Hey folks, Harry here… Yes, I’m aware it is Saturday night – and not late Monday/early Tuesday when I usually post this column… But you see, in the morning I’m boarding a plane for Miami, where Yoko & I are treating Father Geek to his Birthday present – the TCM (Turner Classic Movie) Film Cruise. For the next 6 days or so – you won’t see me online. I will be on a boat with Debbie Reynolds (SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN) and Mickey Rooney(QUICKSAND)! Sally Ann Howes (CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG) and Norman Lloyd (SABOTEUR) and Arlene Dahl (JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH) with the TCM Hosts and a whole series of classic film screenings. I’ll keep a journal with me over the trip and will let y’all know what I thought of it all – but I couldn’t let it delay the column, so… I’ll just do it EARLY! Imagine the thought! Heh, anyway – as usual the images and titles link over to Amazon where you can learn more about the title in question and even have the option of purchasing it, which helps to keep the best efforts of this column. It is highly appreciated. Now – here ya go:
Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013
THE MEN WHO BUILT AMERICA Blu Ray
I sat down and watched this Blu Ray all at once. Which isn’t necessariy how it was meant to be seen. In fact – watching it straight though on the BluRay underlines the structural limitations of HISTORY CHANNEL’s work – because it is meant to not only have commercials, but is also meant to capture viewers that flip into the show in progress – they painfully repeat things over and over and over again. But that was fine, because it felt like a good teacher in school that stresses the key moments over and over again. This show is basically about how we as a people & civilization went from a Civil War to the modern miracle age we live in today. It shows the men behind such innovations as the TRAIN, STEEL, OIL, ELECTRICITY and THE AUTOMOBILE. Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan and Ford changed the world forever and directly led to The United States becoming the power it is in the world today. The big visual moments are beautiful – but really – I found the story of how each of these men needed one another to push and drive them forward. Great perspective on history here. Really dug it.
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN Blu Ray
Nominated for Best Documentary-Feature Length in this year’s Academy Awards – it’s easy to see why. A tremendous documentary about a pair of South Africans that seek to discover what happened to Rodriguez, a mysterious 70’s rocker that all but disappeared after his debut album didn’t take off. Decades later – from around the world comes a quest for the truth that will make you LOVE this movie. One of the very few films to garner a 100% rating from ROTTEN TOMATOES – and it really is that good. It’s one of those stories about how art… will find a way. Decades after the recordings, Rodriguez had become a legend in South Africa… but he had no idea. Kind of reminds me of WINNEBAGO MAN, just not hysterical. It will give you hope.
END OF WATCH Blu Ray
David Ayer made a fantastic film with END OF WATCH, but it is one that I won’t be revisiting over and over… mainly because, it’s a really harsh story. It also reaffirms my belief that being a police officer in the Los Angeles area must be the most insane job choice in the planet. Why would you do that? Sure, this is a movie – and surely no pair of officers would ever have that kind of tour of duty… but ya know, it’s probably accurate. Whatever it is, it is disturbing. Gyllenhaal and Pena are partners on the beat in a low income area of Los Angeles. They are dealing with everything from gangs and drug busts to human trafficking and ritual murder. There are doors in this world that you never want to walk into. These two go through several of them. The only problem is you know someone is going to die and as I watched this the first time – anytime it ever got good for either of these two, I was convinced they were dying in the next scene. Which is why Ayers is so great at ramping up the tension in this thing. Brutal film, personally I liked it more than TRAINING DAY.
THE QUIET MAN Blu
Gorgeous Blu Ray transfer off of a 4K digital scan of the original negative – and wow you can tell! That’s important for this film, as it did win the Oscar for Best Cinematography along with Best Director for John Ford. I’ve seen QUIET MAN pretty much my entire life. I love the story of John Wayne’s Boxer with a dark, yet triumphant history – who returns to the village that his family was brought up… in Ireland. This is THE film that I love Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in – and I love Victor McLaglen as Maureen’s older brother. The fight between Wayne and McLaglen is a legendary fight in cinematic history – directly influencing the great John Carpenter in THEY LIVE. I also love Barry Fitzgerald and Ward Bond in this flick. One of the classics of all time!
Ya know, any movie that features Nicole Kidman pissing on Zac Efron is alright in my book. That PRECIOUS director Lee Daniels has returned with a film about a man on Death Row, played by John Cusack, whose case is being re-examined, as death row cases often are… He has a sweetie on the outside who is crazily sexed up for her prison man, the ‘masturbation’ sequence kind of has to be seen. But with great performances out of Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelow, Macy Gray and Zac Efron, THE PAPERBOY is perhaps the best film to watch alongside William Friedkin’s KILLER JOE – it’s that kind of seedy pulpy page turner – and a good McConaughey double bill!
TAI CHI ZERO
You see that cover? Look at the ferocious badassery that it evokes in you. Now, realize you’re not going to see that in this movie. Not really. This film is essentially all about training that character to be an amazing badass – he was born with a special martial arts abiity – but in learning TAI CHI special badass kung fu – he could become something amazing. There’s a bit of steampunk to this, but again, it feels restrained. I didn’t find this film entirely satisfying, but then when I first saw it, I didn’t know it was going to be a 2 parter, so when the end came, I was a tad pissed off. ALSO – I’d hold off on this Blu Ray purchase – as I’m holding out fot he 3D Blu Ray release which will come at some point. My opinion on this film may change once I see the whole story, but as a first half – I’m a bit of a wavy hand on it. Ya know… so-so. I just wish the movie was more like the box art. You know that feeling?
DEATH RACE 3: INFERNO
Dreadfully noisy nonsense that continues to grate my mind. DEATH RACE is about the easiest property in the world to get right in my mind. That’s why I continue to just be flabbergasted at the wanton stupidity put on display in this really dreadful Grade Z money grab. What hurts – is the amount of genre actors that I like that are just given nothing to really do. A total lack of action mechanics – the race itself is beyond stupid. I know they spent some money on this… I just don’t understand why. Bartel made the original for a fraction of this – and it was soooooo much better. The cars aren’t even cool.
FOR A GOOD TIME CALL
Here’s a film about how a conservative boring girl who is told by her long time boyfriend that he’s going to Europe for a few months and wants to take a relationship break because she’s too predictable. So suddenly she needs a new place to live – and she ends up with a girl that spilled piss in her face once. Who happens to moonlight as a Sex Phone Operator. With her business acumen, they start their own service and she becomes less ordinary. Along the way, you’ll hear cute girls saying all manners of outlandish things – and with Justin Long as the Gay Friend… well it’s all just so sweet. It’s funny, but I wouldn’t call it great or even close to that. It is a fun watch though, total rental, non-purchase.
THE SEVEN-PER-CENT SOLUTION Blu
Ya know – as I was watching this Blu Ray – the thought hit me… Is Sherlock Holmes the best consistently adapted screen character in history? I mean, not only are there 254 Sherlock Holmes adaptations – but most of them that I’ve seen have been pretty outstanding. This one is built upon a brilliant script by Nicholas Meyer (TIME AFTER TIME & STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN) and features Merlin (Nicol Williamson) as Sherlock Holmes and Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) as Dr Watson. The film goes into Sherlock’s cocaine habit and even has the great detective on Sigmund Freud’s couch – and Alan Arkin is Freud! And how can you not love Laurence Olivier’s Moriarty? Some call this the best Sherlock Holmes movie ever made – and it is right up there. I love a lot of Sherlock Holmes films and feel no need to rank them. As I’ve room in my heart for all of them. If you love Sherlock Holmes, but have never seen this… you’re in for one of the rare treats in life. Curl up in your favorite smoking jacket or bathrobe. Slip on the slippers and enjoy!
DEADLY BLESSING Blu
Wes Craven directed this awesomely bearded Ernest Borgnine scary movie! You also get 1981 era Sharon Stone. The less you know about the film the better… it involves religious cults and cultish behavior and ALSO HAS MICHAEL BERRYMAN!!! SO ya know – you have to see Wes Craven’s Borgnine genre flick. Now that it has hit Blu Ray – let’s begin the countdown to remake status. Now don’t mistake this film as being washed out… that is the look of the film. Not an issue with the transfer. Also – the Blu-ray is loaded with extras like a Commentary with Wes Craven, a new interview with Michael Berryman and Susan Buckner – and an interview with the Creature effects guru, John Naulin – AND then there’s the screenwriter feature. I love it when genre films get this sort of treatment on Blu Ray – when the big studios rarely give their classics an ounce of this level of care.
IVAN’S CHILDHOOD Criterion Blu
Criterion releases the brilliant IVAN’S CHILDHOOD by Andrei Tarkovsky – this is a stunner. A great double feature with TIN DRUM (play TIN DRUM second) if you want to see films that depict the affect of war upon a child. This one is even more avant garde, but the juxtaposing of pre-War memories with War-time reality of Military Intel & trench warfare on the Russian side of things. It’s fascinating to watch and just a great film. Here’s the Criterion extras:
High-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
Appreciation of filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and Ivan’s Childhood featuring Vida T. Johnson, coauthor of The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue
Interviews with cinematographer Vadim Yusov and actor Nikolai Burlyaev
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Dina Iordanova; “Between Two Films,” Tarkovsky’s essay on Ivan’s Childhood; and “Ivan’s Willow,” a poem by the director’s father, Arseny Tarkovsky
Ya know what my favorite thing is about doing this column? That I get to discover and fill the holes in my own classic film knowledge. Now I love Stanley Donen’s films as director, just hadn’t seen this one. As for Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman – I love them dearly from Hitchcock’s NOTORIOUS, but just never came across this, their only other collaboration. WHY DIDN’T THEY DO MORE?!?!? Both of their films feature some of the all time greatest complex romances that I’ve ever seen in film. NOTORIOUS – well, it’s really a terrifying romance. Here, Ingrid Bergman plays a fabulous actress who is depressed at being single. Her sister & husband show up unexpected at her place, thinking she was still out of town… They were going out that night to a dry work affair with a Economic Wizard who has to give a speech. Ingrid is settling in for the night smearing cold crème on her face – and turns around to discover CARY GRANT in her place. And he glows, the way Cary Grant does – and she’s instantly attracted and mortified that she has cold crème on her face. As the night goes on, she is enraptured by Cary Grant, because even though she is Ingrid Bergman… HE is CARY GRANT – and though he is talking economic speak – it’s all so charming coming out of him. They end up having an affair – as Cary Grant is married. I’m going to stop right there with the plot description, because INDISCREET has some wonderful misdirection that really had my stomach in knots. Why? Because I love these two and I want them to be happy together. But that’s not always the case with Stanely Donen films. I also love seeing Cary and Ingrid together – 12 years after their triumph in NOTORIOUS. Beautiful film – Ingrid in Technicolor is still one of life’s great pleasures.
I’m not real sure how I missed seeing TICKS in 1993, I find myself wondering if it ever even played in Austin. I make an effort to see all genre films – but TICKS is something I missed. Directed by Tony Randel, the director of HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II is an old school practical effects Ticksploitation flick starring a very adorable lil Seth Green and CARLTON as a switchblade wielding wannabe gang type who loves his dog. You know Carlton from FRESH PRINCE? Yeah, he has a switchblade in this. The movie is played straight, but every scene with CARLTON caused me to laugh. This has some great gross out gore and man – the giant Tick monster? AWESOME! Get this – but hold off watching it till THE NEST hits Blu Ray soon – then you can have a really great Bugsploitation night!
HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI Blu
If you have HARAKIRI on Criterion, the 1962 classic, then you know the kind of material we’re going to get into here, though this is not a remake, so much as a different exploration of that same ritualistic ending. Some Miike fans were disappointed in this brilliant Miike work, because it is not as dynamic as 13 SAMURAIS, but for me… Miike is becoming a very different kind of filmmaker – you can still feel who he is, but even better you see the filmmaker he’s stretching to become. I love this ride that Miike has been taking us on over the last decade and a half… This is a fantastic Samurai film – but don’t expect tons of battles – This film is evidence that we can never take our eyes off Miike!
I love CUJO, always have. I put this on to show Yoko the other night, but she went to bed after the initial CUJO attacks on Dee Wallace in the car. She refused to be scared because she knew the Doggy was Playing and not really trying to kill anybody… So she was dead set on not being scared. I hold that because she called it quits before we start getting into the child care issues of the film – which to me is the real TERROR of the film… well, let’s just say – I’ve not given up on CUJO and her. She will learn to fear the booze carrying mutt! The transfer on this reminded me just how beautiful this film is. Love the look , pacing and performances of CUJO. A great scary movie!
IT’S IN THE BAG Blu
When you hear the term, Screwball Comedy, this is pretty much exactly what they’re talking about. The cast is insane, headlined by Fred Allen as a Flea Circus owner that inherits a fortune, but John Carradine has better ideas and frames him for murder. The evidence that clears his name was sewn into one of a set of 12 chairs that he sold off and needs that chair back. Comedy ensues. But with a cast including Don Ameche, Rudy Vallee, Robert Benchley, William Bendix and Jack Benny… realize – it is going to rule. I especially love Sidney Toler as the popcorn munching detective (cuz usually he’s Charlie Chan!) Love when obscure titles like this hit Blu!
THE SEX THIEF Blu
Directed by Martin Campbell. Yes, that Martin Campbell. The guy that directed CASINO ROYALE and GOLDENEYE and… well you know Martin Campbell’s filmography – but have you seen THE SEX THIEF? It isn’t actually that bad, in fact it is kinda funny. But this is also a British Sex Farce and you have to have a particular taste for that sort of thing. Typically, I’m not a fan of the sub-genre, but this one kinda works. I like that the titular character writes trashy novels and steals jewels as a masked bandit at night. Martin Campbell has come a long way, I’d love to see him remake this at the level he is today.
TARZEENA: QUEEN OF KONG ISLAND
Directed by Fred Olen Ray – and titled TARZEENA: QUEEN OF KONG ISLAND. I haven’t seen the film, but it has KONG in the title, which means I have hit the order button at Amazon on this one. I know this movie will cause my brain to bleed. That’s alright. It toughens the brain against all manners of abuse. I’m hoping for the worst.
With a screenplay by David Goyer & a story by Charles Band and directed by Albert Pyun… how could you go wrong? Then you got Seth Green at the same age as he was in TICKS! – but you also have Q (John de Lancie) and Peter Billingsley 10 years older than he was in A CHRISTMAS STORY! And Megan Ward is hot. Early terrible CG – and a Video Game scifi plot. It isn’t great, obviously – but it is distracting enough – and well, we need better video game sci fi movies… like READY PLAYER ONE – I suppose that ENDER’S GAME might turn this trend around. Right?
I’ll be back from my trip in time to get next week’s column out, where we’ll be looking at Season 3 of DOWNTON ABBEY, Part 2 of the animated DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3D Blu, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, COLD LIGHT OF DAY, DIE HARD: 25th Anniversary Collection, THE DUELLISTS Blu, THE AWAKENING, CAST A LONG SHADOW, CITADEL, WHITE ZOMBIE Blu, ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE Blu, FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR Blu, THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE Blu, TALES OF THE NIGHT Blu, THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS