Hey folks, Harry here with this week’s Picks & Peeks column. Sorry for the tardiness, but I really did need the extra days to get through watching some of these, as my little TCM vacation left me with no way to be watching these discs, so I’ve been on a viewing tear this past 4 days – and got through everything but Downton Abbey’s third season. But I’m all caught up. Thanks again to all those PicksAndPeeks.Com users that have given us feedback. The app continues to get better and it couldn’t without your use and kindness. So thanks goes out to all of you. I enjoy hearing about the shake/random reviews feature. Weird stuff comes up! Now here’s this week’s column – as usual the links and pics take you to Amazon where if you purchase something, it goes to help this column’s best efforts – so again, thank you. Here ya go…
Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
WHITE ZOMBIE Blu
This is one of the great Bela Lugosi movies! We talk about Guillermo Del Toro films because of the oodles of atmosphere that the frame is creeped out by… and then we talk about the atmosphere from a movie like WHITE ZOMBIE. Make up by the great Jack Pierce… the adorable quirky cuteness of Madge Bellamy. This is one of those base code DNA films for me. My “Uncle” Bob had a long time Pen Pal relationship with Madge and was constantly giving me updates about her and I remember that heartache of a day in early 1990 when he called Dad and I to tell us she had passed. Madge was a Texas girl, and Bob gathered up her stories and never let her be forgot. Seriously though – check out her performance in this, because the movie is about the creaky atmosphere, Lugosi’s arresting and powerful Murder Legendre, actually Father Geek gave me a Murder Legendre figure that’s standing next to the Raideen I got from Yoko. This is that film that Johnny Depp and Martin Landau are watching on Bela’s couch in ED WOOD – where Ed is marveling at his hand-i-work. Which is outstanding in the film. The transfer that KINO did is pretty remarkable, they have the full original scan of the 35mm master – with NO DIGITAL HELP and with Digital Help. Of the two, I prefer the one that’s had the digital elves cleaning it up. ALSO – Kino has a really nifty Interview feature that has a young lady interviewing Bela at his home in the 1930’s and Bela is having a bit of fun at her expense and it is AWESOME!!! Wait till you see Bela talk about having to leave his native Hungary for political reasons. It is powerful stuff. If you ever read or held a copy of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, then this is the top buy of the week! If you haven’t… go buy some Famous Monsters from the old days and acquaint yourself. Bela’s zombie castle rules! This is what Zombies were before Romero, before the bullet to the brain. This is the real shit! At least that’s how it was always explained to me by the adults who brainwashed me to believe so. Also it is sometimes necessary to not look directly at the screen during the movie, so as to not become one of Lugosi’s mind slaves. You have been warned!
DOWNTON ABBEY Third Season Blu
I haven’t had the luxury to dive into the 3rd season of this fantastic melodrama, but everyone I know that is a fan – says this season is another winner. I’ll be curious to see how the end of WWI and the class changes that it brought to Downton Abbey will play out in this season. Why get the Blu Ray when it’s available just about everywhere free? Well, you get the Season 3 Christmas Special – also you just get well over 2 hours of additional content – and that’s important for those of us that love this show. Yoko watches it incessantly. I got mad at her for sneaking some early episodes this season without me, but fidelity isn’t one of the big things on Downton Abbey.
DARK KNIGHT RETURNS part 2 Blu
Absolutely YES! This two part DC Animated presentation of Frank Miller’s classic DARK KNIGHT RETURNS is the pure happy I needed in the aftermath of DARK KNIGHT RISES. I actually want Warner Brothers to just remake this two-parter as a Live Action film… and keep the casting. Peter Weller is a perfect older BATMAN – and Michael Emerson’s Joker? Fucking scary – Emerson’s vocal work makes me think of a homicidally whacked Paul Lynde… but perhaps I saw too much of Lynde’s Templeton in that old CHARLOTTE’S WEB… love that toon. And the JOKER in this has that Lynde-esque sense of maniacal menace. Best Joker voice since Mark Hamill. The TUNNEL OF LOVE sequence is worth the price of the Blu, but I have to say my favorite bits have to do with the animated Reagan and Superman. It is just stuff that I never thought I would get to see in a non-comic form. Animated Reagan feels so righteously correct – and I love the Cold War trappings. Combined with the Part 1 – this two parter is my favorite animated Comic adaptation yet done. Though I do still dearly love NEW FRONTIERS.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3D Blu
Genndy Tartakovsky unleashes with his first theatrical directorial effort – and it succeeds wildly. The voice casting wasn’t my fave – but Genndy wove them into being something better than the marquee. What really has me loving this thing is the notion of traumatized monsters that are deeply afraid of the persecution that comes from normal humans – so they hole up and create their own place to party and let loose. Makes me wonder what the critters do when they’re not staying at Hotel Transylvania. A normal human arrives and soon has my hair do – and is flirting with Dracula’s Daughter looking way cuter than Gloria Holden ever did. But what would you expect from a Selena Gomez voiced character. The DVD has Commentary and deleted scenes and a short animated film by Genndy, but the BluRay has much more! Including Genndy’s Progression Reels – so you can see how he works. Plus the detailed making ofs. If you have kids – or if you’re a monster kid yourself – this flick is right up your Tomb!
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS Blu
The director of the utterly fantastic IN BRUGES is back – and he’s not fucking around… SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS is a Charlie Kaufman-esque deconstruction, but instead of it just being regular angsty writers – it has an angsty writer writing a script called SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS – but he’s inadvertently found himself in the midst of… well, his characters – and he’s just trying to survive his own screenplay. The characters and gags in this film are all just awesome – but at the end of the day you have Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken on either side of Colin Farrell and that’s the soul of the flick. I love that the ultimate bad guy is Woody Harrelson – and that Woody, while being an absolute psychopath… he’s a psychopath that dearly loves his dog and wants it back. The insanity this brings is truly amazing. And I am officially terrified of Tom Waits and bunny rabbits.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 blu
Very nearly unwatchable. I really and truly dislike this edition of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise. I’ve enjoyed the 3 previous, but here… it’s like the characters don’t realize they’re filming this shit. They never make use of it. Or seem to notice it – and as a result I could give a flying fuck about anyone in this thing. Feels like a pure money grab. AVOID
COLD LIGHT OF DAY
I’m curious about Henry Cavill. He’s to be our next Superman, so I put COLD LIGHT OF DAY – a film starring Henry, Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver – with the principle notion of seeing Henry in something more modern. He’s alright. In fact, I was expecting this to just blow given everything I had read, but this is a pretty solid action flick. Bruce doesn’t have much to do in this – and the movie is pretty much a Cavill vehicle. The female with him… well, she’s the weak link in the film for me. She’s hot, but just doesn’t work for me in the story. But I’ll let you discover why. If you bother, this isn’t great stuff, but its alright.
DIE HARD: 25th Anniversary Collection
As best I can tell this is the same as the last set, except you get the rather excellent DECODING DIE HARD blu ray disc as an extra. NOW – that said – DIE HARD looks and sounds great on this set. I didn’t put on my old versions, mainly because people that are far sharper at deconstructing the mastering of these things have said they’re the same, but I watched all the films again… because I had an excuse to, and ya know what – I love DIE HARD most and I love DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE next, then DIE HARDER – and that last one… it just doesn’t quite feel like a DIE HARD movie to me. It isn’t the rating, it’s the story. Doesn’t feel right. Sure hope this next installment kicks ass. I really do like the set, the packaging saves space and keeps discs safe. BUT we all know that in 5 years there will be a 30th Anniversary Set of something that will have the next title involved too. So if you want to hold off… you’re just missing the excellent DECODING DIE HARD, which basically takes you through the entire process of making these films, their source material and the ideas behind them. Loved Decoding Die Hard! Check em out if you can’t live without more DIE HARD!
THE DUELLISTS Blu
Before ALIEN, Ridley Scott made one of the great sword movies ever made, THE DUELLISTS. Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine go toe to toe and they’re both amazing. Based on the short story by Joseph Conrad – the film plays with the weight we place upon honor and what we’ll do to justify having it. But here’s where we get to the WHY YOU MUST OWN THIS FILM! You seen Kubrick’s BARRY LYNDON? Well so did Ridley Scott – and this movie is one of the most beautifully shot films in Ridley entire career – in fact I dare say it is still my favorite SHOT film that he’s directed. It’s just beautiful and the Blu Ray does a great job of bringing that phenomenal photography to life. Disc also has a 25 minute feature with Keith Carradine talking about the production – there’s a 30 minute piece with Ridley Scott and Kevin Reynolds where they discuss the rather unique situation under which this movie came to be. In addition to the Ridley Scott commentary, there’s also a composer commentary by Howard Blake with isolated score tracks. Very cool! SHOUT! Did a great job here!
This came out of left field for me, somehow I missed all word about THE AWAKENING, but when I put it on – I discovered a handsomely produced ghost story about a young lady (Rebecca Hall), who investigates supernatural claims – and she has disproven them all. When she is asked to check out this Boy’s home/school – she gets into a mystery and some possibly real otherworldliness. The less you know going in, the better it will be. This thing has genuinely scary sequences that I wasn’t really ready for, so that’s a good thing! This is a genre film not to let slip by you. Better than most of what we see in a given year.
CAST A LONG SHADOW
On the TCM Cruise, when Mickey Rooney asked the audience what actor was the most decorated soldier in the history of the United States’ Military – several folks shouted out Audie Murphy – and as my dad raised me proper, I was one of those. CAST A LONG SHADOW is one of his very very best westerns. Audie Murphy was a helluva actor – and opposite the owner of Mighty Joe Young, he turned in some of his best work. That’s Terry Moore, who went onto marrying a guy that wore tissues boxes as shoes and never trimmed his nails. Here he plays a man that drinks his troubles away, but when he inherits a ranch… he rekindles a relationship with his ohmygod hot flame… but must save the ranch from foreclosure. GREAT FLICK! Audie Murphy's the toughest man on screen... well, I'd love to see him and Rod Taylor go at it.
I had a dear friend 22 years ago, whose Massage Therapist , who was a friend of his and his wife was shot and killed in the Luby’s Massacre in October of 1991 – and both him and his wife went into a state of Agoraphobia – This was my number one favorite person besides my father to talk film with, and he just disappeared. No more movie theaters or restaurants. Locations that terrified him of a mass killing. Texas’ Carry laws just terrified him all the more. I mention this, because the main character in CITADEL is victimized and loses his wife. He then is left in a state, raising a child, that is filled with fear. The only difference being… unfortunately, he’s a protagonist in a Horror film – so those fears… well, they’re deserved, because scary shit is in fact, afoot. This film could really get to you if you have those kinds of fears. It is a taut Psychological Thriller – and it is scary.
FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR Blu
FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR is still waiting on a great domestic release, but till then you have the option of scoring this British all region import. Currently AMAZON is restocking, but if you love this movie – then the crappy DVD has been a bane in your existence for too long. FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR was early CG wizardry – and when it came out – I thought it was beyond awesome. With adult eyes, it’s still pretty darn great. People keep talking about remaking it, I’d go for a really special domestic Blu!
THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE Blu
Bunuel’s final word on eroticism is released on Blu. Fernando Rey plays a widower that is obsessed with his hard on for Conchita, who Bunuel has cast with two lovely and very different beauties. Each plays a different aspect of Conchita’s personality – and it creates a wondrous playground for Bunuel to explore this rather magnificent obsession. Surreal and powerful. Just like a Bunuel film should be. If you enjoy, explore the rest of Bunuel’s career – it’s a delight to discover.
TALES OF THE NIGHT Blu
If you love animation outside of the doses we get from Hollywood, then you’re about to have an itch scratched that’ll make your leg kick. TALES OF THE NIGHT is a set of 6 animated tales told through beautiful silhouetted characters and the trippiest backgrounds you can imagine. We have 3 different narrators that tie it all together – and the beauty and variety of these nocturnal tales will absolutely captivate any fan of animation. Outstanding work!
Well that wraps up January – next week we launch into February with a look at Zemeckis’ live action return with FLIGHT, then Disney’s classic PETER PAN will hit blu, Tyler Perry’s ALEX CROSS and Liza Minnelli’s CABARET blu, the brilliant noir LAURA on Blu, A PERFECT ENDING, Streisand’s STAR IS BORN, DEADFALL Blu, THE BALLAD OF NARAYAMA Criterion Blu, A LATE QUARTET Blu, TOYS IN THE ATTIC Blu and more!