October 29, 2020
Essay by D.M. ANDERSON💀
Four-and-a-half decades after it first scared the living shit out of me - tossing my popcorn at the sudden appearance of Ben Gardner’s eyeless head - Jaws remains my favorite film. I saw it at least a half-dozen times in a theater and have long-since lost count of how often I’ve revisited the film over the years.
Even though I practically know the movie by heart - every scene, every line of dialogue - it never gets boring and I still discover some aspect I never noticed before. For example, in the classic scene where Quint (Robert Shaw) and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) are comparing scars, there’s a brief shot of Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) starting to lift his shirt to share a scar of his own, but then changes his mind. Since he was a New York City cop just before moving his family to comparatively quiet Amity Island, his somber, self-conscious expression suggests the scar might be the result of a bullet wound.
Or hell, maybe he just had his appendix removed. My point is there’s always been more to Jaws than a ravenous shark. Thematically rich and allegorical, it’s also a film with many subtle, understated moments.
You know, just writing about Jaws makes me wanna pop the movie into my player and watch it again.
Two hours and four minutes later…
Once again, I discovered something new about Jaws, but this time it changes my whole perspective. It’s still the greatest film ever, but now I find myself asking who the real villain really is.
At one point, Hooper and Brody discuss the theory of ‘territoriality,’ in which a shark will remain in an area where the feeding is good. So really, all the good citizens of Amity have to do is stay the fuck out of the water for a few days and the shark will move on. But with the Fourth of July coming, Mayor Vaughn refuses to close the beaches. That, however, doesn’t make him the villain, just another dumbfuck politician in denial (and probably a Republican).
|"Om-nom-nom!" said Jaws.|
And what about Mrs. Kintner, the grieving mother who puts a $3000 bounty on the shark after it gobbles down her boy? Sure, Alex’s death is tragic, but it ain’t like the shark leaped onto the beach and snatched him away. Alex was in his house. That’s like putting a cheeseburger in the backyard and getting pissed at your dog for having the audacity to eat it. Her actions instigate total chaos as hundreds of fishermen recklessly crowd the waters hoping to cash-in. They end up killing the wrong shark, which was probably just passing by - from Southern waters, according to Hooper - and minding its own business.
But even Mrs. Kintner isn’t the biggest villain in Jaws. That honor, I’m sad to say, goes to Chief Brody (with Matt Hooper as his able accomplice). I wouldn’t include Quint among them because he’s a fisherman by trade and basically a hired gun. Throw in a heaping helping of PTSD - due to his previous shark encounter during the ill-fated U.S.S. Indianapolis mission - and we at least understand his Ahab-like obsession.
|Say hello to the bad guy.|
After the attack and panic on the Fourth of July, Brody has nothing to gain by killing the shark. Financially, Amity’s summer is over - Brody even says as much - because only the dumbest of fucks would dare go into the same water where three people have already been torn to pieces. With no more swimmers to snack on, the shark would probably be gone in a day or two. Instead, Brody hires Quint’s boat so the three of them can hunt and kill it, which is essentially the same as a home invasion.
Imagine having your groceries delivered to your home. Then a few days later, the same grocer breaks in and tries to kill you for eating the food. Ultimately, the protagonists in Jaws are seeking revenge for incidents they instigated, just like the United Citizen Federation’s war on bugs in Starship Troopers.
Nobody watches Death Wish to cheer-on the three sadistic thugs who break into Paul Kersey’s apartment, rape his daughter and murder his wife. So why do I still snarl “Smile, you son-of-a-bitch” right along with Brody every time I watch him blow the shark to smithereens?
Perhaps the fact that we side with the bad guys is a testament to Jaws’ greatness. It’s a film so well-written, perfectly assembled and impeccably acted that we’re effortlessly manipulated into thinking the three main characters are heroes, especially since they’re so endearing and likable. And like cinema’s greatest antagonists, they don’t see themselves as villains at all.
Neither did I until now. It still doesn’t change my opinion of the film itself. Jaws is as great today as it was in 1975. Of course, we now know that sharks are not mindless eating-machines, but back then, the film unfortunately played a big part in vilifying them as such, to the point where great white sharks have become a vulnerable species. Because of this, original Jaws author Peter Benchley has-since expressed regret over writing the novel. Even so, I’m still able to block out all that baggage and enjoy Jaws for what it is: brilliant, visceral entertainment that feels new every time I see it. Only a perfect film can do that.
Though part of me might be pulling for the shark from now on.
October 27, 2020
RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: CODA (Blu-ray Review)
From KINO LORBER
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😽
If the name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, some of his music might. On this side of the Pacific, Ryuichi Sakamoto is best known for his scores in such films as Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Last Emperor (for which he won an Oscar) and most recently, The Revenant.
But in Japan, he’s been a prominent musician & composer for decades, both as a solo artist and with the synthpop band, Yellow Magic Orchestra. Much older now and a recent cancer survivor, Ryuichi has recommitted himself to exploring unique ways to make music. Aside from his career, he remains an outspoken anti-nuclear activist.
Despite it’s slightly ominous title, Coda provides an interesting look at his post-recovery career, such as an ongoing quest for bizarre new sounds, infusing nature into his music and performing a concert using a battered piano recovered from the ruins of the 2011 Tsunami. The film also delves into his early days as a pop star, which segued into an impressive career as a film composer (and sometimes actor). For movie fans, his anecdotes of working for the likes of Bernardo Bertolucci and Alejandro Iñárritu will be the most interesting part of the film.
|"Do I know 'Balls to the Wall'? Dude, I wrote 'Balls to the Wall'."|
Aside from his cancer battle, Sakamoto remains mostly guarded about his personal life, which seems to be consumed by music, anyway. Throughout the film, he’s charming, humble and obviously grateful to be alive. We also get the impression he treats each new composition like it could possibly be his last. Here’s hoping this film (and the accompanying concert) isn’t his coda.
EXTRA KIBBLES“RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: ASYNC AT THE PARK AVENUE ARMORY” - A concert in support of his most recent album, async. Some of this music might redefine avant garde for you, making The Residents sound like Michael Buble.
October 25, 2020
THE LAST BLOCKBUSTER (Blu-ray Review)
From POPMOTION PICTURES
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😹
It’s with no small amount of irony that the corporate monster which essentially wiped-out the mom & pop video store is now on the brink of similar extinction. What was once a 9,000 store franchise has dwindled down to just one, located in the small town of Bend, Oregon (my neck of the woods, by the way).
What’s doubly ironic is, even though Blockbuster homogenized home video and played a huge role in killing drive-in theaters, what I mostly felt while watching this film was warm, longing nostalgia. After all, Blockbuster was an indelible brand name and changed the way we watched movies at home, whether we wanted it to or not. For an entire generation of movie lovers, it was a big part of their childhood, the way drive-ins were part of mine.
But the biggest irony, as The Last Blockbuster joyously shows, is that the lone remaining store has become world famous, not only for putting the name back in the spotlight, but essentially becoming the very mom & pop video store Blockbuster all-but-killed decades earlier. It’s managed by Sandi Harding, who tirelessly keeps the place stocked and running with the help of her large family, all of whom have worked there at one point or another (and many who still do).
Interspersed throughout her daily routine are testimonials from others in the community, as well as interviews with various familiar faces who grew up in the age of VHS, when Blockbuster was a big part of their lives. Most have charming anecdotes, while a few comedians’ attempts to be funny fall flat (such as Doug Benson’s overlong, laugh-free tour of the store).
|"The Godfather? Never heard of it."|
The film even manages to create a fair amount of suspense. The Hardings don't own the Blockbuster name and must appeal to parent company Dish Network every year in order to remain in business. Despite all the media attention, community support and becoming a tourist attraction, the store's long-term future is always uncertain, which we see as Sandi anxiously awaits a return call from corporate headquarters.
So while The Last Blockbuster maintains a feel-good vibe, there’s a dash of poignancy beneath the surface. Informative, congenial, funny and surprisingly affecting, the film is most-highly recommended for anyone nostalgic for the weekends when they walked out of their local Blockbuster with an armload of tapes or discs. And if you happen to live in Bend, Oregon, you know what your next rental should be.
FEATURETTES - “Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee” (short feature about a famous LA video store); “More with Kevin Smith” (extended interview); “Talkin’ Movies with David McAbee”; “JC from Scum & Villainy” (interview with the owner of a Star Wars themed bar); “Our Chat with Coach Pete” (he’s a local Bend DJ); “MTV’s Matt Pinfield” (interview); “Ska-Punk Show at a Blockbuster” (featurette about a ‘concert’ performed at a soon-to-be-closed LA store).
MUSIC VIDEOS - Andres’ “The Last Blockbuster”; Wordburglar’s “Rental Patient” (both songs are actually pretty insufferable)
October 23, 2020
BLUE RIDGE (DVD Review)
From by Tiger the Terrible😼
The title suggests a western, and in spirit, I suppose it is. However, Blue Ridge is mostly a backwoods murder mystery that plays like a pilot for a potential TV series, though I have no idea if one’s actually on the pipeline. If so, I’ve seen worse.
Johnathon Schaech is Justin Wise, a former Green Beret and the new sheriff of Blue Ridge, one of those tiny Appalachian towns where everybody knows everybody. He took the job so he could be closer to estranged wife Elli (Sarah Lancaster) and spunky daughter Maddie (Taegen Burns). Their relationship is the least interesting aspect of the entire film and never really figures into the plot, in which a woman is found murdered.
The victim is Vivian McGrath, who managed to piss off the entire town with plans to build condos on the land she and husband Lem swindled from her father, Cliff (Graham Greene). So naturally, he’s a suspect. However, Cliff thinks Jeremiah Wade (Tom Proctor) killed her, part of a decades-old feud between the two clans over ownership of the land. We’re made to suspect several characters throughout the story, sometimes because they simply act suspicious.
|"Are you finished?"|
With a final showdown that suggests some inspiration from classic westerns, Blue Ridge isn’t particularly memorable, but works in the moment. It’s got a pretty decent story and a main character that seems groomed for weekly television. But even if that ain’t in the cards, the film is an enjoyable enough time killer.
4 BEHIND-THE-SCENES FEATURETTES - Running one to three minutes each.
October 21, 2020
In addition, it was also announced that a 4K UHD “Middle-earth” Ultimate Collectors’ Edition featuring the theatrical and extended versions of all six films, along with new bonus content, previously released Blu-ray discs of The Hobbit Trilogy, and remastered Blu-ray discs of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy will be released in the summer of 2021. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy featuring remastered Blu-ray discs of the theatrical and extended versions of the 3 films will also be released in the fourth quarter 2021, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
TOYS OF TERROR on Blu-ray & DVD 1/19/21 and Digital 10/27
2067 on Blu-ray & DVD 11/17
October 20, 2020
SPREE (Blu-ray Review)
From RJLE FILMS
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😾
God knows people obsessed with internet fame deserve a good ribbing.
As a teacher who spends most of his time around teenagers, I can assure you there are countless kids convinced that being a professional YouTuber is not only a viable career option, but fortune and glory are just one viral video away. Just like every would-be Eddie Van Halen of my generation were certain they stood apart from all the other would-be Eddie Van Halens.
Rideshare driver Kurt (Joe Keery) is similarly convinced he’s destined to be a social media star with his livestream show, kurtsworld96. However, no one’s watching and it’s easy to see why. Kurt is obnoxious, unfunny and not entirely stable, with an overinflated sense of his own talent and personal appeal. But he’s certain he can achieve viral fame by doing something no other streamers have: killing his rideshare customers.
|"The cow says, 'Mooooooo'!"|
Spree - also the name of the company he drives for - takes place during one of his shifts and presented entirely through phones and the half-dozen cameras he’s installed in his car. At first, his exploits are kind-of funny, mainly because his victims are such assholes. However, the more we get to know Kurt, the more excruciating the film becomes. Played almost too effectively by Keery, he’s increasingly unlikable, his desperation for attention uncomfortably pathetic.
This is obviously intentional, but unlike such socially maladjusted main characters as Travis Bickle, D-FENS or Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, we never feel an ounce of empathy for him. Even in black comedy, that’s important. Ultimately, Kurt is as insufferable to the audience as he is to Jesse (Sasheer Zamata), the popular comedian he fixates on (to a creepy level).
I’m pretty sure there are people out there right now - phones in-hand - who are just as fame-obsessed as Kurt. However, Spree squanders the opportunity to have any real fun at their expense. Despite Keery’s excellent, unnerving performance - a far cry from his role in Stranger Things - being around Kurt is mostly just depressing.
“kurtsworld96 SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT” - Basically a big batch of deleted scenes
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Eugene Kotyarenko
October 18, 2020
To horror fans around the world, the Overlook Hotel needs no introduction. But in my neck of the woods, it’s known as theTimberline Lodge and has sat on Mt. Hood for over 80 years.
The place has been a prime vacation destination for decades - mainly for the skiing - but became iconic when Stanley Kubrick chose it to represent the exterior of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. For those of you who only know Timberline from the movie, I hate to burst your bubble, but the lavish interiors were actually shot in England and look nothing like the woodsy decor of the real hotel. Still, the reason ‘Room 217’ from the book was changed to ‘Room 237’ for the film was because Timberline actually has a Room 217 and management worried people would be afraid to stay there. Personally, I can’t think of a horror fan who wouldn’t wanna book that room.
Since it’s probably Oregon’s most famous movie location and practically in my backyard, I recently took the wife & kids on a road trip to visit the place. Here are some photos of the “Overlook” today (not a lot has changed) as well as a look inside...
|Obviously, it ain't winter yet.|
|No, that ain't Jack|
|The grand entrance...along with a clueless douche who wouldn't move out of the way.|
|The main lobby.|
|One of the massive hallways. Barely enough room to ride a trike.|
|The dreaded elevator.|
|You can get Shining swag at the gift shop...|
|...and of course, we bought some!|
CUT THROAT CITY (Blu-ray Review)
From WELL GO USA
Review by Tiger the Terrible😽
More than just a gritty heist film, Cut Throat City wears its anger on its sleeve. Angry at FEMA’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina, angry at those using the disaster to exacerbate the gentrification of neighborhoods and angry at the overall lack of assistance to countless black families who lost everything. As presented in the film, that anger appears to be justified.
Blink (Shameik Moore) is angry, too. An aspiring comic book artist, he finds himself forced to support his wife and stepchild by dealing drugs with his small crew of friends. But even that isn’t much of a living, so when the opportunity arises to work for dangerous, sadistic local crimelord ‘Cousin’ Bass (T.I. Harris), it feels like his only viable option. Blink and his friends are ordered to rob a local casino, a job which goes awry when police show up almost immediately, resulting in a shoot-out in which they barely get away. Now in debt to Bass, they start robbing other casinos in order to pay him off.
Meanwhile, Detective Lucinda Benoit (Eiza Gonzalez) is in charge of the investigation and suspects Blink’s crew has been set-up by Bass, a plot development that’s fuzzy at-best and the weakest aspect of the narrative. Still, we feel Blink’s desperation as he gets further and further in over his head, surrounded by gangsters, crooked cops and corrupt city officials more concerned with making New Orleans real estate valuable again. He knows he should grab his family and get out of town, but the 9th Ward of New Orleans is his home and ultimately refuses to leave. This leads to a final act that’s as exciting as it is unpredictable, along with a big ‘fuck you’ to FEMA. And just when the viewer thinks Blink’s story is over, we're thrown an absolutely awesome curveball, reminding us of his original artistic ambitions.
|The downside of working for Cousin Bass? Sitting through his vacation slides.|
Director RZA’s most ambitious work so far, Cut Throat City is an action film with heart, brains and a justifiable chip on its shoulder. More than just gangsters and guns, it tells a compelling story of people driven to desperation in light of the systematic racism they’ve been subjected to. And damn, what an ending! Another film forced to skip theatrical release due to a disaster of a different sort, this is well worth seeking out.