Friday, June 15, 2007

June revivals: second half

Mike here with a list of what to catch in the second half of June. It veers a little toward horror, mostly because of AMMI's retrospective of classic and forgotten horror films of the 70s and this decade. Speaking of which, we start the list with one of the best in the retrospective:

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE with a Spider-Man episode at 1pm- Sun June 17 at 2- AMMI in Astoria- 35th Ave. and 36th St- Part of the retrospective of Horror films of the 70s and today (not necessarily in-between). Here's an example of a successful independent film. One of the best horror films ever made. One of the few that can elicit some jumps even on home video. Not nearly as bloody as you think. Shot and edited in such a way that it is implied, but usually not shown. Helped put New Line Cinema on the map. Forget all imitators/remakes. For horror fans and those who came to like well made films of all genres, go.

If we get there by 12:45, we will be able to see an episode from season 1 of the original Spider-Man series. Cool intro and ending credits. A 16mm collector's print will be screened.

THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD- for free- Mon June 25 (Rain date Tues June 26)- Bryant Park- 6th ave and 42nd st is but one area enter from- Park opens at 5- Film starts at sundown- I know this is late in terms of when the free Bryant Park series starts. Annie Hall kicks it off on June 18. But I can't make it, the film is the dialogue heavy, and if you're in the wrong part of the park, or with people who are bored by that on a hot summer night, forget it.

The Thing from 1951, now that I can do. Directed by Christian Nyby and others are credited for the screenplay, but ignore all that. It's a Howard Hawks production all the way. Hawks brought the tough guy types that he used in Red River and The Big Sleep, while having the snappy pater and strong female type that he used in His Girl Friday. Isolated Air Force personnel and and scientists at the Arctic must stop a killer alien (James Arness, years before Gunsmoke), intent on mass self-breeding and world domination. Simple story, well told. The dark shadows and evil music should be effective in the dark city park. Hopefully, there won't be as many pot smokers, but we'll see. Rain date I believe is Tuesday the 26th.

EL DORADO- Wed June 27 at 6 and Sat June 30 at 6:30- MOMA- 53rd st. and 5th Ave.- Part of the John Wayne retrospective. Speaking of Howard Hawks, here's a film he directed, with a screenplay from Leigh Brackett (Hawks' favorite screenwriter because she "wrote like a man"; wrote the first draft of Empire Strikes Back before passing away). Essentially a lighter-hearted remake of their earlier Rio Bravo. Wayne reprises his role of a gunman helping his drunken sheriff friend get sober, and get the bad guy. Instead of Dean Martin, we get a tougher Robert Mitchum, who handles the humor quite well. Instead of Ricky Nelson, we get a major upgrade in James Caan, who can actually act. He handles the young rookie type well, though a scene where he "plays Chinese" will certainly be cringe inducing now. No brain surgery here folks, just a fun Western.

GYPSY- Thurs June 28 for 6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- W. 23rd and 8th- A good movie musical that has become forgotten today. Not songs like Everything's Coming Up Roses, the persona of the domineering stage mom, or actress Natalie Wood in the title role. But the actual 1962 movie itself. Even annoying community theater types will run their VHS copies of the Bette Midler remake into dust with all their playing of it, before they even give this a sniff.

Maybe a little happier then typical biopics. And maybe a little surprising that for a film about the famous Gypsy Rose Lee, that the star is her mother Rose. But since Lee wrote the original book this was based on, let's cut this a little slack. Wood is lovely and good as Louise/Gypsy, and Karl Malden provides strong support. But in the end, it's Rosalind Russell's show as Mama. Oscar nominations for Cinematography, Costume Design and Music treatment.

There is also a 10pm, but there's no way in hell I'm staying out there for that long a movie. This isn't Barry Lyndon after all.

NEAR DARK- Fri June 29 and Sat June 30 at 6- MOMA- An archival print from director Kathyrn Bigelow. From a cult hit from 1987. Not so much at the box office, but from home video and cable. A teenage boy (Adrian Pasdar of Heroes), picks up a cute girl. She likes him. Then she bites him, thus turning him into a vampire. He ends up joining the girl's "family" of vampires, as they terrorize and feed of people in Oklahoma. The "family" includes Lance Henriksen and an especially brutal Bill Paxton, a year after their appearances in Aliens (Jenette Goldstein, Vasquez in Aliens, also appears as a vampire). Forgotten now, but for those who were video renting in the late 80s/early 90s, it was one of the few horror films that were released in that era worth repeated viewings. But most of us have never seen it on the big screen. Now is the time.

THE GREAT DICTATOR- Sat June 30 at 1:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Chaplin's first talking film, and the first (and for a while only) attacks on fascism. Where a dictator who wants to take over the world, is mistaken for a humble jewish barber. I know, a Cliffs Note-type description of the film. Banned in Germany until 1998. Banned in Spain until Franco died in 1975. 5 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Actor and Screenplay for Charles (not Charlie, so that people would'nt think of this as a Little Tramp film.). A Chaplin film that I'm painfully unaware of beyond the basics, but one I'm interested in catching.

IT'S ALIVE with an appearance by director Larry Cohen- Sat June 30 at 2- AMMI- However, if heavy-handed fascism satires don't cut it for you, how about a 70s horror satire. Playing on the fears of child birth, Writer-Director Larry Cohen's surprise 1974 hit (39 mil according to the Village Voice), has the newborn, effected by the pills and the medicines of the day, killing right out of the womb. Note the babycam, as it attacks or runs away. It only attacks when its scared, but it seems to get scared quite a bit . . .

And the authorities don't want to know if other babies, whose mothers are taking the same prescribed drugs, are afflicted or why. It's KILL KILL KILL time! Let's just say, humanity is not portrayed in its finest here. Worth catching if you've never seen it.

Writer-director Cohen appears at the screening, though I don't know if he's introducing the film, or doing a post film Q and A. We'll see.

I make the biggest push for Texas Chainsaw and The Thing. The later should be fun on a hot summer night. Are we ever going to get some those I wonder . . . Anyway, let me know. Later all.

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