Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990) - Blu-ray Review - Troma Entertainment

The chopstick toting police officer makes his HD debut!

Sgt. Kabukiman Blu-ray cover

Released by: Troma Entertainment
Release Date: November 10, 2015
Production Year: 1990
Region Code: A 
Running Time: 1:45:04
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: 1080p (1.78:1 Aspect Ratio)
Subtitles: None

THE FILM - [ 3 / 5 ]:

Meet NYPD Sgt. Harry Griswold (Rick Gianasi), a streetwise cop who becomes possessed with the spirit of a great Kabuki master, transforming him into the worlds most unusual super-human hero. Using a new arsenal including fatal sushi heat-seeking chopsticks and pyro projectile parasols, Sgt. Kabukiman must save the day!

In a surprise turn of events, New York police officer becomes the recipient of the power to become a super hero. Harry Griswold is not very accepting of his new appearance at first and when he is unable to transform into Sgt. Kabukiman but becomes something less desirable and beneficial, he seeks the help of the beautiful Lotus (Susan Byun). Through hard work and perseverance or as Lotus calls it, fear and pain, Harry is able to harness the power and become Sgt. Kabukiman. The two grow close which as you may expect, is used against Mr. Griswold later on in the film.  

In typical Troma fashion the acting is a bit over the top and hammy at times but it fits quite well considering the subject matter of the film. The film also features some cheap effects but also some good looking practical effects. The film was aided by a partnership with Namco who came on the help produce the film. Lloyd Kaufman talks more in depth about that in the commentary that is included. There are a number of nice shots of features of New York in the film including the Statue of Liberty appearing in the background during a transformation scene and also a nice aerial view (Troma purchased) of the Empire State Building. 

"Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D." features a number of funny gag scenes, some of which involve Sgt. Kabukiman's assortment of specialty weapons like chopsticks, fans or even turning criminals in to a giant sushi roll. The film also includes a few nude scenes which is sure to please some viewers. While a little light on gore effects there are quite a few comically, violent scenes. 

Susan Byun in Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.

AUDIO - [ 2 / 5 ]:

The sole audio option on the Blu-ray is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Generally speaking, the audio is serviceable. However there is a bit of a hiss present depending on the dialogue and words that end in an "s" sound. A fair amount of the scenes involving Lotus speaking, include some hissing. Otherwise the audio isn't too bad, with the dialogue, sound effects and score easy to hear and/or understand. The sound levels were consistent and well balanced. I did not notice any other audio issues other than the hissing.

Rick Gianasi in Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.

VIDEO - [ 3 / 5 ]:

"Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D." sushi rolls its way on to Blu-ray courtesy of Troma Entertainment. The film is presented in 1080p with a 1.78 Aspect Ratio. I was pleasantly surprised by the video quality of this Blu-ray. At times the quality does fluctuate and the image looks a bit on the soft side here and there but I suspect the majority of that has to do with how the film was shot. For the most part the picture has a fair amount of sharpness and detail present. During the first fifteen minutes or so of the film you will notice an unruly hair at the bottom of the screen that pops up on occasion. There are some white specks that also appear sporadically throughout but they are few and caused no distraction. Colors look strong on this release with primaries looking very nice. Skin tones appear natural in color as well. Black levels looked fairly look also. Grain levels are fine and I never really found them to be overly heavy even in darker scenes. 

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. still


Lloyd Kaufman Intro (6:27) - When the Blu-ray is inserted, an introduction by Lloyd Kaufman plays automatically. Lloyd introduces the film and its Blu-ray premiere. A short segment called "Behind the Chopsticks", a take on the "Behind the Music" show from VH1, plays and features Sgt. Kabukiman talking about his career highs and lows.

Audio Commentary - Mr. Troma himself Lloyd Kaufman appears on this commentary track. Mr. Kaufman provides a wealth of information from tidbits on members of the cast and crew to personal stories from the set including a scary story involving the lion and Toyota the monkey. As silly as Lloyd is in his comedy skits that appear on the various Troma projects, he provides a great, honest commentary for this release. Fans of Sgt. Kabukiman and/or Troma should definitely listen to this track. 

Interview with Rick Gianasi (6:45) - This interview takes places at the Megacon convention in Orlando Florida. Lloyd Kaufman interviews Rick Gianasi and asks questions from the fans about his role in the film and what he is doing now.

Kabukiman's Karaoke (2:35) - A room of fans singing the Sgt. Kabukiman theme song. 

Kabukiman's Cocktail Corner (12:08) - Sgt. Kabukiman is joined by Brian Quinn of TV's Impractical Jokers and Lloyd Kaufman. They all perform a brief scene from a film that Brian Quinn had once pitched to Troma. 

Stupid Moments in Troma History (2:50) - A look back at the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and a tape that shows Sgt. Kabukiman at the scene as it purports to implicate him in the crime with a single chopstick theory. 

Sgt. Kabukiman Original Trailer (3:35)

Tromadance 2015 Highlights (5:20) - Includes brief clips of interviews with attendees and film makers.

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. still


A nice package by Troma Entertainment. It is a shame that the audio was not cleaned up a bit as it would have really improved the audio of this release. Otherwise the Blu-ray looks nice and features several extras including a really great commentary track with Lloyd Kaufman. If cheesy fun films are your thing then you are in luck as I would recommend giving this one a chance. If you prefer your super hero films more straight laced or dark and brooding, you may want to look elsewhere.


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Siren (2013) - Film Review - Osiris Entertainment

Every Man's Desire. One Woman's Curse.

Siren poster

Leigh lives secluded and isolated in the mountains woods, normalcy is in sight when a stranger is unaffected by her affliction. 

Not be be confused with cleavage packed Siren (2011). Jesse Peyronel's 2013 Siren is a lost gem, a finely executed indie film from Osiris Entertainment that has managed to stay hidden away like its security surveyed main character. Directed and written by Peyronel it's a slow burning contemporary dark fairytale with widow-like imagery. 

Opening with a voice over that says, "Once upon a time..." a flower and candle filled large house, there's a flashback to a boys encounter with a showered with gifts (well cast) young girl called Leigh. The set up is wonderfully played out by the child actors who set the stage of what's to come. The captivating Ali Larter-like Vinessa Shaw (of the Hills Have Eyes rehash) holds attention throughout, her blood is being bottled due to its attractive pheromone powers. She is cursed, everyone can't help but fall in love with her and their life is subsequently turned upside down. However, charming Robert Kazinsky (of Pacific Rim fame) is immune to her allure having lost his sense of smell. With a dodgy perfume company over arching the proceedings it gives this Posion Ivy setup a sense of scale on what is quite a reclusive tale. At times, its forcible sexual relations are a little uncomfortable and the stalker, rapey moments are provokingly questionable. 

It's more grounded and sophisticated than Milan Todorovic's horror Killer Mermaids. Siren has a fairly paint by numbers outcome but it's beautifully shot and framed, benefitting from a somewhat novel premise as men go crazy over the potent smells. There's a melodic violin and piano driven score which gives it a mysterious lazy Sunday feel.

Overall, don't expect an action horror thriller. Peyronel successful commits to screen a twisted romantic character study in the guise of a deadly modern fairy tale. Recommended for adult fairytale fans.

Rating: 3 / 5

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) - Film Review

*** WARNING: This review may contain spoilers ***

*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Thirty years after the second Death Star's destruction, Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi, has vanished. An unlikely group get drawn into search for the Jedi before the First Order, a successor to the fallen Galactic Empire find him first.
J.J. Abrams flourishingly takes over the reins from George Lucas for Disney. The production values, effects and music are outstanding with writers Lawrence Kasdan, Abrams and Michael Arndt successfully handing over the baton to the new characters without leaving the beloved ones behind. John Boyega's Finn has depth and is very likable, as too is Daisy Ridley who is simply outstanding and steals the show as Rey. Oscar Isaac's X Wing pilot Poe Dameron is memorable and somehow manages to encapsulate the look, swagger and feel of the original Star Wars spirit.
If I were to nit-pick the Andy Serkis' Supreme Leader Snoke hologram and the monsters hiding and attacking the Millennium Falcon as it hums back to life CGI is not without its problems. That said, it's doesn't distract from the overall great quality of the effects throughout, from the impressive practical and visual effects right down to jolting storms troopers, desert creatures, spaceship base interiors, sweeping planet topography and beyond. 
With droids housing information, space battles and giant weapons with weaknesses, yes, it's partly a rehash of the first film with a few welcomed twists and surprises but it's a really visual and emotional treat, with great sets, costumes, make-up and locations. The action set ups, shoot outs, spaceship dogfights and sabre duels are fantastically staged. There's plenty of Han Solo gunplay and humour on display.
The mix of new and old characters returning works and there's array of familiar faces and quality actors including Max von Sydow and a hidden Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma. Well loved characters, not just the likes of R2-D2, Han, Leia, Chewie and C-3PO but lesser known ones like Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb also return. As the rebels face another threat, bigger than the Deathstar it manages to remain engrossing and grittier than its predecessors.
There's the emotional loss of a main character and Mark Hamill's Luke screen time is fittingly limited which allows Ridley to shine throughout as she develops her skills along with droid BB-8. Adam Driver's misguided Vader obsessed Kylo Ren is interesting.
Overall, the young cast carry the beats you wanted and expected from a sequel to the original trilogy but it also excels as Abrams manages to fashion an atmosphere of his own while retaining the Star Wars feel and magic. The force is strong with this one. Highly recommended.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The House on Pine Street - Film Review - E3W Productions

"The House on Pine Street"

Trapped. In the middle of Nowhereville, KS stuck with a pending kid, an overbearing mother and a dismissive husband. Yeah. Jenny must be crazy.  “The House on Pine Street” is the American dream. Someone else’s American dream and Jenny, our protagonist and mother-to-be is over it from the moment she steps foot in the funky old house mom lined up. Oh, and did we mention that just may be haunted? Either that, or Jen is out of her mind and out to kill her kid.

It’s the house. It’s in my head. It wants you to think I’m crazy.”  

“The House on Pine Street” is a contribution into the supernatural horror sub-genre posing at times as a psychological thriller. You may get the feeling you’ve heard this story before. You know these characters. You may even think you know how it will all turn out. Maybe you do…

From “Ghost Adventures” to “Paranormal Activity” to “Poltergeist” you’ll see common themes and elements popping up in “House on Pine Street.” Unfortunately the characters just don’t draw you in or make you care as much as the aforementioned. Suspense was somewhat lacking and overall the film has an anticlimactic tendency, even though the premise lends itself to so much more.

The viewing experience could have been powerful if one actually had empathy for, or was truly emotionally invested in this couple undergoing the phenomenal stress of moving, a new job, a new child and a certain situation that happened back in Chicago. Instead you sit and view passively a vanilla lack of complexity. It was similar in feel to a television sit-com, and possibly could have been rectified with a bit more effective editing.

Having said that, it wasn’t a bad film in the least. It’s certainly a popcorn flick, but there is no overt CGI and the stunts are actually pretty terrific. Kealani Tosh is Emily Goss’ (pregnant Jennifer’s) stunt double and the last half of the film proves she is the real star. I had to rewind a couple of times to watch that part again. Give it a go. You’ll know the part.

Cinematography is artistically elegant with soft yellows and beautiful blues. There is certainly a comfortable small town cozy feel conveyed through the lens, lighting and hues. Sound was exceptional. You could see that much time and attention was spent on the mechanics of the scenes. So much potential… It’s frustrating how exceptional this film could have been. 

Despite my criticism, this film is cleaning up on the festival circuit landing multiple awards. Eight to be exact; three for best actress received by lead, Emily Goss. The future is bright for this supernatural indie bit of goodness, so get your popcorn ready and dig in.

Rating 3/5

For more information on “The House on Pine Street” follow the film on Facebook or the official film site.

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Monday, December 14, 2015

What Have You Done to Solange? (1972) - Blu-ray Review - Arrow Video

Arrow Video Scores Again With Another Giallo in HD

What Have You Done to Solange? Blu-ray cover

Released by: Arrow Video
Release Date: December 15, 2015 (US) / December 14, 2015 (UK)
Production Year: 1972
Region Code: A + B
Running Time: 1:46:43 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono (English version) / Italian DTS-HD MA Mono (Italian version)
Video: 1080p (2:35:1 Aspect Ratio)
Subtitles: English SDH, English

THE FILM - [ 4 / 5 ]:

From director Massimo Dallamano, cinematographer on both "A Fistful of Dollars" and "For a Few Dollars More," comes giallo classic "What Have You Done to Solange?," which features the debut feature of actress Camille Keaton (I Spit on Your Grave).

A sexually sadistic killer is preying on the girls of St. Mary’s school. Student Elizabeth witnessed one of the murders, but her hazy recollections of a knife-wielding figure in black do nothing to further the police’s investigations. Why is the killer choosing these young women? And what does it have to do with a girl named Solange?

Also starring Cristina Galbo (Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue) and Fabio Testi (I Spit On Your Grave), "What Have You Done with Solange?" features all the hallmarks of classic gialli – the amateur detective, the black-gloved killerl – as well as a lush score from Ennio Morricone.

"What Have You Done to Solange?" is a wonderful entry in the catalog of giallo films. The film is likely to evoke a number of emotions from its viewer over the course of the film. Whether it makes you wince in phantom pain thanks to how some of the murders occur, curiosity of the question posed by the title of the film or confusion as to the killers identity. The film is sure to keep you guessing, which is part of the fun after all. You may find a sense of relief at the end of the film and experience a few "ah hah" moments. Solange does a terrific job of keeping you guessing and throwing several red herrings at its audience to further complicate matters. 

The actors do a nice job of conveying emotions with their characters despite the dubbing process throwing things off a bit. Ennio Morricone's magical score further adds to the mood of the film in a number of ways. Solange features great cinematography with some really gorgeous shots. Combine that with this impressive Blu-ray from Arrow Video and you have yourself a winner. 
Karin Baal in What Have You Done to Solange?

AUDIO - [ 4.5 / 5 ]:

"What Have You Done to Solange?" comes with both English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio Mono tracks for their respective "versions." Each also includes English subtitles. If you are new to this film and wonder if the film is out of sync, it is not. Often the case of Italian films during this time, the audio was added later and dubbed. Sometimes the films feature the actual actors voices, still dubbed. Sometimes they don't. The audio tracks for the film sounded great. The dialogue was quite clear and the sound effects sounded crisp and precise. The music in the film masterly handled by Ennio Morricone, did as usual, a superb job at creating and helping elevate the mood of the scenes whether they they are playful and light, tense or melodic and haunting. The track maintained a good balance throughout the film and the volume level seemed very consistent. I noticed no issues with the audio while watching the film in either language. 

What Have You Done to Solange? still

VIDEO - [ 4.5 / 5 ]:

"What Have You Done to Solange?" arrives on Blu-ray thanks to the folks at Arrow Video via a new 2K restoration from the original camera negative. The film is presented in 1080p with a 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio. Arrow Video has again done a great job, this time with a brand new master and the results certainly appear to be well worth it. The picture quality is excellent with a generous amount of detail present throughout and an increased amount of fine detail in close up shots. Colors looked fairly strong and bold despite the slightly subdued look that often accompanies films of that era. Contrast levels appear to be very good. Skin tones have a natural appearance and black levels looked good as well. Film grain seems to have been handled very well and never appears to be overly heavy or blocky. The film looks beautiful and everyone who purchases the Arrow Video release should be pleasantly pleased and perhaps surprised by how well the film looks thanks to the new high definition master. 

What Have You Done to Solange? still


Audio Commentary - This commentary features Alan Jones, film critic, broadcaster and author of the book "Dario Argento: The Man, the Myths & the Magic" and film critic Kim Newman. The duo do a fantastic job dissecting the film and it is mentioned how this may be more of an anti-giallo which an interesting take on the film. They give some insightful information about the cast, crew and the film. The pair discuss similarities between "What Have You Done to Solange?" and other giallo films such as "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage" and "Blood and Black Lace." Casual viewers may not get much out of this commentary but if you are a fan of the genre, I think you will thoroughly enjoy listening to this track. 

What Have You Done to Decency?  (13:38) - An interview with actress Karin Baal (Herta), filmed in Berlin October 2015. Ms. Baal is very honest as she discusses the film and gives her thoughts on it which seems pretty clear she wasn't very fond of some of the scenes in the film. She shares an interesting story about how Fabio Testi sometimes didn't know his lines and would just move his lips since the film was being dubbed, which was occurred frequently at the time. (with English subtitles)

First Action Hero (21:17) - An interview with actor Fabio Testi (Enrico), filmed in Rome in 2006. He talks about the cast and crew of the film including director Massamo Dallamano. Fabio speaks briefly about the dubbing process of the film. He speaks fondly of his time while making the movie and also talks about some other films he has worked on, as well as how he liked to drastically vary the type of roles he would play in order to keep things exciting and new. (with English subtitles)

Old-School Producer (11:02) - An interview with producer Fulvio Lucisano, filmed in Rome in 2006. He talks about working with Massamo Dallamano, and other members of the cast and crew including Ennio Morricone. Fulvio touches on the films production and its box office performance. A few pictures from the films premiere are shown during the interview which was a nice little bonus. (with English subtitles)

Innocence Lost (29:00) - A brand new visual essay by Michael Mackenzie who explores the themes of Solange and its two semi-sequels in the "Schoolgirls in Peril' trilogy. A note appears that warns viewers that the featurette contains spoilers for several films. The bulk of the time is spent discussing and dissecting the film. Mr. Mackenzie does also of course talk about several other giallo films. Watching and listening to this essay was a real treat and it left me wanting more. It wasn't long before I wished it was a much longer documentary on the genre. Very informative with loads of information, giallo fans will want to fully dive in to this excellent extra.  

Trailer (3:05)

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by MALLEUS.

Booklet featuring brand new writing on the film, illustrated with original stills.


What Have You Done to Solange? still


Once again Arrow Video puts on a show as to how to properly bring a film to high definition with a beautiful looking Blu-ray that sounds great as well. Add in some very high quality special features and Arrow Video scores again with this wonderful Blu-ray and DVD combo pack release. Fans of the film will not want to hesitate adding this to their collection and I would suggest that those unfamiliar with the film, acquaint themselves with this giallo as I wholeheartedly recommend it. 

OVERALL RATING: [ 4.5 / 5 ]

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