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Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: It's All Black And White

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, April 30, 2019 06:24pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

Recently we've been treated to an avalanche of new Blu-ray releases of classic fifties black and white movies. In this article, I'm going to focus on a couple of recent sci-fi and horror classics. In the 1950s, Hollywood turned America’s fear of atomic bombs and their fallout into drive-in movie gold. An endless stream of radioactive monsters invaded movie screens and the public ate them up with a seemingly insatiable appetite. Now, decades later, many of these drive-in classics are being remastered and released on Blu-ray. There are too many to review in one month so I’ll just focus on a couple of the best of them:

The Creature From The Black Lagoon Legacy Collection, Universal:
It looks like The Creature From The Black Lagoon has finally been fixed. This Legacy Collection actually Creature From The Black Lagooncame out in the fall of 2018, but it was one of the most screwed up Blu-ray releases in recent history. The first Creature film has been out on Blu-ray for years but everyone has anxiously been awaiting the remastered sequels. Everything else in the Legacy series had been released on Blu-ray and the Creature set was one of the last two to be put out. The first Creature film looked just fine, but the sequels were a disaster. Universal had completely screwed up the mastering on the disc to the point where the entire run eventually had to be recalled. Here at the store we've had this Legacy set on backorder for months, but we just started getting new copies in the past three weeks. These are finally the corrected discs. There's still some griping online about the quality of the sequels though. I can understand the complaints, some of the scenes still look a little soft, but I'm pretty sure the blurriness one sees here and there was in the original film elements. The majority of the scenes are crystal clear and finally in hi-def. The underwater scenes look especially immaculate and you can see details of the creature costume that were never discernible before. The Creature From The Black Lagoon has always been my favorite Universal monster movie. It's just a perfect little story that is well told. The sequels are pretty great as well even though they kind of retread the original. The gill man has one of the best designs in monster history, he's fearsome yet still slightly human. The story is a simple straight to the point narrative: a team of scientists travel to the depths of the Amazon in search of a fossilized missing link between humans and sea creatures. Instead, they find the still-living real McCoy and all hell breaks loose as they fight for their lives. The film is kind of like the ultimate distillation of man verses nature.

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San Francisco Silent Film Festival, May 1 – May 5

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, April 22, 2019 02:50pm | Post a Comment

The 24th San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) runs May 1st – May 5th at the historic Castro Theatre! This year's festival features 25 programs (including an illustrated lecture presentation at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley), all with live musical accompaniment! There are films from ten different countries — Bali (Goona Goona), Czechoslovakia (Tonka of the Gallows), France (L’Homme Du Large), Germany (The Oyster Princess, Opium, The Love of Jeanne Ney), India (Shiraz: A Romance of India), Italy (Rapsodia Satanica, L'Inferno), Japan (Japanese Girls at the Harbor), Sweden (Sir Arne's Treasure), U.S. (Wolf Song, Husbands and Lovers, Lights of Old Broadway, Hell Bent, The Wedding March, and more), and the USSR (Earth) — and more than 40 brilliant musicians from around the world to accompany the films. Bookended by Buster Keaton classics The Cameraman (1928) and Our Hospitality (1923), the film selection has something for everyone, including melodrama, horror, adventure, westerns, and even Nordic noir.

All films at SFSFF are accompanied with live music by extraordinary musicians including Club Foot Gamelan, Frank Bockius, Guenter Buchwald, Stephen Horne, Sascha Jacobsen, Matti Bye Ensemble, Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Philip Carli, Wayne Barker, Utsav Lal, and Donald Sosin.

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Mdou Moctar: Desert Blues in Oakland, April 18

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, March 17, 2019 06:38pm | Post a Comment

Akounak: Purple Rain, Mdou Moctar

MATATU's Nomadic Cinema series continues with Mdou Moctar: Purple Rain on Thursday, April 18th at 7pmAkounak: Purple Rain, Mdou Moctar at Oakland's Red Bay Coffee, the largest Black specialty coffee roaster in the nation. Nigerien musician Mdou Moctar and his band perform following a screening of his film Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai, also known as the Tuareg Purple Rain! This is his third appearance with MATATU, after two consecutive sold-out years. Get your tickets now!

The robust rock tradition among the Tuareg people — a Berber group with origins around the southern Sahara — has long been represented internationally by artists like Bombino and Tinariwen. Moctar, a singer-songwriter, offers a subtler, more intimate variation on their desert blues with his most recent albums Sousoume Tamachek and Blue Stage Sessions.

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Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: Art & Zombies

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, March 5, 2019 07:30pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

Welcome to this month’s Having A Movie Moment With Jon Longhi, where I review recent Blu-ray releases. I figured I’d make things a little more highbrow this month, so I’m starting off with a recent Criterion Collection edition of a classic Orson Wells film:

The Magnificent Ambersons, Criterion Collection:
The Magnificent Ambersons is not a magnificent movie; it's a mediocre movie magnificently made. Orson Magnificent AmbersonsWells was such a genius that he could polish a turd even as weak as this script. As a result, we are just carried along from the beginning of the movie by one beautifully filmed and staged deep focus set piece after another. The cinematography is breathtaking and inventive and flawlessly sharp in this new Criterion Collection remaster. The only problem is that if you stop and think about the movie there isn't much "there" there. The whole thing comes off as the best filmed episode of Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous. Wells was trying to create another definitive American myth of wealth and power but unlike his masterpiece Citizen Kane, the central characters of this film are just not that interesting or likable. The main protagonist George Amberson is especially unlikeable -he's really just a spoiled brat and a jerk. Kane at least had obsessions and demons that drove him to memorable scenes of pathos and drama, George Amberson on the other hand is just kind of a dick. The film follows the ups and downs of the Amberson clan, who were the richest family in Indianapolis, Indiana at the turn of the last century. Some of the most engaging scenes are where Wells examines the changing fashions and technology of those long gone times. After describing the city, the era, and the other family members, Wells focuses his attention on spoiled brat and only child George. Unlike the people around him, George is a hedonist with no goals in life. The only career he aspires to is "yachtsman." George treats everyone around him like shit and views money as an endless resource, but times change and fortunes fall. When things start to go bad, this clan of aristocrats are particularly unprepared for it.

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Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: Two British Classics

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, February 19, 2019 07:35pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

Welcome to this month’s Having A Movie Moment With Jon Longhi, where I review recent Blu-ray releases. This month I look at two fantastic British films.

The Horror Of Dracula, Warner Archive:
There have been some nice recent releases of Hammer horror films and this is one of the best of them. The Horror of DraculaThis was the first of many vampire movies that Hammer produced and in many ways it is a template for the horror films that came after it. The Hammer dream crew worked on this: screenplay by Jimmy Sangster, produced by Anthony Hinds, and directed by Terence Fisher. These three men were behind the very best Hammer films. But it's the movie's two central stars, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, who really make this work. Their dynamic was at the core of Hammer's best films and anything that the two of them star in is worth watching.

When this was released in 1958, it was a huge commercial and critical success and, along with 1957's Curse Of Frankenstein, led to Hammer reinventing the classic Universal monsters in lurid modern technicolor. The plot of this sticks pretty close to Bram Stoker's original novel, but where it radically departs from the source material is in its tone. One of the most unsettling things about this movie is Terence Fisher's decision to portray vampirism as a sexualized form of addiction. The victims of Dracula are overcome with a lust where they can't wait for him to come each night and suck their blood, and the portrayals of this behavior are truly disturbing. Christopher Lee's acting is central to this vision; his Dracula can be handsome and charming or an unrelenting sexual predator whose frenzied hunger is almost animalistic. Other than possibly Bela Lugosi, I think that Christopher Lee is the best actor who has ever donned Dracula's cape. Peter Cushing is like the other half of the circle. His vulnerability and humanity are the perfect foil for Lee's undead villain. Watching the two of them playing off each other is pure pleasure. This film works on every level. Even the cinematography is marvelous with every scene soaked in rich gothic colors, which look fantastic in this hi-def remaster. If you have never watched a Hammer horror film, this is a perfect one to start with. It is one of the five best vampire movies ever made.

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