Monday, August 15, 2011
Rooftop movies (5 years old) Rating: Awesome.
That's right, we're Cinéma sur le toit, and we're here to make you watch awesome movies on the roof and think about nothing at all but your beer and your movie and how awesome DC in the summer can be when it's not 100 degrees and stuff.
And next week, Thursday the 25th, that movie is SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD. So round up your fake high school girlfriend, or your seven evil exes, or anyone else you care to bring, and show up on the rooftop. I'll totally be in lesbians with you forever if you come.
Friday, July 22, 2011
But all that is beside the point, which is that, just like Barry says, it's a brilliant, funny, violent film, and everyone should see it. And if you've already seen it, you should see it again. In either case, you can see it up on my roof this Thursday, July 28. And I promise that being outdoors 10 stories high is actually significantly cooler than at ground level. So beat the heat while enjoying the movie. Also, for the uninitiated who've never seen ANY of the Evil Dead movies and are afraid of being lost, seeing the first Evil Dead is entirely unnecessary, because Sam Raimi was kind enough to re-shoot a synopsis of the first movie and put it at the beginning. So now you have no excuse. See you Thursday!
Friday, July 01, 2011
In any case, I'm determined that we're going to show this movie on the roof this summer, so we'll give it a go on Thursday, July 7, and you can see if I finally manage to make it happen, or if I just keep on tilting at windmills.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
DC's fickle weather does not seem to want to see Big Trouble in Little China, so I'm going to postpone that screening and see if changing titles breaks the string of cancellations.
One of Cinema sur le toit's most loyal attendees has been lobbying me for at least one season now to show a little damme love for the muscles from Brussels, and this week, I'm going to grant that wish, with a 20th anniversary screening of Jean-Claude's dual role as separated-at-birth twins who are reunited just in time to join forces to defeat a Hong Kong crime syndicate in Double Impact.
I'll leave it at that, because our featured guest for the evening, Mr. Chris Klimek, will be introducing the film, and is sure to have plenty of insights into just what makes this masterpiece tick. (Apart from having the best action-movie tagline in history with "Double the Van Dammage!")
Do your best anti-wind, anti-rain dance and join us on the roof on Thursday, June 16.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Honestly, I can't believe it took us this long to think to screen this movie up on the roof. It's got everything that we look for in an idea screening candidate here: a blend of action and humor, inexplicably bizarre events, and a wisecracking superhero. (If only he was wearing white sweatpants; but not every film can be a Gymkata.) When I saw a lonely copy on the picked-over shelves of the Friendship Height Borders during the final days of their going-out-of-business sales, I had two thoughts: 1) Why have I never owned this? and 2) This is leading off the rooftop movies this summer.
Director John Carpenter re-teamed with his The Thing and Escape from New York star Kurt Russell, this time going for big-budget action comedy rather than the dark sci-fi horror or post-apocalyptic action of those two flicks. Russell plays Jack Burton, a wisecracking truck driver who manages to land himself in the midst of a war between rival factions in San Francisco's elaborate Little China, as he tries to help his buddy Wang Chi rescue Wang's fiancee, who has been kidnapped to be sold into the sex trade.
The Little China of the movie is a vast underground, steeped in mysticism. The original writers took the trippy martial arts movies coming out of Hong Kong in the late 70s as inspiration for a martial arts western, and then Buckaroo Bonzai director W.D. Richter came onboard to rewrite the script with a more modern setting and a dash of the same brand of self-aware quirk that typified Buckaroo. The result was, predictably, an absolute failure with audiences, but a cult hit on home video. Again, the sweet spot for rooftop fare.
So BTiLC will open up this season this coming Thursday. If you're a longtime Cinéma sur le toi devotee, you know the drill. For those of you perhaps new to the experience, here's the deal: We get started around 9pm, or once most of the people we're pretty sure are coming have arrived; you're welcome to bring whatever snacks & drinks you'd like; we generally have plenty of chairs, but if you have folding chairs/camp chairs that are easy to bring along, feel free, that way we don't hoard too many of the chairs on the roof from other folks up there; lastly, keep an eye on the forecast. I know it's been hot this weekend, but you never know with early June: it could always get cool at night, especially up on the roof, in which case you may want to be sure to have a hoodie or something to wrap around your shoulders.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
We have a tradition at Cinéma sur le toit, and it involves Patrick Swayze, who we love and miss dearly. Something about the man's filmography taps into the spirit of our little event, and so, for the past two years, we've shown one of his films. Ever since we started doing that, we've had more requests for one particular film than any other. And they've come, unanimously, from our female attendees.
So the ladies have spoken, and rooftop movies are listening: the movie is Dirty Dancing. Which seems appropriate, being a movie about the end of the summer, and, barring some more late-season heat waves, this being the last hurrah for this season of rooftop movies.
I've been trying to get around to this one for a few weeks now, but scheduling has been a bear. So now we find ourselves at the tail end of September, the very last days where one can generally spend two hours on a 10th story rooftop in this town without needing to huddle together for warmth by the end of the night. At the moment, it looks like the weather should be pretty OK this week, so we're going to take a shot at Wednesday evening, September 29. So come on out for one last evening on the roof; bring a drink, bring a friend, bring a snack, and -- if I can play the part of your mother for just a moment -- bring a jacket, just in case it gets chilly up there by the time Johnny finally rescues Baby from that corner. We'll get started around 9 or so.
Friday, August 27, 2010
After Linda Holmes makes an earnest plea for Tony Danza based on his upcoming reality series, regular Cinéma sur le toit attendee Glen Weldon trotted out a pick -- at 22:15 if you're looking for the clip -- that left his cohorts shocked and awed. Well, at the very least, amused. They laughed. A lot. I'll leave the description to Weldon:
I'm talking about a man who made but one film, and then vanished into Hollywood legend. That one film, that one man, is Kurt 'Gymkata' Thomas. Gymkata, a 1985 film, tagline: "Gymnastics Skills, Karate Kills". Kurt 'Gymkata' Thomas, who is a gold medal gymnastics guy, plays a gold medal gymnastics guy who is picked up by the S.I.A., the "Special Intelligence Agency" — see what they did there — and dropped into the fictional, remote, Himalayan country of Parmistan. What happens next is the best scene in the history of cinema, where our mulleted hero is being chased down an alley, which dead-ends into what else, of course, a pommel horse. Which he then proceeds to mount. These Parmistanians with scimitars are coming at him (one at a time), and he is dishing out, you know, your Rear Double Scissor, your Mushroom, your Direct Stockli, your Reverse Hecht, your Russian Wendeswing.
In other words, Gymkata has the one thing that I was expecting, but didn't get, from our last feature, Never Too Young to Die, which also had a gymnast turned secret agent in the lead, but which never delivered ANY pommel horse, rings, or parallel bar action from John 'Not Gymkata Material' Stamos.
In addition to that, we also get some additional nonsense about winning a Parmistanian competition that will get Thomas a wish, which the U.S. government wants to use to magically create some kind of satellite monitoring system as an early nuclear attack warning system. Yeah, sounds like the 80s, alright.
So, in the interest of getting what was missing from the Stamos film, and in the interest of making Glen 'Gymkata' Weldon's (Klimek tells me that we're now authorized to refer to him thusly) fondest rooftop movie dream come true, we'll be kickstarting (so to speak) the Kurt Thomas renaissance on the roof this Thursday, September 2, somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 p.m.
Bring a snack, bring a drink, bring a friend, but most importantly, bring yourself.
Sunday, August 08, 2010
1. Gene Simmons of KISS plays a transsexual criminal mastermind. The band actually had to cancel part of a tour to allow him to film the movie. In retrospect, they probably regretted that decision.
2. John Stamos, in his pre-Full House stardom days, stars as a college gymnast who is the son of a secret agent (played by George Lazenby, who played THE secret agent, James Bond, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service) who is killed by Simmons. Stamos must use his inherited secret agent skills and, presumably, his gymnastics acumen, to both avenge his father's death and save the world from the evil gender-bending menace.
3. Vanity, the Prince protégé who had cut ties with her mentor and dropped out of Purple Rain a couple of years prior, co-stars as a Bond-girl-style sidekick, whose name is, I'm not kidding, Danja Darjeeling. She probably sorely regretted ditching Purple Rain after this.
4. The future Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund, also turns up as Simmons' evil assistant.
What's that you say? I had you at Gene Simmons playing a transsexual criminal mastermind? That's what I thought.
Also, in keeping with the It Came From the 80's theme, we will be screening this movie without the benefit of a laptop, DVD player, or other digital source. Instead, we will be utilizing an archaic, late-20th-century piece of analog technology known as the "Video Cassette Recorder", which plays what was known as a "Video Home System" cassette tape. Some of you may even remember having these devices in your homes as children. Come one, come all, to watch this antique in action.
We'll be watching this classic this coming Wednesday, August 11, and we'll get things started around 9 p.m., or a little after, as per usual. Feel free to bring a drink, a snack, and/or a friend.
Monday, July 26, 2010
After taking a couple of weeks off in deference to the all-consuming forces of the DC Fringe Festival, rooftop movies return this week, with one of the most legendary of camp classics, the movie that paired Greek mythology with roller disco, and Olivia Newton-John with Gene Kelly. Bad move for Kelly: he wouldn't work again after this until a Love Boat guest shot four years later, and he never worked in movies again. This was a just-barely-post disco musical that refused to believe that disco might be dead (or at least resting, pending late '00s reevaluation), and a film that probably ended up selling more copies of its soundtrack (devoting one side each to Ms. Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra, respectively) than it did actual tickets to the movie.
For pure kitschy disco-musical awfulness, Xanadu still doesn't reach the heights of absurdity of The Apple (one of the best installments of the old Vision cinema's midnight kick-the-keg movie screenings, to be sure). But there's plenty of laughable badness here for everyone, in a brighter, glossier package.
Also of note: the director of recent lefty political documentaries such as Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price and Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism is the same director, Robert Greenwald, who brought us Xanadu (as well as that classic of 80s made-for-TV battered-wife-revenge flicks, The Burning Bed). See if you can spot the seeds of his future liberal activist filmmaking sandwiched in between the musical numbers and the desperate death throes of Gene Kelly's career.
Join us on the roof this Thursday, July 29, and we'll get started around 9pm. Roller skates optional. We'd bring up the disco ball, but we have nowhere to hang it.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Anyone who played any kind of organized soccer in the 80s probably watched Victory multiple times, being one of the few American films about the sport. Despite starring Sylvester Stallone, the film tanked in the U.S., not surprising given our general ambivalence about soccer when it was released in 1981. Still, youth soccer leagues of the decade formed a sort of a natural cult for the film, and everyone I've ever known who played as a kid has a love for the film, even if it is more than a little ridiculous.
I'm not sure how it did internationally, and whether the bizarre sight of Stallone as a footballer was outweighed for the rest of the world by a cast that included a host of international soccer stars, most notably Pelé, along with Michael Caine and Max von Sydow.
Stallone, Pelé, Caine, and all those soccer stars are a group of POWs in a German prison camp in WWII, and they play games of soccer, as a group of foreigners (excluding the one American in the group, of course) might be expected to do with time on their hands in the camp. The Germans decide it'll be a great propaganda opportunity to pit the prisoners against a German team in a massive stadium event, and the prisoners figure this will be a golden opportunity to escape.
Yeah, it's riddled with sports and war movie clichés, but it's still huge fun, directed with a sure hand by John Huston near the end of his career, and featuring some great footage on the field, with all the real players getting to show off their signature moves.
EDIT! We had to cancel this screening at the last minute. Make up date is now Thursday, July 8. See you there!
Monday, June 14, 2010
In 1988, John McTiernan revolutionized the action movie, making what is still, 22 years later, the gold standard for high-octane explosion-heavy thrillers, and a movie that is, as far as I'm concerned, as important a Christmas tradition as watching A Charlie Brown Christmas after trimming the tree. For years afterwards, no one could make a movie even remotely similar to his '88 opus without some critic declaring it "Die Hard on a _____" (fill in the blank with the appropriate setting: plane, train, bus, island, dentist's office, hot air balloon...the possibilities are endless).
Yeah, so now that I've set all that up, I should mention that we're not showing that movie.
What we are showing is the movie that McTiernan did immediately prior to that, which would improbably feature two future governors shooting invisible aliens with neon green blood. That would be Predator, which has inspired its own decendents, just as surely as the director's next film would. First up was Predator 2, which had a socially conscious agenda dealing with drugs and gang violence in Los Angeles, starring Bill Paxton (probably wishing he was in another James Cameron alien flick rather than this one), Gary Busey (just on the cusp of the coming insanity), and Danny Glover (who most certainly was too old for this shit when it came to battling bloodthirsty, trophy-seeking aliens alongside gangbangers). Then things got even worse with a pair of infuriatingly bad Alien vs. Predator flicks, which they really should have found a part for Bill Paxton in, given that he's the only actor to have been killed onscreen by both alien species.
Despite the failings of those movies, producers are going back to the well this summer for Predators, in which the titular beasties kidnap a group of the roughest, toughest hombres that Earth has to offer in order to hunt them on a game preserve on their own planet; their judgement has to be seriously called into question given that Adrien Brody and Topher Grace are among those supposed badasses. At least Danny Trejo is along for the ride.
In any case, there's really no room for improvement on the original. You've got future Minnesota head honcho Jesse "The Body" Ventura spitting tobaccy juice all over the jungle while unleashing an endless stream of macho one liners. Future governator Swartzenegger as the leader of this band of ultra commandos dropped into a jungle where they are about to become big game. Carl Weathers as Ah-nuld's former BFF, and a current pencil pusher gone soft...or has he???
Head on over and join us on the roof this Thursday, June 17. Chris Klimek, who claims to have seen this movie over two dozen times between the ages of 11 and 13, has volunteered to give us a brief introduction to the finer points of this sci-fi/horror/action near-masterpiece. We'll get the projector fired up after dark, around 9pm, but I'll be up on the roof from around 7pm onward, so feel free to show up and hang out whenever you like.
Sunday, June 06, 2010
So, we're going to try this again, and everything we said in last week's post applies again this week, except for the new date, which is Thursday, June 10. We'll see you up on top of the world.
Monday, May 31, 2010
While I'd wanted to start a little earlier this year, being out of town for the last half of May ended up scuttling those plans. However, I did come out of Los Angeles with a short video to use as one of our standard weird short lead-ins. See, I'm still thinking of all you loyal rooftop cinema goers even when all the way across the continent. I'm not sure if we'll show said short this week, or save it for a later date, but we'll have something unusual to whet your appetites before the feature, to be sure.
And the feature? Popular demand and general geek-nation excitation over the impending Tron sequel - which you should be excited about whether or not you're excited about Tron, because it'll mean a new Daft Punk album, as they're doing the soundtrack - has dictated that we're going to open this season with the original 1982 Disney video-game-ready classic about computer programmers who get digitized and sucked into the mainframe. There, they are forced to carry out neon-colored gladitatorial battles that, let's admit, have little purpose aside from looking really cool. But let's not forget: they look REALLY COOL.
And they're bound to look even cooler glowing neon red and blue up under the DC summer sky, so bring friends, bring a snack, bring a drink or three, and if you've got a favorite lawn chair, feel free to bring that, too. Sunset is around 8:30, so we'll look to get things underway by 9. See you there!
Thursday, April 22, 2010
In the meantime, though, we're always hard at work here at Cinéma sur le toit looking to improve your moviegoing experience! Last year, it was an upgrade to the projection system. That improvement got us a smaller, but more powerful piece of equipment; this year, however, bigger is better, and we're all set to deliver to you 46% more image for every movie you come to see.
Many thanks to Eric for the long term screen loan that he wasn't even aware he'd made to the cause for the past few years. That screen has served us well, but this afternoon we took delivery of a brand new screen; it still has that new screen smell and everything. This thing is bright, white, and as you can see from the photo, absolutely huge. Basically, I went for the biggest one that I knew we could fit in our closet. With 99 diagonal inches on it, compared to 68 on the old one, we'll now be absolutely certain that no one else on the roof will be able to ignore what we're watching.
Keep an eye on the weather, and as soon as the nighttime temperature creeps up a few more degrees, we'll get everyone over here to see how this looks up on the roof.
Monday, September 14, 2009
With that in mind, we're making last year's Patrick Swayze tribute (which kicked off with Roadhouse) an annual event with a screening of his 1991 action masterpiece, Point Break, in which he plays a bleached blonde surfer who accepts FBI agent Keanu Reeves into his surf-gang as Reeves is learning how to surf in order to bust a ring of Presidentially-masked robbers who the Bureau also suspects are hanging ten in their time away from crime. Reeves goes a little native as he is seduced by the thrill-seeking allure of the waves, while Swayze is perhaps more than he first appears to be. All in all, a classic.
It's also directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who I'd say is now a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination for this year for The Hurt Locker, and like her latest, it's yet another example of why she's one of the best action directors in Hollywood, even if she's sadly underemployed and, it seems, passed over for more marquee properties in favor of male directors who are usually incapable of making action flicks quite as gripping and smart as she is at her best. So we have Patrick Swayze (reason enough for you to show up), Keanu Reeves in a role you won't hate him in, Gary Busey before he went batshit insane, and some of the best action sequences ever put to film. Sold, see you there!
Bring a hoodie, or a blanket, or a slanket, or a snuggie, because it can get a little chilly up there in September. Flasks of whiskey also help.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sadly, the film all but vanished. Wikipedia is a little conflicted on whether it was ever released or not, with the entry on the film stating it had a very limited release, and the entry for Schiller stating that it was never released at all. Either way, it's safe to say that few, if any, people ever saw a public screening of it in the 80s, and a handful of folks have been lucky enough to see it in special museum/retrospective screenings here and there over the years, usually in New York. It has never been released on home video in any form.
Is it that much of a stretch, then, to wonder if Wednesday night might be the first semi-public screening in the District of Columbia in 25 years, if not ever? Are you really going to let yourself miss that? I didn't think so. We'll see you on Wednesday night.
Monday, August 10, 2009
And no film of his demonstrates that more perfectly than the story of the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal. Keep your fingers crossed that this week's thunderstorms take a break for a few hours Wednesday night (unfortunately, Thursday isn't an option for us, otherwise we'd do it after the cold front moves through), and come join us for The Breakfast Club.
Bring beer, munchies, and, if you're feeling so inclined, a Cap'n Crunch & Pixie Stix sandwich.
EDIT: Current weather.com forecast puts the chance of rain at 15% or less between now and midnight, so we're going for it. See you on the roof!
Monday, July 20, 2009
We've been talking about it all summer, and it's finally here: Piranha II: The Spawning, aka P2:tS, aka (as the Spanish preferred to call it) Piraña 2: Los Vampiros Del Mar.
This one comes to us from the director who brought us The Terminator, Aliens, and who has promised to revolutionize the cinema as we know it with his upcoming Avatar. That's right, the director who made the highest grossing film in history (Titanic) got his start on this low budget Italian-produced B-movie, getting promoted from special effects coordinator to the director's chair after the original director quit. Everybody's gotta start somewhere, right?
Of course, it's a pretty blatant attempt to continue to cash in on sea-based horror in the post-Jaws years, but by '81 the formula was getting pretty stale. Unable to top even the worst of the other copycats, or its predecessor, the surprisingly excellent John Sayles-scripted enviro-horror of the original Piranha, Cameron and the Italians followed genre convention and did what any tired horror sequel must: upped the amounts of gore, sex, and death. Oh yeah, and they gave the Piranha a genetic mutation that now allows them to fly, so you're not even safe if you can manage to get out of the water.
It's never funny when it supposed to be, but is pretty much hilarious the rest of the time. And still far better than suffering through Titanic. In fact, I think that movie might have benefitted from some carnivorous flying fish.
As usual, we'll start off with some classic animation. But before we go into the feature, we'll also take a moment for a public service message to remind everyone, as P2:tS demonstrates, that the outdoors contain many dangers. This will come in the form of perhaps the strangest 1970s educational film you've ever seen.
Bring the drinks and snacks of your choice, and if you have easy-to-transport lawn/camp chairs, feel free to bring those as well so we don't get as many dirty looks from the rest of the rooftop for monopolizing the chairs. See you there!
Monday, July 06, 2009
Instead, this Wednesday we'll be showing Moonwalker, Jackson's 1988 companion film to the Bad album. The movie consists of a number of loosely related short films, and as such, we can't help but feel it is likely the structural basis for Robert Altman's Short Cuts, and we trust that Altman will not be stepping forward to dispute this claim. It's also a rarity, having long since gone out of print on both VHS and DVD. So when the hasty re-issue hits stores in a few weeks, you may sneer down your nose at everyone else on your block and tell them that you just attended a screening weeks ago, so no thank you very much.
In keeping with the usual tradition, the feature will be preceded by a cartoon; which in this case should hopefully be an episode of the Jackson 5ive animated series from the early 70s.
As usual, bring any beverages or snacks you'd like to enjoy, and keep an eye on the weather in case it's going to get chilly after dark.
Single white sequined glove optional.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONAL PROGRAMMING NOTE:
Prior to the Jackson 5ive cartoon, we'll be showing a short film by Susan Etheridge, currently untitled, depicting how alcohol, uneven pavement, pyromaniacal boys, and illegal fireworks that bear the name HELLRAISER, are a certain recipe for disaster and near-death experiences. It's sort of a public service message. With fire. The director and many of the actors will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.