Tag Archives: score

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: My Father’s Take

Finally, here’s the long awaited post from my Dad for his Father’s Day present. Enjoy!

On the surface, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, released in 1977, is a story of how three individuals’ lives become intertwined when some possible alien ship encounters are experienced. Roy, an electric company engineer in Indiana, has a growing need to understand if he is crazy or if he has really received a message from the aliens. Jillian, a single mother from the same area of Indiana and her three-year-old son have received the message too and the aliens have apparently taken a particular liking to the little boy. The final character is Frenchman Claude Lacombe who is part of an international team both reaching out to the aliens and investigating the people the aliens have affected.

It would be easy to say I like Close Encounters because it is a Steven Spielberg movie. He both wrote and directed the film, and it was early on in his career when I feel he had a great child-like sense of wonder in his storytelling (E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire of the Sun). I also think he was enjoying his time saying, “I really get a big budget and get paid for having fun?” I could say I like the movie for the gifted John Williams score. I could discuss the symbolism of communication like languages (French, Spanish, Indian, English), physical interaction (radar, toys, sign), and art (music, painting, sculpture) to show that even humans have a hard time so why do we think the aliens could easily get their message across. I could say I like the 70s costumes – which weren’t costumes at the time but who would have put Teri Garr in a short yellow nighty and robe with earthy clogs – brilliant!! And I do think the special effects are good with the alien ships, the clouds, the lighting, the sandstorms, etc. I guess the problem I have is with the aliens. Why are there three different kinds of aliens so vastly different from each other?

My favorite part of the movie is the hero portrayed by the everyman who has been tapped for an adventure – Roy Neary. Despite his obstacles – like his beautifully portrayed dysfunctional family, like everyone thinking he is crazy, like his own belief that he is on the edge of sanity – he faces his fears, does the right thing, and is rewarded in the end. Richard Dreyfuss, who had been acting at this point for over 10 years but hadn’t had a great deal of recognition except for his role of Curt in American Graffiti and Hooper in Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws, is fantastic in this role. He shows anger, wonder, insanity, happiness, and despair. He gets to be in the action sequences – driving in the chase, driving cross country, climbing the mountain; being interrogated by the “bad guys;” saving the girl. He deals with the mundane – his son’s math homework, kids that want to stay up late (watch for a great quote – “I told them they could only watch five commandments), a boss who doesn’t want to talk to him, and a wife who cares for him but can only take so much. And he does it all while trying to figure out his purpose in life. He gets the Oscar nod from me!

So do yourself a favor, when you don’t feel the need for extreme action or extreme thought but want to play with your mashed potatoes, play in the dirt, and watch a great actor having a great time with a great script, get lost in the wonder of Close Encounters. It is better than Goofy Golf or Pinocchio. I give it a 9.9 out of 10!

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Gnomeo & Juliet

This cute little film filled with British actors takes a new look at the story of Romeo and Juliet and uses a British topic of interest. Garden gnomes. (Not sure if a lo of Brits have these, but it’d be interesting to see some U.K. gardens.) I watched this with my mom (U.K. T.V. analyst and fellow blogger) mostly for James McAvoy’s voice talents. We’re both fans, but for slightly different reasons. (Not really though, he is pretty dreamy.) This tragic William Shakespeare story is turned on its head (as the poster suggests) with a cute plot device using warring gardens who happen to be owned by Miss Montague (Julie Walters, good old Mrs. Weasley) of the “Blue”burys and Mr. Capulet (Richard Wilson) of the “Red”bricks.

Set apart from typical Pixar and Dreamworks films, this film takes its own approach to animation in the 3-D. Although

McEvoy and Blunt as the disguised Gnomeo and Juliet

Touchstone and Miramax do good animated films, this British touch to the way things looked was refreshing, at the same time that it seemed a bit off in its sharpness and cutting edge-i-ness. But it’s all the same to me these days, what with all these mass amounts of animal infested, fantastical adventures films made for kids and adults in 3-D animation. (I would recommend Rio though, it was quite a cast and story.) But the story stands out in comparison to the lack of pizzazz in the animation, and gave it some credibility.

Warring gardens with love in the mix.

So as expected, the story follows quite closely to the original Romeo and Juliet plot line. (Less death unfortunately.) The warring families led by Lord Rebrick (Michael Caine) who’s Juliet’s (Emily Blunt) father and Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith) who’s Gnomeo’s (James McAvoy) mother despise each other for reasons that seem a bit hazy. The real test between the families is whose garden is superior. One night, in order to impress her father, Juliet sneaks out of the garden in order to retrieve a beautiful flower to spruce up the garden. Surprise, surprise, Gnomeo sneaks out as well for some mischief. The two cross paths, sparks fly, and their love is forever fated.

But oh the problems that ensue. One’s red and the other’s blue! What will they do? Their love is forbidden and they may only meet in secrecy. And there must be some conflict that arises when their love is discovered! And yes, there is. This version doesn’t disappoint and how could it? True British actors are tackling a fellow countryman’s play.

Now let’s talk about the cast. I was quite surprised at the acting chops associated with this film, and every last one a Brit! Of course there’s the two star-crossed

Sorry Jim Cummings you just missed the mark.

lovers, James McAvoy and Emily Blunt as Gnomeo and Juliet. Maggie Smith and Michael Caine lend their voices to their parents as some veterans of the BBC business. Also, and more unexpectedly, Jason Statham is featured in this film as Tybalt the red menace of the Montague house. I was really surprised to discover this after a few Transporter lines were delivered. I just can’t seem to grip the idea that Jason Statham is British! Matt Lucas, the good old Little Britains sketch comedy genius of the hairless kind lends a generically comedic voice to Benny, Gnomeo’s number 2. Even Patrick Stewart (Will Shakes himself) and OZZY OSBOURNE himself lends his voice to this film, as a ceramic fawn!

Thanks to this British cast for the cute film!

The only miss in this film is Jim Cummings as the pink flamingo garden ornament. His annoying attempt at some sort of foreign bird just loses it for me, because, to put it bluntly, didn’t deliver a funny line. This is quite disappointing as Jim Cummings has been in the Disney voice business since the early 90’s.

But all in all, this cute film about what our gardens hold delivers a nice little escape from reality for 75 minutes. With the occasional grown up joke and slapstick comedy, mixed with witty uses of the gnomes and what they’d be like if they could move (Toy Story style), this movie delivers a bit of entertainment worth a watch if you’re into British accents or children’s love/comedy/adventure films. 6 out of 10.

AND DID I MENTION THAT THE FILMED IS FUELED BY A ELTON JOHN SCORE AND SOUNDTRACK?!?!?