Tag Archives: Harrison Ford

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – Movie Review

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Director:  J.J. Abrams

Writers:  J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan

Stars:  Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, and Carrie Fisher

IMDb Logline:  Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

Pros:

  1. Old pros Harrison Ford (Han Solo) and Carrie Fisher (General Leia), and new arrivals Daisy Ridley (Ray), John Boyega (Finn), and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren)
  2. Han Solo and Kylo Ren character arcs
  3. Chewbacca
  4. Major emotional character plot point handled deftly and in service to both the story and another character arc
  5. Made you forget, and did not reference the Prequel Films
  6. Pratical Effects

Cons:

  1. Too many characters–underutilized characters could have been introduced in later films
  2. Too many call-backs to the original trilogy
  3. Too many coincides (i.e. how Han & Chewie get back the Falcon; BB-8 all of a sudden being there at different scenes)
  4. Did not emotionally connect with the movie until major character plot point

Review:  Star Wars is back and in good hands.  The story is linear, has characters you love, and an emotional punch that leaves you reeling.  The film moves fast–sometimes too fast–covering a lot of new ground while trying to catch you up on the last thirty-five years of events.

Rating = B+

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“The Mosquito Coast” (1986) – 5-Obstructions Blogathon

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Director: Peter Weir

Writers: Paul Theroux & Paul Schrader

Stars: Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, and River Phoenix

Allie Fox (Harrison Ford) is an inventor, father, and husband.  His wife trusts him and his children revere him almost unto a god.  He is completely self-confident and truly believes he is always right.  Allie Fox is also disillusioned with America.

Fed up, he takes his family and whatever they can carry, and sails to Belize on a container ship.  On board they are joined by missionaries returning to their mission.  The self-reliant Fox clashing with Rev. Spellgood (Andre Gregory) immediately.  Once in port the families part ways; Fox hoping never to see Spellgood again.

In the city, one raucous night after many drinks and a long conversation with a drunk American, Fox purchases the village of Geronimo located upstream.  The next day the family charters a small river boat to ferry them to their new home.  Arriving to squalor the ever optimistic–delusional (?)–Allie Fox starts reshaping the village to his image.  But all is not paradise when ego & hubris prevail over the common good & decency.

Mosquito Coast is based on the Paul Theroux book of the same name.  The story is similar to Heart of Darkness in that the further upstream the family proceeds, the further into the heart of darkness Allie Fox will journey.  At its most basic, the story is a fall from grace.  A story of how pride and its sister, ego, can blind you.  This theme is also carried through the sub-plot of science (Allie Fox) versus religion (Rev. Spellgood).  Both men are in the jungle for the same reason, to improve the lives of those there; and both men succeed.  But both men fail to see the good of each other because of the ego of their personal beliefs.  You are either with them or against them.

The greatest strength of the film is the acting.  This is Harrison Ford’s best performance.  When we first meet Allie Fox we meet a jaded blowhard who has an opinion about everything.  A man with an edge but a man with a heart.  The Allie Fox at the end of the film is a man who has fallen over the edge; a dangerous man; a man capable of anything no matter the cost.  Ford deftly molds his character from driven father to abusive despot.  And through it all you always see the power of the character to command people’s attention and gain their control.  Helen Mirren, as Mother, holds her own against the supercharged Ford, though she has less to work with in terms of character development.  She is the loyal and trusting wife–loyal to a fault.  The sad truth of her character is that she always had the power to stop Allie but failed to act.  Even near the end when presented with the choice whether to turn back or continue upstream, she allows him to continue upstream.  It is only at the end when she finally sees what he has become that she says enough.  It is only because if Mirren’s performance do we believe this wallflower had the internal strength to make that decision.  You see fleeting moments in her eyes throughout the film where she knows they are making a bad choice and debates challenging him, but ultimately decides to have faith and trust him.

The quality of the child actors depends on the material they are given to work with.  Hilary and Rebecca Gordon as the Fox twins are non-existent in terms of character development, and are in the film only to add additional elements of danger to the family.  Jadrien Steele as Jerry Fox has more to do, and he carries the change well.  Jerry, like all the children admires his father.  Later, though, he is the first to hate him; so much so to even suggest abandoning him.  But, as a boy would, he in the end fears losing his father and is scared of life without him.  The change in his face when he watches his father in the beginning of the film to the end is all you have to see to know how much Allie Fox has fallen in his children’s eyes.

River Phoenix is the stand-out performance among the children, and is equal to Harrison Ford overall—though in a less showy role.  His Charlie Fox is a son who holds his father on a pedestal, but also a boy on the cusp of starting the journey into becoming a man.  He is eager to please his father as well as is in awe of him.  But as Allie goes though his journey so does Charlie.  As Allie becomes less and less about family, Charlie becomes more.  He rises to the occasion of becoming a surrogate father to his siblings and protector to his mother.  More importantly, Phoenix’s Charlie–and this has always been one of Phoenix’s greatest attributes as an actor–maintains his humanity and vulnerability while gaining an inner strength of character.

Charlie’s journey is made easier for us to witness because of the director, Peter Weir.  The film is figuratively shown through Charlie’s eyes and heard in his voice.  Narration, when used, is by Charlie.  How we perceive Allie Fox is how Charlie sees him.  And how we see the film is how Charlie remembers it.  The beginning of their journey is joyous and adventurous.  The end is dark and fearful.  At their most desperate, the voices of a choir sound as if angels are singing.

Weir and Schrader, the screenwriter, also use dramatic irony to good effect.  The atheists inventor corrects the christian missionary on biblical scripture.  The scene when Rev. Spellgood visits Geronimo is a masterclass on the subject.  The man of God Rev. Spellgood on the river dock bids everyone a loud, “a very good morning to you.”  Mother Fox retorts with a whispered, “Oh God,” under her breath.  Spellgood approaches Allie Fox with a staff in hand as Moses freeing his people, but quotes Pharaoh instead.  Fox approaches Spellgood with a carpenters belt & hammer.  To Spellgood’s claim that he came because the Lord sent him, Allie replies, “the Lord doesn’t know this place exists,” that he in fact is the savior here.

Weir also fashions Allie Fox into Dr. Frankenstein.  His great invention—the machine that can make ice from fire—is his monster.  Allie speaks of it in the masculine, always “he”.  Its mechanisms his insides:  his lungs, spleen, intestines, etc.  When his monster comes to life Allie Fox is a proud father.  And when his monster is killed it dies in fire and with an actual roar.  Its death leaves disaster, death, and destruction.  Its death finally breaks Allie Fox; its death pushing him over the razor’s edge.

Ultimately, though, Rita Kempley from the Washington Post said it best, “Sooner or later a man of invention will pollute paradise, a grand contradiction that gives Mosquito its bite and Ford inspiration for his most complex portrayal to date. As a persona of epic polarities, he animates this muddled, metaphysical journey into the jungle.”  The journey is muddled.  There is a key moment where faith & trust in Allie Fox from his family is lost due to a lie.  The story then loses our faith & trust when it causes Allie’s family to lie to him.  Though you understand where they are coming from and can empathize with their decision, that decision allows Allie Fox to be able to live with his choices.

Grade = B+

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My Movie Alphabet – Blogathon

Click on title to be taken to “My Movie Alphabet” Blogathon central.

“A”

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A defining film of both the science fiction and horror film.  Ridley Scott’s first sci-fi film established him as a visual force in filmmaking.  The film’s art direction and set design hold-up to this day.  When the Alien is finally revealed it is worth the wait.  The edge-of-your seat chaos of the siren & strobe self destruct sequence is matched with the equally tense quiet terror of the escape pod shuttle scene.

“B”

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Is there any more dreaded question from a child to a parent regarding a film than, “Mommy, what happened to Bambi’s Mother?”

“C”

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The brightest film-noir you will ever watch.  “My daughter, my sister, my daughter, my sister”.

“D”

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Quite possibly one of the best foreign films ever made.  There is no glory in this war or this crew.  You feel the claustrophobia of serving on a submarine and knowing that if your hull is breached you are dead.

“E”

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Because of how old I was when I first watched “E.T.”, no other film has given me such an emotional connection.

“F”

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When A Fish Called Wanda first came out I was fully discovering British humor.  Through my local PBS channel I fell in love with Benny HillFaulty Towers, and Are You Being Served?  At the local video store I discovered the Monty Python films.  And then Wanda came to a theatre near you.

“G”

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“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

Though Goodfellas and later The Sopranos present a more realistic and less glamorous life of the mafia, The Godfather is the reason why we all at some point wondered what it would be like if we were a gangster.

“H”

Click on image to watch video clip tribute

Humphrey Bogart – Arguably one of the most underrated actors of all time and the first anti-hero.  If you look at four of his most famous roles–Rick (Casablanca), Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Charlie Allnut (The African Queen), and Queeg (The Caine Mutiny)–you will see each is unique and powerful and not stereotypical and one-note.  His enduring appeal is because he played the flawed and/or reluctant hero.  His characters grew as people and you felt for their story.

“I”

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“They call me Mr. Tibbs!”  Sidney Poiter and Rod Steiger at their best.  A film like this if it were made today would have come out five years after it was relevant.  In the Heat of the Night came out in the middle of the Civil Rights movement as the country was still tearing itself apart before Martin Luther King’s assassination.

“J”

Click on image to view 1973 AFI Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech

John Ford – When asked what directors he favored, Orson Wells replied, “the old masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford.”  To know why Wells said this watch The Grapes of WrathCheyenne AutumnHow Green Was My ValleyThe Quiet ManThe Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and most especially The Searchers.

“K”

Click on image to view “Khannnnn!” scene.

Khan – You ever wonder why Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan is still arguably the best Star Trek movie?  A very real enemy with very real motivation with an incredible performance by Ricardo Montalban.  Add a good story with great direction and the best performances given by all the regular players, and you have a film that has stood the test of time.

“L”

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Leach, Archibald – Archibald Leach mastered one role to perfection:  Cary Grant.  Probably no other classic Hollywood Star has worked with more famed directors and in more quality films than Cary Grant.  And no star ever walked away from the film business like he did, thereby leaving us a never-changing image of who he was.  Later in life when he forgot his ticket to a charity fundraiser, he explained his situation and said he was Cary Grant.  To wit, she replied “That’s impossible.  You don’t look like Cary Grant.”  Smiling he responded, “who does?” (Source of story is The Encyclopedia of Hollywood by Scott & Barbara Siegel)

“M”

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The best Harrison Ford film you have never watched with his best performance ever.

“N”

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Watch Nosferatu today and you will still be impressed with its story, effects, and principal performance.  If you had watched in 1922, then you would not have slept for days.

“O”

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The single greatest icon shattering moment in cinema history, in one of the best Westerns ever made, with one of the most evocative scores used in film.

“P”

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“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” – Inigo Montoya;”As you wish.” – Wesley; “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya; “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is ‘never get involved in a land war in Asia”‘- but only slightly less well-known is this: ‘Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line’!” – Vizzini; “Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.” – Prince Humperdinck

“Q”

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“Now listen 007”

“R”

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My favorite Hitchcock film.  (with possibly the worst trailer I have ever watched)

“S”

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Love them or hate them, superhero movies are here to stay.

“T”

I spent many a Saturday afternoon watching old Tarzan films, but I’m sure those Saturday TV versions never aired the scene I linked to the image above.

“U”

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“You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That’s the Chicago way! And that’s how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I’m offering you a deal. Do you want this deal?” – That’s why Sean Connery resurrected his career and won an Academy Award.

“V”

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I don’t think anyone does court dramas better than Sidney Lumet.  The Verdict is Exhibit-B for my case.

“W”

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After the teaser trailer, my expectation for this film went through the roof, and Pixar delivered.  It is still my favorite Pixar film.

“X”

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The Gold Rush was Charlie Chaplin’s tenth feature as The Tramp and includes the famous dancing shoes with forks scene where he later eats the shoes.  It’s amazing that after playing The Tramp for so long, that Chaplin was still able to create a classic film and not allow the character to go stale.

“Y”

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One name:  Frau Blucher…(horses whining)

“Z”

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Zardoz gave us James Bond in a loin clothe, and Sean Connery wondering where he went wrong in his career.

Thank you to Myfilmviews for introducing me to this Blogathon


Movie Confessions Blogathon

A fellow movie review blogger, MyFilmViews, invited me to be part of a blogathon.  In this case the theme are movie confessions.  Below are my answers to the questions sent followed by some thoughts:

  1. Which classic movie don’t you like/can’t enjoy and why?  The Night of the Hunter.  I know it is meant to be surreal.  I know it has one of Robert Mitchum’s greatest performance.  I know it is a misunderstood masterpiece.  And I know “The Preacher” is one of the most iconic characters of all time.  But I also know when I saw this film for the first time my reaction was underwhelming “Ehh”.  It didn’t do anything for me.  I neither loved it nor loathed it.  It didn’t stay with me and pop into my mind from time to time.  
  2. Which ten classic movies haven’t you seen yet?  The 400 Blows, The Apartment, Taxi Driver, Gone with the Wind, Do the Right Thing, The Seven Samurai, The Seventh Seal, Some Like It Hot, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Battleship Potemkin
  3. Have you ever sneaked into another movie at the cinema?  To the best of my memory, no.
  4. Which actor/actress do you think is overrated?  Katherine Hepburn.  I’m not saying she is a bad actress, but for someone that appears to be acting the same way in all the limited films I have seen her in I can’t believe she has been nominated twelve times and won four.
  5. From which great director have you never seen any movie (and why)?  Ingmar Bergman.  I have no good reason why I have never watched any of his films; I just don’t feel any urge to.
  6. Which movie do you love, but is generally hated?  Hudson Hawk.  It’s #1 Guilty Pleasure, and I have no idea why it is hated so much.  It’s not great art, but it’s a good popcorn movie.
  7. Have you ever been one “one of those annoying people” at the cinema?  Borderline yes.  I don’t remember if I was having a conversation with my mother or returning a phone call to my sister with her, but we did it while the end credits were rolling.  Since this was done after the film and during the credits, I am not sure if it qualifies.
  8. Did you ever watch a movie, which you knew in advance would be bad, just because a specific actor/actress was in it?  Which one and why?  In a theatre no, but at home yes.  I’ll usually watch anything with Harrison Ford and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  I’m a big fan of both and try to watch all their films.  Best example of this would be G.I. Joe.
  9. Did you ever not watch a specific movie because it had subtitles?  No
  10. Are there any movies in your collection that you have has for more than five years and never watched?  The 400 Blows.  But after a recent review by AndyWatchesMovies I set a goal to myself to watch before Labor Day–first weekend in September.
  11. Which are the worst movies in your collection and why do you still own them?  Though not from my point-of-view, but Hudson Hawk.  Also Candy, which is the worse movie ever made starring the most number of famous people.  I keep it just for that reason.
  12. Do you have any confessions about your movie watching setup at home?  My TV is small; it is in an armoire with the doors typically closed unless we are watching the TV.  As such, and movies I watch with a lot of action I usually watch laying on the floor in front of the TV instead of the sofa behind the coffee table.  Otherwise it is difficult for me to see all the details of the action.
  13. Any other confessions you want to make?  I’m typically biased against European films.  I stereotype them as being painfully slow and poorly edited.  I know this is not true, but I blame a film school professor of mine who loved those types of films for giving me this perception.  Most people naturally assume I am a sci-fi film fan, but I have actually seen very few of them. I am not a fan of gross-out horror films.  I usually watch comedies as rentals and not in the theatre.

So there you go, my answers to the questions.  Overall I had a great time working on this.  It reminded me there are still a lot of classic movies I have not watched yet, and reminded me that liking a film is purely subjective.  We all have out guilty pleasures that we like to watch and other people will give us an odd stare for.

As a thank you, here is the link to MyFilmViews post on these questions, as well as other bloggers who are participating:

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Also, here are some links to earlier posts of mine that touch on some of my responses to the above questions:


“Cowboys & Aliens” – Review

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Director:  John Favreau
Writers:  Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman, and Seven Others
Stars:  Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford
Cowboys & Aliens is not a good movie, nor is it a one-star movie–I’m looking at you Rene Rodriguez.  The movie suffers from having too many chefs in the kitchen–in this case writers.  So what went wrong?  The Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) character for one.  He starts off as too evil, turns too nice, and you don’t believe that his son (Paul Dano) would have turned out the way he did.  Upon further thought, he would produce a son like this.  Dolarhyde would be so focused on his business that he would neglect his son, and his son would lash out for attention. Another negative are the aliens.  The script can’t seem to decide whether they are easy or difficult to kill.  Also, the editing is off (not that it seemed like too much was left on the floor, but more that a scene started too late).
So what was good about the film?  I didn’t fall asleep, and it kept me entertained.  In other words, it is a rental.  There is nothing spectacular about the effects that mandate you watch them on the big screen, nor will you feel like you wasted your money if you go when you have nothing better to do.
I was let down by this movie, and I believe many others were as well.  I think of all the summer movies, I was most excited about this one.  Before Rene’s review, I had trepidations about the quality of the film.  The last trailer did not impress me.  When I saw on IMDB how many writers were involved, I knew something was amiss.  The lackluster tone of voice from John Hein of The Howard Stern Show and Geektime when he said, “it’s good”, sounded more like something nice to say about a friend than an impassioned commentary.
After reading Rene Rodriguez’s post on facebook about his thoughts when he left the screening, I knew I was in danger of having to do something I have never done before–watch a one-star movie in the theatre.  And then it happened.  The Miami Herald weekend section came out.  I was hoping for two-stars, but no, the dreaded one-star.  I had painted myself into a corner.  By dedicating a whole week of this blog to cowboys, aliens, and Harrison Ford in anticipation of this movie, I had no choice but to watch it.  A while back I decided that I would always see a movie I was interested in no matter what the critics said unless it got one-star.  My logic was simple:  a bad movie is a bad movie is a bad movie, and a one-star movie is a bad movie.  Again, I think the one-star was a little harsh.  But Rene was like me–really excited about this movie.  I think the one-star is more a reflection of how much the movie disappointed him more than a reflection on the quality of the film.
Grade: C-

7 Best Harrison Ford Movies

Why seven movies?  Because Harrison Ford has had more than five great films, but not quite ten–notice I wrote great, not good; he has had many good films.  My only criteria for this list was that a character could only appear once.

#7:  The Empire Strikes Back

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What?  Han Solo and The Empire Strikes Back are 7th!  You’re full of s%@t!  No, I’m not full of it.  No Harrison Ford list would be complete without Han Solo, but in the end this is not a Harrison Ford movie; it’s an ensemble.  As for the movie itself, this film is the only reason why we still talk about the Star Wars franchise today and why a whole cottage industry of books, comics, and fan art exists.

#6:  The Fugitive

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This is the last non-dour Harrison Ford movie.  With the exception of Air Force One, he appears to be annoyed and constipated in all his later films–again, for the most part they are good but aren’t as engaging as what came before.  As for The Fugitive, the film is tight and straightforward.  A lot of current day filmmakers could learn a well needed lesson about editing and pacing from this film; kudos to the director (Jeb Stuart).

#5:  Hanover Street

Click on image to view Spanish trailer

Yes, it’s a Spanish trailer, but it is the only one I could find.  Anyway, I wish to thank Dr. Paul N. Lazarus, III, for introducing me to this film.  He was a professor of mine when I was briefly a film major at UM and also the producer.  Hanover Street is a good movie with a really good Harrison Ford performance.  It’s a story of a love triangle set during WWII.  The story goes a little off track in the third act, but it’s still a good movie to watch with your better half.

#4:  Blade Runner

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Question: which of the many cuts of Blade Runner do you look for to watch?  Answer: whichever one that does not have the narration and comes with the making-of featurette.  Blade Runner is one of the most visually influential films of the last thirty years, and both Harrison Ford & Rutger Hauer give great performances that hold the film together.

#3:  Witness

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A damn good movie with another great performance–not only for Ford, but the whole cast as well.  Peter Weir is another director that makes a lot of films that I like.  The story is engaging, and the acting is natural & effortless.  The improvised dance scene between Ford and Kelly McGillis is one of the small highlights.

#2:  Frantic

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I’m not a fan of Roman Polanski, and I think he is overrated.  But this is by far his best film, probably because it’s paced like an Alfred Hitchcock film.  If anyone ever asks you what a suspense film is, you can give them this as a perfect example.  As the story moves forward, you are brought more and more into it; you become more involved with Dr. Richard Walker (Harrison Ford), his plight, and his urgency.

#1:  Raiders of the Lost Ark

Whoops! Grabbed that from the "Fantasy" Folder

Sorry, here is the right poster.

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Was there any doubt?  What’s not to love about this film?  Spielberg at his best, Ford at his best, everyone at their best.  The perfect example of an Action/Adventure film.  Raiders of the Lost Ark was rightly nominated for Best Picture and wrongly lost to Chariots of Fire.  Reds, On Golden Pond, and Atlantic City were also nominated for Best Picture that year.  Which of these films do you remember?  Have watched more than once?  Actually care about?  I never heard of Atlantic City until I looked up the nominated films for 1981.

I’m glad I shared this list with you, but creating it left me a little bittersweet.  Sweet in that I was able to share my thoughts — bitter in the realization that Harrison Ford’s best days are behind him.  His heyday really was the 80s.  But the 80s were fun!

What are your thoughts?


“Cowboys & Aliens” – Coming Soon

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The first thing you need to know about Cowboys & Aliens is that I will be there opening weekend.  The second thing you need to know is that Harrison Ford is in it.  The last thing you need to know is that it is based on an obscure graphic novel of the same name.

Click on image to learn more about the graphic novel

The film is directed by John Favreau of Iron Man fame.  I first heard about it last year on the Howard Stern show when he came to promote Iron Man 2 and talk about San Diego Comic-Con and how they got geek god Harrison Ford to appear.  The fact that Favreau got Harrison Ford to appear was a major news story since it was his first appearance there.  I’m hoping this bodes well for the material and end product, because I am not thrilled about how many writers the screenplay had.  That being said, I have been excited about this film since I saw the first trailer.

In homage to the film, this week I will present my top westerns, alien films, and Harrison Ford films.  Enjoy!