Rare, Sold-Out and Rarely AVAILABLE ON STREAMING – film of the Day : THE DUELLISTS by Ridley Scott!

Ridley Scott’s feature film debut, and arguably still his most beautiful film, THE DUELLISTS is a simply masterful film. For me Ridley Scott’s first 6 films, are just a director on fire. From DUELLISTS to ALIEN to BLADE RUNNER to LEGEND to SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME to BLACK RAIN, is simply a director crushing it from movie to movie, and genre to genre.

Now that said, after those first six films, I think he had a long period of films that I did not love; where the films just did not interest or appeal to me. In the last 20 years, while I like THE MARTIAN, arguably the only film of his I’m jazzed to rewatch… the way I am his first six films; is AMERICAN GANGSTER.

It is funny the careers of Ridley, and his late brother… the great director Tony Scott, are kinda like polar opposites. I Loved the films at the beginning of Ridley’s career, I think they are odd, intimate masterpieces, but have not been crazy about his later films. Tony Scott was the opposite, I wasn’t crazy about his early movies, but feel his films later in his directorial career really start knocking it out of the park.

Tony Scott’s partnership with Denzel Washington being a great and rewarding director/star relationship, reminiscent of other such acclaimed pairings… Ford/Wayne, Woo/Chow-Yun Fat, Lee/Washington, Leone/Eastwood, Capra/Stewart, Kurosawa/Mifune, Scorsese/De Niro, Hitchcok/Grant to name a few.

That partnership yielding one hands down masterpiece in MAN ON FIRE, and four enjoyable films in CRIMSON TIDE, DEJA VU, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123, and UNSTOPPABLE (Tony Scott’s final film). So it is unfortunate for many reasons, that we lost Tony Scott so unexpectedly.

But thankfully we still have Ridley making films, and despite some of his more recent films being not for me (GODS OF EGYPT), when he sticks the landing, we are all the better and richer for it. His upcoming THE LAST DUEL, from an Affleck/Damon script, sounding a bit like him revisiting his 40+ year old film, THE DUELLISTS.

 

Get the Blu-ray or get it via Streaming HERE!

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TOP 15 FAVORITE DVD Commentaries! Part 1 of 3!


“She loved me. That’s the root of the business. But she knew… she knew I thought more of my wife’s footprint in the mud, than I did of her body and soul.”
— A fantastic performance by Ciaran Hinds as Jim Browner, telling Holmes about the sister-in-law who connived to destroy his marriage, with tragic results. From THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES adaptation of THE CARDBOARD BOX.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes Collection
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television Series

In this age of streaming and Netflix, the DVD/Blu-ray is still the format of choice for those who want to do more than ‘see’ the movie, but explore it and enjoy it. I’m speaking of special features.

Specifically Director’s Commentaries.

As a rule I don’t purchase DVDs/Blu-rays, unless it is a movie or series I intend to watch more than once. And as such a director’s commentary is an essential part of the DVD for a film fan such as myself.

I can watch the DVD once for the program, then go back and watch it for the cast/crew insights into the film. So that said, what are the best DVD/Blu-ray commentaries?

Best is a problematic designation, so let’s go with favorite… here are my 15 favorite DVD commentaries:

Images
The Long Goodbye

Robert Altman’s IMAGES/THE LONG GOODBYE- I put these two films together as one, because they are Robert Altman at his most experimental, and to my mind, while not his biggest or most lavish or most acclaimed films, IMAGES and THE LONG GOODBYE are his most interesting and stylish and surreal films (and they also sport two of the most amazing, experimental scores).

They are my favorite Altman films. And while endlessly watchable on their own, the excellent special features push them over the top. While not really a commentary, the films instead sport brief interviews with Robert Altman, but such informative and formative interviews. Altman gives a great insight into the division of labor between Director/Writer and Actor, and how as a writer a work is 2D, and it is incumbent on the actor and others to make it 3D, to bring it to life. Between the film and the interviews, it’s a class on film-making, for the price of a DVD.

And next…

Michael Mann and Tony Scott are two of my favorite directors, they make fantastic films, and their commentaries are full-on clinics in film-making. So just about any movie they make, I purchase as much for the commentaries… as the film. So you can easily fill a top ten or twenty list with just these two directors.

But for the sake of brevity we’ll limit each director to just one:

Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER [There are numerous DVD and Blu-ray versions of this film, but the link below is the only DVD that sports the Michael Mann DVD commentary.]
Manhunter (Restored Director’s Cut Divimax Edition)

[And as honorable mention check out Michael Mann’s COLLATERAL, from covering using the digital camera to the landscape of mercenaries, to the actors, it is just a riveting commentary. Collateral (Two-Disc Special Edition)]

Tony Scott’s MAN ON FIRE showcases two excellent commentary tracks.
Man on Fire

Another one of my favorite directors is Werner Herzog, and his commentaries are always things of high drama and art onto themselves. Everyone of his films are worth owning as much, and in some cases more for his commentary. Just a fascinating director, and a fascinating man.

Like Mann and Scott, every one of his commentaries could fill a best of list, but again for the sake of brevity we’ll narrow it to one.

AGUIRRE WRATH OF GOD- cause it’s always entertaining hearing him discuss Klaus Kinski

Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski: A Film Legacy

Werner Herzog Collection

DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS- Put together a novel from one of my favorite writers, a few of my favorite actors, and one of my favorite directors in Carl Franklin, and you have a movie that makes anyone’s purchase list. Add a riveting commentary from director Carl Franklin, and you have DVD as film and film-experience.

Devil in A Blue Dress

And rounding out the first five for this list of 15 Favorite commentaries is

THE COMPLETE FARSCAPE- People who are fans of this show, a show that at its heart is this great love story, are fans because they are so connected to the characters that the actors and writers bring to life. Outside of possibly BABYLON 5, FARSCAPE is the most emotional and best acted show of the fantastic (Browder giving wrenching, award worthy performances). So the chance to reconnect with these shows, especially by listening to Ben Browder and Claudia Black, who obviously have as much chemistry off screen as they do on… is just a joy. Even lukewarm episodes of FARSCAPE, rare but they do exist, are made ‘must-haves’ by the commentary. A fantastic series, adorned with fantastic commentaries.

Farscape: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
Farscape: The Complete Series

So that’s it for the first five favorite commentaries. Join me in the next installment as we cover #s 6-10! And in the interim feel free to leave comments about your favorite commentaries.

Most Anticipated films for the remainder of 2012 Film 1 of 10: Robert Zemeckis’ FLIGHT

2012 is off to a gangbusters start, and is poised to be the best movie year in terms of both quality and commerce for Hollywood since 2008. And like that year, it’s a very Superhero and Sequel Heavy Blockbuster summer.

This installment will be coverage of my most anticipated films for the remainder of 2012. But in true Heroic Times fashion, you’ll see some entries covered in each installment that you won’t find mentioned anywhere else. Enjoy 🙂

So part of the purpose of this reoccurring installment is to give love to films that might otherwise fly under the radar.

So what is on the list already?!!

Okay, Okay! Sheesh, you’re a pushy bunch… here goes:

The first film that get’s the nod is FLIGHT.

I find Robert Zemeckis an interesting Director. He tends toward light, family friendly films, which I have to be honest is not really what I gravitate to. However Zemeckis does family friendly, very well.

His films are a diverse, and always imaginative and technologically ground breaking bunch, from the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy, to FOREST GUMP, to WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT to WHAT LIES BENEATH (I think it’s the film of his, an ode to Hitchcock, that holds up the best). WHAT LIES BENEATH showed me that Zemeckis could handle more mature and suspenseful films… and that brings me to FLIGHT.

So news that a new film of Zemeckis is in post-production, called FLIGHT and starring an all star cast (that includes:

Denzel Washington [opposite the drop-dead gorgeous Sanaa Lathan], Don Cheadle [with the majestic Megalyn Echikunwoke], Bruce Greenwood [raucus with the lovely Leslie Hope] , Tamara Tunie , Garcelle Beauvais, Rhoda Griffis, John Goodman, Michael Beasley, and Nadine Velazquez ) makes me happy.

First and foremost because that’s a cast filled with REAL actors, rather than just CW faces of the moment. And films that have an ethnically diverse and deep cast (so more than just 2 characters of color) gets me to spend my money and go to the theater.

Huge fan of RED TAILS, so suck it! 🙂

I’m just a dumb ass southern boy, who misses my cartoons on Saturday, and my Hong Kong Chop Suey Soul Cinema Creature Feature films on the weekends. Current Hollywood films are just too bland and similar for me in terms of both content and casting. So any time I get a film that grates against the imposed tokenism of conventional Hollywood films… well saddle up the General Lee boys… cause I’m there! 🙂

Now that said Zemeckis does have some issues as director.

He helms big budget films, that have a hard time making their return on investment. His last two films, BEOWULF and CHRISTMAS CAROL carried budgets of 150million and 200 million respectively, and they didn’t make that money back theatrically, not even utilizing the IMAX and 3D price gouging.

This has less to do with the director and more to do with studios budgeting 150 million for a film, that would be more sensibly priced at a 50 million budget.

Just like with the upcoming BATTLESHIP, if that film was budgeted at 50 million rather than 200 million it could without question make a profit. As it stands I think BATTLESHIP is going to do commercially the same that JOHN CARTER did; which is to say not well.

The mindset of the studios pricing everything so high, including the cameras and marketing, I think has more to do with keeping the little guy, the independent studio out of the process of getting films in theaters, rather than the content of the specific film. I think it’s really about for the most part ensuring the people who can get movies into the theaters are one of the big studios.

Now of course in this day and age of found footage films you can definitely make films cheaply, but those films, THE PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, etc have to be picked up and sanctified by the gate keeper, the big studios, otherwise like most films made, such as BLACK DYNAMITE, they get seen at film festivals and that’s it.

Without the blessing of a gatekeeper, Sony, Fox, the big boys, You have no chance to make your money back in theatrical distribution. If you’re lucky you get some limited streaming or DVD deal, but for all intents and purposes you’re dead in the water.

So yeah that’s the only rationale I can find for studios not just having astronomical budgets on films, but in the wake of the films struggling to break even… keeping the budgets astronomical.

The studios increasingly using the films as loss leaders, tax breaks/write offs, and as a means of market control/theatrical control. And further they are using their bad decisions, their shell game of profit and loss, to cry broke and enforce changes on the theatrical market. Such as the move away from real film cameras and projectors (35mm and the rarer 70mm) and instead move to all digital cameras and theatrical installations. (Which is bad for numerous reasons not least of which digital cameras/projectors cannot match the range of 35mm film, and is left in the dust by 70mm film; as anyone who has seen LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm can attest).

So all that thinking weighs in when discussing Zemeckis’ recent mega-budget films, and their under-performance. Zemeckis’ films are so expensive they tend not to break even theatrically. It is a paradigm, an unsupportable one I think, that bears watching and curtailing in the future.

But for the present if the studios are good with their movies not breaking even, it works for me.

So yeah count me among the ones anticipating Zemeckis’ thriller tinged drama… FLIGHT.

PODCAST OF THE DAY: SIDEBAR CAST EPISODE #177

PODCAST OF THE DAY:

SIDEBAR CAST EPISODE #177: Interview with Storyboard Artist Warren Drummond- Fantastic and fun interview he covers entertaining anecdotes and stories touching on everyone from Denzel Washington to Harrison Ford to Ron Howard to John Singleton to Bruce Lee to Kathryn Bigelow! It’s just great.

Listen to it here!

Tony Scott and Denzel Washington are UNSTOPPABLE!

Well a while ago I promised the 2nd part of my Scott Brothers’ Retrospective, well I don’t really have time to do it now, but I did want to say a few words on Tony Scott’s latest movie to hit theaters… UNSTOPPABLE.

Saw the trailer for this, looks frigging great! And while I wasn’t a fan of Tony Scott’s TAKING OF PELHAM 123 (see note 1), I remain a huge fan of Tony Scott, particularly with his collaborations with Denzel Washington.

I consider him one of the top ten directors currently working. And Denzel Washington long ago proved himself, one of the best actors of our age. So together, in films MAN ON FIRE, DEJA VUE, they are making for me… cinema for the ages, one film at a time. And outside of Michael Mann, no one does better DVD commentaries than Tony Scott (Werner Herzog, also does very interesting DVD commentaries). He takes you to school in every single one. If you buy DVDs, make sure you don’t get the walmart crap that come without commentaries, get your DVDs, with the DVD commentaries, otherwise you’re leaving money on the table.

A good DVD commentary for me, is at least as valuable as the movie itself. And if the movie is something you wouldn’t sit through at least twice, once for the movie, once for the commentary, why buy the DVD?

All that to say, Tony Scott is a filmmaker who is well represented in my DVD collection, and if the film is as strong as the trailer, I may need to save room for UNSTOPPABLE on my DVD shelf. (After of course seeing it on the big screen first, support your local theaters people).

Okay just wanted to share my take on the trailer. You can view it for yourself here:

http://geektyrant.com/news/2010/8/6/check-out-the-new-out-of-control-trailer-for-tony-scotts-uns.html

1- TAKING OF PELHAM 123, The original, was just far better, and the remake just kinda paled in comparison. My opinion don’t remake home runs/masterpieces, those films has been done, and done well. If you HAVE TO remake something, remake something that’s a challenge, that was a solid idea but didn’t quite work the first time. If you try to remake GONE WITH THE WIND, or PSYCHO or THIRD MAN or something that was just perfect the first time around, in my opinion you are a moron. If Hollywood is too vapid to back a vaguely new film, at the very least remake something that gives the filmmaker room for improvement. Kinda like what Tony Scott did with MAN ON FIRE, taking an okay Scott Glenn vehicle, and making a GREAT movie out of it.

Speaking of which, there’s talk of him wanting to do the same thing with Walter Hill’s THE WARRIORS. Uggg… I don’t know. THE WARRIORS isn’t a masterpiece, but what it is is a perfect encapsulation of its time and its place, it was lightning in a bottle, and i just don’t think it can be translated/re-imagined to any good or useful effect.

Time I guess will tell.

Recommended Short Film! Ricardo De Montreuil’s THE RAVEN

I’ve always been a fan of short films, but recent praise of the short films of Neill Blomkamp (DISTRICT 9) and Carl Erik Rinsch (THE GIFT) has set me back on the path of finding great new voices in film. Particularly short film.

I’ve found one of those voices in Ricardo De Montreuil’s absolutely brilliant 6 minute short THE RAVEN. Fluidly filmed by Director of Photography Alex Sanchez, THE RAVEN is a chase flick, wrapped in the trappings of a not too distant, or far-fetched dystopian future, where men are exterminated by machines (considering as you read this, somewhere unmanned planes are dropping fire from the sky, and major metropolitan municipalites are considering unmanned robotic droids to police the cities… it is a fiction uncomfortably close to tomorrow’s facts).

But above the cautionary tale, which has been and always will be at the heart of sci-fi or speculative fiction, it’s just a good, impressively and stylishly made film that can be enjoyed with your brain switched off if that’s your wont.

But I think you’ll find it an even better film, with your brain left on, and tuned up. Victor Lopez as the title character has to carry the film, and an impressive job he does. For my money I rate this film a bit higher than both the DISTRICT 9 short and THE GIFT short.

And in addition to it being a great short flick, it’s a great short flick with a character of color. And that goes a long way with me. Going back to my previous FOX rant, and extending it to all of Hollywood, I am personally sick of films with no characters of color, or characters of color as token, stooge, side-kick, or comic relief.

I as a consumer, have become very Asian these days, in that I refuse to support a movie that doesn’t have characters that represent me and mine offered in progressive, uplifting roles at the least, and preferably starring roles.

I have no problem with Matt Damon in a trilogy of Bourne movies, but I do have a problem with Denzel Washington and Carl Franklin despite their first Easy Rawlins film being a commercial and critical success getting shot down for funding to do the rest of the series. Or Jai White (with his brilliant BLACK DYNAMITE), and Danny Glover or Avery Brooks or many other filmmakers and actors, with their films relegated only to film festivals, and not picked up for distribution.

While the millionth and one WEATHERMAN or Slacker Romantic Comedy, litters theaters around me.

When a culture is denied positive, uplifting images, and is fed instead only on the media of people who dismiss them at best, deride and denigrate them at worst, you get the erosion of culture. You get an inner city of mad dogs, that absent of their own value, are absent any ability to value others. You breed mad dogs, and that is ultimately a failure for the larger society.

The foundation of the empire crumbling with miseducation, poverty, violence, crime, hatred, and ignorance, can it be long before the tip of that pyramid, the pyramid of empire, slides into the sea.

It can not.

So these days I tend to speak with my dollars, and with my attention. So when I do see a film that is both great, and not utterly Eurocentric, I ‘m happy to give it the attention it deserves.

This is a great short flick, and here’s hoping the filmmakers get the attention and funds they deserve to bring us more shorts and hopefully features.

Strongly recommended! View it here!

NOFATCLIPS is a great site because, unlike YouTube, it is monitored and comments have to be approved. This eliminates the lowest common denominator “discussions” that go on at You-Tube.

And even more importantly it allows you to view these films without needing Flash (one of the most insecure formats ever devised. More and more viruses and vulnerabilities are being spread through bobbytrapped Flash files. If you are using Flash it is not a matter of if you’re going to compromise your system, it’s a question of when). Not needing FLASH for me is a HUGE plus.

Strongly recommended site to host a strongly recommended film!


“Just like the Spanish, raping the Black and Indian women and creating Latinos!”— Immortal Technique

So how do you separate the source from the sourced? How do you separate Black from Latin? Answer? You don’t. Though people are trying hard, the same people, the same minority, who have always relied on divide and conquer to hold their always tenuous grip on the illusion of control. And the sooner the two halves of my blood educate themselves about this, move from ignorance to epiphany, the sooner this world can pass from war to peace.

Ridley and Tony: The Scott Brothers! A movie making dynasty! ROBIN HOOD & UNSTOPPABLE! Pt 1 of 2!

Ridley Scott’s ROBIN HOOD and Tony Scott’s UNSTOPPABLE.

The Scotts, brothers Tony and Ridley, are a movie making dynasty. Having really defined the look and beats and high points of cinema for three decades now.

Ridley Scott, in his seventh decade, has over fifty producing credits to his name and has directed over twenty feature films. His influence on cinema, in a variety of genres cannot be overstated. Before Michael Bay (love him or disparage him, you can’t argue that he is technically an innovative and stylish director) or David Fincher he was very much the crafter of this new, innovate, sensory intensive, style of filmmaking.

His best films are his early painterly, saturated, stylish, and somewhat aloof films, particularly THE DUELLISTS, ALIEN, BLADERUNNER (I’ve always preferred the voice-over version myself), SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (his most underrated film, but a personal favorite), and BLACK RAIN.

Going into the 90s, starting with THELMA AND LOUISE, and continuing in films such as GI JANE and GLADIATOR and BLACK HAWK DOWN, and pretty much everything he has done since (with the exception of AMERICAN GANGSTER) the magic of his earlier work tends to be absent. To put not too fine a point on it, I don’t care for them.

I think the quality difference is analagous to the difference in Brian Depalma’s early work to his post 90s work.

I think Ridley Scott’s later films lack true heart, while appealing to the simplest most jingoistic terms of the audience. There’s a slight slant to Ridley Scott’s latter-day work, that doesn’t appeal.

However 2007s AMERICAN GANGSTER was a welcome return to greatness for Ridley Scott, and 2008s BODY OF LIES a good if not great followup. He still uses the camera as good as anyone in the business, and better than most.

So now we have his latest offering breaking on theaters this week, 2010s ROBIN HOOD, reteaming him with Russell Crowe. And that can be a problem. Because I wasn’t a fan of their first teaming, and from initial trailers it really looks like Russell Crowe is sleepwalking through this one. He comes across as very uninterested and uninteresting in the trailers.

But hopefully I’m wrong and the film offers the energy, and interest and vibrancy that seems missing from the trailer.
Hopefully with writer Brian Helgeland, who is known for providing quality screenplays (MAN ON FIRE, THE ORDER, GREEN ZONE, LA CONFIDENTIAL, TAKING OF PELHAM 123) Ridley should have the necessary framework/substance, to apply his visuals to, while maintaining an interesting/rousing story.

Going to see the film in a couple days, so time will tell. Though for my money the definitive Robin Hood will always be the 80s BBC series, ROBIN OF SHERWOOD.

Check back next time as I bring you the review on ROBIN HOOD, as well as the second half of this article, where we take a look at Tony Scott’s astounding body of work and his upcoming UNSTOPPABLE with Denzel Washington.

And speaking of Tony Scott, In many ways I find his arc is in opposition to his Brother. I think Tony’s early films were good, but his later films (starting really with 1998s ENEMY OF THE STATE) are a marked improvement, being brilliant. I think it’s a rare and special thing when the right director and the right actor team up, and together they produce cinema that is more than the sum of its parts. You get that with the pairings of Ford and Wayne and Woo and Fat and Leone and Eastwood and Hitchcock and Grant and Capra and Stewart.

And you get that with the pairings of Tony Scott and Denzel Washington. Together these two make films that get me in the theater and me buying the DVDs ( I love listening to Tony Scott commentaries, outside of Michael Mann’s commentaries they are the most insightful, interesting and brilliant commentaries you’re going to hear).

Wait, I’m supposed to be leaving some of this for the 2nd half. 🙂 . Check back soon for part 2!

CARL FRANKLIN, No False Move! A Director’s Director!

In the cinema world, there are more or less two types of people. Those who follow stars, and those who follow directors.

Most people are the former, it’s the big name stars they gravitate to.

I’ve always been the latter. It’s the director, who for me, is the heart of the film. Is the singular vision to follow.

From the early greats of Ford and Welles, and Hitchcock and Lean. It is the stylistic ticks of the director, that has always excited me about film. The vision of singular directors, singular men and women, who early on instilled in me a love of these ghosts of celluloid.

My favorite directors? I have too many to make any kind of comprehensive list, too many to state my favorites of all time. But how about every so often I toss out my list of favorite directors of the moment.

Carl Franklin since his 1992 cult favorite ONE FALSE MOVE, has proved himself a unique and fantastic filmmaker. The fact that he has made very few films in the 16 years since that movie, just says a lot about the vagaries of the commercial market. Costs are up, competition is stiff, and distribution is monopolized.

In such a market, even favored, name directors find getting a movie made, and distributed a task of near Herculean proportions.

As the market changes, and fights a shrinking consumer base (why go to the movies when the rental will be here in 3 months or less? Or when cable offers slick alternatives in the convenience of your home?) more and more movies go straight to DVD.

A trend that sees no sign of slowng.

And what that means is The Pekinpah’s and Curtiz’s of our time find themselves relegated to doing tv or video games to pay the bills. And movie Stars find themselves doing laxative commercials.

A hard market.

So in such a hard market, a Carl Franklin flick is something both rare and prized.

His must see movies to date being:

ONE FALSE MOVE(1992)- Starring Rae Dawn Chong, Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, and Michael Beach. A thriller, road trip, sleeper, cult crime flick, that may seem derivative now, but when first released there was nothing else like it. *** out of ****.

DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS(1997)- Walter Mosley’s stunning debut novel, becomes with the collaboration of Director Franklin and stars Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle, that rarest of gems, the film that improves upon the source material. Joining a small list of films that include Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER, and Zack Snyder’s 300. **** out of ****.

OUT OF TIME(2003)- A stunning action/cop thriller that reteams Franklin and Washington, and tosses in a great cast of actors, great locales, and effective sex and sensuality. Met with middling reviews on release, it’s a fantastic film with real noir roots. Arguably the best neo-film noir since the Cohen Brother’s BLOOD SIMPLE or Craig Ross’ CAPPUCCINO. An endlessly rewatchable film. **** out of ****.

Franklin hasn’t done a film since 2003, but according to IMDB he has two in production for 2009. A thriller called SNITCH which sounds interesting, and a drama called THE SENATOR’S WIFE.

Here’s hoping they both make it to the big screen, and that Carl Franklin keeps knocking it out the park.