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Harry's DVD PICKS AND PEEKS for 2nd Week of November: Pinku Cinema, Fassbinder, Shrek, Close Encounters, Jane Austen & more!!!

Hey folks, Harry here with another week of DVD PICKS AND PEEKS! There’s some damn fine stuff this time out. As usual the box art and title link to Amazon – where if you purchase – this column will get a bit of sponsorship – or you can just find out more about the titles you’re curious about. Or just add them to your line-up of rentals – or holiday wish stacks! Well, let’s not mince words – there’s a lot this week! Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

While definitely not the best SHREK yet – it is a Shrek – which means for a lot of you with kids – you’ll probably be picking this up in standard def or HD. It obviously looks vastly superior in HD to Standard Def, either of which come loaded with tons of special features. This isn’t a biggie for me, this sequel just felt as though everyone working on it was automatic pilot – the humor was sub-elementary school age and it really was just nowhere near as solid as it should have been. Oh well… maybe the PUSS IN BOOTS spin-off will be far far better, if they keep it far far away from Far Far Away. I wish they’d just make the PUSS IN BOOTS a solid action adventure tale. But that’s probably an empty dream.

GILMORE GIRLS – Seventh Season
My wife is obsessive-compulsive about GILMORE GIRLS as is AICN’s own Hercules The Strong. I’ve watched quite a few episodes of the series and find myself usually checking out Alexis Bledel and missing most of the dialogue, which I’m told is very sharply written. This was the final season, where you see Rory Gilmore go from quick witted college girl to a sweet innocent black & white streetwalker cashing in on men’s desires for a sweet and innocent underage-ish looking piece of ass walking the dark alley just behind the main drag of sin city… No… Wait… That has nothing whatsoever to do with GILMORE GIRLS Season 7… but one can dream.

I never caught this in theaters when it came out in 2005, though I heard nothing, but great word of mouth on it. Massa “whacking his” Wyrm loved this film – and his Keira Knightley fetish was generally the excuse for blowing off checking this out. However, when the HD DVD came late last week, I put it in almost immediately and Yoko came running out to go googily over Mr. Darcy, not so much because of Matthew Macfadyen, but because she fell in love with the character from Jane Austen’s novel. Some people consider this novel the single greatest love story of all time, but I hold it all depends about your perspective. Me, I’m a Dr Zhivago lover. Here, I felt that Elizabeth Bennet was painfully retarded to not marry Mr Darcy instantly… It was obvious to me that she was just being goofy – which I love when Keira realizes she’s been an idiot for most of the movie and realizes just how fucking awesome Mr Darcy is. And I got a bit goofy happy in love with this movie. It’s outstanding. In HD – the movie is so lush and beautiful. Definitely worth getting. This new edition – in Standard Def and HD has a ton of extras like a conversation with the cast, a feature on Jane Austen and the novel, a portrait of the Bennet family, the politics of dating and a look at the actual homes used in the making of the film.

It’s a shame that Fox isn’t giving this film the BLU RAY treatment – it’s the best thing that we’ve seen out of Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards or for the point of this title, abolitionist William Wilberforce) – It’s a beautiful and inspiring film from Michael Apted and it’d e nice to a high def copy out there. It isn’t in my top ten of this year, but it’s one of the damned fine films of the year.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this most recent edition of the Danny Ocean story. In fact – the only one of the OCEAN films I wasn’t fond of was the original start of this franchise, which was the remake of OCEAN’S ELEVEN. Here you have the most fabulous male actors of our day working it for all that it’s worth – and it’s a light headed affair to be sure. Add to the fun – Al Pacino and Eddie Izzard and the best performance of the film… David Paymer – that poor poor man… well, that incredibly rich poor poor man. Warners has this available in a number of manners… there’s the HD link above, standard def and Blu-Ray. Then you can pick up The Whole OCEAN’S TRILOGY in HD DVD as well as in Blu-Ray. Imagine that much genetic perfection in visual perfection at home in completely wonderfully vacuous fun activities. Too much? Never enough!

LA VIE EN ROSE (Extended Version)
If you haven’t seen LA VIE EN ROSE, then you’ve already missed the best female performance I’ve seen in 2007. Marion Cotillard’s performance is one of those that as you watch, you forget there is an actress playing a role, as it feels as though Edith Piaf is on screen telling her tale – filling in all the missing gaps in her life that we can not look away from, no matter how exhausting and involving it is. That said – like most of you, I missed it in theaters, but caught it here. And boy am I ever glad that I did. Great work!!!

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition)
Witness the Crown Jewel of BLU RAY discs and most likely my very first purchase in the format (though I actually do have a few BLU RAY titles already – awaiting my eventual dive into the format). This is the Spielberg title that I feel – honestly – when I search my heart, I love most. I own it in 16mm – gorgeous I B TECH – Mylar stock. Different people love different Spielberg films most. Quint is obviously a JAWS fan, Dad’s is RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK… me, I love CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. Why? Because ever since I’ve saw it all those years ago – 30 years ago when I was five… it changed how I looked at the night sky… that same year, STAR WARS changed how I looked at sunsets… but CLOSE ENCOUNTERS made me hope for aliens. I wanted so much to fly in one of those ice cream cones – and 3 years ago when my father, my nephew and I all went to Devil’s Tower to see the film there… I think that’s what put the nail to hang this film highest in my heart. Sitting there beneath the sky – watching this film wishing for some special guest to drop in out of that uncanny crystal clear night sky… and when my nephew asked me afterwards, why the aliens didn’t come… I had to admit something very sad to him. Apparently Aliens don’t read AINT IT COOL NEWS. Sniffle. It’s a pricey disc, but completely worth it. Don’t get the Standard Def – wait till you can play Blu Ray – the standard def isn’t worth the nearly 30 bucks it costs. However, the Blu Ray totally would be.

Problem with films made up of little films by various directors is… sometimes your favorite director – or a young promising director – totally does a belly flop – and here – the belly flop is Alfonso Cuaron’s… who could possibly have seen that one coming? But ya know… it’s a Cuaron belly flop, which is still better than most folks’ work. But here – he’s surrounded by The Coen Brothers, Gus Van Sant, Alexander Payne, Gurinder Chadha, Oliver Schmitz, Sylvain Chomet, Wes Craven, Gerard Depardieu, Walter Salles, Tom Tykwer, Olivier Assayas and a bunch of others. And including acting talent from the 4 corners of the world. Definitely a fetish film for those of us that love Paris, film and the directors involved. The extra disc has 2 and a half hours of behind the scenes.

WITH A SONG IN MY HEART – The Jane Froman Story
Not terribly different from LA VIE EN ROSE – a story about an immensely talented female artist that has severe tragedy throughout her life. Only this was made in 1952 and is decidedly upbeat. Susan Hayward delivers my favorite performance of hers here. This is a very rare film to have seen, up until this point due to the fact that until now – it has never before seen the light of home video in any of its permutations. A very very entertaining film.

If you can’t get enough of those Gilmore Girls… this is all there is to get.

BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ – Criterion Collection
Over 15 and a half hours long – this isn’t for those of you with short attention spans – however – the film is brilliant… and this is the first time it has hit this country in DVD. This is an incredible epic and perhaps the greatest work by one of our greatest all-time filmmakers… Rainer Werner Fassbinder. This is, perhaps the greatest mini-series that ever played on TV, but then – it played PBS and was brilliant. Based on Alfred Doblin’s novel of the same name, which wove an amazing tale of a man named Franz – who left prison in Germany between the first and second World Wars… You follow him through the impoverished, dirty and desperate Germany – right into its rise (or fall) into the Nazi rule. One of the greatest works of cinema ever made. It will utterly blow you away. Criterion deserves some sort of special award for bringing this one out. Can not possibly recommend enough!

Nearly 85 hours of satiric, absurdist fun. I enjoyed NORTHERN EXPOSURE quite a bit – and was quite happy to receive this set in its rather nice package – and I can’t wait to introduce Yoko to Nome, Alaska – where the Vampires rarely eat everyone. The sad thing is… this doesn’t have the original music which was in fact pretty friggin great, but despite that – it’s still a great series. I really just wish they’d straighten out whatever the problem is with the original music and give us back what we love so much.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (2 Disc Collector’s Set)
Welcome to the yearly re-release of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. This time – with Color!!! Woo hoo. Ahem. Ya know… there’s a twisted part of me that would actually be morbidly curious how the film would play if you started in fake color, then when the Clarence gives George a look at the world without him, you went black and white, then when he returned to the real world it became color again. NOT because the movie needs it. Because this is a BLACK & WHITE film. It was made in an era that could have certainly been COLOR – but it’s a nightmare film and a dream – and those belong in Black & White… and it’s fantastic black and white. That said… if for some ungodly reason you don’t own this film. Own it.

If you’re creepy and you’re kooky – and altogether spooky – you definitely need to own… THE ADDAMS FAMILY… the complete television series! You get all 64 episodes on 9 double sided discs – with essentially the special features that came on the individual box sets. That said – for under $50 you can immerse yourself in one of the great television shows of all time. One a day for life would keep you from ever being NORMAL – and that’s well worth it!

Nope – not the one with Elisha Cuthbert! No – not that series with Hugh Hefner! This is that fantastic musical from Fox in 1953 starring the crooner Dan Dailey and the dizzy dame June Haver – who doesn’t play a porn star, nor a Playmate… No in the fifties the equivalent was the rather chaste existence of being a Broadway Musical Star. And the guy next door isn’t an over active masturbating teenager, nor is it Hugh Hefner, but a Newspaper comic strip widower and his son. The musical is funny and delightful and the kid, Billy Gray – is pretty friggin great!

Directed by Amando de Ossorio in the early seventies – this is a monster flick with a deadly monster stalking and killing (by plucking the beating heart out of the heaving chests of its victims) - SIGN ME UP! Heh. Here we have the original gory – nudity enriched work back as it should be! And it all looks great, thanks to the remastering job! Sadly the DVD does not come with one of the original Barf bags, but now that you know it originally had one – you can keep a bag nearby at home, just in case the film is too much for you to take! It happens.

Based on a really wonderful final work by Jerome Bixby – easily one of the significant science-fiction authors – Essentially what we have here is a feature length sci-fi tale that plays very much like a high quality episode of TWILIGHT ZONE – I enjoyed it, but never quite LOVED it. I think that mainly came from wanting to see this done with a few levels up talent across the board. However, this group did a very very nice job. If you’re a fan of Bixby’s – it’s a must own. If you love Serling work – you’ll enjoy it.

I love Pinky Violence films…. And here we have from Synapse – 3 great entries into that genre. This is the first of those. Essentially – if you love KILL BILL – you’re into the Pinky Violence genre. Revenge hungry pissed off women wanting to get back what they took in gallons of blood. This has all the requisite sex, violence and out and out sadism that the genre embraced. Star – Junko Miyazono is beautiful and convincing throughout. The film will scar you. In all the best ways!

In this one, Junko Miyazo plays a woman seeking revenge for rape and the murder of her father – and she has a side-slash in cute and deadly Reiko Oshida. It has been said, by better folks than I, that this film inspired the Lady Snowblood and Female Convict Scorpion series. Add to all that, Tomisaburo Wakayama and you have another film in your collection to pull out and kick the stuffing out of your guests with. Wonderful work!

This is the final film in the series – again featuring the lovely and deadly Junko Miyazono – and teaming her up with the star of THE YAKUZA PAPERS series (fucking great series, that one) Tatsuo Umemiya. The latter two films in this series were directed with the requisite flair of Nobuo Nakagawa – who in the past I’ve recommended SNAKE WOMAN’S CURSE and JIGOKU – two of the great classic Japanese Horror films long before RINGU and GRUDGE rewrote the history of that genre. Absolutely a revelation this series. Love love love love these films!

Yeah – I love the Emanuelle series – and the BLACK EMANUELLE series is awesome. This box set is great – as you not only get the films, but the bonus Soundtrack CD with the work of Nico Fidenco. This is totally – 100% about what gets you hard or wet – and the way these films were shot are all about turning you on, not jacking you off. Sensual and erotic, not pornographic. This is a great box set of late seventies scintillating cinema.

The star of LA VIE EN ROSE – Marion Cotillard is in this – and it is shot by the cinematographer behind IRREVERSIVBLE and CALVAIRE… and here’s a powerful work involving a Boarding School and very young girls. No – it’s not about that – but it is a mystery and is incredibly beautiful. Boarding school films freak me out – generally – I think it is the notion of being sent off to school at a very young age – away from home, away from family – Even those Harry Potter films freak me. I can’t imagine my parents not being a part of my education. That said – this is a film that flirts with the mysteries of girlhood to womanhood. You definitely should check it out.

This film – and the scene you see on that amazing cover… is perhaps the single greatest whacked out insane sex scene ever committed to film EVER. It’s crazy – and it just doesn’t stop there. An incredibly insane film that makes you wonder seriously about the Chinese. It is absolutely batshit insane – and a riot to watch with company that will not believe what they are seeing. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION for those of you that covet the most insane cult cinema has to offer. This is the shit!

The second this film arrived, I put it on my big ol projection screen and I was hoping for something of TROMA quality. Possibly I dared to hope for brilliance… the sort of brilliance that only a no budget film with a poster and a name like the CREATURE FROM THE HILLBILLY LAGOON could offer. What a silly optimistic fool I was. You can not take away the sound of the dull thud your head makes as this film bores you to unconsciousness. Terrible. No redeeming features… other than the cool box art. And how often has cool box art lured you to the murky depths of shit? Usually – I’d ignore it – but this time, I felt I had to warn you folks – DO NOT CLICK AND BUY THIS FILM. DO NOT ADD IT TO YOUR LISTS. LET IT GO INDIANA! LET IT GO!!!

This is a solid and very cool beginner’s documentary to the history of THE midnight movies of all time. The interviews with Jodorowsky, Lynch, Romero, etc are totally worth your attention. The flaw of the documentary? That it isn’t 3 hours long and included a slue of titles that none of us have heard of… but I live in Austin… home of the Drafthouse and the eternal midnight movies. We really should do our own documentary on the form – because it sure does seem we discover new old films all the time.

Why the hell not? I’ve never heard of it!

As usual – Johnny Legend puts an excellent set together. If you’re a fan of classic Juvenile Delinquent cinema – this’ll get you to where you need to get. HIGH SCHOOL CAESAR and NAKED YOUTH are my faves from this set. And this is one helluva set to end this great Tuesday of titles out on!
See you next week with the remake of HAIRSPRAY, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (unrated), HEARTS OF DARKNESS, RESCUE DAWN, The Original 1st Season of STAR TREK in HD!!!, NOSFERATU, SAWDUST AND TINSEL, TREMORS, WALKING TALL, ANGEL-A, a GODZILLA collection, A New FILM NOIR set!, more TALES OF TOMORROW!, STIR OF ECHOES 2 with Rob Lowe and much much more!!!

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