Sunday, May 30, 2021

ZEROVILLE (2019) (MVD Marquee Collection Blu-ray review)


Label: MVD Marquee Collection 
Region Code: A

Rating: Unrated
Duration: 96 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: James Franco 
Cast:  James Franco, Megan Fox, Seth Rogen, Joey King, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jacki Weaver, Dave Franco, Mike Starr, Horatio Sanz, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Will Ferrell

Zeroville (2019) is 
based on the 2007 novel of the same name by author Steve Erickson and is directed by and stars James Franco (The Pineapple Express) as Vikar, a seminary school dropout who finds himself in Hollywood to pursue his dream of working on the movie business in the late-sxties. His arrival coincides with the Manson Family murder of Sharon Tate and company, his introduction to Hollywood being an interrogation by a pair of L.A. cops, Danny McBride (This Is The End) and Mike Starr (Funny Farm), who find him sleeping in a public space near the murder site. 

Vikar is quite conspicuous, what with his shaved head featuring images of actors Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, from his favorite film A Place in the Sun, tattooed on the back of his bald head. Vikar quickly finds work constructing sets for Hollywood films as part of the art department, and then after an accidental meeting with veteran film editor Dotty (Jacki Weaver, Picnic At Hanging Rock), a stand-in for legendary Hollywood editor Verna Fields, becoming an apprentice editor, even working on Francis Ford Coppola's (Horatio Sanz, SNLApocalypse Now after befriending an unhinged The Viking, a stand-in for John Milius, played by Seth Rogen (Observe and Report).

As Vikar's involvement in the creative process deepens, so too does his burgeoning career as a Hollywood film editor, but he is sidetracked by his fascination with a doomed screen goddess named Soledad (Megan Fox, Jennifer's Body), a stand-in for Jess Franco muse Soledad Miranda (Vampiros Lesbos), his obsession with her blurring the boundaries between reality and fantasy.

I have not read the source novel but Franco's adaptation is both fascinating and a train wreck, and I love that about it. It's a delirious tribute to movie making and an unhinged tale of cinematic obsession, with Vikar obsessing over scenes from Sunset Boulevard, David Lynch's midnight movie Eraserhead, Jess Franco's Vampyros Lesbos, and Carl Dreyer's silent black and white film The Passion of Joan of Arc, along the way discovering that every film ever made contains remnants from a single film trapped within it's frames.  

It's a madcap, hallucinatory watch, and if you're a cinema lover there's a lot here to love, but it is a hot, self-indulgent mess, but as a surreal cinematic fever dream it's quite enjoyable on that level, even if a lot of what it seems to be tapping into is forgotten along the way. 

Scenes of Rogan as Milius waving a .45 pistol in the face of Francis Ford Coppola and Stephen Spielberg (Kevin Makely) at a Hollywood beach house party are fun, as are Vikar attending an Iggy & the Stooges gig at CBGB's, and Will Ferrell chewing up the scenery as Hollywood producer Rondell who is both enthralled by Vikar's talent and irritated by his loose-cannon ways. 

How Franco was able to conjure late-sixties Hollywood on a shoestring budget is commendable, as are recreations of huge napalm explosions on the set of Apocalypse Now, but the Soldeadad obsession and secret film conspiracy that seem to be the heart of the story, along with Vikar's love f cinema, don't always stick the landing, but I appreciate the films willingness just go with it. There are so many characters popping-up throughout the film, that beach house part I mentioned is also attended by Martin Scorsese (Thomas Nicholas, American Pie), Brian De Palma (Chris Messina, Birds of Prey), Paul Schrader (Derek Waters, Comedy Central's Drunk History), and George Lucas (Ryan Moody). There's also a fun appearance from Craig Robinson (Hot Tub Time Machine) as a burglar with a true love of cinema. 

Audio/Video: Zeroville arrives on Blu-ray from MVD Visual as part of their MVD Marquee Collection imprint, the 1080p HD image is framed in 2.35:1 widescreen and looks quite giood with crisp detail, natural color saturation and deep blacks. Audio comes by way of English DTS-UF MA 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround with optional English subtitles. The only extras on the disc are a selection of trailers for the film and other MVD Marquee Collection titles. 

Obviously Franco is a filmmaker with a lot happening right now, facing the consequence of allegations of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior from multiple women, so that's problematic to say the least. Setting that aside I enjoyed the film, but it's a hot mess and not the most coherent or well-acted by Franco either, but dang, it's a cinematic fever dream that was not ever dull, at least for me. Recommended if you're into Roman Polanski's The Ninth Gate - speaking of problematic filmmakers - or something along the lines of the Hollywood hot-mess Under The Silver Lake

Saturday, May 29, 2021



Label: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 220 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Cast: Aaron LaPlante
Genndy Tartakovsky's animated series Primal features a caveman at the dawn of evolution, his name is Spear; who encounters a dinosaur on the brink of extinction, its name is Fang. The anachronistic prehistoric duo are bonded by common tragedies when each lose their families to the same pack of predators. Having lost everything the pair now traverse the primordial world of Primal together, facing danger by way of monstrous creatures, giant-sized bats, primitive ape-men, and a tribe of mystics engaging in human sacrifice.

The visual storytelling of Tartakovsky's series is awesome, we get wordless interplay between the primitive man and the beast as they travel together, hunt for food and fight for survival in a brutal prehistoric land that reminded me of a very gory A Land Before Time by way of Conan in the pages of Heavy Metal with a strong Frank Frazetta influence. It's quite fascinating, with each episode running more of less about twenty minutes, the pace is brisk, the action is impactful, and the lack of traditional dialogue never hinders the storytelling. It manages to convey a lot of emotion, particularly Spear's longing for his dead family, and his contemplation of suicide. I love the animation style as well, it's bold and striking and doesn't look like anything else I have seen, but for some reason I kept thinking Sam Keith's The Maxx in regard to the physicality and stance of Spear, not so much in the style or aesthetic, but I would love to own The Maxx animated series on Blu-ray, now that I am thinking about it. The details in the backgrounds aren't as ornate as what we've previously seen in Tartakovsky's Samurai Jack series, but the the water-colored backdrop depicts the primordial settings quite nicely, varying from deep canopied jungle, grasslands, torch lit caves, rocky outcroppings and snow-covered terrain. 

The action is also well-done, the physicality of Spear and his primitive hominid movements look fantastic, the animated film is very cinematic throughout. The series is also has plenty of horror elements if that's your thing, with loads of  bloodshed by way or blunt force trauma from stone-weaponry, toothsome creatures tearing flesh, spooky mystic imagery, and a scenario that has Spear drinking a potion that basically turns him into the caveman version of Marvels the Hulk, wherein he battles he battles a Kong-sized gorilla wearing the skull of a Triceratops, then tears apart a cave full of ape-men is a geyser of blood, guts and dismemberment!  

Audio/Video: All ten episodes of Primal - The Complete First Season arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment in 1080p HD framed in widescreen (2.35:1). The bold animation looks fantastic, colors are well saturated, and the animation lines are strong. I absolutely love the distinct look of this series, and it translates well onto Blu-ray in 1080p HD. 

Audio on the disc comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with optional English subtitles. There's really no spoken dialogue here, though we do get some Neanderthal grunts and howls, as well as shrieks and roars from a plethora of dinosaurs. The score from composers Tyler Bates (300) and Joanne Higginbottom does a lot of the emotional and thematic heavy lifting, the action scenes are pulse-pounding and the more delicate themes of loss, misery and tenderness get their due. There's plenty of low-end and a nice array of atmospheric and action-based surround action. 

Extras include a selection of Behind the Scenes Interviews and footage with series creator Tartakovsky composers Tyler Bates and Joanne Higginbottom, art director Scott Wills, voice actor Aaron LaPlante (Samurai Jack), as well as artists from the Studio La Cachet, the French who did the animation. Its only 10-minutes but they crammed it full of tasty content, including some behind-the-scenes goodies of LaPlante recording his voice acting, and animators working on the series. 

The single disc releases arrives in a standard keepcase with wraparound artwork without any lettering on the wrap, housed within a slipcase. Inside there's an insert with an episode synopsis, plus a code for a digital HD copy of the series. 

Special Features:
- Behind the Scenes Interviews (10 min)
- Digital HD Copy 

Primal - The Complete First Season is the single-best animated series I have seen in a very long time, easily. It's a ferocious bit of primordial fantasy-adventure, but there's also humor and depth to it, and it manages to have a wide emotional range despite not having traditional dialogue, which is a tribute to the storytelling and animation. I do wish we had some commentaries or animatics on the Blu-ray, but the audio/video presentation is top-notch, this comes highly recommended. If you are not yet sold checkout the complete first season available now on HBO Max and the second season will be debuting in June! 

Screenshots from the Blu-ray: