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Monday, November 19, 2012

December Film Club

Hey everyone, thanks for all who could make it out to see Take Shelter.

For the month of December I've decided to show Frank Capra's classic, life affirming tale: It's a Wonderful Life.

Released in 1946, the film stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams in order to help others, and whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers).  Clarence shows George all the lives he has touched and how different life in his community would be had he never been born.

It's a Wonderful Life is an American Christmas drama film produced and directed by Frank Capra, that was based on the short story "The Greatest Gift", written by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1939.  The film is considered one of the most inspirational and best loved movies in American cinema as it currently holds an 8.7/10 rating on IMDB consumer reviews and a 93% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Join us for a screening of this Christmas Classic, Thursday, December 20th at 6:15pm.  Hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Name's Bond...James Bond.

Well, the wait is finally over, Skyfall has arrived, marking the 23rd film in the Bond franchise, starting with Dr. No.  I have seen it and let me tell you, it is phenomenal.  While I was visiting the theatre (attending a showing of Wreck-it Ralph, a fantastic film in it's own right) a friend who was accompanying me found there was a midnight showing of Skyfall, (a full day before we even thought it was released), so we decided to stay and watch.  I loved Skyfall so much, and found it to be such an impressive return to what made me love James Bond in the first place all those years ago when I first watched them with my father.  Recently the Bond series seems to have been "rebooted", with the release of Casino Royale back in 2006 (a film that blew me away, especially in the wake of the travesty that was Die Another Day) and then in the follow-up film (that was, sadly, nowhere near the caliber of greatness presented in Casino Royale), Quantum of Solace.  But where Casino Royale brought a freshness, as well as, a seriousness back to Bond (when it was plunging back into the depths of 'camp' and ridiculousness, not entirely unlike the end of Roger Moore's stint as the beloved hero), Quantum of Solace brought a mopey, revenge-driven Bond that behaved more like a Jason Bourne than a James Bond.  Now, don't get me wrong, Quantum of Solace has some incredible moments in it and displays a talented filmmaker, but it had no business being called a James Bond film, it did the opposite of what Casino Royale did, which is why I was skeptical when I first heard that this new "Bond 23" was being made.  Little did I know, they had everything under control.

Skyfall is directed by Sam Mendes (a director I am fond of and a good one at that, my first reassurance) and photographed by Roger Deakins (cinematographer for such films as: No Country for Old Men, Revolutionary Road, also directed by Mendes, and The Shawshank Redemption, my second reassurance).  The film opens differently than many of the past Bond films, saving the down-the-barrel-shot for the end of the film, but much like the Bond of late, instead throws us into the action.  It's good action and well crafted, and leads perfectly into the theme song (a Bond staple), a fantastic theme that harkens back to the older Bond films, performed by the ever wonderful Adele.  This feeling of familiarity that I got with the tone of the theme would not be a one-time thing.  All throughout this film is a return to the way things were, a return to the past, but all at the same time, a leap forward.  This film takes Bond into the present and makes him, and the idea of what he does, relevant for today.  Much of this film is about the old, or even antiquated, being entirely necessary and incredibly relevant, both in plot and in actuality.  The characters make a return to the old, but so does the film.  It returns to almost the same form and function the past films followed, and as a (near) lifelong Bond fan, I can honestly say, I was blown away.  When the film ended I wanted to get up and yell "Now THAT'S a Bond film!"  Because that's what it was, a pure Bond film that joined the ideas and (albeit formulaic) structure of the old films with the new ideas, pacing and style of the recent films.  We have a Bond that is charming without being smarmy, dangerous without being driven purely by revenge, and funny but not ridiculous, and he is joined by a whole new cast of fresh faces that feel right at home in the roles played by many others throughout the years.  This is the beginning of a new era of Bond, one that will hopefully follow the example set by Skyfall.  I have heard they are already working towards another Bond film and if they have one shred of intelligence or common sense in their collective brains, they will pay close attention to this film and take notes diligently, because THIS film is a success, a wonderful success.

I don't say this lightly, but Skyfall may be the very best James Bond film I've ever seen, if not, it's definitely in contention for the top.  If you're a fan (and even if you're not) do yourself a favor and see this film, in IMAX if you have the budget for it, because it is stellar.

Here's the trailer:

and if you're like me and couldn't wait to hear the theme, here it is:

Monday, November 5, 2012

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.....

As many of you know (or maybe don't know) Disney has purchased Lucasfilm from George Lucas (the sole shareholder) for 4.05 billion (with a "b") dollars, and have announced Star Wars Ep. 7 for release in 2015.  

Initiate nerd-rage.

When I first read the news that this transaction had gone down I was at a loss for words...I stared at the screen but my brain wouldn't register what it was reading.  "George Lucas sells Disney...for 4 billion dollars...Disney plans Episode 7 for 2015 release..." I re-read the lines multiple times, not really knowing how to feel.  Then the emotions started.  I was angry.  DISNEY?!  DISNEY bought the rights to the entire Star Wars franchise AND they're already planning another Star Wars film?!!???  GAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! How dare they?  I grew up with Star Wars!  I remember the exact moment I first learned of the existence of Star Wars with perfect clarity.  I was sitting in front of the TV watching some nonsense (it doesn't even matter anymore) with my younger sister, when my dad walked through the front door.  I don't know what prompted him to do this, but wherever he was, he had purchased the original remastered trilogy on VHS.  I remember walking over to him, curious what this exotic box of tapes could possibly be, looking up at him as he just...handed them to me.  He said, "This is the Star Wars series...wanna watch it?"  It was as simple as that...I became, immediately obsessed with Star Wars.  It's one of my fondest memories, and one which will always be burned into my recollection.  Since then, I've accumulated the DVDs, action figures, vehicles, posters, clothing, etc.  (I'm only slightly nerdy...)I couldn't get enough.  I lived and breathed Star Wars.  I learned from my father that he had seen the films in theatre...when they were released, starting in 1977.  He spoke about the films with such a wonder...he said no one had ever seen anything like that in film before, it had a reality that was beyond it's time (effects-wise).  When that Star Destroyer comes over the screen at the beginning of Star Wars, you're powerless, you have no choice but to stare in awe of it.

This memory popped into my mind as I read the distressing headline...then I let myself think.  I've lived through the prequels.  I've lived through the endless, atrocious, changes Lucas has made to the original trilogy, the films from my childhood.  I've watched this man (Lucas) do absolutely NOTHING worthwhile with this beloved series, but ruin it time and again, and I thought, "You know what....good.  This might be the best thing to happen to Star Wars since 1980 (with the release of The Empire Strikes Back, a film that, thankfully, Lucas neither wrote, nor directed)."  Disney has recently purchased the rights to Marvel as well, and so far, has done nothing but good with it (in my opinion.  Sure, all the films aren't gold, but they're pretty good).  I now see this as an opportunity for competent writers and directors to get involved with an established story I already love, and make something good.  Disney has the money to make anything they want, and if they play their cards right, they might just make something good, possibly even great.

If I could request one thing, JUST ONE thing from Disney, as a fan, I would ask them to release the original trilogy on Blu Ray, unaltered and unscathed.  I'm talking Han shot first, no worm Sarlacc, no digital Jaba, regular Obi-Wan Krayt Dragon call, no digital, inexplicable rocks in front of R2-D2 while hiding from the Sand People, no Darth Vader "NOOOOOOOOO", ORIGINAL Star Wars films.  The films the loyal fans deserve.  The films George Lucas denied us.

In short...This is a big change.  This is a lot of new revenue for Disney (which also gained rights to ILM, Skywalker Sound, and LucasArts games).  This is also a new opportunity.  An opportunity to do something that hasn't been done in nearly 30 years:  Make a good Star Wars film.  So, I'm optimistic...I'm looking forward to seeing what Disney does with this newly obtained goldmine, hoping that they give the series the respect it deserves but hasn't had in a long time.  I'm hoping they honor the originality and wonder that made Star Wars so appealing to begin with.  I'm hoping, with a 2015 release date already planned, they don't rush this next film and ruin it. I'm hoping they make a return of some practical effects, rather than ONLY green screen effects (seriously guys, practical effects look AMAZING, trust me).

I look forward to returning to that galaxy far, far away, and the wonder that grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

Monday, October 29, 2012

November Film Club

Hey everybody.  As October comes to a close (which, really doesn't seem possible) so does our Horror Fest presentation of "The Films of Alfred Hitchcock".  Thank you to everyone who was able to make it to any or all of the films, we really appreciate your patronage.
The film I've selected for November is something completely different that I think you'll enjoy.

We will be watching Jeff Nichols': Take Shelter

Take Shelter is a 2011 American drama-thriller film written and directed by Jeff Nichols and starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.  Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father (Shannon) questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.

In Lagrange, Ohio, Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) has apocalyptic dreams of being harmed by people close to him, but he keeps them from his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and their deaf daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart).  He focuses on building a storm shelter in his backyard, but the strange behavior strains his relationship with his family.  Curtis goes to see a counselor at a free clinic, with whom he talks about his family's psychological history.  His mother (Kathy Baker) suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, which presented about the same age that Curtis is now.

Film club will meet Thursday, Nov. 15th at 6:15pm.  Hope to see you there!

Check out the trailer here:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Film Club

Hey there!  Thank you to everyone who was able to make it out last Friday for our showing of Vertigo, we had 20 people attend!  A Film Club record.  If you would like to come see an Alfred Hitchcock film but haven't been able to make it yet, don't worry, there are still TWO more films coming this month!  This Thursday, Oct. 18th at 6:15pm we will be showing the chilling thriller: Psycho.  Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Horror Fest 2012

Hey folks, here is the update on the Horror Fest lineup for October.  Unlike last year, where we showed different types of films from the horror genre, this year our theme will be:

"The Films of Alfred Hitchcock"

Friday, Oct. 5th- North by Northwest
Friday, Oct. 12th- Vertigo
Thursday, Oct. 18th- Psycho (Film Club)
Friday, Oct. 27th- Rear Window

Unlike last year, not all these films are, strictly speaking, "horror" films (except Psycho) but they are all incredibly suspenseful.  Alfred Hitchcock was probably the greatest filmmaker to have ever lived and his legacy as "The Master of Suspense" lives on.  Come and join us for the month of October as we view just a sampling of his overwhelmingly brilliant filmography.  You will not be disappointed.  All Friday shows will begin at 5:15pm after the library closes, Psycho will be shown on Thursday, Oct. 18th at 6:15pm for Film Club.

Here are the trailers:

North by Northwest
Rear Window
Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 24, 2012

October Film Club

Hello everybody, thank you to everyone who was able to make it out to The Artist, we had a good crowd.  As you know, next month is October and that means Horror Fest.  Last year we screened a variety of different horror films from different sub-genres and it turned out well.  This year we are going to spotlight the films of the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.  Every Friday in October, except the third, we will be staying after the library closes to watch a film.  The third week we will hold the film when we would normally hold Film Club, so Oct. 18th will be when Film Club meets and we will be watching Psycho.

Psycho is a 1960 American suspense/horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Janet Leigh.  The screenplay by Joseph Stefano is based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch.  The novel was loosely inspired by the crimes of Wisconsin murderer and grave robber Ed Gein, who lived just 40 miles from Bloch.

Psycho depicts the encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who goes to a secluded motel after embezzling money from her employer, and the motel's disturbed owner and manager, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), and the aftermath of their encounter.

The film initially received mixed reviews, but outstanding box office returns prompted a re-review which was overwhelmingly positive and led to four Academy Award nominations.  Psycho is now considered on of Hitchcock's best films and is highly praised as a work of cinematic art by international critics.  It is often ranked among the greatest films of all time and is famous for bringing in a new level of acceptable violence and sexuality in films.  In 1992, the film was selected to be preserved by the Library of Congress at the National Film Registry.

I will post the final Horror Fest schedule soon, hope to see you there!
Here's the trailer:

Monday, September 17, 2012

In Search of Ecstatic Truth

This past week I had the outstanding opportunity to go to Bloomington, Indiana for a lecture series centered around the work of German filmmaker, Werner Herzog (with Herzog in person!).

Monday- I attended a screening of Aguirre, the Wrath of God (a film we watched for Film Club a few months back) about the Spanish conquistadors on their quest to find El Dorado, lead by the madman Aguirre, with a special Q&A following the film.

Wednesday- I attended a screening of Fitzcarraldo, the story of a man obsessed with the Opera (specifically, Caruso) who dreamt of bringing it to the Amazon, and ended up hauling a 320 ton steamship over a mountain to accomplish this dream (a feat Herzog actually performed while filming), also with a Q&A.

Thursday- I attended a lecture given by Herzog entitled "The Transformative Role of Music in Film" where he talked about the marriage of music and the moving image, giving many examples from his own films and some from the films of other filmmakers.

Friday- I attended a midnight showing of his impressive remake of the classic F.W. Murnau 1922 silent masterpiece, Nosferatu the Vampyre.

(all these screenings were brand new digital transfers of the films and they looked absolutely beautiful)

There were some other events I missed due to bad planning on the school's part, but, I did have the staggering privilege to meet Herzog and shake his hand.  All in all the week was a blast.

I already made a post, basically gushing, about how much I love Herzog's films so I'll spare you that, but I will say, this series was a fantastic opportunity to get a glimpse into the mind and personality of Herzog, to get to know the man behind (and sometimes in front of) the camera.  He is a very charismatic speaker full of unbelievable stories that he tells with pride and a touch of humour.  Herzog is a very big inspiration to me personally and this was an unrivaled event that will always remain with me.

Monday, August 27, 2012

September Film Club: The Artist

Hello everyone, September is upon us and with it comes another film.  For next month's Film Club we will be watching the Academy Award winning film:

The Artist directed by Michel Hazanavicius.

The Artist is a 2011 French romantic comedy-drama film in the style of a black and white silent film.  The film was written and directed Michel Hazanavicius and stars Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.  The story takes place in Hollywood between 1927 and 1932, and focuses on the relationship of an older silent film start and a rising young actress as silent cinema falls out of fashion and is replaced by "talkies".  In 1927, silent film star George Valentin is posing for pictures outside the premiere of his latest hit film, A Russian Affair, when a young woman, Peppy Miller, accidentally bumps into him.  Valentin reacts with humor to the accident and shows off Peppy for the cameras.  The next day, Peppy finds herself on the front page of Variety with the headline "Who's that Girl?"  Later, Peppy auditions as a dancer and is spotted by Valentin, who insists that she have a part in Kinograph studio's next production, despite objections from the studio boss, Al Zimmer.  While performing a scene together, Valentin and Peppy show great chemistry, despite her being merely an extra.  With a little guidance from Valentin (he draws a beauty spot on her, which will eventually be her trademark, after finding her in his dressing room), Peppy slowly rises through the industry, earning more prominent roles.

The Artist received strongly positive reviews from critics and won many accolades.  Dujardin won the Best Actor Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where the film premiered.  It was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won five including Best Picture, Best Director for Hazanavicius, and Best Actor for Dujardin, who was the first French actor ever to win for Best Actor.  It was the first French film to ever win Best Picture, and the first mainly silent film to win since 1927's Wings and Sunrise won best picture awards at the 1st Academy Awards in 1929.  The Artist currently holds a 98% certified "Fresh" rating on the aggregate review site

I saw The Artist in theatre when it finally saw release, and when the end credits began to roll I knew at once I had just seen the best picture of the year.  Needless to say, the Academy agreed.  Come on out to see this wonderful celebration of film, this beautiful homage to the glorious Silent Era, this fantastic piece of cinematic joy.  You will not want to miss it!

Film Club will meet Thursday, Sept. 20th at 6:15pm

Here's the trailer:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dreams in 70mm

This past weekend I was afforded another wonderful opportunity, facilitated by the Music Box Theatre in Chicago.  The theatre played host to a print of Paul Thomas Anderson's (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights) newest film The Master (starring Philip Seymour Hoffman in the titular role, and Joaquin Phoenix as a wayfarer that gets involved with his cult).  I didn't realize how special an opportunity it was until we got there and it was made known that this would be the only showing in Chicago for months (until the actual release of the film), and that we were some of the first people in the country to see the film, by the time it started, I was giddy with anticipation.  The Music Box is one of the fortunate few theatres in the city with the ability to screen films in 70mm, a format not commonly used (more on the subject later).  The film itself is marvelous, hypnotic, and beautiful.  From the incredibly striking opening image of the churning sea in the wake of a large boat, the water more turquoise blue/green than can be imagined, accompanied by Johnny Greenwood's haunting score, to the startling intimacy of the final frames, The Master is an expertly crafted piece of cinematic ecstasy, engineered by a man who is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest gifts to the world of filmmaking.  The film is about a wanderer, (portrayed by Phoenix) a drunk with no conceivable destination in mind, who finds himself aboard the boat of Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), a doctor, a nuclear physicist, a theoretical philosopher but above all else, a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man, as he himself so boldly puts it.  As the film progresses, we find that he is the leader of a group (very obviously based on Scientology, Hoffman being the Hubbard character) and that he has taken Freddy (Phoenix) under his wing in the hopes of making him his protege.  The film it somewhat meandering, continually flashing back to events in Freddy's past, events that have either shaped him into what his is now, or events that have been shaped by what Freddy has always been.  The relationship between the two characters, Dodd and Freddy, and the effects of this relationship is what is at the heart of this film.  It is at once sad, lonely, distant, funny, heartbreaking and seemingly unreal.  For almost the entire two hours and twenty minutes of this film I forgot I was in a theatre, forgot I was watching a film with actors.  Instead I was drawn into this world, these two people and those that surrounded them, convincing me they were real instead of imaginary.  That is the sign of a true film, a masterful film, one that can make you forget reality completely, until you find yourself hopelessly immersed in the film, being released only upon completion.  But I dare say this film went further, even after the curtain was lowered and the house lights came up, I was still entranced, still in a daze as the film wound its way through my senses, leaving me pondering it even still, days after seeing it, eagerly awaiting another viewing.
Now, a word on the format.  Many people will not be familiar with the 70mm format, one often reserved for such monumental films as: Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, and Baraka to name a few, but if you ever have the opportunity to view this film in 70mm, by all means take it.  You will be able to see a difference, as the owner of The Music Box theatre said in his speech before the screening, in response to someone asking if they would be able to tell a difference between this and 35mm, "If you can't tell the difference, you aren't looking at the screen."  The wide angle format and absolute depth of 70mm will draw you so far into this film, you will be lost in its wonder.
I am not entirely sure when The Master is scheduled for release and if it will return to Chicago in 70mm, but when and if it does, take advantage of the opportunity, you will not be disappointed.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Music Box Double Feature w/ Joe Dante in person.

Over the weekend I was afforded an opportunity to meet filmmaker Joe Dante at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago.  This is not the first time I've gone to such an event, but Joe is one of the higher profile directors I have met (along with Jay Duplass).  We viewed his newest completed film The Hole which has been completed since 2009 but because of a lack of distributor has not seen a proper theatrical release.  So, this viewing was one of the first few in the United States (which was pretty cool).  Overall the film was good, and fun.  It suffered from some bad acting/dialogue, but once I got into the story it was somewhat overshadowed.  The film is about a family that moves into a new house, the latest in a long line we find out.  The two sons, one younger and one a teenager, find a hole in the basement, padlocked with about 6 locks.  So, of course they unlock it and find what appears to be a bottomless pit.  This is the central device of the film (obviously...), and from it issue forth all manner of strange occurrences, which I won't get too far into since it would kind of ruin the film.  If you ever have a chance to check it out, it's worth the time.  But what was really great was having the director there to talk about his film.  It's hard to compare to such an event.  When viewing the film you have a certain insight into the mind of the director, but the experience overall is meant to be subjective, the viewer taking from it whatever they feel, but having the director there gives you a bit more of an objective view of the film, the politics of the industry, and the hardships of trying to get a film made and distributed.  Now, Joe Dante is no Spielberg, but he has a few good films under his belt (many produced by Spielberg actually) and is a competent director.  After viewing the film, there was a Q & A where Scott Tobias (of the AV Club) as well as members of the audience were allowed to ask Dante some questions.  Again, if you ever have this opportunity and are even remotely interested in film, try to make it out to an even like this.  After the Q & A, we had a chance to go up and meet with him. I got my copy of The Howling (pretty decent werewolf film) signed and got a picture with him, when that was done we had a midnight showing of Gremlins 2: The New Batch, which was actually a 35mm print from Dante's collection.  I had seen it before, but seeing it on the big screen, and having some knowledge of what the filmmakers were trying to do when making this film, coupled with the energy of a relatively packed theatre, made the experience all together fresh and hilarious.  The film is by no means a masterpiece of cinema, but it's a good example of a director who has been hired to make money for the studio but has also been given complete control, permission to do whatever they wanted.  The result being the anarchic, hilarious, and often-times, nightmarish spoof on film, film making, sequels and the industry as a whole.  It was an experience definitely worth the time and money.
If this sounds like something you'd be interested in doing, keep an eye out for it.  The Music Box in Chicago is a great place to attend these sort of events, and they seem to host them somewhat frequently, so check their website or sign the mailing list so you don't miss out.

Monday, July 23, 2012

August Film Club

Thank you to everyone who was able to make it out for Forbidden Planet.  We have one more science fiction to watch for the month of August and that film is Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece- 2001: A Space Odyssey.

2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick.  The screenplay was co-written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and was partially inspired by Clarke's short story "The Sentinel".  The story deals with a series of encounters between humans and mysterious black monoliths that are apparently affecting human evolution, and a space voyage to Jupiter tracing a signal emitted by one such monolith found on the moon.  Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood star as the two astronauts on this voyage, with Douglas Rain as the voice of the sentient computer HAL 9000 who has full control over their spaceship.  The film is frequently described as an "epic film", both for it's length and scope, and for its affinity with classical epics.

Thematically, the film deals with elements of human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence and extraterrestrial life.  It is notable for its scientific accuracy, pioneering special effects, ambiguous imagery that is open-ended to a point approaching surrealism, sound in place of traditional narrative techniques, and minimal use of dialogue.

Despite initially receiving mixed reactions from critics and audiences alike, 2001: A Space Odyssey garnered a cult following and slowly became a box office hit.  Some years after its release, it eventually became the highest grossing picture from 1968 in North America.  Today it is recognized by many critics, filmmakers and audiences as on the greatest and most influential films ever made.

This film is one of my all time personal favorite films.  Come on out for an experience unlike any other.

Here's the trailer:

We will be meeting Thursday, August 16th
(Since this film is a little longer than most films we watch, I would recommend everyone getting here as close to 6:15 as possible.)

Hope to see you there!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Film Club

Hello everyone, thanks to all you folks who were able to make it to Blade Runner a couple weeks back.  For the month of July we will be watching the classic 1956 sci-fi masterpiece: Forbidden Planet.

It stars Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, and Anne Francis.  The characters and its setting have been compared to those in William Shakespeare's The Tempest, and its plot contains certain story analogs.  Forbidden Planet was the first science fiction film that was set entirely on another planet in deep space, away from the planet Earth.  It is considered one of the great science fiction films of the 1950s, a precursor of what was to come for the science fiction film genre in the decades that followed.

Forbidden Planet features special effects for which A. Arnold Gillespie, Irving G. Ries, and Wesley C. Miller were nominated for an Academy Award. It was the only major award nomination the film received.  Forbidden Planet features the groundbreaking use of an all-electronic music musical score.  It also featured "Robby the Robot", one of the first film robots that was more than just a mechanical "tin can" on legs; Robby displays a distinct personality and is a complete supporting character in the film.

Synopsis:  Early in the 23rd century, the United Planets Cruiser C57-D travels to the planet Altair IV, 16 light-years from the Earth, to discover the fate of an expedition sent 20 years earlier.  Soon after achieving orbit, the cruiser receives a radio transmission from Dr. Edward Morbius, the expedition's linguist, who wars them to stay away, saying he cannot guarantee their safety and that he needs no assistance.  The starship's captain, Commander John J. Adams, insists on landing.

It goes without saying that Forbidden Planet is one of cinema's greatest achievements  in, not only the science fiction genre, but also the grand collection of film in general.  You won't want to miss this amazing film!

Here's the trailer:

We will be meeting Thursday, July 19th at 6:15pm

Monday, June 4, 2012

Film Club

Hi again everyone, as I said last post, this summer we will be watching 3 sci-fi films for Film Club.  The first film will be shown this month on Thursday, June 21st @ 6:15pm.  We will be watching Ridley Scott's:  Blade Runner.

Blade Runner is a 1982 American science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer and Sean Young.  The screenplay, written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, is loosely based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.  The film depicts a dystopian Los Angeles in November 2019 in which genetically engineered robots called replicants-visually indistinguishable from adult humans- are manufactured by the powerful Tyrell Corporation as well as by other "mega-manufacturers" around the world.  Their use on Earth is banned and replicants are exclusively used for dangerous, menial or leisure work on off-world colonies.  Replicants who defy the ban and return to Earth are hunted down and "retired" by police special operatives know as "Blade Runners".  The plot focuses on a brutal and cunning group of recently escaped replicants hiding in Los Angeles and the burnt out expert Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who reluctantly agrees to take on one more assignment to hunt them down.

Although Blade Runner is ostensibly an action film, it operates on multiple dramatic and narrative levels.  It is indebted to film noir conventions: the femme fatale, dark and shadowy cinematography, and the questionable moral outlook of the hero-in this case, extended to include reflections upon the nature of his own humanity. (from Wikipedia)

Like much of Philip K. Dick's work, Blade Runner deals with not only what it means to be human but also the implications that arise with the creation of non-organic life and it's status as "human" or "non-human".  Do synthetics have souls?  Do they feel the same emotions as humans?  Are robots aware of their inorganic nature?  Does this make them any more or less "human"?  and as the novel on which the film is based asks, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Blade Runner is a beautiful mixture of science fiction and a sub-genre of film noir referred to as "neo-noir" (it also happens to be a personal favorite of mine).  This is a film you will not want to miss.

Summer Sci-Fi Spectacular

Hey folks, this is your Film Club summer update!  For the duration of the summer we will be meeting at our regular time (unless otherwise stated) 6:15pm on the third Thursday of each month.  This summer we will be doing something a little different than last summer.  This summer we will be watching some of my personal favorite (as well as critically acclaimed and important) science fiction films.  The first film starts this month and will be shown on Thursday, June 21st, and that film is: Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott (another post will follow to further explain what Blade Runner is all about, for those unfortunate enough to have never seen it).  Hope you guys have a great summer and I look forward to seeing you all at Film Club!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Resurrect Dead

Yesterday I had an opportunity to sit down and watch a new documentary entitled: Resurrect Dead.  The movie is about strange tiles that have popped up in different cities along the East-coast and as far west as Kansas City, since the early 1980s.  The tiles are referred to as "Toynbee Tiles" because of the cryptic message each bears.

 The film initially follows a man named Justin who has been a "fan" of the tiles since he first saw one back in the 1980s while living in Philadelphia.  With the advent of the internet at his public library, Justin was able to find others like him, who had seen these tiles, and meet up with them.  When he searched the internet he discovered the tiles were not only found in Philadelphia but in cities all over.  With the help of a few other guys and the documentary team, Justin embarks on an investigation into the mysterious tiles, and where it leads him is very interesting.  The mysterious nature of the tiles, in idea, message and purpose, is what really drives this film.  I was kept in a state of almost perpetual anticipation for the whole 90 mins of this film.  Each clue, each lead, each suspect, each dead end just pushes you further into this strange and fascinating world as you, along with the guys in the film, speculate as to what the meaning behind these tiles is.  Who did it?  How did they do it?  What are they trying to accomplish?  OR is it just some elaborate guerrilla/street art project masquerading as something more?  The film addresses these questions and I think it does it very well.  I was at first overwhelmed with internal questioning and rationalizing when the film started, the whole thing was just sooo bizarre to me, especially if the creator was indeed serious about the message he was conveying.  What type of person does this?  It just gets weirder as they dig deeper and it really gets you into it.  I felt myself sharing the emotions of the "detectives", the frustration as they come so close again and again and then lose the trail, the excitement when something clicked and they made progress, it feels like you (the audience) are going on this adventure together with these three guys, and really you are, the film does a great job of capturing this.  When it ends, you'll be satisfied, but there will still be that undercurrent of the mysterious that can not be done away with no matter what the explanation, and I'm glad, because it's nice to wonder sometimes.  I thoroughly enjoyed this film and I highly recommend it.  If you happen to check it out, let me know what you thought!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, April 30, 2012

Film Club for the Month of May

Hey everyone, May is just about here, so this is your official Film Club update.  For April we watched David Lynch's wonderful film: The Straight Story, thanks to everyone who made it, we had a pretty good sized group.  For everyone wasn't able to make it we do own the film at the Crete Library if you would like to check it out, otherwise, hope to see you next time!

For the month of May I've chosen the outstanding, moving, and beautiful film: Children of Men directed by Alfonso Cuarón (director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Y Tu Mamá También).  Children of Men is a 2006 British dystopian science fiction film loosely adapted from P.D. James's 1992 novel The Children of Men.  In 2027, two decades of human infertility have left society on the brink of collapse.  Illegal immigrants seek sanctuary in England, where the last functioning government imposes oppressive immigration laws on refugees.  Clive Owen plays civil servant Theo Faron, who must help a pregnant West African refugee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) escape the chaos.  Children of Men also stars Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Pam Ferris, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.  Children of Men received critical acclaim and was recognized for its achievements in screenwriting, cinematography, art direction and innovative single-shot action sequences.  It was nominated for three Academy Awards:  Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing.  It was nominated for three BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Awards, winning Best Cinematography and Best Production Design, and for three Saturn Awards, winning Best Science Fiction Film.

This film is technically science fiction but is very grounded in reality.  The vision of Britain in 2027 is incredibly realistic and draws from the situations of today and brings them to their worst-case scenarios, with added female infertility as a driving plot device.  This is a remarkable cinematic achievement that you will not want to miss.  Come on out and join us May 17th at 6:15pm!

Here is the trailer:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Director Spotlight: Werner Herzog

Since the beginning of this year I have been on a quest to watch the complete filmography of Werner H. Stipetic better known as Werner Herzog.  When I started this adventure I had already seen a few of his films...a decent amount actually (or so I thought), but it turned out he had FAR more I had never seen, mainly his short films and documentaries (of which I had only seen a couple).  I decided to look him up on Wikipedia to see if I could get an actual count of how many films I would be watching (I like to print out a director's filmography and check them off as I go), to my surprise the number of films he has directed comes to 57....57 films!  It has been a long and tiresome process trying to get a hold of his older works and some of his short films, nearly impossible it seems, actually impossible in some cases.  His second short film Game in the Sand was never actually released.  The Transformation of the World into Music exists but has apparently been made unavailable to me, the same can be said of Christ and Demons in New Spain.  Scream of Stone, which Herzog has disowned because of his lack of creative control is seemingly only available on a Region 2 PAL DVD format, which conveniently doesn't play on our NTSC DVD players and TVs (I may have to purchase a region-less DVD player so I can view this film, for completion purposes).  Despite all these setbacks and difficulties, I feel I've done quite well, rounding out at about 40 something films I've seen, so, here's hoping the future brings release of these impossible-to-find DVDs so they can be enjoyed by the world (but mostly me).  I am nearing the end of this quest and I felt I should reflect on what I have experienced so far.  I feel a connection to this 69 year old German man known as Herzog.  His films are strange to most people, I can recognize this, but instead of being repelled as most people are (when it comes to the bizarre), I am attracted.  I don't just see the inane dancing chicken at the end of Stroszek, I see the lunacy, the stupidity, the folly of the American Dream as it is presented in this film.  I don't mean to imply that only I can understand his films, I'm saying I immediately look past the weird to what the director is trying to say, if he's saying anything at all, rather than condemn him for not making sense.  I have watched several interviews about Herzog on top of just watching his films and I feel the same at the core of my being as he describes the way he feels about things:  His absolute loathing for commercials, talk shows, shows that pander to the stupidity of the masses.  The importance of dreams, without which there would be no point in living.  He says he doesn't like the idea of watching his own films, he says it's bad enough other people are allowed to see his films, which is akin to, according to him, "catching him with his pants down".  I was at first startled by this because he is so obvious (at least to me) with what he is trying to convey, so open about the way he feels on certain subjects and themes, yet so hesitant to share.  I respect him for this, and relate on a smaller scale.  It is this idea of putting your very self on film, or video or digital image, bearing your beliefs and thoughts to the public that is a scary thing, welcoming judgment from detractors and fans alike, it can wear on your nerves.  I have felt that his films have always been great, not all of them (even he has his bad days) but most of them have impressed me or even overwhelmed me with how grand and wonderful they are.  I'm thinking particularly of The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser which is spectacular, and funny, and heartbreaking and genuine.  The actor portraying Hauser, a man named Bruno S., was a victim of child abuse and Nazi experimentation in real life and was partially deaf from being beat so much by his mother.  In the film he plays a man who has been locked in a prison his entire life, for no reason, by a madman, only eating bread and drinking water, never learning to speak or even walk, one day the man takes him and leaves him on the outskirts of a town in Germany where he is found and eventually taught the things he never experienced.  Even with the absence of formal acting lessons he is a marvel to watch.  Another film that has so moved me was his newest film Into the Abyss which is about the death penalty.  I wrote about this on Facebook after I had watched it and so I'm going to retype those words here because they reflect my feelings immediately upon completion of the viewing.  "Into the Abyss, here is a sad, moving unbiased look at the death penalty; those involved in the crimes, the families of the victims, the guards, the chaplains, and the perpetrators themselves.  Though opposed to the death penalty, Herzog has no agenda, he simply lets them tell their stories, lets us reflect on the events that have transpired, and on their lives, and lets us have a glimpse into it all.  The "abyss" seems to refer less to capital punishment and more to the depths of pain and suffering human beings not only deal to one another but also endure."  It is interesting to watch Herzog interview these very manly, blue collar men in Texas, people very different than an artistic German film director.  Herzog is such a presence you can hear it in the way they answer him always saying "sir" and being very respectful to a man they have no real reason to respect (also a testament to their general kindness).  His previous film Cave of Forgotten Dreams is about a cave in France that was discovered and contained some of the oldest cave drawings of which we are aware.  Herzog was given exclusive rights to come in and film the cave to share with the world.  Not only do I admire Herzog's films and ideas but also his tenacity for film-making.  He allows nothing to stop him from achieving his dreams.  Pull a riverboat over a mountain?  DONE.  Film a town on the base of a then-active volcano, basically condemning yourself and crew to certain death if the volcano were to erupt? DONE. Fly with a man in a prototype airship risking death?  DONE.  Nothing stops him.  He made his own production company in 1963 and has worked that way since!  He stole a camera so he could make his films, until he could afford one of his own.  He called Errol Morris a coward who would never finish a film and said he would eat his shoe if the film became a reality.  Morris made the film, Herzog ate his shoe.  He's a man of his word who isn't afraid of anything, just watching him is an inspiration and has encouraged me to get back on track and make a film of my own.  I have always been interested in Herzog, but now, as I feel I have almost become acquainted with him, I place him in my very top list of favorite directors, you owe it to yourself to watch his films.
Suggested films for the casual viewer:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Film Club

Hey everyone, looks like it's already April, so here's the info on the next film club:

We will be meeting Thursday, April 19th at 6:15pm and we will be watching:

The Straight Story
Directed by-David Lynch

The Straight Story is based on the true story of Alvin Straight's journey across Iowa and Wisconsin on a lawnmower.  Alvin (Richard Farnsworth) is an elderly World War II veteran who lives with his daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek), a kind woman with a mental disability.  When he hears that this estranged brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton) has suffered a stroke, Alvin makes up his mind to go visit him and hopefully make amends before he dies.  But because Alvin's legs and eyes are too impaired for him to receive a driver's license, he hitches a trailer to his recently purchased thirty year-old John Deere 110 Lawn tractor and sets off on the 240 mile journey from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin.

David Lynch's 8th feature film departs from his abstract and bizarre themes seen in previous films (Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me) and instead offers a portrayal of the indomitable human spirit with a film filled with honesty, compassion and depth; a simple and pure portrait of the Midwest.  That said, The Straight Story is not without it's odd characters but they seem right at home as Alvin encounters them one-by-one.  You will not want to miss this wonderful film.

Here's the trailer:

Monday, March 26, 2012

"May the odds be ever in your favor"

The Hunger Games was released this past weekend and I had an opportunity to go check it out.  I don't know about you, but before I see an adaptation, I like to be familiar with the source material, so I read the book, and the second book, and I've just started reading the third book.  I have to say, they're pretty good.  They read very quickly and the story comes alive without much hesitation.  On to the film.  For those unfamiliar with the universe of The Hunger Games, allow me to set the scene.  It is the future, North America no longer exists in the capacity with which we are familiar.  Instead, the continent, renamed Panem, is divided up into 13 districts and a capitol.  At the first book what we know is this:  There was some kind of uprising against the government that ended in district 13 being destroyed, leaving 12 functioning districts.  This was 74 years ago.  As punishment, and a constant reminder to the districts, two "tributes" are offered each year to fight in a game to the death, you guessed it, The Hunger Games.  (All the 12 districts are known for the manufacturing of various good and raw materials.  The capitol is a center of wealth and decadence and the districts get poorer the farther out you go).  Cut to district 12.  The story follows 16 year old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a skilled hunter from the poverty stricken district 12, who finds herself "tribute" for the Hunger Games when she volunteers to take her 12 year old sister's place.  She is taken, along with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) to the capitol, where they are showered with food and accommodations...and also showers.  They are groomed, well fed and tailored to present an image to the rest of Panem.  The games have become more than just a punishment for the rebellion, now a televised event that everyone in Panem watches, for the sake of entertainment or to keep tabs on the loved ones battling to the death.  I won't go any further into the plot because that's basically all you need to know without really ruining anything.
One "problem" that can arise from reading the book before seeing the movie is that you are always weighing the adaptation against the source, and 9 times out of 10 the adaptation is a disappointment.  I don't know exactly what is was about this film that made it a good adaptation but it was quite enjoyable.  I was pleasantly surprised with some of the content they included from the book, stuff I wasn't sure they were going to try to replicate (some of the more fantastical stuff), but they did, and I thought they pulled it off well, I really enjoyed that.  I kind of wished they would've gone into the importance of the Mockingjay pin but that's a minor flaw that I have no doubt will be taken care of in the next film.
One of the big issues I have heard buzzing about this film is that it's basically the same thing as the Japanese film Battle Royale.  It is a bunch of kids killing each other, sure, but the idea is in no way original.  We have Lord of the Flies before both of these films.  The idea of people in an arena fighting to the death has been throughout history all over the place and the subject of film more than a few times, with Gladiator and the Spartacus television series and before all that the actual Spartacus film from Stanley Kubrick (technically Gladiator and Battle Royale both saw release in 2000, but that's irrelevant). I understand the reason the comparison is made is because of the fact that it's kids killing each other but who cares, the story is derivative, I know, but that didn't matter when I was watching it or reading it because I was enjoying it all the time.  One cool thing that differed from the book in the film was the lack of 1st person narrative.  In the book we see things only from Katniss' perspective, filtered through her consciousness with her own feelings mixed in.  In the film we have a 3rd person omniscient narrator so we can see events that are happening away from Katniss.  There are some scenes involving President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the Gamemaker Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) that I really enjoyed. It's one of those rare instances where the filmmaker diverted from the source material and added something else and it actually worked for the film.
One minor technical thing that I feel I should bring up is the camera-work.  It is very shaky, sometimes to the  point of being annoying but they either toned it down later or I just got used to it because it only bothered me in the beginning.  The one time I think it was used effectively was during the initial bloodbath, much of the violence occurs off-screen (while it would've been more effective to show the carnage, I understand why he didn't) but the frenetic movement of the camera coupled with the ferocity of the tributes and the screams of the victims, makes the scene very effective.
One last thing before I finish up here.  Personally I found the supporting actors very fun to watch.  Elizabeth Banks as the ever-on-schedule Effie Trinket, Woody Harrelson as the drunk, former Hunger Games victor Haymitch Abernathy and especially Stanley Tucci as the eccentric television show host Ceasar Flickerman.


The Hunger Games is, while not original, a very entertaining, fun, and occasionally moving film that I think any demographic can enjoy.  Those that read the books will be a bit more on the up and up but those who haven't can enjoy it just the same.  I recommend it and would gladly see it again.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Film Club

Hey everyone, thanks to all of you who made it to Amelie last Thursday, hope you enjoyed it!  We have one more film for the Romance Film Fest this month, Jerry Maguire, which will show this Friday at 4:30 (try to be here before 5 if you plan on coming).

March is sneaking up on us and that means St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner.  In honor of the Irish I will be playing a film about the Irish.  Though the film club night does not fall directly on St. Patrick's Day (as it so advantageously did last year) it is two days before...I say, close enough.
The film we will be watching is:

Bloody Sunday
Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Bloody Sunday is a 2002 film about the 1972 "Bloody Sunday" shootings in Derry, Northern Ireland.  The movie was inspired by Don Mullan's politically influential book Eyewitness Bloody Sunday.  The drama shows the events of the day through the eyes of Ivan Cooper, a SDLP member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland who was a central organizer of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march in Derry on January 30th, 1972.  The march ended when British Army paratroopers fired on the demonstrators, killing thirteen instantly and wounding another person who died 4 1/2 months later.

I will tell you right off the bat that this film is not a "happy" film, but it is a very powerful and well made film about a tragedy that you will not want to miss, hope to see you there!

Here's the trailer::

We will meet March. 15th at 6:15pm

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Film Club

Hey everyone, sorry to anyone who was inconvenienced by the Romance Film cancellation yesterday, we will be rescheduling Annie Hall, hopefully for another day in the near future.  Everything else should be according to plan, we will be watching Before Sunrise this Friday.  Try to be here by 4:30 if possible.  Now onto Film Club. This month we will be watching Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie starring Audrey Tautou in the title role.  The film is a whimsical depiction of contemporary Parisian life, set in Montmarte.  It tells the story of a shy waitress, played by Audrey Tautou, who decides to change the lives of those around her for the better, while struggling with her own isolation.  The film was an International co-production between companies in France and Germany.  The film met with critical acclaim and was a box-office success.  Amelie won Best Film at the European Film Awards; it won four Cesar Awards (including Best Film and Best Director), two BAFTA Awards (including Best Original Screenplay), and was nominated for five Academy Awards.
Come on out for a great show!

Here's the trailer:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Romance Film Fest

In honor of Valentine's Day (which is next Tuesday), we have been holding a Romance Film Fest this month.  Similar to our Horrorfest we held in October but with less horror movies (okay, with no horror movies, much to my chagrin, but you get the idea).  We are showing a romantic film each Friday in February starting at about 5 o'clock, right when the library closes.  Get here early so you don't get locked out!  This last Friday (the 3rd) we enjoyed the wonderful classic, Casablanca.  Join us this coming Friday (the 10th) as we experience Woody Allen's wonderful film Annie Hall.  The following Friday (17th) will be Richard Linklater's stellar film Before Sunrise, and the last Friday of the month (24th) will be Cameron Crowe's romantic, often comedic, Jerry Maguire.  Stop in or check out the Crete Public Library website for more info (there is also a teen romance film fest playing this month with some great films of its own).  We will most likely have some pizza, coffee and/or soda.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, January 30, 2012

"Best Motion Picture of the Year"

The Academy Awards are swiftly approaching (Sunday, Feb. 26th) and we have a whole new group of films competing for that coveted title "Best Motion Picture of the Year".  This season's nominees are:

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

As the weeks pass I will be posting more in regards to the Oscars but for now I thought it would be cool to take a look back at the previous Best Picture winners starting with 2010 and moving back: