Hey folks, Harry here… This almost didn’t get written tonight. I was rearing to write after finishing my GODZILLA review… but then word hit the net about H.R. Giger. For me, I’m a creature of passions, and I passionately love the work of H.R. Giger. He sent me a piece of his art signed, completely by surprise in 1997. I almost got to meet him once, but the timing didn’t work. But hearing about his passing… it hit me the way Elvis dying his a friend of my parents. I had a massive urge to break shit, that it took… hours to calm. I was violently upset that Giger was taken. It felt personal and mean. I leave the obit to one of the other AICNers. I’m too pissed to write it now. But I want you to know… writing this column allowed me to explore other channels tonight and I thank you for being an audience for that. Now as usual, the images and the links take you to Amazon where you can learn more on the titles in question, and purchase them if the fancy strikes. If it does, bless ya… a small percentage of the price goes to keep the best efforts of this column going. Now… let’s dive into some really great titles this week!
Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
HER Blu Ray
Spike Jonze’s HER is an extraordinary film. As a work of science fiction, eroticism, humanism and transhumanism… it’s wonderful. At a whole other level, it’s simply our reality as many live it now. Reaching out from their glowy screens to other glowy screens… all seeking a connection and an outlet… perhaps something more. The digital space allows for countless interactions and relationships. We become close to people through communal gaming, film watching, television watching… Add to this a new level of consciousness. One not limited to a single train of thought or input. But one that could think and absorb on endless fronts. The intellect of mass-absorbtion. How archaic it must be to have a single conversation, when a book of thoughts could be absorbed in a fraction of a nanosecond. Unlike TRANSCENDENCE – I found HER to tackle the big AI on a level that I was completely absorbed by. Imagine if someone had complete access to your digital self. That could read everything you’ve read, seen and heard… who knew every note and lyric that you had… every communication you ever made, but instead of being there to judge you, they were absorbed by you. This film is inevitable fiction. The performances by everybody are electrifying. Joaquin Phoenix is becoming an actor on a level few have reached. He is absolutely natural… the performance feels effortless… and yet, it is anything but. Scarlett Johansson’s vocals are again bare… real… honest… But then… Amy Adams is equally brilliant here… and Rooney Mara? The signing scene? AMAZING! The casual creation of this rather intricate future… one that is far scarier than hazy skies with flying cars. It’s a future I feel we can all see, one where we pull back even further from reality, as we become symbiotic with whatever the digital space will become. I’ve been a lover of cyberpunk fiction for a very long time, so most of this has crossed my mind, it’s only how perfectly that Jonze captured a nearly realized version… The Blu Ray print is stunning. It has some very… artsy and revealing extras on the disc. And… choke me with a dead cat!
THE GODFATHER Part III Blu
In my experience… I haven’t really taken a dump on GODFATHER III. In fact, I have had multiple dates with women that wanted to watch THE GODFATHER TRILOGY, because they’d always wanted to see it. One of two things happens on these marathon dates when watching this third GODFATHER. At around the 30 minute mark, you begin making out and having sex for the rest of the film… or… the date is over. The first two films are completely absorbing for every second. This… it looks and sounds right, but it just doesn’t really matter. It’s a handsome production with highlights and quite a few lowlights. But I prefer the film, while being distracted. It is the same Blu Ray I believe that was released as a part of that GODFATHER COLLECTION, so if you bought that, by no means should you pick this up. I mean… the disc you have will bore your significant other into action just as well.
ROLLERBALL (1975) Blu Ray
Sadly AMAZON doesn’t carry the Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu Rays. You can only get them via ScreenArchives.com… But as they sent me review discs – and a superior product at that – I include them here. ROLLERBALL, the original is one of my favorite films of all time. My father’s shop sponsored the word of mouth screening back in 1975 – it really made an impression on me. We saw the film maybe 12 times in the theater. Both my mother and father loved it – and we got it quite early upon VHS. I watched it from 1983-1989 in a high rotation. I’ve played the film on high rotation… throughout my life – and I’ve watched this Blu Ray – 4 times already. It is… outstanding. The disc features an isolated score and 2 audio commentaries, one with director Norman Jewison – and the other with the original short story and co-screenwriter William Harrison. It has a vintage featurette that is GREAT! And a new one that interviews a lot of the cast today. It’s only limited to 3000 copies, so if you’re a fan, get it quick! ROLLERBALL is the great sci-fi violent sport film. This and the original DEATH RACE 2000 are part of my consciousness at a deeply beloved level. It isn’t just the game sequences… it’s the worlds that they exist in. I like to imagine that on Earth, when Ripley is going space-mining… ROLLERBALL is on Earth. In fact, most sci-fi films… in my mind, somewhere… ROLLERBALL is happening. And everyone loves Jonathan E! James Caan is a god in this film. In fact… let’s make a GODFATHER 4, where James Caan’s SONNY lived and Al Pacino’s Michael bit it!
I FRANKENSTEIN 3D Blu
I was deeply sick when I FRANKENSTEIN had its press screening this year… and never bothered to check it out in theaters. That… “from the producers of UNDERWORLD” scared me right the fuck away. When this 3D Blu Ray came, I put on my glasses and sat back… honestly kinda rooting for the film to be silly fun. I mean… I know Aaron Eckhardt is a tad stiff on film… but I like him the way I love Christopher Lambert. He’s fun in pulp things. And when you operate from a premise that Mary Shelley didn’t write Frankenstein, but instead… it’s a real part of history that Victor Frankenstein created a monster… Oh – and Demons are on Earth in an eternal edged weapons combat with Holy Gargoyles… and the Frankenstein monster is the Anakin Skywalker of this story… which is told in 1 film, rather than 6… Well… Sure, fucking why not. I kinda love the bullshit Christian allegory mixed with the blasphemy of Victor Frankenstein. It’s one of those peanut butter and chocolate things. It’s absolutely terrible for ya, pure diabetes… but… well, I pretty much have given up peanut butter and chocolate… but ya know. Sometimes, when you just don’t give a shit, this film plays. And in 3D, it is kinda super special ed. It very much has the exact same “physics” of UNDERWORLD… which is more Pizza with Anchovies to me. How it will go with you is up to your individual palatte. But this was silly bad for my mind bullshit entertainment that worked for me. Can’t guarantee you’ll like it. But you never know unless you try.
CROCODILE DUNDEE double feature Blu
I can’t imagine the Eighties without CROCODILE DUNDEE… Paul Hogan is effortlessly charming and funny… Linda Kozlowski is his perfect foil/love-interest… and it’s that chemistry is why I love the first film, and am amused by the far shittier sequel. Getting both of these on Blu Ray just assures that if my wife or friends ever say… hey, I wanna watch CROCODILE DUNDEE, I can immediately agree and lay my hands upon this double feature. The transfers are fine and match my hazy eighties memories of seeing these in a shoebox multiscreen in Wichita Falls. I took all my friends and on the drive back we would have grated the ears of any Australian on the planet… and laughed our asses off doing it. I don’t have all those friends, lost one in High School – and the others through a passage of time and separate destinies. But I watch these and I remember every joke, every laugh and every bump on the road. These two films have a whole lot good times associated. Hey, it was the Eighties and KNIN rocks!
I know reading me sometimes feels like I have an associated memory with every movie ever in the history of cinema… and while that is a personal goal of mine… I missed this one. I really can’t believe I missed this one. It was released in February of 1982 domestically… I can only blame the existence of my baby sister, which slightly slowed my parents fanatical pursuit of cinema for that first year of her birth… and it must not have played on any of the screens that I could ride a bus to, cuz in that period, I was going by myself to movie theaters unescorted all the time… even R rated films. Then… there’s the rest of my fucking life – and I’m angry at every movie friend I’ve ever had for not looking into my soul and recognizing that this film was missing from the amazing cinema collection encased within. WHY THE FUCK HAD I NEVER SEEN EVILSPEAK!?!?!?!?! Perhaps everyone assumed logically that I had seen it. I must have. A film starring Clint Howard as an orphaned awkward geek at a military school that has taken over an ancient Spanish Church founded by secretly SATANISTS led by a Spanish speaking evil Richard Moll as Father Esteban?!?!?!!? Not only that… but when Clint Howard cleans out the basement and discovers the secret chamber with the secret satanists texts… he feeds them into a 1980’s era computer – and the Satanism possesses the computer – and as the Jocks & Asshole Instructors of this institution make his life a living hell… he uses NERD SCIENCE and the power of the DARK LORD to feed their living screaming souls to the black boars of Hell’s gate! This shit is LEGENDARY! Clint Howard floating with a fucking broadsword taking peoples’ fucking heads! And the only kid that was his friend is played by Dwayne Nelso from fucking WHAT’S HAPPENING!!!!! Yes, Haywood Nelson is in this – and YOU HAVE GOT TO SEE his part in the extras… IT CAN NOT BE MISSED! This movie plays like a geek revelation… and it actually FEELS EVIL…. The chanting soundtrack and just watching how much Clint Howard “teenager” believes in the power of Satan. Watching this in the dead of night could be one of the best times you have. By yourself or with a pack of friends. EVILSPEAK is fucking amazing! I am now a believer of EVILSPEAK. I will bring it up to every friend that enters my home as an option to view. I feel like I have been cheated of countless chances to have discovered this film earlier in life. Thanks to Shout Factory for not letting me to discover this film in such a beautiful format!
FINAL EXAM Blu
God dammit SHOUT FACTORY! How are you doing this to me? I love college slasher horror films. Released 5 days after my Baby Sister was born… and again… UNSEEN BY ME EVER SINCE… until this Blu Ray arrived at my door… Suddenly, I wonder… how much from 1981-1982 haven’t I seen? I’m gonna go do a search – and then blame my sister for everything I haven’t seen. She’s gonna love this! Giggle. FINAL EXAM is also, kind of amazing. The Frat fake terrorist strike on campus… must be seen. It’s… amazing. The reaction by authorities to it… AMAZING. And the way you’ll respond… equally amazing. Just like with EVILSPEAK, Shout’s done a grand job with the transfer and the extras. Straight off the Camera Negative and beautiful… well, as an early eighties slasher flick is beautiful. And as it gets rarer and rarer for me to get to see something from that wonderful era that surprises and entertains me so completely in one of my fave sub-genres… it’s just really really cool.
SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON Blu
Remember when DREAMWORKS ANIMATION and DISNEY were dueling with animated drawings instead of pushing pixels? SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON was really great, if I remember. In particular, the physical animation of the horses was beautifully done. I haven’t seen the film again in the 12 years since it was released. This BluRay didn’t show up in advance of this column, so I can’t comment about the quality of the transfer or any of the extras if there are extras, and why shouldn’t there be?
STALINGRAD 3D Blu
The 1993 STALINGRAD is one of the greatest war films I’ve ever seen. At 138 minutes, that film is harrowing in a way few war films are. However, this new 3D film entitled STALINGRAD is not bad. In fact, I’m really quite fond of it. However, you need to know a couple of things about watching the film. The English track is not how to watch this. Watch with the Russian track and the subtitles – and I guarantee you’ll find an extra star or two. The dub stuff just wasn’t working at all for me. This story of five fathers and the 18 year old girl they adopt during the battle of STALINGRAD… it’s a wonderful little story in something quite larger. I enjoy this movie, it is quite long… 201 minutes long, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. The 3D is breathtaking.
SPECIAL ID Blu
I’m predisposed to enjoy a Donnie Yen movie, because the man moves beautifully. But with no shame, I really did love this movie. For a very significant portion of this film, the fights didn’t feel tense… but more of an extension of criminal posturing and dick measuring. They’re not fighting to kill, but to shame. They’re counting coup on one but through martial arts. If feels fun… playful… it almost feels like an acceptable and honorable way to live. Until someone dies. Then, the film takes on a more dire tone. I love that Donnie Yen is a mama’s boy, and is genuinely sweet with her. But just know… a character in the movie will beat the living fuck out of Donnie Yen’s Mama that Donnie Yen dotes upon and loves… and that man will fight Donnie Yen… after. Beating his mom silly! Can you imagine having the balls or the stupidity to beat up Donnie Yen’s mother? I mean. Really?
FLYING TIGERS Blu
Released in 1942, this film does bring up the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but features American fliers that were fighting the Japanese from the air long before that strike. John Wayne plays the Squadron commander… and he’s superb. The shots of the Japanese being shot up in their cockpits are quite graphic and remind me of some of the panels I can recall from E.C.’s ACES HIGH. You know, like being shot through the neck – and inky black blood gushing from the clutched throat type of stuff… but in black and white… it feels brutal. This film was shot with anger… there’s a hatred here and a vicious retribution paid upon celluloid. I love this flick. I saw it on 16mm as a boy – and on VHS – but this print is crisp and beautiful. Outstanding film!
HOME OF THE BRAVE Blu
I’ve been longing to see this film for years. I think being raised by a socially liberal hippie cinema loving couple, it made me aware of this film, though I had no way to see it. This is one of the earliest films to deal with racism in the military and in American culture. Made in 1949… Produced by Stanley Kramer (HIGH NOON, CYRANO DE BERGERAC, THE WILD ONE, THE CAINE MUTINY, INHERIT THE WIND, JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER) Screenplay by Carl Foreman (CHAMPION, HIGH NOON, BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, GUNS OF NAVARONE…) And directed by Mark Robson (THE GHOST SHIP, BEDLAM, CHAMPION, THE HARDER THEY FALL, VON RYAN’S EXPRESS, EARTHQUAKE)… well… that’s a winning combination. Long before Sidney Poitier, there was James Edwards… Now, this is a 1949 film – and the word “Nigger” and a number of other racist phrases and notions and ideas will be brought up… but it is how James Edwards reacts that is POWERFUL. This film is also dealing with PTSD long before it was given that distinction. Peter Moss is a young black man serving in WWII and he’s put in as an Engineer Topography Specialist… the most key member of a small reconnaissance patrol sent into to get intel on where the Japanese are in a key area of a Japanese controlled island in advance of taking that island. The enemy is everywhere… His Moss is under extreme pressure to get the job right, even though he must deal with varying degrees of racism from his fellow soldiers… who are each responding differently to Moss and the situation they find themselves in. Lloyd Bridges plays a former Basketball schoolmate of Moss’ that considers Moss to be his best friend from those times. The whole film is told in flashbacks as Moss tells the story of the island… and the story of him and Bridges’ Finch. This film is incredible. INCREDIBLY GREAT! This film has so much on its mind about the combat weary soldiers and their disparate backgrounds when cooked under a battlefield nightmare. Can not recommend highly enough. This film should be known everywhere!
OVERLORD Criterion Blu Ray
For me, this was the great film discovery that I made while watching THE Z CHANNEL documentary. I did not grow up in the influence of THE Z CHANNEL, so I was not blessed with visually striking and uniquely introspective and all at once… insane film that details a young man’s experience from Basic Training to the nightmarish surreal hell of being on the frontlines of D-Day… You’ve never seen a World War 2 movie quite like this one. Criterion’s blu IS THE WAY to experience this obscure masterpiece. Well over an hour of extras, along with an audio commentary. This is just sterling work from Criterion! If you seriously love cinema, it is a must see.
Next week, I’ll be looking at NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (1979) on Blu, THE MONUMENTS MEN Blu, TOURIST TRAP Blu, POMPEII 3D Blu, 3 DAYS TO KILL Blu, LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE Criterion Blu, VAMPIRE ACADEMY Blu, GANG WAR IN MILAN Blu, GRAND PIANO Blu and more! Till then, keep watching the screens!!!