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

November 10, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: ATOMIC BLONDE

Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones, James Faulkner, Bill Skarsgard, Til Schweiger. Directed by David Leitch. (2017, 115 min).

There are some movies where a single scene not only makes the whole thing worth the price of admission, but ultimately elevates it to classic status. Psycho immediately comes-to-mind. It's an undisputed masterpiece, of course, but it's obviously the infamous shower scene that has rendered it legendary.

Atomic Blonde may not be a masterpiece and probably not a classic we'll be talking about 50 years from now - or even 10 - but it's another movie with one scene so jaw-droppingly awesome that we just go...wow.

The plot itself is as generic as they come: Near the end of the Cold War, everybody's after a list containing the identities and activities of spies, stolen by a rogue KGB agent who plans on selling it to the highest bidder. Britain's horse in this race is MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), who forms an uneasy alliance with David Percival (James McAvoy). They must also try to smuggle a defector - who has memorized the list as a bargaining tool - to West Berlin.

"Eeew! Spider!"
The usual complications ensue along the way...double-crosses, story twists, characters who aren't quite what they seem and, of course, a love interest (Sofia Boutella). None of it is too surprising, but Atomic Blonde isn't trying to reinvent the wheel. This is one of those movies where style matters more than substance, and as such, it's terrific entertainment. The film is fast-paced and visually impressive, with kinetic gunplay, an unusually-shot car chase and some phenomenal close-quarters fighting.

Which brings us to the 'wow' moment: About half-way in, Broughton has to fight her way out of an old apartment building with her defector in-tow. In a single, unbroken, 10 minute sequence, she takes on several henchmen in a violent, bloody ballet of knives, fists and guns. It's a brilliantly choreographed and exhausting scene that ranks as one of the most impressive action set-pieces I've ever seen. It must have been a logistical nightmare to pull off (and one of the featurettes shows how).

Extreme Cutthroat Kitchen.
Elsewhere, Atomic Blonde is bolstered by flashy production design, a booming soundtrack of industrial-tinged music from the era and, of course, another dedicated physical performance by Theron. She's cool, beautiful and intimidating, though not the invulnerable, one-woman wrecking crew that has drawn some comparisons to John Wick. David Leitch may have directed both films, but the overall tone of this one is a bit lighter and Broughton is cut from a different cloth. She's not driven by revenge, and as the stakes get higher, we do get fleeting glimpses of kinks in her armor. Despite her cool demeanor and formidable fighting skills, she isn't indestructible, often taking as much damage as she inflicts.

Stylish to a fault, there isn't a lot of depth, but Atomic Blonde delivers lot of sexy, ultra-violent fun. Theron once again proves she's a formidable action star with another character, like Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road, we wouldn't mind seeing again in the future. And if nothing else, the apartment fight alone is a keeper.

EXTRA KIBBLES
FEATURETTES: "Welcome to Berlin"; "Blondes Have More Gun"; "Spymaster"; "Anatomy of a Fight Scene" (this is the best of the bonus features); "Story in Motion".
AUDIO COMMENTARY with director David Leitch & editor Elisabet Ronaldsdottir.
DELETED/EXTENDED SCENES
DVD & DIGITAL COPIES
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS

Rest in Peace, John Hillerman

November 9, 2017

Blu-Ray News: KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD 12/12

Rejoin the world’s most elite secret service when Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment releases KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-rayTM and DVD December 12. Director Matthew Vaughn returns to helm the sequel in his signature kick-ass style, with stars Colin Firth, Taron Egerton and Mark Strong reprising the roles that helped make Kingsman a global phenomenon.

Kingsman: The Secret Service introduced the world to Kingsman. In Kingsman: The Golden Circle, our heroes face a new challenge when their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage. Their journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US called Statesman, and in a new adventure, these two elite, secret organizations band together to defeat a ruthless common enemy in order to save the world, something that’s becoming a bit of a habit for Eggsy. Kingsman: The Golden Circle stars Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, with Elton John and Channing Tatum, and Jeff Bridges.

The home entertainment release will give fans over two hours of brand new bonus content that will take them inside of the exclusive worlds of the Kingsman and Statesman.

Rest in Peace, Karin Dor

November 7, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: HANS ZIMMER: LIVE IN PRAGUE

Directed by Tim Van Someren. (2017, 138 min).

To this writer's humble ears, Hans Zimmer is currently our greatest living film composer. He has his own identifiable style, yet all his individual scores are unique and diverse. Best of all, not only do they brilliantly do the job they were composed for, most of them are also great stand-alone pieces of music.

And as it turns out, Mr. Zimmer can be quite the showman...maybe even a bit of a rock star.

Hans Zimmer: Live in Prague is a stunning concert film featuring some of the best-known music of his career (leaning more heavily toward the epics). He's backed by a huge band of orchestral, classical and rock musicians & vocalists...only fitting, since Zimmer has always incorporated those elements in his music. Zimmer himself plays a variety of instruments: piano, synths, guitar, even the banjo during a piece from Sherlock Holmes.

"Ladies and gentleman...it's been suggested that you stay away from the brown acid."
Many of the pieces have been given new arrangements more conducive to a live setting, while music from some of his biggest films (such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator and Christopher Nolan's films) are presented as epic medleys. My personal favorite of Zimmer's scores has always been Crimson Tide, part of which is wonderfully rendered here with added guitar flourishes. Ironically, the music from his most iconic score, The Lion King, is the least compelling, though it does get the most enthusiastic response from the audience. It's impeccably performed, but perhaps its over-familiarity works against it (kinda like hearing Stairway to Heaven yet again).

Banjos are chick magnets.
The whole program is performed before a huge crowd with the visual spectacle of a rock show. Aside from introducing his players or providing stories behind some of the films, Zimmer himself is content to take his place as just another member of the band. It's an extraordinary crew of musicians, most of whom are provided individual moments in the spotlight. Perhaps rising to the occasion, they provide quite a bit of showmanship themselves.

I suppose it goes without saying this disc (also available as a CD) is a must own for movie fans. But Hans Zimmer: Live in Prague is also terrific entertainment simply as a concert film, whether one is familiar with the music or not.

EXTRA KIBBLES
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Includes photos, an essay by Jeremy Thomas and technical credits.
KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEE-OW! LIKE BEING TURNED LOOSE IN A BIRD SANCTUARY

Interview: ARMIE HAMMER for the Home Video Release of CARS 3

In Cars 3, Lightning McQueen is blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, led by the arrogant Jackson Storm. The seven-time Piston Cup winner and hero of Radiator Springs is suddenly sidelined and pushed from the sport he loves. To get back on track, McQueen will need the help of eager young racing technician Cruz Ramirez, inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected twists and turns of fate.

Cars 3 is fully loaded with unforgettable characters, spectacular animation and turbocharged bonus extras. And the movie is NOW AVAILABLE on HD, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD.

To celebrate the in-home launch of the high-octane hit, we catch up with Armie Hammer – the voice of Jackson Storm – to uncover the actor’s thoughts on road trips, recording sessions and the epic world of racing…

How does it feel to be the voice of Jackson Storm in the animated adventure, Cars 3?
It feels really great to be part of the Cars franchise. Not only is it a fun franchise, but it’s a franchise that I truly love. I remember when the first Cars movie came out. I loved the sense of nostalgia you felt when you watched the story unfold, and the fun road trip aspect to the movie.

How much Armie Hammer is there in Jackson Storm?
I’m definitely in there when it comes to the voice of Jackson Storm, but he isn’t the nicest of characters. He is a bit of a jerk, but I am not a jerk. That’s something in the character we kept pushing during the recording sessions, but I’m not like that at all.

How good are you at driving?
I’m pretty good at driving, not to toot my own horn. I’ve done some high-performance driving schools and race schools. My dad races cars, so driving has always been part of my life.

What was your very first car?
My first car was a Lexus IS300, which is one of those small cars. I was 16 when I got my first car, but at that point I’d been driving for a number of years. I grew up in the Caribbean. Down there, my dad taught me to drive stick when I was nine years old. I’ve been driving for a very long time!

Are you passionate about cars?
I love cars. Not in the sense of wanting to have the newest Ferrari or anything like that – but I love driving and I love road trips.

What’s been your most memorable road trip?
I crossed the North American continent from Los Angeles to the bottom of the Key West on a small, 150cc Vespa. The year was 2014, but I had nothing more than a sleeping bag and a tent strapped to the bike. Oh, and a few changes of underwear.

How long did the road trip take?
It took 21 days in total. We spent 12-hours a day riding in the middle of the polar vortex, so there were a lot negative temperatures until we got to Miami. It was very, very cold.

Were you alone on this epic road trip?
I wasn’t alone. There was a bunch of guys on Vespas. It was hellacious, but also one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

What excites you the most about the story of Cars 3?
In Cars 3, I love the topics the movie tackles. I love the message of the movie. I’m a father with a daughter, so it’s a lot of fun to see the idea of empowerment and strength. I love those themes.

Jackson Storm is a newcomer to the world of racing in Cars 3. He’s fast and sleek, but is newer always better?
No, probably not. And that’s another message of the movie.

Armie Hammer voices Jackson Storm.
Have you ever felt threatened by the arrival of a flashy newcomer?
I used to play on a lacrosse team called the Los Angeles Warriors. At one point, there was a guy who showed up on our team; he came from Virginia or somewhere like that. In Virginia, they play lacrosse way more than we play lacrosse on the West Coast, so this guy was really good. He was so good that all our team players would just try to get him the ball during every match. I wasn’t really threatened by the new guy. I really appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to run as much anymore, but it was interesting to see the newcomer take over.

Another message of the movie involves dreaming big. When you were a youngster, did you always dream about becoming an actor?
I always wanted to be involved in movies. Ever since I was 12 or 13 years old, that’s been my dream. I think it’s really important for people to pick a dream and go for it. Pick whatever you want to do in life and then pursue it relentlessly until you get there.

Is it important for youngsters to dream big?
Definitely. Dream big. Dream medium. Dream whatever, but have dreams. I think that’s important. The minute you stop dreaming, what are you aspiring to achieve? I feel incredibly lucky and blessed because everything worked out for me, but I know it doesn’t always work out for everyone. It’s important to try, though.

What advice would you give to youngsters who want to follow in your footsteps and become an actor?
As glamorous as anything might seem, your success is based on and dictated by the level of hard work you’re willing to put into it. The harder you’re willing to work, the more you can get out of it. It’s not an easy job, but it’s worth it. That’s the advice I’d offer.

In Cars 3, Lightning McQueen becomes a mentor to a new character named Cruz Ramirez. Who’s been your biggest mentor?
Every time I’ve worked on a movie, I’ve viewed my relationship with the director as the mentor of the project. Whether it’s David Fincher, Guy Ritchie or Clint Eastwood, they
are in charge. They are the boss. I’m probably a very annoying person to have on set because I’m always asking questions like, “Why are you doing it like that? Why are you using that lens? Why that light?” I love the idea that everybody knows at least one thing that you don’t. Everybody can be your mentor in one way or another.

Was Cars 3 director Brian Fee your mentor on this movie?
For sure. It’s a totally different world when you compare the way Pixar and Disney animated movies are made versus live-action movies. Pixar worked on Cars 3 for years and years and years. The amount of time and effort that’s gone into this movie is incredible. I’m very proud to be part of something so great.

What excites you the most about the in-home release of Cars 3?
You’re talking to a father of two here. Trust me, I’m way deep into deleted scenes and all the bonus features that come along with the in-home release. I love all the ‘making of’ extras. I love all that stuff.

What can fans expect from the bonus features packaged with the in-home release?
When a movie is done as well as this, you get so lost in the immersive experience that you often forget how it’s made. That’s what I love about the bonus features; the fact that you can delve into the making of the movie. I think it impresses people when you go back and show them the amount of work that actually went into the making of Cars 3. I also think it inspires them. It’s fun to get a behind-the-scenes look at something they truly enjoyed. For all those reasons, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Cars 3