Updated!! Harry's DVD Picks and Peeks for February!!!
Published at: Feb. 1, 2005, 1:03 p.m. CST by staff
Hey folks, Harry here - Going to try and get through this list while on way too many drugs and with IVs poking out of me and constant interruptions for temp, blood pressure, heart rate (those 3 have been constantly in great standing - why don't they just leave me be!?!?!?!?) Anyways - here ya go - I think this'll be fairly coherent...
THE CAT AND THE CANARY (Special Edition)
Ok - so you love Haunted House movies - flicks that are just atmosphere and creeps? Well this German expressionistic silent version was the grand daddy to the genre. There's a level of camp involved in the film, but this shouldn't be confused with the Paulette Goddard version - which was very much for laughs. Also - for fetishists that love silent-era women, ya don't get too much more of a hottie than Laura La Plante. Has all the great hallmarks of German Expressionism - wild shadows and incredibly cool angles and what not. Very much worth having. The score on this is pretty awesome, and I love the short they have on this disc.
LA COMMARE SECCA - Criterion Collection
aka THE GRIM REAPER. Ever see Bernardo Bertolucci's first directed feature film? This is one of those debuts that just really makes you pause before directing something yourself. This film plays with storytelling, murder, death, realities. There's some that feel this was the top of the mountain for Bertolucci - to me, it is just one of many of his great works. Once again Criterion has captured one of the great lessor known titles that will be absolutely electric for those discovering it for the first time!
NIGHT AND THE CITY - Criterion Collection
Ah - another Criterion - this time nowhere near as obscure as LA COMMARE SECCA - but everybit as great. Now, I don't know about you, but I love Richard Widmark and Richard Widmark movies. My fave is probably PICK-UP ON SOUTH STREET, KISS OF DEATH, then this title and followed by MADIGAN. But the thing is... one's fave Widmark movie is typically the one you most recently watched. I mean... watching his Harry Fabian scam and worm his way in the general direction of his hopes and dreams... amidst the dripping oozing backalley hell of film noir... well it just doesn't get much better than that. This film WILL kick your ass.
THE PALM BEACH STORY
In the world of film the name Sturges amongst most film geeks conjures up John Sturges - a helluva action director. However, for those lucky enough to know the work of Preston Sturges - my god - he's the first name to pop into one's mind. A brilliant screenwriter - and a director that's pretty damn great. Well, PALM BEACH STORY is just an absolute classic. With dialogue faster and wittier than anything you hear in modern film.... and a underlying writhing and moaning sexual suggestion with every line. Starring Joel McCrea, Claudette Colbert, Mary Astor, Rudy Vallee and strange character after strange character. This is screwball comedy at its best!
RAY (Limited 2-Disc Special Edition)
I really really liked RAY quite a bit. The only thing that kept it from being one of the great films of the year for me, was that obnoxious dream scene with Jaime Foxx with the glasses off and his eyes restored talking to his mommy and brother and everything was cool again. I just felt it was the one moment in the film that just complete felt artificial and WRONG! The one time where Foxx was on screen instead of Ray Charles. And that one scene pissed me way the hell off. Having said that. I love everything else about this movie. Now this more expensive 2 disc set has the original theatrical cut as well as one of them there notorious extended cuts with 14 deleted scenes restored.. Plus 9 Additional complete and uncut musical performances and more extras that you can imagine. If you loved the movie - this is definitely worth every penny.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN: THE EARLY YEARS COLLECTION
The single best DVD coming out this month in my opinion. This has all of Ray Harryhausen's early experiments in stop-motion animation. All of his fairy-tales and nursery-rhymes. Then there's Harryhausen commercials he animated including a wild LUCKY STRIKES one. Then there's just Ray sitting and standing there introducing everything. Ok... that's all Disc one. Disc two - jaw-droppingly perfect. Long conversations between Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury and Forrest Ackerman - talking about everything. If you loved FRANK & OLLIE then by golly this will join that doc in love. I mean just listening to those three go through their mutual memories... bliss. Then there's Ray's Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony where you see just pure love leveled at this man-god. Then there's this nearly an hour long feature that is literally every cool person in the history of film talkin about which moment of Ray's changed their lives. OH - and did you know there was a Knowles/Harryhausen bronze sculpture in Scotland celebrating LIVINGSTONE and the Lion? My god.... COOLNESS GALORE! If you love JASON & THE ARGONAUTS, CLASH OF THE TITANS, the SINBAD movies and all that jazz... Well this is definitely pure geek nirvana!
THIEVES' HIGHWAY - Criterion Collection
Wow - another outstandingly great Film Noir! Featuring Richard Conte and Lee J Cobb. In some ways - I've always felt this was an outstanding double feature with WAGES OF FEAR - they both have to deal with danerous long hauls - though THIEVES' HIGHWAY is more honestly noir with all the fixtures of Femme Fatales, night for night, everybody backstabbing. As with all Criterions - the extras are gold - and if you love Noir - this is a jewel for you.
WONDERFALLS - THE COMPLETE SERIES
Ok - so I seemed to remember Herc screaming bloody murder when this series got canned - but I thought all these episodes were aired. So when I got sent my screener of this, I thought I'd watch a couple to just affirm my feelings that Herc is just an insane madman with a wildly accurate taste for television. Sure enough - score Herc. Wonderfalls is a lovely series. Although - after the 13 episodes - I felt that was all I ever needed from it. As a continuing series I think it might have just become way way way too gimmicky - but in this short, but sweet run it's just right. Very fun stories and if you just saw the ones that appeared on TV - well - you ain't seen nothing yet.
THE BEST PICTURE OSCAR COLLECTION [AMADEUS (2 Disc) - AN AMERICAN IN PARIS - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (2 Disc) - BEN HUR - THE BROADWAY MELODY OF 1929 - CASABLANCA (2 Disc) - CHARIOTS OF FIRE (2 Disc) - DRIVING MISS DAISY - GIGI - GONE WITH THE WIND (4 Disc) - GRAND HOTEL - THE GREAT ZIEGFELD - THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA - MRS. MINIVER - MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935) - MY FAIR LADY (2 Disc) - ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (2 Disc) - UNFORGIVEN (2 Disc)]
Can't really gripe that much about this set. First off - Amazon has it at $60 off the retail price. Then if you have not already picked up the big titles in this set then here's a great chance to. However, what makes this group rule are the titles that are new. Like the BROADWAY MELODY OF 1929 which was one of the first musicals to really blow people away. Or Paul Muni's brilliant performance in THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA. Or William Powell magnificence in THE GREAT ZIEGFELD. All the titles are available individually - but this is how to save the most - especially if you don't have any of these.
Here's one of those films that I just happen to love. The early Nicole Kidman nudity, Sam Neill pumping water out of a sinking ship against all hope. Sleazy as hell Billy Zane. That car crash at the beginning. The flare gun. Yup, really love this suspense flick.
DEADWOOD - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
This show does indeed kickass. I have to admit - I'm completely spoilt by getting these series all in a lump. Serial television shows I just can't allow myself to get addicted to because my schedule is so helter skelter that it would just be a relationship that wouldn't work out. Sad - I know... but true. I caught like 2 of these episodes on HBO - but couldn't find the time to see the rest - until this set arrived. Ian kicks ass in it, and it really really does give a completely different definition to the western genre. Having said that, personally I'm more of a Carnivale freak.
JIM BROWN ALL AMERICAN
Now if you are unsure if Jim Brown is THE MAN, then by golly check out this wonderful documentary that Spike Lee did on him. This is great. Makes you wish that modern day athletes had a social conscience and an understanding of what their ability to inspire can do positively. When you see everything that has happened in Jim Brown's life... warts and all - you'll come out thinking... Damn... what a man!
THE MARTIN SCORSESE FILM COLLECTION - [NEW YORK, NEW YORK - RAGING BULL Special Edition - THE LAST WALTZ - BOXCAR BERTHA]
Ok - I only had THE LAST WALTZ of any of these discs, but folks let me tell you... This RAGING BULL Special Edition is Scorsese Freak Crack. One the transfer is gorgeous. Two - the endless commentaries by... EVERYONE are just fantastic - Jake's commentary is very very interesting. Then you've got BOXCAR BERTHA and NEW YORK, NEW YORK. Now - NY,NY has been maligned by way too many folks I know. What Marty accomplished with this film is an absolutely intoxicating look at the musical flair of the 50's - but mixed with the tough as hell, mean as Scorsese look at reality. The mixture is jarring for musical lovers and realists alike, but if you simply let go and enjoy - you'll find that it is absolutely arresting. As for THE LAST WALTZ - this is sound heaven - and one of the greatest concert films ever made. THE BAND is THE BAND!
MONKEY ON MY BACK
Ok - so this is a story about a WWII vet that becomes a great pro-boxer that then gets addicted to morphine... Morphine... Yes, nurse... yes nurse... Morphine... How timely this release is. Do I have problems with the junk monkey? Gosh... shucks... Morphine is bad? But it feels so good - takes throbbing ouchy completely away. Now - this is a fantastic film from the genius known as Andre De Toth. If you thought for a second that MILLION DOLLAR BABY was good, educate yourself with this, or CHAMPION, or RAGING BULL, or the 4 Rocky movies that were made. Ahem.
Ah - a good old fashioned film to torment children and sensitive weepers like me. THE YEARLING with Gregory Peck and a real live bambi - well - this movie is up there with OLD YELLER and NATIONAL VELVET for pure unadulterated emotional cruelty! Comes with the Tom & Jerry classic, THE CAT CONCERTO!
Folks - I'm running out of steam - typing with an IV in your arm sucks ass. It hurts every time I use the left hand to type - which is an awful lot. So - if you'll be so kind - I'll finish up the second half of this DVD column in the next few days. And post it here below! Groovy? Thanks. Till then, I hope you enjoy the list thus far...
DONNIE DARKO – THE DIRECTOR’S CUT
Folks argue back and forth about what’s better – this cut or the original theatrical cut of DONNIE DARKO. Me, I appreciate both cuts – the director’s cut reveals more about Richard Kelly, as all good director’s cuts do. Here you see more of the science behind the wild stuff. In addition to this edit – which hopefully you saw in theaters – you’ll hear a commentary between Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith – along with a ton of other great extras. If you’re all about those hungry hungry hippos, then this is all for you.
THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO – SEASON 1
I loved the hell out of this show when I was a kid. Here ya get the original 2 hour pilot. The 8 season one episodes – and then apparently there was a pilot for a spinoff series called THE GREATEST AMERICAN HEROINE?!? Hot babe in that outfit? We’ll see, or at least I will. Cuz, believe it or not, I’m walking on air…
THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES
One of the best films of last year. Gael Bernal Garcia is electric as Che, that he wasn’t nominated for Best Actor is… well a mistake. This is one of the great actors – and over time we’re going to just see him get better and better. The beauty of the journey, the inherent sadness to the disparity of wealth in the different classes. The warmth he finds in the Leper colony. This movie is absolutely intoxicating… Like I said at the beginning – this is one of the best of last year.
Ok – this was the film I saw back in the 80’s that made me go ga-ga for Juliette Binoche. This is a wonderful sexually steamy French film, where Binoche is an actress hoping to make the break. Director Techine co-wrote with Olivier Assayas. The film is hot hot hot. A really good film.
This is one of those low budget independent science fiction films that just sticks with ya. This is an anthology film. A series of stories that all… at various “fantastic” levels deals with the automaton and how it would affect everyday life. Funny, sad, but always intelligent. At a hundredth of the budget, it is far truer to Asimov than I,ROBOT. It’s a little film, but one with grand dreams. Extremely great.
Possibly the most annoying genre film I saw last year. When this movie works, it’s wonderful – when it doesn’t – it’s fucking infuriating. The look and style of the movie is wonderful – but Glover’s detective sub-plot is terrible, and the closer you get to the end – the more you just want to scream… but not because of fear or tension… but because of how utterly ridiculous the film gets. It takes everything it earned and just shits on it. But I’m getting this for that first hour. On horror films – I take what I can, and the first hour is worth picking this up for.
SPRIGGAN Special Edition
An utterly insane mix-master of a flick. This literally begs, steals and borrows from every great sci-fi/action-adventure flick… oh, and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER too. This is one of those “kitchensink” genre flicks. Is it good? Well that’s up for debate. Is it entertaining? Abso-friggin-lutely. It’s a bit maddening – but hey, this isn’t pre-fab – it’s fun, and besides how often do you get a movie with Psychic Energy powers, crazy car chases, bloody sword fights and a script by Otomo that sometimes even makes a dying ember of sense.
TAE GUK GI – THE BROTHERHOOD OF WAR
My pick for the best film of 2004. This is a brutal two-fisted tale of two brothers trying to just stay alive, sane and together during the Korean War. This is just an amazing film. This movie is on an incredible scale. Just huge. The battles and situations are nail-bitingly extreme. I can’t really believe this movie just kind of disappeared, but then, that’s what happens when a film gets distributed without significant exploitation. I mean, I just happened upon it at a theater in town. If you like war films, this one will absolutely stun you.
TOUT VA BIEN – Criterion Collection
This is one of those left of left liberal films that Jane Fonda did when she became radicalized by Vietnam. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard and telling the story of a sausage factory strike being covered by Jane… In a way this foreshadows CHINA SYNDROME. However, Yves Montand is just fantastic in this movie. This film is absolutely wide-eyed and honest as hell. Has a vintage interview with Godard and all sorts of other extras.
THE YES MEN
Here’s a film that just… defies belief. These, “Yes Men,” are pranksters that target groups like the World Trade Organization. They infiltrate, wear disguises, forge Ids, learn voices, languages… They are hackers, but instead of “1s and 0s” it’s the real world. They’re crashing the system one prank at a time. The film is hilarious and all real.
THE ACADEMY COLLECTION ( MURDER ON A SUNDAY MORNING, MAYA LIN: A STRONG CLEAR VISION, FROM MAO TO MOZART, BEST BOY & BEST MAN, SCARED STRAIGHT!, THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND, CHILDREN UNDERGROUND, SOUND AND FURY, GENGHIS BLUES, NADJA SALERNO-SONNENBERG: SPEAKING IN STRINGS, REGRET TO INFORM and PAUL TAYLOR: DANCEMAKER )
Now here’s one for you Documentary lovers. This set of Academy Award nominated and winning documentaries is a wonderful way to acquire a great set of non-fiction. Having only seen MURDER ON A SUNDAY MORNING, SCARED STRAIGHT!, THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND, SOUND AND FURY and PAUL TAYLOR: DANCEMAKER… well based on how much I loved those docs… I’m eager to not only add them to my collection, but to see these others. The Academy’s taste in Documentaries always confuses me… often times ignoring truly great docs that I’d seen… and nominating ones that I haven’t…. but is that simply aggravation, not unlike talkbackers at my end of the year list for putting films that they didn’t get a chance to see in the previous year, on it? Could be. Thanks to this collection, I’ll be learning what I missed, and celebrating the excellence that I did catch.
THE AGONY AND THE ECSTACY
Love this movie. This is one of those Charlton Heston flicks that I hadn’t caught yet. However, with the director of THE THIRD MAN and OLIVER! – I had always wanted to catch it. The film tells the story of Michelangelo (Charlton Heston) and Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison) and how the Pope forced Michelangelo into painting the frescos of the Sistine Chapel – and how it became a nightmare, a romance, an obsession and ultimately divine. The agony of conception and ecstacy of inspiration and realization has rarely been given such scope to fill as this. Wonderful film.
ALL IN A NIGHT’S WORK
This is one of my favorite Martin & Maclaine romantic comedies. This is smack dab in the middle of their Clan days (contrary to popular belief – they never thought of themselves as the “Rat Pack” but as “The Clan.” The “Rat Pack” was actually the name of Humphrey Bogart and his friends that hung out in vintage Hollywood. Sorry – can’t quit with the history lessons. Anyway – Here Dean’s Pop keels over with the rumor of scandal and a nude ala towel Shirley seen exiting right before the discovery of the body. The film is filled with hilarity and assumptions and misunderstandings and is just delightful. Literally the only way to have seen this for decades has been the chance showing on cable. Now, it is mine.
BETTIE PAGE COLLECTION
With commentaries by Bettie Page – this collection of the BETTIE PAGE PIN UP QUEEN, BETTIE PAGE BONDAGE QUEEN and 100 GIRLS OF BUNNY YEAGER with narration by cheesecake photographer of the gods, Bunny Yeager… well, this is retro-tittillation on full display. I don’t know about you, but a good 7/10ths of my passion for Dave Stevens’ ROCKETEER comic comes from his line drawn casting of Bettie Page (the other 3/10s comes from his Rondo Hatton fetish). There is just something amazing about her face, body and poses that are just pure drool factories. This will be something.
CLASS OF NUKE EM HIGH Box Set
Nothing says living like a Troma Box set. For those that grew up on HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, BLACKBOARD JUNGLE -- Then went through THE BIG BIRDCAGE, 70’s Porn, the emergence of Punk Culture, mild addictions to heroin and a constant tongue square of LSD – well the CLASS OF NUKE EM HIGH box set is your everything. It’s that dream of a fondly remembered High School experience where mutants, toxic copulation, violent titty displays and multi-colored hair were par for the day. Well here’s your set and mine. TOO COOL! The set includes the original CLASS OF NUKE EM HIGH as well as the two sequels PART II: SUBHUMANOID MELTDOWN and PT. III: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE SUBHUMANOID! Drink up kiddies!
DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS
Ok – Now I’m not the biggest ROBE fan. It’s great spectacle, but not a very fun one. However, the sequel to that biblical epic, DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATOR brought back Victor Mature (who I’ve always loved since first seeing him woo Annette Kellerman in MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID and then watching him freak over Tommy Udo much later in KISS OF DEATH) Well, here – he’s back as Demetrius – and he’s trying to keep the robe of Christ hideen from the despicable Caligula.3-
GET SHORTY (Special Edition)
Ya know – I forgot how good this movie was. Got this special edition, sat down to watch it and just smiled and laughed. The writing is so sharp and entertaining. Travolta is so likable, so charming. And the movie is just plain fun. This isn’t about the higher things, just a fun film with characters you just wish you could be like. Rene Russo is wonderful in this flick. Can’t wait for the new adventure coming soon! Ok, what’s on this disc – some behind the scenes, commentary, lots of featurettes including sneak peeks at BE COOL. Tons of fun all over this disc.
HEAT (2-Disc Special Edition)
Holy shit this is a great film. It’s funny how time sometimes puts a haze on a film. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen HEAT. I still have a couple of nitpicks here and there, but when this movie is on, you can’t take your eyes off of it. Now – behind-the-scenes on this disc are excellent. Watching Mann’s process, how they found these amazing locations, how they blocked that amazing shoot-out, where the sound came from, the “mother’s day” show. This is one of the best Michael Mann movies. Truly wonderful pair of discs.
I HEART HUCKABEES (2-Disc Special Edition)
I absolutely love this movie. David O Russell knocked another one over that big green wall. Having an existential comedy like this is like a good expresso and hashish brownie in an Amsterdam club… a great way to start the day. Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman are outstanding. Jude and Naomi are great as yuppies investigating the greater truth of conciousness, reality and surreality. Then there’s Jason Schwartzman and Mark Wahlberg – also just at their absolute best! Now obviously – this is the edition for those of you that loved the film, and here… you get 22 deleted scenes, 6 Open Spaces Coalition Public Service Announcements, Commentaries by EVERYONE, the Charlie Rose Show, and just tons and tons more. Great DVD.
NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND
Miyazaki has made many great films that dealt with flying. PORCO ROSSO is my fave. Others love KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE – but still others love this one best. Perhaps because they saw it first. This has the original Japanese tracks as well as the new English ones. And for most of us, we’ll never hear those English tracks, cuz the Japanese was perfect as is. This 2 disc set is worth getting for all you Miyazaki fans that have yet to see this, and for those that have. I really like the “Birth of Studio Ghibli” feature… Neat to see how it all came together on a feature that I can understand without years of trying desperately to learn Japanese.
Ah – My favorite Miyazaki. Don’t know what it is about a man cursed to walk the Earth and soar above it in the guise of a humanoid pig. There’s something so wonderful about this film. And I have to admit a morbid curiousity to hearing Michael Keaton’s Porco Rosso. But I so love the original’s Japanese voice that I can’t imagine being satisfied with the English, I will give it an ear though. This is another 2-disc set… and one of the hilarious things is the rating. PG: Violence, Alcohol and Tobacco use. Gosh, I guess Porco’s cigar and champagne habits might offend some. YEESH!
A SNAKE OF JUNE
Here’s an incredibly erotic film about a Japanese housewife, who is awakened into things… incredibly kinky and titillating things. BUT- Beware – this is from Shinya Tsukamoto, director of TETSUO: IRON MAN. The sequence where the voyeur has her put a vibrating egg – with a remote control he has, inside of her… where the man – unseen is following her, changing the speed and covertly photographing her… It’s HOT AS HELL. From there though, it’s getting hot hot HOT! Not for everyone, but if you’re a kinky type, you’ll love the hell out of this.
SOUTH PARK – THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON
Oh come on, you know you’re getting it. They make you laugh too hard not to.
One of the funniest screwball comedies ever made. John Barrymore is a GOD in this film, “I SHUT THE IRON DOOR ON YOU” is one of my favorite lines to throw out there. And Carole Lombard – ohmygod… She’s so wonderful, funny and beautiful. Howard Hawks could do no wrong and this is an amazing movie. Got to see this on the big screen at the Paramount Theater ages ago and have been dying to get a good copy of this. And here it is! Sure it’s theatrical as hell – but it’s Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur theatricality and brother… it don’t get better than that!
YES NURSE NO NURSE
A lovely Dutch musical that won my heart right in the week before making my top ten list of 2004. Probably dooming me to break my leg so that I could have yes Nurse, no Nurse days and nights. This is that musical that feels like Roald Dahl, Busby Berkeley and Stanley Donen jammed and came up with a hilarious musical for Ethel Merman and Lucille Ball’s clone shake daughter. I love this one!
Well - sorry for taking so long folks, but broken legs, IVs and these drugs do kick the shit out of me. See you in a couple of weeks for March's picks! Till then...