Steven Spielberg is rightly credited with being the most effective visualizer of stories working in the last forty years. He took a liability like a non-functioning mechanical shark and managed to create an extremely visceral film out of it. That “Jaws” works is largely a function of his ability to feel how a movie will play to an audience. He took the extra step when making that film, of shooting additional material in the pool of one of his collaborators, to get the audience reaction right. The opening of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a litany of visual and emotional elements from the Saturday serialized films of the Golden Age, but updated and intensified as only Spielberg has been able to manage. The brutality and honesty of the first half hour of “Saving Private Ryan” is a testament to being able to connect with an audience’s emotions in the strongest possible ways. Plenty of horror films have been as graphic and disturbing, but none have carried the power of those horrifying images the way that this World War II film managed to do. Continue reading
The star of E.T., Henry Thomas, returns to the big screen in a children’s action/adventure film that is a lot more intelligent and well made than most films for kids get to be. The hook of the movie is that the young hero, Davey, is playing out his fantasy of being a spy in a board and video game that he excels at, but the spy game has become real. He gets deeply involved and consults the imaginary hero of the video game on what to do as he is drawn into a real life espionage thriller.
Dabney Coleman has duel roles as Davey’s father, a Master Sargent in the Air Force, and an Jack Flack, the fictional spy and hero of the board game and it’s video game version. This is the second film in which Henry Thomas plays a kid, alienated from his father who develops a close relationship with an exotic figure that makes his life far from mundane. There are no spaceships and the Spielberg touch is missing from the picture, but it is still an effective story that kids will be happy to spend some time with.