Wednesday, July 28, 2010

UTW review of Inception

Go here if you want to read my review of Inception in Urban Tulsa. It's a huge hit so you've probably seen it already. Follow the link and see if you agree or disagree with me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

RIP James Gammon

In the LA Times article in the previous post, Sam Shepard's 2000 play The Late Henry Moss and Gammon's role in it is discussed. This clip is from rehearsals with Gammon sharing an intense scene with Woody Harrelson. The Late Henry Moss had a couple of other heavy-duty actors in Sean Penn and Nick Nolte but my guess is that Gammon more than held his own by the looks of this scene. Near the end of the clip Gammon tells a funny story about an early acting experience when he was in the 7th grade.

James Gammon 1940-2010

James Gammon, one of my all-time favorite actors died a few weeks ago after battling cancer. Anyone who pays attention to character actors probably knows who this gravel-voiced everyman was. I wrote about him back in April 2007 if you want to check the archives. Or, do a "James Gammon" search and a link to that post should pop up.

Go here if you want to read something from the Los Angeles Times about Gammon and how he was Sam Shepard's favorite actor to use in his plays. I just wish Gammon could have gotten more roles, larger roles that would have equaled his talent. He truly deserved it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

UTW review of Despicable Me

Go here if you want to read my review of Despicable Me in Urban Tulsa a couple of weeks ago. Kind of behind on my Urban Tulsa reviews here. I'm not used to watching so many summer cartoons--I wrote about Toy Story 3 recently as well--but this is another fun, silly film that will probably please the kids more than the adults.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Amityville II: The Possession; Pryor, Oklahoma; 1982

In 1983 I did something terrifying that haunted me for months: I watched Amityville II: The Possession. I didn't just watch it during normal hours of the night or with a group of friends either. No, I stayed up past midnight to watched it in a house that was completely empty. And I was fourteen years old.

One of the benefits of growing up in rural Oklahoma was we only got a single channel from an old fashioned antenna attached to the house. In the early 1980s we bought a gigantic dish and placed it in the back yard. The dish not only had a remote control that allowed us to switch from transponder to transponder from inside (some dishes had a hand crank on it that required you to leave the house if you wanted to watch a channel not on that particular transponder) but it came with a state of the art descrambler (which was illegal!). This descrambler allowed us to get practically every channel floating back to earth from circling satellites. We got legitimate channels, wild feeds of sporting or news feeds and the east and west coast feeds of EVERY movie channel in America.

From the age of thirteen on I was a kid in heaven every single day and night and I took advantage of it. Because of the dish I had sudden access to a lot of stuff I probably shouldn't have been watching. With parents away at work a lot, it was free reign at my house for every R rated film out there. I gorged on every genre from horror to ribald comedies. If it was on our TV, I tried to watch it, no matter if it was good or horrible. On this particular night my parents and younger brother were spending the night some place else and I was going it alone in our house way out in the country. I'm not sure that it was a wise choice with a film about demonic possession in the middle of the night but at the time, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to watch a horror film I'd heard was worth seeing.

Amityville II: The Possession was devastating to me on three levels: I was fourteen years old, I watched it alone in an empty house in rural Oklahoma in the middle of the night and its story concerned a demonic possession. Growing up attending a Southern Baptist church every week, we were frequently told that possession by Satan was a real possibility if you lived a sinful existence. The devil was everywhere. Even a horror film might cause an unknown evil spirit to check in and punish me. This movie felt 100%  plausible to me and that made it more terrorizing. I haven't seen it since 1983 and it doesn't have a good reputation but it left an impression on me, hence this post.

One reason I wanted to watch the movie was that Diane Franklin was in the cast. I had recently watched Franklin in The Last American Virgin (another R rated film from 1982 I was too young to be watching!) and had developed a sizable crush on her. Somehow I'd heard that Franklin was doing more nudity in Amityville II and I was willing to risk my own battle with demonic spirits to glimpse Franklin undressed. I was not disappointed in that regard as there is an infamous incest scene that involves Franklin's character and her on-screen brother. Franklin later showed up in two great comedies by the way--Better Off Dead and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

I watched the movie. When it ended I was frozen to my bed, paralyzed by fear. Every shift or creak in the house, every noise of nature outside, every dark fantasy my imagination concocted screamed one thing: Satan was coming to possess me and cause me to slaughter my family when they got home the next day!

I slept very little the rest of the night. I'm happy to report that I was not possessed and I didn't kill my family. The film slowly lost its power over me. While it didn't feel like it in 1983, this was ultimately a favorite movie watching memory of my childhood--the night I took on Beelzebub and Amityville II: The Possession all alone and lived to tell about it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Movie tickets #17

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Conformist, Holly + You, The Living

The Conformist. The Conformist is a terrific 1970 film from writer/director Bernardo Bertolucci that screams out European in every way. That's not a bad thing in my book. That usually means that its going to have a bunch of scenes and characters loosely attached to a plot that meanders along at its own pace. It means the film is extremely artistic with great attention to photography and production design. It means lots of atmosphere, style and philosophical pondering. Good things, right? Set during the 1930s when Fascist Italy was taking hold, The Conformist follows a secret policeman and his wavering duties/relationships in Rome and Paris. Even on DVD the film is gorgeous to look at, so I can only imagine it on 35mm film--major cities recently got a chance to see a restored film print but unfortunately I don't live in such a city. 1930s design, architecture and clothes also add to the film's visual charms. Watching The Conformist, you get the feeling that it was constructed via the editing room rather than on the page. Good stuff from the 1970s.

Holly. This is a depressing yet interesting little movie set in Cambodia among the brothels that litter the countries in Southeast Asia who traffic in the world of underage prostitution. Holly is an 12 year old Vietnamese girl who is about to join that world when an American ex-pat (Ron Livingston) with his own set of personal issues shows up and becomes friends with her. He wants to get Holly out of that horrific world but doesn't have the money or the knowledge how to do just that. Holly (2006),  directed by Guy Moshe and filmed on location in Cambodia using actual brothels in some scenes, has a quiet, simple power to it. The characters are all doomed, so the intensity of the story seems pretty genuine. To be a child, or woman, trapped in this awful world, is a hellish existence and Holly tackles the subject gamely. Virginie Ledoyan, Udo Kier and Chris Penn (in his last role) lend support.

You, The Living. Roy Andersson made one of my favorite films I watched in 2009 with Songs From the Second Floor but I'm just now getting to the only other movie of his available on DVD--You, The Living (2007). It's another statement of Andersson's unique style that includes absolutely no camera movement (the camera moves one time in the entire movie!), a deadpan and dry sense of humor,  beautiful and bleak production design, no plots with lonely urbanites who live quiet, pained lives while facing the mundane and the unpredictable. It's a strange visit when you get lost in the world of Andersson. I really liked You, The Living but it wasn't the absolute shock to the system that Songs From the Second Floor was. I was ready for his filmmaking viewpoint I guess. For more on Andersson, go back in the December 2009 archives as there are reviews and a youtube link to see some of his eccentric commercials.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

UTW review of Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Go here if you want to read my review of the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. The film follows the 75 year old comedian for a year and tackles various issues connected to her, ranging from plastic surgery to her early years as a female stand-up comic.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Splice, Strange Wilderness + Queen Beetle Conquers Tokyo

Splice. I had high hopes for Splice, a Canadian science fiction thriller about genetic mutations and the unexpected creatures a science lab can create. Disappointing. While the ideas involved in the story were promising, a beyond ridiculous script with hipster scientists (Adrien Brody/Sarah Polley), tossed off moral debates and too many absurd turns near the end for this to be much of a success. Fans of fellow Canadian David Cronenberg will probably like Splice though as this reeks of DC and he's not making these kinds of films at the moment.

Strange Wilderness. Blu-Ray will make you watch terrible movies just because the format is so enticing. That's my excuse for Strange Wilderness (2008), truly one of the worst films I've watched in years. Yes, in years. Strange Wilderness is so bad it makes me doubt my opinion of Steve Zahn as a comic actor. Produced by Adam Sandler's production company, there are a lot of his flunkies in prominent roles that they shouldn't get unless using the attachment of Sandler. The film's story is unfunny, infantile, despicable and highly annoying all at the same time! I don't hate mindless, lowbrow comedy if there is some humor on the screen--Strange Wilderness has absolutely no laughter in it and never comes close. Wretched in every conceivable way. Especially on Blu-Ray.

Queen Beetle Conquers Tokyo. This documentary from director Jessica Oreck has a terrific title and a wonderful poster working in its favor. In fact, this is my favorite poster I've seen all year with its simple, stark graphic that perfectly captures the subject matter: beetles + Tokyo. Isn't that a great poster? I like it so much I'm contemplating ordering the t-shirt version on the website.

Too bad I didn't enjoy the film as much as I liked the poster. I had no idea the Japanese have such an obsession with insects but evidently they are crazy about every sort of bug, especially the beetle. I would have learned more about why various people are into this but Oreck delivers an overly arty, meandering, throw every image at the screen doc with no cohesive train of thought linking people, or culture, to insect. Too bad. Most of Queen Beetle Conquers Tokyo is various adults and kids looking at bugs, either in their house or outside, with a bunch of visuals that have seemingly no connection to beetles or other bugs.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Slumber Party 2: Join Us

In July of 2009 we held the first Slumber Party--an all night movie marathon that showed five horror films to a packed house at Circle Cinema. It's time for Slumber Party 2: Join Us on July 24! Tickets go on sale at noon July 9 (today). We'll have Evil Dead + four surprise films. If you want to read more on the event at Tulsa World, go here.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Human Centipede + Dieter Laser

Over the weekend I was goaded into watching The Human Centipede at about one in the morning on a Saturday night. Normally, peer pressure never works on me but it was movie related and I was killing time at Circle Cinema until 2.30am, when the midnight screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind ended. What else was I going to be doing at 2 in the morning except watch The Human Centipede?

Without watching it and based on a lot of buzz about how disgusting it is, I booked The Human Centipede a few weeks back to be the Circle's August midnight movie. I wasn't even planning on watching it because horror films with a sadistic streak or torture aren't usually my thing.

If you aren't familiar with The Human Centipede's plot, here it is in one paragraph. A German surgeon dreams of creating a "human centipede" with three compatible victims (he's done it before with three dogs). The complicated (and disgusting) surgery involves attaching people to one another via their mouth to the anus. I warned you, it's revolting--and I'm not even going into the really gross details. When attached, the trio have to crawl around on hand + knee as the surgeon gets his kicks and trains them like a pet.

The film did nauseate me--which meant it was a success?--but while watching it I may have discovered the best named actor working in movies in the world. The surgeon was played to the hilt by a German actor named Dieter Laser. Try that out again: Dieter Laser. Wow. I'm blown away by Mr. Laser's name! I kind of wish my name was Joshua Laser. Doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Working in TV/film for over forty years, Dieter Laser (I have to keep writing it) should have been a star based on his name alone. What makes this such a great name is it translates to just about anything--band name, name of scientist, videogame from the 1980s, comic book villain, porn actor name, crime syndicate boss and actor. It just sounds good to say it: Dieter Laser.

The Human Centipede is memorable for its shock value but the true find is finding out about its lead actor, Dieter Laser, who has maybe the best name in the history of movies.

Friday, July 02, 2010

June movies

June probably had one of my favorites of the year (Toy Story 3), least favorite (Strange Wilderness), best titled (The Great Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner or Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo), favorite doc (Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage) and most nauseating (The Human Centipede). So, I guess you could say June was a diverse month of film viewing. The year is officially half over and my film total for six months is 112. On pace for 224.

Get Him to the Greek---2010---usa   ***
Gumshoe---1972---england   **1/2
Strange Wilderness---2008---usa   *
Splice---2010---canada   **1/2
Some Kind of Wonderful---1987---usa   ****
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage---2010---canada   ****
Last Chance Harvey---2009---usa   ***
Please Give---2010---usa   ***1/2
For the Love of Movies---2009---usa   **1/2
The Secrets in Their Eyes---2009---argentina   ****
Inglorious Basterds---2009---usa   ****
Paprika---2008---japan   **1/2
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo---2009---japan   **1/2
Toy Story 3---2010---usa   ****1/2
The Human Centipede (First Sequence)---2009---netherlands   **1/2
The Great Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner---1974---germany   ***