Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from The Cinemologists!

I tried to get some kind of Christmas greeting out, despite my lessened art skills from my injury.  Hope everyone has a safe holiday!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The 5 Other Movies to Watch Around Christmas

Although December 25th comes but once a year, there's only so many Christmases that one can stand watching Jimmy Stewart find the true meaning of life while yelling at random buildings (as much as we love it). And, although there will always be the fresh and wondrous A Christmas Story and glorious television specials such as The Blackadder Christmas Carol and MST3K's Santa Claus episode, sometimes you just need some more cinematic kindling with which to stoke up your holiday cheer. And, so, with a very merry Christmas and happy holidays to all our readers, I present 5 such films.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kentaro Haneda Does The Christmas Song

I've been out of commission for a bit since I injured my knee, but for now here's  Kentaro Haneda, famous for composing the music for the original Macross series, doing his own orchestral version of the famous Christmas tune.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Born Today in 1930: Maximilian Schell

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite actors.  Maximilian Schell became famous after winning the Oscar for best actor for Judgement at Nuremburg (1961) and was also nominated for his role in the film Julia (1977), going on to win and be nominated for many other awards.  He was also in the adventure romp Krakatowa: East of Java (1969), which I remember fondly from my childhood.  However, most fondly, (and the first film I ever saw him) I recall Schell as the mad Dr. Reinhardt in Disney's The Black Hole (1979).

The Cygnus Broadcasting Station Episodes 5 & 6: Bond Films, Lovecraft and the Three Musketeers

Monday, December 5, 2011

Born Today in 1901: Walt Disney

Here's a birthday you can't ignore.  The man responsible for the movie that got me into movies, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).  Enough said.  Happy birthday, Walt!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Born Today in 1930: Jean-Luc Godard

Love him or hate him (and I mostly do both), Jean-Luc Godard was one of the most controversial and revolutionary directors of his time.  Made famous for his major success Breathless (1960), he went on to produce films of a literary nature which at the same time both criticized and praised American films.  He was also responsible for bringing my favorite actress to the screen, Anna Karina.  She starred in my favorite films of his, Alphaville and Pierrot le Fou (1965).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tentacoli (Tentacles) Complete Soundtrack by Stelvio Cipriani Now Available for Pre-Order

Screen Archives released news last week of an upcoming release of Stelvio Cipriani's 1977 score for the Italian horror film Tentacoli.  The album is being produced by the Digitmovies label and is slated for a December release.  I'd always heard about the movie (and how awful it was) yet I've always been intrigued by Italian horror scores.  Looking into the music for this film brought many a pleasant surprise.  This music is just too good for the film.  Thoroughly exciting, catchy and totally 70s, this soundtrack is full of harpsichords and groovy melodies as well as some great electronic music.  Cipriani later used some of the music in his scores for cop movies.  This CD release boasts the complete soundtrack release with 16 minutes of unreleased music as well as bonus demo tracks.  I look forward to eventually purchasing it as it will probably be a great conversation piece at get-togethers.  Pre-order from Screen Archives Entertainment.

Original LP cover.  You really can't go wrong with the varied poster artwork for this film.

Screenings: Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

A few weeks ago I had the immense pleasure of seeing Peter Weir's great cinematic enigma at the International House Philadelphia.  Best of all, it was a 35mm projection.  It was my first ever experience of seeing a classic film presented as such.  The film is as troubling as it is beautiful.  Unsettling as it is hypnotizing.  I found that I took no notice of the evidently well worn print and was immersed into the film.  When the lights went down and I heard the initial crackle of the soundtrack coming on, I knew that I was in a visceral experience, something which I shall always champion in these days where digital consumption of the industry has arrived.  I found myself short of breath during the screening, as the weight of the impenetrable, agonizing mystery on screen seemed very real to me.  By the end of the film, with the heartbreaking second movement from Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto playing I felt something I never quite received from contemporary films and that's a sense of timeless endurance.  This was a unique opportunity which I braved cold and dark streets to experience and am glad to have done so.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Adventures of Sarah Grable The Collector #5

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  This picture is a little belated since I had little time to do it.  Just another typical holiday at the Grable household.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Born Today in 1888: Harpo Marx

My all time favorite comedian.  Harpo (Adolf) Marx is the pure instinct side of the Marx Brothers.  Whether he's chasing the women, demolishing a piano, working some strange, white magic or stopping the show with a wonderful harp solo, he's always a joy for me to watch.
Let's not forget the 'Gookie'!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Born Today in 1940: Terry Gilliam

Happy Birthday to one of my favorite directors and possibly one of the most standout visionaries of his generation.  Known first for being a member of Monty Python, and for doing their surreal animations, he went on to direct classics like Brazil (1985), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989) and The Fisher King (1991).  My personal favorite being Baron Munchausen.  At 71 he's still going strong and I hope he continues to make more fantastic pictures.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Adventures of Sarah Grable The Collector #4

Based on a harrowing, true story of my recent visit to Barnes and Noble...

Joel's Top 50 Cinematic Sirens

With Hollywood being a bigger meat market than ever and the standard of beauty being defined by malnourished, untalented, over-tanned, and decidedly plastic-looking young women, it's really makes me weep for those who are growing up in today's world, without the benefit of a market saturated with beauty AND acting ability.

I swear, in a world with guys who drool over the first classless bimbo that walks down the street and young girls who have such great role models (Yeah, kids, you should totally look up to some show-horse who is under the impression that bipolar disorder is not only contagious from a tattoo of someone who's been dead for 50 years, but also that it makes you evil), I could make a sociopolitical argument about how rereleasing old films could seriously better society and younger generations. Not that it's any better with most of the males in the acting world today. Oh, no! It's just as bad! But I better hop off that train of thought, because that's a whole other tangent just waiting to happen...

Now, these musings are neither here nor there in relation to this article, but they were a catalyst of sorts. You see, I was hanging out with a friend once and he happened to say the words "Megan Fox is SO hawt!". Instead of just punching him in the face (which could have resulted the injury of my friend, probable jail time, and admittedly it would have been kind of an overreaction anyway), I decided to write down the first 50 women I could think of that were more attractive and talented than Megan Fox. Now, this article is not that list exactly, seeing as, after having a few minutes to think it over, my list became far too large to practically fit it into essay format. But I did narrow it down a bit, and here's the best of compilation. Without any further ado, here are my top 50 cinematic sirens...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Born Today in 1906: Louise Brooks

Born today was lovely Louise Brooks.  With that deceivingly innocent smile and the crisp helmet of a haircut, she embodied the 20s era in roles such as Lulu in Pandora's Box (1928).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Guide to Star Trek: The Motion Picture: The Soundtrack

UPDATE: La-La Land Records and Sony Music have released the entire, complete score, including many outtakes, sought after alternate versions of the classic main theme and even tests of the blaster beam!  Its all on an outstanding 3-disc set, which can be bought from Screen Archives Entertainment here.

For years I've heard many things about Jerry Goldsmith's score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  It was written in 1979 when he had written another masterful science fiction score for Ridley Scott's Alien.  No doubt the score here is a masterpiece, yet its had an, as yet, unfulfilled history in the soundtrack market.  I want to take the time here to write and make note of the different soundtrack releases as well as pointing out those cues unreleased as of now.  So this is for all you die hard fans of this score:

Born Today in 1922: Kim Hunter

Happy birthday to actress Kim Hunter.  Initially famous for winning the Oscar for best supporting actress for playing Stella opposite Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). She was also in the fantastic A Matter of Life and Death (1946).  However, fans of sci-fi, including myself, remember her first and foremost as Dr. Zira in the original Planet of the Apes (1968).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Revisiting Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

When I was growing up I had a very long introduction to Star Trek.  I recall watching a lot of The Next Generation, I remember the Borg, Data, and the rest of the crew.  I even recall getting many of the MicroMachines versions of the ships, including a life size phaser that opened up to reveal a scene.  I knew little if anything about the original series.  My first introduction to Captain James T. Kirk was not through any of the episodes but through the first movie.

Born Today in 1909: Robert Ryan

Happy Birthday today to Robert Ryan, a great, solid actor from the good old days.  I remember seeing him first as the stern military officer from The Dirty Dozen (1963).  He's also famous for The Wild Bunch (1969), but lesser known for the fun romp Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (1969) where he played the titular role to great effect.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Star Wars in Question: The Decline of the American Film Industry

Back in the day, 1970s American cinema was ripe with fresh, new talent and great vivaciousness.  There emerged some promising directors (and some amazing beards).  The New American Cinema produced some great films such as Five Easy Pieces (1970) and Easy Rider (1969).  Through most of the 70s, there was an unprecedented creative freedom.  Yet that freedom, being exploited by these new directors, had a drawback. 

Born Today in 1928: Ennio Morricone

Today's the birthday of yet another of my favorite composers, the incomparable Ennio Morricone.  He's scored over 200 films from his most famous The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1968) to John Carpenter's The Thing (1982).  His melodies are among the most beautiful ever written.  For this occasion I'd like to share what has to be my favorite composition of his, from Guns for San Sebastian (1968).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Forgotten Film Scores: Angel's Egg (1985)

What can one say about the many film scores sought after by the fans, or even still, without many fans to begin with?  One of the most heartbreakingly beautiful of these to be neglected is that for Mamoru Oshii's 1985 animated film Tenshi no Tamago (or Angel's Egg).  Recommended to me by a friend, I saw this film earlier this year and it was quite an unsettling experience (full review to come).  Full of Oshii's own meditations on faith and Christianity, Angel's Egg has no shortage of enigmas and ambiguity.  Adding to the aching mystery of the world in the film is music by Japanese composer Yoshihiro Kanno.  From the beginning, the choir from another world enters from the void and fills our ears with a melancholy longing as the full string elegy comes in.  The main theme is very much classical in nature and very much Baroque at times (a harpsichord is even present).  Other pieces in the film are more avante garde (reminiscent of Ligeti) with the strange use of chimes and the piano chords which quickly submerge from beautiful to atonal.  In this way, the score plays out very much like musical quicksand, one may think the score will keep itself grounded is sanity but its only about to play tricks on you.  A CD was released in Japan but is most likely out of print, however, as I always say, a diligent search can yield wonders.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Born Today in 1914: Jonathan Harris

Today's the birthday of one of my favorite actors.  Jonathan Harris, famous for being the vindictive and devious Dr. Zachary Smith in Irwin Allen's Lost In Space (a childhood favorite of mine).  Among fans he is also known for Space Academy and as the toy cleaner in Toy Story 2.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Silence of the Lambs (1990)

About a year ago, I spied the Criterion edition of Jonathan Demme's Silence of the Lambs for 5 bucks. Seeing as it was an out of print edition, that price was very agreeable and I bought it. After it arrived, I unwrapped it, put it on my shelf, and there it sat for a full year. After fathomless badgering from Alex and additional urges from friends to see it, I finally broke down.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Born Today in 1933: John Barry

One of my all time favorite film composers and one of the all time greats.  John Barry composed some of the most memorable film music ever for films such as Dances with Wolves, The Ipcress File and not to mention, a good portion of the Bond franchise.  I was quite sad when he passed early last year, however he left behind more than enough amazing music.  My personal favorite Barry score has and always will be the atmospheric music for The Black Hole (1979).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On Your Mark (1996)

I'm finally back to writing after a brief hiatus.  Today I wanted to talk about a personal favorite animated short film, which I always return to time and again.  On Your Mark is an animated music video based on a song by Japanese pop singers Chage & Aska.  It was produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by none other than Hayao Miyazaki.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Adventures of Sarah Grable The Collector #3

For all those costumers who've had this happen to them, we at the Cinemologists know your pain.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Born Today in 1897: Edith Head

One of the great costume designers of the Old Hollywood, Edith Head was a frequent collaborator with Hitchcock, most notably on Vertigo.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Born Today in 1942: Bob Hoskins

Today is the birthday of the always entertaining Bob Hoskins.  Successful in such films as Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Mona Lisa, my favorite performance of his comes from Brazil, where he played the vindictive Central Services repairman, Spoor.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Gimmie All You've Got, V.I.N.CENT.!" Deleted Footage from The Black Hole (1979)

Let it be known that I am one of the biggest fans of Disney's The Black Hole ever.  I am completely obsessed with the film and I collect anything related to it, from comic books to thermoses.  So I research the film constantly to see if there's anything new concerning behind the scenes info or (hopefully) a Blu-ray release.  I had heard for a while about some deleted footage from the film.

This first scene that was cut was apparently some kind of scene introducing us to the characters of Kate and Dan.  This explains why they both float towards the camera in the final film when we first see them.

The second scene cut is when the survivors of the Palamino are escaping the doomed Cygnus and run through some kind of engineering catwalk.  Charlie almost falls into some smoke and V.I.N.CENT rescues him.  This scene is still present in Alan Dean Foster's novelization.  I'd love to believe that they shot the well known alternate ending, where Kate is in the Sistine Chapel looking at the Creation of Man, I think that ending would have brought something more to the film in terms of scope.  As much as I would love to peruse the Disney vaults, I think that we may have to wait and see if any Blu-ray release will include these scenes.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Return to Oz (1985)

For the longest time I've been trying to revisit this film from my childhood.  As I recall it was the only movie I remember seeing that actually terrified me.  There were many elements I didn't appreciate at the time, due to my seeing everything in the film as weird.  Now that I've seen it again I can say its a true underrated classic.

Born Today in 1943: Catherine Deneuve

Happy birthday to French film beauty Catherine Deneuve.  Famous for Bunuel's Belle de Jour and (my personal favorite) The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Joel's Most Wanted: Godzilla (Criterion Bluray) Up for Preorder

Last Friday Criterion announced their January lineup of films to be released on DVD and Bluray. There were some interesting releases, including a Bunuel film and some other fun stuff, but as I scrolled down, my eyes caught the most glorious sight...

I can't really describe my reaction to the announcement of this release in any way that can do it justice. But I will say that I screamed... a lot. Godzilla was a big part of my childhood, and I grew on up quite a few of the Showa era movies, like Godzilla vs. Mothra, The Terror of Mechagodzilla, and yes, even Godzilla vs. Megalon. However, the only one to ever actually scare me was the very first film, Gojira (or Godzilla: King of Monsters, the version I saw as a child). I first watched it about a year or two after 9/11, an event that I couldn't grasp fully when it happened due to my age. However it was a memory that stayed with me throughout childhood and even to this day.

The afternoon I popped the film in the player was a beautiful, clear day in the late summer. After sitting glued to the screen for its 90 minute run-time, I remember walking outside and looking out at the neighborhood. I imagined seeing the silhouette of the Monster stalking towards the city in the distance, silently. I began to feel uneasy and went inside. Since then, I've had a place in my heart for the film. Now I can appreciate the black-and-white cinematography, the great score, the wonderful special effects, and the dark and brooding atmosphere, but I will always remember the day I first saw it. A day when the fears of the people in post-WWII Japan reminded me of my own fears in post-9/11 America.

I am (no doubt like many other fans) thrilled that Criterion will be releasing this gem of a movie. I've taken a look at the special features list, and am absolutely blown away by how all-out they went for this edition. Can't wait for January to swing around, and I will most likely be preordering the Bluray, good deal or no.

Born Today in 1927: George C. Scott

Happy Birthday to George C. Scott, remembered for such roles as Patton (1970), Gen. Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove (1962) and one of my personal favorites, as Abraham in John Huston's The Bible: In the Beginning (1966)

The Haunting (1963)

I am by no means a horror film fan.  I don't go out of my way to seek films that are fraught with killings and dismemberments.  In short, I'n not a fan of gore fests.  I am, however, a fan of great atmospheric pieces and exercises in psychological terror.  Robert Wise's The Haunting is one such film.  I recall, many a moon ago I had the opportunity of seeing it late at night, as Joel had DVRd it.  When we finally got to seeing the film, we weren't prepared for how assaultive it was on the nerves.  First off, there are no ghosts,  ghouls or specters of the paranormal.  All the menace of Hill House is achieved through choice lighting and angles on the house's decor as well as an array of unsettling sound effects.  The least of which is not the disturbing score that employs bellicose trumpets to unnerving effect (unfortunately a soundtrack album is out of the question as there exist no masters).

What completes the hysteria of this very classy haunted house movie is the cast.  Julie Harris and Claire Bloom play off each other wonderfully as Eleanor and Theo.  Richard Johnson plays the confident Dr. Markway and Russ Tamblin is the sarcastic Luke, heir to Hill House.  James Bond alumnus Lois Maxwell also appears as the skeptical Mrs. Markway.  Throughout the film we're never given a completely definite answer to the hauntings, they may as well be in Eleanor's mind...or maybe not.

Probably the most memorably creepy scene occurs when Eleanor hears voices from the room next door as she sleeps.  The muffled voices of a man yelling, a child screaming and devious laughter mount upon the vestige of a face in the wall.  I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen, but the conclusion never fails to put the hairs of my back on end.  The film is thoroughly enjoyable and was utterly petrifying when I first saw it.  However, make sure that when you do watch it, you do so in the the dark...

The Black Scorpion (1957): The Cavern Sequence

The Black Scorpion is a 50s era horror film released by Warner Bros, featuring special effects by screen legend Willis O'Brien (The Lost World, King Kong, Mighty Joe Young). Overall, the film is exactly what one would expect: radiation, giant monsters attacking cities, some ridiculous high-tech solution to the problem, and cardboard cutouts for characters. The film's special effects aren't great, and, in some places, fall flat on their collective face. But that said, there is one scene that towers over the rest of the movie and, in my opinion, stands out as a shining moment in horror history...

The cavern sequence.

In this scene, our heroes are lowered via crane through a crack in the volcanic earth and into the world of the scorpions. As they leave the car, they find themselves in an underground ecosystem full of gigantic worms, spiders the size of coffee tables, and, of course, the scorpions.

It's a chilling, creepy scene, and, honestly, despite the fact that I'm usually left unfazed by most horror films (especially of this vintage), it made me squirm. Something about the thought of being trapped in that slimy, hellish world filled with these crawling monsters - the germ of many a phobia - was just disturbing to me. Adding to the otherworldly vibe is the unnatural, ever-jerky stop motion effects (mostly animated by Obie's assistant, Pete Peterson).
I've always been under the impression that this scene was Willis O'Brien's attempt to finally bring his "Lost Spider Pit Sequence" from King Kong to the screen, and some of the stop motion creatures featured here have been alleged to be reused models from that sequence. Regardless, it's a very effective moment that makes an otherwise ho-hum 50s monster movie worth seeing. Check it out!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jason and the Argonauts (1963): Talos

When I was growing up, my interest in fantasy and adventure was jump started when I saw this 1963 Greek mythology classic. Made famous because of its marvelous stop-motion creature effects by Ray Harryhausen. The monster in this film which frightened me the most wasn't the hydra or the skeleton warriors, it was the bronze behemoth, Talos.
When he's first encountered, Talos is atop a "treasure trove of the gods" but appears only as one of many enormous statues. This scene was incredibly mysterious and awe inspiring and still produces wonder in me today. Bernard Herrmann's music is perfect for the primal, savage land of ancient Greece. Talos himself has a pretty awesome entrance, creaking to life and terrorizing the Argonauts. In fact, I think that Talos is one of the most perfect monsters to be done in stop-motion.
The inherently jerky motions are well suited for a mechanical fiend and the metallic sounds emanating from him complete his menace. I was definitely creeped out as a kid when I saw Talos bleeding that boiling blood of his. The spectacular monster is given a spectacular end as he cracks and falls apart (a precursor to the death of Harryhausen's Kraken in Clash of the Titans (1981)). If only poor Hylas (John Cairney) had gotten out the way of the falling Talos...

Rebecca (1940): Not your average haunted house movie...

Rebecca is a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based upon the novel by Daphne du Maurier. The plot of the film concerns a decidedly average woman (Joan Fontaine), who falls in love with troubled millionaire and widower Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). After a fleeting yet wondrous several weeks in Monte Carlo, the two marry. He brings his new bride back to his estate, a place called "Manderley", where she discovers that the last Mrs. de Winter (the Rebecca of the title) never lost her influence on the house, even after death...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)

With Halloween approaching swiftly I think I should go through some of my favorite scary films.
I remember first seeing this film when I was about 11 or 12, and we had borrowed the VHS from someone. I wasn't expecting much from it, least of all to be scared. My dad had built up a reputation of it frightening him as a child and so I had some image of an evil chicken terrorizing people. (I was under the impression it was The Ghost OF Mr. Chicken) However, the film I did see ended up being laugh out loud funny and it became a family tradition and I've seen it countless times to the point where I can recite any line or sound effect from the film as they come. Although I wasn't expecting it, the organ music which Don Knotts' character, Luther Heggs hears in the haunted Simmons mansion actually did frighten me. It's manic and insane enough to evoke in my head the images of the bloody murders that occurred there.
Don Knotts is superb in this film. The character of Barney Fife translates wonderfully to the big screen, as the setting of this film may as well have been Maybury. He's one of the most perfect candidates to enter a haunted house and its a hoot watching him shakily traverse the dusty corridors. The supporting cast is near perfect. Populated by many of the 60s' favorite character actors, including Dick Sargent. One of the best scenes doesn't involve Luther being scared of anything supernatural, but of something very ordinary: public speaking. As he stutters and shudders over every line, his body and facial gestures go through a nervous dance of the sort only Knotts could produce. What's great about this film is that for the most part the spooky scenes are played fairly straight.
The film would not be complete without Vic Mizzy's delicious score. Its creepy in a fun way with a team of fuzz guitars and a harpsichord assisting the small orchestra for the scenes of spooky hijinks, as well as having a heartwarming theme for Luther to help gain our sympathy for him.
Its a yearly tradition to watch it and I usually see it with a new audience. They always enjoy it as much as I do. All else I can say is:
"Atta boy, Luther!"