Christmas movies come in many forms, from traditional ("A Christmas Carol") to satiric ("Scrooged"), from touchingly poignant ("It's a Wonderful Life") to touchingly comic ("A Christmas Story"). And then you have the farces.
"Elf," a 2003 comedy directed by Jon Favreau and starring Will Ferrell, belongs to the latter-most category. The plot involves one of Santa's helpers named Buddy who, for reasons that ultimately become clear, was raised at the North Pole. Learning that his real father (played by James Caan) doesn't know of his existence — and who, by the way, is on Santa's "naughty" list — Buddy decides to seek him out.
That thin plotline, then, gives Ferrell — the one-time "Saturday Night Live" cast member — an opportunity to pull off some of his more classic routines. Which is the whole point.
Starring the great Sidney Poitier and the dynamic duo of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, the film was one of the. first — if not the most publicized — looks at inter-racial marriage. And it came during an era when cities such as Los Angeles and Detroit were being torn by race riots.
Hepburn and Tracy plays an older couple who react with surprise, and some hesitation, when their daughter (Katharine Houghton) returns from vacation with news that she has fallen in love — with a black man (Poitier). Both he and his parents have been invited to dinner, and that's when the speechifying begins.
Let's just say that the character of Poitier's father (Roy E. Glenn Sr.) has his own doubts about the wisdom of the relationship, too.
In his original review of the film, the late Roger Ebert pointed to "serious faults" in Kramer's film. But he also described it as "a magnificent piece of entertainment" that "will make you laugh and may even make you cry." The film was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, and won two: Best Actress for Hepburn and Best Original Screenplay for William Rose.
IMDB describes the plot of "Howl's Moving Castle" this way: "When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking castle."
Tonight's screening is dubbed in English and features the voices of actors Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Josh Hutcherson and Jena Malone among others.
Miyazaki, who is 76, is one of the world's great animators. His films include "My Neighbor Totoro" (1988), "Princess Mononoke" (1997) and the Oscar-winning "Spirited Away" (2001). But his fans all have their favorites. In fact, one website had the temerity to "rank" Miyazaki's film, worst to best.
Some movies are perfect. Or at least they seem perfect. And no matter how many times you see them, they never get old.
"Casablanca" is one of those films. Released in 1942, directed by Michael Curtiz and adapted from a stage play, "Casablanca" ended up winning two Academy Awards. But that is hardly what makes the movie so memorable. Let me list just a few things that do:
Bogart and Bergman: Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman make one of the great romantic couples in all film.
Claude Rains: As Capt. Louis Renault, Rains is the main foil for Bogart's Rick Blaine and a man who knows how to survive.
Peter Lorre: Pop-eyed Ugarte is a weasel, maybe the polar opposite of Renault. But what a great weasel.
Dooley Wilson: "You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh. The fundamental things apply, as time goes by."
Which brings up … the quotes, such as: "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine."
Or: "Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Or: "Here's looking at you kid."
And this exchange:
Renault: "What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?"
Rick: "My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters."
Renault: "The waters? What waters? We're in the desert."
Rick: "I was misinformed."
Yet there is no one single thing that makes "Casablanca" special. It's the blend of all the above — and more — a blend that you'll be able to enjoy yet again on the big screen at 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 12 and 15 at Northtown Mall and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium cinemas.
The occasion? The movie's 75th anniversary.
Get your tickets now. You don't get to see perfect movies every day.
Halloween is best celebrated by walking the streets, rainy, cold or whatever, carrying big bags. Costumes are optional, but only for adults accompanying the children, who will stuff those bags full of the loot they beg from neighbors in that old tradition of trick or treating.
Side note: Once in the early '90s, while walking with my tween-age daughter and two of her pals, I dressed like Jason Voorhees, complete with hockey mask (but without the machete). I'd stand on the sidewalk, mute. More than one person, even adults, walked in the opposite direction when they saw me. It was glorious.
Anyway, other than on the night itself — Tuesday, Oct. 31 — what's the best way to celebrate Halloween? Going to see a movie, of course. And at 2 and 7 p.m., on both Oct. 29 and 31, Regal's Northtown Mall Cinemas will get into the act by screening a Fathom Events special Director's Cut version of the 1986 "Little Shop of Horrors."
This musical version of the film, which was based on the Broadway show, will feature the original ending, plus an "exclusive introduction" from director Frank Oz. Oz, of course, is both a filmmaker and the voice of the Muppet Miss Piggy.
Don't miss out. Come dressed as a carnivorous plant if you want. Or maybe even Jason Vorhees.
Based on the 1973 novel by William Goldman, who then adapted that book for the screenplay, the 1987 movie was directed by Rob Reiner. It was, in fact, Reiner's fourth feature film, following "This Is Spinal Tap," "The Sure Thing" and "Stand By Me" (not a bad trio of movies), and it provided conclusive evidence that Reiner was far more than just the "Meathead" he portrayed on the sitcom "All in the Family."
The casting helped. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright portray the young lovers, Wesley and Buttercup, while Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant the helpers of the Sicilian Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) who help foil the dastardly plans of Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) and his evil acolyte Count Rugen (Christopher Guest).
And a very young Fred Savage and Peter Falk provide the bookend story that sets everything in motion. If for no other reason, watching Savage's character grow interested in his grandfather's story is priceless.
But don't just listen to me talk about it. Fathom Events will celebrate the 30th anniversary of "The Princess Bride" with a pair of screenings at two Inland Northwest theaters, NorthTown Mall and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium cinemas. The screenings will be held at 2 and 7 p.m. on both Oct. 15 and 18.
"The Princess Bride" may not be the best children's movie ever made. But it comes pretty close.
Even though he's done his share of adult features, Steven Spielberg is still best known for his films that feature children. Think of Sheriff Brody's sons in "Jaws." Or the look of wonder on the boy who senses the aliens in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
One was the Washington Post's Gary Arnold: "Spielberg has always demonstrated extraordinary aptitude for filmmaking, but 'E.T.' is far and away his most satisfying work to date. He knows how to transform the raw material of his childhood into an appealing popular fable. There are sequences that touch you to the quick in mysteriously casual ways."
In their ongoing quest to bring people back to movie theaters, exhibitors are teaming with distributors to bring classic film (and other visual events) back for popular viewing. And among its many offerings, Fathom Events is thinking Spielberg.
Specifically, a revival of "E.T." The Extra-Terrestrial." Two Inland Northwest theaters, the Regal Cinemas' multiplex at Northtown Mall and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium, will screen a 35th-anniversary, remastered print of "E.T." at 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Wednesday.
Remember: "E.T." wanted to go home. Regal Cinemas wants you to go to the movies. Only you can make both happen.
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the world's great animators. His films, which he began making in the early 1970s for Japanese television, include such classic titles as "My Neighbor Totoro," "Princess Mononoke" and the Oscar-winning "Spirited Away."
Fathom Events is in the midst of a Miyazaki festival. And at 7 p.m. Thursday, Miyazaki's first feature film — 1979's "The Castle of Cagliostro" — will screen at both NorthTown and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium Cinemas.
The film, which also is known under the title "Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro," tells the tale of a thief who steals what turns out to be counterfeit money and then hunts down the source of the fake currency. In the process, he struggles to help out a beautiful young princess.
Following are some critical comments:
Janet Maslin, New York Times: " 'The Castle of Cagliostro' … is an interestingly wild hybrid of visual styles and cultural references."
Tasha Robinson, The A.V. Club: "This caper film possesses Miyazaki's usual good-hearted charm, but he injects a manically energetic humor that his more sedate children's films never quite achieve."
Kenneth Brown, Blu-ray.com: " 'The Castle of Cagliostro' is a blast of a crime caper, but it also provides a fascinating glimpse into the earliest feature film work of a true master."
Miyazaki is 76 now and is more (or less) retired. But his legacy endures.
Of course, if I jump on Netflix, I can see all of the above and in the order of release (not to mention all of the movies). But there's something about the randomness of the regular cable TV showings that I enjoy.
So, by now it's pretty obvious that I love to watch the shows that Gene Roddenberry created (or, in some cases at least, inspired). So I'm fairly excited about the prospect of the movie event that will be coming Sept. 10 and 13 to both the Regal Cinemas' theaters at Northtown Mall and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium.
That movie is none other than 1982's "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." It's the 35th anniversary of the film, which stars all the principals of the original series, including Willian Shatner as Capt. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, DeForest Kelly as Bones and Nichelle Nichols as Uhura. The chief villain is played by the great Ricardo Montalban (pictured above).
And it's the Director's Cut, Nicholas Meyer being the filmmaker, and it includes an interview with Shatner.
There will be two screenings each day, at 2 and at 7 p.m. I'd go into the plot and stuff, but you can find all you need to know by clicking here.
Excuse me now. I have to go. I think another episode of "Voyager" is on.
In 1997, the Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven adapted Robert Heinlein's novel about elite Earth soldiers waging a war against an insect race, which the Earthers refer to simply as "bugs." Both the book and the movie were called "Starship Troopers."
Verhoeven was, in many respects, a master filmmaker. After his career in The Netherlands, in which he made such riveting studies as "Soldier of Orange," which starred future Hollywood actors Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbé, he moved to Hollywood. And he was a hit.
Among Verhoeven's Hollywood films were the original "RoboCop" and "Total Recall," films that blended impressive — for the time — special effects with a rousing sense of sci-fi action. He made one of the biggest losers of all time with 1995's "Showgirls," but he rebounded two years later with the Heinlein adaptation.
His "Starship Troopers" was an overblown, effects-heavy satire on Heinlein's militaristic novel. But it had its appeal, as Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan explained: "A jaw-dropping experience, so rigorously one-dimensional and free from even the pretense of intelligence it's hard not to be astonished and even mesmerized by what is on the screen."
Stories about the classic BBC show "Doctor Who" typically get around the asking fans who their favorite Doctor was. And the answer usually comes down to this simple formula: The Doctor you grew up with is your favorite.
I'll be curious to see how Whittaker manages to fit into what, until now, has been an exclusively male enclave. I've enjoyed seeing her on the three seasons of the BBC show "Broadchurch."
And I'll share this bit of "Doctor Who" fan info: Tom Baker was my first Doctor. I watched him on Public Television when I first discovered the show during the 1980s. But if I had to choose, it would end up in a tie: Tennant and Smith.
While researching for a "Movies 101" show that I recorded with Nathan Weinbender and Mary Pat Treuthart, I stumbled upon a quote from the late film critic Roger Ebert. “Blockbusters," Ebert wrote, "run the mainstream (film) industry. We may never again have a decade like the 1970s, when directors were able to find such freedom.”
By "the 1970s," Ebert was actually talking about a period that included the late '60s. It was during that decade that filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick, Mike Nichols, Sam Peckinpah and Arthur Penn created some stunning cinema with films such as "2001: A Space Odyssey," "The Graduate," "The Wild Bunch" and "Bonnie and Clyde."
In many ways, that last film was a prime example of the era. Starring Warren Beatty and Fate Dunaway as the 1930s-era bank robbers Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, it ushered in an era of new filmmaking norms. As was written in a 1967 Time magazine cover story, "(W)hat matters most about Bonnie and Clyde is the new freedom of its style, expressed not so much by camera trickery as by its yoking of disparate elements into a coherent artistic whole — the creation of unity from incongruity."
That "unity," so to speak, derived from Penn's style of "blending humor and horror." The "incongruity" came from how his film "draws the audience in sympathy toward its antiheroes. It is, at the same time, a commentary on the mindless daily violence of the American '60s and an esthetic evocation of the past."
And then there was the ultra-violence, which is a term freely used in another film from the 1970s, Kubrick's 1971 offering "A Clockwork Orange." Like Peckinpah, Penn splashed fake blood across the screen — in full technicolor — in a way that surprised, and shocked, audiences. And more than a few critics.
As New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote, "It is a cheap piece of bald-faced comedy."
Time, of course, has proven Crowther wrong (and not just about "Bonnie and Clyde"). As Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, " 'Bonnie and Clyde' is a milestone in the history of American movies, a work of truth and brilliance. It is also pitilessly cruel, filled with sympathy, nauseating, funny, heartbreaking, and astonishingly beautiful."
As always, though, those in the audience are free to form their own opinions. And those who haven't yet seen the film will have a chance by watching "Bonnie and Clyde," on the big screen, on Aug. 13 and 16. The screenings are part of a Fathom Events special 50th-anniversary event at select theaters.
It isn't always possible for opera fans to attend performances at New York's Metropolitan Opera. The airline tickets alone would cost a fortune, never mind scoring tickets.
Here's the good news: You can see select Met Opera performances on a local movie screen. A perfect example: "Nabucco," an opera by the Italian master Giuseppe Verdi, will screen at 7 tonight at Regal Cinemas' Northtown Mall.
James Levine conducts The Met's orchestra, while Placido Domingo fills the role of the title character and soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska plays his willful daughter. The opera, Verdi's first unqualified success, was held its premiere in Milan, Italy, at La Scala in 1842.
Writing in the New York Times about the live performance, critic Zachary Woolfe said of the 76-year-old Spanish baritone Domingo: "His voice still has extraordinary volume and a warm, penetrating presence." As for Monastyrska, Woolfe wrote, "The smoldering, deliciously wild-toned soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska attacks the ferocious music for Abigaille, the Babylonian slave turned queen, as if she’s scaling a rock face with an ice ax."
The opera has a two hour, 35-minute running time, tickets are just $13.13 — and you don't have to drive to the airport.
It's been nearly 230 years to the day that Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni" premiered in Prague. The opera historians out there may be thinking of that anniversary when they step into either the Regal Cinemas movie houses at NorthTown Mall or Coeur d'Alene Riverstone Stadium to see a special live broadcast of The Met's version of Mozart's classic work.
"Don Giovanni" opened on Oct. 29, 1787, in Prague under its full original title "Il Dissoluto Punito ossia il Don Giovanni" and was, according to Wikipedia, "rapturously received." Mozart reworked the opera before it played in Vienna and elsewhere. It remains one of the most-produced operas in history.
Tickets to the special live broadcast cost $25 and change for adults. For ordering information, go here. Or here.
And if you go, make sure not to leave before the fat lady sings. What? You say that's some other opera? Well, then, never mind.