Couch Classics

Kevin Wu/Guardian

For the next six weeks, Landmark Ken Cinema on Adam’s Ave. is showing $7.25 classics every Saturday at midnight. That’s right: one big steaming pile of nostalgia for the price of a decent hamburger. Though the Ken may be a couple miles more distant than our local La Jolla Village Cinemas, the newly made-over “Midnight Madness” series is well worth the trek — and what its film selection has lost in subversive overtones, it’s gained in cult cred.

Jan. 23

Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’

The anthem of volatile youth, Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ dark, violent novel is equally offbeat and haunting. Set in futuristic London, the film centers on Alex (Malcolm McDowell), A psychopathic gang leader who settles down for a nice glass of milk and some Beethoven after ripping open young girls’ throats.

When Alex is arrested for rape and murder, he undergoes behavior therapy to purge his violent tendencies — only the therapy itself is brutal and sadistic. It can be quite a sobering surprise if you go in unaware, but “Orange” remains a horrific favorite for its exhilarating pace, perversity and harsh honesty. So if you and the droogs can’t make up your rassoodocks about what do to for the evening, head to Kensington for the bets kind of violence.

Jan.30

The Coen Brothers’ ‘The Big Lebowski’

Jeff Bridges is the Dude — a bathrobe wearing, White Russian-drinking bowler who keeps to himself. That is, until two porn-industry gangsters invade his home in a case of mistaken identity, and soil one very important rug that really tied his living room together. Seeking retribution for his prized carpet, el Duderino locates the perpetrator: Lebowski. During their meeting, Lebowski commissions the Dude to rescue his kidnapped trophy wife. Throw in ultra-feminist daughter Maude, a Vietnam vet with anger issues, a handful of nihilists and a very wet ferret, and you’ve got “The Big Lebowski” — it never disappoints. The Dude always draws a large slippered crowd, mostly belligerent, so grab a Russian, pour it in a discrete thermos and get there early.

Feb.6

John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’

With the tagline “Man is the warmest place to hide,” how could this film go wrong? “The Thing” details the story of a research team in the Antarctic that discovers a parasitic alien presence.

Aside from being the biggest sausage fest in the known universe (even the dog is male), “Thing” is an excellent horror movie that exploits the classic thriller theme of mysterious rabid disease. Though you might have seen it done since in “The Invasion” and “The Faculty,” the idea originated from this fresh take on claustrophobic paranoia. It’s an enjoyably tense ride on which no one and nowhere is safe.

Feb. 13

Steven Spielberg’s ‘E.T.’

Though most of us can’t remember the 1982 release of this cutesy alien flick, only the unborn have never heard E.T’s heartwrenching request to “phone home.” What childhood would be complete without the story of Elliot (Henry Thomas) and Gertie (Drew Barrymore), two siblings who discover a pint-sized alien in their backyard? They teach their wrinkly visitor everything about Earth culture, from basic language to Halloween dressup. In return, E.T. eats all of their candy and establishes a psychic connection with Elliot that makes everyone think he’s psychotic. Before Spielberg developed a bad habit of throwing money into terrible Shia Labeouf films, he invented the warm, fuzzy feeling with golden-age “E.T.”

Feb.20

Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’

This classic made QT’s last name a verb (Tarantino: to upset a film’s time sequence so severely that all heads in the audience cock to one side in confusion and awe). If you’re unfamiliar with Tarantino’s particular blend of blood and verbal lyricism, this is the perfect introduction. In 1994, he had just enough popularity to garner a decent budget, but not so much that it clouded his judgment (see “Kill Bill, Part Douche”). Three seemingly unrelated stories cross each other unexpectedly in this masterly woven tale of a mob boss and his heroin-addicted wife, the boxer he paid to throw a match and two very Travolta and Jackson hitmen.

Feb. 27

Jim Henson’s ‘The Labyrinth’

What happens when Jim Henson abandons his Muppet family to team up with David Bowie for an ’80s fantasy film about a Goblin King?

Pure magic. In a style characteristic of the time (think “Gremlins,” “Big Trouble in Little China” and “Legend”), a caterpillar-eyebrowed Jennifer Connelly has to traverse a magical labyrinth to retrieve her baby brother from the clutches of Jareth the Goblin King — complete with fairy dust and an embarrassingly large codpiece. You’ll love this film (if you don’t already) for its unabashed camp and knee-slapping puppetry. After all, Henson isn’t happy unless his hand is up the skirt of one character or another.

Ronnie Steinitz
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