E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)


The image speaks for itself…

There is a scene in E.T. when Mike (Robert MacNaughton) is describing the relationship between his younger brother Elliot (Henry Thomas) and the alien to a grown-up.

Mike: He communicates through Elliot.

Grown-up: Elliot thinks it’s thoughts?

Mike: No. Elliot feels his feelings.

The idea of feeling of feelings is what makes Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece so endearing. A good director knows how to read the minds of the audience, but a great director knows the feelings of the audience as well. In the case of E.T., the main audience is not just children, but the child in all of us.

Another key feature of the film is how Spielberg films from a point of view. Nearly every scene is filmed from the point of view of E.T. or Elliot (and sometimes his siblings). The only adults we really actually see in the film is the mother (Dee Wallace) and (for the second half) Keys (Peter Coyote). We never really see anything from their point of view. There are a few exceptions. We do see Keys looking for E.T. after his family has left him on earth. We also get that wonderful comic scene of how the mother thinks she hears a noise from Elliot’s closet, and actually does “see” E.T. hidden in the stuffed animals.

It truly baffles me whenever I meet someone who does not like this film, but I am beside myself when it is someone who has never even seen the film. The story is still well-known to them though. Elliot is the middle child (always the unsung hero is the middle child) of Mary, a single mom of three (the other is a young Drew Barrymore as Gertie). As a middle child myself, it was impossible for me not to relate to Elliot. My parents also were separated, I wished to always hang out with my older brother’s friends, and I had a younger sibling who I thought got more attention than I did. In short, life was hard to a degree.

Enter E.T., who is as shocked to meet a human as Elliot is meeting an alien (though the best reaction comes from Gertie). All of the scenes with Elliot prove that Henry Thomas gives perhaps the best (if not the most famous) performance by a young male actor in film history (his audition tape was equally compelling). It is a little bit of a shame though, because it does overshadow the fine work given by his siblings. MacNaughton does start off as the wise scheming older brother, but is still kind-hearted and more understanding (especially at the end). It is also a credit to show Barrymore (who has had acting in her family bloodline for generations) as a little girl who is far smarter than the others give her credit for.

Along with the comic moments, the movie clearly has movies of suspense. The “chase” scene is heart pounding to anyone, regardless of age or knowledge of the outcome. No small part of this is due to the other star of this film (and nearly every Spielberg film), legendary composer John Williams. Like every movie he has composed, E.T. would be a totally different (and really not at all brilliant) film without John Williams.

Then comes the moment, as the suspense becomes utmost relief and wonder. You know the scene, you know the moment. I don’t need to explain how it is etched in our minds and hearts and souls for eternity.

Parents, if you have not let your kids see this movie yet, I don’t know what you are waiting for. I would say any age. Yes, there are scary moments, but it is a movie where being scared is okay. Yes, some of the adults seem like villains, but they really aren’t actual villains. There is also some swearing.

Whether you watch the original theatrical version, the updated version (with updated special effects and two added scenes), it is clear a movie is a classic if the only bad thing about it is the video game (which I thankfully never got to play).

E.T. is just flawless entertainment for anyone.


Overall: Five Stars *****

Life (2017)


Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the crew that discovers new “Life”.

Perhaps this movie rubbed me the wrong way, but boy was I not happy with Life.

Despite a talented cast that includes Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, some nice special effects, and a (very) few moving visuals, the story offers us nothing we have not seen before (it is basically Alien).

The movie opens with a long (and I mean long) continuous shot of the crew aboard a space craft about to recover a specimen retrieved from Mars. After some careful testing, Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) is able to bring the small amoeba like creature to life. Back on earth, an elementary school was selected to pick the name of the creature, and names it Calvin.

If you have seen the trailer, you know things are about to go wrong, as this creature (who somehow grows eyes) is able to pick off a crew member one by one. Some of these deaths are (in their own weird way), nice to look at. One such crew member has Calvin enter their mouth and literally eat their insides.

Possible the biggest problem I had with the movie was the fact that the trailer truly gave away almost all you need to know. We know that they have to kill this creature (which somehow grows eyes) before it gets to earth, no matter what, so the possibility of survival is very minimal in our minds even before we buy the ticket.

Parents, the movie is rated R, mainly for the violence (which is standard, though shows like The Walking Dead have the same amount) and swearing (a good amount of it, including many F bombs). Depending on your kids, middle schoolers may be ok with it, but I doubt it.

Ok, I won’t give away the ending of this movie, but I need to talk about it. Just when I thought the movie could not get any more standard and boring, they tack on an ending so bizarre and out-of-place that I was thinking the movie’s director (Daniel Espinosa, who is talented) would make M. Nigh Syamalan confused. It is an ending that is on par with the 2001 Planet of the Apes remake by Tim Burton (the one with Mark Wahlberg).

Sorry, but Life is not worth wasting yours.

Overall: One and a half Stars * 1/2

John Hurt (1940-2017)





As of this writing, I have still yet to see The Elephant Man (1980), but even so I know the quote above. That is true power, when you know a quote from a movie you have not yet seen. It was, of course, delivered by Sir John Hurt, who died yesterday at the age of 77. He had recently announced his battle with cancer.


His career spanned over half a century, going back as far as his role as Rich in the Oscar-winning A Man for All Seasons (1966). He would later have roles in films such as 10 Rillington Place (1971), Midnight Express (1978), the animated version of The Lord of the Rings (1978, as the voice of Aragorn), and Alien (1979), with a death scene known to anyone, regardless of if they have seen or even heard of the movie before.


These days, he was also known as Mr. Ollivander from the first two (as well as last two) Harry Potter films, who was responsible for giving each witch and wizard his/her specific wand (and remembering every one he ever sold). One of my favorite performances of his was of The War Doctor in the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who (titled “The Day of the Doctor”). He was also most recently in last year’s Jackie (with Natalie Portman) as a Priest.

Going back to his immortal line in The Elephant Man (which I will definitely need to watch ASAP), I realize it is also a battle cry for all artists to the human race.


We are not animals. We are all human beings.