Blu-Ray Review: The Initiation

The Initiation_AV071Amusingly enough, The Initiation is okay enough to not need the old eyebrow-raising poster and new Blu-Ray art along with its initial promise of nubile college-age gals doing the schoolgirl witches coven experimentation thing. That’s a plot element teased more than an 80’s hairdo and tossed aside fast in favor of simpler sorority pledge antics. Boo.

Still, the film works fine as intended if you love your slasher flicks with twist reveals near the end (this one might remind you of Blood Rage), some nicely done gore FX and a solid performance by Daphne Zuniga (her first major film role after 1982’s The Dorm That Dripped Blood).

The film was shot by two different directors (Peter Crane, Larry Stewart) and is a case where the initial one did some incredible and atmospheric work but wasn’t fast enough to meet deadlines. He was replaced by a faster director who shot the bulk of the film in a TV-style format and some of the original footage was incorporated into the new stuff to give certain scenes that extra visual oomph. Hey, it all worked out in the end, so it’s all good.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Slayer

The Slayer_AV101Well, hell. The Slayer actually surprised me with how good it was and once again, Arrow Video drops the microphone with a stellar print of this eagerly awaited slasher with some nice bonus features. While the film has its share of flaws, it’s got a small and interesting cast that’s not made up of the usual sex-starved teens getting killed off by the slasher of the week. Okay, it’s more mature adults getting killed off, but hey, it’s a step up in any event.

The film also predates A Nightmare on Elm Street in having its fiend just so happen to do its dirty work as its wide-eyed female lead sleeps. While probably not at all an influence on Wes Craven’s masterpiece, it’s impossible to watch the film without making a connection somewhere along the line.

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Review: Kong: Skull Island


Yo. That’s a BIG ape. Apocalypse, Wow.

One of these days, some film distributor such as Mill Creek or some other spot that gathers up movies and presents them as multi-disc packages will get hold of Kong: Skull Island and re-release it with the subtitle “No, Sam Jackson… You’re NOT Gonna Get That Big Ape!”. The film is indeed a piece of work in that you certainly get your money’s worth provided you go in with your brain turned off as expected with the usual blockbuster. On the other hand, following the plot too closely will have your eyeballs rolling around in your head like greasy marbles.

This new Kong is an attempt at Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers unifying its Godzilla and King Kong franchises with a few films that will seemingly culminate in a big ol’ Kong vs Godzilla flick a few years from now. Yeah, well… good luck with that. This film isn’t perfect at all and while it’s a mess of ideas that work for the short attention span crowd, the overall impact is one where you wish Ray Harryhausen was still alive and animating just to keep the scale more manageable and fun.

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Review: Hakuōki: Kyoto Winds


HAKU1_PackArtIf you or someone you love are suffering from FVN (Fear of Visual Novels), Idea Factory International has a great solution at an affordable price. Hakuōki: Kyoto Winds is a great introduction to otome games for Vita owners willing to try something different that’s well made and quite enjoyable.

Yes, longtime fans will recognize this as “only” an enhanced port of an older game they may have previously played. But they should also recognize the fact that every day someone might just want to try something out of their comfort zone they’ll probably like. Hey, an expanded fan base can be a good thing when all is said and done, right?

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Blu-Ray Review: Caltiki, The Immortal Monster

Caltiki_AV086I’ll say this straight up and get it over with. Ridley Scott could learn a lot from Mario Bava’s work (although some would say with a nudge and wink he’s been there and done that previously).  Sitting through Scott’s way too tired, formulaic and practically scare-free Alien Covenant was a chore for me, but going back to Bava’s more compelling Caltiki, The Immortal Monster made for an interesting counterpoint. Sometimes, more is indeed less and exactly what’s required when it comes to horror.

Low-rent though it may look, the “collaboration” of Bava and initial director Riccardo Freda makes for quite a compact and thrilling slice of sci-fi/horror that works as a sort of H.P. Lovecraft homage with a few intentional riffs on Hammer Film’s The Quatermass Xperiment tossed in for good measure. Initially the cinematographer, Bava stepped into the director’s chair after Freda left the production.  But it seems he did everything from design some impressive (for the era) visual effects to create some amazing backdrops using collage that included ceramic planters, magazine photos and matte paintings. It’s wacky as all get out, but it works surprisingly well and to some extent, even better today.

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Blu-Ray Review: Effects

Effects BRWhat you get out of AGFA’s great newly restored print of Effects very much depends on what you go in expecting. As a low budget 80’s horror flick “cobbled together with loose change” by a few friends of George A. Romero, the film does indeed retain a certain rawness throughout along with a tiny bit of graphic violence and a few shocking scenes here and there. The film also manages to be more than a bit prophetic about how today’s reality TV’s nonsense of cameras, cameras everywhere can actually be somewhat chilling and yep, desensitizing.

But let’s stick to what’s here first and foremost. There’s a horror flick being made in Pittsburgh and you’ve got a front row seat to the festivities. Again, don’t go into this one expecting bodies falling on cue and a predictable ending where you know what’s coming a mile and a few minutes away. SFX makeup whiz Tom Savini may be in this one, but he’s doing the acting and stunts thing this time out.

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No Man’s Sky Atlas Rises Update: That Final Frontier Just Got A Whole Lot Bigger


I’m one of those folks who totally ignored all the negativity spewed towards Hello Games and No Man’s Sky because I knew something so huge would require at least a year’s worth of patches and content updates. Although I finally broke down and bought a discounted new/sealed copy and installed it a while back, I really didn’t get to play more than about 4 hours before I got really sick and ended up in the hospital for a month back from mid-May to mid-June. Well, it looks as if I’ll need to dive back into outer space soon as the latest update, Atlas Rises, adds a wealth on new content and changes to the game, making it an even better product in the process. PSN users can grab the base game at 60% off ($23.99!) and the update should auto-download once you’re all paid up.

30 hours of new story content brings a new context, quest system and branching narrative to the game, there are mysterious portals to discover that allow interstellar travel, the trading, crafting and other elements have been improved and even space combat has been overhauled to be more challenging. There’s a lot going on here and while I’m dying to try it all out soon, I’m not even picking up that PS4 controller until I knock out a few items from my burgeoning backlog. Yeah, I know me, kids – once I get onto something this huge, I tend to park myself and go in for the long haul. I’m gathering the usual suspects will still be spouting bile about the game’s initial launch woes, but here’s a case where redemption of an evergreen is something worth cheering.





Blu-Ray Review: The Zodiac Killer

Zodiac Killer BR Ha. Way back in 1970 or so, someone should have told newbie director and pizza shop maven Tom Hanson that the Zodiac Killer has a far better chance to be caught alive during a screening of Dirty Harry than dead asleep at Hanson’s eyeball-rolling (yet pretty potent on occasion) The Zodiac Killer. While the film has some genuinely scary moments in replicating some of the more infamous murders, it’s also loaded with chuckle-worthy performances and a couple of hilarious made-up deaths that might have you choking on your popcorn.

Make no mistake, ladies and gents. This isn’t a “great” film by any means. But thanks to AGFA and Something Weird Video, we have a nice 4K restoration that still retains a certain grainy, grimy charm. Well, about as “charming” as you can get in a film explicitly meant to taunt and catch a notorious serial killer.

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Blu-Ray Review: Ronin

Ronin_AV098I’ve always viewed Ronin as a sped-up Alfred Hitchcock film, but yep, I’m nuttier than a fruitcake when I need to be. Late director John Frankenheimer’s mostly solid and thrilling 1997 action flick has a few Hitch hallmarks such as an obvious red herring as a major plot device, a bunch of men (and one woman) under pressure crammed into a tough situation, indiscriminate collateral damage thanks to high-speed chases and a story that has at least one major flaw one can overlook when all is said and done.

As usual, Arrow’s stellar Blu-Ray/DVD combo packs in the film and a load of bonus features worth a look. There’s also an alternate ending that is pretty darn awful, but we’ll get to that when we get to that.

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Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen Headed To PS4/Xbox One October 3rd


It’s about time Capcom ported over one of it’s biggest surprise sleepers from a few years back. I’m thinking the success of the PS version and all its tweaks plus a lot of fan bugging them helped compel this smart move. But hey, whatever. It looks as if the wait will be worth it. I’m gathering save data will NOT be transferable from any other versions of the game which means it’ll be a fresh start and all that exploration, fighting and leveling to do all over again. Yours truly won’t mind one bit as DD:DA is pretty compelling to dive into and has a lengthy campaign that doesn’t require playing with others to get your fill. I just need to find the time to sink into this gem, as I know my October is going to be packed with medical appointments (boo!). Then again, this seems like the perfect game to de-stress with for a while between visits to people poking and prodding at me and my assorted body fluids (yuck!).