Laserblast Home Video: Galaxy of Terror, Evil Aliens, Harry Potter

The week of Tuesday, July 20 continues the month’s unfortunate trend of featuring no new horror, fantasy, or science fiction blockbusters making their home video debut. Dedicated fans of cinefantastique will have to make due with re-issues of cult movies upgraded with unrated cuts and/or Blu-ray technology.
Chief among these is GALAXY OF TERROR, one of two titles released this week as part of the Roger Corman Cult Classics line. This 1981 Corman production, directed by Bruce Clarke from a script he co-wrote with Marc Siegler, is the authentic version of what Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino failed to achieve in GRINDHOUSE: it’s an exploitation opus with more than enough sleazy sex and violence to appease the hardcore audience – and it has an interesting idea, too. (It’s about a team of astronauts who encounter a series of horrors inside a mysterious pyramid; it turns out the pyramid is projecting their own subconscious fears back at them, which they must overcome to survive.) GALAXY OF TERROR arrives on DVD and Blu-ray. The bonus features include:

  • Commentary With Cast And Crew
  • New Worlds: Producer Roger Corman, screenwriter Marc Siegler and director Bruce D. Clark discuss the origins of the film
  • The Crew Of The Quest: Actors Robert Englund, Sid Haig, Taaffe O Connell and Grace Zabriskie discuss their experiences as crew members of the Quest
  • Planet Of Horrors: A detailed look into the creation of the memorable sets of the film and alien landscapes
  • Future King: Memories of co-production designer (and future visionary filmmaker) James Cameron from members of the cast and crew
  • Old School: A journey into the complicated mechanical and makeup effects with artists Allan A. Apone, Douglas J. White, Alec Gillis and others
  • Launch Sequence: Co-editor R.J. Kizer walks us through postproduction and a profile on composer Barry Schrader
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Extensive Photo Galleries Including Posters, Production Sketches And Designs
  • Theatrical Trailer With Commentary From Writer-Director Joel Olsen, Courtesy Of Trailersfromhell.com
  • Original Screenplay (PDF)

click to purchase
click to purchase

The second Roger Corman Cult Classic arriving in stores is FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982), which like GALAXY OF TERROR dates from Corman’s time as owner of New World Pictures – which means he stayed in the office and left the directing up to Allan Holzman, working from a script by Tim Curnen. The film is not without its cheesy charm (such as the use of egg cartoons to provide details to the walls of the space station sets); unfortunately, the result is considerably less interesting than GALAXY OF TERROR, being essentially an ALIEN knock-off. Still, you have to give Corman credit for providing a good home video presentation, loaded with features not normally lavished on some little exploitation title. Bonus features for the DVD and Blu-ray releases include:

  • New Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1) Transfer From The Interpositive Film Elements Of The Theatrical Cut
  • The Unrated Directors Cut (4:3 – Full Frame
  • Audio Commentary With Director Allan Holzman On The Directors Cut
  • Interview With Producer Roger Corman
  • Interviews With Cast And Crew Including Director Allan Holzman, Composer Susan Justin And Actor Jesse Vint
  • A Look At The Special Effects Of Forbidden World With John Carl Buechler, Robert Skotak, Tony Randel And R. Christopher Biggs
  • Poster And Stills Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE reappears on DVD. The disc remains the same, but this Collector’s Edition includes a “detailed re-creation of The Marauder’s Map printed on parchment paper… made by The Noble Collection.” Definitely a must-have for those who must have everything Potter.
EVIL ALIENS, a little cult movie from 2005, returns to store shelves in a new Blu-ray presentation that offers both the “Theatrical Edition” (which received a handful of screenings in 2006) and an Unrated Edition. The official description promises cult excess along the lines of BAD TASTE and THE EVIL DEAD.
The new “Bong Joon-ho Collection” is a four-disc box DVD set that packages the director’s excellent monster movie THE HOST with two other Bong Joon-ho films, MOTHER and BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE.
Television fans can while away the hours with BEING HUMAN: SEASON 1, which arrives on Blu-ray and DVD. Or if that doesn’t appeal, there is TIN MAN, the TV miniseries variation on THE WIZARD OF OZ, an already-available title that shows up on a new Blu-ray disc.
As for the rest, we get a handful of direct-to-video titles arriving on DVD: 2001 MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS, a sequel to 2001 MANIACS (which was a follow-up to Hershell Gordon Lewis’s archetypal gore film, 2000 MANIACS); A TOWN CALLED PANIC; and ALTITUDE FALLING.
These and other horror, fantasy, and science fiction films are available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Video on Demand in the Cinefantastique Online Store.
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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Spoilerific Review

harry_potter_and_the_half_blood_prince_potter-_poster2WARNING: If you hate spoilers, do not read this review. If you want to see the new HARRY POTTER film without knowing what happens, do not read this review. If you do not want the entire plot, from beginning to end, totally revealed before you even buy your ticket, do not read this review. In fact, don’t even glance at this review or ask your friend to read it for you and tell you about it. Much as we hate to risk ruining your enjoyment of the fantasy film blockbuster, due to the intricate – indeed, one might say, labyrinthine – plotting (or is that plodding?) of  its scenario, there is no way to discuss HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE without delving into a detailed discussion of the various plot developments, twists, and revelations. We will address these points beneath a microscope, examining them with minute attention and teasing out all their subtle implications. So, having been fully warned, you may now proceed – but only at your own risk.
Here, then, is our full-blown, no-holds-barred, spoilerific examination of every significant plot point made in the new POTTER film:
Voldemort hid a piece of his soul in a locket, and Severus Snape kills Dumbledore.
That’s it, ladies and gentlemen – this marks the end of our full-blown, no-holds-barred, spoilerific examination of every significant plot point in the new POTTER film. Thank you and good night!
What…? You’re still here? Why, what’s wrong? Oh, you have questions. You, in the back – yes, you with your hand up – what did you want to ask? … Okay, I’ll repeat the question for those who couldn’t hear it:

Is that all?

Yes, believe it or not, that is all there is to HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. I suppose one might include the revelation of the Half-Blood Prince’s identity, but it has so little significance to the outcome of events that it feels more like an after-throught than a plot point.
Anybody else? Yes, you in the front…. Again, I’ll repeat the question for the benefit of the rest of the audience.

How did they stretch that out to over two-and-a-half hours?

Good question. Unfortunately, the only precise and accurate answer requires a grasp of higher mathematics involving the space-time continuum, illuminating an as-yet controversial theory positing that infinitesimally small bits of information can, under the right circumstances, expand to occupy infinitely large swaths of time, at a ratio approximately equal to Einstein’s famous E=MC2.
Any more questions? You, on the side, in the shadows. What was HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE about, you say?
Well, it was about two-and-a-half hours too long. Sorry about using that old joke, I couldn’t resist.
Seriously, folks, the new HARRY PLODDER picks up where the old one left off. Which is to say that, although the Voldemort has definitely hit the fan – extending its reach even to the Muggles world – everyone pretty much goes about their business as usual. Sure, Harry may worry a bit, but his friends are more concerned with sorting out their romantic entanglements.
Even the faculty at Hogwarts seems barely engaged by the looming storm on the horizon. You’d think Dumbledore would be battening down the hatches and raising an army; instead, he takes Harry Potter on an extended field trip to track down that missing piece of Voldemort’s soul.
Why Harry instead of a crack team of ninja-assassin magicians trained for the challenge of facing whatever evil may be encountered? Well, you see it’s because Harry Potter is special. We know this because people have told him he is special and he is now telling everyone else that he is the chosen one. We never see any evidence of this; it is simply assumed, because he is the title character and all.
Anyway, Harry Potter is not really special enough to accomplish anything important in THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, but he does give his friend some badly needed confidence by fooling him into thinking he’s taken a “lucky” potion. Ironically, it is these little character bits that are the main joy of the film. As the cast has grown older, they have matured into their roles. The tug of their heartstrings as they try to sort out their changing feelings toward each other, which include confusing stirrings of romance, are nicely rendered, in a way that would do justice to any mainstream drama.
Unfortunately, this is not enough to fill a feature-length fantasy film, which turns out to be surprisingly short on the most essential ingredient: a Sense of Wonder. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, like its filmic predecessors, is all about playing it safe – and more important, playing to the base. Take the novels, put on scream with as much craftsmanship as money can buy, and leave the artistry to low-budget independent films. From a box office standpoint, one can hardly argue with Warner Brothers’ strategy, but it is leaving us with some big, bloated, pretty, but very empty confectionary.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
With Hogwarts at her mercy, Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) confnes herself to inflicting minor fire damage.

Forget about art. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE can’t even deliver an engaging story with some exciting narrative momentum. It’s not about satisfying the audience; it’s about stringing them along, giving them just enough to keep them coming back for the next film. If anything were to actually happen, that might upset the applecart. (As one of my astute movie-going companions said after the screening, “It was okay, but it didn’t go anywhere!”) Thus we have a third act in which a group of villains breach the security of Hogwarts and, after Dumbledore’s death, instead of launching into a full-blown climactic battle, they break some stained glass, burn down an out building, and then leave, so that our heroes can regroup for the next movie. It’s amazing that a film that so carelessly disregards the dictates of good storytelling can be so successful; I guess one must never under-estimate the significance of a pre-sold audience.
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (2009). Directed by David yates. Screenplay by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by J. K. Rowling. Cast: Daniel Radcliff, Michael Gambon, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent, Helana Bonham Carter, Timothy Spall, Dave Legeno, Elarica Gallagher.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Darkest Hour TV Spot

I’m not a big fan of the HARRY POTTER film franchise, but this television commercial, which emphasizes the darker tone of the upcoming episode, has actually piqued my interest – which has been waning since PRISONER OF AZKABAN.
According to the official plot summary from Warner Brothers: Voldemort is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Harry suspects that dangers may even lie within the castle, but Dumbledore is more intent upon preparing him for the final battle that he knows is fast approaching. Together they work to find the key to unlock Voldemort’s defenses and, to this end, Dumbledore recruits his old friend and colleague, the well-connected and unsuspecting bon vivant Professor Horace Slughorn, whom he believes holds crucial information.
Meanwhile, the students are under attack from a very different adversary as teenage hormones rage across the ramparts. Harry finds himself increasingly drawn to Ginny, and so is Dean Thomas. Lavender Brown has decided that Ron is the one for her, only she hasn’t counted on Romilda Vane’s chocolates. Then there’s Hermione, simmering with jealousy but determined not to show her feelings. As romance blossoms, one student remains aloof. He is determined to make his mark, albeit a dark one. Love is in the air, but tragedy lies ahead, and Hogwarts may never be the same again.
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