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savant5
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Favorite Discs of 2014

[Savant Links] [Year Five Report]
Write Savant (Glenn Erickson) at
dvdsavant@mindspring.com!
(dvdsavant@mindspring.com)

Tuesday March 21, 2014

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Tower
Kino Lorber
Blu-ray

 A fateful day is re-examined by its survivors, whose stories are told via a brilliant narrative arrangement, and the use of animated recreations is only one aspect of it. The Texas tower shootings put our present, everyday reign of violent terror in a humanist context. It's not exploitative -- the killer's name is barely mentioned. It works, it's riveting, and its positive message is one of calm sanity. Highly recommended. Directed by Keith Maitland... and I can see why it is the best- reviewed documentary of 2016. On Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
03/21/17



Multiple Maniacs
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 Reviewer Charlie Largent examines John Waters' breakthrough production from way back in 1970. How are these for product description keywords?: "grotesque, depravity, blasphemous, mockery, Cavalcade of Perversion, misfits, shocking proclivities, anarchic masterwork." I'm told that the extras, which include a new director commentary, are revelatory: an interview piece gives us the input of Pat Moran, Mink Stole, Susan Lowe, George Figgs, and Vincent Peranio. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
03/21/17



Fences
Paramount
Blu-ray

 Verdict? The film of August Wilson's play is absorbing, intense. If we rate by quality of writing, acting skill, and the craft of direction, Denzel Washington's film betters most of its fellow Best Picture nominees. It's also something positive for the arts, a 'black experience' play that can't be pigeonholed as merely black- themed. The appeal of its compelling characters goes beyond racial boundaries. Viola Davis did win a well- deserved Oscar, and this is fine work from one end to the other.On Blu-ray from Paramount.
03/21/17



and

Phaedra
Olive Films
Blu-ray

 Or, "Never on Sunday with Your Stepson."   Director Jules Dassin's monument to his beloved Melina Mercouri transposes a Greek tragedy to a modern setting. The pampered wife of a shipping magnate is like a queen of old -- she can fling a priceless gem into the Thames on just a whim, and she goes in whatever direction her heart takes her. When her attractive stepson Anthony Perkins enters the picture, there will be Hell to Pay. It's a case of exaggerated romantic delirium, and if that's your style there's nothing better. Co-starring Raf Vallone; great music by Mikis Theodorakis. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
03/21/17




Hello!

Something simple and fun today here at the Savant column -- one of correspondent Gary Teetzel's fine movie reviews. I rely on Gary's taste, and he hasn't steered me wrong yet (except we disagree on Something Wild '61.)   The show in question is Kong: Skull Island, and Gary doesn't waste time on generalities (my great sin).

Saw Kong: Skull Island the other day...

The good news: The film effects are excellent and there are some well-done monster battles. Unlike Legendary's fairly ponderous Godzilla '14, this Kong is well-paced and, at a little under two hours, doesn't overstay its welcome. If you just want a giant monster film to eat popcorn by, it's satisfactory if uninspired.

Unfortunately, overall the film is pretty thin gruel. It's a string of action set pieces and not much else. One doesn't go into a film like this expecting or necessarily wanting anything terribly profound, but one is at least hoping for some clever touches, or a fresh take on the material. These are mostly lacking in Kong: SI.

Kong is presented as a scowling, perpetually pissed-off brute. There is little of the curiosity of other screen Kongs, and no loving devotion to a female protagonist. He stares at Brie Larson and lets her touch his face in one scene, and he does indeed rescue her in another--and that's it. This Kong isn't going to turn New York upside down looking for her. The filmmakers are more concerned with emphasizing his size and power than building up our sympathy for him; they seem to be counting on audience good will toward the monster from previous Kong films to take care of that for them. (Speaking of Kong's size: when the forthcoming Kong vs. Godzilla was announced, fans wondered how Kong, if kept to his traditional proportions, would be able to fight the far larger Zilla '14. The answer is they made Kong bigger than usual, and said that he's a juvenile, so presumably he can get even bigger before his title bout with the terror from Toho.)

The humans in the film aren't so much characters as they are stock genre figures or plot conveniences. The talented John Goodman is wasted in a part that is little more than exposition. Once we get to the island he's mostly forgotten--until he's needed to provide more exposition. Tom Hiddleston is the Hero With a Past--although we never really learn what it is, other than that he was a soldier and presumably saw some Really Bad Things. He's hired to be a tracker, but doesn't do any tracking in the film, although he does take charge and gives lots of advice. Brie Larson is in the film, probably just because the writers figured there HAD to be a woman in a Kong movie for him to make goo-goo eyes at. She is given nothing interesting to do. Samuel L. Jackson is an army Colonel who goes all Captain Ahab after a number of his men are killed by the giant ape. His performance isn't much of a departure from what we've seen before from him, but he does inject a good amount of energy into the film.

Among the leads, this leaves John C. Reilly as a World War II pilot stranded on Skull Island since the 40's. He's the Comic Relief and secondary source of expository information. The movie tries for some sentimentality with the character as he yearns for his wife and son, but this material doesn't blend well with the comedy. Reilly is at least a break from all the soldiers and scientists; it's a relief when he shows up to bring a different tone to the proceedings.

Reilly has been living on the island with some natives who are treated as set dressing. They have no dialogue and are not individualized. Again, the writers seem to have injected them into the film solely because their Writing for Kong 101 handbook said there must be natives who worship Kong and build a big wall.

Some of the marketing for the film evoked Apocalypse Now; as with that film, Kong: SI works in allusions to the book Heart of Darkness. Hiddleston's character is named 'Conrad', and Reilly's is 'Marlow.' Perhaps the writers thought of Sam Jackson's character as their crazy Colonel Kurtz, but, as mentioned, he's closer to Ahab. None of these allusions add anything to the film; maybe they're there so we'll think the writers must be smart, because they reference a classic novel (that most of us read in High School).

As for the links that connect this film to Godzilla '14 in a shared 'Monsterverse': John Goodman's character works for Monarch, the super-secret government organization introduced in the earlier film. Except it can't be TOO secret, because in Goodman's first scene he's walking around in public carrying a briefcase with MONARCH emblazoned on it in big gold letters. (Observing Vietnam protestors, Goodman remarks that Washington will never again be as screwed up, which prompted laughter from the audience.) In the previous film, Monarch was aware of Godzilla's existence since 1954, yet in this film giant monsters are discussed as an unproven theory. Huh? The monsters in Godzilla '14 were referred to as ancient 'alpha predators' who survived into the modern era by ... uh ... don't ask so many questions. In Kong: SI we're told that the Earth is hollow -- or at least has large hollow pockets -- and the monsters are just hanging out underground ... although Skull Island is above ground, so what does this have to do with a crackpot Hollow Earth theory? Finally, there is a Marvel-style post- credits scene that teases the appearance of some of Godzilla's Kaiju kin in the next installment of the Legendary Monsterverse, Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

So, in summary, Kong: Skull Island is a nice try, but the '33 ape is still the King. -- Gary




AND ... great news -- the Warner Archive Collection's first disc release for April will be Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country, one of the top westerns of all time. I've seen it in HD and it looks sensational -- all the detail and color that can no longer be accessed in photochemical printing is brought out. It's no longer a brown-on-brown movie, but a rainbow of warm hues: the 'browns' break up into everything from hay gold to ruddy red leather. The old gunslingers don't wear makeup, so Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea give us everything -- age spots, liver spots, the whole works. The Wild Bunch may be Peckinpah's violent masterpiece, but Ride the High Country is equally wonderful -- everybody loves it, across the board -- women, kids, liberals, conservatives, Sierra Clubbers.... can you tell I like this movie? I still silently thank professor Jim Kitses for showing it to us back at UCLA.

Other WAC Blu-rays just announced: James Garner in 36 Hours and The Wheeler Dealers, Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda in The Rounders, Delmer Daves' Spencer's Mountain, and.... and.... everyone's favorite walking tree Z-movie, From Hell It Came! And it's not April Fool's Day. Remember guys, marijuana is still only quasi-legal, at least on the Federal level.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


Saturday March 18, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Our Man in Havana
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

 It's Obi-Wan versus Fidel! Well, not really. The pre-Bond espionage genre lights up with cool intrigues and comic absurdities, as a Brit vacuum salesman in Havana is recruited to spy for Her Majesty's Secret Service. The filmmakers and stars are all top caliber, and the location is legendary: Castro's Cuba, immediately after the revolution. Alec Guinness is the inoffensive spy, Maureen O'Hara as his clerical assistant, Burl Ives as a holdover from the days of the Kaiser, and the great Ernie Kovacs in a superb character role. Plus some English guy named Noël Coward who did some stuff back when sometime. In glowing B&W CinemaScope. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
03/18/17



Film and Notfilm
The Milestone Cinematheque
Blu-ray

 An experimental film by an Irish playwright, shot in New York with a silent comedian at the twilight of his career? Samuel Beckett's inquiry into the nature of movies (and existence?) befuddled viewers not versed in film theory; Ross Lipman's retrospective documentary about its making asks all the questions and gets some good answers. The first disc contains a classic TV version of Waiting for Godot with Burgess Meredith and Zero Mostel; the docu disc has enough key source interview input to stock a semester's study of the iconoclastic Beckett, in depth. Separate releases on Blu-ray from The Milestone Cinematheque.
03/18/17



and

Summer Storm
Sprocket Vault / Kit Parker
DVD

 Here's a real gem -- a 'classic' Chekhov story turned into a compelling tale of lust and murder. George Sanders and Linda Darnell shine as a judge and the peasant girl who intrigues him; Edward Everett Horton is excellent cast against type in a dramatic role. Director Douglas Sirk makes a tiny production look like something from MGM, or better. With Anna Lee, Hugo Haas and Sig Ruman; it's a fine example of a great movie, un-affiliated with a major studio, which needs to be remembered. On DVD from Sprocket Vault / Kit Parker.
03/18/17




Hello! Here are three links that will change your life!

(I'm trying out my new freedom to lie in public with impunity. As I'm male and white and not very young, I understand that this is now my trickle-down privilege.)

Over at The Passionate Moviegoer, Joe Baltake notes Disney's big push to promote a certain live-action musical remake of an animated film that's already been a stage musical, and responds by demanding a release of Disney's long-suppressed live-action + animation film Song of the South. My response is that the Gods of Pee Cee are not likely to let this one through, simply because it's bad for beeswax. The pundits still calling this the year of diversity payback for the Academy aren't going to stand for it either. I credit my thoughtful but ruthlessly honest former co-worker Teresa Wright for setting me straight on the reality of how today's blacks react to blackface in movies, Butterfly McQueen, Stepin Fetchit, etc. I will forever have the luxury of waving off the offense, whereas those affected cannot. I don't see much in the way of a mass black audience for old Hollywood pictures at all, as they're so consistently racist… I mean, look at the crowds for TCM festivals some time. Of course everything should be made available but I hardly expect the suits at Dizz-nay to put their necks in a public relations noose. So good luck with that one, Joe.

NPR was plugging for Disney today with a variety item where people could call in to suggest animated Disney movies that ought to be turned into live-action musicals. I personally am all Bah! and Humbug! on the notion of animated movies imitating Broadway musicals, and reserve my right to be stubborn in my bias. The discussion was so depressing that I turned the dial looking for something more relaxing. Like, you know, Trump news. Just to keep my peace of mind, I find myself lately defaulting to a Classical Music radio station. When the Pods get people like me to simply give up and turn off the news, they'll have won.


Is this next item a timely movie-related report? Thoughtful correspondent Bart Steele directs my attention to a Orlando Sentinel story about an aviation mishap that bears more than a passing resemblance to a 'campy' movie plot hook in that old pre- Airplane! aerial disaster drama Fate Is the Hunter. Bart has a point -- the 'silly' event isn't so silly when it happens in real life. The only question is - what aircraft equipment can be compromised by somebody spilling a soft drink in the passenger cabin?


And finally, Gary Teetzel points me to a favorite cheerful and optimistic subject, nuclear annihilation. Apparently some scientific-type people have grants to scan, preserve and study old 1950s and '60s atom test footage, and post it on the web. You can see tons newly uploaded atom blasts at the Paleofuture page, helpfully titled Rare Nuclear Test Films Saved, Declassified, and Uploaded to YouTube. It's accompanied by an article by Matt Novak. Actually, these appear to be H-Bomb tests, of the humungous variety, so I'd better call them Hydrogen Blasts. Some of the air bursts are just vague blurs a hundred miles away through the haze; a few others are those scary things that look like giant blisters, covered with smaller, boiling plasma bubbles, that resemble a glass-blower's nightmare or something from the 12th dimension. Fascinating and scary.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


NEWEST FEATURE ARTICLES
World Without End
  "Thru the Time Barrier, 552 years Ahead... Roaring To the Far Reaches of Titanic Terror, Crash-Landing Into the Nightmare Future!"    ... and as Daffy Duck says, "And it's good, too!" Allied Artists sends CinemaScope and Technicolor on a far-out timewarp to a place where the men are silly and the women... very female. Hugh Marlowe stars but the picture belongs to hunky Rod Taylor and leggy Nancy Gates.. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
03/14/17

September Storm
  3-D in CinemaScope? That seems like a strange combination, but this obscure treasure hunt adventure with Joanne Dru and Mark Stevens is indeed billed as being filmed in the 'Miracle of Stereo-Vision,' five years after the demise of Hollywood's first fling with 'depthies.' Kino and the 3-D Film Archives extras include two vintage 3-D shorts, one of them never screened in 3-D. With Robert Strauss and Asher Dann. On 3-D Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
03/14/17

Cinema Paradiso
  Giuseppe Tornatore's ode to the Italian love of movies was a major hit here in 1990, despite being severely cut by Miramax. A young visitor to a projectionist's booth falls in love with images on screen, and eventually takes over the job. In 2002 the director reworked his long version into an almost three-hour sentimental epic that enlarges the film's scope and deepens its sentiments. Both versions are included. Starring Philippe Noiret, Antonella Attili and Salvatore Cascio. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
03/14/17

Compulsion
 This classy Fox production was considered the epitome of sick film subject matter in the pre- Psycho year of 1959, at least in terms of mainstream Hollywood. The true story of jazz-age thrill killers Leopold & Loeb plays out with little alteration from the facts. Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman are the nihilistic child murderers; Orson Welles stops the show with his portrayal of Clarence Darrow, going under a different name. With Diane Varsi, Martin Milner, E.G. Marshall and Richard Anderson. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
03/11/17

We Are the Flesh / Lovers on the Bridge
 Two Guest Reviews from a contributor new to DVD Savant, Trailers From Hell's Charlie Largent. Yes, two wildly disparate films: Lovers on the Bridge is from long time French provocateur Leos Carax, and We Are the Flesh is from a new kid on the block who's ready to shock, Emiliano Rocha Minter. Each is well represented by beautiful new Blu-ray transfers, on separate Blu-ray releases from Arrow Video and Kino Lorber.
03/11/17

RoboCop 2
 It's ugly, it's violent, it's graphic novelist Frank Miller's nasty vision through and through. Scream Factory's Collector's Edition brings out the amazing backstory of the production of this stop-motion- intensive first sequel to RoboCop. Druglord Caine is a menace, but we're just as appalled by the film's vividdepiction of a greater terror: Predatory Privatization! Meanwhile, Phil Tippett, Irvin Kershner and producer Jon Davison break through with an ultra-violent, high body count tale of corporate-civic-underworld warfare. With Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O'Herlihy, Robert DoQui & Tom Noonan. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory .
03/11/17

45 Years
 Andrew Haigh's quiet, two-person relationship tale won a lot of friends last year. A revelation from the past changes everything in the marriage of Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. We read the faces, read the gestures -- just like we do in our own close relationships. The disruption to the marital calm involves a note about a strange event in Switzerland... that almost becomes a hindrance to the film's more interesting intimate drama. With plenty of filmmaker input via a gallery of extras. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
03/07/17

The Valley of Gwangi
 Gwangi! Ready your rifles and lariats because this is one of the best -- Harryhausen's happiest dinos- à go-go epic comes thundering back in HD heralded by Jerome Moross's impressive music score. James Franciscus and Gila Golan capture the ferocious title allosaurus in the Forbidden Valley, and unleash a Citches' Worse -- a Witches' Curse. A dinosaur round-up roping scene is perhaps Harryhausen's most accomplished. Unless you count The Animal World, all of the stop-motion magician's feature films are now available in quality Blu-rays. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
03/07/17

March 2017
 The Man Who Could Cheat Death  Blu-ray  Finian's Rainbow  Blu-ray  Chilly Scenes of Winter  Blu-ray  A*P*E  3-D Blu-ray
February 2017
 The Before Trilogy: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight  Blu-ray  Framed  Blu-ray  Kiss of Death  Blu-ray  Edge of Eternity  Blu-ray  The Tree of Wooden Clogs  Blu-ray  Panther Girl of the Kongo  Blu-ray  Deluge  Blu-ray  3 Classic Films by Claude Chabrol  Blu-ray  By Sidney Lumet  DVD  The Boy Friend  Blu-ray  The Gate  Blu-ray  Breakout / Der Mann Ohne Nerven  Blu-ray  Arrival  Blu-ray + DVD  A Walk in the Sun  DVD  Loving  Blu-ray + DVD  The Edge of Seventeen  Blu-ray + DVD  Manchester by the Sea  Blu-ray + DVD  Hacksaw Ridge  Blu-ray + DVD  Valkoinen Peura The White Reindeer  Region B Blu-ray  One Million Years B.C.  Blu-ray  When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth  Blu-ray  Inferno  3-D Blu-ray  Gabriel Over the White House (revisited)  DVD
January 2017
 Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown  Blu-ray  Love in the Afternoon  Blu-ray  What a Way to Go!  Blu-ray  Mildred Pierce  Blu-ray  The Lair of the White Worm  Blu-ray  Dr. Orloff's Monster  Blu-ray  The Yakuza  Blu-ray  Wagon Tracks  Blu-ray  The Sicilian Clan  Blu-ray  No Highway in the Sky  Blu-ray  Seddok, l'erede di Satana  Region 2 PAL DVD  Stanley and Iris  Blu-ray  Who?  Blu-ray  Two for the Road  Blu-ray  Gas-s-s-s –Or– It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It  Blu-ray  The Mad Magician  3-D Blu-ray  Revenge of the Blood Beast  Blu-ray  David and Bathsheba  Blu-ray  Something Wild  Blu-ray  The Accountant  Blu-ray + DVD  The Keys of the Kingdom  Blu-ray  The Barefoot Contessa  Blu-ray  The Internecine Project  Blu-ray  Battleground  Blu-ray  The People vs. Fritz Bauer  Blu-ray  His Girl Friday &  The Front Page  Blu-ray  The Driller Killer  Blu-ray
December 2016
 Wait Until Dark  Blu-ray  'Pimpernel' Smith  Blu-ray  Loophole (1981)  Blu-ray  Deepwater Horizon  Blu-ray + DVD  50 Years with Peter Paul and Mary  DVD  Bad Day at Black Rock  Blu-ray  Sully  Blu-ray  The 3 Worlds of Gulliver  Blu-ray  Dreamscape  Blu-ray  Savant Picks the Most Impressive Discs of 2016  Fellini's Roma  Blu-ray  I Want to Live!  Blu-ray  100 Rifles  Blu-ray  Brazil  Blu-ray  The House on 92nd Street  Blu-ray  Short Cuts  Blu-ray  The Exterminating Angel  Blu-ray  Bad Girl  Blu-ray  Pretty Poison  Blu-ray  Sudden Fear  Blu-ray  Cry of the City  Blu-ray  Pete's Dragon  Blu-ray + DVD



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