Odd mix of releases to talk about this week. First is The Kids in the Hall The Complete Collection. I’m not sure if the entire show has been available in one package before, but this comes with all the episodes uncensored, the original pilot and “Death Comes to Town”, the 8 new episodes that came out in 2010. Growing up I loved this show. I thought it was consistently funnier than Saturday Night Live even though I’m not Canadian. Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson did multiple characters in their skits which aired from 1989-1995. Twenty plus years later, there are still skits/characters that immediately come to mind for me. Whether it’s the Chicken Lady, “I’m Crushing Your Head”, gay socialite Buddy Cole, the rambling child Gavin, and so on and so on. I’ve seen some clips online over the years, but it was great to get this full collection. There was a lot I remembered, a lot I forgot about and even some I hadn’t seen. Most of it still holds up decades later. I know some people like myself who loved the show as kids who will certainly be adding this to their collection. If you were/are a fan, grab it this week.
Do you like seeing people getting killed? Well does Takashi Miike have a movie for you! The 100th film from the iconic director, Blade of the Immortal has one of the highest body counts I’ve seen in a long time. A samurai named Manji is cursed with immortality and promises to protect a girl whose parents were killed. Manji goes around just slaughtering people and there is no lack of blood or violence. I’m a big fan of Miike and this is a pretty great film. It’s absolutely beautiful to look at and has some great scenery and settings. Plus the action is pretty epic. There are all kinds of fighting with swords and tons of people getting sliced and diced. In a word, it’s bananas. I found myself clapping at times even just sitting there by myself. It’s that over the top and crazy. If you are a fan of Miike you have to pick up his 100th film. Even if you aren’t familiar with him, but like Asian period action, I recommend this to you as well.
Next is Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend. This originally came out in the mid 1980s and I remember seeing it when I was younger. I also remember it being a kids movie. Watching it now, it is not the kids movie I remember. The dinosaurs in it definitely look kid friendly, but there’s all kinds of violence, a non-nudity sex scene, topless natives and the pilot even says something like “If she was my woman I’d whip the bitch” or something similar. Sure what passed for kids movies 30 years ago isn’t the same as today, but I definitely don’t remember it being geared toward adults. William Katt (TV’s Greatest American Hero) and Sean Young discover dinosaurs and try to hide them from her former boss who wants to hunt them down and make money off them. It’s your basic good guy vs. bad guy situation with 1980s practical effects that don’t hold up well today. The film itself doesn’t hold up and is kind of laughable by today’s standards, but it was a nice trip down memory lane even if I mis-remembered the actual movie. But I’m sure it has some fans out there and this Blu-ray looks pretty good and has an interview with Katt and the director.
Now for the documentary #artoffline. I felt really sad watching this. No not because it’s another art documentary that shows me how little I know about art although that is true, it’s because I see the younger generation in this just completely losing themselves in cell phones and technology. Part of it talks about how museums and curators have to adapt to bring in visitors, but part of it is also how artists today only think about art online and that young people today would rather look at something online than in person. It shows some artists who don’t even work in physical media and that some people think they get the same experience looking at a painting or sculpture on a 2 inch screen as you would at a gallery. Since you can’t touch it at a gallery, what’s the difference? Ugh, that’s just sadness. Or if they do go to a museum they have to take a picture in front of it to prove they were there. One “artist” and I refuse to not put that in quotes, said digital makes things better because you can take a picture and use filters and make all kinds of different pictures out of it and no one remembers what the original one was. That’s not artistry to me. Artistry is the act of taking that picture and seeing it with your own eye not color changing it over and over again. It’s an interesting documentary, but I definitely go into “Get off my lawn” old man mode with stuff like this.
Next is the pseudo-documentary Orchestra Rehearsal from Federico Fellini which I totally didn’t understand. Fellini’s film has a TV crew recording and interviewing musicians and it starts out as a basic documentary type film. They talk about their instruments, who is more important in an orchestra, why one instrument is more respectable than the other and so on. Then it all breaks out into chaos, but it’s all fake so it didn’t work for me. They destroy stuff and yell and fight, but ultimately play together. I don’t really get the point. It’s from the 1970s and has been restored for this release. It’s obviously satire, but I don’t know what it is satirizing. But if you know the film, this is THE version to own.
Speaking of fake documentary style, Paradise is also out this week. Ok it’s not a fake documentary, it just has some scenes shot that way mixed in with regular scenes in a full narrative. People talk to the camera telling their story. It’s black & white and tells of a Russian countess who becomes part of the French Resistance during World War II. There is the local investigator who wants the full story from the Russian countess. And there’s the German soldier who knew her before the war. It won a ton of film festivals and is Russian’s entry into the 2017 Oscars for Best Foreign Film. Overall I liked it, but didn’t love it. I get that they are trying to show the human side of people during the war, those who turn towards it and those who turn away. The countess felt she had to help, the soldier came from a respected family but ends up just another SS officer and the investigator thinks he’s not part of the problem because he’s just doing his job locally and isn’t part of the war. It’s good, but it just didn’t resonate with me the way I expected it to.
Sticking with the World War II theme, Line 41 is next. This actually is a documentary about a Holocaust survivor, Natan Grossman, returning 70 years later. He returns to Lodz, Poland to find out information about his long-lost brother. It’s an emotional journey filled with all kinds questions. One man helps him and this man has family history as well as his father was a Nazi. Lodz had a ghetto that the Jewish people were kept in and a train, Line 41, went through it daily and the film questions how those on the train could ignore what they could easily see outside their own windows. It will be a tough watch for some people, but it will also make you think. It’s easy to second guess people when you weren’t there and it’s decades later. As stories are told, you see why people did what they did, whether to survive or to keep themselves out from attention. If you questioned anything you could be killed so people kept to themselves. Grossman is alive today because of his mother and so much more. I won’t spoil it and give away too much information because it’s worth watching. Be prepared for the journey though.
Last we have The Diabolical Dr. Z. This actually came out last week, but I didn’t get my copy until Friday. This Jess Franco film is from the 1960s and finds a woman taking over her father’s experiments to get revenge on those who looked down on his work. She is able to control people by tapping into their brains and spine. She uses a dancer to lure in the other scientists who shunned her father. It’s kind of silly by today’s standards, but I also kind of liked it. If you watch it with the mindset of when it was released, it was probably scary stuff to people. Using someone who doesn’t know what they are doing in order to kill is probably experiments governments were doing back then with doctors like this. The set design was pretty cool and it has a good gothic type vibe to it. Fans of Franco’s will like this Blu-ray which features commentary by film historian Tim Lucas who is THE Franco expert.