Film Review: “All Joking Aside”

  • ALL JOKING ASIDE
  • Starring:  Raylene Harewood, Brian Markinson and Richard Lett
  • Directed by: Shannon Kohli
  • Rated:  Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 23 mins
  • Animal Mother Films

The story is told that, in 1833, a friend visited actor Edmund Kean on his deathbed and said sympathetically, “This must be very difficult for you?”. Kean smiled up at his visitor weekly and assured him it wasn’t.  “Dying is easy,” Kean replied.  “Comedy is hard.”

Not sure if that is a true story or not but it has lived on through the ages.  Jack Lemmon was fond of saying it and, in the film “My Favorite Year,” Peter O’Toole’s character also uses it.  I’ve been told I’m a funny guy but I don’t have three minutes of stand-up to offer.  I have great respect for my friend Sandy Bernstein, who many years ago, in her fifties, decided to give stand-up comedy a try and she has been quite successful at it.  It’s not for everyone.  But Charlene “Charlie” Lewis Harewood) is a 21 year old wannabe who’s not afraid to take the stage.  Unfortunately, she should be.

A well-crafted story grounded by excellent performances, “All Joking Aside” is one of those little films you might miss if you blink. Charlie’s first attempt on stage is ruined by a heckler who dresses her down from the audience for her topic selection.  Charlie later learns that her tormentor is Bobby Carpenter (an excellent Markinson).  A decade earlier he was THE comic that everyone wanted to see, with new material nightly and a disdain for doing television and movies.  Charlie finds out that in his last appearance on stage Bobby got into it with a customer and assaulted him with the microphone, blinding the customer.  Charlie tracks Bobby down and convinces him to teach her the ropes of comedy.  From how to design your set list to which jokes to lead with first.  And, most importantly, to observe and write daily.

Raylene Harewood is “Charlie” Lewis

A film about stand-up should, of course, be funny and “All Joking Aside” has some side splitting moments.  But it also has heart, which makes it a rarity in the genre’. The heart here comes from the performances of the three leads.  As Charlie, Miss Harewood begins as a girl with a dream (and a medical condition) who is not afraid to face down either.  Mr. Markinson, a veteran of several television shows with recurring roles in “Mad Men” and “The L Word” among others, is well-cast here.  At first you’re not sure of his motives for initially heckling Charlie, then agreeing to help her but as the film plays out, they become evident.  And I must also single out Mr. Hewitt, who plays the owner of the local comedy club and whose relationship (and influence) with Bobby helps drive the film.

As I said, the film is well written and nicely paced.  If I had one problem with the film it’s that it makes it look very easy to just walk into a comedy club and get on stage.  Not in New York City!  If you don’t believe me, ask my friend Sandy!

My funny friend Sandy Bernstein

And if you’d like a couple of extra laughs, you can follow Sandy at http://www.sandybernsteincomedy.com/

Film Review: “BELUSHI”

  • BELUSHI
  • Documentary
  • Directed by: R.J. Cutler
  • Rated:  Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 48 mins
  • Passion Pictures

He was the first movie star of MY generation.  Springing almost seemingly from nowhere he appeared on my television one late Saturday night and remained there for five years, giving my friends and I unending laughs and so many catch phrases – “but NO!” – to take us all the way through high school.  He made hit films, inspiring an amazing Toga Party at my house that is still part of Tampa’s legacy.  He is John Belushi, the subject of an incredible new documentary airing this Sunday, November 22, on SHOWTIME.

Told though audio interviews with many of the people who knew him best, ‘Belushi” introduces us to a young man that was seemingly born with a will to succeed.  As a young boy he would entertain his neighbors, had a successful band and was King of his high school prom.  When he and a couple of friends form their own imrov group it isn’t long before they are asked to audition for the prestigious Second City Comedy Troupe.  He becomes the first person to audition for the group and be asked to join the First Stage group, not learn the ropes in the touring company.  This leads to New York, the National Lampoon show “Lemmings” (and their weekly radio show) and, eventually, “Saturday Night Live,” which my friends and I all watched in my living room the night it premiered.    Soon came Hollywood, albums and fame but sadly the demons also came along with them.

John Belushi in his final film, “Neighbors”

The son of Albanian immigrants, John’s father came to America with dreams of becoming a cowboy.  Instead, he settled his family in Wheaton, Illinois and opened a restaurant.  Both of his parents were ashamed of their accents but John and his brothers and sisters loved America and set out to find their dreams.    When he meets Judy Jacklin at high school (their first date is the senior prom) he finds someone who loves him unconditionally.  The film highlights many letters that John sent to Judy throughout his life.  Whether they contained good career news, or his heart breaking words while dealing with his various addictions, the love he has for her is front and center.  Conversations with Judy, and best friend Dan Aykroyd, reveal the John Belushi nobody really knew and the ache in their voices when they explain they did all they could do to save him from his demons  is real.   After the release of their last film together, “Neighbors” – a film that was not loved by critics – Aykroyd describes talking to Belushi and finding him “sad and defeated.”  Aykroyd informs John that he is writing their next project and that it will be a success.  That film was “Ghostbusters.” 

But “Belushi” is also a testament to the man’s talent.  Early performance clips, including his audition tape for “Saturday Night Live,” show a man

Full of love and humor John only wanted to share both with people.  In 1978 John Belushi did something no other entertaining ever did.  In one week he not only starred in the No 1. Show on television – “Saturday Night Live” – but also in the No 1. Film that week, “National Lampoon’s Animal House.” To add to this historic achievement, he also, along with Aykroyd, had the No 1 Album in the country – “Briefcase Full of Blues” – with the Blues Brothers.  Through the audio interviews, we hear from many people that knew John best, from his mother and brother, Jim, through people that worked with him over the years, including Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis, Joe Flaherty, Penny Marshall, Carrie Fisher, Richard Zanuck and Lorne Michaels. It is these performances that are the highlight of the film.  I have always maintained that John Belushi would have had a career similar to Robin Williams.  Both men had unlimited range and talents and I would not have been surprised if Belushi won an Oscar one day.  Sadly, we will never know what joys John Belushi could have given us.  But the ones he left us in a single decade of work are much more than most performers leave in an lifetime. 

Help The Croods Provide One Million Meals To Families In Need This Holiday Season Through Feeding America

Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage and the rest of the cast from THE CROODS: A NEW AGE announce the partnership with Feeding America along with some Thanksgiving Etiquette tips!

Universal will make a donation for every time fans use #CroodsCare on Twitter, and will also match funds donated directly to the Feeding America website via the Croods Care Landing Page: – https://link.edgepilot.com/s/f8ead025/PRcsJSTffkCvY6POyQdbDQ?u=http://www.feedingamerica.org/croodscare

Fans can also contribute via a “Virtual Fruit Drive” on Animal CrossingNew Horizons by visiting “Croods Cove” using dream code: DA-1282-8266-2121. Each piece of virtual fruit that users donate on the island will translate into real meals for families in need.

#CroodsCare

THE CROODS: A NEW AGE – in theaters November 25

Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | #CroodsNewAge

The Croods have survived their fair share of dangers and disasters, from fanged prehistoric beasts to surviving the end of the world, but now they will face their biggest challenge of all: another family

The Croods need a new place to live. So, the first prehistoric family sets off into the world in search of a safer place to call home. When they discover an idyllic walled-in paradise that meets all their needs, they think their problems are solved … except for one thing. Another family already lives there: the Bettermans. 

The Bettermans (emphasis on the “better”)—with their elaborate tree house, amazing inventions and irrigated acres of fresh produce—are a couple of steps above the Croods on the evolutionary ladder. When they take the Croods in as the world’s first houseguests, it isn’t long before tensions escalate between the cave family and the modern family. 

Just when all seems lost, a new threat will propel both families on an epic adventure outside the safety of the wall, one that will force them to embrace their differences, draw strength from each other and forge a future together. Thinking about a future it is a smart move to look into a project management mba, which is a great way to start a career.

The Croods: A New Age features the voice talent of returning stars Nicolas Cage as Grug Crood, Catherine Keener as Ugga Crood, Emma Stone as their daughter, Eep; Ryan Reynolds as Eep’s boyfriend, Guy; Clark Duke (Hot Tub Time Machine) as Thunk and Cloris Leachman as Gran. They’re joined by new stars Peter Dinklage (HBO’s Game of Thrones) as Phil Betterman, Leslie Mann (Blockers) as Hope Betterman, and Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: Episode VIII-The Last Jedi) as their daughter, Dawn. 

The film is directed by Joel Crawford, who has worked on multiple DreamWorks Animation films, including Trolls and the Kung Fu Panda franchise, and is produced by Mark Swift (Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted).

Genre: Animated Comedy

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, Leslie Mann, Peter Dinklage, Kelly Marie Tran

Directed by: Joel Crawford

Produced by: Mark Swift

Streaming Film Review: “Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on ‘The Exorcist'”

  • LEAP OF FAITH:  WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON “THE EXORCIST”
  • Starring:  William Friedkin
  • Directed by: Alexandre O. Philippe
  • Rated:  Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 44 mins
  • Exhibit A Pictures

What is a perfect film?  To me, it is a film that, when you’ve watched it and absorbed what you’ve seen, you can’t find any fault with it.  Not a false note, not a frame you would change.  Perfect films are rare and the list is short.  “Citizen Kane…”  “The Godfather…”  “Chinatown…” and the most terrifying film I’ve seen in my 60 years on Earth, William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist.”  The new documentary, “Leap of Faith: William Friendkin on ‘The Exorcist’,” which airs exclusively beginning November 19 on the Shudder streaming service, takes you on an amazing journey into the making of the film, with the film’s director as your tour guide.

In Mr. Friedkin’s opinion, the majority of religious-themed films from Hollywood  were “sappy.”  Films like “The Ten Commandments”  and “King of Kings” treated God as being “magic.”  To Friedkin, only the 1955 Dutch film “Ordet” really approached religion – the mystery of faith” – in a truthful way.  Friedkin also believe it was fate that put together all of the pieces that became “The Exorcist.” 

We learn how he came to read the novel and how he worked with the book’s author, William Peter Blatty, to bring the book he wrote to the screen.  Friedkin remarks that Blatty’s script for the film omitted key parts in the novel that Friedkin felt were essential to the story.  Friedkin also reveals that several directors, including Stanley Kubrick and Arthur Penn, turned the film down before he was offered the job.  And while I knew that several actors, including Roy Scheider, had begged for the pivotal role of Father Damien Karras, Stacy Keach was actually hired for the part until Jason Miller pleaded with Friedkin for a chance to test for the role.  As much as I love Stacy Keach, when you watch “The Exorcist” now can you see anyone else in the role of Father Karras? 

Director Friedkin confers on-set with Jason Miller and Ellen Burstyn.

“Leap of Faith” contains some amazing archival footage, including footage featuring a possessed Linda Blair speaking with her own voice.  It’s disturbing enough  to hear a 12-year old girl utter the vile dialogue in the gravelly voice of a demon but when you hear those words uttered in Blair’s own soft voice it’s downright chilling.

As “Leap of Faith” progresses you can’t help but think that this is what it must be like to have Da Vinci describe how he created the Mona Lisa.  Nothing is left unmentioned, including a discussion on the many conclusions that moviegoers and critics have drawn from the ending of the film.  To Friedkin, the ending is the film’s only flaw, one he feels he did not fully explain.  Flaw?  Not in my mind.  It’s perfect!

Film Review: “FATMAN”

  • FATMAN
  • Starring:  Mel Gibson, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Walton Goggins
  • Directed by: Eshon Nelms, Ian Nelms
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 40 mins
  • Saban Films

There is a great bit at the beginning of the film “Scrooged” in which an upcoming Christmas special is advertised as such:  “Psycho’s Seize Santa’s Workshop and Only Lee Majors Can Stop Them – THE NIGHT THE REINDEER DIED!”  I thought about that bit while I was watching the newest “holiday” film, “Fatman.”

We meet young Billy (Chance Hurtsfield), a 12 year old boy of some privilege who lives with his grandmother and a house full of servants.  Judging by the blue ribbons on Billy’s jacket, he’s a bit of an overachiever.  He also misses his father, who has just informed the boy, through his grandmother, that he won’t be spending Christmas with him.  Upset at the news, Billy still leaves cookies and milk out for the jolly old elf, anticipating what his present from Santa will be.  Sadly, Mr. Kringle DOES know whose been naughty or nice as Billy receives a beautifully wrapped chunk of coal.

In another part of the world, a mysterious man named Jonathan Miller, played by the always amazing Walton Goggins, is visited by a man with a baseball bat to sell.  It was a gift from Santa when the boy was young, identified by a genuine “made by Santa” marking.  The mystery man buys it and places it on a shelf of similarly crafted toys.  He’s also got a grudge against Santa, though his reasons won’t be revealed for a while.

Speaking of Santa – or Kris as his friends know him –he is fretting about the approaching Holiday that, due to budgetary constraints, may not even happen.  The news is full of stories about children doing horrid things and there just aren’t as many good ones as there used to be.  As played by Mel Gibson, Kris is both wise and wizened.  Things get interesting when, in order to make ends meet, Santa takes on a contract from the US Government – they have been subsidizing Santa for years in order to keep the US Economy booming during Christmas – to use his elves to build military plane components.  Things go from strange to downright crazy when Billy hires Jonathan – did I mention Mr. Miller is a professional hitman – to take out the fat man!  The only thing missing is Lee Majors!

A strange, but entertaining film, “Fatman” is bolstered by it’s amazing cast, who put so much effort into the characters that you readily accept them.  Even the elves, who are guided by their foreman Seven (Eric Woolfe) have a realistic premise about them and you find yourself nodding in agreement when they defend their diet of all carbs and sugars – six times a day!  And while there is plenty of naughty in the film, there is a fine supply of nice as well, thanks to Mrs. Kringle (Jean-Baptiste).  Say what you want about Mel Gibson and his very publicized indiscretions, the man has always been entertaining on screen and he’s no different here.  Tough as nails when necessary but he also has an empathy for those who question his motives.  Goggins, who I just realized last week was in “The Next Karate Kid” – I caught it on cable – has been someone I’ve enjoyed watching on screen since he played “Downtown” Anderson in “Major League: Back to the Minors.”  He has become one of the most sought after character actors, probably best known for his work on “The Shield” and the current CBS program “The Unicorn.”  He also won an Oscar 18 years ago for a live action short called “The Accountant.”  His hitman is both terrifying and funny, throwing out insults to everyone who deserve them, especially when they try to mess with his pet hamster!

The production values are strong, with a nice gritty detail to Santa’s workshop and employees.  It’s not all sparkle dust and gum drops!  And the musical score, by the duo composing team known as Mondo Boys, is beautifully composed to fit all of the emotions of the film. 

“Fatman” opens this week. It may not be your most anticipated Christmas film but it’s much better than a lump of coal!

Film Review: “RECON”

  • RECON
  • Starring: Alexander Ludwig, Franco Nero
  • Directed by: Robert David Port
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins

Available on VOD, including Apple TV, Prime Video and FandangoNOW 

While it may lack traditional star power on the marquee or an expansive budget that is more than what a small country spends in a year, the World War II flick “RECON” is nevertheless an intense, historical drama ripped from the horrors of combat. Based upon the 2008 novel “Peace” by American author Richard Bausch, who received the W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction from the American Library Association, “RECON” is a well-written work with a standout lead performance by Alexander Ludwig (“Vikings,” “The Hunger Games”).

 Inspired by true events, the story takes place near the mountainous area of Cassino, Italy during one long day in the winter of 1944. It begins with a punch to the face as an American squad encounters a Nazi officer trying to hide in a villager’s cart. Gunshots are exchanged. Two Americans and the Nazi officer lay dead in the road. But that is not the end. The squad’s sergeant mercilessly slaughters the Nazi officer’s unarmed wife, much to the horror of his men. 

When the sergeant realizes he may be ratted out, he orders four potential troublemakers – Corporal Marson (Ludwig) and Privates Heisman (RJ Fetherstonhaugh, “21 Thunder”), Hopwell (Mitch Ainley, “Heaven is For Real”) and Asch (Chris Brochu, “The Vampire Diaries”) – to follow an elderly villager named Angelo (Franco Nero, “John Wick: Chapter 2”) on a reconnaissance mission to find Germans. 

Up a lonely, snow and ice-covered mountain the four dysfunctional American GIs follow the mysterious Angelo, who is supposedly taking them to a German position. However, as they march on, the four gradually see that their sergeant was sending them on a suicide mission. Their resolve to turn the sergeant only grows but so do the dangers around them – the Germans, the weather, the terrain, and themselves. 

Director Robert David Port, who co-won an Oscar for the 2003 documentary “Twin Towers,” does a brilliant job at capturing the horrors of war with a no punches pulled approach. There is nothing glorious. It is tragic, terrible and at times difficult to watch. The main American characters are a little stereotypical and generic, and most moments designed to be red herrings or genuine surprise are predictable.

 Ludwig is superb with his role as a soldier on edge just wanting to somehow survive so he can return to his wife and young child back home. His emotional range and depth help with moving the story along and keeps our attention on the screen.

 Overall, “RECON” may be a small tale, yet one that is worthy of the greatest generation. 

Blu-ray Feature “I Spit on Your Grave: Collector’s Edition”

Who doesn’t love amazing box sets? Especially when it comes it horror fans, we love our collector’s editions. Ronin Flix might be responsible for making 2020 suck a little bit less as they are releasing a new 3-Disc Collector’s Edition of “I Spit on Your Grave”. This new box set features a new 4K scan and restoration of the original uncut feature film as well as the 2019 sequel, “I Spit on Your Grave: Deju Vu” and feature length documentary film “Growing Up With I Spit on Your Grave”.

The Collectible Box Set doesn’t just end with the movies though also included is a deluxe custom slipcase with original artwork by Adam Stothard, a Newly Commissioned 44 Page Book featuring exclusive historical photos and liner notes by horror writers Michael Gingold and Meagan Navarro, 2 collectible fold out mini-posters (16×20) and replica VHS box-style magnets. Ronin Flix spared no expense here and delivered a rock solid collection of goodies for us horror fans.

Official Premises: In 1978, one film changed the face of cinema forever: I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. Camille Keaton stars as Jennifer Hills, a young and beautiful career woman who rents a back-woods cabin to write her first novel. Attacked by a group of local lowlifes and left for dead, she devises a horrific plan to inflict revenge in some of the most unforgettable scenes on film. 42 years later, the sequel, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE: DEJA VU, sends successful writer Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) back to where it all began to face the wrath of the families of those she left for dead. Kidnapped along with her daughter Christy (Jamie Bernadette), it’s a tense game of hunt or be hunted against a ruthless gang of degenerates overseen by a violently unhinged matriarch Becky (Maria Olsen). Additionally, this box set includes, GROWING UP WITH I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, an exhaustive analysis of the film’s history directed by Meir Zarchi’s son, Terry Zarchi.

Just in time for the holidays, this features a new 4K scan and restoration of director Meir Zarchi’s 35mm original camera negative of “I Spit On Your Grave”, along with a newly restored original mono soundtrack and for the first time on Blu-ray in North America, “Growing Up With I Spit On Your Grave”. Additionally, there is a collection of special features including a new location featurette hosted by writer Michael Gingold,  Audio Commentary with writer / director Meir Zarchi, Audio Commentary with Film Critic Joe Bob Briggs, new cast interviews and deleted scenes, an exclusive making-of featurette, rare and behind-the-scenes photos from the set, home movies, reversible cover art (“I Spit on Your Grave” only).
  
Ronin Flix is proud to present this commemorative box set as its second release, following a highly praised first release of “Hardware”. The 3 disc Collector’s Edition “I Spit on Your Grave” Blu-ray Box Set will be available for pre-order exclusively on roninflix.com now. The initial print run will be limited to 5,000 copies. So shouting out to all horror fans, this is a must own and a great gift for this holiday season and a very reasonable price.

Film Review: “Where She Lies”

  • WHERE SHE LIES
  • Documentary
  • Directed by: Zach Marion
  • Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 41 mins
  • Gravitas Ventures

As an adult who was adopted as a baby I’m always keen when a film that tackles the subject comes around.  They are usually feel good stories that leave you smiling and happy when they end.  That being said, “Where She Lies” took me on an emotional rollercoaster I am still recovering from.

Meet Peggy Phillips.  In 1961, at the age of 19, the unmarried Peggy found herself pregnant.  The father of the child was a married man who had told Peggy he was separated from his wife.  Anticipating the family embarrassment that such a situation would bring in this time period, she is sent to live with her aunt.  Her obstetrician urges her to give the baby up for adoption, as it will always be labeled a “bastard,” while her father tells her that if she keeps the baby she will always be known as a whore.  He gives her an ultimatum – she can come home after the birth but only without the child.  The problem seems to solve itself when Peggy is informed that the child, a girl, died shortly after birth.  But did she?

A puzzle that has you scrambling to put the pieces together right up until the end, “Where She Lies” is not only one of the best documentaries I have seen this year, but one of the best films as well.  Intrigued by reading a story about Peggy and her daughter, director Marion contacts her and informs her that he would like to help her solve the mystery and film the efforts.  What mystery, you ask?  It seems that, on her deathbed, Peggy’s mother informed her that her baby didn’t die.  Instead she was adopted by a doctor and his wife who lived near the aunt she stayed with when she was pregnant.  Peggy discovers the doctor and his wife DID adopt a baby girl 6 months to the day after Peggy gave birth.  The daughter has become a habitual criminal, spending the past 30 years in and out of prison.  But is SHE the daughter of Peggy Phillips?

Peggy Phillips celebrates her birthday with director Zach Marion

In putting together the pieces of this puzzle – director Marion illustrates his film and chapter breaks with scattered jigsaw puzzle pieces – the filmmaker leaves no stone unturned, interviewing everyone from the cousin who swears the baby was alive and in good shape to the widow of the man that impregnated Peggy.  Everyone has their own opinion and somehow they all make sense.  Until they don’t.

Again, as a child of adoption I pay close attention to how the children are portrayed.  I found it incredulous that the convict daughter blames her being adopted for her drug issues, saying that all adopted children crave their real mother and unconditional love.  Bullshit!  I never for one moment doubted my adopted parents’ love.  When I attempted to find my birth family – with my adopted parents’ knowledge and approval – I did so not out of a sense of something missing but more out of curiosity, especially as I was getting to an age where the doctors would constantly ask me if there was a history of “insert a disease here” in my family.  I was 45 when I found them – I just turned 60 – and thought I love them all – I found 6 brothers and 4 sisters – I don’t love my adopted parents any less. 

“Where She Lies” is now available on all major Video On Demand platforms.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Announces Tenet for Blu-ray & DVD

ARRIVING ON 4K UHD BLU- RAY™ COMBO PACK, BLU-RAY™, DVD AND DIGITAL FROM WARNER BROS. HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Burbank, CA, November 5 – “Tenet,” the must-see motion picture event, playing now on the big screen wherever theatres are open, will arrive on 4K, Blu Ray, DVD and Digital on December 15 in time for the holidays. Written, directed and produced by acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan (“Inception,” “Dunkirk”), “Tenet” opened globally beginning in August 2020 and has grossed $350 million to date, with the much-anticipated theatrical openings in the major markets of New York and Los Angeles still to come. “Tenet” will be available to preorder from digital and physical retailers beginning November 10.

“Tenet” features an international ensemble cast led by John David Washington (“BlacKkKlansman,” TV’s “Ballers”) as the Protagonist.  The film also stars Robert Pattinson (the “Twilight” films, “The Lighthouse,” upcoming “The Batman”), Elizabeth Debicki (“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “The Great Gatsby”), Dimple Kapadia (“Angrezi Medium”), Martin Donovan (“Ant-Man,” “Fahrenheit 451”), Fiona Dourif (“Cult of Chucky”), Yuri Kolokolnikov (“The Hitman’s Bodyguard”), Himesh Patel (“Yesterday”), Clémence Poésy (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“The Avengers: Age of Ultron”), with Michael Caine (“Inception,” “The Cider House Rules,” “The Dark Knight”) and Kenneth Branagh (“Dunkirk,” “Murder on the Orient Express”).

The film was produced by Emma Thomas and Nolan. Thomas Hayslip served as executive producer. 

Nolan’s behind-the-scenes creative team included director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema, production designer Nathan Crowley, editor Jennifer Lame, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland, visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson and special effects supervisor Scott Fisher. The score is composed by Ludwig Göransson.

SYNOPSIS

Armed with only one word—Tenet—and fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist (John David Washington) journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time. Not time travel. Inversion.

4K AND BLU-RAY AND DVD ELEMENTS

“Tenet” 4K UHD Combo Pack and Blu-ray contain the following special features:

  • Looking at the World in a New Way: The Making of “Tenet” – An hour-long exploration of the development and production of the film as told by the cast and crew.

BASICS

PRODUCT                                                                             SRP

4K UHD Combo Pack                                                              $44.95

Blu-ray                                                                                    $35.99

DVD                                                                                        $28.98

4K, Blu-ray, DVD and EST Street Date: December 15, 2020

Preorder date: November 10

DVD Languages: English, Latin Spanish, English-ADS, Canadian French

BD Languages: English, Latin Spanish, Canadian French, English-ADS, Brazilian Portuguese

DVD Subtitles: English SDH, Latin Spanish, Parisian French

BD Subtitles: English, Latin Spanish, Parisian French, Brazilian Portuguese

Running Time: 151 minutes

Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some suggestive references and brief strong language.

THE CREDITS

About Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Inc.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) brings together Warner Bros. Entertainment’s home video, digital distribution and interactive entertainment businesses in order to maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios. An industry leader since its inception, WBHE oversees the global distribution of content through packaged goods (Blu-ray Disc™ and DVD) and digital media in the form of electronic sell-through and video-on-demand via cable, satellite, online and mobile channels, and is a significant developer and publisher for console and online video game titles worldwide. WBHE distributes its product through third party retail partners and licensees.

Film Review: “Let Him Go”

  • LET HIM GO
  • Starring:  Diane Lane, Kevin Costner and Lesley Manville
  • Directed by: Thomas Bezucha
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 54 mins
  • Focus Features

In the beautiful countryside of Wyoming a baby is being bathed.  He’s one of those cute, chunky Michelin-man babies…the kind you just want to squeeze.  He is surrounded by his parents and his grandparents, George and Martha Blackledge.  It’s another good day in a great life.  Fast forward three years and things aren’t so great.  His father has died in an accident and his mother, Lorna (Kayli Carter), is remarrying.  Grandma (Lane) and Grandpa (Costner) say their goodbyes as the new family moves into the nearby town.  But when a surprise visit reveals that the couple have moved, and taken the boy with them, the longing to reconnect with their grandchild pushes leads them on a horrific adventure.

Smartly written (by director Buzucha) and based on the novel by Larry Watson, with fine performances all around, “Let Him Go” gives a look at how far people will go to save the ones they love.  George and Martha head to Montana where we learn George was once a lawman.  They track down the new husband’s family but soon learn they are not a family to mess with.  Headed by an evil matriarch (Manville), they intend to keep the boy and raise him as they see fit, discounting the fact that the boy’s father was George and Martha’s son.  Things go from bad to worse quickly when an invitation to dinner turns into a showdown.  Then they go from worse to horrific. 

It’s nice to see Costner and Lane working together again, having played Clark Kent’s parents in “Man of Steel,” and both are at the top of their game.  Manville steals the film with her performance.  Had this film been released in the 40s every time she appeared on screen the audience would have hissed at her.  The direction is smooth and the story straight ahead.  Production values are strong – this is a period piece, circa the early 60s – and the scenery (the film was shot in Alberta, Canada) is gorgeous to look at.

“Let Him Go” opens in theatres this Friday, November 6th.

Film Review: “Tremors: Shrieker Island”

NOTE: Hello readers – Mike Smith here. My apologies for the late posting of this review. It should have been posted over a week ago and I completely skipped over it.

  • TREMORS: SHRIEKER ISLAND
  • Starring: Michael Gross, Jon Heder
  • Directed by: Don Michael Paul
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Running time: 1hr 43 mins
  • Universal 1440 Entertainment


      No one could’ve predicted in 1990 that TREMORS,  a box office flop that was essentially a rip-off of JAWS about sandworms would still be birthing sequels thirty years later. Yet, here we are in 2020 with the seventh installment in the franchise and a cult following that mostly doesn’t find the need to pass judgment no matter how bad the CGI gets nor how crazy the plotlines get. That fact will remain true beyond the release of Tremors: Shrieker Island. You either celebrate Burt Gummer or you’ll never voluntarily watch this film.

     In this latest adventure with underground monsters, a billionaire hunter (Richard Brake) has begun shipping Graboids out to a private island for a group of wealthy outdoorsmen, a twisted spin on The Most Dangerous  Game. When things inevitably go wrong, Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) is once again called in to save the day.

     If you were a fan of the original Tremors and have been put off by the direct to video vibes the franchise have given, I may suggest now is the time to return for maximum time investment payoff. Although missing still are the charming practical effects of earlier installments, Shrieker Island is a hard divergence from the lighter atmosphere of Burt’s more recent battles with these monsters.

      Frequently referential of Jurassic Park and Predator and, I can’t believe I’m writing this, Jaws: The Revenge… Shrieker Island borrows the dark bits and pieces of a lot of familiars and delivers a solidly entertaining adventure. Yes, you’ll need to suspend disbelief. Yes, this might be senseless cash grab. No, you’re not getting any side character development.  Yes, Burt Gummer is still one of the greatest heroes ever and so no, you won’t care about any of the above. 

 The Tremors universe has gifted us with a bevy of wild creatures beyond the 1990 film’s original Graboid.  Here you’ll get the biggest and messiest of them, with more modifications and maybe a score to settle?  While his casting announcement initially prompted eye rolls from many, “Napoleon Dynamite” star Jon Heder aides in grooming a surprisingly nice dynamic alongside Michael Gross who is as outrageous as ever and, sometimes, surprisingly emotional. 

Tremors: Shrieker Island will be available on Digital, Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand on October 20th 2020.

Film Review: “Synchronic”

Starring: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan and Katie Aselton
Directed by: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
Rated: R
Running Time: 103 minutes
Well Go USA Entertainment

Unfortunately I’ve known too many people who’ve taken hallucinogens and claim that it has altered their perceptions and opened their minds to the world. Having never done hard drugs like DMT, I can’t speak to whether or not they did view some other worldly, but I feel like those who’ve known people who’ve taken drugs like peyote or acid can attest to the fact that habitual use or people who’ve tried multiple times will talk your ear off about how it’s revealed the world around them. There’s even a scientific community that believes hallucinogens had a hand in helping early man evolve into homosapiens. Regardless, what if that other worldly visit was real?

Steve (Mackie) and Dennis (Dornan) are New Orleans paramedics, who’ve dealt with a lot of bizarre overdoses. First off, the drug is unrecognizable and the packaging simply states ‘Synchronic.’ Secondly, some of these overdose crime scenes are unusual. One crime scene in particular left behind a message sprawled on the wall which stated, ‘Time is a lie.’ Dennis, a happily married father, doesn’t stray too much into what’s going on, but Steve wants to pry. That prying is because Steve has a terminal diagnosis, no family, and a lot of one-night stands who offer no comfort.

I won’t reveal too much about the crux of the film, the drug, because I feel like it’s a decent reveal, even though the film really spoon feeds the details so you should be able to realize what’s going on fairly early. While this would sink most films, “Synchronic” thrives because of it’s personal stories, the atmosphere it crafts and being a unique, fun genre blend. It finds a way to be an emotional buddy film, a sprawling sci-fi, and at times, a tense thriller. While I haven’t seen the previous films made by directors Benson and Moorhead, I might have to with how well crafted “Synchronic” is.

“Synchronic” doesn’t reinvent any sci-fi wheel, but it keeps you engaged and manages to pull off a few tricks along the way. Another key ingredient to the film’s entertainment is cleverly explaining everything, without explaining to the point where they create their own plothole. The intricacies of the sci-fi and humans on screen are taken care of so-well, you’re bound to forget and ignore most of the film’s flaws. 

Blu-ray Review: “Back to the Future – the Ultimate Trilogy”

In the summer of 1985 a film made it’s way to theatres rather unexpectedly. I was a theatre manager when “Back to the Future” opened up and the two things I remember best about the film was that it was released earlier than planned (I have buttons announcing the film opening on July 19th. However, with nothing to show in theatres during the coveted Fourth of July period, Universal dropped it on July 3rd) and that, when the film was over, the credit card read THE END. Not exactly. “Back to the Future” would go on to spawn two sequels and a legion of fans and I couldn’t think of a better day than today, October 21 – the day Marty goes back in time – to rave about the new Blu-ray release of “Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy!”

The story in a nutshell: Marty McFly is a “slacker” who loves playing guitar and riding his skateboard. His friendship with Doc Brown ends up sending him back in time to 1955, where he meets the young boy and girl who will become his parents. Hijinks ensue. In BTTF II Marty and Doc actually go into the future – JAWS 19 anyone – and back. Part III takes them to the old West. But no matter what century they’re in, the story is top notch and the two characters beloved.

But Mike, you’re saying, I already have these films on Blu-ray. Why should I get the Ultimate Trilogy? Besides the amazing video and audio, there are a lot of bonus goodies carried over from the 30th Anniversary Edition but you can now watch these new amazing extras:

A tour of the “Back to the Future” exhibit at the Hollywood Museum

A three-part feature that takes you behind the scenes on “Back to the Future: The Musical,” with a couple of music videos from the show.

Audition tapes of other actors considered for the film, including C. Thomas Howell and Ben Stiller reading for Marty McFly, Kyra Sedgwick autidioning for Jennifer Parker and Billy Zane and Peter DeLuise auditioning for Biff (Zane would make the film as a member of Biff’s gang).

All this and great extras on all three films, including Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Commentaries and much more. Sadly, no Eric Stoltz footage, though when I interviewed Bob Gale (one of the writers/producers) he told me they haven’t released the footage because they felt it would reflect badly on Stoltz. There are plenty of photos of Stoltz on the set but the only footage I’ve ever seen is a quick shot of him walking across the street. However, if you’re sharp eyed, you’ll see that it is Stoltz’s hand that punches Biff in the soda shop. Look even closer and you’ll see it’s clearly the side of Stoltz’s head. I wonder if he gets residuals.

Film Review: “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”

  • BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM:  DELIVERY OF PRODIGIOUBRIBE TO AMERICAN REGIME FOR MAKE BENEFIT ONCE GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN  (whew!) 
  • Starring:  Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova and Rudy Giuliani
  • Directed by: Jason Woliner
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 35 mins
  • AMAZON Studios

2006 was definitely the year of BORAT.  The film, featuring the amazing Sacha Baron Cohen as a foreign journalist sent to America to report on what the country is like, was like nothing ever seen before.  As the presumed “fish out of water” Borat was invited into some very unusual places in our society, sadly (for those caught on camera) revealing the darker, prejudiced side of America.  The questions is:  could he (and, more importantly) should he try it again?

We find Borat (Cohen) doing hard labor, his punishment for having embarrassed his beloved country of Kasakhstan.  However, many things have changed since Borat’s last trip.  There is a new “premier” in charge of America.  One that has the ability of making friends with presumed enemies.  Borat is given his freedom if he will agree to take the country’s most famous celebrity, Johnny the Monkey, to the states and offer him as a bribe to President Trump.  Borat agrees but a wrench is thrown into his plans when, after opening the crate that was supposed to contain Johnny the Money he instead finds his long neglected 15 year old daughter (Bakalova) who claims that Johnny sadly ate himself during the voyage.  The girl has spent many years in her cage watching the animated fairy tale of the refugee woman Melania, who is now a princess.  Deciding to offer his daughter to Trump, Borat begins his journey.  And the hijinks begin!

You would think that EVERYONE in America would recognize Cohen/Borat as he makes his way across the country.  In 2006 you couldn’t go anywhere without anyone mimicking “That nice,” his best known catch-phrase.  And, in the beginning, that is true.  People stop him on the street stop him or try to high five him.  Which means Borat must disguise himself in order to set his plans in motion.  Along the way he learns about Qanon, spends some time with some good old boys – during their time together they write a song about Barack Obama with the chorus “Inject him with the Wuhan Flu” – and infiltrates a conference where Vice President Mike Pence is the featured speaker.  And then there’s Rudy Giuliani.  More about him later. 

  The film also has a sub-plot, where Borat’s daughter, who he introduces as Sandra Jessica Parker Drummond, is taught how to be a lady in our society.  She also is encouraged to get breast implants and constantly refers to a Kazakhstanian “handbook” that informs her of life’s lessons, including one that maintains her “vagine” has teeth and will eat her arm if she ever touches herself “down there.” 

Where I felt the first film was mostly spontaneous, this one is about 50/50 spontaneous and scripted.  Both versions are hilarious, though one is rather disturbing.  You may have seen the many reports detailing Rudy Giuliani’s interaction with Sandra Jessica Parker Drummond, who poses as a journalist (her life dream) and somehow finagles an interview with the former NYC mayor.  If you’ve seen Cohen’s work as Ali G or in various guises on his Showtime show “Who is America,” you know that there will be some questions asked to which the interviewer will reveal his ill-suited answers.  However, things go from whacky to creepy when Giuliani becomes overly friendly with the girl.  That’s all I’m going to say here.  I don’t want to spoil the “big reveal” but I will say that the first thing I asked Alexa after the film was “is Rudy Giuliani married?”

At this time in history the entire world can use a good laugh.  And there are plenty to go around here.  And, with the US Presidential Election less than three weeks away, a lot of food for thought.

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” – the truncated title – premieres October 23 exclusively on Amazon Prime Video. 

Film Review: “Friendsgiving”

Starring: Malin Akerman, Kat Dennings and Christine Taylor
Directed by: Nicol Paone
Rated: R
Running Time: 95 minutes
Saban Films

Holiday ensemble comedies conjure up bad memories, like “New Year’s Eve” or “Mother’s Day”. However, slapping together a holiday film for the latest, and possibly greatest, holiday feels like a step in the right direction. If you haven’t heard of Friendsgiving or participated in Friendsgiving, you may be missing out on the best holiday invention of the 21st century. As for the movie, “Friendsgiving,” it’s tougher to fully recommend.

Abby (Dennings) isn’t seeing her family for regular Thanksgiving and appears to be going all-out for an upcoming Friendsgiving, with her best friend Molly (Akerman). Abby needs an excuse to unwind and relax a bit because she’s going through a one-two punch of emotional turmoil. She recently came out of the closet and is now dealing with her first post-out of the closet break-up. That effort is undermined by Molly’s newest boy toy, a myriad of random friends that show up for the event, and a lot of unspoken conflicts. Just like a Friendsgiving turkey, this movie becomes stuffed, but not in a good way.

The list of characters that arrive are too numerous to keep track of, especially when half of them don’t really add much to the overall plot or narrative. It seems like some are brought in for some simple one off jokes or to bring a new drug for our two main characters to partake in. I wouldn’t say this movie is bad though, it’s just not a memorable comedy. Some of the jokes fall about as flat as the flaccid penises they’re making fun of, and some of the humor is about as clever as the ones I told in middle school. But there’s something genuinely entertaining about a cast that really dedicates 100% of its talent to the script.

Honestly, if this was a low budget film with a bunch of no-names, I’d be more inclined to not recommend this film at all. But there is something delightfully juvenile about everyone really putting forth their best efforts. It does come into play when the movie needs to get emotional, as all of these holiday themed films end up doing. The earnest attempt at humor really kicks in when a trio of Fairy Gay Mothers arrive to talk with Abby towards the latter part of the film. I only mention that simply because it was one of my favorite parts.

“Friendsgiving” is a movie I can’t really recommend or tell people to stay away from. I can genuinely say that opinion isn’t a cop out. This kind of film is in the same vein as “Bachelorette” or “Rough Night,” where the comedy isn’t memorable, the story isn’t clever, but damn it if the cast and crew did such an admirable job, I found myself smiling and forgetting about the pandemic world around me. In some ways, that’s what a good real-world Friendsgiving is, forgetting about ones problems and just enjoying some good company, food and fun. “Friendsgiving” didn’t offer any food, but two out of three ain’t bad. Since I can’t make a recommendation, watch at your own risk and you may find “Friendsgiving” rewarding.

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