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HOME VIDEO HERALD: TONIGHT YOU'RE MINE (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 29, 2012 (San Diego) – The first half of 2012 saw the release of not one but two films by British director David Mackenzie, although the second one never played in San Diego. The first was Perfect Sense, released in February. Although small in scope, it was quite a cinematic trip, a melancholia-saturated tale of two people who fall in love, a love tested when the whole world loses their five senses one by one. Perfect Sense was in some ways pretentious, it was heavily restrained in every respect (mood, acting, writing, etc.), and it was dead serious in tone. It's the type of movie that you either mock or you buy into and relish; I did the latter.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: IN DARKNESS (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 29, 2012 (San Diego) – A harrowing sequence of events transpire during the first thirty minutes of In Darkness, atrocities that I could describe but I won’t. That’s because as shocking as they are, there is only one shot, seen later, that remains entrenched in my mind.

HOME VIDEO HERALD: THE RAID: REDEMPTION (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 29, 2012 (San Diego) -- Watching The Raid: Redemption is like watching someone assemble a house of cards: one mishap and the structure crumbles. I'll start with the tone, a major balancing act for first-time director Gareth Evans. He militantly adheres to a serious tone. A few times the film comes dangerously close to slipping into the Realm of the Not So Serious, but through sheer will, Evans maintains the desired disposition. The same extends to the action scenes, the backbone of The Raid, and among the best executed I've seen since I became a film critic: not a single shred, inch, or drop of laziness. Otherwise, it would be close to worthless, no better than the offensively manufactured video game drivel that Hollywood is so content to pump out to American audiences.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: THE BLACKBIRD (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

August 16, 2012 (San Diego) – Tod Browning is a director whose career I lament as much as I admire. He began as a comedic actor who appeared in dozens of shorts (almost all of them directed by Edward Dillon) for Mutual Film Company. Then he turned his eye to directing, where he slowly established himself as a reliable helmsman of mostly crime and mystery films. He’s best known, however, for his work in the horror genre. In 1931 he directed the now-immortalized Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. After many years pounding the pavement, he seemed destined for even more greatness.

 

Then he directed Freaks.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

June 5, 2012 (San Diego) – The Adventures of Tintin is Steven Spielberg at his purest…and fluffiest. It’s a throwback to the early half of his career, when his forte was adventure tales filmed with the verve of a young boy with quite an imagination, particularly the first three Indiana Jones films. This also extends to films like The Goonies that Spielberg didn’t direct, but his involvement was so pronounced they might has well have.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: RAGE IN HEAVEN (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

June 5, 2012 (San Diego) – There is a scene in Rage in Heaven in which Philip (Robert Montgomery) lures Ward (George Sanders) up to a scaffold at a steel mill where a worker fell and instantly perished in a pile of molten steel. According to the workers, the scaffold’s oblique positioning is such that it’s impossible for anyone to see anything. As Philip convinces Ward to lean over and look down, he’s ready to push the man to his death.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: ...TICK...TICK...TICK... (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

April 24, 2012 (San Diego) – Alfred Hitchcock once opined that a great film requires three things: the script, the script and the script. I would also add a fourth element, the title. A movie’s title need not be catchy, but it must hook the potential moviegoer while describing what it’s about. It could be as simple as Titanic or it could be as long as The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: MONEYBALL (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

April 24, 2012 (San Diego) – As a die-hard San Diego Padres fan, I sympathize with Billy Beane, the subject of Moneyball. I can understand the frustration with the financial constraints that can befall a small-market team like the Oakland As. It’s unfair that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox happen to be situated among the nation’s top media markets and can afford to spend ample amounts of dollars to lure in free agents.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

March 6, 2012 (San Diego) – Anthology films are like short story collections and concept albums. Like the former, they offer an eclectic selection of stories. Like a concept album, an anthology film’s stories can sometimes be connected to a certain theme or share similar qualities.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 23, 2012 (San Diego) – The last few years have been rough on a lot of people. People have lost their jobs, they don’t know how to support themselves and their families, and I’m sure there are those who, like George Bailey, wish they had never been born.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: THE CHANGE-UP (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 23, 2012 (San Diego) – The Change-Up is like murder…it’s indefensible. It is the worst “comedy” of 2011 and it would have been the worst movie if Zack Snyder didn’t make the equally misogynist, but more self-indulgent, Sucker Punch. It starts out with the worst scene of the film – Jason Bateman getting a mouthful of poop – and it only gets worse from there.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: ANOTHER EARTH (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 11, 2012 (San Diego) – Another Earth was the first of two films released in 2011 about the discovery of another planet; the other one was Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. Both films delve deep into the lives of their troubled characters and contain some of 2011’s best performances. I liked Another Earth just slightly better because it uses the other planet to show how the discovery of Earth 2, and its possible parallels to this Earth, affects the lives of its characters.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: ALEX IN WONDERLAND (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 11, 2012 (San Diego) – After I watched Alex in Wonderland, available from the Warner Archive Collection, I remembered an interview I saw that featured independent director Henry Jaglom. At one point he said Steven Spielberg and George Lucas ruined the movies for him because after the massive box office successes of Jaws and Star Wars, it became about events, distraction, mass entertainment, and mechanization.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: DEMON SEED (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 3, 2011 (San Diego) – Demon Seed, available from the Warner Archive Collection and adapted from a novel by Dean Koontz, may borrow from Rosemary’s Baby and 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I still felt like I hadn’t seen anything like it before.

 

Demon Seed starts out ten minutes too slow in showing the separation between Susan Harris (Julie Christie) and her husband Alex (Fritz Weaver). Their daughter died of leukemia and Alex has spent hundreds of hours tirelessly working on Proteus 4, an artificial brain. As a result, the two become estranged and Alex temporarily moves out for a few months, leaving Susan home alone.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: BRIDESMAIDS (DVD)

By Brian Lafferty

 

January 3, 2012 (San Diego) – I pop in the Bridesmaids DVD. I’m ready to laugh. I wait. Fifteen minutes pass. Then thirty. No laughter. Then a whole hour passes by, but not a single chuckle was uttered. Towards the end of the movie it was so quiet in the house that I distinctly thought I heard the sound of crickets chirping outside.

 

I didn’t laugh once during the two hour running time. I couldn’t even smile. What made it irksome was that every single joke had the potential for a laugh but the writers and actors find some way to foul it up.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: ATTACK THE BLOCK (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

November 8, 2011 (San Diego) – Attack the Block is made in the same spirit as the early 1980s work of Steven Spielberg. Like E.T., it centers on a group of young boys who have a life-changing encounter with the uncanny. Like The Goonies (which was directed by Richard Donner, but everybody knows it was really Spielberg’s film) the boys in Attack the Block band together on a daring adventure to save their homes.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: DRESSED TO KILL (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

November 7, 2011 (San Diego) – Dressed to Kill, now out on Blu-Ray, is Brian De Palma at the apex of his career’s “Hitchcock Stage.” It began with Sisters in 1973. It continued with Obsession in 1976, which was a remake of Vertigo that actually bettered Hitchcock’s alleged masterpiece (Vertigo is, to me, perhaps the most overrated film of all-time). In 1980 he wrote and directed Dressed to Kill, a mystery thriller that borrows a lot from Psycho (De Palma, in a featurette, defends himself against plagiarism accusations, arguing that Hitchcock created a specific film grammar that he merely utilized).

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: TOP GUN (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

October 19, 2011 (San Diego) – I remember in elementary and middle school when the end of the month couldn’t come soon enough. The teacher would usually let us watch a movie, provided it was rated either G or PG. The first requested title was always Top Gun. It was (and still is) PG but the teacher invariably and immediately vetoed it. After having seen it years later, I’m amazed that the MPAA hasn’t upped it to PG-13.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: DONNIE DARKO (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 



October 19, 2011 (San Diego) – There’s major box office successes, the ones that rake in millions upon millions of dollars. There’s box office sleeper hits, the kind that come out of nowhere and attract lots of audiences.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: STRAW DOGS (BLU-RAY)

By Brian Lafferty

 

September 14, 2011 (San Diego) – To me, the most important part of the film is the first few minutes. At least 90 times out of 100 it’s during that time when I can tell if a movie will be good or bad.

 

I knew what I was in for once the ominous horns from Jerry Fielding’s score trumpeted at the start of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. The sound of those horns created a cloud of uneasiness that hung over me long after the opening credits.  Straw Dogs is a powerful movie that never lets up until the last shot.

 

HOME VIDEO HERALD: CEDAR RAPIDS

 

By Brian Lafferty

July 21, 2011 (San Diego) – Cedar Rapids is the type of comedy I would expect from Fox Searchlight Pictures, the subsidiary of 20th Century Fox that specializes in independent film. If it was 20th Century Fox distributing the movie (which stars Ed Helms of The Office and The Hangover as well as John C. Reilly) we’d have a raunchy, broadly-humored comedy.

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