As 2020 wraps up, here is a list on the best and worst of 3D Blu-ray -UNDER CONSTRUCTION

First regarding the equipment i use to get 3D at home (that I find is superior to 3D in theaters), use the links at the bottom of this article.

 

Okay onto the list:

Best 3D movies, based solely on the quality of the 3D

THE LIFE OF PI

BUNKER OF THE DEAD

PACIFIC RIM

GRAVITY

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

THE GREAT GATSBY

WARCRAFT

STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS

GUN FURY

SANGAREE

MISS SADIE THOMPSON

SPACE JUNK 3D

 

Most disappointing 3D Blu-ray movies tried in 2020:

THE WALK- with the exception of the walk sequence itself, at the end of the movie, the 3D as a whole, throughout most of the movie,  is underwhelming to non-existent.

GHOST IN THE SHELL

DOLPHINS/WHALES

MAN OF STEEL

DRAGONFLY SQUADRON – it actually has good 3D, unfortunately there is so much noise, and pops and scratches in the print, that these artifacts make watching in 3D, headache inducing.

RESIDENT EVIL AFTERLIFE

TRANSFORMERS THE LAST KNIGHT

COMIN AT YA

FINAL DESTINATION 3D

FINAL DESTINATION 5 3D

 

BEST FILM COMMENTARIES : William Richert on WINTER KILLS starring Jeff Bridges, John Huston

I first saw this film, courtesy of streaming,  back in April of this year, and was smitten by it. Did a blog post on the film, and on my desire to purchase the Blu-ray and listen to the Director’s Commentary.

Because the making of such a film, a film swimming with a who’s who of Hollywood Actors and Hollywood legacies, some of the great stars and some of the great character actors and great crew, all together in one quixotic film, … the anecdotes on the making of such a film seemed destined to be as engrossing as the film itself.

William Richert was basically a kid, whose only experience was documentaries, this was his debut feature film, but he obviously had a script, and a vision, and a magnetic personality that charmed everyone from stars to mobsters. I mean for his first film he got Elizabeth Taylor, Jeff Bridges, John Huston, Eli Wallach, Tomas Milian, Ralph Meeker, Anthony Perkins, Sterlin Hayden, Toshiro Mifune, Richard Boone !!!! If you do not know those names, that is a murderer’s row of some of the greatest actors spanning decades of Hollywood History. And he got equally astounding crew behind the camera such as Vilmos Zsigmond, who is a god of cinematography. While there have been numerous more successful first time directors, Orson Welles, Quintin Tarantino, John Huston, the list goes on, I can’t think of any of them that can lay claim to such a rich cast and crew, for their very first film.

To quote from that April post:

“I like the way the film thinks, the way it breathes, patient and without hurry, the morose wit of the film, of a nation lost, slowly rolling, longing and loathing, in its sin.

I like the odd view it gives of power and the absence of privacy, and though the technology is outdated, the gist of it, over 40 years later is prophetic (or perhaps timeless is the better word), in its viewing of the lie of democracy in an age of Robber Barons.

It is compelling viewing, that I am richer for having seen. And yeah this is one to own in Physical media, because I can not wait to listen to the commentary by Writer/Director William Richert.”

 

Today I finally picked up the Blu-ray and watched/listened to that commentary… and I was right. The film is a flawed but compulsively watchable and impressive film;  and the commentary lets you in on exactly how impressive it is, that this film ever got started much less completed.

I was a cheerleader for this film before the commentary, however after the commentary… I think this film, while no less flawed, is absolutely essential viewing, and we are so lucky that it was completed, and that decades later we have this film to reexamine, and revel in its ambition, its performances, and the sacrifice of all involved.

From attempted murders, to an actual murder, to threats, to loss of funding, to gangsters, to actors being hit with blackjacks, to actors and cast rising to the occasion, and performing in this film even when the funds dried up, and fighting to get the funding, all because they believed in the script.

It is an inspiring story.

Get your copy of the Blu-ray at the link below, and see for yourself.

The US companies  Anchor Bay (DVD) and Kino Lorber (Blu-Ray) do the heavy lifting on this release, the UK company Indicator, basically has just repackaged the earlier releases. However you do get a better case with the Indicator Limited Edition release (clear case, I dislike blue, blu-ray cases. They look tacky on my bookshelf) as well as a wonderful 36 pg booklet . Also in addition to the 2003 Special features that are ported over from the Anchor Bay DVD release, Indicator’s new Blu-ray release also adds a new 2020 feature that, covers the history of Conspiracy films. So for those reasons I would recommend the Indicator release.

You can get your copy  (while supplies last) by clicking the image above.

Currently Watching : THE BIG COMBO, one of the great film noirs, by one of the greatest cinematographers’ John Alton!

 

 

   

Even today, 65 years after the BIG COMBO was first released on audiences, it still has the power to scathe. It is a surprisingly brutal and jaded look at the dark underbelly of the post world war II American dream, told through the stylized lens of one of the best and defining genre cinematographers of the 20th century, John Alton.

John Alton’s camera work in the post world war crime films, helped define a new stylized offshoot of the crime film, what would in retrospect be termed… Film Noir.

 

-minor spoilers-

“Do me a favor, take off your gun.” trying to talk down the Protagonist, who seeks vengeance.

The Protagonist responds, as much to God — as anyone in the room with him… “I treated her like a pair of gloves. When I was cold, I called her up— (his voice breaks and it trails off into the wailing and sobbing of a man, who has no place left to put his hate or his love)”

You don’t expect that kind of emotion and pathos in a movie from 1955. Yet here it is.

-end of minor spoilers-

 

Married to a compelling script, excellent direction, and really raw, surprisingly sophisticated and vulnerable performances, The Big Combo stands as one of the premier examples of ‘Black Film’. Highly Recommended!

 

Get yours, the Arrow Film Noir boxset, by clicking the image below! 4 great films at one low price, and packed with features and commentaries. The Eddie Muller commentary for THE BIG COMBO, is typically cynical but is very informative and is fun. Around the 29 minute mark he goes into the backstory between an especially risque scene, and his anecdotes has me chuckling out loud. As I said, informative and fun commentary.

3D Blu-ray of the Day : TAZA, SON OF COCHISE by Kino Lorber and 3-D Film Archive

 

I’ve been smitten by the concept of 3D ever since I was a wee tike. Some of my earliest experiences with 3D were the old view-masters, and later my first stumbling onto 3d comics, and even catching the odd viewing of a 3D movie, courtesy of either Tv or the rare theatrical experience.

3D was never really great back in the day, but the idea captivated me. the attempt— captivated me.

AVATAR, at the start of the 21st century,  brought 3D into the limelight, with a quality that arguably no one had seen since the heyday of 3D back in the 1950s. Unfortunately that revival was short lived, due to greedy studios cutting corners and rather than providing quality, natively shot 3D films, instead offering 3D conversions of unreliable quality, while charging more than standard ticket prices.

So quickly the 3D theatrical experience, due to suspect 3D conversions and often even worse projection woes (picture too dark, sound too low, etc) and price gouging; became a hated offering, rather than a welcome one.

It was killed, at least in the US market, by the greed of studios, and the incompetence of too many theaters.

That said, revisiting a lot of these films in 2020, with a quality 3-D home projection setup, and active rather than passive glasses, what was simply “ok” in the theaters, I find is startlingly good on a quality system. I like others, who have had the chance to sample both, will take 3D any day of the week, over 4k, or 8k, or 16k, this multiplying of pixels beyond the point the human eye can discern. This race for pixel count, this nonsensical race for real estate, over true qualitative improvement.

And some films that never made it to a theater in decades, but were remastered by the geniuses of Bob Furmanek’s 3D-Film Archive— look astounding on said, quality home projection system. Arguably superior to what they did when initially presented, when the kinks in the projection process were still being ironed out.

One such film is TAZA, SON OF COCHISE. While not the greatest film, and a problematic film for understandable reasons, the 3D alone, makes it a must own film.

For my money the 3D-Archive puts out the best 3D Blu-Rays available.

Great 3D is about giving you a feeling for a time and a place, and puts you in that space, as closely as possible (without time travel 🙂 ). It is about experiencing vistas, and landscapes and locations the way they existed, and breathed, and took up space. For a fan of good cinematography, great 3D adds an additional dimension to that, making you feel, the distance  between things, and people, and times. Great 3D, is as much about breathing the location of places that moved in time, as it is about any story being told.

It is for a student of history, the ultimate bit of history, preserved like a fly in amber, dead and yet caught in that moment, that illusion of living.

I started 2020 owning none of the 3D-Film archives films. I end 2020, owning nearly all of them. TAZA is one of the most recent I have added to my collection, and the 3D is reference quality.

In modern 3D films, particularly post converted, you see a separation between the foreground and the background (if you are lucky), however in these great remastered, natively shot, 3D films from the 50s,3-D Archive has managed to bring out the depth BETWEEN EVERYTHING. There is legitimate space between every foot in the frame. it is like you can walk between the characters in a crowd scene, or every tree or mountain in a landscape scene.

TAZA is a little too dark, with many of its scenes at night, to be my favorite 3-D Archive release, but it is probably in the top 5. My favorite 3-D Archive film is arguably still GUN FURY (or maybe MISS SADIE THOMPSON or maybe INFERNO or maybe — you get the picture), but TAZA is a not to be missed addition to any fan’s 3-D collection.

 

Get your copy by clicking the image below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yes a vacine for Covid, or the Flu or the common cold sounds great. But the reality is, you need a trustworthy and trial tested vacine from a company you can trust.

Pfizer?

This is the company that people are hanging their hat on for a Covid vacine? Really? ok.

But the history of Pfizer, or most pharmaceutical companies, urge that we, the potential audience (guinea pigs?) for any new medication/vaccine, exercise caution.

Most pharmaceutical companies won’t even produce a drug for seasonal allergy, that doesn’t have possible horrendous side effects, up to and including death.

And any medication takes years of trials and vetting before ready for approval. The idea that even the most trustworthy company, with an unblemished record of service, can reliably (in the space of a year) produce a tested and safe vaccine ready for mass deployment— is unlikely.

And Pfizer, does not have an unblemished record.

The following is courtesy of DRUGWATCH:

Pfizer Lawsuits and Settlements

Pfizer faces a growing number of lawsuits in 2018 involving some of its most popular drugs. In the past, courts dismissed thousands of lawsuits against Pfizer. The company also agreed to settle cases over illegal marketing and health care fraud.

Pfizer Settlement and Fine

Pfizer set a record for the largest health care fraud settlement and the largest criminal fine of any kind with $2.3 billion in 2009.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice

 

You can view the whole page here.

Look  I will be the first one happy if people find a valid, tested safe vaccine to alleviate their Covid concerns. Now, I won’t be taking it, anymore than I historically have taken the Flu-shot, but hey if you feel the need for it, great. But do your homework.

The outgoing administration has gutted many of the agencies setup to protect us from predatory businesses and products. One victim of this culling of public watchdogs, is the FDA (along with the EPA, USDA, FCC, etc) so this  co-opted agency, pressured into rubber-stamping a vaccine that has not had sufficient independent testing/vetting… can spell not good things for us all.

From cigarettes, to diet drugs, to sugar substitutes, the history of FDA approval is rife with incidents of finding out years later, they have approved products that have been tied to birth defects, cancers, and debilitating effects. I am not saying that WILL be the case with any Covid vaccine, I am saying with a vaccine this important, and this potentially omnipresent, we need to hold all involved, to a higher standard , to insure that once again the American people in hindsight do not pay, for what a little foresight would have protected them from.

 

 

BEST FILM COMMENTARIES : William Friedkin on TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA

Arrow films has released arguably the definitive edition of this defining film, William Friedkin’s TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA.
It is hard to understand the explosive and ground breaking nature of this 35 year old film (as of this writing), but in an age before shows such as CSI and numerous derivatives had blanketed network television (and made the novel… mundane), big screen crime thriller’s such as those produced by Michael Mann and Brian DePalma and William Friedkin, were the only place to get this gripping and detailed and harrowing look into that line between law and disorder, and the players who wage a war… to hold that line.
Coming off a couple of under-performing and critically panned films, including DEAL OF THE CENTURY and the heavily controversial and problematic CRUISING, TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA was very much a revitalization and return to form for Freidkin as Director, And was met at the time with the accolades it deserved.

 

The late, great Roger Ebert had the following to say on the film, back in 1985:

“The great chases are rarely just chases. They involve some kind of additional element – an unexpected vehicle, an unusual challenge, a strange setting. The car-train chase in “The French Connection” was a masterstroke. In “Diva,” the courier rode his motor scooter into one subway station and out another, bouncing up and down the stairs. Or think of John Ford’s sustained stagecoach chase in “Stagecoach,” or the way Buster Keaton orchestrated “The General” (1927) so that trains chased each other through a railway system. The masterstroke in “To Live and Die in L. A.” is that the chase isn’t just on a freeway. It goes the wrong way down the freeway. I don’t know how Friedkin choreographed this scene, and I don’t want to know. It probably took a lot of money and a lot of drivers. All I know is that there are high-angle shots of the chase during which you can look a long way ahead and see hundreds of cars across four lanes, all heading for the escape car, which is aimed at them, full speed. It is an amazing sequence. 

The rest of the movie is also first-rate. The direction is the key. Friedkin has made some good movies (“The French Connection,” “The Exorcist,” “Sorcerer”) and some bad ones (“Cruising,” “Deal of the Century”). This is his comeback, showing the depth and skill of the early pictures. The central performance is by William L. Petersen, a Chicago stage actor who comes across as tough, wiry and smart. He has some of the qualities of a Steve McQueen, with more complexity. Another strong performance in the movie is by Willem Dafoe as the counterfeiter, cool and professional as he discusses the realities of his business. I like movies that teach me about something, movies that have researched their subject and contain a lot of information, casually contained in between the big dramatic scenes.

“To Live and Die in L. A.” seems to know a lot about counterfeiting and also about the interior policies of the Secret Service. The film isn’t just about cops and robbers, but about two systems of doing business, and how one of the systems finds a way to change itself in order to defeat the other.

That’s interesting. So is the chase.”

— You can read the full review here.

William Peterson in an interview that has been ported over from the Shout Factory release, tells the entertaining story of how he got the role. And a word on William Peterson, he starred in 2 of the 3 best crime films of the 80s (and two of my favorite films of all time) this one (TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA) and Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER (the third being EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE). Those two films, one of the best debut films, and one of the best followups, has always ensconced him as one of my favorite actors.

 

“To LIVE AND DIE IN LA started out as the impressions of a former Secret Service Agent, a job he had done with the Secret Service for about 19 years. And he put his impressions in the form of a novel called— TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA, which I read.– What attracted me to this material was the surreal nature of the life of a Secret Service agent, of a guy who would be protecting the president of the United States one day, playing cards with the president, and then the next day chasing some counterfeiter in a poor neighborhood of Los Angeles for stolen credit cards or bad checks. So that struck me as being a very surrealist situation.”

–William Friedkin in the gripping commentary for TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA

It is a must own blu-ray for the film itself, but it is also a must own release for the commentary and interviews and the wonderful original art that Arrow Film has commissioned for this edition. Click the image above to get your copy.