36th PICKS & PEEKS of 2013: With SHARKNADO, Van Damme in a Hockey Rink, GHIBLI, Michael Shannon & Kathleen Turner as Domestic Killers! More!
Hey folks, Harry here with a very strong week of releases. I mean, damn, I wrote nearly 5000 words about this week’s releases. They’re that good – or conflicted actually. But just check it out for yourself. As usual, the images and links will take you to Amazon, where you can learn more on the title in question, or if you choose, you can pick it up and a bit of that purchase price goes to keep the best efforts of this column going. Oh – I totally talk about SHARKNADO!
Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES Blu Ray
I love a good fun zombie movie, and got to check this out at FANTASTIC FEST last year… if that title holds any meaning at all to you – then you’ll love the film, because it really is a story about a bunch of Cockneys handling the Zombie apocalypse. If that title holds no meaning… Imagine if the characters from LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS were dealing rough & tumble style with the Zombie hordes! Now, what you won’t be prepared for is the emotion, the laughs and the actual HOLY FUCK moments that will make you love the film. Alan Ford is simply tremendous here. I love that Pussy Galore aka Honor Blackman has a great role here too! Yeah, from GOLDFINGER! The cast is uniformly great, the zombie shenanigans are fun. If you enjoy the Zombie genre, this will be sweet nectar!
MARNIE Blu Ray
I was looking forward to checking the Blu Ray of MARNIE out, but I haven’t received one prior to release, so I can only report on what I’ve heard. There’s massive inconsistent grain issues – unnaturally so. My memory of MARNIE only comes from DVD, never seen the film on 35mm, so I do not know if this is unnatural to the film. But what would make me buy this film instantly even if the print is shit is the near hour long “The Trouble with MARNIE” doc on here. I thrive on Hitchcock stories and behind the scenes and an hour on MARNIE sounds just nifty. Originally Grace Kelly was who Hitchcock wanted – but the dark character scared Grace and Paramount… those stories I want to hear. And the idea of a Grace Kelly/Sean Connery Hitchcock flick is a bit of cinematic cock tease, that’ll never be sated – and I’ve never been bitter about that because I love Tippi Hedren! She brings a genuine menace to the part that I can’t imagine Grace capturing, but man… what if she had! Wow. Still, young Sean Connery and Alfred Hitchcock makes this a buy in my world. But warning, image quality is apparently a bit lacking according to reports.
NOW YOU SEE ME Blu Ray
Alright, I had a blast with this… until the wrap up, which unfortunately unspooled all over my living room with me calling bullshit! So, of course – I’m gonna watch this film with friends and see if we end up in agreement or on opposite sides. Seriously though, I enjoyed everything up until the cell scene. Then I was just not satisfied with the resolution. I didn’t need or want that twist. In fact, I would have much preferred a reveal of a character that entirely new. I felt it was a mighty fuck you to the audience, but I kinda love that sometimes. You know, like in HAUTE TENSION? But there, it was so fucking awesomely absurdly insane… that I admired the audacity of what it was doing. Here… I just was disappointed, as there’s nothing like a film that shits its pants at the end. Ya know? Louis Leterrier’s direction is a whole lot of fun, he plays this cast wonderfully – and they’re all fun as can be as magical terrorist/good deed doers – and I love the premise and about 90% of the execution. But I loathe the end. Yeah. Still a keeper though.
FROM UP ON POPPY HILL Blu Ray
Beautifully animated by the wizards at Studio Ghibli and directed by Goro Miyazaki from Hayao Miyazaki’s screenplay – this film is a dream. But I need to definitely watch this in the original Japanese. It automatically plays English, and with the cast of voices assembled I figured I would give it a go. Completely takes me out of this VERY Japanese story – and it is a BEAUTIFUL story, the music… so great, the animation… transcendent. It’s stunning. But watch the Japanese soundtrack with subtitles… It is a much better film than Goro’s TALES FROM EARTHSEA – which failed to connect at all with me. Ghibli fans as well as folks that love Japanese period stories should get a lot of joy out of this. Set in Post WWII Yokohama and takes place in that period of building optimism as Japan finally emerged to host the 1964 Olympics. It’s a great story, just see it in its original language. Kids can enjoy, but you’ll like it more!
THE LORDS OF SALEM Blu Ray
I hate that this film just misses with me. I like Rob Zombie – but when he’s great, there’s nothing like him. When it misses, I just feel disappointed. But it is crazy watchable. In the end, I just don’t think many are gonna love this. I love witchcraft stories, but this one just ceased to engage me frequently throughout it. But it has loads of great style. There’s also a lot of actors here that I just have an engaged fondness of over time. It doesn’t out and out blow, it just isn’t all that. Ya know, in some ways that’s less fun than a really bad or alright movie. That said, I really dig Sheri Moon Zombie in the film. Like what she does with her character, the execution just isn’t quite there on the story. It played at SXSW this year and the rumbles of YAWN are unfortunately verified. I really want Rob to just break out with something tremendous!
THE ICEMAN Blu Ray
You know… I just fucking love that this is a movie starring MICHAEL SHANNON, with a supporting cast made up of James Franco, Chris Evans, Winona Ryder and Ray Liotta. Michael Shannon is the scariest actor working today. He’s got batshit insanity in those eyes, along with all the other emotions – but there’s still that hair-trigger you know he has. SO – cast him as The Iceman, a serial killing hitman, that’s also a family man… Your Dad, Michael Shannon/Hitman/Serial Killer. YIKES! Seriously though, the film, based on the infamous exploits of Richard Kuklinski – a man arrested for more than 100 deaths. Winona Ryder just has trouble landing a normal guy – bet she misses Edward Scissorhands! Everyone is solid, but as usual, Michael Shannon is a notch above. Personally, I’d love to see him as THE PUNISHER – everyone that’s played the role seems to have left out the barbaric rage and focus that Michael Shannon would bring. I’m probably crazy. I really like the film, but make no mistake about it – this is no GOODFELLAS, but imagining this story and cast in Scorsese’s hands. You’re talking a classic. Here, you just have a really good movie.
SHARKNADO Blu Ray
This was actually the last review I wrote in this week’s column, as I just now got to watch it. Words fail me. SHARKNADO is a very worthy meme – like THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE – there are sometimes film stories that transcend all logic and exist on the level of pure spectacle. It doesn’t matter that it’s impossible bullshit, it’s just more Michael Bay than Michael Bay – only everything would’ve looked better. In fact, Hollywood needs to do a GIANT BUDGET Sharknado with Michael Bay – and have it be Hard R rated. This could be biggest Bay yet! Though – it doesn’t need to happen, this muscularly bad movie isn’t bad, it’s captivating. I couldn’t wait to see what absurd way of stopping these Sharknados from… you know, consuming the planet Earth, starting with Los Angeles. Every country should be allowed to make their own SHARKNADO destroying their most consumable city. It’s the very best thing that Tara Reid and Ian Ziering have ever done and this flick is crazy fun!
Movies 4 You – Sci-Fi Classics ( THE MAN FROM PLANET X, BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER, THE TIME TRAVELERS, THE ANGRY RED PLANET) DVD
1st: you get all 4 titles for $5. Flat out, that’s a steal. Let me tell you why.
THE MAN FROM PLANET X came out earlier in the year that Robert Wise’s classic THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL came out. Some folks like to call THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL the first great fifties science fiction film, but I have to point directly at THE MAN FROM PLANET X. First off, this is directed by Edgar Ulmer – and he doesn’t get the credit that Robert Wise got, but a quick look at his filmography reveals some classics like THE BLACK CAT (1934), BLUEBEARD (1944), DETOUR (1945) and one of the great Noirs, one that Richard Linklater loved so much he named his production company after it! CLUB HAVANA is great, but then when he hit the Fifties he discovered Sci-Fi with THE MAN FROM PLANET X – and all the posters, all the promo for the film was about a menacing evil alien… BUT THIS FILM IS FAR MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT! Also – if you’re a kid from the Seventies – and you remember those Colorform Aliens… The Man From Planet X alien was totally one of them! I’m really quite fond of this film. Which produced a fifties comic book that collector’s have a tough time acquiring. But it’s a lean solid 70min of early sci-fi
BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER came out in 1960, 9 years after Edgar Ulmer’s first foray into Sci-Fi – here, the production values can’t quite live up to the imagination they’re attempting, still… Edgar Ulmer, who designed the sets for such greats of silent cinema like THE GOLEM, SIEGFRIED, METROPOLIS, SUNRISE, SPIES and M – expresses the hint of the fantastic with basic materials. His imagination was soaring with some of this… Suppress your modern cynical approach and imagine a time when this stuff boggled the mind, just by the subject matter alone.
THE TIME TRAVELERS is a must own as it contains the first cinematic appearance of Forrest J Ackerman, founder of FAMOUS MONSTERS, but beyond that… This is a Time Travel story where scientist build a portal and travel to 2071, which is a post apocalyptic hell with unthinking savage mutants (think Zombies) and this group makes this completely unwise Time Trip, of course something goes wrong with the portal and they have quite the adventure. Prime Re-Make material. I dig the idea more than the execution! Director Ib Melchior is an interesting SciFi creator – as he also directed THE ANGRY RED PLANET, but wrote REPTILICUS, ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES and DEATH RACE 2000! So while this may not be a GREAT film, the story has it in it! This is a fun flick!
THE ANGRY RED PLANET, as I stated above is the other fun directorial effort by Ib Melchior, and I love it for the crazy ass bat spider creature. That’s a freaky fucking alien that’d keep my ass off of Mars! Sure – it doesn’t look real for an instant, but in these early sci-fi films, it’s more about the impression than the execution. I have this film in 16mm film and I’ve come to appreciate the process known as CINEMAGIC! It is when this film just defies expectations in a goofy manner. The film is fun, but hokey as hell.
EMPIRE STATE Blu Ray
This is a story about the biggest robbery in U.S. History. So that right there is the hook. Dwayne Johnson plays one of his most sedate characters to date. Liam Hemsworth gets a job at a Armored Car Depository. Yeah, I never thought about those, I just assumed the trucks went directly to some bank, not that the money sits in a building before it is taken wherever it is needed eventually. SO – this story is about a shit ton of money that was stolen, and never fully recovered. The problem? Like NEWTON BOYS, the film about the most successful Bank Robbers in U.S. History… there’s a degree of simplicity to how it is done. In fact, remarkably so. But realize, if you’re coming to this as a Rock fan, he’s got more of an extended cameo. The film is really in Liam Hemsworth and Michael Angarano’s hands. Liam’s best friend is the low life piece of shit played by Michael Angarano. His character is so fucking annoying, but by the end – you kind of have to think he did the best thing for their lives. Ultimately. Right? Just realize, this isn’t Dwayne Johnson’s movie – and it isn’t a hair on the ass of the great Armored Truck robbery flick, CRISS CROSS with Burt Lancaster! That’s WAY BETTER!
THE FUGITIVE (20th Anniversary Edition) Blu Ray
Seemingly the same exact transfer as the original Blu Ray – you have to ask yourself… is there a reason to double dip if you have that one? Well, it has all those extras, which frankly wasn’t much – other than the commentary between director Andrew Davis and Tommy Lee Jones… But here, you get a nearly 30 minute look back doc that has all the key talent coming together talking about, along with folks like Turan! Then they stick the 2000 pilot for a revamped FUGITIVE tv series with Tim Daly as Richard Kimble and Mykleti Williamson as Lt. Gerard. I’m not a fan of that. So, those are the differences. The look back is fun, but not truly essential unless you just are obsessive about the film. I love the movie, but would have much preferred a 1080p transfer of the original series Pilot!
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: The Movie Blu Ray
Most of you know that I absolutely love THIS ISLAND EARTH – without any of the MST3K silliness. Of course for basically everyone that have only ever seen this movie this way… it has essentially ruined all public screenings of the original film – as folks that love this can not seemingly resist calling out the choice lines from Mike and his cohorts. This film was introduced to me as being one of the outstanding color science fiction films of the 50’s. That said, yes, I watched this – and yeah I admit it, its funny, but if you’ve never seen the original THIS ISLAND EARTH – seek it out straight, then have fun with it with this. Allow your mind to be unpolluted and be amazed. Yes, the Metaluna Mutants do wear pants… WHY? Well you know what they say, the bigger the brain, the bigger the other head is. That’s why I assumed they wore pants, it had some strange alien genitalia… I mean, it makes a b-line at Faith Domergue for fairly obvious reasons! And I love Exeter’s tech. Plus, I’ve always suspected that Dennis Muren came from Exeter’s planet – which is why he could change film tech forever. MST3K fans will love this Blu, the making of, deleted scenes, the new Motion Picture Odyssey… it’s just all the silliness you fans love. Just, if you do see a screening of the original film, zip it up, the film can be appreciated another way.
Movies 4 You – More Sci-Fi Classics (THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN, REPTILICUS, THE NEANDERTHAL MAN, THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE )
For $5 – you’re again gonna be treated!
THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN – 1960 – directed by Edgar Ulmer from a screenplay by the man that wrote BILLY THE KID VS DRACULA, which if you love… you’ll probably dig this Atom Age INVISIBLE MAN crime story. Me, I’m sort of a sucker for this genre, unless CG comes into play, instead of the practical work, which to me is far more magical. I love seeing the Invisible Man gags done before digital erasing and manipulation made me know. Oh yeah, they CG’d it. The film isn’t great, but it is enjoyable.
REPTILICUS – Danish Giant Monster movie from 1961. Obviously a reaction to the TOHO films – and I would KILL to see this in the original Danish with subtitles, because this thing has a really terrible English dub, not that I think this is probably particularly brilliant in it’s original Danish format… BUT WHAT IF… I’ve seen this funky flick several times, because frankly, there were not nearly enough American films with Giant monsters that were big puppets terrorizing American cities. THEM is great! But often times they were photographic tricks with real animals or truly tremendous Harryhausen animation… But this felt Japanese, and I knew it wasn’t, but I also didn’t think it was American cuz the dubbing… NOT SO GREAT… comical even. But this is audaciously funky awesome effects, not exactly special… but very enjoyable. I could imagine some brilliant kid with a computer coming in here and digitally replacing the funky with mind-blowing – wow. But that would be evil. But curious. This is a jewel of a funky flick.
THE NEANDERTHAL MAN – This director did a ton of work in pre-Nazi Germany, but came over to the U.S. Ewald Andre Dupont’s first film I’m familiar with was the old Ronald Reagan team up with the Dead End Kids in HELL’S KITCHEN. Check out Leo Gorcey’s autobiography for some great Reagan stories. I’m dying to see his ATLANTIS, film which was just described as being a highly fictionalized. And what does that mean? Right? Ok, so THE NEANDERTHAL MAN – Remember that great 80’s flick ICEMAN starring John Lone as an amazing defrosted Neanderthal Man? That’s the best version of this story. Though not at all. Here, you have a scientist in a movie in the 1950’s obsessed with his theory of DEVOLUTION!!! He presents his theory to a meeting of scientist that just laugh him out of there, but he does give that denigrating mad scientist exit monologue – giggle. He turns his housemaid into a cavewoman – and his cat becomes a sabretooth tiger… giggle. SO OF COURSE the scientist injects himself – and the fun gets funner. And I do mean funner.
THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE – is just too outlandish not to love. It’s about a girl whose head is kept alive on essentially a platter, that makes friends with a closet monster and they team up to overthrow the mad scientist that made them. THE CONCEPT IS FUCKING BRILLIANT! I just love that people sat around and just made a movie like this. Everyone involved had to be cool. I mean, that’s the movie they made? GENIUS! I like to think that movies like this are completely responsible for people like my favorite directors – and I absolutely love them for it. THIS SHIT IS CRAZY! Director Joseph Green made a second film two years later in 1964, in Japanese about a young man having sex fantasies about naked ladies, vampires and a patient – all while being knocked out during a dentist appointment. AGAIN, that sounds brilliant! He made one other film in 1986 that sounds crazier than them all and has Sammy Davis Jr, Jackie Mason and some other 80s Vegas talent involved. But it all started with a head on a tray teaming up with a closet monster to overthrow the scientist that made them. Film found perfect simplicity here.
CREEPSHOW 2 Blu Ray
I love CREEPSHOW, but THE RAFT story from CREEPSHOW 2 – CONSTANTLY gave me nightmares as a kid a fourteen year old kid. The raft and the tank that the kids swim in, with the strange oil slick – Well, that raft in the middle, and size of that tank were on that Ranch and me and friends swam there throughout High School life – and when I dreamed, it would constantly replace my friends and I for the characters in that sequence – and I never woke up triumphant. Fuck that evil oil slick. Just fuck it. Nightmare juice! AND – THE HITCHHIKER is just great stuff! The Wooden Indian story is pure E.C. fun. That said, this isn’t a great release. Surely someone can get an original negative and do this up right. The print isn’t best, and like the prior version. I’d love for SHOUT! To do a GREAT release on this. It deserves it, rather than this featureless edition. SHOW CREEPSHOW 2 some love dammit!
ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE Blu Ray
Discovered this flick with my sister at Northcross Mall – and we laughed ourselves silly with this oddly classic Jim Carrey material. Wouldn’t you kill for a Terry Zwigoff (BAD SANTA) take on older modern day Jim Carrey? Whatever the case, I’d love to see what older, world weary Ace Ventura, who communicates with animals, what would the years of abuse do to him. FRANK MILLER”S ACE VENTURA. Sorry, being goofy. Print is great, the commentary is off the Laserdisc, and you get 3 of the animated TV show episodes… I would have loved Jim talking about this character from this point in his life. But overall, great release. Beautiful print.
ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS Blu Ray
RHINO. That pretty much sums up the genius of this sequel, which while not quite as consistent as the original, oh my god can this movie make you laugh. Like the original’s release this is a gorgeous transfer, but they totally crap out on the extras. Maybe in 2015, they’ll do a Deluxe 20th Anniversary edition. Jesus, that’s scary.
IDLE HANDS Blu Ray
This film, which is essentially a Teenage Stoner (Devon Sawa) suffering from ASH-possessed hand syndrome for a film. Only his friend is played by Seth Green, and until you’ve seen undead Seth Green joking… you just don’t know his brilliance. This is a hilarious juvenile genre comedy that plays to the stoner crowd and beyond. IDLE HANDS is a real good time. Director Rodman Flender did a great job on this, but after it’s lukewarm reception he went back to directing a ton of good TV, just as he had prior to this. Wish this had been more successful back in 1999.
IRON MAN 3 (Instant)
Yes, Today IRON MAN 3 hits Amazon’s Instant Video format – and I decided while working on the column tonight to chek it out – and I love the hell out of Shane Black’s IRON MAN 3. I really do. I’m going to work out to this again tomorrow at Rehab, it’s just too much fun, plus it runs 3 hours and 9 minutes in length! However, it stops at the end of IRON MAN 3’s 2 hour and 10 minute running time. I was hoping for extras, and perhaps those will pop in, as when the film is over it asks you if you’d like to resume, but nothing happens. I’m looking forward to checking out the 3D Blu Ray in 3 weeks, but I’m too much of a Marvel junkie to wait.
FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON Blu Ray
I love Mario Bava. And in this flick, I like to pretend the billionaire Industrialist George Stark, who has a swinging futuristic house on a beautiful island, well… I just can’t help but imagine that he’s some secret Uncle of Tony Stark – he’s invited this sooper-chemist, who philosophically doesn’t care about money or material things… along with some other sooper-rich types and babes. Gotta have babes on a swinging futuristic island. But something is totally astray here… people start dying, conniving and this comic book feeling tale gets sinister. Disc has an audio commentary on the disc by Bava fiend, Tim Lucas, who wrote the great MARIO BAVA: ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK, must own for any Bava fan. Plus trailers. The print is just outstanding
HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS Blu Ray
You ever gone on a Biker movie kick? You know, EASY RIDER & THE WILD ONE, but flicks like THE LOSERS, STONE, THE WILD ANGELS, THE SAVAGE SEVEN, THE GLORY STOMPERS, WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS, THE BLACK SIX or HELL’S BELLES. Well, you can’t not not have HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS! With Laszlo Kovacs lensing, a crazy young Jack Nicholson… Nicholson was actually hired for EASY RIDER because of this movie. HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS isn’t a full on exploitation movie, it sort of accepts the existence of the Hells Angels. Of which Nicholson plays “POET” a fella that becomes a newcomer with the Angels, who are led by the Fantastic Adam Roarke. Instead, you get Jack Nicholson joining the Hells Angels movie – getting indoctrinated and living that life. Just great on Blu! Which btw, comes with director Richard Rush’s commentary!!! Yes, the same Richard Rush behind the great SAVAGE SEVEN, FREEBIE AND THE BEAN, THE STUN MAN and yes, COLOR OF NIGHT! This is great on Blu!
HARD TARGET Blu Ray
I wish to the powers that be at Universal, that a great special edition of this be released with John Woo’s Director Cut as well as the 128 minute work print. It’s like night and day. Too bad it didn’t star Kurt Russell too. But as for this Blu Ray – nobody knows a thing about it yet. So, I assume it’s the really rather bleh theatrical cut, with probably nothing special. There’s a release of this title that would get my full recommendation – as there was a good movie here, before the butchering. Come on Universal, do the best thing with this title! It is an import, but there’s no details on it at all, other than it having 5 different dub tracks!!!
SERIAL MOM Blu Ray
This is a bit pricey, but SERIAL MOM by John Waters – with an amazing performance by Kathleen Turner as a sweet housewife, that’s… A SERIAL KILLER! Perfect double feature with THE ICEMAN, which you play before this, cuz nothing can quite follow it. Great Cult Movie Awesomery. John Waters gets it! This all region import Blu Ray is pretty much the best way to get this, I don’t see a domestic release on the docket for being issued. But I have to have this now!
SUDDEN DEATH Blu Ray
This All Region import has 8 dubbed tracks and is DIE HARD in the Pittsburgh Hockey Arena with Van Damme kicking ass. Personally, I dig the hell out of the film. But then I like most of Peter Hyams’ films. Plus any film with Powers Boothe is a film I’ll watch.
GOOD COMPANIONS DVD
An excellent musical from 1933 starring Sir John Gielgud and Edmund Gwenn (Santa Claus) – to tell a story of two groups of performers coming together to make a go of it – and they form a new group called THE GOOD COMPANIONS. It’s such a sweet musical. Though I prefer the one groups earlier name, THE DINKY DOOS that just screams awesome, right? This is a very theatrical film, but it completely works for the period. You don’t see this film shown very often – it’s worth a look!!
Next week I’ll be taking a look at STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS 3D Blu, FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY, PARADE’S END, MARATHON MAN Blu, TALENTED MR RIPLEY Blu, THE FLY Blu, JOY RIDE Blu, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD Criterion Blu, Tim Burton’s THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS 20th Anniversary Blu/3D/Etc, SLIVER Blu, JEEPERS CREEPERS 1&2, SNAKE EYES Blu, WAR WITCH, SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER/SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER Blu, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES Criterion Blu, THE BLACK WATERS OF ECHO’S POND Blu, AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL Blu, JENNIFER EIGHT Blu, THE DOLL SQUAD / MISSION: KILLFAST Blu, COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO / MAN FRIDAY DF Blu, DEATH FORCE / VAMPIRE HOOKERS, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE Blu, TWINS OF EVIL, MOTHER RILEY MEETS THE VAMPIRE, HORNY DIVER: TIGHT SHELLFISH and that’s a fine one to leave ya with. Keep it cool…
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