November 30, 2021

CREEPSHOW: SEASON 2: Good News & Bad News

CREEPSHOW: SEASON 2 (Blu-ray Review)
2020 / 230 min

FROM RLJE FILMS 

Review by Carl, the Coach Potato🙀

First, the bad news...Season Two of Creepshow consists of only five episodes and nine stories. Not only that, this set contains fewer bonus features, something that added a substantial amount of fun to Season 1’s 3-disc set (especially the guide to all the Easter Eggs).

However, the good news outweighs the bad. Season 2 doesn’t have as many episodes, but overall, it’s more entertainingly consistent. Every story not-only retains the comic book tone and aesthetic of the original film, they’re well-conceived and - as usual - cryptically funny. Even the technical aspects are generally an improvement. 


If forced to choose, I’d say the stand-out episodes are “The Right Snuff,” about an astronaut’s self-centered obsession with escaping his legendary father’s shadow (with a great surprise ending), “Pesticide,” a surreal tale of an unscrupulous exterminator’s descent into madness, and “Night of the Living Late Show,” where an inventor creates a VR machine that places the users right in the middle of any movie they wish; in this case, it’s the classic, Horror Express.


"Forget it, Harlan...it's my turn to drive."
All the stories are entertaining, with plenty of Easter eggs spread throughout for sharp-eyed horror fans. There are also clever narrative homages to the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, The Evil Dead and the original Creepshow, as well as its two creators (Stephen King & George A. Romero). The icing on the cake are the two Creepshow specials which streamed on Shudder, but not as part of the regular series. The indisputable highlight of the Animated Special is “Survivor Type,” based on King's most gruesome short story, while the Christmas Special features “Shapeshifters Anonymous,” which is as funny as it is bonkers.

And of course, it wouldn’t be Creepshow without The Creep to introduce each tale. He’s creatively rendered in a variety of styles, from puppetry to traditional & CG animation. All told, it’s another great batch of episodes. I only wish they'd make the seasons longer.


EXTRA KIBBLES

CREEPSHOW ANIMATED SPECIAL - “Survivor Type” & “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead”

CREEPSHOW CHRISTMAS SPECIAL - “Shapeshifters Anonymous.”

WONDERCON@HOME INTERVIEW - With writer/director/exec-producer Greg Nictotero. Includes clips.

HOW IT WAS MADE: “NIGHT OF THE LIVING LATE SHOW” - How actors were composited into the film, Horror Express.

BEHIND THE SOUND - Bare Knuckles’ Chris Nicholson discusses re-mixing the sound effects & music.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES RAW FOOTAGE - Runs about 5 minutes.

4 PHOTO GALLERIES

REVERSIBLE COVER

November 29, 2021

THE POOP SCOOP: Classics & New Classics

DUNE on Digital 12/3 and 4K, Blu-ray & DVD 1/11/22
Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive. Embark on a mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey when Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ Dune arrives for Premium Digital Ownership at home on December 3. The critically acclaimed film was directed by two-time Academy Award nominee Denis Villeneuve from a screenplay he co-wrote with Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth, based on the seminal bestselling novel of the same name written by Frank Herbert. Dune stars Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson), Oscar Isaac (the “Star Wars” franchise), Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, David Dastmalchian, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa and Oscar winner Javier Bardem. The film will also be available on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD beginning on January 11.

Finally...the Cult Classic, ALLIGATOR, on 4K/Blu-ray 2/22/22 
From director Lewis Teague (Cujo) and screenwriter John Sayles (The Howling) comes an unstoppable thriller with bite. A family returning from Florida decides their pet baby alligator is too much to handle and flushes him down the toilet. Meanwhile, Slade Laboratories is conducting secret experiments with animals and disposing of them in the sewer. The alligator, fending for itself, begins to feed on the dead animals, and grows. Now, twelve years later, after several mysterious murders, David Madison (Robert Forster, Jackie Brown) is on the case to find out who ... or what ... is killing people. According to Scream Factory, 3-Disc Set will include a 4K Blu-ray and two Blu-rays. The 4K Blu-ray and first Blu-ray will both feature the original theatrical cut of the film and the additional Blu-ray disc will have the rare television version of the film with alternate scenes. A complete list of all special features and technical specs will be revealed as the street date approaches.

 

THE RED SHOES in 4K Coming 12/14
The Red Shoes, the singular fantasia from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is cinema's quintessential backstage drama, as well as one of the most glorious Technicolor feasts ever concocted for the screen. Moira Shearer is a rising star ballerina torn between an idealistic composer and a ruthless impresario intent on perfection. Featuring outstanding performances, blazingly beautiful cinematography by Jack Cardiff, Oscar-winning sets and music, and an unforgettable, hallucinatory central dance sequence, this beloved classic, dazzlingly restored, stands as an enthralling tribute to the life of the artist. FEATURES A 4K TRANSFER OF THE 2009 RESTORATION with uncompressed monaural soundtrack; DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION; 4K/BLU-RAY COMBO; numerous supplemental features. 

 

Dario Argento’s PHENOMENA (aka “Creepers”) on 4K Blu-ray 3/8/22
Synapse Films, in conjunction with Arrow Films, brings one of Italian filmmaker Dario Argento's most shocking and fantastic films to 4K Blu-ray in the U.S. in a two-disc Limited Edition boxed set, which includes 2 cuts of the film, double-sided poster, lobby card replicas and a collector’s booklet! Released in the U.S. as Creepers by New Line Cinema, 1985's Phenomena has long been one of Argento's most discussed and debated films by fans and scholars. The young Jennifer Corvino (played by Oscar-winner, Jennifer Connelly) is sent to a private Swiss academy for girls where a vicious killer is on the loose. Jennifer has the unique ability to telepathically communicate with insects and an entomologist, Dr. John McGregor (Donald Pleasence, John Carpenter's Halloween; Escape from New York), enlists her help in locating the murderer. As the mystery unfolds, they find themselves in a bizarre murder plot with maggots, mutants and razor-wielding chimpanzee mayhem! Can Jennifer uncover the killer's identity before becoming a victim herself?

November 28, 2021

ADVENTURES IN THE BUDGET BIN: The Wicked Old Time Thief


Report by MR. BISCUITS🐈

I frequent my local Dollar Tree enough to realize that shopping there requires a different approach than visiting other stores. I understand that there will never be anything on those shelves I actually need, nothing that’ll improve my quality of life and certainly nothing worth waiting in line for.

Which means whenever there’s only one open checkstand, gridlocked with a line of other shoppers impatiently waiting on an underpaid teenage clerk to give a shit about expedience, I usually decide the bag of ‘Onyums’ in my hand ain’t worth it. I do make exceptions when my local Dollar Tree chooses to stock movies, which is infrequently. Even when they do, it’s often crap I’ve never heard of, random episodes of old TV shows or made-for-TV cheapies starring Dean Cain. 


Last time, however, I caught them on a good day, finding Blu-rays of
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek Generations. And wasn’t that a copy of Black Hawk Down tucked behind a Lindsay Lohan shitfest? Hell, yeah! All four were worth the Blu-ray upgrade, especially for a grand total of four bucks. I celebrated my good fortune by grabbing the Onyums I put back last time (maybe even the same bag, since I’m pretty sure I’m the only one buying them).

The check-out line didn’t seem too bad, at least until the elderly woman in front of me - with a cache of doo-dads, knick-knacks and trinkets - started unloading her shopping cart. She must have had 30 items, but that wasn’t what brought the line to a screeching halt. What ultimately forced everyone behind her - most importantly, me - to spend more time at Dollar Tree than the Surgeon General recommends is the fact she insisted that each item be rung-up separately, along with individual receipts.


“These are Christmas gifts,” she explained to the stonefaced clerk. “I want people to be able to return or exchange them.”


What. The. Actual. Fuck.


Has anyone ever actually needed one of these?

I’m not passing judgment on the lady’s decision to do her Christmas shopping here. If I had a large family, most of my in-laws would certainly be treated to the best Dollar Tree had to offer (meaning Onyums for all). But come on...who the fuck ever takes the time & trouble to return something to a dollar store? It ain’t like taking a Saint Laurent cardigan back to Sak’s Fifth Avenue so you can afford a luxury suite at the next Super Bowl.

The lucky recipients of this lady’s Christmas spirit would literally spend more on gas driving to Dollar Tree than the trinket is worth. They’d be better off throwing it away, using it as a clay pigeon, or better yet, regifting it back to her next year (along with the same receipt).


But more importantly, she wasn’t just burdening her friends and family...she was forcing me, the other customers and the hapless clerk - undoubtedly questioning her life choices - to put all of our lives on hold. She even had the nerve to use this time as a social opportunity, striking up casual banter with the clerk, slowing her progress to a crawl. After what felt like an eternity, the manager opened another register, but everyone behind me jumped there before I could react. Crafty bastards. I figured I might as well stay put. After all, how much longer could this take? 


That rhetorical question was answered. The lady insisted on bagging everything herself, carefully inspecting each purchase before trying to Tetris them into two bags.


“I’m walking with these,” she offered matter-of-factly. “The fewer bags, the better.”


Oh, by the way, did I mention she was maskless? So not only was this woman oblivious to how her actions were affecting others, she was a COVIDidiot.


Like the clerk, I was now questioning my own life choices, wondering if the four movies and bag o’ Onyums in my hand were worth the eons this lady has so-far stolen from my life. After all, I did already have them on DVD. But dammit, I just knew Black Hawk Down would look awesome on Blu-ray.

Ultimately, my quandary was solved when the manager waved me over to his checkstand. He quickly rang-up my purchases and sent me on my way while this Wicked Old Time Thief was still bagging her shit.


Look, I get it...learning basic public etiquette takes a supreme amount of cognitive effort. I mean, who hasn’t turned the simple act of achieving the posted speed limit into a long-term project? And of course, the middle of a grocery store aisle is the perfect place to stop and yack on your phone. After all, it’s everyone else’s job to put their lives on hold for you to bask in the smell of your own farts. 


But hey, nobody needs gift receipts from Dollar Tree, especially 30 of ‘em. Your friends and family will resent you for it, as will the strangers in the store who’ll be howling for your blood.

November 26, 2021

HEAVEN CAN WAIT and REDS: Two of Beatty's Best


HEAVEN CAN WAIT and REDS - 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Blu-ray Review)
FROM PARAMOUNT

Review by Mr. Paws😸

As actors-turned-directors go, Warren Beatty hit the ground running with what’s arguably one of the best one-two punches in movie history. More impressively, the films couldn’t be more different. One is a “feel good” comedy that showcases his natural charisma, while the other is an ambitious, long-gestating labor of love. Not only were both nominated for multiple Oscars, they’re indisputable classics.

HEAVEN CAN WAIT 
1978 / 101 min

On Blu-ray for the first time, this whimsical remake of 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan features Beatty as Joe Pendleton, an NFL quarterback who’s taken to heaven prematurely and given a second chance at life. Unfortunately, his body’s been cremated, so head angel Mr. Jordan (James Mason) offers to put him into another - eccentric billionaire Leo Farnsworth - who’s just been poisoned by his conniving wife (Dyan Cannon) and his nebbish secretary (Charles Grodin). 


While undoing a lot of Farnsworth’s unscrupulous business practices, Joe still wants to play football. So he buys the team he once played for and coerces friend-trainer Max (Jack Warden) to help him get back in shape. Meanwhile, he falls in love with Betty Logan (Julie Christie), the activist he meets when she arrives in town to protest one of Farnsworth’s environmentally destructive projects.


"Do I rock this robe or what?"
One of the best comedies of the ‘70s, Beatty co-directs Heaven Can Wait with Buck Henry (who also plays his beleaguered guardian angel). He also co-wrote the film with Elaine May, tailoring the classic story to suit his inherent charm and laidback comedic style. But this was never just a vanity project. The entire cast shines here, especially Grodin, whose wonderfully droll persona is here in abundance. Punctuated by a great score, Heaven Can Wait is funny, bittersweet and constantly engaging. 

EXTRA KIBBLES

DIGITAL COPY


REDS - 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION 
1981 / 195 min

Beatty’s very next film was 1981’s Reds, a sprawling, epic and ultimately exhausting pet project he’d been trying to get off the ground for years. Both a biography and a love story, the film is about idealistic journalist John Reed (Beatty), who not-only witnesses the Russian Revolution of 1917, he achieves widespread notoriety writing a book about it (Ten Days That Shook the World). A longtime socialist, Reed embraces and radicalizes the ideals of Communist Labor Party, which doesn’t sit well with America’s capitalistic government.


However, the first half of the film chronicles his somewhat tumultuous relationship with Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton), a free spirited writer who leaves her hometown of Portland, not just to be with him, but to have her work taken more seriously. However, Reed and his cronies are often so wrapped up in their own ideals that she begins to resent being relatively unheard, which briefly drives her into the arms of Reed’s friend, playwright Eugene O'Neill (Jack Nicholson).


"Of course I'm serious. I'm wearing the button."
Tonally, both halves are quite different and a strong argument could be made that Reds might have been better off as two separate films (even though no one was really doing that at the time). Taking it all in at once is sort of a daunting task, especially since the second half - focusing on Reed’s experiences in Europe - is dramatically stronger. But despite running 3+ hours, it’s often fascinating. Once again writing and directing, Beatty gives the viewer an entertaining history lesson on a grand scale while delivering the best performance of his entire career. We may not pop this one into the Blu-ray player as often as, say, Bonnie & Clyde, but it’s certainly a film everyone should experience.

EXTRA KIBBLES

WITNESS TO REDS - Retrospective documentary, featuring numerous interviews with most of the cast and crew. Running over 70 total minutes, it’s divided into seven chapters: “The Rising,” “Comrades,” “Testimonials,” “The March,” “Revolution Part 1,” “Revolution Part 2” and “Propaganda.”

TRAILER

DIGITAL COPY


Considering the critical and/or social impact of both films, I’m sort of surprised they weren’t released as part of the Paramount Presents series. Perhaps that’s because there is no new supplementary material. Heaven Can Wait is a barebones release, while the bonus material for Reds is the same as the 25th Anniversary Edition. However, the latter has been restored and remastered. At any rate, both films are worth space on your shelf.

November 23, 2021

THE HILLS HAVE EYES: Crazy Cannibals in 4K

THE HILLS HAVE EYES (4K UHD Review)
1977 / 90 min

FROM ARROW VIDEO

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Looking back at Wes Craven’s early career, a couple of things immediately come to mind. First, he was kind of a sick puppy whose films went beyond mere horror escapism to rub audience noses in all sorts of human depravity. Second, unlike such contemporaries as Carpenter and Romero, he was still trying to figure out how to make movies.

I know Last House on the Left has its fans, but not only does it remain a joyless exercise in pure nihilism, it’s poorly written, amateurishly performed and haphazardly directed by a guy whose only noticeable skill was pointing the camera in the right direction. But hey, everyone has to start somewhere. Craven’s next film, The Hills Have Eyes, may not be what anyone would mistake for a masterpiece, but it’s obvious he learned a lot in the interim. 


Thematically, The Hills Have Eyes is similar to Last House in that both films depict their main characters' descent into savagery. Instead of revenge, however, this time it’s for pure survival. Taking an obvious cue from Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Craven also creates antagonists - a family of desert cannibals - that are far more interesting (and entertaining) than his protagonists. Yeah, the film still wallows in depravity, but it's tempered by healthy amounts of twisted humor, making some of the violence easier to take.


The scariest part of the movie? That outfit.
And unlike Last House, Craven manages moments of genuine tension and takes advantage of the film’s atmospheric desert setting. The result is a film that doesn’t quite transcend its low budget origins, but it’s his first that’s at least watchable. And though Craven’s best work was still years away, The Hills Have Eyes offers glimpses of what he would someday become. In that respect, the film is a historically important stepping stone.

For collectors, the only difference between this Limited Edition boxed set and Arrow’s 2016 release is the 4K Ultra HD disc. All of the bonus features and aesthetic goodies (outlined below) are identical. As for the 4K transfer, it’s not bad, particularly during the daylight scenes. However, the night sequences - roughly the middle third of the film - are often pretty dark and grainy. The 7.1 remix sounds great, though.


EXTRA KIBBLES

LOOKING BACK AT THE HILLS HAVE EYES - Retrospective doc featuring interview with director Wes Craven producer Peter Locke and most of the primary cast.

FAMILY BUSINESS - Interview with actor Martin Spear.

THE DESERT SESSIONS - Interview with composer Don Peake.

3 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By actors Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Sesan Lanier & Martin Spear; 2) By Mikel J. Koven; 3) By director WesCraven & producer Peter Locke.

ALTERNATE ENDING - The order of a few kills during the climax are switched, with a more cheerful final scene.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - On-screen text of the screenplay under its original title.

OUTTAKES

THREE TRAILERS

IMAGE GALLERY - Mostly promotional art.

SUPPLEMENTARY BOOKLET - Running 40 pages, it includes 2 essays, cast, crew & restoration credits.

TWO-SIDED POSTER - Featuring 2016 and original artwork. We prefer the original, since it is somewhat iconic.

6 LOBBY CARD & INTERNATIONAL POSTER REPLICAS

REVERSIBLE COVER - Featuring 2016 and original artwork.


November 22, 2021

RAGING FIRE is the Best Action Film of the Year

RAGING FIRE (Blu-ray Review)
2021 / 126 min

FROM WELL GO USA

Review by Tiger the Terrible😹

Raging Fire is Donnie Yen’s best movie in years. Maybe ever.

Besides the intensity of the action, the title could also apply to both its main protagonist, Inspector Bong (Yen), a dedicated, upstanding detective, and antagonist, Ngo (Nicholas Tse), who leads a gang of ruthless high-tech robbers. During a police raid to thwart a major drug deal, Ngo’s crew shows up, kills both parties in the exchange and makes-off with $40 million in crystal meth. They also kill several cops, including Bong’s longtime friend and mentor.

 

But Ngo is no ordinary criminal. He and his entire crew were once promising cops under Bong’s tutelage, but ended up being convicted for the wrongful death of a suspect during a kidnapping, largely due to Bong’s testimony. While Bong simply stated what he witnessed, Ngo and his partners were actually acting on the orders of their superiors. 

 

Ngo appears just as motivated by revenge - on Bong and the higher-ups who railroaded them - as personal gain. This makes him an intriguing villain...violent, maybe even a little crazy, but not entirely unsympathetic. The relationship between Ngo and Bong is thoroughly explored, resulting in a dynamic game of cat & mouse where both men are equally methodical and intelligent, often anticipating each other’s moves. Additionally, Bong is the most engaging character Yen’s had the opportunity to play since his Ip Man days, delivering a strong performance to go along with his legendary physical abilities. 


Someone ate the last bear claw. Bong leaves in a huff.
Speaking of which, Raging Fire not-only features great characters and a complex plot - though not difficult to follow - it’s loaded with kinetic, violent mayhem. Yen engages in a few extended fight scenes, including a showstopper in an abandoned church. But these sequences, directed by Yen himself, aren’t simply well-choreographed; they’re convincing. These guys really look like they’re beating the shit out of each other. Following a destructive car chase - the only time some wonky CGI is noticeable - there's a massive Heat-style gun battle in the streets, resulting in collateral damage most similar action films pretend doesn’t happen.

Almost epic in scope, Raging Fire may not always be believable, but it’s a constantly entertaining crime thriller with a great story. Doing the preliminary legwork to fully flesh-out its characters - on both sides of the badge - certainly pays off, since we’re far more invested in them when the bullets begin to fly. Donnie Yen has seldom been better, digging into a role that showcases both his physical and dramatic skills. This is the best action film of the year.

 

EXTRA KIBBLES

FEATURETTES - Four very brief promotional featurettes. The first two are set-construction/special effects montages set to heavy metal music. The other two are short interviews with Donnie Yen and Nicolas Tse.

4 TEASERS & TRAILERS

November 21, 2021

MAD MAX ANTHOLOGY (4K): The Apocalypse Gets an Upgrade

MAD MAX ANTHOLOGY (4K UHD Review)
1979-2015 / 415 min (4 films)

FROM WARNER BROS

Review by Tiger the Terrible😺

#InPartnershipwithWB

For 4K collectors, the big news is that The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome are now available in the format for the first time. And if the original Mad Max (released on 4K just last year by Kino Lorber) and Mad Max: Fury Road already sit on your shelves, rest-assured Warrior and Thunderdome are also available separately, so no double dipping is required to complete your collection.

The other news is that the Mad Max Anthology is essentially a bare bones release. With the exception of The Road Warrior - which has a few archival bonus features - no supplementary material is included, meaning some of those older discs are still worth hanging on to. This set is simply a convenient and economical way to upgrade all four films to 4K at the same time.


Of course, the entire series is worth owning (in any format). The original Mad Max is undoubtedly a product of its decade, but remains a superlative example of ‘70s era Ozploitation. It’s still pretty amazing what first-time director George Miller and producer Byron Kennedy were able to put on-screen with such limited resources. And what more can be said about The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2)? Not only did it set the bar for action cinema and make Mel Gibson a star, its eye-popping action sequences and apocalyptic aesthetics are still influential. Beyond Thunderdome, the weakest in the series, has also aged the worst, being too slick with ‘80s gloss for its own good. Still, it’s required viewing for completists. 


When Uber drivers revolt.
The Road Warrior’s legacy may be far-reaching, but it’s arguably Mad Max: Fury Road that’ll go down in history as the franchise’s crown jewel (despite plenty o’ pissiness from butthurt misogynists with too much spare time on their hands). Not only is it one of the few belated sequels worth the 30 year wait - even without Gibson - it ranks among the best action movies ever made. I can’t imagine even Miller ever topping it.

But are they worth owning in 4K? Of course. Fury Road looks and sounds best in the format, but the others all feature good transfers, as well. Of the older films, The Road Warrior benefits most from the upgrade. Having never seen Kino Lorber’s recent 4K release of Mad Max, I can’t offer comparisons, but Warner Bros’ version looks great. 


However, if bonus bells & whistles are your thing, you’ll probably want to give this set a pass. Mad Max Anthology is strictly for videophiles looking to upgrade the picture and sound. Digital copies of all four films are also included.


EXTRA KIBBLES 

ROAD WAR: THE MAKING OF THE ROAD WARRIOR - Excellent 50-minute retrospective doc from 2016.

THE ROAD WARRIOR AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director George Miller & cinematographer Dean Semler.

THE ROAD WARRIOR INTRODUCTION - By Leonard Maltin.

DIGITAL COPIES OF ALL FOUR FILMS - The Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome & Mad Max: Fury Road are accessible through Movies Anywhere, Mad Max through wb.com/redeemdigital.