Hey folks, Harry here… with this week’s DVD & Blu-Ray column. It is a bit late, but that PBS WOODY ALLEN: A DOCUMENTARY dvd that’s coming out soon, got me completely wrapped up in it last night. Never should’ve put it on after MANHATTAN, I was powerless to look away. Anyway, this week’s column has some crazy good stuff on it – and some not so good junk as well. I’ll leave it to you to decide, although I certainly express my opinion about the matter. As usual, the pictures and links take you to Amazon where you can learn more on a given title – or just go ahead and order if so moved, which is appreciated as a small portion of the price goes to help keep this column kicking. So thank you so much. And now… here’s the Blu Ray release you’ve all been waiting on, that stars ME! Here ya go…
Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
One of the biggest micromanaged clusterfucks in the modern history of Fox was MONKEYBONE. Sam Hamm’s original script was awesome. Kind of the dream Henry Selick project. But then, the studio lost faith in the project, began making massive budget cuts, rushing the release date, which meant losing the massive amount of stop-motion that was originally intended. Even though my wonderfully apt cameo remains, pay attention to the t-shirts I’m wearing for Selick’s opinion of me. Giggle. But, it is on Blu. This could have been one of the great weird films of all time. You still see hints of it. You can see some of the shape of it. But it was kneecapped from being what it was intended to be. I have a terribly hard time watching it, because having read Sam’s original script… talking with him and Henry about what they wanted to do… it’s a travesty. I find it interesting that Fox granted the license of this over to Anchor Bay… but then, they don’t even realize that the film, while I personally loathe it, has developed a following of faithful that consider the film borderline brilliant. I can’t see that, but it does make me smile.
As great a film as has been made. Robert Mulligan’s treatment of of this brilliant novel is one of the great Adaptations in cinema history. Cast beyond perfectly. As great as Gregory Peck is as Atticus Finch, as great as Duvall is, as great as Brock Peters is… it’s those 3 kids that just absolutely make the movie. Watching them in this the other day, they’re just perfect. I didn’t grow up in the era of this film. But I’ve seen this movie so often over the course of my life, that I can actually be nostalgic for everything in it. Everytime Mary Badham is dressed in the Ham costume, I smile and get nervous because I know what is coming. The voice over ? Wow. Then there is in fact a super-genius performance from Gregory Peck who just represents the embodiment of a GOOD FATHER. I feel lucky that I have a father that I’ve hero worshipped like I have Atticus. The Blu-Ray is beautiful. The film looks amazing. The extras are legion. Filled to the brim with everything from tributes to Gregory Peck to the book, to well… just about anything and everything you could want to know about TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. They did a fantastic job on this Blu-Ray. I put it right next to my CITIZEN KANE on my shelf of such awesomery. Ya know… PERFECT FILMS.
This is one of those films that played like gangbusters at SXSW when it debuted. I was there. This is about a high school band, approximately a 1000 times cooler than any High School Band that you were ever a part of. I loved band. Yes, I’m a Band Geek… Tenor Saxophone and Trombone. I played in our High School Jazz Band – and I liked to delude myself into thinking we were pretty cool. Most Band geeks like to think that way. But then you see something like this – and you realize… HOLY SHIT! THAT IS TALENT! THAT IS JUST AMAZING! If you have a fetish for eras of crazy hair and crazy clothing. If you love to see what those people look like today – and watch something that will do to you, what happened to the Grinch’s Heart at the end of Seuss’ tale…. Well that’s the sort of emotion this film has. It makes you believe that this world we live in. IT ain’t all bad. In fact, there are things going on out there that is enough to douse the cynicism that some of us wear like Kevlar. THUNDER SOUL is not only a heart warming tale of a Band that comes back together to show their aging band director what he meant to them…. But musically, the FUNK… oh man, they bring the Funk in a manner that is just… SO AWESOME. SO SO SOOOOO AWESOME. I wish this was on Blu-Ray so you could get the lossless sound, but hopefully if this sells well, we’ll get that some day. I want it. But this will do till then.
For all of you that had not yet discovered the genius of Nicolas Winding Refn, welcome aboard. There does seem to be a bit of a backlash settling in on this film. The Academy thumbed their noses at it. That lady sued it. It didn’t quite crack nearly enough Top 10 lists for those that worship the film… and you see, that’s the kind of film it is. For those that dig it, DRIVE is the film of the year. Classic Noir-esque fun. The type of film that Steve McQueen did so well. If you love this. I beg you to check out Refn’s BRONSON with Tom Hardy. That film is just incredible – and like DRIVE, BRONSON was also ignored by the Academy – and was just about better than anything that came out against it. More than anything though… I see this as yet another example of a great film by a great international director that stars Ron Perlman. Albert Brooks is just incredible in this. Bryan Cranston is also amazing. The BluRay has some fun extras on it – and if you love it – Blu is the way to go. The music and the visuals… must be perfect.
This is a really nasty mean film from 1975 – about a pair of girls taking a train back home to join their parents for Christmas… but the predatory evil targets them upon the train. What happens is tough to take. There is rape. There is murder. And it is all done to be ugly and not sensualized. This film is brutal – and the turn at the end is kind of spectacular. Aldo Lado did a helluva job on this – and Blue Underground did an amazing transfer on the film – which should probably have never looked this good. If NORTH BY NORTHWEST makes you want to take a train trip, this is the cure.
This is the second dip on this title. If you remember, when TRANSFORMERS 3 hit Blu Ray, I warned you that this would happen. That was a bare-bones transfer to Blu. Preying upon the pocketbooks of parents that had children that just couldn’t wait. But if you did, this is the version you should get, if you care to own this film at all. To me, TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON was the best of the trilogy. By far. The spectacle is just kind of amazing, especially in 3D. Chicago… wow. Shia’s new hottie? She looks real good on screen… in 3D, she just doesn’t have a lot to do other than look blisteringly hot. As for the rest… Dude… SPOCK is a killer science geek evil robot and I love that! Here, on this full to the gills Blu Ray – you’ll see how Bay planned and shot the CHICAGO sequence. You’ll see PreVis wizard Steve Yamamoto chatting you through the Pre-Vis with Bay and it is amazing to see how it all came together. Also, the “Birdmen Featurette” is just I LIKE! I wish I could do that. It just looks so amazing. TONS OF EXTRAS. The 3rd BluRay disc is nothing but Extras. This is the disc fans have waited for.
SO you loved the TRANSFORMERS trilogy… I’m shocked. I can’t go there with ya. I like some of the first film, some of the second – and mostly like the 3rd, but shelling out $89.99 for this 7 Disc set is just not in the cards for me. I just don’t love the series that much – and the box set is kind of funky looking to me. Sure, it’s an origami fold out, but I just have no desire to own this thing. You?
Personally… I love STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. Watched religiously every single episode. But if this hadn’t been sent to me free, I wouldn’t have bought this. Why? Sure – it has 3 great episodes, the pilot, ENCOUNTER AT FARPOINT, SINS OF THE FATHER and THE INNER LIGHT. I love that the show is getting 1080p treatment, but… Just issue the seasons on Blu Ray already. Watching these only do one thing… make you salivate for the rest. I mean, we don’t even get a Borg episode. Sure, this is an appetizer, but when you know you’re ready for the main course, fuck the appetizer, right? If you can’t wait – go ahead, Amazon has it for $15. But that’s just taking advantage. Give me the whole shebang!
I now totally understand what happened on this film. Watching the making of – you see how everyone involved with this film were huge fans of John Carpenter’s original brilliant film. But when they’re talking about making the film, Director Matthijs Van Heijningen Jr says that this is a Ghost Story – because all these people will be dead. He directed them to feel doomed, that’s why none of these characters are alive. As for the CG, yeah – it blows, but what Matthijs did to the characters, that’s the real crime. That they watched the first film and essentially performed CSI techniques to reverse engineer what they thought OBVIOUSLY happened… well that’s why this blows ass so much. They were so in awe of the original film, that they never allowed their film to have a life of its own. Can you imagine if Joe Carnahan had directed this? Just watch THE GREY again.
I am an unapologetic lover of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE… mainly because I couldn’t stand the epilogue of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. This is a wonderful love story fantasy. I love Gwyneth Paltrow in this. Joseph Fiennes is just kind of awesome in the film. Rush is just spectacular as always. Judi Dench is… well Judi Dench. The writing is just wonderful, but then Stoppard is known for that sort of thing. The Blu Ray looks fantastic. You get one commentary with Director John Madden, another with Cast & crew. About 11 minutes of deleted scenes. A costume featurette and a nearly 22 minute long piece that’s quite diverting. If you love the film, this is a very well done Blu Ray.
Ok – this is one of those films, where the tale is being told from the perspective of a character whose perspective can not be trusted. When the twist occurs, you could throw up your hands and walk away. Me, I held on. I like Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz… I love Ghost Stories – and I love stories about the insane folks. Put these two tastes together – and you still get a fairly lackluster film, but one that I was genuinely curious to see get wrapped up. It is one of those… “kinda good kinda sucky” movies. Depending upon your own ability to invest and enjoy insanity and the paranormal… your enjoyment will vary. Better writing and directing would have helped. Jim Sheridan is usually better than this. But I was still along for the ride.
I don’t quite think COLD MOUNTAIN is a masterpiece spectacular as the box would say. What it is, is a stunning almost masterpiece that just doesn’t quite succeed for me. Anthony Minghella, the man who directed this and THE ENGLISH PATIENT and who was taken from our plane of existence at far too early an age, he was attempting to make EPIC films. With THE ENGLISH PATIENT he succeeded wildly. With COLD MOUNTAIN he created imagery that I will never forget, but there’s just something about the story that just doesn’t quite satisfy my tastes. But I respect the film. Love watching it for the column, but it just feels a bit disconnected to me. Jude Law is my favorite character in the film. Kidman and Zellweger feel a bit false to me. The BLU RAY is stunningly beautiful. The blu has commentary with Minghella and Walter Murch! The hour plus look at the making of COLD MOUNTAIN is absolutely worth a look. I found the deleted scenes compelling. I didn’t dive into the hour and a half “Words & Music of Cold Mountain” yet, figure I’ll give that a shot eventually. There’s also Storyboard comparison pieces. Very nice Blu!
Now this is Minghella’s masterpiece – along with THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY (which I really really really really love), but THE ENGLISH PATIENT is just a kind of film that we don’t have made anymore. True romantic epic. It is just so great. The cinematography by John Seale and the music by Gabriel Yared must be seen and heard in the best fashion that you can muster. This is just masterful. Ralph Fiennes’s Count Laszlo is just stunning. The make up, the performance, the light that graces him. I love his and Kristin Scott Thomas’ story. But even more, I love Juliette Binoche and Naveen Andrews’ story. I love Willem Dafoe and Colin Firth and Jurgen Prochnow and just everything that happens over the course of the story – and I love that this is the sort of movie that makes you, forces you to become enthralled. To be wrapped up in a masterful story that makes your heart sing and ache. It makes me sad watching this. I don’t know when we’ll get anything of it’s like again. That’s a tragedy. This Blu is absolutely what it needed to be. Not only is the sound and image exactly right, but you get a dedicated Minghella commentary – and a second commentary with Anthony, Saul Zaentz and the author of the novel, Michael Ondaatje. There’s a nearly hour long making of. 20 minutes of deleted scenes with Minghella. Long interviews with Minghella, Zaentz, Ondaatje and Walter Murch. Lots of small featurettes too. Very much worth the dip.
I love THE PIANO. Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel and Sam Neill are just fascinating to watch in this incredible film. And then there’s the rather disturbing reality that the 8 year old is played by Anna Paquin, who is currently a oh so hot sexy fangbanger today – and Yeah, I was out of college when this movie hit, which means I’m really fucking old. Thank you Jane Campion. For making me feel old and for making such a sexy and thrilling fairy tale for all us grown ups that love tales just like these. Now – this is a barebones release. No real extras, beyond a trailer… but really, this is a film that is about the performances and the story being told. I don’t necessarily need an indepth look on this title. I just want a great image and sound release and that’s what this release covers.
I love that Charlie Kaufman is doing a film that is going to make all us internet film critics out to be the lunatics we are… But that’s just because I can’t get enough of Kaufman’s skewed brilliance – and when he works with Spike Jonze, it is particularly wonderful. Here, Nicolas Cage gives a great performance… or two. And Meryl Streep – I would rather see her romancing with Chris Cooper than being a Biopic character in another boring biopic. Here, she’s amazing. IRON LADY, not so much. I’ll never forget the conversations late at night with Moriarty about this film. He just lost it for the flick. Hell, he lost it for the script. Oh man, we have a new Kaufman on the way! Isn’t that just great? I really do wish that this had a ton of extras. I really do. Sadly you get a 2 minutes BTS in a swamp. It is a fun 2 minutes, but more than anything, it makes you thirst for more. Sigh. Great sound and image though. Just a title I would have liked more upon the release.
Spike Lee nailed this. Such a great film. The good news is that we get a great Blu Ray release. First, it is a Blu Book, which I personally love having a collection of. But more so – in addition to great video and audio transfers… we get 9 Deleted scenes with intros by Spike himself. We also get a 30 minute making of that details the difficulties in bringing this story to the screen. Most of all, you get that performance from Denzel Washington, that is just spectacular. OH – and they throw in a feature length documentary on DVD along with everything else. So they’ve done a really great job. The colors pop, the blacks are deep… just gorgeous. Absolutely worth picking up!
I have to just give thanks to Quentin Tarantino. Without his QT FESTS – I doubt seriously that this would exist. Prior to those screenings at the original Alamo on San Antonio, Fernando Di Leo seemed to be utterly forgotten. Then Quentin showed a gorgeous print of THE ITALIAN CONNECTION – and the critics in the audience woke up and we all started digging for the rest of Di Leo’s movies. These 4 are his very bests. They’re incredible films. Unlike the mafia movies of the west, that seemed to almost hero worship the mob, Di Leo hated the mob. Saw them for the trash that they were and fucking NAILED THEM. These films made from 1972 to 1976 are simply 4 of the best crime flicks you’re likely to see. They’re tough, brutal and have an edge that’ll draw blood. He doesn’t only make the mob look bad, but reveals their daughters to be the sluts that Fernando saw them as. He trashes their entire way of life, and it is absolutely awesome. NOW in 2012, FERNANDO DI LEO warrants this amazing box set of BLU RAYS that are just an absolute delight. Not only are these the very best transfers that these films have ever seen, but the Blu Rays have Documentaries on Fernando, and each of the films have Docs about them. That’s just amazing. I’ve written an awful lot about Di Leo’s work over the last 14 or so years. If you haven’t caught on to how great these films are yet, this is as sure a time as any to leap aboard. You’ll see films unlike anything you’ve seen. They’re outstanding!
This film is wonderful. One, Salma is just friggin hot as hell in this film. Then you have the amazing production design and look of the film. Then you just have great performances from not only Ms Hayek, but Alfred Molina? Are you kidding me, he’s just spectacular as Diego Rivera! But then there’s great roles by Antonio Banderas, Geoffrey Rush and Edward Norton. This is a good Valentine’s day watch! But if you loved Frida Kahlo’s artwork, this is a great film to accompany whatever artbooks you have. Spectacular! Julie Taymor does a commentary for us. There’s a 40 minute conversation with Salma where she details her passion for the part. There’s a 30 minute Q&A with Taymor at the AFI. 20 minutes with Taymor and Bill Moyers. Oh – and about 10 additional special features too. This is a great release on this title!
If you’ve ever seen Pieter Bruegel’s “WAY TO CALVARY” – his very famous painting… what we have here is the greatest single exploration of a single painting in the entire history of cinema. Here, you dive into the painting – and it comes to life. Rutger Hauer plays Bruegel, and I loved watching him sketch and talk about his themes and why he placed things where he did in the painting. Then you have Michael York as his patron, with Charlotte Rampling as York’s wife – and the production design and stylized look of this film really shows off the OOMPH of your home theater situation. The film pushes you to ruminate upon the details of the painting, letting those characters come to life. Mostly without dialogue, the film lets you discover the era that Bruegel painted. It turns the perspective to give you a dream of a look inside of a masterpiece. I found the film utterly hypnotic – and yet again another example of why we have to have companies like KINO that’ll bring titles like this to us, because we never get the theatrical opportunity to see it. If you love art or Rutger Hauer, I highly recommend this.
Anchor Bay releases a barebones release of the great Lawrence Kasdan film that really is so much better than CRASH, that it isn’t funny. BUT… GRAND CANYON, while being loved by most film lovers I know, is getting the short shift, yet again. None of the aspects of this release are where I feel they should be for this title. The image and sound are not as sharp as they could have been – and extras? Forget it. 21 years… it’d have been nice to get the cast back together to talk about the making of the film. Get Kasdan talking about it. Alas, we only have a middling release of this great title.
That’s pretty much it for this week. However, there’s one more title that I feel like I had to include in this column. Last week, I didn’t have THE APARTMENT in the column, mainly because I didn’t get sent a screener for it – and it wasn’t in AMAZON’s listings as coming out. For a bit it looked like only Canada was getting it, but sure enough it did hit, and I did get the disc, two days late. SO – here we go…
THE APARTMENT is my personal favorite Billy Wilder film. And I love a whole lot of Billy Wilder movies. SOME LIKE IT HOT, SUNSET BOULEVARD, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, SABRINA, THE LOST WEEKEND, ACE IN THE HOLE… no wait, ACE IN THE HOLE is my favorite. Actually, if put to the sword it’d probably be THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS. But THE APARTMENT… after you see it, you can’t help but count it as your favorite. Although STALAG 17 is really great too. But THE APARTMENT… it’s just something so wonderfully devastating and real and honest and poignant… and I just, Jack Lemmon is so amazing here. Fred MacMurray – such a douche. Just amazing. And Ray Walston is also great. But this film is about Jack Lemmon and his apartment which he lets his higher ups use as a hump shack for their mistresses so he can climb the corporate ladder… it is just, suddenly, well – let’s just say there are complications that he doesn’t expect – and it is brilliant. Like everything else that Billy Wilder does. He made films that rang true. That had soul to them. Watching this and his other films make you feel like the world has devolved in a way. As if we didn’t learn from the lessons he was teaching us with his films. THE APARTMENT is amazing. The Blu Ray has a Film Historian Commentary. There’s a half hour look into the making of the film. Jack Lemmon’s Son discusses his father’s life and career quite eloquently. Over all – this is a great film that is only missing a 30 minute conversation with Steven Spielberg about his love for this film, from being perfect.
And officially, that is all for this week. Next week, we have our first releases of February which starts with two of Yoko’s obsessions… Season 2 of DOWNTON ABBEY and BREAKING DAWN Part 1, then there’s LADY AND THE TRAMP on Blu, A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR CHRISTMAS Blu, ANONYMOUS Blu, PROJECT NIM, DANGEROUS LIAISONS Blu, CASINO ROYALE (1967) Blu, IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD Blu, A STAR IS BORN Blu, LA JETEE / SANS SOLEIL Criterion Blu, LOVE STORY Blu, A FISH CALLED WANDA Blu, COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, DEADLY SPAWN Blu, THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN Blu, KNUCKLE, DREAMGIRLS Blu, YAKUZA WEAPON Blu, QT’s CSI “GRAVE DANGER” BLU,