Film Review – “Halloween”

 

HALLOWEEN

Starring:  Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer and Will Patton
Directed by:  David Gordon Green
Rated:  R
Running time:  1 hr 46 mins
Universal

 

There are a handful of films that can be pointed to and described as “game changing” in Hollywood history.  “Citizen Kane” broke all the rules as to how a film is made.  “Jaws” gave us the summer blockbuster.  “Star Wars” ensured that sci-fi fans would always have a voice.  And where do you start when you talk about the Marvel Cinematic Universe?  In 1978, another film arrived and changed the face of the horror genre’ forever.  That film was “Halloween.”

We “meet” Michael Myers as an adult, standing alone in a squared-in area of a state-run mental institution.  He is being visited by a film crew working on solving a mystery:  why did 6-year old Michael stab his sister to death on Halloween night, 1963 and why, after escaping from captivity, did he return to his hometown 15 years later and kill again?

One thing to note here for fans of the series, or just those that are interested.  Despite a plethora of “sequels” to the 1978 original, they are treated here as non-existent, making THIS film a continuation of the original.  And I’ll say here that the film, with some tongue in cheek references to other films, works well.  The scares are legit and the performances, led by the amazing Jamie Lee Curtis, are well delivered.

I was surprised to learn that this film was co-written by the always funny Danny McBride.  Good job.  The script is solid, with some nice set-ups inter-spliced with some emotional family moments between Curtis’ Laurie Strode and her estranged daughter and granddaughter.  But you go to these films to see the boogeyman get his comeuppance.  So, what are you waiting for?

Film Review: “Beautiful Boy”

BEAUTIFUL BOY
Starring: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Amy Ryan, Maura Tierney
Directed by: Felix Groeningen
Rated: R
Running Time:  2 Hours
Amazon Studios

Felix Van Groeningen spins a pair of true life father and son memoirs about the latter’s struggle with drug addiction into two really touching turns from both Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet in Beautiful Boy. The film opens in limited release today and despite some heavy-handed technical choices, succeeds on the authenticity of Carell and Chalamet’s performances.

Steve Carell is instantly sympathetic as David Sheff, who we meet in the midst of his son Nic being missing for a few days—a not unusual occurrence as it turns out. I was relieved when early on his wife (Maura Tierney, bringing a lot to a smaller role) gave him a hug because you can just read on his face such a high level of fragility. He’s worn down by Nic’s habits and tired but also terrified and barely holding it together, he needs that hug! Meanwhile Chalamet suppresses any temptation to overact Nic’s drug addled tics. Instead he keeps all the manic energy behind his eyes and in his slightly unbalanced physicality. Some of the strongest scenes come when Nic is desperately trying to deny that he’s relapsed to get money from an unbelieving David. The film’s greatest strength is resisting the temptation to come down hard on either side of this struggle. “Relapse is part of recovery” becomes David’s mantra when Nic disappoints but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong when he needs to refuse Nic for his own sake. At these moments Carell is almost painfully affecting (frankly, I wanted to hug him too) and I felt my heart racing at times when he, understandably, has to snap and really argue with Chalamet.

There are number of choices Van Groeningen makes however that jar you right out of the story in drastic ways. The music over the opening of the film when we’re introduced to Dave and young Nic’s relationship is so overwrought I felt as though we’d dove right into the climax instead of the titles. These heavy-handed musical interludes occur over and over either in instrumental or lyrical form but I only felt emotionally touched—because how can you not be?—by the titular John Lennon tune which Carrell sweetly sings to young Nic as he tucks him in.

And while I’m discussing Young Nic, besides Chalamet—who, at most is meant to play Nic in his twenties—not just one, but three other boys are deployed to play a younger Nic in flashbacks. It’s distracting not only for the quantity of actors but because the first young Nic is none other than It‘s Jack Dylan Glazer. Glazer himself is fast becoming as recognizable A Name as Chalamet, so when he also gets replaced by still younger models it starts not to feel like the same character. More like props for David. The film is a vital story for a time when America is seeing an epidemic of young people overdosing but in these odd choices, the film gets in the way of itself. When it backs off and let’s the actors take control, A Beautiful Boy shines.

Positron’s Voyager VR Chair Takes Off with First Man

Positron CEO Jeffrey Travis

It’s safe to say I will try anything when it comes to new theatrical experiences. I’ve always loved Lincoln Square’s IMAX screenings, I’ve seen entire Broadway plays done in binaural audio (that’s “3D” sound) and even shelled out extra ticket money to see a favorite film in 4DX once or twice. So I was excited to try out Positron’s Voyager Chair, a VR experience which is being deployed to several theater celebrating the release of Universal’s First Man. Guests heading out to several AMC locations across the nation have not only the chance to just see the Damian Chazelle film, which is released on October 12th, but to take a small excursion to the moon themselves.

I got to try out the Voyager chair on Tuesday both with the First Man VR experience as well as a seasonally-appropriate horror short called “Night Night” and was really impressed with the level of immersion, from the spatial audio to truly being able to look in all directions within my headset. My First Man mission even had an animated co-pilot! Best of all, the Voyager chair itself, whose design looks straight out of Men In Black, was actually pretty comfortable and even after these two shorts I felt no sort of motion sickness, which I was wary of considering 3D films can give me a headache.

Positron’s CEO Jeffrey Travis was in New York this week with the Voyager to talk about the potential that this technology presents to cinematic VR experiences.

Lauren Damon: Was this pod created just for First Man?

Jeffrey Travis: No, we created this to be a platform for cinematic VR in general. So the first kind of wider public experience was we did The Mummy with Universal. So we’ve done three experiences with Universal–The Mummy, Jurassic World and First Man. It was all really cool. But there’s a lot of other studios and places that we use these with. The idea is to create ultimately VR cinemas.

LD: Is the goal here to get whole theaters of these?

JT: Yeah! So we can do theaters with this. Mini ones of twos or threes and we actually set that up here at Pod hotels here in Brooklyn. It’s open to the public. We have pairs of chairs at AMC theaters here in New York at Lincoln Square, San Francisco, DC, LA, but eventually we’re going to be putting this in permanent installations and creating VR theaters of 30-40 chairs and people could buy a ticket and come for an experience that’s either like something of what you’ve just experienced or longer. Somewhere from a half hour to an hour.

LD: Yeah because how long can you view it without feeling it too much?

JT: Yeah we talk about that. I think the ideal length is about half an hour for cinematic VR. I think longer than that, the headsets can get a little heavy on some people. But those are being made by companies like Facebook and Samsung and Microsoft and HP and they’re getting better all the time. So I think we will be able to have 90 minute VR experiences. But right now a half hour feels like a very full meal.

LD: What would the price point be in terms of ticketing?

JT: So probably around—it depends on experience—but probably averaging around $30.

LD: That price is actually similar to they have those “4D[x]” theaters here, what are your thoughts on those?

JT: We do get asked about that. I think it’s still fundamentally different. You know, to me the 4D movie theater, you’re adding some sensory effects that compliment the 2D screen experience. Which is fine and good, but what we’re trying to do here is really bring VR to where you forget about the screen, you even forget about the motion…So it’s almost like you don’t notice it’s happening. You should just feel like you’re actually in the story. That’s kind of the goal, not just a little enhancement but something that’s integrated.

LD: How much testing goes into something like this? How much time does it take to produce?

JT: It really depends on the piece but it goes through a lot of testing. Several months. This next piece that we’re working on is called “Shady Friend,” a VR comedy starring Weird Al Yankovic. It’s a psychedelic comedy that uses scent as well and it’s about a guy that accidentally takes this latest designer drug and goes on this crazy LSD trip. So we’re using motion, haptics and scent and it’s in post-production right now, we shot in July, and it will probably be ready by January. About six months.

LD: When did you start working on this particular First Man experience?

JT: First Man, so that was produced by Ryot and CreateVR and they started actually just two months ago. It was a very accelerated schedule. Which is a little more unusual.

LD: Was all that footage created for this VR?

JT: So obviously the stuff you’re seeing in Mission Control and on the screens is from the film, but then everything else for the VR experience had to be created from scratch. The films assets are mostly 2D and we needed to create these 3D volumetric environments like the moon.

LD: Are you going to get Ryan Gosling to try this out?

JT: I hope so! We had them at the premiere of First Man in the space there. So he was there, I didn’t get a word whether he did it or not. I know the producers of First Man got in there.

LD: There’s definitely a push to add more to theaters considering how much is available for home streaming, do you see this as adding to that?

JT: That’s the idea. I think that movies are certainly in the US and North America, struggling with people going to the box office because they’d often rather stay at home and stream on Netflix. So I think part if the appeal for this is that hey, this is an experience you really can’t get at home. At least not yet. And this brings people out to the movies or at least out to our locations and experiences.

LD: What other films will be having similar tie-in experiences like this?

JT: I mean there’s some coming we can’t really talk about, because they’re not really announced yet. But we’re working working with several other studios besides Universal on some titles and we’ll be announcing as we can.

Positron’s Voyager Chair is offering First Man experiences through October 14th at AMC Theaters in NY’s Lincoln Square, DC’s Georgetown 14, San Francisco’s Metreon 16 and LA’s Universal Citywalk locations

Film Review: “Blaze”

BLAZE
Starring: Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat
Directed by: Ethan Hawke
Rated: R
Running Time:  2 hrs 9 mins
IFC
 
Having grown up listening to the music of country artists like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, etc., I was surprised I had never heard of Blaze Foley (1949-89). After watching the biopic of the obscure yet influential Austin-based singer/songwriter, I felt saddened that he did not realize the full potential of his artistry. “Blaze” is a tragic tale that flows like a sad country song with little in the way of silver linings. Based upon the 2008 memoir “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze” by Foley’s ex-wife Sybil Rosen, “Blaze” features a powerful breakthrough performance by musician Ben Dickey in an emotionally complex role. Unfortunately, writer/director Ethan Hawke’s endeavor is so draggy at times that it makes a meandering creek look like a raging river.
 
Hawke bravely chose to tell his tale from three different time lines – sometime after the death of Foley within the confines of a radio booth interview; the night of Foley’s death; and the beginnings of his life as an artist when he meets Rosen (Alia Shawkat, “The To Do List”). The interview portion is entertaining as we watch Hawke, who never exposes his face, interview Foley’s friends – singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt (Charlie Sexton), who had his own demons to deal with, and Zee (Josh Hamilton). Van Zandt embellishes to the point where you don’t know if he is telling the truth or creating the lyrics to another lonely country song.
 
The portions involving the night of Foley’s death are rather lackluster. Of course, some of the edge is taken off because we know what’s coming, but Hawke fails to make us feel like we are dancing along a razor. It plays more like a Hank Williams, Jr. tune that never made the final cut in the editing room. Dickey still manages to be a steady presence on the silver screen, but it’s the story of his innocent beginnings with Rosen that truly grab our attention and leave the most lasting impression.
 
Much of the story’s focus, and rightfully so since Hawke heavily used the real Rosen’s novel, is on the years when Foley and Rosen met, and lived for a time in a tree house. Dickey towers in these sentimental scenes like a seasoned veteran of the acting craft. While he sometimes forgets to maintain the limp Foley had, Dickey appears to capture the man’s essence with breathless ease. He hits every note with perfection as he portrays a man who fell hard from carefree joy and blossoming artistry into a dark haze of alcohol and drugs that cost him everything – love, career and life.
 
“Blaze” is a tragic story, yet if you subtract Dickey from the equation it feels stuck in neutral while cameos by a pair of stars, one a recent Oscar winner, feel contrived and over the top. Overall, it’s a story that could have used a lot tightening up and more cohesivity. Otherwise, Hawke’s effort falls short of his other tragic-musician tale in the form of 2015’s fantastic “Born to Be Blue.”
 
Having grown up listening to the music of country artists like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, etc., I was surprised I had never heard of Blaze Foley (1949-89). After watching the biopic of the obscure yet influential Austin-based singer/songwriter, I felt saddened that he did not realize the full potential of his artistry. “Blaze” is a tragic tale that flows like a sad country song with little in the way of silver linings. Based upon the 2008 memoir “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze” by Foley’s ex-wife Sybil Rosen, “Blaze” features a powerful breakthrough performance by musician Ben Dickey in an emotionally complex role. Unfortunately, writer/director Ethan Hawke’s endeavor is so draggy at times that it makes a meandering creek look like a raging river.
 
Hawke bravely chose to tell his tale from three different time lines – sometime after the death of Foley within the confines of a radio booth interview; the night of Foley’s death; and the beginnings of his life as an artist when he meets Rosen (Alia Shawkat, “The To Do List”). The interview portion is entertaining as we watch Hawke, who never exposes his face, interview Foley’s friends – singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt (Charlie Sexton), who had his own demons to deal with, and Zee (Josh Hamilton). Van Zandt embellishes to the point where you don’t know if he is telling the truth or creating the lyrics to another lonely country song.
 
The portions involving the night of Foley’s death are rather lackluster. Of course, some of the edge is taken off because we know what’s coming, but Hawke fails to make us feel like we are dancing along a razor. It plays more like a Hank Williams, Jr. tune that never made the final cut in the editing room. Dickey still manages to be a steady presence on the silver screen, but it’s the story of his innocent beginnings with Rosen that truly grab our attention and leave the most lasting impression.
 
Much of the story’s focus, and rightfully so since Hawke heavily used the real Rosen’s novel, is on the years when Foley and Rosen met, and lived for a time in a tree house. Dickey towers in these sentimental scenes like a seasoned veteran of the acting craft. While he sometimes forgets to maintain the limp Foley had, Dickey appears to capture the man’s essence with breathless ease. He hits every note with perfection as he portrays a man who fell hard from carefree joy and blossoming artistry into a dark haze of alcohol and drugs that cost him everything – love, career and life.
 
“Blaze” is a tragic story, yet if you subtract Dickey from the equation it feels stuck in neutral while cameos by a pair of stars, one a recent Oscar winner, feel contrived and over the top. Overall, it’s a story that could have used a lot tightening up and more cohesivity. Otherwise, Hawke’s effort falls short of his other tragic-musician tale in the form of 2015’s fantastic “Born to Be Blue.”

Blu-ray Review “Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection”

Actors: Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains and Elsa Lanchester
Number of discs: 24
Rated: NR
Studio: Universal Studios Home EntertainmentRelease Date: August 28, 2018
Run Time: 2764 minutes

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

As a kid, I grew up loving and also fearing the classic Universal Monsters. I used to be terrified going to Universal Studios Horror Make-Up Show as a kid cause I would see these terrifying creatures and monsters. Just fell in love. Universal Home Entertainment is making horror fans biggest dream come true bringing all these wonderful films together in “Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection”, available now. The thing that I am more excited about is that I will be able to share these great films with my daughter as she is growing up and continue the wonderful legacy that these films that brought and influenced over the decades! This is the first time ever that these film’s have been available together on Blu-ray.

The Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection includes Dracula (1931), (1931 Spanish Version of Dracula included as extra feature), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Werewolf of London (1935), Dracula’s Daughter (1936), Son of Frankenstein (1939). The Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Invisible Woman (1940), The Mummy’s Hand (1940), The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), The Mummy’s Ghost (1942), The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), Invisible Agent (1942), Phantom of the Opera (1943), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), Son of Dracula (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), The Mummy’s Curse (1944), The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944), House of Dracula (1945), She-Wolf of London (1946), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956) wraps it up, WHEW!

In the time we live in together were we have films like “Saw” or “The Purge” posing as horror films, it is great to be able to showcase the ORIGINAL most iconic monsters in motion picture history including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera and Creature from the Black Lagoon. This collection features the each of their films which stared some of the most legendary actors including Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains and Elsa Lanchester. These are characters that we can not let disappear they pioneered the horror genre with their with groundbreaking stories and productions.

First time ever hitting Blu-ray are the following films: The Invisible Man Returns, The Invisible Woman, Invisible Agent, The Invisible Man’s Revenge, Revenge of the Creature (first time also in 3D) and The Creature Walks Among Us. I should mention that Revenge of the Creature isn’t even available on the included set at the time of receiving. Universal has already setup a replacement program to receive a corrected Blu-ray disc featuring the 3D version of Revenge of the Creature and 2D version of The Creature Walks Among Us. Hopefully that is correct in future wave of this release. To receive an updated disc, please email USHEConsumerRelations@visionmediamgmt.com.

To think that some of these films are nearly 90 years old! YES nearly 90! These films simply look amazing. I am not a film specialist but when you are watching these films on Blu-rays, the 1080p transfers are simply amazing. You can see all the fine detail that went into these wonderful productions. Top it off with beautiful scores from each of these films. Music drove these films and it added suspense, which is nothing like we have today. These films are still scary with their DTS-HD Master Audio Mono tracks. Simply beautiful and makes me really miss these types of scores.

The bonus feature in this set are literally jam-packed with great extras. There are great behind-the-scenes documentaries and great featurettes focusing on these legends like Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Jack Pierce. If you are a commentary buff like myself you will be happy to hear that their are 13 feature commentaries with film experts. Lastly there are tons of great archival footage, photos and trailers. I think this giant box set has more content that I can even watch. Additionally this also includes a 48-page collectible book filled with behind-the-scenes stories and rare production photographs. Seriously, just a must have for any horror fans!

“Back to the Future” heading to Omaha!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long time readers know that our friend, film historian Bruce Crawford, loves to bring classic movies back to the big screen.  Since I’ve known him, Bruce has presented such films as “Jaws,” “Young Frankenstein,” “The Great Escape” and “American Graffiti,” among others, to packed theatres in Omaha.    On Friday, November 9, 2018, he’s doing it again.

“Back to the Future,” one of the most beloved films of all time, will be shown that evening at the Joslyn Art Museum, located at 2200 Dodge Street, in Omaha.  Of course, like all of Bruce’s presentations, you get much more than a movie.  Bob Gale, the co-creator (with Robert Zemeckis) of the BTTF Trilogy, will be on hand to participate in a Q&A before the screening and a meet-and-greet autograph session with fans after the show.  Joining Mr. Gale is actor Harry Walters, Jr., who played musician Marvin Berry (Chuck’s cousin) in the film.

 

Tickets to the event are now on sale for $24 each and can be purchased at the customer service counters of all Omaha-area Hy Vee food stores.  Proceeds from the event will benefit the Nebraska Kidney Association.

For more information, you can call (402) 830-2121 or (308) 830-2121.  You can also click HERE.

 

To read my 30th Anniversary Interview with Bob Gale, click HERE.

DVD Review “PAW Patrol: Halloween Heroes”

PAW Patrol: Halloween Heroes
Street Date: September 11, 2018
Catalog: 59198274000 (US)
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Audio: English 5.1 and Spanish Stereo
S.R.P.: $10.99

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

It’s that time of the year! Halloween season is here, which is easily my favorite time of the year! The latest PAW Patrol DVD collection is jam packed with spooktacular adventures from the hit Nickelodeon series. I love the spooky episodes of “PAW Patrol” and this new collection of seven episodes are a must have for any fan of the show. There is even a super ghoul double-length special episode! This is a perfect collection of episodes to get you in the Halloween mood!

“PAW Patrol: Halloween Heroes” includes the following episodes: “Pups and the Ghost Pirate”, “Pups Save a Ghost”, “Pups and the Ghost Cabin”, “Pups Save a Bat”, “Pups Fall Festival”, “Pups Save the Corn Roast” and “Pups Save a Show”. I have SO MANY memories of my daughter and I watching “Pups Save a Ghost” I knew when she was little this episode used to scared her and yet she still watched it (proud horror fan daddy). These episodes are fun and yet still convey a good message for kids.

Film Review: “A Star is Born”

A STAR IS BORN
Starring:  Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper and Andrew Dice Clay
Directed by:  Bradley Cooper
Rated:  R
Running time:  2 hrs 15 mins
Warner Bros.

To quote “Beauty and the Beast,” it’s a tale as old as time.  Big star on the way down meets rising star on the way up.  They fall in love.  One embarrasses the other and their love is tested.  The tale is so old that it’s already been told, very well, three times before.  But the fourth time may be the best!

Jackson Maine (Cooper) is a popular singer who has lived his life on the road.  Once enjoying his time on stage, now he gets by with alcohol and drugs, showing up, plugging in then hurrying off-stage to the seclusion of his limo.  One night, while looking for a place to stop, he ends up at a drag club, where he gets the chance to listen to a young woman named Ally (Lady Gaga – I was just going to put “Gaga” but I’m not sure how the first name/last name thing works here.  I guess I could have put “Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta” but that would probably confuse you even more.  Ally does an old Edith Piaf song and soon Jackson is mesmerized by her voice.  He invites her out with him, where they buy some beer and talk about music.  When he drops her off at home she figures that’s the last time she will see him.  It isn’t.

A familiar story with enough new twists and turns to keep it fresh, “A Star Is Born” is a triumph.  Much of this praise must go to my rival Bradley Cooper.  (I know my wife loves me, but if Bradley Cooper came knocking I would be just a memory J).  As a first time director, especially in a film starring himself, there is an opportunity to make everything BIG and LOUD and, worse of all, put yourself front and center.  Cooper directs with a restraint that is almost unheard of with newbies.  He frames the story almost as if he’s shooting a documentary, and that close, inside look draws you into the story.  As an actor, Cooper is equally up to the task here.  His voice low and gruff (there’s a great line in the film where Sam Elliott, who plays his brother and who was also a musician, accuses Jackson of “stealing my voice”), he gives quite possibly the best performance of his career, which is saying a lot for a man who has already been nominated for the acting Oscars already in his career.

As Ally, Lady Gaga is outstanding.  We already know she can sing.  I haven’t heard a lot of her songs but I still include the night she showed up at the Academy Awards and sang “The Sound of Music” as one of my favorite all-time Oscar moments.  Not only is she in great voice, she has incredible acting chops.  Both the 1937 and 1954 versions of the film earned Oscar nominations for its stars.  The 1976 version swept the Musical Film Category and I’m predicting that both Lady Gaga and Cooper get nods for their work here.  Great supporting work from Andrew Dice Clay, Sam Elliott and Dave Chappelle make the film even more enjoyable.

The Dude Is Back in the Cult Classic “The Big Lebowski” 20th Anniversary Limited Edition Available on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack on October 16, 2018 From Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal City, California, October 2, 2018 – Get ready for a laugh in the cult-classic comedy that has captured everyone’s hearts when The Big Lebowski 20th Anniversary Limited Edition debuts for the first time ever on 4K Ultra Combo Pack that also includes Blu-ray and Digital via the digital movie app MOVIES ANYWHERE on October 16, 2018, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Fans can relive the hilariously freewheeling plot of one of the most beloved films of all-time with the twisted crime-comedy starring Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart, True Grit), John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, Argo), Julianne Moore (The Hours, Still Alice), Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Ghost World), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, Capote) and John Turturro (Barton Fink, Fading Gigolo). The Big Lebowski 20th Anniversary Limited Edition is the perfect gift for any fan and the exclusive set includes a collectible bag, bowling ball pencil holder, polishing cloth and sweater packaging offering an experience like no other to look back on the cultural phenomenon of The Dude in the “#1 cult film of all time” (The Boston Globe).

With unforgettable scenes and outrageous humor, The Big Lebowski 20th Anniversary Edition showcases hours of bonus features including retrospective documentaries, an interactive map, an in-depth look at the phenomenon known as the Lebowski Fest taking audiences deeper than ever before into the upside down world of “The Dude.”

From the Academy Award®-winning Coen brothers, The Big Lebowski is a hilariously quirky comedy about bowling, a severed toe, White Russians and a guy named…The Dude. Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski doesn’t want any drama in his life…heck, he can’t even be bothered with a job. But, he must embark on a quest with his bowling buddies after his rug is destroyed in a twisted case of mistaken identity.

BONUS FEATURES:

  • The Dude’s Life: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi and John Turturro take a look back at their performances and how their delivery of the Coen brothers’ dialog became classic movie lines.
  • The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later: A conversation with the cast about the film’s decade-long reign as a cult classic.
  • Making of The Big Lebowski
  • The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever’s Story: An in-depth look at the annual Lebowski Fest, a celebration of The Dude and his world, attended by thousands each year.
  • Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of The Dude: A look at some of the Dude’s trippiest fantasies so fans can learn for the first time how these innovative scenes were created.
  • Interactive Map: Take a tour of the locations of The Big Lebowski, then and now.
  • Jeff Bridges Photo Book: For more than 30 years, Jeff Bridges has been snapping pictures on movie sets. The accomplished photographer presents a portfolio of shots taken on the set of The Big Lebowski.
  • Photo Gallery
  • And Much More!

The Big Lebowski 20th Anniversary Edition will be available on 4K Ultra HD combo pack which includes Blu-rayTM and Digital, and Movies Anywhere.

  • 4K Ultra HD is the ultimate movie watching experience. 4K Ultra HD features the combination of 4K resolution for four times sharper picture than HD, the color brilliance of High Dynamic Range (HDR) with immersive audio delivering a multidimensional sound experience.
  • Blu-rayTM unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6X the picture resolution of DVD, exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.
  • Digital lets fans watch movies anywhere on their favorite devices. Users can instantly stream or download.
  • Movies Anywhere is the digital app that simplifies and enhances the digital movie collection and viewing experience by allowing consumers to access their favorite digital movies in one place when purchased or redeemed through participating digital retailers. Consumers can also redeem digital copy codes found in eligible Blu-rayTM and DVD disc packages from participating studios and stream or download them through Movies Anywhere. MOVIES ANYWHERE is only available in the United States. For more information, visit https://moviesanywhere.com.

4K UHD / Blu-ray Review “Skyscraper”

Actors: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Moller, Noah Taylor
Directors: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Run Time: 103 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
4K UHD: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Usually when I see anything with the Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson it immediately has my attention. But I have to admit, “Skyscraper” was never one of them. I just knew from the moment I saw the trailer that I wasn’t going to like this movie. It just seemed so generic and forgettable…and I was right. It’s basic, predictable and suffers due to that. People who are looking for a Johnson puts up 110% and it shows but this movie is just a CGI filled lame action film that I will not remember in a few months.

Official Premise: Fueled with adrenaline and high impact verticality,Skyscraperis led by superstar Dwayne Johnson who plays former FBIHostage Team leader, U.S. war veteranand amputeeWill Sawyer. While on assignment in Hong Kongas an assessor for security in skyscrapers, he comes to find the tallest and safest building in the world suddenly ablaze, and he has been framed for it. Wanted and on the run, Will must find those responsible, clear his nameand save his family who is trapped inside the building… above the fire line.

Outside of our megastar Dwayne Johnson, the film does have a solid supporting cast including Neve Campbell (“House of Cards”, “Scream” franchise), Chin Han (“The Dark Knight”), Roland Møller (“Land of Mine”), Pablo Schreiber (“American Gods”, “Orange is the New Black”) and Hannah Quinlivan (“Moon River”). The film will be available on 4K Ultra-HD combo pack which includess a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray + standard Blu-ray + Digital copy. I felt like the CGI showed through way too much in this film and it really had that sound stage feel…but the 4K transfer didn’t suffer. It is pretty solid for damn sure and it’s detailed beyond belief. I did a pause test and was blown away. They also didn’t cheap out on the soundtrack giving this film a rocking Dolby Atmos track as well as an Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track. Meh movie. Great A/V.

The special features here aren’t anything too special at all but I got to give the director credit for being very hands on. There is a solid Feature Commentary track by Director Rawson Marshall Thurber as well as some deleted and extended scenes also with commentary. There is a quick behind the scenes featurette called “Dwayne Johnson: Embodying a Hero–Go” and it shows some character development for the lead star. “Inspiration” introduces us to the real life amputee and motivational speaker Jeff Glasbrenner, the inspiration for Dwayne Johnson’s role of Will Sawyer. There are a few other featurettes including focus on the women characters in “Opposing Forces” and the stunts in “Kids in Action”. Decent but not amazing.

Film Review “Malevolence 3: Killer”

Director: Stevan Mena
Starring: Katie Gibson, Scott Decker, Adrienne Barbeau, Kelsey Deanne, Lela Edgar
Release Date: October 12th
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Mena Films

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

I have known Stevan Mena for over 15 years, dating back to his first film “Malevolence”. I had a feeling then that this guy was going to be a director to watch out for. Fast forward to today Stevan has finally been completed his planned “Malevolence” trilogy , which also included the second film, “Bereavement”, which starred Michael Biehn (“Aliens”, “Terminator”) and gave Alexandra Daddario (“Baywatch”, “Texas Chainsaw 3D”) her first big break. “Malevolence 3: Killer” has not had an easy road to getting made, including the tragic death of a major cast member which caused a big road bump. With all that being said, I was a little nervous what to expect with the third film…but holy cow was I wrong. “Malevolence 3: Killer” is easily the best in the trilogy.

I don’t think Stevan Mena has received the full credit that he deserves for these films. You can tell that he wears a lot of hats on these productions. They have no budget yet show a much higher production value. I feel like he really gets the horror genre and knows how to setup a shot for a great scare. The scares in “Malevolence 3: Killer” are so effective. Honestly, I feel like a lot of horror films these days don’t get the scares right. I always feel like they are actually afraid to make you scared and these movies waste these opportunities. Mena doesn’t disappoint and has the timing down perfectly. I would have loved to seen “Malevolence 3: Killer” in a theater. Credit should also go to the film’s fantastic score as well for helping achieve that incredible suspense.

This trilogy takes it all back to the beginning following Martin Bristol, the boy who was kidnapped 10 years ago (in the first film), but he is not the same boy anymore. After being tortured and abused by his captor, Graham Sutter (in the second film), Martin is out on a rampage now and is not able to be stopped. Special Agent William Perkins and his team try and hunt down Martin as he heads back to his hometown to brings down a wave of terror down on it. Looking back on these three films, I do feel that this one ties it all together so well. I almost even feel like you can get by with watching this one and not having seen the previous films.

Like I mentioned above with, Alexandra Daddario in “Bereavement”, Stevan Mena really has an eye for talent. This film’s lead actress Katie Gibson is a another fine example. She is a very talented actress and I see her going places! Scott Decker, who died during production, played Agent Roland and was great as well. I am sure it wasn’t an easy task to complete this film with losing one of the leads but it came together well. Horror icon, Adrienne Barbeau, shows up for a little bit as well and her cameos is a great treat for us hardcore horror fans!

Now that this trilogy is completed, I would like to see what Stevan Mena has planned next. Given that “Malevolence 3: Killer” hasn’t had an easy road to release, i really feel like it ended up being a very effective horror film with some great scares, gory kills and solid acting. Horror fans need to see this film for sure! It is our job has fans to get the word out on this film and get people to see it because I don’t think that they are going to be disappointed.

Film Review: “Night School”

Starring: Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish and Rob Riggle
Directed By: Malcolm D. Lee
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 111 minutes
Universal Pictures

It’s difficult to digest a new Kevin Hart movie without first re-evaluating where one currently stands on the stand-up comedian turned actor. My opinion on him was actually quite positive after last year. His trademark high-pitch scream and short stature served the “Jumanji” sequel/reboot well and my prior frustrations with him melted away in “Captain Underpants.” But Hart is back to his old uninteresting shenanigans in “Night School.”

Teddy (Hart) believes he needs one thing to keep his life on track, a GED. The recently engaged man has lost his BBQ grill sales job and is hard-pressed to get an ideal replacement gig because he never completed high school. His fiancée, Lisa (Megalyn Echikunwoke), is oblivious to the fact that Teddy is a high school drop out because he’s a decent liar. Despite their years of dating, he’s managed to convince her that he’s successful, and not drowning in debt or uneducated. However she did always know he sold grills for a living.

So to keep up this charade, he gets a minimum wage job, takes the bus daily after wrecking his car, and begins to attend night school. These are all things he doesn’t tell Lisa, despite their recent engagement and step forward in their relationship. Even when she does begin to suspect something is amiss; Teddy unflinchingly goes along with her suspicion that he’s getting cold feet about their marriage. If it seems like I’m focusing too much on Teddy, that’s because this movie focuses way too much on him and his night school cohorts.

It’s a really unfortunate fact, especially consider that the other star of this film is Tiffany Haddish, who plays Teddy’s night school teacher, Carrie. Haddish, who burst into the mainstream last year with “Girl’s Trip,” has some solid quips and one liners, but is relatively declawed in this film. Carrie also represents a strong female personality that fits well into the film’s mold about overcoming adversity, but there are a lot of scenes where Carrie’s persona and approach leaves a lot to be desired.

I actually wanted to like “Night School.” It began on a solid promise that Hart, Haddish, and the surrounding cast could unearth some unexpected comedy gold. There are chuckles to be had, but not enough, mainly due to the fact that “Night School” is stretched thin by its runtime and lack of comedic imagination. Even with two comedians that have more than proven to be a comedic force behind the mic and on-screen, “Night School” gets a failing grade.

Film Review: “Where Hands Touch”

 

WHERE HANDS TOUCH
Starring: Abby Cornish, Christopher Eccleston
Directed by: Amma Asante
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hrs 2 mins
Vertical Entertainment
 
The historical drama “Where Hands Touch” glances upon a subject that has been largely overlooked – the persecution of German citizens with African descent by the Nazi government. While their pre-World War II numbers were relatively small (less than 30,000), the Nazis still sought to isolate them socially and economically. They also implemented a barbaric plan of sterilization that was perpetrated against many African Germans. Much of this is brought to light in “Where Hands Touch,” but unfortunately the film, despite its’ horrifying subject matter, is often clunky and lacks the emotional impact of say a “Schindler’s List” or even “Defiance.”
 
We are introduced to Leyna (Amandla Stenberg, “The Hunger Games”), the daughter of an unnamed French African soldier and a German mother (Abbie Cornish, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Bright Star”), in the Spring of 1944 in the German Rhineland. She has recently turned 16 years old and the Gestapo, Nazi Germany’s secret state police, has taken an interest in her. Desperate to keep her daughter out of harm’s way, Leyna’s mother flees to Berlin with both her and Leyna’s younger half-brother where she mistakenly believes they can disappear.
 
Leyna’s aunt and uncle don’t want her around nor does the school she briefly attends. All the while, Leyna catches the eye of Lutz (George MacKay, “Captain Fantastic”), a teenage boy who is an active member of the Hitler Youth and whose father (Christopher Eccleston (“Doctor Who,” “Thor: The Dark World”) is an officer in the Nazi SS. As she begins to fall under increased scrutiny, Leyna and Lutz develop a romance, much to the chagrin of Leyna’s mother who warns her it will only lead to their ruin. The budding teen romance, which becomes sexual, is suddenly halted when Lutz is called up to the Russian front by increasingly desperate Nazi regime and Leyna is hauled off to a concentration camp.
 
Historically speaking, writer/director Amma Asante (“Belle,” “A Way of Life”) does a sound job of portraying the ever-looming danger African Germans had to endure. Through Leyna’s terrified eyes we also see the atrocities committed against anyone else the Nazis deemed not human, best epitomized in a shocking execution scene. However, the damage caused by the bombing of Berlin by the Allies during the winter of 1943-44 is barely reflected on camera and the concentration camp scenes misfire.
 
Cornish delivers a performance that deftly captures a mother’s desperation and Eccleston shines as a father who makes a ghastly decision. Beyond that, the acting is mediocre at best and downright clumsy at worst. It often feels like an overly long, bad stage play, with uninspiring camera work in the beginning despite Asante’s good intentions. “Where Hands Touch” is certainly a work cinema brimming with good intentions as it’s a story that should be told amidst a myriad of Holocaust-related stories which should never be forgotten. Unfortunately, the quality of work is less than average.

Film Review: “Jane Fonda in Five Acts”

 

 

JANE FONDA IN FIVE ACTS

Starring:  Jane Fonda, Robert Redford and DickCavet

Directed by:  Susan Lacy

Rated:  Not rated

Running time:  2 hrs 13 mins

HBO Films

 

Here is my Jane Fonda story.  In 2005, Ms. Fonda was in Kansas City to promote a book she had written.  I had been able to get my name on the press list in the off chance of getting a few minutes with the Oscar winning actress for a quick interview.  I can’t remember what, but something came up last minute and I was unable to attend.  Imagine my surprise the next morning when my phone began wringing.  It seems that while she was greeting people in line, a former Vietnam War veteran named MICHAEL SMITH spit tobacco juice on her.  Somehow, my name and contact info was discovered on the press list and people assumed it was me.  I received over 1,000 emails, some thanking “me” and others condemning “me.”  I even was invited to address an upcoming Marine Corps reunion in California.  After about two weeks the furor died down, but it was pretty exciting there for a while.

 

It was almost exactly 47 years ago (September 19, 1971) that President Richard Nixon, on one of his many tape recordings, asked an aide, “What in the world is wrong with Jane Fonda?”

The honest answer?  Not a damn thing!

 

“Jane Fonda in Five Acts” takes a look back at the actresses life and career, beginning when she was just known as Henry Fonda’s daughter.  Along with James Stewart, no other actor so embodied the image of the normal American male than Henry Fonda.  He was, according to his daughter, “a national monument.”  But behind that image was a man who could not express emotions unless he was in front of a camera.  Ms. Fonda is shown a photo of the family at a picnic, to which she explains that the image is staged.  The smiles forced and phony.  She can tell by the look in her mother’s face that she is not happy (Ms. Fonda’s mother dealt with many mental issues and would eventually kill herself.  She and her brother, Peter, were told she’d had a heart attack.  It wasn’t until years later, when Ms. Fonda read about it in a movie magazine, did she learn the truth).

 

As a young woman in her early 20s, she makes her way to the home of famed acting teacher Lee Strasberg.  He accepts her into his classes and, after a couple of months, puts her on the stage.  He recognizes her talents and encourages her to pursue them.  She begins to do small parts on television and in film while also modeling.  Tired of always doing the “cheerleader” roles, she heads to France, where she meets director Roger Vadim.  What follows is marriage, a child and a career changing role as the title character in “Barbarella.”

 

Back in America, she accepts a role in what she calls her first “real” movie, Sydney Pollack’s “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?<” earning her first of seven Academy Award nominations. (NOTE:  I didn’t see “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” until the mid 1980s at a tribute to Sydney Pollack.  If you haven’t seen it, I strongly suggest you do).  Just as she is being taken seriously as an actress she does two things:  cuts her hair and visits Vietnam.

Fonda, shown here with Roy Scheider, won her first Academy Award for her role in the film “Klute.”

Depending on the age of the people you speak with, Fonda is either “a great actress” or “Hanoi Jane.”  There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.  She was one of the first major celebrities to speak out against the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.  If there is any criticism now it is some of the ways she spoke out.   In the late 1980’s she apologized to the veterans and their families if her actions make things tougher for them.  A chance meeting with former vet and anti-Vietnam activist Ron Kovic gives her the idea for the film “Coming Home,” which would win her her second Oscar.

 

Now married to activist Tom Hayden, she puts together films that speak to her beliefs.  Many people scoffed at “The China Syndrome,” a film that dealt with a fictional melt-down at a nuclear power plant.  However, two weeks after the film opened there was a real incident at Three Mile Island.  Nobody was scoffing then.  In one of the most emotional moments of the documentary, Ms. Fonda talks about the only film she did with her father, “On Golden Pond.”  She recalls how, during a scene in the film, she surprised her father with a slight touch of his arm, causing the actor to cover his eyes to hide the tears welling up in them.  This would be Henry Fonda’s last film and it earned him his first Academy Award.

 

As the years progress we learn more about the actress and her life.  Needing to raise money for an organization she and her husband had founded, she produced her own workout video, which today remains the most popular home video ever made.  We follow her through her divorce from Hayden and her marriage to media mogul Ted Turner.  She speaks highly of all three of her ex-husbands.  We also meet some of her children, who explain that growing up was not all limos and mansions.  However, in the end, you end up with an amazing story of an amazing person.  At age 80, Jane Fonda is still going strong.  Here’s to act number six!

Film Review: The Sisters Brothers

THE SISTERS BROTHERS
Starring: John C Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed
Directed by Jacques Audiard
Runtime: 121mins
Rated R
Annapurna Pictures

Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers opens up with its  many company credits appearing from the bottom of the screen and appearing upwards. It’s an off-kilter way to read them but absolutely fitting when what follows is a distinctly off-kilter western. Set in 1851 during the US gold rush, Audiard’s film has all the pieces of a traditional western–the horses, the saloons, the canned beans– but through its four strong leads is able to explore so much more.

Ostensibly The Sisters Brothers is about Eli (Reilly) and Charlie (Phoenix) Sisters, a pair of assassins in the old west who are on a hit job on behalf of their wealthy client, the Commodore (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Rutger Hauer). The Commodore is after a gold seeker, Hermann Warm (Ahmed), whose chemical formula reveals gold just by pouring it into the water. A game changer for treasure hunters. Jake Gyllenhaal’s John Morris has been tailing Warm as he makes his way to San Francisco and leaving breadcrumbs for the Sisters to follow. Trouble is Hermann and Morris turn out to be oddly kindred spirits and Morris’s designs on Warm’s death start to wane. While Morris wrestles with his duties to the Sisters and Warm’s idealism, the Sisters cope with their own infighting. Eli is grasping at a world where they are free of needing to take on this dirty work to survive while Charlie can see no other purpose for himself than drinking and killing. The setup is relatively simple but in campfire chats and detours, mines a deep well of complex themes at play in this unforgiving environment. There’s an air of tragedy around all the leads that undercuts the masculine bravado that so often drives gunslingers in westerns.

If there are John C Reilly-philes out there–and really, why wouldn’t there be?–these next couple months will be providing them with a wealth of his screen time. Obviously there’s the big Disney sequel with Ralph Breaks the Internet, the more familiar comedy pairing with Will Ferrell in Holmes and Watson and soon after that the UK will see him in the biopic Stan & Ollie. But I will go out on a limb and say that his work here for Jacques Audiard’s contains his most interesting performance of the bunch.  As the older brother Eli, he is the more physically imposing presence of the two but continually reveals more and more layers of sensitivity as the film goes on. He has a token of a past romance in the form of a shawl he treats with reverence, he’s open to trying these newfangled tooth brushes that are going around. Most of all he carries the weight of having to take care of his damaged younger brother who would likely drink himself into oblivion without Eli nearby—not least of all because of their shared troubled childhood. It’s by far the quietest performance of the quartet but it’s extremely touching. The long and winding road that this small family unit takes is at every point unpredictable and where Audiard ultimately goes was unexpectedly affecting. A beautiful and unique entry into the genre.

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