Hey folks, Harry here… This week’s column is long and solid. Last week at the end of my column I noticed some folks that thought the line up for this week sounded somehow lacking – and I beg to protest. Having seen these films and show – I couldn’t be more excited by the line up this week. There’s some wonderful finds on here. Maybe not a ton of giant mainstream current releases or big obvious 80s hits… but what we do have is some pretty great NEW THINGS to discover – and that is the most exciting kind of week in my opinion. As usual, the pics and links take you over to AMAZON where you can learn more on the title in question or purchase it, which really does help keep this column going. SO thank you.
Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
My favorite thing of 2010. The producers of TODD & THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL sent me a package with the entire first season on it when only part of the first season had aired in Canada on SPACE TV. The show? Imagine if SCOTT PILGRIM took place in the universe of HEAVY METAL and if SCOTT had a Scooby Doo style mystery gang searching for EVIL DEAD’s Necronomican… Sounds like a lot of strange things thrown together, but somehow, this NON-RATED TV SERIES is just… my favorite thing Jason Mewes has done to date. And he just plays the man with the mop. Fucking Epic. The sensation of watching TODD AND THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL is to POWER STAND in a STADIUM OF ROCK & ROLL HELL – Where The Great Bands of Metal played their asses of and you look at your best friend next to you, you look back at the screen and you scream “FUCKING YES!!!! THIS ROCKS!” To me, that is TODD & THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL. This is like SPACED, in that it is perfect geek bliss. A perfect thing. Something magical and all its own. When AICN vet Kevin Biegel came to my house when we were screening the some of this season’s COUGAR TOWNS at the Drafthouse, well, we watched this. And Kevin kept saying One more episode for like 5 hours straight. It’s that good. This is that thing you introduce to your friends that rock and then they know you rock and that rocking is a mighty fucking feeling in this world – and TODD rocks. The practical gore rocks, the crazy latex creations rock, the stop-motion? Or was that Rod-puppet, whatever that thing was – it was funky perfect. You know, like EVIL DEAD. This show manages to combine all those elements from that one crazy sentence of mine up there. It brings SCOTT PILGRIM, EVIL DEAD, Scooby Doo & the power essence of HEAVY METAL all into one beautiful creation of awesome bliss. I’ve seen the first two episodes of Season 2 and it’s looking good. This is a 5-star home run from Canada… where we’ve gotten a whole shit load of great genre awesome for a whole lot of years. TODD AND THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL is worthy to rule in from Canada. But the actors and filmmakers behind this show. They will absolutely be going places. In fact, they’re coming to SXSW FILM FESTIVAL – where I’m doing a panel with them – where I get to passionately pitch the absolute necessity of getting GENE SIMMONS to play SATAN, Todd’s DARK FATHER from HELL!!! God this show is so good that Yoko and I have watched it all the way through 4 or 5 times together…. And then again with friends about another 4 times. I mean seriously. We love this show. This is one of those shows that creates a short hand language with those you show it to. I mean, “YOU WANNA MAKE A BAY BAAAAY” can cause people to just cry laughing. It’s just so horribly awesome. This is a very specific geek universe they’ve created for this show. If you can even imagine the joy you had finding BUFFY, just imagine a show that could go full on R-rated EVIL DEAD genre crazy. It’s just amazingly satisfying. So great. Subversively brilliant at times. The Big Baby episode. The Musical. This is bliss. It’s the sort of thing you don’t understand and then it plays and then hours have gone by. And you’re quoting it and laughing. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!
My favorite film of 2011. So very happy that this masterpiece picked up 5 OSCARS last night and while some may scoff that they’re in the technical world, I would say a film about an automaton, the birth of cinema, manual clockwork upkeep and ultimately the birth of the retrospect. Well, it is a technical film, but the reason it won all those awards last night was that this very technical film, like the characters in the movie, was made with tender loving care. Like an exquisite Fabarge Egg made of Gold, Sapphires & Diamonds. Crafted by the hands of a master jeweler, HUGO has a richness of beauty, a respect for the whole of what cinema is at it’s best. I recommend getting the 3D BLU RAY – just in case you ever do make the conversion. This is, without a doubt, the most amazing 3D cinematography that you’ll ever see. That visual effects were utilized… well they were so well incorporated into the 3D process that I feel that’s what pushed the film into winning that award. This is a master thesis on the use of the 3rd dimension. However, beyond that… it is a story of a boy named HUGO. A terribly unfortunate child, but one that has found a way to live without being in the care of anyone but his own capable hands. HUGO is ultimately a boy’s tale. A boy that loves movies and robots that can draw. I have to say, I connect perfectly with this film. As though it were crafted for me. SO yeah, this goes in the collection. I wish the audience had been larger for Scorsese’s love letter to cinema… but then, that in and of itself is the reason to love it more. This one is for film lovers.
I quite enjoyed this latest addition to the DC animated film world. HOWEVER, I wish, I really wish this was about an extra hour long… charge more and tell a more complete version of the TOWER OF BABEL. They gloss over the effects of what happens to BATMAN and the storyline he set into motion by creating perfect ways to defeat each of his fellow members of the JUSTICE LEAGUE and how his fellow GOOD DOERS reacted. I love what’s here. I like the film, but it doesn’t have the dramatic weight that it could have and should have given us. As a result of abandoning that, it just feels a bit more like a long episode of the JUSTICE LEAGUE instead of the MOVIE it should have been. But that’s only because I know Waid’s original comic story that this is based upon. That’s what you get from the books that the budget-line watching executives don’t understand. By creating cookie cutter sheets for this series of Animated films, they will never win over the LARGER AUDIENCE OUT THERE, that looks at this and will just call it a silly cartoon. The action is great, the animation and style work flawlessly together… but the story is sold short and most out there won’t really know if something is missing and that’s to be commended. But had they really fully told this tale, it’d get real press looking at it. Perhaps people would say, “Why doesn’t Warner Brothers give these guys a real animated theatrical film budget and make these things destroy the box office?” And maybe someone would pay attention, because when they looked at that film – it blew their minds. Here, it is a cartoon. It can be so much more. This had a lot more potential than what this adaptation gave us. Kids will love it. That is the audience they’re being limited to, with us Geeks looking in too. I just long for the brilliant work these folks could deliver to be done at the true heights of their abilities.
I have to admit, I am never happier, than when I open up my mail & behold a classic film being given the Blu-ray treatment. I don’t really frequent the Home Video websites that break news about what’s being released when. I treat this column and my mail like a surprise. When I realized I would be able to see Cecil B DeMille’s production of THE BUCCANEER on Blu-Ray… whenever I wanted, I just smiled. This is a great American yarn. Whenever Cecil B DeMille is telling me a story – I feel as if Cecil B DeMille is some old man sitting in a chair telling me about the time he and Andrew Jackson and time he fought with them pirates around New Orleans! Just like that time he & Moses freed all them slaves in Egypt. It’s like when Disney does history… This feels like a living Disneyland ride of history. It’s directed by Anthony Quinn. But see if you don’t feel that same properness of history that Disney was famous for doing. I’d love to see this at DISNEYWORLD in the HALL OF PRESIDENT’S with a dramatic introduction by their Andrew Jackson imagi-bot and have a Yul Brynner lookalike come out with WestWorld outfit and kill one another in Robot Death. But I’m not quite producing those spectaculars yet. Soon though. Soon. Back to the Blu… Love the look of the movie on this disc, but it is a damn shame that Paramount didn’t produce any extras on this. With TCM doing such a great job and being in HD, or NETFLIX, it’s really the extras that push most of us to investing in the joy of BLU.
This is such a great Fritz Lang film. The man behind METROPOLIS had a long and storied career in Hollywood after fleeing the horrors of the Nazis – and with every film of his I have found my estimation of him constantly growing by leaps and bounds. In SCARLET STREET you have Edward G Robinson as an older man, he’s a cashier at a local bank. He is well loved by the boss for his loyalty and he has a loveless marriage with an intolerable shrew of a woman. At the party in his honor at work, he sees the boss leave early with a young affectionate lady in his car and the notion of younger women desiring older men has entered his mind. Then he meets Joan Bennett and she latches on. This is a fantastic film noir. Just fantastic. Dan Duryea is one of the greatest fucking heels of a human being you’ll ever see. What a bastard. Love him. Don’t you love a great bastard in a movie? I do. KINO really delivered. This film is the exact sort of film that makes last night’s celebration of film feel so week. There’s such vitality to SCARLET STREET. Such danger. You don’t see the twists and turns. You fall in love with Edward G Robinson. Here he is at the exact opposite end of the spectrum from his Johnny Rocco or ‘Rico’. Those were men of infinite ego and pomp. Here you have a man lost in a job that isn’t what he had dreamt he was & he meets this girl that makes him feel he is an artist. He never aspired to do anything in his life. Here he feels like he has a chance to live. The transformation in his character is so deft, that it reminds me exactly of the great performances of James Mason’s more adult work. SCARLET STREET is going to become a favorite film, at least for me. It gets better on repeat viewings. It comes with a commentary by David Kalat, who is as always a very informing and fun listen. Great job KINO!
Ah, Louis Malle’s VANYA ON 42ND STREET – when I realized that guy from PRINCESS BRIDE was Wallace Shawn – and fucking amazing. As great as David Mamet can get is on display to the ear here. Joining the brilliant Wallace Shawn is Julianne Moore of 1994. Julianne has always been beautiful, but what I find amazing is just how talented she was, all the way back. She reminds me of Jessica Lange that way. Gorgeous, but able to just convey so much emotion and with Moore – you can see chemical reactions in this film as she is happy, sad, name it. She’s feeling every emotion. VANYA ON 42ND STREET is a movie on a nuance that few films hit. SO happy to have Criterion putting this out. There’s a new documentary with interviews with just about everyone. It looks and sounds great.
Ok, earlier in the column I was praising Fritz Lang’s SCARLET STREET from 1945. This film he made in 1919, over a quarter of a century before. He shot for another 15 years after SCARLET STREET and continued to make wonderful work throughout. With THE SPIDERS, Fritz Lang creates an Indian Jones style treasure hunting character after Peruvian gold and treasure. This is actually two movies into a planned 4-some of movies. This is Fritz Lang making a very Jules Verne/Arthur Conan Doyle/Lucas-Spielberg kind of thing – and it’s very cool. This is the earliest known film of Fritz Lang’s to survive and KINO has done a great job of bringing it to life. If you love adventure, this is one shot and created in the earliest days of cinema, by the young talent of one of the great OLD MEN of film. I love this pulp silent. I’d love a more traditional rollicking adventure theme created by someone that known their way around an orchestra for this one. It’d be such a great thing to have happen. As is, this is just amazing to see.
You loved BLACK SWAN, RED SHOES… you need another film to add to your balletic duo of beloved films. Look no further than NIJINSKY – For someone that spends his days at a gym trying to learn to walk again, ballet is something I behold with wonder. The sheer majesty of movement, the grace… It is impossible to imagine grace. But when I watch what the best human bodies can do, it makes me feel absolutely confident that I’ll at least play basketball badly. This is a raw film, it is telling something that is just not necessarily an up story. But then, I wouldn’t say BLACK SWAN or RED SHOES was a happy go-lucky affair. Wonderful image. Wish there was more on the Blu though.
This is exactly my kinda of Euro-Erotic Genre Kinky affair. Witches, Nazis, Nubile hotties. But then it has this crazy beautiful look to it. It isn’t just flat and obvious. It’s classy hot. But with a healthy dose of WOW. The film will leave you spinning, as it isn’t quite like much you’ve seen. Even if you’ve seen the weird cool shit like me. And, well I just love Carroll Baker. I just don’t think we’ll ever see films like this ever again. Not of this production quality and exquisite weirdness. If you think it looks like a Comic Book, well… it was directly adapted and if you know the book – you’ll see exact frames reproduced at times… ala Rodriguez on SIN CITY. If you dig the weird shit, this is good weird shit. Almost 50 minutes of extras. BLUE UNDERGROUND does fantastic work on their releases.
At last year’s FANTASTIC FEST, we had our first Israeli Horror film and filmmakers – and the film was a huge success at the Fest. I missed it there, and had heard nothing but praise about it. My Movie Night buddy Diana demanded that I watch it with her – and I have to say, when you’re sitting down to watch a new horror film from a country that hasn’t really produced horror films that I’d seen… You get nervous. Just knowing that had me on edge. Then I watched it. All I knew was the title. RABIES and the box cover. I was absolutely not prepared for the movie. It looks like torture and rape, right? But that title doesn’t necessarily jive with that. Just watch. This is one of those horror films where you don’t necessarily know why what is happening is happening. Maybe the land is cursed. Perhaps it is simply a bad place. Maybe a military canister is leaking something somewhere. Whatever is going on. It’s like RABIES. Madness. Descent into madness. It is pretty goddamn spectacular.
You ever hear the story about Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato? They were romantically inclined, until it turned into a murder case where Lana Turner’s daughter killed Johnny Stompanato? If you you’re your Kenneth Anger HOLLYWOOD BABYLON 1 & 2 – then you’re probably pretty up on the story. Did you know they made a movie about it in 1964 with Susan Hayward and Joey Heatherton in the Mother / Daughter roles – and a trashy Harold Robbins wrote it up as a novel, they joined Bette Davis and Mike Connors in the film – and the great blacklisted director Edward Dmytryk helming. The result is something kinda badass. This thing has serious attitude. Bette Davis is enormous on this screen. Jesus she possesses the film when she’s on. Susan is great too. This is a great trashy film ripped from Tabloid headlines of the late 50’s.
Here’s a truly brilliant Edward Dmytryk film. Did you love THE GREY? This is even more manly. Spencer Tracy is some kind of a God in this movie. He’s a legendary mountain climber, retired… still a mountain goat, but when a plane crash occurs, he and his brother get asked to climb the mountain on a rescue operation. There are a ton of details I’m leaving out. But just know that all is not good between Spencer Tracy and his younger brother, whom he’s raised since he was a little boy. Robert Wagner is perfectly cast as the younger brother. This is a film to be inspired by. Imagine CLIFFHANGER shot by a poet starring a tough deeply emotional Spencer Tracy instead of Stallone. This is an amazing film. Very pleased to have it on Blu.
I was there when Ernesto Espinoza and Marko Zaror arrived at the Alamo South for Fantastic Fest having just finished MANDRILL. A film they made just to give them an excuse to come back to Fantastic Fest. A movie they essentially shot and choreographed on the fly, very quickly – and OH MY GOD, it is one of those films like THE KILLER and not at all like THE KILLER. This is a tale of an Assassin. The finest assassin in all of Chile and he has revenge on his mind. He’s trying to get to a man who is impossible to get to. There’s a girl. There’s romance. There’s flagrant machoistic testosterone seeping from the screen. It is all at once hilarious, emotionally honest and kind of sweet – and fucking awesome and badass. When Vern saw it, he watched it multiple times in a row, the same day. It’s that kind of film. Marko Zaror’s other films are on Netflix and they are solid fun genre works, but MANDRILL is his best work. Marko Zaror is a star waiting to be birthed world wide. Watching this film he has the charisma and skills to be something amazing in film. Hell, he’s proved that with MANDRILL. This is another really great film from the pair of Zaror and Espinoza. I can’t wait for the next one!
This was Mexico’s official entry to the Academy Awards for FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM this year. It didn’t quite make the cut, and while this film is great – there’s not a Foreign Film Nominee I’d replace it with, but I do wish if they went to 9 or 10 films for Best Picture – that they at least give the languages of Earth a similar field. In that field, I know MISS BALA would have qualified. This is purportedly a true and horrifyingly shocking true tale – this has a type of unflinching violence that is just brutal and honest. MISS BALA is for everyone that likes “tough movies”.
And this is why every video game must be adapted into either an animated series or a feature film. Weird shit like this needs to exist. This is really bizarre and fun stuff. That said, I can’t take the idea of owning a whole season. Makes me feel like a crazed addict. I gave my copy away.
That’s it for this week, next week we kick off March with my look at GAME OF THRONES, IMMORTALS, MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL Blu, FOOTLOOSE Craig Brewer style, TO CATCH A THIEF Blu, THE SKIN I LIVE IN Blu, DEER HUNTER Blu, JACK AND JILL, LIKE CRAZY, GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES, TENNESSEE TUXEDO, REINDEER GAMES, 9 ½ WEEKS blu, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE Blu, STRIPTEASE Blu, 54 Blu, Corman’s THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Blu, BLADE OF KINGS Blu, BENJI Blu and that should do it. Till then, enjoy your swim in film!