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.