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Tag Archive: Carl Weathers


Review by C.J. Bunce

For me, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was the film that got away.  I was lucky to have been taken to every great sci-fi classic and Spielberg film from Jaws forward, but multiple Star Wars viewings probably nudged out my chance to see this one back in 1977.  Close Encounters didn’t arrive in theaters until the Christmas season that year and it would likely have generated some nightmares as I was only about a year older than the boy co-star of the film–so it was probably a good thing.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind is back in theaters this week to celebrate its 40th anniversary.  Watching it for the first time on the big screen was like filling in a last brick in the wall.  It’s a satisfying re-watch, and every time you screen a classic in the theater again you learn something new.  The film is being preceded this week by a behind-the-scenes featurette, including an interview with Steven Spielberg and excerpts from the home movies he routinely films as he directs his movies.  It also contains a clip of each iconic scene in the film, so those who haven’t seen the film and want to view it for the first time may want to duck out for popcorn during the previews.  Close Encounters is screening only for a few more days, so no matter how many times you have seen it, it’s time to go back again.  Nothing beats a classic, especially a Spielberg film, on the big screen.

You might find Close Encounters’ pacing to stand out as a bit slow.  Movies today need to be action-packed to grab viewers.  The elements the viewer needs to know are laid out methodically, and yet the film is not told in normal storytelling fashion.  Richard Dreyfuss’s innocent everyman Roy Neary is not your normal protagonist.  Every bit the victim here, he also may be more like a lottery winner, selected to do what many dream of.  He asks for none of the personal invasion he encounters–ripped from his family and job, this uncontrollable compulsion arrives, pursuing him with only a realization that whatever this vision is about it’s somehow important.  From the film’s abrupt start it feels very avant-garde, a bit like modern independent filmmaking, with its back and forth explanation of a communication project in progress spliced with a utility worker who experiences a strange event.  Sequences of real world end-to-end conversations that other directors might have edited to more quickly get to the point also illustrate unusual directing decisions.  Only in what doubles as a horror movie sequence–basically a child abduction–do we get a clear realization of aliens as one possible antagonist of the film.  And when the movie really kicks in at Devil’s Tower the audience can see the international marriage of scientists and military is possibly another villain.  Or is there a villain at all?  Many scenes suggest dissonance itself is the culprit–all the barriers to clear communication that get in the way–the ongoing, pounding barrage of multiple interpreters in a single conversation, air traffic control operators speaking at once, Neary’s wife played by Teri Garr and her kids all talking or screaming or beating toys to pieces, Roy’s co-workers on the radio all speaking at once, a room full of scientists babbling at each other as they try to interpret these six repeated numbers beings sent to them from outer space, aliens playing rapid tones against humans doing the same.  And the sound of all the toys turning on at once, the toys of little Barry (Cary Guffey) that wake up his mom Jillian, played by Oscar nominee Melinda Dillon, forcing her to join the story as a victim along with Roy.  Then the resolution of conflict only arrives as the aliens and humans finally reach clarity with the tonal communication between them in the film’s climactic encounter.  In the preview to the film, Spielberg mentions Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket’s crooning “when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are” as his inspiration–what the film is all about.  That familiar Disney motif is certainly present thanks to John Williams’ beautiful score.  Maybe Roy is his own enemy–unable to break away from the influence of these beings?  Or by following this calling does he rescue himself from a family that doesn’t understand or listen to him, and a mundane job and neighborhood of zombie-like suburbanites who always seem to be watching him?

Whatever the through line of the story is intended to be, the film is sweeping and enormous in scope, addressing subjects everyone can get sucked into: telepathy, conspiracy theories, all the UFO theories (from cattle mutilations to Area 51 to alien abductions and flying saucers), and unexplained phenomena (from missing people to the curious fascination of aliens with rummaging through refrigerators).  It’s all there in this suspenseful package, all from this brilliant young filmmaker who said he and his cast just couldn’t wait to show everyone this great thing they had created.  Hints at so many films are contained here that you could wonder if Spielberg starts generating every subsequent project idea by first watching Close Encounters:  We see the young child’s parents terrified in their home by some strange force in Poltergeist as Jillian tries to prevent the aliens from breaking into her home.  We see the quiet standing crowd at night waiting at the foot of Devil’s Tower for something good or bad to happen filmed similar to the soldiers waiting as the Ark is opened at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  And it’s almost a surprise to realize the mother ship at the end of Close Encounters is not the ship from E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, another giant, flying, lit-up Christmas tree-house transporting that curious little botanist who would arrive only five years later.

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What would Devil’s Tower be today–40 years after the release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind–if director Steven Spielberg hadn’t located his point of first contact with aliens at that singular national monument?  Think about the revenues Spielberg drove into the National Parks over the years–today it gets 400,000 visitors annually.  How many side trips have we all taken off the beaten path between Yellowstone Park and Mt. Rushmore to see it for ourselves?  Would it have the same allure?

Forty years later and Close Encounters of the Third Kind has been given a full 4K restoration, and it’s coming to theaters for one week this summer followed by a home release.  Fresh off the success of Jaws, it was a return: Spielberg, John Williams, Richard Dreyfuss, production designer Joe Alves and more–and nobody knew what Spielberg was bringing to audiences as the big follow-up after his first summer blockbuster.  A science fiction film nominated for eight Academy Awards?  It would take home the award for sound effects editing (Frank A. Warner) and cinematography (Vilmos Zsigmond).  Plus we saw memorable performances from Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein, Mr. Mom), Melinda Dillon (A Christmas Story) nominated for her role, French director François Truffaut in one of his few acting performances, and Bob Balaban (Lady in the Water, Best in Show).

This new theatrical version has been restored from the original negatives–it’s the director’s cut, for those familiar with the various releases over the years.  If you missed it in the theaters (or weren’t born yet!), don’t miss this epic masterpiece on the big screen.  And for eagle-eyed genre fans, watch for brief encounters in the film with Carl Weathers (Rocky, Predator) and Lance Henriksen (Alien). 

Check out this smartly edited new trailer for a sci-fi classic:

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How often does a franchise include seven films?  How often are any of them up to the quality of the original that launched the franchise in the first place?  The 1976 surprise hit Rocky was nominated for ten Academy Awards and took Best Picture, Best Director (for John G. Avildson), and Best Editing.  In every way Rocky Balboa and Sylvester Stallone have been synonymous ever since.  Stallone was nominated for his original screenplay and for best actor.  Rocky is the story of an underdog, and Stallone was the mirror of Rocky in real life, proving himself to the world as a wannabe A-list movie star.  As the franchise continued, Stallone became an international megastar, with movies like Rambo.  Many argue the sequel to Rocky, simply titled Rocky II, is akin to the Godfather 2 or Superman 2, an example of Hollywood crafting a truly worthy sequel.  From there critics and audiences diverge:  Was Rocky vs. Dolph Lundgren as Drago in Rocky IV up to the adrenaline rush of the boxing rounds in the earlier films?  Where does Rocky III fit in?  The latest entry in the Rocky series, the reboot and eighth film in the series, Creed, is now streaming on Amazon Prime.  If you are looking for an inspirational, feel-good movie, it should be the next movie on your list.

What seems to be unanimous is a drop in quality and excitement beset Rocky V and the sixth film Rocky Balboa.  So when Creed was released at the end of 2015, who could have guessed it could be on par with the original?  The odds were against its success, much like the character of Adonis “Hollywood” Johnson, the son of the late Apollo Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan in the film.  Director Ryan Coogler, born ten years after the original Rocky film, grew up with Stallone’s boxer already part of the national psyche, along with other motivational sports films like Rocky director Avildson’s other unforgettable classic, The Karate Kid.  Coogler draws from that film’s sensei Mr. Miyagi in one particularly well played training sequence between Stallone and Jordan.  Stallone has played sensei before in the series, but only now, with the actor a real-life wise, elder thespian, does he provide a performance that in some parallel universe garnered him not only an Oscar nomination but a win (Stallone was only the sixth actor twice nomination for playing the same character).  The young Jordan is equally superb, holding back when others may take obvious choices with a hot-headed fighter.  Coogler’s subtlety is the stuff of great filmmaking, such as editing in musical cues from the original Rocky like a whisper throughout the film, only to release the full weight of Bill Conti’s goosebump inducing theme when it meant the most.

But how can Creed be as good as the original?

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Rocky VII Creed

Has there been a bad Rocky movie?  Sylvester Stallone’s springboard to stardom was the character and stories he wrote and starred in beginning with the first, garnering ten Oscar nominations and three wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing.  Stallone’s acting and screenplay even earned a nomination for the 1976 classic.  In fact Stallone has written each of Rocky II, III, IV, V and the most recent Rocky Balboa in 2006.  Now the Rocky story takes a new direction, this time with new writers, newcomers Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington, with the fall release Creed.

Who doesn’t remember the motivational Bill Conti soundtrack to Rocky?  Rocky II’s “Eye of the Tiger”?  How about cheering on Rocky as he defeated Dolph Lundgren’s Drago in Rocky IV? 

Rocky II 1979 movie poster

This time Rocky steps into the shoes of those that trained him, Burgess Meredith’s Mickey, Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed, and Burt Young’s Paulie, to train a new fighter.  That fighter is Adonis Creed, son of Apollo, who we saw as Rocky’s unlikely trainer in Rocky III, and last saw as he was killed by Drago in Rocky IV.

Check out the trailer for Creed:

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Predator in 3d

Review by C.J. Bunce

As one of the top 10 science fiction movies of all time, Predator is one of those movies you’ve likely watched over and over.  Directed by John McTiernan, who would go on to perfect the action movie genre with Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, Predator is equal parts action and horror highlighted by an incredible science fiction villain as realized by the great Stan Winston.  But if you haven’t seen Predator since its theatrical release in 1987 or watched it only on video or DVD, then it’s time to watch it again.

Although it wasn’t originally filmed or released in 3D, Predator is now available in 3D as Predator 3D.  Remastered and converted to 3D using the same methods to up-convert movies like those used for I, Robot 3D and Top Gun 3D, McTiernan’s direction and Donald McAlpine’s cinematography just happened to be perfect for a Predator upgrade.  Who could have thought the 75% of Predator that is primarily jungle chases and little alien presence could still be so incredibly suspenseful?

Predator 3d limited edition

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