The Serpent’s Egg – Ingmar Bergmann – Arrow Academy Blu-ray

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The Serpent’s Egg
David Carradine, Liv Ullmann
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Originally released 1978
Arrow Academy 2019
119 minutes

The Serpent’s Egg is perhaps Ingmar Bergman’s hardest movie to figure out, and that says a lot.
Financed by producer Dino DeLaurentiis (Three Days of the Condor, Serpico, and the 1976 King Kong), it is Bergman’s first Hollywood movie. This 1979 re-release of The Serpent’s Egg on Blu-ray by Arrow Academy is a must for Bergman fans and features a lot of special features. It is less interesting for those who like Bergman but are not fanatics

A Swedish movie cliche is there’s lots of fog and confusion. In The Serpent’s Egg the fog is replaced by a dark (existential) cloud looming over 1923 Berlin and the very beginnings of Hitler’s rise to power. This is hinted at a couple of times and is made quite clear in the last thirty minutes of the movie.

The last thirty minutes of this movie are the movie. Everything leading up to that is more or less relevant in interesting. David Carradine’s character goes around Berlin in a alcohol induced haze and spends time with his brother’s wife Manuela (Liv Ullmann) after the latter killed himself.

The movie in a nutshell is: Abel Rosenberg finally discovers why his brother killed himself and the sinister plot behind that and other deaths and what has been happening to him and Manuela. It is supposed to be a foreboding of things to come.

The fact The Serpent’s Egg was made in Hollywood might have increased Ingmar Bergman’s self-indulgence when it comes to movie making. Either that or Bergmann tried to get the viewer to share Rosenberg’s alcoholic haze by having nothing really clear happen for a very long time.

Special Features on Ingmar Bergman’s The Serpent’s Egg in the Arrow Academy release are:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original English mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Audio Commentary by actor David Carradine
• Bergman s Egg a newly filmed appreciation by critic and author Barry Forshaw
• Away From Home, archival featurette including interviews with David Carradine and Liv Ullman
• German Expressionism, archival interview with Author Marc Gervais
• Stills gallery
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices
• FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Geoffrey Macnab

Also from Arrow Academy: The Apartment

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The Apartment (restored) – Arrow Academy Blu-ray

The Apartment Blu-ray

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The Apartment
Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray
Written and directed by Billy Wilder
Originally released 1960
Arrow Academy 2018
125 minutes

Arrow Academy has released a superb restoration of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment which stars Jack Lemmon and won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Writing, and Best Directing. This Arrow Academy re-release is a must have for any classic film, Jack Lemmon, or Billy Wilder fan

The Apartment is a classic movie that mixes drama and dark comedy. Jack Lemmon plays C.C. Baxter, a nobody working for an insurance company. The only special thing about Baxter is he allows his bosses access to his apartment so they can have their affairs. Sheldrake, (Fred MacMurray) gets win of this arrangement and gets in on it so he can have his affair with elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). This propels former nobody Baxter to the higher levels of the insurance company he works for.

However, C.C. Baxter has a thing for Fran Kubelik and he soon gets stuck between a rock and a hard place when he has to decide what is more important: his newly acquired key to the executive washroom or his self-worth and the feelings he has for Kubelik . Shirley MacLaine is excellent as Fran Kubelik an innocent girl who is wise enough to mostly see what is going on but cannot disentangle herself from the situation she is in.

Things come to a head and C.C. Baxter, who is dismissively called Bud by his bosses, must make a man of himself.

There are a lot of different takes on what Billy Wilder was trying to say with The Apartment. One is a comment of the dehumanization of the American worker in the scene where we see the thousands of worker drones who work on the same floor and at the same job as C.C. Baxter. It is also a condemnation of Big Business morals.

The extras for The Apartment Blu-ray are listed below and numerous. They are quite good. However, film historian Bruce Block is off his rocker when he states that The Apartment works in part because Fred MacMurray makes Sheldrake human. That is obviously false and believing that takes away from the points Billy Wilder is making in this dramatic comedy about American society and the dehumanization that large corporations enforce on their minions.

Also from Arrow Academy: The Serpent’s Egg

• Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
• Original uncompressed PCM mono audio
• Optional 5.1 remix in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio
• Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary with film producer and historian Bruce Block
• New appreciation of the film and select scene commentary by film historian Philip Kemp
• The Flawed Couple, a new video essay by filmmaker David Cairns on the collaborations between Billy Wilder and Jack Lemmon
• Billy Wilder ABC, an overview by David Cairns on the life and career of the filmmaker, covering his films, collaborators and more
• New interview with actress Hope Holiday
• Inside the Apartment, a half-hour making-of featurette from 2007 including interviews with Shirley MacLaine, executive producer Walter Mirisch, and others
• Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon, an archive profile of the actor from 2007
• Original screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond (BD-ROM content)
• Theatrical trailer
• Blu-ray packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Ignatius Fitzpatrick

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The Last Action Hero Blu-ray

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The Last Action Hero
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austin O`Brien
Originally released 1993
Mill Creek Entertainment 2018

Mill Creek Entertainment re-releasing this great action comedy allows those who have not seen The Last Action Hero to discover it. Fans of The Last Action Hero can appreciate it once again. This action comedy is on my underrated list and this Blu-Ray confirms it is a must for fans of the genre and Arnold Schwarzenegger fans.

Young Danny is a great fan of the Jack Slater action movie franchise. There is a fourth Jack Slater movie coming out and Danny is invited by an old projectionist working in a neighborhood rundown theater to see the new Jack Slater movie before anyone else (as if a run-down theater would get a print) The projectionist makes a ceremony of the showing, including giving Danny a golden ticket he says he got from Houdini.

This sends Danny into the fourth Jack Slater (Schwarzenegger) and he becomes part of the movie Director John McTiernan and the writers have a lot of fun playing with the tropes of the genre after Danny points out Hollywood rules apply to Jack Slater IV. The Last Action Hero gets even more fun when Slater discovers he is a fictional character and he and the bad guys cross the fourth wall into the real world. Charles Dance is great as the villain and gets better when he discovers you can shoot people without consequence in the real world.

This is where things get even more fun and part of what makes The Last Action Hero a must have and must keep action comedy. The scene where Ahnold and Arnold fight each other is a lot of fun.

The Last Action Hero Blu-ray re-release from Mill Creek Entertainment comies in a retro VHS look cardboard sleeve. Unfortunately, there are no special features and I found the Blu-ray a bit grainy.

The Last Action Hero is also available from Mill Creek Entertainment in an 8-pack action movie set:

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My Dinner With Herve – HBO October 20th 8:00 PM

My Dinner With Herve Poster
My Dinner With Herve
Peter Dinklage, Jamie Dornan
Written and directed by Sacha Gervasi
HBO October 20th 8:00 PM

My Dinner With Herve is an excellent movie that is part biopic and part ruminations on the meaning of life. It is based on the meeting between magazine writer Sacha Gervazi and Herve Villechaize (of Fantasy Island and James Bond The Man With the Golden Gun fame). My Dinner With Herve airs on HBO October 20th at 8 PM and is a lot more interesting than any TV or internet blurb might indicate

Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) is excellent in the title role of a movie he had long sought to bring to life. Dinklage plays Villechaize in the last couple of weeks of his life and grasping at the last straw he has to tell his story. Jamie Dornan is also very good as journalist Danny Tate who is 30-days sober, separated from his wife, and facing his own demons.

Tate was sent to L.A on a last-chance assignment to do a hatchet piece on a famous writer and then a fluff piece on Villechaize on the 20th anniversary of Fantasy Island. The Villechaize interview makes Tate late for the meeting with the famous author. The author is pissed at having had to wait and dismisses Tate.

This is where the story really starts as Villechaize picks up Tate in a long white limousine. Between bouts of drinking (where Tate remains stone cold sober) and side trips to a strip club and the Fantasy Island set, Villechaize tells his story, or versions of his story. Tate grows more and more impatient as he feels he is wasting his time yet Villechaize keeps him interested enough to keep going until sunrise.

Each man forces the other to face the truth about himself and the major mistakes he has made. This makes for a movie that is more than just a biographical presentation of a once famous person.

My Dinner With Herve has a couple of weak points. It is probably a couple of scenes too long and Dinklage’s Villechaize accent is sometimes hard to understand.

This is more than made up for by excellent writing with some very memorable lines. My Dinner With Herve is definitely worth watching and recording for a later viewing or two.

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Ready Player One – Blu-ray DVD Digital

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Ready Player One
Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Warner Brothers 2018
140 minutes

Ready Player One is a mind blowing, superb, enthralling, technically stunning movie. 140 minute movies are often demanding on the viewer as most have pointless scenes and repetitions and you need a break. My girlfriend and I watched Ready Player One from beginning to end and were surprised when it was already over.

Based on the Ernest Cline novel, Ready Player One is set in 2045 where everyone spends most of his or her time as a character in the RPG Oasis, a virtual reality created by James Halliday. Halliday’s will states that whoever solves the three riddles to find the three keys he has hidden in three Easter Eggs in the Oasis will become sole proprietor of the game and its countless riches. Everybody is of course out to get the keys including a tech company named IOI who uses people who owe it credits and various very smart geeks to solve the riddles and find the eggs and keys.

On the civilian side there is Wade Watts aka Parzival who lives in The Stacks, mobile homes stacked on top of one another. Parzival becomes the first character to ever solve a riddle, find the key and get the egg. Parzival soon attracts the attention of IOI but also of some players who want to help him in his quest including a girl called Art3mis and a big brute character named Aech. Though Wade Watts – Parzival is a loner, he soon decides teamwork is the best solution.

There is something for everyone on Ready Player One: Lots of action, puzzles, a love story, a few social messages, and lots of spot the references to eighties trivia.

Ready Player One Special features include: The ’80’s: You’re The Inspiration. Game Changer: Cracking the Code. Effects for a Brave New World. Level Up: Sound for the Future. High Score: Endgame. Ernie & Tye’s Excellent Adventure

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Landwhale – Jes Baker

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On Turning Insults Into Nicknames, Why Body Image Is Hard, and How Diets Can Kiss My Ass
Jes Baker
Seal Press 2018

I wanted to read this book, because I hated the title. It offended me that anyone would refer to a fat person as a landwhale, let alone that it would be a name that the author would use for herself (maybe to remove its power). I wanted to know what was between the pages. Kindle: Landwhale: On Turning Insults Into Nicknames, Why Body Image Is Hard, and How Diets Can Kiss My Ass

Jes Baker is an internationally known, and vehemently outspoken body positivity advocate. She is a self-proclaimed hardcore badass. Landwhale: On Turning Insults Into Nicknames, Why Body Image Is Hard, and How Diets Can Kiss My Ass is her memoir.

There is no softening or political correctness in this book. Fat is fat. Baker tells it like it is. Brutally honest, intense, and often difficult to read, Landwhale is an eye-opener. It is about much more than weight.

Baker tackles topics such as six ways to hate your body, clothing choices, relationships, fat sex, discrimination, persecution, nonacceptance, and the illusion of the bulletproof fatty. Also included are wonderful stories of adventure and resilience, and a community of support and role models. She covers how being fat politically challenges society’s norms and expectations of perfection, and ends Landwhale with six ways to love your body.

A disturbing theme that recurs is how fat-shaming members of society deny fat people’s simple “right to live”. Targeted and scathing judgements are daily experiences that undermine self esteem and perpetuate nonacceptance of others and self, and the “we and they” mentality.

One one hand, her pain is palpable. One the other, her living life to the fullest, her sense of adventure and dedication to the cause are amazing!

Certain that everyone can relate to at least some things Baker says, I recommend Landwhale for those fat, thin or anything in between. Not for the faint of heart, it is a statement to the damage we can do to each other as human beings, and a compelling reason to love ourselves and others and break the cycle. I finished the book with a greater sense of compassion and understanding. (I still hate the title, but something tame would not have caught my attention.)

J Curran

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