Tag Archives: E.T.

Beauty and the NeverBeast

Film, it’s a powerful medium. Early in my blogsproration  I noted that exposure to your first film is important and will help shape everything from conversations to friendships.

There also comes a pivotal time when the emotion of film will overwhelm you, sure, you’ll laugh long and hard but make no mistake you will cry, long and hard as well, and that moment shall forever be part of your filmic DNA.

It will come as you start being able to process and have empathy with stories and characters, as you start to  understand the story sense of films and tv. And when it happens it will hit you like an emotional bolt out of the blue.

For Isabelle this came whilst watching Tinkerbell and the Legend of the NeverBeast when the lovable but misunderstood beast of the title has fulfilled its mission and most go back to sleep for nearly a thousand years before he is next needed.

Iz instantly knew that this meant that Fawn and the other fairies would never see him again, in Isabelle’s eyes he may as well have been laying down to die rather than going to sleep for a long period of time.

But then that’s what happens to pets isn’t it? They go to sleep, so quickly going to sleep in animal terms, at least  in the eyes of children, is associated with death.

And Iz has already been touched by that with Grandma and Grandad’s beloved German shepherd, Max. It isn’t that Iz doesn’t know Max isn’t dead or that she just thinks he went to sleep, she understands he was very poorly but still misses him. She says she does regularly and still talks about him constantly with an air of sadness. And it was exactly that same emotional peril she was in with the NeverBeast having to say goodbye.

She’s hidden behind her hands prior to now, most recently with Bing Bong in Inside Out and only the day previously to the NeverBeast, watching The Iron Giant for the very first time.

But her reaction to the end of Tinkerbell and the Legend of the NeverBeast was on a whole new level. This was full on sobbing, sobbing that she nor the fairies will ever get to see the NeverBeast ever again as he won’t be back for 1,000 years. Iz wanted to go into his cave with him, she is such a sweet and sensitive soul.

We all have that moment occur to us though, it’s like a cinematic rites of passage. Mine, it was probably one of two films, King Kong (1976) – even if it was Rick Baker in a suit – or Anthony Hopkins TV movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982).

Both heroes who fell to their deaths from buildings, I may not remember which film triggered the emotion first but I vividly remember crying lots and lots outside in the back garden.

At the cinema it was the horse drowning in The NeverEnding Story, scarred for life I tells yer, having not seen it for years I think I’d even convinced myself that it had been saved…I was wrong.

For many it will of course have been E.T., unless you couldn’t make it out properly on a terrible pirate copy. And that’s the thing, you don’t know what it will be that will trigger it, whether it’s the lonely alien, the man in the ape mask or furry faced NeverBeast.

Whatever film it is a pivotal moment, as it’s about or innocence but also the beginning of the loss of our innocence. We are never the same again.

What film do you remember having the first real emotional impact on you when growing up?

Anxious the Elephant in the sweet smell of success

You got a friend in me, so goes the Randy Newman (no relation) tune that is essentially the Toy Story anthem. Iz might not have a Woody or Buzz but she does have Anxious the Elephant, one of The Seaside Squad from Haven holidays.

Anxious has been a firm favourite, nay, the only favourite since she first  clapped eyes on her when she was two. The sassy pink elephant travels everywhere with her, wherever she sleeps (sleep is not even possible without her, we bought a second one in the event of losing the original, think of her as the Vice Anxious but Iz – Invasion of the Body Snatchers style – knows that it is merely a ‘clone’), rides around in her buggy, sits in her bike basket E.T. style and also travels in the car with us each morning to school, getting a giant kiss and cuddle from Iz before she skips off to breakfast club.

It’s fair to say that she’s a well established part of the family, it’s also fair to say that she stinks. How much? Put it this way you can always find her in the dark or she acts like extreme smelling salts when you find her stuffed into your face part way through the night. I guess you could say she is ripe or even smells like she has escaped from the pink elephant’s graveyard.

And it was Isabelle’s decision that Anxious had become a tad whiffy and she – like a bolt from the blue – asked if she could be washed so that, for a short while at least, she could be the sweetest smelling Anxious the pink elephant in all the land leaving her refreshed and ready for them both to conquer 2015 together.

photo - Copy (3)Clean or (mostly) dirty and stinky, it matters not as paraphrasing the beginning titles to that other pink pet, Bagpuss, Isabelle still loved her…

The Dad Busters: Celebrating fathers on film

With today being Father’s Day I guess this could have been alternatively called A Good Day to Dad Hard.

This list is in no particular order but for me stand out as some of the key father moments on film. Of course there will be those that don’t get mentioned or that I hadn’t thought of , but that’s the point these are the ones that sprang to mind for me, these are the ones that – on some level – resonate with me as a dad.

Martin Brody in Jaws (1975)

He’s the Chief of Police on Amity Island (in Amity we say yard!) and there is a rogue killer shark on the loose…not bad for a man who hates water. You know what he faces his greatest fear (quite literally) after his eldest son nearly gets taken out by the Great White. His job may be to serve and protect the community but he also wants to do the same for his family.

Jaws is my favourite film of all time, it was made the year I was born and it’s always been a big part of my life, and Roy Scheider as Brody is fantastic as the former New York cop who has moved to the seaside for a quieter life and a better life for his family. In many ways he will see that he has put his family in danger, it is his fault that they have moved in danger’s way. Director Steven Spielberg often makes films with an absent father or films without fathers (take Jurassic Park, E.T., Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for example) due to the break up of his own parents marriage when he was young but the dad plays a major part in this film.

Father wise it’s a small moment for why Jaws is chosen and its one of the film’s brief interludes where his youngest child, Sean Brody, is sat with his dad at the dinner table and his young son copies his each and every move. It’s poignant and full of sheer warmth and is expertly delivered by Spielberg who manages to eek such moments out of young actors. For me is shows how important those little moments are, how attune young kids are and how…no matter what else is going on in the world…they bring you back down to earth and show you what is really important and really matters.

Jor-El in Superman (1978)

You often hear of stories about people going back into burning buildings to save their children or people giving up their lives so that their children can have a chance of survival. It’s weird but until you become a mum or dad you kind of get it but you don’t really understand it, you will do anything to ensure that they are safe and secure, that they will survive.

This brings me to self sacrifice. Kal-El (AKA Superman) survived because of his dad, because he was looking out for him, because he and his wife sacrificed themselves so that they could survive.

Marlon Brando was paid an astounding (nay super) salary of $3.7 million and a percentage of the profits  for  12 days shooting but he was certainly worth every penny with the gravitas he has in his scenes, a gravitas he carries through to Earth when a young Clark Kent is listening to his words of wisdom, the words that he will live by, the words that turn him into a superman.

Our dads all impart words of wisdom to us, why might not always think it is at the time but over time we’ll revisit it and find us using some of those very same words ourselves. Also see Mufasa in The Lion King, another sacrifice and a dad with wise words imparted to his son that are echoed again later.

George Kirk in Star Trek (2009)

Before he was Thor but after he was Kim in Home and Away, Chris Hemsworth played Kirk Snr in the opening of the JJ Abrams reboot of Star Trek. Again like with Superman before it this is about sacrifices and although the father and son bond is fleeting – he gets to hear the cry of his new born son moments before his death, a death that saved countless others, including his wife and son.

George Kirk evacuating the crew of the USS Kelvin, including his wife and unborn son, as he sends it into the enemy craft is an amazing piece of cinema as his death is juxtaposed with the birth of his son. It’s a great opening to the film as initially we are only introduced to him as Kirk – so some of the new to Trek audience will think it is James T –  and it is also the birth of a legend, talk about an apt introduction.

It’s the strongest moment of the new Trek universe that has yet to be equalled, nevermind bettered in its execution.

Bryan Mills in Taken (2008)

When I was growing up Brian Mills was a catalogue, now he’s a kick-ass former special ops dad in a leather jacket played by Liam Neeson who acts as a sometime bodyguard for Holly Valance. Neeson himself thought the film to be no more than a straight to video thriller but the central crux of the story, his daughters kidnap into a people trafficking ring in France, and particularly the trailer that features the now famous “I have a certain set of skills….I will find you and I will kill you” dialogue over the phone as he speaks to his daughter’s kidnappers sent it into the stratosphere. It’s the pre-kidnap scene where he is telling his daughter to remain calm, to remember details, to hide under the bed…and to prepare to be taken that is the stand out moment for me.

It really touched a primeval nerve that we would do anything and go anywhere to save our sons or daughters or to avenge what has been done to them. He’s the Jack Bauer and the Paul Kersey in all of us, doing whatever and taking out whoever it takes to get the job done. The same could be also said of Russell Crowe in Gladiator after the murder of his wife and son, although he dies at the end his mission is accomplished and he gets want he wants, to be with his wife and son in the afterlife.

This revenge/avenging role is also used to great effect by Mel Gibson in practically everything where he is a wronged dad – see The Patriot, Ransom and Edge of Darkness for details.

Michael Newman in Click (2006)

Like most of Adam Sandler’s films this has plenty of infantile moments, such as repeatedly farting in David Hasselhoff’s face but this It’s A Wonderful Life-esque comedy also has its fair share of well-handled drama. Christopher Walken hands Sandler’s character a TV remote control that can control life itself, pausing or fast forwarding through life…the pefect tool for the over-worked architect fighting for promotion.

It’s a genuine surprise to find such a funny and touching film that has a real emotional core and an important message about spending time with your family taking precedent over your job. Life is short and it can’t be repeated and moments can’t be recaptured, essential to this are great performances by Henry Winkler as Sandler’s dad and with Sandler himself as he grows older, which culminates in his own moving death scene in the pouring rain trying to conect with his own grown up son outside the hospital. It’s this moment that’s my highlight.

The idea isn’t a new one, you’ve only got to look as far as A Christmas Carol and The Family Man for that, but its mix of humour and heart coupled with its contemporary setting and theme of work/life balance shows us it is perhaps more relevant than it ever was.

More than notable mentions also go out to the “I am your father!” scene in The Empire Strikes Back, the baseball game scene where Kevin Costner ‘meets’ his dad in his former cornfield come baseball diamond in Field of Dreams, the interplay of Henry Jones Jr and Sr in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the moving penultimate scene in the original version of The Omen where Robert Thorn hesitates in killing his adoptive son who just so happens to be the son of the Devil, and the Chariots of Fire-inspired scene onwards of Clark W. Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Perhaps I’ll return to these dads in more detail next year.

Gremlins

To describe Gremlins as a kid’s film would be like describing the Bates Motel as a swell place to stay.

Cutesy in a typical Spielbergian world at the very beginning, sure, but it is soon revealed that we, the audience, and indeed the Peltzer family are sorely mistaken and have somewhat misread the situation in the ultimate ‘always heed the instructions’ moment in cinematic history

An animal is for life, not just for Christmas, such is the number one life lesson that we can all learn from the Spielberg Executive Produced, Joe Dante Directed, Gremlins. Rounding out this trio of talent is then scriptwriter – later Harry Potter Director, Chris Columbus – who was on something of a roll after penning scripts for both The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes around the same period. This ‘E.T. with teeth’ captivated and entertained and still stands tall as a comedy horror Christmas classic, and you don’t get many of those.

Originally a spec script by the young Columbus the feature was set to be a very different ‘beast’ with the Gremlins being even more dark and twisted, with the irresistibly cute Gizmo turning into Stripe, Barney the dog getting hung and Billy’s mum’s head rolling down the stairs!

Being a Joe Dante film it is a veritable reference of film and cartoon delights, from a cameo by the legendary animator Chuck Jones to a blink and you’ll miss it Steven Spielberg disappearing in a Time Machine

It’s a deliciously wicked and rich film, even until this day and has an almost timeless charm about it like that other 8o’s classic Back to the Future, which also shared the Universal backlot as its main set that created the town, Kingston Falls, and it does so spectacularly.

We get suckered into the cute, furry routine just like the Peltzers. It’s a family movie alright, but more about a families survival than in the traditional sense of the word. As such it caused such shockwaves Stateside and was one of two films that year, 1984, that helped create the PG 13 rating in America, the other film being Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

For all the Gremlins’ attacking from a Christmas tree, driving a bulldozer into the Futterman house, causing mayhem in the streets it’s a very low key scene that lingers in the memory and proves to be the most distressing, that classic monologue by Phoebe Cates on why she hates Christmas, a chilling story of them finding her dead dad stuck up the chimney dressed as Santa Clause. Inspired and perhaps only pipped by the SS Indianapolis story speech by Quint in Jaws for its powerfulness and evococativeness.

The set pieces and the imagery, their swirling lights of the swimming pool when Stripes throws himself in at the deep end, the tension of the death of the college tutor scene played against the rapidly beating heart on the projector, on par with anything in The Howling. Not to mention the discovery of the pods and the classic kitchen scene.

It’s a shame that Dante went for out and out comedy in the sequel as it would have been an interesting study in terror to see them go really, really dark. Of course, a remake or reimagining has been mentioned but it really does remain to be seen whether the Gremlins would hold the same appeal us knowing that they were merely pixels. The Gremlin creations by Chris Wallas are pretty much pitch perfect in design, that other unsung hero of the film is also Jerry Goldsmith and his blistering score that manages to be both comical and scary in equal measure.

It really is a nasty piece of work, and is all the more beloved and beautiful for it. Full of great energy, Dante clearly has great fun letting the Gremlins run riot in the usual Spielberg-like world, albeit one full of B-movie horror high jinks, and it all works wonderfully thanks to the film’s humour and the charm of its young leads. It maybe a special effects lead film but it’s the story that drives it, just like Back to the Future again in many respects, remember when that happened?

Alien is often mooted as the monster sci-fi movie of reference but for me it will always be Gremlins, for me it will always be a great big little monster movie.

Stars in Their Iz #2

Part 2 in a limited series of random images of Izzy that on later viewing appear to replicate a famous person or scene from film, TV or history.

E.T. and Elliot
Gloworm and Izzy

This edition we hark back to Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic, E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial. The film depicts the close bond an alien and young boy have with each other.

It’s a modern classic and features many memorable scenes and images,

 perhaps none more than the moment E.T. and Elliot fly past the moon on their bike. Thankfully Izzy and her gloworm have stayed on terra firma…for now.