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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Crime > Gangster > Murder > Heist > Comedy > Adventure > Mountain Climbing > Space Opera > Satire > Sc > Criminal Activities (2015/RLJ Blu-ray)/Everest (2015/Universal Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D and DVD)/Ice Pirates (1984/MGM/UA/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Mysterious Island: Encore Edition (1961/Sony/Columbia/T

Criminal Activities (2015/RLJ Blu-ray)/Everest (2015/Universal Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D and DVD)/Ice Pirates (1984/MGM/UA/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Mysterious Island: Encore Edition (1961/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Painkillers (2013/RLJ DVD)

3D Picture: B Picture: B/B & C/B/B/C Sound: B-/B & B-/B-/B-/C+ Extras: C-/C/C-/B-/D Films: C/C/C/B-/C-

PLEASE NOTE: The Mysterious Island Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, is limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last, while the Ice Pirates Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

This latest round of genre releases have big casts in common, but you'll notice that the actors in the newer productions get lost in the bad writing and digital effects, while in the older films, they manage to get (without deep character study or big chunks of time) their own individual space.

Jackie Earle Haley's Criminal Activities (2015) has the actor co-starring and co-producing a film where he tries out handling things behind the camera and though consistent, is badly laid out, we've seen this all before and even with Michael Pitt showing up and the attempt to push Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey!) to the fore in this too-Tarantino-for-its-own-good crime film, they can't take it anywhere new.

Haley steals more than a few scenes when he does show up and Travolta does show up, but nowhere nearly enough to sit through this one. Dialogue is also forgettable and the ending contrived. Still, Haley can direct just enough that he should try again, but he'll need a much better script. None of the characters really get developed either, so things blur too much.

Deleted Scenes and a Travolta/Haley interview clip are the only extras.

Baltasar Kormakur's Everest (2015) is a film that cannot decide whether it is a drama, action film, comedy, adventure or what it wants to be, but the script borrows from some of the 1996 IMAX film of the same name covering a 1996 climb that did not go a planned and manages to dull the story down. It also does this to real life people played by the likes of Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Emily Watson, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright and some other actors, all of whom deserve better.

Thus the waste of actors is as problematic as the waste of story and again, the characters (based on real people here) become a tired blur and I was very disappointed overall at the lack of energy, dullness and the actors did try but they could not overcome something tougher than the title mountain... An overall very bad production with hardly any energy. This version is the Blu-ray 3D release with Blu-ray 2D and DVD, but everything eventually is cardboard-flat 1D and we ain't talking about that boring boy band either. Skip it unless you must see it for some reason.

Digital Copy, a feature length audio commentary track, two making of featurettes and two more Blu-ray-exclusive featurettes are the extras.

Stewart Raffill's Ice Pirates (1984) has a very bad critical reputation, yet never necessarily makes any worst 10 lists I have seen, but now, it also has a cult following. Made by MGM/UA before the company was split in two, Warner landed up with it as one of the last MGM films before the current MGM was split off and eventually became a production company when bankruptcy killed them as a studio after some rough decades. This spoofy space opera was issued by the studio the same year as Peter Hyams' 2010, an unnecessary sequel to Kubrick's 2001, but both films bombed (MGM though 2010 would be a smash it and it was not).

Like Galaxina before it, it looks good, but is hardly ever really funny and sometimes really bad, but MGM/UA would try one more time with Mel Brooks' Spaceballs, which disappointed at the time only to become a belated hit. This film did not, but casting including the late Robert Urich, Mary Crosby (both TV stars from Vegas and Dallas respectively from a time you could NOT work in both mediums successfully without being penalized for being on TV), Angelica Huston, Michael D. Roberts, Jack Matuszak and Ron Perlman (looking like a cousin of John Oates) make for a good cast and that helps. More surprising, they get more character development and individuality than their many serious sci-fi counterparts, especially the more serious ones that land up being dull.

Bruce Broughton's score is also a plus, but the script is still dumb, even with politically incorrect parts we might not see today. Bruce Valanch also shows up as a gay character with mixed results. Production design is a plus, the film borrows from every major sci-fi film it can (2001, Blade Runner, Star Wars, Mad Max, TV hits Space Academy and Jason Of Star Command, and literally, the original Rollerball (that is the death sport everyone is watching on TV, a United Artists film) and Logan's Run (recycling interior and exterior footage of the Dome City (in admittedly great shape) from that MGM hit) and the robots and costumes are just so wacky (like the 1980 Flash Gordon, et al) that the film has actually aged better than anyone could have imagined at the time.

Warner Archive has issued this in a pretty basic Blu-ray with a surprisingly strong transfer that will surprise many. A theatrical trailer is the only extra, but a making of featurette would have been nice. See more below.

Cy Endfield's Mysterious Island: Encore Edition (1961) is a well-done version of a later Captain Nemo tale that rightly has a loyal following and after being issued as a limited edition-only Blu-ray years ago that quickly went out of print, Sony/Columbia has collected enough new extras that they allowed Twilight Time to issue an upgraded limited edition Blu-ray worth your time and worthy of the film.

A group of people escaping the Civil War on a ship that lands up wrecking on what seems like a beautiful island, until weird things start to happen and giant creatures start attacking them, thus the film's title. The adventure just keep getting more harrowing when Nemo (the great Herbert Lom) shows up for better and worse for them. Despite the limited budget, production design is really good, the Ray Harryhausen stop-motion animation is classic and the supporting cast (all of whom get a chance to develop their characters, however limited) includes Michael Craig, Joan Greenwood, Michael Callan, Gary Merrill, Beth Rogan, Percy Herbert and Dan Jackson play it seriously and that is why it still works enough to this day.

There are some off moments by Zulu-director Endfield does a nice job and Bernard Herrmann's beloved score still works well to this day. All in all, at least a minor fantasy and adventure classic whose following is fully understandable, nice to have it in print one more time.

Extras include another illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and the continuing series of Julie Kirgo's top-rate essays, while the Blu-ray adds Original Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots, Isolated Music Score of Herrmann's work, Ray Harryhausen on the film, Islands Of Mystery clip and feature length audio commentary track by film historians Randall William Cook, C. Courtney Joyner and Steven C. Smith that is informative and shows how much they love the film and those involved in making it.

Worst of all is Peter Winther's Painkillers (2013) with an all-unknown cast that plays too-similar soldiers who wake up at a medical facility and cannot remember why they are there, how they got there or the traumatic events that landed them up there. The rest of the time is trying to enact and explain this contrivance and instead, the only way to kill any pain is to turn this DVD off because it is boring torture to suffer through this one that drags on and on and on and on and on... you get it.

Tahmon Penikett of the forgettable, if very commercially successful mechanical, dark, tired reboot of Battlestar Galactica heads the cast, who talk at each other, but with this teleplay, what else could they do. This is bad and you should pass on it, but don;t operate anything dangerous if you watch aa you may fall asleep in the process... or throw a brick through your HDTV.

There are no extras.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 MVC-encoded 3-D - Full Resolution digital High Definition image on Everest does not really do much for it with all of its darkness and many boring shots, which more than carry over to the Blu-ray 2D version with the same aspect ratio. Both are competent at best, but make the mountain look boring, kills any wonderment and makes you want to stay away as much as possible. The anamorphically enhanced DVD is the weakest of all and any IMAX mountain footage is the cure for this dud of an experience.

The remaining Blu-rays are marginally better performers and not bores including the 1080p 2.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Criminal not always being perfect, but consistent for an HD shoot, while the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer can on Island and the 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Pirates may have prints that show the age of the films at times, but these are really surprisingly strong transfers (from new HD masters that work) that land up being the best here by a narrow margin. Pirates color is better than Criminals, while Island has an interesting color history.

Shot by the great Director of Photography Wilkie Cooper, B.S.C. (Hitchcock's Stage Fright, 7th Voyage Of Sinbad, Jason & The Argonauts, First Men In The Moon, TV's The Avengers) was not happy with the PatheColor 35mm film stocks cheaply acquired due to the low budget, but pushed them the best he could and Columbia landed up using them for other films versus using black and white stocks, extending into their Screen Gems TV division, resulting in a special, unique look to their product. Despite Cooper's unhappiness, I like this in color and this transfer is remarkable (and allegedly the same high quality master Twilight Time used in their older limited edition with less extras) so don't expect to see it looking better anywhere else.

Issued in the U.S. as 'Eastmancolor by Pathe' as it likely was in most markets, our research says that the film apparently got the best release treatment in the U.K. with higher-quality 35mm, dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints that likely did away with grain the most. We get some grain here, but we also get shots that show off how good the color is overall. Fans should grab this extended new limited version while they can.

That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Painkillers almost as bad as the Everest DVD, save it has a little more color, but is as soft and hard to watch.

The Everest Blu-ray has a Dolby Atmos 11.1 mix, but from what we got in the 7.1 mixdown in Dolby TrueHD lossless sound, it does not sound like we're missing too much throughout as if the extra tracks were an afterthought. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 DVD version is not as good by any means, but beats the same 5.1 on Painkillers, our sonic disappointment on the list.

The remaining Blu-rays have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless mixes with Criminal offering a 5.1 mix, Island offering 5.1 (the best choice), 2.0 Stereo & 1.0 Mono (!) mixes and Pirates offering a 2.0 Mono mix. The 5.1 on Criminal (mixing issues, including the dialogue weaker than the rest of the mix) and Island (showing its age) cannot match the limited Everest to the point that the surprising clarity of Pirates can match the other films. I cannot imagine any of these sounding better than they do here.

To order Mysterious Island limited edition Blu-ray, buy them while supplies last at these links:




...and to order the Ice Pirates Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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