March 31, 2019

CAPERNAUM and the World's Worst Parents
Starring Zain Al Rafeea, Yordanos Shiferaw, Boluwatife Treasure Bankole, Kawthar A; Haddad, Fadi Kamel Youssef, Nour el Husseini, Alaa Chouchnieh. Directed by Nadine Labaki. (2018/123 min).

Review by Fluffy the Fearless🙀

Sometimes it seems like the worst parents are the ones who end up having the most kids.

Take Souad & Selim El Hahi, for example, living in a tiny, squalid slum they share with at-least six kids, none of whom even have birth certificates. Neither parent appears to work. While Dad mostly sleeps on the couch, Mom regularly sends 12-year-old Zain to various pharmacies with phony prescriptions to get drugs the family sells to street junkies. Zain also works at a nearby market for Assad, who owns their apartment and lets them live rent free because he has his eye on Zain’s 11-year-old sister, Sahar, who Mom & Dad eventually offer as a wife, apparently so they can remain in the building. Worst of all, despite being neglectful, irresponsible, abusive and indifferent to their kids’ suffering, Souad & Selim keep having babies.

The viewer doesn’t learn all of this right away. At the beginning of Capernaum, Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) is serving five years in a juvenile prison for stabbing a man. He’s also suing his parents for giving birth to him. Zain’s story leading up to that point comprises the bulk of the narrative, told in flashback. Streetwise and resourceful, he’s the only member of the family with a sense of anything resembling responsibility. Since Zain is the family’s main source of income, his parents refuse to let him attend school. He’s also the only person who seems to care about Sahar and is fiercely protective of her, especially around Assad. Eventually, he’s had enough and plans to escape the nightmare with Sahar. Unfortunately, his parents sell her to Assad before he gets the chance.

The Hangover Part IV: The Daycare Years
Zain runs away and tries to make it on his own, but can’t find legitimate work. Then he meets Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw), an ex-prostitute and illegal immigrant with a false ID that allows her to work. She also has a one-year-old son, Yonas, that she’s barely able to take care of herself and forced to hide for fear of calling attention to herself. But unlike Zain’s own family, Rahil is a loving mother, willing to do anything to keep Yonas safe, which includes having Zain babysit him while she’s away at work. Eventually, however, she does not return. Now Zain must rely on his own resourcefulness to not only care for Yonas, but keep him out of the hands of Aspro, an ID forger who's also a human trafficker. It’s at this point that Capernaum grows really heartbreaking.

To call the film bleak is an understatement. Though extremely compelling, Capernaum consists of one emotional gut-punch after another, made all-the-more harrowing by its setting and characters, both of which look and feel distressingly real. Beirut, as depicted by writer-director Nadine Labaki, might arguably be the worst place on Earth to raise a family that isn’t a war zone. As a product of his environment, Zain almost immediately earns our empathy. Though he isn’t always likable, the love and responsibility he feels for his sister – and later, Yonas – drives the narrative. Capernaum also features some of the most hateful antagonists I’ve seen in a long time, and not just his despicably narcissistic parents. By the time we learn who Zain stabbed and why, not only do we understand his rationale, we’re as enraged as he is.

But believe it or not, the film does come to a wonderfully satisfying conclusion that justifies running the viewer through an emotional wringer. Whether or not Zain’s story is worth enduring more than once is another matter. After all, this is over two hours of misery inflicted mostly on children. Either way, Capernaum is a film that’s difficult to forget.

AUDIO COMMENTARY – With Director Nadine Labaki

March 30, 2019

THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT and the Disturbing Doppelganger
Starring Doris Day, Rod Taylor, Arthur Godfrey, John McGiver, Paul Lynde, Eric Fleming, Dick Martin, Dom DeLuise. Directed by Frank Tashlin. (1966/110 min).

Review by Mr. Paws😼

I’ve seen a lot of Doris Day movies, mostly thanks to my sister. Growing up in the 70s, she used to love old comedies and musicals that our local independent station – KPTV Channel 12 – would air all the time. When they weren’t rerunning old episodes of Gilligan’s Island, Star Trek and Perry Mason, films from the 50s and 60s filled the schedule. If it was a swingin’ sex comedy, rockin’ Elvis musical or Jerry Lewis screechfest, Rebecca was plopped in front of the hand-me-down black & white in the bedroom we shared. Hence, I was often subjected to those same swingin’ sex comedies, rockin' Elvis musicals and Jerry Lewis screechfests.

Then of course, there was Doris Day, who seemed to pop-up on the tube every Saturday afternoon. While I don’t have anything personal against her, she always bore a striking resemblance to my mother...the same perky smile, the same eyes, the same blonde bob hairstyle. I don’t have anything against my mother either, but hey...she’s Mom. Ergo, it was impossible for me to accept Day as a sexy love interest.

Not that Day is a strutting, simmering sexpot in The Glass Bottom Boat, but there are a few scenes which require her to seduce a few horny antagonists. The film is mostly a meet-cute comedy of errors with healthy doses of cornball slapstick. Sometimes it’s funny, other times really, really dumb, which shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with animator-turned-director Frank Tashlin’s body of work. There are many set-pieces that play like a Jerry Lewis farce (though Day is far funnier than Jerry ever was).

The story has Day playing Jennifer Nelson, a lonely widow who works in public relations at NASA while moonlighting for her dad (Arthur Godfrey) as a mermaid during boating tours. After an amusingly awkward meeting with rocket scientist Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor), he eventually hires her to write his biography. Of course, they become smitten with each other, but a string of circumstances has his colleagues suspecting she’s actually a Russian spy. Meanwhile, real Russian spies are trying to get-hold of Bruce’s research.

"Hey...the meds are kickin' in!"
Again, some of this is amusing. Other times the comedy is so broad that I almost expected a laugh track. Still, Day is her usual sunny self and Taylor is...well, Rod Taylor, a serviceable leading man when Hudson or Garner are unavailable (though I still can’t see what these handsome hunks see in someone that looks like Mom). Dom DeLuise also has a few funny moments in an early comedic role. However, third-billed Arthur Godfrey is hardly in the movie at all.

While it was successful, The Glass Bottom Boat is ultimately one of Doris Day’s lesser comedies. It isn’t bad, but relies a bit too much on slapstick and lacks the congenial charm of, say, Pillow Talk or Send Me No Flowers. Still, I’m certain people like my sister Rebecca would have more nostalgic fondness for the movie than a guy with Mom issues.

VINTAGE PROMOTIONAL FEATURETTES - “Catalina Island” (mostly a travelogue of the island, with a few behind-the-scenes clips); “Every Girl’s Dream” (a beauty queen tours MGM studios); “NASA” (features Doris Day and contains a few bloopers and scenes from the film).
CARTOON – “The Dot and the Line” By Chuck Jones

Rest in Peace, Agnes Varda


March 29, 2019

AT THE DRIVE-IN is a Love Story
Featuring Jeff Mattox & Friends. Directed by Alexander Monelli. (2017/80 min).

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

Anyone who’s ever actually been to a drive-in knows it isn't the optimum way to see a movie. However, it’s an experience that home video – which more-or-less killed the business – cannot possibly duplicate. As someone with fond memories of piling into a car with friends for double features under the stars, I sure miss the old Foster Road Drive-In, which was just a twenty-minute drive away. There’s now an industrial park where its screen once stood.

Jeff Mattox fondly remembers those days, too. He’s the owner of the Mahoning Drive-in, which has been in business in rural Pennsylvania since 1949. Not only is it one of only 300 remaining drive-ins in the entire country (there used to be several thousand), it still shows 35mm prints using the same 67-year-old projector, mostly out of necessity. Since they cannot afford the upgrade to a digital projector, Jeff and his two young partners, Matt & Virgil, have resorted to showing vintage print films, planning thematic weekends with nostalgic or cult appeal.

The disarmingly bittersweet documentary, At the Drive-In, chronicles the theater’s 2016 season, mostly focusing on Jeff, his employees and a few loyal patrons, some of whom travel great distances for the drive-in experience. In fact, one guy drives 6 hours every weekend just to work the concession counter. Since Jeff can’t afford to pay them, everyone works voluntarily, simply because they're movie fans in-love with this archaic venue.

Someone on the team keeps eating the profits.
Some weekends are better than others. For every horror festival that packs-in the fans, there are rainy nights with only a couple of cars. Still, the show goes on, even if it would be cheaper to cancel the show on those dead nights. Though nothing is said, we get the lingering impression that the Mahoning’s days are numbered and this group – dedicated as they may be - is simply prolonging the inevitable (though as of this writing, I’m happy to report the place is gearing up for its 2019 season).

"Hey, guys...what if we tried showing these movies at night?"
Jeff himself comes across as extremely likable, whose enthusiasm and love of what he does is infectious. Yet despite his outwardly sunny demeanor, it is obvious he longs for the way things used to be, a feeling viewers of a certain age may share. But even though his younger employees & friends receive no paycheck, regularly struggle to keep everything working and camp-out in the storeroom during the off-hours, their sheer joy of simply being there would make any movie fan envious. If I didn’t have a wife & kids, I’d trade places with any of them in a heartbeat.

Ultimately, it’s the unique characters we meet that makes At the Drive-In such an enjoyable film. These are the kind of people you cheer for, keeping the past alive for the sheer love of movies and the communal experience of seeing them outdoors. I suspect the day will come when the last of America’s drive-ins will make-way for an industrial park or Walmart store, but hope the fine folks at the Mahoning Drive-In will be around to prove me wrong. Their story is a must-see for anyone passionate about movies.


March 28, 2019

BUMBLEBEE: The Bayless Wonder
Starring Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Stephen Schneider, Len Carlou, voices of Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux, Dylan O’Brien, Peter Cullen. Directed by Travis Knight. (2018/113 min).

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

As someone who has absolutely loathed every movie in the bloated – and endless – Transformers franchise, sick dread welled in the pit of my gut upon first-seeing the trailer for Bumblebee last summer. Simply avoiding these movies has never really been an option because my wife actually likes them, so I just knew this cynical cash-grab loomed somewhere in my future. But at least I was able to avoid its theatrical release. Cruel husband that I am and citing holiday budgetary concerns, I made her choose between this and Aquaman. For obvious aesthetic reasons, Jason Momoa won out.

So now it sorta surprises me to say that not only is Bumblebee easily the best film in the franchise by a wide margin, I have to grudgingly concede it’s one of the more engaging recent movies aimed at a mass audience. After a woefully-familiar opening action sequence – yet-another CGI showdown between Autobots and Decepticons – it morphs into everything the previous Transformers movies aren’t: witty, character-driven, charming, occasionally bittersweet and anchored by good performances. Though it could be considered both a prequel and a spin-off, the film has more in common with The Iron Giant and The Love Bug than Michael Bay’s brand of ‘bot bashing.

Not to beat a dead horse, but the absence of Bay’s heavy-handed approach is exactly what a story like this needed (Laika Studios veteran Travis Knight directs here). While it doesn’t win any points for originality, the fact that it draws favorable comparisons to The Iron Giant (with a little E.T. thrown in for good measure) is pretty remarkable, thanks to Knight’s more humanistic approach and screenwriter Christina Hodson, who dares to create characters who feel more-or-less authentic (only a few bitchy teenage antagonists ring hollow).

Some guests don't know when to leave.
As for the titular character, Bumblebee is wonderfully childlike and endearing, especially once he loses his ability to speak. Instead, he learns to express himself by speed-dialing through his car radio for songs that reflect what he’s feeling. Nostalgic Transformers purists will also appreciate the fact the film takes place in the 80s and Bumblebee himself is once again a VW Beetle. The two Decepticons who track him to Earth also have distinct personalities. Especially amusing is Dropkick, who professes to enjoy blasting people because he likes “how they pop.”

Despite scaling back on the over-the-top spectacle the franchise is infamous for, Bumblebee still remembers its pedigree. But by taking the time to create well-rounded characters, we feel there’s a lot more at-stake during the inevitable robot showdown. And even though the conflict is the least interesting aspect of the film, we’re spared Bay’s typical seizure-inducing style. We can actually follow the action pretty closely and, for once, are not bombarded by so much hyperkinetic CGI that it ceases to be logistically convincing.

Best of all, Bumblebee tells a great stand-alone story, meaning one doesn’t need to endure any previous Transformers film get anything out of it. Its almost Disney-like approach to a familiar tale renders it engaging for fans and non-fans alike. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but Bumblebee is a terrific film.

BRINGING BUMBLEBEE TO THE BIG SCREEN” - Consists of five featurettes: “The Story of Bumblebee,” “The Stars Align,” “Bumblebee Goes Back to G1,” “Back to the Beetle,” “California Cruisin’ Down Memory Lane.”
OUTTAKES – Mostly featuring John Cena, these are hilarious. It’s almost like he’s going MST3K on his own movie.
BEE VISION: THE TRANSFORMERS ROBOTS OF CYBERTRON” - The opening action sequence, along with text descriptions of the Transformers characters doing the fighting. Only fanboys will care.
AGENT BURNS: WELCOME TO SECTOR 7” - Featuring John Cena in-character.
SECTOR 7 ADVENTURES” MOTION COMIC – Continues the story begun in the comic book.

THE POOP SCOOP: Retro Releases & More Dragon Training

Mill Creek Entertainment, the leader in value home entertainment, is excited to announce 4 new Blu-ray releases with a retro VHS-style o-sleeve with a 90s upgrade.  These upcoming releases will be an extension of the Retro VHS line that was developed last year featuring mostly films from the 80s reminiscent of the video rental store era, but now featuring updated graphics that give a nod to the bight and colorful 90s.  The four films, Opportunity Knocks, Jury Duty, Excess Baggage and Double Team will each be available starting June 4.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD on Digital 5/7 & 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD 5/21
Features over an hour of exclusive behind-the-scenes bonus content including an alternate opening, two DreamWorks animated shorts, deleted scenes and more. To mark the film’s global 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD release, Universal has partnered with Facebook and Messenger to debut two exclusive adorable Night Lights (baby dragons) to train and an awe-inspiring in-store Augmented Reality (AR) experience. In pack, fans can unlock an exclusive code that reveals your very own Night Light that you can hatch, train, and send on adventures within the popular Dragon Pets Instant Game available on Facebook and Messenger. Additionally, participating retailers around the world will unveil in-store displays that trigger a visually stunning AR adventure bringing Toothless and Light Fury to flight! Both the in-home and in-store experiences are compatible with iOS and Android devices, and users should download the latest version of the Facebook and Messenger apps.

DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital 4/30
From critically acclaimed writer/director S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99) comes the gritty action-thriller Dragged Across Concrete, arriving on Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD & Digital), DVD, and Digital April 30 from Lionsgate. This film is currently available On Demand. Oscar winner Mel Gibson (1995, Best Picture/Best Director, Braveheart) and Vince Vaughn star as two hard-boiled veteran cops who attempt to hijack a bank heist. A festival favorite at the 2018 Beyond Fest Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival, the film also stars Jennifer Carpenter (“Dexter”), Michael Jai White (“Black Dynamite”), Don Johnson (Django Unchained), and Udo Kier (Downsizing). The Dragged Across Concrete Blu-ray and DVD will include a 3-part “making of” documentary and a featurette.

Including a new transfer of the extended television version with over 35 minutes of added footage! Charlton Heston leads an all-star cast in an epic film about ordinary citizens who must come together in the face of an unstoppable natural disaster! When the most catastrophic earthquake of all time rips through Southern California, it levels Los Angeles and sends shockwaves through the lives of all who live there. Now strangers must become saviors as the city struggles to get to its feet before the next terrifying aftershock hits! Also starring Ava Gardner, George Kennedy, Lorne Greene, Victoria Principal, Geneviève Bujold and Richard Roundtree, Earthquake combines outstanding performances with Academy Award-winning sound and groundbreaking special effects.

TARANTULA on Blu-ray 4/30
Feeding on cattle and humans, this towering tarantula has the people of Desert Rock, Arizona running for their lives. Can this horrifying creature be stopped, or will the world succumb to this oversized arachnid? This classic sci-fi film from director Jack Arnold (Creature From The Black Lagoon, It Came From Outer Space) stars John Agar (The Mole People, Attack Of The Puppet People) and Mara Corday (The Black Scorpion, The Giant Claw) and features a cameo by Clint Eastwood as a jet squadron leader!

March 26, 2019

THE JAZZ SINGER (1927): An Instant History Lesson
Starring Al Jolson, Warner Oland, Eugenie Besserer, May McAvoy, Otto Lederer, Yosseie Rosenblatt. Directed by Alan Crosland. (1927/96 min).

Review by Mr. Paws😸

Contrary to popular belief, The Jazz Singer was not the first “talkie.” People had been trying to marry images and sound ever since Edison invented the moving picture, mostly with terrible results. While it’s true that The Jazz Singer was the first feature-length talkie, several short subjects were previously produced that successfully incorporated sound.

Nor is The Jazz Singer a talkie in the purest sense. Only the musical numbers and a few Al Jolson improvisations have sound. A majority of the film is still silent. The first 100% talkie was 1928’s Lights of New York, which by all accounts is terrible, but the sheer novelty made it a huge hit.

Lest anyone thinks I’m just flaunting my cinema smarts, I wasn’t aware of any of these facts until reviewing this massive three-disc set, which is just-as-much a history lesson as it is the restoration of a landmark film. Hence, this is a must-own for any cinephile.

The Jazz Singer was, of course, a game changer, more important to the advancement of film technology than any subsequent innovation you’d care to name. The film is beautifully restored on disc 1, the only Blu-ray in the set. But it’s the two supplementary DVDs that make this a keeper, especially the 90 minute documentary on disc 2, “The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk.” Dozens of historians, authors, studio bigwigs and some heirs of early sound innovators are interviewed, telling the complete story of the evolution of sound and its impact on the film industry.

How to creep your mom out.
While The Jazz Singer itself remains more noteworthy for its influence than its story, the film is still pretty entertaining. Jolson was never what anyone would consider a great actor, but he had loads of charisma and a hell of a singing voice, both of which are prominently on display. There’s been some retro-condemnation of the film in recent years – i.e. Jolson’s infamous blackface routine – which is understandable. In this day and age, these scenes are indeed cringe-worthy, but it was a different time. One needs to keep in-mind the context of when this was made, when blackface was not-only considered inoffensive, but worn at one time or another by a wide variety of Hollywood heavyweights.

It also bears mentioning that this set has been released before, back in 2013 as a Digibook, with the exact same bonus features. So there’s no need for double-dipping here. But for anyone who has-yet to experience The Jazz Singer, it is an indispensable piece of movie history.


Disc 1 (Blu-ray)
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By historian Ron Hutchinson and bandleader Vince Giordano.
THE JAZZ SINGER LUX RADIO THEATER BROADCAST – From 1947, featuring Al Jolson and May McAvoy.
JOLSON RELATED SHORTS - “I Love to Singa” (Looney Tunes Cartoon); “A Plantation Act”; “Hollywood Handicap: A Day at Santa Anita”; “An Intimate Dinner in Celebration of Warner Bros’ Silver Jubilee.”

Disc 2 (DVD): The Early Sound Era
THE DAWN OF SOUND: HOW MOVIES LEARNED TO TALK” - Feature-length documentary about the game-changing development of sound and its lasting impact on the movie industry. The Jazz Singer figures large in this one, for obvious reasons. The best of the bonus features and as entertaining as the movie itself.
STUDIO SHORTS - “The Voice from the Screen”; “Finding His Voice” (MGM cartoon); “The Voice that Thrilled the World”; “Okay for Sound” (20 years after The Jazz Singer, Warner Bros celebrates itself); “When the Talkies Were Young” (features excerpts of James Cagney & Spencer Tracy early in their careers).
GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY (EXCERPTS) – Two surviving scenes from one of many lost films.

Disc 3 (DVD): Vitaphone Shorts
The Vitaphone process essentially made talkies a reality. This disc contains 2 dozen shorts ranging from 5-10 minutes each, roughly spanning the first decade of talkies. Some are more interesting than others and time has diminished the video/audio quality of many of them.


Rest in Peace, Joe Pilato

March 25, 2019

THE VAULT: If Only...
Starring Francesca Eastwood, Taryn Manning, Scott Haze, Q’Orianka Kilcher, Clifton Collins Jr, Keith Loneker, James Franco. Directed by Dan Bush. (2017/91 min).

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Aside from its setting, this heist/horror hybrid doesn’t really break any new ground, but for most of its running time, The Vault is pretty entertaining, even creepy at times. If only it knew when to quit.

Bickering sisters Leah (Francesca Eastwood, Clint’s kid) and Vee (Taryn Manning) lead a heavily-armed crew attempting to rob a downtown bank, which turns into a hostage situation after the police are tipped-off by a mysterious caller. Worse yet, their take isn’t nearly as much as they need to pay off brother Michael’s (Scott Haze) mob debts. However, the bank’s assistant manager (James Franco) informs them of an old vault in the basement, which holds $6 million.

But the bank has a dark past. There was a similar situation in 1982 where a masked robber executed all of his hostages. Their disembodied spirits have been lurking around ever since. As they try and crack-open the vault, the crew starts meeting violent ends at the hands of the undead. None of this comes as a surprise to the assistant manager, who seems to have known this would happen all along.

Three co-workers, one doughnut.
After an inauspicious start, The Vault gets more interesting as the story unfolds, revealing nifty narrative surprises along the way. The film is never particularly scary, but does manage to build some tension and dread, particularly in the long, dark corridors leading to the vault itself. The performances are merely perfunctory, but regarding the three siblings, at-least there’s some attempt at character development so we have a small stake in who lives and dies.

And had the film ended just one scene earlier, it could have been something special.

Granted, a single scene doesn’t necessarily wreck an entire film, but in a genre where the tone is often more important than the plot itself, one wonky moment can seriously undermine things. Without getting into specifics that would spoil the party, near the end of the film, there’s a plot-twist that’s creative, clever and makes complete sense within the context of the story. The scene immediately cuts to black, and had the credits rolled right there, the movie would have ended on a haunting, ominous note. Instead, we get a ridiculous coda that feels tacked-on for the sole purpose of providing a gratuitous jump-scare.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say The Vault is ruined by this scene. However, in addition to being completely unnecessary, it doesn’t really jibe with the story’s basic premise. Until then, the film is interesting enough to make it worth checking out. Just shut it off right before that final scene (you’ll know the moment when it comes).


March 24, 2019

Rest in Peace, Larry Cohen

Other Larry Cohen related articles: All Hail KING COHEN; IT'S ALIVE and the Miracle of Birth

PET SEMATARY (1989) and the Perils of Parenthood

Starring Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Fred Gwynne, Miko Hughes, Blaze Berdahl, Brad Greenquist. Directed by Mary Lambert. (1989/103 min). 
On Blu-ray from PARAMOUNT 

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

To coincide with its 30th Anniversary – as well as an upcoming remake - the original Pet Sematary is being re-released with new packaging, a selection of new & vintage bonus features and, most importantly, a really impressive 4K restoration overseen by the film’s director, Mary Lambert. So even if the timing is obviously intended to capitalize on the growing buzz surrounding the remake, this is a cut above the usual catalog release.

Revisiting the film for the first time in years, I was surprised how well it’s aged. Not just the upgraded picture and sound, but the narrative and technical aspects, as well, perhaps even prompting some to wonder if it really needed to be remade at all (though that’s never stopped anyone before). Sure, there’s always been some clunky dialogue and occasional misguided attempts at black humor, but despite a few 80s’ trappings, the film remains as disturbing as it was 30 years ago.

Modern viewers – and maybe some who haven’t seen it in a while – may not appreciate the impact Pet Sematary had on audiences back then. Having read the book beforehand, I suspected that any adaptation would be forced to pull many of the gut-punches King threw at the reader. Instead, the film ended up being one of the more faithful adaptations of his novels and ventured where most mainstream horror films feared to tread, likely because King himself penned the screenplay and his considerable clout gave him a great deal of creative control.

Who let the dog in?
That meant the real horrors of Pet Sematary made it to the screen completely intact. Not the ramifications of resurrecting the dead, but those exploiting every parent’s worst fear: losing a child. Worse yet, losing them suddenly and violently. And just to rub salt in an open wound, the realization that the child’s death probably could have been prevented if we were just a bit more vigilant. Before Lewis Creed makes the fateful decision to bring little Gage back from the dead, the film wallows in his agony, which is tougher to take than any of its more traditional terrors, especially if you’re a parent.

Case-in-point...I first saw Pet Sematary in theaters – long before becoming a father myself - and was pleased how remarkably faithful it was to the novel. The film took us to some dark places few others did at the time, which I suspect was a major factor in drawing the ire of many film critics (the movie does have a mean streak a mile wide). But after having kids, I was no longer able to sit through it. My empathy for the Creed family’s misery was too overwhelming, forcing me to vividly imagine my own daughters suffering a similar fate. Hence, my VHS copy of the film sat untouched on the shelf for years. 

If you can dodge an 18-wheeler, you can dodge a ball.
As parents, we've all experienced some kind of “close call” involving our kid’s safety, then entertained possible worst-case scenarios if blind luck wasn’t on our side. With no concept of their own mortality, it’s terrifying how fast toddlers can willingly throw themselves in harm’s way when we aren’t looking. But even if you're the most protective parent on Earth, that kid is only a faulty car seat away from joining the hereafter.

My daughters are older now, having survived the stupidity of babyhood more-or-less intact. Now that it looks like they’ll go the distance, I’m able to once-again enjoy Pet Sematary without all that pesky parental baggage. However, my youngest daughter had to check out once little Gage Creed got pancaked. Though she’s 15 and a seasoned horror lover, the death of a two-year-old – and the suffering that followed – was too much for her to take. 30 years later, Pet Sematary still has considerable visceral power.

The film isn’t without its issues, including some heavy-handed moments (such as the entire funeral scene), clumsy attempts at humor and a performance by Fred Gwynne that borders on camp. But for the most part, the original Pet Sematary remains one of the darker mainstream horror films of the 80s, fulfilling its promise that things are going to end badly for everyone involved. With a tagline which claims “Sometimes dead is better,” how could it do otherwise?

NEW: “FEAR AND REMEMBRANCE” - Cast & crew of the remake discuss their memories of the original.
NEW: AUDIO COMMENTARY – With Director Mary Lambert
NEW: GALLERIES – Slideshows of original storyboards, production photos, promotional material and home video packaging.
VINTAGE FEATURETTES - “Stephen King Territory”; “The Characters”; “Filming the Horror”


March 20, 2019

THE POOP SCOOP: Under-the-Radar Action Films Coming to Blu-ray

DESTROYER on Digital 4/9 and Blu-ray and DVD 4/23
Academy Award Winner Nicole Kidman gives a Golden Globe-nominated performance in this gritty, suspenseful crime drama. In the years since she engaged in an undercover drug ring assignment that ended tragically, L.A.P.D. detective Erin Bell (Kidman) has stumbled along a path of self-destruction. But now that the ring’s boss has resurfaced, Bell is drawn back into action to try to stop a violent new crime wave. Forced to face the demons of her past, she begins an odyssey that’s as deeply personal as it is dangerous.
COLD PURSUIT on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and On Demand 5/14
Academy Award nominee and mega-action hero Liam Neeson (1993, Best Actor, Schindler’s List; also known for The Commuter, Taken franchise, Widows) stars as a father in search of answers after his son is mysteriously murdered in Cold Pursuit, arriving on Digital May 3 and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital), Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand May 14 from Lionsgate. Based on his 2014 Norwegian film, Kraftidioten (In Order of Disappearance), director Hans Petter Moland delivers thrills and chills in what critics call “an excellent film” (Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post), written for the screen by Frank Baldwin. The edge-of-your-seat thriller also stars Tom Bateman (Murder on the Orient Express), Golden Globe nominee Emmy Rossum (2005, Best Actress, The Phantom of the Opera), and Academy Award nominee Laura Dern (2014, Best Supporting Actress, Wild).

MISS BALA on Digital 4/16 Coming to Blu-ray & DVD 4/30
Golden Globe winner, Gina Rodriguez (Annihilation, “Jane the Virgin”) takes charge in the high-octane action adventure, MISS BALA, debuting on Digital April 16 and coming to Blu-ray and DVD April 30, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Caught in the perilous world of a brutal cross-border cartel, a young woman finds powers she never knew she had as she seeks to rescue her friend. Hollywood’s newest heartthrob, Ismael Cruz-Córdova (Mary Queen of Scots), stars alongside Rodriguez as the cartel kingpin, whose growing attraction to his strong-willed female hostage raises the stakes for both as the CIA, DEA, and rival cartels close in. Rodriguez and Cruz-Córdova are joined by co-stars, Anthony Mackie (Avengers: Infinity War) and Matt Lauria (“Friday Night Lights”) in this female-driven action story directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) from a screenplay by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (Contrapelo).

ESCAPE ROOM on Digital 4/9 & Blu-ray/DVD 4/23
Centered on six strangers who must uncover wickedly designed puzzles and overcome life-threatening challenges set in hazardous environments, with plenty of twists and turns, the ESCAPE ROOM Blu-ray, DVD and Digital releases feature a never-before-seen Alternate Ending and Opening, six deleted scenes and four featurettes. Hear from director Adam Robitel and the cast about how the film’s 360-degree architectural spaces prove to be some of the most adversarial characters imaginable in “Games, Set, Match.” Then, learn about how Escape Room was built with practical effects and no green screens as the cast and crew dives deep in “The Lone Survivors.”
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.

March 19, 2019

ACCIDENT is Aptly Named
Starring Stephanie Schildknecht, Roxanne Hayward, Tyrone Keogh, Keenan Arrison, Karl Thaning. Directed by Dan Tondowski. (2017/92 min). 

On Blu-ray from WELL GO USA

Review by Tiger the Terrible😾

Accident has a great premise and one good scene. That's it. The title could cheekily refer to how clumsily the film was thrown together.

Jess and Caroline are two dumb bimbos hitching a ride to a concert with a couple of even dumber dudes, Fred and Thomas, who "borrowed" a sports car for the weekend. Unfortunately, they have an accident and get trapped in the overturned vehicle at the bottom of a ravine. Making matters worse...those who actually own the car are gangsters who've stashed something extremely valuable inside, and they want it back.

The aforementioned one good scene is the crash itself, filmed from inside the vehicle. It hits another car before rolling end-over-end down a steep wooded hill. In loving slow-motion, we see passengers bouncing around inside among debris and shattered windshield glass.

It comes to rest - upside-down - near the edge of a cliff. However, in what might be the worst continuity error of all time, three of the four passengers are trapped inside, unable to break through the windows that shattered only one scene earlier. Miraculously, Fred was apparently thrown out on the way down. Through what, an air vent? Dumber still, Thomas eventually manages to force a window open and shimmy his way out, yet despite being unrestrained, Jess and Caroline remain helplessly trapped inside the car. It never occurs to either of them to simply follow his lead.

The boys find a ladybug.
Never mind the uniformly terrible performances and aggressively stupid characters. First-time writer/director Dan Tondowski is his own worst enemy, patching together his story with bone-headed logic and little regard to anything resembling plausibility. Consider this:
  • Fred must have the healing powers of Wolverine. He's impaled right through the chest by a tree limb, yet after good buddy Thomas pulls it out, he's right as rain within a few minutes. Later, he's taken down by multiple rounds from a mounted machine gun, only to bounce back yet-again to rescue a girl from drowning.
  • Though I'm no triage expert, I'm pretty certain you can't stop an asthma attack by performing an emergency tracheotomy. But even you could, it's highly doubtful the recipient could do much more than gurgle blood, let alone speak and scream.
  • What is a street light doing in the middle of the forest?
  • Jess and Caroline change clothes in a truck stop restroom, pausing at-length to strut around in their panties, engaging in small talk while Tondowski's camera engages in their asses. Most of us would prefer to avoid truck stop restroom altogether, to say nothing of performing a gratuitous striptease in one.
  • Once he's out of the car, Tony wants to leave the girls behind. Then he wants to burn them alive in the car with a road flare. Fred talks him out of it for the moment, but Tony later decides they should die after all. So he pulls out a gun to shoot them, but again, Fred convinces him not to. Finally, Tony flip-flops one more time and once-again chooses death by fire. But this time, Fred simply sits down next to Tony and watches flames surround the car. Hey, make up your minds, guys.
  • After locating the car, a mob assassin arrives at the scene and kills a highway patrolman after he's radioed for back-up, though he doesn't appear concerned about it. Neither does Tondowski, since the threat of back-up never figures into the story.
I could go on, but you get the idea. It's as though every scene was written on-the-fly without referring to the script's previous pages to make sure it doesn't contradict what's already happened. Accident is almost completely devoid of narrative logic, plausibility, pacing and continuity. Which is a shame because it's technically competent and the basic concept is solid. Instead, what could have been a tense, tight little thriller ends up being a mind-numbing assault on the viewer's intelligence. At best, this is good for a few incredulous chuckles at its own expense.