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Showing posts from July, 2015

Jaws (1975)

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To understand how different things were only 40 years ago you only need to watch Steven Spielberg's classic Jaws.  Hollywood in the late 1960s and early 1970s was experiencing something close to what it is experiencing today: apathy.  Sure, some movies made a big splash, but for too long the major studios had been interested in the epic event movies with casts of thousands.  With economic malaise, an unpopular war and (by the time this movie was made) a crushing gas crisis, audiences weren't exactly in the mood.

This is the exact atmosphere that let directors like Spielberg thrive.  The 1970s became a second golden age for Hollywood not because of the studios sinking tons of money into big projects, but because they took advantage of smaller films that ranged from shoestring to moderate budgets, with the knowledge that most of them would make a profit.  They also largely backed away and let directors do what they wanted.

Steven Spielberg had already had moderate success with …

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

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Tim Burton's 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes was one of his biggest misfires. A little closer to the Pierre Boulle novel than the 1968 film (takes place on another planet instead of on Earth, with a similar twist ending upon arriving back on Earth), much of what could have been done was squandered.

10 years later came Rise of the Planet of the Apes, starring James Franco (never really a reason to recommend any film, but decent here) with Andy Serkis providing the voice and movements for Caesar, an ape that achieves sentience do to an experimental Alzheimer's drug.  Taken from his caretaker and placed in an abusive facility, Caesar gives the drug to his fellow inmates, bringing them to his level.  The escape from the clinic releases a virus among the human population, and the apes escape into the forests of northern California. It's largely a remake of 1971's Escape from the Planet of the Apes, with some elements of the 1972 Conquest of the Planet of the Apes thrown …

Poltergeist (1982)

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If you want to know why we have such a horrible, lifeless film rating these days as PG-13, it's because of this movie, Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  After the MPAA initiated a rating system in the late 1960s, almost everyone was content that a PG-rated film may contain nudity, an f-word or two and a fair amount of violence.  Then, the 1980s came, and with it fake moral outrage through "parental advocacy groups" about everything from movies to music.  Temple of Doom had a beating heart being removed from a sacrificial victim, Gremlins had one of the eponymous creatures blown up in a microwave and Poltergeist had a guy hallucinating about peeling his face off.  All of this quite tame when you look at many PG movies that came before it, but, if you yell loud enough, someone gives you a sucker to shut you up.  Thus, PG-13.

To be fair, there is nothing limp or lifeless about this story of a suburban family suddenly set upon by angry ghosts.  Directed by…

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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Typically when I hear that a franchise I have loved over the years is getting a remake or a reboot I just grown and ignore it.  I don't really throw as much of a fit as some do; I just decide, quietly, that I'm not going to bother watching it.  Sometimes I do end up seeing them, especially horror films, when it comes time to try to jam a bunch of movies into a month's viewing and, toward the end, I've gone way past the cream of the crop.

We had been hearing rumors that George Miller was going to make a fourth Mad Max film for years.  The second film in the series, Mad Max 2(released in the United States as The Road Warrior) managed to make Mel Gibson, who played the title character, an international star.  Because of the success of that film, Miller made the slightly tamer Mad Max: Beyond ThunderDome in 1985.  It was a major hit when it came out and had much of what had made the two previous films classics, but a later plot involving lost children gets unnecessarily m…