MILL CREEK DVD RELEASE: Through the Decades: 2000s Collection: 21 Grams (2003)

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and writer Guillermo Arriaga made a “Trilogy of Death”, starting with  Amores Perros and closing with Babel. This film comes in the middle and has the past, the present and the future come together united by a hit and run accident that changes every life.

Jack Jordan (Benicio del Toro) is a man of faith who has conquered his demons.

Paul Rivers (Sean Penn) is a math professor with a fatal heart condition and a struggling marriage to Mary (Charlotte Gainsbourg).

Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts) is a recovering drug addict and now a suburban mom who has left her past life behind.

Their lives meet on the night that Jack accidentally kills Cristina’s husband and children while driving home. Her husband’s heart is given to Paul and his life comes back as his marriage ends. He finds out from a detective whose heart is in his chest and begins to follow Cristina. Meanwhile, Jack’s former life of faith has fallen to nothingness. He turns himself into the police and while Cristina refuses to press charges, he finds himself unable to rejoin the human race or his family, instead working as a laborer and pretty much waiting to die.

A handheld shot film with different colors for each character and film techniques for where their lives are at, 21 Grams is an emotional film despite the jarring way that its narrative is delivered. I think about it quite frequently. It was a movie I didn’t like upon my first watch but as I continued going back to it in my mind, I’ve watched it several times and found so much more to like. It rewards further watches.

The Mill Creek Through the Decades: 2000s Collection has some great movies for a great price like Nurse BettyOne Night at McCool’sSpy GameThe Emperor’s ClubThe Shape of ThingsBaby Mama, State of PlayThe Hitcher and Cry Wolf. You can order it from Deep Discount.

MILL CREEK DVD RELEASE: Through the Decades: 2000s Collection: The Shape of Things (2003)

The Shape of Things was directed and written by Neil LaBute and based on a stage play he also created. It tells the story of Adam Sorenson (Paul Rudd), whose life is changed after he begins dating Evelyn Ann Thompson (Rachel Weisz). She convinces him to eat right, work out, change his clothes, be more confident and even get plastic surgery. His life gets better, even if she ruins the relationship between his best friend Phillip (Frederick Weller) and his fiancée Jenny (Gretchen Mol), as well as tell Adam to leave them behind.

The darkness within this film is that everything is a lie. Adam is part of Evelyn’s MFA final project. She set out to change his world through their relationship and presents everything in their life together in an art gallery, including a sex tape and the engagement ring that Adam gave to her. We’re left with her telling him the only bit of honesty was what she whispered to him while they made love; he keeps watching the clip over and over again in tears, straining to remember what she said.

Not since The Last American Virgin has a female character so utterly devastated the male protagonist.

The Mill Creek Through the Decades: 2000s Collection has some great movies for a great price like Nurse BettyOne Night at McCool’sSpy GameThe Emperor’s Club21 Grams, Baby Mama, State of PlayThe Hitcher and Cry Wolf. You can order it from Deep Discount.

Final Examination (2003)

Shane Newman (Brent Huff, Cop GameThe Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak) has moved from Los Angeles to Hawaii which I don’t think is a police transfer that works in the real world, but we’re in the Fred Olen Ray universe now.

There’s a reunion in town and some of the Omega Kappa Omega girls have been invited to shoot nude photos — yes, I get that this doesn’t happen in most class reunions but again, we are in Ray’s world — by Derek Simmons, the editor of the Cavalier Magazine. One of them, Terri Walker, is soon found strangled with a final examination certificate next to her body.

It’s up to Newman and his new partner Julie Seska (Kari Wuhrer) to solve the case — cases, because women keep on taking their clothes off and dying — which has ties back to the suicide of Rachel Kincaid, a member of the class of students meeting in Hawaii.

This is a nice mix of erotic thriller, giallo and slasher with some familiar Ray stars like Debbie Rochon and Amy Lindsay. Sean O’Bannon, who wrote plenty of films for Ray (Mom’s Outta SightInvisible Mom IIInferno) and Fred’s wife at the time Kimberly were on the script. It’s exactly the kind of movie you’re looking for after three in the morning, which is a positive note.

I’m all for any movies that Kari Wuhrer makes, especially if she’s a sarcastic cop.

You can watch this on Tubi.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 29: Watch the series: Freaky Friday (1975, 1996, 2003, 2018, 2020)

Freaky Friday started as a novel written by Mary Rodgers, based on Vice Versa: A Lesson to Fathers by F. Anstey, a story in which the protagonists are father and son. In Rodgers’ book, 13-year-old Annabel Andrews and her mother spend time in each other’s bodies. The novel was so popular that Disney as made it four times an Rodgers also mae several sequels herself, such as A Billion for Boris/ESPTV and Summer Switch (which ABC made into TV movies). The major difference between the novel and the films is that an outside influence switches the mother and daughter against their wills.

Freaky Friday (1976): “I wish I could switch places with her for just one day.” That’s all it takes to start off this crazy adventure for Ellen Harris (Barbara Harris) and her daughter Annabel (Jodie Foster).

Based on the 1972 novel by Mary Rodgers — who also wrote the screenplay — the magic that switches the mother and daughter in this movie is quite simple. In Friday the 13th, all you have to do is say, “I wish I could switch places with her for just one day” and it happens.

Actually, this whole thing reminds me of Goofy Minds the House, a 1977 Disney Wonderful World of Reading storybook that features the character Goofy and his wife switching jobs for one day and learning that they both have rough lives. That story was based on a Norwegian folktale and taught me that women were much stronger than men. Also — Goofy once had a wife named Mrs. Geef and Mrs. Goof, but now he’s thought to be dating Clarabelle the Cow, so something happened at some point. Perhaps even odder, Goofy was once called Dippy Dawg.

But I digress.

Just as much as that story is part of my childhood, so is Freaky Friday, a movie that I know for a fact that I saw at the Spotlite 88 Drive-In in Beaver Falls, PA.

Ellen Andrews and her daughter Annabel are constantly battling with one another until they switch places, which enables each of them to see life from the other side, connect better with other people and, of course, water ski.

The cast of this movie is made up of people that a five year old me would see as big stars, like John Astin, Dick Can Patten, Charlene Tilton, Marc McClure and, of course, Boss Hogg. Strangely enough, George Lucas wanted Foster for the role of Princess Leia, but her mother wanted her to complete her contract to Disney.

Disney can’t seem to stop remaking this movie. And really, no one else can either, because it’s the mother of body switch comedies, including 18 Again!All of Me, Dream a Little DreamVice Versa and Freaky, a film which combines the Friday the 13th of this story with the slasher side of the holiday.

Freaky Friday (1995): This made-for-TV movie has Shelly Long as Ellen and Gaby Hoffman (the daughter of Warhol superstar Viva) as Annabelle. A pair of magical amulets causes the two of them to switch bodies in this version and waterskiing has been replaced with diving.

Ellen is also a single mother dating Bill (Alan Rosenberg) and designing clothing, which is the 90s version of being a housewife. What livens this up is a great cast with Drew Carey, Sandra Bernhard, Carol Kane and the much-missed Taylor Negron.

Writer Stu Krieger wrote The Parent Trap IIA Troll in Central ParkZenon: Girlof the 21st Century and Phantom of the Megaplex while director Melanie Mayron is probably best known for playing Melissa Steadman on Thirtysomething even though she has more than sixty directing credits on her resume.

The other big change is that when Annabelle is in Ellen’s body, she tells Bill exactly how much she dislikes him, thinking it will push him away. Instead, he proposes.

Forgive me for being weird, but…do these characters ever have to make love in these bodies? Because, well, that could be awkward.

Freaky Friday (2003): I spoke too soon about the sexual side of Freaky Friday, as this movie, while chaste, does not shy away from the fact that Jake (Chad Michael Murray) has feelings for Anna (Lindsay Lohan) no matter if she’s in her body or the body of her mother, Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis). The attraction that Jake feels, while mental, is way hotter than the way Marc McClure reacted to Barbara Harris.

Written by Heather Hach (Legally Blonde: The MusicalWhat To Expect When You’re Expecting and a gym teacher in this movie) and Leslie Dixon (OverboardLoverboy, the 2007 Hairspray) and directed by Mark Walters (who worked with Dixon again on Just Like Heaven; he also directed Mean GirlsGhosts of Girlfriends Past, the gender-swapped He’s All That and Mr. Popper’s Penguins), this take on the story retains the single mother idea from the 1995 TV movie and has Mark Harmon play Ryan, the potential new father in Anna’s life.

Lohan’s character was originally written as a goth girl and she didn’t think anyone would relate to that, so she showed up dressed like a preppie. Somehow, she was convinced to play a grunge girl instead. I mean, she has a band called Pink Slip and plays guitar instead of water skiing or driving.

The McGuffin that drives this film is a pair of fortune cookies mixed with an earthquake switches bodies for Anna and Tess, which leads to Anna lecturing teachers and Tess being more loud and wild.

As for the casting, it really works. The original idea was for Jodie Foster to play Tess, but she didn’t like the stunt casting. Then, Annette Bening and Kelly Osbourne were going to be the leads — with Tom Selleck as Ryan — but Bening dropped out and Osbourne’s mother got cancer.

Probably the only downside is that this movie falls back on that Hollywood cliche of Asian people being able to magically change lives.

Is it weird that I know that the band Orgy taught Jamie Lee how to play guitar? Why do I have these facts inside my head? And how weird is it to hear “Flight Test” by the Flaming Lips in a Disney movie? Or Joey Ramone covering “What A Wonderful World?”

Freaky Friday (2018): It’s wild that Steve Carr made Next Friday and a Freaky Friday sequel. And this time, I had no idea I was getting into a musical. Cozi Zuehlsdorff from the Dolphin Tale movies is Ellie Blake and her mother Katherine is played by Heidi Blickenstaff, who played the role on stage. Seriously, this is a full-blown bing singing musical and also a version of the story that leans in on Ellie being a total slob with a filthy room, a girl who always wears the same clothes every day and who would totally be the kind of arty disaffected young girl who I’d be too shy to talk to and leave mixtapes in her locker. Or maybe text her Spotify links now, I guess, right?

A magical hourglass — given to Ellie by her late father, a Freaky Friday story beat retained from the last few versions — is the storytelling device that switches the daughter and mother. There’s also a scavenger hunt that an entire school is absolutely obsessed by, making this also an updating of Midnight Madness.

This was the first Disney movie made from one of their stage plays and it didn’t get great ratings. It’s fine — obviously there are a ton of different versions of Freaky Friday for you to watch. I’d place it slightly ahead of the Shelley Long version, but way behind everything else.

Freaky (2020): By all rights, I should hate this movie, a semi-remake of Freaky Friday that instead subverts the source material by turning it into a slasher. But you know, it ended up hitting me the right way and I was behind it pretty much all the way.

Directed by Christopher Beau Landon — yes, the son of Michael — who wrote Disturbia — that’s not even a word — and several of the Paranormal Activitymovies before directing the Happy Death Day films. If you liked those, well, this will definitely give you more of what those movies offered, this is set in the same universe — Landon said that, “They definitely share the same DNA and there’s a good chance Millie and Tree will bump into each other someday” — and was originally titled Freaky Friday the 13th.

Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton, Big Little Lies) is a teenager who has been tormented by bullies, both of the teenager and teacher* varieties. Meanwhile, the urban legend of the Blissfield Butcher continues, as he keeps killing her classmates. Now that he possesses a McGuffin called La Dola — an ancient Mayan sacrificial dagger — he looks to gain even more power. But when he runs into our heroine — her mother (Katie Finneran, who is great in this) has left her behind at a football game where all she gets to do is wear a beaver mascot costume — she battles the Butcher and when he stabs her, they end up switching bodies.

So yeah — this turns into a body swap comedy and you’d think, after the gory as hell open, this is where they lose you. But no — if anything, this gets way more fun.

Millie’s friends make for some of the best scenes in the film. Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) have been with her through the worst parts of high school, so having their best friend in the body of a killing machine is just another trial to be endured.

Speaking of that killer, Vince Vaughn shines in this. There’s plenty of silly physical comedy, but also some really nice scenes like when he admits to the love interest that she left the note he treasures (body swap pronouns are a little hard) or when he has a moment with her mother while hiding in a changing room.

Landon — who wrote the movie along with Michael Kennedy — said that the film was influenced by the Scream series, along with Cherry FallsFright NightJennifer’s BodyThe Blob and Urban Legend. There’s also a fair bit of Halloween in here, particularly the opening series of murders, and references to Heathers, Child’s Play, Creepshow, Galaxy Quest, Carrie, The Faculty, The Craft and Supernatural. There’s also a bottle down the throat kill that came directly from the 2009 slasher remake Sorority Row.

I had fun with this. Here’s hoping you do the same.

*The funny thing is that the teacher that is the worst to her is Alan Ruck, who knows a thing about bring bullied, what with playing Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: Twisting The Knife: Four Films By Claude Chabrol: The Flower of Evil (2003)

Three generations of a wealthy family are torn apart when Anne (Nathalie Baye), the second wife of drink philanderer Gérard (Bernard Le Coq), runs for mayor. That unleashes a political pamphlet that brings back so many old scandals, including war profiteering, corruption, Nazi collaboration, cheating, incest and generally not being very great people.

At the same time, François (Benoît Magimel), Gérard’s son from his first marriage, has returned from America and is soon leaving for a romantic weekend with his stepsister and cousin Michèle (Mélanie Doutey), who comes from Anne’s first marriage, not that that will look good to the public. Yet Aunt Line (Suzanne Flon) encourages this forbidden romance. Well, maybe not forbidden, because it seems like this family has been interbreeding since they were a family. So maybe that pamphlet is on to something.

Ah, that pamphlet. So many Gérard wrote it, which is up for conjecture, but he definitely tries to assault Michèle on the night that her mother secures the election. As he attempts to take her, he falls and dies, just as the victory party arrives.

Claude Chabrol was into his fiftieth film when this was made and he filmed what he was most interested in: the French rich, their scandals and a crime. It just so happens that one crime takes place in the past and another in the present, with both involving the same players.

Sometimes, you can play the same song over and over and if you’re good at it, we notice that the notes are slightly different and are still engaged by them.

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 Color of Lies. 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 Flower of Evil has new commentary by film critic Farran Smith Nehme, a new visual essay by Agnes Poirier, behind-the-scenes, an interview with co-writer Catherine Eliacheff, an introduction by film scholar Joël Magny, 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.

Gozu (2003)

What can I possibly say about this bizarre (which is an understatement if there ever was one) Takashi Miike low-budget direct-to-video horror — with its mix of mobsters and ghosts and breast milk and cow-headed men — that hasn’t already been said. For if you are a Miike fan, you’ve seen it. If you’re a fan of Asian cinema, you know it well. If you’ve seen Miike’s Ichi the Killer (WTF) and Audition (WTF x 10) and you haven’t seen Gozu, then turn in your B&S About Movies’ membership card, for ye were never a member.

You didn’t see his contribution “The Box” in the Japanese portmanteau Three Extremes?

Just stop it. You’re embarrassing yourself. Isn’t there a Jennifer Aniston Oscar-chasing-never winning boondoggle you need to stream?

Sure, everyone drops the justified “David Lynchian” critical modifier to help us dopey Americans get a handle on the twisted insanity. And yeah, I am sure Guillermo Del Toro and Eli Roth — who offer up their own insights with their joint interview with Miike on the DVD — are the go-to guys for Gozu Intel with a whole-lot-of-what-do-we-need-this-digital-critic-from-Pittsburgh-for scoffing.

So, let me give an overview . . . for the ones who haven’t experienced the . . . something else . . . world of Miike. And that the title’s literal translation is: Yakuza Horror Theatre: Cow’s Head. And a caveat: Forget the guy with the cow’s head: if the killing of a chihuahua — an “attack” chihuahua — bothers you: stop watching. No. Watch. Just close your eyes for about twenty-Mississippis, well, in context: twenty-Shinano Rivers, then open. But there’s that gooey . . . and the slimy. . . .

Yes. Gozu is about — partly — a cow’s head. It’s also a gangster film. Then it’s not. Then what is it? A horror film? A comedy? There’s nothing is the works of Lynch, be it from film with Eraserhead to television with Twin Peaks, that can prepare you for this tale of an up-and-coming yakuza who receives orders to assassinate his boss, who happens to be his best friend. And when his boss catches wind, he goes into hiding. And if our young yakuza doesn’t complete the sanction, he dies. So begins our journey into a twisted, mysterious town where nothing is as it seems or nothing is as it should be — with a nightmare that would make Lynch flinch.

Dumplings: More crazy, Asian cinema of the Lynchian variety.

This is a film where you can’t rat-a-tat-tat the plot in a review; for in the tradition of the best Spanish and Italian horrors of ’70s, Gozu — or any Miike Joint — is probably not going to make a hell of a lot of sense (see Dead or Alive and The Happiness of the Katakuris). And the character’s motivations are dumbfounded and sometimes lacking in any development for you to care about them (One Missed Call). But as with those overseas horrors (this is black-comedy-cum-horror, like Sam Raimi’s comedy-gore of The Evil Dead, if that helps) of old, we never came for the plot or the characters in the first place: we came for the atmosphere and what-the-hell-why not Chunk King-toss to the walls. And Miike is brilliant for it.

You can watch the trailer and an extended interview with Takashi Miike on the making of Gozu on You Tube.

You can free-with-ads stream Gozu on Tubi. If fact, Tubi streams several of Miike’s films. They have the sci-fi’er Terra Formars, which I really liked: how can I not, as it’s about cockroach men on Mars, as well as the really fine 13 Assassins. Remember when, in the 2000s, when every single J-horror movie was getting Westernized? Don’t do it: go to the source.

And the “source” is Takashi Miike.

— R.D Francis writes for B&S About Movies.

Jigoku Kôshien (2003)

Jigoku Kōshien means Hell Kōshien or as we refer to this movie in America, Battlefield Baseball. It’s based on the manga by Gatarō Man, who also wrote this movie, and it tells the story of Seido High School and their baseball team, which finally has a chance to play in the Koshien Stadium Tournament for the first time in decades.

The only problem is that the Gedo High School stands in their way and their team doesn’t leave the field until they kill everyone on the other side.

The story revolves around Jubeh, a pitcher so dangerous that he killed his father while playing catch and therefore has vowed to never play baseball again. But when he’s killed by an explosion cause by the Gedo team, he goes to Heaven, meets his father and gets the inspiration to come back to Earth and play high school baseball.

Yūdai Yamaguchi would go on to direct plenty other strange movies like Meatball Machine and this film’s spiritual sequel, Deadball, which continues the story of Jubeh Yakyu.

Let me say it now once and for all: baseball would be so much better with cyborgs, senseless violence and people being brought back by the tears of a juvenille delinquent.

Joshua and the Promised Land (2003)

Wow.

This film was created almost entirely over four years by one person, somehow named Jim Lion* and if you think God plays dice with the universe, well, I offer you this movie.

Joshua Carter and his guardian angel, Christopher Andrew Eugene Bozioni, escape the sadness of Joshua’s home life and go back to the Old Testament to relive the life of the real Joshua. Except that, you know, everyone is a lion and no one has paws, a tail or manes. They all look unfinished. They all look incredibly harrowing, to be be frank. I guess maybe the guardian angel is a wolf? And what’s with the narrator and floating demon purple blobs?

I mean, this is the kind of movie that interrupts combat to have a soldier use a mallet like a video game character and then reminds us, in the midst of all this fun, that Moses had to die in the desert because he struck a rock instead of speaking to it, so God told him that since he didn’t listen, he’d never see the promised land. Perhaps this needs to be better explained to children than by floating characters that aren’t properly synched to their dialogue. Also, Moses made his followers drink wet cement when he was mad at them, so perhaps that also needs some discussion with the little ones this is intended for.

What a fun trip Chris has taken Joshua on, one in which he faces death, learns how to kill other lion people, is alone for forty days and nights before wandering for forty years in an unforgiving desert before he finally goes home to cut a demon in half. Also: mass murder is justified by a child.

Despite the promise of an angel, Joshua is still late for dinner.

If you come to my house after the pandemic, you will be forced to watch this movie.

Until that happens, you can watch this on YouTube.

*There’s a Joshua and the Promised Land: Reanimated coming soon. I can’t wait.

The Glow (2003)

Jackie and Matt Lawrence (Portia de Rossi and Dean Cain) have moved into a fancy apartment with a view of Central Park thanks to the generosity of some older folks like the Januszes (Hal Linden and Dina Merill) and the Goodsteins (Joseph Campanella and Grace Zabriskie).

If we’ve learned anything from occult movies, it’s that you never trust old Hollywood. This applies to TV movies, so don’t trust Barney Miller, the evil socialite from Caddyshack II, a soap star and Sarah Palmer all that much either, because they’ll take your young body, suck out all the energy and keep themselves young.

This was directed by Craig R. Baxley, who also helmed Action JacksonStone Cold and I Come In Peace. He’s working from the words of Gary Sherman. Yeah — the very same director who made Poltergeist III, Death LineDead & BuriedWanted: Dead or AliveVice Squad and Lisa.

Hal Linden should be in more horror movies where he plays evil old men who steal souls. Someone has to say it.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

As much as I don’t like the Platinum Dunes era of remakes, I can admit that Marcus Nispel* is a good director and that it was cool that Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel served as co-producers, Daniel Pearl returned to be the cinematographer and John Larroquette reprised narration duties.

A big difference is that the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre only hints at the gore that the Sawyer family metes out. Here. bodies are slashed in half, people live agonizing moments after being impaled on hooks, faces get torn off and even Leatherface loses an arm.

August 18, 1973. Erin (Jessica Biel), Kemper (Eric Balfour) Morgan (Jonathan Tucker), Andy (Mike Vogel) and Pepper (Erica Leerhsen) have just bought two pounds of weed in Mexico and are on their way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert when they make the same mistake as another set of teens by picking up a hitchhiker. However, this one is in shock and eventually pulls a gun from between her legs and blows her brains out.

That’s when this movie hit me in the face, as it slow motion had smoke coming from her mouth and pushed the camera out of the bloody hole in the back of their car. That blood, that broken glass, that death — they are no longer in our world of reality but trapped in the deepest, darkest and deadliest place in America.

Welcome to Texas.

Instead of giving us killers to identify with — or sympathize with, as other films in this series seem to do — Leatherface and the Sawyer clan are brutal and uncompromising killers who take what they want and operate with ruthless efficiency.

Meanwhile, this film looks absolutely stunning, with sweeping camera moves and probably the best use of that 2000s gunmetal blue color palette I’ve seen. Other movies try and fail at what this film does so well.

Plus, R. Lee Ermey seems to be having a blast here.

Here’s to growing up and giving movies more of a chance than casually dismissing them.

*To the director’s credit, he was against the idea of remaking the film and said that it was blasphemy to his longtime director of photography, Daniel Pearl. Pearl, however, had shot the original movie and wanted Nispel to direct the film so that he could start and end his career with the same movie. He also realized that if just copied the original movie shot-for-shot, there was no reason to make this movie. So he shot it like a traditional movie and not a documentary.

How weird is it that Pearl shot Chainsaw and Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” and “Butterfly” for Mariah Carey?