Welcome back to Daily Grindhouse’s weekly list of what’s new and interesting in the world of Blu-Ray and DVD releases. Everything that follows is available to purchase online or in stores as of now. If any of the following titles catches your eye, please click through the Blu-Ray cover icons to buy them through us — it helps keep the lights on here (literally). Also, I hear it’s a great way to get into Heaven!
** PICK OF THE WEEK! **
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1964)
Having come up in the generation of hip-hop, The Beatles have always been to me the music of my parents’ generation. That said, what has always worked still works. I love The Beatles, how could I not? It’s impossible to discount their importance, to avoid their influence, to escape their music, to fail to be amazed by their story. I don’t own a Beatles album because I don’t need to — A HARD DAY’S NIGHT alone features several songs I know by heart: The title track, and “She Loves You,” and “All My Loving,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “And I Love Her”… I can’t remember wedding toasts I’ve given, or the names of several failed first dates, but these songs I know backwards and forwards. And that doesn’t bother me a bit. Note how many of those song titles feature the same word — “Love” — that’s a nice message to spread around the world, isn’t it?
It amazes me that these four musicians all came from one town, it amazes me that they found each other, it amazes me that they could come up with so many indelible songs. It amazes me that they redefined pop music, it amazes me that they put together that many classic albums, it amazes me that they found a formula that worked and then became increasingly experimental when they could have just rode out their own tidal wave. It amazes me that they broke up the band after what was basically only ten years of unprecedented success. It amazes me that they went on to forge four separate solo careers, some of which yielded nearly as many classic tunes as their original partnership did. There is little doubt that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison could have been terrifically successful musical artists on their own — not to slight Ringo Starr — but the specific alchemy of the four of them combined to create a very literal legend.
There is nothing to compare to the Beatles. People love to debate the question “Beatles or Stones?” but the Rolling Stones, as phenomenal a band as they inarguably are, have a sound that owes more to their influences, and the arc of their artistic experimentation is nowhere near as astronomical. The Beatles were a supernova which both heightened and upended the pop vernacular of the day and then voluntarily disbanded mid-flight, whereas the Stones never stopped. The Stones soldier on, which is one of the many things that amaze about the Stones. But putting The Beatles against The Stones is a flawed comparison: It’s like comparing a great white shark to a grizzly bear. You don’t want to mess with either of them, but they ain’t the same species.
Likewise, it’s unfathomable to think of any act with as much initial teeny-bopper appeal as The Beatles did morphing into such an adventurous and sophisticated phenomenon which continues to resonate, more than forty years on. Can you name another boy band who entered a psychedelic phase? Can you name one that birthed as many major solo careers, one with that many musical virtuosos, one with such elementally excellent songwriting? The Beatles wrote pop songs at first that were brilliant but astonishingly simple. Later they added world music influences, orchestrations, literary inspiration, and the weight of life experience to fascinatingly complicate their sound. Today more than ever, there’s just no ready comparison to be made. The best I can come up with is The Beach Boys, but that argument will go too far off-topic.
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT is an integral building block in the legend of The Beatles. Richard Lester, an American director in Britain, got the gig and worked off a soon-to-be-Oscar-nominated script from Alun Owen, with cinematography by Gilbert Taylor, now likely best known as the DP of STAR WARS. A HARD DAY’S NIGHT is a mockumentary which details the supposed life of the Beatles at the height of “Beatlemania,” not two years since they exploded into international fame, dodging fans and getting into comical hijinks. A HARD DAY’S NIGHT has a documentary aesthetic which makes The Beatles engaging and relatable, while simultaneously managing to make them bigger than life, bigger than what’s-his-name.
What A HARD DAY’S NIGHT did so smartly was to cement the personas of the four band members. It turned them into recognizable archetypes, almost cartoon characters; only all of them are the hero. They’re all Bugs Bunny. They’re all equally lovable, a four-man comedy troupe who can totally rock. John was the smart one, Paul was the cute one, George was the quiet one, and Ringo was the funny one. In many ways, those perceptions of the four endure to this day. Paul isn’t as cute as he used to be and Ringo definitely isn’t as funny (“Peace and love!“), and two of them aren’t even alive anymore but we still generally think of them that way. It’s little surprise that Richard Lester went on to direct THREE MUSKETEERS and SUPERMAN movies — he has a smart sense of iconography and in A HARD DAY’S NIGHT he turned a pop phenomenon into icons.
And also, you know, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT has one of the greatest soundtracks ever, obviously.
THE BRIDGE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (TV) (2013)
The Bridge is a television series which feels like a low-fi Mexican feature film, which is meant as a compliment. It’s an American production based on a Danish TV series, with a German lead actress, but still it has a tangible quality, a legitimacy. Plenty of that comes from the incredible Mexican actor Demián Bichir as an honest cop in frequently dishonest surroundings, but Diane Kruger is excellent and touching as a detective with Asperger’s and so is veteran character actor Ted Levine as her sympathetic supervisor. The main plot centers around the Bichir and Kruger characters as they team up to hunt a serial killer who is taking victims on either side of the U.S./Mexico border, but the show is equally concerned with local color, culture schisms, and detailed environments. It’s an intriguing show, well worth a look.
I’ve seen this movie, but under the name ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN. That’s really a better title for it than SCREAMERS. There’s a whole detailed story behind the name change, involving multiple cuts of the film for various markets — basically, a scene was added spotlighting the inside-out fella on the cover art of the Blu-Ray. That’s endemic to the world of lesser-known Italian exploitation films of the 1970s and 1980s. The director was Sergio Martino, who is probably the fourth most notable Italian genre director of the time (after Leone, Corbucci, and Sollima.) Martino made all kinds of genre pictures — “spaghetti” Westerns, poliziotteschi, giallo… His best-loved movie at this point is probably TORSO. That’s arguable, but it’s a safe bet his best-loved movie isn’t ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN, which exists on a highly-specific subgenre continuum starring aquatic fish-monsters who menace human women. CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is the gold standard, while HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP is a fair distance down the scale (no pun intended). I’d put ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN down around there, but of course that’s just one man’s opinion. One man who has seen more movies about aquatic fish-monsters who menace human women than most men. Let’s face it, you already knew whether or not you are willing to watch this movie from the first still frame up there. Hopefully you don’t share my mania. Either way, let’s move on.
ENEMY is a thriller based on a novel by José Saramago, featuring Jake Gyllenhaal in a dual role as a quiet man and his more malevolent double. Somewhere in my 2003-era imagination once lived a Sam Raimi SPIDER-MAN movie where a Jake Gyllenhaal Venom was pitted against the Tobey Maguire Spidey. That was obviously never to be, but here’s a more highbrow version of that notion. Well, I guess BROTHERS was the highbrow version of that notion. This is just a well-reviewed movie which looks to be well worth watching, particularly with Mélanie Laurent, from INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, and Isabella Rossellini, in her wheelhouse, on board.
THE DEPENDABLES (2014)
I know. It made me sad too. What’s even sadder is, this movie was filmed and completed under the more respectable title PRIDE OF LIONS. It’s about the grandparents of active American soldiers bushwhacked and held captive by the Taliban — the grandparents go in after their grandkids in a kind of reverse spin on RED DAWN. It’s sort of a goofy idea but I have to admit I like it. What seems to have happened here is that veteran genre director Sidney J. Furie (THE ENTITY), himself an octogenarian, made a straight-faced and sincere movie with a few deserving veteran actors, and then some marketing asshole went in and scribbked a dick-joke title over it. Seymour Cassel worked with Cassavetes! Louis Gossett Jr. is an Academy Award winner! These gentlemen deserve our respect, not some spoof title referencing incontinence. And Bo Svenson — listen son, Bo Svenson could’ve easily been in THE EXPENDABLES himself. He should’ve been in THE EXPENDABLES. Then it wouldn’t have been so shitty. Bo Svenson could still whup any of those guys, except maybe Dolph, and that’s a movie I’d like to see. Another movie I’d like to see is a behind-the-scenes documentary about what happened when Bo Svenson found out some asshole changed PRIDE OF LIONS into THE DEPENDABLES. Bo Svenson standing atop a mountain of the skulls of lesser men; that’s the image deserving of the man.
300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (2014)
That guy looks like he’s about to perform history’s first self-circumcision.
BLOOD TIES (2013)
Blood Ties : worst Father’s Day gift idea ever.
MASTERS OF SEX: SEASON ONE (TV) (2013)
They should make a crossover special where the MASTERS OF SEX face off against the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, if only to see which side gets Ram-Man.
WOLF CREEK 2 (2013)
At the risk of enraging my fellow horror fans, I’ll admit I’m not the hugest fan of WOLF CREEK. I’ll make it worse by admitting I probably prefer Greg McLean’s follow-up, ROGUE, because it’s about a giant crocodile and because I’m a big weirdo. But here’s a sequel, and I’m a horror fan, which means there’s a good chance I’ll give it a chance. Anyone out there seen this already? Hit us up in the comments.
WINTER’S TALE (2014)
Russell Crowe’s character’s name in WINTER‘S TALE is “Pearly Soames,” which means the only thing stopping me from being a big-time Hollywood screenwriter is me.
ORPHAN BLACK: SEASON TWO (2014)
ORPHAN BLACK: how a dyslexic bigot describes the new ANNIE movie.
THE CHEF, THE ACTOR AND THE SCOUNDREL (2013)
That title sounds like a Carnac routine, but holy crap look at that dude on the right there. What’s his story? And now you have witnessed the thought process by which I select new movies to try out.
ROB THE MOB (2014)
I liked director Raymond De Felitta’s movie CITY ISLAND, and this is his newest. Again Andy Garcia is featured prominently, and several Sopranos alumni are along for the ride. The pull-quote on the cover claims “It’s BONNIE AND CLYDE meets GOODFELLAS!” That’s way unfair. No one movie can clear that bar. And frankly CITY ISLAND was such a low-key, humble, ingratiating movie that I’d be very surprised to see its director make a follow-up as vicious as either BONNIE AND CLYDE or GOODFELLAS. With tempered expectations I will give this movie a look. (In other news, pull-quotes almost always stink.)
Well, Magnet’s releasing this one and that’s one of the few brands I trust. They always put out interesting films. This one is a documentary about the controversial process of fracking (hydraulic fracturing of rock layers in order to obtain natural gas for industry) which counters the more common ecologically-concerned arguments against it. I suppose it’s fair to present both arguments. Personally my bent is conservationist rather than bullishly capitalist — see my take on PROMISED LAND — because conservation efforts tend to favor science over business and I’m a big fan of science. But from what I’ve read so far about FRACKNATION, its position is that only those against fracking have a voice, and the fracking advocates should have their say. As an American I agree with that sentiment, even though it’s wrong. (Have these filmmakers never heard of Fox News?) FRACKNATION is made by the same people who made a documentary countering Al Gore’s AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, so do with that information as you will.
PETER GABRIEL: BACK TO FRONT – LIVE IN LONDON (2013)
Peter Gabriel has been touring over the past two years, playing his classic album So in sequence all over the world. So is the album with “Red Rain,” “Sledgehammer,” “Don’t Give Up,” and “In Your Eyes,” songs you’ve probably heard of before. Peter Gabriel is one of rock’s most fascinating mad tinkerers and So is one of his greatest albums, certainly his most popular and successful. The music on this concert film is guaranteed to be good; it’s fair to expect the visuals will be intriguing also, as is characteristic with this particular musical artist.
THE COED AND THE ZOMBIE STONER (2014)
It’s a fun game. Guess which successful movie The Asylum is getting ideas from — sometimes it’s simple and sometimes it’s a little trickier. I think the words ‘The Walking Dead’ are a decoy: This looks more like a WARM BODIES rip-off to me! If you think I’m being rude, rest assured I will end up seeing this movie. It’s inevitable.
DUCK DYNASTY: SEASON FIVE (TV) (2013)
Just plain fuck this show.
On that note, we’ve reached the end of another week of new releases. Thanks for reading, as always. See you next week!
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