June 11, 2021

GODZILLA VS. KONG is Colossal and Cathartic

GODZILLA VS. KONG (Blu-ray Review)
2020 2021 / 113 min

FROM WARNER BROS

Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

#InPartnershipwithWB

With hindsight, I’m ultimately grateful that the release of Godzilla vs. Kong was delayed by COVID. In my neck of the woods, quarantines shut down damn near everything for over a year. Not only that, my chosen profession dictated that I worked from home. Countless days of Zoom meetings, isolation and doom-laden TV news tended to make one miserably-long day blur into the next. 

What I missed most-of-all was going to the movies, so when restrictions began to loosen and my local independent theater reopened to limited capacity, it was like the clouds had parted. The first film they showed was Godzilla vs. Kong, and what better way to celebrate surviving the darkest year in recent history than taking-in a high-concept spectacle with no other agenda than pure entertainment? Watching these iconic movie monsters square-off on the big screen was a not-only a ton of fun, it was downright cathartic. I don’t know if I’d have felt the same way had it been released as-scheduled back in 2020.


With previous films in Warner Bros’ “MonsterVerse” laying the groundwork - and it certainly helps if you’ve seen them - Godzilla vs. Kong more-than-delivers on the promise of its title. Additionally, it is arguably the most uninhibited film of the franchise, perhaps a reaction to the drab reception of Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Where that film was overlong and took itself a tad too seriously, this one runs a lean, mean 113 minutes and essentially throws caution to the wind, unburdened by the boundaries of plausibility or geographical science (as the middle-act discovery of Hollow Earth demonstrates). And if nothing else, you gotta admire the audacity to resurrect Mechagodzilla, one of the big lizard’s more outlandish adversaries from the Toho era. 


"That was uncalled for, Kong. I didn't deserve that."
There’s a human cast, of course, but like the other installments (save for maybe Skull Island), they are perfunctory, mostly on-hand to provide exposition and context. Besides, it’s highly doubtful anyone pays their two-bits to take-in Millie Bobby Brown’s thespian skills. What matters are the titular titans, who show up early and often, both separately and for two thrilling, massively destructive clashes...and this is before Mechagodzilla even shows up to put their issues with each other in perspective. The special effects are top-notch, which includes instilling Godzilla and Kong with enough personality to render both equally endearing. The narrative even provides a plausible explanation for why they’re now the same size.

We walked out of the theater with big dumb grins on our faces (and our ears ringing just a bit). Godzilla vs. Kong was no out-of-body experience, but certainly the perfect film for the moment, pure escapism at a time most of us need it most. 


Though its epic grandeur is somewhat diminished on television, Godzilla vs. Kong is still pretty damned entertaining and looks great on Blu-ray, allowing one to really appreciate the painstaking effort put into monsters’ expressions and the creative production design - especially the neon splendor of Hong Kong and its subsequent destruction. Like the best heavy metal music, this is the kind of film that’s meant to be played loud and the impressive Dolby Atmos track serves it well. Just ask my neighbors.


EXTRA KIBBLES

“THE GOD” FEATURETTES - “Godzilla Attacks” (interviews with cast & crew); “The Phenomenon of Gojira” (filmmakers and cast of all three Godzilla films discuss the monster’s history).

“THE KING” FEATURETTES - “Kong Leaves Home” (interviews with cast & crew); “Kong Discovers Hollow Earth” & “Beehold Kong’s Temple” (a look at two of the film’s more impressive settings); “The Evolution of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World” (filmmakers and cast of both Kong films discuss the monster’s history).

“THE RISE OF MECHAGODZILLA” - The history and re-imagining of the classic Godzilla nemesis.

“THE BATTLES” - The film’s three major action set-pieces are discussed.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Adam Wingard.

DIGITAL COPY

KITTY CONSENSUS:

MEE-OW! LIKE BEING TURNED LOOSE IN A BIRD SANCTUARY.

June 10, 2021

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON and the 'Possessive' Grandparents

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON (Blu-ray Review)
2020 / 97 min

FROM RLJE FILMS

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Anything for Jackson begins great. Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Henry (Julian Richings) are an elderly couple engaged in congenial, mundane banter one morning. Henry shuffles out the front door, then returns a few seconds later, dragging a screaming and kicking young woman into the house. Audrey helps subdue her with a few whacks to the head with a candlestick before Henry hauls her upstairs.

It’s a shockingly funny scene that has the viewer anticipating a black comedy. But while the film has some darkly amusing moments, it more-or-less plays its premise straight.


It turns out Audrey & Henry are grieving, having lost their daughter and grandson Jackson in a car accident. Though it’s apparently too late to do anything about the daughter, they throw themselves in-league with Satan in hopes of conjuring a demon that’ll allow Jackson to possess the body of another kid. They plan to use the unborn child of the woman they’re now keeping imprisoned in the attic, Becker (Konstantina Mantelos).


However, Audrey & Henry summon a lot more than they bargained for...malevolent demons with vicious mean streaks, resulting in the gruesome deaths of anyone who comes near the house (one poor rube who happily sticks his head into a woodchipper is a gory highlight). Obnoxious fellow satanist Ian (Josh Cruddas) contemptuously informs them they screwed up the ritual and offers to help complete it...for a price.


"Could you please stop saying 'the devil made me do it?'"
Though seldom as morbidly funny as the opening scene, the story puts kind-of an interesting spin on a familiar concept. Considering their kindly dispositions, Audrey & Henry are an unlikely pair of satanists, well-played by McCarthy & Richings (two character actors you’ve undoubtedly seen in countless other films). Some genuinely creepy moments - and a few well-timed jump scares - are interspersed here and there, including a particularly chilling sequence involving Audrey and a ghostly trick-or-treater. 

The final act is a bit of a letdown, partially because the climax succumbs to standard horror conventions, as if director Justin G. Dyck was too timid to confound audience expectations. Additionally, the reappearance of apparitions which spooked us earlier isn’t as effective the second time around. But until then, Anything for Jackson is a decent watch for horror fans.

KITTY CONSENSUS:

NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW.

THE POOP SCOOP: Mortals & Immortals

Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE on ‘Paramount Presents’ Blu-ray 8/10
Following 24 unique characters through 5 days in the country music capital, Robert Altman's Oscar winning epic presents a complexly textured portrayal (and critique) of America's obsession with celebrity and power. Among the various stars, aspirants, hangers-on, observers, and media folk are politically ambitious country icon and his fragile star protégée, a self-absorbed rock star who woos a lonely married gospel singer, a talentless waitress painfully humiliated at her first singing gig, a runaway wife with dreams of stardom, and a campaign guru who is trying to organize a concert rally for an unseen presidential candidate. An essential of 70s cinema, this newly remastered Blu-ray, from a 4K film scan of the original elements, looks better than ever. Includes new & vintage featurettes.

A PLACE IN THE SUN on ‘Paramount Presents’ Blu-ray 8/10
Widely considered one of the finest works of American cinema, Paramount Presents is proud to bring Producer/Director George Steven's masterwork to Blu-ray—remastered from a 4K film transfer in celebration of its 70th Anniversary. Montgomery Clift stars as George Eastman, determined to win a place in respectable society and the heart of a beautiful socialite (Elizabeth Taylor). Shelley Winters is the factory girl whose dark secret threatens Eastman's professional and romantic prospects. This second Paramount Pictures adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY, which was itself based on a notorious true crime tale, was the first film to win the Golden Globe in the category of Best Picture—Drama, before winning six Academy Awards, including Best Director. Also includes new & vintage featurettes.

MORTAL KOMBAT on 4K, Blu-ray & DVD 7/13
MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan), accustomed to taking a beating for money, is unaware of his heritage—or why Outworld's Sorcerer Shang Tsung (Chin Han) has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt him down. Fearing for his family's safety, Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) at the direction of Jax (Mehcad Brooks), a Special Forces Major who bears the same strange dragon marking Cole was born with. Soon, he finds himself at the temple of Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm, who grants sanctuary to those who bear the mark. Here, Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang) and rogue mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson), as he prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions against the enemies from Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe. But will Cole be pushed hard enough to unlock his arcana—the immense power from within his soul—in time to save not only his family, but to stop Outworld once and for all?

 

DEAD & BURIED on 4K ULTRA HD 7/20
Something very strange is happening in the quiet coastal village of Potters Bluff where tourists and transients are warmly welcomed, then brutally murdered. But even more shocking is when these slain strangers suddenly reappear as normal, friendly citizens around town. Now the local sheriff (James Farentino of The Final Countdown) and an eccentric mortician (Oscar winner Jack Albertson in his final feature film performance), must uncover the horrific secret of a community where some terrifying traditions are alive and well... and no one is ever really Dead & Buried. Blu-ray and soundtrack CD are also included, and the release will be available with three different covers.

June 9, 2021

COHERENCE: Surprises at Every Turn

COHERENCE (Blu-ray Review)
2014 / 88 min

FROM OSCILLOSCOPE LABORATORIES

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

Despite a (deceptively?) mundane start, Coherence shapes up into one of the more intriguing sci-fi mindbenders I’ve seen in a long time, yet I’d never heard of it until now. Where the hell has this movie been?

Digging up a little background information afterwards (which included checking-out the disc’s behind-the-scenes doc) makes it even more impressive. Coherence is the first - and so-far only - feature film by James Ward Brykit, best known for co-writing Rango and working on a few Pirates of the Caribbean flicks as a conceptual artist. Produced for roughly $50,000 with almost no crew, the dialogue is largely improvised by a solid cast, none who were given the complete plot picture. That means they’re often as surprised by turns-of-events as we are.


And rest assured, Coherence is loaded with surprises. The premise has 8 friends meeting for a dinner party while a strange comet passes near Earth. Things seem deceptively normal at first, the conversations fairly innocuous. Then cell phones start losing signals and literally breaking. Soon after, the power goes out everywhere, save for a house down the street. A few venture over to investigate, but long-story-short, the people in that house turn out to be themselves. 


When your whole team sucks at Pictionary.
This is where the story gets interesting, to say nothing of exponentially complex. Without going into specifics that would spoil the party, the comet seems to have opened some kind of rift between multiple parallel worlds. Not only that, their other “selves” have also been exploring the phenomenon, trying to figure out what’s happening. The narrative grows increasingly twist-laden as the group tries to work the problem, their trust in each other diminishing when it becomes obvious that not everybody in the room is exactly the same person they sat down to dinner with. Occasionally, not even the viewer is certain which group of friends we’re watching.

Yet at the same time, Coherence is seldom ambiguous or overly confusing. During moments it does choose to confound the viewer, the film ultimately follows-through with revelations that are not-only eye-opening, they make complete sense within the context of what’s already transpired. Swapping-out spectacle & special effects for convincing characters & intriguing ideas, this wonderful sci-fi obscurity deserves to find a wider audience.


EXTRA KIBBLES

FEATURETTE - “Behind the Scenes of Coherence

2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By writer-director James Ward Byrkit, writer-actor Alex Manugian, actor Emily Baldoni and actor Elixabeth Gracen; 2) By Byrkit, Manugian and Balboni (the second commentary is from 2014).

TEST FOOTAGE

TRAILER

KITTY CONSENSUS:

MEE-OW! LIKE TAUNTING A MOUSE TO DEATH.

June 7, 2021

Lionsgate to Sneak “THE HITMAN’S WIFE’S BODYGUARD” July 11 + 12


Sneaks of Hit Movie’s Sequel to be Held on June 11 and 12; Nationwide Release date June 16

In anticipation of the June 16, 2021 release of The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, global content leader Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B) is inviting moviegoers to get their freak on (in an action context) one week early, as the studio sneaks the film into theaters on Friday, June 11 and Saturday, June 12. Tickets are on sale now everywhere.

The sneaks come on the heels of a special, first-to-market promotion that marks the first time ever that moviegoers will be able to purchase early access screening tickets exclusively through Snapchat without leaving the app. Those tickets, which can be purchased through the Movie Tickets by Atom Snap Mini, are for Thursday, June 10 and are available now. Ticket sneaks on June 11 and 12 are available on all platforms.
 
Commenting on the announcement, David Spitz, Lionsgate’s president, Theatrical Distribution, said, “Audiences embraced the first film, and we know they’re excited to see these characters go at it again. Adding Salma Hayek to the mix in a hugely expanded role makes The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard even more fun and exciting. We’re thrilled to be sharing a sneak peek of the film one week early, before its wide release across the country.”
 
The world’s most lethal odd couple – bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) and hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) – are back on another life-threatening mission. Still unlicensed and under scrutiny, Bryce is forced into action by Darius’s even more volatile wife, the infamous international con artist Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek). As Bryce is driven over the edge by his two most dangerous protectees, the trio get in over their heads in a global plot and soon find that they are all that stand between Europe and a vengeful and powerful madman (Antonio Banderas). Joining in the fun and deadly mayhem is Morgan Freeman as…well, you’ll have to see. Directed by Patrick Hughes from a screenplay by Tom O’Connor and Phillip Murphy & Brandon Murphy and a story by Tom O’Connor, the film is produced by Matt O’Toole, Les Weldon, and Yariv Lerner. Lionsgate and Millennium Media present, a Millennium Media/Nu Boyana Film Studios production, in association with Campbell Grobman Films, and in association with Film i Vâst and Filmgate Films.

June 6, 2021

Rest in Peace, Clarence Williams III

THE GREAT WAR OF ARCHIMEDES: Never Judge a Book by It's Cover

THE GREAT WAR OF ARCHIMEDES (Blu-ray Review)
2019 / 130 min

FROM WELL GO USA

Review by Tiger the Terrible😽

When I was young, stupid and bitten by the “disaster” bug, I sought-out any movie or novel promising catastrophe on a massive scale. One time when perusing the shelves of B. Dalton Bookseller (anyone remember those?), I spotted a novel called The Benedict Arnold Connection. But the title wasn’t what grabbed me (I didn’t even know who Benedict Arnold was). It was the cover, depicting an impossibly huge tidal wave about to wipe-out a coastal city while thousands of people flee in panic. Oh, hell, yes! I snatched myself a copy without even reading the synopsis.

But it turned out the novel wasn’t really about a tidal wave. It was a spy thriller with the threat of a tidal wave. The book was okay, though sometimes too complex for my puny teenage brain and I was understandably disappointed the entire Eastern Seaboard didn’t perish. To coin a cliche, never judge a book by its cover.


Similarly, The Great War of Archimedes isn’t actually a war movie, which is too bad because we need more World War II flicks from a completely Japanese perspective. The awesome cover art depicts the Yamato - one of two massive destroyers specifically built to take-on the Americans - in the midst of battle. That scene occurs in the prologue, with the great ship being decimated by enemy aircraft before sinking. It’s a visually impressive sequence with convincing CGI, prompting the viewer to anticipate some epic scale action.


However, it is the film’s only action scene, which also happens to completely spoil the ending.


Kai adds another name to his shit list.
The actual story takes place 12 years earlier, with Admiral Nagano (Jun Kunimura) anticipating a war against the United States. Forward-thinking, he believes the Japanese fleet needs new aircraft carriers instead of obsolete destroyers. Conversely, Admiral Yamamoto (Hiroshi Tachi) proposes building the world’s biggest battleship (more out of national pride than strategic advantage). As both sides are bidding for funds, Yamamoto enlists young math prodigy Kai (Masaki Suda) to provide evidence that financing a giant battleship is not-only foolhardy, but will cost taxpayers a lot more than originally estimated.

A majority of the film consists of Kai’s meticulous research, where he manages to recreate blueprints on his own without being allowed to see those of the proposed supership. His freakish mathematical skills, checkered past and overall dislike for the military make him an interesting character, as are the obstacles he faces while racing against time to complete his findings before the budget approval meeting. However, by showing the Yamato going down in the very first scene, we already know Kai’s painstaking efforts are fruitless and the Navy chooses to fund the super-destroyer anyway, with tragic results. While I understand the desire to start your movie off with a bang, spoiling the ending in the first five minutes is a bone-headed narrative decision. Yamato’s demise should have been the climax, not the prologue.


Like that old paperback I was once duped into buying, The Great War of Archimedes isn’t a bad movie, just not the one suggested by the trailer, cover art and synopsis. The performances are decent and the story has an intriguing premise similar to The Imitation Game, though it’s just a damn shame we’re immediately made-aware it’s all for nothing.


EXTRA KIBBLES

JAPANESE & ENGLISH LANGUAGE VERSIONS

TRAILER

KITTY CONSENSUS:

NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW.

June 5, 2021

Picks of the Litter: TARANTINO MOVIES RANKED

Click on Vincent & OwlKitty to see "Pulp Fiction with a Cat."

A HIGHLY DEBATABLE LIST FROM THE STAFF OF FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE

We here at FKMG think Quentin Tarantino is one of our greatest living directors. Detractors can argue that he’s little more than the sum of his influences - and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong - but it’s what he does with those influences that make his work special. 

Having written & directed only ten films over 30 years (we consider Kill Bill 1 & 2 two separate films), he ain’t the most prolific guy on Earth. But while not every movie is a home run, he’s never cranked out any junk, either. What ultimately makes him great is he never appears to be resting on his laurels and coasting on auto-pilot. Even the “worst” film on this list has unique qualities which make it worthwhile.


The following list ranks only the theatrical films Tarantino directed. True Romance is great, but he only wrote the screenplay. I’ve also excluded any film in which he directed just a segment (Four Rooms, which sucked anyway) or was billed as a “guest director” (Sin City).


10. DEATH PROOF

It’s first hour is meandering and relentlessly talky, but the film is ultimately saved by Kurt Russell and a climactic car chase that’s arguably the best action sequence Tarantino ever directed.

9. KILL BILL, VOLUME 2

Whereas Volume 1 drew most of its influence from Asian action cinema, Volume 2 plays more like an homage to spaghetti westerns. There’s a lot to love here, but the final act is unnecessarily protracted.

8. THE HATEFUL EIGHT

The Hateful Eight is Tarantino’s longest film...and often feels like it. However, this epic western features another great cast, an effective score by the great Ennio Morricone (his last) and some surprising story twists.

7. KILL BILL, VOLUME 1

The director at his most playful. Outlandish and unapologetically gory, Volume 1 is certainly a lot of over-the-top fun and Thurman is a formidable ass-kicker, though style quashes anything resembling substance.

6. JACKIE BROWN

This might be Tarantino’s most under-appreciated film, anchored by affecting, charismatic performances from Pam Grier and Robert Forster.

5. RESERVOIR DOGS

Love it or hate it, you’d be hard-pressed to mention a more audacious & striking directorial debut. Though it owes more than a passing nod to The Killing, all the hallmarks we associate with Tarantino began here, especially the memorable, pop culture-referencing dialogue.

4. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

In some ways, Tarantino's love letter to the ‘60s is his most self-indulgent film. On the other hand, it’s also his most immersive, with stories-within-stories, compelling characters (even those with just a few minutes of screen-time) and an aesthetic that practically transports us back in time.

3. DJANGO UNCHAINED

Both a revisionist western and a revenge fantasy, the film makes no claims of historical accuracy. Instead, we take perverse vicarious pleasure in watching terrible people get exactly what’s coming to them. Jamie Foxx is good in the title role, but the film belongs to Christoph Waltz.


2. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

Aside from revising history, Inglourious Basterds features some of Tarantino’s best dialogue since Pulp Fiction, as well as a similarly episodic structure. There ain’t enough Brad Pitt as Aldo Ray, but at-least it introduces Christoph Waltz to the rest of the world. He mostly owns this movie, too.

1. PULP FICTION

Everything about Pulp Fiction is note-perfect. With reference-loaded dialogue, eclectic characters, career-saving performances, an intriguing non-linear structure and an absolutely killer soundtrack, the film not-only established Tarantino as a brilliant auteur, it practically invented an entire new subgenre.

June 2, 2021

FLASHBACK: A Pleasingly Perplexing Puzzle

FLASHBACK (Blu-ray Review)
2021 / 98 min

FROM LIONSGATE

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😸

Here’s a little brain bender that’s sort of like a big puzzle with a few ill-fitting pieces, but the finished picture is still pretty cool.

Fred Fitzell (Dylan O’Brien) is a failed artist and troubled twenty-something who lands a pretty decent office job, though he’s far less enthused than his wife, Karen (Hannah Gross). Concurrently, he frequently visits his ailing mother in the hospital, but she no longer recognizes him and doesn’t have long to live. But what’s really eating him are the sudden memories of Cindy (Maika Monroe), a girl he barely knew in high school. 


Through frequent flashbacks, we learn Fred, Cindy and a few buddies frequently got together to get high on a designer drug called Mercury. However, after one night when they ingested uncut doses, she disappeared, never to be seen again. Both the drug and Fred’s increasing flashbacks are central to the narrative. Mercury supposedly inhibits the part of the brain that forces a person to exist on a linear timeline. To hear Cindy explain it, being able to simultaneously occupy multiple moments in your life means you’re free to make different life-altering choices than the ones you already made....or will make...


...or something like that. Flashback wisely keeps it unclear if Fred is literally time hopping or simply losing his mind, obsessed with finding out what happened to Cindy that night. His increasingly erratic behavior affects his job and alienates his wife. Or does it? The narrative soon blurs the lines between past & present, real & hallucination, aided by cinematography and editing which makes the whole thing play like a fever-dream.


Fred deeply regrets tearing the tag off his mattress.
Flashback is one of those films which demands your total attention, and even then, we are frequently in the dark over its direction. All we know for sure is everything that transpires - past, present and maybe even the future - stems from what happened on one drug-addled night. Though the viewer is often as confused as Fred, his journey intrigues more than it frustrates. Writer-director Christopher McBride allows viewers to try and assemble most of the puzzle themselves, but hangs onto the last few pieces until the final act, resulting in a pretty satisfying payoff.

There are a few pieces left over which unnecessarily extend the finished picture, meaning the denouement goes on a little longer than it needs to. But for the most part, the film is enjoyably complex and visually arresting. Anchored by a great performance by O’Brien, Flashback is a conceptually ambitious puzzle that might even be worth putting together more than once.  


EXTRA KIBBLES

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By writer-director Christopher McBride

DELETED SCENES

TRAILER

KITTY CONSENSUS:

PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.