Friday, July 31, 2015

"At The Matinee" wants to hear from you!

1939 trade advertisement for the
screwball comedy Midnight, with
comments/suggestions from test
audiences who saw the test screening.
As we transition into August, the author of At The Matinee would like to hear from fellow friends and readers of this blog.

As I've stated before, this blog is dedicated to the field of classic/contemporary motion pictures, television, music and technology.  It has come to my attention that some readers of At The Matinee may not be interested in these subjects at all.  No matter what, that will not deter me from writing about classic/contemporary cinema and television (along with technology and music from time to time).

Plus, I will continue writing about the Frederick area cinema venues* and their ignorance of showcasing classic/contemporary films, the way they were meant to be seen- on the big screen.

ATM Wants To Hear From You!  As I am the author/head writer of this blog, I would enjoy hearing comments/suggestions from fellow readers and newcomers to At The Matinee.

For example: what works on this blog, and what doesn't work on this blog?  What improvements/changes could be made to this blog, and what general suggestions would you have for future posts on At The Matinee?

Plus, I'm also open to the idea of contributing posts (from interested writers) to this blog on classic/contemporary cinema, and other topics related to those aforementioned fields.

Again, I am open to all comments on At The Matinee or anything related to this blog (NOTE: all comments are monitored by the author).  Don't be afraid to ask!

You can add your comments at the bottom of this post, or you can e-mail me anytime (by clicking on the hyperlink).

Be on the lookout for new posts in August!

Thanks to all for your suggestions.  I highly appreciate it.

All the best,
Chris Hamby

*Excluding The Weinberg Center For The Arts from the cinema venues that are refusing to show revival screenings of classic/contemporary films, since the theater is closed for air-conditioning renovations from now until October.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

Shout! Factory to present streaming "Kaiju" movie marathon

There are many interesting aspects to the field of modern Japanese cinema- the groundbreaking films of "auteur" filmmakers, including Akira Kurosawa (1950's Rashomon and 1954's Seven Samurai), Yasujiro Ozu (1953's Tokyo Story and the Early Spring/Late Spring/Early Summer/Late Summer series of films)  and Keisuke Kinoshita (1954's Twenty-Four Eyes).  Besides these and other significant works of modern Japanese film, there's one genre that also fits in with modern cinema from Japan, and that would be known as Kaiju films.

Still from the original version of Godzilla (1954), which will be part of
Shout! Factory's streaming Kaiju marathon.  The original Japanese cut is also
available on DVD and Blu-Ray (paired with Godzilla: King of the Monsters)
from Janus Films' Criterion Collection line (under license from Toho Co., Ltd.).
What is Kaiju?  For those that may not know this, Kaiju is Japanese for "monster." After the success of the Toho studio and the popular 1954 Ishiro Honda film, Godzilla (Gojira, which was released here in the United States as Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 1956 with Raymond Burr), it set a cultural phenomenon not only in Japan, but worldwide as well.

Competing studio Daiei responded to Toho's success with the GodzillaMothra and Rodan series of films, by creating their own Kaiju film franchise- Gamera, beginning in 1965 (the original Gamera films were later picked up for television syndication by Sandy Frank, and have been famously riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000)

When Godzilla, Gamera, and other Japanese Kaiju films were released in the United States, they were known for one interesting factor: poorly-dubbed English dialogue to replace the original Japanese dialogue track.

From the 1970's throughout the mid-1980's (before the author of this blog was born), many Japanese Kaiju films were staples of Saturday morning/Saturday afternoon movie programs on independent television stations from coast-to-coast.  The art of Japanese Kaiju motion pictures has a definitive place in motion picture and pop culture history.

SHOUT! FACTORY PRESENTS STREAMING KAIJU MOVIE MARATHON: If you're a Kaiju film enthusiast, a person who wants to learn more about cult Japanese monster films, or if you've never seen the original Godzilla film, Shout! Factory TV is offering an all-day marathon of classic Japanese Kaiju films.  The marathon will consist of nine Japanese monster films produced by Toho Studios, including the original uncut version of Godzilla.

In addition to the Toho-produced Kaiju feature films, there will be select episodes of the cult Japanese action television series, Ultra Seven and Ultra Q.  The marathon will be hosted by the world's foremost expert on Japanese Kaiju monster films, August Ragone.  The marathon will stream on the live website for Shout! Factory TV (not sure if it will be available on Shout's Roku channel) this Saturday at Midnight, and will last until Sunday at Midnight (EST).  The event will also be shown through Shout! Factory's online "live feed" on Pluto.TV (Channel 427).

Sit back, relax and watch some Kaiju films (whenever possible).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Double Indemnity (1944): Another classic that the Frederick area will miss out on

1944 Paramount promotional advertisement for
Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity, featuring Fred MacMurray,
Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson.

Billy Wilder's 1944 suspense film, Double Indemnity is one of the definitive films of the 1940's, and is considered by many as one of the true motion pictures in the "film noir" genre category.

It was adapted from James M. Cain's 1943 crime novel of the same name, which was originally featured as an eight-part story in Liberty Magazine.  Double Indemnity features Fred MacMurray as insurance salesman Walter Neff, Barbara Stanwyck as femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson, and Edward G. Robinson as investigator Barton Keyes.  This was not the first pairing of MacMurray and Stanwyck, the two were in a previous Paramount film four years earlier, the Preston Sturges Christmas comedy Remember The Night (1940).

I'm not going to give away the complete synopsis of Double Indemnity, due to a upcoming re-release of the film.  With its dark, suspenseful gritty overtones and intriguing moments throughout the film, Wilder's adaptation of Double Indemnity became a smash success when it was released in 1944.  The film received numerous Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Barbara Stanwyck), Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Screenplay (Billy Wilder & Raymond Chandler) and Best Dramatic Score (Miklos Rozsa).

1944 Newspaper ad for the Paramount-owned cinema in Newark, New Jersey-
showcasing Double Indemnity (from a 1944 issue of Motion Picture Herald).
Fourteen years later after its theatrical release, Double Indemnity was one of many pre-48 Paramount sound feature films that were sold to Lew Wasserman's MCA for television distribution, along with  re-release/re-make rights.  Television audiences in the Frederick area (circa 1958) may have experienced viewing Double Indemnity along with many other vintage Paramount features in the MCA package, when Washington's WTOP-TV 9 (W*USA after 1986) and Baltimore's WBAL-TV 11 acquired the broadcast rights (according to an advertisement in the Lantern Media History Archive).  

It was remade in 1973 as a made-for-TV-movie by Universal Studios, with Richard Crenna (as Walter Neff), Samantha Eggar (as Phyllis Dietrichson), and Lee J. Cobb (as Barton Keyes).

Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity will never fail to disappoint.  It is one of the many interesting (and iconic) classic motion pictures of all-time.  If you've never seen it before, see it when you have the chance to.

SPECIAL REVIVAL SCREENING OF DOUBLE INDEMNITY NATIONWIDE:  Universal Studios, Turner Classic Movies and NCM Fathom Events will present a special revival screening of Double Indemnity (1944) in theaters nationwide on July 19th and July 20th at 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM (all times eastern).

Yet unfortunately, the Frederick area will miss out on this gem.  Frederick's cinema venues, MDL Holiday Cinemas, and the "eyesore" that is known to many as Regal Cinemas' 16-plex "Westview" complex are not planning to screen this definitive classic,  Frederick's cinemas (excluding the Weinberg Center For The Performing Arts, which is closed due to air-conditioning system renovations) are missing out on this golden opportunity, to showcase classic films the way they were meant to be seen- on the big screen.  

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This may sound far-fetched to some, but I think it's past time that Frederick had another movie theater/cinema venue.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

It's almost Independence Day here at the "screening room" (and worldwide headquarters) of At The Matinee.  While the current lineup of "summer blockbusters*" mostly consisting of "endless" reboots and remakes, there's one definitive classic that outshines the competition.  And it's perfect for the July 4th weekend.

Poster for Warners' Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
featuring James Cagney as George M. Cohan.
That definitive classic film is 1942's Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Directed by Michael Curtiz and produced by Hal B. Wallis, the film features James Cagney (as George M. Cohan), Joan Leslie (as Mary Cohan), Walter Huston (as Jerry Cohan), Richard Whorf (as Sam Harris), Irene Manning (as Fay Tempelton), George Tobias (as Dietz), Rosemary DeCamp (as Nellie Cohan), Jeanne Cagney (as Josie Cohan), Frances Langford (as Nora Bayes), S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall (as Schwab), and Eddie Foy, Jr. (as the senior Eddie Foy).

Based off the story of real-life songwriter George M. Cohan (1878-1942), the film goes into the life, times and career of the multi-talented entertainer and songwriter, who brought such popular classic songs including Yankee Doodle Dandy, Over There, You're A Grand Old Flag, just to name a few.

When the film premiered in New York at the Hollywood Theatre in May 1942, it was tremendous hit, and was one of the top-grossing motion pictures of 1942.  According to The New York Times, the audience on opening night purchased $5,750,000 worth of war bonds to help America's war effort during the Second World War.

For Warner Bros. (who acquired the rights from Cohan for his life story, where Warners' competitors declined Cohan's story throughout the latter years of his life), it would be the studio's top-grossing film at the time (along with Warners' other popular noteworthy films released that same year, including Casablanca, Air Force, George Washington Slept Here, and Now, Voyager).

The film won three Academy Awards for Best Actor (James Cagney), Best Sound Recording (Nathan Levinson and the Warner Bros. sound department), and Best Music, Scoring of a Motion Picture (Ray Heindorf and and Heinz Romfeld).

My first experience of watching Yankee Doodle Dandy was on WETA's Saturday classic film showcase several years ago.    I was originally going to plan to attend the recent revival screening of Yankee Doodle Dandy at the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania- but could not attend due to an important family commitment.

Warners has recently released Yankee Doodle Dandy on Blu-Ray (through the studio's "Archive" line), from a new high-definition transfer (along with several extras ported over from the previous DVD release).  It is also available for streaming on Flixster and Warners' YouTube VOD service. The film will be the highlight of Turner Classic Movies' primetime lineup for the Fourth (at 8:00 PM EST).

I'm not going to give away any other additional information on this.  To my fellow readers- if you haven't seen Yankee Doodle Dandy, see it when you have the chance to.  It is an entertaining and enlightening motion picture about the life and times of George Cohan, portrayed by James Cagney (in one of his few non-gangster roles on the screen).

I feel that in recent times, we need uplifting entertainment.  And Yankee Doodle Dandy is one of the best examples of uplifting screen entertainment.  You won't be disappointed!

1958 advertisement for Associated Artists Productions (AAP),
advertising the 1942 film Yankee Doodle Dandy, one of many pre-48
Warner Bros. feature films (along with shorts and select cartoons)
that were available for syndication to local television stations.


TCM will have a schedule of movies related to America's day of independence, beginning at 11:45 AM with the 1955 film, The Scarlet Coat (featuring Cornel Wilde, Anne Francis, and George Sanders), followed by The Devil's Disciple (1959, with Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Lawrence Oliver) at 1:30 PM, the musical 1776 (1972, featuring William Daniels, Howard Da Silva and Ken Howard) at 3:00 PM, the modern comedy Miss Firecracker (1989, with Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins) at 6:00 PM, the 1943 Warner Bros. short subject on the United States Army Band at 7:50 PM, and the big highlight of the night- Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) at 8:00 PM.  It will be followed by The Music Man (1962, featuring Preston Foster, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett and Ron Howard) at 10:15 PM, and Rosalie (1937, with Nelson Eddy, Eleanor Powell and Frank Morgan) at 1:00 AM (eastern standard time).

As I've stated before, it wouldn't be the Fourth of July without the annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York City, which will be telecast live on ESPN2 at Noon EST.  

Of course, there's always A Capitol Fourth, live from Washington, D.C. on PBS (from 8:00-9:30 PM EST).

Last but not least, it wouldn't be Saturday without Svengoolie on Me-TV, showcasing the third (and final) film in Universal's Creature From The Black Lagoon franchise, The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), which will be shown at 10:00 PM EST (for viewers from coast-to-coast, check local listings for time and channel).

WITH ALL THAT ASIDE: At The Matinee wishes everyone out there a happy (and safe) Fourth of July weekend.  Do something great and exciting during this weekend!

NOTE: Again, I'm not criticizing the recent "summer blockbusters."  I'm sure there are many (like myself) who would like more variety in the field of cinema entertainment.