Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Witness

Witness_movieThis week for Hit Me with Your Best Shot Nathaniel has given us a film I have long wanted to watch as it gave Harrison Ford his only Oscar nomination. I’ve always felt that Ford is more than just a popcorn movie actor as certainly movies like Blade Runner and Regarding Henry show, so it is interesting to see the film the academy feels is his best. It is also directed by Peter Weir who has done some wonderful movies including Dead Poets Society and The Truman Show.

So what did I think? I thought it was a pretty good crime thriller and that the entire cast was very strong. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece or anything but a solid well made movie.

In Witness, Ford plays a detective named John Book who is assigned to investigate the murder of a cop in a train station. The only clue to the crime is a little Amish boy (Lukas Haas) who saw everything from a bathroom stall.  It turns out that the entire police force is corrupt and so Book hides out with the Amish including the boy’s mother Rachel (Kelly McGillis). Rachel is a widow and nervously aids Book but the two form a bond in the tense days.  The community also has to deal with Book’s presence as the corrupt officers come closer to finding his location.

Witness is particularly strong in the beginning and end.  The scenes where young Samuel is witnessing the crime are very brutal- even more so because they are seen from a child’s point of view.  Haas is very good as the little boy seeing things he cannot process in any way.

I’ve only seen McGillis in Top Gun but she’s fantastic in this film.  I really liked how well rounded all the Amish characters are portrayed especially Rachel.  It’s easy for Hollywood to take religious characters and turn them into caricatures or make them judgemental, patronizing or stupid.  These men and women are none of those things but just people living life as best as they know how.

The middle section with a barn raising and building romance between Rachel and John wasn’t as compelling as the crime elements but they aren’t bad.  Overall it works and is a good movie.

It does earn it’s R rating for some strong nudity and violence.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people have my best shot.  It is from the scene where Lukas is witnessing the murder.  You of course have the image of him peering through the hole in the bathroom stall but to me the full view of his face grasping what he has seen is more powerful.  In fact, it is here that he can’t help but exclaim ‘Ah’ in a gasp almost heard by the criminals.

Overall Grade- B

witness best shot

Blindspot 1: Blade Runner Review

blade runnerToday I got to see the first in my Blindspot series where each month I will review a well regarded film I’ve never seen before.  To see the full list click here.  This month’s selection is the 1982 Ridley Scott science fiction classic Blade Runner.

With this film I had the special opportunity to see it on the big screen as part of the Cinemark Classic Series (good timing!), and I ended up having a unique experience.

First of all, the movie is extremely immersive.  Set in a dystopian Los Angeles Ridley Scott creates a rainy city landscape that is textured and layered unlike I have seen in many other movies.  It was beautiful and almost overwhelming to take it all in.

bladerunnerThe plot is based on a Phillip K.  Dick story and it stars Harrison Ford as Deckard, a cop (or blade runner) who is assigned to hunt down creatures called ‘replicants’.

Blade RunnerThere are  4 on earth and a giant corporation called Tyrell has set them up to only live for 4 years.  The movie is basically a cat and mouse chase between the humans and the replicants but it is so much more than that.

blade runner2I’ll be honest with you guys about 30 minutes into Blade Runner I was feeling extremely frustrated.  I had no idea what was going on and didn’t understand who was hunting who and what all the characters were doing.  It was so much new and different I found it overwhelming and confusing.

Finally in frustration I did something unorthodox.  I went into the hallway and read the Wikipedia synopsis.  This helped me have some kind of framework to understand all the characters and world being thrown at me.  I know most people would bristle at reading a plot synopsis giving away the ending and other details but for me it helped to enjoy the film much more.

And like I said there is so much going on that knowing the basic framework really doesn’t spoil much in Blade Runner, so I’m glad I did it.  It might be unconventional but it worked for me!

blade runner5The acting is all fine in Blade Runner.  The characters and performances take a back seat to the story and setting but they work with what they’ve got. In major roles we see Edward James Olmos, M Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer, Joanna Cassidy and more.

I particularly liked Sean Young as Rachael, an ‘experimental replicant’ who becomes entangled with Deckard. William Sanderson is also good as JF Sebastian, a strange man who collects replicants and robots.

blade runner3Daryl Hannah is very good as Pris, one of the 4 replicants.

blade runner4Harrison Ford is a little bit bland here compared to his charisma in films like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark but it works. Contrary to some popular opinion not every character in a movie has to be dynamic- especially in a world and plot so dazzlingly complex as this one!

blade runner7Once I wasn’t confused any more I started to pick up on the main message of Blade Runner (all good scifi should have a metaphor IMO).

The theme I took from it was the replicants know they have a limited time period to live and they want life so much.  They will even go to violent methods to preserve it and lengthen it.  On the other hand, the humans who have a plethora of days are kind of faceless and bland, without any passion.

St_bladerunner_fThis robotic human existence is exemplified by the billboards we see projected onto the cityscape of women mindlessly taking pills.   The emotional climax of the film for me at least was when Rachel and Deckard admit they love each other. It’s like both realize the value of time and decide to stop wasting it.

It might sound strange but in many ways it is a similar theme we see in Wall-e.  If you think of Wall-e as a replicant and not a robot doesn’t he teach the humans to value their time instead of mindlessly absorbing entertainment?  Wall-e’s time is limited by his battery power, where the humans just need to wake up and live a full life.

Even with a plot synopsis not everyone is going to like this movie.  It’s just too out there and different to appeal to everyone.  Plus, it can be deliberately paced, confusing, and rather drab.

However, I am certainly glad I saw it and will look forward to seeing it more times and gaining further insight into the story and characters.  At the very least, it was a good reminder to me that sometimes I have to make the moviegoing experience work for ME, even if that means stepping out into the hallway and reading a synopsis!  If it helps me enjoy the movie more than isn’t that a good thing?

It’s at least worth seeing for the amazing visuals and world building.  The music by Vangelis is a little heavy on the saxophone at times but I did really like it.  The whole film is very well crafted and a wonderful sci-fi dystopian movie.

What do you think of Blade Runner?  Too weird for you or a favorite?

As far as content goes there is some sensuality and violence especially a scene where a characters eyes are stabbed.  The over all feel can also be dark and depressing like most dystopian settings.

Overall Grade- A-

Age of Adaline Review

age of adalineSometimes movies are just ok.  Not great but not total crap either.  Right in the middle and that’s fine.  After all, we can’t expect masterpieces all the time!

The new movie Age of Adaline (funny contrast to Age of Ultron!) fits that description. It’s fine.  I’m glad I saw it but it is a definite mixed bag.

Basically it is about a woman named Adaline who has a car accident and is struck by lightning which makes her have the power to never age. She is played by the stunning Blake Lively.  She looks gorgeous in the clothes from every era (except for one very bad wig in the 60s). It feels like she has an old soul and Lively even has the posture and quiet way of speaking you’d expect from someone born in 1908.

age of adaline4After being pursued as a communist in the 50’s she becomes scared and decides to change her name, occupation and identity every 10 years (all the while staying in the Bay Area in California).

There is a narration in the movie which is so annoying.  For some reason the creators felt they needed to provide some kind of ridiculous scientific explanation for what is happening to Adaline and while the narrator is babbling on about neurons and atoms aligning with the moon I wanted to shut him off.  Honestly I laughed a lot it was so bad.

And it really takes away from the magic of the story this terrible narration.

age of adaline 7Adaline had a daughter before all of this never aging but she did age and now is played by Ellen Burstyn who looks like her Grandmother. As weird as it sounds I bought them as this strange relationship. Ellen Burstyn has been in 2 movies playing a daughter who is older than her parent in 2 years.  Who would have thought of that!

She meets a man named Ellis played by Michiel Huisman who I believe is on Game of Thrones (don’t watch it).  He is good and very attractive.  They have good chemistry together.

Blake Lively Films Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker play Ellis’ parents and they are also very good. The casting all around really worked in this movie.

age of adaline6Anthony Ingruber plays a yougn Harrison Ford and it is uncanny.  He looks and sounds just like him.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so close a non-family match in a movie ever.  It is amazing to watch and makes me wonder if they could use him for any young Star Wars scenes or maybe a Han Solo stand alone movie. Seriously look at this picture.  Don’t you think he looks like a young Harrison Ford?

age of adaline3There is a nice heart to Age of Adaline and like I said the performances are strong with good chemistry.  It also looks beautiful although a reliance on close ups got a little bit old.

Be warned there is a scene with a dog that made me cry.  It’s pretty emotional.

The problems with the film are how silly the whole premise is but like I said their attempt to take out the magic and make it about science fell completely flat.  I also didn’t think it made much sense for her to keep changing.  Sure maybe in the 60s but after years her panic seemed a little strange.

The narration is awful and some of the dialogue is very dopey.  Also while Lively is good it is a little one note.  It would have been nice to have seen more of her in the different ages.  Maybe a Forrest Gump style of storytelling but she fears having her picture taken and avoids it at all costs.  It ended up feeling like an ordinary domestic drama without any of the magic.

Still, not a total loss. I’m glad I saw it.  I’d give it a C.

Pretty tame content-wise.  There’s some sex but most of that is off screen and no other offensive content.

Any of you see it let me know.