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Ridley Scott On Board for “Blade Runner” Follow-Up

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

With all of the sequels, remakes and reboots getting repeatedly funded by Hollywood these days, its very easy to say that movie-making has shifted into an unprecedented realm of unoriginality. In 99% of all cases I would whole-heartedly agree. The exception would be seeing one man’s name attached to the project and that name is Ridley Scott.

It’s been widely known for some time that Scott has chosen to direct a pseudo-prequel to his original sci fi classic “Alien” entitled: “Prometheus.” Now that said film is well into production, Scott has chosen to up the ante by announcing his involvement with a continuation of the original “Blade Runner” franchise, the film that more or less turned the director into a god for science fiction fans around the world.

The new film will be directed by Ridley for Alcon Entertainment (“Insomnia,” “The Book of Eli,” “The Blind Side,”). While no plot details have been released (or possibly even exist at all, at this point), the main word being tossed around the campfire is “follow-up,” which leaves this project quite mysterious. It could be a sequel, a prequel or some other form of tie-in that we can’t even imagine. One detail that has been confirmed is the non-involvement of Harrison Ford’s character of Rick Deckard. According to the producers, the film will not be a continuation of the original character’s story.

Some might argue Scott’s decision to mess around with his own work, which has since become a classic on many different levels. However, for me, there are several filmmakers with whom I have no problem placing my complete trust in. Sir Ridley is definitely one of them. Despite his obvious flops, his successes have made him one of the true film visionaries of the last half century. With him behind the controls, I fervently anticipate every step of this production and look forward to it’s completion, which according to sources, may not be for at least three years. Stay tuned for more info.

In the meantime, enjoy one of the greatest openings in film history:

Is AFI Missing Their Opportunities?

As everyone knows, each year for nearly four decades, the American Film Institute has awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award to a single individual. The honor is meant to reflect that person’s “lifetime contribution to enriching American culture through motion pictures and television.” When looking at the list of recipients over the years, it’s enough to fill the Kodak Theater several times over. Some of my personal favorites include Orson Welles in ’75, William Wyler in ’76, James Stewart in ’80, Steven Spielberg in ’95 and Al Pacino in ’07.

This year, the Institute has chosen to honor Morgan Freeman for his body of work as an actor. For sure, not an unusual choice for such an award. He received his first Oscar nomination in 1988 for “Street Smart” and has been captivating audiences, multiple times a year, ever since. For me, performances simply don’t get much better than his work in “The Shawshank Redemption.” The speech in his final parole hearing is the stuff that legends are made out of.

All in all, though, aside from a few great decisions, the AFI award seems kind of tainted and lazy, as of late. The whole picture seemed to change around the time that Tom Hanks won what many called his “mid-life” achievement award ten years ago. It seems that the award is being given more on account of how popular the recipient has been in recent years instead of, say thirty years ago. There are many, MANY performers, directors and producers who are much more deserving of the award than recent fare.

I’d much rather have seen men the likes of Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, David Lynch, Francis Ford Coppola or, for crying out loud, Woody Allen receive distinction above the likes of George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Michael Douglas, Sean Connery or Morgan Freeman. The talent ratio is nearly incomparable. I mean, in terms of weight in Academy Award recognition is 49 nominations to 13 (Douglas, Ford and Connery only sharing 4 nominations between them).

What’s even more disturbing is the complete disregard to female contributions to cinema. In the last two decades, three women have received this award. Meryl Streep is completely understandable. Elizabeth Taylor cannot be argued with. Barbara Streisand…really? Meanwhile, the following women are still living and more than deserving of this award: Faye Dunaway, Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith, Julie Christie, Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton, Glenn Close, and Jessica Lange. Perhaps the most ridiculously passed over women are Ellen Burstyn and Jane Fonda who have delivered some of the most phenomenal performances Hollywood has ever seen and have been doing so for upwards of forty years.

The greats are passing away left and right. Paul Newman, Robert Altman, Marlon Brando and, of course, Sidney Lumet are the most recent to leave this world without receiving this prestigious honor. AFI needs to keep its eyes on the prize and award some of these more-deserving folk before it’s too late.

New Additions: “Sahara,” “Frantic” and “Stagecoach”

March 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Haven’t done one of these in a while. Once again, these are just some films that I’ve seen recently for the first time and added to The Mitchell List. I’ve featured them here, with a short review for each.

“Sahara” (Zoltan Korda) – 1943

No, I’m not talking about the Matthew McConaughey/Penelope Cruz turd that came out a few years ago. “Sahara,” starring Humphrey Bogart and Lloyd Bridges was not only a movie about World War II, but one of the first films ever made featuring Americans fighting in said war. It takes place in the deserts of North Africa and follows a diminished American tank crew, a handful of stranded British soldiers and their fight to protect a water hole from a Battalion of five hundred Nazis. The film features some good cinemtagraphy, excellent sound design and some riveting action scenes. However, I was kind of put off by the mean spiritedness of the American soldiers, tricking the Germans who are dying of thirst into coming to an empty water hole with the intent of slaughtering them. Overall, it adds to the central propagandist logic of the film of glorifying the G.I.s and antagonizing the Nazis as the real battle raged across the ocean, back at a time period when our soldiers really did have a cause worth fighting for.

GRADES:           B            * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           6.8 / 10.0

 

“Frantic” (Roman Polanski) – 1988

Roman Polanski has been known for a lot of things, both in the filmmaking world and outside of it. However, after seeing films like “The Ghost Writer” and now this, one facet that I can definitely accredit to him is perfecting the formula of the Hitchcock thriller. Harrison Ford is an ordinary man put into an extraordinary situation when his wife is kidnapped while both are on a business trip to Paris. Ford must go beyond his limitations as a private citizen to solve the kidnapping and ends up getting involved in a criminal conspiracy in the process. This is a great little thriller with some classic scenes. Polanski and Ford both do a fantastic job of never letting the main character tread into action-hero territory, keeping the suspense alive by allowing the audience to see themselves in the protagonist’s shoes by constantly asking themselves what they would do if put in said situation. My only huge qualm with the film is its technical quality. There’s some interesting shots and cutting work in play. Yet overall, the film looks not only plain, but boring. Still a successfully thrilling film.

GRADES:           B+            * * * * / * * * * *           7.8 / 10.0

 

“Stagecoach” (John Ford) – 1939

With this grand tale of high adventure, John Ford created, perhaps, the mother of all westerns. A true motley crew of passengers, including a marshall, a prostitute, an alcoholic doctor and an fugitive outlaw, must take a stagecoach through volatile indian country. They must put aside their differences, band together and survive the journey, together. Classic films from the golden age of cinema rarely display such excitement and raw adventure. Ford’s portrait of the separate characters forming a courageous bond, though certainly not without turmoil, is the strongest prospect of the film. The audience really becomes a member of the journey. It’s not difficult to understand why this film, among others, inspired an entire generation of kids playing cowboys and indians. The film also features some great performances, the standout being Thomas Mitchell’s Oscar-winning work as the comic and philosophical doctor struggling with his demons.

GRADES:           A-            * * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           9.2 / 10.0

 

 

Now, since it has been a time since I authored one of these posts, I’ve obviously seen a lot more than three films since the last one. Therefore, I thought I’d put up my ratings and simply say a few words on the other features that I viewed.

 

 

“The Last Emperor” (Bernardo Bertolucci) – 1987

Certainly a gorgeous-looking epic which has some well-directed scenes, however lacking a strong protagonist or a worthy third act.

GRADES:           B            * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           7.4 / 10.0

 

“The Beach” (Danny Boyle) – 2000

By far, the worst outing of Danny Boyle’s entire career. A true misstep from beginning to end, with flaccid characters that seek out a psuedo-“Lord of the Flies” style of Spring Break.

GRADES:           C-            * * / * * * * *           3.6 / 10.0

 

“Suspiria” (Dario Argento) – 1977

A true horror classic with some highly influential camerawork and one hell of an unorthodox and all together harrowing musical score.

GRADES:           B+            * * * * / * * * * *           8.0 / 10.0

 

“Flirting with Disaster” (David O’Russell) – 1996

O’Russell is definitely a director who has gotten better with age. This film is a lot of fun with an extensive cast, but is just too goofy to be taken seriously.

GRADES:           B+            * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           6.8 / 10.0


“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” (Alex Gibney) – 2005

The breakout film for rockstar documentary director, Alex Gibney, which uncovers corruption with excitement and poise.

GRADES:           B+           * * * * / * * * * *           7.8 / 10.0

 

“Iron Man 2” (Jon Favreau) – 2010

This sequel, lacking the wit and excitement of the original, doesn’t quite flush the franchise down the toilet, but makes it a lot less reputable.

GRADES:           C-           * * / * * * * *           4.0 / 10.0

 

“Catch-22” (Mike Nichols) – 1970

I’m usually always up for a good war/political satire, which this is. However, the plot is so insanely convoluted that it’s just downright confusing, but not in a good way.

GRADES:           B           * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           7.2 / 10.0

 

“Trade” (Marco Kreuzpainter) – 2007

A compelling, yet overly self-righteous, thriller about sex trafficking features Kevin Kline in a role with nearly no comedy and one really weird and unbalanced ending.

GRADES:           B-           * * * / * * * * *           6.0 / 10.0

 

“Cool World” (Ralph Bakshi) – 1992

Ridiculously bad on all accounts. This movie makes “Space Jam” look like an undisputed masterpiece.

GRADES:           D           * / * * * * *           2.4 / 10.0

 

“All the King’s Men” (Robert Rossen) – 1949

A true acting showcase. Obviously superior to the remake, yet still not coming close to grasping the depth and insight of the novel they’re both based on.

GRADES:           B           * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           7.0 / 10.0

 

“The Adventures of Robin Hood” (Michael Curtiz) – 1936

Definitely, the best film I’ve ever seen by Michael Curtiz. Like “Stagecoach,” it’s a source of pure inspiration for imagination and adrenaline.

GRADES:           A-           * * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           9.0 / 10.0

 

“Dodsworth” (William Wyler) – 1936

This early work by one of my favorite directors can be dry and unentertaining a times, but features great production value and an extremely satisfying climax.

GRADES:           B+            * * * * / * * * * *           7.8 / 10.0

“Cowboys and Aliens” Trailer

November 17, 2010 1 comment

I believe it was only a few days ago when I had said that I was loving the new resurgence of alien invasion-type movies. Now, we get the first trailer from Universal/Dreamworks’ insanely anticipated (by crazy sci fi and comic book fanatics anyway) film “Cowboys and Aliens” I think this flick might be a bit too silly for my taste, but it’s got a phenomenal cast and some great visuals. Good stuff.