Criterion Blu-Ray of the Day : Jeffrey Wright on the phenomenal film RIDE WITH THE DEVIL

Like the war it pivots around, Ang Lee’s RIDE WITH THE DEVIL, is a troubling property.

A box office failure on its release in 1999, the film came and went from theaters, virtually unseen. The release of the movie on Blu-ray, from respected Blu-ray Boutique label Criterion, finally gives audiences a chance to (most for the first time), see and explore what may be the most challenging film, from a director known for taking on eclectic and challenging material.

It is not an easy film, filled as it is with absurdities, and contradictions and stupidities reflective of the time. However stick with it, as it is a rewarding film, as much for what it says about the mistakes this nation has made, as it is prophetic and timely about the mistakes this nation is currently making.

Is it a great film? It has moments of greatness, and is never quite what you think it is.

It is ultimately a film I bought simply upon Jeffrey Wright, mentioning it as one of his favorites; and one I am very glad I bought. The beautiful criterion release offers a great interview with Jeffrey Wright, snippets of which I have provided below. However, please watch the film before indulging in the full special features.

In an age of streaming, this Criterion release of RIDE WITH THE DEVIL makes a case for physical media just in the gorgeousness of the gestalt. From the striking and handsomely designed packaging, to the overflowing with special features director’s approved and remastered release, to the eye-catching booklet filled with informative essays on the film; in every way this film is as much a tactile and dimensional experience, as a visual one.

A must own release. Grade: B+.

 

“I think that’s what separates this film from other films about the civil war, and other films that deal with historical racial dynamics in this country, that Ang was open to the complexity of it. That war is a seminal event in the character of American history, and it continues to inform who we are today, and who we will become. The story is a non-conventional look at historic race relations in this country. “

“I understood the attack they had planned, and I understood the subtlety of the character they had drawn. Holt, the character I played, that Ang described as an emerging character, and I thought it worked on multiple levels, relative to the film. Interestingly that was the first role I got, not having had to audition. Ang said that he had seen my work, he had seen Basquiat prior to that and maybe some of my stage work and said ‘There was something in your eyes that I saw, that was right for the character.’ That as well gave me a lot of confidence in the way that he worked, and  the way he understood what acting was.”

“Black folks in the south, in the years before the civil War did not have a voice. Holt, is reflective of the nature of Black folks relation to society at that time. And ultimately as he emerges out of that silence, what he does say is all the more heightened, and all the more powerful.”

“I think it has gained a core audience since then — an expanding audience, it’s a film that’s going to survive. RIDE WITH THE DEVIL is the last film about the Civil War of the 20th century, and I think the arc from BIRTH OF A NATION, at the beginning of the 20th century to RIDE WITH THE DEVIL is an evolution of our ways of portraying this critical and defining point in our history, through cinema.”

Get your copy here!

Currently Watching : CONFUSION NA WA (2013) by Kenneth Gyang on KANOPY

Confusion Na Wa (2013)

I love discovering an exciting new voice, an exciting new filmmaker;  and Kenneth Gyang’s CONFUSION NA WA is that calling card  of  a wonderful new cinematic voice. CONFUSION NA WA is such a biting, smart script, extolling the frenetic, whiplash swings of nations caught between the crushing extremes of a past of colonial theft and a present of  globalization enacted disenfranchisement. You will need subtitles for this, as the patwa some characters speak, can be heavy to decipher in places. But the meaning is surprisingly always crystal clear.

It swings between bitingly funny and horrific and tragic and disturbing, sometimes within the same minute. It is an adroit balancing act of a film, and a nation, always on the brink of glory and chaos. It is a weird movie in that the characters are at turns likable and vile. In other words to differing degrees, they are like us the viewer, heroes to some people we know, and villains to others. And one of the highlights is a conversation on the LION KING that will have you amazed by its wit, and amazed by perhaps something else, a hint of something insightful and perhaps profound beneath the humor.

The film ultimately is about all these disparate lives intersecting, in the wake of a lost/stolen phone, in surprising, entertaining, and horrific ways. If this film does not grab you in the first 15 minutes it is not for you. However, if like me, you will find that it just keeps getting more and more compelling

“I’m trying to stop a moral decline occurring in my own country!”

I have to tell you, I surprisingly really enjoyed this film. The more i think about this film the more I like it. I’ve seen French New Wave and Italian Neo-Realism films that could learn a thing or two from this movie. As debut films go, this is one to remember. You can currently view this film on your Roku or Fire TV device, by loading the KANOPY channel.

I really look forward to future films by director Gyang, and hope to see this movie get a feature rich Blu-ray release by a company such as Criterion or Arrow or Kino Lorber. I think it is that good. Grade: B+.

The Return of WEDNESDAY’S WORDS: Must own books for week ending 31 May 2020

First, yes Wednesday’s Words is back— and I’m writing this on a Monday.

Get over it. 🙂

For those of you who don’t know what Wednesday’s Words was/is— do a search on this blog, and you’ll pull up the old editions. In a nutshell WEDNESDAY’S WORDS is where I tell you about writers and books I love. See — it is that simple.

Now into the mix!!!

Guys I told you like a year ago to pick up the Wolverston Bible, back then you could have bought it for like $40. Those of you who listened to me are quite happy, as to pick that book up now is $100 to $200.

The below books are others, that are either going to sell out, have a high chance of leaving amazon except for the digital version, or generally when they are gone, it will be a long stretch between reissues — if ever. And more than anything, all these books just deserve to be on your bookshelf. You are supporting great books, by great writers.

Never buy a book for appreciation value, buy a book because you want it for your bookshelf. However it does not hurt to also choose books that tend to, at the very least, over the long haul, hold their value. I’m talking about books like THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI that went from a $20 book when new– to now ,years later, being sold out and commanding $100 to $200… the same with the WRIGHTSON’S FRANKENSTEIN HC. So if you do, down the road decide you no longer want the book, you are going to at least get your $20 out of it.

Now nothing is guaranteed, as the stock market clearly shows us, but buying for enjoyment, and also being able to, when you choose, liquidate that item— that is a win-win. And the fact that you did get to enjoy the book, means you have got your purchase price out of it; even if you only sell it for a $1 down the road, you have done great. A great book, gives you your Money’s worth and then some. :).

And if you do use the below links to purchase, I would be appreciative; as the links generate very appreciated pennies for this site.

Okay onto this installment’s selections:

 

The Goon Vol. 1: Bunch of Old Crap, an Omnibus (The Goon (2019-)) by [Eric Powell] https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61F1yjYVDNL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgEric Powell is one of my favorite comic book creators, and i think his THE GOON series is genius, if you can afford to get the out of print Dark Horse editions go for it. But I think just insuring you pick up his affordable softcover reprint editions is a great idea. But his hardcover artbook is absolutely essential. A must own to be placed beside the stunning THE ART OF BRIAN STELFREEZE.

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Full disclosure I am a huge fan of Derrick Ferguson, and I know him, so I’m completely biassed here, but I love his work. And thing is, i am biassed on all the things I recommend. I love these books, and movies, and cds and objects that cry out to be added to my bookshelf, and I have no problem telling you that. :). This particular title, Amazon is starting to do that frightening thing — where it seems inventory is taking longer and longer to get out to people, so grab this one while still in stock.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/618qwUx17YL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgWhen you look at the racist caricatures people were doing in strips and comics for the first 3rd of the 20th century, by creators like Eisner and Windsor McKay, it is a tendency for people today to try and excuse it by saying “oh it was the times’ –no, it was a choice. Mac Raboy, golden age artist extraordinaire, lived in those self same times, yet his depictions of people of color were not those stereotypes.

Then as now, it is not the times that define our choices, it is our choices that define our times. I have been waiting years, for a great hardcover on this under-known golden age great. And though what I really want to see is an oversized collection of all his comic book stories, this artist overview is also welcome, and will go beside my Matt Baker book. As of this writing book is down to 17 copies on Amazon, this is one I’m going to pick up two copies of. One for me and one as a gift.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51vALLVZz8L._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgGuys this is not a cheap book. Selling on Amazon for about $90 currently, which is still less than cover price. If you have not picked this up, pick it up. Because when this item sells out (and it will, this is the 2nd printing) it is going to do exactly the same thing as the first printing. It’s going to become very hard to afford on the secondary market. For a long time before this latest printing this was a $200 book. So if you have an interest in this, get it while still in-stock.

 

That is it. I didn’t know i was bringing back Wednesday’s Words until the end of this installment. The post started as something else, but by the end of it I realized, like John Wick— “Yeah, I guess i’m back.” 🙂

If you enjoy this post you know what to do, like, subscribe and support by using the links. Thanks, and till next time— be well!!!

Must own Physical Media in the age of Digital : Blu-Ray Media Book Collection for Week 17 of 2020

 

I have spoken about this EXTREME PREJUDICE mediabook before. The Bluray picture quality is not hi-def quality.  While they come with a DVD and Bluray, the Bluray is simply the DVD dropped onto a Bluray, no mastering, no noticeable difference. So a perfectly decent DVD quality pic, just don’t expect hi-def quality out of the Bluray. Also it does not contain a Director’s commentary.

But despite the Bluray quality, this is one of my favorite films, and I love having it in Mediabook form. And I did translate the book itself, which includes very enjoyable coverage of the movie, and that cover art makes it a MUST OWN.

And it will do, until a quality mastered Blu-ray release (with commentary) comes out. And even then, I am keeping this Mediabook to house it in.  The art is just that good.

 

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This Mediabook contains the SENTINEL. As mentioned, even though most mediabooks offer a DVD and Bluray version, for the most part the Bluray looks like they did no mastering to it, and dropped the DVD transfer onto a Bluray. Not a noticeable uptick in quality from the DVD. That is a failing I see with a lot of these Mediabooks. Though this one is noticeably better than the video quality of THE EXTREME PREJUDICE mediabook.

It is a perfectly decent watch, a well mastered DVD can look very good. I have DVDs that look better than some Blurays. The mastering is what matters, but yeah perfectly decent, if not hi-definition picture.

Very good film from the 1970s, is part of that wave of films such as EXORCIST and ROSEMARY’S BABY, and while this one does not have the reputation of those two, I quite enjoy it. The commentary by Director Michael Wimmer makes this a MUST OWN. He has so much fun, reflecting on his time making this film, and the personalities, and stories. It is like being in the room with a charming filmmaker, telling you ‘inside Hollywood’ stories. Add to that, the artwork is STUNNING, and you have an easy must own.

 

This one, because it was ported from a recent remaster from a mainstream studio, actually looks great.

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While I have not been interested in the director’s subsequent films, this initial film… a masterwork. And this mediabook just looks great on the shelf. In process of translating the book portion. Also unfortunately this one does not come with Director’s Commentary. But despite that,this mediabook is a keeper for me.

Surprisingly fun movie, and enjoyable Brian Yuzna commentary.

That’s it guys. Not a huge mediabook collection, but everyone is a must own.

Pick yours up here!

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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Artbook of the Day : REBUS by James Jean! – One of 15 Best Artbooks of All Time?!!!

If my house, god forbid, was being evacuated, and after family, pets and other essentials, they told me “here is a box you have room to bring 15 of your artbooks” ; REBUS by James Jean, would be one of those books.

Now to clarify, I have a lot of artbooks, and if I do say so myself I only own what I consider GREAT and ESSENTIAL artbooks, so to narrow that down to 15… is difficult.

But here for your list reading pleasure, is one of those 15!

REBUS by James Jean

I actually love the design and construction of this book, more than the actual content. Don’t get me wrong, the artwork is great, very beautiful, and I like it quite a bit, but I do not love it. It is not quite my style, but the stunning construction of the book, with the red gilded pages, makes it such an art object in and of itself. It is the only James Jean book I own, and it is because of the beatiful construction and design of the book itself.

 

You can get your copy of REBUS here!

Rare, Sold-Out and Rarely AVAILABLE ON STREAMING – film of the Day : THE DUELLISTS by Ridley Scott!

Ridley Scott’s feature film debut, and arguably still his most beautiful film, THE DUELLISTS is a simply masterful film. For me Ridley Scott’s first 6 films, are just a director on fire. From DUELLISTS to ALIEN to BLADE RUNNER to LEGEND to SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME to BLACK RAIN, is simply a director crushing it from movie to movie, and genre to genre.

Now that said, after those first six films, I think he had a long period of films that I did not love; where the films just did not interest or appeal to me. In the last 20 years, while I like THE MARTIAN, arguably the only film of his I’m jazzed to rewatch… the way I am his first six films; is AMERICAN GANGSTER.

It is funny the careers of Ridley, and his late brother… the great director Tony Scott, are kinda like polar opposites. I Loved the films at the beginning of Ridley’s career, I think they are odd, intimate masterpieces, but have not been crazy about his later films. Tony Scott was the opposite, I wasn’t crazy about his early movies, but feel his films later in his directorial career really start knocking it out of the park.

Tony Scott’s partnership with Denzel Washington being a great and rewarding director/star relationship, reminiscent of other such acclaimed pairings… Ford/Wayne, Woo/Chow-Yun Fat, Lee/Washington, Leone/Eastwood, Capra/Stewart, Kurosawa/Mifune, Scorsese/De Niro, Hitchcok/Grant to name a few.

That partnership yielding one hands down masterpiece in MAN ON FIRE, and four enjoyable films in CRIMSON TIDE, DEJA VU, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123, and UNSTOPPABLE (Tony Scott’s final film). So it is unfortunate for many reasons, that we lost Tony Scott so unexpectedly.

But thankfully we still have Ridley making films, and despite some of his more recent films being not for me (GODS OF EGYPT), when he sticks the landing, we are all the better and richer for it. His upcoming THE LAST DUEL, from an Affleck/Damon script, sounding a bit like him revisiting his 40+ year old film, THE DUELLISTS.

 

Get the Blu-ray or get it via Streaming HERE!

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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.

 

Streaming TV Series of the 1st Week of 2020 and Quite Possibly the Year : NetFlix’s DRACULA

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Netflix’s DRACULA – I have been looking forward to this series ever since i saw the first teaser trailer a month or so ago. The series has finally dropped on Netflix, and I have to say… the first episode exceeds my expectations.

Smart. Lavish, Biting, Charming and Ironic and irreverant when it needs to be, and above all dripping with gothic athmosphere and horror, this adaptation of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA is off to a phenomenal start.

I’ve been underwhelmed by most of the new shows recently, 2nd season of JACK RYAN, WITCHER, even the 4th season of THE EXPANSE… not really wowing me yet, but DRACULA… yeah, I’m on board. Looking forward to upcoming episodes, and to see if the 3 episode mini-series sticks the landing.

Grade: A/A+.