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Harry's DVD PICKS AND PEEKS Does The 2nd Week of June 2007 - Erotica - HELLBOY - HD DVD - Paul Newman & More!!!

Hey folks, Harry here… Sorry I’ve missed a couple of weeks. There’s been some great DVDs that have hit, but if I tried to make up for lost time, I’d probably never be able to catch up, so I decided to preview this coming Tuesday’s DVDs and begin from scratch. I’ve been enjoying my new HD DVD player – and am up over 30 HD DVDs now, and with my column, I’ll be reviewing some of the classic titles and existing titles as I watch them. As always – the titles and the box art link to their AMAZON page, where you can either purchase or find more information about the extras and further reviews of the material. So use this as your guide for either purchases or rentals. I hope you enjoy it. Tuesday – June 12th, 2007

DEADWOOD – Complete Third Season
HBO’s continually brilliant filthy western, DEADWOOD has just continued to be one of the great shows televised. The only sadness about a complete third season is that it is made up of only 12 episodes – but then, that’s most likely how they keep the show at such an amazing level of quality. As on the two previous sets – they’ve got commentaries, featurettes and documentaries. If you haven’t discovered this series – you should definitely check it out on DVD. It’s great!

GHOST RIDER (2-disc Extended Cut )
To be acquired only by the MARVEL completist – to show friends on those MARVEL SHIT NIGHTS where you pull out both versions of the PUNISHER and FANTASTIC FOUR and ELEKTRA and X3. And if you have that old CAPTAIN AMERICA – that one too. There is an inherent coolness to just seeing GHOST RIDER in motion. But that is not enough. Sony had a better script by David Goyer. And Mark Steven Johnson just didn’t have a clue how to realize this film. At every level of production (save for the GHOST RIDER effect only) this film sucks. Wanna see how that happened – here you have all the extras and docs to see exactly why this film sucks terribly. And the extended cut – didn’t do a lot for me… sadly. No miracles here.

Remember Harryhausen’s JASON & THE ARGONAUTS? Remember that 3 headed Leopard headed Goddess that Medea danced in front of? Well, that Goddess goes mano-a-femalo with Hellboy – and there’s lots of great Mignola-esque fun throughout. And for the second time this week, I get to tell you people about Elizabeth Bathory – the woman that bathed in the blood of some 600 virgins back in the 1600s. Well, she’s a character here too. These are extremely good animated films furthering the moving tales of HELLBOY and sating us till we get Guillermo’s latest chapter.

The most amazing thing about this film… is that I liked it, despite the fact that for like 3 months – every film I saw in a theater had the exact same trailer for this movie in front of it. While this wasn’t up to the standard that THE GOOD SHEPARD set earlier this year (when I saw it) – this was an excellent Spy tale – and Ryan Phillippe continues to surprise with every film he takes. Chris Cooper is just always fantastic – and I’m just so happy that someone didn’t cast Anthony Hopkins in his role. As I very much enjoyed Chris in this type of character. Now – why the HD DVD combo format? Well – it’s the one I got – which means when I’m projecting it at 9ft wide, it absolutely looks like a movie – and no longer feels like a video something. My only complaint about the Combo Format – is that for some reason they charge like an extra $10 for the format – which to someone with a HD DVD player… well that regular DVD resolution version on the flipside is as worthless as the old school FULL SCREEN b-sides. That said – it’s worth it if you’re picking it up for your non-HD DVD players – cuz when you make the inevitable conversion… your disc will instantly be 1080 for real. And baby – there’s nothing prettier.

THE HUSTLER ( 2-disc Collector’s Edition )
My personal favorite Paul Newman movie. If you have never seen THE HUSTLER – and you’re a Paul Newman fan – it will be your discovery of 2007. THE HUSTLER is the story of Fast Eddie Felson, a pool hustler with an ego and the skills to just dazzle in pool halls. He takes on Minnesota Fats (played brilliantly by Jackie Gleason) and it’s epic. Over the film – he develops “character” through his relationship with his girlfriend – and a big time Gambler played by George C Scott. This movie doesn’t play like a movie, the frames flip like pages of a novel. I guarantee you haven’t seen a film this good in a LONG TIME. What’s so special about this edition? Well… Paul Newman contributes to the commentary. And a second disc loaded to the edge with extras. A brilliant towering work.

This is one of the most horrific documentaries I’ve ever seen. I don’t really believe anyone will BUY this movie – but I recommend seeing the film. It’s brutal, morose and haunting. The concept of capturing suicides and then interviewing the families and friends of the deceased about those people – when they don’t know about the footage you have… is morally grey at the least… but this documentary will make you FEEL something. Anger, sadness, frustration, fury… and how many films can actually make you feel something… See it, you’ll understand.

THE VERDICT ( 2-Disc Collector’s Edition )
Another brilliant Paul Newman film. Written by Mamet and directed by Lumet… One of Newman’s top ten films – watching him going at it opposite the amazing James Mason is a delight. This isn’t a soft court room piece – it’s a brutal one. Again – this dvd is loaded. Newman has a commentary run. The docs are endless in taking a look at the work in this film, to craft this film. And again… it’s just brilliant.

Monty Python films – are so visually complicated and intricate – that you’ll be blown away, even as you’re laughing your ass off watching this HD disc. I can’t wait to pick it up. In the Python history – it’s one of my very favorites – along with Holy Grail and Life of Brian. Some consider this the best… and that’s a personal decision. For me, my fave is LIFE OF BRIAN. What’s yours? And we all deserve the best quality to see these with, Gilliam’s eye requires it.

THE TWO OF US ( Criterion Collection )
Tales of children surviving and living through the Nazi world of WORLD WAR II – are harrowing. Here we have a story of a young Jewish child from Paris that was sent by his parents to live in the country till the hopeful, one day liberation of France. A wonderful film about the lies a child had to live to survive the horrific realities around them. This was the first film by Claude Berri – and there was a reason he had a career. Again Criterion does their best on a title that needs their focus and attention.

I fucking love this movie. Written by the screenwriting team behind WARGAMES – this wonderful wonderful film absolutely delights me. It plays out like a Doc Savage novel… only this isn’t about the Man of Bronze and his amazing team… it’s about Robert Redford and his amazing team… Featuring Redford, Sidney Poitier, David Strathairn, Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix and Mary McDonnell. And the bad guy? Ben Kingsley in one of my favorite roles of his. The scene where Straithairn asks Redford to recall the sounds he heard while riding in the trunk on the way to meet Cosmo. Well, it’s a brilliant scene. Again, for me… I have to have this in HD. Phil Alden Robinson captured this story cinematically and aurally. A wonderful film.

This – along with MAGNOLIA – are the two performances of Tom Cruise – that I point to, to show how brilliant he can be as an actor. Oliver Stone’s adaptation of Ron Kovic’s life as a gung ho soldier that goes to Vietnam, only to discover the hell that was that conflict. Then to find a new sense of purpose as an anti-war protestor. Tom’s performance and his casting is perfect. Tom’s all American veneer as our Top Gun on film… being used and turned into the American Military nightmare was a brilliant turn. Like the HD DVD for FULL METAL JACKET – the Vietnam sequences are just stunning. And in particular – the negative image looking shot through the American flag in HD is just breathtaking. A great film to have in a great format.

Seventies Erotica is wonderful for several reasons… but most of all… Films like LAURE have a truth to their Erotica that modern day porn and the world of porn clips online are missing. These films are romantic. They are Adult, without being about the mechanics. They’re about the passion and fun of sex. The joy of discovery of sex. This film was written, directed and even stars in a role… the real EMMANUELLE. No, not the actress that played EMMANUELLE, but actually Emmanuelle Arsan, herself. The film explores voyeuristic pleasures, exhibitionistic pleasures and has a soundtrack that isn’t funky disco, but something that’s actually hot to hear… Annie Belle is who you see on the cover of the DVD. She’s stunning and not a natural blonde, btw. The film is something erotic, for those that know what that means.

Harry’s Further Exploration of existing HD DVD titles

I am absolutely in love with my Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player - I can’t believe it has taken me this long to discover this format with my projector. And currently, I’m already at 32 HD DVDs and growing constantly. Let me tell you about three of my favorite titles I’ve discovered thus far.

This is one of my favorite films… actually all three of these titles are. But THE ROAD WARRIOR has a special place in my heart as one of the greatest action films ever created. That said… for years, I’ve hated my DVD of the title. ROAD WARRIOR was one of the first titles Warners put on DVD – and I picked it right up. When I had a small TV, it looked great, but when I put it on my projector – the articles leapt up and annoyed the fuck out of me. When Yoko and I first moved in together we had the conversation about films she had yet to see. When she spoke the magic words, ROAD WARRIOR – I raced to solve this for her. And that’s when I discovered how awful that DVD blew up. My projector has an upconverter built in, but even still… it sucked. So, when I bought this HD DVD – imagine my shock when I put it in and saw I had a George Miller commentary… but first… I had to just watch the film. It blew my mind. Here’s a demonstration. I’ve seen this film dozens upon dozens of times in the 26 years that have passed since it came out. Now – as I was watching the HD DVD – Max is walking towards the Gyro-Copter. And on that back airfoil, I saw something that in all the times I’d seen the film in theaters and on Video and on DVD… I had just never seen before. Well… There’s a full frontal nude photographic woman on that rear foil… not only that, but she’s incredibly hot. HOW… ON EARTH…. Had I never noticed that naked lady on the Gyro-Copter? Thank God for the Miracles of HD DVD. I suppose you’ll also notice this on the BLU RAY, but I haven’t seen it on that format.

When Eli Roth hit Austin for the HOSTEL 2 event we were throwing at the Drafthouse… He wanted to come over to the house to chat and catch up on stories. While he was here, he got curious about my home theater set up, and the HD DVD player, because he hadn’t made the leap to either format yet. I put on a bit of ROAD WARRIOR, which melted his brain, but when I put on John Carpenter’s THE THING… we all (Father Geek and Johnny Wadd were also there) just got caught up in the movie. We’d never seen it look so stunning. Rob Bottin’s creations were just beyond belief. The amazing thing is… it all holds up. Every moment. The crystal clarity just added a level of detail that we were not prepared for. Then… In one sequence… The Doctor… began to distract me. There was something with his nose. I said, “Eli, am I crazy or does the doctor…” “Have a Nose Ring?” Eli finished for me. Then he said, “It can’t be, that has to just be a shiny spot.” And then the angle change happened and I swear to god… it’s a fucking Nose Ring. Why would it be there? I haven’t a clue. But no matter – it looked like a nose ring. I will explore further. Oh – and the DVD is filled up with extras, just like the regular DVD.

This was a film that Yoko had never seen, and at my first HD Movie Night at the house, where we invited friends over… we played it and HOLY FUCK! How awesome. There’s a tragedy in the world of film. There are no stunning prints of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON to screen… at least that I’ve ever been able to see. Once when John Landis was in town… Universal had even taken their 35mm print off the market cuz it was beat to fuck – and the best print we could find was a French subtitled 16mm letterboxed print. That was scratched and beat to hell. For 26 years, I’ve only ever seen this small on televisions. For the first time, I was able to watch this transformation scene and marvel at the brilliant work that Rick Baker did for this film. The film freaked some at the gathering out, as I had managed to put together a room where AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON was a film, they’d never seen. So nice to be able to screen it in visual perfection. Haven’t gone through the extras yet, but they look like they’re the same as on the DVD.

That’s it for this week. I’m back on the job. See you next week…

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