August 30, 2023

THE LITTLE MERMAID (2023): The Song Remains (mostly) the Same

2023 / 135 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😽
The Little Mermaid is now available on Digital and on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD September 19.

When you think about it, the initial release of the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid provided two forms of entertainment. First, there were all the mouth-breathers who took a break from yelling at clouds to express their outrage over the decision to cast an African-American as Ariel. That was good for a few chuckles.

Second, of course, is the film itself. And if you’ve never actually seen the original, this one is a wonderful piece of eye and ear candy. Not nearly as aesthetically murky as the trailer first suggested, it’s vibrant and colorful, with outstanding production design and creatively-rendered creatures, especially the antagonist, Ursula, who’s wonderfully played by Melissa McCarthy. As the title character, Halle Bailey is charming, likable and possesses an impressive set of pipes. Speaking of which, with one glaring exception, the songs and score are terrific.

But…that’s a big if. As the movie largely responsible for kicking-off the so-called Disney Renaissance, not only have most of us seen 1989’s The Little Mermaid, so have our children and grandchildren (probably more than once, as many parents will attest). So we gotta ask the same question we had for all the other Disney live-action remakes: Does this movie even need to exist?

"Dinglehopper? I thought it was a seafood fork."

While not quite as redundant as the scene-for-scene remake of The Lion King, much of it repeats the original, right down to the dialogue. The classic songs are all here, still catchy and well performed. Though a few new tunes are added, they're are comparatively unremarkable, and one of them is downright cringeworthy (the last thing a musical like this ever needed was a rap song). And like The Lion King, making Ariel’s co-starring critters photo-realistic renders them comparatively expressionless, robbing them of much of their personality.

On the other hand, there are a few interesting changes and additions to the story. Maybe not enough to justify being over 45 minutes longer than the original, but at least Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) has more of a backstory and a similar restless desire for independence as Ariel. He also has an adoptive mother in this one, Queen Selina (Noma Dumezweni), who fears Eric’s reckless need for adventure.

The Little Mermaid doesn’t rank among Disney's best live-action remakes, such as The Jungle Book and (believe it or not) Pete’s Dragon, both of which were adapted from films that weren’t that great to begin with, and different enough to justify their existence. Still, it’s pretty to look at and the performances are good. Like a talented singer covering a classic, The Little Mermaid won’t make anyone forget the original, but as unnecessary remakes go, it’s fairly enjoyable. 



FEATURETTES - Recreating Scuttle & Sebastian; Hotter Under the Water (6 brief behind-the-scenes segments with a ‘play all’ option); Song Breakdowns (similar behind-the-scenes segments, only related to the songs); The Scuttlebutt on Sidekicks; Passing the Dinglehopper.

SONG SELECTION - Go right to your favorite songs.


August 29, 2023


2011-2021 / 1123 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

Maybe not quite complete, but pretty damn close…

The Complete Story of Film consists of two documentaries directed and narrated by Mark Cousins, whose impressive resume includes numerous books and features on the subject. 2011’s The Story of Film: An Odyssey is aptly named…over 15 hours divided into chapters, each focusing on a particular era or theme. Cousins’ 2021 follow-up, The Story of Film: A New Generation, is a two-part, three hour examination that primarily discusses films and directors of the 21st Century. Together, this is an exhaustive look at the medium’s 130 year history. If you think you already know it all, think again.

Dating all the way back to the mid-1890s, we’re shown the earliest examples of moving images and those who invented them, the evolution from nickelodeon-type entertainment to screenings for mass audiences, the first films with actual stories, and most importantly, technical innovations. The early chapters are especially interesting, where we can appreciate the first attempts at actual editing, special effects and experiments with camera movement.

The Story of Film is more-or-less told chronologically, though Cousins often presents examples of technical or creative firsts by pioneering directors, followed by clips of modern films which utilize the same techniques and concepts. And really, it’s amazing how many of cinema’s best tricks are actually over a century old.  

Since every story needs a bad guy, we give you the man who remade Psycho.
But this isn’t just about film’s technical history. There’s an equal emphasis on various film movements, as well as innovative and/or groundbreaking storytelling by both legendary and obscure filmmakers from around the world. Speaking of which, The Story of Film is truly a global history. Cinema from every continent is given as much screen time and analysis as those hailing from Hollywood. If nothing else, the audience is introduced to scores of artists we may not have ever heard of, but are the Scorseses, Hitchcocks and Fords of their own countries.

Of course, both documentaries feature hundreds and hundreds of film clips - classic & obscure - along with commentary & interviews explaining their artistry, relevance to the era and historical significance. Acquiring the rights to all of ‘em must have been a logistical nightmare, but chances are the viewer’s gonna be introduced to quite a few films to put on their gotta-see list.

However, Cousins’ subjectivity is an occasional distraction. I suppose that’s unavoidable, but his personal preferences do keep this from being a truly complete history. He’s clearly in love with existential & experimental cinema, which is fine, but just because one doesn’t appreciate the more exploitative side of the industry doesn’t make it less historically relevant (with a handful of notable exceptions, the genres of science-fiction, horror and erotica are virtually ignored). 

As for his narration, it ranges from academic and analytical to openly fawning over certain directors (while being comparatively dismissive of others). And even though he doesn’t overtly express it, one can sense he doesn’t hold much of “Hollywood” in high regard, particularly once digital filmmaking became commonplace.

Still, The Complete Story of Film is an epic journey through cinema history, from its birth to speculation about the future. Subjectively, there are bound to be some glaring omissions (What? No Solaris? No Apocalypse Now? For shame!), but it’s hard to argue what Mark Cousins chooses to include. Revealing, knowledgeable and entertaining, the sheer scope of this thing makes it essential viewing for cinephiles.


SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Includes an interview with director-narrator Mark Cousins; a multi-chapter chronicle on the making of the film by Cousins; index of film clips & directors featured in each chapter.

August 28, 2023

Movie Night with Dave & Stinky: THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932)

PLAY DIRTY: Something Borrowed...

PLAY DIRTY (Blu-ray)
1968 / 118 min
Available at
Review by Mr. Paws😽

Play Dirty is another movie that likely wouldn’t exist without The Dirty Dozen. And that’s okay. Filmmakers have been borrowing the concept (if not flat-out ripping it off) for decades with varied results. This mostly forgotten British take on the formula was one of the first, but hardly the worst.

Taking place in Africa during World War II, Captain Douglas (Michael Caine) is a petroleum engineer ordered to command a mission into German-occupied territory and blow up a major fuel station, thus tipping the scales in Britain’s favor. His team consists of war criminals led by Captain Cyril Leech (Nigel Davenport). Unlike Douglas, who tends to do things by the book, Leech is cynical and undisciplined, but far more experienced in desert warfare.

" called 'shotgun'...this time."
This leads to some initial conflict between the two during the journey toward their destination, which includes run-ins with German troops and local hostile tribes. Meanwhile, their conniving commanders, who sent them in the first place, deploy a more heavily armed squad behind them (who are quickly eliminated by the Germans).

There are some good action sequences and the plot itself is a fairly interesting variation of The Dirty Dozen. But unlike that classic, Play Dirty is mostly bereft of engaging characters. Aside from Leech and a scavenging gay couple, none of the team are provided much of a personality. And while Caine is decent in his role, it's Davenport who gives the best performance.

Still, Play Dirty is watchable. It’s no classic and doesn’t win any awards for originality, but with tempered expectations, the film is an agreeable way to kill a few hours. And trust me…you’ve seen worse movies that copy a classic.

August 27, 2023

TAXI HUNTER and the Sympathetic Cabbie Killer

1993 / 90 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😸

Who doesn’t love a good revenge story? And the more traumatizing the tragedy, the sweeter the payback. Things don’t get more traumatizing than losing your wife and unborn child during a single careless act. As such, Taxi Hunter is an excellent vigilante film.

Kin (Anthony Wong) is a meek businessman who tends to turn the other cheek rather than engage in conflict, as exemplified when a crooked cab driver stages an accident and bullies him into paying for the damages. In fact, the entire Hong Kong taxi service appears to be corrupt, bilking customers out of money with all kinds of demands and fees.

Then one night, when his pregnant wife is experiencing extreme abdominal pain, Kin hails a cab. The driver sees that she’s bleeding and doesn’t want to mess up his seats, so he demands more money than Kin has on him. As he speeds away, Kin's wife gets caught in the door and is dragged down the street. She and the baby are killed.

Unable to put the tragedy behind him, Kin begins a one-man war on taxi drivers, venturing out at night and violently killing the crooked ones. His spree soon makes headlines, so the police go undercover as cabbies to try and catch the killer. One of those cops, Yu Kai-Chung (Yu Rongguang), also happens to be his best friend, and soon suspects Kin could be the taxi driver killer.

"Which end goes boom?"
Thematically, Taxi Hunter shares more similarities with Death Wish than the usual revenge film. In that one, you might recall that Paul Kersey doesn’t actually get even with the guys who killed his wife and raped his daughter. His vigilantism is a form of catharsis. Similarly, Kin isn’t targeting anyone in particular, but all corrupt cabbies. As depicted in the film, most of them have it coming. 

Wong delivers a strong, sympathetic performance (which was an apparent change of pace from antagonist roles he was known for). His growth (or descent) from benign citizen to revenge-fueled killer is not-only convincing, it’s extremely satisfying for the audience, as we vicariously experience the same rage he does. Rongguang is also solid as Kai-Chung, the only person who expresses concern over Kin’s well-being. The same can't be said about Man-Tat Ng as Gao, Kai-Chung’s abrasive partner. Loud, obnoxious and buffoonish, he’s a cartoon caricature who ruins every scene he appears in.

Other than that, Taxi Hunter hits all the right notes with a great premise, sharp direction and excellent action sequences, making it well-worth checking out for those who love watching some well-deserved payback. Inexplicably, it was also designated as a ‘Category III’ film back in the ‘90s. Category III was Hong Kong’s equivalent of NC-17 and has a history of being synonymous with exploitation at its most depraved. While certainly violent, Taxi Hunter is nowhere nearly as lurid or brutal as the label suggests.


INTERVIEWS - Hunting for Words - Interview with screenwriter-producer Tony Leung Hung Wah; Falling Down in Hong Kong - Interview with actor Anthony Wong; How to Murder Your Taxi Driver? - Interview with action director James Ha.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Hong Kong film expert Frank Djeng.



DOUBLE SIDED POSTER - With new & vintage artwork.

REVERSIBLE COVER - With new & vintage artwork.

August 26, 2023


THE FLASH (Blu-ray)
2023 / 144 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😺

As one of the cappers to the so-called “Snyderverse,” The Flash is sort of a narrative mess. However, it’s a really fun narrative mess that didn’t deserve such a dismal box office fate. Tonally, this is the movie Ant-Man of the Wasp: Quantumania forgot to be: an irreverent, funny change-of-pace from the overall seriousness of the rest of its cinematic universe.

Setting aside his bizarre off-screen shenanigans, Ezra Miller is perfect as the title character. What makes him especially interesting in his own movie is that we get two distinctly different versions of the same guy, and Miller nails them both. The first is the Flash/Barry Allen who’s already been established in other films. Now becoming accustomed to his superhero status, he doesn’t always feel like a particularly appreciated member of the Justice League, exemplified in an amusing opening sequence where he’s saving babies (and a dog!) from a collapsing hospital while Batman & Wonder Woman do the crime fighting.

We meet the second Barry when the first one discovers that his “speed force” allows him to move through time. Ignoring Bruce Wayne’s warning about altering the past, Barry goes back to prevent his mother’s death, who was murdered when he was a child (for which his father was wrongly convicted). Barry manages to save her, but upon returning, ends up in the year 2013, meeting his 18-year-old self. This Barry is more socially outgoing, but impulsive, immature and never shuts up. Not only that, Barry #1 discovers he’s changed a lot more than Mom’s death, mostly for the worst. There’s no Justice League or Superman, which turns out to be catastrophic when General Zod (Michael Shannon) once again arrives to take over the world.

At the ATM, Barry suddenly forgets his pin number.
Batman still exists though, but not the one Barry knows. This one is much older and hasn’t donned the cowl in decades. In one of recent cinema’s worst kept secrets, Michael Keaton returns and provides most of the explanation for the way time works and just how badly Barry screwed things up. And in this timeline, Zod isn’t looking for Kal-El, but Kara (Sasha Calle), Supe’s cousin who’s imprisoned in a fortified Russian bunker. Barry, Barry, Batman and Kara eventually form sort-of a make-shift Justice League to try and defeat Zod.

Though it probably doesn’t bear a ton of scrutiny, the alternate timeline aspect of the story is kind of interesting, but it’s the dialogue and interaction between these characters (and no small amount of nostalgia) that make the film both engaging and surprisingly amusing, if not laugh-out-loud funny. The return of Keaton is, of course, a definite highlight, bringing back something that’s been missing Batman/Bruce Wayne for a long time: a sense of relatability. But he’s not the only surprise here. Both ingeniously and gratuitously, the alternate timeline concept allows the narrative to throw in almost every iteration of Batman/Superman to ever grace the big & small screen…as well as one that almost did.

The result could arguably be considered too much fan service, with so many cameos and shout-outs - especially during the typically overwhelming climax - that they become a distraction. And like so many other films of its ilk, The Flash often operates on the assumption that the audience is already familiar with the DC universe. But this time, that’s not really a deal breaker, because the film is fast-moving and funny, with an endearingly likable protagonist(s). It’s sad that we’ve probably seen the last of him.  


FEATURETTES - Making The Flash: Worlds Collide (a pretty extensive making-of doc); Let’s Get Nuts: Batman Returns Again! (cast & crew discuss Keaton’s return; unfortunately, Keaton himself isn’t interviewed); Supergirl: The Last Daughter of Krypton (a nice recap of the characters history in comics, TV and film).

THE FLASH: ESCAPE THE MIDNIGHT CIRCUS - A 90-minute audio podcast story. There’s also a trailer and very brief making-of featurette.

August 24, 2023

Everything Goes in WICHITA

WICHITA (Blu-ray)
1955 / 81 min
Available at
Review by Mr. Paws😺

Do yourself a favor. If you’ve never seen 1955’s Wichita and hate spoilers, watch the opening credits with the sound muted. The opening title song, performed by Tex Ritter, summarizes the entire plot, including the outcome.  

On the other hand, doesn’t every western where the hero sets out to clean-up a lawless town pretty much end the same way? I, for one, have never seen any that conclude with the marshal shot full of holes while the lawlessness continues. So unless Wichita is the very first western you’ve ever seen, I guess the song ain’t much of a spoiler.

But a big part of what makes the film enjoyable is how earnestly it sticks to a tried & true formula, because who the hell actually wants to see a marshal shot full of holes while the lawlessness continues? Hence, this unpretentious oater is a nifty little piece of cowboy comfort food.

For the record, the story has Wyatt Earp (Joel McCrae) riding into Wichita, a booming and unruly cattle town (with a welcoming banner that reads, Everything goes in Wichita). He initially just wants to start a business, but when a huge crew of cowherds employed by Clint Wallace (Walter Sande) run rampant and shoot up the town, resulting in the death of a child, he accepts the job of marshal. Earp arrests a bunch of them, then bans all firearms in the city limits.

"See? I made a sign. Problem solved!"
The new law isn’t popular, especially with business owners who are afraid it’ll drive powerful cattle barons like Wallace away. But Earp remains stoic and steadfast, which puts his life in danger, by both Wallace and conniving saloon owner Arthur Whiteside (Wallace Ford), who eventually enlists men to take him out. Meanwhile, Earp recruits his two brothers and new ally Bat Masterson (Keith Larsen) to help him stand up to them.

I don’t know how much of this account of Earp’s early life is accurate, nor do I really care. Wichita tells an engaging (if familiar) story with great efficiency, quickly & clearly establishing the protagonists and antagonists. The only part of the film’s scant running time that feels unnecessary is the romantic subplot between Earp and Laurie McCoy (Vera Miles). Not only is it superfluous, their obvious age difference is kind of off-putting.

Other than that, Wichita is a fitfully entertaining western. It doesn’t rank among the classics, but if good guys vs. bad guys is all you're looking for, this one delivers with little muss or fuss. Just like the song says.


2 CARTOON SHORTS - “Deputy Droopy” & “The First Bad Man,” both directed by Tex Avery.

THE POOP SCOOP: Action Features & Sea Creatures

😺JOHN WICK: CHAPTERS 1-4 arrives October 17 on Blu-ray + DVD + Digital from Lionsgate.
In this stylish, electrifying action series, legendary hit man John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is forced back into the underground world of assassins, where he embarks on a ruthless quest for revenge and redemption. This complete collection of John Wick films features four art cards, along with seven pieces of interchangeable cover art. In John Wick, young thugs push John into a merciless rampage, while a blood oath sends him to Rome in John Wick: Chapter 2. John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum sees an army of assassins hoping to collect the $14 million bounty on John’s head, and in John Wick: Chapter 4, a powerful enemy with global alliances emerges, turning John’s old friends into new foes. Experience the entire action-packed saga when John Wick: Chapters 1-4  arrives on Blu-ray™ + DVD + Digital October 17 from Lionsgate. John Wick: Chapter 4, the highest-grossing film in the franchise, serves as the bookend for this newest collection. 

🐟THE MEG 2: THE TRENCH on Premium Digital Ownership August 25 and 4K, Blu-ray & DVD October 24 from Warner Bros.
Back for seconds! Meg 2: The Trench” is the summer’s highly anticipated next chapter of the global blockbuster that returns to the big screen with Jason Statham once again headlining and now partnered with Wu Jing, star of five of the ten highest- grossing films in China. Our unstoppable heroes battle a frenzy of ferocious Megs, led by the biggest Meg ever, along with new, never- before-seen creatures in a monstrously-sized action thriller. Featuring jaw-dropping effects, edge-of-your-seat thrills and high-octane battles, “Meg 2: The Trench” is a summer joyride at its combustible best! Dive into uncharted waters when the larger-than-life thrill ride “Meg 2: The Trench” arrives for purchase Digitally at home on August 25. The film is directed by Ben Wheatley (“In the Earth,” “Free Fire”) and stars Jason Statham (“The Meg,” “Furious 7”, “The Fate of the Furious,” The “Transporter” films) and global action icon Wu Jing (“Tai Chi Master,” “Invisible Target,” “Legendary Assassin”) and is the sequel to the surprise 2018 summer blockbuster “The Meg”. The film will also be available to purchase on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD on October 24.

🐙RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN Available On Digital Aug. 29 and Blu-ray & DVD Sept. 26 from Universal.
Dive into the turbulent waters of high school with this heartwarming action comedy about a shy teenager who discovers that she’s part of a legendary royal lineage of mythical sea krakens and that her destiny, in the depths of the oceans, is bigger than she ever dreamed. Learning to be an all-powerful sea creature while hiding among humans is hard enough for Ruby, but to make matters worse, her super popular new bestie, Chelsea, is secretly a mermaid! Mermaids have been battling the Krakens for eons to rule the ocean, but Chelsea has come to land to finally put an end to that conflict. However, when Chelsea double-crosses her, Ruby will ultimately need to embrace who she is and GO BIG to protect those she loves most. Plunge into the action with the all-new coming-of-age aquatic adventure in DreamWorks Animation’s, RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN Collector’s Edition, which includes over an hour of bonus content filled with never-before-seen bonus features including deleted scenes, “Make Your Own Aquarium” how-to video, interviews with cast and crew, character drawing tutorials and more!  

😺CARLITO’S WAY Limited Edition 4K + Blu-ray Coming September 26th from Arrow Video.
Gangster Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) is released early from prison into a New York City he does not know or understand. Disco is King. Cocaine is the new drug of choice. Mobsters are no longer playing by the same rules. All Carlito wants to do is to run his nightclub and save enough money to live happily with Gail (Penelope Ann Miller). Unfortunately, Carlito’s friends, enemies, and lawyer David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn) all have other plans. The packaging comes with a reversible sleeve and double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative; seven double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions; and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and original production notes. Additionally, this edition comes with hours of new & vintage bonus features.

🙀PREY Finally Coming to 4K, Blu-ray and Limited Edition SteelBook on October 3 from 20th Century Studios.
The epic Predator legacy continues with this action-thriller set in 1719 on the Great Plains with a band of Comanches. When Naru, a fierce and highly skilled young warrior, sets out to protect her people, the prey she stalks turns out to be a highly evolved alien predator — leading to a vicious and terrifying showdown. Nominated for six Emmys, including Outstanding Television Movie, the science-fiction film welcomes new viewers into the Predator story while entertaining long-time fans of the celebrated franchise. This long-awaited physical release of this popular entry in the franchise includes a full-length Comanche audio track and never-before-seen bonus content.