October 31, 2016

Digital Review: FINDING DORY

Starring the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Andrew Stanton, Bill Hader, Sigourney Weaver (as herself). Directed by Andrew Stanton. (2016, 97 min).
DISNEY MOVIES ANYWHERE

While I still wish Pixar would stop mining their past for sequel after sequel, Finding Dory is really entertaining. It’s not quite as fresh and original as Finding Nemo, but has enough amusing new characters and story elements to justify its existence, something you can’t say about Cars 2 or Monsters University.

This time the focus is on Dory (Ellen Degeneres), who suddenly remembers she has parents, but her short-term memory loss makes trying to find them a Herculean task. Mostly at the behest of his son, Nemo, Marlin (Albert Brooks) reluctantly helps. Of course, though, they become separated.

Little by little, pieces of Dory’s childhood come flooding back and she finds her way back to the Marine Life Institute, a massive aquarium where she grew up. Finding her parents is easier said than done, especially after she’s caught, tagged and put in quarantine. There she meets Hank (Ed O’Neill), a grouchy octopus and the film’s best new character, who agrees to help Dory find her parents in exchange for her tag (tagged animals get shipped to Cleveland and Hank doesn’t want to return to the dangers of the ocean). She also gets help from childhood friend Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a near-sighted whale shark, and Baily (Ty Burrell), an insecure beluga. Meanwhile, Marlin & Nemo end up at the Institute as well, who face some theme park perils of their own trying to locate their friend.

Dory Decaf.
While the plot is sort-of similar, Finding Dory doesn’t simply recycle it. In addition to Hank, the film is filled with a lot of charming and funny new characters whose distinct personalities reflect their real life ocean counterparts. Having the story mostly take place at the aquarium (as opposed to the open ocean once again) provides a neat springboard for different - albeit goofier - obstacles for Dory & Marlin (and their new friends) to overcome. It also allows for one of the funnier running gags, which involves Sigourney Weaver, playing herself.

Finding Dory isn’t quite as clever or emotionally involving as the original, but is still amusing film in its own right, with new characters just as endearing as the returning ones. It’s definitely worth owning and, as usual for Pixar, loaded with entertaining and informative bonus features. And, of course, make sure to stick around through the end credits.

EXTRA KIBBLES:
“Piper” (One of Pixar’s cutest shorts in recent memory; originally played theatrically with Finding Dory).
“Marine Life Interviews” (Amusing send-up of old interview reels in which various characters from the film discuss Dory herself).
7 Deleted Scenes;
2 Digital Exclusive Deleted Scenes: “Tank Gang” is an entire deleted subplot featuring the aquarium fish from Finding Nemo; “Hidden Seacrets of Finding Dory” reveals the usual plethora of Pixar Easter Eggs.
Audio Commentary by director Andrew Stanton, co-director Angus MacLane & producer Lindsey Collins.
Trailers in other languages
MAKING-OF FEATURETTES:
“The Octopus That Nearly Broke Pixar” (how the Hank character was created);
“What Were We Talking About?”;
“Animation & Acting” & “Creature Features” (the first covers the voice work; in the second, voice actors share facts about the real-life creatures they voiced);
“Deep in the Kelp” (a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium);
“Skating & Sketching with Jason Deamer” (Deamer is the character art director and a not-so-great skateboarder);
“Dory’s Theme” (with composer Thomas Newman);
“Rough Day on the Reef” (sort of a CG blooper reel).

KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE GILLS

Blu-Ray News: PHANTASM: RAVAGER & PHANTASM: REMASTERED Coming December 6.

Two Terrifying Titles in Don Coscarelli’s Legendary Horror Franchise
Debut on Blu-ray & DVD December 6
 
PLANO, TEXAS. (October 31, 2016) – Well Go USA Entertainment brings two terrifying installments in the cult favorite Phantasm series from legendary writer/director Don Coscarelli when the fifth installment in the franchise PHANTASM: RAVAGER and the original PHANTASM: REMASTERED debut on Blu-ray and DVD December 6.

David Hartman (Transformers Prime, Roughnecks: Starship Troopers) is the first new director of a film in the popular Phantasm series history with PHANTASM: RAVAGER, which features the entire original cast including Reggie Bannister – a veteran of all five films – A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, and Kat Lester. Angus Scrimm takes up his iconic role as the terrifying Tall Man for the fifth and final time.

PHANTASM: REMASTERED presents Mike, Jody, Reggie, and the Tall Man as they’ve never been seen before. For the first time in high-definition, follow the trio in the remastered original classic that started it all, in which two brothers discover their local mortuary hides a legion of hooded killer dwarfs, a flying drill-ball, and the demonic mortician who enslaves the souls of the damned.

Movie News: THE OVERLOOK FILM FESTIVAL: April 27, 2017

THE OVERLOOK FILM FESTIVAL
BRAND NEW GENRE FEST IN MT.HOOD, OREGON TO LAUNCH ON APRIL 27, 2017
A 4-day celebration at horror's most iconic hotel

Packages and Passes On Sale Now
www.overlookfilmfest.com

(Los Angeles, October 31, 2016) – The Overlook Film Festival, a four-day celebration at horror’s most iconic hotel The Timberline Lodge – the hotel used as the exterior setting of the infamous Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece THE SHINING - will kickoff for the first time from April 27 through April 30, 2017. The festivity is expected to showcase experiential events, exciting work in new and classic horror cinema, and interactive activities where attendees can be fully immersed in the diverse world of the genre space. Located just one hour east of Portland, Oregon, The Overlook Film Festival will attract genre fans and cinephiles from all over the world along with major press and industry members who are excited for this unique experience.

The annual four-day celebration is created by veteran festival organizers Michael Lerman and Landon Zakheim, both sharing a passion and a vision for providing a rare experience for fans to not just watch the latest work from emerging genre filmmakers but to also connect with each other in order to foster a creative and engaging community.  The duo plan to bring their signature events to the festival, including a full weekend long immersive game from interactive company Bottleneck Immersive and an original live version of radio play “Tales From Beyond The Pale” by Glass Eye Pix.

"We're incredibly excited to bring the film community and enthusiastic audiences we've been cultivating over the last few years to The Overlook Film Festival" said festival co-director Landon Zakheim. "We're so grateful to the Timberline Lodge for providing such a gorgeous iconic venue in the beautiful location of Mt. Hood, Oregon where our unique, experiential celebration of all things genre can thrive."

"It's a truly inspiring time for horror cinema," said festival co-director Michael Lerman. "Our jam-packed program of festival favorites, fresh discoveries and bonafide classics from features to shorts to live events will be presented in the one-of-a-kind atmosphere we've built through our various other genre projects. We really can't wait to announce our lineup next year."

The Overlook Film Festival advisory board is comprised of: Kristen Bell (Festival Director, Fantastic Fest), Nate Bolotin (Partner, XYZ Films), Joe Dante (Filmmaker), Larry Fessenden (Filmmaker), Colin Geddes (Midnight Madness & Vanguard Programmer, Toronto Intl. Film Festival), Mick Garris (Filmmaker), Stuart Gordon (Filmmaker), Trevor Groth (Director of Programming, Sundance Film Festival), Tim League (Founder & CEO, Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, Drafthouse Films, Fantastic Fest), Daniel Noah (Founding Partner, SpectreVision), Lindsay Peters (Market & Industry Director, Frontieres Intl. Co-Production Market, Fantasia Intl. Film Festival), Tom Quinn (Distribution Executive), Alix Taylor (Producer), Ryan Turek (Director of Development, Blumhouse Productions), Josh C. Waller (Founding Partner, SpectreVision), Leigh Whannell (Actor/Writer/Filmmaker), Diana Williams (Creative Development lead, ILMxLab, LucasFilm Story Group), and Elijah Wood (Founding Partner, SpectreVision)

Genre fans and festival attendees can start purchasing packages and passes now through www.overlookfilmfest.com.

Film Submissions are now open until February 3rd, 2017. For more information, please visit www.overlookfilmfest.com.

October 29, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: DARK WATER (2002)

Starring Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno, Mirei Oguchi, Asami Mizukawa, Fumiyo Kohintata. Directed by Hideo Nakata. (2002, 101 min).
ARROW FILMS

Director Hideo Nakata is the guy largely responsible for the subgenre known as J-Horror, and because a few of his films (Ringu, in particular) made a substantial global impact, Hollywood came running to pilfer the genre and croak out bushels of American remakes. While more-or-less faithful storywise, something always got lost in the translation and only The Ring was really any good. Still, most of them made big enough bank at the box office that the originals sort-of got lost in the shuffle. Dark Water is one of those lost treasures.

Now that it’s available on Blu-Ray for the first time, forget the insipid 2005 remake. The original Dark Water reminds us what made J-Horror unique in the first place. Deliberately paced and atmospheric, the film relies on well-rounded characters, somber performances, a foreboding score and unusually creepy locations rather than jump scares and gore. The film is slow to lay all its cards on the table because Nakata knows the journey is more important than the destination; atmosphere and ambiguity is always far creepier than loads of exposition.

When Mr. Bubble attacks.
While not quite as accomplished or scary as Ringu (I've always been somewhat disappointed by the resolution), Dark Water is a fine film worth rediscovering. Arrow Films has done their usual remarkable job for its Blu-Ray release, with a great video/audio transfer, new packaging and loads of new & vintage bonus features. This is the perfect disc to pop-in, turn off the lights and enjoy the slow burn.

EXTRA KIBBLES:
Original Making-of Featurette.
New Interviews (with Nakata, original author Koji Suzuki and cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi).
Archive Interviews (with actresses Asami Mizukawa & Hitomi Kuroki and composer Shikao Suga).
Trailers & TV Spots.
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS

October 28, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: IMPERIUM

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Traci Letts, Devin Druid, Pawel Szajda, Nestor Carbonell, Sam Trammell. Directed by Daniel Ragussis. (2016, 108 min).
LIONSGATE

Considering its disturbing - and timely - subject matter, Imperium is a squandered opportunity.

A dangerous chemical, capable of being used to create a massive dirty bomb, has gone missing. While the rest of the bureau is worried about a foreign terror attack, Senior Agent Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette) suspects the threat could be domestic; more specifically, a well-known white supremacist organization. She enlists Nate Foster (Daniel Radcliffe), a relatively inexperienced FBI agent to infiltrate the group. At first, most of them appear to be your garden variety skinheads, but as Foster begins to gain their trust, those who are actually responsible for planning the attack are well-connected, intelligent and organized. Most unnerving of all, they are as unassuming and low-profile as your average suburbanite.

Imperium will likely draw obvious comparisons to American History X, but it's more of a procedural than an examination of what turns people into Neo-Nazis. In fact, most of the white supremacists are one-dimensional caricatures, with one notable exception: Sam Trammell is truly chilling as the well-liked, congenial & outwardly normal Gerry Conway. The group’s soft-spoken leader, he's by-far the most complex character and not in the film nearly enough. Radcliffe gives an earnest performance (you sure can't accuse him of phoning-it-in), but because Foster isn’t particularly interesting to begin with, scenes meant to fill us with tension fail to ignite like they should.

Hogwarts' 10-year class reunion was unexpectedly depressing.
While sporadically interesting, Imperium is never truly involving. A film like this should get under our skin, make us uncomfortable and reveal a side of human nature we’d prefer not to see, but can’t help but be fascinated by. Instead, with the exception of the Conway character, we really learn nothing about the workings and people of white supremacist organizations that we didn’t already know or suspect. It's well-acted and proficiently directed, but ultimately not in the same league American History X.

EXTRA KIBBLES:
FEATURETTES: “Living Undercover”; “Making Imperium”.
Cast/Crew Interviews.
Audio Commentary (by director/co-writer Daniel Ragussis & co-writer Michael German).
Digital Copy
KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEH...

Movie News: Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse premieres NIGHT FLIGHT: BORN AGAIN on 11/11

Iconic 80's TV show Night Flight is bringing its special feature film, Night Flight: Born Again to Brooklyn on November 11th to celebrate the opening of Alamo Drafthouse's new flagship location. There will be Q&A with Night Flight's original creator, Stuart Shapiro, following the screening.
 
Born Again is the big-screen tribute to what VH1 called "the single greatest rock omnibus program ever aired" and Brooklyn Vegan named "the most consistently weird and awesome thing on cable television in the '80s." 
 
This 'Best Of' episode features some of the most memorable moments of Night Flight's near-decade long run including restored interviews and segments from Kate Bush, New Wave Theatre, David Lynch, Prince, Wendy O Williams, Divine, Billy Idol, Johnny Rotten, and much more Night Flight treasures from the archive.
 
Tickets for Born Again are on sale HERE

The Alamo Drafthouse screening coincides with the recent release of Night Flight Plus, a premium subscription channel featuring original episodes of Night Flight and select feature films of the Night Flight DNA. Along with the unique repertoire of original episodes (digitally restored from the 1" tape masters), Night Flight has worked closely with distributor MVD to add over 400 feature length films in the music documentary, concert, cult and horror genres to the channel. The channel continues to build a library of retro classics with unique acquisitions like the 1950s Gumby series.
 
Night Flight Plus, helmed by the show's original creator, is set to resurrect the editorial spirit of Night Flight with the same curatorial edge of the '80s for a new generation. It can be found in the app store of your Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV devices or right here: nightflightplus.com

CD Review: INFERNO: ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK

Music by Hans Zimmer. (2016, 71 min).
SONY CLASSICAL

I generally review soundtrack albums in the relative privacy of my car during daily commutes, allowing me to focus on the music without much distraction. The first thing I noticed while listening to Inferno was it made me want to drive really fast, weaving in and out of traffic as though time were running out and thousands of lives were at stake. If that isn’t a solid endorsement for Hans Zimmer’s third go-round at scoring this franchise, I don’t know what is.

One thing I’ve always liked about Hans Zimmer is his versatility. He's masterful at scoring films of pretty much any genre, whether composing for a full traditional orchestra or noodling with banks of computers & synthesizers. I’ve always been partial to the latter, which Zimmer utilizes to great effect here. Inferno one of the most exciting - and loud - film scores I’ve heard from him in a long time.

Though the disc consists of 17 tracks, each one segues into the next to form what’s essentially a 70 minute suite of intense, pounding and propulsive music. Heavily percussive with loads of peaks & valleys, synthesizers flourishes and occasionally abrasive audio effects, there are moments when it almost sounds like Zimmer drew some inspiration from industrial metal. It also reminded me of his criminally underrated scores for Crimson Tide & Broken Arrow, as well his contributions to the main title of The Rock.

Music like this seldom gets nominated for Oscars or anything (probably because films like this don’t either), which is too bad because, even if the movie ends up sucking, Inferno is one hell of a soundtrack album. Like Zimmer's best scores, it also works when heard as a stand-alone piece of music.

But unless your itching for a speeding ticket, I wouldn't recommending listening to it in your car

KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEE-OW! BETTER THAN A FRESH CAN O' TUNA.

October 27, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: THE QUIET MAN – OLIVE SIGNATURE

Starring John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Victor McLaglen, Ward Bond, Mildred Natwick. Directed by John Ford. (1952, 129 min).

Show me someone who doesn’t love The Quiet Man and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t love movies. It’s the crowning achievement of director John Ford’s amazing career (and his most personal film), featuring John Wayne at his most charming, Maureen O’Hara at her most beautiful & feisty, not to mention the greatest prolonged fight scene of all time. 

For those who do love movies, you probably already have The Quiet Man in your collection, perhaps even the Olive Films' Blu-Ray that was released only three short years ago. This release – part of Olive's new Signature series – more or less boasts the same terrific picture and sound as the 2013 Blu-Ray (which was remastered in 4K). So why put out another edition so soon?

"Ever heard of roses, Sean?"
As nicely restored as the 2013 release was, the supplemental material was somewhat lacking for such an iconic film, just a 30 minute retrospective by Leonard Maltin, a leftover DVD feature. This disc includes quite a few new extras and audio commentary (outlined below). This stuff is interesting, but not nearly as comprehensive as Olive's John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man, a lengthy documentary released as a stand-alone Blu-Ray in 2012, which is absolutely worth seeking out. Too bad it isn't included here as a second disc; you'd have an indispensable set on your hands.

As it is, the Olive Signature edition of The Quiet Man looks and sounds great, but it's the new bonus features that might be of the most interest to fans of the film, even if they already own the previous disc. If you don't yet have The Quiet Man in your collection, this handsomely packaged version is the one to pick up.

EXTRA KIBBLES:
FEATURETTES:
The Old Man: Peter Bogdanovich Remembers John Ford”;
The Making of The Quiet Man” (was also included on previous discs);
Free Republic: The Story of Herbert J. Yates and Republic Pictures”;
Don't You Remember It, Seanin?” (visual essay by film historian Tad Gallagher)
A Tribute to Maureen O'Hara” (my favorite of the new features, one-time co-stars Juliet Mills, Hayley Mills and Ally Sheedy fondly recall their experiences working with O'Hara).
Audio Commentary by Joseph McBride, author of the biography, Searching for John Ford.
Illustrated Booklet.
KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEE-OW! BETTER THAN A FRESH CAN 'O TUNA

Rest in Peace, Ted Mahar

Ted Mahar
Film writer/critic for The Oregonian from 1963 to 2007

October 24, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: TALLADEGA NIGHTS: BIG HAIRY AMERICAN WINNING EDITION

Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb, Gary Cole, Jane Lynch, Amy Adams. Directed by Adam McKay. (2006, 108/121 min).
SONY

We’ll probably never get another film like Talladega Nights. Maybe that's a good thing.

Fans may have made Elf and Anchorman modern classics, but Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby remains Will Farrell’s best film. It’s his funniest, most consistent and deceptively clever because it relies on much more than Ferrell’s typical schtick (though there’s plenty of that, too). In fact, without director Adam McKay to reel him in, Ferrell often flounders on the big screen. Now that The Big Short has promoted McKay to the rank of respectable director, I can’t imagine him returning to this type of stuff. What'll Ferrell do without him?

Talladega Nights, more than any of Farrell’s other films, is the most focused and funny. The script finds the sweet spot between clever humor and broad slapstick, with quotable dialogue and one-liners that hit more often than they miss. And even though this is definitely a Will Ferrell vehicle (no pun intended), he’s not the whole show here. The entire cast is allowed to shine, with Gary Cole being a particular stand-out.

Kitties love car rides.
As someone who follows NASCAR pretty religiously, I also appreciate its good-natured skewering of the sport’s sillier aspects, such as its proud-to-be-an-American image, how it’s presented by the media and the extreme level of commercialism.

Now ten years old, the theatrical cut of the film as been given a 4K restoration. The previously released unrated version is also included, but the 13 extra minutes don't improve things. Disc One also includes quite a few new bonus features which might be of interest to fans. All the supplemental material on Disc Two are holdovers from the original home video release.

I suppose if Ferrell was strapped for cash, he could do a sequel, but without McKay behind the camera, what’s the point? Hell, even with McKay, Anchorman 2 was one film too many. Talladega Nights came at the perfect time, when both Ferrell's & NASCAR's popularity were peaking and McKay knew just what to do with them. No way could lightning strike twice, and since this one is always worth revisiting from time to time, why bother trying?

EXTRA KIBBLES:
NEW-TO-DISC FEATURES (All on Disc 1):
Featurettes: “Interviews with Ricky & Jean” (the three leads, in character); “Adam McKay’s Video Diaries”; “Line-O-Rama 2.0” (outtakes/alternate dialogue)
Audition Reel
Raw Takes Reel
13 Deleted/Extended Scenes
PREVIOUSLY-RELEASED FEATURES:
Featurettes: “Will Ferrell Returns to Talladega”; “Walker & Texas Ranger”; “Line-O-Rama”; “Ricky & Cal’s commercials and Public Service Announcements”; Interviews
Interviews
“25 Years Later” Commentary (If you haven’t heard this yet, it’s pretty funny).
Audio commentary by Director Adam McKay
Deleted/Extended Scenes
Gag Reel
Theatrical Trailer
Unrated & Theatrical Versions
4K Restoration (Theatrical version)
Digital Copy
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS

October 22, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: NERVE

Starring Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Juliette Lewis, Emily Meade, Mile Heizer, Machine Gun Kelly. Directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman. (2016, 96 min).
LIONSGATE

When tasked to review a particular movie, it helps to remain aware of its intended audience. Nerve is an action-thriller aimed squarely at millennials who live vicariously through social media and have turned YouTubers into celebrities. Like 2014’s Unfriended, its existence relies heavily on its appeal to an online culture that didn’t exist ten years ago. It’ll likely have a short shelf life, too. In just a few years, Nerve will seem as archaic as MySpace.

But in the here and now, Nerve sort-of works, especially if you’re part of the demographic it’s aiming at (anyone under 25 who wouldn’t be caught dead without a cell phone in their hand). In a nutshell, Nerve is a global game of Truth or Dare, minus the truth part. People can sign up online as either a player or a watcher. Players are required to use their phones to film themselves performing various dares suggested by watchers. If they’re successful, they win cash, and the more difficult the dare, the more they win.

"While we're here, how 'about popping this thing on my back."
Even though the dares become increasingly dangerous, the lure of money and instant online fame keeps a lot of them playing, such as Vee (Emma Roberts), who’s tired of being in the shadow of her self-centered best friend, Sydney (Emily Meade). Vee initially joins Nerve on a whim, but as she learns from another player she meets, Ian (Dave Franco), that simply quitting the game once you’ve had enough is easier said than done, especially if you try to warn the authorities. Whoever is running the game also manages to control every aspect of the player’s life, essentially extorting them to continue (the scariest prospect of the entire film, since identity theft is already a harsh reality).

There isn’t a hell of a lot of depth to either the story or the characters, most of whom are walking clich├ęs. Some viewers will have trouble swallowing the entire premise. However, as far fetched as it is, it's not difficult to imagine the more intellectually-challenged of our species willing to play Nerve in real life...for the same idiotic reasons. That knowledge occasionally makes the film morbidly fascinating, at least until it lapses into a ridiculous final act akin to a WWE spectacle.

Overall though, Nerve will probably strike the right chord with the audience it’s intended for, then quickly forgotten afterwards. And since technology and social interaction are continually evolving faster than most people change their underwear, it won't be long before this film is a period piece. So enjoy the moment while it's here, kids.

EXTRA KIBBLES:
“WATCHER” MODE: This consists of a dozen and a half very short making-of featurettes focusing on actors and their characters, as well as behind-the-scenes footage.
“PLAYER” MODE: “Do You Have the Nerve?” (An amusing - and relatively harmless - version of the game which allows viewers to play); “Are You a Watcher or a Player?” (An interactive multiple-choice quiz); Player Profiles
DVD & Digital Copies
KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD...LIKE CAT CHOW

October 21, 2016

CD Review: Howard Shore's SEVEN and DENIAL


Before he became primarily known to most audiences for his music in The Lord of the Rings, Shore was sort of the to-go guy for films requiring a dark & morose music score to set the tone (no wonder he's David Cronenberg's composer of choice). Howe Records has been serving up a lot of Howard Shore lately, and two of their most recent releases showcase one of his classics, along his most recent score.

KITTY CONSENSUS: PURR-R-R
SEVEN - COMPLETE ORIGINAL SCORE
(1995, 71 min).
This is the first time the entire original score has been released on CD, and it's about time. The 1995 release consisted mostly of songs with only two tracks of Shore's haunting music tacked onto the end. Here, not only do we get the entire score, it's presented more or less sequentially. So, like the film, slow-burning tension and menace builds with every track. Also of interest is the first track, "The Last Seven Days," which was composed for the film but never actually used. Along with a booklet containing a comprehensive essay by cinema writer Peter Cowie, this disc is a must-have for fans of the film or Howard Shore.

KITTY CONSENSUS: MEH...
DENIAL  - ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK 
(2016, 39 min).
With over 50 films credits to Shore's name, he's not gonna hit it out of the park every time, such as his most recent for the upcoming courtroom drama, Denial. While the music definitely features some of Shore's trademarks, these 18 tracks (totaling less than 40 minutes) don't resonate much without the film itself to provide some context. It's competent and probably serves its purpose, but compared to some of his past work, there's little here that is particularly memorable. 

October 19, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: LITTLE FAUSS AND BIG HALSY

Starring Robert Redford, Michael J. Pollard, Lauren Hutton, Noah Beery Jr., Lucille Benson, Linda Gaye Scott. Directed by Sidney J. Furie. (1970, 99 min).
OLIVE FILMS

It's hard not to like Robert Redford. While I don't know him personally, he's always come across as a congenial nice guy. I'll always admire his commitment and integrity to his projects (both personal and commercial), but you have to admit there's only one thing he truly does better than anyone else...which is being Robert Redford.

He generally plays nice guys onscreen...selfless, heroic, laid-back, sincere, iconic, romantic, symbolic (and, of course, always dreamy). This makes it sort-of difficult to accept him as a conniving, self-centered scumbag. I just don't think he has it in him.

He's tried on occasion, such as his role as one of the title characters in Little Fauss and Big Halsy, one of countless leisurely paced character studies that were popular in the early 70s.  Halsy's a lecherous douche who, when he isn't screwing every woman in sight, is trying to make it as a professional motorcycle racer (though doesn't appear to be particularly good at it, since he crashes most of the time). He's also been banned from competition for drinking during races. Then he meets Little Fauss (Michael J. Pollard), an introverted rube who doesn't particularly like Halsy but admires his carefree lifestyle. Halsy talks him into being his mechanic and letting him race under Fauss' name. But Halsey does more boasting about himself then anything else and doesn't follow through on his promises. He also treats Fauss like crap most of the time, who eventually gets fed up with how callous Halsy is to everyone, especially Rita (Lauren Hutton).

"Hang on...we'll drive over!"
Redford tries to convince us he's an asshole, but even when stealing cash & food, swilling beer, grabbing groupies by the unmentionables and treating them like commodities, he's still just Robert Redford, the icon. But that's not even biggest problem here. Fauss isn't an especially likable character either, and Pollard plays him as yet-another nebbish imp (something he's made a career of). Neither of them are particularly interesting either. While there are a few impressive racing scenes, Little Fauss and Big Halsey is mostly slow and uninvolving and nearly plotless.

On the plus side, the soundtrack is peppered with songs performed by Johnny Cash, and since the soundtrack has been out of print for years, this may be the only place to hear them.

I suppose seeing Redford play against type gives the film has some value as a curio, but Little Fauss and Big Halsy has little else to recommend it. Best to leave this deservedly-forgotten back in the 70s where it belongs.

EXTRA KIBBLES: None
KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEH...

October 18, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND

Starring James Stewart, Junes Allyson, Frank Lovejoy, Barry Sullivan, Bruce Bennet, Harry Morgan. Directed by Anthony Mann. (1955, 114 min).
OLIVE FILMS

Strategic Air Command couldn't be made today.

But I'll say this much..."Dutch" Holland (James Stewart) handles his bad news a lot better than I would have. If I was pro ballplayer suddenly recalled for 21 more months of active duty in the Air Force, I'd call on my agent to raise holy hell with the draft board. If that didn't work, I'd defect to Canada to play for the Blue Jays. If they wouldn't have me, I'd make sure that I performed such a half-assed job that the Air Force would beg for me to return to the ballpark. Finally, if all else failed, I'd bawl into my military-issue pillow every night and contemplate eating my revolver.

Instead, Dutch stoically reports for duty with his loving wife, Sally (June Allyson), in tow, giving the same dedication to a job that only pays a fraction of what a ballplayer makes (even in the 50s). Dutch falls in love with flying bombers all over again, his increasing number of test flights & missions taking a toll on his home life. Even after his 21 months are up, he decides to re-enlist permanently. That's essentially what Strategic Air Command has for a story, though most of the time, it doesn't really seem to be about anything at all. Aside from Dutch, none of the characters are very dynamic, the drama is slight and the a single plane crash comprises all of the action.

You couldn't pitch a film like this today because, on paper, it sounds like the dullest film since The English Patient.

"I wouldn't call it a plane crash, sir. I'd like to think of it as landing with style."






And yet, it's wonderfully entertaining. Stewart's amiable performance is one of the big reasons for that, as is the absolutely stunning cinematography of bombers in flight, which somehow never grow boring despite the ample number of them. When focused on Dutch and his crew at work, Strategic Air Command is compulsively watchable, and at no time are we convinced these scenes are anything but authentic. This allows us to forgive the duller scenes with his wife (who becomes increasingly irritating as the film goes on).

A relatively minor film on Stewart's lengthy resume (though it was a big hit at the time), Strategic Air Command is a forgotten gem waiting to be rediscovered. Now available on Blu-Ray for the first time, it's the kind of classic movie that's fun to relax with on the couch on a rainy afternoon. Not only that, the video transfer by Olive Films is pretty impressive.

EXTRA KIBBLES: None
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS

October 17, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

Starring Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Cheng Pei-pei. Directed by Ang Lee. (2000, 120 min).
SONY

16 years later, we’re still seeing the influence of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Not only was it the first foreign language film to become a bonafide blockbuster in America, it almost single-handedly changed the way martial arts films are made, as well as the general consensus that the genre is nothing but blood and bone cracking.

I’ve reviewed quite a number of 21st Century Asian action films on this site over the years, and stylistically, nearly all of them owe no small debt to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. So do a lot of American ones, for that matter. Its tethered stunts and aerial fights might not have aged all that well, but along with The Matrix, director Ang Lee and his crafty crew of choreographers deserve most of the credit for your modern action hero’s ability to defy gravity. More significantly, the still-amazing swordplay here has yet to be equaled; the semi-climactic dual between Yu Shu (Michelle Yeoh) and Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi) is a technical masterpiece, arguably the greatest thing Lee ever shot.

"SAFE!"


Of course, the film isn’t all about action. In fact, if you haven’t seen it in awhile, you might be surprised to suddenly realize how little there actually is. I had forgotten all about its rather slow and meandering first act. However, Lee’s attention to his characters keeps things interesting once we get to know them and the plot begins to unfold (though the lengthy flashbacks with Jen Yu & Lo are still boring). Yoah notwithstanding, Lee was also smart in casting actors not typically associated with martial arts action, making their characters seem more like real people than fighting machines.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has been released on DVD and Blu-Ray before, but fans still may be interested in this disc because, in addition to previously released extras, it contains a substantial amount of new or never-before-seen bonus features, including lengthy retrospective interviews and a making-of documentary.

EXTRA KIBBLES:
FEATURETTES: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: A Retrospective” (3 new individual interviews with director Ang Lee, editor Tim Squyres and co-screenwriter James Schamus); “The Making of Crouching Tiger: Hidden Dragon”; “Conversation with Michelle Yeoh”.
Audio Commentaries by Lee & Schamus and Cinematographer Peter Pau.
Deleted Scenes.
Music Video: “A Love Before Time” (English and Mandarin versions).
Theatrical Trailer
Digital Copy
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS

Blu-Ray News: PETE'S DRAGON on Digital HD, Blu-ray, DMA, DVD & On-Demand Nov. 29


Pete’s Dragon, a reimagining of Disney’s cherished family film centered on an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon. Families will be captivated by this magical movie followed by never-before-seen bonus features, including a revealing look at director David Lowery’s personal diary kept during the filming of “Pete’s Dragon,” the design process behind the lovable dragon Elliot, deleted scenes, a tour of the film’s breathtaking production location of New Zealand, audio commentary by filmmakers and actors and hilarious bloopers. Today’s announcement also ushers in tomorrow’s World Dragon Day and the heartwarming adventure arrives on Digital HD, Blu-ray™, Disney Movies Anywhere, DVD and On-Demand on Nov. 29; just in time to entertain the entire family this holiday season.
PETE'S DRAGON - "CREATING ELLIOT"

October 15, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: THE DA VINCI CODE / ANGELS & DEMONS


THE DA VINCI CODE: 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
Starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Jurgen Prochnow, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany. Directed by Ron Howard. (2006, 148 min).
ANGELS & DEMONS
Starring Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayalet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas. Directed by Ron Howard. (2009, 138 min).
SONY

I suppose you could be a cynic and state the obvious, that The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons are being re-released yet again on Blu-Ray to boost awareness of  Inferno, the impending third film in the lucrative (though critically reviled) Robert Langdon Franchise. And if you’re a big fan of these films, you’ve probably already been coursed into purchasing both of them twice, once upon their initial release, then the extended editions a few years later. Since the latter editions also contained a slew of bonus features, all of which are repeated here, what purpose do these new versions really serve?

Well, there are some new bonuses, including interviews with Tom Hanks, director Ron Howard, author Dan Brown & producer Brian Glazer, as well as an extended peek at Inferno (repeated on each disc). So yeah...I guess the primary purpose is to hype the latest film, since the only other “new” extras are all the scenes deleted from the theatrical cuts but were re-inserted into the films for the extended editions. In other words, you’d have to be some kind of super-fan to triple-dip here.

On the other hand, maybe there are a lot of folks out there like me, who never got around to even seeing these films, let alone buy them. I have to admit that the trailer for Inferno (and its apocalyptic premise) was intriguing enough to finally make me curious about these two.

This is where Tom Hanks keeps Peter Scolari when he's not using him...which is most of the time.

 My expectations weren’t too high; I’d never read the novels and neither film was exactly a critical darling. The Da Vinci Code is more-or-less exactly what I expected: an overly-serious, sometimes talky & plodding treatment of an intriguing premise. While Tom Hanks as renowned symbologist Robert Langdon is watchable as always, Langdon himself isn’t a phenomenally inspired character. There’s some fun to be had watching him unlock various mysteries in order to uncover a great secret being kept by those willing to die to protect, though Scooby-Doo and the gang used to do it in a fraction of the time. Then again, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? never raised the hackles of legions of conservative Christians who took this movie way too seriously. It’s hard to completely dismiss a popcorn picture that can accomplish such a feat.

"Damn...any of you guys see my keys down there?"





 On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised by Angels & Demons, which is a faster-paced, race-against-time thriller. Sure, there are the usual puzzles for Langdon to solve before Vatican City is blown sky-high and a lot of speculative historical mumbo-jumbo, but there appears to be a more conscious effort to make this film more urgent, therefore more fun. Langdon himself still isn’t all that interesting, but Hanks now seems comfortable enough in the role to render him a little more than just another talking head. Best of all, sitting through The Da Vinci Code isn’t required because Angels & Demons works well-enough as a stand-alone film. Langdon is the only constant in this series. On a side note, I was also rather surprised how violent this one is for a PG-13 film.

If you’re like me and have never indulged until now, you could probably pass on The Da Vinci Code without feeling like you’ve missed the boat. It’s watchable but awfully long-winded. Angels & Demons, while not without flaws of its own (it’s a little too long, as well), is significantly better, maybe even worth repeated viewings. As for those who already own these on Blu-Ray, I’d question whether or not the new extras (mostly promotional material) are worth it.

EXTRA KIBBLES:
A majority of the bonus features included on both discs are the same as those on previous Blu-Ray releases.
THE DA VINCI CODE:
17 making-of featurettes covering nearly all aspects of the production (If you’re fan, you’ll be in hog heaven).
Select Scenes commentary by Ron Howard.
ANGELS & DEMONS:
FEATURETTES: “Rome Was Not Built in a Day”; “Writing Angels & Demons”; “Characters in Search of a True Story”; “CERN: Pushing the Frontiers of Knowledge”; “Handling Props”; “Angels & Demons: The Full Story”; “This is an Ambigram”.
Theatrical Trailers.

FRESH NEW KIBBLES:
THE DA VINCI CODE:
Featurettes: “Launching a Legacy” (Interviews with Hanks, director Ron Howard, author Dan Brown & producer Brian Glazer”; “A First Look at Inferno” (Short feature on the upcoming third film in the franchise).
Scenes from Extended Cut (the EC was previously released, now those scenes are regulated to a bonus feature, a good thing since they do nothing to improve an already overlong movie).
Digital Copy
ANGELS & DEMONS:
Featurettes: “Legacy of Langdon” (Interviews with Hanks, director Ron Howard, author Dan Brown & producer Brian Glazer”; “A First Look at Inferno” (Same feature that‘s included on The Da Vinci Code).
Scenes from Extended Cut (Same as above).
Digital Copy
KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD (Overall). DA VINCI IS KIND OF DULL, BUT ANGELS EARNS SOME PURRS AND IS WORTH PICKING UP IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY.

October 14, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN - 80th ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Starring Gary Cooper, Jean Harlow, George Bancroft, Lionel Stander, Douglass Dumbrille, Raymond Walburn. Directed by Frank Capra. (1936, 116 min).
SONY

Mr. Deeds Goes To Town is the latest Blu-Ray in Sony’s ongoing Capra Collection. Like last year’s release of You Can’t Take It With You, the film has been beautifully packaged and given an outstanding 4K restoration on Blu-Ray.

As for the film...hey, it’s Frank Capra. He was making 'audience pictures' before it was even a term. Mr. Deeds may not be as universally renowned as It Happened One Night or It’s a Wonderful Life, but it’s yet-another feel-good winner that’s been liberally remade and ripped-off ever since. Gary Cooper won an Oscar as the title character, a meek, simple man from the small town of Mandrake Falls who unexpectedly inherits $20 million after the death of a distant uncle. His uncle’s lawyer, John Cedar, brings Deeds to New York to bilk the poor rube for as much money as he can, as do a host of others.

"And now...all 17 minutes of  'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida'..."

Meanwhile, Deeds is the talk of the town, mainly because he is presented in the press as an cornpone imbecile by reporter “Babe” Bennett (Jean Harlow), who earned his trust by appealing to his naive & generous nature. What she didn’t count on was falling in love with him, just as her stories begin to ruin his life. When Deeds decides the money is making him miserable, he decides to give it away to farmers in-need. Everyone else after his money assumes he’s crazy and try to have him committed.

Even after 80 years, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is a sweet, funny film with clever - sometimes rapid-fire - dialogue, likable leads and despicable villains. Like most of Capra’s best films, it has only aged aesthetically. Even then, Sony has done another remarkable job restoring the picture and sound. I doubt the film looked and sounded this good in 1936. This Blu-Ray is a must-own for any Frank Capra fan.

EXTRA KIBBLES:
FEATURETTE: “Frank Capra Jr. Remembers...Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”
Audio Commentary by Frank Capra Jr.
28 Page Booklet (featuring a lengthy making-of essay by Jeremy Arnold, photos, color poster gallery, cast & crew credits)
Advertising Gallery
Original Trailer
Digital Copy
KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEE-OW! BETTER THAN A FRESH CAN 'O TUNA

October 13, 2016

Capture Ghosts Anywhere With “GHOSTBUSTERS VR – NOW HIRING”

Now Available for iOS & Android Mobile Platforms

Ghostbusters: Answer the Call Extended Edition
now available on 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack

 
CULVER CITY, Calif. (October 12, 2016) – Busting ghosts just got a lot more fun as Sony Pictures Home Entertainment launches the exciting new interactive Ghostbusters VR (Virtual Reality) – Now Hiring experience for iOS and Android mobile platforms, putting consumers into the action like never before. So break out your proton pack and get sliming! 

The mobile Ghostbusters VR – Now Hiring experience is free with purchase of the Ghostbusters: Answer the Call Extended Edition 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and allows consumers to use their iOS or Android mobile device to explore the iconic Firehouse, find and re-assemble the proton-pack, blast Slimer and trap him in the Ghost Containment Unit!  Walmart Family Mobile Powered by T-Mobile will also be offering the experience for free to customers when they purchase a “Family Plan” at Walmart.  Ghostbusters VR – Now Hiring is also available as a stand-alone in-app purchase for $4.99 through Google Play or the Apple App Store.  For more, fans can visit www.ghostbustersishiring.com.

 
The app can be used on a compatible iPhone or Android smartphone with a compatible virtual reality viewing device such as Merge VR Goggles or Google Cardboard, which should be used while seated.  Or users without a mobile VR viewer can enjoy the experience in 360 video mode. All instructions included with the compatible VR viewing device should be followed before use and such use should not continue if any discomfort or health reactions are experienced.*  App may only be available for a limited time.

Synopsis:
Prepare to Answer the Call! Walk in and explore the iconic Ghostbusters firehouse, then hunt and capture a ghost! Use your smartphone and VR viewer to immerse yourself and feel the ectoplasm or launch 360 mode to find Slimer and explore the Ecto-1 without a VR viewer.

 
*Not for prolonged or repeated use.  Not recommended for children under age 7.  Contains action that may be startling or intense.