Thursday, June 17, 2021

Video Attic Exclusive: Batman: The Long Halloween Pt 1 Interview with Julie Nathanson Voice of Gilda Dent!

Video Attic Exclusive: Batman: The Long Halloween Pt 1 Interview with Julie Nathanson Voice of Gilda Dent! 

She's lent her voice of Samantha Maxis for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Chocolatte in World of Final Fantasy and, recently Gilda Dent in the long awaited Batman: The Long Halloween Part One. I got to virtually sit down with actor Julie Nathanson to talk about her role in this epic Batman tale. 

VA: Prior to coming onto this project had you read or were a fan of The Long Halloween?

JN: (Laughs) I had heard of it, especially since having spent a little time in the Batman universe. I had heard that The Long Halloween was a well loved story and I not read it. And, usually I'm the kind of person who likes to do all the research I possibly can before beginning a project and tackling a character, especially if there is anything existing beforehand. The script that I was going to be reading was the source material for me with Tim Sheridan having written the script which was adapted from the original. (Laughs) So, I forced myself not to read the graphic novel, I actually own it though (Flips pages) but I wouldn't read it until after we finished principal recording. I really wanted to make sure that Gilda stayed real for me and that her story from the script that was presented to me. I did do a little bit of poking around to see what might be there in the history for Gilda. But, for many of these characters there are a few iterations that it doesn't always seem like their taking the same track as the story that were in so I really just based on performance as Gilda on the script and the film that we were creating. Later on, I did enjoy reading The Long Halloween afterwards  I was just blown away but the love and respect that was paid to the original story. 

VA: That's so interesting. I think Gilda has the strongest emotional core in the film.

JN: Yeah! I wouldn't disagree (laughs). And its a quiet emotional core. That's one of the things that really attracted me to the character, besides the fact that I'm not going to turn down an invitation to the DC Universe party. I love the idea of playing this character whose inner world keeps her in this guarded, sometimes even spacey place as she processes a lot of pain internally. And, she is a really fascinating character portraying her has been a real honor.  

VA: What I love about how you play Gilda is you can feel her pain without screaming it out. 

JN: Yes! Thank you for saying that. That's exactly how I felt and what I wanted my to get a crossed. And, also that was just part-and-parcel to Wes Gleason's direction and decisions and from the team at large. This kind of quiet internal struggle, its not usual for me. I have played a fun variety of characters and she is pretty unique for me. So, to be guided into taking her in this direction where she's just quietly, deeply emotional in so many layers. And, not to, as you said, shout it out, but, do it in such a way as to not be overwhelming or take up too much space. I always liked the idea of...I use this as an example: Who do you want to talk to at a party? Are you interested in the person who comes up to you and is jumping up and down dancing (laughs) and making a big commotion or are you perhaps interested in the person who just sort of quietly noodling on a violin in the corner. I feel like Gilda is the latter, you know. Like,  you see there's something deep and special going on there internally. 

VA: That's such an great way to look at the character. I was curious if you got to record your lines with Josh Duhamel or you separately?

JN: Everything was separate. I'm always amazed by the magic of voice-over and he (Josh) and I have been doing this for quite some time now. I'm continually amazed by how these two characters that have been inhabited by actors that have never been in the same room can have chemistry like that. 

So, no, we were never in the same room together. I love Josh's performance, he's a wonderful scene partner. I think our characters feel very real and natural. It feels very connected but, also disconnected when that's needed as well. One of the things I love about voice-over is how mandatory my imagination is in the process. Like, I have to really imagine how Harvey might sound like. And, my director Wes Gleason would sometimes feed a line to me and, he wasn't trying to act the line at me but I would try to play off of it and try to picture what Harvey would look like at the moment. All of those things come together even though Josh and I were never in the same room. 

VA: Wow, thats interesting. I've always wondered if its common for voice-artists to record by themselves? 

JN: (Laughs) It's really really common. A lot of animated series you'll record separately but some you might have a group together or a few people at once. I've voiced a lot of video games, the anomaly has been  being in the room with another performer for video games. I would say 99% of the time your in the booth alone. For animated features I feel like its mostly been recording alone. It's odd but once you get into the practice of ADR which is when we do another round of recording once the picture has come back. During this process were watching the moving picture itself and perhaps adding efforts that hadn't been there and the animators felt like there would be maybe a punch thrown here for example, or a reaction there, we fill in those blanks. Sometimes it`ll be just a tweak to a line or the performance to support where the animation took the emotion of the character. When that happens you can usually hear each other because the original performance is there. Thats when I got to hear our performance for Long Halloween and got to hear the connection between Harvey and Gilda, Josh and myself and I was really blown away. 

VA: It's a fantastic performance and, its even more impressive that you come off so natural together and you weren't even in the same room. 

JN: Thank you, I really appreciate that more than you know. I just have to again mention our voice director Wes Gleason again because that goes to the voice-director's ability to shape our performances to make them fit together. That's really the artistry of it comes through. 

VA: Indeed, so what can fans of your work expect to see, or rather hear from you in the future?

JN: Well, I'm in the most recent volume Love, Death and Robots and Eden which is an original anime series on Netflix, its a four episode series. I did some work with Neil Patrick Harris on the latter project. I have just voice Samantha Maxis in the Call of Duty franchise. I've been doing her voice for ten years now and its exciting because I've been doing this character as a child and now I get to voice her as an adult. That's been such a great journey.

A Big thank you to Julie Nathanson for taking the time to speak with me. My review for The Long Halloween Pt 1 Coming Soon. 

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, the feature-length animated Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One will be distributed by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital and Blu-ray next Tuesday, June 22, 2021. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Paper Tigers (2020) Well Go USA Blu Ray Review

The Paper Tigers (2020) Well Go USA 6/22/2021

Directed By: Quoc Bao Tran 

Starring: Ron Yuan, Yuji Okumotto, Matthew Page, Alain Uy 

Disclaimer: Well Go USA has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

     The Paper Tigers (2020) is a film that I actually had been quite excited for after seeing the trailer for a previous Well Go release. I had also heard rumblings from other fans that it was a fun outing. And, I am pleased to report that the film's hype is well deserved. The movie tells the story of three-young man that learn kung-fu (though pronounced gung-fu) under a legendary master. We are lead to believe that this grand-master only took three disciples known as the three tigers. Flash-forward the tigers are now middle-aged men but are reunited when the master dies of a supposed 'heart-attack'. And, you can probably guess where this ends up. 

      The Paper Tiger is an interesting subversion of the under-dogs story. Like, the top-students wouldn't be the under-dog in a classic Karate Kid movie. Yet, as the crew disbands they naturally drift away and then life and in some cases kids and bad marriages get in the way. This is where the tigers have to get back to their former glory. Writer/director Quoc Bao Tran does a fine job at world-building that doesn't have to do a lot of heavy-lifting in terms of tons of needless exposition dumps. The film also does a fairly good job at balancing humor with the more serious moments. Overall, the films themes (more about that later) works to drive the narrative forward and are for the most part organically weaved into the story. There are some moments where I thought the comedy fix really well and I think it helped land on a consistent tone. I also have to give a big shout-out to the cast and everyone seems to be on the same page in terms of acting style and chemistry. 

      So, the movie is far from perfect and, my regular readers will know that, even with movies I like I don't get into the hyperbolic world of film-discourse. Remember its OK to point out flaws in films even if they are overall quality outings. As solid as the writing is it felt like certain aspects (that are hard to go into depth without spoiling major plot lines) of the screenplay could have used another treatment. Also, even though the pass is pretty-good I still think that things could have been streamlined better. And, you have standard stuff like plot conveniences and plot holes. Also, the themes tend to sway towards the heavy-handed cliched. Again, that might seem nick-picky, and you honestly cant blame a screenwriter for using short-hand. But, its always nice when someone is clever enough to subvert tropes. Having said that, and again without spoilers-the movie does end with something I didn't expect. 

Your mileage may vary on the above issues. I found enough likeable charm and solid writing to help gloss over some issues both in structure, pacing and narrative. 

The Paper Tigers may stumble in some areas but it manages to dust itself off and come out on top! 

Picture: The Paper Tigers is another in a long line of very nice Well Go transfers. The movie isn't what I would call a visual feast but its a solid looking film especially on what I assume was a tight-budget. The 1080p transfer has a nice clear clean look without any blurring nor does things look flat and lifeless. This even has some grainy-ness that gives it a rich film-like look. 

Sound:  Paper Tigers has a very robust DTS 5.1 track. A movie like this that is more action forward needs a robust track and I think what we get is just that. Very nicely done. 

Extras: Paper Tigers has some nice bonus features including Behind the Scenes, Deleted Scenes, and, my favorite Bloopers. Also includes the original trailer. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Paramount Presents #18 Last Train from Gun Hill (1959) Blu Ray Review

Last Train from Gun Hill (1958) Paramount Pictures 6/15/2021

Directed By: John Sturges 

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Carolyn Jones, Earl Holliman

Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

     Paramount Presents #18 celebrates a classic of the western genre, Last Train from Gun Hill (1959) starring Kirk Douglas who sadly passed away last year at aged one-hundred and three. Truly, we lost a living legend but, of course he lives on in his stellar films. John Sturges was one of those directors that I don't think gets discussed nearly enough. Indeed, even having made some many classics he never even won an Oscar and, was only ever nominated but one time for Bad Day at Black Rock (1956). A Marshall named Matt Morgan (Kirk Douglas) seeks revenge after his wife is sexually assaulted and murdered. The man who did it just happens to be the son of Matt's best friend Craig (Anthony Quinn). Friends turn to foes comes to blows in a epic showdown. 

    Sturges expertly fuses westerns with a revenge thriller narrative that seems like it would feel perfectly at home in a '70s Grindhouse. Yet, he along with Oscar winning screenwriter James Poe (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) pulls all the stops in crafting an epic scaled, deeply human tale that runs a lean-ninety-four minutes. This means the pacing is breathless and every scene is working towards driving the narrative forward. No filler, all killer.  Last Train feels so steeped in classic western iconography yet its frank themes of revenge and brutality give it an edgier feel. The Hays code was sadly still very much in effect (though its powers were weakening) and, thus I think its why the film still feels like its playing it safe in certain aspects. The great DP Charles Lang gives the film a huge scope and as always he comes up with inventive camera work that is expressive and engrossing. With costumes by the great Edith Head and a underrated score by four-time Oscar winning composer Dimitri Tiomkin (High Noon). 

    And, you cannot talk about this movie and not mention Kirk Douglas's performance. I will never understand why Douglas wasn't even nominated for his role as Marshall Matt Morgan. I think its among his finest roles. The actor always knew how to find the nuance and subtext of a character in a way few did. Anthony Quinn also turns in a career high as gruff but surprisingly complex Craig Belden. Quinn's an actor that is fascinating in whatever he's in and here he really gets to showcase his skills. A pre-Addams Family Carolyn Jones is also very good and can hold her own with Douglas and Quinn. You can certainly feel the films legacy on other films. Hell, you have to just look at John Wick (2014) to see the inspirations. 

In my humble opinion, Last Train from Gun Hill is the last truly great American western before the counter-culture '60's would transform the entire film landscape. A-Must Watch! 

Picture: Paramount dazzles with a brand-new 6k transfer from the original Vista-Vision negatives. All I can say is this looks like a UHD release only its 1080p. The level of clarity and balance in color is extremely well done and outdoor scenes especially have a pristine look to it. Details like costumes, clothing textures, locales and sets really pop here. Interior scenes have a surprising warmth to them to them.  Grain is present but incredibly smoothed. Of course artifacts and scratches have been scrubbed clean as well. It's hard to believe this movie looking any better any time soon. Easily makes my shortlist for best restoration for a classic film. 

Sound: Like the visuals, Paramount pulls all the stops out for the sound with a Dolby Audio TrueHD. Sound design, score and dialogue comes through with a lot of power. I was impressed by the complex 3D presentation with a nice balance between speakers. 

Extras: New Filmmakers Focus with Leonard Maltin (7min). Maltin as always does a great job at unpacking the film, the making of and its legacy with movie goers. 

Also includes a trailer. 

A Ghost Waits (2020) Arrow Video Blu Ray Review

A Ghost Waits (2020) Arrow Video 5/4/2021

Directed By: Adam Stovall

Starring: MacLeod Andrews, Natalie Walker, Adam Stovall 

Disclaimer: Arrow Video has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

     I love how in recent years filmmakers have tried to re-invent the haunted house story, a genre that, has been done to death. In the tradition of A Ghost Story (2017)  A Ghost Waits (2020) puts a somber twist on the typical 'bump-in-the-night offering. A avenge joe named Jack (Macleod Andrews) who works at a cleaning company gets a job at an infamous house that tenants tend to not stay very long. Durning his work he is visited by a spirit. But, instead of becoming scared and running off he strikes up an unlikely friendship. 

    A Ghost Waits feels like if Kevin Smith's quirky-DIY-black-and-white Clerks (1994) met Beetlejuice (1988) and grew up to be a emo-romantic. I will say that this movie is...interesting, its not exactly the un-sung masterpiece that the hyperbolic crowd are proclaiming it to be, in my opinion, but I do see the value in it. As a charming, heartbreaking and thought-provoking film I think it works well. The story is painfully relatable and, is brought to life by MacLeod Andrews. Wisely, director Adam Stovall gives Jack some fun, small personal moments before anything really weird happens. This I think goes a long way in making us feel engaged with his character and, thus we are fully on his side. For example, to assume himself while cleaning a toilet he moves the lids and makes a voice, making it a character. 
It sounds strange but its quite endearing. And, then you have Muriel played to perfection by Natalie Walker. Walker, like Andrews is the key to this emotional and humorous film and is subtle and spellbinding. Moreover, the pair work really well together and have a chemistry that is the glue to this piece. 

   I also loved the filmmakers dry, sardonic humor which is maybe my favorite form of comedy. And, this movie is a romance, but in a bleak, Goth-kid kind of way. Its sincerely written and thankfully the screenwriters (Adam Stovall and lead MacLeod Andrews) take this concept and completely run with it without ever feeling like they are ashamed of its novelty or worldbuilding. A lesser director might not have had the confidence to see this through to the end. It wears its bloody-spectral heart on it's sleeve and I adore it for that. 

    I think the world-building for a film like this is so important and, I don't think it quite sticks the landing. Stovall does a novel job at setting up a world that certainly feels inspired by the humorous bureaucratic world of the after-life of Beetlejuice.  Aside from this being slightly divertive (which I can let slide) I still think that more sly humor could have been mined from exploring this world a bit more. And, you might say that the love story is what matters (and yes, that's correct), I still think if you present a world you should  flesh it out more. I also have mixed feelings about the finale, which, obviously I cannot discuss and remain spoiler free. And, whilst I overall enjoyed the writing there are some shaggy narrative and dialogue. 

     A Ghost Waits is a film that is deep, interesting and held together by its two-leads. Its a film that fuses romance, horror, and dry comedy. It's a tricky balance and whilst I think its far from a perfect film it was one that made me feel, think and engaged me in a profound way. It's not perfect but it is worth a watch. 

Picture: A Ghost Waits looks great on 1080p. The low-fi charms translates well on HD and the picture retains a lot of clarity in locales, costumes and sets. The black-and-white tones are well managed and offers a nice contrast that is pleasing to the eyes. 

Sound: Ghost Waits has a DTS 2.0 track. Score, music and sound design as well as dialogue all comes out clear without any issues like drop out. 

Extras: Arrow always does a fantastic job with showcasing an array of extras. This is especially nice for smaller films like Ghost Waits to get an A-plus treatment. Included is: A commentary by director Adam Stovall, a commentary with Stovall and MacLeod Andrews (star and co-writer), commentary by cast and crew. A video essay entitled Humanity and the Afterlife by Isabel Custodio, Eight interviews with cast and crew moderated by tt stern-enzi, Interview and post- film Q&A with Adam Stovall moderated by Alan Jones at Frightfest at Glasgow 2020, Outtakes, Theatrical Trailer, image gallery and Easter eggs. First press includes a booklet with an essay entitled Worked to Death (and Beyond): A Ghost Waits in a Capitalist World. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

Scare Us (2021) Horror Anthology Virgil/Kino Lorber DVD Review

Scare Us (2021) Virgil Films/Kino Lorber  6/29/2021

Directed By: Carl Jensen IV, Ryan Henry Johnston, Charlotte Lilt, Ryan Kjolberg, Tom J. McCoy, Jordan Pillar 

Starring: Tom Sandoval, Charlotte Lilt, Ethan Drew, Jason Weichert 

Disclaimer: Kino Lorber has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

There has been a lot of truly great horror anthologies with Josh Ruben's excellent Scare Me (2020) and Ryan Spindell's The Mortuary Collection (2020) being some prime recent examples. 2021's Scare Us is a recent release that looked promising but does it really terrify? 

          The first segment is Night Haul. The story is really simple, (a recurring theme) a woman is at a storage locker just before it closes. She encounters a bloody priest and, as you can expect things goes to hell after that. I have to say that the opening segment didn't inspire much hope in me. The story is underwhelming and it felt like the narrative was built around the inexpensive nature of the locale rather than the other way around. Its pretty forgettable as Charlotte Lilt and Ryan Henry Johnston give us some interesting visuals but lacked any scares or more to the point, imagination.  I will give the filmmakers credit for making good use of the claustrophobic space. Overall, a pretty forgettable entry. 

    After that is Untethered. A police officer's family is seemingly infested by an unknown evil force. Untethered feels like it so badly wants to be an Ari Aster movie. Yet, it lacks the depth and nuance to achieve that.  Dead Ringer is next. One night a man encounters a broken down empty car and gets more than he bargains for when he investigates.  Again, the short feels like it has some lofty ideas but not the budget not writing skills to back it up. They attempt a creature but only show it from the back. The final segment is The Resting. In the wake of her mothers passing a woman learns the awful truth about her family. If Resting sounds familiar its because it takes a lot story and visually from Ari Asters Hereditary.  Its so divertive its embarrassing.  

     There is one 'bonus' story that weaves the wrap around segment together. I won't spoil it, just to say that its rather predictable. Maybe worst yet it "borrows" from AHS. The biggest issues with this is it doesn't have the time or budget and, yes, talent to pull off the lofty ideas the film is trying to pull off. It also really doesn't help that it feels like they are cribbing other styles and story beats from better films and filmmakers like American Horror Story: Asylum's, the works of Ari Aster etc. I always try to say something nice and, I will give the filmmakers credit for producing some nice images and the camera work and production design are actually really nicely done. 

      Ultimately, bad writing not budget sinks this film and, I think it has a pretentiousness that takes away some of the fun this could have had. It wades through a sea of horror clich├ęs and maybe worse of all very similar plots to other better works. It's by far not the worst film of its ilk I've seen and, I can tell that some thought and skill went into this. However, it just does not compare to some of the amazing anthologies that has been coming out in recent years. 

Picture: Typically I try to only review HD/UHD stuff but I don't look up my noise to DVD. Especially when most newer cameras mean that even in low-def things look pretty good upconverted. Sadly though, I could notice a overall lack of clarity watching this on a 4k TV. Things far away lack any definition and, its a shame because when this movie lacks in story it makes up for by being well shot (for the most part). It also weirdly is grain heavy which you typically only get with older films being re-mastered. I chock this up to the cameras and the conversion to DVD.   

Sound: Scare Us has a pretty decent DTS 5.1. This movie doesn't exactly have a great sound design but having said that the 5.1 does offer a nice robust sound. Dialogue such as it is and score, sound design comes through nicely. 

Extras: None 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Video Attic Roundup: What''s New in Home Video & Theatrical Releases

 The Video Attic Roundup: What's New in Home Video and Theatrical Releases. 

Home Video

Paramount: Indiana Jones 4 Film Collection UHD

Warner Archive: There Was a Crooked Man (1970) Review HERE 

Paramount: The John Hughes Steelbook: Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Some Kind of Wonderful (Induvial Releases)

Criterion: The Human Condition (1959-61) 3 Films. 

Mondo Macabro: The Howl of the Devil (1988) Review HERE 

Mondo Macabro: Hunting Ground Review HERE

New in Theaters

Magnet Releasing: Censor Review HERE- Interview with Director/Lead actor HERE 

There Was a Crooked Man... (1970) Warner Archive Blu Ray Review

There Was a Crooked Man... (1970) Warner Archive 6/8/2021

Directed By: Joseph L. Mankiewicz  

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Hume Cronyn, Warren Oats 

Disclaimer: Warner Archive has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    I have to say that There Was a Crooked Man...(1970) is the victim of poor marketing as it has a not very flattering cover art. In fact, if it had not been for Trailers from Hell featuring it I may not have given this movie a second glance. Though, I am (mostly) glad I did. The film set in the 1800's sees a charming robber named Paris Pitman (Kirk Douglas) who hid half-a-million dollars before being arrested. Him, along with a motley crew of crooks must dig up the loot and escape in this nutty comedy. 

    So....I have a lot of mixed feelings on Crooked Man a late entry for the legendary four-time Oscar winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz. I'm also really fascinated by these big budget ensemble casted films. especially ones that were made in post-counter-culture Hollywood. In a way Crooked Man feels both dated and progressive (for the time). Its Golden Age cast harkens back to the films of the '30s and '40s and the premise for the most part feels like it could have thrived in a earlier outing. However, it does feature a wonderful gay couple (Queer coded but overt) who for the most part (back to that later) are not the butt of the joke. In fact, they not only are not over-the-top stereotypes but, in my opinion the only truly noble and likable character outside of Fonda's character. In fact, it feels like they have the seemingly happiest outcome of everyone. 

      What can I say? This cast is pretty amazing. Kirk Douglas as always slips into the role of roguish charmer with incredible ease. The veteran actor was and should be remembered as one of the greatest actors of his generation. In a great piece of casting they got Henry Fonda, who was not only at the same level of Douglas but was quite at home in the western genre. Like Douglas, Fonda oozes charm and seeing the pair play off each other is really a treat. And, of course you have an amazing supporting cast including Warren Oats, Hume Cronyn, Burgess Meredith, Lee Grant Alan Hale Jr and John Randolph just to name a few. 

       Still the movie has some dated elements such has racial slurs (that didn't really need to be there) and though the gay couple are treated with respect, Douglas's character refers to them as 'daisy's' towards the latter part of the film. I could probably over look these elements but the movie has issues in terms of structure and poor pacing. Indeed, I think the biggest complaint from critics both at the time of its release and modern critics is that the overall pacing of the film is sluggish and, there are scenes that are fun to watch, they simply don't add to the story nor does it drive the narrative forward. This is frustrating because whatever fun the movie injects is ruined by scenes that just bog things down. Also, the things starts out fairly light hearted yet tonally shifts into a bleak Peckinpah film towards the end. Its a pretty jarring transition and, again feels sloppy. 

There Was a Crooked Man is charming and, though it has its share of issues I was dazzled by the great cast. Though, I will be honest and say the bloated runtime almost makes it a chore at times. 

Picture: Crooked Man looks great on 1080p. Once again Warner Archive provides a nice clean looking visual presentation. Outdoor scene especially have a nice pristine sheen to it. As always with WA releases scratches and artifacts have been removed leaving a crisp clean looking picture. 

Sound: Crooked Man has a DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue, score and effects come through clearly. No audio drop out or unwanted background noise to report. 

Extras: Featurette; On Location of "There Was a Crooked Man" (10min) a fun vintage featurette on the locales of the film. Also features some interviews and behind the scenes shots.