Blu-Ray Slight Return: Bob & Max Edition
Two current Blu-ray releases prove the adage that dogs drool and cats rule. A Street Cat Named Bob and Max 2: White House Hero aim for different tastes but are somehow oddly in unison from a technical point of view.
Keep in mind that tens upon tens of new movies are released in theaters, on disc and on streaming services each week. It’s almost as if filmmaking itself has found a way to grow and not to melt.
Street Cat Named Bob may be the first animal-genre film to actually star the feline that it’s based on. Bob, and a couple-of-three lookalike gingers that sub for Bob doing complicated pet things like glancing at the camera in just the right way, running, riding a skateboard, complete the movie with Bob pretty much stealing the entire film.
James, a heroin addict in the UK on a methadone program, walks the streets of London as a homeless soul. James bumps into his father only to have his stepmother dis him. James’ councilor finds him supported housing, only the first day an intruder comes in through the kitchen window.
Turns out to be a stray cat that for the sake of identification will be forthwith called Bob. Bob insinuates himself into James’ life and a series of life journeys unfold, each more poignant than the last. James reaches sobriety and Bob achieves celebrity status when a reporter does a story on how James busks in Covenant Garden with Bob sitting on his guitar.
To date there have been multiple books written about Bob by James Bowden (with Garry Jenkins) and its inconceivable that sequels won’t follow. Roger Spottiswoode, whose credits include editing films for Sam Peckinpah, and directing many cult films over the years, directs Street Cat Named Bob. It would’ve been nice to have some great extra features that the disc lacks. Many such featurettes can be found on YouTube including the real James and Bob at the London premiere of the film.
Make no mistake, A Street Cat Named Bob is a film for all ages – game level eight-to-eighty. Max 2: White House Hero takes the conceits of the original Max (2015), which revolved around a Belgian Malinois dog who served in the Army in Afghanistan and returns to live in Middle America with a kind of doggie PTSD, and reduces the story to a tale for kids.
Max 2 centers on two 10-year-old kids who just happen to be son and daughter of the President of the United States and the Russian Premiere (aptly named Vladimir Bragov). And charming kids they are. The girl is a sassy redhead who speaks with a Russian accent that makes her sound like Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle. The boy has longish hair and a delicate manner and looks not unlike a pre-teen Phoebe Cates.
Max 2 may be one of the most innocent depictions of supreme power. C’mon, Lochlyn Munro plays the POTUS. The thin plot involves double agents who are trying to sabotage the American-Russian peace talks. Fortunately the kids figure out the subterfuge and Max saves the day. In one scene Max leaps into the passenger window of a speeding van and wrestles the driver to a halt. Adults will be bored but kids will want to watch Max 2 over and over.
Max 2 does feature some extras that reveal how different dogs were used for exacting stunts. For me the best part of the film was a photomontage during the credit roll that shows historical images of Presidents and their canines. There’s a painting of George Washington with his family and their dog; FDR; Clinton; Obama; LBJ; Nixon with Checkers; and George H.W. Bush with Barbara’s dog Millie being hugged by Vladimir Putin.
Independent films get released on disc the same as studio fare. Sometimes it’s the only way to see said films as many of these titles were only seen at film festivals or special engagements. Two companies that specialize in getting indie content across, both with streaming services and hard copy DVDs, are Candy Factory Films and IndiePix Films.
- The Babymooners – an expectant mother makes a video diary for her soon to be child in this comical New York story.
- The King of New Orleans – a NOLA cab driver runs the gamut of bizarre customers.
- Split – distaff filmmaker Deborah Kampmeier peels the veneer on a highly sexually charged relationship between a stripper/actress and a designer who makes masks for the play in which she performs. Some explicit scenes both in the bedroom and on stage.
- Midnight Swim – debut film from Buster’s Mal Heart director Sarah Adina Smith who finds poetry in three sisters traveling home to settle the estate of their recently deceased mother.
- Millie & the Lords – a Puerto Rican femme hooks up with a member of the Young Lords, a nationalist PR revolutionary group from the ‘60s.
- Apocalypse Child – Years after Apocalypse Now lensed in the Philippines, a family lives to surf and tells their son he’s the bastard son of Francis Ford Coppola. Of course he’s not, but there’s lots of surf action.
- On the Road, Somewhere – also titled Algun Lugar, a road trip movie from the Dominican tropics. Three young boys on a last trip before they advance to adulthood encounter Candide-esque characters at every turn.
Some of the releases were viewed on DVD rather than Blu-ray.