When E.T., an alien visiting Earth, gets left behind when his ship quickly leaves, Elliott (Henry Thomas) helps him contact his home world.
When E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial released 40 years ago in 1982, no one, not even Steven Spielberg, predicted that it would be the phenomenon that it has become. After finally viewing it myself, I can see why this film has become a beloved classic. The movie tells a story about a boy befriending an alien while also examining the affect of divorce on children. It’s a very unique story combination that few filmmakers without Spielberg’s expertise could pull off. All of the relationships, Elliot’s relationship with E.T., Elliott’s relationship with his siblings, and Elliott’s and his siblings’ relationship with their mother, are all thoroughly developed and fleshed out. The score, created by Spielberg’s regular composer John Williams, excels at elevating the emotional undertones of every scene. One particular moment that stands out is the iconic moment when Elliott, with assistance from E.T., flies his bike in the air with the moon behind them. It’s already a fantastic scene but Williams’ score makes it even better. Even without the score, the script does a wonderful job of building emotion. By the end, you’ll no doubt have become attached to the characters, particularly the lovable E.T. himself, culminating in an emotional ending.
I thought E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was GOOD 🙂 Filled with heart and relatable characters, Steven Spielberg crafts an epic tale that everyone can enjoy and hold dear.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial holds the record for the longest ever theatrical run, staying in theaters for over one year after it’s release on June 11, 1982. (via IMDb)
Cast & Crew
Steven Spielberg – Director
Melissa Mathison – Writer
John Williams – Composer
Henry Thomas – Elliott
Robert MacNaughton – Michael
Drew Barrymore – Gertie
Dee Wallace – Mary
Peter Coyote – Keys
KC Martel – Greg
Sean Frye – Steve
Tom Howell – Tyler
Pat Welsh – E.T. (voice)
Businessman David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is on his way to meet a client. On the way he is pursued and terrorized by a truck driver.
After my successful Alfred Hitchcock project in 2021, I decided to undertake a similar project in 2022. Unlike my Hitchcock project, this time I’m focusing a director I am already familiar with: Steven Spielberg, one of my all-time favorite directors. I debated on starting with Duel, his first feature-length film, or Sugarland Express, his first theatrical film. In the end, I chose to start at the very beginning with Duel. I am delighted that I started with Duel because it was well worth my time.
The premise of the film is extremely straight forward: a businessman is harassed by a truck driver on the way to a client. Despite this simplicity, Steven Spielberg manages to create a suspenseful ride from start to finish. The camera angles, the pacing, the editing, Dennis Weaver’s fantastic acting, all of it created an experience reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock himself. Taking a page from Hitchcock’s playbook, the antagonist is never actually seen throughout the movie. Going off the idea that the unknown is scarier than the known, the truck driver’s arm or the driver’s boots may be seen but that’s as much of the character as we see. This adds to the tension and the suspense because neither the audience nor David Mann (Weaver) knows the madman trying to kill a fellow driver. To make up for the lack of visibility of the truck’s driver, the truck itself is just as much of a character as David. There is a lot of character in the truck’s appearance; it’s all grimy and dirty, and covered in plates from other cars where the driver had successfully performed similar menacing acts in the past, and has a distinct and memorable silhouette. My only knock against Duel is it might be a little long for such a simple plot. However, seeing as how this was originally a made-for-television movie and had extra scenes added to extend the run time to receive an international theatrical release, this is a minor gripe.
I thought Duel was GOOD 🙂 It’s very high quality for a television movie, which usually pale in comparison to their theatrical counterparts. Spielberg weaves a story that is suspenseful and exciting, creating a monster movie reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. If you want to see where Spielberg’s film career began, be sure to check this one out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Trivia Duel marked Steven Spielberg’s feature-length directorial debut. It originally aired as a television film as part of the ABC Movie of the Week series on November 13, 1971, later receiving an international theatrical release with an extended version featuring scenes shot after the films original broadcast. (via Wikipedia).
Cast & Crew
Steven Spielberg – Director
Richard Matheson – Writer
Billy Goldenberg – Composer
Dennis Weaver – David Mann
Jacqueline Scott – Mrs. Mann
Eddie Firestone – Cafe Owner
Lou Frizzell – Bus Driver
Gene Dynarski – Man in Cafe
Lucille Benson – Lady at Snakerama
Tim Herbert – Gas Station Attendant
Charles Seel – Old Man
Shirley O’Hara – Waitress
Alexander Lockwood – Old Man in Car
Amy Douglass – Old Woman in Car
Dick Whittington – Radio Interviewer (voice)
Carey Loftin – The Truck Driver
Dale Van Sickel – Car Driver
In the near future when a virtual reality world known as the Oasis serves as the most popular social getaway, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is on the hunt for three hidden keys hidden by the game’s creator. His search puts not only his virtual self but real-world self in the sights of IOI, a corporation looking to control the Oasis.
I wanted to see Ready Player One for exclusively two reasons: 1) it is based around a video game (one of my favorite past times), and 2) it is directed by Steven Spielberg (my favorite director). A marriage of the two was guaranteed to get me into a seat. I know that it is based on a book of the same name, written by Ernest Cline. However, I have never read it so I can’t say how it compares to the source material. What I can say how it stacks up as a film and boy does this film deliver!
As soon as the movie steps into the Oasis, you are overwhelmed with breathtaking visuals. While much of the world looks realistic, it does just enough to prevent itself from falling into the uncanny valley territory, making sure you know it takes place inside a video game. With that, a wide range of environments are visited throughout the film. There’s a race track, a night club, a bustling city, tundra, literally every kind of place imaginable makes an appearance, driving home that the Oasis is a place is inside a video game.
Since half the movie is inside a video game, where literally anything is possible, this movie takes full advantage of that. Every turn of the camera reveals a plethora of pop-culture characters, icons, and items from anything including video games, movies, or television series. Nothing is left out. I can’t wait for the home video release so I can comb through the movie and find all the easter eggs that I missed in the theater. As someone who loves to play video games (one of the reasons this review is so delayed), I felt a real love and reverence for the medium oozing from this film.
No video game movie would be complete without some action and adventure. The action is big and the adventure is exciting. This film takes full advantage of the “anything is possible” aspect of its video game setting that I have mentioned several times already. The opening scene is a car race along a track filled twists and turns and loop-the-loops, populated with all kinds of movie characters. Later the characters have to make it through a portion of The Shining. And then a huge fight sequence happens in and around a castle in an icy world. Even in the real world, there are car chases and excitement throughout. All of it, in the Oasis and the real world, everything is well shot. It doesn’t rely on too much shaky cam or cut-a-ways. What’s important stays in the frame.
World building can be a tricky thing to do. Some movies use flashbacks, some use exposition, Ready Player One does a little of both, as well as its own special method. While Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) narrates some of the basics of how the world works in 2045 after a virtual reality world takes over the real world, the Oasis’ history is given through flashbacks but not in the standard fashion. Instead, the game’s tasks requires Wade and his friends to look through the game’s creator’s memories. This way, the history is integrated into the story itself and doesn’t derail the narrative. I found this technique unique and engaging.
One of my favorite characters was actually the villain I-R0K, voiced by TJ Miller. I-R0K is a gun-for-hire, tasked by the main baddy, Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), with eliminating Wade’s avatar inside of the Oasis. Miller infuses I-R0K with his signature wit and humor, creating a character that you know instantly is Miller. His voice feels like a mismatch compared to I-R0K’s large and sinister figure, making it all the more comical (appropriately so).
I thought Ready Player One was GREAT 😀 From simple things like appearances of popular characters or items, to classic genre tropes, to easter eggs, even to why people play video games in the first place, I felt connected to the story and the characters themselves in a way that I can’t say happens very often to me during a movie. Director Steven Spielberg weaves a dazzling pop culture tapestry and a love letter to games and what it means to be a gamer. There isn’t anything more exciting than playing with your friends or more satisfying than playing simply for the enjoyment of the game. This movie understands that and shares that pleasure in a genuine and beautiful way.
Oasis is actually an acronym. It stands for Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. This is mentioned in Ernest Cline’s source novel but not mentioned in the film. (Via IMDb)
Cast & Crew
Steven Spielberg – Director
Zak Penn – Screenplay
Ernest Cline – Screenplay
Tye Sheridan – Parzival / Wade
Olivia Cooke – Art3mis / Samantha
Lena Waithe – Aech / Helen
Philip Zhao – Sho
Win Morisaki – Daito
Ben Mendelsohn – Sorrento
TJ Miller – I-R0K
Mark Rylance – Anorak / Halliday
Simon Pegg – Ogden Morrow
One reason I like movie trivia is because I come across little nuggets such as this and I begin thinking about how a certain movie franchise could have ended up being different. I try to vary the films I post for the my fun facts, but this was too good not to share.
Warner Brothers bought the film rights to JK Rowling’s first four Harry Potter books in 1998 for $2 million (£1 million). When looking for a director for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, WB approached Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks studio. After Spielberg accepted the offer, negotiations began immediately about the story and look of the films. Spielberg wanted to make the movies animated since they were going to be very special effects heavy anyway. He also wanted to combine several books into one movie. Alan Horn, who was recently appointed president at WB at the time, eventually declined the partnership, stating:
“I did think it would be worthwhile for Steven Spielberg to direct. We offered it to him. But one of the notions of DreamWork’s and Steven’s was, ‘Let’s combine a couple of the books, let’s make it animated,’ and that was because of the [visual effects and] Pixar had demonstrated that animated movies could be extremely successful. Because of the wizardry involved, they were very effects-laden. So I don’t blame them. But I did not want to combine the movie and I wanted it to be live action.”
As much as I like Spielberg, I’m glad Horn didn’t go in that direction. It’s hard to imagine not growing up with Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry, Ron and Hermione. Although combining books would have moved the narrative along, it would not have been able to build the characters and relationships very well.
Do you remember John Williams’ iconic Jaws them? Duuuunnn duuunnn. Duuunnn duuunnn. Duunn duunn. Duunn. Duunn duunn. Dun dun. Dun dun. Dun. (You know you sang it it your head). Today, it’s arguably one of the most recognized and memorable pieces of film music (ranking #6 on AFI’s 25 Greatest Film Scores of All Time). Steven Spielberg initially needed some convincing about how awesome it is. Williams said in an interview that the first thing he demonstrated to Spielberg was the simple theme. When he finished, “Spielberg laughed at first.” After some playing around, Spielberg gave him the go ahead. When the score was finished, “Steven loved it,” according to Williams. It’s hard to image what would have happened to Jaws had Spielberg not enjoyed the score.
When a British couple stumble upon Isla Sorna, another island filled with dinosaurs, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) sends Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), survivor of the incident at Jurassic Park four years prior, and a small team to photograph the dinosaurs in the natural habitat to rally support for the island’s isolation before Hammond’s nephew, Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard), can remove the dinosaurs from the island.
It can be difficult to create a sequel to a movie that perfectly balances action, characterization and humor the way Jurassic Park does. It is even more unlikely to do so successfully with the most obnoxious character as the sequel’s main character. However, The Lost World: Jurassic Park somehow manages to be a decent follow-up by doing just that.
Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) was the character in Jurassic Park that you loved to hate. He is obnoxious but charismatic at the same time. I thought it was interesting that he was the main character in The Lost World. I almost would have expected Alan Grant, played by Sam Neill, to take the spotlight again. There was a sense of humor Goldblum brought to the character, but it is not as prevalent this time around. He still has his funny moments, with Goldblum’s signature humor, but not as much as before. It is clear the character has matured since the last movie.
In Jurassic Park, there was a moral to the story. However, this film tries too much to imitate that message but is unable to do so as strongly. Survival becomes a big part of the story and the movie begins to slip into B-level monster movie territory. It doesn’t make it quite that far, but it comes awfully close.
Every time I watch The Lost World, I forget that Vince Vaughn and Julianne Moore are in it. This movie doesn’t seem like their usual type of film but both do well in their parts. Goldblum was the comic relief in Jurassic Park, this time Richard Schiff has that responsibility. Too bad he didn’t stick around longer because some of his scenes were the most humorous of the film.
The Tyrannosaurus Rex didn’t get as much screen time as I would have expected in Jurassic Park after watching the trailer. Instead, the velocirapotors were the main dinosaurs. In The Lost World that is reversed. Velociraptors have one or two scenes in the middle of the movie but that’s it. Otherwise, the T-Rex is the main dinosaur focused on most in this movie. I really liked that because, after all, the T-Rex is the king of the lizards.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park takes the Jeff Goldblum, the comic relief from Jurassic Park, removes some of his humor and makes him the central character. Somehow this manages to work, if not by himself then with the cast around him, particularly Richard Schiff. This movie tries to have the same moral as the previous film, but begins to degrade into monster movie status when the story becomes about survival. The Tyrannosaurus Rex finally gets the spotlight and velociraptors, the main dinosaur in Jurassic Park, were relegated to only a few scenes. It may not be the perfect sequel, but The Lost World brought dinosaurs back on screen, so that’s something, right?
Cast & Crew
Steven Spielberg – Director
David Koepp – Screenplay
Michael Critchton – Based on a novel by
John Williams – Composer
Jeff Goldblum – Ian Malcolm
Julianne Moore – Sarah Harding
Vince Vaughn – Nick Van Owen
Richard Schiff – Eddie Carr
Vanessa Lee Chester – Kelly Curtis
Pete Postlethwaite – Roland Tembo
Arliss Howard – Peter Ludlow
Peter Stormare – Dieter Stark
Harvey Jason – Ajay Sidhu
Thomas F. Duffy – Dr. Robert Burke
Richard Attenborough – John Hammond