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Steven Spielberg Director's Collection [8 Discs] (DVD)

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Overview

Synopsis

Duel
Driving down a deserted Southern California highway at a safe and sane 55 miles per hour, David Mann (Dennis Weaver) steps on the pedal to pass a large gas trailer truck. Moments later, the truck is back, dangerously tailgating Mann before abruptly cutting him off. For the next 90 minutes, Mann and the never-seen truckdriver are pitted against one another in a motorized duel to the death. Author Richard Matheson conceived Duel after a similar experience with a reckless trucker. The story first appeared in Playboy magazine, then was picked up for adaptation by the producers of The ABC Movie of the Week. The director chosen to helm Duel on location in Soledad Canyon was a bright 23-year-old who'd shown promise on such series as Night Gallery and Columbo: Steven Spielberg. First telecast on December 18, 1971, Duel was so popular that a somewhat longer version (with added violence and profanity) was prepared for theatrical release in 1983. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi, Rovi

The Sugarland Express
Based on an actual incident, Steven Spielberg's first theatrical feature follows the adventures of a Texas outlaw couple striving to keep their family together by any means necessary. Determined not to lose her child to the authorities, Lou Jean Poplin (Goldie Hawn) gets her obedient convict husband Clovis (William Atherton) to break out of jail and help her kidnap their baby from its foster parents. With hostage Officer Slide (Michael Sacks) in tow, the fugitives head across the plains to Sugarland, Texas, pursued by a flotilla of cop cars. Even though Slide becomes the couple's friend, the Law is bent on capturing its criminal quarry. Even though it was greeted with strong reviews, and Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins, and Spielberg won the screenplay prize at the Cannes Film Festival, The Sugarland Express flopped. The young audience that had embraced the challenging tonal shifts of Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider in the late 1960s was no longer so reliably drawn to narrative uncertainties in 1974. The massive success of Spielberg's next picture, the popcorn thriller Jaws (1975), would confirm his suspicion that downbeat films were no longer the way to popular approval. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi, Rovi

Jaws
Based on Peter Benchley's best-selling novel, Steven Spielberg's 1975 shark saga set the standard for the New Hollywood popcorn blockbuster while frightening millions of moviegoers out of the water. One early summer night on fictional Atlantic resort Amity Island, Chrissie decides to take a moonlight skinny dip while her friends party on the beach. Yanked suddenly below the ocean surface, she never returns. When pieces of her wash ashore, Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) suspects the worst, but Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), mindful of the lucrative tourist trade and the approaching July 4th holiday, refuses to put the island on a business-killing shark alert. After the shark dines on a few more victims, the Mayor orders the local fishermen to catch the culprit. Satisfied with the shark they find, the greedy Mayor reopens the beaches, despite the warning from visiting ichthyologist Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) that the attacks were probably caused by a far more formidable Great White. One more fatality later, Brody and Hooper join forces with flinty old salt Quint (Robert Shaw), the only local fisherman willing to take on a Great White--especially since the price is right. The three ride off on Quint's boat "The Orca," soon coming face to teeth with the enemy. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi, Rovi

1941
It's December of 1941, and the people of California are in varying states of unease, ranging from a sincere desire to defend the country to virtual blind panic in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Thus begin several story threads that comprise the "plot" of this strange period comedy, a sort of satirical disaster movie, from Steven Spielberg. The stories and story threads involve lusty young men, officers (Tim Matheson) and civilians (Bobby Di Cicco) alike, eager to bed the young ladies of their dreams; Wild Bill Kelso, a nutty fighter pilot (John Belushi) following what he thinks is a squadron of Japanese fighters along the California coast; a well-meaning but clumsy tank crew (including John Candy) led by straight-arrow, by-the-book Sgt. Tree (Dan Aykroyd), who doesn't recognize the thug (Treat Williams) in his command; and homeowner Ward Douglas (Ned Beatty), who is eager to do his part for the nation's defense and, despite the misgivings of his wife (Lorraine Gary), doesn't mind his front yard overlooking the ocean being chosen to house a 40 mm anti-aircraft gun. There is also a pair of grotesquely inept airplane spotters (Murray Hamilton, Eddie Deezen) who are doing their job from atop a ferris wheel at a beachfront amusement park; a paranoid army colonel (Warren Oates) positive that the Japanese are infiltrating from the hills; a big dance being held on behalf of servicemen, being attended by a lusty young woman of size (Wendie Jo Sperber) eager to land a man in uniform; and General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell (Robert Stack), in charge of the defense of the West Coast, who can't seem to get anyone to listen to him when he says to keep calm. And, oh yes, there's also a real Japanese submarine that has gotten all the way to the California coast under the command of its captain (Toshiro Mifune) and a German officer observer (Christopher Lee), only to find itself without a working compass or usable maps. Its captain won't leave until the sub has attacked a militarily significant, honorable target, and the only one that anyone aboard ship knows of in California is Hollywood. By New Year's Eve, all of these characters are going to cross paths, directly or once-removed, in a comedy of errors and destruction strongly reminiscent of the finale to National Lampoon's Animal House (as well as several disaster movies from the same studio), but on a much larger and more impressive scale. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi, Rovi

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Both a classic movie for kids and a remarkable portrait of childhood, E.T. is a sci-fi adventure that captures that strange moment in youth when the world is a place of mysterious possibilities (some wonderful, some awful), and the universe seems somehow separate from the one inhabited by grown-ups. Henry Thomas plays Elliott, a young boy living with his single mother (Dee Wallace), his older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton), and his younger sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore). Elliott often seems lonely and out of sorts, lost in his own world. One day, while looking for something in the back yard, he senses something mysterious in the woods watching him. And he's right: an alien spacecraft on a scientific mission mistakenly left behind an aging botanist who isn't sure how to get home. Eventually Elliott puts his fears aside and makes contact with the "little squashy guy," perhaps the least threatening alien invader ever to hit a movie screen. As Elliott tries to keep the alien under wraps and help him figure out a way to get home, he discovers that the creature can communicate with him telepathically. Soon they begin to learn from each other, and Elliott becomes braver and less threatened by life. E.T. rigs up a communication device from junk he finds around the house, but no one knows if he'll be rescued before a group of government scientists gets hold of him. In 2002, Steven Spielberg re-released E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in a revised edition, with several deleted scenes restored and digitally refurbished special effects. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi, Rovi

Always
For all its state-of-the-art special effects, Always is essentially a remake of the 1943 Spencer Tracy-Irene Dunne fantasy vehicle A Guy Named Joe--minus the wartime context. Richard Dreyfuss stars as a reckless fire-fighting pilot who is killed in what was to have been his final mission. Ascending to Heaven, Dreyfuss is introduced to businesslike angel Audrey Hepburn (playing the equivalent of the Lionel Barrymore role in A Guy Named Joe). Hepburn instructs the spectral Dreyfuss to pass on his aviation knowhow to his young successor, Brad Johnson. Our ghostly hero also smoothes the course of romance for his earthly girl friend Holly Hunter, who after several months' worth of grieving has fallen in love with Johnson. John Goodman injects a dose of comedy relief as Dreyfuss' faithful buddy. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi, Rovi

Jurassic Park
Steven Spielberg's phenomenally successful sci-fi adventure thriller is graced by state-of-the-art special effects from the team of Stan Winston, Phil Tippett and Michael Lantieri from George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic. The film follows two dinosaur experts -- Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler Laura Dern) -- as they are invited by eccentric millionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) to preview his new amusement park on an island off Costa Rica. By cloning DNA harvested from pre-historic insects, Hammond has been able to create living dinosaurs for his new Jurassic Park, an immense animal preserve housing real brachiosaurs, dilophosaurs, triceratops, velociraptors, and a Tyrannosaur Rex. Accompanied by cynical scientist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who is obsessed with chaos theory, and Hammond's two grandchildren (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello), they are sent on a tour through Hammond's new resort in computer controlled touring cars. But as a tropical storm hits the island, knocking out the power supply, and an unscrupulous employee (Wayne Knight) sabotages the system so that he can smuggle dinosaur embryos out of the park, the dinosaurs start to rage out of control. Grant then has to bring Hammond's grandchildren back to safety as the group is pursued by the gigantic man-eating beasts. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi, Rovi

The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Just when you'd think that scientists would realize dinosaurs and humans don't mix, along comes The Lost World: Jurassic Park to prove you wrong. In this sequel, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) summons chaos theorist and onetime colleague Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to his home with some startling information -- while nearly everything at his Jurassic Park had been destroyed, engineers were also operating a second site, where other dinosaurs, resurrected through DNA cloning technology, had been kept in hiding. Hammond has learned the dinosaurs on the second island are alive and well and even breeding; Hammond wants Malcolm to observe and document the reptiles before Hammond's financiers can get to them. Malcolm declares he had enough of the dinosaurs the first time out, but decides to make the trip when he finds out that his girlfriend, paleontologist Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), is already there. However, Ian and Sarah aren't the only visitors expected on the island; a camera crew led by ecological activist Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn) is on the way, as is Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite), a world-class wild game hunter who is supposed to round up the dinosaurs and who hopes to bag a prehistoric trophy for himself in the process. This sequel to Jurassic Park boasted even more impressive special effects than the first film, though the acting and screenplay aren't always at the same level. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi, Rovi

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