August 29, 2019

The "Fine" Line in LADYWORLD
Starring Ariela Barer, Annalise Basso, Ryan Simpkins, Odessa Adion, Maya Hawke, Tatsumi Romano, Zora Casabere, Atheena Frizzel. Directed by Amanda Kramer. (94 min)

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😾

Ladyworld is an all-female spin on Lord of the Flies in which a gaggle of teenagers at a birthday party become trapped inside a house after a cataclysmic event. We’re led to believe it’s an earthquake, though it’s never made quite clear, which is fine because it’s the survival scenario that matters.

And I guess I can overlook the fact that even though the house has sunk a bit, there's clearly still plenty ‘o room to climb out through the windows. But hey, it’s obvious writer-director Amanda Kramer has loftier ambitions than plausibility or realism. That’s fine, too. Perhaps Ladyworld will instead tell us something about human nature and social breakdown under dire circumstances.

"Homer! You've got it set on 'whore'!"
And indeed, the group breaks into to factions. One is led by Olivia (Ariela Barer), who’s more level-headed and empathetic. Conversely, bitchy & cruel Piper (Annalise Basso) is perpetually antagonistic and eventually rallies a few of the others around her. The other characters, including one played by Maya (Stranger Things) Hawke, are mostly window dressing. Even that’s fine, since a film’s underlying theme sometimes takes precedent over traditional story elements.

Unfortunately, the film is stuck with a drab setting, underdeveloped & unlikable characters, superficially-abstract dialogue and – hands down - the most grating, obnoxious “music” score I’ve ever heard (human voices grunting, screeching, chirping and wailing). Once it’s established they’re trapped, the plot descends into a series of vignettes that are self-consciously performed ("look at me act!") and grow increasingly pretentious, to say nothing of tedious.

Some viewers might find the girls’ surrealistic descent into savagery disturbing. But for the most part, Ladyworld succumbs under the weight of its own arty ambitions. That, dear readers, is not fine.


August 28, 2019

Mr. Biscuits’ ADVENTURES IN THE BUDGET BIN: 7-Eleven Edition

For Mr. Biscuits, it’s the thrill of the hunt...digging for discounts wherever they may be. Sure, you could order from Amazon or spend your hard-earned kibbles on something already used, but what’s the fun in that? So if you’re a movie collector on a tight budget, let Mr. Biscuits’ show you some of his latest Blu-ray bargains.

In this edition, he pays a few visits to that bastion of quick convenience, 7-Eleven.

Steven Soderbergh’s timely and disturbing thriller about a lethal pandemic that threatens to spread around the globe. With an all-star cast and various subplots, it plays like a classic disaster movie, only smarter, which is also what makes it scary as hell. As an added bonus, we get the vicarious pleasure of seeing Gwyneth Paltrow’s scalp pulled over her face (serves her right for naming her fucking kid Apple). I found this little gem at 7-Eleven for $4.99 while grabbing a Big Gulp.

AIRPORT (1970)
Airport wasn’t the first disaster movie, but sure as hell made the genre popular throughout the ‘70s. Yeah, it plays more like a soap opera than an action movie, but if not for Airport’s runaway success, it’s possible we wouldn’t have gotten real disaster epics like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. In that context, the film has a certain amount of historical importance, and at $4.99, is cheaper than what Amazon’s currently asking for it.

I wonder what Hollywood legends Stanley Kubrick and Kirk Douglas would think if they knew one of the most critically-lauded classics in their filmographies would someday end-up on a convenience store shelf right above the toilet paper and pine tree air fresheners. This one was a bit more expensive – a whopping five bucks. But hey, for that extra penny, I got the loaded 50th Anniversary Edition!

HANG ‘EM HIGH (1968)
Here’s a fistful of Clint Eastwood for the price of a chili cheese dog and a Double Gulp. Hang ‘Em High isn’t in the same league as the Dollar’s Trilogy, of course, but it’s one of Eastwood’s more enjoyable American westerns of the era and a satisfying tale of revenge. It’s sort-of plays like a TV movie, but has a hell of a supporting cast that includes Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper, Ben Johnson and the Skipper himself, Alan Hale Jr.

August 26, 2019

Starring Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford, G.D. Spradlin, Scott Glenn, Christian Marquaind, Aurore Clement. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. (183 min).

Review by Mr. Paws😺

I didn’t come up with that review headline. It was the title of a segment from the news show, 20/20, when they did a feature on Apocalypse Now just as it was first being released. While I personally have an ongoing love/hate relationship with the film, 'wow' certainly applies to this massive 6-disc release.

Apocalypse Now Final Cut features yet-another edit of the Francis Ford Coppola classic, newly remastered in 4K and overseen by the director himself. While this cut alone makes the set indispensable for any cinephile, the original theatrical version and 2001’s extended Apocalypse Now Redux are thrown in for good measure.

"We've searched the entire perimeter, sir, and still can't find your shirt."
I’ve always viewed the theatrical version as a flawed masterpiece, a film loaded with astounding moments and striking imagery, but the whole never quite equaling the sum of its parts. There was always something about it that felt incomplete, particularly the final act. Coppola apparently agreed, since Apocalypse Now Redux restored nearly an hour of deleted footage. Some of the new stuff was interesting, even humorous, but the lengthy plantation & Playmate scenes bloated Willard’s already-lengthy journey down the Nung River without adding anything substantial to the narrative.

Final Cut finds the sweet spot between the two. The additional Playmate segment plopped into Redux is gone, while the plantation sequence is mercifully shortened, leaving just enough to expand on the film’s themes and shed more light on Willard’s character. Elsewhere, various scenes are expanded or streamlined, and I’m happy to say my favorite addition to Redux  – where Willard and his crew steal one of Kilgore’s precious surfboards – is still here, providing a rare moment of levity. While still running three-hours, Final Cut is faster-paced then Redux and a richer experience than the original, arguably making it the definitive version.

Disney's latest water show.
Though I’m still not all-in on 4K Ultra HD, Apocalypse Now’s striking aesthetics are undoubtedly conducive to the format. This set includes 4K, Blu-ray and digital copies of all three cuts. Technically speaking, the film has never looked or sounded better. Also included on Blu-ray is Hearts of Darkness, Eleanor Coppola’s critically-acclaimed documentary on the film’s tumultuous production. It’s part of two discs’ worth of new and vintage bonus features (outlined below), the best of which is a recent Q&A session between Coppola and director Steven Soderbergh, which was filmed at Apocalypse Now Final Cut’s 2019 4K premiere. In a

For a classic film that continues to be extensively discussed, debated and written about, Apocalypse Now Final Cut adds more fuel to the fire. This author feels the new version is as close to perfect as the film will ever get (I still have issues with the ending, though I’ve learned to appreciate it). Opinions vary, of course, which is part of the fun of having all three cuts collected as evidence. For that reason, this beautifully-packaged set is a must-own even for those who’ve already purchased the film several times.

4K, BLU-RAY & DIGITAL VERSIONS – Of Apocalypse Now Final Cut, Apocalypse Now Redux and Apocalypse Now (original theatrical cut).
HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER’S APOCALYPSE – The acclaimed documentary, with optional commentary by Francis & Eleanor Coppola.
ARCHIVAL FEATURES (included with previous Blu-ray releases):
"An Interview with John Milius”; “A Conversation with Martin Sheen and Francis Ford Coppola”; “Fred Roos: Casting Apocalypse”; “The Hollow Men”; “The Birth of 5.1 Sound”; “Ghost Helicopter Flyover” (sound effects demonstration); “A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now”; “The Music of Apocalypse Now”; “Hear Any Good Movies Lately?” (sound design); “The Final Mix”; “Apocalypse Then and Now”; “2001 Cannes Film Festival: Francis Ford Coppola”; “PBR Streetgang”; “The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now”; “Destruction of the Kurtz Compound End Credits” (with commentary by Coppola)
"MERCURY THEATRE ON THE AIR: HEART OF DARKNESS” - Radio broadcast from 1938.
"THE SYNTHESIZER SOUNDTRACK” - An archival article from Keyboard Magazine by Bob Moog.
MARKETING ARCHIVE – Trailers, radio spots, the original theatrical program, poster gallery, lobby cards and press kits.
TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL Q&A – A 45 minute conversion with Coppola and director Steven Soderbergh. Coppola’s lost some weight.
FEATURETTES - “Dutch Angle: Chas Gerresten & Apocalypse Now” (Gerresten was an on-set photographer); “Apocalypse Now: Remastering in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos”; “Sensual Sound Technology from Meyer Sound”; “Apocalypse Now: A Forty Year Journey” (home video image comparisons from VHS to 4K...pretty cool).

THE POOP SCOOP: JOHN WICK Road Trip Hits the Road in August and September

Get set for pedal-to-the-metal excitement as the John Wick Road Trip hits the road in August and September. On display will be John Wick’s hottest rides (including the Ford Mustang from the first two movies and a Zero DSR motorcycle from John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum), a traveling museum of John Wick memorabilia, and much more – all specially curated to create a unique and unforgettable fan experience.

ON 4K, BLU-RAY & DVD 9/10
The iconic Mustang from the first two installments of the
John Wick franchise, as well as the motorcycle from John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, will travel across the Midwest and East Coast from August 31 to September 18 to visit select Best Buy Stores, NASCAR events, and the Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings NFL game. Fans will have the opportunity to take a photo with the Mustang, escape an army of assassins with a John Wick motorcycle green screen, check out real props from the films, and experience the John Wick universe in person. They’ll even be given a chance to win fun John Wick swag. Full details and location information can be found at

  • NASCAR Darlington Raceway Series (8/31 – 9/1 - Darlington, SC)
  • Best Buy (9/3 - Alpharetta, GA)
  • Best Buy (9/4 - Buford, GA)
  • NASCAR Indianapolis Motor Speedway Series (9/6 – 9/8 - Indianapolis, IN)
  • Best Buy (9/10 - Minneapolis, MN)
  • Best Buy (9/12 - Burbank, IL)
  • Best Buy (9/13 - Downers Grove, IL)
  • NFL: Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings (9/15 - Green Bay, WI)
  • Best Buy (9/17 - Mayfield Heights, OH)
  • Best Buy (9/18 - Reynoldsburg, OH)

August 25, 2019

THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO: Where Went the Neighborhood?
Starring Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Finn Wittrock, Mike Epps, Danny Glover, Jamal Trulove, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan. Directed by Joe Talbot. (121 min).

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😸

When not working menial jobs, Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) is gradually remodeling the old house where he grew up. The problem is that his family no longer lives there and he doesn’t actually own the place. The current owners don’t appreciate him repeatedly showing up to work on the house, while he’s unhappy that they’ve let it slip into disrepair.

Somewhat estranged from his own parents, Jimmie himself is essentially homeless, living with his best friend, Mont (Jonathan Majors), who also takes care of his blind grandfather (Danny Glover). But when the house is suddenly vacated and its ownership is in limbo, Jimmie and Mont decide to further explore inside. The two eventually move in without permission, adorning rooms with some of the same furniture Jimmie’s family used before they were evicted.

But The Last Black Man in San Francisco isn’t quite so straightforward. Despite being presented as a series of vignettes, there’s a timely underlying theme throughout the film. The house is in the trendy Fillmore district, which was once an ethnically diverse section of the city. Most of the black community has-since been displaced, many now living in an industrial area where homes are dilapidated and the nearby bay is polluted. Others continue to be evicted - legally or otherwise - as old neighborhoods grow increasingly gentrified. Jimmie is nostalgic for the way things used to least as he remembers them. And though he appears quite knowledgeable about the house and its history, he’s also naively possessive of a property he doesn’t have a chance in hell of ever owning.

"Get the hell off my lawn!!"
The Last Black Man in San Francisco is inspired by Fails’ own experiences and he co-wrote the screenplay with director & childhood friend Joe Talbot. Charming and bittersweet, the film is both a love-letter to their hometown and requiem for what it used to be. More or less playing himself, Fails delivers an affecting performance. Sort-of an oddball even within his own eccentric circle, he’s outwardly congenial and hopelessly optimistic, though we suspect part of him is aware the happiness he feels inside his childhood home is probably temporary.

Majors is also endearing as Mont, an aspiring writer concerned over his friend’s obsession with the house, eventually going to great lengths to try and pull Jimmy’s head out of the clouds. Elsewhere, the film is filled with a variety of interesting, empathetic characters. Based on how well-drawn they are, one can assume most of them have real-life counterparts.

Though deliberately paced, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is an engaging film with a poignant and haunting resolution. Once-diverse communities in other major cities have likewise met similar fates as Fillmore, but Jimmie’s story personalizes it in a way that the viewer can’t help but feel the same sense of loss.

FEATURETTE - “Ode to the City: Finding The Last Black Man in San Francisco
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By Director/Co-Writer Joe Talbot


August 23, 2019

ROCKETMAN: The Bitch is Back
Starring Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Stephen Graham, Gemma Jones, Jason Pennycooke, Steven Mackintosh, Sharon D. Clarke, Tate Donovan, Kit Connor. Directed by Dexter Fletcher. (121 min)

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

Since we all really liked Bohemian Rhapsody, I took my entire family to see Rocketman when it was released in theaters. I’ve always enjoyed music bios, and particularly interesting are those about artists I clearly remember at the height of their popularity. Like Queen, Elton John’s music was a big part of my childhood.

I tend to pay little attention to press or reviews of movies I’m already intent on seeing, so other than its subject, its star (Taron Egerton) and obviously the music, I knew relatively little about Rocketman going in. Considering his wild life and countless classic songs, any movie with Elton John as its subject would be inherently interesting.

But as the film opened, something unexpectedly wonderful happened. Decked-out in one of his trademark stage costumes, a worn and weary Elton John sits down with a support group and counts-off his numerous addictions. When the counselor asks about his childhood, John begins to quietly sing. Though it sounds like a melancholy ballad, I recognized the lyrics to “The Bitch is Back.” The scene morphs into a huge production number taking place on the street of his childhood home, with dancers, back-up singers and a young Reggie Dwight (Elton’s real name) belting-out the sassy chorus.

My wife gasped in surprise. My musical-loving oldest daughter quickly clapped with joy. The unexpected rush I felt was the same as when I first saw that massive Imperial Star Destroyer enter the top of the frame in the opening scene from Star Wars. Rocketman wasn’t just a music was a full-blown musical.

With 20/20 hindsight, of course it is. How could any movie about rock & roll’s most fearlessly flamboyant frontman not be?

Elton prefers the 'trousers optional' flight.
I suppose comparisons to Bohemian Rhapsody are inevitable, though not entirely fair. Both take dramatic liberties with the facts and timeline, but Rocketman is more than an episodic love letter to its subject. Elton’s life and songs are basically re-imagined, not only for dramatic purposes, but to turn his story into an epic musical fantasy with the glamour and audacity befitting of its subject. The film is filled with brilliantly-conceived musical numbers featuring his best-known songs. But they aren’t isolated pieces of gratuitous window dressing. The numbers are sequenced in a manner that they become part of the narrative and the songs themselves feel almost autobiographical, despite the varied lyrical subject matter.

Though only superficially resembling Elton John, Taron Egerton’s performance is every bit as remarkable as Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury, plus he does his own singing (as does the rest of the cast). As depicted in the film, John is a complicated character who is – by turns – insecure, lonely, egotistical, self-loathing, resentful, sensitive, petty and narcissistic. Egerton convincingly demonstrates all those traits, yet still keeps his character likable. Otherwise, sequences featuring "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," "Crocodile Rock" and "Rocket Man" wouldn't be nearly as engaging, nor would we care whether or not he wins the battle against his demons.

Regarding Elton John’s sexuality, Rocketman is certainly braver than Bohemian Rhapsody, but that’s not ultimately what makes it a better film. The narrative is more cohesive, the main character more complex and his story more vividly presented, enhanced by knock-out musical numbers. It’s as fun as Elton’s songs and – so far – the most purely entertaining movie of the year.

FEATURETTES - “It’s Going to Be a Wild Ride: Creative Vision”; “Becoming Elton John: Taron’s Transformation”; “Larger Than Life: Production Design & Costuming”; “Full Tilt: Staging the Musical Numbers”; “Music Reimagined: The Studio Sessions” (All of these feature numerous interviews and behind-the-scenes footage).
EXTENDED MUSICAL NUMBERS – Longer version of 4 songs from the film, with optional introduction by Director Dexter Fletcher.
10 DELETED/EXTENDED SCENES – With optional introduction by Director Dexter Fletcher.
ROCKETMAN LYRIC COMPANION” - Musical sequences with lyrics.
ROCKETMAN JUKEBOX” - Option which plays just the musical numbers.
A MESSAGE FROM ELTON JOHN” - This is a booklet with Elton John promoting his upcoming autobiography, Me.

August 22, 2019

THE POOP SCOOP: Bloody Edition
Rue Morgue Magazine and MVD Entertainment to launch MIDNIGHT MOVIE SOCIETY
MVD ENTERTAINMENT GROUP and RUE MORGUE have teamed up to launch the MIDNIGHT MOVIE SOCIETY, a curated Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) service specializing in Extreme Underground, Taboo and Cult Horror movies. Now genre fans can gain access to a film library of shocking underground, outrageous gore, creature features, cult classics and much more. Those with a taste for the weirdest and wildest reaches of genre cinema will not be disappointed!

"The bigger platforms are catering to the masses and have gone puritanical in many cases, making it very difficult for filmmakers to reach their audience," says Ed Seaman, C.O.O. of MVD ENTERTAINMENT GROUP. "MVD has a great deal of this type of content and when it is live on major platforms, it performs really well. Maybe too well for some of the mainstream platforms." MIDNIGHT MOVIE SOCIETY will also cater to more traditional horror fare as well, pulling from the thousands of film hours from in MVD's vast catalog. In addition, RUE MORGUE will also be finding and curating fresh and unusual content for the service.

MIDNIGHT MOVIE SOCIETY will be available for $4.99 per month, or $47.88 per year subscription, and will launch on iOS, Roku and web on Friday the 13th, September 2019.




TOY STORY 4 on Digital 10/1 and Blu-ray, 4K UHD 10/8
Fans who bring home “Toy Story 4” will be treated to over an hour of bonus features celebrating the film’s iconic characters, Pixar’s filmmaking team and the legacy of “Toy Story,” which began as the world’s first fully computer-animated feature film released nearly 25 years ago. Extensive extras includes deleted scenes such as an alternate ending, an all-new featurette with an endearing look back on Woody and Buzz’s legendary friendship throughout the years; entertaining studio stories shared by members of the Pixar team; a nostalgic look back at the creation and first storyboard screening of “Toy Story” with filmmakers; and the pioneering efforts of Pixar artists who created the sets, characters, look and feel of the original film and much more.
ANNA on Digital 9/10 and 4K, Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand 9/24
Introducing Sasha Luss in the title role, Luke Evans, Cillian Murphy, and Oscar winner Helen Mirren (2006, Best Actress, The Queen) kick ass in this stylized action-thriller about one of the world’s most feared government assassins, Anna Poliatova. Written and directed by Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, Lucy, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets), the film is an action-packed thrill ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Experience sensational fight sequences in four times the resolution of full HD with the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, which includes Dolby Vision, bringing the action to life through ultra-vivid picture quality. Includes never-before-seen featurettes.



GONE GIRL (2014)
David Fincher is one of the few living directors who has yet to make a terrible film (no, not even Alien 3). Not that we’ve actually liked everything he’s done, but all of them – yes, even Alien 3 – are meticulously directed, just slightly off-center and have at-least a scene or two you’re not likely to have seen anywhere else. Gone Girl may not be his greatest, but it’s certainly intriguing and this set we found in a Best Buy budget bin includes “Amazing Amy: Tattle Tale,” an illustrated ‘children’s’ book related to the film. And yes, it’s better than Alien 3. $5.99 AT BEST BUY.

August 21, 2019

The Unfortunate Timeliness of V
Starring Jane Badler (mee-ow!), Michael Durrell, Faye Grant, Peter Nelson, David Packer, Neva Patterson, Tommy Peterson, Marc Singer, Blair Tefkin, Michael Wright, Andrew Prine, Robert Englund. Directed by Kenneth Johnson. (197 min).

Review by Mr. Paws😸

I remember when the original V was first broadcast in 1983. This alien invasion epic was one of those “event” miniseries everybody felt compelled to watch or risk being excluded from water cooler conversations the next day. Compared to such weighty fare as Roots or Holocaust, this was superficial sci-fi fluff and I enjoyed it as such, though my main takeaway was that Jane Badler was the sexiest rodent-munchin' alien babe in the galaxy.

I also remember thinking the open-ended resolution was a big letdown. At the time, it was likely that no one outside of savvy execs at NBC knew V was being primed as a TV franchise. Sure enough, a second miniseries aired the next year. While bigger and sillier, at-least it brought the saga to a satisfying conclusion. A weekly series briefly followed before V was unceremoniously shelved, destined to be cheekily regarded as pop product of its time. At least that’s how I remembered it, and if nothing else, revisiting the miniseries on Blu-ray would be an entertaining bit of ‘80s nostalgia.

The memory is a funny thing, though. Watching the original for the first time in three decades, I realized my recollection of the sillier aspects of V stemmed from the subsequent series, where the hair was bigger, the special effects cheaper and the characters more cartoony. The original two-parter is a dark, thinly-disguised parable of allied resistance to Nazi fascism, which was apparently obvious even in 1983. But hey, I was 19 back then and never paid attention in History class, so all that shit flew right over my head.

Alien lobster tank.

And alas, the lovely Diana (Badler) is not quite the sultry space vixen she’d later blossom into (though she still looks mighty fine). Here, she’s a female Josef Mengele who not-only experiments on humans, she enjoys it. More ominous is how the Visitors use our own media to spread fear-mongering propaganda, vilifying scientists as a threat and encouraging citizens to turn them in. Hence, anyone with a scientific background – those who can expose the Visitors for what they really are – are either rounded up, go into hiding or join the growing resistance.

Demonizing scientists? Gee, don’t we know somebody who’s publicly doing that very thing...right now? Perhaps lizard skin lurks beneath a certain rotund Republican's orange exterior (not that his mouth-breathing minions would notice...or care).

So much for nostalgia. In fact, the only antiquated aspects of V are purely aesthetic. The special effects are crude and its TV origins are obvious, but the original miniseries remains chillingly relevant as a cautionary tale, since the current state of the world suggests some of us might be doomed to repeat history.

Damn, all I wanted to do was revisit an old flame.

AUDIO COMMENTARY – By Producer/Writer/Director Kenneth Johnson


August 19, 2019

THE BRINK: Standard-Issue High Seas Gangsters
THE BRINK (2017)
Starring Zhang Jin, Shawn Yue, Janice Man, Wu Yue, Tai Po, Cecilia So, Yasuaki Kurata, Gordon Lam, Derek Tsang. Directed by Jonathan Li. (100 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

Sai Gau (Zhang Jin) is your standard-issue renegade cop, a seething ball of intensity and contemptuous of his bumbling commander. At the beginning of The Brink, he’s being released from prison, having done 18 months because his recklessness caused the death of another cop. To show his sensitive side, he acts as guardian to the daughter of the gangster he once threw out a building window.

Shing (Shawn Yue) is your standard-issue bad guy, a ruthless, sadistic former henchman who kills his way to power, his weapon-of-choice being a handheld harpoon gun. To show his sensitive side, he pays a prostitute for her services before instructing his right-hand woman, Suet (Janice Man), get rid of her. But least he doesn't kill her.

For the most part, Tak (Wu Yue) is your standard-issue partner who just announced his retirement after winning big at a casino. But before the viewer can say “dead man walking,” he actually serves a different narrative purpose (which I won’t spoil here).

"You shouldn't o' made fun of my shirt."
Though not particularly original, The Brink is an entertainingly brutal action-fest that puts a few interesting spins on a familiar story. For one, Shing is both a gangster and a pirate, his territory being the sea. In this case, he’s planning to rob his rival’s luxurious cruise ship of $500 million in gold, which is actually stashed on the seabed beneath. While we’ve seen the ol’ cop-on-the-edge before and Gau punches his way through the movie with one facial expression, Zhang Jin is a great physical performer. I also appreciated Suet’s knack for creative demolition by using bombs made from dry ice.

But it's the two great set-pieces highlighting the second half that sets The Brink apart from your standard crime fare. First, there’s a terrifically-choreographed underwater fight scene, usually not the most cinematic of locations, but director Jonathan Li pulls it off. Second is the climactic close-quarters martial-arts melee onboard a fishing trawler during a typhoon, a masterful combination of practical action and convincing special effects.

Both sequences are patently ludicrous, but at-least they’re memorable enough to make it worth enduring a few of the mundane or pointless aspects of the story (such as the relationship between Gau and the gangster’s daughter). Elsewhere, The Brink is briskly paced, suitably violent and amusingly over-the-top. That last point could even describe the performances, as well. The overall story strictly standard-issue, but that doesn’t always matter, does it?


August 18, 2019

THE HUSTLE with a Rebel Yell
Starring Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Ingrid Oliver, Emma Davies, Nicholas Woodeson, Dean Norris, Timothy Simons, Rob Delaney, Tom Blake Nelson. Directed by Chris Addison. (94 min)

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😾

Holding up my screening copy of The Hustle, I asked my daughter, Natalie, “Did you wanna check this out with me? Your wife is in it.” Natalie often jokingly refers to actors she considers attractive as her ‘wife’ or ‘husband.’ In this case, it would be Anne Hathaway.

"Nah,” she replied. “I can't stand Rebel Wilson.” No wedding bells there, I guess.

I never found Wilson particularly funny, either, but at least in the other films I’ve seen her in, she's been just a supporting character. In The Hustle, not-only does Wilson share top billing with Anne Hathaway, she’s essentially the main protagonist, meaning her brash brand of it’s-funny-because-I’m-fat humor is here in abundance. Fans will probably enjoy her performance; others will find it obnoxious and interminable.

The Hustle is an inferior remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (which was also a remake, by the way). Other than swapping genders, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table that might justify its existence. Hathaway & Wilson are no Caine & Martin, but you probably knew that already. And while there’s an occasional chuckle here and there, this is another case where all the truly laugh-out-loud moments appear in the trailer.

A thumb war is declared.
Hathaway can be quite funny but isn’t given much of an opportunity here, mostly playing straight-man to Wilson’s buffoonery. Speaking of which, the film often coasts on the assumption that being overweight is inherently amusing. And I suppose many people think it is. But even when she isn’t trying to milk laughs based on her size, there’s something about Wilson’s delivery and performance that feels kind-of desperate. In that respect, she’s more Chris Farley than Melissa McCarthy: Laugh with me or laugh at me, as long as you’re laughing.

I didn’t laugh much either way, not at anything Rebel Wilson says or does, anyway. Hathaway looks like she’s having fun, but the best moments belong to supporting characters, particularly Nicholas Woodeson as one of Hathaway’s con-game cohorts. As for the rest of the film, the story is completely free of surprises, its four writers unable to come up with a unique spin on a familiar tale. That might make The Hustle a reheated dish of comfort food for undemanding viewers. It still tastes like leftovers, though, including Wilson’s schtick.

PROMOTIONAL FEATURETTES - “Hitting the Mark”; “Comedy Class”; “Con Artists”
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Director Chris Addison


August 16, 2019

Rest in Peace, Peter Fonda

THE WITCHES and a Tale of Two Endings
Starring Anjelica Huston, Jasen Fisher, Mai Zetterling, Charlie Potter, Rowan Atkinson, Jane Horrocks. Directed by Nicholas Roeg. (92 min)

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😸

This is based on a children’s novel by Roald Dahl, who apparently hated the changes made to his story, especially the ending. However, Dahl also hated Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, so there you go. While The Witches never became a beloved classic like Wonka, it’s definitely cut from the same cloth: a semi-whimsical family film with sinister undertones. I’m not sure what Dahl’s issue was because – narrative changes notwithstanding - it retains the spirit of his work.

But as cantankerous as he appeared to be about adaptations of his books, I’d have to agree on one point: retaining the story’s original ending certainly would have been interesting. Without getting into specifics that would spoil the party for those who haven’t read the book or seen the movie, that ending was apparently filmed but never used. No way would a major studio let such a resolution fly, even with an eccentric like Nicholas Roeg directing. But man, it would have been an awesome bonus feature to include on this disc.

As it is, The Witches harkens back to the days when fantasy films didn’t rely exclusively on CGI for its visual effects. Being a Jim Henson production, the film makes ample use of puppetry, animatronics and highly-imaginative make-up to convey its story. However, the movie’s true MVP is Angelica Huston as Eva, England’s Grand High Witch who gathers her loyal disciples at a hotel with a plan to turn all the country’s children into mice. From her quasi-dominatrix appearance to her over-the-top scenery-chewing, she injects a considerable amount of wicked fun into the film (at-least for the grown-ups in the audience).

The kid gets an eyeful.
For the little ones, the film’s hero is Luke (Jasen Fisher), an American boy vacationing at the hotel with his grandmother (Mai Zetterling), who regales him with terrifying tales of witches’ hatred for children and once narrowly escaped Eva herself. After discovering Eva’s plan while eavesdropping on the witches’ convention, Luke and another boy are turned into mice. Still, he tries to stop them from carrying-out their scheme with help from his grandmother.

The Witches is fun and fast-moving, simply presented and featuring fine performances. Sure, the special effects look a bit quaint, but they serve the story well and reflect a considerable amount of handcrafted effort. And like Willy Wonka, it has a subtle, amusing mean-streak. While definitely family-friendly, this isn’t strictly a kiddie film.

I suppose I can understand Dahl’s misgivings about the chosen ending, which admittedly negates the underlying tone of the rest of the film. It's unfortunate the darker one isn't included on this disc - either as a bonus feature or alternate ending option - so viewers could decide for themselves. Still, The Witches remains quirky, charming and certainly deserving of the same cult status Hocus Pocus inexplicably enjoys.