Hey folks, Harry here – and at first – I wasn’t so sure about this final week of June 2014’s selection for my PICKS AND PEEKS column, but as I began viewing and writing – I really came away having a lot of fun with this week’s fare – even the stuff I didn’t care all that much for. SO… Like always, the images and links take you to Amazon where you can learn more or purchase the title if titillated, if so, bless you as every purchase made through this page helps to keep the best efforts of this column going full steam. Now… let’s jump in with the best release of the week, right up top!
Tuesday, June 24th, 2014
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT Criterion Blu Ray
The Beatles’ first film is a tour de force by Richard Lester. Everything about the film is note perfect. Taking inspiration from the French New Wave, it is so completely divorcing itself from the pop-films that came before and even after. There’s a sense of pathos to being a star… the sequence of Ringo where he’s contemplating life is just genius… As if he were about to walk away from it all… Wondrous. The photography is stunning Black & White work. Just beautiful. It makes you feel for the Fab Four’s insane fame… it also humanizes them beautifully – clearly establishing the character differences within the group. When Pop Artists usually make these types of films – they rarely ever even begin to approach anything close to ART, but this was a film that garnered two Academy Award nominations. Thus – it gets the CRITERION treatment! The restored 4K transfer is breathtaking. The audio, sublime. And the extras? Extensive! Around 2 hours of great material – vintage and contemporary and all in-between. Don’t buy this just because you’re a BEATLES MANIAC, but also if you’re a true lover of cinema. Richard Lester showed the world that just because something is POP, doesn’t mean it can’t be great. And THE BEATLES did a great job of that all on their own! A truly great work of cinema that preserves for us all – how it was, even if it isn’t really a documentary film. It’s truly great!!!
300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE 3D Blu Ray
I was traveling when the press screening for this one occurred, but when I finally did see the film – I was not on the boat that it seemed most were. There’s scenes I really like, but in no way, shape or form does this movie feel one half as good as Zack Snyder’s original 300. I hate that the story is for some idiotic reason taking place concurrent to the original film – when the actions taking place in the film happened some time later. I just don’t feel the casting or the performances or the writing come close to the original – that said… As eye candy, it’s a delight. Eva Green and the Ship Warfare are my fave aspects of the film, but I didn’t particularly CARE about anyone in the story. It was eye candy for eye candy’s sake – and that leads to optical diabetes. The 3D on the 3D Blu makes this especially true – as… it is a powerful 3D experience. The extras amount to a little over an hour of material focusing on Behind The Scenes shooting of the film, the development and fudging of history, the female leads and the Warships… oh and how the cast got so buff. If you loved the film in theaters, nothing has changed. I wish I didn’t have the problems I had with it – so many seemed to love it and whenever I don’t like a film that everyone else loves – I feel… well, left out of the party.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION Season 6 Blu Ray
I never missed a new episode of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – that was an hour block that I was addicted to. And this series of Next Gen Blu Rays offer a product that truly makes me happy to watch these on BLU instead of Netflix, that visual quality differential isn’t marginal, it’s everything. Paramount has been doing a great job on these and I’m really amazed by how great they all look. Now – my fave episodes of the season? Well at the top, I’ve just got to express my James Doohan love. RELICS as a title is… well… at first a little mean, but it is also referring to one of the coolest things to ever show up in The Next Generation… a Dyson Sphere!!! Any Sci-Fi geek worth their salt knows just how awesome it would be to engineer something like that… But putting Old Scotty in the Holodeck and placing him on the bridge of the Original TV show Enterprise set… MIND ALWAYS BLOWN. It just makes me so happy and sad… all at once. As a lover of WESTWORLD… A FISTFUL OF DATAS just does it for me. I’m also a huge fan of Data & Geordi doing the Sherlock Holmes and Watson bit in the Holodeck adventure SHIP IN A BOTTLE – but then any episode with Dwight Schultz’s Barclay is something I adore – and not only is he in SHIP IN A BOTTLE, but the great Transporter ep, REALM OF FEAR!!! Love having Howling Mad Murdock on the Enterprise D!!! I also love Worf’s religious journey episode… RIGHTFUL HEIR! There’s a whole lot of great episodes! Though it does have MAN OF THE PEOPLE… ugh… Like all of the Next Generation Blus – there’s a lot of great extras – sporadic commentaries, deleted scenes and more. I like the Gag Reel. If you love your Next Gen like me, I can’t count on streaming services to always be there or my internet connection to work (TIME WARNER HELL) – So Blu keeps them in my home where they belong and looking better than they look anywhere else ever.
ENEMY Blu Ray
Seems there’s a ton of folks on AMAZON down-rating this film, but contrary to them – I dig it. First off – I love the actors… Jake Gyllenhaal has been a fave since DONNIE DARKO, Melanie Laurent of INGLORIOUS BASTERDS is erotically charged in this and then Jake Gyllenhaal is playing another character in the film – and that’s the goody of the flick. The movie is about a man that discovers there’s a double of him in the world. Not just someone that KINDA looks like him, but someone who even has the same SCAR as him. This other Gyllenhaal character is a struggling asshole actor, while main Gyllenhaal is a History Professor, whose mother is played briefly by Isabella Rossellini – and it is her casting that makes me love the film – because if anyone knows the truth, it is her – and Rossellini naturally has a devilish glint in her eye – that could fulfill whatever paranoid thought your mind could conjure to explain why this is the way it is… the film could be a dream, it could be a nightmare – or… most nightmarish of all… this could all just be happening. I’ve seen enough look-alikes to me that I’ve been freaked out before – that one guy at the movie theater as I was coming out of the 7th STAR TREK feature film – that was even dressed in the same clothes – FREAKED ME OUT BIG TIME! But don’t read to much about the film – if you like challenging films that don’t necessarily spell everything out… and if you like LUCID DREAMING notions… You may, like me, really dig ENEMY… when I told my wife the spoiler version of the film… just that freaked her out. Give it a shot, you might be surprised. It is a paranoid film to be certain.
WINTER’S TALE Blu Ray
Ok – now here’s a film getting 4 out of 5 stars according to Amazon’s reviews… And apparently the film has its champions and lovers… but whereas with 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE – I like the film less than I wanted to… with WINTER’S TALE – the film played for me like a self-serious joke of a fantasy film that I couldn’t quite find a punchline to laugh at… until Will Smith’s UTTERLY BIZARRE interruption in the film. Perhaps I was tired when I watched it… I will give it another shot, just because I do respect the opinions of the folks that love it – and I have been known to have my head up my ass from time to time. But I found the film to be woefully bad and punctuated by some beautiful notions from time to time – but the whole film felt like pieces that didn’t want to go together. There’s 12 minutes of deleted scenes, they didn’t help me. The Behind the scenes act like this is an epic romantic fantasy film unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
BLOOD TIES Blu Ray
Do ya like tales of brothers upon different roads… one a cop, the other a thug? I do. I like Cops & Criminal tales and having the brothers played by Billy Crudup (Cop) and Clive Owens (Thug)… well I’m good. Directed by Guillaume Canet, who made the outstanding TELL NO ONE… I get that this was a slight let down from that suspense film, but this is real damn good! You also get Marion Cotillard and Mila Kunis as the Ladies!!! And they’re both great! But then, you’ve also got Zoe Saldana, Lili Taylor, Noah Emmerich, Griffin Dunne in the mix. OH… And JAMES “THE DREAM” CAAN as the patriarch of the family!!! This is a solid solid film with a great cast and a story that isn’t out and out great, but serviceable by the talent involved. The disc has a 26 minute behind the scenes thing, but it’s pretty weak.
SCREAMERS Blu Ray
I knew this film as SOMETHING WAITS IN THE DARK… Came out back in 1979, from the Italian great… Sergio Martino – the man behind TORSO, MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD, 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK, BLADE OF THE RIPPER, A MAN CALLED BLADE, THE GREAT ALLIGATOR and well… this! Now – if you loved THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and CAVEMAN and FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE – and you remember Barbara Bach (who could forget) well – she’s the lead! And I have always always loved her. You also have Joseph Cotton as a Professor in this… Given they’re advertising on the cover that Mel Ferrer and Cameron Mitchell is in this – that means this is the American version of the film… but that’s perfectly fine. That’s the version I’ve always seen. The story of the film involves a prison ship that sinks and the cast makes their way to an island that isn’t quite deserted… and because they’re in a Sergio Martino film… and well… you see the cover art… yeah, it gets bad. I can’t wait for this disc to arrive, I’m very curious about the state of the print and if there are any extras… But I’ll get ever Sergio Martino film they put out on Blu. This is no different… except it has Barbara Bach – and that makes it an immediate acquisition in my house.
WOLF CREEK 2 Blu Ray
I don’t know about you – but I loved Greg McLean’s original WOLF CREEK – and I’ve very much been looking forward to checking out his sequel, WOLF CREEK 2. I saw it as a double feature for WINTER’S TALE – so it pretty much played like the greatest fucking film ever. John Jarratt has continued my long biased opinion, that I never ever ever want to go wandering around in the vast landscapes of Australia. NOTHING GOOD CAN COME OF IT! The scene with the cops – GREAT! The scene with the Kangaroos? ADORABLE, heh. Jarratt is such a bloody great psychopath and WOLF CREEK 2 is a terrific follow up to the original! Really top notch scary fun stuff! Very much up your alley if you like you’re alley dripping with gore!
I SPY: THE COMPLETE SERIES DVD
One of the great Spy series in the history of television – and Robert Culp and Bill Cosby were one of the great charismatic teams paired! This is every episode from the original 82 show run and Amazon is running it at half price – which is outstanding savings! SHOUT! did a great job on this – Cosby won 3 Emmy’s for the 3 Seasons this show aired and watching – you really have no doubts why! He was doing important work breaking down racial stereotypes and playing with them as well. Lively and fun, I SPY is the best!
THE SUNSHINE BOYS DVD
If you’ve never seen Neil Simon’s THE SUNSHINE BOYS with Walter Matthau and George Burns and Richard Benjamin and Lee Meredith… You’ve got to. It was films exactly like THE SUNSHINE BOYS that made the Seventies so fucking great. You put that cast and that great great great script of Neil Simon’s together with a director as solid and great as Herbert Ross – and you have a film that garnered 4 Academy nominations for Art Direction, Writing and 2 Best Actor noms for both Matthau and Burns – and George Burns WON for Best Supporting Actor! It did better at the more populist Golden Globes… but for me, this was the film that introduced me to George Burns. My parents took me – and I just fell in love with that man.. The Oscar put Burns back in the Lime Light in a big way – and I loved EVERYTHING HE DID AFTER THIS!!! But it also led me to discover not only his older work, but his love… Gracie Allen – and so for that – I owe this movie so much! Discover these two aging vaudeville partners and their lovable hatred for one another. OUTSTANDING GREATER THAN GREAT FILM!!!
BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURES DVD
I have crazy love for the original POSEIDON ADVENTURE – and have, ever since I saw it as a child. It is one of those favorites that I love dusting off for every New Year’s Eve… It was also a very early film that we recorded off television on VHS, so by the time 1979 rolled around, I’d seen POSEIDON ADVENTURE about 30 times – and was chomping at the bit for the sequel – which also has crazy absurd intrigue involving rival treasure hunters going after the gold and PLUTONIUM… so that made total sense to my 8 year old brain – and the cast – well, 70s heaven… Michael Caine, Peter Boyle, Karl Malden, SLIM PICKENS, Mark Harmon, Jack Warden, Sally Field and TELLY SAVALAS!!! Blofeld onboard! There’s more on board – but those are my faves. Like FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE – this is a sequel that wasn’t entirely necessary – but tried to do enough different things that I loved it all the same. If you’ve never seen it, it is a bit of a trip. Obviously it will never live up to the original – but damn if I don’t have a sweet part of my heart that would never turn it off.
Alrighty – so that’s it for the month of June… We kick off July with a look at KINDERGARTEN COP Blu, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST Blu, THE FINAL TERROR Blu, AFFLICTED Blu, BRING IT O N Blu, THE LEGEND OF KORRA Blu, CRY BABY Blu, GOOD SAM Blu, VINYL Blu, THE UNKNOWN KNOWN Blu, SO THIS IS NEW YORK Blu, MR. PEABODY AND THE MERMAID Blu, OPERATION PETTICOAT Blu, THE LOST MOMENT Blu and more… So till then, keep the light pulsing on those screens of yours!