Sorcerer (1977) (William Friedkin)
The opening 15 minutes confused me, but once Roy Scheider is introduced the movie takes off. The last 2/3 is an edge of your set thriller, and on a technical level there’s some impressive cinematography and stunt work. I have no idea how the bridge scenes were filmed but it looks incredible. The cast consisted of anti-heroes, which may have been one of the reasons it failed at the box office. A misleading title and released at the same time as Stars Wars didn’t do Sorcerer any favors. The electronic score by Tangerine Dream is used sparingly, and adds suspense and danger. Here’s a link to the theme.
Been a few years since I watched The Wages of Fear (1953) so not certain which adaptation I prefer. The 1953 version provides fuller characterization in the South American village, while the 1977 film is more intense and thrilling during the dangerous mountain journey.
Friedkin said in an interview he made the film partly to show ”the exploitation of the Latin American countries by big American corporations like United Crude and the oil companies that were exploiting the workers, when safety conditions meant nothing”
One from the Heart (1981) (Francis Ford Coppola)
Beautifully realized opening credits. This musical is a technical triumph and you can see a lot of money was spent on the sets. I love the neon colors in Las Vegas and the Tom Waits/Crystal Gayle music is great. The budget and poor performance at the box office led to Francis Ford Coppola filing for bankruptcy. If only as much care had been put into the screenplay. The problem is the characters and story are boring and it’s a struggle to keep an interest. So in the end, I prefer just putting the soundtrack on instead.
WarGames (1983) (John Badham)
Often listed as one of the best hacker films of all-time. Manages to hold the tension as a thriller. There have been cases of computer nerds breaking into big systems so within the realm of reality. Despite illegal actions, arguably you should thank them for exposing the fragility of the systems. David’s (Matthew Broderick) intentions are innocent and his discovery is accidental in trying to play games so you can’t really say he was attempting to do anyone harm. Although the film, maybe unrealistically, doesn’t hand him a punishment, which Hackers (1995) did in sentencing a character to zero computer access until his 18th birthday and a $45000 fine due to a previous cyber crime as an 11-year-old.
A good movie though. The overall story concept still holds up even though the technology has improved. However I very much doubt the obvious password of Joshua would have been used for such a hugely dangerous program. The film, like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Terminator, warns against the rise of overconfident computers without a sense of human logic. About the absurdity of war.
Ladyhawke (1985) (Richard Donner)
Fantasy/adventure. I like the idea of the curse and the transformations, which is romantic, but the story isn’t the greatest and easy to guess how will play out. While there are some entertaining sword fights, I found Matthew Broderick’s dialogues and monologues the most memorable aspect of the movie. Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer are ok, though I felt both their characters are a bit bland and underwritten. Broderick’s comic relief somewhat saves the film. The synth soundtrack by Alan Parsons is inappropriate for a film set in medieval times.
Quotes: “Every happy moment in my life has come from lying”
“A day without night, and a night without day”
Fletch Lives (1989) (Michael Ritchie)
Fletch disguised as a bug man and the jail scene were the two funniest moments. The television ministry parts with R. Lee Ermey somehow aren’t as amusing as they should have been. The story held my attention yet doesn’t have the laughs and realism of the original. After watching, the journey Fletch goes on from A to B feels contrived. The relationship with the younger woman (Julianne Phillips) could be perceived as inappropriate as he looks about 45-50 while she resembles someone in her 20s. The way they interact felt a bit dated.
There’s a commentary on the Jim and Tammy Bakker scandal which was a big deal at the time, there’s even a direct reference to these televangelists during the coon hunt and the Christian theme park is comparable to the Bakker story.
Favorite quotes: ”Bless you, bless her, bless him, hallelujah”
“You’re right, I’ve been foolishly squandering my salary on food and heat”
Tully (2018) (Jason Reitman)
Is it a comedy or a drama? I don’t really know and the tonal shifts between sadness and jokes makes it an odd viewing experience. I like director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody but I don’t think this is their best work. The duo took the pregnancy theme from Juno and the feisty Mavis Gary character from Young Adult and meshed the two! The screenplay also addresses marriage and mental health(both Marlo and her son) but these aspects are underdeveloped as the viewer hardly gets to know the male characters.
A weak opening 30 minutes where nothing much happens. Improves when Tully turns up and spices things up a bit. The ending felt very safe though does encourage conversation. Perhaps if I was a mother myself I could relate to these situations. As it is, the film didn’t leave much of an impression and the memorable scenes are somewhat cringeworthy. Well-acted but there’s no reason to see it at the cinema as it’s visually uninteresting. Could be a film you need to watch again to fully appreciate as there is a twist that surprises.
Quincy (2018) (documentary) (Alan Hicks, Rashida Jones)
For two hours jumps between the past and present. Very superficial. The parts about his music career are watchable but mostly just name dropping without depth. To do his long, distinguished career justice a longer format would have been better. The documentary, or tribute if you will, was dull when following him as an old man as the interviews didn’t reveal much.
Quincy Jones helped Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Oprah, and Will Smith and paved the way for them to become mega stars. We also get to see glimpses of his humanitarian work, building houses in South Africa, and attempt to stop the East Coast and West Coast hip hop war. The documentary completely skipped the Bad album which is one of his most popular as a producer. Not recommended and a missed opportunity. You can basically get the same info from reading his wikipedia page.
Juliet, Naked (2018) (Jesse Peretz)
An adaptation that is charming yet simplifies the nuances of the superior Nick Hornby novel. Good for a one time watch, especially if you are a music enthusiast. The soundtrack has been praised although I can’t say any of the new songs struck a chord. In fact the only one I remember is Brass in Pocket by The Pretenders which wasn’t sung by Ethan Hawke. There’s a cover of Waterloo Sunset which is key to the story. The soundtrack needs to be heard separately as mostly just snippets during the film. I’ve listened to a few of the tracks on YouTube, not all interesting, but Sunday Never Comes is really good.
Part of the allure of the book (which I reviewed here) was reading about beloved fictional music that was special to a group of fans and unimportant to those who didn’t “get it”. Hawke plays the mysterious singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe while Chris O’Dowd runs a music forum website dedicated to his idol. Rose Byrne is O’Dowd’s girlfriend and puts up with his Crowe obsession. I disliked the epilogue scene which clashes tonally with the actual ending.
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome