HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Sunday, December 10, 2017

HARMONIUM -- DVD Review by Porfle

HARMONIUM, aka "Fuchi ni tatsu" (Film Movement, 2016), is a very neatly-rendered Japanese film by director Kôji Fukada (SAYONARA, AU REVOIR L'ETE) which should appeal to anyone who wants a little more tragedy in their lives. Or at least in their movies.

I thought at first it was going to be some kind of harrowing CAPE FEAR-type thriller.  After all, it's about a fairly normal family--a somewhat distant, disaffected husband and father Toshio (Kanji Furutachi), his dutiful, religious wife Akié (Mariko Tsutsui), and their sweet young daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa)--suddenly having to deal with Toshio's ex-convict friend Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano), who comes seeking employment and a place to stay after an eleven-year stretch in prison for murder.

Gradually we learn that there's more to Yasaka's crime than anyone realizes--namely, Toshio's involvement, for which he went unpunished and free to live his life (which he takes for granted) while his friend languished behind bars.

We feel about as awkward as Akié about the whole thing and wait for the violence and terror to begin, but a funny thing happens--Yasaka turns out to be a gentle, patient, and seemingly caring man who's everything that Akié could want in a husband. 

He even takes the time to teach Hotaru how to play the harmonium for her upcoming talent concert, assuming the role of both teacher and surrogate father. In short, he's starting to make Toshio look like yesterday's chopped liver.

Already this scenario has the potential to turn out a number of bad ways, and all we can do is grit our teeth in quiet dread and wait to see what direction it takes. 

This is exacerbated by the growing closeness between Yasaka and Akié, with the ex-convict covetously regarding Toshio's life as the one he himself should have had. Eventually, we fear, he'll begin to take whatever steps are necessary to make that a reality.

And yet even at this point, HARMONIUM refuses to settle into the course we keep predicting for it.  After a single shocking moment that drastically changes everything, the rest of the tale comes to us more in a haze of resignation and regret than anything resembling your standard thriller. 

The fear and anxiety are still there, but not because we're worried about any kind of violence and retribution.  Instead, we must watch the dissolution of a family that has lost its reason to exist and descended into suicidal despair. 

Not even the promise of possible revenge, legal or otherwise, is enough to hold them together.  They're like a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces falling away one by one. 

Kôji Fukada directs it all with crisp, economical efficiency and is blessed with a cast who give their all in their roles.  While lacking the usual tension and suspense of a thriller, the story holds us firmly in a grip of morbid curiosity as to just how much worse things can get for these poor people.

HARMONIUM resembles a Park Chan-wook "vengeance trilogy" tale without the climactic visceral catharsis.  Instead, we're left only with the mundane sadness of everyday existence amplified by the crushing weight of circumstances too heavy to bear.  It's an effective slice-of-tragedy story that will leave you heartsick.

Buy it from Film Movement

DVD Extras:
Interview with star Kanji Furutachi
Bonus Kôji Fukada short film "Birds"
Film Movement trailers

5.1 Surround Sound/2.0 Stereo
Japanese with English subtitles
1.66:1 widescreen
120 minutes


Horse Rolls Over Rider: A Harrowing Stunt From "Fort Apache" (1948)

Man falls off horse, horse rolls over man--a cringe-inducing stunt from the John Ford cavalry epic FORT APACHE (1948) starring John Wayne and Henry Fonda.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Failed Stunt Used In John Wayne Western "The Trail Beyond" (1934)

Lone Star studios hated to waste footage, so failed stunts were worked into the action whenever possible.

Here's an exciting one from John Wayne's 1934 western THE TRAIL BEYOND, performed by either Yakima Canutt or Eddie Parker. (Looks like Eddie.)


BAD LUCKY GOAT -- DVD Review by Porfle

Not quite the "boy and his goat" story I expected, BAD LUCKY GOAT (Film Movement, 2017) is more the story of a boy, his older sister, and their goat head.

It starts out as an entire dead goat but they sell the carcass to a butcher, trade the skin for a watch that someone found on the beach, and hang onto the head until they're convinced that it's the cause of all the bad juju they've been suffering since leaving the house.

But that's just the bare bones of what happens on that ill-fated day when Cornelius ("Corn" for short) and his sister Rita, while heatedly arguing about things as usual, smash the family truck into an escaped goat while on an errand for their parents in a rural village in the Caribbean. 

The damaged truck and the dead goat are problems the two will spend the rest of the day trying to solve, and their troubles only increase when they do so by lying, cheating, and generally avoiding responsibility whenever possible.

They're likable kids, though, despite constantly being at each other's throats as siblings often are.  Their misdeeds really aren't so bad that we can't identify with them--mostly--and they do keep us entertained not only with their attempts to earn enough to have the truck fixed (hence the goat carcass transaction and various other bartering attempts) but also by ending up on the wrong side of the local crime boss whose goat it was in the first place, not to mention the police.

We get to meet a succession of colorful characters, most of whom are either earning a meager living without getting all that worked up about it or making cheerful indigenous music in peaceful natural surroundings with their friends. 

I enjoyed listening to their Creole patois, which I only recognized as a form of English after listening to it for a few minutes (I challenge anyone who speaks English to decipher the dialogue without the subtitles). 

During all this we get a chance to drink in the beautiful tropical scenery and mostly laid-back ambience while the story ambles along at its own unhurried pace just like a reggae song.  (With a little kidnapping, cock-fighting, and other things thrown in to spice things up.)

Colombian director Samir Oliveros doesn't try to grip us with any big drama or hilarity, and there isn't a chase to cut to.  This gives us time to get to know Corn and Rita, and watch them gradually and somewhat begrudgingly grow closer during their long day of tedious travails which will test both their mettle and their basic humanity. 

This relationship is what the film is really all about, and its sweetly-rendered resolution makes watching BAD LUCKY GOAT not unlike a soothing balm for the soul. 

Buy it from Film Movement


Bonus short film "Miss World" by director Georgia Fu
Film Movement trailers

5.1 Surround Sound/2.0 Stereo
2.40:1 Widescreen
Creole With English Subtitles
76 Minutes


"JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM" See the Official Trailer and Website Now!



Thursday, December 7, 2017




The Best of the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts:  Volumes 1-3

Never Before Available on Any Digital Platform, Each 9-Roast Volume Will Be Available for $14.99; Individual Episodes Are $1.99

"For fans of old-school comedians, not to mention celebrity culture, Roasts is a must-see"-- Newark Star Ledger

"[Dean] made being Roasted a higher honor than a Nobel" -- Inside

Fairfax, VA (December 7, 2017) - This fall, Dino goes digital with THE BEST OF THE DEAN MARTIN CELEBRITY ROASTS: VOLUMES 1-3!  Never before released on any digital platform, the Roastmaster General will be available exclusively on iTunes beginning December 11, with three "Best of" compilation releases priced at $14.99; individual episodes will be available for $1.99 each.  The classic TV archivists at Time Life will release additional digital content throughout 2018 and beyond.

What originally began as one-off specials to boost ratings for his variety show, The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts evolved into a fixture on NBC's Thursday night lineup from 1973 to 1984.  Across those 11 years, Dean, Rat Pack Royalty, and his panel of celebrity pals successfully ridiculed, embarrassed and made fun of Tinsletown giants like Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, Don Rickles and Martin himself, to name a few, and America ate it up!  Anybody with thick skin and a good agent was fair game, and Martin was a legendary ringleader who set the tone and encouraged the freewheeling spirit that makes these roasts still so fascinating, even decades later! 

Each volume of THE BEST OF THE DEAN MARTIN CELEBRITY ROASTS features 9 uproarious episodes.  VOLUME 1 features complete and unedited roasts of Bob Hope, Sammy Davis Jr., Telly Savalas, Michael Landon, Angie Dickinson, Joe Garagiola, Peter Marshall, Joe Namath and even a roast of Dean Martin.  VOLUME 2 includes roasts of Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, Betty White, Ted Knight, Jimmy Stewart, Valerie Harper, Danny Thomas, Dan Haggerty and Suzanne Somers.  And VOLUME 3 features Muhammad Ali, Redd Foxx, Evel Knievel, George Burns, Dennis Weaver, Gabe Kaplan, Jack Klugman, Joan Collins and the second roast of Michael Landon.  Home viewers are sure to howl over the bashing and basting of so many celebrities by a spectacular array of the day's top personalities.

THE BEST OF THE DEAN MARTIN CELEBRITY ROASTS: VOLUMES 1-3 joins THE BEST OF THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, VOLUMES 1-4 also available on iTunes; and, throughout 2018, Time Life will release additional TV classics on the platform.

About Time Life
Time Life is one of the world's pre-eminent creators and direct marketers of unique music and video/DVD products, specializing in distinctive multi-media collections that evoke memories of yesterday, capture the spirit of today, and can be enjoyed for a lifetime. TIME LIFE and the TIME LIFE logo are registered trademarks of Time Warner Inc. and affiliated companies used under license by Direct Holdings Americas Inc., which is not affiliated with Time Warner Inc. or Time Inc.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

SOMEBODY'S DARLING -- Movie Review by Porfle

Those bad, bad frat boys are at it again in SOMEBODY'S DARLING (2016), only this time there's something more sinister going on than road trips and toga parties.

We know from the start that there's something "off" about this upper-crust frat house that's steeped in improbable splendor, has a wine cellar, and is rigged with hidden cameras so that its voyeuristic members can observe every room (yes, that one too).  A fleeting reference to a former member who's now their wealthy benefactor gets us to wondering even more just as the party's getting under way.

College coeds Madison, Sarah, and friends allow themselves to be sucked into the spiders' web of forbidden fun as so many party girls before them.  For some, it'll be a date-rapey experience they won't soon remember.  For Sarah, however, it's the start of a strange romance, as bad-boy frat prez Christian unexpectedly feels something for her that's akin to--well, an actual feeling. 

Since this is a no-no for this particular frat, Christian's initially courtly and then gradually more and more creepily obsessive pursuit of Sarah over the next few days becomes a cause first for concern, then for action.  But how far will they go to rein Christian away from his new object of desire and back into the fold?  And for that matter, just what the hell's up with the fold anyway?

From the captivating opening titles sequence onward, first-time feature director Sharad Kant Patel draws us into this mystery with a refreshingly offbeat visual style that constantly has the feel of a fever dream.

A blandly colorful palette alternates with darkly oppressive scenes so monochromatic that they're almost black-and-white, mirroring the changing moods through which the story leads us.

An aura of paranoia pervades as Sarah and her friends sense themselves being stalked by the mysterious fraternity.  Patel's hallucinatory images, composed and photographed with a keen artist's eye, keep us off-guard ourselves.

The sound design aids greatly in establishing mood, as does the ominous, impressionistic musical score co-written by Patel himself.  The film has a somber, menacing quality with splashes of shocking violence and a mysterious detour into the past that takes us back to the Civil War itself.

Performances are strong, particularly among leads Paul Galvin, as the enigmatic Christian, and Jessa Settle as Sarah, whom we fear has inadvertently wandered into a dreadfully ill-fated relationship.  The rest of the cast adequately fill their roles as either hapless, unsuspecting party girls or malevolent predators. 

Just when the story seems to be wandering a bit, SOMEBODY'S DARLING suddenly hits us with the stunning truth behind it all and ends on a strong note which may leave some viewers a bit dazed. (Or not, if you saw it coming.)  What stayed with me more than anything was the pure pleasure of watching director Sharad Patel's imaginatively-wrought visuals deftly edging back and forth between the dreamlike and the nightmarish. 

Available now on:

Google Play


John Wayne Performs His Own Car Stunt in "SHADOW OF THE EAGLE" (1932)

In the finale of the 1932 Mascot serial "Shadow of the Eagle", some surprisingly creative suspense-building editing is followed by a young John Wayne doing his own perilous car-skid stunt right into his closeup.


"HAVE A NICE DAY" Animated Feature by Liu Jian Opens in January -- Watch the Trailer Now!




OFFICIAL SELECTION: Berlin international Film festival 2017

Opens theatrically in New York on Friday, January 26 with a national release to follow

Filmmaker Liu Jian cements his place as a pioneering force in independent Chinese animation with whirlwind neo-noir HAVE A NICE DAY.

A hard rain is about to fall on a small town in Southern China.

In a desperate attempt to find money to save his fiancée's failed plastic surgery, Xiao Zhang, a humble driver, steals a bag containing 1 million Yuan from his boss.

News of the robbery spreads fast within the town and, over the course of one night, everyone starts looking for Xiao Zhang and his money...

This deserves to be an animation arthouse hit to equal “Waltz With Bashir”, and it was the most politically trenchant and artistically fresh thing in Berlin. With the surface of a Tarantino-esque pulp thriller and the heart of a postmodern political art project.” – The Guardian


Music By: The Shanghai Restoration Project


SOCIAL: @strandreleasing #haveanicedayfilm


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A NEW LEAF -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

Two of my favorite "grown-up" comedies as a kid were THE GRADUATE (1967) and THE HEARTBREAK KID (1972), both cockeyed modern relationship tales that embodied a new kind of droll, deadpan satire which I found deeply appealing. 

Common to these films was Elaine May.  The former film, in which she played a bit role, was directed by her sometime performing partner Mike Nichols (with whom she helped form Second City), and she herself would direct her own daughter Jeannie Berlin in the hilarious THE HEARTBREAK KID in 1972.

It's no wonder, then, that I found Elaine May's 1971 directing and co-starring effort A NEW LEAF (Olive Signature Films) so irresistibly entertaining.  The expert combination of borderline farce with a restrained, achingly dry deadpan delivery and reined-in directorial approach makes it the kind of comedy that's intellectually stimulating one moment and laugh-out-loud hilarious the next.

Walter Matthau contributes to much of this with his pitch-perfect performance as spoiled, self-centered rich person Henry Graham, who can't believe it when his flagrant overspending wipes out his trust fund and leaves him a pauper. 

His only alternative to suicide, it seems, is to marry a wealthy woman before his funds are totally depleted and then discreetly murder her.  His loyal butler Harold (George Rose) consents out of self-interest to help him in the first part of his plan, but expresses misgivings about the second.

Enter Elaine May as Henrietta Lowell, an enormously well-endowed (financially, that is) spinster who's also one of the most endearingly clumsy and innocent characters you could ever meet.  Mousey, anxious, dreadfully insecure, and as coordinated as a newborn calf, she can't even sit still without calamitous results.  She's perfect for Henry's plans--he meets her, woos her, proposes, and, in no time, they're married.

The scene in which Henry tries to help Henrietta sort out her fancy new Grecian nightgown (she has her head in the armhole) on their honeymoon night is a slowburn delight of extended but controlled frustration.  I also love wine connoisseur Henry's suppressed horror when introduced to Henrietta's favorite drink, Mogen David Extra Heavy Malaga with soda and lemon, which he must pretend to savor. 

May's slapstick incompetent is the perfect, trusting foil to Matthau's fussy, sociopathic snob and their scenes together are like comedy confections wrapped in gold foil.  Her instincts for directing comedy to its best advantage are dead on the mark at every turn, bringing out the best of both stars and their supporting cast.

This includes stalwarts Jack Weston as Henrietta's manipulative lawyer, James Coco as Henry's spiteful uncle, Doris Roberts as the embezzling manager of gullible Henrietta's household staff, William Redfield as Henry's harried financial adviser, and several other familiar names of the era. 

The leads play it all with a sort of overt subtlety that makes one look forward to the next scene and their next bit together.  I love Matthau's casually methodical cad, reading up on various poisons and gaining access to Henrietta's finances even as he finds himself increasingly fussing over her physical appearance and well-being. 

And May's Henrietta, a botanist whose dream is to find a new strain of fern that she can name herself, is one of the most lovable klutzes to ever fumble her way into my heart.  So much so, in fact, that even Henry can't help but be touched--in his own comically nonplussed way--by some of her childlike foibles. 

Even the stereotypically romantic music is richly satirical, with nary a single "isn't this funny?" note in the entire score.  With a brilliant screenplay to match (written by May from the Jack Ritchie short story), A NEW LEAF is one of cinema's most low-key and tastefully restrained comic delights.  After Henry's final attempt to murder Henrietta during a botany field trip, the fern turns and leaves us with a somewhat abrupt but just-right ending. 

Bonus Features:

New restoration from 4K scan of original camera negative
Audio commentary by film scholar Maya Montanez Smukler
“The Cutting Room Floor: Editing A New Leaf” – interview with A New Leaf assistant editor Angelo Corrao
“Women in Hollywood: A Tragedy of Comic Proportions” – with director Amy Heckerling
Essay by critic, editor & film programmer Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
“The Green Heart” by Jack Ritchie, the source material for Elaine May’s script

Languages: english
Video: 1.85:1 aspect ratio; color
Runtime: 102 minutes
Year: 1971

Order it from Olive Films


Monday, December 4, 2017

SPACESHIP -- Movie Review by Porfle

Those looking for a science-fiction tale should know that there may not even be a spaceship in SPACESHIP (Breaking Glass, 2016).  If there is one, it's either physical, metaphorical, or other.

That's a pretty good description of Lucidia (Alexa Davies) and her teenage circle of friends.  Some are Goths, some are just a little odd, and the rest seem normal enough, but what they all have in common is a dissatisfaction with their mundane lives and yearnings for something beyond, something more. 

For blue-haired Alice (Tallulah Rose Haddon) it's drugs and biting--she wants to taste her friends--and playfully dominating her willing boyfriend.  For Tegan (Lara Peake) it's unicorns and black holes, with a desire to be sucked into the latter and into another dimension. 

For Luke (Lucian Charles Collier), it's his love for Lucidia, which grows ever more desperate the night he sees her surrounded by brilliant flashes of light and apparently whisked away into nothingness by an unseen force while standing at the edge of the empty swimming pool where her mother's body was found many years before.

This is where Lucidia's disaffected dad Gabriel (Antti Reini), an archelogist who suffers the death of his wife by spending his days digging in the earth, must enter his daughter's world of flaky friends in search of her and try to make some sense of it all. 

Naturally, it's an instructive life experience for all involved, one which brings Gabriel back into the light even as some of Lucidia's friends venture dangerously over the edge. 

Thankfully, they aren't bad kids nor are they overly full of themselves--this isn't another tiresome downer about a lost generation.  The storyline is a free-form montage of vignettes focusing on one character or group at a time, with a constantly changing point of view.

Basically, first-time feature director Alex Taylor tells it as a series of impressions, brief snatches of story or character, and much of the dialogue is improvised. 

The camerawork is fluid and there's a dreamlike quality to much of what happens, conveying the sense that the characters aren't all that firmly anchored in the real world.  And neither are we, for that matter, as the film is more interested in conveying feeling and emotion than plot points.

The sometimes dizzying SPACESHIP gets credit for trying something different in its storytelling, although this patchwork of events and impressions doesn't start coming together until Gabriel ventures forth looking for his daughter.  His contact with Lucidia's eccentric friends and their fairytale world is life-changing, but it will yield no easy answers.

Read our original coverage HERE

Genre: Drama
Running Time: 90 Min.
Rating: NR
Language: English


Watch a Fake Bullet Bounce Off the Creature's Butt in "Revenge of the Creature" (1955)


"SURGE OF POWER: REVENGE OF THE SEQUEL" Brings Cinema's First Out Gay Superhero Back to Theaters in January

Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel Hits Theaters

Cinema's First Out Gay Superhero Faces His Greatest Challenge
Hollywood Legends Face Off in a New Star-Packed Adventure
Nationwide Rollout Begins in January 2018

"A must-see for fans of the TV Avengers, the Fantastic Four
and the Hulk
" -- Buzzfeed

"Packed with fun, stars and a message" -- Huffington Post

Los Angeles, CA - Surge of Power Enterprises is proud to announce the theatrical debut of the long-anticipated sequel to the groundbreaking and lighthearted superhero movie "Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes."  "Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel" will begin with a weeklong run in Los Angeles before fighting crime in additional cities. 

Creator Vincent J. Roth returns to the cape-clad title role of Surge, cinema's first out gay superhero.  Roth is joined by a star-studded cast representing the forces of good and evil including "Star Trek" alums Nichelle Nichols and Robert Picardo, comedian Bruce Vilanch, "SuperFriends!" Shannon Farnon, Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts, The Exorcist's Linda Blair, "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" star Gil Gerard and the original Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno.  The award-winning film has screened at festivals and conventions across the globe, taking home prizes for Best Comedy, Best Villain, Best Special Effects and Most Inspirational Lead Character.

Surge's nemesis, the Metal Master, is out of jail and trying to reconcile with his estranged parents (Blair, Gerard) and tempted to continue a life of crime by Augur (Roberts), archnemesis of the wise Omen (Nichols, Picardo).  Augur sends Metal Master to Las Vegas for mysterious crystals.  Needing more crime fighting help, Surge activates the artificial intelligence in the Surgemobile (Vilanch, Farnon). Augur emerges from the shadows back in Big City, causing Omen to step into the fray, which alerts The Council, a supervillain cabal bent on world domination.  Facing more enemies than ever before, Surge must do whatever it takes to save mankind.

Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel will open January 5 in Los Angeles, expand to New York on January 19 and continue nationwide.

Los Angeles January 5 Release:
Arena Cinelounge Sunset
6464 Sunset Blvd
Lobby Level
Los Angeles, CA 90028



Saturday, December 2, 2017

"NUTCRACKER, THE MOTION PICTURE" On Blu-Ray and DVD Dec. 12 From Olive Films

Featuring the Pacific Northwest Ballet

Directed by
(The Black Stallion, Never Cry Wolf, Fly Away Home)

Director Carroll Ballard (The Black Stallion) brings Tchaikovsky’s classic musical fantasy (derived from the E.T.A. Hoffmann story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”) to screen in Nutcracker, The Motion Picture featuring members of the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Nutcracker, The Motion Picture is the story of the mysterious toymaker Drosselmeier (Hugh Bigney), his beautiful toy theater and the lovely Clara (Vanessa Sharp), a young girl who dreams of dancing with a prince. In classic fairy tale fashion, these will all come together in the delightful tale of an enchanted Nutcracker, a Mouse King and a charming Prince.

Nutcracker, The Motion Picture is directed by Carroll Ballard, conceived by Kent Stowell and Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are), photographed by Stephen H. Burum (The Outsiders, The Untouchables) with the music of Tchaikovsky conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.

PREBOOK:        12/05/17
STREET:           12/12/17

CAT:                 OF1386
UPC:       887090138611
SRP:                 $14.95
CAT:                 OF1387
UPC:       887090138710
SRP:                 $29.95

YEAR: 1986
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH (with optional English subtitles)
VIDEO: 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio; COLOR


Friday, December 1, 2017

My Top 100 Favorite Films Of All Time (9 and 10 of Ten--Includes Top 3)

See the entire playlist HERE


My Top 100 Favorite Films Of All Time (7 and 8 of Ten)

See the entire playlist HERE


My Top 100 Favorite Films Of All Time (5 and 6 of Ten)

See the entire playlist HERE


My Top 100 Favorite Films Of All Time (Parts 3 and 4 of Ten)

See the entire playlist HERE


My Top 100 Favorite Films Of All Time (Parts 1 and 2 of Ten)


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Pickup Truck Blooper in John Wayne Western "THE UNDEFEATED" (1969)


Modern Vehicle Blooper in John Ford Western "FORT APACHE" (1948)


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Nothing Escapes From "DELIRIUM" -- See The Trailer and Pics NOW!



The Hell Gang, an exclusive club made up of a group of school friends, promise their classmate Eddie that he can join the gang if he can just make it to the porch of a legendary local mansion with a dark, sinister past.

Others have tried but none have made it within sight of the mansion before fleeing back in terror. And Eddie, who is rigged with a camera to prove he did it, does not return at all!

Five members of the gang must now go in to find him. They set off, confident that Eddie is trying to prank them, but what they find in the old mansion is even more terrifying than the campfire stories and legends of murdered children that once lived there.

STARRING: Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, August Roads, Ryan Pinkston, Seth Austin, Elena Sanchez

DIRECTED BY:  Johnny Martin
WRITTEN BY: Andy Cheng, Johnny Martin, Francisco Castro, Lisa Clemens
PRODUCERS: Johnny Martin, Debbie Martinelli Swallow, Paul Mangold, Gordon Calvan



Tuesday, November 28, 2017

AFTERIMAGE -- Blu-ray/DVD Review by Porfle

Yikes...and I thought EDEN LAKE and SECONDS were depressing.  Actually, EDEN LAKE still takes top honors as the bleakest and most disheartening movie I've ever seen, but as of now, famed Polish director Andrzej Wajda's devastating AFTERIMAGE (Film Movement, 2016)--a biopic of avant-garde painter Wladyslaw Strzeminski and his futile efforts to preserve his artistic integrity during Poland's social reformation in the late 40s--is firmly in the top five, maybe even top three.
The character of Strzeminski is missing an arm and a leg, as is actor Boguslaw Linda who so vividly portrays him, but this doesn't stop him from being a leading painter and teacher of his brilliant ideas and philosophies about art (including the "afterimage", which is what we hold in our mind's eye after physically observing an object). 

But although his eager students absorb these ideas like sponges and apply them to their own burgeoning creativity, the Stalinist state views any form of abstract expression that doesn't reflect rigid, "realistic" adherence to and espousal of party politics as a threat. 

Since Strezeminski has no intention of backing down or giving in to such creative repression, the rest of the film will depict his slow, systematic demise, both spiritually and physically, by a state that demands utter conformity. 

The story takes place over the course of four years, opening with a scene of pastoral beauty as the artist and his students paint landscapes in the sun, and then gradually becoming darker and more devoid of color as do his circumstances. 

Strezeminski's already spartan lifestyle descends into misery as his rights and ability to support himself are stripped away along with the support of his students, who will also suffer as a result of their loyalty.  It's a queasily disorienting descent into darkest despair that we experience with him every step of the way as he becomes, literally, a "starving artist."

The only bright spots for him and us include an endearing relationship between the crusty old painter and his young daughter Nika (Bronislawa Zamachowska), who lovingly chides him for smoking too much while bearing an adult's concern for his well-being.  We see in her the fleeting traces of free thought and expression inherited from her father and his estranged wife but, through his eyes, we also fear for her gradual assimilation into the orthodox lifestyle.

Director Wajda's photography is impeccable but bleak, with brown and black the dominant hues save for increasingly few instances in which a forbidden work of art or a fleeting display of humanity provide splashes of color.

I was reminded of director Michael Radford's 1984, which had a similar look and feel, although this film may be even more disturbing since it presents not a potential future dystopia but one which has already existed and continues to exist even now.

A scene in 1984 muses upon the destruction of words which might convey forbidden ideas.  AFTERIMAGE shows us the death of a free spirit through the destruction of his art and suppression of his artistic thought, by which he expresses all that makes his life worth living.  I yearned for even a slightly optimistic denouement after the fadeout, because Andrzej Wajda's brilliantly-rendered film succeeds all too well in making us mourn such a tragic loss.  

Tech Specs
Polish with English Subtitles
100 min
2.35: 1
Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 Surround Sound

Bonus Features:
Blu-ray--"Wajda by Wajda" 95-minute documentary
Blu-ray and DVD--Commentary by Professor Emeritus Stuart Liebman, CUNY Graduate Center, trailer

Order it from Film Movement


Monday, November 27, 2017

Mister Rogers Documentary "WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?" Acquired By Focus Features



NEW YORK, November 27, 2017 – Focus Features has acquired the worldwide rights to Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the new documentary about the life and work of Mister Fred Rogers. From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom), the documentary is a Focus Features presentation of a Tremolo Production, in association with Impact Partners and Independent Lens/PBS.  It is set to be released on June 8, 2018.  Focus chairman Peter Kujawski made the announcement today.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? takes an intimate look at America’s favorite neighbor: Mister Fred Rogers.  A portrait of a man whom we all think we know, this documentary is an emotional and moving film that takes you beyond zip-up cardigans and the land of make-believe, and into the heart of a creative genius, who inspired generations of children with compassion and limitless imagination.

“Morgan once again avoids making a traditional biodoc and instead takes us behind the curtain to see how Fred Rogers navigated the cultural and social issues of the second half of the twentieth century with his own brand of forward-thinking, compassionate wisdom far beyond his time,” commented Focus chairman Peter Kujawski.  “Mister Rogers makes us all want to be better people, and we couldn’t be more proud to be a part of telling his story today.”

 “The Fred Rogers I discovered making this film is at once comfortably familiar and completely surprising. I believe Mister Rogers is the kind of voice we need to hear right now,” said director Morgan Neville. “I am thrilled to work with Focus Features on taking this film out into the world, along with my collaborators at Impact Partners and Independent Lens.”

“This is Morgan’s fourth film with Independent Lens, following our Emmy Award-winning collaboration on Best of Enemies,” said Lois Vossen, Independent Lens Executive Producer. "His beautiful new film shows us just how cool Mister Rogers was and how relevant and vital his voice is right now.” 

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is produced by Morgan Neville, Caryn Capotosto and Nicholas Ma and is a production of Tremolo Productions in association with Impact Partners and Independent Lens / PBS.  The deal was negotiated by Endeavor Content and Judith Karfiol on behalf of the filmmakers.

About Focus Features
Focus Features ( acquires and produces specialty films for the global market, and holds a library of iconic movies from fearless filmmakers. Current and upcoming domestic releases from Focus include Victoria & Abdul, directed by Stephen Frears and starring Judi Dench as Queen Victoria; Darkest Hour, directed by Joe Wright and starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill; the untitled Entebbe project, a gripping political thriller directed by José Padilha and starring Rosamund Pike and Daniel Brühl; Jason Reitman’s new comedy Tully, starring Charlize Theron and written by Diablo Cody; Lenny Abrahamson’s atmospheric thriller The Little Stranger; Joel Edgerton’s coming-of-age and coming-out drama Boy Erased starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe; Mary, Queen of Scots with Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I; On the Basis of Sex, the real-life drama of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg staring Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer; and Phantom Thread from Paul Thomas Anderson starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Focus Features is part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

About Tremolo Productions
Tremolo Productions is an Academy Award, Grammy Award and Emmy Award-winning production company concentrating on quality non-fiction storytelling.  Films include 20 Feet From Stardom, Best of Enemies, Keith Richards: Under the Influence, The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble, Crossfire Hurricane, Pearl Jam 20 and The Cool School as well as the TV series Chelsea Does and Abstract: The Art of Design.

About Independent Lens
Independent Lens is an Emmy® Award-winning weekly series airing on PBS Monday nights at 10:00 PM. The acclaimed series, with Lois Vossen as executive producer, features documentaries united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of independent filmmakers. Presented by ITVS, the series is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding from PBS, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more visit Join the conversation: and on Twitter @IndependentLens.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

OPERATION PETTICOAT -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

There's a fine line between war movie and lightweight comedy, and director Blake Edwards (THE PINK PANTHER) treads it like a tightrope walker in OPERATION PETTICOAT (1959, Olive Signature) with the help of a frothy script and a terrific cast.

Cary Grant (TO CATCH A THIEF, THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION) plays Captain Sherman of the Sea Tiger, a small submarine that gets sunk at dockside during an air attack before having even a chance to see action.  As this happens mere days after December 7, 1941, both Sherman and crew are itching to get into battle, but it's only after some fast talking to his superiors and the help of new crewmember Lt. JG Nicholas Holden (Tony Curtis), a top-notch scrounger and con man, that they're given permission to attempt a dangerous voyage to the nearest repair dock.

From the initial aerial bombardment sequence we can tell that OPERATION PETTICOAT will be sufficiently suspenseful and action-oriented without actually showing anyone getting killed, allowing the story an underlying "feelgood" quality without trivializing the war theme.

As a dandy who'd rather be in a rumba contest with the admiral's wife than anywhere near combat, Curtis fully utilizes his skills at very wry, very dry comedy and is just the kind of cool, calculating con man the Captain needs in order to bypass endless unfilled requisitions and acquire what they need to get the Sea Tiger under way. 

Grant, of course, plays his stern, authoritative character's comedic moments with an exquisitely measured deadpan, as only he could.  In other words, he excells at being Cary Grant.

As if their slow crawl across the Pacific Ocean weren't arduous enough, they pick up five stranded passengers--Maj. Edna Heywood (the great Virginia Gregg of "Dragnet" fame among many other things) and four nurses played by Dina Merrill (I'LL TAKE SWEDEN), Joan O'Brien, Madelyn Rhue, and Marion Ross (later to become Mrs. Cunningham on "Happy Days").

The nurses, naturally, will have a pronounced effect on Sherman's all-male crew during their time together in extremely close quarters, leading to some predictable but nonetheless pleasantly comedic mishaps and romantic entanglements.  Additional inadvertent passengers will include some very pregnant women and a couple of farm animals.

Salty old mechanic Tostin (Arthur O'Connell, THE RELUCTANT ASTRONAUT) does what he can to keep the engines running, chafing whenever head nurse Edna, who has experience as a mechanic, insists on helping out.  They will--in charming fashion, of course--eventually warm up to each other in one of the film's eventual romantic pairings.

Curtis' forays in advanced scrounging provide most of the laughs as does the tendency of generously-endowed Nurse Crandall (O'Brien) to wreak havoc with everything she touches.  It doesn't take long for us to form an affection for the struggling sub that somehow gets painted pink along the way (something about having to mix red and white paint in order to have enough to cover it) as it trudges slowly across the waves, barely able to submerge without springing a leak. 

Director Blake Edwards' talent for suspense comes into play during the aerial attacks as well as the obligatory sequence in which the fragile submarine must dive ever lower as depth charges rain down around it.  Such scenes transcend the film's situation comedy premise and lend it the gravitas of a genuine war movie.

The delightful cast also includes Gavin McLeod (soon to play a similar role in the TV series "McHale's Navy" before becoming captain of "The Love Boat"), a pre-"Bewitched" Dick Sargent, Gene Evans, and Frankie Darro.  Highly prolific composer David Rose of "Bonanza" fame fills the musical duties for Edwards as fellow Universal-International employee Henry Mancini would later on. 

OPERATION PETTICOAT is a perfect blend of war movie and light comedy, never veering far enough into farce to leave realism behind.  It takes us through enough emotionally resonant situations to ultimately earn an ending that's disarmingly sentimental without losing its breezy attitude.

Order the Blu-ray from Olive Films

Tech Specs:
New High-Definition digital restoration
Rated: NR (not rated)
Subtitles: English (optional)
Video: 1.85:1 aspect ratio; Eastman color
Runtime: 120 min
Release date: November 28, 2017

Bonus Features:
Audio commentary by critic Adrian Martin
“That’s What Everybody Says About Me” – with Jennifer Edwards and actress Lesley Ann Warren
“The Brave Crew of the Petticoat” – with actors Gavin MacLeod and Marion Ross
“The Captain and His Double: Cary Grant’s Struggle of the Self” – with Marc Eliot, author of Cary Grant: A Biography
Universal Newsreel footage of Cary Grant and the opening of Operation Petticoat at the Radio City Music Hall
Archival footage of the submarine USS Balao, which doubled as the USS Sea Tiger in Operation Petticoat
Booklet insert with essay by critic Chris Fujiwara