Hey folks, Harry here with the third week of May’s Picks And Peeks column, where I look at my picks and previews of releases this week. This isn’t a big release week, but what’s here is pretty solid I feel. With a couple of exceptions. If you’d like to see a ton of releases, I recommend clicking on the PICKS AND PEEKS and checking out the iFriendly or Android app, which gives you thousands upon thousands of write-ups all with information about the title’s availability on Netflix, Amazon or iTunes. SO check that out. As usual, the column’s pictures and links take you to Amazon where you can learn more about the title in question, or if so motivated, you can pick it up – which we love you for, cuz a small portion of the price help keeps this column’s best efforts going! So thank you. Now – let’s get on with it!
Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE Blu Ray
Nobody could possibly out creep F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU… it’s German Expressionism is unassailable by modern cinema… it was meant to be a dream you wake from screaming and in finding Max Schreck… A classic, for all time. Enter Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski… I’d see that! The original silent film, my family has had on 16mm for essentially my entire life. It is burned into my mind, and my mind is far better for it. Herzog’s NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE is every bit as creepy… Kinski in the make up is absolutely worth every penny… and Herzog nailed the style and film perfectly. Max Schreck’s Count doesn’t feel like an actor, it feels like the fucking spawn of hell. Kinski’s Count has soulful, hurt and emotional eyes… He’s creepy, cuz Kinski has creepy in his soul and the way Herzog shoots him… it’s just great. Herzog understood the dream quality that he had to bring to this and he nails it! There’s a Herzog commentary in English as well as one in German that’s subtitled…. Both are great, because Herzog can’t help it! There’s also a 15 min behind the scenes which I was quite happy to discover on here! I kinda love the remake, even if I’ll never shake the original!
THE MONUMENTS MEN Blu Ray
It killed me when this film wasn’t ready in time for BNAT last year. I wanted it to play immediately after THE AGONY & THE ECSTACY and before Bill Plympton’s CHEATIN’… There’s a belief in MONUMENTS MEN that I gleamed from reading the script in advance that I fell in love with. That we are defined by our art, the works each generation and age of mankind leaves in its wake… This is the United States of America that I just fucking love. The U.S.A. that in the midst of this unholy massive war… that has a squad of men set out into the shells and explosions with the express purpose of saving art. Returning it to its rightful owners. That the culture and history of Europe would survive. Truly, I want to believe that the world has matured to a point where this kind of insanity will never happen again… But then… well… I’m not sure if we will learn from history. Certainly George Clooney made this movie to remind us what earned the U.S. such good will, it wasn’t just that we were good at killing Nazis… but that we did it with a degree of class and nobility. We were fair… we demonstrated a degree of love for the people of the countries we liberated, but their property as well. I loved the film. In particular, I loved all the little stories that made up the film, and boy… when Bill Murray takes that shower… so great. The Blu Ray does a great job with print and sound… and in the extras side of things, I wish Clooney had done a commentary, I would’ve loved his thoughts on the film in a fuller fashion, but the couple of deleted scenes were nice. The 12 minute feature with the Real Monuments Men speaking was great. There’s an additional 3 featurettes focusing upon George Clooney, the cast and Cate Blanchett. I also really dig the score for this film, it gets me tapping a toe the whole time! And, I can never get enough WWII film stories.
3 DAYS TO KILL Blu Ray
Directed by McG and Written by Luc Besson… Well, I’ll pay attention for that. I mean… It isn’t like I’ve hated everything of McG’s – cuz I most certainly haven’t. And Luc Besson… in my eyes the man can do no wrong. McG knows how to make films that are well lit, a tad thrilling and fun. Here you get Kevin Costner as a dying CIA agent who is trying to make a connection with his daughter before he exits the scene… aka life. Well, no sooner does he arrive in Paris, than an incredibly smoking hot Amber Heard saunters up and recruits him on an assignment that could prolong or save his life… all while being given a chance by his ex-wife to watch out for their daughter, played by TRUE GRIT’s Hailee Steinfeld… leading up to her Prom. As you’ll imagine… nothing is independent of each other – and all of this will get crazy come the PROM. That said, while painfully predictable – and it gets so fucking silly at PROM that made the decision to laugh with the absurdity instead of AT it. But, if you don’t like silly coincedences seen a million miles away… skip this. But I really like the Kevin Costner and Amber Heard moments of this film – and Hailee is obviously playing a braindead daughter enamoured with young love and the Paris scene… but she’s good. It’s just… man… the Prom is so badly played out that it hits you like 15 confetti eggs on the head. MESSY. The extras are brief and to the point, very glossy, but not particularly illuminating. No commentary, no deleted scenes or comprehensive bts features. Worth seeing if you like Costner in particular. As with all tolerable McG flicks, it’s the silly that sells this. Not the serious.
POMPEII 3D Blu Ray
My record on Paul W. S. Anderson films is pretty much unblemished… I fucking hate the man’s films. Passionately. But when this film can be found in a second hand Blu Ray shop and I’m trading things in, I might pick the film up. I hear the 3D is actually pretty damn good, even if the acting and performances are… typically stagnant. BUT that’s just what everyone tells me. I wanna see it for myself. I know that the disc is fully loaded in the extras department. We’re getting Paul W.S. Anderson explaining himself… nearly 25 minutes of deleted scenes that somehow didn’t make the cut. Various featurettes about the different film departments and a 24 minute doc on Pompeii itself. I’m actually kind of looking forward to picking this one up. I am a tad masochistic that way.
VAMPIRE ACADEMY Blu Ray
The writer of HEATHERS and the director of MEAN GIRLS comes VAMPIRE ACADEMY!!! Yoko is dying to see this, but no screener came in. I’ll probably get through AMAZON INSTANT or wait for Netflix. There’s very few extras at all on the Blu Ray, so getting this digitally is a better price point, especially if you can hold out for Netflix. Which I hope to do. I reserve judgement to a later date. I mean, it has Gabriel Byrne, how bad could it be? Gulp.
LAWLESS Blu Ray
You’re going to want this film for Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain and Gary Oldman. They’re great. Shia is appropriately cast and does a good job. But really… to me, it’s the legend of Tom Hardy’s character that electrifies me – and Jessica Chastain’s character has so much going on! This is a based on a true story moonshine kind of story. My favorite film in this genre is THUNDERROAD with Robert Mitchum, but this flick is by John Hillcoat – you remember his THE PROPOSITION, right? This is equally kick ass in my opinion! And I loved his version of THE ROAD too! OH – I didn’t mention Guy Pearce, who is a sleazy mutherfucker in this! He’s awesome! The Audio commentary pairs up John Hillcoat with the Screenwriter, who is a direct descendent of the Tom Hardy character in the film. You get 8 minutes of deleted scenes, a 22 minute making of, a look at the county the film takes place in and the story of the Bondurant family. This is a good double feature with THE LONG RIDERS playing second. Trust me. Big FAMILY movies!
GANG WAR IN MILAN Blu Ray
The great Umberto Lenzi directs a mafiosa gang war story set in Milan, Italy. If you love Italian crime flicks, specially seedy types – Lenzi does a good job with this, although I do prefer Lenzi’s ALMOST HUMAN and SYNDICATE SADISTS and VIOLENT NAPLES to this title, but they’re all fun. The transfer on this is really a tad shocking to me, just because I’m constantly amazed to see films like this looking this good. To me, that I get to discover this film looking this great for the first time… it’s just… amazing to see. This is the exact kind of film I always saw with the shittiest transfers ever… and it just looks great! I like these old country gangster flicks!
GRAND PIANO Blu Ray
I love this film. There are edits in this movie that make me applaud. That’s so rare these days, it was the way of things in the days of Hitchcock… but today… film is about close-ups, two-shots and wides – and increasingly the love cinematic composition has become exceedingly ordinary. Director Eugenio Mira is wearing his Hitchcock/DePalma hats – and Elijah Wood is playing the grand piano. He’s in the hot seat – in more ways than one. It’s his first time back on the stage since a humiliating failure on a difficult.. nigh impossible work… but his personal hero and mentor has died – and he’s offered a chance to play one last time at his mentor’s Grand Piano … he’s not in love with the idea, he’s enjoying his life… he’s married to a beautiful famous actress… but… ya know… he’s got more than a bad memory to overcome… there’s a would be assassin that’s tormenting him into playing the best night of music of his entire life. OR ELSE. The Blu Ray cover is a giveaway in and of itself… but as I told our dear Moriarty when he screamed about the cover… “You’d have to be deaf not to know that voice” – and he got real quiet, cuz… seriously… you’ll know the voice… This is an old school SUSPENSE film. It doesn’t rewrite the rules, it doesn’t even feel entirely plausible… BUT – if you allow the film to just play, don’t fight it, just imagine the nightmare unfolding. Watch the panic on Elijah’s face, watch him convince you he’s brilliant on the keys… Listen to the music of this film and be dazzled by the flourishes and the co-stars that pop up. This premiered at last year’s FANTASTIC FEST and it blew audiences away. I like the film so much, that when CINEQUEST wanted to give me an award, and asked me to program a film to introduce, I chose this film – because this is a movie lovers’ movie. This isn’t real, it is a scenario… one that I just love.
Next week, we’ll be looking at THE LIFE AQUATIC Criterion Blu, SLEEPAWAY CAMP Blu, RED RIVER Criterion Blu, DEATH SPA Blu, JOURNEY TO THE WEST Part 1 Blu Ray, CHEAP THRILLS Blu Ray, AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME Blu Ray, Dan Curtis’ DRACULA Blu, ENDLESS LOVE Blu and more!!!