March 31, 2020

SHOOTING THE MAFIA Through Letizia's Lens
Featuring Letizia Battaglia. Directed by Kim Longinotto. (94 min)

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😽

Letizia Battaglia is a free-spirited (to say the least) photographer who began her chosen profession relatively late in life. She approached her craft as an artist, finding a niche capturing the violent activities of the Italian mob. Considering her subject of choice, it’s kind-of amazing she wasn’t whacked.

Shooting the Mafia is both a biography of Letizia and chronicle of the Sicilian mob’s far-reaching power as documented by her camera and video footage over the course of a few decades. Some of the imagery is disturbing enough to be right at home in a Faces of Death video, but undeniably fascinating. Through her lens, we also learn of a few elusive mafia kingpins’ nefarious influence on society and the government, as well as their eventual downfalls.

'Copping' a feel...get it?
Less interesting are the segments focusing on Letizia’s personal life, often dramatized by scenes from old Italian movies. Her escape from an abusive marriage and struggle to earn respect in a male-dominated field is somewhat inspiring. However, I didn’t really care what assorted ex-lovers had to say – even if most of them were colleagues - and her other pursuits aren’t nearly as compelling as the violent images she’s famous for. While Letizia’s frankness is admirable, she comes across as somewhat self-absorbed (even abandoning her own kids), which might make it difficult for some viewers to completely empathize with her.

When focusing on Letizia’s specialty, however, Shooting the Mafia has considerable visceral power, telling a story that certainly strips away the mystique and romanticism associated with mob life. But be forewarned, most of the photos and video footage – some involving innocent children – is tough to watch.



March 30, 2020

BEYOND THE DOOR: An Italian Horror History Lesson
Starring Juliet Mills, Richard Johnson, Gabriele Lavia, Nino Segurini, Barbara Fiorini, David Colin Jr. Directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis & Robert Barrett. (108 / 98 min)

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😼

"Whooo aaaare yoooou…”

So began the original TV spot for Beyond the Door, which showed possessed, yellow-eyed Juliet Mills growling like a death metal singer and levitating across a room. Being 11 years old at the time, that shit freaked me out, as did the chilling artwork of the movie poster and newspaper ads. This was the only movie that ever made me afraid to turn off the lights without actually having seen it. Regardless of one’s ultimate opinion of the film itself, the ad campaign was indisputably brilliant and all that promotional material – including a replica of the original U.S. poster – is included with this disc.

I didn’t actually get to see the thing for another several years, as the bottom half of a drive-in double bill. Having already endured The Exorcist by that time, Beyond the Door’s cavalcade of green vomit, rotating heads and levitating bodies was underwhelming, sometimes unintentionally amusing. Though not even coming close to the terror of my childhood expectations, it did have the lady from Nanny and the Professor spittin’ goo, slappin’ kids and droppin’ f-bombs! And since I was now in my late teens, the lovely Ms. Mills suddenly had a MILF quality I found quite appealing.

What I didn’t know at the time was that no blockbuster has ever been made that the Italians couldn’t knock-off faster and cheaper, Beyond the Door being one of the more notorious examples. Warner Brothers famously - and successfully - sued its producers for ripping off The Exorcist. While Beyond unquestionably cops a lot of The Exorcist’s moves, whether or not it constitutes actual copyright infringement is certainly an interesting debate that makes the film well worth revisiting four decades later.

Beyond the Door’s entire tumultuous history – before, during and after – is a story unto itself, which this set explores through an abundance of supplemental material that’s as revealing as it is entertaining. As we learn through dozens of interviews, not everybody involved with the film consider it a rip-off, nor do some historians. A few of their arguments sound like bullshit, but others have genuine merit. The best bonus is a new feature-length documentary, “Italy Possessed,” which chronicles Italy’s dubious history of post-Exorcist “devil” pictures. Beyond the Door was simply one of them, but being the best-produced and most internationally successful, it got the most attention (both good and bad).

Revisiting the movie itself all these years later was a nostalgic blast, especially with Arrow Video’s nifty 2K facelift. Few have ever mistaken Beyond the Door for a great film and some of its goofier aspects remain highly amusing, such as the funky score, the recurring appearance of pea soup cans, the protagonists’ bizarre children (enhanced by daffy dubbing) and the piéce de résistance, the truly WTF moment when one poor bastard is tormented by a street musician playing a flute with his nose.

A second look also reveals some elements of the film that are genuinely impressive. Mills’ performance is actually quite good, especially in sequences where she’s required to shift back and forth between terrified and demonically-possessed. And despite lacking the budget William Friedkin was afforded, the specially effects aren’t bad. In fact, one particular scene involving Mills’ wandering eye is creepy as hell, even by today's standards. Sure, some scenes are clearly inspired by The Exorcist, but I’d argue the overall narrative pilfers Rosemary’s Baby more than anything else.

The tragic results of Pop Rocks and Pepsi.
Whether one considers Beyond the Door a terrifying treasure, crazy campfest or ridiculous rip-off, this is a beautifully-packaged set with considerable historical importance for horror buffs. It's a fascinating, in-depth look at both the film and the opportunistic Italian auteurs who briefly started a movement, therefore a must-own. 

When it arrived, the first thing I did was pop-in disc one to relive the original TV spot that once gave me nightmares. Of course, it's a bit silly and quaint now. On the other hand, when I suggested the accompanying poster would look good in the Dave Cave, my wife quickly & calmly shot-back, "No fucking way." Either she's a coward, her hubby has no sense of decor or some of Beyond the Door's imagery is still unnerving. Probably all three.

2 CUTS OF THE FILM – 1) Uncut English Export Edition (onscreen title: The Devil Within Her), running 108 minutes; 2) U.S. Theatrical Version, running 98 minutes).
"ITALY POSSESSED: A BRIEF HISTORY OF EXORCIST RIP-OFFS” - Not exactly brief, this is a feature-length documentary about the plethora of Italian “possession” films that followed in the wake of The Exorcist. Featuring footage from several films and interviews numerous directors, historians and actors, this is the most interesting of the bonus features.
"THE DEVIL AND ME” - Interview with director Ovidio G. Assonitis.
"BARRETT’S HELL” - Interview with cinematographer/co-director Roberto D’Ettorre Piazoli (aka Robert Barrett).
"BEYOND THE MUSIC” - Interview with composer Franco Micalizzi.
"THE DEVIL’S FACE” - Interview with cameraman Maurizio Maggi.
"MOTELS AND DEVILS” - Audio interview with actor Gabriele Lavia.
57 PAGE BOOKLET – Contains screen-shots and two essays.
TWO-SIDED POSTER – Featuring new and original artwork (we prefer the original).
REVERSIBLE COVER Featuring new and original artwork (ditto).
6 COLLECTIBLE POSTCARDS – Featuring replicas of international poster art and lobby cards.
"BEYOND THE DOOR: 35 YEARS LATER” - Includes interviews with the primary cast, director Ovidio G. Assonitis and co-writer Alex Rebar.
AUDIO COMMENTARIES – 1) Director Ovidio G. Assonitis and historian Nathaniel Thompson; 2) Actor Juliet Mills and filmmaker Scott Spiegel (a frequent collaborator with Sam Raimi).
SEVERAL TRAILERS AND TV SPOTS (including the one that made me pee myself as a kid).

March 28, 2020

MEEE-OW!: Classic Hollywood’s 10 Most Gorgeous Gals

Lovingly compiled by Mr. Paws 
(while howling like a Tex Avery wolf)

They don’t make ‘em like they used to...a cliché, of course, but sometimes true. With all due respect to today’s leading ladies, there’s something about Classic Hollywood’s screen sirens that are beyond compare. And since we here at Free Kittens are as shallow and superficial as the next guy, we’ve assembled our choices for the era’s most beautiful, best-built and supremely sexy stars. Other than their obvious aesthetic attributes, the only criteria is that their film careers began or peaked before 1960.

From femme fatales to pin-up princesses to scream queens, here are the luscious ladies from long ago who still make us purr.

10. Barbara Stanwyck – The quintessential femme fatale.
9. Dorothy Dandridge – Underappreciated and gone too soon. 
8. Anne Baxter – Moses was either blind or an idiot…
7. Yvonne De Carlo – ...then again, maybe not.
6. Lana Turner – The face that launched a thousand marriages.

5. Anne Francis – The real reason to visit Altair IV. Our favorite Anne until Ms. Margret came along.

4. Mara Corday – The most beautiful of the B-movie babes.

3. Sophia Loren – Well, duh.

2. Rita Hayworth – Admit is now your favorite color.

1. Ava Gardner – In her prime, she was untouchable (though we’d have loved the opportunity).

March 27, 2020

THE CAPTAIN: Just Like Grandma Used to Make
Starring Zhang Hanyu, Oho Ou, Du Jiang, Yuan Quan, Zhang Tian’ai, Li Qin. Directed by Andrew Lau. (111 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

It’s probably prudent to start this review by professing my love of disaster movies. Ever since seeing the original Airport on TV as a kid, it has been my favorite genre, even though I’m well-aware a most of them aren’t exactly created to challenge the intellect or compete for the Palme d’Or. With a few exceptions, I’ve enjoyed every disaster movie ever made, good, bad and ugly. So yeah, some might be inclined to take my review of The Captain with a grain of salt. On the other hand, who better to assess the merits of a new disaster movie than a guy who’s seen them all?

Okay, not literally all, but enough to know some of the best recent ones have come from overseas, such as Norway’s The Wave, South Korea’s The Tower and the gloriously-bonkers Russian hand-wringer, The Crew. The Captain is an air disaster thriller that hails from China, and although it’s based on a true incident that occurred just a year earlier, the film is a welcome throwback to the genre’s Golden Age, the 1970s.

"Jesus, somebody open a window!"
While stoic Captain Liu Changjian (Zhang Hanyu) is the central protagonist, the film features a large ensemble of passengers and crew, providing just enough exposition about each for the viewer to be concerned about their safety (or hope they get sucked out a window). During a routine flight, Flight 8633’s windshield implodes at 30,000 feet, incapacitating the co-pilot and decompressing the entire plane. Because they are over a mountain range, they are unable to descend to a level safe enough to equalize the cabin pressure, meaning they’re forced to fly dangerously close to the snowy peaks as a severe storm is approaching. Captain Changjian must decide whether to risk trying to reach their destination or turn back.

There was once a time when disaster films weren’t driven entirely by special effects. Though the CGI in The Captain is certainly up-to-snuff, the film recalls such old-school classics as The High and the Mighty, Airport and Zero Hour, which emphasized drama and suspense over spectacle. Similarly, this one efficiently establishes the setting and players – in the air and on the ground – before presenting a simple crisis with ominous implications. As such, the film is gripping and suspenseful, as well as a bit melodramatic and corny at times. In other words, it’s the kind of good old-fashioned disaster flick that Grandma used to make.

My only complaint is the film goes on longer than it needs to, with an unnecessarily extended epilogue after everything’s been resolved. Other than that, The Captain is director Andrew Lau’s first good movie in a long time and an exciting ride for fans of the genre. Then again, I’ve always had a soft spot for these things.


March 26, 2020

THE POOP SCOOP: Ragin' Robots Edition

In the year 2050, mankind is extinct on Earth. The last survivors, five Kasuga brothers, must use a time machine to travel back to the 2018, to collect a human capable of exterminating a group of giant robots sent to Earth by an alien race called the Killgis. Filled with massive action set pieces, robot battles, time travel, and tons of other sci-fi goodies, Bravestorm will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish! A cinematic remake of two 1970s Japanese TV series (“Silver Mask” and “Super Robot RedBaron”), BraveStorm is being distributed by Distribution Solutions / Alliance Entertainment and GVN Distribution.
V: THE FINAL BATTLE on Blu-ray 4/14
Is there life out there? Finally, we know. Because they are here. Alien spacecraft with humanlike passengers have come to Earth. They say they come in peace for food and water. The water they find in our reservoirs. The food they find walking about everywhere on two legs. That saga that began with V now culminates in a struggle to save the world in V: The Final Battle. Sci-fi film stalwarts Marc Singer, Robert Englund and Michael Ironside head a large cast in this tense adventure that leaps from the stunning revelation of reptilian beings concealed by human masks to the birth of the first human/alien child to the harrowing countdown to nuclear doomsday. The future begins or ends here.
ZOMBIE and MANIAC on 4K UHD Blu-ray 5/26
Blue Underground is proud to present critically acclaimed restorations of ZOMBIE and MANIAC in true 4K Ultra High Definition with Dolby Vision HDR and a new Dolby Atmos audio mix, bursting at the seams with hours of new and archival extras. "We put a lot of time and work into restoring films like MANIAC and ZOMBIE," said William Lustig, President of Blue Underground. " We're thrilled that fans can now view them at home in true 4K Ultra HD, with Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range and new Dolby Atmos audio mixes."

March 25, 2020

Rest in Peace, Stuart Gordon

COME TO DADDY to Get Blindsided
Starring Elijah Wood, Martin Donovan, Stephen McHattie, Michael Smiley, Madeline Sami. Directed by Ant Timpson. (95 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

Watch & review enough movies and you learn to appreciate those which manage to surprise you. Come to Daddy is definitely not for everyone, but if nothing else, it is totally unpredictable from start to finish.

I’ll to refrain from giving any kind of detailed plot synopsis because the twists and character revelations come early and often. But the initial set-up has emotionally-fragile musician Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) visiting his estranged father (Stephen McHattie), who left him and his mother 30 years ago. Norval hopes to rekindle their relationship, or at least find out why he’s reaching-out after all these years. However, it turns out Dad isn’t the man he seems to be - in more ways than one - and the story’s just getting started.

Telemarketers can be terrifying.
Not a horror film per se, Come to Daddy is sometimes very horrific, but the wince-inducing violence is tempered by clever black comedy and, while occasionally shocking, it never feels gratuitous. The plot itself unfolds like something the Coen Brothers would concoct during a drunken binge – ultimately a compliment - and the performances are suitably amusing. Wood makes a sympathetic protagonist (though he can do this type of role in his sleep), but McHattie and especially Martin Donovan – whose role I wouldn’t dream of revealing - steal every scene they’re in.

Best of all, the entire film is completely unpredictable, blindsiding the viewer with one surprise after another. Come to Daddy is loaded with plot twists - none of which I saw coming – without any pesky red herrings. Twisted and brutal but also frequently funny, the film is consistently engaging for thrillseekers looking for something different.


March 24, 2020


Starring Burt Lancaster, Michael York, Barbara Carrera, Nigel Davenport. Directed by Don Taylor. (99 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON💀

You'll have to indulge me while I give The Island of Dr. Moreau a bit more praise than it might actually warrant.

When I was a kid, my parents used to drop me off at the Southgate Quad nearly every Saturday afternoon. I went alone most of the time, which was actually preferable. For me, going to the movies wasn't really a social activity. Never too picky over what was playing, I simply loved the experience. Those afternoons in the dark, just me, my popcorn and the wonders on the screen, are some of my favorite childhood memories.

One of those memories is of 1977's The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Back then, legendary purveyors of drive-in fodder, American-International Pictures (AIP), took a few fleeting stabs at escaping its B movie origins in favor of mainstream respectability. They opened their wallets a bit wider than usual for such films as The Amityville Horror, Meteor and Force 10 from Navarone. With The Island of Dr. Moreau, AIP continued cashing-in on H.G. Wells' name, albeit on a much bigger budget than the studio's other campy crapfests, Food of the Gods and Empire of the Ants, released around the same time.

But I didn't know any of this in 1977. All I really knew was it had that British dude from Logan's Run (Michael York), the old guy from Airport (Burt Lancaster) and the beautiful Barbara Carrera as Maria, who I'd never seen before but...mee-ow! Though the film is rated PG, my 13-year-old self found her brief seduction scene rather...uh, stirring.

The 7:00 show at the Southgate.
Elsewhere, Dr. Moreau (Lancaster) is a brilliant-yet-bonkers scientist who has retreated to a remote island to continue his controversial work, which consists of using a serum to slowly convert animals into thinking and speaking human beings. Also populating the island are the results of his experiments in various stages of human development. Moreau treats them cruelly, much to the chagrin of Braddock (York), who's marooned on the island and forced to endure the doctor's increasingly maniacal behavior (made more tolerable, to be sure, by Maria's company at night). Moreau ultimately tries to turn Braddock into an animal and document his decent into savagery.

I hadn't watched The Island of Dr. Moreau since that summer afternoon at the Southgate. Back then, I found it entertaining, though nothing remarkable from any kid-friendly horror fare I enjoyed on other weekends. Still, I recently found it on disc - cheap - and fired it up with nostalgic giddiness...alone in the dark just like 40 years ago, this time from the comfort of my Dave Cave rather than the Southgate's sticky floors and cheesy orange curtains.

Four decades later, the film holds up pretty well. Though trying to run with the Hollywood big boys ultimately exacerbated AIP's downfall, it's hard to argue with the results here, which reflect a considerable amount of creative ambition. The Island of Dr. Moreau is arguably the most handsomely-produced movie of the studio's "mainstream" era, directed with workmanlike proficiency by Don Taylor (who'd also make Omen II better than it had a right to be). And even though films like The Howling would come along a few years later to make Dr. Moreau's make-up designs seem quaint, they serve their purpose effectively enough.

Charlie Rich is The Wolverine.
The overall performances are quite good as well. York is solid, though for me he'll always be that Logan's Run dude, while Carrera was a reminder of my good taste in boyhood crushes. Perhaps because of his more beloved legendary roles, we tend to forget Burt Lancaster was quite adept at playing characters who are just a little south of sanity (Seven Days in May and the woefully underappreciated Twilight's Last Gleaming immediately come to mind). He's at his unhinged best as the film's titular character.

The Island of Dr. Moreau is a wonderful blast from my past. A definite childhood artifact, the film isn't what anyone would ever call a classic, so its appeal will probably be limited to similarly nostalgic fans. Still, age notwithstanding, it's remains the best of AIP’s adaptations of Wells' novel, and immeasurably more enjoyable than the dumpster fire remake with Marlon Brando.

THE NINES and the Strange Addiction
THE NINES (2007)
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy, Hope Davis, Elle Fanning, David Denman, Octavia Spencer. Directed by John August. (99 min)

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😸

I know all about addiction.

Without going into specifics, all I’m gonna say about my personal addictions is that I know I couldn't have beaten them alone (thank God for my wife and Librium). I also know that, depending on how you’re wired, it’s possible to become harmfully addicted to damn near anything.

Despite the sci-fi leanings of its intriguing concept, I think The Nines might ultimately about addiction and intervention. At least that’s what I got out of it, perhaps because my own experience gave me a level of empathy for its protagonist that someone else might not have. This is especially true during the film’s resolution: The main character understands conquering his addiction is a good thing, but the final farewell is still painful and heartbreaking, like saying goodbye to a trusted old friend you’ll never see again.

A watched pot never boils, Ryan.
But one could watch whole film without picking up any of that. For all I know, writer-director John August had no aspirations beyond providing an intriguing puzzle. It’s a code-laden mystery in three acts, each unfolding like a stand-alone story with the same actors playing different characters. Or are they? It turns out The Nines is not an anthology film. The stories are actually chapters with clues dispersed throughout each which gradually ties the whole thing together.

To actually try to explain the plot itself would spoil some of the film’s biggest surprises, but while it gets off to a slow – even mundane – start, our interest level increases when seemingly insignificant moments, such as a message on a Sticky Note, take on great importance in later chapters. The overall tone changes as the film progresses, from dryly comedic to subtly foreboding.

The pieces fit neatly together during the climax. Whether or not the final picture is worth waiting for depends on the viewer. Some will have it figured out beforehand, others might be underwhelmed. Personally, I found the denouement surprisingly poignant, admittedly because I could personally relate to the main character’s addiction. Whatever the case, The Nines is a criminally overlooked little mindbender worth checking out.


THE POOP SCOOP: BLOODSHOT Now on Digital / SONIC Coming 3/31
BLOODSHOT Now Available on Digital


Based on the bestselling comic book, Vin Diesel stars as Ray Garrison, a soldier recently killed in action and brought back to life as the superhero Bloodshot by the RST corporation. With an army of nanotechnology in his veins, he’s an unstoppable force –stronger than ever and able to heal instantly. But in controlling his body, the company has sway over his mind and memories, too. Now, Ray doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not – but he’s on a mission to find out.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG Debuts Early on Digital March 31 and 4K, Blu-ray, DVD on May 19

Get ready for epic fun and super-sonic action when everyone’s favorite hedgehog races home in the blockbuster hit SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, debuting early for purchase on Digital March 31, 2020 from Paramount Home Entertainment.  The film will be available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and for rental on demand or disc May 19. The Digital, 4K Ultra HD, and Blu-ray releases are packed with sensational bonus features: See Sonic the Hedgehog’s next adventure around the world in a new animation; get more of Sonic in deleted scenes; laugh at the hilarious blooper reel; explore the origins of the legendary blue hedgehog; see Jim Carrey bring Dr. Robotnik to life; watch along with awesome commentary by director Jeff Fowler and the voice of Sonic, Ben Schwartz; and more!  Plus, for a limited time, the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Combo packs will include a printed, Limited Edition comic book featuring an adventure with Sonic and The Donut Lord.

March 22, 2020

CONTAGION and the Bright Side

Starring Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Elliott Gould. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. (106 min)

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON💀

It’s currently morning in the Dave Cave. Coffee in-hand, I’m yet-again rage-quitting CNN as our Asshole-in-Chief yet-again turns a Coronavirus press conference into yet-another dumpster fire. Listening to him speak is painful, like a 7th-grader trying to bluff his way through a book report. Time to switch channels to The Herd with Colin Cowherd because some people still care which team Tom Brady signs with. And while I don’t agree with all of Colin’s opinions, at least he has an adult vocabulary.

Since learning Corona was more than just an overpriced beer, this has been my morning routine. I’m a teacher by trade, but that’s been put on hold, as has bowling, date night, taking in a ballgame and everything else worth blowing disposable income on. I’ve also been made painfully aware of my own personal hygiene, or lack thereof. It’s getting so a man can’t dig his own underwear from his ass while grabbing another slice of pizza without feeling guilty about it. But I guess a lot of our routines and habits are changing these days.

"You said there'd be donuts at this meeting."
On the bright side – and we really do need to look at the bright side right now – my mechanic recently diagnosed an oil leak in my car that’ll set me back a grand, but since there’s nowhere to go for the foreseeable future, fuck that guy.

Another bright side is I have plenty o’ time to engage in my favorite pastime: watching movies...revisiting old favorites, checking out new ones I haven't gotten around to and putting together mini-festivals of thematically-linked films for the family to enjoy. One such program consisted of topical titles: The Satan Bug, The Andromeda Strain, Outbreak and – what has recently become the Star Wars of viral disaster flicks - 2011’s Contagion. Since my wife and daughters are generally more anxious than I am, only my cat joined me for this particular festival and even she left the room once the treats stopped coming.

Unlike The Andromeda Strain’s sci-fi trappings and Dustin Hoffman’s action heroics in Outbreak, what makes Contagion especially unnerving is that it’s the most-grounded in reality. Not that it’s a better film, but certainly more plausible. Anyone curious about the plot need-only turn on a news channel right now (except Fox, of course). A movie with no main protagonist, the film chronicles the rapid spread of a lethal virus – labeled MEV-1 - from the perspectives of specialists, doctors from the CDC, victims and everyday folks subjected to quarantine. We see the breakdown of services we usually take for granted, mass graves, false information spread by conspiracy theorists and the overall fragility of our society.

A surprise colonoscopy.
What I found interesting – if not a little troublesome – in revisiting the film is the copious amount scientific jargon I suddenly understood thanks to the pesky intrusion of real life. Unlike your typical sci-fi epic, screenwriter Scott Z. Burns didn’t pull all that tech-speak out of his ass. For a movie simply intended as cautionary entertainment, Contagion’s scientific accuracy and new-found cultural relevance is distressing. As disaster movies go, if life must imitate art, most would agree that something like Twister would be preferable. Unless you live in a trailer park, of course.

It might seem a little masochistic to endure a film with a plot that’s more-or-less unfolding in the real world. But my cat and I aren’t exactly alone. As of this writing, Contagion is currently the fourth most popular title available on iTunes. The rest of its Top 20 films are less than a year old. Why would we do that to ourselves?

While I can’t speak for everybody, three reasons immediately come to mind:

First, being a disaster movie at-heart, Contagion naturally presents a worst-case scenario. Not to downplay the seriousness of COVID-19, but the movie’s virus is far deadlier, its apocalyptic implications more dire. Things may be bad out in the real world right now, but it could be a lot worse. Maybe we’re drawing comfort from that.

Second, despite the terrifying scenario, ruthless proliferation of the virus and staggering body count, Contagion is ultimately an optimistic film. The authorities know what they’re doing, methodically attacking the pandemic with all the resources at their disposal without petty politics or finger-pointing. The one character who does exacerbate the problem, touting conspiracy theories and fake cures, ultimately gets what he deserves. And most assuredly, a vaccine is created relatively quickly, saving millions.

In reality, a real vaccine is probably a year away at best and we’re seeing a whole lot of nothing from our own self-serving leaders. There’s something seriously wrong when the gal who sells me Powerball tickets at 7-Eleven is forced to keep risking her health for minimum wage, while certain senators managed to sell-off their personal stock holdings before acknowledging there was even a problem. But the last thing anyone wants to see in a disaster movie is how irrevocably fucked we are, and Contagion does offer a string of hope for humanity, no matter how far off the mark it might be. 

During these trying times, even celebrities have difficulty finding toilet paper.
Finally, a big reason for revisiting Contagion may be its valuable parenting tips. Protective father Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) keeps his teenage daughter and her boyfriend separated during the outbreak. He’s immune, but that’s no guarantee she is. Later, once she gets vaccinated, Matt makes it up to them by setting up a prom date in his living room, even decorating the place and picking out the music. It’s a heartwarming moment that certainly plays into the movie’s optimistic coda: Slowly but surely, life will return to normal.

My youngest daughter, Lucy, is 15 and currently in a relationship with a guy named Tonio. Social distancing has kept them apart longer than they’d like and I suppose there’s an outside chance COVID-19 could hamper any future prom plans. That’s when I’ll step in. As a parent, I can’t think of a more comforting scenario than my daughter attending her “prom” under Dad’s watchful eye. Don’t get me wrong...Tonio’s a nice enough guy, but also a teenage boy and therefore a scoundrel. I’m sure both kids would not-only appreciate my Motorhead playlist, but a periodic reminder to Tonio, Keep yer filthy fuckin' man-mits above the waist!”

So there’s a bright side to everything, even the Coronavirus. All we need to do is keep reminding ourselves of that. So far, my family is healthy, happy and spending plenty of quality time together. I’m fortunate that the pause in my profession allows me indulge in my favorite pastime without worrying about the mortgage. In fact, my only real concerns right now are finding toilet paper and making sure I don’t end up looking like Jabba the Hut once it’s all over.

Here’s hoping all of you find your bright side.