Category Archives: Blu-ray

Movie Review- Morgan

A few weeks ago I had Netflix send me the disc for The Belko Experiment and on that blu-ray were previews for two films that sparked my interest one of which was Morgan.

Now I will admit that I had low expectations foe this movie. After viewing the trailer it seemed to me that it had a fairly high probability of being a modestly budgeted Alien clone, but that was not the case.

Morgan is a mid-budget SF films about a corporation’s secretive artificial life experiments, the L-9 Morgan project. After an incident resulting in the serious injury of program personnel Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) a risk assessment and management specialist is sent to the isolated facility to determine the dangers to the corporation and if the project should be terminated. The staff, having developed emotional attachments to their projection, resent her presence and her mission.

As I stated this did not turn out to be an Alien copy but Morgan is its own thing. (Some reviewers have unfairly compared it to ex Machina but that I think is a misreading based on surface elements alone. A tight, mostly one set locale, an artificial intelligence of unknown motivations, and a general atmosphere of suspense.) I believe, and unfortunately because this was a rental disc with all the bonus features crippled, it is only a belief, that the filmmakers were more directly inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and James Whale 1931 adaptation. This is the story of creating life and the relationship between the created and the creator. Unlike Frankenstein there is not a single genius but rather a talented team of scientists played by a group of experienced character actors including Michelle Yeoh, Paul Giamatti, Toby Jones, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and with Anya Taylor-Joy, whom I last saw in the lead in the terrific horror film The Witch as the titles character Morgan.

Morgan is a decent, enjoyable, and competently produced movie. Directed by first time direct Luke Scott and produced by his father Ridley Scott, the film makes the most of its modest budget, never looking cheap or like corners were cut, but rather utilizing the limited location and cast to created a confined suspenseful story. This is not a must see movie but it is still worth your time and an enjoyable way to pass 90 minutes.

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Writing Advice you may be Missing

Anyone who reads my postings knows that I love film. Movie have been a part of my life as long as I can literally remember. The advent of home media, first VHS/Betamax, then DVD and Blu-rays has been heaven for the cinephile in me but it has also become a boon to my writing.

A common piece bonus material included in DVS and Blu-ray’s is the commentary track. Here writers, directors, producers, and actors will record a liver running commentary as they watch the film. Sometimes these are funny and filled with behind the antics, or peeks into how the magic of movies works. Those sort of commentary track are fun and I enjoy them, but there are commentary track where the writers and directors will spend the two or so hours talking about the story. What made them want to tell it, what it means to them, and how that approached the challenges.

If you are a writer and you are not listening to these you should. Heavens knows everyone looks at writing and stories from a different point of view, but seeing those points of views can illuminate your own, expand your vistas for crafting a story. These are lectures from professionals and all you need to do is block out a couple of hours – or more in the case of Peter Jackson and his endless Lord or the Rings running times – and soak in the teachings.

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Revisiting: Aliens

Last night I pulled down by big blu-ray boxed set for the Alien films and selected 1986’s Aliens as my Sunday Night Movie. At the start the disc presented me with a choice; 1986 theatrical release or the 1992 Special Edition? I selected the Special Editions and settled in with my bowl of popcorn.

The film is as fast and as exciting as ever and I have seen the special edition before but on this viewing my connection to the film seemed somewhat different. I approved of the many scenes restored to the film that deepen and expand the Ellen Ripley. A character that lacked even a given name in the original classic film. However when it comes to the scenes depicting life in the doomed colony Hadley’s Hope before the parasite destroys them I found I had come to a different opinion that the one I had held for a number of years.

Films, just as with prose stories, have character points of view and Aliens is a story told from Ripley’s POV. If you look at the first film, Alien, it is told with several points of view a technique used by the screenwriters Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusette to disguise which of the characters was the protagonist and thus they kept the audience off-balance as to who would liver and die. (A technique George R.R. Martin has been quoted as copying for his epic A Song of Fire and Ice.)

Aliens wisely doesn’t attempt to recreate this ambiguity. We have ridden with Ripley through the first horror and our identification with her is strong. Looking at it from that perspective the extended scenes that take place on Hadley’s Hope violate this film’s POV. Ripley is not there and there is no one to relay those scenes to her. It is information she will never know and as such it is information we should not know.

There are plenty of moments in the special edition that still work with Ripley’s POV, scenes she either directly participates in or where her relationship with characters in the scenes would allow her to reasonably be aware of the events and those I would advocate retaining, but I think all the Hadley’s Hope scenes should be excised.

Of course it’s not my film and so that’s not going to happen, but it is a peak into my thoughts on story structure.

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Movie Marathon

So for my birthday I got the Universal Classic Horror Collection on Blu-Ray. This Sunday I am going to have a mini marathon of three films. The question is which three?

Here is what is in the collection:

Dracula

Frankenstein

The Invisible Man

Bride of Frankenstein

The Mummy

Creature from the Black Lagoon

Phantom of the Opera (1942)

The Wolf-Man

 

Suggestions as to which three should be selected?

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Blu-ray review: Ben-Hur

For Christmas my sweetie-wife gave me a copy of the 50th Anniversary Edition of Ben-Hur on Blu-ray. We spent several evening going through the three documentaries associated with the set (lovely bonus material) be diving into the epic film. (For those not in the know, Ben-Hur an example of massive movie making from the Studio System is better then three hours long.)
The full title is Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ and given that title it is as you would expect set in and about the purported time of Christ in the Roman Empire. Christ however is not the main character, though he a central character and event in the film. The Film is about Juda Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) a prince of the Hebrew, a rich merchant and land-owner in Judea under the Romans. Ben-Hur’s boyhood best friend forever, Massala (Stephen Boyd) A Roman has returned as Tribune to the new governor. Times are not good for Judea, rebellion is in the air and the Romans do not tolerate rebellion. Clumsily trying to enlist Ben-Hur against the Jewish rebels, Massala turns Ben-Hur into an enemy and on a flase pretext, arrests Ben-Hur for attempting to murder the new Governor.
What follows is a story of loss, enslavement, revenge, love, and in the end, redemption. The film was shot in MGM 65, a big format wide-screen process developed for films of epic scope and nothing says epic better than this movie.
The blu-ray is from a fully restored print that has been carefully transferred. I have never seen Ben-Hur projected, but I can say that this presentation is stunningly beautiful. The colors are sharp and vibrant, the blacks are deep, the sounds wonderful (Thought for my sweetie-wife’s sake the sub-woofer was off, I suspect the chariot race would have blown us out of our seats.) and the clarity unrivaled. This is exactly the sort of the thing that can be achieved with blu-ray, but all too often is not due to budgeting in the transfer.

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A very pleasant Saturday

So yesterday was another board and card gaming day, but this one got an earlier start as my friend Brad came over about noon so we could get in a game of Federation Commander. That game did not go very well for myself. I was rolling poorly and Brad was rolling hot. Still it was fun and I don’t think I made any bonehead mistakes as I had in the game previous.

Around 5:30 we got together for the regular B7C gaming session and that went alright. (Though I did not win any of the games I did come close in Showbiz Shuffle.)

After my sweetie-wife retired for the evening we sat and watched a blu-rau, The Wrath Of Khan. Not only was that a throughly enjoyable film to watch, all of use including Brian snapped with commented during the screening. It is so good to hear Brian’s voice getting clearer each week. After the movie it was sit around bullshitting for a little while and at one point something was said that set Brian off laughing. It was one of those laughing jags that is so difficult to stop. I really felt good hearing him laugh like that.

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Sunday Night Movie: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

This is truly one of my favorite films. The Maltese Falcon is the film that launched the genre of Film Noir and in many ways it has never been equalled.

I first saw the film in my Introduction to Cinematography class back in my old college days. That was a grand course. Every Tuesday and Thursday we’d sit though about 25 minuets of lecture, then watch a film. (Films started on Tuesday and we completed them on the Thursday session.) It was done chronologically, starting with silent films and working our ways through the decades of film production. (Mostly we saw American films, but there were a few foreign movies.) Many movies I would have never sought out I watched there and I truly learned to love all sorts of film.

The Maltese Falcon is movie that made Bogart as start, it launched the directing career of John  Houston, and it forever stamped on our collective psyche what a hard-boiled detective is like.

Curiously this is the third adaptation of the novel into film. The first was made ten years earlier and did modest box office, the second was made in 1936 and strangely titled, “Satan Met a Lady.” It starred Betty Davis in the femme Fatale roole, but the film was played more for laughs than serious crime fiction and it failed with audiences and critics alike.

Continue reading Sunday Night Movie: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

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Sunday Night Movie:The Caine Mutiny

Yesterday when I was bumming around town and playing videos games with my pal Bear he asked me what was my Sunday Night Movie feature going to be and I replied that I was thinking of re-watching Robocop.

After my sweetie-wife went to bed and it was time to start up a feature I realized that I was in the mood for something meatier that Robocop. I wanted a dramatic film, not a genre piece. I scanned my collection and my eyes fell on The Cain Mutiny.

I can’t remember the first time I saw The Cain Mutiny. I know it was television during the 80s’, before the dreaded infomercials had pushed movies out as the low-budget local tv station fare. I remember tripping across the film fairly close to the start and I was pulled in at once by the riveting writing, characters, and performances.

If you only know Humphrey Bogart as the cool always in control detective then this film is one you really should see. It’s a film he did after he escaped the studio system and could be in the kind of roles that would stretch him as an actor.

The central character of the film is Willis Seward Keith, a young 90-day wonder of an Ensign. Willie has problems, mainly he’s too attached to his mother still and has not learned to be his own man. He’s got an on-again/off-again relations with a lovely signer, May Wynn, and has been assigned to a worn out, rusted hulk of a ship, the DMS Caine. Willie saw himself making an important contribution to the war effort, (the setting is WWII), but instead he’s on an ‘outcast ship, manned by outcasts, and named after the greatest outcast of them all.’ Or so Communications officer Lt. Keefer informs him.  Things seem to take a turn for the better when a new captain is assigned to the Caine, Lt. Commander Phillip Francis Queeg. Queeg is old navy, a life-long naval officer and a by the book man. When the new captain makes it clear that the Caine is going to become a new ship and taunt ship Willie couldn’t be more pleased.

However, Queeg has his own demons  and the drama of the story is rich with loyalty, betrayal, and cowardice.

This is a movie that every time it came on TV and I caught even a portion I stopped and I would always end up watching it to the end. I eventually copied off the air on a VHS tape, and then later got it on laserdisc. Now it’s one of my favorite DVDs. When it comes out on blu-ray I will replace it without qualms or any need for additional bonus material.

I tracked down a library copy of the Pulitzer prize winning novel a  few years ago. This film is a pretty good adaptation of half the novel. I don’t begrudge them that they only told half the story. Even at that the running time was 2 hours 5 minutes. There is little that is in the film that was’t in the book. Contrary to popular myth, Bogart did not invent the bit with Queeg and the ball-bearings, that was in the book.

If you get a chance see this movie and read the book.

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My Newest Acquisition

Arrived Monday, but I did not get to break the seal until last night. While this film is not everyone’s cup of tea it is one I like and getting it at a good price on Blu-ray with tons of bonus material made it a no brainer for me.

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Sunday Night Movie:The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue

Like another movie I own, Planet Of The Vampires, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is a film that has been released under a bewildering array of titles. Released in 1974 this is a zombie movie that is  post-Night of The Living Dead (1968) but preceded both films that ushered in the Zombie Apocalypse®, Zombie and Dawn of the Dead (1979.)

Placed in such a unique position in zombie movie chronology The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is a film particular to its time and place in history. For quite a while it was wholly  unavailable on home video and therefore rarely seen. I myself had not heard of this Italian/Spanish co-prpduction until it was mentioned during Zombie week at tor.com.

Today the Zombie Apocalypse® is a well established meme in the greater trans-world culture. Nearly everyone knows what is meant by the Zombie Apocalypse® and it is a common parlor game to thought-experiment your survivalist victory against the hordes of undead. In these thought-scenerios the undead are nearly always the ghouls envision by George A Romero in his film Night of The Living Dead. If one is a heretic, you propose an apocalypse of Zack Snyder’s fast zombie from the re-make of Dawn of The Dead, but most purist reject these zombies. (I do not, I own both versions the 1979 and the 2004 on home video.) If one is utterly desiring of death and failure, you might go with the Dan O’Bannon zombies of Return Of The Living Dead, but really who is interested in an apocalypse of indestructible zombies? Continue reading Sunday Night Movie:The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue

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