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46th PICKS & PEEKS of 2013: Murnau, Chaplin, Snyder, Carpenter, Stone, Akkad, Green, Buttgereit!!!

HEy folks, Harry here...  I'm working on today's column still, but here's last week's column.  Sorry for the tardiness, last week was a doozy - as you can see, some really great titles.   As usual, the links and images will take you to Amazon where you can learn more on a title or you can purchase it, which if you do so through the link, well, it'll help keep this column coming.  Been doing it for a decade now - and some weeks are beastly with the sheer number of incredible titles to screen.  To fully experience this column, I can't recommend highly enough checking out PicksAndPeeks.Com for my Android and iDevice friendly app, which is updated as these columns go live, but are connected to a huge database of a decade's work of reviews.   Where you can discover all sorts of bells and whistles, try shaking it with the sound on!  Love that!  Now, onto the column...


Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

NOSFERATU: Kino Remastered Blu Ray

In addition to being the title’s debut on Blu Ray, KINO has found an original German print with their original Intertitles (aka the cards that came up during a silent film to guide and inform the audience) which are presented here with English Subtitles, if your German ain’t up to snuff. But really – it’s F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU on Blu Ray that you want – and it has never ever looks so beautiful. As the elder movie fans have passed, it’s beauties like this disc here that I wish I could have shared with them. Here we get the original 1922 score in 5.1 surround? It’s great! There’s a 52 minuted documentary on Murnau that you won’t want to miss. KINO really did a great great job on this release, the higher resolution just seems to make Max Schreck’s Count Orlok creepier than he’s ever been and those Carpathian Mountains… shivers. And I’ve been there. Don’t think for a second this film wasn’t echoing my own journey to Bran’s Castle. Such a delight for classic horror fans!

CITY LIGHTS Criterion Blu Ray

I love Chaplin. I’ve taken him into my soul by watching his films starting at the youngest of ages. We all need the soul of The Tramp flowing through us. It’s an important ingredient in learning what is best in life. Sure, you could watch CONAN, but that’s a barbarian joke of an answer. Sometimes, what is best in life is the love and trust of a blind flower girl. Chaplin shows us this. He weaves an absolutely magical film. Film will never be this sweet again. But you can, if you let the film touch you, transform you into Chaplin’s kind of soul. A compassionate human being worth remembering. I once wrote a 7 page piece on Chaplin based solely upon his costume and how he uses it in his film. It’s like a child playing at being an adult, but that grownup world will always make you weep – and he reflects it truthfully. Get a blanket, bowl of popcorn… and prepare to fall in love, it really isn’t a choice, it will happen. The reason to buy? Frankly, it is one of those films you show to people that haven’t seen it. That Criterion has behind the scenes footage from the making of the film… well, that’s mind-blowing and appropriately AWESOME! But really, at any given time as a film geek, you must be able to lay hands on CITY LIGHTS, MODERN TIMES & THE GREAT DICTATOR. It is necessary. I have everything of Chaplin’s. I love being able to watch Chaplin learn to capture audiences’ empathy. By the time he makes CITY LIGHTS – he’s at peak powers. He owns us through every frame. You’ll learn a lot about the production and Chaplin through the commentary too! Criterion deserves a big hug for this one!


I still feel the same as when I first saw Zack Snyder’s MAN OF STEEL… slackjawed & exceedingly happy. After watching the film on Blu 3D at home… Absolutely dazzled! That said, the PLANET KRYPTON extra, that is a look at what we Earthlings have been able to recover from the wreaked Kryptonian vessel in Metropolis… headed by Lex Corps’ researchers, we end up learning quite a bit about the Kryptonians… their power sources, lifeforms, etc. It’s a helluva tease about where things might be headed after this first film. Also the Animated 75 year tribute which came together between Zack Snyder and Bruce Timm is something for the ages. I love it. Watched it probably 12 times on my Blu Ray! The rumors about where this is all headed are so tantalizing and delicious! I mean, if LexCorps is gaining Kryptonian technological advances, then he’ll be a super science threat… But Wayne Industries seems to also be involved – but that’s all on a special feature and probably shouldn’t be considered canon… but then, I can’t unthink the delightful thoughts this has given me. We’re hearing about a drone using cantankerous Batman, that’s gonna be costumed in a Batfit that is unlike any we’ve seen on Television or Film, but that causes Kevin Smith to hug Zack Snyder… So I’m curious. The seeds planted by MAN OF STEEL… the government distrust of Superman, the collateral damage in Metropolis… how many orphans were left behind? Could that fuel Wayne’s interest? I am so eager to have a connected DC Comic universe, I just don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t feel that any of the execs there truly have quite grasped their potential the way Feige has at MARVEL. But Zack Snyder is a great step in the right direction. There’s a whole lot of extras on this Blu Ray – and they’re the type of extras that fuel your desire to see more DC fun on the big screen. More, Now!


In 1993, I could not afford SHOWTIME, I remember reading about John Carpenter’s BODY BAGS in the genre mags of the day, but until this Blu Ray, I had not seen BODY BAGS. What a complete fucking delight!!! Carpenter plays a ghoulish Cryptkeeper/Uncle Creepy – operating out of a morgue, where he tells the stories of the dead. These are totally over the top, but filled with the best damn casting of this type of thing ever. You’re gonna see, not only John Carpenter act, but Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, Sam Raimi, Greg Nicotero & Roger Corman perform. And lest you think this is all filled with directors, oh no… it’s filled with talent we love, like Mark Hamill and Twiggy, John Agar and Sheena Easton, David Warner & Deborah Harry, Robert Carradine and David Naughton, Stacy Keach and Tom Arnold. It continues, trust me. It is insane. 2 of the 3 “stories” are directed by Carpenter. The Gas Station tale is a tense serial killer on the loose type of story – and is downright scary and wonderfully shot by Carpenter. Meanwhile, the “HAIR” episode is more in line with the THEY LIVE John Carpenter. The sci fi social satirist winking right at us all – and poor Stacy Keach is AMAZING in this sequence. Hilarious. There’s one sight gag involving him and his baldness that I can’t look at it without nearly pissing myself laughing. When you reach the end – and you realize that this is all of this you’re ever gonna see – you really will curse early fucking nineties Showtime execs for not seeing and recognizing the sheer genius of John Carpenter. Fuck. Showtime, HBO, Somebody – just hand John Carpenter a horror anthology show to make with his friends and fellow filmmakers like this. With John hosting! It’d be awesome, just like this is! SHOUT! Did wonders with this release! Filled with extras. But most of all, you’re going to see an excellent horror release, I’ve already shown it to 3 friends. You’ll do the same!


Have you forgotten what it was to be a child? Do you have a problem relating to your kids and want a film to show them what “PLAYING” was when we were kids and computers just weren’t nearly the objects of awesome they are today? Well, I DECLARE WAR is a pure childhood injection. If you ever played “WAR” as a kid. Capture the Flag. There was a seriousness and an intensity to the playtime, that is absolutely captured by directors Robert Wilson and Jason Lapeyre. We should take note of them. They’ve made a film about childhood that ranks with the very best films about youth ever made. I can not recommend I DECLARE WAR high enough. One of my favorite films from FANTASTIC FEST and easily my fave film yet distributed by DRAFTHOUSE FILMS! This is gold!

AKIRA 25th Anniversary Edition Blu Ray

Looks and sounds great! AKIRA is the landmark anime feature that just never ceases to amaze and enthrall me. The design of the film has me dreaming of it’s future. When the film decides to shift gears, prepare to have your eyelids knocked back. AKIRA just goes where live action film just hasn’t had the sack to go. It still feels like something private and special. Discovering this film as a Junior in High School, it gave me dreams that I know live action film could reach, but I do not require that this film be turned into live action. Bringing it over to the US, so not the way to go. Give us NEO-TOKYO or fuck off. Sincerely. If you already have an AKIRA Blu Ray, I wouldn’t say this is a reason to upgrade, this does have an English Dub you can watch, but if you’re a fan of the film, why the fuck would you do that? Right? Now the Storyboard Collection featurette – for me – is the big COOL of the disc. 1080p Storyboards for 30 minutes, so illuminating. AKIRA still rules me! I love that this film exists. It’s primal geek material! I love that motorcycle!

JFK 50 Year Commerative Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu Ray

The loss of JFK still haunts our country, Stone’s film is a masterful exploration of a questions and possible answers that will never seemingly be answered to anyone’s complete satisfaction. This special set comes with a reproduction Kennedy Campaign Poster, a Copy of JFK’s Inaugural Address, a book of Kennedy Quotations. Photos and Correspondence from the Kennedy library. A DVD of PT 109, which stars Cliff Robertson as a young Lt JFK during WWII. Great flick. There’s a Doc called JFK REMEMBERED: 50 YEARS LATER that was created for this set, that gives you an overview on Kennedy’s accomplishments. You’ll also get the Kennedy episode of Stone’s UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES… which is GREAT! However, really – unless you’re a JFK superfreak like me, there’s no reason for this set. But watching the Kennedy dream fail, feels more and more like an excuse to just accept the way of things. A fundemental change needs to occur in this country’s political system. It feels broken. This is where things seemed to permanently derail. I don’t think Stone has made a better film than JFK. I wish Warners would release the actual original theatrical cut on Blu. It did win an Oscar for Best Editing, it’d be nice to actually see that version. Hint. Hint. Wonder what the conspiracy was that kept that out of this release? Hmmm?


More exciting in many ways than a spruced up rerelease with a bunch of padding like JFK’s release – is a fantastic release for Roger Donaldson’s THIRTEEN DAYS – which I really really love. This film details the 13 Days that Kennedy stood watch over the Cuban Missile Crisis. My love of this film began with David Self’s amazing screenplay, which I read and fell in love with. I love the casting of Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp as the Kennedy brothers – and Kevin Costner as Kenny O’Donnell was a wonderful casting bit. And makes it a very fun film to watch before JFK, after all it is a prequel. There’s 3 commentaries. One with a lot of the production personel. The other stitches Historical figures into covering the events in the film… including JFK, Ken O’Donnell, Bob McNamara, Kruschev, Salingers and others! There’s also a Historical Information Track, which I didn’t care for. There’s tons of other extras, including a look at VFX, the adaptation process, deleted scenes a doc on the Cuban Missile Crisis and profiles on just about every historically tied character in the film. I really recommend this Blu! Great job!

FRANCES HA Criterion Blu Ray

Criterion jumped on this title. Released this year, you can’t begin to think about the great films of 2013 without it. Greta Gerwig is great as a young dancer experiencing a bit of a downward life spiral. Baumbach hits some MANHATTAN-esque notes, but not in a ripoff manner, but a kindred spirit kind of way. I can’t wait to watch this with Yoko and a friend of ours that is a dancer. They’re gonna flip for this. Criterion’s best extra is the conversation between Peter Bogdanovich and Noah Baumbach. Peter should have a conversation with all filmmakers about their films. What a delight. You can see the film on Netflix, but it is a keeper from 2013. At least I think so.


I just love David Gordon Green movies, they can be so wildly different from one another in tone, but never in terms of quality. He just never fails to entertain me. PRINCE AVALANCHE has David’s focus upon the forty something Paul Rudd as a guy working on a Road Crew painting highway lines in the boondocks… with Emile Hirsch, who is Rudd’s wife’s little brother. This is really about their days painting those lines and putting up road signs… all while falling into a deep and passionate bromance. It’s never not compelling. Rudd and Hirsch are great together. Beautiful little film and can affect you. Especially if you like Rudd & Hirsch, which I do.


Moustapha Akkad’s LION OF THE DESERT with Anthony Quinn as Omar Mukhtar versus Oliver Reed’s insane General Graziani… it’s just an epic showdown. Reed tries to swat Quinn with the might of Mussolini’s Italian might… but Quinn’s Mukhtar is too wiley. Using the desert and then later the caves to an increasingly maddening affect. Rewatching LION OF THE DESERT simply reminded me why traditionally it is not good for foreign forces to engage in warfare in the Middle East. You won’t believe the lengths that Graziani goes through to try and get him. Still feels this way. Excessive. Endless. You can’t help but admire the ingenuity of the Bedouin in Akkad’s epic. A truly fantastic film!


The story of Muhammad has always been a difficult one to film, as your main character can not be portrayed at the demand of the faith. So when Moustapha Akkad set out to film this story, he not only respected the faith, but the film was actually given the full endorsement of the faith’s leaders. The film is fascinating. We’re related the message of Muhammad through those that the message touches, you really get a sense of how the message spread from the very beginning. Anthony Quinn plays an Uncle of Muhammad’s that supports his visions and message. The politics of MECCA at this time are just fascinating. This film should be required viewing, if only to understand the basics of Islam and how it came to be. The film also looks stunning on Blu!


If you like real boobies moving like real boobies in your R-rated comedies, then look no further than THE BEACH GIRLS, as it is absolutely there to deliver on your softcore giggles and jiggles. Which means 1080p is important. Right? I just smile real big when a film like THE BEACH GIRLS gets released in the majesty of Blu. This is one I discovered staying up late watching Cinemax in the eighties. It still holds up! So much fun!


40 Discs, over 100 hours of MOD SQUAD detailing the PO-wer of the PO-lice! If you bought as they came out, there’s zero reason to upgrade, as this is simply… all of those. However, if you don’t have the awesome that is MOD SQUAD… I cry for you. This is important stuff! Giggle. I love Linc!


So you and your partner have been having a really blah time in the sack. You think you’ve tried just about everything to spice things up, but I bet you haven’t thought of this! German Horror film director Jorg Buttgereit suggest bringing a corpse home to enjoy with your partner… I’m betting you’ve never experienced a film quite like this, unless you’ve seen NEKROMANTIK 2 (which I prefer), but you’re gonna see imagery you won’t be able to shake. Buttgereit spares you nothing. Not for the weak. Only the brave will have bragging rights!

That's it for this week, next week's column is coming very soon!!! Check back later today!!!

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