Glory 4K UHD

gloryposterTonight I finally watched my 4K disc of Glory; first time I have seen the film for several years. What a magnificent film, what glorious (sic) music from James Horner. I was so lucky to be loving films and going to the cinema while films like Glory were being made, and someone like James Horner composing stuff like his scores for Glory, Field of Dreams, Cocoon, Apollo 13, Legends of the Fall, Braveheart

I texted my old and now-distant friend Andy that I’d re-watched Glory again, and reminisced about the day we first watched it. Andy, my cousin Tony and I had watched Born on the Fourth of July that afternoon, then gone over Tony’s for a takeaway tea (his folks were away) and later returned late evening to the Showcase cinema  to watch a film called Glory, that we knew nothing about other than it was a Civil War movie. We’d been impressed by a big carboard standee of the poster that had been on display in the lobby of our Showcase cinema for a few weeks: a beautiful image that promised… something. You know, back in the good old days of great, imaginative poster art. We didn’t expect, though,  that we would walk out at midnight, stunned, convinced that we’d just seen a better film than Born on the Fourth of July: it was the Oliver Stone film that critics were raving about. Glory seemed to just come and go, but it certainly left its mark on us. I searched out the Glory soundtrack CD a few days later. Popped it onto a cassette and blasted it out of the cheapo stereo in my beat-up old death-trap first car as I raced Andy and I through Cannock Chase in blazing sunshine several days later. Good times.

I grew up watching Jaws, Star Wars, CE3K, The Empire Strikes Back, Blade Runner at the cinema… and so many others. I was a really lucky guy, looking back. Films were better then. Film music was better then.

Glory looks really fine on 4K; its a gorgeous, grainy image with real depth and vibrancy, particularly those shots of the setting sun obscured by fire-smoke etc. Its a good example of how film-like the 4K format is with HDR. What a cast that film had too. And there is a very real, tactile feel to the film too, as there’s no CGI. Its all pretty much real, which just makes the battle scenes all the more impressive. After watching the film I put the commentary track on and watched it again, not something I do as often as I used to. Its one of those (rare) picture-in-picture commentary tracks, in which we can see the speaker in a smaller image in the corner. Anybody remember those? DVD and Blu-ray had some really ambitious, clever features like that, that the studios just don’t seem to bother with anymore. Its getting so that looking back at the glory days of DVD makes me feel lucky to have been around in those exciting days for a film-lover. I remember when every new special edition seemed to be more ambitious, films like The Abyss, Contact and T2, and the first boxset of the Alien films. I used to buy them on R1 from a local hi-fi store, but actually bought The Abyss disc when I was on holiday in San Francisco back in either 2000 or 2001. That’s a surprisingly long time ago, now that I think about it- but isn’t everything? That night I vividly recall first watching Glory with Andy and Tony was 32 years ago. 32 years ago!

Tracking tells me my expanded Glory soundtrack disc from La La Land left America yesterday. Its on its way. Really looking forward to hearing it. Eat, drink and be merry, Morgan Freeman tells me on the commentary track, for tomorrow we die. That’s one way of summing up Glory, and maybe life too.

Well, I’m tired. Time for bed, folks. This film was a good one.

Peterloo

peterloo3Peterloo is an often gripping and very troubling account of real events that echo across the centuries to current events that we see on the news from Hong Kong every weekend. The more things change, the more they stay the same, it would seem. On 16 August 1819, during what passed for a nineteenth-century pro-democracy demonstration in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, an apparently rather drunk band of cavalry and yeomanry (whose self-congratulatory commander was elsewhere, literally enjoying a day at the races) charged wielding sabres into a crowd of over 100,000 unarmed people who were there to hear the words of famed orator Henry Hunt (Rory Kinnear). The troops killed eighteen and injured over six hundred, and the British Government was very pleased with itself, jailing Hunt for two years while not punishing anybody for the deaths.

While I was impressed by the sense of time and place, I did have a few issues with the film. While the events are abhorrent and unthinkable, they almost seem to descend into farce and caricature, like something from a Blackadder episode (the Prince Regent such a self-entitled Royal ass it’s almost too much to take seriously). It may very well be historically accurate in all respects, and if so it’s only all the more damning, but it skirts the event horizon of believability. Maybe we’ve just moved on so far with reforms since (albeit some might argue still not far enough) that those days seem too distant and from some other world. Maybe we’re fooling ourselves, considering events in Hong Kong, that things like this are wholly of the past, but the near-farce demonstrated in the film does it a disservice I think. At times it feels almost too camp, almost too Monty Python.

Peterloo is also at least a half-hour too long. While the political and intellectual arguments do require some airing, the lengthy debates at clandestine public meetings or in Parliament are very long and the endless talk, talk, talk proves wearisome, doing the film few favours, although I am sure director Mike Leigh was simply trying to explain some of the intricacies of the political climate and views. A leaner film might have served it better- as it is, it runs two and a half hours, and while I do not mind long films,  it feels like a long two and a half hours.

peterloo1I also missed what I expected to be some text at the close of the story to explain what happened next (instead I had to revert to google). It proved a little frustrating, that after spending so long in that milieu with those many characters, not to see what happened afterwards, what the repercussions were, seems an odd oversight by the film makers. The film is left bereft of perspective – imagine had Glory ended with the bodies being dumped into the mass grave with no text to explain how those events depicted in that film impacted the fortunes of that civil war and racial politics. The fade-out straight to end credits seems like a mistake, an error of judgement, to me.

So a not wholly-successful film I think. I suspect it may have gotten away from Leigh, that he lost control of it somewhat. Stil, its harrowing but educating viewing and certainly worth a watch, but I am left with the feeling that the events deserved a better film, somehow. Perhaps if I watch it again I may feel differently.

Last Week: Glory, Alien, Dune… and Captain Nemo in Space

Last week was unfortunately hampered by real-life issues impacting my posting here, and I didn’t make much progress with my re-read of Frank Herbert’s Dune because a shinier book came my way. I’m so shallow and time is so limited: sorry Frank, I must try harder.

The disc releases of films from 1989 celebrating 30th anniversaries continued with the 4K UHD release of Glory, a film I have mentioned before here when remembering seeing it at the cinema. It never gets any easier realising how many years have passed by me when films get anniversaries, whether it be twenty, thirty, forty, it’s all a sobering reminder of time slipping. Music fans no doubt mark time by anniversaries of album releases etc, and I can be guilty of that myself, but usually its movies with me. Glory is thirty years old damn it, and I’m thirty years older.

Its looking better for those thirty years than I am. I haven’t sat down to watch the film yet- watching old favourites is like enjoying a fine wine, it’s something to be savoured and appreciated when able to give it the attention it deserves, and this week has been far too hectic, but I was curious enough about the transfer that I did watch the first fifteen minutes, and it looks great. As always with Glory though, whenever I watch it I am struck by the beauty of James Horner’s score, and like Field of Dreams, which I watched a few week back as that film is also celebrating thirty years, it’s always a little sad now, hearing Horner back in his prime and remembering what we have lost with his passing. Its also a reminder of how much film scoring styles have changed over these thirty years, and not for the better- even if James Horner was still around and scoring today, his scores for films now would sound little like these scores. They are not in vogue anymore, that old (I would suggest ‘proper’) kind of scoring.

Alien of course, is celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year and its 4K UHD (and cinema re-release, albeit limited) has been accompanied by J W RInzler’s excellent book The Making of Alien. I’m really, really enjoying reading it. So far I haven’t read anything particularly ‘new’ to me, it’s really just recounting things I already knew from other books and contemporary magazines of the day, such as Fantastic Films, Starburst, Cinefantastique etc, and naturally the various documentaries made to accompany DVD and Blu-ray box-sets over the years. But it’s an almost tangible nostalgic joy reading it all again, especially in such a richly presented format. Dan O’Bannon, John Carpenter, Ron Cobb, Ronald Shusett, Ridley Scott- these are names from my teenage years that were like the names of  football stars to other kids my age. And yes, it’s surely nostalgia, but going back to the 1970s, and reading about O’Bannon going off to Paris to work on Jodorowsky’s Dune with Moebius, Chris Foss and H R Giger, and Gary Kurtz calling O’Bannon about a film he was producing called Star Wars… those were wild times, back then. Analogue times in an analogue age, I guess.

Mentioning Dune brings to mind the recent news that Villenueve’s Dune has completed shooting, and the announcement yesterday, I think, that its November 2020 release date has been pushed back a month to December 18, 2020. That’s Oscar territory right there, and the same period that Spielberg’s West Side Story remake is due. Dune is by far the most exciting film in my immediate future, with huge expectations for me. Just imagining that film all in the can, in the old parlance of things (really I should write ‘all on the hard drive‘ because that’s where it lies, or on various servers somewhere at various stages of post-production). At this stage of things, without any stills or teasers or trailers, the project is full of all kinds of crazy possibilities. Maybe this is the best of times, indeed, when everything yet seems possible. I remember those heady days of Revenge of the Jedi (before it became ‘Return’), wondering how George Lucas would follow The Empire Strikes Back. And of course the more recent (and more tension-tinged) period when BR2049 was at a similar stage, and all the secrecy around that particular project made Blade Runner fans like me especially nervous.  Well, that turned out great- here’s hoping Dune does too.

I’ve found myself reflecting on BR2049 a lot, lately. A sure sign that I’m about due a rewatch. Its been awhile; indeed, I may not have actually watched it this year at all yet. I still haven’t managed the double-bill of Blade Runner and BR2049 in the same evening, something that in the old days of more free time (less of a ‘real life’) would have been the most natural Saturday evening in the world.

One curious thing I did do last week- when I found half-hour free one night, I found a recent recording of The Black Hole on my Tivo and gave the first twenty minutes or so a go, curious at seeing it in widescreen and HD. I actually saw The Black Hole at the cinema, way back when it was in direct competition with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. While ST:TMP had pretensions towards 2001, The Black Hole was really just Disney knocking-off a Star Wars wannabe whilst nodding back to its own classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (maybe it should have been titled ‘20,000 Light Years Into Space’). I haven’t seen the film in decades and doubt I’ll ever have the two hours required for a full rewatch, especially on the evidence of this twenty minutes. Good lord it’s horribly dated. While I quite enjoy the John Barry score (I had the old LP and have the recent Intrada expansion) it doesn’t seem to work in the film at all, and Vincent is such an annoying R2D2 it’s a grim reminder of how much Star Wars influenced film back then. So many sci fi films had to have robots and spaceships flying overhead and laser gun battles etc. Its curious to think that Alien was released a few months earlier than The Black Hole or ST:TMP, and while all three owed a great deal to the existence of Star Wars kickstarting the sci-fi boom of those years, it’s clear that Alien was really its own thing, while the other two felt so inclined to flatter the effects extravaganza of Lucas’ blockbuster. I well recall Starburst‘s John Brosnan likely having the time of his life ripping at both The Black Hole and ST:TMP in his reviews.

bhStill, there was some value to seeing Ernest Borgnine and Anthony Perkins again, and I do adore the design of the Cygnus, that was such a beautiful model. I watched up to the moment that the darkened, and apparently derelict Cygnus is suddenly lit up, ablaze of light, like some Victorian dream of space travel. Arresting if somewhat preposterous. Its a nice moment that really caught my imagination back when the film came out. Nice starfields too. Yeah, some nice effects in that film, but it’s a horribly mangled Captain Nemo in Space film, really. There’s certainly a much better film in there that we never had opportunity to see, and a bad one that we unfortunately did. George Lucas had a lot to answer for, even back then.

 

Whats coming in July

Hey, welcome to July- and it’s going to be an interesting month, so I thought I’d add a post that looks ahead.

armOf course, the big thing this month (other than my wife’s birthday, hey, I know what’s most important) is that we going to have the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and as something of a space nut, it should indeed be a pretty fascinating time. So expect to see me post another look at First Man on 4K UHD, and review the documentary Armstrong on Blu-ray that’s due in a few weeks. Unfortunately, the widely-praised documentary Apollo 11 recently released on disc in America is region-locked, and its limited run in cinemas currently doesn’t include one near me, so I have to wait for its November disc release over here (unless I get pleasantly surprised by an airing on tv, as you never know with these things). I’m really excited about HBO’s brilliant series From the Earth to the Moon getting a HD release shortly, and really, really excited that it appears to have been properly remastered with a Dolby Atmos track and new visual effects shots. As I remarked awhile ago, the old DVD I have looks pretty much unwatchable, especially on an unforgiving OLED panel, so having this show in a great release is more than I could have hoped for, really.  You never know, if whispers are to be believed, we might even be getting a proper soundtrack set too, something which I’ve been wishing for since, well, I first saw the show back in 1998 (if I remember correctly, the show’s original dvd release in old-fashioned 4:3 was also my very first international purchase on the internet). I also intend to dust off some of the Spacecraft Films DVDs that I have, particularly the Apollo 11 set.

The same day that Armstrong and From the Earth to the Moon land on disc, so too does Captain Marvel, which I missed during its theatrical release. I’m curious to see what I think of it, as I gather it got a mixed response from fans (something also apparently true of Spiderman: Far From Home, making me wonder if the bubble is finally bursting for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, considering I had such misgivings regards Avengers: Endgame). The following week we get Alita: Battle Angel, which I saw back in February– I enjoyed it enough to have ordered the 4K release, so maybe I’ll post a review of how it looks at home, and see if I’m still hoping for a sequel.

gloryBeyond that, July 29th sees the release of Glory in 4K UHD and Chernobyl, the HBO/Sky limited series that everyone at work has been raving about. I guess those will be reviews posted in August.

Now, anybody who had the curiosity to read my post summarizing June will have noticed that I have reached 83 in my tally of ‘new’ film/television experiences. I also have a fair few items already waiting to be watched- films like The Nun, Rampage, Zathura, Lady Bird, Unsane, all kinds of stuff piling up on the Tivo or on Netflix/Amazon, and I really want to catch up with the second seasons of Star Trek: Discovery and Stranger Things.

But I really do think it’s time to go back and rewatch some of the discs/films that I’ve seen before that I just, well, kind of miss. I’ve quite enjoyed my (albeit limited so far) series of posts rewatching films from 1989 that are currently getting anniversary releases, and I’d certainly like to continue with that more, to which end I’ve got the 4K UHD release of Field of Dreams on the way and Spielberg’s Always on Blu-ray sitting on the shelf. So if all goes to plan, I will likely refrain from watching too many ‘new’ films in favour of going back and revisiting some of those oldies over July and August. If only to maintain my sanity. Good lord I’ve been watching some rubbish lately.

Part of that of course will be my rewatch of From the Earth to the Moon, so yeah, I hope to relax with some od favourites over the summer.

Unfortunately, this month is also the month of Wimbledon, and anyone reading this blog over the years may remember Claire is a big fan of Wimbledon and commandeers the television for the tournament, usually relegating me to Wimbledon Widower status, so it’s anybody’s guess how much of this stuff I have planned that I’ll get to watch this month all this month… Possibly none of the above. Hey ho.

 

Party like it’s 1989

I’m always slightly amused by studios and/or their marketing departments focusing so much on anniversaries when releasing or re-releasing films on disc. I’d buy a copy of Alien on 4K disc whatever year it came out, it doesn’t have to be the film’s fortieth anniversary, but hey ho, there you go. So anyway, this year we seem to be getting reminded of certain film’s 30th anniversaries this year- The Abyss appears to be getting a new 4K scan or master for release later this year (originally released 9th August 1989, I guess it will slip a bit later than that for a disc release in the Autumn), and Field of Dreams is getting a 4K disc release in May. Unannounced but surely coming is Tim Burton’s Batman, another film from 1989 (looking back, I always feel like 1989 was the year of Batman– it was all over the place in the media, a huge ‘event’ film in the same way Star Wars was). Before all these, Pet Sematary gets a 4K release next week, partly due to its thirtieth anniversary but also thanks to an incoming remake/reboot (hey, before you watch the new one, here’s the old one to watch first so we can make a bit more money out of it).

So anyway, its been getting me a little nostalgic for 1989, which on the face of it never occurs to me as a great year for films, but now that I think of it (and consider those 4K disc/Blu ray release schedules) I have to admit, maybe it wasn’t such a bad year at all. I used to go to the cinema quite a bit back then, and can vividly recall shedding a tear or two to Field of Dreams (in a good way, it’s not as if it was a terrible film or anything, I’d reserve that kind of emotional reaction to something like Black Rain), and coming out of a matinee screening of The Abyss into a full-blown storm, torrential rain lashing across the cineplex car-park in a tempestuous gale that was like I’d brought the film out there with me, one of those disorientating moments that last with you forever.

I remember watching Born on the Fourth of July and Glory on the same day. We went to see Born on the Fourth of July in the afternoon, went home to have a chip tea then went back in the evening to see Glory. Now, the funny thing about that was, we all expected July to be the better film, but were totally amazed by Glory, really swept up by it. It had a phenomenal score by James Horner, and a great score is something I always react to in films, no doubt a big part of why I enjoyed it so much. Another film I saw at the cinema that year with a great score was The ‘Burbs, and I remember scouring record stores looking for that soundtrack for months in vain. Yeah, it was a good year for soundtracks, as I recall, though it would take years for me to finally get a copy of The ‘Burbs score on disc.

Not every cinema trip was as thrilling, mind. 1989 was also the year of Star Trek V: The FInal Frontier, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and, yes, Black Rain, and The Fly 2. Not films I recall really enjoying at all. I remember coming out of Pet Sematary more impressed by the music than the film- I bought the Varese CD and years later the La La Land expansion, but never actually saw the film itself again at all. It was also the year of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a film I enjoyed at the time but has really worn thin on me over the years since. Its a funny thing, how films you were once wowed by later lose their charm, but films you didn’t ‘get’ the first time around sneak up on you (Munchausen is such a crazy maddening folly of a film I eventually couldn’t help but fall in love with it).

Thirty years, though- scary. Mind, I was looking up both Glory and Born on the Fourth of July online and they were released in December 1989 in the States, and it certainly wasn’t December when I saw them, so suspect it was later in 1990 when I saw them that day over here in the UK- release dates could be really staggered back then. After so many years it’s hard to remember very clearly, although I can remember sitting in the cinema at the time and looking over at my mate Andy after Glory ended, both of us shell-shocked by having watched not just two war films at the cinema that same day, but two damn good films at that.  It would never happen again- it’s funny sometimes, you just never know, in the moment, just how special/unusual or unique a day really is. They just come and go but perspective lends us clarity- and thirty/twenty-nine years, whatever it is, it’s certainly some kind of perspective.

Only the Brave (2017)

brave1Sometimes, expectations are everything: Only the Brave is a frustrating film. Oh, its sincere enough, and a noble attempt at telling its true story with respect and surprising restraint- this isn’t the huge Hollywood effects spectacle that might be expected. It just doesn’t, sadly, ignite (sic). Its such a strange thing- competently staged and with a really great cast (Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly)… actually, maybe that cast is the problem, maybe its just too good a cast, with too much cinematic baggage behind them that carries all sorts of expectations in itself.

I was surprised to see that it was directed by Joseph Kosinski,  of Tron: Legacy and Oblivion fame, as that in itself would suggest a big, spectacular and horrifying canvas would be put up on the screen but Kosinski seems to deliberately play against those expectations. Its just a different sort of movie than his previous films might suggest. Yeah, there’s those confounded expectations again.

But it isn’t an intimate character-driven piece either, possibly because those big-name actors, or that visually-adept director, aren’t exactly an arthouse cinema bunch. Its therefore caught somewhere in-between, and so intent on treating the real events and people caught up in them with proper due respect that the film just… exists, without really saying anything.

It reminds me rather a great deal of The 33, another film based on true events that impacted on a reasonably large group. While Only the Brave mostly centers upon Josh Brolin’s character, it also tries to flesh out the rest of  the Granite Mountain Hotshots that he leads in the firefighting, and like The 33, the film suffers from not having enough time, or perhaps the script isn’t finely honed enough, to do so many characters justice.

I don’t know, its really a strange one. Its a good film, but it just lacks that essential spark, if you’ll forgive one more fire metaphor. I’m tempted to suggest the issue may lie with the score, funnily enough. I just find myself thinking of the film Glory, and James Horner’s magnificent score. Sure the music and the film were perhaps overly manipulative but the combination of film and music involved me, made me feel something.  I didn’t really feel anything with Only the Brave; I enjoyed it and found it very worthwhile but it didn’t engage me emotionally. It might seem odd to suggest blame lies with the music score but film music isn’t what it used to be, and the industry has lost something of the genius of the likes of Goldsmith and Horner and that kind of film music, no longer in vogue, certainly worked back in the day.

So a missed opportunity then, unfortunately, but certainly a sincere enough effort.