November 18, 2017

Rest in Peace, Ann Wedgeworth

Blu-Ray Review: THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung, Gary Oldman, Tine Joustra, Yuri Kolokolnkov, Joaquim de Almeida. Directed by Patrick Hughes. (2017, 118 min).

For the longest time, I couldn't stand Ryan Reynolds. There was something about his  performances that just rubbed me the wrong way...a juvenile, smug, frat-boyish quality he brought to his roles that almost always sucked me right out of the movie. However, he was terrific in the underappreciated black comedy, The Voices, the first time I thought he was truly convincing. And of course there's Deadpool. Really, it's hard to imagine anyone else as the title character.

Maybe I'm just getting used to him, or maybe he's more versatile than I first first gave him credit for, because not only did I enjoy him in The Hitman's Bodyguard, he's the best part of the movie. No small feat when your co-star is Samuel L. Jackson. Then again, Jackson doesn't exactly spread his wings, playing yet-another expletive-spouting badass (though he's still amusing). Reynolds is mostly the uptight straight-man to Jackson's more cavalier antics, but his often-deadpan performance when reacting to the surrounding mayhem is pretty damn funny.

"Ryan, how do you deal with crazy Marvel fanboys?"
The plot itself is strictly by-the-book. Down-on-his-luck professional bodyguard Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is coursed by his former girlfriend, Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), into escorting notorious killer-for-hire Darius Kincaid (Jackson) to testify at the International Criminal Court in The Netherlands. Kincaid is the only living witness to atrocities committed by tyrannical Belarian president Vladdislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman, who doesn't really stretch himself either). Duknovich stops at nothing trying to keep Bryce & Kincaid from reaching the courthouse alive.

Sam salutes his critics.
The Hitman's Bodyguard could have been a straightforward - and generic - thriller, but goes the still-pretty-generic buddy-comedy route: Bryce & Kincaid first want to kill each other, but are forced to work together in order to survive before finally developing mutual fondness and respect. Still, the formula more-or-less works, mostly thanks to the two leads, who play off each other well. On the other hand, Salma Hayek as Kincaid's fiery, foul-mouthed wife is sort-of wasted. She's easy on the eyes as always, but her character is strictly a plot device who, aside from a few flashbacks, doesn't share any scenes with the rest of the cast.

Strewn throughout the plot is a lot of gunplay, destruction and a surprising amount of bloody violence. These segments are well-executed, even played for laughs on occasion (there are moments that approach black comedy), though, like the story, no one's exactly reinventing the wheel here. Still, the two leads' chemistry together ultimately makes The Hitman's Bodyguard worth checking out. They're obviously having a lot of fun and fans of this sort of thing likely will, too, even if they've seen it all before.

EXTRA KIBBLES
FEATURETTES (mostly of the promotional variety): "Big Action in a Big World"; "The Hitman's Bodyguard: A Love Story"; "Hitman vs. Bodyguard" (all film clips); "Dangerous Women"
DELETED/EXTENDED/ALTERNATE SCENES
OUTTAKES
DVD & DIGITAL COPIES
KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD...LIKE CAT CHOW

November 16, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS and RUBY (1977)

VCI Entertainment unleashes two blasts from the past on Blu-Ray for the first time, perhaps fondly remembered by those who spent the 70s in drive-ins & run-down suburban triplexes.

SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS
Starring John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, Jack Kruschen, John Carradine and a slew of young "actors" we never heard from again. Directed by Greydon Clark. (1977, 90 min).

Ignored at the Oscars that year, 1977's Satan's Cheerleaders is a jaw-droppingly inept attempt at comedy and horror in one cheap, gratuitous package. The result is both uproarious and, at times, surprisingly depressing.

Good news first...the dialogue and performances are comedy gold, though not for the reasons the producers intended. The "funny" moments - mostly four nubile teens engaging in such deviant behavior as water balloon fights and sexual innuendo - evoke laughter due to a completely misguided sense of what's actually funny. We're almost embarrassed for the kids forced to utter these lines while trying in vain to look sexy, to say nothing of the older actors paid to appear dumbfounded by these so-called delinquents.

Speaking of the latter, what the hell are the likes of John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo & John Carradine doing in something like this? That's the depressing part for anyone who recalls the glory days of these once-respected actors. Watching them ham it up as bumbling Satanists (constantly thwarted by a batch of bouncing bimbos) is more sad than funny. Is this all the work they could get at the time?

While changes in our cultural climate over the last 40 years render scenes of old men leering at semi-nude young girls in a locker room kinda repulsive, Satan's Cheerleaders still provides plenty o' fun at its own expense. And believe it or not, the cinematographer of this no-budget hoot is none-other than the great Dean Cundey! I guess everyone had to start somewhere.

KITTY CONSENSUS: GOOD FOR LAUGHS

EXTRA KIBBLES
AUDIO COMMENTARIES - One by director Greydon Clark, the other by David DeCoteau (a B-movie director whose credits include Creepozoids) and genre film journalist David Del Valle
PHOTO GALLERY
DVD COPY

RUBY
Starring Piper Laurie, Stuart Whitman, Roger Davis, Janit Baldwin, Sal Vecchio, Pail Kent, Len Lesser. Directed by Curtis Harrington. (1977, 85 min).

"Christened in blood. Raised in Sin. She's sweet sixteen, let the party begin."

I remember that tagline from Ruby's misleading ad campaign, which helped it ride the coattails of Carrie to box office success. The trailer also ballyhooed star Piper Laurie, fresh-off playing Carrie's psychotic mom. She's the title character in this one, though not the source of terror we were all led to believe.

Instead, Laurie is a former wannabe starlet and the widow of Nicky, a gangster who was murdered sixteen years earlier. She's since opened up a drive-in theater and given work to the rest of the old gang. Ruby isn't a particularly likable lady - she wants to have her mute teenage daughter committed - but she still loves and misses Nicky. Still, you can't keep a good gangster down. Believing Ruby and his gang betrayed him, Nicky begins striking from the grave, killing them one by one.

Back in the day, we may have been initially disappointed at the lack of teens & telepaths, but Ruby is a mildly engaging slab of southern gothic horror. It's definitely hampered by low budget - check-out the off-screen crash where the burning vehicle is obviously a completely different make & model than the one the character was just driving - but while not particularly scary, the film is atmospheric, making the most of its drive-in/swampland setting. The performances range from enjoyable to awful. Various veteran character actors earn their paychecks (and Laurie is amusingly over-the-top), while the younger cast of no-names would fit right in with the stars of Satan's Cheerleaders.

40 years later, Ruby may not have aged as well as other classic horrors of the 70s, but for those roped into checking it out at their local drive-in back then, it's a nice little nostalgia trip. You might even find it's a bit better than you remember.

NOT BAD...LIKE CAT CHOW
EXTRA KIBBLES
INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR CURTIS HARRINGTON (from 2001)
"SINISTER IMAGE" EPISODES - Two more interviews with Curtis Harrington
AUDIO COMMENTARIES - One with director Curtis Harrington & Piper Laurie, the other with David Del Valle (again!) and Nathaniel Bell
LINER NOTES
ORIGINAL TRAILER
DVD COPY

Movie News: THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT Teaser Trailer

THE STRANGERS ARE BACK!

From Aviron Pictures, THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT, inspired by the 2008 smash hit THE STRANGERS, hits theaters March 9, 2018.

A family’s road trip takes a dangerous turn when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park to stay with some relatives and find it mysteriously deserted. Under the cover of darkness, three masked psychopaths pay them a visit to test the family’s every limit as they struggle to survive. Check out the highly anticipated TEASER TRAILER below.


November 15, 2017

Blu-Ray News: THE FOREIGNER on Digital 12/26 and Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand 1/9


JACKIE CHAN AND PIERCE BROSNAN
FACE OFF IN THE PROVOCATIVE REVENGE THRILLER

Universal City, California, November 15, 2017 Global superstar Jackie Chan (Rush Hour trilogy) returns to the big screen like you’ve never seen him before in the action-packed film, The Foreigner, arriving on Digital on December 26, 2017 and on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on January 9, 2018 from STXfilms and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), the film also stars Pierce Brosnan (Tomorrow Never Dies), Katie Leung (Harry Potter franchise), Orla Brady (Wuthering Heights), Charlie Murphy (Philomena), and Michael McElhatton (“Game of Thrones”). With impressive action sequences and edge-of-your-seat twists and turns, The Foreigner, from STXfilms (Bad Moms franchise), tells a compelling and emotional story of justice, redemption, and retribution. Filled with gripping and explosive scenes, the film also comes with special bonus features including a behind-the-scenes look into the making of the film and interviews with the cast.

Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan star in The Foreigner, a timely action thriller from the director of Casino Royale and Goldeneye.  Chan stars as humble London businessman Quan, whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge-fueled vendetta when the only person left for him to love -- his teenage daughter -- is taken from him in a senseless act of politically-motivated terrorism. In his relentless search for the identity of the terrorists, Quan is forced into a cat- and-mouse conflict with a British government official (Brosnan), whose own past may hold clues to the identities of the elusive killers.

November 14, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: THE VILLAINESS

Starring Kim Ok-bin, Shin Ha-kyun, Sung Joon, Kim Seo-hyung, Jo Eun-ji, Park Chul-min. Directed by Jung Byung-gil. (2017, 124 min).

The Villainess begins with a truly remarkable action sequence. With guns, knives and her considerable fighting skills, our vengeful main character, Sook-hee (Kim Ok-bin), slaughters her way through a warehouse of at-least 50 thugs. It's a long, bloody, nearly unedited set-piece that's crazy, thrilling and masterfully choreographed.

After being apprehended by police immediately afterwards, Sook-hee finds herself in the hands of a mysterious organization (we're to assume it's the government) that trains assassins to do their dirty work. One would think someone already capable of single-handedly killing several dozen men wouldn't require any additional training, but never mind. The viewer might be too overcome by deja vu to fuss over such a minor plot detail.

Why we have distracted driving laws.
Storywise, this South Korean film borrows pretty liberally from the likes of La Femme Nikita and Kill Bill, though handled with such panache and audacity that we easily forgive its derivativeness. While the aforementioned opening scene is easily the creative highpoint, there's still plenty of ferocious and exhilarating action throughout the whole film, including a delirious & deadly fight on a speeding city bus. As Sook-hee, Ok-bin carries much of the film on her shoulders and gives us a character that, despite her inherent viciousness (a product of her upbringing), we empathize with and root for.

"I am NOT missing this bus!"
Though a bit longish, The Villainess is an exciting, brutal good time. It's nothing new from a narrative standpoint, but loaded with brash, kinetic action sequences presented in a way you likely haven't seen before. That more-than-compensates for any lack of originality. Fans of all sorts of movie mayhem are sure to get a big kick out of it.

EXTRA KIBBLES
MAKING-OF FEATURETTE
TRAILERS
ENGLISH LANGUAGE OPTION
DVD COPY
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS

Blu-Ray News: FRIEND REQUEST on Digital HD 12/19 and Blu-ray and DVD 1/9


SANTA MONICA, CA (November 14, 2017)The consequences are deadly when black magic mixes with social media in Friend Request, arriving on Digital December 19 and on Blu-ray™ (plus Digital), DVD and On Demand January 9 from Lionsgate. Alycia Debnam-Carey (“Fear the Walking Dead,” Into the Storm) leads the terrifying feature, which also stars William Moseley (The Chronicles of Narnia franchise, “The Royals”), Connor Paolo (“Revenge,” “Gossip Girl”), Brit Morgan (“Supergirl,” “Graceland”) and Liesl Ahlers (The Challenger Disaster).

Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is a popular college student who lives her college life to the fullest and gladly shares it with her 800 Facebook friends. But when she accepts a friend request from her mysterious classmate Marina (Liesl Ahlers), she unwittingly sets a terrible curse in motion. The dead girl’s impenetrable profile begins to drive Laura into isolation. It takes control of Laura’s virtual world and her real life as well. One after another, her closest friends die horrendous deaths, leaving Laura with only a few days to solve the enigma of this haunting curse to save the few friends she has left, as well as her own life.




November 13, 2017

Blu-Ray/CD Review: BLACK SABBATH: THE END

Featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Tommy Clufetos, Adam Wakeman. Directed by Dick Carruthers. (2017, 136 min).

Here's hoping this truly is the end for Sabbath.

Not because I don't love them. After all, every self-respecting metal fan has regularly bowed at the alter of Sabbath for decades. And if you know anyone who proclaims a distaste for such classics as "War Pigs" and "Paranoid," you need to pick better friends.

But Sabbath has truly done it all. They've climbed to the very top of the metal mountain they themselves had forged, tumbled from it more than once, lain dormant like Mt. St. Helens, then came roaring back with one last killer album that showed Tony Iommi is still a riff-master, Geezer Butler is a consummate bassist and Ozzy Osbourne is still...well, Ozzy Osbourne. They're now metal's elder statesmen and have nothing left to prove. Why not go out in a blaze of glory in your own hometown, where it all started nearly 50 years ago?

"Just give me the damn ball!"
The End captures their final epic concert, held in Birmingham before an enthusiastic, sold-out crowd. The moment the curtain dropped to the opening strains of their titular tune, "Black Sabbath," I had goosebumps and could only imagine what it was like to have been there. But this video is the next best thing, beautifully shot and and sonically stunning.

These guys were never renowned for strutting and prowling the stage (Iommi & Butler barely move from their designated spots), content to simply play the songs with their usual virtuosity while Ozzy's charisma keeps the crowd pumped (even if they have no idea what he's saying). But director Dick Carruthers keeps things visually interesting with surefire editing, alternating between up-close-and-personal shots of the band and the visually-impressive, pyro-enhanced stage presentation.

Mama bird returns to the nest.
And it's hard to argue with the song selection. All their biggest hits are featured, impeccably performed by a band who hasn't lost a single step after all these years. I suppose one quip would be the lack of any songs from their final album,13, which had some great tunes that would have fit-in comfortably with the classics. Also included is "The Angelic Sessions," A five-track CD containing re-recordings of classic-era songs, none of which are part of the live set. They don't improve on the originals, but these are Black Sabbath's final studio recordings, so its inclusion is fitting.

The End is an aptly-titled, perfect coda to a legendary career. For Sabbath to continue beyond this point would be an exercise in redundancy. That sense of finality comes through in their performance. Each time they look at the crowd - or more significantly, each other - it's almost as if they're saying, "This is it guys...let's make it a good one."

And they did.

EXTRA KIBBLES
"THE ANGELIC SESSIONS" - A video diary of Black Sabbath's last studio session.
SUPPLEMENTARY BOOKLET: Featuring photos, credits and an essay by Kory Grow from Rolling Stone magazine.
KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEE-OW! LIKE BITING THE HEAD OFF A PIGEON

November 12, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: WIND RIVER

Starring Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Jon Bernthal, Gil Birmingham, Kelsey Chow, Julia Jones. Directed by Taylor Sheridan. (2017, 107 min).

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is always tough. Suffering the loss of a child irreversibly changes you for the rest of your life. There's no getting over it, nothing that erases the pain. All you can do is try your best to live with that permanent hole in your life without letting grief completely consume you (I'm pretty damn certain I couldn't do it).

Not the most uplifting theme for a film, and Wind River doesn't sugarcoat it. Nor does Fish & Wildlife agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) when talking with his best friend, Martin, whose teenage daughter, Natalie, was just found raped and murdered in the icy hills of the Wind River Indian Reservation. Cory should know; his own daughter died in those same hills a few years earlier under similarly mysterious circumstances. It's also suggested her death was the catalyst that eventually ended his marriage.
"No, man...I don't think Kiss is looking for a new drummer."
Newbie FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olson) arrives to investigate and asks Lambert to help out due to his tracking skills. Lambert agrees, perhaps thinking, since he couldn't save his own child, doing so might bring some semblance of closure to his own pain (though his ex-wife thinks otherwise). At first, Natalie's older boyfriend is a suspect, at least until they find his frozen body, beaten to death. 

On the surface, Wind River is a simple, atmospheric mystery - the Wyoming mountains practically a character themselves - methodical and deliberately paced. The film takes its time establishing the setting and characters before peeling the plot layers away, including a disturbing flashback of the crime itself.

"I've been tracking that cow for days. I ain't about to give up now."
Wind River is unremittingly bleak almost from the get-go. Given its story and theme, it would be an insult for the film not to be. Renner turns in a terrifically understated performance that conveys his character's quiet desperation, while Graham Greene, as the cynical tribal sheriff, is as close as things come to any kind of levity. Behind the camera, director Taylor Sheridan (who also penned Sicario & Hell or High Water) shows he's more than just a gifted screenwriter. Nearly every shot conveys the somber mood of the entire film.

Ultimately about the devastation of losing a child, Wind River offers no real comfort because, in reality, there isn't any. This isn't what you'd call a good time at the movies. Some of this is really tough going and, despite a satisfying (and bloody) conclusion, never lets the viewer off the hook with a hunky-dory coda. By the time the end credits roll, the viewer is as emotionally exhausted as the main character. 

By the way...remind me never to visit Wyoming. 

EXTRA KIBBLES
FEATURETTE: Behind-the-Scenes Video Gallery
DELETED SCENES
DIGITAL COPY 
KITTY CONSENSUS:
VERY WELL MADE...BUT PRETTY BLEAK 

November 11, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: KEDI

Starring more cats than the Surgeon General recommends. Directed by Ceyda Torun. (2016, 80 min).

Can you guess what we thought of Kedi?

Istanbul has a long, rich history and has been known by many previous names. Straddling the borders of Europe and Asia, it is Turkey's largest city and country's cultural & economic hub. According to this documentary, it has also been the home to thousands of free-roaming cats for centuries.

Though most of them aren't quite strays, these animals appear to have a unique relationship with their community, an unspoken arrangement on how to live compatibly: You feed me, take care of my basic needs and let me come-and-go as I please, and in return I'll enrich your lives with my presence. Everyone appears quite happy with this agreement.

All good movies have a big fight scene.
Kedi is a congenial, beautifully-shot film about these cats and their unusual relationship with various people and communities throughout the city. We get to know several selected cats quite well, each with their own unique personalities, from friendly & charming to bossy & territorial. We also meet some of the people they've formed attachments to, who feed and care for them (occasionally saving their lives). Yet these animals aren't pets; they have become too accustomed to freedom and have made the entire city their home.

How charming one finds these critters and their stories depends largely on one's inherent love for cats (not-to-mention their diva-like personalities). As for us...our site's name alone should tell you what we think. Kedi is a wonderful, affectionate look at how one of our most common companions have become part of a city's culture. It almost makes one want to visit Istanbul. This film is a must-own for cat lovers everywhere.

I wish my own cats were this amusing.

EXTRA KIBBLES
MAKING-OF FEATURETTES
DELETED/EXTENDED SCENES & OUTTAKES
AUDIO COMMENTARY by director Ceyda Torun, cinematographer/producer Charlie Wuppermann & editor Mo Stroebe.
AUDIO COMMENTARY by the cats (really...it's a batch of cats meowing).
TRAILER
KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEE-OW! LIKE TAUNTING A MOUSE TO DEATH