December 13, 2019

Rest in Peace, Danny Aiello

December 12, 2019

THE COTTON CLUB (deserves an) ENCORE

https://www.lionsgate.com/
THE COTTON CLUB ENCORE (1984)
Starring Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Lonette McKee, James Remar, Bob Hoskins, Fred Gwynne, Nicholas Cage, Maurice Hines, Allen Garfield, Laurence Fishburne, Tom Waits, Julian Beck, Gwen Verdon and a slew of other familiar faces. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. (139 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM LIONSGATE

Review by Mr. Paws­čśŞ

On the heels of Lionsgate’s massive, beautifully-packaged Apocalypse Now Final Cut boxed set comes another restoration of a Francis Ford Coppola film. This time it’s 1984’s The Cotton Club, a film bedeviled by production issues, budget problems and lawsuits before ultimately being released to an indifferent audience.

While this extended cut – running some 20 minutes longer – doesn’t approach the greatness of Coppola’s holy trinity (the first two Godfathers & Apocalypse Now), it’s one of his better post-’70s films and certainly worth rediscovering. I vaguely recall seeing it on cable back in the day, and to be honest, it didn’t leave much of an impression. On the other hand, The Godfather didn’t either at the time, though today it’s one of my all-time favorites.

Some films take multiple viewings to appreciate and revisiting The Cotton Club decades later is an interesting experience. It remains one of Coppola’s most thinly-plotted films, taking place in and around Harlem’s most famous nightclub over the course of several years. Part gangster epic, part musical, part love story, it’s the mob elements that are the most intriguing, a combination of real and fictional characters. Those segments are vintage Coppola, especially the entire final act, a masterfully-assembled medley of infectious musical numbers and violent mayhem.

"I saw that. You blinked first!"
Less engaging are the two other major plot threads involving musician Dixie Dwyer (Richard Gere), struggling tap-dancer “Sandman” Williams (Gregory Hines) and the women they’re courting, mainly because we’ve seen it all before. However, Dwyer’s tumultuous ‘friendship’ with short-fused mobster Dutch Schultz (James Remar) has its moments, especially once Dwyer’s younger brother, Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll (Nicholas Cage), finds work as one of Schultz’ enforcers.

Speaking of Cage, one of the more fascinating aspects of revisiting The Cotton Club today is its absolutely huge cast of both familiar faces and those whose careers were just starting to take off. And keep a sharp eye out for the likes of Mario Van Peebles, Giancarlo Esposito, Jack├ęe Harry, Woody Strode, Joe Dallesandro, Mark Margolis, Ed O’Ross and James Russo, all in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bit parts. Doing a shot every time you spotted a recognizable face in a tiny role would make a hell of a drinking game.

Though not one of Coppola’s classics, The Cotton Club is better than I remembered and this extended version makes it easier to appreciate what the director was ultimately trying to do. Considering it’s just-now coming out on Blu-ray for the first time, the disc is pretty light on bonus material. However, the restoration – retitled The Cotton Club Encore – does the music and imagery justice. If nothing else, the film deserves the audience it never had in 1984.

EXTRA KIBBLES
INTRODUCTION BY FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA – Though it doesn’t precede the movie itself.
THE COTTON CLUB ENCORE Q&A – Live interviews with Francis Ford Coppola, Maurice Hines & James Remar at Lincoln Center. Coppola is sort of a Chatty Cathy.
DVD & DIGITAL COPIES
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.

December 10, 2019

A Belated Appreciation of SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE

https://arrowfilms.com/
SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE (1972)
Starring Michael Sacks, Ron Leibman (RIP), Eugene Roche, Sharon Gans, Valerie Perrine, Holly Near, Perry King. Directed by George Roy Hill. (103 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM ARROW VIDEO

Review by Mr. Paws­čśŞ

I first saw Slaughterhouse-Five in my early teens when it was the bottom half of a double bill with Futureworld (I think). Even though it wasn’t the reason we parted with our allowance that weekend, my friends and I figured a title like that could mean a gory good time, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. What we got instead was 103 minutes of WTF?

Being 13, we didn’t know who the hell Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was, or that his novel of the same name was partially inspired by his own experiences as a P.O.W. in Dresden, Germany (which was bombed into oblivion by allied forces). But it actually turned out to be a sci-fi movie, though not as we always defined the genre.

Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks) is a quietly passive rube who’s become, in his own words, “unstuck in time,” revisiting pivotal moments of his life with almost no transition. As protagonists go, he’s hardly the most dynamic character in the world. Besides the fact he resembled an adult version of a kid we often teased on the playground during recess, Billy’s detached reaction to his time shifts and those who’ve shape his life – for better or worse – was really off-putting. Even after realizing he’s being manipulated by aliens, he seems little more than bemused.

Afterwards, we left the theater completely bewildered. On the plus side, we got to see Valarie Perrine naked. Like I said, we were 13.

Damn noisy neighbors.
Slaughterhouse-Five reared its ugly head again in high school when my English teacher assigned the novel. I got ten pages in before deciding Vonnegut’s prose was even more confusing than the movie. So I picked up the Cliff’s Notes version at a bookstore. Not only did it dumb things down to my level, it made me want to revisit the film that baffled the shit out of me a just few years earlier. Though I’d forgotten most of the movie, a few scenes really stood out, and not just those highlighting Ms. Perrine’s visual assets. Based on what I’d just read, some of those scenes now made actual sense.

But the movie seemed to be forgotten by everyone else, too. Over the years, it never showed up on TV, HBO or video shelves (at least where I rented from). And since there was no way in hell I was gonna try cracking open Vonnegut’s book again, the film once again became a distant memory.

But now here it is, on Blu-ray from Arrow (who else?), serving-up Slaughterhouse-Five with a new 4K restoration. It essentially allowed me to be “unstuck in time” for a few hours, revisiting one of the more befuddling moviegoing experiences of my youth, this time armed with the wisdom that comes with age. I still think Billy Pilgrim is a phenomenally static character, but also realize that’s probably the point. The film is not-so-much about Billy as it is the people and events which shape one’s life. And typical of most ‘70s-era sci-fi prior to Star Wars, Slaughterhouse-Five uses the genre to present contemporary themes and address societal ills.

The unconventional narrative structure is still jarring, even nonsensical and pretentious at times. But once the viewer picks up the beat, Slaughterhouse-Five is a uniquely rewarding film. While not quite a classic, it’s an intelligent and challenging piece of ‘70s sci-fi. This disc also includes a pretty generous batch of all-new bonus features, most of which provide a wealth of historical context.

EXTRA KIBBLES
"PILGRIM’S PROGRESS: PLAYING SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE” - Interview with actor Perry King.
"ONLY ON EARTH: PRESENTING SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE” - Interview with Rocky Lang, son of producer Jennings Lang, who’s arguably best known for disaster movies.
"UNSTUCK IN TIME: DOCUMENTING SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE” - Documentarian Robert Crawford Jr discusses his experiences behind the scenes.
"ETERNALLY CONNECTED: COMPOSING SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE” - Music historian discusses the film’s use of unconventional classical music.
"AND SO IT GOES” - Kim Newman, no stranger Arrow bonus features, offers another enjoyable appreciation for the film, author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr and director George Roy Hill.
ONE LONG-ASS TRAILER
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET – Includes cast & crew credits, restoration credits and “The World According to Billy Pilgrim,” an essay by film writer Peter Tonguette.
REVERSIBLE COVER – Features new and original artwork (we kinda like the latter...vintage ‘70s).
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.

December 8, 2019

HUSTLERS: Scorsese with Strippers

https://www.uphe.com/
HUSTLERS (2019)
Starring Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Mercedes Ruehl. Directed by Lorene Scafaria. (110 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM UNIVERSAL

Review by Stinky the Destroyer­čśŞ

Like her male counterpart, Dwayne Johnson, Jennifer Lopez once again provides the public service of inadvertently body-shaming the rest of us middle-aged mortals. Even at the ripe old age of 50, her looks are almost intimidating. She’s kind of like ‘70s-era Rachel Welch - with arguably better acting chops – and her grand entrance in Hustlers is eye-popping, to say the least.

But she’s not the whole show here. Hustlers is loosely based on a true story in which several high-end strippers come up with an elaborate scheme of using their ‘assets’ to fleece wealthy clients by drugging them and accessing their credit cards. Their story is told in flashback through the recollections of Destiny (Constance Wu), a neophyte who learns the ropes under the tutelage of ringleader Ramona Vega (Lopez). Along with a few others, they form a close-nit crew who live the high life at the expense of their victims...at least until recklessness and bad decisions threaten to unravel everything.

Someone needs a wallet for Christmas.
None other than Martin Scorsese was apparently once approached to direct the film, which is understandable since Hustlers has a basic story and narrative structure quite similar to Goodfellas and Casino. Like those films, the main characters aren’t exactly upstanding citizens. However, Destiny and Ramona display just enough congenial qualities that we’re sort-of invested in them. It helps, of course, that most of their targets are gullible, arrogant douchebags.

I suppose video voyeurs might be disappointed to learn that, despite a few flashy dance numbers and a bit o’ lap grinding, the only explicit nudity comes courtesy of a guy who nosedives from a balcony. Instead, smart writing, a fleet-footed pace and solid performances (especially from Lopez) are what ultimately make Hustlers interesting. Sorta like Scorsese with strippers.

EXTRA KIBBLES
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By director Lorene Scafaria.
2 TRAILERS
DVD & DIGITAL COPIES
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.

Rest in Peace, Ron Leibman

Rest in Peace, Rene Auberjonois

December 5, 2019

SEMPER FI: One Bad Oyster

https://www.lionsgate.com/
SEMPER FI (2019)
Starring Jai Courtney, Nat Wolff, Finn Wittrock, Beau Knapp, Arturo Castro, Leighton Castro. Directed by Henry-Alex Rubin. (99 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM LIONSGATE

Review by Tiger the Terrible­čśż

Semper Fi tries to be many things at once, but doesn’t really succeed at any of them.

It’s the story of five close-knit buddies who also serve in the Marine reserves. They have “cool” nicknames and spend most of their off-time together, bowling, bonding and drinking...lots of drinking. The de-facto leader is Cal (Jai Courtney), a cop whose younger brother, Oyster (Nat Wolff), is one felony away from going to prison, which is exactly what happens when he accidentally kills a man in a bar fight. Even though it was in self-defense, Oyster is sentenced to 25 years.

Meanwhile, the others are deployed to Iraq, where they – and the viewer – briefly experience the visceral horrors of war. Jaeger loses a limb and Cal shoots an unarmed man during a heated stand-off. Shortly afterwards, they all return to civilian life. Cal tries to make amends with Oyster, who’s still in prison and won’t forgive his older brother for turning him in. Cal suspects Oyster is being abused in prison and will die there if he doesn’t do something. After filing an appeal fails, Cal decides to try and break Oyster out. When his honor-bound friends volunteer to help, he hatches a plan that will utilize their military training as well as his police experience.

"Oh, yeah? Well, double-dumbass on you!"
If that sounds like a variation of The Deer Hunter with a prison break tossed in, you wouldn’t be too far off the mark, though the war segment in this one isn’t nearly as relevant to the narrative and feel like it belongs in another movie. Nor are any of these characters interesting enough to make their camaraderie all that engaging. We’ve seen them all before in better movies. And right from the get-go, Oyster is such an obnoxious, narcissistic jackass that it’s extremely difficult to for the viewer to generate any sympathy for him. Sure, Cal’s driven by guilt and a sense of brotherly love, but if these guys are willing to risk throwing their own lives away, shouldn’t the viewer at-least like the guy they’re trying to save? After all, didn’t Christopher Walken’s character earn our sympathies?

So despite a decent cast, Semper Fi lacks the characters necessary for a compelling depiction of honor, loyalty and brotherhood. Elsewhere, it tries to be a family drama, war film and action movie, but is too erratically paced and episodic for any of these elements to be fully engaging, exacerbated by a major character (Oyster) who displays zero redeeming qualities.

EXTRA KIBBLES
FEATURETTES - “Loyalty and Brotherhood: Making Semper Fi” (interviews with the director and main cast); “A Battle of Honor”
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By writer/director Henry-Alex Rubin
DELETED SCENES
DVD & DIGITAL COPIES
KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEH. LIKE SHARING THE BED WITH THE DOG.

December 3, 2019

SAVAGE: A Snowy Stand-Off

https://www.wellgousa.com/
SAVAGE (2018)
Starring Chen Chang, Ni Ni, Fan Liao, Jue Huang, Yicong Zhang, Hua Liu. Directed by Cui Siwei. (113 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM WELL GO USA

Review by Tiger the Terrible­čś╝

Somewhere in this movie is a truly great thriller. But while Savage is certainly watchable, it’s marred by some unnecessary story elements and convoluted character development.

It starts off great, with a trio of bad guys who hijack a gold-carrying armored truck by causing a snowy avalanche. They shoot two cops on the way down the mountain, killing one of them. The other manages to get away.

At this point, one would reasonably expect a cat-and-mouse thriller, pitting a lone, outnumbered cop against heavily-armed killers. Instead, the story flashes forward a full year. Wang (Chen Chang) has physically recovered but still hasn’t gotten over the death of his partner, Han. Complicating matters is the fact both were once vying for the same woman, local doctor Sun Yan (Ni Ni). Guilt-ridden, Wang can’t bring himself to commit to her. This dynamic is of little interest and really only exists to put her in peril, because...

Never make snow angels in the road.
...it turns out the robbers didn’t take the gold off the mountain with them. I’m not certain why, since they had a truck that could do the job. Instead, they stashed it in the woods and have now returned to get it. Naturally, Wang is on-hand to try and stop them, as well as avenge his partner. What the narrative doesn’t need is Ni Ni driving up the mountain to find him during a massive blizzard, which eventually strands all of them in a snow lodge. The movie was doing just fine without her.

Still, it’s a tense little thriller at times, especially during the Reservoir Dogs-like stand-off in the lodge. It also makes great use of its snowbound locations, to the point the viewer can practically feel the cold. However, writer-director Cui Siwei seems uncertain what to do with his primary antagonist (Fan Liao). First, he’s a cold-blooded killer, then introspective and philosophical – even threatening to appear empathetic - before reverting back to being a cold-blooded killer. It’s as if Cui briefly tried to give him some complexity before second-guessing himself.

As it is, Savage is entertaining and suspenseful enough to warrant a watch, but the viewer has to wade through some irrelevance and plot contrivances to get to the good stuff. If Cui Siwei could have tightened things up a bit, he’d have a pretty damn good movie on his hands.

KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW.

December 1, 2019

The One-Sided BATTLE OF LENINGRAD

https://www.mpihomevideo.com/
BATTLE OF LENINGRAD (2019)
Starring Andrey Mironov-Udalov, Maria Melnikova, Gela Meskhi, Anastaisiya Melnikova, Valeriy Degtyar, Vitaliy Kishchenko. Directed by Aleksey Kozlov. (102 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM MPI MEDIA GROUP

Review by Tiger the Terrible­čś╝

Battle of Leningrad – originally titled Saving Leningrad – is somewhat misleading. In fact, it’s more of a pummeling of Leningrad by the Nazis, while its civilians evacuate on leaky barges to escape across Lake Ladoga.

Most of the film takes place on Barge 752 during its perilous journey, with some manufactured melodrama from characters who are essentially plot devices (including a pampered pooch). The most contrived subplot is the main one, which has young soldier Kostya abandoning his squad to join his girlfriend, Nastya...on orders from his own father, a high ranking Russian colonel. Nastya considers him a deserter, while Kostya does nothing to advocate for himself. A Kremlin investigator, Vadim, is also on-board to repeatedly threaten both of them, because I guess the Nazis aren't enough bad guys.

When cruise ship shuffleboard turns deadly.
Even getting to that point takes awhile. Battle of Leningrad is pretty dull and aimless until then, serving up subplots and characters we assume will be of greater importance later on (though most aren’t). Once the barge sets off on its trip, however, things get more interesting. Not the characters, mind you, but it turns out the Nazis are aware of Russian plans to evacuate Leningrad and send fighter planes to attack the defenseless boats. Barge 752, already crippled by a violent storm, is a sitting duck.

The storm and aerial attack scenes pretty much save the movie. We may not care who lives or dies, but their peril looks and feels authentic, bolstered by fine editing and impressive visual effects. The same goes for the brief-but-intense skirmish between the Russian and Germans early in the story, which is suitably gritty and brutal.

While Battle of Leningrad is based on a tragic true event during World War II, the film is ironically at its most rousing when depicting death & destruction. That alone might make it worth checking out for war movie mongers, but none of its characters are compelling enough to create any emotional investment. Except maybe the dog.

KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW. 

THE FARE is...Fair

https://epic-pictures.com/
THE FARE (2018)
Starring Gino Anthony Pesi, Brinna Kelly, voice of Jason Stuart. Directed by D.C. Hamilton. (82 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM EPIC PICTURES

Review by Fluffy the Fearless­čśŻ

Harris (Gino Anthony Pesi) is a weary cabby driving a desolate stretch of road to pick up his last fare for the night, a young woman named Penny (Brinna Kenny). “Like the coin,” he says jokingly. Then after a few minutes of congenial small talk, she literally disappears.

Initially shaken, Harris resumes driving...on a desolate stretch of road to pick up his last fare for the night. Once again, it’s Penny (“Like the coin,” he jokes again). Their conversation is similar, though there’s something slightly different about their words and reactions. And once again, she disappears. The two relive the same scenario over and over, remembering more details from previous encounters (and growing closer each time). They appear to be trapped in some kind of temporal loop from which they can’t escape.

"It's not that I mind you sitting up front, lady. I just wish you'd have let me move my lunch first."
Playing very much like an extended Twilight Zone episode, The Fare is a small film with big ambitions and is clearly constructed to set up its big payoff, which is not-so-much a twist ending as an inevitable one, especially when it becomes obvious Harris & Penny are not reliving the same 20 minutes. Whether or not that revelation is worth the effort depends on the viewer’s patience. The film is often haunting and atmospheric, with likable performances by its two leads. However, it does grow a little repetitive during the middle act. One can’t help but think Rod Serling could have presented the same story in a fraction of the time.

But while the finale may not be jawdropping, at least it isn’t a red herring-laden suckerpunch. The Fare is visually and conceptually interesting enough to keep most viewers engaged, especially those who recall their middle school mythology lessons.

EXTRA KIBBLES
FEATURETTES - “The Look of The Fare”; “Secrets of The Fare” (screenwriter/actor Brinna Kelly spills the beans...don’t watch first!).
2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - #1) Director D.C. Hamilton; #2) Screenwriter/producer/actor Brinna Kelly
"ALTERNATE REALITIES” - A montage of deleted/unused footage
"BEYOND FM” - Extended talk-radio sequence.
"FLASHBACK SCENE BREAKDOWN” - Storyboard to film comparison.
GAG REEL
ALTERNATE OPENING
TRAILERS
KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW.

November 27, 2019

THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S: Bing Does Bing

https://olivefilms.com/
THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S (1945)
Starring Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, Henry Travers, William Gargan, Ruth Donnelly, Joan Carroll, Rhys Williams. Directed by Leo McCarey. (126 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM OLIVE FILMS

Review by Mr. Paws­čśŻ

Yeah, everybody loves Bing Crosby. And yeah, he won an Oscar for his portrayal of Father O’Malley in Going My Way. Personally, I never thought he had much range. In everything I’ve ever seen, his characters simply seemed to be an extension of his own persona. While I don’t begrudge ol’ Bing for staying in his comfort zone, he certainly didn’t deserve another nomination for playing the same guy in The Bells of St. Mary’s.

Ingrid Bergman certainly deserved hers, though. One might argue she’s a bit too glamorous to play a nun, but she unarguably instills Sister Mary Benedict with enough complexity and pathos to be the most interesting character in the film. She serves as the primary foil to the more laid-back and unconventional O’Malley.

"Back at the convent, they called me Sister Whoopass."
Speaking of which, The Bells of St. Mary’s has little in the way of real conflict. An episodic film with no true villains, every crisis is efficiently resolved before the next one comes along. This includes the story’s major plot thread, where greedy businessman Horace P. Bogardus (Henry Travers) has his sights on buying the run-down old parish in order to tear it down and expand his construction. Even then, the overall tone is so consistently sweet it makes your typical episode of The Waltons look like American History X.

Still, it’s that same relentless congeniality that has endeared The Bells of St. Mary’s to so many, perhaps even more than Going My Way. While it features Bing at his Bingiest - meaning he croons a few classic numbers along the way – Bergman is the film’s heart and soul. Originally released on Blu-ray five years ago, Olive Films has given it a considerable upgrade with an impressive 4K restoration and a batch of great new bonus features. Classic film fans should be more than pleased.

EXTRA KIBBLES
FEATURETTES - “Faith and Film” (Sr. Rose Pacatte discusses the film’s plausibility from a nun’s perspective); “Human Nature” (Historian Steve Massa provides an overview of director Leo McCarey’s career); “Before Sequel-itis” (author Emily Carman discusses the rarity of big-budget sequels back then, making The Bells of St. Mary’s somewhat unprecedented).
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By Crosby biographer Gary Giddens.
2 RADIO ADAPTATIONS – From Screen Guild Theater, one from 1946, the other from 1947, each running about a half-hour.
ESSAY – Written by Abby Bender. Included in a supplementary booklet as well as the disc itself.
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R. A BIT SUGARY FOR OUR TASTES, BUT AN UNDENIABLY GREAT DISC.

November 25, 2019

Blu-ray Giveaway: HUSTLERS

FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE is giving away a Blu-ray copy of UNIVERSAL's HUSTLERS to a lucky reader.

Available on Blu-ray, DVD 12/10 

Inspired by the provocative true story about a crew of former strip club employees who turn the tables on their greedy Wall Street clients, HUSTLERS arrives on Digital November 26, 2019 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand December 10, 2019 from STX films and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Dazzling critics and audiences alike, the “fiercely funny” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) drama follows a band of business-savvy strippers as they unite to seek revenge in what critics are hailing as “one of the year’s best films” (Joey Nolfi, Entertainment Weekly). Inspired by journalist Jessica Pressler’s 2015 viral New York Magazine article “The Hustlers at Scores, HUSTLERS is filled with wildly entertaining and empowering moments from beginning to end and takes audiences behind the scenes of this inspiring real life con.

TO ENTER: Simply drop us a message at freekittensmovieguide@gmail.com. CONTEST ENDS 12/6.

November 24, 2019

Here Comes EEGAH!

https://www.thefilmdetective.com/eegah
EEGAH (1962)
Starring Arch Hall Jr, Marilyn Manning, Richard Kiel, Arch Hall Sr. Directed by Arch Hall Sr (as Nicholas Merriwether). (89 min).
ON BLU-RAY FROM

Review by Fluffy the Fearless­čś╝

For dedicated MSTies, Eegah needs no introduction. Featured on the original Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1993, it remains one of the show’s more popular classic episodes.

The movie itself is a woefully-inept exercise in bargain basement nepotism. Character actor turned backwoods auteur Arch Hall Sr spent most of the ‘60s trying to turn his cherub-faced offspring, Arch Hall Jr, into a teen idol. That never happened, of course, and only Eegah himself, Richard Kiel, went on to do anything noteworthy.

It probably goes without saying that MST3K is the only reason Eegah is still remembered. Watching the film today, without Joel, Tom Servo & Crow riffing-along, seems unfathomable. The Film Detective gives us that very opportunity, though...with a 4K restoration, no less. But while the film looks and sounds better than it probably ever did, who the hell cares?

"Not funny, guys!"
The real treasures here are the bonus features, including the full MST3K episode, which marks the first time anything from the original series has ever been released on Blu-ray. While I personally don’t think it’s their greatest riff job – The Clonus Horror deserves that honor - this is where “Watch out for Snakes” became part of MSTie vernacular. Also included are individual interviews with MST3K’s Joel Hodgson and Arch Hall Jr himself. The latter offers some interesting production details and generally comes across as good-natured about Eegah’s dubious legacy.

This Blu-ray release Eegah is definitely one for the niche crowd. I can’t imagine anyone beyond the Hall family caring about the restoration, but MST3K fans will certainly want to snap this up. And quickly, too, since it’s limited to only 1,500 copies.

EXTRA KIBBLES
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 VERSION (92 min)
INTERVIEW WITH ARCH HALL JR.
INTERVIEW WITH JOEL HODGSON
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET – With an essay by The Film Detective’s Don Stradley.

KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS

November 21, 2019

THE POOP SCOOP: Killer Apps, Killer Cats & a Killer Collection

http://uni.pictures/countdowntrailer
VIEW THE TRAILER
COUNTDOWN Available on Digital 1/7 & Blu-ray and DVD 1/21
What if your phone could tell you when you’re going to die? Would you want to know? There’s a killer new app in COUNTDOWN, the terrifyingly original and inventive horror-thriller arrives on Digital, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand. from STXfilms and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat, the “fun and thrilling” (Shannon McGrew, Nightmarish Conjurings) film follows a young nurse (Elizabeth Lail, “You”), who downloads an app that claims to predict exactly when a person is going to die. With only three days left to live and death closing in, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out. Combining “jump scares around every corner” (Kimber Myers, Los Angeles Times) and intense suspense, COUNTDOWN chronicles a frightening twist on the consequence of technology’s invasion of our lives. 
 
http://uni.pictures/AbominableTrailer
VIEW THE TRAILER
ABOMINABLE on Digital 12/3, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray, DVD and On Demand 12/17
DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s co-production ABOMINABLE is a magical action-packed adventure for the whole family; with a 95% Audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, critics are calling this new animated classic “pure magic” (Dave Morales, Fox TV Houston). Yi, Everest and the gang come home just in time for the holidays on Digital, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray, DVD and On Demand December 17, 2019 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Boasting the biggest opening for an original animated film this year, ABOMINABLE is “an epic, colorful journey home. Beautiful and exhilarating to behold” (Glenn Kenny, The New York Times). The 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital versions feature tons of fun bonus content including 2 original shorts, deleted scenes, and activities for the entire family to enjoy.
 
https://youtu.be/tiCKjn9SRBg
VIEW THE TRAILER
PRIMAL on Digital 12/31, and Blu-ray & DVD 1/7
Nick Cage vs. a Killer Cat on a boat? COUNT US IN! When Frank Walsh (Nicolas Cage), a hunter and collector of rare and exotic animals, bags a priceless white jaguar for a zoo, he figures it’ll be smooth sailing to a big payday. But the ship bearing Frank’s precious cargo has two predators caged in its hold: the cat, and a political assassin being extradited to the U.S. After the assassin breaks free – and then frees the jaguar – Frank feverishly stalks the ship’s cramped corridors in hot pursuit of his prey, right up until the thrilling, unpredictable climax. 
 
BEVERLY HILLS COP TRILOGY on Blu-ray 1/14
All three films together on Blu-ray for the first time, newly remastered from new 4K transfers. Celebrating its 35th anniversary, the comedy classic BEVERLY HILLS COP stars Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley, a street-smart cop from Detroit. Tracking down his best friend's killer in Beverly Hills, Axel smashes through the local barriers in a hilarious, high-speed pursuit of justice. In BEVERLY HILLS COP II, Eddie Murphy returns as Axel goes deep undercover to investigate a gang of international munitions smugglers and in BEVERLY HILLS COP III Axel investigates a counterfeit money ring, run out of a theme park in Los Angeles. The BEVERLY HILLS COP Blu-ray boasts brand new special features, including never-before-seen deleted scenes, new behind-the-scenes featurettes incorporating vintage 1984 interviews, an isolated audio track of the original score by Harold Faltermeyer and “BHC Mixtape ‘84”, which allows viewers to go directly to the scenes featuring the hit songs.

November 20, 2019

ROBOCOP Upgraded (or...how I spent my Saturday)

https://arrowfilms.com/
ROBOCOP (1987)
Starring Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Dan O’Herlihy, Ray Wise, Paul McCrane, Jesse D. Goins, Robert DoQui. Directed by Paul Verhoeven. (103 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM ARROW VIDEO

Review by Stinky the Destroyer­čś║

I remember first seeing the trailer for Robocop and thinking, Wow, that looks really dumb. Even the title suggested something along the lines of Megaforce or Battletruck. Then a few buddies who’d already seen it dragged me kicking and screaming to a local drive-in, touting “You gotta see this!” and “It’ll blow you away!”

The second time I watched it was on video, when I told a few other buddies, “Hey, you gotta see this! It’ll blow you away!” The action and gung-ho violence was as rousing as ever, but this time I noticed how genuinely funny it was. Often because of the over-the-top violence, but also its pitch-black sense of humor and plethora of surprisingly hilarious - and quotable - dialogue.

Of course, I later bought it on DVD because it more-than-warrants repeat viewings. Like a lot of fans, critics and film scholars, I came to the conclusion that RoboCop is ultimately a rare work of demented genius under the guise of an ‘80s action film (but has aged far better than nearly all of ‘em). In fact, it ultimately defies single genre classification, successfully combining traditional science-fiction, horror, classic tragedy, dark comedy, sharp satire, cultural commentary and, of course, good old fashioned revenge, all of which are as timely today as they were 32 years ago.

If that ain’t the definition of a modern classic, I don’t know what is.

Best Buy's Employee of the Month.
I spent an entire Saturday evening reviewing this new limited edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video, and that’s before actually watching the three cuts of the film that are included. These two discs are loaded with so many new and vintage bonus features (in addition to a booklet the length of a novella) that I was simply too damn tired to fire-up the movie itself until Sunday morning. I was intrigued enough by the inclusion of the edited-for-TV cut on disc two to start there (the only version I hadn’t yet seen). Originally airing on ABC in the early ‘90s, anyone who’s ever seen RoboCop will concur that it’s about as non-conducive to TV butchery as a movie gets. The result is a truncated hoot, a de-fanged film with expletives substituted with hilariously “safe” dialogue and, of course, shorn of nearly all the violence.

The storied Director’s Cut is also here in all its gory glory. Only dedicated fans could probably differentiate it from the Theatrical Cut without a magnifying glass, but it is the definitive version and the 4K restoration is mostly pretty impressive (save for a few noticeably muddy scenes late in the film). However, the differences are made quite clear by a nifty bonus feature that presents side-by-side comparisons of key scenes (including 20 minutes comparing the original and TV cuts).

Dead or alive, this is coming with me.
Elsewhere, there’s enough supplementary material (outlined below) to keep Robofans busy for hours. Not only does it cover nearly every aspect of the film’s production and impact, a lot of the featurettes are entertaining enough to watch more than once. And I haven’t even gotten to the aesthetic goodies, including some neat stuff my wife has already informed me will not become part of our living room d├ęcor.

RoboCop has been released on video plenty of times before, including some editions that were pretty impressive in their own right. But this one is so comprehensive and beautifully packaged that double-dipping should be a no-brainer. Barring something extraordinary happening in December, this is the best Blu-ray release of the year.

In other words, you gotta see this. It’ll blow you away.

EXTRA KIBBLES
DIRECTOR’S CUT, THEATRICAL CUT & THE EDITED-FOR-TELEVISION VERSION
NEW: 2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - #1) Film historian Paul M. Sammon; #2) Christopher Griffiths, Gary Smart & Eastwood Allen.
NEW: “THE FUTURE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT: CREATING ROBOCOP” - Interview with co-screenwriter Michael Miner.
NEW: “ROBOTALK” - discussion with co-screenwriter Ed Neumeier with writer David Birke & director Nicholas McCarthy.
NEW: “TRUTH OF CHARACTER” - Interview with Nancy Allen.
NEW:CASTING OLD DETROIT” - Interview with RoboCop casting director Julie Selzer.
NEW: “CONNECTING THE SHOTS” - Interview with RoboCop’s second unit director Mark Goldblatt.
NEW: “ANALOG” - Interviews with Peter Kuran & Kevin Kutchaver, who created the “computer” effects, included Robo’s POV shots.
NEW: “MORE MAN THAN MACHINE: COMPOSING ROBOCOP” - An appreciation of Basil Poladouris’ score
NEW: “ROBOPROPS” - A fan shows off his RoboCop memorabilia collection, which is pretty impressive.
NEW: SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET This is 80 pages long, folks! Includes 4 essays, cast & crew credits, promotional cast & crew bios, restoration credits, behind-the-scenes photos.
NEW: DOUBLE-SIDED POSTER – Featuring new and original artwork.
NEW: 6 POSTCARDS – Featuring promotional stills from the film.
NEW: WINDOW STICKER – Faux home-security sticker that reads, “Warning: This property is protected by RoboCop.”
2012 Q&A – Panel discussion with director Paul Verhoeven, writers Michael Miner & Ed Neumeier, producer Jon Davison, animator Phil Tippet, Peter Weller & Nancy Allen.
ARCHIVE FEATURETTES -RoboCop: Creating a Legend”; “Villains of Old Detroit”; “Special Effects Then and Now”
ARCHIVE COMMENTARY – By Paul Verhoeven, Jon Davison & Ed Neumeier (featured on both the Director’s Cut & Theatrical Cut).
PAUL VERHOEVEN EASTER EGG – The director’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo
"THE BOARDROOM” - Storyboard of the ED209 boardroom scene, with Phil Tippett.
2 ISOLATED SCORE TRACKS
SPLIT-SCREEN COMPARISONS - #1) Director’s Cut vs. Theatrical Cut; #2 Theatrical Cut vs. Edited-for-TV Version.
ALTERNATE SCENES FOR TV VERSION
DELETED SCENES
TRAILERS & TV SPOTS
3 IMAGE GALLERIES – Production stills, behind-the-scenes stills & promotional material.
REVERSIBLE COVER – Featuring new and classic cover art (as iconic as the original artwork is, the new cover is gorgeous).

KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEE-OW! LIKE TAUNTING A MOUSE TO DEATH.