Sunday, August 28, 2011

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Links: TVTropes (entire series), Wikipedia, IMDB (8.7).

This classic 80's action movie became the first in the Indiana Jones trilogy, the other George Lucas trilogy that Harrison Ford starred in. The premise is "Hey, 1930s pulp action comics were fun, weren't they? Let's have an adventurous tomb-raiding thief archaeologist fight the Nazis!" When I rewatched the film recently, I found out that I'd been mistaken about something: this one actually was a bit better than Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I'd remembered correctly that the film drags from the ship leaving Egypt to the climax of the movie, but that section was shorter than I thought, and the rest of the movie is actually very well paced and fun. If you haven't seen this movie, climb out from under your rock and go see it. Score: 4 stars out of 4.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blade Runner (1982)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (8.3).

Each time I watch this film, I find myself torn between loving it and mildly disliking it. On one hand: the concept is great, Ridley Scott's visuals are great, Vangelis's score is great, and Rutger Hauer (!) completely steals the show and delivers a knock-down performance. On the other hand: Harrison Ford's Deckard is a generic cardboard cutout (no fault of Ford's, just lazy writing), Sean Young seems to have been told that her character is made of wood, and the borrowings from Film Noir result in a yawn-worthy, slow-moving 2 hour film that's about half an hour too long. (Cutting Deckard's off-the-job character "development" could recover most of that and the movie wouldn't be hurt by its removal. Really, we know the genre, of course he's an alcoholic hard-boiled detective who can't resist a bird with a broken wing.) The opening visuals are infamously gorgeous, and the last half hour is superb, but... be ready to be bored in between those two. That said, it has its reputation as a sci-fi film masterpiece for a reason.  Score: 4 stars out of 4.

Note: Avoid the 1982 theatrical release at all costs, with its infamously bad voiceover by Harrison Ford, because it's noticeably inferior to later versions of the film.  In contrast, there isn't much of a difference between the 1992 Director's Cut vs the 2007 Final Cut: added violence, a few audio improvements and dialogue patch-ups, and an improved unicorn dream sequence.  Watch the Final Cut over the Director's Cut if you have a choice between them, but you're not missing much if you've only seen the 1992 version.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Run Lola Run (1998)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (8.0).

I normally don't make a habit of playing favorites or ranking things by preference, but if I were forced to, Run Lola Run would be on my list of top 10 favorite movies.  The plot is minimal: protagonist Lola needs to come up with 100,000 DM / $56,000 USD in 20 minutes or her boyfriend's gangster employers will kill him.  Oh, and she has to run across town on foot to do it.  (It's better than it sounds.)  The frantic pacing and jump-cutting does a solid job of adding to the tension, the visuals are great, the music is outrageously good, and lead Franka Potente does a really great job in making Lola herself come to life.  There are elements of magical realism in places, but they're pretty low-key and the core of the movie isn't really about them.  Score: 4 stars out of 4.