October 25, 2020

Nostalgia & Irony in THE LAST BLOCKBUSTER

THE LAST BLOCKBUSTER (Blu-ray Review)
2020 / 88 min

From POPMOTION PICTURES

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😹

It’s with no small amount of irony that the corporate monster which essentially wiped-out the mom & pop video store is now on the brink of similar extinction. What was once a 9,000 store franchise has dwindled down to just one, located in the small town of Bend, Oregon (my neck of the woods, by the way).

What’s doubly ironic is, even though Blockbuster homogenized home video and played a huge role in killing drive-in theaters, what I mostly felt while watching this film was warm, longing nostalgia. After all, Blockbuster was an indelible brand name and changed the way we watched movies at home, whether we wanted it to or not. For an entire generation of movie lovers, it was a big part of their childhood, the way drive-ins were part of mine.


But the biggest irony, as The Last Blockbuster joyously shows, is that the lone remaining store has become world famous, not only for putting the name back in the spotlight, but essentially becoming the very mom & pop video store Blockbuster all-but-killed decades earlier. It’s managed by Sandi Harding, who tirelessly keeps the place stocked and running with the help of her large family, all of whom have worked there at one point or another (and many who still do). 


Interspersed throughout her daily routine are testimonials from others in the community, as well as interviews with various familiar faces who grew up in the age of VHS, when Blockbuster was a big part of their lives. Most have charming anecdotes, while a few comedians’ attempts to be funny fall flat (such as Doug Benson’s overlong, laugh-free tour of the store). 


"The Godfather? Never heard of it."
Concurrently, the film also chronicles the franchise’s rise, mercilessly pushing-out competitors in every neighborhood they invaded (at one point, opening a new store every 17 days). Equally fascinating is Blockbuster’s slow, agonizing fall, not just because of changing technology and succumbing to up-&-comers like Netflix, but a plethora of poor corporate decisions. It’s also clear not everybody mourns its downfall as much as those still clinging to their membership cards.

The film even manages to create a fair amount of suspense. The Hardings don't own the Blockbuster name and must appeal to parent company Dish Network every year in order to remain in business. Despite all the media attention, community support and becoming a tourist attraction, the store's long-term future is always uncertain, which we see as Sandi anxiously awaits a return call from corporate headquarters. 


So while The Last Blockbuster maintains a feel-good vibe, there’s a dash of poignancy beneath the surface. Informative, congenial, funny and surprisingly affecting, the film is most-highly recommended for anyone nostalgic for the weekends when they walked out of their local Blockbuster with an armload of tapes or discs. And if you happen to live in Bend, Oregon, you know what your next rental should be.


EXTRA KIBBLES

FEATURETTES - “Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee” (short feature about a famous LA video store); “More with Kevin Smith” (extended interview); “Talkin’ Movies with David McAbee”; “JC from Scum & Villainy” (interview with the owner of a Star Wars themed bar); “Our Chat with Coach Pete” (he’s a local Bend DJ); “MTV’s Matt Pinfield” (interview); “Ska-Punk Show at a Blockbuster” (featurette about a ‘concert’ performed at a soon-to-be-closed LA store).

MUSIC VIDEOS - Andres’ “The Last Blockbuster”; Wordburglar’s “Rental Patient” (both songs are actually pretty insufferable)

TRAILER

DVD COPY

KITTY CONSENSUS:

MEE-OW! LIKE BEING UNLEASHED IN A BIRD SANCTUARY.

October 23, 2020

BLUE RIDGE: Murder in the Mountains

BLUE RIDGE (DVD Review)
2020 / 88 min

From IMAGICOMM ENTERTAINMENT

From by Tiger the Terrible😼

The title suggests a western, and in spirit, I suppose it is. However, Blue Ridge is mostly a backwoods murder mystery that plays like a pilot for a potential TV series, though I have no idea if one’s actually on the pipeline. If so, I’ve seen worse.

Johnathon Schaech is Justin Wise, a former Green Beret and the new sheriff of Blue Ridge, one of those tiny Appalachian towns where everybody knows everybody. He took the job so he could be closer to estranged wife Elli (Sarah Lancaster) and spunky daughter Maddie (Taegen Burns). Their relationship is the least interesting aspect of the entire film and never really figures into the plot, in which a woman is found murdered.


The victim is Vivian McGrath, who managed to piss off the entire town with plans to build condos on the land she and husband Lem swindled from her father, Cliff (Graham Greene). So naturally, he’s a suspect. However, Cliff thinks Jeremiah Wade (Tom Proctor) killed her, part of a decades-old feud between the two clans over ownership of the land. We’re made to suspect several characters throughout the story, sometimes because they simply act suspicious. 


"Are you finished?"
When focused on the investigation, Blue Ridge is fairly engaging, briskly moving from A to B with workmanlike efficiency, though some of the story’s red herrings are a little ham-fisted. Schaech makes a likably stoic protagonist, while Greene & Proctor are an entertaining pair of redneck rivals. The other characters are merely perfunctory, or in
Deputy Thompson’s case, distractingly goofy...like a 21st Century Barney Fife.

With a final showdown that suggests some inspiration from classic westerns, Blue Ridge isn’t particularly memorable, but works in the moment. It’s got a pretty decent story and a main character that seems groomed for weekly television. But even if that ain’t in the cards, the film is an enjoyable enough time killer.


EXTRA KIBBLES

4 BEHIND-THE-SCENES FEATURETTES - Running one to three minutes each.

DIGITAL CODE

KITTY CONSENSUS:

NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW.

October 21, 2020

THE POOP SCOOP: Trains, Toys & Towers


SNOWPIERCER: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON on Blu-ray & DVD 1/21/21
Attention all passengers - the revolution is coming! Get ready for more secrets, plot twists, and reveals as Warner Bros Home Entertainment takes you on an epic journey with the release of “Snowpiercer: The Complete First Season” on Blu-ray and DVD on January 26, 2021. Strap yourself in for an exhilarating ride with all 10 episodes from the first season, plus enjoy the captivating extra features, behind-the-scenes interviews, featurettes, and more! Set more than seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland, “Snowpiercer” centers on the remnants of humanity who inhabit a perpetually moving train, with 1001 cars, that circles the globe. Class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival play out in this riveting television adaptation.

 



THE HOBBIT Trilogy and THE LORD OF THE RINGS Trilogy arrive on 4K UHD 12/1
From New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, the two epic trilogies include the theatrical and extended versions of the six films in 4K UHD with HDR.  The Hobbit Trilogy includes The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy includes The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which won Academy Awards® for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  Both trilogies will also include Digital copies of both versions of each film.

 

In addition, it was also announced that a 4K UHD “Middle-earth” Ultimate Collectors’ Edition featuring the theatrical and extended versions of all six films, along with new bonus content, previously released Blu-ray discs of The Hobbit Trilogy, and remastered Blu-ray discs of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy will be released in the summer of 2021. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy featuring remastered Blu-ray discs of the theatrical and extended versions of the 3 films will also be released in the fourth quarter 2021, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.


TOYS OF TERROR on Blu-ray & DVD 1/19/21 and Digital 10/27
David and Hannah Cashman have promised their family a fun Christmas getaway, but when they arrive at a grand, old house in the snowy woods of Washington and are greeted by familiar construction foreman, the kids realize their parent’s plan to make it a working vacation; renovating the place in the hopes of flipping it. Alicia, the eldest, is annoyed but the younger kids are soon distracted when, wandering through the creepy mansion, they find a stash of old toys in an abandoned playroom and take to them instantly. Before long, they seem to be inseparable from their new playthings, much to the consternation of their nanny Rose who, along with Alicia, senses that something in the house is not quite right. As stranger and stranger things start to happen, Rose and Alicia have a hunch that there may be more to the history of the old house than the Cashman’s are letting on. Can the family escape with their lives – or will they stay forever in the crumbling house, never to celebrate another Christmas again?

2067 on Blu-ray & DVD 11/17
By the year 2067, Earth has been ravaged by climate change and humanity is forced to live on artificial oxygen. An illness caused by the synthetic O2 is killing the worlds’ population and the only hope for a cure comes in the form of a message from the future: “Send Ethan Whyte”. Ethan, an underground tunnel worker, is suddenly thrust into a terrifying new world full of unknown danger as he must fight to save the human race. 2067 stars Kodi Smit-McPhee (X-Men Apocalypse, Let Me In) and Ryan Kwanten (“True Blood,” “Sacred Lies”) and is written and directed by Seth Larney (Tombiruo)

October 20, 2020

SPREE...Flee

SPREE (Blu-ray Review)
2020 / 92 min

From RJLE FILMS

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😾

God knows people obsessed with internet fame deserve a good ribbing.

As a teacher who spends most of his time around teenagers, I can assure you there are countless kids convinced that being a professional YouTuber is not only a viable career option, but fortune and glory are just one viral video away. Just like every would-be Eddie Van Halen of my generation were certain they stood apart from all the other would-be Eddie Van Halens.


Rideshare driver Kurt (Joe Keery) is similarly convinced he’s destined to be a social media star with his livestream show, kurtsworld96. However, no one’s watching and it’s easy to see why. Kurt is obnoxious, unfunny and not entirely stable, with an overinflated sense of his own talent and personal appeal. But he’s certain he can achieve viral fame by doing something no other streamers have: killing his rideshare customers.


"The cow says, 'Mooooooo'!"

Spree - also the name of the company he drives for - takes place during one of his shifts and presented entirely through phones and the half-dozen cameras he’s installed in his car. At first, his exploits are kind-of funny, mainly because his victims are such assholes. However, the more we get to know Kurt, the more excruciating the film becomes. Played almost too effectively by Keery, he’s increasingly unlikable, his desperation for attention uncomfortably pathetic. 


This is obviously intentional, but unlike such socially maladjusted main characters as Travis Bickle, D-FENS or Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, we never feel an ounce of empathy for him. Even in black comedy, that’s important. Ultimately, Kurt is as insufferable to the audience as he is to Jesse (Sasheer Zamata), the popular comedian he fixates on (to a creepy level).


I’m pretty sure there are people out there right now - phones in-hand - who are just as fame-obsessed as Kurt. However, Spree squanders the opportunity to have any real fun at their expense. Despite Keery’s excellent, unnerving performance - a far cry from his role in Stranger Things - being around Kurt is mostly just depressing. 


EXTRA KIBBLES

“kurtsworld96 SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT” - Basically a big batch of deleted scenes

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Eugene Kotyarenko


KITTY CONSENSUS:

MEH...LIKE SHARING THE BED WITH THE DOG.

October 18, 2020

THE SHINING - The "Overlook Hotel" Today


A VISIT TO THE "OVERLOOK HOTEL" TODAY
Photos and text by D.M. ANDERSON💀

To horror fans around the world, the Overlook Hotel needs no introduction. But in my neck of the woods, it’s known as theTimberline Lodge and has sat on Mt. Hood for over 80 years. 

The place has been a prime vacation destination for decades - mainly for the skiing - but became iconic when Stanley Kubrick chose it to represent the exterior of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. For those of you who only know Timberline from the movie, I hate to burst your bubble, but the lavish interiors were actually shot in England and look nothing like the woodsy decor of the real hotel. Still, the reason ‘Room 217’ from the book was changed to ‘Room 237’ for the film was because Timberline actually has a Room 217 and management worried people would be afraid to stay there. Personally, I can’t think of a horror fan who wouldn’t wanna book that room. 


Since it’s probably Oregon’s most famous movie location and practically in my backyard, I recently took the wife & kids on a road trip to visit the place. Here are some photos of the “Overlook” today (not a lot has changed) as well as a look inside...


Obviously, it ain't winter yet.

No, that ain't Jack



The grand entrance...along with a clueless douche who wouldn't move out of the way.

The main lobby.

One of the massive hallways. Barely enough room to ride a trike.

The dreaded elevator.

You can get Shining swag at the gift shop...

...and of course, we bought some!

Disaster & Anger Fuel CUT THROAT CITY

CUT THROAT CITY (Blu-ray Review)
2020 / 123 min

From WELL GO USA

Review by Tiger the Terrible😽

More than just a gritty heist film, Cut Throat City wears its anger on its sleeve. Angry at FEMA’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina, angry at those using the disaster to exacerbate the gentrification of neighborhoods and angry at the overall lack of assistance to countless black families who lost everything. As presented in the film, that anger appears to be justified.

Blink (Shameik Moore) is angry, too. An aspiring comic book artist, he finds himself forced to support his wife and stepchild by dealing drugs with his small crew of friends. But even that isn’t much of a living, so when the opportunity arises to work for dangerous, sadistic local crimelord ‘Cousin’ Bass (T.I. Harris), it feels like his only viable option. Blink and his friends are ordered to rob a local casino, a job which goes awry when police show up almost immediately, resulting in a shoot-out in which they barely get away. Now in debt to Bass, they start robbing other casinos in order to pay him off.


Meanwhile, Detective Lucinda Benoit (Eiza Gonzalez) is in charge of the investigation and suspects Blink’s crew has been set-up by Bass, a plot development that’s fuzzy at-best and the weakest aspect of the narrative. Still, we feel Blink’s desperation as he gets further and further in over his head, surrounded by gangsters, crooked cops and corrupt city officials more concerned with making New Orleans real estate valuable again. He knows he should grab his family and get out of town, but the 9th Ward of New Orleans is his home and ultimately refuses to leave. This leads to a final act that’s as exciting as it is unpredictable, along with a big ‘fuck you’ to FEMA. And just when the viewer thinks Blink’s story is over, we're thrown an absolutely awesome curveball, reminding us of his original artistic ambitions.


The downside of working for Cousin Bass? Sitting through his vacation slides.
Though the narrative tends to sag in the middle, Cut Throat City has epic aspirations and often succeeds, aided immeasurably by the real-life backdrop of Katrina’s aftermath, which not-only fuels the film’s anger, but makes Blink a sympathetic protagonist even as he’s robbing casinos. Though well performed by a great cast, his friends and enemies aren’t nearly as fleshed-out, therefore less interesting. Still, Blink’s buddies are personable enough that we care whether they live or die.

Director RZA’s most ambitious work so far, Cut Throat City is an action film with heart, brains and a justifiable chip on its shoulder. More than just gangsters and guns, it tells a compelling story of people driven to desperation in light of the systematic racism they’ve been subjected to. And damn, what an ending! Another film forced to skip theatrical release due to a disaster of a different sort, this is well worth seeking out.


EXTRA KIBBLES

BEHIND-THE-SCENES FEATURETTE

DELETED SCENES

TRAILER

DVD COPY

KITTY CONSENSUS:

PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.

October 17, 2020

Unwrap This SCARE PACKAGE

SCARE PACKAGE (Blu-ray Review)
2020 / 107 min

From RLJE FILMS

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

After finishing Scare Package with my daughter, Lucy, she simply said, “Wow, that was completely insane from start to finish.” In other words, she liked it a lot. So did I. 

Produced on an obviously limited budget, what it lacks in polish is compensated by sheer exuberance and audacity. Horror anthologies are always a risky endeavor and most end up being wildly inconsistent. But not-only does Scare Package feature far more hits than misses, the whole thing is generally played for laughs. And for the most part, it earns them.


Sure, poking fun at horror tropes is kind-of like shooting fish in a barrel, but it’s clear the legions of writers, directors and producers who put this together have a lot of love for the genre. In a way, that sincerity - backed by some pretty clever writing - is what makes the film so constantly amusing. 


There are seven stories counting the framing device, which centers around an old video store run by horror buff “Rad” Chad (Jeremy King), who runs his mouth non-stop as he trains a new clerk, Hawn (Hawn Tran), and puts up with obnoxious regular customer, Sam (Bryon Brown). Their banter and bickering between segments is generally pretty damn funny. Then unexpectedly, the framing device becomes the final story, a climax that turns into the ultimate meta-movie and features a welcome cameo by Joe Bob Briggs.


For the most part, the stories in-between are just as amusing and the film even has an opening act, so to speak. Appropriately titled “Cold Open,” it features a guy who laments his job as the minor character who sets the stage for horror then disappears from the rest of the film (which he actually ends up doing). Other stories send-up various subgenres, such as body horror, werewolves, possession films and, of course, slasher movies. The wonderfully-titled “The Night He Came Back Again, Part IV: The Final Kill” is a hilarious parody of the unkillable killer and the film's best segment.


"Wanna see my sex tape?"

There’s even room for satiric targets unrelated to horror, such as nerds, TV binge-watchers and the toxic masculinity seen in films like Fight Club. The only real clunker in the bunch is “Girls Night Out of Body,” which has three ladies who turn into monsters after sharing a forbidden lollipop. It’s also the only story that isn’t blatantly comedic in tone.


Elsewhere, the gags & gore come fast and furious. Sometimes the dialogue is juvenile, but more often than not, it’s deceptively clever and often laugh-out-loud funny. The same could be said about the performances, which range from amateurish to spot-on. King, in particular, is hilarious, which is a good thing since his character is essentially the glue that holds everything together, especially during the final story. And subtle, the film ain’t, especially in the bloodletting department. The violence is so over-the-top that it becomes part of the humor, much like Peter Jackson’s early horror comedies.


All too often, movies this self-aware end up being too enamored with themselves, like someone in love with the smell of their own farts. However, Scare Package never plays like it’s superior to the genre it’s having fun with. There’s a earnestness to it that’s as endearing as it is amusing. With a charming (and appropriate) ‘80s aesthetic, this may not be the best horror film I’ve seen this year, but it’s certainly the funniest.


EXTRA KIBBLES

THE LAST DRIVE-IN WITH JOE BOB BRIGGS EPISODE - Watch Scare Package the way it premiered on Brigg’s Shudder series.

“LOCKER ROOM Z” - Another story that wasn’t included in the final cut. Too bad. It’s actually pretty good.

“RAD CHAD’S RAD AD” - Faux commercial for Rad Chad’s video store.

“ORIGINAL ‘NOT-AS-GOOD’ ENDING” - They’re right.

BLOOPER REEL

AUDIO COMMENTARY - writer/director/producer Aaron B. Koontz and writer Cameron Burns

SHUDDER TRIAL OFFER

KITTY CONSENSUS:

PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.

October 16, 2020

THE HAUNTING (Paramount Presents #10): A Pretty Seashell

THE HAUNTING (Blu-ray Review)
1999 / 112 min

From PARAMOUNT

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

The Haunting is an odd choice for the Paramount Presents series (#10, for those of you collecting them). It made box office bank, but was hardly a blockbuster or critical darling. It doesn’t enjoy the classic status of previous films in the series, even on a cult level. There are plenty of other movies from the same era that could better represent Paramount’s legacy.

And if you want to get technical, it wasn't even produced or released by Paramount Pictures. The Haunting was actually an early Dreamworks production, a studio Paramount didn’t own until 2006. On the other hand, this is the first time The Haunting has been released on Blu-ray, which probably trumps my nitpicking. After all, the film must have its share of fans, right? 


Right?


Well, I know of one fan, for sure. My wife loves this film. She’s never been what you’d call a big horror lover and the few she does enjoy tend to be fairly benign in the scare department, with only light violence and even lighter themes. In other words, the kind of movie that won't linger in her head while she’s trying to sleep.


The Haunting checks-off all those boxes...a big, flashy major-studio effort with the best CGI money can buy and an attractive cast (plus Bruce Dern) who normally wouldn’t be caught dead doing a horror film. But despite the presence of Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, the lovely Catherine Zeta-Jones and the always-obnoxious Owen Wilson, their characters are just talking heads. The real stars of the film are the special effects and production design.


When Owen Wilson sleeps nude.
And indeed, The Haunting is constantly interesting to look at. Hill House, a labyrinthine mansion where Dr. Marrow (Neeson) conducts his “fear” experiment, is the most engaging character in the film, with intricate wood carvings in every nook & cranny, cavernous rooms and menacing statues. With the help of elaborate (for the time) CGI, Hill House is practically a living entity.

But as a lot of fright fans will attest, horror and CGI often get along like oil and water. Effectively using CGI in horror is a challenge even today, let-alone 21 years ago. Here, the special effects overwhelm the story - a lukewarm rehash of Shirley Jackson’s novel - and at no point are they really convincing. Hence, there isn’t a single moment that’s remotely scary, or even unsettling.


The Haunting is a lot like a gift shop seashell...elaborately designed, polished to a glistening sheen and very pretty to look at - especially on Blu-ray - but still empty inside. We’re impressed with the production design and maybe even able to enjoy the special effects in the context of when they were created, but it’s ultimately best appreciated by people like my wife. When it comes to horror, she’ll dip her toe in the water now and then, but isn't truly looking to be scared.


EXTRA KIBBLES

FILMMAKER FOCUS - A new interview with director Jan de Bont

FEATURETTE - A vintage behind-the-scenes promotional documentary hosted by Catherine Zeta-Jones

2 TRAILERS

DIGITAL COPY

KITTY CONSENSUS:

NOT BAD. BECAUSE MY WIFE LIKES IT.