Hey folks, Harry here with the 42nd & 43rd Picks & Peeks columns of 2013! New York Comic Con took me away from the piles of Blus to pour through, but since getting back I’ve dove in and been swimming through the below cinema with an absolute feeling of delight. There’s some really great stuff below. As usual all the images and links take you to Amazon where you can learn more on a given title or if the bug hits you, you can purchase from Amazon which gives a little of the purchase price to help keep this column’s efforts going. Speaking of, that’s been 10 years now. A decade of releases all gathered on my app for i-Devices and Android ones too! Want that app? Of course you do, check it out here!!! Now – here’s the titles!!!
Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
THE HAUNTING Blu Ray
Everything you need to know about making a scary movie, you can observe by watching THE HAUNTING by Robert Wise, over and over again. It is a study on how to use sound, lighting, camera angles and wonderful acting. The script based upon Shirley Jackson’s exquisitely scary novel – The statues don’t have to turn, the characters just need to think they do to be scary. Julie Harris is just amazing as Nell. I’ve always loved Richard Johnson’s authorative Dr Markway, and ol Tom Thumb, Russ Tamblyn as the skeptic Luke Sanderson… he’s perfect. But Claire Boom’s Theo, wow. I know most serious horror fans love this film, if, perchance, you’ve yet to discover it. DO SO! Also love that it has Miss Moneypenny aboard. There’s a cobbled together Commentary using various interviews – but you should learn a lot from it. Wise is always a delight to listen to. Blu is the best way to see the beauty of the photography of this film. The set detail is just engrossing and a whole other character in the film. You’ll marvel how much scarier this film is than the Jan De Bont remake for Spielberg. Nothing beats THE HAUNTING! Hell, I even love the box art!
PACIFIC RIM Blu Ray 3D
Watching the 3D disc of PACIFIC RIM elevates the holy fuck wow factor of watching PACIFIC RIM by a nearly immeasurable level. When the effects have volume, they’re just amazing… like watch the glow of Knifehead’s mouth and other lit areas lighting a volume of the rain around them… then as the lights increase… it looks SO COOL in 3D. Ok, I’ve watched 3D disc about 5 times already and it’s the amazing attention to detail that has me stepping through every frame of the battles in 3D geeking out over the beauty of this film. I also love the characters and the world that Del Toro puts together here. I would love it if CHINA and RUSSIA financed nationalized versions of their Bots along with other PACIFIC RIM countries and do something like… Tell us about them years of Cherno-Alpha defending Mother Russia! I wanna see that shit! I sent Yoko out to pick up PACIFIC RIM in 3D, and she sent back pictures of empty displays at various places around Austin. I hope that’s happening everywhere else too. PACIFIC RIM fandom is growing. I saw it at NEW YORK COMIC CON with multiple Mako Mori cosplayers running around! Also, Guillermo’s preferred vision for the film now is the 3D version which he spent 40 weeks supervising! And it shows. Just fucking awesome to watch! There’s an hour of Focus Points, a classic Guillermo commentary, and a host of other features. I do wish that there’d been a 3D Conversion featurette with Guillermo talking about the Conversion process and what he discovered with it. But that’s just cuz I can’t get enough of the big guy gabbing!
UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES Blu Ray
The education of America over the last 30 years has gotten terrible. Nowhere more so than in the history books that children are being given… and many of those children are adults now and can’t seem to grasp the stakes of what’s going on in the world today. Well, fear not. Oliver Stone has a refreshing and infuriating dose of modern American history… WWII – Now – and don’t think he’s just going to reveal the scabs of Republicans’ bleeding of America, but he bangs on the Democrats too! He’s showing us exactly why this shit is going on. I find this, along with Stone’s book of the same title… Personally, I wish that everyone reading this site would just send the Blu to their Congressman or Congresswoman.
MANIAC Blu Ray
Franck Khalfoun, the director of this amazing remake of William Lustig’s original. What makes it amazing? The style, the vibe the film puts off and a flat out crrrrrrazy Elijah Wood. I’ve been friends with Elijah since THE FACULTY and this movie made the first 4 times I ran into him at FANTASTIC FEST feel creepy. What Elijah does in this film isn’t easy to scrape out of skull, but at the same time it delights me that Elijah has gotten so edgy that he can out creep Joe Spinell… That’s amazing. Can not wait to see what Khalfoun does next!
IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS Blu Ray
This has the old laserdisc commentary by Carpenter and his DP, Garry Kibbe… and the transfer and audio are great – but I love Carpenter’s playing with the Lovecraftian worlds. Working from Michael De Luca’s own Lovecraft loving script, Carpenter got Sam Neill to go full blown crazy in this – and its great. I didn’t always feel that way. Originally I was annoyed that we weren’t getting a pure Lovecraft adaptation. When I read his stories I can clearly see the ripe and deep wells of madness that would forever enrich the cinematic realms with new wonders of horror – things to really make you fear … well, everything. However, like most of Carpenter’s filmography, the films grow with every viewing. Turn out the lights, turn off the phones and go a little mad!
WEIRD SCIENCE Blu Ray
Hook up a Barbie to your vintage computer, put bras on your head and babble and you too could have Kelli LeBrock all for your very own? Sign me up. John Hughes clearly fucking understood us. The Oingo Boingo theme song? Bill Paxton… A GOD as Chet. The lines and scenes are classic in my nostalgic brain – and I have to say – watching the Blu… I was smiling like a jackass! Now it is true – I wish they went back and cleaned up the negative and did a proper shine job on the print, But that’s only gonna happen if this Blu sells well, so buy it and gift it. The world needs to understand that WEIRD SCIENCE is the most important film ever, right?
HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER Blu Ray
I love HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER… Eastwood feels like the embodiment of the spirit of vengeance. The location of the town upon Mono Lake in California gives the movie the odd otherworldly feel – when the town desperately hires Eastwood to protect them from an impending vengeful slaughter, he takes full advantage – horrible bastard like activity. The film looks GORGEOUS on Blu. This and PALE RIDER are spiritual brothers for me. Though this one is more insane, by a lot.
THE COLONY Blu Ray
Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton – in the Frozen Apocalypse. Mankind has these bunkers of humanity – where life is slowly falling apart. The frozen world has roving gangs of cannibals that have been eating folks – and then there’s just getting sick. It’s pretty much the worst thing ever – to be trying to live through. There is hope for humanity though – but I’ll let you discover that in your own fashion. It’s kinda cool too! Paxton is really great here! This is a low budget affair, but one that never shows it’s limitations. This is pretty darn cool.
SLAP SHOT Blu Ray
I have yet to see this Blu Ray, but I probably don’t need to tell you just how great SLAP SHOT is, do I? Well, it’s directed by George Roy Hill and stars Paul Newman and Strother Martin in a crazy fucking fun Hockey comedy… but the gods of the film are the mighty Hanson Brothers – they are a force of freak nature unleashed upon the screen. This is a classic comedy now. So put on the foil and call the pizza man!
DEFIANCE: Season One Blu Ray
Post-Alien Contact St. Louis has been terraformed and is now called DEFIANCE, a rough and tumble town made of various alien races – all distrusting one another and all seemingly out to kill one another. Pretty damn cool sci-fi show. Weird and trippy – but it is totally a Western. They’re even sending prisoners to YUMA! I love it. Good series. Just have one more disc to complete the first season and I'm barrelling through them!
THE EAGLE HAS LANDED Blu Ray
John Sturges (GREAT ESCAPE & MAGNIFICENT SEVEN) helms a film about a Nazi plan to kill Winston Churchill! Sutherland plays an Irish co-conspirator who would also like to see Churchill dead – and he’s a marvel to behold in this film. Watching him seduce Jenny Agutter is so creepy & erotic. Michael Caine is sent by Robert Duvall to knock off Churchill and it’s a wonderful scheme. SHOUT! Did a great release on this with a look back on the film, Tom Mankiewicz recalling things, and much more. I found this film to be wonderful to take in – gorgeous to behold and overall… SHOCKING! ABSOLUTELY SHOCKING!
DRUG WAR Blu Ray
Do you respect Johnnie To the director? You should, he’s been making absolutely terrific films for years and DRUG WAR is an extremely great return to form for To! When the first hour is over – you’ll be tense, the film gets you caught up in the anticipatory conflict you feel coming, then at the turn of the hour… fans and shit will collide. Seriously all the shit hits all the fans… it’s everywhere. To knows his action so well and you’re gonna love this stuff. Check this out!
EYES WITHOUT A FACE Criterion Blu Ray
You want a horror film to just give you the wicked heebie jeebies? EYES WITHOUT A FACE is just… BRUTAL! And BEAUTIFUL! I know that’s two B words that don’t often belong together, but director Georges Franju effortlessly combines the obscene and the poetry of cinema together. Daddy should never attempt plastic surgery on their own deformed daughter. If you love your horror on the edge, stylistically and in terms of grotesquery… you won’t find many to rival EYES WITHOUT A FACE! There’s an audio interview with
THE STRANGER Kino Blu Ray
I love this film. Orson Welles’ THE STRANGER is a film about a Nazi War Criminal that had set down roots as a professor in Connecticut. Loretta Young is dumb enough to marry the Nazi – and when Nazi Hunter Edward G Robinson shows up she suspects the worst – and is right. Welles is EVIL! Kino’s print of THE STRANGER is the very best this film has looked by far! The clocktower stuff is amongst Guillermo Del Toro’s favorite film scenes – playing to his sensibilities. It’s really great. Came out the same year as the similarly themed SHADOW OF A DOUBT. Me, I love em both! Also on KINO’s disc is DEATH MILLS a twenty-one minute film produced by Billy Wilder in 1945 to show to the German people to make them aware of what the Nazis did. It’s amazing. There’s also some of Welles WWII era Radio Broadcasts that are outstanding. Great Blu of a great film!
WITCHBOARD 2: DEVIL’S DOORWAY Blu Ray
I’m way too superstitious to ever play with OUIJI BOARDS – and WITCHBOARD 2, in it’s silly little way absolutely convinced me to stay true to my rule to continue to avoid the evil fuckers. This is definitely campy horror fun – and a good party horror flick. Just don’t do it with the board… or you may be sooooorrrry!
THE HITCH-HIKER Kino Blu Ray
Ida Lupino was a helluva lady and a helluva director. THE HITCH-HIKER, made in 1953, is a true crime story about a hitch-hiking serial killer. Kino’s done a beautiful job on this transfer. Two friends, Edmond O’Brien (D.O.A. & WHITE HEAT & WILD BUNCH) and Frank Lovejoy, are vacationing in Mexico when they pick the really wrong guy up. He toys with them, torments them. Keeps them on edge – and Ida Lupino’s inky black film is not to be missed. It’s harder than you expect.
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013
BEFORE MIDNIGHT Blu Ray
BEFORE SUNRISE, BEFORE SUNSET and BEFORE MIDNIGHT make up what I certainly feel is the greatest romantic film trilogy ever made. The power of the film is magnified exponentially when watched with the other two, but BEFORE MIDNIGHT, it completes the story, giving us a look at what “Happily Ever After” actually is. The fire and the fury that only lovers can fan, and it makes you love these two more than you ever thought you could. Delpy and Hawke… there’s just nothing else like em. The honesty and power of their tale will affect everyone!
THE CONJURING Blu Ray
James Wan’s THE CONJURING is a superior horror film. Sticking to practical magic and the film will get you, several times. Watching it home alone the other night was one of my favorite recent experiences – I could feel the spine-tingles, the jumps and the gooseflesh. I’d love to see this become a great horror series, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson must continue the Warren’s work. It’s creepy perfect material. The Blu Ray has a great feature that is an interview with the original people that went through the ordeal – or they’re all insane. You decide. Great extra. Then the feature on Scaring the shit out of the audience shows Wan’s philosophy of scaring and I genuine like where he’s at right now. He gets it. This film is flat out scary. A great 2013 film!
THE UNINVITED Criterion Blu Ray
A pair of siblings decide to buy a cheap house on a cliff… it’s actually quite haunted – and when Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey arrive… well the bumps begin. Victor Young’s score is beyond perfect – and this was a very early serious take on the genre. You’ll also love Donald Crisp, because you haven’t another choice, that’s just his power over humanity. Nothing like a good creepy haunted house film, THE UNIVITED is one of the best.
ONLY GOD FORGIVES Blu Ray
Nicolas Winding Refn’s ONLY GOD FORGIVES didn’t run into the critical love orgy that DRIVE did, but I’m fine with that, because I like ONLY GOD FORGIVES just fine without them. The use of color and minimalist dialogue heightens everything. Sometimes cinema is about a flavor or a sense of tone. ONLY GOD FORGIVES has that in spades. Gosling is great, but I love Vithaya Pansringarm! He’s great in the film! If you want to see amazing colors coming to life off your screen, Refn’s ONLY GOD FORGIVES gives you color like only the wildest cinematic madmen ever allow our brains to be drenched in. Larry Smith, wow! This is a film for cinema lovers. You’ll see.
THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION Blu Ray (THE PIT & THE PENDULUM, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, THE HAUNTED PALACE, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES & WITCHFINDER GENERAL)
All of the films save for ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES comes with this very VHSy intro and “final words” after the film by Vincent Price himself. Thanks to an IOWA PBS outlet – we have these delightful intros and comments from Price on these classics – and I have to tell you – watching them with his intros and closings… well, it was wondrous. Truly special! The idea that whenever I want, I can have Vincent Price personally introduce his Corman classics for me. HEAVEN! My favorite of the lot is THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER – it was the first Corman POE flick – and there’s just something extra awesome about it. The house itself, those mad portraits, Price’s own stylized performance and look… it’s fantastic. Then there’s THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES – a BNAT Vet flick – and one of the greatest film characters ever. I love watching Dr. Phibes seeking his revenge. It’s just the best. Price’s intro for THE PIT & THE PENDULUM got my heart racing… so great! You really are getting pure film love with this set from SHOUT! There’s tons of extras on all the titles – and besides… this is exactly how to spend HALLOWEEN!
JOHN CASSAVETES: FIVE FILMS Criterion Collection Blu Ray (FACES, THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE, OPENING NIGHT, A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE, SHADOWS)
Ever been curious about the birth of the American Independent film movement? Well, John Cassavetes is the poster child for it, even if Indie films have been a part of film for a very very long time, Cassavetes helped define that movement in a more ferocious manner. The acting in these films is just stunning. Gena Rowlands, Seymour Cassel, Peter Falk, John Marley. All great. I’ve been lucky enough to see 35mm prints of all of these and Criterion’s prints are spectacular. This if a film lovers delight! Criterion also has a ton of extras for us, just look:
High-definition digital restorations of all five films Uncompressed monaural soundtracks
High-def restoration of the 1978 version of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
A Constant Forge: The Life and Art of John Cassavetes (2000)
Interviews with actor Lelia Goldoni and Seymour Cassel about Shadows
Silent footage from the Cassavetes-Lane Drama Workshop
Restoration demonstration for Shadows
Alternate eighteen-minute opening sequence for Faces
Episode of the French television series Cineastes de notre temps
Making "Faces," a 2004 documentary
Al Ruban on Lighting and Shooting "Faces," a new program
Audio commentary for A Woman Under the Influence
Conversation between Rowlands and actor Peter Falk
Interviews with actor Ben Gazzara and Ruban
Conversation between Rowlands and Gazzara about Opening Night
Interview with Ruban from 2004 about Opening Night
Audio interviews with Cassavetes from the 1970s
Stills and poster galleries
PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by Gary Giddins, Kent Jones, and more!
These films changed acting and cinema in fascinating subtle ways. We started to see lives on screen. Cassavetes was a brilliant actor’s director.
That’s it for this update, next Tuesday I’ll be back with MONSTERS UNIVERSITY Blu Ray 3D, RIPD 3D Blu Ray, CARS 3D Blu Ray, BYZANTIUM Blu, LA NOTTE Criterion Blu, BEAUTY OF THE DEVIL Blu Ray, HARLEQUIN Blu Ray and frankly, that’s about it. Till then, keep watching!