September 19, 2018

THE SWARM is Here! (to coin a tagline)
Starring Michael Caine, Katherine Ross, Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, Lee Grant, Jose Ferrer, Patty Duke, Brasdford Dillman, Fred MacMurray, Cameron Mitchell, Alejandro Rey. Directed by Irwin Allen. (1978/156 min).


Review by Mr. Paws😼

Forty years later, The Swarm continues to fascinate me...

In the 1970s, impressionable kids like me were conditioned to fear a plethora of things...the Bermuda Triangle, the Amityville house, Great White sharks, kids named Damien, spider eggs in Bubble Yum, exploding Pintos and Oakland Raiders fans, just to name a few. Of course, those fears were mostly fueled by sensationalistic media that tended to be embellished or reinterpreted once the news made its rounds on the playground. 

Then there were the dreaded African killer bees, buzzing our way from South America with a singular purpose: to kill us all.

Legendary "Master of Disaster" Irwin Allen, still flying high from the one-two punch of The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, knew a good concept when he stumbled onto one: Killer bees! So deadly they can cause people to hallucinate, passenger trains to crash and nuclear power plants to meltdown! Running Arthur Herzog's more scientifically plausible novel through the reliable Sterling Silliphant machine, Allen had his latest all-star catastrofest. Trumpeted by a masterfully histrionic ad campaign that touted, "Not just speculation...a prediction," the film was destined to be his magnum opus.

Scooby and the gang make a U-turn.
It didn't turn out that way, of course. Not only did The Swarm completely tank at the box office, it's often cited as one of the worst big-budget movies of all time. Even at my young age, sitting in a nearly empty theater during the summer of 1978, I knew I was witnessing the nadir of the disaster genre's glorious reign.

Is The Swarm that bad? Well, yes...and no.

Despite costing more to produce than The Towering Inferno, The Swarm looks cheap, rushed and slapped together, as if each scene was being made up on the spot. The dialogue isn't just often makes Twilight sound like the prose of Tennessee Williams. And in an era when melodramatic epics with "all-star casts" were fast-growing passé, this one is overstuffed with so many past-their-prime celebrities that half of them are regulated to glorified cameos. With the possible exception of Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda, everyone either sleepwalks through their roles or overacts horrendously. It was clearly obvious that a producer as woefully out-of-touch as Irwin Allen had no business directing it himself.

"Say hello to my little friend."
Still,The Swarm is far from the worst disaster movie ever made (Airport '79 gets that dubious honor). Sure, it's often unintentionally funny and no one has ever been able to effectively explain how a bunch of insects can cause a nuclear reactor to explode, but the film is loads of fun. Often at its own expense, but fun nonetheless. It was fun in '78, it's fun now, and I must confess I still watch The Swarm at least once a year without ever getting bored. Furthermore, the film isn't without its truly great qualities. Consider this:
  • The Swarm wastes no time killing people. The first scene is of the aftermath of a bee attack, and within the first ten minutes, two choppers meet a fiery demise. In fact, the film's total body count might be higher than every other disaster movie of the 70s...combined.
  • The scene where Dr. Krim (Henry Fonda) tests his anti-venom on himself is genuinely gripping.
  • Even though he's saddled with some of the worst lines, the late, great Richard Widmark rises above the material with a truly sincere performance. He's often the only one who appears to be trying. A true professional.
  • That's a shitload of real bees buzzing around these famous actors.
  • You know the perky, obnoxious kid who pops up in all these movies, the one you wished would die but never does? That kid bites the dust here. And the little bastard deserves it because he just had to taunt the bees, causing the deaths of hundreds. Actually, lots of little kids die in this movie.
  • Train crash! YEAH!
  • And let's not forget Patti Duke as Rita, a pregnant woman who falls in love with her doctor during labor, even though her husband just died from a bee attack! Nice to see someone can bounce back from tragedy so quickly.
  • Olivia de Havilland gets to resurrect her Melanie Hamilton character from Gone with the Wind. I didn't know there were any southern belles living in the Southwest in 1978.
  • On a related note, who doesn't love de Havilland's slow-motion, meme-worthy reaction to the dead children in the playground?
  • Slim Pickens is essentially playing the same character for the 146th time (really...I checked!).
  • Michael Caine has always looked like killer bees would shoot from his eye if he stared at you long enough.
  • My favorite scene: During the climax, the man flees in panic from one room, trots down the hall, then darts through the next door...hands above his head and on fire.
  • In the long, dubious history of killer bee movies, you still have to admit this is the best one.
  • The Swarm is Irwin Allen's last watchable film, and Citizen Kane compared to his next, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure.
"F**k you, Olivia."
But, alas, I suspect even if The Swarm ended up being a masterpiece, it never stood chance in the wake of modern blockbusters like Jaws and Star Wars. In many ways, the film was the last of its kind. The reign of the star-studded disaster movie was already over and nobody ever bothered to inform Irwin Allen. But you know what? Misdirected as it may be, the unabashed, infectious enthusiasm he brought to The Towering Inferno is still evident throughout this film. And though The Swarm is ultimately a scattershot ensemble of the same disaster trappings he had a hand in creating, he never lost his sense of fun, something we couldn't say about some of his imitators. 

Those damned killer bees never did make it to my neck of the woods, but The Swarm is finally on Blu-ray in all its kitschy glory. While it may have been one of the nails in the 70s' disaster coffin, this beautiful trainwreck is a treasure trove of massive destruction, whacked-out ideas and daffy dialogue. Worth watching again and again.

"INSIDE THE SWARM" - An archival documentary, originally airing as a TV special. It maybe old, but it's full of great behind-the-scenes footage.

September 18, 2018

The Original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is Coming 10/16
Limited to 5,000 units.

“They’re already here! You’re next!” With these chilling words, Invasion of the Body Snatchers sounded a clarion call to the dangers of conformity, paranoia, and mass hysteria at the heart of 1950s American life. Considered one of the greatest science fiction films ever made, Invasion of the Body Snatchers stars Kevin McCarthy (Academy Award® nominee, Best Supporting Actor, Death of A Salesman – 1952) as Miles Bennell, a doctor in a small California town whose patients are becoming increasingly overwrought, accusing their loved ones of being emotionless imposters. They’re right! Plant-like aliens have invaded Earth, taking possession of humans as they sleep and replicating them in giant seed pods. Convinced that a catastrophic epidemic is imminent, Bennell, in a terrifying race for his life, must warn the world of this deadly invasion of the pod people before it’s too late.

  • New High-Definition digital restoration
  • Audio Commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith
  • Audio Commentary by actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, and filmmaker Joe Dante
  • “The Stranger in Your Lover’s Eyes” – A two-part visual essay with actor and son of director Don Siegel, Kristoffer Tabori, reading from his father’s book A Siegel Film
  • “The Fear is Real” – Filmmakers Larry Cohen and Joe Dante on the film’s cultural significance
  • “I No Longer Belong: The Rise and Fall of Walter Wanger” – Film scholar and author Matthew Bernstein discusses the life and career of the film’s producer
  • “Sleep No More: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Revisited” – An appreciation of the film featuring actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along with comments from film directors and fans, John Landis, Mick Garris, and Stuart Gordon
  • “The Fear and the Fiction: The Body Snatchers Phenomenon” – Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along with film directors John Landis, Mick Garris and Stuart Gordon, discuss the making of the film, its place in history, and its meaning
  • 1985 archival interview with Kevin McCarthy hosted by Tom Hatten
  • “Return to Santa Mira” – An exploration of the film’s locations
  • “What’s In a Name?” – On the film’s title
  • Gallery of rare documents detailing aspects of the film’s production including the never-produced opening narration to have been read by Orson Welles
  • Essay by author and film programmer Kier-La Janisse
  • Original theatrical trailer

September 17, 2018


Starring David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavla, Macha Meril, Clara Calamai, Eros Padni, Giuliana Calandra, Glauco Mauri. Directed by Dario Argento. (1975/127 min).


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Revisiting Deep Red for the first time in...Jesus, 30 years...I've come to the realization that Suspiria may not be Dario Argento's best film after all.

I didn't always think that way. When first I brought it home from my local Mom & Pop video store, I thought it totally sucked...bad dubbing, choppy editing and little of the stylized bloodshed that made Suspiria such weird-ass fun. It played more like a Lucio Fulci film and I considered rage-quitting every ten minutes or so.

Though I didn't know it at the time, what I saw was the truncated, full-screen, English version on VHS, with over twenty minutes shaved from its original length. It meant, of course, that I hadn't really seen Deep Red at all.

This new Blu-ray from Arrow presents Profondo Rosso the way it should be seen, in glorious widescreen with a 4K restoration and the original Italian audio track. For me, watching it was revelatory. This might be the most visually interesting and aesthetically gorgeous horror movie I've ever seen. Even the masterful murder sequences achieve a level of artistry - and savage beauty - Argento only hinted at in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

A Christmas Story II: Ralphie's Revenge.
One time I purchased a compilation CD by Goblin (the band who scored several Argento films), mainly because it contained the hypnotic title tracks from Dawn of the Dead and Suspiria. Heard out of context, most of the other music sounded like discarded ELP outtakes. But this disc's audio renders the Profondo Rosso tracks absolutely chilling, the perfect soundtrack for murder. And if the ominous title tune doesn't raise a few goosebumps during the opening credits, you're obviously not in the mood for a horror film right now.

And who knew the movie was actually funny? Besides some of the violence, much of what was cut from the English release were scenes of the relationship between the two main characters, pianist Marc Daly (David Hemmings) and reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi), as they try to find out who's behind a series of brutal murders. Their interplay is often humorous and charming, offering a nice contrast to the more intense sequences. In fact, it's this attention to character detail that renders the film more narratively compelling than Suspiria or Inferno.

But Profondo Russo is still primarily a masterful exercise in style over substance (or logic). It remains the quintessential Giallo film, which justifiably established Dario Argento as one of horror's great visual geniuses. Though it's been released on Blu-ray before, this one boasts one great new bonus feature (outlined below) fans will want to check out. And if Profondo Russo is new to you - or you were perhaps once duped into renting Deep Red - you just gotta see this.

NEW: "PROFONDO GIALLO" - This is a lengthy, informative and interesting "video essay" by Michael Mackenzie. The best of the bonus features.
"ROSSO RECOLLECTIONS" - Interview with Director Dario Argento.
"THE LADY IN RED" - Interview with Daria Nicoldi.
"MUSIC TO MURDER FOR" - Interview with Goblin's Claudio Simonetti.
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Thomas Rostock.

SOLO Bonus Clip

SOLO - A STAR WARS STORY Coming to 4K, Blu-Ray & DVD 9/25. Now available on digital. 

DIGITAL AND BLU-RAY BONUS MATERIAL (may vary by retailer):
           Solo: The Director & Cast Roundtable
Sit down with director Ron Howard and the stars for an intimate and entertaining discussion of the film’s making.   
·            Team Chewie
See what it takes to bring your favorite Wookiee to life in this lighthearted look behind the scenes. 
·            Kasdan on Kasdan
Iconic Star Wars screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and son Jonathan share what it was like to write the movie’s script together. 
·            Remaking the Millennium Falcon
Track the transformation of the most famous ship in the galaxy, from Lando’s swank and impeccable pride and joy to Han’s stripped-down hot-rod freighter with “special modifications.” 
·            Escape from Corellia
Get behind the wheel for the making of this high-octane chase through the streets of Corellia. 
           The Train Heist
Explore the challenges and thrills of creating this action-packed sequence, including its remote location and spectacular effects. 
·            Becoming a Droid: L3-37
Meet the newest droid—and the talented actor who helps bring her to life. 
           Scoundrels, Droids, Creatures and Cards: Welcome to Fort Ypso
Take an in-depth tour of the rough-and-tumble bar where strangers mix and gamblers risk all in the legendary card game, Sabaac. 
           Into the Maelstrom: The Kessel Run
Join Han and Chewie at the controls of the Millennium Falcon to see how this legendary moment in Star Wars history unfolds. 

September 16, 2018

There's Fun Inside THE TOYBOX

Starring Mischa Barton, Denise Richards, Jeff Denton, Brian Nagel, Greg Violand, Malika Michelle, David Greathouse. Directed by Tom Nagel. (2018/95 min). 


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

More often than not, the synopsis of a horror film makes it sound a lot better than it really is. Here, the opposite is true. While The Toybox is indeed about a possessed RV with a taste for blood, the film isn't nearly as stupid as it sounds. In fact, it's actually pretty good.

A perpetually bickering family feels obligated to go on a road trip with the two brothers' recently-widowed Dad, who just purchased a beat-up old motor home for the occasion. After picking up two other stranded motorists, they detour from the highway onto a dirt road, at which time the RV takes over the driving duties. It speeds miles into the open desert, killing one poor rube along the way, then abruptly stops in the middle of nowhere. Unable to restart the vehicle and too far from the highway to get help, they're trapped. One by one, people start dying in a variety of awful ways.

Unlike the vehicular villains in Christine or The Car, there's a backstory behind this RV's rampage. We learn its previous owner was notorious serial killer Robert Gunthry, who used the motor-home as a traveling torture chamber. Though he was caught and executed, Gunthry's spirit now possesses the vehicle in order to keep on killing.

Another wrong turn at Albuquerque.
Despite its inherent comic possibilities,The Toybox takes the premise more-or-less seriously, maintaining a oppressively dark tone throughout, which is punctuated by several brutal deaths. It even manages to generate a fair amount of tension and suspense, with tight direction by Tom Nagel, a claustrophobic atmosphere and characters just interesting enough that when one dies, we sort-of feel it. You couldn't accomplish that with a cheeky, self-aware attitude.

That's not to say the film doesn't have its share of goofy moments. Why is it whenever someone flees from a pursuing vehicle, they run straight ahead instead of dodging left or right? The last time I checked, a lumbering RV doesn't exactly turn on a dime. It's also gotta be said that Gunthry's eventual appearance might elicit more unintended chuckles than fear. The guy looks like a demented copy machine repairman from the 1970s and grunts like a grizzly bear, defusing some of the dread. The film might have been better off never showing him at all. And whatever became of the family dog, who simply stops showing up after awhile?

Despite all that - as well as an underwhelming resolution - The Toybox is mostly a pleasant surprise. No classic, but certainly a lot of good, violent fun. It's fast-paced, atmospheric and not nearly as stupid as the concept suggests.


September 15, 2018

LOOKER: Michael the Prophet
Starring Albert Finney, James Coburn, Susan Dey, Leigh Taylor Young, Dorian Harewood, Tim Rossovich, Terry Kiser, Darryl Hickman, Terri Welles. Directed by Michael Crichton. (1981/93 min). 


Review by Tiger the Terrible😺
For a guy who spent a good part of his career writing about the terrors of technology, the late Michael Crichton sure as hell benefited from it. His name is still most-associated with Jurassic Park, one of the most technically groundbreaking films of all time. The first film with completely convincing CGI, movies would never be the same afterwards. Ironically, Crichton himself once directed a film about CGI before anybody even knew what it was.

Of course, with Crichton at the helm, CGI is used for nefarious purposes. In 1981's Looker, Albert Finney plays Dr. Roberts, a plastic surgeon whose supermodel clients are being murdered one by one. He's a suspect at first, but that plotline essentially goes nowhere. Committed to protecting the last model still alive, Cindy (Susan Dey), Roberts discovers that Digital Matrix, a tech company owned by John Reston (James Coburn), is recreating computer-versions of these models for commercials designed to hypnotize viewers into submission, then killing the girls afterwards.

Directing his own screenplay, Crichton doesn't adequately explain why murdering the models is necessary for Reston's to achieve his agenda. In fact, it almost feels like a plot hole (though a deleted scene - included on this disc - offers a relatively simplistic explanation). Elsewhere, Looker is both conceptually intriguing and supremely silly. Though the film is obviously a product of its time, Crichton's prophetic ideas - and warnings - are probably more relevant in today's era of CG enhancement and photoshopping than they were back in 1981.

"Pew! Pew! Pew!"
On the other hand, some plot elements border on ridiculous, such as a prototype gun that uses light to disrupt the victim's perception of time. This leads to a few scenes that elicit chuckles, such as when Robert gets the crap beat out of him by Reston's henchman (NFL star Tim Rossovich, looking like he's having a good time), who uses the weapon to appear invisible. The film isn't helped by bland performances. Finney looks uncomfortable as an action hero, to say nothing of the romantic subplot between his character and Dey's. Even Coburn appears to be going through the motions.

Michael Crichton always had a knack for exploring the dark side of technology, though with the exception of the original Westworld, he did it more effectively as a novelist than a director. But while Looker is far from a forgotten classic, much of the technology that Crichton predicted has-since become reality. It's always interesting to revisit old films where the sci-fi tag may no longer apply.

INTRODUCTION BY MICHAEL CRICHTON - More like a retrospective interview with the director.

September 13, 2018

BORN RACER // New Trailer Available

On DVD and Digital October 2.

Experience the fastest motorsport on earth through the eyes of four-time champion Scott Dixon and the Chip Ganassi Racing team. Filmed with an access all areas lens, BORN RACER follows the people who are passionate about the world of auto racing and asks why some individuals feel compelled to face danger and risk their lives in order to win.

Both action-packed and highly-intimate, it features an intense blend of up close and personal filming with never-before-seen spectacular, cutting-edge racing footage to explore a sport that defines the very people who inhabit it, and pushes them to the edge in their desire for success.

MILE 22 on Digital 10/30 and Blu-ray & DVD 11/13

James Silva and his CIA unit embark on a 22-mile gauntlet under deadly circumstances in Mile 22, arriving on Digital on October 30, 2018 and on Blu-rayT Combo Pack, DVD and On Demand on November 13, 2018 from STXfilms and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. From acclaimed director  Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon) Mile 22 stars an outstanding cast including led by Mark Wahlberg (Deepwater Horizon) along with Lauren Cohan (“The Walking Dead”), Iko Uwais (The Raid), Ronda Rousey (Fast & Furious 7) and John Malkovich (Red).  The film on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital comes packed with exciting bonus features including a behind-the-scenes look at stunts with actor and stunt choreographer Iko Uwais, a special featurette on the fearless female actresses and more that take audiences deeper into the adrenaline-filled story.

September 12, 2018


Starring Ice Cube, Sean Patrick Thomas, Anthony Anderson, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Michael Ealy, Troy Garity, Keith David. Directed by Tim Story. (2002/102 min).
Starring Ice Cube, Sean Patrick Thomas, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Troy Garity, Harry Lennix, Kenan Thompson, Michael Ealy, Queen Latifah. Directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan. (2004/106 min).


Review by Stinky the Destroyer😽

You know what's surprising? That these two films have never been released on Blu-ray until now. Even Barbershop 3 landed on Blu-ray the same year of its theatrical release. One would think think that'd have been the perfect time to truck-out the first two, as well. After all, both were big hits (critically & commercially) and remain endearing ensemble comedies.

Oh well. Better late than never, and MVD has finally released the original Barbershop and Barbershop 2 (as well as the spin-off film, Beauty Shop) on Blu-ray as part of their Marquee Collection. There aren't any new extras, but the original DVDs were pretty generous in that department - especially the first film - most of which are carried over for these discs.

Barbershop remains the best of the two films (the whole franchise, for that matter, including the short-lived Showtime series), obviously because the premise was fresh and a surprising change-of-pace for Ice Cube, who was mostly known at the time for playing hard-asses. As shop owner Calvin Palmer, he's charming, laid-back and extremely likable, though often playing the straight-man to the antics and banter of his co-stars. Still, he's the glue which holds the entire narrative together. Loosely-plotted (and say the least), Barbershop is a congenial hodge-podge of engaging characters, authentic dialogue and no-small-amount of cartoon buffoonery.

Nothing a little duct tape can't fix.
Most of the cast returns for Barbershop 2, with the welcome addition of Queen Latifah as Gina, Calvin's old girlfriend who works at the beauty shop next door. While the main story isn't quite as interesting as the original, I really enjoyed the side story where Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) looks back at his life during the tumultuous 60s. Elsewhere, the film is as loose and leisurely paced as the original, though Kenan Thompson as Calvin's clumsy cousin is kind-of irritating. Barbershop 2 ultimately suffers from the law of diminishing returns, but considering it's essentially business as usual, the movie's a worthy follow-up.

I've personally never known anyone who loved of the original that didn't enjoy the sequel. For them, picking up both titles is probably a forgone conclusion. But for those who already own them on DVD, the bonus features are the same, so the improved audio/video transfer would be the only real reason for double-dipping.


"THE HAIR CLUB" - A four-chapter behind-the-scenes documentary (40 minutes total).
FEATURETTE - "Barber Banter"
AUDIO COMMENTARY - With director Tim Story, producers Robert Teitel & George Tillman Jr and writer Don Scott Jr.
MUSIC VIDEO - "Trade it All" (Fabulous featuring P. Diddy and Jagged Edge)
TRAILERS - For Barbershop, Barbershop 2 and Beauty Shop

AUDIO COMMENTARY - With director Kevin Rodney Sullivan and producers Robert Teitel & George Tillman Jr.
CAST VIDEO COMMENTARY - With Cedric the Entertainer, Sean Patrick Harris, Troy Garity and Jazmin Lewis.
MUSIC VIDEOS - "Not Today" (Mary J. Blige featuring Eve); "I Can't Wait" (Sleepy Brown featuring OutKast).
TRAILERS - For Barbershop, Barbershop 2 and Beauty Shop

September 10, 2018

THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME on Digital 10/16 and 4K, Blu-ray & DVD 10/30

Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon), two thirty-year-old best friends in Los Angeles, are thrust unexpectedly into an international conspiracy when Audrey’s ex-boyfriend shows up at their apartment with a team of deadly assassins on his trail. Surprising even themselves, the duo jump into action, on the run throughout Europe from assassins and a suspicious-but-charming British agent, as they hatch a plan to save the world.

The Spy Who Dumped Me home entertainment release includes never-before-seen deleted scenes, outtakes, and four featurettes giving insight into the making of this huge action comedy. Experience four times the resolution of full HD with the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, which includes Dolby Vision HDR, bringing entertainment to life through ultra-vivid picture quality. When compared to a standard picture, Dolby Vision can deliver spectacular colors never before seen on a screen, highlights that are up to 40 times brighter, and blacks that are 10 times darker. The release also feature Dolby Atmos audio mixed specifically for the home, to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead. The Spy Who Dumped Me will be available on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, and DVD.