September 30, 2023

WESTWARD THE WOMEN: Unique for its Time

1951 / 116 min
Available at
Review by Mr. Paws😺

Don't let the fluffy title and cover fool you. Westward the Women is a tough, gritty little film.

Cattle baron Roy Whitman (John McIntire) feels bad for his men, working way out west with no women around. His solution? Go to Chicago and recruit 140 girls willing to endure the arduous 2,000-mile trek and become wives. 

He hires seasoned old friend Buck Wyatt (Robert Taylor) to lead the wagon train back. Buck’s skeptical, of course. Not only does he appear to be contemptuous of women in general, he believes a lot of them won’t actually survive the journey. Despite Buck warning them of the potential dangers they'll face, none of the women are dissuaded from making the trip.

A majority of Westward the Women centers on the journey itself, which is indeed fraught with peril…floods, Indian attacks, accidents, abandonment and sexual assault from hired hands. Buck initially appears to be an unsympathetic taskmaster, fully expecting the women to ride, work, shoot and defend themselves. But he’s also fiercely protective, such as when he shoots and kills one of his own men for assaulting one of them.

When Punch Buggy gets real.
Did stuff like this happen in the ol' west? Story creator Frank Capra claims it did, but ultimately, I don’t know or really care. The concept lends itself to an intriguingly unusual western for the time, where the female characters are as central to the story as its “hero”...perhaps more so. And at no time are any of them depicted as helpless, dependent waifs. Either out of loneliness or desperation, they’re resilient, tough and brave. 

True to Buck’s warning, many of them do die. In fact, the overall tone of the entire film is pretty somber, with one life-threatening crisis after another. At no point does the film glamorize the old west or those living in it. Even the obligatory romantic subplot involving Buck and amorous showgirl Fifi Danon (Denise Darcel) is more combative than cloying. 

I wouldn’t rank Westward the Women among the classics of the genre, but thematically, it has enough unique qualities to set it apart from other westerns of the time. With comparatively subdued performances and authentic attempts at realism (especially regarding its many female characters), this film is an interesting little curio…and pretty enjoyable, too.




2 TOM & JERRY CARTOONS - “Texas Ton” & “The Duck Doctor.”



September 29, 2023

GANGNAM ZOMBIE: World War Zzzzzz

2023 / 81 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😾

There’s only one aspect of Korea’s Gangnam Zombie that’s even remotely interesting, and it happens right at the beginning. Well…almost at the beginning. First, we have to sit through a prologue that features the film’s protagonists running from undead hordes until one of them appears to be taken down. But it doesn't really create any anticipatory tension because we've seen set-ups like this a million times before and are already certain of its outcome.  

Then the story flashes back 24 hours to the one interesting part…the origin of the virus that triggers the zombie outbreak in the first place. It’s caused by a stray cat who scratches a pretty thief trying to rob a truck. This amusing moment suggests maybe the movie is gonna have some fun with the genre by turning traditional tropes on their ear.

In this place, they are the food court.
The moment is fleeting, though. The rest of Gangnam Zombie is a tedious, derivative bore. An interminable first act introduces an assortment of characters who are either dull as dishwater or supremely obnoxious, exacerbated by pedestrian performances. Additionally, most attempts to inject comedy into the narrative come across as broad and juvenile.

When the film (finally!) gets around to the outbreak itself, it primarily consists of the sprinting undead chasing the cast around an office building and parking garage. Some live, some die, but even the death scenes are fairly lethargic and largely free of the gore that has saved even bad zombie movies from being a complete waste of time. Dust off your old copy of Train to Busan instead.

September 28, 2023

CARLITO'S WAY (4K): Some Things Change, Some Things Don't

CARLITO’S WAY Limited Edition (4K UHD)
1993 / 144 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😺

Carlito’s Way is arguably Brian De Palma’s last great film. By that, I mean it’s the last one where his unique aesthetic touch (and no small amount of Hitchcockian influence) is a major part of what makes it so memorable. Okay, okay...a guy named Al Pacino might have helped a little, too.

That was 30 years ago and a lot has changed since then. Aside from a director-for-hire gig with the first Mission: Impossible, De Palma hasn’t done jack squat worth seeing. As for Pacino…he still appears in some great stuff from time to time, but frequently seems to coast on the over-the-top screen persona he’s cultivated over the years (and should probably patent). 

One thing that hasn’t changed: This is a sweeping, damn-near poetic depiction of a life from which there’s no true escape, no matter how much its main character tries. Despite being a legendary drug kingpin, we genuinely like Carlito, something you can’t say about Tony Montana in Scarface, to which this film is often (unfairly) compared. He’s no saint, but acknowledges his own shortcomings while trying like hell to put his old life behind him. Conversely, we grow to despise those in his circle, such as the so-called friends who - consciously or not - seem to be hastening his failure to go straight, especially seedy defense lawyer David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn, in one of his best performances).

"I'm feelin' a little carsick."
The other thing that hasn’t changed is the story’s weakest narrative aspect…the relationship between Carlito and Gail (Penelope Ann Miller). While I understand this rekindled romance helps to reflect Carlito as a changed man, Gail’s just not very interesting, at least compared to the more colorful characters in his life. The film ultimately works best when focused on Carlito’s world spiraling out of his control, which remains a compellingly uncomfortable viewing experience.

Universal first released Carlito’s Way on 4K just a few years ago and I have no idea if this new release from Arrow Video features the same transfer. However, Arrow has loaded theirs with enough new bonus material (including physical goodies) to make an upgrade worth considering for fans of the film. 


(NOTE: Free Kittens Movie Guide was provided with “promo discs” for review purposes. The actual retail version of this boxed set includes substantial physical extras, which were not made available).   

4K & BLU-RAY COPIES - The film is included on both discs. With the exception of the commentaries, all the bonus features are on the Blu-ray.

NEW INTERVIEWS - Individual interviews with Judge Edwin Torres, who wrote the original novels (and sure loves to toot his own horn), editors Bill Pankow & Kristina Boden.

ARCHIVAL INTERVIEW - With director Brian De Palma.

DE PALMA’S WAY - An appreciation by critic David Edelstein, who clearly loves this film. His insights might have one appreciating it a little more, too.

THE MAKING OF CARLITO’S WAY - 35-minute archival making-of documentary.

ALL THE STITCHES IN THE WORLD: THE LOCATIONS OF CARLITO’S WAY - A look at various locations, then and now. In a lot of cases, not much has changed.

2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By writer/critic Matt Zoller Seitz; 2) By De Palma biographer Douglas Keesey.






September 27, 2023


2023 / 92 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😽

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is an earnest, congenial animated film that's fairly enjoyable in the moment (especially for kids), but ultimately lacks the creative spark and originality to be truly memorable. 

Conceptually derivative of Turning Red, the story centers around the title character, an insecure teenager living in the town of Oceanside. She has a small circle of friends and hopes to attend her school’s upcoming prom to be held onboard a ship. However, Ruby's overprotective mother strictly forbids her from going anywhere close to the ocean. Soon after, she learns why. When diving into the water to save her crush from drowning, Ruby turns into a giant Kraken.

The Gillman’s are secretly a family of Kraken who’ve left the sea, assuming a humanlike form in order to fit in (they still look like aquatic creatures, but simply tell folks they’re “from Canada”). However, being in the ocean transforms them back to their real selves. Ruby is initially horrified, but later meets her Kraken grandmother, Granmamah, a warrior queen who encourages her to embrace her true self. She’s also befriended by the most popular girl in school, Chelsea, who's secretly a mermaid and earns Ruby’s trust. But as Grandmamah explains, Kraken and mermaids are actually fierce enemies, which is ultimately what drives the plot during the second half. 

"Calamari? I love Calamari!"
Thematically, the film treads familiar ground - social awkwardness, family, trust, acceptance, embracing one’s heritage, etc. - sometimes playing like a checklist of positive messages we’ve seen in many other family films. While the animation itself is excellent, the character design leaves something to be desired. Human, Kraken or otherwise, everyone’s colorful, expressive and voiced by a good cast (especially Jane Fonda as Grandmamah), but probably not anything a kid would want on their lunchbox.

Still, Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is certainly watchable, the narrative efficiently moving things along with a few clever bits thrown-in here and there (yes, there’s a “release the Kraken” joke). And while pretty predictable, right down to the obligatory pop music montages, it’s probably enough to amuse its intended audience a few times. 


FEATURETTES - Super Sea Girl Besties (a look at the characters); Meet the Gillman Cast and The Kraken Crew: Meet the Humans Behind the Gillmans (both feature the voice actors); Prom Stories (featuring the cast); The Kraken: Myth or Monster (brief history of the mythical monster); 

ACTIVITIES - Make Your Own Aquarium; Oceanside Drawing Guide.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By directors Kirk DeMicco & Faryn Pearl, producer Kelly Cooney Cilella, animator Carlos Fernandez Puertolas and cinematographer Jon Gutman.



THE POOP SCOOP: Beetles, Bogey & Boldly Going...

😺BLUE BEETLE on 4K, Blu-ray & DVD October 31 from Warner Bros. (on digital now)
Recent college grad Jaime Reyes returns home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to find his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the Super Hero Blue Beetle. The “Blue Beetle” ensemble cast also includes Adriana Barraza (“Rambo: Last Blood,” “Thor”), Damían Alcázar (“Narcos,” “Narcos: Mexico”), Elpidia Carrillo (“Mayans M.C.,” the “Predator” films), Bruna Marquezine (“Maldivas,” “God Save the King”), Raoul Max Trujillo (the “Sicario” films, “Mayans M.C.”), with Oscar winner Susan Sarandon (“Monarch,” “Dead Man Walking”), and George Lopez (the “Rio and “Smurf” franchises). The film also stars Belissa Escobedo (“American Horror Stories,” “Hocus Pocus 2”) and Harvey Guillén (“What We Do in the Shadows”).

😺William Wyler’s Classic, THE DESPERATE HOURS, on Blu-ray October 17 from Arrow Video.
Academy Award-winning director William Wyler’s classic film noir, The Desperate Hours, comes to Blu-ray with a new restoration from a 6K scan of the original VistaVision negative. Wyler’s thriller stars Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March in a battle of wills between an escaped convict (Bogart) and a family man (March) whose loved ones he’s taken hostage. Adapted by Joseph Hayes (The Third Day) from his own novel and stage play and inspired by actual events, The Desperate Hours is a classic tale of suspense from a master filmmaker at the height of his creative powers. Featuring a taut script, crisp black and white photography, and a truly sinister turn by Bogart, The Desperate Hours isn’t just a good home invasion thriller but the original classic that launched the genre itself.  The special features include brand new audio commentary by film historian Daniel Kremer; Trouble in Suburbia – a new appreciation of the film by José Arroyo, Associate Professor in Film and Television Studies at the University of Warwick; The Lonely Man – a new visual essay by Eloise Ross, co-curator of the Melbourne Cinémathèque; Scaled Down and Ratcheted Up – a new audio interview with Catherine Wyler, daughter of director William Wyler; a lobby cards gallery; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio; and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Philip Kemp and Neil Sinyard.

😺STAR TREK: THE PICARD LEGACY COLLECTION arrives November 7 from Paramount.
The limited edition individually numbered 54-Disc Blu-ray collection features one of a kind packaging that houses every series and film featuring Jean-Luc Picard. Along with over 35 hours of special features, films and series include “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Seasons 1-7,” “Star Trek: Picard – Seasons 1-3,” Star Trek: Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Nemesis, and Star Trek: Insurrection.  This limited set also includes an exclusive edition of The Wisdom of Picard featuring brand new artwork and quotes, along with a one-of-a-kind deck of playing cards, a magnet sheet featuring all of Captain Picard’s badges and four custom Chateau Picard drink coasters.

😺STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS SEASON 2 arrives December 5th on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UHD from Paramount.
With a certified fresh rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 arrives on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UHD on December 5th from Paramount Home Entertainment. Join the crew of the U.S.S Enterprise that’s “Beyond impressive” (Rolling Stone) as they go where no season of “Star Trek” has ever gone before!  Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 features the first ever “Star Trek” musical episode, a crossover episode with Star Trek: Lower Decks, and more than 2 hours of special features, including behind the scenes featurettes and never-before-seen deleted, extended, and alternate scenes. The cast includes Anson Mount (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Safe) as Captain Christopher Pike, Ethan Peck (In Time, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) as Science Officer Spock, Rebecca Romijn (X-Men, Femme Fatale) as Una Chin-Riley, Celia Rose Gooding (Breakwater, “Foul Play”) as Nyota Uhura, Jess Bush (“Halifax Retribution”) as Nurse Christine Chapel and featuring Academy Award® Nominee for Best Actress, Carol Kane* (Hester Street) as Pelia.

September 25, 2023

HALLOWEEN H20 (4K SteelBook): One for the Collectors

HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER 25th Anniversary Edition
(4K UHD SteelBook)
1998 / 86 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

First off, I’m sure some of you are aware that Shout Factory released the first eight films in the Halloween franchise on 4K just last year, available separately or as a boxed set. This includes 1998’s Halloween H20, so for most of those who already have that version, this 25th Anniversary Edition (released by Paramount) will probably be a hard pass, especially since it includes no bonus features (though it does come with a digital copy).

On the other hand, Paramount has been putting out some of the cooler SteelBooks lately, with creative packaging and vivid new artwork. Recent examples include the elaborately designed packaging and artwork for Event Horizon and Cloverfield.

The new packaging for Halloween H20 is similar, with a transparent slipcase featuring the title and a fiery Jack-O-Lantern. The book itself is a creative collage of the film’s two main attractions, Michael Myers and, more significantly at the time, Jamie Lee Curtis. Both inside and out, it’s pretty striking artwork, and since the movie itself isn't upgraded from the previous 4K release, this one is obviously intended for SteelBook collectors.

"Stop backseat driving."
As for the movie itself, I’m of the minority opinion that Halloween should never have been a franchise in the first place. What made the original so scary was its sheer simplicity…an evil killing machine with no real motive, and back in ’78, a killer who refused to stay dead was something of a novelty and pretty goddamn chilling. The scene where Loomis (Donald Pleasence) peers out the second-story window to see Myers has disappeared ranks as one of the most ominous final shots in horror history. With the exception of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, all the sequels managed to do was demystify Michael Myers.

Still, Halloween H20 does feature the welcome return of Jamie Lee Curtis and a story that pretends the previous three sequels don’t exist (a good thing, since they’re dumpster fires). Revisiting the film today is of additional interest for early film appearances by Josh Hartnett, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Michelle Williams. And with Janet Leigh joining her daughter for a few scenes, we get two legendary scream queens sharing the screen and a couple of clever Psycho references tossed in. 

Michael Myers may no longer be quite the boogeyman he once was, but as unnecessary Halloween sequels go, this is arguably the best one. If nothing else, we feel like everyone involved is at least trying this time around. Then again, what do I know? I still think Halloween III is the best movie in the whole franchise.



September 24, 2023

KISS THE GIRLS (4K): "Didn't I See That Once?"

1997 / 115 min
Available at
Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

James Patterson’s novel, Kiss the Girls, is as unremarkable as the three dozen others he’s cranked out featuring his most popular character, forensic psychologist Alex Cross. And if not for Morgan Freeman, one could say the same thing about this film adaptation.

Not that Kiss the Girls is a bad film. It’s well-paced, competently directed and features a solid cast. Like a lot of pulpy potboilers, the story is fairly interesting in the moment, but unlikely to resonate too much afterward. It’s one of those movies where today we ask ourselves, ”Did I see that one? It’s got Morgan Freeman, right?”

That’s because Freeman is easily the best part of the movie. Though not nearly as cynical as Detective Somerset in Seven, he brings similar authority and gravitas to Alex Cross, who has distinctly personal reasons for getting involved in an ongoing investigation of missing women in Durham, North Carolina, a few who’ve turned up dead. One of the missing is Cross’ niece, Naomi.

"I give up, guys. Where's Waldo?"
While Cross assists the local police, led by detective Nick Ruskin (Cary Elwes), the killer known as ‘Casanova’ snatches Dr. Kate McTiernan (Ashley Judd), imprisoning her in a dungeon-like hideaway with his other surviving abductees. But Kate is resilient, able to fight back and escape. After recovering from her ordeal, she insists on helping Cross find Casanova and the other women. But it turns out that Casanova isn’t quite working alone. 

Kiss the Girls includes a lot of the usual tropes…the arrogant killer, the cop who shows the locals how it’s done, a little narrative deception and a “surprise” twist during the climax. We kind of expect all that, even without having read Patterson’s prose. As such, the film more or less delivers, though we never feel as uneasy as we’re obviously intended to. Still, it’s ultimately worth watching (or revisiting) for Freeman’s authoritative performance.

Like the film, this 4K release is as basic as they come. Having never seen the previous Blu-ray, I have no basis for comparison, but the overall picture & sound quality is solid (though nothing that’s gonna knock anyone’s socks off). Other than a digital copy, there are no bonus features.




SCHOOL OF ROCK 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray SteelBook)
2003 / 109 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

It’s hard to believe School of Rock is now twenty years old and the product of a bygone era. Kids today don’t really listen to good ol’ fashioned rock & roll anymore and Jack Black is probably most-known to them as the voice of Po in Kung Fu Panda.

But back in the day, Jack Black was just plain funny. He didn't even have to be saying anything particularly clever. His timing, delivery and mannerisms allowed him to steal movies from many of his co-stars. The success of School of Rock rested almost entirely on Black’s shoulders in a role tailor-made to suit his style. He turned a decent film into a great one. 


Black plays Dewey Finn, the lead guitarist in a local bar band who lives, eats and breathes rock & roll 24 hours a day. Ousted by his bandmates, Dewey finds himself unemployed and heavily in debt to his roommate, Ned Schneebly (screenwriter Mike White), who once played with Finn, but has since given up on rock stardom and now works as a substitute teacher.  

He intercepts a phone call requesting Schneebly for an extended sub job at a prestigious prep school. Desperate for cash, Finn accepts the position for himself, posing as his roommate and content to show up for the paycheck. 

But overhearing them during music class, Finn has a revelation: to fulfill his dream of competing in the upcoming “Battle of the Bands” competition by turning these kids into rockers and forming a band, with himself as lead guitarist. Spending every school day preparing for the competition for the event, Finn and the kids do all they can to keep it secret from Principal Mullins (Joan Cusack), the parents and school staff. All the while, of course, Finn starts to actually care about these kids, beyond their musical talent.

"You gonna eat those tots?"
None of this is particularly original; School of Rock is as predictable as any other triumph-of-the-underdog movie you’d care to name and the script itself isn’t particularly funny on paper. But Black’s enthusiastic performance makes the viewer forget all that. He’s aided greatly by his kid co-stars. None of them are great actors, but they’re charming and the fact most of them are actual musicians makes them convincing in their roles. Joan Cusack, as the neurotic principal, also has some amusing moments with Black (particularly during the bar scene).

Considering Black’s slacker persona at the time and the heavy metal subject matter, School of Rock is a sweet-natured film. I’m still wondering why it was slapped with a PG-13 rating, since this is one of those rare non-animated films that’s obviously aimed at all ages. It may already be a period piece, but remains as funny as ever.

Keep in mind, however, that the only thing new about this 20th Anniversary Edition is the SteelBook packaging. All the bonus features are the same as those from previous Blu-ray & DVD releases. 


FEATURETTES - Lessons Learned on School of Rock (making-of); Jack Black’s Pitch to Led Zeppelin (I guess his pitch was successful); Kids’ Video Diary (from the Toronto Film Festival); MTV’s Diary of Jack Black (probably the most amusing of the bonus features).

DEWEY FINN’S HISTORY OF ROCK - Interactive feature highlighting various classic artists and musical subgenres.

2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By Jack Black & director Richard Linklater; 2) “Kids’ Kommentary”.