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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.