Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Hey, all. Mike here not with a new list, but simply giving thanks for catching the following revivals over the past calendar year:

TRUE CONFESSIONS (a forgotten Robert de Niro/Robert Duvall pairing that I wish those of you out there who don't know it, would catch. And unless you go under the pseudonym of Myles Moffit, you probably never heard of it. A very good morality tale told in the guise of a film noir, similar to L.A. Confidential. Jump on this on Netflix.),

MY MAN GODFREY (a wonderful screwball comedy that deserves a higher reputation than it has. And it's reputation is pretty good.),


LAWYER MAN, BLONDE CRAZY (Part of a Joan Blondell double feature. The first one was disappointing, but Blonde Crazy was a very pleasant surprise. A con man/person film with bits of romance and comedy thrown in, with terrific leads in Blondell and Jimmy Cagney. This one is ripe for a remake),

NIGHT AND THE CITY (The original. I won't say "let's pretend the de Niro remake doesn't exist. But except for the Gene Tierney scenes, this film noir holds up),

Z (well crafted, angry political thriller with an ending that kicks you in the teeth for good measure. Jump on this Netflix),

BRUTE FORCE (not every revival can be a winner. Not bad, But for something that was highlighted by the Criterion Collection, I expected better),

LEON MORIN: PRIEST (a philosophical discourse of religion that you'd expect to be boring but isn't. With good character study work to boot. Boy am I beginning to embrace Melville as a director more and more each year),

CATCH-22 (underrated black comedy. I'd say catch it on Netflix, but I wonder how much this would work on some of you on TV),


10 RILLINGTON PLACE (British serial killer film based on a true story. Richard Attenborough succeeds as the milquetoast killer, but John Hurt stood out more as the rather stupid husband framed for his wife's murder. Incredibly difficult to play someone with a 70something I.Q. without going into overacting, but Hurt walks that line and gives an acting lesson to all in the process),


THE LION IN WINTER (boy do I wish more people know this film more. Wonderful script, with Hepburn and O'Toole working at their peaks),

TITUS (deserves to be seen on a big screen. Bloody good, figuratively and literally. Good leads, and plenty of recognizable people who would later work on shows such as 24, The Tudors, Damages and Dollhouse),

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (the 1979 Sensurround edit of the original series' pilot, which cuts some subplots and a portion of the bad acting. But not all. On at least two occasions, the guys who came with me, all of whom had either never seen the original series, or hadn't seen it since Reagan's first term, went to me and said "Wow, you weren't kidding about the bad acting.". Yeah, like THAT was why I was dragging people to see this),


THE RED SHOES (this will replay next month at the Forum. If you missed this before, and you're a fan of either dance or film making, this picture will wake your ass up real quick),

SMALL CHANGE (Would be interesting to see this as part of a double feature with another French film, The Class. See Small change first, a mostly upbeat look at kids growing up and the adults around them. Then follow that with The Class; shot over thirty years, from the perspective of a teacher burned out from dealing with kids at least 2-5 years older than the group from Small Change)


THE KING OF COMEDY (another black comedy that needs to be put on your Netflix now. If you're a de Niro/Scorsese fan and you don't know this, and you're 18, shame on you),


31 films in all. 7 less than last year, but at similar levels as the previous years I've been doing this. Thank you for all who caught at least one. Special thanks to Ed, who took a chance on so many of these pictures, at times merely on my insistence, I'm grateful. Later all.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jan revivals: second half

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch for the second half of January. Normally around this time, I'd worry about catching potential award nominees/winners, so this list would have to be strict in terms of what I absolutely want to catch and make time for. But I've been catching a lot more new releases over the past three weeks, so I can post a few more maybes. Now I might have to do that next month, but for now, I can afford to make this list a little longer. Of course I'd like to catch as many on this list as possible, so I won't sort out the maybes in case they turn you off. So here we go:

LABYRINTH - Fri Jan 15 - Sun Jan 17 at Midnight - Landmark Sunshine Cinema - It appears to be a Martin Luther King Jr. weekend tradition: midnight screenings of Labyrinth down in the East Houston area.

A flop back in the summer of 1986. A cult following today. Personally, I think the cult is bigger in say, L.A. and Chicago than here. It feels to me that; if there is more of a following in terms of mid80s Jim Henson work, then it would be more for Fraggle Rock then for this flick. When you hear those from 26-30 in NYC, who had HBO back then, talk lovingly about the show, or even Tina Fey, when she compared Paris Hilton's wig with a Fraggle, you might come to the same idea I did. That said, tell me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Labyrinth the only Jim Henson film to be re-released in a 2 disc DVD set to actually sell pretty well? Someone's rocking out to this.

While babysitting, Teenager Jennifer Connelly gets sick of her little brother, and wishes him taken away by some goblins. Why a mid 80s teen would pick goblins, who knows? But she gets her wish, as Goblin King David Bowie does exactly that. Jennifer goes off to David's Goblin castle to keep the rugrat from becoming a goblin. And of course, has to go through the title set of mazes to get there.

Executive produced by George Lucas, but hey, at least it's better than the other film he produced from that summer, Howard The Duck. Directed by Henson, who co-wrote the story. Monty Python's Terry Jones wrote an early version of the screenplay, with some kind of uncredited re-writing from Elaine May. Hell, I'll give this a shot. And because this falls on a four day weekend, Landmark Sunshine Cinema will also have a Sunday night Midnight screening, to go along with the Friday and Saturday night ones. If you don't have to work the next day, the Sunday nighter might be fun.

THE HIDDEN FORTRESS - Sat Jan 16 at 3:40, 6:20 and 9 - Film Forum- Part of the Akira Kurosawa retrospective, and probably the most fun film that I can post from this series. A samurai film that isn't heavy handed or solemn. Here, a gutsy princess is protected from evil men by someone who is good with a sword. They're accompanied by two companions; one tall and skinny, the other short and round. And they constantly run into a likable rogue, whose capable of coming in to save the day. DOES ANY OF THIS SOUND FAMILIAR? Seriously, I know Kurosawa was so upset with Sergio Leone virtually copying Yojimbo into A Fistful of Dollars that Akira sued the filmmakers. Yet did he ever consider legal action against Lucas? Anyway, a good mix of action and humor, with a great early set piece with hundreds of extras making a prison break. Sorry that it's only a one day/night screening, but come on out.

HIGH AND LOW - Fri Jan 22 at 6:30 and 9:15 - Film Forum- Part of the Kurosawa retro. Adapted from an Ed McBain 87th Precinct novel, so if this feels at least a little like Law and Order, at least you can know one of its descendants. Now in this film noir, especially the start and end, you have a morality play. And inside all of this, you have a breakdown of those who rose from the ashes, so to speak, in Japanese society after WW2, and those who never got out of the slums.

Toshiro Mifune plays a cash strapped businessman who ponders whether or not to pay a ransom demand. And you have another Japanese star, Tatsuya Nakadai, as the super cool policeman investigating the aftermath. Very good film. Shot in black and white, except for one cool shot. Worth catching.

BATMAN (1989) and/or SLEEPY HOLLOW- Sat Jan 23 at 5 (Batman) and 8 (Sleepy)- MOMA - Part of a Tim Burton retrospective. Not just the films are covered, but also Burton's drawings and other artwork are covered as well. Both films can be seen for one admission. Now I've brought up the 1989 Batman before. Underrated in the wake of Christopher Nolan's two Batman flicks, but as I said, I brought it up before, and I'm not in the mood to go through it again.

Actually I'm not really in the mood to do anything thorough about Sleepy Hollow. Tim Burton's reworking of the old Headless Horseman story. Successful back in the holiday season of 1999, forgotten today.

More important for Depp's career then for Burton's. You might not remember, but back in the 90s, Depp had zero hit films between Edward Scissorhands and this. Sorry, Ed Wood was liked, but was a flop at the box office, as was Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Donnie Brasco and Don Juan DeMarco did ok, but only in relation to budget, and Pacino and Brando respectively, deserve most of the credit in terms of draw. So at some point, you need something people will run to see, or you can make invisible art films till the dawn of time. Sleepy Hollow changed that, even if it seemed like Depp played Ichabod Crane as one part Sherlock Holmes, and one part fourteen year old girl who falls in love with Christina Ricci's breasts.

Sorry about that last comment, but Paramount seemed to have spent about as much advertising dollars highlighting Christina's assets as they did on the cool looking Headless Horseman. Note above street billboard picture. Actually back then, when combined with The Opposite of Sex and Buffalo 66 the year before, we thought we would be talking up Ricci as a major leading film actress right now. Now, after weight loss that made her head look larger than her body (I knew jealous women who would use that as a reason for unnecessary hatred toward her), and not-so-great film choices (forget Speed Racer, if you could watch more than ten minutes straight of Prozac Nation, you're better than me); well let's just say that with four films coming up according to imdb, let's hope for her sake one of them is decent.

Whoa, I just noticed my rambling. Too late to edit now. Let's just say, Sleepy Hollow may not treat the original source as sacred and untouchable, but it looks and sounds great, and has a fun cast surrounding Depp and Ricci. This includes Miranda Richardson, Michaels Gambon and Gough, Jeffery Jones, and 3 Sith Lords: Christopher Lee, Ian McDiarmid and Ray Park. Good luck finding Christopher Walken. Nominations for the Cinematography and Costume Design, an Oscar for the Art Direction. Anyway, seeing the two films together should be fun.

THE BAD SLEEP WELL - Tues Jan 26 at 6:40 and 9:30 - Film Forum - Part of the Kurosawa retro. Never seen it, but would like to. Toshiro Mifune doesn't believe his father committed suicide, and is willing to tear apart his father's company to find out the truth. So yes, it does follow the Hamlet template, and is now set in the corporate world. But Kurosawa is more interested in depicting the corporate corruption running rampant in Japan by 1959/60. If there's a theme, it seems to be a reworking of a famous Benjamin Franklin saying. For this film, it would probably be: Those who sacrifice Honor for security deserve neither. Seems interesting, though I have been warned about it being a little on the slow side, so there's a small heads-up on that.

THE SEVEN SAMURAI - Fri Jan 29 at 8:20 and Sat Jan 30 at 1, 4:40 and 8:20- Film Forum - Part of the Kurosawa retro. In my personal top 35, and the first film that tends to get mentioned when one brings up Kurosawa/Mifune. One part epic and one part first modern action film.

A peasant village, filled with mostly vain, selfish people, are under constant attack. So they hire unemployed, noble samurai to protect and defeat the villains. Seven in total, mostly noble, except for Toshiro Mifune's character, who seems to be one part man, one part wild animal. Some great action set pieces, while we take the time to get to know each samurai and enough of the peasants, so that said action set pieces carry heavy emotional resonance.

The kind of big budget epic that this, along with Godzilla shot at the exact same time, almost drove Toho Studios to bankruptcy. Luckily for the studio, it became (I think) the biggest hits they ever had. Oscar nominations for Art Direction and Costume Design, but NOT Foreign Language Film. Ok, so La Strada wins, it's Fellini, I can't say crap about that. But the Japanese representative that was nominated was The Burmese Harp. What the hell is The Burmese Harp? Somebody please tell me who've seen it . . .

Anyway, as I said, in my personal top 35. There are not that many films better as far as I'm concerned. And while I'm at, I like Avatar. I do, quite a bit. But, if you think Avatar as good as an action epic can get, you're over 21, you claim to like film and you haven't seen Seven Samurai, then I challenge you to get up and see this. What, you can't read subtitles and this isn't in 3-D? Oh, shut up and see this already. It's playing for two days, I just post what I can probably be available for. You don't even have to go with me, just do yourself the favor and go. It's on the Criterion Collection, so you can rent it if you prefer. Just see it already.

But I do warn you; the film is three hours, twenty-seven minutes, and the Forum might have an intermission. They did back when I saw it on 2002. A side story; I saw it on Sept 10, 2002. That was the date when I went that night. It was so long, it was after midnight when we came out. We felt elated, coming out of the film. But that's when we realized it was now Sept 11, 2002, so some melancholy set in. Nothing else, just a side story that came to mind. There's no good lead-in from that to the last film on this list, so I continue.

THE EVIL DEAD (Uncut director's print) - Fri Jan 29 and Sat Jan 30 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema - A midnight screening of the cult horror classic that started Sam Raimi's career. A horror classic that, despite the ultra low budget this must have been shot on, holds up well. The screening is billed as some sort of uncut director's print. Don't know what that means exactly, except maybe no intentional darkening of a certain tree scene.

Heaviest emphasis for me is on all things Kurosawa, followed by the Burton double feature. Anything else would be a bonus. Let me know. Later all.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Jan. revivals: first half

Happy New Year all. Mike here with what to catch for the first half of January. Sorry I couldn't post this sooner, but the holidays just kept me from jumping in until now. Longish list, so let's start with quite a number of double or triple feature options for Saturday Jan 2nd, or later today.

PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and/or either THE HANGOVER OR ED WOOD and/or DRACULA (1931)- Sat Jan 2 at 2 (Plan 9) and/or either 4 (Hangover) or 5 (Ed Wood) and/or 8 (Dracula)- MOMA- This looks complicated, understandably. Basically, you can see one film, or up to three of the four films listed above, all for one admission. For example, if you show up to buy a ticket for something at 2pm, you have the chance to get a ticket for any of the other films being screened that day, as long as none of their screening times conflicts.

In other words, you can buy a ticket for the laughably awful Plan 9 From Outer Space, then get a ticket at the same time for either The Hangover (a comedy that won't be in my top 10 list of 2009, but is fun with some hysterical set pieces) or Ed Wood (a good film, but I feel that some people confuse this picture with having the same high quality of Martin Landau's excellent performance, and it's just not so), then conclude with the Dracula featuring Bela Lugosi's classic Count. If you do Plan 9 Hangover then Dracula, you get a bit of break between the first 2, but you have time for a quick dinner between the second and third film. If you do Plan 9 Ed Wood then Dracula, you have time for a slightly long lunch, but no real time between the second and third film. Now if you don't want to catch Dracula, there's another revival option on Saturday night:

MURMUR OF THE HEART - Sat Jan 2 and Wed Jan 6 at 9- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the mini Louis Malle retrospective. I enjoyed the last one they had about over 4 years ago, and a smaller variation starts now. Another coming of age film from Malle, and while it's not the most controversial film of his career (that is Pretty Baby and it's not even close), the set-up of the story is still, well frankly, unsettling when written out. But handled more sensitively than you would expect. A young teenager comes of age in 1950s France. The only person he constantly gets along with is his mother, despite her smothering. Near the end, all they have to turn to are each other. And yet, there's a surprise after that. Surprising soft-hearted and tender. If you don't/ can't do it as an alternative to Dracula on Saturday night, it will be screened again next Wednesday night.

MY DINNER WITH ANDRE - Mon Jan 4 at 4:10 or Wed Jan 6 at 6:15 with a post film Q and A with Wallace Shawn- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Louis Malle retro. The 1981 film that became a sleeper art house smash, thanks largely to Siskel and Ebert's praising and constant selling of the picture. You can decide for yourself. Is this almost feature length conversation between Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory an exciting exchange of ideas and meshing of personalities, or a possible cure for insomnia when it doesn't tick you off. And if you go on Wednesday night, you can try to share your feelings with Shawn himself, who will do a post film Q and A.

TAKING OUT with an introduction from director Milos Forman and A THOUSAND CLOWNS - Tues Jan 5 at 7:20 (Moving Out) and 10 (Clowns) - Film Forum - The last of the Madcap Manhattan retrospective. First, Taking Off, a comedy and the first English language film from director Milos Forman. Made because Universal decide to give young talented directors a budget of less than one million, and not interfere with either choice of project or final cut, just like Columbia did with Easy Rider. Moving Out was one of the seven. Buck Henry is one of the parents looking for their runaway teenage daughter. They go down to the Village, and WOW, is THIS what the counter culture LOOKS LIKE? AND IS THAT POT?!?!? Let's try some . . . keep an eye out for Ike and Tina Turner performing and Kathy Bates and 70s fave Jessica Harper in small roles. Forman himself will introduce the screening.

Next, the Oscar winning A Thousand Clowns. Jason Robards stars in this romantic dramedy, as a middle-aged nere-do-well, struggling to avoid work. But may need to change or else he could lose custody or his ward. And will he fall for his social worker, played by Barbara Harris? Adapted by Herb Gardner from his own play, a very New York film to be sure. Nominations for Picture, the Screenplay and the Music, an Oscar for Martin Balsam for Supporting Actor.

IN THE LOOP for free (subject to availability)- Fri Jan 8 at 8 - MOMA - A comedy that will take a dramatic change to blast this off my eventual Top Ten of 2009. The best comedy of 2009, and also the best film made from a TV series with the same or similar number of original cast members from the series. Now granted, that's a small number with the most notable titles being Sex And The City and Star Trek.

But I'm not trying to damn with faint praise. It's also one of the best satires, political or otherwise, in a long while. The film comes from the British series The Thick of It, a descendant of "Yes, Minster" and "Yes, Prime Minister", and written and shot in the same style as both versions of The Office. In this film, Presidents and Prime Ministers seem to set the agenda for their respective governments, but it's up to others lower in the food chain to implement and sometimes, actually decide the policy. Or change the policy to stay in power, by any verbal means necessary. And if you're in the British government, do not piss off the American government.

When a low level Minister accidentally remarks that major power war involvement in the Middle East is "unforeseeable", then accidentally makes a statement advocating war when trying to recant the previous statement, it launches a shit storm between both the American and British governments. Also fighting are 2 factions within the U.S. govt., between a war pushing Rumsfeld-type, and anti-war Hillary and Colin Powell types. All with their own acolytes that might be for or against them. Both sides trying to convince the Brits to get on board. And how does everyone deal with each other? Pretty much like high school. The bigger the insults in a world where words cause harm, the better. And winning is all that matters, damn the opposition, and us.

Now did I mention at any point this film is hysterical? It never sacrifices humor just for a jab. At times, it figures out how to do both, but priority one is humor. On occasion, the characters sound too similar to each other, but will you be laughing too hard to notice? Probably. Scenes are stolen left and right by Peter Capaldi, of who it would be a major disappointment if In The Loop is too small to get him noticed for a Supporting Actor nomination. He plays the British (but don't call him FUCKING ENGLISH!!!!) communications manager who, despite his title, can verbally intimidate and/or crush his subordinates, and other ministers, even those supposedly more powerful than he. The character is modeled after Tony Blair's press secretary, Alistair Campbell after all.

But does he meet his match against the Americans? The film seems partly set up as a Clash of the Titans between Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker, and James Gandolfini's Powell-esque general. Maybe it feels that way because of Gandolfini's impact as Tony Soprano. But the scenes between Capaldi and Gandolfini are nothing short of electric and show-stopping.

I'm sorry this film was never able to expand
beyond art houses, and that terrific reviews and the occasional critics awards to either Capaldi and/or the Screenplay are the only acknowledgement that can be expected. You probably didn't see it either, but you have the chance to change that on Friday the 8th, for free, subject to availability. I believe on Fridays, tickets become available at about 4:30.

JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING- Fri Jan 8 and Sat Jan 9 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- One of the better horror films, possibly the best from the 1980s, gets a midnight screening. One of few that I can think of where a remake tops the original. Alien shape-shifting life crashes onto Earth, and in order to exist, it must live like a virus and wipe out or take over the life that already exists on whatever planet it exists on. Which in this case is us. And it's up to an isolated group from an American scientific station, desperately playing catch up and grasping for theories, to stop it. But when it starts taking them over, and becomes hard to tell which of them are human and which are not . . .

Kurt Russell makes a great action lead, with character actors like Keith David, Donald Moffat, and Wilford Brimley filling out the talented cast. The make-up effects grossed out some audiences (damaging potential word of mouth) and most critics, but they don't feel too over the top and still hold up today. Especially one scene where one portion tries to escape from another part in a very memorable way. If you haven't seen it, I'm not spoiling this.

The gross out factor, some brutal reviews, the R rating that made the PG rated Poltergeist more accessible, and just being released in the summer of 1982, where if you weren't E.T. (the happy alien movie released two weeks earlier), than you probably struggled at the box office. All of this helped make The Thing a high profile flop. But like another high profile flop released that very same day, Blade Runner, The Thing has also been re-evaluated and risen to both cult status and to the heights of its respective genre. Not AFI top 100 level like Blade Runner, but close enough.

STRAY DOG - Sat Jan 9 and Tues Jan 12 - Thurs Jan 14 at 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- The start of an Akira Kurosawa retrospective that will last until early February at the Forum. The first retro they've done of Akira's work since the summer of 2002. Since that summer, when I caught several of his work, I make it a point to catch at least one Kurosawa film I haven't seen before or haven't see in over ten years.

Something to look forward to for me. I expect to break that mark with this retrospective. And you can expect me to post a number of his films over the next several lists.
Stray Dog, the first Japanese film noir I think, gets a special nine day run; I've only listed the day and evening times I think I can make as of this writing. Never seen, but I've liked all the previous Kurosawa- Toshiro Mifune team-ups I've caught in the past. Except for The Hidden Fortress, please God, don't make me sit through that again. So I have hopes for this one. But because I haven't seen it, I'll have to copy and paste the Forum's pitch:

(1949) KUROSAWA NOIR: While a rubble-strewn Tokyo swelters through a torrid heat wave, awkward young white-suited detective Toshiro Mifune finds to his shame that his pistol has been stolen — and then that it’s been used in a murder. Thus begins his obsessive, guilt-ridden search, highlighted by a nearly ten-minute dialogue-less sequence shot by hidden camera in the toughest black market section of the city. (The post-production dubbing, with twelve of the latest pop songs layered in, was so difficult that Kurosawa’s soundman was reduced to tears.) No bleeding hearts here: when seasoned mentor Takashi Shimura points out that the killer, a returned vet, went bad when all his possessions were stolen, Mifune heatedly replies that the same thing happened to him — and then he became a cop. No surprise then that, as the chase progresses toward a final confrontation — electrifyingly backgrounded by a young girl’s stop-start practicing of a Mozart piece — Mifune and the unseen killer begin to seem more and more alike. A confessed admirer of Georges Simenon, Kurosawa adapted his own unpublished novel for this, his first detective film (the second is High and Low: see Jan. 22) and the real beginning of the genre in Japan. Approx. 122 minutes.

Let me know. Later all.