Richard Roxburgh’s Rake

Running a compact 8 episodes, Rake [M] (2010) may be one of the best shows to come out of Australia, and for the present time it seems it's only available on an (obviously) Australian DVD & Blu-ray.

Star Richard Roxburgh plays Cleaver Greene, a human train wreck in-motion, consistently upsetting the personal and pofessional lives of friends, associates, peers, and family. The lead character is more than faithful to the essence and malicious potential of a rake - one who is morally loose, at odds with conventional society, a great big shit.

Mutiny on the Bounty (4.0)

Marlon Brando struggles to defend the crew against a giant, windy Trevor Howard mug.

Previous filmed in 1916 as a silent, in1933 with Errol Flynn (!) making his starring debut as Fletcher Christian, and in 1935 [M] by MGM with the iconic Clark Gable and Charles Laughton battling egos and lapses of politesse, this fourth go-round at Mutiny on the Bounty was treated to a fortune in studio cash in the hope a literary classic would bring major box office rewards.

Filmed in Ultra Panavision 70 (formerly branded as MGM Camera 65), the 1962 production [M] also involved a replica of the famous H.M.S. Bounty (proudly built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia) that was slightly longer & wider to accommodate the massive cameras, and allow a full crew to shoot locked and tracking shots on the ship with ease.

On Being Pleased

As is typical during the lead-up to Xmas, things pile up, the day job enforces more time, and when the weekend finally hits, there’s a modest list of Things Not Done, which include emails & replies & mailings that simply sat undone and untouched.

Put another way: Where the heck did last week go?

Soundtrack News & Reviews

On the news front, Screen Archives Entertainment have set Twilight Time’s next Blu-rays for pre-order, and both Picnic (1955) and The Roots of Heaven (1958) will contain isolated score tracks of George Duning and Malcolm Arnold’s respective scores. See, some wishes can come true (albeit when there are like-minded people, and music elements still survive).

'All Hail to the God of Carnage'

Look! It's the stylish French poster which focuses on the bilious mood temperatures within Polanski's angry little movie!

With director Roman Polanski's latest film, Carnage, slated to open in theatres Dec. 30th (yes, he's still trapped in France making movies set in other countries), the TIFF Bell Lightbox have created a thematic lead-in to Polanski's tight adaptation of Yasmina Reza's vicious black comedy of two couples losing their civil artifice as the issue of a maimed child refuses to leave the mind of the affected mother.

Soundtrack News & Reviews

Just uploaded is a quartet of soundtrack reviews, with another handful to appear every two days, as there’s a very large stack of CDs and digital albums (‘virtually’ speaking, of course) in need of being completed before a fat baby in diapers flies across the horizon and nails a long white banner across the sky, reading “2012.” (This is really what happens at the stroke of midnight every December 31st. We regular humans can’t see it, but generations of commercial illustrators and cartoonists have broken the fifth wall and seen how we move into a New Year. Fat, diapered babies with wings. No lies.)

Uploaded is a review of Henry Jackman’s surprisingly punchy & fun score for Puss in Boots [M] (Sony Classical); Trading Places [M] (La-La Land), Elmer Bernstein’s (unintentional) seasonal salute to cruel moral jokes; and a pair of underrated Jerry Goldsmith classics from the early nineties: Forever Young [M], and the ridiculously titled Sleeping with the Enemy [M] (also La-La Land).

Genre Benders

Not unlike the American exploitation realm during the seventies and eighties, weird genre fusions was also apparently in Italy (perhaps by the truckload), and it’s natural that what remains in the unreleased and neglected realm are often really, really odd films that were either passed over by other larger labels, too obscure, or perhaps regarded as not quite noteworthy.

Critics and collectors have had some issues with the print sources and transfers from One 7 Movies, and while there’s a need for improvement in areas such as subtitling (both accurate translations and proper synchronization) and background notes (the addition of basic text cards providing some filmmaker and production data would be a helpful boost), I get the feeling the sourced prints, in most cases, may be all that’s available, unless a producer happens to have a negative buried in the closet under his adult periodicals and conquest trophies from 1970-1978.

Canada's Top Ten & Packaged Goods series

Canada's Top Ten

This past Tuesday, TIFF announced winners of Canada’s Top Ten, the annual tally of best features and short films which essentially give Canuck filmmakers a spotlight prior to the inevitable barrage of For Your Consideration Oscar-touted stuff that’ll dominate theatre screens very soon.

A Gathering of Xmas Schmaltz

Every one has their favourite Xmas TV special or movie (sometimes several) which they watch every year to get them into the ‘spirit’ of the holidays, regardless of religious denominations or lack of, although mine still stands as 1988’s Die Hard (see piece from 2008): a brisk tempo, choral-peppered music and some classical extracts to boot, and intertwining tales of redemption with elegant choreography in human, RV, and helicopter form going full throttle.

Second favourite would probably be Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny & Alexander (1978), which, if I actually had time, would watch again, but alas, as things go each holiday season, there’s less time to appreciate a 5 hour mini-series, let alone multiple TV specials.

The nature of TV holiday specials is to hit all the sentimental marks so you, the audience, click off the idiot box feeling warm & fuzzy inside; a sense of goodness about humanity; anticipation of your own family gathering; seeing predictable dramas unfold and issues resolved so you too can handle your idiot brother, egotistical sister, detail-oriented mother, and yapping father before a single slice of turkey is cut.

Seasonal films are in some way coping mechanisms, because they reassure adults that no matter how annoying family will be, nor the gigantic mess leftover from guests, nor the segment of visiting relatives you’d like to accidentally forget to pick-up from airport, nor the lecturing you’ll get from an elder or big mouth, You Will Prevail. You will remain your own Special Person. And when New Year’s chimes in, you’ll be satisfied you fulfilled your familial obligations, and are fully entitled to pickling your brain in sparkling wine.

Maniac Cop 2 + 3

I was extremely surprised to discover William Lustig’s sequel to his mighty B-film classic Maniac Cop [M] (1988) boasts even better stunts and montages than the first. Actually, that’s not really fair to the first film, because Maniac Cop 2 [M] (1990) is unique for possessing its own crazy DNA.

MC2 is quite frankly an awesome little B-movie, filled with a marvelous cast of character actors, cameos, and some casting choices that pay off really well in the otherwise less-than satisfying follow-up, Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence [M] (1993).

First Look released the two sequels on DVD a few years ago, but the pair is ripe for their own special edition Blu-rays, with commentaries and the usual goodies. I’d frankly love to hear screenwriter Larry Cohen explain his character arcs across the three films; and Lustig talking about casting not one but three actors from the original Die Hard in little memorable roles.

More Batman and Mortal Kombat on Blu

New on Blu-ray via Warner Home Video is a pair of unlikely comic-toned productions:  another effort to bring Batman from the page to the HD screen, and an earnest effort to get the ball rolling on a re-imagined Mortal Kombat (cue the screaming man now!) franchise.

Festivals-a-Go-Go: Dec.1 – 9, 2011

Today's post is quick and belated , but I'll have several review clusters shortly.

First the bad news: there's about 3 weeks left to Christmas, which means you have that much time to find the perfect gift, hint to friends / family / partner of your perfect gift, and develop a strategy to ensure you know how you'll lose the dough from the chocolate, the pie, the cookies, and the beer before the end of January, or the new pants will not fit.

Now the sad news: actor Bill McKinney has passed away at the age of 80. Don't recognize the name? McKinney played the lead sodomizer in John Boorman's Deliverance (1972), and later became a member of Clint Eastwood's stock company. Even if McKinney had acted in 100 films and brilliantly portrayed tragic Shakespearean heroes on the stage, he'll always be remembered as the sick dude to made Ned Beatty squeal like a little piggy.

Now the so-so news: as it's getting closer to Xmas, there are less film festivals overlapping, which probably is a deliberate tactic by festival planners to ensure they too have a semblance of a vacation. Below is the current festival tally, plus ongoing & upcoming screenings at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Sundry News & Soundtrack Reviews

Before I get to the latest soundtrack reviews, this past Black Friday La-La Land Records revealed their year-end limited releases, and it's a pretty alluring quartet: Michael Kamen's Die Hard (2CDs), Ennio Morricone's Fat Man & Little Boy (2CDs), Danny Elfman's Scrooged, and Jerry Goldsmith's Tora Tora Tora.

Of the 4 releases, Die Hard should sell out really, really soon, since the prior Varese release came out in 2002 - that's 9 years one of the best action scores ever written has been off the market, which has undoubtedly spawned high eBay sales, and bootlegs.

The Hitchhiker – The (In)Complete Collection

Over the past year, Alliance has re-issued parts of their TV catalogue on DVD in budget-priced lines, but a major headache for fans of eighties CanCon TV includes some very elemental questions:

What’s in the damned set?

Is it in stereo?

What are the specific episodes?

The reason these questions are frustrating are really quite elemental: Alliance rarely sends out review screeners of their catalogue material, and more crucial, the packaging is often bereft of any substantive details.

Festivals-a-Go-Go: Nov. 24 – Dec.1, 2011

"It STILL swings!"

Before we get to this week's tally of festivals, series, etc., it seems Hot Docs have set Wed. Dec. 7 as the official opening of the Bloor Cinema. As recounted back in September at Torontoist, the Bloor was in the midst of a major interior / exterior overhaul, and had just added KinoSmith founder Robin Smith as Hot Doc's chief programmer.

Samuel Bronston, Part I

---CHARLTON HESTON thinks: 'How the blazes do I get away from this drunken bitch?' 
--- AVA GARDNER aspires: 'If I run RIGHT NOW, neither Nick nor Sam will see me escape this mess!'
--- DAVID NIVEN fantasizes facetiously : 'There must be some way to feed Yordan a slice of broken glass pizza for making me sound like Heston.'

The career of Samuel Bronston may be short and tragic, and while many might not recognize the name, the handful of titles that bore his imprimateur represent the top historical epics ever made: King of Kings (1961), El Cid (1961), 55 Days at Peking (1963), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), and Circus World (1964).

Yes, Kings is bizarre, El Cid has a cadaver saving Spain, Peking killed its director’s career, Roman Empire killed the Bronston empire, and Circus World tests the mettle of audiences who found Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show On Earth (1952) an interminable melodramatic bore, but these are epics in the fullest sense of visual scope, physical production values of extreme nature, a cast of the best actors around, and thousands of extras on the payroll.

This past Sunday, as part of the TIFF Bell Lightbox’s series Hollywood Classics: The Cinema is Nicholas Ray, a print of Peking was screened to a small but generally appreciative audience. Most seemed to know what they were in for; a few took extra w.c. breaks, and a handful seemed to walk out, perhaps thinking Peking was supposed to be an epic drama about the origins of soylent green.


"It swings!"

There never seems to be a shortage of film festivals, series, retrospectives, and assorted cineastical things happening in Toronto, so here’s a quick tally of the current / imminent events of things to see (and in my case, write about).

Swan Songs

Sorry folks, but this tender moment NEVER HAPPENS in the film.

Twilight Time’s latest DVD release  - The Left Hand of God [M] (1955) - (limited to 3000 and available only via Screen Archives Entertainment) features a really lovely transfer of this extremely peculiar drama that isn’t wholly satisfying, but maintains a strange aura of sadness because it marked the career swan songs of its two leads, Humphrey Bogart and Gene Tierney. Both actors still appeared in a few films, but certainly for Bogart, the sadness is being aware he was a mere two pictures away before cancer stole him from the art form that gave fans so much pleasure.

Maniac Cop, and The Devils!

Before I get to William Lustig’s sublime exploitation hit from 1988, some may have heard reports that Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) is slated for a DVD release in the U.K., courtesy of the BFI.

Word has it the film isn’t the recently restored version that included newly found nasty footage, but the original British X certificate version which still runs longer and is more faithful to Russell’s edit than the American cut.

Charlton Heston

Charlton Hestion (vers. 1.0)

It’s a shame that the mention of Charlton Heston brings forth not thoughts of his significant body of work (vers. 1.0), but a crazy old actor raising a rifle able his head, growling “From my cold, dead hands” like the pivotal moment in a drama where a tolerant man snaps, and stands up against the bully that’s massacred everything he’s ever held dear (vers. 2.0).

The video footage of Heston at the NRA conference remains an indelible image, and it undoubtedly tarnished his image as an actor, filmmaker, and gifted voice to that of a right wing extremist – that’s if one sides with the ‘liberal’ angle.

One can theorize that as people age, their views and stances change, perhaps drifting to extremes of right or left, or perhaps mellowing out, but what was so striking about Heston’s change was the drama he invested in that particular appearance, which rendered him more of a political figure than just an actor who worked hard all of his life in theatre, film, and TV.

Raoul Ruiz

I'm sorry, but she's not the star...

With very rare exceptions in North America, serial productions made for TV in Europe are on occasion released to cinemas in easier to digest morsels for international audiences, of which Ingmar Bergman may be king of the mini-series.

Nicholas Ray: Part II

Just uploaded are a pair of documentary reviews that are really two parts of a three-film arc covering Nicholas Ray’s final years, as seen through the eyes by very different filmmakers.

In 1975, David Helpern constructed a doc around Ray as a maverick, back at work again. He visited the set of Ray & his students at the farm they called home after Harpur College wasn’t too crazy about the total immersion design of the film class, causing them to set up shop far away from the school campus and indulge in 'all filmmaking, all the time.'

Nicholas Ray: Part I

Just uploaded is a review of We Can’t Go Home Again [M] (1976), Nicholas Ray’s almost mythic experimental film which finally gets wide commercial distribution (read: no more bootlegs) via Oscilloscope Pictures after its premiere in 1973.

Never finished and a work-in-progress until his death in 1979, bits of the film were glimpsed in a rare making-of doc shot in 1975 – I’m a Stranger Here Myself – and Wim Wenders’ odd collaboration with Ray in 1979, Lightning Over Water (1980).

The big question, not unlike the opportunity to see one of Orson Welles’ legendary unfinished films, is whether WCGHA is the experimental masterpiece some critics are expecting. It’s affect on audiences will be subjectively broad.

Happy Mittel-Halloween

She may not be frothing, but I still wouldn't advise approaching...

It’s the middle of the Halloween weekend, and with Monday being the official day of Free Candy, horror films are naturally saturating the airwaves, theatre screens, and general consciousness of the populace, unless you happen to attend two Calgary schools where kids will attend “caring assemblies” the morn of the 31st because the school bigwigs believe the overall nature of Hallow’s Eve has gotten out of hand.

Yes, an under-10 year old dressed as a knife-wielding zombie out for blood is kind of startling, but how were you absorbing horror as a child? In my grammar school, the kids who lived too far to go home for lunch would trek with two ‘grade mothers’ to the local library, where we had tables & chairs and free milk to eat the lunches packed by our parents, after which there was time to read books and mags in the library before a return to grade school drudgery.

A "Lucartive" Offer

I am Bronzonious! Master of Time-bending! I glide through space with the speed of polyester!

This morning I found an email from some pinhead in Malaysia presenting a “lucartive” offer “to the tune of Forty-Eight Million” Euros.

The header actually began with a “RE” which presumed I responded to a prior request for more info regarding this lucartive deal, but sadly, I had not, because I’m wholly unfamiliar with the concept of being enticed by a lucariously fabulous offer to do nothing in exchange of a 60% cut of 48 Billion Euros, which I’ve frankly no idea what to do with.

Stagecoach 2.0

Editor's advice: when in doubt about copy art, always run with a hot babe, such as Ann-Margrock, as captured by Norman Rockwell for Stagecoach's stunning 1966 campaign.

Twilight Time’s latest DVD release is the 1966 remake of the classic 1939 John Ford western Stagecoach, of which I may have seen decades ago, but only recall the famous horse-jumping stunt where a man jumps from one team of horses to another while the stagecoach is barreling ahead at top speed.

Knowing Fox’ ’66 film was a remake, the question that often goes through a reviewer’s head is ‘Should I see the original?’ and my answer here was fast and flat: NO!

I felt in this case the lack of prior knowledge was a positive simply because I could watch the film with fresh eyes, no context of its illustrious predecessor, and assess the film based on its merits as a mid-sixties studio western with all the inherent clichés typical of the era when a studio was trying to wrangle audiences into cinemas with a familiar property, starring a multi-generational cast picked from classic & current films, and TV.

Urban Decay 1.0: The Regal Constellation Hotel

I love stories of peculiar structures that once were in vogue, housed and catered to regular human traffic, and since their virtual abandonment, lay dormant or in a state of steady decay until the wrecker’s ball finally swung one too many times and flattened the last of its superstructure, making it easier for the ground to crew to shovel, pile up, and truck away the rubbish.

Torontoist just posted a piece on the demolition of the Regal Constellation Hotel that formerly resided close to the airport, and functioned as a conference centre and 'in-place' during the 60s & 70s.

Built in 1962, it indeed has a weird Vegas quality that’s atypical for T.O., if not because its design doesn’t fit with the current banal structures in and around the GTA.

A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part III

Credited (for better or worse) for adding a heavier dose of humour to Freddy Krueger’s arsenal of teen tormenting tricks, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part III: Dream Warriors [M] (1987) reinvigorated the franchise after Part II [M] kind of went astray, having Freddy running amuck during a pool party, and a lead character tormented by the Burned One / a strong attraction towards the school’s egotistical jock.

Family-friendly Thai campaign revealing Freddy's unique application of Yoga to realign Patricia's spine.

Part III remains a really satisfying sequel because the whole thing unfolds like a dream, and director Chuck (‘please call me Charles’) Russell did a nice job maximizing the production’s small resources to create some memorably gross & disgusting imagery, from the phallic Freddy Serpent that tries to devour little Patricia Arquette in her film debut (see above), to the marionette sequence in which fresh tendons are yanked out of a teen to lure the boy to the bell tower's edge.

Soundtrack Reviews & Sundry

See? Even Japan cares!

This week will be mighty busy, as I’ll have a review of several films playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, including Julian Roffman’s The Mask (1961), often cited by critics & historians as Canada’s first true horror film + 3D film + the first Canuckle film to be distributed by a major U.S. studio.

It may sounds insignificant, but it’s a major stepping stone among the few independent productions that managed to enjoy broad distribution instead of the brief theatrical runs due to foreign control of the theatrical distribution system.

Henri-Georges Clouzot, Part II

With the plethora (yes, plethora) of films available on DVD and Blu-ray, film fans may wonder why bother catching a classic film in a theatre when it’s easily obtainable on home video?

I’ve actually made a point of ‘testing’ certain favourite films I’ve grown up wit on the big screen at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, and even with a large home theatre setting, there are films that ought to be experienced Big, Loud, and with an audience – of which Jaws (1975) is the best example of a film that’s doubly fun outside of home.

I’ve just uploaded a film review of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Wages of Fear [M] (1953), which I saw decades ago on TVO in a grainy 16mm print with burnt-in subtitles that flickered and often disappeared when the contrast level was blown out by the video’s inability to handle high white levels.

Henri-Georges Clouzot

Beginning last Thursday, the TIFF Bell Lightbox began their  retrospective on French director Henri-Georges Clouzot, best–known for his classic double-crossing mystery Diabolique (1955) and the men transporting a deadly cargo across terrible terrain in Wages of Fear (1953).

Long regarded as one of France’s master filmmakers, there’s a whole canon of work that’s on DVD, and other titles yet to appear on home video, but even those on DVD and Blu-ray still can’t hold up to the experience of seeing a major work on the big screen.

What people choose to see is sometimes based on personal quirks, and within my own preferences, my taste focused on The Mystery of Picasso (1956). Once unavailable anywhere, it was brought back into distribution during the 1980s, and eventually made its way to Pay TV and home video.

The Return of The Exterminator

Just uploaded are reviews for James Glickenhaus’ vigilante Exterminator diptych, although really, it’s best to forget the second film because it barely lives up to the ferocity of the first.

The Exterminator was Glickenhaus’ breakthrough film in many ways: costing a not-too-cheap $2 million, the film earned a healthy profit and established the director as another new independent force, which he slowly parlayed in subsequent action films, and the partnership shingle Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment before retiring from moviemaking in 1994.

A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part II

Zut! Freddie est retourner!

Okay, I'm back from a long stretch finishing up on a 7000 word essay on Rituals (1977), the classic CanCon flick that brought in the forest slasher genre. The essay's been submitted to the editor, so hopefully you'll be able to read it sometime in 2013, when the anthology streets. More details on the book as it emerges.

Now then.

Backlot galore of reviews & stuff, so I'm starting off with Warner Home Video's new Nightmare on Elm Street double-bill on Blu. First up is A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge [M] (1985), aka Freddy is Making Me Like Boys, and I Don't Know What to Do ! which looks great in HD, larded with some of the extras from prior boxed sets.

Cliff Martinez

There was a two-year period where in my car I had a tape containing Cliff Martinez’s scores for Traffic, Solaris [M], and Wicker Park (and weirdly, the suite of themes from Shane Carruth’s Primer, because the cues stylistically fit the mix).

During that chunk of time it wasn’t unusual to have the tape sitting in the deck, playing again, and again, and again.

A friend (fellow vowel brother MRI) once remarked how he too would listen to Martinez’s music, but both of us were pretty fixed on Solaris as being the most haunting, addictive, soothing, and hypnotic.

It’s the best thing Martinez, Steven Soderbergh’s main composer since Sex, Lies, and Videotape, has written, and you just wish someone would let him write more sci-fi / dramatically wrenching music, because his combination of electronic, glass, metal, and orchestral instruments is second to none.

That’s why I jumped at the chance to interview Martinez regarding his latest releases which, alongside Lincoln Lawyer [M], form part of a rare cosmic occurrence: 3 Martinez scores in one year.

Hollywood Gothic, Part I: My Cousin Rachel (1952)

Don't drink the tea, Philip! It's worse than gas!

The latest release from Twilight Time, My Cousin Rachel [M] (1952), is a gothic drama I’ve never heard of – which is theoretically impossible for me, because I grew up watching a ridiculous amount of classic films on TVOntario, courtesy of the late Elwy Yost, and among the myriad studios whose vintage works were played and replaced on Canada’s premiere public broadcasting station, I loved Fox the most.

Eros V: Farewells & What-the-Hells

'Was ist dir bedansk in mittem badtraum? Kanst moor privaatskum lassen bittet?'

In the fifth of this ongoing series on cinematic naughty-naughties, we (I) examine a pair of very odd erotic films with spastic editing – a strange coincidence, or perhaps the result of newbie directors trying to figure out something called Narrative Structure.

Screenwriter William Rose: Part I

Sometimes DVD labels play off each other’s release schedules and time like-minded titles to ride the wave of bigger ones, but I’d like to believe the release of three classic films penned by William Rose from three separate companies was pure coincidence – and a nice one to boot.

American Porn Tales I: Meet Monica Velour

Sorry for the big time gap, but the past week's been rather nutty. I've several review clusters coming up this weekend, which will make up for the dearth of blather at KQEK.com. (Intelligent and provocative blather, I might add.)

On to this week's update, which I've dubbed 'American Porn Tales' because it's an American filmmaker exploring issues of morality within the conservative realm of U.S. film, in terms of what the MPAA prefers gets made for general consumption (no 'NC-17, please'), the studios (frankness & wrongness is too tough to advertise), and advertisers (although one suspects that with physical mags and papers hungry for ad revenue, the aversion towards carrying ads for NC-17 films has weakened).

Eros IV: Tinto Brass in HD

Although released last year on DVD, Monamour [M] (2006) makes its Blu-ray debut, joined by Kick the Cock (2009), the short film directed by Brass, starring (and written by) model Angelita Franco.

Brass’ work in the short film format goes back to his first film, the rarely-seen Spatiodynamisme (1958), made for the Cinematheque Francaise, with Henri Langlois credited as producer, and one could technically include his segments in the anthology My Wife / La mia signora (1964), and I Miss Sonia Henie (1971), but Kick the Cock is probably the first time he’s returned to the genre, albeit in a blatantly softcore genre with simulated ‘relief’ moments performed by none other than himself and a robust phallus with plenty of spouting ‘canon fodder.’

The Demo Man Prophecy, and Speculators Beware

In a move that seems eerily evocative of Demolition Man [M] (wait – I’m getting there), the CBC reported this evening that McDonald’s Canada will spend quite a mint overhauling the interior & exterior of its stores to present a more adult-friendly (read: upscale) version of its fast food offerings, goosed with ‘exotic’ coffees.

Richard who?

Assassins is the last of four films starring Sylvester Stallone, released on Blu-ray by Warner Home Video, and while the series' focus is inevitably on the mumbling star (if not the increasing size of his pulsing temple veins, which grew to dangerous proportions between 1986-1995), each film also presents an opportunity to examine the work of four directors whose careers took decided different turns.

Blockbuster Canada – A Cautionary Tale of Greed, Indolence, & Stupidity

"Uh-oh. Not again."

In a move that surpised no one, Blockbuster Canada is shutting down the roughly 250 stores left after a prior 140 stores were shuttered across Canada back in May. The bulk of the closures occurred in Ontario, bringing the total employees to hit the unemployment line this fall to around 5000 - a significant amount considering the chain had established itself in central city, suburban,  and town locations, and became for many their neighbourhood video store.

Soundtrack News, Reviews, & Release Tally

New Soundtrack reviews:

- Appassionata [M] (Quartet Records), a 2-disc set of Piero Piccioni's riffing on the sultry sexuality and social wrongness from 1974.

- Bad Girls [M] (La-La Land), newly expanded album of Jerry Goldsmith's above-average writing during the nineties, circa 1994.

- Being Human [M] (Silva Screen), featuring music from Season 2 by Richard Wells.

- DC Showcase: Superman / Shazam! - The Return of Black Adam [M] (La-La Land), a fun collection of themes from four episodes scored by Jerry Zuckerman and Benjamin Wynn.

- Film Music of Hans Zimmer, Vol. 2 [M] (Silva Screen), the latest 2-disc retrospective with a focus on Zimmer & Company's slightly darker writing.

Self-serving Rue Morgue news:

Rue Morgue's September issue (#115) also features my reviews for Scream (Varese Sarabande CD Club), the first (legal) expanded release of Marco Beltrami score which should've been released 15 years ago; and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: Vol. 1 (Varese Sarabande CD Club), a 2-CD set exclusively devoted to Bernard Herrmann's long unavailable soundtracks. Both CDs = awesome, and I'll have more detailed reviews in October, as these are among my favourite CDs of 2011.

Editorial Blather

La-La Land's upcoming release of Alfred Newman's A Certain Smile is part of the label's Sony & Fox association, which I hope will yield more vintage scores in their full, uncut glory. A lot of classic Columbia (owned by Sony) scores remain unavailable, and there's plenty of Fox scores - particularly from the stereo-friendly CinemaScope era - which have never appeared anywhere on CD.

Heston and Snell

A bust of Marc Antony, capturing his unguarded regret after Cleopatra dumped a bowl of Fetuccini Alfredo on the noble Roman's head for pinching a slave's buttocks.

Charlton Heston had played a supporting role in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra on Broadway, and it took about two decades before he could assume Antony himself on film, first in Julius Caesar (1970), and again in Antony and Cleopatra (1972).

Marco who?

Do you know how to use the three seashells? And more important: does it really matter?

That was my reaction back in 1993 when I saw the Demolition Man trailer in theatres for Joel Silver’s latest Kaboom Production, starring Sly Stallone, Wesley Snipes, and two nobodies named Benjamin Bratt and Sandra Bullock.

A Bloody Night for Teens, Boo-Boos Undone, and CHUDS

Once again, little Mary is awoken by the CHUDS.

Just uploaded is a review of Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet [M] (2009), from indie filmmaker Frank Sabatella.

Apparently the Blu-ray release is unique to Canada, courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada, and I’ve detailed the strengths & weaknesses of this gory salute to slasher films, and the disc’s extras. One quick point to make: beautifully robust sound mix; active, detailed, and very fun in a big darkened room.

Career Intersections

Of course this shot is in the trailer. It's inflammoniously glorious!

The Specialist [M] (1994) may not have been a highpoint in the careers of Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Rod Steiger, and Eric Roberts (will you just look at that cast?), but it could be regarded as an important career intersection for the lot, seeing how the production occurred at a time when each person’s career was going through another downshift.

And Justice for All: The Films of Norman Jewison, Part II

'You know, people, it IS okay to laugh a little.'

Last Wednesday marked the only screening of Norman Jewison’s The Thomas Crown Affair [M] (1968), his next film after In the Heat of the Night [M] (1968). It’s still one of the best fluff films ever made, mixing caper, romance, sex appeal, and humour into one slickly designed package resembling a glossy magazine pictorial from the sixties.

Art décor, artifice, and style, all lovingly set to Michel Legrand’s zippiest jazz-pop confection, and the classic song “Windmills of Your Mind.”

Caving with Werner Herzog

Tumak: I see horses. Many horses...
Loana: Always horses, never me. Why does Tumak not see wife Loana anymore? Is it too much sour bear milk? Smoking too much Moary Jane?

Director Werner Herzog likes to travel. He likes to climb mountains, likes to spelunk, and likes to explore things firsthand because the experience of discovering + filming clearly enrich his life, and if you have some affection for the crazy German, there’s a peculiar joy in seeing the prolific filmmaker transfer his sense of wonderment directly to audiences through visuals, and that calming voice that’s part stream of consciousness, part poetry, and contains thought bubbles of mistranslated English which one usually understands (you know what he’s trying to say), but on occasion have no idea what dimension he’s trying to channel to Mother Earth.

George Pan Cosmatos, Part I

'Yo, Marion'

Back when I was in high school, I remember walking towards Wellesley subway station after another soundtrack buying binge (Cheapies, of course), and displayed against the side of a bus stop shelter was the poster for Cobra, the latest action ‘drama’ from Sylvester Stallone, bearing the immortal line “Crime is a disease. Meet the cure.”

It looked glossy, chic, and the dominance of red inferred a lot of blood was spilt within the film. Critics reviled the movie as being sadistic, and it garnered a reputation as one of Stallone’s nastier films (even though he does get creative several times in Cliffhanger).

And Justice for All: The Films of Norman Jewison, Part I

The TIFF Bell Lightbox has been screening several Norman Jewison films as part of a career retrospective, which I believe began sometime in July, though I can’t confirm it’s starting date because the TBL’s website is still kind of a mess of images, bold headers, vague teaser text and thin rectangles, all courtesy of the first graduate to emerge from The Ontario College of Discombobulated & Impractical Art & Design.

With TIFF approaching in less than 3 weeks, it seems unlikely a proper site overhaul will happen soon – last year’s tweak at least displays current daily shows – so maybe the TBL will consider placing a link to an easy-breezy, downloadble version of its mini programme book as a PDF file. Seriously, think about it, because after a year, the site’s still a navigable mess.

Moving on.

To some, Norman Jewison is a controversial figure, not because he’s raised the ire of rogue Asian turnip wranglers or done something rash (like buying up the patent for drought-resistant kudzu berries), but because he’s consistently being lauded as a master filmmaker when his canon features a mixed bag of classics, and not-so-great movies.

Getting Socially Updated & Upgraded


This month KQEK.com’s Facebook page was set up (yes, I caved), and by virtue of its existence, the blog and review sites have to updated to ensure everything is easily linked.

Since 2006, I’ve been using Douglas Bowman’ “Dots Dark” template for Mondomark’s Blogger account, and it was time to upgrade because there was no way to incorporate any social media widgets or plugins.


The Return of The Egyptian (1954)

A cautionary note: Edmund Purdom never experiences this moment in THE EGYPTIAN with miniature Egyptian queens, Babylonian whores, and lower caste barmaids.

Perhaps due to its long periods of unavailability, The Egyptian [M] (1954) has developed cult following among connoisseurs of ancient / Biblical epics, fans of composers Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Newman, and cineastes with a taste for big budget productions starring iconic silver screen stars Victor Mature, Jean Simmons, and Gene Tierney.

It’s also the film Marlon Brando walked away from because he had issues with the script, its director, and supporting actress Bella Darvi; Bella Darvi herself, a shapely concoction written off by period critics as an incompetent if not wooden, cross-eyed actress, and sometime lover of Fox CEO / Egyptian’s producer Darryl F. Zanuck; and co-star Edmund Purdom, who never clicked with audiences, and disappeared in a series of European genre outings for a few decades.

Women in Prison, Part III: Jungle Warriors (1984)

Apparently in Egypt, when women rebel against male arrogance, they enter a state of ocular bliss.

With the review of Jungle Warriors / Euer Weg führt durch die Hölle [M] (1984) now live, one would think that’s all one can say about WIP films, but Aha! you are mistaken, because this genre is more populous than one would believe.

JW, in fact, isn’t a true WIP film, but a WIJP (Women in Jungle Prison) film – a variant that adds some exotica to already politically incorrect elements, generous moments of cruel nudity, and foliage.

Soundtrack Reviews

No time for blather, just a dry alert of five new soundtrack reviews: Christian Henson's The Devil's Double [M] (Lakeshore Records), Basil Poledouris' Breakdown [M] (3 packed CDs from La-La Land!), Alfons Conde's Viento en contra [M] (MovieScore Media), and from Screamworks / MovieScore Media a pair of horror scores: David Julyan's Heartless [M], and Nathaniel Levisay's Dawning [M].

Oh, and one question: Where the #^%$ did July go?

Mark R. Hasan, Editor

Stanley Kubrick: Part II

In Part I, the focus was on Lolita [M] (1962) and Stanley Kubrick’s early documentaries, but this time we jump ahead more than a decade to Barry Lyndon [M] (1975), and a teasing little Channel 4 documentary called Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes [M] (2008).

Lolita forms the beginning of Kubrick’s comfort in letting loose his satirical streak. In that film, the target was socially wrong behaviour with an emphasis on the innate clumsiness and petty jealousies of a shallow professor whose maturity is so low, he doesn’t deserve the degree that permits him to walk into any classroom. In fact, he shouldn’t be allowed to enter any classroom, even by accident.

Women in Prison, Part II: Red Heat (1985)

Just uploaded is a review of Linda Blair's second Women in Prison films, Red Heat [M], made in 1985, and often confused with the 1988 Arnold Schwarzenegger-Jim Belushi buddy cop film - a fine comic book film, but largely missing the social wrongness that permeates every frame once Blair in thrust into a dank East German jail in spite of her vocal American citizenship declaration.

Red Heat (Panik House) is silly, but there is a strong anti-East German (aka the GDR) sentiment running through the film, making it much more political that prior WIP films. There's also the valid question of what would it take for a government to distance itself from an incarcerated citizen instead of doing everything within its diplomatic reach to secure the release of someone, if not demand proof a genuine transgression had been committed.

Stanley Kubrick, Part I

Truth be told, the first time I’d seen Lolita (1962), I was bored, but that was perhaps 20 years ago, and as happens with one’s taste in music, things change, or rather one develops an appreciation for different directors and their career phases.

Uwe Boll is still a lower-tier Ed Wood, hence I’ve no desire to revisit his rabbit rubbish, but Stanley Kubrick was cut from a different cloth (duh), and perhaps the most popular adjectives applied by critics and non-fans towards this American icon is cold, dry, eccentric, weird, reclusive, and perhaps a little mad.

One quality few seem to get off the bat is how funny Kubrick was, particularly in his later work. The last line in Eyes Wide Shut (1999), his final film, makes it clear the story you just watched was a funny – not unlike the moment in David Fincher’s The Game (1997) where a certain character realizes everything that’s been driving him to the brink of madness was rooted in something… funny.

In the case of EWS, it seemed to take punchline to make it clear you just saw a darkly comedic film about obsessions, repressions, marital bickering, and weird characters that fade in and out of dark store corners.

Even Full Metal Jacket (1987) was satirical, and Warner Bros. actually sold the film based on fast clips in the trailer, and one character (dubbed “Joker” by his men) uttering the phrase ‘Sir... Does this mean that Ann-Margret's not coming?’

But one has to step back another 25 years to see where Kubrick found a project in which he could loosen up and allow his dry, satirical wit to permeate elements in each shot.

Lore has it that Kubrick rewrote much of Vladimir Nabokov’s own script, and while there are peculiar moments of slapstick in Lolita – notably Humbert Humbert trying to unfold a cot while Lolita sleeps soundly in the hotel big bed – Kubrick satirizes bad behaviour and overall wrongness by pitching the dialogue, the performances, and long takes just high enough to make the ugliness of a professor sleeping with a teenager ridiculous – an amazing accomplishment when there’s plenty of patently offensive behaviour throughout the film.

As the evil Quilty who torments Humbert from a safe distance, Peter Sellers augurs the film with his accents and impersonations, but even with another actor in place of Sellers, the film would’ve conformed to Kubrick’s sense of the absurd, because Lolita is a forerunner to the more outrageous behaviour in Dr. Strangelove (1964), which he co-authored with madman Terry Southern.

Warner Home Video recently issued Lolita and Barry Lyndon (1975) on Blu-ray – two dryly funny satires that offer unique rewards to devoted Kubrick fans, as well as sophisticates wanting literary absurdism perfectly distilled into sound + image – and I’m paring the reviews with some related materials.

In Part I, in addition to Lolita [M] (WHV), I’ve also chosen to focus on Kubrick’s earliest work: his documentary shorts. His three films ought to have been packaged in a single DVD set years ago, but that’s never happened – either because of rights issues, or Kubrick feeling his nascent filmic efforts, like his feature film debut Fear and Desire (1953), were too immature to remain in circulation.

His first two shorts (both made in 1951) were sold to RKO as newsreels, and they’ve popped up in various places on TV. Day of the Fight [M] has been broadcast on TCM, European TV (BBC, RAI) and is available via Archive.org, whereas Flying Padre [M] has received less airplay.

The Seafarers [M] (1953) did the rounds on YouTube, but its rights were recently re-acquired, and a special edition DVD emerged in 2008 with extras, including an audio commentary track with directors Keith David and Roger Avary.

Seafarers was Kubrick’s first colour film, but he didn’t return to colour until Kirk Douglas nabbed him to direct Spartacus (1960) after director Anthony Mann was dismissed. Between 1951 – 1960, Kubrick’s films were dramas, anti-war statements, noir, and documentaries, but it wasn’t until Lolita that he found his groove, and slowly developed his mid- and late-career style of satire, drama, and commentary.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was a unique exception, whereas The Shining (1980) plays with varying aspects of spousal violence and madness. I still think Stephen King, in his original assessment of the film, felt Kubrick didn’t quite understand the machinations of a horror story; perhaps the striking sequences were designed to be nightmarish extensions of seething violent tendencies, and as was Kubrick’s desire to let audiences make the final judgment, have them similarly figure out what the puzzle bits mean when examined by each subjective viewer.

In Part II, I’ll have reviews of Barry Lyndon, plus the teasing BBC documentary Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes (2008).

Mark R. Hasan, Editor
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