Posts Tagged ‘warner brothers’

Sooner or later it always seems to come back to Larry Cohen around here, doesn’t it?

And hell, why not? For well over tow decades (closer to three, really), he’s been at the forefront of two of the more venerable B-movie categories that fall frequently under our purview, namely horror and blaxploitation. And while his undisputed best piece of work in any field is the Fred “The Hammer” Williamson starring vehicle Black Caesar, his finest foray into the horror field (in my own humble opinion, at any rate) is 1974’s retelling of the Frankenstein myth (only this time with a baby), It’s Alive.

The set-up is as simple as you’d probably expect — ready-to-pop Lenore Davis (Sharon Farrell) heads to the hospital with her husband, well-to-do advertising executive Frank (John P. Ryan, listed here simply as John Ryan) to give birth, but when the baby comes out it turns out to be a hideous, hugely-fanged mutant with an insatiable appetite for blood that first kills everyone in the delivery room (except mommy) and then escapes into the night. When an unscrupulous TV news reporter actually has the gall to broadcast the names of the parents of this freak of nature, things get even worse for Frank as he finds himself out of work due to the bad publicity the manhunt (or should that be kidhunt) for his offspring brings to his Madison Avenue firm.

Things, obviously, aren’t all that they seem (and they seem pretty strange to say the least), for while It’s Alive preys deliciously on then-contemporary fears of genetic mutation as a result of pollution and what have you, there’s obviously more to the whole thing than just accidental enviro-poisoning going on here, since the Davis family’s eldest child, 11-year-old Christopher, is perfectly normal.

Truth be told, though, while there’s a dark (of sorts) secret at the heart of this film, and the gore effects are pretty darn good for their time (and still hold up pretty well against some of today’s lower-budget efforts), it’s really the tow lead performances that carry this film, with Farrell’s Lenore going through the stages of slow-burn total breakdown, while Ryan’s Frank becomes a mask of steely resolve as he comes, and then sticks, to the conclusion that his own flesh and blood must be destroyed for the good of both society at large as well as, frankly, himself and his family.

It’s Alive is available on DVD from Warner Brothers in a 3-pack set that also includes its two somewhat-less-than-stellar sequels (it was also remade for the straight-to-video market in 2008, but the less about that particular fiasco the better). The remastered widescreen picture and stereo soundtrack are both great, and it includes the trailer and a pretty solid commentary track from writer-director Cohen. Given that the whole set is usually available at bargain-basement prices, it’s definitely a worthwhile purchase.

I’m not going to tell you that It’s Alive is a classic, or even anything of the sort, but like all Cohen films, it has modest aspirations and exceeds them at every turn. From a solid plot to genuinely terrific lead performances to effectively atmospheric cinematography and lighting to a fair dose of intrigue to a non-heavy-handed exploration of contemporary sociopolitical issues to a nicely- inflated body count to extremely-competently-executed effects, it delivers a lot more than it promises and ends up being a hell of a lot more enjoyable than it probably has any right to be.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that all adds up to a very enjoyable evening in front of the TV, particularly at this time of year.

Free Advetising For "Watchmen : The Ultimate Cut" On DVD And Blu-Ray. Warner Brothers Can Thank Me Later.

I’ve already reviewed Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen, ” specifically the director’s cut, in my typically way-too-verbose style at , so I’ll refrain from going into heavy depth about it here again to save both your sanity and mine. Suffice to say, I was all over this new 5-disc DVD (your host hasn’t made the Blu-Ray leap yet) box set the day it came out, and while I find it a mixed package and even something of a missed opportunity, I’m generally pretty pleased with it.

First off, the “book-style” packaging is great, and it looks sharp on your shelf. Does that matter? Ultimately, no, but whatever. It’s a cool-looking product. It also can be had for a pretty reasonable price. I got it off Amazon brand new for $26.99. So that’s another plus. But what of the content of this impressive-looking, reasonably-priced box? If you’ve already got the director’s cut on DVD, is it worth a “double-dip,” as the industry lingo goes?

Well, that depends on how big a “Watchmen” fan you are. The only major difference here is that you get about 15 more minutes of film, with the animated (and very cool) “Tales of the Black Freighter” material added in, as well as some establishing footage around each animated sequence involving the newsvendor and the kid reading the comic. If you’re a hardcore “Watchmen” fan you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about and if you’re clueless as to what it is my blathering here is exactly in reference to, then honestly you don’t need this “Ultimate Cut” box set at all.

There’s been some criticism that the “Black Freighter” stuff kind of slows down the pace of the film and doesn’t mesh in too terribly well, but I don’t buy that. It seems like a perfectly worth addition to me. The flick honestly never lags, even at the just-over-three-and-a-half-hour running time of the “ultimate cut.”  Plus, you get two full feature-length commentaries, one from directory Snyder and the other from Dave Gibbons, co-creator and illustrator of the original comic (as usual, Alan Moore is nowhere to be found, having washed his hands of all Hollywood adaptations of his work). Snyder’s commentary is highly informative, moves along at a good clip, and is a pleasure to listen to. Gibbons is a little more subdued and his commentary lags in spots as it’s clear he’s just sort of watching it and taking it all in. It’s still a worthwhile enough way to spend over three and a half hours of your time, but it’s definitely the less essential of the two commentaries to check out, and probably only of interest to serious devotees and/or completists.

And speaking of serious devotees and/or completists, that’s kind of where this set falls short. The second disc is a nice selection of extras totaling over two hours, but there are some things missing. We get the same behind-the-scenes featurettes “ported over” from the previous director’s cut release, plus a nice lengthy new one, and the faux-documentary “Under the Hood” that was originally issued as part of the “Tales of the Black Freighter” single-disc release, but we don’t get the full “Black Freighter” story by itself without interruption that we got with that earlier stand-alone disc. This isn’t the end of the world as “Black Freighter” works best when cut into small segments and watching the whole thing in one go makes a person realize that it is, in actuality, a rather flimsy little story. It has much more impact in “pseudo-serialized,” if you will, format. But the full, uninterrupted version is about a minute or so longer than the segmented version that’s in  the “ultimate cut”  of the film. Again, probably only if interest to the anal retentive completist (who? me?), but still worth a mention.

Another item die-hard will probably regret Warner Brothers not including is the interactive video commentary from Snyder that’s on the Blu-Ray version of the director’s cut. I haven’t seen this myself yet, but i hear it’s pretty awesome and he goes into great depth while delivering essentially an annotated visual guide to the film. Warners could quite easily have found a way to include this material in stand-alone fashion on both the DVD and Blu-Ray versions of the “ultimate cut,” but have chosen, for whatever reason, not to do so. Something tells me that a “Super-Duper, Seriously Ultimate Cut,” or a “Complete Watchmen,” might be in the works for next Christmas.

The third disc is yet another digital copy  of the theatrical cut, which was already included with the Director’s Cut, and is totally superfluous. Why they bothered with it I have no idea.

Finally, the fourth and fifth discs comprise the “Watchmen Complete Motion Comic,” a pretty cool little semi-animated, full-length “video book” of all twelve issues of the comic itself. I rather like it, but again, it was issued as a stand-alone release some time ago, and here they haven’t even repackaged it to fit in with the overall visual look of the box or anything, it’s the same release as before in the same packaging. Nice to have if you don’t already, but absolutely redundant if you do, and good luck getting more than a couple bucks for your now-unnecessary stand-alone “Motion Comic” release on eBay.

So there you have it, the “Watchmen Ultimate Cut” box set in a nutshell. A little bit of extremely worthwhile new material, plenty of stuff that’s already been released previously, and some stuff they just plain missed out on ilcuding, probably quite intentionally. I don’t think this will be the final “Watchmen” DVD/Blu-Ray release, as it’s in no way absolutely comprehensive, so look for a set containing the Ultimate Cut, the director’s cut, another frigging digital copy disc of the theatrical cut, and all the bonus material that’s out there at some point in the future. Like I said, next Christmas is probably a pretty safe bet.

You do get more than enough bang for your buck, though, provided you’re a die-hard completist and want to see as close an adapatation of the comic itself as is probably humanly possible. In short, it’s a must-have for hardcore “Watchmen” devotees, but anyone and everyone else can safely take a pass.