March 27, 2020

THE CAPTAIN: Just Like Grandma Used to Make

https://www.wellgousa.com/
THE CAPTAIN (2019)
Starring Zhang Hanyu, Oho Ou, Du Jiang, Yuan Quan, Zhang Tian’ai, Li Qin. Directed by Andrew Lau. (111 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM WELL GO USA

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 try 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 long 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.

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

March 26, 2020

THE POOP SCOOP: Ragin' Robots Edition

BRAVESTORM on DVD and VOD 4/7
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.
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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.
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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

https://www.lionsgate.com/
COME TO DADDY (2019)
Starring Elijah Wood, Martin Donovan, Stephen McHattie, Michael Smiley, Madeline Sami. Directed by Ant Timpson. (95 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM LIONSGATE

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.

EXTRA KIBBLES
DIGITAL COPY
KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEE-OW! LIKE TAUNTING A MOUSE TO DEATH.

March 24, 2020

Revisiting THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU

THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1977)
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 exasperated 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

https://www.millcreekent.com/
THE NINES (2007)
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy, Hope Davis, Elle Fanning, David Denman, Octavia Spencer. Directed by John August. (99 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM

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.

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

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

https://moviesanywhere.com/movie/bloodshot-2020
RUB VIN'S HEAD TO WATCH AT HOME!
BLOODSHOT Now Available on Digital

STRAIGHT FROM THEATERS INTO YOUR HOME

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.

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https://www.paramountmovies.com/movies/sonic-the-hedgehog
TAP SONIC FOR MORE INFO
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

CONTAGION (2011)
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 weird – if not 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-hands 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.

March 20, 2020

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and the Big Bamboozle

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979)
Starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Don Stroud. Directed by Stuart Rosenberg. (119 min)

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON💀

For a brief time in the late 70s, the Lutz family was a household name. Their terrifying account of spending a month in their demon-infested new home was the subject of Jay Anson’s book, The Amityville Horror, which scared the living shit out of damn-near everyone and became a literary phenomenon similar to The Da Vinci Code…the book everyone just had to read. While not particularly well-written, what made it truly terrifying was, unlike The Shining or The Exorcist, we were duped into believing the Lutz’ story was true.

THIS BOOK MADE ME PEE
Naturally, Hollywood came calling and
The Amityville Horror was adapted into a film in 1979 by American-International Pictures (one of their few big-budget attempts to compete with the major studios). Having just read a copy of the tattered paperback that was making the rounds at my high school – resulting in a sleepless night or two – I just had to check it out, as did everyone else who read it because the Southgate Quad was packed on opening night. Before the lights went down, I overheard others talking-up the scariest sections of the book with anticipation in their voices. Even the friend I came to the movie with – who’d usually rather be caught masturbating than reading a book – said he nearly pissed himself at the part describing a pair of hellish red eyes peering through the Lutz’ bedroom window. Whether The Amityville Horror was true or not, surely the movie would be scary as fuck.


James Brolin & Margot Kidder play George & Kathy Lutz, who learn the hard way how they got their new home so cheap: the last family who lived there were all murdered. Worse yet, the evil which possessed one of the sons to commit this horrible act is still in the house and they don’t like the Lutz' presence one damn bit. Like the book, The Amityville Horror isn’t particularly well-made. Unlike the book, it isn’t particularly scary, either. Those demonic red eyes that practically jumped from the printed page looked more like lights from a couple of smoke alarms. American-International may have opened their wallets a bit wider for this one, but everything still looked kinda cheap. The film also made enough wholesale changes to the story – even condensing the timeline – to suggest the filmmakers were not among its believers. At the showing I attended, no one screamed, jumped or gasped, though I did hear a few chuckles.

"Hey, honey...maybe that's the demon who took your pants."
Still, for a movie driven more by profit than passion, The Amityville Horror was kind of fun, once I accepted that fact it wouldn't depict the book’s most terrifying moments as vividly as my imagination once did. And in director Stuart Rosenberg’s defense, Stanley Kubrick couldn’t do it with The Shining either. Like Meteor and The Island of Dr. Moreau, it was ultimately another AIP B-movie dolled-up with A-list talent. Sure, the whole thing was cheesy trash, but at least it wasn’t boring and Rod Steiger’s histrionic turn as a terrified priest was comedy gold.

In ensuing years, the Lutz’ story has pretty-much been declared total bullshit, but that didn’t stop The Amityville Horror from spawning a franchise that still has brand name value four decades later, with 23 (and counting!) films that have Amityville in the title. Today, the original film is held in fairly high regard by horror fans who were around back then, probably more out of nostalgia than any actual terror they might have felt. It's amusing to recall how easily bamboozled we were.

March 19, 2020

A TALE OF TWO SNIPES

https://www.millcreekent.com/
THE CONTRACTOR (2007) & THE FAN (1996)

THE CONTRACTOR Starring Wesley Snipes, Eliza Bennett, Lena Headey, Ralph Brown, Charles Dance. Directed by Josef Rusnak. (99 min) THE FAN Starring Robert De Niro, Wesley Snipes, John Leguizamo, Benicio Del Toro, Ellen Barkin. Directed by Tony Scott. (116 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM

Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

This double-feature collection is a tale of two Snipes.

The first one pops up in The Fan, an in-your-face Tony Scott-directed thriller made at a time when Wesley Snipes was still an A-lister and willing to demonstrate his versatility in a variety of roles and genres. He plays Bobby Rayburn, a pro ballplayer who’s worshipped by dangerously-obsessive fan Gil Renard (Robert De Niro). When Bobby’s batting average tanks, Gil goes to extremes to try and break him out of his slump, including kidnapping and murder.

Wesley the Omniscient.
Snipes is decent, but struggles to keep up with De Niro’s indubitable brand of scenery chewing. As Gil, he makes Travis Bickle seem downright catatonic, blustering his way through a series of confrontations that are both campy and uncomfortable, every scene given an additional caffeine jolt by Scott’s visual chest-thumping. Subtle, it ain’t.

Speaking of Tony Scott – the Michael Bay of his day – it looks like director Josef Rusnak took a few cues from the master for his own action opus, The Contractor. Hyperactive camerawork and seizure-inducing quick-cuts are here in abundance, even for scenes that don’t really need them. This one features the second Snipes, content to grunt and glower his way through a plethora of direct-to-video potboilers.

Snipes' happy face...and angry face...and sad face...
In this one, he plays James Dial, a former CIA assassin recruited for just one more job: take-out a terrorist currently in custody in London. However, the hit doesn’t go quite as planned. Now he’s being hunted by both Inspector Ballard (Lena Headey) and Dial’s own boss, Jeremy Collins (Ralph Brown), who fears being exposed in Washington for using CIA operatives as hitmen. Dial gets unexpected assistance from plucky 12-year-old Emily, suggesting Rusnak might also be a fan of Luc Besson.

Though narratively and stylistically derivative, The Contractor is fairly enjoyable, with a better cast than your usual direct-to-video thriller. The Fan is bigger and flashier, but sometimes tough sledding. De Niro may have done his job a bit too well, making Gil Renard so irredeemably abhorrent that he isn’t much fun to be around.

EXTRA KIBBLES
DVD COPY
KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW.

March 18, 2020

THE GRUDGE: Same Curse, More Blood

https://www.sonypictures.com/
THE GRUDGE (2020)
Starring Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye, Jacki Weaver, William Sadler, Frankie Faison. Directed by Nicholas Pesce. (93 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM SONY

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😼

I was never that enamored with 2004’s The Grudge, mostly because it felt pretty derivative of The Ring, as did all the other remakes Hollywood cranked out during its brief infatuation with J-horror. So my expectations for this belated fourth entry in the franchise weren’t exactly lofty.

Maybe that’s why I kind-of enjoyed it.

Despite the identical title, this isn’t a remake, nor is it exactly a sequel. The Grudge is more like a spin-off with a prologue that has an American nurse quitting her job at the same Tokyo house from the first film, unknowingly bringing the curse back home with her. A few years later, an investigation by the recently-widowed Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) loosely works as a framing device for the film to tell three concurrent stories. All of them involve poor bastards unfortunate enough to have ventured into a suburban house where the titular demon has taken residence. Like a virus, once someone is exposed, the little Grudgling follows, along with a variety of violent pleasantries.

"Melts in your mouth, not in your hand!"
None of it is particularly original, nor are there a ton of surprises. However, The Grudge makes nice use of its non-linear narrative to show how the characters from each “story” are ultimately linked. It also features a strong cast that includes a variety of familiar character actors, such as John Cho, Demián Bichir, William Sadler, Frankie Faison and everyone’s favorite senior scream queen, Lin Shaye. Finally, the film more-than-earns its R-rating with some nasty bits of bone-breaking, blood-spattering violence (though I could have done without seeing a child murdered by her own mother).

The Grudge isn’t a great film. A reasonable argument could be made that it isn’t even a good one. But since I was expecting neither, it was certainly watchable enough. While bringing nothing new to the franchise (or horror, in general), the film is efficiently assembled and doesn’t water-down the mayhem for the mallrat crowd.

EXTRA KIBBLES
FEATURETTES - “Designing Death” (making of featurette); “The Cast of the Cursed” (cast & crew featurette)
"EASTER EGG HAUNT” - Director Nicholas Pesce explains several references to previous films, as well as the symbolism of recurring numbers.
DELETED & ALTERNATE SCENES
DIGITAL COPY
KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW.