October 31, 2015


Starring Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch, Adam Devine, Angela Trimbur. Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson. (2015, 91 min).

In case you’re unfamiliar with horror tropes, the term ‘final girl’ refers to the last surviving character in a slasher film (especially those made in the 1980s) who battles the killer during the climax. She’s almost always a teenager and usually a virgin. Everyone else has already suffered a nasty demise after partying, getting naked and having sex.

Slasher movies have been a pretty easy target for satire over the years, to the point where pointing out the cliches has itself become somewhat cliched. Wes Craven’s Scream probably did it best, but there’s been some other good ones, such as the underappreciated mockmentary, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. Then there’s the garbage parodies like Scary Movie or ’self-aware’ films like Hatchet and Muck, which purport to pay homage to the genre, when in reality they’re just hackneyed horror flicks themselves.

However, like The Cabin in the Woods, The Final Girls lets the viewer know right away it isn’t a flat-out parody nor a full-blown horror flick. Its brand of meta-horror acknowledges the tropes of 80s-era slasher films from a modern perspective, but still has its own tale to tell.

Taissa Farmiga plays Max, a teenager whose mother, former 80’s scream queen Amanda (Malin Akerman), recently died in a tragic accident. Max reluctantly attends a revival screening of her mom’s most famous film, Camp Bloodbath, with some of her friends. When a fire breaks out in the theater, they escape death but end up at the summer camp in the very film they’ve been watching. How they deal with characters created from a different era provides a lot of the humor, especially those whose purpose is to have sex before dying at the hands of the killer. Equally amusing are how these intentionally-shallow Camp Bloodbath characters react to the strangers who’ve popped up in their movie, intent on altering the plot in an attempt to return to their own time.

"A flaming bag of poo? Not cool, dude!"

All the usual tropes are exploited, but with a level of affection & sophistication seldom seen in most modern parodies. Despite the Camp Bloodbath characters presented as walking cliches, we kind-of like them, especially when they learn they aren’t actually real people. Watching Max and her friends try and adapt to this archaic movie is amusing as well. They know the killer is near whenever they hear his theme music, and in the most ingenious scene, they are suddenly rendered in black-and-white during a flashback and forced to physically step around an onscreen title card.

But what ultimately makes The Final Girls unique is its surprising moments of poignancy. Despite all the clever scenes, slapstick humor and knowing dialogue, we have Max, who’s lonely and spends a great deal of time developing a loving, protective bond with her late mother’s Camp Bloodbath character. This sets up a surprisingly bittersweet final act which is totally unexpected. You might even get a bit teary-eyed near the end.

But even if you’re too cynical to become emotionally invested in its two main characters, The Final Girls has the potential to become a minor cult classic because of how well it plays around with slasher movie conventions. As meta-horror, it's not quite in the same league as Scream or The Cabin in the Woods, but for viewers well-versed in all things good-and-bad related to the slasher genre, The Final Girls is a must-see.

  • Alternate Endings
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
  • Cast/Crew Commentary
  • Writers’ Commentary
  • Production Notes
  • 2 Special Effects Featurettes 

October 30, 2015


Starring Toby Stephens, Luke Arnold, Hannah New, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Zach McGowan, Toby Schmitz, Clara Paget, Tom Hopper. Various Directors. (2015, 555 min).

It has taken me a bit longer than usual to get through the second season of Black Sails. Not because it isn't any good, but my wife has insisted I wait until after she and the kids have gone to bed before indulging in what she's declared "Pirate Porn." And I get that...Season Two continues to revel in sex, violence and other forms of immorality for the sake of entertainment...definitely not family viewing.

Season Two picks up where Season One left off, with little more than a brief synopsis of previous events that won’t do newcomers any good whatsoever. If you haven’t been keeping up, you’ll be completely lost. Not only that, the quest for Urca gold (the main story of Season One) remains the ongoing plot of this season, further complicated by new characters & conflicts, as well as more double-crosses, betrayals and political ramifications. Despite the increasingly labyrinthine story with almost too many characters to keep track of, much of the focus remains on Captain Flint (Toby Stephens), arguably the show’s most dynamic character. Going the Godfather II route, most early episodes include revealing flashbacks of the incidents which ultimately led to Flint becoming the most feared pirate of the era.

As punishment, John Silver & Captain Flint are forced to watch all the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels back-to-back.

The overall production values of Black Sails remain not-notch, from the elaborate set-design to the visual effects to the seedy dirt & grime permeating its characters and their environment. This arguably remains one of the better looking shows on television. Whether or not this is an authentic depiction of pirate life doesn’t really matter...as viewers, we’re mostly convinced.

But, like Season One, Season Two takes a loooong time to gain momentum. Despite a few scattered moments of violent conflict and decidedly non-erotic sex, the first several episodes are almost maddeningly meandering (especially for viewers thinking the Urca gold plotline should have been wrapped up by now). It isn’t until the fifth episode that we see any real action, the same point where the overall plot truly begins to engage the viewer. As with the first season, patience is a virtue, which is more-or-less rewarded.

Featurettes: "Inside the World of 'Black Sails'"; "Man O' War"; "Expanding Worlds"; "High Seas Action"; "History's Influence"


October 29, 2015


Narrated by Jason Bateman. Directed by Daniel Junge & Kief Davidson. (2015, 93 min).

Along with my Hot Wheels, Lego was my favorite childhood toy. I had a massive box of bricks, a collection which grew to the point where I could damn near construct an entire town.

I don't have either anymore, much to my regret. I blew up all my Hot Wheels with firecrackers once I hit puberty, but I'll be damned if I know whatever happened to my Legos (maybe they're still in my parents' attic). Decades later, I still miss them both. Perhaps I long for my Legos just a little more because, even at my advanced age, the idea of dumping all those multi-colored bricks onto the floor and building a starship still sounds like a hell of a lot of fun.

Much of A Lego Brickumentary is dedicated to that...the adult who still finds great joy in building with Lego. Narrated by Jason Bateman (animated as a Lego character himself), this is a charming little documentary doesn't spend as much time on the toy's history as I'd like, but does a great job showing its worldwide impact, not only on the toy business, but science, entertainment and modern culture.

"Great...now I gotta put all this back in the box."

For some folks, it's a pleasant hobby, while others belong to a sub-culture who take it seriously enough to attend conventions, create Lego-related films, enter high-stakes building contests or actually end up working for Lego itself. We meet people who've turned Lego building into an art form (one lady's version of Tolkien's Rivendell is jaw dropping), a team who built a full scale Star Wars X-wing fighter and one guy whose robotic rover was impressive enough for Lego to turn it into one of their products.

This is all pretty fascinating stuff, presented in a light-hearted, entertaining manor which, unlike similar films depicting a so-called 'geek culture', never devolves into thinly-veiled contempt for its obsessive subjects. In fact, it made me want to venture to Toys 'R Us and grab myself a few sets to reclaim a bit of my childhood. And if Lego was even a small part of your own youth, chances are you'll enjoy this film as well.


  • 4 Deleted Scenes
  • A Legoland Promo video


October 27, 2015


Just in time for Halloween...a fun little animated short from Nick Lyons, a friend of FREE KITTENS. Enjoy!

INSIDE OUT - Deleted Scene Clip!

In high anticipation of Disney•Pixar’s Inside Out arriving on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray Combo Pack and On-Demand next Tuesday, November 3rd (now available on Digital HD & Disney Movies Anywhere) we have this hilarious deleted scene from the bonus features. 

October 26, 2015


Starring Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman, Danny Aiello. Directed by Luc Besson. (1994, 109/133 min).
Starring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Milla Jovovich, Chris Tucker. Directed by Luc Besson. (1997, 126 min).

Luc Besson was always an interesting action director, but I personally wish we was a little more prolific these days. Sure, he’s kept busy writing and producing such stuff as the Taken and Transporter franchises, but most of them are missing that off-center quirkiness which make his own classic movies of the 90s so unique. Two of those films, Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element, have been resurrected yet-again for brand new Blu-Ray editions, this time mastered in 4K and Dolby Atmos audio.

From a story standpoint, Leon is remains Besson’s most accomplished film. The story of an efficient-yet-uneducated hitman (Jean Reno) who becomes the reluctant guardian and mentor to an orphaned pre-teen (Natalie Portman) is not only filled with kinetic action and gunplay, it's also funny, touching and morally complex, with superlative performances and dynamic characters.

"Admit it...this is more fun than playing with Barbies."

While Leon may be Besson’s best and darkest (though a strong argument could be made for La Femme Nikita), The Fifth Element is by-far his most imaginative and fun. Visually dazzling and featuring the most bizarre production design ever committed to a sci-fi film, it’s like Blade Runner on LSD. Like if Roger Corman were given a $100 million budget, there’s nary a moment when it takes itself seriously, from the visuals to the film score to its depiction of aliens...right down to a cast of characters so over-the-top that star Bruce Willis mostly plays straight man to their antics. It’s no surprise that The Fifth Element has developed a massive cult following over the years, and is arguably Besson’s most beloved mainstream film.

Ruby Rhod...the most obnoxious man of any century.

Of course, if you’re reading this, there’s a chance you already have one or both of these titles in your collection. So are these upgraded editions worth it? From technical standpoint, they’ve never looked or sounded better, and if you’re a home theater buff, the answer might be yes. However, the previous editions sported pretty damn good transfers too, so unless you’re truly discerning, what’s left are the bonus features. The ones included with Leon are the exact same as the previous edition, while those on The Fifth Element (save for the ‘Fact Track’) appear to be new to Blu-Ray (though not necessarily recently-made).

Regardless, these films feature the imaginative work of a uniquely gifted writer-director at the peak of his powers, and both are worth owning to revisit again and again.

NOTE: Both films are also being released as part of Sony's Supreme Cinema Series, with Clear-Case packaging and comprehensive booklets.


LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL (With the exception of a digital copy, all bonuses are the same as the 2009 Blu-Ray edition)

  • Extended Version (with optional accompanying ‘Fact Track’)
  • Featurettes: “Jean Reno: The Road to Leon”; “Natalie Portman: Starting Young”; “Cast & Crew Look Back”
  • Original Trailer
  • Digital HD Copy


  • Making-Of Featurettes: “The Visual Element”; “The Digital Element”; “The Fashion Element”; “Imagining The Fifth Element”; “The Elements of Style”
  • Cast Featurettes: “The Star Element” (individual shorts featuring Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich & Chris Tucker); “The Diva” (a profile of Maiwenn and how she came to play the role)
  • ‘Fact Track’ Option
  • Digital HD Copy

October 25, 2015


Starring Tim Matheson, Brooke Adams, Robert Rusler, Chris Demetral, Robert Hy Gorman, William Sanderson. Directed by Tom McLoughlin. (1991, 98 min).

Once upon a time, there was a Hollywood feeding frenzy when damn near every studio and producer greedily snapped-up the rights to virtually everything that belched from Stephen King’s typewriter (you know, those things we used before computers). Even a lot of his short stories, no matter how slight, were being bloated into feature length films by anyone eager to cash in on King‘s name. Most of the short story adaptations were terrible (like The Lawnmower Man, which tossed aside everything from King’s story but the title). A few, however, weren’t too bad, such as Sometimes They Come Back.

Granted, this made-to-TV film is just as guilty of padding the original material to justify its length, but at least the story remains more-or-less intact, in which Tim Matheson plays a troubled teacher who returns to his hometown and is tormented by the same undead punks responsible for his brother’s death years earlier. While this adaptation isn’t particularly scary and never escapes its small screen origins, it’s competently made and features serviceable performances all around. Sure, the same story could have been told a fraction of the time, yet still it manages to maintain viewer interest (no small feat).

Sometimes They Come Back may be a relatively minor entry among the plethora of Stephen King movies we’ve been inundated with over the years, but it’s far from the worst. While ultimately forgettable in the long run, it’s an undemanding and fairly entertaining way to spend a dull evening.

Original Trailer

October 24, 2015


Starring Suzanna Leigh, Frank Finlay, Guy Doleman, Catherine Finn, John Harvey. Directed by Freddie Francis. (1966, 84 min).

Pity the poor bees. One would think that an insect responsible for more human deaths than every shark to ever stalk the seas would be foolproof horror fodder. But despite decades of trying, we still haven't done them justice onscreen. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a killer bee-related title which isn't laughably bad.

Some of this might be the bees' fault. I'm no filmmaker, but I imagine their incorrigible nature makes them as difficult to work with as Marlon Brando. Still, a gifted director can work around a star’s diva-like behavior, like Francis Ford Coppola when Brando showed up on the set of Apocalypse Now a hundred pounds overweight without even bothering to read the script.

Irwin Allen, definitely no Coppola, couldn’t do it though, which is partially why The Swarm remains one of the daffiest disaster movies of all time. Neither could Freddie Francis, who managed to crank out a few cult classics for Amicus and Hammer studios during their 60s & 70s heyday. His 1966 horror film, The Deadly Bees, is arguably the first to depict our pollinating pals as monsters, but hampered by an obvious low budget, a truly WTF screenplay and ludicrous special effects (probably because, like Brando, bees don’t like to do what directors tell them).

An obvious miscommunication between the make-up department and anyone who's ever actually seen a real bee.

Suzanna Leigh plays an exhausted pop star who goes to a remote English village to relax. Two dedicated bee-keepers live there as well, one of which is inexplicably obsessed with using bees to kill his enemies, having developed a liquid concoction which makes them attack anyone wearing the stuff. A few folks die after reacting in horror to repeated footage of swarming bees badly superimposed on the screen. The special effects are hilariously bad, as are the performances and totally out-of-place musical numbers at the beginning of the film (featuring a pre-Rolling Stones Ron Wood!), which is probably why The Deadly Bees was once featured in an old Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode.

In fact, its unintentional camp value is the main reason to watch this film today, which might tickle the funny-bone if you’re in the right frame of mind. It isn’t a mega-budget train-wreck like The Swarm, but The Deadly Bees is still a gloriously goofy experience just begging for verbal abuse while watching. In that context, this is great fun.


Rest in Peace, Maureen O'Hara

Maureen O'Hara (1920-2015)

October 23, 2015


Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Thomas F. Wilson, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Mary Steenburgen, Claudia Wells, Elizabeth Shue, James Tolkan. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. (1985-1990, 342 total min).

Aside from the original Star Wars trilogy, you'd be hard-pressed to name a film franchise as universally loved as Back to the Future. Seriously...have you ever come across anyone who ever declared, "Wow, Back to the Future really sucked"? If so, you really need to find new friends.

And no one ever speaks of them as three individual films anymore. Today, whenever someone brings up Back to the Future, they're almost always referring to the entire trilogy, a single epic saga with a definite beginning, middle and end. Because of this, we tend to forget the first film was a surprise hit with no initial aspirations of going any further. We also tend to forget Back to the Future Part II was not as warmly received by critics or fans at the time, the common complaint being that it was too dark, too FX-driven and too in-love with its own labyrinthine storyline. And few seem to remember the simultaneously-filmed Part III, while still successful and well-recieved, actually underperformed at the box-office compared to the previous two.

But perhaps even more-so than the original Star Wars trilogy, each Back to the Future film is now universally loved because they click togther perfectly as three acts in a single, sweeping story. Almost nobody looks at them otherwise, which is obviously why these films are hardly ever available individually these days. Even cable channels usually show them all back-to-back...

...which also means if you've a fan (and who isn't?), you probably already own the previously-released DVD set or the 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray edition.

Doc Brown's hat may not be able to read minds, but it's a chick magnet.

So now we have the inevitable 30th Anniversary set...not just the anniversary of the original film, but also the year Marty McFly travels to the future of 2015 (October 21, to be exact, the same day this was released). So yeah, it's an important date worth commemorating with this nicely packaged four-disc collection.

However, it should be noted that the films and bonus features on the first three discs are almost exactly the same as the 25th Anniversary edition. Only the fourth supplementary disc contains any additional material (outlined below). These extras vary in quality, from promotional fluff to some truly great new documentaries. If you already own the previous Blu-Ray set, you have to decide if this fourth disc of bonus features (roughly 2 hours) is worth the upgrade. But if you still haven't included Back to the Future in your collection, this set is definitely a must-own. The picture & sound quality is outstanding. As for the films themselves...the special effects still hold up, the characters are still endearing and the story, considering it's definitely rooted in the 80s, remains timeless.

As stated before, the bonus features accompanying the films on their individual discs are nearly identical to the 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray set. While they are substantial, informative and very entertaining, there's no point in rehashing them all here, especially if you already own it. 

This new set features a fourth disc of all new extras to celebrate the first film's 30th:
  • "2015 Message from Doc Brown": A brief hello from Christopher Lloyd in-character.
  • "Doc Brown Saves the World": A ten minute promo film, again with Lloyd, in which Doc Brown features various gadgets from the trilogy that supposedly will destroy the world in 2045. Shot on a stark white set, it's kind of silly, redundant and dumb.
  • "OUTATIME: Restoring the DeLorean": This is a wonderful twenty-minute film about the restoration of one of cinema's most iconic cars
  • "Looking Back to the Future": A nine-part retrospective featuring new interviews with Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd and a slew of others involved in making the original film. Also included is a lot of vintage behind-the-scenes footage. This is easily the best of the new bonus features.
  • Back to the Future: The Animated Series: One episode from each of its two seasons are included. While interesting from a historical perspective, like most Saturday morning cartoons based on hit films, the show itself was never that good (and looks downright archaic today). 
  • "2015 Commercials": Two brand new fake commercials for Max Spielberg's "Jaws 19" and the now-iconic Hoverboard. "Jaws 19" is absolutely hilarious and worth watching over and over, managing to provide the perfect skewering of Hollywood's current trend of rebooting, re-imagining, sequeling & prequeling. 

October 21, 2015


Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, B.D. Wong, Irrfan Khan. Directed by Colin Trevorrow. (2015, 124 min).

Considering how often belated sequels turn out to be massive disappointments, it's surprising we've gotten two (so far) in 2015 that truly delivered. The first was Mad Max: Fury Road, director George Miller's welcome return to the franchise that launched his career. Even without Mel Gibson in the title role, you'd be hard-pressed to meet anyone not blown-away by this brilliantly psychotic exercise in vehicular mayhem.

The biggest surprise, however, is Jurassic World. Arriving 14 years after the last lame sequel to Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking classic, it's no masterpiece, but unless you're a complete cinema snob, it's a hell of a lot of fun. Sure, it's got a new cast, new director and new writers. And yeah, if you really wanted to, you could point-out some glaring plot holes and bits of supposed sexism which outraged some of the more vocal trolls of the world. But what's the fun in picking apart something which has no aspirations beyond being a perfect popcorn picture?

Jurassic World doesn't attempt to reinvent the wheel. It's more like sticking big fat mags on that classic old car that's been sitting in your garage for years and taking it out to lay down some rubber. Only then do you realize how much you missed driving that old beast, rendered hot all over again by shiny new accessories.

"No, dammit! The chorus goes like this..."

Despite all the new accoutrements, Jurassic World, much more than the previous two sequels, feels like a true kindred spirit to the original. At this point, the dinosaur-themed amusement park has been open for a decade. But its existing attractions no longer thrill the public like they used to, so its owners genetically create a vicious new creature, Indonimus Rex, to boost attendance. Naturally, this turns out to be a bad idea. The monster escapes, putting thousands of tourists in danger, with only raptor-whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and park manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to try and keep them from becoming jurassic junk food. There's also your usual batch of human bad guys, led by Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who want to use these critters as weapons (!) and mostly exist to keep us rooting for the dinosaurs.

While never as awe-inspiring or jaw-dropping as the original film (how could it be?), Jurassic World is fast, suspenseful and narratively-outrageous (in a good way), with decent special effects and yet-another amusing performance Chris Pratt (arguably the most likeable guy in Hollywood right now). Sure, we've seen this brand of dino destruction before, but it's been a long time and sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder. Jurassic World isn't likely to land on any critic's top 10 list this year, but no one can honestly claim it doesn't deliver what it promises. How often can you say that about belated sequels?

BONUS FEATURES: (surprisingly light, considering it's the biggest film of the year)

  • "Welcome to Jurassic World"  and "Jurassic World: All-Access Pass" (behind-the-scenes featurettes)
  • "Chris & Colin Take on the World" (the director and star interview each other)
  • "Dinosaurs Roam Once Again"
  • "Innovation Center Tour with Chris Pratt"
  • A Barbasol-sponsored montage of 'Close Shaves' from all of the films (their joke, not mine)
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Blu-Ray 3-D, Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital Copies


October 17, 2015


Starring Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Melissa Leo, Shannyn Sossamon, Reed Diamond, Tim Griffin, Charlie Tahan, Juliette Lewis, Terrence Howard. Various Directors (including M. Night Shyamalan). (2015, 440 min).

If you’re like me, when you first saw the commercials touting this mini-series, you probably wrote it off as some kind of Twin Peaks knock-off. But those promotional spots didn’t do it justice. Wayward Pines is nothing like Twin Peaks, which mostly relied on the quirkiness of its creator (David Lynch) and wore out its welcome long before the story played itself out. Wayward Pines, based on a trilogy of novels by Blake Crouch, is an initially ambiguous story that rewards patient viewers with a revelation that is truly mind-blowing.

Matt Dillon plays Ethan Burke, a secret service agent from Seattle on a mission to locate a couple of fellow-agents who’ve gone missing. After a car accident, he awakens in a hospital in Wayward Pines, Idaho, a small, seemingly idyllic town where everyone appears happy and content. However, Burke is unable to contact anyone outside of town to explain his predicament, exasperated by Sheriff Pope (Terrence Howard), who has an underlying cruel streak and repeatedly advices Burke not to question what goes on in town. Meanwhile, Burke finds Kate (Carla Gugino), one of the agents he’s supposed to locate and whom he once had an affair with. She's now one of Wayward Pine’s business owners and claims she's been there for years, while hinting they are being watched. In fact, it turns out the entire town is under surveillance by a megalomaniacal scientist (Toby Jones), who may or may not be acting on the government’s behalf, and any citizen who breaks the town's rules is publicly executed. Eventually, Burke’s wife and son, who come looking for him after he’s been declared missing, become trapped in the town as well. In fact, no one is allowed to escape because Wayward Pines is enclosed by a massive, electrified wall. Worse yet, something awful lurks outside out the wall.

"You really need to lay-off the gerbils, Mr. Burke."

To describe the plot further would mean giving away one of the greatest revelations presented in a TV show since the old days of The Twilight Zone. Let’s just say that, five episodes in, the already-creepy Wayward Pines takes a completely unexpected sci-fi turn which, while a total surprise, makes complete sense given the contradictory lapses of time experienced by the major characters. Not only that, we’re no longer certain who to root for or against, a plotline well-maintained even after the big reveal.

Speaking of which, the one major strike against Wayward Pines is the fact its mid-story revelation is so huge that the remaining five episodes, while still compelling and sometimes suspenseful, are relatively anti-climactic. However, the series does end on an ominous note that will either thrill or infuriate the viewer, depending on their expectations. Either way, the resolution is supremely discussion-worthy.

Best of all, Wayward Pines doesn’t really leave the door open for expansion into an actual series. To exploit the concept further (like CBS did when bastardizing Stephen King’s brilliant novel, Under the Dome) would be completely gratuitous. As it stands, the ten episodes of Wayward Pines are fine just as they are, and perfect for binge-viewing as one long story experience.


  • “Where Paradise is Home: A Wayward Pines Style Guide” (a featurette largely focusing on the behind-the-scenes special effects and set design)
  • “Creating a Mythology” (a featurette related to the story and themes prevalent in the series)


Blu-Ray Review: PIXELS

Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Sean Bean, Brian Cox, Matt Lintz, Ashley Benson, Jane Krakowski. Directed by Chris Columbus. (2015, 106 min).

While not a great film, Pixels isn't as terrible as a majority of its reviews suggest. It helps if you keep your expectations fairly low, and since Adam Sandler is arguably the laziest A-list actor since Burt Reynolds in his heyday, that shouldn't be too difficult. If you can manage that, you might even agree this is Sandler's best film in years.

Even so, Pixels is burdened with a checklist of baggage that has ruined most of Sandler's recent films...

  • An indifferent performance by its star, playing yet-another middle-aged guy who never really grew up
  • Kevin James
  • Pointless and gratuitous cameos
  • Some embarrassingly laughless scenes which go on far too long
  • Scatological humor to appease the 12-year-olds in the audience
  • A beautiful woman inexplicably attracted to Sandler's man-boy persona 
  • Truly obnoxious characters who are supposed to be funny simply because they are screaming 

On the other hand, the film's concept is fairly amusing (based on a 2010 French short). In 1982, several video gamers participate in a tournament which is filmed, placed in a time capsule and launched into space. Decades later, aliens have interpreted the video as a declaration of war and attack Earth with massive versions of the same video game characters, challenging the world to an apocalyptic showdown. Since the military is helpless, former arcade champion Sam Brenner (Sandler) is recruited by childhood friend-now-president William Cooper (James) to use his gaming expertise to try and combat the threat. Teaming up with them is Brenner’s cocky former rival, Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage) and Ludlow (Josh Gad), another childhood friend who’s a paranoid conspiracy theorist (with an unhealthy lust for a female game character from his childhood). So yeah...the fate of the world is in the hands of these slackers, kind of like Armageddon with geeks.

Pac-Man tries in vain to end Adam Sandler's career.

The plot bares no scrutiny whatsoever, but plausibility is obviously not the point. As a bit of fond nostalgia, Pixels is kind of fun. Seeing Pac-Man rampaging through the city blocks of New York, pursued by the team in appropriately-colored ‘ghost’ cars with license plates baring their names, is pretty entertaining. The climactic showdown, featuring Donkey Kong (of course), will remind those of a certain age how damn frustrating that game has always been. Overall, the special effects are colorful and elaborate, even though we never truly feel they are occupying the same space as the actors.

Pixels is seldom all that funny, but Peter Dinklage provides some laugh-out-loud moments and steals nearly every scene he’s in (his reward during the resolution is admittedly hilarious). On the other end of the spectrum is Josh Gad in a truly obnoxious, over-the-top performance that’s almost embarrassing to endure.

On a side note, there are some glaring errors which don’t really detract from the film per se, but pop culture nerds will detect in a flash. The so-called time capsule was launched into space in 1982, yet an alien version of Max Headroom makes an appearance, even though he was created in 1984. Similarly, one of Madonna’s MTV appearances is used as a dire warning to Earth, but she wasn’t a media presence until 1983. This is nit-picking, of course, but it does indicate a slap-dash attempt at nostalgia that probably wouldn’t have passed muster in the hands of a more creative writer and director (such as those involved in making Wreck-It Ralph or Who Framed Roger Rabbit).

Still, Pixels is flashy and entertaining enough for what it is, trading-in on brand name familiarity with a high-concept idea that should amuse undemanding viewers, mostly kids, as well as parents who grew up with some of these games. Again, it isn’t a great film, but compared to Sandler’s recent output, Pixels is a masterpiece.


  • Numerous featurettes focusing on individual game characters' appearance in the film
  • "The Creator of the Machine" Featurette
  • Music Video: "Game On"
  • Digital Copy


October 11, 2015


Narrated by Ray Liotta. Starring Rich Graff, Ian Bell, Anthony, DiCarlo, Jonathan C. Stewart, Craig Thomas Rivela. Featuring Interviews with Rich Cohen, Rudy Giuliani, Selwyn Rabb, Joe Mantegna, Chazz Palminteri, Frank Vincent, Frankie Valli. Directed by John Ealer. (2015, 343 min).

This ambitious eight episode mini-series from AMC chronicles the birth of the American mafia, focusing primarily on Lucky Luciano's rise from a lowly hood to the most powerful mob boss in New York City. With the help of some lifelong friends - including Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegal and Frank Costello - Luciano is largely responsible for the "organized" in organized crime.

The Making of the Mob: New York is presented as a docudrama. Ray Liotta narrates dramatic reenactments with a timeline roughly ranging from the turn of the century until the mid-1960s, interspersed with commentary by a variety of authors, ex-mafia associates, celebrities and family members of those featured in the story. Since all episodes essentially present a single epic tale, its serialized format makes this two-disc set supremely binge-worthy.

Despite a lack of personal insight into any of these characters, the story itself is simply too interesting to screw up. Sure, it’s been told before, and if you're already really into mob history, much of it might be pretty familiar. Even so, the reenactments are well rendered, with a lot of attention to period detail and decent performances. The show is also highly recommended to fans of The Godfather, who will be fascinated at the extent that film drew inspiration from real life, right down to some of the characters.

Not so lucky this time, Luciano is stuck with the tip.

Less interesting are the frequent interviews with various individuals supposedly associated with these events. Authors who’ve written books on the subject provide some unique insight and details, as do former mafia associates. But I do question the purpose of featuring various celebrities whose only tangible connection to the mob has been performing in gangster movies. As far as the players involved...we don’t learn a hell of a lot about them personally. The performances are decent, but none of the actors are given a hell of a lot to do besides react and remain silent while Liotta describes what‘s going on.

Still, The Making of the Mob: New York provides a solid account of the rise of organized crime in America, New York in particular. It’s an intriguing - if somewhat familiar - look at the lifestyle, violence and betrayal we normally associate with this profession.

On a personal side-note...man these guys smoke a lot! You'd be hard-pressed to find a single scene where someone isn't puffing away on a cigarette or stogie. Perhaps the show is partially funded by Phillip-Morris.


  • Additional Scenes
  • Several Featurettes: "The Real Arnold Rothstein"; "The Secret Life of a Mob Wife"; "The Mob & Mussolini"; "Style"; "Mob Innovations"; "The Mob Shrink" (more of these are a few minutes long and feature scenes from the series, as well as additional commentary by some of the interviewees).


October 9, 2015

10 Forgotten Thrillers from The 1980s Worth Your Time

For every box-office blockbuster, there are scores of worthy thrillers from the 80s that have largely been forgotten. Some of the more character-driven films got lost in a sea of those offering more spectacle, while others made the mistake of being too smart for their own good. Still more were just as high-concept and action packed as the biggest films of the era, yet for some reason, never became enduring classics.

October 7, 2015

TARANTULA and the Fiery Solution

Starring John Agar, Mara Corday (mee-ow!), Leo G. Carroll, Nestor Paiva and a very young Clint Eastwood! Directed by Jack Arnold. (1955, 81 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON
I came across a news story the other day about a guy who pulled into a gas station and discovered a large spider crawling outside his fuel tank. His reaction was to burn the spider with a lighter, apparently forgetting gasoline is just a tad flammable. His car and one of the pumps erupted into flames. Only the quick thinking of an attendant, immediately shutting down all the pumps, prevented the whole incident from destroying a city block.

A few weeks earlier, a lady jumped out of her moving car, which moseyed on it's own for another thousand feet before crossing the meridian and hitting a tree. When later asked why she abandoned her vehicle, the woman said she spotted a large spider in her car and had no choice but to flee. It is unknown whether or not the offending arachnid survived the crash.

Then there was this drunken man who was relaxing in his recliner in front of the TV. Upon spotting a large spider crawling up his leg, he grabbed a nearby handgun and shot it, blowing off half his own foot.

I could go on, and you can Google countless other tales of folks who've burned down their own houses or blown themselves up just to eliminate a spider threat.

What do all these people have in common? If you're like me, where the term 'large spider' means one visible to the naked eye, these guys are superheroes. Most likely intoxicated superheroes, but no-less selfless. Taking one for the team to save us from nature's most unholy creation makes them role models to be emulated. Like Superman, only dumber.

I've always done my part by always using 8,000 times the necessary force required to kill them, usually with a shoe or a book. And I whack them more than once...usually several times to make certain they don't return to torment me in the next life. While I haven't yet resorted to using fire, I did once make the mistake of smashing one with a hammer, leaving a permanent dent in our dining room floor.

Spiders are scary because...well, they're spiders. Aside from the ants in my kitchen, they are the worst animal to ever scurry the planet and exist for the sole purpose of being squashed by a paperback (a good reason not to switch to e-books). If God didn't intend us to kill spiders on sight, he would have made them look more like little bunnies. Instead, spiders are stealthy, silent, hairy, venomous and equipped with more eyes and legs than any creature has a right to own. I'm certain if a spider were to catch its own reflection in a mirror, it would try to squash itself.

In my humble opinion, the only thing preventing Earth from becoming a Utopia is the continual presense of spiders.

And no, I don't give a damn about their so-called positive environmental impact by keeping the insect population in check. We have a bug zappers and Black Flag for that. Besides, what do you think is actually worse for the environment, a few more flies in the house, or the fact I've shit myself enough times whenever encountering any spider larger than a quarter that, somewhere on Earth, there's an Everest-sized mountain of soiled underwear named after me?

Now that I've made my personal arachnophobia apparent, we must discuss 1955's Tarantula, the movie responsible for that initial pair of shit-stained skivvies which would grow to become my carbon footprint on the world. At the behest of one of my less squeamish classmates, I first saw it on a local independent station in the early 70s and spent half the time with my head buried under blankets. This was scary-ass shit, especially since the special effects were totally convincing for the time (and still pretty impressive today). The fact that it’s black & white made everything even scarier. By the way, for those who still doubt the intrinsic power of black & white, try watching The Exorcist without color.

Getcha motor runnin'...head out on the highway...

In Tarantula, Professor Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll) seemingly has good intentions, trying to create a super food nutrient that will help feed the world's ever-growing population. Instead, his experiment results in ever-growing lab animals, such as mice, guinea pigs and a tarantula. Apparently intrigued by this side effect, Deemer keeps injecting them...including the fucking tarantula.

Sure, the idea of a dog sized guinea pig has a certain appeal (who wouldn't want to cuddle with one?). But a spider? What exactly would be the possible motivation for bulking-up a creature which already makes the average person shit themselves when they spot one in the shower? Perhaps Deemer was also looking for an effective constipation cure. After all, your bowels could be impacted with a rack of billiard balls, but upon seeing a barn-sized tarantula heading your way, those suckers would shoot from your ass like rounds from an M-16. So Deemer's either totally insane or simply worst person ever.

Whatever the case, it's now up to Dr. Matt Hastings (John Agar) and "Stevie" Clayton (Mara Corday, one of the most gorgeous unsung scream queens of the 50s) to unfuck Deemer’s fuckery. After killing a bunch of farmers and their cattle, the title creature threatens an entire Arizona town. Guns don’t work, nor does dynamite, which I’ve always suspected would be the case when confronting our arachnid adversaries.

As we all know, the only effective solution to getting rid of a spider is total overkill, just to make sure it doesn’t come back twice-as-big and plenty pissed. So when military jet fighters are called in to napalm the shit out of this over-grown critter, are we really concerned about the environment at this point? Hell no! I’d use napalm as a bug bomb in my own house if it meant eradicating even the smallest of the species.

As for a gigantic mutated one? In my humble opinion, Tarantula doesn’t go far enough. Fuck the napalm. Unleash the atomics and nuke that bastard behemoth into oblivion. Sure, the Arizona desert would be a radioactive wasteland for a few decades, but that pales in comparison to the mountain range of soiled underpants blighting the southwestern landscape if any trace of this animal were left.

Despite the utter terror it instilled in me as a child, Tarantula is mostly remembered today for featuring a young Clint Eastwood near the start of his career, unbilled as one of the jet pilots. Never one to forget his friends, Eastwood later included Mara Corday in several films he directed.

October 5, 2015

THE TIMBER, Starring Josh Peck (Movie Clip)

PLANO, Texas. (August 11, 2015) – Set against the harsh backdrop of the 1898 Yukon, Josh Peck (Danny Collins, The Wackness) and James Ransone (Sinister, Inside Man) star in the apocalyptic Western-thriller THE TIMBER, debuting on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD October 6 from Well Go USA Entertainment. In the Wild West, two brothers embark on a journey to collect a bounty in a desperate attempt to save their home: but what they find along the way is more than they bargained for. Directed by Anthony O’Brien (Perfect Sport), THE TIMBER also stars Elisa Lasowski (Eastern Promises), Mark Caven (Maleficent) and David Bailie (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise).

Debuts on Blu-ray™, DVD & Digital HD October 6

Bonus Materials Include Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes, Interviews with the Cast & Director Commentary

Film clip courtesy of WELL GO USA

October 4, 2015


Starring Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Billy Campbell, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. (1992, 128 min).

It probably goes without saying that Francis Ford Coppola is such a directorial icon that his place in cinema history is all but assured. After all, this is the guy who made The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now. Those four films were so groundbreaking that even the staunchest movie nerds of a certain age tend to forget Coppola's glory days ended when the 70s came to a close. Sure, we were sometimes reminded of his former genius during moments in The Outsiders, Peggy Sue Got Married and The Godfather Part III, but none of them held a candle to his crowning achievements.

Bram Stoker's Dracula remains his last film worth watching. Released in 1992, it's an elegant, surreal and aesthetically beautiful adaptation of Stoker's novel that, from a technical standpoint, holds up surprisingly well over two decades later, especially on this remastered 4K Blu-Ray edition. But even though it was Coppola's biggest hit in years and his best-crafted film since Apocalypse Now, its glaring flaws keep it from ever being mentioned in the same breath as his classics.

There's little dispute that, from a visual standpoint, this is arguably the greatest adaptation of Stoker's novel ever made. Virtually every scene has an otherworldly - almost artificial - dreamlike quality, which goes a long way in maintaining the viewer's interest. The story's inherent eroticism is also on full display, seldom successfully attempted in previous adaptations. More than any of his films during the 80s, it's obvious Coppola knew what he wanted to achieve.

Even at knifepoint, Keanu Reeves still can't emote.

But like The Godfather Part III, it also feels like Coppola sometimes conceded to studio pressure, setting aside his previously-perceptive casting instincts in favor of actors with marquee value. Hence, we get Keanu Reeves as John Harker, a role clearly beyond his abilities, resulting in a notoriously terrible performance. But then there's Gary Oldman, perfect as the title character, even though no one but Coppola appeared to be confident of his ability to convey Dracula's sympathetic sensuality.

Plotwise, the film is all over the place, with more emphasis on symbolic splendor than narrative cohesion (a criticism sometimes aimed at Apocalypse Now). However, it also seems like Bram Stoker’s Dracula was never intended by Coppola to be anything other than a sensory experience. If that’s the case, mission accomplished, and longtime cultists will surely enjoy this restored version of the film.

NOTE: This film is also being released as part of Sony's Supreme Cinema Series, with Clear-Case packaging and a 24 page booklet.


  • New Interviews with Francis Ford Coppola & Roman Coppola (Interviewed separately, with Francis' being the most interesting)
  • New Film Introduction by Francis Ford Coppola
  • Audio Commentaries by Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Coppola and make-up supervisor Greg Cannon



Starring Stefanie Scott, Lin Shaye, Dermot Mulroney, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Hayley Kiyoko, Tom Gallop. Directed by Leigh Whannell. (2015, 97 min).

Not being a particularly big fan of prequels, I was somewhat dubious upon hearing Insidious: Chapter 3 would be an origin story. To me, the practice is generally a sign the creative well is running dry, particularly in the horror genre. At the same time, there's always been a soft spot in my heart for the Insidious franchise (even though Chapter 2 was pretty dull), because the original film is what made my youngest daughter fall in love with horror films, just like Jaws did when I was her age. So of course, we were both totally onboard for a third go-round.

The good news is Chapter 3 is a lot better than Chapter 2, which was an anemic and unnecessary attempt to expand the story of the first film. This one takes place a few years earlier, with psychic Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye) reluctantly coming to the aid of a teenage girl, Quinn (Stefanie Scott), whose mother recently passed away and is now tormented by a vengeful demon in the apartment building where she lives.

Directed this time by Leigh Whannell (who wrote the first two films), Chapter 3 a nice return to the atmospheric dread and well-timed jump scares which made the first movie so much creepy fun. Part of that is because it's a new story, but also because the characters are well developed.

Perhaps it's time for a restraining order.

It was a smart play by Whannell to make Elise's character only part of the story, not the total focus. Since longtime fans already know her fate, we need more at stake for any kind of prequel to work. Not only do we learn much more about Elise (dealing with her own tragic past), but Quinn and her father (Dermot Mulroney) aren't just a couple of rubes whose home needs cleansing. Both are dealing with tragic loss as well, which ultimately gives the climax of this film a surprising amount of emotional power.

Insidious: Chapter 3 is not as scary as the original, but a huge improvement over the first sequel, with enough jump scares, disturbing scenes and creepy moments to make it worth checking out. If you absolutely have to make a prequel, this is the way to do it.


  • FEATURETTES: "Origin Story: Making Insidious 3" (an enjoyable look behind-the-scenes); "Macabre Creations" (make-up effects); "Stunts: The Car Crash"; "Being Haunted: A Psychic Medium Speaks" (meh)
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Digital Copy


October 3, 2015


Starring Michael Gross, Jaime Kennedy, Natalie Becker, Lawrence Joffee, Ernest Ndhlovu, Emmanuel Castis. Directed by Don Michael Paul. (2015, 99 min).

I remember paying to see the original Tremors in theaters and being wonderfully surprised. What initially looked like a dumb, exploitative B movie turned out to be clever, suspenseful and intentionally hilarious, with terrific performances and first-class production values.

While it did middling box office, Tremors exploded in popularity on video, so it was no surprise that the inevitable Tremors 2 skipped theaters altogether. Considering most direct-to-video sequels are complete garbage, Tremors 2 was another wonderful surprise. Sure, the budget was lower and only Fred Ward & Michael Gross could be talked into reprising their roles from the original, but it still maintained the same creativity and goofy sense of humor which made Tremors a cult favorite. Even today, it’s arguably one of the greatest direct-to-video sequels ever made.

Then the law of diminishing returns ultimately reared its head. Despite the introduction of the amusingly-named ‘Assblasters’, Tremors 3 was just more of the same, only staler, while Tremors 4 went the prequel route (always a sign of desperation). And we won’t even get into SyFy’s sad attempt to turn the franchise into a TV series, which was unceremoniously canceled after 13 episodes.

Since most of us put a fork in this franchise over a decade ago, Tremors 5: Bloodlines comes as yet-another surprise. Michael Gross remains the only constant, returning once again as Burt Gummer. This time he’s joined by Jaime Kennedy as an opportunistic sidekick as they venture to Africa to battle a new batch of Graboids and Assblasters. As in previous sequels, these creatures are evolving yet-again, which provides a few new twists.

"You know...Jaime Kennedy...I was in Son of the Mask and Malibu's Most Wanted..."

Gross once again throws everything into his role, to an almost embarrassing degree (the lengthy scene where he’s trapped in an animal cage is painfully unfunny). What ultimately made the original Tremors so great was its diverse cast. Burt Gummer was simply one eccentric character sharing the screen with others. As the actual star, his survivalist schtick sometimes becomes tedious.

But despite some heavy-handed attempts at humor and way too much screen time given to Kennedy (whose character is truly obnoxious), Tremors 5 is still reasonably entertaining if you keep your expectations low. No one should expect anything on par with the original (technically or narratively), but this film admittedly benefits from earnest performances and above-average special effects for a home video release. At the very least, it's better than the last few sequels.

  • “Tremors 5: Behind the Bloodlines” Making-of Featurette
  • Outtakes (most of which are dedicated to Jaime Kennedy’s off-handed comments during filming)
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes
  • DVD & Digital Copies

October 2, 2015

ROCK THE KASBAH - Bill Murray Kicks Off #Rocktober in "The Man and the Music"

This is the story of Richie Lanz…The Man and the Music. 

Celebrate the start of ROCK THE KASBAH’s #ROCKTOBER by getting to know legendary rock manager Richie Lanz (Bill Murray) in this brand new behind-the-scenes look - “The Man and the Music.” Hear what some of your favorite rock musicians had to say about Richie, his legacy, and his famous antics throughout the years.

Check out “The Man and the Music" HERE

Bill Murray stars as has-been rock manager Richie Lanz in the upcoming dramatic comedy ROCK THE KASBAH, inspired by stranger-than-fiction, real-life events and directed by Oscar winner Barry Levinson. The film co-stars Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel, Danny McBride, Scott Caan, Leem Lubany, and Bruce Willis. ROCK THE KASBAH is in theaters October 23.


Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olson, Paul Bettany, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgard, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by Joss Whedon. (2015, 141 min).

As someone who isn't an obsessive fanboy when it comes to comic book adaptations, movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron are a challenge to review, especially since I'm of the humble opinion that Marvel's every-movie-is-connected mantra is becoming exhausting & tiresome (with no visible end in sight). I've enjoyed many Marvel films and happen to think Captain America is the best superhero franchise since Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. At the same time, I have recently become resentful of the conceit that moviegoers need to see every single Marvel film in order to grasp the big picture, lured by the promise of greater things to come.

Case-in-point...the original Avengers was a terrific surprise...assorted superheroes brought together for the ultimate mash-up. Whether or not you actually saw every previous movie leading to this inevitable teaming didn't matter. That film masterfully presented each character in such a way that, even if you never previously took time for Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger or Iron Man, you got the gist. That, more than anything, is arguably why it became the biggest superhero film of all time. If this was the only Marvel movie you ever watched, it was still a complete experience.

So here we are with Avengers: Age of Ultron, the capper to Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which relies much more heavily on the audience's familiarity with, not only the first Avengers, but the individual films released in the interim. If you haven't been keeping up, the very first scene is nothing but a disorienting, hyper-kinetic exercise in pyrotechnics (with surprisingly bad CGI). The film doesn’t stop to remind us what Hydra is, nor the stone in Loki's apprehended scepter, nor the fact S.H.I.E.LD. is currently in shambles, nor the importance of two super-twins first introduced in a post-credit sequence of a previous film. The conceit that everyone is up-to-speed essentially renders much of this movie a mere transitional chapter for those already in the MCU club. The full-speed-ahead attitude of Age of Ultron sometimes works against it’s effectiveness as a film which can stand on its own merits.

A bee suddenly flies into the car.

Still, despite a rocky opening and a sometimes meandering second act, things improve considerably once it calms itself down to focus on the story, that of a malevolent A.I. empowered by Tony Stark’s engineering skills (not to mention a lot of ego). By now, these characters are like visits from old friends and their interactions with each other is what keeps it going during the duller bits. There are a few new characters as well, most of which are interesting, although some appear to be shoehorned in for the sake of future films. The climax is nearly as rousing as the New York battle from the first film (with the fate of the world at stake, of course), each Avenger getting showcase moments of inimitable ass-kicking and quotable one-liners.

Ultimately, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a film which mostly preaches to the converted, aiming to please the core audience who lap-up everything Marvel has to offer. As such, it’s enormously successful, even if the novelty of seeing all these guys together has worn off just a bit. The casual moviegoer may be at a disadvantage, however, since this train doesn’t really stop to let new passengers onboard.

  • 2 Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes: "From the Inside Out: The Making of Avengers: Age of Ultron"; "Global Adventure"
  • 2 Other Featurettes: "The Infinite Six" (about the powerful stones featured throughout the MCU); "Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron: Connecting the Universe"
  • Gag Reel
  • 4 Deleted Scenes