American Chopper

In the carnivalesque early days of movie exhibition, a locomotive steaming toward the camera was sufficient to send patrons stampeding to the back of the theater. But the noise machine-slash-mode of transportation best served by the sturm und drang of the cinema, as Francis Ford Coppola balletically demonstrated decades later, is the helicopter. Apocalypse Now notwithstanding, the high-water mark of chopper celluloid is the 1983 paranoid surveillance flick Blue Thunder. Directed by unmitigated hack John Badham, whose career high point (so to speak) was Saturday Night Fever and who’s been relegated to helming episodes of lame TV series for the past decade, the sky-slashing, L.A.-set action pic leads off the Third Annual 70mm Film Festival. Roy Scheider plays a former Vietnam pilot with PTSD who’s now an LA cop (go figure). Naturally, he’s the perfect guy to be handed the controls of a state-of-the-art, armed and armored, crowd-dispersing military chopper. Never mind the hows or whys of the hole-filled plot, just strap yourself in with a cup of java for the lengthy, vertiginous dogfights over Los Angeles. The fest also screens Little Shop of Horrors, TRON, Brainstorm, Lawrence of Arabia, The Wild Bunch, and Playtime.
July 1-9, 2008

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