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296. Jaws: The Revenge (Jaws ’87) – Shark Week 2022 (-#27)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn, Darren Mooney and Emma Kiely, and this time with special guest Jason Coyle, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

This week, we’re doing something a bit unusual. To line up with Shark Week, we are covering the Jaws franchise. So today, rounding out the week with Joseph Sergeant’s Jaws: The Revenge.

Following the death of her son Sean in a freak shark attack, Ellen Brody becomes convinced that her family has become a supernatural magnet for sharks. Her surviving son Michael convinces Ellen to travel to the Bahamas, where she meets a mysterious sea plane pilot named Hoagie. As a relationship begins to blossom between Ellen and Hoagie, Ellen discovers that perhaps there are some secrets that can’t be escaped.

At time of recording, it was ranked 27th on the lists of either the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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294. Jaws 2 – Shark Week 2022 (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn, Darren Mooney and Emma Kiely, and this time with special guest Jess Dunne, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

This week, we’re doing something a bit unusual. To line up with Shark Week, we are covering the Jaws franchise. So today, Jeannot Szwarc’s Jaws 2.

It has been several years since a series of shark attack scarred Amity Island, but Chief Brody is still scarred by the experience. As the community prepares to usher in a prosperous new era of investment and development, Brody starts to see signs that a shark is once again stalking the waters off these peaceful shores. Can Brody convince the community that they are in mortal danger or will the monster finish off the seaside town?

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the lists of either the best or the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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293. Jaws – Shark Week 2022 (#206)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn, Darren Mooney and Emma Kiely, and this time with special guest Jess Dunne, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

This week, we’re doing something a bit unusual. To line up with Shark Week, we are covering the Jaws franchise. So today, we are re-releasing our episode on Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, with a new intro.

Chief Brody moved to the remote island community of Amity to get away from the horrors of urban life. However, his plans for a fresh start are derailed when horrifically mangled bodies begin washing up on the sea shore. Based on the evidence, Brody reaches a conclusion that nobody on the island wants to hear: the town is being terrorised by a Great White Shark.

At time of recording the new intro, it ranked 206th on the list of the best or the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

New Escapist Column! On “The Lost World” as a Nasty and Subversive Spielbergian Sequel…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Jurassic World Dominion, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the best sequel to Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

The Lost World was somewhat maligned on initial release, with much of the criticism hinging on how dark and how cynical the movie was perceive to be. This was seen as something of a betrayal of the audience, with Spielberg sacrificing wonder and majesty for terror and horror. However, this is the most interesting thing about the movie. It is Spielberg playing with horror in a very deliberate and conscious way. If the original Jurassic Park was a movie about the majesty and spectacle of blockbuster filmmaking, The Lost World can feel like a horror movie about turning such a project into a sequel.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “Jurassic Park” as a Movie About Fatherhood…

I published a new piece at The Escapist yesterday evening. With the looming release of Jurassic World: Dominion, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the original Jurassic Park.

Spielberg’s classic is regarded as one of the defining summer blockbusters, and deservedly so. However, Jurassic Park is also a quintessential Spielberg film, dealing with some of the director’s core themes and preoccupations. Like so many Spielberg movies, Jurassic Park is a movie that is essentially about fatherhood, and about what it means to be a father in a radically changing and evolving world. It’s an interesting exploration of an idea that preoccupies Spielberg as a filmmaker, and which spoke to the cultural anxieties of the era that produced it.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: West Side Story

In some ways, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story is a match made in heaven, a union that feels as perfect as the story’s central romance.

After all, West Side Story is one of the quintessential American texts. In its review of the classic Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins adaptation, The Hollywood Reporter described the film musical as “the one dramatic form that is purely American and purely Hollywood”, and West Side Story is a musical that takes that idea to its extreme, with a show-stopping number literally titled In America. More than that, the previous cinematic adaptation stands as one of the virtuoso examples of classic Hollywood studio filmmaking, with its beautiful production design, large cast, and beautiful backlot.

“Do you want to dance or do you want to fight?”

Steven Spielberg is perhaps the most purely American and most purely Hollywood director of his generation. He is just as much a monolyth of American popular culture as West Side Story or even the cinemative musical. Writer Arthur Ryel-Lindsey might have sarcastically declared that “Steven Spielberg is American culture”, but there’s a great deal of truth in it. Depending on who you ask, Spielberg is “the defining American populist of his generation”, “possibly the greatest American director”, or even simply “synonymous with cinema.” So West Side Story feels like a wonderful synthesis of material and director.

Plus, you know, Spielberg knows how to direct sharks.

“Maria, you gotta see her…”

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New Escapist Column! On The Reflective and Introspective Nature of Late Steven Spielberg…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday. With the looming release of West Side Story, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the late career of Steven Spielberg.

Spielberg is a director who defined and shaped Hollywood, largely by inventing the modern blockbuster with Jaws. What is really interesting about so much of his twenty-first century output, starting with A.I. Artificial Intelligence and continuing into films like Ready Player One, is the sense in which Spielberg seems to be grappling with the long-term and unintended consequences of how he shaped cinema, to the point that many of his modern movies – from War Horse to The Post – seem to be the kinds of movies that he squeezed out of the market.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

“We Will Change You, Doctor Jones”: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and a Unified Theory of Indiana Jones…

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a movie with very real and very tangible problems.

Part of the problem is one of simple aesthetics. The original trilogy were products of a very particular moment in the history of American cinema, spanning the eighties. Raiders of the Lost Ark was very much a rollercoaster of a movie, a showcase for practical effects and impressive stunt work. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was built around impressive physical sets, model work and location work. Even Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade took a great deal of pride in how tactile this world felt.

Crystal clear.

In contrast, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a product of a transitional decade for Hollywood. It is no coincidence that the film opened in the same summer as blockbusters like Iron Man and The Dark Knight, which heralded a new future for crowdpleasing spectacle. While The Dark Knight made a conscious effort to ground its storytelling in practical effects, Iron Man signaled that the digital effects revolution was going to be the cornerstone of the superhero genre.

As such, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull feels like a deliberate and conscious step into the uncanny valley. Many of the movie’s most decried action sequences are driven by green screen and computer-generated special effects, standing in start contrast to the weight and mass that defined the earlier set pieces. It’s unsettling and uncomfortable. The chase sequence in the Amazon is perhaps the most egregious example, but this detachment from reality is obvious from the early scenes inside the warehouse, as pixels guide our hero and his captors to their destination.

Blowing the roof off.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull exists in another uncanny space, most obviously through the introduction of the character of Mutt Williams. Part of this problem is undoubtedly Shia LeBeouf himself, who has been candid about his work on the film to the point of alienating director Steven Spielberg. Much like it’s easier to recognise the “pre-sequel” of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a prequel with the benefit of hindsight, it’s easier now to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as a rough draft of a “legacyquel”, like Creed or Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

Of course, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is too clumsy to really work in that way. The film’s closing moments dare to tease the idea of Mutt Williams succeeding Indiana Jones, the wind blowing Jones’ iconic hat into Williams’ clutches. However, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull lacks the courage of its commitment. Jones snatches the hat away at the last minute, prefiguring the way in which Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker would retreat from the idea of passing Star Wars to a new generation.

It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.

There are other ways in which Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull feels like it is caught between two eras. The film’s structure arguably suffers from the production team’s famed attempts to preserve the secrecy of the plot, which even extended to a sting operation and a high-profile lawsuit. The publicity around the film reportedly considered keeping Karen Allen’s return a secret, and the film’s structure conceals the presence of Marion Ravenwood for an hour. It’s a choice that muddies the film’s handling of its themes, denying it the clarity of how Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade handled Henry Jones.

Still, accepting these issues as problems, there is a lot of interesting stuff happening beneath the surface of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In particular, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull feels like a very sincere and genuine effort on the part of everybody involved to figure out some grand unified theory of Indiana Jones, separated from the original three films by decades. What does it mean to look back on the trilogy? How has the world changed? How would the character wrap it all up?

It was admittedly a bit of a wash…

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249. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – Indiana Summer 2021 (#—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn, Tony Black and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, wrapping up our Indiana Summer, Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

In the midst of the Red Scare, veteran archeologist Indiana Jones finds himself embroiled in a Communist plot involving Area 51. The mystery inevitably spirals outwards, the explorer finds himself roped into another adventure that reunites him with his lost love Marion Ravenwood and offers surprising revelations about the adventurer’s family.

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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“Let It Go, Indiana”: “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, and the Necessity of Growing Up…

This August, the podcast that I co-host, The 250, is doing a season looking at all four Indiana Jones films as part of our “Indiana Summer.” This week, we’re looking at Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and I had some thoughts on the film.

The clue is in the title. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was clearly intended to be the last movie in the Indiana Jones series, the title character’s last adventure.

By the time it came to release Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, both Lucas and Spielberg were clearly drawing down the shutters on the franchise. “Three is a nice number,” Lucas remarked. Contemporary reviews noted that the film was positioned as the “last romp” with the daring adventurer. Shortly after the film’s release, Harrison Ford donated the character’s iconic bullwhip to the Institute of Archeology at University College London. Spielberg would later reflect, “I thought the curtain was lowering on the series, which is why I had all the characters literally ride off into the sunset at the end.”

Hang in there.

There is a sense that the reaction to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom might have been a key factor here. After all, the basic premise of Raiders of the Lost Ark wasn’t something that demanded a neat three-movies-and-done structure, particularly when the second movie had actually be a prequel rather than a sequel and adopted a completely different style than its predecessor. As much as it drew from the same kinds of adventure serials that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had loved as children, this franchise was not Star Wars. It didn’t set out to adopt the mythic triptych structure.

Indeed, contemporary critics made a point to read Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as something of an apology for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Opening his review, Randy Lewis joked that Pauline Kael was “probably the only person on the planet” who preferred Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Early reports talked about Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as something of a rebound after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom had “turned off many critics.”

Bring Your Dad to Work Day was going great.

Certainly, it’s notable that the five year gap between Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was appreciably longer than the three year gap between Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It seems that there was enthusiasm to make the movie. More than that, while Spielberg had made Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom following the critical and commercial success of E.T., he only returned to the franchise with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade after the critical and commercial disappointment of Empire of the Sun.

This perhaps explains the conservative nature of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. If there is a criticism to be leveled at the film, it is that Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade feels like a retreat back to the comforts of Raiders of the Lost Ark as much as it feels like anything new. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was bold and novel, but Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is safe and familiar. Once again, there are Nazis. Once again, there is Sallah and there is Brody. Once again, there’s an erudite man selling out to work with the Nazis. Once again, there is a Judeo-Christian artifact with unlimited power.

Everybody eventually finds themselves at a crossroads in their lives.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a very conventional and very straightforward sequel, at times even feeling like something of a remake of the first installment. In that way, it recalls Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, which was similarly predicated on reacting against a darker and weirder middle entry in a trilogy by instead serving the audience nostalgia for an original film that they loved. It’s vaguely disheartening, and it perhaps explains the sense of closure at work here. It often feels like Lucas and Spielberg are trying to end the series with a reminder of a widely-accepted past triumph.

It’s notable that Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade arrived in a summer dominated by the sorts of blockbusters and sequels that movies like Jaws and Star Wars had enabled, and which Raiders of the Lost Ark had helped to codify. It seemed somewhat appropriate that Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade arrived the same summer as movies like Lethal Weapon IIGhostbusters II, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, License to Kill, Karate Kid III and Batman. In many ways, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was positioned as a victory lap for Spielberg and Lucas, a standard-bearer in a blockbuster era that they both helped create.

Eternal life or not, you should probably thoroughly disinfect any cup you find here before drinking from it.

Still, what distinguishes Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade from those other films is its not of finality. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is not a movie that begs for a sequel. In fact, with due respect to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the movies seems structurally designed to all but rule out any substantial subsequent adventures. This is probably one reason, along with casting concerns, why the franchise’s next major film or television project was The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Allowing for occasionally appearances from an older Indiana Jones, the only way forwards was backwards.

There’s an endearing and surprising grace to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a sense of the franchise making peace with itself and deciding to call it a day. There’s an interesting maturity in this, which feels arguably of a piece with where Steven Spielberg was at this point in his career.

The original Getting Even With Dad

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