Review: John Carpenter Restorations out on Blu-ray and 4K

Studiocanal is going to release some of director John Carpenter’s considerable back catalogue, including The Fog (1980), Escape from New York (1981), Prince of Darkness (1987) and They Live (1988).

These films will also get shown at UK cinemas over the next 7 days.

For more information visit: https://www.johncarpenter4k.co.uk/films


THE FOG (1980)

After the cult crime drama Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), followed by a massive breakout success of low-budget horror Halloween (1978), he came out with The Fog. A spooky film about sailors who use the weather to enact ghostly retribution for crimes past.

Whilst it doesn’t have full-bore intensity of his early work, it is notable for a cameo by John Houseman (mentor of Orson Welles) and the real life relationship of Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween) and her mother Janet Leigh (Psycho), both performances are nice ironic nods to previous horror classics.


ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)

One of the great cult films of its era, this futuristic tale of a dangerous criminal (Kurt Russell) forced by a prison commissioner (Lee Van Cleef) to rescue the US President (Donald Pleasance). Whilst the setting (1997) has long passed, some of the ideas leave their mark: Manhattan run as savage open prison; a police force run like the special forces; a city surrounded by an enormous wall.

This features some great production design by Joe Alves, and some notable actors in the cast: Harry Dean Stanton and Isaac  Hayes. Some of the set pieces are brilliantly arranged and a lot of burnt out New York was actually filmed in St. Louis, which had suffered a devastating fire. Carpenter and his team (including a young Jim Cameron) presented a chilling vision


PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)

One of the more underrated films of the Carpenter canon, this came after some perceived studio failures, The Thing (1982), Christine (1984) and Big Trouble in Little China (1986). Carpenter seemed determined to have his own vision back by teaming up with independent companies and the result was a chilling film about strange things going on in an abandoned LA church.

With scientists recruited by an old priest (Carpenter favourite Donald Pleasance) they seem baffled by the on set of an infectious green fluid, which leads to possession and demonic chaos. Perhaps some will dismiss this as hokum, as they did on first release – but this has interesting ideas complemented by some clever visuals.


THEY LIVE (1988)

The most ardently political film made by Carpenter was also his funniest. Featuring the wrestler Roddy Piper, this damning satire of Regan era was filled with inventive twists. Principally the idea that the ruling classes of America were ugly aliens controlling a blind public through hidden slogans. Only by wearing specially made sunglasses can he see the difference.

This might sound like hard work, but it is so shrewdly crafted and features some savage political humour, now especially pertinent in the era of Trump.  But it is also features some hilarious scenes, especially towards the climax. These four films represent some of the highlights of Carpenter’s career and to seem them remastered in 4K is a delight.

> More about John Carpenter at Wikipedia
> More about John Carpenter on 4K

Review: Best

A mostly successful portrait of the Norther Irish footballer explores his explosive sporting highs and dark personal lows.

Hailing from Belfast, he crossed the Irish sea and was playing for Matt Busby‘s Manchester United by the age of 17.

Then began a dizzy spell of sumptuous football: an FA Cup win for the club in 1963, two First Division titles in 1965 and 1967 either side of a famous performance in 1966 away to Lisbon’s Benfica, and then a dramatic European Cup win in 1968, again against the aforementioned Portuguese powerhouse.

Ironically, this win marked a gradual decline for both club and player as United did not win a league title for another 25 years and would only regain the European Cup in 1999.

As for Best, he would endure a shattering descent into depression and alcoholism, with parts of the British press painting him into a corner as a celebrity party animal.

He later said: “The whole thing became a total nightmare”

Although director Daniel Gordon adopts a mostly chronological approach, he doesn’t shy away from the pain of his private life that continued to dog him as he became a wandering footballer for hire in the USA and around the world during the 1970s and 80s.

Among a raft of smoothly edited archive footage, there are some key interviews woven throughout: a sad lament from close United teammate Paddy Crerand, plus testimony from former wives Angie and Alex, who reveal the tumult of living with Best.

The film doesn’t really go far enough in exploring the full extent of the physical and mental abuse he reportedly inflicted on them, but still deserves praise for getting them in front of the camera to broach the subject.

At the time of his death in 2005, Best was a forlorn figure who had undergone a liver transplant and yet still continued to drink.

One might have thought there was not much more to say about George Best. But for veteran observers or newcomers to his life and career, this is a solid place to start.

> Find out more about George Best at Wikipedia
> Buy the film on DVD or Blu-ray at Amazon UK

Interview: Chris Cornell on Casino Royale

With the sad news of his death yesterday aged 52, I was reminded of an interview I did in 2006 with the late Soundgarden and Audioslave singer Chris Cornell.

He was chosen to perform singing duties on that year’s Bond film, Casino Royale, which also saw a new actor cast as the iconic spy.

You could not wish to meet a nicer and more urbane rock star and my initial scepticism about a former grunge singer performing duties on a Bond film were immediately wiped away.

The subsequent doubts about the 007 reboot (a lot was riding on it) were wiped away as Daniel Craig triumphed as the British secret agent and the film garnered rave reviews and a massive worldwide gross of $599m.

Listen to the interview here:

> Find out more about Casino Royale (2006)
> BBC News on Chris Cornell’s death, aged 52

DVD & Blu-ray Picks: May 2017

DVD & BLU-RAY

Tampopo – The Criterion Collection (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) / http://amzn.to/2qOwl2E

A Monster Calls (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) / http://amzn.to/2rnL5Tb

My Life As a Dog (Arrow Films) / http://amzn.to/2qp8m8N

Silence (Elevation Sales) / http://amzn.to/2pTA36i

12 Angry Men – The Criterion Collection (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) / http://amzn.to/2qti74p

La La Land (Elevation Sales) / http://amzn.to/2qOTSk7

Mad Max: Fury Road – Black and Chrome Edition (Warner Home Video) / http://amzn.to/2qpjRNU

Manchester By the Sea (Elevation Sales) / http://amzn.to/2qpkfM3

Truck Turner (Trinity Creative Partnership) / http://amzn.to/2qpr0xBi

Mulholland Drive (Elevation Sales) / http://amzn.to/2qOClIz

Kraftwerk: The Catalogue 3D (Parlophone Records) / http://amzn.to/2qtbYF6

Fahrenheit 451 (Universal Pictures) / http://amzn.to/2qpgaHR

Toni Erdmann (Elevation Sales) / http://amzn.to/2pTWfgB

Mirror (Artificial Eye) / http://amzn.to/2pWMDGN

> George Miller interview at IndieWire on the Fury Road Chrome Edition
> Roger Ebert’s Great Movies: Crimes and Misdemeanors
> Kenneth Lonergan, Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges Discuss Manchester By The Sea at AOL
> DP/30 interview with writer-director Damien Chazelle on La La Land

DVD & Blu-ray Picks: April 2017

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Crimes and Misdemeanours (Arrow Films) / http://amzn.to/2qL3M6k

Solaris – The Criterion Collection (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) / http://amzn.to/2pEh2JT

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Walt Disney Home Entertainment) / http://amzn.to/2qL0VKz

Akira (Manga Entertainment) / http://amzn.to/2pDZjC1

O.J.: Made in America (Fremantle) / http://amzn.to/2pQDVow

Coal Miner’s Daughter (Media Sales) / http://amzn.to/2pQuupg

Umberto D (Trinity Creative Partnership) / http://amzn.to/2qLbm0M

The Lady from Shanghai (Trinity Creative Partnership) / http://amzn.to/2rjPZzI

> More about Vittorio De Sica at Wikipedia
> Reviews of Crimes and Misdemeanours at IMDb