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Blasts from the past, back on the big screen

by Mark Burger

Even though the summer movie season is fast fading on the horizon, there’s still some big-screen surprises to savor.

This Thursday marks the fourth anniversary of the Big Lebowski Rock ‘n’ Bowl, presented by the Mixed Tape Series and WUAG 103.1-FM Radio. Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Big Lebowski will be screened at 7:30 p.m. at the Carolina Theatre (310 S. Greene St., Greensboro), followed by a relaxing, pleasant evening if bowling at the nearby Brunswick Triad Lanes (21 Oak Branch Road, Greensboro).

If you know the movie, you know the connection. You also know that it’s a no-no to bowl on Shabbas, even if you’re not Jewish and your wife was — but now you’re not married, either. The purple-jumpsuit attire favored by bad-boy bowler Jesus (John Turturro) is not a requirement… but it wouldn’t hurt!

The Big Lebowski, which stars Jeff Bridges in an iconic performance as “The Dude,” is an outrageous comedy of errors and mistaken identity featuring an all-star cast: Julianne Moore, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Sam Elliott, Ben Gazzara, David Huddleston, a giggling David Thewlis and early screen appearances by Tara Reid (perhaps her best performance ever) and future Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The Coens and Bridges would of course reunite for last year’s remake of True Grit, which was not only a box-office hit (the biggest for all of them, as a matter of fact) but also earned 10 Oscar nominations including Best Director(s) and Best Actor.

Coming as it did after Fargo (1996) — for which the Coens picked up their first Academy Award (Best Original Screenplay) — The Big Lebowski wasn’t nearly as hailed by critics, or as embraced by audiences… although I can think of one critic (ahem) who had Big Lebowski on his Top-10 list for ’98. Homevideo became The Dude’s haven, and a cult phenomenon was born. Rolling Stone has labeled The Big Lebowski as “the most worshiped comedy of its generation.”

In the spirit(s) of the film, White Russians will be sold in the theater lobby, and there will be a costume pageant based on the movie, scheduled immediately after the show. For those who deign to bowl afterward, there will be a $100 competition and a live DJ set featuring Jack Bonney. It’ll be a time to roll and bowl and get your “Dude” on.

Tickets for the movie and all-you-can-bowl event are $15; tickets for the movie only are $5. For advance tickets, visit www.CarolinaTheatre.org.

Another film that didn’t find critical or audience approval upon its initial release was Brian De Palma’s 1983 version of Scarface, which starred Al Pacino in the title role. Yet thanks to home video and repeated cable broadcasts, the epic crime saga has since been praised as a classic.

On Wednesday (Aug. 31), NCM Fathom and Universal Studios Home Entertainment will commemorate the legacy of this legendary film with a special theatrical screening 7:30 p.m.at Regal Greensboro Grande Stadium 16 (3205 Northline Ave., Greensboro).

Incredibly, many people don’t know that Scarface was a remake (Paul Muni played the title role in the 1932 original), but De Palma’s version has undoubtedly surpassed the original in popularity. The story of the rise and fall of Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee-turned-crime lord, is the quintessential American Dream gone wrong — as only De Palma and screenwriter Oliver Stone could envision it.

Critics and audiences were turned off by the film’s length (almost three hours), its vulgar language (including some of the most creative uses of the F-word ever committed to film) and, particularly, by its vicious, visceral violence. In many ways, this film set a new standard.

During the early 1980s, it seemed as if Brian De Palma was engaged in an ongoing war with the MPAA. His 1980 thriller Dressed to Kill was threatened with an X rating, Scarface was threatened with an X rating, and he turned the hat trick with 1984’s Body Double, which was also threatened with an X rating.

Scarface catapulted co-stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Steven Bauer into the limelight, and also featured such screen veterans as Robert Loggia, F. Murray Abraham (soon to win an Oscar as Best Actor in Amadeus) and Harris Yulin, the latter a particular favorite of this critic in his role as the corrupt Miami cop Mel Bernstein. The late Paul Shenar, who played Montana’s rival Alejandro Sosa, once sent yours truly an autographed picture from the movie with a line from the movie which could not be repeated in polite company!

This one-night-only screening of Scarface, which will take place in 475 theaters, will include a special 20-minute featurette preceding the film that explores the legacy of Scarface since its release almost 30 years ago.

A week later, on Sept. 6, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will release the Blu-ray of Scarface ($34.98 retail) in a special limited edition that includes a treasure trove of special features and bonus material — including the original Scarface.

Tickets for the Scarface screening are $12.50 and available at the theater box-office or on-line at www.FathomEvents.com

For more information, call 336.662.5691 or e-mail com. Reservations are suggested.

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