John Carpenter’s Halloween 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray

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One of my fave John Carpenter films (see my revisit here) gets a gorgeous blu-ray treatment from Anchor Bay in time for its 35th Anniversary!

With a HD transfer supervised by the film’s cinematographer Dean Cundey, who whether you know the name or not, has probably been responsible for the way some of your favorite films look – he’s had a long and succesful relationship with Steven Spielberg, the film has never looked better, the detail and the sharpness of the image is fantastic. The colours are sharp and beautiful, the shadows and the dark, so important in this film, are solid – the iconic images from this film simply pop off the screen.

I hadn’t watched this one since my review for the 101 Horror Films, so it was nice to settle back in and watch the story of Michael Myers (Nick Castle), Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Doctor Loomis (Donald Pleasance) unfold on my screen. 35 years, this film still works.

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The disc is kitted out with some fun extras, and it can never be underestimated how much I love having a film’s trailer to watch and set the mood before I watch the movie proper – there are also some classic tv and radio spots, wow has the way we advertise movies changed!

Also included is a featurette from the 25th anniversary edition, that revists the locations used in the film, and it’s amazing how little they’ve changed as well as a 10 minute compilation of the scenes that were cut into the film for its television broadcast.

Two new features have been added to this edition, there’s a fun little documentary that follows Jamie Lee on her first, and by her own admission, probably only, convention appearance. Raising money for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, she spends a weekend at a HorrorHound convention, in one of the most organized queue lines I have ever seen in a convention, and she personalized everything she signed, and was doing over 500 autographs, as well as photo-ops each day. People, as they do for conventions, came from all over, and Jamie Lee proved to be gracious and friendly with each one of them. It’s fun seeing her interact with fans, and seeing the amount of love they have for her, and she them.

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The highlight of this blu-ray edition, for me at least, was an all new commentary with Jamie Lee and John Carpenter. As the film plays, the two share anecdotes about the making of the film, chit chat, and Jamie Lee, not a huge fan of horror movies, constantly points out things that creep her out, as well as a continuity error with a door. This one is a lot of fun, and it sounds like they both had a good time catching up with each other and the film.

One of the things Jamie Lee does point out during the commentary, and I totally agree, is that the film takes its time, it doesn’t rush into anything, it lets the film build on a slow boil until the third act simply explodes. She says, quite rightly, that films aren’t made that way anymore, the film lingers on shots, setting the atmosphere, and drawing things out, and building the tension.

That just doesn’t seem to happen anymore. It’s all so rushed. As a possible exception would be Ti West’s films The Innkeepers and The House of The Devil, where the atmosphere just keeps building until the final act.

If you’ve never seen John Carpenter’s Halloween, do yourself a favor and pick up this beautifully transferred blu-ray, make some popcorn, turn off the lights, settle onto the couch and enjoy the night that He came home!

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Jurassic Park (1993) – Steven Spielberg

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As soon as I heard about Michael Crichton’s new book in 1990, I scrabbled to get my hands on a copy, and ended up co-opting and keeping my mother’s hard cover edition as soon as she was done with it. Then, hearing that Spielberg had bought the rights for it, I knew I had to read it!!!

So it’s no surprise with a pedigree of a Michael Crichton story, a Steven Spielberg film, with music by John Williams, creatures by Stan Winston, and an all star cast including Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough, it’s no surprise that this one ended up on the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list.

Featuring a beautiful score by John Williams, a seamless blend of CG and practical dinosaurs (created by Stan Winston and his studios) Spielberg brought dinosaurs to the screen in a huge way, and made them believable.

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Just like Doctors Alan Grant (Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Dern), we are stunned after their arrival on John Hammond’s (Attenborough) private island, and they see real dinosaurs striding around. It’s awe-inspiring and everytime it brings a lift to my heart.

Grant and Sattler, along with Doctor Ian Malcolm (Goldblum), a lawyer (who’s there to over see the investors stake) Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) and Hammond’s grandchildren Tim (Joseph Mazello) and Lex (Ariana Richards) are there to sign off on the park, a theme park created to showcase these resurrected creatures.

As things often do, especially for a big budget film, or a Michael Crichton novel, things go sideways real quick, as an incoming hurricane and a devious IT guy (Wayne Knight), effectively cripple the entire island, including the security systems, freeing all the dinosaurs, including the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex and a pack of velociraptors.

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Grant, who is not a fan of kids, is stranded with Tim and Lex, and they have to find their way across the island back to the main building, and hopefully escape via helicopter.

Ellie, has to work with Malcolm, Hammond, Ray (Jackson) and Muldoon (Bob Peck), the park’s game keeper, to restore the power, and contain the animals.

The film is a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions, with stunning sequences, including the T-Rex attack, and anything involving the velociraptors.

There is humor, scares, and Spielberg’s sense of wonder and action combining to bring these incredible animals back to life.

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This film is a true blockbuster, and while best viewed on the big screen (I love whenever the Cineplex Digital Film Festival screens it) it works just as well in your home theater.

And even now, in 2013, that’s right, as I write this, Jurassic Park is 20 years old, it still works, it still enthralls, and you can still walk away believing those dinosaurs are real.

And while the film has created two sequels at this time, the first film is still the strongest and the best, even though so much of it differs from the original novel. Whatever, says I, because for those two hours that I’m sitting there, wrapped up in the image and the sound of this fantastic film, dinosaurs, real dinosaurs are walking the Earth again.

This is one of the films, that is in my Top 20 of all time (though they do change positions) and I have lost count of how many times I’ve seen it… How about you?

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Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – Steven Spielberg

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I’ve made no secret of my love for this movie on my blog, and it was a joy to revisit it for the 101 Action Movies list. This and Jaws always tend to be in my Top 5 movies of all time, and there is, for me, no other film that captures that action and adventure feel so well as Spielberg’s homage to the serials of the 1930s, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Featuring a script by Lawrence Kasdan (fresh off his work on The Empire Strikes Back) based on a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman, the globe-trotting adventure follows Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), an archaeologist who is more at home in the field than in the class room, despite the pitfalls, traps and enemies one of his usual adventures includes.

He’s brought on by the government to find the legendary Ark of the Covenant, before the Nazis find it. Along the way he has to get help from an ex-flame, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and seek out the help of his good friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) all while avoiding his nemesis Belloq (Paul Freeman) who is working with the Nazis.

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Indy’s look is perfectly identifiable in silhouette, and he lives in a world where the good guy never loses his hat, and the heroic strains of John Williams’ perfect score has become synonymous with adventure.

This is still, for my money, one of the best action movies ever made, completely embracing its heritage, and giving us yet another cliffhanger every 20 minutes or so, just like the original serials.

The film is a stuntman’s dream, and the amazing Vic Armstrong over saw a large percentage of it, and also served as Harrison’s stunt double. And speaking of doubles one of my favorite bits, involves the villain Toht (Ronald Lacey), a shot was needed of Toht shadowing Indy from his departure point in the states, but they used special effects wizard Dennis Murren, who looked remarkably similar when kitted out as Toht.

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The stunts are amazing, and even now, having learned how they were all done, still doesn’t make them any less amazing!

It was nominated for 8 Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Director), and received a special achievement Oscar for sound effects editing.

Even now some 30-odd years later, this one still packs a punch, and I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t loved it or seen it more than once.

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There are so many fantastic moments (the monkey salute), so many fantastic fight sequences (the flying wing is my fave, though the market place and truck chase are both amazing), it has my favorite music cue in a movie – ever, the track is entitled Map Room: Dawn, it’s filled with what have become iconic scenes and images, and this is a film that just shows Spielberg having fun.

Spielberg and Lucas influenced a large part of childhood and formative years, and I think Indiana Jones will always be one of my favorite characters the two of them, with Harrison’s aid, helped create.

This is a movie I will watch from start to finish anytime I come across it, and there is never a missed beat, a bad scene, or anything I would skip over. I love it all.

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The production design, the music, the editing, the story, the cast, everyone in front of and behind the camera gave their all (Harrison Ford was incredibly sick the day they shot the infamous sword fighter scene – there was a long involved fight sequence, and it was suggested that perhaps Indy could just shoot him instead. And it became a perfect Indiana Jones moment.)

I love this film so much, and have seen it countless times, honestly, I couldn’t count…

Do you have a favorite moment from the film? And how many times have you seen it?

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Back To The Future (1985) – Robert Zemeckis

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I love this movie so much!

It’s always a joy to watch, and it puts me right back in 1985, I remember seeing it, reading the novel on my way to school, I remember playing the soundtrack over and over until the ink of the track listings was completely faded, I even got myself a skateboard, though I never mastered it, all because of this movie.

martySo how stoked was I that I got to revisit it on the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list? Pretty damned!

This was the first movie I saw that put a character my age in a time-travel story, and even now I continue to wonder what my parents were like as kids, so it had an instant appeal in that way, and of course with Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown, what wasn’t to like about it?

I’ve seen the clips of Eric Stoltz in the Marty role, and as good an actor as he is, he just didn’t have that something that made Marty awesome.

For me there isn’t a missed beat or moment in the entire film, and even now it holds up beautifully, though I imagine anyone viewing it today who didn’t live through the times would have no idea what a Tab or Pepsi Free was.

Marty is just your average kid, he plays guitar in a band that is just too darned loud, or at least that’s what Huey Lewis in his cameo thinks, has a great girlfriend in Jennifer (Claudia Wells) and wants to borrow the car for the weekend but Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) wrecks it.

He’s also friends with an eccentric scientist, Doc Brown, and one night at Twin Pines Mall, Doc reveals what he’s been working on. He’s turned a DeLorean into a time machine…

BackFuture30And Marty accidentally ends up back in 1955, stops his parents from meeting and falling in love and is now vanishing from time.

He has to save his own future, get his parents together and get back to the year 1985, but trouble with young Biff, his mother (Lea Thompson) crushing on him, and his dad (Crispin Glover) being a bit odd are all piled against him.

Backed with a rousing, highly whiste-able score by Alan Silvestri, Zemeckis alongside co-writer Bob Gale and executive producer Steven Spielberg has created one of my favorite films. Couple this one with Jaws, give me some tomato soup, a grilled cheese and a rainy day on the couch and I’m a happy guy.

There isn’t a single thing I don’t love about this movie, and Michael J. Fox, was and still is, one of the coolest people on the planet as far as I’m concerned.

BacktotheFuture1985Wallpaper1Everything works, the editing and pacing, the attention to detail (Twin Pines changes to Lone Pine before the ends of the film, amongst other changes to the timeline – which of course brings up the idea that Marty didn’t return to his timeline but an alternate one created by him, and the original still exists out there somewhere…), the costumes, the dialogue. I love it all.

When someone says 80s movies to me, this and Breakfast Club are the first films I think of, because for me they are perfectly, typically 80s, and I was the characters’ age when I saw them, so it resonated with me.

There are bits and pieces I love about the sequels, especially the music, but the first one will always be in my Top 20! (it’s Top 20, because most of the movies are in flux constantly except for the number one position, and we all know what that one is :D).

What’s your favorite Michael J. Fox movie?

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Anastasia Phillips

anaSue and I have been very fortunate in our association with Bomb Girls, and we’re incredibly thankful for the access we’ve been given to the show’s creators, cast and crew. Honestly, it just makes us love the show more and more. So we were delighted that we finally had an opportunity to chat with Anastasia Phillips about herself, and the fantastic character she plays Vera, a strong woman in any time.

So, put your feet up and join us as we have a long overdue chat with Anastasia Phillips.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) – Steven Spielberg

ce3kThe further along we get into the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list the more films I’ve seen, and this one is one of my faves. Spielberg’s UFO classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

I’ve always found the idea of UFOs and visitors endlessly fascinating. I remember laying out on the sports field at CFS Daniel’s Head and just looking at the vast array of stars hanging in the firmament above and being utterly convinced that there is so much life out there.

Of course they could be more advanced than we are, perhaps they’d even been here! Maybe they were visiting all the time! I couldn’t help but wonder what they were like. How was their society laid out? What were there stories like? Their history? And would we ever meet them?

With CE3K Spielberg creates a wonderful tale, showing that perhaps we don’t have to be so scared of the unknown. Something each of the film’s characters go through during the course of the film except for young Barry (Cary Guffey) who seems to except the magic and wonder of these unseen creatures (until the film’s climax) whole-heartedly.

royThe film follows an everyman, Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) as he is thrust into an extraordinary adventure, having an encounter with something he doesn’t know, and his eventual obsession with it, caused by an idea planted in his mind, and some other chosen few, including Barry’s mother Jillian (Melinda Dillon).

Roy becomes obsessed with a shape, seeing it in pillows, mashed potatoes, clay, trying to discern its meaning before it drives him insane… Until he makes the connection that it’s an actual place, and sets out to find it, losing his wife (Teri Garr) and kids in the process, when she takes them to her mother’s.

Jillian, paints and draws the image instead, hoping it will reunite her with her now missing son.

When the pair unite they race across Wyoming, heading for a final confrontation with the unknown.

lacombeBut they aren’t the only ones on their way to this incredible meeting. The U.S. government is involved as well, working with a UFO expert, Lacombe (famed French director Francois Truffaut) his translator, who used to be a cartographer, David Laughlin (Bob Balaban) and a blink and you’ll miss him, as he never says anything Lance Henriksen. Watch also for a cameo by J. Allen Hynek during the film’s fantastic climax (he was involved in the original Project Blue Book).

In the end though, the choice isn’t the governments, but the two peoples who reach across the gulf between the stars towards each other, seeking understanding, communication and perhaps even friendship…

contactJohn Williams, the incredible composer who has written so much of the music that scores my life, crafts a beautiful score, and makes five notes resonant not only through the film, but through those nights when I just look at the sky and wonder. He helps create a language that is based on tones, music and Lacombe ties it all in with hand signs, AWESOME.

This is a favorite of mine, and I always hope that someone will make another one like it, restoring the wonder and the mystery of the unknown, facing our fear and then coming out on the other side to realize maybe we didn’t have to be scared after all.

The model work and UFO designs are decidedly otherworldly, watch for an upside down R2-D2 on the underside of the Mothership, and they still dazzle 36 (!) years later.

One can walk away from this film with two important messages, we don’t have to be afraid and watch the skies. That’s kind of reassuring…

What do you think of it?

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5-25-77 – Patrick Read Johnson

5-25-77Every now and then a movie comes along that speaks to you, that defines you. A movie, that as you watch you can not only relate to the characters of the film, you recognize yourself upon the screen.

On this site I’ve told the tales of my first experiences that helped define the movie geek (some say snob) that I am, I’ve shared the story of my first encounter with a shark named Bruce that has become my favourite film of all time. I’ve recounted my first trip to that galaxy far, far away and how it changed everything about my childhood from that point on to this very day. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire, Jedi, E.T., these films still continue to define who I am and are a touchstone for not only me but countless fans.

Patrick Read Johnson’s new film 5-25-77 is going to go down as one of those films for me. I’m going to remember where I saw it, when and who I was with.

At its core it’s a film about following your dreams, and anyone who has been reading this blog since its inception knows Sue and I are doing that very thing.

But 5-25-77 is more than that, it’s a love story about film, about geekdom and an ode to science fiction.

jfdAnd as Patrick Read Johnson, the film’s writer and director of this autobiographical tale says, it’s all true, except parts that are even more true.

Shown as part of TIFF’s Next Wave Film Festival at the Lightbox, the film follows Pat (John Francis Daley) a lone sci-fi fan in the tiny town of Wadsworth, Illinois (pop. 750), who dreams of going to Hollywood and making movies, a dream he fosters in his own big back yard by shooting films like Requiem For The Planet of the Apes, 2002: The Return of HAL, and Jaws 2. His best friend Bill Holmes (Steve Coulter) helps him out in everything, though doesn’t understand Pat’s passion for it.

As Jaws is for me, 2001 is for Pat. It was the first movie he saw that touched him, that resonated, and created a love for the big screen. In a small town, that can make you unusual, and different, and as it so often does, being different, especially as a teen, keeps you separated from everyone else, it makes you an outcast of sorts, and outside his small group of friends, and a tolerant, if occasionally bemused family, Pat leads a rather solitary life.

He spends evenings sitting in Donny’s car discussing the meaning of the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, building models of Eagles from Space:1999, turning his pool into a blood-filled shooting tank, creating special effects, foreground miniatures, and reading American Cinematographer and Starlog magazine.

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When love finally springs for him in the form of Linda (Emmi Chen) his love of everything he’s known encounters the pains and joys of first love.

His divorced mother, Janet Johnson (Colleen Camp) never stops wanting the best for her oldest son, and when he comes up against a brick wall, or monolith, in trying to get in touch with his idol, special and visual effects wizard, the legendary Douglas Trumbull, she comes at the problem from a different angle.

She gets in touch with the editor of American Cinematographer Herb Lightman (Austin Pendelton) and as only a mother can, arranges for son to go out to Hollywood to meet Herb and hopefully Douglas.

alienA visit to Trumbull’s company Future General Corporation leads to a chance meeting with the wunderkind director of Jaws, Steven Spielberg, (Kevin J. Stephens) watching over the special effects shots for his new film Close Encounters of The Third Kind. Meeting both Spielberg and Trumbull leaves Pat literally speechless, but it’s on a visit to a small burgeoning effects company, Industrial Light and Magic that things really change his life. Shown around by effects master John Dykstra (Michael Pawlak), Pat is introduced to X-wing fighters, land speeders, a freighter called the Millenium Falcon, and then is allowed to view a work print of the movie they are featured in, Star Wars.

It changes everything, and returning home, like a traveller from the future, he knows everything is about to change, but no one wants to listen to him. He knows that maybe if everyone sees it, the communal experience of viewing and sharing a theatrical experience like the one of Star Wars, he might finally belong.

That’s a painful concept to deal with, the concept of belonging when you seem to be the eternal outsider. It’s different for geeks now, we’ve all grown up in a world that has allowed geekdom to become more mainstream, but back then, film fans, kids who wanted to know how effects were created and make their own, they lived on the edges of their peer groups. Never understood, creative, but alone.

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The version of the film we’ve seen, still a work in progress with some shots still needing color correction, upgrading, or VFX added ran almost two hours, something Johnson spoke about in the Q&A after the film, saying he may still want to streamline it a bit, and while it could be argued to reduce the runtime, I loved its length. I loved the fact that it takes its time telling the story, letting you get to know the assortment of characters that populate Pat’s life.

It also, currently, as it’s a temp soundtrack, has a kick-ass line up of 70s sounds, this is a soundtrack I would buy in seconds, even knowing I already have all of the songs that would be featured on it on my ipod.

There were so many moments that resonated with me personally that I was misty-eyed more than once (it really got me when Pat visited ILM, and also when they were creating the clouds that encircle Devil’s Tower from the climax of Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Despite the fact that Pat was a teen when he saw Star Wars, and I was only 6, I totally recognize a kindred spirit in his character. There were moments I recognize from my own life.

watchAs a work -in-progress the frame size changed constantly, and yet, it didn’t seem to steal anything from the film, it actually seemed to be a reflection of Pat’s character conjured in cinematic ways. It would change from full, wide images, to standard-definition middle of the screen smaller ones, there was temporary viz effects, and matting, all giving us an impression of the frenetic, active mind within the character, not a schizophrenic presentation of self, but a reflection of the continual flow of style and images in one’s own mind.

Daley (Freaks and Geeks, Bones) turns in an honest and enjoyable performance, bringing all the joy and wonder one can take from the cinema, the heartbreak of first love, and passion for all the things that make being a geek so cool.

endAfter the presentation, which was greeted roundly with enthusiastic applause, and Sue and I leaned over to one another and said simultaneously, “THAT WAS AWESOME!”, Patrick Read Johnson gave us a Q&A, and much as I did with his character on the screen, I recognized a kindred spirit. This is someone who still loves the magic of movies, even after some less than pleasant experiences in Hollywood, he is still a geek. He regaled the audience with great stories, revelations about the friends he portrayed on screen, and where they actually appeared in the movie. I love stuff like that.

The film is littered with recognizable pieces of pop culture, the spaceship from Planet of the Apes is sticking out of the pond in the backyard, there are models of Japanese Zeros hanging on zip lines over dog cages ready to make kamikaze runs on the battle fleet in the background, Hooper’s torso, a wall of photos of famous 70s creators and directors, Lucas, Spielberg, Henson…

They are hoping to have this film finalized and ready for distribution in time for 5-25-14, but the film is out there, making the rounds if you can find it, traveling festival circuits, being tinkered with between screenings, and showing all viewers that it’s good to dream, and that you can make them come true.

prjWe were also treated to a look at a documentary that was made in conjunction with the film’s touring of festivals and the tinkering going on around it called Hearts of Dorkness, which looks to contain even more geeky goodness, and deserves to be seen as well.

It was an amazing screening, and I’m totally in love with the film, which brings me to my one big problem with it…

I can’t turn around and watch it again right now.

See this movie if you can! Find screenings talk it up! You don’t have to be a Star Wars fan, you just have to love movies, or be a dreamer!

Follow Heart of Dorkness on twitter @DorkHeart , follow Patrick @moonwatcher1, check out the website here… http://www.heartsofdorkness.com/dorkheart/52577.html – Just get out there and see it! You won’t regret it.

Thank you TIFF Next Wave for bringing it to me!

Did you get a chance to see it? And if you haven’t check out the trailer below…

The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman by Vic Armstrong

VicCoverI first heard the name Vic Armstrong in a television special called Great Movie Stunts & The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark back in 1981. I was 10 or 11 when the special first aired, and I remember watching it in our house while we were living in Kingston.

Even at that age, I was already intrigued by how the magic of movies was created, in my estimation, knowing how something was done increases my appreciation for it.

The special not only covered the incredible stunts that Raiders brought to the big screen, it gave a brief history of stunts from the dawn of cinema, and introducing me to one of the most famous stuntmen of all Yakima Canutt. He was amazing!

Vic Armstrong is the modern day Canutt, but also an accomplished action director. Whether you know the name or not, you know his work, Armstrong has done stunts for James Bond movies, he doubled Christopher Reeve as Superman, and of course Indiana Jones, amongst countless others, he’s had an unparalleled career, working for some of the best and brightest, and by his own admission, some of the not so great.

vic armstrong.jpgI was very happy to dig into his autobiography, from the moment that I had stumbled upon it at my local Chapters I wanted it. But what with Christmas coming, I knew I would be better off asking for it. Christmas came around, and Vic’s book went right to the top of my pile.

From his early days working with horses, a love he’s fostered all of his life, he got involved in films, and made a name for himself as one of the most professional and talented men in the business. It’s amazing to read some of the things he’s done, jumping out of a helicopter 35 feet above the side of a mountain with nothing but a life jacket to cushion the fall.

He’s done falls, fights, transfers (in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – he’s the guy who does the jump from the horse onto the tank – a distance of 18ft!)… He’s worked with the biggest names in the business, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore, Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Robert De Niro, Robert Downey Jr. Van Damme, Angelina Jolie, Donald Sutherland, Liam Neeson, and J.J. Abrams. He won a technical Oscar for his creation of the fan descender, used in high jumps, and he’s the only action director/stuntman to have a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.

vicHis book is a highly enjoyable read, and had me constantly shaking my head in amazement, chuckling at something outlandish, or sympathizing when I read   about an injury to him or one of his mates.

As an action director, he crafted and shot the ice car chase in Die Another Day, the helicopter chase sequence in Mission: Impossible III in addition to countless others. He crafts incredible sequences, and it’s thrilling to read how they were designed.

It’s an amazing story of a brilliantly lived life, from starting out, to making it a family business. The tales he tells are so entertaining, and as always, simply give me more appreciation for the magic of movies, not only his work as a stuntman, but the work of all of them.

If you love behind-the -scenes books and love the magic that brings movies to life, you owe it to yourself to read this one – it’s incredible.

Vic Armstrong is one of those people that I would be absolutely gob-smacked to meet, that being said… Mr. Armstrong if you read this, and you ever get to Toronto, Sue and I would love to have you on our show!

Until then, I’m gonna be watching some of my favorite adventure movies again, and watching the work of not only Vic but his fellows with a whole new level of appreciation…

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Silent Running (1972) – Douglas Trumbull

silent_running_poster_01Special effects genius Douglas Trumbull takes on directorial duties for this classic from the 101 Sci-Fi movies, aided in the special effects department by the legendary skills of John Dykstra. Bruce Dern plays Freeman Lowell a caretaker/gardener on the Valley Forge, an American Airlines Space Freighter. Fans will recognize a number of models and sets that were later re-used for the television series Battlestar Galactica.

Lowell looks after the plants and animals, watching over them, for the past 8 years, until they can return to Earth and re-seed a nature-free Earth with them. He doesn’t always get along with his fellow crew. He’s an optomist, a fighter at least where Mother Nature is concerned. He’s willing to lay down his life for them.

When word comes down to abandon and destroy the forests they are carrying to return the vehicles to commercial service, Lowell is troubled, pushed, and urged to a course of action he can’t believe he is being forced into. His crew is simply happy to go home, they’re happy with the standards of life on Earth now, whereas Lowell wants flowers, trees, green and colors.

He’s forced into murder, saving the only dome that he can, and he and his three robot companions, Huey, Dewey, and Louie (played by multiple amputee performers in interesting costumes) strive to keep this one part of nature alive. He also reprograms them, and as they change and adapt, they become almost human characters (including learning how to play poker), making their fates that much more heartbreaking.

Freeman knows all along that what he did was wrong, even if it was for the right reasons, but those decisions weigh on him for the entire film, leading him closer and closer to the decisions of the film’s final minutes.

bruceIt’s easy to classify him as a hippie, or even an eco-terrorist but is he really? He’s conservationist. He’s preserving the last unique vestiges of a planet that we seem intent on completely destroying. Maybe he’s the only smart one left… But he truly regrets the course of action he was forced to take, he simply doesn’t understand how anyone could put greed and money over something like preserving the planet, or at least the remnants of its natural state. He’s also a bit of a slob. I’m just saying.

The special effects, and designs are great, there’s an authenticity to the feel of the ship, the droids. It’s pretty well-realized world, and Trumbull does some very nice work.

The one thing I didn’t really care for was the Joan Baez tunes. They may have worked for the time, and that may be questionable as well, but they tend to jar me right out of the film every time I watch it. I do like the score by Peter Schickele though, it’s quiet, poignant and has the tendency to be sad and hopeful at the same time.

I do love the film’s final shots, with Dewey amidst the forest, and then a credit roll them precedes a similar one to the one Spielberg uses in Close Encounter of The Third Kind (which of course Trumbull worked on)…

What were your thoughts on this one?

silent

Toronto After Dark – After – Ryan Smith

Take a little of the small town spook of Stephen King, a splash of dark scare of Clive Barker and a dose of the magic and wonder of Amblin era Steven Spielberg and you may have a general idea of what to expect from Toronto After Dark’s presentation of After.
Ana (Karolina Wydra) and Freddy (Steven Strait) are on the way back to their hometown of Pearl, two strangers who meet on a bus.

But an accident strikes and the next thing they know is that they wake up in their respective beds and quickly find that not only is the town deserted, but the entire town is encircled by a closing wall of cloud and a dark storm beyond.

Through memories that bring the town back to life around them we learn that the two of them have been brushing up against one another for their entire lives.

But the memories that they are reliving and the darkness of the clouds around them, as well as what it contains all hold the key to what is going on, and how to get out.

Now while the film may not have the emotional resonance of some of Spielberg’s work there is a magic to it that makes it worth embracing as our two characters work together, helping one another survive.

The reveal of what is actually going on is revealed fairly early on, which is nice. It then allows us to wonder about all the other things we are seeing, the chained monster, the massive door with the floor covered in keys, the all-encompassing darkness of the storm and the gold-hued memories that tie Freddy, a comic book artist, and Ana, a nurse, so inextricably together.

The creature and visual effects work brilliantly within the context of the film, as does the lighting, as the storm grows closer everything gets darker but for the revisited memories which are always given a nostalgic gold hue.

Smith has crafted a blanket to wrap yourself up in and share with others. It shows how the events, people and things in our lives create not only us, but the delicate and dreamlike balance of hope, fear, love and redemption that is life.

After is a magic film that was a welcome addition to the Toronto After Dark line up, I feel kind of terrible, because none of them have let me down yet, though I did feel Universal Soldier, but for the action sequences was a bit of a disappointment.

You can find more After here, on Facebook, on Twitter and their official site.