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MCN Columnists
Douglas Pratt

Pratt By Douglas PrattPratt@moviecitynews.com

DVD Geek: Jamaica Inn

Alfred Hitchcock himself would often speak disparagingly in interviews about his 1939 adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier novel,Jamaica Inn, complaining about the star, Charles Laughton, and about costume films in general. Critics, taking his lead, also speak dismissively of the film, but it is actually a very enjoyable effort.

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DVD Geek: Batman – The Complete Series

Under the mistaken assumption that it would teach me fiscal prudence, my parents limited my comic book purchases as a child to two magazines a month.  This was a wrenching dictum, because there were four or five that I enjoyed very much, and all of them came out monthly, but while I may have varied…

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DVD Geek: Snowpiercer

So, the science is at best dubious, the drama, while engagingly performed, is hardly profound, and the story, even aside from the fantasy parts, is illogical and is a mad amalgam of genres. Why, then, is Snowpiercer so entertaining? The answer is simple, it’s a train movie.

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DVD Geek: All That Jazz

Not only Bob Fosse but screenwriter Robert Alan Aurthur died too young, doubly reinforcing the vivid spiritual premonition of All That Jazz, Fosse’s transfixing 1979 show business musical that blatantly anticipated his own death (eight years later) and Aurthur’s, who died before the film was finished, with Roy Scheider (who died 31 years later but still much too soon) in the autobiographical role of the stage and film director who smokes too much, ingests too much and works until he drops, creating brilliant art every step of the way.

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DVD Geek: 12 Years a Slave

How can the random displacement of humans being distributed as property sustain a consistent intrigue of character? How can modern actors embody any of the characters, black or white, truthfully, without going insane? McQueen oversees all of these challenges, creating a powerful, beautiful work—no more or less violent than many great films that have addressed violence—that is entertaining and exciting throughout its 134 minutes.

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DVD Geek: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

One of the greatest aspects of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies was the astounding sweep and gripping nature of its action scenes. They were stupendous, as great as anything ever created for the cinema, and nothing in An Unexpected Journey comes close. There are many smaller moments that are joyful, and several scenes that are legitimately thrilling, but the movie is missing the tentpole moments that made the other three films so exceptional.

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DVD Geek: Pacific Rim

The 62 minutes of excellent production featurettes that accompany the film reveal how incredibly thorough del Toro was in overseeing the movie’s creation, which is why, boxoffice shortcomings or not, the film is going to be around for a very long time to come. As he explains, “This movie was made by people who love giant monsters and robots, for people who love giant monsters and robots.”

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DVD Geek: The Killing

More and more, movies seem like short stories and TV shows seem like novels. It took two ‘seasons’ (actually, each is a half-length season) for the murder mystery program, “The Killing,” to reach its highly satisfying conclusion. Set in Washington State, it is stocked with more red herrings than Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market, and there are rumors of fans having to buy new shoes and new televisions each week for having tossed the one into the other at the end of each episode.

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DVD Geek: Cloud Atlas

Directed by the Wachowski siblings Lana and Andy, and by Tom Tykwer, the film, like Intolerance, is broken into different stories set in different eras, with dazzling editing that jumps from story to story like fingers sweeping down the keys of a piano. The prominent cast members have multiple roles, figuring centrally in some stories and peripherally in others. Tom Hanks is top billed, and his performances are no stunt—he’s really, really good in each of his highly varied roles. Running a grand 172 minutes, the film is dazzling and intelligent, and is never tedious or introspective. It will take multiple viewings before people begin to recognize how elaborate its breakdown of religion is—how events that happen hundreds of years earlier change in the telling across the centuries while retaining the essen It is a thrilling movie, and is easily the best theatrical feature to come out of 2012, not only for its unrestrained entertainment, but for the boundaries it breaks as it advances the art of filmmaking.

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DVD Geek: Red Hook Summer

Once Spike Lee made Malcolm X, he seemed to lose all of his relevance as a filmmaker, thus reinforcing the adage about being careful what you wish for. But he really has only himself to blame. His first films were genuinely edgy, exciting, and revelatory. Other than his documentaries, his later films have all been flailing around in the dark, trying to find any kind of edge at all. His 2012 feature, Red Hook Summer, is heartbreakingly bad, because it almost isn’t.

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The DVD Geek: Searching for Sugar Man

Searching for Sugar Man doesn’t just deserve the Oscar nomination, it deserves to win. Running 87 minutes, it lulls you into believing—or perhaps even not believing—the story of a few enthusiastic South African fans that attempt to uncover the biography of an American balladeer from the early Seventies called ‘Rodriguez,’ who had a smooth, articulate voice, reminiscent of Jose Feliciano (with his dark glasses, he also looks a lot like Feliciano), and adept recording engineers that brought a detailed complexity and color to his orchestrations.

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DVD Geek: Lawrence of Arabia

One of the greatest color films ever produced, David Lean’s 1962 Lawrence of Arabia shows the Earth unadorned by its decorative vegetation or man-made blemishes, with landscapes so vast that humans are no more than tiny specks passing across the surface, hardly larger than the grains of sand beneath the feet of their camels. Set during World War I in the Middle East, the film concerns not only battles, but the political maneuvering which would set the stage for power equilibriums in the region that are continuing to this day.

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DVD Geek: This is Cinerama

Cinerama is dead. It died before our grandmothers did. To see the Cinerama format in a movie theater as a child, however, was to associate its startlingly wide image with life’s future, the grand possibilities that are spread out before one. And so to relive that experience now, on Blu-ray, is to grasp, with all the fleeting, orgiastic thrill of grasping a ghost, the hopes and dreams and safety and anticipation of childhood. By the time the helicopter was flying over Niagara, the tears were flowing from our own eyes with a fervor equal to the Falls.

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The DVD Geek: The Strawberry Statement

The further they recede in time, the more fascinating the campus riot movies become. Despite the brief resurgences of similar sentiments in the Occupy Wall Street movement, there is something very alien about the militancy of the youthful rebels. And while violence as a means of suppression by the authorities has continued as a practice, usually of last resort or near last resort, that practice has not been depicted in popular entertainment since the spirit of the Sixties subsided.

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DVD Geek: The Artist

The black-and-white image is crisp and captivating. The quality of the BD presentation enhances, among other things, the film’s fabulous production design, so that the locations—such as the Bradbury Building stairwell, evocative of a Jerry Lewis production design, which shows Dujardin’s character on the way down meeting Bejo’s character on the way up, as extras breeze past them and around them in a mysteriously perfect rhythm—and costumes pelt the viewer continually with refreshing stimulation.

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DVD Geek: The Rape of the Vampire

The greatest bad movie ever is Plan Nine from Outer Space, but coming in a close number two is Jean Rollin’s exquisitely ridiculous The Rape of the Vampire, which has been released on Blu-ray no less, by Kino Lorber Incorporated as a Redemption title. For one thing, it is in that hoity-toity language, French, which connoisseurs of badness embrace as the language of their superiors. For another thing, it has lots of topless women, which in itself is not a bad thing at all—just ask a nursing infant—but is really dopey when there is no particular narrative reason as to why the women should choose not to drape themselves respectably, particularly when there are a bunch of grunting, farmer-looking types, chasing after them with pitchforks.

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DVD Geek: Camelot

One can speak derisively of Blu-rays for their operational legthargy, but there are amazing things that the format can accomplish, and a very good example is that they can turn bad movies into good movies. Musicals have always played by different rules than other movies, and that is what is at work here. Rather than dwelling on the film’s failures, the BD enables one to embrace what does succeed in the film, and allows those glories to reign.

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DVD Geek: The Magnificent Ambersons

Exactly 15 years after DVDs were introduced to the home video market place, Warner Home Video has finally released the last significantly important, classic motion picture in the format, “The Magnificent Ambersons,” and like the opinions of the townspeople on the fates of the characters at the end of the film, no one cares.

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DVD Geek: My Week With Marilyn

First, you have to see “The Prince and the Showgirl.” It is a film that will continually make you smile. Its story is cute and its cast is legendary. Then you watch “My Week with Marilyn” … The 2011 film is not about dishing dirt on the production. It is, rather, and in some ways very much like “The Prince and the Showgirl,” about the ephemeral nature of love.

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DVD Geek: World on a Wire

Way, way before The Matrix, before Blade Runner and before umpteen Japanese anime tales, Fassbinder not only understood the epistemological paradoxes of cyberworlds, he understood how to communicate those paradoxes to viewers in an entertaining and engrossing manner.

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Quote Unquotesee all »

“At one point in the comedy dead zone known as Seth MacFarlane’s Ted 2, the title character—a stuffed toy bear voiced by Mr. MacFarlane—and his dimwitted best friend, John (Mark Wahlberg), visit a comedy club to engage in a favorite pastime: throwing bleak improv ideas at the comics onstage. So, seated in the back of the auditorium while cloaked in darkness, the friends start shouting out suggestions like 9/11, Robin Williams and Charlie Hebdo to the unnerved comics. The topics don’t mean anything to Ted and John, who, like Mr. MacFarlane, take great pleasure in making others squirm. They could have just as easily yelled gang rape, the Holocaust and dead puppies.”
Manohla Dargis on Ted 2

“You never expect a movie to hurt you. Disappoint? Dismay? Depress? Fine. But when a movie has a field day asserting the humanity of a fake toy bear at the expense of your own, it hurts. I was led to believe, in part by the posters, that I was getting a movie about a character who’d be masturbating or urinating with his back to us. They should’ve turned Ted around since the emissions are aimed at the audience… MacFarlane doesn’t appear to believe in anything. He just likes to mess around with things that still have value without seeming to get whether that value is greater than his jokes. It’s as if he doesn’t really know what he’s laughing at or care what race and sexuality and gender are. It’s as if he doesn’t know women or black people — just white comedy writers who love to make fun of them.”
~ Wesley Morris On Ted 2

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