June 18, 2024

THE POOP SCOOP: Road Rage & Rats Edition

😺IF On Digital Now And 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray August 13th (with 40+ Minutes Of Bonus Content) from Paramount.
Experience writer/director John Krasinski’s “heartwarming” (Joey Paur, GeekTyrant) and “hilarious” (Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky) original adventure IF when it arrives to buy or rent on Digital June 18, 2024 from Paramount Home Entertainment.  The film will debut on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on August 13. The perfect movie to enjoy with the whole family, IF received an A CinemaScore and 88% Fresh Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes. The film stars Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, Krasinski, and Fiona Shaw along with a cavalcade of top-tier voice talent, including Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr. and Steve Carell, who bring a delightful array of imaginary friends to life. Fans who purchase the film on Digital*, 4K Ultra HD, or Blu-ray will have access to over 40 minutes of behind-the-scenes bonus content to explore the whimsical world of imaginary friends.  See how each IF came to life, hear how filmmakers made the imaginary feel real, go on location in New York from Brooklyn Heights to Coney Island, and don't miss the hysterical gag reel!


🧛ABIGAIL Arrives on Digital June 25, and Blu-ray and DVD July 9 from Universal.
From Radio Silence comes the bloodthirsty, wild, and critically acclaimed vampire romp, ABIGAIL, available to own with all-new exclusive content on Digital June 25, 2024, and on Blu-ray and DVD July 9, 2024 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Hailed as “a Bloody Blast” (The Detroit News) and Certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, ABIGAIL brings a refreshing approach to the vampire genre - unleashing never-before-seen bonus content, deleted & extended scenes, and more off-camera bloody carnage. ABIGAIL’s cast is led by the new IT scream queen Melissa Barrera (Scream VI, In The Heights) as well as the beloved Kathryn Newton (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Freaky, Lisa Frankenstein), The cast also includes Dan Stevens (Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, “Downton Abbey”), Giancarlo Esposito (“Breaking Bad”, The Usual Suspects, “Parish”), Alisha Weir (Roald Dahl’s Matilda, Don’t Leave Home), Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Robin Hood), the late Angus Cloud (Your Lucky Day, “Euphoria”), and William Catlett (A Thousand and One, Lovecraft County).


😺FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA on Digital June 24, and $K, Blu-ray & DVD August 13 from Warner Bros Discovery.
George Miller’s Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, which reveals the captivating, never-before-told origin of Furiosa and her unrelenting drive to find her way back home, debuts for purchase and rental Digitally at home on June 25, the on 4K, Blu-ray & DVD August 13. As the world fell, young Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) is snatched from the Green Place of Many Mothers and falls into the hands of a great Biker Horde led by the Warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth). Sweeping through the Wasteland, they come across the Citadel presided over by The Immortan Joe. While the two Tyrants war for dominance, Furiosa must survive many trials as she puts together the means to find her way home. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is directed by Academy Award-winning director George Miller (Academy Award for Best Animated Feature – Happy Feet, The Mad Max franchise, The Witches of Eastwick).  Miller wrote the script with Mad Max: Fury Road co-writer Nico Lathouris. The film is produced by Doug Mitchell and George Miller.


🐀A Bit of Kittenhood Nostalgia with THE FOOD OF THE GODS, on Blu-ray August 20 from Kino Lorber.
Get ready for a taste of HELL! B-movie maestro Bert I. Gordon (Village of the Giants, Empire of the Ants)—the godfather of the "gigantic creature" genre—delivers the biggest Midnight Movie of all with this spine-tingling tale of ecology gone berserk. Based on H.G. Wells' classic tale of sci-fi terror, The Food of the Gods predicts a future where animals are suddenly at the top of the food chain…and eager to get their fill! On a remote island, a mysterious substance is oozing from the ground. A farmer sees that it acts as a growth hormone and thinks his fortune is made. But when rats, chickens, worms and wasps begin sampling the potent substance, they morph into bloodthirsty giants! Now, it's up to the island's few residents and visitors (including Marjoe Gortner, Pamela Franklin, Ralph Meeker, Jon Cypher and Ida Lupino) to destroy "the food of the gods"…before the animals take over for good!

June 16, 2024

CHINATOWN in 4K...With a TWO JAKES Chaser


CHINATOWN (4K UHD)
1974 / 131 min
Review by Mr. Paws😸

The Paramount Presents series has been getting better and better lately, especially their 4K releases. In addition to outstanding transfers and excellent packaging, the supplemental material is becoming increasingly tough to pass up for cinephiles. Chinatown (#45 in the series, for those counting) might be the best one yet.

Like Once Upon a Time in the West released earlier this year, this one includes interesting new bonus features along with a substantial list of supplemental material carried over from previous Blu-ray/DVD editions. But the cherry-on-top is a second disc featuring The Two Jakes, the belated and maligned sequel to Chinatown that’s been largely forgotten over time, now on Blu-ray for the first time. 


So from a historical perspective, it’s pretty close to indispensable. Not only is Chinatown one of the best films of the 1970s, it’s the greatest example of neo-noir ever made. Of course, one could easily argue it’s not actually neo-noir, but classic film noir that simply happened to be made decades after the genre’s heyday…and unbound by Hayes Code restrictions.



Either way, it remains a career highpoint for nearly everyone involved. Roman Polanski wouldn’t direct another film as narratively and visually engaging. Screenwriter Robert Towne would never again create characters or a story with this level of complexity. This was Jack Nicholson before his own persona began to creep into his characters, and one of Faye Dunaway’s last great roles…a quintessential femme fatale.

Chinatown truly captured lightning in a bottle, as dubiously demonstrated by its belated sequel. The Two Jakes isn’t a terrible movie by any stretch, but was a notoriously troubled production, which certainly contributed to the convoluted story, jarring tonal shifts and weak attempts to connect the narrative to that of the original film. Towne’s disjointed screenplay lacks the nuances that made Chinatown unique, including meaningless voiceover narration by Jake Gittes (Nicholson). Pulling double duty here, Nicholson’s direction is competent, but he’s certainly no Polanski. 


Still, it’s an interesting curio. Viewed in the context of circumstances surrounding its production - to say nothing of Chinatown’s looming legacy - The Two Jakes’ inclusion elevates it from a comparatively weak stand-alone film to the mother of all bonus features. As for the classic itself, Chinatown looks and sounds stunning in 4K UHD, one of the better transfers I’ve seen lately. That alone make this set worth the upgrading from previous editions, with the abundant extras as icing on the cake. So far, this is the best 4K release of the year.


EXTRA KIBBLES

THE TWO JAKES (1990) - On Blu-ray.

NEW FEATURETTES - In A State of Mind: Author Sam Wasson on Chinatown is an appreciation by the author, who discusses aspects of the film from the viewpoint of a lifelong Los Angelino; The Trilogy that Never Was has Wasson discussing what was originally planned to be a trilogy (had The Two Jakes not flopped); In Chinatown Memories, assistant director Hawk Koch shares a few amusing behind-the-scenes anecdotes.

FEATURETTES - In Chinatown: An Appreciation, some contemporary notables discuss their admiration; Chinatown: The Beginning and the End features interviews with Polanski, Nicholson, Towne and producer Robert Evans; Chinatown: Filming features discussions regarding the production; Chinatown: The Legacy has Polanski, Nicholson, Towne & Evans touting Jerry Goldsmith’s evocative score, as well as discussing the film’s success when released.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Robert Towne and director David Fincher.

TRAILER

DIGITAL COPY

FOLD-OUT SLIPCOVER - Opens to reveal a replica of the original iconic one-sheet, which is infinitely more appealing than the godawful new cover.

June 14, 2024

THUNDERHEART: An Empathetic Thriller


THUNDERHEART (Blu-ray)
1992 / 119 min
FROM SONY
Available at www.MovieZyng.com
Review by Pepper the Poopy😺

Thunderheart is another one of those movies with a terrific cast, great performances, authentic dialogue, relevant themes and a plot just murky enough that we tend to forget it over time.

That’s not really intended as criticism either. I don’t recall ever talking with anyone who didn’t enjoy Thunderheart, but you generally have to bring up the subject first. “Oh, yeah,” a colleague recently replied when I mentioned I was reviewing the Blu-ray. “The one with Val Kilmer, right? That was pretty good.” He did, however, forget what it was about.


And Thunderheart is pretty good, as is Kilmer in the role of Ray Levoi, a young FBI agent assigned to help Agent “Cooch” Colutelle (Sam Shepard) in a murder investigation on a Native-American reservation in South Dakota. Somewhat dubiously, the bureau thinks the fact that Ray has a little Native ancestry will be good PR and perhaps loosen up some of the locals, though he knows nothing of their customs.


"Pull my finger."
There’s been an ongoing conflict between the tribal council and the radical Aboriginal Rights Movement (ARM), whose leader, Jimmy Looks Twice, is the prime suspect. Ray reluctantly finds an ally in tribal police chief Walter Crow Horse (Graham Greene, who pretty much steals the movie). It’s an amusingly antagonistic relationship at first, but as Ray begins to understand and empathize with the locals, they depend on each other. He also suspects that Jimmy may not be the killer, especially after a local teacher is murdered.

That’s the quick & dirty summary, which I’ll probably forget again over time. But I believe the plot might be perfunctory by design, a clothesline on which to hang themes of racism, cultural awareness and Native American injustice. 


Ultimately, Thunderheart is a plea for empathy gift-wrapped as a mystery-thriller. As such, it’s remains pretty entertaining, with bursts of intense action interspersed throughout the story, as well as some humorous moments. But it’s the thematic elements, characters and performances that make the film memorable.


EXTRA KIBBLES

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By screenwriter/co-producer John Fusco

TRAILER


Litter Box Treasures: TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING (1977)


TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING (1977)
Starring Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Charles Durning, Paul Winfield, Burt Young, Melvyn Douglas, Joseph Cotton, Richard Jaeckel, William Marshall, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Roscoe Lee Browne. Directed by Robert Aldrich. 

BY D.M. ANDERSON💀

Like a lot of movies I loved growing up, Twilight's Last Gleaming is one of those forgotten relics few people have ever heard of, let-alone actually seen. It’s a shame, really, because the film boasts a legendary cast and taut direction by Robert Aldrich, whose use of split-screen creates considerable tension & urgency. I’ll concede that it’s aesthetically dated, fairly grim in tone and maybe a tad too long. On the other hand, its pessimistic depiction of our government and those wielding power behind closed doors is as timely than ever.

Burt Lancaster plays disgraced (and slightly unhinged) Air Force officer Lawrence Dell, who, along with two thugs, escape from a military prison, infiltrate a missile silo and take control of its arsenal. Then Dell threatens to launch its missiles at the Soviet Union unless the powers-that-be in Washington make-public the real reason the U.S. continued to wage war in Vietnam long after it was declared unwinnable. Dell also wants a hostage - the President of the United States - to ensure his demands are met. 


The movie's premise is somewhat outrageous (I sure-as-hell hope taking over a missile complex isn't quite this easy), but it's a conspiracy theorist's wet dream, and that's part of what makes it fun. It's the kind of paranoid movie that could only have been made in the 70s, post-Watergate, when our faith in the government was at an all-time low. We start off thinking Dell is the film's villain, but by the end, it's the White House advisors surrounding the president we grow to despise (most of them would rather see their Commander-in-Chief die than reveal their secrets).


Pillow Talk II

What's kind of ironic about this one, considering our tendency to use presidents as de facto symbols of everything wrong or right about certain eras, is that this president (played by Charles Durning, who’s terrific) is probably the second-most sympathetic character. In the end, he actually begins to feel empathy for Dell and is painfully aware he can no longer trust those around him.

Even for a conspiracy thriller, this is dark stuff. By the final reel, the viewer is pretty certain things will not end well. This movie definitely has a sobering anti-government agenda that wasn't prevalent in the novel it’s loosely based on (Walter Wager’s Viper Three), which was totally lost on me as a kid, when I first watched it on HBO. It must have been lost on a lot of people, because Twilight's Last Gleaming came-and-went in theaters back in '77, when interests turned to fluffier fare like Star Wars and Smokey and the Bandit. With Luke Skywalker saving the Rebellion from galactic empire and Burt Reynolds hauling ass in a Trans-Am with Sally Field, who the hell wanted to be reminded of the horror that was Vietnam, to say nothing of an awful theory why the war was so painfully dragged out?


Again, I was oblivious of any agenda back then. I simply loved the scenario in which the world could end. The threat of nuclear annihilation was one of the more realistic doomsday scenarios scaring the shit out of people in the 70s, so Twilight’s Last Gleaming was especially fascinating. But even four decades later, the film still carries a strong, relevant message: Do NOT always trust the people we’ve entrusted.

June 13, 2024

Two Kooky Curiosities from SYDNEY POLLACK


DIRECTOR SPOTLIGHT: CASTLE KEEP and BOBBY DEERFIELD (Blu-ray)
1969 & 1977 / 230 min (2 movies)
Review by Mr. Paws😼

Sydney Pollack has directed some great films, including a handful of inarguable classics. These two lesser-known titles, part of Mill Creek Entertainment’s Director Spotlight series, don’t rank among them (one might even be his worst). Still, they are interesting curiosities - for different reasons - and currently only available on this double-feature Blu-ray.

Castle Keep is an oddball anti-war film starring Burt Lancaster, who often indulged his penchant for subversiveness at this stage of his career. Though set during World War II, it’s sort of a commentary on the conflict in Vietnam, a topic that was apparently of personal interest to Lancaster. Spotty, episodic and sometimes too immersed in the hippie aesthetic of the era, the film is light on action until the final act, and even then, it’s more esoteric than exciting. Still, the film is occasionally thought-provoking, funny and features some engagingly quirky characters (Peter Falk is wonderful).


Al gets sucker-punched.
Considering the caliber of talent on both sides of the camera, and the two studios that collaborated to release it, it’s almost shocking that 1977’s Bobby Deerfield is such a daffy dumpster fire. Al Pacino is the title character, a Formula 1 driver who falls in love with a flighty, terminally-ill woman (Marthe Keller). The two stars try their best, but the film is languidly paced, with pretentious attempts at artiness and some howlingly goofy dialogue (including an intellectually-stimulating conversation about “homos”). On the plus side, it looks pretty, and if viewed as an unintentional comedy, might be good for a few chuckles.

For a true introduction to Sydney Pollack’s work, one is obviously advised to look elsewhere (Three Days of the Condor & Absence of Malice would be great starting points). But if nothing else, this disc is a reminder that the director was willing to take a shot at any genre, even if he sometimes missed.

June 12, 2024

The BIKERIDERS Box Fight Now Available To Play on Fortnite


Focus Features and international gaming firm, Umi Games, announced today a new cross-platform video game inspired by the studio's soon-to-be-released film The Bikeriders, a true insider’s account of a 1960s Midwestern biker club, directed by Jeff Nichols.

The team-up creates a movie-inspired gaming experience for the free-to-play, box fight, cross-platform game, Fortnite. With the film’s release on June 21, the game partnership promotes the rough and tumble ways of the film’s lead characters, played by Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, and Tom Hardy.

The box fight style game is a 2v2 brawler, where characters inspired by the film’s Vandals motorcycle club fight for supremacy on the streets of Chicago in the 1960s and 70s. With an in-world biker bar, as well as surrounding neighborhood, based on the film’s sets, the world of The Bikeriders accurately expands into the Fortnite universe. The battle royale is free for all users by clicking the magnifying glass at the top of the game. Afterwards, users should search the island code “3327-7711-0118” into Fortnite and click on the “The Bikeriders Box Fight" thumbnail that comes up.*

Los Angeles-based marketing agency, BOND, pitched Focus Features on creating the gaming experience and has been working with Umi Games to design and build “The Bikeriders Box Fight” for the past few weeks. 

The Bikeriders will be in theaters exclusively starting on June 21. The film follows the rise and fall of a midwestern motorcycle club in the 1960’s and features a star studded cast including Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, Michael Shannon, and Norman Reedus. Get your tickets now: www.bikeridersmovie.com 

*This is an independently created Fortnite Creative experience and is not sponsored, endorsed, or administered by Epic Games, Inc.

June 11, 2024

THE BURGLARS and the Thrill of the Chase


THE BURGLARS (aka LA CASSE) (Blu-ray)
1971 / 114 & 126 min (2 versions)
FROM SONY
Available at www.MovieZyng.com
Review by Mr. Paws😺

In terms of story and characters, The Burglars doesn’t reinvent the wheel. You’ve got your charismatic jewel thief, the determined detective, the high-tech heist, the cat & mouse game, beautiful women and exotic locations. Narratively and aesthetically, the film is emblematic of a lot of European thrillers from the era, including a nifty Ennio Morricone score. 

But interspersed throughout are several outstanding set-pieces and action sequences. Considering who’s involved, some of the stuntwork is actually pretty jaw-dropping.


The heist occurs right away, with Azad (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and his crew breaking into a wealthy tycoon’s house and making-off with a million in emeralds. Roughly comprising the first ten minutes, it’s mostly dialogue-free, focusing on their meticulousness and elaborate safe-cracking tech toys. I don’t know if any of this stuff is real, but it sure looks cool, which is ultimately all that matters.


Unexpectedly, the ship Azad chartered for their getaway is out of commission, leaving them stuck in Athens until it can be repaired. They plan to lay low for five days, which becomes difficult when corrupt cop Abel Zacharia (Omar Sharif) confronts Azad and demands the jewels for himself. Azad has no intention of complying, of course, and while trying to stay a step ahead of Zacharia, he meets sultry model Lena (Dyan Cannon), a quasi-film fatale who feels kind of shoehorned into the narrative for the sake of a romantic subplot.


"That ain't the safe, Azad. That's the fridge."
The antagonistic game of one upmanship between Azad and Zacharia is entertaining, with both actors clearly having fun in their roles, but what really elevates the film are the action sequences. There’s a thrilling extended car chase, with numerous wide camera shots of these two vehicles speeding through streets and dodging traffic - while repeatedly smashing into each other - without a lot of quick-cut editing. 

The car chase is the work of professional drivers, but there are other scenes where Belmondo is obviously doing his own stunts, like when Azad precariously hangs onto the side of a speeding city bus while fending off Zacharia, or more amusingly, gets poured from a dump truck down a massive hill. Belmondo was a huge star in France at the time, so engaging in such clearly dangerous stunts - without special effects - when he really didn’t need to is an admirable dedication to craft.


So while the story and concept are pretty familiar, the opening heist and exciting action sequences make the film memorable. It’s essentially a battle of wits that becomes a wildly entertaining chase, only slightly marred by a comparatively underwhelming climax (though it’s admittedly kind of funny). For fans of 70s-era European thrillers, The Burglars is well worth seeking out.


EXTRA KIBBLES

ENGLISH & INTERNATIONAL (FRENCH) VERSIONS - The latter is 12 minutes longer...and the better of the two.