If you were one of the many (and there were many) who found yourself delving into a list of actor-writer-director Harold Ramis‘ achievements upon hearing of his sudden death yesterday at the age of 69, you may be wondering where all that time went. One minute you were probably minding your own business, the next you were realizing that this seemingly unassuming, nerdy-looking Chicagoan had a hand in at least 10 of the most influential comedic institutions of the last half century. As if we could hold one over the other. Was Ramis best known as a writer, who cut his teeth in the pages of The National Lampoon and on the staff of SCTV before writing or co-writing the likes of National Lampoon’s Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Back to School, Groundhog Day and Analyze This? Was he most accomplished as the director of Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Groundhog Day or Multiplicity? Would he be immortalized for his acting work, whether Russell Zinsky, the withering straight man to Bill Murray’s off-kilter John Winger …
Over the moon about 2013 releases.
Have a Riddick-ulous new year.
Hustling through the holiday…what to see, and flee.
Bored of the Rings.
In the cold with the Coen brothers.
Chill out this holiday season with Disney’s latest princess.
The table is set for awards season.
Guys gone wild. Old, Oscar-winning guys.
Doll up your home video collection for Halloween.
“Really, no good…seriously?”
A toast to a grown-up romantic comedy.
On the road to nowhere.
Comedy is serious business, which probably explains why these 7 dramatic actors are so good at it.
On the road to nowhere.
Finger-lickin’ films for the holidays.
George Lucas has been written off as an emotionless technophile who built a billion-dollar empire on the backs of Ewoks and clones. To be fair, he probably is exactly that. But let us not forget from whence he came—an artsy auteur who transformed into one of the great blockbuster showmen of the late seventies and early eighties. After that, an endless trudge through awfulness (Howard the Duck), more awfulness (Radioland Murders), and yet more awfulness (Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace). Today, he’s a semi-retired entertainment magnate who keeps threatening to become an artsy auteur again. Through it all, he’s remained strangely disconnected from his own creations, as though he doesn’t really want to be the overlord of a sci-fi uberfranchise, but feels obligated—as though it’s all somehow out of his control. Maybe it is. The release of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 arrived in the thick of Lucas’ most fertile period, both in box office receipts and creative success. It’s the centerpiece of an early eighties trifecta that remains unequaled, …
At the theatre, at the movies, and on CD and Blu-ray, too.
Bruce Lee heads this week’s heavyhitters.
Truth, justice, and 9/11 destruction porn.
Here are 15 films with great lines that we can pretty much recite from memory, whether or not we remember anything else about them.
18 Observations On Star Wars As It Turns 36, Just As I Did Last July 1. This was one of the first VHS tapes we owned; we had a guy across the street who somehow got us a dub of it, even before it was out on tape, I think. It must have been around 1982? 1983? Is that even possible? 2. I would watch it over and over till Darth Vader showed up, and then I distinctly remember being too scared to continue. 3. Even at that age—like 7, or 8—I wanted to count how many times I watched it. I got up to eleven before I stopped keeping track. It’s all been downhill from there. 4. Lucas swiped liberally from everywhere. This is pop goulash of the highest order. 5. The structure he swiped from Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, but it’s still a fascinating flow for a Hollywood film—characters meeting each other, building the plot person by person until the plot reaches its own critical mass. 6. He swiped the opening crawl and …
Something for the kids, and the hungover.
There’s an old man on a spaceship. He’s cheated death, tricked his way out of death, and patted himself on the back for his ingenuity. He never loses. He’s facing down a madman with a vendetta against him, and he’s literally racing against time. He wins, of course, and just as he settles into his default air of smug self-satisfaction, he looks to his right. An empty chair. A missing friend. “Jim, you’d better get down here.” At first glance, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan doesn’t feel much like a Trek movie. It feels more like one of the original series’ “bottle shows” where all the action had to take place on standing sets so that they could afford to build Vulcan in a sound stage for next week. There’s not much exploration of strange new worlds, and no new life forms or civilizations. The proceedings feel epic anyway, because like all great Trek, Wrath isn’t really about sci-fi mumbo jumbo at all; it’s about theme and character. Beyond William Shatner’s nascent paunch …
A new Blu-ray/DVD column kicks off with a vintage favorite.
In space, no one can hear you scream. On the Nostromo, you can hear almost everything. Alien is a masterpiece of sound design. Every second is dominated by a dense, carefully constructed soundscape, where the natural noises in the spaceship are a critical component of managing the audience experience. The first six minutes of the film are dialogue free, but full of ambient noise—flapping pages in a book, dormant lights igniting with a buzz. Jerry Goldsmith’s score ratchets up the tension, only to dissipate it in a wash of strings. There’s the tinkling of metal chains and smacks of water dripping, as Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) searches for Jonesy the cat; the hissing coolant and a ticking timer while the self-destruct sequence proceeds and Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) prepares to abandon ship. Maybe I noticed the sound because I recently rewatched the movie while working. I’ve seen the movie before; I was surrounded by my fellow cube-dwellers; I was using tinny headphones and a seven-inch screen. At moments, I was still terrified, totally bound up in …
Proof positive that Hollywood had no idea how to turn a TV show into a movie during the ’90s
Summer movies usually demand a great suspension of disbelief. They’re heavy on special effects and deal with outlandish situations, whether superheroes and sci-fi or wacky gross-out extreme comedy. There is, perhaps, no greater suspension of disbelief than a green felt frog somehow convincing you of its dreams. The Muppets have been around since 1955 and have survived through several TV series and films, web shorts, record albums, books, DVDs, comic books, action figures, plush toys, and a theme park attraction. In 1979’s The Muppet Movie, the Muppets realized their full potential. The Muppet Movie allowed Jim Henson’s unique blend of emotional punch, endearing characters, and ludicrous humor to find its greatest expression. It’s nothing if not ambitious. We open with the Muppets in a movie theater, preparing to watch the flick they’ve just completed about their own origins. In other words, a classic film-within-a-film. Right off the bat, we know we’re not dealing with your typical kids movie. Kermit T. Frog (Henson) is an amphibian with a simple dream: To entertain. He heads off to …
Enter the Baz Age.
Drunk naked lady ventures into water after dark. Shark eats drunk naked lady. Resort town goes nuts. Police chief, oceanographer, and batshit crazy fisherman go after shark. They’re gonna need a bigger boat. Batshit crazy fisherman tells batshit crazy story about 700 sailors being eaten alive. Shark attacks. Shark explodes. Roll credits. The bare bones read like something Roger Corman might have made in six days. Exploitation trash. But Jaws is a masterpiece of suspense, and not exploitative at all. Okay, maybe the dude’s head floating into the hole in the bottom of the boat is a little trashy. And the floating severed leg is pretty bad. But other than that, it’s not. There’s a tension in Jaws between the primal fear of its central concept—there’s sharks in the water and they are waiting unseen to devour you—and the skill and polish with which its story is told. Steven Spielberg is in his infancy here as a director, but he’s already mastered storytelling tricks that will keep him at the top of his game for …