June 30, 2022

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE: Best Enjoyed Cold


EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE (Blu-ray Review)
2022 / 139 min.
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😻

Sometimes going out of your way to avoid reading or hearing about a movie prior to seeing it is a great thing. In this day and age, that’s pretty damn tough to do, but in the case of Everything Everywhere All at Once, it’s worth the effort.

When I saw the trailer, it was Michelle Yeoh that got my attention. In our house, she’s a mutual celebrity crush and the trailer showcased both her physical and dramatic skills (not to mention considerable comic talent, which she doesn’t often get the opportunity to demonstrate). That same trailer revealed just enough of the actual plot to suggest a mind-bending ride, loaded with surprises, so I avoided reading any reviews or posts in various forums (where spoilers tend to run rampant).


I’m glad I did, because Everything Everywhere All At Once is best when you go into it completely cold, with absolutely no idea what to expect. All I knew about the plot was that it had something to do with the multiverse, a concept also explored in the new Doctor Strange film. But whereas Doctor Strange’s story inevitably succumbed to the usual Marvel histrionics, Everything Everywhere remains personal and humanistic while still taking the viewer on a wonderfully weird journey.


This film is a shoe-in to win the Oscar for Best Use of Googly Eyes.
For anyone reading who isn’t familiar with the film by now, I’m gonna do you a solid and refrain from summarizing the story. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun having no idea what’s coming. I will say that there’s some demented genius behind it…intriguingly complex without ever becoming confusing and loaded with unpredictable plot turns. Tonally, the film is alternately suspenseful, funny, ominous, perceptive, pessimistic, heart-warming and sometimes shockingly raunchy (despite concocting a smart, labyrinthine story, writer-directors Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert are happy to occasionally unleash their inner 12-year-old). 

Additionally, the film features a bevy of wonderfully dynamic characters, even the primary antagonist. And although it was made for a fraction of the budget of a studio blockbuster, Everything Everywhere All at Once deftly combines imaginative special effects, creative production design and jaw dropping action sequences. These elements are all wrapped up in a tidy 139 minutes that feels more like 90, without a single throwaway scene to be found. If not the best film of the year so far, this one definitely lives up to the hype, especially if one is lucky enough to go into it cold. 


EXTRA KIBBLES

“ALMOST EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE” - An excellent 40 minute making-of doc with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.

“PUTTING EVERYTHING ON A BAGEL: COOKING UP THE MULTIVERSE” - Another featurette.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By writer-directors Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert. These guys are fun to listen to.

OUTTAKES

DELETED SCENES

MUSIC VISUAL - Basically the end-credits song and an image of the ‘bagel.’

TRAILER

DIGITAL COPY


THE FIRST WIVES CLUB (Paramount Presents #32): If Bronson Was a Jilted Spouse


THE FIRST WIVES CLUB (Blu-ray Review)
1996 / 102 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😼

If you’re like me (aka, a middle-aged married guy), perhaps you can relate to this…

It’s the mid-90s and the missus decides she’s picking the next date night movie, choosing The First Wives Club. Though probably one of the last things you’d have personally chosen, you simply nod & smile congenially. After all, how often have you dragged her to watch Bruce Willis blow-away bad guys?


And like you suspected from the promotional campaign that practically serves as its own spoiler, The First Wives Club is the type of lightweight, formulaic comedy that its three stars can do in their sleep. Certainly not terrible - in fact, you sort of enjoy it because Goldie Hawn is still pretty hot for her age - there ain’t much to differentiate it from other adult-oriented comedies of the time (of which there were plenty). Maybe you snarkily mentioned this to your significant other upon leaving the theater, only for her to bring-up  the time you two paid good money to catch Death Wish V.


That’s different, you want to retort. That’s Charles Bronson we’re talking about. But deep in your heart of hearts, you know she's got a point. The First Wives Club and its ilk are no different than Bronson’s entire filmography since Death Wish: Cinematic comfort food. There may not be any surprises, but you aren’t likely to be disappointed because at least you know what you’re paying for. 


How Death Wish 3 should have ended.
Speaking of Death Wish…revisiting The First Wives Club for the first time since indulging my wife way-back-when, I realized that it’s thematically similar, as well. These three ladies may not be avenging the murder of a loved one - though I certainly wouldn’t put it past Bette Midler’s character - but seeing their methodic payback against the husbands who dumped them for younger women is as vicariously satisfying as watching ol’ Chuck take the law into his own hands.

Perhaps even more so, in some ways. The likes of John Wick and Paul Kersey dispatch their enemies with violent, cold efficiency (which they certainly had coming). Perhaps it’s just my vindictive nature, but sometimes I feel the antagonists in those films didn’t suffer enough, a quick death being almost too merciful. Conversely, Brenda (Midler), Elise (Hawn) and Annie (Diane Keaton) don’t just get even…they keep getting even. Their self-absorbed husbands are made to suffer where it hits them the hardest…their pocketbook. Not only that, these ladies plan to force them to live with the consequences of their indiscretions for the rest of their lives. 


Of course, as revenge pictures go, The First Wives Club will always be more 9-to-5 than Death Wish. But while it lacks a body count, the film does dish up a similarly satisfying tale of comeuppance. Nicely remastered on Blu-ray for the first time (#32 in the Paramount Presents series), it remains an enjoyable serving of ‘90s comfort food. Just ask my wife.


EXTRA KIBBLES

“FILMMAKER FOCUS” - Interview with screenwriter Robert Harling

TRAILER

June 26, 2022

CINEMANTIQUING #3: An Accidental Shrine to a Shitty Movie


A Treasure Hunt by D.M. ANDERSON💀

In addition to watching and writing about films, I’ve become something of a memorabilia collector in recent years. Cursed with a teacher’s salary, I ain’t out there bidding on Dorothy’s ruby slippers or anything, but certainly enjoy haunting local antique stores for a variety of movie-related stuff. Or when feeling particularly bold, I’ll occasionally overpay for some retro relic on eBay.


More often than not, I leave antique stores empty-handed. But every now and then, I’ll find a small treasure that doesn’t completely empty my wallet and give it a new home in the Dave Cave.



Each payday I try to make a trip to the last record store in Portland. But unlike most visits, I definitely knew what I was looking for - the new Porcupine Tree album - so I was pretty much in and out within 15 minutes. Since I already refinanced my house to pay for the gas to get there, I killed two birds with one stone and popped by Antique Alley, which is roughly in the same area.

Antique Alley is a neat place, taking up the entire basement of a city block in Portland’s historic Hollywood District. I usually find an interesting thing or two wherever I go there. This time it was a 1999 VHS release of the 1979 Disney debacle, The Black Hole, packaged in a tin box with a collectible booklet and several lobby cards (the latter still in shrinkwrap). I generally don’t collect old VHS, but it was in great condition and ya gotta love all the bells & whistles thrown in to commemorate such a shitty movie.


Make no mistake…The Black Hole isn’t just shitty. It’s aggressively shitty, easily the dumbest science-fiction film released by a major studio during the ‘70s. Considering this is the same decade which gave us Logan’s Run, that’s really saying something. Loaded with shitty action, shitty science, shitty special effects (considering the budget), shitty dialogue and shitty performances by a cast who should have known better, it was decidedly not the next Star Wars (which Disney obviously hoped for). I thought it was shitty when I watched it in a theater at 15, an opinion that’s remained unchanged ever since. In fact, The Black Hole is so shitty it ends up being even funnier than Spaceballs. Logan’s Run, too, for that matter.

But as shitty as it is, there must be a special place in my heart for The Black Hole, because on the drive home, I realized I’ve actually - unconsciously? - acquired numerous other things related to the film over time. About a year ago, I nabbed John Barry’s soundtrack on vinyl from the same store. Maybe it was even sold by the same vendor. Barry’s score is one part of the film that’s not shitty. That and Maximilian, the film’s evil robot. Even though he resembles the front of a Chevy Camaro, he’s pretty cool, especially when drilling a hole through Anthony Perkin’s chest (payback for such a shitty performance).


Speaking of robots, The Black Hole’s “cute” one, V.I.N.CENT, is shitty, too, but not shitty enough to dissuade me from ordering a box of action figures containing him and Maximilian (though they're actually reproductions, not antiques). While I’m pretty sure I overpaid for them, they proudly sit in my Dave Cave display case, still in the box. Without really trying, I’ve been slowly putting together a shitty little shrine to The Black Hole

And I might not be done. I’ve recently learned that a company called Mego released a line of The Black Hole tie-in toys back in 1979, which graced shelves of Toys 'R Us stores for approximately 12 minutes. I find that hilarious. At least the basic concept of Star Wars allowed you to use your imagination to create new adventures with your Luke, Han and Vader action figures. But what exactly did Disney think kids were gonna do with a mustached Harry Booth doll (the journalist played by Ernest Borgnine)? Any kid who got one of those in their Christmas stocking probably stopped believing in Santa.

But I just gotta have one of those vintage Ernest Borgnine dolls. It would be totally awesome, if not a bit ironic, to not only own an action figure from a film with virtually no action, but sculpted from one of the least photogenic lead-actors of all time.

June 25, 2022

TRUE ROMANCE (4K): Is It a Tony Scott Film?


TRUE ROMANCE Limited Edition (4K UHD Review)
1993 / 119 min (Theatrical cut) / 121 min (Director's cut)
Review by Tiger the Terrible😺

Today, it seems like fans associate True Romance more with Quentin Tarantino than Tony Scott, which does the latter sort of a disservice. Sure, there’s no disputing the film is full of QT’s quotable, reference-laden dialogue (especially during the first act), as well as another collection of unique, vivid characters. But having only directed Reservoir Dogs, he certainly wasn't a household name at the time.

Stylistically though, True Romance is pure Tony Scott…the frenetic pace, visual panache, stylized violence, jump-cut editing, Hans Zimmer’s score and, of course, a much greater emphasis on a linear plot - with comparatively few asides. Scott had his detractors, but as the Michael Bay of his day, he really was the perfect guy to direct something this aesthetically audacious. Though unquestionably a product of its decade, it remains one of Scott’s best films and well deserving of the cult status it enjoys today.


Still, it begs the question (for me, anyway): How would True Romance have turned out if Tarantino had directed? It certainly would have ended differently. One of the vintage bonus features included here is the alternate ending, which Tarantino initially preferred (he’s since changed his tune). And considering the closest QT ever came to a love story in his own films is Jackie Brown, one could assume the whole “romance” aspect of True Romance would be a much smaller part of the narrative. I’d also argue that his version would probably be deliberately paced, a bit less linear & plot-driven and probably more aesthetically timeless, with no proper film score of its own. 


"Got dressed in the dark again, didn't you?"
But would it be a better film? Perhaps not...but definitely different. As much as I love Tarantino, it’s hard to imagine he would have bothered making Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama (Patricia Arquette) as compulsively likable, despite being criminals on the lam. Their story would still be interesting, but I doubt we’d be quite as concerned whether they lived or died. Given QT’s penchant for homage, the end result would probably feature more allusions to Badlands than it already does. I’m just spit-balling, of course, but what-if hindsight is part of the fun of revisiting an old film written by a guy whose own career would someday eclipse that of its director (from a creative standpoint, anyway).

Ultimately, True Romance is more emblematic of Tony Scott than Quentin Tarantino. If not his first great film, it certainly remains one of his most loved. Kinda hard to believe it flopped when first released. For this limited edition set, Arrow Video serves up a great 4K restoration of both the theatrical & director’s cuts. Most of the bonus features are from previous releases, but there’s a smattering of interesting new interviews by a few folks who were involved behind the scenes. And as usual, it’s nicely packaged with new artwork and collectible goodies.


EXTRA KIBBLES

THEATRICAL & DIRECTOR’S CUT

NEW INTERVIEWS - Individual interviews with costume designer Susan Baker, co-editor Michael Tronick, co-composers Mark Mancina & John Van Tongren (who worked with primary composer Hanz Zimmer), Tony Scott biographer Larry Taylor and fan Dan Storm.

VINTAGE SELECT SCENE COMMENTARIES - By actors Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Michael Rappaport & Brad Pitt

NEW SELECT SCENE COMMENTARIES - By actors Saul Rubinek and Bronson Pinchot.

ELECTRONIC PRESS KIT INTERVIEWS - Several vintage promo pieces featuring featurettes and interviews with Tony Scott, Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper & Gary Oldman.

4 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By director Tony Scott; 2) By screenwriter Quentin Tarantino; 3) By actors Christian Slater & Patricia Arquette; 4) By critic Tim Lucas.

ALTERNATE ENDING - The darker ending, with Tarantino initially preferred. This ending also includes two optional commentaries by Scott and Tarantino.

DELETED/EXTENDED SCENES - With optional commentary.

2 TRAILERS, 1 TV SPOT

2 IMAGE GALLERIES

60 PAGE BOOK - Includes a great collection of new and archival essays, though it looks like only one was written specifically for this release. Still, all are great reads by authors who highly revere both the movie and its late director, Tony Scott. Also included are cast, crew & restoration credits.

6 LOBBY CARD REPLICAS

2-SIDED POSTER - With new and vintage artwork.

REVERSIBLE COVER - With new and vintage artwork.


June 24, 2022

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS: Sam Raimi to the Rescue


DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (Digital Review)
2022 / 127 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😺
Add Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to your collection now on Digital and on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD July 26.

Detractors can say what they will about the Marvel film franchise becoming increasingly formulaic (an argument that isn’t entirely wrong), but at least Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness unquestionably reflects the style and sensibilities of the guy hired to direct it.

With a manic pace, absurd humor and trippy visuals, Sam Raimi’s stamp is all over this. While he’s certainly no stranger to Marvel - having directed the first Spider-Man trilogy - Raimi draws more personal inspiration from his own Evil Dead franchise (Army of Darkness, in particular). I suppose a horror-tinged sequel might not be what traditional MCU fans are expecting, but considering the premise, his approach is exactly what a film like this needs. Besides, what franchise isn't made better with zombies?


Additionally, Raimi brings some of old friends along for the ride, including composer Danny Elfman and Bruce Campbell, the latter of whom appears in a brief but hilarious homage to his Ash character from Evil Dead. Speaking of which, in addition to the usual batch of MCU Easter Eggs and cameos, Raimi throws in a few of his own, including that same puke-colored Oldsmobile Delta 88 that has appeared in nearly all of his films.


"It's your Frisbee, Wong. You go up there and get it."
The film never forgets that it’s part of a bigger universe, though, which sometimes becomes a narrative liability. More than ever, the plot and characters are built on the conceit that the audience is already familiar with what’s transpired, not only in MCU films, but TV shows only available on Disney+. In fact, the self-serving agenda of the primary antagonist, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), is the direct result of her actions in WandaVision, meaning if you aren’t a subscriber, her motives are sort-of perplexing. Additionally, many “new” characters - including some acquired from Disney’s purchase of Fox - are introduced with the obvious intent of setting-up future movies and shows. Fanboys might appreciate the shout-outs, but for casual viewers, they might be an unnecessary distraction...to say nothing of bewildering.

Still, when focusing on its wonderfully bonkers story, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a lot of fun and arguably better than the first film. Benedict Cumberbatch slips comfortably back into the title role, depicting Steven Strange as enjoyably arrogant as ever, if not a bit more introspective about his past. Once again, “sidekick” Wong (Benedict Wong) is a terrific comic foil, while young newcomer Xochiti Gomez is quite engaging as America Chavez (a relatively new Marvel character, perhaps being groomed for a film or series of her own). Loaded with the usual visual fireworks - particularly when leaping through the Multiverse - this is another solid entry in the MCU, bolstered by Sam Raimi’s indubitable style.


EXTRA KIBBLES

FEATURETTES - “Working with Sam Raimi”; “Constructing the Multiverse”; “Introducing America Chavez”; “Method to the Madness”

GAG REEL

4 DELETED SCENES

AUDIO COMMENTARY - Director Sam Raimi, writer Michael Waldron and co-producer Richard Palmer.


June 22, 2022

NINJA BADASS: The One Joke Endurance Test


NINJA BADASS (Blu-ray Review)
2020 / 104 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😾

Some of you might recall Kung Fury, which poked fun at low budget action films of the ‘80s. Presented as though the viewer was watching it on an old VHS tape, the performances, music, dialogue and intentionally archaic special effects were hilarious and spot-on. Most importantly, the film was only 30 minutes long. Once all of the cliche-skewering gags were played out, it knew when to quit.

Ninja Badass, on the other hand, runs a deadly 104 minutes. That’s a long time to endure any movie coasting on a one joke premise. It’s even worse when that joke isn’t funny to begin with.


If I were to hazard a guess, the “joke” is that Ninja Badass sends-up zero-budget action movies with bad acting, ludicrous action, phony gore and poor special effects. But the fact that the film itself is a zero-budget action movie with bad acting, ludicrous action, phony gore and poor special effects sort-of negates the joke. Throwing in f-bombs, boobs, sex dolls, characters screaming and puppies in blenders doesn’t suddenly make it hip or clever.


Aaron Rodgers during the off-season.
Ryan Harrison, who directs, writes, produces and stars, obviously has cult aspirations. But not-only does his film feel self-congratulatory, it reeks of desperation. He’s trying so hard to be stupid, outrageous, gross and offensive that the viewer is convinced his agenda is simply to get a reaction, even if it's negative (meaning I probably just played right into his hands). That may work for an attention-starved seventh grader, but it makes this film childishly pandering and ultimately pretty dull. 

Ninja Badass is artless, tone-deaf and one-note, wearing out its welcome after about 15 minutes. Going out of your way to make an intentionally shitty movie has never been inherently funny, though buddies of that same attention-starved seventh grader might find some of Harrison’s sophomoric antics hilarious.


EXTRA KIBBLES

DELETED SCENES

AUDIO COMMENTARY


June 20, 2022

THE CELLAR: A Spooky Spin on a Familiar Premise


THE CELLAR (Blu-ray Review)
2022 / 95 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

The Cellar doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s made with enough style to be well worth checking out. 

We’ve seen this story before. A young family buys a big, creepy old house, and only after moving in do they begin to realize an evil presence is overstaying its welcome. In this case, there’s something monstrous in their cellar. We’ve seen the Woods family before, too. Keira (Elisha Cuthbert) and Brian (Eoin Macken) are successful parents whose jobs required the move. Then you have your standard-issue gloomy teenager, Ellie (Abby Fitz), who immediately hates the place - with good reason, it turns out - and happy-go-lucky little brother Brady (Steven Woods).


While Mom & Dad are working late, Ellie goes missing. I won’t say how, because it’s the best scene in the movie. I will say that, even though Ellie’s just a little too self-absorbed and bitchy to be likable, how she disappears - while inside the house - is truly chilling, effectively establishing the cellar as a place to dread. Brian thinks their daughter simply ran away, but after investigating the previous owner - a brilliant mathematician engaged in all sorts of demonic tomfoolery - Keira is convinced Ellie’s been snatched by whatever's dwelling in the cellar.


"'Balls to the Wall'...that's my jam."
She’s right, of course, otherwise no movie. The eventual creature reveal is underwhelming, but events leading up to it are well executed and suspenseful. Writer-director Brendan Muldowney trucks-out a lot of the usual tropes - objects moving, strange noises, dark closets, etc. - but does so with a keen eye for atmosphere and tension, meaning the film isn't loaded with the usual cheap jump-scares. Instead, there’s a growing sense of unease as the narrative unfolds.

Despite a climax that arguably shows too much - undermining some of the tension - the film comes to a haunting conclusion. Anchored by a fluid pace, atmospheric production design and decent performances, The Cellar doesn’t score many points for originality, but it’s a solid, spooky spin on a familiar premise.


EXTRA KIBBLES

INTERVIEWS WITH CAST & CREW

SPECIAL EFFECTS FEATURETTE

“THE TEN STEPS” - The original short film.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Brendan Muldowney and producer Richard Bolger.

June 19, 2022

IP MAN: THE AWAKENING: What's in a (brand) Name?


IP MAN: THE AWAKENING (Blu-ray Review)
2022 / 80 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😾

Two major obstacles stand in the way of Ip Man: The Awakening. Unfortunately, it doesn’t overcome either of them.

First is the looming shadow of Donnie Yen. Ip Man has been depicted in a slew of movies, spin-offs & TV shows over the years, and portrayed by several different actors. However, Yen's indelible performance in the four official Ip Man films is a tough act to follow…if not impossible. Comparatively speaking, newcomer Miu Tse isn’t up to the challenge. He’s got some nice moves, but totally lacks the dramatic chops to make the character engaging (even in martial arts films, that matters). 


Second, and most glaringly, this is the Ip Man legend served up as a brand name. Even if Tse was the genre’s Lawrence Oliver, his character is almost completely devoid of any personality or background, apparently written with the conceit that simply calling him Ip Man is all the character exposition we need. Hell, he could be renamed Steve without impacting any aspect of the story or action.


"Don't worry, buddy! I know the Heimlich Maneuver!"
Set in the 1930s, the story has Ip Man returning to Hong Kong and running afoul of British slave traders, led by a standard-issue, severely over-confident mob boss named Stark (played with laughable amounts of bemused detachment by Sergio De Ieso). Ip Man becomes a neighborhood savior, dispatching henchmen left-and-right with such efficiency that the outcome is never in doubt. There’s action to spare, which is well choreographed but never particularly exciting, mainly because these characters are all cardboard cut-outs.

The film culminates in a martial arts showdown pitting Ip Man’s Wing Chun skills against British “Bartitsu” (a combination of various fighting styles). It’s a perfunctory climax that’s indicative of the entire film…more of a genre expectation than a narrative necessity. While competently assembled, Ip Man: The Awakening is ultimately an empty exercise in by-the-numbers filmmaking, cynically cashing-in on brand name recognition.