May 17, 2021
STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS Season 1 (DVD Review)
Review by Carl, the Couch Potato😸
Much more Star Trek do we really need? What can yet-another series bring to the canon that doesn’t feel like a re-hash?
Perhaps those are two questions the creators of Star Trek: Lower Decks asked themselves. If so, they’ve managed to respond quite amusingly.
First, the concept alone is a great idea. With Federation ships that big - and crews numbering in the hundreds - surely there was interesting stuff going on somewhere besides the bridge. The primary characters are lowly ensigns and new crew members stuck with menial daily operations of the U.S.S. Cerritos, itself just a secondary ship in the fleet that’s mostly assigned “second contact” missions.
Second, not only is Lower Decks animated, the show is primarily a comedy. However, it’s no parody. Despite often being very funny - especially as the season progresses - Lower Decks is still a part of the established Star Trek universe, taking place after Star Trek: The Next Generation and its subsequent movies. Not only that, episodes feature plotlines and missions that are certainly “Trek-worthy.” However, they usually take a back-seat to what’s going on away from the bridge.
|"Just had to save a few bucks on parking, didn't you?"|
Lower Decks doesn’t forget its past, either, with frequent references to characters, plots and terminology from other series. Not every episode knocks it out of the park, but for the most part, the show is enjoyably silly and often quite clever, especially when irreverently dropping familiar Trek tropes, which long-time fans will get a kick out of. I don’t know how long its premise can stay fresh, but these 10 episodes get the show off to a good start.
“LOWER DECKTIONARY” - 10 short featurettes - one per episode - about various aspects of the series’ creation.
“FACES OF THE FLEET” - A look at the main characters, featuring interviews with the cast, writers and producers.
“HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT” - The show is loaded with Easter Eggs, shout-outs to previous shows/movies. This short doc highlights many of them.
“CRISIS POINT: THE RISE OF VINDICTA TRAILER” - Faux trailer of the holodeck “movie” from episode 9.
FULL LENGTH ANIMATIC
May 16, 2021
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Blu-ray + Sticker Review)
Review by Tiger the Terrible😽
When it comes to collecting movies, I’m a sucker for bells and whistles, and not just upgrading to a remastered version or checking-out bonus features missing from my cruddy old DVD. I’m the guy who once nabbed a second Blu-ray copy of The Shining simply because the new one came with a Jack Torrance keychain.
And I’m pretty certain I’m not the only one who re-bought J.J. Abram’s Star Trek just to score the Enterprise replica the disc comes stored in (which looks bitchin’ in my display case). What can I say? Movie swag is cool, especially if it’s something beyond the Star Wars and Marvel stuff.
That being said, the first Mission: Impossible movie is now 25 years old, the brand name since-becoming more associated with Tom Cruise than Peter Graves. Regardless of how one feels about that - or Mr. Cruise - it was the start of a franchise that’s not-only ongoing, it arguably gets bigger and better with each new film. But even though a lot of folks were put-off by the fate of one of TV’s most iconic characters - including Graves himself - Mission: Impossible is conceptually more faithful to the original series than subsequent sequels, which more-or-less turned Ethan Hunt into an American James Bond (not that there’s anything wrong with that, either). It also happens to be the last good movie Brian De Palma ever directed.
|Tom Cruise and I are now brethren.|
Speaking of which, this 25th Anniversary Edition also features a new remaster of the film, which is a significant improvement over the first 2007 Blu-ray and every subsequent re-issue (of which there have been plenty). Other than the decal, however, no new bonus features are included. All supplemental material is carried over from the original release.
All of which means casual fans need not apply. This version of Mission: Impossible is for all the videophiles out there, as well as anyone who ever tapped their disposable income for a movie they already owned just because the new version came with a poster. You know who you are.
FEATURETTES (All of them are carried over from original 2007 Blu-ray) - “Mission: Remarkable - 40 Years of Creating the Impossible” (though it’s mostly about this film); “Mission: Explosive Exploits”; “Mission: Spies Among Us”; “Mission: Catching the Train”; “Mission: International Spy Museum”; “Mission: Agent Dossiers” (not actually a featurette, but an interactive expose of each IMF character in the film)
MISSION: MARKETING - Trailers & TV spots
GENERATION: CRUISE - MTV Generation Award presentation for Tom Cruise.
EXCELLENCE IN FILM: CRUISE - Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award presentation for Tom Cruise.
THE STICKER...which is already on my car.
May 15, 2021
MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (Blu-ray Review)
Review by Mr. Paws😸
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is one of those films with an idiot proof concept. Mining humor out of every homeowner’s greatest fears is sort-of like shooting fish in a barrel...simply turn every unexpected repair and expense into a worse-case scenario. Hell, the gags practically write themselves.
Which is why even the worst remakes or variations of the same theme - such as Are We There Yet? - manage to briefly resonate with anyone whose floor ever collapsed, or were slapped with $urprises by shady contractors who act as though everyone has a few thousand extra bucks tucked in their wallets. As someone whose furnace and water heater both crapped out less than a year after buying my own dream home, I can sure as hell relate.
But no film depicted a new homeowner’s plight quite like Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, partially because it one of the first, but mainly due to good old fashioned star power. Few actors had the unique comic timing of Cary Grant. As the titular character, his reactions to each new predicament are perfect. And even though he’s sometimes his own worst enemy - stubbornly determined to finish the house, regardless of the personal cost - Blandings remains someone we empathize with.
|"If this one isn't quite right, there's a place in Amityville I can show you."|
It’s how the characters respond & react that make Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House work, not the catastrophes themselves, which is ultimately what raises it above the remakes and ripoffs that followed over the years. Neither self-consciously clever nor swimming in slapstick, it remains one of those simple pleasures you enjoy with a perpetual smile on your face. And even seven decades later, Mr. Blandings is someone a lot of us homeowners can relate to.
LUX RADIO THEATER BROADCAST - From 1949, with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.
SCREEN DIRECTORS PLAYHOUSE BROADCAST - From 1950, with Grant and Betsy Drake. Runs about 30 minutes.
MGM ANIMATED SHORT - “The House of Tomorrow,” directed by Tex Avery.
May 14, 2021
SON (Blu-ray Review)
FROM RLJE FILMS
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😾
Almost from the get-go, we can kinda see where Son is heading.
The prologue has Laura (Andi Matichak) on-the-run and in labor, giving birth in her car after managing to lose her pursuers. She screams that she doesn’t want the child...at least until she finally sees him. If the moment brings-to-mind the final scene of Rosemary’s Baby, you aren’t alone. So even though she lovingly embraces the newborn, we already suspect there's something wrong with him.
Eight years later, her son, David (Luke David Blumm), appears to grow violently ill, shortly after their home is invaded by a creepy batch of folks who hover over him as he sleeps. He’s in constant pain and his skin is festering with open wounds. However, doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with him. This is also when we learn Laura once escaped from a cult, whom she believes are now coming for David.
But David’s pain and complexion are staved by eating other people, which Laura horrifyingly discovers after he chows down on a family friend. She ends up on the run from both the mysterious cult and Paul (Emile Hirsch), a sympathetic cop and obligatory love-interest. He wants to believe her story, but the trail of eviscerated bodies makes that increasingly difficult.
|Mom walks in at an awkward moment...David is scarred for life.|
Son is occasionally atmospheric and efficiently constructed, but treads awfully familiar ground. That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, especially in the horror genre. However, none of the characters are particularly interesting and the narrative lacks any real punch. Ultimately, it’s a movie destined to be forgotten shortly after watching.
CAST & CREW INTERVIEWS
May 13, 2021
SPACE JAM Arrives on 4K Ultra HD 6/6
GODZILLA VS. KONG on 4K, Blu-ray & DVD 6/15
H.P. Lovecraft's THE DEEP ONES on DVD & Digital 6/15
ANYTHING FOR JACKSON - Available on VOD, Digital, DVD & Blu-ray 6/15
May 12, 2021
MAN WITH A CAMERA: THE COMPLETE SERIES (DVD Review)
FROM MPI HOME VIDEO
Review by Carl, the Couch Potato😽
If you’ve ever spent an appreciable amount of time on this site, you may have noticed we generally don’t cover a lot of television shows. But when we do, it's usually for one of three reasons: 1) The show has certain cinematic qualities; 2) It draws inspiration from a particular film, or vice versa; 3) It features a Hollywood legend.
And hey, they don’t get much more legendary than Charles Bronson, who’s always made us purr. Though he previously appeared in a lot of supporting roles, Man with a Camera marked the first time he was the unequivocal star. Originally airing on ABC, the show came-and-went on ABC with little fanfare. If not for Bronson’s subsequent international stardom, it would earn little-more than a footnote in the annals of TV history.
To be honest, I was largely unaware the show even existed until recently, and maybe some of you Bronson fans are, too. As such, this two-disc set of the complete series is a fascinating curio.
|"We'll start with one of your best wines...something grape flavored."|
Speaking of fists, we’re so accustomed to Bronson as a stoic, stone-faced tough guy that it’s kinda surreal seeing him expressive and chatty. And the only shooting he does is with a camera. Still, he’s engaging enough to carry the show through most of its 29 episodes, which vary in consistency. Some episodes are suspenseful and intriguing, while others get dragged down by heavy-handed sermonizing. By the latter half of season two, they’ve pretty-much run out of interesting things for Kovac to do.
But while Man with a Camera isn’t what anyone would ever mistake for classic television, it did give Charles Bronson his first stab at being a leading man. That-alone gives it a certain level of historical importance.
May 11, 2021
DAY OF THE ANIMALS (Blu-ray Review)
FROM SEVERIN FILMS
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😸
Revisiting Day of the Animals decades later, I can’t help but wonder what kind of director William Girdler might have become if he wasn’t tragically killed less than a year after its release. He probably wasn’t destined to be the next Hitchcock, but getting better with every picture. Though laughably derivative, his biggest film, Grizzly, was well-made and entertaining...a far cry from his Three on a Meathook days.
Day of the Animals, Grizzly's sorta-spiritual sequel, may not be as much goofy & gory fun, but it’s more skillfully directed and doesn’t play like it was written by a photocopier. If not the next Hitchcock, I think being the next Wes Craven was certainly within Girdler’s grasp.
But even if you don’t agree, where else can you see a maniacal, shirtless Leslie Nielsen take-on a grizzly bear with his bare hands?
Similar to other nature-run-amok horror films of the era, Day of the Animals boasts an environmental message, with just a dash of old school nihilism thrown in for good measure. A hole in the ozone layer appears to be frying the brains of critters living above 5,000 feet (you know...closer to the sun and all), rendering them homicidal.
At the same time, tour guide Steven Buckney (Christopher George) leads a group of city folks on a two-week hike in the mountains, including fellow Girdler alumni Richard Jaeckel as a nebbish professor, George’s real-life wife Lynda Day as a vacationing reporter, Michael Ansara playing yet-another Indian, former starlet Ruth Roman, a young Andrew Stevens and none-other than Susan Blacklinie, most famous as the first victim in Jaws (and fittingly the first victim here).
|The Naked |
But the pièce de résistance is Leslie Nielsen as mean-spirited ad exec Paul Jenson, who’s continually locking horns with Buckney. Jensen is enjoyably unlikable from the get-go, but trust me, watching Nielsen take his character from zero-to-batshit in a single scene - the aforementioned bear battle - is something to behold. This was 1977, a few years before Airplane! made him synonymous with parody. But even with all his scenery chewing, Nielsen seems well-aware of the scene’s utter ridiculousness, which makes it the campy high-point of the entire film.
Elsewhere, Day of the Animals is slickly made, and with the exception of a goofy sequence featuring high-flying rats, the animal action is well-executed. Mountain lions, bears, wolves, snakes and buzzards all take their shots at picking-off the cast. However, unlike the fiery climax of Grizzly, the final act is kind-of a let-down, with a tacked-on resolution that suggests no one knew quite how to end it.
But like Grizzly, the story behind Day of the Animals is just as interesting as the film itself, especially the backstory & unknown fate of producer Edward L. Montoro, the subject of lengthy discussion in some of this disc's many new bonus features (along with a great archival making-of doc). Nicely remastered, this disc makes a nifty companion piece to Severin Films’ simultaneous release of Grizzly.
As for the late William Girdler...he’d go on to make just one more film - a bonkers debacle called The Manitou - before dying in a helicopter crash. Though not quite the endearing cult classic that Grizzly became, from a technical standpoint, Day of the Animals ended up being his most accomplished film.
“NIGHTMARE USA” AUTHOR STEPHEN THROWER - Whereas he discussed Girdler’s short career on the Grizzly release, this time Thrower focuses his attention on producer Edward L. Montoro, a pretty shady character who had a habit of screwing people over.
“NATURE BOY” - Interview with actor Bobby Porter.
“AGAINST NATURE” - Interview with actor Andrew Stevens, who certainly has no love for Montoro!
“LYNDA AND THE ANIMALS” - Very brief interview with actor Lynda Day George.
“MONTY COX UNLEASHED” - Interview with animal wrangler Cox.
“SOMETHING WAS OUT THERE: DAY OF THE ANIMALS 30 YEARS LATER” - Vintage making-of featurette. Pretty interesting.
2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By actors Lynda Day George & John Cedar; moderated by Scott Spiegel; 2) By author Lee Gambin.
ALTERNATE OPENING TITLE SEQUENCE - With the alternate title, Something is Out There.
TRAILER, RADIO & TV SPOTS
REVERSIBLE COVER - Includes the original poster art.