First Films Announced for 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival

One of the great classic movie events of the year is the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, California. The festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019.

The 2019 festival dates were recently announced—April 11-14, 2019. And now, TCM has revealed the first nine films of the lineup with this graphic they posted to the TCM Facebook page.

©️ TCM

As is typically the case, the lineup looks diverse and interesting, with different genres and time periods represented. I’m particularly excited about seeing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Sunrise on the big screen.

Festival passes go on sale 12:00 p.m. ET on November 15, 2018 on the TCM Classic Film Festival website at tcm.com/festival

Citi, a sponsor of the festival, is doing a pre-sale for festival passes, allowing Citi cardmembers to buy tickets with their Citi credit card starting at 10:00 a.m ET on November 13, 2018. The link for the Citi presale is citiprivatepass.com.

We can’t wait! Make sure to follow TCM on Facebook and Twitter for the latest TCM Classic Film Festival updates. And hope to see you in Hollywood next April!

All images ©️ TCM

“The Old Dark House” and the Simple Pleasures of a Classic Scary Movie

When a buddy asked if I wanted to see the classic, pre-code, James Whale directed haunted house pic The Old Dark House (Universal, 1932) on the big screen, I jumped at the chance. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen any of the classic Universal horror films from the 1930s on the big screen, so this was a rare opportunity to see a James Whale pic the way it was intended to be seen.

The film stars Melvyn Douglas, Gloria Stuart, and Charles Laughton among others as hapless voyagers who take shelter in a large and scary looking house for the night after a relentless rain storm washes out the nearby roads. Boris Karloff (in some seriously creepy makeup) terrifyingly answers the door which sets off a 24-hour period of one bizarre event after the other (memo to me–never go up the staircase in one of these haunted houses…better yet, don’t go into the house at all).

The film was released the year after the wildly successful screen retelling of Frankenstein (1931), also directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff, and was initially a disappointment at the box office. According to an informative article on TCM.com, “After its mediocre theatrical run, The Old Dark House was put on the shelf at Universal and, until 1968 – unavailable for bookings. That year, Whale’s protégé, director Curtis Harrington, helped find the negative and convinced Kodak to return a print to its original brilliance. When the film was once again viewed in its original form, critics hailed it as a lost masterpiece. That might be overstating the case a little, but it still bears the mark of one of the studio era’s more insistently unique directors.”

One other interesting bit of trivia from the TCM.com article–“When director James Cameron watched a laserdisc release of The Old Dark House, he was so taken with Gloria Stuart’s amusing audio commentary, he wound up casting her in a little film he was planning called Titanic (1997).”

Mostly what was fun for me was seeing an incredibly cheesy yet creepy film in glorious black and white on the big screen. I typically stay away from most modern horror pics, but seeing this film provided an insight at the simple, basic pleasures of watching a scary movie in a theater—the collective jumps, screams, and dread; the wincing when bad things happen or are about to happen; and the cheers and relief when the evil threat has been defeated (or when you think it has been…). James Whale definitely knew how to direct a good horror pic, Boris Karloff definitely knew how to act in one, and The Old Dark House made for some simple, scary Halloween season fun at the movies.

(And I’m still holding out for a big screen double feature of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein…someday.)

A big thanks and shoutout to the Cohen Media Group for the beautiful 4K restoration of the film and to the Salt Lake Film Society for their cool “Tower of Terror” Halloween programming at the Tower Theatre again this year.

And check out this cool poster art (I believe this is the U.S. theatrical release one-sheet, but I’m not 100% certain).

All images ©️ Universal Pictures/Cohen Media Group

Review: “First Man”

La La Land director Damien Chazelle and actor Ryan Gosling have teamed up again for a completely different type of film–this time, it’s the very personal journey of astronaut Neil Armstrong and the U.S.A.’s first manned mission to the moon.

First Man (Universal Pictures, 2018) focuses on the decade leading up to the historic NASA Apollo 11 flight in 1969 where Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) became the first man to walk on the moon. Told primarily through Armstrong’s point of view (the film is based on the authorized biography First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen), the story shows first-hand the sacrifices, the dangers, the successes, and the extreme personal costs of being a part of  the “space race” in the 1960s.

I’ve heard comments about how slow the film is, and it’s true. If you’re expecting an epic, fast paced, feel good film, this isn’t it. Instead, Damien Chazelle and team give us a methodical and cerebral experience in an attempt to personalize what it must have been like to live through this. Armstrong and his wife Janet (expertly played by Claire Foy) both sacrifice a lot as Neil and the NASA team pursue this incredibly lofty and challenging goal, and the film made me, well, feel it.

The film also makes you feel the physical turbulence of traveling through the earth’s atmosphere into outer space, so much so that it’s made some movie goers feel ill. So, be aware of that if you’ve got a tendency towards motion sickness. Personally, I only felt awe and exhilaration in experiencing what it might have been like being on one of the NASA Apollo spaceships. 

Probably what I liked most about First Man is just that–it made me feel something. As a movie goer, I felt the high stakes of the mission, the physical challenges, the emotional battles, and, ultimately, an interpretation of what it feels like to truly walk on the moon.

First Man is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language.”

My score: 5 out of 5 stars

As an added bonus, here’s an official trailer for the film.

All images ©️ Universal Pictures

Review: “A Star Is Born” (2018)

The latest version of the romantic tragedy A Star Is Born (Warner Bros., 2018) opened in U.S. theaters a couple of weeks ago and I finally got a chance to see it.

Starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, this is the fourth Hollywood retelling of this classic story of love, sacrifice, and loss. Like the most recent version (the 1976 remake with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson), this 2018 version is set in the rock/pop music world. (Both the 1937 original and 1954 remake were set in the Hollywood film business.)

Here’s the official plot summary from Warner Bros. (just in case you’re not familiar with the story): “In this new take on the tragic love story, [Bradley Cooper] plays seasoned musician Jackson Maine, who discovers—and falls in love with—struggling artist Ally [Lady Gaga]. She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer…until Jack coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally’s career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jack fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.”

The MVP award goes to Bradley Cooper, who not only starred in the film, but directed it (it’s his first feature film) and co-wrote the screenplay. The film also marks the first starring role in a major motion picture for Lady Gaga. Both are very credible in their respective roles as lovers and musicians with opposite trajectories. The film also has a stellar supporting cast with Sam Elliott, who plays the older brother and manager of Bradley Cooper’s character, Andrew Dice Clay, who plays Lady Gaga’s father, and Dave Chapelle, who plays Cooper’s friend and former bandmate.

It’s a well-made, high quality film that people are loving and I’m good with that. I really have only two beefs with it. I’m just not a big Lady Gaga fan and the up-close and personal time with her on the big screen did little to change that. And, I don’t see why this story needed yet another retelling. Sure, the music is good and Bradley Cooper and team did a nice job in their adaptation and “modernization,” if you will, of the storyline. Still, the film ends the same way as the other ones did and we’re left with the same sad results.

A Star Is Born is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse.”

My score: 4 out of 5 stars

As an added bonus, here’s a clip and montage from the film, courtesy of the Warner Bros. Pictures YouTube channel.

All images ©️ Warner Bros.

“Bullitt” Turns 50

It was a serious thrill to see Warner Bros.’ Bullitt (1968) on the big screen again this past week. The film is celebrating its 50th anniversary. 

While it’s not necessarily my favorite storyline, it’s all about the 15-minute car chase in the middle of the picture. Steve McQueen (along with some fantastic stunt drivers) in the iconic Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT fastback and the ominous black Dodge Charger (being driven by the great stunt driver Bill Hickman) chasing each other through the streets of San Francisco still holds up as one of the best, if not the best, car chase scene ever put on film.

Recently, one of the 1968 Mustangs driven in the film resurfaced after having been missing for many years (the blonde woman is Molly McQueen, Steve McQueen’s granddaughter).

With the movie turning 50, the Ford Motor Company also has made available a cool “Bullitt” equipment package on their their latest Mustang GT. Check out this video with Jay Leno as he gets to see both the old and new “Bullitt” Mustangs.

Here’s a fun Bullitt homage put together by Ford to celebrate the new Mustang Bullitt (and making another appearance is Molly McQueen as the driver of the Mustang).

UPDATE 10/17/2018: The official Warner Bros. Studios blog has posted a cool article commemorating the 50th anniversary of Bullitt with some great behind the scenes photos and facts from the film’s production. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a Bullitt fan.

And here’s a cool photo from the Ford Performance Instagram feed with the past and present versions of the Bullitt Mustang:

Image ©️ Warner Bros.

Revisiting “An American in Paris”

As the great Cole Porter song goes, “I love Paris in the springtime…” It’s true — Paris, France is one of my favorite cities in the world. So, you’d think that I’d enjoy the classic film An American in Paris (1951) more. In the past, it’s been a film that I’ve more respected than enjoyed. But that all changed this week when I had the chance to see the film on the big screen for the first time as part of Megaplex Theatres’ wonderful Silver Screen Classics Series.

Watching An American in Paris on the big screen was a revelation, to say the least.  The clear and bright projection of the digital print magnified the film’s incredible production design in ways that I could never distinguish, yet alone appreciate (the film was primarily made in soundstages on the MGM studio lot in Hollywood, which almost makes it even more impressive). Gene Kelly’s phenomenal choreography and dancing were perfectly framed and filmed by director Vincente Minnelli. In fact, the dancing came to life more vividly than I ever remember on TV. And hearing the sublime music by George and Ira Gershwin on the marvelous theater sound system was just icing on the cake.

(L-R) Georges Guetary, Oscar Levant, and Gene Kelly sing about love in their Parisian hang out in An American in Paris (1951)

The 17-minute ballet at the end of the film is something that I even liked on the small screen, and my appreciation for it grew tenfold. Seeing Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron dance through living representations of the works of famous French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters, including Raoul Dufy, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, was truly breathtaking. 

Probably my main criticism that still remains is the film’s central love story. I’ve just never been convinced about the depth and sincerity of the love between Jerry (Gene Kelly) and Lise (Leslie Caron), not to mention the unkindness that Jerry shows to his temporary benefactress Milo (Nina Foch). However, I was so overtaken by the beauty of the production design, music, and dancing, that it was something that I decided to let evaporate away along with all of my other criticisms, for better or for worse.

While Singin’ in the Rain (1952) still remains my favorite Gene Kelly film, primarily for its great setting, cast, story, and comedy, An American in Paris has become a new and respected favorite in my Hollywood musical catalog. If you get an offer to see An American in Paris on the big screen, the answer is oui

All Images ©️ MGM/Warner Bros.

“Rebel Without a Cause”

It’s been a couple of weeks, but I’m still thinking about my maiden voyage watching Rebel Without a Cause (1955) in its entirety. 

I think I started watching it a couple of times when the film played on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), but I just don’t ever remember finishing it. Well, that was a mistake which I’ll never do again now that I’ve seen the film on the big screen courtesy of this year’s TCM Big Screen Classics series (the film screened on September 23 and 26).

I found the film to be a riveting, compelling drama that’s worthy of its reputation. James Dean puts in a stellar, legendary performance as Jim Stark, a high schooler with affluent but out-of-touch parents (pictured above; all images ©️ Warner Bros.). He becomes friends with his neighbor and classmate Judy (played excellently by Natalie Wood) and John “Plato” Crawford (also excellently played by Sal Mineo), who also have serious issues happening at home. And, in a departure from most every film ever, while all of the adults seem dysfunctional, the one steady adult in the film is the neighborhood detective, played perfectly by Edward Platt. 

The tragedy that unfolds is, sadly, inevitable, but still heart-wrenching nonetheless. Director Nicholas Ray does such an excellent job with his storytelling. The visual cues of the families’ dysfunction is obvious, yet artfully brought in as part of the unfolding of the plot. The performances are stellar, as are the Los Angeles locations, particularly the beloved Griffith Observatory which is used so perfectly in the film.

I now get it why people were so crazy about James Dean’s performance and why it remains such a classic today. Sorry to be slow to the party, but I’m grateful that I at least arrived. Thanks again to TCM and their outstanding Big Screen Classics series!

Image ©️ Warner Bros. and TCM


Widescreen Thoughts on “The Sound of Music”

As part of 2018’s Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Big Screen Classics series, TCM and 20th Century Fox presented their classic film The Sound of Music (1965) on the big screen in September. And, let me tell you, seeing this film in all of its big screen glory was music to both my ears and eyes.

Seriously, I’ve seen this film on a TV screen so many times, both in old school (and frustrating) pan-and-scan as well as in widescreen formats. However, seeing the film in widescreen and with its beautiful digital restoration was almost like seeing the film for the first time (I’m sure that this will be an oft-used statement on this blog–I really prefer watching any film on the big screen, particularly classic ones).

Familiar scenes seemed new again. And the romance between Maria (Julie Andrews) and Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) seemed all the more real and believable by being able to watch their stellar performances in a magnified way.

All images ©️ 20th Century Fox

While I adored hearing all of the Rodgers and Hammerstein songs again in on the theater’s speakers, I mostly just came away so impressed with the craftsmanship that director Robert Wise and his team put into the film. One of my friends commented after the screening that “there’s not a bad shot in it.” And I would concur. Every shot is artful, beautiful, and meaningful. (And I want to know how in the world the team lit the famous “Something Good” gazebo scene. It’s just so good.)

I loved seeing this film again on the big screen and wish you all could have been there, too.

Image ©️ 20th Century Fox and TCM

“Jurassic Park” Turns 25

Can you even believe it’s been 25 years since the original Jurassic Park (Universal, 1993) hit the big screen for the first time?

The Steven Spielberg-directed film, based on the 1990 novel by Michael Crichton (Crichton also co-wrote the screenplay with David Koepp), was a huge hit in 1993 and for good reason. With a compelling story, its marvelous use of both practical and digital special effects, a great cast, a brilliant soundtrack by John Williams, and an amazing crew, Jurassic Park was a movie thrill ride of the first order. 

The film has spurred multiple sequels, but none of them can match the creativity, craftsmanship, terror, and excitement of this first outing. 

Universal Pictures recently screened Jurassic Park again in theaters across the U.S.A. to celebrate its 25th anniversary. It was such a blast to revisit this film on the big screen. I enjoyed it just as much as I did back in the day. Wish you all were there, too.

The studio also held a contest for fans to send recreations of the film. Here’s a compilation of the best fan films, courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Do yourself a favor and skip the lousy sequels and watch the original and still best–1993’s Jurassic Park.

All images ©️ Universal Pictures

Marvel Studios 10th Anniversary Film Festival

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Marvel Studios is showing all 20 of its films in select IMAX theaters from August 30 to September 6, 2018.

Megaplex Theatres in Utah (where I live) offered a pass for all 20 movies for $75 + tax which provides a reserved seat in the IMAX theater for each of the films. They are also offering single tickets for each screening (which I wished I would have done since my schedule hasn’t permitted me to see as many films as I would have liked; more on that below).

Here’s the schedule of films that are being shown in the IMAX theater at my local Megaplex Theatres location, the Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons. 

THURSDAY, AUGUST 30
Iron Man – 2:15 p.m.
The Incredible Hulk – 4:45 p.m.
Iron Man 2 – 7:00 p.m
Thor – 9:25 p.m.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 31
Captain America: The First Avenger – 2:15 p.m.
Avengers – 4:40 p.m.
Iron Man 3 – 7:25 p.m.
Thor: The Dark World – 9:55 p.m.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – 2:15 pm.
Guardians of the Galaxy – 4:55 p.m.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – 7:20 p.m.
Ant-Man – 10:05 p.m.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2
Captain America: Civil War – 2:15 p.m.
Doctor Strange – 5:05 p.m.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 7:20 p.m.
Spider-Man: Homecoming – 10:00 p.m.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3
Thor: Ragnarok – 2:15 p.m.
Black Panther – 4:55 p.m.
Avengers: Infinity War – 7:30 p.m.
Ant-Man and the Wasp – 10:20 p.m.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4
Iron Man – 2:15 p.m.
Spider-Man: Homecoming – 4:45 p.m.
Black Panther – 7:20 p.m.
Doctor Strange – 9:55 p.m.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 – 2:15 p.m.
Captain America: Civil War – 4:45 p.m.
Avengers – 7:45 p.m.
Avengers: Infinity War – 10:30 p.m.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6
Iron Man – 2:15 p.m.
Avengers – 4:45 p.m.

We’re at the midway point in the festival and while it’s been fun, the schedule has been a bit of a challenge for me, particularly since I have a day job along with a lot of extra commitments over the next few days (which isn’t Marvel’s fault). Probably my only complaint is that the screening schedule is a bit too condensed and it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to see all of the films. Even though they are showing some of the titles twice or more, I wish they could have spread it out over a couple of weeks to make it possible for us working folks to see more of these movies that we love. (At least they included Labor Day in the mix, so that helps.)

Still, the Marvel Studios 10th Anniversary Film Festival is a really fun idea and I will enjoy what I can. Check out this video about it from the IMAX YouTube channel.