Hey folks, Harry here with the latest PICKS & PEEKS Column, the 37th of 2013! There’s a ton of great stuff this week – and if you enjoy the column, consider giving the App for iDevices as well as ANDROID devices a try at the buttons above! As usual the images and links take you to Amazon where you can learn more on a title or if you like, you can pick up the item, which gives a slight kickback to keep this column’s best efforts moving forward. Now – you gotta check out MARATHON MAN and SCANNERS II. So much fun!
Tuesday, September 10th, 2013
SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER / SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER Blu Ray
I had never seen the SCANNERS sequels. I figured, without Cronenberg, what was the point. But then when I think back… I don’t know if I actually ever came across these titles before. I love Cronenberg’s original SCANNERS – beyond the head popping experience, for years – it was the closest thing to an X-MEN comic on film. Mutant humans with crazy telepathic, telekinetic and pyrokinesis being manipulated by evil corporations and government secret agencies… Yeah. Love SCANNERS. SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER is very much taking most of the Cronenberg vibe out… but starts to turn the film even more comic book. The future vibe feels a bit turned up, but it is still retro as can be, as the first SCANNER incident takes place in a Video Arcade!!! This crazy ass Scanner does what every evil scanner would do and just takes over the Arcade!!! Great opening. The film is directly related to events from the first SCANNERS, but is done in a very fun way. Then SCANNERS III, while not being nearly as fun as SCANNERS II… well, it continues to play with what a scanner can do. I wasn’t expecting much out of these two sequels, but I have to say – they made for a most excellent movie night! The transfers are great!
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS 3D BLU-ray
Alright – PARAMOUNT has definitely nuked the fridge with this release of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. No matter which release you go for, you’re really not getting a great deal, cuz depending where you buy this disc from, you’ll be getting different extras, and in Australia and on iTunes you’ll get a commentary by the VFX guys, but you’ll not hear that on ANY Blu Release – and yes, this is absolutely the most grotesque attempt at trying to fleece their fandom. I would hope that PARAMOUNT would actually put together a great edition for the fans that would put all the features from all the versions and really great commentaries… Because really, the fans deserve that. Me, I’m getting this because – I like rayguns and I think the JJ-Trek phaser is pretty nifty – and why the hell not. I ordered it yesterday, so I’m hoping it will come soon. I’ve rewatched STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS via Amazon Instant for a few weeks now – and I’m really loving Cumberbatch’s performance as a Khan unlike any we’d seen before. He’s actually spent time studying Starfleet and implementing changes of his own to it’s technology, having studied all of the latest advances. This is what happens when Kirk & Spock aren’t the ones to come across Khan first. I also love Simon Pegg’s Scotty more and more in the series. He’s becoming the conscience of the crew which used to be McCoy’s role… But it is interesting upon Pegg’s Scotty. I really want at least another 5 adventures out of this crew, if not more. I hope it eventually becomes not unlike Bad Robot’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE series where they bring extraordinary talent in to continue to inject new life and vitality to the series. I can’t wait to check out the 3D Blu though. I’m gonna watch the hell out of this disc. BTW, I have lodged my complaints about this particular fiasco with the highest possible authorities upon this title. And have faith a truly great edition will one day be released. But, I’m not gonna hold my breath.
FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION Blu Ray
So officially – if you buy this 9 blu ray edition with a 10th Bonus DVD disc, you’ll have FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980), FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 in 3D (anaglyph, not the good 3D sadly), FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING, FRIDAY THE 13th PART VI: JASON LIVES, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN, JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY, JASON X, FREDDY VS JASON and FRIDAY THE 13TH 2009 version. You also get a Camp Crystal Lake embroidered Counselor Patch, which… if you have a really nasty matching scar, can go a long ways towards some awesome tall tales. Seven of these titles are new to Blu Ray – and I’ve sampled each print to get a quick look – and it seems the prints are going to be universally sweet. People complaining that this isn’t much of an upgrade, I dare to differ. Just having the complete set for the first time on Blu Ray is reason to celebrate. Having said that – They really should have a host of new Blu Ray extras materials, and it isn’t particularly special. I’ll be making my way through all of these this season. They really do need to get off their ass and do a super FRIDAY THE 13TH Set with the right 3D on that Part III – and uncut editions of Parts 2 and 7. But while you wait for that wet dream. This edition should hit the spot. Again, the Fans deserve better.
FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY Blu Ray
A bit of a mess, but a fun hot mess of a flick. If you want your crazy twisted machine/monsters in WWII – you’re gonna get your fill with FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY. A real practical effects show piece, but the film fails to really captivate. There’s a bit of throwing everything but the kitchen sink at tht screen going on here. Not a great film, I’d rather watch THE KEEP on Blu though that’s currently not possible. SAD FACE!
TALENTED MR RIPLEY Blu Ray
My personal favorite Patricia Highsmith film is Hitchcock’s STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, and Anthony Minghella’s TALENTED MR RIPLEY is an exquisite adaptation. The first was Rene Clement’s utterly terrific PURPLE NOON, which Criterion did a helluva release upon. The transfer on this is perfect! Damon is a perfect Mr. Ripley – and Minghella captures the story perfectly. You do get Minghella’s commentary and about 40 minutes of extra features. Including a nice one on Gabriel Yared and his amazing score for this film. One of my favorite Matt Damon flicks to date.
MARATHON MAN Blu Ray
Is it safe? Want a flat out great movie? If you’ve never seen MARATHON MAN, just buy it. Buy it and you’ll find yourself watching it often. The reason is quite simple. It is terrific. Suspense that will make you squirm. Squirm in your seat… the empathy that Dustin Hoffman generates with this film… Watching Laurence Olivier opposite Dustin Hoffman in this film… well… it’s amazing. The beginning of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS always struck me as being a callback to Hoffman’s jog in this. MARATHON MAN is one of the greatest paranoid thrillers – you watch this on a bill with 3 DAYS OF THE CONDOR and THE PARALLAX VIEW and BLOW OUT and you’re having yourself one of the greatest days of cinema you can ever have. This is also a great example of casting styles of actors – Olivier and Hoffman. It’s just such tremendous opposition of styles, intellect and performances. Hoffman is just a throbbing soul unleashed and Olivier is measured response and authority. And it is GENIUS! I also recommend this film as the second half of a double bill with BOYS FROM BRAZIL! Or a Triple feature with NOTORIOUS kicking it off! This is a great blu ray, the print has never looked or sound better – plus we have a very Robert Evans heavy original promo that’s over 20 minutes long – and great! There’s a REMEMBERING MARATHON MAN nearly 30 minute look back with Hoffman, Scheider, Goldman and Keller talking about the film in fantastic detail. But – the Rehearsal Footage is the really great stuff in my opinion. Roy Scheider and William Devane are also just fantastic in this film. If you love the movie you have to own it, if you don’t know it… take a leap and discover one of the best friggin movies you can discover. John Schlesinger made one helluva great film with this!
JOY RIDE Blu Ray
This is my favorite Paul Walker flick, mainly because I just have a massive love for the work of John Dahl, who embraces the aesthetics of Noir in his filmmaking with such love and affection. Here you have two brothers (Paul Walker & Steve Zahn) that are traveling the US road trip style and are pranking a trucker on their CB… to terrible ends. Really terrible. Heh. Which means intense fun movie-making! JOY RIDE is a helluva pulpy flick that is just beautiful on Blu.
THE FLY Blu Ray
This is a tremendous Blu Ray! First off, THE FLY – the original Vincent Price edition, is always so striking in its 2:35:1 cinemascope format – and then, the very psychotronic fx of the teleportation… it’s amazing. Cronenberg’s THE FLY is superior – if only because it elevates all the acting and the terror of the situation to a true grotesque place. Here… it’s more simplistic, yet… FOR EXAMPLE, the film begins with a GRUESOME MURDER – and is told in flashback. But what a flashback. It absolutely captures the dream of teleportation. In some ways, it’s more hideous because of our knowledge of Cronenberg’s. It is one of the classic Mad Scientist films – and a classic melodramatic telling of the tale. Plus, I kinda have a crush on Patricia Owens. She’s really doing her best. I absolutely love the documentary on the life of Vincent Price on here. I could seriously rewatch that feature and just smile. I had an hour long conversation with Vincent Price when I was in High School – and it was upon a Halloween night. Vincent was the most famous kindness shown me when I was a boy 30 miles from the nearest shithole Texas town…
SNAKE EYES Blu Ray
Brian DePalma’s RASHOMON with Nicolas Cage is kind of an operatic overindulgence, that I’m ok with. For one, it adds Carla Gugino to the well of DePalma Girls – which is a great addition. That over the tops of rooms shot still takes my breath away – and this Assassination thriller is just pulpy and fun. Not one of the great DePalmas, but a very interesting one. The Blu looks great and sounds great. Key on any DePalma disc. Paramount fucked us on the Extras though. Nothing but the Trailer!
THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD Criterion Blu Ray
I have found Richard Burton to be an acquired taste. I didn’t instantly like him as an actor. But once you’ve gotten a taste for Burton’s effortless arrogance, here as the brooding cynical penniless desperate double agent… he’s a marvel to behold. Adapted from John Le Carre’s great spy novel. The black and white just pops in this transfer, which is just exquisite. There’s a 40 minute interview with John Le Carre talking about this adaptation – which I found fascinating. There’s a 60 minute BBC profile on Carre. There’s a 50 minute Martin Ritt audio interview. And then DP Oswald Morris discusses sequences of the film. Set Designs and the Richard Burton 34 minute BBC interview is terrific. Criterion has done another great job with this title! A truly great spy film!
TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS – 20th Anniversary Edition Blu Ray 3D
I was not sent a review copy of this, but frankly – if you have a version of this on Blu Ray – that should be fine. I’d actually like for Disney to take another pass at the 3D on this, because it just isn’t up to the quality that the Post 3D process has reached now. All you need do is look at CORALINE then this and you’ll see what I’m talking about. I’d also love it if they 3D’d up CORPSE BRIDE and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH. There’s something amazing about Stop Motion animation being converted to 3D. If done right, it’ll be perfect. This isn’t. There also doesn’t seem to be any details that I can find on this disc, so I’m not sure if they’ve done ANYTHING for a 20th Anniversary.
SLIVER Blu Ray
This is just the film – and the transfer and sound work are both very solid on the disc, which is important because this push the boundaries erotic thriller features a very sexual Sharon Stone with the odd casting of William Baldwin and Tom Berenger… whom Stone just devours in the film. The movie is unbalanced due to her over the top sexuality. This is still not in Vilmos Zsigmond’s original 2.39:1… but a cropped 2:10:1. SO what the fuck Paramount? I want every inch of this flick. This was one of those Joe Eszterhas sexualized thrillers… a genre that I would really like to be active again. Park’s STOKER did it. But I want more of these films done well again. This isn’t a great one, but it’s better than JADE, but nowhere near as great as BASIC INSTINCT, but then – that extra oomph is Verhoeven!
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES Criterion Blu
Remade as THE BIRDCAGE, that film – while very entertaining, can’t really capture the sublime perfect hilarity of this original. This was a huge international comedy sensation upon its original release. But Criterion’s Blu Ray – well, it’s just so much better than the DVD resolution. I’ve never seen this film theatrically, so getting to watch this classic foreign comedy on Blu Ray at the 2K transfer that Criterion got… well, it’s striking! The audio, in particular Morricone’s score just is magnificent. It looks like a dream on Blu… a misty memory.
WAR WITCH DVD
This is one of those films, where you see it – and you just wish instantly that everyone everywhere was exposed to it. Nominated for Best Foreign Film this year, this story about a 12 year old is kidnapped and transformed into a life of militant warfare – and… well, this shit is happening. The film reminds me of films like TIN DRUM, in terms of the horror of youth in horrific times and places. WAR WITCH will simply never be seen by nearly enough folks. The idea of children adapting to and becoming brutally effective instruments of war… well… it’s horrifying. That there’s hope in this story is it’s most saving of graces. If you love bold and powerful filmmaking, take the risk on this. You will be amazed by the film!
THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE Blu Ray
I love my BLUE UNDERGROUND Blu Ray, this one is lighter – but I like my deeper shadows in the prior transfer. You will find an isolated 34 minute soundtrack that you can listen to, but it isn’t really a great version. However, the Blue Underground edition is now out of print and fetching LUDICROUS SUMS, however, completely worth it, cuz this is what you’re getting as a treading water release. Which is a shame, because THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE is my second favorite Dario Argento movie, after DEEP RED. It’s a tremendous Giallo. The print on this Blu Ray is ok, I just prefer the deeper colors of the Blue Underground transfer.
AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL Blu
This was made in 1972. Apparently it is just dreadful and has cardboard sharks. I’ve got to see it. I mean, I have to see this. Just look at that Box Art. Actors have been described as being good. I’ve got to see this. So yeah, it has been ordered. The director had apparently been a lifeguard and that’s significant to the film. I mean, what is this movie? I only suggest for those of you that are curious what a weird 1972 Israeli Hippie-sploitation film would look like. I mean.. the mind boggles.
28 DAYS LATER / 28 WEEKS LATER Blu-Ray
For $18 bucks you get two really fantastic running mad insane fast zombie movies. Which if you feel like extending into the universe of Paramount’s WORLD WAR Z… well it can work. Earlier this year getting to sit and chat with Danny Boyle – it was actually hard to remember this one. He’s had such an amazing career of films – that I felt ashamed for forgetting to ask him about this, as it really kickstarted the new fascination with the Zombie genre. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s sequel, 28 WEEKS LATER feels a bit like Peter Hyams’ 2010 to Kubricks 2001. Less subjective… more just straightforward – and still a damn fine film. I’d like a 28 MONTHS LATER. A good cheap way to get the double feature!
THE DOLL SQUAD / MISSION: KILLFAST Blu Ray
THE DOLL SQUAD is an awesome grindhouse flick that was later ripped off for CHARLIE’S ANGELS – Film was made in 1973 starring Michael Ansara and Francine York – and is a whole lot of fun! If you like babes with guns and gadgets, you’ll dig this trip of a flick. The second film on this Ted Mikels directorial double bill is MISSION: KILLFAST – which I know nothing about. But this disc is totally worth it for THE DOLL SQUAD alone. After all, any film with Tura Satana is a must own on Blu!
MOTHER RILEY MEETS THE VAMPIRE
Bela Lugosi plays a Robot wielding Vampire whose awesomely funky robot abducts Mother Riley, who was a character in a whole film series. Mother Riley was a Tyler Perry cross-dressing kind of mother – Lugosi seriously made this film to get passage back home in Los Angeles after a really terrible booking of Dracula on stage in London. The film is hokey, cheesey but a real hoot of a flick. I find it better than the Tyler Perry flicks, but that’s probably just because of Bela Lugosi, who makes everything better than most other things. It’s a very fun comedy – and the robot rocks!
Next week we’ll be looking at WORLD WAR Z Blu 3D, THE HOLLOW CROWN: THE COMPLETE SERIES, THE BLING RING, DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS Blu, DAY OF THE DEAD Blu Ray, TREMORS Blu, THE DEVIL BAT Blu, SLACKER Criterion Blu, LETTER TO THREE WIVES Blu, EASY RIDER: THE RIDE BACK, AUTUMN SONATA Criterion Blu, THE ATOMIC CITY Blu, THE LAST TYCOON Blu, FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH, ESCAPE FROM ZAHRAIN Blu, RIOT Blu, THE BEES dvd and that looks like all the honey for next week! Till then, keep it cool!