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  • Cocoon / Lifeforce

    Turner Classic Movies will show Cocoon, one of Ron Howard's pretty-good movies, this coming Sunday, Feb. 10, at 2:45 p.m. Pacific Time. The following review appeared in The Weekly during the film's 1985 first run. Also on screens then was another sci-fi film in a very different key, Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce. That won't be on TCM (which is showing Cocoon because of the Oscar it won for Don Ameche), but Lifeforce is available on DVD. However, you really should wait for the Shout! Factory upgrade of it, coming out on Blu-ray and DVD in April. The vampire eyes at left belong to Lifeforce's Mathilda May.
  • The Stranger

    As a freestanding essay, the following is pretty half-assed. It was written as one among a series of program notes for a quarter's worth of Orson Welles movies at the University of Washington in Autumn 1971. To make matters worse, the print initially supplied for the third week of the series proved to be defective, and a replacement could be had only several weeks later, when The Stranger was finally shown as an unintended second feature (to Othello). I wish I'd got round to a proper rewrite, less hasty and not couched in such a way that only someone who'd been watching along week by week could fully follow it. Still, the film remains a fond memory of the first days—that is, nights—when I embarked on a cinematic education via the late show. And it's on TCM at 6:45 p.m. PT tonight!

  • 3 Godfathers

    Christmastime always brings certain movies back to the home screen, and John Ford's first Technicolor Western is one of them. (Of course, Ford's first Technicolor movie, Drums along the Mohawk, is a Western in spirit, shot in Utah—but the setting is upstate New York in Revolutionary days.) Turner Classic Movies will show 3 Godfathers a few hours from now (1 p.m. PT). Not by coincidence, an earlier version of the same story will be on TCM twelve hours later (1 a.m. Monday, Dec. 24)—William Wyler's early-talkie Hell's Heroes. Both are recommended. Further words on the Ford, originally written for Amazon, follow.

  • Wise Blood

    John Huston's 1979 film of Flannery O'Connor's novel Wise Blood is about to be shown as part of a Turner Classic Movies marathon of literary adaptations (11:15 p.m. tonight, Nov. 21). Here's my Weekly review from when the movie reached Seattle in spring 1980.
  • Twilight's Last Gleaming

    There was a period in the late Seventies when the peculiarities of tax law and international financing led some American filmmakers, including a number of interesting mavericks, to make movies in Europe on European money for sometimes evanescent production entities. The end result of one of these deals is about to reappear on DVD and Blu-ray after decades of obscurity. I wrote about it at the time of its release, mostly admiringly. And I recall a rainy night during its first-run engagement when I whiled away a pleasant hour rewatching part of it in the late, lamented UA70 Cinema on Sixth Avenue—killing time before slipping through the manager's office into the UA150, to join my wife and a crowd throbbingly anticipating the prerelease screening of (insert the phrase "a little picture called") Star Wars.

  • Me and My Gal

    Just a quick recommend, before it's too late. One of my very favorite movies is making a rare TV appearance Monday, Oct. 1, at 5 p.m. West Coast time on Turner Classic Movies.
  • E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

    Spielberg's E.T. is due in a new form of transport: Blu-ray. Here's how I welcomed the film in the February 1983 issue of Film Comment.
  • Young Mr. Lincoln

    Has Young Mr. Lincoln—the first cardinal masterpiece of director John Ford's career, and the finest film of that epochal Hollywood year 1939—been neglected because people fear it's a stodgy history lesson?
  • Creature Contact

    This article appeared in Movietone News #50, an issue largely devoted to articles about writer-director Sam Fuller, whom the Seattle Film Society had brought to town in May 1976.
  • The Cotton Club

    My friend and fellow Framing Pictures talker Robert Horton just put up his review of Francis Ford Coppola's 1984 The Cotton Club on his What A Feeling! website, a sort of film-critic's-diary of the Eighties.  Coincidentally I had just scanned my own Film Comment article about the film and where Coppola's reputation as a filmmaker stood at that moment.  Sufficient excuse to share it here.
  • Batman 1989

    The Dark Knight Rises
    is about to. Meanwhile, here's a review of Tim Burton's franchise-starting take on the Batguy legend. It was my first assignment for the Manhattan magazine 7 Days. I wrote it in Seattle, having just attended an advance screening at a North End theater (the Oak Tree, I'm pretty sure). The release of Batman was a big-enough event to inspire at least one Seattle TV station to send a crew. Never will forget the preppie type who, asked whether it was the greatest movie of all time, smirked at the reporter as if she were a silly thing, and said no. OK, she pressed: in the top five? He gave this due consideration, then generously allowed as how it probably was.
  • The Big Heat

    What is probably director Fritz Lang's final masterpiece, The Big Heat, has been given a Blu-ray release by Twilight Time. Click "Read More" to see a program note I wrote exactly forty years ago. But if you've never seen the film, be warned that there are spoilers.

  • sex, lies, and videotape

    Steven Soderbergh has been collecting his friendliest reviews in years for Magic Mike, so let's take a moment to wind back to the beginning: 1989, the year Soderbergh's debut sex, lies, and videotape won big at Cannes and, some say, launched the independent American cinema. Personally, I hold that there was plenty of independent American cinema long before 1989, but that's an argument for another time. I thought then and think now that sex, lies, and videotape was the second-best movie of its year, nipping at the heels of Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy. And my reviews of each of those films were high-water marks in my brief career as a Manhattan movie critic. The one for sex, lies follows here.
  • The Last Temptation of Sigourney Weaver

    Ridley Scott's Prometheus, which either is or isn't a prequel to the 1979 Alien (depending on which publicist has had the last word), is plenty of reason to summon up Kathleen Murphy's 1992 essay on what was then an Alien(s) triptych.
  • Red River
    In observance of Gay Pride Month, Seattle Art Museum devoted three Friday evenings to "A Real Good-Looking Boy: The Films of Montgomery Clift." First up was Howard Hawks' classic Western Red River, the first film in which Clift was ever cast (though its release was delayed, with the result that the stage actor's screen debut became The Search). Read Kathleen Murphy's essay on the film, following this announcement. 
  • Fritz Lang, among others

    Late last year—late afternoon on 2011's final day, in fact—I emailed the editors of the forthcoming book Film Noir: The Directors my essay on Fritz Lang. The book is now out. Details, plus a taste of my chapter, follow.

  • 10 War Films You Need to See

    I've written a feature for Movies.MSN.com, occasioned by the release of War Horse and focusing on notable films that take their own distinct looks at the subject of war. The full package can be found at http://movies.msn.com/movie-guide-winter/photo-gallery-feature/10-war-movies-you-need-to-see/?photoidx=1. Meanwhile, you can read two of the individual writeups if you click just below.
  • Hearts of the West

    Two happy memories for Northwest film folk. Two success stories.
          The first was that of Rob Thompson, an Eastside resident laid up for a few weeks in the early Seventies (accident? illness? don't recall). He whiled away his convalescence watching old cowboy movies on television (obviously, that was a more enlightened era in local TV programming!) and eventually started thinking about building a screenplay around the grinding-out of such product. He wrote it and, miraculously, sold it. Made a nice little picture, though the picture—Hearts of the West—didn't make a dime. Thompson, however, went on to make a good living as a script doctor.
          Hearts of the West came out in 1975. Five years later, in autumn 1980, it was selected as one of the films to look at in an epic screenwriting symposium initially proposed by Jeff "The Dude" Dowd, subsequent inspiration for the Jeff Bridges character in The Big Lebowski. The University of Washington in its infinite wisdom had just cut Cinema Studies out of the biennial budget, but the course went through as a class for nonmatriculated students. One hundred eighty-four of them signed up, and came for three three-hour sessions a week that included screenings, workshops, and visits from such Dowd-invited luminaries as John Sayles, Irvin Kershner, Joan Micklin Silver, Jonathan Demme, the Airplane! triumvirate, and producer Tony Bill, who'd bought Rob Thompson's screenplay. As the NPR ladies say in the "Schweddy Balls" sketch, good times.
         Hearts of the West will be shown on Turner Classic Movies this coming Friday, Nov. 4, at 9 a.m. West Coast time, 12 noon Eastern. Here's the program note from the "Marvelous Modern Scripts" screening. —RTJ

  • L.A. Confidential

    Curtis Hanson's 1997 film of James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential will be shown twice during the ongoing Uptown-reopening celebration, at 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24 and again at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26. Here's what I said about it at the time of its release. The venue was the better-than-the-name-suggests website Mr. Showbiz. —RTJ

  • Annie Hall

    I was having a postprandial Hearts game with friends one Saturday evening in spring 1977 when the Arts & Entertainment editor of what was then called The Weekly phoned: would I please scurry over to the Cinerama for the sneak preview of the new Woody Allen picture? I was not a member of the Woodman's fan club as far as his filmmaking career to date was concerned, but that view was about to be adjusted. With Annie Hall set to play twice during the current reopening-of-the-Uptown festivities—at 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24 and 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25—I'm posting the result of that 1977 expedition. —RTJ

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