Blu-Ray Review: Nikkatsu Diamond Guys

Arrow Video are planning to release a new series of budget Japanese genre movie box sets, beginning with Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 1. I’m feeling lazy this morning, so rather than explain the set’s title in my own words, I’ll just borrow the blurb from Arrow’s press release:

‘Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan, inaugurated a star system in the late 1950s, finding talent and contracting to their Diamond Line for a series of wild genre pictures. This collection celebrates these Diamond Guys with three classic films from directors Seijun Suzuki (Branded to Kill), Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife) and Buichi Saito (Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril).’

The films included in the set are Voice Without a Shadow, Red Pier & The Rambling Guitarist. Below are my thoughts on the individual films.

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Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Director: Burr Steers (17 Again, Charlie St. Cloud)
Novel: Jane Austen (kinda), Seth Grahame-Smith (kinda)
Producers: Marc Butan, Sean McKittrick, Brian Oliver, Natalie Portman, Annette Savitch, Allison Shearmur, Tyler Thompson
Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Suki Waterhouse, Charles Dance, Lena Headey, Matt Smith
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 108 min.

 


I don’t understand the appeal of Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” As a fan of Austen, I could never quite figure out why anyone would feel the need to mix the literary classic with the zombie apocalypse. If the goal was simply to turn Lizzie Bennet into a more independent woman, then Grahame-Smith missed the point of Austen’s novel. But alas, I digress.

I had no interest in the book and just as little in the upcoming adaptation. And then the trailer happened. For a moment, I allowed myself a modicum of excitement: this might actually work!

It doesn’t.

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Review: Hail, Caesar!

“Squint! Squint against the grandeur!” so the film director can be heard offscreen during a series of dailies, which unspool in a Hollywood Studio screening room midway through Hail, Caesar! If the Coen Brothers did not definitively poke their finger in the eye of the crass factory of dreams that is tinsel town in Barton Fink, they take another look, albeit a more broader and effervescent one, at the foibles of making pictures in the late 1940s. Considering they use the same fictional studio, Capitol Pictures (“Where the writer is king!”) one might think of their latest as the loosest of sequels to that 1991 Cannes winning film. More interestingly, Hail, Caesar! is a playfully spiteful grab-bag of in-jokes in old Hollywood and the own eclectic filmography.

Josh Brolin is Eddie Mannix, Capitol Pictures’ executive producer, problem solver, and media fixer, a character loosely based on the real man of the same name, who served the same function for MGM (and was thought to be complicit in the death of the original on-screen Superman, George Reeves.) The Coen’s give us an exceptionally busy 27 hours in the life of Mannix, the span of time between two Catholic confessions, where the devoutly converted catholic obsesses over the minutiae of his marriage and personal life, while compartmentalizing, and fully omitting, the myriad of sins of his profession.

A job that entails supervising four movies being shot on the studio lot, all plagued by problems in their own unique ways. The sword-and-sandals, ‘Jesus Picture’ star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney, sillier than ever – an injoke reminiscent of Steve Buscemi’s ever decreasing mortal remains in the Coenography) is missing, and the gossip columnists (both played by Tilda Swinton, both underused), the sailor tap-dancing musical has an alarming case of closeted gayness (and a wonderful cameo from the Highlander frenchman, Christopher Lambert), the Busby Berkeley mermaid picture has a star (Scarlett Johannson, in a glorious Noo Yawk accent) and whose fish tail is getting more ill-fitting by the hour due to a pregnancy scandal about to break, and a Euro-flavoured drawing-room melodrama has been saddled with an aw-shucks singing cowboy leading man (Alden Ehrenreich in a breakout performance) who is far, far out of his depth.

Mannix navigates this shifting sea of apocalyptic problems (at one point, a mushroom cloud is presented on screen in the manner of The Hudsucker Proxies‘ Hula-Hoop), strung together by the Coens with their penchant for noir-ish plots, with an almost savant-like talent that is the antithesis of both the Dude, Jeff Bridges’ boozy and drugged flailing in The Big Lebowski, or Billy Bob Throton’s Ed Crane, the quietly ambitious Barber in The Man Who Wasn’t There. Whitlock’s kidnapping is abetted by both by a spiked drink and a dry cleaning truck, so they are clearly nodding to both, while demonstrating there are so many orthogonal directions to take neo-noir that the surface has only been scratched in the past 75 years.

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Friday One Sheet: Ava’s Possessions

It is all about the colour palette with this eye-grabbing key art for indie horror picture, Ava’s Possessions, a film I regret missing when it played last years Fantasia Film Festival (had it had this poster, I might have made time for it!) With its vibrant teal gradient, blood red martini and pale skin tones each making the other stand out a little further. The pink neon titles further evoke the bar-fly allusions that go right along with the tagline. Superb!

“The Prisoner” A microPodcast

 
Kurt Halfyard & Nat Almirall swap their togas for khakis, jackets, the occasional blue turtleneck, and suave buttons to bring you another microcast, this time focusing on the celebrated, allegorical, and surreal 1967 series The Prisoner.

Conceived by the enigmatic Patrick McGoohan, “The Prisoner” follows a British ex-spy who ‘privately, personally, and by hand’ resigns his post only to be gassed and spirited to a bizarre Village, a place where all the other peculiar inhabitants are identified by numbers and overseen by an ominous, but ever revolving Number 2. As the spy, now renamed Number 6, seeks an escape, Number 2, ‘by hook or by crook,’ attempts to uncover the reason for Number 6’s resignation.

Join Numbers K & N as they break down each of the 17 episodes, unraveling the metaphors, tracking Number 6 on the Dickishness Behavior Scale, engaging in a bit of the ultra passive-aggressiveness, and lavishing praise on the monolithic Leo McKern.

What do the Cold War, Lewis Carroll, Gay Barry Goldwater, and Lava Lamps(tm) have in common? What is the best way to escape from being tied to a chair? How do you make a Village Iced Tea? And what is up with those umbrellas? Listen in, and then you will know everything…

The first three episodes are available now for streaming (see table of contents below) or in the RowThree podcast feed to send to whatever listening device you prefer:

 

After the Hype #126 – Best of 2015

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Welcome to the AFTER THE HYPE BEST of 2015 episode. Bryan, Jon, and Ryan sit down and take some calls from the guys over at DEUS EX COMICA, special guest JEFF, and even SPECIALER guest – THE HADUKEN FROM HOBOKEN HIMSELF – NICK FRIEDEMANN. The episode is jam-packed with 2015 goodness so get to listening!

 

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After the Credits Episode 184: February Preview

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He becons many sequels. The role Ryan Reynolds was born to play

Sooooo we sort of missed December due to the festival craziness and then January… well, that was all my fault. That’s what a week of holidays will do to you. It made my brain so mushy I forgot that we were supposed to record and then regular January stuff happened and time just vanished!

It was probably for the best. January at the movies looked absolutely terrible. Good news is, Coleen, Dale (Letterboxd) and I (Letterboxd) are back just in time for some of the good stuff to start our year of podcasting off right!

Other stuff mentioned this episode:

– Entrance to the Salmar Theatre in Salmon Arm BC:

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Cool right?

– Colleen and her swanky new mic:

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What you don’t see in this photo: Marina’s microphone envy

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