Friday, August 29, 2014

Favorite Scene Friday! Jurassic Park: Petticoat Lane

Today's scene was written by Jay from Life Vs Film.

August has been a pretty horrific month for losing legendary actors, claiming Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall and, most recently, Richard Attenborough. Originally I wanted to highlight one of Attenborough’s other films I love – The Great Escape, Flight of the Phoenix or The Sand Pebbles – but I knew that there’s really only one film a guy like me can talk about when Attenborough is brought up: Jurassic Park.

As much as I love the dinosaur-based action scenes, the moments of comedy and the general badassery of many of Jurassic Park’s bigger scenes, there is something touching and eminently watchable here, with Attenborough’s John Hammond, the creator of the attraction, lamenting the failure of his project.

The key factor here is that Hammond believes the catastrophic failures endured on Isla Nubar are merely a stepping stone towards the final endgame of a successful, fully functioning park, and the mistakes made this time around are areas to improve upon within the next project. It is up to Laura Dern’s Dr. Ellie Sattler to quash these dreams, and the moment of realization upon Hammond’s face when it finally sinks in that his dreams will never be successfully brought to life is just heart-breaking, preceding the saddest, most dejected use of his “Spared no expense” catchphrase.

It’s the moments like this – the storytelling and character beats – that don’t get discussed enough in films like Jurassic Park. Even without the conversation between Hammond and Sattler, there's the sheer amount of time and effort that’s gone into preparing the scene – the pillars in the restaurant are carved with fossil designs, there are shelves upon shelves of merchandise waiting to be sold. But through it all, there is Richard Attenborough, with a twinkle in his eye as his face lights up, reminiscing on how the children thought they could really see the fleas in his circus. In the end, he’s an old man, trying to bring some happiness into the world, and that is an aim not devoid of merit.

Richard Attenborough, R.I.P.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2010: The Year We Make Contact

It's easy for sequels to be overlooked and overshadowed by their predecessors. 2010: The Year We Make Contact, is a great example. The film takes place nine years after the events of Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey. How to compete with that film, a movie that's almost universally recognized as a classic? In 2010, Dr. Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider) is on a joint US/Soviet mission aboard the Leonov to discover what happened to astronaut Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea), his ship the Discovery, and the murderous computer that ran it, HAL 9000. 

2010 on Facebook

One big aspect about 2010 is the creepy vibe throughout the film. For instance, the film starts with a deep, distorted voice (which, it turns out, belongs to the missing Dave Bowman) saying "My God, it's full of stars." This line is in reference to the monolith Dave discovered at the end of the first film. Interestingly, this line isn't in the original film, but does appear in the book. Also notable is a scene where a probe is searching for signs of life on Jupiter's moon Europa. The probe's on-board camera pans across the surface as the crew looks on. I don't particularly remember a creepy factor in 2001 (suspenseful, sure), so I think it's notable that it's so prevalent in this sequel.


Also notable in 2010 is the US/Soviet relationship. The film was made during the Cold War amid tensions between the two countries. This factors heavily into the movie's plot, despite the fact that it was, at the time, portraying the future. This quality definitely dates the film. In fact, the film's ending is a bit preachy, with a cosmic message that the Earth's inhabitants need to live in peace. The US/Soviet subplot does add a bit of political intrigue to the film, however, so it's not a complete waste of time.

The cast is one of the film's strongest suits. Scheider is the film's star, and he's a little more grandiose than Jaws' Chief Brody (oddly enough, both characters are members of a team on a ship, hunting for something...hmm). Helen Mirren is great as the Russian Captain Tanya Kirbuk (Mirren is actually of Russian descent despite being known simply as a Brit) and Lithgow turns in a solid performance, portraying a nervous American engineer named Walter Curnow. Bob Balaban plays Dr. R. Chandra, Hal 9000's creator.

With the special effects of today's films, you may think that 2010 looks dated. And it does, to an extent. But there are some beautiful cosmic shots, such as a scene where the crew's ship is sent hurtling towards Jupiter after they attempt to "air brake", a process where they slow their velocity by using the planet's atmosphere. There's also a great Gravity-esque scene where Lithgow's character travels from the Leonov to the Discovery while tethered to a Russian member of the crew.

Reflections on Film and Television

At the end of the day, 2010: The Year We Make Contact is a smart, engaging sci-fi flick, overshadowed by its predecessor simply because of the high bar set. Seek it out if you're looking for a thoughtful, well-acted space drama.

3.5 Out Of 5 Stars

This review is part of Forgotten Films' 1984-a-thon.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Favorite Scene Friday! Army of Darkness: The Pit

Sam Raimi's films really straddle the line between scary and funny, and Army of Darkness is certainly no exception (in fact, it may have set the bar). Our latest FSF finds Ash (Bruce Campbell), hero of the Evil Dead films (and TV show?) and slayer of Deadites, thrown back in time, abducted by "Lord" Arthur, and thrown into "The Pit".

Mondo via JoBlo

I remember seeing this movie for the first time in high school (this is one of those franchises where I saw a sequel first and then watched the originals later). I was genuinely creeped out by the beginning of this scene, where you see the demon's hand silently come up out of the water like some horrible periscope. And then it's gone, leaving Ash to fear the gently rippling water. Suddenly, the demon bursts from the murky water, launching into a Three Stooges routine with Ash, punching him silly. This assault reveals one of the great qualities about Bruce Campbell's Ash: whereas a lot of characters would be terrified of this creature, Ash is kinda pissed off (but still terrified).

My favorite part of course is right at 1:39 where Ash perfectly, miraculously catches his chainsaw right on his stump with an assist from the Wiseman (played by Ian "That Guy" Abercrombie). It's so silly, yet so, so awesome. The fanfare kicks in and it's Deadite slicin' time from there.

Enjoy the scene, everyone!

P.S. The only bad thing about this week's scene is that we don't really get any "Ash-isms". I hope this makes up for that.

What's your favorite scene from Army of Darkness?