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.
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