March 26, 2019

Rest in Peace, Joe Pilato

March 25, 2019

THE VAULT: If Only...
Starring Francesca Eastwood, Taryn Manning, Scott Haze, Q’Orianka Kilcher, Clifton Collins Jr, Keith Loneker, James Franco. Directed by Dan Bush. (2017/91 min).

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Aside from its setting, this heist/horror hybrid doesn’t really break any new ground, but for most of its running time, The Vault is pretty entertaining, even creepy at times. If only it knew when to quit.

Bickering sisters Leah (Francesca Eastwood, Clint’s kid) and Vee (Taryn Manning) lead a heavily-armed crew attempting to rob a downtown bank, which turns into a hostage situation after the police are tipped-off by a mysterious caller. Worse yet, their take isn’t nearly as much as they need to pay off brother Michael’s (Scott Haze) mob debts. However, the bank’s assistant manager (James Franco) informs them of an old vault in the basement, which holds $6 million.

But the bank has a dark past. There was a similar situation in 1982 where a masked robber executed all of his hostages. Their disembodied spirits have been lurking around ever since. As they try and crack-open the vault, the crew starts meeting violent ends at the hands of the undead. None of this comes as a surprise to the assistant manager, who seems to have known this would happen all along.

Three co-workers, one doughnut.
After an inauspicious start, The Vault gets more interesting as the story unfolds, revealing nifty narrative surprises along the way. The film is never particularly scary, but does manage to build some tension and dread, particularly in the long, dark corridors leading to the vault itself. The performances are merely perfunctory, but regarding the three siblings, at-least there’s some attempt at character development so we have a small stake in who lives and dies.

And had the film ended just one scene earlier, it could have been something special.

Granted, a single scene doesn’t necessarily wreck an entire film, but in a genre where the tone is often more important than the plot itself, one wonky moment can seriously undermine things. Without getting into specifics that would spoil the party, near the end of the film, there’s a plot-twist that’s creative, clever and makes complete sense within the context of the story. The scene immediately cuts to black, and had the credits rolled right there, the movie would have ended on a haunting, ominous note. Instead, we get a ridiculous coda that feels tacked-on for the sole purpose of providing a gratuitous jump-scare.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say The Vault is ruined by this scene. However, in addition to being completely unnecessary, it doesn’t really jibe with the story’s basic premise. Until then, the film is interesting enough to make it worth checking out. Just shut it off right before that final scene (you’ll know the moment when it comes).


March 24, 2019

Rest in Peace, Larry Cohen

Other Larry Cohen related articles: All Hail KING COHEN; IT'S ALIVE and the Miracle of Birth

PET SEMATARY (1989) and the Perils of Parenthood

Starring Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Fred Gwynne, Miko Hughes, Blaze Berdahl, Brad Greenquist. Directed by Mary Lambert. (1989/103 min). 
On Blu-ray from PARAMOUNT 

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

To coincide with its 30th Anniversary – as well as an upcoming remake - the original Pet Sematary is being re-released with new packaging, a selection of new & vintage bonus features and, most importantly, a really impressive 4K restoration overseen by the film’s director, Mary Lambert. So even if the timing is obviously intended to capitalize on the growing buzz surrounding the remake, this is a cut above the usual catalog release.

Revisiting the film for the first time in years, I was surprised how well it’s aged. Not just the upgraded picture and sound, but the narrative and technical aspects, as well, perhaps even prompting some to wonder if it really needed to be remade at all (though that’s never stopped anyone before). Sure, there’s always been some clunky dialogue and occasional misguided attempts at black humor, but despite a few 80s’ trappings, the film remains as disturbing as it was 30 years ago.

Modern viewers – and maybe some who haven’t seen it in a while – may not appreciate the impact Pet Sematary had on audiences back then. Having read the book beforehand, I suspected that any adaptation would be forced to pull many of the gut-punches King threw at the reader. Instead, the film ended up being one of the more faithful adaptations of his novels and ventured where most mainstream horror films feared to tread, likely because King himself penned the screenplay and his considerable clout gave him a great deal of creative control.

Who let the dog in?
That meant the real horrors of Pet Sematary made it to the screen completely intact. Not the ramifications of resurrecting the dead, but those exploiting every parent’s worst fear: losing a child. Worse yet, losing them suddenly and violently. And just to rub salt in an open wound, the realization that the child’s death probably could have been prevented if we were just a bit more vigilant. Before Lewis Creed makes the fateful decision to bring little Gage back from the dead, the film wallows in his agony, which is tougher to take than any of its more traditional terrors, especially if you’re a parent.

Case-in-point...I first saw Pet Sematary in theaters – long before becoming a father myself - and was pleased how remarkably faithful it was to the novel. The film took us to some dark places few others did at the time, which I suspect was a major factor in drawing the ire of many film critics (the movie does have a mean streak a mile wide). But after having kids, I was no longer able to sit through it. My empathy for the Creed family’s misery was too overwhelming, forcing me to vividly imagine my own daughters suffering a similar fate. Hence, my VHS copy of the film sat untouched on the shelf for years. 

If you can dodge an 18-wheeler, you can dodge a ball.
As parents, we've all experienced some kind of “close call” involving our kid’s safety, then entertained possible worst-case scenarios if blind luck wasn’t on our side. With no concept of their own mortality, it’s terrifying how fast toddlers can willingly throw themselves in harm’s way when we aren’t looking. But even if you're the most protective parent on Earth, that kid is only a faulty car seat away from joining the hereafter.

My daughters are older now, having survived the stupidity of babyhood more-or-less intact. Now that it looks like they’ll go the distance, I’m able to once-again enjoy Pet Sematary without all that pesky parental baggage. However, my youngest daughter had to check out once little Gage Creed got pancaked. Though she’s 15 and a seasoned horror lover, the death of a two-year-old – and the suffering that followed – was too much for her to take. 30 years later, Pet Sematary still has considerable visceral power.

The film isn’t without its issues, including some heavy-handed moments (such as the entire funeral scene), clumsy attempts at humor and a performance by Fred Gwynne that borders on camp. But for the most part, the original Pet Sematary remains one of the darker mainstream horror films of the 80s, fulfilling its promise that things are going to end badly for everyone involved. With a tagline which claims “Sometimes dead is better,” how could it do otherwise?

NEW: “FEAR AND REMEMBRANCE” - Cast & crew of the remake discuss their memories of the original.
NEW: AUDIO COMMENTARY – With Director Mary Lambert
NEW: GALLERIES – Slideshows of original storyboards, production photos, promotional material and home video packaging.
VINTAGE FEATURETTES - “Stephen King Territory”; “The Characters”; “Filming the Horror”


March 20, 2019

THE POOP SCOOP: Under-the-Radar Action Films Coming to Blu-ray

DESTROYER on Digital 4/9 and Blu-ray and DVD 4/23
Academy Award Winner Nicole Kidman gives a Golden Globe-nominated performance in this gritty, suspenseful crime drama. In the years since she engaged in an undercover drug ring assignment that ended tragically, L.A.P.D. detective Erin Bell (Kidman) has stumbled along a path of self-destruction. But now that the ring’s boss has resurfaced, Bell is drawn back into action to try to stop a violent new crime wave. Forced to face the demons of her past, she begins an odyssey that’s as deeply personal as it is dangerous.
COLD PURSUIT on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and On Demand 5/14
Academy Award nominee and mega-action hero Liam Neeson (1993, Best Actor, Schindler’s List; also known for The Commuter, Taken franchise, Widows) stars as a father in search of answers after his son is mysteriously murdered in Cold Pursuit, arriving on Digital May 3 and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital), Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand May 14 from Lionsgate. Based on his 2014 Norwegian film, Kraftidioten (In Order of Disappearance), director Hans Petter Moland delivers thrills and chills in what critics call “an excellent film” (Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post), written for the screen by Frank Baldwin. The edge-of-your-seat thriller also stars Tom Bateman (Murder on the Orient Express), Golden Globe nominee Emmy Rossum (2005, Best Actress, The Phantom of the Opera), and Academy Award nominee Laura Dern (2014, Best Supporting Actress, Wild).

MISS BALA on Digital 4/16 Coming to Blu-ray & DVD 4/30
Golden Globe winner, Gina Rodriguez (Annihilation, “Jane the Virgin”) takes charge in the high-octane action adventure, MISS BALA, debuting on Digital April 16 and coming to Blu-ray and DVD April 30, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Caught in the perilous world of a brutal cross-border cartel, a young woman finds powers she never knew she had as she seeks to rescue her friend. Hollywood’s newest heartthrob, Ismael Cruz-Córdova (Mary Queen of Scots), stars alongside Rodriguez as the cartel kingpin, whose growing attraction to his strong-willed female hostage raises the stakes for both as the CIA, DEA, and rival cartels close in. Rodriguez and Cruz-Córdova are joined by co-stars, Anthony Mackie (Avengers: Infinity War) and Matt Lauria (“Friday Night Lights”) in this female-driven action story directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) from a screenplay by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (Contrapelo).

ESCAPE ROOM on Digital 4/9 & Blu-ray/DVD 4/23
Centered on six strangers who must uncover wickedly designed puzzles and overcome life-threatening challenges set in hazardous environments, with plenty of twists and turns, the ESCAPE ROOM Blu-ray, DVD and Digital releases feature a never-before-seen Alternate Ending and Opening, six deleted scenes and four featurettes. Hear from director Adam Robitel and the cast about how the film’s 360-degree architectural spaces prove to be some of the most adversarial characters imaginable in “Games, Set, Match.” Then, learn about how Escape Room was built with practical effects and no green screens as the cast and crew dives deep in “The Lone Survivors.”
REPLICAS on Digital 4/2 and Blu-ray and DVD 4/16
Keanu Reeves stars as William Foster, a neuroscientist on the verge of transferring human consciousness into a computer when his beloved wife (Alice Eve) and children are tragically killed in a car crash. Desperate to resurrect his family, William recruits a fellow scientist (Thomas Middleditch) to help secretly clone their bodies and create replicas. When William learns that he can only replicate three of the four family members, he makes a decision with fateful consequences. Take home Replicas and dive headfirst into the twists and turns of this intense brain-churner with an audio commentary with director Jeffrey Nachmanoff and executive producer James Dodson, a making of featurette, and never-before-seen deleted scenes.

March 19, 2019

ACCIDENT is Aptly Named
Starring Stephanie Schildknecht, Roxanne Hayward, Tyrone Keogh, Keenan Arrison, Karl Thaning. Directed by Dan Tondowski. (2017/92 min). 

On Blu-ray from WELL GO USA

Review by Tiger the Terrible😾

Accident has a great premise and one good scene. That's it. The title could cheekily refer to how clumsily the film was thrown together.

Jess and Caroline are two dumb bimbos hitching a ride to a concert with a couple of even dumber dudes, Fred and Thomas, who "borrowed" a sports car for the weekend. Unfortunately, they have an accident and get trapped in the overturned vehicle at the bottom of a ravine. Making matter worse...those who actually own the car are gangsters who've stashed something extremely valuable inside, and they want it back.

The aforementioned one good scene is the crash itself, filmed from inside the vehicle. It hits another car before rolling end-over-end down a steep wooded hill. In loving slow-motion, we see passengers bouncing around inside among debris and shattered windshield glass.

It comes to rest - upside-down - near the edge of a cliff. However, in what might be the worst continuity error of all time, three of the four passengers are trapped inside, unable to break through the windows that shattered only one scene earlier. Miraculously, Fred was apparently thrown out on the way down. Through what, an air vent? Dumber still, Thomas eventually manages to force a window open and shimmy his way out, yet despite being unrestrained, Jess and Caroline remain helplessly trapped inside the car. It never occurs to either of them to simply follow his lead.

The boys find a ladybug.
Never mind the uniformly terrible performances and aggressively stupid characters. First-time writer/director Dan Tondowski is his own worst enemy, patching together his story with bone-headed logic and little regard to anything resembling plausibility. Consider this:
  • Fred must have the healing powers of Wolverine. He's impaled right through the chest by a tree limb, yet after good buddy Thomas pulls it out, he's right as rain within a few minutes. Later, he's taken down by multiple rounds from a mounted machine gun, only to bounce back yet-again to rescue a girl from drowning.
  • Though I'm no triage expert, I'm pretty certain you can't stop an asthma attack by performing an emergency tracheotomy. But even you could, it's highly doubtful the recipient could do much more than gurgle blood, let alone speak and scream.
  • What is a street light doing in the middle of the forest?
  • Jess and Caroline change clothes in a truck stop restroom, pausing at-length to strut around in their panties, engaging in small talk while Tondowski's camera engages in their asses. Most of us would prefer to avoid truck stop restroom altogether, to say nothing of performing a gratuitous striptease in one.
  • Once he's out of the car, Tony wants to leave the girls behind. Then he wants to burn them alive in the car with a road flare. Fred talks him out of it for the moment, but Tony later decides they should die after all. So he pulls out a gun to shoot them, but again, Fred convinces him not to. Finally, Tony flip-flops one more time and once-again chooses death by fire. But this time, Fred simply sits down next to Tony and watches flames surround the car. Hey, make up your minds, guys.
  • After locating the car, a mob assassin arrives at the scene and kills a highway patrolman after he's radioed for back-up, though he doesn't appear concerned about it. Neither does Tondowski, since the threat of back-up never figures into the story.
I could go on, but you get the idea. It's as though every scene was written on-the-fly without referring to the script's previous pages to make sure it doesn't contradict what's already happened. Accident is almost completely devoid of narrative logic, plausibility, pacing and continuity. Which is a shame because it's technically competent and the basic concept is solid. Instead, what could have been a tense, tight little thriller ends up being a mind-numbing assault on the viewer's intelligence. At best, this is good for a few incredulous chuckles at its own expense.


March 16, 2019

LIFE IN THE DOGHOUSE: An Ongoing Rescue Mission
Featuring Ron Danta & Danny Robertshaw. Directed by Ron Davis. (2018/84 min).


GUEST REVIEWER: Murphy, the Worried Wheaten (none of our cat staff would touch this one).🐕

At the time this documentary was shot, Ron Danta and Danny Robertshaw are sharing their ranch home with over 75 dogs. And yeah, they explain how exhausting it is keeping the house from smelling like a pet store.

Every day, they individually feed, exercise and care for each one of them. But these guys aren't hoarders. When not training show horses, Ron and Danny have rescued over 10,000 dogs over the years, mostly from shelters, abusive/neglectful owners and, most heroically, animals abandoned during Hurricane Katrina.

Life in the Doghouse is a charming documentary about what's become their life's work, mostly accomplished at their own expense, not only to save as many dogs as possible, but adopt them out. Those they can't place with new owners simply live at the ranch. Amusingly, these pooches appear to have the run of the place. There's not a single kennel to be seen. 

We meet a lot of the two men's furry friends, new and old, all of which seem to appreciate their new leases on life. While Ron & Danny's relationship with these animals is heartwarming, the film is sometimes appropriately somber when they discuss some of the animal cruelty they've encountered, or provide alarming euthanasia statistics.

Guess which guy has a pocketful o' meat treats.
The film is just as much about Ron and Danny as it is about the dogs. They've been a couple for over 20 years and, as gay men who've endured a lot in their lives, one might come to the conclusion they sort-of rescued each other, as well. Less interesting are the segments involving their "day jobs" as horse trainers. Nothing personal against the ponies, but hey...they don't tug at our heartstrings quite like the plethora of pooches.

Watching the film makes one wish there were more folks like these two guys, selflessly saving as many wayward dogs as possible, no matter how homely or adorable. Their story is engaging, sometimes bittersweet, and a must-watch for animal lovers.


March 15, 2019

Two Helpings of Spaghetti!

Starring Montgomery Wood (Giuliano Gemma), Jasques Sernas, Dan Vadis, Sophie Daumier, Nello Pazzafini. Directed by Calvin J. Padget (Giorgio Ferroni). (1966/100 min).
Starring Robert Woods, John Ireland, Ida Galli, Claude Lange, George Rigaud, Roberto Camardiel. Directed by Paolo Bianchini. (1968/101 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

When it comes to spaghetti westerns, Sergio Leone is at the top of the ladder, of course. Everyone else is at least a couple of rungs lower and some never even learned to climb. The two films in this single disc collection fall somewhere in the middle. Both are pretty obscure, though some genre fans may recognize them under different titles.

Fort Yuma Gold's actual on-screen title is Per Pochi dollari ancora, or For a Few Extra Dollars. It just goes to show you that The Asylum didn't have the market cornered on derivative titles. Still, we won't hold that against it. Pretty-boy hero Gary Hammond (Giuliano Gemma) is more Tom Brady than Clint Eastwood, but the film itself is entertaining enough. Perhaps even a bit tongue-in-cheek, as demonstrated in a gloriously over-the-top barroom brawl, or the film's voluptuous main female lead, Connie Breastfull (Sophie Daumier), a Bond-girl name if there ever was one.

As seen in Tiger Beat magazine.
The awkwardly-named Damned Hot Day of Fire sounds like a kid learning to use swear words. It's onscreen title, Gatling Gun, is more accurate since it involves disgraced captain Chris Tanner (Robert Woods) on a mission to retrieve both the weapon and its kidnapped inventor. Veteran John Ireland is also on-hand as a sociopathic bad guy. There's plenty of action and Tanner beds-down every woman in the cast, though this one wears out its welcome pretty quickly  because it takes itself a little too seriously. Additionally, portions of the original English-dubbed audio track were apparently lost, so some scenes are in Italian with subtitles.

And be forewarned...the picture and sound for both films is relatively poor for a Blu-ray transfer. It doesn't look like much, if anything, was done to restore either of them. But maybe that's par for the course. If Leone's classic westerns are fine Italian cuisine, then Fort Yuma Gold & Damned Hot Day of Fire are cans of Chef Boyardee: Simply edible, sometimes enjoyable, and extra spices won't significantly improve the taste.