February's PICKS & PEEKS gives us FIVE FINGERS, GAME OF THRONES, DARKMAN, BAD DREAMS, THOR, GRAVITY!
Hey folks, Harry here with the rest of February’s releases. I’ve had a really bad start to 2014 – and I’d like to apologize. I’ve been watching everything, but I’ve had extreme bad luck with sickness & really terrible back pain – and writing has been affected. Heavy pain medication is not something that I can really write with. It’s a reality that I’m currently fighting – and we’re working on a series of things in Rehab that should alleviate the issues I’ve had this year. In fact today, we had a meeting about it and a plan made. I’m excited about it, but man. ENOUGH already. I’ve had a good couple of days – and it’s allowed me to really catch up – but I’m gonna try my hardest to get things under control. Believe me, I really really want to be my happy Harry-writing self. Like I am, right now! As usual the images and links take you to Amazon, where if you like the title in question or are curious – you can have it delivered right to your door! Also – be sure to check out the Picks & Peeks App for Android and iOS devices! It puts together over 10 years of these columns in a wonderfully organized and searchable form – which gives you Netflix, iTunes and other options to enjoy these titles!
Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
FIVE FINGERS DVD
Joseph Mankiewicz’s FIVE FINGERS starring James Mason is one of the best damn films that I’ve seen, that too many others fucking haven’t. Do you appreciate just the best stuff ever? Is SHERLOCK your gravy? Does HOUSE OF CARDS bake your noodles? Do you sip away at intrigue? Well, this is a spy story. James Mason is playing an Albanian valet to the British Ambassador to Turkey – and he’s decided to sell secrets to the fucking NAZIS!!! And you’re going to root for him the entire time, cuz it’s James Mason – and James Mason makes Frank Underwood look like an amateur. In fact, I wish I could take the show back in time and cast James Mason now that I think about it. And I LOVE SPACEY in the role. But watch James Mason in this movie – and suddenly you have a new fave bastard! This film will enthrall you! It’s one of those films I have in my quiver of, “Yeah, but have you seen…” Seriously, Fox – BLU RAY please! Criterion, Fetch! Everyone else… just know that flat out, FIVE FINGERS is one of the best films around. It’s just top shelf material! So great, like so much that Mason did, but here… it could be the best one. And that’s JAMES MASON we’re talking about. (I might have written this while listening to QUEEN)
ROCKY: HEAVYWEIGHT COLLECTION Blu Ray
OK – so you’ve got all the Rocky films, you bought that set that came out a while back, what’s this shit? Well, you already have five of the six discs here. The only thing you’re getting new… well, it’s the one thing that you really truly want, which is a wonderful remaster of the original ROCKY. The extras on that disc are great – it’s a real great job. Now the only thing that was wrong with the original set is that you felt that maybe ROCKY needed a little more loving and they did so in spades. Hell just watching Sly on DINAH! was such a trip! So, there is something at the heart of this release that really makes me as a Rocky geek say… OK – Yeah, I love that. Here’s the deal. There’s no guarantee they’ll release that remaster on its own, but we pretty much all know that when the big sale on this drabs off, they’ll release that one disc – and I’ll be here to let you know about it. So unless you just have to have it now… There will be a cheaper way to get what you want, without double dipping on the whole saga.
SEX HUNTER: 1980 DVD
I see all this stuff. This. This is like nothing you’ve quite seen. I don’t care how pervy you are, you haven’t seen this. There’s just stuff that makes your brain get itchy? How, why? And the kitty cats. No, it’s not for me to spoil. But all of it is wrong! Wrong in the manner that leaves you unblinking and your soul forever tarnished. It delves into bizarre erotic tortures – and just really bizarre fetish that makes you wonder – exactly how strange are your neighbors. This will most likely make them stranger.
FORCE FIVE DVD
Sure, it isn’t the hottest most badass martial arts film ever made. Yes, it’s actually sad that Robert Clouse, the man behind ENTER THE DRAGON and BLACK BELT JONES would make this… but this is still a ton of fun. I mean, it has Sonny Barnes – and every film Sonny Barnes ever made is worth owning! It just is. Worked out that way, but it is true! This is a shitkicker movie with some facepalming along the way. Just thought you should know!
CHICAGO Blu Ray
This DIAMOND EDITION release has a new feature length look back upon CHICAGO – and yes it is still a pretty damn great musical! And this DIAMOND EDITION is definitely not pricey like a diamond cuz it’s under $8 on Amazon. John C Reilly probably should’ve won for this! Also, Gere’s Billy Flinn is just a dazzle to watch. Definitely worth picking up, the film shines beautifully when you screen it!
THE GREAT PROFILE dvd
John Barrymore takes his “persona” out for a laugh – and THE GREAT PROFILE, his actual nickname became the title for this wonderful Walter Lang comedy. How ever, I always thought of TWENTIETH CENTURY as the finest self-send-up by John Barrymore, but this is fun too! One of the greatest actors of all time! One of his last films and such a fun send up to it all. It’s a treat to see!
Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
GAME OF THRONES: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON Blu Ray
Recently rewatching GAME OF THRONES bloody third season… I’m dying for season four to get underway. Love this crazy special limited edition packaging that just screams for the next season to get underway, I wanna see them dragons all bigger!!! If you haven’t seen SEASON 3, it was the best season yet. Everything is continuing to get scarier. The Red Wedding is just… rough. Real rough. Daenerys Targaryen continues to rock my world! Tyrion is still my favorite character. The weirder the magic stuff gets the better so far as I’m concerned. And I want Jon Snow to ultimately win. I’m just saying, that’d be cool. The set is outstanding, just as the previous two sets have been. But the best thing about HBO series releases on Blu… it means more episodes coming soon! AT LAST! Celebrate with this in your home!
FANTASTIC MR. FOX Criterion Blu Ray
The existing Blu Ray was fine, but this is one of those Criterion discs – that simply marks the exhaustive curiousity of a cinefiles’ passion for a film. For example. You get a feature length animatic of the whole film in animated storyboards with the recorded dialogue. It’s kind of greater than you can possibly know. A completely different way to experience the story!!! There’s a feature that runs almost an hour of Roald Dahl reading FANTASTIC MR FOX with splendid energy and vigor! The extras just keep coming – and you’re likely to watch them all – some a few times. But it is the measure of your love of FANTASTIC MR FOX to own this edition. It might be my favorite George Clooney character. The FANTASTIC MR. DAHL is really awesome. This is THE edition of FANTASTIC MR. FOX.
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT Criterion Blu Ray
I wish that Hitchcock could’ve made a few more films with Joel McCrea. Firstly, the transfer is just stunningly perfect. I love having Craig Barron, a visual effects genius on films like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK – essentially has nearly twenty minutes to geek out about William Cameron Menzies’ effects work on this Hitchcock flick! Me – I LOVE STUFF LIKE THIS!!! The Dick Cavett interview with Hitchcock is really wonderful. What is FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT? Well, it is propaganda to wake America up, as shot by the master. This was years before the U.S. was involved directly in WWII, but it is about Joel McCrea playing Johnny Jones – a typical American that has little or no clue about Europe and what’s going on over there. He’s sent to communicate what he sees and experiences… and well, he’s in a Hitchcock WWII Propaganda thriller adventure – and it’s just great! I do recommend this HIGHLY!
COHASSET SNUFF FILM DVD
I haven’t seen this yet, but everything I’ve read says it is one of the best Indie horror films in recent memory. Me, I can’t get past the cover. That’s some nasty nasty! I also know at least 15 people that read this column that that cover alone has them clicking through – just because… they got an itch. This isn’t sweet glam studio horror. If it looks like that image. Wow. This could be the stuff of nightmares.
DARKMAN Blu Ray
The SHOUT! release of DARKMAN is exactly what every DARKMAN fan is itching for. The only thing missing… is something new from Raimi. You’ve got new interviews with Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand. The great Larry Drake! The Makeup designer Tony Gardner. Danny Hicks and Dan Bell chat about being Henchmen! The Commentary is by Bill Pope! There’s interview time with the production designer and Art Director! Really – it’s just fantastic! The print is the same print from the prior Blu release, which I still enjoy. But SHOUT! really nails the extras here. They even have vintage interviews with everyone! A fan’s release through and through!
BAD DREAMS / VISITING HOURS Blu Ray
BAD DREAMS, I hadn’t seen before getting this Blu Ray – and boy oh boy am I glad I did. It came out in 1988, when I had a single mall theater and a 4-plex within a 100 mile driving range – and the truth was… Not everything played there. BAD DREAMS certainly didn’t – The film plays with genres I love… like Cult Suicidal Insanity, Mass death by flames, Evil Cult Leaders that can’t simply fucking die… all while being a story about a traumatized girl waking up from a 13 year Coma to find herself grownup in a completely new era… And… She’s in a Psyche Ward with other Disturbed individuals. It’s kind of a whole lot of stuff… but holy shit did it mix well for me! The great thing? The leader of the Suicide Cult is Richard Lynch… you know him. If you grew up in the seventies, you saw him on POLICE WOMAN, BIONIC WOMAN, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, STARSKY & HUTCH, BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY, CHARLIE’S ANGELS… Then he played Cromwell in the greatest fucking awesome movie of all time, THE SWORD AND THE SORCEROR. Do not debate this, you will lose! Cromwell is fucking awesome! The trio of Ego Gods in this movie, surrounded by poser-Ego Gods… it’s great. Then in the 80s he continued playing bad guys in TJ Hooker, MANIMAL, BLUE THUNDER, AUTOMAN, A-TEAM, FALL GUY, SCARECROW AND MRS KING, AIRWOLF and forward. He’s the baddie in INVASION U.S.A. – and to be a Suicide Cult Leader in this movie – he’s just fucking awesome! Seriously AWESOME! This movie is filled with WRONG, but the mass fiery suicide… it is FUCKED THE HELL UP!!! Some of the craziest quasi-beautiful-magical horror… Wonderful stuff! So that was a great surprise! As for VISITING HOURS – I’ve always loved. For one, any film that stars Michael Ironside as your misogynistic homicidal maniac – with a seriously traumatic childhood origin story for his misogyny… you simply have to see it. It’s jaw-dropping. So fucked up. Anyway, Lee Grant plays a journalist campaigning on behalf of abused women… and… her origin story for doing this is messed up too. I mean, the whole movie is twisted, but it’s an R-rated f’d-up scary stuff. As a Michael Ironside fan, he’s rarely played someone this f’d up. Both films are more than just B-movies. They’ve got “it” going on. They look great on this Blu!
HELLBENDERS 3D Blu Ray
I need to give this another shot NOT in 3D. I thought the 3D looked really cheap and funky. Just made it look worse than the limited budget did. I like the cast a lot… Clifton Collins Jr, Clancy Brown, Larry Fessenden, Dan Fogler, Andre Royo… but as much as I love the notion of sinful priests that invite the demon into their burn in hell selves – to send the Demon back to hell… I mean, essentially adopting the premise from EXORCIST and running it all the way to it’s insane point. I like that… but the writing just didn’t pop. Still fun to see these guys play in a movie, but I just felt it was a premise that could have been done… much better. Oh well. Watch only if you’re a fan of the actors. Or intrigued by the premise, but ok with being let down by it.
Tuesday, February 24th, 2014
THOR: THE DARK WORLD 3D Blu Ray
I pretty much love THOR: THE DARK WORLD… only, I do love Branagh’s more. I love the spirit and yearning adventure embedded in the smiling, laughing faces of its Asgardian adventurers, the score and the tone. Obviously with a title like THE DARK WORLD, we’re going darker with things, but I don’t think Thor wouldn’t still enjoy combat – that is a trait of the character. The recasting of Fandral is my sourest spot with THOR: THE DARK WORLD. Josh Dallas was note perfect in the original as a lifelong Fandral fan. Branagh perfectly gave us the Errol Flynn-ish Fandral that I’d always wanted. Zachary Levi just left me completely flat. Really do not like him in the role. THAT SAID. I fucking love the movie. I do prefer the joy that Branagh brought to things, but I can not deny that the action and scope has been magnified here. My gripes are zip compared to the joy of discovering Hemsworth’s Thor and Hiddleston’s Loki go at it. As a lover of Marvel’s THOR – going from the beginning to now… I simply can not believe we’re getting these movies. It is so amazing. So satisfying. So thrilling. I watch them compulsively – like a child being given his favorite toy on Christmas morning. I watch them and I dream of all the other stories I know with these characters – and I have them cast. I’m dying for Surtur to enter the fray! And a comic accurate translation of MEPHISTO would be nice. There are countless stories I’d love to see done – and this one was very well told. I wish Marvel could give us a new THOR movie every year like Sony is promising Spider-Mans… because otherwise – we’ll just never get nearly enough of these! Loved Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith and his whole story. Where the film leaves ya is just so damn juicy – and yes – I love the 3D. When everything goes crazy in London, everything look so darn great! The disc is filled with extras and I’m just a happy happy man!
BREATHLESS Criterion Blu Ray
CITIZEN KANE changed Cinema for the better… So did BREATHLESS. Put on American movies from the fifties. Watch 3 of em. Any 3. Then watch BREATHLESS… and you’ll get it. You’ll see what Jean-Luc Godard… a Film Geek of the finest possible magnitude. A French film critic that decided to stop just watching film but to reimagine the possibilities of cinema. To reinvent and destroy rules all at once. Starring the great Jean Paul Belmondo as a Bogie loving criminal who falls in love, understandably, with the amazing Jean Seberg as an amazing American gal! Criterion’s transfer is immaculate. It’s beautiful. The film graces your screen with its presence. The extras are extensive. As they should be. The CHAMBRE 12, HOTEL DE SUEDE 80 minute documentary is particularly satisfying. Shot in the nineties and interviewing key personalities involved with the creation of BREATHLESS… again, well done Criterion! No serious film fan will be without this one.
GRAVITY 3D Blu Ray
I see 2 distinctly film experiences with GRAVITY everytime I watch it. As cinema. A work of film. It is daunting, stunning and absolutely visually absorbing. But then there’s that space geek in me, and then comes the dialogue and exposition, which the more you know about Space – well, it can kind of drive you crazy. Everything happening on that screen over the course of this story – it’s pure Space Fantasy… and I can accept it as that. And that’s why I love watching it. I see this film as brilliant when I look at it as a cinematic visceral experiment, like ROPE or LIFEBOAT, but on a scale that dwarfs anything Hitchcock ever set. Clooney and Bullock are wonderful in their respective roles… but again, nearly every bit of dialogue kind of drives me crazy. The strip scene is almost hilarious because… it’s basically as unlikely as Jane Fonda’s BARBARELLA opening title… BUT I LOVE IT. It’s just, as great as it was, I wanted it to make more logistical sense. BUT WHAT A FUCKING MOVIE! I mean, wow. The work that hundreds upon hundreds of humans and the insane amount of workhours that went into this – and those shots… I LOVE IT. It’s just amazing to look at. I would love a rock score composed for GRAVITY to watch it with. To just have it play as I work. The home 3D on this is just WOW! I love Jonas Cuaron’s ANINGAAQ, which takes a look at a key sequence of the movie from a RADICALLY different perspective… So great. Really enhances the 3rd viewing of the film at home! The extras are wonderful. The making of is extensive. You get Shot Breakdowns and the Ed Harris documentary about the “real threat” that inspired the film… They’re all great. Really beautifully produced 3D Blu!!!
NEBRASKA Blu Ray
NEBRASKA is a great double bill with THE STRAIGHT STORY – Stubborn old men stories. Family tales. I’ve been a huge fan of Alexander Payne since CITIZEN RUTH – and getting to review his ELECTION with Roger Ebert was one of those amazing moments in life. I continued to love him with ABOUT SCHMIDT and SIDEWAYS… but I didn’t quite drink THE DESCENDANTS Kool-Aid. There was something too artificial about it to me. Nobody can say that about NEBRASKA. My father is just 9 years younger than Bruce Dern – and I would love to think in 9 years that I’d go on a roadtrip to collect his Publishing Clearinghouse million! But there’s more to the story than that – Will Forte is great as the son that’s going to listen to Dad. June Squibb is amazing as Kate Grant in this film. I absolutely loved every second of her. Bob Odenkirk is cast perfectly – but then so is Stacy Keach! Payne made a great film here. Very heart-warming. Little sad. Just right.
THE SHADOW Blu Ray
One of the coolest things Dad got me when I first started loving the work of Orson Welles, was procure for me, radio broadcasts of Welles being THE SHADOW! On a stormy night, turn off the screens and just listen to those 30s radio broadcasts and imagine the black & white SHADOW movie with ORSON WELLES! It’s great. Specifically watch LADY FROM SHANGHAI and that mirror maze scene – and just imagine it in your dream SHADOW movie. But ya know what, that never happened. We never got Orson Welles as THE SHADOW movie. It’s one of the great missed boats in film history. Instead we got a series of b-movies and serials with the character that are ok. Then the BIG movie was 1994’s Russell Mulcahy directed from a great David Koepp screenplay… and a very fun and stylized telling of THE SHADOW – starring Alex Baldwin, who was recovering from a two movie slide… the stunningly beautiful Penelope Ann Miller, the note-perfect John Lone… but then a supporting cast of such greatness as to include… Peter Boyle, Ian McKellen, Jonathan Winters, James Hong and TIM CURRY! Not only that, but stop-motion animation was used to make the Phurba dagger come to life – and it’s GREAT! It also is one of the last painted matte-painting big productions, before it went digital. Joseph Nemec’s production design is great! Stepehn Burum’s cinematography is lush and Jerry Goldsmith’s score was beautiful! And this is a vast improvement to Universal’s original Blu Ray! The transfer is BEAUTIFUL! The nearly 24 minute LOOKING BACK AT THE SHADOW with Russell Mulcahy, David Koepp, Alec Baldwin, Penelope Ann Miller and Burum – is really fun. Love this movie!
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR Criterion Blu Ray
The Palm d’Or winner from last year’s Cannes, finds itself released via the finest Blu label out there… Criterion! The transfer is perfect. Just beautiful. Perhaps even more so than what was seen at Cannes. This is an intense emotional and beautiful and graphic story of two women that fall in love. The sex is graphic, but powerful as a result. This isn’t a film to get your rocks of to, this is a film to understand a love that is very similar to the love we all feel and experience. The intensity of emotion, the passion of the love… it is as maddening as any love story you’ve ever seen told. The film is BEAUTIFUL! And I absolutely get how this won at Cannes! There’s not an extensive extras on this title. No commentary, no behind the scenes, just the trailer. I think in time we may see something more extensive. This is a film that hopefully grows in stature over time. Truly remarkable work!
TESS Blu Ray
Roman Polanski’s TESS is a great film. You can learn a powerful lesson from this movie. Don’t wait to confess your past transgressions in life till your wedding night. It can go badly. Actually, communication and honesty and acceptance are all pretty bitter enemies in this film. The film won Oscars for cinematography, Art Direction and Costume Design – and it’s easy to see why, it was also nominated for Picture, Director and Original Score, but it and RAGING BULL & THE ELEPHANT MAN & COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER lost to ORDINARY PEOPLE, and Scorsese and Lynch and Polanski lost to Redford for Director! I have to admit, I would probably have loved it had Ricard Rush won Best Director for THE STUNT MAN that year! Although as a film student, we all agree that was Scorsese’s Oscar. TESS as offered by Criterion is FILLED with extras. I was shocked how loaded this was. Really great extras like the ONCE UPON A TIME…”TESS” or the TV shows THE SOUTH BANK SHOW and CINE REGARDS – which are great! Plus 3 mini-docs about the film all running over 20 minutes. TESS is another great film by Polanski… Criterion did it up right!
HARRY POTTER Hogwarts Collection Blu Ray
Essentially a repackaging of the entire series with a single new bonus disc with extras to dangle. I think fans at this point are just wanting a group release of the entire EXTENDED EDITION series of HARRY POTTER films – and we’ll be good forever. You don’t get that here – and the only new stuff are features like where you meet all the stunt doubles!!! Ahem. Nothing trumps the Hogwarts Castle release, for your maximum Harry Potter mania… Now, what I want is for J.K. Rowling to write grown up adventures for Harry as a 30 years older character! Then at that time Warners brings the cast back together and we get those stories. Right? No. Ok. Sniffle.
ICE SOLDIERS Blu Ray
Again, I’ll watch anything with Michael Ironside in it. And Adam Beach has had me since his great turn in SMOKE SIGNALS. But mix that with a hokey Cold War Genetic Russian plot to destroy America – unleashed now plotline. Sure, that’s funky enough to grab me – and it’s by Sturla Gunnarsson, who made that BEOWULF & GRENDEL back in 2005, that was actually – pretty darn good. So I’m looking forward to picking this film up. I mean, I’m sure it is appropriately cheesy Commie Super Soldier story as it should be! Word is dodgy, but the word has been wrong before.
LOST IN THAILAND
This is the biggest grossing film in Chinese film history! The box is marketing it to you as the Chinese version of THE HANGOVER, but really – it’s closer to MIDNIGHT RUN than that – and really not at all – because visually and story wise – it bears the slightest resemblance. But it is funny, it does have heart – and at the very least – perhaps this film holds the secret to Chinese box office glory! Aren’t you intrigued? Just wait till you find out about Supergas! You know you’re curious. You’ll probably like this as the most different Chinese film that most of you have ever seen. It’s more than Martial Arts and Period films. Really!
Fascinating. A look at Mexico’s Drug Cartel world and the pop-culture ramifications that it has given the world. It’s a brutal look. You’ll see stuff you might not want to see, but when you hear the songs sung about the drug runners and you see the real world cost of life… it’s just brutal. Fantastic doc. SOBERING. Definitely worth watching!
Next week, we’ll be looking at HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, SOMEWHERE IN TIME Blu, HARRY & THE HENDERSONS Blu, AN AMERICAN TAIL Blu, GARDEN STATE Blu, BOILER ROOM Blu, AGONY AND THE ECSTASY Blu, THE VISITOR blu, GRANDMASTER Blu, OLDBOY remake Blu, THE LAST DAYS ON MARS, PHILOMENA Blu, INTOLERABLE CRUELTY Blu, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES Blu, HOURS and that’s about it!
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