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Blood Red (1989)
A mediocrity with so much potential
This is playing On-Demand and is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio for the first time on home video.
The Good: The acting talent speaks for itself: Eric and Julia Roberts, Burt Young, Giancarlo Giannini, Elias Koteas, Michael Madsen... The cinematography by Toyomichi Kurita is beautiful. Themes: Late 19th century California, the beginning of wine culture, immigrant vs. business interests, William Jennings Bryan populism vs robber baron statism. All the tools are there for a great film.
The Bad: The screenplay is the problem. It needed a page one rewrite from someone who could write dialogue, and who could write scenes to emphasize the political, religious, and economic issues of the period. The characterization is almost non existent, with only Giannini's part getting some depth. There is so much wasted talented in this film. Usually Eric Roberts is criticized for overacting, but this picture could have definitely benefited from his passion. Also the music by Carmine Coppola is so old-fashioned and silly that it borders on soap opera cues.
The first half will keep your attention. After that, it becomes boring. Bad dialogue, bad music, and pedestrian mise-en-scene kill the movie. I was actually rewriting the scenes in my head as I was watching the film.
The Slugger's Wife (1985)
Hal Ashby's Worst
On paper it sounds great: Hal Ashby directing, Neil Simon writing, Michael O'Keefe coming off of three critically acclaimed films, and Rebecca DeMornay coming off Risky Business. But in practice, the movie simply isn't watchable. Bad dialogue, bad acting, atrocious musical interludes; and this is just in the first 20 minutes. Randy Quaid and Martin Ritt appear in thankless roles. Even the baseball sequences are pedestrian. There is nothing redeemable in this production even from a cult perspective. Second-Hand Hearts and Lookin' to Get Out were not great but at least they were coherent. If you are a fan of Ashby's 70's work and are interested in his 80's stuff, I suggest you just watch 8 Million Ways to Die and the concert films.
Van Halen: Video Hits Vol. 1 (1996)
decent collection of the greatest band, where's roth?
This collection is okay but it misses many videos from both eras. I think if bands put out "greatest hits" videos, showing only half of their hit videos, it is a let down to their fans and to the casual watcher. This set only includes the 3 hit Roth Era videos from 1984. Notably missing is their MTV banned "Pretty Woman" video, the live video for "Mean Streets" and "Unchained", and any of their unforgetable appearance at the '83 US Festival. Missing from Van Hagar series is Live Without a Net videos, and "Feels So Good", "Top Of the World", and "Amsterdam". Perhaps those will be included on the second volume?