Jeff Daniels, John Goodman and the movie ‘Arachnophobia’

How does a dark comedy thriller sound to you? How do you feel about spiders? Do you have a fear originating in childhood that shall be challenged over the course of two hours? Arachnophobia (1990) just might be the movie for you.

Arachnophobia 2 - Harley Jane Kozak as Molly Jennings, left, and Jeff Daniels as Ross Jennings(Harley Jane Kozak as Molly Jennings, left, and Jeff Daniels as Ross Jennings in the movie Arachnophobia).

The movie Arachnophobia starts onsite in a remote Venezuelan village where we meet a nature photographer from Canaima, California. Canaima National Park is an actual park roughly in the center of the Venezuela, and serves as the location where we are introduced to the nature photographer, and Dr. James Atherton, both of whom are central to this tongue-in-cheek homage to the film Jaws (1975). Steven Spielberg, who gained acclaim for his work with Jaws, was an executive producer for Arachnophobia.

Arachnophobia 5 - Roy Brocksmith as Irv Kendall, left Henry Jones as Dr. Sam Metcalf, center, and Stuart Pankin as Sheriff Parsons(Roy Brocksmith as Irv Kendall, left, Henry Jones as Dr. Sam Metcalf, center, and Stuart Pankin as Sheriff Parsons in the movie Arachnophobia).

Jeff Daniels as Ross Jennings and Harley Jane Kozak as Molly Jennings move to the small town of Canaima, California from San Francisco aiming to settle down to a more rural pace of life. Ross is the Yale trained doctor due to take over the practice of retiring doctor Dr. Sam Metcalf, as portrayed by Henry Jones. Upon the doctors meeting after the Jennings moved, Metcalf announces his desire to continue as town doctor. One defiant and healthy older lady in the town accepts Ross Jennings as her doctor and dies shortly after examination. The doctors feud on doing an autopsy. Stuart Pankin plays Sheriff Parsons of Canaima, and is joined by Irv Kendall as portrayed by Roy Brocksmith, as small town people with an avid distrust for anybody from outside small town Canaima.

Arachnophobia 4 - Julian Sands as Dr. James Atherton(Julian Sands as Dr. James Atherton in the movie Arachnophobia).

Dr. James Atherton, as portrayed by Julian Sands, rejoins the story after the initial scenes from Venezuela. Townspeople from Canaima, California had been dying, Ross Jennings started to gain traction in his belief that a spider was at the center of the spate of deaths in town, and the story moves from one with deaths occurring and little belief for out-of-town experts that were at first viewed as incompetent due to being outsiders. The expertise is slowly revealed that the source of the deaths in town were related to a Venezuelan spider that had hitched a ride back to small town California. In confirming some of that detail, Atherton loses his life in the barn of Dr. Ross Jennings.

Arachnophobia 3 - John Goodman as Delbert McClintock(John Goodman as Delbert McClintock in the movie Arachnophobia).

Canaima, California exterminator Delbert McClintock, as portrayed by John Goodman, offers some of the tongue-in-check small town humor that is a hallmark of Arachnophobia. The movie does work to a conclusion that offers a combination of humor, including McClintock, and a thriller quality including Ross Jennings. These two echo aspects of the narrative style of the movie Jaws, though obviously this film inserts spiders, also loosely known as arachnids, through the film. For the dark comedy, entertainment value, and interspersed off screen deaths, this movie scales toward family friendly. That is, if Jaws would be appropriate for your family, so would Arachnophobia. I rate Arachnophobia at 3.5-stars on a scale of one-to-five stars.

Matt – Wednesday, June 5, 2019

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Top 20 Movies in ranked order (with reviews)

We at Matt Lynn Digital created our listing of the Top 20 Movies on December 18. 2016. Here are those movies with the reviews we’ve made. Warm regards!

Vertigo 1
2001 Movie 1
Cuckoo's Nest 1
240524F1-149F-408E-9529-30117095C65F
ET 1
Pulp Fiction 1
Do The Right Thing 1
The Princess Bride 1
Eternal Sunshine 1
Memento 1
In Bruges 1
Interstellar 1
Rocky 1
snow-white-and-the-seven-dwarfs-1
jaws-1
the-terminator
toy-story
the-shining
calvary
the-french-connection
Matt – Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Remakes and Sequels in the Service of Story

Matt Lynn Digital recently reviewed the Disney animated movie Dumbo (1941). We did so anticipating the live action movie Dumbo (2019)‘s theatrical release in the United States on Friday, March 29th. Without making a fine distinction between remake and reboot, we at Matt Lynn Digital wanted to review why some remakes work well while also looking at why sequels, as a distinct thing from remakes, also are worth the time.

Remake - A Star is Born 1937,1954, 1976, & 2018(The movie A Star Is Born was first made in 1937 with remakes in 1954, 1976, and 2018).

Followers of the 2019 Academy Awards will recognize A Star is Born (2018) as a featured nominee for best movie. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga starred in the directorial debut for Cooper. Part of the success this movie enjoyed rested in starring a well known musician and actor (Cooper and Gaga) in featured roles executing their craft using contemporary film and musical take on a movie that had been made three times before. A Star Is Born (1976) with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, A Star Is Born (1954) with Judy Garland and James Mason, and A Star is Born (1937) with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March were others that succeeded with a similar compelling story.

Remake - The Wizard of Oz - The Wiz - 1937 & 1978(1939’s movie The Wizard of Oz was remade as The Wiz in 1978).

We at Matt Lynn Digital have ranked the movie The Wizard of Oz (1939) as the fourth best movie ever made. Starring Judy Garland and her friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion singing and dancing in the service of an adventure of rural versus city, labor versus management, poor versus rich, the music enhanced the telling of a story that has endured for many years. The same themes with a Motown soundtrack and an African American cast including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Lena Horne, and Richard Pryor starred in The Wiz (1978). A powerful story serving powerful audiences are powerful reasons to remake a movie.

Remake - Annie - 1982, 1999, & 2014(1982’s musical movie Annie was remade in 1999 and 2014. All take inspiration from Little Orphan Annie of 1932).

The final look into remade movies includes the music filled song of looking towards tomorrow with family with Annie (1982). In reprising a heartwarming tale of the adventures of a young girl in finding her family, whereas The Wizard of Oz and The Wiz both reinforce getting back home, the original stars Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Aileen Quinn and others. Annie (1999) rebooted the franchise for television with Kathy Bates as a notable star. Annie (2014) offered an entertaining review of the movie with a more robust and contemporary telling of the underlying story with stars Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis, and Cameron Diaz. The 1982 and 2014 movies experienced commercial success. Each of these movies trace back to the comedy and drama Little Orphan Annie (1932).

The notion of making sequels to movies often is more creatively deliberate. It’s goals are often are not to retell a story with a more modern take or for a more modern audience, as we explored with some examples above. Instead, sequels seek to extend a story or take themes explored within a story to something more robust or fanciful.

Sequel - The Godfather - 1972, 1974, & 1990(1972’s The Godfather experienced sequels in 1974 and 1990).

The Godfather (1972) joins with The Godfather: Part II (1974) and The Godfather: Part III (1990) to tell the trials and tribulations of an Italian American mafia family with the surname Corleone. The story tells of how Vito Corleone became a major American criminal, how he died, and then how his youngest son Michael Corleone succeeded him and then became corrupted. The first two movies often are considered superior to the third movie in the sequence. Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, and Talia Shire are notable stars in these movies.

Sequel - The Dark Knight - 2005, 2008, & 2012(2005’s Batman Begins was followed by The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises in 2008 and 2012, respectively).

The Dark Knight Trilogy of movies collectively refers to Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Gary OldmanMorgan Freeman, and Heath Ledger are notable stars telling the background story of Bruce Wayne (aka Batman), his becoming a crime fighter, and some graphic crime and violence he fights while simultaneously fighting his own emotional baggage wrought by the death of his parents at the hand of violent crime. Christopher Nolan became a director of worldwide reputation thanks to these movies.

Sequel - Jaws - 1975, 1978, 1983, & 1987(The 1975 blockbuster movie Jaws was followed by sequels in 1978, 1983, and 1987).

The movie Jaws (1975) led to three sequels, namely Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983), and Jaws: The Revenge (1987). The first movie launched the career of director Steven Spielberg, who directed only the first movie. Roy Scheider starred in the first two movies, as did Murray Hamilton, and Lorraine Gary. Other notable stars in the original were Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss. The notion for all four movies was to extend the suspenseful interplay between unsuspecting folks on the beach, a hungry great white shark, and the engaging conflict the allows the audience to question who is the predator and who is the prey. Each movie in the series had a different director. Both the quality and originality of the series suffered from one movie to the next in this series, which is to say that this series demonstrates cases where sequels failed in the mission to extend the story into new and original places.

In walking through some notable remakes and movie sequels, my aim was to begin a dialogue for where one or the other is appropriate. Especially with some examples of  sequels, we are aiming to stake more ground for where sequels are not appropriate. For example, two sequels for Batman Begins seem justified, and a second sequel for The Godfather seems unwarranted. Multiple follow-ups for Jaws seem clearly unnecessary. The remakes of films largely seem justifiable reaches into new territory. What do you think?

Matt – Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Freedom of the Press and Feminism in 2017’s movie The Post

The Steven Spielberg-directed movie The Post (2017) is showing in a theater near you. Starring for the first time with Spielberg is actress Meryl Streep as well as co-star Tom Hanks, who works with the visionary director of Jaws (1975) for the fourth time.

The Post 2(Meryl Streep)

The film tells the story of a cover-up of the background for the involvement of the United States in what is known in America as the Vietnam War. In overcoming a cover-up of the background for being in that war, two leading newspapers battle over the political intrigue of U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon in publishing material that we see is documented from the opening scenes of the movie.

As indicated in the current Biography listing for Steven Spielberg for the Biography (1987- ) series and its related website:

“The movie centers on the actions of The Washington Post publisher (Streep) and editor (Hanks) as they attempt to go public with the Pentagon Papers, a trove of government secrets, over the objections of President Richard Nixon‘s administration.”

Streep plays Katherine (Kay) Graham, who takes over publishing responsibilities for The Washington Post after the death’s of her father and former publisher Eugene Meyer and then her publisher husband Phil Graham. Much of the anxiety over gender roles for her generation were central in the story of The Post by design.

The Post 3(Tom Hanks)

That the movie tackled the cover-up that seemingly ends under Richard Nixon’s presidency is due to Kay Graham‘s bravery in choosing to publish the editorial work of Ben Bradlee (played by Hanks) as well as the reporting work of Ben Bagdikian (played by Bob Odenkirk). It was Bagdikian that gets the classified Pentagon Papers after the Nixon Administration successfully sued The New York Times to stop publishing on this subject.

The Post 4(Bob Odenkirk)

The subject of a press free from an over-stepping government concern is topical from a U.S. and world political history. The subject of fake news was a point-of-contention in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Tension between the current administration and the press remain strong, and was a decisive trope raised within The Post. I again stress that the push and pull between the press and the presidents feels topical. That the figure of a strong female example (Streep as Kay Graham) was explored also bears repeating as relevant in today’s political and social American landscape. The presented example was thoughtfully raised.

I was pleased with the movie, and my feeling is that the movie will likely be recognized in the Academy Awards nomination season. This movie definitely examines political subjects, though I find the end product less overtly personal or politically intimate than Spielberg works such as Munich (2005), Saving Private Ryan (1998), or Schindler’s List (1993) felt.

The Post 5(Steven Spielberg)

That there is a thing known as The Pentagon Papers as well as a presence for The Washington Post today, in a sense, tells you something that you should know about how the movie works out. There is a disclosed ruling about whether publishing The Pentagon Papers was legal. There is an outcome for whether Kay Graham and the newspaper survived and prospered under Graham family control. Overall, I found this movie pleasing while close to satisfying without rising to the level of must-see cinema.

Matt – Monday, January 15, 2018.

Top 20 Movie “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial”

Top 20 Movie E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982) ranks 5th in Matt Lynn Digital’s Top 20 Movies in ranked order listing. The Steven Spielberg film won four Academy Awards, including one for John Williams that included original score, while garnering nine Academy Award nominations. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial joins Jaws (1975) on our top 20 movie listing, wherein the famous shark tale landed fifteenth overall.

E.T. the Extra Terrestrial tells a family-friendly science fiction tale of an alien-human friendship between Elliott, the middle child of a fatherless suburban household in California. Elliott finds and befriends the alien he names E.T., using the first and last letter of his own name, as a subtle hint that, perhaps coincidentally, offers a metaphorical bond between a boy, Elliott, experiencing the alienation of missing his father while the so-called E.T. misses his alien brothers who accidentally left him, behind in haste.

ET 2(E.T., right of center, mixes in with the toys at the home of Elliott, Key, and Gertie)

In the movie, Elliott is played by Henry Thomas. We first see Elliott faking illness by pressing his thermometer against a light bulb and a heating pad. Peter Coyote plays Elliott’s older brother Keys who sees fit to first tease his two younger siblings before pitching in to protect both siblings as well as E.T. from the adults and the government. Drew Barrymore plays their baby sister Gertie.

ET 3(Elliott left, Gertie center, and Keys)

One important thing the character of Gertie provides to the storyline of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, beyond her cuteness and comedic relief, is her age-appropriate possession of the game Speak & Spell. Watch the game play of Speak & Spell here.

As E.T. gains strength and human intelligence through the movie, he encounters a Buck Rogers comic strip wherein the lead character, stranded, called for help by building a device to call home. The famous line “E.T. phone home” in this movie combines the example of Buck Rogers with the aid of the Speak & Spell to make a call to the alien friends who left him alone at the beginning of the movie.

ET 4(E.T. getting Elliott and himself drunk on beer with the Speak & Spell in the background)

This Buck Rogers realization for E.T. occurs after Elliott and the alien bond in feelings to one another. With E.T. at home getting drunk on beer, we see Elliott suffering the ill effects. Moments later at the same school, Elliott frees frogs from his class’ biology lab before kissing a girl he likes in the same manner that John Wayne kissed Maureen O’Hara in the movie The Quiet Man (1952), which had E.T.’s attention at the same moment. It is with Elliott at home that the Speak & Spell plan later gets articulated.

ET 5(Elliott drunk before the frog release in biography class)

The day of Halloween, the tension of keeping an alien in the house through secret boils over when E.T. successfully makes the call to his family. Elliott and E.T. spend the night outdoors, and both creatures seem sick when support for them. The emotional bond could not be clearer when E.T. gets sick and motionless. The illness takes a shared hold of Eliott and E.T. Both appear to be on the track towards death. An American government presence cordons off the house. After E.T. officially dies with a recovery for Elliott, a spontaneous reanimation of E.T. occurs when his alien race exerts an unseen hand in resurrecting E.T.

ET 6(E.T. in the river before his health restoration)

The movie is resolved by the presence of the aliens. The extravagant flying bicycle ride for Elliott, E.T., and Eliott’s friends as they learn that there were indeed a race of helpers for E.T. awaiting by spaceship. E.T. makes his goodbye wish by pointing to Elliott’s forehead and saying “I’ll be right here.” It is E.T.’s departure that caused the rainbow of encouragement as many will choose to leave this wonderful, family-friendly movie about being moved by friends and loved ones. No matter what, it was the Elliott and E.T. relationship that provided the optimistic analogy for how real-world adversaries can learn to overcome their differences.

ET 7(Elliott and his friends about the take the fateful bicycle ride)

This movie makes you feel good. There is a healthy degree of humor and tension to keep children and adults engaged. If you have not done so already, we recommend that you see E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.

Matt – Friday, December 22, 2017

Top 20 Movie “Jaws.”

Everything started with the disappearance of a skinny-dipping blonde off the coast of Amity Island in coastal New England. Amity’s Chief of Police Martin Brody, played by Roy Scheider, had perhaps the second biggest boat for those whose careers were launched in the 15th movie on our Top 20 Movies in ranked order listing, Jaws (1975).

The movie Jaws offered perhaps the biggest career boost to highly influential producer, writer, director, and actor Steven Spielberg. At the time that Jaws was do to be made, Spielberg undoubtedly was on the rise. He was selected to direct the cinema worthy of the marketing buzz created for Peter Benchley’s 1974 book Jaws. As the Turner Classic Movie (TCM) telling informs us, producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown had acquired rights for producing a movie from Benchley’s book. Spielberg, who has earned much influence in the film industry, was their directorial choice.

We as the audience get to know Amity police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) best. Much of Jaws is told from Brody’s perspective, and we wind up rooting for him as the hero.

Brody is pitted against two primary antagonists.

The first and obvious antagonist is the main attraction…the Great White Shark that brought people to the movie theater. Perhaps the iconic quote of the movie comes when Jaws (the shark) is battling Brody and fellow protagonist, boat-owner, and seaman Quint (played by Robert Shaw). Brody spoke the quote to Quint:

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

I personally admire the popularity and resonance of the quote, in addition for the context that prompted it. Part of that context is the second main antagonist.  Amity Island’s money-obsessed, safety-last Mayor Larry Vaughn, played by Murray Hamilton, partially responds to outside pressure from the business community in advocating for maintaining an open beachfront around the lucrative Independence Day timeframe. After all, this middle-of-summer period is when people travel to the tourist town of Amity Island for sand, water, lodging, and tourism.

In the midst of this, and after the death of the skinny dipping lady to start the movie, a boy is attacked by the shark we know to be Jaws. Richard Dreyfuss plays Matt Hooper, an oceanographer fascinated with sharks who hired Quint to hunt and kill that shark that had staked a claim to Amity Island.

jaws-2

The building tension and focus on the main story line of the killer shark, the reluctant mayor, and the struggle to kill a shark swimming around Amity Island is aided by a famous soundtrack created by renowned composer John Williams. In providing the compelling theme song to Jaws, Williams‘ music is as much of a character in the movie as the characters, the tension, and the shark.

In the heat of the fight to close the beach, the film Jaws and its director (Spielberg) are given a tip of the cap in the naming of Bryan Singer’s production company. Chief Brody responds to an elderly gentleman teasing Brody for not going in the water. As Mental Floss explains, the elderly man is Harry, he is wearing an ugly swimming cap, and the line itself is this:

“That’s some bad hat, Harry.”

Bad Hat Harry Productions goes on to produce House M.D. (2004-2012) and The Usual Suspects (1995).

Steven Spielberg has won Academy Awards for Best Director for Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Best Picture and Best Director for Schindler’s List (1993). He also won Best Director Golden Globes for both of those films.

As we are reminded by this Five Thirty Eight article, the opening of Jaws (1975) in June of that year is considered “the beginning of the era of the Hollywood summer blockbuster.” If you haven’t already seen this movie, you really should.

Matt – Friday, February 10, 2017