Monday, May 17, 2010

Oeuvres: Ridley Scott (including Robin Hood)

Few would dispute Ridley Scott's eyes. It has often been said, and justly so, that he has one of the best eyes in the business. When he's on his game, he's one of our greatest directors. But too often lately, he's been somewhat off - resulting in frustratingly inconsistent, sometimes dissatisfying movies  - including his latest.

ALIEN: It's really more of a horror film than a sci-fi movie, but whatever genre you place it in, it's a classic. GRADE: A+

BLADE RUNNER: And so begins the phenomenon that has salvaged and dogged Scott throughout his career: the director's cut. The original cut of this film still holds up because the overall though behind, and look of the movie, are so enthralling. However, the re-cuts thoroughly trump it because they lose the dull narration and the dopey "happy ending."  ORIGINAL: B+ RECUT: A

LEGEND: To be honest, it's been so long since I've seen this film, that I remember very little about it. What I do recall is that it was cool visually and ... not much else. GRADE: Incomplete

THELMA & LOUISE: The first film that truly proved Scott could work on a more intimate scale, even while maintaining his penchant for eye-filling vistas. GRADE: A

G.I. JANE: Features a tough performance by Demi Moore and some decent action scenes, but a story barely worth remembering. GRADE: C

GLADIATOR: Fun? Yes. Exciting? Yes. Magnetic performance in the lead? Indeed. Great visuals? As always. Best picture of the year? NO!  GRADE: B+

HANNIBAL: No, it isn't Silence of the Lambs, and that just as often works for the picture as it does against it. The story is awfully absurd and overstated,  but it has emotional pull regardless. It's fascinating in both the ways it does and doesn't work.  GRADE: B

BLACK HAWK DOWN: Taken strictly as a piece of you-are-there verisimilitude, there simply isn't a better combat picture. GRADE: A

MATCHSTICK MEN: Scott's  best small-scale film benefits from sharp writing and an outstanding performance from Alison Lohman, even if it does feel a touch gimmicky in the end. GRADE: B+

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: Never has a directors cut helped a film more than this one. The theatrical cut was ambitious but emotionally hollow; the director's cut restores entire plotlines and fleshes out characters, making it twice the epic Gladiator ever was. THEATRICAL CUT: C+ DIRECTORS CUT: A

A GOOD YEAR: Scott is a great director  - but not of comedy. One could be forgiven for thinking that he and Russel Crowe indulged too much in wine country while making this less than memorable puff -piece. GRADE: C

AMERICAN GANGSTER: Directed by Scott and starring Crowe and Denzel Washington and written by Oscar Winner Steven Zaillian, this should have been a home run - but it takes way too long to get going. Double at best. GRADE: B+

BODY OF LIES: Directed by Scott and starring Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio, and written by William Monahan (The Departed) , this should have been a home run - but too much of a been there.done that feel made it a single at best.  GRADE: B-

ROBIN HOOD: That I have relegated Scott's latest film to a brief summation in a career retrospective speaks volumes about how little impact it had on me. Individually, the performances are fine, but Crowe and Cate Blanchett never truly spark. Scott's visual command produces decent action scenes throughout, but the storytelling wavers, with the screenplay being a hopeless muddle. The project started out as a version of the Robin Hood tale told from the sheriff of Nottingham's point of view - then morphed into a Robin Hood origin story along the way. The focus got lost in the translation. GRADE: C+

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