April 12, 2021
WILLY’S WONDERLAND (Blu-ray Review)
FROM SCREEN MEDIA
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😼
Willy’s Wonderland could be seen as the final chapter in what I’ll affectionately refer to as Nic Cage’s “Bonkers Trilogy,” the other two films being Mandy and Color Out of Space. Of course, a lot of movies he’s done over the past 10 years could be considered bonkers, if only because Mr. Cage appears unable to say no anymore (surely he’s paid off all those back-taxes by now).
But the premise is not what puts Willy’s Wonderland in the upper echelon of batshit b-movies. It’s Cage himself. Like a selfless soldier diving on a live grenade, it’s his gonzo performance that ultimately saves the film from mediocrity. Unlike, say, Bruce Willis, we’re never under the impression Cage is giving less than his all.
Blatantly capitalizing on the popularity of the Five Nights at Freddy's video game - itself a thinly-disguised riff on Chuck E. Cheese - the film features Cage as an unnamed motorist who’s stranded in a small town because he can’t afford to repair his car. However, the owner of Willy’s Wonderland, a family party place that’s been closed down for a few years, offers to pay for repairs if the man agrees to spend the night cleaning the place up so it can re-open. Meanwhile, angry teenager Liv Hawthorne (Emily Tosta) is hell-bent on burning the place down with the help of some friends.
Willy’s Wonderland has a dark past, of course, which is explained in (too much?) detail by various secondary characters. But the driver learns almost immediately that the place is evil when the animatronics come to life and start attacking him. Fueled by caffeine and badass fighting skills, he’s more than ready to take them on. In fact, part of what I find pretty damn funny is that he never appears even remotely shocked over his situation, as if machines turn homicidal every day of the week.
|Nicolas Cage takes the plunge.|
Some of the restaurant’s backstory is kind of interesting, though not entirely necessary. There are moments that tend to over-explain things, throwing-in serial killers, satanic pacts and the town’s dark past. It might have been more effective - and a little creepier - if no reason was given. Still, Willy’s Wonderland is worth checking-out for another bout of Nicolas Cage craziness, owning the entire movie without uttering a single word. It makes a fitting conclusion to his “Bonkers Trilogy,” though none of us really think it’s gonna end here, do we?
FEATURETTES - “Inside the Fun: The Making of Willy’s Wonderland”; “”Set Tour with Christian Del Grasso”; “Colorful Darkness and Demon-Atrons: The Production Design of Willy’s Wonderland”; “Fresh Meat (The Cast).
PRODUCTION DESIGN & POSTER GALLERIES
April 10, 2021
A CONSUMER REPORT BY D.M. ANDERSON💀
My wife knows how to get me out of the house on weekends. All she has to do is mention Starbucks and I’m pretty much out the door before realizing I forgot to throw on pants. But she’s a shifty one, that Francie. The prospect of a Grande Dark Roast is merely a carrot to distract me from her real agenda.
It usually isn’t until we’re in the car and past the point of no return when she ‘casually’ informs me that since we’re already out, she’d like to make a quick stop at Walgreens...and Craft Warehouse...and Maurices...and…
You get the idea. While it’s nice Francie still enjoys my company after all these years, she knows damn well I’d have stayed on the sofa in my pajamas had she revealed her true intentions. Such a bait & switch wouldn’t be necessary if she suggested hitting the record store and taking-in a movie.
So there we were at Walgreens last Saturday, Francie shopping for face soap, me passing the time by roaming the isles. I’m still not sure why she always feels the need to shop for face soap...it ain’t like picking out the right greeting card. Why the hell doesn’t she just grab the same soap she always does? I don’t necessarily have anything against Walgreens, but it was never the most intriguing store on Earth.
My local Walgreens has a small selection of toys in one isle, mostly trinkets you’d put in Christmas stockings or that last-minute birthday gift for the nephew you don’t give a shit about. But on this particular day, sharing shelf space with Rubik's Cubes and monster trucks was a John Wick doll.
Correction: John Wick action figure. Girls play with dolls. Boys play with action figures. So do some men.
More specifically, this doll action figure was a tie-in to John Wick Chapter 2, complete with two 9mm handguns and magazine clips. It even superficially resembled Keanu Reeves.
Since I collect movie-related knick-knacks and do-dads, the decision to buy it was a no-brainer. Ol’ Baba Yaga sort-of looked like he was suffocating behind that protective plastic, but no way was I gonna take him out of his package, especially after noticing he was recommended for Ages 8+. It was printed at the top of the box, right next to a choking hazard warning that added, Not for children under 3 years. I found that funny as hell, picturing a hyperactive little hellion pretending to gun-down sis's Barbie with his new John Wick doll.
I’m old enough to remember the controversy surrounding Rambo toys back in the 80s. Watchdog groups were up-in-arms over a violent R-rated movie inspiring a line of action figures & vehicles aimed at children. Similarly, Kenner toys unleashed an Alien action figure to tie-in with the classic 1979 film. Parents with no sense of humor were pissed about that, too.
But if you’ve ever seen John Wick, you’d know the copious amounts of bloody violence in those films make Alien and Rambo look like Tom & Jerry cartoons. Not only are there more gunshots to the head than an Italian zombie film, Wick himself is a criminal, a former assassin for the mob. Sure, he’s trying like hell to put the old life behind him, but the fact remains that, over the course of three movies, he kills more people than the Black Plague. In other words, hours of fun for the little ones.
|"I can't breathe!"|
FUKUSHIMA 50 (Blu-ray Review)
From MPI MEDIA GROUP
Review by Tiger the Terrible😸
You’d think Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and, most recently, Fukushima would be all the evidence we need to quit fucking with the atom. Yet even today, over 400 nuclear plants worldwide keep plugging away, despite having rendered parts of Russia and Japan uninhabitable for years. Such is the folly of human arrogance.
That arrogance - coupled with considerable short sightedness - is one of the underlying themes of Fukushima 50, based on the true story of attempts to stave off a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following a massive earthquake and tsunami. The disaster knocks out all power, which means superintendent Masao Yoshida (Ken Wantanabe) and his crew are forced to try and manually cool the fuel rods to keep the reactors from exploding.
Despite selfless efforts by his dedicated staff - which includes volunteers forming ‘suicide squads’ and entering contaminated units to open release valves - Yoshida is often hampered by the impatience and ineptitude of clueless government officials, who are watching the crisis unfold from a safe distance (and giving some pretty reckless orders). Meanwhile, nearby towns are being evacuated before the inevitable.
|Ken belts out a showtune.|
Most of us probably remember the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, but I doubt many were aware of how close the country came to being an radioactive wasteland. Fukushima 50 tells that story pretty well, mostly in layman’s terms so we can grasp what the hell’s going on. Though not as shocking or incendiary as Chernobyl, the film offers another strong argument that maybe we’d be better off sticking up more windmills.
April 9, 2021
April 8, 2021
Reported by Mr. Biscuits🐈
My local Big Lots store sucks. It used to be a pretty cool place because they carried plenty of my favorite impulse buys: scented candles and budget-priced Blu-rays. But now practically half the store is housewares, the other half is seasonal stuff like yard accessories and holiday decorations. It seems like they start hauling out Christmas trees, string lights and inflatable snowmen earlier every year. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas as much as the next guy, but can at-least we get the fucking 4th of July out of the way?
The store near my house doesn’t carry many movies anymore. It used to be that I’d always find something that - even if not quite classic - was at-least worth throwing in the cart with the solar-lighted bird-bath my wife just had to own. What few flicks they carry right now is the same shit that’s been sitting there for over a month, almost as if they’re saying, “Sure, Dave, we’ll restock the shelf...after you buy some of these Steven Seagal flicks no one wants. If nothing else, they make great coasters.”
Yeah? Well, fuck you, Big Lots. I ain’t falling for your trickery. No Steven Seagal movie is worth three bucks and I already made a nice set of coasters from my Zack Snyder collection.
The Ruins ($3.00), a nasty little horror gem no one really talks about. On paper, the premise sounds utterly stupid: Four vacationing college kids who wander into the South American jungle and run-across ravenous, invasive killer plants. But it’s suspenseful, smartly-written and features above-average performances for a horror film. After a relatively dull first act, things get really bleak and disturbing, with some scenes of body-horror - and outstanding gore effects - that are absolutely butt-puckering. Great stuff!
The same stop yielded Patriot Games & Clear and Present Danger ($5.00 each), the second and third films in the Jack Ryan series when Harrison Ford took over the role. Neither film holds a candle to The Hunt for Red October and Alec Baldwin was a more convincing Jack Ryan...so was Ben Affleck, for that matter. That ain’t a knock on Ford, either. A few pooches like Cowboys vs. Aliens notwithstanding, I’ve always enjoyed his movies and these are no exception. But when it comes to action, Ford pretty-much always plays the same guy...an earnest, determined, righteous hero who always looks like a man without a plan. While there’s nothing wrong with that, what made Jack Ryan endearing in Red October and The Sum of All Fears was that he never felt comfortable as a man of action. Here, Ryan always seems ready to kick-ass. Of these two films, Clear and Present Danger is the better one because at-least the story shares some of Red October’s complexities. Lights Out ($3.99). Some of you might recall this one, adapted from a scary-as-fuck one-minute short that went viral a few years back and opened doors for its director, David F. Sandberg. For his feature debut, he takes the same concept and pads it out to 80 minutes. Like adding water to Jack Daniels, the horror is diluted, but Sandberg displays enough visual flair to justify why he was later tapped to direct Annabelle: Creation and Shazam!
April 7, 2021
MINARI arrives on DVD and Blu-ray 5/18
SAW arrives on 4K for the first time on 5/11
THE VIRTUOSO in Theaters/VOD 4/30 and on Blu-ray/DVD 5/4
KING KONG (1976) on Blu-ray 5/18
MOMMIE DEAREST 40th Anniversary Blu-ray Coming 6/1
April 6, 2021
SKYFIRE (Blu-ray Review)
FROM SCREEN MEDIA
Review by Tiger the Terrible😸
Skyfire is an old school disaster movie, which we don’t get enough of these days.
I grew up on these things...the big crisis, the subplots, the melodrama, the spectacle. Movies like Earthquake and The Towering Inferno were a big part of my childhood. But all good things come to an end and the genre’s popularity waned by the late ‘70s, descending into self-parody long before Airplane! drove the final nail in the coffin. Or so it seemed.
The genre was never rendered completely extinct. There was a brief resurgence in the ‘90s and many FX-driven action epics like the Die Hard franchise were still disaster movies at heart. Other films operated under the guise of true stories (Deepwater Horizon), survival dramas (The Grey) or science-fiction (The Wandering Earth). Still-others strived for a level of realism that Irwin Allen couldn't be bothered with, such as The Wave or Greenland.
But like the brilliantly-bonkers Dwayne Johnson vehicle, San Andreas, Skyfire has no pretense of what it really is: A big, ballsy throwback to disaster epics of yesteryear and presented without an ounce of cynicism. It’s confident enough to take its wild premise more-or-less seriously, yet still aware the audience likely won’t. As such, the film is chock-full of tropes it would be criminal not to include:
- The scientist everyone ignores. In this case, it’s brilliant young geologist Li Xiao Meng (Hannah Quinlivan) who fears an island’s dormant volcano is about to wake up...violently.
- The wealthy, arrogant businessman who poo-poos her ominous warnings because it will cost him millions. That guy is Jack Harris (the always reliable Jason Isaacs), who had the audacity to build a gajillion-dollar resort on the same island, complete with a monorail that takes tourists right to the volcano’s summit.
- The tragic prologue that explains the estrangement between our protagonist and her father (Wang Xuegi), as well as her obsession with trying to predict eruptions.
- The young couple in love, who get romantic at the worst possible moment.
- The child in peril. But to Skyfire’s credit, at least that kid isn’t so obnoxiously cloying that we’d rather see her broiled alive.
- The scientist’s nerdy colleague, who provides play-by-play during the eruption.
- Many, many escapes and near misses as a handful of survivors dodge one crisis after another in an SUV, which has the durability of a tank and can jump rivers of lava while in reverse.
- A near-total disregard for plausibility, as demonstrated when the same SUV hangs perilously off a cliff just long enough for everyone to escape. Considering all the truck has been through up to that point, its demise is a sad moment.
- Despite 90 minutes of death and fiery destruction, a saccharine, heartwarming coda.
|"You guys hear something?"|
And like the best disaster movies of the ‘70s, Skyfire boasts engaging characters, no matter how broadly drawn they might be. We care what happens to most of them - even the greedy businessman - which renders the action sequences far more suspenseful than if they were just volcano fodder. Though the film is Chinese, it is directed by Simon West, who’s probably best-known for Con-Air (which also has the heart of a disaster movie). While he’s helmed a lot of garbage in the interim, here he shows he hasn’t quite lost his flair for large-scale, over-the-top action.
Since disaster has been my favorite genre since the glory days of the 1970s, my appraisal might be considered overly generous. I imagine there are plenty of hopelessly cynical viewers who’ll scoff at the inherently-goofy premise and wild implausibilities. But for old school fans who feel those same qualities are part of what makes the genre endearing, Skyfire is a blast.