February 29, 2020

QUEEN & SLIM: The World's Worst First Date

QUEEN & SLIM (2019)
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloe Sevigny, Flea, Benito Martinez, Indya Moore, Sturgill Simpson. Directed by Melina Matsoukas. (132 min)

Review by Stinky the DestroyeršŸ˜ø

If you think you’ve had bad first dates, Queen & Slim will refine the term for you.

Like everyone, I’ve had a few dates that didn’t go quite as planned. Either these ladies weren’t impressed by my inherent charm or fewer women enjoy an evening of Natty Ice & skeet shooting than I once assumed. But at least none of those dates ended with the two of us on-the-lam after shooting a cop.

Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) aren’t really hitting-it-off, either. They clearly have nothing in common and don’t appear too impressed with each other. But that’s okay, since we like them anyway. During the drive home, they are pulled over by an overzealous cop. The situation escalates and Slim ends up grabbing the cop’s gun and killing him in self defense. Slim wants to call the police, but Queen, a defense attorney with first-hand experience in social injustice, insists they flee the scene.

All this happens before the title even flashes on the screen. Queen & Slim masterfully establishes its plot, setting and lead characters with more efficiency than any film I’ve seen in recent memory.

Now fugitives, the two head south without a solid plan beyond their next move. Subjects of a massive manhunt, not only do Queen and Slim become a media sensation, but reluctant folk heroes. Some are willing to assist them in trying to flee the country, while many others rise in protest of their treatment...sometimes violently. One of those who assists them is Queen’s uncle, Earl (Bokeem Woodbine), a sleazy pimp who’s already indebted to her (the reason why is just one of the film’s many narrative surprises).

"You got the tires, baby. Now all you need is a car."
The film becomes a road trip that unfolds much like Thelma & Louise, albeit with a lot of relevant commentary on today’s tumultuous social climate. The real journey is the one taken by the titular characters as they reassess themselves, increasingly aware that their entire future has boiled down to the next few days and the most important thing left in their lives is each other.

Though the film is sometimes shamelessly manipulative, it’s difficult not to get swept along. Queen and Slim are not-only complex characters, but extraordinarily likable and their transformation is compelling. As media scrutiny and public protests intensify, so does their relationship, best exemplified when Queen and Slim consummate their relationship by the roadside while a young boy they met the day before – inspired by their fame – intentionally shoots a cop during a riot. It’s at this moment we suspect things are going to end all lot worse than any of my dates at the shooting range.

Queen & Slim ultimately becomes a sweeping journey of discovery, an engaging, poignant story bolstered by sympathetic performances from Kaluuya and Turner-Smith. Confidently directed by Melina Matsoukas (her first film), we’ve seen this type of movie before, but in the right hands, it’s still a trip worth taking.

FEATURETTES - “A Deeper Meaning”; “Melina & Lena” (interview with the director and screenwriter); “Off the Script” (keys scenes along with text from the screenplay); “On the Run with Queen & Slim
AUDIO COMMENTARY – by director Melina Matsoukas & screenwriter Lena Waithe

February 27, 2020

THE CLIMBERS and the Sad State of Everest

Starring Wu Jing, Zhang Ziyi, Zhang Yi, Jing Boran, He Ge, Jackie Chan. Directed by Daniel Lee. (123 min)

Review by Tiger the TerriblešŸ˜½

Not long ago, My wife showed me some current photos of Mt. Everest. The summit looks like a New Jersey landfill, littered with garbage and human waste from thousands of tourists over the years. It's a far cry from the days when conquering the world’s highest mountain was a triumph of the human spirit.

To recreate one of those historic treks, it appears the makers of The Climbers resorted to using other locations and plenty of CGI. If Everest's current state was the reason, that's pretty damn sad.

Inspired by true events, The Climbers is about two famous Chinese ascensions up Everest, both led by Fang Wuzhou (Wu Jing). The first is made in 1960, but not recognized internationally because photographic evidence is required and their camera was lost in an avalanche. Fang’s reputation is tarnished, his group disbands and his relationship with girlfriend Xu Ying (Zhang Ziyi) ends acrimoniously.

But Fang gets another crack at the mountain in 1975 with a government-backed expedition. He gets the old crew back together and they train a new batch of eager young mountaineers. Conveniently, Xu Ying is also on-hand to provide storm data and additional drama. The remaining half of the film features the climb itself, which is, of course, fraught with enough peril for two movies...killer wind, blinding snow, avalanches, runaway boulders, tragic accidents, crushed limbs and equipment breaking at the worst possible moment.

"Thank God...a Starbucks."
I’ve got no idea how much of this is historically accurate, though I suspect dramatic liberties have been taken. Granted, I’ve never scaled a mountain myself – traversing my roof to clean the gutters is thrilling enough, thank you – but the action is depicted like a Die Hard movie with Fang as its John Maclane. And that’s okay, since I don’t think the film is intended as a history lesson. Some of the sequences – while outlandish and CGI-heavy – are pretty exciting, even suspenseful at times. Less interesting are the characters. Fang is likable, boosted by Jing’s earnest performance, but his relationship with Xu Ying is contrived and pointless. None of the other characters register much and Jackie Chan fans should note that he only has a cameo during an end-credits coda.

Speaking of which, the film ends with vintage footage of the actual mountaineers during the 1975 expedition and is dedicated to their accomplishment (which was apparently a great source of national pride). Their story is movie-worthy enough without the heavy-handed – and likely embellished – melodrama that sometimes threatens to undermine things. If you can power through all that, The Climbers is worth checking out. 

Now if they could only keep all the filthy tourists from checking out the real Everest.

2 BEHIND-THE-SCENES FEATURETTES – Basically promotional, and very short.

February 25, 2020

The Morons of MIND GAMES

Maxwell Caufield, Edward Albert, Shawn Weatherly, Matt Norero, Directed by Bob Yari. (93 min)

Review by Tiger the TerriblešŸ˜¼

Half-way through the film, my 15-year-old daughter came into the room, took a look at the screen, heard about 20 seconds of the soundtrack and said, “This is from the ‘80s, isn’t it?”

Indeed it is, kid...a goofy relic from a goofy decade, Mind Games is aesthetically-typical of the low-budget psychological thrillers that once glutted video store shelves. In this one, the world’s dumbest family decides to take a road trip in a motor home.

How dumb? Consider this…

10-year-old Kevin Lund wanders into the woods and meets drifter Eric (Maxwell Caufield), sitting alone on a rock, shirtless while playing his flute. With a way-too-cheerful grin, Eric invites the boy over, promising to show him how to play. Rather than run the other way screaming “Stranger danger,” Kevin brings him back to meet the folks.

Eric says he’s is a psychology major, though it’s immediately clear that only the psycho portion is accurate. Most of what flies from his mouth would prompt you to find another seat on the bus. Miserable mom, Rita (Shawn Weatherly) is suitably creeped out, but dimwit dad Dana (Edward Albert) is charmed enough let Eric tag along.

The very next night, Eric suggests he and Kevin sleep in the woods alone. Dana and Rita allow it (!), then argue whether or not that was a good idea. Meanwhile, Eric takes Kevin to vandalize a house and kill the owner’s dog. Kevin’s initially horrified, but shortly after, the two are playing poker together because Eric’s too awesome to allow such trifles as animal cruelty end a great friendship.

"You just had to bring up Grease 2, didn't you?"
Eric keeps chiding Rita about her lousy marriage. She’s alarmed by his increasingly unnerving behavior and insists they leave him behind. Then she has sex with Eric (!), who later suggests murdering Dana to get him out of the way. Though she briefly considers it, Rita changes her mind, but not before Eric tries to off Dana himself. And even when it finally occurs to the entire Lund family that Eric’s dangerous, they still don't go to the police. In fact, after assuming they’ve finally ditched him, they continue the vacation, giving little Kevin permission to explore an abandoned mine shaft...alone...at night. 

I dunno...maybe they hate the little urchin as much as they hate each other.

For a film called Mind Games, we don’t witness a hell of a lot of brainpower. The plot is driven entirely by the jawdropping stupidity of its main characters. While Caufield is actually pretty good – and probably had fun doing this – at-no-time does Eric say or do anything that suggests he’s charming and calculating enough to manipulate anyone but the most gullible rube. Which explains the Lund family, I guess. Dana & Rita’s idiocy - to say nothing of piss-poor parenting skills - give the film a level of campiness that sort-of raises Mind Games above the usual straight-to-video thriller. Viewed in that context, there’s some fun to be had at its expense.

As my daughter perceptively pointed out, the entertainment value of Mind Games stems from being a silly product of its era, making it another fitting addition to the MVD Rewind Collection. Like others in the series, the disc comes with more comprehensive bonus features than movies like this generally warrant, but we’re grateful to have anyway.

"MAKING OF MIND GAMES” - A informative and entertaining retrospective doc that’s actually longer than the movie itself. Featuring interviews with director Bob Yuri, producer Mary Apick and the entire surviving cast (Edward Albert passed away 2006), this tells a compelling story of its own.
"BOB YURI: PORTRAIT OF A PRODUCER” - Yuri went on to greater success as a producer of such creatively-budgeted fare as Crash and The Illusionist. Accompanied by dozens of film clips, he enthusiastically discusses his entire career.

February 24, 2020


FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE is giving away a Blu-ray copy of QUEEN & SLIM, courtesy of UNIVERSAL.
Available on Blu-ray, DVD 3/3
While on a forgettable first date together in Ohio, a black man (Daniel Kaluuya) and a black woman (Jodie Turner-Smith), are pulled over for a minor traffic infraction. The situation escalates, with sudden and tragic results, and the man kills the police officer in self-defense. Terrified and in fear for their lives, the man, a retail employee, and the woman, a criminal defense lawyer, are forced to go on the run. But the incident is captured on video and goes viral, and the couple unwittingly become a symbol of trauma, terror, grief and pain for people across the country. As they drive, these two unlikely fugitives will discover themselves and each other in the most dire and desperate of circumstances, forging a deep and powerful love that will reveal their shared humanity and shape the rest of their lives.

TO ENTER: Simply drop us a message at freekittensmovieguide@gmail.com. CONTEST ENDS 3/2.

February 23, 2020

FROZEN II: A Sincere Sequel

FROZEN II (2019)
Featuring the voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton. Directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee. (103 min)

Review by Stinky the DestroyeršŸ˜½

Personally, I’d have preferred Disney to do a sequel to Zootopia, which is conceptually more conducive to franchising. However, Frozen was the big cultural juggernaut, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised they chose to follow-up that one.

At the very least, you’ve seen far worse animated sequels. At no time does Frozen II reek of an attempt to sell merchandise, nor is it cynically churned out to separate beleaguered parents and non-discriminating kids from their hard-earned family-night-out money. The same directors, cast, composers and animators from the first film obviously put the same amount of love into the sequel.

And it shows. Frozen II is beautifully animated and a visual wonder, with a few set-pieces – such as Elsa’s confrontational encounter with a water spirit – as jaw-dropping as anything in the original. Speaking of which, the four elemental spirits – central to the plot - are wonderfully personified, especially the lumbering Earth spirits...menacing behemoths made of dirt and rock. Though the film is darker in overall tone, there are still plenty of moments of levity, such as Kristoff & Sven’s musical number, “Lost in the Woods,” a hilarious and spot-on send-up of ‘80s power ballads .

"Stop talking or I'll rip your other arm off."
But as meticulously crafted as it is, Frozen II never reaches the heights of the first film. The plot – Elsa trying to save Arendelle by reconciling with the Enchanted Forest’s Northuldra tribe – is murkier. There ultimately isn’t much in the way of real conflict. Despite earning another Oscar nod for “Into the Unknown,” none of the songs are as insanely catchy as “Let it Go” (though some might see that as a good thing). And if you always found Olaf more annoying than funny, this one ain’t gonna change your mind.

Still, for a film that isn’t nearly as memorable as the original, Frozen II certainly gets points for sincerity. As sequels go, it’s no Toy Story 2, but it’s well-crafted, visually impressive and fairly entertaining. If expectations are kept in-check, no one’s likely to walk away feeling short-changed (especially kids).

Now bring-on Zootopia 2!

"DID YOU KNOW???” - Frozen II trivia.
"THE SPIRITS OF FROZEN 2” - Behind-the-scenes with animators who created and illustrated the spirit characters.
"SCORING A SEQUEL” - Featuring composer Christophe Beck
"GALE TESTS” - Test footage - both CG and hand-drawn, with comments by the directors.
DELETED SCENES – Unfinished animation that didn’t make the final cut.
DELETED SONGS – Accompanied by unfinished animation.
SONG: “INTO THE UNKNOWN” - The Oscar nominated song, presented in 29 languages.
2 MUSIC VIDEOS – By Panic! At the Disco & Weezer (not your usual Disney choices, are they?).
SONG SELECTION – Jump to any song in the film.

THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (Steelbook): Everything Old is New Again

THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990) 30th Anniversary Edition
Starring Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Richard Jordan, Tim Curry, Courtney B. Vance, Fred Dalton Thompson, Stellan Skarsgard, Peter Firth, Jeffrey Jones. Directed by John McTiernan. (135 min)

Review by Tiger the TerriblešŸ˜ŗ

Back in the good ol’ days of the Cold War, a novelist or screenwriter writer didn’t have to break much of a sweat creating a formidable villain. Give ‘em a Russian name and 30 years of conditioned paranoia took care of the rest. Such baggage may have rendered our weekend weather forecasts "sunny-with-a-chance-of-ICBMs," but it was great thriller fodder. With Soviets as bad guys, the stakes were always higher, the implications more ominous.

The late Tom Clancy knew that. His meticulously-researched novel, The Hunt for Red October, reads more like a submarine instruction manual than a Cold War potboiler, with so much technical jargon that there was no room for any real characterization. Luckily for him, Russian antagonists required no exposition and he milked our cultural anxiety for all it was worth in several novels. Whatever those red bastards were up to, surely it was nefarious.

It must have galled Clancy to-no-end when the Cold War ended and we had the audacity to become BFFs with those same Russians.

Hence, 1990’s The Hunt for Red October ended up being the best Cold War film not actually made during the Cold War. By tacking on a prologue which establishes the setting as 1984, what was once patriotic pulp suddenly becomes a period piece. And that’s probably for the best. Had it actually been made back in ‘84 with someone like John Milius at the helm, there’s a strong chance Red October would have been a gung-ho, right-wing slab of Proud-to-be-an-American propaganda.

Instead, John McTiernan – fresh off Predator & Die Hard - directs a sharp, witty screenplay that streamlines Clancy’s heavy-handed technospeak into an efficient Cliff’s Notes version of submarine warfare while making his ensemble of characters more interesting (even the minor ones). The film’s ace-in-the-hole, of course, is Sean Connery. Perhaps because his late career resurgence at the time generated a considerable amount of audience goodwill, we automatically respect his authority as Marko Ramius, a renegade naval Captain who steals Russia’s newest sub, a first-strike weapon which can run completely silent. Elsewhere, Alec Baldwin remains the best Jack Ryan, Clancy’s reluctant CIA bookworm who’s in over his head as he tries to convince his superiors that Ramius is trying to defect to the U.S.

A little Karaoke between missile drills.
Sure, the Russians are antagonists by default, but aren’t depicted as the dreaded Red Menace. They simply want their boat back, yet are willing to sink her to keep her out of American hands (we’d probably do the same if things were reversed). Still, the conflict escalates into a suspenseful high-stakes game of cat & mouse in the Atlantic. Best of all, the entire scenario seems completely plausible and we almost never question the story’s credibility. In fact, I first saw the film with a buddy who used to serve on a Navy sub and he was very impressed by its overall authenticity. Clancy may have done all the homework, but the movie made that homework exciting.

A lot has changed in the 30 years since The Hunt for Red October was released. Historically speaking, the American-Russian honeymoon was pretty short and, present company in the White House notwithstanding, most of us are currently as distrustful of the Russians as any time during the Cold War. We may no longer live in constant fear of nuclear brinkmanship, but those sons-of-bitches have a lot of nerve hacking our Facebook accounts. It’s with no small sense of irony when I suggest our collective paranoia might make The Hunt for Red October more timely than ever.

Ultimately, everything old is new again, a term which could apply to this 30th Anniversary Edition. Not only has the film itself aged well – both thematically and aesthetically – this 4K transfer is a considerable improvement over previous editions. There aren’t any new bonus features, but what’s carried over is good and it’s all nicely packaged in one of the cooler Steelbooks I’ve seen lately.

"BENEATH THE SURFACE” (Blu-ray only) - Excellent 30-minute archival documentary featuring interviews with director John McTiernan, producer Mace Neufield, screenwriter Larry Ferguson and several members of the primary cast.
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By director John McTiernan.


February 21, 2020

VICTORY and a Brush with Greatness

VICTORY (1981)
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, Max von Sydow, PelƩ. Directed by John Huston. (116 min)

Review by Tiger the TerriblešŸ˜ŗ

I met PelƩ once. Actually, encountered might be more accurate.

Back in the mid-seventies, my hometown got its own team, the Portland Timbers, in the fledgling North American Soccer League (NASL), which inspired suburban parents to drag their kids kicking & screaming onto the pitch to play in youth leagues. One of those was yours truly. Though I eventually grew to love the game, soccer was as alien to me as the opposite sex and I approached it with similar awkwardness. Worse yet, I was put on a team with guys who’d already been playing together for a few years.

Anyway, the Timbers regularly recruited ball boys by drawing the names of local players. A ball boy’s job was to stand on the sidelines and retrieve balls that went out-of-bounds during play. Being selected was a big deal; not only did it mean you got to attend a game or two for free, but you might meet some of the players. My name was drawn for a game against the New York Cosmos, followed by awe-struck gasps from my teammates.

That’s PelĆ©’s team!” I heard some of them say. “You’re gonna see PelĆ©!”

PelĆ©? Who the hell is PelĆ©? I refrained from actually asking that question, since I could already tell a few guys were resentful that this pasty-legged benchwarmer would be closer to their idol than they’d ever get. And in case anyone reading is currently asking the same question, PelĆ© is soccer’s Michael Jordan and widely considered the greatest player of all time. He played most of his career in Brazil, but eventually followed the money to America, signing with the New York Cosmos. He was past his prime by then, but his marquee value still planted butts in seats. Present company excepted, everybody knew who PelĆ© was.

PelĆ©’s love scene.
So there I was one summer evening in Civic Stadium, standing on the sidelines when a ball suddenly whizzed by. Startled into action, I bolted off to retrieve it. Grabbing the ball, I turned to see the living legend, sweaty and panting, eyes huge as he shot out his hands and roared “Ball! Ball! Ball! Ball! Ball!”, his urgency reminding me the clock doesn’t stop in soccer. In a panic, I threw the ball over his head. While it didn’t cost New York the game or anything, PelĆ© was clearly unimpressed with my aim.

So went that personal brush with greatness.

PelĆ© retired a few years later (as did I), but was still enough of a brand name to be third-billed behind Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine in Victory. He isn’t in the film nearly as much as the billing suggests, but his formidable skills are on full display and certainly cinema worthy, as are those of other international soccer stars in supporting roles.

With a plot and charming, old-fashioned tone similar to The Great Escape, Victory is one of Stallone’s better post-Rocky films, arguably because it’s directed by John Huston, who surrounds him with a great cast that includes Caine and Max von Sydow. Stallone is no Steve McQueen, but he’s enjoyable enough as Captain Hatch, an American POW who joins John Colby’s (Caine) prison soccer team after not-so-nasty Nazi Karl von Steiner (von Sydow) arranges a match against an elite German team. The game may be pure propaganda to the Nazis, but Hatch and his superiors see a perfect escape opportunity.

"You take Sly. I had him on my team last time."
Much of the film has Colby putting together the team while Hatch works on escape plans, which includes borrowing numerous tropes from The Great Escape, such as Hatch breaking-out to see how the land lays in Paris (where the game will be played), then allowing himself to be recaptured so he can report back. And that’s okay...if you’re gonna rip-off a prison escape movie, you might as well rip-off the Gone with the Wind of prison escape movies.

If Victory frequently riffs The Great Escape up to this point, the match itself unfolds like The Longest Yard (minus the laughs). Here’s where PelĆ© shines. He can’t act worth a shit, but give him a ball and he’s a goddamn magician...no camera trickery, special effects or stuntmen required. His solo, goal-scoring drive across the field is one of the film’s action highlights. But his heroics aren’t the game decider...not with Stallone and his ego in the cast.

In Hollywood, Victory was PelĆ©’s brush with greatness. With thespian skills comparable to my 12-year-old my prowess with a soccer ball, he served his purpose by giving the film an authenticity it wouldn’t have had with a real actor. The rest is an enjoyable throwback that pays almost like an homage to WWII epics from the ‘50s and ‘60s. 


February 19, 2020

A Familiar Ring to KILLER WEEKEND

Starring Sean Michael Verey, Danny Kirrane, Timothy Renouf, Perry Fitzpatrick, David Mumeni, Mark Heap. Directed by Ben Kent. (85 min)

Review by Tiger the TerriblešŸ˜¼

Killer Weekend is a British horror-comedy that aims for a vibe similar to Shaun of the Dead. Sometimes it succeeds, but a lot of it feels awfully familiar.

A crew of self-absorbed douchebags go to a zombie survival camp for a bachelor party weekend, which takes a turn for the worst when one of them accidentally kills one of the “undead.” This leads to an unfortunate chain of events where they end up inadvertently killing a few others. The guys who operate the camp are all ex-soldiers and understandably pissed, vowing revenge. This leads to a bloody stand-off in an old nuclear bunker.

Everything’s played for laughs and it’s often fairly amusing, though seldom laugh-out-loud funny, mainly because we’ve seen a lot of these tropes before, mostly regarding the ensemble cast of goofy characters. Everyone’s painted and performed in broad strokes, much of the humor mined from their casual – almost cavalier – attitude toward the death and gory violence they’re causing, then later subjected to. The soldiers, of course, are even more cartoonish than the so-called protagonists.

Not Simon Pegg, but an incredible simulation.
But unlike Shaun of the Dead or Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, none of the characters are remotely likable. In fact, the protagonists are the actual bad guys here. Furthermore, some of their personalities change drastically depending on the scenario. For example, one family man, Toby (David Mumeni) is supposedly the group’s moral compass and initially horrified by what they’ve done. Then without warning, he’s as indifferent to the carnage as the rest of them...all for the sake of a one-liner or two.

Still, Killer Weekend has enough moments to make it worth checking out. The situation itself is sort-of engaging and a few of these characters – such as Eric (Danny Kirrane), who takes the zombie weekend a little too seriously – are genuinely funny. Just don’t expect much beyond that.


THE POOP SCOOP: The Saga Continues Edition

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER on Digital 3/17 and 4K, Blu-ray and DVD 3/31
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Lucasfilm and director J.J. Abrams’ riveting, inspiring conclusion of the seminal Skywalker saga, electrified audiences around the globe, earning more than a billion dollars worldwide. Bonus material includes a feature-length, making-of documentary, which goes behind the scenes with the cast and filmmakers from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and explores the legacy of the Skywalker saga. Bonus features also dig into the film’s Pasaana desert scenes, including the thrilling landspeeder chase, and the ship in which Rey discovers family secrets as well as a new little droid named D-O. Plus, fans will hear from Warwick Davis, who reprises his role as Wicket the Ewok, as well as the creature effects team that created a record 584 creatures and droids for the film. Digital consumers will receive an exclusive feature highlighting legendary composer John Williams, who has scored every episode in the Skywalker saga.

JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL on Digital 3/3 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & DVD 3/17
JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL catches up with Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) three years after their first adventure in Jumanji’s mystical video game world. As they return to Jumanji, they discover that nothing is as they expect. With more action and surprises, the players will have to brave parts unknown and unexplored, from the arid deserts to the snowy mountains, in order to escape.
The bonus materials include a gag reel, several behind-the-scenes featurettes, in-depth scene breakdowns, a brand new jingle and more! The 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD also include a fully interactive collectible map that employs Augmented Reality to bring Jumanji to life via smart phone. The experience provides up to ten minutes of game play and allows users to create their own 8-bit Avatar, navigate a series of mini games and much more!

DOLITTLE on Digital 3/24 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on 4/7
Robert Downey Jr. electrifies as the man who could talk to animals: DOLITTLE. After losing his wife, he hermits himself away behind the high wall of his manor but is forced to set sail on an epic adventure when the queen falls gravely ill. Helping Dolittle in search of a rare cure are his rambunctious animal friends—including Chee-Chee (Malek), an anxious, self-conscious gorilla; Dab-Dab (Octavia Spencer, The Help), an enthusiastic but bird-brained duck; the bickering duo of cynical, neurotic ostrich Plimpton (Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick, “Silicon Valley”) and chilly-but-chill polar bear Yoshi (Cena); as well as a headstrong parrot named Polynesia (Thompson). Catch incredible bonus content that you can only see on the 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital release showcasing the making of the film and insight to all the cast. 

THE GRUDGE on Digital 3/10 and on Blu-ray & DVD 3/24
A curse born in Japan is simultaneously unleashed in the U.S. Those who encounter it are consumed by its fury and met with a violent fate. Producer Sam Raimi brings us the untold chapter of this horror classic starring Andrea Riseborough, DemiƔn Bichir, John Cho and Betty Gilpin, with horror movie legend Lin Shaye (Insidious, Ouija) and Jacki Weaver, in the darkest, creepiest and most shocking film in the series. Filled with terrifying bonus content including three featurettes, an alternate ending and bonus scenes.

February 17, 2020

ONE MISSED CALL TRILOGY: A Matter of Perfect Timing

Starring Ko Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Kazue Fukiishi. Directed by Takashi Miike. (112 min)
Starring Mimula, Asaka Seto, Yu Yoshizawa. Directed by Renpei Tsukamoto. (105 min)
Starring Maki Horikita, Meisa Kuroki, Keun-suk Jang. Directed by Manabu Aso. (109 min)

Review by Josey, the Sudden CatšŸ˜ŗ

Death by cell phone...an increasing sign of the times. Whether some dumbass is texting while driving or attempting a selfie with a bear, perhaps cell phones are God’s way of culling the human herd. Like most technology we’re conditioned to depend on, they’re prime horror fodder and the original One Missed Call came along at the perfect time, just as cell phones were well on their way to becoming another appendage. One Missed Call apparently had greater impact at home than on my side of the ocean. Hollywood was content to rip-off only the first film (badly, too). But in Japan, it quickly spawned two sequels and a television series.

Prior to reviewing this set, I had only seen the first one, which obviously owes its existence to 1998’s Ringu. Still, originality is seldom a prerequisite for good horror and this one makes the most of its premise – people receiving cell phone messages, supposedly from themselves, which foretell the precise moment they’re going to die. Though he’s essentially a director-for-hire here, the audacious Takashi Miike creates a foreboding atmosphere and is totally in his element with the film’s stand-out moment, where one victim meets a grisly demise on live TV.

Hangin' out with Yumi.
The law of diminishing returns definitely applies to One Missed Call 2. Only tenuously linked to the first film, it’s nevertheless more-of-the-same, with new characters facing the same phone service issues. It’s certainly watchable, but the characters aren’t as interesting, nor is the angry spirit who’s trying to knock ‘em off. Despite a few eerie scenes, we’ve seen it all before.

"Guess I shouldn'a licked that light socket."
But surprisingly, One Missed Call: Final is really good. While not as stylish as the original, this one adds new wrinkles to the concept. A bullied student attempts suicide, then lashes out at her tormentors through their cell phones during a school trip to Korea. This time, however, victims can avoid death by forwarding the message to someone else, which turns most of these kids against each other in the time-honored tradition of self-preservation. Faster and funnier than the previous entries, the narrative only stumbles by squeezing-in a needless connection to the first film. With just a few minor tweaks in the story, this would be a solid stand-alone horror movie in its own right.

All three films are included in this set, making it the first time they’ve been available on Blu-ray in the states. While the only new bonus feature is an audio commentary, plenty of archival supplemental material is included (outlined below), the best being lengthy behind-the-scenes documentaries for each film. Though certainly derivative, the One Missed Call trilogy is arguably more consistent than the franchises which inspired it and a good pick-up for J-horror fans.

SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET – Cast, crew and restoration credits; “Haunting by Proxy” essay by Anton Bitel.
One Missed Call:
NEW: AUDIO COMMENTARY - by Miike biographer Tom Mes.
"THE MAKING OF ONE MISSED CALL” - An hour-long behind-the-scenes doc, including interviews with the cast and director Takashi Miike.
ARCHIVAL INTERVIEWS – Individual interviews with director Takashi Miike, actors Ko Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi & Kazue Fukiishi.
"LIVE OR DIE” - Promotional TV special
One Missed Call 2:
"THE MAKING OF ONE MISSED CALL 2” - A half-hour behind-the-scenes doc.
"GOMU” - Promotional short by director Renpei Tsukamoto.
One Missed Call: Final:
"THE MAKING OF ONE MISSED CALL: FINAL” - An hour-long behind-the-scenes doc.
BEHIND-THE-SCENES FEATURETTES - “Maki and Meisa,” with actors Maki Horikita & Meisa Kuroki; “Behind-the-Scenes with Keun-suk Jang”
"THE LOVE STORY” - Promotional tie-in film.
"CANDID MIMIKO” - Location tour.