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ALTITUDE
2010 – R – 90 Min.
D: Kaare Andrews
S: Jessica Lowndes – Landon Liboiron – Julianna Guill – Ryan Donowho
DVD Provided by Anchor Bay Entertainment – Also available on Blu-Ray
Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1 / Dolby Digital 5.1
Extras: Director Commentary – Featurettes – Concepts Gallery – Trailers

Sara (Lowndes offering the films strongest performance) is flying herself and four friends to a far-away Coldplay concert. Having only recently been certified in an attempt to make peace with personal fears brought on by the death of her Mother in a flying accident, Sara figures a party-heavy air-trip is the perfect way to proclaim personal victory. Along for the ride are an unimpressively clichéd batch of unlikeable cookie cutter characters including an aggressively unpleasant drunken douche-bag dumb-ass, her upbeat best girlfriend, her guitar carrying cousin, and her borderline obsessive basket case boyfriend. Also, the would-be musician cousin and the future parole hearing expert are at the onset of a love triangle with the best friend. Anyway, things quickly go wrong when the plane suffers some mechanical trouble and they can’t do anything besides go up. Not just up, but up into a nasty looking storm cloud. It gets worse still; inside the cloud lives some sort of monstrous Lovecraftian entity that is progressively eager to get its tentacles around our protagonists. This supernatural thriller is technically well-made but the dialogue is extremely trying (to put it mildly) and many of the surprises just… aren’t. It’s a fair bet that you’ll have most everything figured out by the halfway point. The briefly glimpsed creature scores high on the cool chart but the focus of the story is often elsewhere. Not as suspenseful as it should be, not as interesting as it could be, it’s better than most SyFy channel titles you’ll see though not as good as the classic Twilight Zone episodes it appears to be somewhat inspired by. Altitude aims high but barely manages to stay off the ground. Watchable, but rent it first. – Michael Mackie

ABANDONED
2010 – PG-13 – 88 Min.
D: Michael Feifer
S: Brittany Murphy – Dean Cain – Tim Thomerson – Mimi Rogers – Peter Bogdanovich
Blu-Ray Provided by Anchor Bay Entertainment
1080p Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 or PCM 5.1
Extras: Trailer – Trailers for other releases

The talented Murphy, in one of her final roles, stars as the resilient Mary in what amounts to little more than a transposed version of the 2005 Jodie Foster thriller Flightplan. Here, Mary escorts her semi-new boyfriend (Cain) to the hospital for some outpatient surgery. She leaves him to it and heads to the cafeteria for some coffee but when she goes back for him there’s no evidence he was ever there to begin with. She slowly begins to unravel while hospital administration and a stressed out detective come to the conclusion that she’s suffered a break from reality. There’s more going on than meets the eye and around the halfway point Mary decides it’s time to solve this riddle herself… no matter what. From here on out you’ll be watching events unfold about the way you’ll be expecting them to. Passably interesting, though overly familiar, the story gives Murphy a fine opportunity to demonstrate her skills as an actress. The problems start to come with logical lapses and oversights that, while not horrible, are obvious. Abandoned is just not the kind of movie most viewers will feel the need to revisit. In fact, even though it’s decent enough (for what it is), you’ll likely start forgetting about it the next day until it eventually fades into “that Brittany Murphy movie about the hospital she made before she passed away… What was that called again?” Too bad. The transfer is okay but not without some minor yet noticeable distractions such as lack of depth and mild banding. Close-ups generally look great, however, and show off details well. Like the movie itself, this presentation can be considered average. Sound is not bad but perhaps draws a little too much attention to suspenseful background music in the second half. Average. Again. The movie is dedicated to the memory of Brittany Murphy and that’s good since she is unquestionably the best thing about Abandoned. - Michael Mackie

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN
1976 – R – 138 Min.
D: Alan J. Pakula
S: Dustin Hoffman – Robert Redford – Jason Robards – Hal Holbrook – Jack Warden – Martin Balsam
Warner Brothers 2-Disc special edition DVD
Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital Mono
Extras: An entire discs worth.

Magnetic and thrilling tale detailing uncovering of facts in the Watergate scandal by young Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Movie brings every bit as much drama and intrigue to the screen as the unfolding story once brought into peoples living rooms. Viewers will be further drawn in by a talented group of familiar faces that are mesmerizing to watch from start to finish. As much a detective story as a political docudrama, Pakula and company have crafted an important and relentlessly entertaining motion picture illustrating the power of the written word. Hoffman and Redford offer believable chemistry while the building sense of urgency and paranoia is as effective as ever. Holbrook is a scene-stealer as the shadowy informant known only as Deep-Throat. If you weren’t there you’ll certainly feel like you were by the time the credits roll. Excellent in every respect. - Michael Mackie

APOCALYPSE AND THE BEAUTY QUEEN
2005 – NR – 95 Minutes
D: Thomas Smugala
S: Gunnar Hansen, Debbie Rochon, Courtney Kocak, Beverly Hynds, Mack 10
DVD Provided By Vanguard Cinema
Widescreen/Stereo
Extras: Film clips, stills, and trailers

Filmmaker Thomas Smugala gives us Queen Amber, an ex-fashion model that has risen to power and ruthlessly rules Cachney County in the disastrous future. The story, which skips around from one point of view to another, is often told in narration by Sylvie, a young lady who gets caught up in the political and spiteful side of things, courtesy of Queen Amber and her lover Matthew. While this film would probably like to be a romantic thriller with social commentary set in a post-apocalyptic background, it too often seems more like a wannabe art-house mess that tries to offer another take on the Elizabeth Bathory tale. Carlos Gonzalez-Vio turns in the best performance as Matthew and Courtney Kocak does a fairly good job as Sylvie. The rest of the cast, including Beverly Hynds as Queen Amber, are hit and miss. Gunnar Hansen has been far more interesting in other films, even those where he says virtually nothing, and Debbie Rochon appears too briefly in a scene that comes off as a forced non sequitur. Director Smugala does try to add some nice touches visually, but even the images and the B-movie cast power can’t save this production from being just so-so. – Craig Hamann

ALBINO FARM
2009 - NR - 90 Min.
D: Joe Anderson/Sean McEwen
S: Tammin Sursok - Chris Jericho - Richard Christy - Duane Whitaker
DVD Provided by MTI Home Video
Widescreen/Mono
Extras: Screener - No Extras Included

Man this movie sucked! No, wait. That isn’t the proper way to review a film. First you tell people a little about what the film is about, give them a little, but don’t give it all away. Then you give your opinion of the film; what worked, what didn’t. Then you tell them it sucked. Okay, here’s the lowdown. Four kids decide to get an A on a college paper by going through the backwoods of the Ozarks looking for rural, down home stuff. Then they get near a town named Shiloh and almost run over a midget scraping road kill off the road. This is where a tire goes flat and cellular service doesn’t work. Surprised by that? No, me neither. So, here’s the foursome; Smart Brunette, Fairly intelligent Indian fella, Ditzy Blonde, Asshole. Guess who buys the farm first? But before we get to the farm we have a lot of pointless foreshadowing. Then we discover that The Albino Farm is where the townspeople keep all the freaks that can’t pass for human. Yeah we got the hot chick with a pig face. This one fella who has a really big tongue and many, many more to satisfy the freak quotient. Then, it hits the fan. Not too much blood, lots of torture, a pair of boobies worth looking at. No, they don’t belong to the pig faced girl ya perverts. See, Ditzy Blonde for further enlightenment. The effects are passable. The performances are fine, but it all reads like a place where we have all been before. Go back to the original The Hills Have Eyes or Wrong Turn and you get the idea. Did we need another one of these? The freak makeup is very well done. First rate appliances on the main freaks and some incidental freaks look pretty good. There’s even a freak baby for people who love seeing that kind of thing. But, in the end, this movie really is pointless, long and not worth watching. I guess the albinos really bought the farm with this one. Feel free to groan at the pun. - Douglas Waltz

THE ALCOVE
Also Known As
L'ALCOVA
1984 – NR – 97 Min.
D: Joe D’Amato
S: Laura Gemser - Al Cliver - Annie Belle - Lilli Carati
DVD provided bySeverin Films
Widescreen / Mono
Extras: Interview with Joe D’Amato – Theatrical Trailer

I consider myself 1) a fan of Joe D’Amato 2) a fan of Euro-sleaze, and I also have a high tolerance for slow moving (i.e. boring) movies, but even I could not get into this film. The back of the Severin DVD claims the film is about “an African princess brought home as a slave by a 1940’s military officer, only to be sucked into a depraved new world of voyeurism, drugs, pornography, lesbian seduction, unholy nuns and more!” Sounds like fun, right? Nope. Joe D’Amato manages to suck every ounce of fun right out of this baby and tries to make some sort of “legit” erotic drama that just bored me to tears. Not even the site of Laura Gemser (she’s the African princess) and Annie Belle in their full-frontal glory could spice up this bland tasting flick. Beyond featuring a ridiculous and dull plot, the fact the film’s male lead is Al Cliver doesn’t help much either. While Cliver has an impressive filmography (ZOMBI 2, THE BEYOND, ENDGAME), he’s not a good actor—at the very least, he’s not leading man material. Plus Cliver’s beard is constantly fighting for dominance with Lilli Carati’s bush, and that is just sad. This film features a lot of nudity, nipple licking, passionless lesbian kissing, gratuitous crotch shots, and lots of grinding---oh the grinding (!), but I didn’t find one moment of the film erotic. As much as I love Laura Gemser, I’ve always felt she was in need of a sandwich or two and Annie Belle (whom I find gorgeous) looks frumpy and as desirable as a skin rash. That leaves supermodel-turned-porn star, Lilli Carati and I must say, she’s pretty hot (especially her glorious backside, which did NOT get enough screen time in my opinion). Things do manage to pick-up in the last 5 minutes, but that’s way…way…WAY too late. If you want sleazy D’Amato done right, check out any of his Emanuelle movies—hell I even prefer PORNO HOLOCAUST to this dreck. - Fred McKennon

ART OF LOVE
1983 - NR - 97 Min.
D: Walerian Borowczyk
S: Massimo Girotti - Michele Placido - Laura Betti - Milena Vukotic
DVD Provided by Severing Films
Anamorphic Widescreen
Extras: Trailer

We are in Rome 8 A.D. and the poet Ovid watches over a city filled with unnatural acts and forbidden seduction that take place between hand maidens, centurions, servant girls and, because this is a Walerian Borowczyk film, the occasional farm animal. Borowczyk gives us what he does best. Beautiful naked women and sex that lingers near the pornographic while never entering (yes, that was a pun) that particular area. The costumes are luxurious. The women beautiful. The scenery magnificent. And the film? Dull. Dull as dirt I’m afraid. The storyline, what there is of it, meanders along at a pace that makes a snail seem supersonic. Where there should be languid eroticism is just long takes of naked people. You know you’re in trouble when the promised restored Roman Orgy scene does nothing to elevate this flick to something worthwhile. This is a shame because I am actually a fan of Borowczyk’s earlier works. GOTO, THE ISLAND OF LOVE is one of my all time favorite films. Then Borowczyk’s work seemed more concerned with pushing the boundaries of sexuality instead of being good cinema and that’s a shame. The man knew his stuff. THE ART OF LOVE is shot in a shaky, guerilla style which I thought was innovative for a Roman sex epic. I just wish more interesting things happened in front of the camera. - Douglas A. Waltz

ASHURA
Japan/2005 – N/R – 119 Minutes
D: Yojiro Takita
S: Somegoro Ichikawa – Rie Miyazawa – Atsuro Watabe
DVD Provided by AnimEigo
Anamorphic Widescreen/Dolby Digital Surround 5.1/Dolby 2.0
Extras: 2nd Disc - 2 Featurettes – Program Notes – Theatrical Trailer

Demons disguised as people walk the streets enjoying the splendors of life and several humans as snacks. A band of Demon Warriors are in charge of slaying them, but when one of the best warriors, Izumo, accidentally kills what seems to be an innocent girl, the group disbands and retires. Years later, signs and revelations point to the rebirth of Ashura, Queen of the Demons, and no matter what Izumo wants, he’s forced out of retirement. Teaming up with a mysterious renegade female thief (well, not mysterious to the viewer anyway), they must put the clues together and fight the good fight. The action is swift, the cinematography and sets are extremely colorful and beautiful to look at, but the entire production feels and plays out like a video game meets the Asian version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The CGI is too cartoony with green neon blood dissipating in midair (less offensive for the kiddies I guess) and some of the plot twists are definite head scratchers feeling as if the characters have are trying to level up to fight. It’s fun eye candy, but only worthy of a rental as long as you don’t expect anything deeper. – Mark Engle

AMERICAN KICKBOXER 2
1993 – R – 91 Min.
D: Jeno Hodi
S: Dale ‘Apollo’ Cook, Evan Lurie, Kathy Shower, David Graf
Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD
Fullscreen

Can you imagine a B-grade martial arts action movie that’s a mix of everything from 48 HRS to My Two Dads? Well, you don’t have to ‘cause here it is – kitchen sink and all. Lillian (Shower) lives the good life with ‘safe choice’ husband Howard (Graf) until her daughter Susie is kidnapped and a two-million-dollar ransom is demanded. She digs into her ‘bad choice’ past to beg help from both her ex-husband Mike (Cook) and her ex-lover David (Lurie). Mike is a pissed-off cop with a violent temper and David is a kickboxing playboy who ‘isn’t into violence’. Nobody knows for sure who actually fathered the child but everybody wants to get her back. David lands himself in jail but Mike needs help and reluctantly pulls a few strings to get the guy released. From this point on it’s non-stop martial arts mayhem. The true follow-up to American Kickboxer is a film called To The Death, but this hilariously muddled mess is an altogether different animal. Nearly every possible cliché is dragged out kicking and screaming during the running time. Cameramen are visible in long shots, dialogue is often out of sync, the generic soundtrack is grating, the acting is marginal at best, the ‘twists’ are predictable, it just goes on and on. The thing is, American Kickboxer 2 is such a disaster that you just can’t get enough. Fantastically entertaining for all the wrong reasons, AK2 should be considered required viewing for bad film fanatics. – Michael Mackie

APARTMENT 1303
Japan/2007 – N/R – 94 Minutes
D: Ataru Oikawa
S: Eriko Hatsune, Yuka Itaya, Naoko Otani, Arata Furuta
DVD Provided by Tartan Video
Widescreen/Dolby Digital 5.1
Extras: Photo Gallery, Trailer, Other Tartan Trailers

Sayaka is the latest victim to fall to her death from room 1303. It seems that every single young girl that moves in plunges to their deaths. Her sister does not believe that her sister committing suicide is possible and with the help of a local detective, she manages to discover some terrible secrets behind the apartment. The original suicide was an abused daughter who killed her own mother and lived with the corpse for six months before diving off the balcony. Yes, it’s another J-Horror ghost story with the usual trappings and now tiresome clichés. At this point, I don’t think you can’t expect much more from the original author of The Grudge and the director who brought us Tomie. I have to admit, the production values are darn good and the finale really heads into the long black hair ghost thing so much to the extreme I couldn’t wait for it to go into Evil Dead mode, which it almost does but then fails miserably. Nothing else is new here, but fans of these who haven’t tired of the now almost 20-year old genre of Asian ghost cinema will appreciate it. All else will yawn and find nothing to raise the goose bumps on the back of the neck. That is too bad because Apartment 1303 isn’t terrible, in fact it is pretty good, just predictable and old news. -Mark Engle

ATTACK GIRLS’ SWIM TEAM VERSUS THE UNDEAD
Alao Known As: THE GIRLS REBEL FORCE OF COMPETITIVE SWIMMERS
Also Known As: NIHONBI 2
2007 – Unrated Limited Edition – 78 Min.
D: Koji Kawano
S: Sasa Handa – Yuria Hidaka
DVD provided by Switchblade Pictures (Section23 Films)
Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 2.0
Japanese with English subtitles
Extras: Nothing.

Japanese softcore/horror/sexploitation movie is an unrelated follow-up to Zombie Self Defense Force and truthfully has little to do with the undead. In fact, those bloodied maniacs on the prowl have simply been infected with a virus that can be cured with a bucket of water from the pool, so yeah, no undead here. Beautiful AV Idol Sasa Handa is Aki, a shy and reserved young girl struggling through her first days at a new school. The usual problems of acclimation are very quickly compounded when a vaccination that’s been administered to the faculty and students causes murderous insanity in all but the swim team. The only friend Aki has managed to make turns out to be her long lost semi-twin sister; they discuss this after a rigorous sexual encounter together. Aki has recently escaped from a deranged scientist who was training her to become an assassin and regularly using the tones from his apparently magical flute to force himself on her. This sick bastard isn’t as willing to end the ‘relationship’ as Aki is so it isn’t long before her troubled recent past comes calling. Perhaps there’s a connection? Absofreakinlutely! The plot is passable enough to get you from place to place though this is more about the excessive nudity, brain sucking, sex, juggling teachers screaming about apples while decapitating students, vaginal laser beams, and the all important swim meet that’s only days away! High energy lunacy with frequent low budget gore was never intended to please the casual viewer, but for all of us giggling perverts in the back of the room, this demented digital video delight hits all the marks and even manages some surprises in the final acts. Fun, far from accomplished, but a damn good time with the proper expectations, Switchblade Pictures barebones DVD presentation is satisfying and solid. Laugh, pant, cheer, and lift your jaw up off the floor. Repeat for 78 minutes. Cool. - Michael Mackie

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