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3rd week of April 2014's PICKS & PEEKS: Welles,Wilder,Svankmajer, Mann,Jeong, Sirk,Trier & more!!!

Hey folks, Harry here with our latest Picks & Peeks and there’s some truly tremendous films in this week’s columns. If you take nothing else away from this column, get TOUCH OF EVIL, it is an amazing release of one of the greatest movies. If you love film, you must know the joy of discovering Hank Quinlan. What a character. Now as usual, all the images and links take you to AMAZON, where you can learn more on the title & if so moved, you can pick it up, where a small portion of the purchase price goes to continue to support this long running column! For that, I thank you. Now – let’s get into it!

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014


There are films that I feel capture the soul of cinema at its best – and TOUCH OF EVIL is one of those movies. This is what a sell out movie should be. Made for the cash. Welles was forced to work with Charlton Heston as a Mexican… he had been originally hired to just play Hank Quinlan, but Chuck thought Welles was to be the director and for pete’s sake he made the absolute best of it. The studio fucked his cut. It took decades till the film was treated as Welles wished – and when that final vision of TOUCH OF EVIL was shown… it blew me and every other Welles geek away. TOUCH OF EVIL is brilliant from that breathtaking opening shot to the very end. Then there’s just the title. TOUCH OF EVIL. It is such a lovely phrase. In the world of film performances – there’s nothing quite like Hank Quinlan, played by Orson Welles. A hero cop. Legendary. A man with preternatural instincts and a magic leg that leads him to his convictions better than any bloodhound. You get the idea that Hank might’ve been beautiful once, but that time has passed. He has a group of friends around him that hang on his every utterance. When his well crafted façade begins to crumble… as the film reaches its closing scenes… it’s just breathtaking. Marlene Dietrich as an aging prostitute is otherworldly, beautiful and mysterious. Hank’s personal Rosebud of better times. Akim Tamiroff’s Grandi is a helluva role too! Then you have Heston’s Mike Vargas, he’s a hot shot Mexican Narcotics officer who has recently married the lovely Janet Leigh as Susan Vargas. This is one of those films that has multiple versions in existence – and this Blu has them all. The Preview print that was discovered in the late Seventies. The original Theatrical cut. Then they have the very best cut of TOUCH OF EVIL, reconstructed from Orson Welles’ 58 page memo (which is also in print form with this Blu Ray) – and the result… well, alongside CITIZEN KANE & LADY FROM SHANGHAI – TOUCH OF EVIL is just about as great a film as can be made. Henry Mancini’s amazing score is just one of those perfect creations. This is a great great Blu! Filled with extras – but the print just looks spectacular. Not so much of a fan of their box art… This is the best release yet for TOUCH OF EVIL! Absolutely spectacular!


Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY based upon the great James M Cain’s book – well, it’s one of the great Film Noirs. An essential. Essential mainly because Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck will tractor beam your eyes and ears throughout. Stanwyck is one of the great Femme Fatales in DOUBLE INDEMNITY… MacMurray is one of the great saps, manipulated by the promises of this perfumed hussy of a married woman. You know the story, Kill My Husband & I’ll Run Off With You! We’ll be rich. Your first clue should’ve been the word HUSBAND. Dude, run. I’ve always loved watching this film as a double feature for SORRY WRONG NUMBER, simply because it’s great to watch Stanwyck flip to being the paralyzed victim. I first saw this film around the age of 10. My father showed it to me, because he couldn’t stand the silly Fred MacMurray of the Disney films of the seventies – so he wanted to show me who this guy was originally. Dad did the same thing after I thought Leslie Nielson was hilarious as the pilot in AIRPLANE, so he showed me FORBIDDEN PLANET to set my brain… “RIGHT”. The film looks spectacular on Blu Ray! As an extra they have the 1973 TV Movie remake of DOUBLE INDEMNITY with Richard Crenna in Fred’s role, Samantha Eggar in the Stanwyck part – and Lee J Cobb in the Edward G Robinson role… I didn’t mention him above, because I wanted to focus on my fave two characters in this wicked wicked tale. There’s an intro to the film by Robert Osborne. There’s a nearly 40 minute doc on the film’s production with comments by a host of folks. Richard Schickel provides one commentary. Then another by Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman. You also get some post card sized bits of fun, including lobby cards and poster – as the infamous Gas Chamber Still – which echoes the alternate ending that I’ve never seen. Sigh. Billy knows best though – the ending of this film like everything that plays before it… is CLASSIC!


Ok. This is a bit of a Film Noir/Spy tale. Jean Dujardin plays a top spy for the Russian spy agency now known as FSB. He’s asked to sniff around this new employee of Tim Roth’s character – who is an incredibly powerful and paranoid Russian business man, with many questionable monetary activities that she’s hired to oversee. But there’s more to Alice, played by the incredibly beautiful Cecile De France, than her boss… or her new lover (Dujardin) knows. I love this film. I love it because the erotic scenes are done with such restraint, yet beautiful intimacy – that it is quite affecting. Everyone is outstanding in this wonderfully restrained merry-go-round of intrigue. So many spies, so many agencies… who is playing who? Who gets plugged? Outstanding movie. There’s a few extras on the disc – my fave being the interviews with director and cast. This is a very sexy and very suspenseful movie. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


Kevin Smith’s 1st Color Movie in the brand-spanking beauty of Blu Ray! Woo-Hoo! I love MALLRATS. I liked it when I first saw the film back in 1995, but then once I met Jim Jacks, his stories about the making of MALLRATS, of Kevin Smith crashing at his house… well they became a thing of legend! And as I watch the film now… I can hear his voice. So that’s a personal thing, and nothing that you’ll actually get out of the Blu, but this is a jampacked Blu! You get the theatrical cut and an extended cut of the film. That’s just for a starter. On the theatrical cut, you’ll get a commentary with Kevin, Affeck, Jason Lee, Mewes, Mosier and Vincent Pereira! And it is a gas! There’s deleted scenes, outtakes, cast interviews from the set and a full on making of MALLRATS. Then there’s a Q&A with Smith, a Reunion special, View Askew looking back at it. The BUILD ME UP BUTTERCUP video by Kevin and even more! Oh – and Kevin has a special intro for the Extended Edition. All that and they still found room for the movie to look and sound BEAUTIFUL! No Kevin Smith fan will be without this beauty!


Lars von Trier exploded on the film scene with BREAKING THE WAVES. It features at its core – a stunning performance by Emily Watson, who plays the wife of Stellan Skarsgard, who ends up paralyzed. I can’t really watch this film. As someone that has gone through spinal surgery – and spent months recovering in the bed, this film – which I saw originally coming off of 6 months of paralysis… it destroys me in ways that I can’t even begin to detail. There’s terrible gobs of reality to this story of a woman that continues to fight to be there for her husband, who… well, has severe issues. The movie is one of the great love stories, if only because it dares to show that love is so much more than just the falling in love part. Love powers us through the unimaginable pains of existence and the random fucked up nightmares that life throws at a couple. Triers gives us such a fierce tale. Again – this is a film that ruins me for a week after I’ve seen it. I have the Blu. I put it in. The first 10 minutes looked like Criterion’s typical perfection. And for supplementals, there’s a ton. Cast interviews with Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgard and Adrian Rawlins. There’s select scene commentary for 7 scenes. We get Emily audition. Deleted scenes. And more! A very powerful film experience. One, a tad to close to home for me. Brilliant work.


I vastly prefer Danny Kaye’s original from 1947 – and I don’t hate Ben Stiller’s version – in fact I come perilously close to actually wanting to love it – but I can’t fucking stand Adam Scott in the film. I know I’m not supposed to like him, but he just does too good of a job and makes me want to leave the fucking theater – or throw the blu ray as far as I can. When I discovered CALVIN & HOBBES – I postulated that Bill Watterson must’ve loved this story – because the whole day-dreaming of adventures… or “Calvining out” as I refer to it – it is something that I love to do. I also love the story of a day dreamer that has to live his dreams… but then, I dispise Adam Scott’s Ted Hendricks with a passion. Stiller’s Walter Mitty is a fun construct – and the film is beautifully shot. But FORREST GUMP this isn’t – and that’s kind of what they’ve tried to turn this into. Ultimately, watching the film just makes me want to put Danny Kaye in, because, I prefer his daydreams. The Blu does come loaded with a mess of extra scenes. The Behind the scenes take you through the history of Walter Mitty and the production of the film. But ultimately, I found the film to be a bit of a miss for me.


Now this is what Tim Story is best at. I enjoyed his BARBERSHOP quite a bit. TAXI less so. The two FANTASTIC FOUR movies were blueprints for how not to do them – other than Doug Jones’ awesome Silver Surfer, who should’ve been spun off into his own series instantly. But RIDE along is a return to form for Tim Story. Pairing Ice Cube and Kevin Hart was the right thing to do. Kevin Hart plays a school security guard that is living with the intent to marry Ice Cube’s sister. Ice Cube is a badass, take no nonsense cop trying to track down the mysterious crime boss, OMAR! Hart’s Ben seeks Ice Cube’s James respect & permission to marry – and James just wants to kill Ben. So he takes him on a ride along to possibly find the legal opportunity to have him killed… well, only kinda kidding there. But you’ll see. It’s a real fun buddy comedy, where Ice Cube gets laughs with snarls and Kevin Hart is the high energy one. Definitely worth a view. The Blu comes loaded with all sorts of extras. Plus a commentary by Tim Story. Who I really feel has some good comedic chops.


The Gen X sometimes funny sometimes weepy, but always entertaining flick. At least that’s how I remember it. I have to admit, I haven’t seen REALITY BITES in 20 years. I remember liking it, cuz I liked the cast, but I also remember rolling my eyes a bunch, but then… I was also a bit of a film snob in those days – and absolutely didn’t identify with any of the characters that were supposed to be of my generation. But I began to wear that as a badge of honor. I’ll check this out again. But I don’t have the Blu-ray in time for review – and I’ve not seen any real specs on the Blu Ray other than what’s listed on Amazon… which seems as extensive as any reasonable person could expect for this one. I remember mainly liking Janeane Garofalo and Steve Zahn – and I was definitely crushing on Winona Ryder. Has this really been 20 years?


Love it! This is one of very few Douglas Sirk films that I hadn’t seen. CHECK! Ok, I’ve seen it – and wow. Very different. It has – an absolutely riveting opening. I just fucking loved it. Won’t spoil it, cuz, damn! Fun device for starting off a flick! This is one of those “The Plot Thickens” movies, where from that brilliant beginning, we’re going to learn more and more – Stars the great Claudette Colbert, the great Don Ameche, a certain Raymond Burr and Robert Cummings. Sirk brings his skewed perspectives and that heightened naturalness that he always coaxed out of his actors. No extras, but I was just jazzed to get to see the film!


I found this film to just be dreadful. Really. I didn’t care for the animation, the 3D, the character voices…. The story… nothing. It just fell completely limp. I kept wishing I was watching a collection of CHIP & DALE cartoons instead. When is Disney going to start leveraging the potential of their own characters again? I can’t stand half baked lame animated offerings like this.


Byeong-gil Jeong is the new Korean director name I’ve learned, because I just watched CONFESSION OF MURDER and this is just a fucking amazing film. First off, what the fuck is up with any civilized nation on the planet Earth declaring a statutes of limitations upon murder. In South Korea, they had a 15 year Statutes of Limitations on Murder, and so we have the plot of the movie. The flick begins with a stunning foot chase in the rain. The camera work, the lighting, the staging… just masterful. This film has sequence after sequence where I found myself freaking out over the insanity of what I just saw. 15 years after a heinous series of Serial killings, a handsome, charismatic man comes forward with a book filled with things only the killer would know – and claiming to be the killer. That sets in motion a media madness, that sets in motion all sorts of other problems. Don’t allow anyone to spoil this one for ya. It’s spectacular! If you love Asian Cinema, you’re gonna flip for this one!


Alright, so now we have Badass Director Anthony Mann making a Korean War film with the likes of Robert Ryan and Aldo Ray and Vic Morrow and L.Q. Jones… and a score by Elmer Bernstein that makes you feel it all. This is outstanding! I’m used to Anthony Mann’s great westerns like THE NAKED SPUR & WINCHESTER’73… or his epics like EL CID or THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE… But when I think about it, Mann could handle it all – hell, I loved his GLENN MILLER STORY! Not to mention his Noirs. But I love a sweaty war flick filled with men firing off the dialogue and feeling the oh fuck pressure of war. There’s something going on with this week’s releases, cuz the opening of this film is incredible. The print looks good enough to towel the sweat right from the screen! Would’ve loved some extras on this disc… but alas – just the wonderful movie! Which is good enough for me!


I remember when I first saw Jan Svankmajer’s ALICE… A friend recorded it on VHS for me. Not sure where they’d gotten it, but this was around 1990. At that point the film was 2 years old – and I’d heard about through film magazines – and it sounded right up my alley. If you’ve never seen anything by Jan Svankmajer, then know that he’s a Czech animator with Dali levels of surrealism, while also having the innocence of a Disney film. But the way he envisions this Live action/Animated film… it’s just brilliant. The stop motion animation for the film is actually a bit eerie and creepy! And I love that. If the gloss of Burton’s Alice left you wanting something a bit cruder and real – I highly recommend Svankmajer’s ALICE – it’s one of the most amazingly bizarre and wonderful adaptations of Lewis Carrol’s classic tale. Wish it had extensive extras, I’ve always desired a hefty look behind the magic of Svankmajer’s world – because the final product is always a marvel to me.


Sam Rockwell’s Pharmacist is married to Michelle Monaghan and has taken over her father’s Pharmacy, doesn’t sound like a terrible life, but Michelle is more focused on her modest athletic goals than her husband, and the father-in-law is an obnoxious bore to Rockwell. And then in walks Olivia Wilde. She’s looking for a helpful pharmacist – and if you were a pharmacist, wouldn’t you help her out… as often as possible. She unlocks the genie’s bottle, teaching him how to raid his own pharmacy for their adventures in pleasure. Ya know, in many ways this is a bit of a playful take on DOUBLE INDEMNITY – and if you watch it after, it’s actually a fun flick.


Michael & Matty have been BFFs as long as either could remember. They’re Seniors, a tad geeky and still virgins. This is another of those, “I HAVE TO GET LAID” movies - here, the two put the finish line as PROM. They’ve got to get busy before then – so they could eat this huge apparently pot-laced devirginizing brownie that has become legend in the freezer for a long time. Matty comes out as being gay, and things start getting mighty confusing for Michael, cuz his brain is all about landing like that US AIR pic. (Yes, that appeared on my computer screen yesterday too) However, Michael being the big clumsy bastard he is… he makes a mess of it – and well only PROM can make it better. Sure… it is a tale so tired that you can probably already figure out all the twists and turns, but I have to say – films teaching tolerance and acceptance are good things. Teaching boys to be giant testosterone jackasses needs to be behind us. Maybe we have to have these kinds of movies.


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