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.

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.


Movie of the Day [Streaming and Blu-Ray] : 3 DAYS TO KILL

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3 DAYS TO KILL – With over 50 movies under his belt, Kevin Costner continues to mature into a better and better actor. Deftly and pulse-poundingly directed by McG from  a Luc Besson script, 3 DAYS TO KILL is simply a joy from its impressive opening credit sequence to its close.

A great and surprisingly smart and humanistic action-thriller, Costner is compelling as Renner, a man who has grown tired in the killing, and his understated performance is picture perfect, and is but one of an across the board great cast. Add to that vibrant cinematography and an ebullient score, and you have the kind of emotionally rich action movie that Pekinpah  would have made, and that’s high praise indeed.

Catch it free on streaming, then buy the Blu-Ray for the commentary and special features. It’s that good. Grade: A-.

 

REASONS TO GET THE BLURAY: “watched this film on an excellent Blu ray transfer. It comes in a 1080p resolution and a 2.37:1 aspect ratio. Beautifully detailed – check out the gracefully aging Costner face – and provides some terrific panoramic shots of Paris. Colors are excellent. Great picture. The audio is excellent as well. The primary track is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. It works great, especially in the numerous action sequences including the requisite car chase, several gun battles and some close up fighting. Dialog is clear and well positioned. Subtitles are available in Spanish, English and English SDH. Extras include a making-of short, a profile on director McG, a piece featuring a real CIA operative and a trailer. There are 2 options as well as to which feature to watch. The theatrical version and an extended version (5 minutes longer).”–Amazon.com review

 

This is a really beautifully shot film, and depending on time of day or bandwidth issues, that can be lost when viewing via streaming. Which is why I say streaming is a try before you buy medium. When you determine this is a movie you’re going to come back to, that’s when you want to purchase the Blu-Ray.

3 Days to Kill [Blu-ray]

This Weekend’s Favorite Free Roku ON-DEMAND channels and WHY!

This Weekend’s Favorite FREE Roku ON-DEMAND channels and WHY!

 

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A CHEF’S LIFE – All 13 episodes of the first season of this Farm to Table restaurant series is available. Following Chef Vivian Howard’s journey to establish her dream restaurant in the small southern town where she was born. Recommended, Grade: B.

GREAT PERFORMANCES- A bevy of great filmed theatrical performances among the highlights Patrick Stewart (of Star Trek fame) stars as the title character in MACBETH, and David Tenant (of Doctor Who fame) stars as the young, tragic prince in HAMLET.

MASTERPIECE – Sports some of BBCs best programs, including SHERLOCK

 

HISTORY-

Full episodes of PAWN STARS, INVENTION USA, PAWNOGRAPHY, TOP SHOT, ULTIMATE SOLDIER CHALLENGE, HUMAN WEAPON, THE UNIVERSE, 10 THINGS YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT, FOOD TECH & STAN LEE’S SUPERHUMANS.

A&E-

Full episodes of BARTER KINGS, BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR, STORAGE WARS, LONGMIRE, EXTREME SELL THIS HOUSE, and SHIPPING WARS

 

If you own a Roku you can sign up for these channels here:

http://www.history.com/roku-channel

http://www.aetv.com/roku-channel

http://www.pbs.org/roku/home/

 

ENJOY!!

UNCOLLECTED CLASSICS : DAREDEVIL 126 AND 127! Favorite Comic Books!

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UNCOLLECTED CLASSICS : DAREDEVIL 126 AND 127! Favorite Comic Books!

With Netflix and Marvel Studios currently hard at work on a live-action Daredevil TV series, I thought the time was right to highlight some of my favorite Daredevil comics.

This installment is on DAREDEVIL 126 and 127, from 1975, sporting great Gil Kane covers, and a fun Marv Wolfman story with Bob Brown/Klaus Janson, it is one of my favorite Daredevil two-parters. While written for a 1975 audience of kids, it still holds up and builds to a surprisingly poignant ending.

RATING THE EPISODES : KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER Best and Worst Episodes

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Netflix On-Demand Classic TV: KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER Best and Worst Episodes

THE SENTRY episode of KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER, the last episode of the short lived series and some would argue the worst, is actually a tense, atmospheric, well paced episode. What sinks it is the laughable ‘monster’ creation.

The director does what he can to underplay the ludicrousness of the ‘monster’, showing it as little as possible. I don’t think anyone would argue the monster creation was anything other than a pathetic disappointment even by 1970s standards, that someone should have been fired for.

It is so bad it makes the bargain basement cardboard creatures of early Doctor Who look almost good. Star Darren McGavin rightly pulled the plug on this series when he saw the quality not just dipping, but plummeting.

All that said, despite the poor monster design, this particular episode still works, and is quite engaging and fast paced. As opposed to the oft praised VAMPIRE episode, which I find to be plodding. A solid GOOD, and one that using CGI to draw in a better monster could only help. Grade: C.

THE SPANISH MOSS MURDERS- This is Kolchak at his best, as this episodes mixes the cutting edge dream experimentation studies of the day, with supernatural monster lore, to create a bigfoot sized dream assassin. Quite enjoyable and fast paced. Grade: B/B+.

THE KNIGHTLY MURDERS – the opening to this one does not fill me with confidence. An out of focus suit of armor dispensing out of focus death. But with the appearance of John Dehner as an erudite and forlorn and quixotic Captain, the stock on this episode begins to rise. Add the great Hans Conried as the curator and it becomes just a fun, enjoyable, well-written episode. Really enjoyable. B/B+.

HORROR IN THE HEIGHTS – A very imaginative and smart episode. Add the murder of Jewish elderly, rats, swastikas, Hindu spirits, death that comes like a friend, and the myth of the end of the world, and you have a particularly compelling and enjoyable episode. Of all the monsters that Kolchak has faced this one may be the most insidious. B+.

VAMPIRE – Just a plodding, overrated episode. The only thing this episode has going for it is the very ending, with the audacious, and possibly inappropriate visuals of a cross burning and staking as the solution to Kolchak’s problem.

In fact watching this series all together there is a lot of questionable but reoccurring Nazi and Klan imagery throughout (swastikas in CHOPPED, HORROR IN THE HEIGHTS and burning crosses in VAMPIRE). Grade: D-.

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CHOPPED – An incredibly fake looking headless horseman helms this poor man’s version of THE WILD ONE. Like VAMPIRE this is a plodding, boring episode. Another embarrassment of a monster design. Grade: D.

You can view the episodes for yourself courtesy of ON-DEMAND or buy the DVD at a savings here:
Kolchak – The Night Stalker DVD

The DVD is worth owning just to have the episodes HORROR IN THE HEIGHTS and THE SPANISH MOSS MURDERS always at your fingertips.

Come back for more RATING THE EPISODES!