“Blade Runner” stars Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, and Edward James Olmos. Released on June 25, 1982, the film is about an ex-cop who is assigned to track down a fugitive group of bioengineered androids.
The film is directed by Ridley Scott, who also directed films such as Alien, Gladiator, and The Martian. It is based on the 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick. About 35 years ago, Ridley Scott followed up his science fiction classic, Alien, with another science fiction film about a dystopian city filled with futuristic cops and synthetic human-like robots. At first, it was a mixed bag for critics and audiences alike, and it didn’t perform that well at the box office, but as the years passed since its release, it was hailed as one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. Not only that, but it also marked the beginning of a series of Philip K. Dick film adaptations. Truth be told, I have not seen the whole thing of this film, not even tiny bits of it, despite the fact that it has Harrison Ford in it. With Blade Runner 2049 heading into theaters this weekend, I decided to rent the film from Amazon and see if it’s as great as they said it is. There are several different versions of “Blade Runner” that were released, but for this review, I will be looking at the latest version that was released in 2007: the “Final Cut” version.
Set in the year 2019, the film focuses on a former police officer named Rick Deckard (Ford), a “blade runner” whose job is to track down robotic beings known as replicants and “retire” them, and by that, I mean murder every last of them. As his quest deepens, Deckard discovers a series of clues that will cause him to question his mission as well as his existence. When you see a plot like this, you usually think that it’s going to be an R-rated, action-packed thrill ride. In reality, however, it’s more along the lines of a dialogue-driven, neo-noir science fiction drama with some small bits of R-rated violence thrown into it. While it’s fine for people who are into films filled with interrogation and some metaphoric dialogue, I believe that those who like to watch a lot of gunfire or fistfights might find this one a bit disappointing or, in this case, boring. As for me, I thought the story was nicely crafted in terms of its themes and its dystopian setting, but it’s not something that I would watch over and over again. The main reason why is the film’s pacing. It’s not painfully slow, but with the amount of dialogue-filled scenes that are shown in “Blade Runner”, it’s slow enough to almost make me lose my attention. One of the things that stand out in the film is the cast. Harrison Ford delivered a very solid performance as Rick Deckard as well as Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty, the leader of the replicant group who wants to extend his life. Hauer’s performance is mostly known through his character’s monologue in the film’s third act that showcases his true nature, which I thought was very well-written. The movie also did an incredible job at creating a unique dystopian future with its astonishing visuals, production design, and its artistic cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth. It makes me wonder why we didn’t have something like this during our current time.
Overall, while a lot of people consider “Blade Runner” to be a sci-fi classic, I, on the other hand, consider it to be a visually-stunning interrogation film. It does have plenty of pacing issues and the story’s dialogue-driven moments may leave plenty of action junkies either disappointed or bored, but it’s basically one of those types of films that should be noticed by its technical achievements rather than just its storytelling, especially its fascinating dystopian setting. I didn’t actually think it was that great, but it wasn’t bad, either. It was a pretty good sci-fi movie, in my opinion. If you like some of Scott’s other films or if you enjoy watching Harrison Ford in his movies, this one’s worth checking out, but don’t expect it to have a lot of action in it.
“Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” stars Sumi Shimamoto, Gorō Naya, Yōji Matsuda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, and Iemasa Kayumi. Released on March 11, 1984, the film is about a fearless princess who attempts to prevent the destruction of the jungle that is filled with giant mutant insects.
The film is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed films such as The Castle of Cagliostro, Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, and Spirited Away. It is based on the 1982 manga of the same name by Miyazaki. While it is part of the Studio Ghibli lineup, the film was actually released before the foundation of the famous anime studio. The concept of Nausicaä started off as a manga which Miyazaki created for the magazine Animage. The manga was so popular that Miyazaki was asked to work on a film adaptation, with the condition being that he could direct. It was a struggling process for Miyazaki in terms of the screenplay, but it paid off extremely well upon its release, with many people considering it as one of the best animated films of all time. What’s interesting about it, in my own perspective, is that the creator of the source material (Miyazaki) was responsible for writing and directing the film version. This doesn’t happen very often when it comes to films based on books. Mostly because many authors prefer to tell their stories via pages with words. As part of my quest to see most of the Studio Ghibli classics on the big screen, I decided to revisit it and share with you my personal thoughts on Miyazaki’s second directorial effort. Like Castle in the Sky and Lupin III, I will be looking at the English dub version with the cast consisting of Alison Lohman, Sir Patrick Stewart, Shia LaBeouf, and “Kill Bill” star Uma Thurman.
The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where a war known as the Seven Days of Fire destroyed civilization and created a poisonous forest populated by a bunch of giant mutated bugs. Good luck trying to kill them with bug spray. The film’s central character is Nausicaä (voiced by Shimamoto in the Japanese version and Lohman in the English version), a princess from the kingdom of the Valley of the Wind who struggles to find a solution for humans to co-exist peacefully with the insects. Unfortunately, her mission gets a bit more complicated when another kingdom, Tolmekia, plots to use one of the humanoid bioweapons that caused the Seven Days of Fire to eradicate the toxic forest along with its monstrous residents. The entire plot is one big environmental message that has been told in several other films that revolve around this type of theme. You know, “animals have feelings just like humans do” or something like that. What makes this theme more relevant and convincing, to me, is its storytelling. Like his films that came after it, Miyazaki uses his incredible talent to showcase a beautiful, yet dangerous, world while providing a well-written and groundbreaking story that doesn’t rely on sugarcoating its environmental and anti-war themes. The characters were also well-developed as well as relatable. They don’t classify themselves as good guys or bad guys, they’re regular people that do what they think is right, even though it could lead to violence. The main character, Nausicaä, is not only one of my favorite animated characters that Miyazaki has created, but also one of the strongest female characters ever to be put into film. She’s confident, fearless, loyal, and vulnerable. Those traits alone were portrayed wonderfully thanks to some decent voice work from Lohman. Sir Patrick Stewart was also impressive as Lord Yupa, the Valley’s swordsmaster, as well as Shia LaBeouf as Asbel, a pilot from Pejite who helps Nausicaä on her journey. Sometimes it’s always nice to have big-name celebrities voicing the anime characters as long as they have the ability to bring them to life for the American audience. The animation was brilliant from the first ten minutes of the film to its compelling third act. Everything about it was top-notch, including its action scenes, the Valley of the Wind, the Toxic Jungle, heck, even the parts where Nausicaä flies on her glider. So far, Miyazaki’s films have impressed me with their artistic and gorgeous animated sequences, and this film still manages to continue this streak, even after 33 years of its release. Its musical score by Joe Hisaishi (in his first collaboration with Miyazaki) was pretty darn solid and, occasionally, memorable. In fact, as soon as I walked out of the movie, I wounded up humming to one of Hisaishi's musical pieces. Crazy, I know, but it's true.
Overall, “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” marked a strong beginning for Studio Ghibli when it was first released 33 years ago, and it still remains as one of the reasons why the studio exists in the first place. With its well-developed characters, fantastic animation, and a story that respects its main themes as well as its setting, the film soars to great heights while also serving as one of the main inspirations for anime fans and Studio Ghibli fans alike. There can be some sequences that might be a bit too intense for younger audiences, but those were only minor issues that didn’t harm the film that much. If you haven’t seen this incredible film, I would highly suggest you do so.
“Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro” stars Yasuo Yamada, Sumi Shimamoto, Tarō Ishida, Gorō Naya, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, and Eiko Masuyama. Released on December 15, 1979, the film is about a gentleman thief who sets out to rescue a princess from the clutches of an evil count.
The film featured the directorial debut of Hayao Miyazaki, and it is based on the manga series, Lupin III, by Monkey Punch. Before Miyazaki made it big with Studio Ghibli, he was once a regular animator for Toei Animation and TMS Entertainment. With the success of the first Lupin III feature film, The Mystery of Mamo, in 1978, another film based on the character was put into production with Miyazaki coming on board to direct for the first time. Now this wasn’t the first time that Miyazaki worked on the source material as he had directed several episodes of the Lupin III anime shows. Upon its release, it received numerous amounts of praise from critics, and it sparked a major influence for filmmakers as well as animators, including Pixar chief John Lasseter. As a person who has been following Miyazaki’s works for quite some time, I had not heard of the source material nor had I gotten the chance to even see this film. When I heard that my closest cinema is showing it for a limited time, I knew for a split second that I wouldn’t let this chance slip by again. So, I finally took a chance to see it for the first time on the big screen, and my God, it was worth it.
The film’s story follows its usual hero-rescues-the-damsel plot that influenced several other films after it, with the hero being a charming thief, a damsel in distress being a beautiful princess, and a sinister villain being the count who wants to marry the princess in order to obtain the ancient treasure of Cagliostro. This type of story, to me, has a unique ability to offer a fun, simple, and thrilling experience that’s pleasing to the eyes and the minds of animation fans, and yes, I did have a fun time watching it despite having little to no idea who these characters are. I think this is what Hollywood is struggling to accomplish in recent years when it comes to adapting the source material for a wide audience. In the case of “Castle of Cagliostro”, if you’re a big fan of the Lupin III manga series, then there’s a good chance that you’ll appreciate the film’s faithfulness to the characters and the concept. If you’re a newcomer like me, you’ll still be able to have fun tagging along with these characters, especially Lupin III and his colleague, Daisuke Jigen. The best part is that it doesn't involve a long backstory for each character that disrupts the story’s pacing. It just goes by at a suitable pace without sacrificing the amount of depth that’s put into the characters and the action. It’s the type of story that we’ve seen before, but Miyazaki handled it in the most clever way possible. I got a chance to view the English dub version of the film, and while some of the dialogue from that version sounded a little…flat, the English cast did a somewhat decent job at voicing their respective characters. The animation still looks gorgeous and well-crafted as it was during its original release despite its flow being a bit rough, which seems understandable since it came out in the late 1970s. Not only did the animation work wonders on the character designs and the locations, but also on the cinematography and the action sequences, most notably the car chase sequence, which offers a good amount of fun and intensity compared to any other live-action film that involves a car chase scene. The musical score by Yuji Ohno was also fun to listen to as it remarkably reflects on the wacky scenes as well as the adventurous scenes. Although, I still like the musical scores of Joe Hisaishi a bit better in terms of Miyazaki’s filmography because of their unique tones.
Overall, Hayao Miyazaki’s directorial debut, “Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro” is a splendid piece of Japanese animation cinema, in my opinion. Filled with fun characters, a well-effective story, and amazing animation, this film definitely has the tendency to continue being a remarkable influence for many animators and directors for many years to come. It’s pretty hard to believe that Miyazaki’s first film as a director actually became one of his greatest achievements in his career, but after watching it for the first time, I can fully understand why. It’s pretty much his own way of creating imaginative stories that changed how we see animated films today. Not as cartoons that are made for kids, but as an art form. That’s basically my assumption on this concept, but feel free to disagree if you want. If you haven’t seen this film yet and you’re a huge fan of Miyazaki, it’s definitely worth checking out.
“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” stars Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, and François Truffaut. Released on November 16, 1977, the film has Earth coming into contact with an unidentified flying object.
The film is directed by Steven Spielberg, who also directed films such as Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jurassic Park. For many years, this movie has been declared as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time as well as one of Spielberg’s finest treasures in his career, which is completely understandable due to his track record. This year marks the 40th anniversary of “Close Encounters” and to celebrate, the film is heading back into theaters this weekend in a new 4K resolution, and yes, I am officially reviewing it for the first time. This is actually my first experience with this science fiction classic, so it would be interesting to see what it looks like on the big screen. I managed to handle Spielberg’s Indiana Jones films, so surely I’ll be able to handle something like this. After all, he is one of the best directors in Hollywood history.
There have been a lot of science fiction films that feature mankind battling against extraterrestrials from outer space, and then there are those who offer a more grounded take on this out-of-this-world encounter. This is one of the prime examples of the latter, and for the most part, I thought this film was really impressive. Not just in terms of Spielberg’s storytelling, but in terms of its technical achievements as well. What made this film what it was 40 years ago was its thought-provoking themes, such as mankind’s responses to something that came from beyond the stars. It really makes us think about what we should do when an event like this happens to us sometime in the near future. The film also explores Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) and his obsession with the UFOs’ presence as well as how his actions affect his family. The way Spielberg blends these themes together was extremely effective thanks to his screenplay and his consistent sense of direction. The film is about over two hours long, and it does have a couple of slow parts that may bore some viewers, but the pacing was well put together to add some proper build-up during the first two acts. The cast also did a great job with their performances, especially Dreyfuss and Melinda Dillon as Jillian, as they present themselves as actual people and not just regular actors who “act” like them. Another thing that I would like to point out is the film’s visuals. They looked amazing during its original release, and guess what? They still look amazing 40 years later. The film’s effects remarkably captured the sense of wonder and mystery without losing focus on its story and the characters. With the amount of practical effects that they used in the 1970s, it’s pretty hard to forget that I was actually watching an ordinary film. John Williams’ musical score was also the big highlight of the film as it plays a crucial part in the story. One example being the five-tone musical phrase in a major scale that is played throughout the film. The government specialists use that phrase to communicate with the UFOs during the film’s third act. That scene alone, to me, is a splendid example of how music can positively affect a film’s storytelling.
Overall, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is a wondrous and thought-provoking science fiction tale about mankind’s experience with extraterrestrial discovery. The story’s pacing may or may not be an issue for some viewers, but when it comes to the cast, the themes, Spielberg’s direction, and John Williams’ incredible score, that hardly even matters. Like his other films before and after it, this sci-fi classic still showcases Steven Spielberg’s fantastic talents as a director and as an imaginative storyteller. If you’re one of the few people who hasn’t seen this yet, I suggest you do so, either at home or at your closest theater that’s showing it for a limited time.
“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” stars Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karan Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, and Shia LaBeouf. Released on May 22, 2008, the film has Indiana Jones racing against Soviet agents to uncover the secret of a telepathic crystal skull.
The film is directed by Steven Spielberg, who is known for directing the Indiana Jones trilogy, and it is the fourth installment in the Indiana Jones film series. Last year, I took the opportunity to see and review all three Indiana Jones movies on the big screen. However, there was another Indy film that I didn’t get a chance to review, and that’s the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The film came out 19 years after the previous installment, The Last Crusade, and it was notable for paying tribute to the science fiction B-movies that were released in the 1950s (which is also the decade that the film takes place in). While it became a box office success during its release, the film received a lot of mixed responses from critics and Indy fans alike compared to the last three installments. About half of the population really enjoyed it, while the other half said the complete opposite. I was, in fact, part of the group that enjoyed it because it was the first Indiana Jones film I saw in theaters. Plus, it got me intrigued with one of the greatest big-screen heroes in film history. That, and the Lego Indiana Jones game on the Playstation 2. Now that I’m finally reviewing it for my blog for the first time, do I think that it deserves a lot of mixed reviews?
If you’ve been following the Indiana Jones films for quite some time, then you’ll know what you’re going to expect from this fourth installment. The story follows the same old formula that the franchise is known for with a touch of some sci-fi elements thrown into the mix. That should make sense since the film takes place in the 1950s. If you like the movies because of that formula, then this installment will satisfy your adventurous desires. Even though it does have some moments that were a bit more far-fetched than its predecessors, I still find it to be a fun ride. Harrison Ford once again delivered a very entertaining performance as the title character despite being a bit rusty at times. This installment finds him teaming up with his former lover from the first film, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), and his new sidekick, Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), to fend off against a bunch of Soviet agents lead by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). Karen Allen was pretty solid in her role, while LaBeouf’s role as a sidekick was tolerable at best. Cate Blanchett was also very talented as the film’s antagonist, but compared to the other villains in the last three films, her character was by far the weakest in the series. The action sequences have been one of the main highlights of the franchise, and this film is no different. There were some scenes that were nicely shot, well-choreographed, and, more importantly, fun. They’re what you would expect from an action adventure film, especially an Indiana Jones film, and Spielberg did a really good job at capturing that same feeling. Oh, and John Williams’ musical score? Two thumbs up. The film does use its traditional stunt work like the first three films, but it also uses CGI for a few sequences. There were some CGI effects that looked good, and then there were some that were pretty darn noticeable and they can sometimes take away the same experience that the other installments delivered more than 30 years ago.
Overall, aside from its far-fetched plot and some noticeable CGI elements, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” still delivers on the fun and adventure that the franchise is known for. With its solid cast, fun action sequences, and Spielberg’s direction, this installment may not be the best in the series, but it still shows that the franchise hasn’t lost its touch and will continue to inspire more people in the future. If you’re a fan of Indiana Jones, you might or might not like this one depending on your mood. As for everyone else who likes to watch adventure films, it’s worth checking out, but watch the other ones first.