December 31, 2021

KITTEN KRUSTIES: The Worst Stuff We Reviewed in 2021

While we enjoyed reviewing a slew of Blu-Rays, DVDs and movies in 2021, they haven’t all been picks of the litter. Time to take a look back at the worst of them. Our list consists strictly of titles which were sent to us for review purposes.

BLEH...THE WORST: As much as we love movies, there are times when reviewing them feels like an actual job. The following titles deserve to be buried in the litter box:

10. ANOTHER 48 HRS - The original 48 HRS is a classic, but not only is this contrived sequel almost never funny, it seldom even tries to be. Nolte slips comfortably back into his role, but Murphy seems to have forgotten - or considering what was paid this time, didn’t care - what made Reggie so endearing in the first place. A rare clunker in the otherwise impressive Paramount Presents series.

9. TOM & JERRY - They skateboard, fist-bump, operate drones and a variety of other things “today’s kids” might think are cool. In other words, this ain’t your daddy’s Tom & Jerry. Instead, the brand is a vessel for a parade of noisy mayhem, characters with “attitude” and, of course, a prerequisite poop joke so funny they included it twice.

8. THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR: MEET THE BLACKS 2 - The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 is interminable and offensively stupid, wasting its talented cast with a non-stop barrage of screaming, f-bombs and the type of sex jokes that make 13-year-old boys high-five each other. The entire cast certainly give their all, but the humor is embarrassingly juvenile. 

7. SHOPLIFTERS OF THE WORLD - Part love letter to The Smiths & those who loved them, part f**k-you to anyone who didn’t, Shoplifters of the World is almost condescending in tone, which is ironic considering the plot isn’t too far removed from the dumbbell comedy, Airheads. Only instead of likably ham-headed headbangers, we have a bunch of self-absorbed young adults reeling from the break-up of their favorite band. The film mostly preaches to the converted. Everyone else might find it kind of pretentious.

6. COSMOBALL - Cosmoball is a Russian sci-fi film that’s obviously aimed at those wowed by shiny things. There’s nary a moment when something colorful isn’t zipping or bursting across the screen. Such hyperactive eye candy might be enough to amuse your cat for a while, but the rest of us would appreciate some kind of comprehensible story. 

5. HABIT - An abject failure on all counts, this is a blatantly calculated attempt at Tarantino-esque hipness while neglecting to provide a single reason we should give a damn about any of these characters and the situation they've gotten themselves into. Habit has obvious cult aspirations, but ultimately feels so desperate and tone-deaf that some viewers might experience a little second-hand embarrassment for everyone involved. 

4. BREAKING NEWS IN YUBA COUNTY - In capable hands, this could have been another Fargo. Instead, Breaking News in Yuba County squanders a good cast and premise because there’s no point where we feel like we’re watching real people. These characters simply exist to behave badly, spout outrageous dialogue and occasionally kill each other. The plot might hold interest for a while, but all attempts at black comedy and satire fall flat. 

3. THE SPORE - Despite a decent, albeit familiar, premise, this is nothing but a series of tenuously tied vignettes featuring various dull characters’ encounters with a deadly infection. We learn absolutely nothing about them. Not only that, the entire film largely depends on their utter stupidity, making slasher movie teenagers look like Einstein. One vignette ends, then another begins, and-so-on until the credits roll, with no style, suspense or substance to be found.

2. CRAZY SAMURAI: 400 VS 1 - The big gimmick of this title-tells-all film is a 77 minute action sequence presented in one continuous take. Not only is character development non-existent, there’s little in the way of creative choreography or virtuosic swordplay...just guys lining up to be slashed, chopped or run-through before hobbling out-of-frame. There’s no further “plot” beyond this, nor does the film come to any sort of resolution. 

1. ROOM 9 - Most of Room 9 is shot and edited like the opening title sequence of Seven. Shaky video, jagged cuts and intentionally distorted images may have been cutting-edge 25 years ago. But here, it’s a parlor trick to mask a murky narrative, lethargic pacing, amateurish performances and an overall inability to frame an interesting shot. Even with seriously tempered expectations, Room 9 is a vapid excuse for a horror film.

Be sure to check out THE BEST STUFF WE REVIEWED IN 2021

Kitty kudos (and maybe a few apologies!) to the various studios, PR groups and distributors who've provided Free Kittens Movie Guide with the opportunity to feature their products and share our fickle opinions: Paramount Pictures, Disney, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Studios, Warner Bros, Warner Archive, Criterion Collection, RLJ Entertainment, Severin Films, Blue Underground, 88 Films, Cohen Media Group, Dark Sky Films, Cult Epics, Well Go USA, Lionsgate, VCI Entertainment, Arrow Films, MPI, MVD Entertainment, Oscilloscope Labs, Flicker Alley, The Film Detective, HBO, MPRM, ddPR, Click Communications, KWPR, Foundry Communications.

December 30, 2021

KITTEN KATNIP: The Best Stuff We Reviewed in 2021

We reviewed a slew of Blu-Rays, DVDs and movies in 2021. Time to take a look back at the best of them. While we have seen more movies than the Surgeon General recommends, our lists consist strictly of titles which were sent to us for review purposes.

Kitty kudos to the various studios, PR groups and distributors who've provided Free Kittens Movie Guide with the opportunity to feature their products and share our fickle opinions: Paramount Pictures, Disney, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Studios, Warner Bros, Warner Archive, Criterion Collection, RLJ Entertainment, Severin Films, Blue Underground, 88 Films, Cohen Media Group, Dark Sky Films, Cult Epics, Well Go USA, Lionsgate, VCI Entertainment, Arrow Films, MPI, MVD Entertainment, Oscilloscope Labs, Flicker Alley, The Film Detective, HBO, MPRM, ddPR, Click Communications, KWPR, Foundry Communications 

PURR-R-R...THE BEST: We reviewed some good stuff this year, but the following titles were better than taunting a mouse to death:

10. THE BEAST MUST DIE (Flicker Alley) - Not to be confused with the 1974 British horror film, The Beast Must Die is a crackling Argentinian crime thriller just waiting to be re-discovered by film noir fans. A great story, sharp direction and an antagonist we love to hate make this a must see. 

9. THE DAY OF THE BEAST 4K (Severin Films) - Fast-moving, ferociously-violent and often hilarious, 1995’s The Day of the Beast ain’t for everybody, but it’s easy to see why it has a fervent cult following. Severin Films put together a great home video release that fans will surely get a kick out of. In addition to a decent transfer, the disc is loaded with interesting bonus features, the best being a feature-length documentary. 

8. THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (Criterion) - It’s about time the film got a decent home video release. The Incredible Shrinking Man has been available on DVD for years, usually squeezed onto a disc with other nostalgic B-movies from the same era. But not only is it being served-up on Blu-ray for the first time with a wonderful 4K restoration, Criterion has thrown-in a big batch of new & vintage bonus features which nicely sum-up the film’s production, influence and legacy. From a historical perspective, this is an essential title for any collection and still a hell of a lot of fun.

7. JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH (Warner Bros) - Alternately eye-opening, enlightening and infuriating, Judas and the Black Messiah is also massively entertaining. Not only does it shine a light on an important African-American revolutionary - and reminds us that not much has changed since then - the film features vivid, engaging characters, authentic dialogue & production design and a killer soundtrack (both the score and H.E.R.’s Oscar winning song, “Fight for You”). Easily one of the year’s best.

6. ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (Warner Archive) - Crime films don’t get much better than this. Director Michael Curtiz deftly juggles a compelling story, dynamic characters, hard-hitting action and an unforgettable climax, making Angels with Dirty Faces an undisputed classic. With an outstanding Blu-ray transfer and some great vintage bonus features, it’s a must-own for any self-respecting film fan.

5. DUNE 4K (Arrow) - Regardless of one’s opinion of Dune - flawed masterpiece, delirious debacle or something in between - this (nearly) comprehensive set not-only makes the film worth re-examining (again!), the stories surrounding its tumultuous production are just as fascinating. Like a few previous Arrow boxed sets showcasing questionable classics, you don’t necessarily have to love the film to love the product.

4. COHERENCE (Oscilloscope Laboratories) - Coherence is one of the more intriguing sci-fi mindbenders I’ve seen in a long time. Swapping-out spectacle & special effects for convincing characters & challenging ideas, this wonderful obscurity - originally produced in 2014 for $50,000 - deserves to find a wider audience.

3. RAGING FIRE (Well Go USA) - 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 movie of the year. 

2. IN THE HEIGHTS (Warner Bros) - It looks like most of us missed out on seeing In the Heights as it was meant to be experienced, but here’s hoping it finds the audience it never enjoyed in theaters. Even from the comfort of our living rooms, modern movie musicals don’t get much more entertaining than this. Energetic, funny, sometimes wonderfully bittersweet and occasionally jaw-dropping, it’s a film with many highs and very few lows.

1. GANGS OF LONDON, SEASON ONE (RLJE) - Gangs of London may have been developed for TV, but the 10 episodes comprising Season One unfold like pure cinema; the entire season plays like an epic, nine-hour gangster film. Conceptually similar to The Raid 2, series creator Gareth Evans makes the most of the expanded platform series television provides, which includes an exponentially bigger body count.


Be sure to check out THE WORST STUFF WE REVIEWED IN 2021

December 29, 2021

ANTLERS: The Title Doesn't Tell All

Add Antlers to your collection now on Digital and on Blu-ray and DVD January 4.

ANTLERS (Digital Review)
2021 / 99 min


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Depending on who you ask, Antlers is great title for a horror film or an extremely stupid one.

On one hand, it suggests another crazy killer critter flick in the grand tradition of Tentacles, Slugs, Black Sheep and Night of the Lepus…typically innocuous animals which develop a voracious taste for human flesh. For certain horror fans, such movies are irresistible. 

Conversely, such a title will undoubtedly prompt some to dismiss the film sight unseen. And who can blame them? I think even the most hardcore fan of carnivorous creature features (such as yours truly) must concede that a majority of them are terrible, especially those with the most straightforward titles.

Whether helped or hampered by the title, Antlers is not about a deadly deer or murderous moose. In fact, the concept is inspired by the Algonquin myth of Wendigo, a vengeful evil spirit. It’s also a relentlessly bleak film that includes such themes as child neglect & abandonment, the economy, sexual abuse and the environment.

That’s not to say there isn’t a nasty beast. When it finally shows itself, Wendigo is depicted as an unholy cross between an underfed stag and the xenomorph from Alien. With one victim’s torn-off face slapped over its own - which, of course, sickeningly slips off at an opportune moment - the monster is a gruesome creation. Though sparingly used, it looks & moves more-or-less convincingly.

Guess who just sat on antlers.
But first, the narrative lays the groundwork for a story which extends beyond eviscerated bodies. Much of the focus is on two characters. One is Julia Meadows (Keri Russell), a troubled elementary school teacher who returns to her hometown to live with brother Paul (Jesse Plemons) following the death of their abusive father. The other is Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas), a shy, impoverished boy whose meth-addicted dad becomes Wendigo's unwitting host.

Personal experience has Julia suspecting Lucas is a victim of similar abuse. However, a home visit reveals something far worse, which the boy himself is hiding. Though his father - and little brother - are getting progressively “sicker,” Lucas takes to feeding them while keeping both locked inside a room for everyone else’s safety. But Dad eventually morphs into a monster, resulting in the deaths of people perceived to be a threat to Lucas. As the town sheriff, Paul naturally doesn’t believe it, even after his Native-American predecessor, Warren (Graham Greene), informs them of the Wendigo legend. 

Though pretty gory at times, Antlers has more on its plate than mere visceral thrills…perhaps a pleasant surprise for those who enjoy slow-burning horror with a bit of substance, definitely a let-down for would-be thrillseekers. In either case, this is an unexpectedly somber film, its grim tone exacerbated by the gloomy setting and suitably melancholic performances (especially young Thomas, outstanding in an inherently difficult role).

Somewhat predictably, Antlers draws to a downbeat, ominous conclusion. But considering the overall air of despair prevalent throughout the story, any kind of hunky-dory resolution would probably ring false. More ambitious than the title might suggest, it's a grim but mostly worthwhile journey, though one trip will likely be enough for most viewers.


FEATURETTES - “The Evil Within” (featuring director Scott Cooper); “An Exploration of Modern Horror” (featuring producer Guillermo del Toro); “Artifact and Totems”; “Gods Walk Among Us” (how the monster was created, using digital and practical effects); “Cry of the Wendigo” (the real life mythic origins of the Wendigo); “Metamorphosis” (features actor Scott Haze’s enthusiasm and dedication to evolving into the Wendigo); “Comic Con @ Home” (the best of the bonus features, this is a Zoom interview featuring Scoot Cooper and Guillermo del Toro, hosted by Steve Weintraub).

December 27, 2021

THE GARDENER: Bronzi Carries the Torch...and a Shovel

2021 / 89 min


Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

Hungarian born Robert Bronzi is one of those actors who gets by on his looks alone. That look just happens to be the legendary Charles Bronson. The resemblance is almost uncanny, and Bronzi has made a decent living doing the kind of B pictures ol’ Chuck was cranking-out during the latter half of his career. Nice work if you can get it.

That’s not to say Bronzi himself can’t act. In The Gardener, little else is required of him beyond smashing faces and snapping limbs with a perpetual stone face, but when he is required to speak, there’s a laid-back earnestness to his delivery that’s sorta charming. While it goes without saying an Oscar will never sit on Bronzi’s shelf, at least he can carry a low-wattage action flick on his shoulders without embarrassing himself.

And make no mistake, Bronzi’s the whole show as Peter, the titular character who works for an upper class family. In time-honored action movie tradition, Peter wasn’t always a gardener. He used to be a soldier and possesses skills beyond simply pruning the hedges, which are called into play when a team of home invaders break into the house in search of computer files owned by self-absorbed husband-father Stephen (Richard Kovacs). 

How real gardeners take care of gophers.

What's on them doesn’t really matter to the plot. What does matter at this point is a nagging question: If these thugs manage to break-in and find the files within just a few minutes without being detected, why don’t they just leave? Why do they take the family hostage after they already got what they came for? It’s just one example of the overall narrative laziness prevalent throughout the film. Virtually every scenario is simply set-up to showcase Bronzi in action, whether it makes actual sense or not.

As such, the movie kind-of works. Though the bad guys are walking cliches - either psychotic, stupid or severely overconfident - Peter violently dispatches them with all the tools at his disposal (including a lawnmower). There’s nothing particularly dynamic or inventive about the action scenes, but they’re fun nevertheless, mainly because The Gardener plays very much like an '80s-era Bronson flick. Seeing his doppelganger carry the torch is the next best thing…and oddly comforting.


MAKING THE GARDENER - 20-minute featurette

2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By directors Scott Jeffrey & Rebecca J. Matthews, actors Nicola Wright, Jake Wathins & Sarah T. Cohen; 2) By co-writer/exec producer Jeff Miller and actor Robert Bronzi.




December 26, 2021

THE LAST DUEL: Ridley's Rashomon

THE LAST DUEL (Digital Review)
2021 / 152 min


Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

The Last Duel is now available on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD.

Though his viral venom might be a tad misdirected - but not entirely inaccurate - one can understand why Ridley Scott was kind of a grumpy bear over the lackluster box office performance of The Last Duel. Not only is it one of his more interesting recent films, the visual aesthetics are best appreciated in a theater.

Based on a book chronicling what was apparently the last sanctioned duel in medieval France, the film opens just as that fight to the death is beginning, a match between Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques le Gris (Adam Driver). Then the story flashes back to the events leading up to it. Jean and Jacque were once fellow knights and close friends, eventually becoming bitter enemies through a variety of circumstances. Despite his selfless loyalty to the king, Jean is essentially broke. With only his family name to offer, he marries Marguerite (Jodie Comer), mostly for the dowry of land from her father. 

However, the most valuable piece of land was already given to Count Pierre (Ben Affleck) to settle a debt. Pierre, in turn, gifted it to Jacques, who has since become the count’s squire, tax collector and most-trusted advisor. He’s also revealed to be a ruthless, self-serving womanizer. Worst yet, he becomes obsessed with Marguerite, and while Jean is away, Jacques forces his way into their house and rapes her. After she informs Jean what happened, he goes to the king and requests a duel to the death, which is ultimately granted.

Just horsing around.
This story is presented - as individual chapters - from three different points of view, Jean’s, Jacques’ and Marguerite’s. Going the Rashomon route is always a tricky task because one runs the risk of redundancy, but the film does a commendable job rendering all three POVs unique, each providing plot details that are either not included in the others, or the character’s recollection of events differs significantly. For example, the rape is depicted twice. To Jacques, it is a mutual moment of unbridled passion, while in Marguerite’s chapter, it’s violent and horrifying. Additionally, our perception of Jean changes throughout the film…from a tragic victim of circumstance, to a foolhardy rube, to a cold-blooded, unsympathetic husband whose reaction to Marguerite’s rape, in some ways, makes him worse than Jacques.

Speaking of which, The Last Duel is often deliberately incendiary. Despite the period setting, its themes are timely and none-too-subtle. If the viewer isn’t at-least a little enraged over the indignities and treatment suffered by Marguerite - and women, in general - they either haven’t been paying attention or their apathy knows no bounds. However, the narrative sometimes takes longer than necessary to get to the point. Despite handsome production design, impeccable attention to period detail and effective performances (though Damon sometimes seems out of his element), each chapter could’ve been shorn of 10-or-so minutes to reign in the running time. At two-and-a-half hours, a story this bleak can be exhausting. 

Still, even though some of its visual impact is diminished on smaller screens, The Last Duel is Ridley Scott's best film since The Martian. The climactic duel is a visceral, bloody tour de force, followed by a denouement that manages to be both satisfying and intentionally infuriating. It isn’t always a “fun” film, but it’s certainly worthwhile.


THE MAKING OF THE LAST DUEL - A lengthy and revealing behind-the-scenes documentary.

December 23, 2021


RON’S GONE WRONG (Digital Review)
2021 / 106 min


Review by Stinky the Destroyer😸

Ron's Gone Wrong is now available on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD.

Ron’s Gone Wrong is sort of a pleasant surprise.

I generally approach most non-Disney CG-animated films with fairly low expectations, and the trailers for this one did nothing to raise them. Frankly speaking, it looked like cynically-pandering kiddie fare, more of a marketing campaign than a movie that would amuse anyone over twelve.

But while certainly geared toward pre-teens, Ron’s Gone Wrong has more going for it than one might expect. A woefully shaky opening act seemed to confirm my worst suspicions, introducing a basic concept that practically screams “Today’s kids are gonna love this!” However, it’s what they do with the concept that tends to elevate it above the likes, say, the Sing franchise.

B-Bots are the latest gotta-have tech-toy, personalized pill-shaped robots that are programmed to be a kid’s “best friend,” learning all about them through their social media accounts and enthusiastically loving the same things. Created to be a constant presence, B-Bots not-only connect their owners to others, they quickly become a status symbol. At Nonesuch Middle School, socially awkward Barney Pudowski is the only kid who doesn’t have one, at least until his well-meaning but embarrassingly out-of-touch family buy one that fell off a supply truck (sold by the driver).

"You handle the alarms, I'll take care of the guards..."
This B-Bot - nicknamed Ron - turns out to be damaged, preventing its programming from loading. Initially, it causes even more trouble for Barney, both at school and with Bubble, the corporation that created B-Bots. But the story is nothing if not predictable…because it’s not “connected,” Ron develops the qualities which make it an actual companion, not a device through which to live vicariously. The developing friendship between Ron and Barney is funny, sweet and, more importantly, feels genuine.

The actual plot, involving Bubbles’ greedy COO Andrew Morris’ attempts to take back and destroy Ron, is less interesting, though does includes subtle - and not-so-subtle - social commentary regarding our overdependence on technology (as well as our blind trust that the corporations which sell them have our best interests in mind). The other major theme - that virtual friendships and on-line followers are no substitute for real interaction - won’t be lost on the film’s intended audience, but at-least it doesn’t beat them over the head with it.

Ron’s Gone Wrong offers no real narrative curveballs, but does a decent job weaving familiar tropes into an engaging story. Good characters help, of course. Barney is a likable protagonist and the dynamics of his family - while exaggerated - are probably relatable to quite a few people his age. Even Ron itself, despite being essentially expressionless, manages to be charming. All told, the film is a pleasant surprise.

December 22, 2021

GIALLO ESSENTIALS (YELLOW): A Big Batch of Blades & Bodies

1973-1975 / 283 min (3 movies)


Review by Fluffy the Fearless😼

This is Arrow Video’s second giallo collection, following the “red” release a few months ago. Once again, it contains three films, each in their own case and distinctive artwork, nicely packaged in a sturdy box with an impressively designed slipcover. Befitting the genre, this edition comes in yellow.

As for the content, all have been previously released (individually) by Arrow with the same generous amount of bonus features. This set is simply a convenient way to grab all at once. And are these films “essential?” That’s obviously subjective. While no one will mistake them with the works of Bava or Argento, they do represent how prolific - and popular - giallo became in the wake of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

1974’s What Have They Done to Your Daughters? is the best of the lot. More plot-driven and a bit less lurid than your typical giallo film, this one focuses more on the police procedural aspects of the story, which begins with a teenage girl’s murder. Initially thought to be a suicide, the investigation later reveals a teen prostitution ring. Meanwhile, a black-clad, motorcycle-riding killer is slicing & dicing those involved. Despite the off-putting subject matter, this is a stylishly suspenseful little shocker.

"Let me pop this for you..."

Next is 1973’s Torso, an proto-slasher film featuring a masked killer who stalks and strangles a number of female college students before dismembering their corpses. Not nearly as graphic as the title and plot suggest, director Sergio Martino appears just as concerned with titillating the audience as scaring them. Nearly every female in the cast gets naked at one point or another. Conversely, most of the men are depicted as wide-eyed, lecherous horndogs. But despite some lame performances, the murder sequences are fairly well done and the film does a good job throwing a variety of potential suspects our way.

Though bestowed with one of cult cinema’s most gloriously gratuitous titles, 1975’s Strip Nude for Your Killer is comparatively dull. The basic plot is similar to that of Torso, with another black-clad killer, no less. This time, someone is avenging the death of a model following a botched abortion, slaughtering people in the agency she once worked for. There’s a much greater emphasis on soft-core shenanigans, none of which is particularly erotic. Dreadfully paced and terribly written, the movie is absolutely plodding when someone isn’t being killed, and even those scenes are fairly rote. Still, there’s some unintentional humor to be found on occasion, especially if one views it as a giallo parody. 

While I’d argue that none of them are truly “essential,” these films obviously have their share of fans, who’ll be pleased with the 2K restorations. And once again, Arrow has assembled pretty extensive batches of bonus features for each, most of which provide a wealth of information, anecdotes and appreciation. An interesting curio.



ETERNAL MELODY - Interview with composer Sergio Mertino.

DALLAMANO’S TOUCH - Interview with editor Antonio Siciliano.

UNUSED HARDCORE FOOTAGE - Presented without sound, these scenes are definitely pornographic.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By author Troy Howarth.






THREE VERSIONS OF THE FILM - 90 minute English version; 94 minute Italian version; 94 min English-Italian hybrid.

INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEWS - With director Sergio Martino; Federica Martino (daughter of director Sergio Martino); actor Luc Merenda (who seems like a charming, if somewhat ambiguous); co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi; author Mikel J. Koven.


AUDIO COMMENTARY - With author Kat Ellinger.





SEX AND DEATH WITH A SMILE - Video essay by author Kat Ellinger & actor Edwige Fenech.

A GOOD MAN FOR THE MURDERS - Interview with actor Nino Casteinuevo.

THE BLONDE SALAMANDER - Interview with actor Erna Schurer.

THE ART OF HELPING - Interview with assistant director Daniele Sangiori.

JACK OF ALL TRADES - Interview with actor Yino Polenghi.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Adrian J. Smith & David Flint (from

TWO VERSIONS OF OPENING SCENE - Blue-tinted & untinted.