Blu-ray Review: “The Marksman”

  • THE MARKSMAN
  • Starring: Liam Neeson, and Teresa Ruiz
  • Directed by: Robert Lorenz
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 1 hr 48 mins
  • Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Jim (Liam Neeson) s a former Marine who lives a solitary life as a rancher along the Arizona-Mexico border. But his peaceful existence soon comes crashing down when he tries to protect a boy on the run from members of a vicious cartel. And that’s pretty much the story here. Though Neeson gives a solid performance, the story may be a bit too formulaic. 

Jim basically has had some rough times. He lost his wife to cancer, and his property is being foreclosed. All of this happens in the beginning of the film, so it’s hardly a spoiler. Jim spends his days sport hunting with his canine companion, Jackson. He’s excellent with a rifle, which earned him a medal in the Marine Corps. Jim reports anything suspicious to his step-daughter, a border patrol agent, whilst hunting on the grounds. A woman and her son are on the run from the Mexican drug cartel and Jim gets involved. What I do appreciate about this film is that it’s a road film. Like Rainman,” most of the film takes place on freeways, highways and small town bi-ways. And with the cartel in hot pursuit, you can rest assured that it’s going to be a helluva commute.

 Now Jim’s life has taken a turn. He’s on the run with a kid (Miguel) who is stunned into silence due to his mother being shot by the cartel. Jim makes a promise to the kid’s mother to take him to her sister in Chicago. Unbeknownst to Jim, the cartel can track his whereabouts every time he uses his debit card with a sophisticated computer system. And so what follows is a series of close calls with the cartel and the bonding of Jim and Miguel.

Much of the film is uninspired as we have seen it before and as I previously mentioned, a bit formulaic. Screenplay is weak but the more interesting scenes are when Jim and Miguel are bonding. As I also mentioned, I personally love  road films and “The Marksman” is a road film indeed. Here Neeson does put on a good performance with what little he’s been given. It’s just Liam fighting the baddies. They are now calling his films “Your yearly Neesoning”. Overall it’s worth a rental but it comes up short in comparison to “Honest Thief” and “The Commuter.”

SPECIAL FEATURES

Making of “The Marksman” featurette.

4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Review: “Elysium”

  • ELYSIUM
  • Starring: Matt Damon and Jodie Foster
  • Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
  • Rated: R
  • Running time: 1 hr 49 mins
  • Tri Star Pictures

Neil Blomkamp’s futuristic action popcorn ride is very impressive with visual effects. One thing’s for sure, subtlety has never been an inspiration in Blomkamp’s body of work. “Elysium” addresses a sociopolitical concern, very similar to Blomkamp’s earlier gem, “Districkt 9.:” the policing of a state where the socially unequal, i.e. the poor, suffer grave depravities. “Elysium” takes place in a futuristic Los Angeles where the state has separated it’s citizens, with the majority remaining in Los Angeles while the wealthy 1% live free of the world’s anxieties in a halo-like space habitat orbiting Earth called Elysium.


Matt Damon stars as Max, a parolee dying of radiation poisoning who is fighting to be smuggled to Elysium in order to take advantage of the advanced Healthcare system that exists there. He still works at the industrial plant where he got the radiation poisoning and is told that it will kill him in 5 days. The society is partially policed by robots, which Max consistently has unfavorable encounters with. Max realizes he has little time left to live but Elysium has machines that can cure him which motivates him to get to the orbiting station. Max teams up with a rebel group to steal information from a company that can free the citizens of Los Angeles and make everyone a citizen of Elysium. But in order for this to happen, Max has to be tagged with bionic parts to his arms and back while a computer chip needs to be implanted in his brain. This allows him to be more agile in fighting and the chip to his brain will give him access to the company, He also has to get through Defense Secretary Delacourt, played by Jodie Foster, who will stop at nothing to keep the citizens of Los Angeles out of Elysium. The results pits the rebels against the state in a battle that is full of great visuals and action.

 
I watched the film on a UHD 4K Blu Ray, and the picture and sound are astounding. A notable upgrade from the previous Blu Ray release where contrast and brightness are improved delivering a sharper image with vivid whites and deeper blacks. Sound is amazing with plenty of activity in the surround fields and lots of LFE activity for the subwoofer. The sub-woofer sound is smooth as the low level sounds will not overextend your speaker. The 2160p picture, which is double that of a Blu Ray picture produces breathtaking imagery, showcasing the visual effects with remarkable clarity. The Elysium station has to been seen to be believed! The orbiting station is a wonderful work of digital effects. And seeing it on 4K Blu Ray will astound you. It took me back to Star Trek Beyond (which I also have on 4K Blu Ray) where the docking station is a mixture of ship technology and citizenry. I had a great time with “Elysium.” It’s films like this that make me glad that I invested in a 4K Blu Ray player.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Exoskeletons, Explosions, and the Action Choreography of Elysium 
  • The Hero, The Psychopath, and the Characters of Elysium
  • The Art of the Elysium Miniatures 
  • Bugatti 2154 
  • Theatrical Trailer 1 
  • Theatrical Trailer 2 
  • International Trailer
  • Visions of 2154 Interactive Gallery 
  • Extended Scene: Kruger Wakes Up 
  • The Journey to Elysium: Part 1 – Envisioning Elysium ()
  • The Journey to Elysium: Part 2 – Capturing Elysium 
  • The Journey to Elysium: Part 3 – Enhancing Elysium 
  • Collaboration: Crafting the Performances in Elysium 
  • The Technology of 2154 
  • In Support of Story: The Visual Effects of Elysium 
  • Engineering Utopia: A Society in the Sky 

Blu-ray Review: “The Father”

  • THE FATHER
  • Starring:  Anthony Hopkins and Oliva Colman
  • Directed by:  Florian Zeller
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 37mins
  • SONY Pictures Classics

I turned 60 last September and, as I get older, one of my biggest worries is that I’m going to slowly lose my faculties.  As someone that loves to write and communicate, I think that would destroy me.  I preface this review with that statement because that MIGHT be what’s going on in THE FATHER.

Anthony (Hopkins in an Academy Award winning performance) likes to relax in his flat, listening to music and taking occasional glances out the window.  He is looked after by his daughter, Anne (Colman) and things appear to be well.  Until one afternoon when Anne informs him that she will be hiring a caretaker because she is moving to Paris to be with the man she loves.  At least Anthony thinks this is what she told him.  Things get more puzzling when the next moment Anne’s former husband appears, but claims to be her current husband for the past eight years.  What the hell is going on here?

A true psychological thriller, “The Father” is a very non-linear descent into what could either be madness or gas-lighting.   Director Zeller leaves it up to the viewer to decide which it is.

The film is brilliantly acted, with, as noted earlier, Hopkins winning his second Best Actor Oscar for his performance.  Colman, herself an Oscar winner – and a nominee for her work here – matches him beat for beat.  Supporting work by Imogen Poots and Rufus Sewell, among others, carry the story along smoothly.

With theatres opening up to usher in another summer of fast cars and explosions, take a moment to stay home and watch “The Father.”   

Special Features:

  • Homecoming: Making “The Father”
  • Perception Check: Portrait of “The Father”
  • Deleted Scenes

4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Review: “Last Action Hero” (Steelbook)

  • LAST ACTION HERO
  • Starring:  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austin O’Brien
  • Directed by:  John McTiernan
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 10 mins
  • Columbia Pictures

It was THE movie event of 1993.  A movie starring the world’s biggest action star, directed by the guy who directed “Die Hard,” and featuring an amazing array of celebrity guest stars.  Hell, they even launched a rocket into space with the film’s title on the side.  That film was “Last Action Hero,” and, at a cost of $85 million was one of the most expensive films made at the time.  Even though it made over $134 million world-wide, it was considered a dud by the bean counters in Hollywood and was not met well by critics.  However, as a 32 year old movie theatre manager, I LOVED IT.  Almost 30 years later, I still love it.

Danny (O’Brien) is a young boy who lives with his mother and spends most of his free time at the movies, where he has made friends with the projectionist, Nick (Robert Prosky).  One of the benefits of the friendship is Danny being allowed to screen new films before they open.  This night he is getting set to watch the latest Jack Slater adventure, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Nick give Danny a “magic ticket,” goes into the booth and starts the film.  But tonight is different.  Danny isn’t watching the movie, he’s IN the movie.

A fun buddy comedy (even though there is 30 years age difference between the buddies), “Last Action Hero” is everything it was advertised to be, which made its poor box office in the U.S. surprising (it mad $15 million it’s opening weekend but ended up only making another $35 million before it was out of most theatres).  The fun comes from the fact that Jack Slater (Arnold, of course) has never heard of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He thinks Danny is just some crazy kid who somehow ended up in the back of his car during a high speed chase. 

Jack thinks Danny is delusional.  A trip to the video store features a lobby display for TERMINATOR 2, but this version stars Sylvester Stallone.  Introduced to another cop (F. Murray Abraham), Danny instinctively recognizes him as the guy who killed Mozart in “Amadeus.”  Having never heard of the film, Slater tells the cop that Danny thinks he killed someone named Moe Zart!

The fun continues until the pair chase a baddie (Dance) back into Danny’s world, where Slater learns that you can’t punch a window without cutting yourself and you are no longer magically bulletproof. 

The film is an amazing combination of action and humor and one that doesn’t live up to it’s rep.  Check it out with an open mind and I think you’ll agree with me. 

Both the picture and sound on this release are amazing and the film comes in a special steel case.  This is a fun film I highly recommend. 

Special Features:

Commentary with Director John McTiernan

Deleted & Alternate Scenes

Alternate Ending

“Big Gun” Music Video by AC/DC

Original Behind-the-Scenes Featurette

Theatrical Teaser

4K ULTRA HD/Blu-ray Review: “Big Fish’

  • BIG FISH
  • Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney and Billy Curdup
  • Directed by: Tim Burton
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 2 hrs 5 mins
  • Columbia Pictures

There is simply no film like a Tim Burton film! This visually arresting film also has a great story.

. Ewan McGregor is one of those actors that is interesting in anything he’s in. Here he plays a protagonist in a make-believe world. Or is it make-believe? As I watched this, I was reminded of the character of Forrest Gump, a man having adventures in everything he was involved in. 


The story involves Willll Bloom (Billy Crudup), who seems to harbor animosity against his father, Edward (Albert Finney). Will feels that he really doesn’t know his dad, who is noted for telling great stories which seem too far fetched for reality. As Edward tells one story after another, we flashback to his younger self (played by Ewan McGregor) who seems to have adventures that put him at an advantage to his peers.

Edward longs for Sandra, whom he instantly falls in love with despite her already being engaged. Edward soon finds himself joining the circus, simply because Sandra is also part of the same circus. As Edward tries to woo Sandra for her hand in marriage, he must meet conditions that he can only ask Amos Calloway (Danny DeVito) for, learning one thing about Sandra each month. This is to ensure that he knows all about her in his pursuit. This lasts for three years until it is revealed that Amos is secretly a werewolf (I’ll stop here so I will not ruin the film for the viewer).

This is just one example of how the story weaves and the viewer is treated to breathtaking locales and a very interesting plot.

Visually, as usual, Tim Burton is quite amazing. The man shows extreme creativity and his films hold up very well for repeat viewing. There is much to see in “Big Fish,” and you will do this film an injustice by renting it for one viewing. It has to be bought, taken home and enjoyed over and over.

“Big Fish” is a perfect blend of heartfelt sentimentality and visual splendor. In lesser hands, “Big Fish” would’ve gone off the rails as another goofy drama. In the hands of Burton, with John August’s script and with McGregor as the protagonist, it is the perfect blend of storytelling and fantasy. This film has some very colorful characters but that’s Burton’s recipe for a great film. 


The film is now on HDR 4K Blu Ray, with an impressive transfer by Sony. The film is nearly 20 years old but it holds up well with an HDR10 transfer that doesn’t disappoint. The audio is beautiful with a Dolby Atmos track that definitely increases atmosphere in a film that’s already captivating. “Big Fish” is a big winner that is surely presented with that Tim Burton signature that fans have come to expect and love. It’s a masterpiece!

DVD Review “Senior Moment”

Actors : William Shatner, Christopher Lloyd, Jean Smart, Esai Morales, Katrina Bowden
Director : Giorgio Serafini
Run time : 1 hour and 36 minutes
Release date : May 11, 2021
Studio : Screen Media

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Typically “Senior Moment” is not the type of film that I would usually watch…but I was drawn in by the cast including William Shatner (“Star Trek”) and Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future”). Shatner delivers in the leading role. The actor who recently turned 90 plays a retired pilot in his early 70’s and nails it.

Official Premise: After drag racing his vintage convertible around Palm Springs, a retired NASA test pilot (William Shatner) loses his license. Forced to take public transportation, he meets Caroline (Jean Smart) and learns to navigate love and life again.

The film itself is what my mom would call “cute”. It is a cheesy love story and probably isn’t a film that I would watch numerous times but as a one-timer, I could stand watching this little romantic comedy once through. It’s not a loud out loud comedy either, just a sweet and cute little film that delivers due to it’s fantastic cast!

4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Review: “Speed”

  • SPEED
  • Starring: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper
  • Directed by: Jan de Bont
  • Rated: R
  • Running time: 1 hr 56 mins
  • 20th Century Fox

“Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?”

That’s pretty much the story in this intense action film that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat! After seeing this, you’ll never look at buses the same (much less ride one). LAPD officer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) was just doing his job when he and his partner (Jeff Daniels) rescued an elevator full of hostages from a mad bomber (Dennis Hopper). They were true heroes of the hour but when the bomber sets another trap on a commuter bus – if the speed of the bus in question drops below 50 MPH it will explode – it’s game on. The bomber demands millions of dollars in ransom. Now Jack must find a way to get on board the bus, rescue the hostages and stop the maniac bomber once and for all.

The story is a combination of thrills that, when added up,equals nerve-wrecking tension. The bus cannot stop whatsoever and there are times when you think “okay how in the world are they going to survive this?” Former cinematographer Jan de Bont’s (“Cujo,” “Ruthless People”) directorial debut comes through a true winner.

For action fans, there’s plenty of it here. Narrative moves at a suspenseful pace where the speedometer on the bus is a factor. I had the privilege of watching Speed on a 4K Blu Ray copy and for a 1994 film, it shines with a great picture and sound, even though the disc does not have a Dolby Atmos track. Still, this film is a great time.

EXTRAS

Disc One (4K)

  •  Audio Commentary by Jan de bont
  •  Audio Commentary – by screenwriter Graham Yost and producer Mark Gordon.

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

  •  Action Sequences 
  •  Inside Speed
  •  Extended Scenes 
  •  Music Video – “Speed” by Billy Idol.

4K/Blu-ray Review: “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV”

  • KINGSGLAIVE: FINAL FANTASY XV
  • Starring the voices of:  Aaron Paul, Lena Heady and Sean Bean
  • Directed by:  Takeshi Nozue
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 50 mins
  • SONY Pictures

I’m not much of a fan of films derived from video games, however I do appreciate “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” for its stunning digital art.

Shot in full motion-capture CGI, the film is a visual work of art with some fun voice acting. However, if you’re not familiar with the game or story, you may find it a bit overwhelming. I was not at all familiar with “Final Fantasy” but it was still cool to look at and marvel at its artistry.

Watching on a 4K UHD disc certainly makes the presentation even more amazing and the sound quality is pretty amazing. The beauty of the film is that when you first glance at the characters, they look amazingly real! The full motion capture is astounding.

As for the plot, to break it down lightly, the story takes place on a planet called EOS, which is like a futuristic Earth. There is a Kingdom called Lucis, which houses a magical crystal that was given to the Lucians by gods. The power is used to protect the people and give power to the ruling king and his soldiers, who are known as the Kingsglaive.  With these powers, the Kingsglaive can ward off enemies.

Anything that is magical and promises powers will surely arouse jealousy and create wars and the crystal is no exception. Friends are stabbed in the back, characters are not whom they say they are and mega monsters, demons and spaceships riddle the landscape.  Everything climaxes into one big, epic final battle, which leads up to “Final Fantasy XV,” the video game.  

Once again, the visuals are quite stunning. In fact, this film has some of the best motion capture and CGI work I’ve seen on the big screen with room shaking LFE activity that’ll give the subwoofers a workout. The level of detail is staggering. Hair stubble and skin pores are clearly visible and come to breathtaking life!

Even for the novice, a viewing of “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” will give you a glimpse of the technical achievements of current film technology. It is certainly the next step in motion capture animation.

Special Features

  • A Way With Words – Epic And Intimate Vocals
  • To Capture The Kingsglaive – The Process
  • Fit For A Kingsglaive – Building The World
  • Emotive Music – Scoring The Kingsglaive

Blu-ray Review: “Honest Thief”

  • HONEST THIEF
  • Starring: Liam Neeson and Kate Walsh
  • Directed by: Mark Williams
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 1 hr 39 mins
  • Universal Home Video

The film opens with Carter (Neeson) pulling off a final heist, in which he is very meticulous in his methods. In fact, he’s been nicknamed “the In & Out Bandit”. Carter then ventures into a storage facility to store personal items and “some of the funds”. He’s wise not to put the money all in one place. But here’s when our protagonist or antagonist, depending on where in the film you’re referring to him, makes his complete 180 degree turn. At the storage facility, Carter meets a woman and falls in love. So now he no longer wants to rob banks and wishes to give back the money and turn himself in. Hence he is now earned his title character, “Honest Thief”.

The film is directed by Mark Williams, who has worked on the television series “Ozark” (which I haven’t seen) and “The Accountant” with Ben Affleck (on both of those projects Williams also served as a producer). Set in Boston, the movie also stars Kate Walsh, Jeffrey Donovan, Jai Courtney, Anthony Ramos and Robert Patrick.

In this film Liam Neeson is not the good guy we’re used to seeing. This isn’t Taken nor The Commuter. He’s a bad guy that wants to do good. So Carter informs the FBI of his crimes and they don’t believe him. Who robs banks and now wishes to turn ithemselves in? Someone who has met the right woman. And as one character put it, “that’s got to be some woman.” Carter’s girlfriend is portrayed by Kate Walsh, who is caught up in the chase towards the 9 million dollars that Carter wants to turn in.

The film has some great action scenes including a house explosion that I loved! Carter is also a demolition expert, something he learned in the Armed Forces, which is how he blows the bank vault. Narrative in the film moves at a brisk pace. When Carter is on the run, he gets into some scuffles where I wanted to see the fighting skills Neeson is famous for in other films, but this isn’t “Taken.” He just knows how to blow up things. The baddies in the FBI are atypical. One has a heart change and the other is bent on getting that $9 million. Robert Patrick makes an appearance as an FBI supervisor (you will definitely remember him from Terminator 2 as the villainous T-1000).

I watched the film on Blu Ray where the sound and picture were crisp and clean. “Honest Thief,” to me, was a slight let down at first because my expectations were too high. I was looking for “Taken” or even “The Communter” but that’s okay. It just shows that Neeson is more than one dimensional. He has an amazing range and can play various roles.

There are no extras included in this set.

Blu-ray Review: “Psycho Goreman”

  • PSYCHO GOREMAN
  • Starring: Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre
  • Directed by: Steven Kostanski
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Running time: 1hr 39 mins
  • RLJE Films

     As the mark of a full year of shutdowns and quarantines goes sloth-crawling by and we begrudgingly re-examine (for the thousandth time) the trials we’ve survived (however barely) … there’s still a piece of us constantly looking for a beacon of hope. There’s questions to be asked. Will you continue to mask up and socially distance or are you moving to Texas? Will you be getting the vaccine or waiting it out? If you’re a monster kid… you have one more important question: are you going to rent Psycho Goreman or buy the damn thing and watch it on loop until you break your Blu-ray player?  Your answer better be BUY because this movie is that good. Except Psycho Goreman ‘PG for short!’ isn’t a blinding beacon of hope… he’s a foul-mouthed alien overlord sent here to destroy the universe and resurrect the creature feature genre.

     Canadian Director/Writer Steven Kostanski, who previously delivered the Lovecraftian THE VOID in 2016, clearly has a tremendous affinity for practical effects and eccentric storytelling. Psycho Goreman takes us onto the battlefield in a crazy war of good vs. evil and evil vs. evil — with blood, guts and meme-worthy Gigaxian one liners flying everywhere. Ninety nine minutes  that plays like an R-Rated visit with Power Rangers in the most hilarious and bonkers capacity imaginable. Psycho Goreman drop kicked exactly what I needed into my lap when I genuinely COULD NOT handle a single extra day of “2020 Part 2″‘s regularly scheduled SNAFU lineup.

I hereby present to you…my wish list for movies from BEFORE Psycho Goreman came to earth:

[✓] A resurgence of credit-roll theme songs. This was one of the greatest things about the 80s and 90s. Remember when they commissioned artists to write completely asinine lyrics and roll them into absolute BANGERS? It’s musical slapdash that I’m, honestly, 105% here for. Calling it now — this will be the next thing to make a comeback in cinema of a certain brand.

[✓]  Millennial 80s/90s nostalgia vibes…with heart. Not something that feels like a filmmaker googled ‘what were the late 80s like?’ and used an immersion blender to make an on screen disaster. I’m honestly so exhaustively far past being done with branded cookie cutter faux 80s-kid content. I want someone and something to bottle the feelings I felt watching shows after school but bigger, grosser and more fucked up… because I’m not six, I’m thirty six. I’ve humbly traded in Pogs and Gushers for IcyHot and Tums and so NOW I want to see body parts flying. I want kids using bad language and monsters who talk dirty. I want to root for a kid who is authentically and effortlessly cooler than I ever was and a monster who is sexier than I’ll ever be able to be.

[✓]  Practical effects out the yinyang. I don’t care what the story is… CGI in horror, generally, should be outlawed. Go big. Then bigger. Keep going. Did everything explode all over the place? Turn it up to eleven. More alien guts! Look at these costumes! We’re almost there. Make me look up who did the fx work. “Give ALL these people a raise!”  Ahhh. That’s perfect. If this is the only redeeming element then so be it… but if it works in tandem with a story that makes me want to suspend disbelief in every capacity then all the better. I’m in.

[✓] A soundtrack that I need to buy, like, yesterday: I consume a lot of tunes and I appreciate the greatest cinematic needle-drops as much as the next dweeb but good lord, there is something to be said about an original score that lets me live my own personal version of on screen adventures with outrageously, bombastic earworms. I’m there. You wanna release it on vinyl in deluxe packaging? Take my money. I want you to deliver to my ears… big hair, big drums, big synth, big aural explosions and none of this Stranger Things nonsense. I don’t like being manipulated. Bring those things and mean it because I very much am paying attention to the man and the noise behind the curtain.

(https://waxworkrecords.com/collections/all/products/pg-psycho-goreman in case you want to buy your own.)

[✓]  Yo, literally just anything to be excited about? I don’t have the mental or emotional bandwidth anymore to recreationally consume anything that requires work. I want something that’s easily digestible and leaves me feeling amazing. I’m just getting back to the point where I’m willing to roll the dice and try to connect with something media-wise but, directly, I’m telling you that I’m looking for lightning in a bottle. So much of what we’re getting now is just more of the same thing we’ve just recently seen: major IP fatigue up in my brain. Show me something new and weird and make him ugly but charming so I can do a hard swipe right. Give me light and snappy. Let me cheer for and also laugh at and with him. Anything that makes me feel bad is getting turned off.

[✓] Make me want a whole line of action figures and a series of school supplies. I need a trapper keeper with gay-friendly alien monsters and a thermos to take soup to work in. Why are things meant for adults never flashy or covered in drippy, neon, monster madness? I’m sad that I’m not represented.

[✓] Give me a monster-kid I identify with and hey… it’s 2021 so it better be a girl and no one better be sexualizing her. We’re done being here for that purpose. I want a little girl on screen who I believe, with every fiber of my being, could save or destroy the universe with her death-glare and smart mouth alone. Not a single super power required.

[✓] Make me LOVE this movie. I want to authentically insist that the people I care about see this movie so they’ll be able to have the same magical feelings I did. I’ve spent much of my adult film-watching experience itching for just one more opportunity to dip my toes into the syrupy pool of Spielbergian kid-adventure but that’s not really where I’m at anymore. You never TRULY outgrow the things you loved in your formative years but now, as a parent, I think I’ve dropped the desire for a newly packaged version of that.  I want to see what someone like MY kid would do with an E.T. like experience. My daughter isn’t the Elliot type and, if we’re being honest, I never was either.  Maybe if an alien comes to earth, I don’t want it to be a sob fest. Maybe I want it to be a party. Maybe I want to see aliens play rock music? Quick…add that to the list.  [✓]

     There’s a fine line when you expect originality. There’s formulas that flourish because they’re dependable. The Hero Cycle’s Call to Action will forever exist because deep down most of us want to be emotionally guided to a promised feel-good moment. We want to feel like our however-fleeting emotional investment to characters and their story has contributed to our own personal journey… and temporarily that’s totally fine.

     For those of you who find your viewing habits to be influenced by the current social atmosphere, there’s absolutely something to be said about returning to things-familiar. Sharing a moment, or ninety, with characters who are in the time of their lives before developing a sense of reflexivity is really comforting. Envy inducing. I think we’ve all had many moments during this past year where we wish we were in our childhood and entirely unconcerned with adult stressors or problems. Re-examining things we loved as children seemed right and safe because we knew what to expect. However as movie fans we have to encourage the continuation of new storytelling. Steven Kostanski had the opportunity to go big and went huge. I think someone must’ve told him to go nuts and he really went for it. In a time when so many things within the genre lean hard into serious, dark and emotionally exhaustive arthouse-horror… this was a bold move that at this moment in time I’m incredibly grateful for. He made something new and he made it really damn fun. Fun: Little word. Means everything in this moment.

     The world is seriously scary enough right now but that doesn’t mean we can’t still like horror. I’m happy someone lightened things up by making it weird, gross and thrilling. Go watch Psycho Goreman and keep an eye on Steven Kostanski. And Steven, (if you see this) can we make sure this toy line happens? We’re all here for tiny, plastic hunky boys!

PSYCHO GOREMAN, available on DVD and Blu-ray starting March 16. 

Blu-ray Review: “News of the World”

  • NEWS OF THE WORLD
  • Starring:  Tom Hanks, Helena Zendel and Ray McKinnon
  • Directed by: Paul Greengrass
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 58 mins
  • Universal Pictures

News is everywhere today.  Back in my day, you needed to watch television to learn what was happening, both locally and around the world.  Or subscribe to a newspaper.  Today there are 24 hour television news networks, Facebook, Twitter and all other assortments of way to get the word out.  So imagine having to gather in a darkened room, pay ten-cents and have someone read you the news.  If you can then allow me to introduce you to Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd.

Now that the Civil War has ended, Captain Kidd (Hanks, outstanding as usual) earns his living traveling the country on horseback, picking up newspapers along the way.  He is known as a “News Reader,” and his choice of stories, and the way he tells them, earn him a decent living.  It’s 1870 and tonight we find him in the town of West Falls, Texas preparing for an evening of reading.  As he continues on his travels he comes across a young girl named Johanna (Zendel) who had been raised by Kiowa Indians but is now being sent to live with her remaining living relatives (her parents having been killed). Kidd takes her to the local settlement but is told by the authorities that he can either wait with her for three months – when the necessary people are scheduled to arrive – or take her to her family himself.  She is now his responsibility.  Determined to reunite her with her relatives, Kidd sets out with Johanna into the wild Texas wilderness.

Though well-paced, “News of the World” is not the type of film I expected from Paul Greengrass, whose amazing action work includes three “Bourne” films, “Captain Phillips” and the heart-wrenching “United 93,” which earned him an Academy Award nomination as Best Director.  Along the way to San Antonio (where Johanna’s relatives have settled) the pair run into all kinds of problems, including a band of no-goods who at first try to buy Johanna then decide to take her with violence. But Captain Kidd is a sharp guy – and a hell of a good shot.  As the film progresses, Kidd and Johanna form a bond.  He is protective of her as a father would be and she does her best to help him with his business, imploring those interested in Kidd’s news service to ante up a dime. 

Hanks is his usual excellent self, seemingly able to inhabit any character he plays, much like Jimmy Stewart did in his career.  Ms. Zendel is equally outstanding.  Already the youngest actress (she is currently 12 years old) in history to win the Lola for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” at the German Film Awards for her performance in 2019’s “System Crasher,” her inability to speak English only intensifies her work as most of her communication is done through body language and with her eyes.  It’s plain to see that Johanna has seen plenty in her young life and Ms. Zendel lets you see it on screen.

The film is beautifully photographed, with much credit due to Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (“Sweeney Todd,” “The Martian”).  He shoots the Texas landscape beautifully and a scene where Kidd and Johanna are caught in a sandstorm is breathtaking.  

The film has been released on home video to coincide with the Academy Award nominations, of which it received four: Original Score, Production Design, Cinematography and Sound. Surprisingly, besides containing one of Hanks’ best performances, the actor was not nominated.

The disc also comes with plenty of extras, including Deleted Scenes,several Featurets and an Audio Commentary by director Paul Greengrass.

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.

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.

Digital Review “You Should Have Left”

“You Should Have Left” had the chance to be epic. Kevin Bacon was reuniting with the writer/director David Koepp, they last teamed up on 1999’s “Stir of Echoes”. Throw in one of my Hollywood crushes, Amanda Seyfried (“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again“, “Les Misérables”), and you have a winner…right?! Sorry, this slow burn thriller-at best (not horror) doesn’t pay off in the end. Performances from Bacon and Seyfried were OK, no issues there. Well, maybe all except for Seyfried’s over-the-top orgasm (during an off-camera sex scene). The house in the film definitely interested me more than the movie itself.
 
Official Premise: In this psychological thriller from Blumhouse Productions and legendary screenwriter Koepp, Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried star as a couple seeking a restful vacation in a remote home in the Welsh countryside. What at first seems like a perfect retreat distorts into a terrifying nightmare when reality begins to unravel, dark episodes from the past resurface, and a sinister force in the house refuses to let them leave.

I give them credit for attempting to get to where they were trying to get to, since they never quite make it fully. The idea of the haunted house was kinda neat but I would have loved to seen it fleshed more. A little less mystery. Honestly, though if that house is on AirBNB someone tell me because its gorgeous! There are no extra content included with the digital code.

Blu-ray Review “The Outsider: The Complete First Season”

Season: 4 out of stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

After the success of “IT”, there has been a full flow of Stephen King’s novels being adapted into film or TV being kicked into production. “The Outsider” is based off of King’s 2018 book. The show is backed with a great cast packed with great twists and turns that will keep you gripped to the TV until the climax. Ben Mendelsohn has made his name playing lead baddies in “Rogue One” and “Ready Player One” recently. It is nice seeing the other side of him in this series. Jason Bateman nails the dramatic angle again for sure after “Ozark”. This show was a big hit for HBO’s being labeled as its most watched new series in the last three years. So expect a second season in the works very soon!

Official Premise: Based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel of the same name, The Outsider is a new drama series that follows a seemingly straightforward investigation into the gruesome murder of a local boy. When 11-year-old Frankie Peterson’s body is found mutilated in the Georgia woods, police detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) sets out to investigate – with eyewitnesses and physical evidence pointing to Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman), a popular high school teacher, Little League coach, doting husband and father. While the case appears ironclad, Ralph is baffled by the emergence of contradictory evidence that places his suspect in a neighboring city at the time of the murder. The mysterious set of circumstances surrounding this horrifying crime leads Ralph, a seasoned cop still grieving the recent death of his own son, to bring in unorthodox private investigator Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo), whose uncanny abilities he hopes will help explain the unexplainable.

The incredible cast of The Outsider includes Emmy®- and Golden Globe nominee Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline,” “Ready Player One”), Tony Award winner and Oscar® and Golden Globe nominee Cynthia Erivo (“The Color Purple,” “Harriet”), Bill Camp (Emmy®-nominee for “The Night Of”), Mare Winningham (Oscar® nominee for “Georgia”), Paddy Considine (HBO’s upcoming “The Third Day”), Julianne Nicholson (HBO’s upcoming “Mare of Easttown”), Yul Vázquez (“Divorce”), Jeremy Bobb (CINEMAX’s “The Knick”) and Marc Menchaca (“The Sinner”), with Emmy® and Golden Globe winner Jason Bateman (“Ozark,” “Arrested Development”) as Terry Maitland.

The 1080p transfer of the episodes are sharp, like “Castle Rock”, this show does not have an 4K Ultra HD release. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks work perfectly with the score leading these episodes with great suspense. In addition to all 10 exhilarating episodes from season one, The Outsider: The Complete First Season the Blu-ray features over 40 minutes of behind-the-scenes bonus content including the all-new featurette “EL CUCO. THE BABA YAGA. THE OUTSIDER.” In this never-before-seen featurette you dive deeper into the real-world origins and supernatural abilities of the being at the center of The Outsider with interview from the creators and cast. The rest of the featurettes are worth taking a look at but nothing too stunning to jump out at you. “Invitation to Set” takes you through a tour of the show’s shooting locations. We have brief interviews with Stephen King and Jason Bateman. Lastly, “Adapting The Outsider” talks about bringing the story to life from the book to small screen.

BONUS FEATURES

  • EL CUCO. THE BABA YAGA. THE OUTSIDER – All New Featurette
  • Invitation to Set
  • Stephen King and The Outsider
  • Jason Bateman and The Outsider
  • Adapting The Outsider

10 ONE-HOUR EPISODES

  1. Fish in a Barrel
  2. Roanoke
  3. Dark Uncle
  4. Que Viene el Coco
  5. Tear-Drinker
  6. The One About The Yiddish Vampire
  7. In the Pines, In the Pines
  8. Foxhead
  9. Tigers and Bears
  10.  Must/Can’t

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