June 30, 2020


ORCA (Blu-ray Review)
Starring Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, Will Sampson, Bo Derek, Keenen Wynn, Robert Carradine, Yaka & Nepo (as "Orca"). Directed by Michael Anderson. (1977/92 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

Orca is one of many angry animal flicks that immediately followed in Jaws' wake, even managing to snag a fairly respected director. Michael Anderson was responsible for such minor classics as The Dam Busters, Around the World in 80 Days and Logan's Run. In other words, he was Martin fucking Scorsese compared to the level of talent that usually called the shots for such "sea-sploitation" pictures. 

The film is also noteworthy for being the film debut of Bo Derek. Though her appearance was heavily hyped in later home video releases, Orca was made before 10 displayed her "raw" talent. But sorry, boys...the closest thing we come to seeing Bo's flesh is when her leg gets bitten off.

There's also some novelty in the fact that we root for the whale right from the get-go. Cheering for movie monsters to crunch on the cast is nothing new. That's why we pays our two bits. But Orca establishes the titular creature as an aquatic Charles Bronson, out to avenge the death of its family at the hands of the biggest asshole to sail the high seas since Captain Ahab.

"Right behind me, huh? I ain't falling for that again."
Richard Harris plays Nolan, an Irish sea captain who sees profit in capturing a live killer whale and selling it to an aquarium, to the consternation of Rachel (Charlotte Rampling), a marine biologist who's passionate about respecting the intelligence of the species. Nolan inadvertently harpoons a pregnant female, killing both her and her unborn calf. This scene is really fucking disturbing, especially today, since most of us now view killer whales as the pandas of the sea. It's so unnervingly graphic, drawn-out and difficult to watch that it renders later attempts to make Nolan sympathetic a waste of time.
Nolan's actions unleash the wrath of the whale's mate, who starts picking off his crew one-by-one. Nolan docks in a fishing village for repairs, but the whale follows him, sinking all the other boats as a challenge for Nolan to return to sea and settle their feud once and for all. The local villagers want Nolan to leave, as well - with the whale present, they are unable to fish - but he stubbornly refuses. The whale persists, wreaking havoc on the village itself. Eventually, Nolan feels he has no choice but to confront the vengeful mammal, partially due to the carnage the whale has inflicted, but mainly because he suddenly feels like a kindred spirit (don't ask).  

"Damn...missed. Looks like fish sticks again tonight, honey."
The performances in Orca ain't gonna make anyone forget Scheider, Dreyfuss & Shaw anytime soon, though Harris comes off best with a performance that wavers between low-key & introspective to overwrought & hysterical. The movie is technically competent, with adequate direction and special effects. Some of the early attack scenes, while far-fetched, hold the promise of more Jaws-like suspense. But Orca sometimes flounders because it bites off more than it can chew (no pun intended). We spend a lot of time listening to Harris and Rampling discuss the nature of intelligence, as well as the need for retribution and/or vengeance, when all we really want to do is watch this whale kill people (even if one of them is Bo Derek). 

Orca sometimes takes itself way too seriously for a movie about a marauding mammal. But while it's obviously clear why Jaws is a classic and this one decidedly isn't, there's enough chutzpah and goofy thrills to recommend it for fans of this kind of stuff. And if nothing else, there were a lot of far-worse sea-sploitation flicks from the same era (including a few of Jaws' sequels).

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Film Historian Lee Gambin
REVERSIBLE COVER - Including the original one-sheet poster art. 


DESOLATION CENTER: The Forgotten Festival

Featuring Stuart Swezey, Perry Farrell, Mark Pauline, members of Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth, Redd Kross, Einstűrzende Neubauten. Directed by Stuart Swezey. (2018/93 min)

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😸

Fed up with the local mainstream's overall contempt for the L.A. Punk scene, super fan Stuart Swezey took it onto himself to organize a series of shows – collectively dubbed Desolation Center - that would take place far away from media and police scrutiny.

Assembled on-the-fly with few resources and nearly no promotion, these grassroots gigs were mostly held in the remote desert. Ticket buyers, trucked to the locations in old school buses, literally had no idea where they were going on the day of the show (which was part of the experience). The shows themselves featured such underground antiheroes as Minutemen & Sonic Youth, as well as performance artists like Mark Pauline (who blows shit up) and the avant garde German group, Einstűrzende Neubauten (who sound like they’re blowing shit up).

This place rocks.
Though pretty self-impressed with my own offbeat musical interests back then, I was today-years-old when I first learned of these shows. And I'd be willing to wager most folks who earned their hipster degrees from Lollapalooza and Coachella have never heard of Desolation Center, either. But none other than Perry Farrell himself shows up in this movie to give props to the little festival that inspired his own.

The Bruce Campbell Diet.
Desolation Center is a fascinating film that documents the state of L.A. punk circa 1983 and how it inspired Swezey put together these four irregularly-scheduled shows. Given the passage of time since then, the vintage footage is murky at best. But at the same time, the scarcity of quality footage sort-of adds to the mystique of the events. Interspersed are retrospective interviews with dozens of artists who participated and fans who attended. Their stories are engaging enough that the film might even appeal to those who hate the music itself (it is an acquired taste). In fact, my wife – who was weened on Duran Duran – found the film very entertaining, and not at the participants' expense.

If your knowledge of the underground LA punk scene ends with Black Flag, Desolation Center is a must-see. Filled with vintage footage and interesting interviews – including a few cult legends – it's an affectionate and nostalgic look at a music festival that would be hugely influential, but few ever knew about.


Rest in Peace, Carl Reiner

June 29, 2020

Mr. Biscuits' ADVENTURES IN THE BUDGET BIN: The Mystery of the Disappearing Potato Skins

Dollar Tree is the only place in town that carries TGI Friday's Potato Skins. The restaurant itself may be an endangered species, but my local local Dollar Tree is always packed with these strangely-addictive craptastic crunchies. The downside is my kids like them, too. The last time I brought some home, they asked for a few...then proceeded to POLISH OFF THE WHOLE FUCKING BAG! Perhaps they were just looking out for my health, but the fact remains I didn't get a single fucking chip.

But my trip wasn't a total loss. In addition to grabbing some gum to counter the rancid coffee breath I kept blowing into my own face mask, I found a DVD copy of a film I'd been seeking for a long time...

VIRUS (DVD) – This 1980 Japanese-produced global disaster movie has an interesting history. The original cut runs 155 minutes, while the US cut – running 108 min – is sloppily butchered in an effort to boost the screen time of the Americans in the cast. I still haven't been able to find the original version on DVD or Blu-ray, but for $1.00 at DOLLAR TREE, the edited version will do just fine. It may have been the most expensive Japanese film ever made at the time, but it sure as hell ain't a classic. Still, it's kind of timely right now, especially early scenes depicting dumbasses in denial.

DELIVERANCE (Blu-ray) – Everything I know about hillbillies I learned from Deliverance, and so far, I've yet to hear any examples which contradict my opinion. All that's missing from the film's depiction of hillbillies as backwoods butt-fuckers are curtains made from confederate flags. A bonafide classic, this is the film that taught us to fear banjo music, demonstrated Ned Beatty's extreme dedication to his craft and featured Burt Reynolds when he was still taken relatively seriously as an actor. ($5.99 at BEST BUY)

JEEPERS CREEPERS 1 & 2 (Blu-ray) – While I like Shout Factory releases, they are generally overpriced and I'm convinced the company intentionally manufactures demand by limiting the number of copies they produce. It didn't appear to create much demand for the Jeepers Creepers, though, because I found this double feature in a Best Buy budget bin. I dunno...maybe they overestimated how many horror fans wanted a film directed by a guy who was busted for child pornography. While neither film is terrible, they sure as hell ain't worth what they're fetching individually on Amazon. But $5.99 at BEST BUY makes it a bit easier to overlook Victor Salva's repugnant proclivities.

THE POOP SCOOP: Classics and Craziness Edition

Alejandro Jodorowsky's PSYCHOMAGIC, A HEALING ART to Premiere Exclusively 8/7 on Alamo on Demand, Along with 5-Film Retrospective (Blu-ray Boxed Set Coming 8/21)
ABKCO Films will premiere internationally acclaimed Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s latest film  Psychomagic, A Healing Art in the US and Canada on August 7 through an exclusive arrangement with Alamo Drafthouse's new VOD platform,  Alamo On Demand. Preceding the premiere, there will be a retrospective beginning  August 1, also exclusively at Alamo On Demand, featuring 4K restorations of the surrealist filmmaker’s cult classics  Fando y Lis, El Topo  and  The Holy Mountain, as well as the more recent  The Dance Of Reality  and  Endless Poetry.  A virtual master class in Psychomagic with Jodorowsky is planned for August 8. The home edition of  Psychomagic, A Healing Art  will be available as part of ABKCO Films'  Alejandro Jodorowsky: 4K Restoration Collection due out August 21. This  deluxe box set also includes The Maestro's films  Fando y Lis,  El Topo  and  The Holy Mountain  restored in 4K on Blu-ray, along with new bonus features and CD soundtracks of the latter two titles.

AIRPLANE! and GHOST Limited Editions on Blu-ray 7/21
Paramount Home Media Distribution will release new Limited Editions of Airplane! (1980) and Ghost (1990). The two releases, which will be part of the studio's recently launched Paramount Presents line, will arrive on the market 7/21. Both films feature new 4K restorations. AIRPLANE! BONUS FEATURES: Filmmakers Focus: Writers/directors Jim Abrahms, David Zucker, and Jerry
Zucker on Airplane!; Q&A with the directors of Airplane!: Filmed at the Egyptian Theater, Hollywood. January 10, 2020; Isolated Score; Vintage audio commentary by Jim Abrahms, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and producer Jon Davison GHOST BONUS FEATURES: Director Jerry Zucker on Ghost ; Audio commentary by director Jerry Zucker and writer Bruce Joel Rubin; Alchemy of a Love Scene Featurette; Ghost Stories - The Making of a Classic; Original theatrical trailer.

THE TERROR: INFAMY: The Complete Second Season on Blu-ray and DVD 8/18
In the second installment of producer (and Primetime Emmy winner) Ridley’s Scott’s horror-tinged anthology – World War II-era Japanese-Americans on Southern California’s Terminal Island are menaced by a “bakemono,” or, folkloric specter. Suffering forced evictions and imprisonment after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Terminal Islanders are hounded by prejudice and injustice, as well as bad omens and bizarre deaths. One of them, Chester Nakayama, decides to take on the malevolent entity, journeying to realms of evil in both the present…and the distant past.

MONEY PLANE on Digital 7/10
A professional thief with $40 million in debt and his family’s life on the line must commit one final heist - rob a futuristic airborne casino filled with the world’s most dangerous criminals. Starring Adam Copeland, Denise Richards, Kelsey Grammer, Thomas Jane, Katrina Norman, Patrick Lamont Jr.

June 28, 2020

THE PAINTED BIRD: Curse the Beasts and the Children

Starring Petr Kotlár, Nina Šunevič, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier, Harvey Keitel, Jitka Čvančarova, Julian Sands, Barry Pepper, Ala Sakalova. Directed by Václav Marhoul. (2019/169 min)

Review by Fluffy the Fearless🙀

The metaphor of the title may not be subtle, but it's effective. About a third of the way into this Czechoslovakian film, a bird keeper paints the wings of one of his animals. After releasing it, the bird ascends to join a flock hovering above them. The flock then proceeds to attack and kill it.

That bird represents the young boy (Petr Kotlar) who just watched it die. He's a WWII-era Jew whose parents left him with his aunt for his own safety. When she unexpectedly dies, he's on his own to begin a long, terrifying journey through war-ravaged Europe. Along the way, he's seldom treated as human by the adults he meets, most of whom vilify, exploit and abuse him (verbally, physically & sexually). He also witnesses a variety of atrocities inflicted upon others, from animals to town whores to entire villages raided by Cossacks.

Speaking of animals, The Painted Bird opens with a scene of the boy running through the woods clutching a pet ferret. Some other kids catch him, beat him bloody and set fire to the animal. In fact, a lot of animals meet a violent demise throughout the film, to the point we're fearing for the life of any critter that pops up on-screen, very much like we constantly dread what this poor kid will be forced to endure next. And is he destined to share the same fate as the ostracized bird?

"Who's the bird brain now, kid?"
Running a harrowing three hours, The Painted Bird is the most emotionally exhausting Holocaust-related film I've seen since Schindler's List. But instead of mass killings and the redemption of one man, the entire narrative is a single boy's personal experience, which nobody with an ounce of empathy would wish on anyone. Like the animals, he's silent through most of the story, either out of fear or a sense of futility. Only on rare occasion is he treated with compassion by those he meets.

You might have to go back to The Passion of the Christ to find a film that inflicts more misery on a single character. But conversely, The Painted Bird doesn't sensationalize its sometimes-shocking violence and the scenes involving sexual abuse are discreetly handled. Dialogue is generally kept to a minimum, allowing imagery to tell much of the story, which is enhanced by stark, darkly beautiful black & white cinematography. What really holds the film together, however, is young Petr Kotlár, who's in nearly every scene. The entire cast, which includes a smattering of familiar faces, is uniformly excellent, but the performance writer-director Václav Marhoul manages to pull out of this kid is remarkable.

While The Painted Bird tells a compelling story (based on a Jerzy Kosiński novel), it is also relentlessly somber and frequently horrifying. It's the kind of film that leaves the viewer emotionally drained and one most will be content to experience just once. But love it or hate it – I can't imagine much middle ground - nobody is likely to forget it. Animal lovers, however, are advised to look elsewhere.


June 26, 2020

BRAVEHEART (4K SteelBook): Mel's Masterpiece

BRAVEHEART 25th Anniversary SteelBook

(4K Blu-ray Review)
Starring Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Angus Macfadyen, Brendan Gleeson, Catherine McCormack, David O'Hara. Directed by Mel Gibson. (1995/177 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😺

Before he went all funny on us, Mel Gibson could do no wrong. In addition to being one of the most bankable actors in the world, 1995's Braveheart showed he was also a director to be reckoned with. Since it's generally considered a modern classic today, it might be difficult to appreciate what a risk this film was back then. Big, bold three-hour historical epics weren't being made much at the time, let-alone one directed by a guy with just a single small film under his belt.

Five Oscars and $200 million later, not-only was it Gibson's biggest film to date, one could easily argue it opened the doors for such action epics as Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator and Alexander. And as history has shown, Braveheart ended up being the pinnacle of his career. Say what you will about the man now, Mel Gibson put together one hell of a film that stills holds up as grand, voracious entertainment, despite hipsters making great sport of its historical accuracy.

Besides, the film never claimed to be a history lesson. Rousing, romantic, tragic and gleefully gory, Braveheart is audience manipulation at its most effective. Only cynics get wrapped up in such petty details as a skewed timeline, inaccurate depictions of historical figures and the car parked on the battlefield. It's all about good & evil, heroes & villains, love & revenge and, of course, buckets of blood & brutality. What's not to love about that?

"You know it's Commando Friday, right?"
It's hard to believe Braveheart is now 25 years old. As modern historical epics go, it still ranks among the most entertaining and is always worth revisiting from time to time. So of course it deserves some kind of commemoration. But be aware, 4K and SteelBook editions have been released before, as well as several Blu-rays that are loaded with the same extensive bonus features that are included here.

Like the simultaneously released 4K SteelBook of Gladiator, the only difference is the packaging itself, which differs from previous editions and features one of the film's more iconic images. If you've never added Braveheart to your shelf, the 25th Anniversary Edition is a good as it gets. But if you already have it on 4K Blu-ray, time to decide if the new packaging is worth double-dipping for.

BRAVEHEART TIMELINES - A neat interactive feature consisting of three timelines related to the production, the film's narrative and the actual history of William Wallace. Includes text, behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and selected scenes.
BRAVEHEART: A LOOK BACK – An hour-long documentary originally produced in 2009. Features interviews with numerous cast & crew.
SMITHFIELD: MEDIEVAL KILLING FIELDS – A look at the location where Wallace *and countless others) were tortured. It's a meat market today.
TALES OF WILLIAM WALLACE – A 30 minute documentary about the real-life Scottish hero.
A WRITER'S JOURNEY – Interview with screenwriter Randall Wallace.

June 24, 2020

Long Beautiful HAIR

HAIR – Olive Signature Edition
(Blu-ray Review)
Starring John Savage, Treat Williams, Beverly D'Angelo, Annie Golden, Dorsey Wright, Cheryl Barnes, Melba Moore, Ronnie Dyson. Directed by Milos Forman. (1979/121 min)

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

My God, it's my parents' playlist...

I remember when Mom & Dad bought their first stereo, or hi-fi, as they were called back then. It was a thing a beauty...AM and FM, turntable, 8-track tape player and two cabinet speakers. Since it was Dad's baby, I was forbidden to mess with it.

To celebrate their purchase, Dad ordered a dozen 8-track tapes from one of those record clubs, and for the next few years, the family was inundated by Three Dog Night, The Fifth Dimension, America, The Cowsills, Gilbert O'Sullivan and a shitload of Neil Diamond (to appease Mom). I still know a lot of that music by heart, whether I want those songs swimming in my head or not. Even today, whenever I hear “Good Morning Starshine,” I see Mom vacuuming the living room on Sunday mornings, singing along to the 'glibby gloop gloopy' parts.

A thing of beauty.
What I didn't know at the time was how many of those insanely-popular songs originated from the Broadway musical, Hair. I don't think my parents knew, either, since that hippie stuff wasn't their bag. But Hair not only inspired more cover versions of its songs than I could possibly list without developing carpal tunnel syndrome, it pretty much invented the conceptual rock musical. The likes of Rent, Grease, Tommy and Hamilton arguably wouldn't exist without it.

The film version is directed by Milos Forman – fresh from sweeping the Oscars with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest – and features a star-making performance by Treat Williams. The songs are all there, too...”Aquarius,” “Easy to Be Hard,” “Good Morning Starshine,” “Hair,” “Let the Sunshine In” and of course, that perennial family favorite, “Sodomy.” The musical numbers are enhanced by playful choreography and the film's mostly upbeat tone congenially contrasts the underlying anti-war theme. It's a bit overlong and comes to a gloomy conclusion, but overall, Hair remains an enjoyable snapshot of bygone era.

Treat Williams wins the ass-kicking contest.
Hair has been revived on-stage several times over the years, yet the movie seems to have fallen into comparative obscurity. Grease notwithstanding, movie musicals were a tough sell in the late seventies. But with classic music, excellent direction and great performances by an ensemble cast – most of whom were unknown at the time – it's a film worth rediscovering.

Mom & Dad eventually upgraded from crusty old 8-tracks to sparkly new CDs. The music was the same, but now Neil Diamond sounded like he was in the room with them. Similarly, Hair has been released on Blu-ray before, but this edition (part of Olive Films' Signature series) comes loaded with brand new bonus features to go along with the great picture and sound, definitely making it worth upgrading for fans.

"THE TRIBE REMEMBERS” - The primary cast – sans Williams – reflect on being cast and the production.
"MAKING CHANCE WORK: CHOREOGRAPHING HAIR” - Interview with choreographer Twyla Tharp, who appears pretty impressed with herself.
"CUTTING HAIR” - Interviews with editors Lynzee Klingman & Stanley Warnow.
"HAIR STYLE” - Interview with production designer Stuart Wurtzel.
"ARTIST, TEACHER, MENTOR: REMEMBERING MILOS FORMAN” - The best of the bonus features, this is an entertaining appreciation of Milos Forman by director James Mangold
AUDIO COMMENTARY – by Treat Williams and assistant director Michael Houseman.
ESSAY – By critic Sheila O'Malley
BOOKLET – Includes the same essay.

June 23, 2020

12 ANGRY MEN and the Jury Duty Journey

12 ANGRY MEN (1957)
Starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Warden, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Ed Begley, Martin Balsam, Robert Webber, George Voskovec, John Fiedler, Edward Burns, Joseph Sweeney. Directed by Sidney Lumet. (96 min)

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON💀

I had to report for jury duty today. I fucking hate jury duty.

I should amend that last statement, since I've never actually sat on a jury. This was the fifth goddamn time I've been summoned and not-once have I made it past the waiting room to be questioned by the judge and attorneys. My civic duty has so-far consisted of sitting. I once sat for 16 fucking hours over two days – reading three novels and subjected to a nonstop barrage of Fox News' verbal vomit from the overhead TV – just to be sent home with nothing but a thank you and a $15 reimbursement for parking. That's a damn shame because I've always been ready for the judge's questions with a variety of creative responses to avoid being selected, such as ending each of my answers with “according to prophecy.”

Perhaps more effectively, I could simply recite some of the bigoted bile spewed by Juror #10 in 12 Angry Men:

Look, they're lushing it up and fighting all the time and if somebody gets killed, so somebody gets killed! They don't care! Oh, sure, there are some good things about 'em, too! Look, I'm the first one to say that! I've known a couple who were OK, but that's the exception, y'know what I mean? Most of 'em, it's like they have no feelings! They can do anything!

I'm pretty certain quoting any line by that character – out of context, before being asked a single question – would get me immediately excused. One brief uncomfortable silence later, my obligation to the county would be fulfilled.

Since driving in downtown Portland is like playing Tetris with cars, I decided to take the commuter train to the courthouse. I generally hate public transportation because a lot of people who use it don't seem to have any particular destination in mind. For them, the train is more of a social gathering. Worse yet, some are under the mistaken impression I'm open to friendly banter, even if it's one-sided. The last time I rode the train, a guy who smelled like taco meat decided to regale me with his days as a bounty hunter, occasionally pausing to swat imaginary flies. I would have moved but there were no other available seats, so I simply did my best to ignore him.

Or maybe this was how he planned to avoid jury duty and was simply getting into character.

Another social gathering.
But on a more positive note, today's train was relatively empty, even though it was rush hour. That's because the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, so not-only are masks required to ride public transportation, social distancing guidelines allow only 26 people per car, meaning I pretty much had a section all to myself.

See kids...even global pandemics have a bright side.

Since this wasn't my first rodeo, I brought a backpack carrying my Chromebook, a water bottle, a bag of Funyuns and the Stephen King novel I got for Christmas but never got around to reading. And who knows...perhaps coffee & Funyun breath might turn enough stomachs to get me excused right away.

But that wasn't gonna happen because suddenly I realized I left my coffee tumbler on top of the ticket dispenser at the station where I boarded. This didn't bode well for those poor bastards downtown. Coffee is my personal heroin and without it, there was a distinct possibility the Multnomah County Courthouse would soon be sending out a batch of jury summonses for a murder trail. Thank God my bounty-hunting, fly-swatting friend wasn't around to incur my wrath.

Hopefully, there would be an open Starbucks downtown to defuse an already-explosive situation.

Whenever I receive a jury summons, 1957's 12 Angry Men inevitably comes to mind. It’s arguably the greatest courtroom drama that doesn't actually take place in a courtroom and undoubtedly the greatest film ever set in a single room. Based on the Reginald Rose play, the story has 12 nameless jurors deliberating the fate of a young man on trial for murdering his own father. Though the boy's ethnicity is never mentioned, stereotypical comments and assumptions made by certain members of the all-white jury make it clear he's a minority. Their initial 'guilty' votes are also supported by overwhelming, seemingly irrefutable evidence.

Henry Fonda...sick of your shit.
Initially, Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) is the sole 'not guilty' vote and the only one with enough compassion and empathy to discuss the facts before condemning the boy to death. On the other end of the spectrum is the aforementioned Juror #10 (Ed Begley), who's clearly a racist, and Juror #3 (Lee J. Cobb)...belligerent, judgmental and increasingly infuriated as Juror #8 finds fallacies in the testimony, gradually prompting other jurors to change their vote. But in one of the film's most powerful moments, we eventually learn why he's so angry, which is actually kind of heartbreaking and ultimately has nothing to do with the boy's race (though it doesn't make Juror #3 any less of a dick).

Once downtown, I debarked the train at the stop nearest the courthouse. Strutting down the sidewalk was a tough looking young man who either just climbed out of a time machine or was cosplaying as Benny Blanco from the Bronx (a gangster played by John Leguizamo in Carlito's Way). He was decked-out in a similarly flashy three-piece, complete with a wide-brimmed fedora and a rose in the lapel. He even had the same pencil-thin mustache. Since he was heading the same direction as my destination, I followed from a discreet distance. When he reached Pioneer Courthouse Square, he suddenly perched himself on one of the benches, produced a big bag of bird seed and commenced feeding the pigeons. An elderly, white-haired lady approached and smiled. He greeted her by-name as she joined him on the bench, then they began feeding the birds together. Considering his look and demeanor, I was surprised these two actually knew each other.

Because of 12 Angry Men...I always picture juries as a batch of weary guys in a dingy room, ties loosened and shirts pit-stained, pounding the table as they vigorously debate someone's fate. I also tend to wonder which of those guys is the most like me, because one of the film's greatest strengths – besides themes that are still timely today – is its rich, believable characters. Every one of them resembles somebody we've all had pleasure or displeasure to know in real life. That somebody may even be ourselves.

Of course, we'd all like to think we're Juror #8, an analytical, cool-headed leader with the resolve to stand by his convictions and the temperament to avoid making snap judgments. But honestly, who hasn't made relatively harmless face-value evaluations of people we've never met personally? What assumption did I make of Portland's own Benny Blanco? While he probably didn't wake up this morning and head downtown to bust a cap in Al Pacino's ass, it never crossed my mind that a guy resembling a high-toned gangster would begin each day fattening the pigeons with an old lady. Just because someone looks or behaves a certain way doesn't mean you know them. Yet some of the jurors in 12 Angry Men base their initial vote on similarly ignorant presumptions.

Benny Blanco, the bird feeder.
Unfortunately, I'm not as admirably unassuming as Juror #8, but at-least I'm not as bitter as Juror #3 or as ignorant as Juror #10. Given my overall attitude toward the idea of jury duty in the first place, I suppose I'm most similar to Juror #7. As played by Jack Warden in the film, Juror #7 doesn't want to be there, either. With a couple of baseball tickets burning a whole in his pocket, he just wants to wrap things up and get the hell out of there. As the deliberation drags on, impatience is the main reason he eventually changes his vote to 'not guilty.' I'd like to think I wouldn't have such an indifferent attitude in a murder case, but would the prospect of lengthy deliberations influence my own vote? I'm not sure I want to know the answer to that.

In that respect, if I intentionally torpedoed my chances for jury selection today, I'd still be doing my civic duty by making certain they selected someone who actually gives a shit.

As it turned out, I didn't have to worry about it anyway, and this time I didn't even make it to the waiting room. I was met outside the courthouse by a clerk (because, you know...pandemic) who took my jury card and informed me that trial selection was canceled. She said I should have checked my voicemail, but since I showed up, I was free of my obligation to the county for another two years. It's a good thing I was wearing my COVID mask so she couldn't see my shit-eating grin.

Suddenly free for the fifth time, I headed back the way I came with an extra spring in my step. Benny Blanco and his lady friend were still on their bench, now surrounded by a legion of hungry pigeons. It also looked like one of those ungrateful birds crapped on the brim of his fedora, but Benny didn't seem to notice.

And after the hour-long return trip to my neck of the woods, the coffee tumbler I left behind was still sitting atop the ticket dispenser, which was awesome because it cost be twenty bucks. But even though I knew its contents would still be hot, I didn't dare take a sip, no matter how badly I needed a caffeine jolt at that point. For all I knew, some crazy bastard came along and used it for a piss jar...maybe even my bounty-hunting, fly-swatting buddy.

Considering I'd been dreading this day for weeks, everything suddenly seemed to be going my way. With this run of good luck, I should have stopped by 7-Eleven on the way home and grabbed me some lottery tickets. As for 12 Angry Men, the film remains compulsively watchable and - considering our current cultural turmoil - might be even more thematically relevant than it was in 1957. And who knows, maybe someday we can all be like Juror #8.

June 19, 2020

THE POOP SCOOP: Trolls & Trauma Edition

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Debuts Trolls World Tour Music Video
Universal Picture Home Entertainment debuted a Zoom-style music video for the song "Just Sing," which can be found on the Trolls World Tour Official Motion Picture Soundtrack - Available everywhere now! In the times of social distancing, nothing can stop Trollskind from having fun and singing together. This is one Zoom call you won’t want to miss! Just remember: “Let Me Hear You Sing!”  
Trolls World Tour on Digital 6/23 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray and DVD 7/7.


From Val Guest, the director of The Quatermass Xperiment, Quatermass2, The Abominable Snowman and Hell Is a City, comes one of the greatest doomsday movies ever made! When the United States and the Soviet Union simultaneously set off nuclear explosions, London's Daily Express begins to report on bizarre weather changes around the world. But when the reporters dig deeper, they discover that the blasts have knocked Earth off its axis and sent it hurtling towards the sun. Now, as scorching heat and devastating floods plague the planet, cities explode in chaos and mankind is left with one last hope: A final massive detonation that will either rebalance Earth's orbit or destroy the world forever! Produced, directed and co-written by Guest, this British classic is legendary for its brilliant dialogue, chilling realism and one of the most provocative endings in sci-fi history. Bonus Features: Brand New 4K Master | NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Richard Harland Smith | Audio Commentary by Co-Writer/Producer/Director Val Guest | 4 TV Spots | 4 Radio Spots | Theatrical Trailer | Dual-Layered BD50 Disc | Optional English Subtitles

The Original WAR OF THE WORLDS Coming 7/7 from Criterion Collection
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES: New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack • New alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, created by sound designer Ben Burtt and presented in DTS-HD Master Audio • Audio commentary from 2005 featuring filmmaker Joe Dante, film historian Bob Burns, and author Bill Warren • Movie Archaeologists, a new program on the visual and sound effects in the film featuring Burtt and film historian Craig Barron • From the Archive, a new program about the film’s restoration featuring Barron, Burtt, and Paramount Pictures archivist Andrea Kalas • Audio interview with producer George Pal from 1970 • The Sky Is Falling, a 2005 documentary about the making of the film • The Mercury Theatre on the Air radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds from 1938, directed and narrated by Orson Welles • Radio program from 1940 featuring a discussion between Welles and H. G. Wells, author of the 1897 novel The War of the Worlds • Trailer • PLUS: An essay by film critic J. Hoberman.



YOU DON’T NOMI on DVD and Blu-ray 7/21
RLJE Films, a business unit of AMC Networks, is releasing the acclaimed documentary YOU DON’T NOMI on July 21, 2020.  The feature screenwriting and directorial debut of Jeffrey McHale.. In YOU DONT NOMI, a chorus of film critics and fervent devotees explore the complicated afterlife of 1995s biggest film flop, Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls, from disastrous release to cult adoration and extraordinary redemption. The films features Adam Nayman (Vice Guide to Film), April Kidwell (I, Nomi) and Peaches Christ (Milk).

SPLIT SECOND Starring Rutger Hauer (RIP) Makes Its Long-Awaited Blu-ray Debut On 8/11
MVD Rewind Collection has teamed up with 101 Films to bring collectors a fully loaded special edition. Starting with a brand new high definition presentation overseen by Joe Rubin, the main feature is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, newly scanned, restored and color graded in 4K from the 35MM internegative, with uncompressed 2-channel stereo audio. Split Second is packed with hours of bonus material produced by 101 Films exclusively for the US (and the UK) including brand new cast and crew interviews, new audio commentary, and rarely seen 1992 legacy features, an alternative cut of the film, deleted scenes, promos and more!