4th & 5th PICKS & PEEKS of 2014: Fun Genre Flicks, Barrymore, Bronson, Truffaut & More
Hey folks, Harry here with the 4th & 5th Picks & Peeks of 2014! This 4th week was a little light, so I combined it and this first of February – and there’s some great titles. As usual, the images and links take you to Amazon, where you can learn more on the item in question. If you appreciate the column, be sure to check out Picks&Peeks.com where you can pick up your Android or iOS apps which give you this column and it’s going on 11 years of work in a very nifty searchable and usable format! So here we go…
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 Blu Ray 3D
I liked the first one alright enough… but the 2nd takes Flint Lockwood’s invention and evolves it… creating Foodimals… Structured a bit like KING KONG, only with a more brutal form of exploitation for the 3rd act. This Food/Skull Island is simply a wonder to behold. The first time I watch, as soon as we arrive on the island through the end of the film, my jaw was slack. The wanton use of pure inventive imagination and the pure joy of animation… I was just tickled. The 3D Blu Ray was amazing. The 3D – the purity and depth of color… Really, truly… it’s truly wonderful. The voice work is always charming, but it’s the visuals that sell this beautifully animated wonder. Tons of extras, but seriously one of the most amazing 3D Blus I have!
FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN Blu Ray
For me this is meat and potatoes movie fandom right here! My parents loved Hammer films as did all of their movie loving friends. Including a couple of friends that were OCD upon the subject. Growing up with this – plus a healthy love of FAMOUS MONSTER – where Uncle Forry really did love these movies – and watching them… A huge hunk of the love lands squarely upon those chiseled cheeks of the great Baron Frankenstein played by Peter Cushing! The film begins with Baron Frankenstein being brought back to life through his own processes by his assistant Dr Hertz (TWISTED NERVE fans will recognize this Dr)! Cushing spreads the relish from one end of this film to the other! You get commentary, Two World of Hammer episodes covering The Curse of Frankenstein and the episode focused upon Peter Cushing, which is really really great! There’s a Hammer Glamour doc… which brings me to Susan Denberg, which is why you’ll want 1080p! Cuz, besides Peter Cushing, Susan has an awesome part and she looks amazing in it! Now what is it that really makes me love Hammer and this film? One, I love Terrence Fisher as a director, he’s consistently excellent. Then he usually worked with James Bernard to deliver a fantastic score! The transfer of Arthur Grant’s photography is fan-friggin-tastic. Now Hammer. MORE NOW PLEASE!
BEAST OF HOLLOW MOUNTAIN / THE NEANDERTHAL MAN Blu Ray
There was a period in the late eighties through the early ninties where Dad and I digested every B-genre movie we could lay our hands on. We were selling the movie paper and wanted to build up an education about the films. THE BEAST OF HOLLOW MOUNTAIN is an old Willis O’Brien project, sadly Obie had no input into this production in terms of animation quality control… so though this is kind of a VALLEY OF GWANGI style story – of the West having a pesky lingering T-Rex eating your cattle. Well, not you, but Guy Madison, you know, Disney’s Zorro. ZORRO VS A T-REX – no matter how crappily animated is a pure blissful imagination landscape. Watch this film – then… just imagine Walt Disney hiring Ray Harryhausen for creature animation and having Guy Madison’s Zorro on a crazed lost world of the west adventure! OH MAN! That’s the fucking dream man! Throw in a Miklos Rosza score and a catchy Sherman Brothers title song – and presto chango you have something amazing. SIGH! Meanwhile, THE NEANDERTHAL MAN qualifies for genius, for introducing a formula that can revert a household tabby into a Sabre-Toothed Tiger (SO AWESOMELY FUNKY LOOKING!) – Essentially a Jekyll / Hyde scenario cooled up with Caveman hipness! For me the jewel of NEANDERTHAL MAN is Beverly Garland – one of the great B-movie gals! Love her, she’s Nola the waitress in the flick! If you love vintage funky fun genre flicks – it’s great to have these looking this amazing! Which is great, cuz there’s no special features here.
LAST VEGAS Blu Ray
Ok – when I was a kid, there was this flick called GOING IN STYLE that had 3 old timers that decide to pull a bank job and it starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg as the old farts following Martin Brest’s direction. I fucking love that movie. LAST VEGAS is fine… The cast is great, you got Robert DeNiro and Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline as 4 longtime friends that are celebrating Douglas’ upcoming nuptials with a throwdown in Vegas. Now, Jon Turteltaub does his best and the film has its charm and yet… it feels orchestrated and inorganic. Brest’s GOING IN STYLE is just effortlessly perfect. HOWEVER, there is a reason why LAST VEGAS is a must buy… and that’s Mary Steenburgen. I kinda go out of my way to own as many of her films as possible because… well she simply rules! She went through time with H.G. Wells. She’s simply the bee’s knees to me! As I said, this is a nice enough flick, smiles – a few tears… and its share of groans. But when the film is about Douglas, De Niro, Freeman and Kline – you can’t stop smiling. They’re great together. This could have been better. Oh and Morgan Freeman’s red suit is badass!
RUSH Blu Ray
Ron Howard’s most cinematic movie to date may also be his best. I don’t know – I’m gonna have to watch the fuck out of it like I did with SPLASH, PARENTHOOD, BACKDRAFT or APOLLO 13 – but all those films I could feel Ron Howard’s reliance on skills learned since childhood on TV. He’s had great sequences and flourishes, but for me… I dig the living hell out of this movie. Hemsworth is simply a glowing god on Earth in this film. His charisma dost spilleth over! Daniel Bruhl actually has the showier role as Niki Lauda – due to what happens to Lauda and the incredible make-up on Daniel Bruhl which should have fucking been nominated for Best Make-Up instead of goddamn BAD GRANDPA. Argh! 1080p might be a little too perfect a vision to capture the God of Thunder’s ass in cinema, but it had to be done. Hemsworth is crazy Adonis material here. After this film, I’m really eager to see what Howard is up to with DARK TOWER… the cinema on display here is incredibly impressive. There’s a ton of deleted scenes, a twenty minute real story set of featurettes, and a 32 minute making of. Beautiful transfer – the sound and image are both outstanding here!
METALLICA – THROUGH THE NEVER 3D BLU RAY
A pricey disc at just under $60 – but if you bow down to METALLICA and why the fuck are you not bowing down to METALLICA you lowly dog?!?! Anyway, this concert film was directed by Nimrod Antal, director of KONTROLL and PREDATORS, and stars Dane DeHaan as the main character on a mission for METALLICA… and of course, shit is gonna hit the fan. The 3D is stunning. The sound mix is friggin amazing! And when you just need to rock out in 3D with METALLICA, nothing is gonna rock as good as this! Nimrod Antal did a very great job on this – and I can’t wait to see Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborne. He’s going to be perfect!
FIFTH ESTATE Blu Ray
Personally I love Bill Condon’s latest! Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl are both great here – but I love how the film just picks up in a sprint. I have been following Wikileaks’ progress from the beginning, so I kind of knew the story of what happens on either side of this fragment of the story, but I love THIS story. A world of coerced media needs a new check and balance. This is a smart film about a lot of the basic rights and powers that we folks that make our lives online need to follow and pay attention to. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Assange is a fascinating take – and it’s particularly fun to compare his performance to Assange’s in various appearances and speeches. There’s 25 minutes of extras, but I could have enjoyed 4-5 times that. And I’d kill for an Assange/Cumberbatch commentary… right?
Argento’s DRACULA 3D Blu Ray
Nobody could have kept me from seeing this. Simply, I love Dario Argento. First, it looks painfully cheap and there are ghosting’s with the 3D. But… as the film plays… it’s like Matilda May in LIFEFORCE but wearing a tent… it teases you, but really it’s a soul-sucking bitch from hell and life is too goddamn short for this shit so you turn it off. And there’s a taint upon the name of the Maestro. But really – the ambition and budget and accompanying talent just wasn’t up to snuff. It’s just real fucking bad. Real bad. The art on the box looks cool… but… NO. But you’re not gonna listen to me, the film will hurt. It’s baaaaad.
MALIBU HIGH / HUSTLER SQUAD DVD
Widescreen copies of the films look as great as a DVD can, but man I’d love these on Blu. Particularly MALIBU HIGH! Although MALIBU HIGH is about a student that sleeps her way through the faculty movie – which is a standard for this era – but the particular attraction for MALIBU HIGH is it’s star, Jill Lansing – and nobody knows what happened to her after this film. And after you watch MALIBU HIGH you may genuinely become obsessed for a bit trying to find out what happened to her, but this is all we get of her. It’s a helluva performance. Genuinely. Great character. As for HUSTLER SQUAD… it’s more or less a drag with a couple of giggles. That’s about it.
DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE Kino Blu Ray
Wanna watch a performance from 94 years ago that will just flat out stun you? Have you seen John Barrymore’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? The transformation is pure ACTOR POWER and it’s disturbingly effective. Barrymore’s performance was instantly and forever iconic! Kino put the 1912 nearly 14 minute version of the story. Then there’s THE RIVAL where Louis B Mayer attempted to cash in on Barrymore’s adaptation. Then ol Stan Laurel of Laurel & Hardy fame (but before that) did an awesome spoof called DR. PYCKLE AND MR. PRIDE, but this isn’t about the extras – John Barrymore’s Mr Hyde is freakier than anything Ozzy ever did… Barrymore’s HYDE is some crazed electrified dancing on your spine energy. YOU CAN’T LOOK AWAY! Barrymore is so captivating, so unlike anything anyone had seen before – or since. You can see the film online, it’s a public domain film, but Kino’s print… it’s just WOW. Really great!
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
DEATH WISH 40th Anniversary Blu Ray
As founding member of MANDOM Bronson worship society I’ve seen DEATH WISH more times than I can reasonably count or recall. It was one of about a half dozen Betamax movies that was in my Dad’s old room at my grandparents – and when I’d stay there for two weeks, I’d watch DEATH WISH, OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, SERPICO, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, JAWS and GUNS OF NAVARONE. That was all I had. The screen was maybe 10 inches diagonally. But man, the story of Paul Kersey totally convinced me, that the government shouldn’t fully endorse vigilantism – but let Bronson do it. Ya know? Let Lee Marvin do it. Let Clint Eastwood do it. Somebody killed your family, let Bronson sort it out. Totally reasonable. I also love how much I hate Jeff Goldblum in this movie as one of the fucking scumbag rapists. The print is immaculate. And DEATH WISH is a beautifully shot film. I’ve always loved the texture and the lighting of this movie. I have to admit, when the studio knows this is a 40th Anniversary release – of at least what I considered a major title for them – to basically have no extras (the singular trailer hardly counts)… well, it’s downright disappointing. Hell, put together extras talking about the very real conversation this movie kicked up. It’s a big film for the N.R.A. – Maybe they’re saving their big extras for an eventual DEATH WISH Box Set. Fucking love the sock of silver dollars. OUCH!
JULES AND JIM Criterion Blu Ray
One of my favorite films – I love Truffaut’s JULES ET JIM… it’s a film that takes 25 years to tell the story of two best friends and the woman they love. The woman, Jeanne Moreau. Two commentaries – one of which has Jeanne Moreau! The disc is filled with appearences and interviews and segments of shows – and it really is just a wonderful package. However, the star of this disc is the film. JULES AND JIM is Truffaut operating in peak form. I love these three. Love them. Love spending time with them. Love watching them love, live, fight and laugh. I love to watch them play – it is so invigorating. This is grown up film like you never see. Watching it will change you in subtle wonderful ways. The soul this film fills you with… that’s Truffaut – and we all could use a little Truffaut in us. Makes you appreciate both the stillness and manic motion of life. And if you ever have a hope of loving a woman, you must first love Jeanne Moreau’s Catherine. At least that’s the way it was for me. Freshman at College and Dad sat me down and showed me Truffaut. This and THE MAN WHO LOVED WOMEN became my personal faves. Criterion, keep em coming! Great work!
WITCHBOARD Blu Ray
WITCHBOARD is such a solid horror flick! First – Tawny Kitaen is just perfect as a woman caught up with her Ouija board. Personally, I’m terrified of Ouija boards. Oddly, just like JULES ET JIM, the plotline has two best friends in love with the same woman – and if you don’t have Jeanne Moreau, then Tawny Kitaen is pretty great! Ha! Tawny just has a sensuality about her. The film is genuinely creepy, because it isn’t going crazy over the top – it feels within the reasonable realm of the supernatural, as opposed to Gandalf vs Proto-Sauron type of stuff – which probably can’t be done. Meanwhile – the “New Interviews” – they’re friggin hilarious and great! Once Tawny joins the team – the stories grow in scale! A very fun film! SHOUT! does it again!
SHERLOCK: Season Three
If you’ve only watched these on PBS, you’ve seen a slightly edited product. Score the Blus and you’ll get the original BBC production – which is immaculate. The three film arc this time covers two best friends and the woman between them. The twists and turns are delightful. Each one builds on the one before it and at the end you’re screaming for more. Literally, it made me scream for more. I love everything we get out of this show. I could watch Sherlock and Watson reading the paper each day of my life and bicker about it. The characters are fascinating to watch. The Wedding maybe one of my favorite scenes I’ve seen in a very very long time.
ENDER’S GAME Blu Ray
ENDER’S GAME is a pretty ok adaptation of a really great book. To bitch, I prefer the book, is one of those things that I personally always hate, because books have the advantage of your imagination and the thoughts and author notes and comments – I like Harrison Ford in this quite a bit. I like his desperation, the panic in his eyes. I like how manipulative the adults are here. And I have always loved the resolution. But there’s something off here – I think it’s the production design – which just didn’t do anything for me. It just felt… tired. Asa Butterfield did a good job! I have to admit, I wish it was just a cooler film than it is. I’ll rewatch a couple more times, maybe it’ll grow on me. Do love the source material!
ALL IS LOST Blu Ray
Personally of the 2013 released films, ALL IS LOST contains my personal pick for BEST ACTOR – Robert Redford gave us a lesson on commanding performances. With almost no dialogue, Redford fascinates for 106 minutes of Man against Man-Altered-Nature. That the film leaves you utterly convinced of his isolation and hopelessness – is only proof of the illusion of this film. Every second you can read Redford’s mind through what he conveys through his eyes and expressions. Just a great great film that didn’t get near the reaction it deserved!
JUSTICE LEAGUE WAR Blu Ray
Terrible. I’m someone that loves the DC Animated films, but this one felt like the dumbest fucking take on the Justice League, the members, their origins and frankly the written personalities. SUPERMAN is terrible. Billy Batson makes me spitting mad, it is so far off. Wonder Woman is real bad. The Football quarterback turned CYBORG was real bad too! Then they make a giant Darkseid and turn his Parademons into things attacking the city just like in AVENGERS – except lamer, by a lot. Trying to turn DARKSEID into a GALACTUS type really really was annoying and the action is redundant and involving versions of characters I love – but done in a way that just made me spit it out! Did not like it one bit! Well, Batman has a couple of moments.
ESCAPE PLAN Blu Ray
High Tech Prison Escape flick starring Stallone and Schwarzenegger – well, it is watchable, but it isn’t a classic – and I was hoping for a classic flick. That’s what I wanted. Something that blew me the fuck away. This was just sorta ok. I really do feel the one-liners didn’t fit this film. At least for me. Ultimately I feel the script was lacking, it felt pedestrian to me. I love everyone in this film – I mean, Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jim Caviezel, Faran Tahir… it’s a great cast, they just don’t have a lot to do – and visually, it doesn’t feel very powerful. Wish this was better.
THE JUNGLE BOOK Blu Ray
I watched this with the cute Richard Sherman introduction, but the film is pure love. I love EVERY song in this film. King Louie? I have and will always love Louis Prima’s King Louie! But the voice work is so perfect across the board here. Phil Harris’ Baloo is one of my most fave characters! Sebastian Cabot’s Bagheera – perfection. George Sanders’ Shere Khan – genius. Sterling Holloway’s Kaa is another favorite! I mean this JUNGLE BOOK pulled on me, even though my parents really wanted me to prefer the Korda JUNGLE BOOK with Sabu, I do love it, but sniffle… BALOO!!! So great! As for extras – this is a Diamond Edition, so you get an Alternate Ending, if you pause the film, you’ll get a BEAR-E-OKE launching of a random song from the film, which was kind of fun to play with. Plus there’s a conversation with Richard Sherman, Diane Disney Miller and Floyd Norman. Overall, an excellent Blu!
DIANA Blu Ray
YAWN. I put it on out of curiousity and appreciation for Naomi Watts, but ultimately it just bored me to tears. Naveen Andrews and Naomi Watts have strong charisma together, but ultimately – it just failed to capture me. That seems to be a fairly common reaction to it though.
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS Blu Ray
A perfect Halloween horror party flick, it’s all about a bunch of kids going to that place they’re told not to go to and they go and get a little wild on the one fucking night of the year that’s probably reactive. Steve Johnson throws some fun practical effects at us – and any film with Linnea Quigley in it – is another film for the collection! Now remember kiddies, don’t go party with the devil on Halloween. BAD THINGS HAPPEN!
ABOUT TIME Blu Ray
On your 21st Birthday, your Dad – played by Bill Nighy – sits you down to have a grown up talk and tells you… what he tells his son in this movie and just wow! I fell in love with this movie, but it came from really loving the relationship between Domhnall Gleeson’s Tim and Bill Nighy’s Dad… well it’s friggin adorable and heart breaking. Rachel McAdams and Domhnall are great! Ol Robin Curtis knows the buttons to push. This movie was thoroughly surprising!
COUNSELOR Blu Ray
I loved Cormac McCarthy’s original screenplay, but this is a lost in translation film. It just doesn’t come together. This should have been directed by Paul Schrader! He was the flavor missing in my opinion. I just don’t feel Ridley quite had this material. I’d have loved to have seen DePalma do McCarthy’s script! Film just comes across empty and unaffecting.
HOW I LIVE NOW Blu Ray
Saoirse Ronan gets sent to her cousins in England for the summer, when the apocalypse seems to be underway. Europe is falling apart when an event in the UK causes societal upheaval on an enormous scale. BUT before that, you’ve got cousins getting to know each other and celebrate life together. As the film progresses, you can see a bit of THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE in it. This is frightening stuff. Terrifying. The sort of thing that makes you never want to go anywhere. But the beauty found in end times is truly heartening! Just know that the film is wonderful.
HAUNTER Blu Ray
Vincenzo Natali (CUBE / SPLICE) has a new scary flick out and it’s called HAUNTER and it was FANTASTIC! Really great! You could totally play this after WITCHBOARD – as there is OUIJA board usage in this film too!!! But from the Ghost side, so it is kind of the flip side of WITCHBOARD. Oh, you’ll get it when you see! Excellent disc, but if you love great ghost stories/haunted house flicks – this is a great little one! Abigail pretty much carries the film on her dainty shoulders and really pulls it off! Natali continues to excite the heartrate!
Thanks – Next week we’ll be looking at GAME OF THRONES Season 3, TOURIST TRAP, BATTLE OF THE DAMNED, AFTERNOON DELIGHT, THE FRONT, THE BLUE MAX, TRANS-EUROP EXPRESS, HEAVENLY CREATURES and more! Till then, keep watching movies!!! I will!
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