February 26, 2019

WILD ROVERS: Meet the Mild Bunch

Starring William Holden, Ryan O'Neal, Karl Malden, Joe Don Baker, Tom Skerritt, James Olson, Victor French, Lynn Carlin, Leora Dana, Rachel Roberts. Directed by Blake Edwards. (1971/137 min).


Review by Mr. Paws😼

Blake Edwards is not the first director who comes-to-mind when it comes to westerns, for good reason. He's mostly synonymous with comedy, both slapstick and satirical...an odd choice to write & direct a relatively straightforward western. While he's decidedly out of his element here, Wild Rovers is ultimately anchored by a dedicated performance from William Holden, fresh off his comeback role in The Wild Bunch.

Actually, Wild Rovers is narratively - even a little thematically - similar to Peckinpah's classic, with Holden playing aging cowpoke Ross Bodine, sort-of a kinder, gentler variation of Pike Bishop. He's worked his whole life as a hired hand with little to show for it, though still has dreams of someday retiring comfortably in Mexico. His young partner, Frank Post (Ryan O'Neal), is equally unsatisfied working for others and suggests robbing the local bank, which they do without firing a shot.

Their former employer, Walt Buckman (Karl Malden), sends his two sons after them, hoping to get their payroll back. The rest of the film has Bodine & Post heading south - with a few episodic adventures along the way - while Paul and John Buckman (Tom Skerritt & Joe Don Baker) close in on them. Considering Edwards' reputation, much of this is surprisingly somber and leisurely paced, compounded by a pointless subplot involving Walt's ongoing clash with local sheep farmers.

"I swear to God, I heard him speak...but who the hell is Wilbur?"
Edwards obviously had loftier ambitions than cranking out a traditional western. One can sense films like The Wild Bunch helped influence his direction. But where Peckinpah was bold and brash, Edwards appears to believe his characters are interesting enough to justify lengthy scenes that really don't amount to much. While Bodine is sympathetic, charming and quietly complex, that's due more to the sincerity of Holden's performance than Edwards' script. Conversely, I've always found Ryan O'Neal to be an overbearing actor and he's totally miscast as Post. What the character really needed was a more subtle touch (co-star Tom Skerritt might have been perfect).

A box office disappointment when released in 1971 and largely forgotten since then, Wild Rovers is not quite the revisionist western Blake Edwards was probably striving for and he pretty-much stuck to comedy for the rest of his career. It's a little too poky to be consistently engaging, but William Holden at-least keeps it watchable.

"THE MOVIE MAKERS" - Vintage making-of featurette

ALIEN Turns 40

It's hard to believe this film is now four decades old. I remember sitting in the theater, utterly terrified, like it was yesterday. But here it is, and Fox is finally giving the film the 4K release it deserves...

The Scariest Movie Ever Made Celebrates 40 Years as ALIEN Arrives on 4K Ultra HD April 23

The terrifying sci-fi adventure, ALIEN, celebrates 40 years with an all-new 4K Ultra HD master, available April 23. A limited edition 4K UHD steelbook of ALIEN 40th Anniversary Edition will also be available exclusively at Best Buy.

In the film that birthed the wildly successful
ALIEN franchise, the crew of the deep space tug Nostromo awaken from stasis during a voyage home to Earth when their ship’s computer detects what is believed to be an alien distress signal coming from the desolate nearby moon, LV-426. While investigating, one of the crew, Kane (John Hurt), is attacked by an alien creature that latches to his face and he is rushed back to the Nostromo to receive medical treatment. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the ship’s warrant officer, advises against Kane’s return due to quarantine regulations - but her orders are ignored by Ash (Ian Holm), bringing the Nostromo under threat from a mysterious, extraterrestrial apex predator with violent and lethal survival instincts.

The film was restored in 4K in 2018 by 20th Century Fox at Company 3/Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, supervised by Ridley Scott and Pam Dery, with the 4K scans were done at EFilm.
And hey, while you're here, check out our retrospective essay, 

THE POOP SCOOP (2/26): Spidey on Digital TODAY, plus GLASS and the 4K Release of BLACK HAWK DOWN

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE Arrives on Digital TODAY and 4K, Blu-ray & DVD 3/19
The Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Feature Film, SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE has grossed over $350 million in theaters worldwide to date, introduces Brooklyn teen Miles Morales, and the limitless possibilities of the Spider-Verse, where more than one can wear the iconic mask. This Blu-ray is filled with engaging bonus materials that are fun for the whole family and give fans even more of the unique comic book style action that they loved in theaters with over 90 minutes of bonus content.

GLASS on Digital 4/2 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand 4/16
Writer-Director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs) completes a mind-bending trilogy created nearly twenty years ago with GLASS, a comic book thriller available on Digital via the digital movie app MOVIES ANYWHERE on April 2, 2019 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on April 16, 2019, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. GLASS is a grounded-in-reality, comic-book thriller where the heroes and villains are people first. The thrilling culmination to the trilogy that started with Unbreakable and Split, stars James McAvoy (Split, Atonement), Samuel L. Jackson (Hitman’s Bodyguard, Avengers Franchise), Bruce Willis (Unbreakable, Die Hard), Sarah Paulson (Ocean’s Eight, “American Horror Story”) and Anya-Taylor Joy (Split, The Witch). Go inside the mind of master of suspense M. Night Shyamalan to uncover the connections and references that bring the three films together in one universe. Experience more than sixty minutes of never-before-seen features elaborating on his process and artistic vision including an in-depth look at the making of the film, deep insights on the characters, a never-before-seen alternate opening, and deleted scenes.

BLACK HAWK DOWN debuts on 4K 5/7
Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor), Ewan McGregor (Star Wars franchise) and Eric Bana (Star Trek) star in BLACK HAWK DOWN, the acclaimed and gripping war epic from Director Ridley Scott, debuting on 4K Ultra HD May 7 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film will also be available digitally in 4K day and date with the physical release on participating platforms.  Based on a true story and nominated for four Academy Awards, winning two, the film follows the 160 elite U.S. soldiers dropped into Somalia on a mission to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord, but instead find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis. The release includes the Theatrical and Extended versions on the 4K Ultra HD disc with both versions newly remastered in 4K from the original camera negative and featuring High Dynamic Range. This new 4K HDR transfer was approved by Ridley Scott.  Both versions also include an all-new immersive Dolby Atmos audio mix, along with the original 5.1 audio.

REPLICAS on Digital 4/2 and Blu-ray and DVD 4/16
Keanu Reeves stars as William Foster, a neuroscientist on the verge of transferring human consciousness into a computer when his beloved wife (Alice Eve) and children are tragically killed in a car crash. Desperate to resurrect his family, William recruits a fellow scientist (Thomas Middleditch) to help secretly clone their bodies and create replicas. When William learns that he can only replicate three of the four family members, he makes a decision with fateful consequences. Take home Replicas and dive headfirst into the twists and turns of this intense brain-churner with an audio commentary with director Jeffrey Nachmanoff and executive producer James Dodson, a making of featurette, and never-before-seen deleted scenes.

A DOG'S WAY HOME on Digital 3/26 and Blu-ray and DVD 4/9
Based on the bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, A DOG’S WAY HOME chronicles the heartwarming adventure of Bella, the brave and adventurous dog that embarks on an epic 400-mile journey home after she is separated from her beloved human, Lucas. A DOG’S WAY HOME highlights the power of unconditional love between man’s best friend and its human companion. The film stars Ashley Judd (“Twin Peaks”), Jonah Hauer-King (Old Boys), Edward James Olmos (“Mayans M.C.”), Alexandra Shipp (Love, Simon), and Wes Studi (Hostiles ) with Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) providing the charming and lovable voice of Bella. A DOG’S WAY HOME is produced by Gavin Polone (A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Journey) and directed by Charles Martin Smith (Air Bud).

February 25, 2019

RAMPANT: Ancient Undead

Starring Hyun Bin, Jang Dong-gun, Kim Eui-sung, Jeong Man-sik, Jo Woo-jin, Lee Sun-bin, Kim Tae-woo. Directed by Kim Sung-hoon. (2018/122 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible🙀

"From the studio that brought you Train to Busan," trumpets the tag-line for this one. The studio? Do people really fall for that? That's like being convinced to pop into to 7-Eleven for a bag o' Funyuns because you really enjoyed the Twinkies they once sold you. 

Besides, inviting comparison to Train to Busan is really doing Rampant a disservice. The former is, in my humble opinion, a modern horror masterpiece, setting a bar in the zombie subgenre that the latter has no hope of reaching. But Rampant is still a pretty damn good film in its own right.

The film is a creative mash-up of action, historical epic and bloody horror. Taking place during the era of Korean dynasties, Joseon is ruled by tyrannical King Lee Jo (Kim Eui-sung), whose more compassionate son, Prince Lee Young (Kim Tae-woo), attempts to overthrow him. Young commits suicide, but not before sending a message to his exiled brother, Lee Chung (Hyun Bin), requesting him to return to Joseon and escort his pregnant wife to the safety of Qing, a Chinese empire. Meanwhile, treacherous military minister Kim Ja-joon (Jang Dong-gun) is secretly plotting to overthrow the king with the help of trusted underlings and...legions of zombies.

The undead are referred to as Night Demons, which have been plaguing surrounding villages, coming out at night to attack hapless peasants. They are mostly the stuff of rumors in Joseon and Lee Chung doesn't believe the stories either until he's attacked on his journey home. But Kim knows better and keeps one in a cellar with plans to wipe everyone out - starting with King Jo - and building his own dynasty.

"Tag! You're it!"
Actually, Rampant does share a few qualities with Train to Busan that draw favorable comparison. First, the story takes time establishing its main characters (though some might say too much time). Lee Chung's transformation from arrogant prince to heroic zombie slayer is engaging. While his comic-relief sidekick, Hak-soo (Jeong Man-sik), isn't particularly funny, his sheer likability sets-up one of the story's most poignant moments. Kim Ja-joon may not be the most complex villain to ever grace the screen, but he's suitably hateful & menacing. Like the best films of the genre, Rampant's real monsters aren't the zombies.

However, the story takes a while to get moving. It's almost relentlessly talky during the entire first act and little of the political intrigue is interesting enough to justify the amount of time we spend listening to it. But once it gets down to the business of zombie slaying, Rampant is a bloody good time. The undead siege on Joseon is loaded with close-quarters action, great swordplay and tension-filled moments (the prison escape sequence is particularly noteworthy). My only nagging question is this: After being bitten, why does one major character's faculties remain intact while everyone else turns into mindless, white-eyed ghouls? I dunno...maybe I missed something.

Despite being a bit overlong, with some pacing issues and questionable plot developments, Rampant is ultimately a big, fun spin on the genre, with an intriguing setting and great production values. It's no Train to Busan, but you shouldn't hold that against it.

FEATURETTES - "Making of"; "Behind the Scenes"; Character Trailer (these are essentially short promotional pieces, all under two minutes each).

February 19, 2019

YEAR OF THE DRAGON: The Cult of Mickey

Starring Mickey Rourke, John Lone, Ariane, Dennis Dun, Ray Barry, Caroline Kava, Leonard Termo, Eddie Jones, Victor Wong. Directed by Michael Cimino. (1985/134 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

Stanley White (Mickey Rourke) is the best, most decorated cop in New York. Just ask him, he'll tell you. In fact, he'll probably tell you even if you don't ask, as he does at-least three times during Year of the Dragon. I guess we'll just have to take his word for it because all we mostly see is an innate talent for getting people around him killed.

When not putting partners & loved ones in harm's way, White is obsessed with bringing down the criminal underworld in New York's Chinatown, disrupting a mutual accord between the police and the mob. He's a big thorn-in-the-side of Joey Tai (John Lone), an ambitious young up-and-comer who ignites a war between two rival organizations so he can rise to power. Along the way, White alienates his superiors, bullies fellow officers, belittles his wife and seduces reporter Tracy Tzu (Ariane), who's inexplicably charmed by his obnoxious bravado. And given Rourke's penchant for weirdness, one can't help but suspect he had a hand in White's appearance, from the ill-fitting fedora to his Billy-Idol-on-crack hairstyle.

"Get off my lawn!"
Year of the Dragon is as awesomely bad as it sounds, chock-full of groan-worthy dialogue, laughable attempts at grittiness, embarrassing amounts of racism and wooden performances...except for Rourke, of course, who chews the scenery like one of his beloved chihuahuas. While not quite on par with Rourke's magnum opus, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, this trashy trainwreck is especially fascinating because its director, the late Michael Cimino, was the toast of Hollywood just a few years before. Then, of course, Heaven's Gate happened. Not to speak ill of the dead, but this plays more like one of those once-promising ideas butchered by Sylvester Stallone rewrites (ol' Sly did that a lot in the 80s).

Perhaps those are some reasons Year of the Dragon enjoys sort-of a cult following today. Without a doubt, the film encapsulates everything glorious goofy about the 80s, slapped together by a guy in the midst of one of Hollywood history's more spectacular career downfalls. Still, I gotta admit it's those same qualities that make it more entertaining than Heaven's Gate. Faint praise, to be sure, but at least it isn't boring.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Director Michael Cimino

THE POOP SCOOP (2/21): Oscars Edition

MARY POPPINS RETURNS On Digital 4K Ultra HD 3/12 and on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray 3/19
Bonus material explores the making of “Mary Poppins Returns,” going behind the scenes with the star-studded cast and crew who collaborated to make even the impossible possible. Extensive extras include a trip down Cherry Tree Lane with original cast member Dick Van Dyke, a sing-along version including the heartfelt Academy Award-nominated “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” bloopers, deleted scenes, a deleted song and filmmaker commentary. Features also reveal the magic and moxie that went into creating large-scale musical production numbers, such as “Trip a Little Light Fantastic,” a rousing song-and-dance number led by Jack and his fellow lamplighters; “The Royal Doulton Music Hall” and “A Cover Is Not the Book,” showcasing the tremendous talents of  Blunt and Miranda; “Turning Turtle,” an upside-down sequence featuring Meryl Streep as Mary’s eccentric Cousin Topsy; and “Can You Imagine That?” an underwater adventure with Mary Poppins and the Banks children.
CAPERNAUM on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital 3/26
In addition to earning an Academy Award nomination, CAPERNAUM was nominated for Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and won 3 awards at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, including the Jury Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. The film was also an Official Selection at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.  Special features available on the home entertainment release will include an insightful commentary track with director/writer Nadine Labaki and composer/producer Khaled Mouzanar, a Q & A with Labaki, Mouzanar and actor Zain Al Rafeea and a featurette detailing the process of bringing this heart-wrenching story to life.

VICE Arrives on Digital 3/12 and on Blu-ray & DVD 4/2
Nominated for 8 ACADEMY AWARDS, including Best Picture, VICE stars Christian Bale in his Oscar-nominated role as Dick Cheney in this epic tale of how a bureaucratic Washington insider quietly became the most powerful man in the world. Co-starring Amy Adams, Steve Carell, and Sam Rockwell, VICE is a darkly comic look behind the scenes of American politics. Includes deleted scenes, featurettes and an image gallery.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE Arrives on Digital 2/26 and 4K, Blu-ray & DVD 3/19
The Academy Award Nominee for Best Animated Feature Film, SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE has grossed over $350 million in theaters worldwide to date, introduces Brooklyn teen Miles Morales, and the limitless possibilities of the Spider-Verse, where more than one can wear the iconic mask. This Blu-ray is filled with engaging bonus materials that are fun for the whole family and give fans even more of the unique comic book style action that they loved in theaters with over 90 minutes of bonus content. 
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK Arrives on Digital 3/12 and on Blu-ray & DVD 3/26
From Academy Award Winner Barry Jenkins, adapted from James Baldwin’s acclaimed novel, comes this timeless love story set in early 1970s Harlem. Newly engaged 19-year-old Tish (KiKi Layne) and her fiancé Fonny (Stephan James) have a beautiful future ahead. But their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Now the pair and their families must fight for justice in the name of love and the promise of the American dream in this lush, moving, dramatic film, also starring Academy Award Nominee Regina King.
THE FAVOURITE Arrives on Digital 2/12 & Blu-ray 3/5
The Favourite has been one of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year. It has received numerous awards including The Venice Film Festivals’ Grand Special Jury Prize for Director Yorgos Lanthimos, 10 wins at the British Independent Film Awards, selected as AFI’s 2018 Movie of the Year and a Golden Globe for Olivia Colman’s performance as Queen Anne. The film has also nabbed 10 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay.

February 17, 2019


Starring Donnie Yen, Eva Huang, Wang Bao Qiang, Simon Yam, Yu Kang, Jiang Shu Ying. Directed by Raymond Yip. (2018/88 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible🙀

This is a sequel to 2014's Iceman. If you haven't seen it, don't fret too much. Despite a scant running time, the opening ten minutes of Iceman: Time Traveler consists of footage from the first film, with star Donnie Yen providing a voiceover that recaps the entire plot.

What's left is a disjointed, rambling and ultimately dull story that still feels unnecessarily padded out. Picking up where the first film left off, Ming Dynasty warrior He Ying (Yen) travels back to his own time, hopefully to save his village and clear his name. His former childhood friends & blood brothers - led by Cheung (Simon Yam) - have a different agenda: Use the time travel device to rule all of China.

Never mind that the film's temporal narrative makes little logistical sense (and grows increasingly perplexing during the climax). Gone are the amusing fish-out-of-water elements that at-least made the first film watchable. This sequel is overly-serious and relentlessly talky, not-to-mention boring. For an action movie, Iceman: The Time Traveler has precious little of it. Even then, the fight sequences are often enhanced by way too much CGI to be interesting or plausible.

Donnie Yen drops the mic.
I'm a big fan of Donnie Yen. He's a phenomenal martial artist and a good actor whose sincerity and charisma has elevated many films that would have otherwise been mundane. But in this one, Yen appears to be coasting on autopilot. While he isn't terrible, he's not particularly engaging, either. More distressingly, aside from a brief - and ridiculous - skirmish on-board a passenger train, nearly an hour passes before his formidable fighting skills are called upon.

While the original wasn't exactly a feather in Yen's cap, Iceman: The Time Traveler is one of the worst films in his lengthy filmography. Though elaborately produced, it's undone by a convoluted story, erratic pacing and an uncharacteristically indifferent performance by its star. For Yen fans, or even those who actually enjoyed the first film, don't say you weren't warned.


February 16, 2019

SO DARK THE NIGHT: Unconventional Film Noir

Starring Steven Geray, Micheline Cheirel, Eugene Borden, Ann Codee, Egon Brecher, Paul Marion, Helen Freeman. Directed by Joseph H. Lewis. (1946/70 min).


Review by Mr. Paws😸

Though largely unheralded, Joseph H. Lewis created some wonderful films with limited budgets. He was a true B-movie master in a variety of genres, though in this writer's view, film noir was where he excelled. Granted, I haven't seen many movies on his resume, but thought 1950's Gun Crazy was a quirky little gem. So Dark the Night, on the other hand, is a lot more perplexing. Though not a bad film by any stretch, it certainly doesn't appear to fit the definition of film noir...at least initially.

In fact, the tone is almost whimsical at first. When we first meet our overly-congenial protagonist, Henri Cassin (Steven Geray), he's strolling down a Paris street with a grin on his face, giving friendly greetings to children and shopkeepers. Hell, I have-expected him to break-out into song while skipping down the sidewalk.

Cassin is France's most famous detective who decides to take a break from police work to vacation in the country, where he meets Nanette (Micheline Cheirel), the young daughter of an innkeeper. She's half his age and, complicating things further, is already engaged to hunky, hot-headed young farmer Leon (Paul Marion). Everything's still bubbly at this point, though Nanette's manipulation of both men suggests she could turn out to be some sort of femme fatale.

Mister Pouty Puss.
When Nanette later turns up dead, Cassin must put his renowned detective skills to work. He initially suspects Leon, at least until his body is discovered later. For the first time in his illustrious career, Cassin has no leads and is completely baffled. So are we...right up until the killer's identity is finally revealed.

So Dark the Night doesn't play by the rules. It unfolds like a whodunit, yet offers no clues. The final revelation is nearly a red herring, a narrative suckerpunch with no overt foreshadowing. Yet at the same time, this is definitely what puts the film in noir territory, because in the end, all of Cassin's questionable decisions and subsequent problems are due to the love of a woman. Isn't that the narrative which drives so many movies of this genre?

For a crime film, So Dark the Night doesn't unfold as expected, which keeps it fairly interesting. While the denouement makes sense, some might feel it's sort-of a cop-out, coming out of nowhere like it does. But overall, though not film noir in the conventional sense, this relative obscurity is entertaining and worth checking out.

"A DARK PLACE: JOSEPH H. LEWIS AT COLUMBIA" - Author Imogen Sara Smith discusses the director at Columbia Pictures.
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Includes credits, photos and an essay, "An Inspector Falls," by filmmaker/critic David Cairns.

OVERLORD Goes Over Easy

Starring Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Pilou Asbaek, Gianny Taufer, Iain De Caestecker, Dominic Applewhite. Bokeem Woodbine. Directed by Julius Avery. (2018/110 min). 


Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

You know what's awesome about Denny's? Their menus. Whether you're still half asleep in the morning or trying to sober-up after the bars close, you can slide into a booth, grab an oversized laminated menu and find exactly what'll hit the spot without reading a single word. Just point to the glossy colored photo of their Grand Slam Breakfast and grunt to the waitress, "Me want that."

And no matter which Denny's you stumble into, that Grand Slam Breakfast will look and taste exactly like the picture promises. Nothing on their menu will ever be mistaken for fine cuisine, but unless the kitchen overcooked your eggs over easy, chances are you've never walked out of a Denny's disappointed.

Overlord is sort-of the action-horror equivalent of a Denny's visit, brought to your table just as advertised and prepared by cooks who may not be Bobby Flay, but at-least know their way around a griddle. The cooks in this case are director Julius Avery, producer J.J. Abrams and screenwriters Billy Ray & Mark L. Smith, who've put together a heaping, greasy plate o' bloody horror, violent action and just enough character development so we care who lives or dies.

"Just hangin' around, huh?"
Taking place during World War II, the film has a squad of paratroopers charged with infiltrating a German-occupied village in France just prior to D-Day. However, in a riveting opening scene, their plane is attacked and only a few of them, led by Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), manage to survive the jump. Their objective remains the same, though: Destroy a radio tower - located in the village church - before their allies hit the beach at Normandy. But after inadvertently infiltrating the church on his own, newbie Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) discovers a lab where Nazis, under the command of lecherous SS officer Captain Wafner (Pilou Asbaek), have been experimenting on villagers to develop a serum that not-only resurrects the dead, it gives them unbelievable strength. Worse yet, they're almost invulnerable.

We've seen Nazi-zombie mash-ups before, mostly low-budget horror fare. But the undead depicted here aren't zombies in the purest sense and Overlord is just-as-much a war movie as it is a horror film. The plot is strictly meat & potatoes - or bacon & eggs, in this case - with an abundance of familiar tropes from both genres. Amusingly, most of the protagonists act like they've been hijacked from a 1940s war epic (right down to the wisecracking kid from Brooklyn), yet they're engaging nonetheless. And though the film is mostly bereft of surprises or suspense, the mission itself is a fun, gleefully violent adventure that comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Sometimes that's all you need from a meal. Like everything on the Denny's menu, Overlord delivers as expected without frills or fuss. Well written, solidly directed and briskly-paced, it isn't likely to become a classic (though cult classic isn't out of the question). However, it's equally unlikely that action-horror fans will walk away still hungry.

"THE HORRORS OF WAR" - A 6-chapter making-of documentary, totaling just over 50 minutes.

February 13, 2019

AUDITION and the Air of Despair

Starring Eihi Shiina, Ryo Ishibashi, Renji Ishibashi, Jun Kunimura, Tetsu Sawaki, Miyuki Matsuda, Toshie Negishi, Ken Mitsuishi. Directed by Takashi Miike. (1999/115 min).


Review by Fluffy the Fearless🙀

Though I'm pretty well versed in the horror genre, this was actually the first time I ever sat down and watched Audition. Its reputation preceded it, of course, being one of the more infamous examples of extreme horror to come out of Japan and the first Takashi Miike film that recieved significant international notoriety.

Having seen Ichi the Killer and being aware of Miike's penchant for over-the-top violence, I figured I knew what to expect. But I was dead wrong. True-to-form, Audition has moments that are extraordinarily violent and disturbing, its imagery growing increasingly horrific. What I did not expect is the overall air of sorrow that hangs over the entire film. There are moments when the sadness is downright claustrophobic.

Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is a widower whose loneliness threatens to overwhelm him. At the behest of his teenage son, he finally decides he'd like to start dating again, with the hopes of someday finding a new wife. Uncertain over what to do next, he accepts the help of producer-friend Yasuhisa, who suggests setting up fake auditions for a non-existent film. Though he has ethical misgivings, Shigeharu goes along with it. He becomes fixated with Asami (Eihi Shiina), a young ex-dancer whose resume reflects a disenchanted life...and perhaps a kindred spirit.

The two begin seeing each other, Asami's affection for him growing with each encounter. It's seems too good to be true, as Yasuhisha soon warns him of when her references turn out to be dead and little is known about who she really is. After Shigeharu promises to love nobody else during a weekend getaway, Asami disappears. And here's where things get weird...and increasingly surreal.

Extreme flossing.
Anyone reading this is probably already aware of Audition's premise, sort-of a deranged variation of Misery and Fatal Attraction. Of course, Asami turns out to be batshit crazy and her retribution on Shigeharu is twisted, vicious and graphic. However, the gung-ho violence Miike unleashes during the final act isn't what makes Audition difficult to endure. Movie gore is simply movie gore, no matter how wince-inducing it may be (and I found myself wincing a lot during the climax). What renders the entire scene truly harrowing is the first half of the film, when Miike takes great care in establishing Shigeharu as a supremely sympathetic family man we care deeply about. Despite the initial ruse of the audition, he's a genuinely nice guy whose quiet desperation is easy to empathize with.

Similar effort is made to present Asami as something of a victim herself. She commits atrocious acts, but is also a product of a phenomenally abusive upbringing. We get the sense that her actions are almost beyond her control. All of which renders the climax more mournful than terrifying. Unlike the cartoon brutality - and buffoonery - of Ichi the Killer, the violence in Audition merely amplifies the overall tone of despair.

Audition is a very good film...dark, surreal and consistently unsettling, aided by solid performances by Shiina and Ryo Ishibashi. But it's also an emotionally-draining experience and admiring a film's ability to manipulate an audience isn't always the same as enjoying it. I'm glad I was finally able to see it, though I think one time is sufficient. Miike fans probably think differently, of course, and they'll love this Blu-ray from Arrow, which offers an impressive 2K restoration and an abundance of bonus features, both old and new.

NEW: "DAMAGED ROMANCE" - An appreciation by film historian Tony Rayns (the guy's quite knowledgeable and interesting to listen to).
NEW: AUDIO COMMENTARY - By biographer Tom Mes
INTERVIEWS - Lengthy, individual interviews with actors Eihi Shiina, Ryo Kunimura, Renji Ishibashi and Ren Osugi (the "man in the bag")
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Takashi Miike and screenwriter Daisuke Tengan.
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - featuring photos, credits and an essay, "Guilty of Romance," by Anton Bitel

THE POOP SCOOP (2/13): Monsters & Oscar Snubs Edition

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK Arrives on Digital March 12 and on Blu-ray & DVD March 26
From Academy Award Winner Barry Jenkins, adapted from James Baldwin’s acclaimed novel, comes this timeless love story set in early 1970s Harlem. Newly engaged 19-year-old Tish (KiKi Layne) and her fiancé Fonny (Stephan James) have a beautiful future ahead. But their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Now the pair and their families must fight for justice in the name of love and the promise of the American dream in this lush, moving, dramatic film, also starring Academy Award Nominee Regina King.
STAN & OLLIE Arrives On Blu-ray, DVD and Digital March 26
Two-time Academy Award nominee Steve Coogan (Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Philomena, 2014) and John C. Reilly, who received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his performance, star as the slapstick comedy legends Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in STAN & OLLIE arriving on digital, Blu-ray & DVD March 26 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film follows the pair through a farewell tour across the U.K. as they attempt to re-connect with both their fans and each other. STAN & OLLIE is directed by Jon S. Baird (Filth) and also stars Nina Arianda (Florence Foster Jenkins) and Shirley Henderson (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets).
GODZILLA (1998) stomps onto 4K May 14
The action-packed 1998 monster spectacle from Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, the filmmaking team behind Independence Day, debuts on 4K Ultra HD May 14 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and Jean Reno (Léon: The Professional) team up as the unlikely heroes out to save New York City from the giant, fire-breathing monster and its babies hatching in Madison Square Garden. Fully remastered in 4K from the original camera negative with High Dynamic Range, GODZILLA on 4K Ultra HD also includes new earth-shaking Dolby Atmos sound. The 4K Ultra HD disc also includes three trailers, including the original iconic teaser!
THE WITCH arrives on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (Plus Blu-ray and Digital) 4/23
One of the most original horror films of the past decade has never looked so good as when The Witch arrives on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital) April 23 from Lionsgate. Directed by Robert Eggers, winner of Best Director at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, this supernatural horror tale stars Ralph Ineson, Katie Dickie, and up-and-coming star Anya Taylor-Joy in a “breakout performance” (Jake Coyle, Associated Press). Experience four times the resolution of Full HD with the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, which includes Dolby Vision HDR, bringing entertainment to life through ultra-vivid picture quality. When compared to a standard picture, Dolby Vision can deliver spectacular colors never before seen on-screen, highlights that are up to 40 times brighter, and blacks that are 10 times darker. Available for the very first time in this absolutely stunning format, The Witch 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack includes an audio commentary with director Robert Eggers, a featurette, a Q&A with cast and crew, and a design gallery.