Hey folks, Harry here… This would’ve been up Tuesday morning, but we were hosting a party that left me more inebriated than I’d ever feel safe at a keyboard writing at. That’s saying something. SXSW delayed the previous week, but now we’re all caught up. So let’s get on with it! As usual the images and links take you to Amazon where you can learn more on a title, or if you’re motivated to pick it up – well a small portion of the price goes to support this column, which is fully archived on the Android and iOS device friendly app which you can get at PicksAndPeeks.com!!! Excellent app! Now – let’s dive in!!!
Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
THE BOOK THIEF Blu Ray
Perhaps my favorite aspect of this film was the John Williams score. That isn’t saying this isn’t a damn fine film, just that I’m that big of a John Williams geek. Young Liesel is adopted by the awesome Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson. A German couple that are trying to live through the Third Reich without joining the Nazi Party. The economic incentives are many, But Rush’s Hans is a good man. When the son of a fellow soldier that saved his life in WWI needs shelter and care… and is Jewish… he keeps him safe and secret. The story is told from the point of view of little Sophie Nelisse’s Liesel. There’s an innocence that’s heart breaking. The girl is being educated by the Nazi’s education system, but still keeps the secret… even getting to know the young man. Watson’s Rosa is a pretty great character. Really solid film with a greater score. It is a good way to show what it was like to live under that kind of rule. Scary stuff.
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS Blu Ray
The refreshing nature of the Coen Brothers is the variety of tales they tell. With INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, they take us through time to era, captured with the same care and precision as any era they’ve ever recreated. People craving conclusions on a tale of a wandering Folk Singer, are kind of exactly missing the point. This is a sliver of a life. A period of an existence that isn’t about beginnings or endings, but the living of the moments between. Llewyn Davis was one of the truly great films of 2014. And while I love LET IT GO from Disney’s FROZEN, my favorite song created for a film in 2013 was PLEASE PLEASE MR. KENNEDY… a song that absolutely delights me to no end. The recording of it, that sequence in the film – utterly delightful. Everything you need to know about Davis is how he feels about being responsible for that cat. It is a beautiful window into the character’s soul. The Coens beam us into their own take and flavor of the times they choose to tell their stories – and INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS offers a window into the life of a working creative soul and the pain & anguish of creating for a buck. This film is better than award shows and lists. I just fucking love it. At a DNA level. Dryly hilarious and absolutely fascinating! Also love the 42 minute Inside look feature. Nicely done.
OUT OF THE FURNACE Blu Ray
Here’s a film that is let down by its story, but what story is there – is brought to life brilliantly by the actors. As a result, you have a fascinating but ultimately not quite satisfying tale. You know. That movie you watch and you love the characters, but not where the story is going? It’s one of those. The best joy of the film is how the cast keeps getting bigger and better. It just… it is really predictable. And I hate that in my thrillers. Bale is great, as usual. Casey Affleck always shines. Harrelson is just one of my fave eclectic actors. Forrest Whitaker – right? Willem Dafoe will absolutely absorb you. And Zoe Saldana, who too often gets underwritten roles has something to work with here. But I just don’t really love the movie. I hate that. See it for the actors.
HOMEFRONT Blu Ray
Now here’s a fucking fun movie! Written by Sylvester Stallone for Jason Statham… it’s a classic Stalloner story! Some bad people try to fuck with someone that should probably be given a very wide berth. I mean. You know in a Stallone construct, that your lead character is going to be put through the ringer, but when it is Jason’s turn. Giggle. Love it. Franco is, as always… a JOY to watch on screen. Seriously. Joy. He just seems to be creatively in a great place to make some amazing off kilter characters to sprout to life. It’s nice to see Gary Fleder deliver this movie. I’ve always thought him a fun director, he really does give this the teeth it needed dramatically speaking. Real fun flick! I would’ve killed for a Stallone writer’s commentary on this one. Just saying. It’d be AMAZING! Alas this is a dry disk.
OZPLOITATION TRAILER EXPLOSION
Do you have Film Geek get togethers? If so, when you see great trailer packages, ALWAYS PICK THEM UP. I find these things to be shopping guides for the obscure titles that I’m always shopping for. Now, specifically this is an Ozploitation Trailers – and that’s a specific flavor of fun. They have trailers with strong adult imagery – yes a large flaccid cock appears. Lots of bush & boobs – but also some really really crazy crazy stuff. Australians, when they set their minds to exploitation… God bless em! They exploit with the best of us. They’ve got all the classics of the Ozploitation world – THE MAN FROM HONG KONG, ROAD GAMES, TURKEY SHOOT, BMX BANDITS, PATRICK, DEAD END DRIVE-IN… and stuff you’ve never ever heard of and others you will. It’s great! This was playing through the ST. PATRICK’S DAY party, and nobody commented on my clever PATRICK programming, but boy did that limp dick get some play! Giggle. Great times! I really can’t drink enough GUINNESS it seems. Let me be direct though – this is great party material. So fricken weird!
SAMSON & DELILAH Blu
Here’s a BIBLE story screaming to be remade exploitation style. I mean, SAMSON & DELILAH – that story, it’s violent as hell. Watching this 1949 version by Cecil B DeMille – it’s great, I love Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr is one of those creations that defies the logic of the brain. She’s really beautiful. Really. And Angela Lansbury is so beautiful too. But as I was saying, watching this story, the room for amplification just screams to be done. When Samson goes to town with that Bone! That could be spectacular. He’s one of the top Badasses of the Bible. In a story of pure sex and violence… with a heap load of faith. Having seen NOAH, I am eager for a new age of filmmakers to attempt their hands at the epic genres of yore. DeMille has owned this genre – and thus far he continues to own it. But it is a dream that Hollywood is chasing again. Just like with our Super Heroes – this era of cinema was born for spectacle – these stories have that in spades. And they really are some of the greatest stories ever told. This is a great one! The film really deserves to have heap loads of extras. But there’s nothing. Still, just to have this Technicolor beauty in 1080p… It is grand!
Animalplotation – and Animapopcalypse are amongst my favorite thing. I have the Blu. It’s sitting here. I just can’t quite watch it yet. Our dog died last week – and I just don’t think the Canine Exploitation End of the World as Man’s Best Friend turns upon their masters and feasts like they’ve never feasted before… Oh man, I’ve seen it before… it’s fucking a great movie, but ya know… it’s the timing. I need to get a new dog, then I’ll feel safe to watch this. It really is this – as great as the seventies made em. Show it to your Cat Friends so they feel intimidated by your canine audacity! This is DOGS!!! Giggle. Also as a MAN FROM UNCLE fan, I always love a flick starring David McCallum! He rules!
Ok – firstly – ignore the cover. Imagine a film that’s about a Vampire Society conspiracy around our main girl, kinda like STEPFORD WIVES or ROSEMARY’S BABY – but imagine a production design scheme that very much echoes the visuals of THE PRISONER. Now, with the knowledge that it is actually GREAT – get this! For lovers of the Vampire genre, here’s something decidedly different and good! I loved this title!
Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
FROZEN Blu Ray
I love FROZEN, but I love FROZEN 3D even more. For some absurd reason, Disney is selling this movie in 3D in just about every other territory on Earth as a 3D Blu Ray – but we’re going to have to resort to importing the Asian market copies, because we can’t order it domestically. I want to give them my money, and I will, but via foreign releases. It doesn’t have to be this hard. I do have a standard Blu Ray – and cuz I love this film like a sick monkey loves bananas and sunshine. The Making of – is handled in Musical form and really tells you nothing, but in and of itself, it’s charming as hell. But realize – this is a first Blu Ray on a title that Disney will reissue in enhanced versions. I mean, it doesn’t even tell is it won 2 Oscars, this can’t be the only edition. You get 7 minutes of Deleted or unshot scenes – ie storyboard and animatic style tellings. I could care less about any of the Music Videos. And the 7 minute history of this adaptation is really not acknowledging just how awesome this film is. Oh and watching the GET A HORSE! Animated short in HD is awesome! But it was more awesome in the theater in 3D!!! C’mon Disney, give us your best!
AMERICAN HUSTLE Blu Ray
I enjoy the living shit out of this movie. You can just feel all the actors LOVING their parts. In the deleted scenes, you’ll really see some awesomely over the top sequences, that I would LOVE IN THE MOVIE! The two Jennifer Lawrence musical numbers! Wow. But actually, they’d have been too much – but as extras – you’ll friggin love them! Russell is clearly having a blast directing this too. Bradley Cooper had to laugh his ass off every day in the mirror. Amy Adams clearly adores every moment of screen time she has in this. Her role, amazing. But Jennifer is also amazing. I also love how unsuperhero Rocket, Bats and Hawk are in this. Although, Bale is still the fucking Man. He makes that comb-over and belly sexy and that’s some bold awesome work! Renner is just such a trusting happy soul. Poor guy. Love the great actor that pops up in this, but damn if I’ll spoil it. If you don’t know – FANTASTIC, enjoy! The film looks and sounds great, the extras are tremendous on this disc. It may not have won any awards, but the people that love this are going to continue to love it for a long time to come!
SAVING MR BANKS Blu Ray
An amazing bit of rebooting Disney history for the corporate good never killed anyone, but boy does it piss some of us off. The film is a constructed fiction of reality on par with INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. If you don’t know what P. L. Travers thought of Disney’s MARY POPPINS… fine, watch and love this movie. It’ll make you feel warm and good… like when you were a child. But, if you do know – and see the very calculated manufacture of history… and you’re not offended… Nice to meet ya Gunga Din. The film is expertly constructed, conceived and displayed – marvelously entertaining – and will produce tears of gee golly caliber. But it is a lie. A calculated lie. Done expertly. Dig deeper if you’re curious. If not, Enjoy the movie. I enjoy it, but also find it utterly maddening. I’d rather just watch MARY POPPINS – a film I love. This movie is beautiful bullshit.
HIDDEN FORTRESS Criterion Blu Ray
Ok STAR WARS geeks, line up – this is the primary film of influence upon Master George Lucas’ beloved STAR WARS. HIDDEN FORTRESS is a brilliant Akira Kurosawa film. I made my father promise to show me this movie when I was quite young, but it took a while. Wasn’t until it hit VHS that I first saw it. Since I’ve seen it in 35mm a couple of times now… and this Criterion Blu Ray is just perfection! Brand new scan of a fine grain master. The film looks stunning projected here at home. But Criterion has done a great supplemental job as well. There’s the 41 minute AKIRA KUROSAWA: IT IS WONDERFUL TO CREATE – where you hear Kurosawa love on John Ford, among other things and it is great! The 9 minute George Lucas interview on Kurosawa is also outstanding – and even addresses what he took from HIDDEN FORTRESS! Also Film Historian, Stephen Prince does a great commentary. In all – a great film handled perfectly by Criterion! Love this film!
THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE Blu Ray
To go from discussing Akira Kurosawa’s HIDDEN FORTRESS to Amy Holden Jones’ THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE… well, it’s kinda why I love this column. First – Shout! treats SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE like Criterion treats Kurosawa – with love and affection. A beautiful transfer from the original negative means this film looks as lush as it deserves! Then you have a great making of, commentary by the director and the actors… I mean, outstanding! Ultimately this is that awesomely sexploitive and funky bloody good time that the title suggests! It is a fun fun classic – and such a good time with multiple friends! No Horror geek should go without!
A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME Criterion Blu Ray
Errol Morris turns his eyes to the most brilliant man on Earth, Stephen Hawking back in 1991 and made this documentary using the same title as Hawking’s book of the same name. The film gives you a look at Stephen Hawking’s life, how his illness affected him, but still the brilliance he wields! I’ve loved this doc since it came out in 1991, I remember watching it at the Dobie Mall theater – with fellow students and just being amazed. Morris manages to make all the Quantum Physics make sense to my ape brain – and that’s impressive. Now, some of the theories and ideas discussed here have since been revised by research and knowledge as it presented itself, but this film is still a great document showing the amazing life of Hawking. Criterion gives us a 35 minute interview with Errol Morris talking about this film and his time with Stephen Hawking. We also get a 12min interview with cinematographer John Bailey! Overall – great great work! Wonderful Blu Ray!
THE BLACK STALLION Blu Ray
I haven’t seen this Blu Ray yet, but THE BLACK STALLION is one of those movies from my childhood that I feel effortlessly in love with, and the beauty of that film – it’s stunning. I love the cast, from Kelly Reno, to his awesome dad played by Hoyt Axton, and the mom played by the so easily lovable Teri Garr… and then there’s friggin Mickey Rooney, who is AMAZING in the film! I’m hoping this Blu Ray lives up to the potential this movie gives the medium. The photography is stunning and the print hopefully will reflect that. I’ve seen HD transfers on Cable – they looked beautiful, so I am hopeful the Blu Ray will follow suit. Fingers crossed.
MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM Blu Ray
Not only is Idris Elba an unwavering badass, but he’s a helluva actor! His Mandela will give you pause. The calm he allows into his face, his eyes… he gets a truth to his delivery that really is affecting. The scenes where MANDELA as a prisoner faces down South Africa’s leaders was… AMAZING! Especially because you know that Mandela guards the entrance to Asgard and can solo-pilot a badass Mech. I mean, these guys are so lucky he didn’t give them a cross look, doubt they would’ve survived! The timing of the release and then Mandela’s passing away was unfortunate, but it’s a real good film! Loaded with a Commentary and special features. Very solid Blu Ray!
FRIGHTMARE Blu Ray
The work of director Pete Walker has been well documented by this column, and FRIGHTMARE is one of his very best flicks. It’s old-fashioned cannibalism horror – which is always ready to serve the culinary horror fan. BBQ advised! The film is legitimately solid, at the time it was shocking, but by today’s loving depravity, it feels nostalgically disturbing… if that makes any sense at all, but it is how it plays. The visual punch isn’t as strong as today, but still… eww, ya know? Pete Walker also had an excellent taste for his female stars – and they’re hauntingly shot. I really dig FRIGHTMARE… and the blu ray comes loaded with extras! Pete Walker and his DP do a Commentary, There’s a 12 minute interview with Walker – and a 14 minute interview with Shelia Keith, who worked with Walker often! A great Blu!
HERE COMES THE DEVIL Blu Ray
This Spanish language horror film is DISTURBING, UNSETTLING, HAUNTING, and MAGNIFICENTLY CREEPY! I love love love this film, which really kicked ass at Fantastic Fest! The less you know the better, just know – this is the kind of horror that gets in your head… scratches at your ID… brings fear to mind. Scary stuff. I don’t even wanna specify what kind of thing you’re in for. Just trust me, if you like International Horror – this one is very very good! Magnolia’s Blu is loaded. Director Commentary, Extended scene, BTS Comparisons, Rehearsals and more! But really, this is a great scary flick!
Next week, we’ll be looking at THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, PERSONA Blu, THE KING OF COMEDY Blu, MS. 45 Blu, Criterion’s THE FRESHMAN Blu, THE SWIMMER Blu, ODD THOMAS, ZODIAC, PATRICK, WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE and more!