First Great Theatrical Experience of 2017 — KONG : SKULL ISLAND in 3D!

It takes a lot to get me out to the theater these days. 2016 was one of my most anemic theater going years. Having only seen a couple movies in the theater (among them the excellent CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR).

The slow movie going year could be linked to several reasons, some personal and singular, and some endemic of larger more encompassing perspectives.

The rise of Netflix and Streaming options has brought cinema quality programming to your living room or bedroom, around your schedule. So no trying to make your schedule fit around a movie showing, and all the baggage of parking, and seats, and annoying crowds, and of course the expense.

So for those reasons and others the theater wasn’t top on my list in 2016.

2017 and I’m incentivized to see quite a few movies in the theater. One reason is the reopening of one of my favorite regional movie theaters, as an upscale adults only dinner and a movie venue.

Perfect for couples or close friends, I decided to check out a matinee showing of KONG : SKULL ISLAND over other available options at this theater (such as LOGAN and JOHN WICK II and GET OUT, all of which I intend to see) for the main reason I wanted to test out the spectacle and 3D quality of this new theater, and what better way than a loud, explosive, monster movie.

So I reserved my seats, picking the perfect seats of course, and quite impressed with their meal and drink menu. Forget the overpriced artery clogging Popcorn and Hotdogs and Candy that comprises the fare of your typical theater, this theater offered a full and quite impressive meal and drink menu, brought to your spacious clean, well kept seats, no less. We had the crabcakes, bistro burger, korean wings, with a Berry Blast drink for me and a Mocha Latte for her. And did I mention the excellent attentive service.

So we are planted in front our huge curved screen, it’s a matinee showing so not only do we have our whole row free, we have our whole section free, with probably a total of less than 20 people in the large yet intimate theater. Meaning the theater and screen is large, but the number of seats are few.

So that’s the setup. What about the movie?

The best part of the Peter Jackson 2005 KING KONG movie, was the one hour period on the island (once we get past Peter Jackson’s annoying portrayal of Native Life as monstrous, evil and subhuman), that one hour was fantastic sequences of monster and Kong Mayhem, and should have been the whole movie.

Once that movie leaves the island it loses all interest and excitement, crawling toward a tepid ending.

KONG:SKULL ISLAND, 12 years after Peter Jackson’s mistake, learns admirably from the flaws of his film, crafting an entire movie on Kong’s home, the Island of Monsters, Skull Island, and it is absolutely kick-ass!

The idea to set it in 1973, at a pivotal time for America and the World, I thought was a stroke of genius and gives real motivation to Samuel L. Jackson’s Ahab inclined character, who see’s in the monster of Kong, this fight, a chance to win the war that he was denied, to change shame into glory. I like the opening, the setup to the actual Mayhem that is Kong, quite a bit, which says a lot about the quality of the filmmaker and the film.

Usually the least interesting part of any monster movie, is the prelude to the appearance of the Monster, when you have to endure boring cardboard characters killing time. That was the issue with the GODZILLA movie by the producers of this film, it was mostly setup and concentration on the human drama, but the humans and the human drama in that movie was as of much interest as watching paint dry.

Here, the setup and the characters feel fleshed out and earned, and part of that is grounding these soldiers in 1973. Survivors, but somehow not victors. Going from one barely war abroad, to a frightening barely understood war at home awaiting them, Skull Island, is very much a reprieve to Jackson’s Colonel. And the men under him, caught in the machinations of dreams of Glory, well they are understood to.

And all the characters are quickly enlisted for this obscure mission, all powerful, compelling actors, not a Jack Black insight. But actors all who can compel and own their time onscreen… their closeups. So I’m thoroughly entertained and into the movie, before Kong goes Ape, so to speak. And when he does go Ape… it is… EPIC!!!

This is why Theaters have value in an age of Netflix and Home Theaters, because a home theater is no match for a commercial theater when you have no annoying audience to deal with, this was the fury of Kong unleashed… this was spectacle, this was Blockbuster, and this was worth every penny paid!

Should you see it in 3D? I typically find 3D is a wasted expense in most situations. I think it is expertly done here, and is really the type of movie that cries out for really good 3D. KONG is really good use of 3D, and I think like AVATAR is a must see in 3D!

KONG is only the second feature film of Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, nothing in his filmography would indicate he could handle a big budget blockbuster of a monster movie, but much like the Russo Brothers of CAPTAIN AMERICA fame (who also came out of feature film obscurity) Roberts rises to the occasion, shattering expectations.

I loved this movie from beginning to end. It blows away recent failures such as GODZILLA and the aforementioned KING KONG, and bodes well for future films. Stay past the trailer for a nice Marvel style Easter Egg.

Grade: A solid and easy B+!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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]

Currently Listening to : Nate Parker’s THE BIRTH OF A NATION (2016) The Inspired by Album

This is a really odd post, it starts as a nice, fluffy love letter to an album I’m completely loving, and at the end goes completely off the rails and becomes a tirade.

I would say, read the warm, fluffy part, and leave the tirade alone. Especially if you know nothing about the Nate Parker controversy, or better yet care nothing for it.

I’ll give you ample warning when to stop reading.

Not sure where it came from, but it came.

My ire, and disgust with the media.

But it came.

And I thought it was honest, not necessarily right, but it was honest and deserved its say. So I left it.

You have been warned.

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I think what Nate Parker is doing with BIRTH OF A NATION, a hundred years after DW Griffith’s love song to racism by the same title, is nothing short of inspired. The audacity of it, the brilliance, the balls of it, Something Percival Everett does wonderfully in literature, overturning assumptions, and re-appropriating those parts of our shared consciousness, our story, that we have relegated too long… to the worst angels of our nature.

I can’t wait to see the movie when it breaks on wide release. It sounds completely on my page. However I haven’t seen the movie so the jury’s out, but I have listened to the soundtrack, and… I LOVE IT!!!!

LOVE IT!!!

To listen to this one album was reason enough to sign up for Spotify.

And speaking of Spotify, how did I get involved with it?

Well I’m not at all a social media type. But I like things that enrich us and after a month of using Spotify I have to say… I’m feeling enriched.

This is going to sound hyperbolic. And maybe it is. I’m too close, I can’t say. I can only say I’m listening to THE BIRTH OF A NATION as I write this and I’m feeling… thankful.

I think as we get older, and side-tracked by adult concerns, one thing that falls by the wayside, is our time to enjoy and follow and discover music. And I think that moving away from that discovery of new sounds, new voices, new visions, new wonders to buoy our souls, is when we begin to die,

I know, extreme.

But bear with me.

What if the world began with a song, and will end with one.

What if all we are is notes, in some unfathomable composition.

That would mean that what we feed on more than food is music. And it would mean what we starve for lack of, more than food, is music.

The lack of it, the relinquishing of it, perhaps just a little death.

A little death we let wedge its tip into our hearts.

And widen, till everything we are… escapes.

So I’m finding SPOTIFY, with its easy ability to allow me to find and listen to this music I would otherwise not find or find time for…I’m finding it, in my emotional state of listening to THE BIRTH OF A NATION, I’m finding it… of great value.

That said MP3 is great for sampling music, and SPOTIFY is great for introducing me to music, but great music deserves to be listened to on the highest quality CD you can find. I’ve spent a month on SPOTIFY and I have bought easily a couple hundred dollars in CDs.

I’d like to buy BIRTH OF A NATION but unfortunately it is not yet available on CD. But when it is, it’s going on constant rotation in my portable cd player.

It is that good.

 

 

“When they say make America great again, they mean make us all slaves again.”— WAR Nas

“No matter if you’re red, white, black, if you want freedom, then we’re all like Nat!”— WAR Nas

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OKAY STOP READING HERE!!!! Beyond this place, like the old maps once said… “There be Dragons!” I’m bat guano ranting in the next section, and it goes strange quickly, so if strange is not your friend, stop reading NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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Oh and if you have a problem with Nate Parker, and are part of this new spate of using the media to lynch Black Men before trial, be it Bill Cosby or Nate Parker, or really going back 20 years to OJ Simpson, eff you and the horse you rode in on.

“Oh, but they are guilty, they did this, they did that.”

Then let a court prove it. Not the news, not talk shows, not soap boxes.

I don’t stand with lynch mobs, whether you wear a white hood and a shotgun, or a TV camera and a microphone.

Because for a lynch mob it’s never about innocence or guilt, it’s about creating an atmosphere of fear and horror and distrust, so they can sell a message, usually to keep a certain demographic in line.

Me, I’m not the message buying type. In a Nation where less than a hundred years ago, thousands of Black men (many of them war heroes) were lynched by ‘god fearing’ ‘people’ I’ll side with Black ‘villains’ before I side with a biased lynch mob media, everyday of the week, and twice on Sunday.

If they are guilty try them in the courts. Do not effing try them on your TV program, or radio show, or ‘news’ show, or at the water cooler, or on your lynching scaffold.

Until you’ve done the good of a Bill Cosby, or a Nate Parker, or even an OJ Simpson; don’t presume to judge their evil. That’s for a court room… your soul is not sinless enough for the task.

I say again…

Your soul… Christian, or Muslim, or Jew, or Hindu… is not sinless enough for the task.

I think any Presidential candidate you can name has done more evil than all three of those men combined. The pursuit of power is a bloody road, and the achieving of it even more so.

You kill one person (allegedly) they call you what, OJ? 🙂 You kill thousands of people, they call you Reagan or Bush.

Save your hate for mass murderers, but for other flawed men, and for yourself, pray to be better.

That is the justice of honest men, who are wise enough to know, there… but for the grace of God… go I.

 

Woah… that came out of nowhere.

But hey, that’s what you can expect in a nation that is honestly considering Trump for the highest office in the land. Derision. :).

God keep you all from rage, and keep you all from harm, and most of all god keep you from the folly of thinking you are bloody better than the poor slobs the media chooses to lynch today.

Amen.

If you like this crazy post, or just like the blog, support by checking out and purchasing the following cool and recommended items!

Sylvania SDVD7029 7″ Portable DVD Player-Swivel Screen (Certified Refurbished)
Kids these days, in this age of MP3s and Itunes and Spotify have no idea what CDs are, or how good they can sound. For $40 you can give them the gift of not only a portable CD player, but a portable DVD player.

But it’s as the former, a portable CD player, that currently interests us. In addition to the portable player you want to get them a couple CDs to play on it, and I recommend the following two:

It Follows (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) I really enjoyed IT FOLLOWS and the soundtrack on CD is equally brilliant, and stands on its own as just engaging and creepy and addictive listening experience.At once an influenced work, yet highly original in its own right, and sure to be influential. Disasterpeace hits a homerun with this score. Nice use of stereo imaging. Highly Recommended.

Sinister (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – I’m not a wimp, and am a huge fan of a variety of scores, especially the dark, strange ones, but I have to say this Christopher Young score is on a level all its own. I find it truly disturbing, and yes… scary. A huge achievement, and essential listening!

Azend Group Corp BDP-M1061 Maxmade Portable 10-Inch Blu-Ray DISC/DVD Player (Black)

Sony S1500RF Multi System Region Free Blu-Ray Disc DVD Player

Best Movies & Shows on AMAZON PRIME! Week 38 of 2016!

Amazon has all four of Amando de Ossorio’s little seen but well regarded quartet of Blind Dead films, courtesy of Amazon Prime, so you can try before you buy.

They are:

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La Noche Del Terror Ciego (1971) – THE NIGHT OF THE BLIND TERROR renamed for North America to the surprisingly brilliant title, (and the title that has defined the series) THE TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD, was an international success and put its director Amando de Ossorio and Spanish Horror on the map.

The titular protagonists were so haunting, the character design so inventive, that it spawned three equally well regarded sequels.

Finally watched I can see why this film series, closing in on its 5th decade, is well regarded. Given the time period and obvious limitations of budget, the director, Amando de Ossorio manages to create a wonderful atmosphere, iconic villains, and intriguing characters and story, imbuing a new intriguing twist, onto the well trod myth of the living dead.

The three sequels are:

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THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 1973 ( The original Spanish title, ATTACK OF THE BLIND DEAD being superior to the American title)

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THE GHOST GALLEON  1974 ( Known in its original title, EL BUQUE MALDITO, as THE DAMNED SHIP)

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and finally NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS 1975 (The only movie in the series, translated literally from the Spanish).

 

Now you can see all 4 films on Amazon Prime. Now be careful, there are multiple copies of these films on Amazon, most of them have a cost to them, however do a search and find the movies without a poster image and those will be the free ones.

Then watch all four and enjoy and if as impressed as I am, and ready to own the DVDs with special features, then go here:

 
The Blind Dead Collection (Tombs of the Blind Dead / Return of the Evil Dead / The Ghost Galleon / Night of the Seagulls / Amando De Ossorio- Director)
Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

 

LUCIO FULCI : BEYOND THE BEYOND! A Critical Reassessment! His 7 Best Films!

The Roman born Director Lucio Fulci when remembered today is primarily remembered for his his schlock and gore filled horror films of the 80s such as THE BEYOND, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, ZOMBI 3, which is a crying shame, because these were the lowest common denominator films of a filmmaker reduced to making dreck to make a paycheck, rather than his films of the  late 60s and throughout the 70s that can be considered his artistic passion projects.

His film-making and use of the camera in this period was ground breaking and incredibly influential, and his best films remain among the best of their respective genre.

From 1966’s MASSACRE TIME (an early inspiration and precursor to the dove filled blood ballets of John Woo) to 1978s rarely seen SILVER SADDLE, was a twelve year period of unbridled creativity  and staggering experimentation, and contain not only Fulci’s best films, but some of the best films by anyone during the period, and films that stand the test of time.

 

Here without further ado our Fulci’s best films and essential films for any true lover of cinema:

 

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PERVERSION STORY AKA ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER – Don’t let the salacious poster fool you this is a MAGNIFICENT film. It’s a reworking of a more well known film, a classic film by one of the world’s most respected directors, however I have to say… I prefer this Fulci film. It is an unjustly little seen masterpiece, beautifully shot, and deserves a great and feature rich Blu-ray disk. Fulci’s best film.

 

In second place I put PSYCHIC, just adore this film.

 

I follow that up with his LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN and DONT TORTURE A DUCKLING solidly in 3rd and 4th place.

SILVER SADDLE in 5th place, is the best of Fulci’s three westerns which says a lot. As it beats out the praised MASSACRE TIME in 6th place. (FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE does not make this best of list. It’s overlong, and I can do without its denigrated and stereotyped Black character. But its distasteful parts aside, it remains, like all of his wide-screen films… beautifully shot.)

BEATRICE CENCI, in 7th place, is the director’s own favorite film, his attempt to make a serious Fellini level film, and its poor critical and commercial response was a blow the Director never truly recovered from. The film is solidly good if not great. But definitely deserving of a watch. It’s a solid B/B-.

And those are Fulci’s seven best films, and are must watch films for anyone desirous of the best of Euro-cinema of the period.

 

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1966’s Massacre Time – This film was the one to put Fulci on the genre/world map. One of the earliest of the Spaghetti Western craze, and one of the best. This is an ultra violent flick, that shows off Fulci’s adeptness and creativity in staging action scenes. You can definitely see in this film with its gravity defying blood laced shootouts and its prevalence with doves, a clear inspiration and precursor to the later ‘blood ballet’ films of John Woo. Made during the glory days of the spaghetti western genre (roughly 1966 to 1968) MASSACRE TIME stands out as being one of the most extreme of these extremist westerns.

 

More detailed reviews to come next installment!

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.