Nostalgia with flair (and flares)

For the non-geek filmgoer, the term “lens flare” will mean absolutely nothing. But they will know it when they see it.

It’s a photographic technique that causes light to flatten and streak out into a horizon-like pattern that fills the screen. Director (and producer of “Super 8”) Steven Spielberg used them religiously in his earlier films of the ’70s and ’80s, as seen in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T.,” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” among others.

“Super 8’s” director, J.J. Abrams, relied on them in his “Star Trek” reboot, but it wasn’t until this latest film that I realized how nostalgic that little cinematic trick made me. Continue reading

Spaced out


Let’s set things straight at the top of this review: though it stars the duo behind the much-loved genre send-ups of cops (“Hot Fuzz”) and zombies (“Shaun of the Dead”), do not expect the exact same payoff for their latest outing, “Paul.”

“Paul’s” leads Simon Pegg and Nick Frost still posesses the same chemistry that helped cement “Shaun” and “Fuzz” in the modern comedic pantheon, but the addition of director Greg Mattola alters the equation. It’s not for the better or worse, he just brings with him a style that changes the scope, cadance and rhythm.

Science fiction and road movies are the genres up for ribbing in “Paul.” Pegg and Frost are Graeme and Clive, two good-natured nerds who are living their dream of attending Comic-Con, followed by a chaser of RV travels through alien “hotspots” throughout the Midwest. It starts off rather timid, as though Pegg and Frost (who also wrote the screenplay), were almost too cautious to sting the very crowd who bestow geek love on the pair in real life.

But the numerous obvious gags soon fade away once “Paul’s” eponymous star takes center stage, and things really ramp up. Voiced by Seth Rogan (and, for all intents and purposes’ is almost every Rogan comedic character), Paul is the stoner’s “E.T.” He’s randy (not above “pressing ham” against the car window), ribald, and does not need a spacecraft to “blast off.” In “Shaun” and “Fuzz,” both leads were at odds with one another, but are best pals here, so when Paul arrives, he delivers some much-needed conflict. And Rogan, content with becoming the Cheech Marin of this generation does more than his share to help stir the pot.

The film takes all the obvious routes — from eluding inept-but-persistent Feds and covert officers (Bill Hader and Joe Truglio, the former, and Jason Bateman, the latter), Paul’s ability to regenerate and heal with touch, but it does so with such affection for its source material (“Close Encounters,” “E.T.,” “Alien” etc.), it makes these scenes fresh with a knowing wink and grin.

For lovers of the genre, there are countless in-jokes peppered throughout to satisfy, and director Mottola manages to ground the film, even considering the film’s outlandish subject matter. The director, who helmed the sweetly nostalgic “Adventureland,” brings the same delicate focus on friendship and makeshift family.

Perhaps because the film is more singularly focused (the Speilbergian Mythology of aliens is the one to which this film most closely aligns), many may fault “Paul” for not broadening its net as widely as Pegg and Frost did with “Shaun” and “Fuzz.” But all feels right in “Paul’s” universe, right down to its final scene that is as touching as it is amusing.
“Paul” is a head trip with spaceships, and is accessible enough to let everyone on board to enjoy the ride.

Redo or Redon’t: ‘The Mechanic’

Jason Statham, the reigning B-movie badass, has managed to kick out a career that has flirted with Bruce Willis-level prowess, while avoiding stepping in steaming piles of Steven Segal in the process.

Remake is a dirty word for many audience members repeatedly burned by bastardizations of youthful memories by high-gloss, empty remakes. But for marginal film’s like 1972’s ‘The Mechanic,’ a Statham-infused jolt of adrenaline is exactly what is called for.

Director Michael Winner’s original featured Charles Bronson as a monotone, unflappable executioner. His voice seldom raises above a grumble, and his turgid actions would be at home in a George Romero zombie film. He plays Arthur Bishop, a methodical assassin who shuffles through his job of contract killing with the enthusiasm of an accountant. When his assignment includes taking out his mentor, he barely blinks as he follows through. Continue reading

Redo or Redon’t: A ‘Grave’ mistake

The original ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ became the equivalent of a cinematic triple-dog dare for many a youngster growing up in the VHS age. When my friends and I got our grubby, teenaged, perverted paws on a copy, we made an event of it. Parents gone, basement viewing, lights out, feigned machismo: all was in place for this taboo screening.

As it progressed, one by one, we began to unceremoniously bow out, despite our lust for blood and boobies. We could endure hours of Jason plucking the limbs off campers or Michael stabbing his way through another Halloween, but this one just didn’t sit right with any of us. We ultimately decided to make a pact to just watch “the circumcision scene,” wince mightily, and be done with it.

Now, this. Continue reading

Messing with Memories: The remakes of 2010 (so far)…

We are about halfway through the year and on the cusp of a film and television show remake (The Karate Kid and The A-Team, respectively), so let us pose a question: Which remake being released in 2010 will suck the least? The most?

Here’s a quick rundown of what has been released thus far (and in the very near future), their budgets and grosses, and trailers of the originals:

  • The Crazies (original 1973); budget: $20 mil, gross: $49 mil.
  • The Housemaid (original 1960); budget: ??, gross: $5.7 mil in Korea, released at Cannes 2010
  • Piranha 3-D (original 1978); budget $24 mil, gross: TBD (released in August)
  • Red Dawn (original 1984); budget $75 mil, gross TBD (released in November)

Sure, there are a couple of sequels in the works as well, but we wanted to give a wrap-up of the films that attempt to supplant memories of earlier works.

So, what say you?


Messing with Memories: ‘I Spit on Your Grave’

Film: I Spit on Your Grave (aka Day of the Woman)
Year of original: 1978
Remake release: 2009, 2010

We usually ask why when it comes to remakes, but this one is perhaps more perplexing than the average do-over. Known only in infamy, the pseudo-revenge-fantasy film is resoundingly viewed as a shallow, misogynistic slice of cinematic sewage known for a couple of creative kills, an excruciatingly long rape scene, the fact that it starred Buster Keaton’s granddaughter, and the film often cited by Roger Ebert as “one of the worst films ever made.”

It’s known more for an extreme example of era grindhouse and usually viewed more as a test of endurance than in appreciation. That has not stopped director Steven Monroe (he of “Ice Twisters,” “Ogre” and who can forget “Sasquatch Mountain?”) and Anchor Bay films for dredging it back to the surface for a remake.

The completed film stars Sarah Butler as Jennifer, the ax-tossing protagonist who exacts revenge on a gang of brutes who brutalized her in her remote cabin. Anchor Bay Films has picked up the rights, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which reports that a fall release in the works, followed by a 2011 DVD release.

For those who care to see the trailer for the original vile heap of bottom-feeding titillation, here’s the trailer:

‘Deliverance’ with Christopher Dickey

Deliverance (R)
Year: 1972
James Dickey
John Boorman
Burt Reynolds as Lewis
John Voight as Ed
Ned Beatty as Bobby
Ronny Cox as Drew


By: Gurn Blanston

Memories: There are a few things that pop into most people’s heads when you mention the movie Deliverance: Dueling Banjos, inbred hillbillies, squealing like a pig, pretty mouths, but after not seeing it for many years we may be in danger of forgetting what a powerful movie this was, and still is.

I’m not sure when I first Deliverance, it couldn’t have been at its release because I was still too young, but when I finally did have the opportunity to view it, on HBO I guess, because it was an uncut version, I remember being riveted by the whitewater scenes and the brutal portrayal of clashing cultures set in the Georgia backcountry.

Now let’s get some things straight. I am a hillbilly. Well, I am the descendent of hillbillies anyway. On a farm in North Carolina ,I have a relative we refer to as Aunt Mamie who once let me help milk a cow, and my father still crumbles his cornbread into a glass of milk and eats it with a spoon. When I was in junior high, I played the five-string bluegrass banjo, which I thought at the time made me cooler. It didn’t. With all this to consider I was pre-disposed to be forgiving of the backwoods denizens, after watching the movie, not so much.

In the movie, four buddies, John as Ed, Ronny Cox as Drew, Ned Beatty as Bobby and a rugged, outdoorsy Burt Reynolds as Lewis, their erstwhile leader, decide that instead of a golf outing they will take a canoe trip down the fictitious Cahulawassee River in rural Georgia, wanting to see the unspoiled land before a dam is erected and the entire area flooded. The group encounters the locals and takes a rather condescending viewpoint about them. For their part, the hillbillies view the group as a bunch of stuck-up city boys.

As they travel down the river they get separated, Ed and Bobby in one canoe, Drew and Lewis in the other. Ed and Bobby run afoul of two of the good old boys roaming the back country and end up being beaten, tied up, and in Bobby case made to “squeal like a pig” before being stuffed like a turkey by an obviously sexually confused brain-dead hick. Lewis ends up killing the offending Redneck with a bow and arrow, and then the boys take off down the rapids trying to make good their escape, pursued by the kin folk of the skewered sodomite they buried back in the mountains.

After Drew is either killed or commits suicide, I was never sure which, the three remaining friends manage to escape, but not before running into the local sheriff, played by the author James Dickey, who warns them to “Don’t ever do nothin’ like this again…Don’t come back up here”. Good advice.

Growing up I’m sure that most of us have made the “squeal like a pig” or the “you got a pretty mouth” reference in jest. Or maybe that was just me and I have some unresolved gender identification issues, either way, if you go back and watch this film I think you will be struck by the realistic brutality of that and other scenes that can sometimes make the flick hard to watch.

This was an important film of the time, it was nominated for three Academy Awards:Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing, (it didn’t win) and was seen as a dark representation of mans dangerous struggle with adversity.

The film has stuck with me, certain scenes more than others, but all in all this is still one of my favorite all time films.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Deliverance’ podcast right here

or float on down to the on-site player

Our featured guest: Christopher Dickey

Award-winning author Christopher Dickey in the son of Deliverance writer James Dickey, documenting his time spent of set in the best-selling memoir Summer of Deliverance: A Memoir of Father and Son (Simon & Schuster, 1998). His most recent book Securing the City was published in February 2009, is the Paris Bureau Chief and Middle East Regional Editor for Newsweek Magazine. Previously he worked for The Washington Post as Cairo Bureau Chief and Central America Bureau Chief. Chris’s Shadowland column, about counter-terrorism, espionage and the Middle East, appears weekly on Newsweek Online.

Chris served as a technical advisor on the film, which he says is just a fancy word for “warm body,” but got to see his father’s words come to life directly in front of him. He also recounts the tumultuous legacy the film’s impact had on his father and his family.Chris’s books include With the Contras: A Reporter in the Wilds of Nicaragua (Simon & Schuster, 1986); Expats: Travels from Tripoli to Tehran (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990) and Innocent Blood: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, 1997). His most recent novel, The Sleeper, was published by Simon & Schuster in September 2004. The New York Times called it “a first-rate thriller.”
He has also written for Foreign Affairs, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Wired, Rolling Stone, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Republic, among other publications. He is a frequent commentator on CNN, MSNBC and National Public Radio, as well as other television and radio networks.
Chris is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where he was formerly an Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow; of the Overseas Press Club of America; and of the Anglo-American Press Association of Paris. He is also a visiting professor at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom.

Messing with Memories: ‘Taxi Driver’

Film: Taxi Driver
Original release date: 1976
Scheduled remake release date: Not Happening!
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd

Wow, that was quick! Just a few days ago, every film site on the net was buzzing about a Trading Places-like bet between director Lars von Trier and Martin Scorsese, in which the latter would resculpt his 1976 masterpiece with a handful of hurdles thrown in his path, a la Danish director Jorgen Leth with his 1967 surrealistic film The Perfect Human for von Trier’s The Five Obstructions.

In that film, Leth had to remake his film, but with certain criteria dictated by von Trier (set in Cuba, must be animated, etc.). When he and Scorsese met recently, speculation swirled that the two agreed to give the same treatment to the iconic Travis Bickle.

But in an article by Geoffrey Macnab of Screen, one of von Trier’s business partners, Peter Aalbaek Jesen, shot holes in the rumors as “rubbish.”

So, thankfully, the original Travis Bickle will live to pick up another fare.

‘Lionheart’ with Harrison Page

Lionheart (1990)
Rated: R
Directed by:
Sheldon Lettich
Written by:
S.N. Warren (story)
Jean Claude Van Damme (screenplay)
Jean Claude Van Damme as Leon
Harrison Page as Joshua
Debra Rennard as Cynthia
Lisa Pelikan as Helene
Ashley Johnson as Nicole

 By Count Vardulon

jcvd kickPre-screening memories: I was old enough, when seeing Lionheart for the first time, that I can’t call it one of the most important formative movies of my childhood. True, I wasn’t a fan of martial arts films before seeing it, and afterwards I became something of a devotee of Van Damme’s, but the most vital part of the film for my developing fandom was that it reinforced the lesson, first taught by Tim Curry’s performance in the movie Clue, that following an actor from project to project would

A: Never disappoint, because if nothing else, you at least get to see a performance by someone whose work you enjoy, and

B: could possibly lead to discovering something fantastic.

harrison and jcvdWhich is my circuitous way of saying that my passion for the TV show Sledge Hammer! led directly to my lifelong love of watching people kicking other people in the face. Still inconsolable two full years after Sledge Hammer’s cancellation, seeing Harrison Page show up in television ads for upcoming film ‘Lionheart’ made me determined to see the film, which was rated a forbidding R, ensuring that I wouldn’t make it to the theatres.

When I finally saw the film on video it didn’t disappoint. Not only was Harrison Page fantastic in the film, but the action was unlike anything I’d seen in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies that dominated my childhood, or even the occasional episode of Kung Fu. After all, who needed a machine gun when you could just spin really fast and crack someone across the jaw with your heel? A lifelong fan of the genre was born, as well as a devotee of Van Damme’s ‘all downhill from here’ ouevre.

jcvd blood

New memories: I’m frankly amazed by how good this movie was. Not having seen it in years, I’d assumed that it was going to be one of those embarrassingly Natsukashi moments (that’s how you use that word, right?) where I’d created an epic action extravaganza in my mind that never actually existed – this was certainly not the case. The action certainly wasn’t up to modern choreographic standards, but everything else about the film was far better than I’d remembered.

That’s right, what impressed me most about the film was that it worked, first and foremost, as a drama. Sounds crazy, right? Van Damme’s a pretty limited actor, especially at this fresh-faced stage of his career, before that personal and professional setbacks that would reduce him to the withered husk of ‘JCVD’, but damn if it doesn’t work in this part, as a simply good, almost naïve man struggling his way through the seamy world of underground fighting. He’s helped on this journey by the even-better-than-I-remembered-it performance of Harrison Page, who provides perhaps the most raw, vulnerable, and downright emotional performance I’ve ever seen in an action film. The way his Joshua starts out sad, defeated and desperate and gradually finds a kind of purpose and nobility in training Leon is a great character arc, and it brings him to a moment, right at the end, which is unlike anything I’ve seen in an American action film.

The other thing that amazed me about the movie (other than the fact that it’s a semi-remake of Midnight Cowboy – Who knew?) was the aspect that likely affected me most as a youngster, and that’s the utter contempt that the film shows for the upper classes who are funding the brutal no-holds-barred fights. If the film’s battles aren’t the most spectacular thing ever, their settings are absolutely stunning, and steeped in subtext. Van Damme’s first professional fight is in a parking garage beneath an office building, literally taking place in the underbelly of New York’s wealth-obsessed establishment. From there the action moves out to LA, but the satirical settings don’t stop – there’s a huge pool in a beachside mansion, a squash court, and a ring constructed from the luxury automobiles of the elite who have come to watch men beat each other nearly to death. This all leads up to the final battle which takes place well within the closed walls of the upper-class, a tennis court around the back of a palatial estate. The entire film works as an attack on the kind of people who commoditize human beings, and if the message gets a little heavy-handed at times (and it does), at least the movie was trying to say something important, unlike just about all of its brethren.

I loved Lionheart as a child. As an adult, crazy as it may seem, I respect it.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Lionheart’ podcast right here

Or dropkick below and listen on our player

harrisonOur featured guest: Harrison Page

Fascinated by film at an early age, Harrison sought the Hollywood dream after serving in the military.

He began, as most starting in the business do, by snagging small roles on television, film and stage. And looking back, has amassed a resume in an astonishing amount of popular shows, including C.P.O. Sharkey, Webster, Hill Street Blues, Fame, 21 Jump Street, The Wonder Years, Quantum Leap (which earned him an Emmy nod), Melrose Place, Ally McBeal, ER, JAG, and Cold Case, to name but a few.

But it was his role in the cult classic series Sledge Hammer! (yes, the exclamation point was in the title) that cemented him into certified pop culture status. In it, he played Captain Trunk, the Pepto-Bismal-swilling, beleaguered head of a police department featuring the titular vigilante office (played by David Rasche). (Ed. note–  If you are not putting this series on your Netflix queue this very moment, we don’t want to know you.)

Harrison spoke about his time spent on the set with a young Van Damme, his fond memories of Sledge, and the wisdom he’s amassed in his four decades of Hollywood. Thanks, Harrsion, from your pals at Natsukashi.

‘Peter Pan’ (1960) with Lost Boy Edmund Gaynes

peter pan poster1

Title: Peter Pan (1960) Stage play
Directed by: Vincent J. Donehue
Written by: J.M. Barrie (original play) and Jerome Robbins (adaptation)
Starring: Mary Martin as Peter Pan
                   Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook
                   Maureen Bailey as Wendy
                   Sondra Lee as Tiger Lily
                   Joey Trent as John
                   Kent Fletcher as Michael
                   Edmund Gaynes as Slightly

By Whitney from dearjesus

Pre-screening memories: screencap1My cousins introduced me to a lot of great movies. A few years older than my sister and me, they would come babysit and bring West Side Story, or Adventures in Babysitting. They took me to the movies to see The Witches (which terrified me and I resented them for it for a long time). And one special Sunday long ago, they introduced me to Mary Martin’s Peter Pan

I remember immediately loving this version of the familiar tale. This was before I saw Hook – a very influential movie for my generation – and probably even before I saw the animated Disney film. All versions of Peter Pan, including the book, were fascinating to me. But this one held a special place in my heart.

Ppeter_panposter3art of that might be the record we had with some of the songs on it. My parents were no lovers of music, so we owned a whole three records that my sister and I played to shreds. One was the Brigham Young University choir doing their renditions of musical hits. And both Tiger Lily songs were on there. I’m sure we coordinated dances…because we always coordinated dances. And even on this rewatching of the film, I remembered all the words. Ugga-wugga-wig-wam. Racist. So racist. So fun.

It’s great rewatching a film that you think has been almost completely wiped from memory, but then discovering that all of it is so familiar. Uncanny, really.

New memories:The movie definitely loses a little of its appeal. What seemed charmingly simple to a child, is a little threadbare as an adult. Also, I’m not sure I realized it was just a filmed production of a Broadway play when I was a kid. It’s definitely an entirely different movie to someone now familiar with different aspects of filmmaking.

That said, I still loved the movie for what it was. A 47-year-old woman playing a little boy is delightful, no matter what the decade.


Download the Peter Pan with Edmund Gaynes podcast here

or you can fly, you can fly, you can fly below to listen to it on the site:


Our featured guest: ‘Lost Boy’ Edmund Gaynes

Ascreencappeter and lost boyss a theatre producer, Mr. Gaynes’ Off-Broadway productions include the current hit Danny and Sylvia: The Danny Kaye Musical, as well as the recent hit plays The Rise of Dorothy Hale, The Big Voice: God or Merman?, the long-running Picon Pie, Emily Mann’s Annulla, A Brush With Georgia O’Keeffe, Trolls, Panache, Chaim’s Love Song, Matty: An Evening with Christy Mathewson, Einstein: A Stage Portrait and Bein’ With Behan, which was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award. He produced the West Coast premieres of Marry Me a Little and Starting Here, Starting Now and was nominated for four Ovation Awards, Los Angeles’ highest theatre honors, for his productions of The Taffetas and Songs the Girls Sang.

Mr. Gaynes is currently producing the National Tour of Gilligan’s Island: The Musical, playing coast to coast prior to a Broadway opening in the fall. He will also later this season be presenting Liberace: The Man, The Music and The Memories on Broadway.

 He currently operates four Off-Broadway theatres in New York City (St. Luke’s Theatre, the Actors Temple Theatre and the Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street complex), as well as the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center and Sherry Theatre in Los Angeles. In addition to the above New York producing credits, he has produced throughout the country, with over forty productions in Los Angeles alone.

He has also appeared as an actor in 13 Broadway and Off-Broadway shows including Greenwillow with Anthony Perkins, The Body Beautiful  with Jack Warden, Promenade  with Madeline Kahn, Edward Albee’s Bartleby and Best Foot Forward, in which he co-starred with Christopher Walken and Liza Minnelli and sang “Buckle Down, Winsocki” on the original cast album. Directors he has worked with include Elia Kazan, Stella Adler, Herb Ross, George Abbott, George Roy Hill, Bobby Lewis, Peter Hunt, George Schaeffer, Robert Moore, Alan Schneider, Joe Layton, Gene Saks, Martin Charnin and Jerome Robbins.

TV credits range from Mary Martin’s Peter Pan to Cheers, Kojak, a recurring role on The Patty Duke Show, The Sid Caesar Hour, Playhouse 90, The Ed Sullivan Show, among many others, as well as a two-year run as Paul Stewart on As the World Turns.

Other than that, not much (!!!). Kidding, of course. We want to thank Mr. Gaynes for taking the time from his many theatrical endeavors to join us.

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