“Hate’s unbecoming in a man like you… in some men it shows.” Charlie to Lockhart
THE MAN FROM LARAMIE- Marks the end of a five year partnership between Anthony Mann and star Jimmy Stewart, and it ends like it began, with a near biblical tale of frontier vengeance, only this time in rich technicolor as opposed to striking noirish black and white.
Stewart giving a deeply felt performance, more nuanced and conflicted than the vengeance of the younger Stewart of their first collaboration, WINCHESTER 73.
In this film Stewart’s performance of vengeance is that of an older man, not the hot certain vengeance of youth, but touched with fear and doubt, and makes it a different, and evocative and attractive performance. The film only slightly marred by a cartoony performance, by an actor seemingly miscast as the hothead son.
But that aside a fitting ending to their collaboration, and by any measure an essential western.
You can view it for free on streaming. And when suitably availed of its greatness, you can click the images to purchase your copy today. Masters of Cinema in 2016 released a Blu-ray 60 years in the making (almost sold out), improving on the 2014 Twilight Time release (which showed the film finally in its full widescreen glory) by adding a bevy of special features including an insightful audio commentary. I despair of a world where people are silly enough not to own these films in physical media 🙂 . If you are not one of these silly people, get yours by clicking the image below.
To this day, my favorite trailer of all time is the 1st WATCHMEN movie trailer, with the simply haunting SMASHING PUMPKINS song. You have to understand, that 2009 trailer represented the culmination of over 20 years of attempting to get that iconic book to screen.
And I have to say — I was one who was happy with the graphic novel, and just didn’t think a filmed version was feasible or needed. And I’m typically not that guy/gal who complains if someone wants to make a movie, or cartoon, or whatever from a successful book or movie. I say, more power to them, that’s just business. That is the nature of film, since the dawn of film.
Sometimes adaptations work out great (quite a lot actually) where the movie is actually superior to the source material, example of this would be Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER being superior to the original novel RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris. Or the Russo brother’s CIVIL WAR being superior to the over-bloated comic-book version. So yeah I’m always game to be pleasantly surprised by an adaption.
I guess where Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN differed for me, is the creator made an agreement with the publisher, that would have given him the rights to WATCHMEN, once the book went out of print, He made this deal in a time where there was no such concept as an ‘evergreen’ graphic novel. Everything went out of print in the Comic Book world. Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN became the first book, that DC would never let go out of print.
So while Alan Moore is known for being historically difficult, the reason may be that he has been hoodwinked more than a time or two. And WATCHMEN perhaps being the most painful of the many various conflicts he has had with publishers and other creators, would notoriously be a sore subject with Mr. Moore.
At the end of the day, 35 years removed from Moore’s heyday in comics, he is still that name we reach toward when we think of what is best in comics. So to have the medium’s best writer, our modern day Shakespeare (a writer, writing in a castigated medium for the mob, works that would stand the test of time) not involved with the adaptation, and not wanting the adaptation of his most acclaimed property; well you tend to understand, as a fan of that writer and that property, and not really need to see that adaption.
So I wasn’t calling for a WATCHMEN film, and I was not boycotting it either, I just had no interest in seeing it. Two things started to excite me about the film, One/ that Zack Snyder was attached as Director (coming off 300 he had skyrocketed as one of the most exciting directors, and one of my favorite directors) and Two/ then seeing that first trailer in 2009. The first trailer with the Smashing Pumpkins song… holy cow!!!
For someone to take a long un-filmable project, that had been gestating for decades, and bounced between different writers, directors, production teams, and finally land with one of the most stylish action directors to come along since Sam Peckinpah and John Woo, and to produce a trailer like that— mic drop.
That trailer, as someone like many, who loved Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN; that trailer completely screamed Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN. And more than that it screamed iconic, it screamed visionary, it screamed Zack Snyder.
Visionary is a high compliment, but when looking at the visuals of Zack Snyder, it is well earned. And that vision and love for the source material was all on display in that trailer, and add that perfect song…and you have something that highlights the strengths of Zack Snyder, his visuals, and replaces dialog and plotting, with the pure emotion of the right song.
To this day, that first WATCHMEN trailer remains my favorite trailer of all time. And while the movie was not the trailer (meaning it could not maintain that level of perfection and excitement over 2+ hours, but arguably no film can), the film while definitely having issues (overlong, pacing issues); at the end of the day, flaws and all, it is an achievement of film-making.
You could not cast that film any better than it was cast, it starts great, it ends great, and in-between it is compelling if overlong (but given the depth of content, it was the length it needed to be). And let us speak of that ending, I spoke earlier of adaptions that are better than the original; this film is not better than the graphic novel, but there are moments in this film, that are. One of those moments is the ending. The culmination of Ozymandias’ master plan makes far more sense in the film than in the Graphic novel.
All in all Zack Snyder’s WATCHMEN is a flawed masterpiece, and I’ll take that every day of the week. And the trailer… flawless. Check out the below review.
Since then others have taken a crack at Alan Moore’s seminal work, to surprising (and I would say impressive) effect. I still wish Alan Moore’s name was on all these adaptions, and he was getting paid, since he is making corporations quite wealthy milking his ideas.
Part of this is Moore’s own ‘line in the sand ‘ attitude, but seriously I really wish fences could be mended, as Moore is not getting any younger, and it would be nice if people would laud him, monetarily and credit wise, while he is alive, rather than empty speeches after he, like we all must, passes off this mortal coil.
Anyhow that was just a quick aside about how much i love the 1st 2009 WATCHMEN trailer, and while Zack Snyder has been hit and miss for me film-wise, his visuals (with the exception of the stupid costumes/CGI for the FLASH and CYBORG) are always top notch; and the trailers… genius.
I just saw the trailer for JUSTICE LEAGUE THE SNYDER CUT, and once again, that marriage of iconic visuals as only Zack Snyder can do it, with the perfect song– it makes me excited now to see this, when I had no interest in a ‘Snyder Cut’ of a film that did not work for me the first time.
“You won’t let me live, and you won’t let me die.”
In a very impressive trailer weekend for DC/Warner Brothers, the SNYDER JUSTICE LEAGUE may be my favorite trailer, just edging out both THE BATMAN and WONDER WOMAN 84. Now I definitely think both WONDER WOMAN 84 and THE BATMAN are going to be vastly better films than this re-cut JUSTICE LEAGUE CUT (I don’t see the edit substantially being able to change/better the film. Change it a little, yes. Better it a little, yes. But substantially? No.); however based just on trailers, the Snyder Cut hearkens back to his successful 1st WATCHMEN trailer, and that formula (for the trailer) just works.
“I believe in poetic cinema. Poetic cinema is the cinema created in especially vivid form… by great masters like Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Dovzhenko. In my own work I strive to affect a viewer’s consciousness and soul by means of poetic cinema.” -Kalatozov in a 1961 interview. Available on the Criterion Blu-ray
THE CRANES ARE FLYING (1957)-Three things period Russian films do just about better than anyone else, is tragedy and beauty and grandeur, and Director Mikhail Kalatozov’s THE CRANES ARE FLYING is overflowing with all three. You get the deep focus cinematography immortalized by Orson Welles married to a balletic, spiraling, intimate ground breaking, “you are there” camera movement, that is uniquely Russian. what kalatozov himself would call— poetic cinema.
Almost 7 decades later and without any need for CGI, and 20 years before the invention of the Stedicam – the cinematography in this film (by the equally acclaimed Sergei Urusevesky) remains— both unbelievable and sublime. It is a film that draws you in from frame one, and holds you and the characters like a lover— deeply, afraid to be parted.
All in all, a transfixing and haunting viewing experience, greatest of which is the beauty of Tatyana Samoylova, whose beauty captured here for all time, is so great –- and her performance so affecting—- that at times looking at her – is like looking at the sun.
One of the great Russian beauties, she becomes the mythical Helen – whom all young men seek to impress with war; and ‘changed by the war’ young men; seek only to hold in peace. THE CRANES ARE FLYING is up there with I AM CUBA/SOY CUBA (another Kalatozov cinematic achievement, with this time a stunning Cuban beauty) as a milestone of Russian cinematography, and by extension a milestone of world cinematography; up there with Welles CITIZEN KANE and Lean’s GREAT EXPECTATIONS. There is no putting this movie on, and not being captivated by it.
THE CRANES ARE FLYING is another masterpiece lovingly provided by the Criterion Blu-ray label. I am on a hunt now to see the other available Kalatozov directed films, as well as Tatyana starring films. Kalatozov,while IMDB lists 20 directing credits for him, most of those appear to be documentaries or shorts or state sponsored work. It really appears he only has 6 or 7 feature films to his name, all coming toward the end of his career, especially once he found a kindred spirit in his cinematographer, Urusevesky. So I look forward to adding THE FIRST ECHELON, LETTER NEVER SENT and RED TENT to the list of Kalatozov films to add to my collection. Grade: It is a simple enough story, but the visuals just make it, cinema undeniable— A+.
Click the image below to get the best price on the feature rich Blu-ray, and you also earn a few very appreciated pennies for this blog! A win-win!
There are a lot of GREAT film Noirs. From John Huston’s anointed ground zero of Film noir, 1941’s MALTESE FALCON to the works of Billy Wilder (1944’s DoUBLE INDEMNITY), Edward Dmytryk (1944’s MURDER MY SWEET). Howard Hawks (1946’s BIG SLEEP), Orson Welles (1947’s THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI), Anthony Mann/John Alton (1948’s RAW Deal), Joseph H. Lewis (1950’s GUN CRAZY), Jules Dassin (1950’s NIGHT AND THE CITY), Richard Fleisher (1952’s THE NARROW MARGIN) to name just a few, There is perhaps no genre to in so brief a time, create such a wealth of iconic films, and galvanizing films.
Going on 80 years after some of these films were made, they are as crowd pleasing and watchable as ever. You can’t say the same for many of the A films, or serious films of the time, that tend to creak under the manners and etiquette and issues of the day—of a passed time. Whereas the genre films, particularly film noir, lived in this short-hand, heightened Americana of Extremes; of lust and betrayals and passions, that remain timeless and relatable and incendiary. Film Noirs, though of their time, lived in a world of light and shadows, that felt always ever present, and indeed almost prophetic… almost ahead of its time.
And perhaps no Film Noir highlights this as much, as Robert Aldrich’s 1955 masterpiece… KISS ME DEADLY. From the opening sequence, which remains one of the best opening sequences of any film, to the last scene of a world put on notice, Aldrich’s KISS ME DEADLY, in a genre that is style codified, stands out as the most stylish, and yet does so while also being one of the most substantive Film Noirs.
There is so much in this film, from how it is shot, to its location, to its soundtrack by the great Nat King Cole, to its performances led by the great Ralph Meeker, to its wealth of diversity, showcasing a city peopled with a diverse range of colors, and nationalities and ethnicity. People of color, with speaking parts, not shown as stereotypes but just as intriguing people, to the wealth of memorable female roles, to its brutality, to its depiction of its protagonist— that continues to make KISS ME DEADLY, unique.
Even in a genre of morally ambiguous anti-heroes that people Film Noir, Ralph Meeker’s Mike Hammer takes the cake. He is mercenary, brutal, sadistic, a user of women, he is a thug and a cad, but despite that, there is also something still magnetic about him, Ralph Meeker plays him in a way that I’m not sure any other actor could have quite pulled off, that makes you see him, as reflected nin the great performances of the four women that pine for his attention throughout the movie: a cad yes, but a cad with something Quixote like somewhere beneath the smirk. That here at the end of the day, is a man who would if he could, fight dragons. This realization that despite MIke hammer’s failings, the things he fights against— are worse.
And something that is lost, even to ardent fans of this film, and because of just how much happens in every moment of this film, is everything that happens from the protagonist’s release from the hospital till the conclusion, happens in just four days. The amount of horror and blood and beatings and ultimately loss that happens, is a whirlwind, and becomes even more impressive when you take the time to realize this is a 96 hour period, from him getting out of the hospital till the end of the film.
Robert Aldrich made a lot of acclaimed films, this is without doubt my personal favorite of all his films. It is a masterpiece, full stop, owing its revolutionary plotline less to the source novel by Mickey Spillane, and by all reports (including the included 2011 alex Cox featurette) almost entirely to the groundbreaking changes and innovations introduced by screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides.
And Criterion has released this game changing film, in a definitive Blu-Ray presentation, from the mastering, to the extras, to the packaging and art design, it is a work of art, worthy of the film.
Yes you can purchase it on streaming. But for a few dollars more you can own it in a format, that does honor to your book shelf or media center, or living room.
Grade: A+. Highest Recommendation, for the movie and for the Blu-Ray.
And no, I won’t be upgrading this to 4K, or 8K, or 16K. I’ve got an up-scaling multi-region Blu-ray player, 20-20 vision, on a less than 65″ screen, this Blu-ray satisfies the needs of my TV, and of my eyesight. Beyond a certain point the search for more is a game of pixels and real estate, and moving the newest shiny model (to use car talk), and not quality.
Click the image below to get your copy, while still in stock.
One of the pioneers of surrealism, specifically cinematic, LUIS Bunuel is most well known for his early experimental films such as UN CHIEN ANDALOU and L’AGE D’OR and THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, However what tends to get lost is that he did over 30 films, and did a few adept, straight narrative films as well.LA MORT EN CE JARDIN aka DEATH IN THE GARDEN stands as one of his strongest straight narrative films, and plays a little like Bunuel’s quasi-reimagining on the themes of Clouzot’s WAGES OF FEAR, with a smattering of huston’s THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE thrown in.
While not on the level of those two iconic films, this film is very good, and deserves better than its nearly forgotten status.
It is hurt perhaps a bit by its meandering nature, and the lack of a charismatic lead actor in the central role, but as the movie goes on the lack of stars, makes the journey they endure more compelling and impactful, and surprising. Ultimately the film goes surprising, unexpected places; Journeys external, paled only BY even vaster journeys internal. And what must also be applauded is the beautiful use of color in this film, vibrant and rich and painterly.
Grade: A very good film that deserves far more attention. B+.
Also as a bit of trivia, the film may be the earliest to display a character giving someone the finger. 🙂 . Watch it for free courtesy of the Kanopy Roku Channel, and when suitably impressed, get the Blu-ray by clicking on the image below.
Special Features: Audio commentary by film critic Sam Dhegihan | Booklet essay by film critic Peter Tongue-tie | Interview with film critic Tony Rains | Trailers
One of the hardest things I find a film to be, is almost immediately engaging, exciting, and surprising. THE CANDY SNATCHERS is the first film I picked up from Blu-Ray Boutique label VINEGAR SYNDROME, and I picked it up because 1/it was given good reviews on a couple online outlets 2/ it had a stunning slipcover and 3/it was on sale.
I personally did not have high hopes for the film, it is not my genre of film. I don’t like extreme cinema, it is not my cup of tea. The torture/porn variety of cinema, just not for me.
I have seen the extreme films of Directors such as Miike Takashi, and I have seen their subtle films, and particularly with Takashi, his subtle films I find vastly better and more entertaining and well told, such as THE BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA and THE NEGOTIATOR.
But I do appreciate crime films. So it is a tricky tight rope for a film to walk, to ride that line between telling a tale of criminality and not going overboard into atrocity and gore for gore’s sake. That said, it is no walk in the park. If you do not like challenging films, and films about and showing a certain amount of violence and sex and abusive behaviour, you will want to avoid this film. At the end of the day, you have to be the barometer for where that line is for you.
I spent the first 10 minutes of THE CANDY SNATCHERS with my mouth agape, saying “WTF?!!!” and I spent my last 10 minutes of the film with my mouth agape saying “WTF?!!!”
And in between that ending and that beginning, i was completely riveted, and impressed by the quality of the performances, and the adept, stylish excellence of the Direction.
The performances are all excellent, all the actors are great, but particularly Tiffany Bolling as Jessie and Cristophe who plays Sean Newton are revelations for entirely different reasons. When they are on screen they are riveting; Tiffany Bolling for her beauty which is honestly mesmerizing, and her performance which is galvanizing, and Cristophe for his performance.
“1973 was the Mt. Everest of the ‘MADE for TV’ years. It was a pretty stunning period. So bear in mind, you could go to the theater and see this film [THE CANDY SNATCHERS] then you could turn around come home, and you could see something like DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK or COLD NIGHT’S DEATH.”
—from the pretty compelling Audio Commentary on the Blu-ray by film Historian Nathaniel Thompson
It is a film that veers wildly between suspenseful, horrific, disturbing, distasteful, riveting and just plain strange, and even rare bits of awkward levity. I was doubtful, very doubtful of this inane titled THE CANDY SNATCHERS being a good movie, however now having just fished it — I’m hard-pressed to find a reason not to call it a great movie.
I don’t want to oversell this little known crime oddity from 1973, but if my reviews have not steered you wrong in the past, they will not do so now. Pick up Guerdon Trueblood’s THE CANDY SNATCHERS, this was the director’s first and only feature film. Great Gaia, what a debut! It adds him to that list of great one time Directors (such as Charles Laughton, Saul Bass and Patrick McGoohan) that you wish had gotten the chance to direct more.
It is a must own. And get it with the stunning embossed Slipcover if you can.
Currently watching the Shaw Brothers fun FIVE SUPERFIGHTERS, that starts typically enough, with a guy who styles himself THE CORRECTOR OF BAD KUNG FU :), and he just goes around picking fights with every martial arts school, he comes across.
It is a common plot in these movies, but this one wastes no time getting to it. Nicely filmed, well staged fight scenes, and good editing. And there are nice little flourishes in this film from 40 years ago that I haven’t seen before. One of the Kung Fu teachers is a woman, and she makes tofu for a living. It is nice to see the traditional steps of making Tofu, which is very much still relatively new in the west.
Add to that these widescreen remastered prints on Amazon, look WAY better than these films ever looked in the theaters or on TV back in the day, and you have an enjoyable streaming watch for the day.
Very enjoyable. Grade: B/B+.
SPOILER: Read only after viewing the movie…. The ending of this film there is a bit of a revelation that raises the film up a notch for me. Initially through most of the run-time, the ones seeking revenge come off as petty and mean-spirited as the antagonist of the film. Particularly the Teacher, who devolves into a drunk after back to back losses to the Antagonist. Going so far as to attack his friend when he is drunk.
However in the end fight you realize that (again huge SPOILER) all throughout the movie he was devising a new style… DRUNKEN BOXING, to beat his unbeatable nemesis. This film tackles the origins of Drunken Boxing. A nice little twist, so that ending and the beautifully choreographed fight scenes, and the almost painterly use of color, moves this up to a solid B/B+.
If the purpose of an effective poster, is to get your attention, to be intrigued about the film, and in and of itself, to be an appealing work of art; the below are examples of this week’s recommended and effective posters.
Now the actual TV show or movie or trailer can be great or awful, however the following posters judged on their own merits as posters… are, in this reviewers opinion, this week’s winners.
Now where there are posters that are effective and compelling, there are posters that aren’t. These are some of the ones that stand out to me, as not interesting or effective posters.
Again the movie or trailer could be great or awful, i am here just talking about the poster itself.
I like Tom Hanks, I think he is a good actor, if not a personal favorite of mine, I acknowledge he is a good actor. However, all of his movies, the posters are just pictures of his face. And there is no lazier form of poster design then that. I mean the closeup of a face can be effective, when it is used to tell a story, or set a tone for the film, look at the ANTEBELLUM poster above. A closeup, but a closeup that gets you thinking, and wondering, and coming in on the middle of a story. It is a closeup as part of a storytelling moment, as opposed to this Hanks poster that is glorified selfie.
And not just for him, but for any actor, and for any poster, I general feel taking a close up of the stars face and calling that a poster or marketing… is LAZY and BORING and UNINTERESTING poster design.
And again, this is not just Tom Hanks, they do the same thing with other big stars like Will Smith, etc, people just want to take a big pic of the stars face, and photoshop in a lame background.
It is incredibly lazy poster design. Put some bloody effort and thought into it, give us the Struzan paints or Saul Bass typography, earn your effing money as a piece of marketing, and maybe even as a piece of art.
Here are some other examples of inept poster design/marketing.
I mean they are trying in this poster. Some thought has obviously gone into it, just for me, the design does not in anyway interest me to stop on this image, or want to find out or explore what the movie is about. I can not click off of it, or go past it quickly enough. Not the sign of a good poster.
The trailer for this looks good. The actual poster, not so much. The background is interesting, but the foreground of the star running toward us, just not interesting.
See my rant above, on the Tom Hanks poster. A selfie does not a great or even good, poster make.
Agree. Disagree. Have your own recommendations of great or mediocre posters, than subscribe, like, and feel free to comment or email.
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.
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.
DARESALAM – This is simply put, cinema at its finest. Get your copy, while you can.
I AM CUBA – For 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.
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.