Tag Archive: Duel Spielberg


THE ICE ROAD

Review by C.J. Bunce

Sometimes you need a good Liam Neeson movie, even if it’s a B-movie, or a direct-to-Netflix movie, because sometimes those movie have just enough–just enough Liam Neeson, or just enough action.  Unfortunately The Ice Road is not a good Liam Neeson movie, nor is it even salvageable as an action movie.  I wrote a mixed review for Liam Neeson’s Cold Pursuit (reviewed here), which looks very much like The Ice Road if you believe the promotional materials, but somehow it’s more like the painfully bad, also wintry Polar or Daughter of the Wolf in its writing and execution.  It’s two years since Neeson stated he was done with making movies, and audiences will keep watching until he gets another right, and since then we’ve seen him in Men in Black: International, a great use of Neeson, plus he’s made four more movies with six more in production.  His fans have a lot to look forward to.  but if this is what Ice Road Truckers is about, I’m glad I’ve never seen it.  So why doesn’t The Ice Road work?

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E.t. the extra-terrrestrial

No other director has produced more hits and more variety than Steven Spielberg.  You’d have to travel pretty far to find someone who didn’t love at least one of Spielberg’s films.  Whether it’s Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Minority Report, or War of the Worlds, each of Spielberg’s genre blockbusters rival the best of other major directors’ films.  That doesn’t even include his more critically acclaimed dramatic works, Schindler’s List, The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, and Lincoln. 

The films Spielberg directed at Universal Studios are being released tomorrow in a new boxed set in both a DVD and Blu-ray edition.  Whether you’ll go for this set isn’t a matter of whether this is a great collection of great movies.  It’s more about math.  Today only you can get the set for less than half the published retail price at Amazon.com here.  First of all you get eight films on eight discs, and unlike other directors’ releases, like the superb Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Years at Warner Bros., this edition includes a bundle of great extras on several of the discs.  These films have been released singly and you may already have the best available editions of films like Jaws.   But if you don’t this may be the time to catch up your video library.

Steven Spielberg Director's Collection

You get Spielberg’s first film, actually a TV movie, the suspenseful Duel (1971), featuring Dennis Weaver (Dragnet, Gunsmoke) being pursued by a psychotic truck driver.  It’s the ultimate road rage movie well before the term was even coined.  It includes “A Conversation with Director Steven Spielberg,” “Steven Spielberg and the Small Screen,” “Richard Matheson: The Writing of Duel,” a photograph and poster gallery and the original trailer.

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Escape from Tomorrow movie poster

“Don’t mess with the Mouse,” is a maxim in American intellectual property law.  Ask any law professor.  Those who challenge Disney in court usually lose.  But the view that Disney can’t be beaten is part of the myth Disney has created itself, and the success of the critically acclaimed independent film Escape from Tomorrow is throwing movie watchers’ pre-conceived notions of Disney as sacrosanct out the window.  Escape from Tomorrow was filmed nearly entirely on location at Disney theme parks without the permission of Disney.  It turns out there’s nothing Disney can do about it.  The result is better than just a stunt project, but it has its misfires as much as it has its triumphs.

The talented Roy Abramsohn, mainly a character actor who has shown up in TV series from Charmed to Medium to Monk and Without a Trace as well as a recurring role on Weeds, takes on the lead role of Jim, a father and husband of the Clark Griswold variety on his last day of vacation at Epcot and Disney World, the celebrated “Happiest Place on Earth.”  Jim just learned he’s lost his job and is having one of those days where everything goes wrong.  But this is no National Lampoon’s comedy.  Jim is living out his own House of Horrors.

Abramsohn in Escape from Tomorrow

Structurally, the film is brilliantly executed for a first effort.  Were you to go back and look at THX-1138 and Duel and predict the future of its directors, no one could have predicted Star Wars or American Graffiti or Raiders of the Lost Ark or Jaws.  Escape from Tomorrow is better than THX-1138, but not as compelling as Duel.  Does that mean we have a future genius on our hands?  Not likely, but it will make viewers take notice of the next projects of writer/director Randy Moore and cinematographer Lucas Lee Graham.

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