Hell (Rein Raamat, 1983)

Rein Raamat’s Hell (1983) adapts the engravings of Estonian graphic artist Eduard Wiiralt into a surreal, grotesque, and heavily sexual animated short. Wiiralt’s three source works, “The Preacher,” “Cabaret,” and “Hell,” date back to the early 1930s and portray a cacophony of bacchanalia, hysteria, and violence in the final years of Estonian independence amid the unrest of the Great Depression and European instability. Raamat’s Hell (Põrgu) was created in the comparably uncertain time of Soviet dismantling and collapse. The short is unsettling in its physical fluidity, like an Eastern European, art film prediction of the climax to Brian Yuzna’s Society (1989).

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Baxter (Jerome Boivin, 1989)

BEWARE OF THE DOG THAT THINKS

Jérôme Boivin’s faithful adaptation of Ken Greenhall’s novel Hell Hound takes viewers into the coldly logical mind of a bull terrier, creating a uniquely dark twist on the boy-and-his-dog story.

The inner thoughts of a brooding canine named Baxter reveal the animal’s unhappy search for an ideal master. Dissatisfaction with his elderly and afraid owners lead to the dog plotting their demise and it is not long before the ingenious Baxter finds the perfect guardian – a lonely, introverted boy with a macabre interest in Hitler’s personal life and a strategy to turn the pet into a thoroughbred killing machine.

Both chillingly satirical and bitingly terrifying, Baxter is an under-appreciated art-horror masterpiece that resembles American Psycho starring a sociopathic dog and set in a French suburb.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Brand-new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original French mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)
  • New English subtitles
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand-new appreciation by John Waters
  • New interview with director Jérôme Boivin
  • New interviews with actors Evelyne Didi, Catherine Ferran, and Sabrina Leurquin
  • Theatrical trailer
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring writing on the film by Bruce Cherry

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Tougher Than Leather (Rick Rubin, 1988)

UNCONCEIVABLE! UNBELIEVABLE!

Trouble is just a beat away in this action-packed ’80s classic starring the Kings of Rock, Run DMC. The up-and-coming hip-hop trio of Run, DMC, and Jam Master Jay are signed to Strut Productions, a crooked booking agency laundering drug money for gangsters and aiming to exploit the group’s growing popularity to further their criminal schemes. When their close friend and roadie Runny Ray stumbles upon the illegal operation and is murdered in cold blood, the devastated musicians take the law into their own hands to avenge their friend’s death, facing racist thugs and armed gangsters in their pursuit of justice.

Co-written, co-produced, and directed by superstar record producer Rick Rubin and supported by a hard-hitting soundtrack featuring music by Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, Slick Rick, the Junk Yard Band, and Public Enemy, Tougher Than Leather is an urban Western that’s too tough to miss.

Special Features:

  • New High Definition digital transfer
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Surround Options
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Grammar Like a Hammer: The Making of Tougher Than Leather, a new documentary containing interviews with Darryl McDaniels, Rev Run, Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons, Chuck D, and Eddie Murphy
  • Run DMC music videos for “Run’s House,” “Mary, Mary,” and “Christmas in Hollis”
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring an interview with photographer Glen E. Friedman and a collection of his on-set photographs

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Trailer Tuesday – Gimli Film Festival Edition

Once an Icelandic colony, Gimli sits at the edge of Lake Winnipeg, a beach community in the province of Manitoba that is home to a couple of thousand residents and that hosts an ever growing film festival for five days each July. The seventeenth and latest iteration of the Gimli Film Festival was its largest so far, including approximately 45 feature films and various shorts. Needless to say, no attendee can see the entire program. I was lucky enough to attend for three of the five days of programming, making it to 14 screenings and avoiding the dozen plus titles I had already seen.

The hallmarks of the GFF are its free sunset screenings on the beach with its massive 11 metre tall screen set up out in the water. This year featured Twister (Jan de Bont, 1996), Footloose (Herbert Ross, 1984), The Neverending Story (Wolfgang Petersen, 1984), and the Criterion title Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009). Classic car owners came out en masse for the screening of American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973), lining the beach with some beautifully chromed vehicles, however the most inspired selection was Alfred Hitchcock‘s The Birds (1963) with Gimli and its gulls allowing Bodega Bay to spread out beyond the screen’s limits.

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Trailer Tuesday

What a month! Criterion knocks it outta the park with its October releases, trailers abound with the San Diego Comic Con in full swing, reviews from the ongoing Fantasia Film Festival keep rolling in, and I’m scheduled for 14 screenings at the Gimli Film Festival later this week! Wheeeee!

The stand out title in Criterion’s stacked October announcements is Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975). It’s taken me quite a while to become comfortable with the contrasting beauty of Kubrick’s compositions and the coldness of his direction, but this tension has always felt right in Barry Lyndon, where the great director dissects the shallowness of his subject with great insight and depth. Everything about the Criterion Collection’s edition of Barry Lyndon looks amazing and I suspect I may need to re-write my Top Ten as a result.

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Trailer Tuesday

First, a shout out to Cole and Ericca at The Magic Lantern Podcast who shared some love for MMC! in their recent discussion of Little Murders. Cole and Ericca provide a great (and very funny) discussion on the relationship at the centre of Arkin’s film. For the record, I’m with Cole – the wedding sequence stands as the most enjoyable part of the movie and Elliott Gould’s unresponsiveness to the demands of social convention or personal interactions is all too recognizable.

My most recent Criterion connection came by seeing Brazilian singer Seu Jorge perform live his selection of David Bowie covers from Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004). Jorge put on an amazing show, providing a variety of entertaining anecdotes on the making of the film, displaying some nimble guitar-work, and filling the theatre with his deep, impressive voice. The trailer for The Life Aquatic prominently features Jorge’s covers, serving as an effective promo of the singer’s currently touring show. Don’t miss it!

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