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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)

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.

 

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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.

 

Movie Throwdown : EX MACHINA vs THE UNCANNY

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While Alex Garland’s debut film EX MACHINA was the AI film receiving all the acclaim in 2015, it was the relatively unseen film the UNCANNY by Matt Leutwyler that I found the superior film.

Now while visually it is the sexy and sleek and futuristic visuals of EX MACHINA that are poster memorable, it is The story of THE UNCANNY, that I find is the more compelling, haunting and ultimately daring and rewarding film.

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While I liked EX MACHINA, particularly the great performance of the unrecognizable Oscar Isaac of STAR WARS fame, and enjoyed its beautiful visuals; it is the UNCANNY that I really enjoyed, and see myself coming back to. But both films are great additions to the genre, followers in the footsteps of ShellEy, and are wonderful cautionary takes on the ramifications of the unchecked hubris of science.

 

Final Grades:
EX MACHINA – B- Ex Machina (Blu-ray + Digital HD)

UNCANNY – B+ Uncanny DVD on Sale!

Both films are available to try before you buy, EX MACHINA is on Amazon Prime and UNCANNY is on Netflix.

Enjoy!

Tarantino HATEFUL EIGHT 70mm Road Trip Review

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Quentin Tarantino can be a bit of a provocateur, which I don’t think is a bad thing, but can be off-putting to some, but he is also a great filmmaker.

He is a visionary in the best sense of that word. And there is always a battle between the provocateur aspect to his nature and the filmmaker, and depending on the successfulness of that mixture, will in large part determine whether his film falls on the good or the great scale.

In the HATEFUL EIGHT, I think he gets that mixture right in a way that rockets it right up there, with his best films.

I saw this movie the day after seeing STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS, an impressively written and directed effort by any standards, and while I found it a very good film, HATEFUL EIGHT 70mm Road-Trip Edition felt a great film.

Now visually the STAR WARS film, seen at one of the few IMAX Laser 3D theaters, was the more impressive viewing experience.  The theater I saw the HATEFUL EIGHT in, THE AFI at SILVER SPRING, was a very good theater, and shown in 70 mm, however outside of the increased breadth of the picture I could not tell this was a 70mm film.

Part of this I want to chalk up to being too far from the screen, or the screen not large enough to really dominate the room, it was a big room, but ultimately a well designed movie theater should give you a great picture from any room in the theater, the back of the theater or the front.

I felt the Airbus IMAX Theater in Chantilly Virginia got this RIGHT, and not so much the theater I saw the HATEFUL EIGHT in. Again I don’t think the film projected bad, it looked great in fact, however as someone who has seen LAWRENCE OF ARABIA reissued in 70mm, that is the rich, flooded detail and sensory overload i was expecting. None of that was present here in the HATEFUL EIGHT.

aside from it being a wider picture, I could not tell it wasn’t just typical 35mm, stretched a bit.  I know Quentin and the Weinstein’s retrofitted some theaters to showcase the film in 70mm, unfortunately at the theater I was in they either didn’t test or care how the movie presented to those in the more distant seats.

Is it a 70mm experience from the worst seat in the house? If the answer is no, then you need to do something.

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That criticism however is not on Tarantino, but rather the individual theater owners to insure they are providing the spectacle they are advertising.

I really enjoyed the HATEFUL EIGHT, but it’s 70mm nature, was unfortunately undetectable.  I would have loved to see this film at someplace like the Airbus to see if it’s 70mm nature came across. BEcause i wholeheartedly support tarantino’s push to make 70mm relevant in an age of digital.  I just think we need to do a little more quality control at the individual theaters to ensure viewers are getting that 70mm experience.

But enough about the film stock and visuals, what about the sound?

From Ennio Morricone’s first score for a western in decades, I was of course expecting something good, what we got was great. That score is magnificent, the work of a genius, undimmed by age.

I, in the theater, knew I wanted to purchase that score. That rarely happens to me.

 

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The same can be said of Tarantino’s film in total. HATEFUL EIGHT is an experience, a sometimes uncomfortable, and ugly experience, (man do they say the N word a lot) but without doubt a captivating, and memorable experience. You want to be in this place, with these dire and dangerous people, these ‘HATEFUL EIGHT ‘, to see where the road leads them.

Being a Western, that most iconic and cemented of genres, you know if not when the road will end, that blood will be waiting there at that end.

And there is blood, in extraordinary quantities, at the end of THE HATEFUL EIGHT. But there is more, there is pathos, and regret, and humor, and insight.

Tarantino is not afraid to probe the unexamined questions and uncrossed divide of race and class in our past and our present, our peers and ourselves, but to always do it without losing the narrative purpose, without losing the ability to entertain, is a tricky tightrope to walk.

For a film to be both important and fun to watch is a rare beast, and one the Academy is reluctant to nominate, but HATEFUL EIGHT is such a beast.

I watched the closing credits come across with that wonderful final song, and I thought there at the end of the movie, what I thought during the movie… this is a masterpiece.
Grade: A-.

 

 

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Deal of the Day! ZeroWater ZP-010 10-Cup Pitcher or American Water Distiller vs Aquasana vs Pur vs Zero Water Filters!?


A while back I had done a post on the difficulty of finding a reliable, affordable Water filter. I had first tried an American Water Distiller, however after some weeks of use, quality control issues regarding the materials used, namely rusting and taste, made me question what it was adding to the water as opposed to removing.

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Ultimately a distiller is a big expense and is only as safe as the parts used and the storage system used to catch and hold the water, and I found this particular model of American Water Filter… lacking.

I then after some reading tried Aquasana Counter-top Water Filter, which I used quite a while.

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I loved the glass storage containers this company provided and the reviews and documentation initially appeared solid. But the price for filters were way too expensive, the plastic of the filter housings tended to stain, there was no real reliable method for telling when to change the filter, outside of guessing and when you noticed issues with the water, and the certifications claimed in Aquasana’s ads weren’t backed up with any current certifications, and the company’s lack of response when questioned regarding their NSF certification I found less than satisfactory. So all these reasons made me decide to discontinue using Aquasana.

I then went to Pur Faucet Filter, largely for its claim of weeding out Mercury, recent certifications, availability and ease of purchase and low initial cost. I really appreciated the system offered a handy LED reminder regarding when it was time to replace the filter.

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One thing that never sat well with me is the loose way the Pur Filter fit into the housing. There was nothing to stop water from flowing around, rather than through, the filter. But it seemed better than nothing.

And that for quite a while is what I was using, until the Zero Water Pitcher. The design of this pitcher answers a lot of issues I had with the Pur faucet design.

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And the included TDS water tester (Total Dissolved Solids) that came with the filter really made a believer out of me after testing my untreated water, which read something like 140ppm, than the Pur filtered water… which to my surprise read more than my tap water, was something like a 150ppm. I realized the Pur water filter was reading higher because of the very design I always found questionable, in essence the filter housing seemingly allowed water to sit there and levels to actually build up.

So then I tested the water coming out of the Zero pitcher, and sure enough it came out Zero. And you could actually see the difference between the tap water, the pur water, and the zero water. There was a lot of particles in the former two, and the zero pitcher came out noticeably clear.

That is what I call impressive. Down the road I intend to run other tests and testers on the Zero Pitcher to confirm what it removes from the water beyond turbidity, but for right now, and for the relatively affordable price compared to the alternatives, it is my current water filter solution of choice.

If you are looking for a better water filter option, Zero Pitcher with their included TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) Tester is a well thought out, and seemingly effective, and definitely affordable option to give a try to. Get your copy here: ZeroWater ZP-010 10-Cup Pitcher
!

If you have found this blog post helpful please support by using the links above. You get recommended to a solid item, and this blog earns a couple cents to keep providing you informative postings. A win-win. If you like this blog or this post in particular, please spread the word, and feel free to hit it with likes or comments. Thanks!

Now Watching: CRAWL OR DIE (2014) via Roku’s Amazon Prime VOD Channel

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CRAWL OR DIE – Mixing part ALIEN, part DESCENT, part TANK GIRL and sporting committed performances by its cast, particularly Nicole Alonso as Tank, who carries the bulk of the movie, CRAWL OR DIE manages to be more than its influences. Written and Directed by the fantastically named Oklahoma Ward and co-produced and conceived by star and producer Nicole Alonso CRAWL OR DIE manages to, transcend its inspirations, to feel fresh and be a surprisingly compelling 91 minutes of film.

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Ostensibly a monster movie it becomes for star and audience something of an endurance test, filled as it is with moments of repetition, belly-gazing, and frustration,,, but mostly it is about the will of Man or in this case Woman… to survive. An addictive tale of endurance, and the will to go on, and it doesn’t hurt that you have the fine form of Nicole Alonso to follow through those tunnels (while unlikely someone would strip down to their underwear to crawl through a tunnel, having watched the movie, I for one am quite supportive of the decision 🙂 ).

Add to that a well done creature design, a definite call to the designs of HR Giger, immersive sound design, and an unusual and frenetic title/credit sequence and you have a movie deserving of being far more well known and well seen than it is.

This is the type of film that is a great reason for DVDs and Blurays to still exist in the age of streaming, because yes I saw it for free on Amazon Prime, but I immediately wanted to own this in the best quality available, complete with Director’s and cast commentary, and special features; because for me, and others, documenting the the process can be as interesting (and sometimes moreso) as the movie.

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Unfortunately CRAWL AND DIE currently has no such DVD/Blu-Ray version, and it is indicative of a failing of the industry, companies releasing these bare-bone DVDs without special features. As a rule I do not buy DVDs unless they have director’s commentary and special features.

I think these small independent film productions (such as this or FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY, BLOOD GLACIER, THE ARROYO, CUT TO BLACK, PRAYER TO A VENGEFUL GOD, THE VALDEMAR LEGACY, AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR, THE FORBIDDEN GIRL) are doing themselves a disservice by not mining the, if not large, passionate and influential DVD/Blu-Ray aficionado market, as well as providing for posterity a little bit of documentation of the process and promotion/aggrandizement of their cast and crew.

That aside CRAWL OR DIE (far better than the other, more offensive, title that early on was bandied about for it), potentially the first in a trilogy… comes strongly Recommended. Grade: B+.

For those of you who want to try before you buy go here:

Crawl or Die Streaming

For those of you like me who like the permanence of physical media (not needing access to the cloud to view a given film, or being at the mercy of data throttling) go here:
Crawl Or Die DVD