Tag Archives: Director

Top 5 Technologies that Changed Movies Forever


What will Superman change in now that phonebooths are all gone?

5. The Cell Phone: This isn’t really a technology that was directly made for the cinema but it changed the way movies were written. No longer are characters tied to desks, telephone booths, or home phones. All conversations can take place anywhere at anytime and are untraceable. Stop and think about how many movies in the last 10-15 years could not have been made without a cell phone. Almost every modern crime, action, and horror film completely relies on them. Also, cell phones have to be accounted for somewhere in the story. A character will almost always show that they can’t retrieve signal on their cell phone, lose it, or damage it in order for the plot to progress where they are helpless and alone or the audience’s first question is, “Why don’t they just call for help on their cell phone?”

4. Panaglide: I’m sure some of you are saying, “What the hell is Panaglide?” Well, Panaglide was a steadicam that attached by harness to a cinematographer to allow them to have isolation between the movement of the camera and the movement of the operator. This allowed them to get shots that were previously considered impossible. In the past, sets had to be created to allow for fluid movement of the camera and space for dolly tracking and cranes so that it wasn’t done handheld with the “shaky cam” effect. Panaglide solved that problem by creating smooth motion with one operator in cramped spaces. A great example of Panaglide is the opening sequence of the horror classic “Halloween”. The technology allowed the Director of Photography (Dean Cundey) to smoothly move from outside the house, inside and through it, have a murder scene, and then exit the house in one continuous shot in cramped space on location without dolly track on a very limited budget. Remember that great shot in Goodfellas where we are introduced to all the mob characters in one shot? Panaglide. Remember that great shot in Boogie Nights at the pool party that kept going for almost three minutes and underwater? Panaglide. It changed how films were made forever.

3. Surround Sound: I remember like it was yesterday the first movie I heard in full Dolby Digital surround sound. It was the terrific film Star Trek: First Contact. I was sitting in the theater and the moment the opening credits started I got goosebumps. The theater was completely alive with sound coming from all directions with crystal clear clarity. Unlike the days of stereo, when a spaceship flew by it felt like it went right over your head and through the theater. It immersed you in the experience of the story in a more complete way. Surround sound also changed the way directors and sound engineers created their movies. Effects and sounds had to be thought of in a 360 degree environment where the audience was just as invested with their ears as their eyes.

2. CGI: Love it or hate it, CGI changed movies forever. A lot of movies in the past were considered unfilmable. The ideas of large creatures, otherworldly locations, or sheer volume of fictional characters on screen at one time required such a huge financial commitment from film financers that many scripts were thrown away. CGI changed all that. For example, Steven Spielberg has said that without CGI, he would have never made Jurassic Park. After George Lucas saw what the technology could do, he decided it was time to start making new Star Wars films. And, James Cameron sat on his Avatar film for years because he knew that he needed CGI in order to achieve his vision. The technology had an even greater effect on the world of animation. The majority of films today are made through the process of computer animation. Pixar, Dreamworks, and Sony are just 3 of the many studios that are computer generated only. It has resulted in billions of dollars of revenue and been a driving force for creative flexibility.

1. Home Video: There is no single technology other than film itself that has changed cinema more than the ability for us to have movie playback in our home. It has gone through several advancements over the years: Beta to VHS to laserdisc to DVD to blu-ray and streaming. But, no matter the method of playback, the technology created new businesses through the home video rental market, movie collectors to buy and own their favorite films, and opened up a second way to get revenue for studios besides box office numbers. But, the most important thing it gave us by far is for us as film lovers to see movies we never got to see before. In the past, films would get re-released in theaters for short periods of time so that we could see films that we missed during their initial theatrical run. But, you would never know which films would come back and for how long. Today, we are so lucky to be able to see almost any film we want through services like Blockbuster, Netflix, Cable on-demand, or streaming boxes like Apple TV. It’s a great age to live in if you’re a film buff and it’s the most important technology added to movies ever!

Top 5 John Carpenter Movies


John Carpenter pulls no punches. He is a director of horror, science-fiction, and cult hit movies. He is the master of it. There are no Academy Awards on his shelf, yet he boasts a string of extremely popular films that have made him one of the most successful directors of his generation. From classics like “Escape from New York” to “Starman,” Carpenter has been entertaining and frightening us for decades. Here is my list of Top 5 John Carpenter Movies.

5.  They Live – Carpenter rarely does blatant social commentary but his low budget, alien-among-us opus, They Live oozes with it. Consumerism, apathy, alienation and some political satire. Yes, the film is cheesy at times and the make up is a joke. I think it actually adds to the appeal of the film. Carpenter is in complete control here and it shows. A great, long fight scene by the 2 main leads, Roddy Piper and Keith David, is incredible to watch. Possibly the longest fight scene ever filmed. A great sci-fi outing that never disappoints. Obey. Sleep. Consume.

4. The Fog – I really love this film. Carpenter’s follow up to Halloween cements his place among the upper tier of horror filmmakers. The Fog is first and foremost a dreamy, ghost story that is chock full of mood and menace. A scary campfire tale come to life. Dean Cundey’s photography is top notch as always and Carpenter’s score is intense and ethereal. Carpenter juggles multiple characters and tells a ghastly story about wronged pirates come back to to life to exact revenge. Great film. Just steer clear of the remake.

3. Big Trouble in Little China – Oh that Kurt Russell. He flexes his comedic muscles here as a heroic but bumbling truck driver who unwittingly stumbles upon an age-old Chinese feud. Full of great choreographed fight scenes (way before Crouching Tiger), this tribute to Kung-Fu films is amazing to watch because of Carpenter and Russell’s tongue-in-cheek enthusiasm. It has wizards, ghosts and creatures aplenty. Just plain fun. I have yet to meet someone who did not like this film.

2. Halloween – This film is a masterpiece. Halloween is an example of how to make a horror film right. Much has been said about this influential film that was shot for only $350,000. Cundey’s camera work, Carpenter’s music, and the great lead characters make his film vastly superior to it’s cheap knock-off peers. Yes, it is a slasher film but it is done with the utmost care, precision and love for the then young genre. We care for the characters and Carpenter carefully establishes that Micheal Myers is a force to be reckoned with. Insanely perfect all around, Halloween is a must see.

1. The Thing – Carpenter’s Citizen Kane. The Thing sports an all male cast finely tuned and lead by Carpenter’s frontman, the always capable Kurt Russell. This is a sci- fi whodunnit with paranoid flair. Everything here is masterfully done. The ensemble is flawless. Cundey’s camerawork is miraculous to watch. Carpenter’s direction is tight and precise. But it’s the suspense that Carpenter establishes and the make up FX by Rob Bottin that really shine here. The film plays out like some morbid, alien take of an Agatha Christie novel where we are witness to the characters beginning to fear and distrust each other. The blu-ray includes a fantastic commentary by Russell and Carpenter that is a fan favorite to this day. The Thing is a must own. It is my favorite Carpenter film. Enjoy.

Stephen Spielberg, a commentary

Steven Spielberg is under appreciated: A Commentary


It seems in today’s age of blogging, internet movie sites and message boards that fans of films have become extremely fickle. We no longer watch movies as a complete piece of work and then decide if we like it. Nowadays, we pick one scene and beat it to death, blaming it for ruining the entire film.

The phenomenon now even has its own catch phrase: “nuke the fridge.” It refers to the one scene in a film that was so unbelievable that it crushed an entire movie. In the case of “nuke the fridge” it’s referring to the scene in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” when Harrison Ford hid in a refrigerator to avoid an atomic blast. Other films have been said to have a “nuke the fridge” moment, such as when Jar-Jar Binks showed up in Star Wars Episode I or when Peter Parker breaks into a dance in “Spider-Man 3.” I bring this up because no filmmaker since the internet age hasthe brunt of criticism more than Steven Spielberg. It’s fitting that the majority of his most successful films were at a time when his only critics were actual film critics. Movie audiences flocked to his work and didn’t dissect every single moment or they would have realized most of his popcorn films have “nuke the fridge” moments in them and yet we consider these flicks classics. Here’s a list of what could be considered “fridge” moments from his earlier work:

1. Jaws: The shark diving on the boat and causing it to sink.

2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The spaceships fly around the town like kids riding big wheels.

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark: The boulder that chases Indy through the cave.

4. Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom: Ripping the heart out of a guy’s chest.

5. E.T.: Elliott releasing frogs all over the classroom.

All these scenes could be considered movie killers by today’s standards, and yet each of these films holds a special place in my heart. They’re not just great movies but they have been ingrained in our popular culture.

Steven Spielberg may be the greatest American film director in history. There are other filmmakers that may be more artistic, more daring, and even more influential, but there are none that can weave a story as well as he can. His films are captivating from beginning to end. Think back on watching Jaws and how quickly the time watching it lapsed between when the first victim swam out into the water and when Chief Brody and Hooper swam back to shore at the end. It takes a great director to take you out of your body and make you feel like you’re experiencing the story. No one has ever done that better than Spielberg. I suppose why I feel he’s under appreciated is that film buffs love to praise people like Terrence Malick for creating realism but then bash Spielberg for creating the unbelievable. All films were not made to create a sense of real world believability. Some are meant to take us out of our day-to-day lives and show us fantastic worlds and stories that we could never experience without the imagination of great filmmakers.

Spielberg also takes a lot of shit for trying too hard to appeal to a mass audience. I completely disagree. He really has a child’s wonder when it comes to the process of storytelling and it is easy to see on the screen. Whether Elliott is flying across the screen on his bicycle, Richard Dreyfuss is watching the landing of the first U.F.O., or Sam Neill is battling a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Spielberg knows how to capture our inner child and make us wonder about more than what is real. It’s not a marketing decision. It’s just how he sees the story.

Happy Birthday Kevin Smith


Kevin Smith turns 40 today, which makes us feel great because that means there’s plenty of years ahead for us to enjoy his work.

I remember being 15 in 1994 when “Clerks” hit the indy theaters with a buzz and I was lucky enough to have a big brother on the up and up who took me along to see it. To me, it was a revelation. It was a film about two normal guys, who drive crappy cars, live with their parents, have dead-end jobs in New Jersey and are looking for change in their lives. These were realistic characters  — in a film made my a couple college dropouts who maxed out their credit cards to make it — who talked about the dumb crap we did, like the innocent contractors and painters who died on the Death Star in “Star Wars.”

Kevin Smith has always been himself — a comic book-loving nerd from New Jersey who makes films full of characters that have foul mouths and not-so-sexy lives, just like most of us. He’s also very smart and funny, even when he’s crass. This scene from “Clerks 2” is just brilliant.

“Mallrats,” “Clerks,” “Clerks 2,” “Dogma” and “Chasing Amy” were all spot on. He’s had some flicks I didn’t care for (pretty much everything not listed in the previous sentence), but I can look past those because the others were a huge part of my youth and I love them dearly. He’s taken some flack for not being able to follow up his early work, but even if that’s all he has, it’s more a legacy than most directors leave — and it’s a huge one.

I leave you with Stink Palm, a classic bit from “Mallrats.”

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The Goonies celebrates 25th anniversary

Everyone who grew up in the 80’s knows what the Truffle Shuffle is.

We recognize the phrase “Booby twap” and know all the words to Cindy Lauper’s “Good Enough.”

It’s all thanks to “The Goonies,” an iconic movie that endures today as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of its release. Also, Warner Bros. announced today the release of a corresponding anniversay Blu-Ray, due out Nov. 2.

This movie was such a hit because it was made with great love by director Richard Donner, who brought us the classic original “Superman” and was produced by Steven Spielberg, who has brought us countless classics from “Jaws” to “Indiana Jones.” This was a film through the eyes of children, which is why children relate to it so well. It wasn’t by mistake or chance that this film was a success. This had a smart script that wasn’t afraid to be fun and carefree, but capture the spirit of child’s imagination with action, suspense and humor.

Tonight I’m going to kick back, eat a Baby Ruth, and enjoy “The Goonies” because Goonies never say die.

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The Goonies now, from left to right: Jonathan Ke Quan (Richard 'Data' Wang), Josh Brolan (Brandon 'Brand' Walsh), Producer Steven Spielberg, Sean Astin (Michael 'Mikey' Walsh), Martha Plimpton (Stephanie 'Stef' Steinbrenner), Corey Feldman (Clark 'Mouth' Devereaux), Director Richard Donner, Jeff Cohen (Lawrence 'Chunk' Cohen), Kerri Green (Andrea 'Andy' Carmichael)