Currently Watching : HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM

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Watching this classic 1959 chiller courtesy of VIEWSTER’s Roku Channel.

Considering the DVD of this is a pretty penny:

 

Horrors of the Black Museum

Catching it courtesy of VIEWSTER is this weekend’s recommended watch!

And wanted to thank the B-Movie Cast for putting it on my radar in this episode of theirs from a couple years ago.

http://bmoviecast.com/podcasts/bmc142-horrors-of-the-black-museum-1959-toll-free-number-888-350-2570/

Well worth a listen.

 

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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]

10 BEST CAR CHASE/ACTION SCENES of all Time!!

https://i1.wp.com/imgc.allpostersimages.com/images/P-473-488-90/40/4031/LWBLF00Z/posters/bullitt-french-movie-poster-1968.jpgBULLET – A classic, and on everyone’s list for a reason.

BORDER COP – The first few minutes of this 36 year old movie had my mouth agape. As It sports an unexpected and insane car chase sequence by anyone’s definition. Whatever they were paying the stunt man/men was not enough. The only car chase sequence in the film, it’s good enough on its own to earn a place on any list. BORDER COP is so many different and warring things together, it jumps genres so unexpectedly from a jaw dropping car chase movie in the first few minutes, to a low key drama, to a harrowing expose of business and cruelty both of the animal and human variety on the bloody US/Mexican border. A nearly 40 year old movie that sadly, and disgracefully is as relevant today as the day it was made. A solid movie.

 

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for The Raid 2: Berandal (#4 of 6)RAID 2 – Written, Edited and Directed by Gareth Evans there is much to recommend RAID 2. It’s a great Martial Arts movie, sporting some of the most brilliantly choreographed fight and knife scenes ever put to film, it is also an incredibly violent (and convoluted) crime/gangster movie. In addition it also showcases one of the most bad-ass car chase scenes. Starting at about the 1hour 50 minute mark, when most movies have already finished, RAID 2 is just warming up.

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry Movie Poster

DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY– The quintessential 70s American Car Chase movie, this whole film is one long chase. A great car chase film, and a great film.

 

Cotton Comes to Harlem Movie PosterCOTTON COMES TO HARLEM – Predating Friedkin’s FRENCH CONNECTION by a year, Director Ossie Davis’ 1970 Action/Comedy Adaptation of Chester Himes COTTON COMES TO HARLEM showcases a great car chase scene. The scene, that involves a van and a bail of cotton, originates some chase sequences that Friedkin would appropriate for his own film, and filmmakers have been using since. Age not withstanding the car chase scene in COTTON COMES TO HARLEM is better than its imitators… and a lot more fun,

 

https://thisisnotadvertising.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/hire_wp-728059.jpg?w=444THE HIRE– What do you get when one of the most respected car companies gets together with some of the most respected action directors to craft a series of ads/short films…. you get THE HIRE, iconic short films that revive and improve upon the heyday of the car chase film. Short Films that would inspire the feature length TRANSPORTER series. Arguably the short films are better.

 

The Seven-Ups Movie PosterTHE SEVEN UPS – Philip D’ Antoni’s film, seen as something of an unofficial followup to FRENCH CONNECTION, sporting many of that film’s cast and crew and themes, is by far the superior film to the Academy Award winning FRENCH CONNECTION. The fact that the mediocre FRENCH CONNECTION has an Academy Award reiterates my thesis that the Academy has a tendency to reward films that reinforce or refresh for a new generation these racist mindsets and mentalities, often in heroic lights; From A BIRTH OF A NATION to THE JAZZ SINGER to GONE WITH THE WIND to MONSTERS BALL to FRENCH CONNECTION, the Academy is always happy to reward Minstrel Shows, films with Black Faces that are there to reinforce and present White Messages. THE SEVEN UPS Thankfully is not that type of film, and concerns itself strictly with telling a compelling crime film. Which it does in spades, complete with a car chase that starts around the 52 minute mark, and runs 12 minutes, that is easily the superior to the one in FRENCH CONNECTION; and THE SEVEN UP car chase can easily be ranked as one of the best of all time.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Sabotage (#3 of 13)SABOTAGE – One of the latter day, post-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, SABOTAGE is surprisingly a home run. David Ayer, a director I tend to feel is too heavy handed, here finds a story and actors and a co-writer that tend to ameliorate his often too unlikable protagonists and world view. Here Schwarzenegger leads a DEA strike force, up against their deadliest enemy. Besides being a solid action thriller this film also sports an insane 10 minute car chase scene. The actors really sell this 10 minutes and make this a chase scene that holds up.

 

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Movie PosterMISSION IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATION – As much as James Bond in its 50 years is known for car chases I couldn’t find one strong enough to surpass the car chases in the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE franchise. Notably this one from ROGUE NATION is the best MISSION IMPOSSIBLE car chase. From cars to bikes, just an astounding and fun 8 minute sequence.

 

Bad Boys II Movie PosterBAD BOYS II – Michael Bay is often vilified, for reasons that seem to me to amount to people upset that his movies are populist entertainment. Of the 13 feature films he has done in the last 22 years, five are devoted to a toy franchise, and the majority of the rest standard summer action fare. But action fare done really, really well.

Michael Bay at the top of his game is a great filmmaker, and I think nothing highlights this as well as his first feature BAD BOYS and his last 13 HOURS.

BAD BOYS II however is neither of those films, being neither popular nor successful. It is definitely a misfire, it is too long and the comedy misses more often than it hits, leading to overlong cringeworthy scenes you want to fast forward past rather than laugh at. Trying to emulate the success of the first film, they get the mixture of comedy and action wrong. That said, even when the comedy fails, the action and visuals never do. I have always loved Michael Bay’s use of the camera, he uses a lovely panning, roving style that is simply exquisite. Michael Bay understands the essence of the Heroic and is able to convey that in the panning of a camera. And arguably it is in this flawed film that Michael Bay crafts some of the best and most beautiful action set-pieces of his career.

Woody Strode who spent a career in films directed by legends such as John Ford and Fernando Di Leo and Richard Brooks and Stanley Kubrick, always considered his favorite director and his favorite moment on screen, was his wordless, almost cameo appearance, in the opening of Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.

Michael Bay is that type of director, a painter of romanticized heroism, of images that galvanize and rouse, and unfortunately a lot of that talent was buried for the last decade filming CGI robots, BAD BOYS II is a great reminder of what Bay can do when filming captivating actors and captivating places.

BAD BOYS II is a flawed movie, but it has moments of greatness in it. And the 10 minute car scene alone is worth marveling at more than once and is Michael Bay at his blockbuster best. And more than than is one of cinema’s best car chase scenes.

THE LAST WORD : SUPERMAN II Richard Lester Theatrical Version vs SUPERMAN II Richard Donner Cut!!

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Netflix is showing the theatrical cut of SUPERMAN II. Anyone who tries to tell you the Richard Donner cut of SUPERMAN II is better than the Richard Lester theatrical version is quite frankly deranged.

Okay maybe that’s a bit harsh (no it is not) but while there are pieces of the so-called Donner Cut that would be nice added into the theatrical cut, most notably the Marlon Brando scenes in the fortress of Solitude are essential, and the extended scenes with Luthor and Ms. Teschmacher are just a lot of fun (I strongly recommend getting the DVDs of both and cutting those scenes into the Theatrical cut to create something I call the improved cut. It will wow you).

as a whole the theatrical cut of SUPERMAN II is vastly superior and more satisfying then the Donner cut. Full stop.

The opening is vastly superior in the theatrical cut, as is the reason for Zod’s escape from the phantom zone. And the ending of the Donner cut, SUPERMAN turning back time again, is just lazy and stupid, from a creative level, and makes the memory wiping kiss in the theatrical version look like a stroke of genius.

And yes the theatrical version takes liberties with Superman’s powers, force beams, mirage powers, using the shield on his suit as a net, but I never had a problem with these scenes… because they were fun. And really, in for a penny… in for a pound, once you sign off on heat vision and cold breath, then mirage powers, and force blasts, and memory wiping… seems like just enjoying the ride.

Both versions skate over the final reckoning of the defeated villains, so neither version is perfect, but of the two the theatrical version is head and shoulders better. In my opinion Donner wanting to end the 2nd movie with the same unsatisfying gimmick he ended the first film with, like I said, is just lazy writing and unimaginative thinking. I could clearly see based on that, why the studios replaced him.

Final verdict?

The Richard Lester SUPERMAN II theatrical film, trounces the Richard Donner SUPERMAN II Cut by a mile.

Get your copy here:

 

Superman II (Two-Disc Special Edition)

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 : 1000 ON THE BLACK

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The era of the Spaghetti Western was a prolific and profitable one, running from the mid 60s to the late 70s.To be expected the dreck outweighed the winners. 1000 ON THE BLACK aka BLOOD AT SUNDOWN is one of the winners. Recommended. Catch it courtesy of Amazon Prime.

 

 

Coffin for the Sheriff/Blood at Sundown

Blood At Sundown

TV REVIEW : Netflix’s LUKE CAGE Season 1 Episode 1-13 by Cheo Hodari Coker

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Well I’ve just finished watching the 13th episode of Netflix/Marvel Studios LUKE CAGE, and I have to say… I loved it. Full stop. Show runner Cheo Hodari Coker manages to in many ways do the impossible, and take a character already spotlighted in the JESSICA JONES series, and whose origins are the milieu of the Black Action or Black Agency film of the late 60s and 70s (mislabeled under the derogatory misnomer of Blaxploitation) and with him tell a rich, evocative, exciting, deeply layered cultural and historical and prescient love letter, to a place, Harlem, New York, and to an idea of local determination, and local agency, and self love, and colored love, and Black love in the age of Ferguson.

 

 

Or you can just look at it as a great action/drama series, set in the wonderfully expansive universe of Marvel shared superhero universe. :).

 

 

But what has exemplified the Netflix/Marvel collaborations to date is how grounded they are in a world not so dissimilar from our own. The gritty street level nature of DAREDEVIL’s 1st season, and ground breaking fight choreography, and fantastic writing made for a justifiably lauded 13 hours of television. (lost a bit in its less cohesive and interesting 2nd season)

 

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LUKE CAGE takes that to another level, in being a show that is as much about cultural signposts and idioms that define us, as it is the ‘A’ story of conflict and resolution. The literary and historical and musical references are not just littered throughout the story, they help define the scope of the character and the scope of the neighborhood that this story takes place in. A man is the things he loves, the things he reads, the things he listens to, the heroes that inspired, the places that mattered, and immediately in one episode Coker defines LUKE CAGE the character and the series in broad strokes, that for me reverberate deeply.

 

 

The first two episodes floored me in how good and rich and beautiful, they are. Coker here hitting, for me, the conversations I have in my soul and my head, Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, Denis LeHane, George Pelecanos, Donald Goines??? Come’ on Son!!! Kenyatta??? Those few strokes and I knew this was a writer with a deep love and understanding of genre fiction, and those who make it.

 

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But it’s more than name dropping, our influences define us, and define our world, and define who we care for, so immediately they make us part and parcel of this story that Coker and his team of writers tell. It’s a beautifully structured 13 hours of television, in that the first 6 episodes are very much their own chapter. You could bundle those 6 episodes up and have a great season.

 

Episode 7 feels like a swerve, very much like a start over, so if you rush into it, not recognizing that peak at the end of 6, that culmination, it’s going to feel stretched out. One of the possible dangers of binge TV… you have to pace yourself.

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Take a break after episode 6, let that sink in. It is very much, in comic book terms, the end of the first trade paperback or story arc. Episode 7 begins the 2nd story arc, so you have to go into it not rushing to a conclusion, but gearing up for the start, because start it does. As everything from the first arc gets turned on its head, and new major players break on the scene. It’s a jarring ride, but once it hits episode 9 its has picked up steam and by 10 is on a full sprint to the finish. Episodes 11, 12 and 13 are Brilliant.

 

There is a saying out there that ‘it’s not how you begin, but how you end that matters’; that saying is wrong. All of it matters. It is about how you begin, how you endure, and how you end. Cheo Hodari Coker’s LUKE CAGE does the extremely unlikely, in doing all three exceptionally well.

 

 

I want a Blu-Ray of this show, complete with Director’s and cast commentary, like yesterday. It is that good, and replete with episodes you want to go back to and know more about.

 

 

And I have to say it’s wonderful to see here in 2016, that TV is making great strides to not be exploitative, and to have shows where you can have more than a token number of characters of color.

 

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One thing I love about LUKE CAGE, particularly about the 2nd half (I love the first half as well) is it is so wonderful to see 6 beautiful women of color in major speaking parts, taking center stage in moments of strength and weakness, and owning the stage. It’s so rare to see a three shot of powerful, beautiful Black women in uplifting, exciting, dramatic, heroic material. It’s non-existent in Hollywood but thankfully, through great show-runners of color, and the success of shows such as BEING MARY JANE and EMPIRE is becoming finally available on the small screen. And the same love extends to being able to see multiple men of color in powerful, uplifting, heroic roles.

 

 

And the appearance of Method Man, and that song… Amazing. This series in addition to a DVD/Blu-Ray, must release a sound track, because in addition to the songs, the score for some of the episodes… is stunning.

 

 

I’ve recently become addicted to listening and purchasing scores, and LUKE CAGE has a world class score.

 

 

Now, is the series perfect ? No. I thought episode 3, they had a real opportunity to do an action sequence as talked about as DAREDEVIL’s hallway fight, but the director/fight coordinator wasn’t up to it. You’ll know the scene when you see it, it’s perfectly fine, but never rises above fine, when it should have been spectacular. And it’s a different show from DAREDEVIL , so the action will be different, I get that, but you can still do different and STUNNING.

 

Also, my problem with a character like Luke Cage, is the same one I have with a character like Wolverine, just because you can stand there and take being shot by a hail of bullets, doesn’t mean you want to or have to.

 

 

Luke Cage’s character (minor spoiler ahead) is revealed as a former police officer, former Recon soldier, former Prison MMA Fighting champ, former Boxer, all this to say… HE CAN FIGHT. So speed the dude up! Rather than standing there and waiting for someone to unload a clip on you, he should be disarming them and wrapping the gun around their necks before they can get off a shot. Especially since ricochets can kill just as well as any other bullet. I understand visually it’s an exciting thing to depict, but it should be the exception for talented filmmakers, not the rule. When he is shielding people from gunfire, sure… let the bullets fly. But in combat mode he should be disarming these guys before they get a shot off. Particularly later in the season that attitude would have made for exciting sequences.

 

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So that was another issue I had. However, the sequences do improve as the series progresses. Plus it’s not a show that is about fisticuffs like DAREDEVIL, as much as it is about the fight for a soul of a neighborhood. And that tale it tells expertly.

 

 

It is a superlative 13 hours of television, and all involved should take a bow. Cheo Hodari Coker has made not just a great Netflix series, but a great television show, and the one to beat as my favorite show of 2016.

 

Marvel's Luke Cage

Marvel’s Luke Cage

And among the Netflix shows so far where do I rank it? It’s much better than DAREDEVIL Season 2, which was good, but not great, it edges out JESSICA JONES, which was great, and it battles it out with DAREDEVIL Season 1 for the top spot. DAREDEVIL Season 1 which was clearly the best show of 2015, outdoes it in terms of action, a definite A of a show.

 

 

However I have minor quibbles with it, like I didn’t like the loss of Ben Urich, I found the character of Karen page annoying through most of it, the character of Matt Murdock was a bit unlikable, and the last episode it failed to stick the landing with an unimpressive looking costume, and just a bit of a dour ending. So those nitpicks, are the reason LUKE CAGE edges it out, and gets a big A+ grade from me. It possesses a story and characters that I want to revisit… often.

 

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Final Verdict: Seminal, Must Watch TV! Will appeal to fans of mystery novels, especially fans of Chester Himes or Walter Mosley, or fans of movies such as TROUBLE MAN.

 

If you are not a fan or are made uncomfortable or nervous or have unexamined issues with women of color, you probably will have an issue with the later episodes.

 

‘The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ Brother, it always does. :).

 

But for the rest of us who watch the series, LUKE CAGE is phenomenal television at its best.