Tuesday, October 06, 2015

A Call Out For Recollections Of The Colony Theater

Sadly, I just learned that The Colony Theater in North Raleigh is closing this December. This personally affects me as I have worked there since 2009, and have enjoyed many, many movies there over the years starting  with seeing THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN on a date back in 1988.

At one point I had read that The Colony opened in 1969 as a Jerry Lewis Theatre (the comic actor owned a chain of theatre franchises in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s) but while some say it was owned by that company, it actually began life on December 29, 1972 as the one screen Six Forks Cinema.

In the mid ‘70s a restaurant was converted into a second theater and it was re-opened as The Terrace Twin by Bill Rawls Theatres in 1977. After performing as a second run house, owned by Martin Theaters, in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, it was restored and turned into a art-house cinema named the Colony Theaters 1 & 2 by Bill Peebles under his company Ambassador Entertainment.

This information is according to commenters on the theater website cinematreasures.org, particularly one who goes by the handle rayyson, who the my few paragraphs comes close to plagiarizing I must confess.

I’m sure that many of my local readers have good memories of attending films at the Colony, whether it was a screening at one of their great series like Cool Classics, or seeing a first run independent film in limited release, or hearing one of the countless times that somebody dropped a bottle and it noisily rolled down the floor of the theater, so I wanted to ask folks to share them with Film Babble Blog.

Email your Colony memories to boopbloop7@gmail.com. They don’t have to be very long or detailed, but if the story calls for that – do it up! I’ll be sharing some of my memories 
in a series of tribute posts. as well over the next few months leading to the theater’s final days. 

I have been through a theater closing before with the Varsity Theater in Chapel Hill, where I worked from 2004-2009. Happily the Varsity re-opened at the end of that end year after an extensive remodeling by its new owners.

In the N & O piece linked to above, David Bracken wrote that “Hobby Properties, the owner of the center, is hoping that a new owner will lease the space and continue operating it as an independent theater, said Boss Poe, Hobby’s director of leasing and sales.” 

That would sure be great if it could remain a theater space, but for now let’s pay tribute to the grand old twin cinema with some favorite recollections. Here’s hoping to hear from you.

Oh, and in the meantime - patronize the Colony! Here's their website with their schedule. Now playing there are a couple of fine films: SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE and PAWN SACRIFICE

Great stuff is coming up like Cinema Overdrive's presentation of THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE on Oct 14th, Cool Classics October selection THE SHINING on Oct 21st, and the final HARRY POTTER movie, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2 on Oct 25th.

More later...

Monday, October 05, 2015

SICARIO: A Superbly Dark Cartel Counterinsurgency Thriller

Now playing at multiplexes from here to the borderline:

SICARIO (Dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2015)

Emily Blunt proves her action star turn in last year’s terrific Tom Cruise vehicle EDGE OF TOMORROW was no fluke in this superbly dark cartel counterinsurgency thriller in which she plays a tough as nails F.B.I. agent named Kate Macer.

After a gripping opening that has she and her partner Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluyya) storming a Mexican drug lord's safe house in Arizona, Kate gets recruited by Department of Defense advisers Matt Graver (a typically brash Josh Brolin) and Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro) for a high-risk CIA-led drug operation across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Kate increasingly senses that the system behind the mission is incredibly corrupt, partly because she can’t figure out who the task force actually works for (particularly De Toro’s ultra shady Alejandro), and if their tactics are doing more harm than good, especially in the chaos of a traffic jam shootout on the outside of Juarez, Mexico.

The team is following a bloody trail that leads to drug kingpin Fausto Alarcon (Julio Cedillo), who it is revealed brutally murdered Alejandro’s wife and daughter. Kate learns this following a raid of the cartel's secret cocaine-smuggling tunnel that runs beneath the border - one of several stunning, standout set pieces on hand.

SICARIO, which is Spanish for “hitman,” is Villeneuve’s most fully realized work. The director’s previous films, including INCENDIES, PRISONERS, and ENEMY were intriguing and fairly solid, but this intensely driven treatise has really seared itself into my psyche in a much more profound way.

Working from a well crafted screenplay by Taylor Sheridan (Sons of Anarchy), Villeneuve keeps us up close with the characters, but knows when to give us distance via striking long shots impeccably filmed by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins. Incidentally, Villeneuve and Deakins have been both tapped to do the long awaited sequel to BLADE RUNNER. Their riveting work here makes me think they could seriously do that project justice.

Justice is what Blunt’s Kate desperately wants here in the murky, immoral terrain that makes up SICARIO, and the actress puts forth a lot of power in both the pulse pounding action moments, and in the edgy confrontations with those she doesn’t trust. People who don’t know the British actress (her American accent here is spot on) by now are really missing out – the woman has mad range.

However, as good as Blunt is, Del Toro steals every scene he’s in, and he does it by barely speaking. His cold yet fascinating presence has us questioning his motives as much as Blunt does, and when he does speak – every word has disturbing weight.

SICARIO may stir memories of such like-minded thrillers such as Steven Soderbergh’s TRAFFIC and Kathryn Bigelow’s ZERO DARK THIRTY, but it has something those otherwise fine films were strongly lacking: a real conscience.

More later...

Friday, October 02, 2015

Don’t Diss On Matt Damon And Miss THE MARTIAN

Now playing at multiplexes from here to Acidalia Planitia:

THE MARTIAN (Dir. Ridley Scott, 2015)

Two years ago around this time we had Alfonso Cuarón’s GRAVITY, last year there was Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR, and now there’s this year’s cerebral sci-fi fall release about astronauts struggling for survival in space, Ridley Scott’s THE MARTIAN, an adaptation of the 2011 bestseller by Andrew Weir that I never got around to reading. And with the news that they just found water on Mars, it couldn't be more timely.

Set in the near future, the film stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, a NASA Astronaut who is left behind by mistake on Mars when the crew of the Ares 3 mission are forced to evacuate during a dangerous dust storm. In the chaos, Damon’s Watney is impaled by flying debris and sent flying off into the distance, leaving his team members to believe that he’s dead.

After Watney regains consciousness and gets back to his house base module in the middle of a large northern basin on Mars called Acidalia Planitia (a real area on the planet) he sizes up the situation via a direct-to-camera video log: “I have no way to contact NASA or my crewmates, but even if I could, it would take four years for another manned mission to reach me, and I’m in a hab designed to last 31 days.”

Our hero figures in order to make water (I guess this aspect is now retro-dated) and grow food on a planet where nothing grows, re-establish contact with NASA, and make the months long journey on the Mars rover cross-planet to the landing site of the next mission he’s “going to have to science the shit out of this!”

Meanwhile back on earth, NASA scientists and officials, including Chiwetel Ejiofor as Director of Mars Mission, Jeff Daniels as the head of NASA, Kristen Wiig as NASA’s head of public relations, and Sean Bean as the flight director, find out that Watney is still alive and they attempt to do the math, with the help of Donald Glover as a awkward scruffy astrodynamicist, and unravel the red tape needed to get him back.

Oh, and the NASA brain trust struggles with whether or not to tell the returning crew headed by Jessica Chastain, who, guilt-stricken at leaving behind her fellow colleague, would surely go against orders to turn her ship around to go back and try to save him if she knew. Also on board with Chastain are Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Sebastian Stan, and Aksel Hennie, who each have their moments and add to the film’s driving force of humanity.

Damon’s performance as the can-do optimist Watney is so solid that you’ll forget about the controversial crap he’s said that’s had him raked over the coals by the press lately. Here he’s a guy you are really rooting for as he successfully grows a crop of potatoes and laughing with as he bitches about the only music he has to listen to – Commander Chastain’s disco collection on her computer: “I will not turn the beat around!”

Despite the stakes, which do carry considerable weight, this is one of Scott’s sunniest and most fun films. Especially when compared to his last space epic, the ALIEN prequel PROMETHEUS, which I found more grueling than a good time.

Sure, there shades of many movies in play here from APOLLO 13 to CASTAWAY; from the aforementioned GRAVITY to 127 HOURS and so on, but THE MARTIAN never feels derivative. Drew Goddard’s tightly scripted structure smoothes out the tropes into a thoroughly engaging, and consistently gripping narrative. It’s also the second film I’ve seen this week that well utilized the 3D format – THE WALK was the other.

THE MARTIAN and THE WALK, which both open this week, are also alike in that they are inspirational epics that were immaculately shot by the same cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski. I’ll be shocked if Wolski doesn’t take home an Oscar next year for one of these visual feasts.

It’s so nice to be back in the ‘movies are getting good again’ season, with such a marvelously gripping movie as THE MARTIAN heading the herd. Just don’t be dissing on Damon so hard that you miss it.

More later...