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Severin Films normally handles things that fall closer to the sleazy end of the scale, and that's not a judgment of their overall identity, just an observation. You looking for the absolute best master ever of a particular European softcore title from the '70s? If anyone's put it on home video, it's probably Severin.
I can understand why they probably wanted to put out "Ashanti" as one of their latest releases. The film has a certain reputation, and I've never seen it before, in part because of that reputation. Finally having seen it, though, it's far less exploitative than I expected it to be, and instead, it's pretty much a straightforward adventure film using human trafficking as the backdrop.
While he's in Africa with his wife, Dr. Anansa Linderby (Beverly Johnson), Dr. David Liderby (Michael Caine) is horrified by her disappearance. She's taken by the slaver Suleiman (Peter Ustinov), and for the rest of the film, Caine does his best to catch up with Ustinov before she can be sold into a life of bondage. I was worried at the start of the film that it was going to be rapey and disturbing, but the film avoids that sort of thing entirely. Instead, it's all about the chase and the various allies that Caine is forced to call on in his quest to find his wife.
I need to get better about sharing thoughts on the mountain on home video that ends up on my shelves here at the house, and it doesn't need to be long-winded or overly-complicated. It's amazing how often I forget that. I also want to start including links out to Amazon (you'll find one at the very bottom of this piece) from these DVD and Blu-ray pieces so, if you choose to, you can support the ongoing efforts of Film Nerd 2.0 as I continue to add titles to the library to share with the boys in the months and years ahead.
For example, this morning's movie is one of those films that I know I've seen the cover of about a thousand times over the years. "Timerider" has been a home video mainstay since not long after its 1982 theatrical release, and for some reason, I've always put it off as one of those "that looks fun on some rainy afternoon" movies. Finally arriving on Blu-ray seems like a good enough excuse to finally watch it, and my first observation is that this is probably as good a print of this particular title as you are every likely to see.
I had no idea this was co-written and directed by William Dear, who was also responsible for the late-'80s Amblin' film "Harry and the Hendersons," or that producer Michael Nesmith was also a co-writer. The film is a somewhat goofy adventure film about a motorcycle racer who accidentally rides into the middle of a test of a time machine. He ends up in the Old West, where he squares off against a gang of bloodthirsty bandits made up of Peter Coyote, Tracey Walter, and, as unlikely as it sounds, Richard Masur.
It's time for home visits! These are always more than a little uncomfortable, as the parents don't want to look like they're sending a daughter head first into traffic but do want to be supportive. Or at least some of them want to be supportive. Basically, everyone looks a little miserable and hyper aware of the cameras, and half of the time you expect them to turn to the camera operator and ask if they look fat in whatever they're wearing. So, I hope Sean is ready for this, because I'm pretty confident most of the people he'll be meeting aren't.
Every year Oscar's documentary category seems to provide historical lessons for generations to learn from now and in the future. This year, "5 Broken Cameras" helps shine the light on non-violent resistance in the West Bank; "The Gatekeepers" reveals that many of Israel's greatest hawks are now doves; "The Invisible War" pulls the curtain on clandestine operations funded by the American government; and one of rock n'roll's forgotten heroes is rediscovered in "Searching for Sugar Man." One of the most important nominees, however, tells the tale of an incredible grassroots movement that began in New York City to fight the battle against AIDS when it appeared no one else was, "How to Survive a Plague." Noted author and journalist David France used amazing and rate video of this organization -- better known as ACT UP -- the centerpiece of his debut documentary. France took some time last week to chat about his cinematic journey, the reaction to the death of Ed Koch and why "Plague" is already a winner before he hits the Academy Awards red carpet.
Hear Mariah Carey like you’re never heard her...and that’s not a good thing.
[More after the jump...]
So it's President's Day. As with any holiday, you should celebrate with a movie, obviously, but which one?
If you're going to the theater today, then "Lincoln" probably remains your best bet. After all, not only does it manage to actually raise the 16th U.S. President from the dead via medium/movie star Daniel Day Lewis, but it also does a fantastic job of showing how the power of the Presidency can be used. There are so many movies about U.S. Presidents that trying to pick from, and so many different types of films, that picking one to enjoy today can be as brutal as your average election season.
Oliver Stone has made a career out of exploring the uses and abuses of power in America, and he may be the only working filmmaker who has made three different films named after U.S. Presidents. Of the three, I think "JFK" is the best of the bunch, even though it's not really about the President. There are few films that have ever done a better job of exploring the elusive nature of truth in the media age or that have dramatized the way we can disappear down a rabbit hole in search of answers where there are none to be found. It is a film about obsession and the way power is brokered in the post-Eisenhower era, and it is nothing less than dizzying to witness. Stone has never been more technically exciting to watch than he was at this point in his career, and "JFK" is one of the most amazing theatrical experiences he has ever signed his name to. I'm quite fond of "Nixon" as well, but that may be because I have been fascinated by Nixon for as long as I've been aware of him.
When I read the term "pentatonic" as a descriptor for the new Phoenix album "Bankrupt!," I felt a little skeptical (the usual emotion after a hearty eye-roll). But that is an honest, qualitative way of illustrating just what "Entertainment" is.
The lead synth melody line sounds like something sampled from a Chinese film, or a movie that's trying at least to depict that. It's both cinematic and a little exotic, more challenging than their big hits like "Lisztomania" and "1901." Furthermore, it comes off as emotionally ambiguous, nesting in neither a major or a minor, and lacks a big explosive proper chorus to let you know either way. It's mostly like a long pre-chorus, with some tricky rhythm work that warrants a repeat listen.
The epic journey of Ben Affleck's "Argo" began at the Telluride Film Festival in September. After a couple of years of pandering a bit by accepting Toronto-bound Oscar bait in the form of films like "Black Swan," "The Descendants" and "127 Hours," and then bizarrely bemoaning the surge in awards coverage they yielded, the festival's directors pulled back over the last two years, retreating to their former identity of carefully curating selections from international festivals. But they nevertheless left room for one "Sneak Preview" on the line-up this time around, and that film was "Argo."
The film blew the roof off at its first screening there for patrons of the festival and attending press. A burst of applause hit at the film's oft-discussed airport climax and the stage was set for an Oscar thoroughbred to find its way through the season. But there were still six whole months in the season left to go. And no one wants to be a frontrunner too early for too long.
Soon enough, another film would join the conversation, as David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" debuted at the Toronto Film Festival and delighted audiences there. But "Argo" still had plenty to offer as it had its "official" premiere at the fest, duking it out with Russell's film for the coveted Audience Award.
Is Rihanna headed to Glastonbury or is the rumor as off target as the Rolling Stones/Coachella whispers? As the news is spreading like on the interwebs, we’re crying foul on the suggestion.
The U.K.’s Daily Star reports that the singer will headline this year’s British festival, which takes place June 26-30 and returns after last year’s edition was canceled because of the London Olympics.
One big red flag that the Daily Star could be wrong? (in addition to the fact that it’s a tabloid better known for its hot “babe” pix rather than breaking news) is that the newspaper suggests Rihanna will headline Sunday night on the Pyramid stage. A quick look at the “Diamonds” tour schedule shows her only open night during the festival is Friday June 28. She is playing at Cologne’s Lanxess Arena on Jan. 26 and 27 and Zurich’s Hallenstadion on June 29-30.
That’s pretty conclusive proof, however, the final nail in the rumor’s coffin is that less than two weeks before the festival starts, she is playing throughout the U.K., including two nights at London’s Twickenham Stadium, two nights in Manchester and one night in Birmingham. No promoter in the world would book her for a festival that close to her own headlining dates.
We have a request in for a comment from Rihanna's rep, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this one doesn't have legs.
As far as the Rolling Stones rumor, that one seems to hold more promise. Guitarist Ronnie Wood told the much more respectable U.K. newspaper The Independent last week that he plans to "twist the arms" of his fellow bandmates to get them to play the festival. He plans to bring it up at the band's next meeting in March. That's a little late to leave Glastonbury twisting in the wind if Jagger and co. can't come to terms, however.
Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan will headline the inaugural Faster Horses Festival, set for July 19-21 in Brooklyn, Mich.
Among those also appearing at the new festival will be Chris Young, Thompson Square, Thomas Rhett, Kix Brooks, David Nail, Jerrod Neimann Jon Pardi, Greg Bates and Ashley Monroe.
Live Nation will produce the festival, which is a part of the national tour promoters desire to expand further into country markets. AEG/Golden Voice has the best known and largest country festival with Stagecoach, which takes place ... in Indio, Calif. However, last year, Live Nation launched Watershed Festival at the Gorge, in George Washington, and feels that the genre is an area of growth in an otherwise crowded festival space.
Three-day passes start at $170 and go on sale next Monday. For more information, go to fasterhorsesfestival.com.
(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)
Best Film Editing is the technical category most closely linked to Best Picture: the slate is routinely dominated by Best Picture contenders, and it's an oft-repeated stat that no film has won the top prize without an editing nod since "Ordinary People" 32 years ago. That's no random Oscar voodoo. Editing is a narrative-determining craft -- it's often said the editor functions as another screenwriter -- so it stands to reason that the Academy's favorite films figure most into this category. A bad film can be beautifully shot or scored, but it's rarely beautifully edited.
Last year, however, the voters threw away the category's unofficial rulebook by handing the win to David Fincher's thriller "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" -- while a film not nominated for Best Picture has taken the prize on occasion, it was the first film since "Bullitt" in 1968 to win this category and no other. This year, however, promises a less surprising result, in a category ruled by Best Picture frontrunners, and featuring just one first-time nominee.
The nominees are...