The magical Cinema

Cannon Bolton in Bolton, GB - Cinema Treasures

The rain was coming down heavier now, big old fat rain, the rain that only comes in the summer. The bus had gotten stuck in traffic, the film started in less than 10 minutes, with any luck I would only miss the adverts and trailers. The Bolton Cannon Cinema was showing Star Wars, the original cut as well, for the first time in over 30 years and it was for one night only. I half expected the queue to go half way back into town, like in the days pre-multiplex.

The traffic was not improving, so I decided to make a run for it. It couldn’t have been more than half a mile away. I begged the driver to let me off before the next stop, he grumpily agreed. The rain was lashing down now, I lept over lake size puddles, didn’t fancy sitting for 2 hours with soggy feet no matter how much I wanted to see the film.

I rounded the corner and there it was the old faithful, The Cannon Cinema in Bolton.

I was relieved but at the same time slightly surprised that there was no queue. Counting my luck I dashed into the foyer, checking my watch. I breathlessly stammered to the old man in the ticket office, “One for Star Wars please…….it hasn’t started has it?” With a wink and a smile that almost suggested don’t be silly we were waiting for you, the old man shook his head “No, you are just in time, go right in”.

I walked up the long dark enticing corridor and up a flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs I was actually in the auditorium, with the beautifully imposing giant red curtain bathing the whole room with a glowing expectation. This was my heaven, but it was a strangely quiet heaven. In fact I was the only person in the room. Had I come to the wrong screen?

Before I had time to contemplate, the projector at the back of the room spluttered into life, launching a beam of God light across the cavernous room onto a ginormous red velvet curtain, which almost on queue parted like the the red sea, revealing a 30-45 foot Cinema screen. I moved to a red velvet chair and perched on the edge as the projector clicked into top gear. The familiar site of the Fox searchlight blazed onto the screen with the accompanying fanfare. The screen momentarily went dark and then the following appeared in light blue writing.

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away… | Level Up | by Chris White |  Geek Family Media | Medium

As if a giant fan powered by a thousand trumpets suddenly burst into life forcing me back into my chair the yellow stencilled logo of Star Wars shot across the screen.

  1. Star Wars (1977)
Star Wars Movie Posters | Original Vintage Movie Posters | FilmArt Gallery

As soon as the yellow Star Wars logo disappeared off into the galaxy followed by that oh so familiar yellow text backstory, I sat back into the chair in anticipation for one of the most seminal moments of my life. The following minute of big screen action would give birth to my lifelong addiction to Cinema. Tantive IV raced across the screen being attacked by an invisible foe. Of course it was only momentarily invisible as the old dusty theatre began to rumble and shake as the Imperial Star Destroyer loomed into view. This scene remains as breath-taking now as it was when first viewed as giddy child sat on a chair not too dissimilar to the one I was on now.

I was instantly transported back to my 5 year old self, giddy with excitement. I must have seen Star Wars 50 times. It was my go to VHS during damp School holidays, it was the stuff of my once fervent imagination. The time literally rushed by, I had subconsciously been mouthing along with the dialogue, I knew this film word for word. I had completely forgotten that I was on my own.

The film was approaching its conclusion, General Dondonna had just briefed the rebel troops for their impending attack on the Death Star, Luke and Han had exchanged words about how much the Rebels could use Han, but he had debts to pay off and to be honest the mission was purely a suicide one. Luke climbed into his X-Wing, put on his helmet and then, right on queue a black seat belt shot across my lap and fixed itself to the other side of the chair. Instantly a control panel appeared in front of me, I had a sudden feeling of plummeting through space.

“ARRGGHHHH” I yelled into the void

“Red 5 are you ok?” a voice came from within my headset

“Hello, who, what, Red 5…..me?” I jabbered frantically

“I just lost my starboard engine, get set up to start your attack run” the voice in my head said

“What the hell………I don’t know how to fly one of these things” before I knew it the X-Wing that I was somehow in control of plummeted at great speed and into an all too familiar trench. “Woahhhhh” I shouted as I grabbed the steering controls in front of me. I had two other fighters on either side of me, I assumed these to be Biggs and Wedge. I knew it wasn’t going to end well for either of them. A screen in front of me showed that enemy fighters were closing in. Wedge took a hit and had to bail out, going against the script slightly I didn’t tell him that was ok, if anything I thought it a little bit cowardly.

We carried on down the trench, Biggs was explaining that he would keep the fighters away from me long enough to do what I needed to do, which at this precise moment was desperately go to the toilet. Biggs inevitably met his doom in a shower of explosion. It was just me now, being chased by 3 imperial fighters, one of which was being piloted by a long lost family member maybe.

Without a clue what to do, I felt my time was up. Just then one of the three fighters exploded and a second one lost control and flew into a wall, at the same time knocking the middle guy, the leader spinning out into space. A voice came over the headset

“You’re all clear kid, now lets blow this thing and go home”

“Erm…….ok, er quick question, how do I do that? I asked

“What?” came the slightly put out reply

“Well you see I have never been in one of these things before, and there was very little training so I’m kind of just pleased I’m keeping it in a straight line at the moment”

After a long pause the voice said “Can’t you just use the force or some shit like that?

“Well, you see I was just watching a film and not really sure what is going on”

“You see that red button on the end of the steering wheel?”

“Yes”

“Just press it…..jeez”

I did what the voice told me to and sure enough two proton torpedoes fired out from the gun turrets of my X-Wing, I pulled back on the steering mechanism which lifted me out of the trench and back towards the deepest space. Behind me I heard (which is odd for Space) an enormous explosion that threw me back into my seat. At that precise moment I was back in the standard red velvet chair, Han and Luke were on screen receiving their medals, not sure why Luke was getting one, I’d done all the hard work. I always watch the end titles of any film I watch, I always have. I always thought it was important to look at every name, not just the stars, but every name of every person who had dedicated their time and dedication to making a piece of entertainment, designed to make people smile. All of these names belonged to individuals with greater talent than I could ever dream of.

2. Mary Poppins (1964)

See the Original 'Mary Poppins' and Have Hot Chocolate at Darien Library on  Wednesday, Dec 26 - DarieniteDarienite

Star Wars had finished the screen was now blank. I sat there is stunned silence. What had just happened? What was this place? I had heard of immersive cinema before, but had never been thrown so helplessly ill-prepared straight into the heart of the action. I had just flown an X-Wing, I had just destroyed the Death Star and this was no simulator, I had actually done it. Just as the enormity of it all started to hit me, the projector behind me began to splutter into life again, am I going to be thrown straight into the Empire Strikes Back, which would be partly cool, but also the thought of being attacked by a Wampa, crashing my X-Wing into a swamp or for that matter losing my right hand suddenly had me desperately needing the toilet again.

However it wasn’t the Empire Strikes Back, I was now facing a blue screen with the words Walt Disney presents, closely followed by the words Mary Poppins. Now Mary Poppins was another one of my favourite films growing up, however unlike Star Wars, I had to keep that a secret until I reached adulthood through fear of the playground beatings that come with such a revelation. It was a film that always reminded me of Christmas, probably because it was on BBC 1 every year throughout the 1980s. I had always loved the songs, and the mixture of live action and animation used to blow my mind as a kid (it still does to be honest).

With my experience of watching Star Wars very much fresh in my mind, I did start to wonder whether the same would happen again with Mary Poppins. Even if it did, there was nothing much to fear here surely, I could jump on a carousel if I had to, I would quite happily have a tea party on the ceiling if called upon. Nearly 90 mins and I still haven’t been called, maybe my Star Wars experience was just down to too much cheese before bedtime or some off meat in a sandwich I ate earlier, and I was actually just here to watch and enjoy.

We were now on the rooftops of London and Bert is currently dancing Stepping Time “wiv all iz pals”. Bert continuously shouts instruction to his jolly friends such as “over the rooftops, Step in Time” and his friends would dance over the rooftops. After a magical section of daredevil choreography, Bert approached the screen and shouted “Mary Poppins, Step in Time”. All the dancers on the screen stopped. Bert looking puzzled said again “Mary Poppins, Step in Time”, still nothing. “Come on Mary, Step in Time” – Bert lent a bit closer and through a forced smile and gritted teeth said “You’re holding the film up”. Oh shit. He’s talking to me, but he must be wrong I am a man, I don’t know how to dance, I looked down and saw I was wearing a red velvet floor length coat, covered in soot. I stood up and caught myself in a rooftop window. I was a woman, quite fit one actually, but that’s beside the point.

Mary Poppins | Comédie musicale, Ramoneur, Acteur disney

“Come on Mary, Step in Time” Bert urged, almost pleadingly.

“Its’s ok you carry on, I’ll just watch thanks” I sheepishly responded with a plum English accent that shocked me more than suddenly flying an X-Wing, and pulled away, but there was no getting away. Bert’s chimney sweep friends gathered around me and started their dance again, with me in the middle. I suddenly found myself tapping along, and before I knew I was kicking my knees up in perfect time, it was getting close to my crowning moment, the mid-air twirls, I was going to go for it, this was going to be brilliant. I launched into the twirls. In the film Mary spins at least a dozen times, I knew I could do better and proper went for it. On the 20th spin I started to feel a bit sick, I came crashing down to the rooftop but in fact I landed once again in the velvet chair. Bert and his pals took turns to waltz past the screen, each of them doffing their caps to me as they went by.

The film carried on as if nothing had happened. Dame Julie Andrews was now back on screen where I had moments earlier been. I was starting to think that I was having some sort of psychotic episode, but a strangely enjoyable one.

3. Raider of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark - Paddock Picturehouse

Mary flew away after the wind changed and Mr Banks had learned the lesson that it was more important to spend time with your kids and that money wasn’t everything, I tried to comprehend what had happened to me in the last couple of hours. Was I done now, was I free to go? I hoped not but also feared what would possibly appear next. I didn’t have to wait long. As if someone who knew me was orchestrating all of this from somewhere the Paramount logo appeared on the big screen and then dissolved into the actual mountain. I started to sweat, but it wasn’t a nervous sweat it was brought on by the incredibly heat I was now experiencing, there was a buzz of insects and in the distance the howls of monkey’s dominated the Cinema. Of course I wasn’t in the cinema was I, that’s right, I was in a Peruvian jungle, wearing a fedora with a bullwhip by my side.

Now under any normal circumstances being dressed as Indiana Jones would be awesome, but I wasn’t stood in my living room anymore or in the father/son fancy dress competition at the work summer fair (he was Short Round). I was stood in the Peruvian jungle in front of a rather cobweb filled temple with my rather useless and even more treacherous colleague Satipo. I let out a huge puff of the cheeks. “Ok then lets do this” I reluctantly say and trudged through the entrance.

Satipo stops me to inform that a couple of large spiders are on my back “Ah well, you just wait till you see what is on your back” I inform him with a touch of snark. True to form he turns to realise he has the entire cast of Arachnophobia crawling his personage. We approach the beam of light. I should let him walk into it really as the conniving git is only going to stitch me up later anyway. I’m nice, I don’t do that. We swing across the gap and enter the chamber with the golden idol at the end. Satipo doesn’t know what I know and assumes there is nothing to fear here. Now according to the script I’m supposed to stop him, but sod it

“Yeah go ahead, fetch the gold statue for me”. Satipo gives me a look that suggests I’m not supposed to say that.

“Are you sure Senor?”

“Yeah, it be right” I respond.

Reluctantly Satipo sets off. Two steps in he triggers the booby trap and smack, a poison dart straight through his face.

“Oh dear, nevermind” I say to his lifeless body “I’ll go get it”. Balancing carefully along the cracks I reached the altar and carefully replace the idol with a handy bag of sand that I seemed to suddenly have on me. As the temple begins to slowly implode, i dash through the chamber dodging the poison darts, leap over the chasm and slide under the slowly closing door. I get under the door a bit too easily so I quickly throw the whip through again just so I can swiftly retrieve it before the door crashes to the ground. I have a little giggle at how cool all of this is.

It was at that point that the rocks above my head started to shift, of course the rolling bolder, again the first thought was, this is very cool, I’ll run away from it but maybe throw in a little stumble along the way. Then I thought, these Hovitos are genius’s getting that thing to stay up there in the World’s most elaborate booby trap. However I really should have just got on with it. The bolder was there heading right for me. It was actually a lot faster than it looked. “Oh shit” I turned and pegged it as fast as I could but it was constantly catching me, this was going to be close. I saw the cave entrance and dived full length through a cloud of cobwebs and landed at the feet of the seriously pissed off Hovitos. However I wasn’t at their feet, in fact I was now face down on the floor of the Cinema.

Gathering my bearings I turned to look at the big screen as Indy, now in the more suitable guise of Harrison Ford was heading across the field, with the Hovitos in hot pursuit, yelling to his friend Jack to start the engine. I climbed back into the seat, as Indy’s adventures played out in front of me. A feeling of exhiliration swept through me. A few hours ago, I had blown up the Death Star, danced on a London rooftop with a bunch of chimney sweeps and had now just been Indiana Jones. I never wanted this to end. Talk about your best day ever.

4. Toy Story 3 (2010)

Toy Story 3: The Gang's All Here (Video 2010) - IMDb

As the Ark of the Covenant is wheeled away to be looked after by “top men” I relax in my seat. I should be tired but I’m anything but, I am packed full of nervous tension, what will happen next? I didn’t have to wait long.

Oh fantastic, the Disney castle had just appeared on the screen, but hang on, whatever this is, how am i going to be transported into it. The familiar blue sky with white ice cream clouds appears, it’s Toy Story 3, one of the finest films of the past decade. Script perfection and narrative storytelling has never seemed so effortless, its a work of wonder from the start. The film progresses along at a steady rate, but we are approaching the films climax and I have not been transported yet, then I start to develop an uneasy feeling, I take a quick glance around the Cinema, quickly turn to the screen and shout, to no-one in particular

“the furnace scene!”

I could hear a creaking above me, I looked up at the cavernous ceiling just as a large metal object crashed down onto my face. All was dark, all was quiet, I could still hear the film playing in the background. Slinky Dog was calling out Buzz’s name, he strangely seemed to be getting closer. Then I felt somebody pulling my hands and I slid out from underneath whatever it was (turns out it was a big TV) that had pinned me and came face to face with red haired cowgirl Jesse.

“Buzz are you ok?”

There you go I was Buzz Lightyear and I was in the trash conveyor belt. As we approached the metal crusher at the end of the conveyor belt the call to grab something magnetic to rise to the magnified ceiling went up. Quickly grabbing a discarded lunch box I shot to the ceiling with my new friends. Of course the complete tosser of a bear Lotso abandoned us as we headed straight for the furnace. As the conveyor belt reached it summit we toppled into the mass of discarded metal and headed slowly towards our fiery grave. Despite our best efforts, the game was up, this was it. My friend Woody reached across and grabbed my arm, we shared a moment, a moment of friendship, a moment of togetherness.

I have always fancied the idea of being a writer, but never in my wildest imagination could I possibly write anything with the emotional wallop of what was happening to me now. My plastic arm was starting to gently bubble as we edged ever closer to the PIXAR equivalent of Dante’s Inferno.

As the impending doom approached, a saviour from above arrived as the claw from heaven reached into the down and plucked us all to safety.

I was soon back in my chair. I had just been a cartoon character, bizarrely this one had felt the most real. As the end titles played across the screen, I finally began to feel exhaustion consume me, both physically and mentally.

As the PIXAR lamp jumped across the screen for one final time, the red curtain cruised across the screen and the house lights came on.

5. Avengers Endgame (2019)

Avengers Endgame POSTER Glossy Premium Borderless Movie Poster of Various  Sizes (POSTER - A2 size 23.4 x 16.5 Inch / 594 x 420 mm, Endgame (V1)):  Amazon.co.uk: Kitchen & Home

I collected my thoughts and headed out towards the foyer which was now in total darkness, there was an orange glow coming through the glass square on the front door to the cinema, the smell of destruction wafted through the main door which appeared now to be hanging on by the edge of its hinges. As I approached the door, those hinges gave up the fight and door crashed to the floor.

The rain had stopped, that was for sure, but where the building opposite once stood was the remains of it, reduced to a pile of rubble, with the four corners still sticking out of the ground. In front of me I can see the scorched remains of those corners flames still licking the sides of them the sky is filled with thick dense smoke. What the hell has happened here?

The ground began to shake as a figure approached from within the smog. A giant of a man at least 10 feet tall, he had a bald head and a chin that resembled a purple nutsack. As the giant came into view, i realised that he was not alone. Appearing alongside him was hundreds, no actually thousands of extras, all of whom looked like they didn’t want to ask me any questions, just to tear me apart. I was severely outnumbered, the coward in me suggested I just turned around and run back into the Cinema. The coward won, I turned with the sole intention of sprinting back in to the Cinema, closing the door and hiding under my completely inadequate red velvet chair. Small problem, when I turned round the Cinema had gone, replaced by, you guessed it a huge pile of rubble.

I turned back to look at my soon to be arriving assailant, he was getting close. I suddenly heard a strange gust of wind, out of the corner of my eye I saw something hurtling towards me at great speed, it was coming right for my face. I instinctively put up my hand, with a clanging thump I caught the steel handle of a very familiar hammer. Purple guy was still edging closer to me, as were his hoardes of angry followers. My first thought was “there is something awfully familiar about all of this”. That thought was interrupted by a radio signal that simply said four words “Captain…….on your left”.

To the left of me a bright orange portal appeared, sparking into life like a Catherine Wheel on Bonfire Night. From within it walked T’Challa, Black Panther in all his regal glory flanked by Okoye and Shuri. Over head, strangely accompanied by Alan Silvestri’s rousing score flew Falcon. More and more of the Portals began to appear, heroes were appearing to help me against the purple gonad who was facing me. Spiderman, Dr Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Antman, Zammo from Grange Hill and the entire cast of Rentaghost all arrived in a blaze of glory. Within moments an army had formed that was a match for the opposition. The musical score had reached its climax, there was only one thing left to do. As once again the familiar hammer flew straight towards me, I called all to arms

“Avengers!!!” – thump the hammer landed perfectly in my grasp……..

This blog has been written as part of the “Five-Films Forever” blogathon challenge, created by the brilliant Claire Packer owner of the Cinematic Delights blog page https://cinematicdelights.com/

More details on the Blogathon can be found here:

Claire can be found on Twitter as @C_Packer (https://twitter.com/C_Packer) and catch her reviews at https://letterboxd.com/C_Packer/

About me

My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular, I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4-year-old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life-changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of  A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.

You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH

You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com

The cheers: Spielberg’s Top 10 crowd pleasing moments

Following on from my recent blog about the most nerve shredding moments in Spielberg’s back catalogue which you can read here, I thought I would take a look at the moments that most fans of Spielberg look for in his films, moments where elation and rejoicing lead to punch the air instances, that allow the audience to give little cheers or even rapturous rounds of applause, even when you are watching it in your lounge alone.

This top 10 is a mixture of individual shots, or carefully choreographed setpieces, but each one makes you thrilled to be watching and helps build the understanding that the main purpose of any film is to entertain. Quite frankly this could have been a Top 100 list (maybe I’ll do that one day) but I have narrowed it down to the following 10. As always, there will be some of your favourites that I haven’t included, but that is why God invented the comment function on blogs. I’ve also tried to not include scenes that I have talked about in previous blogs, so no beach scene from Jaws or opening scene from Raiders here. I hope you enjoy the choices that I have picked regardless.

10. Spyder Search – Minority Report (2002)

In a previous top 10 I have praised the brilliance of the opening scene of Minority Report, but the other stand out scene in a film full of stand out scenes is the building search by the robotic Spyders that are unleashed to take retinal scans of all the occupants of the building as they search for the “on the run” John Anderton who is hidden away in the building after a rather grimy eye operation.

This scene almost sneaked into my nail shredding top 10, but what moved it to this one was because despite moving towards the edge of our seats, we marvel at the genius of the filmmaking on display. Firstly we have the robotic, futuristic spyders that scamper across the screen like a herd of genetically enhanced futuristic cousins of the supporting cast of the Spielberg produced Arachnophobia. Secondly, we can marvel at Janusz Kaminski being at the very top of his game as he glides his camera around the staircase at the entrance, to a sensational tracking shots from above the invisible roof staring down into the individual departments. The attention to detail here is staggering as Tom Cruise’s Anderton hides, from the more animalistic than robotic Spyders, submerged in an ice bath only to have his cover blown by the tiniest air bubble that leaves Anderton’s nostril and slowly almost silently impacts on the surface.

It’s Spielberg being playful, it’s Spielberg being fluid in his direction, there are no quick cuts or edits here and as an audience we sit an applaud the audacity of the scene from its simple premise to it’s peerless execution.

9. The Vote – Lincoln (2012)

The first of the genuine punch the air moments of this countdown, the vote on whether to approve the thirteenth amendment of the US constitution, that if passed would abolish slavery and involuntary servitude. In what is possibly Spielberg’s most dialogue heavy film, with lengthy but always intriguing monologue upon monologue extolling the virtues of the argument on both sides, we are left in no doubt that this is going to be tight decision.

As anyone who knows their history, will know the outcome of the vote, so similar to the conundrum facing Ron Howard with Apollo 13, or to a lesser extent James Cameron with Titanic, the challenge here is to make a widely known outcome remain in the balance. Spielberg manages this by never really letting the audience in on the running total, by painting the moral dilemma across the faces of all those who’s role it is to cast a vote. Of course the outcome is a success but the feeling of euphoria as the final count is announced is sensational, hell even Tommy Lee Jones cracks a smile.

8. Mine Cart Chase – Temple of Doom

The Top Ten Greatest Indiana Jones Scenes - Part 3 | Page 3

Bit of a marmite film in Spielberg’s filmography, over the years it appears that people really love it or really dislike it, there isn’t much middle ground. However, one thing pretty much all fans agree on is the rip-roaring mine cart chase in Pankot Palace’s rather spacious basement.

After avoiding turning to the Dark Side and rescuing Willie from a burning pit, our intrepid hero joins up with Short Round and Willie and attempts to escape the dungeon like mine that has housed all the villagers children. Indy manages to battle his way through henchman upon henchman, and manages to avoid being attacked via Voodoo and eventually overcome a big dude on the worlds slowest conveyor belt (Aldi would not be impressed).

Once that is out of the way, he swings on a conveniently placed chain, knocking more henchman off the platform towards a watery grave, and lands perfectly in the mine cart with Short Round and Willie. (Btw, that whole swinging sequence…..awesome). Choosing to ignore the good advice to take the left tunnel, Indy sets off on a ride that would have the queues backing up at Alton Towers. They are once again pursued by a bunch of foolhardy goons, who really should have known what was down the tunnel and therefore known it wasn’t going to end well.

Sure enough a handy railway sleeper in place the travelling morons are catapulted off the track and into the strangely lava filled abyss (are they in a volcano, what’s going on here?). Still our triumvirate press on, but another gang of idiots is in pursuit, and they try and steal Short Round. Another pesky trip hazard puts pay to them and all is clear, phew.

Only the problem is there’s a bit missing from the track, should have took the left tunnel Indy, and unlike Keanu driving his bomb ridden bus there is no one to put a mysterious little ramp to assist with clearing the canyon. Fortunately Indy and co are on a bit of downslope and manage to perform the perfect launch and landing you know as if it was all in a days work. Fantastic stuff, oh and then the breaks fail, and Indy teaches us all why it is so important to have a good pair of walking boots if going searching for fortune and glory. Hanging onto the out of control cart using his Karimor’s as a breaking mechanism, Indy brings the cart to a halt inches away from the crash barriers, getting some scorch burns in the process.

Yes they made it. Slight issue though, you see whilst Indy and co were having fun on the ride, colossal git Molaram decided to send a dam’s worth of water down the track to flush them out. Will they escape the torrent, you bet they will.

Joking aside, what we have here is Spielberg at his frenetic best. The action is fast and furious but we are never in doubt as to where we are up to, the quick cut editing that is often in play in modern action cinema is not here, the kinetic energy is such that we as an audience are transported onto that mine cart, it’s a pure thrill ride and for me the highlight of the film.

7. The first task – Ready Player One

Ready Player One': 16 Key Differences Between Book and Movie | IndieWire

There are people who claim that Spielberg doesn’t make exciting films anymore. In the past 10 years we have been treated to political grandstanding in the script heavy Lincoln, the worthy and noble War Horse and the Espionage thriller Bridge of Spies. Critics started to wonder whether this famed popcorn peddler had finally moved on, or maybe worse, even lost his touch on how to entertain the masses. His attempts at family friendly films such as The Adventures of Tintin (more on that soon) and The BFG had been technically wonderful but had struggled to find a huge audience. Some times even the best have to mine their back catalogue and so here we have it, Ready Player One, described by this very blogger as a Greatest Hits film from Spielberg.

That was my first reaction to seeing it at the cinema and like all Greatest Hits albums, you know all the tracks and you can sing along happily and it makes you think of times touched with nostalgia and warmth, but there is nothing new there.

On repeat viewings, (and Ready Player One hugely benefits from repeat viewing), it becomes clear that the film is so much more than just a glorified compilation album. This is Spielberg properly letting his hair down, you could argue he has not had as much fun since he introduced the world to DNA created dinosaurs on Isla Nublar.

This is never more demonstrated than the completion of the first task, where Spielberg throws enough pop culture references and Easter Eggs to keep even the most nostalgia cynic among the audience interested. Whether it an appearance from an old favourite, the T-Rex, to the rampaging Kong, we are treated to 5 minutes of breathtaking action, packed with thrills and spills. What’s most impressive in this sequence considering it was made at the height of MCU/DC battlegrounds, once again the editing is tight without ever being disorientating or confusing. Demonstrating a clear eye for detail their is no need to cut every half second, Spielberg once again shows that trust the audience, give them a chance to take in as much as possible and do it with enough bravado to want to watch it over and over again.

6. Trip through Bagghar – Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin

Spielberg’s first all encompassing trip into Motion Capture is the not talked about enough “The Adventures of Tintin, the Secret of the Unicorn”. Yet another Spielberg that rewards repeat viewings as the level of detail here is quite phenomenal.

A film that is often described as an animated Indiana Jones films, the comparisons are fair and should be taken as a massive compliment. The scene pictured above where Tintin and Captain Haddock pursue the evil Red Rackham is a flashback to the motorbike and side car chase from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where dad and Indy clumsily fight off the German soldiers.

The scene in question, is a chase through the town of Bagghar which culminates with a quite staggering 5 minute single shot taking into account crumbling buildings, sliding buildings, raging rivers, rascally birds of prey and the money shot to end all money shots, a ride down an telephone wire desperately holding onto the remaining front wheel of the motorbike.

There is so much going on here, but once again you are never in doubt where the action is up to and it is a perfect demonstration of how motion capture can be used to astonishing effect. In a film packed full of beautiful moments and clever imagery, we have a scene that would not have looked out of place in one of our favourite Archaeologists films.

5. The Caravan on the Cliff – Jurassic Park:The Lost World

Shame Files Podcast: The Lost World: Jurassic Park | Cinedelphia

By the time The Lost World was released, everyone who had a passing interest in dinosaurs had probably seen Jurassic Park and marvelled at the CGI creations that still astonish today. The problem facing Spielberg on this sequel, a film that he has since admitted he made somewhat on auto-pilot, was how do you create that sense of wonder again? Unfortunately that moment never truly arrives, it’s more “oh look dinosaurs again…cool” rather than, Sam Neil’s eyes perfectly capturing the thoughts and reactions of the first film.

Before I go any further, I have to say that I actually enjoy lots of The Lost World, in particular one scene that I think is just phenomenal, namely the caravan on the cliff. Vince Vaughan and Julianne Moore are trying to fix the broken leg of an infant Tyrannosaur in the caravan before mum and dad notice that they are missing.

This scene actually starts with one of Spielberg’s funniest visual gags as Jeff Goldblum’s Dr Malcolm descends from the High Hide without gripping the rope properly.

We are then treated to an ominous overhead rustling of trees shot, as Malcolm (showing no sign of injury from his 50 foot plummet) joins Sarah and Nick in the caravan just as mum turns up………oh and she is not happy. The first indication that she is a tad vexed is a quite brilliant shot of a jeep being tossed over the side of the cliff like you would perhaps flick at annoying bug who maybe encroaching on your dinner. The parenting team of T-Rexs are suddenly there, giving a dual aspect threat on either side of the caravan, but they don’t attack. That’s because they know their infant is in there. It’s one of Spielberg’s less obvious depictions of a family dynamic, but the power is all there.

A few threatening nudges of the caravan that spells out the consequences if their young is not returned make the human trio see sense and attempt to return the offspring to the parents, once this has been done, the T-Rex’s retreat, but only to shelter their traumatised youngster. They are not going to let this kidnapping go unpunished.

“HANG ON TO SOMETHING!!” yell Nick and Ian in unison, well that is the understatement of the year as mum and dad open a giant can of dino whoopass on the caravan and push it gradually towards the cliff edge. Now this is double trailer so the delays and red herrings here are spectacular, as the first half of the caravan heads for the abyss it is caught by the heavier end, however Sarah can’t hold on and plummets presumably to a watery death, but she is stopped by the safety glass of the caravan………………which slowly but surely begins to crack under her weight.

Just in time, Ian catches Sarah just as falling equipment smashes the window. Left dangling in mid-air the T-Rex’s nip off, presumably for a coffee and hob-nob, and our trio have Eddie (the always great Richard Schiff) turn up to help them out of the stricken caravan. He manages to tie a rope around a tree (very Nedry-esq) and lower it for the trio to clamber onto. Realising the top half is now starting to slide on the mud towards the cliff top, Eddie attaches the caravan to the tow-cable on the front of his jeep and puts all power into the rear wheel drive and begins slowly but surely to pull the caravans back onto the cliff top.

Problem is coffee break is now over and mum and dad come back to complete their work, which is bad news for everyone, in particular Eddie, who despite the hob nobs is made short work of by Mr and Mrs Rex. Of course with Eddie out of the way there is no-one to control the Jeep which means the Jeep is now going to also make a swift exit in the only direction that it can, towards the cliff top taking the caravans with it with one of Spielberg’s most exhilarating shots.

It’s a shame in many ways that the film never really matches up to that 10 minutes, but when a film has such an outstanding scenes that appears to be several leagues higher than the rest of it, there is a tendency to dismiss everything that came before or after it, which actually does The Lost World a disservice as there is lots to enjoy throughout. However as stated at the start of this entry, despite this thrilling breathtaking scene, it misses that one breathtaking moment, which brings me sneakily onto the next entry.

4. The Brachiosaur reveal – Jurassic Park

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom's Lack of Wonder is Deliberate and Important  | by Edward Punales | Medium

The secret of a truly great cinematic moment is when it can still make you gasp in wonder, maybe get a lump in your throat or punch the air in sheer delight no matter how many times you have seen that moment. Think about the first time you saw the Death Star Destroyer streak across the starry sky, at the start of Star Wars, or Josh Baskin dancing on the floor piano in Big, or George laying out Biff in Back to the Future in one punch. These are moments that made us all fall in love with cinema and why we come back for more constantly, and also lead the passion for repeat viewings.

If people reading this can think back to the very first time they saw Jurassic Park, especially if you watched it on its original cinematic release, you will no doubt remember the gasp, and definitely in the screening I was in back in 1993, the cries of “woah” and believe it or not the small ripple of applause as we suddenly knew what Alan Grant had gone all wide eyed about as the beautiful, majestic Brachiosaur strode gracefully across the meadows of Jurassic Park.

I’m just going to pause slightly now, for dramatic effect. Seriously just think of that moment when you first saw that. In a film of outstanding set pieces, this moment of tranquility is the stand out moment for me. It makes me want to weep thinking about it, it makes me want to grab my kids and sit them in front of it and say “Watch this!!!” (they’ve all been made to sit through before of course). . I want to thank John Williams for having the good sense to drop the score completely from the approaching Jeep to the first site of the dinosaur. I want to thank Dennis Muren and his team for producing such a moment and Gary Rydstrom for having the beautiful sound configuration. But most of all It makes me want to say thank you to Steven Spielberg for believing and realising such a vision from the pages of Michael Crichton’s book. It is moments like this why we return to films over and over and put our faith in the power of Cinema to thrill and excite people, and at times like this it is more vital than ever for people to enjoy such perfection.

3. The Truck Chase – Raiders

Raider's of the Lost Ark: The Truck Chase | Cappa Toons!

In a film that was prepared and storyboarded down to the last spec of dust there is sensational set piece after sensational set piece. In a previous top 10 I ranked the iconic opening scene as Spielberg’s number 1 movie opening, here in the top 10 crowd pleasing moments I pick my favourite scene from Raiders for number 3, but rest assured this could have been higher if written on another day.

A scene perfectly choreographed, a scene that demonstrates practical stunt work of the highest standards that looks as fresh today as it did almost 40 years ago when made. It’s also an endearing scene for the characterisation of Indy, proof if proof were needed that this was no superhero, this was once again an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation, (yes I appreciate he was only there because he wanted to be but still you get the point). From the moment that the trucks icon begins to bend under the weight of Indy we know that he is going to have to improvise to get out of this mess.

Of course, somebody like Tony Stark would have a built in gadget or some on the way from a distant A.I but Indy just has his strength and his whip, oh and his hat which remarkably he keeps hold of, even when making the perilous journey under the truck and then being dragged behind it holding onto the trusty whip, I suppose when a hat fits, a hat fits.

Similar to the Mine Cart chase from Temple of Doom, or even the chase through Bagghar in Tintin, we have a clear idea of who is where and what is happening. A lot of the credit must go to Michael Kahn and his editing team for keeping such a tight reign on proceedings.

It’s also a scene that helps demonstrates that the villains of the piece are not over the top demonic beasts, they to are fallible humans who have no answer to Indy’s attempts to ram them off the road.

In a scene packed with swing and counter swing I think my favourite part is when Indy is dragged behind the truck, it’s a moment that I still cheer enthusiastically today as if I’m watching Liverpool come from 3-0 down to beat Barcelona in the Champions League Semi-Final (if people don’t know what I’m talking about well take a look at this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HldRlTZj_g)

Indy may not have completely won the day with this scene, but the reason it is such a crowd pleaser is that it is a scene not only of excitement but one of hope, we all love to see the bad guys get a bit of beating and if nothing else this scene helps reassure that perhaps everything is going to be ok……as long as whatever we do, we don’t look at it.

2. E.T and Elliot take flight

E.T. the extra-terrestrial - ET - Steven Spielberg - Character profile -  Writeups.org

One of the most iconic images of Cinema for that there is absolutely no doubt, but it is the moment 35 seconds prior to this that is the true moment of unadulterated joy. Elliot with E.T as his passenger rides through the woods and comes to what he believes to be a dead-end. Not so as E.T uses his kinetic powers to take control and speeds off into the mist heading straight for the cliff edge (more cliff edges), and then it happens……just as they are about to plunge into the chasm they take off, with John Williams’s iconic Flying theme hitting the perfect musical cue for company.

Away they soar above the trees, the glorious, luscious trees, with their bustling wildlife and the endless possibilities of uninhibited adventure, this is every childs dream and Steven Spielberg captured it perfectly. It is best summed up, when moments after the iconic trip in front of the moon, Elliot lets out a triumphant cheer, yes Elliot we are with you all the way, this is just wonderful.

There really isn’t an awful lot more I can say about this scene, that hasn’t been said numerous times before, but once again it is an absolute gift of a scene and one that it is very difficult to imagine modern cinema without it.

1. The Mothership lands – CE3K

SYFY - Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Joe Alves interview | Close  Encounters of the Third Kind was supposed to have flying aliens and other  design secrets

Whenever I have been asked in the past, what is about Spielberg that makes you such a fan, the first thing I mention is the last 30 minutes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I feel if there is anyone who wishes to know what Spielberg has to offer the world I would show them this.

I don’t think Close Encounters is Spielberg’s best made film but I have made no secret over the years that it is my personal favourite (and we all know there is some insanely good competition). I also think thematically it is the quintessential Spielberg film. It’s all here, ordinary man in extraordinary situation, a difficult and testing family lives, including the ubiquitous absent parenting. There is also the child eyes looking with wonder at what is often a scary world for adults. There is the music, perfectly put together by the maestro, and then there is the magic and wonder, the light show, the star lit skies, the shooting stars, it is all there, it is Spielberg summed up in 2 and a bit hours.

However, nothing comes close to the last 30 minutes. Almost balletic in its execution, dialogue is at an absolute minimum as humans and aliens communicate through light and music. We watch events unfold, like Roy (played with childlike enthusiasm by Richard Dreyfuss) with a huge grins on our faces, praying that this is actually happening. We are treated to a visit from 3 sentry spaceships sent on ahead, who perform a dance like joust above the humans before retreating from whence they came.

This is just the appetiser to the main course, which arrives in a cacophony of rumble and yet more dazzling light shows as the mother-ship, with the size and look of a small city arrives and descends onto the landing strip. There then follows the music and light spectacular, which if real would have been one of the finest classical music concerts ever. It is truly breathtaking and I absolutely love it.

What makes it interesting now is that it has been described by some as quite a dour ending, with Roy abandoning his family to follow his dreams, in fact Spielberg has been quoted as saying he would struggle to make such an ending if he made it today. Due to studio pressure, Spielberg went back to Close Encounters in 1980 and added extra scenes including the interior of the mother-ship, which isn’t as bad as people claim it is, it just doesn’t really add anything.

I was recently asked to list my film choices for a film version of Desert Island Discs and it will be no surprise to any of you who have read this far that Close Encounters was the number one pick. The brilliance of Spielberg is that is left with any one of his films, I would be kept entertained during my time there, but Close Encounters will always be my go to.

Thanks for reading

The Spielberg Top 10: Best Opening Scenes.

To grab an audience you have to start well, all the great films pull the audience in, you could argue that you need to grab them in the first 5 minutes or people may lose interest. Like writing, if I waffle on too long you won’t read the rest so without further blathering, here is my personal TOP 10 opening scenes in Steven Spielberg directed movies.

10. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)

Steven Spielberg Provides An Update on the Second Tintin Film ...

Spielberg’s first foray into the world of motion capture is occasionally forgotten when discussions around Spielberg’s most dynamic films arise. Unfairly labelled by some as an animated Indiana Jones film, The Adventures of Tintin packs enough of an individual punch with scenes of audacity bravado as to clearly stand on it’s own two feet. None more so then this cracking opening tracking shot as the camera follows the mischievous Aristidis Silk through an outdoor market. Shot largely from the ground up the camera stops on a street artist painting a portrait of a young man who’s back is to us. On completion the Artist shows his finished article, it’s Tintin as familiarised in Herge’s collection of stories. It’s the first of a number of lovely moments in a vastly underrated film.

9. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

That Moment in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977): First ...

“Are we the first?…Are we the first to arrive?” Yes, I annoyingly shout this whenever I go to a friends or family members house for dinner etc, in my head it never gets old, however some of the invites have dried up over the years.

The opening scene of Close Encounters is packed full of mystery and red herrings (see the headlights come out of the dust) and sets the scene perfectly for the wonders that are to come. Subtle and made with practical effects, it hooks the audience straight into the story. Where did these planes come from? Why does the old man claim the sun came out at night and sang to him? Great stuff.

8. Always (1989)

Opening scene to the Steven Spielberg film, “Always” (1989) - YouTube

A very brief moment here in one of Spielberg’s least appreciated films, but it is a moment of perfectly dexterous showmanship. Two sleepy fisherman whiling the hours away when in the background, entering the shot from above a seaplane making an unexpected landing. The plane disturbs the fishermen from their slumber but it’s breaking system doesn’t seem to be helping much. The camera stays transfixed as the plane stealthily approaches the stricken boat with its panicked occupants and just as the we the audience grip the corners of our seats as the Fishing boat is about to be made into two the plane lifts off, tickling the tops of the heads of the fishermen, who duly make a swift exit into the lake. You can watch the whole wondrous 55 seconds here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upPHSDqj5x0

7. Munich (2005)

Munich (Part 1) - YouTube

Changing tone completely now, we have one of Spielberg’s most controversial films, Munich. Starting with opening titles that tell us “the following is based on real events” we are greeted by a group of men trying to scale a fence outside the Munich Olympic village. They are given a helping hand by a group of unwitting American athletes, all the while John Williams, tense heart beat of a score pounds away in the background and Janusz Kaminski’s bleak cinematography creates an atmosphere of incredible unease. We are then thrown into the middle of the terrorism plot as we watch them change clothes, load up their weapons and move to their targets apartments. It is nerve shredding tension that never lets up in the two and half hour running time that is perhaps Spielberg’s best kept secret.

6. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Fun with Franchises: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989 ...

Who doesn’t love a good origin story? Who loves them even more when they last no more than 10 minutes? Indiana Jones’s third adventure is just a fantastic film, it really is, it’s packed full of laughs, family bonding and adventure. None more so than this opening salvo that returns Indy to his childhood as a Boy Scout. The casting of Sean Connery is often talked about as a stroke of genius by Messrs. Spielberg and Lucas but do not underestimate the casting of the late River Phoenix as a younger version of Harrison Ford. His screen time may be very short but that introduction of the character, including the origins of his fear of snakes and the famous scar on his chin is beautifully put together.

I could have quite easily included all four Indiana Jones films opening scenes in this top 10 as they all start with a bang in one way or another, but I plumped for Last Crusade (and spoiler alert one other) because it gives Indy a little bit of backstory, and 10 minutes in we are already grinning from ear to ear.

5. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Saving Private Ryan: 21 facts you didn't know? Mel Gibson was ...

I know what you are thinking, FIFTH???? Well, it’s only so low because strictly speaking it’s not the opening scene, which of course is the old man (who I won’t name in case hasn’t seen it yet) visiting the war cemetery.

Taking 25 days to shoot with over 1000 extras the Omaha Beach landing is the most visceral attack on the senses. With no accompanying score the audience are asked to dodge the bullets and mortars and they come whistling across the soundwaves as we catch glimpses of limbs being blown off, men being incinerated, men being mowed down by relentless machine guns. We want to look away, we want it to be over but we don’t.

Personally the for me, Spielberg’s greatest achievement with this scene is making the audience realise that these were not trained killers, they were ordinary men sent into an extraordinary/hellish world to try to defend their freedom. That first 25 minute is one hell of a History lesson and one that should never be dismissed as just entertainment.

4. Jaws (1975)

Top 10 Movie Opening Sequences | Some Films and Stuff

Dur-dum………Dur-dum……..Dur-dum. Ok if you’ve never seen Jaws, then why are you reading this blog? No only kidding, but if you’ve never seen Jaws you have been stood next to a body of water, where somebody, usually your dad has made the Dur-dum sound, and you know what that means, that your dad is implying there is a man eating shark in that water. It’s universal, it’s know globally, that’s the brilliance of it.

Now on the face of it, who wouldn’t take Chrissie up on her offer for a touch of skinny dipping, fortunately for Tom Cassidy, too many sherbet lemons meant that he missed out on a night time sea based frolic and Bruce therefore had to waltz in the waves with Chrissie alone, albeit a tad aggressively.

A lot of the success of Jaws was down to onset mechanical failures, proving once and for all that the things you can’t see are far scarier than those that you can, and this opening scene continues to terrify to this very day. A real stomper.

3. Bridge of Spies (2015)

Bridge of Spies Film Locations - [otsoNY.com]

I make no secret of my love of Bridge of Spies, I think it is a piece of immaculate film making that demonstrates that classical methods can still be effective. In an almost dialogue free game of cat and mouse the opening 10 minutes of Bridge of Spies, is a lesson in meticulousness and attention to detail that can be sadly lacking in the current age of quick cut superhero dominated cinema.

There is a quiet assurance on display here, a calmness to Mark Rylance that embodies his performance throughout. It’s one of Spielberg’s quieter opening scenes but it’s massively effective, who is the man? Why are they after him? It’s a quite wonderful opening to a wonderful film.

2. Minority Report (2002)

MINORITY REPORT (2002) - The Arrest of Howard Marks - YouTube

How do you explain a rather tricky concept to an audience without overdoing the exposition? Simple, show the entire process from start to finish in one nail biting, ass kicking 12 minute opening salvo. It worth pointing out that as slick as Spielberg is here, this is another Janusz Kaminski masterpiece. The saturated grey and blue tinge adds to the cold atmosphere of a man going through the personal turmoil of watching his life unravel as his adulterous wife is locked in the arms of her suave lover. Meanwhile, Det Anderson (Tom Cruise) pieces together the future crime, almost in balletic fashion as Schubert’s No8 Unfinished Symphony plays dauntingly over the action.

As the time ticks by we know already they are against the clock to prevent the crime, we are totally engaged from the get go. The arrival at the street the Mark’s live on a moment of pure beauty as the pre-crime officers descend on zip-wires onto the lush, green, parkland. The slight delay whilst Anderton confirms that Howard left the door open all add to the palatable tension.

It truly is a most wonderfully choreographed scene, it’s Spielberg at his most playful.

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Long-lost Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark footage found on ...

Quite possibly the greatest opening of any film, never mind a Spielberg film. It’s quite difficult to imagine now, but coming off the back of the disappointing 1941, Raiders of the Lost Ark was considered a huge gamble by the studios involved. The Wonderkid had come unstuck with the commercial and critical failure of 1941. In order to start to rebuild his reputation, Spielberg has claimed that he has never been so prepared to make a film as he was for Raiders. Every scene had a storyboard, every minute detail was planned in advance, this film had to come in on budget and on schedule. He achieved both, with scene after scene of perfect action and adventure.

The opening scene has got everything, thrill, spills, gore even humour, note Indy’s face when he grabs the branch to prevent himself from falling into the Abyss, only for the branch to slightly give way, this was no superhero, this is was an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation etc.

If filmed today, this scene would have been edited within an inch of it’s life, imagine if you will Michael Bay shooting this opening scene, but thankfully Spielberg allows the scares and the claustrophobia to prevail, Douglas Slocombe’s cinematography and Norman Reynolds stunning production design instantly transports the audience into this hellish, booby trap ridden cavern.

Then the crowning glory, the rolling boulder, pure genius. The brilliance of Raiders is that as breathtakingly stunning this opening sequence is, it doesn’t peak here and keeps going for the next 100 or so minutes. The opening sequence isn’t even my favourite in the movie, I reserve that for the truck chase, but this is Spielberg at his most prepared, at his most free, at his most playful, he is here to entertain and boy does he ever. What a way to introduce you to one of Cinema’s most iconic heroes.


I dedicate this blog to commemorate the sad loss of Allen Daviau 14/6/42 – 15/4/20 – a true Spielberg legend in every way.

About me

My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4 year old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of  A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.

You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH

You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com