BLU-RAY Movie of the Day : Antoine Fuqua’s EQUALIZER

“Progress. Not perfection.”

The Equalizer Movie Poster

I know in this day of streaming it’s all the rage to herald the death of physical media.

Allow me to be the voice of dissent.

Streaming is fine for sampling things, and trying things, but for things you love, and intend to watch again, revisit again, give me that feature rich DVD or BLU-RAY any-day, and twice on Sunday.

I love film. And I love cast and Director’s commentary. For films I love, after I consume the film, I like to go back and hear about the process, the experience of making the film.

For a beloved film, it just adds to the enjoyment.

And for cinephiles or hopefuls one day looking to work in some capacity crafting these once celluloid marvels, a commentary by Michael Mann or Ridley Scott or the late great Tony Scott is like being part of the best film school in the world.  It’s enjoyable AND informative.

My favorite movies I might get introduced to on streaming, but providing they have that commentary and special features, I will always buy in Blu-ray/DVD format.

The Equalizer Movie Poster

Antoine Fuqua’s THE EQUALIZER is one of those movies. First the Blu-Ray picture and sound quality is stellar. No buffering issues, or making sure you haven’t gone over broadband quota issues, or weather related or ‘time of day’ issues that can all affect your enjoyment with streaming. No the Blu-Ray, as long as you have your player and power, will be there for you, in the same spectacular quality.

Now moving on to the film itself, while I liked the TV show well enough, I too was incredulous when i heard about a remake. Add to that the odd choice of Denzel Washington to helm a big screen version of a mid-tier show, best known for the Britishness of its protagonist.

But I’m happy to say AntoinE Fuqua and the writers and Denzel Washington do the impossible in making this 80s small screen show, into galvanizing big screen entertainment. From the first frame the story is told, of a man of regimented routine, of  necessary order. Peace, found in the adherence to the space between seconds. A dragon allowed to sleep. Until one day something shatters that routine, that peace, and the dragon must wake.

Fuqua is a director, whose first couple of efforts left me cold, but I have to say he has grown into a great Director. There is such a beautiful patience in this film, that it makes the action scenes when they come, so much more devastating. And a large part of that is Denzel Washington, he brings a laconic, measured weight to the doors he steps through, a gravitas, that really sells the moments he must… wake.

Coming out the same time frame as JOHN WICK, both films share a common theme of men of extreme skillsets being forced back into using those skills. It’s lovely how the same theme of vengeance can be handled so differently, and so well in those differences.

JOHN WICK is a balls to the wall, action extravaganza,  EQUALIZER offers a bit more measured approach, but somehow manages to make every person’s fall more personal for that measured response. Fuqua’s EQUALIZER takes the time to watch the light go out of a man’s eyes. And there is something sobering and frightening about that. I love JOHN WICK, and looking forward to JOHN WICK II, but I love EQUALIZER just as much. The only misstep to EQUALIZER is the poor choice of a rap song for the closing credits, but other than that a home-run of a film.

It is a phenomenal film. Made even more so by the VENGEANCE MODE that the Blu-Ray offers. All in all a grade ‘A’ film, well deserving of owning in Blu-Ray.

 

Get your copy at the link below:

The Equalizer [Blu-ray]

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What I’m Watching : SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006) Revisited after 10+ years!

Dracula Movie Poster

Recalling this is Frank Langella’s Birthday and how much I’m enamored of his performances (particularly his DRACULA I think is hypnotic and astounding), I went looking for films courtesy of streaming/VOD and I came across SUPERMAN RETURNS.

 

Superman Returns Movie Poster

Unlike the vocal few, I’ve always liked Bryan Singer’s SUPERMAN RETURNS. It is not perfect but its weaknesses are minor, and its strengths… deserving of praise.

Watching it today, over 10 years after its release, the film holds up. It is visually stunning to look at, gorgeously filmed and sumptuously framed, outright beautiful. Going for and achieving that feeling of awe, that particularly the first Richard Donner Superman was able to achieve, And it has that romanticized feel, and familial pacing, and doe-eyed optimism that both of the first two Donner Superman movies were able to achieve. But all of this lensed through Bryan Singers unique and ambitious take, his more otherworldly, take on the Man of Steel.

Where some people only saw ‘stalker’ Superman, those of us acquainted with reason, saw an obvious moral quandary tackled head-on. You want a being that can hear you when you call? The price and burden of this means he is always listening and always watching. So the film plays wonderfully with this idea of mensh unt Ubermensh. Of Man and Superman, and the burdens and trials of both.

The film does lose itself toward the end, but not enough to keep the journey from being rewarding, and memorable and fun.

This film falling in solid Bronze medal contention as one of the best Superman Movies of all time, beat out only by those two films that it is a natural sequel and follow-up to, Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN and SUPERMAN II.

MAN OF STEEL, as well as the other post Donner Christopher Reeves films are all left far in this films wake.

My grade after revisiting SUPERMAN RETURNS after 10+ years?

Well, Great Bryan Singer Direction, excellent visuals, stunning production design by Guy Hendrix Dyas, great performances by Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey and Tristan Lake Leabu as Lois’s son.  Also the flying scenes (all of them but particularly, That flight with Lois, a definite homage to the iconic scene in the first film, and I think it’s great),the plane scene, the yacht saving scene,the Daily Planet globe scene, the eye scene, the car scene that is a homage to a classic comic book cover, the mensh unt ubermensh overtones, and just the sheer fun of it, all of that is a solid A.

If you watch those scenes and don’t feel a sense of awe, possibly you shouldn’t be watching a film called SUPERMAN or there may be something fundamentally broken in you. 🙂

Now in the minus column you have that the Lois Lane performance sometimes grates and the general denouement/climatic battle/wrapup didn’t quite work for me (through I appreciate it more on re-watching then when I initially saw it in the theaters), those are a C- at best.

So averaged together the film as a whole is still a solid B+.

[possible spoilers]Too bad Bryan Singer didn’t get to follow this up, as I would have liked him exploring the dynamics of a SUPERMAN with a family, and a kryptonian impervious to kryptonite, and just some of the other ingenious ideas touched on in this film.[spoilers done]

Revisit it yourself on Netflix or better yet get the Blu-ray with Directors Commentary. The film will stand the test of time against the cynics, romance always does. STRONGLY RECOMMENDED.

 

 

Superman: The Movie / Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut / Superman Returns [Blu-ray]

Superman Returns (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Drácula (Blu-Ray) (Import Movie) (European Format – Zone B2) (2013) Frank Langella; Laurence Olivier; Donald P

Movie of the Day: THE LION IN WINTER (1968)


Eleanor: I adored you. I still do.
Henry II: Of all the lies you’ve told, that is the most terrible.
Eleanor: I know. That’s why I’ve saved it up until now.

—LION IN WINTER, 1968

 

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These lines from 1968’s THE LION IN WINTER, delivered by two of the greatest actors of all time, at the height of their powers, Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole… is a small sampling of why this remains arguably one of the best films of all time… and without argument, one of my favorite films. Here closing in on the 50th anniversary of this film, I thought the time was right to revisit it.

Written by James Goldman, the older Brother of legendary writer William Goldman, THE LION IN WINTER would be James Goldman’s first produced work, and incontrovertibly his best.

James would never match the scope or longevity or popularity or prolific nature of his Brother’s career and output. William’s BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN, MARATHON MAN, A BRIDGE TOO FAR, MAGIC, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS all films deserving of their acclaim, and films any lover of cinema should watch often and repeatedly, and in comparison James Goldman only lasting mark, would be the first thing he ever did… THE LION IN WINTER.

I call it a draw.

That’s how brilliant a script, and brilliant a film, that single film, THE LION IN WINTER, would be, and is. A theatrical sensation, that would go on to birth a film, even greater than the play.

It is an example of all the stars aligning, to create this marvel of a movie.

In 1969 the film would garner three Academy Awards, and sweep the Golden Globes nabbing the 4 most coveted awards. All in all it would win awards for Actress, screenplay, score, actor, director, and picture. It was a filmic juggernaut, and here in 2016, looking at the almost 50 years of best picture films awarded since, I’m hard pressed to think of a single one that is as good as TLIW, and none come to mind, that better it.

But perhaps there is a cost for such perfection, some alchemic cost, that would have to be paid in the careers of the makers of the film.

 

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A great script, arguably it is the best script ever written in the English language, by a first time screenwriter, James Goldman, who would do only a few other feature screenplays after it, and none nearing the impact and import of TLIW. The script was so great he earned an Academy Award for it, for what amounted to his first time at bat.  A staggering achievement. Which makes his virtual disappearance from the scene… curious. Did he say everything he had in him to say? it’s possible, it happens. Or for some reason was work simply not offered to him, post TLIW.

A young, brash new director (and largely untested, making the jump from acclaimed editor, to the Director’s chair), Anthony Harvey, itching to push the width and breadth of cinema. He did a MASTERFUL job on this film, was nominated for an Academy Award for it, in what was only his 2nd film as director. But like James Goldman would be unable to leverage that Academy Award spotlight, into future opportunities.

He would go on to do only  a handful of features after this, and none of them would posses the scope or brilliance or lasting accolades as THE LION IN WINTER. It would overshadow the rest of his career. Which sometimes is the price of creating something truly great.

That said cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, editor John Bloom, and composer  John Barry , as well as the principal actors would all go on to have stellar careers. Though without argument from me, you want to see the best performances of Peter OToole, Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, John Castle, Timothy Dalton or Jane Merrow (exquisite as Alais) you’ll find them in this film.

They rise to the language. We all do.

If you haven’t seen THE LION IN WINTER, you haven’t seen cinema, as it can be… when all the gods are kind. And if you have seen it, it is a film that rewards, and like a missed relative, engenders revisits.

See it via DVD here (with wonderful and essential Director’s commentary):

The Lion in Winter

And hopefully there will be a Blu-Ray Disc on the horizon in the next year or two, to commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary!

 

 

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Director, a cast of veterans and young hungry unknowns who ALL would end up doing the best work of their lives, in this film, score, editing…. all aligning to produce one of the best films of all time.

It is essential viewing.

There is seldom a day in the years since first seeing that movie, probably 15 or 20 years ago, that some line from that film doesn’t pass through my head. Like the best of all writing, it indelibly marks us and shapes us, and leaves its impression on us.

It has done so with me.

Prince Richard: [the sons – in the dungeon – think they hear Henry approach] He’s here. He’ll get no satisfaction out of me. He isn’t going to see me beg.

Prince Geoffrey: My you chivalric fool… as if the way one fell down mattered.

Prince Richard: When the fall is all there is, it matters.

—THE LION IN WINTER, a script that would make even Shakespeare envious.

Movie Throwdown : EX MACHINA vs THE UNCANNY

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While Alex Garland’s debut film EX MACHINA was the AI film receiving all the acclaim in 2015, it was the relatively unseen film the UNCANNY by Matt Leutwyler that I found the superior film.

Now while visually it is the sexy and sleek and futuristic visuals of EX MACHINA that are poster memorable, it is The story of THE UNCANNY, that I find is the more compelling, haunting and ultimately daring and rewarding film.

uncanny

While I liked EX MACHINA, particularly the great performance of the unrecognizable Oscar Isaac of STAR WARS fame, and enjoyed its beautiful visuals; it is the UNCANNY that I really enjoyed, and see myself coming back to. But both films are great additions to the genre, followers in the footsteps of ShellEy, and are wonderful cautionary takes on the ramifications of the unchecked hubris of science.

 

Final Grades:
EX MACHINA – B- Ex Machina (Blu-ray + Digital HD)

UNCANNY – B+ Uncanny DVD on Sale!

Both films are available to try before you buy, EX MACHINA is on Amazon Prime and UNCANNY is on Netflix.

Enjoy!

Movie Review : A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT

 

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A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHTThis is a drenchingly romantic and exquisite film with a soundtrack to die for. One of the most sumptuously beautiful “horror” films of all time, and to call it a horror film is to undersell it. This is more. This is a parable that defies simple genre. A sublime bit of movie making, fueled by masterful sound design and cinematography, and patient, stylized and phenomenal direction, with echoes both Lynchian and Murnauistic.

Writer, directed Ana Lily Amirpour with one film has catapulted herself into the ranks of “Must See” Filmmakers.

Most films don’t live up to their poster or their hype (I’m looking at you BIG BAD WOLVES and BABADOOK), I’m happy to say A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT absolutely does.

I just saw it for free courtesy of Netflix, and this is one I HAVE to own in the highest quality Blu-Ray available. Ideally with commentary and special features. It is that impressive of a debut.

 

Grade: A+.  Highest Recommendation.

 

And run, do not walk, to get the Blu-Ray at the link below:
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Special Collector’s Edition Blu-ray)

Now Watching: CRAWL OR DIE (2014) via Roku’s Amazon Prime VOD Channel

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CRAWL OR DIE – Mixing part ALIEN, part DESCENT, part TANK GIRL and sporting committed performances by its cast, particularly Nicole Alonso as Tank, who carries the bulk of the movie, CRAWL OR DIE manages to be more than its influences. Written and Directed by the fantastically named Oklahoma Ward and co-produced and conceived by star and producer Nicole Alonso CRAWL OR DIE manages to, transcend its inspirations, to feel fresh and be a surprisingly compelling 91 minutes of film.

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Ostensibly a monster movie it becomes for star and audience something of an endurance test, filled as it is with moments of repetition, belly-gazing, and frustration,,, but mostly it is about the will of Man or in this case Woman… to survive. An addictive tale of endurance, and the will to go on, and it doesn’t hurt that you have the fine form of Nicole Alonso to follow through those tunnels (while unlikely someone would strip down to their underwear to crawl through a tunnel, having watched the movie, I for one am quite supportive of the decision 🙂 ).

Add to that a well done creature design, a definite call to the designs of HR Giger, immersive sound design, and an unusual and frenetic title/credit sequence and you have a movie deserving of being far more well known and well seen than it is.

This is the type of film that is a great reason for DVDs and Blurays to still exist in the age of streaming, because yes I saw it for free on Amazon Prime, but I immediately wanted to own this in the best quality available, complete with Director’s and cast commentary, and special features; because for me, and others, documenting the the process can be as interesting (and sometimes moreso) as the movie.

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Unfortunately CRAWL AND DIE currently has no such DVD/Blu-Ray version, and it is indicative of a failing of the industry, companies releasing these bare-bone DVDs without special features. As a rule I do not buy DVDs unless they have director’s commentary and special features.

I think these small independent film productions (such as this or FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY, BLOOD GLACIER, THE ARROYO, CUT TO BLACK, PRAYER TO A VENGEFUL GOD, THE VALDEMAR LEGACY, AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR, THE FORBIDDEN GIRL) are doing themselves a disservice by not mining the, if not large, passionate and influential DVD/Blu-Ray aficionado market, as well as providing for posterity a little bit of documentation of the process and promotion/aggrandizement of their cast and crew.

That aside CRAWL OR DIE (far better than the other, more offensive, title that early on was bandied about for it), potentially the first in a trilogy… comes strongly Recommended. Grade: B+.

For those of you who want to try before you buy go here:

Crawl or Die Streaming

For those of you like me who like the permanence of physical media (not needing access to the cloud to view a given film, or being at the mercy of data throttling) go here:
Crawl Or Die DVD

DVD Review: DOCTOR WHO [STORY 10] THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH

DVD Review of DOCTOR WHO [STORY 10] THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH. [Under Construction- some spoilers]

WORLD’S END- Written by Terry Nation. It’s a pretty dire opening with
someone committing suicide. A fitting opening for an episode entitled
World’s End. Grade: B. Commentary with Gary Russell, Verity Lambert, and
Richard Martin.

DALEKS- Reintroduces the almost immediately iconic Daleks. A tale of
humanity attempting to resist… in an age called Dalek. A captivating
story, solid performances and a large cast for a WHO production, but man
the Dalek effects (little streamers supposed to be the gun firing) and
the battle scenes are shockingly bad. Shockingly bad. Even for 1965 the
special effects, saucer flying scenes, and fight staging are c
ringingly, embarrassingly inept. Only the script, performances make it
worthwhile. The Doctor comes into his own in this episode using his
genius to launch an escape, only to find himself out of the fire and
into the frying pan. Questionably directed by Richard Martin. Grade: B-.
Commentary with Gary Russell, Verity Lambert, Richard Martin, Bill
Russell.

DAY OF RECKONING- Written by Terry Nation. The human attack against the
Daleks has been rebuffed. And now the Daleks have only one thing on
their mind… extermination. And on the battle scenes, considering the
show is done for the most part live/in real time, you can excuse much of
its failings. However the Dalek shooting effect, and saucer footage,
there is no excuse for anything that lame. I say again, shockingly bad.
Susan gets to step up this episode and even gets a bit of romance going
on. And one fantastic, iconic scene this episode is the Daleks’
possessive march through London. Done to a great atonal score. Unusually
cinematic and very impressive. The highlight of the episode, and my
guess would be the serial. Appearance of the Black Dalek. Great
commentary. Grade: B.

THE END OF TOMORROW- A possibly explosive opening as Susan and her beau
David, save the day. Nice scene of the Daleks overseeing their human
slave labor. Nice THE GREAT ESCAPE feel as multiple story-lines converge
on the same goal… freedom. It is impressive and layered storytelling
by Terry Nation and Story Editor David Smith. Alligators in the Sewers
of London. Human vs Human. And a Dalek Guard Dog… the Slither?
Color-coded Daleks. And another strong cliffhanger. Great, full house
commentary.

THE WAKING ALLY- Ian and compatriot, escaping the Slither must face the
secrets of the mine. Doctor, Susan and cast must face the horrors of the
Sewers of London, and Barbara and friend, find uncertain shelter. A
wonderful Terry Nation script that continues to plumb the horrors of
humanity as much as the horror of the Daleks. The romance of Susan and
David continues. And the Black Dalek/The Supreme Controller announces
the reason the the Daleks have come to Earth and boy is it a doozy! They
intend to turn the planet Earth into a ship that they can pilot
anywhere?! That’s massive huge thinking by Terry Nation, way ahead of
its time! Commentary with Richard Martin, Carolyn Ford, Bill. Grade: B+.

FLASHPOINT- Ian is a fly in the ointment and nearly pays for it with his
life, Barbara launches a bold plan at the heart of the Daleks, And the
Doctor, Susan and cast also launch their attack against the heart of the
Dalek invasion. Nice use of Dalek-vision. Nice wrap-up, actually pretty
fantastic wrap-up with Susan and David. Strong episode. Grade: B+. Richard,
Verity, Carol, and Bill on commentary