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HONEST FILM REVIEWS

Sci-Fi
Independent

THE CELLULOID MISFITS

Join us for a selection of movie and television show reviews, fresh from the big screen, selected streaming services, and upcoming 4K UHD/Blu-ray releases

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FEATURE REVIEW

THE CAT & THE CANARY (USA 1927) Directed by Paul Leni

Two decades after Cyrus West passes, his surviving relatives are called together at his old mansion for the reading of his last will and testament. They soon find out that everything has been left to his niece Annabelle, although only if she can be judged as legally sane. So when the family reluctantly settle down for the night and word reaches them that a murdered known as The Cat has escaped the local asylum, tensions rise and imaginations run wild triggering a host of horrifying events that terrorise them all – leading to the jealous family members questioning the very sanity of the innocent Annabelle!

 

A classic slice of Hollywood cinema gets a stunning 4K restoration in this new Blu-ray release from Eureka Video as part of their Masters Of Cinema series. Coming up on its 100th birthday, Paul Leni's horror masterpiece, The Cat & The Canary, is still as entertaining and as beautifully impressive today as it was upon release. Released as part of their Masters Of Cinema series, the packed Blu-ray delivers a stunning restoration that highlights the incredible work of Leni – from his inspiration of German expressionism to his inventive cinematography, its surreal set pieces and camera trickery to its beautiful art direction. Setting the mark for Hollywood horror movies of the 1930s, The Cat & The Canary is the first film adaptation of the popular John Willard stage play from 1922 offering viewers a wonderful blend of horror and comedy that became a staple part of classic film-making.

 

Although it is slowly creeping up on its 100th birthday, The Cat & The Canary is still hailed by many today as the definitive haunted-house movie – and it most definitely holds up. Starring a wonderful cast of its time including Laura La Plante, Creighton Hale, Forrest Stanley, Tully Marshall, and Gertrude Astor, it has seen many remakes over the decades that followed, yet none have ever really bettered what Paul Leni and his team brought to the screen. For its first-ever Blu-ray release, Eureka offer fans a host of wonderful extra features including two very fun and very informative audio commentaries – the first from film critic Kim Newman and author Stephen Jones, and the second with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby respectively. The featurette titled Mysteries Mean Dark Corners is an interesting 29 minute video essay from David Cairns and Fiona Watson on the film and those it inspired, with film critic Pamela Hutchinson delivering an insightful 13 minute piece on the classic and film critic Phuong Le delivering a similar piece that runs for just under 10 minutes. There's two short extracts from John Willard's play voiced over shots from the film based on which characters are speaking. These run for just over 5 minutes in length and, while they aren't the most suited voices to what's on screen, certainly make for a fun watch. The final piece is a newly voiced piece over an old add for Lucky Strike cigarettes that featured director Paul Leni in his promotion for the product and how it got him through filming. It's an interesting addition that completes an enjoyable array of extras alongside this classic piece of cinema.

 

All in all, The Cat & The Canary 4K restored Blu-ray release from Eureka is a must for any true cinephile and those keen to know where the haunted-house movie really began. Released on April 22nd, the first run of the Blu-ray is limited to 2000 copies and comes with a limited edition slipcase. (4/5) George @invincibleasia

Get your copy HERE

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FEATURE REVIEW

STRANGER IN MY OWN SKIN (UK 2023) Directed by Katia DeVidas

Released on most digital platforms, Blu-ray & DVD by Dazzler Media, Peter Doherty: Stranger In My Own Skin is an intimate, intriguing, and revealing insight to the troubled and controversial life of The Libertines frontman – someone I've generally never been a fan of, although have admittedly enjoyed numerous songs that he has put out over the years. With that said, I still felt the need to keep watching this new docu-film made by his wife, Katia DeVidas, which revealed quite the journey combined from over 200 hours of footage she had been shooting over a 10 year period (which probably would have made for a more interesting piece had it been a six-part series on Netflix)!

 

While it features some brutal scenes of Doherty's drug use, the addiction itself and fight to break it, including his unfortunate auctioning of guitars and artwork to fund his rehabilitation, and his unsettling state of life in general, the film tends to avoid numerous tabloid nightmares such as the death of Mark Blanco; a man who tragically died after falling from a balcony in East London during a party at a flat where Doherty himself attending. His rocky relationship with Amy Winehouse is also brushed over, as his current relationship with the director. While it most definitely feels like viewers are getting an all-access pass, one can't help but feel like there was so much more that really could have made this a 'must see' documentary, although I mean that respectively.

 

The life of a rock-n-roll star has long been the subject of myths, legends, and front page headlines, but Pete's is definitely one of the most unfortunate and darker tales I've ever seen. There's a weird likeability about him, often coming across like a blend of Russell Brand and Jack Whitehall, yet at the same time he proves to be equally disgusting, selfish, and lost – a broken genius of sorts who has, like many similar artists before him, fallen far to deep down the rabbit hole. It's a fascinating piece that reminds us all just how fragile we can be, with the evils of peer pressure, the highs of being a celebrity and the costs that come with it. Thankfully, the story does end on a positive note and the scene of Pete's parents joining him on stage to surprise him was especially touching. Stranger In My Own Skin won't be for everyone, but it definitely holds your attention and makes for an interesting, if not eye-opening, 90 minutes that will sit with you for some time. (3.7/5) George @invincibleasia

Get your copy HERE

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FEATURE REVIEW

LITTLE EGGS: A FROZEN RESCUE (MEXICO 2022)

Little Eggs: A Frozen Rescue tells the tale of Toto and his family on another adventure – this time to the South Pole to help a kidnapped baby polar bear and his penguin friends return home. On the run from the pirate brothers who were behind the kidnapping and with the help of the Little Eggs family, the gang of animals learn to deal with loss, fear, friendship, and killer whales as they attempt to make their journey from Mexico to Antarctica!

 

Originally released as A Frozen Rooster in 2022, Little Eggs: A Frozen Rescue is the latest film in the series from Mexican brothers Gabriel and Rodolfo Riva Palacio Alatriste which started back in 2005 with A Movie Of Eggs. Three sequels would follow with Another Egg & Chicken Movie in 2009, Little Rooster's Egg-cellent Adventure in 2015, and Little Eggs: An African Rescue in 2021, clearly proving to be successful enough that audiences wanted more. With their latest offering, the brothers clearly deliver their best work yet with some gorgeous animation, genuinely funny moments, and just enough emotional trauma to keep viewers invested. Unfortunately, this has also been confirmed as the final film of the “Huevos” series – although I look forward to what the team has to offer in the near future.

 

Honing some inspiration from animated films such as Surfs Up, Madagascar, and Ice Age, Little Eggs: A Frozen Rescue gets its UK big-screen outing courtesy of Dazzler Media just in time for Easter, and I couldn't recommend it enough. Kids of all ages will find something to enjoy in this farmyard adventure, from its funky soundtrack to its quirky and lovable characters, and from its colourful animation to its exciting thrills and chases. And be sure to stick around for a fun mid and post credit scene that helps tie things up for those of you who get invested... (3.7/5) George @invincibleasia

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FEATURE REVIEW

PATHS OF GLORY (USA 1957) Directed by Stanley Kubrick

(G) Stanley Kubrick's highly praised anti-war film from 1957 is delivered in a new stunning 4K restoration as a UHD release on February 26th, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters Of Cinema series. The film was initially released on Blu-ray by them back in September 2016 (also carrying the same number of 155 from the series), with the new 4K release containing the very same special features as its previous release. These include an informative audio commentary with film scholar Adrian Martin, Interviews with Kubrick scholar Peter Kramer and filmmaker Richard Ayoade, and critic Richard Combs, as well as the original theatrical trailer along with an isolated music & effects track. As always, Eureka provides a wonderfully designed and healthy booklet to accompany the release – but its real highlight, of course, is the new 4K print which looks fantastic!

 

This was a first watch for me, although I had a few flashbacks of catching it as a kid on television. But for a dedicated first time viewing, Paths Of Glory proved to be an incredible watch. While it caused some controversy upon its release, and more-so with the French to the nature of its story that saw it banned both there and in Spain, its probably less offensive today although its message and significance is still pretty clear. Based on the novel of the same name by Henry Cobb, Kubrick delivers an almost perfect film with Kirk Douglas leading a stellar cast who provide great performances all round. While watching it, I had the impression that it would have made a fantastic stage play and have since learned that it did indeed have a very short run on Broadway back in 1935. Perhaps with today's budgets and theatrical ingenuity, Paths Of Glory would prove a much bigger success as a live show.

 

Regardless, this 4K UHD release has certainly given me the ultimate experience of this classic film and I'd highly recommend it. Paths Of Glory is powerful, atmospheric, and shocking, offering some emotional performances, fantastic set pieces on the front line, and stunning cinematography, which certainly comes across very clear on this release. It questions humanity and war, based on true events from WWI, that is a definite must see for any true cinephile... (4.5/5) George @invincibleasia

 

(A) Combining the harsh, brutallic and claustrophobic nature of trench warfare and shedding a light of higher societic negotiation, and opinion on valour, rank, status… Stanley Kubrick’s ant-war feature Paths of Glory showcases the utmost ridiculousness of the First World War, condemning the actions and the privileged notions taken by the higher ranking officers and their ability and downright mockery to waste the lives of thousands of men just to stroke their own ego and valour as they hide in luxurious comforts, whilst lesser-men do their fighting for them. 

 

And, I think that is very poignant when watching Paths of Glory. Kubrick’s message of the film isn’t about the valour, adventure and great service for their country as many men were first led to believe when they intentionally signed up for war, during the Great War, it was a lie sold to them by men deeming it so, and retrospectively speaking audiences and people know and understand the repercussions of World War I , such as the PTSD, shell-shock and living conditions of trench-warfare… but back then the opinion of soldiers that were affected where considered cowardly and met punishment worse that what ‘the enemy’ could provide… abandonment by one’s own country! 

 

Paths of Glory is still to this day a memorising feature that leaves audiences wishing they could look away but just can’t, and along with the visionary direction, grey narrative and bold, commanding performances by all involved, Paths of Glory is not a film should be experience, its a film that needs to be! (5/5) Adam @secondviewing 

Get your copy HERE

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FEATURE REVIEW

FREAKS vs THE REICH (ITALY 2021) Directed by Gabriele Mainetti

(G) Originally released in it's home territory in 2021 as Freaks Out, the more suitably renamed Freaks Vs The Reich is finally getting its UK release courtesy of Dazzler Media. Hands down, I have to say that this little gem is by far one of the most entertaining films I have seen in a long time, and definitely one of my favourite releases of the year. In what was, surprisingly, only his second feature film, director Gabriele Mainetti delivers a superhero movie like no other that shames the efforts of what both Marvel and DC (and definitely Sony) have given us in recent years. With high production values, gorgeous cinematography, and a wonderful score, Freaks Vs The Reich wins over its audience with its unique storyline and wonderful characters – with everyone involved, genuinely giving some great performances!

 

Claudio Santamaria is just brilliant as the Wolfman known as Fulvio, head 'freak' and leader to the unlikely band of heroes, aided by a magnetic dwarf played by Giancarlo Martini, the oddly handsome Pietro Castellitto who has the power to control bugs, and the beautiful Aurora Giovinazzo who plays Matilde the electric girl whose power is brought to the attention of a highly dedicated Nazi; played with gusto and emotion by German actor Franz Rogowski – a dead ringer for Joaquin Phoenix, and clearly just as talented. He has a gift of dreaming about the future, an ability that allows him to lay out his plans to help Germany win the war, learn about technology, and steal some popular hit songs that he adapts to entertain his audience. Once such example is his beautiful piano rendition of Creep by Radiohead – made even more amazing as his character has an extra finger on each hand.

 

With an opening 10 minutes that's worth the price of admission alone, Freaks Vs The Reich is a beautifully made and brilliantly directed piece that keeps you glued to the screen with its moments of dark humour, shocking violence, comic book entertainment, and genuine emotion. It's just a shame that it didn't get a limited run on the big screen, as it deserves to be celebrated. While some critics have claimed that it makes a mockery of the Nazi's atrocities in WWII, I have to strongly disagree. Mainetti handles things wonderfully, allowing you to feel angry and sad at their actions, making it clear just how unjust things were – and I don't want to cheapen my review by saying this film is like Mystery Men meets The Greatest Showman meets Jojo Rabbit, but that's just how it came across (and it's a damn bit better than claiming that its like the X-men, because if our 'freaks' had their powers then it would have been a very different movie altogether). But I loved this! And I want to see more. Freaks Vs The Reich has the potential to take its heroes on a few more journeys together, and I hope that the team behind this give us the chance to see that someday soon! (4.5/5) George @invincibleasia

(A) In association with Dazzler Media, Freaks vs The Reich brings home a fantasy-action epic that follows four uniquely powered misfits as they navigate themselves through an Nazi-occupied Rome in search for the biggest score in the Circus Entertainment Industry. Filled with dark humour, this Italian historical-fantasy drama blends the grey morality of everyday individuals just looking to survive and make a living even whilst during the war.

I feel that director Gabriele Mainetti does a fantastic job, inciting that in war there are no heroes or villains, just a grey spectrum of morality. And, for me I found this story narrative very refreshing from your typical American/Hollywood narrative or good vs evil, as the self-titled 'Freaks' themselves are not morally just, if anything they are the opposite having the supernatural abilities and instead of fighting, to use their powers to help and liberate chose to follow and seek refuge under the Nazi regime to make a quick buck!

However, despite its fantastical and humorous approach with its dark comedic moments. Freaks vs The Reich never spells out to make a mockery out of the war and does signal telling and solemn moments to remember the heinous acts that were carried out during the war. Ultimately, Freaks vs The Reich has shown a spotlight onto the European market that I wasn’t exactly privy to and will look forward to more films such as this that blends narrative and character development together, in such a way that only Hollywood wishes that it could do at this moment in time! (4/5) Adam @secondviewing

 

Get your copy HERE

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