Cult sci-fi classics Carpenter’s Thing and Wachowski’s Matrix on big screen for one night

Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus in The Matrix
Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus in The Matrix

The Matrix was the last film that I went to see multiple times in theaters with no other reason than how badass it was. I’ve done it since, but only for social reasons, such as hanging out with friends. Someone really needs to do a documentary on that film’s affect on popular culture of the time.

For the first time, The Matrix will be screening with another sci-fi cult classic – John Carpenter’s 1982 thriller The Thing – at the Loew’s Jersey, on April 29th and April 30th. The film programmers have even thrown in a print of the 1951 Howard Hawks’ produced The Thing From Another World for good measure.

There are so many memorable characters from The Matrix and The Thing, but two of my favorites were Keith David’s ‘Childs’ and Laurence Fishburne’s ‘Morpheus.’ Morpheus had swagger and Childs, thug coolness. Both will forever stand out as two of the strongest characters in sci-fi movie history.

The only thing that would stop me from going is an ‘Agent’…or ‘The Thing’ itself.

Here’s the complete schedule for the weekend:

Friday, April 29 – 8 pm
The Matrix
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving
Directors: by The Wachowski Brothers (1999, 136 mins.)

What if everything that we think is real about our world is instead unreal, a virtual reality created by malevolent, all-powerful computers to fool and enslave humans? That’s the conceit of “The Matrix” – and it gives writers/directors Andy and Larry Wachowski the basis for presenting some of the most amazing special effects ever seen on screen. Add in an unusual blend of influences — Honk Kong martial arts films, Japanese anime, comic books, Philip K. Dick, mythology and religious mysticism – and you get a dark, convoluted and action-packed film that was one of the biggest sci-fi titles of its decade. If the ever-more complicated story gets confusing enough at times to make you feel as if you’ve become hopelessly lost in the user’s guide to the latest version of Windows — that’s the point: the film deliberately creates a kind of techno-intoxication to overload and confuse you, break your hold on the ordinary and numb you before completely overwhelming your senses with its speial effects. Few films mess with your mind and cause your eyes to pop so far out of your head as “The Matrix.” It is a must to be seen on the Big Screen.

Saturday, April 30 – 6 pm
The Thing From Another World
Cast: Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, Robert Cornthwaite, James Arness, Produced by Howard Hawks
Director: Christian Nyby (1951, 87 mins.)

A flying saucer is discovered in the frozen Arctic, and scientists from a polar expedition and a US Air Force team investigate. But there are no laser guns, helpless heroines, big bugs or other clichés that you might expect in what was conceived of as a low budget “B” sci-fi picture in the 1950s. Instead, there is an intelligent script; a fast pace; rapid-fire overlapping dialogue; a tight, controlled atmosphere; a smart and competent female character; and relaxed, natural performances — all hallmarks of a movie by Howard Hawks (who produced the film, and probably directed it too, although without credit). The “thing” itself is seen only in fleeting glances, a directorial decision that built incredible tension while also mostly avoiding the unintentionally funny “man in a rubber suit” scenes that plague so many sci-fi films of the era. The cast is excellent, though none were stars — although James Arness would go on to become a star, for his role in TV’s “Gunsmoke.” Underlying all is the palpable dread of a lurking, unforgiving enemy that gripped America in the McCarthy era. Critics have long debated the film’s allegorical implications of the US vs. Communist, force vs. diplomacy, military vs. science. But fully sixty years later, with the Cold War now but a memory, what endures is the film’s seminal mix of sci-fi, noir, and horror. It’s the landmark prototype for subsequent sci-fi hybrids from “It! The Terror from Beyond Space” to “Alien,” and, of course, John Carpenter’s “The Thing,”

“The Thing” will be shown at the Loew’s in the studio’s vault print on our 50-foot-wide screen.

Saturday, April 30th – 8:10 pm
John Carpenter’s The Thing
Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat
Director: John Carpenter (1982, 108 mins.)

In the annals of Hollywood remakes, it is hard to find one that is more of a contradiction in terms than John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” On the one hand, the film is faithful to the broad outline of the original and successfully maintains its tight, almost claustrophobic feeling and palpable fear. The cast, as in the first film, is not exactly filled with marquee names, except for Kurt Russell, who gives one of his best performances. Like its predecessor, it’s part sci-fi and part horror. And just as in the original, the real appearance of the “thing” is left mostly to our imagination. But at the same time, the later film diverges from the original in key ways: It’s cinematography is even more moody than the original and greatly adds to the film’s stark, ominous feeling — but does so in full color, not the black-and-white that’s typical of the noir sensibility. It adds a good measure of who-done-it mystery, and is also spiked throughout by doses of black humor, some pretty graphic violence and impressive pre-CGI special effects — all of which stand in stark contrast to the original, which deliberately eschewed humor and special effects and had little on-screen violence. The Cold War allusions of the earlier film are gone, and there is much less of an “us vs. it” feeling than an even more paranoid “you can’t trust anyone” mindset. And to top it off, the second film is actually truer to the short story that both films were based on. When it was released, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” was mostly panned as a debasement of the original. But time has lent perspective, and today the film is generally recognized as that most rare of remakes: not a copy, but a successful new adaptation that stems from distinct creative instincts and different sensibilities. In other words, you can enjoy John Carpenter’s “The Thing” without reference to, or taking away from the other “Thing.”

Sunday, May 1st – 3 pm
The Eagle
Cast: Rudolph Valentino, Vilma Banky and Louise Dresser (1925)
Organist Don Kinnier to play accompaniment on the Loew’s Jersey’s Wonder Morton Organ.

Though “The Eagle” was not one of Rudolph Valentino’s bigger box office successes, it is now seen as perhaps his finest performance, and one of the best American dramas of the silent era. Based on the novel “Dubrovsky” by Alexander Pushkin, it is the story of a Russian Cossack who spurns the affections of his Czarina, Catherine the Great, because he does not want to be a kept consort. When his lands are seized, he is transformed into a kind of Robin Hood-like avenger of injustice.

Valentino was at his most natural and appealing in this film, playing the Cossack with wit, humor and humanity — and without a trace of the stiff posturing that marred some silent performances and which today we often mistakenly assume was the case with all silent film acting. He wore the elaborate period costumes as if they were his second skin, and moved with a dancer’s grace and casual sexuality. In this film, it is certainly easy to understand his appeal to so many women. The story was action-packed and entertaining, the direction intelligent, and the cinematography was among the most poetic of the whole silent era. Vilma Banky was a delicately beautiful co-star, and Louise Dresser as the worldly Czarina was excellent. It is, in all respects, a great movie. Despite its latter-day re-appraisal and appreciation, “The Eagle” is not often revived. Don’t miss this rare chance to see it — and its immortal star — the way it (and he) were meant to be seen: on the Big Screen, accompanied by the power and beauty of a live pipe organ.

Find out more about this screening event at