"I got news for 'em. There's gonna be hell to pay. 'Cause I ain't daddy's little boy no more."

Posts Tagged ‘Steven Spielberg’

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



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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Monday, November 12th, 2012

After the election on Tuesday, which brought us 4 historic gay rights ballot victories, the first openly gay Senator and the most women in the Senate ever, it was a no-brainer to spend Friday night watching Spielberg’s movie about Abraham Lincoln and his people’s fight to eke together a coalition to pass the 13th amendment to the Constitution, ending 400 years of slavery. Also, SKYFALL was sold out.
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Monday, June 4th, 2012

tn_poltergeistBack when I was doing the Spielberg marathon somebody suggested I should review POLTERGEIST, and I thought it was a good idea. Oh shit, today is the 30th anniversary of the movie’s release! I guess we’ll do it today.

It definitely fits in with the Spielberg marathon. Tobe Hooper is the credited director, but Spielberg was a very hands-on producer and writer, and it seems way more like his directorial works than his other productions do. It has good, natural performances by kids and adults, smoothly choreographed camera moves, a suburban mid-west setting, state-of-the-art-at-the-time visual effects, people looking in awe at glowing light. Like E.T. (which came out one week later) it has a little boy with a room full of STAR WARS toys. The score is by Jerry Goldsmith, but is used similar to how Spielberg uses John Williams. There’s a group of scientists in a specialized field (like JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, even JURASSIC PARK). There’s not as much that reminds me of Hooper – just TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2’s Lou Perryman in a bit part as a guy working on the house, and a pit of rotting corpses at the end. That part seemed like something he’d be into.
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War Horse

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

tn_warhorsespielbergSteven Spielberg’s WAR HORSE is the story of a horse named Joey. He is distinguishable because he is brown with a white mark on his head and above his hooves. Otherwise I’m not sure I could pick him out in a lineup. He’s just a horse. Doesn’t talk or do math problems or anything.

The story begins with Joey’s birth and ends with his ascension to the stars like E.T. (note: some facts have been altered) and in between he goes through a harrowing journey in turnip farming, WWI, etc. His primary equine-human relationship is with a youth named Albert (Jeremy Irvine), who is there at his birth and later becomes his owner and trainer. Despite going way beyond anyone’s expectations in his indentured servitude, the purchase of non-plow-ready pretty boy Joey financially ruins the family, their lives are destroyed and they have to sell him for cheap to the army for even more cruel and unusual treatment by different noble, handsome Englishmen. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Terminal

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

tn_terminalspielbergI was sort of dreading THE TERMINAL, because I’d heard only bad things, and because I was pretty sure it wouldn’t stand up to SCHINDLER, AMISTAD and PRIVATE RYAN all in a row. Well, it’s not something a consider a good movie. It’s a hacky comedy script that squeezes cute bullshit out of a great real life premise. (read the rest of this shit…)

Saving Private Ryan

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

tn_sprspielbergNo joke, I never saw SAVING PRIVATE RYAN before. I’ve never been big on war movies and I think back when it was a recent movie I was real cynical and suspicious of any type of flagwaving. I thought movies like this were just brainwashing kids to join up in case they needed to blow up Iraq again.

But that’s stupid. This one’s about “the good war” and still makes it look like something to avoid at all costs. The famous Omaha Beach invasion sequence near the beginning is a total bloodbath, soldiers pouring off the boats into waves of machine gun bullets. They might as well just be jumping from a diving board directly into a giant fan, it seems like. (read the rest of this shit…)