Tuesday, August 9, 2016
As the summer draws to a close the time to begin thinking about watching movies at home approaches once again. The past few months have been filled with ball games, picnics, reunions and family get togethers that cut into DVD viewing time. You can always opt for whatever is hot at the local Redbox or you could start thinking about that collection you began, wondering just what to add. Let me help with some information about two companies that are specializing in the collector.
The first company is Twilight Time. Twilight Time specializes in forgotten movies that the major studios have ignored. For the majors these are movies that won’t make them a billion dollars in sales but that fans clamor for. Along comes Twilight Time and they offer a quality version of a classic movie on blu-ray that costs much less than those put out by Criterion (a high end company that focuses on extras as well as the film) and still offers the fans of their selections a chance to own a quality version of their favorite movie.
One thing to note is that Twilight Time doesn’t look to make billions off of these releases either. Knowing there is a limited audience they hold releases to 3,000 copies each and once those are gone they’re gone. On the rare occasion you may see one get a re-release but it doesn’t happen often. This past year I’ve only noticed a few treated this way including the original FRIGHT NIGHT, THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT and ROLLERBALL.
An example of the titles Twilight releases include the recent release of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, THE BLACK STALLION RETURNS, CAT BALLOU, JULIA, THE LAST DETAIL with Jack Nicholson, EMPEROR OF THE NORTH, EXODUS and GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER. Younger viewers might not recognize these titles but those of my generation and a tad younger will recall them when they first played in theaters. Twilight Time gives them new life in pristine clarity on blu-ray.
I can tell you that when a box of discs arrives from Twilight Time (and from the next company) in the mail here it is one of those moments of pure joy for me because I know I’ll have a chance to watch and write about a movie that may have been forgotten but that has been given new life. My guess is that the true movie fan will feel the same. While some of their titles are available on amazon.com the best way to order is directly through Screen Archives as http://www4.screenarchives.com/ Just type in Twilight Time in the search bar and you’ll see their newest releases.
The next company that I want to whole heartedly endorse is based out of England but they have been entering the American market with some great packages. The company is Arrow Video and they too specialize in movies that the major studios seem to have forgotten. But unlike Twilight Time, Arrow tends to go more off the beaten path and seeks out films that make you recall something different. If you remember perusing the shelves at the local video store or a night at the drive-in when it was schlock central than Arrow will more than likely have something to offer you. At the same time they also have some truly artistic films, a number of Italian films and a selection of movies made in Japan for the Nikkatsu company.
Not only does Arrow provide you with the chance to own a fan favorite movies on blu-ray, they also tend to fill it out with a number of extras on each one. Once more this is like Criterion without the high end price tag. The thing is that they don’t treat these films as if they were a red headed stepchild (no offense to red headed step children) but they instead embrace them and make them special. Consider a recent release of BLOOD BATH. While more costly than most of their releases there is a reason for this. The set include 4 movies all composed of the same basic material but re-edited to change the stories. Some of you may recall the film under its last guise, TRACK OF THE VAMPIRE.
Arrow has also released full blown versions of several Blaxploitation films like SHEBA BABY and BLACK MAMA WHITE MAMA, both starring Pam Grier. They’ve released several of the Italian giallo films (murder mysteries made popular in the 70s and 80s) including DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT, DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS, BLOOD AND BLACK LACE and THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE. For drive-in fans they’ve had DILLINGER, RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES, THE MUTILATOR and THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS. As I said many of these may not be major box office attractions but they are important to many fans out there who have been disappointed they couldn’t find them. Now they can. Arrow films can be ordered through amazon.com
Recently I was reading a book about fans who built their own private collections of movies on actual film. Most were saddened by the fact that there were so many movies lost to the world because studios felt no need to invest in restoring these films to their original condition nor were they concerned with releasing them on DVD or blu-ray. Both Twilight Time and Arrow Video are filling in that niche of the marketplace that caters to the more discerning movie fan, the ones who will bypass the latest Disney CGI animated film and head straight for a copy of EATEN ALIVE or MYSTERIOUS ISLAND instead. With companies like these around there has never been a better time for true fans of movies to build a collection worth owning.
If you grew up in the seventies then you are well acquainted with the genre known as the disaster film. Oh sure, there were disaster movies made in the past featuring earthquakes and hurricanes. But in the seventies there were movies made that featured that as he main them with stories surrounding the disaster. THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, THE TOWERING INFERNO, ROLLERCOASTER, METEOR, AIRPORT (1-4), THE HINDENBERG and EARTHQUAKE which not only depicted a disaster but featured special speaker systems in theaters to shake the seats due to volume and overuse of bass. It was the heyday of disaster films. When I read that a new disaster film was coming out on DVD I was interested. I’d enjoyed the ones from the past and was anxious to see how this one was. I wasn’t disappointed.
THE WAVE comes to us via Norway. Yes there are films being made outside of the U.S., start looking at them. The movie tells the story of a small village in Norway located in the Geiranger fjord in Norway that was flooded years ago when the side of the mountain slid down and created a tsunami as it crashed into the lake. Since that time seismic monitors have been in place to track the mountainside with an alert system in place to make sure people know if it ever happens again. If the horns sound you have ten minutes to leave before the wave strikes.
Geologist Kristian Eikjord has been a part of that team for years now. He and his family are right in the middle of leaving this town as he takes on a new job elsewhere. The last day he notices something odd but can’t quite put his finger on it. He returns home and begins final preparations for the move as his wife heads to work for her last night at the local hotel.
About this same time the team notices something strange is happening. A camera shows one thing but the instruments show another. Of course it ends up being a faulty system that fails to let them know the mountain has shifted considerably and the end result will be another tsunami in the making. They contact Kristian to see what they can do when their leader is lost and he sets out to move his family and anyone else.
As the sirens go off the townspeople head to the hills, literally, to escape the oncoming wave. Kristian drives there with his daughter but his wife and son are still in the hotel. As he attempts to rescue more people trapped on the hillside in a traffic jam he has no idea if the rest of his family is safe or not. Leaving his daughter with a friend he sets out to rescue them as well.
The movie is perfect for fans of the genre. We have the set-up for the disaster, the payoff with some great looking visual effects and a story that draws you in with a family to root for. Sure you might wonder why they didn’t check the equipment more often knowing the importance it had in the protection of this town but face it, budget cutbacks take place around the world. Instead push those moments of questionable logic aside and enjoy the movie.
The acting is well played by all involved and I’d love to say its standard for each of them but as I said at the start, this movie was made in Norway and honestly I’m not familiar with their actors. Should any of them make the move to Hollywood my guess is they’ll be headed to the top of the list after watching their performances here. And while Norway may not be as big as Hollywood it hasn’t stopped them from creating a movie that draws you in and has you rooting for the people of this village long before the actual wave hits. And no, that isn’t a spoiler. If you didn’t think it would hit after seeing the title of the film you weren’t paying attention.
I’ve said before that more people need to make the effort to watch foreign films to get a glimpse of what the world has to offer. This one makes it easy with an English speaking soundtrack. It lets you know that there is a wide world of film out there and not all of those foreign films are what some fear, the boogie man known as “art” films. So take a chance and watch this one and discover how disaster movies can draw you in, have you sad at various moments, cheering at others and rooting for characters you’ve just met. THE WAVE is a movie that just may make you change your mind about foreign films.Click here to order.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard that this movie was being made. Would it be a parody of the historic meeting between to larger than life personalities? Would it be an insightful look at that meeting? Would it make fun of both of these people and turn it into a comedy? Well having now watched it I can honestly say there are bits of each of these possibilities but on the whole it was a nice examination of that meeting.
While watching the news alone in his den Elvis (Michael Shannon) is disturbed by all that he sees. Political unrest, student protests, the Black Panther Movement, drugs and rock and roll far removed from what he performs. So what does he see as a solution? He contacts his friend Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer) now working in LA and tells him to meet him and help set up this meeting.
Schilling now has a life of his own far removed from the Presley train but gets on board for one final bow before settling down with his girlfriend. He calls into work sick, joins Elvis on a plane flight to Washington, D.C. and gives the letter Elvis has written to Nixon the once over. When they land they check into their hotel and then drive over to deliver the letter in person.
The guards at the gate are impressed with Elvis but following protocol tell him that all they can do is pass it along. Elvis ingratiates himself with the guards and they move it along faster than normal. When it arrives at the desk of Dwight Chapin (Evan Peters) he rushes over to Nixon aid Bud Krogh (Colin Hanks) and the two present the opportunity for the meeting on to Nixon (Kevin Spacey). Unimpressed, Nixon turns it down.
Determined to help his friend Jerry meets with the White House duo and through them gets word to Nixon’s daughter Julie to intercede on their behalf. The pair think this would be a great help to Nixon politically as well as trying to convince Elvis to be a spokesperson on behalf of their anti-drug campaign. What Elvis wants is to be made a special undercover investigator with a badge to work for the White House.
The two finally meet and from there things start to play as much for laughs as for an examination of the meeting they had. But then the situation called for that. There are no recordings of that meeting, surprisingly, but what the writers come up with here seem plausible and probable. These two different men in appearance had more in common and share that during the meeting.
What makes this movie work so well is the performances by both leads as well as the supporting players. Spacey does a great job as Nixon using his skill at impersonation well but never overplaying it. No flopping jowls or victory signs, he plays Nixon as a man comfortable in his position of power who still backs down a bit as he talks with the icon that was Elvis.
But it is Shannon who gives life to the film. His portrayal of Elvis doesn’t rely on a lip curl or a swiveling hip as seen in so many Elvis impersonators that flock to Vegas. Instead he dons the clothes, the sideburns and the shades but only hints at Elvis’ slight southern twang. He plays Elvis as more than an icon, a man who had long ago given up any hope of true friends and knew that he was now treated more for the celebrity he has become than that boy from Memphis. Best of all he does this less with words (though there are indeed some great sequences) but more with how he portrays Elvis.
The photo of the meeting between these two is the most requested picture from the National Archives as is noted at the end of the film. People are still fascinated with the lives of both men. Few would have expected them to have much in common but the movie shows that though they are indeed different their similarities are striking. In focusing on this rather than what could have been a predictable slam of both men you get a more in depth look at both of them. While their quirks are portrayed here they aren’t done so with malicious intent. By not taking that tone the movie comes off as an interesting look at a moment in history that fits in no neat little box making it a movie that keeps your interest from start to finish.
Click here to order.