Head First into the Sweaty Masses
Views - Main Page
don't have a whole lot of time for commentary. Winding down after
the Con is a lot of work: house cleaning, laundry, errands... all
that stuff. But in-between chores and trying to tweak my internal
clock after living three-hours behind for a week, I still managed to
squeeze out three reviews for you. Yes, I listened to all the fans
that approached me after the panel. I'm going to be more visible
around the site, don't worry.
Oh, and for those of you out there who think I don't review movies
I don't like, I have a present for you: Two movies I didn't like on
DVD. But since I can't help myself, let's start with one I did...
Very Long Engagement
2005 (2005) - Warner Independent Pictures (Warner)
I remember really wanting to see this film in theaters. And I
really meant to... but the reviews from friends who saw it
weren't great. So it kinda fell off my radar. Then the DVD came
out, and once again, it was on my list. And yet again, people I
trusted said it wasn't all that great.
So the other day I had a gift certificate for the local Tower
Records, and I was picking out discs that I needed for my
collection. The first section I headed to was the International
Films section. And lo and behold, the first disc that stared me
in the face was this one (the second, by the way, was The
School of the Holy Beast, but that, my friends, will
be reviewed on another day). And guess what? My friends are
goofy. This is a bad ass flick. But I think I understand what's
going on. A Very Long Engagement
is NOT Amélie: Part Two.
It's certainly shot in the same fashion. It's quirky, but not as
much. This a love story, pure and simple - a romance tale that
rings with so much truth, that even a grown man will tear up by
the end. It's about loving someone so much that you know
everything about them, to the point that if they were to be hurt
or even die, somehow you'd know it.
I don't want to give too much away here. A
Very Long Engagement is a mystery story. It features
Audrey Tautou as Mathilde, a young French woman stricken with polio
as a child. Her childhood sweetheart, Manech, is summoned to the
trenches during World War I and is court martialed for a
self-inflicted wound. Instead of the firing line, Manech and a group
of other similarly charged "criminals" are ordered into
the no-man's land in front of the German trench, to be killed by the
enemy for sport. Mathilde hears the news of her beloved's death...
and instantly doesn't believe it. She sits and waits to hear from
him, believing he isn't dead.
Years go by.
And then something happens. Out of no where, a former comrade of
Manech summons Mathilde to confirm his death... and to give her a
collection of objects owned by all of the fallen men who died with
Manech. And it's through these objects that Mathilde finds hope and
a series of clues.
That's where I'll stop. Just know that this is a really well done
story, and even though it's not as whimsical as Amélie,
it's just as good. Maybe it's because I went in not thinking the
film was going to be good that I liked it so much. Maybe it's
because I'm a huge Jean-Pierre Jeunet fan. Or maybe it's because
this is a really good film. Either way, I loved it and I hope that
everyone out there who didn't give it a shot because they heard bad
things tries it out and loves it as much as me.
This DVD looks really good considering the fact it's a standard DVD
presentation. You get solid and colorful anamorphic widescreen
video. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 French and sounds very nice. The
bonus features are also good, and there are a bunch. On Disc One,
Jeunet provides an audio commentary in French, with English
subtitles. Disc Two features a couple of really long, detailed and
well-produced documentaries. The first is a "making of"
piece, very much like the one with Amélie,
which follows the filmmakers through all the various facets of the
filmmaking process. The second is a documentary on the process of
making Paris take a trip back to the early 1920s. There's also a
piece on how they blew up a zeppelin hanger. Oh... and there's a
selection of deleted sequences as well (not really scenes, because
mostly they are extensions of scenes in the film), with commentary
For a film that no one wanted me to see, A
Very Long Engagement turned out to be one of my favorite
films from the 2005 season. I'm happy to say that this DVD serves
the film quite well, enough that I'm very glad I bought it. So
nah-nah to all you haters out there.
'n' Roll Nightmare
Special Edition -
1987 (2006) - Amsell Entertainment (Synapse Films)
Don May, Jr. and his Synapse team put another dime in the
jukebox... but sadly, I don't love Rock
'n' Roll Nightmare. Maybe it's because I never saw
the film back in its heyday, so I don't have any sort of
nostalgic appreciation for the film. Or maybe it's because the
film sucks. I'm leaning towards the latter. Don't misunderstand
me: Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare
is a pretty kick ass DVD. The film looks and sounds fantastic
here. And the special features are also well done and fun. No,
I'm saying the film itself is a pile of dung: Bad acting, bad
dialogue, bad set-ups and direction, and horrible, horrible
special effects. But damn... a bunch of you out there enjoy this
crap, so God bless ya. If you saw this flick in the 1980s and
loved it... well, you'll absolutely love this disc.
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen video set at
1.78:1, with remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 mono audio.
Extras include a commentary with director John Fasano and
writer/star Jon-Mikl Thor, two music videos, two
behind-the-scenes featurettes (with archival footage from the
original production as well as a history of Jon-Mikl Thor's
musical career) and a video intro and outro by Thor himself.
See? Not bad. There's even bad ass packaging art by Synapse's
resident cover artist, Wes Benscoter. Rock
'n' Roll Nightmare on DVD actually flies in the face
of everyone who claims you can't polish up a turd. Apparently,
Page: Dark Angel
Two-Disc Limited Edition
- 2004 (2006) - Cult Epics
I love Bettie Page, and pin-up art (both lite and dark)
fascinates me. About two years ago, I decided to plow through
the Internet and find what I considered the ultimate Bettie Page
piece. I didn't know what it was - it's not like I am a Bettie
Page expert and knew all of her images by heart. I just knew
there was an image out there that would symbolize all her
sexiness and her innocence. For me that's what Bettie Page is:
the ultimate girl next door, who knew how to work it. It took
about three months, but I stumbled upon a guy who sells rarer
images and a select few of them were signed. So I bought what I
consider to be the ultimate image of Bettie Page. It's not the
most memorable image, but it's one that I feel captures her
Now... this film, Dark Angel,
tries hard to capture Bettie. And actress Paige Richards does a
pretty damn good job. As a film, though... I dunno. I'm not a
fan. It's a really poorly directed, blocked, acted and written
film. I don't know... maybe these elements were done on purpose
to try and capture the rough and amateurish nature of Bettie's "films,"
and not necessarily be a true-to-life biography. Maybe the goal
was to make the film look more like a it was made then. You be
the judge. In any case, I think it didn't work.
B, the director, knows Bettie as an icon better than most anybody,
considering that he's built his film distribution company, Cult
Epics, on the back of his collection of Bettie films. So
maybe this film's badness is on purpose. Who am I to be critical of
it? I'm just here to say that 1) I love Bettie, 2) I don't like this
film and 3) Paige Richards is fun.
Dark Angel is presented in
full frame aspect ratio, as originally shot, and it actually looks
damn good. Colors are rich, the black and white sequences are strong
and overall, it's a very pleasing picture. The audio is Dolby
Digital 2.0 and it sounds good, but has a few problems that pop up
here and there. It's nothing to keep you from enjoying it, however,
and ultimately it adds only to the film's low budget character.
The extras are quite nice. This is a two-disc set, and it's loaded.
Disc One offers a trailer and some behind-the-scenes extended
footage from the films within the film (Dressing
the Pony Girl, Fighting Girls,
Untying the Bound and Gagged Girl,
Dominant Bettie and Jungle
Girl Untied). There's also a nude photo shoot with
Richards doing her adorable thing on a bed. Fans of the music in
this film (a trippy jazz score created by Chris Stein, Danny B.
Harvey and Zack Ryan), will enjoy going behind-the-scenes of the
music recording sessions, as well as seeing the original dream
sequence with a deleted score by Zack Ryan. And while it's
Zack-less, Disc One rounds out with a music video for Just
As I Am, featuring the legendary Clara Ward Singers (as
featured in the film).
Disc Two is a fun treat for Bettie-philes, and makes owning this set
a no-brainer. In How to Pose Nude by
Bunny Yeager, Paige is interviewed by the one and only
Bunny Yeager, the famed Playboy
photographer (and former model) who shot most (if not all) of
Bettie's legendary Florida pictures. Here, Bunny discusses with
Paige how similar she is to Bettie, and what shooting Bettie was
like. They then go and replicate some of Bettie's shoots from the
1950s. It's very cool and lots of fun. Disc Two also features a pair
of photo galleries (one with Bettie and one with Paige), both of
which shot by Bunny, as well as a pair of short featurettes. In Date
with Paige, Paige discusses her idea of a great date.
The Maid has Paige doing her
thing as a French maid.
In the end, I can't vouch for Dark Angel
as a film. As a Bettie fan, however, I have to say that the
supplements here make this a nice DVD to own. Paige Richards is a
lot of fun in this, and she truly captures what Bettie Page was all
Well... that's it for now. It was a huge pleasure meeting Bits
fans at Comic-Con. I'm always energized after coming back from San
Diego. Between rubbing elbows with all y'all, taking meeting with
studio VIPs and disc producers, and meeting celebrities who somehow
know Bill and I and the work we do... it's all pretty fan-tastic and
a bit overwhelming. Oh... and big shout out to our partner-in-crime,
Adam Jahnke, who always makes my trips to Cali that much more
enjoyable. Good luck with your stuff and remember the Monkey my
friend. ALWAYS remember the Monkey.
Everyone else, keep spinnin' those discs!
Views - Main Page