Posts Tagged ‘Harrison Ford’

Replicants Rising

Blade Runner 2049

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas, David Dastmalchian, Edward James Olmos, Barkhad Abdi, Sylvia Hoeks, Tomas Lemarquis, Mackenzie Davis, Sean Young

When Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner appeared on cinema screens in 1982 it was hailed as a visionary science fiction film about replicants in Los Angeles in 2019.

The film developed an instant cult following and become a prime example of Post Modern Film Noir, with its blend of 1940’s costumes coupled with a dystopian future of a vast city laid bare by global warming and sinister corporations filled with surreal images of a multi-national world overtaken by replicant animals and a rapidly depleting human population most of whom had gone off world to the colonies in outer space.

Thirty five years later, there is finally a sequel, the highly anticipated Blade Runner 2049 featuring Ryan Gosling as K and veteran actor Harrison Ford reprising his role as Deckard.

Directed by French Canadian Denis Villeneuve, who brought cinema lovers his excellent impressionistic films Arrival and Sicario, this is by far his best and most ambitious film yet.

With Blade Runner 2049 he had a lot of visionary expectations to live up to and with the able assistance of Oscar nominee cinematographer Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049 is a visual feast, a mind blowing and sophisticated contemplation on the nature of what humanity is, of what fabricated genealogy is and more significantly where our species are heading in a future increasingly popularized with invasive technology. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented operating systems to name a few.

If contemporary audiences are expecting a straight forward sci-fi sequel then don’t watch Blade Runner 2049. It’s advisable to watch the first film so that you as a viewer can understand all the cinematic references to the original that Villeneuve densely packs into this version along with some stand out performances particularly by Harrison Ford as the older Deckard as he appears exiled in an abandoned casino in a vacated Las Vegas to Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks as the uber-cool yet vicious replicant Luv along with Robin Wright as K’s LAPD hard-drinking superior Lieutenant Joshi. Cuban actress Ana de Armas (War Dogs) also stars as a virtual projection of K’s love interest Joi to compensate for his increasing alienation in this post-apocalyptic landscape.

What is most captivating about Blade Runner 2049 is the subliminal images and the dexterous use of colour filters particularly in the chic scenes with new arch villain Niander Wallace played with a psychopathic God complex by Oscar winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyer’s Club).

The ratcheting up of the pace in Blade Runner 2049 is remarkable especially in the film’s second half elegantly assisted by a phenomenal original score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch.

To tell audiences anything else about Blade Runner 2049, would be to reveal vital spoiler alerts and sinister plot twists.

Blade Runner 2049 is fantastic cinema on an epic, visionary scale and its magnitude would be lost if viewers saw the film on anything smaller than a massive screen complete with surround sound.

Blade Runner 2049 is superb viewing and gets a film rating of 9 out of 10.

A ravishing tour-de-force in post-modern semiotic brilliance, this film is not to be missed by those that loved the original Blade Runner.

Reconciling the Myth

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyongo’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Max von Sydow, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels

Thematically set 30 years after The Return of the Jedi, director J. J. Abrams reconciles the myth of the original and iconic Star Wars Trilogy when he takes over as conceptualizer of the new Star Wars trilogy, given a touch task of remaining faithful to the original trilogy while introducing millennials to the original Star Wars iconography.

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In a genius casting move, Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings all the original cast members back from the first trilogy including Harrison Ford as Han Solo, the rarely seen Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia and the illusive Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker along with all the lovable companion characters including Chewbacca, and of course the droids C3PO and R2D2, which made up the original Star Wars. Even the Millennium Falcon is revived, which is enough to satisfy the original fans. Believe me, there are a lot of fans out there!

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The new cast includes Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn, a former Stormtrooper turned Rebel. The Empire so prominent in the original series has been replaced by a more sinister totalitarian regime called The First Order which includes the evil General Hux, played by Domnhall Gleeson (Brooklyn) and the conflicted Kylo Ren brilliantly played by Adam Driver. Oscar Isaac (Drive) stars as Poe Dameron an expert Rebel X-Wing fighter pilot who has hidden a hologram into his droid BB8 about the whereabouts of the mythical Luke Skywalker, the last remaining Jedi Knight.

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As the continuous action moves from outer space to distant planets, the first of which Jukka resembles Tattoine, the desert planet in the original Star Wars, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is visually captivating, with a vast and imaginative array of droids, monsters, bounty hunters and sinister forces all beautifully orchestrated to give what audiences came to see: An adventure story set in a Galaxy Far Far Away to the memorable music by John Williams.

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Oscar winner Lupita Nyongo’o (12 years a Slave) plays Maz Kanata an E.T. like creature sympathetic to the Rebel cause. The chemistry between the diverse cast is amazing and adds to the magic of The Force Awakens, most notably the newcomers Daisy Ridley as a scavenger Rey, whose own propensities for becoming a Jedi open all sorts of questions and British actor John Boyega as Finn who immediately establishes a rapport with the infamous Han Solo as well as Poe Dameron whom he rescues from a gigantic looking Death Star.

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The production design and visual effects of Star Wars: The Force Awakens are spectacular and Oscar worthy. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is definitely for the fans of the original trilogy, the films directed by George Lucas which captured the imagination of a generation of boys and girls back in the late seventies and early eighties.

star_warsIf it’s any indication, I remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back while on holiday in Atlanta, Georgia in America back in 1980 when it first premiered and The Return of the Jedi in 1983 in the old Embassy cinemas in central Durban.

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Judging by the packed cinema and the international media hype surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens will do exceptionally well at the Box Office and this new version is recommended to fans of pure science fiction and to all those who grew up on the original series. It’s comforting to know that American director J.J. Abrams who reignited the Star Trek franchise, now in partnership with Lucas Films and parent company Disney, plans on making two more Star Wars films to complete this new re-energized trilogy and introduce Millennials to a whole new universe of Star Wars characters.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens is highly recommended viewing, brilliantly orchestrated by reconciling and paying tribute to the original mythical trilogy while seamlessly blending in an entire new batch of characters. May the Force be with us at least until 2019.

Immune to the Ravages of Time

The Age of Adaline

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Director: Lee Toland Krieger

Cast: Blake Lively, Harrison Ford, Michiel Huisman, Kathy Baker, Ellen Burstyn, Amanda Crew, Mark Ghanime, Peter J. Gray

Set in San Francisco, The Age of Adaline gives Blake Lively a chance to play her hand at romance after being seen in Oliver Stone’s film Savages. It’s also the first major commercial film for rising Dutch star Michiel Huisman who has become famous for his sexy appearances in HBO’s Game of Thrones and Nashville.

Huisman and Lively make a beautiful couple onscreen even if there is no real tangible chemistry between them. It also does not help that The Age of Adaline is trying to emulate David Fincher’s Oscar nominated film about aging The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which while beautifully shot was really a homage to New Orleans.

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In this rather sepia light, director Lee Toland Krieger’s romantic drama The Age of Adaline is a homage to probably the most romantic city in America, San Francisco, as the film beautifully captures some wonderful aerial shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. Early on in the film due to a unique scientific accident, the heroine Adaline Bowman discovers quite extraordinarily that she is immune to the ravages of time.

The ageless Adaline due to her gorgeous appearance is forced to change her identity every ten years which is going swimmingly well until she meets a tall dark handsome stranger Ellis Jones, sensitively played by Huisman, who let’s face it, like Lively, looks stunning onscreen.

The determined Ellis Jones encourages Adaline to come home with him one weekend to meet his parents and celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. In an entirely contrived and almost implausible Danielle Steele sort of way, upon their arrival at the upstate home of Ellis’s parents, his father suitably played by Harrison Ford (Regarding Henry, Star Wars) recognizes Adaline as the girl he once fell in love with back in the early 1960’s in England.

In the hands of a more skilled director, The Age of Adaline would have become a very intriguing romantic drama, but unfortunately the central contrivance of the entire narrative is so glaringly obvious that only for the sake of vanity could this film conclude with a happy ending. Vanity and memory are two themes that the film explores in depth.

Nevertheless, despite the plot shortages on both sides of the San Francisco Bay, The Age of Adaline is a stunning film to watch and will appeal to all lovers of romance and those that enjoyed such films as the quirky Richard Curtis comedy About Time and of course The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Unfortunately, such talented actresses as Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Requiem for a Dream) and Kathy Baker (Jacknife, The Cider House Rules, Saving Mr Banks) are wasted in this foggy romantic drama, which is as vague as the sighting of a comet near earth in the distant future.

The Age of Adaline had two gorgeous stars, plus an A-List megastar like Ford but unfortunately while beautiful to watch, lacked a firmer direction, which is a pity since the film did not fulfill its complete potential.

Arizona under Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens

Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine, Abigail Spencer

Originally published in August 2011

It’s like this. It’s always a one horse town, Absolution. If you love Westerns and Aliens films in the tradition of 3:10 to Yuma and all of Sergio Leone’s films like The Good, Bad and the Ugly, you will love Cowboys and Aliens, it’s a cross-genre mix without subtly and it has the star of the James Bond film franchise’s recent acquisition, Daniel Craig (Casino Royale) looking very out of place in a western. He has Harrison Ford (Star Wars) to assist him as the town sheriff. Harrison Ford, ex Solo is there to help against an awfully bizarre alien invasion in Arizona 1873. Together they battle the onslaught of an Alien invasions in outer far west.

There are lots of explosions, gunfights and alien invasions but it’s never without some form of retribution. Cowboys and Aliens is entertaining but hugely commercial film with loads of action sequences and lots of gunfights with hard-arsed cowboys and nefarious aliens that are clearly there to exploit the vulnerability of humans in an attempt  to control the Planet Earth even back in the 19th century in the outback of Arizona of all places.

See Cowboys and Aliens and don’t expect mental stimulation, but loads of popcorn fun. It’s a sleepy hit for the Northern Hemisphere summer season. Cowboys and Aliens also stars Paul Dano (There will be Blood), Sam Rockwell (Moon, Iron Man 2), Keith Carradine (Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle) and Abigail Spencer (Oz, The Great and Powerful).

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This is a cross over Sci Fi Western in the tradition of Yul Brynner’s 1973 film Westworld.

 

 

Tapping into Imagined Mythologies

Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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Director Steven Spielberg

Cast: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, Ray Winstone

(Review originally published in June 2008)

Almost twenty years on from the last Indiana Jones film, the fourth installment of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas original blockbuster trilogy, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had its world premiere at the Cannes film festival last month. The latest Indiana Jones marks the beginning of the so-called American Summer Movie Blockbuster season. Naturally many critics and viewers alike were dubious about the 65-year old Harrison Ford reprising his role as the adventurous globetrotting relic hunter and archaeologist. However, fans of the original three enormously successful films all centering on our whip-cracking hero in search of a mythical artifact at odds with a nefariously evil regime in close pursuit, while journeying to exotic locations around the globe, will not be disappointed with this latest installment.

 

Obviously, the creators both Lucas and Spielberg, the men behind such fantastic films as the Star Wars trilogy and War of the Worlds, are confident creators and know their territory well. Combining lots of fast-paced action sequences with some surprisingly consistent characterization and additions of new villains and side-kicks, along with some old-style drama, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a skillful blending of several genres from the cowboy to the science fiction, while tapping into several imagined mythologies from the ancient Inca lost cultures of the Amazon to the urban myth of Hangar 51 and the Roswell incident, involving the American government’s secretive cover-up of an alien space craft that apparently crash landed in the New Mexican desert in 1947.

 

This film is set ten years on and firmly places the period of the action in the late 1950’s a time of the Red Scare, with McCarthyism sweeping America, a daunting decade when Communist infiltration was suspected in every aspect of American life. Into the mythology of the Roswell alien sighting at New Mexico and the lost city of El Dorado, an ancient Amazon city of Gold, which was believed to have existed at the Spanish conquest of South America in the early 1500’s, Spielberg and Lucas add the Stalinist era Soviets as Indiana’s arch enemies, headed by a blue-eyed sword wielding villain Dr Irina Spalko, an energetic performance by the Oscar winning Cate Blanchett (The Aviator).

 

In a rare genius of casting, Karen Allen reprises her role as Marion Ravenwood first seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the hot new Hollywood talent, Shia La Beouf stars as the spunky and wild Mudd, sporting a look reminiscent of the young Marlon Brando from his breakthrough film in The Wild One, kitted out in black leather cap and jacket skillfully riding a Harley Davidson and shattering the tranquility of an American town.

 

Even if you are new to the mythologies of Indiana Jones, this fourth installment is a great piece of entertainment in its own right, with thrilling action sequences, minimal CGI usage and a brilliant storyline tapping into several historical and imagined mythologies, while keeping a sense of humour and retaining a long espoused theory that many of the magnificent architectural wonders of ancient civilizations, from the pyramids of Egypt to the Amazonian Temples are tied into something vastly supernatural and way beyond anything we, as mere mortals, could possibly believe. Whether it’s the quest of infinite knowledge or that promised chalice of immortality, suspend your disbelief and take two hours to see this thrilling, fascinating and much anticipated sequel. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will surely not disappoint and has already proven its worth in international Box office gold.

Old Dogs of War

The Expendables 3

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Director: Patrick Hughes

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Kellan Lutz, Kelsey Grammer, Dolph Lundgren, Victor Ortiz, Terry Crews, Glen Powell, Ronda Rousey, Randy Coutoure, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Randy Coutoure

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Sylvester Stallone reunites with all his 80’s action hero stars for a reminiscent action adventure film culminating in Zorro, the guy from Lethal Weapon along with Arnie, Indiana Jones and of course Rambo all fighting it out on the big screen.

The Expendables 3 is a fun action romp with lots of old and new cast members following on the success of the two previous films which basically gave a very flimsy premise for all these aged action stars to have an onscreen reunion amidst blowing everything in sight. The fact that all 3 Expendables movies is always released on South African screen during woman’s month is ironic to say the least. One has to satisfy the male population some how.

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Stallone plays Barney with Jason Statham as Lee Christmas who along with the rest of the Expendables cast add some new younger and savvy crew led by the cocky Smilee played by a buffed up Kellan Lutz who has come along way from the Twilight Days. Together both crews set out to destroy the evil and manic arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks, wonderfully played by Mel Gibson, a former Expendables co founder and now nefarious and ruthless criminal with a penchant for expensive art.

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As the action moves swiftly from all the usual international honeymoon spots like Mogadishu, Somalia to Armenia, (actually Bulgaria) in the film, The Expendables 3 does not pretend to be anything more than popcorn fodder with loads of action some witty one liners and a flimsy plot thrown in. Its also a fantastic chance for Wesley Snipes (The Blade Trilogy) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator) to redeem their forsaken Hollywood careers along with Antonio Banderas (The Legend of Zorro) and more importantly Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon).

The real question is what was Harrison Ford doing in a film like this? Surely he made enough money as Indiana Jones or is this a revival pending the next Star Wars Trilogy where Ford is rumored to reprise his role as Han Solo (40 years on!)

The Expendables 3 is great entertainment if viewers enjoy a bunch of old dogs of cinema blowing things up and getting the bad guys. There are some amazing stunts, the narrative is flimsy punctuated by some hilarious moments provided by Banderas, Snipes and of course Oscar Winner Mel Gibson.

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It is also evident that clearly the 2008 economic recession is still affecting Hollywood if all these actors from the eighties and nineties still need to take part in sequels. The main thing is, at least they haven’t retired and are still entertaining audiences 30 years later as the cinema was packed when watching this action flick. Recommended viewing for serious action stars and clearly not aimed at female audiences despite the presence of female wrestler Rhonda Rousey who adds some glamour to this aged group of bandits.

Watch out for Kelsey Grammer (last seen in Transformers: Age of Extinction) as Bonaparte, a sort of mercenary recruiter who is always good value.

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