Showing posts with label Ridley Scott. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ridley Scott. Show all posts

Friday, 4 January 2013

Blade Runner

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner has appeared on All Time lists in Empire, Total Film, Sight and Sound, Time Magazine and countless others, both professional and amateur. It is generally regarded as one of the greatest Science Fiction movies of all time but here’s where I’m going to start making people angry. I don’t think it is. I’ve seen the film twice now and on my first viewing thought it not only wasn’t the greatest Sci-Fi ever but was just average. Yesterday on my second viewing I enjoyed it more than my first but I’m yet to join the millions who rank it as one of the best films ever. For me it is too slow and not very interesting. There’s obviously a lot to like but best ever? Nope.

It’s Los Angeles 2019 and humanoid replicants have been outlawed on Earth. The machines were designed as slave labour to perform menial tasks on the off world colonies but following an uprising, Blade Runners were hired to track down and ‘retire’ (kill) all Earth dwelling replicants. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a former Blade Runner who is convinced to return to the job to track down several Nexus 6 replicants who have returned to Earth illegally, intent on extending their built in four year lifespan.

Saturday, 2 June 2012


"A king has his reign, and then he dies. It's inevitable"

It’s 2089 and two archaeologists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover the same star map amongst paintings and artefacts from various different ancient civilisations which had no interaction with each other. Convinced that this map is somehow connected to our origins the two enlist the help of Weyland Industries and visit the moon LV-223 aboard the ship Prometheus. Four years later they and the crew, totalling seventeen are woken from Stasis by robot David (Michael Fassbender) and with specific instructions from Weyland representative Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) not to interact with any species they might encounter, set off into an unidentified structure on the Moon’s surface.

Firstly I’ll get the Alien stuff out of the way. It definitely helps if you have seen the Alien franchise but is in no way a necessity. The film can be viewed as both a stand alone movie and as a prequel. I’ve only recently watched the series for the first time so it is still fresh in my mind. As such on a few occasions I thought to myself “ooh I recognise that” and “aahhh, so that means…” but the film also made me want to watch the original Alien again as I was a little confused at times. I think that my confusion was due to two reasons. Firstly the plot is fairly complex and you have to pay close attention. Secondly, there are far too many plot holes. I won’t go into them here in order to avoid spoilers but if you’re interested then fellow blogger Life vs Film has compiled an extensive list here.

For me the film’s biggest strength was its atmosphere. The film isn’t as tense as I’d expected it to be but is rather more like a mystery. Unlike say Alien you aren’t waiting for something to jump out and scare you but rather it unfolds very slowly, creating more questions as it progresses. Many of the questions are subsequently answered but some are left open which I liked but left me feeling slightly frustrated. The tone was much less about horror and more about what, why, where and how and tone wise it is closer to Scott's Blade Runner than Alien. I loved how slowly the plot unfolded but wonder if the Transformers generation will have the patience to stick with it?

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Kingdom of Heaven

"I once fought two days with an arrow through my testicle"

Ridley Scott directs an all star cast in a story about the Crusades and in particular the 12th Century battles in which Muslims attempted to recapture the city of Jerusalem from the Christians. Balian (Orlando Bloom) is a blacksmith in rural France. A Knight (Liam Neeson) visits him and informs him that he is his father. After Balian kills a Priest who mocks his dead wife, Balian is given the chance to join the Crusades in the Middle East. While there he learns the ins and out of the Politics and Religion of the region and ends up in a prominent position in the defence of the Holy city of Jerusalem against a Muslim invasion.

This was the second Ridley Scott film I watched today having watched Alien for the first time this morning. Kingdom of Heaven is not anywhere near as good as that. The first thing I’ll say is that the sets looked sumptuous and were well dressed. The costume also looked good and the special effects were on the whole excellent, despite the odd dodgy shot. The acting was also generally quite good. Charisma vacuum Orlando Bloom was actually alright but still far from the screen presence that a role like this requires. He is joined by a fantastic cast which includes Eva Green, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Sheen, Ghassan Massoud and an almost unrecognisable Edward Norton. Had I not looked at the cast beforehand I honestly wouldn’t have known he was in the film. Marton Csokas was a bit of a let down on the acting front.


"I got you, you son of a bitch!"

With Prometheus just a couple of weeks away I thought it was about time I filled one of the most unforgivable gaps in my film history and finally watch Alien. The crew of the Nostromo are in stasis on a return trip to Earth, carrying a cargo of mineral ore. They are awakened early by the ship’s computer as it has intercepted a transmission for a nearby planetoid. Upon investigation, crew member Kane (John Hurt) discovers what appear to be eggs inside an unidentified ship. A life form hatches out of one of the eggs and attaches itself to his face. Returning to the Nostromo the crew try to detach the creature from Kane’s face but with no success. A short time later the creature removes itself from Kane and the crew find it dead. While preparing to go back into stasis for the return to Earth something extraordinary happens that unleashes an even greater threat to the ship and the crew.

My first thoughts were that the Nostromo reminded me of so much I’ve seen already. It is obvious how much influence the film has had on subsequent science fiction. The living quarters reminded me of the film Moon and in just about every other scene I said to myself “That’s just like Red Dwarf”. Everything about the film’s design was excellent. The ship felt large and real and the creature design was incredible. Considering the film is now over thirty years old, the latex or prosthetics that were used looked really good. Even now. Obviously some aspects of the film have aged noticeably. The computers for instance look as old as they are. This isn’t a major problem though as anything older than about five years or without a touch screen looks aged.

Saturday, 18 February 2012


“The General who became a slave, the slave who became a Gladiator, the Gladiator who defied an Emperor”.  Gladiator is the story of Roman General Maximus (Russell Crowe) who seeks revenge for the murder of the Caesar and of his own family at the order of new Caesar, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix).

The story is enthralling, and the battle scenes, epic. The impressive sets and locations are a reminder of the great historical epics of the 1950s and 60s. It is a joy to see real places at a time when CGI is often used instead. Talking of the CGI, it has held up to scrutiny very well and despite being twelve years old at the time I’m writing this, it looks as good as all but the best 2012 has to offer. The wonderful images are joined by a great score by Hans Zimmer. 

The main characters are well defined and attention-grabbing. Crowe’s Maximus is a man on a mission who shows little emotion while in battle but a great deal of love and emotion towards those he loves. Crowe is opposite one of the most hateful characters in all of cinema history. To me, Joaquin Phoenix often comes across as unlikeable but he takes this to new heights as the villain of the piece, Caesar Commodus. The supporting cast that includes Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou and Connie Nielson are all very good but the stand out is Oliver Reed who unfortunately died during filming, making this his last film. His scenes were completed at a cost of $3.2m using motion capture and CGI, money well spent in my view as it is difficult to spot.

The whole film itself seems fairly inexpensive when compared to its contempories. It cost $103m in 2000 whereas Titanic cost $200m three years earlier and Kingdom of Heaven cost $147m five years later. I think you get a lot of film for your buck with Gladiator. (This is especially so when you compare it to Pirates of the Caribbean 4 which had an estimated budget of $150-250m and is a poor excuse for entertainment).

Occasionally the film gets a bit repetitive. Maximus is forced to fight one opponent after another in the Coliseum and after a while this begins to get tiresome. Each new battle introduces new elements such as chariots or wild animals which help it to keep fresh but you do get the feeling you are just watching the same thing over and over again and waiting for the final battle between the central characters which will obviously be coming. This being said, on the whole Gladiator is a great historical epic which should keep you entertained for over two hours and is better than similar films such as Troy and Alexander in a genre that it helped revive.  


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Grey

I read somewhere the other day that in the last three years, Liam Neeson has had more number one movies than Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Matt Damon, George Clooney or Denzel Washington. This is down to movies such as The Grey. It is a no nonsense stupid action movie that draws in the teenage and young adult audience like a chav to a velour tracksuit.

Neeson plays John Ottway, who is employed by an oil company to kill wolves in the wilds of Alaska. During a flight back to Anchorage, the plane crashes, killing most on board but leaving a few survivors to fend off the isolation, bitter cold and a pack of ravenous wolves who seem hell bent on killing everyone. Joining Ottway in his quest for survival are a bunch of typical action movie characters; there’s a cocky, arrogant man who learns cooperation is better than going it along, an annoying, say what you think guy, a geeky type with glasses and a notepad and a few more cliché characters who have the task of speaking briefly with Neeson before being eaten alive. 

Fight for survival

The freezing Alaskan landscape creeps into the audience during the film. It feels very cold! You feel like the actors were really there, freezing their bits off. A faulty multiplex heating system also helps add to the cold feeling so I have our local Cineworld to thank for the freezo-vision.

The animatronic and CGI wolves look quite realistic and behave in a menacing way throughout. The human actors are also quite good and there is an unexpected emotional scene just after the crash which surprised me. It was really good.

The plot is fairly formulaic. It is obvious that the men will be picked off one by one until there is only one left, and I bet you can’t guess who that one will be? This being said, the ending was very satisfying. The film happily wastes 117 minutes of your life and goes along at a decent pace. There are some silly bits and plot holes and it is extremely annoying when Neeson, who is obviously in the wolf’s den, almost turns to camera and says “I’m in the fucking wolfs den!” But other than this, The Grey is thoroughly enjoyable.