Thursday, July 21, 2011

618. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Running Time: 137 minutes
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Steven Spielberg
Main Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Melinda Dillon, Francois Truffaut, Cary Guffey, Teri Garr

SPIELBERG WEEK: CHAPTER 2

Spielberg shows up again in the pages of the "1001" book, two years after the release of "Jaws", with a film that he both directed and wrote. "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is a film I had only seen once before, prior to tonight and a film that I would be perfectly happy to never see again...ever.

The film follows several key characters, as the story unfolds. We start out with three-year old Barry Guiler (Guffey), who is awaken from sleep one night when strange things start happening around the house. When his toys start making noise, Barry leaps from his bed to see what's up and ends up finding a bevy of strangeness, like food leaping from the refrigerator on it's own. Eventually Barry's mother Jillian (Dillon) gets up to see what all the commotion is and finds Barry running out of the house and through the field. She eventually chases Barry to a road, on the top of a hill. Switching gears, we also encounter Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) who works for the electric company. One night, while out on a job, trying to find the source of an unexpected blackout, Roy gets a shock of his own. While sitting in his truck, all sorts of weird things begin to happen, as the radio turns itself on and papers fly from the glove compartment. Eventually, Roy is drawn to the same hill where Barry and Jillian are and finds that a small crowd has gathered, where they all collectively are the witnesses of a UFO sighting. Following the sighting, Roy is consumed with the experience and cannot get over it, which leads to trouble at home with his wife Ronnie (Garr). Also, the trio of Roy, Jillian and Barry collectively can't seem to get a certain five bar tune out of their head or stop sketching pictures of a mound that they're all envisioning.

SPOILER ALERT!

I didn't say that I never wanted to see this film again because I hated it, I just think it's a movie that is only worth one or two go arounds and after that you're either a fan or you're not and I'm definitely not fan, despite some positives. In my opinion, this film is the epitome of boring. Again I say that in the most positive of ways, because it's not that the movie drags (although it does AT TIMES), because it actually flows along quite nicely to a certain point. Also, before we really get into this, let me make it clear that while I'm certainly not the biggest sci-fi fan in the world, I do like a good alien story. I've always been fascinated with alien stories. Now then, let's get on with it...

Let's break the film down into sections and go from there. The film actually starts out quite good. It poses to the audience a good swarm of questions and hooks us by making us wonder. Why are things popping out of the fridge? What just happened in Roy's car? Where's Barry going? Okay, there's some UFO's - What's up with those? Are they hostile? It poses a lot of questions and hooks us in and I to was hooked in and ready for a ride. Then we get into the middle section and things take a turn for the worse. Following Roy and the gang's spotting of the UFO on the hill until the time that Roy arrives at Devil's Rock, almost nothing happens. We constantly shift back and forth between Roy and Jillian's stories and Roy is always going batty, either drawing the mound or trying to track down more information. There's a cool little scene where Barry gets abducted, but beyond that we're dealing with over an hour of movie where we're not getting a whole lot accomplished. Then we get to Devil's Rock and despite all the "Ooohing and Aaahing", it's a damn chore to sit through the ENTIRE segment where the scientists make contact with the aliens. It was at least a forty minute affair and NOT a lot happened in those forty minutes.

Now in a way, that last forty minutes of the film are pretty cool, in that it kind of treats everything as if we're watching a "Breaking News" segment on our local station and witnessing a real unfolding of events. However, this is fiction and this is the type of film where you expect things to happen. It's a Spielberg movie and even at this stage in his career, after "Jaws", you expected suspense and intrigue along with all the "ooh" and "aah" stuff. Remember, this was Spielberg's follow-up to "Jaws" and you cannot give me the greatness that is "Jaws" and then follow it up with this meandering mess. Sure, the movie isn't terrible and there are a lot of pretty things to look at and there are some other positive things too, but for the most part it's a damn dull affair and that is why, despite the positive things, I will more than likely never see this movie again.

I'm not going to go over all of the positive things, because for the most part they were small and unimportant, but I'll touch on a couple. For starters, Dreyfuss was really good in this and over the course of this film and "Jaws" he's proved to me that he's not just a comedy actor, but that he can hang with the big boys. There was a time when I sought out Dreyfuss for his work in things like "Stakeout", "Tin Men" and "What About Bob?", but he can definitely GO when it comes to acting. The other thing that I REALLY liked about "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is the fact that the aliens are never really exploited on film. They don't shove them down our throats. They're only ever hinted at and at the end, when we finally do see them, we only see them in the shadows and are never really given a good look at them. I liked that, it made them even more ominous and exciting.

RATING: 5.5/10 See, I didn't hate it! I just can definitely say that it IS a dull film and once is definitely enough. I can see why people get all gaga over it though.

MOVIES WATCHED: 303
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 698

July 20, 2011 11:55pm

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