Laserblast: The Paramount Vault – Science Fiction & Horror on YouTube

i-married-a-monster-from-outer-space-everett
Parmount Pictures recently created a new YouTube channel, The Paramount Vault, which streams free films from the studio’s library. Along with clips from classic titles, there are approximately 150 full length movies. Of course, these are not premium titles but lower end stuff for which services such as Netflix might not be inclined to pay licensing fees. However, there are some horror and science fiction films that might be of interest to cult movie enthusiasts and completists: THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK, THE SPACE CHILDREN, CONQUEST OF SPACE, THE DEADLY BEES, CRACK IN THE WORLD, BENEATH, THE SENDER, etc.
The Paramount Vault divides its titles into playlists. You can find science fiction films here and horror films here.
Films worth checking out include I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE (an tense little thriller despite the title); THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (a gore-filled sequel to the cult original); IN DREAMS (Neil Jordan’s psychic thriller); and SHANKS (an oddity starring mime Marcel Marceau). And of course fans of ’80s cheese from Cannon Films should get a kick out of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE.
Note: The Paramount Vault YouTube channel is not to be confused with the Paramount Pictures YouTube channel. The former is a library of archival titles; the latter offers trailer and promotional videos for Paramount’s upcoming releases.

Laserblast 4-17: Hemlock Grove & Kiss of the Damned

Hemlock Grove horizontal title
This week, the Cinefantastique Laserblast podcast – devoted to horror, fantasy, and science fiction on home video – offers reviews of HEMLOCK GROVE (a new Netflix original series from Eli Roth); KISS OF THE DAMNED (a vampire film from Magnet Releasing, available on VOD before hitting theatres on May 3); ROBOT AND FRANK (on DVD after a small theatrical release last year); and THE FOUR (a recent Fant-Asia film now available on home video). Dan Persons and Steve Biodrowski also take a look at the week’s new home video releases for Tuesday, April 30, and offer a couple of titles for suggested viewing.


For those too busy to listen, you will find a summary below:
HEMLOCK GROVE is set in a small town run by a big-wig family, whose matriarch (Famke Janssen) is probably up to not good. Be that as it may, the story is set into motion when a cheerleader is partially eaten by…something. Typical for the soap opera format, many characters and storylines are interwined, and often the narrative stategy (especially during the first four epsidodes, on review here) is to drag things out as much as possible, teasing viewers along with promises of what is to come.
click to watch
click to watch

KISS OF THE DAMNED is a low-budget vampire film with a 1970s Euro-vibe, written and directed by Xan Cassavettes (daughter of the late, great John Cassavettes). Advance word has been possitive, but Dan Persons argues otherwise.
ROBOT AND FRANK offers few extras on DVD, but the excellent film is accompanied by a wonderful audio commentary from writer Cristopher D. Ford and director Jake Schreier.
THE FOUR is a fun-filled martial arts fantasy with a zombie army and gifted superheroes. It is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and instant view.

TUESDAY, APRIL 30 HOME VIDEO TITLES

This week’s video releases include:

click to watch
click to watch

CLOUD ATLAS on instant viewing formats, a week before discs arrive in stores. Read our review of this excellent film here, or listen to our previous podcast discussion.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – SEASON THREE on Blu-ray, from Paramount. Extras include: Mission Overview: Year Three (discusses the major changes that occurred in Season Three with both old and new interviews); Selected Crew Analysis: Year Three (an in-depth look at the growth of the continuing characters as well as a closer look at returning crew member Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden)); Departmental Briefing, Year Three: Production (a behind-the-scenes look at particular episodes from the production crew’s point of view); Departmental Briefing, Year Three: Memorable Missions (specific anecdotes about Year Three episodes).

click to purchase
click to purchase

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. If you do not want the entire third season on a multi-disc set, you can opt for this single disc, which offers the Enterprise’s memorable confrontation with the Borg, on Blu-ray and UltraViolet. Extras include:  Audio Commentary with Cliff Bole, Mike & Denise Okuda and Elizabeth Dennehy; Regeneration: Engaging the Borg; and a Gag Reel.
If that’s not enough STAR TREK for you, several of the features films are coming out on Blu-ray:

  • STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE
  • STAR TREK III THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK
  • STAR TREK V THE FINAL FRONTIER
  • STAR TREK IX INSURRECTION
  • STAR TREK X: NEMESIS


click to purchase
click to purchase

THE VAMPIRE LOVERS arrives on Blu-ray, courtesy of Shout Factory. The 1970 Hammer horror film, based on J. Sheridan LeFanu’s excellent novella CARMILLA, was previously released on DVD, with an audio commentary from actress Ingrid Pitt, director Roy Ward Baker, and screenwrtier Tudor Gates. That feature has been ported over to the new high-def disc, along with two new featurettes, including the making-of piece “Femme Fantastique: Resurrecting the Vampire Lovers.” (This film spawned two sequels, including TWINS OF EVIL, the subject of a previous podcast review.)

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • SCOOBY-DOO: MYSTERY INCORPORATED – Dan Personsk, no fan of previous incarnations of the mystery-solving gang, gives the thumbs up for this new version.
  • THE TOUCH: Michelle Yeoh, the great martial arts star, produced this 2002 adventure-romance, which edges into fantasy (a la RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK). It’s funny and engaging, though ultimately slightly disappointing (imagine if RAIDERS had ended with the heroes preventing the Nazis from getting their hands on the Ark!)

You can purchase these and other titles in the Cinefantastique Online Store.

Laserblast: What's Wrong with Redbox Rentals

paranormal activity 4 blu-ray redbox
Forget about getting the unrated version of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 at Redbox.

In an era that sees brick-and-mortar video rental stores resembling dinosaurs fated to extinction, the increasingly ubiquitous presence of self-serve Red Box locations in front of convenience stores and even inside some grocery stores is a good sign for those of us who do not want to wait for Netflix to ship us that latest DVD or Blu-ray disc. Redbox also offers other services, dispensing videogames for Wii, PS3, and XBox, and it recently started offering tickets to select events in Los Angeles. With a $1 price for a one-day DVD rental ($1.50 for Blu-ray discs) and a $1 service fee for ticket purchases, Redbox offers great value along with convenience. Unfortunately, it is not quite perfect.
First, Redbox offers only the latest home video releases. I’m not sure what the exact window is, but the standard “shelf life” appears to be about six months, after which a “last chance” warning is flagged on the title in question, which disappears shortly thereafter. Occasionally, an older title returns (e.g. SPIDER-MAN went  back in the box when THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN opened in theatres; PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 is back now that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 is out), but generally speaking, if you are interested in anything more than what’s current, you are out of luck.
And by “current,” I mean something with a recent copyright date. New DVDs and Blu-ray discs of older titles do not get into Redbox. If you are hoping to see that new Blu-ray release of Mario Bava’s 1972 neo-Goth BARON BLOOD, you are out of luck, and you might as well forget about the upcoming Blu-ray of Hammer memorable THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970).
Still, these titles appeal to a relatively small slice of today’s homevideo audience, so I cannot blame Redbox too much. However, there is another problem, as I found out this week when I wasted $1.50 on a rental of the new Blu-ray disc of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4: although the DVDs and Blu-rays available for purchase through other outlets (such as Amazon) contain both the original theatrical cut and an unrated extended cut, the discs available for rent through Redbox contain only the R-rated theatrical version.
To be fair, the Redbox website’s FAQ section clarifies that Redbox does not carry NC-17 titles, but it says nothing about unrated titles. Also, the information on the website mentions the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4’s R-rating and the running time (87 minutes for the theatrical version), and nothing on the artwork suggests you are getting anything else. So I guess it is my fault for not looking more closely before renting the Blu-ray disc.
drag me to hell copyHowever, this is not always the case. Redbox sometimes displays artwork indicating that you are getting something more than an R-rated version. For example, the box art for both DRAG ME TO HELL and LOCKOUT clearly indicate “Unrated Edition,” while the accompanying text shows that the film you rent will actually be rated PG-13. This could certainly be construed as false advertising.
Obviously, there are other ways to view the unrated version of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4. The extended cut is available for rent and purchase through steaming and download services such as Amazon and iTunes, but you will not get the 30 minutes of additional scenes available as a Blu-ray bonus feature. For that, you have to purchase the disc or rent it through Netflix and await the arrival days later.
Obviously, a short waiting period is not a great burden, but it is strange that Redbox would cede this advantage to a competitor. Presumably, Redbox is leery of accusations that children might get access to unrated movies, but they already have a system in place to validate for age, in order to prevent R-rated movies from getting into the hands of youngsters. If the system is good enough to do that, then there should be no additional onus on unrated material, which should be available to adult renters.
Redbox remains a useful service. In addition to their current a la cart rental service, they plan to offer a subscription service that will include four one-day rental a month, plus unlimited streaming through Verizon wireless. But it is unfortunate that their selection is so limited. This is no doubt due to the size restrictions of the redboxes themselves (approximately equal to a jukebox), but if they have room for every piece of direct-to-video junk that comes out each week, there should be a way to include unrated titles and also older titles given new home video releases.
Although it may not be viable to stock BARON BLOOD, TWINS OF EVIL, VAMPIRE CIRCUS, and THE VAMPIRE LOVERS at a box in front of every 7-11 store, Redbox does have an online reservation feature and allows you to create accounts listing your order history and movie preferences. Certainly, these features could be tweaked to move discs with specialized appeal into locations convenient for people who want them.

Laserblast 4.4.2: Frankenweenie, John Carter, Iron Sky, Homicidal

laserblastfrankenweeniejoh copy
Welcome back to another edition of the Cinefantastique Laserblast Podcast, exploring the highways and byways of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction Films on Home Video – Blu-ray, DVD, Video on Demand, and Instant Streaming. In Volume 4, Episode 4.2, Steve Biodrowski reviews the Blu-ray discs of FRANKENWEENIE and JOHN CARTER; Dan Persons waxes over the Nazi-on-the-Moon spoof IRON SKY; and Lawrence French offers up William Castle’s HOMICIDAL (1961) as an effective pinch-hitter horror film in place of PSYCHO (1960).
Also on the agenda: a look at FrightPIX, the new free streaming channel of horror films available through Roku; and a rundown of home video releases for the weeks of Tuesday, January 22 & 29.


NOTE: If you prefer reading to listening, details of the week’s home video releases are listed below…

JANUARY 29 HOME VIDEO RELEASES

Click to purchase
Click to purchase

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 sees the release of three titles that have actually been available on Video on Demand for two weeks through the magic of “Early Release.” This is a new strategy, in which films are available through downloading and streaming services before arriving on store shelves in hard copies. The early release price (for purchase only, not rental) is considerably higher; now that the films are on store shelves, the price for streaming and downloading has dropped, and rental options are available. The films in question are:

  • HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, now on single disc DVD; on triple disc Blu-ray and DVD and UltraViolet Digital Copy; and quadruple disc with a 3D Blu-ray.
  • PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, which arrives in two packages: the first includes only DVD; the second includes both DVD and Blu-ray, plus a Digital Copy and Ultra-Violet. Both the Blu-and the DVD include the original theatrical cut and an unrated extended cut, which runs approximately ten minutes longer. The Blu-ray also offers a half-hour of “recovered files” – basically, deleted scenes – but there are no other bonus features. Amazon.com still has the unrated version available through their Instant Streaming service
  • click to purchase
  • THE AWAKENING: This excellent British ghost story from 2011, which got a small U.S. release last year, is now available on DVD and on Blu-ray; the steaming version is still available here. The latter includes numerous behind-the-scenes bonus features: deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes featurettes; an interview with director Nick Murphy; a look at belief in the supernatural and in spiritualism.

And speaking of “Early Release,” SILENT HILL: REVELATION goes on sale via Video on Demand and download this week. Expect discs to hit store shelves in a couple weeks.
Also out this week:
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS arrives on Blu-ray combo pack and on DVD and on Video on Demand.

click to purchase
click to purchase

WHITE ZOMBIE: The 1932 black-and-white classic, starring Bela Lugosi, reappears in a newly remastered transfer, available on Blu-ray and on DVD. These discs port over some of the bonus features from the Roan Group’s 1999 DVD (including a re-release trailer and an “Intimate Interview” with Lugosi), but not the excellent audio commentary by Gary Don Roades. WHITE ZOMBIE is a public domain title, available in lots of cheap DVD versions, but this new version from Kino Classics has been digitally restored – which you will appreciate if you recall the Roan version, which was good but still had problems. Source material was a 35mm fine grain master; the raw and enhanced versions are included.
Midnight Movies Volume 9 offers a zombie double bill of HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD and NIGHTMARE CITY – two Italian gorefests from the 1980, following in the wake of DAWN OF THE DEAD (1979) and ZOMBIE (1980). The former is also known as VIRUS and as NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES, and reuses music from DAWN OF THE DEAD. The later stars actor Hugo Stiglitz, after whom Quentin Tarantino named a character in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.

JANUARY 22, 2013 HOME VIDEO RELEASES

click to purchase
click to purchase

Since we posted no Lasberblast – either column or podcast – for last week, we will make it up to you by listing the titles this week, but rest assured, you did not miss much. The only new titles wer DEATH RACE 3: INFERNO, which made its direct-to-video debut on DVD and Blu-ray, and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, which arrived on store shelves after a pre-theatrical VOD debut last year, followed by brief, limited exposure in theatres.
Older titles resurrected on disc include several 1980s titles and a bunch of 1990s obscurities from Charles Band’s now-defunct Full Moon Productions. The 1980s titles include:

  • Wes Craven’s DEADLY BLESSING in a new Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray and DVD. This 1981 is from a few years before Craven hit big with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. You can also sense Craven inserting some NIGHTMARE style dream scenes toliven up the slasher-style scenario.
  • CUJO, based on the Stephen King novel and starring Dee Wallace (E.T.) sees new life on DVD and on Blu-ray.
  • THE INCUBUS (1982) with John Cassavetes flts into stores on DVD. The film was directed by John Hough, who has a couple of good titles to his name (TWINS OF EVIL and THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE), but this is nowhere near as good. There is some nice atmosphere, but the script is problematic at best, and one suspects that Cassavetes was earning a pay check to fund one of his own directorial efforts.

click to purchase
click to purchase

Meanwhile, the Full Moon titles arrive on DVD are: LURKING FEAR (1994), MONSTROID, SEED PEOPLE (1992), and DARK ANGEL: THE ASCENT (1994). The last of these is a mildly amusing horror-comedy, featuring a female demon who ventures up from Hell and falls in love with a mortal man. The basic concept (the denizens of Hell are demonic, but they are doing God’s work by punishing sinners) is actually rather interesting.
That’s all for now. Since Captain Sparky has defeated the flying saucers, all is safe.
Or is it?
Purchase these and other videos in the Cinefantastique Online Store.
[serialposts]

Laserblast 4.2.2: The Sorcerer and the White Snake, Paranormal Activity 4 on demand, Dredd 3D TV

sorcerer-dredd-mark copy

Interested in what new horror, fantasy, and science fiction films are available on home video this week? You have two ways to find out: listen in to this week’s podcast, or read on. In fact, why not do both?

In the Cinefantastique Laserblast Podcast 4.2.2, Dan Persons and Steve Biodrowski run down genre titles coming out on DVD, Blu-ray, and Video on Demand for the week of Tuesday, January 15. Biodrowski reviews THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE – currently available as a “pre-theatrical rental” with a couple of big-screen engagements scheduled for February 8. Persons explores the potential of watching DREDD in 3D without a 3D television set, by way of the 3D Video Wizard Console, which translated the signal from your 3D Blu-ray or streaming service into a picture that can be viewed with blue-and-red 3D glasses.

After that, Biodrowski offers some home video recommendations for the late actor Jon Finch, who passed away last week. Finch starred in Alfred Hitcock’s FRENZY and Roman Polanski’s MACBETH, both of which are available on DVD and through Amazon Instant Viewing (click here for FRENZY and here for MACBETH). Finch also played the young male lead in THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970), which is available on both DVD and through Netflix Instant Video. The DVD (which also contains COUNTESS DRACULA and which you can purchase here) features a nice audio commentary by Ingrid Pitt, who starred as the voracious, voluptuous, and yet vulnerable Countess Mircalla Karnstein. A Blu-ray release is scheduled for April 30; you can pre-order now. Sadly, Finch’s most eccentric and interesting science fiction film, THE FINAL PROGRAMME (a.k.a. THE LAST DAYS OF MAN ON EARTH) is currently out of print, although old copies may be available for purchase at some outlets.

Next up: a new feature titled “Pinch-Hitter Films.” What are Pinch-Hitter Films? As the name implies (a baseball term), Pinch-Hitter Films substitute in a pinch for other films. If you have watched your favorite classic so many times that you never need to see it again, but you still feel a hunger for the sort of entertainment value it used to provide before you exhausted it through repeat viewings, you resort to a Pinch-Hitter Film.

  • Biodrowski offers up MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935), directed by Tod Browing and starring Bela Lugosi as Count Mora, as a pinch-hitter for DRACULA (1931), directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. MARK OF THE VAMPIRE is no match for its predecessor, but it is a wonderfully atmospheric example of old-fashioned black-and-white Gothic horror, and it does surpass DRACULA in one or two ways (e.g., it actually shows the man-to-bat transformation only suggested in DRACULA).
  • Persons suggests that SILENT RUNNING (1972) is an adequate substitute for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). Although not of the same stature, SILENT RUNNING is a sort of unofficial successor to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, directed by Douglas Trumbull, who provided special effects for SPACE ODYSSEY (in fact, SILENT RUNNING’s sequence of a spaceship passing through the rings of Saturn was originally intended for the earlier film).

EARLY RELEASE STEAMING AND DOWNLOADS

Not mentioned in the podcast but worth noting here, are a handful of “Early Release” home video titles. “Early Release” is the designation being given to films that are made available to be purchased via digital download or cloud streaming prior to arriving on Blu-ray and/or DVD. The general pattern seems to be a two-week window during which titles are priced to sell, followed by release in other home video formats, including rental options.

The most high-profile early release for Tuesday, January 15 is PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, which is now available in two versions: the original theatrical cut and an unrated extended cut that adds ten minutes to the running time. (Note: the theatrical version is available through iTunes but not Amazon.com, which offers only the unrated version.) Blu-ray discs and DVDs of both cuts will arrive on January 29.

Also available for early online viewing and download is HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, the computer-animated comedy about the titular establishment where monsters gather to avoid humans, until one stumbles in by accident and falls in love with Dracula’s daughter. The film is currently available for purchase in both high-def and standard-def versions at iTunes; Amazon.com has only the standard-def version. Rental options, along with DVDs and Blu-ray discs, will arrive on January 29.

Lastly, THE AWAKENING – the excellent 2011 British ghost story that arrived in U.S. theatres last year – is also now available for early release purchase. Amazon.com has a standard-def version for $11.99; iTunes has the same offer for the same price, plus a high-def version for $19.99. Again, the DVD and Blu-ray release will occur on January 29, at which time you should also be able to rent the film film through your preferred VOD method, whether digital download or instant streaming.

Laserblast Podcast 3:37.2: Total Recall, Indiana Jones, Bait

laserblast composite
It’s the return of the Cinefantastique Laserblast Podcast – featuring news and reviews of horror, fantasy & science fiction available on home video. In this installment, CFQ correspondents Dan Persons and Steve Biodrowski look at Tuesday, September 18’s current crop of releases, including INDIANA JONES: THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES, CABIN IN THE WOODS, and the complete seventh season of SUPERNATURAL. Also, they offer reviews of recent releases, BAIT in 3D and the “Mind-Bending” Blu-ray edition of TOTAL RECALL (1990). Finally, they take a look at the 2001 Canadian documentary, THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY, a look at horror makeup effects in general and at makeup artist Greg Nicoter in particular; it’s not available on U.S. home video yet, but CFQ fans should eagerly await its arrival so that they can see Biodrowski’s 10 seconds of fame as one of the interview subjects.

Laserblast: July 10 Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction Home Video

Lockout wide image guy pearce
LOCKOUT - now availabe on VOD, with DVD and Blu-ray coming next week.
Tuesday, July 10 offers little in the way of new horror, fantasy, and science fiction on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD; however, if you are looking to fill some empty slots in your collection, you will find a pod bay full of older titles returning in new editions.

LOCKOUT, the action-packed science fiction thriller starring Guy Pearce, is the one newbie arriving this week, making its Video on Demand debut a week ahead of its arrival on DVD and Blu-ray next Tuesday. The movie is not bad, but viewers will need a high tolerance for familiar formula film-making (ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK comes to mind, without much mental grasping). Two versions are available, the theatrical and unrated; both are currently available only for sale.
If vampires get your blood pumping, you’re in luck, thanks to the arrival of three titles of various vintage: BLADE II, TWINS OF EVIL, and DARK SHADOWS: THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES (DELUXE EDITION). The first two are new Blu-ray releases; the latter is a mammoth box set, enclosed appropriately enough  in a collector’s edition coffin.
BLADE II (2002) is the second in the series starring Wesley Snipes as the epynomous vampire-hunter striking fear into the hearts of the undead. The film is generally regarded as the best of the bunch, thanks to the presence of Guilllermo Del Toro in the director’s chair. The Blu-ray disc includes numerous bonus features that will be familiar to anyone who has perused the old DVD: audio commentary, deleted scenes, trailers, galleries, and featurettes. (The one I remember best “Epilogue: Dirty Version,” which Del Toro informally names “Come Removal” – because, apparently, the scene, set in a peep show, had to be trimmed because someone though semen stains were visible somewhere in the dark grungy setting.)
TWINS OF EVIL (1971) is the third in the Karnstein trilogy – three bloody, sexy shockers produced by Hammer Films in the early 1970s, inspired by J. Sheridan LeFanu’s classic novella, Carmilla. TWINS OF EVIL is no match for the original THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970), but it far exceeds the lackluster LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (also 1971). The lesbian element of its predecessors is severely diminished, the the predatory vampire countess Mircalla Karnstein reduced to a mere cameo in order to get the blood boiling early on. After that, the film focuses on the conflict between hedonistic vampires and holier-than-thou vampire hunters, with the battle lines drawn in such a way that it is hard to root for either side. The innovation here lies in the titular characters, played by identical twin playmates, Mary and Madeleine Collinson (only one of whom is actually evil). For such an old title, the Blu-ray DVD Combo pack offers some impressive bonus features : a deleted scene; isolated music and effects track; motion still gallery; theatrical trailer and TV spots; a featurette titled THE PROPS THAT HAMMER BUILD and a full-length documentary feature detailing the behind-the-scenes production details, THE FLESH AND THE FURY: X-POSING TWINS OF EVIL.
The final nail in the vampire’s coffin this week is the DARK SHADOWS Deluxe Edition, which includes all 1,225 episodes of the show on 131 DVDs. This old Gothic soap opera is very much an artifact of its time (late ’60s, early ’70s), but the crude production values of the shot-live approach (including blown lines, visible boom microphones, and rubber bats bouncing around on wires) become part of the charm. For all its many faults, there is something raw about the series – it’s like watching a first draft being written before your eyes, and it’s easy to imagine someone coming along later and refining this raw material into cinematic gold (alas, if only that had actually happened!). Bonus features include bloopers, behind-the-scenes material, and over 120 cast and crew interviews. The commemorative coffin contains a booklet with episode summaries and photographs, plus nickle hinges, white ribbon to hold the lid open, and matte and foil coating.
The remainder of the weekly offerings consist mostly of oldies resurrected on Blu-ray.

  • ALTERED STATES (1980) is director Ken Russell’s mind-blowing special effects freak-out adaptation of the novel by Paddy Chayevsky. It’s overblown and over-the-top in the usual Russell fashion, but that’s all part of the fun, and Chayevsky (who removed his name from the screenplay credit) grounds the bombast in serious drama.
  • OUTLAND is Peter Hyams’ attempt to create a gritty vision of outer space as the new version of the old frontier: think “HIGH NOON in Space.” Thanks to performances by Sean Connery and Peter Boyle, the result is entertaining viewing.
  • COMA is writer-director Michael Crichton’s adaptation of Robin Cook’s medical thriller about black market body parts; there is some queasy suspense, but the film falls short of Crichton’s best work.
  • BRAINSTORM represents one of special effects guru Douglas Trumbull’s few directorial efforts; although tarnished by the death of star Natalie Wood, the film is not a complete bust, offering some splendid visual riches in its depiction of a device that allows the recording and experiencing of other people’s mental stats.

Also on the menu this week: FREQUENCY, SPAWN, and on DVD, WAREHOUSE 13: SEASON THREE.
You can find all of these titles in the Cinefantastique Online Store.

Laserblast 1/04/2011: The Last Exorcism on Blu-ray, DVD & VOD

Also: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA SEASON FOUR Blu-ray, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON 8 MOTION COMIC Blu-ray & DVD Combo, Four-Film Collections

click to purchase
click to purchase

2011 begins with a bang – or at least a sulfurous blast of demonic hellfire – thanks to the home video release of THE LAST EXORCISM on DVD, Blu-ray, and Video on Demand. Although the film does not fully deliver on its promise, it is quite effective for most of its length, and those who missed in theatres should takes this opportunity to check it out. For those interested in the behind the scenes details, the discs come with some attractive bonus features.
DVD & BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Actor and Director commentary with Daniel Stamm, Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian and Louis Herthum
  • Audio commentary with Producers Eli Roth, Eric Newman and Tom Bliss
  • “The Devil You Know: The Making of The Last Exorcism” featurette
  • “Real Stories of Exorcism” featurette
  • 2009 Cannes Film Festival teaser trailer

In addition, the Blu-ray offers these features not available on the DVD:

  • “Witnesses to an Exorcism: An Audio Commentary with a Haunting Victim, Deliverance Minister and Clinical Psychologist”
  • Audition footage
  • Theatrical trailer
  • BD Touch and Metamenu Remote

That’s about it for new horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles arriving on home video this Tuesday; most of the remaining releases are repackages of previously available titles.
Fans who just can’t get no satisfaction with reruns of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER will be pleased to see the BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 8 MOTION COMIC, which continues the adventures of the monster-killing blonde chick, which arrives as a combo pack containing Blu-ray and DVD.
If your taste turns more toward science fiction, you may prefer the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA SEASON FOUR Blu-ray disc. There was a previous BATTLESTAR GALACTICA SEASON 4.5 Blu-ray release in 2007. I will leave it to the hardcore fans to determine whether they want to double dip.
Several economy packages hit store shelves. Clive Barker’s BOOK OF BLOOD arrives in a “Horror 2-Pack” DVD with MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN. GRAVES and ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION are joined in a “Double Feature” Blu-ray. Pacific Entertainment offers 25 FRIGHT NIGHT CLASSICS, starring the likes of Boris Karloff, Leslie Neilsen, William Shatner, and Drew Barrymore in titles you’ve never heard of and which the actors would probably prefer it stayed that way.
As if that were not enough for penny-pinching purchasers, there is a series of discs bearing the label “Four Film Collection,” which true to their name offer a quadruple does of terror. Sometimes the combinations  seem apprpriate; at other times, it seems like whatever was contractually available was thrown together. For example, putting LEPRECHAUN 1 through 4 in a package makes sense (or at least as much sense of releasing a LEPRECHAUN movie can), but simultaneous releasing a disc with PUMPKIN HEAD II, LEPRECHAUN, WISHMASTER, and WISHMASTER 2 is a bit of a jumble. Even more discordant is the combination of THE EYE (the American remake of the Chinese original), JU-ON: THE GRUDGE (the Japanese original that was remade with American stars), BUG (the psycho-drama directed by William Friedkin), and ALONE IN THE DARK (an obscure thriller starring Christian Slater as a private investigator who specializes in supernatural phenomena). A bit more comfortable nestled together are BORDERLAND, DARK RIDE, UNEARTHED, and THE GRAVE DANCERS: although not labeled as such, all of these titles have appeared under the After Dark Horrorfest label, which gives weekend-long theatrical exposure to films that otherwise would go straight to video. Of these, THE GRAVE DANCERS is probably the best film ever to screen as part of the horror fest.
These and other titles are available in the Cinefantastique Online Store.
[serialposts]

Laserblast 12/7/10: Inception, Shrek Forever After, Videodrome

click to purchase
click to purchase

Christmas is coming: time to start shopping for the cinefantastique fan in your life. What sort of horror horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles are available to stuff into stockings with care? Well, December 7’s big home video release is Christopher Nolan’s science fiction blockbuster INCEPTION, which is available to rent or own via Video on Demand and also for purchase as a single-disc DVD or in a 3-disc Blu-ray and DVD combo pack. The film itself is overblown and not nearly as satisfying as Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT, but the visuals are technically impressive, and film fans should be interested in all the behind the scenes featurettes.
Both the DVD and the Blu-ray offer the 148-minute theatrical cut of the film. The single-disc DVD offers a handful of bonus features, under the banner “Extraction Mode,” which focus on such topics as The Inception of Inception, The Japanese Castle: The Dream is Collapsing, Constructing Paradoxical Architecture, and The Freight Train. The Blu-ray disc offers all of these plus: Ambush on the City Streets, The Tilting Bar, The Rotating Corridor, The Mountain Fortress, Simulating Zero-G, Limbo: The Look of Unconstructed Dream Space, The Fortress Explosion, The Music of Dreams, The Dream-Share.
In addition, the 3-disc set contains a second Blu-ray disc, featuring even more bonus material:

  • Dreams: Cinema of the Subconscious
  • Inception: The Cobol Job
  • Digital Motion Comic
  • 5.1 Inception Soundtrack (39 minutes, 10 tracks)
  • Conceptual Art Gallery
  • Promotional Art Archive
  • Inception Theatrical Trailers And Select Theatrical TV Spots
  • Project Somnacin: Confidential Files

Click to purchase single-disc DVD
Click to purchase DVD

The week’s other major new home video release in the realm of horror, fantasy, and/or science fiction is SHREK FOREVER AFTER, the rather desperate attempt by DreamWorks to squeeze another sequel out of the moribund SHREK franchise. The films is available for purchase (not for rent) via Video on Demand; it is also available as a single-disc DVD and a two-disc Blu-ray and DVD combo. Additionally, the film has been wrapped in a “Holiday Double DVD Pack” with the direct-to-video spin-off, DONKEY’S CHRISTMAS SHREKTACULAR. And of course there is the inevitable box set, available in both DVD and Blu-ray format: SHREK: THE WHOLE STORY gathers together all four SHREK films.
Click to purchase
Click to purchase

If the new stuff leaves you feeling unsatisfied, fear not. The Criterion Collection steps into the breach, offering another of their always superior presentations, in this case a director-approved edition of David Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME on Blu-ray. Features include:

  • High-definition digital transfer of the unrated version (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack)
  • Two audio commentaries: David Cronenberg and director of photography Mark Irwin, and actors James Woods and Deborah Harry
  • Camera (2000), a short film starring Videodrome’s Les Carlson, written and directed by Cronenberg
  • Forging the New Flesh, a new half-hour documentary featurette by filmmaker Michael Lennick about the creation of Videodrome’s video and prosthetic makeup effects
  • Effects Men, a new audio interview with special makeup effects creator Baker and video effects supervisor Lennick
  • Bootleg Video: the complete footage of Samurai Dreams and seven minutes of transmissions from “Videodrome,” presented in their original, unedited form with filmmaker commentary
  • Fear on Film, a 26-minute roundtable discussion from 1982 between filmmakers Cronenberg, John Carpenter, John Landis, and Mick Garris
  • Original theatrical trailers and promotional featurette
  • Stills galleries featuring hundreds of rare behind-the-scenes production photos, special effects makeup tests, and publicity photos
  • A booklet featuring essays by writers Carrie Rickey, Tim Lucas, and Gary Indiana

As for the rest of the weeks DVD and Blu-ray releases, December 7 offers a special edition DVD of COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE; a new Blu-ray disc of SHORT CIRCUIT 2, the disappointing sequel to SHORT CIRCUIT; re-issues of JOHNNY MNEMONIC and IDLE HANDS on Blu-ray; and a DVDTee package of Roger Corman’s THE WASP WOMAN (you get not only a DVD of the film but also a t-shirt with the outrageous poster art emblazoned on the front, in either larger or extra large).

As always, all of these items are available in the Cinefantastique Online Store. If you want to help keep a Sense of Wonder alive on the internet, please consider making a purchase.

[serialposts]

Laserblast 10/5/10: Splice, The Exorcist, Beauty & The Beast

Also coming out on home video this week: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, CAPRICA SEASON 1.0, STARGATE UNIVERS: COMPLETE FIRST SEASON, THE SECRET OF KELLS, GRINDHOUSE SPECIAL EDITION BLU-RAY, and DOCTOR WHO: DREAMLAND

Click to purchase
Click to purchase

Tuesday, October 5 is overflowing with horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles of all shapes and sizes arriving on home video in various formats: DVD, Blu-ray, and iTunes downloads. The best of the new releases is SPLICE, which arrives in two versions, DVD and Blu-ray. When it hit theatres earlier this year, Vincenzo Natali’s sci-fi horror opus was a bit misrepresented by its advertising campaign, which suggested a SPECIES-type monster movie. Instead, audiences got a thoughtful science fiction film with an overlay of dark satire.
Also out this week is A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, the unnecessary (and unnecessarily dull) remake of writer-director Wes Craven’s 1984 classic. The new version is slickly made but typically soulless. Somewhat less typically, it is also almost entirely devoid of shocks and suspense. Give this one a pass.
click to purchase
click to purchase

This is one of those rare weeks when classic titles are overwhelming new releases, thanks to some deluxe editions that surpass and eclipse previous home video versions. Horror fans disappointed by the ELM STREET remake can take solace in Warner Brothers Home Video release a two-disc Blu-ray of THE EXORCIST (1973), which includes the original theatrical cut and the so-called “Extended Director’s Cut,” plus three new documentaries. The film is also being made available for download via iTunes for the first time. The extended cut is just a new name for the 2000 theatrical re-issue of the film, which at the time was dubbed “The Version You ‘ve Never Seen” – a sobriquet that hardly makes sense ten years later. Even if (like me) you have previously purchased both versions of the film on DVD (including the excellent 25th anniversary edition), you will find much worth viewing on this disc, thanks to previously unreleased behind-the-scenes footage that provides an amazing glimpse at the making of this horror classic.
Click to purchase
Click to purchase

If your tastes run more toward fairy tale fantasy, you are in luck: Walt Disney Home Video is releasing a 3-disc Diamond Edition of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, their 1991 Oscar-nominated blockbuster, which has been unavailable in any form since 2003. (This combo pack will be followed seven weeks later by a 2-Disc standard definition DVD on November 23.) The 3-disc set includes one DVD and two Blu-rays. The DVD features an all-new digital restoration, three versions of the film, sing-along mode (with subtitles for the lyrics), and an audio commentary. The first Blu-ray disc includes the DVD bonus features and the three versions of the film (in high-def, of course), plus more extras, including previously unseen alternate opening and a deleted scene. The second Blu-ray disc offers the bonus features from the old Platinum Edition DVD, plus some new Blu-ray extras, including “Beyond Beauty – The Untold Stories,” “Enchanted Musical Challenge Game,” and “Bonjour, Who is This” – a game in which you use your phone to receive secret messages and guess players’ identities before they guess yours.
In a move no one could ever have expected, the abysmal TROLL 2 receives a Blu-ray release this week; the format seems altogether too refined by the cheezy little movie, which has gained some cult notoriety this year, thanks to the art house release of BEST WORST MOVIE, the documentary tracing the lives and reunion of some of the TROLL 2 cast members.
MGM Home Video offers the MGM Sci-Fi Movie Collection. Unfortunately, the company’s 1956 classic FORBIDDEN PLANET is nowhere to be seen. Instead, we get one  (WAR GAMES) and a bunch of forgettable duds (SOLAR BABIES, ALIEN FROM L.A. with Kathy Ireland, HACKERS with a  young Angelina Jolie film, SPACE CAMP, and a WAR GAMES sequel).
Apparently, bargain days have arrived this week, with several previous available titles re-released in two-packs: GROUNDHOG DAY and SO I MARRIED AN AXE MURDERER, HANCOCK and GHOST RIDER, THE GRUDGE and SILENT HILL, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA and WOLF, FANTASTIC FOUR and X-MEN, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and I ROBOT, plus several others.
But wait, there’s more! Also on store shelves this week:

  • CAPRICA: SEASON 1.0 on DVD
  • SGU: STARGATE UNIVERS – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON on DVD and Blu-ray
  • THE SECRET OF KELLS on DVD and Blu-ray
  • GRINDHOUSE two-disc collector’s edition on Blu-ray
  • THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE COLLECTION on DVD
  • DOCTOR WHO: DREAMLAND on DVD
  • DELGO on DVD and two-disc Blu-ray and DVD combo
  • THE EVIL/TWICE DEAD, a two-pack of Roger Corman Cult Classics
  • FINGERPRINTS on Blu-ray
  • THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS, a deluxe edition
  • THE RIG
  • SISTERS on Blu-ray (no not the Brian DePalma original but an unnecessary remake)

And the list goes on and on… All are available in the Cinefantastique Online Store. Click the links below to check them out, or go here.
[serialposts]