Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks - Amusement Parks

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. We're open 52 weeks a year, so join us by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them!

Well, this is what happens when I don't plan ahead.

You see, last week's theme was Summer Vacation, and I picked a lovely little movie called The Way Way Back, which involves a boy and his mother going on vacation to the mom's new boyfriend's beach house, and the boy finding a job and family of misfits at the local water park.

And then I see that this week's theme is Amusement Parks.

Clearly, I should have thought about this a bit more.

Anyway, now I have to stretch the definition of Amusement Parks a bit in order to get three, but I don't think there will be too many complaints...

Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973) Long before the TV series took over pop culture, novelist Michael Crichton directed his original screenplay about a "resort" with three different theme parks: Medieval World, Roman World, and the titular Westworld, all populated by androids programmed to act according to their historical period and role. For $1,000 per day, guests can participate in an adventure with the android population of any of the three worlds... and anything goes. ANYTHING. But then, the androids start breaking down and doing things like killing guests, and the staff can't figure out what's going on. And soon enough, Yul Brynner's gunslinger starts hunting one of the Westworld guests, with only murder on his mind. It's pretty thrilling stuff, even though the '70s vision of 1983 will make you laugh.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (Jack Clayton, 1983) From that brief period of time where Disney made it their mission to make movies that scared the pants off young children, and actually did it pretty effectively, comes this adaptation of Ray Bradbury's fantasy novel (which itself was originally a screenplay intended for Gene Kelly to direct). A carnival (an amusement park of sorts) comes to the small town of Green Town, IL, and two young boys realize that the proprietor, one Mr. Dark (the fantastically menacing Jonathan Pryce), may have something, er, darker, than amusement on his mind. Considering the film's troubled backstory, it's amazing it holds together as well as it does, but then again, with Pryce's perfect performance at the center, how could it not?

Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993) It's the oldest story in the world: Man finds ancient mosquito trapped in amber, man harvests DNA from said mosquito to genetically engineer dinosaurs, man creates amusement park for dinosaurs to roam free while paying patrons gawk at them from afar, dinosaurs end up breaking free and terrorizing the area during the soft opening. Spielberg's film is terrifically entertaining, even though on the surface it seems like a surefire flop - after all, what early-mid '90s action film would cast Laura Dern, Sam Niell, and Jeff Goldblum and then have them talk about things like evolution and chaos theory? But, then again, DINOSAURS.


  1. The '73 Westworld is a cool concept well realized, haven't seen the new show. Yul Brynner was such an individual performer he was difficult to cast properly but he's spot on for this and steals the film from the nominal leads.

    I liked but didn't love Something Wicked but agree about Pryce's performance. Additionally he was surrounded by an amazing cast.

    Jurassic Park did seem an anomaly at the time with its cast of respected but hardly top line performers and wild concept but it was a suspenseful ride and once it started never let go of its audience.

    I've always thought of carnivals and amusement parks on a parity level since the carnival does offer amusements along with it's other various sideshows, which is why one of mine is also set in said carnival while my others are set in traditional parks.

    Rollercoaster (1977)-After a rollercoaster derails due to a device placed on the track the major amusement park owners receive a taped message from the mad bomber (Timothy Bottoms) that unless they pay him a million dollars the carnage will continue. Safety inspector Harry Calder (George Segal) who had cleared the first coaster and was investigating the crash is pulled in by FBI agent Hoyt (Richard Widmark) when the nameless young man demands Harry deliver the extortion money to his next target or he’ll detonate another bomb. Suspenseful but not quite the experience it was in theatres where it was presented in Sensurround.

    The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? (1964)-I really can’t better this IMDB description: "Jerry falls in love with a stripper he meets at a carnival. Little does he know that she is the sister of a gypsy fortune teller whose predictions he had scoffed at earlier. The gypsy turns him into a zombie and he goes on a killing spree."

    Or the tagline:
    SEE: the dancing girls of the carnival murdered by the incredible night creatures of the midway! SEE: the hunchback of the midway fight a duel of death with the mixed up zombies! SEE: the world's first monster musical!

    It’s not good but it’s unique!

    40 Pounds of Trouble (1962)-Sixties version of the Damon Runyon story Little Miss Marker about a little girl left in Lake Tahoe casino manager’s Steve McCluskey (Tony Curtis) care as a hold against the debt owed by her father. When the father is rubbed out Steve with the help of the casino’s singer Chris Lockwood (Suzanne Pleshette) has to look after the tyke and dodge various people after him for different reasons. They decide to take the little one to Disneyland (at this point open less than 10 years) and between rides are chased through the park offering a pretty complete picture of what the place looked like in the 60’s. Cute comedy where unsurprisingly being mostly a Disney movie all ends happily.

    1. Yul Brynner's charisma is just off the charts, and Westworld uses it in a perfect way. I like to say he's the original Terminator lol.

      I have never even heard of any of your picks, except for the title of the second (I had heard it on a list of great/long film titles or something). And honestly, that one sounds like the most fun. I mean, that tagline! It must be quite something! 40 Pounds of Trouble sounds like a bit of an odd kind of product placement for Disneyland (take your spseudo-kidnapped child there!), but I bet the scenes that take place there make it all worth it.

  2. Westworld is a super clever pick! I also chose Jurassic Park.

    I never thought about Jurassic park sounding like a flop on paper but you're right. It kind of does lol

    1. I certainly didn't think that about Jurassic Park the time, but looking at it now, it's SO WEIRD.

  3. I've only seen Jurassic Park and I love that movie, regardless of how it sounds on paper, lol. I've heard great things about West World. I think I'm going to try and see that soon.

    1. Westworld's vision of the future is kind of hilarious, especially when you consider where we are actually at tech-wise in 2017, but it's still a pretty good movie.

      It's tough to deny how good a thrill ride Jurassic Park is.

  4. I knew people were gonna pick Jurrasic Park and here we are! It's a nice pick.

  5. Jurassic Park is popular today so is the dreadful World:) love Westworld!! Great movie which I need to revisit. I feel I have seen Something Wicked but I have to revisit because I don't remember much of it. I now wish I would have picked Tne Lost Boys with Kiefer Sutherland...good flick

    1. I didn't think of The Lost Boys either but that would have been a fun one.

  6. Westworld and Jurassic Park are such great picks!

  7. No complaints...theme parks are amusement parks too.

    Jurassic Park is the only one I've seen too. Both the TV series and the movie Westworld are definitely in my to watch list.