TTT – Ridley and Tony Scott

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Greetings, Glancers! On today’s Top Ten Tuesdays List I change things a little by taking two of Cinema’s finest British exports – the Scott brothers. Both brothers achieved incredible commercial success and more often than not plenty of critical and fan acclaim. I’ve split the list so I get five films by each brother, mainly because I was struggling to select 10 films by both Ridley and Tony that I truly loved. That means of course that some great films are missing, but I still feel the 10 films below are worthy of every film fan’s time, some iconic, some timeless, others pure entertainment. I will say there are a few films I have not yet seen, namely The Martian and Exodus by Ridley and Unstoppable by Tony. But alack and alas and alarum, lets proceed with the things! Exeunt!

10: Black Rain

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A film which I almost never see on any Top List of Ridley Scott movies, this is drenched with 80s cool through and through and features decapitation – that’s two big thumbs up from the outset! I’ve always loved the look and feel and atmosphere of the movie, what starts off as a buddy cop movie soon takes a darker turn as Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia get sucked into Japan’s lethal underbelly. This one has slipped off the radar of most people who enjoy 80s (particularly action) movies, but it is worth another look thanks to the cast, the action, the sound, and the cool.

9: The Fan

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Unfairly savaged by critics and quite a commercial bomb upon release, The Fan may not be as good as the earlier (unrelated) film of the same same which starred Lauren Bacall and Micahel Biehn, but this is still a thriller which deserves better than what it got. Robert De Niro is great as the titular fan, taking his stalking to crazier levels than in The King Of Comedy and Wesley Snipes also does a good job in a rare straight role. Through in a superb supporting cast including Ellen Barken, John Leguizamo, and Benicio Del Toro and you have everything you need for a rip-roaring tale of paranoia and celeb hunting.

8: Top Gun

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As much as I watched Top Gun in my youth, I was never as huge a fan as most people. It’s difficult to dismiss it though as it is both a highly watchable piece of entertainment which will suck in modern viewers as much as those who were around first time, even if all the young, bronzed bodies and cliches are hilarious. Still, it features some of the best aerial action scenes ever captured, a number of stars on the rise gives excellent performances, and it has a number of iconic moments, memorable pumping soundtrack, and an encyclopedia of quotable dialogue.

7: Gladiator

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Ridley Scott’s 1990s movies were, by and large, forgettable flops. Indeed, by the turn of the century it seemed that he had lost his way and was out of favour with regards to the viewing public. Enter Gladiator. This film shot Scott back into the pantheon of great directors, introduced the world to Russell Crowe, and portrayed the first truly breathtaking view of Ancient Rome. It is hardly a film without flaws, but again the violence and action, the score, visuals, gripping performances, rousing speeches, and of course the engaging story all pulled together to create a massive hit and a film which is still enjoyable sixteen years later. Yikes, sixteen years. I saw this upon release as part of school trip. I studied Latin in school, and upon the advice of a fellow pupil who had already seen it several times, we were able to convince the teacher to take the class on this valuable trip. Memories.

6. The Hunger

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Tony Scott is often remembered more for his flair than his storytelling. Visual flair is of course a way of telling stories and with The Hunger the visuals and the atmosphere they create are often what are solely remembered. David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve (what a pairing) are the eternal couple of vampires who engage in a love triangle with Susan Sarandon – a Doctor who studies the correlation between sleep and aging. It’s a highly stylized, highly sensual, and quite violent vampire movie, arguably the first of the modern era to truly show these creatures as overtly sexual and able to exist in the 20th Century.

5. Blade Runner

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Speaking of visuals, it would be hard to argue against Blade Runner being one of the most visually influential movies of all time. Rain-drenched futuristic cities, trash-ridden and neon-laden and populated with hunched shouldered denizens who weave in and out of crowds, between starbound vehicles and Asian marketplaces, surrounded by towering monuments to commercialism, power, money, and soullessness. Luckily there is an enigmatic story too, one with rambling philosophy and existential crisis, and at the heart, if there is a heart, a number of fine performances from Harrison Ford, Darryl Hannah and Rutger Hauer.

4. Thelma And Louise

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Any of the top five movies could be number 1 for me, but it’s these top four which have had the longest lasting impact. Thelma And Louise is a flawless tale and sadly a film the likes of which we have seen all too rarely. I love its blend (and twists) on the road movie, camaraderie, action, comedy, and its performances. It’s rare to have a cast this good all being this strong together and for the film to churn out memorable moments and dialogue throughout.

3. True Romance

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I often wonder what this would have been if it had been directed by Tarantino himself, but I don’t think it could have been bettered. Tarantino’s dialogue is of course one reason to recommend the movie, and when coupled with Scott’s stylish direction we have a pseudo road movie which is one of the finest ensemble pieces of the decade. It’s difficult to think of any movie with a more impressive cast – Joining Slater and Arquette as leads we have the likes of Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Samuel L Jackson, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Saul Rubinek, James Gandolfini, Chris Penn, Michael Rappaport etc etc. There are so many great scenes in this movie, from the Sicillian speech to the final shootout, and the pacing is breathless and energetic without being frantic (I’m looking at you, Domino). And at the core it’s all about love.

2. The Last Boyscout

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I’ve of course spoken about my love for this film elsewhere on the site, but it’s one big macho, quotable sensation which never fails to have me laughing my nuts off. Highly recommended, but I also appreciate that many will simply find it too dumb or too offensive to enjoy.

  1. Alien

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My number one (as I’ve said) could have been any of the previous few films, but I feel that Alien remains the best out of any of the films which the brothers have made. Of course it’s a personal favourite – how could it not be? A nightmarish vision of the future, an all too realistic approach to science fiction, and the first film of the modern era to make people genuinely believe that somewhere up there, there could be a creature lurking around with acid for blood and a tongue like a piston, ready to snap us in half. It plays sublimely on main of our fears – the unknown, the dark, being helpless, claustrophobia, sex, disease, even technology, and the cold and detached atmosphere broken sporadically by howling sound or shocking bouts of horror and violence create a spectacular sense of tension and unease. The creature itself is glorious, the effects hold up today, and the cast is wonderful.

What are your favourite movies by Tony and Ridley Scott? Obviously there are quite a few big films I haven’t listed, so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Thelma And Louise

*Originally written in 2004

Since much has been said about the feminist themes in this movie, I will not add anything except to say that this is an empowering film with strong female characters made in the time before the movement, from a celebrity standpoint, went wrong. Moreover, it’s a story of friendship and unity, and happens to include some terrific performances and memorable dialogue and action.

I’ve long felt this is one of the best road movies ever, not merely because the central characters are women, and have an enduring bond but because the film has that sense of freedom that road movies should have, apt given that the characters are each escaping something mundane or painful, ironic because they are constantly, inevitably being hunted down by forces that would ensnare them. We have gorgeous shots of the open road, we have some fun chase moments, and we have that intangible something that fuels dreams of revolution and wanderlust. The script is excellent, every performance is worthy of an award, Davis and Sarandon are a wonderful partnership, and the cinematography is beautiful, working well with the soundtrack. Scott is known for his ability to capture an image, and his visual style here is very strong.

The plot sees two women going on a weekend trip to get away from their mundane, housewife style everyday lives. When a man is killed after an attempted rape, they find themselves on the run, wondering whether they should give themselves up, or continue together. As the film moves on, their bond grows, and the ambiguous ending will continue to be discussed for many years. One of the best films of the nineties, and worth watching again to remind ourselves of the time when Feminism seemed like a movement gathering momentum rather than the fractured one many see it as today.

The DVD is filled with excellent special features – a highly illuminating documentary and a variety of key deleted scenes mean that this is an essential purchase for movie fans.

Kingdom Of Heaven

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With Kingdom of Heaven Ridley Scott has made a sprawling epic with authentic sets and costumes, plenty of massive battles and action sequences, and a cutesy liberal story to suit our tempestuous contemporary times. Like the violence which is all around us today in reality the major fault with Kingdom of Heaven is that we have seen it all before. Over the top battle scenes are all fine and good but that is all there seems to be coming out of Hollywood at the moment. Here we feel little emotional contact with any of the central characters, we are introduced to far too many minor characters, and to top it off the action is not filmed or edited particularly well. To give it credit there are some good performances but no-one stands out, and it at least tries to be historically accurate. The anti-war messages are explosively clear and we get to see what devastation comes from petty religious difference. Scott must be commended on making a film that is not afraid to say it is personal faith that should be important, not the billions of different churches which lie on every street corner, and that to find peace and goodness in yourself should be respected. Then again, it is so typically liberal, yet offers no hope for the future. Nowadays terms of agreement over War are not so easily reached, and our leaders are far from heroic, just, or wise. In the end it all seems shallow and pointless and at times there is a sense of absurdity about it all: A supposedly great warrior and general falls for the simplest of traps by being drawn away from his water supply, Bloom’s wife is largely forgotten about, and several fights happen for apparently no reason.

Bloom is Balian the blacksmith, a recent widower after his wife killed herself, having lost their child. Out of nowhere comes Sir Godfrey, played by Neeson who claims to be Balian’s father and wants him to come along to Jerusalem. He hopes to be forgiven for his past sins. On the Godfrey tells Balian of the prospects of the Holy City, but is wounded and eventually dies. After a ship wreck and encounter with a Muslimwhere Balian proves himself to be honourable, he reaches Jerusalem. There is an uneasy alliance between The Christian King Baldwin (Norton doing a strange Brando impersonation) and the Muslim ruler Saladin (Massoud). Baldwin is a leper and will soon die, leaving his brother-in-law, the sadistic Guy who prays for war without reason. The two rulers have kept peace for a long time, but war seems inevitable. Guy is married to Baldwin’s sister Sibylla and will therefor gain power. Baldwin sees the righteousness in Balian and offers him to become King, but Balian refuses knowing he would be the cause of Guy’s death, even though they hate each other and Balian has already killed many. The King dies, and war begins. Balian travels to his new stronghold with his knights to prepare for defence, showing he is not a ruler but a normal, working man who seems to have picked up some excellent sword-fighting skills and battle tactics knowledge. He makes all the men of the city knights as this will inspire them to fight with more conviction, and after a series of battles he surrenders Jerusalem to the Muslims. It is not the city that matters, but the people who live in it, and it was neither side who started the age old war. To this day it continues.

The film looks beautiful, and Scott knows how to handle an epic. However, there is nothing surprising here and even though I don’t feel originality is a necessary part of the criteria of movies, there seems to be little point in watching another city come under siege from another mass of soldiers with another barrage of arrows and flaming balls. We could accept it in LOTR because nothing like it had been seen before, and they were filmed with a much greater degree of intensity, skill, and detail than in this. Definitely worth seeing but it’s about time we brought our movies back down to earth for a while, or at least create some characters who can grab our emotions if you’re going to have them parading about heroically.

The extras here are excellent, and probably deserve an extra star. There is around 40 minutes added to the film and the usual mix of documentaries and commentaries. An epic release for an epic film, and even with some of its shortcomings as a film, if you missed it at the cinema this is definately one to pick up. If you’re already a fan, then look no further than this set.

Feel free to leave your comments on the movie- did you think it was one of the better recent epics?

Alien

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The movie which forever changed the sci-fi genre, taking elements from past monster movies, going against the spotless visuals of 2001 to create a new vision of the future, and one of the most atmospheric movies ever. Rarely does this genre produce a film which inspires acclaim from both fans and critics, but Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic does just that, beginning a famous franchise, story, character and monster, and spawning many inferior clones.

Some time in the future, mankind has the capability of effective space travel, with many planets holding outposts. We are introduced to a crew of miners who work for an all-powerful Foundation, and are returning home on their massive ship- the ‘Nostromo’, after a long period of work. The crew are Dallas-in charge, Parker and Brett-mechanics, Ash-doctor, and Ripley, Lambert and Kane. However, they have been awakened from hyper-sleep early, by it seems an SOS signal. They discuss what to do, eventually deciding that they must investigate. They follow the call to a planet, and Kane, Dallas and Lambert go outside for a closer look. After discovering what appears to be a crashed ship of unknown origin, some sort of organism attaches itself to Kane’s face. Tension grows as they try to take the creature off, but eventually it goes by itself, and dies. Kane wakes and seems to be OK. Soon though, things turn nasty, and a creature is lose on the ship. The remaining crew members try to find it and kill it, but it has grown, and is violently hungry.

Alien works primarily because of three factors; 1. The performances are all immaculate, with some actors giving career bests. Weaver is immensely strong coming to movies from the stage, the veterans all take it seriously even though it first appeared to be a silly scary movie, Holm is extremely good as Ash etc. 2. Scott’s taut direction adds an edge to the script, his stunning visual style giving the sense of isolation and fear perfectly, the lighting is effective, everything is wonderfully detailed, and he knows that less is more when it comes to showing the monster. 3. Geiger’s creature is terrifying, and one of the best monsters ever made, beautiful, sultry, horrifying, mysterious, mechanical and deadly, everything a predator, and a monster should be. The story itself is strong, but it is these three factors which raise it from B-movie status, as well as some truly memorable scenes-The chest burster, Dallas in the tunnels, Ripley’s final encounter, and Ash’s revelation. The film is incredibly intelligent at a time when sci-fi movies were taking over, and it is one of the few which still remains powerful today. Everything about the film is near-faultless, but perhaps it suffers slightly from being too detached or cold. This is a minor complaint clearly. The set designs, the creation of the Alien and the face hugger are all realistic in the sense that we believe these things could conceivably exist. It is definitely the stuff of nightmares, an unseen foe stalking us, seemingly without weakness or emotion, its single motive to kill us. The recent director’s cut shown in cinemas proved that the movie can still excite audiences, even those who have seen it several times, and there were certainly screams as I watched.

This DVD is available at a great price, and is littered with every sort of feature you could possibly want. The new version is also worth buying, but only if you are a big fan.

Feel free as always to comment on the review and anything you disagree with- is this still the best monster in space film? Where would you rank this in the series?

Aliens: Not nearly as good as the First, very dark

Riply Scott’s prequel to this film was a tale of intergalactic terror. Seven friends and their Bumbling Side-kick Jones were travelling home after a long vacation when they encountered a monster. Hearing its distress call, they let it board their ship, but rather than show its gratitude, it decided to kill off the friends one by one in a terrifying game of cat and monster. The survivors from that film appear again here, namely Captain Ridley and of course Jonesy our heroic side kick. Ridley wants revenge for the death of her friends and recruits a team of super tough marines (that’s soldiers to the lay person) to go to their home planet and wipe out the monsters once and for all. This darker tone is in stark contrast to Riply Scott’s original, and it continues throughout. This leads to a series of let downs- Jones disappears without explanation early in the film, without explanation so much of the comedy from the first film is lost. Add to this the lack of Cyborg Ash, whose little dance was a hilarious highlight of the first, and there are few laughs to be found here. Bill Pullman’s marine Ernie ‘Dry Heat’ Hudson attempts some improvised one liners ‘Hey Vasquez- you look like a man!’ and tries some banter with his Sergeant. ‘Can I wear your slippers, Sir?’ he asks ‘LOOK AT MY EYES!’ Capone riplyies. I didn’t really understand this comeback, but I assume The Searg was in no mood for fun and games. This is obviously because the film was under the fierce stranglehold of famous control freak Jim Cameroon, known for a lack of humour in all his films. Cameroon reluctantly casts Paxman in all his films as they’re cousins and there is a definite tension between the comic genius of the actor, and the ultra serious ‘I’m The Daddy’ mentality of the Director.

Ridley and crew fly down to the planet to hunt down the monsters but are shocked to find a survivor- a little boy called Newt. This is a deliberate attempt to soften the almost unrelenting darkness of the film, and possibly bring in a wider female audience who may enjoy the mother/son relationship which develops between Ridley and Nuke. The child doesn’t talk much which in fact adds to the bleak tone, and the fact that he carries around a decapitated doll’s head is rather disturbing. I mean, everyone knows boys don’t play with dolls. Newt mumbles things like (in response to Ridley asking if he’s hungry) ‘I’m mostly scared. Mostly’ and the bizarre ‘Hi, Firmative!’. Presumably Firmative is some imaginary friend, or possibly futuristic slang. Throw into the mix the fact that among the marines is a geeky science geek who wants to steal one of the monster eggs to bring home and experiment on or sell or something. Indeed, he hatches a plan to impregnate one of the gang with the egg so that no-one suspects anything. I think if I woke up with an 8 foot monster mounting me in an attempt to give me its seed, I might suspect something was not right. But back to the film. The gang underestimates the sheer number of the monsters (at least 25) and the fact that their King is on the island too, and soon it is the humans that are on the run. Cameroon is clearly adding a subtext here about man’s destruction of nature and of other species, and that eventually it will turn around and we will be on the receiving end. I have studied film studies for at least a year, and have over a year’s experience in social anthbiology, so I know what I’m talking about. The last half of the film is really a series of chase scenes- in the alien base with tanks etc, in a bedroom with spider monsters, through the living quarters, and then into the sewers until The King wakes up. That’s not to mention the super robot fight at the end which was a precursor to Cameroon’s next film Terminator 2. So yes, there is much action and excitement, and lots of mistrust between characters which lends another level of tension.

Most of the characters are killed off, but all fight well and you really feel like you got to know them. Ridley is a true mother- fighting for her family and friends, strapping on a grenade launcher to take on the bullies, Hudson is a comedian but also a bit of a moaner, Capone, Hick, and Vasquez are all super tough and ultra cool. There is also Bishop, a cyborg who doesn’t dance but preaches the Gospel and does magic tricks with knives. Perhaps if Riply had directed this he would have let some more comedy in, and it would have been a stronger film. At times I wanted to jump into the TV, grab a gun and help out my chums, pumping bullets into skulls. ‘Come on, man! Shoot them! Here they come, quick, let’s blow them away and get out of here! ARRGH!’ I would have been shouting like that. Because the film is so dark and depressing though, I didn’t have the energy to jump in and help. So all I could do was sit back and watch each of my friends get eaten, killed, or worse. Overall this is an excitement film, but Cameroon needs to relax and let some light in. I mean what’s the point in having all these characters only for the planet to blow up at the end and kill them all?

Best Scene: When the soldiers are walking through the alien corridors, and all the bleeps are getting closer, but no-one knows where they’re coming from. It was quite scary, but would have been better if Hudson had jumped out with his underpants on his head and shouted ‘ONLY ME!!!’

GAME OVER, MAN!