Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August revivals: second half

Hey, Mike here with a list of revivals for the rest of August. Like with the last list, a few of these conflict, but I'll let life and you all decide what films are doable. In the meantime, here we go:

RIFFTRAXX LIVE: STARSHIP TROOPERS- Thurs Aug 15 at 8- at Regal Union Square, College Point Multiplex and UA Westbury Stadium 12- A one night only screening. The Rifftraxx crew (aka most of the people involved in Mystery Science Theater 3000) have a good old time making fun of Paul Verhoven's cult-ish film.   An over the top sci-fi action film from 1997. Less sci-fi more action, and even more dark satire. Imagine mixing an episode of 90210 with John Wayne's The Sands of Iwo Jima. Then set it in the future as the gung ho American Marine types go off into space to fight evil killer CGI bugs, as we're informed of what happens via some global Fox News-like network. Wait a sec, does it seem like we actually started this war with the bugs? Oh never mind, let's see some kick ass action set pieces! Wait a sec. Why do the Earth leaders look like they're wearing Nazi uniforms, and why is Neil Patrick Harris wearing a pseudo-SS uniform? Whatever, go Earth! Hey, is that Denise Richards in her underwear . . . . I'm sorry, what did I just say? Oh yeah, GO EARTH!  

I feel this is under-appreciated both in story structure and action scenes , but I also feel I'm in the minority in this opinion. Mediocre acting, aside from the likes of Harris and the ever reliable Michael Ironside and Clancy Brown. A few others also, but the young actors were obviously inexperienced and it shows. Their youth, enthusiasm, and their abilities to serve the outward needs of the story (even when it required them to show a little skin) is all that was needed. But the cool extended action scenes and sneaky satire, is pure Verhoeven.   All of which should give the Rifftraxx/ MST3K people plenty of material.These screenings tend to sell out, though not always and not at all the theaters I've listed. But they get filled close to capacity at least so plan ahead:


ALIEN-  Thurs Aug 15 at 9 and Mon Aug 19 at 6:45- Film Forum- A DCP restoration of the original 1979 theatrical release. Yep, I'm posting Alien again, in part because there are still people who haven't experienced it on the big screen, and in part because I need no excuse to catch this on the big screen. This time it's back at the Forum, as part of their Horror Sci-Fi movie series. And boy does Alien count as both.

As I wrote, a DCP restoration of the original 1979 release, as opposed to the "director's cut" from about 10 years ago will be screened. It means we don't get more establishment shots of the soon-to-be claustrophobic ship interiors, more signs of dislike and/or disrespect of Ripley, and the final fates of a few characters. All worked when restored to the film, but not essential to its enjoyment. Especially the extra interiors. I've seen this with several of you before, but that doesn't stop me from posting this again. This film works, better than anything Ridley Scott as ever done. Excellent combo of look, pace and sound all of which as played well before at the Forum with its quality sound system and should do so again. In my personal top 100. C'mon, it's fun.

One note: as you can see, Alien plays on 2 different days; once this coming Thursday night, and twice on Monday, August 19th. I've posted the only screening of Alien I can do. Aliens will also be screened on the same day, but the Forum will charge separate admission for both of them on the 19th:


THE SERVANT- Fri Aug 16- Thurs Aug 23 at 1, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30 and 9:40- Film Forum- I posted this on the last two lists. I caught it on Thursday, August 1st, so I'm posting it again not as a film I have time to catch, but as a revival screening I recommend you make the time to catch. Apparently The Servant was so popular during its initial one week run, that the Forum has brought it back at its earliest opportunity, for another one week run. Dates and times are listed above.  

The outline of the story is simple. A working class man is  hired by a young upper class twit to be his new manservant. But after a while, the power shifts and the servant is the one in control. But is being in control all that it's cracked up to be? Simplistic breakdown but I, and director Joseph Losey and screenwriter Harold Pinter will let you figure out the details on your own. If you're an anglophile and/or fan of Pinter, you'll be into The Servant. If you like good acting, take note of this film, especially the performance of Dirk Bogarde in the title role. If you're a fan of great cinematography, take not of Douglas Slocombe's work. Definitely a change of pace if all you know him from is his work in Ealing comedies like Kind Hearts and Coronets, or his work in Spielberg films like Raiders of the Lost Ark.  

After watching the film, I came away from this feeling I was watching not so much a battle of the classes or even a typical Pinter-mindgame scenario, but I felt like I just finished watching a vampire movie. Bogarde's vampire sucking the emotional blood and will from James Fox's character. Sucking from him, and yet not expecting to have feed Fox's character (in every way?) in order to maintain control. I have to think Tony Scott has this film partially in mind when developing The Hunger. Almost like Scott took the physical form and mood of Fox's character and grafted it on David Bowie's character, adding the layers of vampirism and Bowie-being-Bowie later on. And speaking of a film with a sexual charge, let me note The Servant's orgy scene. A more repellent, mostly unappealing orgy you'll won't see elsewhere. Not graphic mind you, but aside from Sarah Miles (fine as Bogarde's "sister") getting ready, there's nothing titillating, exciting or inviting in my opinion (far be it for me to say what's titillating to you), and intentionally repellant I'm sure. If you don't know the film, try to make the time for it:


THE SWARM- Fri Aug 16 and Sat Aug 17 at Midnight- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's Best of Texas series. Films that take place and are shot in (at least in part) the Lone Star state. This film, directed by Irwin Allen, never gets screened and there's a reason why: It's fucking awful. But oh is it GLORIOUSLY AWFUL!!! It ain't The Room; The Swarm is competently shot and edited, it has a dream cast, and a better score from Jerry Goldsmith than it deserves. But in terms of script story and execution, it's awful and at times (to me at least), hysterical. Thankfully this is the one hour 56 minute original cut, as opposed to the "Director's Cut" that's over 35 minutes longer.

Not the worst disaster film ever made; that title belongs to The Concorde- Airport '79, which is an enjoyable bad movie in its own right. It's not even the worst Michael Caine- Irwin Allen film ever made; that would be their next film together, the awful and occasionally bad film-funny Beyond The Poseidon Adventure. But this is more fun.  

A swarm of African killer bees is attacking the American South for some reason, wiping out the personnel of a missile silo, and taking down helicopters, a train, and God forbid you should try to have a picnic. Why the bees get referred to as the killer Africans (!?!?) is a reference that hasn't aged well. Entomologist Michael Caine comes in to help the military stem the problem. He and doctor Katharine Ross make goo-goo eyes at each other, or what passes for goo-goo eyes in this film. But Caine makes more of a connection with old-time, let's-blow-up-some-bees general Richard Widmark. Hell, Caine makes more of a connection with the sunflower seeds in his pocket than with Ross. Throw in a geriatric love triangle between Olivia DeHaviland, Ben Johnson and Fred MacMurray (in his last film), an annoying kid who really has what some might say is a bad couple of days, and a cast with even more names (Richard Widmark, Lee Grant, Patty Duke Astin, Slim Pickens, Bradford Dillman, Jose Ferrer, Cameron Mitchell and Alejandro Rey), and you have the makings of a hell of a disaster movie. Oh, I forgot AND HENRY FONDA, as a pizza loving scientist in a wheelchair.  

Oh who am I kidding? With the dialogue and story situations that crop up, you'll end up rooting for the bees. You won't believe what they could do to a nuclear power plant! I don't want to spoil the ending, but the last 20-30 minutes is the very definition of WTF. That plus the feeling that James Cameron and anyone else involved in the creation of the film True Lies had probably seen and remembered The Swarm when they came up with the nuclear explosion scene by the Florida Keyes.  
A big ballyhooed disaster film from Warner Bros in the summer of 1978, crashed and burned without even making back half its budget. Warner Bros released it's theatrical release during on video during the early days of the home video market, and released a 35 minute longer director's cut for NBC. All that did was solidify how bad it was, but also some of it's "so bad it's fun" aspects. By the late 80s it had been properly forgotten, except in the minds of bad film connoisseurs like comedian Joe Bob Briggs, and the founders of the Razzie Awards, who credit The Swarm as one of its pre-award inspirations. Maybe HBO and/or Cinemax has screened it on occasion to fill up time. It's on DVD, but I think only in it's way-too-long extended edition.  

Somehow this was Oscar nominated for Costume Design. I don't know what kind of incriminating info Warner Bros/Irwin Allen (whose film career was almost over thanks to this) had on the costumer wing of the Academy to get that; another the case of WTF. Actually most if not everything about The Swarm is one big WTF. But what would you expect for a Midnight screening on a summer night, Citizen Kane? You probably never heard of this prior, but you won't forget The Swarm once you see it. C'mon, if you had fun with the likes of The Room or Plan 9 or films that skirt the line like The Warriors, you'll have fun with this:


ROSEMARY'S BABY and LITTLE MURDERS- Sat Aug 17 at 2:30 (Baby) and 5:30 (Murders)- Museum of the Moving Image- A double feature from the Museum's Fun City: New York in the Movies 1968-75 retrospective. A DCP screening and a 35mm print respectively.   First, Rosemary's Baby. The new DCP restoration of Roman Polanski's classic horror film that played over a month ago at the Film Forum, plays at the Moving Image for one day only. More psychological at times than what you may come to expect from a horror film, with not only some effective black comedy but you can also consider Rosemary's Baby a quintessential New York movie. Though whether it's scarier for Mia Farrow to have the Devil's baby in her womb, to be married to an actor, or to have a pixie haircut that doesn't work on her head, is up to you to decide. An Oscar nomination for Polanski's adaptation of Ira Levin's novel, an Oscar for Ruth Gordon for as one of the witches.

Next is Little Murders. A film from 1971, adapted by Jules Feiffer from his own successful play. Well, not successful on Broadway, as Mad Men fans might be aware of when Megan auditioned for it. Its successful runs with the Royal Shakespearean Company followed by a hit Off-Broadway run, probably gave Twentieth Century Fox the idea that there is an audience for this, when they funded the project. Feiffer adapted and expanded it for the screen, and Alan Arkin made his feature-length directorial debut with this. Audience reaction and lack of turnout probably gave the studio buyer's remorse.

A black comedy/satire in the vein of Dr. Strangelove and In The Loop. Ebert disagreed at least in terms of Strangelove, citing that Kubrick's film would at least go into over-the-top comedic moments that would at least release a little pressure before ratcheting said pressure up again. But here, a dark vision that's not always funny often enough or too absurdest to embrace, and too realistic to be able to casually dismiss. Elliot Gould is Alfred, who sees his New York world, as well as the Chicago hometown he left behind, as a world of shit. A world that he's powerless to change, so why fight it? Alfred has deadened himself to his surroundings in order to survive.  That is until he meets a girl, Patsy, an eternal optimist. Patsy's name might be a little on the nose, but she still comes off looking on the bright side of life. Combined with a need to shop, have fun and basically find another way to completely ignore the hellish world around her.  Can two people with completely different ways to survive in the big city find true love and thrive? Maybe, the city is bigger than both . . .

If the film has one enduring image, and I say maybe because so few people have seen or maybe even know Little Murders, it's of Elliot Gould; walking in a daze into a crowded subway car in a blood-soaked white shirt, while the other passengers ignore him. Does have an interesting cast that includes Vincent Gardenia (reprising his off-Broadway role as the girl's father), Arkin himself as a beleaguered police detective, and Donald Sutherland in a cameo as a wacked-out reverend. Not for everyone's taste admittedly. If you're looking for a happy film, this isn't it. If you're looking for a challenging film filled with recognizable faces, try Little Murders. You can see both this and Rosemary's Baby for one admission:  



ALIENS- Mon Aug 19 at 4 and 9- Film Forum- A DCP restoration approved by James Cameron, from the Forum's Horror/ Sci-fi film retrospective. His best film from the 1980s, and among the better action films from that decade as well. Used to be thought of as one of the few films better then its predecessor, until the director's cut of Alien came out in 2003, correctly changing that attitude. And while Alien made Sigourney Weaver a working film actress with lead roles, Aliens made her entrenched in both A-list status and as an action star regardless of gender, plus an Oscar nomination for Best Actress to boot.  

The planet where the first Alien was discovered has been colonized, but WHOOPS, there's an alien(s) problem there. So the set-up is like an old episode of Star Trek, except instead of a starship, the Marines are sent in, in full gung-ho mode that fit in perfectly in Reagan-era 1986 alongside Top Gun (but with a better script). Ripley comes along as an advisor few take seriously. Some purists had a problem with the Ripley character seemingly changed to be lady Rambo, but the action scenes are too damn good, and Weaver and Cameron sell it. Basically, anything you might have had a problem with regarding Avatar, Aliens does it well, and probably did it before Avatar. This is the only date and times Aliens will be screening. Alien will also be screened on the same day, but I'm afraid both flicks are separate admission:


PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE- Tues Aug 20 at 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of one of the best bad movies ever made. A one night only screening as part of the Forum's Sci-Fi/ Horror retrospective; no commentary, just the film itself. Ed Wood's unintentionally hilarious 1959 cult classic of aliens who attempt to conquer Earth by reanimating the dead has been hailed as the "worst movie ever made." The Swarm wishes it was Plan 9! The Room, ah, who knows . . . With string-powered flying saucers, laughable dialogue, shrewd alien logic and "priceless" special effects, it's a sight to behold. Starring Bela Lugosi who died. Wood replaced him with his own dentist(!); a man who was almost a foot taller then Lugosi, didn't look anything like Bela, and who spends most of his screen time, with his face covered by his cape. Plan ahead for this one:


MIDNIGHT COWBOY- Sun Aug 25 at 5- Museum of the Moving Image- Part of the Moving Image's Fun City retrospective. Films that show the seedy side of NYC circa late 1960s to mid 1970s. Flower power didn't seem to extend to these films.Midnight Cowboy is the most celebrated of the films in their retrospective and was a hit. The only X rated film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, as well winning for Director John Schlesinger and Screenwriter Waldo Salt. Depicting the relationship between hayseed male prostitute Jon Voight and sickly slickster Dustin Hoffman. On both AFI Top 100 lists. Chances are, if you're looking at this post, you know the film. But there's also a good chance you haven't seen this film, except for maybe Hoffman's "I'M WALKING HERE!!!" clip. Now would be a good time to change this:


With my favorite part of summer coming up, the U.S. Open, the next list won't come out until after Labor Day. Maybe near September 6th, maybe not till after September 9th, we'll see. In the meantime, let me know if there's interest. Later all.