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 clichés 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. 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Mission Impossible (1996) 25th Anniversary Edition + Retrospective/Blu Ray Review

Mission Impossible (1996) Paramount Pictures 5/18/2021

Directed By: Brian De Palma 

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames 

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. 

     Its hard to believe that this year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Mission Impossible film series. And, its still going strong over-two-decades later.  Based on the cult television series of the same name, the film follows agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) must prove his innocents when his fellow CIA agents are killed on a mission. It's hard to think that the multi-billion dollar film series was kicked off by Brian De Palma. Palma, though no stranger to big budget films, is probably best remembered for this stripped down thrillers like Dressed to Kill (1980) and Carrie (1976). Of course, the movie, which was made on an eighty-million dollar budget grossed close to half-a-billion which doesn't include its home video sales over the decades. I think that Mission Impossible had all the right elements and, was a movie that is so perfectly of its time. The mid-to-late nineties saw an influx of over-the-top action films which carried the mantle from the previous decade. But, it being close to the new millilumen things had a decidedly edgier-cyber spin to it. Thats why I think this kind of movie series, one that relied on tech and gadgets fit so well. 

     It was really fun to go back and re-watch the first film after having poured over the sequels many times over the years. I had forgotten just how interesting and even balls-to-wall the production design and visual style was. DP Stephen H. Burum (who had been working with De Palma on-and-off since 1984's underrated Body Double) gives the movie a off-beat sense of style with strange dramatic camera angles (along with Dutch angles) but, also gives the movie a big bold scope. Indeed, Burum highlights the various shooting locales like the Czech Republic to its upmost effectiveness. Couple this with amazing stunts, breathtaking tension and a iconic score by Danny Elfman (Batman, Beetlejuice) and you have a fun, gripping popcorn movie that has thrilled countless audience members. 

And, the fact that I was eleven when this came out also gives it a nostalgia factor, not to mention the novelty of using the Internet as a major subplot is everything to me. De Palma gives the movie I needed edge and flare over the Bond films and, I think injected some tongue-in-cheek playfulness that would to various degrees carry over into the other entries. 

Mission: Impossible is pure escapism with a mid-nineties camp factor that the filmmakers were mostly certainly aware of. Thrills, action hacking and with the keen of of De Palma this flagship series kicked off with a bang! 

Picture: Mission: Impossible is simply put a stunning HD presentation. Right away you notice an overall sharpness in locales, clothing and sets and the brilliant photography by Stephen H. Burum (The Untouchables). The picture also has a nice warmth to it which retains that mid-late '90s style remastered in a HD format. 

Sound: Like the visuals the sound presentation is also very solid with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. A movie that is as action packed as M:I is going to need to pack a big punch and I think that this 5.1 does the trick. It's not perfect but, in my opinion you get a nice depth in sound, effects and that killer score by Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, Batman). 

Extras: Extras include: Mission: Remarkable: 40 Years of Creating the Impossible, Mission: Explosive Exploits, Mission: Spies Among Us, Mission: Catching the Train, Mission: International Spy Museum, Mission: Agent Dossiers, Mission: Marketing, Excellence in Film: Cruise, Generation: Cruise, Photo Gallery 

Video Attic Exclusive: Interview with Censor Director Prano Bailey-Bond and Niamh Algar

 Video Attic Exclusive Interview with Censor's Director Prano Bailey-Bond

Plot: Film censor Enid takes pride in her meticulous work, guarding unsuspecting audiences from the deleterious effects of watching the gore-filled decapitations and eye-gougings she pores over. Her sense of duty to protect is amplified by guilt over her inability to recall details of the long-ago disappearance of her sister, recently declared dead in absentia. When Enid is assigned to review a disturbing film from the archive that echoes her hazy childhood memories, she begins to unravel how this eerie work might be tied to her past. 

Click HERE for my Spoiler Free Review 

I got to sit down with the director of Censor Prano Bailey-Bond and Niamh Algar who plays Enid. 

VA: My first question if for Niamh Algar. I was curious how the costume of Enid helped inform the character of Enid?

NA: Oh, thats a good question. A lot of it actually. I always felt like Enid almost had this kind of set uniform for work. Myself and Prano would talk about this idea that every night she (Enid) would iron her socks and have everything in place. It would almost be like a school uniform thats ready to go. And, everything has its place and there is this idea of control in her life. But, as the character begins to break down both physically and psychologically, so too does the costumes. You never really see this character unbuttoned and, I there's this moment where she is, even if its a slight bit of nudity, you really for her because she is so uncomfortable in that situation. So, yeah putting on that costume every morning I felt like I was just getting into that character. Even down to the shoes she wears is like a sound to it all, its all very clipped and proper. 

Prano Bailey-Bond, director of Censor.

VA: My next question is for Prano. Now, I read you got the chance to interview some real life censors from this period. How much of this input helped shape or inform the screenplay, if at all?

PB: I think it shaped and informed lots of things, I mean its defiantly a fiction film and there are things we did to really make sure that people were getting pulled into the historical fact and detail. We wanted to create a space where the audience can go with the character on this journey, but then in terms of the conversation with the film censors, there were things that really helpful creatively. For example, I remember speaking with one woman who said the environment she was working in was very pokey, you know, like the offices had no windows and your in the dark all through the day. Your watching what's essentially these soft-core films or really violent movies and she would leave work feeling a little bit seedy and those kind of descriptions were helpful creatively when thinking about space. I wanted the location for the censors office to be this kind of underground rabbit warren where you sort of hear the screams of other movies like coming down the corridor. But, also the fact that there's no windows makes it quite claustrophobic so its this space where Enid is just kind of locked in with these horror films. There's no fresh air basically. So, some of those things were really like backed up by these conversations I was having with film censors. But, also obviously just understanding the job of the film censor. Only a few people have actually done this job, its not like working at a supermarket (laughs) where lots of people have done it. As a filmmaker you want to as much as possible get the aspect right or get into the head of someone who has done that. Those conversations were really helpful in that respect. 

VA: Okay great. Did you get to see any reference photos of these offices?

PB: The censors is a fiction but the equal to that is the BBFC and I went there doing the research period when I was writing the film. It was one of the first places that me and my co-writer visited. We went and chatted with some of the censors who worked there and we also got access to some of the files for the films from this period. We were able to to sit down and read through like the file on The Evil Dead for example, and all the comments from that time, which was incredible. 

VA: Wow. 

PB: Yeah, it was fascinating. And anybody over here (England) can do that by booking in times at the BBFC. So, that was some of the things we did. 

VA: So, Niamh, I heard you had to watch a bunch of video nasties to prep for this. What was that like?

NA: That was really interesting, some of it like Cannibal Holocaust was very disturbing for its use of actual killing of a turtle and that made me quite sick. A lot of them were....not badly done but quite funny. So, for me it was just an introduction and Prano made me a watch-list. Things like, Scare Jessica to Death or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Or she would have me watch something tonally different like The Piano Teacher, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Black Swan was another one. Yeah, the education into the video nasty world was interesting. 

VA: Prano, Censor has such a cool visual style. I was wondering if you intended to contrast the drab colors of the start of the film with the more neon and vivid scheme in the latter part of the film?

PB: Yeah, absolutely. It's funny because I think back to '80s Britain and you know the pictures of life.  And I mean like real life pictures, not this stereotype of big shoulder pads and perms but real life being quite bleak and gray, Thatcher's Britain. Over here you a depression and cuts to funding and stuff like that. And, its so interesting to think about that world juxtaposed to the lurid vibrant wild look of these video nasties. Like, some of the covers for these films are so colorful and like lurid you into them. So, for me it was like how do we get this character from what is kind of a bleak gray world into the kind of vibrant world of these films. The way we worked with color was very, I kind of imagined color being woven into the scenes. So, you have Enid in her censors world and she's dressed in the same colors as the office, its all kind of blue and gray. Then when we go into her dreams we start to introduce purple colors and then we come back to the censors office after dream we start to see pinks and purples in the background. It's all very subtle but its slowly shifting with Enid's psyche as she gets deeper into this video nasty world. Yeah, that was a fun thing to play with and defiantly on purpose. As a filmmaker I get very excited about playing with things like that. 

VA: Prano, how much of the fake film "Don't Go in the Church" was shot and used in the final film?

PB: Actually what you see is all that we shot. Its funny because when me and my editor sat down to cut that we were like, "Oh, man I wish we could have shot the entire thing" (laughs). I would have been really really cool if we had time to have a feature length Fredrick North film. 

VA: I have to wrap soon but I was wondering, and these question is for these or both, do you feel like Enid kind of represents a repressed Britain during this time period? 

PB: That's really interesting. The film is very much about repression and (laughs) the British you known to be essentially closed, arent they? But, I think thats a really really fascinating interpretation which I'm going to think about more later on.   

Censor is currently out in select theaters and VOD starting June 18th 2021

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Why So Serious? Intense faces abound in Batman: The Long Halloween; Four new images released

Intense faces abound in Batman: The Long Halloween; Four new images released

 Only the Joker seems to be smiling throughout the film as intensity runs the gamut of action and emotion in Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One.



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 on June 22, 2021. #BatmanLongHalloween 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Blue Lamp (1950) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

The Blue Lamp (1950) Kino Studio Classics 6/1/2021

Directed By: Basil Dearden  

Starring: Jack Warner, Jimmy Hanley, Dirk Bogarde, Robert Flemyng 

Disclaimer: Kino Classics 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 best way I think to sum up 1950's The Blue Lamp produced by the legendary Ealing Studio and directed by Basil Dearden (someone EVERY film buff should know) is the British equal to The Naked City (1948). The film follows the day in the life of British cops. The daily grind is halted when a cop is gunned down in the streets. The investigation heats soon heats up in this seminal English cop-drama. 

    Its only been semi-recently that I discovered Ealing films, which, primarily are remembered for their comedies like Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) (a personal favorite). Though, they certainly did a lot of stellar dramas like The Blue Lamp. The film which clocks in at a brisk eighty-five minutes does a great job at establishing characters and making the entire thing feel like a real lived in world. The film really benefits greatly from a hearty screenplay by T.E.B Clarke who was nominated for three Oscars in his career, winning one for The Lavender Hill Mob. Clarke sprinkles his trademark dark sense of humor and whip-smart and tight plotting. I also liked that Dearden injects a lot of dark humor and social commentary into the mix. It may be a slower burn as cop-dramas go but I think that once it gets going its a engaging watch. Dearden of course gives the film a polish and focus that keeps all the moving pieces working like clockwork. 

    If I had to complain about anything its that some of the scenes play out a bit too over-the-top for their own good and bucks up against a film that is mostly grounded. Lamp also marks one of four films that Dirk Bogarde and Basil Dearden made together. Bogarde as always does a fantastic job and effortlessly sways from charming to menacing and, damned if you don't like him despite how much of a scum-bag he is. And, of course Jack Warner and Jimmy Hanley also pull off a very solid performance in their respective roles. On a technical level the movie has heaps of atmosphere and DP Gordon Dines using low-key lighting gives the movie a gritty Noir-like feeling which the kind thrives on. Not to mention some really inventive and interesting camera work.

If you never heard of The Blue Lamp and you are a film of film-noir and police-drama's this is certainly one to check out. In my opinion, like a lot of Dearden, this is an overlooked gem and a nice entry point into the legendary output of not only  Ealing Studio but Basil Dearden! 

Picture: The Blue Lamp was restored by StudioCanal and is stellar work! The film has been cleaned up considerable and there really isn't much of any artifacts, scratches etc. Clearly, this movie was well taken care of in terms of original material and the 1080p end result is a nearly pristine looking print. Even grain has been smoothed out and not chunky. 

Sound: The Blue Lamp features a DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue score and sound design comes through nicely and, has an overly robust quality to it. 

Extras: The Blue Lamp has a nice array of features. Included is a commentary by historian, author  and Entertainment journalist Bryan Reeseman. As well as a partial audio commentary by writer Jan Read and Academic Charles Barr. Both commentaries have a wealth of information and, as someone who is trying to explore more British cinema I was really engaged. 

We also get a Locations: Featurette with film historian Richard Dacre (13mins) Dacre not only shows us around but gives some great background information. 

BBC Radio 3 The Essay: British Cinema of the 40s: The Blue Lamp Audio Featurette (14mins) Again we get some fantastic historian context and information which helped me like this movie even more. 

Anything for Jackson (2020) RLJE Blu Ray Review

Anything for Jackson (2020) RLJ Entertainment 6/15/2021

Directed By: Justin G. Dyck 

Starring: Shelia McCarthy, Julian Richings, Konstantina Mantelos, Josh Cruddas 

Disclaimer: RLJ Entertainment 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. 

      Anything for Jackson (2020) is a horror film from last year that seemed to come out of nowhere and created quite the buzz upon its festival run. Probably even more remarkable is that the films writer Keith Cooper and director Justin G. Dyck are most known for rom-coms than horror. You would never be able to tell that with the nightmare fuel that is this movie. A heartbroken elderly couple will do anything to bring back their grandson Jackson, even if that means kidnapping a pregnant woman as part of a satanic ritual.  

    With a glut of 'devil' horror movies I was curious how Justin was going to put a new spin on the horror-subgenre. Using grief as a framework for horror has been used quite effectively with films like The Babadook (2014) and Hereditary (2018) and, Anything for Jackson mines this for all its work. Though it doesn't go into the depth of something like the former mentioned it still takes this as a simple yet deeply effective hook. The movie is fast paced yet also doesn't skimp when it comes to fleshing out characters or building a world that feels believable. While the filmmakers pay lovely homage to past satanic movies it never feels like its trying to copy anyone else. 

      I think what sells this movie is the acting. Shelia McCarthy and Julian Richings are at their wicked best here. They always dangerously skirt the line of ham but never actually cross it. In fact, I think the way that they down play certain moments makes it all the more chilling. Indeed, they have a very matter-of-fact-ness about it that I found unnerving. Josh Cruddas plays the crusty pale-faced devil worshipper Ian and like McCarthy and Richings does a fantastic job in the role. And, those its a far-less showy part Konstantina Mantelos is also great.  

   This movie is visually engrossing as well.  With low lighting and a very muted color palate the movie really crafts a chilling, cold and downbeat vibe that only gets more intense and twisted as the feature goes on. The surreal nightmare imagery almost gives it a J-horror feel only made in Canada. I really have to give the filmmakers props for creating some provocative and scary moments without falling back on clichés. If I had to lobby a minor complaint its that the movie is maybe a little longer than it needed to be. There is, for example a subplot with a detective that goes nowhere. And, while part of me respects the films under-played finale the other part of me was left not very fulfilled. 

Anything for Jackson may have some issues, I still loved how inventive, haunting with top notch performances by its leads. 

Picture: Anything for Jackson, as stated in my review is a very visually interesting film and the 1080p. The movie actually has a grainy film-like quality which I think helps further give this movie a throwback feel. 

Sound: Jackson has a DTS 5.1 track. The music, dialogue and sound design is all fantastic here and the 5.1 track gives it the boost it deserves! Overall nicely done. 

Extras: None 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Marlene Dietrich's The Woman One Longs For (1929) Kino Classics Review

The Woman One Long's For (1929) Kino Classics 6/8/2021

Directed By: Curtis Bernhardt 

Starring: Marlene Dietrich, Fritz Kortner, Uno Henning 

Disclaimer: Kino Classics 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 Woman One Long's For (1929) also known as Three Loves tells the story of a young man that gets tangled up in a dangerous love-triangle involving the beautiful Stascha (Marlene Dietrich). This film comes comes at a period in Marlene's career where she was sought after but wouldn't reach superstardom until 1930's The Blue Angel directed by Josef von Sternberg and released the following year. Almost overnight the actress captured an international audience and it wouldn't be long until Hollywood came knocking. 

    I have come to regard early German films as the best in terms of inventive storytelling. This movie is certainly no exception. With amazing editing with features cross-cutting, graphic matches as well as dissolves and wonderful camera angles/techniques, Woman One Longs For is a marvel on a technical level.  Bernhardt truly pushes the boundaries in filmmaking having come from a country that was always on the cutting edge of the artform. There is a dreamlike quality to some of the sets which put me in mind of the genre work coming out of the German expressionist. For example, the factory headquarters has a strange architecture that is moody and atmospheric.   As for the story, its a very engaging and there is enough going on to keep one interested. Though it has a enough over-the-top melodrama that might make Douglas Sirk blush. 

    Director Curtis Bernhardt is certainly someone who liked to showcase strong women characters. You see this in his later films like A Stolen Life (1946), Possessed (1947) and Miss Sadie Thompson (1935) just to name a few. Here is an early example of that archetype. Rather fitting Curtis introduction of the Dietrich's character in a very dream-like manner, full of mystery and desire. After that you cannot take your eyes off of her. Though Dietrich's acting would mature over time she is still dazzling in the lead role. All of the actors are really good including Frtiz Kortner and Uno Henning. 

    The Woman One Longs For is a incredibly well made film. It is no shocker that Curtis Bernhardt would be among a wave of German directors that fled the rise of Hitler to come to Hollywood. If you want to see an early example of Dietrich and Bernhardt films this is certainly a good one to watch. 

Picture: This may be one of the best looking silent films I've seen. It was restored in 2012 by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung. The Woman One Longs For is nearly one-hundred years old at this point yet is wonderfully clear looking. Sure, you have a few artifacts and snow but this is cleaned up considerably. Not to mention any image flicker is stabilized (a issue with older films esp. silent films) and the black-and-white contrast is handled extremely well.  As I mentioned in my review this is a visually interesting early film and this new-restoration highlights this. A fantastic job. 

Sound: Kino has provided this film with a nice new score by Pascal Schumacher. We get this in a nice 2.0 and 5.1. 

Extras: Includes a wonderfully insightful commentary by author and historian Gaylyn Studlar. Well researched and very worth listening to. 

Batman Baddies Featured in NEW Stills from Batman: The Long Halloween Part One, Warner Bros

 Between Batman’s relentless pursuit of the Holiday Killer, Catwoman’s assistance in his quest, Joker’s determination to remain Public Enemy No. 1, and the rest of the villains on the rise, there’s no lack of action in Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One#BatmanLongHalloween



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 on June 22, 2021. #BatmanLongHalloween


New Film Review: Censor (2021) Magnet Pictures

Censor (2021) Magnet Pictures Theaters/VOD 6/11/2021

Directed By: Prano Bailey-Bond

Starring: Niamh Algar, Michael Smiley, Adrian Schiller, Nicholas Burns 

Disclaimer: Magnet Pictures sent me a free digital screener. The opinions contained within reflects my own honest thoughts on the content. 

      Prano Bailey-Bond's feature film debut Censor (2021) made quite the splash earlier this year at Sundance and I thankfully got to see this a few weeks back. There tends to be a lot of hyperbole in the critics circle but, I am happy to report that, in this case the product lives up the hype. Censor follows the straight-laced Enid (Niamh Algar) who works at the 'moral' cause of censoring videos during the 'video-nasties' era. Though she is calm and mild-mannered Enid is carrying around the pain of her sister mysteriously disappearing. Its during a screening of "Don't Go in the Church" that seems to suggest that the filmmaker Frederick North (Adrian Schiller) may know something about where she is. This leads the young woman down a path of low-def insanity as she gets closer to the truth. 

      Censor feels like it was crafted by a seasoned director with three or more features under their belt. But, as I stated above this is Prano's first feature and, that my friends is damned impressive. What is incredible is the movie is so densely layered in theme and and well thought out details. Production designer Paulina Rzeszowska (Saint Maude) along with art designer Philip A. Brown (How I Live Now) really do create a real lived in world that is drab, cold and oppressive. As the movie goes on Bond and the art crew slowly starts to change up the visual style in something that feels at home in a Bava, Argento or Fulci nightmare.  Indeed, the entire film is a slow burning, engaging mystery yet, I constantly felt unsafe and tense throughout. Prano who has stated she grew up in the 'video nasties' era  presents a very thoughtful and thankfully nuanced approach to the subject matter. For example, a lesser director may have painted the censors as stuffy and unlikable. Yet, in Censor we get to see real people just trying to do what they thought was right (as misguided as it was).  

    Bond also mixes social satire without ever making the piece feel overtly preachy. She also sprinkles in some dark humor and again, finds the sweet spot of just-enough without going over-board. Mix in a wildly inventive score by Emille Levienaise-Farrouch (Rocks) and pin-point photography by Annika Summerson (Mogul Mowgli) and you have a entertaining debut. If I had to maybe lobby a minor complaint its that the movie could have used a tad bit of streamlining. There is a subplot about a killer (who might be copying a video nasty film) that goes nowhere. Again, its not so bad that it de-rails the overall quality. 

Censor is a skin-crawling mood piece that is engaging and one hell of a feature film debut. Not to be missed! 

Look for my Interview with Prano Baily-Bond and Niamh Algar coming later this week. Bookmark for daily updates. 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Video Attic New Film Review- Funhouse (2019) Magnolia Pictures

Funhouse (2019) Magnolia Pictures Theaters/VOD 5/28/2021

Directed By: Jason William Lee

Starring: Valter Skarsgard, Khamisa Wilsher, Gigi Saul Guerrero

Disclaimer: Magnolia Pictures sent me a free digital screener. The opinions contained within reflects my own honest thoughts on the content. 

     A motley crew of washed up, fame seeking people sign up for a reality game-show with a whooping five-million dollar prize. Everyone is promised a 100k payday just for signing up. Funhouse had the making to be a damn good and really interesting film but, sadly is a mixed bag at best. The film starts with a brutal killing all whilst Beethoven plays in the background. This for me set the films tone of slightly-tongue-in-cheek but has lofty ideals that don't quite land. I will say that I am always down for a movie that lampoons Internet and Influencer culture but outside of Cam (2018) all attempts have fallen short. I will say that I give writer director Jason William Lee credit in that he does attempt to take the time to develop characters. He also takes a stab at a thought-provoking bit of satire. This is further highlighted by a YouTube-esque commentator called Pete Sake. It put me in mind of Roger Corman's seminal satire on media over-saturation Death Race 2000 (1975). 

    Here's the thing though: Funhouse aims for lofty ambition but face plants. The biggest thing is the movie struggles to find that sweet spot of serious social commentary and biting satire. It seems to tip more to the side of the earnest and, sadly,  as a result it comes off preachy. The main villainy spouts off eye-rolling anti-social media manifestos every chance he gets which literally just verbalizes the films core theme. This brings me to my second biggest issue, this movie is not in the least bit nuanced or subtle enough to be effective in what its trying to get a crossed. The closet thing we get to any thing like that is how the filmmakers give the characters (for the most part) complexity which suggests that Lee's take on Internet culture is not as black-and-white as it may seem. Sadly, this is never taken far enough to be really effective or interesting. The acting for the most part is solid but some accents are highly questionable. Still, it was fun to see the legendary filmmaker and actor Gigi Saul Guerrero in a role -but again they don't do much with her character which is such a shame. Not to mention I had to groan out loud at some lazy stereotyping that creeps up in this film.

    I will say that even though the movie is not very original and mines a lot of things like Saw (2004) the central premise is engaging enough to make the movie a breezy watch- though it does get a bit repetitive in places. I won't spoil the ending but it literally makes no sense-like a tact on twist that was never hinted or cleverly placed. It felt cheap. This is frustrating because this is yet another case of the pieces of a really stellar movie is here, yet it fails to put it all together in a way that is groundbreaking and engrossing. Funhouse is a wonderland of half-baked ideas and missed opportunities. Its 'fun' and gory enough for a Friday night watch however but its nothing I would run right out and see again. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

The Douglas Sirk Collection: To New Shores, La Habanera (1937) Kino Classics Blu Ray Review

The Douglas Sirk Collection (1937) Kino Classics 5/11/2021 

To New Shores, La Habanera 

Disclaimer: Kino Classics 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. 

To New Shores (1937)

Directed By: Douglas Sirk 

Starring: Zarah Leander, Willy Birgel, Victor Staal

    To New Shores from 1937 marks an early film from Douglas Sirk who was still working in his native country of Germany. Set in 1846 a dancer named Gloria (Zarah Leander) takes the rep for a crime she didn't commit all for her boyfriend Sir Albert Finsbury (Willy Birgel). There is a loop-hole where if prisoners with good behaviors should marry they would be set free. Finsbury learns of this but ends up being pressured not to marry the woman. Instead she marries another man named Henry (Victor Staal) and a tragic love-triangle forms. 

    If you anything about Douglas Sirk, you`ll know that he his brand was over-dramatic at times overwrought films. Its not that the director didn't explore other genres but he was best-remembered for his dramas. Though this is an early Sirk film (under his name Detlef Sierck) it certainly has his trademark style both thematically and style wise. The film, as you might expect is dripping with doomed-romance, enough to make the great Tennessee Williams envious. As for the plot, I think that overall its a very solid script that, while maybe a little over board on the dramatics still offers a compelling enough story.  

     The pacing is also well done and the movie never felt like it relies on padding. The leads are great with Zarah Leander doing a great Garbo whilst also injecting her own talent, beauty and charm. From a technical standpoint the film is wonderfully shot by Franz Weihmayr who gives the movie a grand scope and feel. Not to mention uses some beautiful compositions and moody camera and lighting to really elevate the material further. 

   To New Shores is rough around the edges with aspects of the story that I felt could have used a tighter focus. This is something that I think certainly improved with other later Sirk films, especially his American outings. I actually thought it would have been great if Sirk remade this. Still, I enjoyed this movie and I liked seeing Sirk working in his native country. 

Picture:  To New Shores looks fantastic in 1080p. I could have sworn this was at least a 2k if not 4k scan but I couldn't find anywhere where it says that. Even for a standard scan this movie really has a nice clean look to it. Its not totally artifact free but its very close to it. Grain is smooth and not chunky. Furthermore, the black-and-white has nice depth and contrast. If I had a minor complaint it would be that the image isn't as sharp as it could be. Not enough to be distracting though. Overall, a nice visual presentation.  

Sound: To New Shores features a 2.0 track. The films dialogue comes through nicely and in large there is no unwanted background noise present. A very solid sound presentation overall. 

Extras: To New Shores features a new commentary track by Josh Nelson. Nelson is very well researched and I found the overall track an engaging one. 

La Habanera (1937)

Directed By: Douglas Sirk 

Starring: Zarah Leander, Ferdinand Marian, Karl Martell 

I will warn you upfront: La Habanera contains a bullfight scene which leads to animal cruelty. 

    Released the same year as To New Shores, La Habanera tells the story of a upper-class woman who falls in love with a man during a holiday to Puerto Rico. She leaves her entire life behind despite protest from her Aunt. Ten years later she is unhappy in a controlling relationship. 

    So, I am if anything very honest when I review films. In that spirit I have to say that I found La Habanera to be a challenging watch. The movie is at its best when it focuses on the relationships but, it also has a big sub-plot about a fever going through the village. While yes, this is important to the narrative it felt like this aspect of the film bogs everything down. Not to mention not much happens and I found the characters for the most part unlikable and, therefore hard to connect with them. 

    Worst yet, the film has this really uncomfortable underpinning of Nazi propaganda. Keep in mind this was made at the height of the the Third Reich and they focused a lot of making movies with their stomach turning 'ideals'.  

   Zarah Leander is again doing her Garbo impression but is, as always talented, lovely and gets to show off her skills at singing. Though I must admit it was kind of jarring when this turned into a musical for little bit (at the almost hour mark). Franz Weihmayr once again gives this movie a grander feel with his wonderful, moody  photography. 

By far not top-trier Douglas Sirk and setting aside its agenda, its a slog to get through despite good performances and stunning camera work. 

Picture: Much like To New Shores this doesn't appear to be a 2k or 4k scan through it looks like it in my opinion. The image has a nice clarity to it, especially given its age. Having said that the movie looks a little rougher than Shores in terms of artifacts and some light image flicker. Again, I don't think its bad or even distracting. 


Extras: La Habanera has a commentary by Olaf Moller. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Hunting Ground (1983) Mondo Macabro Blu Ray Review

Hunting Ground (1983) Mondo Macabro 6/8/2021

Directed By: Jorge Grau 

Starring: Assumpta Serna, Victor Valverde, Luis Hostalot 

Disclaimer: Mondo Macabro 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. 

       A lawyer named Adele (Assumpta Serna) spends her career defending criminals. A group of thugs ambush the lawyer, her husband and mother. A struggle ensues and the result is a gun going off killing Adele's husband. This meek lawyer must own take revenge in this Spanish thriller. Probably like most of you I only really know Jorge Grau from Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974). This is why I was pretty excited to see Hunting Ground (1983) also known as Code of Hunting. What this movie does so brilliantly is it sets up a palpable  mood and tone and, Grau is bold enough to not waver from that through its runtime. I also like how the perfectly lays the groundwork in terms of characters that makes the tragedy all the more profound.  Indeed, I the hunting motif whilst probably a little on the nose is, I think pretty clever way to frame the film. 

    While Hunting Ground has a lot of interesting things going for it, it feels a little bit too slow for its own good. As I mentioned above I respect the fact that Grau takes his time in developing characters and setting up its themes. Still, the movie feels bloated with a lot of scenes that only act as filler material. In most cases I would say that this movie just needed a trim but I think that the entire films structure needs an overhaul. For example, in most revenge films you have the inciting incident followed by the victim seeking vengeance. It takes about thirty+ minutes to get to the murder followed by a bunch of filler and then we get to another incident followed by the revenge. It feels like the filmmakers were doing heavy lifting plot wise that wasn't needed and the result is a film that seems needless overwritten. 

For its faults Hunting Ground is a grim, cold and chilling revenge film that is has a finale that sticks with you long after the films over. 

Picture: Mondo has provided fans with a brand-new 4k scan, and, wow, its impressive! Artifacts and scratches have been scrubbed clean and grain is smoothed out nicely. Its rare for older, obscure movies to look this good but clearly this was sourced from a nice print. The film also retains a lot of clarity, especially with darker lit scenes. 

Sound: Hunting Ground includes a  DTS 2.0 English Dubbed version as well as a Spanish 2.0 w/subtitles. Dialogue and music comes through nicely without any audio drop outs or unwanted background noise. 

Extras: Extras include: Interview with director Jordi Grau (50 mins) and trailers. 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

New images reveal noir art direction of Gotham City for "Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One"

 Supervising Producer Butch Lukic gives Gotham City the full noir treatment in Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One as seen in four new images released today by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.


“I wanted to give the film a timeless look, kind of like the book, where you can’t pinpoint the actual time period,” said Lukic, who cited 1940s crime films and The Godfather as further inspiration for the film’s stylish, nuanced art direction. “I really set out to make Gotham City a character onto itself. All the backgrounds were thought out to have a look or feel of classic cinematography. I even shadowed most of the backgrounds myself to get the right style of lighting needed for particular scenes, and to give the film that classic noir look.”

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 on June 22, 2021.