DVD Review – Black Water: Abyss (2020)

Coming to DVD this November, Black Water: Abyss tells the tale of two thrill seeking couples exploring a newly discovered cave. Their gamble pays off and when they discover a hidden recess underground which could equal a very lucrative business opportunity.

But their dreams are quickly doused when a sudden downpour causes the cave to flood and it’s only then our cave dwellers are introduced to the caves original inhabitant, one big f’n croc!

For several years now it has always been Sharks over Crocs, whether it’s The Shallows or the Sharknado franchise, but for the last ten years I feel the deadly creature genre has been all about the Shark! I feel the crocodiles haven’t had a decent bite since Lake Placid, 1999. Yet, fast forward to 2007, the original Black Water crept out on the scene giving y’all another reason to stay out of the water. Has it’s 12 year later sequel got as much of a bite as the others? Yeah, it does!

Killer croc movies don’t need to be the finest pieces of film making, they just need to be entertaining (I’m looking at you Sharknado 1-6, you too Crawl!), keep it between 80-90 minutes and I’ll be happy viewer.

The film handles suspense quite nicely; you’ve got five people trapped with rising water and a big ass croc wanting his tea – you shouldn’t need more right? Black Water: Abyss gives us extra, we get emotional depth from our characters and their personal relationships – it gets awkward at times – to the point, I’m surprised none of them just jumped into the crocs mouth to get out of those tense situations.

I appreciate the films editing, rather than overwhelming us with several CGI shots of crocs chomping down on gen-x’ers, we’re given intense close ups of crocs wrestling around underwater. So when the characters are caught in the water with the croc, it switches to those images – it’s simple, but effective.

As I mention above, this is the second instalment in the Black Water series, no, not to be confused with the 2010 movies starring Jean Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren – it’s the 2007 horror film Black Water from writer/director combo; Directors: David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki.

Nerlich continued his career as a visual effects artist and Andrew Traucki stuck to his roots directing the likes of The Reef (Sharks!) and returning to direct BW: Abyss!

Altitude Film Entertainment will be releasing the film on DVD and Digital Download in November, the DVD itself does not have any special features.

Overall, it’s a decent watch, well worth checking out once – since the DVD lacks any real special features – I suggest you just watch the film when it turns up on one of the streaming platforms.

Blu-Ray Review – George Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (Arrow Academy)

The story of a group of astronomers launched to the moon in a home-made ship, once they land, they meet the moons inhabitants – mad theatrical antics ensue!

If you were looking for proof that director Georges Méliès was a pioneer in special effects and filmmaking – A Trip to the Moon is a great example. This short film will be known by many for the iconic image of the face in the moon with a rocket in its eye.

When Arrow Academy announced the Blu-ray release of this film, I jumped at the chance to review this film. My interest in Méliès was captured when I first saw Martin Scorseses HUGO (2011), Méliès was portrayed by Ben Kingslay and bang in the middle of that movie we’re given a 10-minute history lesson on the life and career of Georges Méliès – it fascinated me.

I was given the Blu-ray disc only from the distributor to review on this occasion – it didn’t include the Long-Lost Autobiography: Father of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Cinema. But! The Blu-ray is good enough for me to talk about – at length!

Speaking of length, I was genuinely surprised that the films running was no longer than twenty minutes. This disc contains both the Black & White original (12 minutes) and the Colourised print of the movie (16 minutes). So, for a short film, that’s why you got a short synopsis at the start of this review. Now, I’m sure you would feel pretty miffed off if you’ve just shelled out £49.99 for the set, only to be given a cloth bound book and a 15-minute movie, thankfully it’s all about the special features.

Firstly, we have Le Grand Méliès (1952) – a short film directed by Georges Franju about the life and work of Méliès, Georges is portrayed by his son; André Méliès. It runs for 30 minutes following Georges life story. What I liked about this feature was that you are given the option to view the film with either the original audio narration in French with subtitles or listen to it dubbed into English. It was nice of them to give us the option. A great bonus feature, which is definitely worth watching.

The Innovations of Georges Méliès – new video essay by Jon Spira exploring A Trip to the Moon and Méliès’ career is a 12-minute feature with Spira talking over footage of Méliès work, we get to see footage from some of his other movies – some of which I am now more interesting in devouring.

An Extraordinary Voyage – is a 66-minute documentary on the life of Georges, his filmography and then we get an extensive look into the story of finding the colour print and a great detailed look into the restoration process. It also features some stock footage of Tom Hanks acting as Méliès for TV, its great footage, something I never knew existed – it’s a great special feature that beefs up this release.

The only thing I think we were missing from the special features is an audio commentary, I would have loved to heard someone talk over the movie giving us their take on the story, dropping us some facts or trivia about this wonderful piece of cinema history. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers!

Overall Arrow Academy have spoiled us with this cinematic gem, they’ve polished the best they can with a handful of well-thought-out special features. I couldn’t recommend it for it’s retail price, but if this was ever on sale or second-hand and you have the mildest interest in cinema history or silent movies – I would certainly recommend this blu-ray. Bon Voyage!

Film 4/5, Special Features 4/5

Films and Swearing Rating: 8/10

Blu-Ray Review – Bicycle Thieves (Arrow Academy)

Set in post-World War II Val Melaina (Rome), Bicycle Thieves (also known as The Bicycle Thief) tells the tale of Antonio Ricci, a father desperate for work to support his wife, Maria and his cheeky son Bruno. Antoino’s thinks his luck is on the up when he’s offered a job in advertising, pasting advertising boards with posters showing off the latest Rita Hayworth picture.

There’s only one catch though, the applicant must have a bicycle to do the job. Antonio looks at this opportunity as blessing and a curse, but the thinker of the family, Maria quickly makes the money by pawning their lining to get her husband a set of wheels. And we all know what happens to the bike right?

Vittorio De Sica delivers a wonderfully cinematic story, although tragic, it kept me engaged and willing myself to see Antonio reunited with his bicycle. I would have loved to have seen the reaction of audiences seeing this film back in the forties, how would they respond to the ending they were given? It left me surprised, whilst this time of ending isn’t unusual nowadays – but I imagine this would have caught people off guard back in the day.

Bicycle Thieves has been given a brand new 4K restoration from UK Label Arrow Academy; the special features include a feature length audio commentary from Italian Cinema expert Robert Gordon. I listened to a sample of the track, Robert is easy to listen to, he isn’t constantly talking over the film, but when he does, he does a good job at explaining the film and sprinkling in trivia when it’s relevant to the characters on screen.

This release also features two video essays, both last roughly twenty minutes and both were produced particularly for this release. The essays are narration playing over montages of clips and pictures and posters. The first essay is; Money Has Been My Ruin by critic and filmmaker David Cairns on Vittorio De Sica’s career and his filmmaking.

Secondly, we have; Indiscretion of an American Film Producer from film historian Kat Ellinger on De Sica’s relationship with Hollywood producers David O. Selznick and Joseph H. Levine and the blue prints of the American remake that never was. I did find this essay particularly interesting; the story of the proposed American remake was fascinating.

One last thing I want to bring to your attention, the disc also features an original trailer. Now it’s not your standard, graining 2-3 minutes theatrical trailer, there one is like a promo reel advertising De Sica s films, featuring Bicycle Thieves star Lamberto Maggiorani and Francesco Golisano presenting Miracle in Milan. It was a nice touch, a charming little watch actually.

Overall it was great to finally watch this movie and it had some nice special features to back it up, enough to compliment a one disc release. Un must per gli appassionati del cinema italiano classico.

Film: 3/5, Blu Ray: 4/5

Films & Swearing verdict: 7/10

DVD Review – Animal Factory (2000)

Animal Factory tells the story of a young offender, Ron Decker (Edward Furlong), thrown into a rough as f*ck prison with offenders 5-10 years his senior. Rather than see him caught bullied into a gang, he’s taken under the wing of a senior offender called Earl (Willem Defoe). Earl puts himself and his crew at risk to make sure Rick isn’t chewed up and spat out by the prison system – but it isn’t long before wants a piece of the fresh face kid. » Read more

DVD Review – Departures (2008)

Departures tells the story of Daigo Kobayashi, a cellist whose life is turned upside-down when his orchestra disbands leaving him unemployed. He and his wife give up their city life and return home to Daigo’s childhood home in search of work. Whilst browsing, Daigo finds an advert for a job in Departures.

When hired within seconds, a bemused and befuddled Daigo wonders what he’s gotten himself into? A travel agency? No. Daigo is now the encoffinment business and cousin, business is booming! Daigo is on the course of becoming one of the men responsible for cleansing and dressing the dead prior to their funeral, a ceremony which is carried out in front of the grieving family, nonetheless. » Read more

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