Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Celebrating the Communal Experience of Film

As we count down the hours to the start of our 40 Years, 40 Movies marathon, perhaps I should revisit the question so many of you must have. Why?

When I was approaching my 30th birthday, Vonna and I talked about how I wanted to celebrate. The idea of renting a movie theater came up, and I quickly gravitated to renting a 35mm print of Raiders of the Lost Ark for a screening. We had a blast - I think we had nearly 100 people in attendance, and we had our names on the marquee (sorry I don't have the pictures handy - but trust me it said "John and Vonna present Raiders of the Lost Ark"). And I got to watch  my favorite movie on the big screen for the first time in years surrounded by friends and family.

When Vonna asked what I wanted to do for my 40th birthday, I knew wanted to try and live up to what we did 10 years ago. With The Slaughtered Lamb at our disposal, I knew I had the opportunity to screen a number of films that people might enjoy watching with me on the big screen. A 40-hour marathon was quickly dismissed, and quickly replaced with a month-long, 40-movie series.

And now, a confession. In all my 40 years, there are only two movies I've ever gone to see in theaters (other than the SLC) on my own. In one case, it was a screening of my personal 35mm print of Night of the Living Dead (1990) at a local theater that was scrambling when they failed to get a print of the original for a midnight show. The second was just two years ago, when I decided to brave the elements to catch a midnight premiere of I Am Legend (it was a Thursday night - and waaaaay past Vonna's bedtime).

Other than that, I've only seen movies with friends or family. Because to me, there's something missing if at the end of the show you don't have someone you can turn to to laugh, debate, or trade quotes with. By hosting 40 movie screenings over 30 days, and inviting you all to join me over the course of the month, I'm hoping to have more bonding moments with you over some (but far from all) of my favorite films.

So I am quite sincere when I say that your presence at any screening in January will be truly appreciated.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

And the runners up are...

So now that you have a chance to review the full list of our 40 movies in detail, you may be wondering, how come such-and-such didn't make the cut. In almost all cases, it boils down to a simple answer. With very few exceptions, if we had already watched the film in The Slaughtered Lamb in the last two years, we set it aside to make room for a different selection.

For that reason, we aren't watching:
Night of the Living Dead
Day of the Dead
Capricorn One
This is Spinal Tap
National Lampoon's Vacation
Mad Max
Mad Monster Party
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
The Haunting
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Near Dark
The Omega Man
The Last Man on Earth
Burnt Offerings
Blade Runner

And in some cases, we've got bigger and better plans lined up for a particular film, which would have been disrupted by their inclusion in the 40/40 Series.

So we also didn't include:
Back to the Future
The Lord of the Rings
Planet of the Apes
Kill Bill
Patriot Games
Lethal Weapon
Spider Baby
Carnival of Souls
Godzilla's Revenge

When we started down this path, I had no idea how hard it would be to come up with a list of 40 must-see films, while maintaining a mix of genres and appealing to a broad an audience as possible. In a few days, we'll find out how successful we have been.

See you in The Slaughtered Lamb next month.

Friday, December 25, 2009

January 30, 2010 - Mulholland Drive & Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

I made a schedule adjustment recently so that our closing night of the 40/40 series would be a David Lynch double feature - in fact my two favorite Lynch films. Determining which we'd watch first came down to deciding how I wanted to wrap our series... with the final image of Fire Walk With Me or Mulholland Drive. Without giving anything away, I felt the closing frames of FWWM were more in line with the tone I wanted to end the series on, so our penultimate film is David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.

When I first heard about Mulholland Drive, I was very excited. It signaled David' Lynch's return to the small screen. The pilot for a series set in and around LA, I longed for something second only to his masterwork series Twin Peaks. Then stories of problems started to emerge. And the project was shelved. An article in The New Yorker described how Lynch was basically given carte blanche, and then when he delivered something that was longer than the time slot, the execs told him it had to be cut to fit the time slot. He basically said nothing could go and when they said you cut it or we will, he took it and brought back a version that ran identically except for ending abruptly at the time limit. Needless to say, the network brass were less than pleased and the project was shelved.

Fast forward years later. Word gets out that Lynch will be releasing a theatrical film of Mulholland Drive. Having read and enjoyed the original teleplay, I was looking forward to it but could not have expected he would find such an interesting way to use the material he shot for the TV show and incorporate that into a similar, yet very different feature film. It was amazing to see on the big screen and I don't think the majority of the audience knew what hit them by the time it was through.

Thanks to the region free nature of HD-DVD, we'll be able to screen the film in high-definition. It's dark and mesmerizing. If you've never seen it, don't miss the chance to see it on the big screen.

When Twin Peaks was originally broadcast, nearly 20 years ago, it blew us away. It quickly ascended to the top of the list of favorite television shows. And it was heartbreaking, though by no means expected, when this avant garde show was finally dropped by the network. The odds of seeing more Twin Peaks seemed quite thin, so when a feature film prequel - detailing the last seven days in the life of troubled prom queen Laura Palmer - was announced, we couldn't wait to see it.

You'd think we would have been there on opening night to see the film - but a strange series of events had us meeting 80s horror authors John Skipp and Craig Spector for drinks, as they were in town for one of Fangoria's numerous failed attempts to establish the bay area as a hub for their conventions. I can't recall why we didn't make it out to see it the next night, but we finally made it that Sunday. I was so utterly blown away I knew right then I needed to see it again. So we went back the next night with our friend Becky. And I dragged another friend Cliff out to see it the following night - knowing he had not even watched the series (he liked it, BTW - hopefully he still has fond memories of it?). Needless to say, I knew it's shelf-life at the Century Town and Country was limited, and I wanted to soak in as much as I could.

Sheryl Lee, who didn't have nearly as much time to shine in the series, gives an absolutely phenomenal performance in the film. The feature matched the high points of the TV show, with the only possible complaint being that there was not the time nor opportunity to focus on other characters from the show. It's dark, blackly comic at times, and beautifully produced. It remains one of my all-time favorite films.

We hope you'll join us for the closing night of our 40/40 series on the 30th.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

January 29, 2010 - Eyes Wide Shut

My favorite film of 1999 was not, as some might suspect, directed by George Lucas. It was not, interestingly enough, based on an amazing novel by Chuck Palahniuk. No, my favorite film of 1999 was what I describe as Stanley Kubrick's attempt to make a David Lynch movie.

As I mentioned previously, I developed a certain affinity for Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey over the years. Frankly, few of his other films interested me. A Clockwork Orange and The Shining perhaps the only notable exceptions.

There was much uproar over Eyes Wide Shut - at first about the scandalous nature of the film starring then Hollywood Royalty Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Then, after Kubrick's untimely death, the film was optically censored (at first described as according to the late director's wishes, but who are we kidding).

When Vonna and I saw the film at the AMC Saratoga in July of 1999, the mass audiences were still flocking to see The Phantom Menace the third, fourth and fifth times, so it was no surprise that we were of but a handful in attendance. The film blew me away. I didn't really know what to expect, but what I got was, as described above, Stanley Kubrick's take on a David Lynch concept. Secrets, deceit, betrayal, and a naive character sucked into a vortex from which he may not safely escape. It was a very powerful film, with several very well constructed set pieces.

When it came out on DVD, I ordered it from the UK as they saw fit to release Kubrick's original, uncensored version. That is the version that we will be watching on Blu Ray on the 29th. We hope you'll consider joining us for this swan song from a master filmmaker.

January 28, 2010 - The Crow

From my years working in a comic shop during college, I was familiar with, but not a huge fan of, James O'Barr's The Crow. While I felt the book had an interesting look and style, I felt it was a one-note "revenge from beyond the grave" tale. When I found out my old pal David J. Schow was working on the screenplay, I was intrigued. Working from O'Barr's simple premise, I was confident that he would do some interesting things to flesh out the story and characters.

As a fan of Bruce Lee growing up - I thought it was an interesting vehicle for young Brandon Lee, whose prior film work I had not seen. I followed the stories of the mishaps on the set of the film, and of course the accidental shooting of Brandon. I knew David had been on the set during the entire production, and I couldn't imagine what that must have been like, not to mention the following period of speculation as to whether the film would be completed, and what it would take to do that.

Fortunately, the team, led by director Alex Proyas, and Brandon's family felt that the film should move forward. Vonna and I were in Phoenix for the World Horror Convention in March of 1994, near which they held the first public preview of the film. We secured passes to the midnight screening, and almost didn't make it in as there were lines around the mall where the screening was taking place. It was a film you walked out of knowing you had seen something special. The visual style, production design, and amazing performance by Brandon Lee that would serve as his legacy all added up to so much more than one could have expected based on the source material.

When I had the opportunity to meet Linda Lee Caldwell (Brandon's mom and Bruce Lee's widow) several years later, I commented how much I enjoyed Brandon's work in The Crow, and she noted how much the film had meant to him.

As our 40/40 Series draws nearer to its conclusion, we'll honor the memory of Brandon Lee with our screening of The Crow on the 28th.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

January 27, 2010 - Dawn of the Dead (137m)

Dawn of the Dead. Considered by many to be George A. Romero's magnum opus. I was too young to catch it in the theater, although I still have memories of seeing television ads (the zombie in the coin fountain always stood out), and of Scott Reiniger being interviewed by John Stanley on Creature Features.

I remember when I first found out it was coming to home video - I saw the poster in the video store across from the Meridian Quad (THE mini-multiplex for low budget independent horror classics in the 80s). Shortly thereafter, I recall seeing the notice in our local rental shop indicating that it was scheduled out the following week (this was long before Blockbuster, and even before there were Mom & Pop rental shops on every streetcorner).

After school on the day it was released, we headed over to the video store and were the first to check it out. I watched it with my Dad that night, and I was blown away. It was beyond what I ever could have imagined. I got up extra early the next morning and watched it before school, and watched it a third time as soon as I got home from school, before it had to be returned that night. And I've been a fan ever since.

Years later, stories started circulating about different versions of the film - longer versions, extra scenes. If memory serves, the first copy of the 137 minute Cannes cut (which circulated on 16mm from Cinema V)  that I owned was procured at the Zombie Jamboree in 1993 (celebrating the 25th anniversary of Night of the Living Dead). In the ensuing years, I'd upgrade to the Japanese LaserDisc, DVD and even found myself an actual Cinema V 16mm print. As we watched the theatrical cut in 2008 for our All Day of the Dead party, I thought it only appropriate that we screen an alternate cut in our 40/40 series.

And who knows - maybe we'll even screen the 16mm print on the 27th - we'll have to see what the weather is like outside. We hope you'll join us as we celebrate flesh eating zombies - classic Romero style.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

January 26, 2010 - Zombie

In the wake of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (released as Zombi internationally), the floodgates of hell opened up and numerous knock-off zombie films poured out. One of the most memorable came from Italian goremeister Lucio Fulci. Unabashedly titled Zombi 2, it was released as Zombie in the US.

It features all the hallmarks of Italian horror films of the 80s: outrageous gore effects, ludicrous setpieces (zombie vs shark anyone?), and a bleak ending. All of which add up to a good time for anyone who can stomach it!

I've seen the film numerous times since its original release on videotape, and it does have a unique charm. We hope you'll consider joining us for a little Italian zombie fun on the 26th.

January 25, 2010 - Shaun of the Dead

After seeing the first trailer for Shaun of the Dead, I immediately went online to find out everything I could about the guys who made it. I ended up blind ordering their TV series SPACED from Amazon in the UK. We couldn't wait to get our hands on a copy of Shaun to host a special pre-US release party. We did, shortly before we were able to order the official R2 DVD of the film, and it was a huge hit. Like Young Frankenstein, the film was not only incredibly funny, but extremely reverent to the  George A. Romero films that had inspired it - most obviously Dawn of the Dead.

2004 was also the first year Peter and I decided to give the San Diego Comic Con a whirl, and as luck would have it, Shaun of the Dead was getting two US premiere screenings during the event. Through a series of fortunate events, I was able to get tickets to the screenings on both Friday and Saturday nights. On Friday night, Pete and I were invited to sit in those roped off areas (thanks Chris!) that tend to piss the rest of us off when you go to a preview screening and have to sit in bad seats while the premium seats remain empty.

After the Saturday screening, I had the opportunity to meet director/writer Edgar Wright and writer/star Simon Pegg. These were very cool guys who were obviously very excited about the opportunities their little film was offering them - I'd dare say they were among the hottest celebrities at the Con that year. I was able to get pictures with each of them - thanks to Greg Nicotero of KNB for snapping a pic of Edgar and I. Oddly enough, when we returned to San Diego two years later, Edgar was back promoting Hot Fuzz, this time with Nick Frost in tow, and once again, Greg Nicotero was nice enough to snap the following pic (the taking of which can be seen in one of the Hot Fuzz podcasts!).

If you haven't seen it, you're missing out on the funniest film of the last 10 years, and one of my picks for the top ten comedies of all time. And if you have seen it, you already know that it holds up to repeat viewings. We'll see you all on Monday the 25th, as we kick off the mini-zombie marathon in the final week of the 40/40 series.

January 23, 2010 - Escape From New York, The Thing & Big Trouble in Little China

Our regularly monthly movie party for January brings together three great movies pairing actor Kurt Russell and director John Carpenter.

Escape From New York is one of those films that had a lasting impact, inspiring numerous knockoffs none of which can touch the original (not to mention a sequel that is for all purposes a lesser re-imagining). I love Russell's Eastwood-like performance, which is all the more appropriate in that he was paired with the late, great Lee Van Cleef. Not having cable growing up (and in the days before VHS so rentals weren't yet an option), I was introduced to many an 80s classic at my friend Mark's house. Escape was one such film.

The Thing, a remake in its own right, was a film very much unappreciated when it was released in the summer of 1982. Many will say that in the wake of E.T. the world wasn't interested in a less than benevolent alien. In the ensuing years the film has been embraced by millions - but for those of us who grew up watching it on video, we always knew it was a classic.

Big Trouble in Little China was the first Russell/Carpenter flick that I was able to see theatrically. I saw it with Joe and it's one of those films that you left the theater quoting - and we still do to this day. It's another film that was ahead of its time. Back then, the average filmgoer wasn't familiar with the Chinese cinema this film was faithfully referencing. As with The Thing, it's fan base has grown through the years. If you've been to the Lamb you've likely seen it, but if you haven't, you should know that we have a Jack Burton figure in our china cabinet, or as I like to think of it, our Big Trouble in Little China Cabinet.

If I have one regret, it's that we don't have time to re-run the series with the Russell/Carpenter commentary tracks for each of these. While the films themselves are great entertainment, it's a rare opportunity to feel like you're sitting back and joking with the guys you're watching onscreen. You can tell that they had as much fun making the films as we do watching them.

Join us for this triple feature that is action packed, horrifying, and hilarious.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

January 22, 2010 - The Lost Boys

My pal Joey and I caught a preview screening of The Lost Boys at Century 22 a week or so before it's July 31st opening back in 1987. The film, shot near our hometown at the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, was a fun mix of comedy and horror. As the tagline says: Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire.

What's not to like?

A few weeks after it opened, we spent a weekend at a cheap motel in Santa Cruz, right off the Boardwalk. On our first day there, we ran into a street vendor who did airbrush art. We each had a black pullover hooded sweatshirt, and asked him to do them up with "Santa Carla, Home of the Lost Boys" on the back - the last part in dripping blood. Turns out he was featured in the opening credits of the film, and more than happy to do them for us. Sadly, you couldn't see him on home video for years until a widescreen LaserDisc was released. He was cropped out of the pan & scan version, so for years no one believed our story. But for that weekend, we spent the days and nights on the boardwalk in our Lost Boys sweatshirts, denying involvement in the film to everyone who asked. Of course, there's nothing like denying something to convince someone you're not telling them the truth. Needless to say, we enjoyed our short-lived celebrity status. The title of Lost Boys stuck with us for years, and we revisit the film fondly even now - more than 20 years later.

Forget Twilight. Come see Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patrick lead the original cool teen vampires on January 22nd.

January 21, 2010 - Starman

Our next dip into the John Carpenter well comes in the form of his 'nice' alien film, Starman (don't worry - his nasty aliens are just days away).

Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen are excellent as a widowed woman and the alien who has taken the form of her deceased husaband. Bridges really sells the process of a new life form learning what it is to be human. It's got the Carpenter action set pieces you've come to know and expect, and a fantastic score (not by Carpenter, but composer Jack Nitzsche).

I honestly can't recall if I first saw the film theatrically or on video, but it's one more reason why I like Carpenter's canon. His films display a nice range for a director who doesn't stray from genre films, and even the worst have interesting high points. No need to worry - Starman is far from his worst.

We hope you'll join us for this road trip on the 21st - the day I'll turn 40.

Monday, December 7, 2009

January 20, 2010 - The Great Escape

The Great Escape is truly an epic film. Telling the story of a group of P.O.W.'s in World War II German prison camp, it features an all star cast including Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence and James Coburn.

It's a long film, but one that is entertaining from start to finish. Between the great characters and performances to the brilliant Elmer Bernstein score, there's lots to enjoy here. John Sturges knew what he was doing - he reassembled many of the folks he had worked with on The Magnificent Seven.

Because of it's length, it's a film I grew up watching on television spread over two nights. I am very excited to finally be watching it on a big screen.

We hope you'll join us for this inspirational tale on January 20th.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

January 19, 2010 - Martin

John Amplas gives an excellent performance in the title roll of Martin, the 84 year-old vampire. Or is he? George Romero once again crafts a highly original tale that turns genre conventions on their head. If anyone considered him a one-hit wonder, Romero clearly refuted such claims with this and his next following film, Dawn of the Dead.

Martin features some amazing make-up effects by maestro Tom Savini, who also plays a supporting role. It was his first pairing with Romero, and would kick off a working relationship that would last many years and films.

As with Dawn of the Dead, I came to George Romero's Martin by way of the Thorn EMI videocassette. Day of the Dead would be the first Romero film I would see theatrically.

I'm amazed Martin has not yet been targeted for a contemporary remake - but that's all the more reason to come out and watch it with us on the 19th!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

January 18, 2010 - Waiting for Guffman & A Mighty Wind

If you know me, you're probably wondering how come the 40/40 series does not include This is Spinal Tap. One of the criteria I tried to use when setting the schedule was not screening something we have watched within the last several months. Since we celebrated Spinal Tap's 25th anniversary over the summer, I decided to go with the next best thing for this Martin Luther King Holiday Double Feature.

Christopher Guest took the improvisational form to new levels with films like Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind. I decided to pair the two musical features for this night of laugh out loud hilarity.

Guffman flew under our radar (and most everyone else's) until it was released on video. Eugene Levy, Fred Williard, Parker Posey and Guest himself all demonstrated an amazing ability to craft characters in such a way that even when exhibiting behaviors that border the absurd, they remain real and believable. I'm amazed that a film about a community theater's preparation for a show celebrating the town's sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) could be so much fun.

I was sure to catch his next films during their limited theatrical releases. In what may be his magnum opus, A Mighty Wind, we not only get another eclectic mix of characters, but a number of original folk tunes, including several by The Folksmen, who you may have seen live if you've ever been to a Spinal Tap concert. More great humor and more great songs combine for a night of great fun.

We hope you'll consider joining us for this special holiday double feature.

Monday, November 30, 2009

January 16, 2010 - Carlito's Way & Heat

Back in the day when we made it out to the theaters to see new movies, these two were both must-see opening night screenings. You'd be hard pressed to find two greater contemporary crime dramas than Carlito's Way and Heat. These films represent Brian DePalma and Michael Mann's greatest achievements as directors, and make for a welcome double feature in our 40/40 program.

In my opinion Pacino has never been better than as Carlito Brigante. Yes, even better than Michael Corleone. The film is beautifully shot and paced, and even manages to instill an appreciation for the 70s Disco used to help establish the period. From it's opening shot to the thrilling climax in Grand Central Station, DePalma uses all the right techniques to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The pairing of Pacino and DeNiro in Heat was by no means a sure thing (Righteous Kill, anyone?), but in this case it worked brilliantly. DeNiro is at the top of his form, and while Pacino occasionally reverts to the screaming he's become famous for of late, he does a fine job alongside a very impressive supporting cast. Michael Mann has a reputation for making films that are beautiful to look at, and while he's done that with Heat, he's done much more. You'd never guess it was a near shot-for-shot remake of an original TV movie he had directed years earlier. While it has a number of impressive set pieces, it's worth seeing on the big screen for the bank robbery alone.

My only caveat about this particular screening - if you have an aversion to gunshots, you might want to avoid this night. It's going to be loud. In a good way.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

January 15, 2010 - Midnight Run

This is one of a couple of DeNiro appearances in the 40/40 series, and quite surely the only Charles Grodin appearance. Midnight Run is one of my all-time favorite DeNiro performances as Jack Walsh, ex-cop and bounty hunter out to make that last big score so he can quit the business forever.
While it's hard to believe, pairing him up with Charles Grodin's Jonathan 'The Duke' Mardukas was brilliant casting. The two play off one another perfectly - it's a buddy picture gone wrong. The film also features several excellent supporting performances including Yapphet Kotto and Dennis Farina.

Danny Elfman contributes a nice score that is refreshingly different than what would become his signature sound in the late 80s/early 90s. This is more jazzy Oingo Boingo and less brooding Batman, etc.

Only the best comedies hold up to repeat viewings, and in the years since I saw it the first time, I can still watch Midnight Run and can't help but laugh out loud. Come see if that's true for you, too, when we screen the film on the 15th.

Friday, November 27, 2009

January 14, 2010 - The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

One of our mainstay family vacations growing up was an annual trip to Lake Tahoe. We'd stay at Harrah's, and while our parents were gambling, we'd hang out in the kids area, which included an arcade full of pinball and electro-mechanical games (if you're my age you'll know the one's I mean - where you shoot the physical 3-D targets that pop-up with a light rifle, or the one where you strapped on a sidearm and had to quick draw against a projected image of a bandit on some cheap Hollywood backlot...). The other main attraction was an in-house theater. As best as I can recall, they only ever showed two movies, both of which I recall quite fondly. The first, the Rankin Bass Mad Monster Party, was right up my alley. The second was Ray Harryhausen and Charles Schneer's second Sinbad feature, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

This film is very important to me in that introduced me to the beautiful actress Caroline Munro, whose career I would follow for years, and I'd later have the opportunity to meet and work with, fulfilling a lifelong dream. Is it the best Sinbad film? No, that honor truly belongs to the 7th Voyage. But I wouldn't feel right without finding a spot for Caroline in our 40/40 series (she celebrates her birthday just 5 days before mine - and yes, I probably should have taken this into consideration and scheduled this on her birthday, January 16th).

We hope you'll join us on the 14th as we take a trip to the land beyond beyond...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

January 13, 2010 - Breaking Away

I first saw Breaking Away in 1979 with Joe as part of a double feature with Rocky II. While I hadn't seen Rocky, I knew that it was about a boxer. Breaking Away came as a complete surprise, and to this day remains a personal favorite of mine.

It's one part coming of age, one part hero's journey, and two parts comedy, which makes for an inspiring, entertaining film. The film has a number of great performances including the lead foursome made up of a young Dennis Quaid, Dennis Christopher, Daniel Stern the recently rediscovered Jackie Earle Haley. As good as they are, Paul Dooley manages to steal just about every scene he appears in (he'll make another comedic appearance during our 40/40 screening of A Mighty Wind).

Breaking Away is the perfect pick me up, and you don't even have to be an aspiring Italian to appreciate it. We hope you'll join us for the film that marks our halfway point through the 40/40 series.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

January 12, 2010 - Hellraiser

I stumbled across Clive Barker's Books of Blood in the book section of Kmart during my short tenure there in 1986. As with most American horror fans, I had heard Stephen King's praise of the man, and despite the garish monster mask covers, I found the three volumes of short stories fresh, vibrant and exciting.

There had been a few lackluster adaptations of his stories, but I was still anxious to see his directorial debut, Hellraiser.

The film was scheduled to open in September of 1987, but through a stroke of luck, Kyle and I were able to catch a preview screening in Mountain View several months prior to the film's release. I fell in love with it from the outset. It was the perfect antidote to a decade of mindless slasher films. With bizarre monsters at the forefront, imaginative visual effects, a haunting score by Christopher Young, and a puzzle box that more than gave Rubick's Cube a run for it's money, Barker had established himself as a premiere horror filmmaker. I spent the rest of the summer talking up the film, so that by the time it was released, we had a good size group assembled to see it on opening night.

In the ensuing years, the property was turned into a franchise with diminishing returns, but the original still holds up extremely well. If you missed it on the big screen, consider joining us to party with the Cenobites on January 12th.

Monday, November 23, 2009

January 11, 2010 - Young Frankenstein

When it comes to comedies, Young Frankenstein is definitely in my all-time top 5. I have always admired that it treats the material it parodies with reverence - something lost on the lowest-common-denominator comedic filmmakers today.

While my original exposure to the film was on television, the most memorable viewing came a few years back when we had the pleasure of seeing it at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, with Gene Wilder introducing it. You may not realize that the film was Gene Wilder's creation that Mel Brooks was brought in to work on it as co-writer and director. Wilder is the man responsible for the knowing touches that will be all the more appreciated by those of us familiar with the Universal classics (and not just Frankenstein and his Bride). And the use of Kenneth Strickfaden's original laboratory set pieces made it all the more a welcome distant relative to those early films.

Marty Feldman was at the top of his form as Ygor (pronounced EYE-gore), and some of his outtakes from the film (which we may just have to watch on the night) are as funny as the bits that made it in. This is another film from which I often quote liberally.

Whether you have a long history or a passing familiarity with the original Universal Frankenstein series, I guarantee you're in for a good time when you sit down with Young Frankenstein. We hope you'll join us for a few laughs on January 11th.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

January 9, 2010 - Jackie Brown & Out of Sight

If you're wondering what would possess me to pair a Quentin Tarantino film with a Steven Soderbergh film, you're obviously not a big fan of Elmore Leonard.

Jackie Brown and Out of Sight are excellent adaptations of two of the late author's crime novels. They even share a secondary character, that of Ray Nicolet, portrayed in both films by Michael Keaton. He makes for an interesting thread that I felt justified pairing what I consider to be the best films by each director.

We enjoyed both films theatrically originally (it's hard to believe how many years ago!), and I still think the performances by the leads in each (Robert Forster and Pam Grier in Jackie Brown, George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight) are among the best if not the best of their respective careers. And each film features a great ensemble cast with great performances all around.

Leonard's razor wit and colorful characters shine through in each film, which should make for a fun night in The Slaughtered Lamb.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

January 8, 2010 - Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is another classic film for which I cannot precisely pinpoint the first time I saw it, although it was obviously on television, and to date I have never experienced it on the big screen.

It's unfortunate that Hitchcock's masterful film will always overshadow the chilling Robert Bloch novel that spawned it, however one cannot deny the iconic nature of the film.

I was surprised to have heard that some of you who may be reading this have never seen it. I think it is one of those films that has so deeply penetrated pop culture that people might even be disinclined to watch it, thinking they know too much about it to appreciate it, and yet they are missing out on a truly great film.

For my money, one of the most frightening images in Psycho is something completely innocuous. For those of you familiar with my long time fascination with Dan Curtis' Burnt Offerings, and one character from that in particular, you may be able to guess what it is about Psycho that I find so disturbing.

It remains one of Hitchcock's finest, with great performances from Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh and Martin Balsam. I guarantee you it's going to look great on the big screen. If you've never seen it, this is your chance to finally catch up!

We hope you'll join us as we celebrate the film's Golden Anniversary as part of our 40/40 series.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

January 7, 2010 - 2001: A Space Odyssey

While I know I had seen bits and pieces of 2001: A Space Odyssey growing up (the monolith and early man sequence to be sure), for a young member of the Star Wars Generation it was hard to appreciate such a slowly paced science fiction film.

The first time I really saw 2001 was on LaserDisc, where it was available in all its widescreen glory for the first time. Frankly, it's the only way in which the film should be seen. One could argue that a film of this nature, an audio/visual extravaganza, must be seen on a large screen to be truly appreciated.

I'll never forget Vonna arriving home from work to find me, somewhat awestruck, in front of the TV during the stargate sequence. I didn't actually get it until years later when I read Arthur C. Clarke's book for the first time. Since then, I've been a devout fan of both the book and the film.

We hope you'll join us when we go through the stargate on January 7th.

Monday, November 16, 2009

January 6, 2010 - Assault on Precinct 13

I'm pretty excited that John Carpenter is tied with George Lucas for the single most represented director in our 40 Years/40 Movies series. That's due in part to our regularly scheduled monthly event for January being the Carpenter/Kurt Russell holy trinity, but mostly because I had to make room for his pre-Halloween classic, Assault of Precinct 13.

I took to the film in the early days of home video, no doubt because it's a siege film along the lines of Romero's Night of the Living Dead. It's got a fantastic Carpenter score, and a great anti-hero in Darwin Joston's Napolean Wilson. While it's Carpenter's homage to Rio Bravo, for this viewer it's a far superior entertainment than the dated western. And it's got Disney sweetheart Kim Richards in a pivotal role, to boot!

We hope you'll join us for a Vanilla Twist on January 6th.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

January 5, 2010 - An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London is an undisputed classic that is a great example of how horror and humor can be balanced. I still think it's director John Landis' greatest film, and I let him know as such when we met him on the set of Beverly Hills Cop 3 in 1997.

Of particular importance to the theater, as our namesake is spawned from within it. The Slaughtered Lamb Pub is a key location in the film. On one of her many trips to Europe years ago, Vonna brought back a pub sign with the wolf's head on a spear with the moon behind it. In the old house, it was on the door leading from the garage into the kitchen. When we moved, we didn't know for sure where it would end up, despite the answer being right in front of us. We kept it in the same spot, which is the theater entrance in the new house, and thus The Slaughtered Lamb Cinema was born.

Surprisingly enough, we have been waiting for just the right occasion to inaugurate the theater with a screening, so it was all too appropriate that it earned an early slot in our 40/40 lineup.

We hope you'll join us on January 5th.

40/40 Store Now Open

If you click the link on the right to The Slaughtered Lamb Cinema Store, you'll see a category link for 40 Years, 40 Movies where you can order any of the selections for January's series on Blu Ray (when available) or DVD.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

January 4, 2010 - Night at the Opera

Mondays in January are scheduled for laughter in the Slaughtered Lamb (have you heard the one about the laughter in slaughter?) as we continue our 40/40 program.

First up, a timeless Marx Brothers classic celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2010, Night at the Opera. While I love all of their films, and any one would have been a great choice, this includes several of my favorite Marx Brothers bits, including the 'contract negotiation' between Otis P. Driftwood and Fiorello.

While I can't recall the first time I saw Night at the Opera specifically, it was on LaserDisc that it grew to become one of my most watched Marx Brothers films. I do have early memories of not only watching the Marx Brothers in Animal Crackers, but also listening to a copy we had recorded on audiotape, enough that many of those bits are forever ingrained in my memory.

If you've never seen a Marx Brothers film, Night at the Opera is a great introduction.

Monday, November 2, 2009

January 2, 2010 - The Adventures of Indiana Jones

My favorite film of all time is the spotlight feature of day 2 of our 40/40 series.

On June 12, 1981, I was among those at the first screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark at Century 21, the finest single screen theater in Northern California. As a member of the Star Wars Fan Club, I had received a flyer advertising the film in advance of its release, and the fact that it was a new film from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, starring none other than Harrison Ford, it seemed like a no-brainer that we were in for a grand adventure. Who would have guessed that my high expectations were exceeded at every turn. It remains unparalleled, in my opinion.

When Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released in 1985, it was another camp-out adventure at Century 22, this time joined by a couple of Swedish foreign exchange students who took pleasure in telling people who asked what we were doing that we were lined up to see "Fanny & Alexander."

Vonna and I caught a dry run of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade the night before it opened in 1989, once again at Century 21.

Years later, in the summer of 2008, we attended a midnight screening of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the Century Theaters in Mountain View.

For this event, we'll be watching the films in their chronological order - staring with Temple of Doom (1935), Raiders (1936), Last Crusade (1938), and Crystal Skull (1957).

By the end of day two, we'll have watched 10 movies; one quarter of the 40/40 series. Easy as pie, right?

We hope you'll be able to join us.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

January 1, 2010 - The Star Wars Saga

Over the next two months, I will be posting a little bit about each of the films that make up the 40 Years/40 Movies program, including information about the films themselves, and my own personal history with them.

If you know me, it should come as no surprise that we're kicking off our 40 Years/40 Movie marathon with the Star Wars saga. As a seven year old in 1977 when the original film was released, I consider myself to have been in the generation 'sweet spot' to receive it. Not only did it forever change the way I looked at movies; it set me on a path in life that in part defines who I am today.

The films themselves need no introduction, but I wanted to share some of my history with them. Because I was only 7, I was not aware of Star Wars prior to its release. I had the good fortune of living near one of the original 32 theaters that was playing the movie on opening day - the Century 22 Dome near the Winchetser Mystery House in San Jose. My friend Mark had seen it with his family, and I was encouraged based on his enthusiasm for it, the pictures he showed my in the novelization that he had, and I even recall his sister describing her favorite character, who I was introduced to as 'walking carpet.' I still recall when our entire family loaded into the van to go see the film, only to give up when we saw the lines snaking through the parking lot. Fortunately, my Mom dragged us back out later that same day, and we were able to get it. The rest, as they say, is history.

While I was aware of the release date of The Empire Strikes Back - a planned trip to see my grandparents in May of 1980 precluded our seeing that during it's opening weekend, but not for long. By the time of Return of the Jedi, we had purchased our tickets for opening day well in advance, at what I recall was the somewhat outrageous price of $3.50 per ticket. It was the beginning of the era of our regularly lining up for movies for hours. A passtime that has since died in the wake of the multiplex, but one for which I will always retain fond memories. And it's worth noting that the theater in which that played, the (long since gone) Cinema 150 on El Camino, held a charity screening where tickets sold for $150. I remember reading about it in the paper, and my Mom actually calling to find out if tickets were still available (they weren't), but it was something that stuck with me up to the release of the prequels.

16 years later, when the opportunity presented itself, I decided that Vonna and I were going to go to the charity premiere of The Phantom Menace. We did the same for Attack of the Clones (where I finally had a chance to meet George Lucas) and again for Revenge of the Sith. Each premiere benefited a local children's charity, and included an elaborate after party in addition to the premiere screening. And where better to attend than in San Francisco, the backyard to the Star Wars universe.

I will warn any Star Wars virgins thinking about attending, I strongly believe that the first time one watches the series, they should be seen in release order. (beginning with Episode IV) Once you've seen the films, it's perfectly fine to watch them in story order (the prequel trilogy followed by the original trilogy), as we will be on the 1st. If you haven't seen any, I would suggest joining us midway through the day to catch the original trilogy. You will never find six films more worthy of being seen on the big screen.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New Lineup Announced!

It's true, as we're are in the home stretch towards January, we have made some modifications to the programming schedule for the 40 Years, 40 Movies month-long event. We did rearrange the order, and changed about 1/4 of the scheduled films. We trust that whatever our final lineup is, there will be plenty for everyone to enjoy.

Here is the alphabetical listing:
2001 A Space Odyssey - January 7, 2010
An American Werewolf in London - January 5, 2010
Assault on Precinct 13 - January 6, 2010
Attack of the Clones - January 1, 2010
Big Trouble in Little China - January 23, 2010
Breaking Away - January 13, 2010
Carlito's Way - January 16, 2010
The Crow - January 28, 2010
Dawn of the Dead (137 minute Cannes cut) - January 27, 2010
The Empire Strikes Back - January 1, 2010
Escape From New York - January 23, 2010
Eyes Wide Shut - January 29, 2010
Golden Voyage of Sinbad - January 14, 2010
The Great Escape - January 20, 2010
Heat - January 16, 2010
Hellraiser - January 12, 2010
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - January 2, 2010
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - January 2, 2010
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - January 2, 2010
Jackie Brown - January 9, 2010
The Lost Boys - January 22, 2010
Martin - January 19, 2010
Midnight Run - January 15, 2010
A Mighty Wind - January 18, 2010
Mulholland Drive - January 30, 2010
Night at the Opera - January 4, 2010
Out of Sight - January 9, 2010
The Phantom Menace - January 1, 2010
Psycho - January 8, 2010
Raiders of the Lost Ark - January 2, 2010
Return of the Jedi - January 1, 2010
Revenge of the Sith - January 1, 2010
Shaun of the Dead - January 25, 2010
Star Wars - January 1, 2010
Starman - January 21, 2010
The Thing - January 23, 2010
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me - January 30, 2010
Waiting for Guffman - January 18, 2010
Young Frankenstein - January 11, 2010
Zombie - January 26, 2010

Here is the listing by date:
January 1, 2010
The Phantom Menace
Attack of the Clones
Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi

January 2, 2010
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

January 4, 2010
Night at the Opera

January 5, 2010
An American Werewolf in London

January 6, 2010
Assault on Precinct 13

January 7, 2010
2001 A Space Odyssey

January 8, 2010

January 9, 2010
Jackie Brown
Out of Sight

January 11, 2010
Young Frankenstein

January 12, 2010

January 13, 2010
Breaking Away

January 14, 2010
Golden Voyage of Sinbad

January 15, 2010
Midnight Run

January 16, 2010
Carlito's Way

January 18, 2010
Waiting for Guffman
A Mighty Wind

January 19, 2010

January 20, 2010
The Great Escape

January 21, 2010

January 22, 2010
The Lost Boys

January 23, 2010
Escape From New York
Big Trouble in Little China
The Thing

January 25, 2010
Shaun of the Dead

January 26, 2010

January 27, 2010
Dawn of the Dead (137 minute Cannes cut)

January 28, 2010
The Crow

January 29, 2010
Eyes Wide Shut

January 30, 2010
Mulholland Drive
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

This is sure to be one of our most amazing series to date. 40 movies in 30 days. We' hope you'll be able to join us for some or all of the festival.

Please note, schedules are always suject to change without notice. Please contact The Slaughtered Lamb in advance of he event to cofirm the schedule.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Teaser Trailer

40 Years, 40 Movies was officially unveiled with the following trailer in May 2009. The final programming had not yet been determined, so some of the 40 posters shown in the trailer are not part of the final schedule. Can you identify them all?

The Official 40 Years, 40 Movies Blog has launched!

The 40 Years, 40 Movies schedule for next January has been posted.

Beginning on Friday, January 1st and running through Saturday, January 30th, The Slaughtered Lamb Cinema brings you an eclectic line-up of films in our largest screening program to date.

Opening ceremonies will take place on:
1/1 Star Wars Marathon
1/2 Indiana Jones Marathon

The remainder of the month is scheduled as follows:
Sundays - NO screenings
Monday Night Laughs
Tuesday Night Horrors
Wednesday Night Epics
Thursday Night Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Friday Night Crime
Saturday Double Bills (and the monthly Mad Movie Party)

The closing event is a special double feature on 1/30 of Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut and David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.

You can view the entire line-up by clicking on the Calendar link, viewing by month, and advancing to January 2010. Plan your schedule now for the screenings you'd like to attend. It was more difficult than you might imagine narrowing the list to just 40 films. In an effort to offer the greatest variety for this unique series, we frequently opted not to show films that we have recently screened in The Slaughtered Lamb, as important as those films might be. Rest assured we give every film in this series our highest recommendation, so it's a great opportunity to introduce yourself to some gems you may not have seen before on the big screen.

Here's a handy index to the films we'll be showing, by date.

2001 A Space Odyssey January 20, 2010
American Graffiti January 18, 2010
Army of Darkness January 16, 2010
Assault on Precinct 13 January 15, 2010
Attack of the Clones January 1, 2010
Big Trouble in Little China January 23, 2010
Breaking Away January 18, 2010
Carlito's Way January 22, 2010
Carnival of Souls January 12, 2010
The Crow January 28, 2010
The Dark Half January 26, 2010
Dawn of the Dead (146 minute cut) January 6, 2010
The Empire Strikes Back January 1, 2010
Escape From New York January 23, 2010
Escape From the Planet of the Apes January 14, 2010
Eyes Wide Shut January 30, 2010
Godzilla's Revenge January 21, 2010
Golden Voyage of Sinbad January 7, 2010
The Great Escape January 13, 2010

Heat January 29, 2010
Hellraiser January 19, 2010
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull January 2, 2010
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade January 2, 2010
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom January 2, 2010
Magnum Force January 8, 2010
Midnight Run January 25, 2010
A Mighty Wind January 11, 2010
Mulholland Drive January 30, 2010
Night at the Opera January 4, 2010
The Phantom Menace January 1, 2010
Psycho January 5, 2010
Pulp Fiction January 9, 2010
Raiders of the Lost Ark January 2, 2010
Reservoir Dogs January 9, 2010
Return of the Jedi January 1, 2010
Revenge of the Sith January 1, 2010
Ronin January 27, 2010
Shaun of the Dead January 16, 2010
Star Wars January 1, 2010
The Thing January 23, 2010