September 30, 2021


“Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.

2021 / 71 min


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😼


This isn’t actually the first animated remake of Night of the Living Dead. It was previously done - badly - a few years ago, with cut-rate CGI and motion capture. Though the setting was updated and the story rewritten, the whole thing was a pointless gimmick.

One might initially think the same thing about Night of the Animated Dead, which not only retains the late ‘60s setting, the story actually utilizes George A. Romero & John Russo’s screenplay. Even key scenes are designed to resemble the original’s camera angles. However, this one plays more like a respectful homage than an attempt to trade in on a brand name, providing a unique opportunity to revisit the same story in a completely different medium.

The end result is a film that may not be entirely necessary, but is sort of interesting nonetheless. And just as Romero’s grassroots budget contributed to the original’s effectiveness, this film’s clunky cut-rate animation might ultimately work in its favor. As previous inferior remakes have demonstrated, Night of the Living Dead’s nihilistic story and claustrophobic setting was never conducive to slick production or aesthetic spit & polish.

"We've come for those meddling kids!"
However, the song doesn’t remain completely the same. Remember the part in the original when Ben discusses his first encounter with zombies at a diner? This time we’re shown that incident depicted as a flashback sequence. The rest of the film isn’t quite a scene-for-scene remake, either. With a much shorter running time - just 70 minutes, including the end credits - director Jason Axinn must have decided recreating every single scene was narratively redundant. Considering some viewers will undoubtedly be thinking the same thing about the entire film, perhaps trimming things up was a wise decision.

The other major difference is the level of violence, which is predictably more gruesome. Axinn’s previous film, the even-more economically-animated To Your Last Death, was voyeuristically gory. Similarly, Night of the Animated Dead is a splatterfest of spraying blood, exploding heads and torn-bodies. Purists may balk, but the variety of creative ways Axinn chooses to violate human anatomy is sometimes amusing.

And if nothing else, the novelty of a classic retold as a cartoon definitely ups the curiosity factor. As such, Night of the Animated Dead might actually be of more interest to those who already know the Romero film by heart. Some might approve, others will indeed find it pointless. Either way, drawing such conclusions makes for interesting viewing. 


FEATURETTE - “Making of: Animating the Dead”




September 29, 2021


JUNGLE CRUISE (Digital Review)
2021 / 127 min


Review by Stinky the Destroyer😸

For this writer, getting on board for Jungle Cruise was kind of a no-brainer.

First, who doesn't like Dwayne Johnson? He’ll likely never win an Oscar and nobody will ever suggest he possesses a ton of range, but he’s got loads of charisma and has an uncanny knack for choosing projects uniquely suited to his abilities. His filmography may not be loaded with classics, but unless you’re a cinema snob, there ain’t too many pure pooches, either. 

Second, Emily Blunt is engaging in nearly every role she plays, from high-minded art films to high-concept blockbusters. Additionally, she's pretty versatile, adept in just about any genre. I also happen to think she’s adorable.

But perhaps most significantly, Disney has always taken great care of its own intellectual properties, even if - in an effort to appeal to the widest swath possible - the results are sometimes staggeringly predictable. There’s nary a beat in Jungle Cruise that we don’t see coming, which is ultimately a major part of its appeal. Big stars in a family-friendly action movie based on one of Disneyland’s oldest, most endearing rides? Hey, it worked fabulously for the original Pirates of the Caribbean. There’s no reason the same formula wouldn’t work again.

Silent but deadly.

And it does work. Better yet, it delivers exactly what it promises. Some might remember the overall skepticism surrounding Pirates, only to be stunned by how great it was. The film didn’t cynically cash in on a brand name. Instead, our familiarity with the ride was simply a springboard for a witty, imaginative epic. Jungle Cruise charts the similar course, with charming allusions to the original attraction - mostly during the first act - while steering its way through a funny, action-filled story with fantasy elements (not unlike an Indiana Jones adventure). Furthermore, as opportunistic boat skipper Frank Wolff and adventurous botanist Lily Houghton, Johnson & Blunt make congenial foils with undeniable chemistry.

Who cares if we know what waits ‘round every bend in the river? 

So yeah, I was
totally on board for a voyage of cinematic comfort food. I do have one minor quip, though. Predictably, Jungle Cruise features plenty of action, mostly bolstered by impressive special effects. But one glaring exception is Proxima, Frank Wolf's pet leopard, which is atrociously animated. C’mon, this is the same studio that created photo-real critters for The Lion King...they couldn’t go that extra mile here? Still, that kitty’s kind of charming anyway.

Interestingly enough, while doing a bit of research for this review, I noticed the film was directed by Jaune Collet-Serra. Not exactly a household name, but with a pretty impressive resume, including The Shallows, Orphan and a slew of Liam Neeson action flicks. None of ‘em are classics, but the man knows his way around high-concept storytelling. With hindsight, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that Jungle Cruise turned out as good as it did. Here’s hoping he, Johnson & Blunt all sign-up for the sequel (which has already been announced), and that they deliver more of the same. 

I’d be on board for that.


September 28, 2021

THE POOP SCOOP: Klassic Kollections Edition

THE EVIL DEAD GROOVY COLLECTION on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital 11/16
Who knew evil can be so groovy? The original two Evil Dead films, as well as the three-season “Ash vs Evil Dead” series is coming home in The Evil Dead Groovy Collection, arriving November 16 on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital from Lionsgate. Horror fans, return to that iconic cabin in the woods, then travel decades beyond it, with this Evil Dead Groovy Collection. Wisecracking ladies’ man Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) is reborn as a slayer of Deadites in The Evil Dead (4K + Blu-ray™) after a vacation in the country is ruined by the reading of an ancient demon-summoning text. In Evil Dead II (4K + Blu-ray™), a chainsaw-armed Ash is pushed to the brink of madness by unhinged evil yet again, while “Ash vs Evil Dead” (Blu-ray™) follows an older, grayer Ash over three wild seasons as he reckons with his bloody past in the face of a Deadite plague. Includes The Evil Dead Bonus Content DVD, with over three hours of features revisiting the film’s cast, crew, and undying legacy.

MAD MAX ANTHOLOGY on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and Digital HD on 11/2
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment announced that The Mad Max Anthology, featuring 1979’s acclaimed post-apocalyptic action film Mad Max, 1981’s Mad Max The Road Warrior, 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and 2015’s Mad Max Fury Road will be released together on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital HD on November 2. Created by George Miller and Byron Kennedy, Miller directed or co-directed all four films. Mel Gibson starred as Max Rockatansky in the first three films and Tom Hardy took over the lead role in the fourth film.  Additionally Mad Max The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome will also be available individually in 4K, joining Mad Max and Mad Max Fury Road which are already available in 4K. The Mad Max Anthology 4K UHD release, along with the 4K UHD releases of Mad Max The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, are from scans of the original camera negatives. The 4K UHD remasters were supervised by the mastering team at Motion Picture Imaging (MPI).


AKIRA KUROSAWA’S RAN on 4K Ultra HD Steelbook exclusively at Best Buy 11/16
From legendary director Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, Seven Samurai) comes his sweeping action epic RAN. Ran arrives November 16th on 4K Ultra HD™ Steelbook from Lionsgate, exclusively at Best Buy. Akira Kurosawa’s RAN is a visually dazzling samurai epic that blends King Lear, 16th-century feudal Japan, and Kurosawa’s own notions of loyalty and honor to tell the story of aging Lord Hidetora, whose decision to bequeath his kingdom to his three sons sparks a power struggle that leads to chaos and madness. Hailed as a masterpiece by filmmakers and cinephiles alike, and winner of the 1985 Oscar® for Costume Design, Ran is a sumptuous 4K feast. Featuring all new artwork from artist Zi Xu, Ran will be available on 4K Ultra HD™ Steelbook at Best Buy for the suggested retail price of $27.99.


WONDER on Blu-ray Steelbook exclusively at Target 11/16
Starring Oscar® nominees Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, comes the re-release of the life-affirming family drama WONDER. Wonder arrives November 16th on Blu-Ray Steelbook from Lionsgate, exclusively at Target. Based on the beloved best-selling novel, Wonder follows the inspiring story of the Pullman family, whose youngest child, Auggie, is a boy born with facial differences. When Auggie enters mainstream elementary school for the first time, his extraordinary journey unites his family, his school, and his community, and proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out. Nominated for the 2017 Oscar® for Best Makeup & Hairstlying, and featuring all new artwork from artist Flore Maquin, this heartwarming and uplifting film will be available on Steelbook at Target.

September 27, 2021

A DAY OF JUDGMENT: Retribution on a Budget

A DAY OF JUDGMENT (Blu-ray Review)
1981  / 97 min


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

This obscure little oddity hails from the early ‘80s, just as the slasher movie craze was beginning to ramp up. But despite a tagline obviously created to evoke memories of Halloween, A Day of Judgment is a different animal. Regionally-produced and well made for what appears to be a very limited budget, it mostly plays like an unholy fusion of Southern Gothic, folk horror and the type of anthology films Amicus Productions was cranking out a decade earlier. 

Until the laughably heavy-handed denouement, the only real narrative difference between this and, say, 1972’s Tales from the Crypt, is that the stories of retribution happen concurrently, with comeuppance dealt by a hooded, scythe-wielding figure who rides into a rural village in the dead of night. Coincidentally, all hell breaks loose after the town’s only priest has had enough of everyone’s godless bullshit and leaves. Our favorite bit involves a nasty old lady who’s literally dragged to hell for poisoning a goat...a wonderfully creepy sequence.

When gophers go unchecked.
Elsewhere, the other stories and characters are nearly as interesting. Most performances border on amateurish, but the overall lack of thespian skill is offset by intriguing plotlines, solid direction and an unusual narrative structure that shouldn’t work as well as it does. Efficiently moving from one subplot to another and back again - repeatedly - until each has played itself out, we are constantly reminded that an ominous story arc looms large over everything, trying it all together at the climax.

Had the credits started to roll right then, we’d have a perfect ending. Instead, an unfortunate coda suggests the filmmakers have an moralistic - perhaps evangelical - agenda that belies the fun of watching these assorted assholes get what’s coming to them. Worse yet, this eye-rolling bout of sermonizing is presented with the subtlety of a mallet.

But that ain’t really a dealbreaker. Until then, A Day of Judgment serves-up economical-but-enjoyable slices of cryptic karma. In addition to a nice restoration, this disc also features a couple of interesting interviews with the producer and screenwriter, each discussing the film’s grassroots production history (as well as the screenwriter’s admitted agenda). After hearing their stories, one can’t help but admire what they were able to accomplish with such miniscule resources.


“THE ARTIST’S SINS” - Interview with author Stephen Thrower.

“TALES OF JUDGMENT" - Interviews with producer Worth Keeter and screenwriter Thom McIntyre.


September 26, 2021

A NIGHT AT THE OPERA Remains a Night Well Spent

A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (Blu-ray Review)
1935 / 91 min


Review by Mr. Paws😺

Whether or not it’s their best film is debatable - I’d personally throw my hat in for Duck Soup - but A Night at the Opera is certainly the Marx Brothers’ most iconic, with enduring cultural influence. Admit it...some of you grew up thinking it was simply the name of a Queen album.

Title notwithstanding, key scenes and classic lines of dialogue have been endlessly riffed, ripped-off and referenced over the years, to the point that if one were watching it for the first time today, they might feel a keen sense of deja vu. So if nothing else, A Night at the Opera deserves a spot on any self-respecting cinephile’s shelf for its historical importance alone. And it looks great on Blu-ray.

From a comedy standpoint, the film still holds up pretty well, especially the classic scenes of rapid-fire banter between Groucho and assorted co-stars. The undisputed master of wordplay, puns, sarcasm and double-speak, he’s in fine form, best exemplified during the famous ‘sanity clause’ scene with Chico. Until the manic climax at the opera house, the story - such as it is - relies a bit less on slapstick and visual gags than some previous Marx Brothers films, which is fine because I never found Harpo all that funny anyway.

"This isn't that kind of massage, sir."
The only thing that tends to drag things down are the musical interludes, particularly a lengthy scene obviously designed to show-off Chico and Harpo’s musical skills. Some might find it charming, but it goes on way too long and is inessential to the story. Elsewhere, co-stars Kitty Carlisle & Allan Jones get plenty of opportunities to belt-out some songs, but as usual, the all movie’s best bits belong to the bros.


“REMARKS ON MARX” - An entertaining look back at the Marx Brothers’ career.


SHORTS - “Los Angeles: Wonder City of the West”; “Sunday Night at the Trocadero”; “How to Sleep.”

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By critic/historian Leonard Maltin.



September 25, 2021

TWIST: Sir Michael Caine's House Renovations

TWIST (Blu-ray Review)
2021 / 92 min


Review by Stinky the Destroyer😾

Sure, Michael Caine is a cinematic icon today, nabbing a slew of awards and nominations over his decades-long career. And yeah, he’s been knighted in Great Britain, joining such luminaries as Anthony Hopkins, Patrick Stewart and Elton John. 

But I also remember the notorious “Paycheck Movies” era of his career, where he cashed-in on enormous audience goodwill by lending his good name to drivel like The Swarm, The Island, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure and Blame it on Rio, to name a few. And let’s not forget Jaws: The Revenge, after which he once cheekily remarked, “I have never seen the film. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”

That’s not to say Twist belongs with such legendarily bad company, but I am wondering if he’s planning on adding a few new rooms to his Jaws house. And despite top billing, Caine is not the actual star of the film. Nor is Lena Headey, the other notable name above the title. The real star is Raff Law, who looks and sounds uncannily like his father, Jude, but possesses a fraction of the onscreen charisma. As transient London graffiti artist Oliver Twist - yes, the film is a modern-day take on the Dickens story - he makes a pretty bland protagonist.

"We're not hiring."
But that’s not entirely Raff’s fault. Director/co-writer Derek Owen seems more concerned about making these characters hip than giving any of them distinctive personalities. The plot has a batch of devil-may-care young adults working under the tutelage of Fagin (Caine) to rob from the rich and give to...well, themselves. Taking Twist under his wing, Fagin plots to steal a painting from an unscrupulous art dealer, who himself is actually a thief. The narrative moves from point A to point B without ever being engaging, despite efforts to spice things up with a cool soundtrack, gymnastic camerawork and endless scenes of Twist leaping across rooftops. The climactic heist is busy and loud, but undone by implausibilities and ridiculous action sequences. 

Elsewhere, Headey is wasted in a thankless role as a psychotic partner who mostly exists in the story to sneer, scowl and threaten everybody. As for Caine...he shows up now and then, but is seldom part of the action and puts minimal effort into his own character, content to deliver his lines with adequate professionalism. He’s clearly not all that invested in the part and his indifference is contagious.

Twist is far from the worst film on Michael Caine’s resume - that well runs pretty damn deep - but with a half-assed story and drab characters, it’s seldom very involving. On the bright side, however, at least those house renovations should go off without a hitch.


FEATURETTE - “The Artful Dodger: Twist’s Underworld.”




September 22, 2021

CHERNOBYL 1986: A Taste of Vanilla

CHERNOBYL 1986 (Movie Review)
2021 / 136 min


Review by Tiger the Terrible😾

Comparisons between Chernobyl 1986 (aka Chernobyl: Abyss) and HBO’s landmark miniseries are inevitable. However, that’s like weighing a loaded hot fudge sundae against a vanilla cone.

Those who saw Chernobyl - the definitive depiction of the disaster and its aftermath - might recall the episode where several rescue workers volunteer for what’s essentially a suicide mission: To venture below the nuclear plant’s reactor and open the water valves before the exposed core hits it, which would render most of Russia radioactive.

Chernobyl 1986 is a fictionalized retelling of that mission, which in and of itself ain’t a bad idea for a feature film, especially since this one is actually a Russian production. A film about history’s worst nuclear disaster, told by those whose own backyard came within a hair’s breadth of becoming a wasteland? That’s an interesting prospect.

The movie, however, is dull, laborious and criminally overlong. The entire first act is focused on rescue worker Alexey (Danila Kozlovsky, who also directed) trying to rekindle a relationship with former girlfriend Olga (Oksana Akinshina), who gave birth to their son 10 years earlier. Alexey comes across as a self-absorbed douchebag and we’re given no reason to care whether or not Olga takes him back. Unfortunately, he’s the main protagonist. 

"Dammit, I told you not to deep-fry the turkey!"
Interest level briefly picks up when - finally! - disaster strikes. The initial Chernobyl explosion and the immediate response by Alexey’s team is gripping and intense. Afterwards, however, the narrative keeps dropping the ball by repeatedly returning to Alexey’s interactions with Olga. It also turns out his son is mostly just a plot device to goad Alexey into action. He and a team of marginally fleshed-out characters eventually venture below to try and release the water valves...more than once. 

Since the outcome of the operation is a foregone conclusion, one would naturally expect to become invested in who lives or dies. However, Alexey’s the only character given much background, meaning the rest are little more than fallout fodder. And unlike the miniseries, the film self-consciously steers clear of any incendiary particulars surrounding the disaster. So while the climactic operation is well-staged, it’s seldom very involving.

HBO managed to depict this chapter of the Chernobyl saga in a fraction of the time and never relied on manufactured melodrama to pad things out. Chernobyl 1986 tells a watered-down version of the same story, adding nothing new or revelatory  - not even interesting characters - which makes its existence is sort-of superfluous. And why settle for a simple vanilla cone when a scrumptious sundae is available?