ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: Running Out of Time Collection

Director Johnny To (The Heroic Trio) has created two different tales of criminal masterminds going up against the Hong Kong Police Force, led by Inspector Ho Sheung-sang (Lau Ching-wan).

The Arrow blu ray set comes with both Running Out of Time and its sequel, Running Out of Time 2. Both films appear with high-definition blu ray presentations that have been scanned and restored in 2K. As always, the packaging is incredible from Arrow, with original and newly commissioned artwork by Lucas Peverill plus an illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the films by David West.

Running Out of Time has new commentary by Hong Kong film expert Frank Djeng, as well as a second commentary by writers Laurent Cortiaud and Julien Carbon, moderated by Hong Kong film expert Stefan Hammond. There are also interviews with Carbon and Courtiaud, Johnnie To, Lau Ching-wan and Raymond Wong. Plus, there’s a feature entitled The Directors’ Overview of Carbon and Courtiaud, the trailer and an image gallery.

Running Out of Time 2 also has commentary by Djeng, a making-of, Hong Kong Stories, a documentary by director Yves Montmayeur about Hong Kong cinema mythology via Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud’s experience as writers in the HK film industry, the trailer and an image gallery.

You can get this set from MVD.

Running Out of Time (1999): Cheung Wah (Andy Lau) has been diagnosed with cancer and given four weeks to live. One night, as he eats at a diner, he takes notice of the way that Inspector Ho Sheung-sang handles a bank robbery. Impressed, he decides to play a game against the cop, giving him 72 hours to catch him for a series of increasingly daring crimes. Cheung will admit defeat if Ho can take him to the police station before three days are over.

Generally, Hong Kong cop movies are so deadly serious. This has some moments of that, as the disease killing Cheung is no joking matter. But by the end of the film, the two men have somehow earned each other’s respect, even if Cheung keeps outsmarting his police adversary the whole way to the very end.

Lau is an incredibly popular actor but rarely gets any respect. He’s a populist favorite, but this is the movie that finally won him Best Actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards. From stealing diamonds to repeatedly faking his demise, he’s the heart of this film.

Running Out of Time 2 (2001): Co-directed by Johnnie To and Law Wing-cheung, this sequel finds Inspector Ho Sheung-sang returning to match wits with another criminal mastermind, the unnamed man played by Ekin Cheng.

The man introduces himself by faking his suicide by jumping from a roof. He then announces that he has stolen several priceless Chinese treasures and will tell the press, ruining the insurance company that has been hired to protect them. Where Cheung in the first film relied on his brains, this mysterious magician can tightrope walk and seemingly disappear into thin air.

There’s an amazing scene where a chase between the two rivals is paused for water and ice cream. The unnamed man also uses bald eagles to help him steal from people and if that joke means what I think it does, well done.

The follow-up is much funnier than the first film, but it keeps so much of what made me love that movie. It’s definitely worth your attention.

Arnold Week: End of Days (1999)

Peter Hyams is a funny guy.

He once said, “O. J. Simpson was in Capricorn One and Robert Blake was in Busting. I’ve said many times: Some people have AFI Lifetime Achievement awards, some people have multiple Oscars, my bit of trivia is that I’ve made films with two leading men who were subsequently tried for the first-degree murder of their wives.”

He’s also made plenty of decent movies with not much fanfare, like Outland2010Running ScaredTimecopStay Tuned and Sudden Death.

1979: The Pope sends a priest on a mission to protect a newborn baby named Christine York, who will be the one to give birth to Satan’s child after a comet goes over the moon in full view of the Vatican, all while the Vatican knights try to kill her.

1999: Satan has possessed an investment banker (Gabriel Byrne) under the protection of Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger) and Bobby Chicago (Kevin Pollak). Father Thomas Aquinas (Derrick O’Connor), a tongue-less priest, tries to kill the banker before being arrested.

Between his old boss Marge Francis (CCH Pounder) and Father Kovak (Rod Steiger), Cane starts to realize that something isn’t right with his boss, what with him crucifying Aquinas to the ceiling of his apartment.

Can a man who has given up on God after the death of his wie and daughter find the strength to protect York (Robin Tunney) from the Vatican knights and demons, including his dead partner reanimated after making a deal with Satan? Will the devil crucify Arnold? Do grenades work on Satan?

This movie also has Udo Keir and Marc Lawrence, somehow appearing yet again in a movie where Satan wants a woman, much like The Nightmare Never Ends but with a much larger budget.

End of Days was Arnold’s first movie since Batman & Robin and a series of heart issues. Studios were anxious about whether or not they could insure him. The insurance people and executives from Universal came to the set just to watch him for the first week of shooting, but Arnold had returned to peak condition.

Watch the series: Lake Placid

Sometimes, having OCD and ADD and who knows what else leads me down some strange paths. This time, it was to go all-in on Lake Placid. A note: The Lake Placid vs. Anaconda movie and Lake Placid: Legacy will be covered soon enough.

Lake Placid (1999): Not many eco-horror movies have the pedigree of Steve Miner directing and David E. Kelly writing them. Maybe it’s just that I’ve watched so many cable sequels and low budget cash-ins this week, but man — this is an actual movie! This line will make more sense by the time this article is done, as man did these movies take a dive when it comes to quality.

A SCUBA diving death in Aroostook County, Maine leads to an entire team investigating the cause. Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleason), wildlife officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), American Museum of Natural History paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) and mythology professor Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) soon discover that there’s a giant crocodile in the lakes, fed by kindly old Mrs. Delores Bickerman (Betty White).

The Stan Winston-created gator looks great, a moose head is gorily removed from the lake and White’s character is fun. There are also several references to Alligator, which I endorse because it’s the best of all croc or gator on the loose movies.

Lake Placid 2 (2007): Sheriff James Riley is now on the case of the gators and if you know your made for SyFy movies, you know that he has to be played by one-time Duke of Hazzard John Schneider. Instead of Betty White feeding gators, you get her sister Sadie, played by Cloris Leachman (they were both on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, so at least the casting has some meta quality). Instead of Steve Miner and David E. Kelly, we have David Flores directing and Howie Miller and Todd Hurvitz writing.

It is, as they say, a major step backward.

I was going to ask where a cop would get a grenade launcher and then I remembered that in my hometown of 7,436 people the police all have AR15s, ballistic armor and a battle armored SWAT vehicle. So this isn’t all that far-fetched, I guess.

In case you wondered, yes, a small dog is menaced by the gator.

Lake Placid 3 (2010): Sadie Bickerman has died and left her home to her nephew Nathan (Colin Ferguson from Eureka), who plans on fixing it up with his wife Susan (Yancy Butler) and their son Connor, who inherits the Bickerman family trait of feeding gators and making them into human masticating killing machines.

In this movie, an entire family of gators bites down on peeping toms and skinny dippers, keeping the cable movie from showing too much gore or too much skin. It also has a literal home invasion via crocodile years before Crawl.

Director Griff Furst — Stephen’s son — has been in nearly ninety movies and also directed Swamp SharkAlligator Alley and Trailer Park Shark. Writer David Reed is now a writer and a producer of The Boys.

The end of this movie directly ties into the fourth movie.

Lake Placid: The Final Chapter (2010): David E. Kelly, which wrote the original Lake Placid, gave this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars and said, “Is this the last one really? The ending doesn’t make me think so. I am glad to see Robert Englund in this and some of the cast from the previous movie! The effects are still lame as second and third, but the story is good.”

David Reed was back as the writer and sequel king Don Michael Paul (Kindergarten Cop 2, Jarhead 2: Field of FireSniper: LegacyTremors 5: BloodlinesSniper: Ghost ShooterTremors: A Cold Day in HellDeath Race: Beyond AnarchyThe Scorpion King: Book of SoulsJarhead: Law of ReturnBulletproof 2 and Tremors: Shrieker Island) was new to the series, making what was claimed to be the last film in the series. Come on, people.

After the events of Lake Placid 3, Reba (Yancy Butler) is still alive and she starts this off by killing the last remaining crocodile in the supermarket. Now an EPA agent, she returns to Black Lake a year later to work with sheriff Theresa Giove (Elisabeth Röhm). And in every Lake Placid there must be a Bickerman and this time it’s Jimmy, played by Robert Englund.

Butler is pretty great in this, the crocodile is somehow twenty feet long and a whole bus full of kids gets menaced.

There’s an opportunity to make the Lake Placid movies high trash, yet no one ever seems to go for it. You know there will be more, so that’s my challenge to croc creatives: go wild.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1990s Collection: The Deep End of the Ocean (1999)

The Deep End of the Ocean was based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Jacquelyn Mitchard, the first novel selected by Oprah Winfrey for Oprah’s Book Club. It’s all about what happens when Ben, the youngest son of a family, is kidnapped and then found nine years later, living in the same town where his family had just moved. What are the odds?

Beth Cappadora (Michelle Pfeiffer) lost the three-year-old Ben at a class reunion when he was just three. She has a nervous breakdown and neglects her husband Pat (Treat Williams) and other sons Vincent (Jonathan Jackson) and Kerry (Alexa Vega).

A decade and a new town later, all seems well, except when Sam (Ryan Merriman) shows up to cut the grass and she just knows that he has to be Ben, a fact that no one but Detective Candace “Candy” Bliss (Whoopi Goldberg) believes.

Can the family come back together? And is that Tony Musante from The Bird with the Crystal Plumage as a grandfather? Yes to both.

Mill Creek’s Through the Decades: 1990s Collection has some great movies for a great price like HousesitterWhite PalaceOne True ThingDonnie BrascoThe Devil’s OwnThe MatchmakerAnacondaI Know What You Did Last Summer and The Freshman. You can get it from Deep Discount.

Prophet (1999)

Jarrid Maddox (Don “The Dragon” Wilson) was experimented on as a child and mutated to gain the power to see into the future. He’s been selected to kill five terrorists who end up being five other people just like him who were experimented on by the CIA.

Also known as The Capitol Conspiracy, the main reason I was excited to see this was that Barbara Steele shows up. I mean, Barbara Steel in a Don “The Dragon” movie. Plus Robert Quarry? Come on, Fred Olen Ray. You’re giving me too much.

The best part of this movie for me was Maddox’s partner Vicki Taylor (Alexander Keith, who also used the name Wendy Scumacher in movies like Scorned 2Animal Instincts IIIStar HunterFugitive Rage and The Escort II). She has a very butch ass kicker look going on in this and while her turn on our hero can be figured out without mental powers, you won’t mind. She’s also the recipient of the heavy petting that the Dragon gives out at least once a movie.

Such are the ways of direct to video.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Invisible Mom 2 (1999)

Laura Griffin (Dee Wallace) is back as the invisible (foster) mom but let’s be honest: I watched this movie because it dares to team up Mary Woronov and Mickey Dolenz as brother and sister family killing evildoers and this delighted my brain on so many levels. Also: Robert Quarry.

Barry Livingston is back as the dad, Trenton Knight is back as the son and so is about six or seven minutes of the first movie because why reshoot what you already shot?

Invisible Mom retains the powers she lost at the end of the last movie but then again she rarely uses them in the film. That’s better than the film’s cover art, in which a leotard and headband-wearing mom works up a sweat that we can’t see while a young voyeuristic child watches in astonishment from a window. I want that movie if only because I will watch any child movie that Fred Olen Ray makes. Or softcore porn that he directs. And somehow, they have the exact same aesthetics which is at once pleasing and somewhat distressing.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Sangharsh (1999)

The joy of world cinema is when you learn of a film with an audacious premise. For example: what if there was a Bollywood Silence of the Lambs?

Well, director Tanuja Chandra and writers Mahesh Bhatt and Girish Dhamija claim that this movie is really based on an Indian police case. That’s true — the villain, Lajja Shankar Pandey (Ashutosh Rana) who takes over from Buffalo Bill — was based on a real criminal who believed that for each person he murdered, he would increase his lifespan.

Chandra is an anomaly in the world of Indian film, as female directors are rare and mainly make dramas, not blockbusters. Even though she was supported by her mentor Mahesh Bhatt, she once found herself ignored by male actors and crewmembers.

Her first movie Dushman was a remake of Eye from an Eye but failed as audiences in India need romance and a strong male hero, not a woman gaining revenge.

Pandey is behind the child abductions and murders that have confused the police and led to CBI trainee Reet Oberoi (Preity Zinta) — introduced just like Clarice Starling in a jogging scene — being part of the case. She’s haunted, not by the screams of sheep, but by the fact that her brother was killed for being a terrorist right in front of her eyes. Now, to help solve the case, she turns to the unjustly jailed Professor Aman Verma (Akshay Kumar). His bars may be iron instead of plexiglass, but Verma is definitely Hannibal Lecter. The romance that blooms between the two is similar to the novel Hannibal if not the film.

When a politician’s child is kidnapped for Pandey’s ultimate ritual — to be carried out during a solar eclipse — Oberoi must overcome the ghosts of her past and a male-dominated police force that doesn’t believe in her methods. While this also happens in the movie’s inspiration, it’s also something that Chandra actually experienced.

To learn more about Sangharsh, I recommend Ed Glaser’s How the World Remade Hollywood, which you can order from McFarland Books.

You can watch this on YouTube.


APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 30: Grass (1999)

Ron Mann also made Comic Book Confidential, which is one of my favorite documentaries, as well as movies about Big Daddy Roth, Robert Altman, free jazz, the twist and Margaret Atwood. Joined by writer Solomon Vesta and narrator Woody Harrelson — no stranger to the kind bud and who did this movie for free — Grass takes a decade by decade approach to the history of US federal policies and social attitudes toward marijuana.

In the two decades since this film, eighteen states, Washington, D.C. and Guam are all legal United States places to recreationally get baked. and thirteen states have decriminalized marijuana. Yet how much money and how many lives were ruined by the “War On Drugs,” which really got started when Harry Anslinger started the idea that sativa and marijuana would make you insane. That war continued through Richard Nixon creating the DEA, to Nancy Reagan urging us to just say no and Bill Clinton increasing spending to arrest drug dealers and users.

In 2015, the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for an end to the war, estimated that the America spends $51 billion each year on anti-drug endeavors and in the fifty years of the War On Drugs spent $1 trillion dollars.

This is something that has been known since 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a critical report that said, “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”

Mann so urgently believed in the message of this movie — which uses archive footage and clips from movies like Reefer Madness — that he released for free.

ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: Twisting The Knife: Four Films By Claude Chabrol: The Color of Lies (1999)

René Sterne (Jacques Gamblin) was once a famous painter but now lives in a small town and makes the majority of his money as a teacher. His mood is always dark, in contrast to his wife Vivianne (Sandrine Bonnaire), who is an eternally sunny optimist.

He needs that light because he’s now the main suspect in the assault and murder of a ten-year-old, which is being investigated by the new chief of police, Frédérique Lesage (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi).

What does the gossip columnist Germain-Roland Desmot (Antoine de Caunes) know about the case? Is he close to having an affair with Vivianne, who may be withdrawing from the happiness of her life and needing a change?

Director Claude Chabrol, who co-wrote this with Odile Barski, was one of the few French New Wave directors to not only keep directing for his entire life, but to make movies that were embraced by the mainstream. He generally kept to these small-town murders and how they impacted the traditional family lives of his victims in many films, variations on a theme that always remain slightly different and engaging, like a series of paintings from one period or theme.

Twisting The Knife: Four Films By Claude Chabrol comes with high definition Blu-ray presentations of all four films, as well as new 4K restorations of The Swindle, Nightcap and The Flower of Evil. You also get an 80-page collector’s booklet of new writing by Sean Hogan, Brad Stevens, Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Pamela Hutchinson, as well as limited edition packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella.

The Color of Lies extras include new commentary by critic Barry Forshaw and author Sean Hogan, two new visual essays by film critics Scout Tafoya and David Kalat, an introduction by film scholar Joël Magny, behind-the-scenes, a trailer, an image gallery and select scene commentaries by Claude Chabrol.

You can get Twisting The Knife: Four Films By Claude Chabrol from MVD.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 23: Virus (1999)

Jamie Lee Curtis had this to say about Virus: “Rob Reiner, for his 40th birthday, had a bad show business party where everybody brought show business clips. Rob’s was playing a hippie on Gomer Pyle: USMC singing “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Virus is so bad that it’s shocking. That would be the all time piece of shit. It’s just dreadful. That’s the only good reason to be in bad movies. Then when your friends have bad movies you can say “Ahhhh, I’ve got the best one. I’m bringing Virus.””

She also tried to get director John Bruno fired and replaced with Halloween H20 director Steve Miner as she felt that he was horrible. Up until this movie, Bruno had mainly worked in special effects and had only directed the “Soft Landing” opening of Heavy Metal and the Universal Studios ride T2 3-D: Battle Across Time.

Based on the Dark Horse comic Virus by Chuck Pfarrer, who wrote the script along with Jonathan Hensleigh (JumanjiArmageddon, the director of the Thomas Jane Punisher) and Dennis Feldman (Just One of the GuysThe Golden Child, the first two Species movies), Virus is about the crew of the tug boat Sea Star — drunken captain Robert Everton (Donald Sutherland), navigator Kelly Foster (Curtis), engineer Steve Baker (William Baldwin), Squeaky (Julio Oscar Mechoso), deckhand Hiko (Cliff Curtis), crewman Richie Mason (Sherman Augustus) and first mate J.W. Woods, Jr. (Marshall Bell) — who have lost their cargo due to a storm and decide to check out the wreck of Russian research ship Akademik Vladislav Volkov.

So, you know, Alien. That’s because a signal has made its way through space, hit the space station Mir and killed everyone on the Volkov except for Chief Science Officer Nadia Vinogradova (Joanna Pacuła). This energy brings dead people back to life, replacing their body parts with machinery to create zombie robots that look incredible and made me understand why Donald Sutherland demanded that he do all of his scenes in makeup in one day, because that had to take forever.