Blu-Ray Review: Deep Red

Deep Red ArrowI clearly wasn’t ready for Dario Argento’s Deep Red way back when I saw it on a somewhat beat-up rented VHS tape back around 1990 or ’91. While the 1975 film had some primo scares (such as that freaky clockwork dummy scene and the genuinely gory brilliance in its stylized murders), the story seemed to be a bit chopped up to the point of distracting me a wee bit too much. Hey, I often tend to pay attention to the plot more than the violence in most horror films, so sue me. Flash forward to Arrow’s 2016 UK restoration (finally getting a North American release) which adds back in scenes that were cut and makes one of Argento’s best early films even better. Granted, it’s not going to be for everyone (yes, it’s quite violent), but as with many gialli, you more or less know what you’re getting and you’re going to get it but good (and in both eyes, at that).

David Hemmings plays Marcus Daly, a British jazz pianist who ends up being the target of a killer after he sees said killer killing the hell out of some hapless victim. During the initial police investigation, Daly’s photo is snapped by snippy, snoopy reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi), who inadvertently puts Marcus in grave danger after posting his handsome mug in the newspaper. As in his earlier The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and The Cat O’ Nine Tails, you get leading men who get in well over their heads once they try to do a bit of extracurricular detective work and yes indeed, Daly gets put through the wringer but good. This is also another Argento film where a woman saves the lead from certain death, with Nicolodi’s Brezzi making a strong impression as a gal who’s no screaming wallflower at all.

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Blu-Ray Review: Zoology

Zoology_AA018Sometimes, being way, way out of the loop on a film is the best thing that can happen because when you miss all that buzzing and screeching, you get to go in totally cold and be nicely surprised by the results. This is exactly what happened when I finally sat down to watch Ivan I. Tverdovsky’s wonderful, bleak deadpan fantasy Zoology, another solid Arrow Academy release (also available on DVD). This is one of those films with a standout role for a “woman of a certain age” that’s somewhat remarkable until you realize your going into the film with that sort of prejudice might also make you not enjoy it if you think too hard about stuff like that.

Anyway, right off the bat, you’re made to feel sorry for poor Natasha (Natalya Pavlenkova), a sad-looking middle-aged put-upon employee at a dreary Russian zoo. Her somewhat nasty co-workers openly make fun of her frumpy looks and lack of a social life, she lives with her elderly mother and a dying old cat and just as you’re about to throw yourself out the window from the gloom of her daily routine, she faints at work one day and later finds out she’s grown a tail. The doctor she sees sends her off to get an X-ray and Natasha meets radiologist Peter (Dmitriy Groshev), who initially seems nonplussed about her extra appendage. The pair strike up a fast friendship which leads to more, but that’s (almost) all you’re going to get out of me because you kind of need to see how this one plays out.

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Random Films of the Week: A Little New Year’s Cleaning

Yeah, Happy New Year and all that stuff. I figure I’ll post more than I did last year even though I got sick and was out of action for a month or so which led to a bigger backlog that I’m still wading through. My plans to write up and pre-load posts went south thanks to that, but I think with my health getting better (albeit temporarily) I’ll try and tackle stuff slightly differently on occasion. Or: Eh, I’ve been watching a ton of movies in no particular order, so you get to pore over a few quickie capsule recommends.

Stormy Monday_AV093Stormy Monday – Mike Figgis’ first film was this stylized bit of 1988 brilliance that featured Sean Bean, Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones and Sting, plus a pretty darn neat jazz score by the director. The neon-soaked Newcastle setting features some of Roger Deakins’ lovely cinematography that makes this a total treat to watch. It’s more or less a noir gangster flick with some solid performances and an overall sense that something bad is going to happen what with all the tense glowering and some romantic notions that make for a bit of conflict as things progress.

I actually hadn’t heard of this film other than seeing a trailer way back before it was initially released in theaters. I didn’t think it was for me back then, but thanks to Arrow Video, I’ve been proven quite incorrect. Expect a fine director’s commentary from Figgis along with a few cool bonus features on this BD/DVD combo that make this a nice surprise to discover if you’ve never seen or heard of it until now. Amusingly enough, this pairs well with Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire thanks to both films mixing reality and fantasy elements (although Figgis gets the edge and the edgier performances overall).

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Review: Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back (PS4)

Bubsy Box“Wait. Accolade is still around?”  That’s the first thing that popped into my head as I fired up Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back on my PS4. About ten minutes in, the second thing I thought was that Accolade was not only alive and well, they’d somehow created some sort of time vortex where mid-level mascot character Bubsy came back to the gaming scene with newly polished visuals but the same old gameplay that’s guaranteed to frustrate some players while entertaining a handful of others.

In other words, veteran speedrunners or kids who like a challenge will very likely love this latest “2.5D” entry in the series. However, those who expect something along the lines of the superbly sublime retro-ness of Sonic Mania or Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap may find this a tough ball of yarn to swallow. While it’s got its share of issues, it’s not a terrible game by any means. just one that needs some fixing up. Yep. it’s another one of those gems where patience is key, practice helps out a great deal, and it’s probably another case where a post-release patch or two will help things out greatly.

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Gravity Cat: A Royal Wedding of Tech As Advertisment


 

Yep. Japan still has the coolest game promos. This one’s for Gravity Daze 2, aka Gravity Rush 2 here in the US, which is set to land on the PS4 on January 20. You don’t see TV ads this lengthy for games in North America at all outside of trade shows and media events. But I’d take a few of these fun promo clips any day over another garbage infomercial or medicine ad selling snake oil with deadly side effects followed by a legal ad asking if you’ve taken one of those drugs and suffered from side effects, ugh.

Anyway, the recent demo was great overall – check out my somewhat rushed play through below:


 

-GW

Happy Almost New Year (Burying The Hatchet With Haste Edition)


 

This year has been significantly… bumpy (to put it mildly). Here’s hoping 2017 gets off to a better start, although it’s going to be rough seas ahead in some important areas. I’m expecting mistakes to be made with either no or poor to unacceptable excuses made for each error that erases something that was just fine before the hammer fell on its foot hard. And that’s just here on the getting stuff done front, ha and ha-ha.

Or, to get real, let’s use Psycho II (a far better film than some give it little to no credit for) as a perfect analogy of just how crappy this year has been on some key fronts. That murderous old lady is 2016 and NormanBates is 2017. It’s your move, Norm:

(Thanks, IntgrScienceFilms3!)
 

Okay, let me shut up and go try to be a bit more productive. If I don’t post anything else today, Have a Happy New Year celebration, be safe and better yet, be prepared for the coming storm or at least, be ye not wholly surprised when wolfy promising yields rather sheepish results.

-GW

Debbie Reynolds: Dancing On That Smile Stage One Final Time

(thanks ozabbazo77!)
 

Ugh. No mas, 2016. This one’s both barrels, folks. If you’ve never seen Singin’ In The Rain, please do so ASAP as it’s not only a great introduction the classic movie musical, it’s probably going to lighten even the grimmest mood when all is said and done.

Back in a bit.

-GW

Carrie Fisher: Our Princess Is In Another Castle*

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“Hey Mark, It’s Carrie. Where are you? We’re waiting for you… hurry up!”

So, back in 1983 (I believe it was during midsummer), Carrie Fisher mis-dialed a phone number and called the place I was staying at on West 95th Street to leave that message. Everyone I played it back to recognized the voice and through a bit of deductive reasoning it was figured out she may have been ringing up Mark Hamill. At the time it was believed he also lived somewhere on the West Side (I recall he was a frequent West Side Comics customer), so it was entirely possible his phone number started with that popular 864 exchange and Carrie got one or more of the last four numbers scrambled. There were no cellphones back then and I don’t think you could have an operator redial from an answering machine, so this was just another NYC thing to us. Celebrity sightings were commonplace back then with a walk up or down the West Side in any weather often yielding some pleasant surprises (yes, I have stories. No, not now, please).

Anyway, that tape was a hot thing for a while among friends until interest faded and we moved on to whatever life slipped our ways. But every so often I’d want to pop up at one of her book signings and ask my one question or I thought about just writing a quick note (or much later, email) to find out if she recalled mistakenly calling me. Of course I never got around to it, supremely trivial matter that it was in the grand scheme of things. Today’s yet another not good one, particularly as I’d been very much avoiding the internet for its rolling out of crappy real news, really fake news and a Pandora’s Box of all-too predictable downhill results of a rather unbalanced political season.

Here’s a funny – I’m also in the middle of replacing or updating important to lesser bits of my movie collection, so I only have Star Wars episodes 4-6 on VCD. As in Fox’s official overseas box set from VideoVan circa 2000. Ha and ha-ha. Well, I think I can run them on the laptop. Either that or go through a few bins looking for my Magnavox CD-i system. Or, hell… maybe I’ll just watch The Blues Brothers for the what, 30th or so time? Yeah, sure… that’ll do.

(thanks, rumblingthunder!)
 

*Or, that damn Empire. It loses all the time… but always wins over the long run, doesn’t it? Boo.
-GW

ALIEN: Covenant Trailer: Eggs Over Uneasy

Officially, it’s this:

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Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created, with ALIEN: COVENANT, a new chapter in his groundbreaking ALIEN franchise. The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.

In Theaters – May 19, 2017

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, Benjamin Rigby

Tonally, for me it’s this: I’m getting Prometheus repeat visual vibes from the gorgeous CG landscapes with that magnificently muted but sharp high-def color palette, a crew of clueless soon to be victims stuck on a planet poking around at stuff better left to robots to check out and some of the interesting casting choices made. Hopefully the film won’t suffer from the same stupidity of poorly written characters clogging up the story with 50’s era “B” flick shenanigans that took me completely out of Scott’s last attempt. Which means I’m not too sold on Danny McBride (although I love him in his comedic work dearly) the same way I wasn’t sold on Paul Reiser in Jim Cameron’s ALIENS until I saw the film in a theater when it first opened. We shall see.

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Other than this post, I’m not going to follow the film at all online other than to run any newer trailers Fox drops with as little commentary as possible. Weird, yes. But I like not having an entire film ruined for me by constant hunting for every bit of info which only leads to too much speculation and eventually disappointment when and if something major is or seems missing. Besides, aren’t new experiences SUPPOSED to be fun and/or surprising? This blasted modern culture of seeking out secrets and spilling them is nothing but a destroyer of otherwise interesting entertainment, I say.

Now go have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I got one of my presents early. Thanks, Ridley!

-GW

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4D Cityscape Makes For A (Not So) Puzzling Last Minute Gift Idea


 

Need a super cool last minute gift and you just so happen to be within fast traveling distance of any of these retailers? Well, here you go. 4D Cityscape’s wonderfully awesome and complex takes on some pop culture faves. I personally haven’t put a puzzle together in too many years, but these all stand out as more than welcome chances to get by brain firing up in spots where it’s been snoozing too much. Someone get these guys a few more licenses, as I bet Star Wars fans would love to see some iconic locations represented in 4D puzzle form.

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4d-cityscape-hobbit-middle-earth
 

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-GW

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