April 17, 2019

A Curmudgeon’s Guide to THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING

Starring Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Dean Chaumoo, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris, Rebecca Ferguson, Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart. Directed by Joe Cornish. (2019/120 min).

Review by Stinky the Destroyer­čśŞ

I hate using the term, “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore,” a phrase mostly used by grumpy old curmudgeons to express their contempt for anything with mass appeal to generations other than their own. I suppose I am a grumpy old curmudgeon in some ways. Sorry kids, but your music sucks. The latest Metallica album, though? Man, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

But while that adage kept popping into my mind while watching The Kid Who Would Be King, it wasn’t out of longing for the good ol’ days. But in point of fact, the film is quite unlike what generally passes for family entertainment these days. It isn’t animated, nor is it based on a book series, comics character, video game or line of toys. There’s no questionable language, scatological gags, overt slapstick or any other pandering attempt to garner giggles. Though it’s often quite funny, the film earns its laughs through the characters’ interactions and the situations the story puts them in.

Updating the Arthurian legend with modern kids is a great concept. Writer-director Joe Cornish wisely opts to create a straightforward fantasy-adventure, cleverly acknowledging the more familiar elements of King Arthur’s tale while spinning a fresh story of his own. After drawing Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, from a stone at a construction site, 12-year-old Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis...yeah, Andy’s kid) is tasked to stop Arthur’s evil half-sister, Morgana, from returning to wreak havoc on the world. After Merlin (Angus Imrie) arrives to gravely inform him what’s at stake, Alex must recruit both friends and enemies to aid him on his journey, which will take them across England.

"We saw what you did, and we know who you are."
Despite running two full hours, the film is consistently engaging and fun, with believable characters performed by an able young cast. Though Patrick Stewart shows up as an older version of Merlin and Rebecca Ferguson plays Morgana, the rest of the adults are peripheral characters. Even Merlin is primarily presented as a 16-year-old who assists and advises Alex and his “knights” in their quest to thwart Morgana. None of the characters come across as composites or broadly-drawn caricatures. Even the two bullies of the film are pretty well-rounded.

Though the film starts a little slow, once things get rolling and they begin their quest, The Kid Who Would Be King is a rousing adventure with some great action sequences bolstered by imaginative special effects (Morgana’s army of demons is particularly impressive). The climactic battle at the kids’ school is genuinely thrilling and often pretty damn funny. Like all family films, there’s an underlying message, of course, and considering the tumultuous state of the world right now, the one presented here couldn’t be more timely. A lot of adults could stand to be reminded of it, too.

Best of all, there isn’t a cynical moment in the entire film. Despite the title – a play on Kipling’s unrelated novel – this isn’t so-much a kiddie flick as it is an epic adventure that just happens to be suitable for the entire family. It’s a damn shame we live in a world where this tanks at the box office while The Emoji Movie rakes in millions (oops...I’m letting the curmudgeon in me show again). On the other hand, Willy Wonka and The Iron Giant were initially bombs and now everybody loves them. Maybe The Kid Who Would Be King can find the audience it deserves on home video, too, or else they might not make ‘em like this anymore. Highly recommended for everybody.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES FEATURETTES - “Origins of a King” (primarily featuring writer/director Joe Cornish, who conceived the idea when he was 13); “Young Knights” (focuses on the four lead actors and their characters); “Knight School” (how the kids trained for the action scenes); “The Two Merlins” (featuring Angus Imrie & Patrick Stewart); “Meet Morgana” (featuring Rebecca Ferguson); “Movie Magic” (location shooting, set design and visual effects).
4 SHORT PROMOTIONAL SPOTS (featuring the Merlin character).
MUSIC VIDEO - “Be the King,” by Lay Lay (I don’t know who that is, because your music sucks, kids).

April 16, 2019

THE POOP SCOOP: Super '70s Edition

The Original ANDROMEDA STRAIN Coming to Blu-ray 6/4 from Arrow Video
Before he created Westworld and Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton first blurred the line between science fiction and science fact with his breakout success The Andromeda Strain. Two years after the novel’s publication, Robert Wise (The Haunting) directed the film adaptation, a nail-biting blend of clinically-realised docudrama and astonishing sci-fi visuals that ushered in a new subgenre: the “killer virus” biological thriller. A government satellite crashes outside a small town in New Mexico – and within minutes, every inhabitant of the town is dead, except for a crying baby and an elderly derelict.  The satellite and the two survivors are sent to Wildfire, a top-secret underground laboratory equipped with a nuclear self-destruct mechanism to prevent the spread of infection in case of an outbreak.  Realising that the satellite brought back a lethal organism from another world, a team of government scientists race against the clock to understand the extraterrestrial virus – codenamed “Andromeda” – before it can wipe out all life on the planet. Aided by innovative visual effects by Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running) and an unforgettable avant-garde electronic music score by Gil Melle (The Sentinel), Wise’s suspense classic still haunts to this day, and is presented here in a stunning, exclusive new restoration from the original negative.

THE UNCANNY on Blu-ray 5/28
In 1977, legendary Amicus co-founder Milton Subotsky (ASYLUM, AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS) teamed with Canadian producer Claude H├ęroux (SCANNERS, VIDEODROME) for the anthology shocker CelluloidDiaries.com calls "highly entertaining…the best killer cat movie there is!" Peter Cushing, Ray Milland, Donald Pleasence, Samantha Eggar (THE BROOD), Susan Penhaligon (PATRICK), John Vernon (POINT BLANK) and Alexandra Stewart (GOODBYE EMMANUELLE) star in this grisly portmanteau about a paranoid writer (Cushing) who must convince his publisher (Milland) that all cats are unholy fiends based on three tales of kitty carnage. Directed by Denis H├ęroux (NAKED MASSACRE) from a screenplay by Michel Parry (XTRO) with cinematography by Harry Waxman (THE WICKER MAN), THE UNCANNY is now scanned from an inter-negative recently discovered in a London vault.

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, Genevi├Ęve Bujold and Richard Roundtree, Earthquake combines outstanding performances with Academy Award-winning sound and groundbreaking special effects.

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. A limited edition 4K UHD steelbook of ALIEN 40th Anniversary Edition will also be available exclusively at Best Buy. 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.

April 15, 2019

MASTER OF DARK SHADOWS: The True Tale of a TV Titan

Narrated by Ian McShane. Featuring Roger Davis, Barbara Steele, Lara Parker, Kathryn Lee Scott, David Selby, Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Cross. Archival Interviews with Dan Curtis, Jonathan Frid. Directed by David Gregory. (2019/87 min).

Review by Fluffy the Fearless­čś║

Dark Shadows was a supernaturally-themed daytime soap opera which ran on ABC from 1966-1971, ending its run only after creator Dan Curtis more-or-less ran out of ideas. Though cheaply produced and often haphazardly shot, the show amassed a huge cult following over the years, spawning books, tie-in merchandise, movies, radio broadcasts, conventions and a television reboot. Anyone who fondly recalls spending weekday afternoons with the creepy Collins family will certainly enjoy this documentary.

Master of Dark Shadows is also about Dan Curtis, a former ad exec who sort-of stumbled into producing by selling the concept of televised golf tournaments. But beginning with Dark Shadows, Curtis became synonymous with TV horror, prolifically cranking out a variety of small screen screamers, a few of which became enduring classics, like Trilogy of Terror and The Night Stalker. Loftier ambitions had him eventually directing The Winds of War, still considered one of the greatest TV miniseries ever made.

When dust bunnies go unchecked.
Curtis died in 2006, but is prominently featured in archive interviews where he discusses his long, colorful career. New interviews include people he worked with or knew him well - actors, writers, his surviving family – painting a pretty vibrant picture of a guy who garnered a lot of respect and admiration, but was also pretty headstrong. A majority of the film, however, is dedicated to Dark Shadows...how it was created, the challenges of producing a daily horror series and a slew of entertaining anecdotes from various cast and crew members. In addition to plenty of clips from the show itself, the cultural impact of the Barnabas Collins character (Jonathan Frid, who passed away in 2012) is highlighted.

Dark Shadows was a little before my time, so I was unaware of its cultural impact and found this film to be an interesting piece of TV history. Master of Dark Shadows is entertaining, informational and a great supplemental disc for anyone who reveres those old episodes. It's also a fitting belated epitaph for a TV titan.

FEATURETTES -Dark Shadows in Hell’s Kitchen: Visiting Studio 16” (Guided tour of the studio by Kathryn Leigh Scott); “Dark Shadows in Print”
JONATHAN FRID: POE & SHAKESPEARE IN THE SHADOWS” - The actor recites “The Tell-Tale Heart” & an excerpt from Richard III. Originally aired on a New Jersey PBS station.
BARNABAS AT THE WHITE HOUSE” - Frid visits a White House Halloween party as part of a fundraiser. From 1969.
THE HOUSE” - A 1954 episode from The Web, which pre-dates Dark Shadows by 10 years.
DAVID SELBY: LIGHT & SHADOWS” - The actor performs a song at a convention.
DARK SHADOWS AUDIO DRAMAS” - This is just a promotional cast list with snippets of dialogue. No actual episodes.
PROMOS & TRAILERS – Dark Shadows-related merchandise, as well as TV boxed sets, that are (or were?) available from MPI.

Rest in Peace, Bibi Andersson

April 13, 2019

KEOMA: A Saddlebag of Surprises

Starring Franco Nero, William Berger, Olga Karlatos, Woody Strode, Orso Maria Guerrini, Gabriella Giacobbe, Antonio Marsina, Joshua Sinclair, Donald O’Brien. Directed by Enzo G. Castellari. (1976/101 min).

Review by Mr. Paws­čś║

The problem with spaghetti westerns is they're all inevitably compared to those made by Sergio Leone, whose shadow continues to loom so large over the entire genre that it’s difficult to assess them on their own merits. Many directors simply cop his moves without understanding his artistry. Others make their way overseas so badly dubbed and edited that they’re nearly unwatchable.

So Keona comes as sort-of a surprise.

Franco Nero (no stranger to the genre) is the title character, a half-breed who returns to the mining town where he was raised, only to find its people suffering from a plague. The sick are kept against their will in a nearby camp by Caldwell (Donald O’Brien), who runs the town with an iron fist, allowing no one to leave – to say nothing of bringing back medicine to cure the sick. Keoma ends up saving a pregnant woman (Olga Karlatos) from being quarantined, raising the ire of Caldwell and the thugs who work under him.

Keoma’s adoptive father, William Shannon (William Berger, also no stranger to the genre), informs him his three stepbrothers are also working for Caldwell. The emancipated slave to helped raise him, George (Woody Strode), has since become the town drunk. Anyone who’s seen even a couple of westerns can probably figure out what comes next: Keoma decides to use his considerable killing skills to try and take down Caldwell...with a bit of assistance from William and George.

Franco belts out a showtune.
The plot is pretty standard stuff, but what’s surprising about Keoma is its creative ambition. Made at a time when the reign of the spaghetti western was nearing its end, director/co-writer Enzo G. Castellari takes a slightly more cerebral approach to the material, specifically the recurring presence of death - personified as an old woman – always lurking near Keoma, who’s been a killer most of his life. Castellari is something of a surprise, as well. No stranger to spaghetti westerns himself, his entire career has been pretty imitative. But here, he displays brief moments of artistry I’ve personally never seen in the genre, such as numerous flashbacks which share the same space as the present. Though generally pretty somber in tone, the scene where Keoma explains the cost of bullets to four dumb henchmen is as amusing as anything Leone put together in his Dollars trilogy.

Not bad for a director whose greatest claim-to-fame for American audiences was 1990: The Bronx Warriors.

However, another way Keoma escapes Leone’s shadow is a bit more dubious. The music score by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis is godawful, full of grating, tuneless songs with lyrics that often narrate the very scenes we’re watching. The female vocals border on hysterical, while a few numbers are almost comically grunted. In one of the bonus features, Austin Fisher does indeed mention that the score remains one of the most polarizing aspects of the film (Nero loves it, though).

Other than that, Keoma is an interesting late entry in the spaghetti western genre. The film will definitely be of interest to Django fans, as it’s similarly structured (in fact, it was retitled as a Django sequel in some parts of the world). It’s suitably violent, with well-choreographed action sequences that draw as much inspiration from Sam Peckinpah as they do Leone. Loaded with interesting bonus features, this Blu-ray rescues a relatively obscure western with a great transfer and is well-worth checking out.

NEW: INTERVIEWS with Franco Nero, director Enzo G. Castellari, writer/actor Luigi Montefiori, editor Gianfranco Amicucci, actor Wolfango Soldati & actor Massimo Vanni (these are all individual interviews, running 20-30 minutes each)
NEW: AUDIO COMMENTARY – By C. Courtney Joyner & Henry C. Parke
NEW:KEOMA AND THE TWILIGHT OF THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN” - Austin Fisher discusses the film, the era of when it made made and what makes it unique. I don’t know who he is, but he’s pretty well versed in the genre.
NEW: SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET – Includes 2 essays, restoration credits, cast & crew credits and a collection of vintage reviews.
INTRODUCTION – By filmmaker Alex Cox (Repo Man, Straight to Hell).
ENGLISH & ITALIAN VERSIONS (There are a few slight differences).


April 12, 2019

TARANTULA: A Childhood Nightmare Returns

Starring John Agar, Mara Corday (mee-ow!), Leo G. Carroll, Nestor Paiva, Ross Elliott and a very young Clint Eastwood (the fighter pilot behind the mask!). Directed by Jack Arnold. (1955/81 min).

Review by Mr. Paws­čśŞ

For me, a 'large spider' is defined as one visible to the naked eye, and always do my part by using 8,000 times the necessary force required to kill them, usually with a shoe or book. I whack them more than once...often several times to make certain they don't return to torment me in the next life. While I haven't yet resorted to using fire, I did once make the mistake of smashing one with a hammer, leaving a permanent dent in our dining room floor.

Spiders are scary because...well, they're spiders. They exist for the sole purpose of being squashed by a paperback (a good reason not to switch to e-books). If God didn't intend us to kill them on sight, he would have made spiders look more like rabbits. Instead, they're stealthy, silent, hairy, venomous and equipped with more eyes and appendages than any creature has a right to possess. I'm certain if a spider were to catch its own reflection in a mirror, it would try to squash itself.

"Have I ever told you how much I love smoking?"
But some spiders you just can’t squash, like the epic arachnid in Tarantula, one of the better ‘big bug’ movies of the 50s. I first saw it on TV late one night in the early 70s and spent half the time with my head buried under blankets. This was absolute nightmare fuel for an arachnophobic nine-year-old, especially since the special effects were pretty convincing for the time (and still relatively impressive today).

In Tarantula, Professor Gerald Deemer (Leo G. Carroll) has good intentions, trying to create a synthetic nutrient that will help feed the world's increasing population. But like all well-meaning scientists with radioactive chemicals at their disposal, his experiment results in oversized lab animals, such as mice, guinea pigs and a tarantula. Apparently intrigued by this side effect, Deemer keeps injecting them...including the fucking tarantula.

"Fuck this. I'm outta here."
Sure, the idea of a dog sized guinea pig has a certain cuddle appeal (imagine one curled up at the foot of your bed). But a spider? What exactly would be the possible motivation for bulking-up a creature which already makes the average person pee themselves when they spot one in the shower? Perhaps Deemer was also looking for an effective constipation cure. After all, your bowels could be impacted with a rack of billiard balls, but upon seeing a barn-sized tarantula scurrying up the highway, those suckers would shoot from your ass like rounds from an M-16. So Deemer's either totally insane or simply worst person ever.

Whatever the case, it's now up to Dr. Matt Hastings (John Agar) and "Stevie" Clayton (Mara Corday) to unfuck Deemer’s fuckery. After killing a bunch of farmers and their cattle, the title creature threatens an entire Arizona town. Guns don’t work, nor does dynamite, which I’ve always suspected would be the case.

Guess who?

As everyone knows, the only effective solution to getting rid of a spider is total overkill, just to make sure it doesn’t come back twice-as-big and plenty pissed. So while I totally concur with the final decision to bring in jet fighters armed with a heaping helping of napalm (Hell, I’d bug-bomb my own house with napalm if Walmart carried it), perhaps Tarantula doesn’t go far enough. Fuck the napalm and unleash a warhead to nuke that bastard into oblivion. Sure, the Arizona desert would be a radioactive wasteland for a few decades, but it ain't like I know anybody who lives there, anyway.

Tarantula is mostly remembered today for featuring a young Clint Eastwood near the start of his career (unbilled as one of the jet pilots). Despite not being as widely revered as Them!, it holds up better than a lot of similar films from the era (though the abundance of sexist dialogue is pretty cringe-worthy). This Blu-ray from Shout Factory is light on bonus features, but does feature one of the better audio commentaries I’ve heard in awhile and the picture quality is outstanding. This eight-legged childhood nightmare has never looked or sounded better.

AUDIO COMMENTARY – By film historians Tom Weaver, Dr. Robert Kiss and David Schector. Also includes comments from Mara Corday, as spoken by another actress (!). A lot of great info and fun trivia in this one.

April 11, 2019



ARACHNOQUAKE Starring Tracey Gold, Bug Hall, Edward Furlong, Tiara Boocock, Gralen Bryant Banks. Directed by G.E. Furst. (2012/86 min).
GHOSTQUAKE Starring Jonathan Brown, MC Gainey, Danny Trejo, Lauren Pennington, Marc Donato. Directed by Jeffery Scott Lando. (2012/84 min).
MIAMI MAGMA Starring Rachel Hunter, J.D. Evermore, Cleavant Derricks, Stacey Asaro, Brad Dourif. Directed by Todor Chapkannov. (2011/87 min).
WEATHER WARS Starring Jason London, Wes Brown, Stacy Keach, Erin Cahill, Indigo. Directed by Todor Chapkannov. (2011/85 min).

Review by Tiger the Terrible­čś╝

The title of this 2-disc DVD collection is a bit misleading. None of the four films feature stories of impending global doom. In fact, only a couple could loosely be considered disaster movies.

It also bares mentioning that all of them originally premiered on SyFy. Anyone familiar with the channel’s brand of budget-conscious catastrophe knows exactly what to expect: outlandish plots, bargain basement CGI and lead actors whose celebrity status is one step away from appearing on Dancing with the Stars. And I’m guessing anyone who’s read this far is probably okay with that.

Predating Sharknado by a year, Arachnoquake is exactly what you think it is. Still, this one is the best of the lot because it’s mostly played for laughs. That doesn’t mean it’s always funny, but there’s an occasional good gag here and there. Additionally, it features former child stars Tracey Gold & Edward Furlong, the latter of whom looks and sounds completely shitfaced. Sharing the disc is Ghostquake, which is actually more of a horror movie. Though not remotely scary, it’s at-least watchable and there are a couple of decent death scenes. Besides...who doesn’t love Danny Trejo?

Edward Furlong hocks a loogie.
While Weather Wars and Miami Magma might qualify as disaster movies, only the former is worth sitting through, mainly because Stacy Keach engages in some serious scenery chewing as an unhinged evil genius who manipulates the weather to exact revenge on a senator who once poo-pooed his research. The premise is ridiculous, but relatively speaking, the special effects aren’t half bad. The same can’t be said for Miami Magma, by-far the worst of the four. The plot, dialogue, logic, pacing and CGI are uniformly awful, even by SyFy standards. As for the cast, what more can be said about a movie where Rachel Hunter turns in the best performance? On the plus side, it does include an unexpected death by a flaming tennis ball.

But hey, they can’t all be zingers, which is par for the course with collections like this. Arachnoquake has enough moments as amusing as Sharknado to make it worth seeing more than once. As for the rest...well, we ain’t exactly talking Roland Emmerich, but if you enjoy cheese as part of your disaster diet, dig in.


April 10, 2019

MEGA TIME SQUAD: How to Make a Cult Film

Starring Anton Tennet, Jonny Brugh, Arlo Gibson, Hetty Gaskell-Hahn, Milo Cawthorne, Yoson An, Mohi Critchley. Directed by Tim van Dammen. (2018/86 min).

Review by Tiger the Terrible­čś╣

One of the tricks in making a good cult film is trying not to look like you’re making a cult film, which is easier said than done. Too much of a conscious effort to be hip, quirky or self-aware reeks of desperation, like a dorky dad trying to relate to his teenage kid by using modern slang. New Zealand’s Mega Time Squad definitely has cult aspirations, and fortunately, writer/directer Tim van Dammen doesn't seem to be actively seeking-out the fringe crowd. Maybe he knows if you have an idea worth doing unconventionally, that crowd will seek you out.

Conceptually, Mega Time Squad is already pretty clever without the oddball accouterments. John (Anton Tennet) is a dimwitted petty crook who works for Shelton (Jonny Brugh), a self-aggrandizing gangster who has other rubes do all his dirty work. After John is ordered to steal a cache of money from the Chinese mob, his buddy Gaz (Arlo Gibson) convinces him they should keep it for themselves. While snatching the cash from an antique store, John also takes an ancient bracelet which lets the wearer travel back in time a few minutes.

Gaz doublecrosses John and leads him right to Shelton and his thugs. John manages to escape and activate the bracelet before they can kill him. He’s suddenly in the immediate past and saves himself yet again. Now there are two Johns. Both of them learn of the bracelet’s dark past, which does indeed allow the user to make as many copies of themselves as they want, but also summons a ravenous demon that will devour them all. That doesn’t stop him from creating a lot more Johns, who form their own gang and dub themselves the Mega Time Squad. Together, they decide to steal the money back and return it to the Chinese. Meanwhile, one of the Johns – we’re never certain which – has fallen in love with Shelton’s sister, Kelly (Hetty Gaskell-Hahn).

"When I told you to duck, that's not what I meant."
Aside from an amusing flashback of the bracelet’s origins, the demon doesn’t actually figure much in the story. In fact, it’s largely forgotten after awhile, which creates a plot discrepancy by the end. But aside from that, the film ingeniously plays around with the logistics of time travel in a way I’ve never seen before. Better still, it’s mostly done for laughs. Mega Time Squad is consistently funny, with great dialogue, silly slapstick and a marvelously deadpan performance by Tennet. Unlike other cult films that seem a bit too eager to please, this one doesn’t beat its premise to death or turn annoyingly self-congratulatory.

The overall tone is like a sci-fi version of Napoleon Dynamite, augmented by a few bursts of gory violence and an aesthetic that (intentionally?) recalls straight-to-video sci-fi thrillers from the 1980s. Whether or not it actually becomes a cult classic, Mega Time Squad is certainly worthy. There are a few plot holes here and there, but none big or deep enough to matter. Well worth checking out for those looking for something different.

AUDIO COMMENTARY – By Writer/Director Tim van Dammen

April 9, 2019

THE POOP SCOOP: Modern Classics Edition

Celebrate the 35th Anniversary of GHOSTBUSTERS on 4K June 11
GHOSTBUSTERS returns to 4K Ultra HD in an all-new limited edition Steelbook, which also includes the 30th Anniversary edition of GHOSTBUSTERS II. The set includes both films on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray, along with an entire additional disc of special features from each film. The films were fully restored from their respective original camera negatives and presented on 4K Ultra HD with HDR and Dolby Atmos audio; the Blu-rays feature HD presentations also sourced from the 4K restorations. The special features disc includes more than two hours of long-requested and rare archival elements—including never-before-seen deleted scenes from the first film—along with returning interviews, effects breakdowns, multi-angle explorations and much more! Both films also feature brand new commentaries, featuring the filmmakers on GHOSTBUSTERS II and passionate fans with deep-cut insights on GHOSTBUSTERS.

From Oliver Stone, the director of Platoon, JFK and Natural Born Killers. Screen legend Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal) electrifies the screen as Richard Nixon, whose chance at greatness was ultimately destroyed by his passion for power. Nominated for four Academy Awards (Actor for Hopkins, Supporting Actress for Joan Allen, Original Screenplay for Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson and Stone, and Score for John Williams), Nixon takes a riveting look at a complex man who became the first American president to resign, due to the threat of impeachment and his involvement in conspiracy jeopardizing the nation's security. The phenomenal all-star cast includes Allen (The Crucible), Powers Boothe (The Emerald Forest), Ed Harris (Needful Things), Bob Hoskins (Shattered), E.G. Marshall (Consenting Adults), Paul Sorvino (I, the Jury), David Hyde Pierce (TV's Frasier), Mary Steenburgen (Hope Springs), J.T. Walsh (Breakdown) and James Woods (The Onion Field). This special three-disc edition includes both the original theatrical cut and the extended director's cut, and is loaded with extras.

Brand New 2K Restoration of the film from the Original 35mm.
When master thief Sam Quint (Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive, Blown Away, The Park Is Mine) is hired by the government to steal top-secret data from a crime organization, he hides the stolen data in the experimental supercar, The Black Moon. But when the car is then stolen by high-tech auto thief Nina (Linda Hamilton, The Terminator), Quint must pull off the most daring heist of all: break into an impenetrable skyscraper and steal it back. With time running out and all sides closing in, Quint and Nina take The Black Moon on one final ride towards a shattering climax of sky-high suspense. Screenplay by legendary filmmaker John Carpenter (Escape from New York), Desmond Nakano (American Me) and William Gray (An Eye for an Eye), from a story by Carpenter. The all-star cast includes Robert Vaughn (Bullitt), Richard Jaeckel (The Dirty Dozen). Loaded with extras, including interviews, audio commentary, alternative scenes and a vintage documentary featuring behind-the-scenes footage and cast & crew interviews.

Rest in Peace, Seymour Cassel

April 8, 2019

GOLDEN JOB: Leave Your Scrutiny at the Door

Starring Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Michael Tse, Kar Lok Chin, Jerry Lamb, eric Tsang, Yamei Zhang, Charmaine Sheh, Serej Onopko. Directed by Kar Lok Chin. (2018/109 min).

Review by Tiger the Terrible­čś╝

Though the unfortunate title sounds like something you might pay for at a brothel, Golden Job is an outlandishly entertaining heist film. However, it does require a bit of effort on the viewer’s part, mainly a willing suspension of disbelief.

Having grown-up together in an orphanage, Lion, Crater, Bill, Dan & Mouse are as close as brothers and fiercely loyal to each other. They are more-or-less raised, loved and mentored by a man they refer to as Dad. Under his tutelage, they eventually become globe-trotting thieves-for-hire. When de-facto leader Lion (Ekin Chang) learns the medicine they stole to treat an African village is expired, they plan another elaborate heist, this time targeting a second batch being moved by a shady foreign agency. However, what they end up with is $400 million in stolen gold, which Bill (Michael Tse) knew about all along, part of his own plan to doublecross his friends and the guys they stole it from.

"Yeah, I did my hair myself. What about it?"
Bill disappears with the gold, Lion goes to jail and the others lay low while Dad and his daughter, Lulu, try to start over in a small town in Japan. Once Lion is released, they decide to go after Bill and the gold. But despite his betrayal, they aren’t looking for revenge. In fact, their motivation is what makes Golden Job kind-of unique among heist films. There’s the usual quota of action, gunplay and bloodletting. The gold heist itself is wonderfully elaborate, though pretty damned far-fetched. But what gets us through the technical and narrative rough spots are the characters. All the protagonists are extremely likable and their dedication to each other is endearing, leading to more-than-a few funny or heartwarming moments. Even Bill, vicious as he becomes, is never completely evil. Throughout the film, he’s openly remorseful over what he’s done to break the trust between the five of them.

However, anyone expecting plausibility should probably keep walking and never look back. The elaborately staged action scenes often play like a video game, especially during a Tokyo car chase and the climactic island siege (yeah, there’s an island siege). The bad guys all have the marksmanship skills of Imperial Stormtroopers and our heroes seem a little too fearless in the face of overwhelming odds.

But Golden Job ain’t a documentary and makes no claims of realism. There’s no lofty agenda or ambition beyond offering a fun ride with a half-dozen amusing characters we can’t help but like. Big, loud, violent and even poignant at times, you won’t believe a minute of it, but with films like this, does that ultimately matter?


April 6, 2019

NO ALTERNATIVE: Uncomfortably Numb

Starring Michaela Cavazos, Conor Proft, Harry Hamlin, Kathryn Erbe, Chloe Levine, Eli Bridges, Aria Shahghasemi, Matthew Van Oss. Directed by William Dickerson. (2018/104 min).

Review by Fluffy the Fearless­čÖÇ

I remember when Kurt Cobain died. I was in college and a bit older than many of my classmates (having partied through most of my 20s). So while his suicide didn’t have a profound impact on my life, I did observe how it affected a generation touched by his songs. That, coupled with the overall bleakness of grunge music itself, galvanized the stereotype of 90s’ youth as moody, ambivalent naval-gazers.

No Alternative revels in that decade, as experienced through two disaffected suburban siblings in the post-Cobain era. Bridget (Michaela Cavazos) is a brooding, perpetually angry high-schooler who’s been prescribed a variety of medications since she was eight. Her older brother, Thomas (Conor Proft), initially appears to be the more responsible of the two. Their parents (Harry Hamlin, Kathryn Erbe) expect Thomas to go to college, though all he really wants is to play with his band of Nirvana wannabes.

The film itself is nearly plotless, primarily shifting back and forth between Bridget and Thomas. Mom and Dad are mostly peripheral figures in their daily lives (and the story, though Dad is arguably its de-facto antagonist). Neither kid is particularly likable, but as products of their environment – or in Bridget’s case, no-small-amount of medication – each manages to generate fair amounts of empathy. Both find emotional outlets through music. Bridget embraces rap, which suits her confrontational nature. Through cringeworthy scenes during open-mike night at a local club, her performances are similar to scream therapy. However, as the narrative unfolds, it’s Thomas whose behavior and actions take alarming turns.

If Jay & Silent Bob had offspring.
As authentic as everything looks, sounds and feels, No Alternative is not a nostalgic trip down memory lane. The film is as cheerless as the music from the era, especially its depiction of how mental illness can go tragically unnoticed until it’s too late. Writer-director William Dickerson adapted his own novel, a fictionalized recollection of his own youth and equally troubled sister. The result isn’t what anyone would call a good time at the movies, but by the time we realize the entire film will be an exercise in misery, we feel compelled to see it through, even once we’re certain not every character will make it out alive.

No Alternative is the type of movie where we admire the message, the performances and the director's integrity, which isn’t the same as actually enjoying it. Dickerson doesn’t pull any emotional punches and the film grows increasingly tough to watch as the story approaches its inevitable-with-hindsight conclusion. However, those who vividly recall the '90s will feel like they've unearthed a time capsule.