Back From Hell (2011/Inception DVD)/Barricade
(2012/WWE DVD)/The Courier
(2011/Well Go USA Blu-ray)/Robert Conrad Double Feature (Live A Little, Steal A Lot
(aka Murph The Surf (1975) + Sudden Death (1977)/Inception DVD)/The Tall Man (2012/Image Blu-ray)
Picture: C/C/B-/C/B- Sound: C/C+/B-/C/B Extras: D/C/C/D/D Films: D/C/C/C+/D
Here is a
mix of action and horror genre releases aimed at much the same audiences, but
with little success despite some with interesting differences.
with Leonardo Anareo’s Back From Hell
(2011) which is yet another bad, dumb, would-be supernatural exercise in
boredom, predictability in the “found “bad video” footage: category that people
like himself and the others who backed this mess somehow think is a good idea
to produce, as if people will pay money for it.
As always, the characters we meet are less compelling than an antiquated
PC floppy disc and you get the same lame shaky, weak, problematic-on=purpose
footage that tells us something is going on versus a script that should.
is, unless you are doing a Paranormal
Activity release, these formulaic messes are all the same, don’t do a penny
of profit and are pointless. The cover
has that long, dark haired gal in a long white t-shirt cliché that might just
be a reason to suggest a cheap Halloween costume ladies can make for themselves
if they are could care less. That is
actually more interesting than anything on screen here.
one, the group of unknowns bring their camcorders to a house in the middle of
nowhere (they used to go to school together; guess they were the low-achievers)
and of course, it is haunted. Funny how
these isolated places seem to be the only ones haunted. There are no extras either.
find respectability on some low level, WWE Films tries to “stretch” here from
their usual limited mix of wrestler movies, wresters-as-monsters-going-GRRRRRR
movies and bad Rocky rip-offs with a
Shining knock-off of sorts called Barricade (2012) with Eric McCormack
(one of the few true actors to appear in any
WWE releases to date) as a father who takes his family into a house in the
woods… during the Christmas season when it snows hard!
smartest father in the world, things seem like fun until he starts not feeling
well and starts to question his perception of reality as some darker things
start to surface. If only the script had
followed that line of approach before abandoning such creepy challenges and
going for formulaic idiocy, it unravels about a third of the way through, but
was interesting while it lasted. We’re
supposed to take this seriously, but the makers can forget it.
Andrew Currie has limited helming skills and an even more limited script. If the WWE want to get more serious about
feature-length productions, they’re going to have to do better than this. Extras include four small featurettes about
how this was made.
have a story about a man who will deliver anything, no caring what it is, as
long as you pay him well. However, this
is not the latest Jason Statham formula pic, but Hany Abu-Assad’s The Courier (2011) with Jeffrey Dean
Morgan as the title character. This
opens with him in an amusement park saving a woman (who he turns out to be
connected with) and has a package with him, then (in what I see as a cop out);
the rest of this is told in flashback, lessening potential impact.
basically a plot-point formula piece like you have seen before trying to do
something like a 1970s thriller, but way too distant from that in edge or
power. So the reason this is not a total
dud is the guest casting that make this more interesting and tolerable than
Lily Taylor and Miguel; Ferrer as a couple who seem to be a hit-team and in it
for the money on the wrong side of things, but turn out to be worse and casual
about it, even down to torturing people (which plays out in one of the
eventually weakest parts of the script) and we later get a creepy old enemy of
the lead who is singing on stage as the old, fat (and even dead) Elvis played
very well and creepily by no less than Mickey Rourke. Til Schweiger and Mark Margolis also turn up,
so you can see the makers were trying to make this work, but too much is
standard here otherwise, so the result is average and mixed.
Deleted Scenes and Behind The Scenes featurette are the extras.
that, we go back to the real 1970s with two actual action films and attempts
for TV star Robert Conrad (The Wild,
Wild West) to become a big screen movie star. That never worked out, but he continued to be
a star on TV (Baa Baa Black Sheep
aka Black Sheep Squadron, A Man Called Sloan) but the two films
in the new Robert Conrad Double Feature
are as good as anything here.
Chomsky’s Live A Little, Steal A Lot
(aka Murph The Surf, 1975) has
Conrad and Don Stroud (the title character) as best friend who like money and
women, but don’t want to work for it, so they like stealing valuables and here,
they go after some very rare diamonds.
Whether they can get them and get away with them is another story, but it
is a somewhat comical heist film that does nothing new, but at least is
competent enough throughout to enjoy without faltering script-wise.
performances help, including performances by Donna Mills, Lou Adler and Burt
Young. At least here, all involved are
trying to make this work, but it seems more like it imitates Bond films and the
series It Takes A Thief than trying
to be something more. Too bad, because
this had more potential and the comedy side does not make a difference.
serious is Eddie Romero’s Sudden Death
(1977) which is not to be confused with the silly Jean-Claude Van Damme film of
the same name and reminds me a bit of The
Courier in that the lead character has family that might get stuck in the
middle of the violence, which this film has plenty of.
opens with a family having a fun private cookout when gunman show up and
brutally shoot them to death, but the father actually survives and wants
revenge. Enter Conrad as a man who
intends to find out and Stroud hired to play a killer out to stop him. This is more brutal than I remembered while
the tone is dark, I think this is slightly better than the other film, but we
have seen some of this before, yet it also works and when any children are the
targets of violence, the film and script don’t dwell on it or make it seedy.
and Larry Manetti are among the supporting cast and like the first film, this
too is worth a look, even if neither are great.
They are still more competent than what we get in the same genres
now. Sadly, there are no extras here for
either film, though Conrad at least could have been interviewed and trailers
have to be somewhere.
we have a film with that children issue.
Pascal Laugier’s The Tall Man
(2012) at first seems to be about the mysterious figure of the title nabbing
young children left and right, albeit in a certain small town. Is it cursed?
Does someone what revenge? Is it
supernatural? Sadly, this is just bad M.
Night Shyamalan recycled as the makers think they are deconstructing a genre
and doing something clever or important.
It might turn smug if it were not so problematic in its treatment of
child abduction, abuse and terror, which it lands up wallowing in.
twists and turns all over the place cannot cover this up, nor can the cast
including Jessica Alba and The X–Files’
William B. Davis recycling his persona from that show somewhat. Outside of any exploitation, the script is
never convincing, never adds up and is really weak, but add the children angle
and this is one of the year’s worst releases.
After the mid-point with too many twists, it was finished and never
recovered to say the least. This is
Trailer, Deleted Scenes and Visual Concepts are the only extras and weak as
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Hell
and Barricade are much softer than
expected despite being new productions with detail issues, color limits and
some motion blur even when we consider stylizing the images to be a little
darker. As a result, the anamorphically
enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on both Conrad
films can actually be a little sharper, but the prints are not in the best of
shape and have some color inconsistencies including some fading
throughout. I still like their look
better than the newer releases.
2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Courier and Tall are
much better, but they too have the same blur, styling down and detail issues,
even if they are less so than the newer productions on DVD.
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is on Courier is a bit more towards the front speakers than I would have
liked at times, but some scenes are simply more well recorded than others and
the sound design can only cover that up so much. Still, we get some good sound design here
too. Though the film is horrid, the Dolby
TrueHD lossless 5.1 mix on Tall is
the best sound release here with a consistent soundfield and good recording all
around. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Barricade is the next best with a mix
that is sometimes overdone and even silly, but has its weaknesses and is also
not too consistent. Wonder if the
lossiness is part of the problem.
Dolby Digital 5.1 on Hell is much
worse, just spreading around the limited sound not so well recorded, sometimes
offering purposely bad location audio and sticking too much sound in the center
channel. That is why despite its age and
distortion, the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound on both Conrad films are its equal.
- Nicholas Sheffo