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Posts Tagged ‘Steven Spielberg’

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (revisit)

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

tn_crystalskulllucasminusstarwarsor OUTLAW VERN AND THE ENJOYMENT OF THE FORBIDDEN SEQUEL

“What exactly am I being accused of besides surviving a nuclear blast?”

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL is the one movie in this Lucas Minus Star Wars survey that I actually reviewed on its original theatrical release, so you can see what I wrote about it at the time. I had already picked up on everybody hating it, but didn’t realize it would become one of those movies that is only ever brought up as an example of what is wrong with George Lucas, Hollywood, America, capitalism, technology, civilization, human life, etc. When people mention it they have to spit, like Indy when he mentions Victoriano Huerta in the movie. It is a universally agreed upon milestone in the degradation of our culture and past.

Well, almost universally. I really liked it at the time, as you can see. But it’s been a few years, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I encountered someone who thought it was any good. Watching it now, maybe I could finally be one of them. One of the beautiful people. (read the rest of this shit…)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

tn_lastcrusadelucasminusstarwarsINDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE is the third one, and it’s the one that deals with that Holy Grail of elusive treasures, the Holy Grail. We find Indy’s father Henry Sr. was after it his whole life and getting real close and has a notebook full of clues he’s found and now he’s kidnapped. So Indy has to find his pops and hide that book from the Nazis and also there’s some guys sworn to protect the Grail who try to stop him.

Sr. is of course played by Sean Connery, and maybe that’s an in-joke because Spielberg did RAIDERS when he wanted a Bond type movie to do, but Connery doesn’t play him like 007. He plays him as a dork. He kinda acts like a little boy and wears a bow tie and tweed vest and is often in comical positions like riding in the sidecar of Indy’s motorcycle. Whenever Indy has to fight somebody, his dad has a look of admiration. He had no idea his kid could t. c. of b. like that.

The lady this time, Elsa (Alison Doody, A VIEW TO A KILL), is much, much, much more tolerable than TEMPLE OF DOOM‘s Willie Scott, which turns out to be a bummer when (spoiler) we find out that she’s a Nazi. Not only that but she managed to bone both generations of Joneses (a plot point requested by Connery). Which is her right, but kinda gross, right? I personally don’t think she’s right for Indy.

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Land Before Time

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

tn_landbeforetimelucasminusstarwarsTHE LAND BEFORE TIME is a good example of a movie legacy destroyed by a “franchise.” Throughout the ’90s the name was synonymous with candy-colored sing-along babysitters in clamshells thanks to thirteen straight to video sequels (THE LAND BEFORE TIME XIV: JOURNEY OF THE BRAVE starring Damon Wayans Jr. and Reba McEntire drops February 2nd – not a joke), and 26 episodes of a TV series. So I was surprised to watch the original – executive produced by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and directed by Don Bluth (THE SECRET OF NIMH, AN AMERICAN TAIL), none of whom had anything to do with the sequels – and find out it’s a pretty solid animated feature in the mold of early Disney.

Apparently Spielberg conceived it as BAMBI with dinosaurs, and that’s pretty much what they made. It’s an admiring depiction of the world of dinosaurs, with children being born into a scary world, making friends, experiencing danger and death. It is not a musical, the comic relief is minor, any cuteness is juxtaposed with an overall tone of melancholy. I mean, it’s about plant-eating dinosaurs in a world with almost no plants left. (read the rest of this shit…)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

tn_templeofdoomlucasminusstarwarsOh no, Indy! Don’t go into that temple! That’s not a regular temple, that’s a temple of doom!

I practice religious tolerance, so if those guys want to eat monkey brains and bugs and what not, I’m not gonna judge. But in my opinion they should not be having child slaves and pulling a guy’s heart out of his chest and stuff. Not unless it’s consensual. I don’t care what their Bible of Doom says about it, you don’t go around doing that stuff, you guys. Or don’t rub our faces in it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM has an amazing opening that scores big by being absolutely not at all what anybody thought would be the opening of the sequel (well, technically prequel) to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Instead of rugged Indy wearing leather, in some jungle or desert, covered in sweat and sand, maybe carrying a torch, cutting through cobwebs in an ancient burial chamber, it opens with a musical number in a glamorous Shanghai restaurant. Dr. Jones has no hat, and is wearing a white tux, as he conducts a tense merchandise exchange with nefarious gangsters willing to resort to poisoning and hitmen disguised as waiters to get what they want out of him. But for his part Indy is willing to resort to taking a showgirl (Kate Capshaw) hostage at knifepoint and fleeing with an orphan boy named Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) as his getaway driver. (read the rest of this shit…)

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

tn_raiderslucasminusstarwarsHave you guys seen this RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK movie yet? I was always under the impression that it was pretty well known, but then they changed the title to INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK so I guess it must’ve been one of those BY THE BOOK/RENAISSANCE MAN or EDGE OF TOMORROW/LIVE DIE REPEAT type of situations where it didn’t do well enough so they changed the title. The last resort of the marketing scoundrel. Anyway, this is the movie that Steven Spielberg made because he was sad they wouldn’t let him do James Bond and he wanted to make the fuckers pay dearly. He and George Lucas were kickin it V.I.P. style on the beach in Hawaii right after STAR WARS came out. They were probly like wearing cool shades, just hanging out pumpin some jams on the boombox, it was alot like this song is how I picture it, and it is said that the volleyball scene from TOP GUN was based on them. So George is spotting while Steven is doing some bench presses in my opinion and George starts talking about this old script he wrote with Philip Kaufman before STAR WARS, a thing called THE ADVENTURES OF INDIANA SMITH that’s kinda in the style of the old cliffhanger adventure serials. After they got home they ended up reworking the whole thing and having this guy Lawrence Kasdan (who was writing STAR WARS’S EMPIRE STRIKES BACK) do a new script.

So they got the ideas and production of Lucas plus the supreme directing chops of Spielberg, and they made a great movie. I love that the opening shot is the Paramount logo dissolving into an actual mountain. It’s a signal that they’re taking extra special care from the first frame on to make every detail great. I know there are exceptions to this rule (DOOM), but usually when the filmatists even put thought into how to make the studio logo cool that means there’s gonna be some serious elbow grease in this movie. No laziness. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bridge of Spies

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

tn_bridgeofspiesIt’s like a whole bridge full of spies. Or at least, there are a couple spies on this bridge. It’s the climax of the story, two countries meeting up one cold night to trade prisoners. I guess that’s where the title comes from.

Tom Hanks plays James Donovan, who is not a spy. He’s just a lawyer who, through luck, foresight and principles, ends up rescuing a downed American spy pilot in this true Cold War story.

When we first meet him Donovan seems far from an American hero. He’s an insurance company lawyer in a bar having an argument where he’s comparing motorcyclists run over by a truck to bowling pins. But when the Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance, BLITZ) is captured, somebody (Alan Alda) decides to give Donovan the shit job of defending him. What nobody expects is that he will take the job seriously.

They tell him he should defend Abel to show that America believes in giving everybody a fair trial. But of course none of these people want to actually give him a fair trial. They’re angry and confused when Donovan tries to, like, do his job. But his attitude is that if we’re gonna brag about what we stand for then we should put in the work to actually stand for that.

I gotta be honest, if I didn’t know this was a Steven Spielberg movie I would never have seen it. The trailers and the poster really make it look like a chore. You can picture the righteous speeches and triumphant music as a Regular Man stands up for noble ideals in court rooms and wintery period settings. And don’t get me wrong, this is a movie for grown ups. It is a 2 hour, 21 minutes drama starring Tom Hanks about the Cold War and the idea of America. That is true. But it’s way more fun than the trailers make it out to be. It’s not that dry, and it’s got plenty of laughs. It’s entertaining. It’s Spielberg. (read the rest of this shit…)

Jurassic World

Monday, June 15th, 2015

tn_jurassicworldLet’s face it, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD means this is an all time great movie summer. Whatever else comes out, who gives a shit. Irrelevant. It could be nothing but THE COBBLER coming out every week until September and it would still be one for the record books. Therefore it seems weird to be praising a more normal, not world-shattering part 4 movie in this same summer, but I’m an honest man so I have to do it. JURASSIC WORLD is a solid, fun sequel and although I’m not sure I liked it quite as much as I liked LOST WORLD when I first saw that, I think this is the best of the sequels.

But Vern, you’re saying, THE LOST WORLD sucks. Hold onto your buts. I admit that my tastes in Jurassic Parks are different from most people around here. So I’m sure you will disagree with me that this is clearly, by far, for sure without even a remote question the best of the non-Spielberg-directed JP joints on every possible level forever and always amen may the force be with you and I hope they burn in hay-ell.

It’s odd that they waited 22 years to do this premise. In retrospect it seems like parts 2 and 3 were treading water trying to figure out what the hell to do in the wreckage of the actual Jurassic Park, the aftermath of the failed pre-opening in part 1. This time it’s a natural extension of that first concept. What would it be like if they actually got their shit together and opened the park, and made it work for a while and become a popular vacation destination before nature finds a way to fuck it up? Isn’t it time we actually saw Ian Malcolm’s prediction of the Pirates of the Caribbean eating the tourists? (read the rest of this shit…)

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Monday, June 8th, 2015

tn_lostworldMan, this review has been in development almost as long as JURASSIC WORLD. After I typed this up I found an old version I wrote in a notebook a couple years ago, when I had mentioned liking THE LOST WORLD and readers wanted me to defend my position. I went in and stole a few phrases out of it, like I found them encased in amber.

I always thought THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK was a solid part 2 to a very enjoyable part 1. Maybe it helps that I didn’t consider the first one to be such a classic at the time. I loved it as a fun execution of a cool gimmick, but I was comparing it to JAWS and that’s a way to make it seem kinda dumb. Over the years, as it’s continued to hold up and be better than many similar movies that have come after, I respect it more. Even still, I enjoy watching part 2 and I think it’s miles better than Part three-claw-scratches. Much of the world disagrees with me, though, so here is my brilliant Perry Mason style defense. Or something.

This is the only non-INDIANA-JONES sequel that Mr. Spielberg has directed, and it opens with pure Spielberg filmatism. Ominously crashing waves intimidate the frame as a rich British couple, their young daughter (holy shit, I never realized that was 10,000 BC‘s Camilla Belle, in her movie before Seagal’s THE PATRIOT) and a pack of yacht crewmen stop for an impromptu picnic on the shore of an unsettled island. It must be nice to be rich, be able to do anything you want. But next time don’t do it on the island that Jurassic Park used to breed their dinosaurs. When Mom worries about the girl running off to play, an obvious concern would be the violent tides, but of course the real threat comes from within the island. She meets a tiny, quick-moving lizard. “What are you, a bird or something?” It’s a cute little thing, and she feeds it a piece of meat from her sandwich. But then all the sudden there are more of them, and they want some too. And next thing you know there’s a swarm, and they’re jumping onto her like piranhas on a cow, and she’s screaming…

Later in the movie Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm makes fun of the new characters being in awe of the dinosaurs. “Oh, yeah. Ooh, ahh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and, um, screaming.” But this scene zooms in on Mom’s face as she screams in terror… which dissolves into Malcolm on the subway yawning. I guess Sam Neill and Laura Dern probly turned the movie down, but it was a smart idea to turn the cynical wisecracker and chief-worrier into the lead. He wears a cool guy leather jacket, gets recognized on the subway, gets to tell off the new InGen head for covering up what happened, and Jurassic Park founder John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) when he tells him that dinosaurs have survived on one of the islands and become their own eco-system. (read the rest of this shit…)

Summer Movie Flashback: War of the Worlds

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

tn_waroftheworlds

2006
2005

Wow – WAR OF THE WORLDS holds up. I remember it being the most intense PG-13 movie ever, but I thought maybe with the escalation of that rating since the Joker stabbed a guy with a pencil in DARK KNIGHT maybe it wouldn’t seem as harsh by today’s standards.

Nope. This movie is a fuckin nightmare! It starts as an anxiety dream (oh shit, what if my kids come over and I show up late and forgot to clean up and my ex-wife and her husband see that I don’t have any food and…) then one of those ones where you see weird shit in the sky (a strange electrical storm) and in the distance (3-legged alien attack machines), and then it’s a disaster one (mobs attacking your car at night, thousands of people trying to climb onto the same ferry), then a war one (running into the hills at night as tanks roll in the other direction) and then a more intimate things-that-go-bump-in-the-night one (alien in the basement). All of this executed with the classic Steve Spielberg filmatistic chops.

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Jurassic Park 3D

Monday, April 8th, 2013

tn_jurassicparkSomehow I’ve gone all these years and never reviewed a JURASSIC PARK movie. Somewhere in a notebook I think I have a partly written review of THE LOST WORLD from the last time I watched it, and I could’ve sworn I reviewed part 3 back when it came out, but no. Nothing. Until now. So hold onto your butts… IN 3-D!

JURASSIC PARK would be a hard one to find a new angle on. It’s been around for 20 years, widely seen since day 1, broadly enjoyable and rightfully appreciated. In the rankings of Spielberg’s summer blockbuster movies I’d have to put it way below big daddy JAWS, because the characters are less nuanced, their actions are less believable, the quiet moments aren’t as deep, the emphasis is more on spectacle (if only because the special effects worked this time), the whole feel is more artificial. But just holding it up against these type of movies in general it places pretty fuckin high on the totem pole.

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