Hey folks, Harry here… With SXSW, some show work, a trip to Toronto and everything else, I just didn’t get enough of the stuff seen in time to make last week’s column, but here it and this week’s column for good measure! As usual the pictures and links will take you to Amazon where you can learn more on a given title or you can purchase it, which goes to keep supporting the best efforts of this column. So much thanks to all those that appreciate this column. Now, here we go…
Tuesday March 13th, 2012
Ralph Bakshi’s WIZARDS is a wondrous work. The style of the film is taken in no small part from the great Underground Comix artist Vaughn Bode, who came to an early and unfortunate death. This was another of those great films from 1977, it is a futuristic fantasy epic that I never ever want to see turned into a live action film. Ever. William Stout’s iconic image of Peace perched upon his DoDo shaped steed – it’s one of those quintessential images of the Seventies in my mind. I’ve always loved that Mark Hamill provided voice for this film. The BLU RAY is beautiful. There’s a colorful commentary by Bakshi and a RALPH BAKSHI: THE WIZARD OF ANIMATION doc. But the book itself, I love. I love that this gets that kind of treatment. Deluxe through and through. Way to go Fox Home Video, duly impressed!
Everytime I even begin to think about THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, I just remember the insanity of its release. I saw it here in Austin with my father at the old Arbor Theater that used to be in the Cheesesteak Factory building of today. I remember having to push through protestors that were trying to block the box office from selling tickets. Today’s Austin is more likely to have protestors fighting to get MEGAFORCE included into the SUMMER OF 1982 set at the Alamo Drafthouse. It was insanity. People got seriously bent out of shape about this very profound work created by Martin Scorsese which opens up his own particular dialogue with faith through cinema and the telling of the Christ tale. Willem (ANTICHRIST) Dafoe is tremendous in the film. Just tremendous. More than anything though… the score by Peter Gabriel and Michael Ballhaus’ cinematography & Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing… transcendent. Just watching the film puts you in such a meditative state. Criterion has done a real bang up job with this release:
Restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and editor Thelma Schoonmaker, with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack by supervising sound editor Skip Lievsay
Audio commentary featuring director Martin Scorsese, actor Willem Dafoe, and writers Paul Schrader and Jay Cocks
Galleries of production stills, research materials, and costume designs
Location production footage shot by Scorsese
Interview with composer Peter Gabriel, with a stills gallery of traditional instruments used in the score
PLUS: An essay by film critic David Ehrenstein
One of the most thoroughly delightful films of 2011 was THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN. Spielberg teaming up with Peter Jackson and Weta to create this love letter to Herge’s brilliant creation is just exactly the amount of adventure, whimsy & giggles that it needed to do the job right. Watching the characters come to life with a new John Williams adventure score and a seemingly reinvigorated and playful Spielberg who you can tell was having a blast with the new toys this film afforded him. It felt like it had the same serial roots that Steven has had when playing with Indiana Jones. It is beautiful on Blu-ray and there’s lots of fun to be had on the disc. Wish this had made about double what it made domestically so we’d be sure to have more.
I love this film. I’ve watched it quite a few times now and it’s more than to oogle the oh so ooglable Michelle Williams’ take on Marilyn Monroe. It is more than the major film geek boner that I get just thinking about Kenneth Branagh getting to play Laurence Olivier during the shooting of THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL. It actually, the whole thing, rests on the shoulders of Eddie Redmayne. Eddie plays us. Film lovers. The voyeurs that watch and admire the work of the silver screen. He comes from a life of privelege, but has no idea what he wants to do, but he knows he wants to be a part of film. Whatever it is. His family affords him a connection and it’s watching him do anything, be anywhere and handle everything… and finding himself a part of that world when the American film Goddess Marilyn Monroe came to England. It’s a beautiful story. A tad bittersweet, but oh what a fantasy of a memory. This film is one of the very best films of 2011. The performances by everyone in the film are fantastic. Simon Curtis did a great job with this production. Do not miss it – if you love classic Hollywood like I do, this film is an absolute double bill with PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL. Which needs to be released on Blu-Ray right now please!
I really love YOUNG ADULT. I love it, cuz I understand it. The small town that I went to Junior High and High School at… it’s another world. Turning 40 hit the flashback button in my brain, wondering how everyone from back then is doing. Looking up ex-GF social network stuff. Imagining still living there… I mean, when Charlize says, “It’s like he’s a hostage,” I absolutely get that. It’s what I think of what it’d have to feel like if I still lived there. BUT at the same time, I know folks that are leading full and happy lives there – that can’t imagine all the troubles of living in the big sin-filled city of Austin. YOUNG ADULT is about an aging Charlize as a Young Adult Literary ghost writer on a popular series. She goes OCD when she discovers that her ex-high school boyfriend is languishing with a family stuck in the hell that was their high school town. She sets out on a mission to rescue him from his life. Watching YOUNG ADULT makes me have nearly zero impulse for going back for a High School reunion. But still, I think it could be a lot of fun. I had my very first grown up child of a High Schoolmate as a waiter at a local restaurant – and I have to admit. Scared the fuck out of me. So weird. I totally remember his mom pregnant that Senior year. My school had a lot of those. So yeah, YOUNG ADULT is that kind of movie… except one of the people stuck back in Helltown is a brilliant performance by Patton Oswalt. Perhaps his best work this side of BIG FAN. His and Charlize’s sex scene… it’s what Blu-Ray was meant for!
Here’s where I shock ya. I fucking hate THE DESCENDANTS. Hate it. Can’t fucking stand it. Now I love everyone that is in this film. I love Alexander Payne. But I hate the story and the characters. I just loathe it. Why? Well, first off they’re all a bunch of whiny spoiled rich victim worshippers. I hate the situation, the characters and it all feels like total bullshit. Clooney’s character – it kills me. I just want to slap him in every scene and tell him to fucking get a grip. The sheer fact that he doesn’t even seem to have a best friend style character shows what a complete fucking idiot this guy is. Oh sure, he has a huge family estate business to oversee. I just don’t believe the situation and characters. I hate Clooney’s daughter, because she’s so incredibly self-absorbed, and apparently has a stark raving idiot fetish. These miserable super rich helpless idiots just lose me. I did not connect for a second. I wouldn’t tolerate for a second these characters if they were to show up in my life and I have no desire to spend any more time with them. I know. Wow. Didn’t expect that, but it is what happened when I watched it. Then it started getting awards nods all over the place. And many of my close personal friends love it. AND YET, I HATE EVERY CHARACTER & STORY BEAT. And it is that I love all these actors and actresses and the director – that it annoys me so much. I suspect that I am terribly wrong about the film. I really am. It’s kind of like my take on LONE STAR, another film that I seriously can not stand. I do see the film that critics and friends love… but I hate the soul of this film. If you love it, get the BLU RAY – you can have it.
Johnnie To’s TRIAD trilogy is one of the best Hong Kong action series of the last decade. Although, it isn’t really. It started with ELECTION. Then its sequel, TRIAD ELECTION. Then Ching-Po Wong shot an entirely separate story set within a similar criminal world called TRIAD UNDERWORLD. It’s really kind of impossible to watch it and not think about Johnnie To’s 1st two – so I get how and why they would all get packaged together, but TRIAD UNDERWORLD is technically a whole different thing. But it kicks a whole lot of ass, but doesn’t quite elevate to To’s levels in my opinion. This is good stuff though and looks & sounds fantastic on Blu-Ray.
I really hate Paul W.S. Anderson. I’ve never met him. We’ve almost crossed paths a couple of times, but he kills me. Him rewriting Alexandre Dumas’ THREE MUSKETEERS. Ok – let’s forget about the steampunk stuff, that admittedly… looks cool. Ridiculous, but cool. Let’s also forget that I’m actually a fan of the casting choices. You see… this is what I hate about him, he has the capacity to make several right decisions in the making of a major motion picture. But his capacity to suck the awesome out something as fucking simple to execute like THE THREE MUSKETEERS story… and make it suck at eye-rolling levels of absolute I want to choke someone this is so terrible. It all comes down to a simple conceit. The Queen of France was fucking Buckingham. But the Musketeers were men that would fight to protect the honor of their slutty queen. And that’s why they ruled. They ruled because they were the kind of men that would fight untold odds, all for the greater glory of their Queen. HERE, Paul W.S. Anderson makes the Queen chaste. And her honor is being besmirched by Cardinal Richelieu’s lies. I just can’t abide that change. I also hate what has been done to M’Lady’s character – not that she can Xena Warrior Princess the fuck out of this film. That’s fine. Stupid, but expected. No, what I can’t stand is just how devious and evil she is in the book, in prior versions of the story. And yet tragic at the end. That even without weapons she was the deadliest person ever through her sheer soulful torment she could project. Just fuck this. It’s pretty to look at, but it doesn’t make a lick of sense. If you want this sort of thing going on in the background with a better soundtrack playing… I recommend QUEEN – then you can enjoy the visuals and just give a fuck about what’s going on. It’s nice to look at.
I am someone that doesn’t like to wallow in depression. I’ve been around it, my mother had chronic depression and treated it with Alcohol. A winning combination, that. Anyway, this is a perfect picture of what it would be, to be Kirsten Dunst, Beautiful and depressed trying to get married at the end of the world. I tell ya. Lars Von Trier he gets filmic darkness better than anyone working in film today, this side of perhaps Darren Aronofsky. The cinematography on this film is better than most of the nominees for Best Cinematography at this year’s Oscars – but ultimately, while I deeply appreciate the film, it simply isn’t my cup of tea. Not yet. Perhaps when that Asteroid’s trajectory is inexplicably caught in Earth’s gravity and is targeted to land smack dab upon Austin, Texas… Perhaps then I’ll put on MELANCHOLIA and have a completely different perspective upon the film. I just hope it’s at the Alamo Drafthouse with my friends as we toast the world away.
I love seventies fucked up erotica, especially when it’s getting all Black Mass and Satanistic. VIRGIN WITCH is kinda sorta exactly that. You know, that whole Aleister Crowley thing that was going on back when these movies were around. And if he had any part in inspiring this particular genre of film. May Satan embrace his vulgar heart in eternal damnation. He deserves his fondest wish. I really love it when this excuse for hot seventies nudity is delivered upon Blu Ray. It’s silly fun stuff.
Then there’s AMERICAN PIE, which on so many levels it just seems so densely calculated. Now I can have a ton of fun with AMERICAN PIE, there is just something really soulful missing. Watch LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN and then rewatch AMERICAN PIE. You’ll see what I mean. I’ve had some friends tell me that it is simply the difference between “Our Generation’s Deviant Soul” and this new generation. Except that most people I know from AMERICAN PIE’s generation, just don’t seem to want to claim it. That said, you don’t want to hear my “One time at Band Camp story.” You really don’t.
And here – I just didn’t love it anymore. It felt crass somehow – and I’m about as crass as they get. It felt too sitcom-y and not enough wild abandon. It just was trying to outgross itself, instead of simply trying to be a better story. Right?
This most certainly did not suck. It surprised me as much as anyone. I had it pegged for suckage, but watching Bob Hoskins have a second go at Smee… Watching Rhys Ifans become HOOK, all of it, it just dodged a shit ton of pratfalls that seem to catch people when they try to respin this tale, but Director Nick Willing managed to do what so many have come so short upon. It seems so incredibly different from what we know of PETER PAN, but as the turns keep bringing it closer to the tale we know… I kept smiling. They were playing with the PETER PAN that was yet to be. The relationship between Pan and Hook was given real meat here – and I liked it. This is worth the trip.
This isn’t strictly WALLACE & GROMIT animation folks. What it is, is a really excellent educational show built with WALLACE & GROMIT animated intros & outros. That said, if you have kids or like to hear about crazy ass inventions like teaching robots to eat meat and digest it into electricity. Seriously. Some fucker out there has done this. Teaching robots to have a taste for meat… and a use for it. Like ELECTRICITY. WHAT THE HELL? Inventors and Scientists should be required to understand the essential morality of making robots self-sustaining through the consumption of living flesh… is BAD! A REAL BAD IDEA! I mean, in the history of how it could go wrong in a major fucking way… this is one of em. I mean, it’s like a low budget sci-fi end of the world kinda scenario. But it is true. WALLACE & GROMIT say so. It has been done. It is beginning. We’re all gonna be so screwed!
This really is a kind of fucked scary film. Apparently the moon just starts making people kill crazy. They think they’re in a dream and are compelled to kill people because it’s a dream, so it’s ok. And some people seem unaffected by the Killer Moon Rays. They tend to be virginal british school girls, who seem particularly kill worthy in this KILLER’S MOON. And yes, there is a guy dressed like Alex from CLOCKWORK ORANGE. This is true. Although, the film is from 1970, the year before CLOCKWORK ORANGE. This is all kinds of hokey. If you dig this kind of slasher film, you’ll enjoy this. Nothing terribly outstanding though. The situation itself is just terrifying though.
Alright. So ya know how FOOTLIGHT PARADE is like one of my favorite movies of all time? And ya know that SHANGHAI LIL number from the end of the film, which is very nearly the most perfect thing ever put to celluloid? Well, here’s a whole friggin’ movie that stars James Cagney a wayward seasman in the 1850’s San Francisco – and he goes from a nobody to a legend of the Barbary Coast – and that’s just a tale worth telling – and Cagney can sell it. I do love me a good Cagney film.
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
On Facebook, in my info, when asked to describe my political affiliation, I chose to label myself a CAPRACRAT – and I’ll tell ya why. I believe the messages about populism in Frank Capra’s films to define my view of how the world of America should work on its best and worst day. That we are about providing a better future for the people of our country. That we’re a friendly neighbor. That we pull up our bootstraps and do the hard work that needs doing, and that we can see the evil men for the evil that they do. We live in a vastly more complicated and insidious world than in the days of Capra. The sheer speed & volume of disinformation that gets belched from today’s media outlets would bring a smile to even Edward Arnold’s jowls. BUT lest I dive to far into the lectures of Capra – let me say… Damn could Capra direct a delightfully told tale. LADY FOR A DAY is a story that one could claim evolved into the great MY FAIR LADY, but you must remember that PYGMALION was written in 1912, long before even LADY FOR A DAY (1933). I love that this film has come to BluRay. So many of the great Capra classics have yet to make the leap. But I found it particularly wonderful to finally get to see this film. Guy Kibbee is absolutely delightful as the Judge. Of course, when is Guy Kibbee not delightful? Even when he’s a rube, he’s a delightful rube. Capra did remake this with Bette Davis in the May Robson role. And I do prefer A POCKET FULL OF MIRACLES to this version, but as a Guy Kibbee fan, I delight at having this.
I’m a huge D.A. Pennebaker fan. The first documentary that I saw over 20 times was MONTEREY POP – my parents had attended and loved reliving it through his documentary, so in 1993 there was a screening of THE WAR ROOM here in Austin – and D. A. Pennebaker was there, and this film really blew me away. And it made me optimistic that things were going to go great. The economy had turned a corner. Watching THE WAR ROOM from a far more disappointed view of politics and the real damage that these “WAR ROOM” bunker politics, where it’s salvo after salvo on a daily, hourly & second by second commentary. That it is exhausting. Not to just mount a campaign, but to follow them all. The sheer enormity of information that we have now. Jesus. It’s crazy. You can watch these guys live on TV 24/7. Criterion did a great job on this disc!
New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by directors D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
Return of the War Room, a 2008 documentary in which advisers James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, and Paul Begala and others reflect on the effect the Clinton war room had on the way campaigns are run
Making “The War Room,” a conversation between the filmmakers about the difficulties of shooting in the campaign’s fast-paced environment
Panel discussion hosted by the William J. Clinton Foundation and featuring Carville, Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan, journalist Ron Brownstein, and surprise guest Bill Clinton
Interview with strategist Stanley Greenberg on the increasing importance of polling
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by writer Louis Menand
I really love the original. Fincher’s film is hypnotic. The way he puts film together exactly knows its audiences pulse. Rooney Mara is amazing here, more of a super woman, a bit more superhuman feeling. The sex is less tortured. I found the film to be very solid. I just, wish Fincher had made an entirely different film. I didn’t have to see his GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. He made a great version of the story, but I just saw and liked that story… just the other day it seems. I need to repeat how much I loved Rooney Mara in this. She really did a fantastic job. I never had a doubt that David Fincher would make a great film out of this. I could absolutely see it. Also, Stellen Skarsgard scares the shit out of me. Seriously. Scary man.
SO the first time I saw this I was sick, exhausted and blinded by HUGO. But upon second viewing, I stand by what I said. It’s like the 5th best MUPPET movie – and that ain’t a bad thing. I just happen to really love a whole lot of Muppet movies. I do feel something is off with Kermit still and my favorite character is the new Muppet – which feels dirty to say, but I just wanted something more out of this than I got. Even if the MAN OR MUPPET song is constantly ringing in my head these days. However, you know what is better than this Muppet film? The Blu Ray. Seriously. The documentary on the making of this film – is actually way better than the movie. I love it. It’s so genius. I also like ALL the deleted scenes. AND if you pause the film. There’s like a 15 minute looping act that I watched 3 times, because it was kinda hypnotic. The full Chris Cooper TEX RICHMAN song is something given to us by Gods. Truly awesome. So yeah, BLU is totally worth it.
So I thought I was gonna hate this movie, but watching Yoko watch this movie. That was so insanely adorable. I like James Marsden in silly fantasy comedies. But this hit Yoko’s cuterus… it’s that point in girls where things that are adorable cause them to coo and make silly sounds as if the world is the best thing ever. HOP did that to her – and I couldn’t stop laughing at her. I mean, when you have a purple haired asian chick doing cute faces at fuzzy bunnies that shit candy… if you don’t appreciate that. Well, all I can say – HOP is staying in my home video collection. For better or for worse.
I am of the opinion that TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY could very well be the finest crafted film of 2011. I find myself thinking about its utter flawlessness. The fact that every single time I watch it, it takes a measurable leap in my estimation of it. Tomas Alfredson’s first English language film is his second masterpiece in a row. I rather desperately wanted Gary Oldman to win Best Actor. I really did. If only because I heard the man utter the words BUTT-NUMB-A-THON in the most excellent intonation that I’ve ever heard. It skewered me to the soul. BUT, I recently came into the April 24th Blu Ray of the Alec Guinness telling of this tale – and 3 episodes in, I broke out this because that is exactly what watching the original made me want to do. Oddly, watching it also makes me die waiting for DARK KNIGHT RISES. Tomas Alfredson’s direction feels very much like Chris Nolan’s to my eye. It isn’t just that they have cast members in their galleries. But there’s a precision and craftsmanship to their films that I love. Even when I don’t entirely love something.
I vastly prefer BATTLE ROYALE to the new HUNGER GAMES – I mean it isn’t very close at all for me. They’re very different, but I prefer the intimate stories in BATTLE ROYALE, the savagery. BATTLE ROYALE for me is one of those seminal film event where you realize that your country absolutely sucked ass because it didn’t have a studio with the balls to release it over here. This is a great cinematic work. The performances by these kids are great. I love it. Watching it on Blu Ray here was just a revelation, because I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it in so long. I actually have friends that haven’t seen it. Can’t wait to introduce this to them!
The Making of Battle Royale
TV Spot: Tarantino Version
Basketball Scene Rehearsals
Tokyo International Film Festival 2000
Special Edition TV Spot
Original Theatrical Trailer
Battle Royale Documentary
Special Effects Comparison Featurette
Audition & Rehearsal Footage
Instructional Video: Birthday Version
Battle Royale Press Conference And more!
This is a great Russian adventure film about four geologists searching for Diamonds in Siberia – and yeah there are scenes shot that are just amazing. The forest fire. Holy Shit. I mean this is amazing filmmaking! It was shot in 1959 – and it is amazing to watch. Not much in terms of extras, but this is a case, where you just think the maker that Criterion exists and we get this on Blu-Ray. This film is a treasure that gleams aplenty!
If you see this movie, then if you happen to be out on a hike and you come across someone buried in a cage in the ground. You might just keep walking, because trying to do the right thing can really really have terrible ramifications. Horrible shit begins going down, and this film isn’t afraid to land some painful blows upon its audience. This is a very well made indie suspense adventure. Another great FANTASTIC FEST pick!
And 14 of these shorts have never been made available till…. Right now! Meaning there’s Keaton here that you needs to be seeing! Like Buster Keaton’s JAIL BAIT. Or THE CHEMIST. Or PALOOKA FROM PADUCAH. Or THE GOLD GHOST! The best is GRAND SLAM OPERA, but the worst will even make you laugh. KINO is doing Movie God’s work finding and releasing these jewels!
I fucking love this Robert Rodriguez film – which… btw… never once does the SIN CITY thing like the cover would lead you to believe! For under $10, you can have this great little bit of rebel cool that Robert made between EL MARIACHI and DESPERADO. This is the film of his that hardly anybody seems to have seen. I had it on Laserdisc along with VHS, now… I have it on DVD. I won’t be satisfied till it hits Blu-Ray!
Ok – I just ordered this. I love Alistair MacLean, he’s the guy who wrote GUNS OF NAVARONE and WHERE EAGLES DARE. Here he’s written a story called PUPPET ON A CHAIN, which was released the year I was born, 1971. It’s about hunting down Dutch Drug Rings and discovering an Island Castle Fortress… and you know what happens with Alistair MacLean finds a Castle Fortress. That’s right. You know some Heroin Smugglers are headed in the direction of the Nazi bastards before them. I can not wait to see this!
I’ve never seen FLESH FEAST, but 3 ON A MEAT HOOK is a trashy take on the Ed Gein killings. It’s kind of necessary for any obsessive compulsive so-called horror aficionado. Though I love the trailer even more than the movie, and the 1 sheet tickles me too.
Next week I’ll be back with EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE, CHIPWRECKED, THE BODYGUARD Blu Ray, CONFUCIUS, A DANGEROUS METHOD, 70th Anniversary CASABLANCA Blu Ray, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER Criterion Blu, MST3K:XXIII, IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY, DAVID LEAN DIRECTS NOEL COWARD Criterion Blu, DRAGONHEART Blu, WHO’S MINDING THE STORE, ASSAULT ON A QUEEN Blu, CORMAN’S WORLD, THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A, COME BLOW YOUR HORN Blu, BROKEN TOWER, BETTIE PAGE: DARK ANGEL Blu, THE QUEST Blu, DEMONS Blu and that’s it!