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28 September 2009

Long Weekend (2008)

At DVDBeaver, you will find my review of NATURE'S GRAVE, the extremely unnecessary 2008 remake of the underrated Australian horror classic LONG WEEKEND (the original is available in a beautifully HD-mastered transfer from Synapse Films). In the remake, Jim Caviezel and Claudia Karvan play an unlikable pair of yuppies who go on a camping trip. Their disrespect for the environment causes nature to revolt. Not much to say about the film, see the original instead. The barebones US DVD looks like it was thrown together with a consumer DVD template authoring program and features a low-bitrate, interlaced transfer that makes hash of high-movement scenes on a progressive monitor (looks fine on a regular TV).

24 September 2009

Oculto and Seom

Check out DVDBeaver for my review of the 2005 Antonio Hernandez Spanish erotic thriller OCULTO (HIDDEN). Underneath the mainstream gloss is a nice little thriller about the danger of looking for direction and meaning in dreams. Natalia's (Angie Cepeda) recurring dreams have guided the direction of her life and career but now they seem to be haunted by the restless soul of a dead lover. Stranger Beatriz (Laia Marull) seems to be mysteriously connected to Natalia's visions which take an even darker turn when magazine writer Alex (Leonardo Sbaraglia) becomes involved with both women. The US DVD from Venevision is marketed at the Spanish-speaking market but does have English subtitles. Netflix it! You can also find a review of the Kim Ki-Duk's bizarre erotic and brutal psychological drama THE ISLE also at DVDBeaver. All of I've done to that one is add caps and review content of the Spanish and US DVDs. The Spanish disc is the best this film has looked so far and has English subtitles for both the film and the filmmaker interviews included on the disc (the US DVD has more extras but the transfer is not that good-looking).

21 September 2009

Nightmares (1980)

Check DVDBeaver for my review of the Aussie slasher NIGHTMARES (aka STAGE FRIGHT - not to be confused with the superior Michele Soavi Italian slasher with an owl-masked butcher terrorizing the trapped occupants of a theater). Jenny Neumann (Victim #1 in the later American slasher classic HELL NIGHT) plays a young American actress who auditions for a part in a Victorian comedy by a vitriolic director (Max Phipps). Her romance with a co-star (Gary Sweet) is hindered by a killer wielding shards of glass (cue childhood trauma) slashing away at the cast and crew (cue lots of post-HALLOWEEN POV prowling through the theater). Umbrella Entertainment's Australian DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (the film is unwatchable on cropped videotapes - the UK release was also cut by the BBFC).

Even better, check out Paolo Franchi's THE SPECTATOR (La Spettarice) in which Valeria, a lonely young woman falls in love with her neighbor (who she spies on from her apartment across the street) Massimo (Andrea Renzi). When he leaves Milan for Rome, she impulsively follows him and insinuates herself into the life of Massimo's older lover law professor Flavia (Brigitte Catillon) in order to get closer to him. A slow-burn psychological drama that doesn't feel the need to degenerate into last-minute psycholgical thriller territory. Facets' US DVD unfortunately is a travesty. It is a direct conversion of the Italian DVD with the once anamorphic widescreen image now in 4:3 letterbox with heavy PAL-NTSC interlacing artifacts. The English subtitles have been burned in but there were already some permananent Italian subtitles for some English dialogue so in one or two scenes you have both English subtitles (for the Italian dialogue) and Italian subs (for the background English dialogue) onscreen at the same time. Giuseppe Lanci's (Tarkovsky's NOSTALGHIA) cinematography looks drab in this transfer but you can at least get an impression of how it is supposed to look in a better transfer.

08 September 2009

O Convento

My review of Manoel de Oliveira's underrated THE CONVENT is up at DVDBeaver now. In addition to reviewing the film, I compared the two US DVD releases of the film. The Wellspring DVDis out of print and is badly converted from PAL to to NTSC but has a better subtitle translation to the better-looking and cheaper release from LionsGate (whch tries to sell it as an exciting religious thriller) which has good image quality, runs at the correct film speed, but has some grammatical and translation errors which pop up late in the film during a crucial and lengthy conversation. A worthy viewing experience for the patient movie buff.
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