December 30, 2019

THE POOP SCOOP: New Year's Kibbles

The Original FAIL SAFE (1964) on Blu-ray 1/28 from Criterion Collection
This unnerving procedural thriller painstakingly details an all-too-plausible nightmare scenario in which a mechanical failure jams the United States military’s chain of command and sends the country hurtling toward nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Working from a contemporary best seller, screenwriter Walter Bernstein and director Sidney Lumet wrench harrowing suspense from the doomsday fears of the Cold War era, making the most of a modest budget and limited sets to create an atmosphere of clammy claustrophobia and astronomically high stakes. Starring Henry Fonda as a coolheaded U.S. president and Walter Matthau as a trigger-happy political theorist, Fail Safe is a long-underappreciated alarm bell of a film, sounding an urgent warning about the deadly logic of mutually assured destruction. 
 
COUNTDOWN Available on Digital 1/7 & Blu-ray and DVD 1/21
What if your phone could tell you when you’re going to die? Would you want to know? There’s a killer new app in COUNTDOWN, the terrifyingly original and inventive horror-thriller from STXfilms and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The film follows a young nurse who downloads an app that claims to predict exactly when a person is going to die. With only three days left to live and death closing in, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out. Combining “jump scares around every corner” (Kimber Myers, Los Angeles Times) and intense suspense, COUNTDOWN chronicles a frightening twist on the consequence of technology’s invasion of our lives. 
 
ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & DVD 1/21
Set one decade after the events of the first film, ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP finds Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), and Wichita (Emma Stone) working together as a well-oiled, zombie-killing machine with a new home in the now-vacant White House. These four slayers must face off against the many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors. But most of all, they have to face the growing pains of their own snarky, makeshift family. The bonus materials for ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP include audio commentary by Ruben Fleischer, a hilarious blooper reel, nine alternate & extended scenes, and several behind-the-scenes featurettes diving into the making of the film and more!
 
BLACK AND BLUE on Blu-ray & DVD 1/21
BLACK AND BLUE is a fast-paced action-thriller about a rookie cop (Academy Award nominee Naomie Harris) who inadvertently captures the murder of a young drug dealer on her body cam. After realizing that the murder was committed by corrupt cops, she teams up with the one person from her community who is willing to help her (Tyrese Gibson) as she tries to escape the criminals out for revenge and the police who are desperate to destroy the incriminating footage.
 
PARASITE on Blu-ray 1/28
Meet the Park family, the picture of aspirational wealth. And the Kim family, rich in street smarts but not much else. Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kims sense a golden opportunity. Masterminded by college-aged Ki-woo, the Kim children expediently install themselves as tutor and art therapist to the Parks. Soon, a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families. The Kims provide "indispensable" luxury services while the Parks obliviously bankroll their entire household. When a parasitic interloper threatens the Kims' newfound comfort, a savage, underhanded battle for dominance breaks out, threatening to destroy the fragile ecosystem between the Kims and the Parks. By turns darkly hilarious and heart-wrenching, Parasite showcases a modern master at the top of his game. 
 
TERMINATOR: DARK FATE on Blu-ray 1/28
Decades after Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) prevented Judgment Day, a lethal new Terminator is sent to eliminate the future leader of the resistance. In a fight to save mankind, battle-hardened Sarah Connor teams up with an unexpected ally (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and an enhanced super soldier to stop the deadliest Terminator yet. Humanity's fate hangs in the balance in this action-packed thrill ride from Tim Miller, the Director of Deadpool, and Producer James Cameron.

December 29, 2019

Marathon MAID

http://cohenmedia.net/
JOAN THE MAID (1994)
Starring Sandrine Bonnaire, André Marcon, Jean-Louis Richard, Olivier Cruveiller, Baptiste Roussillon. Directed by Jacques Rivette. (336 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM COHEN MEDIA GROUP

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😸

My first experience with director Jacques Rivette was reviewing Cohen Media’s restoration of La Belle Noiseuse, a 4-hour film about a frustrated artist painting a nude. A daunting task, but it turned out to be surprisingly compelling (and not because of the nudity). Marathon movies are sort-of a trademark of Rivette’s and his next, Joan the Maid, is even longer. But even at five-and-half-hours – to say nothing of a complete lack of traditional action one typically associates with historical epics – this is an interesting film, though it does require some serious commitment by the viewer.

Originally released as two separate films – and presented on Blu-ray as such – this is another re-telling of Joan of Arc, dominated by an impressive, dedicated performance from Sandrine Bonnaire as the titular character.

JOAN THE MAID 1: THE BATTLES - The subtitle is a little misleading, with only one actual battle depicted on-screen. Even then, it’s a fleeting skirmish, and a rather clumsily-executed one at that. However, one also gets the impression that, with the armies' lumbering armor and unwieldy weapons, this is probably a pretty accurate depiction of reality. The film focuses primary on Jeanne d’Arc’s journey. Driven by her godly visions, she appeals to Charles, Dauphine of France (Andre Marcon), to lead a French revolt against the British so he can assume the throne as the rightful king. She faces a lot of opposition, of course, but also earns a loyal following along the way, particularly from those who choose fight alongside her.

Joan the Emo.
JOAN THE MAID 2: THE PRISONS - Part 2 gets off to a shaky start with the crowning of Charles as the new king, which isn’t recognized by the British still occupying the country. Running over 20 minutes, the ritual is depicted in excruciating detail, essentially bringing the narrative to a grinding halt. It’s the only time the film is truly boring and could have easily been trimmed to a few short minutes without impacting the story whatsoever. The remainder unfolds sort-of like the final act of Braveheart without the blood & body parts. Jeanne is captured, betrayed, imprisoned and...well, we know the rest. The trial is sort-of a kangaroo court, where her faith and womanhood are questioned, yet even with the prospect of a horrible death, Jeanne remains steadfast in her beliefs. Following the trial, her incarceration in a British prison is by-far the most emotionally harrowing part of the film.

Jeanne herself is not depicted as the deified historical figure we grew up reading about. She’s sometimes stubborn, confrontational and maybe even a little over-confident. While there are many moments when the viewer thinks her unshakable faith is simply the product of a delusional mind, she’s a remarkably complex character, sympathetically portrayed by Bonnaire, who’s in nearly every scene.

Considering Joan the Maid is almost like binge-watching an entire season of a Netflix series, it helps to know in-advance that Rivette’s prolonged narrative tendencies are here in abundance (and this isn’t even his longest film). The story is filled with so much exposition – often directed right at the audience by various characters – that it requires your constant attention. But as exhausting as that can be at times, it’s ultimately worth the effort. A unique and interesting presentation of a revered historical figure.

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

December 27, 2019

I'LL NEVER FORGET YOU is...Forgettable

https://mvdb2b.com/?site_id=mvdv&date=
I’LL NEVER FORGET YOU: THE LAST 72 HOURS OF LYNYRD SKYNYRD (2019)
Featuring Gene Odom, Leslie Hawkins, Craig Reed, Lynda Haun, Dwain Easley. Directed by Jonathan Braucher. (63 min)
ON DVD FROM MVD VISUAL

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😾

Be forewarned: You will not hear any Lynyrd Skynyrd music in this film, and aside from a former back-up singer, no surviving members of the band participated.

Instead, I’ll Never Forget You focuses on the plane crash which killed several prominent members in 1977, as well as the friendship between lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and bodyguard Gene Odom, who wrote the book this film is based on. The crash remains one of rock’s greatest tragedies, but ain’t exactly an unsolved mystery. Unless one is interested in a computer-simulated depiction of the crash itself, there isn’t anything revealing here.

Odom himself suggests he suspected something was wrong with the plane, but doesn’t add anything that hasn’t already been well documented in previous books, documentaries and TV programs. What’s left are interviews with peripherals who either had ties to the band or were involved in the subsequent rescue operation (who mostly just describe what they saw). The generic southern rock score sounds sort-of like Skynyrd, but it’s obvious permission wasn’t given to use their actual music, not even for the brief concert footage.

Running a scant 63 minutes, I’ll Never Forget You plays more like one of those sensationalist tabloid documentaries that Reelz airs to pad its schedule (including the usual ‘dramatic re-enactments’). You’ll learn little about the band itself and there far are better Lynyrd Skynyrd docs out there.

EXTRA KIBBLES
40TH ANNIVERSARY EVENT
MUSIC VIDEO – “Cold Dark Mississippi Night,” by some band called Tennessee Iron.
"GENE’S FISHING ADVICE” - Really?

KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEH...LIKE SHARING THE BED WITH THE DOG.

THE BEST (and Worst) STUFF WE REVIEWED IN 2019

We reviewed a slew of Blu-Rays, DVDs, books and CDs in 2019. Time to take a look back at the best & worst of them. While we have seen more movies than the Surgeon General recommends, our lists consist strictly of titles which were sent to us for review purposes.

PURR-R-R...THE BEST: We reviewed some good stuff this year, but the following titles were better than taunting a mouse to death:

10. AT THE DRIVE-IN - 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.
 
9. THE BUSTER KEATON COLLECTION, VOL. 1 - The General is silent filmmaking at its absolute best and remains massively entertaining today (once you get past the Confederate Army portrayed as the good guys). While decidedly more restrained, Steamboat Bill, Jr. is another charmer and Keaton’s considerable comic gifts are here in abundance. This set is light on bonus features, but the 4K restoration is stunning and both films feature wonderful orchestrated scores by Carl Davis. 
 
8. THE BIG CLOCK - As film noir goes, The Big Clock isn’t a perfect fit – there’s too much breezy humor present for that – but has enough of the same inherent aesthetic and narrative stamps to draw favorable comparisons to the best the genre has to offer. It also happens to be a hell of an entertaining film.
 
7. LORDS OF CHAOS – Lords of Chaos is a luridly-compelling experience, perhaps even more-so for those unfamiliar with Mayhem’s dubious mark in heavy metal history. In fact, since the film isn’t really about the music, fans of the band or black metal in-general might be put-off at how derisively both are depicted. For everyone else with strong stomachs, get ready for a wild ride.
 
6. COLD PURSUIT - Liam Neeson has been channeling his inner Bronson for so long that one could be forgiven for assuming Cold Pursuit has him playing yet another one-man wrecking crew. But don’t let the generic title fool you. This is a highly amusing black comedy that just happens to have some great action.
 
5. THE THIN MAN – One of those old black & white films you show to people who claim to hate old black & white films. This classic comedy-mystery isn’t simply amusing for a 75-year-old movie. It’s as sharply-written, witty and laugh-out-loud funny as any movie, regardless of decade.
 
4. ROCKETMAN – Elton John’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. Taron Egerton’s performance is every bit as remarkable as Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury, plus he does his own singing. 
 
3. THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN - Despite its age, length and complete lack of traditional action, The Andromeda Strain remains an exemplary example ‘70s-era science-fiction, perhaps because it doesn’t feel like science-fiction. It has been released on Blu-ray before, but this version gives it a considerable facelift with a nice 4K scan restoration, remastered audio and a few nifty new extras to go along with some substantial vintage features. An all-around great release and highly recommended for anyone who loves smart, plausible science-fiction. 
 
2. APOCALYPSE NOW FINAL CUT – 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. 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.
 
1. ROBOCOP - RoboCop defies single genre classification, successfully combining traditional science-fiction, horror, classic tragedy, dark comedy, sharp satire, cultural commentary and, of course, good old fashioned revenge, all of which are as timely today as they were 32 years ago. It has been released on video plenty of times before, including some editions that were pretty impressive in their own right. But this one is so comprehensive and beautifully packaged that double-dipping should be a no-brainer.


BLEH...THE WORST: As much as we love movies, there are times when reviewing them feels like an actual job. The following titles deserve to be buried in the litter box:

10. SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ - Don’t be fooled by the impressively misleading cover featuring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost along with a critical quote inviting comparisons to Shaun of the Dead. With its pandering, pointlessly-stylized title, Slaughterhouse Rulez doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath. 
 
9. ICEMAN: THE TIME TRAVELER – While the original Iceman wasn't exactly a feather in Donnie Yen's cap, this tepid sequel is one of the worst films in his lengthy filmography. Though elaborately produced, it's undone by a convoluted story, erratic pacing and an uncharacteristically indifferent performance by its star. 
 
8. SCARED STIFF - Scared Stiff simply reeks of the decade from which it sprang, from the synth score down to Mary Page Keller’s Sheena Easton mullet. The faithful few will certainly enjoy Arrow’s 2K restoration and great supplementary material, but time has not been kind to this one. Good for some unintended chuckles. 
 
7. MALEVOLENCE 3: KILLER – A tired rehash of every teen slasher flick that ever oozed out of the 80s. The characters are walking cliches, as are the jump scares and the Carpenteresque score. Devoid of tension or atmosphere, the entire film feels hastily slapped together. 
 
6. THE CHILL FACTOR - There’s a reason Christopher Webster never directed another film and why none of his actors were ever heard from again. The Chill Factor derivative, plodding and creatively vapid, its dead-serious tone  undone by laughable dialogue and jaw-droppingly terrible performances. The whole thing looks like it was cynically cranked-out to get onto video shelves as fast as possible. 
 
5. THE HUSTLE – An inferior remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, 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 it’s-funny-because-I’m-fat schtick. 
 
4. LADYWORLD - For the most part, Ladyworld succumbs under the weight of its own pretentious ambitions. The film is stuck with a drab setting, underdeveloped & unlikable characters, superficially-abstract dialogue and – hands down - the most grating, obnoxious “music” score of the year. 
 
3. THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE – It probably goes without saying that the concept of The Haunting of Sharon Tate is in pretty poor taste. But dubious real-life inspiration notwithstanding, The Haunting of Sharon Tate is simply a dreary, repetitive and ultimately derivative slasher film. 
 
2. KUNG FU MONSTER - For a movie titled Kung Fu Monster, there’s damn little of either. And that’s the least of its problems. This is one of those movies where the cast and crew are clearly having a lot more fun than we are. It might amuse undiscriminating 12-year-olds, but most others will likely be insulted by the filmmakers’ apparent contempt for the audience. A depressing waste of time and talent. 
 
1. ACCIDENT – The title could cheekily refer to how clumsily the film was thrown together. 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.

December 19, 2019

THE POOP SCOOP: Christopher Nolan's TENET Movie Trailer

TAP THE DATE TO VIEW THE TRAILER

December 18, 2019

Sympathy for JUDY

https://www.lionsgate.com/
JUDY (2019)
Starring Renee Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Richard Cordery. Directed by Rupert Goold. (118 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM LIONSGATE

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😸

Right away, this film makes one thing quite clear: Judy Garland was doomed from the start.

The opening scene sees young Judy on the set of The Wizard of Oz, torn between choosing stardom or life as a normal child. Mentor Louis B. Mayer lays it out with the tone of the loving parent – which she never had – but the words of a cold, calculating businessman, essentially saying she’ll amount to nothing without him.

Thus began the journey down that yellow brick road which would ultimately lead to Garland’s death at the age of 47.

But Judy doesn’t chronicle her downward spiral. The film focuses on the final months of her life, when Garland (Renee Zellweger) is a physical and emotional trainwreck. She’s alarmingly unhealthy, dependent on booze and prescription drugs to keep going. She loves her two children but is essentially homeless and can’t take care of them, ultimately losing custody to her most recent ex-husband, Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell). And despite still possessing a tremendous singing voice, Garland is virtually unemployable.

Until she’s offered a series of shows in London, where she’s still very popular. Initially reluctant, she takes the offer but proves to be wildly unpredictable both on and off the stage. Despite efforts by hired assistant Rosalyn (Jessie Buckley) and soon-to-be-fifth husband Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock) to keep her focused, Judy slips further into drunkenness, depression and mental exhaustion, burning most of her remaining bridges along the way.

"Smoooooke on the waaaaater..."
But rather than focusing on the more lurid aspects of this time in her life, Judy presents its subject as the tragic figure she really was. Just a few key flashbacks of her childhood – every aspect of it controlled by studio moguls, including her drug use – renders the entire film rather heartbreaking. As presented here, all Garland ultimately wanted was to love and be loved. But in the end, little was left but self-pity and remorse.

Much has already been written and said about Zellweger’s affecting performance, which is indeed the main reason the film rises above its fairly rudimentary screenplay and some suspicious contrivances to press all the right emotional buttons. Playing Garland as bitchy and endearing, forceful and needy, it’s a complex portrayal that goes well beyond mere caricature. She also does her own singing and if you squint hard enough, her resemblance to Garland is sometimes uncanny (especially when she’s on stage).

Zellweger has already won a few awards for her performance, as well as a Golden Globe Nomination. At this point, yet-another Oscar nod appears to be in the bag, too. Since biographic dramas usually sink or swim with their star, all of those accolades are well-deserved. She gives Judy the poignant punch needed to make it memorable.

EXTRA KIBBLES
PROMOTIONAL FEATURETTE - “From the Heart: The Making of Judy
IMAGE GALLERY
DVD & DIGITAL COPIES
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.

December 16, 2019

FREAKS: Why Be Normal?

https://www.wellgousa.com/
FREAKS (2018)
Starring Jack Black Emile Hirsch, Lexy Kolher, Bruce Dern, Amanda Crew, Grace Park. Directed by Adam Stein & Zach Lipovsky. (105 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM WELL GO USA

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😸

7-year-old Chloe (Lexy Kolker) has been a shut-in her entire life, kept in a run-down old house by her obsessively protective father (Emile Hirsch). He says it’s for her own safety because she’s one of the dreaded “Abnormals” (a.k.a. Freaks), who are hunted and killed because of their unique abilities...just like her mother was. As we soon learn, Chloe’s special talent is getting inside the minds of others and making them bend to her will.

But Chloe grows skeptical and resentful of Dad’s over-protectiveness, eventually venturing out on her own at the urging of “Mr. Snowcone” (Bruce Dern), who’s parked in an ice cream truck outside the house. He also claims Chloe’s mother is actually still alive, held prisoner at a facility called The Mountain. Snowcone turns out to be Chloe’s grandfather – and also an Abnormal – and wants to go on the offensive, using her to infiltrate The Mountain and rescue her mother. Dad totally opposes this, preferring to remain hidden, especially once government agents led by Cecelia Ray (Grace Park) become aware of their presence.

Emile Hirsch is a bit...tenacious.
If the synopsis evokes a bit of deja vu, it’s because the basic concept of Freaks is remarkably similar to X-Men (back when that franchise was still interesting). But while it lacks the same budget and visual fireworks, Freaks compensates with a trio of terrific main characters dropped into a story that reveals its secrets with admirable creativity and patience. Similar patience might be required from some viewers, especially with a first act that plays more like a surreal, deliberately-paced horror film. However, once the film puts all its narrative cards on the table, the momentum picks up considerably, as do the stakes and overall level of bloody violence. 
 
Though Freaks is darker and more visceral than a typical X-Men film, one can’t help but think this is the type of origin story that franchise should have gotten. Great performances help, of course. Once we get over his uncanny resemblance to Jack Black, Hirsch convincingly conveys a father’s desperation to protect his child at any cost, even if he’s sometimes wrong. Dern plays yet-another cantankerous old man, but hey, he’s got it down cold and has more than his share of amusing moments. But the success of the film lies squarely on young Kolker’s shoulders, who’s more than up to the task. Appearing in nearly every scene, she’s remarkable.

Being that it’s sort of the antithesis of X-Men, I suppose some tenuous comparisons could be made to Brightburn. But where that film was mostly just a gore-soaked horror show, Freaks offers an intriguing spin on a familiar concept. The result is a neat little sci-fi thriller with a smart script and engaging characters.

EXTRA KIBBLES
BEHIND THE SCENES FEATURETTE
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By the directors
2 TRAILERS
DVD COPY 
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.

December 15, 2019

COME ON FEEL THE NOIZE: Born to Be Mild

https://mvdb2b.com/s/CLO1501
COME ON FEEL THE NOIZE (2019)
Featuring Jimmy Page, Ian Gillan, James Hetfield, Nikki Sixx, Ozzy Osbourne, David Draiman, Michael Starr, Dee Snider, Michael Monroe, Roger Glover, Scott Ian, Doro Pesch, Biff Byford, John Corabi. Directed by Jörg Sonntag. (90 min)
ON DVD FROM MVD VISUAL

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😼

A lot of Noize, to be sure, but not much substance.

Come on Feel the Noize purports to be “the story of how rock became metal,” an interesting enough topic, though it's covered much more thoroughly – with more focus – in some of Sam Dunn’s documentaries. The film actually ends up being kind-of rudderless, particularly at the point where it delves so heavily into how punk became new wave that Blondie ends up with more screen time than Judas Priest.

Though haphazardly assembled, a lot of seldom seen performances from legendary artists are included, much of it lifted from a German TV show. One gets the impression the narrative was built around footage the producers were able to acquire, which might explain the near absence or mention of several indisputably influential bands. On the other hand, this may be the first and only opportunity to see Motorhead performing “Orgasmatron” with Lemmy slathered in corpse paint. That alone might be worth the price of admission for some viewers.

Sorry, no subtitles.
Also featured are many interviews, including the one and only Jimmy Page, not generally known to show up in these things. Too bad he only appears for a brief comment or two, while Michael Starr (from the parody band, Steel Panther) is given an inordinate amount of screen time to philosophize about rock & roll. In fact, the film eventually ceases exploring metal’s origins altogether, content to showcase a hodge-podge of current artists, few of whom add anything substantial to the genre’s evolution or history.

Still, it’s the rare performance footage that makes Come on Feel the Noize worth checking out. We’ve all seen Led Zeppelin perform “Whole Lotta Love” before, but probably not in a video punctuated by female nudity (gotta love Germany’s decidedly more-relaxed broadcast standards). As a documentary, however, it frequently strays off topic and ignores too many significant artists & milestones to be considered anything more than a superficial overview.

EXTRA KIBBLES
IMAGE GALLERY
TRAILER
KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW.

December 12, 2019

THE COTTON CLUB (deserves an) ENCORE

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

Review by Mr. Paws😸

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 10, 2019

A Belated Appreciation of SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE

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

Review by Mr. Paws😸

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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