The Joys of Giallo: The Suspicious Death of a Minor Blu-Ray Review (Arrow Video)

by Jason Elizondo

This mid 70's Italian Giallo comes courtesy of Sergio Martino, who's probably best known for Torso (1973) or 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983), but who also happens to have directed my second favorite Post Apocalyptic film of all time, the uber classic and bonkers Over the Top and Terminator mashup/ripoff Hands of Steel (1986). Martino has dipped his hand into nearly every single genre from comedy, crime thrillers, science fiction and action, to horror, documentaries post nuke and with this film, the murder/mystery/thriller/whodunit. With The Suspicious Death of a Minor, Martino puts his own little spin on the standard genre tropes, giving us an odd, yet highly intriguing take on the Italian Giallo. Let's dig in.

Soon after Germi (Claudio Cassinelli) meets a beautiful young woman during a dance, she's brutally murdered. He then sets out on a quest to uncover the truth and who's responsible at any cost. He soon discovers that her murder has deep ties to an underage prostitution ring and very powerful people.

I rather enjoyed this film for a number of reasons. While it is a bit....different than your typical Giallo, it played on all the standard themes relatively well and despite your taste for his very specific little comedic touches, they don't deter from the fact that this is still very much a serious detective thriller. Martino shoots the film with a clear vision, and does a damn fine job giving the film a slick visual aesthetic. And if I were to be completely honest, this is probably one of his most stylish films I've ever seen from him.

Doing some research before heading in, I was surprised to learn that a lot of people were either turned off or confused by the film's comedic tones. But really, they come and go in such brief moments that you quickly forget about them. Sure, they're a bit jarring at first, but I did notice that they were long gone by the time we get to the second half, so that should ease some newcomers minds going in.

Claudio Cassinelli, who plays Germi, the films protagonist, gives a strong performance as a man desperate to take whatever measures necessary to find the answers he needs to solve her murder. Oftentimes this involves putting himself in many situations that result in other people's deaths, and he does it with a brutality that leads you to believe he may not be what you think. The truth is that he's very familiar with this world of violence, and there's a very good reason for it and for his obsession, which you soon discover.

One of the films biggest strengths is that it keeps you guessing for much of the running time. You never really know who to trust, or what's really going on, most notably with Germi's obsession with uncovering the truth. In the beginning you see his meeting the unfortunate victim at a dance as a chance encounter, yet when he discovers she's been murdered, his journey to solve her murder becomes a brutal and unflinching obsession. And we don't know why at first. The film throws enough twists and turns to make your head spin, and it's only after we discover Germi's true motive that we finally begin to get a clear picture of what's really happening. 

A bit uneven because of the minor comedic elements, the film succeeds regardless as a fresh Italian Giallo for many different reasons. Sergio Martino does an excellent job directing it with a slick visual style, and Luciano Michelini's score is hands-down one of the best I've heard in years. Very much reminiscent of Goblin's best work. In fact, I would have sworn it was them until I discovered otherwise. I would love to own the soundtrack, if it ever becomes available. The performances are strong across the board, and the film never loses it's ability to keep you invested, making it a solid entry in the Giallo genre.


As per usual, Arrow has done a phenomenal job on this print. The colors are vivid, bold and strong, with the original mono English and Italian audio matching in quality.

  • Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative produced by Arrow Video exclusively for this release
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
  • English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
  • New interview with co-writer/director Sergio Martino
  •  Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon

While the film doesn't have a lot of extra content, the new interview with writer/director Sergio Martino is worth checking out. I swear, the guy looks like he's in his 50's, but in reality he's pushing 80, which just blows my mind. Here he discusses the genesis for the story, who was responsible for bringing each of the elements into play, and his decision to infuse some comedy. He also touches on the title, which wasn't his choice.

Easily one of the best murder/mysteries I've seen to come out of 70's Italian Cinema, and one of the best made in my opinion, The Suspicious Death of a Minor deserves to be seen. It's gone shockingly overlooked for decades, especially in the 70's when others like Dario Argento were finding more mainstream success, yet it's every bit as good as any of the more popular entries in the genre.

The Suspicious Death of a Minor was released in September of last year, and you can purchase this from any number of online retailers or directly through Arrow HERE

80's Thriller Throwback: The Quiet Earth

In the world of science fiction, sometimes less is more

by Jason Elizondo 

I have to be honest. I'm surprised that this film has never popped up on my radar until now. While I'm sure I've seen that cover or heard that title before, it's always been in passing and never recommended from a trusted source, which kind of blows my mind because in retrospect, it's quite the hidden gem.

Directed by Geoff Murphy (Freejack, Young Guns II, Under Siege II), one of my favorite underrated directors in the 80's and 90's, The Quiet Earth is an Australian "last man on Earth" style thriller that has gained a huge cult following ever since it's initial 1985 release. While it never registered on my radar until now, it seems most people "have" in fact seen this and love it. Why hasn't anybody recommended this to me yet?? I feel so left out of the party.

When Zac (Bruno Lawrence) wakes up one morning and prepares to go to work, something immediately feel's off. Once he sets out on his drive to work, he discovers that there are no more people left. Upon further investigating, he learns the shocking truth, and it's much more terrifying than he could have imagined.

The Quiet Earth is that very rare and special gem that only comes around every so often. It's a methodically and meticulously constructed slice of science fiction cinema done in such a way that you rarely ever see anymore. It's a visual feast for the eyes, yet there are no special effects. It's science fiction stripped down to it's core, instead choosing to realize the effects of science in the real world circa 1985. And it's because of this approach that The Quiet Earth takes a large step outside of the standard sci-fi genre tropes. While not necessarily all that new of an idea, it's in the way it's accomplished that makes it so special.

Most of the first half of the film has very little dialogue, as our protagonist, Zac, deals with the shocking realization that he may very well be the last human being on Planet Earth. He soon realizes that he may not actually be alone, but when he discovers the truth about "the event" in which something wiped out the entire planet's population, he must come to grips with the sad reality that he may have had a hand in it.

The Quiet Earth is a film that chooses to take it's own path in the sci-fi genre. It's a much simpler tale, yet never any less entertaining or intriguing. Most of this is due to director Geoff Murphy's incredible work behind the camera, but a good chunk of it also falls on the shoulders of the films main protagonist, here played by Bruno Lawrence, giving one helluva performance. His moments of pain, confusion, anger, love, happiness, jealousy and redemption are all beautifully captured in an emotionally raw performance. What I loved about him is that he's very much an "everyman". He's not good looking, athletic or muscular. He looks like anyone's uncle or father, and because of this, you feel much more inclined to connect with him on a human level.

The final 5 minutes of the film are a mindfuck in a way few films dare to be, especially back in 1985. There are no clear answers to what that last sequence means, and I love that about this. It gives the audience license to connect the dots and attempt to come up with their own interpretation. Some may find it aggravating, while others, like myself, find it stimulating. If you love slowburn sci-fi and you've never seen this, The Quiet Earth might just be the best undiscovered gem you've ever come across.

Geoff Murphy is such an underrated director. While I haven't loved everything he's ever done (The Last Outlaw felt like a missed opportunity to me), the films he does well are so great in their respective genre's. Freejack is far better than it has any right being, where Murphy demonstrates once again just what he can do visually with a somewhat simple premise, yet pushes the material so much further by how he shoots it. While some may not connect with the material, it's worth watching just because of how slick it is. The same thing goes for Young Guns II, a star-studded western that is far more entertaining than it should be, especially when you consider the first one isn't all that great to begin with. Young Guns II is hands-down one of the best, coolest and most stylish westerns ever made, and that's all thanks to Murphy's work behind the camera. He elevates the material tenfold, in a way few directors would be able to do. And the same can be said about his work in here, where the film is just as much of a visual marvel as it is a compelling slice of smart sci-fi cinema.

Most people don't bother to take the time to value the visual aspect of a director's work, especially today when most new directors have zero style or substance, instead choosing to shoot freestyle, fast and loose, which is sadly the norm these days. So when I come across a director like Geoff Murphy, who puts just as much time in his camera setups as he does with the written material, there's cause to notice.

How to see it:
The Quiet Earth has been issued a number of times on DVD through Anchor Bay (now OOP), The Cult Classic Film Series, Umbrella Entertainment and more, with most recently on Blu-Ray in 2016. Really, just take your pick. They're all in good quality and moderately priced. It's worth having in your collection.


New Suspiria Blu-Ray Release and Unearthed & Untold: The Making of Pet Sematary Coming Soon From Synapse Films

by Jason Elizondo

Synapse films just announced 2 new titles as part of their upcoming Blu Ray releases in March. First up is Suspiria, this time in a standard 2-Disc edition. As you know, Synapse recently released the much publicised Suspiria for the very first time on Blu-Ray in the U.S. in a gorgeous and highly impressive Steelbook Edition, complete with Goblins incredible score. Not surprisingly, the set sold out and flippers are having a field day with it on the secondhand market. But we all knew it was only a matter of time before Synapse would announce a "Non-Steelbook" edition that was a little more wallet-friendly to those of us on a budget. Well that time has come, and while this new release isn't exactly cheap, it's a little cheaper than what the Steelbook was going for.

Just looking at the specs, this release looks to have all of the exact same technical details as well as all of the Special Features imported over from their previous Steelbook, just without the score and in a standard Blu-Ray case.

Fresh off an historic theatrical tour and following a sold-out run of limited edition Steelbooks, Synapse Films is finally bringing the widely celebrated 4K restoration of Dario Argento’s beloved and extremely influential SUSPIRIA to the masses.  This highly anticipated genre release boasts a host of new special features in addition to the eye-popping new transfer of the film that will allow fans to truly see the film the way it was always intended.
Jessica Harper (PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, PENNIES FROM HEAVEN) stars in this horrific tale of a young student who uncovers dark and horrific secrets within the walls of a famous German dance academy. What spirals out from that simple premise is one of the most powerful and hallucinatory nightmares ever captured on celluloid! Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA comes to home video from Synapse Films in an exclusive new 4K restoration from the original uncut, uncensored 35mm Italian camera negative with the original 4.0 English surround sound mix, for the first time EVER! Painstakingly restored over the past three years, Synapse Films has created the ultimate special edition of this horror classic with the supervision and approval of the film’s Director of Photography, Luciano Tovoli.


  • A new 4K restoration of the original uncut, uncensored Italian 35mm camera negative exclusively done by Synapse Films, with color correction supervised and approved by SUSPIRIA Director of Photography, Luciano Tovoli
  • Original 4.0 1977 English language LCRS sound mix not heard since the theatrical release in 1977, presented in high-resolution DTS-HD MA 96kHz/24-bit audio, with newly-translated removable English SDH subtitles
  • Italian 5.1 surround mix, with removable English subtitle translation
  • Two audio commentaries by authors and Argento scholars, Derek Botelho, David Del Valle and Troy Howarth
  • Do You Know Anything About Witches? - 30 minute SUSPIRIA visual essay written, edited and narrated by Michael Mackenzie
  • Suzy in Nazi Germany – Featurette on the German locations from SUSPIRIA
  • A Sigh from the Depths: 40 Years of SUSPIRIA – All-new anniversary retrospective on the making of the film and its influence on cinema
  • Olga’s Story – Interview with star Barbara Magnolfi
  • Original theatrical trailers, TV spots and radio spots
  • “International Classics” English “Breathing Letters” opening credit sequence from U.S. release
  • Alternate All-English opening and closing credits sequences, playable via seamless branching
  • Reversible Cover Art created by Joel Robinson
Definitely be sure to snag this one because having grabbed the Steelbook myself before they sold out, the transfer is absolutely stunning in a way you would never have expected. Not sure if this will ultimately sell out as well, but it's definitely worth the price in my opinion.

Suspiria retails for $43.95

Next up is the excellent documentary Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary. I recently had the pleasure of catching this on Amazon a few months back and I can say that it was every bit as entertaining and informative as I hoped it would be. Writer and directors John Campopiano and Justin White have meticulously put together an exhaustive compilation of information that is all things Pet Sematary, from the books inception to it's transition to the big screen and it's production. No stone has been left unturned and Campopiano and White have done a killer job on this documentary. If you love the book, the film, the actors or are just a casual Stephen King fan in general, this is a MUST WATCH.


In 1989, director Mary Lambert collaborated with King of Horror Stephen King to bring his best-selling book PET SEMATARY to the screen. The shocking true story behind the film that scarred a generation of impressionable young genre fans gets the royal treatment in UNEARTHED AND UNTOLD: THE PATH TO PET SEMATARY. Aficionados of this undead classic can dive behind the scenes in HD glory, with a graverobber’s bounty of bonus features!
It’s true that sometimes dead is better, but for two New England filmmakers, the story of Stephen King’s PET SEMATARY was far too alluring to leave buried. That’s why John Campopiano and Justin White spent nearly five years seeking to uncover the story – from book, to film, to cult status – amounting to the most comprehensive look at the horror classic ever produced. UNEARTHED AND UNTOLD: THE PATH TO PET SEMATARY is both an in-depth independent documentary and celebration of King’s classic tale of terror, told through the voices of cast and crew from the 1989 hit film, as well as locals in Maine – the place where it all started.
In addition to first time ever interviews, tours of the many iconic locations used in the film and never-before-seen photographs and home video from the set, this film explores the impact PET SEMATARYhas not only on horror fans, but scholars of Stephen King’s work. Featuring interviews with director Mary Lambert, stars Denise Crosby, Dale Midkiff, Miko Hughes, Brad Greenquist, Andrew Hubatsek, Susan Blommaert, the Berdahl twins, Michael Lombard and MANY MORE!


  • Audio Commentary with Creators John Campopiano & Justin White
  • Podcast Commentary with Creators John Campopiano & Justin White
  • Edited / Alternate Scenes
  • Video Interview with Creators John Campopiano & Justin White
  • “PET TALES – From the Cutting Room Floor” Featurette
  • PET SEMATARY Location Photo Compilation
  • Documentary Poster Art Concepts
  • Rare On-Set Video Footage from Rhonda Carter
  • Documentary Sizzle Reel
  • Promotional Trailer
  • Reversible Art Design by Alexandros Pyromallis
  • All-Region 
  • 1080p HD (1.78:1)
Unearthed & Untold will retail for $24.95

Suspiria and Unearth & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary are set for a March 13, 2018 release. 

You can pre-order either of these titles directly from the Synapse Films official website, or any of your preferred online retailers. 


Blu-Ray Review: Howard the Duck (Universal): A Hot Mess Like No Other

Few films carry the distinction that George Lucas' Howard the Duck carries; the big budget box office trainwreck that never connected with it's audience initially, despite it's roster of incredible talent behind the scenes. It's usually films like this that are often misunderstood, or drastically mis-marketed in such a way that it was doomed right from the beginning through no fault of it's own. These are the types of films that generally bomb during it's initial run, yet find a loving and long-lasting cult status as the years and decades go by, much like this film. Typically these films require time for the average moviegoer to appreciate what it was trying to do in the first place, an aspect lost to most of us when it's so far out of left field and different. Most of these films go on to legendary cult status as a misunderstood masterpiece. This is not one of those films.

Howard the Duck is just an odd duck to put it quite frankly. A truly bad film that struggles to find the right balance between tongue-in-cheek humor, entertainment and the sci-fi elements at the heart of it's mythology. Yet, at the same time it's oddly entertaining in a way that you just can't look away. It's because of all it's faults and downright confusing decisions that it makes it a uniquely satisfying experience. We all automatically say that we love it, as do I. But why do we love it? I've been wrestling with that thought ever since I revisited it when I found the Blu-Ray cheap a few weeks back. I think my only real response is that it's just a hot mess. An unintentionally bad film that entertains in a way that no other film has before, or maybe even after for that matter. It's surprisingly bold in it's attempt at creating somewhat of an antihero character out of a duck the size of a small person who, despite being an adult, acts and reacts like a spoiled child. And truthfully, he's incredibly annoying.

But it's not for everybody, and generally regarded as a terrible film, even by those who actually love it. I already know I could never show this to my wife, who's never seen it before. I already know she won't know what to make of it's bizarre sensibilities and absurd nature. And I think that would probably speak for most people today. It's completely different though for those of us who watched this for the very first time as a kid in the 80's, and continued to revisit it often because it always seemed to be playing on HBO or Cinemax. I don't know if those experiencing this for the very first time today could appreciate it's bonkers 

When you consider George Lucas was responsible for producing this, right after his original Star Wars trilogy mega blockbusters, you just automatically think it's going to be another great big expensive sci-fi film. I'm sure most people thought that too. Yet, despite the Lucas brand name all over it, and despite it's massive budget in the tune of 35 million dollars (a lot back in 1986), Howard the Duck crashed and burned. Unlike other big budget films that would eventually recoup it's fee's overseas or through video sales, there was no salvation to be had for this one and continues to be the very definition of a big budget flop.

Yet it's retained it's cult status ever since it's release, and continues to grow even to this day. It's a film that, despite all of it's cards stacked against it, is still entertaining in a trainwreck sort of way. I can say that revisiting this recently, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the mid 80's practical effects; I loved the Thomas Dolby songs; I loved the unintentionally cheesy bizarro world it's created circa 1986, and I love the design and execution of the Howard suit. My only real gripe is that I found the character to be annoying in general, whining and complaining about everything and making impulsive emotionally driven decisions like a moody teenager rather than a level-headed adult. Jeffrey Jones ultimate transformation into the films primary villain also makes this worth the watch. Personally speaking, Jones' performance ultimately became the highlight of this film for me.

The film comes in a stunningly sharp 1080p HD widescreen presentation and an HD master audio 5.1 for an impressive sound. Subtitles in English, Spanish and French are also included. While the technical elements are impressive, it's the Special Features that make this worth purchasing.

The Special Features:
- A look back at Howard the Duck
- Releasing the duck
- Vintage News Featurette
- The stunts of Howard the Duck
- The Special Effects of Howard the Duck
- The Music of Howard the Duck
- Teaser Trailers

That's a lot of extra content, and while some of them are quite short, the main one to dig into would be "A Look Back at Howard the Duck", which runs the longest of all the features. Here we hear from the writers and director about what they had attempted to do, their experiences making this, and their feelings about it's reception. You also hear from the main actors such as Lea Thompson and Jeffrey Jones, and even one of the 8 people who donned the Duck suit, but ultimately did most of the work and got the biggest credit. Sadly, there's no sit-down with George Lucas here....understandably.

You can purchase this Blu-Ray for an incredibly cheap price, which goes for anywhere from $5-$10. That's a steal! And well worth the investment, even if it's just purely for nostalgia purposes.


Cult TV Corner: The Making of Captain Power

by Jason Elizondo

If you're anywhere near my age (early 40's), then you've certainly heard of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. If you haven't, then I feel sorry for you (*kidding). Captain Power was a kids television show that ran for a single season from 1987-1988. It was, for all intents and purposes, the new "big thing" for kids in way of a toyline and accompanying television show, much in the way that He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had done. Speaking of which, Mattel was the company responsible for He-Man, and by this time the show had been off the air for 2 years and they were in desperate need of a new hit. Captain Power looked to be their new "hot item", and as luck would have it, before being approached by the shows creator, Mattel was already working on a new technology that would incorporate an interactive element. When the show's creator Gary Goddard (director of Cannon's live action Masters of the Universe film that same year) approached them about possibly producing the tv show and toy line, Mattel felt they found the perfect vehicle to incorporate their new technology into the mainstream in a way that had never been done before.

Fresh off his stint directing the live action Masters of the Universe film for Mattel and Cannon Films, Gary Goddard set out to create his own live action sci-fi series. First he came up with a name, and once he realized Captain Power hadn't already been taken, he immediately trademarked it, and built the idea and concept around it. After realizing the complete title (which sounds eerily similar to Mattel's other successful toy brand), Goddard then came up with an outline of the show, characters, backstories and designs. He wanted to create something new and different; a brand that would change the face of television and toys forever.

With the television show, Captain Power was going to me markedly different than anything done before....or since. For starters, it was going to be for kids, but live-action, and would also incorporate CGI for the very first time in a tv show. Rememeber, CGI was still in it's infancy, and with the exception of The Last Starfighter, hadn't really been used this way before. It was also going to be interactive for the kids. By using the specific weapons/toys that Mattel would sell, you could fire at specific targets by pointing these gun devices at your tv screen and the targets would go down. Cool right?!

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future released to generally positive buzz and did fairly well in both viewership and toy sales initially, but wasn't quite the home run they were hoping for. Once the novelty of the idea wore off, toy sales and viewership began to taper off. The problem was that so much of this was new for everyone involved, especially in the production of the show, which took place in Canada, and it was a bit rocky from the start with a lot of the crew behind the scenes having never worked in this sort of genre before, let alone using never-before-seen computer graphics. The result was a show that missed it's mark for a number of episodes, delivering a hit or miss quality that turned off kids for some episodes, and adults for others.

One of the things that worked both for and against it was the fact that they were attempting to tackle many adult themes that wouldn't resonate very well for kids, but would hope to attract an older audience as well. Some episodes it worked, and some it didn't.

Despite it's notoriety, or rather it's lack of, one thing needs to be understood about this show, and that is that despite it's reputation and only lasting one single season, Captain Power was way ahead of it's time. Nothing like it had ever been done before, or since, and it was, for all intents and purposes, a cult classic in the making. If you could look past some of it's flaws, and uneven quality, you will find a show that was just as heavy on the action as it was on the dramatic elements. For a show that was primarily aimed at kids, it paved the way for other sci-fi shows that were to come after, like Star Trek: The Next Generation and Babylon 5. 

And today I have some fantastic news. There is a feature length documentary titled Out of the Ashes; The Making of Captain Power that runs an hour and a half that digs deep into the entire Captain Power franchise from it's inception, to the production of the state-of-the-art television show, toy line, it's cult status and lasting legacy. You hear first hand from the series creator Gary Goddard and many of those involved with the show's production, as well as those that worked on the toy line and the actors who appeared as the titular characters. Really, if you were a fan of either the show or the toys, you owe it to yourself to give this a watch. While not the most fun or engaging, instead choosing to take a more straightforward approach, it's in the abundance of information that makes it fascinating and entertaining, especially if you were or still are a toy collector.

This documentary was included in the 2011 DVD set, but can be found in it's entirety here on YouTube. ENJOY!!


A Second Look: Waterworld

The truth is that Waterworld, despite it's reputation and many flaws, isn't a bad film at all. In fact, it's quite incredible and damn near a masterpiece of sci-fi action

by Jason Elizondo

We all know the story of Waterworld right? Plagued with production problems right from the start, the film would ultimately go onto box office infamy as being one of the costliest box office bombs ever, right up there with Cutthroat Island and Dune. At the time of it's release, it was the most expensive film ever made, with Costner investing 22 million of his own money into it. It's widely been panned by critics and often referred to as a mega-flop, even before the film was released. Only, when you look at the real data, it's actually not a flop at all, despite all the negative press and reports. In fact, while it would never be considered a hit, it did in fact turn a small profit after video sales. So unlike other mega-budget epics that actually failed to turn a profit, Waterworld is not one of them. Yet even to this day, despite decades of correct information at our fingertips, it's mostly dismissed and labeled a disaster.

1995 was a tough year for cinema. Though the 90's was an awesome decade for film in general, that era wasn't devoid of it's own number of big budget flops, with the biggest headline makers being Stallone's Judge Dredd and Renny Harlin's Cutthroat Island (2 films that I absolutely LOVE ). So maybe because of the bad publicity of these 2 sinking ships, or maybe because of the early word of mouth that the film (already with such an inflated budget that there was no way it could possibly make that back through ticket sales stateside) was already labeled a disaster in the making, Waterworld was in a sense, predestined and doomed for failure. It doesn't help that the behind the scenes turmoil between star Kevin Costner and his longtime friend/director Kevin Reynolds was making headlines....again (same thing happened with Robin Hood in '91), with Reynolds, again, leaving the project before it's completion, leaving Costner to finish with editing duties himself...again. What's surprising to me though, and I'm sure to most others, is that despite their tumultuous relationship, Reynolds and Costner (the two Kevins as I like to call them) would work together a total of 4 times, most recently on the Hatfields & McCoy's Mini-Series in 2012.

Knowing all of this already, I was excited to head back into the world of Waterworld, because 1), I hadn't seen it since it came out and remember almost nothing about it, and 2), if Cutthroat Island taught me anything, it's that I shouldn't believe the negative hype and just enjoy it for what it is, and that's pure epic popcorn entertainment. Let's dig in.

Waterworld, despite it's negative reputation before, during and since it's release, is hands down one of cinema's biggest spectacles for a number of reasons. It's epic filmmaking on a grande scale done in a way that hadn't been done before, or since. It's massive budget is evident on nearly every single frame of film and it's a glorious masterpiece of post apocalyptic cinema. Here, instead of utilizing the desert wasteland as was so often the case before, they instead to choose the ocean, with the idea that because of the polar ice caps melting, the entire planet has been submerged in water. To survive, the last remaining inhabitants of the planet have been forced to build structures above the water utilizing any last bit of remaining hardware and supplies they can find. In doing so, this creates a sort of Mad Max on water aesthetic that is a true sight to behold. The fact that real sets were built for everything you see is such a gargantuan task, yet, despite all of it's troubles, they pulled it off in a way that will blow your mind. Simply from a set technical and design standpoint, Waterworld will blow your mind.

The action sequences take center stage here for a number of insanely large sequences that utilitize precision  stunt choreography to pull of some of the most mammoth action sequences you've ever seen, and on water to boot, making it all the more impressive. Are they the best action scenes I've ever seen? Certainly not. But they're impressive, no matter what way you look at it. The amount of technical savvy put on display that utilizes death-defying stunts, explosions, jet ski's, planes, boats, guns, fire and a whole lot of water (sometimes all at once!) is hands-down legendary, making this one of the best examples of post apocalyptic sci-fi action ever to grace the screen in the last 50 years. While I would never consider Kevin Reynolds to be a stylish director, he gets the job done in a professional way, often with a large budget, who's proven himself to be reliable behind the camera when he's not walking off set and away from a project after a fight with Costner. Which reminds me, I need to revisit Robin Hood.

If there was anything I would complain about, it would be that the film drags a little too long in the human elements, where the Mariner (Costner) and his two companions are getting to know each other, where the Mariner pretty much acts as a mean-spirited and bullish brute. Still, despite these moments, and despite the fact that some would consider Dennis Hopper's hammy performance a bit too much, the film, while quite long, delivers a large bang for your buck in the entertainment department. Once it begins to feel as if it's overstaying it's welcome, another incredible action set piece kicks your ass and melts your corneas and you forget all about it.

It's a shame that this film could never shake the stigma of being a bomb, when the data proves that in reality, it was not. It didn't make a large profit, but it was able to make back it's budget and marketing, which would suggest that despite the bad press, it was technically in the black, not the red.

Having finally revisited it after so many years, I was floored by the amount of talent and production that went into this. I'm so glad it was made in the 90's, because I'd hate to see this had it been made today. You can bet your ass most of the film would be CGI, much like the Pirates of the Carribean films are now, and it just wouldn't look or feel as special as it does here. Or real for that matter. This is epic filmmaking at it's best and most purest form, without the ease of computer effects and all done practically in the most impressive form. Here's to hoping that Waterworld will continue to grow in it's cult status as one of the finest examples sci-fi action on an epic scale. The 90's were the best.


Blu-Ray Review: Busting (Kino Lorber)

For as long as I can remember, Peter Hyams has been one of my all-time favorite writer and directors. Though you've certainly heard of many of his films, and more than likely seen and loved them, most people don't know the name of the man responsible for making them as good as they are. And most are unaware that the guy also wrote those films himself. For a guy who's given the world such classics such as Outland, 2010, Running Scared, Stay Tuned, Narrow Margin, Timecop, Sudden Death and even smaller films like The Presidio and The Relic, it's a travesty that his name isn't already in our consciousness and considered one of the best filmmakers on the planet. But alas, that's where we're at and it's such a shame.

But before he would deliver some truly amazing classics, Hyams got his start directing in the early 70's with TV films, before transitioning to the big screen with this action/comedy/thriller from 1974, which he also wrote, making this his first solo writing and directing gig for a feature film.

Robert Blake and Elliott Gould star as two L.A. undercover cops who routinely bust prostitutes and their Johns. When one of their busts ties back to a local drug kingpin, they get in way over their heads, despite repeated orders from their superiors to back off. 

This was right before Blake would hit it big in his most famous role, that of Det. Tony Baretta in the hit series Baretta from 1075-1978. But then of course, we all know why he became ultra famous after that. But that's another story. Gould was busy this year, having made a total of 4 different films. The guy has acted in almost 200 different roles, but he'll always be Ross and Monica Geller's father on Friends to me. But here they play the roles of the cop/buddy effectively well in a way that foreshadows the formula that writer Shane Black perfected with films like Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout and even The Nice Guys. That formula has always been around, but it wasn't until Black's Lethal Weapon that it was perfected in a way we hadn't seen before. But you can see a lot of that here in this film. In fact, it's so evident that there's no doubt in my mind that Shane Black has seen this film. It reminds me a lot of his what he did with The Nice Guys, and even some of his earlier films.

Hyams would perfect this formula himself personally with his 80's action/comedy/thriller classic Running Scared in 1986, a film that continues to be one of the best and most shining examples of this type of film, and a highlight in writer/director Peter Hyams filmography.

As far as Busting goes, I enjoyed it a lot, but I didn't love it. This could be because it feels like he's still trying to find his "style", and it sometimes struggles to find it's rhythm. The film looks great, and you see moments where he's coming into his own here, but not quite hitting the mark 100%. As a result, the pace and structure also become a bit uneven. The film never feels like it's moving towards a big climax, rather it shifts in tone throughout, sometimes feeling like it takes a few steps back instead of forward.

Despite it's pacing issues, the film packs a visual punch. The grittiness of early 70's LA is on full display in such a glorious way, with Kino Lorber's stunning new transfer bringing it all to exquisite life. There were so many moments that reminded me why I love how films of the 70's were made. Like for example in the night sequences where our hero cops are running through the city chasing a bad guy and that very specific way a street light used to be captured through a camera, illuminating the screen with a large soft white halo around each light source. I remember it vividly in Superman: The Movie (1978) and that very same effect is perfectly captured here in stunning clarity.

Hyams was also perfecting his directing skills here. While not quite up there with his best work in later years, you can clearly see his talent here. No doubt. For the first time in any of his films, he utilizes a whole lot of tracking shots, some in such a unique way that I hadn't ever seen before, or since. And still, his direction here is leaps and bounds better than most films of this period, and most importantly, this genre. He's one of the best directors on the planet, and this film, if anything, serves as an early reminder of that. He wouldn't go on to become his own cinematographer until 1984's Outland, which as you know is a huge rarity in the field when the director also serves as his own Director of Photography. Hyams was the best in more ways than most people will ever know or be aware of.

The performances are strong throughout, with Robert Blake sort of coasting through here in a very understated performance, while Elliott Gould does a far more memorable turn as a schlubby, messy cop who doesn't seem to care for his own personal appearance, but does a helluva job as a cop who doesn't hide from his personal convictions. We also get a few memorable supporting bit parts from Rob Zombie mainstay Sid Haig (here as a bouncer/bodyguard), the legendary Antonio Fargas (I'm Gonna Git You Sucka!), Allen Garfield (Beverly Hills Cop II) and Michael Lerner (Maniac Cop 2).

The Specs:
- 1080p HD presentation
- 1.85:1 widescreen
- Audio Commentary with writer/director Peter Hyams
- Audio Commentary with star Elliott Gould and film critic Kim Morgan
- Trailers for Busting, The Long Goodbye and Running Scared

Despite a lack of subtitle options and any real special features, the commentary is worth a listen. Hyams is informative, while Gould and Morgan keep it lively and fresh. And I can't stress enough how impressive the transfer is on this. Combining the vibrant colors of the 70's with this HD presentation is gorgeous in a stunning color palette of greens, oranges, yellows and red's.

Kino Lorber has been steadily making a name for themselves in the Blu-Ray market, oftentimes getting their hands on rare titles before other, more popular, releasing companies. And it's because of companies like Kino that I have hope for some of my all-time favorite undiscovered and under the radar gems (some of which have never even gotten a DVD release before) getting the official Blu-Ray treatment for the first time. One can only hope.


Jaws: The Revenge Film Review

A giant monster shark that growls like a dinosaur, wrecks havoc on the Brody family once again, this time in the Bahamas! Is it the same shark that killed her other son just months earlier in Amity? It's never explained! But who cares!?

by Jason Elizondo

While most people would be surprised to learn that I haven't seen any of the Jaws sequels until now, what I find surprising is that none of them are bad......at all. You see, these sequels have always been plagued with bad-word-of-mouth and often dismissed and labeled cheesy or bottom of the gutter type sequels. Only, they're nothing of the sort, and while they wouldn't win any Oscars for filmmaking, they're each entertaining in a way I hadn't expected.

While I wasn't all that big a fan of Jaws 2 (I felt it was just more of the same and offered nothing new in the way of exposition), which seems to be most people's favorite sequel in the franchise, I absolutely loved the often maligned and ridiculed Jaws 3D. Sure it's a bit uninentionally campy, in no small part due to it's hysterically awful 3D effects/Green screen work. Yet, if you can look past those very brief moments, you'll find that the film is actually really fun. It helps that it's got a solid cast, and finally changed scenery (here taking place in Sea World), but really, it's a fun film that had a much more professional touch than I was expecting (again, just look past the awful effects).

My enjoyment with that third entry really got me excited for this one, even though it's pretty much laughed at and largely forgotten. And come on, that "This time it's personal" tag line doesn't help. At all. And it's because of this that I went in a bit apprehensive, expecting a low-budget turd, when in fact it was surprisingly good and well made. Let's dig in.

Knowing nothing about who made it and only being aware of the fact that Jaws staple Lorraine Gary was returning again, with Michael Caine (???) in tow, I was surprised with the rest of the casting. And how could I not? For starters, there's Lance Guest (The Last Starfighter) leading the charge. But then there's Mario Van Peebles, Lynn Whitfield, the aforementioned Michael Caine (who seems oddly out of place and in a totally different film altogether), and then last but not least, Karen Young, who does a far better job here than she did in the terribly subpar Burt Reynolds flick Heat, where she played his former girlfriend and easily gave the most cringe-worthy performance in the entire film. But I'm glad to see it was a fluke, because here, as the wife of Lance Guest's character, she proves that she can in fact act without attempting a hideous accent.

To be honest, the first half of the film is a bit slow and uneventful. We see Chief Brody's widow Ellen Brody move to the Bahamas to be with her son Mike, his wife Carla and their daughter after her other son Sean, who took over Chief duties from his father in Amity, is killed by a shark. Believing that sharks are deliberately targeting her family (as ridiculous as that sounds), she still decides to move to the Bahamas in the hopes of putting her past behind her and attempts to build a new life, while also loving her grandmother role to her granddaughter. Only, despite her son Mike's reassurance that there are no sharks in their area, a monster shark makes his way there regardless and, despite logic, seems to target the Brody's once again. Sure it makes no sense, but just go with it.

The second half is where the film picks up, and we get to see some solid shark action. And it's really in these moments that Jaws 4 delivers the goods better than I expected. Right from the moment the shark first emerges, you see him in all his glory. They don't try to amp the suspense with camera tricks or keeping him in the shadows unseen. Not here. Instead he's front and center and if I were to be completely honest, the shark mechanics and effects were spectacular. Old-timer director Joseph Sargent, who's biggest claim to fame could be the original Taking of Pelham 123 all the way back in 1974, does an excellent job in these horrific moments, where the film becomes quite brutal in the most fascinating way.

Then when we get to the finale, whatever issues you may have had with the film's pace, story or structure, are completely forgotten as we're treated to a kickass showdown between the monster shark and Ellen Brody, her son, Michael Caine and Van Peebles involving a plane, a boat and a shark. I won't spoil it with details, but rest assured, it's awesome, bloody, violent and brutal. And the best part is the shark itself, here proving what magic can be made using a robotic shark and some good ol' fashioned camera work.

It's a shame lead Lorraine Gary didn't act much, because she's very good and the true anchor for the entire series, even if she didn't appear in the third one. With a little over 30 acting credits to her name leading up to this one, Jaws: The Revenge or Jaws 4 would be her last role. Too bad. She's just great.

There's something to be said about how special these films are, and I can admit I was a dumbass for not having seen them until now. Somehow they never appealed to me growing up, and maybe it was for the better that I waited? As an adult, I can appreciate them differently than I could as a kid; even more so now that we'll never get a film made like this again with robotic sharks. While CGI will allow them to do a lot more than they ever could before, it's just not the same. CGI, for all it's advancements, can never replace a badass killer robot shark. It's tangible. It's there. You see it, and you can appreciate it viscerally, even with it's ridiculous dinosaur growl.

Does it deserve all the malicious ridicule it's received in the 30 years since it's release? Absolutely not. Is it a great film? No, but it's an entertaining one and a far better film than any of the clones released since. There's a touch of class to the whole production (most notably in the shark mechanics and solid direction), with it's change of location, solid performances (Lorraine Gary is so good) and surprisingly brutal deaths making it a respectable entry in the franchise, and just in the killer shark genre in general.

How to see it:
Jaws and it's 3 sequels can all be seen in HD on Netflix. If you need to physically own them, there's some great and cheaply priced Blu Ray's available out there.


90's Thriller Throwback: Striking Distance

Bruce Willis made a ton of flicks in the 90's. No joke. Look it up. And this is one of his best, despite the fact that it often gets overlooked

by Jason Elizondo

Sandwiched between Death Becomes Her and his supporting role in Pulp Fiction, Striking Distance sort of came and went with very little attention and fanfare, despite the fact that it was directed by Road House's Rowdy Herrington (such an awesome name), and contained easily one of the best supporting casts in a 90's thriller that I can recall. If memory serves me right, I did in fact see this way back when, but had forgotten nearly all of it, which doesn't surprise me since it seems I'm apparently not the only one. It's a shame though, because having revisited it recently, I discovered it's quite possibly one of the most underrated flicks to come out of Bruce Willis' hectic 90's filmography. So let's dig in.

Homicide detective Tom Hardy (Bruce Willis) is hot on the trail of a serial killer, whom he believes to be another cop. While his suspicions fall on deaf ears, one last run-in with the killer ends with the death of his own father. Following this devastating death, Hardy is demoted to river patrol duty where years go by and he falls deeper and deeper into alcoholism. When the serial killer resurfaces, he seems to taunt Hardy personally by only killing people he knows. With the help of his new partner Jo Christman (Sarah Jessica Parker), he sets out to uncover the truth behind the killer and why he seems to have a personal vendetta. Will he stop him in time before he strikes again?

Family of cops

While not necessarily trailblazing a new path into the thriller genre, Striking Distance is an effective and competent entry that really has a lot of entertainment to deliver for a film that seemed to have either passed people by completely, or just got lost in the epic sea of thrillers during this era. Let's not forget that Willis was also insanely busy during this decade, turning out a total of 30 films (not even including guest spots on tv shows), which is just nuts. Still, this one, oddly enough, got lost in the shuffle. Either way, I think if you just gave it another chance, you'd be surprised to discover that it's pretty damn good in an old fashioned 90's thriller sort of way. And to me, that's one of the best ways to define a solid thriller. By classifying it under that very specific era, it's given an immediate quality that is far too rare these days, where it reigned supreme in easily one of the best decades of cinema. We can't say that about films today, or in the last 20 years for that matter, and that's pretty sad.

Willis does a fine job, as per his usual, in his very stoic, grumpy, moody way, and Parker, here in her one and only action/thriller if I'm not mistaken, also does commendable work. I've always found her to be annoying, but that's probably because I find it hard to separate her from her character from Sex and the City, the shallow annoying city girl who makes all the wrong decisions. Yet I didn't hate her in here, which surprised me. But moving on.

It's really the supporting cast that knocked this one out of the park for me. I mean, it's pretty fucking impressive. Let's begin with the legendary Dennis Farina, who is such an underrated actor with a huge presence. Did you know he was a real life former cop? Man, the guy just seems to pop up in so many random things but always leave such a strong impression. I always forget he was in Manhunter too, or that he was the host of Unsolved Mysteries for 174 episodes after Robert Stack. Then there's Tom Sizemore, John Mahoney (Frazier), Robert Pastorelli, Andre Braugher, Tom Atkins (!!!) and Brion Fucking James! Man, what a cast!

At first I was a bit let down when I "thought" I knew who the killer was within the first 15 minutes. The film seemed to be a bit lazy, or so I thought, in that department and didn't appear to shake the tree or divert your attention somewhere else. Boy was I wrong though. It did not turn out the way I had thought. But even if it had, it didn't take away from it's entertainment factor for me. I found it to be enjoyable-y unpredictable and predictable at the same time, while also intense, fun, thrilling and with some solid camera work and killer action and stunts. Really, all the things you want in one of these.

How to see it:
Currently available on every format, including Blu-Ray for around $5, you can stream it for FREE momentarily over at Crackle. I say momentarily because they tend to change their film lineup month to month and some months this is available, and some it's not. But keep checking, because it's worth your time.


Documentary Spotlight: Sense of Scale

Fans of miniature practical effects will absolutely love this intimate look into the dying art of miniature model making, and it's long-lasting legacy from the mouths of those who created them

by robotGEEK

How this documentary about miniature models in the film industry has flown so far under the radar by most film lovers blows my mind. In fact, personally speaking, I'd never even heard of it until just a few weeks ago, when I came upon an article on Den of Geek about the miniatures used on the first Die Hard. After my initial excitement about discovering this doc began to subside, it was immediately followed by the surprising fact that I had no idea miniature's were even used in Die Hard to begin with, which I guess is a testament to how good they were if you didn't notice them. The video they posted to accompany that Den of Geek article was a deleted scene from this very documentary, so I figured if the effects work on Die Hard didn't make the final cut, I could only imagine what actually did!

This fascinatingly enlightening and highly informative documentary focuses on the dying art of miniature models and effects in films. While it primarily focuses on the 80's, it also digs into the 70's and even into the 90's. Here we hear firsthand from legends in the field who have worked on everything from Star Wars, Blade Runner, The Terminator and Escape to New York, to the failed mid-80's attempt at Total Recall, Independence Day, Die Hard, Ghostbusters and Starship Troopers to name just a few, because the large amount of films they cover in here is insane.

Told exclusively through brand new intimate interviews from the model makers and effects artists, they reflect on the good ol' days of practical effects work, and give deep insight into their work and how they were able to pull off some of the most impressive practical effects in some of Hollywood's biggest hits and cult classics. Each interviewee also provides a plethora of vintage behind the scenes photos of their work on all of these films. The only downside is that there is no actual behind the scenes footage, and they don't show any actual footage from the films they're discussing. But that's to be expected and I completely understand. They cover an insane amount of films here and I can't even imagine the logistical nightmare of securing the rights to show actual footage from all these blockbusters.

It's a great documentary that's primarily a collection of sit-down interviews that looks and sounds to be shot on a home video camera. There's no fast-paced structure or quick-editing to give it a fun vibe. There's no hip score to go along with it, but rather a monotone ominous score. In short, it's nothing fancy. Instead, it's a flood of powerfully valuable insight and information by the miniature effects masters themselves. For fans of practical effects work from some of our most favorite films of the 70's, 80's and 90's, it's a must watch. There's no question. It may not be the most visceral experience in a sea of documentaries, but it's not any less entertaining.

Sense of Scale is available for purchase from any number of online retailers in a 2-Disc Set, with the first disc being the film and the second disc containing 45 minutes of deleted footage, making the entire experience roughly about 3 hours. Buy it. You'll thank me.