Inherent Vice

Quick – everyone stop what you’re doing and get excited about Inherent Vice. Oh, you were already excited? Okay, but things just got a whole lot more exciting for Melbourne movie-going PTA fans. Why’s that, you ask? Well, we’re only going to be screening PTA’s latest on 70mm PRINT FORMAT is all. With six-track DTS sound. TWICE.

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Having put the good news in paragraph one, I realise that you may not reach this, paragraph two. But, if you have managed to read on, then thanks, and get even more excited because Inherent Vice is packed with the kinds of loveable, flawed characters and broad caricatures that PTA has become so well known for. It’s got a big cast, it’s a generic hybrid minefield of a movie and another lengthy watch at almost two and a half hours. It’s funny, crazy and bold and the kind of film that wants movie snacks.

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The first film to be adapted from a Thomas Pynchon novel, Inherent Vice is certainly ambitious. It’s a drama/comedy/crime caper that blends classic noir with self-reflexivity and stoner gags. PTA apparently describes it as “a Cheech & Chong movie”, while Raymond Chandler served as one of his major inspirations. If you can imagine Bogie’s goofy smile under neon lighting, and if you replaced his smokes with smokes, and if you asked all the femme fatales to get naked, then you’d kind of have PTA’s vision of Pynchon’s world.

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It’s set in a fictional location: Gordita Beach, LA. The protagonist is Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix). Doc is an endearing f**k-up. He’s smart and can probably crack the case, but his lackadaisical attitude, propensity to spark up and that broken heart he’s been dragging around town are slowing things down.

True, sometimes his work is dangerous and, as a PI, it seems both the cops and the crooks see him as as adversary. Poor Doc just can’t catch a break.

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The cast is jam-packed with other big names including Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston and Benicio del Toro. Even PTA’s wife, Maya Rudolph, makes a cameo appearance in this star-studded drug-fuelled investigation into the comic underworld of the Golden Fang. There’s drugs, violence, nudity, a man with a swastika on his face and pancakes. It’s everything a devoted PTA fan could want in a movie! And it’s coming to the Astor in 70mm print format, for two very special screenings on March 13th.

To find out who or what the Golden Fang is and why you might want to avoid them, get thee to your local art deco movie theatre and catch this movie the only way it ought to be seen: on the BIG screen, in a BIG screen format.

Inherent Vice screens in 70mm print format at the Astor Theatre in two very special sessions, Friday March 13th, 7.30pm and 10.30pm. No Free List.

Turkey Shoot + Turkey Shoot

Get ready for a high-octane action evening! First up is the cult classic feature film, Turkey Shoot (1982), before we come at you with the 2014 remake AND a Q&A with one of the producers from both films, Anthony Ginnane, along with members of the remake’s cast.

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Made by popular grindhouse director Brian Trenchard-Smith, the original Turkey Shoot was a ‘1984′ parable, with a high gore factor, and one that went on to become one of the highest grossing Australian movies at the US Box Office. Released in the US as Escape 2000, Quentin Tarantino cites it as one of his personal favourites. In the UK, Enterprise released it as “not a film for chickens”.

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Packed with mayhem, stunts and special effects, the remake is a warped reflection of the global fascination with increasingly brutal reality-television competition game shows. It’s been re-crafted and updated by co-writers Belinda McClory (X) and Jon Hewitt (X, Acolytes). Set in the not-so-distant future, it follows a smash hit live reality TV show that combines a stalk-and-chase adventure with the ultimate twist: death.

In the wake of a shocking civilian massacre in a foreign war zone, disgraced Navy SEAL Rick Tyler is sentenced to rot in a maximum security military prison until he is offered the opportunity to put his life on the line to win his freedom. A one-man force of nature, Tyler will have to take-on and take-down some of the world’s most ruthless killers in the some of the world’s most brutal locations to win the game, obtain his freedom, and find out why he was set up. The question is, can he accomplish all of this before Game On is Game Over?

What’s wrong with the government and society at large? Well, in a nutshell, lots. The whole thing gets a little satirical and a lot bloody in our Thursday night double bill of Turkey Shoot and Turkey Shoot. Check them out, back to back, on the big screen at the best cinema in town.

Turkey Shoot and Turkey Shoot screen in a double bill on Thursday January 22nd, 7.30pm. This special event screening includes a Q&A with producer Anthony Ginnane and members of the 2014 film’s cast. Advance tickets available. Special prices, $20/$18. No Free List.

 

The year in review: the good, the bad, and the ugly

It’s been another big year for the Astor. What we call “the movies” is both a business and an art, and the two don’t always see eye to eye. Nevertheless, we do our best to forge a path through the  jungle that is theatrical exhibition. This year, we’ve seen a continued loss of film prints and the arrival of more DCPs, although the replacement digital files do not necessarily correlate to the losses. We announced our closure and produced our last Astor calendar. It’s been difficult, wonderful, infuriating and heartening. Like most great movies that stand the test of time, it’s been moving and memorable.

2014 was the year that we welcomed the Pelvic Thrusts into the Astor’s fold, saw The Dark Crystal (1982) return to the big screen and finally got word that the digital restoration of Once Upon a Time in America (1984) is complete. It was also the year that we were told we could no longer screen The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) or It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) on 35mm film print format. The Lebowski Bash didn’t go ahead because of distributor restrictions and even though we offered to pay the freight on shipping the 70mm prints of Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Interstellar (2014) and Spartacus (1960) from the US to Australia, so that we could run final tribute screenings on our last ever calendar, we were not granted permission.

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At the Astor and Chapel Distribution (Chapel co-founded and directed by George Florence with Mark Spratt), we refer to photochemical film prints and think of what we do as showing movies to an audience. The studios now call film prints “analogue backups” and even though the industry term has always been “exhibition”, they now refer to a screening of a film as the “exploitation of an asset”. This small detail gives an insight into the mindset that permeates from the top of the global capital corporations that now control most of the entertainment industry.

When we are forced to surrender film prints to the studios who own the intellectual and physical properties of the film after our rights expire, we always insist that they keep those prints, as an irreplaceable “asset”. Sometimes the studios listen. Props to Madman, Universal and Roadshow for not junking their entire film print libraries when Deluxe moved to a smaller location and changed the business model from film and digital distribution to digital only dispatch. Those prints are – currently – safely housed at Chapel Distribution and available to exhibitors for booking. Chapel is housing the prints for free with the sole intention of saving them from their alternate fate of being junked (destroyed). Fox, also to their credit, chose to house their remaining film prints at the NFSA, though this is not as accessible as the distribution-oriented Chapel Distribution, and Sony, who have stored their prints in a remote Queensland location.

It’s a Wonderful Life

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I’ve written before on this blog that every time a 35mm film print is screened, it’s like an angel gets its wings. Well, we reluctantly handed over the print of It’s a Wonderful Life – it was once in the Chapel Distribution catalogue and was later recalled by Park Circus after the rights changed hands – and we were assured that the print would remain available to us. It was, after all, one we showed annually on Christmas eve; an Astor tradition. The print (still in great condition) was made from the restoration elements commissioned by the US Library of Congress for their preservation archive and it was one of the best classic prints (image and sound) we have ever screened. Chapel Distribution paid around $4500 to have the print made when they bought the rights. The rights expired and reverted to Paramount but, Park Circus, who now represent the majority of repertory content outside of the US, insisted that the print be handed to Park Circus, after assurances from Paramount that the print would not be junked. In the meantime the print went missing. Paramount locally disclaimed any knowledge of what happened to it. We were told finally that it went back to the UK. Was it junked there or are audiences enjoying it? We don’t know. Consequently, we shifted the screening from the 24th to the 27th and ran a new DCP –  one that was supplied by Paramount.

 The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

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Early in the year, after Eli Wallach died, we decided we’d like to run a special tribute screening of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. The film print has screened many times at the Astor and is a favourite among Melbourne cinema-goers. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the prints that was recalled a couple of years ago when the rights holder changed and it was sent to “central storage facilities” after Deluxe decided they could no longer store film prints. Apparently the “tech ops people” decided that many of those prints were in poor condition and supposedly those were junked (there was nothing wrong with the GBU film print, and the majority of the film prints in question were in as-new condition, having been commissioned by Chapel as new prints). Which prints they were we do not know. We’ll probably never know. We have asked, but our voice only seems to make its way into an echo chamber. Just prior to our request for the print, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly had undergone a brand new 4K digital restoration and, according to Park Circus (the new rights holder), “this is the version the studio wishes audiences to see”. That’s as close to an answer as we have managed to get, even after flat out asking if the print had been junked.

Lebowski Bash

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Followers of Dudeism may remember how we used to host Melbourne’s Lebowski Bash. The fantastic people who organise the event did in fact plan to return to Melbourne in 2014 with their tribute band, In ‘n’ Out burger bar, and white russians in tow. Unfortunately, the distributor decided to up the cost of film hire. For people who don’t know, the distributors take either a flat fee or a percentage of the box office when cinemas screen their films. There are standard industry rates but there’s also some room for negotiation when it comes to event screenings. Having had the event at the Astor before and having set a film hire fee in previous years, one might think that the very same fee could be applied the following year so that the people of Melbourne could enjoy an event that was created in good spirit, aiming to bring joy and entertainment to town. But that would be the thinking of a film-lover and not a studio executive. It seems that in 2014 Universal wanted a higher fee for film hire. It was too expensive for the people who organise Lebowski Bash because the event is born of love, passion and elbow grease and not huge profit margins. Without a lower fee the event would not go ahead. It did not go ahead.

There are plenty more stories such as these in the Astor’s not-quite-on-the-calendar programming files. But we’re on the cusp of a new year so let’s not get too down and out about it all. In terms of what you can look forward to, there’s a glorious, glossy final Astor calendar in circulation. It, like so many before, has been put together with love, sweat, late nights and an occasional tear by the talented George Florence. We’ve seen thirty-two years of cryingly good double bills so make sure you come down and celebrate what we have managed to secure in our bookings over the coming months, because it’s going to be one helluva farewell.

Written by Tara Judah for The Astor Theatre.

Once Upon a Time on the SuperScreen…

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We’ve waited with baited breath for more than two years since the first announcements of restoration and the Cannes Film Festival’s screening of a new version of Once Upon a Time in America. Finally, after a careful process of continued restoration on the film’s additional footage, we are now able to present Sergio Leone’s complete masterpiece of visual storytelling, back on the big screen, where it belongs.
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We’re big Leone fans here at the Astor (you may have noticed) and could not be happier to present his final film, this New York gangster flick, restored and remastered in 4K digital format up on our SuperScreen. Plunging the characters and the viewer into an ocean of longing, regret, and rumination over what might have been, Leone masterfully brings the streets of NYC to life.
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When the film was first released in the United States, it was cut and arranged in chronological order. This was followed by a re-release – a much longer cut that preserved the director’s structure.
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Now, after digital restoration, following scans of the original elements and including 22 minutes of restored footage —never before seen — the film is finally complete. Three decades after its theatrical release, Leone’s true vision will be seen, with intensified character development and the film’s full, epic story. Only at the Astor.
Once Upon A Time In America screens for a special, limited engagement, Friday February 6 and Saturday February 7, 2015.

CINEMA FIASCO PRESENTS: BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO

Undistinguished sequels are a bad movie staple and nothing gets a bad movie fan more excited than a movie title that includes a numeral – except seeing that numeral followed by an embellishment like “Electric Boogaloo”.

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In the annals of dire sequels, Breakin2: Electric Boogaloo (1984) stands proud.  It’s the follow-up to a not especially good original and it takes something supposedly cool and turns it to corn by showcasing it in a Mickey and Judy “Let’s put on a show” plot.

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A nasty property developer is threatening to tear down the community house where local kids’ lives are being saved by breakdancing. The all-dancing barely-acting team of Kelly, Ozone and Turbo put on a spectacular breakdancing show to raise the money needed to save the centre from destruction.

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The world would, of course, be a much better place if dance crazes could defeat evil but, according to this movie, breakdancing can also mend broken bones, stop heavy industrial equipment in its tracks and raise the dead.

The movie also features lots of fluoro-fashions, a fabulous 80s soundtrack, a magnificent tribute to Lionel Ritchie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” video and a hospital dance number that is the campest thing you’ll ever see.
imagesBreakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo will be presented with LIVE COMMENTARY by CINEMA FIASCO’S Geoff Wallis and Janet A. McLeod who know the 80s BECAUSE THEY WERE THERE!
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Cinema Fiasco presents Electric Boogaloo Friday November 21st 8pm. 

Special Prices: $20/$18. No Free List.

A Hard Day’s Night

It’s been about fourteen years since we were able to screen A Hard Day’s Night (1964) at the Astor. We used to run a 35mm film print held by Disney, who managed the re-issue some years before that. After the theatrical screening rights expired, however, the print was junked. And so you have it: for about fourteen years we were unable to screen A Hard Day’s Night.

With Umbrella Entertainment as the now rights holders, a 2K DCP remaster of this long-absent fan movie – just in time for its 50th anniversary – is now available. We can finally present an afternoon of Beatlemania at the Astor. It may not be 35mm, but we will see Ringo, John, Paul and George up on the big screen.

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The Movie

John, Paul, George and Ringo get up to some fairly cheeky antics that seem  masterfully improvised at times, and the result is a joyous celebration of an era and the fab four at their most memorable. Apparently, it’s a tough life being a Beatle: the beyond famous four have to work so hard at being The Beatles that they’d really be very grateful for just one day off…

The Band

But the film itself is not all we have in store. As you no doubt know, coming to the Astor is cinema-going as an event, so in addition to screening this great film, we’re also incredibly excited to announce that BackBeaT, a Melbourne based Beatles tribute band, will be performing the sound and energy of the early Beatles era from pre-fab to Beatlemania in the Astor foyer before the screening.

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They are die hard Beatle people who like to share with the audience their passion for the early Beatles career (unless you were there of course!) They don’t wear wigs or try to do the Liverpool accent justice – they play the music with passion, three-part harmonies and with period correct equipment.

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The Short

And, as if that weren’t enough entertainment for one afternoon, we’ll also be screening a rare CinemaScope short of The Beatles in concert! So if you love The Beatles and if you want to celebrate their impressive career with like-minded fans, in opulent surrounds, then we’ll be seeing you on Sunday November 30. Doors open at 1pm for a 2pm screening. Astor Choc-Ices will of course be available to make the experience all the sweeter.

 

The Plague is coming…

Next Wednesday… PLAGUE is coming to the Astor.

A small group of survivors seek shelter from an infection that has spread among mankind. Evie, after becoming separated from her husband John, attempts to convince her group to stay and wait for his return. When another survivor named Charlie appears, his elusive past reveals a terror as frightening as the infected who pursue them.

It’s a special invite only event, BUT, the good people who are staging the screening are giving tickets to a limited number of lucky people who register through their website! For more info and to do that, head on over to plaguefilm.com

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Plague screens Wednesday October 29th 7.30pm