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Review films of the 1980s here! - Page 6

post #151 of 256
Heaven's Gate (1980), written and directed by Michael Cimino.

A Harvard grad of 1870, young and full of hopes and dreams, is told his duty is to uplift the lower classes by "contact of the cultivated mind with the uncultivated". How does that work out? Twenty years later he's a marshal in Wyoming, burned out and fed up, often drunk and wanting out, just in time for the Johnson County War.

The results of his idealism: it's a split decision. He does the right thing in defending the weak against the strong, but after saving his girl from murdering rapists, she chooses the man who works for the bad guys.

It's a rare Eastern-European Western where most of the immigrants are Germans and Slavs. The Old World look makes it seem set in the Old Country, not in America at all: think Sergio Leone and parts of the Godfather films. It's all class warfare and "which side are you on" -- the long overwrought town meeting looks like something from deep in Russia when the bolshis were agitating revolution.

It's at the unromantic, gritty and brutal end of the Western spectrum, maybe less shocking now since the Deadwood series was so popular. A personal aside: when we saw this in the theater a man-hating feminist (I'm being dispassionately accurate here) of my acquaintance flayed me for a particularly ugly rape and murder scene. As if I had made the film, or invited her to it.

In memory it was drab and humorless, but that seems less true now with this cut. We have many striking landscape scenes, Kris Kristofferson's joy in his prostitute girlfriend (lovely Isabelle Huppert) and the boisterous roller-skating dance. The sight of Jeff Bridges fiddling and skating backwards is worth the price of admission.

Kristofferson seems built for his role. The villains are barely one-dimensional and the American "peasants" an unlovely lot.

The Criterion Blu-ray is a director's cut at 3h27m. I would not say it drags at any spot because there is always something to marvel at, but it has it's own pacing. Where is this going and when are we going to get there? Christopher Walken is introduced then vanishes for an hour, but it is only towards the end that the editing really starts to fall apart. After a long build up the actual fighting is not very engaging. It's a dusty and chaotic battle, which is reasonable, but the little atrocity incidents seem like a filmmaker's weak attempt at the horror and senselessness of war. A wagon rolls over a man's legs so his wife shoots him in the head and stares mournfully. What? The final spasm of violence after the battle seems dramatically unnecessary.

Much nudity and bloodshed, sometimes together.

This was a famously troubled, career-ending production, a terrible box office disaster, often called one of the worst films of all time. That's ridiculous. The critical dog-pile was absurd, a vivid example of herd mentality. It may not be a great film but it deserves to be considered on it's merits, not on the production backstory or as an old industry punchline.

Some claim it was the bad theatrical edit that was to blame. Now that we see a director's cut it is a "modern masterpiece". I say: how about we refrain from rushing to one side of the boat or the other?

The Humane Association had problems with the treatment of animals; read about that and other production details in the wikipedia article.

Criterion Blu-ray, very grainy. The soft focus accentuates the antique, Old World tone.



-Bill
Edited by wmcclain - 12/4/12 at 12:14pm
post #152 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Heaven's Gate (1980), written and directed by Michael Cimino.

-Bill

I shamelessly admit that I like all the different cuts of this film, but the definitive director's cut on this BD is the best. I do find myself wandering a bit in some of the over-long sequences though. But the visuals alone are worth the watch, this is film-making at its best. Watch the bonus content on the restoration to see what a massive improvement this BD is for PQ. They also did a lot of work on the audio to bring out the dialog better. I rarely buy BDs any more for keeping, but this is one I wouldn't miss.
post #153 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdgrimes View Post

They also did a lot of work on the audio to bring out the dialog better.

Fat lot of good that did. The dialogue in huge chunks of the movie is still completely indecipherable.
post #154 of 256
The Shining (1980), produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick.

I hadn't seen this for a long time. It's one of my least favorite Kubrick films, but I liked it a bit better than I had remembered.

The good parts are the slow teasing buildup, the effective atmosphere for all the thriller bits, a scary score (some of which sounds just like Jerry Goldsmith to me, although he wasn't involved), and some genuine shock moments. My favorite is poor Scatman Crothers, flying cross country to rescue them, then -- ouch!

Shelley Duvall was born to (a) play Olive Oyl, and (b) be terrified by axe-wielding Jack Nicholson. Considering her makes me realize that this is something of a woman's horror film: fear for a child, dread of a husband gone wrong.

Three big problems. First, Nicholson needs to be restrained by his director, which doesn't happen here.

Second, horror films must at least make a gesture toward an explanation, offering reasons for what happens. I am impatient with films like 1408 which don't even make an effort. Here we have candidates but the plot never gels around any of them. At various times we are supposed to be afraid of:

  • wilderness
  • isolation
  • old Indian burial ground
  • ghosts
  • hotel itself haunted in some unexplained way
  • elevators of blood and chopped bodies
  • a maze
  • possessed (?) kid
  • crazy dad, resentful of his family and guilty about injuring his son, a writer unable to write.
  • reincarnated (?) bad guy?

The up-front musical cues and shock themes clue us to all of these. If the point is that we can't know and must just keep wondering: it's lost on me in this case. (Although it works for me in The Birds and Picnic at Hanging Rock -- I'm not sure why the difference here).

Lastly, after a long build-up and terror-o-rama climax, it just slumps to the ending. Mom's in the house, Dad is running around and bellowing in the maze. Then he's dead. The end.

The Shining has been analyzed to death, but I don't recall anyone mentioning that Barry Nelson as hotel manager Stuart Ullman is the close image of "Al" Ullman, prominent congressman of the period.

Google "Room 237": a startling number of hits.

Available on Blu-ray. Great natural color.



-Bill
post #155 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

The Shining (1980), produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick.
I hadn't seen this for a long time. It's one of my least favorite Kubrick films, but I liked it a bit better than I had remembered.
The good parts are the slow teasing buildup, the effective atmosphere for all the thriller bits, a scary score (some of which sounds just like Jerry Goldsmith to me, although he wasn't involved), and some genuine shock moments. My favorite is poor Scatman Crothers, flying cross country to rescue them, then -- ouch!
Shelley Duvall was born to (a) play Olive Oyl, and (b) be terrified by axe-wielding Jack Nicholson. Considering her makes me realize that this is something of a woman's horror film: fear for a child, dread of a husband gone wrong.
Three big problems. First, Nicholson needs to be restrained by his director, which doesn't happen here.
Second, horror films must at least make a gesture toward an explanation, offering reasons for what happens. I am impatient with films like 1408 which don't even make an effort. Here we have candidates but the plot never gels around any of them. At various times we are supposed to be afraid of:
  • wilderness
  • isolation
  • old Indian burial ground
  • ghosts
  • hotel itself haunted in some unexplained way
  • elevators of blood and chopped bodies
  • a maze
  • possessed (?) kid
  • crazy dad, resentful of his family and guilty about injuring his son, a writer unable to write.
  • reincarnated (?) bad guy?
The up-front musical cues and shock themes clue us to all of these. If the point is that we can't know and must just keep wondering: it's lost on me in this case. (Although it works for me in The Birds and Picnic at Hanging Rock -- I'm not sure why the difference here).
Lastly, after a long build-up and terror-o-rama climax, it just slumps to the ending. Mom's in the house, Dad is running around and bellowing in the maze. Then he's dead. The end.
The Shining has been analyzed to death, but I don't recall anyone mentioning that Barry Nelson as hotel manager Stuart Ullman is the close image of "Al" Ullman, prominent congressman of the period.
Google "Room 237": a startling number of hits.
Available on Blu-ray. Great natural color.

-Bill

http://kdk12.tumblr.com/post/4879566957/the-shining-forwards-and-backwards here is a rabbit hole for you.
post #156 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

The Shining (1980), produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick.
I hadn't seen this for a long time. It's one of my least favorite Kubrick films, but I liked it a bit better than I had remembered.
The good parts are the slow teasing buildup, the effective atmosphere for all the thriller bits, a scary score (some of which sounds just like Jerry Goldsmith to me, although he wasn't involved), and some genuine shock moments. My favorite is poor Scatman Crothers, flying cross country to rescue them, then -- ouch!
Shelley Duvall was born to (a) play Olive Oyl, and (b) be terrified by axe-wielding Jack Nicholson. Considering her makes me realize that this is something of a woman's horror film: fear for a child, dread of a husband gone wrong.
Three big problems. First, Nicholson needs to be restrained by his director, which doesn't happen here.
Second, horror films must at least make a gesture toward an explanation, offering reasons for what happens. I am impatient with films like 1408 which don't even make an effort. Here we have candidates but the plot never gels around any of them. At various times we are supposed to be afraid of:
  • wilderness
  • isolation
  • old Indian burial ground
  • ghosts
  • hotel itself haunted in some unexplained way
  • elevators of blood and chopped bodies
  • a maze
  • possessed (?) kid
  • crazy dad, resentful of his family and guilty about injuring his son, a writer unable to write.
  • reincarnated (?) bad guy?
The up-front musical cues and shock themes clue us to all of these. If the point is that we can't know and must just keep wondering: it's lost on me in this case. (Although it works for me in The Birds and Picnic at Hanging Rock -- I'm not sure why the difference here).
Lastly, after a long build-up and terror-o-rama climax, it just slumps to the ending. Mom's in the house, Dad is running around and bellowing in the maze. Then he's dead. The end.
The Shining has been analyzed to death, but I don't recall anyone mentioning that Barry Nelson as hotel manager Stuart Ullman is the close image of "Al" Ullman, prominent congressman of the period.
Google "Room 237": a startling number of hits.
Available on Blu-ray. Great natural color.

The Shining is another of the Kubrick films I love and bought on BD. I know it is controversial but I deeply admire it. It shows Kubrick at his funny, creepy best
post #157 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Available on Blu-ray. Great natural color.

Except for that pink tennis ball.
post #158 of 256
Drowning by Numbers (1988), written and directed by Peter Greenaway.

Three women (related, with the same name) drown their husbands. The reluctant but amiable coroner helps with the cover-up, hoping for a little affection from any or all of them. He should have gotten payment in advance. This is actor Bernard Hill: Hail, Theoden King.

Art films can be a chore. At least Peter Greenaway inserts humor, employs his painterly visual imagination, and often uses the lovely chamber music of Michael Nyman.

The gimmick this time is an assortment of made-up, mostly comical games, and incessant counting of just about everything. Some Biblical allusions, but I'm not sure to what end. Both funny and morbid.

Quite a bit of nudity. I've seen Juliet Stevenson and Joely Richardson in other films and it's startling to see them bare here. The men, as usual, should keep their clothes on.

The PAL DVD has no subtitles and I couldn't follow much of the dialogue. Memo for next time: get the text SRT subtitles available online (http://www.opensubtitles.org/), adjust the time codes (with http://www.aegisub.org/) and mux up a new version.

The AR is 1.66, slightly letterboxed on the 4:3 DVD. Quality is poor, particularly in the nighttime scenes, which show vertical banding. It's available on NTSC DVD, but I'm not seeing any praise for the image.



-Bill
Edited by wmcclain - 2/1/13 at 1:56pm
post #159 of 256
The Princess Bride (1987), directed by Rob Reiner.

A very light romantic comedy fantasy adventure, it's become more popular on home video than it was in the theater. Famously quotable.

I prefer slightly darker treatments: more of the Fire Swamp segment. Even if we say it's for children, the flying monkeys and witch's castle were my favorite bits of The Wizard of Oz. Much of the material here is joke and skit-based. Billy Crystal makes it seem more like a Hollywood celebrity venue.

In the theater I understood very little of what Andre the Giant was saying, but now we have subtitles.

Mark Knopfler's score seems awfully "incidental". More 80s synthesizer menace.

Writer William Goldman provides one of the commentary tracks. He's still tickled with his work and praises the cast and crew:

  • On why Robin Wright never became a big star: she was too nice and didn't want it badly enough. Big stars don't have friends, just business associates and serfs.
  • There were several plans to film the book, but studio upsets always derailed them. The new boss cancels all previous projects because he wants total credit for future work.
  • Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin did their own swordfighting, but not the acrobatics. They practiced during every spare moment of the production.
  • The bit where Wright's dress catches on fire had been part of the script from the beginning, but when Goldman saw it being filmed he screamed "Her dress is on fire!", ruining the shot.
  • As he has often said, the success of a motion picture is a total crap shoot. No one knows what will work and what won't.

Director Rob Reiner does the other commentary track, sometimes interesting, sometimes trivial. He tells of meeting a Mob guy outside of the restaurant who quoted Inigo's "You killed my father..." speech back to him. "I love that movie!" said the wiseguy.

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill
post #160 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

The Princess Bride (1987), directed by Rob Reiner.
A very light romantic comedy fantasy adventure, it's become more popular on home video than it was in the theater. Famously quotable.
I prefer slightly darker treatments: more of the Fire Swamp segment. Even if we say it's for children, the flying monkeys and witch's castle were my favorite bits of The Wizard of Oz. Much of the material here is joke and skit-based. Billy Crystal makes it seem more like a Hollywood celebrity venue.
In the theater I understood very little of what Andre the Giant was saying, but now we have subtitles.
Mark Knopfler's score seems awfully "incidental". More 80s synthesizer menace.
Writer William Goldman provides one of the commentary tracks. He's still tickled with his work and praises the cast and crew:
  • On why Robin Wright never became a big star: she was too nice and didn't want it badly enough. Big stars don't have friends, just business associates and serfs.
  • There were several plans to film the book, but studio upsets always derailed them. The new boss cancels all previous projects because he wants total credit for future work.
  • Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin did their own swordfighting, but not the acrobatics. They practiced during every spare moment of the production.
  • The bit where Wright's dress catches on fire had been part of the script from the beginning, but when Goldman saw it being filmed he screamed "Her dress is on fire!", ruining the shot.
  • As he has often said, the success of a motion picture is a total crap shoot. No one knows what will work and what won't.
Director Rob Reiner does the other commentary track, sometimes interesting, sometimes trivial. He tells of meeting a Mob guy outside of the restaurant who quoted Inigo's "You killed my father..." speech back to him. "I love that movie!" said the wiseguy.
Available on Blu-ray.

The Princess Bride is perhaps my all time favorite Fantasy comedy. There is wonderful stuff in every scene. I have the BD
post #161 of 256
Yeah, one of those movies that's good to watch over every few years. Very clever dialog - Andre the Giant carrying on a very matter of fact conversation during the middle of a battle comes to mind.
post #162 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad Horstkotte View Post

Yeah, one of those movies that's good to watch over every few years. Very clever dialog - Andre the Giant carrying on a very matter of fact conversation during the middle of a battle comes to mind.

Rob Ryan has made a number of outstanding films but Princess Bride was one of his best, if not the very best.
post #163 of 256
The Thing (1982), directed by John Carpenter.

The damned Norwegians dug up something frozen in the ice that got away from them. They're dead. Now everyone at the next Antarctic base must die.

I remember not liking this much at the theater. I was probably being loyal to the 1951 original and this was just too gooey for me.

It's a great premise and the isolated ice-bound base is an appealing location for SF, horror and thrillers, but I still see nothing but problems with this film:

  • Too many characters and not enough time to get to know them.
  • Can't see their faces through their beards.
  • Ok, it's a creature feature, but everyone seems to know they are in a monster movie and behaves accordingly.
  • Where did they find all this bad attitude? That dope-smoking guy: I would have put him out in the snow weeks before the creature appeared.
  • We have a long period of no trust and no strategy. The plot just stalls.
  • Where's the sense of wonder, of the alien-ness of encountering a being from another world?
  • Flame throwers? Abundant firearms? A natural language AI computer?
  • Ambitious special effects but still too gooey.
  • Is that the pre-eyepatch Snake Plissken?

I do give them credit for the ambiguous un-Hollywood ending.

Ennio Morricone score, although the "dum...dum-dum" bit sounds like Carpenter.

Available on Blu-ray. The director and Kurt Russell provide a happy commentary track. Lots of trivia.



-Bill
post #164 of 256
Not saying it's perfect, but I find Thing to be an excellent blend of sci-fi and horror; not unlike Ridley Scott's Alien 3 years prior. The F/X are still good for a film this old (dang them Norwegians!).
post #165 of 256
A View to a Kill (1985), directed by John Glen.
Quote:
Bond Girl: Do you know what I'm sitting on?

[camera cuts to shapely nether regions]

Bond: I'd rather not think about it.

007 must disrupt a nefarious business plan to flood Silicon Valley.

Bond #14 is Roger Moore's seventh and last. He said "I was only about four hundred years too old for the part" but he honestly doesn't look that bad (age 57). He does less of his own running and punching and the stunt doubles are more obvious than usual.

As typical for this era the production values are excellent with a rich and glossy look. And as usual it's a leisurely "who cares?" plot, although it picks up with more action in the last half hour. Tanya Roberts is one of the weakest Bond Girls.

On the other hand Christopher Walken is great fun as the erratic genius and criminal mastermind. He dies laughing, falling from his very cool mini-dirigible.

Fierce and striking Grace Jones is one of the more notable henchwomen of the series. (Aside: I knew a DJ who had met lots of celebrity singers; he said Jones was one of the most charismatic people he'd ever met. David Bowie was another).

John Barry score, with a few bits from On Her Majesty's Secret Service brought forward.

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill
Edited by wmcclain - 2/1/13 at 7:50am
post #166 of 256
To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), directed by William Friedkin.

An adrenaline-junkie Secret Service agent must get the master counterfeiter who murdered his partner. The effort takes him deep into the Dark Side.

This attempt at a better quality police action picture has a bunch of "on the one hand, on the other" aspects.

It has exciting scenes, particularly in a car chase and gun battle through crowded streets, freeways and along the concrete LA River, but we are not attached to anyone in the story.

It is is skillfully photographed, but the clothes, sunglasses and rock music score are too suggestive of early MTV and Miami Vice.

William Petersen is posed like a tough cop fashion model; bad guy Willem Dafoe and his girl are improbably elegant.

Although: good and bad guys are much confused here. All the Secret Service agents are just terrible at their jobs. Dafoe is businesslike in a tough business.

The dialogue explains the plot, which is bad writing both in books and films.

A tip for retiring agents: don't tell anyone you have just a few days left. It's bad luck. Just take off without notice.

Nudity, passion and some gruesome shooting violence.

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill
post #167 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

It is is skillfully photographed, but the clothes, sunglasses and rock music score are too suggestive of early MTV and Miami Vice.

You say this as though it's somehow a bad thing.
post #168 of 256
Henry V (1989)

This is Kenneth Branagh's treatment of Shakespeare's Henry V and Henry's monumental victory over the French at Agincourt. It is one of my all time favorite film treatments of a Shakespeare play. The scene of the battle and the scenes immediately preceding and following the battle are deeply moving. Branagh was wonderful as Henry. I also really enjoyed Derek Jacobi's performance as the Chorus and the young Emma Thompson, who was wonderful and at her best as the funny but elegant and beautiful French noblewoman, Princess Katherine. The young, 15, Christian Bale was also in the cast and showed promise of things to come. Finally, the musical score by Patrick Doyle was particularly beautiful and effective. The audio is only two channel but still sounds wonderful.

Unfortunately, the film is only available on DVD and even it is apparently in short supply because the prices sought by Amazon's sellers for an old DVD are shockingly high. I really wish the film would be reissued on BD. I would certainly buy it. I was able to get a copy of the DVD only because my local library system still has several copies in its collection.
post #169 of 256
Humanoids from the Deep (1980), directed by Barbara Peeters

Ok, what's cutting the fishing nets, blowing up boats, tipping over garbage cans and killing dogs? It's just the beginning for a new race of mutant frog-salmon things: they need human women for mating!

This low-budget Roger Corman mashup of Creature From the Black Lagoon and Jaws and Alien is a perfect drive-in movie: action, violence, explosions, boobage and even more nudity, only 79m long. It turns into a gore-fest at the end.

I am never more deeply into the movie magic world than when watching an exploitation film. In a more serious work I'd critique the acting and wonder "What does the director intend here?" In this sort of thing you relax and stop worrying.

Is it a bad film? Oh, hell yes. Were you expecting something else? A bit more humor would have helped. But oddly enough "cheap" can help a horror film seem more real: those rusty fishing boats, for example.

This type of fun-horror film is fun partly because it makes us uncomfortable: we're embarrassed to be laughing at the gore. I found the titillating aspect of this one extra disturbing: some of the sexiest bits are women stripped, savaged, thrown in the mud and raped by monsters. Am I enjoying this? I guess I am. I didn't think I was a bad person...

On the other hand the women are pretty strong. The beauty queen ("Miss Salmon"!) has her bikini top ripped off and responds by bashing the creature bloody with a rock and escaping.

They introduce some probably unnecessary plot: pro- vs anti-cannery factions and Indians vs hostile white fisherman, lead by the great Vic Morrow. He and Doug McClure are the only "names". Maybe cold science-babe Ann Turkel? I've seen her in a few things.

In the final battle at the harbor festival the creatures on land are defeated by setting the water on fire. I'm trying not to puzzle over that.

The nudity, rape and gore were added by a second unit after initial filming and the director and Turkel wanted their names taken off.

One of James Horner's early scores, far better than the movie deserves. It reminds me of his vivid, lush music for Star Trek 2 & 3.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory with a surprisingly good image in certain scenes, not all.



-Bill
post #170 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

One of James Horner's early scores, far better than the movie deserves. It reminds me of his vivid, lush music for Star Trek 2 & 3.

It probably reminds you of that because Horner shamelessly recycles every motif he's ever written over and over again. In watching Brainstorm from 1983 recently, I was amused to hear a good chunk of his much later score for Avatar already in use.
post #171 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

This low-budget Roger Corman mashup of Creature From the Black Lagoon and Jaws and Alien is a perfect drive-in movie: action, violence, explosions, boobage and even more nudity, only 79m long. It turns into a gore-fest at the end.

-Bill



Wikipedia has a source that claims the remake will be out in May 2013 but there's little evidence of this on the internet.
post #172 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.G View Post


Wikipedia has a source that claims the remake will be out in May 2013 but there's little evidence of this on the internet.

I reviewed the 1950s series a couple of years ago:


I don't have deep interest in 3D, but I wish I had seen the first two as such.

-Bill
post #173 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.G View Post



Wikipedia has a source that claims the remake will be out in May 2013 but there's little evidence of this on the internet.

A Creature from the Black Lagoon remake project has been in development for many years, but I don't believe there's been any real traction on it.
post #174 of 256
Victor Victoria (1982), directed by Blake Edwards.

In 1934 Paris, the only way singer Julie Andrews can get a job is by pretending to be a man working as a female impersonator. This Shakespearean scenario complicates her life, but success is sweet. American club owner James Garner is 99% sure she's a woman and removes his final doubts by spying on her in the bath. They fall for each other, but now what to do?

It's a Message film, in the open and affirming direction. Being a Blake Edwards picture it's not a subtle message, just gay this that and everything else. (I don't think the word was even used back then, but you have to call it something) As usual, some of the humor works and some is painful. He can't resist low slapstick bits.

The Message is a bit clunky in retrospect:

  • Gay men only; lesbians need not apply. (Well, it's two and a quarter hours long already and we don't need to further burden the plot).
  • Most of the gays seem to be transvestites. Is that kind?

We never really believe Andrews as a man, but she has tons of charisma and so we go along. Garner is always likeable but a victim of the plot: when doubting his manhood he naturally gets into bar-fights. Of course: hetero males are all cavemen.

Andrews and Garner were in The Americanization of Emily 18 years earlier.

The rest of the cast are, collectively, a hoot:

  • Robert Preston (that's his real hair!) does a funny "Shady Lady" number in drag at the end, but it's spoiled by the overly hysterical audience response. Edwards has to hammer it.
  • Lesley Ann Warren is great at being loud, dumb, vulgar and funny. Something like a real female impersonator.
  • Football player Alex Karras actually has good low-key comic sense.

The DVD has a fond and often technical commentary track by married couple Edwards and Andrews.



-Bill
post #175 of 256
Willow (1988), directed by Ron Howard.

Following the ancient formula, a girl-child is destined to challenge the rule of an evil sorceress. The baby must be hidden, rescued, and then championed by unlikely heroes and their magical allies.

Fantasy-comic-adventure films were very big in the 1980s. None are entirely satisfactory but each has its charms. This one is pretty lush and large-scale, a mix of grubbiness and Tinkerbell, filmed partly in New Zealand. George Lucas wrote and produced, and I notice his influence more now than I did at the time: that frenetic wagon chase and fight scene, for example. Even the James Horner score comes with extra "John Williams" this time.

The first 30 minutes is with the little people and is meant for children, although the attack and killing of the dog-creature might be too intense. Some of the dwarves struggle to run or even walk and it's painful to watch them. Old-timer Billy Barty is the village shaman, part magician, part fraud and wise man. This section drags and we could have used the time better.

Things pick up when we discover Val Kilmer in a hanging cage. He's the "Han Solo" disreputably adventurous and roguish heart of the film, up and down but never too serious. Good chemistry with the very lovely and initially villainous Joanne Whalley; they married right away.

The troll-monster effects show their age.

I remember being irritated by the French-accented brownies (little-little people) but they are funnier now. The twin girls playing the baby are just great.

Available on Blu-ray. The IMDB lists 2.20:1 as the aspect ratio for the 70mm print; the Blu-ray is more like 2.35:1.



-Bill
post #176 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

The IMDB lists 2.20:1 as the aspect ratio for the 70mm print; the Blu-ray is more like 2.35:1.

The movie may have gotten 70mm blow-up prints, but it was photographed on standard 35mm. The correct ratio should be 2.35:1 (really 2.40:1).
post #177 of 256
Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Z View Post

It probably reminds you of that because Horner shamelessly recycles every motif he's ever written over and over again. In watching Brainstorm from 1983 recently, I was amused to hear a good chunk of his much later score for Avatar already in use.

That happens to me with Hans Zimmer.
post #178 of 256
The Ninth Configuration (1980), written and directed by William Peter Blatty.
Quote:
Who are you? You're too human to be human.

In a huge bizarre castle, the US Army keeps a mental hospital for soldiers and one astronaut. They are being studied as they are treated. The new commander (a great performance by Stacy Keach) is quietly very strange: so much so that the inmates begin to wonder about him. Are they actually in a new version of Spellbound? Why yes, they just might be. The plot keeps twisting.

This is one of the odder films I'd never seen before. Very rich cast. I had never paid much attention to Ed Flanders, but he is good as an Army shrink.

The front half is absurdly comic, although these are stage lunatics, tossing off (often limp) quips with perfect timing. It's a screenwriter's version of a funny looney bin. A good bit: the new commander lets the inmates stage "The Great Escape".

It becomes darker in the second half with serious discussions of evil and insanity. I think it goes off the rails in a long biker-bar scene of violence and degradation, building up to some revenge porn.

This sets up the muddled final act: the difference between sacrifice and suicide had been discussed earlier, but that distinction seems confused here. It's parallel to the end of Blatty's own The Exorcist (1973), when Fr Damien sacrifices himself to save Regan. Blatty insisted the priest was not committing suicide, he just needed to get the demon out of the house and the window was the only way.

Filmed in Hungary and Germany.

The DVD is poor quality 4:3 letterboxed and includes a commentary track of the director being interviewed as they watch the film.

Lots of great stories and tidbits about the cast. His wife ran off with his producer. Some of his remarks fly by me: what does it mean when he says "I was the Pia Zadora of Hollywood that year"?

Scorcese has said there are "movies" and "the movie business" and they are completely different things. I'm not sure Blatty is very strong in either aspect. In his commentary he references all sorts of obscurely symbolic bits I don't think most viewers would see (I didn't). He edited a large number of film variants -- I'm still not sure why -- and kept pulling it from his distributors when they displeased him.



-Bill
post #179 of 256
Chariots of Fire (1981), directed by Hugh Hudson.

Some people seem let down by this film; one magazine listed it as one of the "20 Most Overrated Movies of All Time".

I suspect that it violates too many screenwriting rules. Everyone in it is a good chap, no one is a backstabber, there is no love triangle or shady gangster trying to fix the races. In the end our two competitors don't even face each other at the 1924 Olympics in Paris.

It is a fine period presentation of two young men: a devout Scots missionary and a Jew determined to overcome his detractors and make a place for himself. Both struggle with inner doubts, but other than that it's all about racing. This is just after WW1 and we have the vivid contrast of the young athletes, full of life and hopes and even frivolity, against the recent memories of the war.

It is somewhat fictionalized but based on real events.

Available on Blu-ray with a very pleasing image and fine natural color (given that England is usually overcast).



-Bill
post #180 of 256
A Room with a View (1985), directed by James Ivory.

Lush costume romances, comedies of manners, are not for everyone, but if you like the genre, this is one of the great exemplars. It's in the genre of "repressed English people busting loose in the warm and green Italian countryside". Recommended if you know someone who gets the winter blues. Enchanted April is another.

Tightly-wrapped Lucy is going to marry priggish Cecil, even though she (unconsciously?) loves the manly, free-spirited George. All cannot be made happy, but someone will get a honeymoon back in Florence.

Merchant-Ivory had been making films for 20 years, but this was their first to break out into great international success. This time I noticed how fine the composition and editing is; it's beautiful throughout.

The actors are so young:
  • Helena Bonham Carter (19): a small but valuable package.
  • Julian Sands (27): "a young girl's fancy and an old maid's dream" (J.Tull)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (28): exquisitely acidic
  • Rupert Graves (22): the kid brother!

Also with two of my favorites: Denholm Elliott and Maggie Smith (bringing the Harry Potter count to 2).

It's a rare film where there is more male than female nudity (of which there is none). In a funny scene the ladies love, Sands, Graves and Simon Callow let it all hang out at a swimming hole in the woods. Says the mother: "Who were those unfortunate people?" and then to her naked son: "You are in no position to argue!"

Available on an early but very pleasing Blu-ray. The aspect ratio is 1.66:1.



-Bill
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