Tag Archives: Harrison Ford

Months in Review: September & October films (part II)

Continued from the previous post, below are my impressions of the films I watched in October:

ELVIRA, TE DARÍA MI VIDA PERO LA ESTOY USANDO (2014) [ 3.5/5 ]

An entertaining Mexican dramedy that follows a housewife who must keep her life together while searching for her missing husband. Most of the film’s pleasures lie not on the story, which is derivative and predictable, but on the detours that actress Cecilia Suarez must take as Elvira to uncover the truth about her husband and rediscover herself.

I also realized midway through the film that it relies on the kind of silly hispanic humor that may not fully translate to non-Latin audiences.

FORCE MAJOURE (2014) [ 3.5/5 ]

Rarely has a film about the fragility of love and marriage has been so satisfyingly uncomfortable to watch. At first, Force Majoure is about a woman’s struggle to reaffirm her worth in a lopsided and selfish relationship, only to later become a story about a man’s newfound respect for his loved ones. It was not only surprising to see the film change its angle after an hour, but it was also disappointing. I much preferred the first hour, which included a fantastic sequence of an avalanche that threatens the life of our characters.

Filmed in the snowy heights of Scandinavia, Force Majoure is also a beautiful film to look at, both for the gorgeous vistas, but also for its architecture.

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017) [ 4/5 ]

The much-anticipated sequel to the sci-fi classic is an achievement in that it manages to build onto and expand the universe of the original, without feeling like an overly respectful repetition.

Like its predecessor, it moves forward meditatively, enveloping us in its futuristic world, set some 30 years after the events of the original. Once again, the film is an exploration about what it means to be human, suggesting that it resides not on intelligence but on our capacity to show empathy.

Crucial to the success of the film are director Denis Villeneuve and storied cinematographer Richard Deakins. The two create one of the most stunningly beautiful films ever made in what could finally prove to be Deakins’ turn for Oscar gold.

Unsurprisingly, Ryan Gosling also nails his starring role as the brooding and introspective detective whose job to discontinue old Replicant models poses a moral quandary from early on.

As the trailers showed, Blade Runner also reintroduces Harrison Ford some 30 years later, whose role here remains key to the Blade Runner saga even if he only shows up in the latter stages. What is even better than his return to a much remembered character is that Ford gives one of his most nuanced performances to date.

THE LAST WORD (2017) [ 3/5 ]

A cute family-friendly comedy with the kind of traditional 3-act story of an old lady who, in the space of 90 minutes of film reel, and no more than a few weeks’ worth of real time, undergoes a profound philosophical transformation as her life approaches an end.

As predictable and unoriginal as the story may be, there are pleasures to be found within the film, mostly delivered by the great Shirley McClain in a role that gives her plenty to do even if it means that the characters around her are flat and one-dimensional.

SPIELBERG (2017) [ 3.5/5 ]

A lengthy and surprisingly nuanced examination of the life and work of one of cinema’s most influential and talented directors who, in the course of 4 decades, has also managed to shape pop culture and break every kind of box office record.

With unprecedented access to Spielberg himself, some of his famous and not-so-famous friends, family and colleagues, the film offers a once-in-a-lifetime perspective into the mind of a great artist.

As a cinephile I found it endlessly fascinating and informative. The film manages to capture some of the motivations and behind-the-scenes work of a master of the medium. In accompanying his oeuvre with some details on his personal life, which he has always kept away from public scrutiny, we get a glimpse to the kinds of things that have influenced the content of his work and motivated his desire to make movies.

Ultimately, it tends to feel like a bit self-congratulatory but, when his work is put together in a single documentary, one can’t help but be in awe of his skill and the timeliness of his career choices.

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) [ 3.5/5 ]

A Hollywood classic found in many best-ever lists that had been a blind spot for me for much too long.

The Night of the Hunter is Charles Laughton’s one and only project as a feature film director and is, by every account, a terribly influential piece that gave us one of cinema’s most indelible villains, The Preacher, portrayed with theatrical panache by Robert Mitchum.

Like the performance itself, the piece is flamboyant in its biblical allegories, with towns that bear no trace of reality, and adult characters that exist not as people, but as instruments to tell a story about good and evil.

Though it doesn’t have the kind of attention to detail and rigorous construction of other Hollywood films of the time, The Night of the Hunter excels where others don’t, carving itself a place in the history of film by being bold and unique.

1922 (2017) [ 3/5 ]

A slow-burning horror drama about the psychological ramifications of murder. The film, which was backed by Netflix and probably saved from a quick death as a feature in theaters, stars a very good Thomas Jane playing a scruffy Southern farmer willing to commit the greatest of sins in order to save his lifestyle and his manly pride.

The film is largely effective in its mental and emotional explorations, but it fails at delivering a story with enough of a heartbeat to keep us engaged for much of its long two hours of running time.

HELLRAISER (1987) [ 1.5/5 ]

Few movies in the history of cinema owe their fame to so little. Hellraiser is a terribly executed piece of film that is filled with sequencing problems, poor acting, non-sensical characters, awful cinematography and clumsy editing. My interest in Hellraiser was lost within the first five minutes as the film wastes no time in jumping from one plot point to another to tell its nightmarish and gruesome tale.

The only noteworthy aspect lies in the design of the so-called Cenophites, evil creatures from another dimension that trap their summoner in an endless cycle of extreme pleasure and pain.

A “horror classic” that owes much of its fame to the non-sensical insanity it puts us through.

GIRLS TRIP (2017) [ 2.5/5 ]

All similarities to Bridesmaids aside, Girls Trip is a highly overrated comedy filled with half-baked characters, a messy script and at least a half dozen jokes that don’t quite land. What truly surprises me is that this film, which as derivative and commonplace as you’ll likely to find, received so much praise.

Thankfully, there is an occasional funny scene and lost in the middle of it all there is something to be said about the empowering feminism that it tries to embrace.

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Months in Review: December & January (2016)

Revenant

How quickly do months fly by when you are busy. It seems like only a week ago I posted my last review. As quickly as my newfound motivation to blog a bit more came to me on January 1st, as quickly it evaporated not from a lack of desire, but from a lack of energy.

With a bit of a delay, I share with you my brief thoughts on the films I had the chance to watch in the last month of 2015 and the first of 2016. A total of 21 films were watched, 12 in December and 9 in January. The average rating was a very good 3.35 out of 5. The following are ordered in the way they were seen:

Continue reading Months in Review: December & January (2016)

2015, The Year in Film

STAR WARS POSTER

After nearly two months of no activity in my blog and a few hours away before the end of 2015, I simply couldn’t let December pass me by without offering something to reminisce about the year.
I hope this coming year finally gives me the purpose to really devote some time to blogging, as I’ve wanted to since I started it about 3 years ago.
There are also a couple of series to catch up with, like my reviews of the first season of Mr. Robot, and my ongoing monthly round-ups.

Anyway…

2015 was a year filled with great films, many of which I have yet to see. In lieu of a “best films of 2015” post, I will instead share thoughts on the films I watched this year, whether they were first released 50 years back, or just a month or two ago. The following list will comprise some of the greatest movies I watched (grouped by high ratings of 4.5 or 4/5 only as there were no perfect scores given) and some honorable mentions that did not quite make the cut . The following are limited to films I had not seen before or that I had not seen in their entirety until this year.

Continue reading 2015, The Year in Film

Months in review: June & July

Jurassic World

There comes a time in everyone’s life where the sun, the beach, and enjoying the outdoors takes precedent whenever one feels they have an hour or two to spare. Such has been the case for me over the last few months, even if Chicago, and its often unmerciful weather, has attempted to hijack a weekend or two with its northerly wintry winds and stray summer showers. For these reasons, and maybe a couple of others I will not get into right now, I have abandoned my blog yet again.

Continue reading Months in review: June & July

Months in review: October & November films

In the last two months I’ve seen 26 films, but only a handful of which I would consider watching again. It was a particularly poor couple of months in terms of quality and quantity that I will hopefully begin to fix with the swarm of great films that have come out to theaters or that will be coming before the year is out. I can’t remember the last time I was as excited as I am today with the group of films that are hitting theaters within the next few weeks.

For now, here is a recap of the 26 films I managed to watch between October & November (in the order in which they were seen), while a great deal of my time was devoted to countless hours of catching up with Breaking Bad (finally got to the last season).

RUSH

Continue reading Months in review: October & November films

IMDB Top 250: Apocalypse Now (1979)

My challenge to watch the IMDB TOP 250 films of all-time continues.

Today is yet another pleasurable encounter with my keyboard as I get to review a very unique and accomplished film: Apocalypse Now.

At 153 minutes, Apocalypse Now is a very long movie that fails only in its lack of momentum which, at times, can make the movie drag a bit in its final few scenes. However, the film, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, moves with a gentle pace so we can absorb and get to know the Vietnamese jungle intimately at the time of the American occupation following the rise of Comunism in the Far East. It is a film that, without a doubt, pays homage to its title by attempting, with great success, to capture the apocalyptical devastation caused by the war in the hearts and minds of the people of Vietnam, of American soldiers, and of a country that had grown doubtful of the whole military campaign.
For most of its length, the film follows Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) on a strange mission to assassinate a rogue Green Beret beyond the thick jungle and into the depths of remote Cambodia where he is believed to be. We first encounter Willard laying anxiously on his bed, back in the United States, narrating his inability to lead a normal life while his mind and heart had stayed in Vietnam. He waits for a new deployment, abhorring his new uneventful life away from the chaotic setting of the war. When Willard finally gets his wish and is reassigned to the war, he narrates from the future, explaining that the place he was headed to was the worst place in the world.
It comes as no surprise that the movie becomes more about the path than about the destination. After meeting with some officials that include a very young Harrison Ford, Willard is assigned a small group of soldiers to navigate across Vietnam and into Cambodia. Along the way we are reminded of the objective of the mission by Willard’s narration, but it slowly fades into the background as we are presented with the horror of the war and the collapse of the American endeavor.
First, Willard meets an official, masterfully played by Robert Duvall, who is portrayed as an odd mutation of the rigid West-Point trained officer, always walking with confidence and unafraid of his surroundings, as if he knew he wasnt meant to die in the war. Such confidence borders with insanity as he seems detached from what is happening around him and asks the impossible from his troops, repeatedly risking their lives more for his depraved entertainment, than for a true military purpose.
Like the officer, Willard encountered one odd situation after another, showing us an American force that was poorly trained, managed and directed, with soldiers that had lost their grip on reality, leaving morality far behind.

In this context, Willard begins to find a strange wisdom in the words and actions of the mad-man he is supposed to kill. Willard doubts the purpose of the mission more and more as it becomes clear to him that a rogue Green Beret is just a small problem in a war effort that is falling apart in front of his eyes.
In the more than 2 hours of the film, Willard remains the more sane of all characters, even when he is part of a mission with little purpose and that is depicted as a consequence to the insanity of the circumstances.
By the time Willard finally meets the rogue Colonel Kurtz, he is only with a couple of soldiers, trapped in a foreign world where madness was apparent everywhere, yet no one seemed to notice.
Sadly, the film anticipates the moment so much and for so long that even if the Colonel, played rather subtly by the great Marlon Brando, had been wearing an elephant head for a hat, we would have felt a bit let down by the “monster” Willard was supposed to encounter.

Above all, Apocalypse Now is an effective atmospheric poem about how pointless and tragic the War in Vietnam was. Marlon Brando, in this sense, becomes Coppola’s flagship to represent the ultimate American tragedy: a promising, smart and courageous leader of men driven to despair and insanity by the horror of a needless war.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (masterpiece)

Niels

IMDB Top 250: Blade Runner (1982)

My mission to watch all of the TOP 250 films listed in the IMDB site (as of March 22nd) has officially begun.

In picking the first movie of the long list of 124 films that still await to be viewed, I chose one of the few that I have always been interested in watching but never quite had the opportunity to do so. The movie is Blade Runner, released in 1982. It was directed by Sir Ridley Scott, who is also known for other great movies like Alien, Thelma & Louise and Gladiator. The film stars Harrison Ford, who was still at his prime having already been immortalized by his roles as Indiana Jones and Hans Solo in Star Wars.

It is clear from the very first scene (seen above) why this film is among the most influential motion-pictures ever made. Blade Runner relies heavily on the legacy of science fiction movies to create what was the most believable larger-than-life fictional environment in cinema’s history.

When analyzed from a purely visual perspective, Blade Runner takes many cues from Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”, conceived over 50 years prior. Both present us with a highly machinized society that thrives on monstrous corporations and social disparities. Blade Runner depicts its version of Los Angeles in 2019, a mere 8 years away now. The first picture we get is that of a heavily industrialized, dense, compacted city of unbelievable scale. As the film progresses, so does our impression of this future. We are taken from the calm, organized, clean and luxurious upper stories of the presumably gigantic Tyrell Corporation to a street level that is compacted, dirty, noisy, diverse and hectic in every way imaginable. Within a few minutes, Blade Runner explores topics that go beyond the central storyline. The movie offers a rather critical perspective of a world dominated by corporations where technology has not necessarily contributed to the betterment of life on Earth. The disparity of riches is apparent, and it is clear that the vast majority does not benefit from the extreme industrialization that the world has undergone.

As a person that is usually inclined to appreciate the visual before any other aspect of a film, I was perhaps devoting a lot more of my attention to the environment so skilfully depicted in the film than to the story itself. However, I believe this is exactly the intention of the director. The objective was not so much on the details that made up the plot, but rather on how this story would gain life within the unique environment that was created around it.

The movie communicated, like very few have, a sense of place. When you follow Harrison Ford, you get a sense you’re just another passerby in the busy streets of futuristic Los Angeles. We are offered with an “inside look” that simultaneously and continuously delivers a sense of chaos, of foul smells, of political and social decay.

It is to Ridley Scott’s credit that the overall success of the film was not severely hampered by the linearity and flawed storyline. However, if analyzed rigorously, we will find that the story lacks pace, where we find characters that seem to be a few revolutions behind the world around them. Such a discrepancy in forward-motion lessens the visual impact of the film but not the extent one would expect.

The storyline is not especially rigorous either. There is a lack of attention to detail that makes us care less about the conclusion to the plot and wonder more about what the rest of the city looks and feels like.

For the artistry behind the making of the film, Blade Runner is certainly one of the most finely crafted science-fiction movies I have ever seen (and one of the most influential), which is not to say it should be considered in any way perfect, or as great as some of its predecessors.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Niels