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I Am Legend: Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray / DVD)

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I Am Legend: Ultimate Collector's Edition on Blu-ray and DVD (click for larger imageReviewed by Nomad

Starring Will Smith, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Distributed by Warner Home Video


Will Smith pulls off an amazing performance as a man who literally watches the world slip away from his front window. What’s worse is that world believed he could save them and underscored the point continually while it met its demise. Now, his family is gone and he’s living amidst a city reclaimed by nature … eerily silent by day … howling with agonizing hunger by night. Robert Neville is the only human left alive … or so he thinks!

I Am Legend is a mournful tale of what can happen when man’s aspirations move far faster than his intellect. The search for a cure for cancer brings about a plague transforming human into bloodthirsty, relentless animals. Will Smith plays opposite a dog and some Gumby-like translucent man-monsters who roar like The Mummy (modern version, natch) and burn up in the sun. I get that CGI people are not always going to look perfect, and I even concede that Legend has many moments where the monsters range from intensely creepy to eerily, otherworldly real, but why do these monsters all have unhinged jaws??!! A quick plea to Hollywood — A human looking thing screaming with a super wide mouth is not scary. It looks fake and destroys all sense of dread. Please … stop.

I Am Legend: Ultimate Collector's Edition on Blu-ray and DVD (click for larger imageThis is honestly my only gripe. Legend keeps a brisk pace with tense moments, heavy drama, a touch of Smith’s child-like humor, and enough explosions to keep Michael Bay smiling. The combo of fantastic Will Smith and the sometimes laughable gummy-creeps makes this more of a middle of the road, good time rental than anything else.

So, knowing the quality of this film and hearing that backed up by unfavorable reviews by blog blasters and forum posters across the planet … WHY does this film get a super juicy ultimate collector’s edition a mere year after it’s release? Well, for the same reason Wanted got a souped-up box set upon its initial release. Movie fans LOVE collector’s editions. So now the only question would be, what does this boxed set bring to the table that the two-disc special edition did not? Let’s compare.

The original two-disc set included …

• Alternate cut of the film with a new ending
• Four animated comics entitled “Death as a Gift”, “Isolation”, “Sacrificing the Few for the Many”, and “Shelter”
• Weblink to DVD-Rom extras
• Bonus digital copy of the film

This new set contains all the extras that should have been included in the original release. I have to note, before we continue, that a good deal of this behind-the-scenes material is available online for those who would seek it out.

I Am Legend: Ultimate Collector's Edition on Blu-ray and DVD (click for larger imageDisc one contains the theatrical cut of the film with optional commentary by director Francis Lawrence and producer/screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. The two are very upbeat and seem very pleased with the film they’ve turned out, adding to their enjoyment in watching the end result along with you and thus, upping the entertainment value as they joke around and give very valuable insight into key plot points like the origins of the virus and the creatures it created. Very worth a listen! Also included is the trailer.

Disc two contains the alternate cut of the film with all the little bits which were cut pasted back into the film, and an ending that is more satisfying, and in my opinion, a more intelligent, dramatic and thought provoking resolution. This disk also houses the bonus digital copy of the film.

Disc three has all the goods you’ve been waiting for. Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend talks about the filmmaker’s interaction with government agencies to ensure the authenticity of, not only Will Smith’s performance as a top level virologist, but the way that the virus would spread, what outbreaks would look like and even the final look of the creatures. This is essential viewing for people who find themselves watching the Discovery channel more often than not. Creating I Am Legend is broken into twenty-one parts exploring everything from how they went about stunt driving while shooting Will Smith actually in the car and his the canine sidekick to Smith’s workout regime and creating the nightmares found in every dark corner. It should be noted at this point that a lot of the footage found in pieces in this section will be revisited in the next sections, so keep your finger by the fast forward button and keep a close eye as not to overshoot the sequences you haven’t seen yet as you watch Making-of I Am Legend, the glossier, cut together featurette.

I Am Legend: Ultimate Collector's Edition on Blu-ray and DVD (click for larger imageI Am Legend: The Making-of Shots shows how pivotal scenes were constructed, de-constructed and recreated more often than not with CGI to give the city backdrop that look of over growth and neglect while the actors run through it, as well as other aspects of constructing an tale of epic proportions. Again, there will be bits in here revisited from previous pieces. It seems at times as if one hand did not know what the other was doing while gathering these sequences for this collection, otherwise, why repeat them? Padding galore.

The Animated comics from the two-disc DVD are back, in tact and just as they were. Lastly we get 12 deleted scenes with or without commentary from the director and producer. These are largely non-essential to the enjoyment of the film, or even the extended cut, as you would imagine since they were left out for pacing concerns, but they do bring a new dynamic to the film. It would have been nice to have seen all of this spliced back into the alternate cut so we could see them as one cohesive thought, as it were. The deleted pieces give more views into the fragile state of Doctor Robert Neville’s mind after living through this horror; expand on his new relationship with the new comers and gives further depth to the creatures that have taken over the city, making them more than mindless savages. That was probably the problem with most of this footage. It’s clear that the final thought was to keep the creatures purely as a constant threat… mostly mindless and unrelenting. If that were the case, why even keep in the bits with the trap set for Neville? The mind boggles.

For you Blu-ray buffs, I don’t think I need to get into picture and sound quality do I? It’s good. It’s damned good. Some of the special features are presented here in HD (all of which are noted below) and you can access a Focus Points track to play along with the movie that allows the viewer to access picture-in-picture behind-the-scenes goodies that coincide with the onscreen action. Other than the above there are no hi-def features.

I Am Legend: Ultimate Collector's Edition on Blu-ray and DVD (click for larger imageAs is largely the tradition with Ultimate Collector’s Editions, you’ve got some tangible keepsakes in your big, shiny black box! First is a book filled with shots from the film made to look more artistic, including shots of famous landmarks before the outbreak … sort of … and after three years of wear and tear are added via computer manipulation. A plastic block encases a full motion graphic showing Neville as he throws himself at the Alpha Creature for one final clash. These things always blow my mind. Finally, we have a posh little envelope stuffed with shiny images of famous landmarks across the globe as they would appear 3 years after the outbreak. Geeks from all walks of life love the shiny things.

Is this set worth 50 dollars? Certainly for a die hard fan of the film or the rabid Will Smith enthusiast. Not so much for a film buff looking for the missing pieces from the first release. Amazon’s current 37 dollar deal is a little closer to perfect. This is a beautiful set with worth-your-while features and some drool worthy collectibles for true lovers of the film wrapped up in a slick looking package. I’ve seen lesser quality at a higher price tag, so big smiles toward Warner Brothers for giving the fans what they crave and not trying to rape them in the process!

Special Features

  • Focus Points (Blu-ray Only)
  • Exclusive forty-four page concept sketch book
  • Ten concept illustrations
  • Six art cards showing international cities devastated by the plague virus
  • Collectible lenticular paperweight
  • New commentary by director Francis Lawrence and screenwriter/producer Akiva Goldsman
  • Deleted scenes with commentary
  • Alternate version of the film with an alternate ending
  • Creating I Am Legend mini-documentary (in HD)
  • Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend featurette (in HD)
  • Four Animated Comics (in HD)
  • Making I Am Legend featurette
  • I Am Legend: The Making-of Shots featurette (in HD)
  • Will Smith rehearsal footage of alternate ending
  • Digital copy of theatrical version

    Film:

    3 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    4 out of 5

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  • Reviews

    AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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    Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

    Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


    ** NO SPOILERS **

    It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

    Spoiler free.

    To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

    That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

    Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

    Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

    Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

    Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

    But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

    But let’s backtrack a bit here.

    Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

    And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

    Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

    With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

    Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

    I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

    Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

    Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

    Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

    On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

    That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

    In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

    While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

    Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

    Bring on season 12.

    • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
    3.5

    Summary

    The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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    User Rating 4.33 (6 votes)
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    The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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    Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

    Directed by Nicholas Woods


    The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

    The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

    The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

    The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

    The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

    The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

    • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
    • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
    • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
    • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
    • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
    • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
    • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
    • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
    • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
    • The Axiom
    4.0

    Summary

    In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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    User Rating 3.9 (10 votes)
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    The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

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    Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

    Directed by Alan Lougher


    The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

    When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

    Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

    • Film
    3.5

    Summary

    Ultimately chilling in nature!

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    User Rating 3.31 (16 votes)
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