Tag Archive: Dee Wallace


e-t-clip

Review by C.J. Bunce

I can’t hazard a guess as to how many times I have watched E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  Probably a handful of times in 1982 and 1983, and at least once during a return to theaters in the past 35 years, plus a few times on VHS.  What stood out today, watching the film as part of the Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies 35th anniversary re-release screenings, is how ageless the film is.  A teenager sitting behind me caught every single joke.  In a time when parents don’t think to take their kids to classic film opportunities like this, the kids are truly missing a great experience.  The film is a giant adventure story set in the backyard of a boy and his brother and sister.  It’s relatable.  Just check out Elliott’s room.  There’s a toy Star Destroyer on the table.  A TIE Fighter across the room.  He carefully explains who Greedo, Hammerhead, Walrus Man, Snaggletooth, Lando, and Boba Fett are to E.T.  And that advance LEGO builder set on the shelf.  How many kids’ homes today, after all these years, still look so similar?  And someone nearby is getting ready to dress up as Yoda, or a character from his neighborhood, in only a few weeks, much like the kid E.T. tries to run off with on Halloween.

It’s not only relatable, it’s about that subject that sci-fi does best when done right:  Communication.  Last year’s acclaimed sci-fi film Arrival was all about it, but does it reach into each of us like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial has?  We celebrated one of the best episodes of television this year here at borg.com, discussing the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest of all Star Trek episodes, Darmok from The Next Generation, a story entirely about the practical, real-world difficulty of communication.  Elliott, played so well by Henry Thomas, and later Gertie, played equally well by the younger Drew Barrymore, each use what knowledge a little kid has to try to relate to an outsider.  And we immediately see the problems–the barriers–that get in the way.  Elliott tries to convey to the very curious new alien visitor so willing to learn that this giant object is a peanut.  “You eat them, only you can’t eat this one because it’s not real.”  He’s describing a bank that was made to look like a peanut.  He then puts money in it.  And the result: E.T. next tries to eat a toy car.  Just as Dathon and Picard found, communication isn’t all that easy.  Only when Gertie gets her only one-on-one opportunity, of the three kids she is the one who helps E.T. gain his vocabulary.  The innocent and the youngest and the most awestruck.  And she’s also the first to understand he is trying to phone home.  Communication is difficult sometimes, but if kids can figure this out, what can adults do?

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This week’s release was the original cut, as seen in theaters in 1982, not with any modifications.  This is the first time the film has screened in theaters since the death of writer Melissa Mathison in 2015 (you might not have seen the laserdisc version of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the only version ever released to feature Mathison’s then kinda-sorta well-known boyfriend Harrison Ford in the shadows as Elliott’s principal, meeting Elliott’s mom Mary (Dee Wallace) after his frog rescue–a bad scene, justifiably deleted).  I did not recall how much we see E.T. in the film’s first scene as he and other botanists search out samples.  E.T. carefully digs up what appears to be a Redwood sapling.  But I now understand what Spielberg was thinking in his later re-cut version.  As a kid I thought the humans were the enemy and yet this time I found no evidence of the humans trying to do anything other than learn about E.T.–much like the humans in Close Encounters of the Third Kind were scientists attempting to communicate.  In Close Encounters, the presence of weapons are to scare the public from the faked quarantine area.  Maybe that was the purpose of the weapons in the original E.T. cut.  But somehow the rifles seemed out-of-place when the kids were escaping on bikes, after E.T. dies, after showing all the adults desperately try to help, to save E.T, some even in tears.  This was the differentiator of Spielberg’s alien films from those that came before–the same spirit that only a few years earlier guided scientists to launch a couple of records into space hoping to communicate with someone out there.  So swapping out car phones or walkie talkies for rifles actually is consistent with the actions of the adults in the rest of the film.  I also can understand why so many little kids look back on the film as scary.  There’s plenty to scare little kids–those same things that scare E.T. throughout the film, as well as what might be many kids’ first introduction to death.  But the scene is gracefully done, and three decades later it’s great to hear that the adults are clearly heard attempting all those real-world, life-saving techniques to save our new alien friend.  Mathison masterfully blended a science fiction, a fantasy adventure, and a coming-of-age story all in one package.

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Whats he looking at The Whispers

Review by C.J. Bunce

The tropes of Steven Spielberg run rampant in the new TV series The Whispers.  Its pilot episode premiered Monday night on ABC and it teases enough of those things we love about Spielberg movies–it’s practically an homage to the producer of the series–to prompt us to return for more next week.  Network science fiction as a whole tends to be full of more shock and awe than the sci-fi of cable TV (compare Lost and Heroes to shows that delved deeper into the human condition like Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, or The Dead Zone), so the story will need to do more than just tease what’s really going on for us to not get bored and simply move along.

To begin with, The Whispers has that “creepy little girl” thing going that we’ve discussed plenty here at borg.com.  It’s hard to miss the throwbacks to the original Poltergeist (Spielberg wrote the screenplay).  Only this time we have more than one little girl talking to something no one else can see.  We don’t really know yet whether this is a purely sci-fi show or entirely horror–or a bit of both.

The show follows Claire Bennigan, played by Lily Rabe, a federal agent whose husband died three months prior to the events in the show’s first episode.  He’s also the pilot missing from a jet presumed lost in the Arctic, a jet just discovered far away in the African desert.  Will the relationship between Claire and her lost husband (Milo Ventimiglia) form the foundation of a relationship as in Spielberg’s supernatural romance Always?

The Whispers

An imaginary friend named Drill is speaking to little kids in a way only children can hear–and Drill’s voice always come from the lights (even we don’t hear this voice so we don’t know whether it’s real or not).  But these lights are up to something, like the energy from the Lost Ark from Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It’s not just the idea that harkens back to Raiders–as the power of the light swishes about it can’t be long before it starts zapping those who stand by who fail top keep their eyes closed.

We can see E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial imagery, like the feds in hazard gear closing in on Elliott’s house.  Here, government workers close in on a giant structure that has somehow reached up and grabbed a jet from far away.  E.T.’s mom, played by Dee Wallace, even makes a brief appearance in the pilot for The Whispers.

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