TV Show Review – NCIS, Season 14

NCIS, Season 14
Courtesy of CBS Television Studios
Release Date: August 29, 2017

NCIS is one of those shows that refuses to die. Not that I think it should, by any means…but no matter how many changes it faces, the show perseveres. The fact that the series just wrapped up its 14th season says quite a bit: fans and critics alike both still enjoy it.

I’m definitely in one of those categories. I like the show just as much now as when I first watched it a few years ago. Season 14 continues the high standard set by previous seasons, and it’s a must-have for fans of quality television.

If you are not familiar with NCIS, here is the series’ plot synopsis courtesy of CBS Television Studios:

From murder and espionage to terrorism and stolen submarines, NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) is more than just an action drama. With liberal doses of humor, it’s a show that focuses on the sometimes complex and always amusing dynamics of a team forced to work together in high-stress situations involving Navy or Marine Corps ties.

I confess I was nervous about this season of NCIS, as it was the first season without DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and a few new faces were introduced. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. Despite the fact the atmosphere of the show changes a little without Weatherly’s character, the group dynamic of the team remains just as charged as ever.

The new additions to the cast mesh well with existing members, and I foresee plenty of opportunities to flesh out the newbies in full. I can’t say I have a favorite in regard to the new faces, however I am very intrigued with the character of Nick Torres, portrayed by Wilmer Valderrama. I will be watching closely to see where storylines involving him go.

I said last year (when I reviewed Season 13) that NCIS is like comfort food for your brain, and the statement still holds up well. There’s nothing like coming home from a rough day and plopping down on the couch to join Gibbs, McGee, and the others as they fight to keep our country safe and bring justice where needed. I’m excited to see where the next season takes us…I just wish we didn’t have to wait so long to take the journey.

Season 14 is available now.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Re-Animator (1985)

Re-Animator
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1985
Blu-ray Release Date: August 8, 2017

When 43,000+ people vote and a horror film earns 7.1 out of 10 stars on IMDB.com, you know it is definitely a title you need to check out. Such is the case with RE-ANIMATOR, a horror-comedy-gorefest, courtesy of genre icon Stuart Gordon. If you are unfamiliar with Gordon’s films, you need to acquaint yourself with them immediately; the man is a visionary genius, particularly when it comes to interpretations of H.P. Lovecraft’s work. RE-ANIMATOR is one of my favorite films of all time, and it’s no surprise that Gordon is also responsible for several of my other Top Favorites, including DAGON, ROBOT JOX, and FROM BEYOND.

The fine folks at Arrow and MVD got together and released an authoritative edition of RE-ANIMATOR, and it is nothing short of glorious. Horror fans will want to add this to their libraries quickly, as I predict this will sell out soon. Chocked full of amazing content, and featuring new, original artwork, this Arrow/MVD release will be the Must Have of the fall season!

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

HERBERT WEST HAS A GOOD HEAD ON HIS SHOULDERS… AND ANOTHER ONE ON HIS DESK.
One of the most wildly popular horror movies of all-time, Stuart Gordon’s enduring splatter-comedy classic Re-Animator returns to Blu-ray in a stunning restoration packed with special features!

When medical student Dean Cain advertises for a roommate, he soon finds one in the form of Dr. Herbert West. Initially a little eccentric, it soon becomes clear that West entertains some seriously outlandish theories specifically, the possibility of re-animating the dead. It’s not long before Dean finds himself under West’s influence, and embroiled in a serious of ghoulish experiments which threaten to go wildly out of control…

Based on H.P. Lovecraft s classic terror tale “Herbert West, Re-animator” and featuring a standout performance from Jeffrey Combs as the deliciously deranged West, Re-Animator remains the ground-zero of 80s splatter mayhem and one of the genre’s finest hours.

RE-ANIMATOR looks excellent onscreen, thanks to a superb HD transfer. Blu-ray is definitely the way to experience this masterpiece, as you get to relish in every gory detail, right down to the most minute blood-splatter. The sound is also excellent; you’ll hear every squishy sound effect in 5.1 stereo…and if you’re like me, you’ll love every minute of it.

As for the acting, Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, and David Gale are excellent in their roles, and nobody could have played them better. I had the pleasure of meeting Combs and director Stuart Gordon a couple of years ago at Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas, and they were an absolute blast. I can see why Gordon’s films are so successful: because he surrounds himself with talent like Combs.

The special effects in RE-ANIMATOR are gut-wrenching and so much fun to watch. Needless to say, they are very good. Gorehounds will revel in the amount of carnage unleashed, but those looking for comedic elements will be pleased as well. I cannot go into detail as to why, because it will spoil the film. But trust me: you need to watch this one to appreciate it.

RE-ANIMATOR is an excellent film, and I highly recommend it. Arrow and MVD give this film the full Grade A treatment, and the result is an edition worthy of a king. Snatch up your copy soon, because as I stated earlier, I’ll bet these go quickly. It is available now.

The special edition contents include:

2-DISC LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• 4K restorations of the Unrated and Integral versions of the film
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 Audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Digipak packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Justin Erickson
• Collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by writer Michael Gingold
• Re-Animator the original 1991 comic book adaptation, reprinted in its entirety
DISC 1 UNRATED VERSION
• Unrated version [86 mins]
• Audio commentary with director Stuart Gordon
• Audio commentary with producer Brian Yuzna, actors Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, and Robert Sampson
• Re-Animator Resurrectus documentary on the making of the film, featuring extensive interviews with cast and crew
• Interview with director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna
• Interview with writer Dennis Paoli
• Interview with composer Richard Band
• Music Discussion with composer Richard Band
• Interview with former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone
• Barbara Crampton In Conversation the Re-Animator star sits down with journalist Alan Jones for this career-spanning discussion
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Trailer & TV Spots
DISC 2 INTEGRAL VERSION LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE
• Integral version [105 mins]
• A Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema brand new featurette looking at the many various cinematic incarnations of writer H.P. Lovecraft s work
• PLUS MORE TO BE ANNOUNCED!

MSB

Movie Review – Altar (2017)

Altar
Directed by Matt Sconce
Courtesy of Movie Heroes Studios
Release Date: July 1, 2017

In the realm of found footage films, just about every subgenre of horror has been explored. I’ve seen FF films that contain everything from ghosts to aliens to monsters, and just about all things in between. To paraphrase a quote from the Bible, there’s nothing new under the sun. So when new found footage films come along, I always approach them with a sense of skepticism.

Such was the case with ALTAR, a recent offering from director Matt Sconce. ALTAR is a found footage film with a very familiar set up, however the praise it has gotten from the festival circuit forced a pique to my interest. Thus, I figured I would give it a shot.

I’m happy to report I’m glad I did.

ALTAR is not perfect and has some flaws, but it’s a fun trek into territory with which we are already acquainted. If you’re a fan of found footage films, you’ll definitely want to give this a look. The movie does not breathe new life into a saturated genre, but it’s as close to a breath of fresh air that we will probably get.

If you are not familiar with ALTAR, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Movie Heroes Studios:

ALTAR is the terrifying story of a group of college classmates who get lost driving to a reunion campout in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. After stopping for the night, they stumble onto something darker and must escape the evil they’ve unleashed. Not only are their lives in danger, but their immortal souls as well.

ALTAR is shot pretty well for an entry in the found footage category. Many FF films give the audience overly shaky camera angles that annoy more than convey a sense of urgency, particularly when the bearer of the camera is running from the killer/alien/monster. Not so here. Sconce seems to have taken distinct measures to ensure this does not happen. The result is a much more enjoyable film experience.

The acting in ALTAR is also above par for this type of film. Stefanie Estes does a great job as Maisy, and I love Tim Parrish’s portrayal of Asher, the typical jock/jerk. Jesse Parr also gives a fine performance as Bo, the main character; I had no problem feeling sorry for him throughout the film.

The special effects, although minimal, are very well done. Of particular note is the gore. While we don’t get a lot of it, what we do get looks great. I also like the lighting effects used around the altar when the group first discovers it. Very eerie.

My biggest complaint with ALTAR lies in the storyline. The first ¾ of the film are typical setup points: the characters are introduced, their relationships outlined, their personalities explored, etc. This is all fine. But the last quarter of the film, while tense and promising, offers no explanation as to what the altar is, why it is there, and who “she” is. Sure, I had some inclinations as to potential explanations, but I’m one of those pesky horror fans that needs clarification. I like where the film was headed…I just wish five more minutes had been added to explain.

Otherwise, ALTAR is a fine addition to the found footage film category. I recommend giving it a look, but be sure you have the right mindset going in; don’t expect groundbreaking originality or in-depth resolution. If you can look past that, you’re in for a good time.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Beyond the Darkness (1979)

Beyond the Darkness
Directed by Joe D’Amato
Courtesy of Severin Films & CAV Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1979
Blu-ray Release Date: July 25, 2017

Italian horror is rife with iconic films, however a handful were accompanied by gratuitous media coverage shortly after their release. This was primarily due to their controversial content, although some were overhyped in that sense. And while several of these scandalous titles wound up on the Video Nasties list, a few, like BEYOND THE DARKNESS, are still banned in certain countries today.

BEYOND THE DARKNESS is a gem of a horror flick, and it boasts some of the most gut-churning effects I’ve ever seen. Granted, the plot is a bit loose, but that is very forgivable when you have such wondrous special effects to ogle. BEYOND THE DARKNESS is a heck of a film, and it’s one every horror fan should experience…even if only once.

If you are not familiar with BEYOND THE DARKNESS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of

It has been denounced as “revolting” (SplatterDay.com), “stomach-churning” (Classic-Horror.com) and “shower-prompting” (Fandor), while simultaneously acclaimed as “bone-chilling” (Chas Balun), “truly classic” (The Spinning Image) and “a must-see” (Horror.com). Now experience “D’Amato’s masterpiece” (BloodyDisgusting.com) like you’ve never seen or heard it before: CinzIa Monreale (THE BEYOND) and Franca Stoppi (THE OTHER HELL) star in this psycho sickie – set to a pounding score by Goblin.

Severin is proud to present this sleaze-fest also known as BURIED ALIVE and BUIO OMEGA from director Joe D’Amato (ANTHROPOPHAGUS), restored and packed with exclusive new Special Features.

BEYOND THE DARKNESS is shot fairly well and, despite a grainy opening sequence, looks good onscreen. I mention the graininess that occurs during the opening credits because it’s pretty bad. Thankfully, it only lasts a minute or so, and then the picture clears up nicely. The HD transfer from that point on looks great, and I’m assuming the poor quality of the opening scenes is due to the original film stock.

The acting is not too shabby overall. Kieran Canter does a fine job as the main character, Frank. He is accompanied by Franca Stoppi, who gives a downright chilling performance as Iris, the “nanny” who has a thing for Frank. I’m especially impressed with Cinzia Monreale, who plays both Anna and her sister, Elena; Monreale is “dead” for most of the film, and it is stunning to see how still she can keep her body, despite everything that is happening to it. I had no problem believing she was deceased. The rest of the cast is so-so, but the characters are never fleshed out, and therefore it’s hard to judge their performances.

As mentioned, the special effects are the winner here. I actually cringed a couple of times when Frank is prepping Anna for embalming, specifically when he is removing her brain. The visuals are beyond realistic, and I have to commend the effects team for how convincing they made this. The rest of the gore is just as good.

BEYOND THE DARKNESS is a win for me, and it’s a film I recommend checking out. Just make sure you do so on an empty stomach…or have a bowl nearby. The Blu-ray also boasts some nice Special Features, including:

• Joe D’Amato: The Horror Experience
• The Omega Woman: Interview With Actress Franca Stoppi (17 Minutes)
• Goblin Reborn Perform Buio Omega Live 2016
• Locations Revisited
• Sick Love – An Interview With Actress Cinzia Monreale
• Trailer
• CD Soundtrack (Blu-ray exclusive)

The film is available now.