Steven Spielberg

ET Movie

Within the logo of Amblin Entertainment lies one of Steven Spielberg’s most iconic images: a boy flying on a bicycle with a shrouded extraterrestrial friend in tow. This image also provides a fitting summary of how Spielberg’s films have been popularly understood — as wondrous, spectacular articulations of imagination seemingly possible only through an affirmative style of filmmaking. But there’s also that other side of E.T. that’s absent within Amblin’s logo, that side that’s about the paranoia of a government that coldly quarantines and dissects a force it doesn’t understand, the parts of the film that met your childlike wonder with a stark nightmare. The tensions between these two poles of Spielberg’s work are explored in depth in a new book by film scholar James Kendrick, whose “Darkness in the Bliss-Out: A Reconsideration of the Films of Steven Spielberg” approaches the storied oeuvre of the most successful living filmmaker from the vantage point of his evident but less appreciated darker themes – his propensity to meet wondrous imagination with the worst tendencies of human nature. In fact, Kendrick argues that the dominant way we interpret Spielberg – as something of a reliable architect of affirming cinematic entertainment –prevents us from fully appreciating the depth and complexity of a director whose work oscillates on the pendulum between light and darkness, hope and despair. Here’s what Kendrick had to tell us about the darkness brooding within Spielberg’s films.

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War of the Worlds 2005

With Ebola ravaging West Africa, and flu season quickly approaching, I can’t help but think about infectious diseases and how I will survive. In troubled times like these, I turn to movies for reassurance. No, I’m not talking about watching Outbreak and realizing that saving the world from an airborne Ebola-like pandemic is as simple as catching a monkey in the suburbs, or watching Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion and realizing that bats and pigs (and Gwyneth Paltrow) are the worst biological enemies known to man. Instead, I look to more traditional science fiction and realize that while diseases lay waste to large segments of the human population, they may also be our saving grace from alien invasion. After all, that’s the plan that H.G. Wells laid out in “War of the Worlds,” which was adapted into films in 1953 and 2005. While Wells (along with George Pal and later Steven Spielberg) warned us of potential dangers from life on other planets, he also assured us that our own microbes might keep us safe from atmospheric intruders. After all, it was these microscopic organisms that disabled and eventually wiped out the invading Martians. And that got me thinking: Could the microbes here on Earth save us from an alien invasion?

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CBS

Director Steven Spielberg struck ratings gold with his 1971 Movie of the Week, Duel, and the film is still regarded today as one of the best TV movies ever made. It certainly jump-started his career which until that point consisted of him being a journeyman director for TV shows like Columbo and Night Gallery. Most people would be forgiven for thinking he moved straight from Duel to Jaws while others know that his big screen debut, The Sugarland Express, predates the shark movie by a year. But relatively few seem to realize he made a second TV movie in the early ’70s — about an innocent family and a house with demonic intentions — because for some reason it’s never before been released on any home video format. Paul and Marjorie Worden (Darren McGavin and Sandy Dennis) move out of New York City with their two kids in tow and buy a home in the countryside. She keeps occupied with arts and crafts while he commutes back and forth to the city for his advertising job, but it’s not long before she begins to suspect something is amiss. The neighbor spreading chicken blood around their property is bad enough, but when a child’s wailing wakes her at night she’s understandably unsettled to discover that the sounds aren’t coming from her own kids. The childish crying is coming from the barn. Something Evil is an atmospheric tale — an impressive enough feat on a TV movie budget — that stands tall even […]

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Tobe Hooper is deservedly recognized for making one of the most consequential, game changing titles in horror film history. Few horror movies, then or now, match the raw, urgent dread of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But the well-earned primacy of that film obscures a career that grew notably diverse as it went on. Rather than a horror auteur known for revisiting styles, genres and a consistent worldview, Hooper’s films have attempted regularly to depart from what he’s done before. In so doing, Hooper’s filmography exhibits a remarkable and confident range of abilities and interests, from the mesmerizing slow burn nightmare of Funhouse to the Spielbergian blockbuster Poltergeist to the campy tribute to ‘50s sci-fi in his Invaders From Mars remake. After all, this is the guy whose only sequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, took his most beloved property – a terrifying small-budget gorefest – and turned it into a bizarre slapstick comedy. So here is some free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the director who taught us never to pick up a hitchhiker in Texas.

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Minority Report Precog

First, they took our TV shows and made them into movies. Then, they took our movies and made them into TV shows. What fresh horror will come next in the adaptation world? Radio, probably. But we’re still in that second phase right now. Case in point: Steven Spielberg is crafting a TV show out of his 2002 film Minority Report. As reported by The Wrap, he will use Amblin Television to front the show, with Godzilla writer Max Borenstein handling script duties. The Wrap presumes (just like every other person who hears this news) that the series will focus around the PreCrime police force, a special group of cops that use mutants with visions of the future to predict crime and then preemptively de-crime it. Spielberg is likely to choose a big-name star for the lead, and 20th Century Fox (who distributed the movie) may or may not have dibs on distributing the series. There is but one major issue with a Minority Report TV show: it’s already been done. Not in name, but in premise.

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Francis Ford Coppola Produced By Conference

This post is in partnership with Cadillac Cadillac and the Producers Guild of America recently launched Make Your Mark, a short film competition that challenges producers to create compelling content with limited resources. Contestants will make a short film over a single weekend in late June, and the 30-second Cadillac spot featuring the grand prize winner’s film will air during the 2015 Academy Awards. The Guild also recently hosted the Produced By Conference, offering some incredibly storytellers sharing their filmmaking experiences, and the event couldn’t have ended on a better note: an hour-long discussion with Francis Ford Coppola. That’s right, the legendary director behind The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Jack, The Outsiders, and perhaps his most underrated work, and one of my favorite movies, Rumble Fish. If that isn’t reason enough to attend the Produced By Conference in the future, then what is? This panel was easily the most talked about. Up until that point, I hadn’t seen a line as long or a more packed house. Thankfully, the wait was worth it, because Coppola knows how to work a crowd. He’s charming, thorough, and exhibits no signs of an ego he’s earned. Not once did he refer to one of his many landmark films as a “classic.” In the case of Apocalypse Now, he didn’t go much further than saying it’s looked upon more fondly now. Coppola could’ve said he made one of the greatest pictures ever, and everyone still would’ve applauded his modesty. He was that charming. His 1979 epic was one of the many talking points of a panel that everyone would have been […]

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The Money Pit house

Houses famously used as movie locations are often up for sale, and usually their listings make the rounds on movie blogs. Yeah, it’s neat when Cameron’s home from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or the farmhouse from Field of Dreams or the Home Alone home hit the real estate market, but it’s not funny. But the idea of buying “the money pit” from The Money Pit is pretty hilarious, right? After all, the mansion was one of the few non-horror-movie abodes to make our list of cinematic houses you don’t want to live in a while back. What makes the news of its actual listing, via the New York Times, even funnier is that the price is a whopping $12.5m. No, actually the funny part is that the current owners of the Long Island home — which goes by the name The Northway House — bought the thing as, yep, a money pit. Back in 2002, Rich and Christina Makowsky paid $2.125m, which was low for the area. That’s because it was falling apart. “We definitely could have done the sequel,” Rich is quoted as saying to the Times (he’s kinda joking, but I’d have watched that doc option). If only they’d paid more attention to the rumors at the time. Or read the New York Post article from 2001 (when it was listed at $2.95m) warning that “if life does imitate art, you may want to avoid buying this house” and referencing brokers who disputed Sotheby’s claim that it had been renovated to “aesthetically and technically […]

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Evgenia Eliseeva

Of all the men, in all the years, it be hard to argue that Bryan Cranston is not, in fact, having the best of them all. After an Emmy Award-winning run of the spectacular Breaking Bad finally and majestically came to a close, the actor got in some blockbuster experience with Godzilla, where he played the coveted role of being the crackpot who actually knew from the beginning what was actually going on beneath the Earth’s surface. Not content to just coast on his laurels, he’s been filling his downtime in New York City, portraying President Lyndon B. Johnson in the play All the Way for which last night he took home the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play. But lest you think he’s decided to leave movies behind, it looks like a collision of those two worlds is in order. Steven Spielberg is eyeing All the Way — which also took home a Tony last night for Best Play — to be transformed into a miniseries. The Robert Schenkkan play follows President Johnson beginning with President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and his subsequent inauguration, throughout his first year in office. It’s a packed first year too; Johnson uses his new power to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and goes on to win enough favor that he stays in office for a full term. And if the Tony’s are any indication, Cranston plays the former president to cranky old man perfection.

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind gas masks

When there’s a new remake out in theaters, the most obvious instruction I can have for you is to watch the original. Unless it’s a remake of something bad, I guess, but even then I think it’s necessary to go back and see the previous effort, for historical sake. With Godzilla, there are tons of predecessors. There’s another list to be written — and I think a few sites already have done so — recommending which past movies starring the King of the Monsters are worth seeing. I’ve actually only seen the first one from 1954, so I couldn’t be the authority on that anyway. As far as I know, there might even be something worthwhile in the 1998 remake that everyone hates. I never saw it (though I did see a bit being filmed when I lived near one of the locations) so I can’t argue for or against it. Instead, this week’s recommendations consist of other movies that clearly influenced the newest version (and some, the original), as well as some necessary earlier films of talent involved in the remake, plus a few titles that I was reminded of while watching that I think are relevant. And to make it easy on you, to ensure that you catch up with all of these titles  I’ve chosen, I note the easiest way for you to check out these films right now, thanks to the website Can I Stream.it?. As always, this list contains spoilers for the movie in focus, so only read […]

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The BFG Book

I’m not too familiar with Roald Dahl‘s book “The BFG.” When everyone else seemed to be reading it in middle school, I always had this idea, based on the cover illustration depicting a very large man holding a tiny girl, that the initials stood for “Big Fucking Guy.” Really, though, it’s all about a “Big Friendly Giant” — the only friendly one, in fact — who kidnaps then befriends that tiny girl, who isn’t really tiny but just normal sized. There are some other giants in the story, too, and the new pals aim to stop them from eating people. The Queen of England becomes involved. Honestly, I’m just going by the Wikipedia page and book cover synopsis, so I’ll stop there before I mess anything up or spoil the ending. The important thing is that they’re making another movie of the book, this one live-action. And by “they,” I mean none other than Steven Spielberg has reportedly signed on to direct The BFG, as adapted by none other than his E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial screenwriter, Melissa Mathison (who also adapted the varying-sized pals story The Indian in the Cupboard). Not only that, but it’ll be produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, both of whom also worked on the classic 1982 movie about a boy and his alien BFF (that one stands for “best friend forever”). Interestingly enough, “The BFG” was published the same year E.T. first arrived in theaters. 

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The Goonies

Whether you saw it in the theaters in the 80s, or watching it dozens of times while it played on HBO in the 90s, The Goonies has become an essential part of the childhood movie diet. That’s pretty impressive for a film that includes that many pre-teen curse words, sexual references and dangerous situations. Billed as a collaboration between producer Steven Spielberg and director Richard Donner, it was one of the few hits from the 80s that didn’t get an immediate sequel. Whether you’re still waiting around for that sequel – and whether you think that sequel is a good idea or not – you can still enjoy The Goonies in a variety of home video formats. Back when the DVD was released in the 2001, the cast reunited with Richard Donner to provide a commentary track that has been preserved on subsequent Blu-ray releases. Even though the commentary track is almost as old now as the movie was when the commentary was recorded, it still has some fun insight into the film, including the mysterious message that Sean Astin wanted to share with Cyndi Lauper.

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indytruth-1

Personally, as a die-hard Indiana Jones fan, I’m quite forgiving of a lot of the problems people have with the series (which shouldn’t be surprising, considering I will defend the Star Wars prequels as well). Still, I cannot deny some of the goofy things that happened in the fourth installment six years ago. I’m not just speaking of Shia LaBeouf’s Tarzan-like swings from jungle vines (that kid makes a career out of stealing other people’s shticks), but also the dreaded nuking of the fridge. This got me thinking… was nuking the fridge really the most ridiculous thing that happened in the Indiana Jones series?

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bttf2truth-1

Contrary to what a dozen or so faulty Facebook memes say, we have not reached the day that Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) travel to in Back to the Future: Part II. That won’t happen until next year, on Wednesday, October 21, 2015, to be exact. However, as we look ahead to that day in all of its post-Avengers 2 and pre-Star Wars 7 glory, we can assess what still needs to happen for the 2015 of 1989 to become a reality. Obviously we don’t have hoverboards or Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactors in every kitchen, but revisiting the classic Back to the Future series got me thinking: Is any of the stuff we saw happening yet?

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Those in the elite rungs of society often have expensive taste. Nicolas Cage bought himself a pyramid to preserve his physical form after he’s gone (presumably as a mummy). Bleeding Gums Murphy had a $1,500 a day Faberge Egg habit. And Steven Spielberg has recently been binging on legendary, unproduced Hollywood screenplays. First came Napoleon, Stanley Kubrick‘s massive historical epic – the epic that was declared unfilmable once Kubrick enlisted the entire 50,000 Romanian army to stage the battle sequences (and after several other Napoleon films had just bombed at the box office). Spielberg is already hard at work, transforming that one into a TV miniseries. And now, according to Deadline, Spielberg may be adding another priceless gem to his “to-do” list: Dalton Trumbo‘s Montezuma. Here’s how the story goes. In 1947, Trumbo was exiled from Hollywood after refusing to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and in 1950 spent eleven months in prison (something we’ll all undoubtedly learn more about when Bryan Cranston finishes his Dalton Trumbo biopic). Kirk Douglas finally fixed things for Trumbo in 1960, by hiring him to write Spartacus, and then publicly announcing Trumbo’s involvement (whereas before, the blacklisted Trumbo had to pen his screenplays from behind pseudonyms). After that collaboration was such a rousing success, Douglas and Trumbo were all ready to team up again for Montezuma, a similarly-sized epic about the relationship between Hernan Cortez and the titular Aztec ruler he befriended and eventually betrayed and imprisoned. Yet somehow, Montezuma fell […]

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IntroGenre

By no means are directors expected to make the same movie over and over again – but they also don’t tend to fly genre to genre like some kind of bipolar carnival game either. Here are a few directors who – if they were to put on an autograph signing – would find themselves in the midst of a very polarized crowd of fans.

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Jurassic Park

After building a theme park populated by dinosaurs, eccentric old billionaire John Hammond invites two top dino-scientists, a rock star chaos theory expert, and his grandchildren to come check it out. Fortunately for everyone involved, a horrible security breach unleashes the dinosaurs, and their lives are all terribly threatened.

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like father like son 02

Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winner and Palme d’Or runner-up Like Father, Like Son is getting the remake treatment from Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks. The Japanese film, from director Hirokazu Kore-eda, is the story of a family that discovers their six year-old son is not theirs at all; he was switched at birth with their biological son in the hospital. They, along with the parents of the other child, must now deal with the impossible – do they give up the child they’ve been raising as their own and take back their biological son, or do they keep quiet and pretend nothing happened? “When I saw the film at Cannes, I was so impressed by its power to bring such a human story to the screen. Here at DreamWorks Studios, Stacey and our team recognized that it was a story we wanted to remake to bring to our audiences throughout the world,” said Spielberg in a statement. “I thank Hirokazu Kore-eda and Fuji TV for giving us this once in a lifetime opportunity.” Spielberg will not be directing the film, nor has he announced who will nab that role. Kore-eda will still have involvement though, in some capacity, as he stated that he’s looking forward to working with Spielberg.

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On this fun size edition of the program, Geoff defends Steven Spielberg’s unfairly maligned War of the Worlds, and I defend the unfairly maligned dumping ground of September-October as one of the very best times of the year for movie fans. It’s a magical two months for one very important reason. We’d also like to thank all of you for pushing us over 125,000 downloads last week. It means Geoff can finally afford shoes. You should follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. And, as always, if you like the show (or hate it with seething fervor), please help us out with a review. Download Episode #34 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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tim blake

The first three weeks of October 2002 was a tense time for anyone living around the Nation’s Capital. Living in Maryland I vividly recall the amount of fear the Beltway Snipers created, leading to special precautions at schools and people avoiding crowded areas. The movie that tells the story of those two snipers, Blue Caprice, captures that uneasiness with slow-building, methodical filmmaking. There’s a few familiar faces in Alexander Moors‘ film, including Tim Blake Nelson, playing Ray, an “unwitting accomplice” to one of the snipers. While he’s most famous for playing one of the many lovable morons in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Nelson has been working successfully as a writer, director, and, for the past year and a half, a member of James Franco‘s camp. Nelson has now acted in two of Franco’s films, As I Lay Dying and Child of God, making for a collaboration that has put a pep in Mr. Nelson’s step. We discussed that artistic partnership with Nelson, as well as Blue Caprice, humanizing transformations, and why an actor always needs to have their antennae out:

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news eastwood sniper

It’s been about two weeks since Steven Spielberg dropped out of American Sniper, the upcoming biopic that will star Bradley Cooper as Navy Seal Chris Kyle. Apparently, two weeks is just enough time to line up another hugely popular director- as reported by Twitchfilm, Clint Eastwood is in talks to become Spielberg’s replacement. For Eastwood, this is a pretty big ego boost since he’s apparently the next best thing when Mr. Spielberg is unavailable. For the movie-going public, this news is slightly less terrific. Eastwood’s got a masterful eye for direction, but that masterful eye has been conspicuously absent for his last few pictures- J. Edgar, Hereafter and Invictus all fall somewhere within the ‘mediocre’ category. Perhaps American Sniper will see the actor-turned-director hitting Unforgiven-level heights (or at least Gran Torino-sized ones).

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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