Hey folks, Harry here with another Picks & Peeks for the New Year. Lots of great stuff – so let’s just dive in. The images and titles are linked to Amazon where you can learn more on the item in question. And if you happen to purchase the item, it helps to keep the efforts of this column alive. Be sure to check out our iPhone App at PICKSandPEEKS.com – and if you love it – we really could use as many app reviews as possible. Profits from the App go to help AICN maintain it’s financial responsibilities. Again Thanks. Now, here ya go…
Tuesday, January 14th, 2013
TAKEN 2 Blu
Is not on the same level of awesome as TAKEN. That probably lies in the offish skills of Olivier Megaton (COLUMBIANA) compared to the awesome action skills of Pierre Morel (TAKEN, DISTRICT B13, FROM PARIS WITH LOVE). Pierre Morel came up with Jeunet & Caro and his attention to detail is fantastic. Not so with Olivier Megaton. That elegance and understanding of the material has been sacrificed and even though you got all the actors back… it all feels less than before. That’s pretty much why. It’s why I pay attention to directors and writers and don’t get suckered into Money Grab sequels like this. It’s definitely watchable – but that’s because I love me some Liam Neeson… but you can tell it’s all less than it should be.
TO ROME WITH LOVE Blu
I found this one just a tad disappointing. It is best not to take any other Woody Allen film into a theater with you, but with TO ROME WITH LOVE… I’ve been so drunk in love with MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, that THAT film was always in my head. I haven’t seen TO ROME WITH LOVE on Blu yet – but I’ll pick it up, cuz an addict like me can’t have a hole in the Woody Allen collection… and I’m curious to see if the film improves upon further reflection, or if my disappointment worsens. Or maybe… maybe I’ll find myself with a better connection with it here at home. Sometimes that initial disappointment is the film you were hoping for not being there. Once you watch it as the film it actually is, you can discover the charm. That’s what I’m hoping for here.
THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH Criterion Blu
The film geeks that my Dad hung with when I was a kid always used to downplay this version of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, preferring the Jimmy Stewart color version. And if you compare the two – you clearly get two very different pictures from a filmmaker at a radically different point of his cinematic development. That said, as much as I love Jimmy Stewart… I love Peter Lorre at a deeper engrained level. Lorre is one of the Famous Monsters fave actors – and as soon as I saw this, Peter’s first English role… I fell in love. There’s more of a dream quality to Black & White Hitchcock, it was subjective spectacle instead of VistaVision actual spectacle. I prefer the Swiss location to Morocco… But yeah, I would have loved a crazy young Jimmy Stewart over Leslie Banks – and yeah, Doris Day is… well Doris Day and Edna Best isn’t. I love having Guillermo on the Blu to enthusiastically charge me up to watch this each and every time I put it on. Criterion has saved this Hitchcock film – which has always had really dupey and bad prints available of. This is gorgeous by comparison. Here’s what they give ya:
New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
New audio commentary featuring film historian Philip Kemp
New interview with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
The Illustrated Hitchcock, an extensive interview with director Alfred Hitchcock from 1972, conducted by journalist Pia Lindstrom and film historian William Everson
Audio excerpts from filmmaker François Truffaut’s legendary 1962 interviews with Hitchcock
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme
I have a particular love for “OBJECT HORROR” or the horror of buying the wrong fucking thing at the garage sale. As a long time Garage Sale addict… I’ve bought some scary looking stuff, because that’s how my tastes go. Old Secret Society stuff, gothic antiques, various religious iconography from many cultures. I love the stuff. AND YOU ALWAYS WONDER. What bad JUJU that object might have. Now, this is a “Based on a True Story,” and it is. You see, the object bought at a Yard Sale was a Dibbuk Box – which basically like a really fucked up Jewish Horcrux… that has an evil especially badass demon presence trapped inside… And it will fuck your life. I paid attention to this horror film. I’ve already decided to not ever to buy something antique with jewish symbols upon it, unless I’m giving it to Jeff Mahler. In which case I’ll place the item in storage until gift time at BNAT. Jeff gets the Dibbuk Box. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a divorced father who buys a cursed ancient box with a demon inside for his daughter, because he truly is trying to buy her heart… he didn’t count on getting her soul. Fucked situations abound – and seeing this Raimi produced horror gives me a tad of confidence going into EVIL DEAD. This one is pretty damn good!
WILD RIVER Blu
I was brought up to really like Montgomery Clift. My dad loved RED RIVER & FROM HERE TO ETERNITY and my Mom loved him in THE MISFITS & A PLACE IN THE SUN, so when this Blu hit, I put it in to see what I was considering to be another Montgomery Clift flick. At the same time, I was giddy as fuck because this was the last Elia Kazan film I had left to watch. DIRECTOR ACHEIVEMENT achieved!!! I find this film a bit… profoundly affecting. Essentially the film is about a man that has to evacuate a town that will become flooded once a dam is completed and there’s of course an ornery type that doesn’t want to move, has a beautiful granddaughter and a hard reality. Something about the responsibility of the family ties really got me. The arbitrary will of a government planning group that could destroy an old ladies dream of how she’d spend her life. I know it is un-PC as hell to love Elia Kazan, but the man, despite his debatable shortcomings, was one helluva director. He has some of my picks for the best movies ever made. This isn’t among his best, but it is still a pretty outstanding movie filled with great performances, writing and filmmaking. Love the color of this thing.
HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY Blu
I’ve always held an irrational agitation with this movie due to the fact that it beat SERGEANT YORK, THE MALTESE FALCON, SUSPICION and CITIZEN KANE for Best Picture at the 1942 oscars. There are days where I’m absolutely drunk in love with each of those titles and everytime I watch them I think… FUCKING HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY. It is almost a crazed comedy routine that Dad and I have played for years. And who does this film star? A 10 year old Roddy McDowell… so basically that means I can’t possibly not whole-heartedly kind of love the thing. Then, it is directed by John Ford and sets to tell a Mining story about a strong mining family… THE MORGANS. It tells a story about how technology replaces men of skill and talent. A potent story. But man, The Fucking ACADEMY has Always been insane. Yes, A Great Film – but certainly not my vote getter for the year. The film has never looked better to me. I’ve never seen it in 35mm, but on my screen… beautiful. For those that collect BEST PICTURES, here ya go. Me… I can’t watch it without having internal rants. Really better than those four flicks? I think not.
JACKSON FIVE: THE COMPLETED ANIMATED SERIES Blu
I’d never seen these. I’ve known about them. I just never came across them. I know they’ve shown on MTV, I just didn’t know that. But when this set came, I eagerly put the first disc on and discovered that they’re psychedelic as all hell. Think about the look of YELLOW SUBMARINE combined with Rankin Bass’ animated style. Lots of psychelic iconography. However, the show is just sort of crazy. Like did you know that in the animated JACKSON FIVE show, that The Jackson Five were discovered when a lil bitty Michael Jackson sent Diana Ross a basket of flowers with his little harmless pink snake in it. Diana Ross is of course deathly afraid of lil pink snakes. Ahem. Later MJ claims the snake, but tell Diana that he wanted her to autograph his lil pink snake. And I laughed for 30 minutes. These are filled with goodies like that. It’s an insane show. Mind Bending. Like the time little boy Michael Jackson got Drafted into the Army with the intent to serve in Vietnam. Essentially HAIR with Michael Jackson – and wait till you see how he avoids getting his afro shaved. This show is amazing. Why get the Bllu? Frankly the transfer. I love Animation art and the trippy cool water color backgrounds and crayola animation just looks amazing at 1080p. I’ve been a fan for a long time, but I have to say getting perfect copies of this as the way to see them… That’s great. And the music is all Jackson Five hits. Great stuff!
THE TIN DRUM Criterion Blu
I saw this film when I was not yet 8 years old when it originally opened in Austin. If memory serves I saw it at is now the Alamo Village Theater. And I have never been more strongly affected by a film in my life. It terrified me. Emotionally scarred me. And I have an irrational fear (according to people that don’t fucking recognize David Bennet as the most scary fucker to have ever occupied a screen to portray a child in Nazi Germany) In all seriousness – I dearly love this movie. It is disturbing – and the Censors went to town on this in the day, but really… unless you’re not yet 15, I’d say you’d be fine with this film. At least mentally. But realize this isn’t a regular run of the mill movie. It is extraordinary. The film is just one of the most… CAN’T PEEL YOUR EYES FROM WHAT YOU’RE SEEING… movies! The story is a German Allegory for their entire 20th century existence – and it’s great. Just great. Criterion gives us an amazing transfer and these special features:
New, restored high-definition digital transfer of the complete version, approved by director Volker Schlöndorff
Newly remastered 5.1 surround soundtrack, approved by Schlöndorff and presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition
New interview with Schlöndorff about the making of The Tin Drum and the creation of the 2010 restored, complete version
New interview with film scholar Timothy Corrigan
German audio recording from 1987 of author Günter Grass reading an excerpt from his novel The Tin Drum with musical accompaniment, illustrated with the corresponding scene from the film
Television interview excerpts featuring Schlöndorff, Grass, actors David Bennent and Mario Adorf, and cowriter Jean-Claude Carrière reflecting on their experiences making the film
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Atkinson and 1978 statements by Grass about the adaptation of his novel
If you love the very depths of cinema, you can’t not love this film. It’s strong powerful stuff.
I have a deep and residing love of Seventies Woody Allen. I can remember going and seeing them all – and the long nights listening to them discussing the symbolism and meaning of the movies. In this case, the crazy visuals kept my attention – and they were very patient to explain all my questions. Watching it now, I marvel at the physical comedy, something we don’t see much of in Woody’s flicks. His ability to pull it off is really masterful here – and ranks up there with the very bests of the golden age comic talents. C’mon, it’s Woody Allen’s SciFi flick. Check it out!!!
I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to see BRANDED or not. It was sitting in the stacks of material I get in a given week. I’d heard bad things, but when Moriarty (Drew McWeeny) said that at the 40 minute mark he felt he was getting a brain tumor… I had to put it on. BRANDED is not an ordinary film. In fact, it is quite bizarre. It purports to tell the story of one of history’s great visionaries… this one is a future visionary. His life moments are being laid out and kind of explained to us. The telling is very awkward, until after John Laskowski performs this very elaborate ancient sacred text sacrifice and ceremony… and then he sees trippy shit – and from there on – I was just staring agog at the screen, kind of marveling at the clever what the fuck of it all. I have friends that are already worshipping the flick as a cult miracle. I’m not sure if I’m quite there, but I’ll definitely watch it again… it’s a great… “What do you think of this?” movie. A flick that if you dig, you challenge friends to give it a chance. Unless you just hate it, which is a very possible reality too. Not everyone will like this.
GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT Blu
As I said on WILD RIVER, Elia Kazan is a director whose choices in life – well, it’s hard to LOVE the guy, but I find it exceedingly simple to love and greatly appreciate his films. GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT? Ya kidding me? Gregory Peck and John Garfield in a flick where Peck tries to pass himself off as a Jew to investigate Anti-Semitism – and it is riveting. Performances, Drama, Writing and just powerful filmwork from Kazan. Groundbreaking and risky filmmaking at the time. Exposing something that people would rather ignore. This country has come a long ways, you need only look at something like this to see how far. Love getting this on Blu!
I AM BRUCE LEE Blu
I have always loved Bruce Lee. From the earliest of memories. I was definitely a kung fu kid growing up. SO – sure – I may have known most everything this doc had to tell me, but still… I love listening to people love on Bruce Lee. It’s the exact kind of hero worship I love and feel is absolutely justified. And I agree with just about everything. Love all the early footage, it is all great. So – how much do you love Bruce Lee?
CRIME STORY/PROTECTOR Blu
I like CRIME STORY – I’m less in love with THE PROTECTOR. CRIME STORY is a tougher kind of Jackie Chan movie, whereas THE PROTECTOR was just a cheesy affair. Only pick up for CRIME STORY, unless you love the cheese of the other. Me, I’ll just watch CRIME STORY, which is totally worth the $16 Amazon is hocking this for.
Public service films from ages long since past often hold the key to older generations’ prejudice against generational issues such as drugs and sex. They also dealt with additional socially unacceptable behavior – and I find these things hilarious – horrifying and suddenly when I see a 50-80 year old Senator that is grotesquely out of touch… Watch this – and you’ll understand what they believe. SCARY. 200 minutes of these!
RULES FOR SCHOOL
By the time I got to High School the PSAs on Drug and Sexual conduct were updated Video productions, but I can remember in Elementary school being shown some of these. Like the one about cleaning your hands and waiting turns. Like the TROUBLED TEENS set this is 200 Minutes of PSAs. Hilarious stuff – and also oddly refreshing. Feels like cultural anthropology though.
That’s it for this week… Next I’ll be looking at THE MEN WHO BUILT AMERICA, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, END OF WATCH, THE QUIET MAN Blu, THE PAPERBOY, TAI CHI ZERO, DEATH RACE 3: INFERNO, FOR A GOOD TIME CALL, THE SEVEN-PER-CENT SOLUTION Blu, DEADLY BESSING Blu, IVAN’S CHILDHOOD Criterion Blu, INDISCREET Blu, TICKS Blu, HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI Blu, CUJO BLU, Linnea Quigley Triple Feature, TRUST Blu, HOLD YOUR BREATH Blu, IT’S IN THE BAG Blu, THE SEX THIEF Blu, TARZEENA: QUEEN OF KONG ISLAND, ARCADE and that should do it. Till then, keep it cool!