Streaming VOD DVD : Director & Movie of the Day — DEFIANCE by Edward Zwick

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Edward Zwick, the master of the sprawling, thrilling, heartfelt epic, continues his home-run streak with 2008’s DEFIANCE. One of Zwick’s older films, it recently made its appearance on Netflix streaming, and only today made my viewing list.

Following in the footsteps of other Zwick masterpieces such as GLORY, COURAGE UNDER FIRE, LEGENDS OF THE FALL, and LAST SAMURAI, the film DEFIANCE follows his pattern of expertly mythologizing moments of our history, thereby creating visual ballads of those places where we stand up. And like those aforementioned movies, DEFIANCE manages to both rouse and move. Highly recommended. Grade: B+/A-.

All of the Edward Zwick movies named are highly recommended. Most are available on streaming so you can try before you buy, but the films are clinics on film-making, and should be owned for the commentaries as well as being able to see the movies in the best quality available.

Streaming VOD DVD : Movie of the Day — THE 13TH UNIT & The Worst Movies on Amazon Prime!

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THE 13TH UNIT (2014) – The genre of storage unit horror is thankfully small, relegated as it is to the pretty forgettable Noel Clarke vehicle STORAGE 24 or this extremely low budget entry, THE 13TH UNIT.

Despite an obviously anemic budget, some solid camera work, for the most part involving performances, initially show promise and keep me watching. Unfortunately the film is sabotaged by a cliche ridden script, annoying characters who make obviously irrational and stupid choices, and a complete lack of audience investment due to the stupidity of these characters. It’s finish-able, however ultimately not worth that investment of time. Grade: D.

Other movies to avoid, far more inept than 13TH UNIT are FALSE FACE, 5 SOULS, BEAST WITHIN, 7 NIGHTS OF DARKNESS, THE CREEPY DOLL, and NO ONE WILL KNOW.

Netflix Hits and Misses for October 2014

THE ARTIST AND THE MODEL- Fernando Trueba (director of Oscar-winning BELLE EPOQUE and Oscar-nominated CHICO AND RITA) collaborates with legendary screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière to present this exquisite tale of a quest for beauty and artistic inspiration. Sumptuously shot in black and white by Cinematographer Daniel Vilar, and with captivating performances from Jean Rochefort, Aida Folch, Claudia Cardinale and Chus Lampreave, THE ARTIST AND THE MODEL is a delicately crafted contemplation on life, death and art that won Trueba the Best Director award at San Sebastian Film Festival.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS- Revisiting the movie it continues to reward, and becomes more enjoyable. Grade: A.

SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE- John Malkovich and William Dafoe star in this dark fable take, on Murnau’s filming of NOSFERATU. Solidly enjoyable. Grade: B.

BIG ASS SPIDER!- Far better and more enjoyable than recent stabs at the B-movie monster quickie. This one is solidly aware and embracing of its influences. Well performed and engaging bit of 90 minutes. Grade: B.

STATE OF EMERGENCY- Beautifully filmed, this claustrophobic little film is definitely a slow burn, takes a while to get going, but stick with it, I find its content and quality belies its idiotic poster. I am not a zombie fan, I think the first two seasons of the Walking Dead TV Show are both idiotic and annoying, but I like this film. Grade: B/B+
JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI- Inventively told Documentary is good, if a bit overhyped and overlong. Grade: B-/B.

COUNT YORGA VAMPIRE- An interesting take on the Vampire craze, sensuous and bloody, this takes Vampire out of Hammer’s Victorian age and deposits him into the Free Love Movement and the age of Aquarius 70s. Equal parts ludicrous and engaging, this movie is better than I initially thought it would be. C+.

THE MACHINE (2013)- Fantastic looking poster, and solid visuals throughout, however this scifi film feels overlong, like a retread of better films and already well trod cautionary tales. Worth a look.
SPACEBALLS- Huge fan of Mel Brooks films like HIGH ANXIETY and BLAZING SADDLES, I don’t like this film. I want to like it I just don’t particularly find it well cast, funny, or interesting.
UNREST- Start interestingly, this tale of a cadaver that may be more alive than it should be, devolves quickly into utter nonsense. Grade: D.

SACRAMENT – Ti West has three movies on NETFLIX, the great HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, the tedious INBETWEENER, and this film an intriguing but flawed looked at cults and massacres. Just underwhelming. Grade: C-.

DOOMSDAY PREPPERS -hit
CHOPPED -hit
CUTTHROAT KITCHEN -hit
DEATHNOTE -hit
ARROW Season 2 -hit
BEING MARY JANE -hit

Television Review : CWs THE FLASH

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Two episodes in and I like but don’t love CW’s THE FLASH. The casting of the lead actor, CW going for a 20 something Kid-Flash like Flash, does not initially endear.

It reminds too much of DAWSON’S CREEK meets ‘insert-superhero-title-here’. That said, actor Grant Gustin does have some range, and I can see him growing into the role. Particularly the dynamic between Gustin as the young Barry Allen and Jesse L. Foster as Detective Joe West, his Foster Dad, is particularly good.

However that inventive relationship is married to one that doesn’t feel inventive at all, the relationship between Candice Patton as Iris West and her triangle between Grant Gustin as Barry Allen and Rick Cosnett as Detective Eddie Thawne. I am not a fan of there being a distinct lack of representation on Film or Television of male characters of color getting the girl. It’s a bit tired all these shows with Black actresses tossing themselves at White actors.

It would be different if these shows were offset by an equal number of shows and movies with actors of color getting the girl. Unfortunately there isn’t. It’s a telling and glaring discrepancy. In the absence of that parity, all this sameness of storytelling feels more like a programming/propaganda than storytelling. It seems more like Black Faces and White Messages.

It’s the reason shows like MARY JANE and ARROW (the only real standout CW show) work for me. They embrace a needed and neglected dynamic, of romance and sex being a purview of more than the White Male.


CW’s FLASH, if it was not engulfed by a sea of movies and tv shows selling the same dynamic to the same impressionable audience, would be easier show to enjoy on its own merits. However it’s only two episodes in and I’m hopeful the show grows beyond its sophomore ticks, to be something the equal of its sibling show… ARROW.

Documentary of the Day : THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR : SATAN CAME TO EDEN

Documentary of the Day : THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR : SATAN CAME TO EDEN
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THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR ; SATAN CAME TO EDEN – Directed by Daniel Geller, completely engrossing true life tale and mystery about a band of Europeans in that time between the World Wars, and their search for an escape from society’s madness, that would breed madness of its own. Grade : A.

Art Book of the Day : FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA by Edwin Lord Weeks

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Less an art book than a travelogue/diary and historical exploration of an at the time still largely mysterious region, FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA is an 1890s scholarly work (done during a time of an earlier Afghanistan War)on that area between the lands of Nubia and Asia that today we call the Middle East, by one of the preeminent artists of the 19th century, Edwin Lord Weeks.

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I first became aware of his glorious oil paintings when visiting the Richmond Art Museum a couple years back. His HOUR OF PRAYER painting in person, is simply massive in scale, and cannot truly be appreciated except in person (when you stand in front and beneath the painting, it’s like you could walk into it), carrying as it does not just the seminal strokes of a realist at the height of his powers, but the weight of history and a moment of time, and region, and culture (all of which is under threat of going away) preserved here; hauntingly captured.

For more on my first exposure to Edwin Lord Weeks go here!

I have since seen several other Edwin Lord Weeks paintings in person, Weeks was a very prolific artist, and another standout is INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA.

While not as large as HOUR OF PRAYER it is a gorgeous painting at any size, unlike HOUR OF PRAYER where pictures on the web don’t do it justice. Part of what makes HOUR OF PRAYER the award winner that it was, is the play of yourself against its vast spaces. There is an alchemy that happens when you see that picture in person, that is not reproducible on your computer screen. INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA, in contrast, is a far more repeatable image. What you see on the web or in a book, is a good approximation of what you’ll see in person.

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Along with Virgil Finlay, Robert Duncanson, and Zdzislaw Beksinski; Edwin Lord Weeks quickly became one of those IT artists for me. A massive artistic talent whose work was largely unknown, or under appreciated to this day, and definitely still largely unheralded/uncollected in a comprehensive tome. He became an artist I set out to find books by and about.

Today’s selection is one of those books.

“With the permission from the War Department to visit Central Asia came an urgent telegram from the American legation at St. Petersburg, advising us not to go on account of the cholera which, after devastating Meshed, had left Persia and invaded the Russian provinces. We were then leaving for Constantinople by the Camboge, and finding that she would not proceed to Batoum, by reason of quarantine we were again forced to change our route. This time we elected to follow the old caravan from Trebizond on the Black Sea, to Tabreez, through the mountains of Kurdistan, that country of indefinite boundaries.

In short, there was no other route left open to us; we must either turn back, or, setting our face forward, head straight for the Persian frontier, five hundred miles away, and we decided to go on.”
—-Lord Edwin Weeks, from the preface to FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA.

Being in the public domain there are numerous variations of this work online. The quality is all a bit less than stellar, as largely it looks to be photocopies of photocopies, and the pencil drawings/sketches that accompanies the words, all a bit muted… still there is enough there to get the brilliance, and you can flip to any page, read a paragraph and be entranced by Weeks’ evident love and romance for the region.

So until a proper tome dedicated to Lord Edwin Weeks is done, for reasons both historical and cultural this 462 page book, to any fan of the work of Weeks, is a must own.

Get your copy here:

From the Black Sea through Persia and India

Nineteenth-Century American Painting: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

And American Gallery offers a great look at Weeks’ paintings here.