Hey folks, Harry here – doing a tad bit of forward thinking. Going to publish this Picks & Peeks early, so that I’m free to enjoy my wife’s birthday uninterrupted. Warning though, I’ve had a wicked bout of the flu recently and am hopped up on all that stuff that makes Meth, plus due to the Golden Globes, I have enjoyed a few glasses of wine, but that should just make me ramble a slight bit more coherently than normal, so let’s get to it. As always, the links take you to Amazon, where if you like the item in question, you can purchase it and one day have it delivered via robotic flying drones! But not quite yet. If you do pick something up through one of these links, bless you, as it helps keep the best efforts of this column coming, now in its 11th year of existence. If you want a great way to access all the columns in a manner that’s very easy, go to PicksAndPeeks.Com and get your Android or iDevice friendly app! Now, coming out soon… Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
REWIND THIS! VHS & DVD
Many of you reading this weren’t alive in the seventies when the revolution that was VHS came in. As a result, you may be blissfully ignorant of what it was like to be alive when you could never see what you wanted to see when you wanted to see it. I know. Horrible, tragic times. But VHS changed that. The one aspect of VHS that isn’t touched upon that is personally resonant to my own VHS experience was the culture of movie geeks that would make 6 hour triple and quadruple features on the extended play mode. Not just this, but my Dad and I would swap and trade with other film watchers that had satellite access and were getting amazing foreign flicks and weird shit like we could never imagine. The age of VHS was about groups of folks that would create cinematic mixtapes and go down to Kinkos to punk rock create “box art” that they had to search libraries and magazines endlessly for. VHS was everything to me. I do remember the days before – my parents were in 16mm film collecting circles, so when our house was burgalized, my parents invested in this new fangled device, a Magnavox VCR with an attached wired remote. Suddenly we were in collecting mode… Buying, trading… everything my parents could do to grow their personal and diverse movie interests. And they taught me how to record and edit commercials out – and I was given blank tapes on which I could record my own things – and this was… amazing. DVRs a rather impersonal – and it is extraordinarily rare that I get a “cinematic mixtape” via a flashdrive or other device anymore. Now, the shop experience many still have from the pre-Netflix & iTunes & Amazon days – and while I was never really one to talk up the video store clerks, I did meet some of my best movie buds in life in aisles of mutual interests. REWIND THIS hits on much of the nostalgia as well as the untold history of the format. For every hundred references they make, if you were alive at the time, you may think back to your favorite VHS memories. I’m afraid to dive into the VHS backlogs at my Dad’s. I know the fickle nature of the medium and will no doubt regret not digitizing the treasures they could still hold, but it is history. Watch this film and get motivated to find those treasures you have. Like somewhere on some VHS at Dad’s I recorded CNN, when Geraldo Rivera came on telling us that John Lennon died. I was young, but knew enough to hit record for my parents and it was never recorded over. There’s cartoons that have forever been reedited by corporations, strange shorts and weird bits of awesome. We all have these treasures if you’ve lived long enough. I have to say though. To be perfectly honest. I prefer the beauty and accessibility of modern media. It’s night and day to me. Sure, there’s treasures that will likely be forgotten in time, but that does unfortunately occur at every age of the medium. I used to think it impossible that movies made in the 70s or 80s or 90s could be lost to time, but the irresponsibility of copyright holders and studios will never ever faze me. It takes passion to preserve. That passion made REWIND THIS! And is evident in every glitchy frame! So cool!
SUNRISE Blu Ray
The first Silent Blu-Ray was SUNRISE, why then is it being rereleased? It’s the time for these things. That was a whole half a decade ago and a lot of you that weren’t in the game back then, well, you need to know about the film again. It’s F.W. Murnau’s SUNRISE – one of the most strikingly brilliant things you’re likely to ever see. I know, I know – that’s some hyperbolic crazy, but really… truly… loopy on cold medicine and wine – SUNRISE can slap a baby bloody and I’ll still love it. Luckily a film is never likely to actually really do that, specially one that has been around 88 years now, but when you put a silent film in, you regress, not to childhood, but to another life and another time. The icecaps are bigger. Film didn’t have sound, but that’s sort of stupid, cuz they did. There were piano men, orchestras, sound departments – and the films were… like nothing anyone had ever seen before. In a just world, it’d still be that way, but the profit of formula has transformed the medium into something less pure, but that’s bullshit cuz the Coen’s made INSIDE LLEWYLN DAVIS and the word is building! What I’m saying though is – Put away the devices, turn ringers off, detach from the infotubes and just allow SUNRISE to happen. It is a wonder. On its best day film is about visual poetry. SUNRISE, it’s more than just that shot in INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE that begins a movie montage that brings us into the modern age. Too many filmmakers use film in a fairly direct manner. Murnau’s SUNRISE is a humbling film to watch. I had the original UK disc of this that was Region Free, but can’t imagine FOX hasn’t done a solid job with this release. It’d be embarrassing if they didn’t. I’m picking this up on the hopes that they’ve done secret amazing things that nobody knows about yet. Can’t wait to pick this disc up.
RIFIFI Criterion Blu Ray
If you love Noir, you love Jules Dassin. NAKED CITY and BRUTE FORCE were striking great works. Dassin got BLACKLISTED by a Republican mounted Commie fear campaign that had Jules leave the country to make films in Paris, THANK GOD! Ya know, sometimes a filmmaker needs a kick in the ass, cuz RIFIFI was what Jules answered with. Once you get to the break in and what comes after. You’re gonna be glued. The inventive problem solving. The fear of making a sound. The metal gratings. Smart use of umbrella! So much. And discover all of Jules Dassin’s flicks. TOPKAPI is amazing, love PHAEDRA – REUNION IN FRANCE, THE CANTERVILLE GHOST – THIEVE’S HIGHWAY – all great flicks! But pick up RIFIFI and THE THIEF and have a brilliant Criterion Diamond Thief double feature soon! SO GOOD! Stunning print!
YOU’RE NEXT Blu Ray
Some times there’s a horror film on the film festival market that critics see and they go absolutely bonkers for. This film. People got tattoos after watching. The reaction was instant and with vigor. Film fest crowds loved it. You horror fans that supported it in theaters upon release can back me up on this, but as Capone says on the cover, “ABSOLUTELY DELIVERS!” I have a love for this film because I thought it was going to be a torture porn type of thing – and what I didn’t know – was that there was someone to root for. To cheer for. Someone to love. YOU’RE NEXT is lest about anything in the film, and about you. You people that haven’t seen it yet. YOU’RE NEXT. All of you. You’re just gonna fucking love it. If you hate dumb female horror characters, prepare to fall madly deeply. This one is outstanding! The Blu Ray is sweet!
THIEF Criterion Blu Ray
Do you fucking respect James “The Dream” Caan? You better. I know you respect Michael Mann. But have you seen THIEF? For some of you, you discovered Michael Mann with CRIME STORY or MIAMI VICE – went gaga with LAST OF THE MOHICANS and HEAT reaffirmed everything. But if you’d seen THE JERICHO MILE on TV – you had to have taken note of Mann’s name. THIEF is a great crime film. A crime film set in a period and a place and captured exquisitely. THIEF is by definition a jewel in the exquisite art of cool cinema. James Caan sweats cool and looks cool sweating. He’s a diamond thief. He’s decided to meet a girl. He’s a complicated man – and when you see a film like DRIVE and you just lose your shit over it – you’re not wrong to, DRIVE is fucking cool. But THIEF is cooler. It just is. Easily. THIEF refuses to be ignored. You can’t pull yourself away. It is entrancing powerful cinema. Once you see THIEF, it is hard to settle for less. When Mann hits his vibe in stride, nobody touches him. Criterion knows this. That’s why they’re releasing RIFFIFI and THIEF on the same day. Diamond heist flicks from different eras but both powerfully cool works. Watch RIFFIFI first though. Hard to chase THIEF. I blame every single member of the team that made it. Tangerine Dream is very near the sound of cool. Caan is… James Caan – and if you haven’t come to respect that, you’ve got some film watching to do. Take it to heart. The extras are great. Love the Mann interview – and the James Caan interview quite a bit. The process and thought that went into this film is self-evident, but when you hear their stories – you get why it is cool. Cuz it is authentic. Correct. Right.
RIDDICK Blu Ray
The first act of this film is David Twohy and Vin Diesel doing a space John Ford flick that could’ve starred John Wayne and been just about the greatest fucking dream space film I could conceive. It’s the powerful antihero struck down. Left in a man versus alien nature flick that is cooler than anything in the Riddick film series to date. It just is. By the time Riddick has his alien doggy – and it’s Riddick and Dog – it’s just so great – I never wanted it to end. I would’ve been happy had nobody showed up when Riddick hits the beacon. That it becomes that story… well it’s still a fun story, but what we had before for elegant. It was exquisite. It wasn’t people in a room. It was a great theme. A man that refuses to die and masters the environment he is placed in. This is turn of the 20th century pulp sci-fi fiction at its best. Launching ground for something more. Let him discover this world, find a story upon it and own it – and that is what they do, but with outside distractions that are never as captivating as Riddick and the dog. I know, this is Harry going off on the 10,000 B.C. rant again about man and his sabertoothed tiger rant – but I love Twohy and Diesel for giving us that long and sweet time before bringing the rest in. I would be happy with a Riddick movie every two years. Him crashing on various worlds. I’m fine with that pattern. I like everyone that arrives on the planet, the film is a pure delight.
LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER Blu Ray
I really enjoyed this film quite a bit. Forest Whitaker and Opray Winfrey both deliver great performances, but the delicious hook of the film is the placement in history. To be butler in the White House from Eisenhower through Reagan… That’s a powerful time in history. I suppose all eras are, but never seem to be when you live them. Other than the big events. But Daniels’ film is a powerful experience. Even if there’s a really almost distracting quality to the Presidential castings. Robin Williams’ Dwight D is more pulled off than I’d imagine. Marsden’s Kennedy felt a tad lacking to be honest. Live Schreiber’s LBJ kind of made me laugh a lot. Thought it was probably dead on. Cusack’s Nixon was as expected. Alan Rickman’s Reagan though… who’d a thunk? Give it a shot.
CARRIE Blu Ray
I just can’t like it. I tried twice. I like many elements, but I just end up fucking hating it. I hate the decisions. It isn’t that it is miscast, it was just a bad idea from the get go, at least for me. I absolutely respect the folks for whom this is their CARRIE. Cool, awesome. I can’t though. The original CARRIE is too strong a presence. I just get a visceral reaction to Carrie White googling. It is an excellently produced Blu Ray. The “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise”-extraf makes me cackle with evil abandon. The filled the disc with extras though, but nothing convinces me that the film really could have ever worked for me. Sometimes the original just can’t be shook.
THE SPECTACULAR NOW Blu Ray
It is true that a lot of life’s enjoyment is dependent upon the attitude with which you approach life. THE SPECTACULAR NOW explores that. I learned it from THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, and it is not necessary to use drugs and alcohol to attain it – sometimes that is a false happiness, not always, but sometimes. Miles Teller’s Sutter Keely is the guy that makes everyone feel like a million bucks, including himself. He’s high on the here and now cuz it will never come again. But – Miles Teller himself is loads of charisma. Loads. I recognized that instantly in the Craig Brewer FOOTLOOSE, which he basically stole. And in RABBIT HOLE before that, but I get that this is his front and center movie. He’s someone you can’t look away from. He’s infectious and he has notions about life that make him tragically flawed in an absolutely adorable and reparable way, you just wonder if he can ever let the party go. Doesn’t mean misery, not for a character like this. He’s going through life defining moments that will dictate where his non-kid life goes from here – and he has my best wishes. Yes, I know he’s fictional, but man I love this character. Shailene Woodley and Brie Larson are also great. Kyle Chandler is amazing and Jennifer Jason Leigh always has my number and always will.
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT Blu Ray
This disc was supposed to get here in advance of review, but it didn’t. Norman Jewison’s IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT is a Best Picture winner that nobody argues with, because it is just hands down great. The disc is coming with commentary, a feature on filmmaking in the sixties. And a feature called “The Slap Heard Around The World” – and if you don’t know what that’s in reference to, see IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT now. Before doing anything else. Sit down and watch. Seriously. This is a film with a detective you need to meet and learn to address properly. While Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER reflects history, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT is history. The film changed things. Attitudes shifted. Ask people from the era when it came out. You look at it now, it’s still a great film, electric. But within its context in history, it is goddamn heroic.
PRIDE & PREJUDICE Keepsake Edition Blu Ray
I tried to keep this Blu Ray hidden from Yoko. She has a dangerous love affair going with Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy. You have to dole Darcy out in doses, lest he take over one’s mind. And just watching this sends her into a spiral of Jane Austen addiction. But I didn’t really want to spend nearly 6 hours in this rabbit hole so quickly. But she knows they’re in the house, so it is only a matter of time before I lose a day to Mrs. Bennet slow steady crawl to facing the reality that Mr Darcy is better than she deserves, cuz she really does have her head up her ass. Which isn’t exactly fair – I mean, Darcy does a piss poor job of actual communication, and does way too many things without anyone really knowing he did them. This makes readers swoon, but the reality is – she doesn’t fucking know. Which means more angst and frustration as she desperately attempts to buy a clue. And it is excruciating cuz we all fucking know they were meant for one another. I mean, more than any two people ever… OH MY GOD, she’s programming me. AAAAACKKKKK!!!!!!
BUFFALO 66: 15th Anniversary Blu Ray
Oh Vincent Gallo had such promise. BUFFALO ’66 is legitimately outstanding. Gallo plays Billy Brown, released from Prison and he kidnaps Christini Ricci to pass off as his bride to be. The casting on this movie is fantastic. I mean having Ben Gazzara and Angelica Huston as the parents? Are ya kidding me? But add Mickey Rourke and the man that owns AIRWOLF?!?!?! I kid though about Gallo. BROWN BUNNY had its strengths – and I’m looking forward to learning more about his new film APRIL which is gonna be a part of the story of this year in film. I just hope he knocks it out of the park. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! It’s a funny and unique.
RUN 3D Blu Ray
It’s a 3D Parkour film with a young cast, and while it isn’t the best written thing around, the 3D Parkour is pretty damn compelling on a home system that supports it. It’s a high school/crime flick that gets pretty serious. But it is still a bit goofy. A father trains his son to break in for petty thief and use parkour to help in his escapes. When they move to New York he runs in with the local parkour club at High School and well… it gets complicated. William Moseley and Eric Roberts complicate those complications and people are bouncing off of every solid object in the film! Some of the sense of motion with the 3D is kind of cool, but this could have been so much better.
That’s it for this week, next there’s ROBOCOP 4K Blu, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, BLUE JASMINE, IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD Criterion Blu, MACHETE KILLS, CAT PEOPLE Blu, RAISE THE TITANIC Blu, NOSTALGHIA Blu, DIE MONSTER DIE Blu, IN A WORLD, CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG Blu, LA VIE DE BOHEME Criterion Blu, FREEZER, BAD MILO Blu, BAFFLED, SCARLET & THE BLACK and that’s about it. See you next Tuesday, till then, keep watching! I will.