Blu-Rays to own in the Age of STREAMING : Alex Ross’ UNIVERSAL MONSTERS Steelbooks!

Here are all the Universal Steel-book Blu-rays done with Alex Ross art, all listed in chronological order. Starting from 1931’s DRACULA to 1954’s CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON!!! Look at that art!!!

 

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I have loved the Universal Monster movies since i was a kid, watching the films on tv. Have owned them in various formats, HOWEVER These Alex Ross Blu-Ray Steel-book Versions are the ultimate way to own these essential titles.

I AM HOPING THEY COME OUT WITH A VOLUME TWO, THAT INCLUDES TITLES LIKE ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, THE BLACK CAT, MURDERS IN THE ZOO, ETC.

BUT AS FAR AS THESE EXISTING ONES, THEY ARE beginning to sell out. A month ago you could have picked them all up.  now? well i would say if you are interested pick them up today while they are still all in stock. get them here!

The Final Word : Netflix’s EXTRACTION contrary to the Naysayers is a stunning Directorial Debut!

EXTRACTION (2020) – EXTRACTION is the latest in direct to Netflix films, that seem to be pilloried as a matter of course, seemingly more for being on Netflix, than for the actual content of the movie. Joining films like 6 UNDERGROUND and TRIPLE FRONTIER, as top-notch action films, that are arguably under-appreciated on the streaming service.

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EXTRACTION while treading familiar ground, does it in a filmic and inventive and action drenched manner. And it does this while also managing to provide solid performances and the necessary emotional beats to the film. The only slight misstep being an exposition heavy scene between Hemsworth’s protagonist and his young charge, that comes off as forced and clumsy.

But it is a minor misstep into forced sentimentality and clumsy dialog. For the majority of its run-time the film is compelling and balances its themes; and showcases for viewers a riveting mission that is painted in hues of blood and sacrifice. For this viewer, the performers are strong and the characters striking (particularly the special forces bodyguard/antagonist, who visually is so interesting, his face unusual in a way that is both captivating and offputting) and coupled with the breakneck narrative, creates a film that checks all the boxes for satisfying and re-watchable viewing.

 

And, it is necessary to mention an extended multi-minute one shot-ish sequence that goes from car chase to interior, that is jaw dropping in its execution, and places this film on any list of most thrilling action sequences.

All in all a satisfying, straightforward film that while not on the level of say a MAN ON FIRE or JOHN WICK I or RAID, is still very good and is much better as a whole than theatrically released films such as JOHN WICK III and DREDD. Sam Hargrave, Actor/Stuntman turned fight coordinator turned Director, creates one heck of a debut film. Grade: B+.

 

 

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Best Movie and TV Trailers of 2020! So Far!

 

 

 

 

Quick words on a few of the ones above:

GANGS OF LONDON- One of the shows I’m most looking forward to in 2020, just based on this trailer, and that it is by the director of the RAID films.

WITCH:SUBVERSION- Is right up there with GANGS OF LONDON (and DRACULA Netflix/BBC though that may be more 2019 trailer) as my favorite trailer so far of 2020. Again that does not mean it is going to be a good film, but it does mean based on the trailer… it looks FANTASTIC.

6 UNDERGROUND – I really loved the trailer for 6 UNDERGROUND. And this is one I have actually seen, and I have to say. I loved this film. While it is the bandwagon thing to bash on Michael Bay, with the exception of his TRANSFORMERS films (and I like 2 of them), I have been a fan of Michael Bay’s films. I love the two BAD BOY films he did, and I think 13 HOURS is a masterpiece. And 6 UNDERGROUND for me is another Michael Bay home-run. It has one of the best car chase scenes in film, right up there with the best ever done (films like his own BAD BOYS 2, as well as RAID 2, DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY, BOURNE ULTIMATUM, BULLITT to name a few)

WESTWORLD SEASON 3 – As someone who was not interested enough to watch season 1 or 2 of WESTWORLD, I am very intrigued by the trailer for season 3. The production values look cinematic.

EMPEROR- I praised this trailer previously. Awesome trailer.

The trailer for SERGIO looks phenomenal. The kind of political intrigue thriller that directors like Sydney Pollack and Sydney Lumet would have loved. The real selling point is in its star, who was on the show NARCOS, and just was amazing in that series.

ALL THE RIGHT PLACES – I don’t typically go for the romance, coming of age type film. Which tells you how good this trailer was, that it got me a grumpy curmudgeon, actually interested in this.

HOME BEFORE DARK – Another movie, that is not my type of movie, a family drama, this trailer moved me for some inexplicable reason.

 

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And give love to today’s:

DEAL OF THE DAY!

 

Trailer of the Day : Mark Amin’s EMPEROR (2020) and great Black History Month and All Year Long DVD and Blu-Ray Pickups!

Dayo Okeniyi in Emperor (2020)

This trailer came out of nowhere, but I loved it.

I’m not crazy about the poster tag-line, a ‘true legend’, while many true things with time become the stuff of legend, and many legends are stories that have outlived and outlasted the crumbling and burying into dust of all things, even concrete evidence, the putting together of those two words… ‘true legend’ , if not exactly an oxymoron, is just slightly inept marketing. You want to put those two together, try this… ‘in a time of imposed truths, he became in his own lifetime… a galvanizing legend’ .

Took me two seconds to come up with that, and I think it shows more thought than what their marketing department did. Call me guys if you need to fire them and get a better marketing presence, we’ll talk. 🙂 .

But that aside, a very good poster and a GREAT Trailer! If the movie lives up to it, it will be a blast.

As someone who just picked up the 2 season set of UNDERGROUND (almost sold out, so you may want to pick it up while you can, use the attached link) and who is a huge fan of the best in Pan African cinema such as SANKOFA, DARESALAM, HYENAS, GENESIS, I AM CUBA, CAMP DE THIAROYE  (also available courtesy of the attached links) this film definitely goes on my must check out list. Probably along with the WITCH:SUBVERSION one of the best trailers for the Month of February.

 

UNDERGROUND 2 season DVD

SANKOFA – arguably one of the finest, and both savage and beautiful films made, of a true Holocaust. Haile Gerima’s masterpiece. and the fact that this film is out of print, and does not have a Criterion or similar high-scale Blu-ray or DVD release, is only proof that we have a long way yet to go. Get a copy, you will thank me later.

Sankofa

 

 

Daresalam

DARESALAM – This is simply put, cinema at its finest. Get your copy, while you can.

 

I AM CUBAFor years this film was not available in the west, and then when I finally saw it, I think at a film festival, yeas ago, the camera work, in a time way before CGI, blew my mind. As a fan of David Lean, and Hitchcock and Welles and Fritz Lang, geniuses with the camera, this film was like a generational evolution. In an age before Steadicam adoption, the shots were absolutely mind blowing. When it finally was released on a quality DVD boxset, I rushed out and picked it up, and I told all of you to pick it up. For those new to this blog, back in the day, those who listened to me picked it up for $40. It is decidedly more than that, but still worth picking up, if you have the funds. A Masterpiece.

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Quick rant, feel free to bypass this. 🙂

Here’s a tip you should know. Quality  non-hollywood  films about and by people of color, especially politically provocative films, have a tendency of not staying in print. And either dry up entirely on the secondary market, or explode in price before disappearing into private collections rarely to see the light of day.

I am never in a rush to pick up KNIVES OUT or 1917 or AVENGERS ENDGAME, because that is going to be there for decades to come. But when I hear about a THE GREAT WAR or EMPEROR or a DARESALAM or a BROTHER JOHN on dvd or Blu-ray, I can not race fast enough to purchase these movies. Haile Gerima, who I had the pleasure to interview back in the day, understood the importance of retaining positive images, and words, and movies, and music. That is culture.

And when the ability to view or hear or see these sounds and images, is at the mercy and whims of multinationals… culture itself is held hostage. And the people who depend on the reflective power of culture, to help define the width and the breadth of their aspirations, are likewise diminished.

And particularly today when so many are weaned on streaming, physical media is ironically both scarcer and yet more important and arguably esteemed and sought after, than ever before.

Because those in the know, understand streaming giveth and streaming taketh away, based on the uninformed whims of the lynchmob. You want your favorite film, available to watch when you want, and in the cut of the film you remember, there is no replacement for physical media. There just is not.

Here endeth the soap-box interlude. 🙂

You can take it, or you can leave it alone. 🙂
Either way, be well.

 

 

 

The Best of Boutique Blu-ray Labels in the age of Streaming! Oct 2019 to February 2020 ARROW Collection Update! Part 2 of 2!

Despite claims of the death of physical media, Blu-ray Boutique labels, HERE IN 2020, are putting out some of the best physical content… EVER!

Here then are MUST OWN Blu-rays in the age of streaming and digital, acquired between October 2019 and February 2020!

 

PT 2 of 2 of my Arrow Video Pickups for that period:

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THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN – Just in terms of art, this is not one of the better Arrow releases. The art, both versions of the reversible cover, are pretty awful.  Unworthy of such a great film. However because it is a great film, and the Arrow release is the only legitimate Bluray option out there, I can definitely overlook the art, in order to own this essential sci-fi tinged horror film. But I do hope we in the futuure get a superior version.

J.D’S REVENGE – I saw this film recently courtesy of Amazon Prime, my first time seeing this 40+ year old film… and I loved it. What a gem! Surprisingly gripping and exciting and Volatile. And this is one that ARROW VIDEO does a Fantastic job with the art, And i look forward to checking out the special features.

 

Get your copies at the following links:

INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN

JD’S REVENGE

 

ONE FINAL WORD, AS i wrap up this quick update on arrow video titles acquired recently.

One OF THE STANDOUT FEATURES OF ARROW IN ADDITION TO THE SPECIAL FEATURES THEY INCLUDE ON THEIR RELEASES AND THE METICULOUS WORK THEY TYPICALLY DO COMMISSIONING NEW ARTWORK, is their booklets that come with their releases. however, that is also one of the main frustrations of collecting arrow releases.

arrow does this policy, where they only release the book or booklet with the ‘first pressing’ of their movies. basically when their initial batch of blu-rays of a title sell out, when they release subsequent pressings, those subsequent batches will not come with the book or booklet.

NOW I DO UNDERSTAND THE BENEFITS OF DOING THIS FROM ARROW’S PERSPECTIVE, COST BEING A VERY MINOR ONE. BUT I THINK THE REAL REASON THEY DO IT, IS IT CREATES THIS AURA OF collectibility AND DEMAND AND URGENCY. it feeds into the ‘limited edition’ collectibles market, which is a valid part of their customer base.

here is the issue with that, that is only part of your customer base.

as a buyer and fan of arrow video releases, you do not know when you place your order, via a retailer, whether the new product you are getting will come with or without the booklet. and for most fans of arrow (or any boutique label, such as criterion), the booklet is part of why you collect physical media, as opposed to just streaming the movie, or getting the film from a different label. even today, four years after its initial release, i can order black narcissus (one of the most stunning films ever made) from criterion, and be assured of getting the beautiful booklet with it. that assurance of quality whenever you pick up a criterion product, well that says everything about why they remain synonymous with quality and confidence.

so while the limited nature of arrow’s books and booklet, ensures you create a quick sell out of your initial run, it hampers sales of subsequent runs. And gives the buyer pause before buying that release, and has them turn from you and your retailers to the secondary market for a used item, but one that guarantees they get the book or booklet.

this policy is actually training potential customers to be wary of getting the item new from arrow or its retailers, and to rather patronize the secondary market.

now i am a supporter of the secondary market typically, but in this case i think arrow may actually be losing sales on older titles this way. training your customer base to seek out used product as opposed to your in-stock product, courting the exclusivity fervor, is a tricky tight rope to walk, especially when it may be actually sacrificing some sales from a potentially larger customer base, to support this model.

at the very least if arrow, wants to not provide the book/booklet in all releases, and continue to court to some extent the limited edition part of their customer base, what they can still do is offer the books and booklets as an add on to customers. give customers the option to buy the book or booklet at a nominal fee, to include s&h. worldwide shipping of a booklet, even today is only few pounds. And to differentiate it from the first pressing, just simply mark it aS ‘2nd printing’.

this way your limited edition audience, still keep their ‘limited edition status- they have first prints’. and at the same time you generate revenue from people who missed out on the books or booklets. it strengthens peoples trust in arrow, since what you get is not totally left up to chance or the secondary market.

anyhow that is my two cents on the one issue, as someone only several months into arrow video patronage, that i see as room for improvement, with the otherwise excellent arrow label.

 

3 Best Marvel/MCU Villains 2008-2019

 

22 movies, Eleven years, hundreds of actors, dozens of bad guys, but only 3 stand as the very best Villains of kevin feige’s Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

LOKI

 

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LOKI– In many ways the first AVENGERS movie stands as the most important of the MCU films, up there with the first IRON MAN movie. The IRON MAN movie proved these individual characters could work on the big screen, THE AVENGERS movie proved a super-hero team, wide screen Comic Book level action, could work for the masses; proved That this concept of long form story telling in film… could payoff, and should continue.

After 22 movies, THE AVENGERS is still the movie I saw the most in the theaters, a record three times (I almost never see a movie in a theater more than once), and the one I had the most fun with. And that is because Director Josh Whedon delivered the film of his career, the writing was brilliant, actors and effects phenomenal, and the characters… literally the stuff of Myth. And the most memorable scenes of a very memorable film revolve around Tom Hiddleston’s completely crowd pleasing performance as Loki, that sets up such memorable lines as ‘Mewling Quim’ and ‘Puny God’.

Like the best of all Villains, the two other names on this list; the Loki character while wrong, there is something compelling and seductive, and relateable in Loki’s mania. Driven by some hurt he seeks to fix, some reason that reason knows not of, that makes him more than a stock villain, but someone more complex, and someone that in moments… seen from some angle, is understandable, if not approvable.

There is a reason Hiddleston’s Loki ten years later remains… beloved. Because being more than a stock Villain, means at moments he resembles all of us, he is capable of good, as well as evil. And watching Loki navigate that line, grow as a character, makes him more than villain and more than hero… it makes him… interesting.

 

 

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KILLMONGER

 

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KILLMONGER – There were a lot of MCU villains prior to Michael B. Jordan’s acclaimed turn as KILLMONGER, in the brilliant and ground-breaking Ryan Coolger helmed BLACK PANTHER, but none of them, not Red Skull, not Ultron, not Winter Soldier, not even Loki, had me deep into the movie… unmoored about who was right and who was wrong.

To do that in a film, to bring the audience with you into a questionable grey area where there are no more heroes and no more villains, but just principles of better worlds that clash in blood, that is some deep and epic and personal filmmaking, and to accomplish that in a large scale blockbuster superhero movie, is the stuff that awards are designed to recognize.

Hats off to all involved, but particularly to the way Jordan chose to play KILLMONGER, just unique and disturbing and yet another memorable character, from an actor who has quickly become one of the best actors of his generation.

BLACK PANTHER is a film that I loved the action in, loved the fight scenes, loved the story, loved the scale, but what really sets it apart from every other MCU films before it (with the exception of THE WINTER SOLDIER, which did it in a smaller way) is the sophistication of how it is told. The murky grey areas where good and bad become… unsound. It’s a great film, that becomes stronger every time you watch it. Like leather curing in the sun.

At the film’s heart it is a tale of fathers and sons, kings and commoners, and a question of whose vision of tomorrow… is most right. And that hinges on Jordan’s KILLMONGER, a lesser villain or a lesser performance, and we would be talking about a much less successful film. Which is the case with any film, a great film seldom does so, without a great antagonist; and Jordan’s KILLMONGER is one of the greats.

 

 

 

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THANOS

 

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And now we come to the 1000lb Gorilla in the room, (it is an idiom used to call attention to an overwhelming or obvious  idea, finally being recognized – for those of you who may not be familiar with the expression) THANOS.

A CGI character that has been the big bad we have been building to in these 22 films. It is an unprecedented build up, the likes of which we will likely never see again. But boy did it pay off. Josh Brolin (son of the legendary actor James Brolin) has in the last two decades started forging his own legend, in films from NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN to AMERICAN GANGSTER to TRUE GRIT to SICARIO (look forward to seeing him in the upcoming Villeneuve directed DUNE and Sean Penn helmed FLAG DAY) he has been solidly delivering the goods.

But I think it is safe to say his THANOS is likely to be the role he is remembered for above and beyond all others, just based on the cultural and historic imprint these 22 films have carved out. You have to go back to Universal Studios game changing monster movies of 1923 to 1955 to get a run as formative and impactful as this current run of MCU movies.

And THANOS is the looming shadow that haunts these films, and in INFINITY WAR and ENDGAME Brolin’s Thanos gets to come out of the shadows and take center stage.

Again as buildups go, you will likely never see, in your lifetime the like again, a 22 film novel for television, that stuck the landing.

Much has been written on the character of THANOS and the sophistication he was written and performed with. following in the wake of Jordan’s KILLMONGER, here too is another villain where, to a lesser degree, you see the mercy in his madness, the humanity in his horror. He does and is going to do horrible things, but toward ends that we must all, at the end of the day judge as… understandable.  And it is the achievement of all involved from performers to directors to special effects to camera to makeup to lighting to sound, that in not one moment of INFINITY WAR or ENDGAME, not one moment of a CGI Thanos interacting with the other actors, do I question the fiction crafted. The vision is solid.

It is a 2 film culmination of a 22 film, 11 year unequaled and un-thought of cinematic achievement, and it sticks the landing. And Thanos quite rightly gets catapulted into the conversation of most iconic cinematic villains of all time, up there with Darth Vader, Dracula, Dr. No, Dr. Mabuse, Khan, Hannibal Lecter, Joker.

 

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So that is it guys, the 3 best villains of 22 movies, and 11 years of cinematic gold!!!

 

And for Honarable Mentions:

  • Ultron
  • Red Skull
  • Winter Soldier
  • Klaw

 

Thanks for looking, feel free to comment with your favorite villain or villains, and if you enjoyed this post give some love to this installment’s sponsor:

 

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Purchase Here.

Streaming VOD Movies, TV shows and Youtube Videos of Week 2 of 2020! SHUDDER Edition!

 

 

 

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These 4 films, which I have watched since starting my SHUDDER subscription (something like $2.49 for the month, for the next 3 months) are all FANTASTIC, films, in very different ways. But all of them have soared to the top of my MUST BUY List!

MANDY I raved about in a previous post is just a brilliant primary color tinged nightmare of a dream quest/revenge story committed to film.

THE HEAD HUNTER, is a claustrophobic, incredibly tense, incredibly rousing,  actioner/creature feature mash-up.

THE WAX MASK is one of the most sumptuously filmed and strangest Italian Giallo’s, being both a period piece and a Hammer studios homage, a stunning directorial debut.

And then we come to Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. I am not a champion of the nonsensical, gore filled films that most remember Fulci for, like THE BEYOND and THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY and this one, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. I think all of these are the films he made when the audiences  neglected his true masterpieces, to some extent when he stopped caring about making great films, and just decided to pander to the lowest common denominator horror crowds. When Fulci cared, he was one of the most imaginative, talented and stylish filmmakers of his time. He made some of the best Giallos, some of the best westerns, one of the best Hitchcock homages, and one that was his stab at a serious film/period piece. It was that film’s failure that soured him on film and audiences, and made him a gun for hire, and by reports misanthropic to his cast, his crew and the audience, and a churner out of his gore films. That said while I do see these films as Fulci no longer being that filmmaker whose westerns would inspire John Woo’s Blood Ballets and dove motif, despite these films being set-pieces of gore… loosely supported by a story, they are despite all that… still very, very compelling and entertaining. He builds moments of tension and dread and horror, as well as a good smattering of WTF!. Just the audacity of these films, particularly CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, is impressive. So while not a champion of this film like I am of his earlier films, even lesser Fulci… is jaw dropping. This movie has story structure issues, it doesn’t hold together as a cogent film, it is haphazard and at times silly, but all that aside it is always visually arresting and cinematically audacious. And once seen, you want to own the BluRay to see the making of features and here the interviews and commentary because you definitely want to know what the cast thought of him, after making them do some of the things he had them do in this film.

I’ll be doing an upcoming piece on Fulci, but I guess it says everything about Fulci, is that even what I consider his ‘slapped together/whatever’ film phase, consists of many films, such as CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, that are must watch films. Even his films of derision, are dripping with imaginative talent.