Blu-Ray Review: Don’t Torture A Duckling

DTAD_AV099Toss the name Lucio Fulci into a decent horror film conversation and it’s quite possible it may turn into some sort of cranky debate about a few of his more outrageous films that feature copious amounts of gore and violence (often against female characters). There’s an excellent video essay by Kat Ellinger called Hell Is Already In Us included on the fantastic Arrow Video restoration of Fulci’s Don’t Torture A Duckling that drives home the point that the director was merely holding up a mirror to some of society’s madness and letting his camera do the dirty work. While not as relentless as his later work, what’s here is a pretty effective blend of thriller and pointed social commentary that’s still got a mean bite all these years later.

Considered by the director to be one of his personal favorites, Duckling’s blend of Italian countryside setting, shocking (off-screen) child murders and handful of suspects where everyone has either a direct motive or abnormal/amoral proclivities that can be seen as motives makes for a pretty unsettling experience. Adding to the film’s grim tone, Fulci also skewers his faith but good here with some knife-twisting fierceness and a killer finale that’s either going to make you cringe or crack up laughing (or preferably, both). This is a film that’s tough to watch, but extremely well made and even thought provoking in its own manner.

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Blu-Ray Review: Erik The Conqueror

Erik_AV102Mario Bava, again. Watching his films or more precisely, rediscovering them after a few decades is turning into a revelation on how insanely creative he was as an all-round filmmaker. Writing/co-writing, directing, designing and a special effects whiz working on limited funds and more. While not all of his work is great, there’s a lot of greatness to see in how well a lot of it came together.

1961’s Erik The Conqueror might in spots be a too-close for its own good reworking of Richard Fleischer’s 1958 hit The Vikings. But Bava makes it well worth watching thanks to great use of color, a more fantastical tone and yep, that Bava touch that gets one smiling because the illusions created onscreen do a fantastic job in transporting one into the past (albeit a past that never took place as shown here). Arrow Video’s recently released 2K remastered Blu-Ray/DVD combo is a great way to check out this colorful near-epic, although it’s light on special features.

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Blu-Ray Review: Alien Covenant

“There’s so much here that doesn’t make sense…”
– Katherine Waterston as Janet “Danny” Daniels, Alien Covenant

AC_BR.PNGIs the Weyland-Yutani Corporation made up of really stupid and incredibly single-minded people hell-bent on burning through piles of money and human bodies every chance they get or am I missing something here? Every time they try to get an certain cranky, homicidal alien life form for their research or whatever other purposes, bad things happen and just get worse. I could just blame the robots, but it hasn’t *always* been their fault.

The humans on the other hand? Ay-yi-yi, we’re talking idiotic in increasing percentages in what, over a century of trying to bag that xenomorph and its assorted relatives? That’s a pretty lousy batting average. folks. That said, the original Alien gets a big fat weekend pass for its crew’s carelessness because you got your average space truckers griping about low wages and such who had no idea about what was coming thrown into a situation they had no control of .  Although, what the hell was Ash’s plan had the Nostromo crew somehow killed off their unwanted passenger first?

alien_covenant_ver4_xlg

Granted, the current chronology of the Alien franchise means the events in Prometheus came first and brought us the unbalanced synthetic David (Michael Fassbender) who ends up even nuttier in Alien Covenant (more on that below). Then we get Ian Holm’s creepy, frustrated and malfunctioning Ash in 1979’s Alien followed by the Lance Henriksen’s helpful Bishop in Aliens and Alien 3, followed by Winona Ryder’s “Hey, huh? I’m an android?” part in Alien Resurrection. While Ridley Scott seems hell bent on making a few more Alien films that take place before the original, Alien Covenant manages to (wisely) swipe enough from the above films not shot by Scott to somewhat good effect.  Still, I’m somehow left  with more bad questions than good answers about a ton of important stuff.

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Blu-Ray Review: Slugs

SlugsAV066Speaking of stuff that creeps around gardens you can accidentally squash, let’s talk about Slugs for a spell, shall we? The late Juan Piquer Simón’s hilariously awful, intensely gory horror flick is one you’ll love or hate intensely in part thanks to some pretty wretched acting that actually clashes with the rather awesome icky practical effects work by Carlo De Marchis.

Just like the director’s notoriously nasty Pieces, you’re getting a film that’s not going to let you out of its grip even though the absurdities pile up to the point where your brain starts spinning inside your skull. Then again, Pieces was (and is) totally nuts for a few more reasons I’ll leave the braver of you out there to discover at your leisure. But yes, let’s talk about Slugs for a spell, shall we?

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The Old Song And Dance, Medical Division

(thanks, TomPettyVEVO!)  

Ugh. I have two more medical appointments this week to go with yesterday’s eye appointment, so I’m pretty much doctored out for the time being. It’s not the appointments themselves as they’re kind of needed to see how my assorted parts are holding up after all that stuff happening back in May. The annoying part is all the waiting. Personally, I prefer to arrive early (up to an hour ahead) just in case someone doesn’t show and I get bumped up on the list (hasn’t happened yet, though).

While I don’t mind the wait time much (I’ve never had an appointment start anywhere close to the time chosen), I do mind some of the people waiting constantly complaining about having to wait every single time. Welcome to this insane, imperfect health care system where insurance is more a middleman pick-pocketing you with a smile more than an actual helping hand.

Eh, let them whine away – I’ll just break into an old song and dance number to throw them for a loop. Let’s see now… this should do:

(thanks, GoodOldDaysReturns!) 

Of course, it’s hard to dance once your eyes are dilated and singing isn’t easy when you throw your back out when trying to dance in a crowded waiting room.

-GW

Loving The Alien: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

 

The best film directors are master manipulators who can magically transform an entire theater audience into a group of happy to sappy sapient lemmings or wide-eyed marionettes easily controlled from start to end credits. Their best films have the masses cheering the heroes, hissing at the bad ones, empathizing with the downtrodden and generally feeling whatever emotion a scene calls for. Yes, there are exceptions to this non-rule (too-likeable villains, swapping out all attempts at sympathy for more explosions and eyeball rolling plot twists you can see coming 20 minutes before they occur). But when you get right down to it, you know your cinematic needs are being taken care of when certain directors are at the helm.

Or, as an old friend once said:

(thanks, svofski!) 

In other words, this is a Spielberg film, folks.
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The ‘Invisible Director’: Jonathan Demme

(Thanks, IIIkidAIII!)
 

Many will mention the frightening, eternally brilliant The Silence of the Lambs today as the late Jonathan Demme‘s best film and yes, you’ll hear about Melvin and Howard, Something Wild, Married to the Mob, Philadelphia, or even Rachael Got Married as other strong entries in his career. While I love all of these dearly, 1984’s Stop Making Sense is probably going to be my go-to Demme flick when I need a fix. Go track down a copy even if you’re not a Talking Heads fan because it may make you one. I saw this probably a dozen times upon its initial release and can still recall packed screenings where the energy in the theater was so powerful, some people got up and danced during a few of the songs.

(Thanks, droehntanne!)
 

In thinking about his body of work, I’ve probably always seen Demme as an ‘invisible’ director because his best stuff looked almost effortless in that way the camera caught perfect, natural or unnatural moments where everything was where it needed to be. Re-watching all the Hannibal Lecter-related films a little while ago showed me that of all the directors who’d made films with the character, it was in Demme’s where he (as well as the other characters) seemed the most human (especially Hannibal… in the most twisted manner, of course). Naturally, that’s also a result of great actors doing their thing. But you can watch much of Demme’s work and see moments where you’re being addressed by a character as if you’re in the same space they inhabit. In addition to movies and TV work, Demme also directed a number of music documentaries about Neil Young that are worth tracking down. In terms of his other music video work, this New Order classic still gives me a charge after all these years, so I’m sharing it for those that may have never seen it:

(Thanks, Rhino!)
 

Back in a bit – this sort of post is a bit draining to write, but it seems it’s going to be a thing as time passes.

-GW

Tiny Bubbles: On Computers, Trailers, Cabbages, and Kings (Or Something Like That)

(Thanks, joanbeque!)

TRUTH. If you click off your computing device for long enough to get outside the bubble you’ve put yourselves in, de-stress for a spell AND stay away from your phone other than anything other than it’s initially Alexander Graham Bell’d purpose (just phone calls, folks!), you’ll probably become happier. At least temporarily. Granted, many people you don’t really know in real life but are your “online friends” will think you’ve died or have had an accident… but won’t check up on you because they’re busy with other stuff like catching up on their favorite reality shows and other important things.

Now, I’ve actually been in the midst of a few too many projects, had an eye allergy bug me for a bit and as of this writing have like 49 movies to catch up on (my movie watching partner tapped out thanks to personal issues I won’t discuss here because they’re Nunya Bizness… or mine, for that matter) and a bunch of half-scribed reviews and such piling up. Those will get done, latest Windows updates aside.

That particular nightmare first and foremost – Windows 10 is making me (and probably you) nuts.
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Justice League Trailer: See? Gee! Aye.


 


 

Hmmm. On one hand, the Justice League trailer does what it needs to do and does it well enough that DC fans will appreciate everything it has to offer, so that’s good. On the other hand, the CG-packed visuals (is there a single shot that’s not enhanced in some way?) complete with Zack Snyder’s trademark dark, gritty visuals make it look like another loud post-summer blockbuster non-fans might want to avoid in favor of some quiet time with a good book. As usual, I’m ambivalent here. I’ll see this when I have the time as I’m not so wholly invested in these soopa-hee-ro flicks to trample over some old ladies on the way to the nearest megaplex. Unless, of course I get an invite to some big deal star-studded premiere here in NYC, whereupon I’ll turn into Richard Widmark as Tommy Udo from Kiss of Death (sorry in advance, old ladies! But, bonus points if you have a few baskets of puppies and freshly baked cookies in your laps):

(Thanks, Doug Jay!)
 

Or perhaps not. Hey, that Widmark sure would have made a fantastic Joker had anyone back then wanted to make a real Batman film and not some budget-minded serial, huh? Amirite? Anyway, an invite to a screening isn’t a mandate and I don’t feel like buying or renting a tuxedo penguin outfit for the occasion. I do have a suit here, but it’s probably not going to fit my winter fat self even a few months down the road as the film opens November 17 and I’ll be back to stuffing myself silly again. Eh, whatever. Suicide Squad won a friggin’ Oscar, so who knows what will happen with this film.

-GW

(NOTE: no old ladies were harmed in the making of this post, the baskets of puppies were all adopted to good homes and yes, I’m eating the freshly-baked cookies as I type this, yum!)

An Update In A Few Languages

(Thanks, David S.!)

Current mood: See above. Too much annoying real world stuff going on to focus on the good things happening, but more incomplete posts than you can shake a stick at are coming. I did something fun for a short spell yesterday afternoon – an unfinished bit of art that helped clear some brain space and shake a mojo berry loose (the tree is baring less fruit these days… must be microwave damage or something). Take a look:

Today, it’s snowed in mode (whee, blizzard!), but no stress on that front. I’ve a stack of movies to get to, plenty of food and nothing but time. Although, I’m hoping this storm passes fast and the streets are clear enough by Thursday, as I’ve got a game trade to finalize that’s already taken too long to complete. Ah well… we shall see what’s what. Oh, and Daylight Savings Time is crappy – we need to dump it here in the U.S. of A.
-GW

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