The summer thread kind-of died in August after my watch-a-new-to-me movie year-round resolution went the way of Tim Tebow's NFL career.
Oh well, time to pucker-up for Fall, starting with some late summer leftover business.Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960) and Michael Powell's PEEPING TOM (1960) at NYC Film Forum's Son of Summer Sci-Fi Horror Festival.
There's almost nothing left to be said about "Psycho" except that, on the big screen in a theater packed with film fans, the head of steam built toward that unforgettable and truly f***ed-up final minute of the film really elevates the experience and rep of the film as a horror benchmark. I personally get a kick out of Mort Mills' motorcycle cop terrorizing Janet 'I'm Hitch's surrogate'
"Peeping Tom" was new to me (and in 35mm to boot!) and I have to say, I didn't know Michael Powell had in him something this messed-up that he manages to infuse with the trademark Archer cinematic wit, colorful set design and Technicolor-by-proxy photography. Karlheinz Böhm's iconic performance walks such a fine line between show-off goofball and messed-up psycho I need to see the movie again to make-up my mind. Not as influential or fondly-remembered as Hitch's '60 magnum opus, "Peeping Tom" definitely belonged on the 2nd bill of the 2-for-1 billing I saw them both at.Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) on HD-DVD.
As someone that transcribes and close captions for a living, watching the last act of "2001" (after you-know-what happens to you-know-who) play basically wordless and as a silent movie on steroids (just what are those noises in that room at the end?) floored me. Here's a film that brims with so many ideas, yet most of the dialogue that matters isn't the spoken one (characters throw jargon and inane banter with the robotic delivery that HAL does not have... role-reversal!) but the one of sight and sound that visualizes and translates into images and music mankind finding the answers to the questions he's always asked. Typical of the humorous pessimist that he was about mankind, Kubrick assumes (rightly) our inability to deal with such abstract concepts by reducing them to their bare essentials. That's why this is my #2 favorite movie of all time, just below... well, read below. THE FLY (1958) and David Cronenberg's THE FLY (1986) at NYC Film Forum's Son of Summer Sci-Fi Horror Festival.
As I was telling friends at work afterward, I didn't realized that I had memorized Cronenberg's "The Fly" (my #1 favorite movie of all time) until I caught myself multiple times during this theatrical screening mouthing all the dialogue the characters were saying along with them (in silence, naturally). The 'insect politics'
scene and final minutes of the film, as they have since I first saw it in '87, tear-me up like the bitch this movie owns. Watched back-to-back with the '58 original (hammy and quaint, but very dark and messed-up for a 50's creature feature) the small things in the original that Cronenberg subtly retained (the sound effect of the telepods at the moment of desintegration, the sliding metal door at the lab, etc.) really jumped out. This was a blast, even if the screening of this double-feature was packed with way too many kids (OK for the '58 version, not for the still-gruesome '86 take).Stuart Gordon's RE-ANIMATOR (1985) in 35mm at Lincoln Center Film Society.
Screenwriter Dennis Paoli ("Dagon," "From Beyond") introduced the final midnight film of this summer series and to answer some questions. I asked him what he thought of the Brian Yuzna-directed "Re-Animator" sequels that built upon his foundation and, politely, he said they had a few good ideas and that (plus Jeffrey Combs) was all they had going for them... ouch! The 35mm print had seen better days but it was pretty solid and the movie still holds. "Re-Animator" is one of those 80's horror gems that everyone caught on video, but to see it in a mostly-filled theater with an appreciative crowd (Richard Band's credit got the most applause during the opening credits) both felt comforting and like we were all watching/doing something we'd need to take a shower for afterwards. "The scene" with naked Barbara Crampton on the slab literally made ten people say 'holy shit!'
outloud. Ron Fricke's CHRONOS (1985) on Blu-ray
for the first time. Though it loses a ton of its impact for (a) not being on IMAX (because my imaginary movie-loving girlfriend says size matters
) and (b) "Baraka" & "Samsara" building on what it started, "Chronos" is nevertheless 45 minutes of riveting images and photography of nature (natural and man-made) that don't add up to a satisfying whole but are cool and riveting while they last. The sped-up image of a high tide filling up the surroundings of a Normady abbey and St. Peter's Cathedral lighting up are amazing, but a Park Ave. shot early on is so out-of-place it feels like a hole plugged from later in the film, when some aggressive synth tunes over Grand Central footage hammers the 'human ant farm'
motif stridently. Lacking (a) the visual grace and creative composition Fricke would go on to master or (b) Godfrey Reggio's ability to push an overall thematic through line from start to finish, "Chronos" is like hotel coffee: overpriced for what you're paying for it, but still good-tasting coffee.Zack Snyder's MAN OF STEEL (2013) in theaters
for the first time. I hated this movie. I hated the music, I hated the production design (looks like "Immortal" leftover sets/CG effects), I hated Jor-El and 'Pa Kent (Russell and Costner delivering watered-down versions of their earlier hit roles), I hated the villains (Michael Shannon takes up to '11' yet doesn't achieve 1/10th what Terence Stamp did by just raising an eyebrow), I hated Supes' and Lois' strained relationship, I hated wasting time seeing if Perry White and his lackeys would survive (like we'd been given a flying fart of a reason to care) and I hated Zack Snyder making the only superhero movie I can remember where the entire reason for thousands of people dying and billions of dollars worth of destruction was the hero's sole existence in this universe. And yet I can see why someone frustrated with the previous "Superman" movies (and didn't grow-up with the attachment many of us had toward Chris Reeve, Dick Donner, the John Williams score or the quirky slapstick take on Lex Luthor) would gravitate toward the appeal of seeing outer space Gods rumbling on Earth, and how the ripples of those rumbles would wipe out people and buildings like the weaklings we'd be in that equation. When these Gods punch humans into blurred blood spots for PG-13 bucks though I completely check out.Gore Verbinski's THE LONE RANGER (2013) in theaters
for the first time. When I saw this I was shocked it wasn't anywhere near the disaster the reviews and press were making it out to be. It's this year's "John Carter" (Disney sure knows how to pick 'em): an expensive and somewhat flawed movie that is nevertheless fun and makes you think afterwards. The main action piece toward the end, when The William Tell overture kicks in, is the most fun I've had in the movies this year. I was literally covering my jaw hiding the biggest mouth-wide-open grin I couldn't contain at what I was watching and feeling, that 'I'm a 10 year-old!'
feeling you get when you watch "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for the first time. It's a sharp contrast with "Man of Steel," which was the least fun time I've had in a movie theater this year.
Since I recently saw Verbinski's "Pirates" trilogy for the first time this feels like a continuation/expansion of that series, with all the good (intelligent and smart writing with a ton of little callbacks that are scattered and come back later to pay off big time) and bad (seriously, who didn't see the twist about who the bad guy is coming from the first reel?) such legacy entails. If "The Lone Ranger" is guilty of anything it might be hubris by Depp, Bruckheimer, Verbinski, Rossio, Elliott & Co. of assuming they could manufacture "Pirates" magic at will. They work really hard at it and the end result is a fun movie, but one that feels like a rerun of better movies ("Curse of the Black Pearl") weighed down by the shortcuts and bloat of others ("At World's End"). In a summer in which every other movie seems hell-bent on killing and slaughtering people by the thousands (including this one), I'll take the Disney movie that at least is bending over backwards to try to entertain me over the one's passing bloodless massacres as entertainment. "The Lone Ranger" is a blast.Guillermo del Toro's PACIFIC RIM (2013) in theaters
for the first time. Is it me or this looks/feels like the most expensive videogame CGI cut scene ever made being passed off as a movie? I expect much more from Del Toro than fan service filmmaking, which anyone that has ever watched "Robotek" or played a "Gundam" videogame will appreciate but not be the least bit challenged or pushed beyond the comfort zone of blockbuster familiarity. Charlie Hunnam is such a charisma-free leading man he makes Idris Elba (delivering a rare-for-him phoning-it-in performance that still manages to be the best thing about the flick) and the comic relief guys (who suck and are not funny) seem like master thespians. When the CGI battles take over the flick is brain-dead fun, but so is watching cats play music on YouTube (and didn't cost $150 million to make).