“E.T.”is a Magical Classic that Never Fails to Enchant

Greetings, fellow bloggers! For my Halloween review, I have decided to review the 1982 Steven Spielberg classic, “E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial”. Spielberg considers it to be a loose sequel to one of his previous works, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977). It’s regarded as a children’s film, but it appeals to the entire family as well. It’s undeniably a classic, for both old and young alike, and is iconic for featuring memorable scenes and quotations. I had originally penned a review for “E.T.” elsewhere on the site, but decided to revisit the movie again, after binge watching many a “Stranger Things” episode!

The Plot in a Nutshell: 10 year old Elliot (Henry Thomas) is a lonely, alienated kid living with his sarcastic older brother Michael (Robert McNaughton), precocious little sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore), and his single mother Mary (Dee Wallace), who is still reeling from her husband having left her several months previously for another woman. Elliot is fetching a pizza in his back yard when he gets the feeling that something, or rather someone, is closely watching him.

It’s none other than the eponymous character, E.T., an alien who has been left behind by his own kind. Elliot is at first petrified of E.T., but then discovers that E.T. is just as lonely as himself, and wants to “phone home” to contact his own family, and alongside Michael and Gertie, makes it his mission to protect his new found ally from being discovered by their oblivious mother. Alas, sinister government agent “Keys” (Peter Coyote) seeks to take E.T. away…

My Favourite Scenes of the Flick: In a word, this movie is… timeless. Everyone remembers one significant scene from their childhood memories from this movie. That’s why it’s hard for me to choose just one moment. There’s the famous moon shot with the bicycle levitating across it, Elliot using  “Reese’s Piece’s” to lure E.T. out of hiding, E.T. going out treat or treating with Elliot and Michael at Halloween, and gleefully mistaking a kid dressed as Yoda from “Star Wars” to be one of his own kind, and my personal favourite, E.T. getting drunk off of some beer in the fridge, which causes Elliot to feel the effects of this in class, and revolt and unleash a gang of frogs from being dissected: “back to the rivers, back to the forest”!

While this is happening, E.T. watches “The Quiet Man”, the classic 50’s movie starring John Wayne as a retired boxer. As soon as the scene where he forcefully kisses Maureen O’Hara materialises, this causes Elliot  in his inebriated  state to kiss one of his pretty blonde school mates (Erika Eleniak)… only to find that she’s much taller than him. Thankfully, one of his buddies decides to help him out by allowing Elliot to stand on him so that he can have his kiss. This was a major “Awwww” moment for me when I was younger!

My Least Favourite Scenes of the Flick: It’s tricky for me to find a scene in this movie which I don’t like, but as a kid, the scenes towards the end of the movie where the government officials are invading Elliot’s home wearing spacesuits always gave me the chills as soon as they find out that there’s evidence of an alien in the dwelling. Watching it years later with a more mature perspective, it doesn’t come across as scary as it had been, but it’s still a tense moment.

Cast and Actor  Observations: For me, the casting in this movie is truly perfect. Henry Thomas is superb as the lonely Elliot, who finds solace in a similarly lost soul, and Robert McNaughton gets in a few comical moments as the initially aloof brother turned protector. Dee Wallace convinces as the mother who, for the most part, is unaware for the goings on surrounding her, as she’s so engulfed in her own grief. But the star performance for me was a young Drew Barrymore as Gertie. I just find her acting to be cute and endearing, and not irritating, as some child actors can be. I never fail to crack up at her declaring that she doesn’t like E.T.’s feet, in that matter of fact way that kids sometimes are particular to. As an additional note, Harrison Ford was to be cast as Elliot’s school principal who reprimands him after the frog incident. However, Spielberg felt that having such a well known thespian would distract audiences from the story, and ultimately sacked Ford.

My Take on “ET”: Part of the reason that “E.T.” is such a memorable movie even 34 years after it was first released is that it illustrates what it’s like to be a kid, especially during the chase scenes towards the end. (Word has it that Spielberg deliberately filmed the angle from the kids’ perspectives, so as to evoke a clear cut sense of opposition against authority). It’s without a doubt my  favourite movie by Spielberg, and one which I never get tired of watching. Plus, as I outlined in  my review of “The Goonies”, it gave me an appetite for “Reese’s Pieces” candy, an opportunity which “M and Ms” turned down, as they believed that the film would be a complete and utter flop. Needless to say, they ultimately came to regret the decision when “Reece’s Pieces” trumped them in sales.

Rating and Recommendations: “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” earns a full distinction of 5 out of five stars from me. It’s a fantastic movie which has aged well. It spawned several parodies, most notoriously in the form of the blatant rip-off that was “Mac and Me” (1988), but that’s for yet another review. The oldest I’d recommend a kid to be to watch this movie is 8 years old, as there are several scary moments. Also, the ending still manages to tug at my heartstrings, and likely will with old and young alike.  Happy watching!

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Elisabeth Shue beats the Babysitting Blues in Classic 80’s Comedy

Hi there! Since the Disney Channel’s remake of “Adventures in Babysitting” starring Sabrina Carpenter and Sofia Carson premiered  as the 100th Disney Channel Original Movie recently, I decided that I would also view its 1987 predecessor of the same name, directed by Chris Columbus, who was also in the director’s chair in the first two movies in the Harry Potter Franchise, as well as “Home Alone”, “Gremlins” and “Mrs Doubtfire”.

Growing up, I used to dub this movie as “The Female Ferris Bueller Movie”, as even though the plots are vastly different from each other, they both deal with the characters having adventures through the course of only a few hours. And naturally, both deal with the main characters having to race to get home before the parents do. So, how does “Adventures in Babysitting” hold up almost 3 decades after its initial release?

The Plot in a Nutshell: It was only supposed to be a simple babysitting gig… Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) is your average suburban teenager who is anticipating date night with her hunky boyfriend Mike (Bradley Whitford), when he cancels on her at the last minute. So she’s lumbered with having to babysit the two Anderson kids, precocious and sarcastic Sara, (Maia Brewton), who has an obsession with sledgehammer wielding superhero Thor,  and sensitive older brother Brad (Keith Coogan), who has his own obsession in the form of an unrequited crush on his babysitter. Chris gets a sudden phone call from her runaway best friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller), who is stuck is a dodgy bus station in the middle of the Chicago city. After being blackmailed by Brad’s sleazy friend Daryl (Anthony Rapp) into taking him along with them, the quartet take off to pick up Brenda.

On route, Chris’ car gets a flat wheel , prompting them to hitch a lift with  one-armed trucker”Handsome” John Pruitt (John Ford Noonan), who seems friendly, until he finds out that his wife is cheating on him, that is. Following a shootout against the adulterous pair, Chris and the kids make a break for a getaway vehicle, right as it’s being stolen by amicable car thief Joe Gipp (Calvin Levels). This leads them to them being on the run from gangsters/car thieves after Daryl steals a Playboy with crucial information written on (and the model just so happens to resemble Chris- what are the chances?)

From there, the night just gets more crazier from that moment on, with their crazy excursion leading them to a blues club, a college party, where they run into helpful college student Dan(George Newbern), and a climax which involves a skyscraper tower. Will our heroes ever make it back before the Anderson parents?

Actor/Character Observations: Even though I felt that Elisabeth Shue’s character in “The Karate Kid” was rather bland, here I feel that because her character was of the most importance this time round, she actually carries the movie along. And the kid actors here given funny  lines, and generally weren’t annoying, as some child actors are prone to be. Out of the three kids, I enjoyed Sara the most, as she had some of the best quips. Coogan’s Brad was sweet and at times pitiful, thanks to his unattainable crush on Chris.

My Favourite Scene(s) in “Adventures in Babysitting”: The scene where Chris and her babysitting charges find themselves in a blues club following a chase from the gangsters and are forced to improvise a blues number to get off the stage. Chris sings a ditty inspired by her hectic night, with the blues musicians backing them up, complete with real life musician Albert Collins making an appearance as himself. The 2016 Disney remake converted this scene into a rap battle ,as a way to appeal to contemporary generations. In my case, it simply made me cringe for the entirety of its duration, and didn’t compare to the blues scenario of the original.

My Least Favourite Scene(s) in “Adventures in Babysitting”: I may be in the majority with this, both I found the scene towards the end of the movie where the quartet have to sneak into a party where Brad and Sara’s parents attending seems would have to get my vote for the scene I found tiresome. It appears to be more slapstick in tone than the rest of the movie, and the bulk of that scene features Chris having to don a mink coat to evade the possibility of the Andersons spotting her. It just didn’t work well at all for me.

Actors before they were Famous: Believe it or not, but Daryl’s actor, Anthony Rapp, would go on to originate the role of aspiring filmmaker Mark Cohen in the first production of legendary musical “Rent”. Similarly, Bradley Whitford, as the caddish Mike, later went on to have a career on the successful political show, “The West Wing”. (Even though Mike is presumably a high school senior, like Chris and Brenda, Whitford was 28 at the time, and he looks every one of those years!) Finally, Vincent D’Onofrio, from “Full Metal Jacket”, “Men in Black” and “Jurassic World” fame, cameos as Dawson, the garage boss.

Ratings and Recommendations: I’d give “Adventures in Babysitting” a solid rating of 3 and a half stars out of five. While some of the situations that our heroes find themselves in border on being slightly ridiculous, chances are that you’ll just go along with the plot, regardless of the lack of realism presented.

If you liked this feature, then I’d recommend viewing “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (you can read my review of the flick here.) If you’re interested in seeing the Disney remake, which has toned down many of the adult themes of the 80’s classic (namely omitting the swearing and the Playboy subplot), I’d suggest watching that with younger children. Please let me know if you’ve seen the reboot, and whether you prefer the classic or original flick!

 

Gremlins: The Unconventional Christmas Movie

Happy Christmas, all! I hope that you’re all having a Merry Holiday indeed! To commemorate the festive season, I’m taking a look at a movie most might associate more with Halloween than with Christmas:  Joe Dante’s 1984 hit, “Gremlins”. There has been many a debate as to whether the movie should be considered a Christmas movie.  However, seeing as most of the action primarily takes place in the festive period, it has made the list of my Yuletide viewing movies. It just happens to contain a series of seemingly harmless creatures which soon lead to chaos at the highest order…

As the movie opens, lovable inventor Rand Pelzter (Hoyt Axton) is searching in vain for a Christmas gift for his son Billy (Zach Galligan). He stumbles across the perfect present in a Chinese thrift shop, a cute, furry gremlin creature (“Mogwai”) by the name of Gizmo.

However, Rand is issued three warnings beforehand: not to get the creature wet, to avoid it from being exposed to direct sunlight, and most crucially, to never, ever feed it after midnight. As you can imagine, all of these rules end up being broken within a few short hours. This ends up causing multiple mogwais to revolt around the town. It’s up to Billy, his girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates) and Gizmo to put a stop to the riot…

“Gremlins” has always been my favourite flick to watch a few days days prior to Christmas, just to get me in the festive spirit. Although you may argue that “Gremlins” sticks out in comparison to other holiday movies such as “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Miracle on 34th Street” or even “Home Alone”, but the contrast doesn’t hamper the enjoyment of the flick for me.

Some aspects of the movie may be darker than expected for a Christmas flick, such as the scene where Mrs Peltzer (Frances Lee McCain) faces off against all of the mogwais, eventually leading to a  satisfying demise via microwave. Another memorable scene comes about when Kate reaccounts to Billy the reason she despises Christmas, which always never fails to send a shiver up my spine, no matter how creepy and unusual it may seem to some.

While to some, “Gremlins” may seem dated and corny by modern standards (including a few shots where the puppeteer controlling the mogwais can be clearly visible upon several rewatches), but I can openly say that despite those shortcomings, I prefer this movie to all of its contemporary successors. It’s a classic movie which simply can’t be replicated.

“Gremlins” receives a total of three and a half out of five stars from this reviewer, as it’s a fantastically thrilling movie which I’d recommend viewing if you’re not in the mood for traditional Christmas flicks. And for once, the sequel movie, “Gremlins: The New Batch” is worth a watch! Merry Christmas to all!

Enter the Labyrinth this Autumn…

One movie I always make sure to watch each Autumn is “Labyrinth”. The reasons for this could be because of it being one of the movies where we can see acclaimed puppeteer Jim Henson’s creations come to life, or watch future Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly delve in an extraordinary fantasy land beyond her wildest dreams. However, I’m going to go for the reason that most of you likely saw the movie was either because of David Bowie and his… ahem, rather tight pants, as well as seeing the Starman himself in a villianous role in a kid’s movie.

The story centres around Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), a creative, if self-centred teenage girl, who is furious at her dad for remarrying so soon following her parents’s collapse of marriage and subsequent divorce. Sarah bides her time by seeking refuge in her own universe of fantasy. She despises her infant half-brother, Toby (Toby Froud), whom she blames many of her current problems on . This leads to her making a wish out of spite that the goblins from her favourite story would seize Toby and carry him away.

As misfortune would have it, her prays are answered by in the worst possible way, when Toby is captured by the Goblin King, Jareth (David Bowie). Sarah is assigned thirteen hours to reclaim Toby, or else he’ll be turned into a goblin for eternity. Along the way, she meets up with the dwarfish Hoggle (Brian Henson), who is double crossing her by secretly working for Jareth, as well as magnificent beast Ludo (Ron Mueck). Will Sarah manage to use her imagination to defeat Jareth and save Toby?

“Labyrinth” is one of those flicks where the setting of the movie is stunning to look at. Even though you know that’s it’s all a lavishly designed set when watching as an adult, as a kid, it’s perhaps the most magical kingdom you’ve seen. Likewise, the puppets still have the power to affect me with awe and astonishment, even years after I initially viewed this flick.

David Bowie, surprisingly enough for a non actor, really suits the role of the hammy, evil Goblin King. Yes, his performance borders on being campy and over the top at times, but to me, it’s all part of the movie’s charm. Jennifer Connelly is a fine actress, and although she’s been accused of showing little to no emotion at times in this movie, I feel as though she pulled off a convincing enough performance, especially given that she was only 15 years old when it was released.

If this movie has a weak point, I’d say it’s towards the end of the film, where certain scenes drag on, and don’t seem to go anywhere, in particular Bowie’s song and dance number (though I admit it’s fairly catchy).

I rate “Labyrinth” a total of 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend it to kids aged eights and up, seeing how it’s a fantasy adventure filled with vivid, exquisite imagery. On the other hand, I was dissuade very young children from watching, as they may be alarmed by the various creatures and suspenseful scenes depicted in this movie. Happy viewing!

Update: Upon hearing of David Bowie’s tragic passing on January 10th, 2016, “Labyrinth” is now tinged with sadness. I’d still recommend watching this movie, if only to see Bowie in his most notable film role. Rest in Peace, Starman in the Sky!

Get a Clue with an Unconventional Murder Mystery Flick

It’s never been a secret that I adore murder mysteries, especially ones by Agatha Christie. This has passed on to board games, where the main objective of the popular game “Clue” is to find out who killed a character by the name of Mr. Black, in what room, and with which implement.

The plot of the 1985 Johnathan Lynn flick of the same name is not unlike this setup. It retains the setup of having six eccentric individuals with colour coded pseudonyms being brought to the posh Washington based manor house of Mr Black (renamed here as “Mr Boddy”) (Lee Ving), who is blackmailing each of them for a series of scandalous misdemeanors.

They consist of batty senator’s wife Mrs Peacock (Eileen Brennan), absentminded Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), scarlet woman Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren), the lustful and corrupt Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), serial black widow Mrs White (Madeline Kahn) and timid, ambiguous homosexual Mr Green (Michael McKean). Under the guidance of Boddy’s loyal butler Wadsworth (Tim Curry) and flirtatious French maid Yvette (Colleen Camp), the six suspects soon find themselves embroiled in a murder plot. When Boddy turns up dead, the suspects must try to uncover who offed him so that they can save their reputations and stop the body count from increasing. But the three different endings complicate this straightforward plan…

“Clue” is one of those movies where you can tell that the actors were enjoying themselves immensely while filming it. These instances include Wadsworth gleefully having a tiff with Miss Scarlet as to how many bullets are left in a gun, to Madeline Kahn randomly seguing into a monologue about how she hated a particular person so much that it left “flames on the sides of her face”. Watching the other actors stare at her bemusedly is even more hysterial when you learn that she ad libbed that line on the spot.

One thing that sets “Clue” apart from films of a similar concept is that it contains not one, not two, but three different endings. When the movie was originally released in December of 1985, cinemas typically aired one ending each. This meant that some moviegoers had to flock to multiple showings in order to view all three endings. However, the DVD version naturally plays all three endings back to back, so that nothing is missed.

I’d recommend watching this movie for the physical comedy and the one-liners as opposed to the actual plot. The premise itself isn’t terrible in any way, it’s just that I find that the joke eclipse it more often, particularly any uttered by Tim Curry, who is just as strong here as he was in “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

In conclusion, if you like quirky, complicated parodies of murder thrillers, then “Clue” is for you. If not, then watch an Agatha Christie adaptation such as “And Then There Were None”, also about a group of strangers being lured into a mansion, only for death to loom on the horizon. “Clue” gets 3 and a half stars from me.

Science just got a whole lot Weirder…

Filmmaker John Hughes is known for his ability to connect with teenagers through his movies about their lives, and the problems they may face. Examples of some of his earlier work consists of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles”, among others. But one of the many teen-orientated flicks that he directed stands out distinctively is “Weird Science”. By throwing a dash of science-fiction into the mix alongside his usual bout of adolescent hiijinks, you can be sure that you’re in for quite a series of events.

The movie stars Hughes’ regular muse, Anthony Michael Hall, as Gary, and Ilan Mitchell-Smith as his best friend, Wyatt. As you might expect, Gary and Wyatt are two hopeless geeks who secretly long to have girlfriends. When they’re publicly humiliated by thuggish bullies Max (Robert Rusler) and Ian (a young Robert Downey Junior) as punishment for lusting after their girlfriends, Deb (Suzanne Synder) and Hilly (Judie Aronson), Gary and Wyatt decide that it’s time to take action once and for all.

Desperate for a chance at being popular, Wyatt persuades Gary to create their ideal woman from a computer (as you do), inspired by the movie “Frankenstein”. To their surprise, the plan is actually effective when an alluring woman (Kelly LeBrock) materializes and inquires to the bemused boys “So, what would you little maniacs like to do first”?

After the initial shock has worn off, Gary and Wyatt gift their creation with the name “Lisa”, after a former crush of Gary’s who didn’t reciprocate his feelings. Lisa makes it her mission to show the nerdy teenagers some fun, so treats them to a night on the town, ending with Gary getting completely drunk. She becomes a sort of older sister to them, instead of the object of lust they anticipated.

The trio then encounter Wyatt’s mean-spirited older brother, Chet (Bill Paxton), who takes sadistic pleasure in bulling his younger sibling. However, Lisa has some tricks up her sleeve which just might inspire the boys’ confidence, and encourage them to take risks, as well as serving up a healthy dose of comeuppance for their tormentors…

“Weird Science” isn’t one of Hughes’ best flicks, with the jokes being cruder and the element of fantasy is a prominent element here. However, with intelligent nerds being the protagonists, and the story takes place in the fictional suburb of Shermer in Chicago, a common setting in Hughes’ work. All of the main cast are on form here, with Hall in particular excelling as the most assertive of the geeks, though Ilan Mitchell-Smith has some interesting moments, making it sad that he retired from acting only six years following the movie. As for LeBrock and Paxton, they clearly have fun in their roles, and their best scenes have the two of them together, where Lisa is successfully intimidating Chet into treating Gary and Wyatt with respect.

I give “Weird Science” a total of four out of five stars, as it has funny moments of dorky comedy that teens of 15 and over should appreciate. Among some of of the risky forms of content for younger kids are in the form of swearing, teen drinking ,some shots of female nudity on a computer monitor, and a team of bikers crashing a party. If you enjoyed this title, then check out the 90’s TV series, “Weird Science”, starring model Vanessa Angel as Lisa.

The GhostBusters are on call for more Ghostly Thrills…

Hey everybody, my apologies for not having posted any reviews of movies from the 80’s in quite a while. However, the good news is that I’m back, and with several movies under my belt. This time round, I’m going to shine the spotlight on a movie that needs no introduction, and is especially notable for its infectious theme song- “Ghostbusters”(1984).

Everybody agrees that “Ghostbusters” is one of the most defining movies to come from the 80’s, not least because of the chemistry of the main actors, in addition to the light-hearted comedy. With Ivan Reitman directing, and the comedic talents of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd to add the laughs to a franchise which offers many thrills and sci-fiction adventures.

The first film sees disgraced college scientists Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) and Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) being fired from Columbia University following an attack by a library ghost. Hoping to rid the city of ghosts once and for all, they employ the only method they deem effective- to go into business as a professional team of ghost exterminators. They set up headquarters in an abandoned firestation, and have limited success at first. When more ghosts start plaguing New York, they enlist a forth Ghostbuster, ex-marine Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson). Eventually, it transpires that the ghosts are emerging from the apartment of Venkman’s would be love interest, Dana (Sigourney Weaver). Our heroes have to prevent Dana from being possessed by demonic sources, as well as facing diabolical EPA agent, Walter Peck (William Atherton), who plots to thwart the Ghostbusters’ success.

The sequel, “Ghostbusters II”(1989) sees the gang, having gone their separate ways, only to be beckoned back to their ghostbusting ways. Venkman reconnects with his ex girlfriend, Dana Barrett, who is now divorced and living alone with her infant son, Oscar. Little do they know, paranormal forces are out to possess Oscar…

I always enjoyed the first movie immensely, as it was offered a fresh plot and a fantastic cast. Bill Murray, in my opinion, is at his best when he’s dishing out sarcastic barbs, but is actually a softie underneath. He’s well supported by Dan Akyroyd as the goofy, excitable Stantz, the late Harold Ramis as stoic intellectual Spengler, and Ernie Hudson as the only sane man amongst the bunch of scientists, and Rick Moranis as Dana’s nebbish neighbour with a hopeless crush on her.

The second film, while not terrible by any means, is more divisive than the first, having much of the same plot as the original, although it does have some fans. I think that it’s credible enough, although it lacks some elements that made the initial installment great, namely the climatic showdown with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. There’s a third film rumoured to be in the works for 2016, so let’s hope it has the charm and energy of the movies which preceded it.

The “Ghostbusters” movies contain many jump sequences, crude language and racy jokes that may pass some kids by. On the contrary, older kids aged 12 and up may be suited to watch these movies. I give “Ghostbusters” four and a half stars out of five, as there’s no shortage of fun, and it’s become a notable staple of 80’s pop culture. Now, who you gonna call?