Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

The Set of 400: #98 – My Favorite Spinach Eating Robot

Today! Because they made us too smart, too quick and too many. We are suffering for the mistakes they made because when the end comes, all that will be left is us –

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Directed by Steven Spielberg (x6)

Starring Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law (x3), William Hurt, Frances O’Connor, Sam Robards, Jake Thomas, Brendan Gleeson (x2), Robin Williams (x6), Meryl Streep, Chris Rock (x4), Ben Kingsley (x4), Jack Angel, Ken Leung (x2), Clark Gregg (x4), Kevin Sussman, Ashley Scott, Enrico Colantoni (x2), Paula Malcomson (x3), Adrian Grenier, Michael Fishman

Not often mentioned in the same breath as Spielberg’s best, most iconic films, A.I. Artificial Intelligence holds a weird distinction for me, as the hybrid Frankenstein of a movie that it is. When Stanley Kubrick died in 1999, he left unfinished a number of projects, including his proposed epic biography of Napoleon, some (i.e. me) would argue the final edit of Eyes Wide Shut, and his debatably in pre-production sci-fi epic A.I. Now, Kubrick was taking a helluva long time between movies at this point, so “pre-production” is a pretty relative term, but by all indications this was next up, having started and stopped a number of times, including doing some casting and allegedly recording Robin Williams voice role as it exists in the film. Rumors also persist that Kubrick had discussed with Spielberg the possibility of him directing the film instead. So, when Kubrick died, Spielberg was able to pick up and run with what was largely in place already, cranking the whole film out in just over two years.

Oh those Spielberg silhouettes!

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The Set of 400: #109 – My Favorite Loss of Marbles

Today! Because for reasons of good form, I have decided that the so-called Pan will return in three days to commit the arbitrament of the sword. Smee, translate –

Hook (1991)

Directed by Steven Spielberg (x5)

Starring Robin Williams (x5), Dustin Hoffman (x4), Julia Roberts (x3), Maggie Smith (x3), Bob Hoskins (x3), Charlie Korsmo (x2), Amber Scott, Caroline Goodall, Dante Basco, Laurel Cronin, Arthur Malet, Don S. Davis (x2), Gwyneth Paltrow (x4), Phil Collins, David Crosby, Tony Burton (x5), Glenn Close (x2), Raushan Hammond

Back-to-back 1991s! A year so dense with favorites that it has now landed 14 movies on the list, but like 1992 before it (on this list, not chronologically, obviously, smart asses) only sees one film crack the top 100! But Hook sure got close. The first sign that my undying ten-year-old’s love for Batman could be cracked, Hook temporarily unseated the Caped Crusader’s ’89 outing as my favorite film, in lists from the day currently missing, but being avidly sought, in the various attic’d boxes of my youth. As yet, no luck. But man did I love Hook. It’s funny and exciting, with some really cool sequences (all of Pirate Neverland) and iconic images (really the whole London stretch in the first act of the film). So what if it feels four hours long watching it today? For kids, Hook is incredible.

But no, I can’t imagine adults feel the same way. There’s weird stuff in the film that just doesn’t work (ahem, everything related to Tinkerbell – every single thing) and there are goofball scenes that may kind of fit the theme, but really undo some of the characters. Most egregious is the period of the film where Peter’s son Jack is, like, playing baseball with the pirates and forgets his parents and life on Earth and starts dressing like Captain Hook – which happens very, very quickly. And they try to shoe-horn in some explanation – this is just what happens in Neverland! – but it doesn’t happen to the daughter, and they are only in Neverland for like a weekend, even though it feels like forever, due to the excessive run time of the film. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #123 – My Favorite Nervous Jell-O

Today! Because you didn’t say the magic word –

Jurassic Park (1993)

Directed by Steven Spielberg (x4)

Starring Sam Neill (x2), Laura Dern (x2), Jeff Goldblum (x5), Richard Attenborough (x2), Samuel L. Jackson (x6), Wayne Knight (x3), BD Wong, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero (x2), Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Miguel Sandoval (x2), Richard Kiley (x2)

It’s no stretch to declare Jurassic Park the best dinosaur movie ever made, but I’ll go so far as to say it’s the only good dinosaur movie. It feels like it should be a more robust sub-genre of movies, right? Like, once the technology existed, why didn’t we get buried in stupid T-Rex films? But really, there isn’t much, and what there is isn’t great. They pop up as side characters in like King Kong, okay, but you wouldn’t classify that as a dinosaur movie, would you? You would?! Get the hell out of here!

And I’ll contend that none of the other Jurassic Park movies are anything compared to the original. Jurassic World is fun, but it’s a pretty straight rehash of the first film, not unlike The Force Awakens and A New Hope, really. Hollywood has us figured out, folks! We like the same things packaged in slightly different ways! Superhero movies, all these “live action” Disney remakes (that are really just animated in a different way), reboots, endless Fast and Furious sequels – we like comfortable, predictable, stakes-less excitement!

(Also, is everyone aware that there have been fourteen Land Before Time movies? That seems a touch excessive, no? I think I might have seen the first movie once, but I’m clearly way behind!)

Who’s up for marathoning this shit this weekend?

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The Set of 400: #226 – My Favorite Telephone Bomb

Today! Because there is no peace at the end of this –

Munich (2005)

Directed by Steven Spielberg (x3)

Starring Eric Bana, Ciaran Hinds (x2), Daniel Craig, Geoffrey Rush, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Ayelet Zurer, Michael Lonsdale, Mathieu Amalric, Lynn Cohen

A great movie almost completely undone in audience’s minds by the bizarre choices in the finale, Munich at first glance appears to be a meditation on hate in the world, and the lengths good people go to in efforts to provide security and peace to their nation. But in reality, it is a straightforward action yarn, a vengeance thriller unlike pretty much any other, and a true story (-ish) to boot. And yes, it ends with the most awkward sex scene ever filmed.

That is one sweaty Bana, ladies and gents

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The Set of 400: #294 – My Favorite Rolling Ferris Wheel

Today! Because I fought your kind in the Great War, and we kicked the living shit out of you –

1941 (1979)

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Starring John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd (x3), Ned Beatty (x2), Christopher Lee (x4), Tim Matheson, Toshiro Mifune (x2), John Candy (x4), Nancy Allen, Lorraine Gary (x2), Warren Oates, Slim Pickens, Robert Stack, Treat Williams, Murray Hamilton (x3), Elisha Cook Jr., Patti LuPone, Eddie Deezen, Perry Lang, Wendie Jo Sperber, Joe Flaherty, David L. Lander, Michael McKean (x3), Don Calfa, Susan Backlinie, Jerry Hardin, Audrey Landers, Dick Miller (x3), Mickey Rourke

For those of you unfamiliar with this movie – can you believe the above cast got together in ’79 and put on an epic war comedy? And under the direction of the king, Steven Spielberg, following his massive success with Jaws and Close Encounters? Doesn’t it make you want to run out and see what this movie could possibly be?? How have you avoided it all these years? Do it!

And for those of you already familiar with this movie, SHUT UP.

I’m not Titanic-level defensive about 1941, but that’s because most people either didn’t see it or don’t remember it enough to argue about it. And look, I know there is a lot wrong with this movie. It only sort of functions as a comedy – it’s like a less funny It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with explosions and extended choreographed fistfights – and sort of functions as a war movie. But the premise is solid enough and the cast is terrific that, even though it doesn’t totally deliver, it’s still a pretty entertaining movie. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #331 – My Favorite Punchable Child Character

Today! Because he’s got a chip on his shoulder the size of the national debt –

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Directed by Joe Dante, John Landis, George Miller, and Steven Spielberg

Starring Dan Aykroyd (x2), Albert Brooks (x2), Vic Morrow, John Larroquette (x2), Steven Williams, Scatman Crothers, Selma Diamond, Bill Quinn, Murray Matheson, Kathleen Quinlan, Dick Miller, John Lithgow, Donna Dixon, Burgess Meredith (x3), Abbe Lane, Bill Mumy, Nancy Cartwright, William Schallert, Patricia Barry, Kevin McCarthy, Jeremy Licht, Priscilla Pointer, Martin Garner, Helen Shaw, Charles Hallahan, Doug McGrath

A wildly uneven movie, which is to be expected considering the basis, the highs in Twilight Zone are pretty damn high, while the lows are only mediocre – this is a wall-to-wall watchable movie, even if on paper it seems like it shouldn’t have worked at all. Bringing in the high profile quartet of directors was certainly a good first step – with the only one I tend to skip being Dante’s “It’s a Good Life.” I don’t know, it’s not an episode I particularly enjoy either, so I’m not blaming the way they execute it, I’m just not a huge fan of that asshole kid. It’s pretty meh.

But the other three – pretty solid. The only original story of the group – the Landis directed “Time Out” is a bit heavy-handed, but effectively lead by Vic Morrow (famously killed on the set of this film, requiring a different ending to be concocted). Spielberg’s “Kick the Can” is schmaltzy, but has always been my favorite segment, with its sadly sentimental senior citizens getting one night to be young again. But clearly they saved the stand-out sequence for the finale, as George Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” surpasses the episode it’s based on (the best episode they chose to adapt, too) and gets a dynamite performance from Lithgow as the tortured passenger, seeing a monster on the wing of the plane.

Lithgow is largely not doing well

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The Movie Event of Our Time Arrives July 18th, 2008

A perfect storm of a media blitz, incessant buzz, A-list filmmakers and cast, and being centered around one of the most beloved institutions of popular culture the world has ever known has created what will likely go down as the seminal entertainment event in the lives of everyone currently sucking oxygen on July the 18th.  In a summer that has already born witness to smash critical and commercials hits the like of Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Sex and the City, the granddaddy of them all is about to be unleashed on a ravenous public, and cinema, humanity, the concept of enjoyment, and the sublimity of being are about to be changed forever.

 

Space Chimps blasts off in theaters on July 18th. Continue reading

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