August 11, 2022

FLATLINERS: Resurrected in 4K


FLATLINERS (4K UHD Review)
1990 / 114 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😺

Until now, Flatliners has never been very well presented on home video, not even Blu-ray. 

It was a fairly sizable hit in 1990, especially since Pretty Woman had just turned Julia Roberts into a bankable star. But like much of director Joel Schumacher's work, it's undoubtedly a product of its time and typical of the type of high-concept horror favored by major studios, featuring a beautiful cast with great hair who normally wouldn't be caught dead dabbling in the genre. Along with Days of Thunder, Flatliners might be the most 80s movie that wasn't actually released in that decade. Its glossy production and hot ensemble cast made it play more like Young Guns & The Lost Boys than any serious exploration of what lies beyond death. And that's just fine, because it was still enjoyable in the moment.

 

Flatliners has always been one of those films we watched and then moved on…out of sight, out of mind. At least until someone would happen to bring it up during a conversion and we’d recall, "Isn’t that the one with Kiefer Sutherland? I seem to remember it being pretty good." 

 

Maybe that’s why it’s always been unceremoniously thrown out on home video whenever a new format was introduced. Sony’s DVD and Blu-ray releases were little more than perfunctory. Then Mill Creek Entertainment gave it a shot a few years ago, even creating a decent looking SteelBook package for the occasion. But they totally dropped the ball with the movie itself…no extras and - typical of Mill Creek - zero attempt to upgrade the picture or sound.


"You think they heard 'no pickles?'"
But hell, the movie must have its share of fans. Why else would they follow it up with a (crappy) sequel/remake 27 years later?

Those fans are gonna absolutely love Arrow Video’s new 4K UHD release. While far from the best 4K picture I’ve ever seen, it’s the best Flatliners has ever looked in any previous format…by a wide margin. The film sounds great, too, serving up DTS-HD Master Audio in both 5.1 and 2.0. And for the first time - a big batch of brand new bonus features are thrown in, including numerous interviews with various people involved behind the scenes. This release also gets my vote for Arrow’s best looking cover of the year, with super cool artwork.


Aesthetically, the movie itself certainly shows its age, but remains reliably entertaining without ever being memorable, emphasizing style and its photogenic cast over themes or substance. Whether it’s viewed as a slab of fond nostalgia or an overlooked gem by a new audience, one thing is certain…Flatliners hasn’t gotten this much TLC since it was first released


EXTRA KIBBLES

“THE CONQUEST OF OUR GENERATION” - Interview with screenwriter Peter Filardi.

“VISIONS OF LIGHT” - Interview with cinematographer Jan de Bont & lighting technician Edward Ayer.

“HEREAFTER” - Interview with assistant director John Kretchmer.

“RESTORATION” - Interview with production designer Eugenio Zanetti & art director Larry Lundy.

“ATONEMENT” - Interview with composer James Newton Howard.

“DRESSING FOR CHARACTER” - Interview with costume designer Susan Becker.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By critics Bryan Reeseman & Max Evry.

TRAILER

IMAGE GALLERY

SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Includes 2 essays, “Land of the Almost Dead: Flatliners and a Historical Overview of the Near-Death Experience,” by Amanda Reyes &”See You Soon: The Surprising Spirituality of Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners”; cast, crew & restoration credits.

REVERSIBLE COVERS - With new & original artwork (the new artwork is far cooler).


FLYING GUILLOTINE 2: Heads Up...and Off


FLYING GUILLOTINE PART 2 aka Palace Carnage (Blu-ray Review)
1978 / 92 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

Flying Guillotine 2 is another one of those cult obscurities that has Quentin Tarantino’s seal of approval. You can certainly see its influence on Kill Bill Vol 1, especially the deliriously over-the-top swordplay and the weapons of the title.

The flying guillotines themselves are pretty insane…saucer shaped buzzsaws attached to a chain. The user throws it out, where it lands on the victim, drops a black blade-lined veil around their head and swiftly decapitates them. Then he collects the head by yanking it back like a yo-yo. Fortunately, we get to see these things at-work early and often, the preferred weapon of tyrannical emperor Yung Cheng (Feng Ku) to vanquish his enemies.


Those enemies are Hans who are part of a resistance movement determined to kill Cheng and end his reign of terror. One of them, Ma Teng (Lung Ti), has even developed an umbrella-like device that stops the guillotines. Cheng responds by directing his military strategist to design a bigger-and-better flying guillotine. Meanwhile, the strategist’s daughter, Na Lan (Szu Shih), is secretly working with the resistance and goes undercover at the emperor’s palace to steal the plans for the new guillotine.


When Hubcaps Attack.
Of course, the plot, performances and characters are perfunctory because Flying Guillotine 2 is all about brawls & beheadings. The action sequences are brilliantly-choreographed ballets of close-quarters mayhem, though not nearly as graphic as the concept suggests. We may not be all that invested in the story or characters, but watching everyone slice & dice each other for 90 minutes is fairly entertaining.

Speaking of which, even though Flying Guillotines 2 is technically a sequel, it pretty much works just fine as a stand-alone film. I gotta say, though, the ending sucks, concluding with a mid-action freeze-frame during the climax…no resolution, no denouement. It might be the most maddeningly abrupt conclusion to a film since The Birds. Was that intentional or did someone brain-fart during post? 


EXTRA KIBBLES

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Mike Leader & Arne Venema.

SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Features an essay, “Watch Out for the Flying Guillotines!,” by author Barry Forshaw.

REVERSIBLE POSTER - Featuring vintage artwork.

REVERSIBLE COVER - Featuring vintage artwork.


August 10, 2022

THE POOP SCOOP: Crooners, Creeps & Classics

😺ELVIS on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD 9/13 from Warner Bros.
Experience an epic exploration of the life and music of Elvis Presley when “Elvis” arrives for Premium Digital Ownership at home on August 9. The film is directed by Baz Luhrmann from a screenplay by Luhrmann & Sam Bromell and Luhrmann & Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner, based on a story by Luhrmann & Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner, and stars Austin Butler (“The Dead Don’t Die,” “Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood”) and Tom Hanks (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Forrest Gump”). The film will also be available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD beginning on September 13. A thoroughly cinematic drama, Elvis’s story is seen through the prism of his complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker. As told by Parker, the film delves into the complex dynamic between the two spanning over 20 years, from Presley’s rise to fame to his unprecedented stardom, against the backdrop of the evolving cultural landscape and loss of innocence in America. Central to that journey is one of the significant and influential people in Elvis’s life, Priscilla Presley. 

 

🙀THE BLACK PHONE on Blu-ray and DVD 8/16 from Universal
Never talk to strangers. Academy Award®nominee Ethan Hawke (Sinister, Boyhood, Training Day), in the most disturbing role of his career, stars in a new suspenseful thriller based on the short story by Joe Hill (“Locke & Key,” Horns) and from Blumhouse and director Scott Derrickson who brought you Sinister and Doctor Strange. Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 83%,, THE BLACK PHONE is available to own with captivating extras on Digital August 12, 2022 and on Blu-rayT and DVD August 16, 2022 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Hailed as “a modern horror classic” (Daily Dead), THE BLACK PHONE comes with exclusive bonus content which includes deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes with the cast and crew, Derrickson’s short film SHADOWPROWLER and a feature commentary by director, producer, co-writer Scott Derrickson.

 

🌎WAR OF THE WORLDS/WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE on 4K/Blu-ray September 27 from Paramount
Two of the most iconic Science Fiction epics come to Paramount Presents in this out-of-this-world limited-edition double feature from producer George Pal. Making its 4K Blu-ray debut, War of the Worlds is an Oscar winning adaptation of the chilling H.G. Wells novel. Then, get ready for impending disaster, when a runaway star signals the destruction of Earth in When Worlds Collide, included on Blu-ray remastered from the original film elements. Both are essential Technicolor masterpieces from the Golden Age of Hollywood, delivering eye-popping visual effects and unmatched sound design. The release, which will be part of the Paramount Presents line, is scheduled to arrive on the market on September 27. This release includes an audio commentary, documentaries & featurettes and a gag reel.

😺The Original ROLLERBALL on Blu-ray 9/13 from Ronin Flix
The year is 2018. There are no wars. There is no crime. There is only....the Game. In a world where ruthless corporations reign supreme, this vicious and barbaric "sport" is the only outlet for the pent-up anger and frustrations of the masses. Tuned to their televisions, the people watch "Rollerball": a brutal mutation of football, motocross and hockey. Jonathan E. (James Caan; The Killer Elite, The Godfather, Misery, Freebie and the Bean) is the champion player - a man too talented for his own good. The Corporation has taken away the woman Jonathan loves, but they can't take away his soul - even if the diabolical corporate head (John Houseman; Three Days of the Condor, The Paper Chase, The Fog) tells him he better retire.... or suffer the old-fashioned way. Also starring John Beck (Audrey Rose, The Other Side of Midnight), Maud Adams (Killer Force, Octopussy, Tattoo), Moses Gunn (Ragtime, Shaft), Shane Rimmer (The People that Time Forgot, The Human Factor), and directed by Norman Jewison (The Thomas Crown Affair, In the Heat of the Night, Jesus Christ Superstar). With its surrealistic imagery and tense action sequences, Rollerball grips you by the heart - and never lets you go. Now watch this cult classic from a 4K scan!

August 9, 2022

Rains Reigns in BATTLE OF THE WORLDS


BATTLE OF THE WORLDS (Blu-ray Review)
1961 / 84 min
Review by Mr. Paws😼

Certain fans of silly cinema might recognize the name of Anthony Dawson. It’s the somewhat infamous pseudonym of a director whose cut-rate classics include Yor, the Hunter from the Future and Cannibal Apocalypse, arguably his best-known films on this side of the pond. But he actually had a career stretching back decades.

A few might even know him by his real name, Antonio Margheriti, especially after superfan Quentin Tarantino immortalized him in Inglourious Basterds (it’s the fake Italian name used by Eli Roth's character).


Of course, most of us know who Claude Rains is (those who don’t should be ashamed of themselves). His participation in 1961’s Battle of the Worlds - far-removed from his legendary roles in Casablanca and The Invisible Man - is sort of a mystery. Did he need the money that bad or just fancy a free trip to Italy? Whatever the reason, Rains acts circles around the mannequins who make up the rest of the cast.


"What the hell did you just say to me??"
The rest is vintage Dawson…copycat, bargain basement sci-fi, but not without its goofy charms. The plot involves a rogue planet - dubbed “The Outsider” by the brilliant but cantankerous Professor Benson (Rains) - which has wandered into our solar system. Everyone else thinks it’s on a collision course with Earth, while Benson believes it’ll just be a near miss. Instead, the planet parks itself in Earth’s orbit, indicating an intelligence at work. Naturally, it’s time to investigate, even though Benson thinks they should destroy it. Turns out he’s right.

The plot actually takes too long to unfold, but we do have Rains’ amusing performance to pass the time. As Benson, watching him verbally belittle his underlings is a real hoot. Elsewhere, there’s some additional fun to be had at the film’s expense, mostly the daffy dialogue and endearingly tacky special effects. Still, we have to appreciate what Dawson was able to cobble together with a nearly non-existent budget. Even accomplishing that takes a certain amount of talent…and chutzpah.


Though the print shows evidence of haphazard editing - missing frames make the whole thing jumpy as hell - Battle of the Worlds has been given a pretty good restoration by The Film Detective. Like other relics they’ve rescued from obscurity, a few interesting supplemental features are included, mostly related to Margheriti’s prolific career.


EXTRA KIBBLES

FEATURETTE - “The Cinematic Outsider: The Fantastical Worlds of Antonio Margheriti.”

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By author Justin Humphreys

SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Includes an essay, “Margheriti’s World,” by Don Stradley.


MURDER IN THE FRONT ROW: Thrash Metal's Humble Beginnings


MURDER IN THE FRONT ROW: THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA THRASH METAL STORY (Blu-ray Review)
2019 / 92 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

Metallica notwithstanding, the subgenre known as thrash metal was never fully embraced by the mainstream, which was a major part of its appeal to both the artists and their fans. Complex, in-your-face and unbelievably fast, this music isn’t for everybody. But for a few glorious years, thrash was a breath of fresh air and the antithesis of hair metal’s pretty-boy preening.

Thrash’s heyday was short-lived, but its influence was widespread and can still be heard in such later subgenres as death metal, black metal and grindcore. While few of the pioneers went on to sell millions of records, most have since earned a considerable amount of respect from historians, critics and fellow musicians (something you can’t say about Motley Crue with a straight face).


Slayer's rendition of "Hooked on a Feeling" always pumps up the crowd.
Murder in the Front Row (the title taken from an Exodus song) doesn’t purport to be an extensive history of the genre. Instead, the film is a nostalgic look back at thrash’s humble beginnings in the San Francisco area (roughly 1983-1986), as fondly recalled by some of its most prominent purveyors and promoters. An underground movement if there ever was one, its culture of camaraderie among bands, tape trading, raucous live shows and the DYI work ethic is thoroughly presented through vintage footage, photos and lively anecdotes from those who were there. Despite stories of drunkenness and wild behavior - on stage and off - most of these guys come across as congenial and unpretentious (even those who managed to become actual rock stars).

But as Slayer’s Kerry King amusingly states at the beginning of his interview, “I don’t need to say who I am. Anyone watching this already knows.” One could probably say that about the entire film. Murder in the Front Row definitely preaches to the converted and diehard fans aren’t likely to see or hear much that hasn’t been well-documented elsewhere (though hearing it from the horse’s mouth is pretty damned entertaining). However, if your knowledge of thrash begins and ends with Metallica, this documentary will be revelatory.


EXTRA KIBBLES

ADDITIONAL INTERVIEW EXCERPTS - Another 28 deleted/extended interviews, including a few segments featuring director Adam Dubin. Most run 1-2 minutes each.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Adam Dubin.


August 8, 2022

KITTEN COLLECTIBLES #5: A Relic from a Bygone Era


A Treasure Hunt by D.M. ANDERSON💀

In addition to watching and writing about films, I’ve become something of a memorabilia collector in recent years. Cursed with a teacher’s salary, I ain’t out there bidding on Dorothy’s ruby slippers or anything, but certainly enjoy haunting local antique stores for a variety of movie-related stuff. Or when feeling particularly bold, I’ll occasionally overpay for some retro relic on eBay.


More often than not, I leave antique stores empty-handed. But every now and then, I’ll find a small treasure that doesn’t completely empty my wallet and give it a new home in the Dave Cave.


Once or twice a year, my family and I like to visit the beach for the day. But the weather on the Oregon Coast is moody and unpredictable. One minute you’re enjoying the sun with a good book, the next you're chasing your umbrella up the beach, catching it just short of the Canadian border. 


Then there’s my two daughters to contend with. Bless their hearts, sometimes I think they like the idea of going to the beach more than actually being there. Granted, the psychotic weather is sometimes a factor, but for them, spending an appreciable amount of time outdoors is a bit overrated, the novelty of enjoying the sights, sounds and smells wearing off shortly after the seagulls have stolen all our snacks.


So we usually choose the town of Seaside for these day trips, because when the weather and wildlife conspire against us, there are lots of shops, arcades and an aquarium to justify the drive. There are also plenty of antique stores. I don’t know if this is true for coastal towns in other parts of the country, but in Oregon, antique stores and the beach go together like cops & doughnuts. And during a recent trip, I ducked into a little hole-in-the-wall called Random & Rare.


Much of the store consisted of vintage clothing, but I did find this baby…


I hadn’t seen a genuine drive-in speaker in years. Even when I was growing up, they were quickly becoming obsolete as drive-ins began using FM radio to broadcast a film’s audio. Made of solid metal, it was a lot heavier than I remembered. With the cord still attached, I could probably swing it around like a medieval flail and kill a man with one mighty blow, perhaps even the clerk asking 50 bucks for it. But since he knocked it down to $45, I decided to spare his life.

Neither of my daughters knew what it was, so I went into “boomer” mode and gushed about the awesomeness of the drive-in experience, which was a big part of my childhood (especially when I was finally old enough to drive). Both thought it sounded fun - or maybe they were just being polite - which reminded me that there was still one drive-in still operating in Oregon, the Newberg 99W, about an hour’s drive away from our house. Should I take them there one night to experience it for themselves? 


After much consideration, I concluded that, like the beach, they’d be more enamored by the idea of the drive-in than actually going to one. Now that I think about it, so would I. As much I enjoyed it in my youth, I must concede that a car was never the optimum place to enjoy a movie. And at this point in my life, nostalgia may not be enough to warrant the hour-long drive, not-to-mention the fact that I’m usually in my pajamas by the time the show would even start.


Still, I have this speaker for the memories. I don’t know if it actually works anymore, but it sure looks cool in the Dave Cave and will be ideal for home defense.


August 6, 2022

LIGHTYEAR: The "Original" Buzz


LIGHTYEAR (Digital Review)
2022 / 105 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺
Add LIGHTYEAR to your collection now on Digital and on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD September 13.

“In 1995, a boy named Andy got a Buzz Lightyear toy for his birthday. It was from his favorite movie. This is that movie.”

This brief pre-title intro cleverly establishes Lightyear as a product in the Toy Story universe, not a film that takes place in it. Hence, the characters look slightly less exaggerated, and with the exception of Sox the Robot cat, move more like flesh & blood human beings. 


Buzz himself looks and sounds a bit different, too, which apparently bothered some butthurt fanboys when Tim Allen wasn’t brought back to provide his voice. Here, he’s voiced by Chris Evans, who does a great job establishing the “real” Buzz Lightyear as different from his toy counterpart. And if said-fanboys had bothered to take a look at their own action figure collections, they’d realize that, contextually, “new” Buzz is actually “original” Buzz, so the change makes complete sense. With rare exceptions, tie-in toys never completely resemble the actors who played them, often intentionally in order to avoid paying to use their likeness. So shut up, fanboys. 


Robot cats hate car rides, too.
The film itself drops Buzz into a fairly straightforward sci-fi story, an action-adventure with dashes of the type of existentialism one might find in the Star Trek franchise. However, the plot is the least remarkable aspect of Lightyear. You could replace Buzz with a completely new & well-conceived hero without making significant changes. I would also argue that Buzz is the blandest character here. Though certainly likable, he mostly serves as straight-man to the quirky supporting characters. Ironically, the most engaging new character, Sox, wouldn’t look out-of-place in an actual Toy Story movie. As Buzz’ robot companion, he provides some of the film’s biggest laughs.

Speaking of which…even though it still features plenty of humor, clever allusions to classic sci-fi films and the studio’s usual quota of self-referencing Easter Eggs, Lightyear is more action driven than the typical Pixar film. It isn’t as warm, sentimental or touching, but does continue Pixar’s inclination for social inclusion and representation, which is always worthwhile. Trolls, of course, will cry “woke,” maybe some of the same neanderthals screaming about the absence of Tim Allen (perhaps they can console each other at a rally somewhere).


For everyone else, Lightyear is great family entertainment which, in a way, could be considered an origin story, but that’s not entirely accurate. The film itself exists in the Toy Story universe, which ultimately prompted my daughter to ask, “Is this an animated character’s version of watching a live-action movie?” That’s a really good question.


EXTRA KIBBLES

FEATURETTES - “Building the World of Lightyear”; “The Zap Patrol”; “Toyetic”. 

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director/co-writer Angus MacLane, cinematographer Jeremy Lasky and co-writer Jason Headley

DELETED SCENES - Storyboarded scenes, with intros by director Angus MacLane.


August 5, 2022

HOT SEAT Runs Cold


HOT SEAT (Blu-ray Review)
2022 / 99 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😾

Somewhere inside Hot Seat is a good thriller screaming to get out. Unfortunately, a decent concept is undone by bad writing and an overall sense of smallness.

You know you’re in trouble when the very first scene produces more chuckles than tension, in which an unnamed man is blown up in a park by a mad bomber. The explosion is depicted with laughable special effects that wouldn’t pass muster in a SyFy Channel cheapy, instantly setting the bar pretty low. 


The story itself has potential, that of reformed computer hacker Orlando Friar (Kevin Dillon), who’s forced to commit a series of cyber-heists at the behest of the same bomber. He’s seated at his office desk, but can’t leave because there’s a bomb under his chair. If Orlando doesn’t do what he’s told, it’ll explode. Though neither he nor the audience see the bomber, we certainly hear him, barking orders and making threats through the office PA system (sounding like Kylo Ren with his mask on). He’s also setting-up Orlando to take the fall as a bomber with a terrorist agenda.


"There ain't much I can do for you, son. This is an IKEA chair."
Outside, cops are ready to storm the building to blow him away, but grizzled bomb squad cop Wallace Reed (Mel Gibson) is the sole voice of reason, suspecting he’s being set-up (mainly because Orlando’s wife says he’s not capable of such a thing). What follows is the usual game of cat & mouse between Orlando and the bomber while Reed clashes with his superiors and makes all the right calls. 

There aren’t any real surprises (not even the bomber’s identity), but the concept itself is sound. In fact, a recent South Korean thriller, Hard Hit, is an excellent, tension-filled example of the same premise. But that film benefitted from smart writing, well-developed characters and - most significantly - a budget befitting the scale of the story. Conversely, Hot Seat is not-only cheap looking, the characters are all lazy composites…the worried wife, the overzealous SWAT team, the overconfident villain, the doomed sidekick, etc. Lazy writing is also obvious in the so-called “techno” aspects of the story, which consist of hyper-edited computer screen montages while Dillon types fast. 


Overall, the performances are actually pretty good. Typical of films like this, most of the cast has seen better days, but Dillon & Gibson acquit themselves quite well; even Shannon Doherty brings some earnestness to a fairly thankless role. Too bad it’s all in the service of something so slapdash and cheap. With a few more rewrites - and maybe some wider wallets - Hot Seat could have been a tight little thriller. Instead, this one leaves us cold.