The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin with Evan Johnson, 2015)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Forbidden Room.

criterion logoOverwhelmed with narrative and fearful that their brains might explode under its pressure, Canadian cult filmmaker Guy Maddin and his co-creator Evan Johnson offer the ultimate epic phantasmagoria from the ectoplasmic residue of early cinema’s lost films.  Two-Strip Technicolor havoc is created with the assistance of master poet John Ashbery, actor Udo Kier, and a host of French and Québécois stars who filmed on public sets at Paris’ Pompidou Center and Montreal’s Phi Center.  The Forbidden Room is a kaleidoscopic viewing experience borne from cinema’s past, present, and future where flapjacking eating submarine crews, forest bandits, skeleton women, and vampire bananas await!

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital master, with 5.1 digital DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary with Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson
  • Interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from the Phi Center shoots
  • Endless Ectoloops
  • Living posters
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Seven-episode series on Guy Maddin’s Seances from the Phi Center
  • New interview with cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke
  • New interview with production designer Galen Johnson on his design of the film’s more than 400 intertitle screens
  • La chambre interdite, French version of The Forbidden Room with French intertitle screens
  • The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin, Yves Montmayeur’s 65-minute documentary on “the Canadian David Lynch”
  • Once a Chicken, a séance with László Moholy-Nagy
  • Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton, Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson’s short film on the making of Paul Gross’s Canadian war film, Hyena Road, with introduction by the filmmakers
  • Footage from the Toronto Film Critics Association’s awards ceremony naming The Forbidden Room 2015’s Best Canadian Film
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by Guy Maddin, film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, and former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Hillary Weston

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The Chickening (Nick DenBoer and Davy Force, 2015)

It’s inevitable.  At some point everyday, each of us think back to 2005, to Burger King’s introduction of the TenderCrisp Chicken Bacon Ranch burger, and to David LaChapelle’s “Fantasy Ranch” ad campaign, a trippy, countrified, sweetly perverse TV ad featuring Darius Rucker, Vida Guerra, Brooke Burke, and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.  But as much as we all love this crassly commercial riff on “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” universal questions still get asked – Why isn’t it nightmarish or disgusting?  Why isn’t it Kubrickian in its point of reference?  And where are the references to Tommy Wiseau and The Room (2003)?  Thankfully, Nick DenBoer and Davy Force have answered these questions with The Chickening (2015), a proof of concept pseudo-trailer and your latest masterpiece in “Cinegraffiti” (unless you’re my wife, who hated this and considered it nightmare fuel).

Be sure to read Birth.Movies.Death.‘s exclusive interview with DenBoer and The Chickening‘s press kit.

A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1946)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents A Matter of Life and Death.

criterion logoAs his plane is going down in flames, doomed World War II pilot, Squadron Leader Peter Carter (David Niven) meets over the radio the love of his life, an American radio operator named June (Kim Hunter).  He miraculously survives the crash and the pair commence their romance, but Carter is troubled with a life-threatening brain injury treated by a village doctor (Roger Livesey) and a heavenly collector (Marius Goring) intent on escorting his errant soul to the other side.  Originally designed as a propaganda piece to promote better relations between Britain and the United States, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death became an English classic featuring delightful performances by its cast, accomplished Technicolor cinematography by Jack Cardiff, and spectacular production design by Alfred Junge.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary by film historian Ian Christie
  • Martin Scorsese on A Matter of Life and Death
  • Thelma Schoonmaker Powell and Grover Crisp on AMOLAD and its restoration
  • Interview with cinematographer Jack Cardiff
  • A Matter of Fried Onions, Diane Broadbent Friedman on the medical foundation of AMOLAD
  • Behind the scenes footage, filmed during a visit to Denham Studios by Canadian soldiers
  • “The King and the Stars,” a Front Page newsreel by British Pathé on the 1946 Royal Command Film Performance screening, along with unused and unissued footage of the event and the press reception
  • New interview with author J. K. Rowling and actor Daniel Radcliffe in appreciation of the film
  • Two Lux Radio Theatre productions from 1947 (starring Ray Milland, Ann Blyth, and Nigel Bruce) and 1955 (starring David Niven and Barbara Rush)
  • The Hedda Hooper Show – This is Hollywood‘s 30-minute radio adaptation, starring David Niven, Kim Hunter, and Vincent Price
  • Screen Director’s Playhouse radio production from 1951, starring Robert Cummings and Julia Adams
  • Kinescope of the “Stairway to Heaven” TV adaptation for Robert Montgomery Presents, starring Richard Green, Jean Gillespie, and Bramwell Fletcher
  • Parody sketch from Big Train, featuring Simon Pegg, Kevin Eldon, Mark Heap, and Amelia Bullmore
  • Gallery of sketches and stills of Alfred Junge’s production designs
  • Sequence shot for Powell and Pressburger’s unmade The White Cockade, starring David Niven and Pamela Brown
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring behind the scenes photos, the script, and new essays by film critics Dave Kehr, Robert Horton, and Mark Kermode

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Hellzapoppin’ (H. C. Potter, 1941)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Hellzapoppin’.

criterion logoMake way for the nuttiest, zaniest, wackiest film this side of the loony-bin!  Comedy team Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson blast through the fourth wall and demolish the musical-comedy genre, playing Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson, production assistants to a fledgling stage revue.  Hellzapoppin’s screwball romance story takes a backseat to the daffy hijinks and absurdist gags that tear at breakneck speed through this play within a film within a film.  Inspired by the comedians’ highly successful Broadway show and adapted to mock the filmmaking process, Hellzapoppin’ is a singular work of celluloid irreverence where ANY SIMILARITY TO A MOTION PICTURE IS PURELY COINCIDENTAL!

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Introduction by filmmaker and comedian Mel Brooks
  • New interview on the Hellzapoppin’ Broadway musical with Jack Marshall, Artistic Director of The American Century Theater
  • Crazy House, Olsen and Johnson’s 1943 feature film follow-up where the duo attempts to film an independent movie after being fired by Universal Pictures
  • Kinescopes of Olsen and Johnson’s NBC variety show Fireball Fun for All
  • PLUS: An essay by media scholar Henry Jenkins

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10 on the 10th – January 2015

The last 10 films I’ve watched have all been worthwhile.  His Kind of Woman succeeds despite some very odd mixing of tones.  Inside Out deserves its accolades, including the rumour that it passed on being in competition at Cannes out of fear of winning the Palme d’Or and hurting its American box office.  The Force Awakens was lots of fun, even if it hits many of the same beats as New Hope.  And I’m always entertained by how much my non-academic wife loves listening to Slavoj Zizek talk about film and ideology.

I also feel like I need to address the Donphan in the room – Jellyfish Eyes (perhaps even write a more elaborate defence of the film in a separate post).  While Murakami’s film is something of a poor cousin to Takashi Miike’s explorations in children’s cinema, such as MMC! favourites Zebraman (2004) and Yatterman (2009), it’s hardly as poor a film as many claim it to be.  If anything, the general response to Jellyfish Eyes seems like yet another example of the Collection being punished for attempting to approach contemporary cinema and daring to include something that fails to resemble classical Hollywood or international art house cinema.  While not the example I would have chosen, I greatly admire Criterion for including Murakami’s film and offering a more expansive view of world cinema.

  1. UtopiaJellyfish Eyes (Takashi Murakami, 2013)
  2. Hellzapoppin’ (H. C. Potter, 1941)
  3. Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo (Toshiya Fujita, 1970)
  4. His Kind of Woman (John Farrow, 1951)
  5. Odd Obsession (Kon Ichikawa, 1959)
  6. 3 Dev Adam (T. Fikret Uçak, 1973)
  7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams, 2015)
  8. Inside Out (Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen, 2015)
  9. The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (Sophie Fiennes, 2012)
  10. Spring (Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead, 2014)

Lastly, a shout out to Dennis Kelly’s British conspiracy-thriller, Utopia (2013-2014).  I finally got around to binging the 6-episode second season and it was a welcome follow-up to first series’ complex and unsettling run.  With no third season forthcoming from Channel 4 and HBO’s American adaptation apparently cancelled, it looks like I’ll have to go somewhere else for hard moral choices, stomach-churning violence, and saturated colour palettes.  It might also be a good time to consider a more involved discussion of the series here at MMC!

Get Crazy (Allan Arkush, 1983)

IT WAS THE GREATEST ROCK EVENT EVER … UNTIL THE PLACE EXPLODED!

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddIt is December 31, 1982.  Ring in 1983 at the Saturn Theater’s annual New Year’s Eve concert – featuring the far-out Captain Cloud and the Rainbow Telegraph, the king bluesman himself, King Blues, Nada and her pop bubble gum/New Wave/punk ensemble, rock icon Reggie Wanker, and folk-rock legend Auden!

The Saturn Theater’s New Year’s Eve concert is an institution to its owner, master showman Max Wolfe (Allen Garfield), but when Max has a heart attack hours before the concert and villainous promoter Colin Beverly (Ed Begley Jr.) enlists Max’s nephew Sammy (Miles Chapin) in a plot to ruin the event and have the venue signed over to Beverly, its up to stage manager Neil Allen (Daniel Stern) and visiting former stage manager Willy Loman (Gail Edwards) to ensure the show goes on.  Luckily Allen and Loman can rely on the dedication of their crew, the professionalism of their acts, and the case of pharmaceuticals provided by the spectral Electric Larry to see the concert through.  Boasting musical performances by Lou Reed, Malcolm McDowell, Lee Ving, Bill Henderson, and Lori Eastside, Allan Arkush (Rock ‘n’ Roll High School) presents a hilarious concert movie spoof celebrating sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll as only the 1980s would have it.

Special Features:

  • New high definition digital transfer
  • High definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD Presentation
  • Original Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Surround Options
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Introduction by director, producer and writer Edgar Wright
  • Audio commentary by director Allan Arkush
  • There Will Be No Encores – a new documentary on the making of Get Crazy featuring new interviews with Allan Arkush, Daniel Stern, Malcolm McDowell, Gail Edwards, Allen Garfield, Ed Begley, Jr., Stacey Nelkin, Dan Frischman, Franklyn Ajaye, Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, and Mary Woronov
  • Hot Shots – a new documentary on the music of Get Crazy featuring new interviews with Allan Arkush, Malcolm McDowell, Howard Kaylan, Lee Ving, John Densmore, Lori Eastside, Fabian, and Bobby Sherman
  • Gone Crazy! – director, producer and actor Eli Roth on Get Crazy
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by cult film scholar Mike Watt

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