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DVD review: CANDY

Ewa Aulin and Marlon Brando in 1968's "Candy"

Ewa Aulin and Marlon Brando in 1968’s “Candy”

“Candy” was a notorious novel from 1958 by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg. It had sex, satire, and more sex. By 1968, director Christian Marquand brought to the screen something which was equally notorious and it had sex, satire, and more sex. There’s a story that Buck Henry, the screenwriter, tells in a bonus feature on the DVD. Marquand, Henry, and a producer, Peter Zoref, would routinely go to lunch during the filming. Zoref was regularly verbally abused by Marquand but, on that day, Marquand took to slapping Zoref. Henry admonished Marquand to stop. When Marquand ignored Henry and resumed his abuse, Henry threatened to use his knife on Marquand–which he ultimately did! With a knife impaled into his hand, Marquand began to maniacally laugh. He just kept on laughing and laughing. To this, Buck Henry conceded some form of greatness on the part of Marquand! And, with that said, it gives you a taste of “Candy.”

1968 was a long time ago, no two ways about it. So, we take that into consideration when viewing such a work as this. It is not an unequivocally classic piece like, say, Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove.” No, no, no. It is not that. However, a case can be made for it being a misunderstood gem. There are some interesting things going on that raise it above a typical Sixties exploitation movie. In fact, there are plenty of entertaining scenes to make this worthwhile and a lot of that rests on the stellar cast of actors. Everyone on board seems okay with the premise and play it to the hilt: a young woman, a veritable ingenue/sex object wanders about as various middle-aged men ogle her and dare to fondle her. Candy, on the other hand, does not find the potential suitors to be repulsive. She is mostly concerned with being given a decent reason to take her clothes off. Silly. Surreal. Disturbing. Check all of the above.

We begin with Richard Burton as Candy’s first suitor. That turns out to be quite impressive. And the list of suitors goes on from there: Ringo Starr, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, and Marlon Brando. At one point, I sort of started to think that director Marquand had set up a cynical trap for all these A-listers putting them in a situation that would leave them looking ludicrous. But, no, that does not really happen. Everyone survives, if not excels. Burton is brilliant as MacPhisto, a latter-day Lord Byron with a throng of young women in a frenzy over him. With any woman at his disposal, MacPhisto becomes transfixed by Candy, played to spaced-out perfection by Ewa Aulin. The only problem is that MacPhisto is all thumbs, like most of the men depicted in this movie, when it comes to actually having sex. Candy is all for it but MacPhisto proves to be trapped within a bubble of his own self-delusion. Fast forward to Marlon Brandon, as Grindl, the charismatic guru, who proves to be a capable seducer. While all the rest of the men marvel over Candy the sex object, Grindl has no problem firmly placing hand over mons and proceeding. Whether true zeitgeist or more kitsch, “Candy” has a certain colorful quality to it that makes it hard to resist. It is a masterpiece train wreck.

“Candy” has been released on DVD from Kino Lorber. You can find “Candy” at various outlets including Amazon right here.

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Filed under 1960s, DVD Blu-ray Reviews, Humor, movies, Satire, Sex

DVD/Blu-ray Review: THE LEGEND OF KORRA – BOOK FOUR: BALANCE

Nickelodeon-The-Legend-of-Korra

You step into the world of The Legend of Korra and you enter into something stellar. This is a monumental work in animation. Nickelodeon has done itself proud. I am sure that this is going to strike a chord with anyone who enjoys a vast and epic adventure. This fourth season, “The Legend of Korra – Book Four: Balance,” brings everything to a conclusion and it is available on Blu-ray and DVD as of March 10, 2015.

Where to begin? Well, for fans and newcomers alike, this last collection works so well that it stands on its own. Each episode rings true as we follow the celebrated Avatar on her path of self-discovery. Korra has come out of the fight badly wounded and she must find the strength to recover, and even to forgive. She’s on her own, alone and a little lost. Meanwhile, plenty takes place in her absence. Left to her own devices, Kuvira has exploited an opportunity to seize power and she has the Earth Kingdom in her sights.

The Legend of Korra collectible poster inside DVD/Blu-ray for Book Four: Balance

The Legend of Korra collectible poster inside DVD/Blu-ray for Book Four: Balance

Getting to hear some of the creative team on the commentary, including co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, you get a sense of the hard work involved in bringing The Legend of Korra to life. It’s a team effort all the way. And it’s a very thoughtful effort. Going through all 13 episodes, there isn’t a missed beat or anything I’d want to see taken out. It’s quality throughout from the musical score to special effects to, of course, the voice talent. Did you know that the stellar roster includes Academy Award winning actor J.K. Simmons? Yes, he plays a pivotal role as Tenzin. Well, this is one of those shows you’ll love being immersed in.

It’s a panoramic stage filled with a variety of vital characters. There’s a great balance of personal struggles mixed with intrigue, humor, and action. For instance, Prince Wu, our hapless monarch, and Kuvira, our devilish villain don’t mix very well to often humorous effect. And, Korra’s journey proves to be filled with lots of twists and turns. It’s about finding one’s way. Given time, she will come closer to seeing who she really is.

The Legend of Korra is a wonderful opportunity for a writer to say a lot about life and what it takes to do great things. You can view this on many levels. Ultimately, this is a crowning achievement for Nickelodeon. You’ll want to get your copy now. You can start with this last collection and work your way back. As I say, the stories stand alone, down to each episode, beautifully. For more details, visit our friends at Nickelodeon right here. You can also buy “The Legend of Korra – Book Four: Balance” from Amazon right here.

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Blu-ray review: BIRDMAN

Birdman-Michael-Keaton-Edward-Norton

There’s the legendary tragic story of 19th century American actor, Edwin Booth. He was so celebrated for his performance as Othello that he kept to that role, made a career out of it, and died with it. If only actor Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton) were so lucky. He’s stuck with being known as the guy behind the Birdman mask in a ridiculously successful superhero movie franchise. “Birdman” is about a lot of things, including Riggan’s journey toward redemption. After so much water under bridge, he feels he’s found something meaningful he can do with all that he’s learned. He’s adapted Raymond Carver for the Broadway stage. It’s an audacious move and one that rankles those who position themselves as arbiters of taste, specifically the New York theater critic, Tabitha Dickinson (played by Lindsay Duncan). The role of Tabitha is relatively small and yet so pivotal. She’s the one who, for better or worse, holds the fate of Riggan’s play and perhaps much more. And she’s the one who should be most eloquent on matters of culture except her delivery is all too pointed. In a great balancing act, “Birdman” arrives at its satire with grace.

“Birdman” is one of those films that hits the nail on the head so well that it leaves you wanting more. The winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director for Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman” is an instant classic. Forget about anything you may have heard or read from naysayers giving it a nonsensical label of being “pretentious.” I read that’s what, of all people, shock jock Howard Stern labeled this film as being. That absurd assessment, that twisted view of culture, is the sort of thing that is lampooned in “Birdman.” It’s as if Federico Fellini and Paddy Chayefsky were both alive today and created a masterpiece speaking to where we find ourselves. And where do we find ourselves? We find ourselves with the Howard Sterns of the world making empty gestures each day to countless fans.

We are stuffing ourselves with pop culture that often, some would say always, proves to be as fulfilling as cotton candy. In a film full of great conflict, the resounding head-butt is between high and low culture. Not only do we have snooty critics like Tabitha, but we have snooty thespians out to make life a living hell for Riggan. Enter Mike Shiner (played by Edward Norton). When Riggan finds himself in need of a replacement for a lead role, Mike is fortuitously available. He also happens to be notoriously rude and unstable. He thinks Riggan is incapable of genuinely caring about anything. He laughs at Riggan’s personal story about Raymond Carver. Mike also realizes that he has a very crazy way of showing that he cares.

And to care about something is at the heart of this film. Riggan is given many reasons to care, including his daughter, Sam (played by Emma Stone). There’s a wondrous scene where Sam lashes out at her dad. What’s remarkable is how much is said and conveyed. Sam goes from being triggered into conflict, to full-on rage, to a descent into regret. It’s the sort of sustained moment you would experience in theater. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu pushes the boundaries of what can be conveyed in film, particularly with a series of awe-inspiring continuous shots. It’s theatrical on one level. It’s hyperreal on another. And, you better believe it, it makes you want to care.

“Birdman” is available now on DVD and Blu-ray. The feature with a behind-the-scenes look at the film is priceless. For more information, visit Fox Searchlight right here.

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Blu-ray Review: BIG HERO 6

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I’d really been meaning to see “Big Hero 6.” Now is definitely the time with its Oscar win for Best Animated Feature and it just becoming available for home viewing.

Disney certainly knows how to create an uplifting experience and “Big Hero 6” (Directors: Don Hall and Chris Williams) is a beautiful example of it. I can imagine the Disney team, such as the Big Hero 6 team and character creators, Man of Action, and the screenwriters, Jordan Roberts, Robert L. Baird, and Daniel Gerson, first pondering over what could work for a feature. What are some things that kids are always into? Hmm, well, there’s all things to do with Japan, and robotics, and a curiosity over, uh, puberty. Those three items will always get their attention, for starters. And you find them here.

Producer Roy Conli, from left, Directors Don Hall, and Chris Williams accept the award for best animated feature film for Big Hero 6 at the Oscars on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (John Shearer/Invision/The Associated Press)

Producer Roy Conli, from left, Directors Don Hall, and Chris Williams accept the award for best animated feature film for Big Hero 6 at the Oscars on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (John Shearer/Invision/The Associated Press)

From the previews I’d seen, I wondered if this was going to be a fish-out-of-water comedy. You know, this Michelin Man robot is all blobby and out of his element, right? There’s some of that. Plenty of that, who am I kidding! But much more. Essentially, what you’ve got here is quite a compelling story about mind over matter.

The Michelin Man, a long lost relative to Baymax?

The Michelin Man, a long lost relative to Baymax?

Meet Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit). He may resemble our friend, the Michelin Man, but he’s a whole other deal. Baymax is at the heart of this story. He is a robot that was built to help. Basically, he’s a walking and talking medical dispensary and doctor. He knows what he’s about. That’s more than can be said, at least for a while, about Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter). Hiro is a 13-year-old genius, especially when it comes to robotics. However, Hiro will need some time before he realizes what to do with his skills. Baymax was built by Hiro’s older brother, Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney). Push comes to shove, and Hiro will need to rise to the occasion, with the help of Baymax. Do you see conflict on the horizon? Yes, plenty. There’s plenty of action and there’s plenty of soul-searching to keep you glued to your seat.

It won’t be spoiler to let you know that “Big Hero 6” refers to a six-member superhero team. With all the superheroes flying around, this movie proves there’s always room for more. After viewing it, you’ll welcome, wait for it…the sequel! Yes, I think we have us a sequel up ahead and probably more than one.

The original Big Hero 6 comic book series from Marvel Comics

The original Big Hero 6 comic book series from Marvel Comics

Home viewing is now available. Of course, the bonus features are very cool and include a behind-the-scenes look at how Big Hero 6 made the transition from a Marvel Comics comic book series to the big screen. For more details, including a free game, Baymax Sky Patrol, visit our friends at Disney right here.

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Filed under animation, Disney, Movie Reviews

DVD Review: FOREV, starring Noël Wells

Noël Wells and Matt Mider in "Forev"

Noël Wells and Matt Mider in “Forev”

The whole idea behind the film, “Forev,” is wasted youth, or youth wasting away and just waiting to be rolled over and swept away. That’s pretty much how the characters in this movie often feel like. Not always, but it’s a tendency. When you’re right in the thick of being young, you can feel quite lost and that can bring on some loopy choices. Why not marry your next door neighbor since he’s just as lonely as you are and he seems pretty cool? Life has brought Sophie (played by Noël Wells) to this conclusion. And, oddly enough, her neighbor, Pete (played by Matt Mider) is into it.

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Filed under DVD Blu-ray Reviews, Movie Reviews, movies