Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bob Wilkins

For those of you who grew up in and around the Bay Area, Bob Wilkins will be a familiar name. Bob hosted our late night horror movies on Creature Features from 1971 to 1979.

It was on Bob's show that I originally saw Night of the Living Dead (and countless other monster movies) for the first time.

Peter and I ran a lengthy interview with Bob back in the early days of bare•bones, and I finally had the chance to meet the man a few years later at Wondercon. It was quite a thrill.

In recent years, Bob has been suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. His wife Sally has put out a call for donations to help with the expenses of his long term care. You can read her letter to Bob's fans here.

If you share fond memories of Bob and his show, I hope you'll consider donating. I'll offer you an even easier way that you can help. As someone who grew up with Bob, and without whom we might not be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Night of the Living Dead next month, I make the following pledge.

For each person who attends the entire All Day of the Dead marathon, I will donate $50 to the Bob Wilkins Alzheimer's Fund. In addition, for each person that doesn't attend the full day, but is present for the Night of the Living Dead (1968) screening, I will donate $10.

While that may not sound like much, it's a guaranteed minimum of $50 (as I'll watch the darn films by myself even if no one else shows up!), $600 if we're at capacity all day! I encourage you to talk to your friends who may know Bob, and get them to sponsor you. Tell them you'll sit through 12 hours of flesh eating ghouls on Bob's behalf, and all they have to offer is $1, or $5, or $10 a movie. Donations can be made directly through PayPal, so they don't even have to give you the money. And it's tax deductible.

It wasn't my intention for the All Day of the Dead party to become a fundraiser, and you're certainly under no obligation to do anything more than come by and enjoy the food and films. But somehow it seems appropriate. If you're unable to attend, but are interested in sponsoring me (or any of our guests) let me know.

Bob always said watching horror movies would keep America strong. Here's our chance to prove him right.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Celebrating 30 years of conspiracy and paranoia

One of the benefits of announcing a movie party early is that the theme has time to breathe. This Saturday's party will be all the better by my having time to figure out the right pairing.of films It took me no less than three secretly announced films on the calendar to find the perfect fit with Capricorn One.

For me, Capricorn One represents one of the first 'adult' films I saw in the theater. (For the time, I still consider King Kong and Star Wars as kids movies) Like so many important films, it was first experienced at Century 22 in 1978 (sometime around it's June 2nd premiere, I'm sure).

As I thought long and hard about a companion film for the party, my first instinct was to follow the space aspect, hence Journey to the Far Side of the Sun. But as you know, or will soon find out, it's not really about space.

So I started thinking about conspiracy. Hangar 18 was something I'd been interested in watching for some time. It featured Kolchak himself - Darren McGavin. Unfortunately, the only DVD available has a sub-par dubbed VHS caliber transfer.

Then it hit me. Conspiracy breeds paranoia. 1978 saw the release of another classic film with such a theme. Another 'adult' film I recall watching at Century 22, this one quite possibly the opening weekend (December 20th). Once that hit me, our slate was set.

So this Saturday, we hope you'll join us for the 30th anniversary one-two punch of Peter Hyams' Capricorn One, and Philip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

20 Years...

So last night we attended my 20-year high school reunion.

I was pleasantly surprised that most of the folks I was hoping to reconnect with were actually there. You might even meet some of them at upcoming MMPs. It was a fun, if surreal night. In preparation, I sat down and watched Grosse Point Blank Friday night.

That made it particularly bizarre when one of the first people I saw came up to me (who I could not remember by name or face) grew into the classic drunk character right out of the movie - they even looked similar. The only difference was that I didn't stick around long enough for the drunk to read me his poetry. If you haven't seen the movie, or don't recall it, I recommend a refresher. It still holds up well, with both John Cusack and Jeremy Piven are at the top of their form.

We're going to check out a family barbeque get together this afternoon - it will be interesting to see how folks hold up in the light of day...

Monday, August 11, 2008

I know it's The Clone Wars, but is it Star Wars?

Vonna and I caught a preview screening of The Clone Wars tonight. Before going in, I mentioned how weird it was to have a new Star Wars film opening in less than a week and to not be overcome with anticipation. I guess in part it's due to the fact that it's an animated feature, and that it's NOT really developing story elements that will prove to be critical in the history of the saga (as it merely fills in more tales of the Clone Wars that take place between Episodes II and III). That said, my expectations were appropriately set going in to enjoy it - unless it was truly awful.

So is it Star Wars? Well, it is and it isn't. The story, characters, and elements all make it Star Wars. What made it unlike Star Wars for me was the music. It sounds very much like a TV show score, and even when quoting the brilliant John Williams, it doesn't sound quite right. Kind of like when you buy a bargain CD and realize too late you didn't get the songs by the original artist, but by the New Main Street Singers. I'll give the composer credit for one sequence where he incorporates the most memorable Star Wars cue, it actually works. But that's one instance.

Surprisingly, I found myself liking Ahsoka, Anakin's Jedi Padawan. She's the centerpiece to the story, and most interesting in that we know she's not around (at least that we ever see) in Episode III. She's one of the few characters for whom we don't know what the future holds.

If you've seen the trailer, you know what our heroes mission is, and while some people groaned at that (and will likely groan when they see it in the finished film), I actually took to the little guy they set out to protect.

I can't say it measures up to the live action films, which wouldn't be a reasonable expectation. I did enjoy it more than the traditionally animated Clone Wars series that aired between the theatrical releases of Episodes II and III. I don't know that we'll rush out to see it again on the big screen (to be fair - Indiana Jones is the only flick we've seen more than once this summer), however I am more excited about the follow on animated series that will debut this fall.

The saga continues...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Return of the King!

I can't say it was the same as it had been for the last eight years, but I will say seeing Barry Bonds on the field at AT&T Park last night was the highlight of the 2008 season for me.

It still amazes me that the greatest player of all time is primed and ready to go, and there's not a single team working on signing him going into the stretch.

I equate it to the movie ratings system (HA! Take that all you that would ask what this has to do with the SLC). Entirely voluntary, however if you don't play ball, your ability to market your property is cut off at the knees. So no one, whether they want to or not, dares hire the superstar so as to avoid any negative press that might come with such a decision.

Something tells me that fan support, which would likely be vehement at first, would turn quickly if they suddenly found themselves with a potent weapon to lead them into the post season.

I'd welcome that just to see Bonds get the World Series ring he so deserved in 2002, before Dusty Baker flushed the Giants chances down the toilet by doing what he always did best, letting his worst pitchers play at the worst possible times. That's why all the players loved him, and why anyone who truly thought the 2002 Giants was a championship team despises him.

On the bright side, I now have a Bonds highlight recorded in HD that I can relive on the DVR at a moment's notice.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Lest we forget...

August 7, 2007, 8:51pm

August 8, 2007 (his NEXT at bat - and we were there)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Fall Line-up is here!

We've finalized dates, and the next several months of Mad Movie Party programming. As noted yesterday, our Wednesday screenings will continue with The Stand, then move to Spaced, followed by Sam Raimi and Shaun Cassidy's excellent American Gothic.

On Saturday, August 23, I'm pleased to announce we'll be screening the Blu-Ray import of one of my all-time favorites: Peter Hyams' Capricorn One. Up till now this title has only been available in a non-anamorphic transfer. Thanks to our friends in the UK, they not only had the good sense to get this title out in Hi-Def in time for the film's 30th anniversary, they were kind enough to do so as a region free disc. One of the many sad factors in HD-DVD losing the format war was that it was a region-free format, whereas Blu-Ray is not. Hence our not watching the UK-only Blu-Ray disc of Escape From New York this month. I'm tentatively planning to pair that with Gerry Anderson's recently released Journey to the Far Side of the Sun.

On Saturday, September 20, we've got a special party planned that Vonna will be producing. Our theme will be cooking in the movies, and you can bet that the food for this event will be extra special! We're planning to screen two films, one of which will be The Last Supper. As for the second feature, we're considering things like Big Night, Chocolat, and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.

As all of you should know, this year marks the 40th anniversary of George Romero's seminal classic, Night of the Living Dead. On Wednesday, October 1st, following our weekly showing of American Gothic, we will be screening the original Night of the Living Dead to celebrate the actual 40th anniversary of the October 1st premiere at the Fulton Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Not to worry - for those of you who won't be able to attend that screening, you'll want to mark your calendars for the following Saturday, October 4th, when we have a special event planned. Starting at 12 noon and going until 12 midnight, we'll be celebrating the anniversary with a marathon: ALL DAY OF THE DEAD.

Here's the schedule for ALL DAY OF THE DEAD:
12pm Tom Savini's remake of Night of the Living Dead (1990)
1:45pm Dawn of the Dead (1979) in HD
4:15pm Day of the Dead (1985) in HD
6:15pm Land of the Dead (2005) in HD
8:15pm Night of the Living Dead (1968)
10:15pm Diary of the Dead (2008)

We don't schedule a lot of marathons, because we recognize the effort those take to attend. That said, this anniversary was too near and dear to our heart to let it pass without doing something special. While you're in for a good time if you come for the whole day, I urge you to come out if only for one or two films. The current popularity of flesh eating zombies in fiction and film all stems back to this independent production from the fall of 1968, so what better time to revisit, or introduce yourself to, the most important American horror film of all time. So important, in fact, that event now has it's own blog.

Since our ALL DAY OF THE DEAD party is a special event, we still have something separate lined up for the month of October. In advance of the theatrical release of Quantum of Solace, on Saturday, October 25, we'll be screening Casino Royale alongside a few other TBD James Bond films. As that draws nearer, we'll have some polls as we did with Batman to determine what else we'll be watching.

We've set dates for November (the 29th) and December (the 27th) parties - both the Saturday after the holiday - although we haven't yet lined up the programming. There will be plenty of new and interesting films released in the next few months, so it shouldn't be too difficult to pick the next themes.

We look forward to seeing you all at our weekly, monthly, and occasional impromptu events throughout the remainder of 2008!

John & Vonna

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Times, they are a changing...

We started The Stand Wednesday. Our plan had been to follow that with American Gothic, and after considering a Spaced marathon for our August movie party, we agreed that would better fit as a Wednesday night show. So American Gothic got the bump (again), and Spaced is slotted for 4 weeks starting on the 27th.

If you're familiar with Spaced, I don't have to explain why we've selected it. If you haven't seen or heard of it - you're in for a treat. Spaced was a BBC show that was on for two 7 episode seasons, directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg.

The show clearly demonstrates the brilliance of the men who would go on to create Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It's full of pop-culture references and homages, and speaks to a generation like no show before it. You'll laugh, you'll cry, it will become a part of you.