Movie Review – Kill Your Friends (2016)

Kill Your Friends
Directed by Owen Harris
Courtesy of Well Go USA
Release Date: June 7, 2016

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I believe KILL YOUR FRIENDS might just be the best non-horror film I’ve seen so far this year. And given the number of movies I watch each month, that is truly saying something. The film is touted as a “comedy crime-thriller” (according to IMDB.com), and it offers huge doses of all three genres. Rife with dark humor, insane characters, and a chilling theme, KILL YOUR FRIENDS is a movie you’ve got to see to believe.

If you are not familiar with KILL YOUR FRIENDS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Well Go USA:

As the twentieth century breathes its very last, with Britpop at its zenith, twenty-seven-year-old A&R man Steven Stelfox (Hoult) is slashing and burning his way through London’s music industry. Blithely crisscrossing the globe in search of the next megahit fueled by greed and inhuman quantities of drugs and alcohol Stelfox freely indulges in an unending orgy of self-gratification. But the industry is changing fast, the hits are drying up, and the only way he is going to salvage his sagging career is by taking the idea of “cutthroat” to murderous new levels.

I love every aspect of this film, and I’m giving it a five out of five stars. It is simply THAT good. When a film flies by, and I never check the clock to see how far into it I am, I judge it as a phenomenal win. Such is the case here.

KILL YOUR FRIENDS is shot very well and looks amazing onscreen. The energy given off by the cinematography is magnificent, and it conveys to each scene like an electrical current. I love the imagery in the film, as it truly highlights the zaniness of the concept and that particular time period.

The acting is top notch, with Nicholas Hoult giving an excellent performance as the main character, Steven. Hoult is a talented and versatile actor, as showcased in such fan-favorite films like X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, WARM BODIES, and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. I greatly enjoy him onscreen, and I hope to see more of him in the future. He is joined by a great cast that includes James Corden, Jim Piddock, Tom Riley, Georgia King, and Craig Roberts.

The storyline in KILL YOUR FRIENDS is based on a book by the same name, and from what I understand, it mimics actual events from the time period. Regardless of its origin, the plot is engaging and fun. It is a dark and twisted look into the mind of a man willing to do anything to get ahead…even though his actions sometimes bring about unexpected consequences. I love how the film ends, and I have to say it is very fitting.

KILL YOUR FRIENDS is a massive win for me, and I highly recommend giving it a look. It is crass and rude in parts, so don’t watch with the kiddos around. But be ready for a wild ride…it’s definitely worth it.

MSB

Movie Review – Fever (2016)

Fever
Directed by Raphael Neal
Courtesy of Artsploitation Films
Release Date: May 24, 2016

FeverWebTemp

I am so thankful the fine folks at Artsploitation Films have high standards of quality for their films. They are one of the few film companies that seem to continually release good movies on a regular basis. Such is the case with today’s title, FEVER. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this one, but I’m happy to report the film delivers on several levels. It is a taut, effective thriller, but it’s also a gripping mystery as well. In short, FEVER is a nice piece of French cinema.

If you are not familiar with FEVER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Artsploitation Films:

High school students Damien and Pierre are from wealthy families with nothing seemingly in their lives to leave them disturbed. Yet they plan and carry out the murder of an unknown woman they have previously only spotted on the street. The police are at a loss, confused by this murder without motive. Zoé, an optician in the neighborhood, who is feeling more and more moved by this inexplicable murder, bumps into the teenage murderers by chance. But this chance fleeting encounter reveals inside her a growing and mysterious desire. Although scared (she could easily be a victim of Damien and Pierre), her erotic attraction for the duo goes beyond that. It gives her a chance to find a way out of the loveless rut that her life has ended up in. While Damien and Pierre, thinking no one will catch them, embark on a journey deep within their pasts. Inspired from a real life story of mindless and seemingly meaningless crime, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” and from the scandalous Leopold and Loeb case from the 1920s, this thoughtful psychological thriller will enthrall viewers.

This movie is based (partially) on real events, although I’m not sure what liberties the filmmakers took with the source material. As such, knowing this heightens the tension within the plotline for me and makes it an even scarier film.

FEVER is shot well and looks good from a cinematography perspective. The camerawork is less artistic and more story-driven, which works great for a film such as this. The locales are all urban, and nothing stands out in that area, but they do not distract either. Overall, the film appears to have a decent budget and production value.

The acting is impressive, with both Martin Loizillon and Pierre Moure portraying the two main characters. Both do a great job with their roles, and I expect to see more of them onscreen in the future. Likewise, actress Julie-Marie Parmentier shines as Zoe. The whole cast meshes well, which lends more credibility to the script.

The storyline in FEVER is where the film truly comes into its own. It is filled with tension and carries with it a disturbing air, as the two main characters seem to show no remorse for what they’ve done. Even more unsettling is the fact that the act seems to have stemmed from a concept they were required to write an essay about in school: liberty. As the explanation for their atrocity unfolds, the viewer is left with a chilling sense of dread; this could have happened to anybody at anytime, anywhere in the world.

If I were forced to find a negative about the film, I would have to mention the lack of clarification on a few points. Several writers and their works are mentioned and even discussed in the film, but we are not given explanations as to why. I am assuming it is to build a dramatic ambiance, however I’m not sure. This is not enough to detract heavily from the film, but I do feel it worth mentioning.

FEVER is still a great film, however, and I recommend giving it a look. The DVD does not contain an English dub-over track, so be prepared to read subtitles…but doing so is no problem for this reviewer. I enjoyed the film, and I look forward to seeing what Artsploitation has in line for us next time.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Blood Bath (1966)

Blood Bath
Directed by Roger Corman, Jack Hill, & Stephanie Rothman
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1966
Blu-ray Release Date: May 30, 2016

BLOOD BATH

This movie is a doozy to review…not because it is a bad film, but because it’s actually four movies that were made from the same source material. Confused? You’re not alone; it took me a few minutes to map this out in my head as well. Let me try to explain.

The infamous Roger Corman started off by shooting a movie titled OPERATION TITIAN. This was done in Yugoslavia, of all places, but Corman was not happy with the end product. So, after some tweaking, re-cutting, and rescoring, the film was released as PORTRAIT IN TERROR. For some reason, two other directors jumped in a year later and added more footage, thanks to reshoots and some slick editing, which resulted in two more versions of the film: TRACK OF THE VAMPIRE, a TV-safe version of what would ultimately be the final film, BLOOD BATH.

So…four movies made from a single film. Sounds like the stuff of Hollywood legend, right? I guess you can say it is. But regardless, the fine folks at Arrow Video and MVD Distribution have crammed all four films into a two-disc Blu-ray set for our enjoyment. And while the films aren’t too shabby themselves, the engaging story behind them is enough to warrant owning this piece of cinematic history.

If you are not familiar with BLOOD BATH, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution:

The films of Roger Corman are often as well-known for their behind-the-scenes stories as they are the ones unfolding on the screen. He famously made Little Shop of Horrors in just two days using sets left over from A Bucket of Blood and shot The Terror over a long weekend because bad weather prevented him from playing tennis. But none of these tales is quite so complex, or quite so extraordinary, as the making of Blood Bath.

The saga began when Corman invested in a Yugoslavian Krimi-like picture entitled Operation Titian just prior to it going into production. Insisting it be filmed in English, he sent actors William Campbell and Patrick Magee, and uncredited story editor Francis Ford Coppola (all fresh from Dementia 13), to Dubrovnik to make a US-friendly movie but wasn t satisfied with the end results. First it was re-cut and re-scored to create Portrait in Terror, a film more in line with drive-in tastes, then it was handed over to Jack Hill (Spider Baby), followed by Stephanie Rothman (Terminal Island), each undertaking reshoots that resulted in a vampire picture by the name of Blood Bath. One final twist was provided when a TV version was required, chopping scenes and adding others to create Track of the Vampire.

For this release Arrow Video has searched through the vaults to bring you all four versions of Blood Bath, newly restored from the best materials available to provide a definitive release of one of Corman s craziest ventures.

So now I have to ask myself: did I actually like the films? Eh, I’m a little on the fence. OPERATION TITIAN was good, but PORTRAIT IN TERROR was even better. But the vampire aspect didn’t really work for me. I think partly because it was such a large deviation from where the original film wanted to go. But even though I didn’t care for the latter two, they are still worthy of watching.

Each film is shot well for the most part, however you can certainly tell differences in the cinematography styles. This is very evident in the BLOOD BATH, as the old and new footage sometimes clash in their atmospheres. Does this detract from the film? Not as a whole, but some of it is glaringly obvious.

The acting in each film is pretty bad, I have to confess. I can’t decide if it’s the actors themselves or the dialogue that makes it so, but I’ve seen better line deliveries in some high school productions.

Still, I can’t downplay the entertainment factor here. The films are all entertaining in some form or fashion, although I can’t say they have any true horror cred. Quirky and strange, yes, but no real scares or bigtime gore.

Even so, I enjoyed this collection, and fans of Corman’s work will definitely want to snatch this one up. In addition to the films, it comes with several Special Edition features, including:

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Limited Edition collection of the complete Blood Bath
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of four versions of the film: Operation Titian, Portrait in Terror, Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire
• Brand new 2K restorations of Portrait in Terror, Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire from original film materials
• Brand new reconstruction of Operation Titian using original film materials and standard definition inserts
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing on all four versions
• The Trouble with Titian Revisited – a brand new visual essay in which Tim Lucas returns to (and updates) his three-part Video Watchdog feature to examine the convoluted production history of Blood Bath and its multiple versions
• Bathing in Blood with Sid Haig – a new interview with the actor, recorded exclusively for this release
• Outtakes from Track of the Vampire, scanned from original film materials
• Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artworks
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford
• Limited edition booklet containing new writing on the film and its cast by Peter Stanfield, Anthony Nield, Vic Pratt and Cullen Gallagher

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Dolemite (1975)

Dolemite
Directed by D’Urville Martin
Courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome
Original Year of Release: 1975
Blu-ray Release Date: April 26, 2016

dolemite

I first heard about DOLEMITE when I was a kid, probably around 10 years old. My older brother had watched it somewhere (I think at a drive-in) and said it was one of the worst films he had ever seen. Granted, my older brother is/was not the sharpest tool in the shed, a fact which I knew even back then. But for some reason I took his word for it, and therefore never gave DOLEMITE a chance.

Fast forward to 2016. The fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome sent me a copy of the newly restored version of the film for review. And I gotta tell you: I wish I had given this movie a chance many years ago. It’s A LOT of fun, and I will definitely be watching it again soon!

If you are not familiar with DOLEMITE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome:

Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore), the baddest pimp in town, has just been released from prison, ready to take revenge on notorious gangster Willie Green (D’Urville Martin), who set him up on a phony drug charge and stole his club, The Total Experience. With the help of his friend Queen Bee (Lady Reed) and their band of Kung Fu fighting vixens, Dolemite takes on every “rat soup eatin’ motherf#%*er” in South Central.

Acclaimed comedian Rudy Ray Moore’s outrageously funny and action packed blaxploitation classic makes its worldwide blu-ray debut, fully restored in 2k from a recently discovered 35mm negative and loaded with extras, including a new making-of documentary by Elijah Drenner and a historical commentary track from Moore’s biographer Mark Murray, featuring interviews with Moore as well as co-stars Jerry Jones, Lady Reed, John Kerry, cinematographer Nick Von Sternberg and more!

If you’re not a fan of exploitation films, then you’ll probably hate this movie. But if you are a fan, like me, then you’ll love it. I rate this one right up there with SCREAM, BLACKULA, SCREAM!

DOLEMITE is one of those films you will find yourself quoting when you least expect it. Just recently, I was cut off on the interstate while coming home from vacation. I mumbled, “Rat soup eaten’ mother…” before I realized what I was saying. Needless to say, I laughed out loud.

The acting in the film is typical for an exploitation film, but that’s part of what makes them so much fun to watch. Rudy Ray Moore is definitely the baddest pimp on the block, and he portrays the part with gusto. I love his supporting cast as well, including the kung fu chicks he hangs with. I couldn’t stop laughing during the fight scenes…they were great!

The dialogue in DOLEMITE is a MAJOR reason you should watch the film. Obviously, it’s dated (the film came out the year after I was born!), and as such, it’s hilarious. I would love to know what the younger generation thinks about this film, as it is probably a far cry from what they are used to these days.

DOLEMITE is a big win for me, and I loved it. I suggest giving it a look, especially on Blu-ray. It comes with a great HD picture and quality sound, but it also includes some nice Bonus Features, including:

* Scanned & restored in 2k from 35mm negative
* “I, Dolemite” making-of documentary
* “Lady Reed Uncut” featurette
* “Locations: Then & Now” featurette
* Multiple framing options: the intended 1.85:1 widescreen version & an alternate full frame “boom mic” version
* Historical commentary track by Rudy Ray Moore’s biographer, Mark Jason Murray
* Original theatrical trailer for both DOLEMITE & THE HUMAN TORNADO
* Original cover artwork by Jay Shaw
* Reversible cover artwork
* English SDH Subtitles

MSB