August 31, 2018

THE SWARM Finally Buzzes Home on Blu-ray

Producer/director Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno) now unleashes an end-of-the-world thriller based on scientific fact. In Africa and South America, killer bees are a reality. Now The Swarm is on the move...into North America!There are enough stars for five movies - Michael Caine, Katharine Ross, Richard Widmark, Olivia de Havilland, Henry Fonda, Fred MacMurray, Richard Chamberlain, Jose Ferrer, Patty Duke Astin, Lee Grant and Bradford Dillman. But the scene-stealers are the supporting cast: an estimated 22 million bees, deftly deployed to depict deadly attacks on people and places. It's a nightmare that will give you quite a buzz!

August 28, 2018

The Affable BOOK CLUB
Starring Dianne Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, Craig T. Nelson, Alicia Silverstone, Katie Aselton, Richard Dreyfuss, Ed Begley Jr, Wallace Shawn. Directed by Bill Holderman. (2018/103 min).


Review by Stinky the Destroyer😸

I can't help but harbor some resentment toward E.L. James...or more specifically, her fans. As someone whose own two novels sold a collective 300 copies, it sickens me that they turned this hack's sleazy brand of Momporn - germinating from her self-published Twilight fan fiction - into bestsellers and three inexplicably popular movies.

When I saw the Book Club trailer, the writer in me was incredulous. Just what we needed...a movie about Fifty Shades of Grey, further legitimizing the cultural phenomenon of a writer with far more audacity than talent.

But that's just the pretentious author in me talking. The movie blogger in me is generally intrigued by any movie that can assemble a cast like this, even one that looks like a pandering, high-concept product. I could just hear the pitch for this one: "Chicks love Fifty Shades, so what if we got four respected actresses to swallow their dignity and play old ladies who are inspired by it?"

Those respected actresses are Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen, playing four lifelong friends who meet once a month to discuss a novel chosen by one of them. Vivian (Fonda) selects Fifty Shades of Grey for their next book, which of course means we'll get a montage of their shocked reactions while reading it.

"Here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women."
But really, other than some brief segments where Carol (Steenburgen) is inspired to spice up her marriage, Fifty Shades of Grey is simply a plot device. Book Club is mostly about the crossroads these women have reached regarding relationships. Diane (Keaton) is a widow who meets a charming airline pilot (Andy Garcia), while her two grown daughters are convinced she'll die alone if she doesn't move in with them. Sharon (Bergen) is a federal judge who still hasn't gotten over her divorce fifteen years earlier - especially since her ex is about to marry a woman half her age - and lonely enough to try online dating. Carol and Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) are happily married, but their sex life has stagnated since he retired. Vivian has always been fiercely independent, treating men as objects, until the one man she once fell in love with (Don Johnson), re-enters her life.

While there a few laugh-out-loud moments - mostly involving sex and anatomy metaphors - Book Club isn't always particularly funny. It is, however, the kind of congenial movie one watches with a consistent smile on their face, knowing damn well how everything will turn out, yet enjoying the journey anyway. Much of that is due to the cast, who are obviously having fun with their roles (though sometimes it seems like Fonda is trying too hard). There's little in the way of actual conflict, but these characters are likable and their predicaments are engaging.

No one will walk away from Book Club feeling they just viewed a masterpiece. However, it's affably enjoyable and makes the most of its considerable star power. Everyone in the cast have done better films, but their dignity remains intact because the movie isn't the snickering sex farce I feared it would be.

FEATURETTES - "It All Started with a Book"; "Casting Book Club"; "Living in the Moment"; "Location, Location, Location"; "A New Chapter"

August 26, 2018

BOUND (Olive Signature Edition) and a Sad Reminder

BOUND (Olive Signature Edition) and a Sad Reminder
Starring Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano, John Ryan, Christopher Meloni, Peter Spellos, Richard C. Sarafian, Susie Bright. Directed by The Wachowskis. (1996/108 min). 


Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

Once upon a time, Lana & Lily Wachowski were simply great storytellers...

Like most people, my introduction to the directing duo was The Matrix. Not only was it visually groundbreaking for the time, the story itself was full of thought-provoking ideas that were conceptually intriguing. For me, the Wachowskis represented the new sci-fi vanguard and The Matrix was a harbinger of greater things to come.

But, alas, greater things never came. Beginning with Matrix sequels, subsequent Wachowski films grew bigger and more bombastic, their narratives taking a backseat to special effects and disorienting action. Interestingly, I found a Blu-ray of their last film, Jupiter Ascending, for only three bucks at Big Lots on the same day the Olive Signature Edition of their very first film, Bound, arrived in the mail for review. Watching them back-to-back was a depressing reminder of how much the Wachowskis have succumbed to their own ambitions over time.

Superficially, Bound is unlike anything in else in their filmography. In 1996, you'd have to be a psychic to connect the dots between this film and their next (The Matrix). Not only does it provide a stylish spin on a completely different genre, Bound is relatively small compared to the Wachowskis' later epics, driven by a fiendishly-clever story and vivid characters. With 20/20 hindsight, though, one can notice many of the creative stylistic touches that would serve the Wachowskis well in later films.

"This is decaf?"
In typical neo-noir fashion, Bound has a pair of lovers hatching a risky plot to abscond with ill-gotten money from a dangerous antagonist. The twist, however, is that the protagonists are both women. Corky (Gina Gershon) is an ex-con making ends meet by painting and repairing an apartment. Violet (Jennifer Tilly) lives next door with mid-level gangster Caesar (Joe Pantoliano). Not only does Violet want out of the mob life, she's attracted to Corky. The feeling turns out to be mutual, and not long after consummating their relationship, the two come up with an intricate plan to steal a suitcase full of mob money, scheduled to be picked up by Caesar's boss.

Corky and Violet share some gum.
That Bound has lesbian protagonists is not a gratuitous gimmick. The sex scenes are highly erotic without being overtly explicit. But more importantly, Violet and Corky are as dynamic and complex as Ned and Matty in Body Heat, only more likable. They're dropped into a story that is clever, violent, suspenseful and sometimes very funny, peopled by amusing secondary characters. Pantoliano is terrific in an increasingly maniacal performance, while unknown-at-the-time Christopher Meloni is a real hoot as sadistic thug Johnnie Marzzone.

Ultimately, Bound is an exceptional directorial debut and arguably the Wachowskis' second-best film. Bereft of the bells and whistles they'd later come to depend on, it tells a compelling story with little more than a smart screenplay, a bit of dazzling camerawork and a perfect cast. Watching Jupiter Ascending immediately afterwards was another sad reminder that maybe these two directors would be better off without bottomless budgets and visual fireworks.

NEW FEATURETTES - "The Difference Between You and Me" (a twenty minute featurette about neo-noir as it relates to Bound).
FEATURETTES (from the 2014 UK Blu-ray release) - "Modern Noir: The Sights and Sounds of Bound"
NEW INTERVIEW - "Part and Parcel" (with title designer Patti Podesta).
INTERVIEWS (from the 2014 UK Blu-ray release) - "Femme Fatales" (Gina Gershon & Jennifer Tilly); "Here's Johnny!" (Christopher Meloni). Though listed on the cover, an interview with Joe Pantoliano is not included.
AUDIO COMMENTARY (from the 2014 UK Blu-ray release) - With the Wachowskis, editor Zach Staenberg, sex consultant Susie Bright, Gina Gershon, Jennifer Tilly, Joe Pantoliano.
ESSAY: "WE KNOW HOW THIS ENDS" - Booklet and video text versions, written by Guinevere Turner.

Rest in Peace, Neil Simon

August 24, 2018

THE NAKED AND THE DEAD: User-Friendly Norman Mailer
Starring Aldo Ray, Cliff Robertson, Raymond Massey, William Campbell, Barbra Nichols, Richard Jaeckel, James Best, Joey Bishop, Robert Gist, L.Q. Jones, Lili St. Cyr, Jerry Paris. Directed by Raoul Walsh. (1958/131 min). 


Review by Mr. Paws😸

I once took an American Lit class from a professor with a serious man-crush on Norman Mailer. We were subjected to several of his novels, including The Naked and the Dead, which was inspired by the author's own experiences in World War II. While I admittedly harbored a bit of resentment from being forced to read a 700 page novel during the first goddamn week - in addition to the workload of my other classes - I didn't share my professor's enthusiasm. Personally, I found Mailer's prose ponderous and pretentious. Worse yet, with no Cliff's Notes available, I had to power through the thing by sheer will and lots of caffeine.

Had I known it was adapted into a movie back in 1958, I might have been tempted to bluff my way through class discussions and my subsequent analytical essay. But I would've likely been rewarded with an F because the film jettisons most of the novel's heavier themes - stuff that lit professors love - in favor of focusing on its basic story and the main characters. Perhaps because film is a completely different medium - not-to-mention I wasn't forced to watch it for a grade - I found The Naked and the Dead to be very engaging, one of the better World War II action epics of the era. It's also the last good movie from director Raoul Walsh, certainly an improvement over his previous war effort, the sudsy, jingoistic Battle Cry.

Aldo Ray in time-out.
After a woefully shaky start - some pointless flashbacks and a gratuitous opening scene in a strip club - the basic story focuses primarily on the Army's attempt to take a Japanese-occupied island. Commanding the operation is General Cummings (Raymond Massey), who believes fear and hatred of his superiority motivates the men. It's a philosophy not shared his aide, Lt. Hearn (Cliff Robertson), whose overt empathy for the soldiers prompts Cummings to put him in command of a dangerous recon mission out of sheer spite. The platoon Hearns is assigned to is usually commanded by Sgt. Croft (Aldo Ray), a career soldier known for his ruthlessness and cruelty. Needless to say, Croft resents being forced to take orders from an inexperienced officer.

The unfolding relationship between these three is fascinating and the film does a masterful job revealing their true natures. Cummings turns out to be a vindictive megalomaniac, more than willing to sacrifice others to satisfy his own ego. Hearns is selfless and compassionate, the only one who seems mindful of war's human attrition. But it's Croft who proves the most compelling. At first, he simply comes across as coldly effective at his job. He may not be loved, but his actions get results. As the narrative unfolds, however, Croft is not only violent, but hatefully sadistic with no qualms about killing, enemy or otherwise. The dichotomy between Croft & Hearns is remarkably similar to that of Barnes & Elias in Oliver Stone's Platoon.

The last hour is gripping and emotionally intense, with a final act that probably had my professor fuming indignantly, but very satisfying from a cinematic standpoint. A winning music score by the great Bernard Herrmann - which is oddly reminiscent of his sci-fi scores - wonderfully enhances the tension.The Naked and the Dead may not help you pass your American Lit class, but it's user-friendly and a terrific (anti?)war film worth rediscovering, especially on this great-looking Blu-ray.


August 23, 2018

SKYSCRAPER on Digital 9/25 and 4K Ultra HD, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray & DVD 10/9
Courage has no limits in the heroic action-packed film Skyscraper, arriving on Digital and via the digital movie app MOVIES ANYWHERE on September 25, 2018, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on October 9, 2018. The global blockbuster from Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures is a non-stop, emotionally visceral thrill ride following Dwayne Johnson’s (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Fate of the Furious,“Ballers”) character as a real-world hero who will stop at nothing while trying to save his family from a deadly blaze. With over 30 minutes of never-before-seen bonus content – including deleted scenes and exclusive bonus clips, Skyscraper is a jaw-dropping, heart-pounding, palm-sweating, visually stunning film that keeps viewers on the edge of their seat from start to finish.

Fueled with adrenaline and high impact verticality, Skyscraper is led by superstar Dwayne Johnson who plays former FBI Hostage Team leader, U.S. war veteran and amputee Will Sawyer. While on assignment in Hong Kong as an assessor for security in skyscrapers, he comes to find the tallest and safest building in the world suddenly ablaze, and he has been framed for it. Wanted and on the run, Will must find those responsible, clear his name and save his family who is trapped inside the building… above the fire line. Hailed as “thoroughly irresistible” (Justin Chang, LA Times), Skyscraper is written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Central Intelligence, We’re the Millers) and produced by Beau Flynn (Rampage, San Andreas), Hiram Garcia (Rampage, Jumanji, San Andreas) and Johnson. The action-packed film also stars Neve Campbell (Netflix’s “House of Cards,” Scream franchise), Chin Han (The Dark Knight), Roland Møller (Land of Mine), Pablo Schreiber (Starz’s “American Gods,” 13 Hours) and Hannah Quinlivan (Moon River).

August 22, 2018

NEVER SO FEW: Steve McQueen Goes to Cool School
Starring Frank Sinatra, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lawford, Steve McQueen, Richard Johnson, Paul Henreid, Dean Jones, Charles Bronson, Philip Ahn, Brian Donlevy, Robert Bray, Kipp Hamilton, George Takei, James Hong. Directed by John Sturges. (1959/124 min).


Review by Mr. Paws😺

Steve McQueen is the coolest guy who ever lived. It's been scientifically proven and anyone arguing otherwise is probably a Flat-Earther, too. Ever since Mom & Dad brought took me to see Le Mans eons ago, McQueen has been one of my heroes. Whenever one of his old movies showed up on TV or a new one arrived in theaters, I'd be there. While I acknowledge he didn't really have a ton of range, McQueen was always the coolest guy on the screen...and he knew it, which somehow made him even cooler.

But not even Steve McQueen was born cool. He had to learn it somewhere, and I'm certain one of his mentors was director John Sturges. If The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape is where McQueen graduated to being the King of Cool, then the first film he and Sturges did together, Never So Few, might be considered his training ground.

Frank Sinatra is actually the film's star, playing Tom Reynolds, a maverick captain who commands a eclectic troop of OSS soldiers and Burmese natives during World War II, fighting the Japanese by attacking their outposts. In between raids, he woos a wealthy trader's high society girlfriend, Carla (Gina Lollobrigida). Sinatra's charming and Gina is gorgeous, of course, but their love story is pedestrian and slows the story to a crawl.

To his consternation, Frank realizes he is out-cooled.
However, whenever Reynolds is with his team in the jungle, Never So Few is unpredictable, exciting and often pretty intense (Reynolds shoots one of his own mortally-wounded men because they have no doctor or morphine). Surrounding him is a great cast, including Charles Bronson as a tough-as-nails fighter (of course), Peter Lawford as a reluctantly-recruited doctor, Richard Johnson as Tom's closest friend and a young Dean Jones playing way against type.

But even though he's essentially a peripheral character, McQueen steals every scene he's in. Never So Few isn't his first film, but it is where he's just beginning to hone the persona that would be his bread & butter for the rest of his life. As newly-recruited Corporal Bill Ringa - who Reynolds admires for his brashness - we can catch early glimpses of the devil-may-care "Cooler King," the earnestness of Vin Tanner and even some of Frank Bullitt's unflappability.

So God bless John Sturges for helping Steve McQueen learn how to be Steve McQueen. He's easily the best part of Never So Few and even Sturges knew it at the time, which is probably why they worked together two-and-a-half more times (the 'half' being 1971's Le Mans, which Sturges eventually quit). The movie itself pales in comparison to Sturges' best work, but as a harbinger of things to come, it's quite fascinating.


August 20, 2018

Ever Heard of CRAZY SIX?
Starring Rob Lowe, Burt Reynolds, Ice-T, Mario Van Peebles, Thom Matthews, Ivana Millicevic, Blanka Kleinova. Directed by Albert Pyun. (1997/94 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

Perhaps you're like me...checking out this cast and asking yourself, "How come I've never heard of this movie?" After all, it's two decades old, and while none of these guys were ever mistaken for Daniel Day Lewis, they've all made their fare share of entertaining, low-ball action flicks. Well, maybe not Rob Lowe, who's never been the star of anything worth seeing twice.

Still, the idea of gathering these straight-to-video heroes for some gratuitous gunplay sounds like time well-spent on the sofa, even if the titular character is played by Lowe.

But only twenty-minutes in, it was clear why I had never heard of Crazy Six.

In an unnamed Eastern European country where crime runs rampant, Crazy Six is a crack addict hired by gangster Dirty Leo (Mario Van Peebles) to steal cash and plutonium (!) from rival Raul (Ice-T). But Leo is actually setting him up take the fall when the job goes south. While trying to recover what he rightfully stole, Six becomes infatuated with sultry lounge singer (and recovering junkie) Anna (Ivana Milicevic). Cynical American lawman Dakota (Burt Reynolds), who once busted Anna, eventually gets involved, cowboy hat and all.

Ice-T phones it in.
Sounds like the makings of a decent - if unoriginal - action thriller. Instead, the plot and motives of its villains are murky at best. After the initial robbery, the action slows down to a crawl...almost literally. Prolific cult director Albert Pyun goes way overboard with slow-motion and montages set to pulsating industrial music, trying in vain to pad-out his flimsy story by creating an illusion of urgency.

We spend a majority of the time with Crazy Six and Anna. In between breathlessly - and endlessly - crooning techno-ballads onstage, she falls inexplicably in love with this guy, who looks like a vagrant that wouldn't even be allowed to enter the neon nightclub where she sings. Lowe may to be trying to shed his pretty-boy image here, but his idea of intense and gritty consists of scowling behind a porn star mustache and moving like he pooped his pants.

Since this was made just before Boogie Nights briefly resurrected his career, one can assume Reynolds took the role because he needed the work (or simply fancied a trip to Europe). Still, he's enjoyable in a role that seems tailor-made for him. Despite being prominently featured on the cover, Ice-T hardly shows up at all and does little more than glare (I doubt if he has ten total lines of dialogue). Van Peebles comes of worst, decked-out like a pimp and continually lugging around a trembling chihuahua while unintelligibly mumbling his lines with a godawful French accent (in Van Peebles' defense, I'm sure none of this was his idea).

The whole thing comes to an abrupt and underwhelming conclusion. A shame, really. With a cast like this, Crazy Six should have been 90 minutes of mindless fun. While there's mindlessness in abundance, the fun is conspicuously missing, even for fans of any of these actors. Dull and forgettable, the film has earned its anonymity.


Ryan Reynolds Gets a Diaper Change in New DEADPOOL 2 Video

BLU-RAY 8/21

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS 25th Anniversary Edition on Digital and Blu-ray Sept. 2
Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” the stop-motion animated musical-fantasy following Pumpkin King Jack Skellington’s misguided mission to make Yuletide his own, was hailed as a macabre masterpiece when it debuted in 1993 and holds a 95% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Twenty-five years later, fans can relive the merry misadventure—and sing or shriek along in brand-new sing-along mode—with the 25th Anniversary Edition of “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Viewers can get their spook on instantly via Digital, Movies Anywhere and on Blu-ray Sept. 2.

The new edition audiences to experience “The Nightmare Before Christmas” two different ways: the original, full-length film, in which the holidays collide with chaotic and comical consequences, and all-new sing-along mode, which includes pop-up lyrics to 11 unforgettable songs like “What’s This” and “This Is Halloween.” The Multi-Screen Edition of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” includes a Blu-ray and Digital Code giving viewers the flexibility to watch the film on different devices.

August 19, 2018

BLAST (1997): Die Hard at the YMCA
Starring Linden Ashby, Andrew Divoff, Kimberly Warren, Rutger Hauer, Tim Thomerson, Yuki Okumoto, Jill Pierce, Sonya Eddy. Directed by Albert Pyun. (1997/105 min). 


Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

Unbelievably, Blast is a Die Hard knock-off.

That itself is nothing new, of course. We've been subjected to "Die Hard on a..." ever since the Holy Grail of action movies was released back in 1988. You know the drill: A heavily-armed group of elite terrorists/mercenaries, led by an arrogant, cold-blooded mastermind (either a rogue terrorist or disgruntled employee), lay siege upon a skyscraper/bus/plane/train/ship/stadium/government building. Unless their demands are met, they'll kill their hostages/launch a nuke/destroy a city. But they didn't count on ONE MAN...usually a disgraced or troubled cop/soldier/agent/ex-Navy Seal, who single-handedly takes on the bad guys to save his wife/kids/buddy/country/beloved housepet.

Here's the unbelievable part: Despite the Die Hard-inspired cover, the terrorists in Blast take over a swimming complex, the hostages are a team of five whiny teenagers and the ONE MAN is the facility's janitor.

Okay, does take place during the Olympics, but Jack (Linden Ashby) really is just a janitor, whose job consists of gathering towels from the locker room. He has the obligatory troubled past, of course. Jack once won a Bronze medal in gymnastics before an injury and hard living ruined his life. That's his entire background. Yet in an effort to save his estranged wife (Diane Colton, as the team's coach), Jack squares-off against this heavily-armed crew with the skills of supersoldier.

"I found who peed in the pool."
But I suppose if we can swallow a rotund Steven Seagal as a stealthy Navy Seal, maybe even brooding janitors deserve a shot at glory. However, the setting for Blast is as dull as it sounds. A swimming complex, no matter how many concrete hallways and basements it has, is just not all that cinematic, especially since none of the low-wattage action even requires a pool. Not helping matters is a hero with the personality of a vanilla cone and cookie-cutter villains who give no indication they're very formidable. Even the great Rutger Hauer is wasted as Leo, an anti-terrorism expert. He spends most of the movie in a dimly-lit room, barking orders while seated behind a control panel.

Unfortunately, Blast seldom sinks to the level of unintentionally funny (well, at least until the climax). The film is competently made for its budget, but so blandly executed that a little technical ineptitude would have boosted its entertainment value. This one is strictly for those who've seen every other Die Hard knock-off and still can't get enough.


August 16, 2018

Featuring Steve Wozniak, Stewart Copeland, Mick Fleetwood, Mickey Hart, Kate Pierson, Bill Graham, Derek Power, Eddie Money, Sherry Wasserman. Directed by Glenn Aveni. (2018/96 min). 


Review by Fluffy the Fearless😸

I remember the US Festival being a pretty big deal at the time. Organized and funded by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, everything about it was huge...the stage, the manpower, the technology, the hefty sums that artists - some of the world's biggest - were paid. And of course, there was the crowd of nearly a half-million people.

I also remember that it was a financial debacle and Wozniak lost over $12 million on the first concert alone (which is somewhat downplayed in this documentary). Historically, the US Festival was not the cultural milestone that Woodstock became, nor did it briefly unite the world like Live Aid a few years later. The entire event was simply the whim of a billionaire who thought it would be fun. In that respect, the US Festival could be viewed as the touchstone event of a decade that's often defined by excess.

Though there were actually two US Festivals, this film focuses exclusively on how Wozniak - with considerable assistance from others, such as legendary concert promoter Bill Graham - planned and put together the inaugural 1982 event. Even with Wozniak's bottomless checkbook, this was obviously a tremendous undertaking. Through interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, the film chronicles the requirements and complications they faced trying to assemble a show this massive, including technical achievements that made it possible.

When Donald Trump dreams.
Interspersed throughout the technical details is footage of the concert itself, featuring performances by the likes of Fleetwood Mac, The Police, Talking Heads, The Ramones, The B-52's, Tom Petty, The Cars and Santana. The concert footage is the best part of the film, so it's a shame we get only one song each by the biggest artists (the rest are featured in short clips). But since quality footage of the 1982 US Festival is hard to come by these days - legally anyway - I guess this'll have to do.

Some of the artists are interviewed, all of whom fondly reflect on how big the whole thing was (for most, it would be the biggest show of their careers). Speaking of fond recollections, we hear almost nothing negative about the entire event. Aside from a few brief comments on Bill Graham's clashes with the concert staff, no one has anything but gushing praise for Wozniak and his vision. Which is fine, I guess, but both Wozniak and the festival had their share of detractors. Hearing some contrary viewpoints would have made more compelling viewing.

As it is, though, The US Festival 1982: The Us Generation is a decent time capsule of an event few people seem to remember. A full blown concert film would have been preferable - perhaps with this documentary as a bonus feature - but we are reminded of how massive this undertaking really was.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Director Glenn Aveni.
ADDITIONAL INTERVIEW FOOTAGE - Featuring Stewart Copeland, Mick Fleetwood, Steve Wozniak.

Rest in Peace, Aretha Franklin

August 13, 2018

SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, & DVD on 10/2

SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital bonus features include three behind-the-scenes featurettes. Fans of the original Sicario can learn more about why this heart-pounding new chapter needed to be told in “From Film to Franchise: Continuing The Story” and can also take a deeper look into Sollima’s vision for the film, the intense action and real world connections in “An Act of War: Making Sicario: Day of the Soldado.” “The Assassin and the Soldier: The Cast and Characters” has Del Toro and Brolin leading the conversation about how their characters Matt and Alejandro have evolved in this film, and takes a look at the strong supporting cast.

August 12, 2018

TIDELAND: Adventures in Terryland
Starring Jodelle Ferland, Brendan Fletcher, Janet McTeer, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Tilly Dylan Taylor, Wendy Anderson. Directed by Terry Gilliam. (2005/120 min).


Review by Fluffy the Fearless🙀

Anyone familiar with Terry Gilliam already knows he doesn't give a damn about you, me or the expectations of any major studio stupid enough to trust him with their millions. Even his most commercial films reflect a considerable amount of self-indulgence, and it's often pretty apparent he's his own biggest fan. That's not meant as criticism. Gilliam's films have a look and tone like no other - including those that were accidental mainstream hits - the work of a director who's wired differently than the rest of us.

But even by Gilliam's standards, Tideland is really out there.

Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland) is a little girl whose active imagination helps her cope with the world's worst parents. When we first meet her, she's living in squalor, cooking a heroin fix for dad, Noah (Jeff Bridges), a has-been musician. Her mother (Jennifer Tilly) is arguably worse, not only a junkie herself, but verbally abusive. After Mom dies from a methadone overdose, Noah and Jeliza take a bus to his childhood home, an abandoned and dilapidated old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. When Noah also OD's and dies, Jeliza is alone.

She retreats from reality into her own fantasy world with dolls' heads as companions, eventually meeting her eccentric neighbors, Dell (Janet McTeer), who Jeliza first-believes is a ghost or witch, and Dickens (Brendan Fletcher), her mentally impaired son. Meanwhile, Noah's corpse becomes bloated and rotten. For most of the film, we aren't sure if Dell & Dickens are figments of Jeliza's active imagination, especially once Dell uses her taxidermy skills to preserve Noah. And the uneasy relationship between these three is just getting started.

"Look what Santa left us!"
Not only is Tideland Gilliam's strangest film, it's also his bleakest. Despite 'whimsical' sequences of Jeliza and Dickens at-play in her fantasy world, it is unremittingly dark, becoming increasingly disturbing by introducing sexual overtones. Yet at the same time, this is Gilliam at his most rambling and self-indulgent. Despite offering up heaping helpings of his patented weirdness, the narrative often feels episodic and directionless. It's a good bet that anyone not 100% in-sync with Gilliam's sensibilities will run out of patience - and tolerance - long before the end credits roll. It's almost as if he's daring people to actually enjoy it.

Some will, though. Tideland is visually arresting (and looks great on this disc). Gilliam's unique flare for surreal imagery and inventive camera angles is here in abundance. Additionally, considering her age, the requirements of her role and how long she's on-screen all by herself, Jennifer Ferland's performance is nothing short of remarkable.

In an introduction included with this Blu-ray release, Gilliam proudly declares viewers will either love it or hate it. I guess we can add 'master of understatement' to his list of talents, because Tideland is easily the most polarizing movie he's ever made. One can't help but think that was his intention all along (sort-of making this his own Natural Born Killers). Available on Blu-ray for the first time, Tideland comes with a lot of interesting supplemental material. None of it was created specifically for this release, but it's always amusing to listen to Gilliam and see how he works. 

"GETTING GILLIAM" - This is a 45 minute documentary by Vincent Natali (Cube), made during the production of Tideland.
FEATURETTES - "The Making of Tideland"; "Filming Green Screen"
INTERVIEWS - Featuring Terry Gilliam, producer Jeremy Thomas, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Tilly, Jeff Bridges (parts of these interviews are also featured in Getting Gilliam documentary).
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Gilliam and co-writer Tony Grisoni.

August 10, 2018


Experience the full gag reel along with additional featurettes, commentaries tracks, deleted scenes and more when Avengers: Infinity War releases on Blu-ray this Tuesday, August 14!

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Johnny Knoxville, Neal McDonough, Ashley Scott, Michael Bowen, Kevin Durand, John Beasley, Kristen Wilson. Directed by Kevin Bray. (2004/86 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

While Walking Tall is mostly a distant footnote in Johnson's career, it was nevertheless an important stepping stone to bigger and better things. The film might seem quaint compared to his later FX-driven blockbusters, but remains an amusing blast from his past.

And if you gotta do a remake, it makes a lot more sense to tackle one that's relatively forgotten or wasn't all that great to begin with. The original 1973 film fits the bill on both counts. It was refashioned in 2004 as a vehicle for Dwayne Johnson, back when he was primarily known as a pro wrestler (and still billed as 'The Rock'). In addition to exploiting Johnson's considerable physical attributes, this enjoyably daffy action film also allowed him to display his natural charisma (something Joe Don Baker never had).

What makes Johnson such an endearing action hero is that he's a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger used to be...wisely picking projects which fit his persona and abilities. While this version borrows the initial premise of the original to make a high-concept action flick of its own, it still retains that film's take-no-prisoners spirit.
Johnson Pest Control.
Johnson plays Chris Vaughn, a military veteran returning to his hometown after eight years, only to find it under the control of former childhood friend and casino owner Jay Hamilton (Neil McDonough). When his nephew ends up in the hospital from drugs bought from Hamilton's bodyguards, Vaughn takes the law into his own hands and tears up the casino (along with a few thugs). After being arrested, he represents himself as the trial, promising that, if acquitted, he'll run for sheriff and clean up this town. Sure enough, he's found not guilty. In the very next scene, he's the elected sheriff, even though he's never so much as ridden in a police car. After deputizing his best friend Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville), the two proceed to try and bring Hamilton's operation down, using tactics that realistically land a real cop in prison.
But we're not talking Serpico here. Walking Tall is a film with no pretensions over what it is: a vehicle for Johnson to kick ass. Stallone traveled this road before, of course, as have many other action stars, but Johnson is a naturally likable guy and a pretty decent actor (not-to-mention he's his own special effect). Additionally, the fight scenes - there's a lot of 'em - are a refreshing throwback to the days before special effects allowed actors to leap 20 feet and throw punches which landed the recipient into another time zone.

Released at a time when Dwayne Johnson was just beginning to assert himself as the heir to Arnold's throne, Walking Tall may seem underwhelming compared to the mega-budget blockbusters he's known for today. Still, it's a fun, fast-moving film that plays to his strengths at the time. As part of MVD's new "Marquee Collection," this Blu-ray retains the same bonus features as previous releases, back when Johnson still had hair.

FEATURETTE - "Fight the Good Fight" (behind the scenes of the stunt choreography)
AUDIO COMMENTARIES - One with Dwayne Johnson, the other with director Kevin Bray


August 8, 2018

BLACKMARK: Thinking Big
Starring Kaiwi Lyman, Jeff Hatch, Corey MacIntosh, Timothy Oman, John Henry Richardson, Eliot, Lana Gautier, Brenna Piller. Directed by A.J. Martinson III. (2017/94 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

The official website indicates this film was originally titled Red Fish Blue Fish, which is a far more intriguing title than Blackmark. Slapped with generic box art suggesting a straight-to-DVD shootfest, the film is actually a speculative cold war thriller that takes place primarily in 1963 and ultimately offers an alternate theory about the Kennedy assassination.

Not to say there isn't any action. Much of it involves American spy Timothy Daniels (Kaiwi Lyman, looking more 1993 than 1963), who's ordered to hack into Russia's defense system and launch a nuclear warhead at his own country. He and Soviet military officer Alexi Popolovski (Corey MacIntosh) end up working together, shooting their way out of several confrontations in an effort to save Popolovski's family.

Partying like it's 1993.
But Blackmark is primarily about its title character (Jeff Hatch), an ambitious military industrialist who appears to be trying to prevent a nuclear war while simultaneously eliminating his competition. He could be considered the story's de-facto villain simply because he's the most ruthless, but just about everybody around him appears to have sinister agendas as well. "Appears" is definitely the operative word here. Blackmark is phenomenally complicated, often a challenge to follow because it's seldom clear who's working for who, who wants war & who doesn't.

Writer/director A.J. Martinson definitely deserves kudos for ambition. If nothing else, we often forget we're watching a film with a relatively limited budget. Despite taking place on just a few small sets with a cast of unknowns, Blackmark thinks big, unfolding with the urgency and narrative scope of a large-scale thriller. However, the intricate story eventually becomes exhausting, not helped by an underwhelming and surprisingly simplistic resolution.

But as long as the viewer is ready to give it 100% of their attention - hit the pause button before hitting the bathroom, kids - Blackmark remains pretty watchable. It won't make anyone forget Fail-Safe, but its aspirations are admirable.