From his book Essential Cinema.
Twilight Zone: The Movie
You're travelling through another dimension. A dimension, not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!
Four directors collaborated to remake four episodes of the popular television series 'The Twilight Zone' for this movie. The episodes are updated slightly and in color (the television show was in black-and-white), but very true to the originals, where eerie and disturbing situations gradually spin out of control. "A Quality of Mercy", "Kick the Can", "It's a Good Life", and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet".
For the past 20 years of my life I've had a tradition of watching a marathon of Twilight Zone episodes on television on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day. This obviously started because of the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel, as they've always aired the show on those two days.
I grew up watching this movie as well and I've memorized it from start to finish, but I still enjoy watching it (with the obvious exception of Steven Spielberg's crappy, out-of-place "magical negro" segment).
I love the cartoonish set and FX used in Joe Dante's segment [the 3rd, "It's a Good Life"] and the performances of Nancy Cartwright and Kevin McCarthy, too bad the little boy, "Anthony" can't hold a candle to…
The Twilight Zone is kind of an interesting choice for a big blockbuster adaptation, as it isn't one of its (iconic) production elements or characters that resonate with audiences as much as that "holy shit" moment when you figure out that they were never on Earth to begin with or that it's the rest of the world who's disfigured and she's actually beautiful!
But these filmmakers do an okay job of it anyway for the most part, with only Spielberg's segment providing a real drag. I haven't seen the episode it's based on, but I can say that it seems like an attempt by Spielberg to try and distil his very worst qualities as a filmmaker with none of the…
That last segment is a true work of art, the reason to watch, and one of the scariest imaginations to put into the mind of a child, as it did to me. John Lithgow brings pent-up demands for thunder, for the first hour and fifteen didn't hold up well at all. The John Landis one is the most unforgivable and should have never saw final cut. It's repetitive and crass too, especially with the tragic accident in mind. The Spielberg segment might as well be outright parody and the Joe Dante story was typically goofy and a little tired. The prologue is fun but reliant on dated references. Overall, an interesting stroll down Nostalgia Lane, but it does not do justice to the show even for a second.
A certain amount of give-and-take is expected from an anthology film, particularly one updating one of the great left-field anthology series, but the lopsided quality and tone of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE is a drag. At least, it is for its first half: Landis' heavy-handed fable about intolerance aims for the kind of high-concept, easily digested irony that made the show great, but its erratic pacing and glib reflexive humor (har har a Niedermeyer joke!) dilutes the impact. Further, the show relied on one gut punch, but Landis barely gets five minutes in before turning his racist protagonist's world upside down, and even then he keeps escalating. It turns a final train to Auschwitz into the climax of an action…
Four classic directors, John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller team up to do a combination of short pieces to celebrate and renew interest in "The Twilight Zone".
So we have John "Blues Brothers/American Werewolf" Landis and everyone-knows-Steve as the well-known names. Meanwhile Joe Dante (having so far only released Piranha and The Howling) and George Miller of Mad Max fame, are the relative newcomers.
John Landis does an okay job. He's responsible for the long-winded intro which, admittedly, ends quite well. He also does the first story about a bigot who finds himself in the shoes of those he wished to ridicule. It's all a bit daft, but its quite effective. Having an anti-semite running away from…
Like pretty much anyone else you talk to about this uneven but essential anthology film, I'm gonna say that the first two stories (directed by John Landis and Steven Spielberg, respectively) are mediocre but watchable (though Spielberg's generally terrible "Kick the Can" comes close to being fast-forward-worthy), it's more than worth sticking around for the last two stories, which are just fantastic.
Joe Dante's "It's a Good Life" is the most visually appealing, a darkly comedic tale about a little boy both blessed and cursed by the ability to make anything he wishes come true. It's funny, filled with great visuals and inventive sets, and a bit disturbing.
The real treasure, though, is George Miller's "Nightmare at 20,000" feet, simply…
THIS FILM IS FUCKIN' BONKERS MAN!
The John Landis and Steven Spielberg segments are trainwrecks while Joe Dante and George Miller walk away with two short subject masterpieces.
As is fitting for a Twilight Zone movie, this jinxed omnibus project is one of the most curious pictures to emerge from Hollywood in the 1980s.
Is it strange that I don't think Dan Aykroyd's ever been better than he is in the Prologue segment here with Albert Brooks? Something about that segment sets the mood just right for the film to follow.
Of course, Landis's first segment is a bit difficult to watch, given the tragic events surrounding its production. It doesn't help that it casts the ill-fated morrow as a vicious racist who needs to learn the error of his ways. Not sure what they could have done with this segment to make it more palatable though, to be honest. Having been on crews with only a fraction of the budget this production had to work with, it's hard for me to view the…
Albert Brooks plays a character named "The Driver". That's all I've got.
This is one of the weirdest films I've ever seen.
Prologue (John Landis) 5/5
Segment I (John Landis) 4/5
Segment II (Steven Spielberg) 2/5
Segment III (Joe Dante) 3/5
Segment IV (George Miller) 4.5/5
OVERALL RATING (equivalent) : 4/5
Well, it's about as varied and inconsistent as what I've seen of the show, so I'd say it's a fairly faithful adaptation. Joe Dante's section of the film is a masterwork, one of the finest anthology film segments I've ever seen, the rest of the movie not so much. The prologue, in which Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks hang out and hum TV themes, is incredible.
Prologue/Time Out - 7/10
Kick the Can - 5.5/10
It's a Good Life - 8.5/10
Nightmare at 20,000 Feet - 9/10
Though Twilight Zone has segments that are certainly more memorable than others, it thankfully sticks the landing strongly, leaving you feeling that this curious piece of history was more thrilling than it really was.
The imaginative spirit/high concept ideas of the Twilight Zone starts right of the bat with John Landis' prologue and first segment. Its a very satisfying concept to see a bigot get a taste of his own medicine. But on first watch the elephant in the room that is the tragic death of Vic Morrow & 2 children on-set gave me a big feeling of dread, that thankfully never made the segment feel in any bad taste. But this segment and the movie in general will always be shadowed by this tragedy.
Like how Comedy director Landis steps into the action shoes for a bit in his segment, Spielberg plays it gentler and slower than usual. It's clever how he uses his…
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