Saturday, 24 July 2010

SEX AND DRUGS AND ROCK AND ROLL


Born 12th May 1942, Ian Dury contracted polio at the age of 7, and went on to academic success after spending time in hospital and a school for disabled children.
Matt Whitecross' film takes us through Dury's formative years via a series of flashbacks, intermingled with the twin chaos of his stage act and personal life.

Shot in the style of BRONSON via 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE, this is an entertaining and thought provoking account of a tortured artist who had the punk attitude coupled with genuine music hall appeal. Dury always saw himself as a "lurker", rather than a pop star, and his 'tough love' upbringing encouraged him to stand up for himself and create an example for a group of people who are most assuredly capable of great things. Here, Andy Serkis becomes Dury both in sight and sound, alienating his nearest and dearest, pissing off the establishment throughout his life and fashioning some wonderfully memorable tunes. By turn, moving, infuriating, fast paced and funny, SEX AND DRUGS AND ROCK AND ROLL rarely misses a beat, painting a colourful and haunting picture of someone I'll always remember as a national treasure.

With Olivia Williams, Naomie Harris and Ray Winstone as wife, lover and father, the cast is always solid but it's Serkis who really delves into the extraordinary, taking me back to the Stiff Records tour and Dury's gigs with the likes of Elvis Costello and Lena Lovich (unfortunately absent here). Happily, Dury's Kilburn & The High Roads days are also chronicled, culminating in a true punk rock gig at a dingy London pub before the Blockheads were formed a little later.
Fans will lap up the live stuff and be taken back to those heady days when "Sweet Gene Vincent" soared out of concert halls and into the streets where it belonged. Credit to Serkis who does an amazing job, leading the old Blockheads band without lip- synching and delivering a mesmerising performance.

Ian Dury left us on 27th March 2000. His songs live on and this film will undoubtedly bring a new generation of fans to some great music.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

THERE'S ALWAYS VANILLA


A determination not to be pigeonholed as a horror director, coupled with the success of low-budget fare such as Hi, Mom!, prompted George A. Romero to follow up Night of the Living Dead with this almighty blot on his otherwise impressive cv.

There’s Always Vanilla started life as a half hour promotional vehicle to highlight the 'talents' of Ray Laine; a would-be actor who stars here as an irritating boy-in-a-man’s-body. Rudolph J. Ricci wrote and directed the short film, and fell out with Romero over the latter’s plan to expand the script to feature length.

In this 94 minute version, Laine and Judith Ridley fill out the roles of Chris and Lynn, who meet when Lynn is on the way to a tv commercial shoot for toilet bowl cleaner. Following an exchange of views regarding her suitability for such exposure, the pair become an item for a season but drift apart when Lynn discovers she’s pregnant.

Previously glimpsed as a 15 minute clip on the Night of the Living Dead laserdisc and DVD releases, There’s Always Vanilla is now one half of a Romero DVD double-bill with Season of the Witch. Anchor Bay's Region 1 disc includes a featurette – Digging Up The Dead: The "Lost" Films of George A. Romero – where the great man admits he doesn’t really care for this film and declares it worked better as a short. I’m sure he’s right because this extended version of what was, after all, a promotional short is a long haul, full of dire acting, though not without its moments.

The opening resembles a Sunset Boulevard-like narration where a dead man tells his story, just as a member of the living dead might do. There’s a clever scene which jumps between Chris and Lynn making love and a tv commercial shoot, anticipating Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now; a hilarious job interview where Chris includes pimping on his short cv, and a tense chase sequence during which Lynn flees from the advances of a backstreet abortionist. There’s Always Vanilla points the way ahead for future Romero projects where the world in focus is heavy on consumerism and light on self-awareness but it’s a distance from being the 'lost' gem that many of us were hoping for.

Prior to the main feature, Anchor Bay state the transfer is below their usual high standards due to the quality of existing elements. I’ll concur with that, although the film looks way better than it deserves. At any rate, you should see it if only for the fact that the better half of this double-bill really is a must-see

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

COMING SOON TO BLU-RAY



I'm sure many genre fans were eagerly awaiting the first Mario Bava film to hit Blu-ray. Thanks to the enterprising Arrow, BAY OF BLOOD will make its hi-def debut late September in the UK. Hop over to their forums where you'll find a friendly and knowledgeable bunch of like-minded individuals, and make sure you vote in THE BEYOND poll while you're there. Arrow are seriously considering a Blu-ray release for Fulci's classic, providing the elements pass muster. Just click HERE

You can also vote for cover artwork for both of the aforementioned releases.

Friday, 16 July 2010

A WEEK OFF.


In just under 24 hours from now, I'll be starting a week's holiday from work.
A break from the daily haul is always nice, and getting away from your hometown to somewhere different can be a valuable added bonus. Unfortunately, my health has been poor of late, so straying even as far as nearby Derby for our 1st movie experience in over a year would perhaps not be advisable. In any event, the next few years are riddled with doom and despair as our new government seem hellbent on laying waste to the UK while telling lie after lie as they do so. That's another reason for not spending money we'll almost certainly need a little later on so that seaside holiday will just have to wait.

So, I aim to view the entire contents of Arrow's wonderful CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD Blu-ray and listen to both commentary tracks; finish reading THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO; rent the aforementioned movie; start reading THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE and read a study of Dario Argento by James Gracey. All this and the company of my wonderful wife will make for an enjoyable week. Health permitting, I'll accomplish all of the above and share my thoughts with as soon as possible.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

COMING SOON

Terrific news that SPIRITS OF THE DEAD will be released on UK Blu-ray at the end of August. Enjoy this trailer!

Monday, 12 July 2010

THE RED SHOES BLU-RAY


"Dreaming is a luxury I've never permitted in my company."

Boris Lermontov. THE RED SHOES.

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger collaborated on 22 films, but their most creative period came via The Archers production company. From 1942 - 1951, The Archers were responsible for some of the finest British films; A CANTERBURY TALE, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP, I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING, BLACK NARCISSUS, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH and, of course, THE RED SHOES which marked the film debut of Moira Shearer, the rising star of The Royal Ballet.

THE RED SHOES script, written by Pressburger and based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, spins a cautionary tale of just what can happen when life imitates art as two men unwittingly help to destroy the most precious thing in their lives. The gal in the middle is Victoria Page (Shearer), a young ballerina who seems to love dance more than life itself. To her left stands Julian Craster (Marius Goring), the young composer who will eventually steal her away from the stage and also from this film's most imposing figure. Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), a cold manipulative impresario is the other man in Vicky's life, though for entirely different reasons. Lermontov is only concerned with the pursuit of excellence, forbidding his dancers from enjoying a life outside the stage. There are times when we almost believe that Lermontov may be carrying a torch for his star performer but, ultimately, the cruel side of Andersen's tale holds sway.

Overall, THE RED SHOES cannot be termed a 'feel good' film, but there are several performers who will surely bring a huge smile to your face: Leonide Massine, Robert Helpmann and the entirely wonderful Ludmilla Tcherina (the latter being another victim of Lermontov's obsessions) are a real pleasure to watch, along with some delightful ballet sequences.
You don't have to be a 'Balletomane' to love this film - just sit back and marvel at the style and imagination of Powell & Pressburger; at the startling images guaranteed to haunt you for months after; at the mesmerising use of colour, beautifully captured by Jack Cardiff's magisterial photography. Then frame-by-frame, the superlative presentation of The Red Shoes Ballet will surely engulf your senses and convert even the most hardened sceptic.
At least, that's how it usually swings with TV and DVD screenings. Now, we have a wonderful presentation, courtesy of ITV's Blu-ray disc, which brings THE RED SHOES to life in a way we could only have dreamt of.

Here, the colours truly pop, and the exquisite detail of this production is reproduced to a staggering degree. There's a point during the extras of the UK SUSPIRIA Blu-ray where Dario Argento explains how he watched THE RED SHOES prior to shooting his nerve-jangling exercise in terror:another disciple of this endlessly inventive film.
Criterion have just released THE RED SHOES in the USA on Blu-ray but for those of you in Europe with no all-region hardware, I strongly suggest you move with due haste to bag yourself a copy of this superb ITV release. Mumblings on the net indicate that copies are in extremely short supply.