Author: Leslie Sampson

September 29, 2014 / / Main Slate Archive


A friend said to me recently that she felt that A HARD DAY’S NIGHT was the “basis for reality television.” I found it a repugnant theory at first, because I’m of the idea that reality television is badly scripted drama designed to dumb down the minds of those who watch. Ok, I’m included in that category; there are two shows that I’m fairly addicted to. But, as I sat to write about this film, the idea returned to me: what if this was reality theater in the 1960’s?

August 17, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

My Own Private Idaho – 1991 – dir. Gus Van Sant

When this film was first recommended to me three years ago, all I knew was that it was a Gus Van Sant film about a group of gay street hustlers that starred River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves. It piqued my interest, mostly because I’d never seen either actor in such a role before.

April 15, 2011 / / Main Slate Archive

Labyrinth – 1986 – dir. Jim Henson

“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom is as great. You have no power over me.”

The speech is intriguing mostly because of the foreshadowing it does; much like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” did for Dorothy in the film version of The Wizard of Oz, an inspiration for Labyrinth. Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), a teenager who is trapped within a self-created fantasy world, accidentally wishes her younger brother away to the Goblin King Jareth (David Bowie). When the clock strikes thirteen, the baby will become a goblin—unless Sarah can solve the labyrinth, fight her way to the castle through the Goblin City and save him.

December 10, 2010 / / Main Slate Archive

It’s a Wonderful Life – 1946 – dir. Frank Capra

“You know, George, I feel that in a small way, we’re doing something important…” –Peter Bailey.

For me, this one line sums up the entire film. No matter what it is we dream of doing, the truly important things are those that we have already accomplished.

George Bailey (James Stewart) is a man who dreams of greatness; of building skyscrapers and travelling the world. Instead of sailing the seven seas or even going to college, George remains rooted in his small hometown, running the family business and married with children. He barely makes enough money to survive, yet he constantly helps others in the town of Bedford Falls to live better lives.

By KJ Hamilton

Dreams do become reality. But, whatever you do, don’t fall asleep. A Nightmare on Elm Street, in my opinion, is one of the scariest horror films of all time. I tried to figure out why as I screened the film for about the fiftieth time.

I think I have figured it out. It is one thing to be chased by a machete-wielding psychopath when you’re awake. You might have half a chance to escape, depending upon your role in the plot. But, when we sleep, our subconscious reigns; anything is possible. It is in this state that we are at our most open, most vulnerable. There are only two options: be asleep and dream or wake up. It is during sleep that the body replenishes itself; with the goal of awaking refreshed and renewed.

November 14, 2008 / / Film Notes

By KJ Hamilton

Mississippi Burning – 1988 – dir. Alan Parker

The basic plot:  two FBI agents are sent to a small town in Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of three young poll workers.  This wouldn’t be a big deal except the film is set in 1964, these pollsters were also civil rights workers, and one of them was African American. The two agents, Anderson (Gene Hackman) and Ward (Willem Dafoe) are as different as night and day. Ward has worked his way up through the ranks by following the strictest protocol. He knows the rule book inside and out.  Anderson, on the other hand, spent the majority of his law enforcement career in a small Southern town.  One agent is a Northerner, the other a Southerner.   The dichotomy of that situation in the context of the rest of the film is quite interesting.  You’ve got black versus white, north versus south, local versus federal, man versus woman. It’s an all-out war.

August 18, 2008 / / Film Notes

By: KJ Hamilton

Hairspray – 2007 – dir. Adam Shankman

It’s 1962 and Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) is an overweight high school student from Baltimore, Maryland. She rats her hair and knows every dance step thanks to spending her afternoons watching “The Corny Collins Show” with her best friend Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes). She’s also madly in love with the show’s star crooner, Link Larkin (Zac Efron); who doesn’t notice her at school mostly because he’s so wrapped up in his own career.  Though her mother Edna (John Travolta) does not approve, Tracy auditions for the show. Initally, she’s rejected because of her weight and her belief in integration. However, Corny accepts her onto the council after Tracy wows him with her dance moves. She soon becomes the most popular dancer/council member. The station manager, Velma VonTussel (Michelle Pfeiffer) is threatened by this, as she goes to great lengths to make sure her daughter Amber (Brittany Snow) is the most visible council member, and to keep the show segregated. However, Tracy shares Corny’s (James Marsden) views on integration: “It’s the new frontier.”

August 18, 2008 / / Film Notes

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? – 1962 – dir. Robert Aldrich

Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) was a child-star extraordinaire in 1917.  She would sell out theaters, and had best-selling songs. Her song and dance numbers were her trademark. Dolls were created in Jane’s image while her older sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) watched from the wings.  As Jane grew older, her star faded into drunken oblivion. Blanche, on the other hand, became a renowned actress with a stellar career—until it was cut short by a car accident. Jane was drunk behind the wheel of a car and ran over her sister. The car crushed Blanche’s legs and bound her to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.  The accident sent Blanche into seclusion with only Jane to care for her; which wouldn’t be a bad thing if Jane wasn’t consumed with jealousy.  Jane’s plan is to stage a comeback, but first she has to get out from behind her sister’s shadow. The only way to do that is to get rid of Blanche.

August 16, 2008 / / Film Notes

By: KJ Hamilton

The Muppet Movie – 1979 – dir. James Frawley

The basic plot of the film is absolutely charming. Kermit the Frog leaves the swamp and heads west to Hollywood to try to “make millions of people happy.” He encounters a host of enchanting characters along the way, and discovers that it is possible to make your dreams come true if you work hard enough. Ok, I admit it: I love this film. I have loved it since I was a kid, and it’s one of only five films that I can watch repeatedly and never tire of them. So, I jumped at the chance to write about it. I’ve never before wondered just exactly what I love about this film until right now. There are so many things that make me smile and laugh about this film, but I managed to narrow it down to eight things. Let me tell you, this was not easy at all. Here we go…

August 12, 2008 / / Film Notes

By KJ Hamilton

Halloween – 1978 – dir. John Carpenter

It’s the story of a small-town girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who is terrorized by Evil Incarnate, as Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) explains:  “I spent eight years trying to reach him and another seven trying to keep him locked away when I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely, simply evil.”  The boy is Michael Meyers.  When he was six years old, he stabbed his sister Judith to death—on Halloween night. Michael was then institutionalized, and the Meyers’ home in rural Haddonfield, Illinois, became an icon of fright.