Hey folks, Harry here… Sorry for the slight delay, if you read the Jim Jacks obit, I think you get why. This is the very first Picks & Peeks column that I won’t get a chance to chat with him about. He loved film voraciously and loved just how eclectic the column was and we’d have long wonderful celebratory talks about these things. He also rode my ass just like y’all do to get these things up – So I dealt with the loss and got my head back on quickly today – as I had to deal with some of the real life ramifications of his passing, as one of our projects took a major step forward today. More on that down the road. As usual all the images and links take you to Amazon, where you can learn more on a title and if so moved, you can order it – which helps to support this column coming to you every week. IF you love this column, you really should check out my iOS and Android app which has archived all the columns and made them easily searchable on your portable devices – and is updated as soon as the next column arrives. As always it is my pleasure to do this column, thanks for reading!
Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS Blu Ray
Really great film from Paul Greengrass. I’m a bit down on the ripped from today’s headlines genre of film these days, it isn’t a trend, it is something that has always been done in the Hollywood film machine. When you watch something like this and you end up seeing the U.S. Government reaction to the situation – I have two minds. One – WOW – holy shit… our Government really cares about a single citizen. Just look at that response. Then it is like… LOOK AT THAT RESPONSE! The expense, the resources spent to save one man, but then that isn’t what it was about, it was about the world seeing the hand of the United States and be in awe. It was a moment to look good in, but also it was a moment about saving a man. What’s remarkable about the film is how it portrays all sides of the situation. Barkhad Abdi is AMAZING to watch in this film. Hanks is great as usual, but for me, I was fascinated at the portrayal of the pirates and their panic and resolve. Plus, knowing how the situation was resolved… there is a ticking time bomb to the situation. The film works on all levels, as entertainment, as suspense and as an amazing human drama. Paul Greengrass makes these films with the seriousness and the weight that they require. This isn’t a film of fake smiles and rah rah propaganda. Disc comes with a Greengrass commentary – and the 3 part making of is outstanding.
ROBOCOP 4K Blu Ray
Firstly – don’t get this for the 4K – sure, the print is spectacularly better than the previous release – and on ROBOCOP, that’s awesome! But that last release was barebones – and this – is most decidedly not. We get a 42 minute Filmmaker Panel. A nearly 40 minute making of Robocop that is a delight. The Boardroom scene done in storyboards with Phil Tippett taking you through how he did the sequence. A couple of other featurettes, Deleted scenes!!! Commentary with Verhoeven, Neumeier and Jon Davison! And about an hour or so of additional content. This release of ROBOCOP is why I’m not furiously angry about the new ROBOCOP – at the very least – we get this Blu Ray of the original! Filled with extras, the way it should have always been. ROBOCOP will continued to be watched as a very important comment on America, especially when it all comes true. We’re getting closer and closer. How long till some corporation makes NEW DETROIT – a corporate/safe Detroit? Right – ya know it is gonna happen!
IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD Criterion Blu Ray
Yes, this was released on Blu Ray before, but make no bones about it – Criterion’s print looks a whole lot better. The transfer is vastly improved and the full 202 minute version of the film is here! This is the Roadshow edition. The commentary has the awesome Mark Evanier amongst others! The special features have unearthed amazing behind the scenes material on how the made the film, which is old school Hollywood practical wizardry on full display. There’s interviews and just delight after delight on this disc! I love it when Criterion shows the studios how it should be done. It’s why we love and respect the work they do so much. This film is funny and stars a cast that knows very few equals or betters! This is very much the definitive release on this title! Criterion just does it better!
BLUE JASMINE Blu Ray
Wow what a flick! Cate Blanchett gives the performance that I think I would’ve always hoped to see from Katherine Hepburn – to see the kind of socialite that Hepburn did better than anyone, but to see it evaporate – the wealth, the social soirees and the life she had always known thrown to the side. Trying to reestablish in the world. It’s just beautifully tragic. In some ways it is the happiest descent into madness I’ve ever seen – only missing something tentacly coming up out of the San Francisco bay – but since I can’t see a movie set in San Francisco and not think of Ray Harryhausen’s time by the bay! The cast is universally stellar – Louis C.K. is great as usual. Sally Hawkins and Andrew Dice Clay… really great! Peter Sarsgaard and Cate’s romance is just kind of amazing to watch – Blanchett is a counting down to zero the whole time, but puts the best face forward – knowing her history is the end of her future – and just tries to have it for as long as she can. Her fragility & strength are… breathtaking. Woody continues to be a force in cinema.
MACHETE KILLS Blu Ray
MACHETE KILLS is exactly the movie it wants to be. Fun, tongue firmly through the cheek, silly and ridiculously entertaining. Now, I see a lot of exploitation films with Danny Trejo, but it is only Robert Rodriguez that understands that Trejo is an amazing living sculpture of a human being. His face, a seeming roadmap of pain. Robert accents every crevice – nobody has ever lit Trejo better than Robert – and it’s a face that I just happen to love. Robert pushes the absurdity of MACHETE’s mexploitative universe that makes Mexico, Texas and The United States as absurd as they are at their most cartoonish and keeps pushing across every border. It feels long in a few spots, but I don’t really notice cuz I’m laughing at how insane it all gets. And Mel Gibson… he’s doing a bit of the Moonraker villain thing here, but he’s having a genuinely good time doing it. And – Marko Zaror! My pick for future breakout star just waiting to be properly anointed! There’s a 20 minute making of and it is really about showing just how awesome Danny Trejo is. The first time I met Trejo he had this awesome monkey on him and was smiling and playing with it – and he’s genuinely SWEET! You also get about 20 minutes of Deleted scenes and Extended scenes. It is a whole lot of silly fun! And always remember, MACHETE HAPPENS! Also – film was invented to put Danny Trejo is a space suit. It is true.
RAISE THE TITANIC Blu Ray
Ok – first of all – children, once upon a time we didn’t know the real facts about TITANIC, because we hadn’t yet found her upon the ocean floor. So when I first saw this movie – that didn’t happen till 5 years later. So Clive Cussler had great license when he was writing the novel that this was based upon. The mythical nature of the sinking was something of a speculative wonder. Most assumed it was lost for all time, so – please forgive the filmmakers for thinking Titanic was still in one piece on the ocean floor… or that it contained a magical rare mineral that could power sonic beams of energy that could knock missiles from the sky. But here’s the thing – you go Richard Jordan, OB1 and Jason Robards! This Is Not History – not close – this is goofy awesome fun speculative fiction. It’s a great double feature for Cameron’s TITANIC! Plus, I would hold that the popularity of this book and film probably led to some of the speculative financing that eventually led to the finding of TITANIC and then of course Cameron’s film. There was very definitely a strong interest in Titanic. Also, for the record – the book is technically better.
CAT PEOPLE Blu Ray
The original CAT PEOPLE is one of my beloved films and Paul Schrader’s film is a different film entirely. While the original had erotic undertones, here – it’s the surface. The film is also just weird as hell, but in a way I love. Nastassja Kinski and Annette O’Toole were just crazy hot in 1982 when this film hit – and Schrader understands sexuality wonderfully. But it’s a messy awesome film. The pool scene is frankly a classic. Some didn’t care for the transfer griping about the grain, but my Drive-In memories and Vhs devotion to this film seem to have a lot of grain in them too, this is the best this has ever looked at home. SHOUT does a great job on the disc – featuring nice cast and crew interviews with Paul Schrader and all the key cast – and a 5 and a half minute interview with Giorgio Moroder. I know many of you were recently introduced to him via Daft Punk – or hopefully that METROPOLIS release on Blu. But one of the key reasons I have a loving worship of this movie is Moroder, his score just gets me. I am there for every pulsing beat. This is not the classy awesome original. This is its culty badass big sister.
NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY Blu Ray
If you love Freddy Krueger – you’ve seen this documentary on DVD – but here on Blu Ray – one it just looks much better, but you get a full commentary, over an hour forty of extended interviews in 1080p. But that’s not it – it just keeps continuing… for over 110 extra minutes of even more extras. In fact – this is what every Krueger fan wants. I know, I’m one of ya. Krueger is my slasher hero. I loved Freddy, his films, his TV show – hell, the whole she-bang. Yeah, there’s lesser films in the series, but I’ve bought everyone in multiple formats BEFORE they came to Blu Ray – which I dearly love. Daniel Farrands loves the slasher heroes of the genre like nobody that’s ever gone behind the scenes on this material. This is truly a Krueger geek dream. Only – the truth is, if you love Freddy, there’s never enough. I still feel there’s so much that can be done with the character and that film has only scratched the surface of how awesome Freddy could become!
NOSTALGHIA Blu Ray
So enough with nightmares, it is time to dream – and Andrei Tarkovsky who made the great SOLARIS, IVAN’S CHILDHOOD, ANDREI RUBLEV, THE MIRROR and more – made a lucid poetic dream of a film that is unlike most anything you have probably seen. Russians do poetry better than just about anyone and Andrei Tarkovsky’s cinematic career is a testament to visual poetry. As Tarkovsky’s only film made outside of the U.S.S.R. – the film’s title is an amazingly accurate title – Here is a film to lose yourself in, I’ve never seen this film projected, longed to, but haven’t – so getting this on Blu – and watching it here at home – it was a genuine treat. It’s an amazing story and film. Watching Oleg Yankovsky’s Poet, an expert on Italian Art be bored by the reality, is brilliant – and the subject that does draw his fascination – is even better. This isn’t a film for everyone, it’s a film for those that enjoy abstract themes and the beauty of cinematic poetry. But this is one of the great filmmaker’s dreams – and I for one love to spend time dreaming through Tarkovsky’s eyes! No extras though, I would expect more from KINO, but the film is treat enough for my recommendation!
DIE MONSTER DIE Blu Ray
As an H.P. Lovecraft fan, that has come to be really and truly annoyed at Hollywood’s fear for the master horror writer, but I do love the early Lovecraft films – this past year at BNAT I programmed HAUNTED PALACE, which is actually based upon THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD. Here, with the really cheesy title, DIE MONSTER DIE is another Lovecraft story, this one based upon “THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE” – in reality, this is the story Lovecraft composed after THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD. If you end up liking this Karloff foray into Lovecraft, do know that the source material was revisited in the far more faithful THE CURSE – which sticks close until… well, that last act is something to behold. Karloff’s take is – well I find more entertaining, but then I’m a Famous Monsters kid and reading about these films in those pages for years of a life – when film was impossible to see… now, I just revel in the mere ability to watch these things in a pristine form. This is just a great delight!
CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN Blu Ray
You know – Shia LaBeouf fascinates me. I met him once when he came to town on EAGLE EYE – and I did not think him utterly insane – but his media and skywriting actions of late is like some madness does exist in him – and even though he’s out and out enraged the world with his latest hijinks – Shia is great in this movie. He plays Charlie Countryman, a young man that apparently has some psychic powers… he sees dead people. Specifically his mother and a guy that dies on him in a flight to Bucharest. The daughter of the dead man is Evan Rachel Wood, who plays a cellist with an ex that you don’t want to meet. The always great Mads Mikkelsen. There’s a lot of lunacy that occurs – but in a way the film kind of reminded me of FRANTIC, in a good way. However, you’ve got to see Rupert Grint’s enormous erection in this – it’s amazing! Now I see why Hermione chose him over Harry! The film is trippy, cool and a whole lot of fun. Especially if you’d like to see Shia get the living shit kicked out of him. Seriously, he gets brutalized in this film. Visually lush and cool. This one surprised me! Til Schweiger also shows up to delight us with his brand of evil. Good film.
FREEZER Blu Ray
Remember when Mikael Salomon was an astonishingly talented DP on films like THE ABYSS, ALWAYS and BACKDRAFT – then suddenly he was directing. He’d worked for nearly 30 years as a DP before they gave him his shot, HARD RAIN was supposed to be a big hit, it was beautifully shot, but it was a mess. After that, he went to TV directing episodes of shows like ALIAS, BAND OF BROTHERS, ROME – and he did great work there. Well FREEZER is his first feature in a very very long time – and it’s really good. Dylan McDermott plays a man that was seemingly the wrong man at the wrong place at the exact wrong time to end up tortured by Russian thugs that want him to tell him where he put the money. He has the time limit of human freezing endurance. Trying to find a way to stay warm in a freezer isn’t easy. So it becomes a film of ingenuity and ultimately survival… if that. Peter Facinelli appears for a bit as a Detective, maybe. It’s good stuff and the bad girl is played by Yuliya Snigir – and was really really solid here! This is a fun little crime flick. Good stuff!
BAD MILO Blu Ray
The idea of a parasitic ass monster is pretty hard to fuck up, but the first step to fucking up – is not showing him actually emerge. I know, who wants to see that – it defies decency, well, you’re making a move about a psychotic Ass monster – and there’s never really that full over the top moment that I was hoping for. Like in BASKETCASE 2 where the creatures fuck. Milo is a cute little creature, but they never really let him loose – the film feels like it holds back too much. It’s an Indie production, and I did actually finish it, but I won’t be watching it again because frankly it just didn’t at all live up to audaciousness that it could have. I would watch a sequel, if they really give Milo more outrageous things to do.
That’s it for this week, next week we’ll be looking at Season 4 of DOWNTON ABBEY, RUSH, CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2, METALLICA – THROUGH THE NEVER, LAST VEGAS, ARGENTO’S DRACULA, THE FIFTH ESTATE, FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN, BEAST OF HOLLOW MOUNTAIN / THE NEANDERTHAL MAN, THE LONG DAY CLOSES Criterion Blu, DR JEKYLL & MR HYDE, FLAVIA THE HERETIC and MILL ON THE FLOSS! See you next Tuesday!