Twilight Zone: The Movie

spielbergtn_twilightzoneWell, this is depressing. I skipped over Spielberg’s stone cold masterpieces RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and E.T. OF THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIALS ’cause I’ve seen ’em a bunch before, but decided to watch TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE because I don’t think I’ve seen it since the ’80s. Turns out it’s Spielberg’s first bad movie, at least for his segment. And that’s small fish compared to John Landis’s, since it was an actual legitimate tragedy that ended lives and derailed a great filmatist. Bummer. Not worth it.

Landis did the prologue, one of the highlights of the movie. The punchline is kind of weak (a practice run for the end of the “Thriller” video?) but I just like seeing a long, simple scene of Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks in a car talking about inconsequential shit to pass the time. And it’s kinda funny that even in the official TWILIGHT ZONE movie the characters have some confusion and debate about which stories were on TWILIGHT ZONE and which were on OUTER LIMITS.

But Landis’s actual segment isn’t as good. It’s a simple concept: bigoted asshole (Vic Morrow), angry that he got passed over for a promotion, rants in a bar using a variety of slurs. But when he leaves the bar he goes through a series of living nightmares where he’s a Jew in Nazi Germany, a black man being chased by the Klan, a civilian stuck in the Vietnam War. The opening, with the guy’s friends trying to stop him from making a scene, has some pretty good tension. And it’s interesting how it parallels the nightmare scenes in AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. Otherwise it would be, at best, a passable episode of the ’80s TWILIGHT ZONE.

I made the mistake of reading up on the accident before watching the movie, so I had that in my head. Due to a foreseeable problem setting off pyrotechnics too close to a flying helicopter the vehicle lost control and crashed, killing Morrow and two kids he was supposed to be rescuing in the scene. Landis and others were on trial for years afterwards, and no doubt will always be haunted by what happened. I can’t imagine how terrible that would feel. I accept Landis’s defense that he hires experts to fly helicopters and set off explosives and counts on them to tell him if there’s gonna be a problem. But unfortunately the kids were being paid under the table to get around curfew and safety regulations, so there’s no way around the guilt on that one. They weren’t supposed to be there. So that’s gotta hurt for everybody involved. Just awful.

mp_twilightzoneSo after watching that you get segment #2 by Spielberg, and it’s so treacly it feels like a waiter being overly fake-friendly after screwing up your order. This is the rare Spielberg joint that fully fits his reputation as a corny sentimental do-gooder. It’s about Scatman Crothers checking into a retirement home and starting up a conversation that makes the old people nostalgic for the games they played as kids. He turns out to be some kind of magical being who travels around giving retirees one night of being a child again in order to re-awaken their youthful spirit and also to make them realize it’s okay to be old so you don’t have to go to school or hang out with boys who smell like pee and eat their boogers.

I mean it’s a cute enough idea I guess, but the score is “isn’t this shit MAGICAL?” overbearing and the ol’ Spielberg naturalism was starting to give way to backlot idealized phoniness. This doesn’t look like any nursing home I ever saw, doesn’t have an authentic clinicalness or sadness. Just some eccentric old people who all live in a house together and rebel against the doctor in charge. Then it’s precocious child actors doing funny imitations of old fuddie duddies. Yippee.

“Kick the Can” is an early warning sign for HOOK… in fact, is that British kid that does a flip and jumps out the window actually supposed to be Peter Pan? Sure seems like it. Is this a prequel to HOOK? This is like one of the bad episodes of Amazing Stories, and watching these Spielberg movies chronologically makes me realize it’s his first bad one. I mean, even if you don’t like 1941, it’s like… DUEL, SUGARLAND EXPRESS, JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, the one you didn’t like, LOST ARK, E.T… and then this corny ass bullshit about lovable seniors acting like little kids. Talk about a sudden loss of momentum.

Luckily the last two segments, by Joe Dante and George Miller, are much better. Dante’s is the one about the creepy little boy (Jeremy Licht) who gets everything he wants because of his god-like powers. Kathleen Quinlan backs over his bike with her car, gives him a ride home and is invited to hang out with his family (Kevin McCarthy from INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, the voice of Bart Simpson, Cherrie Currie from The Runaways). They all act very bizarre and you slowly realize it’s because they’re terrified of the kid and have to do whatever he says, including eating hamburgers with peanut butter on them and saying they love it.

The most Joe Dante-ish moment is probly when a weird Tex Avery meets Rat Fink cartoon creature comes out of the TV. Not animated, a great looking rubber animatronic character. Better than anything in his later movie LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION.

My favorite segment is definitely Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” the famous one where John Lithgow is freaking out on a plane, at first because he’s scared of flying and then because he legitimately saw a fuckin gremlin on the wing of the plane. Keep that in mind next time you’re close to suicide because they won’t let you look at Twitter on your iPad for 5 minutes while they prepare for takeoff and you disagree with the FAA that it could ever interfere with their navigation or communications equipment and god damn it I’m the customer I DEMAND respect this is an outrage I’m suing everybody forever what about freedom. No, this is a fucking gremlin, this is a grownup problem, but for some reason nobody believes him about that so he makes them more and more uncomfortable as he starts to seem crazier and crazier dealing with the matter. It’s an everybody-pin-down-the-unruly-passenger situation long before 9-11.

The setting is different from other Miller movies, but the filmatistic mastery is not. He knows how to move the camera around to keep things visually exciting in a confined location as well as to illustrate the increasing confusion and disorientation of Lithgow’s character. And of course Lithgow is pretty good at being a wild-eyed, sweaty, ranting mess. That’s one thing he knows how to do.

My favorite part is when a little girl on the plane looks at him and says “You big silly! You used to be a normal person!”

It’s too bad Spielberg was being such a big silly with his segment, but I bet he’ll bounce back eventually.


This entry was posted on Saturday, January 7th, 2012 at 1:24 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

71 Responses to “Twilight Zone: The Movie”

  1. Oh, I love the George Miller segment. Even on repeated viewing it gives me the goosebumps.

    “This is like one of the bad episodes of Amazing Stories”. This show had lots of bad episodes, IMO. Most of them started out with a great idea, but then ended with a complete letdown. But you really should review Spielberg’s two-part episode THE MISSION, which is one of the most suspenseful pieces in television history. (Even though the ending is a love-it-or-hate-it situation, but I love it.)

  2. I absolutely loved this movie as a kid (it played all the time on TNT back in the day), it’s really the perfect horror movie for kids because it’s scary without being TOO scary, plus you have the Spielberg segment as a palate cleanser

    plus I did not know about the accident as a kid, so that didn’t hinder my enjoyment

    watching it these days on blu ray, I have to agree that yes, the Spielberg segment is indeed pretty weak (I can’t help but somewhat like it though because I love Scatman Crothers) and yes, it’s hard to watch the Landis segment without thinking about the terrible tragedy

    all that said though I still think this is an underrated movie because I absolutely love the Dante and Miller segments, I love the Jerry Goldsmith score and I love the cool end credits with the night sky stars

  3. as a matter of fact, this is one of the few movies where I always sit through the end credits

  4. Yeah, I’m no expert on filmmaking safety or what happened on set with this movie, and I won’t get involved in a big discussion on it & the ensuing Spielberg-Landis relationship fallout & the disgusting videos of the incident, but I do know the most important thing you learn in the process of becoming a helicopter pilot, whether at Fort Rucker where they train the experts or at Camp Stupid Civilian where they train the amateurs, is that the machine is trying to kill you. From the minute she’s assembled, her only objective is to malfunction & to end the pilots’ & passengers’ lives.

    Obviously, even highly qualified helo pilots sometimes get jammed up (TWILIGHT ZONE set; Abbottabad/Geronimo complex 7 months ago). It’s a bad feeling. Passengers are warned not to nap onboard. You might think that’s a nonissue, what with the extreme noise & movement, but you might be surprised. Man, it’s tempting to steal a few minutes of shuteye between mission stops, but that’s a bad move for the simple fact that a crash is too relatively likely. A passenger has to be alert & ready for a hard landing, and he doesn’t want to lose positive control of his muzzle in the midst of a sudden evasive maneuver. And even when the passenger & crew are doing everything right, there’s still a chance a fucking updraft will perfectly time itself with a right turn & the release of anti-SAM/MANPADs flares to blow embers & ashes into Mouth’s face on the one day during that deployment he doesn’t wear his eye-pro.

    Point is, even when everything is executed perfectly, even when the experts are doing their job to the best of their ability, bad shit can happen, like for example a cheesy Spielberg TZ segment. And when there’s an active bird on station, you shouldn’t be situated directly below her. That’s fucking idiotic.

    This movie didn’t give me nightmares, but it made me feel like I was in a kind of nightmare while I watched it, so I guess that’s impressive. I won’t be rewatching to assess the validity of my memories.

    Lithgow’s segment has been defanged by numerous spoofs & homage, but I’m sure it’s still outstanding. Landis’s segment has a more creepy QUANTUM LEAP feel to it, with shades of the sub-chaptered format of the Coens’ O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU.

    The superkid-who-likes-peanut-butter-burgers segment visually reminds me of NATURAL BORN KILLERS nowadays. I think THE SIMPSONS has spoofed that segment, too.

    Spielberg’s segment has old people being infected with the delusion of neverneverland or something. I think there’s a SIMPSONS spoof for it, too, and if that’s the case I’ve never been more grateful for the character of Abe Simpson.

  5. As a big fan of the O.G. Twilight Zone Show, Nightmare @ 20,000 feet was a great episode featuring a pre Star Trek William Shatner. I love the old school show, and some of those episodes creep me out 50 years after they were made. Rod Serling wrote about 90% of those episodes and i think he’s and underrated story teller. And he smoked a cigarette in all the intros. He was the man. Underrated badass if you ask me.

  6. Dante and Miller’s remakes were awesome most especially Miller. Clearly the only reason to watch this movie. I wonder if we will ever see a resurgence of the anthology movie again. I guess Rodriguez and Tarantino were the closest to that with GRINDHOUSE but that failed to connect with most moviegoers on damn near every level.

  7. I will never forget BTW how at that time I just knew Lithgow as that dad from HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS and the paranoid passanger in this. Then a couple of years later he did RICOCHET and RAISING CAIN and became one of my all time faves since he proved to be so damn diverse.

  8. yeah, John Lithgow is awesome

  9. Shatner’s cold sweat in the original NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET episode is perfect. Perhaps a re-remake is in order, with Hugo Weaving?

    In a helicopter?

  10. This is one of those movies that left horrible images in my brain when i was a kid (like the oft-mentioned Superman III robot-lady sequence), and I saw it again the other day and it was still disturbing to me, (especially the Miller and Dante segments). I used to defend the Spielberg sequence since I liked that it wasn’t scary, but watching it today, it’s really, REALLY terrible.

    CJ – re: The Mission (The Spielberg-directed ep of Amazing Stories w/ Kevin Costner, right?) – yeah, it truly was Amazing, incredibly watchable and suspenseful…and yes, I hated the ending. Just so random and wtf that it was like Spielberg let a kid write it or something.

    Re: the actual Twilight Zone series – I started to watch them all in order on Netflix Instant (the universally panned Season 4 isn’t on there though) – there’s some great, great classic episodes in there (usually not the famous ones that everyone loves), and I love that they reuse the same cast members over and over (Lee Marvin, Burgess Meredith, and Jack Warden keep popping up) but somewhere around Season 3, the show started putting me to sleep. It’s not like the quality actually declined, but it’s like the old-sounding dialogue and music and everything had this trance-like effect on me, like listening to Sigur Ros. I literally can’t make it to the end of an episode now without passing out.

  11. neal2zod: Yeah, I don’t hold it against anybody, if he doesn’t like the ending of THE MISSION. It’s the most random deus ex machina cop out ending ever, but its complete randomness is, what makes it so enjoyable to me.

  12. I’ve paid money for a hamburger with peanut butter on it— and it was awesome. There were bananas and bacon on it, too. It was one of those “We’re an unorthodox burger place that is orthodox enough to have a menu item called ‘The Elvis’ which involves peanut butter somehow” situations.

    Good to know I can go to the kid from the Twilight Zone movie’s house and have one for free in the future, though.

  13. neal2zod- I remember that “robot-lady” from SUPERMAN III used to scare the shit out of me as a kid, especially the transformation scene….

  14. The crazy Taz-on-meth creature scared the shit out of me as a kid, as well as that creepy mouthless face of the kid’s real sister in the wheelchair. The Miller segment also traumatized me, although i think Lithgow’s sweaty, bug-eyed face freaked me out more than the monster with the ponytail. This last segment is one of those instances where a remake surpasses the original source. (And I think the Shatner episode is near-perfect.)

    There’s a station in Nova Scotia that broadcasts the classic Twilight Zone episodes around midnight to two or three in the morning. It’s the perfect way to watch them, as the timing of the broadcast and the shitty quality of the station in general add to the creepiness factor of the episodes. One of the episodes that always creeps me out is the one with the department store mannequins, followed by the other great Shatner one with the eerie devil fortune-telling machine.

  15. And if Vern’s going chronologically. That means The Color Purple is next, unless he’s never seen Temple of Doom. Please don’t skip to Empire of the Sun. I think there’s some very interesting conversation about The Color Purple.

  16. A while ago a TV station here showed the classic TWILIGHT ZONE show too, which was my first encounter with it. Unfortunately they didn’t show all episodes, but I was surprised how watchable most of them were. Sure, there was its fair share of stinkers, that probably already sucked 40 years ago and several episodes probably missed the mark for me, because I knew the respective parodies from THE SIMPSONS, but damn episodes like FIVE CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN EXIT still surprise today and even simple character pieces like THE RIP VAN WINKLE CAPER, THE OBSOLETE MAN, THE MIRROR (with Peter Falk as Not-Fidel-Castro), THE LITTLE PEOPLE or THE SHELTER still work.

  17. With regards to “The Mission”: I remember a few years ago I caught that episode on television while I was home for the holidays. I vaguely remembered watching it as a kid, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember how the main character escaped from dying at the end. It’s a pretty engrossing story and is well told throughout. Several of my family members got sucked into watching it. And then the ending happened. Just about everyone was upset at the huge cop out. Still, it’s an almost great episode of television.

    Also, there’s a beer and burger joint near where I live that serves peanut butter on a hamburger. I can’t recommend it enough. Even omnipotent tyrant children can contribute to this world, I guess.

  18. I think by this point it’s pretty clear that we all would love to see Vern review THE MISSION, in case AMAZING STORIES episodes are somehow available for him. (Has it ever been released on DVD or those funny streaming devices, that you Americans love to use these days?)

  19. one guy from andromeda

    January 7th, 2012 at 9:57 am

    The John Lithgow segment doesn’t hold a candle to the original William Shatner one. He’s crazy from the start, the Gremlin looks like it was designed by a 12 year old – it’s all just so over the top that it’s never scary. The black and white one was genuinely creepy i thought.

  20. Yeah, there have been several discussions about if the Shatner or the Lithgow version are better, due to Shatner slowly sliding into madness, while Lithgow is “just” going from crazy to fucking crazy. But seriously, I think this discussion is stupid. We got two different takes on the same story and both are great. (The original gremlin looks like a cuddly teddy bear, though.)


  21. the finger wag: the expression du jour of mute bad guys everywhere- 3:00


  22. CJ – I loved “The Mission,” even that out of total left field, unforeshadowed ending which quite frankly works in that TWILIGHT ZONE vibe that Spielbeg was aiming for with AMAZING STORIES. His “Ghost Train” though, that was shit from what I remembered.

    Anyway, why that Spielberg episode on the TWILIGHT ZONE movie sucked was rather explainable, as the worth-reading (if out of print) book OUTRAGEOUS CONDUCT argued. He was supposed to adapt “Monsters on Maple Street.” That episode about the neighborhood seeing/hearing unexplainable random shit and by paranoia and distrust, violently turn on each other as we pull back to aliens on a hill overlooking that residential area, mocking how easily manipulated and stupid humans are.

    Suppoesd to be filmed in the fall of ’82, but then the Vic Morrow tragedy happened and Spielberg unsurprisingly lost all enthusiasm and appetite for ZONE, which was his and Landis’ nerd project originally. Can you blame him? So stuck doing a contracted job he wants nothing to do with now, he ditched adapting “Monsters” in favor of adapting the less violent, less cynical, happy ending old people home episode.

    And from the account I understand, he only shot it for 3-4 days, bothering with only one or two takes, apparently not giving a shit. If anything, CONDUCT claims he began work on a sunday, worried to death about making the Royal Family-attended U.K. premeire of E.T. (this was fall ’82 after all), which was I believe on a friday. The book argues he was more worried about making that public date than his ZONE segment, which he did make in time.

    Fun Fact: the script for MIRACLE MILE was almost produced as the TWILIGHT ZONE movie. How appropriate.

    Incidentally, CONDUCT blamed alot of folks for that Morrow tragedy. Landis, the FX coordinator, the producers (including Spielberg*), all heads of that production for ignoring safety and child labor regulations. No one’s direct fault per say, just a general disregard by those heads for rules made for a good reason in the first place, and three people paid for it with their lives.

    But CONDUCT even blamed the studio. Why? As ham-fisted as that Landis episode was with that ending about the bigot being shipped off to the death camp, it fit in the TZ tradition of ironic endings. However the studio apparently were unhappy with it, demanded an “uplifting” conclusion where Morrow saves those kids and redeems himself. Which makes little sense, but this was the 80s after all.

    *=The book did say, despite what I always believed, that Spielberg wasn’t there at the set that night of the tragedy, despite what a few eyewitnesses claim. Apparently he was confused with I believe one of his long-time henchmen, Frank Marshall.

  23. I really hope Discolored Pimple isn’t next on Vern’s list, as I have some serious issues with that movie.

  24. I never saw COLOR PURPLE. Probably because the idea of Whoopi Goldberg in a serious drama, yeah sorry I can’t accept that premise. Might as well have been Wanda Sykes.

    (Anybody remember the uproar when Whoopi had Ted Danson go blackface at a comedy club?)

  25. Goldberg did The Color Purple long before the Danson debacle. Purple was one of her first movies. Her performance is one of the reasons I love the movie. It’s a very understated performance. Too bad she went all hammy in most of her other films, including Ghost.

  26. I saw Twilight Zone the Movie on TV a few weeks ago, and the whole Vietnam sequence was cut out of the movie. Still, George Miller’s episode makes the whole movie.

  27. ANoniMouse – Point taken. To be frankly honest, what’s also kept me from seeing CP was the fact that Roger Ebert in his Great Movies essay for it, basically described how several scenes come off as basically too slapstick, and that description stuck with me. Which is weird since he’s otherwise saying its an “essential” movie worth seeing.

  28. I’m sorry, I skipped The Color Purple in this series. I had seen that one before and wasn’t anxious to revisit it. Maybe later.

  29. I remember seeing this film as a kid. The scene where Cherie Currie has her mouth removed hit me like a lightning bolt of childhood scares. I finished the movie. Years later i watched it again and i as i walked back to the train station at night. There was this freaky black cat just staring at me. Just sums up the Twilight Zone movie for me.

  30. Damn. Well, as long as you do Empire of the Sun…

  31. Or eventually review Cage in Peggy Sue Got Married…

  32. Wow i had never heard spielberg was supposed to direct the monsters on maple street adaptation,that would have been amazing. I remember doing that story as a play in high school and wishing more of my days could have spent engaging with equally amazing material

  33. aw come on Vern, review The Color Purple, I was really looking forward to your review of it

  34. I’m much more looking forward to THE LOST WORLD review that is of course if it is indeed one of the ones that Vern hasn’t seen.

  35. I’m fairly new to this site and can’t possibly know what Spielberg movies Vern’s seen. But if we’re talking about the “lesser know” films, I guess we’re talking “Empire of the Sun” or “Always” next. And I must say that of the two I prefer Always, since the political (and historical) Spielberg doesn’t appeal to me at all. I hope no one’s upset by this, but The Beard really (and I mean REALLY) doesn’t know very much about the world outside his own stratospherere (I really hope Schindler’s List’s not on the menue, since I have some really harsh things to say about that movie).

  36. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 7th, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I’d kinda like to rewatch TCP, see if it makes the same impression on me now as it did when I was younger. I’d just studied the book – literally studied, in school – and watched the film as a comparison, and didn’t think too much of it afterwards. It’s not exactly a film that sticks with you is what I’m saying. Can’t pinpoint anything particularly wrong with it, although certain parts definitely struck me as either toned-down or dumbed-down back then.

    As for “Twilight Zone”… they made a movie? The TV series is one of those reputed classic series that I’ll probably never watch… so I doubt I’ll look for this one, especially given Vern’s review.

  37. I love Empire of the Sun, it’s actually one of my favorite movies by Spielberg

  38. My wife love’s this movie too. But all I see is a story that’s just as realistic as in the Indiana Jones movies, about some spoiled kid who hides from the (not at all that evil) Japanese army in some hangar with John Malcovich and what seems like half of the crew from M*A*S*H.

  39. pegsman – the biggest thing I took away from EMPIRE, at least my impression when I saw it back at high school, was how this kid is acting toe to toe with fucking John Malkovich, who wasn’t slouching that gig.

    Or put it another way, when AMERICAN PSYCHO came out shortly afterwards, I wasn’t surprised that same kid was still a good actor as an adult.

    Of course I should watch EMPIRE again. Would I still hold it that highly?

  40. I agree Spielberg’s segment isn’t good, but, then again, it’s not terribly different from the original episode it was remaking, too. “Kick the Can” was never a great episode of the original series, and despite knowing MANY fans of the series, I’ve never met anyone who lists that episode among their favorites…or even mentions it period, for that matter.

    As for Nightmare at 20000 Feet, Shatner>Lithgow.

  41. Speaking of this Shatner/Lithgow debate, did anyone see that 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN episode which referenced that?

    Shatner: “I once saw something mysterious on the wing of an airplane.”

    Lithgow: The same thing happened to me!”

  42. I think it’s entirely possible to love both versions of Nightmare, but for each person one is going to resonate more with them than the other. Granted, Shatner’s performance was a slow burn from normal to insane while Lithgow was portraying the you’re-paranoid-because-they’re-out-to-get you mode.

  43. Waaaah, nobody clicks on the links that I put here.

  44. I guess we can argue over whether or not Goldsmith’s music is overbearing for the Kick the Can (I think it’s beautiful), but the fiddle music for the Miller segment is fuckin’ incredible especially for the loooong shot that pushes in on Lithgow, the score taunting him before he can’t fuckin’ take it anymore and opens up the window. Yeah?

  45. I’m amazed no one mentions the very ending, which impeccably ties the Lithgow story back into the Aykroyd/Brooks opening. That makes the film, IMHO.

    I actually enjoy this one quite a bit. The Landis segment is pretty on-the-nose and feels incomplete (understandably so), and the Spielberg one is truly almost unwatchable. But the one-two punch of Dante and Miller and then the pitch-perfect silly/scary coda always win me over and I walk away from it feeling happy about the experience.

  46. I rewatched the Twilight Zone movie a few weeks after seeing the Masters of Horror episode where the highway serial killers battle each other for the Final Girl, only to end up in the ambulence of two OTHER killers. I wonder if the Masters ending was an homage to the Twilight Zone one.

    And I like the inclusion of Kick the Can as a sort of palate cleanser, but I admit it feels sub-par as a Spielberg vehicle and in compaison with the other three entries.

  47. Holy shit Vern! You gotta review Poltergeist! You know about the big controversy over how Spielberg directed a lot of that film and not Toby Hooper, right? Maybe you already reviewed Poltergeist. I’ll go try to find it.

  48. Assuming Vern won’t bother revisiting TEMPLE OF DOOM, already ruled out COLOR PURPLE, and assuming he won’t bother with AMAZING STORIES….next up on the Beard Tour is EMPIRE OF THE SUN.

  49. Mr. Subtlety – oh yeah, that ending rocks, “wanna see something REALLY scary?”

    ANoniMouse – believe it or not that Masters of Horror episode ending was a reference to another Larry Cohen (who directed that episode) movie called The Ambulance (which I’ve never seen, but I think it was about serial killers kidnapping people using a fake ambulance)

    by the way, I miss Masters of Horror, that was a pretty cool show, too bad it only lasted two seasons

  50. Hamburgers with peanut butter are awesome. They serve it at Mo’s in Burbank. Everyone I take there makes that face and then they try it and they love it.

  51. GrimGrinningChris

    January 8th, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    I will say that although KICK THE CAN is certainly the low point in the movie and a low point in general buried in one of the strongest directorial runs of all time, my sister and I still quote the segment to each other 30 years later… well maybe it is just so we can roll out our awful Scatman impersonations.

  52. Pegsman:

    You do know that Empire of the Sun is based on J.G. Ballards *actual* childhood experiences, yeah?

  53. Also: Pegsman:

    If you think my opinion of Munich is off the wall, you should hear what I have to say about Schindler’s List. Except, you won’t. I really don’t want to get into a bunch of screaming matches on this website about politics and cultural biases, ect. I have too much respect for the community to continue to disrupt it with that crap. Also, I don’t have the time to write out any more epic length posts.

    Suffice it to say, I think we can both agree that Spielberg should stay away from historical movies — excepting Saving Private Ryan — which is a masterpiece, even if it inspired the scourge of Shakycam. But hey, I still hold Kant, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer in high regard, so baby and bath water and all that.

  54. I’m surprised there hasn’t been much of a debate over the accident

    John Landis, like Roman Polanski always seems to start flame wars on the internet, if you go onto Landis’ imdb board for example 90% of the threads are about the twilight zone accident

  55. You know that we take things here a little bit easier than the rest of the internet.

  56. I love how internet tough guys all act like they’re the fuckin’ Punisher or some shit, like they’re just so disgusted with the system that they’re gonna hunt down this dangerous criminal John Landis who escaped justice all those years ago, when really they just like being able to act all self-righteous and indignant with impunity.

  57. The irony that I am using the straw man of the “internet tough guy” as an excuse to act all self-righteous and indignant with impunity is not lost on me. I embrace my contradictions, for at their points of intersection lie the heart of Majestyk.

  58. I read an article that thought the character Malkovich played in EMPIRE OF THE SUN was a clever subversion of the Indiana Jones character. I don’t know if that’s true or not.

  59. Mr. Majestyk – but you’re right, that’s exactly how those guys act and I find it really, really stupid

  60. Majestyk – Landis won’t get gangraped here because the Internet Tough Guys (trademark that shit!) know Stu is gonna dig up old incriminating dirt on them, about how they once laughed at THE STUPIDS or something.

    Interestingly, Landis made THREE AMIGOS during his manslaughter trial.

  61. You wound me, sir.

  62. Stu – Don’t worry, you’ll feel better when you find that old post where I praised or agreed with you on something. Or when I was CEO for Bain.

  63. hey Vern, how come you never reviewed THE COLOR PURPLE? are you really that sensitive when it comes to that subject matter?

  64. also, please don’t take any offense, I’m just curious

  65. Griff: Why ask Vern a question which you already know the answer to? Vern’s a bit like the Wizard Of Oz in that regard: he’d just as soon you didn’t try and pull back the curtain to catch a glimpse of the “real” him.

  66. except I don’t know the answer, what I mean by “sensitive” is does he not like the movie itself or is it just hard for him to watch? I’m genuinely curious about his opinions

    for the record, I don’t think the movie is one of Spielberg’s greats or anything, it’s a dry run for later, better dramas, but it’s an interesting one with some great acting

    what I find interesting though is looking back, I realized how post E.T. 80’s Spielberg was mostly dramas (with the notable exception of the Indiana Jones trilogy) with the “fun stuff” reserved for movies he only produced, he didn’t come back to the “action/adventure” genre in a big way until Jurassic Park

  67. Rewatched this one for the first time in forever (apparently per my comment above- I last saw this only 5 years ago!) This time however I watched it high, and I definitely love it even more.

    The Prologue is still hilarious until it turns horrifying, and the naturalistic dialogue and acting really set the stage for all the Tarantino and Kevin Smith pop culture speeches that would show up 10 years later. This scene is so good I’m surprised people didn’t rip off the style earlier. Bonus points for throwing in meta-comments about the theme song and The Outer Limits. Also love how they talk about “that episode with Burgess Meredith!” when he’s in like 5 of them and also narrates this movie.

    It’s kind of amazing how timely Landis’ segment is today – even though it seems obvious and on-the-nose, Morrow is great in the role and really humanizes his character, and it’s interesting how his racism isn’t just cartoonishly out of the blue, it’s caused by economic anxiety, fear of losing his job, and a persecution/”nobody appreciates me!” complex that people still use as justifications for racism today. Even though I know the ending wasn’t the planned ending, there’s something really powerful when Morrow just sighs in resignation and gives up when he realizes he’s stuck in the train car to the concentration camp. He’s accepted his fate, then the powers that be cruelly dangle a glimmer of hope in his face by showing his friends within arm’s reach of him. I’m not sure exactly what the metaphor is (perhaps his racist rants were really a cry for help and his friends (at least one of whom is also racist) have been too blinded and oblivious to see it and help him?).

    Spielberg’s segment, which i liked as a kid and hated last time I saw it – is still pretty bad. The “precious” score is unbearable and the acting is over-the-top and annoying- it’s everything people who shit on Spielberg hate about him. It’s still kinda fun to watch though (the cinematography is excellent) and I’m glad there’s one non-scary story in here. And as bad as this segment is, I actually wish it was a little longer – the themes are surprisingly deep but they feel rushed in a half hour format – the characters aren’t even kids for 3 minutes when Crothers starts pulling some Machiavellian strings and making them all have to choose whether to be young or old again, like he’s fucking Jigsaw or something. And speaking of the Scatman, I really hate people always bringing up the “Magic Negro” trope because I’ve always been of the mind that “hey it gives a black actor a job and is always a positive portrayal, what the hell do you want?” But whoo boy, this is the most magical Magical Negro I’ve ever seen, and Crothers is honestly hard to watch here.

    I know I already kinda brought up Trump once with the first story, but for some reason I really had him on the brain with the Dante segment. Spoiled, entitled child with all the power in the world, surrounded by a group of ever-changing, replaceable, asskissing yes-men who are complicit in feeding the beast by going along with everything he says, but also understandably terrified of speaking up. Prone to childish outbursts of (twitter) rage. Huge fan of eating comically gross junk food. (tell me that Trump wouldn’t eat that peanut butter burger or Anthony wouldn’t eat well-done steak with ketchup on it) Of course, the episode, despite being nasty and horrifying, ends on an optimistic note – we’re to believe Anthony grows and matures under Helen’s tough-love, tell-it-like-it-is discipline, and learns to use his powers for good. (I personally think the realistic version of this story would end with him blowing her up like John Cassavetes the first time he doesn’t get what he wants.)

    Miller’s segment is amazing but there isn’t really much to say about it – it’s expertly made and acted, but doesn’t really have any deeper meaning or theme (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Unless the theme is “even if the world thinks you’re crazy and even if YOU think you’re crazy, don’t stop believin’ and depressurize a plane and endanger everyone’s life because it might end up saving everyone!” Normally I wouldn’t even have noticed the lack of a theme, but there’s been so many “it was all in his head!” movies after this and the movie itself acts like it wants you to think that’s a possibility, and the big “reveal” of the gremlin’s plane damage is presented like a twist, so yeah, I’m not really sure what it’s trying to say. It’s a fun exercise though and should probably be watched in every film school to show how to set a mood and ratchet up tension.

  68. You would assume Landis would be haunted for years afterwards, though when his long court case was finally over and he was acquitted, he threw a big victory party. On the one hand you can see how he would be very relieved and in a good mood, but on other hand people thought it made him look insensitive.

    THE TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE scared the me as a child: the end of the Dan Aykroyd/Albert Brooks scene; the nightmare fuel cartoon character; the gremlin on the plane; the return of Dan Aykroyd. I guess I was the right age for it.

    Also as a child I was a little scared of John Lithgow to begin with (possibly because of Lord Whorfin).

    Re: the original series: Serling said about a third of them were brilliant, a third of them were OK, and a third of them were bad. One thing I noticed watching the whole series on MeTV was how many episodes were set up so that we only see one or two characters, in an abandoned or confined location, something that always disappoints me. There’s also the problem that many of the twists are now not surprising because they’ve been parodied so often that you know them even if you don’t know them. But it was high-quality TV, both on its own and for the era. It had some crisp dialogue and good acting.

    It would have been great if Spielberg’s segment had been “The Monsters on Maple Street.” That would have looked awesome in 1980s form. Scatman Crothers’s presence in “Kick the Can” was probably the selling point of that segment for me at the time, as I would have recognised his name and/or voice from TRANSFORMERS.

  69. As someone who still adores KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE, ANIMAL HOUSE, TRADING PLACES and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, as sterling examples of both what can be achieved with comedy and how to interleave it through one of the best (IMHO) Werewolf movies ever made, what Landis did was unconscionable on the set of this movie. A tale of hubris run amok with the most devastating of consequences. Guy rightly should have been a pariah in the industry, and while I’m glad he never again scaled the heights he could have, dude still got to make movies. All this shit talk about how guys like Mel Gibson should never work again, and this guy makes a decision that causes an actor and 2 YOUNG CHILDREN who should never have been working at that time (circumventing child labor laws which prohibited them working on a night shoot) to be horribly crushed and mangled under a helicopter crash with Morrow essentially getting decapitated by a rotor blade, and there was minimal outrage at best for what this dickhead did.

    And he spawned Max Landis, another asshole, which is one more shitty thing I can lay on him.

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