April 30, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: MR. TURNER

Starring Timothy Spall, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Baily, Paul Jesson, Lesley Manville, Martin Savage. Directed by Mike Leigh. (2014, 150 min).

As presented by writer/director Mike Leigh and played by Timothy Spall, J.M.W. Turner is an 18th Century British artist renowned for his landscape paintings, both respected and reviled by his public and peers. Turner himself is congenially-eccentric and sort-of a philandering horndog (having affairs with several women, visiting brothels and often boinking his lifelong housekeeper when the mood strikes him). He also depends greatly on his father, William, who supports his son's artistic endeavors and generally looks after him long into adulthood. After William becomes ill and dies, Turner seems lost until he meets Sophia, a recently-widowed landlady of an inn on the coast. They soon develop a relationship which continues until his death years later.

In a nutshell, that’s the gist of Mr. Turner, a deliberately-paced character study which gives a great character actor (Spall) the chance to shine in a rare leading role. As Turner, Spall is terrific, though he grunts and groans more often than the lead singer of a death metal band. Despite some of Turner’s more lecherous leanings, Spall makes him fairly likable. Mr. Turner is also beautiful to look at, with stunning cinematography & production design that looks like both may have been inspired by Turner’s own landscape paintings.

"Hah! Humbug!
At the same time, there’s an overall aloofness throughout the film which prevents us from becoming truly invested in what’s going on. Despite great performances from the entire cast, the characters who drift in and out Turner’s life don’t really resonate much. Nor do we come away with a true appreciation for his artistic genius. We see Turner at the canvas a few times, as well as one scene in which he goes to extremes in order to accurately paint a snowstorm at sea. But other than that, we don’t really see the creative process of an artist whose paintings are worth millions today.

Still, Mr. Turner can be appreciated and enjoyed for its visual artistry, the lush music score by Gary Yershon and a career-defining performance by Spall.


  • Featurettes: "The Cinematic Palette: The Cinematography of My. Turner"; "The Many Colours of Mr. Turner"
  • Director Commentary
  • Deleted Scene

Not bad...solid performances and nice to look at.

April 28, 2015


Starring Nathan Phillips, Angourne Rice, Jessica De Gouw, Daniel Henshall, Sarah Snook, Kathryn Beck. Directed by Zak Hilditch. (2013, 87 min).
Well Go USA

AKA, the redemption of a douchebag...

James (Nathan Phillips) is an irresponsible, hard-living, self-centered scumbag with two girlfriends, one he doesn't want to admit he cares about (Zoe, who's also pregnant), the other a dimwitted bimbo he parties with (Vicki). Complicating this little love triangle is the inconvenient news that a massive meteor has struck the other side of the Earth, and it's only 12 hours before the subsequent global firestorm reaches his hometown of Perth, Australia. Death for everyone is inevitable.

Rather than spend his remaining hours in Zoe's arms, James chooses to go out in a blaze of glory by heading to a massive, decadent party hosted by his buddy, Freddy, where Vicki is also waiting. But on the way, James spots two pedophiles who've abducted a young child so they can rape her. While he initially only plans to steal their van, he ultimately feels obligated to come to the rescue. The girl, Rose (Angourne Rice) wants to be with her father when the end comes (they got separated during the ensuing anarchy), while James would rather leave her with the nearest responsible adult so he can get to the party.

But it turns out there are no responsible adults left. James' protective instincts take over when they arrive at the party, a veritable orgy of sex, drugs and drunken games of Russian Roulette. James' epiphany has him horrified by the whole scene (especially Freddy & Vicki) and that fact he's inadvertently put Rose in danger. Rescuing her yet-again, James takes it onto himself to try and find her father, their remaining time running out fast.

"Uh, James? Are you SURE this is Willy Wonka's
Chocolate Factory?"
On the surface, These Final Hours is a bleak, depressing film, pulling no punches in its depiction of depraved human behavior in the face of impending doom. It's loaded with moments of extreme violence, despair, decadence and cruelty. But at its center is a developing bound between James and Rose. With inescapable death rapidly approaching, they depend on each other for more than mere survival, especially James, who finds something worth living for (outside of himself) in their final few hours. Phillips and Rice are outstanding in their roles, never overplaying the characters and making every painful or loving moment seem sincere.

Quite a remarkable feat for a low budget Australian film. With a minimum of visual effects (mostly reserved for the climax), writer/director Zak Hilditch manages to convey an epic, ominous tone, along with a sense of fatal inevitability in which we experience the same feeling of helplessness as his characters (even the crazy ones). It's a smart film that manages to be both disturbing and bittersweet.

It reminds me of a similar film, Miracle Mile, a like-minded apocalyptic film that was virtually ignored in the 1980s, but has since found a cult audience who appreciated what it was trying to attempt with the genre. Like that quasi-classic, These Final Hours is a bold, audacious film that manages to present both the best and worst of the human condition. It's rare for a movie to wallow in depravity while simultaneously making you clutch a box of tissues, meaning These Final Hours isn't for everybody. But the more adventurous will definitely find this a supremely rewarding film.

EXTRAS: Trailer

Mee-OW! Like a fresh can o' tuna!

April 27, 2015


Starring Joe Milano, Piero Maggio, Anella Vastola. Directed by Joe Milano. (2013, 76 min).
Anchor Bay

This mockumentary may be the nadir of both the demonic possession and found footage genres.

While horror fans have long-since accepted the reality that there will never be another Exorcist, we're always open to a nifty spin of the same concept (James Wan's The Conjuring was a ton of scary fun). And even though found footage is fast wearing out its welcome, there's still the occasional film which utilizes this budget-conscious style to great effect (such as Paranormal Activity and the woefully-underrated The Bay). But The Vatican Exorcisms doesn't even rise to the level of a decent rip-off. It's a clumsy, poorly-acted bore that repeatedly feels the need to remind us what we're seeing is real.

Joe Milano (looking like a scruffy Antonio Banderas) plays himself, a filmmaker who travels to Italy to investigate corruption and evil-doings inside the Vatican, which includes interviews with 'insiders' and secretly shooting a black mass ceremony while he repeatedly whispers stuff like "Oh my God, what's happening here?" What little plot remains is then gleefully tossed aside once we meet a Vatican exorcist who "deals with the Devil everyday." Boy, does he! It just be rainin' possessed people in Italy! The rest of the film has Milano following this priest from one exorcism to the next (with little or no transition), exterminating demons like the Orkin Man before moving on. Meanwhile, Joe himself becomes increasingly disturbed, sweaty and psychotic (though it's never explained why).

"I'm Antonio Banderas, and I approved this message."
The exorcism sequences are long, repetitive and eventually unintentionally funny. The priest utters the exact same 'ominous' chant during each exorcism, which sounds like it was written by a guy who once knew a guy who watched a lot of movies inspired by The Exorcist. The climax is easily the most excruciating and hilarious. It goes on for nearly 15 minutes and consists of little more than a bug-eyed, wiry contortionist pretending to be possessed by writhing on a church floor while Joe gets crazier and sweatier.

Even at a scant 76 minutes (including end credits), The Vatican Exorcisms is a colossal, plotless bore. Despite numerous title cards desperately claiming its authenticity, at no point would even the most gullible viewer assume this was real. It makes one wish Mystery Science Theater 3000 was still around. They'd have a field day with this.


  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailer

Hiss...who let this dog in the house!

April 24, 2015


"Let me tell you what 'Like a Virgin' is about..."

"You keep talking like a bitch, I'm gonna slap you like a bitch."

"Listen, kid, I'm not gonna bullshit you. I don't give a fuck what you know or don't know, but I'm gonna torture you anyway, regardless. You can say anything you want 'cause I've heard it all before. All you can do is pray for a quick death, which you ain't gonna get."

"Piss on this fuckin' turd!"

"Somebody's shoved a red-hot poker up our ass, and I wanna know whose name is on the handle!"

April 22, 2015

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE and the Reality of Anarchy

Starring John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Peter Riegert, Thomas Hulce, Stephen Furst, Karen Allen, Bruce McGill, John Vernon, James Widdoes, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Verna Bloom, Sarah Holcomb. Directed by John Landis. (1978, 109 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON
The cultural influence of National Lampoon’s Animal House loomed large when I was in high school. Until then, there really hadn’t been another film like it, one which not only made it cool to be an irresponsible slob, but suggested the college leaders, athletes and beauty queens were the real clueless assholes. Though very much a subversively-clever satire of campus culture and societal norms at the time, Animal House whole-heartedly encouraged impressionable young adults everywhere to raise a hearty middle finger at anything resembling authority…long-term ramifications be damned. But unlike the nihilistic & self-righteous pretensions of such films as Easy Rider, Animal House appealed to those who probably had no real issue with authority, but its brand of anarchy seemed too cool to resist.

The film’s influence on Hollywood is arguably equal to Star Wars, present even today in the uninhibited teen comedies we’ve been inundated with ever since (though Animal House, despite its reputation, never truly crossed the line into pure vulgarity). But unlike Star Wars, where we could never realistically be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo, it wasn’t much of a stretch to emulate Otter, Boone or Bluto…

especially Bluto. As played by John Belushi, Bluto isn’t actually the film’s main character, though he is its centerpiece, an intentionally-stupid symbol of anarchy for anarchy’s sake. Hence, Bluto provides a majority of the movie’s most blatantly heavy-handed, slapstick moments. But even if being as cleverly-lecherous as Otter (Tim Matheson) or laid-back & sarcastic as Boone (Peter Riegert) seemed out-of-reach, anyone could be Bluto. All you needed was the willingness to know where the line of acceptable behavior was drawn, then gleefully step over it.

Virtually every high school party I attended after Animal House had at least one dude ready and willing to unleash his inner Bluto (though they were often uninvited)…the guy prepared to drink the most beer, accept the most outrageous dare and freely urinate on the host’s houseplants.

But a true Bluto disciple didn’t reserve such decadent behavior for weekend parties. He lived it 24/7...in class, at the mall and during the occasional road trips like the ones my friends and I used to take, also influenced by Animal House. Sure, we weren’t driving around during the wee hours of the night (you know...curfew), but there were a few times in high school when we decided seventh & eighth period was too much to endure that day and collectively chorused “Road Trip!” But unlike the film, where Belushi was not part of the venture, our own version of Bluto was always up for skipping his History class, and he had the coolest car.

His name was Travis.

Travis wasn't like a lot of guys. He was huge, with bushy black hair and really thick glasses, looking like a cross between Buddy Holly and a caveman. Travis was well-liked among the kids at my high school. Why? Well, it sure wasn't his looks. I don't recall anytime he ever went out on a date. Nor was it the way he carried himself. He was vulgar, crude and foul-mouthed even by high school standards. It wasn't because he lettered in sports. Travis was the goalie on our varsity soccer team, which wasn't too respected as a real sport at the time. It sure as hell wasn't his academic performance, because I believe he graduated with one of the lowest GPAs of all time.
Bluto...everybody knows one.

Part of his popularity was aided in no-small-part by his aforementioned car (definitely more awesome than Flounder’s brother’s Cadillac in Animal House). He drove a loud, black 1969 Mustang with tires fatter than my grandma's butt and could lay rubber in three gears. But personally, I think the biggest reason for his likability was Travis was one of the few guys I've ever known who truly didn’t give a single shit what anyone thought of him…he was Bluto personified. And yeah, Animal House was is favorite movie.

Best of all, Travis could vomit on command. And I don't mean that wimpy stick-your-fingers-down-your-throat vomit. All Travis had to do was inhale and launch. To the guys I hung out with, this gift was the coolest thing since the invention of boobs. He could spew-back whatever he just ate that day. I'd witnessed this talent on several occasions, either to shock classmates or convince a teacher he had to go home sick. But the puke-fest that topped them all happened when we climbed into his Mustang after school and headed into downtown Portland (our definition of a road trip).

Back then, if you were bored and had access to a car, you went downtown, usually at a place called the Galleria, an old building constructed in the 1920s, later gutted and refurbished as an open mall with a skylight roof. From the fifth floor, you could look down and see everyone on the first. We often hung out at a record store called Crystalship or at Taco John's, located right next door. We'd load up on burritos and Pepsi before wandering around the record store, checking-out new releases by Judas Priest or Rush or AC/DC. On rare occasion we actually bought a record, but we were mostly there to be obnoxious, buy rolling papers or meet girls. Actually, the last part almost never happened. But when you're sixteen you don't know any better, even though Jason, one of our road trip crew, was always hopeful he'd meet the punk rock queen of his dreams there.

One day in the spring of ‘81, we went downtown and sat for awhile at Taco John's, where Travis ordered his usual: two stuffed beef burritos, large tater tots and a 32 oz. Pepsi. He could really put away the food, at least twice as much as the rest of us. Afterwards, we strolled around the Galleria a bit, making fun of old folks, trying to act cool and generally being jackasses.

Maybe a half hour later, we decided to leave. Travis had parked his Mustang in the lot on the next block, connected to the Galleria on the third floor by an open walkway. It was on this walkway that we discovered just how lethal Travis' special talent could be....

While we were on the walkway, Travis suddenly stopped, a devilish grin spreading across his caveman face. He said "watch this," then ran to the edge, leaned over and with a grand gesture, unleashed the two stuffed beef burritos, jumbo tots and Pepsi he'd just consumed, which rained down upon the unsuspecting motorists below.
The rest of us barely had enough time to reach the railing before his meal pounded the hood of a Chevy Vega, immediately dousing it in fluitic brown chunks. It hit with such force that I swear the hood caved in a bit, and so loud that they must have heard it in nearby Beaverton. The car immediately screeched to a halt. The driver - a rather shell-shocked young woman - climbed out and gazed in horror at the vomitous mass drenching her hood. Despite the myriad car horns, idling engines and pedestrians, all of us could clearly hear her cry out, "oh...my...god."  Though not actually a gift from God, it didn't take her long to figure out this predigested puddle did indeed come from above. We waited around just long enough to catch a glimpse of her horriflied face before taking off, laughing hysterically and confident that we'd reach the safety of Travis' car long before anyone would catch us.

We figured wrong. None of us considered that anyone else would be watching, such as the Galleria security, who had been following us for about a half hour after receiving numerous complaints about our behavior. We didn't even reach Travis' car before security grabbed us...so much for thinking all authority figures were stupid.

This never happened in Animal House. The guys in Delta House got away with everything. It turned out being Bluto (or any of his cohorts) was much harder in real life than onscreen.

Our parents were all called to pick us up. I was grounded for skipping school and forbidden to hang out with Travis again. I suppose I got off light, since Travis' parents had to pay for the damage done to the lady's Vega. Despite getting in such trouble, I have to think part of him had to be a just a little bit proud. After all, how many of us can claim our own stomach chowder is capable of damaging cars?

Travis and I sort-of lost touch shortly after graduating, so I have no idea whether or not he continued down the Bluto path. Today, like D-Day in Animal House, his whereabouts are largely unknown (I haven’t been able to find him on Facebook, anyway). Such was the power of this classic film on impressionable youth at the time.

April 19, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: SUPREMACY

Starring Joe Anderson, Dawn Olivieri, Danny Glover, Derek Luke, Evan Ross, Lela Rechon, Anson Mount. Directed by Deon Taylor. (2014, 111 min).
Well Go USA

Despicable white-supremist Garrett Tully (Joe Anderson) has just been released after serving 15 years in prison, and not even a day passes before he shoots a black police officer during a routine stop. He and accomplice Doreen (Dawn Olivieri) take refuge in the home of a black family, led by patriarch Mr. Walker (Danny Glover), holding them hostage while deciding on their next move.

That’s the gist of Supremacy, a sometimes intense film which seems to have something to say about race relations, but isn’t quite sure what. Ambitiously character driven, we learn just enough about the primary individuals involved in this scenario, Tully and Walker, to keep us intrigued. It’s a credit to screenwriter Eric J. Adams that Tully isn’t completely hateful, nor is Walker a total saint (we get hints about their questionable pasts, yet both remain morally ambiguous).

Anderson and Glover shine in these roles with an intensity that maintains interest in-light of a story that seems to have been created on-the-fly. New plot turns and characters are introduced fairly late in the game, to the detriment of the overall narrative. This is especially apparent in scenes where some hostages are inexplicably allowed to leave the house without repercussions, defusing much of the tension the filmmakers worked so hard to establish early on.

And that’s the main problem with Supremacy…it starts off great, creating a fair amount of suspense, along with a timely message about the nature of racism in this country. However, it sort-of runs out of steam near the end, tossing in unnecessary (sometimes dumb) plot twists during the final act. Despite terrific and sincere performances by the entire cast, we’re ultimately left with a movie that’s unlikely to resonate much afterwards, no matter how noble its intentions. In the end, we don’t really get any message the film is obviously trying to convey.


  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
  • Trailer
Not bad...the performances alone might make this worth watching.

April 18, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: FIREWALKER

Starring Chuck Norris, Louis Gossett Jr, Melody Anderson, Will Sampson, Sonny Landham, John Rhys-Davies. Directed by J. Lee Thompson. (1986, 104 min).
Olive Films

Chuck Norris...what a charmed life…

Here’s an action star who’s been kicking around Hollywood for over four decades without ever learning how to act (even Jean Claude Van Damme managed to get better over time). Of the 40+ movies he’s starred in, only Code of Silence was any good (though some could mention Lone Wolf McQuade without losing much dignity). The rest of his resume consists mostly of budget-conscious knock-offs of bigger and better films. This was especially true in the 80s, when he seemed to pump-out cinematic punch-fests every couple of months, nearly all of them released by Cannon Films.

Yet even decades after his heyday, there’s something nostalgically endearing about a man whose only discernible talent is administering roundhouse kicks to the head. Aided immeasurably by internet memes, we still love Chuck Norris, mostly because he’s incapable of being anyone else, despite a few misguided attempts to break free of his image…

…such as 1986’s Firewalker, Cannon’s answer to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone, as well as an opportunity for Norris to show his comedic side. Of course, anyone familiar with Chuck’s career already knows he doesn’t have a comedic side, so his typically-wooden delivery pushes the already-lame story, dialogue and cut-rate production values into camp territory.

"Suuure you won an Oscar, Mr. Gossett."
From the lackluster attempts at buddy-comedy to the supremely-cheesy synthesizer film score, this film reeks of the decade from which it sprang. Sidekick Lou Gossett shows up to prove Cuba Gooding Jr wasn’t the first Oscar winner to throw his career away by accepting every job offered to him (though he does give the best performance in the film). As for love-interest Melody Anderson…well, she’s as predictably cute & perky as she was in 1980’s Flash Gordon.

Obviously, time has been especially cruel to the likes of Firewalker, a film which was pretty terrible to begin with. It’s arguably one of Chuck Norris’ worst movies because it required him to display skills which were well-beyond his abilities. Still, I suppose there are some folks out there who carry a nostalgic torch for this film. For them, Firewalker might be an amusing trip down memory lane. For everyone else, this movie is a jaw-droppingly bad rip-off of better films released in the same decade.



April 16, 2015

THE HAPPENING: A Passionate Plea to Mark Wahlberg

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Betty Buckley. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. (2008, 90 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON
Dear Mr. Wahlberg:

I know you’re a busy man, but I’m desperate and don’t know who else to turn to. My wife and I have been married a long time. Most of those years have been happy ones, but lately, she’s become increasingly depressed. So I am pleading for you to find some time in your schedule between Transformers movies to show up at our doorstep and put some spark back in our lives.

No, I’m not asking you to be a sexual surrogate (your services in that area would probably assure she’d never want to see me naked again), nor is my wife a big fan of your music and film career. You can leave the glossies and autograph pens at home because she won’t be bowled-over by your arrival…

…unless you do me a solid, one which might bring her out of her funk.

Before you roll your eyes and consider deleting this message, I’ll have you know I paid good box office cash to endure Planet of the Apes, Rock Star, Max Payne, Pain & Gain and The Lovely Bones. The way I see it, you kind-of owe me, so don’t make me come looking for you.

Now that I have your complete attention, it’s important to know a little about my wife. She’s a kind, lovely woman and a wonderful mother. She’s intelligent, well-read and quite funny. She’s also very ambitious; one of her long-time goals has been to cultivate an urban garden in order to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. In fact, as I write this, she’s making me dig-up what’s left of the postage stamp we call a lawn. Armed with just a shovel, it’s been a bitch, but at least I won’t have to shell-out $300 bucks for a new lawnmower (our old one exploded last summer).

Yet no matter how much love and attention she's always given every plant she’s made me load into our SUV during trips to Home Depot, nearly all of them wither away and die within a few weeks. Even cactus, the indestructible Terminators of the plant kingdom, have almost no chance of survival in her hands. Worse-still was one anniversary when I came home with a dozen roses, all of which impaled themselves on their own thorns the second she laid eyes on them.

My wife still hasn’t figured out that she’s the arboreal equivalent of the Grim Reaper, yet this goddamn garden is really important to her. I’m currently in a constant state of fear because when something doesn’t go as planned, she tends to get so depressed that I feel the need to put the Suicide Hotline on my call list. Yeah, I’ve considered venturing to our local Safeway store to pick up various veggies to toss into the garden in hopes she’ll think this death curse has been lifted, but who am I kidding? I’ve never been able to lie to her.

Mark Wahlberg...The Plant Whisperer.
This, Mr. Wahlberg, is where you come in. Remember The Happening, where you played a high school science teacher able to figure out the wave of mass suicides was due to an apocalyptic revolt by all the plants, trees and grass? Of course you do, because it was the greatest performance of your career. Who else could hold a serious conversation with a plastic plant without the audience bursting into laughter? Some might argue that you couldn’t either, but my wife and I believe everything we see on TV. So you, my friend (I feel like I can call you a friend at this point) have the unique opportunity to not only save our garden, but our marriage as well (I always have a lot more sex when my wife is happy).

All you have to do is stop by the house, stroll through the garden and use your thespian skills to talk these plants into flourishing. Be humble, cordial and nice, like you were when talking to that fake plant in The Happening. Apply the same congenial & friendly Wahlberg voice you often reserve for your ’serious’ movies and make it rain like dollars at a lap dance! You did it once, now I implore you to do it again. In return, I'll scoop all the dog shit from our yard, fire up the barbecue & grill some burgers (since you made it obvious in The Happening you don't like hot dogs). As a bonus, I’ll offer free advice why you should get your ass out of the Transformers franchise right now (before you’re in too deep). Maybe we could even talk sports, at which time I'll enlighten you on how much the rest of the world really hates the Boston Red Sox.

At any rate, if my wife’s garden still withers on the vine, at least I can blame you. But being a high profile celebrity, you’re used to that, right?

April 13, 2015


Starring Dustin Nguyen, RZA, Carl Ng, Pim Bubear, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. Directed by Roel Reine. (2015, 90 min).

RZA (Robert Fitzgerald Diggs) returns as the title character in this follow-up to 2012’s The Man with the Iron Fists. As with most direct-to-video sequels to marginally successful films, this one is a scaled-back affair. Like the first, RZA co-wrote the screenplay. This time, however, he turns the directorial reigns over to Roel Reine, who appears to specialize in keeping action franchises alive on DVD (he also directed Death Race 2 & 3, Scorpion King 3, The Marine 2, 12 Rounds 2 and The Condemned 2). So it probably goes without saying that fans of the original should lower their expectations. If you’re able to do that, The Man with the Iron Fists 2 might provide some passable entertainment.

This time out, Thaddeus the Blacksmith (RZA) reluctantly comes to the aid of a group of miners suffering under the tyranny of Master Ho (Carl Ng), who excels in cruelty as he rules over the village. Several local women have also been murdered, their lives almost literally sucked out of them, which everyone initially suspects is also Ho’s doing. One miner, Li Kung (Dustin Nguyen, the actual star of the film), finally decides to stand up to Ho after his younger brother is murdered.

Of course, mayhem ensues, with the usual blood-letting through swordplay, arena fights and Thaddeus’ iron appendages. There are enough sliced arteries, dismembered limbs, beheadings and exploding torsos to amuse those who enjoy their action garnished with gore. Like the original, none of the action is anything you haven’t seen before in better films, but it’s handled with workmanlike skill. The same can be said for the story and cast. From a narrative standpoint, there aren’t a hell of a lot of surprises (well, maybe one), and even though this sequel doesn’t boast the same marquee names as the first, the cast (especially Nguyen) is fairly impressive. As Thaddeus, RZA is arguably the weakest link. While not terrible in the role he created for himself, he doesn’t have much range and his character was never all that interesting to begin with.

Like the first film, The Man with the Iron Fists 2 pays respectful homage to the genre which inspired it. While that alone isn’t likely enough to entice new viewers, those who enjoyed the original will probably walk away satisfied.


  • Making-of Featurette
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Audio Commentary by Director Roel Rene & RZA
  • R-Rated and Unrated Versions of the Film
  • DVD & Digital Copies

Not bad...like Cat Chow

April 12, 2015


Starring Dan Chupong, Nantawut Boonrupsup, Nisachon Tuamsoongnern, Kessarin Ektawakul, Chatchapol Kultsiriwuthichai. Directed by Panna Ritikrai. (2014, 90 min).
Well Go USA

On one hand, Vengeance of an Assassin is a histrionic, sloppy, slapped-together mess with ludicrous action and narrative gaps wider than the Grand Canyon (without a doubt, its story is an afterthought). Nearly every performance makes Nicholas Cage look like the poster child for subtlety, and the special effects are downright laughable. Then there are the numerous gunfights, which grow increasingly ridiculous as the film goes on, like a late scene where people convulse in a hail of gunfire even though nobody’s actually aiming at them, making us think we‘re in the hands of amateurs.

On the other hand, despite the mostly “serious” tone, I can’t help but shake the feeling much of the ridiculousness is intentional. That same dumb gunfight is actually brilliantly executed in one long continuous shot that stretches for several minutes, a virtual ballet of guns, blood and fire. It’s so well choreographed that we assume those behind the camera have their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks when it comes to logistics.

I don’t know much about director Panna Ritikrai (he of Ong-Bak fame; Vengeance of an Assassin  was his last film before passing away), but it’s immediately obvious everything takes a backseat to the ample martial arts scenes, even when they have nothing to do with the plot (such as the over-the-top ‘soccer’ sequence which opens the film). Such scenes are as brutal and jaw-dropping as any other film you’d care to name. Even when taking place atop a CG-rendered commuter train, these guys look like they‘re really hitting each other. Speaking of which, the entire train sequence is so over-the-top, phony and outrageous that one can’t help but think this film is nearly as self-aware as Sharknado.

The story, when the film even bothers to address it, has Thee, the son of two murdered parents (whom we later learn were agents trying to bring down a ruthless crime operation). Later, with virtually no transition, Thee himself (as well as his younger brother) is a virtual, one-man killing machine, taking out dozens of thugs trying to protect the daughter of a government official. Thee’s apparently indestructible, too…during one of many violent encounters with the enemy, he’s thoroughly impaled, yet is back and ready for more action within a few days.

So yeah, Vengeance of an Assassin is utterly ridiculous, and if you’re hung-up on plausibility, you’ll absolutely hate it. But if you’re one of the few able to see through its supposed ineptitude and embrace its uninhibited exuberance, this movie is a hell of a lot of fun.


Purr...like a good scratch behind the ears.

April 11, 2015


Have you ever wondered how a director is able to coax a convincing performance from an actor during an emotionally important moment? We here at Free Kittens Movie Guide have a theory...perhaps all they did before arriving on the set is raid their kids' toy box. 

Submitted as evidence:

And really...wouldn't that explain William Shatner's entire career? There were probably Lego blocks strewn all over the bridge of the Enterprise.

April 8, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: ECHOES

Starring Kate French, Steven Brand, Billy Wirth, Steve Hanks, Caroline Whitney Smith. Directed by Nils Timm. (2014, 88 min).
Anchor Bay

As a lifelong horror fan, I love coming across a new and relatively obscure film, the kind that doesn’t get the attention of the multiplex mallrat crowd, yet turns out to be a hidden gem. I’m always on the lookout for those. But for every fantastic fright fest like 1988’s Scarecrows (one of the most underrated low budget horror films of all time) or 2013’s disturbing & surreal Rigor Mortis, I end up enduring scores of derivative, forgettable flicks like Echoes.

But here’s the thing…unlike a lot of truly terrible, amateurish garbage passing itself off as horror (especially the direct-to-video stuff), Echoes isn’t necessarily a bad film. In fact, it’s competently directed & shot, featuring decent performances and a story that doesn’t insult your intelligence. However, it isn’t very imaginative, perhaps even overly-conservative at times. Aside from its interesting setting, there’s no real attempt to make it stand out as anything other than a passable time killer on a dull evening. And even then, you aren’t likely to hit the pause button while using the bathroom or heading to the fridge for another beer.

Anna (Kate French) is a troubled writer who suffers from paralyzing night terrors. After taking off with boyfriend/editor Paul (Steven Brand) to his immaculate desert retreat, she has terrifying visions of an evil sand-ravaged spirit, a woman who repeatedly shows up to take care of some unfinished business. Unless you’ve never seen a single ghost story your entire life, you already know this means she’s not necessarily the main villain (though she uses Anna to kill a few people who never wronged her to begin with). This has been a standard movie trope for years, but writer/director Nils Timm makes no attempt to put any kind of unique spin on things, content to dish out yet-another vengeful spirit story we’ve all seen countless times.

While there are some fine visual moments (the desert has always been an eerie place, which this film exploits fairly well), the characters are pretty bland and the story plays more like a checklist. Troubled protagonist? Check. Surreal dream sequence? Check. Ominous written messages from an angry spirit? Check

I could go on, but what’s the point? You’ll already know what’s going to happen long before Anna does, and even though originality isn’t always a prerequisite for good horror, Echoes comes to a disappointing (and anticlimactic) conclusion.



Rest In Peace, Geoffrey Lewis

Geoffrey Lewis (1935-2015)

April 7, 2015


Sometimes planning in advance is a good idea...


The STAR WARS DIGITAL COLLECTION Available for the First Time on Digital HD April 10th

As anticipation builds for the December release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first new film in the Star Wars Saga in a decade, The Walt Disney Studios, Lucasfilm Ltd., and 20 Century Fox today announced the upcoming release of The Star Wars Digital Movie Collection. For the first time ever, all six epic films in the Saga, from The Phantom Menace to Return of the Jedi, will be available on Digital HD throughout the galaxy – or at least here on Earth – globally beginning Friday, April 10.

Watch the Trailer Here

April 6, 2015

SINISTER 2 Exclusive Teaser Clip Now Available

The fear is spreading – in this exclusive teaser clip from SINISTER 2, the highly anticipated sequel to the 2012 sleeper hit horror movie. This clip, courtesy of Blumhouse Productions and Focus Features, scared Wondercon attendees out of their badges…

Check it out below.  The film opens nationwide on August 21! Stay tuned for the premiere of the Official Trailer on April 9, exclusively on Fandango!