April 30, 2024

MEAN GIRLS (2024) (4K): Good Thing It's a Musical

MEAN GIRLS (Blu-ray)
2024 / 112 min
Review by Pepper the Poopy😼

I should state upfront that I’ve never seen the original Mean Girls. Even though the film is 20 years old and considered a modern classic, its appeal was decidedly outside of my particular demographic. So with no basis for comparison, I’m assessing this new version on its own merits…

…which is fine because it isn’t a remake in the purest sense. Sure, Tina Fey wrote this one, too, and returns to play the same character, as does fellow alum Tim Meadows. However, Mean Girls 2024 is a musical, based on the successful Broadway production. Maybe if more classics were reimagined as musicals, curmudgeons wouldn’t be so quick to condemn every remake as a cash crab. 

That being said, it’s a good thing the new Mean Girls is a musical, because the numbers are easily the best part of the movie. Bouncy, funny and occasionally sweet, not only are they well-integrated into the narrative, they’re arguably more effective in providing character exposition than the actual screenplay. The story isn’t nearly as engaging whenever someone isn’t belting out a snarky song, perhaps because we've seen it in plenty of other teen-centric movies and TV shows. 

"Oh...there's Waldo."
Now that I think about it, maybe that’s not a completely valid criticism because, for all I know, it’s those very same teen-centric movies & shows that are aping the original Mean Girls. Still, while the dialogue is occasionally clever and satirical, those scenes don’t have the same energy as the musical moments.

Overall, the performances are decent. As main protagonist Cady Heron, Angourie Rice does a good job taking the character from friendly new kid to one of the Plastics and back again. Regina Rapp is fitfully amusing as Regina, the bitchy leader of the Plastics. Of course, most of these characters are exaggerated caricatures, which is obviously intentional. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes annoying. 

But again, that could just be the old man in me talking. 2004’s Mean Girls wasn’t aimed at Boomers, so it’s no surprise that this one isn’t either. As such, this updated take on the same story (you know...with cell phones & everything) should amuse the younger crowd, while reworking it as a musical might pique the curiosity of those who carry a nostalgic torch for the original.


FEATURETTES - A New Age of Mean Girl; Song and Dance; The New Plastics.

SING-ALONG OPTION - For certain songs.

MUSIC VIDEO - “Not My Fault,” featuring Renee Rapp & Megan Thee Stallion.




April 29, 2024

KINDS OF AMERICAN FILM COMEDY: A Serious Study of Funny Stuff

By Wes D. Gehrig
2024 / 234pp
Review by Mr. Bonnie (the Bookworm)😺

To be honest, I’d never heard of Wes D. Gehrig, and since this book doesn't include an About-the-Author page (though the forward by Ashley Donnally speaks fondly of him), I did a little quick digging on my own. Gehrig is a film scholar who’s written a few dozen books on the subject over the past 40 years, mostly related to the comedy genre, as well as some of its legends.

One thing is certain…in reading this book, it's obvious he knows his stuff (though I did detect a few inconsequential errors related to certain films). With Kinds of American Film Comedy: Six Core Genres and Their Literary Roots, Gehrig appears to be trying something a bit different from some of his other work. He’s written entire books on some of these particular genres before, but here, he traces their origins back to the writings of various humorists, from Jonathon Swift to Mark Twain and plenty in between, both famous and comparatively obscure.

Following a lengthy introduction on the origins of literary humor, subsequent chapters discuss Personality Comedians, Crackerbarrel Populism, Parody, Screwball Comedy (which is not the same as slapstick), Romantic Comedy and Dark Comedy. Each chapter follows the same pattern: Gehrig’s definition of the genre, which he supports with numerous examples from classic and modern films (though I sense a particular affinity for the former). He frequently breaks each genre down into various subgenres before connecting it all to assorted written works, many written before anyone even knew what a moving picture was.

Academic without being pretentious, Gehrig’s writing reflects deep knowledge of his subject and an exhaustive amount of research. Some chapters are obviously more interesting than others, which largely depends on the reader’s personal preferences. Hence, I found the chapters on Parody, Screwball & Dark Comedy more engaging than Crackerbarrell Populism or Romantic Comedy. Along the way, Gehrig makes many intriguing assertions…some I concur with, others I don’t. But hey, where’s the fun in reading a critical analysis if you spend the entire time nodding in agreement?

Though this is not a movie guide of reviews and recommendations, readers will undoubtedly be intrigued enough to check out some of these films themselves, or revisit old favorites from a more analytical perspective. Perhaps some will even feel encouraged to explore the genre’s literary roots. Whatever the case, this book offers a serious study of funny stuff.

April 28, 2024

Revisiting the OCEAN'S TRILOGY in 4K

2001-2007 / 364 min (3 movies)
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

Though it doesn't happen very often, I appreciate the effort to remake a film that wasn't all that great in the first place. The original Ocean's 11 was more notable for its cast than the story…a Rat Pack party shot in their adopted hometown, the cast putting the cigarettes down just long enough to commit a heist.

Not that the new version isn’t a similarly high-concept product built around an all-star cast. But at least George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Julie Roberts, Elliot Gould et al aren’t simply playing extensions of themselves. These are pretty well conceived characters, while the motive, planning & execution of the elaborate casino heist is genuinely engaging (if a bit implausible). 

Slickly directed and aesthetically flashy, Ocean’s Eleven is one of those movies that was never destined rack-up a ton of awards or end up on anyone’s Top 10 list, but had enough universal appeal that box office success was all but guaranteed. Sure enough, two sequels and a spin-off followed in subsequent years, all driven by the fun the cast seems to be having (which is admittedly infectious).

Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen are now available in 4K UHD, either as individual SteelBooks or this three-disc set. While not as creatively packaged as the SteelBooks, it’s certainly a lot easier on the wallet if you’re seeking to add or upgrade all three in your collection. Not having seen them on Blu-ray, I can’t state whether or not the upgrade is significant, but the transfers are really good. The overall video image is sharp and clean, with excellent contrasts and vivid color (particularly noticeable in the first & third films, which make use of glitzy Vegas locations). Each film also features an excellent DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track.

"You heard me...go fish."
As for the movies themselves, Ocean’s Eleven remains the best of the trilogy. In addition to the fun of being introduced to the team, this one is more fluidly paced and boasts the most interesting plot, which has recently paroled Danny Ocean (George Clooney) immediately going to work planning the massive robbery of three casinos owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who not-only forced one of Ocean’s buddies out of the business, his girlfriend, Tess (Julia Roberts), is Danny’s ex-wife.

Ocean’s Twelve is the longest and most meandering of the series, taking its sweet time even getting to the primary conflict, that of an international master thief known as the Night Wolf challenging Ocean’s team to steal a priceless Faberge egg from a museum. And even then, the plot is overly complex, somewhat hampered by juggling too many new characters (and a few pointless cameos). Still, the congenial performances save this one. 

The most outlandish - and cartoonish - of the three is Ocean’s Thirteen, which returns the team to Vegas to bring down ruthless casino tycoon Willy Bank (Al Pacino). This one tests the limits of plausibility, with a few plot turns that are almost embarrassingly silly. But overall, it’s a lot of fun, certainly more enjoyable than the previous film and a nice send-off for these characters. 

None of the films are classics, but all three are an improvement over the original that inspired them. But other than technical upgrades, the Ocean’s Trilogy 4K set offers nothing else new (unless you count the digital copies). All the bonus features are carried over from previous Blu-ray/DVD releases. Still, this is a good collection for fans who want the best possible picture and sound.




FEATURETTES - Are You In or Out? The Making of Ocean’s Eleven; Pros & Cons - Inside Ocean’s Outfit; The Style of Steal; The Look of the Cons; Original Ocean’s, Original Cast.

2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By director Steven Soderbergh & writer Ted Griffen; 2) By actors Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt & Matt Damon.


FEATURETTES - Ready, Jet Set, Go: The Making of Ocean’s Twelve; HBO First Look: Twelve is the New Eleven.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Steven Soderbergh & writer George Noifi.



FEATURETTES - Third’s a Charm: The Making of Ocean’s Thirteen; Ahab with a Piggyback: The Means & Machines of Ocean’s; Jerry Weintraub Walk & Talk; Master of the Heist.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Steven Soderbergh & writers David Levien and Brian Koppelman.


April 26, 2024

ARMSTRONG: Quite the Life

2019 / 100 min
Available at www.MovieZyng.com
Review by Pepper the Poopy😺

If you know nothing about the first man to set foot on the moon, this is a great documentary. Since I’m among the ignorant, I really enjoyed Armstrong.

The film affectionately chronicles Neil Armstrong’s life from his humble upbringing in Wapakoneta, Ohio to his death in 2012 at 82. After a succinct summary of his childhood - and fascination with airplanes - the focus segues to his Korean War combat fighter experience and eventual career as a test pilot. It’s during this time he meets and marries his first wife, Janet (who’s interviewed extensively).

But the meat of the movie is Armstrong’s time at NASA. Beginning in the fledgling space program, he eventually becomes part of Project Gemini, during which time his skills help to avoid a catastrophic disaster during a space mission (I had no idea). Of course, the Apollo 11 mission and moonwalk are covered and discussed in the most detail. Even though we’ve all seen and heard it a million times, the event is made more interesting by numerous anecdotes and comments from those who were involved.

Of all his accomplishements, Neil is most proud of his piercings.
Speaking of which, Armstrong features dozens of interviews with friends, fellow aviators & astronauts, as well as family members, including his two sons. Nearly all of them describe him as a smart, selfless and relatively quiet man who didn’t particularly enjoy the limelight. The only time the film approaches depicting Armstrong negatively is when Janet explains why she eventually divorced him. And even then, there’s no scandal or dirt…he was simply married to his work. 

Director David Fairhead does a fine job combining new and vintage footage to tell an engaging story rather than just an academic account. Armstrong’s own words are given a bit of dramatic oomph from Harrison Ford, while the affecting music score renders everything a bit more awe inspiring. As someone who knew nothing about Neil Armstrong beyond his lunar footprint, I found his life quite interesting.


FEATURETTES - In Gemini 8 Capsule, director David Fairhead gets to film in and around the spacecraft used by Neil Armstrong; Flight of Fancy goes behind the scenes of the song that plays over the end credits, which was written by Neil’s son.



April 24, 2024

DRIVE-AWAY DOLLS and the Unexpected MacGuffin

2024 / 83 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

Leave it to one of the Coen Brothers (and his wife) to come up with the most unexpected MacGuffin I've ever seen, which I won’t even hint at. But when it’s revealed, chances are you’ll laugh, if for no other reason than Ethan Coen & Tricia Cooke’s audacity. 

Even without Joel co-writing/co-directing, Drive-Away Dolls reflects the brothers’ quirky sensibilities, though even longtime, unsuspecting Coen fans might be initially blindsided. For one thing, the film is raunchy as hell, often hilariously so, though the humor occasionally feels a bit too calculated. Still, we kinda need a movie like this…a screwball comedy featuring two protagonists who happen to be lesbians. Their orientation is certainly part of the narrative, with a ton of jaw-droppingly frank dialogue and ample sex scenes (which are more comedic than erotic), but that isn’t what drives the plot. 

Drive-Away Dolls is a road movie with elements the Coens have visited before. Margaret Qualley & Geraldine Viswanathan play Jamie and Marian, two close friends who take a road trip to Tallahassee in a drive-away car. However, stashed in the trunk is a briefcase containing the aforementioned MacGuffin. The problem is that the car was supposed to be picked up by a couple of criminals to deliver the case to the same town. Those guys, Arliss (Joey Slotnick) and Flint (C.J. Wilson), are ordered by their boss (Colman Domingo) to track the girls down and retrieve the case.

The movie's two clean gags.
Of the two protagonists, Jamie is more free-spirited and uninhibited (to say the least), bent on spending a good deal of this trip hitting lesbian bars while trying to get perpetually-uptight Marian to loosen up a little. During their episodic journey, we get to know both pretty well and their relationship is often amusing, ultimately endearing. Elsewhere, the segments with Arliss and Flint chasing down the girls - usually a step or two behind - are frequently hilarious, while Beanie Feldstein threatens to steal the movie as Jamie's disgruntled ex, Sukie (and she's also a cop).

I’ve avoided specifics because much of what makes Drive-Away Dolls fun is not knowing what’s going to happen next…or what’ll fly out of someone’s mouth, especially Jamie’s. Overall, it’s an entertaining film with excellent performances by the entire cast. Though never quite as clever as the Coens’ best comedies, there are enough oddball characters and off-the-wall moments to remind us who’s behind the camera. 


FEATURETTES - The Drive-Away Gang; Drive-Away Dolls: An Ethan and Tricia Project; Road Trip Essentials.


April 23, 2024

THE POOP SCOOP: Upcoming Kibbles!

😺SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT 25th Anniversary & TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE 20th Anniversary 4K Ultra HDs debut on June 25th
Join us as we celebrate 25 years of warping fragile little minds when the critically acclaimed, Academy Award-nominated SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT arrives for the first time ever on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc June 25, 2024 from Paramount Home Entertainment. On June 30, 1999, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker unleashed their wildly popular South Park characters on the big screen for the first time. Twenty-five years later, SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT remains as irreverent, insightful, and hilarious as when it first premiered. The 25th Anniversary 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo includes legacy bonus content detailed below, access to a Digital copy of the film, and—for the first time—the Sing-A-Long version of the film. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s uproariously subversive TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE, which will also make its 4K Ultra HD debut on June 25th.  The 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo includes access to a Digital copy of the film, the Uncensored and Unrated cut of the film on Blu-ray, as well as legacy bonus content.

😺DUNE PART TWO Arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & DVD May 14, and on Digital NOW from Warner Bros.
Dune: Part Two explores the mythic journey of Paul Atreides as he unites with Chani and the Fremen while on a path of revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family. Facing a choice between the love of his life and the fate of the known universe, he endeavors to prevent a terrible future only he can foresee. Dune: Part Two is directed by three-time Academy Award nominee Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Blade Runner 2049”) from a screenplay he and Jon Spaihts wrote, based on the seminal bestselling novel of the same name written by Frank Herbert. The expanded all-star international ensemble cast features returning and new stars, including Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar nominee Josh Brolin, Oscar nominee Austin Butler, Oscar nominee Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Oscar winner Christopher Walken, Léa Seydoux, Souheila Yacoub, with Stellan Skarsgård, with Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling, and Oscar winner Javier Bardem. 

🐕ARTHUR THE KING now on Digital and coming to Blu-ray and DVD May 28 from Lionsgate.
Based on the “heart-swelling true story” (Courtney Howard, Variety) of friendship and loyalty, ARTHUR THE KING arrives on Premium Video on Demand and Premium Electronic Sell-Through on April 23, and on Electronic Sell-Through, Blu-ray (+ DVD + Digital), and DVD May 28 from Lionsgate. Embark on the physical and emotional journey based on the true story of adventure racer Mikael Lindnord and Arthur, the dog that changed Lindnord’s life. The film stars Academy Award nominee Mark Wahlberg. In ARTHUR THE KING, an unbreakable bond is forged between pro adventure racer Michael Light and a scrappy street dog companion dubbed Arthur over the course of a grueling 10-day, 435-mile racecourse. An “inspiring story for the whole family” (Rachel Wagner, Rachel’s Reviews), and based on true events, ARTHUR THE KING follows Light, desperate for one last chance to win, as he convinces a sponsor to back him and a team of athletes for the Adventure Racing World Championship in the Dominican Republic. Pushing the team to the outer limits of endurance and sacrifice, Arthur redefines what victory, loyalty, and friendship truly mean.

🙀FEAR & LOVE: THE STORY OF THE EXORCIST Now Available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime.

April 21, 2024

THE BEEKEEPER (4K): Deja Boom!

2024 / 105 min
Review by Mr. Bonnie, the Barbarian😺

This is one of those action movies that wouldn’t exist without those which came before. In this case, it’s probably John Wick. But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, ol’ Baba Yaga should feel very flattered indeed. 

The Beekeeper doesn’t reinvent the wheel, nor does it really even try, but it’s a fun film that builds a solid foundation on a familiar premise, that of a retired badass driven by revenge to go back into action. Even as the film opens, in no way are we convinced Adam Clay is a simple beekeeper. Partially because he’s played by Jason Statham, but also because it shows him protecting the hive by efficiently destroying a nest of invading hornets…a creative bit of foreshadowing.

When Clay’s close friend and landlord, Eloise (Phylicia Rashad), loses everything from an internet phishing scam, she commits suicide. Her estranged daughter, FBI agent Verona Parker (Emma Raver-Lampman), is determined to nail those responsible. So is Clay, but with decidedly different methods. He’s a former “Beekeeper,” part of an enigmatic group of highly-skilled, government-appointed rogues who typically work above the law to protect the country as they see fit, no matter how extreme. 

And Clay certainly goes to extremes here, using his considerable skills and contacts to track down the scammers and burn the building down. By doing so, he stirs a hornet’s nest (so to speak). That building is just one branch of a data-mining operation run by cocky young douchebag Derek Danforth (Josh Hutcherson), who of course thinks he can take care of Clay by killing him. But like John Wick, everybody underestimates Clay’s abilities and resolve, even after dire warnings from ex-CIA director Wallace Westwyld (Jeremy Irons), who runs security for Danforth and mostly exists to provide exposition about Beekeepers and remind Derek how screwed he is.

Still, that doesn’t stop Westwyld from sending a currently-operating (and psychotic) Beekeeper to take Clay out, along with gobs of mercenaries. At this point, the film grows increasingly outlandish. Not only do plot turns and action sequences frequently require considerable suspension of disbelief, some of the colorful foes acquiring off against Clay would fit right in on WWE Smackdown. 

Grandma Jason's Homemade Preserves
Aside from a late plot twist revealing who wants Derek protected, The Beekeeper holds no real surprises. And because Clay is so quick, so deadly and so much smarter than everyone else on-screen, we’re never really all that concerned for his safety. 

But if done right, there’s comfort in knowing what you’re gonna get…kinda like always ordering the same thing from Starbucks. The Beekeeper is very well made, arguably David Ayer’s best film as a director. The violent action is well-executed, exhilarating and - considering the subjects of Clay’s wrath - even a little cathartic. What victim of cybercrime hasn’t fantasized about those bastards getting what they deserve?

Statham does his usual commendable job of being Jason Statham, refusing to let middle-age slow him down, while Hutcherson seems to have a good time making Derek a truly hateful antagonist. After Irons, Emma Raver-Lampman has the most thankless role, mostly arriving too late to do anything but react to Clay’s handiwork. Still, she’s likable, as is her droll sidekick, Agent Wiley (Bobby Naderi).

The Beekeeper wins no awards for originality, but tackles a familiar premise with confidence and skill. It’s a slick, fast-paced action film with no pretense of being anything else and comes to a satisfying conclusion. Leave your scrutiny at the door and have a good time.

April 20, 2024

THE DEPARTED 4K SteelBook is a Big Deal

2006 / 151 min
Review by Mr. Bonnie, the Barbarian😹

While not Martin Scorsese’s greatest gangster film (Goodfellas will always hold that title), the 4K UHD SteelBook release of The Departed is a very big deal…at least in my house. 

First off, The Departed was one of the first Blu-rays I purchased after switching to the format. The picture and sound quality of that one was pretty good, noticeably sharper than the DVD. However, the overall 4K image is even better. This is especially apparent in close-ups and some of the scenes relying on shadow for dramatic effect. I didn’t notice a huge difference in the audio quality, though the DTS-HD Master Audio sounds terrific.

Another significant reason to upgrade is Warner Bros actually includes a brand new bonus feature, and it’s a good one. Scorsese looks back at the film, discussing how he came to make it and why, as well as a few of the hurdles he faced during production. In a surprising revelation, he believed that disagreements with the studio over the ending might have resulted in The Departed being his swan song as a director. Thank god that didn’t happen. My only complaint about this bonus feature is that it isn’t long enough…I could listen to him talk about movies and the filmmaking process all day.

Wondering who's gonna pick up the check.
The other reasons this release is a big deal are more personal. SteelBooks are the hardcover novels of physical media, and when at all possible, it’s nice when those special movies come with new packaging and artwork. Since I consider Scorsese one of our greatest living directors, any time one of his titles is made available in a SteelBook edition…just shut up and take my money. The Departed SteelBook has a neat matte finish and a montage of the three main characters, with a symbolic ‘X’ imposed over them (Scorsese explains its origins and significance in one of the bonus features). It’s also cool to have a digital copy, which obviously didn’t exist back in the early Blu-ray days. While watching films digitally is not preferable, I like having it handy during those visits to my mother-in-law’s house. 

As for the film itself…The Departed remains something of a milestone in Scorsese’s career, being the only film that got him a looooong overdue Oscar for Best Director. In a perfect world, he’d have already won a fistful by then and I believe the Academy gave him a statue for this one just to right past wrongs. But even if it’s no Goodfellas, Taxi Driver or Raging Bull, The Departed remains one of the better, more rewatchable gangster films of the 21st Century, and for Scorsese fans, owning it in 4K is a pretty big deal.


GUILT AND BETRAYAL: LOOKING INTO THE DEPARTED - An all new interview with director Martin Scorsese. 

VINTAGE FEATURETTES - The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie and The Departed looks at some of the partial inspiration for the film; Crossing Criminal Cultures is an excellent 20 minute featurette that focuses on how Scorsese’s personal experiences inspire his gangster films.