Hey folks, Harry here with the 2nd PICKS & PEEKS of this April! It’s a bit of a heavy one, lots of cool and eclectic titles this week. It was a pleasure to get to discover some of these for the first time for the column and others – just presented as they should be! Now, remember – the links and images take you to Amazon, where you can learn more about the title in question – OR if so motivated, you can just order it for home delivery – which helps to keep supporting the best efforts of this column now entering its second decade of existence. You can find all the reviews easily searchable and accessible on your iOS and Android devices here! Now… lets see what we have here…
Tuesday, April 14th, 2015
METAL HURLANT CHRONICLES Blu
HEAVY METAL magazine blew me away as a kid, as a teenager and as an adult. The HEAVY METAL animated feature film is one of those, that I’ve watched so much, it feels like a nursery rhyme that kicks ass for me! I’ve long been curious to see what the hyper-sexualized adult sci-fi dashed with suspense and horror… how would that translate to a series… Especially one made in France, where METAL HURLANT aka HEAVY METAL came from! I received this Blu the day that SXSW got underway and when my schedule got messed up, I simply watched this instead. Then I showed it to my sister and my father and a movie buddy of mine – and we all fucking loved it. You’ve got episodes written by Geof Johns and Alejandro Jodorowsky! You get actors like Dominique Pinon, Michael Biehn, Rutger Hauer, Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins and James Marsters… oh, and Sallah too, that’s right John Rhys-Davies is here too. The vfx are impressive and stylized. Episodes go from action to psychological to Twilight Zone to Outer Limits in variety. This is both seasons – and I hope you get the high geek charge that I got out of it. In all, you get 3 Blu Rays – there’s 7 featurettes ranging between 7 minutes and nearly 24 minutes in length, each targeted to specific episodes. There’s a nearly 10 minute Scott Adkins inverview and a pair of other interviews. There’s 4 episodes that you can see with the alternate French Language. A 25+ minute San Diego Comic Con panel – and then on top of everything else, you can see 13 Motion Comics from HEAVY METAL, that were then adapted into Live Action episodes! Very Very Cool discs!!!
SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS Criterion Blu
Are you familiar with Preston Sturges’ filmography? He is an incredible Writer/Director from Hollywood’s hey day and his films… they’re incredible. A great one to start with is SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS, the film stars Joel McCrea, a highly underrated star of the Golden Era, who is playing a Comedic Film Director who wants to make a serious film about poverty here in “Land of Plenty”. Of course the studio execs don’t want a serious film on poverty. So Joel dresses up as a Hobo and heads out of Hollywood into the real world. Along the way, he wins the lottery, no, not millions, but the Veronica Lake kind of Lottery and to hit that number is truly astronomical. What makes this film great, beyond the script which is just far better than you’ll be prepared for, but the CINEMA on display, that Sturges wields as deftly as he does his typewriter – and you end up with the kind of film you can never, nor should ever forget! The print looks and sounds better than it ever has! Criterion has put together a splendid blu, with PRESTON STURGES: THE RISE AND FALL OF AN AMERICAN DREAMER a 76 minute documentary on this great American artist! Then you have Sandy Sturges giving a fourteen minute interview. ANTS IN YOUR PLANTS OF 1941 – which is a video essay, that’s 18 minutes and cool. Criterion has brought back that commentary they did on the DVD, whith Michael McKeen, Christopher Guest, Noah Baumbach and Kenneth Bowser. Then there’s 3 audio extras, including 5 minutes between Hedda Hopper and Preston Sturges that I adore. Over all – a fantastic Blu and a great way to be introduced to the work of Preston Sturges!
CLASS OF 1984 Blu
I tried to convince my wife that this was exactly what High School was like when I was a kid, but she wasn’t having any of that. She just has no real clue how tough the early eighties were. I love Mark Lester’s CLASS OF 1984, it is a film in the tradition of the High School flicks with Juvenile Delinquents running roughshod over the teachers. Flicks like 187, HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL, BLACKBOARD JUNGLE… Now, this goes… a bit more exploitationy. Wait till you see pudgy Michael J Fox with his trumpet being a good kid that gets terrorized, but Perry King is a bad ass Band Director that would kick J. K. Simmons’ ass! OH… He goes beyond HARSH LANGUAGE… The last act of this film is one you’ll probably delight in. It is… extreme. And I love it. Always have. I also love RODDY McDOWALL as a Science Teacher ate up with cynicism about the youth of his day. When Roddy loses his shit, it’s great! Mark Lester does a commentary. There’s a 35+ minute making of. There’s a 21 minute piece with Mark Lester and Lalo Schifrin talking about the film. Then there’s a 46+ minute interview with Perry King going over his entire career. Plus more. This is beyond anything anyone expected for CLASS OF 1984, in otherwords, it’s exactly what we deserve!
THE BABADOOK Blu
First, let me quote William Friedkin, “PSYCHO, ALIEN, DIABOLIQUE, and now THE BABADOOK,” “I’ve never seen a more terrifying film than THE BABADOOK. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me.” Now, just in case you’re a youngster that somehow doesn’t know who Billy Friedkin is, I’ll just say, he directed THE EXORCIST, so… if you love THE EXORCIST and you think that director might have a clue about what might make you jump… Check out THE BABADOOK. Ok, so you don’t come here for recommendations from a God of Filmmaking, you depend on lowly Harry for your recommendations – and this Harry is here to tell you… THE BABADOOK is a scary nightmare factory of awesome. How great is this blu… you see that understated cover? Very… dignified, right? Well, when you take the clear plastic wrap off the Blu, that cover opens towards ya, and a pop-up book BABADOOK leaps out at you – and yeah… that can fuck right the hell out. I’ve heard BABADOOK annoyed some, but… this is a single mother and her son horror film – and for much of the film you’ll believe the kid is just a whack job and that she should probably dump him in the river chained to a concrete block, but then… you’d be a terrible parent. The kid is not crazy. THE BABADOOK is real. And at the very least, that kid and his wide eyes filled with terror… he’s our guide. The mother, she’s at her wit’s end. This is not at all your Hollywood style of scare fest. This is a exclamation of arrival by director Jennifer Kent! This was one of the best films of last year, and the Blu Ray has more than a pop-up monster cover. Jennifer Kent’s short film, MONSTER is here. There’s almost 3 minutes of Deleted Scenes. There’s a featurette on the making of the pop-up book in the film, one on the House set, one on stunts, one on special effects, one on general behind the scenes, and then an hour of cast and crew interviews. Again, well done!
ODD MAN OUT Criterion Blu
I’m a James Mason freak, if he’s in the film, there’s no power on Earth that can stop me from watching it… unless it just ain’t available. Then, I’ll search for years. That’s not the case with ODD MAN OUT, which I discovered shortly after falling mad in love with THE THIRD MAN, I needed desperately to watch as many of Carol Reed’s films as possible, and this one, with a young James Mason as a hardluck crook who gets left behind after being shot and falling off the getaway car. He’s bleeding, being hunted. That said, this film has another actor… high on my list of favorite all time character actors, and that’s Robert “LONG JOHN SILVER” Newton!!! He’s playing a severe alcoholic artist – and he’s amazing! That said, nobody blows James Mason away. He’s fantastic here. This is an outstanding noir set in Belfast – you’ll love it! I haven’t gone through the extras here, but there’s a ton of them. I am most hankering to look at the 54 minute doc, HOME, JAMES, the nearly 1 hour long doc on James Mason. It is one of many extras that look quite enticing here!
BATMAN VS ROBIN Blu
You know, these SON OF BATMAN sequels have been really solid – and BATMAN VS ROBIN is the second film, so if you have this and SON OF BATMAN – you surely have a pretty damn solid double feature to watch. In particular, the animation on this one is quite exciting, but the vocals seem pretty flat to me. Something that I’m genuinely shocked by, because Vocals tend to always be something I could count on. Here we have Batman dealing with the Court of Owls! I’ve always loved the OWLS mythology in BATMAN’s world and that side of this is outstanding. That 12 issue series was great and the DC Animation team has done a damn fine job of adapting it here. I may not love all the voice work, but I do love the story and the animation and the characters at play here. So, that works! You’ll get an audio commentary, a 31 minute featurette on THE MYTHIC COURT OF OWLS, Then there’s a 14 minute TALONS OF THE OWLS featurette focused on the Assassins that work with the Owls. Then there’s a very intriguing look at JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS & MONSTERS, which seems to be a project meant to let Bruce Timm’s imagination to go nuts. I see the Metal Men in this!!! Awesome sauce! Then you 4 episodes from the WB Animation Library. They all rule, as does the SUPER-RABBIT Bugs Bunny cartoon that’s here too! I really don’t like Batman’s voice.
BIG EYES Blu
This is a fantastic film from Tim Burton all about the story behind those Big Eye paintings that became the rage of the Pop Art scene ever since they were introduced, but contrary to initial hype, it wasn’t the male member of the Keane family producing the art as advertised, but instead… his anonymous wife, who slaved away in secret pumping out the art for the good of the family – and what a terrible situation. This film comes to life with the aid of Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams as the Keanes. The script was written by ED WOOD and THE PEOPLE VS LARRY FLYNNT scribes, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski – and it shows. They have a penchant for capturing era and the desperate situation of artists in extreme situations. With ED WOOD it was financial, here it was the trauma of a dictatorial charismatic shyster of a husband that exploited an artist, then used guilt to break her will. The film is fantastic! The blu ray has two extras, a 21+ minute making of – and a nearly 34 minute Q&A with the writers and Margaret Keane and Jane Keane – but it isn’t all them, that’s edited with another screening Q&A with Tim Burton, Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Krysten Ritter and Jason Schwartzman. It is a very nice special feature. If you haven’t seen the film, it is definitely worth checking out!
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS 2: THE STING OF THE SCORPION Blu
The first THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS was a higher budget affair, written and directed by RZA – and I dug its crazy. The sequel is written by RZA, stars RZA, but is a lower budget affair, directed by a man not known for great work, but ya know what? Eli Roth & RZA are enough to make this one count for something. It isn’t great, and there’s a bit too much intrigue, but the martial arts are fun and gory. Limbs and heads leave bodies frequently and there’s even a full body explosion that’s quite glorious. It feels more like a Shaw Brothers affair, than the glossy CG assisted first film. Though, I miss the high grade actors from the first, ever so slightly – especially that bugnuts insane performance from Russell Crowe! That said, it was good to see Thaddeus doing what he does best! Kicking ass!
THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2 Blu
While the first film had atmosphere, creeps, genuine frights and fits, this one decides atmosphere is really all it was going for. It’s kinda like going to an awesome restaurant while you’re on a diet and ordering water, while people around to you are feasting on your favorite foods. A bit unsatisfying. You’ll see opportunities – or if your mind was as completely unoccupied as mine while watching this, you’ll begin fantasizing about a better movie, with better characters, scenarios and scares! I just wasn’t buying it this time. That’s probably because the first film had a real solid Daniel Radcliffe performance and a Jane Goldman screenplay! If you love atmosphere and production design, it’s worth a peek, but it isn’t anywhere near the first film
TALES OF TERROR Blu
TALES OF TERROR is a utterly terrific, Corman & Matheson & Poe are amongst my favorite things in life. (I have a lot which is why I’m generally so happy, I’m in tune with my smile.) Now, you folks that grew up with hardcore horror… this is a completely different vibe. This is also not about realism, but something a bit more surreal. Corman’s use of color has always been lurid and powerful, but it’s how he injects humor into the macabre, which is particularly kind. He gives you permission to giggle, so that this adaptation of “MORELLA”, “THE BLACK CAT” and “THE FACTS OF THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR” isn’t an overtly somber affair. “MORELLA” features Vincent Price as a depressed alcoholic man possessed with a delusion that has him laying with the mummified corpse of his wife each night hoping for reanimation – you see, she died giving birth to their daughter, who he had sent away. She comes knocking 26 years later hoping to find a man to call father. Shivers. We all know the story of “THE BLACK CAT” – or at least that’s how I feel. I’m a Poe freak, but most people get THE BLACK CAT at school at some point, well here – Matheson & Corman take THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO and blend elements of THE BLACK CAT into it, but really – it is THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO, make no mistake. Vincent Price is Fortunato and Peter Lorre is Montresor. I love this one a lot! Mainly because I love the chemistry between Price and Lorre – and the sardonic humor that permeates it is a palate cleanser before the final tale. Then with THE FACTS OF THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR – here you get Price and Basil Rathbone – It is just such an incredible delight to see these two working here together in what seems like fine form! Although, in the extras, Corman talks about how Rathbone had trouble with his lines and wasn’t always on his game. That’s sad, but his performance most certainly isn’t. Corman still managed to capture it! You get a pair of commentaries, a nearly eleven minute interview with the master, Roger Corman, plus another two and a half minutes on a TRAILERSS FROM HELL interview! Great Blu ray of a classic!
LONG WEEKEND Blu
Think of this as DAY OF THE ANIMALS: THE AUSTRALIAN EDITION. A fighting married couple drive out into the Australian outback and they’re throwing lit cigarettes out their window, they run over a kangaroo (graphically) and… well, you don’t disrespect nature, down under… That I will tell you now. Nature gets downright pissy and ferocious with these two. But it is one LONG WEEKEND! The print is absolutely gorgeous – and is an excellent film to add to your nature gone mad night of horror. Synapse has given us a great Ausploitation flick and we’ve got it with a commentary by the producer and cinematographer! Plus a motion still gallery with audio from John Hargeaves, the bloke that pisses nature off so much! If you love Australian Outback horror tales, this is another great one! I’d never seen it before, but it’s a helluva film! Nature gets a proper mad on for these two! I love it!
GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D Blu
This is a film in 3D that does everything you’ve never seen in 3D. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE is, in many ways, exactly that. The best I can muster is… It is an Experience. An experimental film that assaults the viewer from all sides. He messes with your mind – and it can be quite abrasive at times. You will witness defecation, nudity, possibly dimensional shifts… he’s playing with the audio, the 3D and throwing the kitchen sink at us. I’ve been to many avant garde experimental film displays, but never one that did it with 3D. The experience is entirely subjective. It may give you a headache, you may find inner peace if you allow your mind to let go – what you get out of this will tell you more about yourself than the film you’re watching. Reactions will run the extremes – and I kinda love that about this. If you don’t get it, don’t worry – Jean-Luc Godard has a 46+ minute interview where he discusses his career and this film. It is worth picking this up ALONE in my book. It is likely you haven’t seen anything like this.
THE MAN FROM RIO / UP TO HIS EARS Blu
These two films of Philippe De Broca have influenced some of your favorite films… namely, the Indiana Jones films. It’s undeniable when you watch them. You know that sense of breathless fun you get to have in Indiana Jones flicks? The comedy of pain, the impossible survivals, the sense of slapstick adventures? That’s THE MAN FROM RIO and UP TO HIS EARS, which was the sequel. THE MAN FROM RIO exploded world wide in 1964! Starring the legendary Jean-Paul Belmondo as the adventurer – these films should delight and surprise you. There’s an action sequence in THE MAN FROM RIO that is essentially Cary Grant in the cornfield avoiding the biplane… only, he’s swimming and it’s a SPEED BOAT trying to run him over – and the stunts are genuinely frightening! These two films were also inspired by TINTIN, another fave of Spielberg & Peter Jackson too! The extras on both films are extensive. The only real problem with the discs are terrible misspellings on the MENU screens. Which I have to admit, I found charming. But wouldn’t I?
KIDNAPPING MR HEINEKEN Blu
Jim Sturgess, Sam Worthington, Ryan Kwanten are part of a group of friends in a failing construction business and they come up with a plan to save it if they can get the money. They try a bank. They get turned down. Then, while drinking, they get the wise idea to kidnap Alfred Heineken, played by Hannibal Lecter aka ODIN aka Sir Anthony Hopkins. This excellent true story flick was directed by Daniel ALfredson, who directed the original THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE and THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS’ NEST! The film is quite satisfying, but… I kept waiting for Hopkins to kill them all. I know he has it in him. Ultimately the ending may not be overly satisfying, but it is the end. Ultimately, I liked it. I wasn’t expecting something amazing, but the story was well told, I even recommended it to Dad to check out.
ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE
You folks looking to live on Mars, watch this. It’s a lot like the conditions on Mars, but with oxygen you can breathe that doesn’t kill ya, unless you’re exposed too long. Personally, I prefer Herzog’s ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD, but watching how the international community works together down there, makes you wonder why we don’t just put those folks in charge. Of course, not cooperating isn’t a real viable option in those conditions. And it just takes one alien or Old one to ruin it all. Beautiful, of course. That Space shot of Antarctica is still echoing in my mind. Next time I’m in New Zealand, I’ll have to look at seeing if I can get there. It’s on my list.
ENTER THE DANGEROUS MIND Blu
So Yoko had been making fun of this Blu Ray for days. The red EDM and the ear imagery on the cover just kept cracking her up and causing her to roll her eyes with exhaustion. SO.. I finally decided to watch this. Essentially it’s about a crazy person that creates his own Electronic Dance Music to score his life. He’s convinced to share it with people at a club, and gets a girl interested in him – and… things quickly get creepy. In a way, it uses EDM to silence the murderous voices in his mind, but they keep screaming at him and he hears them. This is a descent into madness movie, that’s actually pretty damn good. And hey, Scott Bakula is in it! Love that guy!
That’s it for this week’s column, next week, I’ll be back with a look at ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK blu, TAKEN 3 Blu, GHOULIES 1 & 2 Blu, BIO-DOME Blu, FIREWALKER Blu, BREAKIN 1 & 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO Blu, BLIND WOMAN’S CURSE Blu, THE RIVER Criterion Blu, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT Blu, THE THREE STOOGES Collections Blu, EVERLY Blu, 42ND STREET Blu, TEACHERS Blu, THE WICKED LADY Blu, COOLEY HIGH Blu, DANCE WITH ME HENRY Blu, BLUE SKY Blu and that’s about it. Till then, keep watching your screens and of course… Keep it cool!