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WALL-E. (Disney-Pixar; 98 minutes; G; widescreen; 2008). The surest shot for the next Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and maybe even a contender for Best Picture (the live-action competition is soooo weak), is this charm-filled wonder about a showtune-loving futuristic robot who zips in and out of our galaxy. Created by the computer-animation gurus at Pixar, it’s an artistic risk, too, starting with the surprise that no celebrity voices are on hand to deliver some well-timed bons mots. In fact, much of the movie is nearly silent, save for the sonic beeps and bloops supplied by Fayetteville-bred sound designer Beb Burtt, who vaulted to fame with his R2-D2 noises for Star Wars, one of several influences in this truly unique film from director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo).
Ghost House Underground Collection. Lions Gate has apparently taken a breather regarding its annual AfterDark film festival, an autumnal orgy in which an eight-pack of low-budget slasher yarns played in repertory at multiplexes for one week, soon followed by the flicks’ DVD releases. Instead Lions Gate’s home video division has pushed out eight slice-and-dice straight-to-DVDs under the Ghost House Underground imprimatur, with each title proclaiming “the makers of 30 Days of Night and The Grudge present. . . ”
Daniel Craig, star of this week’s new James Bond outing Quantum of Solace, has been hailed the best 007 since Sean Connery. In a clever flourish of counterprogramming, Rome’s Capitol Theatre, 220 W. Dominick St., challenges that assertion with 35mm screenings of the 1964 Connery smash Goldfinger on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2:30 and 7 p.m. This Bond flick set the template for the rest of the series, with its gadgets, memorable villains (Gert Frobe plays the title role, determined to knock off Fort Knox, but look out for the karate-chopping Oddjob, played by Harold Sakata), disposable damsels (Shirley Eaton, pictured with Connery, meets a gold-plated fate) and impressive female leads (Honor Blackman as the one and only Pussy Galore). Trailers from the other Connery-as-Bond movies will also be screened, while admission prices, in commemoration of the Capitol’s 80th anniversary, have been rolled back to 1965-era tariffs: $1 for adults, 35 cents for children. For information, call 337-6453.
By Matt Mumau
Few people, if any, contended that the message of rock legend Johnny Cash’s life, as portrayed in director James Mangold’s 2005 biopic Walk the Line, wouldn’t connect with a broad, everyman audience. According to local author and Le Moyne College communications professor Michael Streissguth, the reason for that absence of argument is simple. “Cash has this appeal with so many different segments of society,” Streissguth says, “from the senior citizens to teenagers and everywhere in between: urban audiences, rural audiences and international audiences. People just are intrigued by Johnny Cash.”
Streissguth has written three books about Cash. Johnny Cash: The Biography, published by Da Capo Press in 2006, is a part of the sprawling fandom that tends to the embers of the master’s legacy. Streissguth provides detailed liner notes for the new Columbia Legacy CD box set Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, which features two discs capturing both shows that were recorded on Jan. 13, 1968.
According to those notes, “Cash’s producer, Bob Johnston, needed two shows, guessing that he’d have to piece together the album from nuggets scattered throughout both performances. As it happened, the earlier show blazed. In the later show, Cash struggled to recapture the dynamism of the earlier show, so Johnston left most of it off the original album. But to hear the later show, available now for the first time, is to understand Cash’s heart and his absolute commitment to the prisoners. He never stopped loving them, even as his energy drained.”
The set also includes a DVD that offers a 130-minute film collaboration between Streissguth and Boston-based documentarian Bestor Cram that attempts to replicate that night. That documentary will be presented in conjunction with Le Moyne College and the Syracuse International Film Festival at Eastwood’s Palace Theatre, 2384 James St., on Friday, Nov. 14, 7 p.m.
Man on Wire. (Magnolia; 94 minutes; PG-13; 2008). Because it’s there. That’s the stock answer mountain climbers allegedly use as the mantra for scaling such insurmountable peaks, and that same answer also drove the demons of daredevil Philippe Petit, as he set out to rig a cable and then amble 200 feet across the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers on Aug. 7, 1974. Director James Marsh’s lively documentary employs Petit’s 2002 book To Reach the Clouds and plenty of archival footage to chart this adventure, as he crosscuts between recent interviews with Petit and his accomplices and filmed recreations of these people (including Paul McGill as a striking doppelganger for Petit’s younger self) as they map out the intricacies.
The Tingler. (Columbia; 82 minutes; unrated; 1959). Schlockmeister William Castle sure knew how to ballyhoo his cheesy black-and-white horror flicks. For House on Haunted Hill (1958), filmed in the trumped-up process of “Emergo,” Castle instructed theaters to rig a skeleton so it would slide across a cable and over the heads of moviegoers, while 13 Ghosts (1960), shot in “Illusion-O,” required patrons to wear cardboard glasses so they could see the spooks in action. Castle’s most infamous gimmick, however, was “Percepto,” which concerned the wiring of certain bijou seats to deliver a kind of hand-buzzer jolt to those watching The Tingler.
This 1948 photo surely lives up to the movie’s title, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, an expert merging of hilarity and horror that will screen Saturday, Oct. 11, 2:30 and 7 p.m., at Rome’s Capitol Theatre, 220 W. Dominick St. Also to be shown in a 35mm print will be the more serious House of Dracula (1946) with Lon Chaney Jr. and John Carradine. And film historian Robert Furmanek will be at the 7 p.m. show to screen Abbott and Costello outtakes. Admission is $5.50 for adults, $1.50 for children. For information, call 337-6453.
Fright Flick. (La Luna Entertainment; 103 minutes; unrated; 2008). Gorehounds with fondnesses for topless, top-heavy actresses and buckets of blood hurled onto the screen should be in seventh heaven with this no-budget slasher item. It’s up for several awards at this weekend’s ninth annual B-Movie Festival, to be held at the Westcott Theater, 524 Westcott St.
In Dallas-based writer-director Israel Luna’s scenario, a gaggle of young filmmakers gathers to complete the Fright Flick cinematic trilogy of poverty-row slice-and-dice masterpieces. But there’s a real killer stalking the cast and crew, and the slayer’s not above offing other bystanders who get in the way. The running gag here is that the movie-within-a-movie’s stars are jaw-dropping no-talents, with busty blonde Valerie Nelson’s tongue-in-cheek performance—as leading lady Ophelia Cumming, no less—recalling the works of Independent-International’s enduring ingenue Regina Carrol.
Rollerball was filmed at a time when other futuristic flicks were advancing their own finger-wagging agendas, including the you-are-what-you-eat cynicism of Soylent Green and the don’t-trust-anyone-over-30 silliness of Logan’s Run. Such 1970s-era paranoia likewise filters into Rollerball’s pretentious plotting, especially given the sonorous John Houseman’s casting as the evil Houston honcho.