April 29, 2016

ZOOTOPIA Arrives Home on June 7 via Digital HD, Blu-ray & Disney Movies Anywhere

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ comedy-adventure, Zootopia,has broken records worldwide earning more than $900 million at the global box office to date. The best reviewed movie of 2016, critics and audiences around the world have fallen in love with the wonderfully innovative animal metropolis of “Zootopia” and the comedic chemistry of rookie rabbit officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) and scam-artist fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman).  It’s been called one of the best buddy cop comedies in years! Viewers will not only be able to enjoy the vibrant world of Zootopia and reunite with their favorite characters, but also discover more about the evolution of this extraordinary tale through in-depth bonus offerings. The runaway hit arrives home on June 7 via Digital HD, Blu-ray™ and Disney Movies Anywhere.


April 26, 2016


Narrated by and Starring Michael Moore. Directed by Michael Moore. (2015, 120 min).

It goes without saying that Michael Moore's incendiary brand of documentary filmmaking is polarizing, to say the least. You are either totally down with his outspoken socio-political views or completely enraged by them. And he probably wouldn't have it any other way.

Love him or hate him, Moore's latest, Where to Invade Next, isn't likely sway your opinion. Like most of his other films, it is deliberately subjective, but Moore's never been a true documentarian in the purest sense, anyway. He has an agenda, wears it proudly on his sleeve and ventures out into the world to find evidence which supports it. Objectivity has never been part of his vocabulary.

In Where to Invade Next, Moore travels to several countries which appear to have the whole “American Dream” thing figured out better than we do, from employee benefits to the treatment of women to educating their children on even the darkest moments of their history. He compares other cultures’ views on recreational drug use to the United States’ misguided “War on Drugs” campaign that has waged for decades, creating some admittedly tenuous arguments that African-American slavery is still alive and well. While the film will undoubtedly create some ‘a-ha’ moments with some viewers, an equal number will just as likely call bullshit on Moore’s entire agenda.

"Mr. Moore...I don't think you've quite grasped the concept of 'Capture the Flag.'"

But that’s neither here nor there. The biggest question is, like any other film, is Where to Invade Next interesting and entertaining? Yes...for awhile. Unlike his more inflammatory films, such as Bowling for Columbine or Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore keeps pounding his message home long after he’s laid his cards on the table and viewers have already gotten the point. This one could have been thirty minutes shorter without losing any of its intended impact.


DEADPOOL Came Early... on Digital HD!

April 24, 2016

CITIZEN KANE, Willy Dixon and the Perfect Martini

Starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane, Ray Collins, George Coulouris, Agnes Moorehead. Directed by Orson Welles. (1941, 119 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON
Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of cinema (as opposed to someone who’s simply seen a lot of movies) has to give-it-up for Citizen Kane. The first and most enduring film by writer/director/actor/super-auteur Orson Welles, its influence, from both narrative and technical standpoints, cannot be understated. Movies as we know them today, whether directed by geniuses like Martin Scorsese or chest-thumping hacks like Michael Bay, wouldn’t exist without the foundations first committed to celluloid by Welles and his merry band of subversive Hollywood rebels. Even a cultural phenomenon like Star Wars doesn’t hold a candle to Citizen Kane in terms of its impact on how films are made. Nearly 80 years later, Kane is still regularly cited by historians, critics and legendary directors (living and dead) as the greatest film of all time.

Still, I fucking hate this movie.

I’ve seen Citizen Kane at least a half-dozen times over the years. The first was back in my mid 20s, when my cinematic enthusiasm (and arrogance) was extending beyond what typically played at the suburban multiplex. Mostly thanks to home video, I discovered Hollywood’s rich history and countless classic films of various genres. Many were groundbreaking and influential in their own right, and viewed within the context of the era when they were made, a lot of them are just as enjoyable as any modern blockbuster you’d care to name. Not only that, you can easily see how many modern marvels would never exist without these ancient chestnuts paving the way. George Lucas himself acknowledged Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress as the primary inspiration for Star Wars. If you think Ridley Scott’s Alien was influential for its time, seek out the seldom-seen relic, It! The Terror from Beyond Space, made two decades earlier with the exact same plot.

But those examples are strictly related to standard story tropes. 1941’s Citizen Kane arguably drew the line drawn between Hollywood’s formative years and film as we know it today. The cinematography alone (extended takes, set lighting, deep focus, low angles, shots of actual ceilings) was a game changer, as was the overall flashback structure of the narrative, told from the points of view of multiple secondary characters (not all of whom were 100% reliable).

So I’d read and heard enough about the film that, if I truly wanted to expand my horizons, I was compelled to check it out. I think compelled is the right word, because Citizen Kane’s actual story (a thinly-veiled biography of newspaper mogul, William Randolph Hearst) held little personal interest. If the film were made today, it isn’t something I’d pay to see in a theater.

Donald Trump...the College Years.

And indeed, watching it for the first time, I could appreciate the film’s technical wizardly, especially Gregg Tolland’s cinematography, which nearly gives Kane the look of a gothic horror film. Still, I checked my watch a lot, anxious to get this movie milestone out of the way so I could pat myself on the back for having seen it, much like when I once bought a Willie Dixon album because it seemed cool at the time to demonstrate I was hip to the traditional blues music that made rock & roll possible. But honestly, I’ve always hated blues (especially Chicago blues) and only dragged that album out when my musically-elitist friends were around to see me play it. So while I’m grateful that Dixon’s “You Need Love” made Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” possible, I’ll take Zep’s rip-off over his sludge any damn day of the week.

To anyone who’d listen, I championed Citizen Kane because I thought I was supposed to. While films such as Gone with the Wind and Casablanca may have represented Hollywood’s so-called Golden Age in the eyes of the masses, true cinephiles embraced Kane as the singular masterpiece which made modern filmmaking possible. But despite subjecting myself - and others - to this film numerous times over the years (ballyhooing its virtues every time), the truth is I’ve personally never actually enjoyed Citizen Kane. As played almost too perfectly by Orson Welles, Charles Foster Kane is a megalomaniacal, nepotistic douche whose narcissism makes Kanye West look like the poster boy for humility. The film itself is a slow, cold and dark depiction of how one man’s abuse of power alienates everyone around him, to the point where he dies alone with nobody left to mourn his passing. I’m not saying all movies should be sunshine and lollypops, but for a film to be this continually lauded, at least some actual entertainment value should be a considering factor.

But still, I buried my personal feelings about Citizen Kane and used it as a springboard to show off my cinema smarts. If it bored the shit out of any uncultured rube I ever showed it to, my snobbery told me they simply didn’t get it. With hindsight, I realize they actually did get it. They just simply didn’t enjoy it.

I’ve never enjoyed martinis, either, but tried like hell for awhile (likely because of James Bond movies). Martinis always looked like the cultured man’s drink...the epitome of class. The perfect martini consisted of just the right mix of vermouth or vodka, splashed over ice with a few plump, salty olives tossed in for good measure, all poured into a delicate glass and intended to be sipped by those individuals with impeccable palates who could tell the difference between a good martini and a bad one after a single taste. I think I was more in love with the idea of martinis as my drink of choice, because I’ve never had one that didn’t taste like Windex. I eventually had to concede that I hated them, and would rather pound a half-rack of Natty Ice than nurse a dry martini in the same amount of time.

I’m now at the age where I don’t really care what others think, including fellow cinephiles I used to worry about impressing. Life is short, and if I’m gonna waste time revisiting old movies (which is often), I’d rather sit through a kid being pancaked by a steamroller in Maximum Overdrive for the umpteenth time than endure Citizen Kane ever again. It’s enough to truly acknowledge Kane’s technical & narrative influence without declaring anything resembling love. If that means my license as a true blue cinephile is revoked, I’ll just have to live with it.

April 22, 2016


This is an early chapter from the book, CINEMA 69: FROM VICTORY TO WONDERLAND, which discusses the 1976 film, Grizzly. Essentially a ripoff of Jaws, this chapter lays down the overall mindset of undemanding young moviegoers at the time, drawing comparision to kids today, who generally equate the best movie of all time to the last movie they watched.

GRIZZLY and the Stupidity of Children

Starring Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel, Joan McCall, Teddy the Bear. Directed by William Girdler. (1976, 91 min).

Kids are dumb. I know this because I teach middle school.

I begin each day of my 7th grade English class with a warm-up writing exercise, where students respond to a prompt on the screen. It's mostly silly stuff, like 'write about a time you were scared,' or 'what would you do with a million dollars?'. But occasionally, I throw them something a little more challenging, one of my favorites being 'name the greatest American who ever lived.' I get an amusing variety of responses with that one. Sure, there are a few who actually think hard about the question and provide such reasonable responses as Lincoln, Washington, Kennedy and King. As of this writing, a lot of kids select Barack Obama, probably because he's the one modern president they're familiar with.

Then there are the wacky answers, such as Michael Jackson, Justin Beiber, Lebron James, etc. My all-time favorite was, 'I don't know who the greatest American was, but I know the dumbest...my brother.'

Several years ago, one girl responded with Mike Tyson.

After reading her response, I said to her, "So let me get this straight...you believe Mike Tyson, a disgraced athlete who once bit off an opponent's ear and went to prison for rape is the greatest American who ever lived."

She sheepishly shrugged and replied, "Yeah...we named our dog after him."

For some students, I guess my warm-up questions are above and beyond challenging.

Further evidence that kids are dumb is when I ask them to write about the best movie they've ever seen. Seems simple enough, right?

I don't expect them all to have experienced The Godfather, although there's the occasional kid who mentions Grease, The Wizard of Oz or the original Star Wars. But for the most part, less than 1% ever write about a movie that came out before they were born. That's to be expected; even though I'm getting on in years, there are very few movies made before I popped from my mom that I would list among my all time favorites.

One year, several boys responded with Alien vs. Predator, which briefly oozed into theaters the previous summer. I offered my two cents, saying it didn't hold a candle to the original Alien.
One kid's stunned reply was, “There was another Alien movie?”

Okay, I understand that, since I'm used to the common middle school philosophy that nothing ever existed before they were born. But I won't ever forgive this other punk who had seen the original and proudly stated Alien vs. Predator was far better because it was newer, therefore more realistic. This was one of those times that I wished they still allowed paddling in schools.

Year in and year out, most kids tend to equate the best movie they've seen with the last movie they've seen. This used to bug me until I took a good look back at my own past. Like everyone on Earth except my high school History teacher, I was a kid once...and just as dumb. Maybe even dumber because, after seeing 1976's Grizzly, I initially declared it to be bigger, better and scarier than Jaws.

Jaws is obviously considered one of the greatest movies ever made (the greatest, in my humble opinion). It's on several AFI best-of lists in various categories. It was nominated for four Oscars, winning three (losing Best Picture). It also was the first film to earn over $100 million at the box office and, adjusting for inflation, is still the seventh biggest movie of all time.

Grizzly, on the other hand, is a low-budget Jaws knock-off. In fact, it is Jaws, only with a bear instead of a shark, a national park instead of an island, a park ranger instead of a sheriff, a chopper pilot instead of a boat captain. Even several scenes are nearly identical...shots from the beasts' POV, climaxes where said-beasts explode, dumbass authority figures proven wrong by our hero, Susan Blacklinie as a victim (though she's uncredited in Grizzly).

The movie's poster art also was similar. '18 feet of gut-crunching, man-eating terror!' touted the tag-line in ads back in 1976, roughly a year after Jaws first scared the living shit out of everybody with a pulse. That was enough for me to check it out when it hit the 69.

I thought Grizzly was awesome. Sure, it was just Jaws-in-the-woods, but Grizzly was brand new and Bruce the shark was a distant memory. In 1976, when they didn't show-up on-demand or on disc a few months after their theatrical runs, movies became distant memories really fast, especially when you were 13 and stupid. So for a long time, Grizzly was the better of the two movies, though not necessarily scarier. In fact, the co-feature playing with Grizzly at the time, a William Castle cheapie titled Bug, disturbed me a lot more (especially a scene where a fire-spewing cockroach barbecues a cat...man, I was days getting over that).

Grizzly was simply better because it was new. When you're young & stupid, you don't notice the dumb dialogue, how cheap the movie looks or that Christopher George is no Roy Scheider. You sure-as-hell don't compare director William Girdler's meager talents to those of Spielberg (in fact, you don't even know who the hell Spielberg is).

But my eyes were opened a few years later when Grizzly aired on TV, retitled Killer Grizzly, apparently to avoid confusion with the huggable, fun-loving bears that play with our kids in the back yard. It was the same old film, only this time I could see it for what it was...a cheap knock-off of a classic.

I'm making it sound like the movie is garbage, but as Jaws imitators go (and there were a lot of them back then), Grizzly isn't bad at all. It's pretty fun & fast-paced, reasonably well-acted by its B-list cast and makes the most of its limited financial resources. In fact, I'd say more creativity and care was put into this Jaws rip-off than any of that film's official sequels. As for me, the movie holds a great deal of nostalgic value. I still pluck it from my DVD shelf now and again to enjoy a good laugh...not at the movie (though it's sometimes unintentionally funny), but at my younger self for ever thinking Grizzly could be a better film than Jaws.

I'm sure when that maladjusted Alien vs. Predator-loving student of mine pulls his head out of his ass later in life, he'll do the same thing. Kids are dumb, but most aren't dumb forever.

Twentieth Century Fox Partners With Earth Day Network For $.99 Digital HD Purchase of INDEPENDENCE DAY on Google Play

In Honor of Earth Day and the Film’s 20th Anniversary,
Proceeds Will Benefit Earth Day Network’s Trees for the Earth Initiative



Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has partnered with Earth Day Network and Google Play to offer fans 99 cent Digital HD purchases of the sci-fi classic INDEPENDENCE DAY for a limited time* in honor of Earth Day and the film’s anniversary.  Starting today, fans can go exclusively to Google Play and purchase the film for the discounted price, with all of Fox’s net proceeds benefiting Earth Day Network and their Trees for the Earth initiative.  

The offer is available HERE.

The support from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and the sale of INDEPENDENCE DAY on Google Play will allow Earth Day Network to continue its work around the world to protect the planet, such as working with local tree-planting partners to ensure that the most impoverished communities receive new trees that will help them better feed their families and grow their local economy.  The planting of these trees is so important that Earth Day Network has made Trees for the Earth their theme for Earth Day 2016 (earthday.org/2016).

Released in 1996, the original INDEPENDENCE DAY starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman was a global box office phenomenon, taking in over $800 million worldwide.  This Earth Day promotion with Google Play comes on the heels of the debut of the all-new trailer for the highly-anticipated sequel INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE, arriving in theaters June 24.  You can also wishlist the movie on Google Play HERE.

In celebration of Earth Day 2016, The Earth Day Network’s Trees for the Earth initiative will receive a minimum of 50 cents from each sale of INDEPENDENCE DAY from April 22-25 on Google Play to help support the planting of trees globally.

*Price available from April 22-25, 2016 on Google Play

April 21, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: THE 5TH WAVE

Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff, Alex Roe, Maria Bello, Maika Monroe, Liev Schreiber. Directed by J. Blakeson. (2016, 112 min).

Yet another start-up attempt at a franchise based on a popular series of young adult novels, The 5th Wave offers strong evidence the genre has reached its nadir. It’s not badly made or anything, but like the Divergent films, there’s just nothing unique or memorable about it either. The film feels cynically assembled with the conceit that every popular novel series is a franchise waiting to happen.

It's sort of a shame, really, because The 5th Wave begins like gangbusters. A multi-waved attack by unseen aliens devastates most of the Earth through electromagnetic pulses (causing a worldwide power outage), massive quakes & floods and a lethal virus. These first 20 minutes are as dark and ominous as any young adult adaptation you’d care to name (including The Hunger Games), prepping us for an exciting post-apocalyptic war between the remaining survivors and the alien invaders.

Unfortunately, the focus shifts to a batch of bland teenagers who are the only ones capable of fighting back. The explanation for this isn’t very convincing, having something to do with the aliens able to mimic adults but not the children. So kids are recruited by the Army to train and fight. Despite being well-performed by a great looking cast of talented actors, these kids are walking cliches lifted from better movies, such as the badass chick who takes no shit (and suspiciously resembles Bella from Twilight), a few charming little rubes whose purpose is to unexpectedly die, and two hunky dudes obviously created to establish an obligatory love-triangle with the female lead in future movies. In this case, it’s Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz), who spends most of the time looking for her little brother after they become separated. These characters are mostly symbols rather than flesh & blood people with unique personalities.

P.E. class...Texas style.

As for the story...these aliens appear to be really stupid, especially after a third act plot reveal which suggests their multi-wave attack is a half-assed plan in danger of being thwarted by a batch of teenagers. And of course, there’s an open-ended conclusion which promises the story will continue. But since the film begins with a bang and ends with a whimper, we aren’t left to care whether or not we see any of these characters again.

Even now, the memory fades. I’d be hard-pressed to name a single character or scene which had any lasting impact on me once the end credits rolled. Despite being competently made, with fairly decent (thought obviously CGI) visual effects, The 5th Wave doesn’t really resonate at all. Fans of Rick Yancey’s original novel might enjoy it a bit more, but even they might see it as just a checklist of events. There’s simply no attempt to make the film anything above and beyond the usual young adult fodder.


  • FEATURETTES: “The 5th Wave Survival Guide”; “Training Squad 53”; “Creating a New World”; “Inside The 5th Wave”; “Sammy on the Set”
  • Audio Commentary by Director J. Blakeson & Chloe Grace Moretz.
  • Gag Reel
  • Deleted Scenes


Rest in Peace, Guy Hamilton

Guy Hamilton (1922-2016)

Rest in Peace, Prince

Prince Rogers Nelson (1958-2016)

April 20, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: RIDE ALONG 2

Starring Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Ken Jeong, Benjamin Bratt, Olivia Munn, Tika Sumpter. Directed by Tim Story. (2016, 102 min).

If you're reading this review, you likely skipped the film in theaters (a wise choice) and are pondering whether or not it's worth checking out at home. So you can take the following statement as either good news or bad: Ride Along 2 is more of the same. More Cube & Kevin (with a huge emphasis on the latter), more lowbrow comedy, more decent-but-unremarkable action, more familiar actors in thankless supporting roles. Tim Story, who actually made a good movie once (Barbershop), is back for a second round in the director's chair.

This time around, Atlanta Detective James Payton (Ice Cube) discovers a local drug dealer has ties to a mysterious Miami crimelord (Benjamin Bratt). Ben Barber (Kevin Hart), Payton's soon-to-be brother-in-law, is now a probationary rookie cop, but itching to make detective. He's still a bumbling idiot, but coerces Payton into bringing him along to Miami to help with the case.

The plot is perfunctory, of course, a generic clothesline on which to hang a plethora of sight gags and ‘funny’ one-liners, mostly courtesy of Hart. Here inlays the problem (or virtue, if you’re so inclined): Kevin Hart’s manic persona dominates every scene he's in, which is a shame because Ice Cube has proven to be quite funny when given the chance. Here, he’s simply a straight man to Hart’s scenery-chewing, pratfalls and over-the-top delivery of nearly every line of dialogue. He’s not-so-much acting as constantly reminding us he’s Kevin Hart. Barber is essentially the same character Hart’s played in every movie he’s ever appeared in. If his brand of over-exaggerated humor strikes your fancy, you’ll be in hog heaven. Personally, I find him insufferable in doses this large.

Kevin Hart's voice proves to be more lethal than bullets.

Storywise, it’s one cop movie cliche after another...shoot-outs, angry police chiefs (two this time), disgraced heroes redeeming themselves, gratiutous sexual titilation, an overly cocky villain. Added into the mix is a pointless and stupid subplot of Barber’s ongoing verbal battle with his wedding planner. Alas, lost in the shuffle is Ice Cube. Aside from a few funny one-liners, he’s wasted in this role (even though it’s obviously paying the bills).

Still, if you loved the first film, I can’t think of a single reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this one. It’s simply more of the same. If that’s the case, since Ride Along 2 raked in a slew of quick cash, Ride Along 3 is likely on the horizon. Hooray for you. If that’s not the case...why are you still reading this?


  • NUMEROUS FEATURETTES: "Kevin and Cube: Brothers-in-Law"; "Inside Black Hammer Vision" (covering one of the few amusing moments in the film); "Ride Along Roundtable"; "The New Recruits"; "The Ride Diaries"; "Ride Along with Kevin Hart"
  • "Ride Along with Us" (a 'recruitment' video)
  • "Cori's Wedding Commercial"
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Gag Reel
  • Digital Copy

THE INFILTRATOR, Starring Bryan Cranston: 1st Official Trailer

THE INFILTRATOR is being released on July 15 and stars Bryan Cranston and Diane Kruger. 

Based on the true story of a fearless operative, The Infiltrator is a heart-stopping account of one of history’s largest and most elaborate stings. Set amidst the lavish excess of the 1980s, The Infiltrator tells the story of undercover U.S. Customs agent Robert Mazur (Cranston) AKA Robert Musella, who became a pivotal player for drug lords cleaning their dirty cash. He traded on mob connections to become the confidant to scores of the international underworld, and the bankers who enabled them. Laying his life on the line, he infiltrated the globe’s largest cartels and discovered just how deep into society their influence extended. The operation reeled in key players in a chain stretching all the way to Pablo Escobar. Their arrests would lead to the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, and shake the underground economy to its core.


April 18, 2016


Starring Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent, Frances De La Tour, Roger Allam, Deborah Findlay. Directed by Nicholas Hytner. (2015, 104 min).

The Lady in the Van is based on writer Alan Bennett's popular play, which was inspired by his real-life experience of allowing a transient old woman, Mary Shepard, to park her van (which is also her home) in his driveway, where she ultimately ended up staying for 15 years. The concept has the makings of an amusing, bittersweet story of relationships. However, while the film is very well acted and sometimes charming, it isn't likely to be something that sticks with you too long after the credits roll.

It goes without saying that Maggie Smith as the title character (which she also performed in the original stage play) is the primary reason to check this out. She practically immerses herself into this role, sometimes to levels bordering on brave, and the audience can't help but be captivated. To a lesser extent, Alex Jennings is also terrific as Bennett in what amounts to a dual role...Bennett the writer and Bennett the generous neighbor, both which often share the screen at the same time.

"If I said it once, I said it a thousand times: If this van's a-rockin', don't bother knockin'."

As good as the lead performances are, these characters are placed in a story where not a whole lot happens. Sure, they learn to depend on each other in a strange, endearing way, and we eventually discover what led Shepard to her current situation, but the overall plot only moves along in minor fits and starts, counting on the performances to save the day, which they do to some extent. But persoanlly, I was expecting the film to be much funnier, with a more satisfying final act than what we actually get...as compensation for the many meandering moments.

Still, The Lady in the Van is certainly watchable, for Smith's performance if nothing else. It's not-so-much a journey as a leisurely-paced snapshot of two characters we don't mind hanging out with for awhile. But once they're gone, we probably won't give either a second thought.


  • Audio commentary by the Director
  • Making-of Featurette
  • Visual Effects Featurette


April 17, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: THE REVENANT

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Duane Howard, Arthur Redcloud, Melaw Nakehk'o, Grace Dove. Directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu. (2015, 156 min).

Part of it is probably my age, coupled with the fact I still remember him as a cherub-faced little sitcom star and a heartthrob phenomenon after Titanic, that it has been difficult for me to take Leonardo DiCaprio completely seriously in adult roles. Even when working with Martin Scorsese, I always felt more like, There's Leo pretending to be Howard Hughes, or There's Leo playing cops & robbers. That's not a slam against him. DiCaprio's always been a good actor, perhaps one of the best of his generation. The problem was always mine because he still looked to me like little Luke from Growing Pains. I never had the same problem with Jodie Foster because she's my age and I sort-of grew up along with her.

However, I saw none of little Leo in The Revenant. All I saw was hardened fur trapper Hugh Glass, left-for-dead after a bear attack by fellow trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who also murders Glass' Indian son right in front of him. It's a revelatory performance in every way imaginable, and not once does the viewer find themselves thinking, There's Leo getting gritty. Instead, we're totally onboard for Glass' long, torturous struggle to survive for the sole purpose of revenge. That, more than anything, is why DiCaprio truly deserved the Oscar many fans felt was long overdue. This is the first time his immersion into a character is total and completely convincing (even more impressive when you consider he does it with relatively little actual dialogue).

"Seriously...how 'bout a Tic Tac?"
Of course, it helps having director Alejandro G. Inarritu guide you along. Fresh from wowing the world last year with Birdman, this shift to a completely different kind of film (fraught with well-documented production difficulties) demonstrates a unique talent on par with the Scorsese and Coppola. His touch renders The Revenant much more than a (very) brutal tale of revenge. Like Birdman, it's also a narrative & technical triumph. Not only is it aesthetically beautiful and loaded with symbolism (even when the imagery is often disturbing), the journey is almost as emotionally exhausting for the viewer as it is for Glass.

DiCaprio & Inarritu can't take all the credit, though. Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography renders the harsh Dakota landscape a character unto itself, and Tom Hardy once-again shows why he's currently the greatest chameleon of any actor working today (he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and should have won). Still, The Revenant ultimately depends primarily on DiCaprio's performance to pull the whole thing off. As such, it succeeds magnificently, since it wasn't until the end credits rolled that I was reminded that one man's grueling quest for bloody vengeance was made possible by the same kid who made middle school girls swoon in the 90s.


  • "A World Unseen" (part making-of documentary, part environmental message...I would have preferred more of the former).
  • Digital Copy


April 15, 2016


Starring Dave Fife, Danielle Donahue, Jeff Kirkendall, James Carolus, Ken VanSant, Greta Volkova, Steve Diasparra. Directed by Mark Polonia. (2016, 79 min).

Okay...so you're currently reading a review of Bigfoot vs. Zombies. That alone is an indication of your entertainment preferences. I won’t pass judgment because I have a soft spot for ridiculous mash-ups as well. But at this time, please examine the cover and take note that there's nothing in the film nearly as amusing as that picture. In fact, it’s one of the most atrociously written and directed movies I’ve seen in recent memory.

But hey, maybe you absolutely loved such kitschy fare as Megashark vs. Giant Octopus or Lake Placid vs. Anaconda. So what do I know, right? Well, I do know that those films at least featured casts who appeared to have taken an acting lesson or two, directors who know how to set up a rudimentary shot and effects artists who didn’t hit the nearest Party City for their make-up supplies.

Yes, there’s truth-in-advertising with the title. Bigfoot does indeed battle hordes of the undead. By hordes, I mean the same dozen or so extras doused grey face paint or wearing corpse masks. Bigfoot himself is a guy in an ape costume and what looks like an Alice Cooper wig. The cast - sort of - reacts in helpless fear of the zombie invasion while trapped in a fortified research facility, even though the viewer can see neighborhood traffic casually passing by in the background.

One of the film's more emotionally intense moments.

Some of you reading this may still have low enough expectations to be up for the experience. If that's the case, I humbly suggest grabbing one of these along with your DVD purchase:

Trust me, the more of these you pound while watching, the better Bigfoot vs. Zombies will seem (like that barfly you just met who looks better every drink). If you’re crashed on the couch and stumble across it on Netflix, but are too lazy to even venture out for beer, try this (you probably already have one laying around):

It might also help to invite these guys over to partake in the fun:

In any case, you’ll thank me later. Bigfoot vs. Zombies is only a few steps removed from the type of backyard horror fests that Romero wannabes slap together over a few weekends with their buddies (who were likely paid with cases of Natty Ice). And if you’re still reading this, you might already be tanked enough to enjoy yourself.

  • Behind-the-SceneS Featurette (which is mostly a blooper reel, and it’s apparent everyone involved had a good time)
  • Audio Commentary
  • Image Gallery

April 13, 2016


Starring Michelle Simone Miller, Kathryn Metz, Richard Lounello, A.J. DeLuca, Ken Van Sant. Directed by Brett Piper. (2015, 90 min).

To be honest, Queen Crab had me from the moment the title creature arrives onscreen in all its stop-motion glory, harkening back to my childhood days in the 70s, when no-budget monster-fests used to fill-up the smaller screens of our local cineplex for a week or two. Ominous titles such The Giant Spider Invasion and The Crater Lake Monster were simply too enticing for an 12 year old to pass up. Of course, none of these films were as spectacular as the poster art suggested. For the most part, they looked like they were shot on weekends in the backwoods of the director's hometown, with a cast of amateur & has-been actors reacting in horror to hilariously-rendered creatures. As cheesy as they were, though, most were still a lot of fun.

Like all those dubious classics of a bygone era, Queen Crab is a title-tells-all creature feature about an oversized crustacean on the rampage after her offspring are unceremonious killed by some dumb locals in the town of Crabbe Creek (yuk, yuk). The dialogue & attempts at humor are generally groan-inducing and the performances are uniformly terrible. Still, there's an affable, nostalgic charm found here that you just don't get from the SyFy Channel's plethora of CGI-heavy cheapies. The special effects in Queen Crab may still be chuckleworthy, yet one has to appreciate the use of old-school stop-motion animation to depict the title creature (which is way too cute to actually scare anyone). Personally, it's been so long since I've seen a movie go the Harryhausen route, the effects alone kept things interesting and fun.


Queen Crab is not a great film, arguably not even a good one. But if you're of a certain age and fondly recall the days when you were duped by a killer poster or VHS box cover, you probably already know that. You still might find it enjoyable to be bamboozled yet again.

  • Audio Commentary
  • Blooper Reel
  • Featurettes: "Queen Crab Consequences" & "Queen Crab Conversations" (amusing interviews with the cast and producer, most of whom seem to be having a good time); "Composing Crabs" (featuring composer Jon Greathouse)
  • Trailer

April 12, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: IP MAN 3

Starring Donnie Yen, Zhang Jin, Lynn Hung, Patrick Tam, Kent Cheng, Mike Tyson. Directed by Wilson Yip. (2015, 105 min).

During the past few years of reviewing various Asian action films released by Well Go USA, I've become quite a fan of Donnie Yen (late in the game, I know). Not only is he a tremendous martial artist, he's one of the few in the genre who's also a pretty damned good actor. Both talents are on display in abundance in Ip Man 3, which is likely the last chapter in this internationally popular franchise.

Yen returns as Ip Man (the real life martial artist who trained Bruce Lee), this time compelled to come to the rescue of the small school where his son attends, which is being terrorized by local gangsters at the behest of American real estate tyrant, Frank (Mike Tyson, who isn't actually in the film all that much). Helping out is Cheung, a down-on-his-luck single father who ultimately aspires to be an even greater master than Ip Man in the art of Wing Chun, but forced to participate in fights to earn enough money to start his own martial arts school (and tempted with quick cash by siding with the gangsters). Meanwhile, Ip's wife, Cheung (Lynn Hung), discovers she has stomach cancer, eventually forcing him to re-evaluate what's really important in life.

Mike thinks Donnie's ears would be pretty tasty in barbecue sauce.

These three plotlines gel pretty well together, making Ip Man 3 more than your usual chop-fest. While the action is plentiful and masterfully choreographed, the film is also amusing, character-driven and even bittersweet at times (with a couple of truly tear-jerking moments). I was also quite captivated by the look of the film. Taking place in 1959, there are times when it nearly resembles a Hong Kong version of West Side Story. As for Tyson...he's never gonna bring home an Oscar, but he doesn't embarrass himself either. And yes, he and Yen battle each other at one point, each using his own formative fighting skills. However, it's not the epic showdown you might expect (that comes later, and it's a doozy).

While Donnie Yen’s action scenes alone are worth the price of admission, he provides more-than-enough gravitas to make us emotionally invested in the character. If this is truly the last film of the franchise, then it’s ending on a high note. Ip Man 3 is an exciting, fun and ultimately poignant final chapter.


  • Interviews with Donnie Yen, Mike Tyson and director Wilson Yip
  • Press tour interview with Yen & Tyson
  • Making of and Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
  • Original Trailer


April 11, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: SON OF SAUL

"Staring contest...GO!"
Starring Geza Rohrig, Levente Molnar, Urs Rechn, Sandor Zsoter, Todd Charmont. Directed by Lazlo Nemes. (2015, 107 min).

Sonderkommandos were Nazi concentration camp prisoners forced to help dispose of the bodies sent to the Auschwitz gas chambers. They were also required to collect what was left of the victims' belongings, handing over anything remotely valuable to the Germans. Worse yet, Sonderkommandos were painfully aware that they'd soon suffer the same fate, since the Nazis obviously wanted to keep their attempts at genocide a secret. It's an unspeakable task that's still hard to fathom, and we get the look at the entire process during Son of Saul's first ten minutes, quickly establishing the bleak, oppressive tone of the entire film.

Most of it is told through the eyes of Saul (Geza Rohrig), a weary Hungarian prisoner who's witnessed just about every concentration camp atrocity imaginable. However, after a young boy who survived the gas chamber is unceremoniously suffocated by the local Nazi surgeon and slated for an autopsy, Saul takes in onto himself to find a Rabbi to give him a proper burial before he can be cut open. He claims to fellow prisoners the boy is his son, though we're pretty sure he isn't. Still, we learn a lot about Saul through this obsessive quest, especially after it threatens to undermine a planned rebellion by the other inmates.

"I think we're playing with loaded dice."

Obviously, Son of Saul is not a fun time at the movies, nor does it go the Schindler's List route by presenting the main character as an inspirational beacon. In fact, Saul's actions and willingness to risk the safety of others for the sake of a dead child are sometimes maddening. Still, the story packs an emotional wallop, mostly for what the Sonderkommandos are forced to endure, and the sobering reminder that Auschwitz was a place where there was no hope for survival.

Son of Saul won the 2016 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and I suppose it's easy to see why. Aside from being another visual reminder of wartime atrocities we should never forget (though presented in the background, mercifully out-of-focus), the performances effectively convey the quiet desperation of their characters. Rohrig is nearly perfect as Saul, his face often saying what a thousand words of dialogue couldn't accomplish.

However, Son of Saul is unrelentingly bleak. Within just a few minutes, we're certain things are not going to end well. While offering even a few branches of hope would negate the power & purpose of the entire film, it also renders Son of Saul something most viewers are content to endure only once.


  • "Q&A at the Museum of Tolerance" (director Laszlo Nemes, star Geza Rohrig and cinematographer Matyas Erdely)
  • Audio Commentary
  • Deleted Scene
  • Digital Copy

April 10, 2016


The following is an excerpt of D.M. Anderson's book, CINEMA 69: FROM VICTORY TO WONDERLAND, now available on Amazon from Free Kittens Publishing.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: From Victory to Wonderland

Three decades before it was unofficially rechristened Cinema 69, the Victory Theater opened in downtown Milwaukie, Oregon on August 18, 1942. This was the third in a chain of suburban cinemas in the Portland area owned and operated by local mogul Harry Moyer Sr.

Located on the corner of Main and Jefferson Streets, it wasn't as grand and opulent as nearby Portland's Bagdad or Broadway (which occasionally hosted gala, star-studded movie premieres). Compared to those immaculate palaces, the Victory was relatively small and humble, though the auditorium itself was one of the last new cinemas in the area to include a balcony. The theater's exterior was rather plain and unremarkable, its most noteworthy feature being the blazing-red neon V at the center of the marquee, proudly lighting up the intersection. A bit more care was given to the interior…an art-deco style popular during the previous two decades.

This was back when communities surrounding large cities still maintained their own small-town identity, before urban expansion began erasing boundaries and stuffed the spaces between with as many businesses, schools, apartments, malls and factories as humanly possible. Today, nothing separates Portland from its outlining communities. It’s a constant barrage of traffic lights, convenience stores, offices, industrial parks, shopping centers, gas stations, neighborhoods and strip clubs (in fact, Portland currently has more strip clubs per capita than any city in North America).

But in 1942, Milwaukie was still relatively isolated, so the grand opening of its very first movie theater was a big deal indeed. Being that this was shortly after the beginning of America’s involvement in World War II (when patriotism was at an all-time high), the place was aptly named and effectively exploited in a front page article of The Milwaukie Review:

The new Victory is keeping with the times, as its decorations carry the victory motif throughout, even the usherettes wearing uniforms that sport the red, white and blue. For the grand opening Wednesday, the building was decorated with buntings and the flags of the United Nations were flying from the marquee. Up and down Main Street, welcome banners and streamers were strung across the street.

The author went on to write of “youngsters who are grateful for the chance to attend a show at home instead of having to go into the big burg to see the flickers.” Sounds a bit cornpone, perhaps, but probably representative of Milwaukie's small town pride at the time. The city had a grand little theater of its own to catch the latest Hollywood had to offer. At the same time, the Victory was still community oriented, hosting local talent shows, civics groups and guest lecturers, not to mention being the home of the annual Miss Milwaukie Pageant for many years.

The Victory was first part of a small chain called Suburban Theaters, then Neighborhood Theaters, then Community Theaters, actual ownership of the place changing hands several times over the years. But the Victory always did big business because, for decades, it was Milwaukie's only movie house.
Then in 1966, Harry Moyer's son (entrepreneur and former Golden Glove boxer, Tom Moyer) built the Eastgate, one of the first multi-screen theaters in the Portland area. While totally lacking the visual opulence of Portland's established cinemas (some of which were just beginning to show their age), the Eastgate was bigger, more luxurious, more technically advanced and, most ominously, located in the suburbs where tiny theaters like the Victory thrived. In the ensuing decade, many more Moyer multiplexes and drive-ins followed, including the Southgate, a boxy quad cinema erected a mere mile from the aging Victory and where The Towering Inferno (one of the 70's biggest films) had its Portland premiere in 1974.

All the while, the Victory slowly became a run-down relic, a dirty, puke-colored shadow of its former self. Unlike Portland's beloved Bagdad, with its still-hip location and neon marquee shining as brightly as it did in the 20s, the Victory became a squalid dump in the 70s, sometimes showing porn films back when the genre was flirting with mainstream acceptance.

Around 1973, it was purchased by the Metro Cinemas chain and rechristened Cinema V, though no renovations were actually made. With it’s permanently sticky floors and once-plush seats now matted and frayed from thousands of butts over the years, Cinema V was a second-run dumping ground for blockbusters after they enjoyed their initial theatrical runs before being sold to TV.

The theater also showed matinees of kid-friendly pictures as part of a summer movie program, where parents could purchase books of tickets and drop-off their brood to catch movies most of the adult world had already forgotten. It was around this time my family settled in Milwaukie and I was first exposed to Forbidden Planet, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Green Slime, old Disney movies like The Love Bug and Blackbeard's Ghost, not to mention a plethora of Godzilla flicks. It was here that I fell in total love with, not just movies, but the act of going to the movies and the theaters where they played.

While most kids built spaceships and weapons with their Legos, I constructed movie theaters, complete with seats, screens, balconies, box offices, concession stands and marquees. When the Sunday Oregonion arrived at our doorstep each week, I'd grab the entertainment section while scarfing down Cheerios to gaze in awe at the big, glorious ads showing what was currently playing and the wonders soon to come. I often clipped-out the more impressive ads to pin on the bulletin board in my bedroom, whether or not the movie was actually any good (1974's Beyond the Door may have been a cheap Italian Exorcist knock-off, but man, was that picture scary!).

Mom and Dad would occasionally treat us to the Southgate for a family night out, but when money was tight, Cinema V came in handy. They would also drop me off there while shopping or attending a Portland Buckaroos hockey game. Because of its relative proximity to my house, my friends and I eventually started biking there ourselves once we were old enough.

For the longest time, the admission price was only 69 cents, and that was for two movies! 69 CENTS was perpetually plastered on its cracked and weathered marquee at least five times bigger than the film titles themselves (which were almost always missing a letter or two). In fact, my friends and I had been calling the place Cinema 69 for years (snickering like Beavis & Butthead once we eventually learned the sexual connotation of that number).

The popcorn from the snack bar was gummy and stale, the Milk Duds were rock-hard and likely left over from when the place was still called the Victory. The most appealing beverage choice was RC Cola, which always tasted flat, closer to syrup than real soda. But everything was just as cheap as the price of admission, so I never complained.

Though the place was old, dank, dimly-lit and had a long slit in the screen hastily repaired with masking tape, it was pretty awesome to be able to catch a show just by rummaging through sofa cushions for loose change. As a second-run house, most movies only played for a week or two before another cinematic wonder came along. They may not have been new movies, but more often than not, they were new to me. The place also gave me the chance to catch some of my favorites one last time on the big screen. Best of all, Cinema 69 never checked IDs (at least when Herb was manning the box office, which was pretty-much all the time). Hence, I was exposed to a lot of R-rated wonders before I was even able to drive.

When inflation reared its ugly head, the admission price eventually skyrocketed to 99 cents, but I have to assume this pricing decision was based on the relative ease of simply turning the 6 upside-down before commencing with business as usual.

God bless the second-run theater, an endangered species nowadays. There aren’t many of them around anymore. As it becomes cheaper and more convenient to see movies at home, one by one, these theaters are dropping like flies. Sure, some still exist in major cities, but mostly after rechristening themselves theater-pubs where hipsters congregate to pretend they enjoy microbrews that taste like socks, or cinema-arcades to prepare kids for a life of gambling addiction. Even the old Cinema 69 is now one of the latter, the original auditorium gutted to make room for Skee-Ball and Whack-A-Mole.

Movies alone are seldom enough to keep these places in business, even with an admission price less than a glorified milkshake from Starbucks. There are still a few second-run cinemas left which offer just movies, but it is just a matter of time before they are all gone. That’ll be a sad day.

Times marches on. Friends come and go. Places we once haunted get crushed in the gears of time. I'm certain old Herb (who looked a century old in the 70s) has since gone to that great box office in the sky. Ironically, the old Victory still marks the corner of Main and Jefferson long after 20 screen megaplexes rendered the Southgate and Eastgate obsolete (the former was unceremoniously demolished, the latter became a Slavic church).

While I’m personally happy the Victory is still showing movies at a reasonable price, it isn’t the old Cinema 69 I remember. The original auditorium is full of teenagers stomping-away to Dance Dance Revolution and the old balcony is a storage room. Movies are now regulated to the two 100-seat crackerboxes that were added back in the early 80s, during which time the old Victory was rechristened yet-again as Milwaukie Cinemas. And while I truly miss the double features, matted seats, stale popcorn and Herb's brown-toothed smoker's grin, at least my beloved old hangout is still there, which is more than I can say for most of the other time-ravaged relics from my youth.

Cinema 69 was an important part of my formative years and I sort-of grew up there. Not only was it my personal hang-out of choice, it was where I saw most of the movies, classic and not-so-classic, that are still some of my all-time (or sentimental) favorites, and where I was exposed to countless actors and directors who made movies such a wonderful escape. It was at this dilapidated palace that I developed boyhood crushes on Ann-Margret and Faye Dunaway, and inspired to try and be as impossibly cool as Charlton Heston, James Caan and Steve McQueen. It provided my first education in sex (on and off screen), terrorism, good vs. evil, creative uses of the F-word, the consequences of getting shitfaced and why one should never sit directly under a balcony. It’s where I discovered giant spiders, boobs, demonic cars, disaster movies, zombies, grown-up cartoons, how to play Rollerball and the joy of watching stuff blow up.

Aside from my family, movies have always been the most important part of my life, and Cinema 69 was where I lived a lot of it.

This is our story...

An early 1970's photo of Cinema V from down Main Street