August 16, 2019

Rest in Peace, Peter Fonda

THE WITCHES and a Tale of Two Endings
Starring Anjelica Huston, Jasen Fisher, Mai Zetterling, Charlie Potter, Rowan Atkinson, Jane Horrocks. Directed by Nicholas Roeg. (92 min)

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😸

This is based on a children’s novel by Roald Dahl, who apparently hated the changes made to his story, especially the ending. However, Dahl also hated Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, so there you go. While The Witches never became a beloved classic like Wonka, it’s definitely cut from the same cloth: a semi-whimsical family film with sinister undertones. I’m not sure what Dahl’s issue was because – narrative changes notwithstanding - it retains the spirit of his work.

But as cantankerous as he appeared to be about adaptations of his books, I’d have to agree on one point: retaining the story’s original ending certainly would have been interesting. Without getting into specifics that would spoil the party for those who haven’t read the book or seen the movie, that ending was apparently filmed but never used. No way would a major studio let such a resolution fly, even with an eccentric like Nicholas Roeg directing. But man, it would have been an awesome bonus feature to include on this disc.

As it is, The Witches harkens back to the days when fantasy films didn’t rely exclusively on CGI for its visual effects. Being a Jim Henson production, the film makes ample use of puppetry, animatronics and highly-imaginative make-up to convey its story. However, the movie’s true MVP is Angelica Huston as Eva, England’s Grand High Witch who gathers her loyal disciples at a hotel with a plan to turn all the country’s children into mice. From her quasi-dominatrix appearance to her over-the-top scenery-chewing, she injects a considerable amount of wicked fun into the film (at-least for the grown-ups in the audience).

The kid gets an eyeful.
For the little ones, the film’s hero is Luke (Jasen Fisher), an American boy vacationing at the hotel with his grandmother (Mai Zetterling), who regales him with terrifying tales of witches’ hatred for children and once narrowly escaped Eva herself. After discovering Eva’s plan while eavesdropping on the witches’ convention, Luke and another boy are turned into mice. Still, he tries to stop them from carrying-out their scheme with help from his grandmother.

The Witches is fun and fast-moving, simply presented and featuring fine performances. Sure, the special effects look a bit quaint, but they serve the story well and reflect a considerable amount of handcrafted effort. And like Willy Wonka, it has a subtle, amusing mean-streak. While definitely family-friendly, this isn’t strictly a kiddie film.

I suppose I can understand Dahl’s misgivings about the chosen ending, which admittedly negates the underlying tone of the rest of the film. It's unfortunate the darker one isn't included on this disc - either as a bonus feature or alternate ending option - so viewers could decide for themselves. Still, The Witches remains quirky, charming and certainly deserving of the same cult status Hocus Pocus inexplicably enjoys. 


August 15, 2019

Al Pacino Goes CRUISING
Starring Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen, Richard Cox, Don Scardino, Jay Acovone, Joe Spinell, Allan Miller, James Remar, William Russ. Directed by William Friedkin. (102 min).

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😼

William Friedkin directed three of the greatest films of all time, The French Connection, The Exorcist and Sorcerer. That he made them consecutively in a span of six years is remarkable. Even though he’s been a shadow of his former self ever since, Friedkin remains one of my favorite directors and I never pass up the opportunity to check-out his work. There’s always the chance he has another great film left in him.

Cruising ain’t that film, but historically, it might be Friedkin’s most perversely fascinating.

Critically reviled and very controversial when first released in 1980, Cruising remains polarizing and provocative four decades later. From a creative standpoint, it’s widely regarded as a black stain on the careers of both Friedkin and Al Pacino, from which the former never fully recovered. Though one could argue Friedkin’s undoing actually began with Sorcerer, that film has-since grown in stature by both critics and audiences (deservedly so). Camp qualities notwithstanding, Cruising has been more difficult to appreciate, perhaps due to its subject matter (or at-least how it’s presented).

Al dances like no one’s watching. Unfortunately, they were.
Most of Cruising’s controversy stemmed from its depiction of gay subculture, most notably the S&M-oriented nightclub scenes, which outraged members of the gay community. Watching it today, one can kind-of see why. With one notable exception, every gay character is portrayed as a lecherous horndog ready to fuck anyone, anywhere, any time. The sweaty, explicit club scenes (and there’s a lot of them) are lurid and sensationalistic, playing like a calculated attempt by Friedkin to shock the viewer with their frankness. It’s probably the closest to pure exploitation he’s ever gotten (well, at least until Jade came along).

These scenes tend to overshadow the actual plot, a murder mystery which has ambitious young cop Steve Burns (Pacino) going undercover to try and nab a serial killer who’s been targeting gay men in the West Village district of New York. He finds himself increasingly drawn into this subculture, which not-only has him conflicted, it affects his relationship with his girlfriend. But those aspects are only superficially explored and Burns never comes across as being very proficient at his job.

Countless cows were harmed in the making of this film.
Still, there’s a bizarre trainwreck quality to Cruising that remains morbidly compelling, especially considering the talent on both sides of the camera (like witnessing a fatal car crash with Mario Andretti behind-the-wheel). Pacino throws himself into the role, often hilariously so, his nightclub dance scene being an unintentional comic highlight. Despite the impressive cast – including plenty of familiar faces unknown at the time – the best performance actually belongs to Don Scardino as the only character who isn’t a gay stereotype. As a director, Friedkin still knows how to set-up his shots. But while there are visual moments reminiscent of The French Connection, he doesn’t appear to be as concerned with the story itself, seldom bothering with details which don’t involve kinkiness or violence (or both). His self-penned screenplay also shows he’s better off leaving the writing duties to someone else, since the dialogue contains some real howlers.

As William Friedkin’s most notorious film, Cruising can’t be dismissed entirely. From a historical standpoint, the controversy alone renders it required viewing, since viewers should make up their own minds whether or not it’s warranted. The bonus features included with this Blu-ray release provide some valuable context, and for newcomers, it might even be prudent to watch those first. But controversy aside, Cruising remains a campy curiosity not unlike Mommie Dearest or Myra Breckenridge.

2 FEATURETTES - “The History of Cruising” & “Exorcising Cruising.” Both of these 20 minute featurettes are entertaining and informative, the second one being the more interesting since it looks back at the controversy surrounding the film.
2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES – The first is brand new, featuring Friedkin and critic Mark Kermode, the second is an archival commentary by Friedkin.
SUPPLEMENTARY BOOKLET – Includes cast & crew credits, restoration credits and an essay by filmmaker/critic F.X. Feeney.
REVERSIBLE COVER – Though the artwork for both is very similar.


August 14, 2019

ROXANNE and a Tale of Compromise
ROXANNE (1987)
Starring Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Rick Rossovich, Shelley Duvall, John Kapelos, Fred Willard, Max Alexander, Michael J. Pollard, Damon Wayans. Directed by Fred Schepisi. (102 min)

Review by Mr. Paws😽

If you’re of a certain age, perhaps this sounds familiar…

Back in the late ‘80s, my young wife, Francie, and I would often venture to our local video store, grabbing a batch of movies to enjoy over the weekend. People often say opposites attract, an old adage that certainly applied to our entertainment choices (and still does, for the most part). Francie mostly enjoyed lighter fare – romance, comedy, fantasy, romantic comedy, romantic fantasy, romantic fantasy comedy. You get the idea. While I don’t necessarily hate those genres, I generally got my jollies from darker, weirder, more violent stuff.

Here’s what a great husband I am: We always watched Francie’s movies first, since she had little-to-no interest in many of my choices and I was more of a night-owl, anyway. Hence, I ended up sitting through a lot of movies I would never have chosen on my own (though Francie deserves credit for introducing me to The Princess Bride).

All successful marriages involve a bit of compromise and I’m pretty sure one of those compromise movies was Roxanne, Steve Martin’s romantic comedy update of Cyrano de Bergerac. A Francie movie if there ever was one, I was fairly ambivalent about it. Having grown up on the “wild and crazy” Steve Martin from The Jerk and his off-the-wall comedy records, it was a bit disheartening that he was slowly leaving that persona behind.

Bird is the word.
Still, Martin is a good actor and Roxanne demonstrates his maturity as a screenwriter. Whether that latter point is good or bad is subjective, but Roxanne nevertheless remains a critical and fan favorite. As his romantic comedies go, it’s probably Martin’s sweetest film. Comparatively speaking, it’s more charming than The Lonely Guy, though not as funny as All of Me (which benefited from Martin’s increasingly underused talent as a physical comedian).

I enjoyed the movie back then, though like most of Martin’s ‘80s films, it wasn’t anything I felt compelled to revisit. Seeing Roxanne again all these years later was more of a nostalgic experience than anything else, especially with this retro-packaged cover by my side. It looks almost exactly like the very box that once sat between Francie and I on the sofa (complete with stickers indicating what video shelf it belongs on). It’s been released on Blu-ray before and while this re-issue adds no bonus features, the cover art makes it a fun purchase for those who fondly recall renting VHS tapes with that significant other.


August 13, 2019

THE POOP SCOOP: Evil Toys & Hellboys

CHILD’S PLAY arrives on September 24
Chucky, the sinister killer doll, comes home in Child’s Play - a re-imagining of the 1988 horror classic sure to elicit screams from a whole new generation of fans this fall. Realizing that her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) is lonely, Karen (Aubrey Plaza) buys him a seemingly innocent, AI-enhanced Buddi doll that he names Chucky. But Chucky’s safety restrictions have been disabled, and soon, a gruesome series of events unfolds. Unable to convince his mom that the doll is responsible for the carnage, Andy becomes the target of the bloodthirsty Chucky! Seth Grahame-Smith and David Katzenberg, producers of It, team up with Orion Pictures to bring another classic horror franchise to a new era of fans. Written by Tyler Burton Smith and based on characters created by Don Mancini, Child’s Play stars Aubrey Plaza as “Karen,” Gabriel Bateman as “Andy,” Bryan Tyree Henry as “Detective Mike Norris,” and features Mark Hamill as the voice of “Chucky.” 
The original HELLBOY on 4K debuts October 15
The visionary director based his film on Mike Mignola's popular Dark Horse Comics about a demon, raised from infancy after being conjured by and rescued from the Nazis, who grows up to become a defender against the forces of darkness. Ron Perlman (“Sons of Anarchy”) embodies the title role, with Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions), Doug Jones (The Shape of Water) and two-time Academy Award nominee John Hurt (1978, Best Supporting Actor, Midnight Express; 1980, Best Actor, The Elephant Man) also starring.  The HELLBOY 4K Ultra HD presents both the Theatrical and Director’s Cut versions of the film, both newly remastered in 4K resolution from the original camera negative with exclusive Dolby Atmos audio for both versions of the movie, along with the original theatrical 5.1 audio. The HELLBOY 4K UHD includes the all-new “To Hell and Back” retrospective, featuring a new interview with director Guillermo del Toro, plus hours of archival special features, including documentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, Q&As and much more.

FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE is giving away a Blu-ray copy of UNIVERSAL's THE HUSTLE to one lucky reader. Available on Blu-ray, DVD 8/30. 
TO ENTER: Simply drop us a message at CONTEST ENDS 8/20.

From director Chris Addison (“Veep”) and producers Roger Birnbaum (The Magnificent Seven) and Rebel Wilson, THE HUSTLE on Blu-ray and DVD showcases bonus features taking viewers further into the world of scamming with special featurettes including behind-the-scenes footage, commentary from the cast and filmmakers, and more!


Sure, this franchise is welllll past its expiration date and Logan was easily its high-point, but Days of Future Past (you know...the time travel one) is certainly worth the five bucks I paid for it. The 3-D version is also included for those of you who buy into that sort of thing. $5.00 AT BIG LOTS.

August 12, 2019

SHADOW: An Action Painting
SHADOW (2018)
Starring Deng Chao, Sun Li, Zheng Kai, Wang Quianyuan, Hu Jun, Guan Xiaotong, Leo Wu. Directed by Zhang Yimou. (116 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

Shadow is the latest film by famed Chinese director Zhang Yimou, probably best-known to Western audiences for Hero and House of Flying Daggers. Perhaps still a little butthurt from the shellacking he received for his first English language film (The Great Wall), this one feels like a concentrated effort to revisit past glories.

Like Yimou’s most successful work, Shadow is equal parts action movie and historical drama. Though aesthetically grittier, it’s nevertheless very stylish and superlatively assembled, with an intriguing story and vivid characters.

The “shadow” of the title is Jing Zhou (Deng Chao). Due to his striking resemblance to the Pei kingdom’s greatest military commander, Ziyu (also Chao), he’s been groomed since childhood as Ziyu’s doppelganger. Ziyu is injured and ailing from recently losing a battle with Yang Cang, the commander whose army occupies Pei’s capital city. He challenges Yang to a rematch, against the wishes of Pei’s cowardly king, Peillang. Now Jing must fight Yang instead, using extensive training from Ziyu and his wife, Xiao, whom Jing has fallen in love with.

Jing can't bring himself to inform Xiao he was wounded while bathing his cat.
The story is more complicated than that, with Peillang offering his sister as a wife to Yang’s son in an effort to maintain peace. Ziyu also has a bigger agenda than simply taking back the city, while Jing follows orders on the promise that he’ll be reunited with his mother. Numerous plot twists ensue, particularly near the climax, which is arguably more brutal and bloody than anything Yimou has previously directed. While the film does take a considerable amount of time to gain momentum, the imagery alone makes up for the lulls. The whole film is primarily shot in stark black and white tones, apparently to resemble old Chinese ink wash paintings. Metaphorically, I suppose it nicely contrasts the ambiguity of the characters’ motives and actions.

Shadow has none of the high-flying choreography of House of Flying Daggers, nor the spectacle of Hero. But despite being more down-to-Earth – relatively speaking – its action and fight sequences are no-less impressive. I wouldn’t quite put it in the same league as his two most renowned films, but fans of Zhang Yimou’s period-based action epics should enjoy it.


August 9, 2019

AVENGERS: ENDGAME and the Long Goodbye
Starring Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Josh Brolin, Don Cheadle, Karen Gillan, Benedict Wong, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Chris Pratt, Brie Larson, Bradley Cooper, Danai Gurira, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Jon Favreau, etc. Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo. (181 min).

Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

The major downside to catching Avengers: Endgame in theaters was the risk of subjecting my bladder to irreparable damage. In my younger days, simply holding-it for three hours was no big challenge. Back in college, I even once participated in a drinking game where we’d see who could go the longest without relieving ourselves. I didn’t win, but did manage to make it almost four hours.

Those were different times and Endgame is a different type of epic. We’ve all sat through three-hour films before, but thanks to Infinity War’s open-ended resolution and plethora of unanswered questions – not-to-mention a year’s worth of fan theories and speculation – taking a bathroom break would risk missing a key scene, plot twist or revelation. I’ll give the Russo Brothers credit for one thing: Every scene in Endgame feels vital at the time, making it a tough movie to walk away from, even for a moment.

At the showing my family and I attended, not a single theatergoer got up to leave once the film started. Afterwards, the continuous sound of flushing toilets echoed throughout the lobby for five straight minutes. I, for one, made the mistake of buying a soda before the movie, which I began the regret around the 90 minute mark. By the third act, my screaming pee-pee made it a challenge to fully immerse myself the film’s numerous emotional payoffs.

So despite being a fitting, larger-than-life capper to Marvel’s 22-film story arc, Endgame ultimately plays better at home, at least for those of us not endowed with iron bladders. In addition to reacquainting myself with the story thus-far by revisiting Infinity War beforehand, seeing Endgame a second time – able to hit pause when nature called – was far more enjoyable.

Hawkeye may suck at hiding, but Stark is even worse at seeking.
While I still loathe the practice of stretching a single story across multiple movies, Endgame justifies its existence – and length – due to the sheer number of characters, story threads and loose ends to tie in a manner that meets expectations of legions of MCU fans. A daunting task, to be sure, which Endgame manages to pull off. The film remembers its past while acknowledging the future, and exploits the finality its title to the hilt (for the story arc and some major characters). In that respect, Endgame pushes all the right emotional buttons.

But unlike the original Star Wars trilogy’s most iconic moments, Endgame meets expectations without really ever exceeding them. As viewers, we already have a laundry list of plot points awaiting explanation, questions to be answered and characters’ odds of living or dying. All those boxes are checked-off – often magnificently, sometimes poignantly – but there aren’t any revelations as jaw-dropping as learning who Luke’s father is. And even at three hours, there are simply too many characters for everyone to get adequate screen time (some don’t even appear until the climax). Fans of certain characters will inevitably be disappointed by what amounts to a cameo.

However, those are minor quips. Endgame is ultimately a slam-bang crescendo to this massive franchise, the likes of which we won’t likely see again for a long time. While sweeping and epic in scope, it’s still filled with the smaller, character-driven moments that have always made the MCU engaging (something DC is just now figuring out). I’ve personally never met anyone disappointed by the outcome. I’m sure they’re out there, but maybe their bladders were simply too full to enjoy it the first time.

FEATURETTES - “Setting the Tone: Robert Downey Jr.”; “Steve and Peggy: One Last Kiss”; “The Russo Brothers: Journey to Endgame”; “The Women of the MCU”; “Bro Thor”; “Remembering Stan Lee”; “Man Out of Time: Creating Captain America”; “Black Widow: Whatever it Takes”; “Looking Back at Captain America”
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By The Russo Brothers and screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.

August 8, 2019

WHITE LINE FEVER: Viva la Vincent!
Starring Jan-Michael Vincent, Kay Lenz, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones, Sam Laws, Dick Miller, R.G. Armstrong, Martin Kove, Don Porter. Directed by Jonathan Kaplan. (90 min)

Review by Mr. Paws😽

For a lot of people, the late Jan-Michael Vincent is most-associated with the TV show, Airwolf. But movie lovers of a certain age might recall the previous decade, when he was supposed to be the next big thing.

That never really happened, of course, partially due to his own unfortunate life choices, but also because none of the films featuring Vincent’s name above the title did his career any favors. Not that they all sucked, but most were B-movies  destined for two-week runs at drive-ins and suburban multiplexes. While he never made any classics, a lot of ‘em eventually became mainstays on HBO, and later, the shelves of mom & pop video stores (typically in the action/adventure section).

That’s the Jan-Michael Vincent I remember and White Line Fever is emblematic of his ‘70s heyday. Neither his best nor worst, the film nevertheless evokes fond memories of spending Saturdays at the Southgate, a quad cinema within biking distance near my house. This disc’s retro-VHS artwork will stir even more nostalgic warm fuzzies for anyone who ever spent entire weekends in their living room with a stack of 2-day rentals (where Vincent was always best appreciated).

"No, you may NOT hang your coat!"
White Line Fever is one of those good ol’ boy trucker tales calculated to appeal to the same demographic whose clothing choices likely resemble those of the movie’s characters. Vincent plays Carrol Jo Hummer, a young driver fighting corruption in the trucking business, putting himself and his wife (Kay Lenz) in danger. In the meantime, he earns the respect and support of fellow disgruntled truckers. True to the genre, we get the required allotment of beer drinkin’, fist fightin’, shotgun blastin’ and semi crashin’, all set to a guitar twangin’ soundtrack.

The film is chock-full of recognizable character actors playing guys with names like Pops, Buck, Birdie and Clem. Vincent himself never really possessed a lot of range, but he’s likable enough in a role that mostly requires him to get mad and get even. White Line Fever is simple, silly and doesn’t bare a hell of a lot of scrutiny, but it ain’t like the film was ever vying for the Palme d’Or. Aspiring to be nothing more than a good bit of lowbrow fun, it delivers with a minimum of muss and fuss. Kind-of an oddball ending, though.

Mill Creek Entertainment has previously released White Line Fever on Blu-ray plenty of times before, either as a stand-alone feature or bundled with similar films (like the recent 9 Lives Movie Collection). Furthermore, this release has no additional bonus features. But what old school film fan can resist the wonderful packaging of Mill Creek’s growing Retro Blu-ray line-up? Since it features a bygone star from a bygone era, White Line Fever is most-certainly worthy of inclusion. Though he’s no longer with us, I suspect Jan-Michael Vincent would approve.

August 7, 2019

THE POOP SCOOP: Molten Metal Edition

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1999 performance and Grammy-winning S&M album, Metallica & San Francisco Symphony reunite for S&M². The film will feature the first live performances of S&M arrangements in 20 years plus renditions of songs written and released since original show. TICKETS ON SALE TODAY AT METALLICA.FILM
"FEAR INOCULUM”: The Title Track from TOOL’s First New Album in 13 Years.
Though not necessarily movie related, Tool is one of the few bands left that still gets our motors running. Seven songs, 85 minutes. What’s not to love? The album will be released an August 30. In the meantime, check out the prrrfect title track above.

STRANGE BLOOD: 71 Essays on Offbeat and Underrated Vampire Movies
Strange Blood encompasses well-known hits as well as obscurities that differ from your standard fang fare by turning genre conventions on their head. Here, vampires come in the form of cars, pets, aliens, mechanical objects, gorillas, or floating heads. And when they do look like a demonic monster or an aristocratic Count or Countess, they break the mold in terms of imagery, style, or setting. Leading horror writers, filmmakers, actors, distributors, academics, and programmers present their favorite vampire films through in-depth essays, providing background information, analysis, and trivia regarding the various films. Some of these stories are hilarious, some are terrifying, some are touching, and some are just plain weird. Available at 


Typically, a trip to my local Walmart has slightly more appeal than a visit to the DMV. However, digging through their Blu-ray budget bin occasionally unearths something that makes it worth the effort. Just recently, I found Ron Howard’s megabomb, In the Heart of the Sea. While it’ll never be mistaken for a classic, it looks pretty and provides your only opportunity to catch Tom (Spider-Man) Holland crawling around inside a whale’s gut. $5.99 at Walmart.

August 6, 2019

HOW LONG WILL I LOVE U? About 101 Minutes.
Starring Jia Yin Lei, Li Ya Tong, Zhang Yi, Wang Zhengjia. Directed by Lun Su. (101 min)

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😼

Lu Ming (Jia Yin Lei) is a lonely building designer whose efforts and talent are ignored at work. Gu Xiaojiao (Li Ya Tong) is trying in-vain to land herself a rich husband willing to buy her a house. Suddenly, they are forced to share the same small apartment. The twist? They are actually living 19 years apart, the result of a time-displacement experiment that forces them to co-exist.

Like your typical romantic comedy, they don’t get along at first. Lu is put-off by Gu’s self-serving shallowness, while she doesn’t mask her contempt for his lowly financial status. However, they eventually open up to each other and...well, you can probably figure out the rest.

Jia Yin Lei points out his biggest fan.
But it’s the sci-fi trappings that make How Long Will I Love U interesting, for awhile, anyway. The way the film establishes the rules of its premise leads to some amusing and intriguing moments. For example, whenever Lu opens the front door, it’s 1999; when Gu does, it’s 2018. But even though they can physically exist in each other’s time, they can’t manipulate it, as demonstrated when their plan to get rich by acquiring winning lottery numbers doesn’t work. Additionally, meeting their past or future selves has dire physical consequences, which is eventually the crux of the story.

Much of this is entertaining, particularly the scenes where Lu and Gu discover their limitations (often the hard way). Their chemistry also makes the romantic aspects of the story sort-of charming (though free of surprises). Unfortunately, the film turns a bit too serious for its own good during the second half, when new plot elements are introduced, some of which are either unnecessary or a bit too coincidental to swallow. And what’s up with those nonsensical end-credit scenes?

Still, How Long Will I Love U is fairly engaging, with some interesting special effects and congenial performances by the two leads. I don’t how well the plot would hold up to any real scrutiny, but as a romantic comedy with sci-fi touches, it works in the moment.