March 31, 2021

THE POOP SCOOP: Messiahs, Missions & Monkeys

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH - Available on VOD 4/2, Digital HD 4/27, DVD & Blu-ray on 5/4 
Academy Award-nominated dramatic thriller “Judas and the Black Messiah” arrives on Premium Video on Demand (PVOD), Blu-ray, DVD and Digital. The film is directed by Shaka King, marking his studio feature film directorial debut, and stars Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton and Oscar nominee LaKeith Stanfield as William O’Neal. The film also stars Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons, Ashton Sanders and Martin Sheen.  “Judas and the Black Messiah” features the Academy Award-nominated song “Fight For You”, sung by H.E.R. “Judas and the Black Messiah” made history this year by being the first film with an all-black producing team nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category. “Judas and the Black Messiah” is nominated for six Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield), Cinematography (Sean Bobbitt), Original Song (“Fight For You,” music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emilie II, lyrics by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas), and Original Screenplay (screenplay by Will Berson & Shaka King, story by Will Berson & Shaka King and Kenny Lucas & Keith Lucas).  Kaluuya also won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture.

Paramount Home Media Distribution will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Mission: Impossible (1996) with a brand new Blu-ray release of the film, which will be available for purchase on May 18th. Originally released on May 22, 1996, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE thrilled audiences with its breathtaking and action-packed story of secret agents and international espionage. Tom Cruise ignites the screen as IMF agent Ethan Hunt, a character that continues to capture the imaginations of fans around the world as the franchise builds toward the highly anticipated seventh installment. Directed by Brian De Palma (The Untouchables), with a screenplay by David Koepp (Jurassic Park) and Robert Towne (Chinatown), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE will return to select theaters for a limited run in May through Fathom Events and Paramount Pictures. Details about the theatrical run will be announced in April.

RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON on 4K, Blu-ray & DVD on 5/18
Raya and the Last Dragon takes us on an exciting, epic journey to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together long ago in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it's up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she'll learn that it'll take more than a dragon to save the world—it's going to take trust and teamwork as well. Raya and the Last Dragon features an outstanding voice cast, including Kelly Marie Tran as the voice of the intrepid warrior Raya; Awkwafina as the legendary dragon, Sisu; Gemma Chan as Raya's nemesis, Namaari; Daniel Dae Kim as Raya's visionary father, Benja; Sandra Oh as Namaari's powerful mother, Virana; Benedict Wong as Tong, a formidable giant; Izaac Wang as Boun, a 10-year-old entrepreneur; Thalia Tran as the mischievous toddler Little Noi; Alan Tudyk as Tuk Tuk, Raya's best friend and trusty steed; Lucille Soong as Dang Hu, the leader of the land of Talon; Patti Harrison as the chief of the Tail land; and Ross Butler as chief of the Spine land.


Scream Factory is releasing the Collector's Edition of John Guillermin's King Kong (1976), starring Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, Jessica Lange, Rene Auberjonois, and Jack O'Halloran. The release will be available for purchase on May 11. The Petrox company's search for new oil reserves on a strange island unleashes a terror unseen by civilized man—KING KONG! The timeless story of a "beauty" (Jessica Lange, making her feature-film debut) and a "beast" comes to the screen in this ambitious production from Dino De Laurentiis. Charles Grodin is the scheming oil company shark out to exploit the giant beast to his fullest. And Jeff Bridges is the desperate hero, Jack Prescott, who attempts to wrest the beautiful heroine from King Kong's grasp. New York City trembles with each echoing footstep of the towering ape set loose in the streets!

March 30, 2021


2021 / 96 min


Review by Stinky the Destroyer😾


Man, what a line-up...Allison Janney, Mila Kunis, Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall, Matthew Modine, Clifton Collins Jr., Ellen Barkin, Awkwafina, Juliette Lewis, just to name a few. All of them have impressive stats as terrific actors, funny comedians, or both.

Then there’s manager Tate Taylor. His shelves may not be lined with trophies, but he’s directed some pretty decent - and successful - films in a variety of genres, such as The Help, The Girl on the Train, Ma and Get on Up. With such a diverse filmography, it stands to reason he’d be equally adept tackling a black comedy.

With a team like that on both sides of the plate and a premise rife with satiric opportunities, Breaking News in Yuba County should have been a home run, or at-least a ground rule double. Instead, it mostly hits foul balls.

Sue Bottoms (Janney) is a timid middle-aged woman who’s ignored both at home and work. When she catches husband Karl cheating - during the act - he drops dead of a heart attack. Inspired by the media attention a distraught couple is receiving over their daughter’s disappearance, Sue buries Karl and reports him missing. Now everyone notices her…, neighbors, co-workers and, of course, the media, like sister Nancy (Milas Kunis), who's a local reporter, and eventually national talk show host Gloria Michael (Juliette Lewis).

However, Sue also raises the suspicions of Detective Cam Harris (Regina Hall), who keeps finding holes in her story. Additionally, it turns out Karl and his ex-con brother, Petey (Jimmi Simpson), were coerced into laundering $3 million for local gangster Mr. Kim. But now that Karl’s missing, so is the money. So he sends two violent thugs on the trail, which eventually leads to Sue. 

When you don't bring enough gum for everybody.
The basic plot is actually pretty well mapped-out, with complications that, in capable hands, could have turned this into another Fargo. However, the whole thing is torpedoed by ham-fisted attempts at dark humor and awful characters painted in depressingly broad strokes. Good black comedy - always difficult to pull off successfully - isn't simply swinging away with extreme behavior and sudden bursts of violence. The cast is ready to play ball, though there’s a hell of a lot of scenery-chewing and their characters are largely defined by their actions, much of which is obnoxiously juvenile. Janney is actually quite good, but even Sue comes across as an empty caricature.

Ultimately, Breaking News in Yuba County squanders a good cast and premise because there’s no point where we feel like we’re watching real people. These characters simply exist to behave badly, spout outrageous dialogue and occasionally kill each other. The plot might hold interest for a while, but all attempts at black comedy and satire fall flat. Too bad, really...a team like this should have knocked it out of the park.



March 29, 2021


1949 & 1957 / 178 min (2 films)


Review by Fluffy the Fearless😽

To be honest, I didn’t know either of these films existed, and since this marks the first time they’ve ever been released on home video outside of Japan, chances are most of you didn’t, either. So this double-feature disc from Arrow Video is sure to pique the curiosity of classic horror lovers.

As one might suspect, the two films are Japan’s answer to the popular series of American films and - obviously - H.G. Wells original novel. But they aren’t remakes. Instead, both films incorporate the concept into original stories that play more like sci-fi tinged crime capers than pure horror.

In 1949’s The Invisible Man Appears, a respected doctor has created a serum that can render people invisible, with two unfortunate drawbacks. First, there’s no way for the subject to return to normal, and second, the serum makes the subject increasingly violent. The basic story features the titular character’s reign of terror as he attempts to steal a valuable necklace. In the effort to keep his identity a mystery for much of the running time, the narrative throws in too many plot complications, but it’s fast-paced and the special effects aren’t half bad for a 72 year old film. On a personal side-note, we here at FKMG particularly enjoyed the invisible kitty's own little reign of terror.

"Lemme tell you what 'Like a Virgin' is about..."
I’m not sure The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly can be considered a sequel. In addition to a completely new cast of characters, the method with which someone is rendered invisible is different. But since one character fleetingly mentions the Invisible Man as a potential suspect in a series of seemingly-random public murders, perhaps it’s a shared universe. The real culprit is the Human Fly, who takes an addictive serum to render himself instantly tiny. Citywide panic ensues, so the cop in charge decides becoming invisible is the only way to catch the killer. This one’s a lot goofier than the first, especially the daffy scenes of the Human Fly in action. Still, it’s pretty entertaining.

Pre-title cards before both films state upfront that time hasn’t been all that kind to the prints used for this Blu-ray transfer. It’s especially noticeable in the first film, but not a major distraction. With a release like this, it’s probably enough that we’re able to see these two Japanese obscurities at all. Neither film will make anyone forget James Whale and Claude Rains, but it’s kinda cool seeing how they did it on the other side of the pond.


TRANSPARENT TERRORS - The only substantial bonus feature, but critic/historian Kim Newman is always enjoyable, this time providing a wealth of information about the entire history of the Invisible Man in movies.



REVERSIBLE SLEEVE - A cover for each film with new artwork.



March 28, 2021

Movie Night with Dave & Stinky: KING KONG (1933)

ISLE OF THE DEAD: Karloff in Quarantine

ISLE OF THE DEAD (Blu-ray Review)
1945 / 72 min


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

If nothing else, Isle of the Dead is a darkly beautiful horror film. Of all the low-budget flicks producer Val Newton pumped out in the ‘40s, this one is easily the best looking. There’s nary an image that wouldn’t make a great black metal album cover. 

Additionally, if one looks hard enough, there’s even some contemporary relevance to be found in the story.

Set during the Balkan War, the island of the title is where General Pherides (Boris Karloff) buried his wife years before. After a particularly bloody battle, he takes a boat to the island to visit her grave, accompanied by reporter Oliver Davis (Marc Cramer). However, the tomb has been desecrated. They also discover an old house where several people have been living. One of them, an archaeologist named Dr. Aubrecht (Jason Robards, Sr) tells him the locals raided the graves for artifacts years ago, while housekeeper Madame Kyra (Helen Thimig) believes it was the work of a volvolaka, an undead monster in Greek folklore.

One at a time, people begin to die, succumbing to sickness later identified by Pherides’ doctor as a plague. He recommends they quarantine themselves on the island until the winds blow the virus clear. Kyra believes a volvolaka is responsible, personified by Thea (Ellen Drew). Initially dismissive of such superstition, Pherides demands everyone to remain on the island and for the dead to be swiftly buried, going as far as to destroy the only boat to insure no one spreads the plague to his troops on the other shore. Later, however, he also begins to believe Thea is indeed responsible for the deaths.

"We charge by the hour, soldier."
Despite the title and overall aesthetic, Isle of the Dead is not-so-much about the supernatural as it is a descent into madness, namely Pherides and Mary, the latter driven insane after mistakenly being buried alive. Deliberately paced and featuring effectively understated performances, the film emphasizes atmosphere and slow-burning dread over simple shocks and scares.

Because of this, Isle of the Dead holds up pretty well for a 76 year old horror film, belying its age with a great Blu-ray transfer and, considering the ongoing pandemic, an underlying theme that’s surprisingly timely. Pherides may indeed be the film’s primary antagonist, but even though his pragmatic decisions for dealing with the plague don’t sit well with everyone, he is thinking beyond himself for the safety of others. That’s more than you can say about a lot of people right now.


AUDIO COMMENTARY - By film historian Steve Haberman, who’s written a few screenplays, as well.



March 27, 2021

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (Paramount Presents #16): Extreme Product Placement

1952 / 152 min


Review by Mr. Paws😸

It wouldn’t be fair to say The Greatest Show on Earth hasn’t aged well. The film has always been grandiose, flamboyant and just a little bit corny. One need only hear director Cecil B. DeMille’s voice-over narration to know that. He delivers it with the same adjective-laden histrionics he’d later apply in The Ten Commandments, like the fate of humankind depends on a trainload of circus performers.

And yeah, it’s a crime against humanity that it won the Oscar for Best Picture over the likes of High Noon and The Quiet Man. But really, the Academy has made bigger blunders before and since. Besides, DeMille never operated under the pretense of creating high art. He was a master showman, his films crafted more through audacity than artistic vision. In another life, he would have been right-at-home as ringmaster in the very circus depicted in The Greatest Show on Earth

Like such similarly-spectacular soap operas as Airport and Grand Prix, the film is shamelessly manipulative fun, with vivid imagery, colorful characters and the kind of melodrama one almost hates to admit they find engaging. Seeing it for the first time since I was a kid was an interesting experience. It’s still entertaining and the climactic train crash remains one of the greatest action sequences DeMille ever created, but I also had a few new takeaways.

"Not to worry, Brad...we all float down here."
First, The Greatest Show on Earth might be one of the earliest examples of extreme product placement, a two-and-a-half hour advertisement of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Obviously produced with the company’s complete cooperation, there are several lengthy sequences where the story and main characters are shoved aside for clown cars, parades and animal tricks culled from the actual circus itself. Second, trapeze artist Holly - torn between manager Brad Braden (Charlton Heston) and The Great Sebastian (Cornel Wilde) - might be one of the most insufferable leading ladies in a film of this scope and Betty Hutton overacts wildly in the role. Personally, I think co-star Gloria Grahame would have made a more engaging love interest. Finally, the most intriguing character, Buttons the Clown, also has the least amount of screen time. As played by Jimmy Stewart (who never removes his make-up), Buttons is likable and empathetic, yet hides a dark past that we learn little about until the end. His story alone would have made a great film.

Oscar wins notwithstanding, The Greatest Show on Earth has never been mistaken for a masterpiece, but it’s pure DeMille and still a lot of fun. That it was also the biggest film of 1952 (by a wide margin) makes it an obvious choice for inclusion in the Paramount Presents series. Available on Blu-ray for the first time, there ain’t much bonus material, but the film has been beautifully restored and the packaging - featuring both minimalist and vintage artwork - is my favorite of the series so far.


“FILMMAKER FOCUS” - Short appreciation by critic/historian Leonard Maltin.




Movie Night with Dave & Stinky: A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1958)

March 26, 2021

WONDER WOMAN 1984 and a Nagging Question

WONDER WOMAN 1984 (Blu-ray Review)
2020 / 151 min


Review by Stinky the Destroyer😽


Man, do I feel old.

Perusing the bonus material included with this disc, one interview featured costume designer Lindy Hemming, who discusses creating the ‘80s fashions worn by the film’s characters. It was a sobering moment because I clearly remember buying some of that same stuff right off the rack (including a Members Only jacket).

The production design reflects the same meticulous attention to period detail, especially an early scene when Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) makes her grand entrance, thwarting a jewelry store robbery in a shopping mall. In the background is Waldenbooks, one of my old haunts that was a staple of every mall in America, but long-since bankrupt.

If nothing else, Wonder Woman 1984 completely immerses itself in the decade...the clothing, the cars, the hair, the technology and even cultural attitudes, to a certain extent. What’s particularly interesting is how the audience will undoubtedly view this era with amusement or nostalgia, while back-from-the-dead Steve Rogers (Chris Pine) is awestruck. His reactions to this futuristic wonderland provide some of the film’s most charmingly funny moments.

But I am left with one nagging question: Why exactly does the film take place in 1984? Amusing aesthetics aside, the setting really has nothing to do with the actual story, which has desperate, debt-strapped entrepreneur Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) seeking a recently-unearthed amulet that grants a single wish to the person who holds it. It’s powers are previously made apparent when meek, awkward geologist Barbara Minerva wishes to be like Diana Prince, while Diana’s own personal wish is made obvious by the fact Chris Pine is in the cast. However, in true Monkey’s Paw fashion, these wishes come at great personal cost. 

Gal cosplays as C-3PO.
Max’s wish is to actually possess the amulet’s power, granting people’s wishes in exchange for what they value most. He attains unbelievable wealth and power within days, but the wishes he grants begin to have global consequences. The premise itself is pretty interesting, especially as society begins to crumble and Barbara evolves into the archvillain, Cheetah. However, the story takes a long time to get there, and after the aforementioned mall sequence, it’s well-over an hour before we see Diana as Wonder Woman again. 

But it’s obvious director/co-writer Patty Jenkins isn’t interested in remaking the first film, which is admirable. For the most part, Wonder Woman 1984 is completely different in tone, pace and characterization from the original (or any other DC movie, for that matter). The story poignantly deals with loneliness and loss through both its protagonists and antagonists, meaning the latter aren’t entirely villainous. Diana herself comes across as more human and vulnerable than she did in the first film, which Gadot portrays effectively (though it's Pascal who threatens to steal the entire movie).

Even so, while Wonder Woman 1984 is still enjoyable, I can see why it polarized critics and alienated some fans, especially with the bloated running time. I also suspect the film’s thinly-disguised depiction of President Reagan as something of a war monger will offend those who continue to deify the man. Now that I think about it, perhaps that’s part of the reason it does take place in 1984. 


“EXPANDING THE WONDER” - A pretty comprehensive behind-the-scenes doc (and where I was reminded how old I really am).

FEATURETTES - “Meet the Amazons” (round table interview); “Scene Studies” (a look at two of the major action sequences); “Gal & Kristen: Friends Forever”; “Small but Mighty” (behind the scenes of the extended prologue, featuring Lilly Aspell as young Diana).



“BLACK GOLD INFOMERCIAL” - The fake Max Lorenzano ad in its entirety.

“WONDER WOMAN 1984 RETRO REMIX” - An opening credits sequence made to look like the old Wonder Woman TV show, complete with the original theme song.




March 25, 2021


1997 / 130 min


Review by Fluffy the Fearless🙀

Perdita Durango is for anyone who thinks Oliver Stone displayed too much restraint with Natural Born Killers.

The titular character (Rosie Perez) is on her way to Mexico with her sister’s ashes when she meets Romeo Dolorosa (Javier Bardem), who is carting around a body of his own. In addition to robbing banks and dealing drugs, Romeo has a side gig posing as a Santeria priest and duping Mexican locals out of their money by performing cannibalistic sacrificial rituals (hence the corpse in his backseat). 

When Las Vegas gangster Santos (Don Stroud) offers Romeo a job transporting a semi-truck of human fetuses for the purpose of turning them into cosmetics, he enthusiastically accepts. Before that, however, Perdita talks him into kidnapping and killing a random American stranger. They snatch two yuppies - Dwayne (Harley Cross) and girlfriend Estelle (Aimee Graham) - raping both on the way to the next “ritual” (though neither kid appears to hate the experience). They decide to sacrifice Estelle while Dwayne watches, but are interrupted by the arrival of thugs who work for the mobster Romeo owes money to.

Obsessed DEA Agent Willie Dumas (James Gandolfini) is on their trail, forced to rely on the help of a bumbling local sheriff and his even dumber deputy. Dumas (dumbass?) also keeps getting the shit beat out of him, by cars and a hired killer (one of the film’s more amusing running gags). Meanwhile, Dwane and Estelle are (sort-of) forced by Romeo to come with them to Vegas, but because of a fuck-up while taking the truck carrying the fetuses - exacerbated by Dumas - Santos now wants Romeo dead.

That’s the simple plot summary for a film loaded with bloody action, shoot-outs, drug use, decadence, violent sex and all sorts of depravity, a majority of it instigated by the protagonists. Unhinged and apathetic toward everyone but each other, Perdita and Romeo are a vicious couple who make Mickey & Mallory look like Frog and the Bandit. Having just reviewed director Álex de la Iglesia’s previous film, The Day of the Beast, I had some idea what to expect: an outrageous plot, pitch-black humor and moments which push the envelope of good taste. 

Romeo has a word with his barber.
But what separates Perdita Durango from pure exploitation - or Natural Born Killers, for that matter - is Iglesia’s visual style, narrative skill and emphasis on his characters. We don’t necessarily like Perdita and Romeo or approve of their actions, but they are an interesting people, and not solely because of their violent dispositions. Each has subtle nuances that - however briefly - might occasionally earn our empathy. And there’s certainly no questioning Perez and Bardem’s dedication, delivering uninhibited performances while still maintaining a small bit of humanity. Considering his eventual international stardom, seeing Bardem chew-up the scenery in a role like this is especially fascinating.

The whole thing is deliberately over the top and, like The Day of the Beast, very-well executed and fast moving. However, Iglesia’s attempts to mine humor from the horrific aren’t quite as successful, which tends to render some of the brutality a little tougher to endure. But while Perdita Durango isn’t always a barrel of laughs, it’s seldom boring (even at 130 minutes) and comes to a terrific conclusion that cleverly interpolates the classic western, Vera Cruz, which was a pivotal moment in Romeo’s childhood. You generally don’t get that kind of poetic symmetry in a sleazy action picture.

Perdita Durango was severely edited and retitled Dance with the Devil for its initial 1997 U.S. release. Believe it or not, this 4K/Blu-ray from Severin Films marks the first time the original cut has ever been available on this side of the pond, so it’s probably a must-own for longtime fans of the director. The film has been nicely restored and comes with some great bonus features, the best being interviews with Iglesias and the story’s original author, Barry Gifford.

EXTRA KIBBLES (Blu-ray only)

“ON THE BORDER” - 30-minute interview with director/co-writer Álex de la Iglesia.

“WRITING PERDITA DURANGO” - Interview with co-screenwriter (and original author) Barry Gifford, who explains why he felt compelled to give a minor character from Wild at Heart a story of her own.

“CANCIONES DE AMOR MALDITO: THE MUSIC OF PERDITA DURANGO” - Interview with composer Simon Boswell.

“DANCING WITH THE DEVIL” - Filmmaker and Iglesias fan Rebekeh Mckendry discusses the movie.

“SHOOTING PERDITA DURANGO” - Interview with cinematographer Flavio Labiano.

“NARCOSATANICOS: PERDITA DURANGO AND THE MATAMOROS CULT” - For better or worse, some of the movie is inspired by real shit.