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by Danilo Castro

7 Jul 2016


Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry

In terms of theatrical releases, July is a month dominated by red hot franchises and revived blockbusters. This month visits from ghosts, aliens, and friendly giants are set to dominate the big screen, providing the perfect platform for sunny escapism. For those wanting a little more variety in their viewing diet, however, we’ve selected ten quality films coming to some of the most popular streaming platforms this month. Spanning across eras and genres, these eclectic picks will provide a diversity of summer entertainment.

 

1. Dirty Harry
Don Siegel, 1971

The godfather of modern movie cops, “Dirty” Harry Callahan shoots his way to righteousness with this 1971 classic. Starring Clint Eastwood in the role that solidified his star status, the film follows Callahan in the pursuit of Scorpio (Andy Robinson), a serial killer modeled after the real life Zodiac case. Fact authenticity proves sparse, however, as Eastwood and director Don Siegel instead use the story to churn through an obstacle course of Bay Area landmarks with exaggerated abandon. Action sequences may view as tame by today’s standards, but Siegel’s dogged portrayal of a tough cop seeking justice remains just as powerful as it was 40 years ago. The first, and still the best of the five Dirty Harry films, this vigilante punch remains the perfect project for action purists and unlucky punks. (HBO NOW, July 1st)

by Michael Barrett

7 Jul 2016


Little in this collection is new, as the films have previously been on Blu-ray in various permutations. So what’s the big deal here? It’s the sheer convenience of finally having all 32 existing shorts made by Buster Keaton, in 2K restorations, in one shiny package.

That includes 13 “apprentice” shorts he made under the mentorship of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, and that in turn includes “The Cook”, which had been rediscovered and issued separately from the previous Arbuckle/Keaton discs. Let nobody assume these early works are too minor or primitive, or even—perish the thought—unfunny. They’re often ingenious and for some reason rely frequently on cross-dressing. Not yet established as “the great stone face”, Keaton adopts a variety of attitudes.

by Michael Barrett

28 Jun 2016


This independent noir, produced by Edward Small for distribution through United Artists, opens like a boxing picture—more like Mark Robson’s Champion  (1949), which was shot by the same cinematographer, the great Franz Planer, than like the smoky Body and Soul (Robert Rossen, 1947). As noir historian Eddie Muller observes in his commentary on this new Blu-ray, the actors in this film aren’t good at pretending to be boxers.

As directed by Phil Karlson, however, the film itself has no such problem. Light on its feet and dexterous of plot, this film throws many an expert feint at the viewer before landing a few solid punches, and it’s hard to say which moves are the most entertaining.

by Michael Barrett

22 Jun 2016


Fantastic Planet (1973) is a surreal, animated sci-fi fable of extraordinary beauty, cruelty, and strangeness. It used to circulate widely in the VHS era, when it was recognized as one of the most important animated films aimed at adults. In the DVD era, it’s been more problematic to get hold of. After a 1999 Anchor Bay disc with unremovable subtitles and an abortive release by Facets in 2007, we finally have this dazzling 2016 restoration on Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion.

Aesthetically, the film is a colorful, dreamlike visual spectacle in which Roland Topor—an illustrator known for disturbing, violent, and grotesque visions—applied his imagination to dramatizing a novel by French SF writer Stefan Wul. Topor is credited as co-scripter with director René Laloux, who worked with Czech animators for a period of several years (encompassing the “Prague Spring” and Soviet invasion of their country).

by Michael Barrett

20 Jun 2016


Now remastered in High Definition for Blu-ray, The Magnetic Monster is a ‘50s sci-fi film with an ambitious idea, a low budget, and a complicated history.

As with so much of sci-fi cinema, it all started with Curt Siodmak. Before he fled Hitler’s Germany and eventually landed in Hollywood, he wrote a big-budget German hit in the sci-fi genre—really more of a techno-thriller—called F.P.1 Antwortet Nicht. The film concerned trouble on a floating platform for airplanes in the Atlantic Ocean, and its popularity was directly responsible for director Karl Hartl reuniting with star Hans Albers for an even more expensive follow-up: the 1934 epic Gold. Siodmak didn’t work on that one, but he did write the British remake of Germany’s third big-budget techno-thriller, Der Tunnel.

//Mixed media
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Culture Belongs to the Alien in 'Spirits of Xanadu'

// Moving Pixels

"The symbols that the artifact in Spirits of Xanadu uses are esoteric -- at least for the average Western gamer. It is Chinese culture reflected back at us through the lens of alien understanding.

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