July 31, 2018

FLORA: Fearsome Fungus

Starring Teresa Marie Doran, Dan Lin, Sari Mercer, Mile G. Jackson, Caleb Noel. Directed by Sasha Louis Vukovic. (2017/100 min). 


Review by Fluffy the Fearless😼

Conceptually-intriguing and aesthetically pleasing, Flora begins as a superlative example of smart sci-fi-horror on a limited budget. Unfortunately, it is ultimately undone by an erratic pace, plot inconsistencies, flat characters and glaring blunders in its own logic.

A shame, really, because the film grabs the viewer right away with an ominous series of Morse Code messages before establishing its setting with a vintage antique automobile speeding through a vividly-green forest. But the car isn't an antique...it's a wonderfully understated way of establishing the story actually takes place in 1929, where a group of young botanists rush to hook-up with their professor for an expedition. However, when they arrive at the campsite, the professor is missing and all their supplies have been destroyed.

They soon notice there's no animal life anywhere in the area, not even bugs. Upon further investigation, they learn the fate of the professor and the families of a dilapidated mill town: All were infected by an airborne, pollen-like fungus, with fatal results. When some of the botanists begin to display symptoms of being similarly infected, they realize they must try and escape back to civilization on foot - with almost no food - using gas masks and makeshift hazmat suits. It's a perilous trek that might take a week.

Where Rudy goes, so does his Beastie Boys collection.
A week? Wait a minute, didn't these kids drive into the woods before canoeing to their camp in a single day? Unless I blinked and missed something, why not just get back in their canoes, pile into the car and be back in town before sundown?

Once it starts playing fast and loose with it's own scenario, Flora quickly begins to unravel. Even after it's established that the fungus is airborne and able to enter the body through the lungs and skin, these guys are repeatedly taking off their gas masks throughout the film. Some characters get sick, some don't. Lack of food is an issue, then suddenly it isn't. Those who get infected don't even display the same symptoms and one character more-or-less disappears late in the film without explanation. And how exactly did villagers from a mining town in the middle of nowhere manage to press a vinyl record containing a Morse Code message?

"Guys...do you hear banjos?"
Inconsistent pacing simply exacerbates the movie's many plot discrepancies. Numerous dull scenes - mostly bickering characters - seem to go on forever, allowing the viewer way too much time to think about the lapses in logic. And speaking of characters, with the exception of Ora (Teresa Marie Doran) and Avis (Sari Mercer), they're mostly uninteresting, or in the case of Charles (Caleb Noel), really obnoxious.

Everything comes to an unsatisfying conclusion that's intended to be ambiguous, but ends up being frustratingly anti-climactic. The film fails to engage us enough to care about the characters or their predicament, aggravated by all the reckless story holes. Flora is technically well made and looks great - even picturesque, at times - but is ultimately a waste of a great premise.

FEATURETTE - "Behind the Scenes" (mostly a promo, along with a few bloopers)

July 29, 2018

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960) and a Heavy Metal Education

Starring George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Martin Stephens, Michael Gwynn, Lawrence Naismith, Richard Warner, Jenny Laird, Sarah Long. Directed by Wolf Rilla. (1960/77 min). 


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

I remember perusing my local record store and stumbling across Iron Maiden's debut album. The cover was a garish painting of a rotting corpse stalking the night streets of London. Though I had never heard of 'em, no album with a cover that cool could possibly suck, so I snapped it up without even knowing what they sounded like. That was in 1980 and I've been a Maiden fan ever since.

Iron Maiden almost never sang about women, partying or getting laid. Despite their sinister reputation, many of their songs were based on classic literature, TV and movies, as well as historical events, legendary leaders and - somewhat notoriously - the darker passages of The Bible. I also gotta credit the boys for helping me comprehend "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" in college.

Thanks to Maiden, I discovered the British TV series, The Prisoner, attempted to read Dune and eventually ventured Where Eagles Dare. Another of their songs, "Children of the Damned," was enough for me to seek out the 1963 film it was supposedly based on. Needless to say, I was confused and underwhelmed, mainly because I didn't realize at the time that it was a sequel to the far-superior Village of the Damned, which I later learned was the actual inspiration for the song (when it comes to song titles, damned children does sound more metal than a damned village).

Anyway, once the confusion was cleared up, Village of the Damned turned out to be a low-key masterpiece, and it's arguably one of the best British horror films of the 60s. Most importantly, it has held up remarkably well over the years.

Folks living in the quaint English village of Midwich are all simultaneously rendered unconscious by an unseen force. They awaken a few hours, visibly shaken but otherwise okay. A few months later, however, every women of child-baring age discovers they're pregnant, conceived on the same day of the big blackout. The kids are born at the same time, too; all of them are angelic, blond and perfect. They grow and develop at an alarming rate, with unbelievable intelligence. These emotionless children stick together, which is particularly unnerving to the people of Midwich, for good reason. The children have the power to read thoughts and control peoples' actions. Anyone they perceive as a threat meets a gruesome end.

The only thing deadlier than these children? Their diapers.
Village of the Damned is a triumph of controlled tension and mood. The film isn't exactly terrifying, but it's creepy, well-acted and smart, with a half-dozen little antagonists whose collective lack of humanity is truly chilling. The script offers just enough exposition to tell a good story, leaving out any unnecessary details. Though a few characters theorize about the origin of these children, no explanation is actually offered. The film gets under your skin effectively enough without one.

No wonder Iron Maiden wrote a song about it.

Even after five decades, an inferior sequel and a pointless remake, the original classic is still an exemplary example of atmospheric British horror, not to be missed. Long overdue, Village of the Damned is finally available on Blu-ray with a wonderful video and audio transfer. My only complaint is the lack of supplemental material. This version carries over the same audio commentary as the original DVD release, which isn't bad, but I would have loved some kind of retrospective documentary.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By author Steve Haberman (Chronicles of Terror: Silent Screams).

July 26, 2018

THE ESSENTIAL JAMES GARNER: A Decent Overview of a Legendary Career

By Stephen H. Ryan and Paul J. Ryan. (2018/257pp).


Book Review by Mr. Paws😸

Is there really anyone out there who didn't like James Garner? On screen, the guy may not have had a ton of range, but with rare exception, Garner was always congenial, laid-back and...well, likable. Anyone claiming otherwise probably hates kittens, too.

And in an era when most actors were generally known for movies or television, Garner worked successfully back-and-forth in both...for years. So if nothing else, at least some kind of career analysis is warranted. The Essential James Garner may not necessarily be essential reading, but the book does a decent job highlighting the films, TV movies & series which feature Garner at his Garniest (now officially a word).

The book is divided into three sections. The first and shortest is a relatively concise summary of the man's entire career. Section two - by far, the most interesting - subjectively selects 28 films featuring Garner, from early small parts to starring roles and latter-career supporting performances. Each film is given its own detailed chapter that includes a plot summary, background information, critical & public reception and, finally, critical assessment by the authors. Lastly, section three covers his two career-defining TV shows, Maverick & The Rockford Files, along with Nichols, a failed 1971 series that, quite frankly, I didn't know existed.

Though they demonstrate obvious affection and respect for their subject, authors Stephen & Paul Ryan aren't in love with every movie they choose to discuss. The usual suspects are here (The Great Escape, The Americanization of Emily, etc), along with some of questionable quality, yet were key career moments or good examples of Garner's charm & talent. Conversely, there are some omissions that will inevitably irk a few readers. Garner's entire body of work, however, is included in an appendix.

At 257 pages (including appendices, bibliography and index), The Essential James Garner is by-no-means comprehensive and doesn't make pretenses of being so. Nor is the book remotely biographical, focusing exclusively of the work these authors feel best-encapsulates James Garner's long career. Though fairly subjective, it nevertheless provides the reader with a decent overview, and even longtime fans are apt to read a fact or two they didn't know before.

July 25, 2018

PREDATOR on 4K Ultra HD & Digital August 7

Also Available: PREDATOR 3-Movie Collection on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD

Deep in the jungle, several bodies have been discovered skinned and hanging from trees although who or what could have done this is a mystery. Military covert specialist Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his team are called in to eliminate the threat, but once in the heart of the menacing jungle, they discover something far worse than they could ever have imagined, the Predator alien which has come to earth with cloaking technology, extensive combat skills and a desire to hunt humans for sport.

PREDATOR 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray bonus features include deleted scenes and outtakes, audio commentary by Director John McTiernan, Inside the Predator featurettes and more. A limited-edition Steelbook collectible will be available exclusively at Best Buy.

Fans can also take home the new PREDATOR 3-Movie Collection, including PREDATOR, PREDATOR 2 and PREDATORS. In PREDATOR, Arnold Schwarzenegger wages an all-out war against a force more powerful and deadly than any on earth. Then in PREDATOR 2, hardheaded cop Danny Glover battles the predator in the urban jungle of Los Angeles. Finally, in PREDATORS, Adrien Brody leads a group of elite warriors who find themselves on an alien planet targeted by a vicious new breed of predators. It’s the ultimate showdown between hunter and prey!

In addition to the wide availability of the PREDATOR 3-Movie Collection on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD, a limited edition Steelbook version of the collection will be available on Blu-ray at Best Buy and FYE.

July 24, 2018


Starring Delawna McKinney, Paige Leney, Cassidy St. Hubbins, Flora E. Moon, Amanda Cox, Victoria Dementieva, Anthony Iava To'omata, Bryan Burd, Daniel James Moody, Ginger Lynn Allen. Directed by Paul Ragsdale & Angelica De Alba. (2017/101 min). 


Review by Tiger the Terrible😾

I remember when Eddie Van Halen came along. His guitar playing was so fast, his style so unique, that metal fans worldwide were blown away. He inspired countless others to pick up an axe, and most simply tried to emulate what he already accomplished. I knew a guy named Steve who worshiped Eddie, going as far as painting his own guitar with the same design as his idol's and literally spending months learning to play "Eruption" note-for-note. Yeah, great, Steve. You went to all that work to sound exactly like another guitar player. So what?

Imitation may-indeed be the sincerest form of flattery, but that doesn't always mean it's worth the effort.

Streets of Vengeance begins promisingly tongue-in-cheek, presenting the film as though it's airing on a local late-night TV program hosted by a bubbly, bikini-clad bimbo. Right away, we get what the filmmakers are going for. From an aesthetic standpoint, the film looks and sounds exactly like the type of titillating, low budget erotic thrillers that cash-strapped Brian DePalma wannabes used to crank out in the 80s. Unfortunately, it unfolds exactly like one, too.

Exploitation fans of a certain age might recall that these films often featured revenge-minded stories, low-rent action, seedy violence, lots of skin and casts hired more for how they look in stilletos than any thespian skills, all set to a shrill synthesizer soundtrack. In Streets of Vengeance, Mila (Delawna McKinney) is a retired porn star who's targeted by a zealous cult of emasculated morons. After turning the tables on one of her attackers, Mila assembles her own crew of voluptuous vigilantes to kill them all.

Guess who drank the most coffee between takes.
Co-directors Paul Ragsdale & Angelica De Alba certainly deserve some credit for checking all the boxes, but there's a significant difference between homage and simple imitation. Without throwing in some cheeky self-awareness or satiric elements, there really isn't any point in simply recreating a genre from a bygone era. In fact, once the novelty wears off - roughly after ten minutes - Streets of Vengeance is just as dull, dumb and exploitative as those old films.

Several porn stars show up in cameos as murder victims, apparently because they're the only ones willing to bare it all. The camera lovingly leers on their visual assets until it's time to die. The one exception is Ginger Lynn Allen, who shows up for a couple of scenes, keeps her clothes on and ironically turns in the best performance. Despite some claims - including a few from the producers - Streets of Vengeance is not an "empowering" film. Tossing-in a few fleeting, heavy-handed stabs at social commentary doesn't negate the fact that the movie objectifies its female protagonists every bit as much as the 80's relics it emulates.

Ultimately, Streets of Vengeance plays like a painstakingly-created piece of fan fiction and is just as superfluous. The time and effort it takes may be admirable, but in the end...so what? Unless Steve somehow landed a gig in a Van Halen tribute band, all that hard work didn't get him anywhere, either.

FEATURETTES - "Making of Street of Vengeance"; "Camerawork with Cinematographer Dan Zampa"
"TOUGH GUYS" TRAILER - Not sure if this one is real or not. Plays like a parody.

July 22, 2018


Featuring Larry Cohen, Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante, Michael Moriarty, J.J. Abrams, Mick Garris, John Landis, Traci Lords, Fred Williamson, Robert Forster, F.X. Feeny, Eric Bogosian, Barbara Carrera, Yaphet Kotto, Eric Roberts, Rick Baker, Tara Reid. Directed by Steve Mitchell. (2018/110 min).

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

In the climax of the 1982 film, Q - The Winged Serpent, a SWAT team is defending the top of New York's Chrysler Building, firing hundreds of rounds in an effort to kill the title creature. To accomplish this scene as quickly and economically as possible, director Larry Cohen hired the skyscraper's maintenance crew, dressed them as cops and filmed them shooting from windows and baskets outside of the building. Though firing blanks, the guns' shell casings rained on the streets below.

This was all news to the people of New York, who assumed they were under siege (ever the opportunist, Cohen instructed one of his cameramen to capture these scenes of genuine panic, which made it into the final cut of the film). It was also news to John Landis, whose own production of Trading Places was disrupted because police were called to respond to the incident. Typical of his style and approach, Larry Cohen never bothered to inform the appropriate authorities of his intentions, nor did he have the same financial resources as Landis to afford the city's cooperation.

It's my favorite anecdote from a documentary filled with them. King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen is an affectionate tribute to a writer-producer-director who forged a semi-legendary career by remaining fiercely independent, staying true to his own vision and ignoring the advice and help of others. In the process, he directed a handful of cult classics and is probably best-known in horror circles as the madman behind 1974's It's Alive (though in this writer's opinion, the endearingly-tacky Q is his crowning achievement).

"What's in The Stuff? Michael Moriarty's essence, of course."
But Cohen's story actually begins in New York during the golden age of television, where he began his career as a writer. The film chronicles his rise in television, where he created a few series with varying levels of success. It was out of frustration with studio interference that eventually put Cohen on the path to independent filmmaking, inauspiciously beginning in the blaxploitation genre before moving on to the quirky horror films we know and love him for.

King Cohen tells his story in tremendous detail, with dozens of clips from his most noteworthy movies, interviews with colleagues and actors he's worked with and, of course, plenty of entertaining commentary and anecdotes from the horse's mouth. Cohen's enthusiasm is contagious; it's clear he still loves the business, despite nearly every one of his projects being a financial challenge to complete.

For the uninitiated, King Cohen also does a wonderful job helping one appreciate the man's creativity, not-to-mention loads of sheer audacity. Directors Joe Dante, John Landis, Martin Scorsese and J.J. Abrams have nothing but respect for Cohen's independent spirit, as does frequent collaborator Michael Moriarty (the two did five projects together). On an amusing note, Fred Williamson seems to remember some of their shared history a bit differently than Cohen and isn't afraid to say so, but he's good-natured about it.

The ultimate grassroots auteur, Larry Cohen has had a long, fascinating career, which this film encapsulates with genuine reverence and affection. King Cohen is a must-watch for both his fans and those curious about his unique approach to genre filmmaking.


July 21, 2018

The Accurately-Titled OPERATION RED SEA

Starring Zhang Yi, Huang Jingyu, Du Jiang, Hai Qing, Wang Yutian, Jiang Luxia, Yin Fang, Henry Prince, Guo Jiahao, Michelle Bai, Zhang Hanyu. Directed by Dante Lam. (2018/139 min). 


Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

Despite the same director and a similar title, this is not a sequel to Dante Lam's gonzo crime epic, Operation Mekong. If you saw that one, you know it was ballsy, brash and loaded with hyperkinetic, over-the-top action sequences. Operation Red Sea is even bigger, louder and a hell of a lot bloodier. In fact, it might boast the highest on-screen body count of any action movie I've ever seen.

A war film similar in structure to Black Hawk Down, the basic plot has eight soldiers from the crew of a Chinese naval ship attempting to evacuate government personnel from the (fictional) country of Yewaire during a terrorist takeover. Unfortunately, the people are taken hostage, turning this into a rescue mission with almost no support from the locals. Aided by a dedicated French-Chinese journalist, the soldiers also discover these terrorists have plans to build a dirty bomb using stolen yellowcake.

A quiet moment in Operation Red Sea.
The story, while interesting, is merely perfunctory, as are most of the characters. Aside from the squad's lone badass female and another whose love of candy provides (very) brief comic relief, we barely learn who these people are. Once the conflict begins in earnest, because their outfits are nearly identical, we often don't know who we're watching during a particular skirmish, even in relatively close quarters.

But ultimately, that's okay. Black Hawk Down wasn't exactly a character drama either. The real star is the mission itself. In that respect, Operation Red Sea succeeds...and then some. Not only is the action phenomenally rendered, it is relentless, with only brief moments of exposition linking one destructive and violent sequence to another. That the film manages to sustain this level of energy for nearly the entire running time without becoming rote is pretty remarkable.

Flying squirrels from outer space.
Again, the volume of on-screen human attrition is staggering, making the handiwork of John Rambo look like he's on a peacekeeping mission. Good guys & bad guys alike are dispatched with such regularity that keeping count is an exercise in futility. While some of the violence is highly-stylized (including some slow-motion & CGI), much of it is gritty, visceral and extremely bloody.

Believe it or not, as of this writing, Operation Red Sea is 2018's seventh biggest film at the worldwide box office. Perhaps that's not too surprising. The film doesn't have a lot of depth or engaging characters, but with epic levels of fiery mayhem and violent spectacle, it's hard to imagine any action fan walking away thinking they didn't get their money's worth. 


July 19, 2018

SUPER TROOPERS 2: You Get What You Meow For

Starring Jay Chandrasekhar, Paul Soter, Steve Lemme, Erik Stolhanske, Kevin Hefferman, Brian Cox, Rob Lowe, Emmanuelee Chriqui, Tyler Labine, Will Sasso, Damon Wayans Jr, Seann William Scott, Lynda Carter, Marisa Coughlan, Jim Gaffigan, Fred Savage. Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar. (2018/100 min).


Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

What exactly is so funny about the idea of a couple of highway cops repeatedly working the word meow into their sentences while citing a motorist? On paper, absolutely nothing. It's the kind of gag a seventh grade class clown might do for attention. It's also a typical scene from the original Super Troopers...presented without context and completely unrelated to what could euphemistically called a story.

As much as I hate to admit it, though, I found that scene very funny, among others. So did a lot of people, which is why Super Troopers has such a cult following today.

And it's those people that are almost literally responsible for Super Troopers 2. That this one was partially crowd-funded practically guaranteed the guys in Broken Lizard would give fans exactly what they paid for. Though 17 years have passed, little has changed. These five Vermont State Troopers are still pulling pranks, belittling Farva (Kevin Heffernan), getting wasted and messing with hapless motorists. And of course, it's all as intellectually stimulating as a fidget spinner.

An esoteric moment from Super Troopers 2.
If you look hard, there's an actual plot. It turns out that part of southern Canada is actually United States territory, and the Spurbury police are given a second chance by replacing the Canadian Mounties to patrol this newly-designated region. Of course, neither the Mounties, locals or town mayor (Rob Lowe) are too happy about it. In the midst of an escalating feud with the mounties, they stumble upon a shipments of smuggled drugs, cellphones and assault rifles.

Mostly, though, Super Troopers 2 is about the gags, some funny, some not. I think even many fans would have to agree that its stars ain't exactly thespians, and aside from Farva, none of these characters have distinctive personalities. Like the original, this one plays like a checklist of what Broken Lizard - who write their own screenplays - find personally amusing (with obligatory shout-outs to some of their "classic" gags). If viewers are on-board, great. If not, well, that's okay, too. That laid-back congeniality is part of the film's charm.

Did we really need a Super Troopers 2...almost two decades later? Of course not. Anyone who sat stone-faced through the first one will undoubtedly do the same here (why the hell are you reading this anyway?). Aside from a slightly bigger cast (including many gratuitous cameos), this sequel could almost be considered a remake. Fans whose wallets made it possible probably wouldn't have it any other way.

FEATURETTES: "Making of Super Troopers 2" - A pretty lengthy & detailed doc, which includes Broken Lizard's crowd-funding efforts. "Kevin Heffernan: Method Actor" - An amusing, fictional profile of the guy who plays the hapless (and clueless) Farva.

July 18, 2018

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY Arrives Digitally on 9/14 and on Blu-ray 9/25

Lucasfilm’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” directed by Academy Award–winning filmmaker Ron Howard—the creator of unforgettable films, such as “A Beautiful Mind,” “Apollo 13,” “Parenthood” and “Splash”—is an action-packed journey that explores Han’s first encounters with future friend and copilot Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and notorious gambler Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). The film takes viewers on a ride showing Han’s adventure-filled past alongside fellow street thief Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and career criminal Beckett (Woody Harrelson). “Solo: A Star Wars Story” bonus material takes fans behind the scenes with the star-studded cast and screenwriters Jonathan Kasdan & Lawrence Kasdan (writer of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi). Special features include a revealing feature on Chewie and his enduring friendship with Han; a close-up look at the original version of the Millennium Falcon and Han’s first time piloting the infamous ship; the creation of the film’s otherworldly settings and pulse-pounding action sequences; and eight never-before-seen deleted and extended scenes. Watch instantly on Sept. 14th as the Millennium Falcon sets course digitally in HD and 4K Ultra HD™ and on Movies Anywhere, and bring the adventure home on Blu-ray 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™, DVD and On-Demand on Sept. 25.

July 17, 2018

HEREDITARY on 4K, Blu-ray & DVD 9/4

A family’s darkest secrets surface when Hereditary arrives on 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital), Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), and DVD September 4 from Lionsgate. Academy Award® nominee Toni Collette “is raw, almost feral, making us feel in our marrow what it’s like to be a mother losing control of her family and maybe her mind” (Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly) in this riveting film from writer-director Ari Aster (Munchausen, The Strange Thing About the Johnsons) about a grieving family haunted by tragic and disturbing events. From the producers of The Witch and Split, Hereditary is being lauded as “a new horror classic” by the Los Angeles Times and as “this generation’s The Exorcist” by Time Out New York. The Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh horror film also stars Alex Wolff (Patriot’s Day, My Friend Dahmer), newcomer Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd (TV’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”), and Gabriel Byrne (The Man in the Iron Mask, TV’s “Vikings”). 

July 16, 2018

I FEEL PRETTY is Pretty Inoffensive

Starring Amy Schumer, Rory Scovel, Michelle Williams, Tom Hopper, Aidy Bryant, Busy Philipps, Lauren Hutton, Naomi Campbell, Emily Ratajkowski, Dave Attell. Directed by Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein. (2018/110 min). 


Review by Stinky the Destroyer😼

Obviously, Amy Schumer's uninhibited brand of comedy isn't for everybody. Like other comedians whose typical routine doesn't come with anything resembling a filter, she's an acquired taste. Comics who get by on sheer audacity, exuberance and a willingness to say or do anything are sometimes the most polarizing.

That being said, I Feel Pretty is sort of Schumer-lite, perhaps because she didn't write this one. Though the basic premise seems tailor-made for her, co-writers/first-time directors Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein appear to be pulling their punches for a more traditional romantic comedy, with Schumer along for the ride. The result is enjoyable enough, though nothing particularly memorable.

Schumer plays Renee Bennett, an insecure young woman with body-image issues who works for Lily LeClaire, a high-end cosmetics company. She manages the website from a small basement office far away from corporate headquarters - a gleaming glass tower where every employee looks like a supermodel - run by Avery LeClaire (Michelle Williams). Renee spends her time with two equally-timid friends, while aspiring to be like the beautiful women she looks up to.

Following a head injury, Renee wakes up believing she's been miraculously transformed into a stunning beauty, which suddenly gives her the confidence she never had before. She gets promoted to head receptionist at LeClaire, where Avery and company matriarch Lily (Lauren Bacall) are enthusiastic over her suggestions to change the company's elitist image with its latest line of "diffusion line" products. Renee also begins dating Ethan (Rory Scovel), who's as self-conscious as she used to be.

For her audition, Ms. Schumer re-enacts a scene from her favorite film, The Passion of the Christ.
The "joke," of course, is that Renee hasn't physically changed at all, only her perception of herself. This joke isn't always particularly funny, often stopping just short of humiliating its main character during such scenes as a bikini contest or Renee & Ethan's first sexual encounter. One might assume these moments come courtesy of Schumer herself, and perhaps they do, but the film never crosses the line into cheap laughs at Renee's expense. Ultimately, I Feel Pretty has an empowering message about body-positivity and, refreshingly, is not about turning the tables on a batch of elitist snobs. In fact, all the so-called "beautiful people" here are as likable as Renee.

However, the film's consistently positive tone also renders the whole thing pretty predictable. With little in the way of actual conflict, you'll see every revelation and epiphany coming long in advance. Schumer is ironically most effective when she isn't engaging in the brash behavior we typically associate with her.

This will likely disappoint those expecting another film similar to Trainwreck or Schumer's own audacious Comedy Central series. In fact, even though she's decent in the lead role, Renee could have been played by any able actor. I Feel Pretty is watchable - even charming, at times - but never the uproarious romp many are undoubtedly anticipating.

FEATURETTE: "Being Pretty" - Promo spot, less than a minute long.

July 15, 2018


Starring Paul Newman, Victoria Principal, Roddy McDowell, Ned Beatty, Anthony Perkins, Jacqueline Bisset, Stacy Keach, Tab Hunter, Anthony Zerbe, Ava Gardner, Bill McKinney, John Huston, Steve Kanaly, Jim Burk, Bruno the Bear. Directed by John Huston. (1972/123 min). 


Review by Mr. Paws😸

"Bean! Hey, Beano! It's me...Bob! Bad Bob!"

It's funny how certain scenes can stick with you long after the rest of the film fades from your memory. I hadn't seen The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean since I was little and remembered almost none of the film, save for the scene where notorious albino gunslinger Bad Bob (Stace Keach) rides into Vinegaroon - shooting and cackling - to kill the titular character (Paul Newman). As the townspeople flee in terror, Bob shoots a horse, orders its owner to cook it for him, chows down on a raw onion and chugs a steaming pot of coffee. While he's calling-out the judge with taunts and insults, Bean shoots him in the back...a hilariously unceremonious demise for such an infamous outlaw.

Edgar Winter's great, great grandpappy.
It's a memorable scene, with an uncharacteristically manic performance by Keach, and emblematic of the entire film. Very loosely based on the real-life figure, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean is an episodic, irreverent revisionist western about an outlaw who rides into town, and after getting revenge on a batch of lowlifes, declares himself the judge and spends the next several years dispensing his own brand of swift justice, which nearly always involves a hanging. Working by his side are another band of outlaws he appoints as deputies, his young mistress (Victoria Principal, in her film debut) and a beer-swilling bear given to him by Grizzly Adams. Most other characters - both real and fictional - drift in and out of the story, meaning many in the impressive cast appear only briefly.

The first Captain America.
With his idol worship of actress Lily Langtry (Ava Gardner), Bean is an amusingly eccentric character and Newman looks like he had a blast playing him. And while essentially plotless, the film's fascination with its characters - broadly-drawn as they may be - is infectious. Only during the final act, where the wheels of progress threaten to destroy Vinegaroon, does the narrative begin to lose its way. These scenes almost seem to belong to another movie, though it rights itself at the end with a wonderfully poignant coda.

One of the more underappreciated westerns of the 70s, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean is an entertaining film filled with memorable characters (like Bad Bob!) and fun performances by a great cast. Like one of the film's taglines said, if this story ain't true...it shoulda been. This overlooked gem has been given a great transfer for Blu-ray, though it's unfortunately light on bonus features.


July 10, 2018

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR on Digital July 31 & Blu-ray Aug 14

Box office history was made when Marvel Studios' "Avengers: Infinity War" shattered all opening records, surpassed the $2 billion mark at the global box office in just 48 days, and remains the fourth highest-grossing film of all time. Now, the cinematic event ten-years in the making comes home Digitally on July 31 and Blu-ray on Aug. 14 with over two hours of bonus.

"Marvels' Avengers: Infinity War" is a must-own addition to every in-home film collection and is packaged several ways so that fans get the most out of their viewing experience. Consumers who experience the ultimate showdown Digitally will join a 30-minute roundtable with Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) directors Anthony and Joe Russo, Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, James Gunn, Ryan Coogler, Peyton Reed and Taika Waititi who reflect on how their movies contribute to the MCU's larger storytelling adventure. The 4K Cinematic Universe Edition's never-before-seen bonus material grants behind-the-scenes access to MCU members and features the memorable moments when characters first meet, the rationale behind some unexpected on-screen pair-ups, and a funny Super Hero gag reel. Featurettes explore the frighteningly powerful Thanos and two action-packed attempts to prevent his collection of all six Infinity Stones: the struggle on Titan and the massive battle in Wakanda. Deleted scenes and filmmaker commentary reveal even more on-set secrets from Marvel Studios' monumental undertaking.

July 9, 2018

INNOCENT BLOOD: What's in a Name?

Starring Anne Parillaud, Robert Loggia, Anthony LaPaglia, Don Rickles, Elaine Kagan, David Proval, Rocco Sisto, Angela Bassett, Chazz Palminteri, Kim Coates, Marshall Bell, Luiz Guzman, Leo Burmester, Tony Sirico. Directed by John Landis. (1992/115 min). 


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

In some parts of the world, this film is known as A French Vampire in America. Considering John Landis' last foray into comedy-horror was An American Werewolf in London, the title makes more sense - and is far more accurate - than Innocent Blood. None of Marie's selected victims are what anyone would mistake for innocent.

Marie (Anne Parillaud) is apparently a vampire with a conscience, preferring to feed on criminals...more specifically, Italian mobsters. Meanwhile, Detective Joseph Gennaro (Anthony LaPaglia) was been working deep undercover, earning the trust of a Pittsburgh mob run by Sal the Shark (Robert Loggia). After one of one of Sal's men is murdered - attacked by Marie, then shot in the head to make it look like a hit - Gennaro's cover is blown and he's taken off the case.

When you can't find the remote.
Later, Marie's attack on Sal himself is thwarted by his driver. Since she was unable to completely kill him, Sal becomes a vampire himself, eager to use his newfound power to take control of the city, as well as kill Gennaro for betraying him. Marie and Gennaro end up working (and sleeping) together to try and stop Sal, who's quickly turning his crew into undead soldiers.

Though watchable, Innocent Blood is the work of a once-interesting director at the beginning of a creative downslide (which he's yet to recover from). John Landis had previously displayed a quirky knack for combining comedy and horror in An American Werewolf in London. While that film is now considered a modern classic, the pieces don't fit together nearly as well here. It's a great concept, but clumsily executed. Most attempts at humor fall flat, the sex & nudity are gratuitous and the make-up effects pale in comparison to Rick Baker's groundbreaking work in American Werewolf. Parillaud and LaPagglia may be easy on the eyes, but neither character is particularly interesting and they have zero chemistry together.

"You stupid quack...I came here for a colonoscopy!"
The late, great Robert Loggia is easily the best part of the entire film. As Sal, he makes the most of a rare opportunity to engage in some serious scenery-chewing. The movie's a real kick whenever he's onscreen, especially once he becomes a vampire. There's also some fun to be had in spotting the numerous cameos by various horror icons, including Tom Savini, Sam Raimi, Dario Argento & blink-and-you'll-miss-her Linnea Quigley.

Innocent Blood mostly squanders a neat premise, not-to-mention a cast that includes a who's-who of mafia movie tough guys. Still, even though there are better horror comedies from the same era and it pales in comparison to Landis' best work, it remains his last watchable film, which has its share of fans, who'll certainly be happy with this Blu-ray transfer (though there's no bonus material other than a trailer).