Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Space Truckers. Blu-ray. Second Sight

Stuart Gordon's 1996 Science Fiction comedy comes armed with a strong cast and a rollicking story, set in a galaxy far, far away.
Dennis Hopper takes the role of John Canyon; an independent trucker who moves freight beyond the stars, in order to make a living.
It's a world of synth burgers and sham fries, where a canteen deal is struck for the eventual marriage of John and Cindy (Debi Mazar)
providing he can get her back to Earth for her mother's operation.
Enter Nabel the creator (Charles Dance) who is responsible for the design of an army of state-of-the-art disintigrators: biochemical super warriors
who will soon be bound for planet Earth in a cargo that's officially claimed to be sex dolls.
John and Cindy join forces with Mike (Stephen Dorff) in an effort to thwart this murderous mission, with Nabel just as intent in carrying it through.
The result is a pacey, often hilarious romp that makes the minutes fly if you don't think too hard about what you're viewing. Certainly, there's enough
explosions, excitement and general mayhem to satisfy all but the most demanding viewers.

Hopper is great value for money as the last of the breed trucker, while Dance also excels: watch out for a particularly strange case of erectile disfunction!
Even those raised on a steady diet of Stuart Gordon's OTT Horror fare will find much to enjoy here, as trademark humour rubs shoulders with some nifty fx,
and there's a nice surprise at the end for fans of a certain leading lady who certainly left her mark in the director's filmography.
There's no doubt "Space Truckers" has a healthy cult following, and members of that club will be delighted by the image quality on Second Sight's
Blu-ray presentation.

The special features begin with "Space Trucking with Stuart Gordon" (22m 53s)
Here, the director talks about his early ambition to be an astronaut (shared with script writer Ted Mann), which eventually led to the creation
of this film. Stuart talks about the $27 million budget, and the quest to source additional funding, and of working with Dennis Hopper who unleashed
a stinging rebuke for his director, during filming.

"The Art of Space Truckers" (8m 7s)
Art director Simon Lamont breaks down his role in this production, and gives his thoughts on how the film stands up today.

"Scoring Space Truckers" (12m 31s)
Composer Colin Townes - the original score composer - gives a brief resume of his early career, and explains his approach to scoring the film,
which benefited from his versatility.

"Space Truckers" is available to buy now on the Second Sight label.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Blu-ray Review: Heimat (Second Sight)

"Love and suffering lie so close together"

Edgar Reitz's acclaimed television drama depicts the lives of ordinary people in the Hunsrueck: a mountain range in Rhineland Palatinate, Germany,
which is bordered by four rivers.
Here, the fictional village of Schabbach plays host to a thoroughly engaging series of events, following village life from 1919 to 1982.
The cast - comprising of over 120 speaking parts - contains some beautifully drawn characters wo win and retain our most earnest attention
throughout the 889 minute running time.
We have Maria (Marita Breuer): daughter-in-law of Mathias (the village blacksmith) and his wife, who is married to their son, Paul.
The turmoil of World War One has taken its toll on Paul, who suddenly disappears, leaving Maria with her two sons, Anton and Ernst.
As the years gop by, there will be new additions to the family: Maria has another son, Hermann; Mathias' son Eduard gets married to the over ambitious Lucie;
Hermann grows up and finds love and, inevitably, characters dear to our hearts pass away.
Where did Paul go to on his long walk to enjoy a beer? Why did he leave his wife? Did he ever return to Schabbach? Not all of these questions are answered,
tantalisingly out of reach to cast and audience who experience some big changes down the years.
The rise of Nazism - personified by the big chief Weigand and his son; the introduction of the telephone, radio and television; the rise of Anton's
optics company and a soul-searching decision he is called to make, all presented by Glasisch, the narrator who guides us towards a quite beautiful
finale, set in a place many of us have wondered about. We must hope it turns out to be like Reitz's vision.

Throughout the series, triumph and despair, economic hardship and prosperity, life and death are all captured by some gorgeous cinematrography,
as Eduard's camera joins in with the recording of memories.
Here luminous monochrome vies with colour. Sometimes colour is used for fleeting moments, then for longer spells. Occasionally, b/w and colour
are used in the same shot: look out for the carnations dropped over the village during a homecoming flight to remember.
The onset of war brings its own physical and psychological challenges, scarring those involved, yet pushing them onwards and upwards
in a collective quest to create better times.
Some of the scenes are heartbreakingly sad, but there are happy times enjoyed by people who work and play together down the years.
Of course, this story is tinged with bitterness and regret, but it's also extremely uplifting in places,
demonstrating the human spirit car soar, even through hardship.

It's a tall order to chronicle 63 years of family life in a single project, but Edgar Reitz and his cast and crew delivered a work of art
that will endure for many years to come.
Indeed, it's the cinematic equivalent of a page-turner, sustaining interest and offering unlimited replay value.
A masterpiece, no less.

Second Sight's Blu-ray presentation offers a sumptuous image, restored from the original negative by the Edgar Reitz Foundation.
Here, the glorious Hunsrueck countryside comes alive during the four seasons, , whether it's the monochrome shots of Winter or the warm Autumnal glow
of the surroundings. Outstanding!

The extras begin with "Heimat The Hunsrueck Villages: Stories from the Film Locations" (1 hr 53m 17s)
This documentary offers a comprehensive look at German village life, taking in memories of the wars; transport; slate mining and history
lessons for children, and there's footage of an old mine that's now used for concerts because of the excellent acoustics (something that occurs in the series, too).

"An interview with Edgar Reitz on the making of "Heimat." (38m 39s)
Edgar begins by explaining how he became one of 26 young directors to sign the 1962 Oberhuasen Manifesto, designed to create a new type of German cinema.
He talks about his early work - which including success and failure; casting his series; how the actors grew into their roles and reminisces about
the war years and growing up in a world without men.

"Maria's Story: Marita Breuer on Heimat" (11m 18s)
The still gorgeous Marita recalls how she landed the role; talks about the mutual trust she enjoyed with her director and how she grew into the role.

"An interview with Christian Reitz on the restoration of Heimat (17m 24s)
Christian explains how "Heimat" was restored, with an arduous and rewarding process that repaired scratches, tears and warps to create
the wonderful high definition image we have today.

Showing Not Talking: Jan Harlan on Heimat (12m 16s)
Jan Harlan talks about seeing this series at the Lumiere cinema in London, and of the impression "Heimat" made on friend and colleague Stanley Kubrick.

"A visual essay by Daniel Bird" ( 8m 44s)
Film historian Daniel Bird delivers an excellent visual essay, demonstrating the role of the camera to enact the process of memory. It's a key theme
of this series, and explored so very well here.

This release is rounded off with a 50 page soft cover book (which I haven't seen), featuring liner notes by Carmen Gray; 'The Collaboration with Gernot Roll'
by Edgar Reitz and 'Germany as Memory' by Anton Kaes.
"Heimat" is avialable to buy right now, and highly recommended.