E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial on BluRay

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore

Synopsis: A squat, ugly (yet still somehow adorably cute) alien is stranded on planet Earth and is hunted by a number of government types.   He finds refuge and friendship in the house of a young boy, Elliott.   While Elliott helps E.T. get a message to his people, E.T. helps heal the wounds that result from a broken home.

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30 Day Film Challenge Day 21 – Your Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film

Film Nerd’s Choice: E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial

Review:

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Drew Barrymore

Synopsis: Elliott is a lonely boy from a broken home, who one day discovers an alien hiding in his backyard.   He forms a strong bond with this alien, and helps him make a very important long distant phone call…

 

Okay, so having already listed the Lord of the Rings as my favourite film in this 30 day film challenge, technically perhaps that should occupy this spot.   However, I think repeating a film for this challenge would be just plain lazy, so I decided to get more creative.   I could have also chosen any of the ten Trek films that have not yet appeared in an entry here, but having been a sci-fi fanatic for many years, I thought I really had to get serious about this post.   So I delved into my personal history to rediscover this gem.

Thew simple fact is, despite the film being dated and the iconic images being ingrained in the consciousness of western culture (I mean, seriously, the above poster is not instantly recognisable??), the simple fact is that this remains a strong film that loses none of the power it had in childhood, and in fact resonates to greater levels for an older audience rediscovering it.   There were subplots and thematic concerns that completely escaped me as a child, which now have significant impact.

When remembering that E.T. wants to phone home and that he can make bicycles fly, this is more fundamentally a film of two lost souls discovering and helping each other, so that they can both find their path home to comfort and safety.   Elliott is clearly missing the presence of his father, and E.T., while not replacing this role, at least fills a void in Elliott’s life.   Of course, he cannot stick around forever, but his presence teaches life lessons that by the end of the film help pull together pieces of a family that is holding on by a thread.   It is a story of true friendship, and the risks and sacrifices that one would make if the friendship is truly significant.   So even without the clichéd images, it is a very strong film.

In this commentary though, I by no means wish to downplay the iconic moments.   It is truly a film filled with great visual and aural wonders.   The visual effects are timeless… what kid hasn’t dreamt of flight, or healing simply with a touch.   When the fugly but cute alien starts speaking, it is a truly awe inducing moment.   Then to have his plea to phone home tinges the film with heart in the midst of all this wonder.   Then to have all this topped off by one of John Williams’ most memorable scores (and when you are talking of the guy who composed for Star Wars, Superman, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Jaws, that is saying something).   The music itself seems to capture the wonder and the joy of freewheeling flight.

This film does not put a foot wrong, and is a true classic for the ages.

5 stars out of 5.

 

E.T. on IMDB

E.T. on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7-2PB4jj2o]

30 Day Film Challenge Day 7 – A Film That Reminds You of Your Past

Film Nerd’s Choice: Patch Adams

Review:

Director: Tom Shadyac

Cast: Robin Williams, Daniel London, Monica Potter, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bob Gunton, Peter Coyote

Synopsis: This story is (loosely) based on the real life Hunter “Patch” Adams, a medical student who rebelled at the way medical practice is generally performed and the stranglehold insurance companies had on the industry preventing the common person getting high quality care.   The comedy of the film comes from his quirky and unique methods, believing comedy and happiness is a necessary part of treatment.   Behind these bones of story is a film with themes of ambition and being true to yourself.

Before following the path to medical research, I was instead following a path to being a medical practitioner.   Patch Adams was perhaps not the best written , directed, or shot film I have ever seen, but at the time for me it was the most inspirational.   Williams’ version of Patch I cannot say is authentic to the man himself, having seen him in interviews subsequent to the release of this film.   It is Robin Williams playing himself, and hamming it up for laughs.   Thankfully there is more to the film than this though.   It features moments of great emotional depth, and it highlights the motivations that would lead anyone to a career in medicine.   Simply put, as stated in the film “If you treat a disease, you win, you lose.   If you treat a person, I guarantee you win no matter what the outcome”.

It at no times depicts the choices that have to be made as easy.   Some of the images in the film are the types of images that we all in our hearts withdraw from… a ward filled with bald children needs little more explanation than that (and if what I have heard is true, those scenes featured real child patients… controversial at the time, but you can tell they enjoyed themselves, and isn’t that something great in the end?).   We are also confronted with a bitter, middle-aged man who does not have long, and the highs and lows of working towards a cure with the mentally unstable.    The film also balances different points of view on the best methods of learning medicine.    Seymour Hoffman plays a fellow student who feels that Patch’s antics make a joke of what he has striven for over many years, and Gunton’s acerbic Dean is a man who above all prizes order, and an “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.   These are two of the powerful performances in the film.

For me the strongest single performance was from Monica Potter’s love interest.   She is introduced as the typical early feminist type, having to work harder than many other students for credibility in a field dominated by men.   Yet her character arc is amazing,a nd at times heart-wrenching.   She gives a powerful performance to match this, and it is disappointing for me that in her few other acting roles she did not match this level of accomplishment and as such has somewhat vanished into obscurity now.

My desires to be a medical practitioner are well in the past.   I took up research after discovering that I found it fascinating, and that I loved the process of discovery.   It has the potential to affect many lives, even though the people who benefit will probably never know my name or attribute any credit to me.   However when I first started on that path, I could not watch this film for a long time, as I was no longer following a career where I “treat the person”.   But I think in that time I was looking at this film too narrowly.   You can treat people every day of your life, in respecting and caring for your friends and family.   So this is a film specifically for medical practitioners and students of that field, but it has messages in it that are important for all of us in our day-to-day lives.    Patch Adams is a film that reminds me of events in my past, but it does not have to be restricted to those memories.

4 stars out of 5

Patch Adams on IMDB

Patch Adams on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0fx_qA4-aE]

A Walk to Remember – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Adam Shankman

Cast: Shane West, Mandy Moore, Peter Coyote, Daryl Hannah

Synopsis: Based on a book of the same name by Nicholas Sparks, this is a teenaged romantic drama about a boy with an unpromising future falling for the town preacher’s daughter.   As a result, he seeks to improve his ways, coming into conflict with those whom he previously considered his friends.

 

A review by Film Nerd.

I wouldn’t blame any readers looking at the above synopsis and cast list and be ready to label this film as one big cliché that is designed to target the female tween market with dreams of romance against all odds.   The truth of the matter is that I can’t argue with this particular accusation.   It is also clearly a vehicle for Mandy Moore, at this stage in her career just trying to break out of pop-singer into an acting career.   This feeling is increased when the “school play” from the book here becomes a musical, clearly taking advantage of the lead star’s background.   Further to this, she also supplies about half of the film’s soundtrack.

Yes, all of the above is true… for the first half of the film.   The story is predictable and, though well told, does not break the mould.   The acting is serviceable, though the opening scenes do not promise much.   It was many years ago I first saw this film, and I remember watching the opening scenes thinking this was just a painful experience, I could have easily switched off before the third scene.   I stuck with it though, and it was a good way to spend an evening, if you like this type of film, but really it was nothing special.

The eagle-eyed of you may have noticed that I did say I watched this years ago.   Given the lack-lustre review so far, you may be asking why on earth I would be watching this film again.   And the truth is I have watched this film many times since.   The reason for the discrepancy is that this is just a review of the first half of the film.    About midway through, it subverts the normal conventions of a film of this calibre.    Out of nowhere it finds depth and a level of emotion that one would nor expect coming intro it blind.   As such, I will say little more, as knowing how the film evolves is part of what makes the first viewing special.

Subsequent to this change, the acting also improves.   Our leads Landon (West) and Jamie (Moore) are able to convey some very good raw emotion, despite at times being hampered by the scripting.   The more experienced actors do much better throughout, with Hannah and Coyote as the parents of Landon and Jamie respectively.   The rest of the teenaged supporting cast does well when there is some depth to the script, but when it is a join the dots teen romance, they do fare less well.

I am almost tempted to rate this movie twice.   I would have put it at three stars when I was settled into the cadence of the first half, and though the technical elements of the film remain the same, the story does save this from being another DVD just collecting dust on my shelf that has only been opened once.   As such, this second half almost warrants a 5, though this could also be partially due to the jump in story quality that is entirely unexpected.   If the teen romance is a genre you try to avoid, keep avoiding, as you will not have the patience to get to the end credits.   Also, this is a film that discussed the power of the love of God, so if you are atheistic or offended by these sensibilities, run away from this film screaming.   However, if you are open to this type of film though, rent it, stick with it, and there are rewards to be received as a result.

4 stars (out of a possible 5)

 

A Walk to Remember on IMDB

A Walk to Remember on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V96uhfQ0x9A]