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Having a Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: Coronavirus Comfort Food

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, June 14, 2020 03:40pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi.

When you work at Amoeba, the world is your media oyster. A copy of pretty much any new DVD, Blu-ray, or CD shows up used within the first couple of weeks of its release. Employees are allowed to use Amoeba as kind of a library for used stuff. On an average week at work I watch anywhere from five to ten new release movies. Some are movies made that year, others reissues of films from decades past. It makes it really easy to write a new release column like this. Well, that spigot shut off three months ago along with the rest of human civilization. Sure, I’ve got a huge movie collection and have had no problems keeping myself entertained during the shutdown, but new releases? Well, I’ve bought one new Blu-ray since the shutdown. The supply lines are jacked. Titles have been delayed. The prices for them are expensive even on discounted sites like Amazon. I only have a couple of new releases left to review. So this column is less of an overview of things that came out this month and more a review of the last things I bought from Amoeba before the world collapsed. They were good movies for this time because all of them are FUN. They’re coronavirus comfort food and they helped get me through these dark times.

The Return of Ultraman, Mill Creek Entertainment:
I bought this the week before the shutdown. I wasn’t going to review this because I’ve already devoted a Return of Ultramanlot of ink to these Ultraman releases in previous columns but as I said earlier, the slush pile is pretty much gone these days. Mill Creek Entertainment’s official Blu-ray releases of Ultraman are some of my favorite releases of all time. I’ve bought this stuff on horrible overpriced bootlegs for decades and am overjoyed that I can throw all those old copies away. Some of those bootlegs didn’t even have subtitles but I watched them anyway. These Mill Creek Blu-rays are the official prints direct from the Toho and Tsuburaya vaults. They are gorgeous and the sound is great. I’ve watched these shows over and over and have been utterly entranced watching them because they are so sharp it is like watching each episode for the first time. Plus, since they are subtitled, I’m frequently actually understanding what is going on for the first time. Usually in the past when I reviewed a big TV box set like this, I had watched anywhere from six to eight hours of the set by the time I wrote the review. Well, I’ve actually watched all twenty-one and a half hours of this set as I’m writing this. It’s one of the things that’s been instrumental in helping me psychologically survive the past three months.

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Litquake Presents Chris Kattan & the Lady From the Black Lagoon

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, September 19, 2019 09:13pm | Post a Comment

Litquake, San Francisco's annual literary festival, returns October 10-19 in venues all over the city. Amoeba Music is thrilled to co-present these two exciting events happening at the Alamo Drafthouse:

Baby, Don't Hurt Me: An Evening with Chris Kattan
Saturday, October 12 • 7:30pm. Alamo Drafthouse New MissionChris Kattan
Chris Kattan has defied comparison, expectations, and sometimes gravity with his inimitable style of physical comedy. By creating some of the most memorable Saturday Night Live characters, as well as his many roles in film and television, Kattan has remained one of the world's most fearless and versatile comedians. His new memoir Baby, Don't Hurt Me offers an unprecedented look into Chris’s life, from working alongside Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, and Tina Fey, to more sobering moments such as breaking his neck at SNL, which sidetracked his career and nearly paralyzed him. Conversation with Isaac Fitzgerald, followed by book sales and signing. Tickets $30.

The Lady From the Black Lagoon
Wednesday, October 16 • 7:00pm. Alamo Drafthouse New MissionLady from the Black Lagoon
The horror film Creature from the Black Lagoon released to theaters in 1954, and quickly became iconic. But thanks to a jealous male colleague, the monster’s designer Milicent Patrick received zero credit for her contribution. Her career ended soon thereafter, and she disappeared. Screenwriter and film producer Mallory O’Meara uncovers a fascinating story of the woman who created one of Hollywood’s classic movie monsters. The Lady from the Black Lagoon establishes Milicent Patrick in her rightful place in film history, while calling out a Hollywood culture where little has changed since. Book signing at 6pm, followed by 7pm onstage conversation and screening of the film (in 3-D). Tickets $25.

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Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: Melies, Moles & Mantises

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, May 22, 2019 07:58pm | 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.

Melies Fairy Tales In Color, Blackhawk Films/Flicker Alley:
I was less than halfway through my first viewing of this when I realized it was one of my favorite things I own. Many of these films have been released many times before. I already own a couple of restored Georges Melies collections and they look good, but they don't look anything like this. To begin with, my old collections are in black & white, but this new set is in COLOR! These weren't colorized by Ted Turner, no, each and every frame of these films was hand painted. Melies was a genius who just couldn't accept the shortcomings of technology. Sure, film had just been invented and was only silent and black & white, but Melies wasn't about to let those basic facts hold him back. So he had every frame of his movies painted with gorgeous color that reminds one of the French postcards that were contemporaneous to Melies' films. The director had fantastic images he wanted to show so he developed a variety of special effects to show them. Double exposures, substitution splices, time-lapse photography... Melies developed and did whatever it took to make his visions real and the results are just as jaw dropping now as they were a hundred and twenty years ago.

The films are surreal, complex, and fantastic, they create a unique world of magic and wonder. This set is worth it just for the restored version of A Trip To The Moon alone. Melies' loose and fanciful adaptation of Jules Verne's classic novel has long been considered one of the cornerstones of cinema. I've seen the film many times before but this new color version is like seeing it for the first time. The hand-painted frames make the fantastic lunar world even more stunning and psychedelic. But A Trip To The Moon is just one of thirteen films on this set, and others like The Kingdom Of The Fairies and The Impossible Voyage are equally surreal and amazing. There are scenes on this disc that you will find yourself watching over and over because the images are just so timeless and cool. The person who painted Melies' sets is one of the best painters I've ever seen. I kept freeze-framing the films just to stop and soak up the amazing details of his painted backdrops. Labyrinthine cities, dense tangled forests, haunted medieval towns -- his details were just spectacular. The hand-painted colors add another whole dimension to the films. Often they are more than just coloring and actually react to the action occurring on screen. Melies had an influence on every artist who came after him. At times, artists like Salvador Dali, Walt Disney, and Terry Gilliam just seem to be copying him. His influence on the surrealists especially is incalculable, but elements of his work exist throughout pop culture. Some of the most timeless images in film history are in this set. It belongs in every person's collection.

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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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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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