Hey folks, Harry here with the second week of February’s PICKS & PEEKS!!! There’s some hands down great friggin flicks in this weeks column… and I couldn’t help but get a bit wordy on some of the titles. But when I get excited, I get excited, not that you’ve really noticed. Anyways, as usual – the images and pics are linked to AMAZON where you can learn more on a given title, or you can purchase it! If you do, muchas gracias, cuz a small portion of the price goes to help keep the best efforts of this column going. So thanks for that! Now, let’s hop on in to SYNCOPATION shall we?
Tuesday, February 10th, 2015
SYNCOPATION Blu Ray
William Dieterle is one of the great Film Directors of all time, but too few of today’s film writers and viewers are even really aware of magnitude of how great he was. However, if you were to dive into his filmography and watch titles like THE STORY OF LOUIS PASTEUR, SATAN MET A LADY, THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA, PRINCE AND THE PAUPER, JUAREZ, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1939), THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER, KISMET, PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, ROPE OF SAND, THE ACCUSED… well, you might begin to agree with me. Dad’s always been a huge fan of his, so I was raised knowing his name, and I still find that there are films of his that I’ve never seen. So, I open up the envelope containing SYNCOPATION and I throw it in immediately! New Dieterle!!! That’s how I see it. Every film that I’ve never seen, I see as a NEW FILM… to me. It’s like a present from the past. Something that makes you realize that wonders will never cease to exist! From the Opening Credits, you know this is going to be something amazing. The names of actors and behind the scenes folks written without distinction in sand… it’s actually powerful to see credits done this way. Then, you dive into the story of Jazz. How Jazz came to be, where it started, how it evolved… It’s electrifying, and the dialogue is sharp as a scalpel. The music, thrilling! You’ll see folks like Benny Goodman, Harry James and that wild man on the drums, Gene Krupa… along with a whole lotta other greats! Now, mind you… none of this history is accurate exactly, it’s all very generalized, but correctly shows how Jazz began and was then exploited by White America. The cinema on display is dazzling though. Now – this Blu comes loaded with extras that are even better than the movie, which is great. You get 9 “music videos” – from the classic era… I’m talking Duke Ellington’s first on camera performance in BLACK & TAN FANTASY, a nearly 20 minute document of amazing musical history! Then you get RHAPSODY IN BLACK & BLUE with Louis Armstrong younger than is possible wearing a leopard skin cape, knee deep in bubbles blowing that beautiful horn of his while singing, “I’ll be glad when you’re dead you rascal you!” and you’ll be giddy! ST. LOUIS BLUES with Bessie Smith singing with a beer in her hands in a bar that’s backing her up as the chorus. Others include Hoagy Carmichael, Artie Shaw and the great Cab Calloway!!! This is a great great great Blu!
DON’T LOOK NOW Criterion Blu Ray
Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW is a film of such greatness that I feel I will struggle to even begin to illuminate it for you here. First… there’s that score by Pino Donaggio… it fits the melancholy of the film like a dirge. It’s great. You begin the film with a couple facing the aftermath of their daughter’s death. Next… the film is set in Venice, but not like every other film you’ve seen set there… this is THE VENICE film for me. It gives the town a distinctive atmosphere which makes this scary unsettling film a tone uniquely its own. Then… you have what I consider the best real couple portrayed in cinema history… Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are just next level actors here. But that’s because Nicolas Roeg has them at their best! You believe the history of this couple. They don’t feel like they were cast opposite of each other. It’s that they have instant and resonating chemistry and history that shucks away the artificiality of most on screen couples. The PSYCHIC side of this film is just… best untalked about. See it. Trust me when I say this is a film that crawl under your skin and make you itch that impossible itch. The print and audio are just perfection. I’ve never seen the film look this great before. And I’ve seen it a lot. Also, Criterion has filled out the supplementals on the disc. There’s a 10 minute look back with Nicolas Roeg, DP Anthony Richmond – and they talk about the sex scene! Great stuff. There’s an 18 minute piece with Pino Donaggio recalling his experience with Roeg. There’s a 30 minute piece with Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland and the DP & co-Screenwriter – and they all discuss making the film and working with Roeg! Then there’s a 15 minute piece where Danny Boyle and Steven Soderbergh discuss Roeg’s Direction! There’s a 44 Minute examination of the film, that’s beautiful. Then there’s 48 minutes of Nicolas Roeg talking at London’s Institut Francaise Cine Lumiere back in 2003. It is a must watch! This is one of the most influential film upon an entire group of filmmakers that hold it in awe. As a film geek, you deserve to dive in to this film!
PREDESTINATION Blu Ray
The latest work from the Spierig Brothers is their very best work to date. A lion’s share of that credit goes to the source material, the great great short story by Robert Heinlein called ALL YOU ZOMBIES. If you’re not familiar with it, it is available online to read free, but I can’t recommend enough that you wait till after watching the film. There are surprises and twists in this film, that if you don’t know they’re coming… it’s best to not see them coming. This movie is also beautifully shot, finely crafted like too few films we see today. Heinlein dove into the Time Travel genre to create his own particular twist upon it all. As a result, we have a film that throws its hat in the ring to be discussed with the finest films of this particular sub-genre of Science Fiction cinema. Ethan Hawk, Sarah Snook and Noah Taylor are all just absolutely tremendous in this film. Sarah Snook is quickly becoming one of my favorite young actresses working in film. She’s great in this film! Great! The Blu Ray comes with a short Blooper reel, a four minute cast & crew discussion, then an hour and sixteen plus minutes, that examines the making of the film linearly via the weeks of production. Great extra! Shows you how it was constructed nicely and intelligently. Overall a very classy work of science fiction that deserves to be in every fan’s collection. So good! The Spierig’s are getting so great! Love them!
NIGHTCRAWLER Blu Ray
The word flying out of the Toronto International Film Festival where NIGHTCRAWLER bowed before the world was purely jubilant, when I saw it at FANTASTIC FEST as the closing night film, I called it FUCKING AMAZEBALLS! And it is. The exclusion of Jake Gyllenhaal from the Best Actor Acadedy Award nomination list is yet another in a long line of reasons not to take the Oscars that seriously. But then, the more you examine the history of Oscar, the more you realize they were wrong as they were right… from the beginning. However, that snub does mean that folks that love the best in cinema like you & me… it’s our duty to have this film in our fucking possession so we can show everyone just how fucking brilliant Jake Gyllenhaal is here! If MARVEL is going for the older Peter Parker, it’d be fun to have Jake become that version of the character, it’d be a bit of sweetness! Jake’s SPIDEY SENSE TINGLING face must happen!!! Dan Gilroy picked up a Best Writing nomination for this, but its his direction that most turned me on about the film, this side of the amazing performances from Jake, Rene Russo and Bill Paxton! Films like this are too few and far between. Films that get you into a character’s head, into that reality… and scares you with it. Jake creates a character as resonate onscreen for me as Travis Bickle or R.P. McMurphy – and that is indeed the highest kind of praise that I can throw at this. This is the film that I hoped was in Jake’s future when I watched DONNIE DARKO for the 20th time! Three Gilroys handle the Commentary. Then, there’s a 5 minute look at essentially EPK… There already needs to be a better release of this – and the only way that’ll happen is if you support this release. SHOW EVERYONE!
LOVE AT FIRST BITE / ONCE BITTEN Blu Ray
It had to happen. When I was a kid, I fucking loved LOVE AT FIRST BITE, and it made my Father Geek fret about my sanity. I just loved George Hamilton. He made me laugh. Dad summarily dismissed it as being “No YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN” – but then, I didn’t feel it needed to be. Honestly, I think now, after rewatching this on Blu last week, that I loved the film exclusively for Dracula on the Disco Floor… and Richard Benjamin. The rest of it… YAWN! Yoko walked out on the film, and I was embarrassed just how poorly paced and timed so much of the film was. Of course, as a monster kid, I devoured it all. But Dad was right, this is no YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. And neither was DRACULA DEAD AND LOVING IT. I’m still hoping ZORRO, THE GAY BLADE works for me, but I’ve got some serious nervousness about that viewing. As for ONCE BITTEN, I distinctly remember watching the film with Dad when it came out. Lauren Hutton once gave Dad a kiss, so there was no missing a film of hers. But I have to say, I mainly had ONCE BITTEN as that film with Lauren Hutton and the amazing Cleavon Little… and in all the time that Jim Carrey has been famous… I completely had forgotten he was the Virgin being seduced by Lauren Hutton. Rewatching this film was a complete delight to me. I mean, Hutton is CHEWING Jim alive in this movie, and it now works on me so much better than I remember it. I mean… Jim got to play scenes with Cleavon Little… Does it ever really get better? I mean, right? This played like a complete rediscovery, very cool! Both films are accompanied by their original trailers as their solo extras.
101 DALMATIANS Blu Ray
If the Disney Propaganda is to be believed, the Xerography process that was “innovated” for this film, enabled the firing of a massive INKing department of human beings, to cut costs and ya know… stay alive as a company, that wasn’t doing all that great what with building giant theme parks and industry. Silly world domineering ingenuity! I lead with that, because it seems that Disney’s on the button point in terms of selling this film was that process allowed Animation to become a profitable department. But when you’re watching 101 DALMATIANS on Blu Ray – watch the edge animation… it’s grainy, because the Xerography process was a poor substitute for the human drawn smooth perfect lines of the INK department. It wasn’t until computers began coloring all the cels that the PAINT department survived. But hey, now there’s the enormous computer departments, until AI replaces all of you! Sigh. Anyway, I should probably mention that 101 DALMATIANS is a terrific piece of animated story telling… I mean… it brings ROD TAYLOR into the Disney fold! Cruella is one of the greatest Disney villains… and a puppy skinned coat would be so soft as I tell Jeff Goldblum all the time! Cute and WARM! Puppies are so warm. I love the cameo of the characters from LADY & THE TRAMP! But, I still have an irrational fear of Dalmatians after a friend’s Dalmatian tore my bottom lip, thus leaving it scarred for all time. So this movie is like the SCARECROW dosed me with his fear toxin and I have to face my fear and become a man. So… Rod Taylor’s Disney film made me more of a man! That’s some character building shit right there! There’s a bunch of really annoying new extras on this disc, but pretty much all of the good ones are a part of the “Classic Bonus Features”. This new stuff is essentially Disney brand propaganda rather than actual value. However, THE BEST DOGGONED DOG IN THE WORLD, which was hosted by Uncle Walt, was just splendid! Really was! 51 minutes of HD awesome – and I want all those shows on Blu Ray dammit! Love THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY, that was Disney propaganda done perfect! That’s right, I prefer the good propaganda! MARS AND BEYOND!
VAMPIRE’S KISS / HIGH SPIRITS Blu Ray
Robert Bierman directed VAMPIRE’S KISS and A MERRY WAR, then a whole bunch of TV, but I really do prefer his film work and wish he did more of it. VAMPIRE’S KISS was essentially a thematic revisiting of the material from ONCE BITTEN. Though completely unrelated, but when they both come out on the same day… I can’t not not mention it! Yeah, eat that triple negative! Anyway, for the kiddies that don’t know… this is what made the world really pay attention to Nicolas Cage… cuz he really did eat a cockroach on camera for this movie… that’s why I still make an eww face anytime he has a make-out scene in a movie! It’s like… Cockroach Mouth! Ewwww. Giggle, not really, but sometimes… I can’t help but think that and giggle. Giggling is good for you. And if you like to giggle, HIGH SPIRITS is a giggle comedy. You’ll never really guffaw during it, you might get as far as a chuckle… but mainly this is an AMUSING comedy, not rollicking. If you get my drift? I find HIGH SPIRITS amazing. Amazing, when you look at the film as being a part of the career of Neil Jordan. I mean, coming after THE COMPANY OF WOLVES and MONA LISA… HIGH SPIRITS was just… completely out of left field. But then he seemed to derail a bit with the poor remake of WE’RE NO ANGELS… wasn’t till he reinvented himself with THE CRYING GAME that he recovered. Of course, Neil Jordan will never top the genius of THE BUTCHER BOY – that’s the best thing he’ll ever do, but watching HIGH SPIRITS – it may not fire on all pistons, but the cast and tone of the film are all truly in High Spirits. I love Liam Neeson in this, and Daryl Hannah, but then you have Jennifer Tilly, Beverly D’Angelo and Steve Guttenberg? Too much fun. I just can’t dislike the film. Because when you got glowy PETER O’TOOLE… that’s just how I want to be haunted. That’s too cool. Strange film in Neil Jordan’s career though.
KILL THE MESSENGER Blu Ray
If you’re a Republican and you support what Reagan did to this country during IRAN / CONTRA… Man… I just don’t know. I mean, it pumped crack directly into America’s ghettos creating a wave of crime and desperation in our country that is responsible for some many American nightmares it’s disgusting. That the people responsible get TV shows on Fox has sickened me in my adult life. It’s just… evil. This film has Jeremy Renner playing the Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist, GARY WEBB, who blew the lid off the story and was most likely killed for it later. This was a terrible point in history that needs to be looked at with greater care. Tom Cruise seems to have signed up to take the story on with an upcoming film too. Jeremy Renner is fantastic in this film. I can’t even imagine the paranoia he felt working on the story. Lots of extras including Director Michael Cuestra doing a commentary. A doc on CRACK IN AMERICA. Along with Deleted scenes and a full making of. You really should not miss this movie. It’s an important part of American history that needs to be taught.
OLD YELLER Blu Ray
Need to cry? Guaranteed to get the job done, every single time without question? OLD YELLER, accept no substitutes! The most masochistic film watching experience you can chose at any given time – and you know how good you feel after a big cry? You’ll get it. It is an absolute masterpiece. My dad taught me that Rabies was like the disease that makes dogs into zombie dogs, and if a zombie dog bit you and you didn’t get like 30 shots in the belly, you’d become a zombie boy, and then I’d start the zombie apocalypse, and that’s why what happened had to happen… and I stopped crying because… I mean. It was a zombie dog. Yeah. Sniffle. A Zombie dog.
A DAY IN THE COUNTRY Criterion Blu Ray
Now, A DAY IN THE COUNTRY isn’t a full feature, it was a 40 minute featurette that went unfinished by the great Jean Renoir, but was then later finished and released. It was adapted by a short story by Guy de Maupassant about a love affair that occurred in a single afternoon. It is, wonderful. The fine folks at Criterion have assembled a fine supplemental section for the Blu, including an introduction from Jean Renoir himself in 1962!!! There’s an interview with a Renoir scholar about the making of the film. A video essay about Renoir’s methods. There’s an 89 minute compilation of outtakes from the film that … is over double the length of the actual film. Love it! And there’s still more! For lovers of the great Jean Renoir, this is indeed a treat we’ve been wanting a long time!
THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING Blu Ray
A Cold War comedy from Norman Jewison. Not to be confused with the brilliant Cold War comedy that you already own, DR. STRANGELOVE… right? It’s over there on your shelf. Riiiiight? I mean, it is a must. If it is over there and you don’t want to double feature it with FAIL-SAFE cuz that’s just a downer, then add THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING and then triple feature it with DOCTOR ZHIVAGO next MAY DAY! Gorgeous 2.40:1 cinemascope! Love it! And it comes with a 23 minute making of, and a 4 and a half minute trailer that is really worth checking out! It’s a fun one! Plus in addition to all those people listed on the box art up there, you also get JOHN PHILLIP LAW!!!
LEGO JUSTICE LEAGUE vs BIZARRO LEAGUE
Like Jean Renoir, the LEGO ARTISTS made a Featurette that’s a little longer at 44 minutes… It’s about LEGO JUSTICE LEAGUE fighting with BIZARRO LEAGUE on BIZARRO WORLD against DARKSEID!!!! And it’s kinda fucking awesome – and unlike that Criterion release, this comes with a fucking BIZARRO BATMAN MINIFIG? Where’s our Jean Renoir MiniFig Criterion?!?!? They’re also stressing the antagonistic relationship between BATMAN and SUPERMAN to tie in with the upcoming BATMAN VS SUPERMAN… synergy… But you get a Bizarro Batman minifig! I mean, that’s cool!
NEKROMANTIK 2 Blu Ray
This horror film forever warped me. It’s all Chris Gore’s fault. He mailed me a VHS of this back around 18 years ago, and hot women became threatening in the back of my mind, yet incredibly attractive – and that’s why us men are doomed. Once women come for us, we’re doomed. We don’t run to a highway in fear, we follow droolingly into bed – and then we’re fucked! That’s harsh. Some feel this film is ugly – and it is. But it is also sickly beautifully fucked up and tragic. There’s a perverse sense of nasty that clogs your mind when watching this film. It’s beyond pornography and yet I know David Fincher has seen it. This release is fully loaded with tons of extras including the soundtrack as used in the film, as well as a live performance of it. There’s a world unto this film. You either decide to take it for a ride or you don’t. You may be better off without this in your mind… but I’d rather know. Right?
POLLYANNA Blu Ray
To fully appreciate TWISTED NERVE, you must know POLLYANNA. You know that feeling you get when you feel bad about being attracted to Emma Watson… that’s how people felt about Hayley Mills in TWISTED NERVE, because… she was… in all minds… POLLYANNA forever. Well, that and THE PARENT TRAP and IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS… In fact, Hayley Mills was the original MILEY CYRUS for Disney, in their mad scientist lab that creates polly perfect girls that become crazy wild childs later… Yup, the original program was POLLYANNA. Of course Disney was just trying to fill the Shirley Temple gap. I did not personally order this Blu, yet… I want to hear if they put the SEVEN CITIES OF ANTARCTICA as an extra on the Blu, as it was originally released with the feature in 1960 when it came out! If I hear that it does, I’ll go ahead and pick it up! It’s a fun, sweet movie – and a great double feature with TWISTED NERVE!
LAGGIES Blu Ray
Keira Knightley is freaking out about being asked to marry the man she’s seeing and runs away and gets taken in by Chloe Grace Moretz, whose dad is Sam Rockwell, an adorable lawyer. Yeah, weird movie. But sweet and fun – and Keira’s character is someone that is wanting to hold on to something irresponsible and fun, and well… I love the buddy relationship between her and Chloe – and when Rockwell is her lawyer at the jail, what he says to her before heading to the door… it made me go AWWWWWWWWWWW in that, “That’s Sooooooo Sweeeeet” kinda way. Did not see that line hitting like that, but good job Sam!
FORCE MAJEURE Blu Ray
More proof that something is broken at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences is the exclusion of FORCE MAJEURE, one of the very best films of the year. Outstanding! It didn’t crack my top ten, but just barely, and I have many friends (that I don’t think are idiots) that consider this their favorite film of last year hands down. All I knew before I saw it was that it involved a family and an avalanche… and hearing those two things, might paint a picture in your mind of a story. This is the better idea. It’s a real breath of fresh air. And funny in a deliciously f’d up way.
F.I.S.T. Blu Ray
There’s now a few generations this side of the seventies, but man… Let me tell you, when Sylvester Stallone hit with ROCKY, he just became something so much larger than anything us kids had ever seen before. That’s how I found myself learning about Labor Unions from Joe Eszterhas and Norman Jewison in F.I.S.T. I’ve always liked this flick. Stallone gives a helluva good performance as Jimmy Hoffa… I mean Johnny Kovac. At the time, the grown-ups were all saying it was no GODFATHER, but then GODFATHER didn’t have ROCKY. And RAGING BULL hadn’t happened yet. The Blu Ray comes with a 18 minute piece with Eszterhas and Jewison and you must see the venom in this piece. It’s amazing. This is a helluva ambitious film and definitely worth another look. Especially for the OLDER STALLONE make up, which had him softer than he is today. Looks and sounds great on Blu!
ROSEWATER Blu Ray
One of the things you discover when running a site like AICN for nearly 20 years, is you realize people are geeks all over the world. We have readers from every country on the planet – and over the time, I’ve shared correspondences and encouragements – and heard stories. In that time, I’ve really become much more of a pacifist than any Texas boy ever should. Jon Stewart’s ROSE WATER humanizes a people that we’re often told are EVIL as a whole, but we forget about the doctors and lawyers and plumbers and bankers and journalists and correspondents… like the Iranian Daily Show correspondent and the story that came out of that. ROSE WATER is really quite good! It also comes with some great extras, including something from JON STEWART too. We have to look at people everywhere as being people trying to live the most normal and happy lives they can… but all over the world, governments make that difficult or easier. This is what it is like in Iran. Great debut flick from Jon!
Next week we look at BIRDMAN Blu, THE INTERVIEW Blu, MUNICH Blu, GAME OF THRONES Blu, THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA Blu, SNEAKERS Blu, ANDROMEDA STRAIN Blu, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING Blu, AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON Blu, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1989) Blu, ST VINCENT Blu, CAVEMAN Blu, THE HOMESMAN Blu, HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE Blu, KISS ME STUPID Blu, VHS VIRAL Blu, ANIMAL Blu, ROAD TO HONG KONG Blu, DOCTOR WHO: LAST CHRISTMAS Blu, WILD ANGELS Blu, PSYCH-OUT Blu, DYING OF THE LIGHT Blu, BEACH BLANKET BINGO Blu, CULT OF THE DAMNED Blu, MUSCLE BEACH PARTY Blu, 1969 Blu and that’s about it! Until then, keep watching your screens!!!