This Week At The Cinema: The Good, The Bad, and The Anime


Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
  • Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
It's a big week at the movies in Memphis, so we'll get right to it.

Tonight, Tuesday August 14 at 7 p.m., Indie Memphis presents a timely documentary at Studio on the Square. At last year's film festival, when director Adam Bhala Lough showed two of his films, the documentary The New Radical and his lost narrative feature Weapons, he teased his latest project, Alt Right: Age of Rage. The doc delves into the Trumpian explosion of hate-fueled political movements, centering its narrative around last year's Charlottesville Unite the Right rally. Tickets are available at the Indie Memphis website.

Then, a treat for anime fans. The first time Cowboy Bebop: The Movie played Memphis, it was for one week, and only at 9 p.m. I went three times to try to buy a ticket, only to find it was sold out. I finally got into the last screening and wondered, with the rest of the sold-out audience, why it didn't rate a full screen to itself. Now, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Shinichro Watanabe's groundbreaking series, Fathom Events is bringing the film (known in Japan as Knocking On Heaven's Door) back to theaters. Cowboy Bebop's hyperreal fusion of American sci fi and western tropes and Japanese manga imagery has been often imitated but never equaled, and its kicking soundtrack by musical polymath Yoko Kanno remains fresh today. The series theme song "Tank!" ranks alongside "Peter Gunn" and the Mission Impossible theme. The influence from Watanabe's masterpiece has reverberated through pop culture ever since, with entire sequences lifted almost verbatim in The Matrix, and Joss Whedon's Firefly being practically a live-action adaptation. The big screen version lacks a little of the series' snap, (and, inexplicably, "Tank!")  but makes up for it with one of the best space battle sequences ever created. The subtitled version featuring the original Japanese voice actors is Wednesday at the Malco Paradiso, and the dubbed version familiar to American audiences, featuring Steven Blum as Spike, Beau Billingslea as Jet, Wendee Lee as Faye, and Melissa Fahn as Edward, will be Thursday.  See you at the movies, Space Cowboy.

Friday night, director Gina Prince-Bythewood's cult classic Love & Basketball bounces into the Orpheum Theatre Summer Film Series. Imagine Fifty Shades of Grey, only without the sociopathic capitalism and bad S&M. Actually, forget about Fifty Shades entirely and just watch a movie where actual nice people like Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan fall in love with each other for a change. Get your tix on the Orpheum website.

Then Saturday, the Orpheum invites you to indulge in your princess fantasies with Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. This production was originally made for television in 2000 and became a prized cultural artifact thanks to a fabulous late-career performance by Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother and teen sensation Brandy as the little peasant girl with the slipper. Get your tickets here.

But what's that? You're tired of actual good movies? You're ready for first class trash? Saturday night, the Time Warp Drive-In has got you covered. Saturday night, the Worst Movies Ever program kicks off with, what else, 1959's Plan 9 From Outer Space. Recently I was in Los Angeles, and got to visit the space where director Ed Wood had his production offices during his reign of cinematic error. Predictably, it was a dump.

Next up is the exact point where the horror boom of the 1980s went bust: Troll 2. Feel the terror if you dare:

Then brace for the Citizen Kane of kung fu rock n' roll films, Miami Connection. They sing. They dance. They kick ass. They do none of it well.

Think they only made bad movies in the twentieth century? The modern anti-classic Birdemic will make you think again, and then not think about anything. Just stop thinking, OK?

Then, drive off into the sunrise with the infamous international production Manos: The Hands Of Fate. Then keep driving. And driving. And driving...

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