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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Comedy > Satire > Counterculture > Independent > Action > Thriller > Crime > Murder > Horr > Dark Star (1974/VCI Blu-ray)/Fire With Fire (2012/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/[REC]3: Genesis (2012/Sony DVD)/Suddenly (1954/HD Cinema Classics/Film Chest Blu-ray w/DVD)/Vamps (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)

Dark Star (1974/VCI Blu-ray)/Fire With Fire (2012/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/[REC]3: Genesis (2012/Sony DVD)/Suddenly (1954/HD Cinema Classics/Film Chest Blu-ray w/DVD)/Vamps (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)


Picture: B/B-/C/B- & C/B-     Sound: B-/B/C+/C/C+     Extras: B/C+/D/B-/D    Films: B-/C+/D/B-/D



Here are some new action genre releases that include some comedy, some Science Fiction and some Horror…



John Carpenter’s Dark Star (1974) is his first feature film and it was an indie hit thanks to Jack H. Harris picking it up, having a 35mm blow-up version produced and distributing it well.  The film was written by Dan O’Bannon who used some its structure when he wrote the script for what became Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and George Lucas definitely was inspired by in it his creation of R2D2 and in his set design, in part in how to keep costs down on his first of many Star Wars films.


We have covered the film twice in its previous VCI DVD releases and you can read more about the film from one of its biggest fans at these links:


First DVD



Upgraded DVD




Seeing it on Blu-ray in this amazing upgrade, the film’s impact can be enjoyed in ways only those who have seen a nice film print have before this release.  We can finally see what Carpenter and O’Bannon (who co-stars too) were trying to do.  I was very impressed by how much of an impact the upgrade has had.  VCI has been a big supporter of the film for years and they can be satisfied they made the film more popular sine their first DVD and this continues their extraordinary run of great Blu-ray productions.


All of the extras from the last DVD are here and we’ll get to how good this looks and sounds below.



Josh Duhamel is a fireman who has to tangle with a murderous white supremacist leader (Vincent D’Onofrio) in David Barrett’s Fire With Fire (2012) which is actually co-produced and has an appearance by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, but he does not use his Rap name and for the first time, he is actually connected to something that is watchable if eventually failed.


Duhamel is involved with a federal agent (Rosario Dawson) protecting him and a police officer (Bruce Willis) who might be up to no good or is up to something more complex.  This does have some promise and some good action sequences, plus D’Onofrio is really good here, though I wish he could get more roles than villains since I really like him, but everyone here is decent and if you are really interested, it is worth a look.  Just don’t expect much rewatchability.



Extras include two feature length audio commentary tracks (one by the actors, the other by Barrett and Director of Photography Christopher Probst), trailers, on camera cast/crew interviews and a Behind The Scenes interviews featurette.



Paco Plaza’s [REC]3: Genesis (2012, or should that be “wreck 3”) is another point-of-view-on-digital-camera bloodbath formula flick and this one is set after the events of a nice wedding go by.  Then everyone who wanted to cut the cake get cut to cake.  I guess someone is enjoying this (as a sick joke?  They are bored with their lives?) but I am not and even with the situation having some interesting potential, it is not found here.  The result is a dud for fans only.  Deleted Scenes and Outtakes are the only extras.



For years, Lewis Allen’s Suddenly (1954) has been issued in an amazingly bad series of horrid VHS, LaserDisc, Betamax and DVD editions (especially in that infamous colorized version where someone made Sinatra’s “old blue eyes” brown!), but the gang at HD Cinema Classics/Film Chest have issued a restored version of this orphan film (originally distributed by United Artists) and the result is its debut on Blu-ray and includes a DVD.


The title refers to the small town where the President Of The United States is due to visit, which makes local officer Sterling Hayden happy, but on alert.  The Secret Service also arrives, as do a trio of FBI agents who turn out to be paid criminals including their leader (Sinatra) ready to coldly assassinate the Commander-In-Chief and cash us all out.


Sinatra is really good here in a great role and performance just after his From Here To Eternity comeback and the cast, set-ups and locale all add up to making a suspenseful kidnap/murder thriller.  Like William Wyler’s The Desperate Hours (1955, reviewed elsewhere on this site), this is not a full Film Noir but Noirish enough and more of a straight-out crime drama and both are two of the best of their kind from the 1950s.


If you have not seen this film (or not in a long time), you’ll want to catch up to it on Blu-ray.  A postcard inside the Blu-ray case, plus new trailer, before & after restoration demonstration and fine feature length audio commentary by Sinatra and film scholar Tom Santopietro which should be listened to after watching the film are the extras.  For more on the second Blu-ray version Image issued soon after this one, go to this link:





Amy Heckerling is back with Vamps (2011), a comedy about two female friends (Alicia Silverstone, Krysten Ritter) who happen to be vampires.  Heckerling has made smart (or at least distinctive) films like Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Clueless and even Loser, but this is one of her gimmick films like Look Who’s Talking in what is a bad one-joke film about their tough life and how anything gross is just par for the course in their lives.


Sigourney Weaver, Malcolm McDowell, Richard Lewis and Wallace Shawn even show up, but even they cannot save the lazy, obvious, bore that never goes anywhere.  With all that talent, this had potential, but Heckerling has lost her touch.

There are no extras.




The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Dark Star is the second oldest film here, but is easily the best performer on the list with some impressive moments of color, definition and clarity that surpasses all previous editions of the film and video masters, including the PAL DVD that I covered from Umbrella.  You can see some of the dated effects and some of the limits of the 16mm in shots, but I was sometimes stunned by the great work that went into fixing the film.  It is a must-see back catalog title and VCI does it again.


The 1080p 1.33 X 1 (though some feel it is more towards 1.66  X 1) digital High Definition on Suddenly is centered in a 1.78 X 1 frame and is HD Cinema Classics’ best restoration to date with some nice detail, Video Black, Video White and depth like I have never seen on this film ever.  There are still some issues with the print (age, damage) and some parts that did not turn out as well as others, but it is looking good for its age and the anamorphically enhanced DVD (using the same 1.33 X 1 in 1.78 X 1 master) is the best DVD version to date.  Image Entertainment is issuing their Blu-ray of the film soon, so we’ll try to get it to compare.


That leaves the HD-shoot of Fire (1080p 2.35 X 1) and Vamps (1080p 1.78 X 1) digital High Definition image transfers looking watchably good, but not great as they have their share of motion blur, detail issues and other shortcomings that are not as bad as some HD shoots (like [REC]3) but you would not mistake either for a good film shoot.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on [REC]3 is purposely the poorest performer here with motion blur and shaky camera work on purpose, plus self-consciously presented video screens, all with extra degradation.



As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Fire is the best with a consistent soundfield, good recording and editing throughout, followed by a surprisingly good PCM 5.1 mix on Dark Star (which also includes a decent PCM 2.0 Stereo mix that is almost as good) bringing out amazing results form a film that was originally a theatrical monophonic sound release.


The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on [REC]3 and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 on Vamps follow with more sound information towards the front speakers than they should have and inconsistent sound mixes in general.  Suddenly has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 lossless mix on its Blu-ray and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix on its DVD, but the sound could only be saved so much and the oldest title here sounds it.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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