Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fantastic Fest 2015: Bone Tomahawk rides the first wave

Kurt Russell battles cannibalistic troglodytes in the Wild West.

Hmmm. This sounds like a scenario fit for... Fantastic Fest.

And sure enough: Bone Tomahawk, S. Craig Zahler's long-awaited horror Western, has been announced as the closing night attraction for the 2015 edition of Fantastic Fest, the bountifully stocked cinematic smorgasbord that immodestly but accurately bills itself as “the largest genre film festival in the U.S., specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world.”

This year's event takes place Sept. 24 through Oct. 1 in Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.

Also known as The Geek Telluride, Fantastic Fest takes pride in bringing out the stars as well as amping up the weird. Which explains why festival founder Tim League is hard-pressed to constrain his excitement when announcing that both the director and the ensemble cast of Bone Tomahawk will descend upon Austin for the world premiere. "Bringing Kurt Russell back to the Alamo is something we've been trying to do for a long time," said League. "And to do it with Bone Tomahawk, a quintessential Fantastic Fest film, means we're in for one hell of a closer. Huge thanks to Caliber Media for making it all happen."

So what's it all about? According to the official Fantastic Fest plot synopsis: "Kurt Russell stars in this character-driven and at times horrific Western about a group of men (including Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox and Richard Jenkins) who set out to rescue a local woman and a young deputy who’ve been kidnapped by a tribe of cannibalistic troglodytes."

Bone Tomahawk was just one of the titles included Wednesday in Fanatastic Fest's "first wave" announcement of its 2015 lineup. You can read the full announcement here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Trailer Park: Joy

Joy reunites Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper and director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) for what has been described as an idiosyncratic comedy-drama "inspired" by the life and adventures of Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano. But, really, I didn't need to know any of that to be knocked out by this trailer. As soon as I heard the unmistakable sound of The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," I was sold. Christmas can't get here quickly enough.

Friday, July 03, 2015

My July 4th tradition: Rocking with Bill Pullman and Independence Day

I am an immigrant's son, and I get paid to go to the movies. Truly, this is the land of opportunity. And so, to celebrate the birthday of our great nation, I once again give you the ridiculously corny yet tremendously affecting speech given by a beleaguered U.S. President (potently played by Bill Pullman) to rally a final push against invading extraterrestrials in Independence Day. Let freedom ring.

Another opportunity to celebrate Independence Day with 1776

Eight years ago this week, I rediscovered 1776 on Turner Classic Movies. At 3 ET/ 2 CT Saturday afternoon, you, too, can re-evaluate (or see for the very first time) on TCM a restored version of the movie -- one of the last Old Hollywood adaptations of a hit Broadway musical. And take it from me: Even if, like me, you were none too impressed by it back in the day, you'll find it was substantially improved by the restoration of scenes and songs that had been deleted by producer  Jack Warner  before its ’72 theatrical release. (No less a notable than then-President Richard Nixon "requested" the deletion of a tune that tweaked conservatives.)

As I noted in 2007: "1776 still is something less than an unadulterated masterwork. (Although director Peter H. Hunt manages some impressive wide-screen compositions, he’s a tad too literal-minded in some aspects of his stage-to-screen translation.) Taken as a whole, however, the movie is wonderfully entertaining – and, better still, undeniably inspiring -- as it offers an intelligently yet playfully romanticized account of events leading to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But wait, there’s more: The cast includes most of the major players from the original 1969 Broadway ensemble – including William Daniels (John Adams), Howard Da Silva (Benjamin Franklin) and Ken Howard (Thomas Jefferson), all at their finest – along with an absolutely luminescent Blythe Danner (who was pregnant with Gwyneth Paltrow during filming) as Martha Jefferson. And the heated debates over individual rights and tyrannical rulers are, alas, every bit as relevant today as in 1776 or 1972." Or 2015.

More pertinent than ever: The reluctant agreement by Adams, Franklin and Jefferson to delete a key paragraph from their original draft of the Declaration