Tag Archives: detroit metrotimes

‘The Prisoner: The Complete Series” Blu-ray review (Detroit Metrotimes)

One of the most confusing, complex, paranoid and endlessly rewarding television series of the ’60s has been remastered in high-definition just in time for the debut of a revamped new version on A&E. While the new mini-series has been the justifiable recipient of plenty of praise, digging into the original, 17-episode series is still a far superior experience. The densely plotted (and often convoluted) tale of a former spy (known only as “Number Six”) and his perilous travails in “The Village” – a top-secret holding pen for ex-spooks and other high-security-clearance individuals who are no longer working for the government – is not only ripe for repeated viewings, but the new Blu-ray transfer brings out the sort of visual detail that is all too often overlooked in television material this old. The creators of the show took nearly as much care with their set-pieces and camera angles as they did with the action and dialogue in the show, and on Blu-ray, those efforts are on ample display. Although The Prisoner is still a thoroughly British experience (Patrick McGoohan’s “Number Six” perfectly nails the mix of late ’60s zeitgeist and quirky sobriety that were battling for England’s soul at the time), the layers of espionage drama, allegorical fiction, and sheer weirdness translate well to anyone seeking a truly engrossing television experience. Lost fans take note: you may find your favorite show to be a little more derivative than you previously thought.

Advertisements

Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense 25th Anniversary Blu-ray review (Detroit Metrotimes)

As soon as you wrap your head around the fact it has been a quarter-century since Jonathan Demme and David Byrne teamed up to create Stop Making Sense, you may settle into another realization: Despite the intervening years bestowing a sort of classic-rock status upon the band’s hits, the Talking Heads were always an amazingly weird band. After all, what other band would spend nearly the first third of a concert film simply getting all of its equipment and personnel onto the stage? From the opening scenes which find David Byrne plunking out “Psycho Killer” with no other accompaniment other than an acoustic guitar and a boom box, Stop Making Sense slowly builds into an art-rock concert par excellence, and always — amazingly — keeps the focus on the music. Even with Byrne bopping around in his big-ass suit, demanding that everyone acknowledge the concert as An Art Event, the smiles of Tina Weymouth and, more notably, P-Funkateer Bernie Worrell, are far more captivating. This Blu-ray edition offers superb fidelity and a miraculously clean transfer — so clean, in fact, that the film grain is noticeable throughout — but also a wealth of bonus material, including a hilarious Byrne self-interview, two songs (“Cities” and a medley of “Big Business” and “I Zimbra”) that were inexplicably cut from the original version, plus, you get the choice of either the feature film’s audio mix or a studio mix of the material.

First appeared Nov. 4, 2009 in Detroit Metrotimes.

Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense Blu-ray review (Detroit Metrotimes)

As soon as you wrap your head around the fact it has been a quarter-century since Jonathan Demme and David Byrne teamed up to create Stop Making Sense, you may settle into another realization: Despite the intervening years bestowing a sort of classic-rock status upon the band’s hits, the Talking Heads were always an amazingly weird band. After all, what other band would spend nearly the first third of a concert film simply getting all of its equipment and personnel onto the stage? From the opening scenes which find David Byrne plunking out “Psycho Killer” with no other accompaniment other than an acoustic guitar and a boom box, Stop Making Sense slowly builds into an art-rock concert par excellence, and always — amazingly — keeps the focus on the music. Even with Byrne bopping around in his big-ass suit, demanding that everyone acknowledge the concert as An Art Event, the smiles of Tina Weymouth and, more notably, P-Funkateer Bernie Worrell, are far more captivating. This Blu-ray edition offers superb fidelity and a miraculously clean transfer — so clean, in fact, that the film grain is noticeable throughout — but also a wealth of bonus material, including a hilarious Byrne self-interview, two songs (“Cities” and a medley of “Big Business” and “I Zimbra”) that were inexplicably cut from the original version, plus, you get the choice of either the feature film’s audio mix or a studio mix of the material.

First appeared Nov. 4, 2009 in Detroit Metrotimes.

‘Fear(s) of the Dark’ DVD review (Detroit Metrotimes)

Animation and horror would seem to be the sort of chocolate-and-peanut-butter combination that more folks had experimented with; the visual possibilities of strong animation work would give a creative horror-film director all sorts of provocative canvases to splatter blood all over. Yet it’s still relatively uncharted territory, perhaps because the most essential part of any horror film – even the most absurdly plotted horror film – is a sense of reality, the viewer’s feeling that the carnage going down onscreen could happen to them on the way to their car. For Fear(s) of the Dark, six renowned artists dispense with the notion of reality and emerge with a dark, evocative, and occasionally chilling anthology of animated horror that delivers on all the untapped potential of this relatively unexplored form. Although the six pieces here are distinct in visual style and execution (hehe), the thematic thread that runs throughout ties them together with a sense of doom that relies less on splatter than on spookiness.

‘A Jihad For Love’ DVD review (Detroit Metrotimes)

With the California Supreme Court’s recent decision to not overturn Proposition 8, a number of more hyperbolic commentators took the opportunity to compare the continued commingling of religion, public policy and sexual orientation to the oppression faced by gays and lesbians living in predominantly Muslim countries. While one certainly doesn’t want to minimize just how disturbing the motivations behind (and portent of) Prop 8 were, one only needs to watch A Jihad for Love to know that we have a long way — a very long way — to go before our fundamentalist nutballs begin to look like the Arab world’s fundamentalist nutballs. Director Parvez Sharma takes the discussion to its most effective forum: the way these laws work on real folk. By looking at the day-to-day lives of 16 different people who are wrestling with their faith, the laws of their land and the fact that they’re gay, Sharma not only emphasizes the deleterious impacts of legislated morality, but also the sheer normalcy of her subjects. In a dozen different countries, these 16 people all struggle with many of the same issues — exclusion, oppression, confusion — but they’re all so utterly unremarkable as subjects that the intolerance they face seems that much more bizarre. While the brisk running time of A Jihad for Love doesn’t allow Sharma to paint a full picture of any of his subjects, quantity more than makes up for quality in this case.

First appeared June 3, 2009 in Detroit Metrotimes.

‘Jack Taylor of Beverly Hills’ DVD review (Detroit Metrotimes)

A film about a suitmaker wouldn’t generally promise the most engaging cinema. But when a suitmaker has the irascible personality and unmatched history of Jack Taylor, one is not only engaged, but also bemoaning the end of the bespoke era which Taylor represents. Taylor has been operating a tailor’s shop in Los Angeles for the last half-century, and in that time has provided the clothing that defined the style of everyone from the Rat Pack to Jackie Gleason and Cary Grant. Despite a lifetime dealing with customers who are used to not just being right, but also having their egos indulged, Taylor — even after more than 60 years behind the counter — brooks no bullshit when it comes to fitting egos into suits. Wisely, director Cecile Leroy Beaulieu steps out of the film’s subject and history and allows the man himself to tell his story, with the backdrop of his iconic haberdashery providing a perfect setting for his reminiscing. While the tales Taylor spins out are deeply fascinating, it’s his character that makes this documentary exceptional.

First appeared May 27, 2009 in Detroit Metrotimes.

‘Fidel!’ DVD review (Detroit Metrotimes)

To cut right to the chase, Fidel! is a fantastic documentary. Made in 1969 by director Saul Landau, the filmmakers had unprecedented — and unseen again — access to Fidel Castro, just a decade after the Cuban Revolution, during a period when the bloom was still on Cuba’s socialist rose. Castro, expansively articulate, ruthlessly cocky and youthfully handsome, had yet to turn into the toothless, aging agitator most Americans now know, and the film shows him in a variety of personal and professional settings, rounding out the one-dimensional caricature he’s so often cast as. Landau captured the man at the height of his powers, when the privation of the American embargo was countered by a robust trade with the Soviet Union and the dream of a communal Caribbean paradise seemed tantalizingly close to fruition. At least that’s what the charismatic leader wanted Landau and his crew to believe. Instead, the fruited plains and productive factories that Castro boasts of so proudly are contrasted with breadlines and scenes of devastating poverty. It’s truly amazing that Castro and his propaganda team allowed such images to leave the island, but by balancing the truth with Fidel’s engaging fantasies, Landau’s doc manages to be more accurate than a film on either of those things would have been on its own.

First appeared May 27, 2009 in Detroit Metrotimes.