MCN Columnists
Douglas Pratt

The Ultimate DVD Geek By Douglas PrattPratt@moviecitynews.com

DVD Geek: Hail, Caesar!; House Of Cards; It Came From Outer Space; Independence Day: Resurgence

With Hail, Caesar!, Joel and Ethan Coen again prove that the Bros. do not make normal movies.

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DVD Geek: Valley of the Dolls, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, Vamp

There is bad, and then there is really bad. Valley of the Dolls is a bad movie. The histrionics of the characters pass for drama, while simplified progressions of successes and failures, both in careers and in romance, pass for narrative. But the plot is coherent, and the acting, although pushing the edges of sensibility, is valid. Dolls is appealing as high camp, with its most indulgent performances and importune dialog being accepted after the fact as a comical alternative to the real world, especially because of its show business milieu.

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DVD Geek: Medium Cool

In 1968, it was clear that something would happen on the streets of Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. With Medium Cool, Haskell Wexler and his collaborators assembled a viable romantic story, a Cinderella Liberty tale where a news cameraman (Robert Forster), chases after a kid who steals his bag then winds up falling for the kid’s hardworking but struggling mother (Verna Bloom). But, along with sending his character to pre-Convention events, Wexler also got Forster press credentials and into Chicago’s International Amphitheatre as rules votes and other events were unfolding at the Convention. Although it makes me wince, Wexler also put Bloom onto the streets as cops were attacking protesters.

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DVD Geek: Walking Dead Season Six

“The Walking Dead” zombies probably should be identified as “classic Romero zombies.” The drama is compelling because it uses a fantasy horror premise to magnify human conflicts and emotions that otherwise could not be so readily highlighted. And to this invigorating drama, there is the constant suspense of a zombie attack. You never know where or when it is going to happen

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DVD Geek: Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice Ultimate

The theatrical version runs 151 minutes, while the Ultimate Edition runs 183 minutes. The additional footage brings more to the story adding action (and violence—Ultimate Edition was changed from ‘PG-13’ to ‘R’), and creating a better balance for the film’s pace.

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DVD Geek: A Taste of Honey, Miles Ahead, Love & Mercy, The Comeback, Miss Sadie Thompson 3D

Between the appeal of listening to the problems of a troubled friend, and creating a captivating replication of real dialogue and emotions in condensed dramatic form, The Taste Of Honey is consistently engrossing.

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DVD Geek: Only Angels Have Wings

A classic production from the greatest year of movies, 1939, the action scenes are terrific, not only because of realistic special effects, but because the editing is precise in its suspense, and the dramatic sequences are equally dazzling, with Hawks’ legendary overlapping dialog and complex yet organic character blocking.

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DVD Geek: Vacation

Only one test is necessary to judge a comedy—does it make you laugh?—and by the conditions of that test, the Warner Home Video release, Vacation, is a total success.

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DVD Geek: Pan

An ‘origin’ story that does its darnedest to turn Peter Pan into Harry Potter.

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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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The Ultimate DVD Geek

Quote Unquotesee all »

“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas