Friday, July 31, 2009

August revivals: first third

Hey all, Mike here with what to catch for the first third of August. A definite mix here. No time to waste, here we go:

EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN- Sat Aug 1 at 8:30- Walter Reade- Part of the Ang Lee retrospective. This type of retro is something I knew I would have to confront at some point. When a director whose work I've seen quite a bit of gets a retro, how interested can I get in all of them. In the end, I've narrowed it to 3. The Wedding Banquet I like, but paying to see it once was enough. Same with Brokeback Mountain, which I liked even more. Crouching Tiger is the best film of 2000, but no way I'm paying to see this for a third time. Sense and Sensibility is just fine on cable. There are parts of The Ice Storm that I like, but there are parts I don't give a crap about, so I'm in no mood to pay to see all of it. There is no way I'm paying 15 to see Ride With The Devil, even if Lee himself does a Q and A afterwards. Hulk, no way. Edward Norton still cracks me up when he wishes he could have made his Hulk film as more of a character study. HELLO, that was Ang Lee's film it and large chunks of it stink. But Eat Drink Man Woman is the first of three I'll post here from this series.

The Wedding Banquet brought Lee to prominence in America, became a major arthouse hit, and gave Lee his first Oscar nomination for Foreign Film. This one wasn't quite as successful, but it drew an audience, gave Lee another nomination for Foreign Film and I think is a better film than Wedding Banquet. A quiet film, set in Tawain, that starts where 3 adult daughters who live at home with their father. And we follow what happens to them after their father has a heart attack, and has to retire from being a top chef. Quite a number of quiet moments strung out over the course of a long film to the point where you think nothing happens for long stretches. But be patient and pay attention; the well written script from Lee, James Schamus, and Hui-Ling Wang yields rewards. Should note the photography of the many meals depicted in the film. May make you hungry and make you NOT want to settle for McDonalds afterwards.

PUSHING HANDS- Mon Aug 3 at 8:45- Walter Reade- Part of the Ang Lee retro. Lee's first film. I've never seen it, and I don't think it even had a full American release until the successes of Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman. Story of an old Chinese man who moves from China to New York to live with his son and very American wife. Culture clash, and difficulty accepting American ways, his son's supposed putting aside of some Chinese ways for those more of the wife's, and getting older in general, are among the problems for the main character. Now supposedly, this isn't nearly as morbid as I'm making it sound, but I've never seen it, and I'd like to.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (original)- Wed Aug 5 at 6:55 and 8:55- Huntington Cinema Arts Centre- 423 Park Avenue, Huntington, NY- at the intersection of Park Avenue and Main Street (25A)- I go away from the city and go deep into Nassau County for this bit of summer fun. The original Battlestar gets a screening, but at reasonable times as opposed to a midnight screening. The first episode gets screened. Note that its not the actual ABC edit from Sept. 1978, but the 1979 Sensurround edit Universal released in theaters. It should include the actual Sensurround intro that came up before even the Universal logo. Don't know if it's on Youtube, but it has to be seen to be believed. Anyway, this cut is barely two hours long, cutting a few subplots, and a lot of the bad acting (though not all).

This is strictly childhood for me, though the memories for me are strongest in terms of remembering this show on syndication, as opposed to it's original run on ABC. The recently ended remake is a very good show, and if you haven't seen it, get to Netflix already. It used the feelings and emotions of dread from post 9/11 and spread on a multi-global level, mixed some 24-esque tension, hired some good (mostly Canadian) actors, took some story chances, and have come up with a superior series than the original. For the record, I'm dreading Caprica and any more spinoffs, one shot TV films and anything else that's coming soon, but that's for another time.

The 1978-79 edition of Battlestar didn't have that kind of emotional heft around. Okay, there was the Holocaust, but that was too far away and too long ago I guess. This is big space opera, with explosions, space battles, acting that verges from the ok, to campy to amateurish. For this last part, ABC had the tendency to cast hot chicks who were models or college students with little skill, whose career would either end within 5 years, or finish in infomercial or direct to video hell. Not every actress hired could be Jane Seymour, who is in this. One of my early crushes, an ideal for beauty that has screwed me up to no end, but that's for another blog. Though she didn't seem to be allowed to wear a bra on Galactica, but anyway . . .

I also have quite a lot of affection for the main villains, the Cylons. Over 6 ft tall, all chrome except for the ruby quartz eye that moved across the head with a swerving hum. And that low electronic monotone voice. The most original aspect that I still have a fondness for, despite the massive improvements done to them in the remake series. Plus decent to good visual effects, though because of the budget restrictions, the same battles were repeated throughout the series' run, and even to an extant, in this.

I can't say this would be the best flick you'll ever see. There are some aspects that will just seem laughable now. And as much as I like this, I would probably laugh at those absurd or lousy moments with the rest of you. But dammit, not everything can be The Rules of the Game, or Annie Hall, or Lawrence of Arabia. This is silly campy fun, that manages to capture a bit of the dread and tension that the remake series thrived on, and I'm not ashamed of having fun with it. And I hope you will as well.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS for free- Fri Aug 7 at 7- MOMA- Part of the new acquisitions series.These are films that MOMA has just received as part of their library, and now they get to show it every so often. All three Lord of the Rings films are being shown; once each day from Aug 6- Aug 8. But The Two Towers is the only one being shown for free. All films after 4pm at MOMA are free, no special reason. And since I still know a few people who have seen only Fellowship, you can't beat free. Note that all three Rings films being shown are the original theatrical cuts, not the extended director cuts.

RED DAWN- Fri Aug 7 and Sat Aug 8 at Midnight for 9.99- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Some people had problems in Superman Returns when Frank Langella, as Perry White , said Truth Justice all that stuff, while ignoring The American Way. There was also a major complaint why not enough people weren't complaining about it. Here's one way out theory: maybe some of those people grew with the ridiculously awful Red Dawn and have rebelled against anyone pushing rah-rah stuff ever since.

For me, Red Dawn is, let me be clear, FUCKING AWFUL, but GLORIOUSLY FUCKING AWFUL. Kind of gives a barometer as to what the feeling was in this country during the Cold War, that this was actually considered possible. It might have even considered believable, if Red Dawn wasn't over the top.

From 1984, World War 3 begins, as Soviet paratroopers land in a small Colorado town. But they are held at bay as high schoolers Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell and Charlie Sheen (in his screen debut) do something about it. With the aid of Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey (years before the nose job, Ferris Bueller and Dirty Dancing), plus help from veterans Ben Johnson and Powers Boothe (pre 24), they form the Wolverines, and go guerilla warfare on them Commie bastards. WOLVERINES! Or as they tend to say it, WWOOOOOLLLLVERIIIIIINNES!

Directed and co-written from very macho John Millus (Conan The Barbarian and Dillinger, the less artful but less full of shit version of Public Enemies). Over the top, from the start of Harry Dean Stanton's monologue (ending with AVENGE ME! AVEEEENNNGE ME!), to the final battle. As subtle as a brick, or the giant Soviet armored helicopter that goes after them. And though it was nice to see the late Ron O'Neal get a job, I can only think "Holy Shit! They got Superfly leading the Commies!". Millus actually does do a good job with the action scenes. So good, that you wish he hadn't approved some of the other bullshit that follows.

If you want a cheesy example of Reagan era action movies: Rambo division, this is it. Hard to believe this was actually PG-13, the first PG-13 film ever. Before the remake comes out next September (when the Chinese become the invaders), here 's the original, at a slightly cheaper price then regular films in Manhattan.

LUST, CAUTION- Fri Aug 7 at 6:15 and Sat Aug 8 at 8:30- Walter Reade- Part of the Ang Lee retro. The third film I'm posting here. In my Best of 2007 list, this was one of those I regretted missing. In 1942 Shanghai, a young woman poses as someone else, to seduce then kill a Japanese collaborator. But the young woman is an actress, whose not necessarily trained to keep the new identity from overwhelming the main one. Especially when she falls in love with the target. Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Infernal Affairs, Hard-Boiled) plays the target, with Joan Chen in the cast as well. There's more, but I'm not familiar enough to go further. The film got ok to good reviews, but business was pretty weak. Maybe the 2 hr 37 min running time didn't help, but the NC-17 rating for its sex scenes was probably what did it. After all, chains like AMC and Regal won't touch a film with that rating, and the only way some of you probably saw this was on Blockbuster, where the R-rated version was the only one allowed. The NC-17 version is what will be screened.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN- Mon Aug 10 for free- Bryant Park- The classic Western remake of The 7 Samurai. Yul Brynner leads the gang of hired guns, protecting the poor Mexican peasants from Eli Wallach and his band of brutal henchmen. Served as a kind of template for future spaghetti westerns. Also served as a launching pad for several of the 7: James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Charles Bronsan . . . . and oh yeah, Steve McQueen. Also featuring one of the best film scores ever from Elmer Burnstein, no exaggeration.

Different types of flicks, at different places. Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

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