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Ninjas and Trannies (not necessarily in that order)

November 2nd, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Halloweened out? The GI has got a double dose of hilarity, love and friendship coming at you this week (triple if you count “VHS for President,” which I surely do). Bromance and brothers (in arms and blood) and straight up romance explodes off the screen in our week-long and weekend late night features, “Frankie Go Boom” and “Miami Connection.”

“Frankie Go Boom” stars the inimitable Irish rising actor Chris O’Dowd, known for his perfect line delivery but also being a randomly out of place Irishman in films full of very American sounding actors (see the implausible yet hilarious roles in “Bridesmaids” and “Friends With Kids,” where he steals otherwise unfunny scenes). It has brunette hottie (I can get away with saying that, my GF has a girl crush on her) Lizzy Caplan, less naked than in “True Blood,” but still hot. And as the coup-de-grace, my boy Ron Perlman as a lady! An interesting ensemble cast, should be just the thing to cure the November grey sky blues.

“Frankie Go Boom!” They loved it in Austin!

What is an even bigger treat is our late night “Miami Connection,” rediscovered and distributed by our friends at Drafthouse Films. With the best song about friendship to come out of the 80s, and some hardcore bromance between our Taekwondo loving bandmates (they’re all orphans! or are they…), they find themselves up against the enemies of love and peace (i.e. ninjas, drug dealers and jealous brothers). What seems to further lock-in the odd bromance and homoeroticism of this movie is four out of our five heroes can’t seem to land a girl, and when all else fails, they frolic in the water! Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

The only character in the movie keeping it from Bromageddon! It comes from Austin!

The main draw of “Miami Connection” is its star, writer and creator of the film, Y.K. Kim. He would go on to be a motivational speaker, teaching you how to be successful with the power of Taekwondo. He ends the film with an intertitle imploring you to achieve world peace through the elimination of violence. After seeing all the gory dismemberments in this movie, you’re left wondering if this guy isn’t a little bit off his rocker. Sure, Dragon Sound doesn’t go around looking for a fight, but they have no qualms killing people and even laugh when thugs get beat up. Maybe Y.K. Kim is sneaking in a little P.S.A., a “don’t try this at home kids” sort of thing. Anyway, the songs are top notch, the villians truly villainous, and the martial arts action dialed up to 10. Its dichotomy of visual message and stated message make for an entertaining exercise in “edutainment.” Truly one of a kind and not to be missed!

—ever see “Surf Nazis Must Die”?, dan

AMA: another year come and gone (but not quite yet!)

October 26th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Another spectacular year of 35mm classics gracing our screen. But as usual, we save the best for last!

I could tell you “Wallace & Gromit” kicks ass and takes names, but you already know that. You know we got “The Burning” and “Jack the Giant Killer” for one more weekend. You know tonight is our annual Triple Creature Feature. But what don’t you know? Allow me to hype up two new events by some of own GI staff and our close compatriots in cinematic crime: Scarecrow Video and the Sprocket Society.

This Saturday night, we have the latest installment of VHS mashups culled from Scarecrow’s collection. These events are some of the very best memories I have of the Grand Illusion over the past year, starting with VHSXMAS last year (look for VHSXMAS 2 in December!). You are guaranteed to have good time, and if “The VCR That Dripped Blood” leaves you wanting more and you can’t wait for Christmas, come back next Saturday for special 21+ PBR event with an election edition entitled “VHS for President.” Scarecrow VHS mashups two weeks in a row? I’m in heaven!

Oh the blood-dripping VCR is a-coming-down-the-street, I hope there’s some special just for me!

On the actual Hallow’s Eve we’ve got a very special offering from the Sprocket Society’s trove of treasures, “The Secret Vault of Horrors.” This means more of their 16mm collection leaping out at your eyeballs with all the aplomb of a well-timed “boo!” Pre-code horror is promised, so you know that whatever comes your way will be uniquely and precisely entertaining and unexpected.

Well, does that satisfy you? It sure damn well better! Hollywood has failed us yet another October with no original thrills or chills, so take comfort in one more week of perfectly curated bumps in the night.

—seriously Hollywood, “Paranormal Activity 4?,” dan

AMA Week 666 (divided by 222, but 3 doesn’t sound properly evil)

October 19th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Hey gang o’ thieves,

I didn’t get anything up last week, as I was vacationing in the isles (Vancouver if you must know). I hope you enjoyed our double feature of Price and Lorre, I know I did, especially the hilarious “Comedy of Terrors.” If that’s your taste we’ve got more of that goodness coming up here this week. I got a slate of four films viewed and I’m dying to give you the scoop. Here it comes.

First off, I have heard that we have not one, but two sparkling prints this week. What may very be the last and best prints to ever be made of our 40s classics “Arsenic” and “Phantom” will be doing their silver screen flickering at the GI this week, and for the price of one and a half admissions for both, you’d be doing yourself the ultimate disservice not watching these films. Do you really want to see a fourth “Paranormal Activity?” 90 minutes for 5 minutes worth of story content and cheap jump scares, or the same time spent with screen legends that both humor and fright? I think if you’re reading this blog, you want what we want, quality not sequel fatigue.

I’m pretty sure I’ve raved about “Arsenic and Old Lace” on this blog before, suffice it to say if you’ve never seen it, you are denying yourself one of the best black comedies ever made. I love you Coen brothers, but you got nothing on this beat-to-beat perfect masterpiece. And were you enjoying Lorre in his comedy waning years last week? Well, see him in his prime and at the height of his career in this movie, where he shines even brighter than in his campy 60s stuff. I’m telling you, see it.

A thinner and more energetic Lorre

The second part to our double header, “Phantom of the Opera,” plays a lot different from other adaptations I’ve seen of the classic work. A lot of time is spent devoted to making us care about the Phantom before he commits his first murder, and he is presented as very “phantomy” throughout the rest of the film. There is a fair amount of comedy at play here too, most of it derived from Christine leading on her suitors and small visual gags set to whimsical music ensues. Though my favorite comedy bits come from the inimitable character actor Steven Geray, Uncle Pio from “Gilda” that I was raving about so recently. While “Phantom” doesn’t really find its footing as a horror film (it’s played as a tragedy), it is a gorgeous Technicolor wonder that boasts “a cast of thousands.” Truly an operatic spectacle.

Two more films grace this weekend and next, and they span the day from early afternoon to late night. I speak of “Jack the Giant Killer” and “The Burning.” First, to our second family friendly matinee film. “Jack the Giant Killer” is much more entertaining in a Ray Harryhausen sort of way than our previous “Magic Sword,” with a rhyming Leprechaun and an inexplicable solo Viking. I’m sure it’s much more wacky and wild than Bryan Singer’s upcoming remake (which we can only hope is better than that awful “Clash of the Titans” remake), so you should prep yourself with this benchmark.

And finally, “The Burning.” What an interesting and unique experience that was! The movie spends time actually fleshing out all the characters! And the cast doesn’t look like they are all Abercrombie & Fitch models! A truly rare specimen of a horror movie, it is worth noting that this is the first film made by the Weinstein brothers, and it’s co-written by them as well as produced. The tension created by the film is well paced and the payoff is great. And it’s got Jason Alexander with a full head of hair in his debut role! And he’s playing a jock! A far throw from “Can’t-stand-ya!” A super young Holly Hunter is also here in a debut, and Fisher Stevens too!

Jason and Fisher

That’s it this week. I’m off to go see “The Master.” Sad to hear I won’t have the shit-my-pants-can’t-leave-my-seat type experience of “There Will Be Blood,” but I hate Scientology, so I’m going dammit!

—Halloween is almost here gotta get my metaphorical pumpkins in a row, dan

Ho-ley CRAPPPPPP!!!!! So Many Movies!!!!!

October 6th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

I do believe this is a “five-alarm” (five exclamation marks) movie madness extravagance, this our first week of AMA. Not one, not three, not five, but SIX movies! I’m talking “Possession,” “The Magic Sword,” “The Thing,” “American Scream,” “The Evil Dead,” and “Without Warning,” all taking place Friday through Sunday. How do we fit so much into one weekend? We’re the goddamn GI, don’t question us again! ๐Ÿ™‚

So which of these have I seen? Well, still haven’t had a crack at “Possession” yet (why is it never on the shelf when I come by, Scarecrow???), and “American Scream” is piping hot new, but yes I, for yours and my own edification and enlightenment, I have seen the other four, “The Magic Sword” and “Without Warning” just within the past two days to get me up to speed!

Shall I break down the weekend for you? Well, for starters, AMA is bringing you nearly entirely 35mm goodness all month long! The only exceptions being the sort of entertainment you’ll only find at the GI, including obsolete formats like 16mm and VHS! But more on that later.

Anyway, the weekend. Tonight, a reprise of “Possession,” our much talked about booking from earlier this summer. I poked my head in from the booth enough times to feel this movie fits comfortably into the weekend shared with my favorite horror film of all time, John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” Equal parts tension and weird creature effects, in the theatre of my mind this movie is what happens if you put “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Ninth Gate,” and “The Thing” in a dirty, awkward menage a trois and set it on a slow boil.

Is that you, Dr. Grant?

First up on a Saturday matinee, both this weekend at next, the delightfully campy “The Magic Sword,” a truly gay romp of a movie. As billed, perfect for kids and families, but if you come only once to the GI during this month with family in tow, our must-see family surprise is “Wallace & Gromit” with the Were-Rabbit in glorious 35mm! And don’t forget the wonderful “Arsenic and Old Lace!” Ack! I’m getting ahead of myself!

Next up, the big dog! Can’t save the best for last I guess. Two special events this weekend too if you come at 6:45 on Saturday or Sunday. I’m talking 30th anniversary of my favorite horror film of all time! On 35mm! On Saturday it’s the MacGuffin podcast, on Sunday it’s Robert C. Cumbow. I can’t make Saturday, but I’ll sure as hell make Sunday!

I don’t really need to say anything more about “The Thing,” if you haven’t seen it, you must, if you have, you should be spending the rest of your life like me convincing others to do the same. I guess that’s what you would consider a “cult classic.” So be it. Anywho, moving on.

I love you “Half-Life,” but here’s the original “headcrab.”

I wish I could see “The American Scream.” I loved the awesomeness that is “Troll 2,” and I’ve put a bit of time into Halloween decorating this year. This movie sounds amazing, so if you have the chance to see it, please do and rub it in my face!

Phew, two more to go. Almost forgot that “The Evil Dead” is just Friday night only this weekend. I had the distinct pleasure of going to the stage musical in West Seattle last fall. Ask my girlfriend, I still bust out “Cabin in the woods, whoa-oh-oh-oh!” from time to time. To call “The Thing” a cult classic is one thing, “The Evil Dead” is the real deal. Genius in every sense, I recently alluded to it when blogging about “Rec 3.” Please, please see it, this weekend or next! Every time a screening of a 35mm print does well, it keeps the format alive just that much longer!

The original “Cabin in the Woods” (I love you Joss!)

This brings us to “Without Warning.” This film perfectly bookends the week’s theme of Evil E.T.s. The very best evil E.T. movie (edging out “Alien,” in my book, which we had last year) ever made side by side with one of the worst. Oh, how gloriously worst! After watching true terror at its mastery, watch Greydon Clark fumble about to try to create anything remotely resembling terror! Bring you pulse back down, then have it rise back up again in peals of laughter. Jack Palance and Martin Landau can’t save this movie, perfect for the MST3K treatment. I remember seeing another Clark film “Angel’s Revenge” get the MST3K treatment, and this film only marginally rises above that because it’s not such a blatant ripoff. Anyway, “Without Warning” must be seen to be believed, and it’s not available at Scarecrow!

If you’re not careful, this movie could suck the life from you too!

I think I’ve exhausted myself with this week, next week will be more manageable (fingers crossed!).

—-week one done and done, dan

Headshot But Still Kicking

September 29th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

We’ve had some creepy and unsettling scores reverberating throughout the GI in recent years, but none more apropo than the one giving “Headshot” its unnerving edge. What is it that is at the bottom of the bass tones and scrapes? I swear it’s dental drills. I think Pen-Ek has tapped into a global fear and hatred of the dentist’s office, and is driving his drill deep into our psyches to create one of the best thrillers I’ve seen in recent years, up there with last year’s GI favorite “Drive.” And how is it so “apropo” you might ask? The GI used to be a dentist’s office for chrissakes! Ponder on that and perhaps the eerieness will put you in the ultimate mindset for All Monsters Attack in just a week’s time!

What else can I say about this film? Well, like “Drive,” it’s pure noir/thriller goodness through the uncanny eyes of a modern auteur. And where any American mainstream movie that used an assassin who sees upside-down as a premise would be full of over-the-top moments capitalizing on its “uniqueness,” Ratanaruang has crafted a unique portrait of trying to discover justice on both sides of the law, and uses POV sparing to much greater effect. Seeing a television turned upside tells us a lot more than five minutes of POV adjusting to everyday life. Of course there are twists and turns, all with interweaving timelines that at times you you running to catch up, and other times leave you strolling just long enough to catch your breath.

No it’s not Neo from “The Matrix,” but it is some choice neo-noir!

What am I trying to say? Cleanse your cinematic palate with the second Asian auteur masterpiece in as many weeks before we dive in to another fantastic year of horror, cult, and B-movie classics!

—–melancholic but all the better for it, dan

Holidays and Golden Days

September 15th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Scrumptious B+W 35mm prints all over the place this week at the ol’ GI. I’m getting this up a bit late for previewing Friday, so I’ll launch straight into my spiel for our 3rd annual fundraiser.

If you’re reading this, then you care about the Grand Illusion to some small degree. And any increment of degree of caring for our little jewel in Seattle’s cinematic crown should get thee hence to us tonight. I’ll be there slanging drinks yet again, hopefully with the esteemed Elizabeth Scarborough in tandem. It’s always a good time, and this year proves no different. Towering classics of cinema have graced us each year, from Bogart in “Casablanca” to Stewart in “Rear Window” to Tati in “M. Hulot’s Holiday.”

Allow me a moment to say a couple of words about “M. Hulot’s Holiday,” I’ll try to keep it brief. My first introduction to Tati was actually 2010’s animated “The Illusionist.” I mean I knew about his Hulot series, but I had never seen them. “The Illusionist” (from a screenplay by Tati) was an absolute delight of subtleties and visual treats, with hardly a word of spoken or at least understood dialogue. “M. Hulot’s Holiday” is thankfully right and truly in that vein.

Now what I noticed right away is Hulot’s lineage in the way of “silent” comic characters. A cinematic stop-off point in between Charlie Chaplin and Rowan Atkinson. The influence of Chaplin’s silly gaited and frumpled Tramp on Hulot and his precursor to Atkinson’s socially awkward and prankster Bean. I mean, Mr. Bean’s last effort was a movie about vacationing on a French beach in a film titled “Mr. Bean’s Holiday.”ย  Do you doubt the lineage?

the face of what’s to come and what has come before

So please, for the love of all that is holy (read: independent, volunteer-run, art house cinema), come support the GI tonight. I’ll be there. Hell, even Obama would be there if he weren’t campaigning! (Though that would be an excellent photo op, Mr. President.)

And the other film we have this week? “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” an inspired and wonderful P.I. ode to noir. Classic dames and vamps and vixens and femme fatales abound in this film comprised of archive footage inter-spliced with my boy Steve Martin and the hubba hubba hubba Rachel Ward. And my boy Humphrey Bogart even makes a few appearances! Somewhat in the vein of “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” and “Kung Pow,” characters are made to interact with classic movie footage into an entirely new story. Unlike “Tiger Lily” and “Kung Pow,” however, this movie draws a wide expanse of classic titles from the 40s and 50s. Check out this hilarious brand new 30th anniversary print of “Dead Men” before my breasts get knocked out of whack!

That’s about it from me this week, please enjoy the mellow and beautiful sunny yet overcast day out there, then swing on down this evening for fun and frivolity.

—classic comedy, count me in, dan

Demon Zombies and Video Games: The Return of Late Night

September 8th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Hey ho howdy o, I know you’ve been just chomping at the bit and rarin’ to go. What for? More late night! That’s why this week’s blog is a highlight of our September late night offerings: the glorious return of the best fast zombie movie series of the last decade (because all iterations are good, sorry 28 Weeks Later) “Rec 3,” and another superb GI unearthing of 80s sex comedy goodness “Joysticks.”

First in the month, and first on my agenda, “Rec 3.” I will proclaim loudly to anyone who loves zombie movies that apart from Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” and Boyle’s “28 Days Later,” there are no other truly great “fast zombie” movies to come out of the last decade besides the “Rec” films. And really the sub-genre (sub-sub-genre?) starts with those two modern classics, so the “Rec” movies are in great company. Another twist on the genre (cinema verite mentioned repeatedly in the beginning of “Rec 3” in case you missed it) came with the infusion of the “found footage” horror movie innovated by “The Blair Witch Project” and nearly beaten to death by “Paranormal Activity” and other films trying their damnedest to make you willingly (or unwillingly) suspend your disbelief. How does the “Rec” series stand out even further from the playing field and perfectly distill horror goodness? By adding in “demon zombies,” of the “Evil Dead” ilk. I gotta say movie hero of “Rec 3” looks a pretty damn sight like the Spanish Bruce Campbell. The elements of horrordom are clinched!

The Original

El Campbell de Bruce

Though “Rec 3” certainly has it moments of comedy, we’re satisfying your cravings for late night snickers (hmm, note to self, grab a Snickers) later this month with “Joysticks.” And hey, 35mm! If you ever thought to yourself how much a joystick resembles an erect phallus, well, so did the creators of this comedic gem. As with many screwball comedies of the early 80s (including “Screwballs,” one of my favorites), you’ll find plenty of all-natural nude beauties sprinkled gratuitously throughout the feature. And you’ll also see the extremely good-looking hero figure surround himself with awkward nerds and morbidly obese flatulent sidekicks. That’s right, this film was made in the very-narrow year range in which the good-looking cool kids and the nerds unite against a common foe, usually trying to shut some place down. And in the words of Rodney Dangerfield, “Hey everyone, we’re going to get laid!”

Are you about to see those girls show their boobs to this simpering nerd? Hey, it’s 1983, anything can happen!

Anyway, what more reason do you need to stay out on a Friday or Saturday night? Your buzz hasn’t worn off, and you don’t gotta get up for anything in the morning for crying out loud! See a damn movie! Tis the season!

—loves zombies AND video games, dan

Your Favorite Directors and…….Keanu Reeves?

August 30th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Given that Keanu Reeves was the star of the 1999 movie that pretty much paved the way for a whole slew of digital filmmaking innovations, he seems an apt figure to guide us through the discussion of film as a recording format being in its twilight years. However, it’s the vibrant and colorful directors, cinematographers, and other filmmakers that he interviews that give this movie life and passion. We all know Keanu can come across as wooden and not very animated in his delivery, which is why we are blessed with his mostly being behind the camera in this film.

This film more or less has the prevailing Hollywood viewpoint in mind: all filmmaking will be digital and film will become extinct. While we at the GI (35mm forever!) will certainly mourn the day no movies are made on film, the range of working filmmakers skewed nearly entirely digital. While it’s great to see Christopher Nolan and few other firm believers in the look and feel of film, Soderbergh, Lucas, Lynch and more say they’ve had it with the limitations of film and film cameras. Very much a look behind the curtain to the firm technical side of filmmaking, the film comes across at time like an infomercial for Red and other technology manufacturers. One bit I really appreciated was seeing clip shows of films made in the past few years on both film and digital, and saying what cameras they were shot on. But ultimately for the film consumer, it’s all about distribution and projection. I’ve had the pleasure to work at a couple of theatres around town and sling some film and digital up onto that silver screen. At least Scorsese and a couple other filmmakers give the nod to exhibition, because that really determines the final product. Films are very rarely distributed for average use in more than 1080p, and movies are now being shot with much, much higher resolution than we can currently enjoy at home.

HD vs the new standard for digital exhibition: 4k

I could wax on about the state of the industry for a while, or you could come down to the GI and see for yourself. Keanu and team do a good job of giving a lot of different professionals equal time in the spotlight over a breadth of topics, and one of the most important aspects of the digital era does not get overlooked: archiving. I sincerely believe this is one of the most “must-see” documentaries about the digital era of filmmaking ever made, and you would do yourself a disservice by not arming yourself with this knowledge and new soundbytes by your favorite directors.

—-analog and he knows it, dan

The GI Salute To Our Favorite Ernest

August 24th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

No, I’m not talking about the character of titular movie fame (portrayed by Jim Varney). I’m not even talking about Hemingway. I’m talking Ernest Goddamn Borgnine, a man active in film and television right up to his death earlier this summer at the age of 95. 95 and he was still doing acting work! For those of you who may not know his face (i.e., if you weren’t born in the 20th century) you’ll surely know his voice, as he was the force behind senile superhero Mermaid Man on Spongebob Squarepants.

Alas, poor Ernest. I knew him well.

Anyway, I went on a Peckinpah kick a few years back, saw nearly all the man’s stuff. I gotta say “The Wild Bunch” is one of the best of the revisionist westerns of the late 60s early 70s. Starring other GI favorite leading men William Holden and Warren Oates, the film is a true treasure and a must-see film because of its game-changing bullet storms that paved the way for John Woo and a host of other over-the-top filmmakers (and fans of slo-mo!).

That being said, I had never seen “Marty” before, and if you haven’t either, I can hardly recommend it more. I was moved nearly to tears, I have rooted for few on-screen romances in recent months as hard as this one. Who doesn’t love a lonely hearts tale? Ernest’s Marty, a butcher whose siblings have all gotten married and moved on, is starting to believe he’ll be a bachelor for life. He lives with his mother, and even his cousin’s family is trying to get his aunt to move out of their place and move in with him. Set over the course of roughly a 24 hour period, Marty’s chances at happiness dependent on him overcoming the forces of comfort and perceived duty to his bachelor buddies and his mother made for an edge-of-my-seat cinematic treat. “We ain’t such dogs as we think we are.” Goddamn! I was feeling hella romantic and sweet after seeing this film. Hey, apart from the awful-looking “Hope Springs,” there are no major romantic releases anywhere near this weekend. Need a great date movie, make it “Marty.” He won an Oscar for that performance for goodness sake! If you don’t leave with a smile on your face, you’re broken. But then, maybe you should stay for “The Wild Bunch.” ๐Ÿ™‚

And hey, with Rob and Kristen broken up, we need “Marty” now more than ever. Don’t give up on love!

————long dash line this time, dan

Bottle Rockets in Flight, Grand Illusion Delight!

August 11th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Oh yes, it’s Wes.

My boy, finally here at the Grand Illusion for the first time since I’ve been slinging corn and threading film at our favorite little art house theatre. And what perfect timing, his latest (and one of the greatest) film is rocking movies houses round the globe this summer, and we take it all the way back to the beginning with a 35mm print of “Bottle Rocket.” Rarely screened and rarely on film, view the career launching film for Anderson and the brothers Wilson at the Grand Illusion this week only!

If you’re like me, you enjoyed the gorgeous print of “The Sting” last week and were enraptured by the mastery of the con film in its finest form. “Bottle Rocket’s” amateurish enthusiasm at unraveling the heist/con genre (post-Tarantino and pre-Ritchie) is the perfect pairing to contrast “The Sting’s” criminal professionals. Anderson and the Wilson bros give us some of the worstย (clumsy, not evil) criminals to ever grace the screen, and one of the most bungled heists ever imagined.

Hmm, but where oh where is the titular “bottle rocket?”

And what can I say for sweet sweet Inez? Few movies have ever made me want for it to work out between an unlikely couple. Luke Wilson may have used up most of his charm in this film. I know he got a bit overweight, but where has he gone? He used to make ladies swoon, right? Or maybe I’m remember the last 15 years differently.

It took until “Rushmore” for Anderson to truly find his voice, but other than the afore-mentioned Tarantino, how many American independent directors came out of the 90s and have developed such a rabid following (because they can’t make a bad movie!)? I’m sure there are a few, but Anderson became a cultural and critical mainstay. “Bottle Rocket” is the geode that Anderson has been splitting and polishing over the past 15 years.

—self-professed Andersonian, dan

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