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Zombie (Blu-ray)

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Zombie on Blu-rayStarring Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Olga Karlatos

Directed by Lucio Fulci

Distributed by Blue Underground


Way back in 1979 Lucio Fulci’s unofficial sequel to Zombi (known to us as Romero’s Dawn of the Dead Stateside), Zombi 2, began shambling its way through theatres, eventually making its way to American shores in 1980, where it was simply known as Zombie. I’ll never forget the ad in the newspaper with pictures of ghouls walking through a newly opened door emblazoned with the words:

“There is no explicit sex in this picture. However, there are scenes of violence which may be considered shocking. No one under 17 will be admitted.”

It was from that moment on that I was not only fascinated by this sliver of forbidden love … I was obsessed with it. I never got to sneak in and see it. Hell, I was only eight years old, but over the years from VHS to DVD, Zombie has been viewed countless times in the Creepy household. Here we are decades later, and Blue Underground has released a Blu-ray edition that made me feel as if I were watching the movie for the very first time.

Zombie is one of those movies that’s just indescribable. It’s brimming with insane looking flesh-eaters, incredible set-pieces (who could ever forget the whole zombie vs. shark bit), and more gut-ripping, eye-poking, brain-smashing fun than any one movie should be allowed to have. If you haven’t seen it yet (and shame on you if that’s the case,) you need to get your hands on it immediately, and if you have the tech, this is without question the edition to get.

Zombie on Blu-ray

The picture quality, though a little on the soft side on occasion, is nothing short of breathtaking. This flick looks as if it were filmed yesterday. For this release Blue Underground painstakingly poured over every frame of film to come up with this new high-definition transfer which was crafted from the original uncut and uncensored 2.35:1 camera negative, and they did so under the supervision of cinematographer Sergio Salvati. If you’ve seen this flick as many times as I have, you are guaranteed to be stunned. It’s like opening your eyes for the very first time and having perfect 20/20 vision.

Then there’s the soundmix. Holy cow. The DTS-HD 7.1 mix is the perfect complement to the new visual feast. Dialogue and effects are crisp, and given that the film was originally sporting a mono-track, the stereo separation is pretty friggin’ impressive. For you purists out there, the mono track is still present along with a 5.1 Dolbly Digital Surround EX track. No matter which you select, know this … the kick-ass theme song REALLY thumps! Good stuff!

Now then. On to the supplemental features, which for the most part are all new and presented here in HD from the good folks over at Red Shirt Pictures. Those of you looking for the ninety-eight-minute long Media Blasters documentary Building a Better Zombie can look elsewhere. It’s nowhere to be found, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest bit. There’s so much new and incredible stuff here it will not be missed.

Zombie on Blu-ray

Disc One of Zombie is home to the usual commentary that’s been found on every DVD release of the flick. It features star Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine editor Jason J. Slater. No matter how you slice it, even after all this time the track remains a solid listen. Also on Disc One is an optional HD introduction from Guillermo del Toro, TV spots, radio spots, and even HD supported trailers and still/poster galleries. It’s on Disc Two, however, where you’ll find the mother lode of material.

You’re getting eight featurettes (all named and described below). Said featurettes run between seven and twenty-five minutes long each, and combined you have a grand total of about two hours of all new interviews and anecdotes from the cast and crew which feel as fresh as the movie itself does given its new facelift. In-depth, extensive, and constantly entertaining, it really doesn’t get much better than this, kids!

Blue Underground’s release of Zombie is nothing short of a gift for fans. A time-capsule-worthy look at one of horror cinema’s most infamous and fun movies. This without question is one of the single greatest Blu-ray releases of the year. Fulci would have been proud.

“The boat can leave now. Tell the crew.”

Special Features Disc 1

  • Audio Commentary with Star Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Radio Spots
  • Poster & Still Gallery
  • Guillermo del Toro Intro

    Special Features Disc 2

  • Zombie Wasteland – Interviews with Stars Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson & Al Cliver, and Actor/Stuntman Ottaviano Dell’Acqua
  • Flesh Eaters on Film – Interview with Co-Producer Fabrizio De Angelis
  • Deadtime Stories – Interviews with Co-Writers Elisa Briganti and (Uncredited) Dardano Sacchetti
  • World of the Dead – Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati and Production & Costume Designer Walter Patriarca
  • Zombi Italiano – Interviews with Special Make-Up Effects Artists Gianetto De Rossi & Maurizio Trani and Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi
  • Notes on a Headstone – Interview with Composer Fabio Frizzi
  • All in the Family – Interview with Antonella Fulci
  • Zombie Lover – Award-Winning Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro talks about one of his favorite films

    Film:

    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    5 out of 5

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    Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions

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    Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

    Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

    Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa


    During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

    Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

    What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

    While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

    Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

    While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

    With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

    • Before We Vanish
    4.0

    Summary

    Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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    Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On

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    Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston

    Directed by Johnny Martin


    When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.

    Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.

    Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.

     

    • Film
    2.0

    Summary

    Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!

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    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility

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    Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

    Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita


    The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

    The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

    The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

    From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

    The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

    Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

    The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

    • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
    2.0

    Summary

    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

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