Cars-Land-Halloween

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Central Florida’s theme parks get back on their feet after Hurricane Irma.
  • Disney’s California Adventure is joining the Halloween festivities this year.
  • The season of scares also begins at Universal with Halloween Horror Nights.
  • “The IT Experience” is floating to the Warner Bros. lot to join its Studio Tour.
  • Christmas comes early with various Harry-Potter-related park announcements.
  • And more!

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Revisiting The Game 20 Years Later

More than any other mainstream filmmaker, David Fincher is the one who has had his finger on the pulse of our generational concerns. If you Google Fincher’s name and the word “zeitgeist,” it will immediately turn up countless think pieces talking about how his films — especially Fight Club and The Social Network — have captured the zeitgeist, reflecting the spirit of their time the way The Graduate did for the 1960s.

But The Game, Fincher’s 1997 thriller starring Michael Douglas, was a necessary primer for Fight Club. With this film, Fincher took the actor who played Gordon Gekko ten years earlier, and he gave that ‘80s zeitgeist figure a light makeover and put him in a post-grunge ‘90s movie.

The Game turns 20 today (it hit theaters on September 12, 1997), so let’s take a look back at what makes it so special: not only for the way it marked a turning point in Fincher’s early career, but also for the way it takes a high-concept story and manages to bake in a fair amount of subtext.

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Stephen King's It Clown-Only Screening

Being scared is a highly subjective experience. Some people have a genuine fear of clowns. For those people, the coulrophobics of the world, watching the new film adaptation of Stephen King’s It in a theater full of clowns would probably be terrifying. The rest of us will just have to be content to get in the mood for It some other way. A great way to do that is by revisiting scary scenes from other Stephen King adaptations.

With that in mind, let’s dive into a few memorable moments from other Stephen King adaptations and talk about how those moments play into certain indelible fears. Some of these fears might register on a basic human level; King would not be as successful as he is if he were not capable of tapping into the kind of horror that does that. Other fears might seem more perspectival in nature; but here again, King would not be as successful as he is if he were not capable of shifting the axis of a reader’s perspective from time to time.

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How Pandora The World of Avatar Reflects the Film

There is no denying that the movie Avatar was once a great cultural event. In late 2009, director James Cameron’s blockbuster about blue-skinned aliens was seemingly all anyone could talk about, even though it was arguably not even the best science fiction film that year (to be sure, the landscape was crowded, with District 9, Star Trek, and Moon all jockeying to be the sci-fi inclusions on people’s Top Ten lists.)

Critics hailed Avatar as a singularly immersive theatergoing experience, and audiences agreed, insofar as they helped it unseat Cameron’s previous film, Titanic, to become the highest grossing film of all time. Even when adjusted for inflation, it still ranks as the second highest grosser, right behind the classic Gone with the Wind.

Yet as many have noted, in the intervening years since Avatar set off the big wave of post-converted 3-D films, it seemed to vanish from the cultural conversation. Back in 2014, on the fifth anniversary of the film’s release, Scott Mendolson of Forbes.com posted an article examining the film’s legacy. The headline of that article asserted that Avatar had “left no pop culture footprint.” And indeed, the film’s cultural relevance, or lack thereof, is something the voices on our own /Filmcast have continued to debate.

As of this summer, however, Avatar the experience (emphasis on “experience” over the film’s middling story) has suddenly become relevant again. All it took was the opening of a certain theme park land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida.

Let’s take a closer look at Pandora – The World of Avatar, how it fits in with Animal Kingdom, and how it brings aspects of Cameron’s film to life in a way that just might make a believer out of you, even if you are not an Avatar fan.

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the shining miniseries 6

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: an argument that the 1997 television adaptation of The Shining is a worthy companion to the iconic Stanley Kubrick film.)

Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of The Shining ranks right up there with The Exorcist as one of the greatest horror films of all time. One person who has always been less than enamored with Kubrick’s film, however, is author Stephen King.

The Shining was King’s third published novel, released while he was on a hot streak in the 1970s, writing some of his most popular page-turners, like Salem’s Lot and The Stand. Over the years, King has been vocal in the press about his dissatisfaction with Kubrick’s adaptation. But in 1997, around the time of the book’s 20th anniversary, he was finally able to “correct” the problem, as Delbert Grady would say, penning and producing a much more faithful mini-series adaptation for television.

We are now about as far removed from the original airing of that mini-series as the mini-series itself was from the novel’s publication. Indeed, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the tale of the Torrances and the Overlook Hotel. And with two more high-profile King adaptations on the immediate horizon (namely, The Dark Tower and It), perhaps the time is right for a reevaluation of Stephen King’s The Shining, the 1997 TV mini-series.

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Christopher Nolan Netflix

If you held an elimination tournament to determine the movie director who was best representative of the 2000s, there are many names that might make it into the final round. Taste is subjective, of course, but by now there is enough distance between us and the decade that we should be able to look back on it with a degree of clarity.

Going by the criteria of the National Film Registry — whereby motion pictures are evaluated as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” — there is one director whose total output in the 2000s (including teaser trailers for 2010 films) arguably had the most pervasive influence. You would not have to be a “Nolanite” to make a strong case for Christopher Nolan being that director.

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Fukuoka Star Wars Float - Kylo Ren

Over the last two years, Japan has been going all-out with Star Wars promotions tied to local tourism: snow sculptures, sand sculptures, glow-in-the-dark parade floats. This year, as part of the 40th anniversary celebration, the city of Fukuoka has joined in the festivities, with a 2-ton, 42-foot-high Star Wars float being heaved through the streets by a team of men in loincloths.

If you have ever fantasized about seeing Star Wars at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, this is probably the next best thing. Below, check out photos and video of Fukuoka, Japan’s towering Star Wars float.

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001_Jedi_Nebuta_3x7_Cover_Slice

With Star Wars: A New Hope celebrating the 40th anniversary of its theatrical release this year, this is as good a time as any to dig into the film’s history.

Knowledgable film lovers often cite Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 film The Hidden Fortress as a key influence on the young George Lucas, as the plot of that film heavily informs the original Star Wars. In it, two squabbling peasants become involved in the rescue of a princess, similar to how C-3PO and R2-D2 would get caught up in the mission to free Leia and deliver the Death Star plans.

As Wookiepedia shows, the first script treatment for Star Wars — a 1973 story synopsis that Lucas shopped around Hollywood — hews even closer in plot to The Hidden Fortress, with Lucas having straight-up plagiarized a description of that movie from a book called The Films of Akira Kurosawa by the late film historian and Japanophile Donald Richie.

But the Japanese roots of Star Wars run deeper than one artist stealing/borrowing from another (as all artists do, to the degree that they are influenced by one another). Let’s explore some of those influences: some well-known, others less perhaps so.

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studio ghibli theme park

Japanese theme parks have been in the news a lot as of late. We recently reported on the news of Super Nintendo World coming to Universal Studios Japan (Forget about playing Mario Kart – soon you will be able to live the game Mario Kart). We also recently reported on a new attraction called Nemo & Friends SeaRider, developed by Pixar exclusively for Tokyo DisneySea.

In the midst of all this, it was announced that a Studio Ghibli theme park is coming to Japan just in time for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Ghibli, of course, is the animation powerhouse behind such films as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. It has often been likened to Disney, with IMDb even listing “the Japanese Walt Disney” as an official nickname for the studio’s co-founder, Hayao Miyazaki.

Yet the Ghibli park promises to be a very different kind of experience, informed by the environmental sensibilities of Miyazaki’s films. A theme park that values immersion and harmony with nature over thrills has deep roots in the filmmaker’s thematic concerns.

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