E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial (10/3/12)

E.T.Movie Two Hundred Twenty

E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial is the touching story of a lost alien and the boy who helps him find his way home.

A large spacecraft lands in a forested area of California and a group of small aliens are collecting local plants. A group of men from the government appear in trucks and the aliens flee and fly away, leaving one member behind. The alien winds up in a storage shed in a family’s backyard and is discovered by Elliott (Henry Thomas), who cannot believe what he is seeing. The following evening, after his mother (Dee Wallace), brother, Michael (Robert MacNaughton), and younger sister, Gertie (Drew Barrymore), don’t believe him, Elliott lures the alien into his room with a trail of Reese’s Pieces. After staying home from school with his new friend, Elliott and E.T. begin to form a mental bond and as his family finally sees the truth, the government is closing in on capturing the extra-terrestrial, but all E.T. wants is to go home.

First off, I want to extend my deepest thanks to Brandie from True Classics for their giveaway to see E.T. live in theaters for one-night only! It has probably been about 20 years since I had last watched E.T. and I knew that I couldn’t miss it in theaters. Also, my wife had never seen the movie, which was too shocking to let slide.

E.T. is one of those magical films that someone from any age can likely relate to because the themes are universal; friendship, sacrifice, love, etc. The magic of E.T. largely comes from the cast, primarily comprised of the three children, who bring a sense of pure childlike wonderment onscreen. Barrymore was about 6 during filming and she honestly gives perhaps the best performance of her career here. Even E.T. himself is kind of cute and human enough that he is easy to relate to. You understand his plight, you can imagine how scared you would be winding up stranded on a strange planet and then finding a friend. The premise is simple but incredibly touching.

The theatrical presentation of E.T. is based on a newly restored theatrical print of the film for its 30th anniversary. I note this because I learned that the previous restoration had been edited to remove the guns of the FBI agents. Well, the guns are back for this print, which is the same version as the newly released 30th anniversary blu-ray. The restoration was crisp, vibrant, and sounded clear. The theater was pretty crowded with families and children, so I’m glad they were able to experience E.T. in its true form (likely looking better than ever) on the big screen.

After seeing E.T. again as an adult, I teared up a bit, laughed, got tense, smiled, and got chills and it’s rare that a film can evoke all these emotions without skipping a beat. E.T. is also further proof that Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time. After I came home from the theater I immediately went online and purchased the blu-ray of E.T. so I could watch it again and get behind the scenes.

I give it 5 E.T. makes a surprisingly attractive woman out of 5.

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Jaws (5/14/12) and (8/23/12)

JawsMovie One Hundred Eighteen and Movie One Hundred Ninety Six

Out of those of you that have seen Jaws, how many are still ill at ease for swimming in the ocean?

It’s the beginning of July on popular beach town of Amity Island in New England and there is monster lurking in the water. The town is whipped into a frenzy as people become victims of shark attacks and the mayor demands that the beaches stay open. When the shark attacks continue and they realize the problem will only get worse, police chief Brody (Roy Scheider) calls in a shark expert, Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), charter a boat and its captain, Quinn (Robert Shaw).

To me, Jaws is the perfect monster movie. It’s believable but terrifying. Some may contest the view and argue that it doesn’t even qualify as a horror movie, but consider the shark itself. It doesn’t care who it kills, it’s not killing for any purpose (you could say that it’s feeding, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case) other than territoriality, it’s nearly invincible, it’s enormous, it’s unrelenting, and most of all, it’s a real animal that we can all know of. Considering Jaws is based loosely on a string of shark attacks that happened in an inland creek in Matawan, New Jersey, I think Jaws hits even harder.

Some of you may notice that in addition to watching movies I also enjoy reading and the novel Jaws by Peter Benchley is one I heartily recommend. There are actually quite a few differences, mostly in the character developments, but the soul of the novel gushes from the screen in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation. Considering the age of the film and the technical difficulties presented in the animatronic shark (dubbed “Bruce” by the crew), Jaws is truly a marvel, even today.

When I was younger, two movies left their impressions on me so deep that I am still very weary of the ocean, even though I love it. The first was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – the giant squid literally scared the crap out of me as a kid. The second was Jaws and to this day it remains one of my favorites.

I give it 5 comparing scars out of 5.

[Update]

I had the pleasure of watching the newly restored version of Jaws on the big screen and it was, in one word, stunning. The restoration done is subtle but brilliant. The colors are bright and vibrant and the sound was thunderous. Jaws has never looked or sounded better and the restored version is available on blu-ray too. Over the years, I have seen Jaws numerous times and seeing it as it was meant to be seen was a truly new experience for me. Knowing what was going to happen and when, had no effect on me. Every scare was fresh and I even jumped several times. The tension of the film was like I had never experienced and it made this rewatch of Jaws something I will never forget.

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Super 8 (2/25/12)

Super 8Movie Thirty Seven

I wanted to love Super 8, I really did. When I read that the film is essentially a love letter to all great 80s movies involving kids having adventures and monsters, I knew I needed to see it. When I finally saw it I was elated but ultimately left unfulfilled.

Super 8 is about a group of kids in the 80s that are filming their own zombie movie when a train derails and things start getting weird. We eventually learn the train contained pieces of an alien spaceship (and also the alien) and he just wants to go home. Although I realize that sounds a lot like the plot of E.T., E.T. himself was not 30 feet tall and grotesquely scary…Well, at least not on grotesque on purpose.

In fact, the alien in Super 8 reminds me a lot of the monster in another J.J. Abrams flick, Cloverfield and apparently there’s a reason for that. So we have an alien terrorizing this town and the military moving in to keep things under wraps and re-secure the alien. Meanwhile, the kids are formulating their own plan to save a friend of theirs and save the day. If it sounds familiar, it is but that is also on purpose and is meant to be part of the charm of Super 8. It’s almost like if the Goonies were helping E.T. while E.T. destroys stuff.

If you grew up watching Steven Spielberg’s movies from the 80s then Super 8 is worth seeing, but the movie is slightly lengthy at nearly two hours. I thought it could have been a bit more focused during the middle because the ending felt rushed. Overall, I enjoyed Super 8 but I had higher hopes for it. When someone tells you “J.J. Abrams basically made a Steven Spielberg movie from the 80s” you instantly fall in love with that idea and the film just didn’t deliver that magic to me. I still found it highly enjoyable, but not the classic that it could have been.

I give it 4 Argus cubes out of 5.

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