August 16, 2018

Featuring Steve Wozniak, Stewart Copeland, Mick Fleetwood, Mickey Hart, Kate Pierson, Bill Graham, Derek Power, Eddie Money, Sherry Wasserman. Directed by Glenn Aveni. (2018/96 min). 


Review by Fluffy the Fearless😸

I remember the US Festival being a pretty big deal at the time. Organized and funded by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, everything about it was huge...the stage, the manpower, the technology, the hefty sums that artists - some of the world's biggest - were paid. And of course, there was the crowd of nearly a half-million people.

I also remember that it was a financial debacle and Wozniak lost over $12 million on the first concert alone (which is somewhat downplayed in this documentary). Historically, the US Festival was not the cultural milestone that Woodstock became, nor did it briefly unite the world like Live Aid a few years later. The entire event was simply the whim of a billionaire who thought it would be fun. In that respect, the US Festival could be viewed as the touchstone event of a decade that's often defined by excess.

Though there were actually two US Festivals, this film focuses exclusively how Wozniak - with considerable assistance from others, such as legendary concert promoter Bill Graham - planned and put together the inaugural 1982 event. Even with Wozniak's bottomless checkbook, this was obviously a tremendous undertaking. Through interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, the film chronicles the requirements and complications they faced trying to assemble a show this massive, including technical achievements that made it possible.

When Donald Trump dreams.
Interspersed throughout the technical details is footage of the concert itself, featuring performances by the likes of Fleetwood Mac, The Police, Talking Heads, The Ramones, The B-52's, Tom Petty, The Cars and Santana. The concert footage is the best part of the film, so it's a shame we get only one song each by the biggest artists (the rest are featured in short clips). But since quality footage of the 1982 US Festival is hard to come by these days - legally anyway - I guess this'll have to do.

Some of the artists are interviewed, all of whom fondly reflect on how big the whole thing was (for most, it would be the biggest show of their careers). Speaking of fond recollections, we hear almost nothing negative about the entire event. Aside from a few brief comments on Bill Graham's clashes with the concert staff, no one has anything but gushing praise for Wozniak and his vision. Which is fine, I guess, but both Wozniak and the festival had their share detractors. Hearing some contrary viewpoints would have made more compelling viewing.

As it is, though, The US Festival 1982: The Us Generation is a decent time capsule of an event few people seem to remember. A full blown concert film would have been preferable - perhaps with this documentary as a bonus feature - but we are reminded of how massive this undertaking really was.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Director Glenn Aveni.
ADDITIONAL INTERVIEW FOOTAGE - Featuring Stewart Copeland, Mick Fleetwood, Steve Wozniak.

Rest in Peace, Aretha Franklin

August 15, 2018

Rest in Peace, Morgana King

August 13, 2018

SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, & DVD on 10/2

SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital bonus features include three behind-the-scenes featurettes. Fans of the original Sicario can learn more about why this heart-pounding new chapter needed to be told in “From Film to Franchise: Continuing The Story” and can also take a deeper look into Sollima’s vision for the film, the intense action and real world connections in “An Act of War: Making Sicario: Day of the Soldado.” “The Assassin and the Soldier: The Cast and Characters” has Del Toro and Brolin leading the conversation about how their characters Matt and Alejandro have evolved in this film, and takes a look at the strong supporting cast.

August 12, 2018

TIDELAND: Adventures in Terryland
Starring Jodelle Ferland, Brendan Fletcher, Janet McTeer, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Tilly Dylan Taylor, Wendy Anderson. Directed by Terry Gilliam. (2005/120 min).


Review by Fluffy the Fearless🙀

Anyone familiar with Terry Gilliam already knows he doesn't give a damn about you, me or the expectations of any major studio stupid enough to trust him with their millions. Even his most commercial films reflect a considerable amount of self-indulgence, and it's often pretty apparent he's his own biggest fan. That's not meant as criticism. Gilliam's films have a look and tone like no other - including those that were accidental mainstream hits - the work of a director who's wired differently than the rest of us.

But even by Gilliam's standards, Tideland is really out there.

Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland) is a little girl whose active imagination helps her cope with the world's worst parents. When we first meet her, she's living in squalor, cooking a heroin fix for dad, Noah (Jeff Bridges), a has-been musician. Her mother (Jennifer Tilly) is arguably worse, not only a junkie herself, but verbally abusive. After Mom dies from a methadone overdose, Noah and Jeliza take a bus to his childhood home, an abandoned and dilapidated old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. When Noah also OD's and dies, Jeliza is alone.

She retreats from reality into her own fantasy world with dolls' heads as companions, eventually meeting her eccentric neighbors, Dell (Janet McTeer), who Jeliza first-believes is a ghost or witch, and Dickens (Brendan Fletcher), her mentally impaired son. Meanwhile, Noah's corpse becomes bloated and rotten. For most of the film, we aren't sure if Dell & Dickens are figments of Jeliza's active imagination, especially once Dell uses her taxidermy skills to preserve Noah. And the uneasy relationship between these three is just getting started.

"Look what Santa left us!"
Not only is Tideland Gilliam's strangest film, it's also his bleakest. Despite 'whimsical' sequences of Jeliza and Dickens at-play in her fantasy world, it is unremittingly dark, becoming increasingly disturbing by introducing sexual overtones. Yet at the same time, this is Gilliam at his most rambling and self-indulgent. Despite offering up heaping helpings of his patented weirdness, the narrative often feels episodic and directionless. It's a good bet that anyone not 100% in-sync with Gilliam's sensibilities will run out of patience - and tolerance - long before the end credits roll. It's almost as if he's daring people to actually enjoy it.

Some will, though. Tideland is visually arresting (and looks great on this disc). Gilliam's unique flare for surreal imagery and inventive camera angles is here in abundance. Additionally, considering her age, the requirements of her role and how long she's on-screen all by herself, Jennifer Ferland's performance is nothing short of remarkable.

In an introduction included with this Blu-ray release, Gilliam proudly declares viewers will either love it or hate it. I guess we can add 'master of understatement' to his list of talents, because Tideland is easily the most polarizing movie he's ever made. One can't help but think that was his intention all along (sort-of making this his own Natural Born Killers). Available on Blu-ray for the first time, Tideland comes with a lot of interesting supplemental material. None of it was created specifically for this release, but it's always amusing to listen to Gilliam and see how he works. 

"GETTING GILLIAM" - This is a 45 minute documentary by Vincent Natali (Cube), made during the production of Tideland.
FEATURETTES - "The Making of Tideland"; "Filming Green Screen"
INTERVIEWS - Featuring Terry Gilliam, producer Jeremy Thomas, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Tilly, Jeff Bridges (parts of these interviews are also featured in Getting Gilliam documentary).
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Gilliam and co-writer Tony Grisoni.

August 10, 2018


Experience the full gag reel along with additional featurettes, commentaries tracks, deleted scenes and more when Avengers: Infinity War releases on Blu-ray this Tuesday, August 14!

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Johnny Knoxville, Neal McDonough, Ashley Scott, Michael Bowen, Kevin Durand, John Beasley, Kristen Wilson. Directed by Kevin Bray. (2004/86 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

While Walking Tall is mostly a distant footnote in Johnson's career, it was nevertheless an important stepping stone to bigger and better things. The film might seem quaint compared to his later FX-driven blockbusters, but remains an amusing blast from his past.

And if you gotta do a remake, it makes a lot more sense to tackle one that's relatively forgotten or wasn't all that great to begin with. The original 1973 film fits the bill on both counts. It was refashioned in 2004 as a vehicle for Dwayne Johnson, back when he was primarily known as a pro wrestler (and still billed as 'The Rock'). In addition to exploiting Johnson's considerable physical attributes, this enjoyably daffy action film also allowed him to display his natural charisma (something Joe Don Baker never had).

What makes Johnson such an endearing action hero is that he's a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger used to be...wisely picking projects which fit his persona and abilities. While this version borrows the initial premise of the original to make a high-concept action flick of its own, it still retains that film's take-no-prisoners spirit.
Johnson Pest Control.
Johnson plays Chris Vaughn, a military veteran returning to his hometown after eight years, only to find it under the control of former childhood friend and casino owner Jay Hamilton (Neil McDonough). When his nephew ends up in the hospital from drugs bought from Hamilton's bodyguards, Vaughn takes the law into his own hands and tears up the casino (along with a few thugs). After being arrested, he represents himself as the trial, promising that, if acquitted, he'll run for sheriff and clean up this town. Sure enough, he's found not guilty. In the very next scene, he's the elected sheriff, even though he's never so much as ridden in a police car. After deputizing his best friend Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville), the two proceed to try and bring Hamilton's operation down, using tactics that realistically land a real cop in prison.
But we're not talking Serpico here. Walking Tall is a film with no pretensions over what it is: a vehicle for Johnson to kick ass. Stallone traveled this road before, of course, as have many other action stars, but Johnson is a naturally likable guy and a pretty decent actor (not-to-mention he's his own special effect). Additionally, the fight scenes - there's a lot of 'em - are a refreshing throwback to the days before special effects allowed actors to leap 20 feet and throw punches which landed the recipient into another time zone.

Released at a time when Dwayne Johnson was just beginning to assert himself as the heir to Arnold's throne, Walking Tall may seem underwhelming compared to the mega-budget blockbusters he's known for today. Still, it's a fun, fast-moving film that plays to his strengths at the time. As part of MVD's new "Marquee Collection," this Blu-ray retains the same bonus features as previous releases, back when Johnson still had hair.

FEATURETTE - "Fight the Good Fight" (behind the scenes of the stunt choreography)
AUDIO COMMENTARIES - One with Dwayne Johnson, the other with director Kevin Bray


August 8, 2018

BLACKMARK: Thinking Big
Starring Kaiwi Lyman, Jeff Hatch, Corey MacIntosh, Timothy Oman, John Henry Richardson, Eliot, Lana Gautier, Brenna Piller. Directed by A.J. Martinson III. (2017/94 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

The official website indicates this film was originally titled Red Fish Blue Fish, which is a far more intriguing title than Blackmark. Slapped with generic box art suggesting a straight-to-DVD shootfest, the film is actually a speculative cold war thriller that takes place primarily in 1963 and ultimately offers an alternate theory about the Kennedy assassination.

Not to say there isn't any action. Much of it involves American spy Timothy Daniels (Kaiwi Lyman, looking more 1993 than 1963), who's ordered to hack into Russia's defense system and launch a nuclear warhead at his own country. He and Soviet military officer Alexi Popolovski (Corey MacIntosh) end up working together, shooting their way out of several confrontations in an effort to save Popolovski's family.

Partying like it's 1993.
But Blackmark is primarily about its title character (Jeff Hatch), an ambitious military industrialist who appears to be trying to prevent a nuclear war while simultaneously eliminating his competition. He could be considered the story's de-facto villain simply because he's the most ruthless, but just about everybody around him appears to have sinister agendas as well. "Appears" is definitely the operative word here. Blackmark is phenomenally complicated, often a challenge to follow because it's seldom clear who's working for who, who wants war & who doesn't.

Writer/director A.J. Martinson definitely deserves kudos for ambition. If nothing else, we often forget we're watching a film with a relatively limited budget. Despite taking place on just a few small sets with a cast of unknowns, Blackmark thinks big, unfolding with the urgency and narrative scope of a large-scale thriller. However, the intricate story eventually becomes exhausting, not helped by an underwhelming and surprisingly simplistic resolution.

But as long as the viewer is ready to give it 100% of their attention - hit the pause button before hitting the bathroom, kids - Blackmark remains pretty watchable. It won't make anyone forget Fail-Safe, but its aspirations are admirable.


August 7, 2018

Breaking the ALIEN CODE

Starring Kyle Gallner, Azura Skye, Mary McCormack, Richard Schiff, Aaron Behr, Graham Hamilton. Directed by Michael G. Cooney. (2017/97 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

Alien Code doesn't deserve its title. Not only does it totally spoil one of the film's more intriguing surprises, it sounds like some sort of History Channel mockumentary. The movie is better than that. Smarter, too.

Kyle Gallner (if there's ever a Metallica biopic, he's a shoe-in to play Lars Ulrich) is Alex, a cash-strapped computer cryptologist who comes home to discover a corpse on the floor...his own. It's the first part of a labyrinthine puzzle which the movie dishes out one piece at a time.

The nutshell plot has Alex recruited by a shady organization to decipher a complex code embedded in a retrieved satellite, which they think is from the future. Alex discovers, however, that it is alien in origin. Not only that, the code consists of partial blueprints for some sort of apocalyptic weapon. The agency dismisses Alex before he can complete the entire code. He also develops a fatal brain tumor that allows him to see these aliens...faceless, suited men who exist in a different temporal dimension (or something like that). With time running out - not-to-mention becoming increasingly warped - Alex tries to stop the weapon from being used, with help from Beth (Azura Skye), the previous cryptologist who worked on the code (and who also has a brain tumor).

Lars Ulrich in the studio.
The overall narrative is far more complex than that, with a strange new twist thrown in every few minutes or so. Part of the fun is watching how these plot points are linked and eventually converge. The film doesn't sustain its unique premise all the way to the finish and sometimes threatens to collapse under the weight of its own lofty ideas (often at the expense of any real character development). But for the most part, it's enjoyably perplexing, coming to a logical - if inevitable - conclusion.

Despite a deceptively stupid title, Alien Code is a decent example of intelligent science-fiction on a limited budget. Free of any flash or spectacle, the film is driven entirely by its ideas, which are certainly interesting enough to warrant checking-out a time or two.


DEADPOOL 2 on Digital

 Available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD August 21.