this film unforgettable.

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November 15, 2005

Alone in the Dark DVD Review

Some say director Uwe Boll is a hack. Some say he's talentless. Some say he's destroying perfectly good video games by making movies based on them. Anyone who ever spoke those words is correct. Alone in the Dark is his second game adaptation, and while his first (House of the Dead) can be viewed as totally ridiculous, inept entertainment, that doesn't fly with this creature feature.

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November 2, 2005

War of the Worlds (1953) Special Edition DVD Review

Setting a standard rarely matched in its decade, the 1953 screen version of The War of the Worlds is one of the true genre classics. Its unforgettable regardless of changes made from the original H.G. Wells novel, becoming its own masterpiece of science fiction. Everything, from the Martian space ship design to the performances of Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, make this unforgettable.

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October 22, 2005

Mimic DVD Review

It's great to see Hollywood take hold of the creature feature. So many great ones languish in the video market with restrictive budgets, some of which could very well make a mark given the chance. Welcome to one of those that had a shot, Mimic.

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September 2, 2005

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus DVD Review

As the hype from the first Godzilla film to hit US theaters in nearly 15 years had died down, Godzilla 2000 became a rather forgotten entry. It's lagging pace, dull final battle, and occasionally spotty special effects left it behind. With the follow up, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, the series returned to fine form.

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August 11, 2005

King Kong Lives DVD Review

There's a small but dedicated fan base for bad movies. These are not the type of movies that are actually terrible, just so incompetent, they become an absolute joy to watch for their sheer stupidity. That's King Kong Lives in a single sentence. This is a miserable film, and no honest critic is going to praise it. However, you know if you fall in this category, and if so, King Kong Lives is a necessity.

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July 25, 2005

The Mysterians DVD Review

After the success of Rodan the year before, the venerable team of Ishiro Honda, Tomoyuki Tanaka, Eiji Tsubaraya, Akira Ifukube, and an incredible list of soon to be genre staples came together for The Mysterians. It would be a few years before the Godzilla series began a decline with countless alien invasions, giving this film a unique spot in the Toho kaiju film history. It's a decent invasion film, seemingly made to capitalize on the awe-inspiring effects Tsubaraya was capable of.

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July 17, 2005

Godzilla vs. Biollante Region 2 DVD Review

After a successful revamping of their star attraction in 1984 (or 1985 here in the States), Toho was quick to realize that there was a ton (no pun intended) of life left in the franchise. A direct sequel to the film, Godzilla vs. Biollante, was created in 1989 much to delight of G-fans. The Heisei series is generally dissected amongst G-fans while arguing over Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah's time travel storyline, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla's explosive kaiju battle, and of course the series finale showing the demise of the beast in Godzilla vs. Destroyah, but rarely does anyone thoroughly discuss Biollante.

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July 16, 2005

Dogora DVD Review

Calling something weird in the Toho universe is nothing special. You can can't even call something bizarre and elicit a response. Yet, that's the only way to possibly describe Dogora. This is easily Toho's strangest kaiju film ever, and that works with and against the film.

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July 11, 2005

The Iron Giant SE DVD Review

The most exposure The Iron Giant receives (and has ever received) is an annual marathon on the Cartoon Network. That's more publicity than anything offered by Warner Bros. before, during, and after the theatrical run. If one person a year finds this film during that marathon, then justice has been served.

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July 4, 2005

Independence Day DVD Review

Though Independence Day may make itself out to be a stand-alone film, it's not. Actually, it's not even close. The only reason this isn't called War of the Worlds is likely due to licensing issues. This has all been done before, just not with this much goofy, unbelievable fun and special effects prowess.

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July 1, 2005

Legend of the Dinosaurs Region 2 DVD Review

With Godzilla becoming a hero for children, Toei decided adults needed some giant monster entertainment. They crafted Kyôryuu: Kaichô no densetsu (Dinosaurs: Legend of the Strange Bird). They failed miserably, creating two dinosaurs so phony, so fake, that audiences back in the 1930s would have picked out the flaws. Not all the violence and gore in the world disguises that this is an awful, miserable attempt at a giant monster movie.

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June 7, 2005

Varan the Unbelievable DVD Review

Godzilla already had a sequel. Rodan had ripped apart Japan. Toho needed a fresh monster, and with backing from an American TV company, Varan was born. Varan also died quickly and mercifully, making a fleeting appearance in Destroy All Monsters before fading into obscurity. It's not hard to see why.

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May 5, 2005

Star Wars: Episode II DVD Review

A new film for a new decade, Attack of the Clones tosses everything Star Wars into a blender, adding in doses of insane action and mundane dialogue to flesh out the story of Darth Vader. It's a movie that's better in parts than a whole, but as a middle film in this new trilogy, it does what it needs to do. Whether or not it's what you expected is an entirely different situation.

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May 3, 2005

Star Wars: Episode I DVD Review

You can't please everybody, and George Lucas probably found that out shortly after the release of Episode I. Ripped apart by critics and disowned by over-hyped fans, it seems the only people who actually enjoyed the film were those looking for a good time. It's not on par with the originals, but to say it doesn't fit or it doesn't have a place in this series is ridiculous.

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April 26, 2005

Blade Trinity Unrated DVD Review

Blade has never been a direct comic translation. His character, origins, and all-around demeanor were created specifically for the screen. What has been done with the character is arguably an improvement, giving the film dark overtones and awe-inspiring action sequences.

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March 13, 2005

Titan A.E. DVD Review

You hear it all the time. "I don't read reviews; I make up my own mind." Well, a lot of good that does. If more people took the time to read reviews from critics, they would discover films like this. A box office bomb but a critical success, "Titan A.E." is a magical ride, on par with most of the stuff Disney has pumped out over the years. Actually, it's probably better.

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March 12, 2005

Dog Soldiers DVD Review

How many times can you say you've seen a man in a movie have his innards ripped out? A few times maybe? Ok, how many times have you seen that same man have a hungry dog take a small string of his still connected intestines while he's still alive and try to eat them? That's one of the many highlights for gore and horror fans in the totally surprising "Dog Soldiers," one of the best werewolf movies in years.

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March 7, 2005

I, Robot DVD Review

Will Smith should be covered. He's been to the past ("Ali"), and alternate present day ("Men in Black"), did an animated film ("Shark Tale"), went to a futuristic past ("Wild Wild West"), and now he's made his way into the future. "I, Robot" is a typical summer blockbuster, filled with all sorts of fancy effects and one-liners. It's entertaining compared to other films of the same vein, just not one that's very insightful even though it could (make that should) be.

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February 28, 2005

Dawn of the Dead (2004) DVD Review

The MPAA must love movies like this. First time director Zack Snyder has said he filmed some truly gruesome shots for this "Dawn of the Dead" remake, only to let the MPAA deal with it all later. It doesn't really make much sense when you think about it (does it really matter how many times you see a zombie get blown up?), but it takes more than gore to make a quality movie.

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February 26, 2005

The Butterfly Effect DVD Review

Everyone has those moments in their lives they want to go back and fix. For instance, once while sitting front row at a wrestling event, I sat down and my cheap wooden chair shattered, sending me clear to the floor in front of a few thousand people. Yeah, I want that back. Evan Treborn has a few bigger issues than that he has to deal with in the "Butterfly Effect," a unique thriller based off some real scientific theories.

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February 11, 2005

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II DVD Review

Toho's idea to not only resurrect Godzilla but his foes as well was working. The previous two entries in the Hesei series were huge hits. Not one to miss a gold mine, Mechagodzilla was then brought back for his third attempt at demolishing Toho's icon. Many fans consider this to be the best of the second round of Godzilla films, though that's up for some serious debate.

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February 10, 2005

Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster DVD Review

This offbeat entry in the Godzilla series falls almost squarely in the middle of the original series. Gone is famed director Ishiro Honda, now replaced with Jun Fukuda who would "treat" fans to some of the worst entries in the series. Whether or not it was his directorial skills or the limited budgets he faced, Fukuda started off with a very hit or miss entry, "Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster."

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January 29, 2005

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris DVD Review

There's a reason that the first two films in the revived Gamera series were huge hits in their native country. Simply put, they really are fantastic action movies, some of the best ever seen in the genre. The streak would continue in the final film (at least to date) "Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris." It's just one notch away from absolute perfection.

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Gamera 2: Attack of Legion DVD Review

"Gamera: Guardian of the Universe" grabbed plenty of attention in the US, even if it went directly to video. Highly respected major film critic Roger Ebert gave it a nod (and thumbs up) on his weekly show. In Japan it played even better. Daiei studios revived monster makes his second awesome appearance (in what would become a trilogy) in "Gamera 2: Attack of Legion."

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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow DVD Review

Completely under appreciated, "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" generated some buzz over the unique effects style and then seemingly disappeared. It's one of those movies the critics and audiences alike just didn't seem to "get." That's a real shame. It still has some hope that people will discover on DVD and it's not a bad way to do it.

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January 26, 2005

Aliens vs. Predator DVD Review

Both the "Alien" and "Predator" franchises were run into the ground, the Predator meeting an earlier fate. It's been 8 years since we last had a run in with the Aliens and 15 since the Predator tried to tear apart Danny Glover. Both come back together in the long time coming "Aliens vs. Predator," a meeting between two of Hollywood's most vicious.

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Gamera: Guardian of the Unvierse DVD Review

Brought out as a straight counter to Toho Studios rabidly popular Godzilla series, Gamera appealed more to children than adults (something many people attribute to the same change in the Godzilla series). Stripped of that cheese factor, director Shusuke Kaneko takes this revived series in a new direction. Bringing back Gamera's most popular foe, changing the origins, and giving the film a darker feel makes this one of the best giant monster movies of all time.

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December 26, 2004

Son of Godzilla DVD Review

Every truly great monster has an offspring. Dracula had one, Frankenstein had one (though it wasn't exactly the monsters son), and of course Godzilla had to have one. The second Godzilla film to be set on an island, "Son of Godzilla" is a quirky entry into a (then) fast declining series. That doesn't mean it's missing some charm.

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Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid DVD Review

It's probably surprising to know that the monster-happy 1950's never brought with them a giant snake movie. Considering a good portion of the population is terrified of them, it should be an easy way to scare an audience. Leave it to the 1990's to provide this service. Along with "Anaconda," the Sci-Fi channel provided us with "Python" and "Python 2." Now in the new millennium, we get another one, "Anacondas."

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Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla

It's almost like Toho knew how badly they screwed up. After a series of bombs at the box office, the studio needed their franchise star to come back strong. The question remains as to why they let the films slack off in the first place, but they made up for it somewhat with "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla."

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Godzilla vs. Gigan DVD Review

It's hard to spot when the Godzilla series began a steep decline. Many will tell you it was when Godzilla first turned into a good guy in "Ghidorah," others will say "Godzilla's Revenge." By the time Toho studios reached "Godzilla vs. Gigan," it was blatantly apparent there was no turning back.

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Godzilla vs. Hedorah DVD Review

There's a reason the Godzilla series has been so criticized over the years: The 1970's. Starting things off after the stock footage filled "Godzilla's Revenge," this oddball piece remains the strangest of all Godzilla films to date. It has a message for sure, but it's trapped inside a warped and flawed film that ends up being more campy than powerful.

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Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S DVD review

This latest batch of Godzilla films, starting with "Godzilla 2000," has been hit or miss all the way through. Fans have been split on nearly every film. The Shinsei series gets its only direct sequel here with "Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S," and it's a pretty close call.

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October 31, 2004

Tremors DVD Review

I'm not sure why people choose to live in small towns. Don't they know that eventually a monster is going to come in and ruin everything? Sure, the big cities have their own set of creatures to deal with, but at least they have an army to defend themselves with. The again, the folks over in Perfection seemed to have everything under control in 1990's "Tremors."

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Critters 4 DVD review

"Every movie series that begins in space must end in space." That was written by, uh, well me. But let's face it; if your monster comes from space, you surely have to realize that they're going to send them back after three entries, right? If it can happen to "Leprechaun" it can happen to the "Critters."

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Critters 3 DVD Review

With an obviously reduced budget, "Critters 3" goes farther downhill with every passing minute. It lacks charm, humor, continuity, and decent acting. Oh, and it stars a very young Leonardo DiCaprio. That makes five strikes.

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October 29, 2004

Critters 2 DVD review

Not every movie has to be original. There's nothing wrong with taking a standard formula and having fun with it. The sequel to the surprisingly successful "Critters" is one of those movies. Who says hand puppets can't star in a great movie?

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Critters DVD Review

After "Gremlins" pulled in some insane box office numbers, it's no surprise that multiple knock-offs were soon to follow. "Critters" is probably the best, not only giving New Line a nice return on their investment, but also spawning three sequels in the process. Though things may be slow to build, it ends up being a highly enjoyable little creature flick.

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Eight 1950's Monster DVD Reviews

It was an era of radioactivity as monsters both big and small made their way upon our screens. Now we have arrived in a new millennium and these classic creatures from the 1950's have gone digital on DVD. Conveniently in time for a certain upcoming holiday, here's a list of reviews by yours truly to help relive the greatest monster movie era of all time.

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October 11, 2004

Godzilla 2000 DVD Review

After the outright disaster that was the American version of Godzilla, Toho studios decided to resurrect their own and try to salvage the franchise. This new film, "Godzilla 2000," would become a movie of firsts for the series. It's not a classic, but a decent if just slight above average entry into the long running series.

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October 10, 2004

Spaceballs DVD Review

Once you have parodied the west and the world itself, what's left? Duh. What else but space itself? Though less edgy and a little tamer than his previous efforts, "Spaceballs" provides quite a few hilarious moments. Still, some of the jokes go absolutely nowhere.

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September 30, 2004

Godzilla (1998) DVD Review

It obviously wasn't enough for Hollywood to ruin on of its own. After the mid-70's slaughter of "King Kong," eyes turned to Japan and the "Godzilla" series. Numerous scripts, directors, and writers tackled the subject throughout the 80's and early 90's, but it ended up in the hands of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich. Coming off the wildly successful "Independence Day," these two took it upon themselves to destroy everything Toho had created.

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September 22, 2004

Star Wars DVD Bonus Features Review

The fourth disc of the Star Wars Trilogy box set contains just about everything you could possibly need to know about this franchise. It does become a bit too promotional at times, but with the almost flawless "Empire of Dreams" documentary, all is forgiven. A few other shot featurettes round off this disc.

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Star Wars: Return of the Jedi DVD Review

You know something special is happening when people give a standing ovation to the opening of a movie. For those who have never experienced it, rabid fans of the "Star Wars" series tend to go crazy when the Lucasfilm logo appears on the theater screen, stop for a brief second, and then let loose a second time when the flawless John Williams' theme signals the beginning. It's an experience only matched by the films themselves.

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Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back DVD Review

Ask twenty or so non-Star Wars fans who directed the first sequel in the popular franchise and 19 will likely get it wrong. Ask them what the major twist is at the end of the film and all of them will likely get it right. That's the effect this movie had on pop-culture. Darker and more powerful than the original, "Empire Strikes Back" doesn't rely on major special effects sequences (though it has those too), but on developing the characters created in the original.

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Star Wars: A New Hope DVD Review

Every time someone watches "Star Wars" it becomes a part of them. These films affect people in a way almost no other movie could. They have created their own culture, one bound by rules someone outside of the nearly cult-like institution could never hope to comprehend. It's not just something the United States is caught in either. These films have taken over people's lives worldwide. It's pretty impressive considering this is a story that might have stayed inside one man's head forever.

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September 19, 2004

Terminator 2: Judgment Day DVD Review

Time travel is such a tough subject for movies. No matter how much you think through it, there will always be a problem somewhere you couldn't possibly have considered and the film instantly loses credibility. "Terminator 2," even with some of the usual issues, remains strong with brilliantly designed action sequences and great continuity from the original film.

Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), now in a mental institution due to her insistence that a cyborg from the future tried to kill her, is unable to care for her son, John Connor (Edward Furlong). In a foster home, the rebellious teen who will someday lead the humans against the machines is being tracked by a new version of the of the human/machine hybrids, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). His only hope to survive is another T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), sent into current times with sole purpose of protecting John.

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September 11, 2004

Jurassic Park III DVD Review

Michael Crichton is gone. Spielberg dropped down to executive producer. Jeff Goldblum suffered an injury before filming began and dropped out. The script is unfinished when filming starts. "Jurassic Park III" set itself up to be a disaster, but perseverance paid off to create an enjoyable, if lacking, survival movie filled with (yet again) brilliantly designed dinosaurs.... even if they don't fit in with the previous films in the series.

Amanda and Paul Kirby (Tea Leoni and William H. Macy respectively) have lost their child on Isla Sorna, otherwise known as Site B in the Jurassic Park project, after a parasailing incident. Lying to get Alan Grant (Sam Neil) onto a plane for a fly-over in order to search for their son, the group faces a small problem when the pilot botches a take off, leaving them stranded on an island full of the most lethal predators the world has ever seen.

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September 9, 2004

The Lost World: Jurassic Park DVD Review

What can you do when the magic is gone? Hopefully nothing. But when a studio puts out a movie that becomes the highest-grossing film of all time, you just know the sequel is coming at some point. It's just the way the industry works. Steven Spielberg steps behind the camera for the second time in the "Jurassic Park" series, wildly shying away from the book by Michael Crichton, but comes out with an uneven film that fails to recreate the experience of it's predecessor.

After the financial disaster that was Jurassic Park, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) sends a crew to document the second island of the project, Site B, which has flourished without human contact. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) is again brought into the mix after his girlfriend Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) leaves early on the expedition. Problems arise when InGen, now out of Hammonds control, decide to bring the thrill of the original park back to San Diego for public viewing. The two groups clash, but soon realize they both have the same objective: Survive.

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September 8, 2004

Jurassic Park DVD Review

Everyone has his or her favorite movies. These are the films we almost live by, memorizing the script and repeating famous quotes in our daily lives. These are the films that impact us and specific moments are forever cemented in our minds. Welcome to "Jurassic Park."

John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), leasing an island off the coast of Costa Rica, has cloned dinosaurs from ancient DNA and produced a theme park unlike anything else in the world. After a tragic incident involving a worker and one of the re-created inhabitants, a lawyer (Martin Ferrero), two paleontologists (Laura Dern, Sam Neil), and a chaotician (Jeff Goldblum), are brought to the island so they can take the grand tour, proving that the park is safe to wary investors. After a disgruntled employee (Wayne Night) shuts down the park security systems for his own purposes, the tourists are unexpectedly thrust into a battle for survival against creatures no man has ever seen alive.

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September 5, 2004

The Land/People that Time Forgot DVD Review

Once a movie has raised the bar for special effects, going back and reliving some of those childhood favorites can be painful. Case in point, "The Land that Time Forgot." Mesmerizing at age 5, it doesn't quite hold up after repeated viewings of "Jurassic Park," but it's still enjoyable if you can get past the effects. This is not true for the second movie on this disc however, "The People that Time Forgot." After a German submarine destroyed their boat, the small band of survivors, including Bowen Taylor (Doug McClure) and Lisa Clayton (Susan Penhaligon) manage to hijack the war machine. After numerous changes in command, the group ends up on an uncharted island surrounded by an iceberg, "The Land that Time Forgot." Inside they find dinosaurs, caveman, and one very active volcano. Everyone bands together in an attempt to survive, forgetting that they are actually enemies. The effects are far from great in "Land," (especially the pterodactyl late in the film; you can obviously see the strings suspending it), but the sense of adventure is unmistakable. Things do start off a bit slow (40-minutes before the first dinosaur makes an appearance), but all of the actors do a fine job and the younger set, just like me many years ago, will be enthralled. If you can past the effects and just use your imagination a bit, you'll have fun for the majority of the running time. (*** out of *****) "The People that Time Forgot" picks up a few years after "Land." Having found the note that Taylor through into the ocean at the end of the previous film, Major Ben McBride (Patrick Wayne) gets the sponsorship of a newspaper to find the hidden land and to see if his friend Bowen is still alive. Soon after reaching the island, they meet up with a cavewoman named Ajor (Dana Gillespie in the most revealing cavewoman suit of all time) who tells the group that Bowen is still alive. Their search, now having purpose, is just beginning. "People" suffers from a wealth of flaws. First and foremost, the effects are even worse this time around, and this was made two years after the original. The film has absolutely no momentum behind it all, lacks tension, and just never seems to pick up steam. The finale, which should be a major spectacle, is just laughable. It's obvious that all of the explosions have been pre-set. It feels like you're right there on the set watching it all happen instead on some lost prehistoric island. The only reason to watch this one is for Gillespie and her costume. Otherwise, stick with the original. (* out of *****) Both films are presented in 1.85:1 widescreen on opposite sides of the disc. "Land" looks excellent on the format. A few occasional scenes of heavy grain barely mar the outstanding color that brings this film to life. Any scratches or specks on the print have been fixed to perfection. The black levels are never compensated and the transfer even holds together when brighter shades of red are thrown at it. This is outstanding work considering the age of the film. (****) Sadly, "People" doesn't fare as well. The color is toned down quite a bit here. The black levels are wildly uneven and a few sequences not only display a distracting amount of grain, but lose most of their color as well. The few scenes of clarity are far too soft and it looks like the camera is out of focus. You can certainly do worse, but it's obvious that equal time was not given to the restoration of both films. (**) Both movies are presented in 2.0 mono. These movies are mixed extremely low, so prepare to fight with the volume level throughout them. Some minor hiss and distortion is evident at many points in each film, but this is to be expected. These are tracks that just do what they need to do and nothing else. (***) Extras include, well, nothing. These films get the original trailers attached to them and that's it. Oddly, "Land" has English subtitles while "People" does not. (*) These films are part of the ever-growing "Midnite Movie" line produced by MGM. These discs are exclusive to Best Buy stores. For only $9.99, these discs are a great deal, but the exclusivity doesn't make much sense. Also, "People" was available separately on DVD not long ago. Those people who bought it separately have every right to be angry. Regardless, if you have fond memories of watching these films when you were a child, you won't find a better way to watch them than this disc.

Empire of the Ants/Tentacles Double Feature DVD Review

H.G. Wells was an excellent storyteller who also made many bold predictions about the future. This is a man who predicted space travel pretty accurately. What he never could have predicted was how bad his story "Empire of the Ants" would turn out once it made it to film. Now bundled on DVD with the Italian film "Tentacles," these two schlock fests are well known for breaking new ground when it comes to boring their audiences. Radioactive waste is spilled onto a small island, soon to be developed as a resort. A few ants manage to get themselves covered in the goo, rapidly growing into human-terrorizing beasts. When a group of tourists take the trip to visit the area, the ants begin their picnic, munching down on everyone who comes too close. When it's discovered that the ants actually control a local town, it's up to the small group of survivors, including Marylin Fryser (Joan Collins), to stop the insects horrific plan before they take over the world. Bert I. Gordon gives us this "classic," using the same effects he pioneered in another schlocker, "Beginning of the End." Most of the ants are real, hilariously magnified and superimposed onto the screen. The backgrounds between the humans and insect hardly ever match. Close-ups use full-size mock ups which were done so much better 20-years before in the undeniable classic "Them!" The plot rolls along at a snails pace, including an 18-minute scene in which some of the survivors simply row a boat across a river, occasionally spotting a swarm of the mutated nasties. It never really has a point, nor does any other segment in the movie. This is easily one of the most well remembered bad-movies of the 70's. (* out of *****) An underwater tunnel experiment annoys a rather large ocean beast that immediately begins snacking on local residents. Reporter Ned Turner (John Huston) immediately picks up on the story, quickly pointing the finger at the president of Trojan Construction (Henry Fonda). The beast continues to feed ravenously until Will Gleason (Bo Hopkins) devises a plan that can finally put an end to the monster that took out and entire group of sailboat racers. "Tentacles" has been so horribly criticized over the years, it's amazing anyone would dare put it on DVD. Released in Italy as "Tentacoli" and starring a wealth of actors, there is hardly any reason why this movie fares so poorly. Maybe it's because the giant octopus is only on screen for about 15-minutes total in a nearly two-hour film. Maybe it's because Henry Fonda gives one of the most abominable performances of all time. Then again, maybe it's simply because this movie is far too long, the effects are never convincing (particularly the finale), and no one ever really cares about the characters while they continue to converse in scene after scene with no effect on the movies plot line. Yeah, that has to be it. (* out of *****) Both of these films are presented in their original aspect ratios. "Empire of the Ants" gets a surprisingly nice 1.85:1 transfer, the same used for a previous DVD release from MGM. The scratches and specks that appear on screen can be annoying from time to time, but this is a nice restoration considering the age and quality of the movie. Light grain is noticeable throughout, but it never is a major problem. Flesh tones are accurate, but not amazing. The overall transfer is soft and occasionally seems a little too blurry, but this is a more than acceptable transfer for a film that really doesn't deserve it. (****) Speaking of films that don't deserve nice transfers, there's no need to go anywhere else than "Tentacles." This is a transfer just shy of absolute perfection. The only real issues are the skin tones, which are flat and always seem to be one shade off, but this seems to be the norm for this era of film. This is otherwise an unbelievable transfer featuring sharp detail, fine color, and absolutely no grain or compression problems. Every speck and spot has been cleaned up from the print. I'm not sure where they found this 2.35:1 print, but this is just stunning. (*****) "Empire" doesn't fare as well in the sound department. Anytime anything is going on in the background the actors dialogue is lost. Even when no background noise is present, the sound is scratchy and sounds like it's coming from a tinny radio speaker. This is mono 2.0 soundtrack that needs some immediate attention. (*) A remixed soundtrack has been produced for "Tentacles," and just like the video, this is a pretty nice effort. Dolby Surround powers this occasionally immersive soundtrack and the only real problems are the expected scratchy voices. The film's annoying soundtrack gets pumped through the speakers and the front speakers get a nice left to right workout. Bass is of course non-existent, but work was obviously done in this department. (****) Extras include the trailers for both films. There is some footage in both trailers that is not in the films so they are worth a watch. Otherwise, this is a barren 2-sided disc. (*) This disc, along with the majority of MGM's "Midnite Movie" line, are exclusive to Best Buy stores. It's hard to pay $10 for one awful movie, so it's a nice gesture to give us two. Then again, if you purchased "Empire of the Ants" separately when it was available, then you're probably not happy right now. Still, even though most of these movies are absolute bombs, the Tentacles transfer is a must for videophiles.

August 30, 2004

Godzilla: King of the Monsters DVD Review

Fifty years ago, Ishiro Honda directed a film with a star that no one could have predicted would become an international icon. Godzilla was born as a representation of the atomic bombings in Japan. Some people even believe that Godzilla is a stand-in for the United States as he crushes Tokyo under his girth. Regardless, he has since become a joke here in the US, and it all started right here with "Godzilla: King of the Monsters." Steve Martin (Raymond Burr) is a reporter for United World News. He lands in Tokyo for a layover and to visit with Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata), an old college friend and one of the worlds leading scientific minds. A flurry of similar shipping incidents keeps him grounded, as the mystery is slowly unveiled. Japan is under attack by a radioactive monstrosity that cannot be stopped. The only hope of stopping it is Serizawa and a weapon he not only created, but also refuses to unleash unto the world. Terry Morse took over the film when it was brought to the States, deleting 18-minutes from the original Japanese version and adding in new scenes with Raymond Burr. The Japanese characters so wonderfully crafted are pushed aside for Burr's narration. Some of the scenes have been shuffled around and without subtitles or explanation; some of them now make no sense at all (why are people fighting at the press conference?). The main human drama, a love triangle between Emiko, Ogata, and Serizawa is cut down to a few brief scenes, lessening the impact of the final chapter. Numerous references to the H-Bomb have been deleted along with any mention to the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Dubbing here is fair and handled with care, but the stand-in actors who interact with Burr are painfully obvious. Regardless of the cuts, "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" is still a great movie. Then again, the film would do a fine job on it's own in just about any form, making it easily one of the best giant monster films of all time. Special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya does a fantastic job of recreating Tokyo in miniature, making for some truly memorable moments during Godzilla's final rampage. There are moments where the effects are laughable (I've always wondered what went wrong with the fire trucks), but the overall presentation is easily on par (if not better than) any American film of the era. Akira Ifukube provides the stunning film soundtrack, one of the most classic of all time. He also created the roar the monster still uses today. (**** out of *****) "Godzilla: KOM" is available three times on DVD. The first release by Simitar is the only one with any real features and is long out of print. The second, unlicensed release came from Goodtimes and was pulled soon after it hit store shelves. Finally, Sony Classic Media distributed the version reviewed here. The disc is also available in an awful box set that includes more Godzilla films and "Rodan." All of the films use poorly aged, pan and scan prints that do not do the film justice. Just stick with this disc and hunt down the somewhat valuable Simitar discs. Anyway, Classic Media has produced the best-looking Godzilla DVD in the US so far. The print is still littered with scratches and dirt, but the clarity and contrast are superb. Where the previous two releases suffer from terrible compression problems, this version has none. Grain is only a minor issue in a few scenes. The film is usually on the dark side and the disc does a fine job keeping the mood the director was going for. Next to the Japanese disc of the original film, this is the best this movie has ever looked. (****) Sadly, the sound presentation falters. All of the scenes directed by Terry Morse sound just fine with this Dolby Mono 2.0 presentation, coming through the speakers with no distortion. However, whenever the untouched Japanese sequences begin to play, the sound becomes flat and muffled. This sadly includes the soundtrack that is almost unrecognizable in a few spots. The difference is jarring and disappointing. Also included is a laughable Dolby 5.1 track that simply takes the mono presentation of the film and pumps it through all five speakers, creating an annoying echo effect. Skip it. (**) The only extra included on the disc is a now outdated preview for the excellent Nintendo Gamecube game "Destroy All Monsters Melee." Credit must be given here though for the excellent menus these discs use. The entire set has really nice intros when the disc is first loaded. (*) If you have only seen the Americanized version of this movie, the time is right to track down a copy of the Japanese original. Rialto Pictures is currently showing a restored print in small theaters across the country. It's possible we may get this version on DVD in a sort of Criterion edition at some point as well. You'll be amazed at how much stronger the original is as a film. Until then, this is the best way to go for the American rendition. Shame about the sound presentation though.

August 25, 2004

Sci-Fi Channel Original: Raptor Island

You need to have a certain mind set to sit down and waste your Saturday night with a Sci-fi original. Not much can be expected since the cable network manages to premiere a new one almost every week. Even though it's hard to believe, these movies continue on a downward spiral, one that could hardly go down any lower after tonight's bomb, "Raptor Island." A Chinese-manned plane goes down on an uncharted island 40-years ago. Now in present day, a terrorist group has the eye of a Navy Seal team. After blowing up their boat, the Seals team follows them to the island that happens to have some radioactive residents. To go along with the dinosaur issue, an active volcano is also having some problems and is prone to go off any minute. It's a race to get off the island in anyway possible before either the natives or volcano take them out. "Raptor Island" is a new breed of bad movie. This is a movie so incomprehensible, you'll sit dumfounded for the entire running time. Lorenzo Lamas is the only recognizable name on the roster and the raptors are so laughable, any attempt at tension turns into comedy. Supposedly intelligent animals, the raptors as portrayed here are easily the dumbest movie monsters of all time. The films most hilarious scene comes just after the half-hour mark. The raptors, having just finished off one of the terrorists, begin their feast. The Seals team sneaks up behind them, pouring ammo rounds into their backside. The mutated dinos never even so much as flinch as the bullets continually produce hilariously animated blood spurts while they finish their meals. One of their own finally collapses from the onslaught, which finally triggers something in their feeble minds to get the hell out of there. Almost everything here was created with CG. From the warships to the long shots of the island itself, everything is shown as if in some unentertaining arcade game. The director tries to add some style to the proceedings by using the "shaky" camera, done so well in Saving Private Ryan. Here, it makes absolutely no sense. Not only is it disorienting, but when everyone is standing still, there is absolutely no need for it. You can literally go on for hours about the films mistakes and obvious flaws. The ending is so foreshadowed throughout the running time, you don't even have to watch the final half-hour (maybe even the final hour) to know what happens. Some of the raptors take 50 rounds to go down, some take three. Why exactly did some radioactive material spawn raptors again? No one seen or figured out an extinct species was alive and well for forty years? If nothing else is on the island, what did they eat before humans made landfall? I can't imagine that the Sci-Fi channel actually makes money on films like this, yet they continually put junk like this out and even run marathons of this stuff. For every mildly entertaining film they produce, there are at least three just like "Raptor Island." No matter how cool the ads or the premise sound, you just have to avoid the temptation of tuning in. It's the only way to stop it.

August 2, 2004

The Giant Gila Monster DVD Review

It takes something special for a film to become a classic. Everything needs to fall into place at the right time. The right actors, directors, budget, special effects, and many other aspects all need to be perfect. Thankfully, even with a small budget, "The Giant Gila Monster" has managed to win viewers hearts across the globe as a flawless example of how a movie should be made. An unknown force is ravaging a small town. People are missing, trucks are destroyed, and a train is derailed. The population is baffled. Finally, Chase Winstead (Don Sullivan) puts the clues together and makes a last stand against the creature that has terrorized the town relentlessly. Very few movies can do everything right, but "The Giant Gila Monster" manages to pull it off. Ray Kellog is a master behind the camera and uses a real life lizard for maximum fear. The acting is amongst the best from this era and..... Aw, who the hell am I kidding? This is an awful excuse for a movie, one of the worst giant monster on the loose films of all time. This is a film so relentlessly dull, making it all the way to the end means you seriously need to get a social life. It lacks logic, acting, special effects, a plot, and any entertainment value. The monster itself (looking a whole lot like a Nile monitor) drags itself along the hilarious miniature sets (usually just dirt with sticks in the ground....seriously), obviously looking for something better to do. Ray Kellog only found his way behind the camera a few times in his career. He was actually famous for working on the special effects in many classic films, like Cleopatra and the Seven Year Itch. Why he would choose to ruin his reputation with dredge like this is unexplainable. The film's star, Don Sullivan, must have had some plans to take on a singing career after this since viewers are "treated" to one of his songs not once, but twice. This "ukulele song" as it is known as is easily the most memorable part of the film, but not for the reasons it should be. This is nothing else other than 74-minutes of sheer torture. (No stars out of *****) For some reason, this film has found it's way unto DVD about times. The version reviewed here is from Diamond Entertainment, a company who obviously finds joy in my misery. The film is presented (hardly) in standard full frame as it was to all the sorry saps that watched it in theaters all those years ago. The print used here is just laughable. Not only will you see writing (on the print itself) suddenly flash by a few times, but you'll also see the VCR trying to track itself. Yeah, this is a DVD, transferred from a VHS tape. The compression here is just flat-out awful, with chunks of pixels marring every scene. It gets so bad, there is no way to make out the actors faces in a few scenes. Most of the movie is also so dark, you won't be able to see what's going on. (No stars) Sound quality is slightly better than the video presentation. At least you can understand the actors. The films soundtrack (which sounds completely out of place) strains the disc and comes through as a muddled mess. At few points, the sound is out of sync with the video as well. (**) Extras? Ha! Oh wait, there are extras. In fact, you get an entire movie. "The Killer Shrews" is another Ray Kellog delight, marginally better (almost tolerable) than the "Gila" disaster. The print and sound are also just a notch above the previous film, but not by much. The films did debut together, so keeping it that way is a nice touch. Anyway, the only other extras are four chapter stops between the 2 movies and some text facts about both. (***) If by some chance you actually like this film, Drive-In Movies put out a double movie DVD set with this and Roger Corman's equally absurd "Wasp Women." Both of the films in that set are shown in 1.85:1 widescreen, which means "The Gila Monster", was cropped. Not that it really matters since you won't be missing much, but it is an odd choice. Of course, if you actively search out this film, professional help should be sought out immediately.

Them! DVD Review

Sure, just about everything ended up mutated by the end of the 50's. But, it all started right here in the Warner Bros. classic "Them!" The inspiration for countless cheap knock-offs to follow, this is a true classic that has stood the test of time. Warner also took their time with this DVD release resulting in picture quality that almost eclipses many of the digitally shot films of today. A child is discovered wandering through the desert alone, her only possessions being the clothes on her back and a broken doll. Not far from her, a trailer is found ripped apart. A few miles from that incident is a small store that has suffered the same fate, its owner also found dead. The only clue is a footprint unlike anything ever found before. The truth is discovered when a giant ant nearly kills Dr. Patricia Medford (Joan Weldon) in the desert. It doesn't take long for her father, Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn), to figure out that the queen has hatched and has made a new downtown Los Angeles. Now begins a frantic race to find the exact location and hunt these oversized creatures down before a new queen can be spawned. The eerie opening moments of "Them!" are like nothing else to come out of the era. A little girl simply walks forward with no purpose, never blinking, and is unable to speak. It's a horrific sight that flawlessly sets up the rest of the film, directed with skill by Gordon Douglas in his only attempt in the genre. The giant ants themselves were created full size, controlled in various ways to make them move realistically. They effects don't hold up quite as well as some other films of the era, but you can almost feel the pain when they manage to grab someone in their mandibles and squeeze. That's the important part. "Them!" is the quintessential giant bug movie for all time and a film that everyone should see at least once. (***** out of *****) When this disc enters your DVD player, you'll realize what a stunning achievement this restoration is. Simply put, for most of this movie, there are NO flaws. No compression, just a hair of grain, sharp edges, and not a single scratch on the print itself. It's a strong case for delaying high-definition DVD for a while yet (Yes, it's really that good). Oddly, all of the scenes shot underground (including the movies final assault in the sewers) are soft and blurry with some annoying grain. The contrast between shots above and underground are easily apparent when the scene switches back and forth. This is likely a fault on the original print and has nothing to do with the transfer (or maybe something to do with the fact that the film was going to be shot in 3-D), but it is jarring though not enough to ruin the experience. (*****) Dolby Digital Mono is as good as it gets from a film this old and as good as this disc can be. The only problem is when the soundtrack hits full volume and it causes some distortion. The rest of this presentation, including the strange and terrifying sound the ants create, is fine. (****) Extras here are sparse and the only real notable inclusion is some rare behind-the-scenes footage. There is no explanation for the 3-minute segment and you'll find very little of interest here. A short text essay on bug movies is included along with some actor bios and the films trailer. Not much could be expected here, but the some type of explanation to go along with that footage would have been great. (**) If you're the type that finds giant bug movies hilarious, then you just don't get it. Sure, a lot of films from this genre (ok, most) are just terrible, but "Them!" transcends them all. The effects work may seem archaic, but trust me when I say that Jurassic Park will look just as bad in 50 years. Learning to appreciate films like this are a necessity to becoming a true movie fan.

The Black Scorpion DVD Review

With monster movies being produced en mass back in the 50's, it took something really special to stand out from the crowd. "The Black Scorpion" was Warner Bros. follow up to "Them!," the quintessential giant bug movie of all time. While certainly enjoyable, this is a low-budget foray into the genre with only a few memorable sequences. A string of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes near a small town in Mexico opens up a huge hole in the Earth's crust. Unexplainable accidents begin piling up until the culprit is found chomping away on workers fixing a telephone line: Giant scorpions. Undisturbed for thousands of years, these beasts are now free to roam the surface, killing anything that gets in their way. Geologist Hank Scott (Richard Denning) and the armed forces are the worlds only hope to put an end to this menace. "The Black Scorpion" was Willis O'Brien's (King Kong) next to last film. He shared the effects duties with Pete Peterson, as he would in his final film, "The Giant Behemoth." When shown using standard stop-motion techniques, the title beasts are menacing. For whatever reason, the special effects pioneer chose to create a full sized mock-up of the face and claw for close ups. When the first on screen attack occurs using this prop, most people will likely burst into a fit of laughter. The drooling, immobile face looks nothing like the stop-motion model and it really serves no purpose. Some other effects, like the matte shots used when the creatures enter the heart of city, also fail miserably. Otherwise, the effects work is great, on par if not better than a lot of other sci-fi films of the era. The final battle inside a stadium is just awesome, the train attack unforgettable, and the descent into the lair features even more monsters. This is also a surprisingly violent movie for its time, with countless people being stung and chomped on throughout the running time. Genre veteran Richard Denning ("Creature >From the Black Lagoon") goes through the paces here along with Mara Corday (who also worked in the genre previously, starring in the hilariously bad "Giant Claw"), doing what they needed to do and nothing else. This is one for genre fans only. (*** out of *****) Warner Bros. has restored this full frame film pretty well, cleaning up the print to remove the majority of scratches and spots. A few scenes seem out of place and look like they haven't been touched, but these are short and do not detract from the work done here. A slight layer of grain lies over the proceedings and the overall print is a bit on the soft side, but this is still a wonderful presentation of the film. (***) This is far from an all-out audio experience, but the Dolby Mono track here is serviceable, especially for a nearly 50-year old film. The hilarious roar of the monsters (partly stolen from "Them!") comes through cleanly, as does all the dialogue. Nothing sounds distorted at any time and that is really all you can ask for. (****) Though none of the extra features here are about the film itself, stop-motion fans are in for a treat. First is "Stop-Motion Masters," a three-minute feature which features Ray Harryhausen talks about his relationship with Willis O'Brien. "The Animal World" is a spectacular sequence created by both Harryhausen and O'Brien that runs for 11:30. Harryhausen introduces it with a bit of back-story. It's a wonderful sequence and the video quality is stunning. Peter Peterson gets highlighted here with some great test footage they actually found in his garage. "The Las Vegas Monster" is a short clip showing a strange ape-like monster tearing apart a house, a man, a helicopter, and a truck. Video quality here is actually surprising for being found in a garage. "Beetleman" didn't hold up so well and is quite short, but is still impressive. The entire segment runs for a little over four minutes. Finally you can view some various trailers. (****) Black Scorpion didn't deserve such a nice DVD release, but who's going to argue about it? If you enjoy the art of stop-motion, this disc needs to be on yourself. The fascinating never before seen footage is worth the price of admission, not to mention there is a full length movie contained here as well.

20 Million Miles To Earth DVD Review

Venus doesn't get enough credit. It's a very underrated planet. Every kind of movie alien comes Mars. Why? What's wrong with Venus? Seems like a perfectly good planet to me. Well, obviously the Ymir agrees here as this Venusian tore apart Rome after being marooned here on Earth in the 1957 classic "20 Million Miles To Earth." A United States rocket ship is mere miles away from home when it gets slammed by a meteor. Out of control, the ship spirals into the ocean close to a small town in Italy. Only of the pilots survives, Colonel Robert Calder (William Hopper), who tells authorities of a capsule containing a life form from the planet. What they don't know is that a young boy in the town (played by a very young Bart Braverman) has already found the specimen still in its egg and sold it to a zoologist (Frank Puglia). The creature hatches and quickly grows to an enormous size after being taken to Rome. Authorities are called after the strange beasts escapes and the final battle begins inside the Roman Coliseum. The wonders of DVD can be put to good use here. The magic of Ray Harryhausen can be appreciated even more thanks to the ability to view every frame of the film in flawless detail. The Ymir is a masterful creation, but in the wrong hands, could have failed. Harryhausen's uncanny ability gives this creature a sympathetic side, literally making it seem confused and lost, simply through motion. The alien receives ample screen time and every effects shot involving him is flawless (the opening shots of the doomed spacecraft are the only ones that fail.... miserably). The creature's big battle with an elephant is a cinema classic and you're not a true sci-fi fan until you have witnessed its perfection. Even better, the film stays away from any of the atomic age clichÈs that plagued the era. Not that a space alien is any more creative, but it is a refreshing change. Director Nathan Juran and William Hopper worked together a few years before "20 Million" on the so-so "Deadly Mantis," both redeeming themselves here. The films second lead, Joan Taylor, also starred in another Harryhausen effects classic, "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers." It's obvious everyone here knows what to do to make this film a success and it works. Yes, the effects do save what very could have been just another monster-on-the-loose movie, but the experience of everyone involved pays off and this is a film that has solidified itself as a classic. (***** out of *****) This film was one of the early ones to use the widescreen format and Tri-Star has been wise to keep it that way for this DVD release. If you wish, a pan and scam version is available on the disc as well. Nearly every scratch and speck has been removed from this print making this a gorgeous restoration job. Grain is high in a few spots, but is under control in the majority of the scenes. The contrast seems a bit high at times as well, but these are minor complaints about a transfer that is much better than expected. (****) All of the films audio will sadly only come through one speaker in this mono presentation. Though soft and hard to hear in a few spots, this is a decent presentation considering the age of the source material. The monster's unmistakable roar comes through loud and clear, as does the dialogue. Not much more you can ask for from this film. (***) As this is included in the Ray Harryhausen Signature Collection, this disc includes some great extras, though a copy of the other discs in the collection. First is the "Harryhausen Chronicles," and hour long documentary on the career of one of Hollywood's all time great special effects men. It includes a bunch of rare footage and interviews with numerous people he has influenced. Next is the promotional "This is Dynamation" featurette, a look at stop motion animation from various films. The only feature relating to the film itself is the trailer. (***) Nearly any film Ray Harryhausen worked on is worthy of your time, but "20 Million Miles to Earth" should be high on that list. The creature design is memorable to say the least, acting on par (if not above) the norm for the era, and the characters have at least some purpose in the film. This is a must see film for anyone interested in either special effects or sci-fi. The disc is also more than admirable as well.

The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms DVD Review

Everything has a starting point. In the case of monster on the loose epics, their father is "King Kong." Leave it to Ray Harryhausen to blow the roof off of it. "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" began the cycle of 1950's monster epics and 51 years later ranks as one of the top three films in the genre. An artic atomic bomb test frees a prehistoric Rhedosaurus from what should have been its tomb. After causing a massive avalanche and taking down two small fishing vessels, the leading professor of paleontology in the world, Thurgood Elson (played by Cecil Kellaway), convinces the military to do something about it. After a tragic dive to search for the creature, Tom Nesbitt (Paul Hubschmid) figures out a way to destroy the creature, but not before it rampages through New York and tears up Coney Island. Eugene Lourie directs this masterpiece of the genre (he would also give us "Gorgo") a few years later) and Ray Harryhausen unleashes one his most spectacular creations loose with some of his best work. Only one special effect shot goes slightly wrong (a timing problem when a building collapses) and the final rampage on New York is far more convincing than the recent American Godzilla film. The attack on the lighthouse (a scene based on the short story by Ray Bradbury that inspired the film) is eerie and arguably the films most effective moment. The rest of the cast is effective and set up almost every creature film to follow. The usual array of military and scientific types is represented along with the budding romance. Cecil Kellaway is wonderful as the head professor and genre veteran Kenneth Tobey has a decent role as well. The two leads, Paula Raymond and Paul Hubschmid, also do a fine job until the final frame. Of course, regardless of the actors, everyone is here to see "The Beast," and his (her?) performance is one of the best of all time. (***** out of *****) Warner Bros. presents the film in standard full frame, which is its original ratio. Ignoring the few short sequences of extremely heavy and annoying grain, this is a nearly flawless transfer. The print used here has obviously been restored for this edition, eliminating the majority of the scratches down to acceptable levels. The contrast is set flawlessly and the clarity is stunning. I mentioned this disc in another article as one of the best-looking DVD's ever produced. I stand by that. (*****) Listening to the film in standard mono, but a remix here would be appreciated. The roar of the creature sounds a bit muffled at times and the classic 4-note theme of the monster really strains the speakers. All of the dialogue comes through cleanly, but even a simple stereo mix might have eliminated some of the problems. (***) To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this classic, Warner has included a few extras, but nothing earth shattering. Ray Harryhausen himself tells the story of the film in the 5-minute documentary "The Rhedosaurus and the Roller Coaster: Making the Beast." Though short, the information presented here is exciting and you'll even see the model used in the film itself. Next is a 10-minute conversation that took place on the Warner Bros. lot entitled "Harryhausen & Bradbury: An Unfathomable Friendship." They will exchange some great stories (though not always about the movie) and fans of either man need to watch. You can also view some trailers for other Harryhausen movies. (***) "The Beast" is easily one of the most influential sci-fi movies of all time. The creators of the Godzilla series claimed it was their influence, the entire radioactive monster genre was spawned by it, and it still creates new fans to this day. This is a film that should be regarded as one of the best 50's movies if not of all time. Giant monsters have never been better than in "The Beast."

July 29, 2004

It Came From Beneath the Sea DVD Review

It's rather surprising that more giant creature films don't feature giant squids. We've had all sorts of radioactive monstrosities over the years, yet the giant squid is real. Logic dictates that something real is far more frightening than something that isn't. Though not a giant squid, "It Came From Beneath the Sea" does a fantastic job at making the experience seem real thanks to Ray Harryhausen's effects and placing it high in the ranks of 50's monster movies. An atomic bomb test in Marshall Islands irritates one of the seas larger inhabitants, causing it to attack a submarine. Scientists Lesley Joyce (Faith Domergue) and John Carter (Donald Curtis) team up with Commander Pete Mathews (genre veteran Kenneth Tobey) to try and figure out what caused the disaster. More incidents occur and the sense of urgency builds. Finally the creature makes a spectacular attack on San Francisco for one last attack while the authorities make a desperate attempt to put an end to the menace. Any decent science fiction fan knows Ray Harryhausen's work. This was his first film with producer Charles H. Schneer, whom would join him on countless other classics for the rest of his career. Harryhausen's creation here remains spectacular to this day and the rest of the effects work is still believable. Well known is that the octopus only has 6 tentacles (compared to 8 on a real one), an effort to save on the budget and give the master animator a break. This is a somewhat disjointed film however, as the two lead characters lead a generic romance that goes absolutely nowhere in the second half. Stock footage is used extensively and the narrator used in the first half-hour is grating (and speaks only once in the second half). It's obvious that the focus is put squarely where it should be for the final chapters and it all comes out just fine in the end, but it almost makes the first 40 minutes seem meaningless. Even so, "It Came From Beneath the Sea" is one of the best of the 50's creature features and a must see for any fan of this quirky genre. (**** out of *****) Columbia has done a fine job with this disc, starting with the 1.85:1 anamorphic video. Clean and clear thanks to a beautiful restoration job, the only thing dragging this one down is some grain of varying annoyance. The stock footage mentioned above is also heavily damaged, but this is the norm and makes it blatantly obvious. Only minor scratches remain on the actual film footage. This is likely the best this film will ever look and a treat for fans. (****) The discs soundtrack replicates the original mono presentation of the film with a little bit of trouble. The volume fluctuates from scene to scene and having your finger on the volume button is almost necessary. Other than this, this is a serviceable soundtrack that isn't for home theater enthusiasts, but for watching the film it's just fine. (***) Two featurettes are included on the disc along with a few trailers. "This is Dynamation" is an old, short promotional film that showcases some of Harryhausen's spectacular effects work. You won't learn much, but it is fun to watch for it's retro factor. Also available on a separate DVD, "The Harryhausen Chronicles" is hosted by Leonard Nimoy. This hour long look at one of the best special effects men of all time is spectacular, filled with countless interviews and never before seen footage. If you love stop motion, this is worth owning the disc just to watch it. This isn't a packed disc, but the quality far surpasses the quantity here. (****) This disc is available as part of the Ray Harryhausen Signature Collection of DVD's, which includes "20 Million Miles to Earth" and the "Sinbad" series. Nearly every movie in this set must be purchased if you have any interest in special effects or classic sci-fi. Even alone by itself, "It Came From Beneath the Sea" is a classic and a worthy purchase for anyone who has even a mild interest.

It! The Terror From Beyond Space DVD Review

If it wasn't a giant overgrown critter raining down terror in a major metropolis back in the 50's, rest assured it was an alien raising hell on another planet. But, what if one of these creatures got on board a spaceship heading for Earth? "It! The Terror from Beyond Space" never broke any new ground, but fans of a certain film series should check it out simply to see where the inspiration for their favorite series came from. Colonel Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson) is marooned on Mars, alone after 9 of his fellow astronauts are killed. When a rescue ship arrives, Carruthers is accused of killing his shipmates so he had a better chance of survival. His wild story of an alien creature slaughtering everyone he knew does not sit well with the new crew until one of their own is taken down by the murderous being which crawled aboard just before take off. Now the crew is alone with an indestructible being, forced to use anything they have to bring down an animal they know nothing about. Set in 1978 according to the opening dialogue (though looking a lot like 1958), "It!" is an obvious inspiration for Ridley Scott's "Alien," which would ironically come out in 1979. Good timing. For the time, "It!" does a great job at creating atmosphere and director Edward Cahn (who gave us the obscure "Creature with the Atom Brain" a few years earlier) is wise to shroud the alien in darkness for most of the film since the suit is less than adequate. The man inside the suit is also far too human like (Ray Corrigan, who played in numerous gorilla suits in the past) which definitely adds a cheese factor to the proceedings. Fortunately, there is little time to make the film schlock. Running at a brisk pace and coming in at just over an hour, "It!" wastes no time in getting to the action. The first death comes quick (around the 15-minute mark) and the pace remains relentless for the rest of the running time. If you love this era of sci-fi, this is certainly recommended, but everyone else should know to stay away. (*** out of *****) "It!" is presented is full frame, which is proper for the film. This black and white transfer is surprisingly strong and even crystal clear at times. Heavy grain does follow the proceedings and the extensive scratches on the print are severely distracting in a few scenes, but for the age, this is a great presentation of a movie that would have likely ended up on a bargain basement disc with another company. (***) As expected, the sound presentation is only adequate. Presented in Dolby Mono, you'll hear most of the dialogue clearly, but when the soundtrack kicks in, voices are lost into the background. It only happens a few times, but it is enough to become a problem. There is little else to note here, just don't expect a full-blown action films soundtrack and you'll be fine. (***) Extras are not exactly plentiful. All you'll see is a beat-up theatrical trailer. (*) This is an odd little disc and with a few notable errors. First, the opening of the movie says it has been "modified from its original version," a line that has plagued widescreen version fans for years. It's not true since this movie was shot in the academy ratio. The back of the DVD case not only has a typo, but also claims the film is in color. These are obviously not issues that will effect your enjoyment of the movie, but someone should have caught these problems before release.

July 19, 2004

Eight Legged Freaks DVD Review

Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich can burn. After what they did to Godzilla, they deserve to suffer. But, anyone can redeem themselves and both of them did, lending their services to Eight Legged Freaks. Easily one of the best (and entertaining) giant bug movies ever, this is not only a nearly flawless tip-o-the-hat to the classic 50's genre, but a wild ride on its own. Toxic waste is once again the catalyst in the small town of Prosperity. Fed radioactive crickets by their owner, a large number of spiders grow to ridiculous proportions and begin to lay waste to any small animal. At the same time, Chris McCormick (David Arquette) returns to the small town after a 10-year absence. Reunited with the sheriff who is also a lost love (played by Kari Wuhrer) and her spider-loving son (Scott Terra), they begin to pick off the creatures while trying to save the inhabitants of the town. Though not exactly a major studio hit, Eight Legged Freaks did manage to cause a small buzz in 2002. This is a wonderful, tongue-firmly-in-cheek monster movie that never lets up. Rarely will you find giant bugs and major laughs in the same film, but director Ellory Elkayem knew exactly how to handle this type of film and it shows through here. Most directors who tackle this genre in a comedic way just toss in some terrible effects and acting, believing that this is what the genre is all about. It's not. Freaks has some really nice effects, especially considering the overwhelming use of CGI. The acting is par and occasionally cheap, but never overblown. The comedy mostly comes from the spiders themselves, who can almost "talk," Gremlins style. This is an absolute blast to watch and if you go in with the right mind set, you're guaranteed to have a great time. (**** out of *****) Two version of the film are available. First is a 2.35:1 widescreen (reviewed here as always) and a pan & scan version for those who have yet to move into the true DVD generation. The transfer used here is hit or miss, usually due to some annoying film grain. It's most likely the extensive use of CGI that causes this, but the darker sequences are just overflowing with it. Otherwise, this is a clean print with solid color and deep black levels. Some minor color bleeding occurs with the deeper reds and some flicker is evident as well, but these are minor issues compared to the grain. (***) Making up for a lackluster video presentation is a wonderful Dolby 5.1 mix. The title creatures make their way through all of the speakers at some point, and the large fight in the mall is a spectacular audio experience. Your subwoofer will take a beating here as well. The larger spiders pound their way across the screen, each footstep shaking the room like it should. A DTS edition of this movie would likely be one of the best sounding discs on the market. (****) The extras here are few, but they make up for it in quality. A commentary track from Arquette, Elkayem, Devlin, and Rick Overton (who plays the hilarious deputy in the film), is fun even though Arquette sounds like he is either drunk or high on something. Thirteen minutes of deleted/alternate scenes have been included in widescreen, but their video quality is not great. The commentary mentions numerous alternate takes with Overton's character but none have been included here sadly. "Larger than Life" is easily the best extra on the disc. This 13-minute short was Elkayem's precursor to the feature. This black and white film follows a women fending off enlarged spiders in her home, mostly in the same vein as Freaks. She calls an exterminator who is, to say the least, very unsuccessful and takes on the largest critter herself. Also included on the disc is a short essay on the giant bug genre and the films trailer presented in 1.85:1, which is not the proper ratio oddly enough. Final credit must be given for the cool menus, which mimic movie posters of old. (****) Not everyone will "get" Eight Legged Freaks. If you have never seen any of the 50's classics (such as "Them!" which actually gets a cameo in this movie) then you may not understand the idea and thought behind it. Those who grew up loving and those who still do love these true classics will have a blast here. This is a must-see film, but only if you are included in the above group.

Deep Blue Sea DVD Review

Filmmaking rule #1: If your film stars giant genetically altered sharks, there is no need for a plot, character development, or logic. This is a rule that Deep Blue Sea follows exactly, without any compromise. Renny Harlin directs this minor shark classic with a breakneck pace, but the special effects ruin everything. Aquatica is an under (and slightly above) water research facility. Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) has funded this project, but after one of the facilities guests escapes and attacks a small boat, he demands to see the project first hand. Dr. Susan McCallister (Saffron Burrows) is the lead scientist trying to cure Alzheimer's disease by studying and altering sharks; natures perfect creation. After a slight incident involving a helicopter and the facility itself, things start to go horribly wrong and the contained sharks are free to roam about, chomping on the various people who get in their way. Deep Blue Sea does a lot right. Characters who would never die in other films become shark bait, the action is superb, and the scare factor is sky high. This film has so many unpredictable moments, you're bound to feel the same tension the characters feel. The acting is on par (though unremarkable) and there is hardly a dull moment to be found. LL Cool J also provides some great comic relief as Preacher Dudley. Sadly, the uses of cheesy, hardly believable CGI effects ruin everything. Some absolutely wonderful full size animatronics sharks were built for the film and they are flawless. Intercut with the computer-generated sharks makes the entire film laughable. The animation is so fast and impossible, it seems like these animals have no backbones. Most of these effects would be possible on the Playstation 2. If the special effects were better, this could have been one of the best shark films ever made. It's a shame that they screwed this up. (*** out of *****) Warner presents this film in 2.35:1 widescreen, the way it should be. The flesh tones seem way off at times with blistering color, but other moments they seem fine. The transfer holds together but never causes bleeding, but some color correction would have went a long way to improving this disc. Otherwise, there is a light layer of film grain over this very soft transfer. Black levels are solid, though some of the underwater scenes have a very washed out look to them (though this could be intended). This isn't the best transfer of all time, but it is serviceable. (***) The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack works well, but does seem limited in the rears. A few nice water crashing effects and the helicopter explosion use them extensively, but that is the extent of the surrounds. However, your subwoofer will get a major workout here. It's used constantly in almost every sequence, shaking the room with ridiculous amounts of bass. This is a very strong 5.1 mix and recommended if you want to give a workout to your sub. (****) This is a decent special edition for the film, but there is little earth-shattering here. First is a commentary by Renny Harlin and Samuel L Jackson. Harlin also leads the way through eight minutes of deleted scenes and these can be viewed without commentary. Most of the scenes were used for character development and we all know this serves no purpose here. The video quality here is also suspect. They're almost hard to watch in this condition. When Sharks Attack is a 15-minute minor making of documentary that really focuses on the underwater dives with real sharks they did prior to filming. There are a few shots that they used in the film from these dives. The rest is padded with brief looks at the soundtrack, special effects, and the actor's experiences. Sharks of Deep Blue Sea is roughly the same length as the deleted scenes, but focuses completely on the special effects. The animatronic sharks are explained in detail and hearing Harlin praising the CG is funny. Both of these documentaries are entirely full screen. Finishing off the disc are some DVD-ROM features, stills, and the trailer. (***) Deep Blue Sea is a certainly a must for shark and horror fans, but anyone else should be advised to stay away. What it lacks in originality it makes up for with superb action, but no one will watch this film and not laugh at the effects. It's hardly excusable and this movies deathblow.

July 12, 2004

Frogs DVD Review

The 70's movie era was filled with two major movie genres: The disaster film and nature run amok. Certainly there were some classics to come out of these two including Airport, Earthquake, a couple of great killer bee films. Then there is absolute junk like Frogs. A millionaire (Ray Milland) living on his own private island invites his entire family over for his birthday bash. Also brought into the mix, ironically enough, is an ecologist (Sam Elliot). Seems this greedy old man has ticked off every living thing on his island by countless poisonings and hunting sprees. Now it's nature's turn. The frogs command such critters as spiders, snakes, crabs, gators, geckos, monitors, anoles, birds, and other frogs in their quest for revenge. The main problem here, beyond the useless sub-plots revolving around the human players, is that the spiders, snakes, crabs, gators, geckos, monitors, anoles, birds, and frogs are hardly scary. Anyone with a brain knows that a 6-inch anole is a hardly a threat. The ways in which the family is slowly picked off are absolutely ludicrous (tarantulas shoot and cover a guy in moss....seriously) and hardly effective as horror movie deaths should be. Even stupider, only one guy is actually killed by the frogs and I'm still lost as to how they pulled it off. They just walk all over him and he dies. This is awful film making at its lowest and hard to watch for even fans of bad movies. (* out of *****) Surprisingly, the picture quality here is mostly excellent. Presented in 1.85:1 on one side of the disc and pan & scam on the other, this is a nice transfer. All the spiders, snakes, crabs, gators, geckos, monitors, anoles, birds, and frogs can be viewed in outstanding detail. Some of the darker scenes (especially the finale) look just plain awful, but most of the film takes place during the day. Given the age, the minor scratches and spots on the film are acceptable and those daytime scenes are just amazing for a film from 1972. They did a great job on a movie that didn't deserve it. (****) The only sound options are English and Spanish mono. Most of the film is clear and easy to understand. Listening to the sounds of the spiders, snakes, crabs, gators, geckos, monitors, anoles, birds, and frogs is no problem. Dialogue is only a little scratchy at times and never hard to understand. Serviceable and it does what it's supposed to, that's exactly what should be expected. (***) The only extra is the original trailer, shown in full screen. There are a few alternate scenes in the trailer giving fans extra looks at the spiders, snakes, crabs, gators, geckos, monitors, anoles, birds, and frogs. Note that the French subtitles defaulted on my player, though I'm still not sure why. (*) If cheesy, non-horror movies are your thing, then you might find some enjoyment here. There are some nice shots of spiders, snakes, crabs, gators, geckos, monitors, anoles, birds, and lost of frogs so animal buffs may find the photography interesting. Unfortunately, wrapped around all the spiders, snakes, crabs, gators, geckos, monitors, anoles, birds, and frogs is a terrible, useless script. Mix that with horrible acting, and all you've got is a clunker with a nice transfer.

Beginning of the End DVD Review

The 50's movie era was certainly an interesting one. Filled with giant radioactive creatures that destroyed major cities, sci-fi fans certainly got their fill and then some. Enter Beginning of the End. This is one movie that is certainly more popular because of its appearance on the cult favorite TV show Mystery Science Theater than anything else. Well, now you can own it on a real DVD without silhouettes talking over it. Peter Graves stars in this Bert I. Gordon production about nature run mad. Thanks to some local experiments that tried growing giant vegetables to feed the hungry, grasshoppers/locusts/crickets (never really sure which) have grown to an immense size and are attacking local towns. Eventually they get hungry and make there to downtown Chicago for some real mayhem.... that never really happens. This is schlock to the nth degree. The special effects simply can't be described and must be seen to be truly "appreciated." It has all the clichÈ's of other giant-bug 50's movies including (but not limited to) the scientist, bug expert, and the army general. Most of the actual attacks by the cheap looking insects happen off screen to save on budget and the acting is only on par with other movies in this time/genre. I'm not even going to mention the hilariously bad ending. This is one for only the most die-hard giant bug fans. Even then you'll do better with the true classic in "Them!" (* out of *****) Amazingly, this disc not only presents the movie in 1.66:1 widescreen, but it has a gorgeous print to boot. Though the scratches are numerous, the flawlessly clear print and almost complete lack of film grain is a major achievement. There are much better movies that don't get this treatment. I'm still stunned by this one. (****) The sound is Dolby stereo, but it might as well be mono. The creatures give off this ear shattering screeching noise that really pushes the treble (not to mention your patience) and blocks out everything else. Gunfire and dialogue are lost, but this is attributed more to the movie than the disc. Otherwise, the sound is clear without much hissing or static. (**) Even more stunning than the print are the extras. There's a commentary track, a shock to say the least. Granted, it's not a very good one, but just including one is shocking. Susan Gordon, Bert's widow, and her daughter try hard to remember some of the details, but their memory is less than adequate. The interviewer asks them questions constantly that they can't answer or do so in a manner that solves nothing. They discuss other movies produced by her late husband as well. The other extras include a trailer and still gallery featuring some classic looking lobby cards. (***) This is a movie for only the most die-hard giant bug fans. They're out there too. Believe me, I'm one of them. Not even I can take this one. Bad special effects are one thing, but that horrible screeching sound and ludicrous ending are just too much. If you're a fan though, this is as good as it will ever get.

July 6, 2004

Destroy All Monsters DVD Review

Destroy All Monsters is widely regarded as the pinnacle of the Japanese Monster genre and one of the last great Godzilla films of the 60's-70's. Featuring almost the entire roster of Toho's creations, this is an all out monster fest and a must see if you have any interest in giant monster flicks. This is the movies second appearance on DVD from ADV and sadly, it's not better than the first one. Set in 1999, an alien race that calls themselves the Kilaaks have come to Earth to destroy it....and they don't even need weapons. They take control of "Monster Land" which houses all the giant monsters that have taken a swipe at Tokyo. The aliens set the creatures free and they begin a rampage through the entire world. Humans scramble to devise a plan to put an end not only to the Kilaaks, but to the monsters as well. Sure the special effects are weak at times, miniatures obvious, and plot a bit out there. Who cares? It's still far more entertaining than most of the CG junk Hollywood throws at us year after year. The imagination put into these films is just great, something that is seriously lacking in so many US movies. This is far from perfect of course and it can be downright boring at times, but of course the destruction scenes make up for everything else. Also, the final battle is an epic that simply can't be matched. If you have never been introduced to the quirky genre, this would be a good place start after the original Japanese version of Godzilla. (*** out of *****) Destroy All Monsters is presented in roughly 2.35:1 widescreen. This print has taken a beating with countless scratches and spots and is the exact same one used in the first release from ADV. The resolution is very low and flickering is a major problem. It almost seems like it has been taken from a laserdisc as times. The colors have moments of brightness and clarity is occasionally brilliant, but these segments are few and far between. This isn't a film that is going to get a full restoration anytime soon of course and this is probably the best it's going to get. (**) Sound is a clear 2.0 mono that does what it should and nothing else. There is no bass and the spectacular Akira Ifukube soundtrack drowns the voices out occasionally. Again, this is the same as the previous release. (**) This one of the stranger DVD releases of all time. Not only are there no extras, but there isn't even a menu! You put the disc in and it plays, much like a VCD. There are no chapter stops either. Yet again, this is the same as the original. The packaging is pretty nice with a foil coating and "newspaper" like back cover. The cover also states that it's the 50th anniversary, which is off. It's Godzilla's 50th, not the films. The only real extra is a CD soundtrack for the film with 30 tracks, included right inside the DVD case. It's a great disc with some of the best work Ifukube ever produced. If that's not a nice extra, I don't know what is. Shame the actual movie is completely void of anything extra. (**) This is one of the worst double dips of all time. This is the exact same disc as the original release with nothing fixed. How hard is it to make a menu? If you're going to a version of the film on the format, this might as well be the one though. For the price, you probably couldn't purchase the soundtrack separately. Regardless, this one is a classic and does deserve a space on your shelf. Shame about the sound and picture though.

Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend DVD Review

Baby is odd film. On one hand, it could be seen as an inspiration for movie like Jurassic Park. On the other hand, it's not hard to see this is just a simple take on the ancient Lost World story written so many years ago by Sir Arthur Con Doyle. This is a mildly entertaining movie with fair effects, but the abysmal DVD ruins everything. It's a bare bones plot that's been told countless times. A family of brontosaurs has been discovered and the usual evil guy (Patrick McGoohan) wants them to show them off for profit. A group (headed by William Katt and Sean Young) tries to protect them and keep them in their natural habitat, especially the baby that has taken a liking to them. For a movie rated PG, this is a surprisingly violent movie with lots of bloodshed and gunfire. There is also a ton of nudity from the female natives, but the MPAA considers it ok since that's how they live. If Janet Jackson offends you, this is not a movie for you. Anyway, the dinosaur effects are achieved by people inside a rubber suit and are passable for the day. The larger adult brontosaurus' are even more impressive, but still obviously fake. The acting is fair and the brief bits of comedy are hilarious. The story is predictable and the characters back-stories are pretty much meaningless. But, if you're going in ready to see some dinosaurs, you'll be happy. (** out of *****) The video here is presented in full frame, cropped down from 2.35:1. It's hard to bear at times with characters out of frame, talking off screen, and the vast scope of the dinosaurs is lost. Worse yet, the print is actually worse than any VHS copy. The grain and compression artifacts are ludicrous making this one of the worst looking studio releases ever to hit the format. (no stars) The sound is presented in 2-channel stereo. Voices are obscured by sound effects and hard to hear at times. You'll have to fiddle with the volume constantly to understand what is being said or turn on the subtitles. The action sequences are loud, but the obviously low sampling rate means everything sounds washed out. Did they use a 20-year old VHS tape? It's a very real possibility. (*) There are no special features. (no stars) This is as bad as DVD's get. Absolutely no care was taken to present this movie with any quality and it would hardly surprise me if this was just a transfer of a VHS tape. It's really that bad. If my words don't scare you enough, then feel free to try it for yourself. Just remember: You have been warned.

July 3, 2004

Q: The Winged Serpent DVD Review

Without the 1950's around, it's a major gamble to release a giant monster movie unless it has Godzilla. Even then your not guaranteed anything good (reference: Dean Devlin/Roland Emmerich). Q is an interesting low budget take on the genre with ludicrous amounts of gore and only minimal monster. New York City has a criminal problem. Not just the usual car theft problems either. No, some nut has been doing ritualistic sacrifices (gross ones at that) on people and has somehow resurrected an ancient Aztec god called Quetzalcoatl (say it six times fast right now). Seems this feisty bird-reptile creature has the taste for human flesh and window washers. The investigation into the murders leads most of the movie, but since everyone in the theater (or on their couch) knows who's doing it, it's all sort of useless. Michael Moriarty plays a great role, but only slows the pace and it makes a 90-minute movie seem like 3 hours. When the creature does finally make his full, stop motion appearance, it's very impressive. Some of the matte shots are a bit off, but for a 1982 film, it's spectacular. As long as your finger is on fast-forward, you'll be fine. (*** out of *****) Blue Underground released this disc and just like almost all of their releases, this one features a fully restored print. They've done a great job, but the contrast is set far too high. Blindingly high as a matter of fact. The colors are strong and sharp, black levels are nice, scratches have almost all disappeared, but the contrast is hard to bear. Close, but just a bit outside. (***) Again, just like all of their discs, we get a brand new soundtrack including their very popular DTS 6.1 track. Other options include 5.1 EX, Dolby 2.0, and the original mono. The surround tracks are less than adequate, hardly offering any rear speaker effects at all. A few of the segments have some nice ambience, but this is a weak DTS and 5.1 track. The bass never seems to kick in either. Still, it's far better than any mono track. (**) Extras include a commentary track from Larry Cohen, teaser trailer, poster and still gallery, plus some Q memorabilia. Oddly, the memorabilia segment is only available on DVD-ROM that I don't have immediate access to and couldn't view. I don't see why this couldn't have been included as a standard feature. It's nice to a Cohen commentary track and he shows great enthusiasm for the picture, but the DVD-ROM content is stupid and baffling. (**) This is actually the second time Q has been brought out on DVD. The original release was serviceable, but this one blows it away. Even though this one has some problems, fans of this cult classic should be happy. Blue Underground is gaining a great reputation for releasing some great cult films and they get better with every release. This was a fairly early release, but it does a fine job presenting a decent movie on a new format.

July 1, 2004

Iron Giant DVD Review

Animated films that don't have the Disney logo attached rarely dominate the box office. Case in point: Warners superb Iron Giant. Though it's failure at the box office could be attributed to their horrible marketing of the film (read: none at all), I'm sure if Disney had got a hold of it, this would have fared much better than it did. Hogarth Hughes is a lonely 50's child who's mother is always working late. While home alone one night, watching "The Brain from Planet Auros" (in animated form of course), his TV signal goes out. Turns out a giant, metal eating robot from, well, no one quite knows where from, is the culprit. Hogarth (still can't get over that name) befriends the giant and makes an attempt to hide him in a junkyard. The government is determined to to find this supposed "destructive monster" and bring it down. This is a stunning movie, not only a throwback to a great movie era, but surperbly directed by Brian Bird of Simpsons fame. There are so many in-jokes to the era (the duck and cover video is priceless) with a great story and performances, it's a crying shame this one never caught on. The animation, a mix of CG and hand drawn style, is just awesome. There are some unexplained elements of the film such as what happned to Hogarths father and the who/what/where's of the title creature (who happens to be voiced by Vin Diesel in his only decent performance), but these are minor flaws in an nearly perfect film. (**** out *****) The Iron Giant is a double sided disc with one side in widescreen and the other pan & scam. The widescreen version, presented in 2.35:1, is the only way to go here. The expansiveness and the framing just isn't done justice with the cropping on the pan & scam version. The video quality is just stunning. The colors are almost always solid and are perfect for the format. Compression problems are noticeable if you look, but are very subdued compared to other animated features. Nightime sequences are a bit more obvious as far as compression is concerned, but this is still close to refrence quality video. (****) Audio options are easy: English 5.1 surround. That's it. Though never really using all the speaker available, the thunderous steps of the Giant are wall shaking with their bass. There are some excellent stereo effects during dialouge sequences, giving the film some nice positional sound. The few sequences where the full surround sound effect should be evident isn't used fully to perfection, but it gets the job done. (***) Much like the marketing of the film, the disc is releatively barren. Commentary track? No. In-depth documentary? No. All we get is a made-for-TV documentary that runs a little over 20 minutes. Vin Diesel hosts this ugly piece of promotion that was probably viewed by 10 people whenever it aired on TV. The only other real extra is a music video by Eddie Platt. The usual gauntlet of trailers, filmographies, and animated menus fill out the rest. (**) Warner has announced a special edition of this film packed with extras. It has been announced, then delayed, announced again, then delayed, and then annoucned again. They are most likely now holding out for the release of Brad Birds upcoming "Incredibles," due out later this year. Whether or not you choose to get this disc now is entirely based on your patience, just know a new edition is most likely not far behind. Unless of course they delay it again....

Jaws: The Revenge DVD Review

In 1975, people around the country refused to go near the water. By 1987, they were laughing hysterically. After a so-so second film, the Jaws series nose-dived with one of the most laughable sequels of all time, Jaws 3-D. Then, for whatever reason, some exec over at Universal thought a 4th film was in order. Though not as bad as Jaws 3-D, Jaws: The Revenge has little to recommended. Ellen Brody (played for the third time by Lorraine Gray) is now a widow after her husband, Martin Brody, passes on from a heart attack. Right around Christmas, her son Sean (Mitchell Anderson) is brutally attacked by a great white. Her other son Michael (Lance Guest) invites her down to the Bahamas to try and calm her down. However, Ellen feels that the shark is following and knows it won't stop until it kills off the entire family. Jaws: The Revenge might have been a decent sequel. The direction is fair, acting on par, and the scenery is gorgeous. A few nice, gory death sequences and some mild tension make this somewhat tolerable as well. What ruins the entire experience is the notion that the shark and Ellen have some sort of "connection." Yes, this giant great white shark really does have it in for the Brody family and no explanation is ever given for its actions (though the book places the blame on a voodoo curse). As if that wasn't laughable enough, the shark itself looks incredibly cheap and nowhere near the original creation of the first film. Far too much screen time is given to the beast and there are more than a few moments where you can see the track that leads the monster around. Then, it gets even more asinine at the end when the shark suddenly produces some vocal cords and lets out a cheesy roar (brought over from countless 50's monster films) and explodes when impaled by the boat. The ending is actually a small piece of movie history. The original script had the shark simply get impaled but a few of the Universal higher-ups didn't believe this would work with the audience (or they may have responded during test screenings). They ordered a new ending with a shoestring budget and what came out was a cheap miniature and stock footage from the first film. Either way, it's a sad end to what should have been a classic series. (** out of *****) Amazingly, this is the second time Jaws: The Revenge has made its way onto DVD. The first disc, from Goodtimes, included extra footage, a decent (though unspectacular) transfer, and occasionally scratchy audio. This new disc from Universal themselves is a large improvement, though the extra footage has not been included. This new 2.35:1 transfer is beautiful, bursting with bright colors that really bring out the islands natural beauty. Indoor sequences suffer from some extremely heavy grain, which does bring the overall package down a notch, but the vast majority of the film takes place in broad daylight anyway. Nearly all specks and scratches have been cleaned up as well. (****) The audio package here is presented in Dolby Pro-Logic. A few instances of rear speaker usage are evident, but these are few and far between. Most of the audio is centered with some minor bass. The hissing of the old Goodtimes disc has been cleaned up and all the dialogue comes through clear. (***) Sadly, even with the extra ending and alternate scenes, this disc is barren. None of the extra footage has been included here. All viewers get is a ghastly full frame trailer and some recommendations (which include Jaws 1, 2, and 3 as if people couldn't figure this out on their own). Not that the film actually deserves a full-blown special edition, but if the footage is out there, why NOT include it? (*) This is a film for completists only. It's not the worst in the series nor is it the worst shark movie ever made (See Shark Attack 3 or Red Water and you'll see my point), but it is still a disgrace to the classic original. Hopefully the series will die a peaceful death with this rotten entry, but rumors are abound that a fifth film may still surface.

June 30, 2004

Gorgo DVD Review

Eugene Lourie is probably best known for his 1953 monster-on-the-loose epic "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms," and epic of not only the genre, but 1950 movies as well. Eugene was brought back to the genre with Gorgo, an outstanding Technicolor epic that stands as one of the best giant monster movies ever made. Sadly, every DVD version is pitiful in quality, but if you're going to get in on the format, this VCI version is the way to go. A volcanic explosion releases a 60+ foot beast that captures the eye of a few circus owners who immediately put it on display. It's a huge success of course and its owners couldn't be much happier. Sadly for them, mom also broke out from that explosion and would prefer to take back custody on her kin. This begins a rampage of epic proportions as mom tramples London searching desperately for her property. Gorgo is an undeniable classic. The old "guy in a suit" may draw laughs from those accustomed to the even more obvious CGI, but no one can discount the superb miniature work here. Numerous landmarks are toppled in the final rampage, all crumbling realistically under mamma Gorgo's huge hands. The movie does have a few odd subplots that go absolutely nowhere and the child actor is beyond annoying, but you're going to watch this movie for one reason. In that, it's largely successful. (**** out of *****) Gorgo is presented in widescreen for the first time ever on home video. This is the most abysmal non-public domain disc I've ever seen. The print is so dark that actors are completely obscured by the lack of light, large chunks of compression artifacts never seem to disappear, scratches can't be counted, and the film grain is the worst I've ever encountered in a color film. This movie should look a lot better than it does and it's about time it gets restored. (* ) Likewise, the sound is equally horrific. Gorgo's memorable roar is lost in a muffled mess of screams and buildings crumbling. There is a layer of static over the entire presentation that sounds like your listening to the movie on a 45 year old radio broadcast. This is hardly how Dolby Digital Mono should be used, and I'd be surprised if it was. This has VHS quality written all over it. (*) Surprisingly, VCI did include an interesting look at Gorgo through a 10-minute documentary. It's entirely narrated, but covers Lourie's career and goes over his start with the "The Beast." There is more information here in a measly 10 minutes on the production than has ever been available before. There is a nice picture gallery with various posters and still shots and of course the usual trailer. The menus get special mention with a CG Gorgo towering over a buildings with the various segments featured on them. Getting anywhere takes about 15 seconds thanks to the included animation when switching menus, but these can be fast-forwarded. (***) Be warned that there are countless other discs on the market featuring Gorgo. Most have it double billed with another movie that has been in public domain for years. As far as I know, Gorgo is not public domain and should not be on these bargain basement discs. Avoid those and get this release. It may not be much better, but the few extras put it a step above.

June 28, 2004

Predator 2 DVD Review

It's amazing how some movies become popular. In the case of Predator 2, it all came down to a brief glimpse of the title creature's trophy room. In it, sci-fi fans will see the skull of the "Alien" creature hoisted up as a prize. This single brief scene started off a comic, multiple video games, and a soon-to-be-released feature film. Hopefully this new film can resurrect the Predator franchise from the hole it dug itself into with this film. Predator 2 picks up in 1997 Los Angeles during a brutal gang war. Jamaican drug lords have overrun the city and the police are hopeless. In the center of the action is Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) who tries to dig deeper into the investigation when one of his partners is slaughtered ruthlessly. Instead, the government takes over the proceedings but a resilient Harrigan pushes on to discover that the gangs are not the only killers in town. Predator 2 is littered with problems. First up is the simply awful acting from nearly everyone on the cast. Bill Paxton is especially disappointing and Danny Glover not only puts on a poor performance, but the aging star is difficult to swallow as a fast paced action star. As if things aren't bad enough, Morton Downey Jr. gets a role and anyone who remembers him will certainly know why he doesn't fit in. There is very little explanation for the Predator's existence. It simply seems to be. A brief segment explains what it can accomplish, but this minor moment is a disappointment. The creature design by Stan Winston is admirable as are most of the special effects (for their age), but the cheap looking dreadlocks on the creature seem to be included only so they can wrap around the creature's face when he quickly turns around (which happens a lot). However, almost all of the disappointment comes from the potential this film had. Seeing the bounty hunting alien reek havoc in downtown L.A. is, in theory, a creature-feature fan's dream. The movie keeps the monster hidden for most of the film, a stupid move for a sequel when the vast majority of the audience knows what it looks like. The only real saving graces are some nice (if sometimes illogical) gore effects and a great sequence on a subway train. (** out of *****) Surprisingly, Predator 2 has received a wonderful audio and visual treatment from Fox. Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, this is a crisp, clean print, especially the daytime sequences that can easily rival a HDTV broadcast. Scratches are almost completely absent and the black levels are solid throughout. Some grain will creep its way into the transfer, but everything is acceptable considering the age of the film. (****) Likewise, the newly remixed 5.1 Surround track is great. Though the film pre-dates the advent of the format, this mix is quite aggressive at times, especially the Alan Silvestri soundtrack. Though lacking any major punch in the LFE channel, rest assured the rest of the speakers in your set-up will get a workout. (****) Surprisingly, two featurettes have been included on the disc, though they are flat an uninteresting. The first featurette runs for 5:42 and is a basic promotional look at the actor's characters and some very brief behind the scenes footage. The second feature, "Creating the Ultimate Predator," runs at a brisk 3:41 and looks at a few of the creatures weapons and even recycles some of the clips from the first feature. The theatrical trailer has been included, though it is oddly in 2.35:1 widescreen, lopping off part of the print. (**) Predator 2 is simply a disappointment on every level. Had any of the actors put in a worthwhile performance, this might have been a tolerable film. As it is, this is one better left to the die-hard fans who are likely frothing at the mouth waiting for the upcoming entry into this series.

June 11, 2004

Body Snatchers (1993) DVD Review

Is there a more classic sci-fi tale than "Invasion of the Body Snatchers?" Ok, maybe there are a few, but it still remains one of the more well known stories over 60 years later. The original story has been reworked into film three times, this version here simply titled "Body Snatchers." Though far from a true classic, the movie provides a few great horror moments that make it a worthwhile ride. Steve Malone (Terry Kinney) moves his family to a southern military base to work as an EPA consultant. His daughter Marti (Gabrielle Anwar), second wife Carol (Meg Tilly), and step son Andy (Reilly Murphy) all take diffrently to the move. However, little Andy knows something isn't right only a fw days after arriving. Eventually, everyone becomes aware of the situation but it may already to be too late. The entire base has been taken over and only a few remain. It's a race to escape from the base with anyone who may be left and hopefully put an end to the alien takeover. Little time is spent here with the explanation for the aliens. Everyone going into this movie knows exactly what is going on and knows it's only a matter of time. There is even less time spent on the usual "Are you one of them?" dialouge that could quickly turn nauseating. This is a briskly paced horror movie (only 87 minutes) that gets right to the point. There are plenty of gore effects and gratouitous nudity that is to be expected as well. This one adds in some truly horrifying moments as well. Meg Tilly has a great part as the stepmother-turned-alien and puts on a trully chilling performance. The final sequence in the helicopter is a surprising twist as well. The special effects are decent for a low-budget production and the direction by Abel Ferrara is great. A few sub-plots about toxic waste go absolutely nowhere, but the always enjoyable R. Lee Ermey makes up for it in a small role. There is nothing here that will will blow you away, but it's an enjoyable way to spend an evening for the horror fan. (*** out of *****) The film is presented in either full screen pan & scan or widescreen (roughly 2.35:1) on opposite sides of the disc. This is a fair presentation of the film, soaked in a bright red tint for the opening half hour. The transfer holds this all together with no bleeding of any kind. Grain is apparent throughout the film and numerous scratches get annoying in a few sequences. Still, there are some great scenes that show off stunning clarity, but the grain still hampers the overall transfer. (***) The disc offers only one sound option, standard Dolby Surround. Surprisingly, this is a fairly active mix with some decent ambient effects and nice left-to-right stereo usage. It's not completely immersive as there are plenty of missed opportunities and a complete lack of bass, but this is a nice mix for an older film. (***) Warner has included no extras on the disc. Nope, not even a trailer. (no stars) While this is not a film that will go down as a classic, it's a fair update to the classic original that fans will most likely enjoy. This could have turned out a lot worse but with a short running time, it keeps the pace moving non-stop. The disc leaves much to be desired but it is highly unlikely that this will ever get a full special edition treatment. If your a fan of the film, this will likely be the best way to go for some time.

June 2, 2004

Starship Troopers 2 DVD Review

Starship Troopers has proved itself as a cult classic, holding its own since the release of the film in 1997. Many different ideas in one, Troopers was a parody of the government, a look at the horror of war, and a giant bug movie all in one. The sequel abandons almost everything that was well done by the first film and first-time director Phil Tippett knows it. Picking up five years after the initial battle, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation has a group of soldiers in dismay, surrounded by the "Bugs," a race of killer arachnids set on destroying mankind. Overwhelmed by the beasts, the band of soldiers retreat to an abandoned tower to try and stay alive long enough to be rescued. Little do they know that the real threat is actually amongst them. Starship Troopers 2 biggest problem is its budget. The sets are clouded by a thick fog, look cheap, and are all obviously on a sound stage. The actual bug effects are on par with the first film, but they only make an appearance a few times in the movie. The script gives the creatures and entirely new place to live which borrows the same idea created years ago by writers of Alien (with a hint of Species). Don't worry, I didn't spoil anything. You can see the "twist" coming very early on. No one will go into this movie wanting to see humans fighting humans. They want the Bugs. They won't get that here. Everything starts off promising enough with the great over the top video montages encouraging people to join the army that were so much fun in the original. For the first twenty minutes you get a ton of action too. The few battle scenes are great, almost exactly like the original except these are just shrouded in darkness. Then everything dies down to a snail pace. The Bugs are much weaker this time out, taking a few shots before they go down unlike the indestructible monsters of the first film. The guns have also changed to some sort of plasma rifle and no explanation is given. The gore effects are back in full force as is the gratuitous nudity. The real way to tell if a B-movie is good is to imagine it with a bigger budget. If the effects (or even the sets) were better here, it would make no difference. It's dull, boring, and just plain awful. It has no connection with the original, nor does it try to. The only highlights are the catchy theme song, a few of the performances, and outrageous gore effects. Even if youíre a die-hard fan of the original, you will find little of interest here. (* out of *****) Starship Troopers 2 is available only in widescreen, roughly 1.78:1 anamorphic. The film was shot using Sony High-Definition cameras. In theory, this one should look flawless. This is hardly the case. The opening moments exhibit so much grain, it looks like your trying to watch a local TV channel with a rabbit-ear antenna during a thunderstorm. Later scenes are only marginally better, still showcasing far too many video problems to make it worthwhile. Oddly, the ending scene, which takes place in broad daylight, is stunning with no problems at all. Sadly, it barely lasts 5 minutes. (**) Thankfully, the sound presentation picks everything up a notch, available in DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby 2.0. The DTS track here is just stunning. It's loud, it will rattle your room, and the surround effects will likely scare you on a few occasions. There are even non-battle scenes that sound great with voices moving throughout the sound field. The standard 5.1 track lacks the major bass of the DTS selection, but every speaker will still get a workout. In all actuality, this one probably sounds better than the special edition 2-disc set of the original film. (****) As with any normal straight-to-video movie, this one doesn't have a lot of features but what's here is actually interesting. First up is a commentary track with Jon Davidson, Ed Numeier, and Phil Tippett himself. Tippett is very outspoken about how the studio handled the film. His lack of time and budget really seemed to set him off and you'll certainly hear about it during this feature. Ed Numeier still, even though it's just a bad B-movie, tries to make this one out to a stand-in for the Korean War. Sorry, but that just doesn't work here. Next is a half-hour featurette, presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, on the making of the movie. Even here, Tippett gets in a few words about how little time he had (26 days of shooting to be exact). The rest of the feature is general stuff with the actors praising each other and the staff. There are some small segments on the special effects as well. "Green screen to silver screen" is an oddly titled feature (the film was never in theaters for good reason) that looks at three of the special effect sequences from concept to completion. Eric Levin, the visual effects supervisor, narrates over the footage. Finally you can look at some still photos, view various trailers, and check out the PC video game with a DVD-ROM weblink. (***) This movie never should have been made. The meager budget (rumored to be around $6 million) is not enough for a movie like this. Even worse, you give a low budget movie like this to an excellent Academy Award winning special effects designer to direct (his first time ever behind the camera) and ruin his reputation in the process. If you simply have to see this one, check it out on cable where it premiered.

May 26, 2004

Underworld Unrated DVD Review

The term "double dip" will certainly instill fear in any DVD collector. For those who are unsure of what the term refers to, let me briefly explain. Underworld was released on DVD in January in a single disc edition. Now, a mere five months have passed and we are now "treated" to a two disc unrated edition. Tri-Star has "double dipped" the disc and can now possibly sucker in fans of the film to buy this new edition. Sometimes a double dip can be a good thing, especially when an outdated disc is improved greatly. Sadly, that's not the case with Underworld. There is a war brewing that humans have been unaware of for hundreds of years. Beneath the city streets, werewolves (called Lycans) and vampires have been fighting, but with the possible resurrection of the werewolf leader Lucian at hand, things begin to pick up. Kate Beckinsale stars as Selene, a vampire who has the simple mission of destroying every last werewolf still alive. But, when the war begins and she falls for a human who was recently bitten by a Lycan, things get even more out of control. The war escalates into a spectacle of action, fight sequences, and gun fights.

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May 23, 2004

House of the Dead DVD review

First rule of movie making: Don't make your movie based off a video game. Ask anyone who has had the pleasure of sitting through such cinematic classics like Double Dragon, Super Mario Bros, or Street Fighter, and sure enough you'll get a large majority with the same response. "That was 2 hours of my life I'll never have back." Enter Uwe Boll's "House of the Dead."

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May 15, 2004

Terminator Special Edition DVD Review

Just imagine this: You've just finished making Piranha 2, a pretty abysmal sequel to the Roger Corman cult classic. You lay down one night soon after and you have a visionÖa vision that has you imagining a giant metal man walking through a pillar of fire. Then you get $6 million dollars from a major studio to turn it into a movie. That film just happened to be James Cameron's sci-fi classic The Terminator, a film that completely changed time travel and Schwarzenegger cyborg action films forever. Kyle Reese (played by Michael Biehn) is sent back in time as is the T-101, a human/cyborg combo killing machine (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Their goals are completely opposite. One is attempting to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) while the other is trying to protect her and save the future of mankind. It's a violent game of cat and mouse throughout the entire running time.

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May 2, 2004

Monster Legacy DVD Box set review

Wow. Kudos right off the start to Universal for this outstanding box set. Not only do comsumers get 14 (!) seperate classic Universal monster movies, but three incredibly cool busts of the featured creatures. What more could any DVD fan want? Each of the monsters films (Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Dracula) are housed in their own seperate cases. Frankenstein and Dracula get 5 movies a piece with Wolfman fans getting treated to 4. Each set is housed on 2 discs, one with graphics on top, the other double sided. Note the packaging shows each disc with artwork on the top. The Wolfman set is contained on the back of the box, the others on the side. A clear plastic lets owners look at the individual DVD's when they are in the box.

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April 13, 2004

King Kong (1976) DVD review

I'm not very sure if you can screw up a remake worse than Dino De Laurentiis did King Kong. Not only were the special effects a complete disaster, even for 1976 (though in one of the most stunning moments ever, they won an Oscar), the campy feel destroyed the soul of the 1933 classic. A oil comany (led by Charles Grodin) picks up Kong and brings him back to New York for publicity purposes. In a shocking moment to audiences worldwide, Kong escapes and ends up on top of the World Trade Center. The acting (especially Grodin) is abysmal and the only saving grace is Jessica Lange for obvious purposes. A very early DVD release, King Kong offers little in the way of anything DVD worthy. The widescreen print (2.35:1) is filled with scratches, compression problems, and color bleeding. It's fairly clear, but all this does is make the already painful effects look even worse. The new 5.1 mix is hardly worth the time. The early jungle sequences have some nice ambient sounds, but the final showdown on the top of the Towers is absent of any surround speaker usage. Not even the subwoofer is challenged. Sub-par print + even more dissapointing sound = Bad disc. The only "feature" is the theatrical trailer. I'm sure for such an over-hyped movie there's something out there on the making of the film. Production problems were countless during filming and it's a shame their not covered on the disc. Hopefully Peter Jacksons upcoming remake will promt Paramount to release a nice set chronicling the troubles of this film, but until then, this is a disc better off staying on the store shelves at any price.

April 11, 2004

The Relic DVD review

A thoroughly enjoyable monster-on-the-loose gore flick, The Relic bombed at the box office in 1997 barely making half of its $60 million dollar budget. It's a crying shame too. Though slow to start, once the creature effects kick in, this is a great ride. Heads fly as the gruesome creature devours sections of peoples brains trapped inside the Chicage Museum of Natural History. The performances are decent and the story gives alot of insight into the characters. Having seen the movie on full screen VHS many years ago (my first and only viewing up until now), I eagerly anticipated popping this disc into my player. Presented in 2.35:1, this widecsreen transfer is a complete disaster, a supreme dissapointment. I remember the movie being dark, but there are at least 10 minutes of this film that are completely black. Faces are obscured by the darkness, performances are lost, and the few brief looks at the title creature are masked by blackness. The 5.1 sound is a mild step up, but only kicks in for the final few chapters during the creatures big rampage. Dolby Surround is also available. As a bare bones disc, the only special feature is the theatrical trailer. Thanks to the abysmal box office return, it's highly unlikely we'll ever get a full fledged special edition. I can only wish for a new release with a restored print that is actually viewable. Definitely a disc for only die hard fans of the film.

Deep Rising DVD review

Deep Rising is by far one of the most entertaining creature features Hollywood has pumped out in years. The obscene amount of gore, super hot Famke Janssen, Treat Williams' best performance of all time, and a great creature design is only the beginning. Taking place almost entirely on a humungous cruise ship, this all out action/sci-fier is cetainly derivative of countless other movies, but none of them do it any better. The tentacles of the massive beast take out literally hundereds (if not thousands) of people before the credits roll, all to feed the mass of flesh which has ripped it's way into the center of the ship. A must for either action or sci-fi fans. The DVD presents the film as it should, a gorgeous widescreen print with few (if any) flaws. The only real problem is that the crystal clear picture makes the low budget CGI that permiates most of the film even more obvious. Black levels are solid and only some minor color bleeding mar an otherwise perfect print. As if the picture wasn't enough, the 5.1 mix included here is simply unheard of. Since the monster can pretty much go anywhere aboard the liner, viewers (well, listeners in this case) are treated to some stunning surround usage. The LFE channel gets a workout thanks to the insane amount of gunfire and explosions. I've put this disc in many a time simply to hear it. Very few standard 5.1 mixes are better than the one included here. As is the norm for a underappreciated sci-fi movie, the disc is barren, minus a few trailers. Any home theater enthusiast should still have this disc in their collections, even if they hate the movie. The picture and sound quality combined with what is bound to be a cult classic horror flick make this a worthy disc to any collection.

War of the Worlds DVD review

Ask any sci-fi movie fan and they'll likely tell you that 1953's film adaption of the "War of the Worlds" is one of the best movies the genre has ever seen. The dazzling effects, classic 50's style performances, and a great tale is only the beginning. Though the time has been shifted to the 1950's instead of the late 1800's as in H.G. Wells original tale, it hardly effects the film and is in someways an improvement. Aliens from a Mars, desperate for a new home, send in their martian death machines impervious to any of our "ancient" weaponary (including the A-bomb). Great minatures are demolished as the aliens begin taking hold of the Earth. All seems hopeless as the military begins to back off and retreat. Gene Curry is excellent in his lead role, seemingly truly terrified running solo through the streets of Los Angeles. As classic as this film is, it stands a severe dissapointment this film has been transferred so shoddily to the DVD format. The print used is admittidly clear (so clear you can see the wires suspending the ships more than once), but ludicrous amounts of film grain and compression artifacts ruin everything. The color is far too bright and tends to bleed on occasion. Thanks to some research, I've actually found that the laserdisc release from about 10 years ago has a cleaner and more serviceable print. The sound is available only mono. It's clear and void of any hissing, but this movie deserves better. Rumors are abound that Steven Spielberg will be remaking this movie for release sometime in 2006. One can wsih for a new disc, packed with not only a restored print and sound, but some special features features as well. The orignal trailer does not qualify as "special" anymore. This is a disc for only those who have worn out their VHS version.

April 10, 2004

Super Mario Bros. DVD review

From a die hard videogamers point of view, it's really hard to ignore how miserably this film disregards the source material. The only things that are even remotely close to the video game series are the characters names. The rest is all completely improvised and not for the better. Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) discover an entrance to a parallel universe and head in to save Luigi's brand new (within the hour) girlfreind. This world has humans which have evolved from dinosaurs. The only highlight is Dennis Hopper playing the role of King Koopa, the evil ruler of this dimension. This high budget flop has some nice set designs and special effects, but the rest of the experience is flat. Super Mario Bros. is presented in it's orignal 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This is a surprisingly good print with great, bright color and black levels. The sparks that seem to fly in almost every frame are spectacular to watch. The sound is only available in basic Dolby Surround and is active, but a full 5.1 track really could've made this movie a better ride. Special features are completely absent, even excising the standard trailer. This budget release will probably be the best all 3 of the films fans will likely get. The great look of the film will be great for those looking to show off some high definition capabilities, but that's the only reason to have this disc in your collection. Shame the movie couldn't replicate the classic Super Mario Bros. Super Show and have Lou Albano in a cameo.

April 7, 2004

Matrix Revolutions DVD Review

The Matrix: A 6-hour movie trilogy, none of which I've ever understood. Well, I did somewhat grasp the concept and the fist film did seem fairly understandable, but each of the sequels lost me. In all honesty, I didn't even try to understand them. I simply sat back, enjoyed the ride, spectacular effects, and stunnng action each film brought to the table. Revolutions picks up immediately after Reloaded and wastes no time getting started. Neo takes on a dangerous task he know he must complete, the people brace for an epic battle at the docks, and agent Smith is still trying to completely take over. The final hour of this film is enough to appease even those lost as far as the storyline goes. It's epic and jaw-dropping throughout. The 3rd and final film of the trilogy is nearly all action. Mere words cannot express the visceral thrill and staggering amount of special effects crammed into this unbelievable finale. The pace is relentless and the payoff is unlike anythign else ever put onto a screen. This is one of the most visually exciting films ever and one that blends perfectly with DVD technology. Picture quality here keeps everything together, something so important to the film. With the exception of digital grain, this is a flawless print. The bright colors never saturate the screen, black levels are outstanding, and every minute detail is apparent. The CG shots are rarely obvious, something that most likely a testament to the quality of the special effects than the DVD master. The sound is actually a bit of a dissapointment. The rear channels are used in nearly every scene, but your subwoofer may have some trouble. The LFE channel is all over the place. In places where it should be loud, it's not, and in scenes where it should hardly be noticeable, it nearly reaches the cut off level. Still, the action sequences are reference quality even with this issue. Any DVD fan knows we'll be getting a massive box set of these movies loaded with special features when the time finally arrives. This is most likely why a commentary track is absent from disc one. Disc 2 houses everything else. The white rabbit feature that has been present on the previous films is again here, appearing to branch viewers to other segments. The main featurette runs about 30 minutes and goes over every aspect of the production, but does focus on CG a bit too much. The CG Evolution menu goes over various effects shots and how they were completed and touches on minatures as well. There's a look at the final battle with Smith and Neo, a nice Matrix timeline that helps explain the story to idiots like me, and more storyboards, concept art, and all that fun stuff. There's also a 10-minute look at the Matrix online video game which is just blatant product placement. Though it seems to be the un-cool thing to do, I love this series. Their style and groundbreaking effects will likely never be matched by anyone else. The DVD is a nice production, but it's hard to recommend when everyone knows there is going to be a huge box set eventually. The features are mostly there simply to appease fans and give them something else to watch. It's not perfect, but it's not meant to be either. Note: Best Buy is exclusively offering a PC/MAC CD-ROM with some extra stuff on it. It's a rectangular disc with a short bonus documentary, bios, stills, screensavers, wallpapers, and other useless stuff. It's nothing worth tracking down if you don't have a location near you. Everything in the documentary is covered on the DVD.

April 6, 2004

Final Countdown DVD Review

Ever watch a movie and can't understand why it isn't more well known? Well, such is the case with Final Countdown, an outstanding time travel film from 1980 that will most likely never get its due credit. The new Blue Underground release will certainly grab a few new fans thanks to the great presentation and cool cover art (in this limited edition reviewed here at least), but never to the extent I wish it would. Imagine your in command of a US nuclear aircraft carrier. While on a routine mission, you run into a strange storm and suddenly your back in 1941. December 6th, 1941 to be precise. When your finally aware of what exactly happened, what do you do? Do you change the course of history and knock down the approaching Japanese fleet that is heading for Pearl Harbor? Can you let one of the biggest US disasters of all time actually take place when you have all the power to stop it? What happens if you do interfere? It's this very same issue that fills most of the movie and one that makes for gripping entertainment. This is, by far, one of my favorite 80's movies. For a low budget movie, you'd hardly ever know it sans a few minor shots. The entire movie was filmed on the actual U.S.S. Nimitz, almost all of the plane footage was shot for the film, and the performances are strong enough to make the entire experience believable. This is a must-see 100 minute experience, especially on this new release. Blue Undergound has released some real cult-like movies in the past, each of them fully restored to pristine condition. This new print, taken from the original negative, is a sight to behold. The colors are strong, grain is noticable on some of the outdoor sequences, and black levels remain solid. Color bleeding is a minor problem during a few segments, but you'll never be able to tell this movie was made in 1980 thanks to this transfer. Sound has likewise been reworked in both DTS ES and 5.1 EX. Though not as strong as the picture, the sound certainly has some high points. The rear speakers get a workout, but the LFE channel is a bit dull. Voices also have a scratchy quality to them, but are still clear enough to hear every important segment. Dolby 2.0 is also avialble for nostalgia freaks. This movie has been released in 3 seperate edtions. There is a standard widescreen single disc edition, a single disc fullscreen edition (yuck), and the limited edition 2-disc set with a holographic-type cover. The 2-disc set is limited to only 100,000. Each of these releases has a feature commentary with the director of photography, trailers, and TV spots. The 2-disc set includes an exclusive second disc with a nice 15 minute interview Lloyd Kaufman (co-owner of Troma pictures) who was the associate producer. He really gives alot of info in the short clip and it's even in anamorphic widescreen. The other major feature is the 30 minute look at the Jolly Rogers squadron. These guys dive deep into the realism of the film and rip on others like Top Gun. Again, it's anamorphic widescreen. The other minor features include a slew of various photos. Press kits, lobby cards, behnd the scenes photos, and still shots are all included. The Kirk Douglas bio is fairly useless and the DVD-ROM only text feature is a nice look into the filming of the dogfights from the pilots POV. Even with all this, it's very thin for a 2-disc set, but fans of the film will obviouly pay the few extra dollars for the complete package (and super cool cover). Hopefully with this release, more people will take notice of a great film. If the sci-fi premise bothers you, know that the only real sci-fi segments are the time travel sequences. Nothing else here streches the believeability. With the exception of the full screen edtion (for obvious reasons), either of the releases are a great purchase.

April 5, 2004

Running Man DVD Review

Talk about your timely releases. With reality TV at it's peak (and hopefully it's downfall soon enough), we get the 1987 Arnold favorite "Running Man" on special edition DVD. Artisan went all out for this release, much like they do almost all of their releases. Though the special features are questionable, the new print and remixed sound make for a more than worthy purchase. The government has completely taken over in 2019. Everything is censored. Everything except the most popular show on TV of course. The Running Man is the futuristic equivalent of Survivor, taken to the extreme. Criminals have a chance at getting pardoned if they can survive for the duration of the game, but to do so, they must avoid the stalkers. These guys will do all they can to make sure the contestants/hardend criminals have no chance at making it out alive. Of course, Arnold gets caught up in the mess for a crime he didn't commit and must not only survive the game, but prove his innocence as well. This is one of those movies where half of your brain is in shock that your actually watching this, while the other half just goes right along for the ride. It's almost a B-movie in it's execution, but you can't help but be enthralled by it's goofiness. With Richard Dawson as the shows host, Jesse Ventura as a stalker, and a big fat guy wearing a diaper with Christmas lights attached to himself trying to kill Arnold, how can you go wrong? It's not going down as a classic, but you'll surely walk away with some fond memories after watching this one. Artisan has went all out to remater this one. This 2-disc set offers the widescreen version on disc 1 and those who are too stubborn to change get full screen on disc 2. The print is outstanding, only dropping a notch during sequences of extreme color. The print has a hard time with bright reds (which the movie has alot of), but every scratch and other imperfection has been completely taken care of. Even thought the video is impressive, the sound slaughters it. Remixed in both 5.1 EX and the unbelievable 6.1DTS-ES, this is the greatest sounding 80's movie I've ever heard. There's always seems to be SOMETHING going on in the rear channels for the entire running time. It's the most immersive soundfield imaginable. If you ever wondered what it would be like to be in a game show audience, well, here's the perfect way to find out. The special features included here are bordeline stupid, but at least there's something. The 2 commentary tracks are the highlight and feature Tim Zinnemann with Paul Glaser on track 1. Commentary 2 features the executive producer Rob Cohen going solo. The other extras are spread across the 2 discs. The first 25 minute documentary is a look at the government in a post 9/11 world. It covers the patriot act and features various people speaking about how they are completely taking over our lives. It comes off as a paranoia piece and has very little to do with the movie itself. Censorship was never the movies main focus. Disc 2 takes a look at reality TV and how it has affected our culture. The 23 minute spot features various Survivor players, Real World producers, etc while they. talk about how it became such a phenomenon and even offer some behind the scenes facts. A few parallels are drawn to the Running Man, but it still offers no insight into the movie itself. The only other feature is a "Meet the Stalkers" text based menu which offers up various facts on the movies funniest chracters. There are no documentaries of any type on how the film was made and that's a huge dissapointment. Also, this most likely would've been a single disc release but the inclusion of the pathetic full screen version was obviously too much for one disc. Note that no commentaries are available for the full screen version. This is a classic flick for those who are able to just sit back, relax, and have a great time with their movies. It's got Arnold in his prime doing what he does best, a great backstory, and lots of people getting killed. How can you go wrong? Hopefully, we'll eventually get treated to a DVD that actually covers the movie extensively and not just boring filler material.

March 28, 2004

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla DVD Review

Sony strikes again with aother decent Region 1 release of a Godzilla flick. This 2002 update of the popular Mechagodzilla is meaner, faster, and looks pretty sweet. Created partially from Godzilla's DNA, Mechagodzilla proves to be one of Godzilla's more formidable foes. It's by no means the greatest Godzilla fact, it's pretty flawed. Godzilla doesn't even move on more than one occasion when being blasted by various weapons. It's blatantly obvious there's no one inside the suit. Still, those of us who still love seeing Japan get trampled are in for a treat. Oh, and make sure to watch all the way through the credits. This is another great widescreen transfer, quick off the release of "Godzilla vs. Megaguirius" and "Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah." Hints of grain are still a problem, mostly with special effect sequences. This most likely has more to do with the source material than any compression problems. The sound is also spectacular including an amazing opening battle in a rainstorm. The Japanese language track is back......and it even has real subtitles! That's right, not just captions from the US dialouge. Thanks guys! This means Sony almost got it right. Featureless is the only way to put it. Nothing, zip, nada. The only thing on the disc are completely unrelated trailers. Yuck. Hopefully we can get the quickie sequel to this one, "Godzilla, Mothra, Mechagodzilla: Tokyo SOS" sooner than we got this one.

January 28, 2004

New Godzilla DVD Reviews

Well, it's taken them well over 4 years, but US fans can finally own 2 of the latest Godzilla flicks on official US discs instead of Hong Kong bootlgegs. For the most part, Sony has done a fine job on both the "Godzilla vs Megaguirus" and "Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monster All-Out Attack" discs, but there are serious issues that they need to fix for their upcoming release of "Godzilla X Mechagodzilla" in March. Both films take place in an alternate timeline ignoring all 24 Godzilla films coming before them. Godzilla vs. Megaguirus has the giant beast battling a dragonfly-like creature which finds it's way to Earth after a test of the Dimension Tide, a weapon devised by the Japanes to finally rid them of the Godzilla menance. Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah follows the same path by creating it's own timeline and is a very serious G-film dealing with the lost souls of the pacific war. These souls have congregated inside Godzilla who then attacks Japan and the guardian monsters are the only thing that can save the world. The films offer up some incredible kaiju action with Megaguirus being a bit more lighthearted in tone. The final fight between Godzilla and the full grown Meganuron is an outstanding battle, the likes in which Godzilla fans haven't been treated to in years. GMK on the other hand has a deeper meaning requiring some thought, though the monster action here is top notch as well. Be warned before rushing out and buying this one for your kids however: There's a ton of people shown being crushed and killed on screen by the creatures. No blood or gore, but the effect is very real. Both are oustanding films and GMK is a refreshing change back to the tone of the original film. Each movie is presented in it's original widescreen aspect ratio, something becoming a standard for Godzilla flicks here in the states. Both prints are gorgeous and the colors are fabulous. There are some very annoying scratches on both of the prints which really harms GMK the most. Both of the movies have some minor issues with darker sequences (again, GMK suffers the most since the entire final sequence is a nighttime battle) but this could also be from the abundance of GCI. For the first time, we also get the original Japanese 5.1 soundtrack included with the English 5.1 dubbed track. While a wonderful gesture (and one so depserately needed), the subtitles are NOT from the actual spoken Japanese dialouge but of the English dub. Some of the lines are so skewered, it kills the films meaning and turns them into the usual "bad rubber suit monster movie." The fight between Baragon and Godzilla in GMK is especially disheartening with cheesy professional wrestling-like announcers calling off the action regardless of which language you choose. There's still a reason to hang on to those Hong Kong discs after all. If things couldn't get much worse after the subtitle hack, the features are barren. Viewers get a couple of trailers for various (and completely unreleated) films including Tri-Star's 1998 American Godzilla (see, completely unreleated). There's not even a trailer for either of the feature films. The Japanese DVD release of GMk was a massive 3-disc box set filled with behind the scenes footage. Would it have been too much to ask to at least get ONE featurette for $24.99? GxM also had a nice DVD treatment in Japan, but the American fans get snubbed here as well. There are plenty of positives with these two releases. The video is outstanding, the 5.1 tracks are put to good use, and the original Japanese language track is a BIG step in the right direction. The upcoming G x Mechagodzilla is also supposed to have the Japanese track and hopefully the subtitles will be done properly. Regardless, these films are some of the best monster flicks to come out of Japan in a LONG time. GMK may be a bit different to some people, but Megaguirus is a blast that harkens back to the classic Godzilla movies of the 60's. Great stuff.

December 14, 2003

Alien Quadrilogy Overview

I have never viewed an Alien movie before. Well, at least up until the release of this massive 9-disc behemoth. I've seen clips, heard the praises, been told to watch them but I never did. Nearly 25 years after the initial release of the first film in the series, I've finally done it thanks to Fox. This incredible heavy and massive box set is irresitable to any DVD fanatic. The films themselves, well, their irresistable to any sci-fi fan. First and foremost, I'm not going to go through the features on these discs. There is at minimum 30 hours of bonus stuff included here and that's not even including the commentary tracks or deleted scenes. It would be a boring read and my hands would cramp trying to get through it all. Needless to say, it's nuts. There are only 2 documentaries that I know of that have not been included, one from AMC and the "Aien Legacy" which is avialable on a seperate disc, now out of print. It's hardly a loss since any information included in these features is pretty much completely crammed onto one of the 9 discs and expanded upon. They've even went the extra mile and included items from the laserdisc release of the films. It's and absolute overkill of special features and anyone interested in the process of filmmaking must own this set, period.

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December 7, 2003

Chucky Collection DVD Review

Chucky. He's a doll. Not just any doll mind you. No, this is a Good Guy doll. Not just any Good Guy doll mind you. No, this is a criminaly possesed serial killer doll. Not just any criminally possesed serial killer doll....oh....ok, he is just an ordinary criminally possesed serial killer doll. Anyway, fans of this little terror will be pleased to see that 3 of the 4 films in this series have gotten a nice DVD treatment, sans extras for the most part.

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Creature Features 2003 Rundown

Straight-to-video monster flicks have always been a staple in the video industry, but the past few years have seen an explosion. From killer bee's, giant octopi, wasps, dragons, and sharks, and leeches, there seems to be no end in sight. It's a guilty pleasure of mine to force myself through the best and the worst, but my collection will never get smaller no matter how bad a specific film may be. For your reading pleasure, I have dissected some of this years feature's below. Some of the films were shot in 2K2, but all made it to DVD in 2003. There were more than this, but I have only seen these film below.

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November 27, 2003

Godzilla Double Feature DVD Review

As I sit here, stuffed full from a monster Thanksgiving meal, I feel it is only appropriate to review a couple of monster movies. Ok, the correlation between Godzilla and Thanksgiving isn't exactly obvious, but bear with me here. Anyway, these 2 films have been somewhat treated with the rightful respect they deserve with some issue that there is really is no excuse for. This 2-sided disc comes from the fine people over at Tri-Star, the same fine people who completely desecrated the Godzilla legend by letting the Dean Devlin giant iguana film through to production. These are the last 2 films from the "Heisei" series of Godzilla films which started back in 1985. Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla is arguably the weakest entry into the series, but the supposed final chapter of the series (which everyone knew was false) Godzilla vs. Destroyah, is a great entry that harkens back to the original 1954 monster classic.

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November 21, 2003

The Core DVD Review

I'm not usually one to use other people's descriptions in my reviews, but this is one time I can't help myself. This is "Armageddon going in the opposite direction." Not sure where I read that, but I can't think of a better way to describe "The Core." It's your typical summer sci-fier, lacking just a bit in a few key areas. The DVD though is one of the best sounding movies of the year. Look, this is sci-fi. Your either going to buy this films premise or your not. If you can accept the fact that the Earth's core has suddenly stopped rotating and in a matter of months the governments of the world combine to create a massive hulk of a ship to drill down and get it going again with nukes, then welcome home. Otherwise, your going to be groaning and rolling your eyes for the entire 2 hour running time. Unlike most movies in this genre, almost everything has an explanation, regardless of how absurd it may be. Your never out of the loop and the director (Jon Amiel) keeps things believable. The few scenes of mass destruction this film contains are far too brief and you just don't see enough to make this worthwhile to action fans. Worse yet, the special effects range from spectacular to abysmal, in no particular order. Things get pretty heavy at the end, but this is a disaster movie and it plows along expectedly. The actors (including Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, and Stanley Tucci among others) chime in with solid performances but there's nothing the Academy will recognize. The DVD presents the film in a widescreen print (as it should be) and with the exception of the black levels not being very black, it's flawless. There's a gratuitous amount of red and orange in this film and it's all held together with no color bleeding at all. What really brings this movie alive is the sound. Presented in a basic 5.1 track, this one ousts most DTS tracks. The usage of the 2 rear channels is simply spectacular and the destruction sequences (no matter how brief they are) really put you in the middle of the action. The bird sequence early in the film really shows this off well. Just imagine Hitchcockís "The Birds" with a true 5.1 mix and you get the idea. The remainder of the disc is solid for a standard edition with the director's commentary, deleted scenes (with or without commentary), a brief 11 minute making-of, and a few trailers. Jon Amiel remains surprisingly quiet for his solo commentary, but you'll still learn more here than you will with the documentary. The deleted scenes are a perfect example of why things like this happen. Their inclusion would've slowed this one down to a crawl. One nicer note is the option to select right from the start if you'd like to view the included trailers instead of them being forced on you. There are only two different views for this movie: Either your going to buy into it or your not. If your with me, you'll find this to be an entertaining summer popcorn flick with the usual 70's disaster film clichÈís. If your a fan of the DVD experience however, this is definitely a great flick to have on your shelf regardless of what you may think of the movie. The features aren't spectacular, but the sound is mesmerizing. This is a movie that HAS to be re-released with a DTS track.

November 15, 2003

Terminator 3 DVD Review

Without James Cameron at the helm, it's almost scary to think what could've become of the Terminator franchise. Terminator 3 is by no means the epic thrill ride with a keen eye for storytelling that T2 was, but it manages to be one of the single greatest all-out action flicks ever to come out of Hollywood. The DVD release leaves a bit to be desired (and is especially weak for a 2-disc set), but the film is what all true DVD fans need to show off their systems. John Connor (played by Nick Stahl) has ripped himself right out of society. He has no home, credit cards, bank accounts, family, and has become a complete washout. It is his hope that this will prevent any Terminators from tracking him down. It doesn't. The latest model Terminator (the gorgeous Kristanna Loken) is sent back through time not only to eliminate John, but everyone who later is at his side during the battle. This brings in Claire Danes, portraying a veterinarian who is quickly sucked into the melee during an emergency call late at night. Arnold is back as the quickly aging (appropriately enough) T-101 to help protect John and keep him alive for the quickly approaching Judgment Day. Very little is here to advance the Terminator storyline. From the opening moments, it's nearly non-stop action throughout the entire 100 minutes. Remember the trench/chase scene from the second film? Forget it. It has nothing on a car/crane chase sequence a half-hour into this one. There is a much heavier reliance on CGI in this edition, and when it works, it works. There are those scenes where it's painfully obvious, but for a movie filled with so many awe-inspiring shots, this is a small price to pay. A few surprises are given to keep the timeline moving, but until the shocking revelations at the end of this film, there's hardly anything that will stun fans of the series. Then again, this is obviously not the focus of this third edition either. It's all about entertaining the masses and in this regard, it's easily the best of the year. (**** out of *****) The picture here is incredible. With the exception of a few grainy nighttime sequences, the print is flawless. The colors along with the explosions are reference quality material, right along with sound. Gunfire is prominent as it comes from all sides, immersing any viewer into the action. Bass is deep and the action never drowns the dialogue out. Warner has finally ditched the annoying cardboard snapper case for this release (thankfully) and settled for the standard plastic. Disc one holds the film, a 5.1 mix in French and English, plus 2 separate commentary tracks. One is director Jonathan Mostow going solo meticulously explaining how much of this film was accomplished; the second features most of the films stars (including Arnold himself) along with Mostow. The trailers for the film and video game have also been included. Disc 2 is, as usual, contains all the features but there's not exactly a lot here to dive into. Arnold introduces this disc with a short 30 second clip explaining what your about to experience, but it sounds better than it is. There's the now standard (and quickly becoming redundant) "HBO First Look" which runs at a paltry 13 minutes. There's nothing here that will surprise anyone as it's all been seen before. There's a deleted scene called "Sgt. Candy" which was thankfully cut from the movie, but does give some insight as to how the T-101 came to be. The best part of the disc is the visual effects room which goes deep into the process and even allows you to fiddle with a few sequences, adding in/taking out smoke, changing the weapons used, etc. The rest of the disc includes a look behind the McFarlane toy line, a blooper reel, a VERY brief look at the costumes, and the making of the video game. (***) The more than satisfying ending sets up a 4th film and one that has potential to even out-action this one. Arnold (along with Mastow) prove they have the skills to keep this series going full force if they so choose. It wouldn't surprise this reviewer if this disc gets an even better edition somewhere down the line since there's bound to be more material out there (abandoned effects sequences, more deleted scenes?). As for the moment, you couldn't ask for a better popcorn flick with stunning sound and picture.

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