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September 30, 2022
September 29, 2022
It’s sort of ironic that, even though they’re just secondary characters, Batman and Superman are a lot more fun in DC League of Super-Pets than any film in the so-called Snyderverse. For some, that may be faint praise, but this film does give their iconic personas some good-natured ribbing, especially Batman. As voiced by Keanu Reeves, I wouldn’t mind seeing a spin-off featuring just him, since he's not in this film nearly enough.
The title tells all…DC League of Super-Pets is an origin story, of sorts, with the Man of Steel fighting crime and saving lives alongside Krypto, his loyal dog who arrived here from Krypton with him. Somewhat cheekily, it looks like Krypto does most of the hard work. Still, they’re best buds, at least until Lois Lane’s increasing presence makes Krypto feel left out.
Meanwhile Lex Luthor tries to nab a meteor made of Orange Kryptonite. It’s supposed to give him powers equal to Superman’s, but turns out to have no effect on humans. However, it does boost Lulu, a hairless pet store guinea pig that used to be one of Luthor’ lab animals. She uses her powers to imprison the entire Justice League, while tricking Krypto into eating Green Kryptonite by hiding it inside a piece of cheese. Now powerless, he enlists the help of other animals from the same pet store: cynical boxer Ace, hero-worshipping pig PB, insecure squirrel Chip and near-sighted turtle Merton. They, too, have been affected by Orange Kryptonite, but struggle to control their new abilities.
|"Neutered? I prefer to think of myself as streamlined."|
Typical of most modern animated films, an all-star cast provides the voices, including Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Diego Luna. However, this ain’t gratuitous stunt casting. Each actor effectively serves their characters. Even Hart - who normally can’t stop being Kevin Hart long enough for us to forget him - is surprisingly understated, which is appropriate for Ace’s demeanor. However, it’s Reeve’s Batman who steals every scene he’s in.
Boosted by colorful CG animation and a surprisingly sweet-natured - albeit predictable - story, DC League of Super-Pets will amuse its intended audience. Be advised, however, that the film’s funniest laugh-out-loud moment comes after the end credits, so stay tuned.
FEATURETTES - “How to Draw Krypto”; “Behind the Super Voices”; “Super-Pets Animation 101”; “The World of Super-Pets”; “Find the Easter Eggs” (of course).
September 28, 2022
Be aware that Vinnie Jones is not the actual star of Bullet Proof, and unless you’re one of his relatives, that’s a good thing. The guy’s always been just too imposing to be a convincing leading man. And let’s face it, with his relatively limited range, he's better off playing thugs.
Fittingly, he’s the bad guy here, playing a vicious druglord named Temple. Glowring, seething and clenching his jaw hard enough to break granite, Jones looks like he’s having a good time, which means we’ll probably have a good time watching him. The real star - and director - is James Clayton as The Thief, who steals a cache of cash from Temple and escapes in one of his gang member’s cars. But stowed in the trunk is Temple’s pregnant wife, Mia (Lina Lecompte), caught trying to escape her abusive marriage.
|In his spare time, Vinnie moonlights as a driving instructor.|
As budget-conscious action flicks go, Bullet Proof ain’t bad. Though the story is predictable and contains more than its fair share of implausibilities, the action sequences are skillfully handled, even suspenseful from time to time. The overall performances are decent, as well. Clayton and Lecompte are an entertaining pair, instilling their thinly-drawn characters with enough likability that we’re sort-of invested in them. Vinnie Jones is…well, Vinnie Jones (which, again, is a good thing).
No one’s gonna walk away thinking they’ve seen a great film, but with tempered expectations, Bullet Proof is an agreeable way to kill 90 minutes. Bereft of surprises and never particularly memorable, it’s nevertheless fun in the moment…with Jones doing more of what he does best.
September 27, 2022
Bear in mind that Cinematographer isn’t really an encompassing documentary about “the art of filmmaking” as touted on the cover. Nor is it a retrospective of the history of cinematography.
In fact, the film is mostly about one guy: Donald M. Morgan, a longtime director of photography and cameraman with a prolific career in both movies and television. Some of the best-known films he worked on include Christine, Starman, Used Cars, Seven, 1941 and a slew of TV productions. However, this is only partially about his time behind the camera.
While Morgan himself has a lot of entertaining anecdotes about his job - including how he stumbled into the business before he really even knew what he was doing - a good portion of the film focuses on his recovery from alcoholism. Not only that, he used his struggle to inspire friends and associates to battle their own chemical demons, as confirmed through numerous interviews with those who know him well.
|"...and there's Bob Zemeckis, whose ass I kicked back in '78."|
September 26, 2022
Strange movie, this one.
Not the story, mind you. In fact, Preman: Silent Fury boasts the type of solid, reliable plot on which many good action films are built. Khiva Iskak plays Sandi, a deafmute who works as a thug with the Preman, a group of Indonesian gangsters trying to rid an entire village of its inhabitants. He’s also widowed, trying to raise his impressionable young son, Pandu (Muzakki Ramdhan), and doing kind of a piss poor job of it. Still, his heart is in the right place.
Then Pandu witnesses the murder of a respected elderly villager at the hands of Shandi’s sadistic boss, Hanoeng (David Saragih). Sandi turns out to be a hell of a fighter, though, kicking the shit out of a half-dozen guys to escape with his son. The two go on the run, unable to rely on the police because they're all corrupt. Meanwhile, Hanoeng sends his crew to find and kill them. But since none match Sandi's skills - nor are they very bright - he’s forced to hire notorious hairdressing assassin, Ramon (Revaldo), who always refers to himself in the third person.
|When you're surrounded by assholes.|
It’s the jarring shifts in tonal gears that make this a strange viewing experience, especially the scenes which delve into surrealism. Because it can’t quite stick with one mood very long, Preman moves in fits and starts. The fighting scenes are pretty good - Sandi's pretty handy with a flail - though sometimes a little haphazardly edited. Writer-director Randolph Zaini fares much better with dialogue and establishing his characters. Bolstered by good performances, Sandi and Pandu are engaging, with the former’s redemption being integral to the story. In addition to Ramon, some of the other quirky bad guys are pretty amusing, even those who ultimately end up as cannon fodder.
Though arguably trying to do too much in 90 minutes, Preman: Silent Fury is mostly pretty enjoyable. A lot of viewers might actually appreciate how all-over-the-place it is, which admittedly renders it a little different than your usual martial arts fight-fest. So while it’s structurally a little strange, at least it’s seldom boring.
September 24, 2022
One of my favorite aspects of the ongoing Paramount Presents series is the packaging. Each slipcase opens to reveal a replica of the film’s original poster art. However, this 2-disc set of The War of the Worlds and When Worlds Collide includes the one-sheet that was created to promote their re-release as a double feature back in the ‘70s. It’s almost as if Paramount had my childhood in-mind, because I was first in line to catch them at the Southgate theater one weekend, even though I'd already seen both on TV a million times.
When Star Wars became a cultural phenomenon in 1977, science-fiction was suddenly cool again. More importantly, it was profitable again and studios clamored to get a piece of the action. In an odd move, Paramount Pictures resurrected two relics from the early 1950s – The War of the Worlds and When Worlds Collide – marketing them with an all-new ad campaign.
|Not everyone loves L.A.|
So there I was at the Southgate one afternoon, by myself, watching two movies that were made when my parents were kids. Granted, both were rendered quaint in the wake of Star Wars, but they won visual effects Oscars in their day, and decades later, were still more convincing than most of the Star Wars rip-offs cranked out at the time, such as Starcrash, Battle Beyond the Stars, Laserblast or Message from Space. And you know what? Seeing The War of the Worlds and When Worlds Collide on the big screen made them feel a lot more epic than they did on my tiny black & white bedroom TV. It was almost like watching them for the first time.
|"No freaking way am I mowing that."|
Short of catching them at a revival house, this set (Paramount Presents #35) is the closest I’ll ever get to reliving the childhood experience of seeing them on the big-screen. Both of them look and sound wonderful…with the lights out & curtains drawn, it’s almost like being back at the old Southgate (minus the sticky floor).
While The War of the Worlds was first released on Blu-ray by Criterion just two years ago and featured a great remaster, I gotta say the 4K UHD transfer is a knock-out. But even for those who purchased the Criterion disc, the Blu-ray debut of When Worlds Collide is too tempting for any ‘50s sci-fi fan to pass up (and looks a hell of a lot better than the crusty old DVD). Unavailable separately, one could consider this the greatest bonus feature of all time. Nicely packaged and featuring a smattering of vintage supplemental material - all related to The War of the Worlds - this is one of the best releases of the Paramount Presents series. Whether you grew up in the ‘50s or belatedly discovered them in the ‘70s, these films paired together are a nostalgic blast and the perfect double feature.
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (4K):
FEATURETTES - “The Sky is Falling: Making The War of the Worlds”; “H.G.Wells: The Father of Science Fiction.”
“THE WAR OF THE WORLDS” - Orsen Welles’ infamous Mercury Theater On the Air Radio Broadcast.
AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By actors Ann Robinson & Gene Barry; 2) By director Joe Dante (Gremlins), historians Bob Burns & Bill Warren.
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (BLU-RAY):
September 23, 2022
Not only are they modern classics, Poltergeist and The Lost Boys had a significant cultural impact in a decade when horror was mostly defined by slasher films. They were comparative anomalies in the genre: Two movies aimed at a wide audience - practically family friendly - that still delivered in the thrill department. Now both have been given the well-deserved 4K treatment. No new bonus features are included, but the video/audio upgrades are outstanding.
1982 / 114 min
Despite being released with a PG rating at a time when nearly all horror movies were rated R, Poltergeist scared the hell out of everybody in the summer of ‘82. Anyone claiming otherwise was simply lying. And that PG rating didn’t stop Tobe Hooper & Steven Spielberg from showing a guy rip his own face from his skull in lurid, lingering detail! How’d they get away with that? However, the most amazing aspect of the film was that it managed to scare the bejeezus out of an entire generation - exploiting some of our most common fears along the way - without killing a single character. One of the scariest movies of all time had a total body count of zero.
|Time for walkies.|
While the 4K disc looks and sounds awesome, the accompanying Blu-ray also been given a new transfer, meaning that this one might be worth the upgrade regardless of your preferred format. Other than a digital copy, all the bonus features are carried over from other releases, none of which are very substantial.
4K, BLU-RAY & DIGITAL COPIES
FEATURETTES - “They Are Here: The Real World of the Poltergeists” (a 2007 doc about people who investigate the paranormal for a living, but has little to do with the actual movie); “The Making of Poltergeist” (vintage featurette).
THE LOST BOYS
1987 / 97 min
The Lost Boys is a comedic vampire tale with villains infinitely cooler than its heroes, sporting trenchcoats, tons of bling, leather, spandex and totally rockin’ mullets. There must be more mullets on display here than at a Bon Jovi concert.
The Lost Boys has maintained a pretty large fanbase over the years and remains revered by those who grew up with it. The film is genuinely funny and loaded with some great one-liners ("You're a creature of the night, Michael...wait until Mom finds out!"). It also features terrific performances by its young cast. Some, like Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz and Alex Winter (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure) would go on to bigger things. For others, The Lost Boys would be the high point of their careers.
|"Who's ready for 'Smores?"|
Like Poltergeist, this one features great new transfers for both 4K and Blu-ray, making it worth the upgrade for videophiles. The bonus features are also carried over from previous releases, but unlike those included with Poltergeist, they’re substantial and entertaining. In fact, The Lost Boys’ back-story is just as interesting as the movie itself.
4K, BLU-RAY & DIGITAL COPIES.
FEATURETTES - “The Lost Boys: A Retrospective” (an excellent 20-minute look back, with cast & crew interviews); “Vamping Out: The Undead Creations of Greg Cannom”; “Haimster & Feldog: A Tale of Two Coreys”; “A World of Vampires” (a history of vampire lore around the world)
“INSIDE THE VAMPIRE’S CAVE” - Multi-part making-of doc, with interviews with various cast & crew.
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Joel Schumacher.
MULTI-ANGLE VIDEO COMMENTARIES - Scene-specific, featuring Corey Haim, Corey Feldman & Jason Newlander.
MUSIC VIDEO - “Lost in the Shadows”
September 20, 2022
For some, A Fugitive from the Past is probably one of those films it’s easier to admire than enjoy. Not that it isn’t often fascinating, but at 183 minutes, it’s an exhausting one-movie marathon, especially considering the basic plot. And if you think the movie is long, its source novel, Kiga Kaikyo, is 1700 pages. So we should actually be grateful that director Tomu Uchida managed to be this concise.
Speaking of which, Tomu Uchida is no Akira Kurosawa, and by that I mean his work is not widely known on this side of the pond. In fact, this is the first time A Fugitive from the Past has ever been released on home video outside of Japan. But not only did Uchida have a lengthy career dating back to the silent era, this one is considered by some to be his magnum opus and one of the greatest Japanese films of all time. While I’m not sure I concur with the latter, it’s certainly a movie any self-respecting cinephile should see at least once before they die.
Despite the epic length, it is not an epic journey. On the surface, it’s a fairly straightforward story presented in three distinct acts. After robbing and killing a pawnbroker, Takichi Inukai (Rentaro Mikuni) and two partners escape on a small boat during a storm which sinks a ship. He apparently kills the other two, so when their bodies are discovered, authorities will think they’re one of the hundreds of ship passengers who perished. However, the police quickly determine the men were murdered ex-cons, leading to a manhunt headed by Yumisaka (Junzaburo Ban).
Though he’s able to follow Inukai’s trail, Yunisaka is not only one step behind, Inukai is aided by local prostitute Yae Sugito (Sachiko Hidari). Since he’s weary and starving, she takes him in and tends to his needs (in more ways than one). To show his gratitude, Inukai gives Yae enough money for her to start a new life in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Yunisaka’s obsession with catching Inukai ultimately ends his career.
Then the film takes an unexpected narrative turn with a middle act that focuses on Yae’s life after relocating to Tokyo. Though she tries to escape her old life, she ends up being a prostitute again, though making a lot more money and therefore happier. Yae has never forgotten Inukai’s generosity and dreams of thanking him in person one day. Ten years later, she gets her chance.
Spotting his picture in the paper - he’s now a wealthy businessman known as Kyoichiro Tarumi - she goes to his home. He claims not to know her, but not only is Yae obsessive, she is persistent. Inukai ends up killing her, as well as a servant who happens to enter the room. He quickly disposes of both bodies, which the police discover and initially assume is a mutual suicide. However, it isn’t long before the police, led by Detective Ajimura (Ken Takakura), begin to suspect Inukai/Turami, and after coaxing Yunisaka out of retirement, Ajimura is able to make the connection between Yae’s murder and the robbery a decade earlier.
|"Not only do I think he killed her, I'm pretty sure he's the guy who stole my bike."|
Could the same story have been told in two hours? Probably, but one can argue it wouldn’t have been as immersive, nor could there be much room for social commentary and themes of karma, redemption and guilt (to name a few). Uchida juggles his ideas and characters extremely well, working with a story that’s apparently atypical of the types of films he was known for at the time. He’s aided considerably by excellent performances - Mikuni, in particular - and stark black & white cinematography that reflects a film noir influence, appropriate for the somber tone.
Speaking of which…though interesting, A Fugitive from the Past isn’t what anyone would consider a “fun” film. It does test the viewer’s patience at times, especially since the denouement is practically a forgone conclusion. And considering its length, the film’s unexpectedly abrupt climax - if you can even call it that - is pretty jarring. I can imagine a lot of neophytes thinking, “Well, that was much ado about nothing.” But as someone new to Uchida, I don't know how often I’d feel compelled to revisit this one, but was intrigued enough to seek out some of his other films.
INTRODUCTION - At nearly 30 minutes, this is more like an appreciation by writer Jasper Sharp.
SCENE SPECIFIC AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 6 different audio commentaries covering various parts of the film by several scholars. Very academic in their discussions.
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Includes two essays, “A Tale of Guilt and Dread,” by David Baldwin, and Tomu Uchida’s Salvation from Evil,” by Inuhiko Yomota; cast, crew & restoration credits.
TOMU UCHIDA FILMOGRAPHY
REVERSIBLE COVER - Featuring new and original artwork.