Hey folks, Harry here… this was one of the most fun lists to view in a really really long time. Lots of fun horror listings, some 3D titles and great films. It’s weeks like this were I really get energized by all of the crazy cool flicks we have to see. As usual, the images and links take you over to Amazon where you can learn more on a title or if you fancy, you can pick it up. By purchasing through the link, a small portion of the price goes to help continue the best efforts of this column. Also, I'd like to continue to urge you folks to check out the iPhone Picks And Peeks App! I love getting the columns that way! Now, let’s get to it – there’s a ton of fun stuff to watch!!!
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
2nd Season of GAME OF THRONES Blu Ray
Absolutely love it. I really liked the first season, but flat out love the second. I’m fascinated to see where we head in Season Three and I’m completely charged for it, which this second season blu ray did in spades. Those final shots… chilling. What comes next? I know there’s a lot of you that wait for the Blu Rays for some of the HBO shows as you can’t afford to subscribe… All I’ll say further is that if you fell gob smacked in love with Season 1, that was nothing. Strange fucking shit is afoot. You’ll see the weirdest damn birth scene you’ve seen in your life. But the most lasting effect this season will give you is a desire for the next season. It is on the verge, it is so close. I can not wait!
ARGO on Blu
In all likelihood, the winner of a whole shit ton of Oscars this year… well it is very likely going to ARGO. Or maybe not. Perhaps all the Guild love is because everyone is really pissed Ben didn’t get nominated for Director – so ARGO gets everything but the Oscars… but don’t count on it. I know I haven’t posted my best of list, the reason was because there were a few films that I felt I really had to see before I could give justice to 2012. I’ve seen those now, so hopefully I can write it up this week. That being said, ARGO is on that list. It is a tremendous film. Feels completely authentic, revealed some Hollywood history that the town didn’t necessarily know… but the general message of the movies is that they can help make a better world – like when Hollywood saved all those people. Obviously there’s a ton more to it than that, but ARGO is a film that happens to kick a lot of ass, that makes the film world feel great and Ben really did knock it out of the park. For me, it became one of the great spy films made, the second I saw it. The Blu Ray has interviews with EVERYBODY involved in the real story, if they’re alive. It really is quite an impressive presentation. I love this reinvention of Ben Affleck. It really suits him!
TOP GUN 3D
Flat out fucking incredible. TOP GUN is on the surface level, a film not to do this 3D Conversion process with… at least to my way of thinking. It’s a heavy filter and grain movie. Absolutely not cleanly and evenly lit like most 3D movies we see. But the team that went to work on TOP GUN, they were given the time, budget and had the talent to really make this thing incredible. As the film begins, those initial super heavy filtered and very heavy grain scenes might make you wince and go, “OH!” – but just watch… All of a sudden the movie just instantly feels AMAZING. Not only is the 3D extraordinarily well done… it’s Kelly McGillis’ hair that really amazes me in 3D. I just know some pore compositor had the dickens of a time making it work. Lots of folks instantly think about the Volley Ball scene as a 3D highlight and it really is incredible out there. But my fave shot. I’ve always loved the scene with Cruise on the motorcycle on the Runway with all those lights blinking as he races off. In 3D – that shot just fucking rocked. It always rocked, but the dimension combined with the lighting… it’s really amazing to see Tony Scott’s stunning cinematic landscape given this kind of treatment. I watched it mere moments after I opened the mail package with the 3D Blu Ray. Then later that night Monte Cristo came over to discuss some AICwHK planning – and at the end, I had to show him that this wasn’t a terrible idea. He was really fucking impressed by it. If you’re a 3D enthusiast, add this to the library. It’s only $19.99. JURASSIC PARK 3D looks like it’ll set ya back $45 when it hits the format.
ANNA KARENINA Blu Ray
Joe Wright teams up with Keira Knightley again – and this times he gets a bit experimental with his cinematic devices and for a while, I found it a bit cute, calling more attention to technique than to the story, which I was really absorbed by. Sure, this isn’t my first introduction to the material, but I stuck with it – and eventually the film just swept me away. The production design and the story telling techniques really reminded me of the kabuki theater tricks that were employed in THE BALLAD OF NARAYAMA that I reviewed a week or two back. I think having that film in my head when I rewatched the movie for this column… it made me enjoy it better. It informed the techniques and tricks and I didn’t mind them so much. The film is nominated for 4 awards. I wish it the best of luck.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: BLOOD & CHROME
So Luke Pasqualino is playing a young Edward James Olmos aka William Adama on his first mission out of training. There’s a part of me that liked the audacity of that kind of story telling. It’s like trying to make a story about a young Darth Vader. What young kid could possibly measure up to the grizzled awesome of Edward James? Luke Pasqualino is awfully handsome, but pretty much a hot shot bad ass. He’s cocky, instinctual and one helluva pilot. The mission takes him into very hairy scary situations outside of his comfort zone and gives him some early well earned worst case scenario experience. Frankly, I thought it was pretty darn cool and I’m not known as being a super hard core fan. I like the revamp of Galactica, but as a child of the seventies – I love that old show. Can’t help it, it infected my geek DNA. That said, the few reprises of the old theme in this made me happy. There’s a part of me that’s really surprised that UNIVERSAL is still reducing Galactica to Straight to Video when the fan base and the scope of the story is perfect for an A-level science fiction film franchise. There’s so much that can be done with Galactica on the big screen.
MONSTERS, INC. 3D
My favorite effect in MONSTERS INC 3D has to do with the dimensionality of the opened DOORS on the Scare Floors in the film. It really does add a level of “WOW” to a film so stuffed with the word already. I’m really looking forward to MONSTER UNIVERSITY, but MONSTERS, INC. is such a beautiful and complete story between Boo and Kitty. As I’m watching it, it feels like my favorite Pixar film, until I start thinking of some of the other titles and then I’m all confused again… but happy to have so much happy to choose from. If you’re thinking of picking this up for your family, let me go ahead and plug the MONSTER SQUAD Blu Ray also on this list. They’d go so well together! Specially for the monster lovers at your house!
The first time I saw the film, it didn’t get to me at all – and that frustrated me something fiercely. Not just because I’m friends with screenwriter C Robert Cargill, but because so many fellow film bloggers and horror enthusiasts were so much in love with it. When Massawyrm asked me what I thought after I saw it, I basically told him that I thought I’d built it up to much in my own mind, that I was fighting just watching the movie. Well, the other night Yoko and I put this on at the house and I had the experience with this film that I really wanted. It scared me. I always liked the writing and the performances. The first time I had issues with the ending, which cleared up completely upon second view. I watched this after watching the very fun horror flick NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2 and really liked the mix. That film is very 90s and very… well I’ll talk about it in a bit, but SINISTER wants to eat its way inside your head, making you imagine finding this box of films. What that would do. Ultimately the film is a bit of a J-horror style curse thing, but very well done. Give it a shot and then listen to the commentary with Massawyrm. It is so soothing.
TERRORVISION / THE VIDEO DEAD Blu
Don’t get very excited about THE VIDEO DEAD, it’s alright, but the real winner here is TERRORVISION. If you like fun, quirky, psychotronic style horror, then you’ll love TERRORVISION. Gerrit Graham and Mary Woronov play swinging parents that have just hooked up a state of the art satellite dish in the 80s when an errant alien signal inadvertently teleports a “Hungry Beast” to their Italian Erotica Décor home… with kids and Grandpa in the rather racy décor. It is constantly funny. The film is manic, but in the best kitschy ways. Gerrit Graham needs to be cast in some modern day flicks, he’s too great not to use! He’s still out there folks! If you need a quirky fun or disturbing perform, go get him. Love the making of TERRORVISION on the Blu, especially the kid’s memories. So much fun – SHOUT! Rules for this one!
ON THE WATERFRONT Criterion Blu
The way my father introduced me to ON THE WATERFRONT the first time was to show me 4 or 5 films from the 30s and 40s. Good films. Some of the best films from their era, then he hit me with ON THE WATERFRONT, THE WILD ONE and STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. And I understood the acting revolution that Brando roared in on. He also showed me REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, EAST OF EDEN and GIANT around the same time. He really wanted to make me understand how acting changed. I would recommend the same for you, if you’re new to this – and I know there’s a lot of you that haven’t seen ON THE WATERFRONT yet. It is a tremendous film. The first film I had a part in had Rod Steiger in it. I was 17, just starting college and Dad was giving me my advance film history education when I wasn’t in college. So when Rod Steiger looked at me, sweaty & sunburned and in awe of him. He said, “If you get between me and that camera fat boy, I’ll shove this can so far up your ass you’ll be spitting out canned sardines for a week!” I felt like I’d just won an Academy Award. I mean, this was the guy that heard Brando say that he coulda been somebody. Elia Kazan might be one of the most hated men to ever direct a film for his political choices, his films are simply some of the best movies ever made. This being one of them. I won’t claim it as my favorite, simply because of the crazy love I have for FACE IN THE CROWD, but ON THE WATERFRONT – the film echoes in your mind after you watch it. Winner of 8 Academy Awards including Picture, Director and Actor – This is absolutely essential cinema. Watching this film you’ll learn things about Scorsese just by watching this. And not just because Marty is in the special features. There’s a great hour long doc on Kazan from 1982. Actually – there’s a TON of special features on this disc. But the real reason to score it is the 4k transfer and restoration. The film has never ever looked this perfect to me. Here’s the treats:
• New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• Alternate presentations of the feature restoration in two additional aspect ratios: 1.85:1 (widescreen) and 1.33:1 (full-screen)
• Alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition
• Commentary featuring authors Richard Schickel and Jeff Young
• New conversation between filmmaker Martin Scorsese and critic Kent Jones
• Elia Kazan: Outsider (1982), an hour-long documentary
• New documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with scholar Leo Braudy, critic David Thomson, and others
• New interview with actress Eva Marie Saint
• Interview with director Elia Kazan from 2001
• Contender, a 2001 documentary on the film’s most famous scene
• New interview with longshoreman Thomas Hanley, an actor in the film
• New interview with author James T. Fisher (On the Irish Waterfront) about the real-life people and places behind the film
• Visual essay on Leonard Bernstein’s score
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Almereyda and reprints of Kazan’s 1952 ad in the New York Times defending his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, one of the 1948 New York Sun articles by Malcolm Johnson on which the film was based, and a 1953 Commonweal piece by screenwriter Budd Schulberg
TERMINATOR Remastered Blu
Ok… I know you don’t want to buy TERMINATOR again, but the remastering they did is a significant improvement over the last Blu. This is apparently the same transfer as the Region B Blu Ray that came out, but is an upgrade for all us REGION A-ers. Otherwise it’s the same special features, which left you wanting higher resolution and better quality for years. However, if the film is what you love, it is worth the pick up. Especially if you’re doing HD Projection. So much better. As for THE TERMINATOR? Folks, seriously – it really doesn’t get better. I love T2, but THE TERMINATOR is the gritty better movie. The love story of Kyle and Sarah is the soul of the entire mythology. Without that traumatic love story – we’d never care about the rest. I’ve met and interacted with Michael Biehn a couple of times – and it’s this character that I always go back to in my mind. This is one of those Film Geek DNA movies.
EASTER PARADE Blu
Irving Berlin’s EASTER PARADE with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire is one of those wonderful classic movie musicals that demands seasonal rescreenings. When Ann Miller foolishly walks out on Fred Astaire, he boasts that he could turn any Chorus Girl into a star… so he picks the unlikely talent that nobody could possibly recognize… JUDY GARLAND – and with a bit of training… Astaire is Nostradamus! The Blu Ray really pays off for the awesome Easter Parade gets underway. Really beautiful, so much better than the DVD.
Michael Mann’s INSIDER was nominated for two fists of Academy Awards back in 1999 – for this telling of the battle between TV and Big Tobacco – as it went down on 60 Minutes. I have to say, I hadn’t revisited this film in a long while. Watching it last night, when Michael Gambon is pressuring Russell Crowe… for some weird reason I thought, “Dumbledore’s southern accent makes me giggle!” Other than that one thought, the film was still absolutely captivating. There was talk of comparing it to ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN when it came out… I can’t really go there with it. ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN never lets you go. This is a helluva film, but doesn’t touch that film for me. But then, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN is on my all time top ten. That said, INSIDER is chuck full of fantastic performances and suspense. It reeks of paranoia in the best way. The transfer is really solid too. However, watching this Blu Ray so close to ARGO, it made me feel that the film should have had a documentary on the real event and the differences between Hollywood and Reality. It would have been wonderful to have the 60 MINUTES’ Mike Wallace actually talking about the incident in history. That said, there is a little behind the scenes featurette, but nothing in depth for a film like this. Perhaps 2019.
Renny Harlin’s PRISON BLU
I never heard of this flick. I picked it up and realized, “HOLY SHIT! Renny Harlin’s 1st American Film!” and was quite excited to put it in. Now to put this in the perspective of Renny’s career, right after this was when he shot NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4, then DIE HARD 2 and then FORD FAIRLANE. So how is it? Well, I fucking loved it. It is a weird fucking prison film with ghostly demonic goings ons and it is so damn 80s. Young Viggo Mortensen stars and is quite great in the film. The film also features the man god known as Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, which means it earns an automatic 3 stars. I guarantee that you’re not really prepared for the fanciful gory side of this flick. There really should be more supernatural Prison stories. Good stuff here! I miss this very fun Renny Harlin. Proves he can do great things for little money. C’mon man, blow us away again.
UNDEFEATED Blu Ray
Won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2011 and is just now hitting Blu Ray. Kinda surprised they didn’t wait to release this in the fall when High School football gets under way. This is a highly inspirational and powerful documentary set in inner-city Memphis. Really beautiful storytelling. Sure football can give you a concussion. It can also do wonders. Great Doc!
THE THIEF OF BAGDAD Blu
Directed by Raoul Walsh in 1924 and starring Douglas Fairbanks, the original silent THIEF OF BAGDAD is a wonder. The film was remastered from original 35mm negatives along with the color tinting from the original release prints. The results are spectacular. The score by Carl Davis is pretty great, but the film itself and its production design is mind boggling for being nearly 90 years old. If you you’re your film history, then know that William Cameron Menzies did these sets and they’re worth the price of the disc all o n their own. They might not have had sound, but they had more than enough magic to withstand time.
BEST IN SHOW Blu
This film has done so much to combat my desire to really make my dog’s life miserable. Not that I’d ever want to do the shows, but there is that part of me that would love to dress poor Rosy up in all manners of embarrassing costumes. But having seen BEST IN SHOW… well it moderated my relationship with my pet. We only have long in-depth soul-searching conversations. Christopher Guest directed this magnificent feature that parodies our madness that some of us exhibit with our pets. We all know the levels of hilarity that that has the potential for… and oh boy does it live up. The Blu-Ray features a commentary with Guest and Eugene Levy along with about 30 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary. Really is a great release on the title.
THE NEST Blu
Do you love old fashioned Vaseline wiped practical monster effects that make no fucking sense as a biological entity? If you answer YES!!!!!! – then THE NEST is ready to infest your mind. The film is a ridiculously awesome film about flesh eating cockroaches… at least they don’t explode in flames like in William Castle’s BUG. As the film goes, it gets crazier and crazier – and I had a real blast with it. Like many genre films from the 80s, the blu ray is filled with features and you learn a lot about the making of this bit of insectsploitation. Just wait till you get to the last act though. SO INSANE!
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2 Blu
My fellow Hawaiian shirt loving friend Brian Trenchard-Smith directed NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2 – and the film has his lust for life clearly on display. I’d recommend this as the first film of a double feature ending with Peter Jackson’s DEAD ALIVE. Dead Alive has a priest that kicks ass for the lord, here we get a no nonsense nun that kicks Demon ass. It plays like a Buffy Episode that just didn’t give a shit and went way the hell over the top. By the time you’ve witness a brilliant demonic tit gag… you’ll get my meaning. If you love no CG horror – this one is meant for a fantastic night of fun.
THE MONSTER SQUAD Blu
If you love this movie and don’t have the wonderful extras packed 20th Anniversary Blu Ray from Lionsgate, that’s now out of print. You can still buy it on Amazon, but it’d set you back nearly $50. OLIVE has released this bare-bones edition for just $19.99. The print looks great, but that’s all you get. If you’re picking up MONSTER, INC. 3D – go ahead and pick this up for your kids. It is a great monster kid flick along with ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. Shame this doesn’t have any special features. Personally I’m still waiting for a version with a Quint commentary.
THE RUNNING MAN Blu
In 1987, this was a profound disappointment to me. Now, it feels like our 24 Hour News Cycle. I put this OLIVE release of THE RUNNING MAN, after the State of the Union the other night. That night CNN and most stations were following the ex-cop / killer’s fiery demise on for hours. After that, THE RUNNING MAN was superior entertainment, because it is satire. Our reality is so much more ridiculous. A fiery cabin in the snow covered woods, on repeat… over and over again. In a HUNGER GAMES addicted world – I could imagine a much better adaptation of Bachman’s story. Yes, for me, this is a film to remake, better. That said, they’d never top the one liners in this. Actually, this may be the funniest Schwarzenegger film ever made. Nostalgia has enhanced this film so much.
It is 1955 Moscow. A cultural brushfire took place around a group that developed a look and style all their own. Hipsters. This is a Russian musical, that shows these rebellious youths wearing brightly colored and patterned outfits and crazy hair styles… in the U.S.S.R. That this film was made in Russia and by Russians makes me so happy. It’s a film about a repressive period in their country’s history and yet they are dancing down the street from Red Square. Terrific. The scene at school during a Communist Party meeting is one of the most frightening musical numbers I’ve ever seen. So much is going on in that scene. Annette Kellerman and I fell madly in love with this film a couple weeks ago – and seriously – if you love awesome foreign cinema, if you love musicals and eclectic weird culture… You’ll love HIPSTERS. The film was absolutely exhilarating. DO NOT MISS A CHANCE TO SEE IT!!!
LES MISERABLES (1958) Blu
It really is the best telling of LES MISERABLES on film. Jean Gabin’s Jean Valjean is fantastic. Not that Jackman’s isn’t. In fact it’s the best thing Jackman’s done this side of THE FOUNTAIN, but Gabin owns the role. I’d only ever seen this version on VHS, so the resolution difference was amazing to me. That said, this new one is gonna get a lot more play out of me simply because I fell madly in love with the music of the film and the spectacle. But this is a straight dramatic telling. In that realm it rules supreme.
William Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR Blu
Sir John Gielgud is Caesar, Charlton Heston is Mark Antony… but in particular – and against many’s opinion, it is Jason Robard’s Brutus that I fell in love with in this film. Perhaps it was only because Diana Rigg was playing his wife, Portia – and when she is killed and he is talking about it I imagined all the sadness of ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE in that sad Droopy face of his. Watching Richard Johnson’s Cassius or Robert Vaughn’s Servilius or Christopher Lee’s Artemidorus or Jill Bennett’s Calpurnia. Hell even Michael Gough has a part in this – along with Richard Chamberlain’s boyish faced Octavius. You know every line of dialogue, but I’d never seen it with this cast. My big experience with this on film was Brando’s. In some ways I prefer some of this… Though I’d be a helluvalot more afraid of James Mason’s Brutus than Robard’s. Though Robard’s has a quiet menace to it. He seems like a cornered dog that could do anything. Check it out. Olive did good with this.
INNOCENT BYSTANDERS Blu
I really dig the poster art for this film, I believe it’s by Jim Steranko, feels like his work to me. He did a few in the Seventies. This spy film stars Stanley Baker, who you may know from GUNS OF NAVARONE as the guy that lost his nerve, or as the great Lieutenant in ZULU or as the lead in SANDS OF THE KALAHARI. I’m a bit of a Stanley Baker fan – so seeing him in a spy film with Donald Pleasance was a real treat. Seriously. It’s a really solid Bond riff. Darker than the Bonds at this time, actually. Totally worth checking out.
BATH SALT ZOMBIES
I ordered it, but haven’t seen it yet. The title and the cover art suckered me in. I am always looking for funky no-budget jewels of bad taste and this looks to have a lot of that going for it. What the fuck, nothing ventured nothing gained.
A found footage flick about an old legendary hanging tree, that has taken the lives of lovers that could not go on without one another. There’s also something evil at play. OK – so let’s go into this one a bit. It has a bit of a low rating everywhere, but Yoko and I tend to enjoy these flicks. For me, this is a found footage film about some idiot folks that go to investigate an alleged curse or legendarily fucked up place – and instantly I want them to get it. I have no desire to go investigate the Supernatural legends. I have been adequately indoctrinated by cinema to just leave the fucking scary unknown alone. I mean, you’ve seen CURSE OF THE DEMON right? It’s a far far better film, but once you’ve seen a film like that, you have it cooking in your imagination for a life time. So in a British found footage film that doesn’t really show much, but that does have some scary shit at play… well, it scared my wife, which delighted me endlessly. SO – if you like to get silly with this kind of film, you might find some enjoyment in this. I did.
Next week we wrap up February with an extended BREAKING DAWN Part 1 and the Blu Release of BREAKING DAWN Part 2. We’ll also check out THE MASTER on Blu and SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D Blu, CHASING MAVERICKS, THE HUDSUCKER PROXY Blu, HOLY MOTORS Blu, JOSHUA TREE Blu, SANSHO THE BAILIFF Criterion Blu, GIRLS AGAINST BOYS Blu, ZOMBIE LAKE Blu Ray, SHE DEVIL Blu Ray, CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER Criterion Blu, LADY FOR A NIGHT Blu, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD DVD, DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID Blu, THE RED MENACE Blu and that’s about it!