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Category:    Home > Reviews > Crime > Drama > Robbery > Murder > Urban > Drug Addiction > Lawyer > Police > Mystery > Action > Mental Illnes > American Heist (2014/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Animals (2015/Oscilloscope DVD)/Mr. Ricco (1974/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/Nightingale (2015/HBO Blu-ray)/Star 80 (1983/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/The Summer House (2

American Heist (2014/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Animals (2015/Oscilloscope DVD)/Mr. Ricco (1974/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/Nightingale (2015/HBO Blu-ray)/Star 80 (1983/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/The Summer House (2014/Artsploitation DVD)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Mr. Ricco and Star 80 DVDs are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Now for a group of films that look at the seedy side of life...

Sarik Andreasyan's American Heist (2014) casts Hayden Christensen and Adrian Brody as brothers, with both of them involved with criminal types and Brody a boxer who went to prison for his brother to protect him. After all this hardship and sacrifice, they land up going for a big bank heist against their better judgment. They are actually good here, though not as 'street' as they could have been, but they have enough convincing chemistry here that you can see how this got funded.

Unfortunately, the script and directing are a bit weak and cliched, their backstory lacking and the heist is as badly planned as it is generic. Jordana Brewster shows up as Christensen's girlfriend, but she is even developed less than they are. Thus the 95 minutes here are not as effectively spent as they should be, but at least they were ambitious and I like these actors, do lets see what they do next.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds a Making Of featurette.

Collin Schiffli's Animals (2015) wants to tell us the tale of two persons addicted to drugs, stealing and more, but likely in love for as much as they can be in such damaged condition. More shocking in the 1950s and 1960s than it could ever be now, these films can easily get in trouble when they wallow in their sense of a 'loser world' and that happens early on in the too-predictable 86 minutes here despite good performances by David Dastmalchian (who wrote it) and Kim Shaw, I really wanted this to take off, say something and/or show us something more. However, it found little new and the ending did not work for me either.

Extras include a Behind The Scenes featurette and Deleted Scenes.

Paul Bogart's Mr. Ricco (1974) has Dean Martin in a Dirty Harry-type urban crime thriller, but instead of a cop, he plays a lawyer who still finds himself in the middle of violent trouble when a hitman is identified as a black militant who also likes to kill cops. Joe Ricco may be partly responsible, yet he also becomes a target and has to juggle the police, killers and other criminals in a drama with just enough comedy to give it a look. Too bad it is inconsistent, sometimes predictable and never fully works.

However, MGM's hope for a hit has a solid cast including a great turn by Cindy Williams as Ricco's secretary (if a sequel had happened, they would have needed to up her screen time), Eugene Roche as the main police detective trying to solve the case, Denise Nicholas, Geraldine Brooks, Philip (Michael) Thomas and other regular character actors of the time who make such films of this era more watchable than mixed successes of today.

A trailer is the only extra.

Elliott Lester's Nightingale (2015) has David Oyelowo as a war veteran who records his life to seeming find closure, but slowly starts to unravel as the phoniness of digital video and the Internet star actually chipping away at his heart, soul, mind, individuality and sense of individual self leading to his peace of mind being gutted out with awful results.

An HBO telefilm, I had mixed feelings about this, a good performance but also with some cliches and though to the point at 82 minutes, uneven, could have been shorter and sometimes plays like a formula stuck-in-a story. Still, see it once for yourself just to know what he does and did.

There are no extras, unless you count Digital Copy.

Bob Fosse's Star 80 (1983) quickly dramatized the awful tale of how model Dorothy Straiten (a really convincing Mariel Hemingway) became beloved as a Playboy Magazine Playmate and was having a good life, but she gets their in part via her obsessed boyfriend (Eric Roberts trying for Robert De Niro territory and sometimes succeeding) who helps her only to eventually destroy her in a brutal murder based on the true story that actually happened and mostly this way.

Cliff Robertson has a good turn as Playboy creator Hugh Hefner and the rest of the cast (including Carroll Baker) are a real convincing plus, capturing the final years of the counterculture going disco & porn. The Ladd Company produced it and all were bold to take this on so soon, but some would argue it was appropriate to tell the truth, possibly in hope it would not happen again. Fosse's use of voice over and still pictures has only appreciated in value and though the film may be too short on exposition, its ambition and honesty are to be admired. It now also serves as a time capsule.

There are no extras.

Curtis Burz's The Summer House (2014) wants to be a tale of a closeted bi-sexual father (Syen Jacobs) who is having a secret affair when he starts to become interested in an underage blond boy friend of his 11-year-old daughter (gay Lolita style), but the script and director desex the mother/wife too much, add a few horror movie twists and cannot resolve itself in the end. I did like the Alternate Ending abandoned versus the lamer one they went with.

More thinking and concentration was needed on this one, especially considering the subject matter, but it hits some false notes and never works like it almost could have. Too bad.

Extras include Cast/Crew Interviews, an Original Theatrical Trailer and Deleted Scenes with Alternate Ending.

Both Blu-rays are digital shoots, with a 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition presentation on Heist and 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Nightingale, but despite being the best presentations here, they both have more motion blur than expected and in both cases, do not add any kind of edge or realism to either. As for the anamorphically enhanced DVDs, they all look good, but not as good as the Blu-rays and Ricco is sadly the softest and most inconsistent presentation here despite being a solid 35mm Panavision shoot. The rest are also 2.35 X 1 as well save House in 1.85 X 1. All four could use Blu-ray upgrades and both Ricco and Star would benefit the most.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on both Blu-rays are the best sonic presentations, though Nightingale is purposely a bit choppy and awkward to fit its idea of realism, but that does not help it and a different approach might have helped. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Animals should be able to outdo the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on House and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Ricco and Star, but it is only able to outdo Ricco showing its lack of soundfield, mumblecore tendencies and budget limits.

You can order the Mr. Ricco and Star 80 Warner Archive DVDs by going to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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