HTF PICKS OF THE WEEK - February 27, 2004

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 25, 2004.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    [​IMG]

    Week Ending February 27, 2004


    This week I had a pleasure of discovering two new
    films that I can affectionately call an old and new
    favorite. Put them both at the top of your "must see"
    list.


    [​IMG]

    Matchstick Men



    Pygmies!

    Meet Roy Waller (Nicholas Cage), who next to
    Nicholson's character in As Good As It Gets
    may be one of the most obsessive/compulsive persons
    you have yet to see on screen. Despite his flaws,
    Waller happens to be one of the best operating grifters
    around. By day he and his protégé Frank Mercer
    (Sam Rockwell) con money from the rich, the old,
    and the lonely. They are the best at what they do,
    and they are about to make a big score with a
    shady businessman (Bruce McGill).

    But a wrench suddenly gets thrown into their plan
    with the sudden appearance of Angela (Alison Lohman),
    Roy's 14-year-old daughter out of his broken marriage
    that he has never met. Out of frustration of her
    rocky relationship with her mother, Angela is intent
    on staying in her father's apartment. It's not long,
    however, before she becomes a third wheel in Roy
    and Frank's money-laundering scheme.

    I don't want to say too much about this film because
    it is vital that you know very little about it going
    in. I will say that though I wasn't particularly
    "conned" into this story, I found it to be highly
    entertaining based on the performance by Nicholas
    Cage and the stylish storytelling by the film's
    director, Ridley Scott.

    Ridley Scott is one of my all-time favorite
    directors. The reason why I enjoy him so much is
    because he is a visual director. The man
    has total grasp upon his cinematography and with
    every Ridley Scott release I find myself less
    involved with what is going on in the story as
    opposed to how the director is showing it. In
    Matchstick Men, Ridley Scott once again
    sets a particular mood to his film with some
    terrific visuals enhanced with old Sinatra tunes
    and a jazzy score by Hans Zimmer. I wish I had
    ordered the CD set instead of just the DVD, as I
    really loved the music.

    The transfer on this film is gorgeous, particularly
    in the outdoor shots of Waller's backyard and pool.
    There's so much clarity within this transfer that it
    almost sometimes pushes the boundaries of High-Def.

    Since the film is mostly dialogue-driven, there
    wasn't much activity from the surround channels.
    Audio quality is excellent, particularly with the
    presentation of dialogue in the center channel that
    came across quite crisp.

    Matchstick Men is just plain fun. It's
    one of those cool, hip movies that is the perfect
    vehicle for its star, Nicholas Cage. In fact, I
    would rate this as his best effort to date (with
    Adaptation as a close second).

    Do what you can to rent this film. Worthy of a
    blind purchase in my opinion.


    [​IMG]

    The Man who shot Liberty Valance



    So, I'm a little late reviewing this film. Okay, to
    be more precise, I'm three years late -- but this is
    a film I finally had an opportunity to watch for the
    very first time, and I feel so strongly about it that
    I wanted to make certain it ended up in everyone's
    collection.

    It was actually a co-worker who knew I was
    discovering great westerns that urged me to take
    a look at perhaps the greatest western of them all.
    And how would it not be when you combine the talents
    of John Wayne, James Stewart and Lee Marvin all under
    the direction of the legendary John Ford. I mean,
    Ford practically invented the western.

    Told mostly through flashback, this is the story
    of Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) a city lawyer
    who arrives in the small town of Shinbone as a beaten
    and defeated man after being whipped at gunpoint by
    outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) and his gang.
    Ransom vows revenge citing the laws of the land, but
    it's a local cowboy, Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), who
    advises him to put a gun in his hand instead of a
    law book.

    Though Ransom is not a fighting man by nature
    (he certainly has never shot a gun before) he
    realizes that a showdown with the notorious outlaw
    Liberty Valance is inevitable.

    Transfer quality is mixed. Most of the first
    quarter of the film looks a bit dirty, with
    blemishes throughout the print. The film's
    appearance quickly improved to the point where
    I was able to appreciate the nice B&W contrast
    levels and underlying detail. There is a
    noticeable amount of surface grain, but I had
    expected such.

    For years I heard numerous impressionists like
    Frank Gorshin and Rich Little doing their best
    John Wayne imitations. One of the biggest surprises
    that came out of watching this film was finally
    learning where that word "Pilgrim" came from. It
    seems to be the one word that gets thrown into
    just about every John Wayne impersonation I have
    ever known.

    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance sits amongst
    the three greatest westerns I have ever seen. I place
    it behind Once Upon A Time In The West and in
    front of The Searchers. Sometimes I wonder how
    it took me so long to discover a movie like this.

    Just buy it if you don't already own it.
     
  2. Jeff Adams

    Jeff Adams Screenwriter

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    Ron,
    I am also one of those people who thought Matchstick Men was one of the best films of 2003, it was on my top ten list but got bumped out by The Last Samurai and ROTK.

    So you finally watched TMWSLV. I remember people giving you a hard time about not seeing it yet. I have not seen it yet, I looked for both that movie and Lonesome Dove this whole week and have not found either one. Maybe I can just order them for amazon.
     
  3. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

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    Alway's GREAT too 'hear' from you, Ron!
    Thank's for the heads up.
     
  4. Amy Mormino

    Amy Mormino Supporting Actor

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    "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is indeed a fabuous Western. It deserves more attention than it has received. This is a family favorite, as its one of my dad's most-loved films. I'd buy it for him, but he would drive my mom crazy by constantly rewatching it! Unfortunately, as this is a Paramount release it likely won't get a Special Edition reissue or better cover art.
    As an aside, I wish that the Wayne releases would get more respect on DVD. I heard that a special edition of "The Searchers" is coming. I'd love a special edition of "Liberty Valance" and my personal favorite, "Rio Bravo", not to mention a version of "The Quiet Man" with better picture quality.
     
  5. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    All great movies, and another western I'd put right up there is Fort Apache, another John Ford/John Wayne collaboration, unfortunately not yet on DVD. That movie is incredibly brilliant, also with Henry Fonda giving an awesome performance as a very unlikable guy (a sort of General Custer figure, who also has ethnic/class prejudices against some of his officers and soldiers), in one of the few unsympathetic roles of his career until--Once Upon A Time In The West!

    Also, the Native American characters in Fort Apache are very complex and multi-dimensional, making it one of Ford's most challenging and interesting films on the level of sorting out who the good guys and bad guys were in the old West (i.e., both the natives and the white settlers/military forces had positive and negative traits among them). Can't wait to get a good DVD release of this one.
     
  6. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Haggai,

    You perked my interest.

    Which studio holds the rights to Fort Apache?
     
  7. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Fort Apache, is (and was intended by Ford to be) essentially the Custer story (and one of the better tellings of it too), one third of Ford's magnificent cavalry trilogy (Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande).

    Wayne plays Kirby York, a part he reprises in Rio Grande; the ending presiges one of the central themes of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - it's available in the UK, released by Universal, alas the transfer is horrible. There's a slightly better Kinowelt transfer available in Germany.

    It's an Argosy picture, like SWAYR, I think it's part of the RKO library and I assume the ball is in Warners court, but I could be wrong.

    Rio Grande is available as an SE from Artisan; the transfer could be better, could be worse, but well worth while buying. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, the only one of the trilogy shot in vibrant colour, is available from Warners and could scarcely be better; the transfer is marvellous. Ron, if you haven't already got them, buy them; you will love them.

    Wonderful, wonderful movies.

    ---
    So many films, so little time...
     
  8. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    The weird thing for me about She Wore A Yellow Ribbon is that I really didn't like it when I saw it. Strange because I was so blown away by Fort Apache, and those movies are closely associated with each other, as John H. mentioned regarding the cavalry trilogy. Guess I'll have to give Yellow Ribbon another chance at some point, maybe my opinion will be different. I've never seen Rio Grande, and I'd like to at some point.
     
  9. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Haggai / Ron

    You should really purchase the R2 German edition of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, simply because there is a BBC Interview with John Ford that lasts just over an hour. Hilarious stuff and John Hodson will know what I am talking about.

    I have not seen Matchstick Men yet and I have always wanted to buy The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance but never got around to, so first chance I will buy it.

    Cheerio



    [​IMG]
     
  10. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This RKO title now belongs to Warner. Great film with Shirley Temple playing a young adult role as Fonda's daughter.




    Crawdaddy
     
  11. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Indeed I do Oscar [​IMG]

    Poor Phillip Jenkinson, totally in awe, is clearly interviewing 'God', and Ford is completely merciless! Nevertheless, it's riveting stuff giving an insight into the great man.

    I love all the films in the trilogy; Fort Apache is clearly the best, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is sumptuous and the most 'romantic', Rio Grande was part of a deal done by Ford so that he could get on with a long desired project, The Quiet Man (which is currently a disaster on DVD - shame on you Artisan).

    ---
    So many films, so little time...
     
  12. Casey Trowbridg

    Casey Trowbridg Lead Actor

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    Ron reading your thoughts these past few weeks has been an enlightening and enjoyable experience. While I might not check out the films you've mentioned this week, at least not right away, you've already gotten me thinking about watching 2 or 3 titles that I wouldn't have given much of any thought to before, and I always like to expand my film base.

    Thanks again
     
  13. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Casey,

    It's a discovery experience. I don't pride
    myself as being a professional journalist, but
    that should never discourage anyone from being
    able to share their thoughts/opinions on some
    really great films they have seen.

    I'm having a blast with these classics. Can't
    seem to get enough of them. It's as if an
    entirely new world has been opened up for me.

    Hope to share many more thoughts over the next
    few weeks.
     
  14. Casey Trowbridg

    Casey Trowbridg Lead Actor

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    Ron, very well put on it being a discovery experience. You keep sharing and I'll keep reading. I might consider getting my dad The Man who shot Liberty Valance since I think it would be right up his alley of course I'd have to let him use one of my DVD players...since both of my parents are mostly content to watch whatever is on the dish.

    Thanks again.
     
  15. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Ron, glad you liked Matchstick Men. Alison Lohman's performance was my favorite from any actor in 2003, and it's a shame she'll be forgotten for it so easily in five years (just look how forgotten it is after just six months).
     
  16. Marty M

    Marty M Cinematographer

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    Glad you liked The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. It has been my favorite Western for a long time.
     
  17. Tony Scello

    Tony Scello Second Unit

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    Ron,
    Thank you for doing these weekly picks. I'm really starting to look forward to them every week. I, also, somehow managed never to see The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. With all the buzz recently on the forum about this title, I decided to make a blind purchase. Knowing the talent of the people involved in this film and respecting the opinions of a number of the forum members, I'm guessing I won't be disappointed(it also doesn't hurt that I spent just over $9 shipped for this highly regarded film).
     
  18. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Tony,

    Please get back to us and tell us what you thought
    of the film.
     
  19. Matt_P

    Matt_P Second Unit

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    Hey Ron,

    Matchstick Men was in my top 5 of last year. Glad you liked it. Ridley Scott is simply a visual genius, and Lohman's performace was the best of the year.

    Oscar missed the boat on this one.
     
  20. Ric Easton

    Ric Easton Cinematographer

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    Ron,

    Thanks for continuing to do this! I'll definately be checking out Matchstick Men. I've never been a western fan, so that one will be a harder sell for me, but I may give it a try one of these days.

    What's realy great is that you are letting us know about great releases that would have slipped in under the radar. I've already picked up Gaslight and Mutiny on the Bounty, because of your new column!

    Keep it up!
    Ric
     

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