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47th PICKS & PEEKS of 2013: John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, NIGHT OF THE COMET, Pixar, MANIAC COP, ST:TNG & more!!!

Hey folks, Harry here with the 47th edition of 2013's PICKS & PEEKS crop of Blu & DVD releases!  Truly great titles in this column...  But I must get to work on the next column too!  Now as usual the images and links take you to AMAZON where you can learn more on the titles and if so motivated, you can pick them up.   There's several irresistable releases on this week's column!  Man.   If you enjoy these, be sure to check out my App for Android and iDevices at PICKSANDPEEKS.COM!!!  Now, on with the column!!!



Tuesday, November19th, 2013


This is a Blu Ray that I can’t heap enough praise upon. I have always worshipped the look of this movie, Douglas Knapp’s photography looks stunning with this transfer. So crisp, colors so rich and sweaty. John Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 could be my fave defend a fort flick. The score, the awesome dialogue, but nothing beats the ice cream. Just awesome. Today, this would be a zombie film. And a damn good one. Watch this and follow it with TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMONKNIGHT! Thank me later. Carpenter really nailed this film. It is one of his finest and the first taste of Badass John Carpenter. SHOUT! Factory gets mad mad maaaad love for this disc! The film itself is the same transfer as the IMAGE blu, but SHOUT! Has way better extras! Isolated score! Carpenter Commentary! A Nancy Loomis sit down! A new feature with Austin Stoker – and a commentary with Tommy Lee Wallace, the art director and sound effects designer – and childhood buddy of John Carpenter. He has stories! You want to hear them!


The pulse-pounding beer swilling bloody blue concluding chapter of Edgar Wright’s supreme CORNETTO TRILOGY starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is here on Blu Ray – and cheers are heard ‘round the world. Joined by Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan and Paddy Considine, Nick & Simon come together to relive a cherished yet failed night of legend. 12 pints on the Golden Mile. Edgar and team layer these films with exquisite care and impossible levels of silly detail. If seen singularly or as a trilogy, THE WORLD’S END is sure to entertain and give you moments of reflection. The action and fights have so much character and personality built in, such a treat to see individual fighting styles. As usual on an Edgar Wright film, the extras go quite deep and give you an impossibly geeky in-sight to this latest marvel. This is a film that rewards multiple viewings and come built in with drinking games and party pacing! 3 commentaries, Picture in Picture storyboards, deleted scene, outtakes, Making of and about 20 other features. It’s crazy how much is on here! And if you’re like me, you want MORE!


1984… Catherine Mary Stewart made this and THE LAST STARFIGHTER and forever won this geek’s heart! In LAST STARFIGHTER she’s a girlfriend that I actually wanted the hero to cross the galaxy for and in NIGHT OF THE COMET she’s the most badass movie theater usher ever! NIGHT OF THE COMET deserves praise just for suggesting that hot usher babes would have projection booth sex with the projectionist, thus inspiring generations of high school kids to become underpaid projectionists. Where they discover that it is in fact true, projectionists are studs, but ineffectual against the undead! SHOUT!’s releases this year are stellar, and their treatment of NIGHT OF THE COMET is a case in point! 3 Commentaries! Interviews with the Sisters! An interview with Robert Beltran! An interview with Makeup effects badass David B Miller and more! SHOUT! Is the reason it’s hard to save for the winter! One of the most beloved apocalyptic films ever made! At least with everyone I know.


I am so glad I have a 3D Blu set up! The character design of PLANES takes unique advantage of the depth of 3D. When the main character’s mouths are way up by the prop and the eyes are the windshield of the cabin… the depth is instantly very compelling. The flying and soaring sequences are some of the best I’ve seen in 3D since HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (which is a much better film and the 3D is better there), but the movie is pretty darn delightful. I didn’t really care for the twist with Stacy Keach’s character though. I do continue to be disturbed by this particular Pixar universe. I mean… WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PEOPLE?!?!?! Is this the post-apocalypse after we smartify up all our cars, planes and trains and boats and tractors and stuff? Fun stuff, but I still want better from PIXAR.

2 GUNS Blu Ray

Yet another Comic adaptation! This time starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in a very manly set of performances… lots of slow-motion and r-rated insanity amidst super-star charm and charisma from both Denzel and Mark. Iceland director Baltasar Kormakur is following the ol Bruckheimer film visual style guide set down by Tony Scott and why the hell not, it works! It’s nice to see a lusty & raunchy R-rated action film with these two. The buddy comedy is very fun and rewarding. Both are just chewing up what the other is slinging and making it their own. As for what’s going on? Well they’re doing the best they can. It involves governments and cartels and a whole lot of characters in-between. And I like it a whole lot. We don’t get enough solid fun R rated films made for us. This is a good one!


I love getting NEXT GEN on Blu, my estimation for the series continues to elevate as I get these 1080p treatments. For me though – it just doesn’t get better than SHAKA WHEN THE WALLS FELL. You know that episode. It’s one of my favorite alien contact stories – and when ever shit don’t go right and you don’t have the words… just say, SHAKA, WHEN THE WALLS FELL. It instantly brings a geeky smile. And yes, I know the episode is called DARMOK, but I’ve always called it SHAKA, WHEN THE WALLS FELL, so deal with it. Then you get Nimoy at the end of the season! But really, Season Five was just a really solid season! However, THE INNER LIGHT… yeah. Me too. God I love Patrick Stewart. Oh happy happy! Keep em coming Paramount!


I happen to frickin’ love the films of William Lustig – and MANIAC COP 2 is bloody awesome! And I really would love to see someone pull off a great MANIAC COP costume at my Halloween Party some year, cuz that shit would give me the wicked creeps!!! Now I feel – too many of you do not worship at MANIAC COP 2’s door… but if you do, this is an IMMACULATE transfer – seriously – the film has never looked or sounded so amazing. The 7.1 is better than most modern films’ soundtracks have! Then you have Nicolas Winding Refn (DRIVE) chatting with William Lustig on the Commentary which is quite fun. But you also get a Cinefamily Q&A with Lustig that’s nearly 30 minutes and the 47 minute 1080p MAKING OF MANIAC COP 2 – which is great – especially the Robert Davi bits! AND the deleted Sam Raimi scene!!! I mean, Blue Underground stands tall on this release even giving us an isolated score! While the film picks up exactly where the original left off, folks – you really can just start with this one, as it essentially IS the first film with all the execution from A-Z is much better. The action is terrific, the cast delivers and that damn Maniac Cop… he’s just awesome! GREAT BLU! Oh – and International Readers – it’s REGION FREE!


Lustig has never been fond of MANIAC COP 3 – and looking at the film – in many ways it reminds me of MIMIC – in that, Guillermo isn’t overly fond of the experience on the film, the additional folks that did work that was edited into his film… but I still enjoy the hell out of both of those films as fun B-movies. Now the difference is, I don’t think for a second that MANIAC COP 3 would ever be an A film, whereas I know that if what Sayles and Del Toro wanted to do with MIMIC had been done, we’d be talking about that film much like we talk about ALIENS… NOW – for the Blu Ray – again, Blue Underground does just wicked awesome work on the transfer and sound. Just great. The extras are less than you get on MANIAC COP 2, but that’s as it should be. You still get a fascinating 26 minute making of MANIAC COP 3, which has Lustig telling us that he and Nicolas Winding Refn are plotting to launch a new MANIAC COP movie which just sounds like a fantastic idea to me, it’s time for MANIAC COP to take his place in the pantheon of badass big screen terrors!


So here you have Aubrey Plaza playing the valedictorian of her 1993 class – and she gets a summer job at a local pool that’s managed by man-god Bill Hader. Upon graduation though, she realizes that she’s absolutely not prepared for college. Sure she has her book learning, but she doesn’t know how to teabag, heck, she doesn’t even know basic petting, much less a Dirty Sanchez. SO she makes the titular TO DO list. And this summer is the warming up of her young sexual life and why the hell not. We’ve seen the boy version of this sort of thing, its time for a gal to celebrate their sexual awakening in an awkward sex comedy. I do approve.


When you watch the sheer numbers of films that I watch and talk to the number of wonderful film fans like I have – you understand a simple truth. None of us are “RIGHT” about film. We are, for ourselves, but it is such a subjective medium. I hate TANK GIRL. The film grates me like fingernails on a chalkboard, HOWEVER, I’m a fucking idiot when it comes to this film and I acknowledge that. But I still don’t like it. Like “W” on Broccoli, I simply don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to TANK GIRL. For me, I just vastly prefer A BOY AND HIS DOG for this type of thing. I’ve met sooooo many ladies that LOVE TANK GIRL and I can’t take that away from a single soul. I just can’t quite shift my perspective, I tried watching the Blu Ray – but turned the film off after about 30 minutes. The visual and audio quality were great… SHOUT! doesn’t fuck around. There’s great interviews with Lori Petty and Director Rachel Talalay, along with then Production Designer Catherine Hardwicke – along with a featurette. I enjoyed these more than the film, truth be told. Maybe I need to just get wasted with a room full of TANK GIRL girls and try again. The Blu has commentary with Lori and Rachel. Again, SHOUT does a great job, just by no means one of “my” films.

TOKYO STORY Criterion Blu Ray

My love of Ozu’s films comes exclusively from Criterion. As they released his films on DVD, I discovered his command of cinema and getting to rediscover those films with the crystal clarity of Blu Ray which makes the wonderfully restrained camera work all the more striking. Ozu has the courage to make us observe life from the outside – resisting the restless spirit of short-attention spanned filmmakers. You watch TOKYO STORY, which IS a masterpiece about a Japanese couple in their twilight years who go to Tokyo and discover they no longer know their children, who’ve grown and lost much of what made them them. There’s much more to the story – but it skews far from what most anyone would consider melodrama. Which is a great thing. Instead Ozu reaches for truth and finds it. Watch this and gain wisdom and perspective on life. That’s Ozu’s gift. Criterion does a great job, giving us three docs totally 3 and a half hours – all in 1080p! My favorite of these is I LIVED, BUT… it puts Ozu’s entire life and career and influence in proper context. Criterion also gives us a commentary by the editor of TOKYO STORY, David Desser – which was on the DVD release by Criterion! Really great Blu!


Some may push this as a grand Christmas film, but that’s pigeonholing this film in the wrong category. Simply, it’s a great great film. Actually, it’s kind of a sequel. You see, Bing Crosby made GOING MY WAY the year before and was even nominated for Best Actor for the part of Father O’Malley. In THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S – he reprises his beloved Father O’Malley. Not only was he again nominated for Best Actor, but the film also garnered an additional 7 Oscar noms… including one for Ingrid Bergman’s fantastic Sister Benedict, who goes toe to toe with Bing! Now, the transfer and sound are both quite nice, but as with too many of Olive Films’ releases – it comes with no extras. Here’s a film with 8 Academy Award noms, completely beloved by millions… and we don’t get any extras. Odd that MANIAC COP 2 & 3 get treated better this week! Not really, as genre fans really are catered to in a fashion that all film fans should be. BELLS OF ST. MARY’S deserves a grand release, but this is a nice first step.


Released in 2002 and using Lucas’ custom made for ATTACK OF THE CLONES digital camera and using a single 96 minute Steadicam shot is this amazingly unique time travel flick that takes you through many periods in the Winter Palace of Saint Petersburg! I adored it then and I still do today. Some may find flaw with the Blu Ray image, but having seen the film in 2002 theatrically, I can say… this is as good as it is gonna get for RUSSIAN ARK. I remember back in 2002, I marveled at the continuous shot and thought we’d see more of these kinds of things with the advent of digital photography – and wondered aloud about what Hitchcock would’ve done with a 96 minute Steadicam shot film. I love the artistic audacity of the film, the costumes are exquisite and since I do want so badly to visit Saint Petersburg before I die… I love this glimpse at one of its many jewels. The Winter Palace is stunning. One of the more unique flicks in film.


I loved Gregory Hines on screen. His death in 2003 was a flat out tragedy. He had great ACTIVE eyes, that communicated so much in every scene in every movie he made. He might have been in some B movies, but he was always an A-film actor in them! Here, he has to hunt down and shoot a robot in the eye to not only deactivate her, but the ticking time bomb… a nuclear one. The script could be so much better on this film, but the combination of Gregory Hines and SPETTERS actress Renee Soutendijk… well it’s enough for me to overlook all its embedded logic flaws and silliness – and just enjoy the film that it is. This is that rare release from SHOUT! that is special featureless. Of course, I’m just smiling that its on Blu at all!


I love it when collections like this hit. Just a nice collection of vintage films given a release in the Blu format. The medium tends to not release nearly enough classics in a year, but releases like this help. Now where’s my BUSBY BERKELEY BLU SET!?!? Now, onto the films here.

FIRE OVER ENGLAND is the first onscreen pairing of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, who do have a romantic thing in this, though Olivier’s character has another interest as well, but the film is set during England’s conflict with Spain and it’s vaunted armada. Don’t reference history books while watching this film, cuz… well, this film bears no resemblance at all to reality. But I really really like Flora Robson’s ELIZABETH and Vivien and Olivier are quite good as well. The print is all over the place, but that’s because the original elements… well, they’re difficult at best, but Cohen Film Collection have really done their very best to make it better. No extras.

DARK JOURNEY is actually my fave film in this set. Vivien is playing a double agent pretending to serve Germany in WWI, but in truth is an agent for the French… while being in reality a Swiss Dress Maker! Whew. Playing opposite Vivien is the great Conrad Veidt. You may not know this, but Conrad Veidt was Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s inspiration for the creation of The Joker in the great THE MAN WHO LAUGHS! As for most of you, he will always be Major Heinrich in CASABLANCA. In reality he escaped Nazi persecution due to his marriage to a German Jew, whom he moved to England, then the U.S. to live and work. He played a lot of Nazi heavies, until his death in 1943. I love him because my parents had CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI on 16mm and Veidt played Cesare the somnambulist. He’s always been great. He’s no Nazi here, just an officer for the Kaiser. I love that he and Vivien are trapped in their situations… but Vivien truly shines in this film. Check it out!

STORM IN A TEACUP is a rather odd film for Vivien Leigh, who was mainly known for her dramatic work, but it offers a great look at her comedy chops – and opposite a young Rex Harrison! I’d never seen this film prior to this Blu, but it’s quite an enjoyable romantic comedy. I’ll leave the various fun as a surprise for you – as it played great for me knowing not a single thing about the plot ahead of time. You should do the same. Transfer is excellent!

ST. MARTIN’S LANE was not on my radar, though it should have. I mean… Charles Laughton & Vivien Leigh & Rex Harrison in a film about Street Performers that in turn inspired the Sherman Brothers! Laughton plays an aging street poet… Ok, if that didn’t get you, you may be broken. I mean seriously… Laughton as an aging street poet that takes a thieving Vivien Leigh and turns her into his protégé while she and Rex Harrison make with the googily eyes! Now, I like Rex Harrison, but here… in a film where the inclusion of Rex Harrison means there’s moments without Charles Laughton… well, I begrudge all other performers in most Laughton films. Here it is no different. It’s a familiar plotline, but delightfully done. This is a great set!


Saoirse Ronan & Alexis Bledel are a pair of HitGirls, that’s right they’re nasty paid killers. Danny Trejo plays their handler (briefly) and they’re going to be set to kill James Gandolfini. Really, the film belongs to Gandolfini and the girls. It’s silly, fun and quirky as hell. It’s a bit of a cartoon, but that’s exactly what the film is aiming for. Now that Gandolfini is gone though… I find myself trying to discover his every turn. He’s such a great performer and he’s great here. Nicely written. Very surprising flick.


Had this been a great film, it would have been DAZED & CONFUSED… it wanted to be a 70s era AMERICAN GRAFFITI, but often times you need the perspective of time to tell a generation’s story. And a filmmaker who lived it, having a couple of decades to think about their youth. I was mildly amused by the film, mainly liking the quite attractive actresses and Robert Carradine. But really, it’s not a great film. BUT… it does feature the cinematic glory of Rainbeaux Smith’s presence. And there’s not nearly enough of those! Every second she’s on this screen I swoon. She’s just got IT! That thing that makes ya forget to blink. My favorite cheerleader in film history! So yeah, it’s got that going for it, which means it gets a place in my home.


It’s a fun film about an American with his Chilean set of three brothers and Gaby Hoffmann as Crystal Fairy – Earth Mother type all in pursuit of a psychedelic trip. It’s a fun film. But I have to admit, I wanted it to take an AFTERSHOCK turn during their trip. I’m pretty sure the film makes you not want to do drugs with Michael Cera… only because he has severe chill problems. Giggle. Seriously though, it’s a fun film!


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