January 16, 2019

Rest in Peace, Carol Channing

January 14, 2019

An Unexpected Friendship in THE DARK (2018)

Starring Nadia Alexander, Toby Nichols, Karl Markovics, Sarah Murphy-Dyson. Directed by Justin P. Lange. (2018/95 min).


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Having just suffered through Hell Fest and The Nun, maybe I'm being overly generous in my assessment of The Dark, but compared to those two dumpster fires, this humble little horror flick was a breath of fresh air.

While not exactly groundbreaking - or particularly scary - The Dark may lack flash, cash and panache, but it's suitably grim and full of emotional surprises. Writer-director Justin P. Lange also appears to know that horror isn't always found in jump-scares and buckets of blood. In fact, despite the story's undead main character, The Dark's most disturbing moments are grounded in reality.

Explaining the basic plot is difficult without providing significant spoilers, but I will say that the backstory of the two main characters - both children - involves severe physical and sexual abuse. These moments are handled tastefully, but are devastating nonetheless, and as-it-happens necessary. The strong emotional bond between Mina (Nadia Alexander) and Alex (Toby Nichols) stems from the empathy she develops after saving him from his abductor. In the process, she becomes his de-facto guardian and begins to regain some of the humanity she lost when she died years before.

Emos go camping.
Though not a traditional horror film, The Dark is still plenty horrific. Alex wasn't merely kidnapped; his eyes have been torn out, and judging from the scars and lingering symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome, he'd been missing for quite a long time before Mina kills - and eats - his abductor. Mina herself is (sort-of) a zombie, animal-like, violent and willing to kill anyone who ventures into the woods, as demonstrated when they come-across a few unfortunate adults in the cast.

Still, there's a sweetness to these kids' friendship that's engaging, despite the rest of the film's unnerving elements. Because of this,The Dark achieves a poignancy atypical of the genre. It's refreshing to occasionally take in a horror film with characters we actually care about, even if their behavior is often monstrous. A nice change of pace from some of the other mallrat mayhem I've endured lately.


January 13, 2019

FIRST MAN: Blu-ray Giveaway!

FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE is giving away a Blu-ray copy of Universal's FIRST MAN to one lucky reader.

TO ENTER: Simply drop us a message at freekittensmovieguide@gmail.com. CONTEST ENDS 1/23.

Follow the gripping and captivating true story of the first manned mission to the moon in FIRST MAN, arriving on Digital and via the digital movie app MOVIES ANYWHERE on January 8, 2019 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on January 22, 2019 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Hailed by critics as “the best movie of the year” (Collider) and “exhilarating” (Entertainment Weekly), FIRST MAN comes from acclaimed Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash) and stars Ryan Gosling (La La Land, The Big Short) as Neil Armstrong and Claire Foy (“The Crown,” Breathe) as Janet Armstrong in the heroic and emotionally driven journey through a pivotal moment in the history of mankind. Receiving two Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Foy) and Best Original Score (Justin Hurwitz), the critically acclaimed film is packed with bonus features including deleted scenes and special featurettes showing behind-the-scenes looks at creating the film.

JONATHAN: Internal Sibling Rivalry

Starring Ansel Elgort, Patricia Clarkson, Suki Waterhouse, Matt Bomer, Douglas Hodge, Joe Egender. Directed by Bill Oliver. (2018/95 min). 


Review by Stinky the Destroyer😾

The quasi-sci-fi premise of Jonathan is intriguing, though personally, this is not the direction I would have gone with it.

Jonathan (Ansel Elgort) is a meek, reticent and responsible young man who diligently follows his daily schedule. On the other hand, his twin brother, Jon (also Elgort), isn't as tightly wound. He has friends, a social life and keeps encouraging Jonathan to lighten up and do the same. Almost immediately, we're made aware that Jonathan and Jon are actually the same guy, two distinct personalities whose lives are kept separated with the help a device implanted by Dr. Nariman (Patricia Clarkson).

Jonathan/Jon isn't your garden variety split personality. They consider themselves brothers and genuinely love each other, living in 12-hour shifts by a stringent routine and set of rules; Jonathan is in control during the day, while Jon takes over at night. They bring each other up-to-speed through daily video messages. Their routine is disrupted when Jon breaks one of the rules and gets himself a girlfriend, Elena (Suki Waterhouse).

The service here sucks.
This increasingly complicated triangle is the crux of the story, the time-honored trope of two characters driven apart over a woman. While there's nothing necessarily wrong with that, the opportunity for a nifty, slow-burning thriller is squandered in favor of a moody character study. And I'm sure there are many reading this who'll find the story as-presented sufficiently engaging. It's well-written, with suitably solid performances and an interesting main character (or "characters," if you will). As Jonathan/Jon, Elgort does an admirable job giving each brother his own personality.

However, I kept expecting something with more ominous implications to happen, such as one brother being forced to answer for a terrible act committed by the other. But, alas, a majority of the narrative focus is on their developing sibling rivalry. Even Elena's overall importance to the story diminishes after awhile, as does interest in the brothers' predicament once it becomes obvious how everything is going to pan out.

Writer-director Bill Oliver is obviously striving for something other than your usual Jekyll & Hyde story, which is certainly admirable. But while Jonathan is well-made and watchable, it isn't terribly exciting, though I'll concede I was expecting more of a thriller. For some viewers, the emphasis on relationships will be right up their alley.


January 11, 2019

THE POOP SCOOP: The Little Mermaid Turns 30

THE LITTLE MERMAID: Walt Disney Signature Collection On Digital 2/12 and 4K & Blu-ray 2/26

In honor of its 30th anniversary, two-time Academy Award-winner The Little Mermaid dives into the highly celebrated Walt Disney Signature Collection with all-new bonus features and a sing-along mode. The magical, musical tale of mermaid princess Ariel — along with loveable sidekicks Sebastian and Flounder, and the love-to-hate sea witch Ursula — is shore to make a splash with all generations when it comes home for the first time Digitally in HD, 4K Ultra HD and Movies Anywhere on Feb. 12, and on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray on Feb. 26.

The Signature Edition of
The Little Mermaid showcases its award-winning musical score and iconic songs such as “Under the Sea” and “Part of Your World” with a sing-along mode allowing you to accompany this beloved cast of characters on their journey. Never-before-seen bonus features bring legendary composer Alan Menken and some of Disney’s most recognizable leading ladies together around a piano to reminisce, sing and celebrate The Little Mermaid. The latest installment of “Stories from Walt’s Office” compares Walt and Ariel’s love of collecting treasures. Viewers will also receive an inside look at the The Little Mermaid cast in their original recording sessions, explore hidden treasures and fun facts from the film, and enjoy a special performance of “Part of Your World” by a cappella singing sensation DCapella. Plus, fans will have access to hours of additional classic bonus features.

January 10, 2019


Starring Laurence (Larry) Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, Tisha Campbell, Kyme, Joe Seneca, Art Evans, Spike Lee, Ossie Davis, Kadeem Hardison, James Bond III, Branford Marsalis. Directed by Spike Lee. (1988/121 min). 



One of my favorite movies of all time is School Daze. Written and directed by Spike Lee, this musical-comedy is about conflicts during homecoming weekend at Mission College, a historically black institution in Maryland (though the school itself is fictional).

Vaughn "Dap" Dunlap (Laurence Fishburne) is a student who is an activist and wants to change the protest issues going on at the college. Lee himself plays Half-Pint, Dap's younger cousin who's bent on getting into the most popular fraternity on campus, which is run by Julian (Giancarlo Esposito). The predominantly African-American ensemble cast features many rising stars and familiar faces, including Kadeem Hardison, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Joe Seneca, Bill Nunn and Ossie Davis.

During the big alphabet quiz, Half-Pint is caught cheating.
Thirty years later, I still love this movie. I was 12 years old when it was first released, when TV shows like the Cosby Show and a Different World showed what being black was really like and introduced the world to historically black colleges and the social norms of the African-American community. Though the film is fictional, it really inspired many in the black community to become more socially involved. And on a personal note, it also encouraged me to go to college.

Finally available on Blu-ray, School Daze remains one of Spike Lee's best, most entertaining films. Its message of the need for social change, not only in the black community but also the country, resonates even in today’s cultural climate.

NEW: Q&A WITH CAST & CREW - Including Writer/director Spike Lee, Casting Director Robi Reed, actors Tisha Campbell & Kadeem Hardison.
2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - One with Spike Lee, the other with actors Bill Nunn, Darryl M. Bell, Tisha Campbell and Kadeem Hardison.
FEATURETTES - "Birth of a Nation"; "Making a Mark"; "College Daze" (Lee and others recall their own college days).

Rest in Peace, Verna Bloom

January 7, 2019


Starring Jo In-sung, Nam Joo-hyuk, Park Sung-woong, Bae Sung-woo, Uhm Tae-goo, Kim Seoi-hyun, Stephanie Lee. Directed by Kim Kwang-sik. (2018/136 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

The Siege of Ansi was a three month campaign in which one of the fortresses of Goguryeo defended itself against invading soldiers of the Tang Dynasty in the year 645. Despite being extremely outnumbered, Ansi fortress commander Yang Man-chun and his 5,000 troops managed to hold their own against an army of over 200,000.

I don't know how much of The Great Battle is historically accurate, nor do I really care. I don't think writer/director Kim Kwang-sik cares, either. Sort of a cross between Braveheart and 300, this film appears more concerned with stylized action, epic fight scenes and depicting the Ansi warriors as total badasses than providing any kind of history lesson. As viewers, we're better off.

The film quickly lays the groundwork leading to the standoff and wastes no time establishing the Tangs, led by ruthless emperor Li Shimin (Park Sung-woong), as guys we love to hate. Meanwhile, young Ansi cadet Sa-mul (Nam Joo-hyuk) is recruited by his commander to return to Ansi and kill Yan Man-chun (Jo In-sung), who's considered a traitor by Goguryeo for once-refusing to fight the Tangs. In a plot turn that'll surprise no one, Sa-mul learns to admire and respect Man-chun, who has the undying loyalty of everyone living in the village. So naturally, they all band together to defend themselves against the inevitable Tang siege.

"Hey, guys! Is this battle great or what!!"
There are a few other subplots - a couple of bickering Ansi commanders, a kidnapped medium and two young fighters in love - so we have some kind of stake in who lives or dies. And we do to a certain extent, but what really matters here is the titular conflict itself, which begins at roughly the one hour mark. The Tang army attacks in waves, each bigger and bloodier than the last, while the Ansis are forced to find increasingly ingenious ways to defend themselves. The battle scenes are massive & exciting, the body count is off the charts and the close-quarters action is stylish & kinetic without ever becoming disorienting.

Is this how it all really went down at Ansi? Who cares? What matters is that The Great Battle is great fun. Despite being a bit overlong, the action sequences compensate for most of the story's more meandering moments. This Korean epic is highly recommended for action fans.

FEATURETTES - "About the Characters"; "Production Commentary"

THE POOP SCOOP (1/6): Notable Upcoming Blu-ray Releases

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY on Digital 1/22 and 4K UHD, Blu-ray & DVD 2/12
Celebrate the iconic and heart pounding music of Queen and Freddie Mercury with the highest-grossing biopic of all-time when Bohemian Rhapsody comes to Digital and Movies Anywhere January 22 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™ and DVD February 12. Fans can experience the story behind the band and the making of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the #1 streamed song of the 20th century and other favorites like “We Will Rock You,” “Somebody to Love,” “We are the Champions” and more, for a music adventure that will make you laugh, sing, dance and cry.

WIDOWS on 4K Ultra, Blu-ray & DVD 2/5
From Academy Award Winner Steve McQueen, the director of 12 Years a Slave, and from Gillian Flynn, the writer of Gone Girl, comes a powerful thriller with a stellar cast, including Oscar Winner Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo. Four women — with nothing in common except a debt left by their dead husbands’ criminal acts — conspire to take fate into their own hands. Also featuring Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson, Widows delivers explosive action and gripping suspense! The Blu-ray is packed with nearly 60-minutes of bonus content, with three documentary featurettes filled with in-depth interviews and raw on-set footage detailing the compelling production story of Widows.

Dr. Seuss' THE GRINCH on Digital 1/22 and Blu-ray 2/5
The new home entertainment edition contains more than 60 minutes of bonus content, including three mini-movies: “Dog Days of Winter” starring the Grinch and his heroically loyal dog Max; and “Yellow is the New Black” and “Santa’s Little Helpers,” both starring the lovable Minions. It also includes stunning featurettes, a how-to-draw tutorial and much more. Narrated by Grammy Award winner and Oscar nominee Pharrell Williams, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch stars Academy Award nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange, “Sherlock”) as the infamous Grinch, who lives a solitary life inside a cave on Mt. Crumpit with only his loyal dog, Max, for company. The incredible voice cast includes Rashida Jones (“Parks and Recreation,” The Muppets) as Donna Who, Kenan Thompson (“Saturday Night Live”) as Bricklebaum, Cameron Seely (The Greatest Showman) as Cindy-Lou Who, and featuring legendary actress Angela Lansbury (AnastasiaBeauty and the Beast) as the mayor of Whoville.
ONCE UPON A DEADPOOL Arrives On Digital and Blu-ray 1/15
From the studio that brought you Anastasia and Ever After comes a fairy tale that doesn’t go by the book. Everyone’s favorite disreputable Super Hero returns with a twist on Deadpool 2 that the whole gang can enjoy.  Watch Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) as he teams up with Domino (Zazie Beet), Cable (Josh Brolin) and the rest of the X-Force to prove that family is not an F-word. With over 20 minutes of new footage and jam-packed with surprises, you’ll wonder why the fudge they even bothered with the original version.

January 3, 2019

PICK OF THE LITTER and the Cute Factor

Starring Patriot, Potomac, Primrose, Poppet & Phil. Directed by Dana Nachman & Don Hardy. (2018/81 min).


Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺🐶

I have a dysfunctional dog. Sure, I love Murphy, but he's always been an ass. Without getting into specifics, whenever I see the joy others experience with their canine companions, I tend to stare ruefully to the end of the leash at my own pathetic pooch - who acts as though a neighborhood walk is a descent into hell - asking why he can't be like other dogs. Worse yet, the little fleabag has never trusted me, even after ten years.

Well, guess what, Murphy...that trust goes both ways. If I was ever in need of a guide dog, I'm sure you'd lead me right in front of a commuter train.

One thing that Murphy has going for him is he's the cutest dog who ever lived. Don't bother arguing...it's been scientifically proven. He may be a dick, but that Cute Factor has kept him alive through years of tormenting the cats, pissing on furniture and his insistence that regular dog food is beneath him.

Pick of the Litter gets a lot of mileage from the Cute Factor, too. If the presence of puppies turns you to putty, here's a taste of hog heaven (or should I say 'dog' heaven?). But as a documentary - or maybe more accurately, a reality show - it plays a lot like something you'd find on Animal Planet.

The film is about the selection process to find and train guide dogs for the blind. Title cards inform us that only a small percentage of potential service animals make the cut. Five of those dogs - labrador littermates Patriot, Potomac, Primrose, Poppet & Phil - are featured from birth through graduation, a process that takes roughly 18 months. Not every animal will go the distance, and in true reality show fashion, those eliminated get a 'career change' (demotion to regular housepets).

This bad dog snuck on without paying.
We also meet various trainers who obviously love what they do, yet admit their emotional attachment to these animals makes it difficult to let them go when the time comes, knowing they probably won't see them again. However, after one dog gets cut from the program, the reunion with his former trainer - who suffers from PTSD - provides the film's most heart-tugging moment.

While there's sweetness in abundance, Pick of the Litter doesn't delve much into actual training. As it is, the film is mostly content to fawn over the animals themselves, which is engaging up to a point. Despite their intelligence and congenial natures, none of these dogs have very distinctive personalities, so their individual stories aren't always that compelling. Murphy may be insufferable, but at least he's got character.

Still, the Cute Factor looms large here, which helps immensely since the film plays more like a competition series than a documentary. That'll probably suit many viewers just fine. But considering the incorrigibility of my own dog, I would have liked to see how others are trained to do such remarkable things.