HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Monday, February 29, 2016

THE SPOILS OF BABYLON -- DVD Review by Porfle



Remember when one of the big, big deals on primetime TV was the mini-series?  Back when they first started, we were captivated by these serialized soap-opera-esque epics, these melodramatic cheesefests in which we could wallow in kitsch and gorge ourselves on the exaggerated antics of the immoral upper crust. 

Names like "Rich Man, Poor Man", "The Winds of War", "The Thorn Birds", and "North and South"--as well as such weekly night-time soaps as "Dallas", "Dynasty", and "Falcon Crest"--still have the power to make us cringe as we recall the eye-rolling acting and sudsy storylines that assailed us once upon a time.

Now, stepping up to give such efforts their satirical due in a world of SCARY MOVIE and other such genre-deflating spoofs is IFC's mock mini-series THE SPOILS OF BABYLON (2014).  This six-episode saga is to its target genre what "Police Squad!" was to cop shows and "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" was to regular soap operas, except for one key factor--it isn't all that funny.


In fact, this story of the Morehouse family--oil-rich patriarch Jonas Morehouse (Tim Robbins), ambitious daughter Cynthia (Kristen Wiig), and rebellious stepson Devon (Tobey Maguire), whom they found wandering along a dusty Texas road as a child--tries so hard to be deadpan funny while ladling on its curdled veneer of pseudo-sophistication that it tends toward the turgid. 

One problem is that some of the leads aren't all that adept at this kind of comedy.  Tobey Maguire, in particular, is out of his element doing straight-faced satire, especially when his character runs away from home and goes through a beatnik phase (this episode, done up like a black-and-white art film, is so far removed from the show's original premise that it seems to belong in a different series altogether). 

Tim Robbins manages some laughs as Jonas, the millionaire with the heart of a humanitarian, but familiar castmembers such as Jessica Alba and Val Kilmer seem out of place.  Kristen Wiig of "Saturday Night Live" and the first season of "The Joe Schmo Show" (I loved her as "Dr. Pat") does the best she can with the "Cynthia" character as she takes over the Morehouse empire and becomes the archetypal evil, scheming villainess who seethes with a forbidden and ultimately doomed love for stepbrother Devon. 


Strangely enough, it's a grown-up Haley Joel Osment (THE SIXTH SENSE, FORREST GUMP) who comes off best as Cynthia's even-more-evil son Winston, who's so evil that he plans to sell a nuclear device to a terrorist dictator.  Osment is a hoot as he inhabits this role to its fullest and gives THE SPOILS OF BABYLON many of its more watchable moments.  Elsewhere in the cast, SNL alums David Spade and Molly Shannon show up for brief cameos (Spade's character is named "Joseph Soil").

Bookending each episode are introductory segments by the show's ostensible author, Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell, straining to be funny), a bloated, pretentious blowhard along the lines of the later Orson Welles. 

Jonrosh identifies himself as "Author, Producer, Actor, Writer, Director, Raconteur, Bon Vivant, Legend, Fabulist, Birdwatcher" and boasts of how his magnum opus, which he wrote, produced, directed, financed, and guest-starred in, was done on 93MM film using a process known as "Breath-Take-O-Scope."


The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  There are no extras.

Mildly amusing at times, THE SPOILS OF BABYLON tries everything including doubletalk dialogue, surrealism (Devon's new wife, Lady Anna, is played by an actual storefront mannequin), and sketch-level satire in the vein of "Mr. Show."  To say that the constant throwaway gags and one-liners have a 50/50 success rate would be generous.



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Sunday, February 28, 2016

SESAME STREET: THE COOKIE THIEF -- DVD Review by Porfle



One of the original Sesame Street gang, Cookie Monster, gets to do his thing in the new Sesame Street/Warner Home Entertainment DVD release SESAME STREET: THE COOKIE THIEF.

The ever-popular big blue monster with an insatiable craving for cookies (his catchphrase is, simply: "COOOOO-KIEEEE!") and a rather informal way with the English language ("Me am sorry!") comes to us with approx. two hours of misadventures designed to plant little tidbits of grammar, vocabulary, numbers, and history into our fertile minds while we're being entertained.

This time we (meaning us kids, of course) get a little art appreciation too when Cookie Monster visits a cookie art museum with human friend Chris (Gordon and Susan's nephew) and lovable mini-monster Elmo.   There, the three visit their friend Prairie Dawn, who's working as a tour guide, and peruse such masterpieces as Leonardo de Crunchy's "Muncha Lisa", Vincent Van Dough's "The Cookie Eaters", and Edward Munch's "The Cream" (which involves cream-filled cookies, of course).


The big dramatic conflict occurs when these precious art objects start to disappear one by one and Cookie Monster, who earlier expressed a strong desire to eat them, gets the blame. 

Saturday Night Live's Rachel Dratch chews the scenery herself as the head museum guard, finding the time to sing a song or two while keeping her penguin staff in line.  A raucous finale finds Cookie Monster and friends enlisting the aid of friendly fairy Abby Cadabby to help them discover the real art thief in time for a happy ending to the story.

The digital FX of the museum interiors and all the talking paintings and other characters are nicely done as is all the various muppetry, and Chris (Christopher Knowings) is one of the more likable of Sesame Street's human personalities.  Dratch is amusing as usual, and overall the segment is lots of fun.


But that's hardly all, as a variety of breezy segments round out the DVD's main menu. Michael Stipe and R.E.M. join the Muppets for a rousing rendition of "Furry Happy Monsters", and there's also a "Make Your Own Art" song and a song about primary colors which involves some nice stop-motion animation of humans. 

Another great stop-motion story has the classic comedy duo of Bert and Ernie dreaming that they're museum guards who enter a painting to help an artist in distress, and features great animation on a level with Wallace and Gromit. 

Yet another hour (give or take) awaits on the bonus menu with a vintage Sesame Street episode and two visits to "Elmo's World." 

Here, the hapless Cookie Monster gets falsely accused of cookie theft yet again--this time due to the exploits of a mysterious stranger known as Cookie Hood, who steals cookies from those who have a lot of them and gives them to those who don't have any.


As before, Cookie Monster is the most likely suspect, which, I suppose, teaches kids that false accusations can strike at any time!  Also appearing are humans Maria and Gordon and Muppet regulars such as the Count, Big Bird, Snuffle-upagus, and our old friend Grover. 

Elmo, meanwhile, keeps preschool viewers occupied in his colorful crayon-scrawled world with episodes exploring food and drawing in exhaustive detail with the help of the Muppets, human kids, Elmo's goldfish Dorothy, and Bill Irwin's ever-popular moron Mr. Noodle. 

The DVD from Warner Home Entertainment is in standard full screen with Dolby sound and subtitles in English. 

As one of the superstars of Sesame Street, Cookie Monster knows how to entertain the kids (and us) while teaching a few things in his own clumsy, furry-monster kind of way.  And with such a colorful supporting cast, SESAME STREET: THE COOKIE THIEF is sure-fire fun for young and old.

Street date: March 1, 2016
WBShop.com




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THE TERROR -- Movie Review by Porfle



One thing about it, THE TERROR (1963) looks great--probably better than it has a right to considering its hasty schedule and slapdash origins. 

This picturesque mood piece moves about as fast as the hands of a clock, so you might as well just gear down and settle in if you want to get anything out of it.  "The French Connection" it ain't.  That said, it's a pretty rewarding experience for the patient Gothic horror fan, especially one who appreciates aesthetically-pleasing filmmaking on a tight budget.

Roger Corman had some sets left over from THE RAVEN which were due to be demolished in a matter of days, so he hired actor/screenwriter Leo Gordon and Jack Hill to knock out a script around them, managed to snag RAVEN leftover Boris Karloff for three more days' work, and was off and running.


Aside from Corman's own efforts as director, parts of the picture were co-helmed by Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman (TWO-LANE BLACKTOP), Jack Hill, and co-star Jack Nicholson himself in his fourth film for Corman.

The young Nicholson's acting chops hardly dazzle us here as he portrays Andre Duvalier, a French soldier separated from his regiment circa 1800 and drawn into a ghostly mystery involving reclusive Baron Victor Frederick von Leppe (Karloff) in his isolated seaside castle (with location footage shot at Big Sur). 

Still, just watching this seemingly unprepossessing young actor with the knowledge that he will someday be widely regarded as a "national treasure" is interesting in itself.


The meandering plot is rather negligible and is mainly an excuse to let us observe the historic pairing of Karloff and Nicholson as they wander around the impressive castle sets and agonize over whether or not the ghost of the late Baroness, whom Karloff's character killed in a fit of jealous rage years earlier, still stalks the dark hallways and surrounding forest.

Nicholson's wife at the time, Sandra Knight (already immortalized in the trash classic FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER), plays the elusive Helene, who may or may not be the Baroness' ghost, while Corman fave Dick Miller (billed here as "Richard" to give the film more class) is the Baron's faithful servant Stefan.

Dorothy Neumann plays a local witch with a intensely personal interest in the affair, and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS alumnus Jonathan "Seymour Krelboyne" Haze is also on hand as Gustaf.  Most of the acting is stilted, thanks mainly to some unwieldy dialogue, although Karloff comes through with his usual unfailing professionalism and the real-life Nicholsons are a passable onscreen couple.


Colorful cinematography, some nice stock shots of the castle and churning sea, and a typically robust musical score by the great Ronald Stein (the main titles theme and artwork are a highlight) contribute to THE TERROR's modest but rewarding appeal.

Things heat up (finally!) in the excitingly staged finale when the Baron's darkest secret is revealed at last and the entire surviving cast face death by flood, fire, bird attack, or melting into an oozing mass of putridity. 

The ending, I must say, is enough of a shock to put a satisfying cap on the whole thing, making THE TERROR a pleasantly chilling way to pass some time. 

Read our review of ROGER CORMAN'S HORROR CLASSICS VOL.1


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Saturday, February 27, 2016

DEMENTIA 13 -- Movie Review by Porfle



One of my most vivid childhood memories is of accompanying my older brother to a Saturday screening of a new horror movie with the puzzling title, DEMENTIA 13 (1963).

The stark black-and-white photography and dreary Irish castle setting were spooky enough, but it was this film which would introduce me, for the first time, to genuine, grueling screen terror.

The credit "Directed by Francis Coppola" meant nothing to me or anyone else at time--the future creative genius behind the GODFATHER films was merely an aspiring Roger Corman protege' helming his first "real" movie--and neither did the rather mundane plot about an eccentric Irish family, the Halorans, who were obsessed with the drowning death of the clan's youngest child Kathleen several years earlier.


I wasn't yet a fan of the wonderful Luana Anders (EASY RIDER, THE LAST DETAIL, NIGHT TIDE) who played Louise, John Halloran's scheming wife.  In the opening scenes, we see John die of a heart attack and Louise dump his body into a lake lest his death be discovered and she lose her share of the family fortune.

Nor did I know that William Campbell, playing oldest Haloran son Richard, would later guest star in two of my favorite episodes of "Star Trek: The Original Series" (he was Trelane in "The Squire of Gothos" and Koloth in "The Trouble With Tribbles"), or that Patrick Magee as family doctor Caleb would feature so prominently in Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi classic A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

All I knew at the time was that part of Louise's inheritance scheme involved stripping down to her bra and panties and taking a creepy late-night swim in the same murky pond in which little Kathleen had drowned. 


What happens when she resurfaces--and the spoilers are right there in the poster and trailer themselves--is one of the homages to the likes of PSYCHO that Corman instructed Coppola to include in his script.  (Corman also got Jack Hill to write and direct additional scenes to pad the running time and gore content, to Coppola's dismay.) 

It's also the first-ever movie scene that really and truly scared the ever-livin' crap outta me.

But DEMENTIA 13 isn't done yet, because later there's a beheading (also a first for me) and other creepy goings-on thanks to an axe-wielding maniac who seems to be stalking the Halorans. 

Unfortunately, much of these doings have lost their edge over the years--the leisurely-paced story is dishwater dull at times and most of the scares no longer chill the blood quite like they used to. 

But the film still has a strong Monster Kid watchability factor and (thanks largely to the authentic Irish locations) eerie, Gothic atmosphere to burn.


Hearing music maestro Ronald Stein's creepy, harpsichord-based theme music kick in during those pleasantly-morbid opening titles always makes me want the soundtrack CD.  Come to think of it, I feel that way about all of his film scores. 

After seeing DEMENTIA 13 that first time back in '63, I found its double-bill companion (Ray Milland's colorful PREMATURE BURIAL) a relief for my jangled nerves much the same way DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS would help me recover from the traumatic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD some years later. 

Modern viewers may find this hard to imagine since the film now plays as a slow but satisfying murder mystery with some mildly effective scares.  But it was my PSYCHO, and lovely Luana Anders' midnight swim was my shower scene. 

Read our review of ROGER CORMAN HORROR CLASSICS VOL.1



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Friday, February 26, 2016

EASY TO LOVE -- Movie Review by Porfle



With EASY TO LOVE (1953), swimming superstar Esther Williams returns to frothy comedy, ear-bending Tin Pan Alley songs, and a shallow plot to keep us occupied between Busby Berkeley fever dreams.

Esther plays Julie, an overworked swimsuit model and aqua-performer for the tourists at Cypress Gardens in Florida. THRILL OF A ROMANCE's Van Johnson is back as her manipulative boss Ray. King Donovan (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) has the thankless role of Ray's bumbling assistant, Ben, and REVENGE OF THE CREATURE's John Bromfield returns to the water as Hank, a hunky but not-too-bright coworker who's sweet on Julie.

During a trip to New York Julie falls in love with oily nightclub singer Barry Gordon (Tony Martin, THE BIG STORE) and is offered more than three times her regular salary to join a show there. (Blink and you'll miss Carroll Baker in a tiny role as one of Barry's romantic cast-offs.)


But after a guilt trip from Ray it's back to Florida, where she's now torn between him, Barry, and Hank. Only after Barry shows up at Cypress Gardens to sweep Julie off her feet does Ray finally realize, perhaps too late, that he's in love with her.

As you might expect, the story is just about the least important element in this frivolous concoction. Esther gets to play a crabby character for a change, constantly complaining about how hard Ray works her. Which is okay because she's cute when she's angry--or any other time, as EASY TO LOVE gives her plenty of chances to demonstrate.

As for the songs, the least said the better. When Tony Martin sits at a hotel piano and starts singing the interminable "That's What a Rainy Day is For" to a bunch of moony-eyed old ladies, you may think you've gone to hell.


The rest of his tunes are equally forgettable (except for Cole Porter's "Easy to Love", a holdover from THIS TIME FOR KEEPS) and directed in a rather lethargic way as is most of the movie.

Esther does a little waterskiing and a pleasantly hokey water dance with the beefy John Bromfield, then later puts on clown makeup for a forgettable comedy number. During her audition for a producer in New York, it's just Esther in a plain tank of water with no frills, fancy costumes, or sets--just her beautiful underwater ballet moves--and it's one of the best moments in the picture.

Notoriously flamboyant choreographer Busby Berkeley finally gets off his duff in the final minutes to give us the kind of exotic water carnival-type routine we expect from him. Eight speedboats pulling dozens of waterskiiers weave their way through columns of water blasting upward out of the lake until Esther grabs onto a trapeze hanging from a helicopter and dives into a sparkling tableau of streaming banners and cascading fountains. It's freakin' insane!


Before this hyperkinetic assault on the senses has even had a chance to die down, the plot is resolved chop-chop as Julie falls for the right guy while the other two slink off in defeat. Well, not quite--Tony Martin runs into his real-life wife, FIESTA's Cyd Charisse (not a bad consolation prize), while the other loser suddenly realizes that he's really in love with Julie's roommate, Nancy (Edna Skinner).

It's a happy ending for everyone involved, including the viewers who are relieved that EASY TO LOVE is finally over. (It's still kinda fun, though.)

Read our review of TCM SPOTLIGHT: ESTHER WILLIAMS VOL.2




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The Horrors of "THE CORPSE OF ANNA FRITZ" Coming Exclusively to Flixfling on March 8th



**EXCLUSIVE VOD RELEASE DATE ANNOUNCEMENT**

THE CORPSE OF ANNA FRITZ
(El cadáver de Anna Fritz)
A Film by Hèctor Hernández Vicens

FlixFling Will Release THE CORPSE OF ANNA FRITZ Exclusively on FlixFling.com on March 8th

"There is nothing that can prepare you for The Corpse of Anna Fritz."
-James Shotwell, Under The Gun Review

"It will have you shifting around in your seat for every minute."
-Paul Heath, The Hollywood News

"The claustrophobic horrors that haunt each scene delve relentlessly deep into the psyche of everyone involved."
-Matt Donato, We Got This Covered


Synopsis: 
Anna Fritz, a beautiful Spanish actress and one of the most desired women in the world, has suddenly died. Her body is transferred to a city morgue, where a withdrawn young orderly, Pau, becomes fascinated with her lifeless cadaver.

When Pau sends a picture of the dead celebrity to his two friends, they show up at the morgue for a glimpse of the beautiful starlet. As the whiskey bottles and coke packets empty, the three friends decide this is an opportunity they can’t pass up to get up close and personal with the corpse of Anna Fritz.

However, when they are alone with the body, they soon realize that things aren't exactly what they seem.

TRT: 76 min.
Country: Spain
Language: Spanish
Director: Hèctor Hernández Vicens
Writers: Hèctor Hernández Vicens and Isaac P. Creus
Starring: Alba Ribas, Cristian Valencia, Bernat Saumell, Albert Carbó

FlixFling.com


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Thursday, February 25, 2016

"Teen Titans Go!: Eat. Dance. Punch!" Season 3 Part 1 - Another Season of Crime Fighting and Gut-Busting Adventures!



THE GANG IS BACK FOR MORE CRIME FIGHTING ADVENTURES IN
TEEN TITANS GO!: EAT. DANCE. PUNCH! SEASON 3 PART 1
ON DVD May 31, 2016

Includes Over Four Hours of Cartoon Network’s #1 Series


Burbank, CA (February 24, 2016) – After three successful seasons, the popularity of Teen Titans Go! is undeniable and has lead Cartoon Network to aptly brand the network’s Thursday cartoon block as “New Titans Thursday.” On May 31, 2016, everyone will enjoy 26 all-new adventures with DC Comics’ Teen Titans as Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) and DC Entertainment release Teen Titans Go!: Eat. Dance. Punch! Season 3 Part 1 on a 2-disc DVD collection $19.97 SRP.

Robin, Cyborg, Raven, Starfire and Beast Boy are back for the latest installment in the Teen Titans Go! series with another season of crime fighting and gut-busting adventures. Hilarity ensues as everyone’s favorite heroes must band together to fight crime and deal with everyday adolescent issues. Whether their capes are on or off, the gang is always up to something!

“Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is delighted to release of Teen Titans Go!: Eat. Dance. Punch! Season 3 Part 1 on DVD,” said Mary Ellen Thomas, WBHE Vice President, Family, Animation & Partner Brands Marketing. “Fans can get excited about yet another installment of the ever-popular Teen Titans Go! animated series.”

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

About DC Entertainment
DC Entertainment, home to iconic brands DC Comics (Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash), Vertigo (Sandman, Fables) and MAD, is the creative division charged with strategically integrating across Warner Bros. Entertainment and Time Warner.  DC Entertainment works in concert with many key Warner Bros. divisions to unleash its stories and characters across all media, including but not limited to film, television, consumer products, home entertainment, and interactive games.  Publishing thousands of comic books, graphic novels and magazines each year, DC Entertainment is one of the largest English-language publishers of comics in the world.

Batman and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and ©DCComics. (s15)



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"THE FOREST" on Digital HD March 22 and Blu-Ray, DVD, and On Demand April 12



NATALIE DORMER AND TAYLOR KINNEY
TAKE A HORRIFYING JOURNEY INTO THE UNKNOWN IN

"THE FOREST"

COMING TO DIGITAL HD ON MARCH 22, 2016
AND ON BLU-RAY™ AND DVD APRIL 12, 2016
FROM UNIVERSAL PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT


Universal City, California, February 25, 2016 – Rising with terrifying grandeur, the forest is real – and it is the suspense-filled setting of The Forest, a frightening supernatural thriller coming to Digital HD on March 22, 2016, and on Blu-ray™, DVD and On Demand on April 12, 2016 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The Forest on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD comes with terrifying bonus features including behind-the-scenes photos and feature commentary with director Jason Zada.

A young woman’s hunt for her missing sister leads to horror and madness in The Forest, starring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games) and Taylor Kinney (Chicago Fire, Zero Dark Thirty). When her troubled twin sister Jess mysteriously disappears, Sara Price (Dormer) discovers Jess vanished in Japan’s legendary Aokigahara Forest. Searching its eerie dark woods with the help of journalist Aiden (Kinney), Sara plunges into a tormented world where angry spirits lie in wait for those who ignore the warning: stay on the path. 

BLU-RAYTM, DVD AND DIGITAL HD BONUS FEATURES:

·        Exploring The Forest: Cast and filmmakers discuss their initial attraction to the project and the history behind the Aokigahara Forest; and dive into the characterizations, the visual effects, and the lore of the infamous Yurei in this behind-the-scenes featurette.
·        Galleries
·        Storyboards
·        Feature Commentary with Director Jason Zada

http://uni.pictures/TheForest
https://www.facebook.com/TheForestIsReal
https://twitter.com/theforestisreal
https://www.instagram.com/theforestisreal
#TheForestIsReal

FILMMAKERS
Cast:  Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Eoin Macken
Directed By:  Jason Zada
Written By:  Ben Ketai and Sarah Cornwell and Nick Antosca
Produced By:  Tory Metzger, David S. Goyer, David Linde
Executive Produced By:  Len Blavatnik, Aviv Giladi, Lawrence Bender, Andrew Pfeffer
Director of Photography:  Mattias Troelstrup, DFF
Production Designer:  Kevin Phipps
Edited By:  Jim Flynn
Music By:  Bear McCreary
Costume Design By:  Bojana Nikitovic

TECHNICAL INFORMATION BLU-RAY™:
Street Date:  April 12, 2016
Copyright:  2016 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Selection Number:  62176397 (US)/ 62177867 (CDN)
Layers:  BD-50
Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1 Widescreen
Rating:  PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and images
Languages/Subtitles:  English SDH, Spanish, French
Sound:  DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Run Time:  1 hour, 33 minutes

TECHNICAL INFORMATION DVD:
Street Date:  April 12, 2016
Copyright:  2016 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Selection Number:  62174601 (US)/ 62177867 (CDN)
Layers:  Dual
Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating:  PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and images
Languages/Subtitles:  English SDH, Spanish, French
Sound:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Run Time:  1 hour, 34 minutes

About Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE) is a unit of Universal Pictures, a division of Universal Studios (www.universalstudios.com). Universal Studios is a 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, world-renowned theme parks, and a suite of leading Internet-based businesses. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.



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MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID -- Movie Review by Porfle



After the lightweight fluff of PAGAN LOVE SONG, Esther Williams' MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID (1952) comes as a shock--a genuine period biopic of early 20th-century swimming star Annette Kellerman.

We first see Annette as a little girl growing up in Sydney, Australia with her music teacher father, Frederick (Walter Pidgeon). Barely able to walk and forced to wear leg braces, Annette teaches herself to swim, after which her legs become so strong that she starts winning swimming competitions.

Financial woes force the Kellermans to sail to London, where they meet enterprising carnival showman James Sullivan (Victor Mature) and his sidekick Doc Cronnol (Jesse "Maytag Repairman" White).


With James' help, Annette becomes famous after swimming the length of the Thames River and later, before another long distance attempt in America, getting arrested for indecent exposure for wearing a swimsuit that exposes her bare legs!

As Annette's star rises, eventually leading to a smash engagement at New York's Hippodrome, her romantic relationship with James takes a nosedive and they seperate. He hits bottom just as Annette, at the peak of success, meets with a tragic accident that may end her swimming career.

As a biopic, MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID is a solid effort from director Mervin LeRoy which is consistently entertaining even when the drama starts to get a little sudsy.


Esther is utterly convincing as Annette Kellerman, while Victor Mature does a fine job as the smalltime wheeler-dealer who can't keep up with her rush to fame. Walter Pidgeon is perfect as the stodgy but warm-hearted father, and Jesse White plays the comedy-relief role of Doc Cronnol with his usual hangdog charm.

While the melodramatic elements hold our interest, what really makes the film stand out are the production numbers. Legendary choreographer Busby Berkely has a field day staging some of the most lavish and spectacular sequences yet seen in an Esther Williams vehicle--exquisitely kitschy and colossal in scope, these colorful flights of fantasy are both jaw-dropping and delightfully strange.

I can't even begin to describe them, except to say that they're like a Technicolor acid trip. In addition to these, the smaller-scale aquatic vignettes are equally enchanting due to Esther's ethereal grace and beauty underwater.


Although not the sort of light comedy-romance she's usually associated with, this remains a quintessential Esther Williams film and a top-notch production in every respect, with the usual MGM gloss.

More than some of her other films, MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID gives Neptune's daughter a chance to fully display her talents both in and out of the water.

Read our review of TCM SPOTLIGHT: ESTHER WILLIAMS VOL.2



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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE" when Satanist Bikers Attack on DVD & VOD March 22



All Hell Breaks Loose In This Insane, Bloody Homage
To 70s Biker and Horror Films
 

Wild Eye Hits the Gas on DVD and Digital HD March 22nd

"The right mix of comedy, horror, gore and trash" -- Film Bizarro

   
New York, NY - Wild Eye Releasing is revving up for the March 22nd DVD and Digital HD release of Jeremy Garner's All Hell Breaks Loose.  Featuring Ehren McGhehey (Jackass, Portlandia) and Casey Vann (Grimm), All Hell Breaks Loose combines classic elements of exploitation cinema:  bikers, Satanism and gritty action. A murdered groom tries to save his wife's soul with the help of the local sheriff, a priest, and a cowboy who just might be God.


A story of love, leather ... and brutal violence! When the Satan's Sinners, a vicious biker gang, attack a bride and groom on their wedding day, they get a fight they never imagined. Now, armed with some divine intervention and firepower, the murdered groom is out to save his wife any way he can before she is sacrificed to Satan... even if it means dying over and over again until the job is done.



All Hell Breaks Loose (Official Trailer)

The DVD release of All Hell Breaks Loose (SRP $19.95) will exclusively include a feature-length commentary with director Jeremy Garner and deleted scenes.

Buy it at Amazon.com


 


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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"THE TRIP" -- Roger Corman's Controversial Drug Film Comes to Blu-ray & DVD from Olive Films



Olive Films to Release Roger Corman's Controversial and Censored Drug Film The Trip (1967)

CHICAGO, IL – Olive Films, a small company dedicated to bringing independent, foreign, and classic films to life, is excited to announce the titles that are slated for a Blu-ray/DVD release on March 22, 2016. These titles include 1967's controversial drug film The Trip, which is surrounded by fascinating stories of filmmaking and censorship.

"The Trip functions today as an important relic of countercultural thought and the rise of The New American Cinema," said MArketing Director Bradley Powell. "Its themes surrounding drug use, free love, and spirituality, while existing in new iterations, most certainly linger on today. Seeing as the film debuted the same year as Jimi Hendrix's first LP, a fitting question to ask yourself when discussing this cult classic is: Are You Experienced?"

In The Trip, director Roger Corman brings us on a psychedelic, acid-fueled odyssey, written by Jack Nicholson and starring Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper, and Susan Strasberg. To prepare for the film, the entire cast and crew (excluding Bruce Dern) drove to Big Sur and took LSD together. The film brilliantly shows us the characters' hallucinations through in-camera techniques rather than in post-production. Some of these techniques include strobe lights altered to synchronize with the cameras' frame rates, lights shone through dishes of dye and watch-crystals, and leftover props reused from Corman's earlier films.

Studio censorship inflicted significant anti-drug changes upon The Trip, a film that the artists intended to be a non-judgemtnal tale of drug exploration. At the film's beginning, American International Pictures added scrolling text that branded the film as a warning about the dangers of experimental drug use. In an additional change, they added a black crack over Fonda's face in the final image, leaving the impression of LSD "shattering" his psyche. With these alterations, they hijacked the film's theme of a tolerant exploration and turned it into a judgmental warning.

Still, its depiction of drugs proved so sensational that it received further trouble from the censors, especially in the UK, where it was banned until 2003. The Olive Films Blu-ray and DVD will not feature the beginning advisory text nor the cracked screen. In that way, it will be closer to the artists' original intentions.

About Olive Films
Olive Films is a Chicago-based boutique theatrical and home entertainment distribution label dedicated to bringing independent, foreign, documentary, and classic films to life. Its catalog boasts over 500 titles ranging from Hollywood classics to contemporary titles. More information about Olive Films may be found at olivefilms.com.



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Monday, February 22, 2016

FIESTA -- Movie Review by Porfle



FIESTA (1947) was shot on location in Mexico and features Esther Williams and handsome young newcomer Ricardo Montalban as twins Maria and Mario. Their father, Señor Morales, once a celebrated bullfighter forced into retirement by a crippling injury, has high hopes for Mario to take his place in the ring.

But Mario has other ideas--he dreams of being a concert pianist and composer, while it is Maria who aspires to carry on the family bullfighting tradition. Well, it's a cinch things are going to get complicated before the eventual happy ending.

Esther and Ricardo make a smart-looking couple in their matching outfits and are a likable brother and sister act. I was surprised to find Montalban to be an excellent dancer, as he demonstrates several times during the film.


Cyd Charisse, not quite the stunner she would become and hardly resembling the seductive vamp from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (although there's a hint of it in the red-hot flamenco number she performs with Ricardo), plays Mario's devoted fiancee Conchita.

Esther barely gets close to the water in this one, giving her a chance to prove that she can carry a role without breast-stroking her way through it.

Montalban's intense performance as the musician who's expected to be a bullfighter is a major component of the film, but the main draw is seeing Esther's Maria fulfilling her brother's destiny in the ring by posing as him.


Esther looks way tuff in her form-fitting matador outfits and moves beautifully. Little matter that the matador stand-in doing the actual bullfighting bears scant resemblance to her.

Akim Tamiroff is very likable as the Morales family's old friend, Chato Vasquez, while John Carroll as "Pepe Ortega" convincingly plays a man who wants to forget all this bullfighting nonsense and get married to Maria ASAP.

Fortunio Bonanova (CITIZEN KANE, KISS ME DEADLY) is good as the prideful and unyielding father, Señor Morales. Mary Astor (THE MALTESE FALCON) adds extra class as his long-suffering wife, who hates bullfighting and wants Mario to follow his own dreams.


FIESTA is filled with lots of festive Mexican music, including a pre-rock'n'roll version of "La Bamba", and Montalban deftly mimes playing piano to Aaron Copland's thrilling "El Salon Mexico" in one of the film's most effective scenes.

But best of all are the large-scale bullfighting sequences, which should give Esther's fans a whole new appreciation for the sport. She's one muy bonita matador.

Read our review of TCM SPOTLIGHT: ESTHER WILLIAMS VOL.2




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Sunday, February 21, 2016

"MY BIG NIGHT" -- Alex De La Iglesia's Black Comedy Hits Theaters and VOD in April



ALEX DE LA IGLESIA’S MY BIG NIGHT HEADS TO THEATERS AND VOD APRIL 2016

Breaking Glass Pictures will release Álex de la Iglesia’s  (Witching & Bitching, The Last Circus) ensemble black comedy MY BIG NIGHT (MI GRAN NOCHE in theaters and VOD April 15, 2016. In this “dazzling” (Hollywood Reporter) and “zany comedy” (Screen Daily), the backstage preparations for a New Year's Eve TV spectacular become a flashpoint for comic mayhem.

MY BIG NIGHT stars Spanish superstar Raphael, Mario Casas (Witching & Bitching, “The Boat”), Blanca Suarez (The Skin I Live In, I'm So Excited) and Hugo Silva (Witching & Bitching). MY BIG NIGHT premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 and went on to play San Sebastian International Film Festival and Opening Night at Miami International Film Festival.

Official Synopsis:

It's only October, but the network's annual black-tie New Year's Eve spectacular has already been in production for a grueling week and a half, and setbacks continue to accumulate. A falling crane has just taken out an extra, and the show's hosts are at each other's throats. Oversexed pop sensation Adán (Mario Casas) discovers he's been duped by a semen thief, while legendary divo Alphonso (real-life singer Raphael) is stalked by an armed and unstable would-be songwriter (Jaime Ordóñez) who's disgruntled after years of rejection.
       
Meanwhile, just outside the studio, riot police move in as demonstrators demand the arrest of the shows corrupt producer (Santiago Segura). My Big Night is a frenetic brew of Fellini, Altman and Almodóvar, building steadily toward a finale that's a grand collapse into utter chaos.


"Releasing MY BIG NIGHT and adding another modern auteur to the Breaking Glass family is a dream come true. In a world of dark independent features, Alex's films have always done a masterful job of bringing satire and comedy to audiences - we hope this one will keep audiences smiling," says Rich Wolff, CEO Breaking Glass Pictures.



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THRILL OF A ROMANCE -- Movie Review by Porfle



In THRILL OF A ROMANCE (1945), Esther Williams is a swimming instructor named Cynthia Glenn who lives with her lovably eccentric uncle and aunt, played by Henry Travers (Clarence the angel in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE) and Spring Byington.

Cynthia (who for some strange reason doesn't already have dozens of guys vying for her attention) is swept off her feet by a young business tycoon named Bob Delbar (Carleton G. Young) who takes her to a fancy hotel in the mountains for their honeymoon and then leaves her alone--on their wedding night--when a big deal lures him away to Washington. Yep, we knew right away that stuffed-shirt Bob wasn't the right guy for our Cynthia.

Right on cue, the suddenly lonely new bride meets warm, friendly war hero Major Thomas Milvaine (Van Johnson at his most personable), who falls for her like a sad-eyed puppy dog. We know that they'll be together by the end of the movie, and we can't wait to see Cynthia unload that incredible stiff Bob Delbar.


But before that, we must endure the tortures of self-denial as Cynthia and Tommy splash around in the pool and dine to the music of Tommy Dorsey while rigidly maintaining the proper hands-off attitude.

Also practicing self-denial is Metropolitan Opera star Lauritz Melchior as rotund opera singer Nils Knudsen, who's trying to lose weight. Eventually becoming the benevolent cupid who helps bring Cynthina and Tommy together, the chubby-cheeked Melchior gets plenty of opportunities to sing in his bombastic style--we even get to see a closeup of his quivering tonsils during the titles--while his roly-poly character comically suffers through a vegetables-only diet as others around him indulge in rich food (just as Cynthia and Tommy yearn to indulge in each other).

The opening titles let the viewer know right off the bat that THRILL OF A ROMANCE is going to be filled with music, from opera to big band and in between. Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra are on hand for several hot big-band tunes, some including his nimble-fingered young daughter Susan on piano.


During one rousing number, legendary cool cat Buddy Rich is featured in a kick-ass drum solo. With Dorsey's band, the hotel's house musicians, and opera singer Melchior running around, we have here the rare musical in which the songs and tunes don't just come from out of nowhere.

Esther, of course, gets a lot of mileage out of the hotel's wonderfully kitschy swimming pool set as Cynthia teaches Tommy how to swim and does several nice slow-motion dives off the high board.

She also looks great in a series of outfits that compliment her figure, which is a never-ending source of visual delight. The breathtaking mountain and forest settings of San Bernadino's Arrowhead Springs Hotel and Yosemite National Park provide even more sumptuous Technicolor scenery.


In the days before television, people didn't go to movies like this for the thrills or complicated plots. They wanted to see eye-filling sights, lavish production numbers, and good-looking movie stars. They also wanted to see their favorite radio stars perform the music they could usually only hear over the airwaves.

The simple story of THRILL OF A ROMANCE could've been told in twenty minutes, but getting there at a leisurely pace while savoring the sights and sounds along the way is what it's all about. All you have to do is settle in and enjoy the ride.

Read our review of TCM SPOTLIGHT: ESTHER WILLIAMS VOL.2



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Saturday, February 20, 2016

PAGAN LOVE SONG -- Movie Review by Porfle



Like an exotic postcard from Tahiti come to life, PAGAN LOVE SONG (1950) is a Technicolor fantasia with Esther Williams looking gorgeous in brown body makeup and two-piece outfits as the half-Tahitian Mimi.

Bass-voiced Howard Keel is "Hap" Endicott, a teacher from the USA who just inherited some land with a bamboo shack on it and wants to kick back and become a native. Even though Mimi has plans to move to the States just as Hap is settling in, we know that they'll get together somehow.

This is easily one of Esther's prettiest yet dumbest films. Keel plays Hap like a big, grinning oaf who belts out some of the worst songs ever written (subjects include his singing bamboo house and how much fun it is to sing in the sun on a bicycle) while blundering his way around the island like a newborn giraffe.


He gets along great with the natives (one of whom is played by a very young Rita Moreno), since they're all portrayed as a bunch of addle-brained children themselves. It's enough to make one yearn for the cultural authenticity of an Elvis Presley comedy.

Keel works overtime trying to force some feeling into the nonsensical songs that are shoehorned into the slim plot but he has little to work with--he was much more at home in robust musicals such as ANNIE GET YOUR GUN and SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. Plus, incredible as it may seem, he and Esther have about as much romantic chemistry as a couple of cocoanuts.

After the movie has toodled along with nothing much going on until almost the end, an awkward and overly melodramatic plot twist is dropped right in the middle of it like an anvil in order to remind us that there's supposed to be a story.


The only things PAGAN LOVE SONG has going for it--besides one of those cool SPFX water fantasies that glorifies Esther Williams as a sort of aquatic goddess--are the lush scenery, a really cool Tahitian dance sequence, and the fact that the star looks so good at times that it's almost unreal. (Amazingly, a look at the musical outtakes reveals that the film's best songs aren't even in it!)

If you can turn off your critical faculties for an hour and a half and watch PAGAN LOVE SONG purely on a superficial level, you might enjoy it. Otherwise, this movie is so stupefyingly slight that it makes DONOVAN'S REEF look like a James Michener epic.

Read our review of TCM SPOTLIGHT: ESTHER WILLIAMS VOL.2




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Thursday, February 18, 2016

"SKIPTRACE" -- Saban Films Acquires Domestic Rights to Action Comedy Starring Jackie Chan & Johnny Knoxville



SABAN FILMS ACQUIRES DOMESTIC RIGHTS TO
RENNY HARLIN’S ACTION COMEDY “SKIPTRACE”


STARRING JACKIE CHAN & JOHNNY KNOXVILLE


LOS ANGELES – February 11, 2016 – Saban Films has acquired the US distribution rights to action comedy Skiptrace, directed by Renny Harlin (The Legend of Hercules, Die Hard 2) and written by Jay Longino and Ben David Grabinski. The film stars Jackie Chan (Rush Hour franchise, The Karate Kid), Johnny Knoxville (Jackass series), and Bingbing Fan (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Iron Man 3) and will open theatrically in Q3 this year.

Skiptrace follows a Hong Kong detective Bennie Black (Chan), who has been tracking a dangerous crime boss, Victor Wong, for over a decade. When Bennie’s beautiful young goddaughter Bai (Fan Bingbing) gets into trouble with Wong’s crime syndicate, he comes to the rescue and must track down the only man who can help her – a fast-talking American gambler named Connor Watts (Knoxville) who is also on the run from the mob. The unlikely pair embarks on a hilarious adventure from the wind-swept dunes of the Gobi Desert to the fantastical karst mountains of Guilin.

Saban Films President Bill Bromiley said, “Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville are both international sensations, and Renny Harlin’s smart yet fun approach to this big budget action film brings a raucous force to the screen. We are proud to be adding Skiptrace to our slate.”


Skiptrace was produced by Talent International Films and Dasym Media along with Jackie Chan, Esmond Ren, Charlie Coker, Damien Saccani and David Gerson. The film was co-financed and co-presented by Shanghai New Culture Media Group, Talent International and Dasym Media (a subsidiary of Dasym Investment Strategies B.V., Exclusive Media’s parent company). BLOOM is handling international sales.

Bromiley and Ness Saban negotiated the deal on behalf of Saban Films and WME represented the filmmakers.

Upcoming titles, to be dated, in the Saban Films slate include: Tom Tykwer’s A Hologram for the King starring two-time Academy Award® winner Tom Hanks, where Saban will partner with Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions on the theatrical release; Alex and Ben Brewer’s The Trust starring Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood; I Am Wrath with John Travolta; USS Indianapolis starring Nicolas Cage; Stand Off starring Laurence Fishburne and Thomas Jane; Backtrack starring Adrien Brody and Sam Neil; and Academy Award® Nominee Bob Nelson’s directorial debut, The Confirmation, starring Clive Owen, Maria Bello, Patton Oswalt, and Jaeden Lieberher.

Since the company’s launch in 2014, Saban Films has released The Homesman, starring Academy Award® winners Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank, which world premiered in Cannes; Tracers starring Taylor Lautner; Philip Martin’s The Forger starring John Travolta; American Heist starring Hayden Christensen, Academy Award® Winner Adrien Brody, Jordana Brewster, Tory Kittles and Aliaune “Akon” Thiam; Some Kind of Beautiful starring Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek and Jessica Alba; Man Up starring Simon Pegg and Lake Bell; and MI-5 starring Kit Harington, Jennifer Ehle and Tuppence Middleton.

About Saban Films
Saban Films, an affiliate of Saban Capital Group (“SCG”), is a film acquisition and distribution company which acquires high-quality, feature films to distribute in North America.  Focusing on commercial, talent driven films, the company looks at projects in all stages of production for release across multiple platforms, including a day and date theatrical/VOD release strategy. Based in Los Angeles, Saban Films was established by Haim Saban, SCG Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and is led by Bill Bromiley who serves as president, Shanan Becker, Chief Financial Officer and Ness Saban, Director of Business Development.



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"CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA" -- WildEye Releasing Scoops Up New Art and Trailer



WildEye Puts Delicious Death on the Menu for the US
Stuart Simpson's Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla Arrives in May

"Napoleon Dynamite by way of Taxi Driver"
- Scream Magazine

   
New York, NY - WildEye Releasing imports a new flavor of horror this May with the domestic release of the acclaimed Aussie cult thriller Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla.  The latest film from director Stuart Simpson follows an abused and obsessive ice cream truck driver as his life causes him to snap, with terrifying consequences for all.

Awkward, lonely ice cream truck driver Warren Thompson has two major problems: an unhealthy obsession with a soap opera actress, and a gang of bullies who like to savagely beat him on a regular basis. As Warren slowly slips out of reality and into a psychotic fantasy world to escape his miserable life, a darker, deadlier Warren emerges to deal with his problems and put an end to his tormentors.


Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla (Official Trailer)

Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla will deliver its treats to American audiences on DVD and VOD in May.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

GONE WITH THE POPE -- Movie Review by Derek



It was 1976. Our young country was celebrating its 200th birthday, stronger than ever. The "Whip Inflation Now" craze had reached a fevered pitch. "I Will Survive" had yet to become the anthem for women everywhere. It was the year before Star Wars, and the people were still relying on primitive, low-tech films such as The Godfather and Chinatown for their blockbuster entertainment. And in Palm Springs, California, a legend was about to meet his destiny.

Duke Mitchell, lounge singer/comedian/voice actor/auteur, was working on his second film, GONE WITH THE POPE, a gritty crime drama. The film is described as his version of "The Godfather." Unfortunately, the limited budget was running out, and he could not complete his vision. Five years later, he passed away. His film had been lost forever...

Until the mid-90's. A young film editor named Bob Murawski had recovered more than a dozen reels of film and soundtrack. In between jobs, he worked on assembling the pieces Mitchell had filmed until he had a completed film to screen. In between that, he won the Oscar for his editing on The Hurt Locker. And now you know the rest of the story.


Duke Mitchell joins such honored directors as Ed Wood, Coleman Francis, Harold P. Warren, and Tommy Wiseau. The auteurs with a strong vision, a very limited budget, and a great deal of determination... who also make completely mind-boggling movies. For GONE WITH THE POPE, 24 years belatedly, will enter the collective consciousness alongside THE ROOM, "MANOS" THE HANDS OF FATE, and RED ZONE CUBA.

The movie takes place in some sort of hazy dream world where normal logic doesn't apply. It centers on Duke Mitchell's Paul, a small-time mob hitman brought out of jail to perform 7 hits in 2 cities. He is introduced as some sort of Gandhi or Jesus, beloved by all of the prisoners and giving them all long wet kisses on the cheek. In exchange for the hits, he gets three of his closest friends, disciples if you will, released from jail with him.

When he completes his job, he is able to escape on his private yacht with his friends. While sailing from Los Angeles, he decides that they should all go to Italy to kidnap the Pope. Eventually, he figures he can hold the holy man hostage for $1 from every Catholic in the world per day.


Like THE ROOM, it's a little hard to describe the insanity without spoiling all of the surprises. If you've seen the trailer, you know there's a nude 400 pound woman in the movie. The context is equally bizarre and perhaps the "highlight" of the movie. Paul's friend wants to get laid. Paul's solution? Pick up the first woman he sees in the park. She's hot and ready. Paul and his friend strip down and wrestle with her for several minutes before running out of the room giggling. The nude 400 pound lady proceeds to break the door off of its hinges.

But perhaps you're not a chubby chaser, and this scene is not your cup of tea. Perhaps you would prefer Paul's out-of-place rants against Pope Pius' lack of action against the Holocaust. And maybe you'd like a side of his promise to kill 100 priests for all of the Jews that died in the Holocaust. And then the plot to kidnap the Pope is as childish and idiotic as the plot to kidnap Hitler in HITLER DEAD OR ALIVE. Perhaps the film takes place in the same universe as THE INVENTION OF LYING, where people's words are taken at face value.

And not unlike THE ROOM or PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, the film stumbles around like a drunk person, occasionally crashing into a plot point and unable to stop rambling about its feelings. The film seems about half an hour longer than it actually is. I started to nod off, further degrading the line between dream and reality. The plot itself sort of dies a slow death. They kidnap the Pope, chit-chat with him, rant about the Holocaust, and then let him go, like a fish back into the sea.

Nothing, however, can prepare you for the incredible, shocking ending of GONE WITH THE POPE. No one will be allowed admission for the last 10 minutes. If you die from fright, you will receive a free coffin.



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