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LOS ANGELES DESTROYS ITSELF @ the Los Angeles Film Festival, June 23rd-July 1st

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"Daddy would have gotten us Uzis."

You don't expect to find an event called LOS ANGELES DESTROYS ITSELF in the respectable UCLA Film & Television Archive calendar. It's like finding a piece of sexy lingerie in your parents' closet when you were looking for your dad's old sweater and for the first time in your young life you find yourself hanging somewhere between fear and desire. It's on that unsafe ground that our most secret fantasies take flight and it's in the safety of movie theaters that we live them.

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"My sister used to force me to watch movies like this when we were young but now I can force my wife!" Netflix customer.

A mini-film festival, LOS ANGELES DESTROYS ITSELF highlights five classic disaster epics. After reading dozens of people's reviews online (all of the reviews quoted in this story are from lay people, not critics) I was convinced those films were well worth sharing with Taco readers because of the powerful connections people felt for the films, the opportunity to see Los Angeles in the 1950's, 70's, 80's and 1990s and the political context in which some of those films were made.

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The Los Angeles river circa 1954 in "THEM!"

If, like Taco contributing cartoonist Jessica Vliet, you have days when you want to see Los Angeles die ... here's your opportunity to indulge in this guilty pleasure. Five ways LA could die care of UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Los Angeles Film Festival:

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This 1984 mock-horror zombie movie has two Valley girls (Catherine Mary Stewart & Kelli Maroney - the gun totting cheerleader) fighting flesh-eating humans who survive after a comet wipes out life in LA. The People's opinion: " I loved this movie as a kid in the 80's. I'm still a sucker for it. My son (14) thought it was ok. Any child of the 80's would like it." "This is my favourite mock-horror zombie movie ever... Note the requisite shopping scene set to the tune of "Girls just wanna have fun." "Not bad for 1980's technology." "If you want big action, big effects, look elsewhere, it's about the girls." "It is funny, the acting is decent and the dialogue full of humorous one-liners. Check your brain at the door, kick back and enjoy a silly return to 80's mock horror/sci-fi at its best."

"Night of the Comet", Saturday, June 23rd @ 8:30pm. FREE outdoor screening @ Festival Promenade on Broxton Avenue in Westwood.

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SNAKE IS BACK! Kurt Russell reprises his role as Snake Plissken in John Carpenter's follow-up to "Escape from NY": 1996 "Escape from L.A." It's not just Kurt Russell's irresistible manliness that grabbed my attention but this online comment: "Escape from L.A" is far more relevant today than it was in the 90's with its vision of American society ruled by a hypocritical, evangelical president who has no qualms sending converted Muslims and cigarette smokers to a prison island." Reviews are mixed. Most people find it is a poor follow-up to "Escape from NY", the acting over the top and the special effects disappointing but some people say it's a lot of fun, "very campy with tongue planted firmly in cheek.""Steve Buscemi is hilarious." "Especially liked the surfing a tidal wave through a canyon and jumping into a car scene."

"Escape from L.A." @ The Billy Wilder Theater inside the Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd, LA, CA 90024, Sunday, June 24th at 9:30pm. Tickets: $11.00.

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"Man dealing with the after effects of atomic testing was a huge launching pad for multiple horror films of the Fifties." "I would recommend this film to anyone who is a fan of the irradiated animal and insect genre." Hardly a bad review for "THEM!", a 1954 movie about human-attacking giant radioactive ants on their way from New Mexico to LA that has left indelible impressions in many people's minds. "I found the sound of the ants so scary I had to be sent to bed a full 30 minutes before the first ant appeared on screen." "I saw this film for the first time on "The Ghoul Show" late at night 30 years ago and it still gives me a cold chill down my spine." "The best scene is when they have the little girl in the ambulance, then ant noise comes reverberating in off the desert! This scene still gives me the willies after 50 years." One detractor felt "This is Hollywood doing not so subtle cold war propaganda for the government."

"THEM!" @The Billy Wilder Theater inside the Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd, LA, CA 90024, Sunday, July 1st at Noon. Tickets: $11.00.

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"It's hard to remember now, sitting comfortably in the 21st century, than not twenty years ago we were all living on the nuclear knife edge, just 30 minutes away from complete and utter thermonuclear annihilation. Here's a hopelessly romantic movie that ties together an 80's young person's biggest anxieties: love and the end of all life on earth." 1988's "Miracle Mile" is a little known movie about a shy trombonist who "gets a call the world will end in 70 minutes" just as he meets his dream girl, a waitress at a Wilshire diner (Johnie's). Most people agree this is a "hidden cinematic gem", "the best indie movie ever", were "spooked by the intensity of the story" and haunted by the eerie Tangerine Dream score. "My stomach knots every time I see it and I'm usually in tears by the end.""Its subtle transition from B movie comedy into apocalyptic terror and violence is mesmerizing. To me this film screams update and remake." "Nearly twenty years after it was made and post-9/11, it's still a very effective movie." Detractors said: "Spandex and bad haircuts... Acting and dialogue were so bad I was rooting for the bomb." "The acting is good not great." "It truly belongs to an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000."

"Miracle Mile" @ the Italian Cultural Institute,1023 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024, Sunday July 1st, 7:30pm. Tickets: $11.00.

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"I saw this on its opening night in 1974 in San Francisco, of all places (they're just a tad quake-sensitive there.) No one in the audience had any idea what the heck "Sensurround" meant (a row of tiant subwoofers lined up in front of the screen), and when the first tremor scenes rolled, there were actually people who screamed and ran for the emergency exits... The FX in the movie are so good that despite knowing that this was in miniature, I still can't believe over 30 years later, that that wasn't really the Capitol Records building crumbling before our eyes." Special FX seem to be the only reason to see this movie. People agree the human drama is "dreadful." "On a strictly camp level, this movie is a real pleaser. How can you not see Victoria Principal sporting an afro that rivaled anything Pam Grier ever had on her head and not laugh? Throw in Charlton Heston married to Ava Gardner but lusting for Genevieve Bujold along side styrophome bricks showering from above and cattle trucks plummeting off of elevated highways where the cows don't move and you're going to be in stitches." "I'm trying to figure out who's smarter: the folks who packed onto the elevator as soon as the earthquake started or the guy who ran into the house to turn off the gas while smoking a cigarette."

"Earthquake" @ the James Bridges Theater, UCLA Campus, June 30th, 7:30PM. Tickets: $11.00.

For more information on the UCLA Film & Television Archive events and The Los Angeles Film Festival, go to www.cinema.ucla.edu and www.lafilmfest.com.

Customer reviews were found on www.netflix.com and www.imdb.com.

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