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The magic of film-making is something that has intrigued me ever since I decided to pop in the mysterious DISC 2 of a Star Wars D.V.D when I was a young teen. Whether it was Phantom Menace, Revenge Of The Sith or A New Hope, I was turned off at first (it seemed at the time to just be a bunch of old people talking about how they did this and that to make *that*), but after a while, seeing how words on a piece of paper could blossom into the brilliance of movie-making is something that began to inspire me. It showed me that - even in the case of some of the greatest movies to grace this Earth - the scenes unfolding from BEHIND the camera lens were actually more interesting than the films themselves.
A movie like Toy Story 2 may seem like just another Pixar classic, but the events that took place within the hectic Disney/Pixar offices is truly one for the books. Other noteworthy occurrences in the seemingly chaotic world of Hollywood are equally as daunting: George Lucas being briefly hospitalised for hypertension in the middle of the stressful shooting of 1977's 'STAR WARS', Robin Williams being falsely offered the role of the Joker in Tim Burton's 1989 'BATMAN' by Warner Bros. executives in order to bait Jack Nicholson into accepting the role, James Cameron fighting off Orion executives who were trying to change the ending of 'THE TERMINATOR'... there's a million eyebrow-raising stories out there that really made me realise how there's more to movies than just two hours of entertainment.
It is, in every sense of the word, an art. Some of the movies we take for granted today almost never happened. If you think it's just a bunch of actors getting all dressed up to get in front of the camera waiting for the word "action" then you're dead wrong. Movie-making wasn't - and isn't - a straightforward process, and that's particularly the reason why I never decided to invest in a career aimed at putting myself in a director's chair. It's not only expensive and mentally demanding, but the sad reality is that even if you pour your very soul into your film, that doesn't necessarily make it good. A more technical reason for my apprehension is that, honestly, it seems to me a very mad industry - where one must slip between the cracks to really make a living at it. Not all are lucky enough to make it big like Steven Spielberg or Ridley Scott or Martin Scorsese, and I'm perfectly fine with that.
I may sound like I'm rambling, but my point is that films are truly something to be appreciated. In some cases they are even genius.
I love movies (except the ones I DON'T) and that's why I've made it my mission to watch damn near everything I can, both good and bad - from The Shawshank Redemption to Plan 9 From Outer Space. And I watch the credits, too, to allow the movie to sink in and the dust to settle.
I very much enjoy the sheer unquestioned POWER (yes, POWER in full capitals) of being able to brand a film with the hot iron that is my rating. Whether it's Forrest Gump that earns a golden 10/10 stars, or the Star Wars Holiday Special that barely earns 1.
I watch all sequels and remakes these films get, and I rate each and every one fairly. A reminder that these star-ratings are simply my opinion, and you may not agree with all of them, and that's okay.
Here is a list of things I do NOT do:
- No foreign films: I don't watch anything that wasn't originally released in English. The primary reasons for this is that it is A) not always easy to get your hands on foreign films, and B) it's very difficult to draw the line on what counts, especially in utterly ludicrous series like the Italian Zombi movies. Ugh. And I'm not discrediting foreign movies, as I know the original Godzilla and the more recent Parasite are both highly-acclaimed. But I can live without them.
- No fan films: for obvious reasons, these do not count. I had to make a very difficult decision when it came to George Romero's 'NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD' which is now in public domain, which pretty much means any random Joe can make their own movies using that title. That film is literally plagued with a thousand remakes, sequels, requels, and re-what-have-yous. Other than watching the original 1968 version and the quote-unquote official Tom Savini remake, I opted to trust my gut and not waste my life watching the tripe some fans have scraped together. My decision is final here; THEY DO NOT COUNT.
- No z-movies: Look, I can handle my fair share of bad movies here and there, but I'm sorry, this is where I draw the line. The only reason I'm watching a low-budget college film is if that damn thing has won an Oscar (or otherwise, is socially-praised enough to garner sufficient attention). Unless these films are sequels or remakes, they do not count and can gladly be forgotten. But really, if I could have my way, most if not all of these 'movies' should be destroyed if I deem their existence redundant.
- A movie must be sixty minutes to qualify as a feature film. This rule may be subject to change once I start exploring movies from a hundred years ago, but we'll see.
Before I wrap this bio up, I want to say a little thing about myself. Films are fascinating. I personally love the soundtracks and the practical effects of movies from the 1980s, and I believe this decade truly has something special about it.
Zed1999 ~ 28 July 2020 0253
Blade Runner (1982)
Visually stunning, audibly beautiful, very pretentious.
*I viewed the Final Cut version of this film.
Ridley Scott's BLADE RUNNER is one of those movies that, regardless of its age, looks like it could have come out yesterday thanks to the miracle of blu-ray digital enhancement. The special effects look preposterously good for a film from 1982, not five years after George Lucas' original STAR WARS braced theatres. The bustling neon-lit streets of 2019 Los Angeles are full of character, bearing an eerie foreshadowing of the gloomy distopia that society may one day become. It's no big surprise that most of the film is shot at night, when the colours of the movie really jump out at you. I think this movie easily has some of the best visual effects of its time, and if that isn't enough for you, Philip K. Dick, author of the book upon which the film is based, saw a brief screening of the movie and said it was just like how he'd imagined it in his book; that it was beautiful. Dick never lived to see the actual release of the movie.
As for Vangelis' soundtrack (which I own on vinyl), it really adds the final touch. Every synthesised note is oozing with a distant-future-sci-fi feeling, and it really is superb at times.
The cast is perfect. Harrison Ford stars as Detective Rick Deckard opposite Rutger Hauer, the stone-cold Replicant leader, and even the randomers on the crowded streets seem to have their own lives to deal with, too.
Apparently the film suffered from serious tension on the set because the crew (made up laregly of yanks) wasn't fond of the way British director Ridley Scott shot his movies, and a lot of conflict arose as a result. It seems that most 'great' movies are plagued with these sort of problems. So is BLADE RUNNER really that great?
No, not really.
I have given the film a solid 8/10 score primarily based on how gorgeously the film is presented, from the huge glittering buildings right down to the passionate (and sometimes depressing) soundtrack. So what's the problem? Let me tell you that, as someone who's seen the movie a great deal of times, I never really clicked with it. My first viewing felt underwhelming, and sadly, it seems all my viewings are destined to be this way, for the most part. Why does Roy Batty need to strip down to his underwear as he chases Deckard at the end of the movie, howling like a wolf as he does it? Why does Deckard do this whole charade with the stripper Replicant, when he could just shoot her on the spot? Answer: there isn't an answer. The film's plot lacks a lot of substance here and there, with very slow pacing that will surely weed out any viewers with short attention-spans in the first fifteen minutes. Ford's character doesn't come off as unlikeable, or just likeable, for that matter. He comes off as very plain and dull. (Ironically, this is actually an accurate reflection of Rick Deckard in the book DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? It's up to you if you think it's intentional or not.) The romance sub-plot is about as needful as someone walking into the movie theatre, giving you a swift kick in the balls, then walking back out. It has barely any substance. I really don't see why they needed to add it, especially as the movie already largely digresses from what the book's premise was.
The twist at the end of the movie, where we realise that Deckard is actually a Replicant himself, doesn't feel very necessary. It would have been a great thing to mix into the movie about halfway through, and would really spice things up. It would really turn our attention to whether or not he was a human the whole time, or just another Replicant, much like the novel does. This is a movie that has underwent multiple changes in its lifespan (changing music, adding/removing Deckard's narration, adding new scenes...) and the ending is one of those things that has been altered before. I implore you to come to your own conclusion, assuming you haven't fallen asleep by that time.
I'm not saying it's a bad movie by any means, but I certainly don't consider it an action flick, as IMDb seems to have listed it as. Think of something more akin to Roman Polanski's CHINATOWN.
Although maybe a little overrated here and there, I would recommend this to any sci-fi fan. After all, the film does have a legacy, and is permanently engraved in pop-culture, so much so that the suits thought it necessary to do a sequel in 2017.
I'm sure Ridley Scott said himself that he considers BLADE RUNNER his best work (that puts it at a higher regard than 1979's ALIEN) so either check this movie out now, or let it be forgotten like... tears... in rain.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
The DEFINITIVE zombie film
Enjoy zombies? Enjoy gore? Enjoy black comedy? Look no more, friend, because Dawn Of The Dead is what you're looking for!
For any avid horror fan, the name George Romero should immediately make you think about zombies. After all, he did create them! In 1968, he showed the world NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, dated by today's standards but a movie that still holds a certain power to shock, disgust and terrify. Ten years later, he one-upped himself by creating Dawn Of The Dead, arguably the greatest zombie movie ever made. The zombies don't run, they don't talk, just good ol' classic zombies, terrifying as ever. Though a lot of the ghouls in scenes of the film can come off as quite laughable (most of the time intentionally) there are a select few that truly bring the terror of the movie to life.
The story is simple, yet executed brilliantly, following the struggle of four survivors' quest for survival, fleeing from an imploding society to take refuge in a retail shopping mall. What really sets this movie different is that it develops its characters very well and the viewer learns to care for them, no matter their (sometimes questionable) actions. Roger is my favourite! Another thing that any viewer should appreciate is that this film takes its time in places - it's not all blood and gore every second. Romero adds a nice spin on the cliches of horror by taking the time to throw in hints of drama, romance and of course heaps of comedy.
Several years after the hyped success of this monumental film, Romero returned once more to direct DAY OF THE DEAD, a somewhat underrated masterpiece - yet it failed to, at least in my opinion, dethrone Dawn Of The Dead from its golden reputation as the greatest zombie flick ever.
This film has inspired dozens of modern zombie movies, good and bad, including the popular The Walking Dead television show. And aside from its slightly inferior predecessor, this movie is the one that kick-started a revolution in horror cinema.
But do keep in mind that this is a movie from 1978, and especially keep in mind that it had quite a limited budget. The real magic of this film is its setting: the Monroeville Mall. This simple but unique setting isn't just for show: it's implemented deliberately by Romero to attack consumerism, a cancer of society that still exists today that we, humans, take entirely for granted, taking what we want and wasting what we take.
So, if you are a fan of zombies, you must see this movie! It is quite simply the best! And remember that when there's no more room in hell... the dead will walk the Earth!