Blu-Ray/DVD Review: The Cat O’ Nine Tails

TheCatONineTailsIn a new interview included on this superb Arrow Video release, director Dario Argento notes he initially didn’t much like his second film, The Cat O’Nine Tails partially because it felt “Too American” Interesting, but in a way, I’d say he’s correct to a degree. That said, as a followup to The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, the film pushes some of the right buttons it needs to while providing a pretty impressive murder by onrushing train scene early on that’s still pretty awesome even when you find out how the trick was done.

That “Too American” comment is very likely about the two Americans playing key roles in this film, James Franciscus and Karl Malden. Both give solid performances in film that’s a bit slower in pacing than Bird was, but has a few tense moments that liven things up. Malden plays Franco Arnò, a blind former journalist who lives with his young niece, Lori (Cinzia De Carolis). The pair are out for a nighttime stroll when Franco overhears a bit of a conversation from a parked car they’ve passed. It later turns out a nearby genetics lab has been broken into and onto the scene the next day arrives Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus), a reporter who ends up bonding with Franco. The two men set out to solve the case, but yep, there’s a murderer on the loose connected to the theft and he’s got his sights set on not only the two men, but little Lori as well.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Random Films of the Week: Some Fine Die-ning

Another somewhat random grab from the backlog? Sure, why not? I’m cheating a little thanks to just going with all Arrow Video/Arrow Academy releases, but I heartily recommend everything here for one reason or another.

The Assassin_AA006The Assassin (L’Assassino) – Elio Petri’s (The Tenth Victim, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) first film is a total knockout all the way as well a great classic that can now be rediscovered in its restored form. Marcello Mastroianni plays Alfredo Martelli, a man arrested as the prime suspect after his older lover (Micheline Presle) is found murdered. During the investigation, the film dips into his past as bits of Alfredo’s life play out and his mental state begins to crumble from the relentless pressure laid on him by the police. Did he do it? Well, that would be telling and you won’t get a peep out of me, pal.

The black and white cinematography is beautiful, there’s a jazzy score that features a main title theme that will stick in you head for days, and every actor here is spot on. The Arrow Academy BD/DVD only has a few bonus features, but the real treasure is Petri’s film itself. The odd thing here is most of it takes place over the course of a day or two, but Alfredo’s memories (and Petri’s camera) capture what seems like a week’s worth of external events before all is said and done. But this is most definitely intentional, as is that ending that seems to be open to interpretation if you take it too seriously.

Continue reading

Capsule Reviews, The Third: Some RPGs

Let’s see now. I’m trying to shoehorn a load of stuff into my schedule this year, so I’ve taken to compiling certain games and films into shorter, easier to digest capsule reviews that don’t drag on like my longer boring full meal posts. Don’t worry, those longer reviews aren’t gone at all. I’m just saving up my currently lower than usual energy stores for those more epic length posts. Anyway, let’s get cracking:

 

 

OMD_PS4

One More Dungeon (PC/PS4/PS3/Vita/Switch/Xbox One) – Not quite a RPG and more of a cross between a first-person shooter and a perma-death packed randomly generated roguelike, OMD’s in your face pixel art will seem garish to some players, but I liked it quite a lot. The game is a challenging bit of fun that will kill your character off constantly, but somehow keeps you coming back for more. Points earned via playing can be used to unlock assorted modifiers that make playing somewhat easier or a great deal harder, so how tough things get is eventually your call.

There’s a sanity level to consider and the game’s overall vibe reminded me a tiny bit of Eldritch, another retro-style FPS, although that game had a more Lovecraftian vibe going for it. OMD’s low price point and speedy gameplay keep it fun going even if you end up buying the farm a wee bit too much. This is one of those games that you’ll go back to a over and over, provided you like what you see and/or it grows on you. Developer Stately Snail and Ratalaika Games (who handled the port) deserve a tip of the cap for this one.

Continue reading

Capsule Reviews, Too: Things That Go Boom (And Quite Frequently, At That)

2017 was an incredibly busy year and that doesn’t include me being laid up in the hospital for almost a month and missing out on a load of fun stuff. Anyway, I’m compiling a short list of recommends here if you’re doing some post-holiday gifting for yourself or someone else. Most of what’s here will be indie/small studio focused thanks to too a few of these games getting (intentionally?) overlooked by bigger sites because they’re not going to get a ton of clicks or some other such nonsense.

 

 

JYDGE PS4 JYDGE (PS4) – I’m surprised that this excellent kinda sorta follow up to Neon Chrome didn’t come to Vita as well, but given Sony’s rapidly losing interest in their HD handheld in terms of first party support, I guess it’s no surprise at all (except that Neon Chrome isn’t a first party game). Still, if you like your top-down action games tough and pretty darn fun, going to town with this one for a spell will bring a big grin to your grill.

You are the law in this fun, violent riff on Judge Dredd meets Robocop with a slick neon-lit coating straight out of Blade Runner or some other futuristic flick. Fast-paced and highly replayable missions await if you’re a fan of top-down shooters that aren’t easy and demand precision over panic. There’s a great arcade-like vibe here that has you unlocking weapon and armor upgrades and hopping back in to press forward or go back and try to beat tight times for taking out assorted baddies as quickly as possible while avoiding civilian casualties (an instant mission failure, as it should be in a game such as this). There’s even a solid co-op mode if you want to team up with a friend and Jydge the hell out of some well-armed creeps who’ll get what they deserve but good.

Continue reading

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).

Continue reading

Review: Hammerwatch (PS4)

Hammerwatch PS4For the record, Hammerwatch isn’t a RPG at all. If anything, calling it one is akin to calling Gauntlet (the arcade classic it pays homage to) a sports game. Granted, you do indeed get the fantasy trappings of classic RPGs in the form of assorted deadly dungeons to navigate, ticked off hordes of enemies trying to do your character in and other familiar touches. But there’s not a shred of story here, no gear to buy, your little character is mute, and the only expository dialog you’ll read comes from a few NPCs in set locations who offer very brief tips or warnings that you’ll want to pay attention to. Oh, and your party kind of kicks you to the curb at the beginning after a bridge breaks and you’re stuck having to go the long way around to catch up to them. What, someone forgot to bring a good length of rope?

This is a actually a good, no, a great thing, as the game excels at letting you have at what it tosses your way you want as you try to survive. Enemy generators, traps galore, invisible walls, area warps and many hidden secrets await the brave ones with ten bucks to spare. Trust me, folks – this is probably going to be the best ten bucks you’ll spend on any game this (or next, if you’re reading this in 2018) year. The main campaign is lengthy, there’s an extra chapter expansion and while online play is coming in a patch (hopefully along with mods that the PC version has had for a while), you can still grab up to three friends and play a good old-fashioned couch co-op session for the time being.

Continue reading

TCM Remembers 2017: Sunset Blvd. Or: Land of the Lost

 

At some point, I actually stopped keeping track of all the entertainment industry deaths this year because it was getting too depressing. I just watched this clip earlier this afternoon and my brain is still spinning inside my skull. Yes, there are some people not included in this list (including a few who recently passed away within the last week). But it’s been one of those long years where the tendency to get overwhelmed by both expected and sudden demises is only a tiny percentage of the stress one has to deal with. Everyone here will be missed, but not forgotten as long as their work remains and there are people who preserve and share it for future audiences to appreciate.

-GW

Review: .hack//G.U. Last Recode (PS4)

dot hack ps4You’ve two choices to deal with as soon as you fire up .hack//G.U. Last Recode on your PS4 or PC. Do you play it as intended and enjoy the story as it spools out across the three remastered games (Rebirth, Reminisce, and Redemption) along with one new shorter chapter (Reconnection)? Or do you activate the Cheat Mode that maxes your party out from the get-go and makes zipping though most of the game a total cakewalk?

I ended up choosing the first option and while the game took a lot longer to play through, I didn’t feel as if I was taking advantage of Bandai Namco or developer CyberConnect 2‘s overly gracious hospitality. As a huge fan of the original four chapters games and later, the G.U. series’ three entries, I wanted to play these as originally presented, carrying my save data over into each game and getting the same thrills I’d gotten way back when the PS2 was going strong with quality JRPGs dropping on a semi-regular basis.

DHPS4_02

This remastered trilogy benefits from a higher resolution, better frame rate, somewhat simpler combat and much better looking cut scenes. That said, it also doesn’t go overboard in trying to be a purely visual showpiece far beyond the original games. Lead character Haseo is still very much an angry jerky guy for a good chunk of the experience, but you’ll get used to him as the game progresses. The end result is a reliable buy that will please fans of the old games while maybe making some fans that expected too much or come into this wanting to see every trick in the PS4 book exploited a tad disappointed. Then again, you’re going to be playing this game more for the story and somewhat deep world building that extends into how you interact in the “real” world presented outside the faux MMO game.

Continue reading

Random Films of the Week: Some Clock Cleaning Before Things Go Cuckoo

Hey, it’s not Friday, but it may be by the time I complete this post. Anyway, here’s a few more films I finally sat down and watched. It stinks not having a flick watching partner to bounce things off of, but so it goes. I suppose a resolution can be made to rectify that, but you all know that sort of pressure makes for an often crappy time when you go rubbing lamps hoping for the correct results (he noted, cackling madly). Anyway, some of these were screeners, a few were bought for the library and almost all come recommended for assorted reasons.

Suture_AV056

Suture – It’s a gimmick film with one huge gimmick, but it’s a good one and writer-directors David Siegel and Scott McGehee do a decent Hitchcock riff on a few fronts with this thriller/mystery mash-up. Shot in glorious black and white with a solid as a rock cast, this is one of those indie films that packs a wallop and isn’t afraid to use your brain as its target. The interesting thing is the film also works without the gimmick as a pure thriller, so you can indeed re-watch this and see it from a different perspective.

I saw this a few times in theaters back in 1993 and later on cable and it still works as a great little film worth tracking down. Arrow Video’s restoration job is great and you get way too many bonus features that make this an automatic buy right out of the gate.

Continue reading

Random Films of the Week: Disk-y Business

Yeah, yeah. I’m still alive. I’ve been in a bit of a personal and creative funk for a few key reasons, some of which are health related with the rest fall squarely into the Nunya Bizness section of the classifieds. In any event, watching the news has been detrimental to my mental, but it’s a case of not knowing what’s going on is far worse than shoving one’s head into the sand. The problem here is the too smart for their own good “political junkies” posing as journalists tend to treat this all as a big, fun horse race crossed with story time and it’s a failure of  insane proportions because no one seems to want to interrupt that yakky daily narrative and let all the shoes that need to drop do so when the appropriate truths are revealed.

In the meantime, I’ve been dipping into my Blu-Ray and DVD backlog when I’m not gaming or too depressed after watching the latest soliloquy from some news show hosts who’d make perfect babysitters because after 20 minutes of them blathering away on some otherwise well-written preamble, I’m ready for a nap. Anyway, enough perambulating around myself – let’s go to the movies!

Ruby 1Ruby – Not to be confused with Abby (which NEEDS a full on restoration one of these days!), this interesting but flawed Piper Laurie vehicle is an odd bird that combines supernatural revenge horror elements. mild gore and a bit of demonic possession lifted from The Exorcist, albeit not all that well. Curtis Harrington’s 1977 flick does have its moments, but you’ll need to tap yourself on the skull with a small hammer when the film starts going off the rails with the plot contrivances.

VCI’s restoration job is decent but not flawless (kind of like the film) and the Blu-Ray/DVD combo means you can keep one disc in that old player you’ve kept around just in case you need it. What, you don’t own a second disc player? Eh, whatever. Just pretend you do for my sake. Or hell, you can give a friend one and keep the other unless you just buy the plain DVD release if you’re that stingy.  Either way, VCI will be happy.

 

Continue reading