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Tag Archive: Sony Pictures


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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Sony has already released a few teasers for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, but they didn’t offer much to describe the film or give moviegoers a reason to buy a ticket.  That is, until the latest trailer dropped, which is attached to the previews to this weekend’s premiere of Spider-man: Homecoming.  This trailer netted a full house of laughs, and supports star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s personal buzz he’s been generating for the film over the past year.

Emerging from the world created by author Chris Van Allsburg (Jumanji, Polar Express, Zathura: A Space Adventure) and (happily) not having any real ties to the 1995 movie starring Robin Williams, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a new Jumanji adventure.  The film begins with four high schoolers who get stuck cleaning a storage room at school and find an old video game.  Their initial selections of the game and in-game characters dictate their roles in the film as they are sucked Tron-style into the game, emerging as adults played by The Rock (Doc Savage, Black Adam), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Guardians of the Galaxy), Kevin Hart (Central Intelligence, The Wedding Ringer), and Jack Black (King Kong, Kung Fu Panda, School of Rock).  The new trailer includes some great footage of Gillan finally getting lead actress screentime as a badass, Lara Croft-inspired heroine.  And we also learn that, as promised by Gillan in earlier interviews, her outfit makes perfect sense for the role.

The film is directed by Jake Kasdan, known for his television work as producer/director on New Girl and Freaks and Geeks, but also for the great coming of age movie Orange County, starring Colin Hanks and Jack BlackThe script for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is from a dream team of TV and movie writers: Chris McKenna (Spider-man: Homecoming, The LEGO Batman Movie,  Community, Igor), Jeff Pinkner (The Dark Tower, ROM, M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, The Amazing Spider-man 2, Fringe, Lost, Early Edition), Scott Rosenburg (High Fidelity, Impostor, Life on Mars (U.S.)), and Erik Sommers (Spider-man: Homecoming, The LEGO Batman Movie,  Community).

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When we ran down our list of some of the biggest anniversaries happening in 2017 this New Year’s Day here at borg.com, we mentioned that Valerian, the lead character in director Luc Besson’s new sci-fi extravaganza Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, turns 50 this year.  Also celebrating this year is Besson’s most famous work, 1997’s visual spectacle The Fifth Element.  To celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary, Fathom Events is partnering with Sony Pictures next month to bring the film back to theaters for two days only.

The Fifth Element represents the best science fiction has to offer.  The look at Bruce Willis’s hero Korben Dallas living the life of an “every man” in a future New York City was groundbreaking.  At the end of one career Dallas finds himself driving a cab, getting hounded by his mother on the phone, talking to his cat, and ordering Chinese food–normal things from this century, yet with Dallas we see a future efficiency apartment jammed with every day necessities and every day wonders.  The Fifth Element also blends in fantastical elements–a fantastic journey with humor, action, and stunning visuals connecting ancient history and the future of not only humans, but a federation of aliens from other worlds, too.

The set decoration, cinematography, make-ups, costumes, and props were groundbreaking.  When we grew up thinking about the ideal year 2000, the bustling space travel and flying cars in The Fifth Element are exactly what we were hoping for.  Compare The Fifth Element with any other film with a vision of our future and the competitors will be difficult to measure up.  Only Doctor Who and Star Trek really compare, also mixing elements of sci-fi and fantasy with aliens and other worlds, and the most creative, visionary, artistic components–yet which single two-hour segment has all the elements boiled down into two epic hours?

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It’s not the suit that makes the man.

Marvel Studios released a new, longer trailer this week for Spider-man: Homecoming, including the introduction of Michael Keaton as the villain, Vulture.  Despite five prior big budget Spider-man films, Kevin Feige and Marvel have managed to make a completely new, fantastic, and refreshingly fun superhero trailer that looks like a images from a comic book.  We’d already seen the great banter between new Peter Parker Tom Holland and Tony Stark’s Robert Downey, Jr. in Captain America: Civil War and earlier Spider-man: Homecoming previews.  The addition of Keaton really ups the street cred for what could be “just another Spidey flick.”  The gravitas of this generation’s original big-screen Batman playing an over-the-top villain that looks like evil Batman in Michael Turner’s batgear is everything fanboys and fangirls could hope for–the ultimate retro fix.  When was the last time we saw a great comic book villain on the screen?

So what makes a great superhero movie trailer?  The timing of this trailer’s release to this weekend’s release of the Justice League trailer begs a comparison.  Justice League is in your face, full of loud, arrogant and cocky heroes, with an indecipherable story, loud explosions, and pop music drowning out dialogue that looks like a sequel to Suicide Squad.  It is clear from the Spider-man: Homecoming trailer that the movie has a story.  The cockiness comes only with Downey’s established mentor, and the hero is shown via self-deprecating situations and coming-of-age humor, a hero that is an underdog at the core of the character who never seems to have his day.  It’s not the explosions that matter (although they may to young kids), it’s how the superhero deals with the threat.

Alas, critiquing a movie trailer too far is a bit like judging a book by its cover.  But with so many movies this year that look good, it’s all audiences have to go by.  As a character Spider-man has something other superheroes don’t.  Spider-man was a comic strip in daily newspapers for decades.  Many more comic book readers exist today than probably ever before, but many more had access to and read the exploits of Spider-man nearly every day.  Many still do, as The Amazing Spider-man is still a syndicated comic.

Check out this fantastic trailer for Spider-man: Homecoming:

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Labyrinth

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1986 Jim Henson fantasy classic Labyrinth, Fathom Events has joined with Sony Pictures to bring the movie back to theaters for one night only.  And a new book about the film is on its way from Paula Block and Terry Erdmann and we have some preview pages below.  The fantasy-musical stars David Bowie and a young Jennifer Connelly.

Connelly plays Sarah, a 16-year-old who wishes her brother away, a wish granted by the Goblin King.  In fine fairy tale style, Sarah must rescue her brother before midnight strikes, or he, too, will become a goblin.

Labyrinth_ver2

The film was co-produced by The Jim Henson Company and Lucasfilm.  You’ll see the work of plenty of legendary muppet performers, including Dave Goelz.  You won’t see the work of several actors in make-up from the original Star Wars trilogy, including Warwick Davis, Kenny Baker, and Jack Purvis.

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Ghostbusters poster

So here it is.  Maybe not the sequel fans of the classic all hoped for, but with the passing of the great Harold Ramis any sequel with the original team in their original roles was out the window.  Much has been written about this reboot, and many questions.  Is it just a redux with women instead of men, complete with a nerdy glasses-wearing team member, a street smart African American fourth team member, and a hearse as the Ecto-1?  Is there anything new that Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and current Saturday Night Live regulars Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones have to show us about this story?

Maybe it’s not going to be a movie for the loyalists to the original.  But for fans of these comediennes it’s not going to matter.  These actresses are putting on the proton packs, and they’re going to get slimed and have fun along the way, like all the actors who have donned costumes in recent reboots like JJ Abrams’ Star Trek and Star Wars.  This new Ghostbusters will be no different than those attempts to blend the past and present.

original Ghostbusters costumes and props

Screen-used costumes and proton pack prop from the new film.

In the first full trailer from the studio, Melissa McCarthy looks like she’s going to steal the show.  She always has that laugh-out-loud humor that leaves everyone rolling.  For those loyalists, look for cameos in roles different than their originals for Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver, and Ernie Hudson.  Rick Moranis took a pass on participating in this new venture.

Check out this new trailer for Ghostbusters from Sony Pictures:

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MIB IV Jump Street Men in Black

Men in Black is now firmly footed in the annals of modern classic sci-fi.  With Men in Black III, starring Will Smith as Agent J, Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K, and Josh Brolin as a young Agent K., MIB delivered one of the best third entries in any movie franchise.  Check out our earlier review of Men in Black III here at borg.com.

We have not yet discussed the movie reboot of the TV series 21 Jump Street or its hilarious sequel 22 Jump Street–a very different series than the Men in Black.  We loved the buddy cop comedy team.  Multiple Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill (Moneyball, Superbad), and action star Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe, The Hateful 8) provide the ultimate comic relief as two cops that go undercover in high school and Spring break.  Hill is one of the best actors of his generation and Tatum’s suave charm can do no wrong.

2121 Jump Street

In the end credits for 22 Jump Street, mock-ups of any and every sequel were shown as sort of a forward-looking flashback of all the sequels that could one day be made.  So why not a mash-up where the Jump Street duo go undercover with the alien defenders?

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The 5th Wave invasion

The aliens have arrived.

It’s flat-out one of our favorite sci-fi sub-genres.  The alien invasion flick.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Thing from Another World (1951), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T, the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Predator (1987), Alien Nation (1988), They Live (1988), Independence Day (1996), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Men in Black (1997), Starship Troopers (1997), Signs (2002), War of the Worlds (2005), Cloverfield (2008), District 9 (2009), Cowboys & Aliens (2011), Edge of Tomorrow (2014).  These are some of the most exciting and fun sci-fi movies to watch and re-watch.

Kick-Ass and The Equalizer’s Chloë Grace Moretz stars in a new Sony/Columbia Pictures release, The 5th Wave, which looks like it’s mixing the alien invasion film with the disaster movie, the epidemic movie, and the body snatcher movie.  The only thing missing is zombies.  But body snatchers are close enough.

Alien ship in The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave co-stars Office Space star Ron Livingston, X-Men Origins and The Sum of All Fears’ Liev Shreiber, and Prime Suspect and Assault on Precinct 13’s Maria Bello.  Is Moretz a normal Earthling or one of us taken over by the aliens?

Check out this first trailer for The 5th Wave:

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James Bond SPECTRE

The same agency that taunted James Bond in five classic James Bond films (Thunderball, Dr. No, The Spy Who Loved Me, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice) is the subject of SPECTRE, the 24th in the current franchise and 26th to feature Bond (if you include David Niven’s Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again).  SPECTRE, which stands for SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion,” is the movie incarnation of the less gritty sounding SMERSH, a Russian acronym for “Special Methods of Spy Detection” in the original Ian Fleming Bond novels.  Two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz will star as the next Bond villain “Oberhauser.”  SPECTRE is also the agency led by fan favorite Bond villain Blofeld, which has led to speculation that Oberhauser is really an alias for Blofeld.  Soon we shall see.

Skyfall director Sam Mendes again directs Bond in SPECTRE.  New cast members include the BBC Sherlock’s Moriarty, Andrew Scott, as Denbigh, Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Colour) as the new Bond girls Lucia Sciarra and Madeleine Swann, with Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista as Waltz’s henchman Hinx.  And of course, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, and Ben Whishaw will reprise their roles from Skyfall as will Jesper Christensen as Mr. White.

Bond in SPECTRE

Here is the latest trailer for SPECTRE:

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