November 29, 2023

THE DAY OF THE LOCUST: The Golden Age of Hollywood Lowlifes

1975 / 144 min
Review by Mr. Paws😼

This somewhat forgotten film from the ‘70s takes a bleak, pessimistic look at Hollywood hopefuls on the outer fringes of the movie business. Being that it was directed by John Schlesinger, there’s a lot to admire about The Day of the Locust, which isn’t the same as actually enjoying it.

In the late 1930s, Tod Hacket (William Atherton) lands a thankless job in the artist pool at Paramount Pictures. He rents an apartment where other tenants still cling to the hope of their big break. This includes Faye Greener (Karen Black), an aspiring actress who looks after her ailing ex-vaudevillian father, Harry (Burgess Meredith, giving the film’s most poignant performance). 

Though Tod instantly falls for her, Faye is shallow, self-absorbed and cruel to most of the men in her life, immediately letting him know that he’s not good (or rich) enough for her. Neither is religious, socially awkward accountant Homer Simpson (Donald Sutherland), but that doesn’t stop Faye from letting him spoil her after Harry dies (taking total advantage of his generosity while treating him terribly). 

When not obsessing over his love-hate relationship with Faye (even attempting to rape her at one point), Tod does manage to sort-of get his foot in the door at the studio, quickly learning the callous nature of the movie business. However, very little of The Day of the Locust appears to be about Hollywood itself. Instead, its episodic narrative focuses mostly on an unlikeable cast of characters who have no hope of ever achieving their dreams…

"I got an ice cream cone and I know how to use it."
…which I suppose is probably the point. However, the film’s cynicism is largely unearned, since there’s no real indication that Hollywood itself hastens their misery. With the possible exception of Homer, one gets the impression these characters would be awful people even if fighting for an assistant manager position at Home Depot. They’re certainly interesting people, but rarely do we actually sympathize with any of them. 

Ironically, the best part of the film is its climax, which takes place during a movie premiere. Considering the slice-of-lowlife nature of the narrative up to this point, the sudden eruption of violence is somewhat shocking, particularly the incident which triggers it. The whole thing builds to a surreal crescendo loaded with symbolic imagery that, I think, might be intended to reflect Tod’s growing disillusionment. It’s hard to say, since Schlesinger doesn’t effectively establish Hollywood itself as the antagonist he obviously intends it to be.

Still, The Day of the Locust has its moments. Though 144 minutes is too long to spend with such unpleasant people, they’re often morbidly fascinating and the performances are really good. There’s also a dreamlike quality to the cinematography and production design that provides a unique contrast to the film’s bitter tone. A little-seen box-office flop in 1975, it’s been resurrected and remastered Blu-ray for the first time, along with bonus features that offer some interesting historical background and analysis.


(NOTE: Free Kittens Movie Guide was provided with a “promo disc” for review purposes. The actual retail version includes physical material not made available for review).

JEEPERS CREEPERS, WHERE’D YOU GET THOSE PEEPERS? - Visual essay by author Lee Gambin, who spends a lot of time reading his notes, as well as other authors’ work.

WELCOME TO WEST HOLLYWOOD - Visual essay by film critic Glenn Kenny.

DAYS OF THE GOLDEN AGE - A featurette about the costume design with historian Elissa Rose.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - Conducted by historian Lee Gambin. With assistant director Leslie Asplund, production associate Michael Childers, costume designer Ann Roth, title designer Dan Perri, ass’t editor Alan Shafland, cameraman Ron Vidor and actors Pepe Serna & Grainger Hines.




November 27, 2023

THE CREATOR: Looks Aren't Everything

2023 / 133 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😽
The Creator is now available on Digital and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD December 12.

Aesthetically, there’s a lot to love about Gareth Edwards' The Creator. With impressive production design, creatively-rendered androids and outstanding special effects (both small & spectacular), there’s nary a moment when the film isn’t visually compelling. 

But as they say, looks aren’t everything. Storywise, The Creator isn’t bad, but it is sort of derivative and not nearly as emotionally involving as one might expect from the concept (and the trailers). In the future, artificial intelligence has evolved to the point where androids are sentient. But following the nuclear destruction of Los Angeles, the United States has declared war on them. Most renegade AI’s are now hiding in “New China,” so the military constructs a massive orbting ship called NOMAD to seek out and destroy them.

Ex-Army sergeant Joshua Taylor (John David Washington) is recruited to search for Nirmata, the enemy’s enigmatic leader believed to have created Alpha-O, an AI capable of destroying NOMAD, thus threatening the human race. Taylor doesn’t actually care about that. He just wants to find his wife, Maya (Gemma Chan), an AI rebel “terrorist” believed to be Nirmata’s daughter and presumed to have died during a NOMAD strike years before. 

Kids these one ear and out the other.
Taylor does indeed find Nirmata’s Alpha-O, which turns out to be a child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles). Initially, he’s only interested in using it to find his wife, while the military, led by Colonel Howell (Allison Janney), obviously have other ideas. But of course, Taylor and Alpha-O (aka Alphie) develop a bond, which eventually leads to some revelations about its origin and relationship to Nirmata.

At its core, The Creator has an interesting story to tell, replete with a nifty reveal near the end, which helps compensate for the whole man vs. machine plotline we’ve seen countless times before (particularly stories where androids reveal more humanity than their human antagonists). However, none of the characters are all that engaging. Despite efforts to establish everything Taylor has lost during the war, we never truly feel his sense of desperation. Nor does his relationship with Alphie convey enough of a father-daughter bond for any significant emotional investment in them (due more to the perfunctory dialogue than the performances). 

Still, The Creator is fairly enjoyable. It’s a visually remarkable film with plenty of action and the usual fiery, destructive climax we’ve come to expect from big-budget sci-fi. One might also appreciate the increasingly rare attempt to create something on this scale that isn’t a sequel or part of a franchise. Just don’t expect it to be all that affecting.


TRUE LOVE: MAKING THE CREATOR - An hour-long documentary that, to be frank, is more interesting than the movie itself.

November 26, 2023


1937-1963 / 183 min (25 shorts)
Available at
Review by Mr. Paws😺

Now that the actual purpose of the Looney Tunes Collector’s Choice Blu-ray series has become clear, it’s easier to appreciate this second volume (and Volume 1, for that matter). 

The idea was never to highlight the most iconic Looney Tunes characters or collect the classic shorts we all know and love. Much of that stuff has been widely available on disc for decades. Instead, Collectors Choice showcases shorts and characters that are comparatively obscure. Like Volume 1, many of the 25 selections on Volume 2 haven’t been available on video in years…if ever.

Still, some familiar faces pop up from time to time. Bugs Bunny appears in two shorts. In “Hare-Breadth Hurry,” he fills in for the Road Runner to foil Wile E. Coyote, while “Rabbit Rampage” is essentially a reworking of “Duck Amuck” with diminished results. Neither ranks among Bugs’ best, though they’re certainly atypical of the stories and situations he’s usually placed in.

"I choose the red pill."
While the 1960s weren’t exactly a renaissance period for the studio, this set does include a late Road Runner-Wile E. Coyote gem, “Lickety Splat,” featuring one of the best running gags in the entire series…the recurring appearance of explosive flying darts. The same can’t be said about “The Rebel Without Claws,” which plants Sylvester & Tweety in a Civil War setting…with the South as the good guys! The two fare better in another short, the hilarious “Catty Cornered.”

Speaking of political incorrectness, a little WWII-era jingoism can be found in 1944’s “Brother Brat,” featuring Porky Pig. But hey, those were different times and context certainly matters (though the toon itself ain’t all that funny). One of Foghorn Leghorn’s funnier shorts, “The Leghorn Blows at Midnight,” is also included, as is the Oscar nominated 1943 short, “Greetings Bait,” one of two titles featuring Wacky Worm.

Wacky Worm is one of many characters in the collection that casual viewers may not be familiar with. There are many lesser-known “one-off” cartoons by various directors, the best being Tex Avery’s pun-happy nature doc parody, “Cross Country Detours.” Few of them rank among Looney Tunes’ best, but collectors and completists will find a lot to like.

November 23, 2023

BLOODTHIRST: It's a Small (end of the) World

2023 / 99 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Bloodthirst is yet another post-apocalyptic film set in the barren desert, presumably because such locations require no real expense for production design. This time, humans are on the verge of extinction because the world is overrun by two warring clans of vampires (though that conflict is never actually explored).

Okay…that’s an intriguing premise. After all, wouldn’t that be the logical result of any scenario where the spread of vampirism went unchecked? Sure, it’s been done before - even in a short story once published by yours truly - but throwing in a Mad Max-meets-Blade concept certainly has possibilities, even on a miniscule budget.

The Vampire Master suddenly realizes why his heating bill is so high.
Unfortunately, the overall smallness of Bloodthirst is exacerbated by drab direction, lethargic action scenes, howlingly bad dialogue and performances that mostly border on amateurish. Only Costas Mandylor, as vampire hunter John Shepard, manages to rise above the material (and he still looks like he’s there because he lost a bet). As for the other “name” in the cast…it appears that Sharknado will end up being the pinnacle of Tara Reid’s career.

But even tight wallets and poor performances can be compensated by an interesting story, a few scares or at least plenty of bloody, well-executed action. Bloodthirst has none of that, though there was apparently enough confidence behind the camera to leave the door wide open for a sequel.

OPPENHEIMER: Christopher the Great

2023 / 180 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😻

You know you’ve joined the ranks of the greatest living directors when pretentious contrarians enjoy discussing how overrated you are, especially if most of your filmography really clicks with moviegoers. That’s where Christopher Nolan is right now. 

Like Quentin Tarantino - equally marginalized by the same trolls - Nolan hasn’t really made a bad movie. Even his “worst” (Tenet) remains an intriguingly baffling puzzle. If nothing else, even his naysayers have to concede his films display monumental amounts of creative and technical ambition.

Oppenheimer is his most ambitious film yet. Whether or not it’s his best is obviously subjective (I'm still partial to Interstellar), but along with Dunkirk, it reflects a gifted storyteller’s refusal to be pigeonholed into any particular genre while still pushing the technical boundaries of the filmmaking process. The ongoing hype surrounding this one - as well as all the (premature?) Oscar predictions - is completely justified. 

The film is, of course, a biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “Father of the Atomic Bomb.”  As portrayed by Cillian Murphy, he’s a fascinatingly complex character…brilliant and arrogant, yet flawed and vulnerable. His ambition, success and fame (which he obstinately enjoys) is eventually tempered by his own questionable personal life and the inherent moral dilemmas associated with his work. 

"Robert's the name, kaboom is my game."
Oppenheimer is also about the development of the bomb itself, as well as the aftermath. Though well documented over the years through various books and films, it has never been presented quite like this. Dramatically compelling and even suspenseful at times (moments leading to the first test are fraught with tension), the film often plays like a thriller, replete with plot twists and betrayal. Both narratively and aesthetically, it’s all presented on a grand scale. 

Speaking of which, it probably goes without saying that Oppenheimer is best seen on the big screen, where Nolan’s brand of epic storytelling has always been most effective. But while the film’s visual and sonic impact is somewhat diminished at home, it remains narratively engaging, never feeling as long or exhausting as the three hour running time might suggest. Much of that is due to Nolan’s smart, complex screenplay (based on the biography, American Prometheus) and a massive all-star cast, all of whom bring their A-game to their characters. 

As expected, Oppenheimer has been given an outstanding Blu-ray release. Not only does it look and sound terrific, the bonus features help one appreciate just how much effort went into making the film a unique experience (Naysayers be damned). There’s also an additional documentary about J. Robert Oppenheimer himself, and if nothing else, it reveals Nolan’s attention to historical accuracy. Oppenheimer may not be his best film, but it’s another strong argument that he deserves mention among the greatest living directors.


THE STORY OF OUR TIME: THE MAKING OF OPPENHEIMER - A detailed seven chapter (70 minutes total) making-of documentary featuring interviews with Nolan, various crew and most of the cast. 

TO END ALL WAR: OPPENHEIMER & THE ATOMIC BOMB - Feature-length documentary - produced by NBC News - about Oppenheimer himself. With dozens of interviews from various historians (as well Nloan), this is nearly as interesting as the film itself.

FEATURETTE - Innovations in Film: 65 mm Black & White Film in Oppenheimer (apparently, this stuff isn’t just lying around waiting to be used).

MEET THE PRESS Q&A PANEL: OPPENHEIMER - With Oppenheimer biographer Kai Bird and a few other experts.



November 21, 2023

CROCODILE ISLAND: Size Doesn't Matter

2020 / 87 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

The impressive thing about this Chinese film’s titular terror is his versitility. Throughout Crocodile Island, he repeatedly changes size to fit the requirements of a particular scene. In the opening sequence, he’s the size of a megalodon when bursting from the ocean to swallow a hapless parachuter. Later, while attacking a victim in a shallow island stream, he’s no bigger than a ‘73 Buick. 

And no…there’s never any indication that more than one crocodile is terrorizing these people.

The consistent inconsistency of the creature’s size is just one aspect of Crocodile Island that makes it such a hoot, especially since the overall tone is fairly serious…at least compared to, say, Sharknado, which looks like Jurassic Park by comparison.

Following a hilariously dubbed prologue - when the aforementioned American parachuter meets his untimely demise - a passenger plane crash lands on a remote island located in the dreaded “Dragon’s Triangle” (Asia’s own Bermuda Triangle). But the survivors have bigger problems than being stranded, and not just a perpetually hungry, size-shifting croc. For one brief sequence, they’re also pursued through the inland forest by a horde of giant spiders, at least until they simply disappear from the entire narrative. Maybe the producers exhausted what was left of their CGI budget.

Speaking of CGI, the special effects throughout the film are uniformly ludicrous, which is ultimately part of the fun. Further amusement can be found in the story's many implausibilities, daffy dialogue, idiotic characters and the admittedly funny (on purpose) death of the main human antagonist. So yeah…Crocodile Island is a junk movie, but ultimately kind of endearing.

November 19, 2023

THE FUGITIVE (4K): Whatever Happened to Andrew Davis?

THE FUGITIVE 30th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD)
1993 / 130 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😻

Hey, whatever happened to Andrew Davis, anyway? This was the guy who managed to direct a good Chuck Norris movie (Code of Silence) and followed it with the only Steven Seagal vehicle anyone still cares about (Under Siege). Then there’s The Fugitive.

Not only one of the best movies of 1993, The Fugitive still ranks among the best thrillers of the entire decade and arguably one of the few times that an adaptation of a legendary TV show transcended its origins to become a classic unto itself. 30 years later, I’d be willing to wager that when most people think of The Fugitive, it’s the movie that comes to mind (and probably very fondly).

Not that Davis was emerging as some sort of action auteur. He’s always had help from strong casts and screenplays that paid special attention to supporting characters. Not only does The Fugitive feature career-best performances by Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones (who won an Oscar), the other characters are engaging…and often pretty amusing. 

"Sorry, we don't validate parking here."
But it was Davis' acute sense of pacing, as well as a knack for putting together thrilling (and plausible) action sequences, that briefly had me paying more attention to him as a director. Alas, The Fugitive ended up being the high point of his career. Not counting a lone foray into family films (his agreeable adaptation of the best-selling YA book, Holes), he’s directed nothing noteworthy or memorable since. In fact, Davis hasn’t even done a feature film in nearly 20 years. What a waste.

But at least he has this one, which nobody can take away. I still believe that, in lesser hands, The Fugitive wouldn’t be considered a modern classic. The film remains a smart, nail-biting thriller that’s always worth revisiting from time to time. Ironically, the only aspect that hasn’t aged very well involves the iconic train wreck that sets the fugitive hunt in motion. While Davis & company destroyed an actual train and bus for the sequence, the special effects depicting Richard Kimble (Ford) leaping to safety just before impact are pretty wonky, exacerbated by this 4K restoration.

Speaking of which, the overall picture and sound quality of the 4K transfer is excellent and an improvement over previous Blu-rays. The disc also features two audio options…a 5.1 DTS-HD version and, more significantly, a new Dolby Atmos track. Elsewhere, this 30th Anniversary edition includes a solid batch of vintage bonus features (though I sure would've loved an update on what Andrew Davis has been up to lately).


INTRODUCTION - By director Andrew Davis, actors Harrison Ford & Tommy Lee Jones. Davis is on the phone with Jones, while Ford’s appearance looks to be from a separate interview.

FEATURETTES - The Fugitive: Thrill of the Chase; Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck; On the Run with The Fugitive.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Andrew Davis and actor Tommy Lee Jones.



November 18, 2023


Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of AMERICAN GRAFFITI. Nominated for five Academy Awards, it features a great young cast and an unforgettable soundtrack. And just in time for Xmas, VIOLENT NIGHT is now in 4K. When a team of mercenaries breaks into a wealthy family compound taking everyone inside hostage, they are not prepared for a surprise combatant: Santa Claus. Courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
TITANIC: Available nationwide December 5 in a two-disc set that includes the film on 4K Ultra HD, plus a Blu-ray Disc boasting more than five hours of new and legacy bonus content. PARAMOUNT SCARES VOL. 1: Plumb the depths of horror with this collectible box set featuring five unforgettable movies, all in eye-popping 4K Ultra HD, along with hours of special features and exclusive collectibles. Courtesy of Paramount Movies
Courtesy of Kino Lorber
ENTER THE VIDEO STORE: EMPIRE OF SCREAMS: Arrow delivers five classic films (The Dungeonmaster, Dolls, Arena, Robot Jox, Cellar Dweller) from Charles Band's Empire Pictures in a limited edition box set. The packaging features newly commissioned artwork, reversible sleeves and double-sided posters; an Arrow Video store "membership card"; an 80-page perfect bound book featuring new writing on the films by Lee Gambin, Dave Jay, Megan Navarro, and John Harrison, plus select archival material. Courtesy of Arrow Video
Admit it...plopping that little urchin in front of the set on Christmas morning and subjecting him to a little Italian terror would be pretty amusing.
Courtesy of Synapse Films
A few recommended newer Blu-ray and 4K titles that made us purr.
A few classic kibbles on Blu-ray and 4K (some of for the first time). For that one person who's hard to buy for, you can't go wrong with the classics.