Ruthless mobsters crack down hard on barkeeps, strong arming their way into seizing every bar in town. When they mess with Jo Lee-Haywood, the too cocky gangsters messed with the wrong Southern gal as Jo turns out to be Jo Pickings, one of three dames of the notorious Pickings gang. Jo tries to abide by a straighten arrow inspired by her deceased husband and four kids, but crime tugs at her violent past, scraping the good from her clean off. With the help of her brother, Boone, and her sisters, Doris and May, Jo and her family of heavily armed outlaws aim to fight back against thugs and thieves in this modern day western.
“Pickings” is the freshman film of first time feature film producer, writer, and director Usher Morgan. The contemporary gritty western is a maelstrom of goliath turf wars that’s stylized with rotoscoping and other comic book fatigues to dress Morgan’s film as an aesthetically popping story with illustrative visuals, anomalies, and raw tooth violence. The clear cut message, a fairly popular thematic motif among westerns, is don’t mess with family, even if family has been through an estranged time, and though Morgan’s theme runs a fairly conventional line, the “Sin City”-esque overlay gives “Pickings” a strong double take. What’s an especially fun and unique concept is having one of the characters, Sam “Hollywood” Barone, be exhibited in black and white while everyone else is in color as if the character was pulled straight from a Humphrey Bogart classic.
Elyse Price headlines as Jo-Lee Haywood, a wife-mother scorned by notorious gangsters, but the tough as nails mother of four runs a tight-ship when it comes to her bar and to her family. Price doesn’t hold back, taking the gut-checking hits and delivering a twice as big response with a performance of contempt and revenge. Price is joined by Joel Bernard, the sole brother of the Pickens gang whose as tough as they come, especially when you’re the only boy with three sisters. Bernard does the job matching Price’s hard nose character with his own more subtle version. The two other sisters, Doris and May played by Michelle Holland and Lynne Jordan, barely scratch the surface in an appearance that makes their characters difficult to absorb. Aside from Jo Lee-Haywood, the only other character with a significant character arc is her daughter Scarlet Lee-Haywood filled in by Katie Vincent. Vincent’s softens up against her mother’s violence despite being a passive witness to her cornered brutality, but can adhere to the akin familiarities of her family’s long and violent history. The cast rounds out with Yaron Urbas, who in my opinion is a decent mobster, Michael Gentile, and Emil Ferzola.
“Pickings” doesn’t come without problems and one of the problems is is the story concludes on a really too clean note. The inner monologuing exposition of Jo Lee-Haywood conveying her start-to-finish tale of her involvement with the three dames, Doris, May, and Jo, is a good visual like the rest of the Morgan’s film, but is just that, a good visual, and doesn’t carry the weight of suspense and becomes even more diluted when Doris and May have little interaction with Jo and barely any screen time at all to put the oomph into conveying their badassness. Aside from being obvious and telling, the gun blazing finale is also a bit underwhelming and disappointing, chocking everything to a one sided victory without any, or the hope of any, dire loss to compensate just feels empty and, again, too clean for comfort.
Courtesy of Dark Passage Films comes “Pickings” onto DVD and Blu-ray home video. The DVD is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio that capture the neo-noir facets of shadowing figures and haunting mysteries. Morgan’s film doesn’t necessary pop with color, but that’s particularly the nature of the genre. Aside from that, no real issue with the DVD transfer. The audio is a stereo option that has an ample dialogue track and a stocky ambient accompaniment. Katie Vincent’s bootlickin’ acoustical score never wavers, cracks, or looses range. Extras include deleted scenes, filmmakers’ commentary, “The Mop” a Pickings short, a behind the scenes featurette, and a spoof reel during the end credits. Loaded with female empowerment, “Pickings” is a violent crime drama with neo-noir battle garments of two warring clans ready to get along like the Hatfields and McCoys, but the undercutting finale puts a sharp spur in one’s couch melding backside, leaving much to be desired from a women scorned vendetta.
As a respected nobleman and the right hand soldier of his King, the fearless Lyutobor endured the misfortunate event of his wife and newborn son pillaged from his estate by the endangered Scythian assassins known as wolves. The assassins were hired to kidnap the nobleman’s family by an insider in an exchange to overthrow and kill the King to campaign a new leadership, but the King has other plans for his faithful servant; the nobleman has seven days to locate his family and to unearth the dastardly plot against his lord. Using a betrayed and captured young Scythian wolf named Marten as his guide, the pair journey through perilous terrain and murderous adversaries to the secluded Scythian camp. Lyutobor and Marten have to reluctantly rely on each other’s sacred and unwavering oaths and battle experience if they want to survive the cutthroat time where betrayals scathe more deeply and plots thicken.
4Digital Media, through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, presents “The Last Warrior,” a Russian epic fantasy from writer-director Rustam Mosafir and co-penned by Vadim Golovanov. Also known under the original Russian title as “The Scythian,” Mosafir’s feature is a perpetually violent medieval adventure, packed with action and oxymoronic imagery of a serene Eastern European landscape. Tremendously epic with some serious fight sequences, “The Last Warrior” has sword swinging teeth and long lasting narcotic impressions. Its as if the cold inflicted violence of Mel Gibson had middled and mingled with the surrealism action of “The Wanted’s” Timur Bekmambetov and had a child, that child would be “The Last Warrior, born through cauldron of Russian krov’ i ogon’ (blood and fire).
Aleksey Faddeev patrons his time as the last good solider that is Lyutobor. Faddeev simply acts upon an inextinguishable ferocity that’s flames within Lyutobor, seizing every moment like it’s the actor’s last chance to be the hero. Lyutobor’s a bit of a one dimension character, arching ever so gradually to embracing a clan he’s been taught to hate, but only because they didn’t rape or murder his beloved wife. Faddeev pulled the character off with ease; however, Marten has an interesting persona donned by Aleksandr Kuznetsov, sporting a mohawk, cranial tattoos, and an unlikely spartan physique that makes the bloodshot and wired eyed character quite spry and deadly. Kuznetsov bends his character’s will after a taking a sacred oath to his clan’s God. Gods are essential part of the story as every act, every event, or every course is in the interest or will of some sort of God. The cast rounds out with Yuriy Tsurilo, Izmaylova Vasilisa, and Vitaly Kravchenko.
“The Last Warrior” never ceases to degressive transitions, picking up one fight after another without much breathing room in between. The Russian epic fantasy is essentially a visual speed read and by the time ingestion sets in the one crazy, unforgettable moment, Mosafir uses it as a seque right into the next choreographed conflict. Mosafir’s brilliancy illuminates during long takes and optimal camera work that embrace the slipknot action and yet, the director can’t seem to find an equalization during the talking head moments that push the story along. The quickly fed motivation nearly suppresses the story; there are factions that needed more shepherding explanation such as the forest people and their hallucinogenic drug that can release a person’s inner anger bear like an animality in Mortal Kombat 3. After desperately drinking from the drug, Lyutobor’s bear emerges and when pushed, the nobleman can call upon the strength and ferocity of the bear to his advantage, but the concept goes as far as that without much explanation to Lyutobor’s inherence of what could be much rather a curse than a blessing. Watch out, little Lyutobor! Don’t make daddy angry or the bear will come out!
through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 4Digital Media presents “The Last Warrior” onto UK DVD home video that takes the oath of an August 20th release date. I’m unable to write up a full technical assessment of the DVD as I was provided with a screener. The screener had a forced dubbed English soundtrack with 15% of the Russian subtitles and no static menu, an atypical critique screener; however, the proper DVD release will have both the Russian audio track with English subtitles and the English dubbed version, which if the same as the screener is completely hilarious, off kilter, and just awful. I’m also positive there will be a static menu as well. To sum up Rustam Mosafir’s medieval fantasy would be to note that its speedy, stab-happy, and a no-nonsense. The sword play is notable, fight scenes are aesthetic, and there lies some neat visuals, but “The Last Warrior” fails to find a deeper purpose to counteract it’s surface level of the bizarre blood splatter in a chute of metal music and that’s where Mosafir will lose most of his well-versed audiences.
Six months after a tragic climbing accident that left his wife dead and him crippled and bound to a wheel chair, Preston Rogers has been ordered by his doctor to return home, near the site of accident, with the assistance of a nurse to unify Preston’s shattered psyche. Next door, five, young party girls check in for an all-girls party weekend. However, they’re not alone. In the woods, lurks a monstrous living legend, blood thirsty, and ready to feast on the flesh and bone of animal and human alike. As Preston witnesses one death after another from a perched view while sitting in his wheel cheer, he becomes desperate to reach the survivors’ attentions and no one, from police to his uncouth nurse assistant, believe his story of a vicious, hairy creature skulking in the woods, leaving Preston by himself to save others as well as himself.
They don’t make monster movies like this anymore! “Abominable” is the 2006 blood splattering creature feature from writer-director Ryan Schifrin. The director’s freshman film is a wallop of entertainment with ton of homage and a plenty of gruesome kills that you can revisit over and over again on some kind of morbid repeat in this high caliber, independent, coal-coated gem that’s “Read Window” meets a whole hell of a messed up version of “Harry and the Hendersons.” You don’t want this ginormous meat eater breaking in your couch or raiding your fridge! The tightly knit set locations that might usually stagnant a story are easily compensated with a graphic and bloody violence that stems from the many full frontal visuals on the towering, practical effects monster. “Abominable” also looks and feels really expensive and not a slapped together, last minute production.
Now, Ryan Schifrin might not agree with me here and the director might say that it was his passion that attracted some of the genre’s biggest names to have small roles in first time feature, but I’m pretty confident that his well-known composer father, Lalo Schifrin whose composed for movies “The Amityville Horror” and “The Class of 1984”, had some influential help other than also being the orchestrating composer for his son’s film. In leading with “Abominable’s” main star, I remember this actor from his charismatic boyfriend material character in “Deep Star Six;” Matt McCoy plays the crippled Preston Rogers who must rely on his smarts rather than his physical strength. McCoy’s piecing blue eyes and solid acting chops has him being a believable character in an unbelievable movie. McCoy’s character and his at odds dynamic with skeezy male nurse Otis Wilhelm, dedicatedly played in a first time performance by special effects artist Christien Tinlsey, is probably one of the better shallow pissing matches around. The five party girls are Karin Anna Cheung, Natalie Compagno, Ashley Hartman, genre scream queen Tiffany Shepis, who has one of the best death scenes ever, and rounding off with Haley Joel in the female lead. Hold onto to your hats, because we’re not done yet with the star-studded cast list that includes Rex Linn (“Cliffhanger”), Phil Morris (“Dark Planet”), Dee Wallace Stone (“E.T.”), Lance Henriksen (“Aliens”), Jeffrey Combs (“Reanimator”), and Paul Gleason (“Breakfast Club”). Dialogue between Henriksen and Combs is pure magic and just adds that cherry on top of something already pretty sweet.
Schifrin’s “Abominable” is a down to Earth horror. Practical, small, and a straight shooter that doesn’t try to gimmick a way to fame and cult fandom. Schifrin, with the help of the late “Blairwitch Project” director Neal Fredericks, was able to capture the atmosphere and the creature without having to burden themselves with computer generated imagery or relying heavily on camera tricks or crafty edits to progress the story that certainly needed to be blunt. Fredericks cinematography creates the allusion of a bigger world, a world where Schifrin’s creature lives, breathes, and hunts as the urban legend of the Flatwoods Monster. McCoy sells his role of a challenged individual; one whose on the cusp of giving up with he realizes there’s hope in saving these young girls when he could not save his wife or the use of his legs. Auxiliary cast members are not two-bit nobodies with lifeless personalities of backwoods piss ants; instead, Jeffrey “The Frighteners” Combs and Lance “Pumpkinhead” Henrikson are the best backwoods creeps with shotguns and oxygens canisters to act the roles. The monster’s absolutely and gratifying heinous with the Frito-razor teeth, the dingy string hair, and the mouth that opens up a foot wide.
“Abominable” reclaims a home on the MVD Rewind Collection label with a brand new 2K definition transfer 2-disc, DVD (Standard Definition) and Blu-ray (1080p) combo set, presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio; however the ratio is stretched to fit the entire screen. The image quality is rather clean, but has a fuzzy, soft overlay that’s true to form with a film originally shot in 35mm coming into contact with some electrical interference. The version of “Abominable” is also a all new cut of the film with improved CGI-effects, which there were some, and were overseen by director Ryan Schifrin and editor Chris Conlee. The release continues with a forthright note about enhancing the color timing and correction to further the experience which epitomizes more clearly in a scene where the blue eyes of Matt McCoy and Haley Joel are depicted overly brilliant when staring at each other in the darkness or in the lighted room or, in fact, anything that’s blue, i.e. Joel’s blue jeans or Otis’s nurses getup is indistinguishable being any other hue. This edition comes with an English 5.1 surround audio, uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray, and the balance is remarkable. Dialogue is poignant and punctual with the beast’s belly deep roars echoing through with such range and depth that it heightens the monstrous terror. Lalo Schifrin’s score comes out clean enough despite slightly schlocky in comparison to his son’s material. New extras include a new introduction from director Ryan Schifrin and bonus material from other releases become rebranded on this combo release with an audio commentary by Schifrin, Jeffrey Combs, and Matt McCoy, a making of featurette, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes and bloopers, “Shadows” – short film by Ryan Schifrin at USC Student Film school, “Basil & Mobius: No Reast for the Wicked” short by Schifrin that features a score composed by Lalo Schifrin, the original theatrical trailer, poster and still gallery, stoyboard gallery, and a collectible mini poster insert! Whew! MVD Rewind Collection went big and landed huge with Ryan Schifrin’s “Abominable.” The mammoth release will surely be a definitive cut for the scarcely heard of creature feature that’s made with deep reverence for the classic monster movie and denotes a sincere and unwavering passion for the genre, making “Abominable” a lovable tribute of beast slaughtering stowed with paralyzing anxiety and symbiotic with pure, addictive joy.
A Hollywood screenwriter named Nicholas owns a very special household feline. Angel, his Cat, has a unique relationship with her owner Nicholas. Yet, their unbreakable bond has put a severe damper on Nicholas’s intimacy with women as Angel slaughters any and all who becomes close with her beloved human. When Nicholas finally catches wind of the reason behind his love life woes and learns that Angel is actually possessed by an obsessive and dangerous demon, he and his friends Adam, whose also his downstairs neighbor in the apartment complex, seek to exorcise Angel back to being a nice kitty, but all who’ve challenged Angel thus far have been unlucky enough to be scratched to death. A medium, two priests, and even a cat therapist haven’t seem to help Nicholas through the bombardment of weird dreams and death that surround him in his lonely and tiny one bedroom apartment.
Cat lovers beware! “Hell’s Kitty” is purring up your leg to claw you in this new horror-comedy by writer-director Nicholas Tana. If you had thought cats were already contemptible enough to begin with then sit down in your air freshening kitty litter and get a can of Friskies out because you’re about to take a 666 ride with this demon kitty. “Hell’s Kitty” is original a web series created by Tana that began all the way back from 2011 to 2015 and, since then, has been immensely popular through the inter-webs with the extra special casts of genre vets ranging from “The Hills Have Eyes'” Michael Berryman to “The Fog’s” Andrienne Barbeau. From the web series, the episodes were pieced together, forming one hairball adventure of Nicholas and his demon cat, Angel.
Aforementioned, Nicholas Tana headlines as himself because, essentially, “Hell’s Kitty” is based off true events of his turmoiled love life. Series regulars also become essential players in the film, such as Nicholas’s downstairs loafing neighbor and best friend Adam (Adam Rucho), Lisa Graves (Lisa Younger of “Cold Creepy Feelings”), and Dr. Laurie Strodes (Nina Kate of “Snake Club: Revenge of the Snake Women”). Then, there’s a slew of special guests that, at times, pay homage to the works that made them household names in horror or relating genres. Special guests that include “Children of the Corn’s” John Franklin and Courtney Gains semi-reprising their roles as Isaiah and Mordicia. Lynn Lowry (“The Crazies”), Doug Jones (“The Shape of Water”), Bill Oberst Jr. (“Coyote”), Kelli Maroney (“Night of the Comet”), Dale Midkiff (“Pet Sematary”), Lee Meriweather (Catwoman from “Batman” television series), Victoria De Mare (“Killjoy” franchise), and porn star goddess, and legend, Nina Hartley (“Pleasure Maze”)! That’s one heavy-hitting lineup! As a cherry on top, even a Killer Klown, you know, the ones from Outer Space, made an appearance!
If a viewer didn’t know of or research into “Hell’s Kitty” web series past, the thought of low-budget junk just might scroll across a judgmental mindset. Let’s be honest for a second; “Hell’s Kitty” is grade-A camp with schlocky special effects and the editing quality of a ramshackle shackled ram. Along with the unique cast being intertwined into the story, other aspects of the Frankenstein-glued together film, such as the sharp pivoting subplots, stir up Nicholas ever so chaotic life into a new and interesting fold. From his fruitless sex life with various attractive women to the friend who always makes himself welcome in Nicholas’s apartment, Nicholas only has one consistent thing in his life and that is his relationship with the cat from hell and that journey is explored from episode-to-episode that climaxes with an ultra-drag musical rendition of something out of the “Birdcage.” Another quality to watch for, and enjoy, are the homages to fan favorites like “Children of the Corn” and “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” as mentioned before, “The Exorcist,” and “Psycho.”
MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing presents the Smart Media LLC,. production of “Hell Kitty,” as a whole, on DVD home video that’s visually subpar when considering the quality. The low bitrate crudely displays blotchy image quality, leaving details to the waist side. The 5.1 surround sound is the best attribute to the DVD with clear dialogue and a modest soundtrack. There are no extras included aside for the film’s trailer. While technically incompetent, “Hell’s Kitty” meows murderously onto DVD in a cultivation of cult actors and hellacious comedy by writer-director Nicholas Tana that does sometimes feel rehashed or borrowed from previous films, but the quirky evil pet element gnaws on an inner layer to be enjoyed and enthralled in a day-and-a-life of one man’s skewed, if not deranged, version of events of a lackluster romantic lifestyle blamed toward one jealous feline.
On the space shuttle Nautilus, three astronauts are returning home after one year in deep space. Their outbound transmissions to Earth are not being returned nor are they being received and as their ship draws closer to Earth, the only option for reentry is to take a risky crash landing into the Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of California, hoping someone, anyone, would see their shuttle coursing downward from the sky. Only two survive the crash and swim to shore where no boats, no planes, nor onlookers were around to receive them. They soon find out why. World War III had engulfed much of the Earth during their time in space, reaping the land of the urban jungles and making food and living conditions scare. Germ warfare had mutated much of the population to cannibalistic creatures and when torrentially raining, acid rain pours from the war torn atmosphere from ferociously brilliant and deadly clouds. Only a small band of good people remain and the two astronauts seek to keep them safe from the harsh elements, even against a merciless gang of thugs.
In the early 1980s, an ambitious and visionary filmmaker sought to produce, write, direct, and star in his very own modest budget feature film that would rival Hollywood’s glamourous and expensive effects while still maintaining a down-to-Earth independent production. That filmmaker was none other than Steve Barkett, creating his debut film, the 1982 science fiction post-war catastrophe, “The Aftermath.” “The Aftermath” is like if the “Planet of the Apes” met “The Walking Dead,” a sheer blunt for trauma of returning to your home to discover the world in shambles with different factions of hard nose killers ready to plunder all that you own and all that you will ever have. Barkett, with assistance from the brothers Dennis and Robert Skotak, who’ve went on to work on major studio films such as “Aliens” and did the matte work for John Carpenter’s “Escape from New York,” create a destroyed Los Angeles landscape through the power of some serious movie magic considering the time period and the budget.
Steve Barkett is Newman, one of the three astronauts with no first name, and the tough hombre’s hard disposition comes from his background exposition where he lost his wife and child before going up into space. Newman’s cold, but not heartless, and Barkett taps into that fairly well despite some robotic and formulaic performances. However, Christopher Barkett, Steve’s son, was a complete first generation cyborg, a regular toaster oven with teeth and eyeballs that monotones through all the lines and actions. The most interesting casting here is Lynne Margulies, who at the time of this release, was or was not yet the late Andy Kaufman’s girlfriend. Margulies, who previous worked on an adult film entitled “Young, Hot ‘n Nasty Teenage Cruisers,” continued the racy trend with a shirt-pokey role in Sarah, Newman’s quick-to-sack love interest with a briefly, well-endowed nude scene. Yet, Sig Haig manages to steal the Barkett’s film from right under his nose. The young and ruggedly muscular “The Devil’s Rejects” star sports his trademark shaved head and thick, dark goatee, labeling him the perfect casting choice in gang leader Cutter. Alfie Martin, Forrest J. Ackerman (“Dead Alive”), Larry Latham, Linda Stiegler, and Steve’s young daughter, Laura Anne Barkett costar.
One aspect that’s really appreciated in Barkett’s enterprising venture through post-war commentary and morally righteous themes is the special effects matte work from the Skotak brothers. Detailed paintings, such as exampled in the war-ravaged metropolis that was formerly L.A. embodying the once towering buildings, are now destructively cut short in a mangled heap in a matte effect with live actors. Practical effects work wonders for Barkett’s large scale premise despite the small scale performances, except from Sid Haig. The detail in the violence dawns a newly restored faith in early 1980’s sci-fi films; violence that was more prevalent in the genre later in the decade, in such films as “Aliens” or “Robocop,” making Barkett’s film a trail blazer that paved the way to deliver more sensational savagery and lots of blood of a high body count to a already fantastic genre.
MVDVisual and VCI Entertainment release Steve Barkett’s “The Aftermath” onto a dual format, DVD and Blu-ray, combo pack. Presented in 1080p on a MPEG-4 AVC encoded BD-50, the post apocalypse never looked so good in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio from a 2K remastered transfer of the original 35mm negative. VCI has bested the rest with colorfully enriched scenes and untouched framing. Slight grain more so over the matte special effects that optically contrasts between the two different layers where a little touchup could have smoothed out the indifferences, but other than that, the details are quite stark. The clean and untarnished English LCPM 2.0 mono track is also vastly well constructed that contains minuscule hissing and the occasion pop, clearly making the dialogue a prevalent force. Composer John Morgan’s traumatically dramatic score is full-bodied and robust that coinciding renders well with the action sequences and tranquil moments. The extras offer the original laserdisc bonus material that provide snippets of interviews from cast and crew, Steve Barkett’s short film “Night Caller,” over an hours’ worth of John Morgan’s soundtrack complete with title information, VCI promo announcement for Barkett’s other director “Empire of the Dark, and the original theatrical trailer. A retrospective journey to the early 1980’s science fiction indie sector is also a visually stunning resurrection of “The Aftermath” courtesy of VCI Entertainment and with impressive effects and a bigger-than-life concept despite an underwhelming performance as an actor, director Steve Barkett’s legacy as a filmmaker remains stronger than ever with this prominent and well-deserved upgrade of the lazer-gun and mutant inhibiting world reckoning.