Hey folks, Harry here with the 3-17 and today’s PICKS & PEEKS! So we’re all caught up, and I’m well into the next column now. Along with some additional SXSW reviews. As usual, the images and links will take you to Amazon where you can learn more about each of the titles, plus, if you like you can order it for home delivery, which helps give a bit of support to keep this column going, which is now in its 11th year. Now, let’s get to the releases:
Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS 3D Blu Ray
After I first saw this film, a couple days before last year’s BNAT16, the film geeks hung around chatting about the film at a bar late late that night, and we were discussing the notion of Religious Epics. I don’t want an apologetic power of God movie, top DeMille! Now, I love Ridley Scott as a filmmaker, even when he aggravates the shit out of me. He is getting exactly what he wants on camera. You watch this film in 3D and you’ll see a real since of majesty, but OT GOD, ya gotta do Him like John Milius would do Him! I want that Angel of Death / Passover that puts the fear of God in ya. I don’t wanna see Moses with a chisel on Mt Sinai, I wanna see awesome God power making me go WOW – God sure does pack a wallop! But making Moses a man suffering from a head injury talking to a little boy that says he’s God… I mean, that’s a bold fucking choice. Not sure if it’s the right choice, but it’s Ridley’s choice. That’s all film is, an interpretation of a story. I enjoy this, but I fully recognize, this isn’t the best this story has been done, at least to me. That’s still Heston’s, then it’s Val Kilmer’s, then maybe we can discuss Christian Bale or Mel Brooks, I’m still trying to decide. I wouldn’t get as frustrated or passionate about a flick, but I love wrestling with a top filmmaker. I mean, there’s no denying, that’s what Ridley Scott intended. I’ll watch it a few times. See if it grows on me more. I think it’s the half-measures with the supernatural elements of the story that annoy me. That’s what makes Kenneth Branagh’s CINDERELLA so great… it knows the story it is telling and tells it perfectly. It seems so simple, yet it was refreshing to see a director unapologetically embrace the whimsy and romance and spectacle of a story, instead of trying to overcomplicate it with a zillion “what if” scenarios, that ultimate weaken what everyone agrees is a classic tale. But then I loved NOAH. Sigh, you guys are right, I am crazy! Heh!
THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI Blu Ray
Ok – no excuses – if ya got a Amazon Prime account, this is under 9 bucks, under 15 otherwise – and… whoa baby this is a fucking movie movie folks. I’ve been blessed in life to see this projected in a movie palace 4 times in the last 30 years. I try not to miss it. THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI was the movie that told me I had no understanding of Orson Welles, when I first saw it. I’d been raised on CITIZEN KANE, TOUCH OF EVIL, MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS and THE STRANGER… then… then, I saw LADY FROM SHANGHAI. Rita Hayworth with short platinum blonde lockes! The lines in this movie… Damn man. “Maybe I’ll live so long that I’ll forget her. Maybe I’ll die trying.” - So great! “When I start out to make a fool of myself there’s very little can stop me.” He’s just, swaggering his way through this flick. And why not, he has a Mirror house scene that will slaughter your new gods of cinema and bathe in their entrails! It’s that fucking magnificent. When you see it. You’ll just die thinking about how average most film is by comparison. If somebody ever makes Edgar Rice Burrough’s THE MUCKER, they need to pay attention to this movie. If you know LADY FROM SHANGHAI, than you didn’t need to hear a word from me! This is one of the best!
RIDE THE PINK HORSE Blu Ray
Now here’s a Film Noir that previous to this release, has been pretty much next to impossible to lay your hands upon. Directed and staring Robert Montgomery, this little know Noir is an excellent addition to the genre, specifically the world of ex-GI’s seeking to right by their former soldiers at arm. As a fan of Ben Hecht’s writing, this was key for me to pick up. The Criterion disc comes with a commentary by Noir experts, the Lux Radio Adaptation and a 20minute interview with Sara Smith discussing Noir and this film. Overall, a very nice disc from Criterion. Love getting a new noir!
ANNIE (2014) Blu Ray
I kind of hate that ANNIE has been reduced to essentially the musical adaptation, to be something to be adapted from. If you read the LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE newstrip or if you’ve been lucky enough to experience the Radio Plays… then you know that Annie was an amazing adventurer… That’s gone completely, as is all the flavor of the original character. Now, we’re basically reduced only to the musical… you know, a Hard Knock’s Life For Us and THE SUN’LL COME OUT… TOMORROW… Wallis is quite a sweet girl, I just wish she had the full scope of the character and her world, to play in. I actually despised Jamie Foxx in this. This was just a bad adaptation of the world of Annie. If anything, she should be more of a modern day Johnny Quest. It’s just sad to see the material made this bland. The Blu Ray has a ton of extras, from a commentary, to deleted song (for a reason), bloopers, auditions, and lots more. But why watch any of it. None of it acknowledges the character or the world it came from. Just trying to cash in on a namebrand, with no respect for what it was.
THE WILD ONE Blu Ray
Want to see a Movie God pushed out on to screen for the world to hail as the anointed WILD ONE? Here you go. Nobody had ever seen anything quite like Brando in THE WILD ONE… When asked, “What are you rebelling against?” he fires back casually, “Whadda ya got?” – and you know he’s against it all. This character latched onto the cult culture of this country with both hands and has never let go. The print looks great, sounds great, but oddly there’s no extras. Which is a shame, surely you could put something epic together for this disc. Doesn’t matter though, the film looking this great is all you really need. This film set the country ablaze!
AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD Blu Ray
One of my favorite Werner Herzog flicks! This disc comes with an English and a German Commentary, both by Werner Herzog! This film isn’t something that was ever just words on a page… Herzog and Kinski went to war and nature battled them and film somehow was caught between and captured the ferocity and the resulting film is one of the greats. Hands down, worship at the altar of this one! It commands your respect. If Herzog is that Bear guy, that Cave guy… you’ve so much to experience. Herzog with AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD captures something astonishing with this film! Looks fantastic on Blu!
HESTER STREET Blu Ray
Directed by Joan Silver back in 1975, HESTER STREET garnered a Best Actress nomination for Carol Kane, who… well, is one of the most awesome actresses ever! The film is set in 1896, with a Russian Jew named Jake played by Steven Keats, who is working as a seamster to bring his wife, Giti, played by the amazing Carol Kane, and their son over from Russia. This is one of those films that many of you have probably missed, but this is an excellent opportunity to right that. It’s a great Immigrant story – and one of Carol Kane’s best roles! So glad I caught this one! Looks great on Blu!
Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES 3D Blu Ray
I’m still dying to see the Expanded Edition of this final chapter of Tolkien from the helm of Peter Jackson, but I have to say… without a moment’s hesitation… I love the film version of THE HOBBIT. I’ve watched the three theatrical cuts back to back already in 3D and it feels like the tall tale of Bilbo Baggins… one that plays more fair with his Dwarven companions. One that seems to lose the mysticism of the bird-life, but that gives us a glimpse at what Gandalf was up to in thos missing chapters – and frankly – it is all terribly exciting. The 3D at home on this looks tremendous! The extras are fun, but light compared to what we know will be coming this fall, but we also know that those extras will be all new, so as a fan, I’ve never felt bad about double dipping on these titles. We’ve almost got the complete tale! And I love Billy Boyd’s THE LAST GOODBYE.
THE BEYOND Blu Ray
As a horror fan, I do like to think of my life in two sections. Pre THE BEYOND and Post-THE BEYOND. Thanks to Tarantino, I got to see it theatrically first, immediately I sought out the rest of Fulci, but THE BEYOND remains the pinnacle for me. It doesn’t ever feel like reality, but rather a waking dream that will get under your skin. Everything about the film works for me. Fantastic surreal horror! There’s tons of extras, a bonus soundtrack CD, the Lost German Pre-Credit sequence in color! Lots of cool interviews, and a great sound mix! I’m very happy with this Blu!
UNBROKEN Blu Ray
I don’t like how a lot of reviewers seem to define the film as a Japanese Prisoner of War Drama like BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI or MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE, but that’s essentially, to me, the last act… Becoming an Olympian, the friggin survival at sea sequence… this story feels like a huge tall tale… maybe that’s the Coens or Richard LeGravanese’s flair, but this is based on a true story – and an amazing one at that! Angelina Jolie did a great job with this one and it looks fantastic on Blu! There’s a host of deleted scenes, 27+ minutes of behind the scenes, a 30 minute piece of the real Louis Zamperini. A more complete POW presentation of CINDERELLA! If you loved this story, this Blu ray is really well put together.
INTO THE WOODS
I didn’t care for it. Wanted to like it. I did enjoy the first third of the film, but then somewhere in the middle it started feeling annoyingly long and grating… and… I just didn’t care for it. That said, I have lots of friends that love the film, still others that miss Bernedette Peters something fierce. The Blu Ray looks solid, sounds good (if you like the music, It lost me). Rob Marshall did a commentary. There’s an extra Meryl Streep song on here. And there’s a Karaoke version. If you enjoy the film, the Blu Ray is robust.
THE THIN BLUE LINE Criterion Blu Ray
Want to watch an absolutely riveting true crime documentary by master filmmaker Errol Morris at the top of his game! This film… It’s amazing. I saw this at the Dobie Theater when it came out. This all took place up in Dallas and it was outrageous. The filmmaking is powerful. It wasn’t nominated for Best Documentary on a technicality, which was one of those, piss on the Oscars, Burn the Academy rah rah anger anger moments of my first year in College outrage. Yeah, I love THE THIN BLUE LINE. Rewatching it is a joy. The film just gets stronger on every viewing. The film looks fantastic on Blu! Criterion’s extras include a 41 minute new interview with Errol Morris! There’s 15 minutes with the director of THE ACT OF KILLING talking about the importance and influence of THE THIN BLUE LINE, plus you get the Today Show “Close Up” on the day Randall Adams went free in 1989. This is a truly tremendous film! Saved a man’s life.
THE SURE THING Blu Ray
Who doesn’t love THE SURE THING? Rob Reiner doing the romantic comedy thing with John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga! It’s pure happy brain candy. Still feels sweet, funny and… even a bit awww shucks. Everybody is insanely young here. Doesn’t seem that long ago, but that’s the delusion of age. 30 years ago. For this anniversary edition Blu ray, they’ve put a Rob Reiner commentary. A 26 minute SURE THING featurette about making the movie. Then there’s 3 short interviews with the casting directors, Steven Bloom with his original treatment, and the Costume Designer Dorinda Wood. Pretty sweet Blu!
GONE WITH THE POPE
GONE WITH THE POPE is a crazy film with a crazy history, but we only have this movie because Sage Stallone and Bob Murawski found it and restored it and released it. A Gangster hatches the idea to kidnap the pope and hold him ransom for $1 from every Catholic on the planet! As far as awesome evil plans and mobster shenanigans, this is pretty way out there – and was shot in 1975, but never released. Never finished, until Sage and Bob worked to complete the movie. The blu ray has all sorts of extras, interviews, deleted scenes and more.
DIGGING UP THE MARROW
Finally, DIGGING UP THE MARROW on Blu Ray!!! This one premiered at Butt-Numb-A-Thon 15 at the Alamo Ritz Theater in 2013, and surprised the hell out of the audience. Adam Green in tandem with Alex Pardee as the denizens of the Marrow designer, have crafted a very fun and paranoid world where Monsters are all around us and we can’t even see it. Full on urban horror, but told in a surprising manner. The best thing about the Blu for me, is the 28 minute monster making featurette that’s killer! I love practical effects and here you see it from the ground up. This really is a fun scary flick!
BEST SELLER Blu Ray
I love crazy Psycho James Woods and I love the human thinking tank known as Brian Dennehy! I’ve always loved BEST SELLER, right from the strip mall Sykes Center theater! Dennehy is an ex-cop/Best Selling Author, who writes straight from the headlines he lives. Woods reveals his hitman past, but wants to bring down a house of cards with him – and Brian Dennehy suspects him all the way. It’s good page turning fun! That comes from Larry Cohen’s script, but also… I just like John Flynn as a director in general! From THE OUTFIT to ROLLING THUNDER to OUT FOR JUSTICE and BRAINSCAN!
That’s it for this week, next, I’ll be looking at INTERSTELLAR Blu, THE IMITATION GAME Blu, GRAVITY Blu, HOOP DREAMS Blu, WILD CARD Blu, ALLAN QUATERMAIN Blu, ARGENTO Collection Blu, HOOP DREAMS Criterion, CRIES AND WHISPERS Criterion, WITHOUT A CLUE Blu, DAY OF ANGER Blu, NIGHT GAME Blu, STRANGE AFFAIR OF UNCLE HARRY Blu, DAVID AND LISA Blu, ALICE’S RESTAURANT Blu, Fulci Collection Blu, HOW TO BEAT THE HIGH COST OF LIVING Blu, STRANGER AT MY DOOR Blu, WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR DADDY? Blu, THE BEAT GENERATION Blu and more! Till then, keep it cool!