Friday, September 19, 2014

Enthusiam Waned and Waxed

Back again...

Killed a lot of time over the past year being involved with programming for one of the area film festivals, which in turn killed a lot of my enthusiasm for just about anything related to film and Kansas City. So a lot of the spring and summer was hiatus time, attempting to rebuild my enthusiasm again. Number One Lesson learned - never get involved in programming unless you have complete control or at least 2 other people on the same wavelength as you; it saves a lot of stress and heartache in the end.

I've come to the point where it's immaterial to even rant against the lameness of your local film festival (exempted from this is the Free State Festival in Lawrence, which started as just a film festival and expanded this year to include other disciplines, to great success); when you have at your fingertips the ability to do your own living room festival without concerns as to attendance and cost, DIY.

Recent viewings... picked up the Scream Factory Blu-Ray release of Brian DePalma's PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, which finally gets its proper due on a U.S. disc, and highly recommended if you have a Blu-ray player. This 2-disc release (BR and DVD) has the movie in an excellent transfer along with 2 commentary tracks (Cast members Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham and 'Juicy Fruits' band members on one track and Production Designer Jack Fisk on the other), interviews with DePalma and Paul Williams; and the DVD is packed with more supplements including a documentary about the making of the film, an interview with Guillermo delToro interviewing Paul Williams, and more.


 The big news in home video for the summer was the release of TWIN PEAKS on Blu-Ray. Titled "The Entire Mystery", the set puts everything that is Twin Peaks into one package, one-upping the 'Gold Box' DVD release of a few years ago by also including TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME, and the coup de gras, over 90 mins. of deleted scenes from FWWM, "The Missing Pieces".

  


This is a magnificent effort, as you can see in the photo below, in terms of packaging...
 


Also kudos to the technical specs - the transfers and sound are A1... it's probably not going to look or sound any better than this release. There were postings of buyers encountering some sync issues, but I didn't notice any such issues in my viewing.
If you want to upgrade to Blu, it's certainly worth the effort -- I have the original DVDs and not in so much of a hurry to dump 'em, but I will get The Entire Mystery set at some point. If you're one of the fanatics who've been clamoring for the missing scenes from FWWM, this is the only way to get 'em!

As for the show itself; it held up very well when stacked up against its current offshoots. In retrospect, it probably would have been better for the show to have done less episodes for seasons (like what USA and TNT networks do for their programming nowadays) - there's a slog of 3-4 episodes in the middle of Season 2 that may try one's patience, but most all is forgiven by the last episode.

There's always been some corn in the humor of Lynch, and TWIN PEAKS when it works, adroitly balances the light and dark elements. In the second year, it seems that characters and situations from the other Lynch/Frost show, ON THE AIR have wandered over for a visit, and it throws that balance way off. Also, I find that Joan Chen's character is really unnecessary to the goings on.

Still, it was pretty good to revisit. There are some Easter eggs hidden on the first and last discs, but nothing earthshaking.


  
 I'm a fan of the show MEDIUM, which is pretty much forgotten about now. At the time, it was a good mixture of everyday family life of a housewife whose 'gift' allows her to help solve crimes. It wasn't genre like GHOST WHISPERER - it had hints and whispers of genre in visualizing Patricia Arquette's gift, and at times, did get pretty horrific. It lasted 7 years, so the creators obviously did something right.

A few years earlier, the creator of MEDIUM - Glen Gordon Caron, who also created MOONLIGHTING - brought another show to broadcast, which also mixed family life with the fantastic, although it was much more a genre show than MEDIUM was. Its premise - an everyday family man who is accidentally killed and whose brain is utilized in a government created body, which is younger, stronger, faster, et.al. - was probably a bit ahead of its time; years later came the superhero shows and movies. Its cast was a mixture of people on their way up and character favorites (Eric Close, Dennis Haysburt, Margaret Colin, Gerrit Graham, Heather Matrarozzo and Chad Lowe & John Goodman in recurring guest roles).

It got critical notice and a cult following, and was cancelled after one season by CBS, for essentially being too expensive to shoot and not successful enough to justify the cost. For 15 years, fans of the show had to contend with dodgy dubs taped from Sci-Fi Channel broadcasts to get their fix - finally, CBS/Paramount mans up and issues the entire series on DVD, and includes two tasty extras - a 4 part documentary on the making of the show and a 'writers table' of 3 of the show's writers talking about developing the show, and what would've happened had they got the go ahead for another season.

If you're a fan of superhero/comic-book situations, you'll probably enjoy this, especially if you're looking for variations on the formula. One of the trademarks of Caron's shows is the ability to subvert the expectations of what will happen and one of the subtle joys of the show is the focus on the smaller conflicts, which are just as important, if not more, than the Big Crisis that is faced in the episodes.



In between those, I also sandwiched in all five seasons of COMMUNITY, mainly because the opportunity to watch them all came up; and although I occasionally watched the show during broadcast, I didn't have a sense what it was about - I knew more about the behind-the-scenes goings on than anything about the actual show.

If you haven't seen it - get the season sets and START WATCHING!!

Enthusiasm now stoked, I soldier on, figuring what else to do... in between writing reviews for the film site 366 Weird Movies, some of that subject may carry over to here. I'm preparing a series on the films of Andrzej Zulawski, and will do a look into the films of local filmmaker Kevin Willmott probably after the New Year.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

JAYHAWKERS Premiere weekend, Feb 14 - 16, Lawrence, KS

Stirrings after enforced silence, yet again. Stirrings for good reason...



trailer:




I'll see you there this weekend...

More "Guilty of Being WHITE" film selections coming very soon, plus some other things.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Trailer for 'Jayhawkers'

 Kevin Willmott's long-awaited JAYHAWKERS will premiere in Lawrence, KS for several screenings at KU's Lied Center Feb. 14 (7pm), Feb.15 (11 a.m., 7 p.m., 9 p.m.) and Feb. 16 (1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m.). Tickets can be purchased at the Lied Center box office: 785-864-2787, or online on their website http://lied.ku.edu/


Check out this great MSN video - Trailer for 'Jayhawkers'

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

GOBW Session 2: THE LEGEND OF NIGGER CHARLEY

    ... and it's a life sentence

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Court is now in session...

One of the main films that DJANGO UNCHAINED stole from homaged was this 1972 Fred Williamson classic with Fred as the aforementioned Charley, who we see as a baby in the Prologue as slavers are replenishing their stock by herding more Africans into a boat, which include Charley and his mom. Over the credits, we're introduced to Charley and his present life on the plantation - he's the blacksmith and his mom is the Top Mammy taking care of an ailing Master. Master is not long for this world, and Charley's Mammy gets Master to promise to free Charley. That doesn't set too well with Master's son (John P. Ryan - IT'S ALIVE, RUNAWAY TRAIN), who has no intentions on honoring his dad's promise and expresses his displeasure by beating Charley - who responds to this treatment by killing his white ass.

Charley then goes on the run with his friend, Joshua (Don Pedro Colley -THX-1138, SUGAR HILL) and one of the house servants, Toby (D'urbville Martin - BOSS NIGGER). They head West, with an avenging posse in pursuit. Stopping in a small town to make their stand, they encounter an old Black man, Shadow (Thomas Anderson) passing himself off as a Native American and a young Black gunslinger, Willie (Tom Pemberton), who throw in with Charley and his friends. After making short work of the posse, the group ends up helping a farming couple being terrorized by The Reverend (Joe Santos - THE ROCKFORD FILES). Lots of gunplay ensues, and people die as hard justice is dispensed - with Nigger Charley ending up as the Last Man Standing.

 This holds up rather well as a well done B-movie; it's definitely among the best of Williamson's roles and it's aided by a strong support cast, much better than you'd expect in a film like this, and it is affecting as they get killed off in the final battle - only D'urville Martin survives to reprise his role along with Williamson for THE SOUL OF NIGGER CHARLEY, which continues the Charley saga, providing ex-Confederate soldiers who cause havoc until Nigger Charley hands out some well-deserved ass kicking justice.

It probably ain't classic cinema, but NC holds its own as a successful combination of the Western and Blackploitation, with a patina of history about the black experience heading out West... 

 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

DESTINATION PLANET NEGRO! screening Feb. 16

There's a new Kevin Willmott film that's coming... and no, I'm NOT talking about JAYHAWKERS... yet. Maybe in a few months.

This was a stealth project of sorts, shot a year prior to JAYHAWKERS, and closer in tone to CSA.




Trailer: It should be hitting festivals and various screenings later in the year. Bring it to your town!

Monday, February 04, 2013

GUILTY... OF BEING WHITE! SESSION ONE - MANDINGO


... and it's a life sentence.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Court is now in session...

We present the first exhibit in evidence... MANDINGO.


   It's kinda like shooting fish in a barrel to lead this series off with this title, which is far more notorious than seen, at this point. Shawn Edwards, a critic in Kansas City had this as part of his 'Soul Cinema' series at the Mainstreet Alamo Drafthouse, and it tied in perfectly with my intent - unfortunately, weather scrubbed my trip into seeing this bigscreen (and an actual film print), so out came the DVD copy for another look. 

  Quite a bit has already been written about the film, which has undergone a push towards critical rediscovery and reappraisal (among the first being Dennis Cozzalio of SERGIO LEONE AND THE INFIELD FLY RULE, and NOT COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU). Although the perception of the film, as lurid, trashy button-pushing melodrama that embarrassed everyone involved is not too far off the mark, the fact is that MANDINGO was a big hit for the studio and Dino DeLaurentiis at the time of its release. Critical reception to the film was very bad in the U.S. (it fared better with critics overseas), which caused the studio to have issues with it after it was made. There was no embarrassment on the part of the filmmakers, who took the subject very seriously.

  Yes, the movie IS trashy melodrama, like the book that it's based on... there's no way around that. But the reason why the book became such a sensation (spawning ghost-written sequels, and an unsuccessful adaptation on Broadway) was that amidst all the melodrama and the sex, there was also the presence of what I term, "the stink of Truth". The intent of the author, Kyle Onstatt, might have indeed been to just write a trashy novel, but he was born at a time (1887 - MANDINGO was published when he was in his 70's!) when slavery's end was just a generation behind, but direct survivors were still around... and a good portion of the most outrageous behavior depicted has indeed been verified by accounts.

  Even by the 70's, depiction of that time in the Black American experience was pretty limited on-screen, at least in America - foreign producers did finance the first hard looks at that period, and you may well notice the name of MANDINGO's producer...  but this was, for an American studio, really the first time to tackle such a subject as a major motion picture. And for most of the audience, to see depicted explicitly the punishment of slaves, black children used as furniture, the slaveowner sleeping with his female slaves, was probably just too much to take, except as seen through the eyes of 'camp'. Of course, the bit that EVERYONE remembers who watches the movie is the coupling of slave owner wife Susan George with Ken Norton's title character.

   But past all the luridness and sexual hijinks depicted (which were actually toned down for the film, believe it or not), is the hypocrisy that is present at the core of slavery, which the movie does confront unflinchingly; and that may be the real reason why this film gets under the skin of so many - there's no sentimental look at the Old South present here, only the goings on of what can happen when one group of people treat another group like property.

  Olive Films finally released MANDINGO on DVD a few years ago, remastered but with no additional material for context... for that, you can refer to Paul Talbot's MONDO MANDINGO, a thorough look at the entire world of MANDINGO, from book to movie - and for a more direct comparison of book to film, blogger Greg Bunche took the plunge, scrounged up a copy of the book and tackled the bastard like a man.

Ruling: GUILTY!!


  









Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Happy 2013

OK, it's been awhile. I'm quite aware. Things have settled down, and we're back on the horse again. We'll start out with a project that I started to do sometime ago - but as things worked out, it's probably good that I procrastinated.


Court will be in session this week... you've just been served.