007 Festival – 4K Digital remasters

This one has been a long time in the pipeline. It’s probably close to two years since we first heard that the James Bond titles would be getting the 4K treatment. Digitally remastered DCPs – when done well – can look glorious (not ‘better’ than film – they’re different formats and not truly comparable – but spectacular in their own way). Having made room on a couple of calendars to date, the DCPs will finally be ready for us to unveil onscreen this year, starting on October 18th with the very first and second 007 titles: Dr No (1962) and From Russia With Love (1963).

Beginning with Sean Connery and making our way forwards with George Lazenby and Roger Moore, our 007 Festival brings a popular character back to the big screen where he belongs. According to our calendar (which will be hitting the streets next week!) Sean Connery is the Bond we love best. Who’s your favourite Bond? And what about Bond villains? Does 7’2″ with steel teeth impress you or are you more interested in plots focused on world domination? There’s plenty of nefarious types to choose from and yes, the series does come with a large dose of sexism delivered through dialogue, narrative and lack of agency. In typical Bond style the women are showcased as beautiful but aren’t given all that much to do besides.

In terms of further exploring the world of 007 we’ve got you covered there too – the Sunday before our 007 Festival begins we’ll be screening a documentary that delves into the world of villains, beauties and a British guy who values being suave above all else. It’s called Everything or Nothing (2012) and it screens Sunday October 12th at 4.30pm. 

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Full listings and details will soon be up on our website but until then, here’s the line up for our 007 Festival:

Bond 1Saturday October 18th 7.30pm
Dr No [1962] (PG) + From Russia With Love [1963] (PG)
Sean Connery, the Bond we love the best, investigates strange occurrences in Jamaica and overcomes the evil Dr. No, who of course has a serious plot to rule the world. After intermission, pitted against a blonde Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya with a dagger in her shoe, Connery returns. Plenty of suspense and action, and one of the longest, most exciting fight scenes ever staged.

Bond 2Saturday October 25th 7.30pm
Goldfinger [1964] (PG) + Thunderball [1965] (PG)
Full of ingenious gadgets and nefarious villains, with a hair-raising climax inside Fort Knox. After intermission there are plenty of gimmicks and Academy Award winning special effects as the world is threatened with destruction, set in the Caribbean.

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Saturday November 1st 7.30pm
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service [1969] (PG)
Lazenby, as the first non-Connery Bond, battles Blofeld amidst incredible action sequences, and a plot with a novel twist. The requisite components persist: nefarious villain, beautiful women and scenery, and great action sequences, but this Bond film is set apart by its maturity and emotional depth of characterization.

Bond 4Saturday November 8th 7.30pm
The Spy Who Loved Me [1977] (PG) + For Your Eyes Only [1981] (M)
In this lavish adventure 007 joins forces with a seductive Russian agent to quash arch villain Stromberg’s plans for world destruction. Nobody does it better, indeed. After intermission, bereft of the space age gadgetry, cartoon villains and female mannequins, we have the Bond film that has created the most debate among 007 fans.

Bond 5Saturday November 15th 7.30pm
Octopussy [1983] (PG) + A View to Kill [1985] (M)
When a “00” agent is found holding a Faberge egg, the British are suspicious and send James Bond to investigate. 007 discovers a connection between the priceless egg, an elaborate smuggling operation and a plot by a renegade Soviet general to instigate World War Three. After intermission, it’s Moore’s final appearance as 007, but hardly the strongest of the Bond series. An investigation of a horse-racing scam leads 007 to a mad industrialist who plans to create a worldwide microchip monopoly by destroying California’s Silicon Valley.

All films presented in brand new, remastered 4K DCP format.

Missed it at MIFF – catch it at the Astor

Every year we take a gander at some of the titles screening during MIFF (sadly we can’t get along to all of them – there are just too many!) and this year we’ve been programming while the festival was going which made it that little bit harder to see enough before we chose titles to hit our own very big screen. We know many of the films do get a release and working out which ones will be best BIG, shining on our glorious SuperScreen (across 19m and up 9m), is always both a joy and a challenge.

grandmaster001-thumb-630xauto-35213Add to that a schedule already jam-packed with so many great retrospective titles across cult and classic cinema and the space certainly is limited! But the ones that we can tell you about, for now, are: The Grandmaster, screening Wednesday October 8th, The Immigrant, screening Sunday October 19th, Locke screening Wednesday November 5th and Two Days, One Night screening Sunday December 14th. We’ll admit that there’s a bit of a wait for some of those but we know it’ll be worth it because each of those films will look incredible up on our SuperScreen.

snowpiercer-1We’ve also made sure you’ll get a chance to see and hear Snowpiercer as large and loud as it ought to be experienced (what a wild ride that’s going to be!) so we’ve programmed it twice – Friday September 12th in a double bill with Under the Skin and again on Wednesday October 22nd in a double bill with The Matrix. Don’t say we never give you anything ;)

medium_emma_smokingWe’re also bringing Palo Alto – Gia Coppola’s stunning adaptation of James Franco’s not so wonderful short story collection – because it simply has to have the big screen treatment: the cinematography is every bit as breathtaking here as it is in her aunt Sophia’s films. What an insanely talented family those Coppolas are. Plus, Luc Besson’s latest, crazy blockbuster Lucy is another that we are pleased to announce. How could you possibly imagine what it would be like to use 100% of your brain capacity anywhere other than in the opulent surrounds of the Astor?

5703_TPT_00043R_720For festival lovers who missed it earlier this year there’s the Swedish/Croatian screen adaptation of The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, screening Sunday October 12th. AND, we are definitely screening the comic book adaptation that has become a recent hit sensation, Guardians of the Galaxy, set for Thursday September 11th – that’s soon!

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-second-movie-trailerThat’s a lot of great cinema coming to our SuperScreen and we haven’t even started telling you about the incredible rep content we have in store! Keep an eye on our social media this week as we slowly unveil some of the brilliant things our next calendar is truly bursting with. It’s going to be another three months of stupendous good fun so grab your diary and start making some serious time for the Astor experience.

Written by Tara Judah for The Astor Theatre.

Edge of Tomorrow

The Astor calendar has, over more than thirty years, become a staple fixture on fridges and toilet doors across Melbourne. In fact, it’s so iconic that we even get requests to send the calendar to the odd ex-pat overseas! There’s something comforting about seeing it taped up on a wall, or stuck to the door you’re about to open each time you eat or make tea. One hitch that comes with quarterly programming, however, is changes to release dates. Occasionally distributors will move the release date of a given title and, as in this instance, that release date will be after our previously confirmed screening date.

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As a rep theatre, we don’t run new release titles on their first run. We usually screen ‘new’ titles 5-8 weeks out from their theatrical release, which is called second run. And so you have it as we do with Thursday night’s calendar listed double bill of Earth to Echo and Edge of Tomorrow. The release date for Earth to Echo has been delayed (for reasons we don’t know so please don’t ask!) which means that we had to pull the title from our double bill. We looked at the options for replacing the film with another recent release title (from the same distributor, as all double bills must come from the same distributor) and, in this instance, didn’t find a substitute that we felt would work too well with Edge of Tomorrow.

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Which brings me to the point of this here blog post: Thursday August 7th will now be a single session screening of Edge of Tomorrow. From what we hear (we still haven’t quite caught up with the film ourselves) there’s plenty to keep you occupied in this bombastic blockbuster as Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt go through a futuristic type of groundhog day at war. With a finger on the reset button, we’re sure there’ll be more than enough Tom Cruise for everyone!

Edge of Tomorrow screens Thursday August 7th at 7.30pm.

Your year long film festival is always here, at the Astor

Victoria has been dubbed (via number plates) “the garden state”, “on the move” and “the place to be”. The state as a whole is a pretty big place (larger than the entire UK if we’re talking physical land mass) and it’s difficult when you work in Melbourne and dwell only around its suburban fringes to know just how garden like, moving and ‘to be’ it really is elsewhere. That said, when I think specifically about Melbourne, one of the things that springs to mind is how very many festivals the city plays host to.

Speaking specifically about film, over the years, the Astor has housed far more than a handful of brilliant festivals including; MIFF, St Kilda, MIM (Made in Melbourne), Manhattan Short, Australia’s Silent, Yew TV, NZ Short, and many others. It’s always a pleasure to host the buzz that comes along with a designated event – but then, that’s no surprise seeing as it’s also what we do all year round!

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The Astor is known for many things – from its grand foyers, golden curtains and famous Choc-Ices to the unique style of programming we do, keeping cult and classic cinema alive with many a double bill on our awesome, toilet-door/refrigerator-adorning quarterly calendars – and it’s the unique style of diverse programming from recent releases to repertory titles that we pride ourselves upon most of all. The programming – which proprietor George Florence has crafted since 1982 (!) – offers a year long film festival with all manner of different strands for Melbourne cinephiles and movie-goers to enjoy.

We’re currently putting together the next one and we can already tell you that it’s a cracker! There’ll be so much to announce in the coming weeks (keep an eye on our social media for updates and announcements) but something we can tell you right now is that we are truly Melbourne’s (and Australia’s) home to the grand film print format known as 70mm.

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It’s incredibly rare to have the opportunity to see some of the brilliant things we regularly show, like Baraka (1992), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Vertigo (1958), Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1982), Aliens (1986), Hamlet (1996), The Master (2012) and, in the past, Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Titanic (1997), Ben Hur (2003) and a number of blow-ups like Gremlins 2 (1990), The Mission (1986), The Right Stuff (1983) and The Last Starfighter (1984).

Now, not all of these films are available for us to screen – y’all know the Titanic story because we posted it about a week ago, and if you’ve been attending the theatre or following up online updates for a while you’ll also know what happened to Lawrence (short version: we loaned it to a film festival in Korea and they burnt Korean subtitles into the print) – but what we can still screen, you can bet we will. We’re always working on bringing you the very best year-long film festival in an environment abuzz with grandeur and great atmosphere!

Written by Tara Judah for the Astor Theatre.

Cinema Fiasco Presents… HERCULES!

Fresh from its triumphal tour of Tasmania, Cinema Fiasco returns to the Astor this Friday, July 25 at 8pm, for a presentation of the 1983 version of Hercules starring Lou Ferrigno.

Clearly the Hercules getting all the press right now is the soon-to-be-released version starring The Rock and, even though I haven’t seen that one yet, I can tell you categorically right now that Lou’s version is the one to see.

Hercules

Why? Well, first of all, Lou’s version doesn’t have a lot of expensive, fake-looking CGI. You want to create a startlingly realistic bear fight? Stick a stuntman in a bear suit, cut in some stock footage of a grumpy grizzly and there’s the job done and at half the price.

Secondly The Rock is too good an actor to play Hercules. Hercules doesn’t have to act. He just has to lift up heavy things and throw them into outer space. And when The Rock speaks you hear his real voice. Hercules is supposed to be dubbed. Lou is. Thank the gods!

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Thirdly, the costumes for the new version were not designed by a drag queen on acid.

Fourthly Lou has a bigger chest than The Rock.

Fifthly Lou’s co-star Sybil Danning has a chest almost as big as his.

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Finally, Friday night’s screening will have commentary by Geoff Wallis and Janet A. McLeod, whose appreciation of bad movie-making is matched only by their need to talk. It will be an epic experience in every sense of the word. Please note that Janet and Geoff will be talking all the way through Hercules. If you want to see it without commentary, please get some professional help.

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Written by  Geoff Wallis 2014

Cinema Fiasco Presents HERCULES screens Friday July 25th at 8pm.

Farewell Leo…

Even if you haven’t seen James Cameron’s Titanic (1997), you probably still know about it. And if you’ve been lucky enough to escape word of Kate & Leo’s ocean liner romance, then apologies for the “spoiler”, but Leo doesn’t make it (it is called Titanic.) Yep, Leo has an unfortunate iceberg incident. Much like the iceberg, this film is BIG. It also comes with all manner of movie manipulation – music cues and camera angles that could make a grown woman cry (or at least bring a moderately less callous teenage version of the grown woman penning this post to tears). Basically, it’s the kind of big screen cry-fest that if you want to see, you want to see in the Astor’s auditorium, presented in glorious 70mm.

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We’ve screened this print a number of times over the years and, even with the yards of critical distance we’ve garnered over that time, it never fails to attract a crowd and leave a majority of our audience with tear-stained cheeks when the credits roll. But if that’s true, why does our calendar say “Final Screening Ever in 70mm”? I suppose the best way to explain it is simply: despite the Astor being pretty much the only place in Australia that still screens 70mm film prints (there are a small handful of other 70mm capable venues but, of them, none screen 70mm on a regular roster and most don’t screen it at all), this will be our last screening of Titanic in 70mm. At least as far as we are aware and as far as it’s fair to let you know in case you want to get along to see it before it disappears from our SuperScreen, the print will thereafter journey to Canberra where it will take up permanent residency in the archive (NFSA).

OSCARS-BEST PICTURE

It used to be that distributors stored their film prints at dispatch locations across the country. There was a very large one in Melbourne right up until late last year. But, with the studios’ ever-impending agenda to eradicate film prints from the market (stupid, enraging and astoundingly short-sighted) that facility down-sized and moved miles across Melbourne to a smaller (and no doubt more affordable) space that would only house DCPs. Some prints, due to the occasionally sensible studios who decid not to throw everything out, were moved elsewhere for safekeeping (much thanks here to Chapel Distribution) while others were junked (destroyed). A number of other studios deemed some prints important enough to keep but perhaps not necessary to continue to exhibit and so, as with Titanic on 70mm, and many other valued classic prints, these will soon to make their way to the NFSA for preservation.

The good news is that the print still exists. The bad news is that we aren’t necessarily in a position to freight film prints interstate and there’s also the question of archival criteria. One of the many stipulations for borrowing classic titles from archives now is that exhibitors must have archival status – or at least partial archival status (something we don’t have).

In short: we probably won’t ever screen Titanic in 70mm print format again. So, if you want to watch Leo die (and who wouldn’t?!) get yourself along to the Astor next Wednesday so that you can give him and the print the blubbering farewell they deserve.

Titanic screens Wednesday July 23rd at 7.30pm. Tickets $10

Companions in the Dark

Last week I wrote about going to the cinema alone so this week I thought I’d talk about cinema-going with friend(s). Though the experience of watching a film is mostly about engaging with what’s on the screen, is also about engaging with the other people in the auditorium, which is why choosing the right person(s) to accompany you is so important. The level of wanted engagement with someone else varies for us all, but even for the most solitary of souls, there is something powerful at play during those unspoken moments we share in the dark.

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The first thing that we need to take into consideration when choosing our cinema-going companion(s) is film selection; genre, format, style, tone, rating, duration, and all manner of other aspects that pertain to our individual tastes. For example, while I wouldn’t take my mother to tonight’s session of The Babadook (2014) and Patrick (2013) – because she doesn’t like horror films and finds it difficult to sit through a double bill – next Wednesday’s single session of Samsara (2011) would be a perfect choice for the two of us – not least because we both loved Baraka (1992) and agree that these are the kind of films that you just can’t see anywhere other than at the Astor. It’s important to make sure that the film(s) you choose will be something both (or all, if you’re gathering your “celluloid posse”) of you will enjoy. There’s no point dragging someone along to see something that you know they won’t like just because you want to see it – in these instances I tend to do what I wrote about last week and just go it alone.

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Once film(s) and friend(s) are selected and it’s actually time to attend the cinema, the degree of sharing starts to kick in. Now I know words are important (I use them here every week to tell you about some of our many cinema-going passions at the Astor), being sure that your cohort won’t overtake what’s going on in the film is a priority – I once went on a movie date where the other person kept leaning over to make mind numbing remarks about what was happening onscreen. Admittedly it was a not very engaging blockbuster, but suffice it to say that relationship never really “blossomed”. At the same time, however, having someone who is in tune with you and your responses can be incredibly comforting. I know that when I see a comedy it is definitely enhanced by the shared laughter in the room and if I’m watching a tear-jerker it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who’s subject to the magical manipulation of the movies!

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Though I’m a big advocate for staring directly at the screen, some of my favourite movie memories involve an awareness of my fellow movie-goers. Seeing my two nephews discover the big screen for the first time in their seats next to me, singing loudly along (and wildly out of tune) with friends to the well known songs from Grease (1978) and having toast fall at my feet while watching The Blues Brothers (1980) are all memories I truly cherish. Holding hands in the cinema with a loved one, sharing a bag of jaffas with my mother and just seeing the joy, shock, horror, excitement and surprise on a friend’s face as I snuck a sidewards glance the first time they saw one of my favourite John Waters’ movies, Female Trouble (1974), are all experiences I’ll remember as much as the movies themselves.

2001 - Pod in the Astor

When we sit collectively in the dark we also give our experience to the room and it’s absorbed and intensified by those around us. The 70mm film print of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) has the most incredible six-track magnetic sound that allows you to hear every breath Dave takes. When surrounded by friends as well as strangers suddenly there’s hundreds of other breaths that inhale, exhale, stop, slow and quicken at precise moments that make the entire experience so much more affecting.

I guess what I’m saying today is that the reason we all want to see movies on the big screen is not just because it’s big. It’s about immersion. And it ignites all of our senses; from seeing and hearing what the filmmakers have crafted to inhaling the intoxicating smell of freshly popped corn, and crunching down on a home made Astor choc-ice while the tactile feelings of those around you comes alive. It is a truly embodied experience, and that’s what makes going to the movies so marvelous.

Written by Tara Judah for The Astor Theatre.