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Archive for February, 2011

Iggy and The Stooges: Raw Power – Live to Be Released On Vinyl

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Iggy & the Stooges

“Raw Power Live: In the Hands of the Fans”

To Be Released on 180 Gram Vinyl

April 5, 2011 via MVD Entertainment Group



Iggy & the Stooges “Raw Power Live: In the Hands of the Fans” is the vinyl document of the reformed Stooges’ (Iggy Pop, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Steve Mackay, Mike Watt) Raw Power performance at the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival on Friday, September 3, 2010.


Of the performance, Ben Ratliff of the NY Times writes, “Iggy Pop, now 63, knew that his body language translated into still photographs resembling Mannerist paintings…The Stooges attacked the album’s eight songs, in a different order, just about perfectly.”


Iggy and the band sound flawless as they rip through the archetype riffage of “Search and Destroy,” “Raw Power,” “Gimmie Danger” and more. This record is being rush released for Record Store Day 2011.


“Getting this top-notch performance of the entire Raw Power album by The Stooges realized a life long dream,” Iggy Pop “This shit really sizzles and we are so obviously a crack band in a class of our own.”


MVD Entertainment Group, an industry leader in producing and distributing music-related audiovisual content, launched the In the Hands of the Fans series with the intention of utilizing the energy and talents of fans, who by means of an online video submission contest, win the opportunity to film a performance of their favorite band in HD and then interview the band members after the performance. The result is a high quality, low cost, unique program that is part concert film and part reality TV show.


Track List:

 Raw Power

Search and Destroy

Gimme Danger

Your Pretty Little Face Is Going To Hell

Shake Appeal

I Need Somebody


Death Trip

I Got A Right

The Breed: DVD Review

Friday, February 25th, 2011


Directed by Nicholas Mastandrea; Screenplay by Robert Conte and Peter Wortmann; Starring Michelle Rodriguez, Oliver Hudson, Taryn Manning, Eric Lively

A group of college kids go to a remote location for a weekend getaway; while there, they are beset by a pack of genetically mutated canines…


Like John Carpenter, Wes Craven has spent too much of his time in recent years lending his name to inferior horror films.  While one can hardly blame them for wanting to cash in on their early successes (which inevitably made more for their producers than they ever did for them), it’s a bit disheartening to see their names associated with so much drek.  The Breed is one of many low rent horror titles “executive produced” or “presented” by Craven in recent years; the best that can be said of it is that it’s at least watchable, which puts it above a number  of other titles bearing his name in this capacity.The story is as simple as it is cliche.  While there’s nothing wrong with this, per se, the film commits the cardinal sin of gathering together a group of potential victims and failing to generate any real interest in them.  The actors are blandly good looking and pull lots of faces in an effort to look frightened, but one can’t help but feel that they’d be more at home in a National Lampoon vehicle or an Old Navy commercial.  Pretty Michelle Rodriguez has gone on to star in some major titles – notably James Cameron’s sci-fi blockbuster Avatar (2009) – but she makes for a vacuous heroine in this picture.  The script does its best to establish her as the intelligent, resourceful heroine, a la Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween (1978), but Rodriguez walks through the film in a blank, matter of fact fashion.  Director Nicholas Mastandrea piles on the cheap scares and builds to a high octane final act, but it all amounts to a lot of sound and fury.  In lieu of genuine tension and suspense, one is left feeling more sympathy for the canine attackers than for any of their victims – and this clearly was not the intent.  Mastandrea has gone on to find more success as a second unit director, working on bigger (if not always necessarily better) fare such as Oliver Stone’s W. (2008) and the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz fiasco Knight and Day (2010); he first encountered Craven as the older man’s assistant on the Scream trilogy.  He handles the action scenes with competence, but the various shocks and scares are so badly telegraphed that they become laughable.  The effect is deadened further by a pompous, overdone orchestral score by Marcus Trumpp.Viewers looking for ample gore or sleaze are also in for a tremendous disappointment.  The gore is kept pretty low key, and for a film focusing on horny college students, it’s remarkably chaste.  There’s nothing that says that a good horror/suspense film needs gore or nudity to engage one’s interest, but these elements have been known to rescue a few lesser titles.  In short, The Breed is one such film that could have used a shot in the arm like this.  The end result is listless and uninspired.  Though handled with bland efficiency, it has nothing to offer that we haven’t seen before, done to greater effect, in a dozen other films.  Among “nature gone amok” titles, it has nothing on Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) – and even William Girdler’s Grizzly (1976) and Day of the Animals (1978) are a lot more fun.


The Breed hits R1 DVD thanks to First Look Entertainment.  The 1.85/16×9 transfer looks very good, with solid color reproduction and good detail.  This being a new film, there are of course no issues with print damage.  Some edge enhancement is evident, but it is never overpowering.  There’s some grain in the image, but this is as it should be.  Audio options include a 5.1 and stereo soundtrack, both in English.  The 5.1 track is very impressive – the cliched “stinger” cues have particular punch, but quieter, dialogue driven moments are also effective.  Extras are limited to a behind the scenes featurette, which amounts to a good deal of PR-approved puff, and some trailers for other First Look releases.


Film: **1/2 out of *****DVD: ***1/2 out of *****

by Troy Howarth

Phenomena: Blu-ray Review (1984)

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

 phenomena.jpgDirected by Dario Argento; Screenplay by Dario Argento and Franco Ferrini; Starring Jennifer Connelly, Daria Nicolodi, Donald Pleasence, Patrick BauchauJennifer Corvino (Connelly) is sent to an all-girls school in Switzerland. As if her ability to communicate with insects isn’t weird enough, she soon finds herself in a life-or-death situation when she helps track down the psychopath that’s been killing off the students…Following the sublime Tenebrae (1982), Dario Argento opted to synthesize the two seemingly disparate strands of his work – the giallo and the supernatural horror film – with Phenomena. That the film plays like a deranged greatest hits package isn’t surprising; if anything, that appears to have been a conscious move on the director’s part. When it came out in 1984/85 – especially when it emerged in America through New Line, in a senselessly reedited version titled Creepers – the film seemed sloppy and half-baked; seen today, after a decade of increasingly quirky and tongue in cheek work, it doesn’t seem like such an anomaly after all. Indeed, given that the golden age of Italian horror has long since passed, Phenomena carries something of a nostalgia-based charge for the devotees. The over-the-top murders, use of blaring heavy metal music and occasionally dopey dialogue exchanges don’t exactly make for a ‘good’ film, per se, but it is a fairly representative example of Italian horror in that time frame; it is also arguably a good deal less obnoxious – and has aged considerably better – than Lamberto Bava’s Demons films, also produced and co-written by Argento.A young Jennifer Connelly came to Argento’s attention due to her appearance in Sergio Leone’s final film, Once Upon a Time in America (1984). Having been prevented from having a cast of adolescents for Suspiria (1976), Argento opted to dust off the concept for Phenomena, setting the action in and around a school for teenaged girls. Connelly proved to be a fortunate casting move – despite her young age, she brings a lot of credibility to the role. She does her best with the occasionally ropey dialogue (this was apparently the first Argento film to experiment with primarily live sound recording, though much of it was ultimately dubbed anyway) and makes for a likable protagonist. Even at the age of 13, Connelly already possessed the beauty and poise that would help to make her a major star in the years to come. It’s doubtful she rates the film very high on her CV, but no matter: she does a fine job with a tricky character, and she helps to get the film through some dry patches. Argento’s former muse, Daria Nicolodi, is on hand to play a high strung teacher. Nicolodi and Argento had already fallen out by this time, and the evidence is there on screen: it’s as if Argento relishes making this naturally beautiful woman look frumpy and older than her years. Nicolodi overacts in some of her early scenes, but she really comes into her own in the second half of the picture. It’s not a performance on par with her work in Argento’s Deep Red (1975) or Mario Bava’s Shock (1977), but she’s arguably better served by the material than she would be in her subsequent collaborations with Argento, Opera (1987) and Mother of Tears (2007).Genre stalwart Donald Pleasence is also on hand, this time in a sympathetic capacity, as the entomologist who befriends Jennifer. Pleasence does well by his Scottish accent and gives a far more engaged – and engaging – performance than in some of his other later-period horror work. Patrick Bauchau is on hand as a police inspector, but he seems a bit stiff and disinterred, while Argento regular Fulvio Mingozzi puts in his last appearance for the director; up until that time, the actor (glimpsed as policemen in Deep Red, Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1969) and Cat O’Nine Tails (1970); taxi drivers in Suspiria and Inferno (1980); etc) was something of a good luck charm for Argento, putting in appearances in all of his early works.Mingozzi’s filmography stops cold with this title, and he presumably passed away, or simply retired, sometime before Argento’s next film, Opera.On a technical level, the film offers the expertise one would expect from Argento. Romano Albani’s icy blue lighting creates an eerie ambience, and there are some terrific visual flourishes on display, notably an ambitious crane shot that literally scales the height of a forest in the opening titles sequence. Claudio Simonetti and Bill Wyman contribute some haunting melodies on the soundtrack, which also includes some heavy metal items by Iron Maiden and Motorhead. The ecclectic soundtrack suit’s the somewhat schizophrenic nature of the film fairly well, though the use of metal music sometimes feels ill-suited to the action on screen. The special effects work by Sergio Stivaletti are also vital to the film’s impact. This was Stivaletti’s first feature, and he really rose to the challenge presented by Argento’s feverishly delirious scenario. His prosthetics work is of a high standard, making his later, rubbery work on Argento’s Sleepless (2001), not to mention his none-too-special digital effects work on Mother of Tears, look all the more uninspired.In terms of story, Phenomena is easily one of Argento’s most off the wall concoctions. As a melding of the giallo and the supernatural, it’s certainly interesting – but there are times when one gets the impression that Argento is trying to coast by on sheer shock value, without paying much attention to narrative coherence. While it’s true that logic has never been Argento’s priority, he’s nevertheless been able to pull off some narrative leaps without disrupting the flow of the story; they may seem a bit outlandish compared to the average American thriller, for example, but the likes of Bird With the Crystal Plumage, Deep Red or The Stendhal Syndrome (1996) aren’t really that illogical in the long run. The same cannot be said of Phenomena. The film follows the surrealistic vibe of Inferno and Suspiria, yet it lacks the nightmarish atmosphere to really make it work. Aspects of the plot simply come across as silly and contrived, yet the film builds to a hellish finale that’s arguably as sadistic and over the top as anything the director has ever put on film. If the film proceeds somewhat haltingly to this grand guignol set piece, at least the journey is worth it. Phenomena is by no means one of Argento’s best films, but it’s hard to dislike a movie wherein the heroine communicates with insects or where a monkey literally saves the day.Arrow’s all-region blu ray release of Phenomena is bound to please Argentophiles. The 1.66:1/HD transfer looks superb. The film has had a storied history on home video, but this is far and away the most attractive it has ever looked. The image is properly encoded at 1080p, and the level of detail is impressive. Albani’s photography sometimes uses soft focus to aid the dreamy ambience, but the transfer is very sharp just the same. A handful of shots exhibit a great deal of grain, but they have looked this way in every incarnation I have ever seen. The cut presented on this release is the longer ‘integral’ cut, which is really just the Italian release print. Argento cut the film by 6 minutes for its English language release, though it was of course cut down considerably further when New Line got their mitts on it. The 110 minute English language version is the one most US and UK Argento buffs are familiar with, but the true director’s cut runs 116 minutes; Arrow has opted to present this version on their simultaneous BD and DVD releases.The default option is to view the film in English, with the various Italian bits subtitled in English; given that the film was shot in English, with Connelly, Pleasence and Bauchau dubbing their own performances, this is the logical choice. Alas, this presents a couple of anomalies that deserve to be reported. Given that the bits in Italian are sometimes within scenes otherwise available in English, this results in some familiar line readings being dubbed into Italian (for example, Jennifer’s roommate telling her that she’s never be able to sleep if she thought about Jennifer’s father, a fictitious Italian-American movie star). Also, in trying to synch up the English audio with the Italian image track, there are at least two instances where sound effects and dialogue come in *before* they are supposed to; this is most evident in the scene wherein Jennifer is being driven home by the two German students after they accidentally hit her with their car. It’s a relatively minor caveat, but it *will* annoy those of us familiar with the film. Otherwise, the 2.0 stereo track is in excellent condition; the music has full force, and the dialogue is clear throughout. A 2.0 Italian soundtrack is also included, with optional English subtitles available for the entire feature.Extras commence with a brief on-screen intro by Sergio Stivaletti. The most substantial extra is a 50 minute making of documentary, which includes comments from Argento, Nicoletti, Stivaletti, and Lugi Cozzi, who provided some optical effects for the film. As usual, Nicolodi steals the show with her no-holds-barred opinions on Argento and his treatment of her through their tumultuous relationship. The documentary covers pretty much all the bases, and it provides a more cohesive and interesting glimpse into the film than the disastrous audio commentary recorded by Argento and Stivaletti for the old Anchor Bay laser disc edition (that the commentary is not included here is probably due to the use of the longer cut; the AB edition utilized the 110 minute export print). Next up is an interview with Claudio Simonetti, who notes his dislike for Argento’s use of mutli-artist soundtracks during that period. A featurette with Stivaletti, edited together from two separate Q&A sessions he did in Scotland at a film festival, wraps up the package nicely. Stivaletti speaks to the crowd in English, and while he generally fares well, the audio recording for one of the segments is a bit muddled, making his already accented delivery a little hard to understand. Liner notes by Alan Jones, and the usual array of reversible cover art options are also included.Film: *** out of *****BD: **** out of *****

Wake Wood From Hammer Studios Coming Soon!

Thursday, February 10th, 2011


For a certain segment of the filmgoing populace, the name “Hammer” conjures up images of Gothic castles, mad scientists, and busty beauties in cleavage-revealing period garb.  Beginning with The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957, Hammer revitalized the gothic horror film – but their output was never limited to any one type of film.  They produced hit films in every mold, from cop thrillers and comedies to prehistoric epics and TV show adaptations; if it was popular, Hammer tackled it.  Alas, changing audience tastes and a tendency to revisit the same well to lesser effect pretty much put Hammer out of commission in the 1970s.  A couple of lukewarm TV shows in the 80s, followed by rumor after rumor of their imminent return throughout the 90s did little to keep the hopes of their fanbase afloat.  All that changed a couple of years ago, and to borrow a line from Christopher Lee’s iconic Count Dracula: they have returned….





While it’s true to say that Let Me In, their remake of the Swedish horror hit Let The Right One In, didn’t set box offices on fire, Hammer continues to revisit their former stomping grounds with Wake Wood.  This macabre thriller is said to evoke elements of The Wicker Man and Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.The occult-themed film represents a collaboration between director David Keating (The Last of the High Kings) and writer/producer Brendan McCarthy (Breakfast on Pluto), and it stars Aiden Gillen (HBO’s The Wire), Eva Birthistle (Middletown) and Timothy Spall (The King’s Speech).

The official press release describes the plot as follows:  “In an attempt to cope with the grief and despair of losing their only child Alice (Ella Connolly), mauled to death by a savage dog, veterinarian Patrick Daly (Gillen) and his pharmacist wife Louise (Birthistle) move from the city to the remote Irish village of Wake Wood. With Patrick taking over the local vet’s practice and Louise working in the village chemist store, the couple soon become friends with many of the local landowners, farmers and their families.Their acceptance as members of this small but close community leads them to the discovery of an ancient pagan ritual practised by the people of Wake Wood in order to help ease the sudden loss of a loved one. This tradition, secretly preserved for many centuries, enables the grief-stricken to bring a deceased person back from the dead for a period of three days within one year of their passing, allowing them to say a final farewell to the departed before they make their final journey to the spirit world. For Patrick and Louise, this represents a miraculous opportunity to see Alice one more time and their request for the villagers’ help in realising their wish is reluctantly granted. But the ritual is bound by strict rules and conditions, which, if broken, demand a terrible price be paid.”Early word has it that Wake Wood is a worthy successor to Let Me In for the “new” Hammer.  Fans in the UK will be able to find out soon enough, as Vertigo Films will be unleashing the film in the UK on March 25th.  This will be followed very quickly by a Region 2 DVD release on March 28th, on the Momentum Pictures label.  The DVD will include behind the scenes materials, deleted scenes, and trailer.  It will be priced at £15.99.

Troy Howarth