.. the truth is I never loved you. Except Disney+ which is still showing the big fellas like Netflix and Amazon Prime how one should present a streaming service and offer value added content. Though Netflix does get a few points for allowing Criterion to distribute one of their original movies.

Today I received another haul of Blu-Ray discs, mainly featuring titles from the UK Criterion Collection:

It might have been cheaper for Zaavi to send all of them in a box…

But let’s start with a non-Criterion title. Watchmen, the limited series from HBO. I missed out when it first aired on Sky Atlantic. It was well received, and being a fan of the original comic and Zack Snyder’s film, it seemed fitting that one should add it to the collection. It also reminds me that I should also get HBO’s Chernobyl. I’ll add it to my wishlist.

Watchmen – An HBO Limited Series

Bob Dylan not included

On to the UK Criterion Collection titles:

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

It’s still very much a mad, mad, mad, mad world.

I remember watching this a fair old while back and enjoying it. I also happen to like 60s films. I also caught Rat Race, which is a direct influence and found it lacking. This being Criterion, you get some decent extras including the general release version, the extended 197 minute version, audio commentaries, documentaries and so much extra stuff that it’d take you an eternity to get through it all. Just the way I like it.

Tampopo

The Search for Noodly Goodness

I’m pretty sure I originally saw this on Channel 4 in the early 90s and was captivated by it. So it’s difficult to judge whether my fondness for this film remains, but I recall that I liked it – plus it’s got some very decent reviews, so I’m hoping for the best. Includes a documentary, a video essay and several interviews.

The Royal Tenenbaums

Red tracksuits optional

Another Wes Anderson movie. I’ve only ever seen this once, but I remember it like it was yesterday. That’s the kind of movies Wes Anderson makes. You never forget them. Contains audio commentary, documentaries, interviews, etc.

La Cage Aux Folles

A French Tickler – ooer missus, whoopsie, etc. etc.

I’m sure that I saw the remake first – The Birdcage starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane and finding it very funny – which meant that I had to track down and watch the original. And I seem to recall that too was very funny – each version having its own take on things. But I love French films, and the stranger the premise, the more interesting things get.

That said, I recently bought French Twist, a film I saw back in my university days – probably part of the UEA French Society (I was a casual member) – on iTunes having thought it was funny. The plot – a womanising estate agent finally meets his match when a butch lesbian truck driver pulls up at his family home and woos his wife.

What follows is an insane twisty-turny series of events which feels more dramatic than funny after 20 years from first watching it. It does have some genuinely funny moments, but it really does get very poignant at times, and you think, how the hell are they going to resolve all this?. Interestingly the film was co-written by Telsche Boorman, daughter of British film director John Boorman (and also features a cameo appearance from his other daughter, Katrine).

La Cage Aux Folles comes with several interviews and some archival footage.

The Fisher King

A film that only Terry Gilliam could make

Another film that I’ve only ever seen once, but have never forgotten, this is a film that only Robin Williams and Terry Gilliam could make. And they do it so well. Mixing fantasy and (hard) reality is a staple of Gilliam’s films, and this is no exception.

And it features the most romantic (or at least the most straight forward and truthful) line ever spoken by a man (Robin Williams) wooing a woman (Amanda Plummer) in cinematic history: “I have a hard-on for you the size of Florida” (thankfully she doesn’t smack him in the moolies with a blunt instrument).

The Fisher King is a wonderful film, and it ought have done much better than it has – but I’m so glad it’s come to Criterion where we can enjoy an audio commentary, interviews, screen tests, essays and deleted scenes.

Roma

Truly Offline Netflix

When I first saw Roma on Netflix, I was extremely impressed with this film. It showed a whole different side to Mexico that I had no idea about, plus the performances were truly extraordinary.

I’m very glad that Netflix has allowed Criterion to release this movie on physical disk, as it includes a number of extras (including interviews, documentaries, and also comes with a booklet – the whole package feels very weighty, which is nice).

I sincerely hope Netflix and Criterion will team up again for Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, as I’m sure that would be a very worthy release – especially if it comes with a decent set of extras.

Bottle Rocket

Another Wes Anderson, yet I’ve never seen it!

This is a first – a Wes Anderson film I haven’t actually seen yet! Don’t know much about it – don’t really care. Looking forward to putting this one on and just letting it take me wherever it wants to take me.

Coming Soon!

Later this month (or early next), I hope to collect Akira Kurosawa’s Samurai Collection which contains several of his films: The Seventh Samurai, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo and Sanjuro. The Seventh Samurai is, of course, famous for inspiring other filmmakers and stories including George Lucas and Star Wars and The Magnificent Seven.

Alongside that, I also hope to get Rashomon and Kagemusha, as well as Criterion Lone Wolf and Cub (though I fear they use cardboard sleeves for the discs which is a big no-no for me due to scratching).

Despite digital film releases being more convenient (especially as they usually include an extra week or two window before any rentals or physical disks are released), I was shaken up by Apple’s revelation that they can remove content from your library unless you download your purchases (and even then you don’t get to download the 4K version of the film if it’s available, nor any extras). You can read a lot more about that on this blog.

As you can tell from the previous few posts, I’ve started buying more Blu-Ray disks again. Heck, you can head over to my recently re-launched Instagram account where I detail many of them as they come in. Many of them are classic titles that I’ve enjoyed over the years, but I’ve added a few modern titles to my wishlist.

I’ve a feeling that physical disks will still play an important part in a film lover’s collection because (a) removal of digital content at will by the seller and (b) offline/higher bitrates than digital streaming services lead to better overall quality. It’s also much harder to find rarer films from the likes of iTunes and Amazon, and physical disks usually contain many more extras than that of their digital counterparts.

Most importantly, I think that the sales of Xbox One Series X and Playstation 5 which both come with UHD Blu-Ray players by default (though there is a diskless version of the PS5) will continue to drive the market and demand for films on disk.

Back in the late 1990s, I bought myself a chipped Sony DVD player which could play region 1 disks. I wanted this ability because there was a company called The Criterion Collection which released (or in many cases re-released) movies on DVD which came with a plethora of special features. And these were absolutely brilliant for the film fan. And it helped also when I first went to the US back in 2000 and travelled across the entire country by bus and came back with a huge stack of DVDs of films not yet released in the UK.

That Sony DVD player has sadly gone away, and I never replaced it with a multi-region player again (which is a shame because I still own a copy of Pixar’s Cars on DVD which came directly from Pixar to my boss at MPC as part of a gift pack that was sent out to Renderman customers – he didn’t have a multi-region player, but I did at the time). So I’ve been restricted to region 2 or region B disks.

But the good news is that The Criterion Collection has been releasing titles in the UK/region B and I’ve started collecting all the good titles. Arrow Films has also been doing similar, and I’ve picked up some truly wonderful titles.

Robocop

You have 30 seconds to comply..

When the movie first came out in 1987, I was only ten years old. But I was desperate to see this film. Thankfully my mum managed to buy a copy on VHS when it came out for consumers. It was my very first 18-rated film, and I loved every minute of it. When I bought the original Criterion DVD back in the 90’s, this contained extra sequences (including an extremely gory death) and audio commentaries galore. This Arrow Films release contains all that and includes both the director’s cut and theatrical release.

Nightbreed

So much potential for a TV series

I came across Clive Barker’s work after reading about Hellraiser in Fangoria (or one of the other many film/horror magazines I bought at the time). I’m sure I watched Hellraiser before Nightbreed and was extremely impressed (and as Clive Barker’s directorial debut, absolutely incredible).. Hellraiser is technically my first horror – but I was so impressed with the special make-up and creature effects that I had to see what they did next. Nightbreed was that film. I absolutely loved it. I even bought the Titan behind-the-scenes book which contained high resolution photos of the monsters and other behind the scenes photos. Loads of information.

It’s horror/fantasy, but more emphasis on fantasy than horror. It stars Canadian director David Cronenberg in a major role, and the creatures themselves are wonderful. Danny Elfman’s music score is suitably ethereal, and the ending is crying out of continuation – maybe in the form of a TV series.

This release comes with a huge bunch of special features that I look forward to perusing through.

Being There

I like to watch..

Peter Sellers last film, and possibly his very best. It took me a very long time to get around to watching this, despite being a huge fan of Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude (which is crying out for a Criterion Collection UK release).

Is Chance the wisest men in the world? Is his autistic? Is he just a simple gardener with simple thoughts? Regardless of his mental state, his words have a heavy influence in US politics and becomes a major political figure – quite by chance. What follows is a farce on a similar scale to Dr. Strangelove and ends in a rather mystical and open-ended way.

Moonrise Kingdom

As a fan of Benjamin Britten, I approve of this film

Wes Anderson. The man can make a thoroughly entertaining film out of virtually anything. It’s very difficult to pinpoint exactly why I love his work, but he is by far one of the best directors of the past 20-30 years. His adaptation of The Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of the greatest Roald Dahl adaptations I’ve ever seen (including the Tim Burton adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that I worked on). He adds part whimsy, part conflict, part surrealism, some really superb dialogue work, oddball characters and a dash of romance (where needed) and gives you a film that is incredible to watch and a story that’s engrossing as any book.

The Criterion Collection UK has a few of his films, and I’ve just bought the rest – they should be arriving this week – but there is still room for Criterion to add a few more of his works to the Collection (namely Fantastic Mr. Fox, the Isle of Dogs, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Darjeeling Limited). I’m also crazy excited to see his new film, The French Dispatch, when it hopefully opens in cinemas in October.

But Moonrise Kingdom is a beautiful coming-of-age film about two adolescents on a made-up New England island running away after feeling alienated from their parents and peers. This triggers a massive police search, including that of the islanders. Featuring an insanely wonderful score from Alexandre Desplat, and isn’t afraid to borrow from Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to The Orchestra (which also features). It’s worth listening throughout the end credits as the soundtrack breaks the fourth wall.

If life could be a Wes Anderson movie, I think we’d all be better off..

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Features some damn good covers of David Bowie’s music, including Starman & Life on Mars

More Wes Anderson! This time we follow Steve Zissou, renowned oceanographer (and meant to parody Jacques Cousteau) on the hunt for the infamous “Jaguar Shark” which ate his business partner. Part Moby Dick, part mockumentary, part family drama, and part sea adventure. It also features some wonderful stop-motion animation of imaginary sea animals to boot, and an insane set containing most of the submersible and its rooms.

This is a very ambitious film from Anderson, featuring a fantastic cast, great music score, and.. oh, you know – I just love everything about this film. Like his other stuff, infinitely rewatchable. And it comes a load of extras which will keep any film fan happy.

Midnight Cowboy

Hey, I’m walking here!

It’s been a while since I first saw this film, but it stuck in mind ever since. What really makes it special is the relationship between Dustin Hoffman’s Ratso and Jon Voight’s Joe Buck. I’ll also never forget Ratso’s dream sequence in which the music I recognised from the 1980’s Animal Show with Johnny Morris. The origins of some music tracks defies belief!

The ending is surprisingly emotional, which is not helped by John Barry’s wonderfully haunting theme (dabs eyes). Never has the harmonica sounded so beautiful. And Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’ is such a classic that it’s difficult to count how many times it’s been re-used elsewhere.

Again, plenty of extras to keep the most ardent fan happy.

And the rest..

Arrow Film’s Summer Camp 2020 Sale

Arrow Films is having a sale on – with many titles at £5/£7.50. It was rude not to indulge, so I picked out a few that I’ve been wanting to own for a while.

I’ll mention Zardoz because it’s a film that I watched late at night, possibly during secondary school, and found it to be utterly weird. And it stuck firmly in my mind. It’s been a right bugger to find it ever since and this Arrow Films Blu-Ray is the jackpot. Not only do you get a lovely remastered copy of the film, but audio commentaries and all manner of extras. I’ve been a big fan of John Boorman’s films since watching this (as mad as a box of frogs Zardoz is as a story). It also features one of the best version of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 that I’ve ever heard – but alas, does not exist anywhere other than the film. No soundtrack was ever released.

And Zardoz was shot at Ardmore Studios in County Wicklow, Ireland. I had the very great pleasure to visit there for the filming of Miramax Ella Enchanted (and was driven from Dublin to Ardmore by Richard Harris’ former driver). Didn’t get to see much of Country Wicklow’s beautiful hills – but it’s an impressive studio that’s for sure.

Oldboy I already have on Blu-Ray – but not the two disc edition. The second disc contains a THREE hour documentary on the making of the film. The film itself is absolutely fantastic, so for £5, I’m not going to say no just to get at that documentary.

Similarly, the extra features on A Fish Called Wanda are worth it alone. I’ve always liked the film, so now I can get to see and hear a bit more about how it was made (and why).

Being John Malkovich is a title I originally owned on region 1 DVD back in the 1990’s, but never got around to replacing it until now. Extra features also made it a lot more attractive as well as the cost.

Children of Men is a film I’ve seen a couple of times, and features some brain melting VFX and cinematography, so I had to get this. I’ve also recently purchased Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma on Criterion Collection UK which I thoroughly enjoyed (and features some stunning VFX work from my former employers MPC), so looking forward to that.

That’s all for now – but stay tuned for more movie madness.