Another Argument for Physical Media / Kino Lorber Sale

kino lorber blu-rays physical media
A sample of my own Kino Lorber Studio Classics collection.

 

Another Argument for Physical Media

Every so often I highlight a DVD/Blu-ray distributor because they’re putting in overtime to preserve movies on physical media. You’ll be happy to know that time has come again. Kino Lorber has been churning out films under their Studio Classics label for a few years now. These are films that the major studios have pushed aside, shoved into the spidery corners of their warehouses, deemed unworthy. Oftentimes I get the impression that some of these studios *cough* *cough* Paramount *cough* *cough* would rather burn their catalog titles to roast marshmallows than release them to the loyal film fans devoutly pursuing and purchasing physical media.

Whenever I highlight one of these distributors I must also weigh in on the value of physical media and the supposed omnipresent availability of films via streaming services. The “everything available all the time” myth touted by those forward-thinking pioneers of digital streaming is a farce. Movies dip and dive and disappear faster than you can say “queue it up,” so let’s look at some recent developments.

 

Amazonbuster Video

Take for example the recent news that Amazon had started censoring and restricting certain titles on Amazon Prime. It should be noted that this will only affect older, independent and cult titles and not the big budget Hollywood releases which are already subject to the de facto censorship regime known as the MPAA.

Amazon has apparently decided to step into the void of Blockbuster, which famously refused to stock any unrated or NC-17 film because they were a “family friendly” establishment. Pure drivel. By this arbitrary benchmark they’d be perfectly pleased with stocking Snuff 102 (2008) but Ang Lee’s beautiful Lust, Caution (2007) bears the shame of demon-food disgrace. But I digress. I can’t get all hot and bothered (again) about the hypocrisy of the MPAA and NC-17 rating, especially as it pertains to its views on violence versus sexuality.

lust, caution
Ang Lee’s moving Lust, Caution (2007) still doesn’t have a Region A Blu-ray release. You’ll have to import this one.

 

The Netflix Smokescreen

Netflix Streaming (as of today, March 7th, 2017) only featured 117 films released before 1980 (stats culled from instantwatcher.com). I chose 1980 as an arbitrary cut-off date for “classic” film. This 117 number includes individual TV episodes such as the Dick Van Dyke Show and Star Trek the Animated Series. Removing TV episodes knocks that number down dramatically to 91. Yet the Netflix is the most common service cited in the movies available anytime, anywhere claim.

Word of mouth among classic film fans also suggests that Amazon has been pulling free streaming titles based on current events. Say a movie star or director dies — their films seem to disappear from Amazon Prime immediately after their death when demand would be highest. Sure, you can pay to watch these films, but that’s certainly not the same as omnipresent availability. Yes, it’s a business. Amazon has a right to charge what they want for their services — just as long as people remain mostly satisfied with the overall product. And the sad fact is that most people just don’t care or don’t hold these streaming services to any sort of standards regarding classic film.

 

The Great FilmStruck Hope

TCM and Criterion’s joint effort called FilmStruck has been a godsend, but it’s still not available across all streaming devices and platforms. Roku owners like myself stew idly and wait for that vague “Spring 2017” compatibility window.

film struck

Maybe you can predict where I’m going with this. The only service that isn’t subject to the whims of the marketplace is your own personal media library. Streaming has proven to be an essential supplement, but we’re no closer to an individual service or services providing acceptable sustenance for the classic film fan than we were five years ago. Of all the online venues for viewing rare and classic films, YouTube has proven to be the most useful. I’m not going to tout the quality of the viewing experience. That these films are available at all is our primary concern. The fact remains that many older films have no hope of a proper release on physical media or streaming.

But let’s rewind and get back to Kino Lorber.

 

Kino Lorber Studio Classics Sale @ Amazon

KL Studio Classics logo - physical media

The Kino Lorber Studio Classics line rescues forgotten films from obscurity or the major studio vault. As movie bloggers, part of our job is making sure that worthy titles find their audience so that that audience can then purchase and support the releases from Kino, Twilight Time, Olive Films, Flicker Alley, Warner Archive and more niche genre distributors like Code Red and Mondo Macabro. These purchases fuel future releases. Without our support, physical media ceases to be. We’ll all be rerouted to streaming services that probably don’t feature the movie we want in the first place.

Purchasing films via online services such as Amazon, Vudu and iTunes is of course an option, however, these services generally provide a more modern selection of films. If you dive into their classic-era catalog, you’ll never know what you’ll find, but you’ll also never know what kind of state the film is in. These services have no skin in the game. They won’t take a damaged print, restore it using best available sources, provide color correction, etc.

Even physical media distributors remain subject to the quality of the print sourced by the owning studio and the cost of revitalization. But without Kino, Flicker Alley, Twilight Time, Olive, etc., I doubt restoration ever takes place. This might be the most vital component to this chain of film sales and consumption.

Kino and Amazon have again partnered to bring you heavily discounted titles from the Kino Lorber Studio Classics library. Many of these titles are as cheap as they’ve ever been. I’ll suggest a few of my favorites from the sale and leave you to explore the rest of the catalog. (This link to the KL Studio Classics page on Blu-ray.com details every single release.) I’ll paste a complete list of discounted titles below.

I’m not suggesting you need to go out and pickup the entire catalog from every niche distributor. Realistically, that’s not within any of our means. Pick up a favorite title or two. Risk a blind-buy on something recommended here or on my favorite go-to website for sleeper picks, Brian Saur’s Rupert Pupkin Speaks. If we, as film fans, all do a little to support these distributors that act speaks volumes about the continued importance of physical media.

 

My Kino Lorber Sale Suggestions:

 

The complete list of titles on sale:

23 Paces to Baker Street – $15.99
52 Pickup – $12.49
99 River Street – $11.41
American Dreamer – $12.64
Astro Zombies – $12.80
Back Roads – $14.99
Biggles: Adventures in Time – $11.41
Big House U.S.A. – $14.65
Black Sabbath (AIP cut) – $11.18
Blown Away – $12.49
Burnt Offerings – $11.08
Canadian Pacific – $13.05
Cariboo Trail, The – $11.41
Chandu The Magician – $13.48
Compulsion – $14.99
Cop – $11.41
Cops and Robbers – $12.92
Crimson Cult, The – $12.26
Daddy Long Legs – $12.94
David and Bathsheba – $14.99
Deranged – $12.25
Finders Keepers – $14.33
F.I.S.T. – $12.92
Framed – $15.99
FX2 – $14.99
Galliant Hours, The – $11.41
Gator – $12.49
Grandview U.S.A. – $12.79
Haunted Honeymoon – $13.34
He Ran All The Way – $14.75
Hidden Fear – $11.41
Highway to Hell – $12.65
Hornet’s Nest – $14.13
Hurricane, The – $14.67
Invitation to a Gunfighter – $12.80
I, The Jury – $12.06
I Wake Up Screaming – $12.97
Internecine Project, The – $11.41
Journey to the Seventh Planet – $11.41
Juggernaut – $12.16
Long Goodbye, The – $12.49
Madhouse – $15.99
Malice – $15.99
Man on Fire – $12.51
Man with the Gun – $14.14
My Bodyguard – $12.86
Modesty Blaise – $13.63
Neptune Factor, The – $13.08
No Retreat, No Surrender – $15.99
On the Beach – $14.99
Oblong Box, The – $11.80
Panic in the Year Zero – $11.41
Porky’s II / Porky’s Revenge – $14.59
Prime Cut – $15.99
Quatermass Xperiment, The – $12.88
Reivers, The – $14.70
Shield for Murder – $11.41
Siege of Firebase Gloria, The – $11.99
Stryker – $11.41
The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming – $14.99
Trouble Man – $12.99
Ulee’s Gold – $11.41
Unholy Four, The – $14.15
Welcome to L.A.- $11.41
White Lightning – $13.78
Who? – $11.41
Wonderful Country, The – $14.80

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30Hz New Music Radar 3/3/17: Methyl Ethel – Everything Is Forgotten

30hz new music radar

 

Woke up today. To everything gray. And all that I saw just kept going on and on.

-Guster

 

What a weird day. Thwarted attempt to be productive followed by another thwarted attempt. Had a tremendous banter going with the guy at Goodwill that almost fell over when I handed him my old boat anchor receiver. Road closed. Road closed. Errands finally done, I journeyed to the coffee shop and in order to embrace the chaos I ordered a latte. The barista wanted to check my temperature. In all the years I’ve known this guy I’ve never ordered a drink with milk other than a cortado.

Stranger things.

Here’s some music.

 

30Hz Playlist on Spotify: Every New Music Radar Recommendation.


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30Hz New Music Radar: Methyl Ethel – Everything is Forgotten

methyl ethel everything is forgottenA thing I regret from 2016: not fully embracing Methyl Ethel.

This dream-pop substrate filters all manner of music through the smooth as a river pebbles delivery. A glimpse of grunge here. A trickle of shoegaze there. Psych-rock hidden behind salmon. What’s with the river analogy anyway?

At times reminiscent of the MGMT transition record that should have happened between Oracular Spectacular and Congratulations. Sneaky Tame Impala. Less trippy than Floyd. And especially Laser Floyd, which by the way should be viewed sober and maybe not at all. Just a public service announcement.

Dream-pop is not a dirty word. Great dream-pop transcends. It elevates and upflits, shepherds us through the days that we can’t go straight to 2:00am with whiskey and Tom Waits. Methyl Ethel has released two damn fine albums in two years, and it’s time to jump on the bandwagon before your Grouplove-liking work acquaintance starts asking if you’ve heard “Ethel Methyl” cuz they’re “pretty solid.”

 

 

Sample tracks: Ubu, Femme Maison/One Man House, Weeds Through the Rind

Buy Everything Is Forgotten on Amazon

Buy the Limited Edition Purple Vinyl from 4AD

 

 

Also highly recommended this week:

 

Meursault – I Will Kill Again

Strings-loving Scottish indie-folkers with a 16-bit past.


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Chicano Batman – Freedom is Free

Latin psych-funkers prepare to do battle against the forces of single-minded focus.

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30Hz New Music Radar 2/24/17: Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer

30hz new music radar

Welcome to February 24th. It’s 76 degrees here in Pittsburgh. Everyone thinks its spring and that just means that when it snows again — and it will snow again — they’ll all be in super duper bad moods. I prefer not to get too high or too low about this weather stuff. Either way I’ll still drink my iced americano because I refuse to let the bastards get me down. 

I’ve been waiting for that first top-notch rap or hip-hop album of 2017. Celebrate good times; that record has arrived… in what has turned into a surprising week for new music.

 

30Hz Playlist on Spotify: Every New Music Radar Recommendation.


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30Hz New Music Radar: Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer

stormzy gang signs & prayerStraight out of the UK grime circuit dominated of late by Skepta, Stormzy first made a name for himself with his “Wicked Skengman” series of freestyle tapes in 2014. Gang Signs & Prayer represents Stormzy’s first full-length LP.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in UK rap/hip-hop. Beyond my appreciation for Skepta and the occasional track from Dizzee Rascal, my grime experience allows me license (licence?) to identify grime (I know grime when I hear it!) but not dissect the genre specifics with any confidence. So let’s all learn something together.

Grime originated in London during the early 2000’s — a combination of UK electronic music and hip-hop. The sub-genre also borrows liberally from dancehall and reggae. The most identifiable characteristic of grime is hyperactive, syncopated breakbeats, generally 130-140 bpm. Lyrics depict gritty inner-city life. The casual listener will note a rather standard emcee cadence and those aforementioned roots in UK electronic music, specifically breakbeat, drum & bass, and jungle. #TheMoreYouKnow

I normally stumble on modern rap/hip-hop artists when they go slow jam. Stormzy manages to hold my attention even when the bpm’s drop. “Cigarettes & Cush,” as one example of a slow-burner that still hits. Gang Signs & Prayer lacks not for thumpers. A Junkaroo parade strolls through the studio during “Cold,” and “Big For Your Boots” will challenge your speakers with some low-end Gregorian chants laced behind Stormzy’s rapidfire lyricism.

 

Sample tracks: Big For Your Boots, Mr. Skeng, 100 Bags

Buy Gang Signs & Prayer on Amazon

 

 

 

Also highly recommended this week:

 

Vagabon – Infinite Worlds

A deft tightrope strung between brash art-pop and dream-pop.

vagabon infinite worlds
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Hippo Campus – Landmark

Minneapolis indie-rock quartet that’s drawing legitimate Vampire Weekend comparisons.

hippo campus landmark

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Thundercat – Drunk

Neo-soul by way of Frank Zappa.

thundercat drunk

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Platoon, Black Widow & Bon Jovi: This Week in 1987

I’d intended to start this series from the beginning of the year. I wanted to highlight the films that ranked #1 at the Box Office in 1987 and then a lesser seen movie that maybe you’d missed. But here we are. It’s almost March and I’m staring at my first blinking cursor. 1987 was a hugely formative year for me. I turned 9 in 1987 and I don’t know if you remember what it’s like to be 9… or maybe your experience differed wildly from mine… but in 1987 I completed my transformation into a cinema sponge.

My early love of film had just kicked in. I began spending substantial amounts of time browsing the racks at my local video store in Marcellus, MI while my grandmother or my mom idled patiently in the new release section. I had few limitations about what I could or could not watch. The only deterrent to watching an R-rated film was the conversation my mom would inevitable have with me about how we “don’t use those kinds of words,” despite the fact that my dad used those specific and colorful words quite frequently. (To be fair, she put an asterisk on those asides as well.)

As you may have noticed, the 1980’s are pure nostalgia for me. I’ve been neglecting that nostalgia lately, distracted by this, that and the other. A couple of weeks ago, I began plotting a personal retrospective of films from 1987 for their 30th anniversary. I have “Underrated” obligations for rupertpupkinspeaks.com and goddammit I just love the wise and wonderful cinema of the 80’s. I don’t necessarily need an excuse to watch 80’s movies, but I’ll gladly take it when the opportunity arises.

Enough about that. Let’s hop in the wayback machine. Set your dial to the week of February 23rd, 1987, when the #1 movie at the box office was…

Platoon (1986, dir. Oliver Stone)

platoon 1986

Since we’re joining 1987 in medias res, let’s recap. Platoon marks only the third #1 film of the year, following hot on the tails of the oft forgotten Richard Pryor dramedy Critical Condition and Eddie Murphy’s The Golden Child. Now, you may have already interjected: “But but but Platoon was released in 1986!” And you’d be right. Oliver Stone dispatched Platoon seven weeks earlier on a limited release to qualify for Oscar season. Once the film went wide on February 1st, it remained there until March 1st. This week represents its final week in the top slot.

Weekend results February 20 – February 22:

  1. Platoon
  2. Mannequin
  3. Outrageous Fortune
  4. Over the Top
  5. Black Widow

Roger Ebert’s opened his 4-star review of Platoon with the following statement:

It was Francois Truffaut who said that it’s not possible to make an anti-war movie, because all war movies, with their energy and sense of adventure, end up making combat look like fun. If Truffaut had lived to see Platoon the best film of 1986, he might have wanted to modify his opinion.

Platoon would, as we likely remember, go on to win the Academy Awards for best picture and best director. AFI placed the film at #83 and #86 on its two 100 Years… 100 Films lists. I remember watching Platoon for the first time later that year, and I can’t recall if it was my first experience with a film about Vietnam. It was certainly the first that logged any lasting memory. I wouldn’t watch Apocalypse Now until I was well into my teens. The spectacle and brutality stayed with me. I didn’t revisit Platoon until my college film course on the politics of Oliver Stone and Steven Spielberg — and even then is was a course requirement. I didn’t choose to watch Platoon again.

platoon 1986

Out of all of Stone’s films in my opinion, two stand head and shoulders above the rest. Salvador and Platoon. I never felt a kinship with Platoon — it was too brutal, too amorphous. The film’s branching, episodic construct conveyed the uncertain experience of Vietnam. Many books written by soldiers in the war share a similar fractured construct. My recommendation: read Dispatches by Michael Herr and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Both of these informed and expanded my understanding of the Vietnam War and helped me come to terms with the world presented by Oliver Stone.

It’s natural to place Platoon up next to Born on the Fourth of July as Stone’s companion pieces on the Vietnam experience — (plus with Heaven & Earth, the three form a trilogy, but I don’t have memory enough to provide a relevant discussion of the latter). There’s a natural give and take between the two films, but I find that Fourth of July loses impact due to melodramatic artifice. John Williams’ score hammers home quiet moments with so much pomp and bluster that it’s hard to get too close to Tom Cruise’s Ron Kovic. Platoon, however, uses the tools of cinema to bring us further into the troubled minds and souls of the unfortunate humans forced to serve a politicians war for uncertain gain.

willem dafoe platoon

Willem’ Dafoe’s famous image — kneeling, arms thrust to the heavens — feels innately cinematic. The posture feels as old as cinema itself. Consider the parodies and instant recognition — a crane shot looking down over a man in the rain, soaked to the bone, his arms raised. Cinematic shorthand for agony… or perhaps renewed spirit. The spectrum between The Shawshank Redemption and PlatoonStone took this image directly from a famous photograph of soldiers in Vietnam.

vietnam platoon image
1968 Associated Press photo from Vietnam by Art Greenspon

 

Stone wanted to translate these images to screen. To convey the real life horror and the ways, in fact, these soldiers could not cope. These are not great men, and Platoon depicts an entire convoy of supremely damaged humans. Villains in just about any other traditional narrative. Charlie Sheen plays our protagonist, but even that in name only. He’s a solider, not unlike the rest. He merely acts before he loses his humanity.

Platoon remains essential, arguably the most essential and timeless film Stone has made. The Sheen DNA notwitshanding, the film also owes a great debt to Apocalypse Now. The way the two use classical music to transcend the individual, fleeting moment to moment gruntwork and jungle humping. Drug-fueled imagery. The specter of mental illness that haunts these characters.

If Apocalypse Now is the most perfect, stylized version of Vietnam put on film, Platoon is the more grounded, more dire sibling, missing many of the moments of poignant, comic relief that Coppola sprinkles through his masterpiece.

B-Side Recommendation for this week in 1987:

black widow quad 1987

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Black Widow (dir. Bob Rafelson)

Here’s my reprieve from the rigors of male on male violence. Placing fifth at the box office this week in 1987 — Black Widow, starring Debra Winger and Theresa Russell, featured a 120-minute cat-and-mouse thriller between a female cop and a female killer. Rather a rarity in 1987… or really any year. Though the film features a few notable male co-stars in minor supporting roles such as Dennis Hopper and Nicol Williamson, Black Widow focuses entirely on a detective’s (Winger) hunt for a killer (Russell) who marries her victims, takes their money and manages a clean getaway.

The script by Ronald Bass rather deftly re-orients a traditional heterosexual thriller narrative. Cop hunts killer. Cop gets too close, falls for killer. Black Widow becomes more interesting merely because of the cop gender swap. Our “plain Jane” detective must enter the killer’s world in order to find proof of her guilt. She must shed her dowdy street clothes to become part of the rich and lovely and fabulous. As she inserts herself into the Black Widow’s world, she begins to enjoy her false identity. She also finds herself infatuated with Theresa Russell’s killer. There’s a clear, unspoken sexual attraction, highlighted in a scuba diving class in which the two practice mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

That said, this could have even better with a different director, perhaps. One suited to bringing forth the subtleties in a story about two mirror-image women. Rafelson’s a capable helmer, but in terms of conveying the female perspective Man Trouble and The Postman Always Rings Twice stand as his most relevant filmographic entries. Still, the Winger/Russell tete-a-tete makes this essential 80’s viewing… two excellent actresses at the height of their powers owning a film that’s now largely forgotten. And if that’s not your cup of tea, you can always revisit Andrew McCarthy in Mannequin.

mannequin 1987

 

And as I’ll do with every one of these time capsule posts, I’ll leave you with the #1 song on the charts for this week in 1987.

 

Referenced above:

Movies

Platoon (1986, dir. Oliver Stone) – available on Blu-ray
Black Widow (1987, dir. Bob Rafelson) – available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
Mannequin (1987, dir. Michael Gottlieb) – available on Blu-ray from Olive Films.

Books

Dispatches (1991, Michael Herr)
The Things They Carried (1990, Tim O’Brien)

Music

Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet (1987)

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30Hz New Music Radar 2/17/17: Maggie Rogers – Now That the Light is Fading EP

30hz new music radar

Welcome to February 17th. It’s pretty much President’s Day Eve already. If hearing President’s Day Eve doesn’t feel sobering, I congratulate you on being a stone-cold rock in a hail-storm. But about the music. 

 

I’m scrapped for time, but seeing as how I’m trying to be consistent in recommending top-notch tunes week after week after week I can’t take Week 4 off. Maybe Week 12 but not Week 4. Especially considering that I’ve spent most of the day with headphones in my ears and half-listening to everyone around me. It would be a disservice to everyone I’ve ignored today if I didn’t post my new release findings.

As always, music fans, share good music. It’s one of our few pure joys, a renewable resource of life blood and energy. Music, you guys. #NotSoDeepThoughts

 

30Hz Playlist on Spotify: Every New Music Radar Recommendation.


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30Hz New Music Radar: Maggie Rogers – Now That the Light is Fading EP

Maggie Rogers teased us last year with the song “Alaska.” Just the one song. Something to whet our whistles. And just like that first sip of whiskey, we shuddered. Not the bad kind of shudder. The good kind. The kind that just gets us acquainted with this new, bold flavor. But that’s all we had — that first sip.

Today, Maggie Rogers released an LP. So it’s not a full glass; it’s a larger sample. A fingerfull, perhaps. And it’s as good as we hoped. Her bio suggests a merging of folk, dance, pop, whatever. These bios don’t do anyone justice. Maggie Rogers has soul. No. She has SOUL. Singer/songwriters more often than not could be lumped into categories like “pleasant” or “cloying” or “annoying.” It’s all too easy to dismiss their output as ephemeral twee. Not so with Maggie Rogers. Unless I’m unfairly falling over myself about five tracks, Maggie Rogers is one of the most exciting young artists in music.

Legend has it that Maggie Rogers wrote her breakout hit “Alaska” about a hiking trip in college with Pharrell Williams… in under 15 minutes. Legend also has it that Pharrell was moved to tears after first hearing the track. Those legends are tricky things.

Let’s boil Maggie Rogers down. She’s a banjo-laced electro-soulstress and you should listen to everything she’s ever released, which will take you all of 17 minutes.

Sample tracks: All of them.

Buy Now That The Light Is Fading on Amazon

 

 

 

Also highly recommended this week:

 

Middle Kids – s/t LP

Orchestral Aussie indie-pop

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Ryan Adams – Prisoner

Prolific singer-songwriter’s best collection since Heartbreaker.

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Molly Burch – Please Be Mine

Jazz-fueled smoky-voiced indie-pop vocalist.

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A bl-g about classic and not-so-classic movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick