March 31, 2022
March 30, 2022
😺Fully Restored STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE—THE DIRECTOR’S EDITION Debuts on Paramount+ April 5th and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in September
😺BEVERLY HILLS COP II arrives on 4K Ultra HD 5/17 from Paramount
😺VICIOUS FUN on VOD, Digital HD, DVD and Blu-ray April 5
😺THE TALES OF HOFFMAN on Blu-ray in June from Criterion Collection
March 29, 2022
PURSUIT (Blu-ray Review)
Review by Tiger the Terrible😾
Sorry, I just don’t buy Emile Hirsch as an action hero (or in this case, antihero). His face and mannerisms remind me too much of a young Jack Black to take him seriously, no matter how many badass tattoos they stick on his face. Likewise, co-star Jake Manley is practically Ethan Hawke’s Mini-Me and doesn’t even look old enough to buy a beer, let-alone bust drug dealers.
Then there’s the one & only John Cusack, the spitting image of a guy who used to be on Hollywood’s A-list, but has since joined Bruce Willis and John Travolta in the Brotherhood of the Budget Bin. Like his shameless brethren, Cusack lends his name and a few days’ work to Pursuit in exchange for a paycheck and prominent billing.
The plot of this one is all over the place, as if its three screenwriters were given a basic synopsis, then retreated to separate rooms to bang out their drafts. In a nutshell, slacker hacker Rick Calloway (Hirsch) searches for his missing wife while shooting drug dealers before hotshot cop Mike Breslin (Manley) has a chance to bust them. Rick is caught, but while in custody, he hacks into Mike’s home computer and discovers the cop’s wife was recently murdered. How he manages to do this while in jail is never explained, one of many glaring lapses in plausibility we’re expected to swallow.
|Jack Black in The School of Glock.|
Anyway, Rick’s trail of bodies has earned the wrath of a southern druglord, who also happens to be partners with Rick’s dad, John (Cusack). So Rick offers to tell Mike who killed his wife in exchange for being safely escorted down to Arkansas (where he suspects his wife is being held). Why Mike would ever agree to such a deal is never reasonably explained, either, but once the two get down south, Rick escapes custody. Now everyone is looking for Rick, either to save him, arrest him or kill him. There’s a slew of other inconsequential characters, side stories and plot turns to further muddy the waters, exacerbated by convoluted expositional dialogue. Maybe it all made sense on paper, but what’s up on screen is often baffling.
On the plus side, Pursuit seldom stops to take a breath, practically sprinting from one bloody conflict to the next. Dismissing such trifles as plausibility and coherence leaves plenty o’ room for gunfights, torture, explosions, premature burials and the occasional grenade in the nether regions. For a low budget film, the action and brutal violence are deftly handled, which could appease those willing to forget about following the story.
Still, Pursuit is mostly a slap-dash debacle with cardboard characters, an overstuffed story and two woefully miscast lead actors. Cusack himself - perhaps aware his character is mostly irrelevant - collects another paycheck with minimal effort. Undemanding action fans might be mildly amused; others will find the whole thing a waste of good sofa time.
BEHIND THE SCENES OF PURSUIT - Making-of featurette
March 27, 2022
DRIVE-IN RETRO CLASSICS: SCIENCE FICTION TRIPLE FEATURE (DVD Review)
FROM CORINTH FILMS
Review by Mr. Paws😼
This trio of sci-fi quickies would probably have been lost forever if not for the efforts of Wade Williams, a lifelong film fan who spent a good portion of his career buying the rights to forgotten old B-movies (just in time to take advantage of the '80s home video boom). While none are classics, a couple have since earned a cult following and might even be of minor historical importance to the genre.
1950’s Rocketship X-M is noteworthy for being one of the first films to attempt a realistic depiction of space travel. Quickly - and cheaply - produced to beat Destination Moon into theaters, the plot features a crew of five shooting for the moon but accidentally ending up on Mars. Inevitably, some of the science is humorously dated - as are the constant reminders that the lone female crew member is “just a woman” - but the film is more grounded in reality than most ‘50s-era sci-fi and comes to a surprisingly downbeat conclusion, which was atypical of the genre at the time. Also noteworthy is the cast, featuring a handful of familiar faces, including Lloyd Bridges, Hugh O’Brian and Noah Beery, Jr.
|"Most ladies enjoy my dirty limericks."|
The Hideous Sun Demon is the worst of the lot. Sort of a backwards werewolf story, the plot has yet-another scientist (Robert Clarke) exposed to radiation which transforms him into a scaly, murderous monster whenever he’s exposed to the sun. The performances, dialogue and creature effects are uniformly terrible, which might’ve been good for a few shits & giggles if not for the fact that the film is absurdly padded out to feature length by interminable stretches of our “hero” getting frisky with a gangster’s girlfriend. Amateurishly made, it also sounds like the whole thing was shot using a single on-set microphone.
The picture quality varies from film to film. Rocketship X-M sports a pretty clean image, while the other two feature brief segments that the ravages of time must have rendered irreparable. But hey, it ain’t like anyone’s pining for 4K editions of these titles. For the most part, they look and sound pretty good for their age. These films may not be "classics," but they're certainly retro.
March 26, 2022
ORDINARY PEOPLE (Blu-ray Review)
Review by Mr. Paws😺
I remember seeing this in a theater, the Southgate Quad, which was just a short bike ride from where I grew up. Not that it was specifically the movie I pedaled into downtown Milwaukie to see - hey, I was 15 - but I often spent my Saturdays there to do a little theater-hopping. Ordinary People, re-released to capitalize on all the Oscar nominations it had just received, simply happened to be one of the movies playing that weekend, so why not?
Of all the movies I snuck into that day - one of them might have been Friday the 13th - Ordinary People left the greatest impression, which surprised me. A dead serious, downbeat movie about a well-to-do family trying to come to grips with the death of one son and a suicide attempt by the other? Not quite as rousing as watching Mommy Voorhees get her head lopped off, but damn, these characters felt real. Watching them spiral apart before our eyes wasn’t exactly a fun time at the movies, but far more tension filled than the untimely deaths of a gaggle of teenagers.
The film was also something of a revelation. Here was none other than Mary Tyler Moore - America’s sweetheart at the time - as Beth Jarrett, the self-absorbed, aloof and ultimately cruel matriarch who not-only shuns her one surviving son, Conrad (Timothy Hutton), throughout the film, her actions during the final act downright abhorrent. Most shocking of all, Moore absolutely nails it.
|"Sorry, son...some of us aren't gonna make it after all."|
Additionally, Ordinary People was Robert Redford’s directorial debut. Even after spending most of the ‘70s downplaying his on-screen dreaminess - mostly succeeding - one still might assume the guy’s first foray behind the camera would be some kind of “look-at-me” vanity project. Instead, he’s in service of the story and characters, while displaying an uncanny knack for tone and pacing.
Ordinary People probably didn’t deserve to win Best Picture over Raging Bull that year, but it was the only nominated movie I’d actually seen by the time the Oscars rolled around, so naturally I rooted for it. Moore was robbed, of course, but at least Hutton won for Best Supporting Actor (though Conrad is arguably the main character). Even more than Kevin Bacon being speared through the neck in Friday the 13th, his portrayal was yet-another revelation. Though Hutton’s subsequent career ultimately never lived up to the promise of that performance, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more realistic depiction of an angst-ridden suburban teenager, even today.
Speaking of which, Ordinary People still holds up well, with themes that are as timely now as they were four decades ago. Considering the increasing awareness of such issues as depression, anxiety and suicide over the years, perhaps even more so. A true classic, the film is a terrific addition to the ongoing Paramount Presents series, as well as collectors’ shelves.
SWIMMING IN THE ROSE GARDEN - New interview with Timothy Hutton.
FEELING IS NOT SELECTIVE - Interview with the original novel’s author, Judith Guest. She's very jovial and charming.
March 24, 2022
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM (Blu-ray Review)
Review by Mr. Paws😺
Watching the newly restored The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm is another reminder that I was probably born a few decades too late. Not necessarily because of the movie itself. While I certainly love more than my fair share of classics, I’ve never been one of those “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” kind of guys. But from a technical standpoint, the film was one of the last of its kind.
Produced and partially directed by George Pal, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm doesn’t rank among his indisputable classics, though it’s arguably his last good film. Part fanciful biography, part anthology film, the humble beginnings of Wilhelm & Jacob Grimm (Laurence Harvey & Karl Boehm) serve as a wraparound story for three of the brothers’ lesser-known fairy tales.
Those fairy tales are perfect family fare and the highlight of the film, especially “The Singing Bone,” the comedic story of a narcissistic knight (Terry-Thomas) and his dim-witted squire (Buddy Hackett) facing off against a highly-amusing dragon. The Grimm’s story is less compelling, though as flakier brother Wilhelm, Harvey - playing somewhat against-type - is engaging and likable, the polar opposite of his dark turn as Raymond Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate, released the same year.
|When the meds kick in.|
Though innovations like CinemaScope, Panavision and ultimately IMAX wouldn’t have existed without it, the Cinerama process itself was a thing of the past by the time I regularly went to the movies (though I was once lucky enough to visit a Cinerama theater in Seattle).
This beautifully restored Blu-ray serves as a reminder of how amazing Cinerama really was (even with some of its creative limitations). Of course, no home video can fully replicate the experience, so this is the next best thing to being there, with letterbox and “smilebox” versions of the film, the latter which simulates the curved screens of Cinerama theaters. As director of the fairy tale segments, Pal himself takes great advantage of the 3-strip process, exploiting the widescreen canvas for all its worth in the first story, “The Dancing Princess.” The entire film looks stunning - like it could’ve been filmed yesterday - and rarely do we see any frame overlap that was typical of Cinerama films back in the day.
In addition to a near-perfect picture and sound, this two-disc set is loaded with bonus features related to both the film and restoration process. While Warner Archive has always done a commendable job releasing classics on disc, they’ve outdone themselves here. The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm may not be a timeless classic, but the Blu-ray serves as a reminder of how grand the moviegoing experience used to be. Wish I coulda been there.
LETTERBOX & “SMILEBOX” VERSIONS - “Smilebox” sort of simulates a Cinerama theater’s curved screen. Not really the optimum way to watch at home.
SONG SELECTION - Both versions include an option to go directly to any song scene from the film.
THE EPIC ART OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM - A short featurette of some of the poster art.
THE WONDERFUL CAREER OF GEORGE PAL - A brief appreciation for the animator-turned producer/director.
RESCUING A FANTASY CLASSIC - By far, the best kibble of all, this brand new 40 minute documentary features the lengthy, painstaking efforts to restore the film.
A SALUTE TO WILLIAM FORMAN - Forman was the CEO of Cinerama, Inc.
2 RADIO INTERVIEWS - One with actor Russ Tamblyn, the other with actor Yvette Mimieux.
ROTHENBERG, GERMANY, LOCATION COMMEMORATIVE PLAQUE
SLIDESHOW - Collection of behind the scenes photos.
LETTERBOX & “SMILEBOX” TRAILERS
CINERAMA ANNOUNCEMENT TRAILER
March 23, 2022
😺JACKASS FOREVER on Digital 3/29 and Blu-ray/DVD 4/19 from Paramount
😺MOONFALL on Blu-ray + Digital and DVD 4/26 from Lionsgate
😺EXTREME PREJUDICE on Blu-ray and Digital 5/17 from Lionsgate
😺HELL OR HIGH WATER on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital SteelBook 5/17 from Lionsgate
😺THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS on Blu-ray 5/10 from Shout Factory