Blu-ray: ‘E.T.’ at 35 from Universal

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Steven Spielberg’s suburban fairy tale for kids who think they are too hip to believe in fairies, turns 35 with a new E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 35th Anniversary Limited Edition (Universal) plus additional Blu-ray, DVD, and 4K Ultra HD editions.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Henry Thomas is Elliot, an emotionally bruised kid suffering under his parents’ separation who finds and bonds with another lonely, lost soul, a benevolent alien left behind when his spaceship leaves. “I’m keeping him,” says Elliot, but meanwhile an army of government men search for him. As E.T. grows homesick and just plain sick. Elliot and friends need to help get E.T. home.

It’s a fantastical adventure with a grounding in the modern suburbia of divorce and adolescent anxiety, and E.T. is the ultimate imaginary playmate come to life. Part pet, part best friend, part guardian angel with an emotionally symbiotic connection to Elliot, this funny looking stranger in a strange land (think of a squat, mutant teddy bear with lizard skin and monkey fingers and voice between a growl and a purr) is a wizened old grandfatherly being with the trust and playfulness of a child.

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New Review: Whip It

Directed by Drew Barrymore; screenplay by Shauna Cross, from her novel

This is the role that we’ve been waiting for Ellen Page to get since making her mark in Juno. Bliss Cavendar is neither as smart-ass nor as confident as Juno MacGuff, the sardonic high school girl who gets pregnant and chooses to carry it to term for adoptive parents. She’s a lot more real in Whip It, a restless girl in a suburb of a suburb, enduring one young miss beauty pageant after another at the urging of her mother (Marcia Gay Harden), who comes off like a stage mom obsessed with appearances—she is, after all, a former pageant queen herself—but is really more pragmatic. As a mail carrier with a blue-collar husband (Daniel Stern as the warmly supportive dad relegated to the margins of the film) and a solid but drab suburban home in the heart of football country, she sees pageants as lessons in poise and public speaking and a shot as scholarships. That doesn’t make Bliss any more excited about the grind or the girlie makeovers.

Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page and Kristin Wiig whip it around the roller derby track
Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page and Kristin Wiig whip it around the roller derby track

On one of her brief escapes from Bodeen, Texas, during a shopping trip with mom (where their fashion tastes collide once again) in the nearby hipster metropolis of Austin, she finds a flyer for the local roller derby squad—fan favorites and perennial losers the Hurl Scouts—and fakes a bout of school spirit to sneak off for a match with her best friend (Alia Shawkat), who just wants to know if any cute boys will be there. It’s a match made in heaven for Bliss. “You’re my new heroes,” she gushes to the team’s mother hen, Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig, sublimely down-to-earth both on and off the track), and soon Bliss is back for try-outs and a spot on the squad, lying about her age to the team and about her extracurricular activities to her parents. The pocket rocket sparks the team into high gear and a sudden winning streak, but while she brings the speed and the scores (the film provides an easy-to-follow, playfully illustrated tutorial on the rules and tactics of the sport), she’s less comfortable with the body checks and bruiser attitude that comes naturally to her teammates, especially scrappy sweetheart Smashley Simpson (Drew Barrymore). Smashley is a wild child who treats the sport more like playground roughhousing. Scoring points is secondary to a satisfying thumping on the opposing team.

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