Hey folks, Harry here… 70 years ago today, Father Geek, my dad was born. And man, without him, there would most definitely not be any AICN on the planet. It’s always weird when all the significant birthdays in a period fall on my Picks & Peeks deadlines, but the past few months have landed my birthday, my wife’s, my father’s – all on Tuesday. That said, we’ve got some great titles for ya this week. Branagh’s first was one for the books! David Ayers’ latest gives us hope for SUICIDE SQUAD and there’s a lot more. As usual, the images and links will take you to AMAZON, where you can learn more about the title in question, or even purchase it if you feel the desire. Also, this is the 11th year of the Picks & Peeks column, by clicking that link you can pick up the APP for the column, which makes the 11 years of work instantly and easily searchable in your iApp ready or Android ready device! Now, let’s get into this week’s column…
Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
HENRY V Blu Ray
This film was one of a group of films to come out in 1989, that I saw early – that took me instantly from my childhood years of film-going and made me reexamine film as something I wanted to spend a life looking into. I love HENRY V. Branagh’s Harry is just amazing to watch explode on screen. This is a young actor / director on fire. Watch the cast he put together for this all share in his vitality and energy. From Judi Dench to Christian Bale to Brian Blessed to Derek Jacobi to Ian Holm to Robbie Coltrane to Paul Scofield and the lovely Emma Thompson… they’re all so incredibly youthful and electrified in this. I watch this film with eyes pulled back wide and a breathless grin upon my face, because it is a film of such joy and power. I love it. Now, what I don’t love is that SHOUT! really kind of just threw this one out there. No special features besides the original trailer… this is an important film. It birthed an incredible talent on to the cinematic stage and so many careers took flight from here. This deserves a far superior release. The print at least looks great – I just wanted to dive into a commentary from Branagh – or a look back with him and some of his cast.
WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? Blu Ray
Claim to love film? Then you must see this movie. There’s a director named Sion Sono, it’s a name you need to hold a great deal of respect for. He’s a modern filmmaker that is doing some of the most incredibly exciting film work today. Watch LOVE EXPOSURE, WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? And TOKYO TRIBE – and you’ll never not check out the rest of his films. If you love these films, I highly recommend you check out the films of Yoshihiro Nakamura as well, specifically FISH STORY & GOLDEN SLUMBER! You will get a Press Conference with director Sion Sono on here, plus trailers, a 24 page booklet and an 11x17 fold-out poster. But this film, which is all about a crazed insane wannabe filmmaker financed by a Yakuza clan to… well you just have to see the movie. It isn’t like western cinema, it’s got more whimsy and vitality and joy to every frame. WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? Will make your whole week better. It’s that good, for reals!
THE BOOK OF LIFE 3D Blu Ray
This 3D CG film didn’t have the exhaustive budgets of a Pixar film or a Disney 3D or a Dreamworks Animation project. It was actually quite a modest production from the mind and soul of Jorge Gutierrez. This was a story he’d been telling himself since he was a young man. He’ll tell you more of the story in his great Audio Commentary. The film was produced by Guillermo Del Toro, and while I can imagine the glee this film produces in Guillermo, this thing is all Jorge. This is meant to be the opening of a three film series. I hope that gets to happen. The film looks wondrous in 3D Blu-Ray. It also reminds us that the realms of CG can be as stylized and different as possible. Much of this film is told with CG animated Wooden Marionette like creations that are so much fun, and when the film flies into the afterlife, all POSADA freaks will rejoice as it is a stunning rendering of the Dia De Los Muertos realm! The film is entertaining, filled with genuine heart and love and soul, and COOL! So Cool! The Blu Ray comes with a whole bunch of extras – around an hours worth in total. Like THE ADVENTURES OF CHUY short! Very cute!
FURY Blu Ray
A pretty damn great Tank movie. I still prefer Korda’s SAHARA, mainly because it has the better scenario and Humphrey Bogart & Rex Ingram, which makes it the superior film at just a pure class level. That film is also more dire in some respects and it is full on epic! BUT don’t get me wrong, FURY is a more modern and dynamic film. Just the use of the tracer rounds alone has been something I’ve been dying to see in a WWII flick. Also, and most importantly… this is hands down the best film by Writer/Director David Ayer. He’s moving on to SUICIDE SQUAD next. And that is something to be excited about, considering the team strength he constructs in this Tank unit. The film is a helluva strong War flick, really shows the level of brutality that “greatest generation” went through and were a part of. The making of features really show you the mindset of David Ayer and the mindset he puts into his actors to live the parts. Heh, so curious to see how he handles SUICIDE SQUAD… fascinating. You’ll also see how the Tank team of actors met with a surviving WWII Tank team to learn from. It’s pretty great to see. And hear from. All the hype about this being one of the best modern war films is absolutely dead on. Outstanding film. Nice Blu Ray!
OPEN WINDOWS Blu Ray
Directed by Nacho Vigalondo, the man behind TIME CRIMES and EXTRATERRESTRIAL, we have another brilliant little film. Nacho, as a director/writer, creates these masterful, intricately designed and precise films. The way this film moves is like a Hitchcock REAR WINDOW thriller, but one that is in constant disorientating motion. I find a film like this to speed one’s pulse. Watching this on your computer screen is actually really fun, especially with your other windows open… as though it’s just an extension, where a slightly perv-y Elijah Wood is caught in something extraordinary. Involving Sasha Grey. It also features the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar location, so… that’s its MT RUSHMORE scene! Giggle. Not really. The structuring and layout of the film will most definitely intrigue you. Thankfully there’s a nice making of and visual effects real to help explain the layout of the filmmaking process. A very strong film.
JUSTICE LEAGUE: THRONE OF ATLANTIS Blu Ray
It’s not quite yet the JUSTICE LEAGUE… they’re a known entity, but Cyborg doesn’t really think they’re a thing yet. This is the mission that changes that. Curiously, Captain Marvel doesn’t appear on the cover, most likely to lay the visual groundwork for Zack Snyder’s ‘VERSE that’s quickly coming our way. Cyborg investigates an underwater situation, which causes the Justice League members to come together with the ambition to find Atlantis, still just a myth among society, through this tale, we’ll get Aquaman’s backstory and emergence as a major hero for the Justice League. It’s a fine flick, plenty of fun, but nothing extraordinary. It feels as though it is all about showing how Aquaman is as much a badass as the rest of the team. He does. Always has. Also on the Blu Ray is a look at the sequel to SON OF BATMAN, called BATMAN VS ROBIN, which continues the evolution of Damien. Totally up for that, I thought SON OF BATMAN was pretty outstanding. You’ll also get a pair of BRAVE AND THE BOLD episodes that featured Aquaman… and I love their version of him! This still feels awfully by the book.
THE JUDGE Blu Ray
If you adore Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duval, then this will be a great way to love them both at the same time. This is a personality pairing like Cruise and Hoffman in RAIN MAN, where you’ll come away with great appreciation for them both. In a lesser year, this film would have really stuck out, but this was a really strong year for movies of all types. Still, the story captured me. Adding familial healing, along with defending one’s father from a murder charge… well, as a Daddy’s boy, it resonated with me. Though, I’ve never personally lost touch with my Dad. It’s a pretty sweet film. There’s a lot more going on in this film than you might think at first. Very strong cast, beside the two leads, you get Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio and Vera Farmiga! Really good flick!
PORK CHOP HILL Blu Ray
From Director Lewis Milestone, the amazing auteur behind ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, OCEAN’S 11, A WALK IN THE SUN, EDGE OF DARKNESS, OF MICE AND MEN, THE GENERAL DIED AT DAWN and this PORK CHOP HILL. Lewis Milestone was a very powerful director, responsible for some of the great movies of all time. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT should’ve ended War for all time in my opinion, but apparently humanity needs more convincing. Unfortunately. The cast in this is pretty amazing. The lead is a terrific Gregory Peck, who just always brought his A-game to every film. I love Woody Strode’s reluctant soldier in this film, a lot. Also look for strong performances from Rip Torn, George Peppard and Harry Guardino. Also, you can spy Robert Blake in this too! Further in the background you may spy Harry Dean Stanton and Martin Landau!! This is a terrific Korean War film, from one of the great director’s of the Golden Age!
JIN-ROH: THE WOLF BRIGADE Blu Ray
In this film, Japan lost World War II… to the Nazis. This is an Anime that really gets it right. It works on an emotional, as well as aesthetic level to get an alternate history nightmare right. I mean, think of what it must mean if the Japanese lost World War II to the Nazis. What that would mean for the world. That’s even worse than the scenario that Philip K Dick imagined for THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE! This is a sweet looking Blu Ray of one of the better Animes out there! You should check this out!
A HOLE IN THE HEAD Blu Ray
Firstly, it is a Frank Capra film, so that makes it worthy of any film collection. Then, it puts this cast together: Frank Sinatra, Dub Taylor, Edward G Robinson, Keenan Wynn, Thelma Ritter, Eleanor Parker and the immaculate Carolyn Jones! Capra had this ability to make films that just perfectly resonate with me. I mean, just having Sinatra playing with Edward G Robinson, would’ve been enough to send me to HappyLand, but making Thelma Ritter, Eddie’s wife… that’s just too killer for words! Sinatra’s HIGH HOPES won Best Song at the Academy, but here you get to see Capra making Sinatra a hero in his own particular way. I just love it!
KING: THE MARTIN LUTHER KING STORY Blu Ray
Paul Winfield is Martin Luther King film released in 1978, but the director, Abby Mann, who was the screenwriter on JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG, but more to the point, Abby King began writing this project and consulting with Martin Luther King while he was still alive. I saw this on NBC over the 3 Nights it played in 1978. I loved Paul Winfield’s MLK, but I had mostly forgotten this film. When I watched SELMA, I was bothered by trying to remember the MLK that blew me away as a kid, then when this Blu Ray came and I put it on, I realized just how amazingly powerful this mini-series was for me. That director/writer Abby Mann got to talk with MLK Jr, his family… all while MLK was alive, as well as after. This version of MLK has just always been the definitive version of his story in my mind. The Blu Ray is outstanding. You get to have a very nice Making of, but the conversation between Tony Bennett and Abby Mann… it’s just nothing short of amazing. And that’s not all, there’s more! This was a great surprise! Don’t miss checking this out!
GOING UNDER Blu Ray
The BDSM world of Cinema is getting a real shot in the arm thanks to the phenomenal hit that was FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, and the anticipation for the upcoming feature film. When I took Father Geek on that TCM Cruise a while back, nearly every silver haired sunbather had the book in hand, reading… and I was just sort of amazed. Now the film stars Roger Rees, who I first remember seeing in STAR 80, but then made a far bigger impression in ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS as the Sheriff of Rottingham, but then I became a real fan on M.A.N.T.I.S. You might remember him as Guillermo Kahlo in FRIDA… well here, he’s a man that has been exploring his BDSM whims with a soon to be retiring Mistress – and the story picks up as she’s about to retire and they venture into some final territory. This is a very strong film. Powerful and intriguing. If the world appeals to you, you’re sure to enjoy it!
Alrighty, that’s it for this week & month… Kicking off February, I’ll be looking at JOHN WICK Blu, PORCO ROSSO Blu, DRACULA UNTOLD Blu, MY FAIR LADY Blu, DRAGON THE BRUCE LEE STORY Blu, TALES FROM EARTHSEA Blu, POM POKO Blu, ABOUT SCHMIDT Blu, DINER Blu, KULL THE CONQUEROR Blu, EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF Criterion Blu, OUIJA Blu, LUST FOR LIFE Blu, DEAR WHITE PEOPLE Blu, ABCs OF DEATH 2, THE PROWLER Blu, THE OVERNIGHTERS Blu, RICHARD PRYOR: OMIT THE LOGIC Blu and that’s about it! Till then, keep watching your screens!!!