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Review: Midnight Movies at the Ken

What the shell? It's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" to kick off Landmark Ken Cinema's summer Midnight Movies.
What the shell? It's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" to kick off Landmark Ken Cinema's summer Midnight Movies.

Landmark Kicks Off Summer Season of Midnight Movies

The Landmark Midnight movies return with a great line up of cult and indie favorites.

I love midnight movies. First of all I am nocturnal and it's the perfect time for me to go out and see a movie. Second, the types of films that get shown at midnight tend to be my kind of movies -- fringe films, cult classics, oddball movies, horror. And third, people who come out to midnight movies tend to be just a little more passionate about their films.

So I am thrilled to announce that Landmark has asked me to host some of the films and to partner with the myKPBS Film Club to bring more attention to the late night shows.


Cowabunga! The series kicks off this Friday and Saturday with a 90s favorite, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," the live action film with Corey Feldman as Donatello and Elias Koteas as Casey Jones and Sam Rockwell as "Head Thug." It's goofy fun and nostalgic for anyone who grew up with TMNT.

BATTLE ROYALE trailer -- Coming soon to blu-ray & dvd!

The action gets considerably darker the following weekend, June 29 and 30 with "Battle Royale," the cult classic that asks "Could you kill your best friend?" Here's the premise, taken from Koushan Takami's novel: Forty-two students. Three days. One survivor. A group of delinquent Japanese high schoolers are dropped on an island. Each receives a bag with a randomly selected weapon, some food, and water. They are then told to kill each other in a no-holds-barred battle to the death. The last one standing wins. Does wonders for class size reductions too.

Official Trailer | The Big Lebowski | Screen Bites

The Dude abides... Next up is one of my all-time favorite movies, "The Big Lebowski" on July 6 and 7. This is one of the Coen Brothers' best films and one of Jeff Bridges best performances. Joel and Ethan Coen claim that they want "The Big Lebowski" to be a 90’s version of Raymond Chandler’s gumshoe mysteries. So they set their film in LA, have a voice over narration, and offer an eccentric array of duplicitous characters. But the Coens can’t resist tweaking genre expectations. As a result we get a laid back pothead instead of a hard boiled private eye and a voice over track delivered by a cowboy filled with prairie wisdom rather than a city slicker full of cynical observations. As with all the Coens’ films, "The Big Lebowski" is impeccably crafted with fine work from cinematographer Roger Deakins and production designer Rick Henrichs. One of the highlights of the film is a dream sequence that combines equal parts Salvador Dali, Busby Berkeley and bowling erotica. Wait a minute is that a contradiction in terms? Plus there are great moments of Coen absurdity like a gang of German nihilists who toss a marmot into the Dude’s bath as a means of torture.

Rear Window - Trailer - (1954) - HQ

The midnight movies go classy on July 13 and 14 (Comic-Con weekend) with Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window." This claustrophobic thriller serves up Jimmy Stewart in a wheelchair, a luscious Grace Kelly, a menacing Raymond Burr, and a wisecracking Thelma Ritter. This film is even better on a big screen. The film contains one of cinema's sexiest screen kisses ever.

Spoons! Yes! Tommy Wiseau and "The Room" back for one night, Friday, July 20. Possibly the best worst movie ever made, "The Room" provides such bad but earnest filmmaking that you can't help but laugh. The film has a cult following and audiences have a whole routine designed to highlight and play off of the most absurd elements in the film from mismatched cuts to atrocious dialogue. Bring spoons and a football. This has to be seen to be believed and is much better with an audience.


Jim Sharman's 1975 film, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" screens with live shadow cast Crazed Imaginations on July 21 and August 18. Maybe I'm getting old but I have to confess that I don't enjoy the new shadow cast performances because it is too much about the shadow cast and not enough about "Rocky Horror." In fact the shadow cast did a birthday spanking break during what they called one of the "dull" parts of the film and that's where one of my favorite lines is (in regards to the whereabouts of Meatloaf's Eddie, "That's a tender subject"). I love this film and especially Tim Curry's sexy, funny, audacious performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, and I can't really enjoy either with the new shadow cast that puts the film firmly in the background.

But I can enthusiastically recommend John Waters' "Pink Flamingos" on July 27 and 28. This "adults only" screening showcases the film that shocked audiences in 1972 and helped win him the nicknames the Pope of Trash and the Prince of Puke. The film stars the absolutely divine Divine. While the content of Pink Flamingos-- incest, exhibitionism, singing anuses and eating dog crap-- were a direct challenge to the standard Hollywood fare, Waters’ approach to filmmaking relied on a Hollywood dynamic. He insisted on a straightforward narrative plot, emphasized entertainment over enlightenment, and built a stable of stars that rivaled Hollywood in a most outlandish fashion. With Pink Flamingos, Waters made an audacious bid for attention and got it. But the film was more than just an attempt to shock. It was an all out satiric assault on the middle class values that Waters saw as oppressive and hypocritical. The film also lobbed a bomb in the cultural war of the sixties and early seventies. But what made Waters unique was the joyous quality of his work, the wicked delight he took in trashy obscenity. Waters’ revelry at smashing establishment values and championing social misfits made his film irresistible to all but the most puritanical. Who can resist the gleeful and absolutely defiant 300 pound Divine decked out in a flamboyant outfit and strutting down a Baltimore street to strains of The Girl Can’t Help It. This is an outsider flaunting his/her nonconformity with pride. Waters’ early films revealed a keen eye for social observation and genuine compassion for the outsider. He would hone these skills to perfection in Hairspray in 1988.

"It's all in the reflexes!" And it's all about Kurt Russell's hilarious take on John Wayne in John Carpenter's "Big Trouble in Little China" on August 3 and 4. This underrated gem is silly fun and Russell's Jack Burton is hilarious.

"Drive" is a bit out of place in this line up but I'll take a good film on the big screen any time I can get it. So check out Ryan Gosling in this anti-action action film on August 10 and 11. A measured pace along with a superb sense of editing and cinematic space is on display in the hypnotic "Drive." Nicolas Winding Refn is like a jazz artist riffing on other works yet still delivering a product that manages to be totally his own. Refn lets much of the story play out without dialogue and exposition. We just need to watch, follow along, and then figure it out. But when there is dialogue we get great delivery from the likes of Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, and Ron Perlman. "Drive" is a satisfying and stylish thriller that resonates beyond its formula trappings.

"Sleep all day, party all night. Never grow old, never die. It's fun to be a vampire." Hell yeah! It's "The Lost Boys" on August 17. No sparkling emo boys here but a wild and fun teen vampire film. Everything in this film was just right from Dianne Weist's sweet but oblivious mom to Bernard Hughes' grandpa to Keifer Sutherland's punky vampire to the loony Frog Brothers. It's also the only film by Joel Schumacher that's worth watching.

And to close out the summer fun it's the last good Indiana Jones film, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" on August 24 and 25. Sean Connery is great fun as Indy's dad and the film serves up a fun father-son adventure.

These are the films I will be introducing, so I hope you will come join me:

June 22: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"

June 30: "Battle Royale

July 7: "The Big Lebowski"

July 20: "The Room"

July 28: "Pink Flamingos"

August 4: "Big Trouble in Little China"