June 25, 2022

TRUE ROMANCE (4K): What if it WASN'T a Tony Scott Film?


TRUE ROMANCE Limited Edition (4K UHD Review)
1993 / 119 min (Theatrical cut) / 121 min (Director's cut)
Review by Tiger the Terrible😺

Today, it seems like fans associate True Romance more with Quentin Tarantino than Tony Scott, which does the latter sort of a disservice. Sure, there’s no disputing the film is full of QT’s quotable, reference-laden dialogue (especially during the first act), as well as another collection of unique, vivid characters. But having only directed Reservoir Dogs, he certainly wasn't a household name at the time.

Stylistically though, True Romance is pure Tony Scott…the frenetic pace, visual panache, stylized violence, jump-cut editing, Hans Zimmer’s score and, of course, a much greater emphasis on a linear plot - with comparatively few asides. Scott had his detractors, but as the Michael Bay of his day, he really was the perfect guy to direct something this aesthetically audacious. Though unquestionably a product of its decade, it remains one of Scott’s best films and well deserving of the cult status it enjoys today.


Still, it begs the question (for me, anyway): How would True Romance have turned out if Tarantino had directed? It certainly would have ended differently. One of the vintage bonus features included here is the alternate ending, which Tarantino initially preferred (he’s since changed his tune). And considering the closest QT ever came to a love story in his own films is Jackie Brown, one could assume the whole “romance” aspect of True Romance would be a much smaller part of the narrative. I’d also argue that his version would probably be deliberately paced, a bit less linear & plot-driven and probably more aesthetically timeless, with no proper film score of its own. 


"Got dressed in the dark again, didn't you?"
But would it be a better film? Perhaps not...but definitely different. As much as I love Tarantino, it’s hard to imagine he would have bothered making Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama (Patricia Arquette) as compulsively likable, despite being criminals on the lam. Their story would still be interesting, but I doubt we’d be quite as concerned whether they lived or died. Given QT’s penchant for homage, the end result would probably feature more allusions to Badlands than it already does. I’m just spit-balling, of course, but what-if hindsight is part of the fun of revisiting an old film written by a guy whose own career would someday eclipse that of its director (from a creative standpoint, anyway).

Ultimately, True Romance is more emblematic of Tony Scott than Quentin Tarantino. If not his first great film, it certainly remains one of his most loved. Kinda hard to believe it flopped when first released. For this limited edition set, Arrow Video serves up a great 4K restoration of both the theatrical & director’s cuts. Most of the bonus features are from previous releases, but there’s a smattering of interesting new interviews by a few folks who were involved behind the scenes. And as usual, it’s nicely packaged with new artwork and collectible goodies.


EXTRA KIBBLES

THEATRICAL & DIRECTOR’S CUT

NEW INTERVIEWS - Individual interviews with costume designer Susan Baker, co-editor Michael Tronick, co-composers Mark Mancina & John Van Tongren (who worked with primary composer Hanz Zimmer), Tony Scott biographer Larry Taylor and fan Dan Storm.

VINTAGE SELECT SCENE COMMENTARIES - By actors Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Michael Rappaport & Brad Pitt

NEW SELECT SCENE COMMENTARIES - By actors Saul Rubinek and Bronson Pinchot.

ELECTRONIC PRESS KIT INTERVIEWS - Several vintage promo pieces featuring featurettes and interviews with Tony Scott, Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper & Gary Oldman.

4 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By director Tony Scott; 2) By screenwriter Quentin Tarantino; 3) By actors Christian Slater & Patricia Arquette; 4) By critic Tim Lucas.

ALTERNATE ENDING - The darker ending, with Tarantino initially preferred. This ending also includes two optional commentaries by Scott and Tarantino.

DELETED/EXTENDED SCENES - With optional commentary.

2 TRAILERS, 1 TV SPOT

2 IMAGE GALLERIES

60 PAGE BOOK - Includes a great collection of new and archival essays, though it looks like only one was written specifically for this release. Still, all are great reads by authors who highly revere both the movie and its late director, Tony Scott. Also included are cast, crew & restoration credits.

6 LOBBY CARD REPLICAS

2-SIDED POSTER - With new and vintage artwork.

REVERSIBLE COVER - With new and vintage artwork.


June 24, 2022

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS: Sam Raimi to the Rescue


DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (Digital Review)
2022 / 127 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😺
Add Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to your collection now on Digital and on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD July 26.

Detractors can say what they will about the Marvel film franchise becoming increasingly formulaic (an argument that isn’t entirely wrong), but at least Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness unquestionably reflects the style and sensibilities of the guy hired to direct it.

With a manic pace, absurd humor and trippy visuals, Sam Raimi’s stamp is all over this. While he’s certainly no stranger to Marvel - having directed the first Spider-Man trilogy - Raimi draws more personal inspiration from his own Evil Dead franchise (Army of Darkness, in particular). I suppose a horror-tinged sequel might not be what traditional MCU fans are expecting, but considering the premise, his approach is exactly what a film like this needs. Besides, what franchise isn't made better with zombies?


Additionally, Raimi brings some of old friends along for the ride, including composer Danny Elfman and Bruce Campbell, the latter of whom appears in a brief but hilarious homage to his Ash character from Evil Dead. Speaking of which, in addition to the usual batch of MCU Easter Eggs and cameos, Raimi throws in a few of his own, including that same puke-colored Oldsmobile Delta 88 that has appeared in nearly all of his films.


"It's your Frisbee, Wong. You go up there and get it."
The film never forgets that it’s part of a bigger universe, though, which sometimes becomes a narrative liability. More than ever, the plot and characters are built on the conceit that the audience is already familiar with what’s transpired, not only in MCU films, but TV shows only available on Disney+. In fact, the self-serving agenda of the primary antagonist, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), is the direct result of her actions in WandaVision, meaning if you aren’t a subscriber, her motives are sort-of perplexing. Additionally, many “new” characters - including some acquired from Disney’s purchase of Fox - are introduced with the obvious intent of setting-up future movies and shows. Fanboys might appreciate the shout-outs, but for casual viewers, they might be an unnecessary distraction...to say nothing of bewildering.

Still, when focusing on its wonderfully bonkers story, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a lot of fun and arguably better than the first film. Benedict Cumberbatch slips comfortably back into the title role, depicting Steven Strange as enjoyably arrogant as ever, if not a bit more introspective about his past. Once again, “sidekick” Wong (Benedict Wong) is a terrific comic foil, while young newcomer Xochiti Gomez is quite engaging as America Chavez (a relatively new Marvel character, perhaps being groomed for a film or series of her own). Loaded with the usual visual fireworks - particularly when leaping through the Multiverse - this is another solid entry in the MCU, bolstered by Sam Raimi’s indubitable style.


EXTRA KIBBLES

FEATURETTES - “Working with Sam Raimi”; “Constructing the Multiverse”; “Introducing America Chavez”; “Method to the Madness”

GAG REEL

4 DELETED SCENES

AUDIO COMMENTARY - Director Sam Raimi, writer Michael Waldron and co-producer Richard Palmer.


June 22, 2022

NINJA BADASS: The One Joke Endurance Test


NINJA BADASS (Blu-ray Review)
2020 / 104 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😾

Some of you might recall Kung Fury, which poked fun at low budget action films of the ‘80s. Presented as though the viewer was watching it on an old VHS tape, the performances, music, dialogue and intentionally archaic special effects were hilarious and spot-on. Most importantly, the film was only 30 minutes long. Once all of the cliche-skewering gags were played out, it knew when to quit.

Ninja Badass, on the other hand, runs a deadly 104 minutes. That’s a long time to endure any movie coasting on a one joke premise. It’s even worse when that joke isn’t funny to begin with.


If I were to hazard a guess, the “joke” is that Ninja Badass sends-up zero-budget action movies with bad acting, ludicrous action, phony gore and poor special effects. But the fact that the film itself is a zero-budget action movie with bad acting, ludicrous action, phony gore and poor special effects sort-of negates the joke. Throwing in f-bombs, boobs, sex dolls, characters screaming and puppies in blenders doesn’t suddenly make it hip or clever.


Aaron Rodgers during the off-season.
Ryan Harrison, who directs, writes, produces and stars, obviously has cult aspirations. But not-only does his film feel self-congratulatory, it reeks of desperation. He’s trying so hard to be stupid, outrageous, gross and offensive that the viewer is convinced his agenda is simply to get a reaction, even if it's negative (meaning I probably just played right into his hands). That may work for an attention-starved seventh grader, but it makes this film childishly pandering and ultimately pretty dull. 

Ultimately, Ninja Badass is artless, tone-deaf and one-note, wearing out its welcome after about 15 minutes. Going out of your way to make an intentionally shitty movie has never been inherently funny, though buddies of that same attention-starved seventh grader might find some of Harrison’s sophomoric antics hilarious.


EXTRA KIBBLES

DELETED SCENES

AUDIO COMMENTARY


June 20, 2022

THE CELLAR: A Spooky Spin on a Familiar Premise


THE CELLAR (Blu-ray Review)
2022 / 95 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

The Cellar doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s made with enough style to be well worth checking out. 

We’ve seen this story before. A young family buys a big, creepy old house, and only after moving in do they begin to realize an evil presence is overstaying its welcome. In this case, there’s something monstrous in their cellar. We’ve seen the Woods family before, too. Keira (Elisha Cuthbert) and Brian (Eoin Macken) are successful parents whose jobs required the move. Then you have your standard-issue gloomy teenager, Ellie (Abby Fitz), who immediately hates the place - with good reason, it turns out - and happy-go-lucky little brother Brady (Steven Woods).


While Mom & Dad are working late, Ellie goes missing. I won’t say how, because it’s the best scene in the movie. I will say that, even though Ellie’s just a little too self-absorbed and bitchy to be likable, how she disappears - while inside the house - is truly chilling, effectively establishing the cellar as a place to dread. Brian thinks their daughter simply ran away, but after investigating the previous owner - a brilliant mathematician engaged in all sorts of demonic tomfoolery - Keira is convinced Ellie’s been snatched by whatever's dwelling in the cellar.


"'Balls to the Wall'...that's my jam."
She’s right, of course, otherwise no movie. The eventual creature reveal is underwhelming, but events leading up to it are well executed and suspenseful. Writer-director Brendan Muldowney trucks-out a lot of the usual tropes - objects moving, strange noises, dark closets, etc. - but does so with a keen eye for atmosphere and tension, meaning the film isn't loaded with the usual cheap jump-scares. Instead, there’s a growing sense of unease as the narrative unfolds.

Despite a climax that arguably shows too much - undermining some of the tension - the film comes to a haunting conclusion. Anchored by a fluid pace, atmospheric production design and decent performances, The Cellar doesn’t score many points for originality, but it’s a solid, spooky spin on a familiar premise.


EXTRA KIBBLES

INTERVIEWS WITH CAST & CREW

SPECIAL EFFECTS FEATURETTE

“THE TEN STEPS” - The original short film.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Brendan Muldowney and producer Richard Bolger.

June 19, 2022

IP MAN: THE AWAKENING: What's in a (brand) Name?


IP MAN: THE AWAKENING (Blu-ray Review)
2022 / 80 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😾

Two major obstacles stand in the way of Ip Man: The Awakening. Unfortunately, it doesn’t overcome either of them.

First is the looming shadow of Donnie Yen. Ip Man has been depicted in a slew of movies, spin-offs & TV shows over the years, and portrayed by several different actors. However, Yen's indelible performance in the four official Ip Man films is a tough act to follow…if not impossible. Comparatively speaking, newcomer Miu Tse isn’t up to the challenge. He’s got some nice moves, but totally lacks the dramatic chops to make the character engaging (even in martial arts films, that matters). 


Second, and most glaringly, this is the Ip Man legend served up as a brand name. Even if Tse was the genre’s Lawrence Oliver, his character is almost completely devoid of any personality or background, apparently written with the conceit that simply calling him Ip Man is all the character exposition we need. Hell, he could be renamed Steve without impacting any aspect of the story or action.


"Don't worry, buddy! I know the Heimlich Maneuver!"
Set in the 1930s, the story has Ip Man returning to Hong Kong and running afoul of British slave traders, led by a standard-issue, severely over-confident mob boss named Stark (played with laughable amounts of bemused detachment by Sergio De Ieso). Ip Man becomes a neighborhood savior, dispatching henchmen left-and-right with such efficiency that the outcome is never in doubt. There’s action to spare, which is well choreographed but never particularly exciting, mainly because these characters are all cardboard cut-outs.

The film culminates in a martial arts showdown pitting Ip Man’s Wing Chun skills against British “Bartitsu” (a combination of various fighting styles). It’s a perfunctory climax that’s indicative of the entire film…more of a genre expectation than a narrative necessity. While competently assembled, Ip Man: The Awakening is ultimately an empty exercise in by-the-numbers filmmaking, cynically cashing-in on brand name recognition.

June 18, 2022

THE INITIATION OF SARAH and the Golden Age of TV Horror


THE INITIATION OF SARAH (Blu-ray Review)
1978 / 97 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

There’s an entire generation of children raised in the ‘70s - including yours truly - whose introduction to horror was on television. We were old enough to be curious about the monsters lurking in theaters but mostly too young to do anything about it, so networks stepped in to oblige us by cranking out all kinds of creepy concoctions, a lot of ‘em being smaller scale knock-offs of popular movies. I guess you could consider them the “mockbusters” of their day.

The primary purveyor of these pictures was ABC, whose Movie of the Week series was a staple throughout the decade. Most movies were simply schedule filler and not particularly memorable, but some, like The Night Stalker and Trilogy of Terror, transcended their TV origins (and production values) to become cult classics. 


Those of us who grew up on such televised terrors are in our 50s and 60s now, so the likes of Killdozer, The Stranger Within and Bad Ronald still hold special places in our hearts. Almost without exception, they seem comparatively quaint today, never as scary as we remembered, but rivisiting them stirs-up a lot of nostalgic warm fuzzies. The Initiation of Sarah is another one that left an indelible mark on us back then (and even inspired a remake decades later).


This demonic ritual was brought to you by Folger's.
A sanitized rip-off of Carrie, it’s nevertheless an enjoyable take on the same concept, with Kay Lenz as the titular telekinetic who goes to college with her prettier, more outgoing sister, Patty (Morgan Brittany). While Patty is welcomed into a popular sorority led by Jennifer (Morgan Fairchild), Sarah ends up in one run by loony alumni Mrs. Hunter (Shelley Winters, in a wonderfully outlandish performance). Subjected to relentless torment by Jennifer, Sarah eventually uses her powers for revenge, egged-on by Mrs. Hunter, who sees her as a tool to restore her sorority to its former glory (through a demonic ritual sacrifice).

Never particularly scary, The Initiation of Sarah looks, sounds and plays like a TV movie from the era (all that’s missing are the Calgon commercials). But that’s also part of its charm today. Sure, there’s a bit of fun to be had at its expense, especially how blatantly it apes Carrie, right down to the characters. But even though it lacks style or panache, the film is never boring and the overall performances are actually pretty good, featuring a batch of famous faces for the time (or who would be in the future).


In addition to being a nifty blast from the past, Arrow Video throws in a lot more bonus material than ancient made-for-TV movies usually get. They’re mostly pretty interesting, too, such as those which attempt to explain the film’s social importance and underlying themes. But as someone whose horror education started with 90-minute night classes on ABC, I especially appreciated the retrospective discussions and commentaries on the era itself. The 1970s were arguably the Golden Age of TV horror, with The Initiation of Sarah being one of its cult classics.


EXTRA KIBBLES

“WELCOME TO HELL WEEK: A PLEDGE’S GUIDE TO THE INITIATION OF SARAH” - A highly amusing, semi-campy appreciation by Stacie Ponder and Anthony Hudson, who host a podcast called Gaylords of Darkness.

“CRACKS IN THE SISTERHOOD: SECOND WAVE FEMINISM AND THE INITIATION OF SARAH” - A surprisingly academic visual essay by film critic/historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, who discusses, at-length, the feminist aspects of the film and its time, while acknowledging that was probably not consciously intended.

“THE INTIMATIONS OF SARA” - Interview with film critic Samantha McLaren, who discusses the film and context of the time it was produced, as well as inevitable comparisons to Carrie.

“THE INITIATION OF TOM” - The only extra that features anyone actually connected with the film, Tom Holland reflects on his career, as well as his first break (credited with the story for this film). Holland, of course, would go on to be a successful writer-director.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By TV movie expert Amanda Reyes.

IMAGE GALLERY - 7 murky screenshots.

SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Includes 2 essays: "'We’re Your Sisters Now': Bonds of Sisterhood in The Initiation of Sarah and Sorority Horror Films,” by Lindsay Hallam, and “From Pariah to Power: Transgressive Abilities in The Initiation of Sarah,” by Alexandra West; cast, crew & restoration credits.

REVERSIBLE COVER - Featuring new & vintage artwork.


June 15, 2022

OFFSEASON: Another Creepy Beach Town


OFFSEASON (Blu-ray Review)
2021 / 84 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Offseason begins promisingly, with young couple Marie (Jocelin Donahue) and George (Joe Swanberg) driving an empty highway to a small coastal town. At first, the bridgekeeper (Richard Brake) isn’t going to allow them in, claiming the tourist season is over. But after Jocelin shows him a letter from the local cemetery groundskeeper - informing her that her mother’s gravestone has been decimated - he reluctantly lets them pass.

However, the groundskeeper is nowhere to be found. In fact, hardly anybody seems to be around, save for some locals in the tavern, and none of them appear very helpful. Night has fallen by this time, and worse yet, George and Marie crash the car trying to leave town. When Marie awakens, George is gone. What follows is a series of bizarre, surreal encounters related to a pact the town’s ancestors made with a sea demon, of which Marie’s mother was complicit.


"Don't blame me...I wanted to go to Vegas."
It’s a familiar premise…the mysterious small town, oddly behaving locals, a dark secret, etc. Offseason doesn’t score any points for originality, but at least writer-director Mickey Keating establishes an ominous tone with a dark, atmospheric setting similar to Dead & Buried, The Fog and, more recently, The Beach House (a criminally overlooked gem). Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something inherently creepy about small northern coastal towns.

Eerie aesthetics carry the film for a while, but it soon becomes apparent there isn’t really much of a story here, at least not one that warrants 84 minutes. Marie’s search for answers meanders a bit, taking too much time revealing plot twists that ultimately aren’t all that surprising, mainly because it’s a road well traveled.  Still, some scenes are undeniably effective - including a brief-but-chilling look at the sea demon - and the conclusion is kind of cool.


So even though it runs out of narrative gas pretty quickly - the story might have been better served as a short subject - Offseason is visually interesting enough to be worth checking out (though probably no more than once).

June 14, 2022

THE POOP SCOOP: Upcoming Kibbles!

😺EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE arrives July 5 on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate
The mind-bending action-adventure Everything Everywhere All At Once arrives on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital, Blu-ray + Digital, and DVD July 5 from A24 and Lionsgate. The film stars Michelle Yeoh as an unlikely hero who must channel newfound powers to fight fearsome dangers from the multiverse. Directed and written by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the writing-directing duo collectively known as the Daniels (Swiss Army Man). SYNOPSIS: Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a flustered immigrant mother, is contacted from a parallel universe and told that only she can save the world. The unlikely hero must learn to channel her newfound powers and fight through the splintering timelines of the multiverse to save her home, her family, and herself in this big-hearted and irreverent adventure. With Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., James Hong, and Jamie Lee Curtis.

😺DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA Available On Digital June 24 Blu-ray and DVD On July 5 From Universal
It’s time to return to Downton in DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA, available to own with bonus content on Digital June 24, 2022, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on July 5, 2022 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Earning an “A” CinemaScore and celebrated by critics as “fun and heart in equal measure” (Screenrant), the Collector’s Edition arrives just in time for a summer movie night in with exclusive and exciting featurettes to give viewers a more in-depth look behind the scenes with fan-favorite stars. The motion picture will also be available in a Limited-Edition Gift Set, featuring the Blu-ray Disc, DVD, and Digital Code, presented in exclusive packaging along with vintage-style postcards, a photo book and a collectible Downton Abbey branded stainless steel tea strainer with a velvet bag. Available only while supplies last, this special offering is the must-own gift for any Downton Abbey fan or to add to your own collection.

 

😺THE BAD GUYS Coming To Digital, 4K, Blu-ray and DVD June 21 from Universal
Follow the most notorious criminals in the world and find out if they can pull off their biggest job yet – going good – in DreamWorks Animation’s THE BAD GUYS, a hilarious high octane family adventure that is sure to bring the entire family together for non-stop action and laughs. Showcasing a brand-new crew of lovable and edgy characters bursting with personality, the film embraces individuality with each character’s unique skillset, ranging from hacking and disguise to muscle and drive. Available to own on Digital, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™, and DVD on June 21, 2022 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, THE BAD GUYS Collector’s Edition showcases an all-new original short and comes filled with never-before-seen bonus features including deleted scenes, exclusive interviews with cast and crew, Mr. Snake’s frozen pops recipes, character drawing tutorials and more, offering endless fun and sure to get the entire family into ‘summer’ mode.

June 13, 2022

THE CLOCK: Textbook Meet-Cute


THE CLOCK (Blu-ray Review)
1945 / 90 min
Review by Mr. Paws😽

Merriam-Webster defines meet-cute as “a cute, charming, or amusing first encounter between romantic partners (as in a movie).” I first heard the late Roger Ebert use the term in various reviews of romantic comedies, sometimes facetiously, since it’s one of the oldest tropes in Hollywood’s arsenal.

There’s certainly no shortage of examples - both good and bad - but in 1945’s The Clock, the entire story is practically a meet-cute.  


Robert Walker is Joe Allen, a bumpkin soldier on leave for two days in New York. After arriving at the train station, he has a chance encounter with Alice (Judy Garland) by retrieving the broken heel to her shoe. Unfamiliar with the city, he asks for tips on where to go, then invites her to come along. Though initially reluctant, Alice agrees. A simple bus ride turns into a trip to the zoo, then a museum, then a bonafide date (to the chagrin of Alice’s roommate, who warns her about “picking up” a soldier).


"I don't get it."
After missing the last bus for the evening, the two end up getting a ride from a kindly milk truck driver, Al (James Gleason). When Al is accidentally punched by a belligerent drunk, Joe and Alice finish his route for him. Al, in turn, invites them home, where they meet his wife (Lucile Gleason). By then, this date has turned into an all-nighter, during which time they’ve fallen in love and wish to get married before Joe ships out.

To call The Clock narratively slight would be an understatement. Anything resembling real conflict is minimal and fleeting, the only suspense being whether or not they can get their blood tests done on time. However, Joe and Alice are pretty likable (if not particularly dynamic), with Walker and Garland giving suitably congenial performances, so we kind of enjoy their company.


It’s a textbook example of the meet-cute, and other than being one of the few films in which Garland isn’t required to sing, The Clock doesn’t hold any real surprises. But while it’s never been mistaken for a cinematic milestone, fans of old fashioned romantic drama will have no complaints.


EXTRA KIBBLES

SHORT: “HOLLYWOOD SCOUT” - An amusing look at animal “auditions,” with Pete Smith’s reliably-cornball narration.

CARTOON SHORT: “THE SCREWY TRUANT” - Seeing Screwy Squirrel cartoons always reminds me of how much I hate Screwy Squirrel. 

RADIO SHOW ADAPTATION - Featuring Judy Garland and John Hodiak.

TRAILER