E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial vs The Rankatron

31 10 2010

Drew Barrymore in about 30 years...only kidding Drew!

I was worried about re-watching this movie. I remembered going through phases and depending upon where I was at in my life, my impression of this movie was different each time. To give you an idea, let’s look at past snippets of Rankatrons past where I re-reviewed “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” before I put it under the extremely critical magnifying glass of The Rankatron.

“It made me pee myself. Scarier than the G’nap Smurfs.” – Grade 1 Elementary School Review (1983)

“Very good movie. Don’t get why I was so scared of this thing. Soundtrack could be better. Where’s Vanilla Ice’s ‘Play that Funky Music’? Now, that would’ve made this better.” – MovieMix (1991).

“BORING! SNORE! Do you know what they call E.T. in France? A Royale with E.T., Mofo! No Travolta. No watchie.” –A Whole Box O’ Chocolates Movie Reviews (1996)

“If this were remade today, Mulder would’ve been on that BMX instead of Elliott. And the Cigarette Smoking Man would’ve been behind the amazing Reese’s Pieces placement.” –Da Future Iz Here (1999)

“WTF? Twenty Years???? WTF????? I mean. It’s alright. It’s no Matrix. But why bastardize a half-decent classic movie by taking away all the guns? This new Lord of the Rings movie is supposed to have swords and stuff like in Braveheart…speaking of which, I don’t think Lord of the Rings will catch on. I’m hearing it’s going to clock in over 3 hours. That’s about as long as your average baseball game. Pass!” – Adam’s Flicked Up Reviews (2002).

So now we come to today. I’m 8 years more mature (questionable). And 8 more years of movie watching under my ever fluctuating belt. Let’s start with the bad/questionable choices:

  1. How the heck did Elliott deduce where to throw those chocolaty and peanuty yummy candies in the forest? Did he just spend all day with the world’s largest bag of Reese’s in his backpack going all willy-nilly everywhere? Scavenged his mother’s Halloween candy? But it could’ve been worse…could’ve been E.T cereal.  I’d like to think that E.T. and Elliott had a connection that drew them together. But this couldn’t be true because if E.T. had made a connection with the boy then why go through the whole rigmarole of hiding in the forest again.
  2. That FBI guy with the keys…what was his character’s name? (Searching IMDB…) Keys? His name was Keys? That’s not even trying. So they have an alien named E.T. (for Extra-Terrestrial). They have an FBI guy who wears keys (who’s arguably a main character) named Keys. Why didn’t they just call Elliott “The Boy”? But I’m getting off target…let me start again.
  3. Keys, the FBI agent. If you find chocolate candy lying around in the woods, don’t eat it! Eating gross stuff at parties might win over the ladies back in university but in the real movie world, you might regret putting certain things in your mouth. Especially since it’s WAY past the 5-second rule.  I’m surprised we didn’t see him next scene looking as pale as E.T.
  4. The final chase scene. I need to set the stage: 5 tweens on BMX bikes try to elude the cops and FBI by cutting through backyards, construction zones and the woods before E.T. saying “Fuck this. We’re flying.” And they launch into the air. So before that happens, two of the BMXers have a brilliant idea to split up. Under normal circumstances, this solid logic would work if they were after all of you. But all the authorities really care about is E.T. and Elliott. So unless there’s a piece of a disembodied alien on each bike, this tactic is incredibly flawed. Did this work?
  5. YES! For some reason, the cops split their focus and went after two of the bikers instead of going after the alien. I dunno why. I don’t think Spielberg could explain it either. Let’s just rank this up to a “movie suspense-building device”.
  6. Lastly, to go back to the previous point that E.T. had the ability to make things fly: when he got better, why didn’t he just fly up into the sky back to the woods like a hawk bringing food back to his nest? Why risk Elliott again? Again, this reasoning eludes me. Maybe E.T. is like a young Superman. He only gets his powers from the yellow sun and isn’t familiar with what he’s capable of. Maybe on the flight back home, he’s telling the rest of his alien buddies about how his finger made humans get better and they’re laughing at him out of sheer ridiculousness. “You can fly? Yeah right, Clebort (that’s E.T.’s real name), and could you shoot lasers out of your eyes too? A glowing finger? Are you high? Look me straight into my eyes and tell me you’re not high? You were popping Reece’s Pieces, weren’t you?”

But those are the critical parts. I’m guilty that I’ve focused on them mostly because they’re way too much fun to make fun off. Right Robot Chicken?

Truthfully, this time around, I really found myself getting into this movie. Perhaps that since so much time has passed since I’ve last watched this, I’ve wizened to appreciate it again despite the plot holes.

E.T. is a great mix of storytelling, amusing moments (like the drunk E.T. scene) and touching scenes. The hardest part I found is separating the 5-year old Drew Barrymore from today’s version of sexy Drew. (Only kidding, I just wanted to be able to link a picture of Drew today.) Little Gertie was endearing and full of youthful exhuberance…and then this young actress fell of f the radar doing some forgotten roles (like Poison Ivy) until nearly a decade later when she reinvented herself past her rebellious teens into a classier version of herself…what was that? Oh, she flashed Letterman on his birthday in 1995? Uh-huh. OK…moving on.

Elliott (Henry Thomas) and E.T. played off of each other so well that they became an inseparable duo. The pure emotion of their scenes reminded you of a boy and his dog. Except his dog was an exceptionally intelligent alien who can get drunk faster than a frat girl.

The nods to Star Wars (with little mentions of Yoda, Lando and Boba Fett) were cleverly placed in homage to Spielberg’s buddy, George Lucas.

And the comic scenes were both charming and laugh-out-loud funny at times.

My 2010 review of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial gives me the freedom to admit that, even though this movie isn’t out-of-the-world, it is firmly placed in the upper stratosphere of beautiful movies and are good for the whole family…unless you’re a 7 year old who boy that was similar to me.

8.5 Coors beer cans out of 10.

 

Aw...shit.





Horror Triple-Header

27 10 2010

Good Eeeeeevening!

(Please note: Due to my hiatus, the remaining reviews for this post will happen shorty after I return. I’ve not forgotten about these. They will appear again like Freddy Krueger in your nightmares!!!!)

Three full days before Halloween. Three full days of movie mayhem from the Ultimate Rankatron list.

During this time I’ll be knocking through three movies of the scary persuasion. One of them is a true suspense thriller (Vertigo), one has a lot of ghosts (LOTR: Return of the King), one is a movie that scared the Reeces Pieces outta me when I first saw it in theatres when I was younger (E.T.). I hid under the seats for a good portion of this movie when friendly little E.T. popped outta that shed and into Elliott’s room.

So first up: Vertigo…I need some background music for this one:

Quick stats:

  • Starring that endearing James Stewart and the talented Kim Novak.
  • Viewed as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest movies even though he himself wasn’t too fond of it.
  • Lukewarm reception in theatres. Hitchcock blamed Stewart for this because he was too old to play the love interested of a woman half his age.
  • Nominated for two Oscars in 1958: Best Sound and Best Art Direction. Lost both.
  • Became the second behind Citizen Kane as one of the most acclaimed movies ever made according to “They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?”
  • AFI’s Top Mystery movie of all-time.

For the middle one, I bring you Middle Earth with Return of the King. Aragorn fears no thing live nor dead.

  • The final action-packed installment of Peter Jackson’s brilliant Lord of the Ring Trilogy.
  • Won a record 11 Oscars in 2003. A current record. Take that Titanic!
  • The only trilogy to be shot over the same period of time.
  • At the premiere in Wellington, New Zealand, an estimated 100,000 people lined up to see it.
  • At one time, held the single highest opening day gross on record at $34.5 million. And second film in history to gross $1 billion at the box office (Titanic being the first).

And finally, the little alien that stole our hearts and became the coolest Halloween costume ever, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. (Check out the wicked Yoda get-up!)

  • Stephen Spielberg based E.T. on his imaginary friend he created when his parents divorced in 1960.
  • Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes as the greatest Sci-Fi movie ever made.
  • Features a five-year old Drew Barrymore as Elliott’s sister, Gertie. She got the role because she pretended to be a punk rocker.
  • E.T. was voiced by Pat Welsh, an elderly woman who smoked two-packs of cigarettes a day that helped her achieve E.T.’s raspy voice. Who ever said smokes were bad for ya?
  • Columbia Pictures passed on the script calling it a “wimpy Disney movie”.
  • Three actors performed as E.T. during the filming donning the alien costume: two dwarves (Pat Bilon, Tamara De Treax) and a 12-year old boy with no legs (Matthew De Merritt).
  • Originally, M&M’s were supposed to be E.T.’s candy of choice but that company (Mars, Incorporated) found the creature too ugly and wouldn’t allow it. So Reece’s Pieces got the call.
  • Filmed under the name A Boy’s Life during production.
  • Nominated for 9 Oscars including Best Picture but lost out to Gandhi. When Gandhi’s director, Richard Attenborough accepted his award he admitted that ” [he] was certain that not only would E.T. win, but that it should win. It was inventive, powerful, [and] wonderful.”
  • When rereleased for its 20th anniversary in 2002, the special edition had removed all images of guns and weapons with walkie-talkies and keys. Also, E.T. gets a CGI upgrade in some scenes. Some viewed these “improvements” unnecessary and borderline sacrilege (i.e. me).

So while you’re all getting ready for your terrifying night out…whether it’s to parties or treating or regular mayhem. Just remember. You never exactly know when, where or who the Rankatron is going to strike. It may tomorrow…it may be the next day…it may be about the person down the street or the type of food in the market. It may be lurking behind you right now…ready to rank YOU!!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Remember…you don’t know where it’s gonna getcha! (P.S. Poor kid)

For all trailers, check out the Vod Pod to the right or my Ultimate Rankatron original post.





The Empire Strikes Back vs The Rankatron

20 10 2010

Han Solo: [cutting open his dead Tauntaun and shoving Luke inside] This may smell bad, kid, but it’ll keep you warm until I get the shelter up… Ugh. And I thought they smelled bad on the *outside*.

Darth showing some leg.

A bridge. That’s what this was. A bridge from Star Wars: A New Hope to Return of the Jedi. Why do I say this? Because the ending is more anti-climactic than the ending to Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher. (I’m going against my steadfast anti-spoiling stance here and giving you the ending of Dreamcatcher. Watch at your own peril.) The movie would’ve been better served ending a little bit earlier. Maybe right after the big Vader vs Luke battle.

Then I started thinking…did this HAVE to be a trilogy at all? Couldn’t Lucas have chopped this into two 3-hour movies instead of three 2-hour movies? Maybe have the first movie end right around when Han and company get captured by the Empire and our poor captain Solo gets frozen…in Adidas form. End first movie. Open the second movie with a grand fight scene as Luke saves the Princess and then goes in chase to get Han (enter the plot of Return of the Jedi…by Kevin Smith). But then I thought…money. And they’ve got three built in climaxes there.

I would’ve still ended it right after the final duel of whose Lightsabre is bigger and Luke finally escaped the Cloud City minus one hand. That would’ve been stronger.

But I’m nitpicking.

Empire Strikes Back, at it’s core, is a MUCH better movie than A New Hope. Whereas the first movie seemed to be bogged down in prologue (much like the first Lord of the Rings movie), Empire began with one of the greatest battles in cinematic history on the icy plains of Hoth. The plot moves from one fun action sequence to another nearly seemlessly. And Harrison Ford was in full Indiana Jones mode here. Sure, sure, he’s Han Solo here but you get glimpses of Indy in more than one scene. And Darth Vader is full on dark mode and we meet the mysterious Emporer for the first time.

I recall during the virgin viewing of Empire Strikes Back when the Emperor made an appearance I began to worry. Vader and Luke seem to be equals at this point? Who was still around that was greater than Luke to conquer the Emporer? Obi-wan was dead. Yoda was ancient…but so was the Emperor. I had matched up a Yoda vs Emperor battle at some point. I had the same feeling as I did right before the last Harry Potter book. Dumbledore was killed. So Harry’s supposed to take on Voldemort himself? He’s not strong enough! But he’s their only hope!

One thing I nearly had forgotten is how much of a Muppet Yoda comes across as when we first meet him. Definitely not the wise, kick-ass, old Jedi Yoda we all remember him as. In the first few scenes before he reveals he’s a Jedi Master, Yoda goes around doing things I’ve seen other Muppets do like hitting R2D2 with his walking stick. He comes across as terribly out of place in this very dark movie. But at the moment he reveals himself to be a Jedi, comedy he sheds for wisdom and teaching…mmmmm… (imagine that in Yoda’s voice).

Makes one wonder if Jar-Jar Binks turned out to be a secret Jedi Master, would we like him more? Misa no tinks so. (And sorry, I’ll put Jar-Jar back into the jar-jar never to be scene again.)

The unfortunate thing about doing this Ultimate Rankatron is that the third movie didn’t make the final list. So I’ll sadly leave the trilogy unfinished with intentions to bring it all on home.

Empire Strikes Back as a movie on it’s own suffers because the story bleeds on both sides being the middle movie in the trilogy. But thanks to it being sandwiched there, it holds together as the strongest installment of the three. Would I recommend it on its own? Yes. Would it be better with the other two movies? I answer, “Does Chewy own a lint brush?” (Undoubtedly) Take that for what you will. Like an Oreo cookie, most people dig the white icing centre and can’t wait to get to it but eat the cookie as a whole and you’re in for a tasty experience. Nothing wrong eating it either way. It’s still one good cookie.

9.1 Wampa beasts out of 10

Who woulda thought that Chewy would've lost more hair?





The Empire Strikes Back (At Promoting Plagarism)

16 10 2010

Cloud City has never been so classy!

Oh…Lucas, Lucas, Lucas…you thought I wouldn’t uncover that Empire Strikes Back wasn’t an original movie. As the matter of fact, it got released back in 1950 as a B-Level space movie. Don’t deny it! I’ve got video proof!

Regardless, many Star Warriors feel that the Empire Strikes Back is far superior to the original Star Wars both in action, scope and plot. You’ve got enough unexpected double-crosses and plot twists that you’d think you’re watching an episode of Jersey Shore. (Random unfounded Fact: It’s no coincidence that Snookie and Wookie rhyme.)

Sure, you could argue that Family Guy made a far superior spoof pointing out some obvious flaws (such as why does Lando Calrissian wear the exact same clothes as Hans Solo when he’s flying the Millenium Falcon?). Or my own question: why does Lando’s co-pilot, Nien Nunb, echo another 1970’s character from Fat Albert, Dumb Donald? Was this a shout out to Cosby? Did Lucas even know how much Nunb’s make-up looked like Dumb’s?

In any case, let me hit you up with some Rank stats on Empire Strikes Back:

  • Released in 1980 and directed by Irvin Kershner (Robocop 2).
  • Composer of the original Star Wars, John Williams, used the London Symphony Orchestra for the score.
  • John Ratzenberger (Cliff Claven from Cheers if you’re over 35…Hamm, the piggy bank in Toy Story if you’re under) appears in a small part as Major Bren Drelin.
  • The original Emperor was voiced by New Zealand actor, Clive Revill, in the original 1980 release of this movie. When it was re-released in 1997, his voice was replaced by Ian McDiarmid (who played the Emperor in the new trilogy) for continuity’s sake. I like Ian’s take better.
  • Yoda was voiced by Frank Oz, of Muppets fame. Yoda’s face was based on Albert Einstein.
  • Mark Hamill had a car accident between Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back resulting in Luke appearing more scarred from one film to the other.
  • The scene where Luke escapes the Wampa cave was actually filmed during one of the worst snowstorms in Norwegian history. When he stumbles out of the cave, in reality, he stumbled out of the hotel’s front door where the crew had been staying at.
  • The famous ending where Darth Vader revealed that he was Luke’s father was buried in so much secrecy that the actors where given a script where Vader’s line was “Obi-Wan killed your father.” Before the premiere, the only people in the cast who knew the actual line was James Earl-Jones (who did Vader’s voice-over), Mark Hamill, George Lucas and Irvin Kershner.
  • The line “Luke, I am your father” never is uttered in the movie. The actual line is “No, I am your father”.
  • Awards? An Oscar for Best Sound and Special Acheivement for Visual Effects. A Grammy and Golden Globe for best original movie music.
  • In 1983, a radio adaptation of the movie was done for National Public Radio with Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels reprising their roles as Luke, Lando and C3PO. John Lithgow voiced Yoda…I’m not making this up.

I’ll leave it at that. Will the Empire truly strike back or will the Rankatron strike back at the Empire? Stay tuned!

Alright Beastie Boys…let’s hype up this mofo like Lando Calrissian. Take us out!





Star Wars: A New Hope Vs The Rankatron

13 10 2010

C-3PO: I would much rather have gone with Master Luke than stay here with you. I don’t know what all this trouble is about, but I’m sure it must be your fault.
[R2D2 beeps an angry response]
C-3PO: You watch your language!

 

Yes, Luke. "Old Ben Kenobi" is the same guy. (slapping forehead)

 

I owe the Rankatronians out there an explanation. I had started the Ultimate Rankatron as a means to emerse myself into the silver pool of movies. I’ve made myself a promise of two to three movies a week barring distractions. The past couple weeks? Distractions. Without going into too much, let’s just say that the Death Star will be sold off to the Rebellion and there were many Storm Trooper stains to clean off of counter tops and such. Plus a fresh coat of paint in the war room.

During this time, I’ve made a bit of time to watch Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV).

It’s no surprise that the Force, Wookies, and Lightsabres have made it into the modern lexicon of today. Even if you’ve never watched the movie, you’ve no doubt been influenced indirectly by this movie in some way without even realizing it (Big Bang Theory, X-Files, Fringe). It’s no surprise that the technology that you hold in your hands right now (cell phones, the Internet) germinated by some scientist who’ve watched this movie and thought “THAT’S SO FREAKIN’ COOL! WE SHOULD MAKE THAT!” Between this movie (and the subsequent Trilogy) and Star Trek (I realize using both references in the same sentence could cause a rip in the time-space continuum), most things you see in the world that you geek out on was made by some former pimply-faced 20-something who fell in love with Star Wars.

Does this prove that Star Wars is influential? I give that a “Roger Roger”. Does this prove that Star Wars is a great movie? What do you say Darth?

Of course, Lord Vader. You’re right.

Think about it this way? A movie that, even after 33 years, can still feel fresh with intense action sequences, an epic story, breathtaking scenery and littered memorable characters that make you chuckle. This combination is a recipe for longevity. But I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to discover two things about Star Wars: 1. What exactly makes it timeless? 2. What chinks can I find to tear it apart?

Surprisingly, both are easy answers but one will take a little longer than the other to explain.

Religion Warning!!!!

Skip the next paragraph if you wish to remain untainted by religious jibber-jabber. And I will pre-text this to say that though I don’t exactly call myself an atheist or an agnostic, I don’t subscribe exactly to any religious sect but I do respect them. I would classify myself as more of a “realistic spiritualist with an open mind”…for the sake of clarity, let’s call me a Jedi.

The reason this story speaks to so many people is because we’ve heard it before. Anyone who’s had the most rudimentary religious background has heard it before. Strip away the lightsabers, the Millenium Falcons, and the Empire. Replace the planets and space with some locale in the Middle East. Take away the fancy names like Hans Solo (giggle), Princess Leia (giggle), and Luke SkyWalker (Kevin Smith giggle). What you’re left with is the allegory of Jesus. But let’s go a step further and take away the name Jesus just to make this an even playing field no matter what religious team you play for. What you’re left with is an underdog (Luke) who’s unsure of themselves but finds the power (The Force) to rise above evil (The Empire) and vanquish the bad guy (Vader) against all odds. This is the story heard in Superman, in Batman, in the Matrix, in Lord of the Rings, in Austin Powers, in Avatar, in almost any movie or tv show that you can name. The basis is timeless…now put back all the fancy bells/whistles/Death Stars/droids and you’ve got yourself an attractive mix that people will eat up. The fancier the extras the more it will be eaten up…as long as the story is timeless. Hence, Star Wars lives on.

END RELIGIOUS RANT

Now what kind of holes can I find in the movie’s force field? Simple.

It only takes the first line Luke utters to see it:

Did you hear it? Go back. Close your eyes and click play again. Get it that time?

Bad line delivery. Bad acting. All over the place.

This could either be attributed to the actors or the writer who wrote the incredibly cheesy dialogue (Lucas). The best actor in the movie who consistently shows subtly isn’t even human. I’m talking about the little squeaks and squawks of R2-D2. R2 became the model on how to express non-human characters from E.T. all the way to WALL-E. If the rest of the cast possessed half of the emotion portrayed by that little rolling garbage can, this movie would be the greatest of all time.

Don’t agree with me? Ask yourself this. Other than Harrison Ford, none of the cast has done anything remotely as significant as when they appeared in this movie. This isn’t bad.

The beauty of Star Wars: A New Hope is the combination of their parts and not it’s individual components. And the combination is enthralling…(waving hand slowly in front of face)…this movie is enthralling…(waving hand slowly in front of face)…geeze…this never works for me. Obi-wan!

Good enough.

8.9 X-Wing fighters out of 10

 

'Nuff said.

 





Star Wars: A New Hope…A Cappella!

5 10 2010

The greatest version since the original.

I was originally going to go through my usual spiel saying something marginally clever about Star Wars and post some interesting vids about the movie I’m about to review…but then I stumbled upon this by a dude name Corey Vidal…I bow to his a-cappellaness:

Then I started to come to the conclusion as I sifted through all of the videos that are devoted to Star Wars…from the Lego Star Wars Symphony to the Star Wars Dance-Off to a hilarious Star Wars Gangsta Rap to actual bloopers from the first movie…the list is endless…when I realized this was my favourite one.

Some Star Wars: A New Hope stats:

  • Released in 1977, directed and written by George Lucas.
  • Was the original blockbuster summer movie. It set the scene for what we take for granted today over the summer months.
  • Nominated for 10 Oscars (including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Alec Guinness) and won 7.
  • The original name for Luke Skywalker was Luke Starkiller…glad they changed that.
  • Lucas didn’t want Harrison Ford as Hans Solo…they almost went with Kurt Russell, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken (SNL spoofed this with Kevin Spacey…I’ll wait for your brain to wrap itself around this), or Sylvester Stallone (yo! Darth!)
  • Lucas based Chewbacca on his Alaskan malamute dog.
  • Sissy Spacek almost ended up being Princess Leia over Carrie Fisher. Who’s Sissy Spacek? This is Sissy Spacek.
  • Orson Welles was originally slated to be the voice of Darth Vader but Lucas thought his voice was too recognizable and went with an unknown at the time…James Earl Jones.
  • The opening scene was a nod to the scene of Discovery One flying in space in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Became the highest grossing film of all-time until ET: The Extra Terrestrial in 1982.
  • Was on movie screens for over a year in some theatres around the world.
  • Lucas had bet Spielberg that Close Encounters of the Third Kind would outperform Star Wars at the box office. The loser had to pay the winner 2.5% of the proceeds from each film. Lucas lost the bet and Spielberg receives money from Star Wars to this day.
  • At its height, the atrocity known as The Star Wars Holiday Special was released. It was terrible. I’ve seen it. It’s worse than a train wreck. It actually boggles the mind on how bad this is. So bad, Lucas refuses to acknowledge its existence. Here’s the entire thing if you’ve got 2 hours of your life you don’t really care about.
  • Star Wars influenced James Cameron (Avatar), Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings trilogy), Ridley Scott (Alien movies), Kevin Smith (Clerks, SModcast) and countless other directors to go into film.
  • Darth Vader was voted as the #3 villain of all-time by AFI (behind Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates)
  • #2 Sci-Fi movie of all time behind 2001: A Space Odyssey.

So the critics, the influence and the general public all praised this flick that revolutionized the movie industry.

Will The Rankatron be so friendly? Will The Rankatron be a Jedi or a Sith? While you dwell on that, one last video by Bill Murray serenading you on SNL: