December 31, 2022

KITTEN KRUSTIES: The Worst Stuff We Reviewed in 2022


While we enjoyed reviewing a slew of Blu-Rays, DVDs and movies in 2022, 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) INFINITE 4K - We’ve seen it all before, and because it spoon-feeds the entire premise almost immediately, there aren’t any narrative surprises. As much as we like Mark Wahlberg, it wouldn’t kill him to turn a project down now and again.

9) BLACKLIGHT - I’m wondering if Liam Neeson might be entering the Cannon Films phase of his action career, because Blacklight is a listless, formulaic bore. As yet-another age-defying, one-man wrecking crew, he’s earnest and likable. But this time, it’s not enough to lift Blacklight above mediocrity. Though competently assembled (‘assembled’ is definitely the right word) everything about the film is hopelessly generic.

8) DEADLY GAMES - This lethargic 1982 obscurity purports to be a slasher film. However, there’s precious little actual slashing. Too tame for horror fans, too slow for a thriller, and way too padded-out to maintain interest, Deadly Games is deadly dull, though some unintentional humor might be found in some cringeworthy performances. Some relics don’t deserve to be unearthed. 

7) DESPERATE RIDERS - Desperate Riders is a cheap, dull pastiche of western tropes, punctuated by a couple of fleeting familiar faces. It's a film as generic as its title, the kind of anonymous, budget-conscious fare that pads-out cable schedules and competes for space on Walmart shelves (generally priced low enough to encourage folks to buy it sight-unseen).

6) CAVE RESCUE - Cave Rescue is the third film released within a year that tells the same true story, the efforts to save a Thai youth soccer team trapped in a flooded cave. This one ends up being a dull exercise in redundancy and it's the viewer that needs to be rescued...from boredom.

5) THE SPINE OF NIGHT - The animated film is clearly inspired by the work of Ralph Bakshi and such other bygone relics as Heavy Metal. Despite attempts to liven things up with buckets of gore, The Spine of Night mostly ends up being a plodding checklist of time-honored adult fantasy tropes. 

4) FORTRESS: SNIPER’S EYE - The first Fortress (released last year) was direct-to-video junk, and this one is even worse. Essentially a remake with the exact same cast - plus a bitchy teenager thrown-in for good measure - the film is an indifferently-directed medley of low-wattage action, dull performances and silly dialogue. Not only that, the pall of Bruce Willis’ deteriorating health issues hangs over everything. 

3) ZEROS AND ONES - A baffling, impenetrable slab of ambiguity that doesn’t play even remotely like the thriller it’s touted as. Several shady characters pop in and out of a series of tenuously-tied vignettes which provide precious little exposition. We learn almost nothing about these people…sometimes not even their names. Even by director Abel Fararra’s standards, it’s damn-near inaccessible.

2) AMITYVILLE UPRISING - America’s favorite horror haven is rocked by a phony CGI chemical explosion at a military base, which eventually results in acid rain that turns people into flesh-eating zombies. Until then, the film is an interminable barrage of drab exposition, obnoxious characters, ridiculous dialogue and lousy performances. Some not-half-bad make-up effects can’t offset the scattershot pacing, laughable lapses in logic and a complete lack of style or purpose.

1) NINJA BADASS - Ninja Badass is artless, tone-deaf and one-note, wearing out its welcome after about 10 minutes. Going out of your way to make an intentionally shitty movie has never been inherently funny, though I suppose immature 15-year-olds might find writer-director-star Ryan Harrison’s sophomoric antics as hilarious as he seems to. 

KITTEN KATNIP: The Best Stuff We Reviewed in 2022


We reviewed a slew of Blu-Rays, DVDs and movies in 2022. Time to take a look back at the best of them. While we have seen more movies than the Surgeon General recommends, our list consists strictly of titles which were sent to us for review purposes.

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) WAR OF THE WORLDS 4K/WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (Paramount) - Nicely packaged and featuring a knock-out 4K transfer of 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.

9) EMERGENCY DECLARATION (Well Go USA) - I can’t resist a good disaster movie. But to be completely honest, I can’t resist a bad one, either. Fortunately, the nerve-jangling Korean thriller, Emergency Declaration, ranks highly among the former. Despite its length, the film is tons of high flying fun, seldom slowing down long enough for us to question its less plausible moments.

8) BARBARIAN (20th Century Entertainment) - If not one of the best horror films of the year, Barbarian certainly gets my vote for the most unpredictable, and the less you know going in, the more fun it is. Adventurous fans who appreciate having their expectations repeatedly confounded might find this to be a slice of horror heaven.

7) THE BATMAN 4K (Warner Bros) - What's cool about the latest version of the Caped Crusader is he’s fallible. Not everything works as planned and he sure as hell ain’t invincible. This is a Batman that could plausibly exist in the real world…not a superhero, but a true vigilante. And Pattinson plays him perfectly. This is also the best looking Batman film to date. Taking place mostly at night (of course), the combination of gothic and neo-noir styles definitely suits the dark tone, punctuated by production design that depicts Gotham as a crime-ravaged hellhole. 

6) SPIRITWALKER (Well Go USA) and THE ROUNDUP (MPI Media Group) - Conceptually and stylistically, these two Korean thrillers couldn’t be more different. However, both rank among the best pure action films of the year, and since it’s our list and we can do what we want, we’re gonna cheat and put them together. Gobs of big, bloody fun.

5) SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN 4K (Warner Bros) - If joy could be defined by a single film, you’d be hard-pressed to name a better example than Singin’ in the Rain. Every scene is an exercise in charm, exuberance, style and technical virtuosity, something even musical curmudgeons must grudgingly concede. Now in 4K, the film has never looked or sounded better.

4) SYMPHONY FOR A MASSACRE (Cohen Media Group) - Rescued from obscurity, Symphony for a Massacre is a knock-out thriller that deserves to be rediscovered by a new audience. Unpredictable, fast-paced and consistently engaging, it compares favorably the similarly-plotted Rififi and any French crime film you’d care to name, from any era. 

3) STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE - DIRECTOR’S EDITION 4K (Paramount) - This is the best Star Trek: The Motion Picture has ever looked or sounded, including its original theatrical release 40+ years ago. With all the editing tweaks, FX upgrades and restorations applied to it over the years - capped by a gorgeous 4K UHD overhaul done just this year - it almost plays like a different film from the historically maligned version many of us grew up with.

2) EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE (Lionsgate) - Everything Everywhere All at Once deftly combines great characters, funny dialogue, 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, this one definitely lives up to the hype

1) THE GODFATHER TRILOGY 4K (Paramount) - There are two kinds of people in the world…those who think that The Godfather is one of the greatest American films ever made and those who are wrong. This set is the definitive release of The Godfather Trilogy and an upgrade you can’t refuse. 4K was made for movies like these, and if that isn’t enough, it’s loaded with extras, including some interesting new stuff.


HONORABLE MENTION - Dune (Warner Bros); Reacher, Season One (Paramount); Pulp Fiction 4K (Paramount); Casablanca 80th Anniversary 4K (Warner Bros); Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount); Fall (Lionsgate); Elvis (Warner Bros); 3:10 to Yuma 4K (Lionsgate); The Black Phone (Universal); To Kill a Mockingbird 60th Anniversary 4K (Universal); YellowBrickRoad (Lightyear); That Dirty Black Bag, Season One (RLJE); Tin Can (Epic Pictures); True Romance 4K (Arrow); Last Passenger (Cohen Media); Encanto (Disney); Turning Red (Disney)

December 28, 2022

More is Less in BLACK ADAM


BLACK ADAM (Blu-ray Review)
2022 / 125 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😽

On one hand, Black Adam is violent, destructive fun whenever Dwayne Johnson is on the screen. As the titular character, he flies, glowers, wastes bad guys by the bushel and causes millions in property damage. Say what you will about his range - or lack of - Johnson is a tremendous on-screen presence and gifted at picking films that suit his abilities. In that respect, Teth Adam is a role he was born to play. 

On the other hand, Black Adam operates on the conceit that the audience is already familiar with the entire DC Universe…not just the movies, but the comic books themselves. When Teth Adam is resurrected after 5,000 years to use his God-like powers defending his home country of Kahndaq from mercenaries led by power-mad Ishmael Gregor, the Justice Society is tasked with reigning him in because killing people (even bad guys) is not heroic. 


"I swear, it was like that when I got here."
And who are the Justice Society? They’re four superheroes from a comparatively obscure DC comic - predating the Justice League - who arrive during the second act with almost no context. The film does a great job depicting the origins of Teth Adam, but Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) are introduced as though their personalities and skills were previously established in a film DC simply forgot to make. So while they have enough screen time to almost make Black Adam an ensemble piece, only those well-versed in DC lore will appreciate them. For everyone else, they are simply plot devices (and not very interesting ones at that).

Black Adam is certainly more fun than Batman v. Superman and Justice League, but similarly bloated with characters who probably should have gotten their own movie before being shoehorned into this one. The average viewer shouldn’t have to rely on the disc’s bonus features to know the Justice Society's backstory. However, Adam himself is an engaging antihero and Johnson's great in the role. When focused on his penchant for punishment and less on superfluous universe building, the film is fairly enjoyable.


EXTRA KIBBLES

FEATURETTES - “The History of Black Adam”; “Who is the Justice Society?” (if you don’t know who the hell they are, you might want to watch this first); “From Soul to Screen”; “Black Adam: A New Type of Action”; “Costumes Make the Hero”; “A Flawed Hero”; “New Tech in an Old World”; “The ROCK of Eternity”; “Taking Flight”; “Kahndaq: Designing a Nation”.

DVD & DIGITAL COPIES


December 27, 2022

THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY: I Married Batman


THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY
Batman Begins (2005); The Dark Knight (2008); The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Essay by D.M. ANDERSON💀

The more we’re inundated by superhero movies, the more I appreciate Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy. 

While I’ve enjoyed many movies based on comic books, I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan. There’s a sameness to most of them that has become rather rote, driven largely by CGI spectacle, indestructible protagonists and the conceit that viewers are already familiar with characters and events from every previous movie, show or comic that shares the same universe. Sorry, but I don’t have the time, gumption or financial resources to do all that shit just to enjoy one movie. Making Justice League watchable all by itself was your job.


But Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises transcend the genre. Dark without being brooding, they’re more-or-less serious in tone and, while certainly epic, at least stay within the realm of plausibility. Viewed as a trilogy, these films have a sweeping story arc that traces the titular character’s tragedy-fueled origins through his final selfless act to save Gotham, ending with a satisfying sense of finality. 


Batman has always been my personal favorite superhero because there’s nothing “super'' about him. And more effectively than any other director, Nolan gave us a caped crusader who could conceivably exist in the real world. In fact, I’m convinced Batman does exist in the real world. I’m also convinced Batman is not a man at all. 


Furthermore, I’m pretty sure I actually married Batman.


My wife, Francie, may not be a winged vigilante, and unless it’s Date Night, she never dons a mask, cape or utility belt. But damn, she’s got batskills. While I’ll refrain from sharing the more intimate ones, some of her uncanny abilities are - like the Dark Knight’s - a little intimidating. 


Some background first…we’ve been married forever, and not once in those 30+ years has she ever been in a hurry. Even when we were in our 20s and in the best shape of our lives, there was never a time or situation where she felt compelled to run. Too bad, really, because she was built like Jessica Rabbit and seeing her jog in slow motion to the Chariots of Fire theme would have been awe inspiring. 


Francie doesn’t really walk, either. She moseys. She moseys everywhere at her own leisurely pace. I can’t count how many times we’ve been out somewhere and I discover I’ve been talking to myself because she’s moseying ten feet behind…or worse yet, she's pulled a Batman on me.


One of the cooler things about Batman is how quickly he can disappear. The second someone turns their back, he’s gone…vanishing into the night as swiftly and silently as he appeared. It’s always been part of his mystique, though I imagine it bugs the shit out of Commissioner Gordon, who’s often ditched mid-sentence once he’s said everything worth hearing. Such a skill would come in handy at staff meetings.


Francie doesn’t even need the cover of night to pull off the same trick. She manages to do this damn near every time we go to Target. It is her Gotham City.


We’re at that age where a wild weekend consists of Starbucks and Target. I like the fact that there’s a Starbucks in every store, making Target my fortress of choice during the impending zombie apocalypse. As long as the Pike keeps flowing, I’ll never feel compelled to sacrifice my fellow survivors to the undead. And being slightly more upscale than Walmart, Target visits are those rare occasions when I’m compelled to wear something on my days off besides pajamas.


Anyway, Francie’s Target disappearing act is something to behold…or not behold, since I’ve never been able to catch her in the act of moseying away. As a recent example, one second I’m pricing air fryers, the next…she's gone, just as I’m mansplaining reasons we need one. But since I’ve probably mansplained why we needed an air fryer every time we’ve gone to Target recently, perhaps I already said everything worth hearing. That must make me her Commissioner Gordon.


Francie moseys to the linens section.
And make no mistake…Francie isn’t simply in the next aisle, or the one after that. She has disa-fucking-peared! How the hell does a moseying middle-aged mother of two manage to do that so fast…pushing a shipping cart, no less? By the time I find her, she has moseyed to the other side of the store, looking at blouses. She should be picking out a cape. 

“Do you like this color?” she asks innocently, oblivious to my angst over spending the last 10 minutes searching every aisle. 


“Sure,” I grumble as I drop the air fryer I’ve been lugging around the store into the cart.


Francie raises a skeptical brow. “An air fryer, huh?”


I considered mansplaining once again why we needed one, but had no desire to engage in another bat hunt, so I simply nodded as I finished off my Pike. She smiled, put the blouse in the cart and continued moseying.


For the life of me, I don’t know how she manages to elude me like this. And it’s always at Target, right under the fluorescent glare of the store’s lights. I don’t think even Batman could manage such a feat. The Joker may-indeed want to watch the world burn, but God help him if he ever sets foot in a Target store while Francie’s moseying. The aisles of housewares and fall sweaters are her rooftops and dark alleys. I know Christian Bale has-since hung up the cowl, but should Christopher Nolan ever decide to return to the Dark Knight franchise - and he really should - I would humbly suggest casting Francie, the real-life Batman.

December 26, 2022

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN: What's a Few Fingers Between Friends?


THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN (Digital Review)
2022 / 114 min

FROM SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

If the island of Inisherin were a real place, you’d never want to live there. The skies are perpetually gray, an Irish civil war is raging on the mainland just across the bay and there doesn’t appear to be any kind of discernible economy. And save for Padraic (Colin Farell), who ain’t the sharpest crayon in the box, no one in this sparsely populated community seems particularly happy. 

Padraic’s life consists of simple routine…tending to his animals and spending days at the pub with his best friend, musician Colm (Brendan Gleeson). He lives with his sister, Siobhan (Kerry Condon), the more responsible of the two, who is quietly desperate to leave Inisherin for a better life. 


Then without explanation, Colm doesn’t want to be friends with Padraic anymore, which shocks everyone because Padraic is congenial, generous and liked by everyone. It devastates Padraic, especially once Colm makes good on his threat to start cutting off one of his own fingers every time Padraic speaks to him. Colm does eventually reveal - to Siobhan - the reason for his sudden dislike of his lifelong friend, which not only escalates the conflict, but renders Padraic something of a tragic figure. Colm, who believes Padraic is stifling his creativity, becomes the film’s defacto antagonist.


"Did you eat all my nachos?"
But The Banshees of Inisherin focuses less on the hows and whys of this crumbling friendship than on the effect it has on its characters, Padraic in particular, who feels utterly helpless. In fact, helplessness seems to be an underlying theme throughout the narrative, as conveyed through some of the secondary characters as well. The film is frequently funny, but often disheartening, and as the story unfolds, we’re increasingly certain - long before the final act - that nobody is going to end up happy.

Still, the two main characters are interesting and wonderfully realized by Farrell & Gleeson. Though distressing, the changes Padraic undergoes are fascinating. He becomes increasingly disillusioned, to say nothing of lonely. It’s for that reason the film is worth seeing, if only once. I don’t think I’d be compelled to experience the end of this friendship a second time.


EXTRA KIBBLES

FEATURETTES - “Shooting with Animals for The Banshees of Inisherin”; “Creating The Benshees of Inisherin.”
5 DELETED SCENES

December 23, 2022

Digging Up New Friends in THE LONELIEST BOY IN THE WORLD


THE LONELIEST BOY IN THE WORLD (Blu-ray Review)
2022 / 90 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😽

Just what we need…yet another horror-comedy with zombies. Another horror-comedy set in the 80s. Yeah…like we haven’t seen both of those one-joke premises beaten to death over the years. (commence eye-rolling)

But what’s this? A modern movie set in the 80s that doesn’t half its running time poking fun at the decade? No way! In fact, aside from a couple of songs and some creative set design, there’s no discernible reason why it takes place in the 80s. 


And a zombie comedy that isn’t chock full of cartoon gore gags and “quirky” characters fighting the undead with “funny” weapons? Surely not! But a few gross bits notwithstanding, the zombies are benign and kind of sweet. Not only that, there isn’t a single gut-munching scene to be found (though one part featuring regurgitated cheese is kinda nauseating).


When you don't like what's on TV, but can't find the remote.

The Loneliest Boy in the World begins with a twisted premise. Introverted, housebound teenager Oliver is all alone after his mother dies, but has never really interacted with others and seems incapable of taking care of himself. A few social workers give him a week to make at least one friend or else they’ll have him committed. After attempts to meet new people don't seem to be working out, Oliver exhumes a few fresh corpses and brings them home. When they inexplicably become reanimated, not only does he regard them as his family, they return the affection in kind. 

One would assume blood-soaked hilarity to ensue as Oliver’s forced to keep his secret from the authorities and community, but it’s Halloween season and his new family fits right in. Instead, the story goes in unexpected directions that, while not always especially funny, are fairly engaging…even charming at times. Oliver’s “mom,” “dad” and “best friend” Mitch (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) offer advice and encouragement, which in-turn gives him confidence to not-only pursue romance for the first time, but stand up to those who’ve been bullying him. The story is buoyed by a sympathetic performance from Max Harwood, who resists the inherent temptation to depict Oliver as crazy.

The Loneliest Boy in the World rarely ventures into horror territory, not even of the splatstick variety. Though there are some amusing gags here and there, there's a bigger emphasis on Oliver’s friendships and personal growth, which results in a climax that’s surprisingly bittersweet. Nobody’s gonna walk away thinking they've just seen a classic, but at least it’s not another tired parody of zombie movies and 80s tropes. Without such preconceived expectations, the film is pretty enjoyable.


EXTRA KIBBLES

BEHIND-THE-SCENES FEATURETTE

TRAILER


December 20, 2022

BLOOD & DIAMONDS: Not as Exploitative as it Looks


BLOOD & DIAMONDS (Blu-ray Review)
1977 / 102 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😽

Not quite a poliziotteschi film, Blood & Diamonds is a 1977 Italian crime thriller cut from a similar cloth.

Guido Mauri (Claudio Cassinelli) is a jewel thief caught and sentenced to five years in prison. Upon release, he vows to get even with mob boss Rizzo (Martin Balsam), who he believes set him up. He’s also convinced Rizzo is behind an attempt on his life, which resulted in the death of his girlfriend, Maria (Olga Karlatos). So Guido decides to steal a cache of Rizzo’s diamonds, made more complicated by sadistic corrupt cop Tony (Pier Paolo Capponi) and dancer Lisa (Barbara Bouchet), who could be seen as the film’s femme fatale (the story does include film noir elements).


The plot moves in fits and starts, regularly wavering between intriguing and unnecessarily complex. However, the narrative takes a few surprising turns, especially a major one near the end that not-only changes how we view Rizzo, it reveals the fallibility of Guido’s single-minded quest for revenge. Elsewhere, Blood & Diamonds shares a few traits of Italian poliziotteschi flicks popular at the time, but overall, it’s far less exploitative, Bouchet’s gratuitous go-go dance being a noteworthy exception (one of the goofier highlights).


Guess who just got put in time-out.
As Guido, Cassinelli is required to do little more than scowl. While his expression hardly changes throughout the film, it suits the perpetually morose character just fine. The great Martin Balsam isn’t actually in the film a whole lot - mostly barking orders from behind a desk - but makes the most of a small but pivotal role. Bouchet and Karlatos provide some agreeable eye candy, though neither character is particularly vital to the story.

Blood & Diamonds is a decent Italian crime thriller that might disappoint poliziotteschi fans expecting something more lurid, but the story features a few unexpected twists and comes to a surprising conclusion. Considering its relative obscurity on this side of the pond, 88 Films provides quite a few excellent bonus features - including a poster! - to go along with a solid 4K restoration of the movie itself.


EXTRA KIBBLES

DOWN BY DI LEO: A JOURNEY OF LOVE - Feature length doc about director Fernando Di Leo.

BLOOD & DI LEO - Interview with Luc Merenda, who worked often with the director, but doesn’t actually appear in this film.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Nathaniel Thompson & Troy Howarth.

ITALIAN OPENING, INTERMISSION & CLOSING TITLES

ITALIAN TRAILER

SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - With 3 essays.

REVERSIBLE COVER - With new and original artwork.

TWO-SIDED POSTER - With new and original artwork.