Sunday, October 27, 2013

the Directors: Ridley Scott

When I think of the name Ridley Scott, I think of a master of grandiose, important films. A filmmaker of iconic status who has cemented himself as a premiere storyteller of very large, very expensive stories.

But there’s more.

In fact, when you measure Scott’s entire career, you see that he’s dedicated his craft to tell all kinds of stories. Big and small, war-torn and love-ravaged. There’s simply no topic Ridley Scott is shy of tackling. Over the years, Scott’s dedication for reinvention has made way for a number of substandard films. When making such large genre leaps from picture to picture, missteps are bound to occur. But thankfully, Scott will always be remembered for his achievements. Those genre-bending masterpieces that continue to change the game.

The Duellists (1977)
Early in The Duellists, Lieutenant Gabriel Feraud (Harvey Keitel) nearly kills the mayor’s nephew in a sword duel. Upon hearing this, the mayor sends one of his men, Lieutenant Armand d’Hubert (Keith Carradine), to put Feraud under house arrest. Feraud takes this personally and challenges d’Hubert (who, mind you, is merely a messenger) to a duel. A duel that ends up lasting… 15 years.

Feraud simply can’t let it go, so he constantly antagonizes d’Hubert into battle. The two stalemate competitors engage in many duels over the years, before an extended and thrilling climax finally puts the duels to rest.

The story is an interesting concept, both Keitel and Carradine put in great work, and the photography is stunning, but I can’t say I’ll have a need to rewatch the film anytime soon. Either way, it’s always a pleasure to trace back to the start of a great career, and explore hints of the genius that was to follow. B

Alien (1979)
One of the finest compliments I can give a film is that it holds up. And if there was ever a film that remains as effective now as it did then, it is certainly Alien. The film is a tense masterpiece of terror. It would’ve been so easy for Alien to cash in quickly with plentiful gore, early reveals of the creature, phoned-in acting, and so on. Instead, Scott created an atmosphere in which less is more. By holding off on easy frights, Alien turns into a slow burn of a thriller – building its tension to the breaking point, without a cheap thrill in sight.

I’ve always felt that James Cameron’s follow-up, Aliens, was a superb sci-fi action film, while Alien is a superb science fiction suspense film. The argument of which is better is best debated by dedicated sci-fi enthusiasts. Me? I’m just a sucker for the slow burn. A+

Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott is known as the Father of the Director’s Cut – a fitting title, given that seven different versions of Blade Runner have existed at one time or another. At this point, I simply have no idea which version to watch. On one hand, I think it’s only fair to judge the first version of the film, because that’s what the world received when the film itself was released. But, on the other end, I’m all for a director slightly altering their version to deliver what they consider a better product.

So, while preparing this post, I faced a dilemma. Do I review the original 1982 version, the 2007 Final Cut version, or another version entirely? I opted for the original, and shortly after I began my DVD, I read the back cover and realized I owned the 1992 Director’s Cut. I’ve never even seen the damn 1982 version. So I watched the 1992 Director’s Cut and the 2007 Final Cut back to back, and my thoughts on the film stayed more or less the same. My conclusion: while I appreciate Scott’s steadfast dedication to delivering the Blade Runner he always envisioned, it’s really the heart of the thing that matters. And this film’s cynical, gloomy, hellish heart is as in tact as it has always been. A

Legend (1985)
In the opening scene of Legend, a giant, unseen demon orders a goblin to hunt and kill two unicorns. Once the unicorn horns are in possession of the demon, he can use them to create a permanent darkness over the world. From there, we cut to the bright forest and meet a precocious young princess, Lili (Mia Sara), and her friend Jack (Tom Cruise), who jumps into frame and does his best to play a man who is one-third Tarzan, one-third caveman and one-third Cruise crazy.

Lili, along with the unicorns, are soon captured by goblins, and Jack travels to the demon’s darkness to find her. Highlights of the film include incredibly detailed production value, believable demon make-up (is that really Tim Curry under there?), and, well, that’s about it. Legend is an ordinary children’s fairy tale illustrated by a master, but executed dully. It’s the kind of tale you can tell your kid in the 10 minutes it takes them to fall asleep. Problem is, Scott stretches it out for two painstakingly long hours. C-

Someone to Watch Over Me (1987)
After New York socialite, Claire (Mimi Rogers), witnesses a murder, a handful of cops are assigned to protect her, including freshly appointed detective Mike Keegan (Tom Berenger). Soon enough, Mike and Claire begin having an affair, all while the murderer tries to silence Claire indefinitely. Mike’s wife finds out about the affair, adding yet another layer of drama to the fold. Sadly, the plot I’ve described can be more or less applied to a number of domestic crime thrillers, making Someone to Watch Over Me as generic as they come. While Berenger convincingly gives it his all, he’s not nearly enough to save the film from its own blandness. C-

Black Rain (1989)
Much like Someone to Watch Over Me (and Legend, for that matter), Black Rain is an ordinary film in a genre packed with ordinary films. This time, Scott tackles the ‘80s action romp, as a troubled New York cop (Michael Douglas) and his partner (Andy Garcia) botch the transportation of a gangster to Japan. After they accidentally lose the thug, Douglas and Garcia go on a mad hunt to track him down. Tragedy soon strikes, and Now. It’s. Personal. And instead of being motivated to catch the gangster in the name of justice, Douglas has to catch him to exact revenge. Black Rain is overly long, predictable and completely void of Scott’s bold filmmaking style. C-

Thelma & Louise (1991)
In addition to being the Father of the Director’s Cut, Ridley Scott is the Master of the Director’s Commentary. The man has delivered excellent tracks for nearly all of his films, my favorite of which is his gleeful remembrance of making his road masterpiece, Thelma & Louise. Listening to this track reminds me why I love the movie so much. Scott joyfully recounts how his producers had reservations that macho director Ridley Scott could bring Callie Khouri’s pro-feminist script to life in a convincing way. “The money people didn’t want me to make a ‘bitches-in-a-car-film.’ And I assured them I wouldn’t,” he says on the track.

Assurance that proved true. The film never plays like a timid man making a female-empowered film. It drifts along with the confidence and exactness of Scott’s best work. Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis have simply never been better (and are largely responsible for how effective the film is) while Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Brad Pitt and a never-better Christopher McDonald deliver pitch perfect, supporting roles that never falter. I emphasized the word supporting there because it is crucial to note that Thelma & Louise is a film dominated by women. The fact that one of cinema’s manliest men helmed it only adds to the film’s charm. A+

1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)
We all know what Christopher Columbus did in 1492, I just wish Scott’s film showed him doing it a little faster. The film, starring Gérard Depardieu as the famed explorer, is 142 minutes long but feels double that. It shows us so much, but never enough to make us fully care.

1492 is a solid technical achievement, which is a kind way of saying it looks pleasing and sounds good. I see where the $47 million went to make it, but I can also see why the film only grossed $7.1 million. I actually hadn’t watched 1492 before this post, and it was exactly the kind of movie I thought it was going to be. Which was rather unfortunate. C-

White Squall (1996)
White Squall is Ridley Scott at his most sentimental. The film tells the true story of the young crew aboard the Albatross, a sailing ship that sank in the early ‘60s due to a crippling storm. The first portion of the film is an accomplished perspective of young men figuring themselves out. The boys assigned to the ship (including a WASPy Jeremy Sisto, an innocent Scott Wolf, and a convincingly scared shitless Ryan Phillippe), use their time on board to become men, as encouraged by their strict captain, Skipper Sheldon (Jeff Bridges, putting in solid work).

During these early scenes, White Squall is an effective drama of adolescent angst, and man’s continual desire to break through it. And while the title storm presents a thrilling and devastating sequence, the film quickly bogs itself down with cheap melodrama. It’s still a fine effort, but I wish Scott had cut out a little sooner. B

G.I. Jane (1997)
So… I kind of love G.I. Jane. I love that it feels like a Tony Scott film, but is rooted in the gritty sentiment that Ridley is known for. I love Demi Moore going balls to the wall and delivering some of the best, most infuriating work (a compliment) of her career. There’s Viggo Mortensen as a dominating Navy SEAL commander, and, of course, a delicious Anne Bancroft as a slimy senator. The film will never be one of Ridley Scott’s most revered, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I find it to be an insanely entertaining military action flick.

“The ebb and flow of the Atlantic tides. The drift of the continents. The very position of the sun along its ecliptic. These are just some of the things I control in my world,” Mortensen’s Command Master Chief says during his introductory scene. And I just goddamn love it. B+

Gladiator (2000)
This Best Picture-winning epic has simply never done it for me. Like most everyone, I am utterly wowed by the film’s opening battle scene, and subsequent Colosseum showdowns, but the remaining two hours are extraordinarily dull, never-ending verbal exchanges that fail to inspire. I’m a great admirer of Russell Crowe as an actor, but, with the exception of American Gangster, I honestly cannot say that his collaboration with Ridley Scott has brought out Crowe’s best work. Many have and will continue to disagree with me on this one, and that’s fine. We can’t like them all, and sadly, Gladiator is one I’ll never fully enjoy. C

Hannibal (2001)
Many thought Hannibal wouldn’t work because Jodie Foster decided to not reprise her role as Clarice Starling, and, by and large, they were right. But Hannibal isn’t a complete miss; it just had the misfortune of following one of the finest suspense thrillers ever made. I appreciate its dark and grisly tone, in addition to Anthony Hopkins’ visceral violence, Ray Liotta’s douchebag Justice Department officer, and, especially, Gary Oldman’s bathshit crazy mutilated billionaire. So, while Hannibal has its strengths, its weaknesses are far too grand to ignore. For one, I never fully buy Hannibal and Clarice’s relationship in this film, of which many people (least of all the actors) are to blame. Basically, Hannibal is a somewhat fun, occasionally dedicated, wholly unnecessary sequel that I suppose I’m okay with. B-

Black Hawk Down (2001)
Black Hawk Down is a tactical, unflinching military thriller that ranks among the best films of its kind. In chronicling the little-discussed but highly influential Battle of Mogadishu, Scott proved yet again that when he gives it his all, he is able to deliver a film of shattering power.

Every member of the film’s eclectic cast is perfect; they portray fear, confidence, angst and terror with appropriate specificity. The movie is violent because it has to be, politically accepting because it wants to be, and thrilling because it needs to be. The extended action scenes may be the finest Scott has ever put on screen, as cinematographer Sławomir Idziak proves masterful at putting the viewers directly in the heart of the battle, making us a participant in the ceaseless clusterfuck of a fight.

Think about how many of these films are made today. The Middle Eastern war epics that are so common, their titles and plots blend together. Black Hawk Down has always managed to stand out because of its realism, sure, but also because of its intelligence. It’s a smart, rapidly paced war picture that never hints at growing dull. Even in its quiet moments, the film hits in the most effective way possible. A

Matchstick Men (2003)
Like Thelma & Louise, Matchstick Men seems like the last film a big time director like Ridley Scott would want to tackle. With its modest set pieces, reasonable scope and restrained budget, Matchstick Men could have been perfect for a director with a flare for independent cinema. So you can understand how confused (yet thrilled) Ted and Nicholas Griffin were when Ridley Scott showed interest in their script. Scott quickly assembled a small crew and talented cast, and made one of the best, most entertaining con man movies of recent memory.

From Hans Zimmer’s whimsical, jazzy score, to Nicolas Cage’s hilariously dedicated (and appropriately melancholic) performance, to the Griffin brothers’ sneaky script – everything works in harmony to create a uniquely satisfying little flick. Matchstick Men isn’t the best film Ridley Scott has made, but it’s certainly one of the most entertaining. In terms of rewatchability, it simply never grows old. A

Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
I’ve seen Kingdom of Heaven once, when it was released in theaters, and I remember being somewhat impressed, but ultimately unfazed. Orlando Bloom was then at the height of his popularity, and I recall being pleased with his performance (which is a rarity for me regarding his work). Edward Norton gave a dedicated and hidden performance as King Baldwin, while Eva Green did her utmost to cross over into mainstream film. The battle scenes were impressive, if not overly long, and the production value was stunning. Yet I’m left with the same feeling now that I was then: utter indifference. I’ve heard the greatly extended Director’s Cut makes for an overall better experience, but I can’t say Kingdom of Heaven is the kind of film to motivate me to give it another go. C

A Good Year (2006)
Max, a rich London-based weasel (played by Russell Crowe) is the kind of investment trader that movies love to idolize: wiseass, ruthless, absurdly wealthy, and so on. A British Gordon Gekko circa 2006. But when Max learns that his Uncle Henry has not only passed away, but left his lavish Provence vineyard to Max, our wealthy antihero travels to France and accidentally develops a conscience. Of course, he meets the most gorgeous woman in town (Marion Cotillard), and she, of course, plays hard to get until finding it impossible to resist him. And, well, you get it. There’s only one place a movie like A Good Year is going, and unfortunately, Scott does nothing to alter our perceptions. C-

American Gangster (2007)
In American Gangster, we watch as Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) rises to power by becoming the premiere importer and distributor of heroin in the United States. His methods of smuggling the dope into the country are smart, tasteless, and completely unknown to the cops chasing him, led by Richie Roberts (Crowe). Scott cuts these parallel stories together to create an extended cat and mouse thriller in which the cat and mouse don’t meet until the end. If there’s a fault of the film, it is Scott’s dedication to give each story equal playing time. To put it simply, Crowe’s plot isn’t nearly as compelling as Washington’s. That is, however, a minor fault, as American Gangster proves to be exciting as all hell for the majority of its duration. Its climatic showdown, in which Roberts storms the housing project where Lucas has set up shop, is one of Scott’s most thrilling sequences yet. A-

Body of Lies (2008)
If a trend has emerged in these brief reviews, it’s that no matter how faulted a Ridley Scott film is, it almost always looks like a Ridley Scott film, which is meant as a high compliment. Body of Lies is a rather generic Iraq War espionage thriller about a spy (Leonardo DiCaprio, having fun with a dry sense of humor) and the boss (Russell Crowe, hamming it up with an awful haircut, belly gut, and a bad southern accent) who guides him.

While both of the men involved put in good work (but not as good as they’re capable of), Body of Lies amounts to a collection of weakly put together scenes that results in a dull experience. It’s clear that talented people are responsible for it, but there’s not enough going on for me to fully invest. C

Robin Hood (2010)
Robin Hood is the least accomplished film Ridley Scott has ever made. On paper, this one should have worked brilliantly. An epic retelling of one of the world’s most popular thieves, with an amazing cast to boot. But on film, Robin Hood proves to be a relentlessly boring origin story of how Robin Hood became Robin Hood. The film tries to save itself by including a thrilling closing battle, but by then, the movie is too far-gone to be saved. I was frankly stunned that Scott chose to take the movie in the direction he did. Perhaps he was hoping for a sequel to further tell his tall tale, which I highly doubt we’ll ever get a look at that. D

Prometheus (2012)
From the moment Prometheus was released, it was destined to be shit-on by die hard Alien enthusiasts. And although I love Alien, I was thankfully not one of the many who were offended by the fact that Prometheus existed. This allowed me to see the film with unfiltered opinions, and, as a result, appreciate it to no end.

As a handful of doctors and scientists attempt to discover the origins of human existence on a seemingly isolated planet, obstacles are thrown into the mix, which develop to be fatal and unforgiving. Noomi Rapace is marvelous as Elizabeth Shaw, the head doctor trying to sort the mess out, while Michael Fassbender steals scenes as a Lawrence of Arabia-obsessed robot controlling everyone’s strings.

From the moment I saw Prometheus, I considered it a great science fiction film that didn’t pull its punches. Many scenes from this film, namely an impromptu C-section, still give me chills. No, it isn’t perfect, but I’m definitely curious to see if Scott will pick the material up again and continue the story. A-

The Counselor (2013)
As I sat in the theater watching The Counselor a few days ago, I knew two things to be certain: I quite enjoyed what I was watching, and most people certainly will not. The story is a convoluted tale of a seemingly innocent lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who gets wrapped up in a drug trafficking scheme to make a little extra dough. Believe me, that is one hell of a crude plot description, as The Counselor makes it a point to never spell things out. As written by Cormac McCarthy, the film is a labyrinth tale of shameful greed and the innocence lost because of it. The flamboyant characters (of which there are many) speak in parables and metaphorical anecdotes that make it difficult for the viewer to follow along. And while I’m not surprised by the film’s current critical thrashing (you can read my full review here), I respect Scott and McCarthy for the unique tone they gave this film. Ridley Scott has never made a movie like this before, and I’m always game to watch him try something new. B

In Summation
Thelma & Louise
Black Hawk Down

Blade Runner
Matchstick Men
American Gangster

The Duellists
White Squall
G.I. Jane
The Counselor

Someone to Watch Over Me
Black Rain
1492: Conquest of Paradise
Kingdom of Heaven
A Good Year
Body of Lies

Just Plain Bad
Robin Hood


  1. The original cut of Blade Runner is worth watching even though the Director and the Final cuts are superior but like you said it's the heart that counts which is still present in the original cut.

    1. That's the one with the narration that's always being shit on, right? After watching the Director's and Final Cuts back to back, I think a need a Blade break. Still a great flick though.

  2. This is very interesting, Ridley was one of the directors I didn't think I'd see you do a list for (at least not for a very long time). I can say that I agree with this list for the most part with one major exception - Black Hawk Down. I think I had the exact opposite response to you while watching that one. Where you said you were fully engaged and invested in everything that was going on, I damn near fell asleep watching it. I understand the aesthetic that Scott was going for , and I love the cinematography, but the cross cutting of so many different perspectives is something that has turned me off of many a war movie and definitely left me feeling cold towards that one in particular.
    I'm glad to hear you liked The Counselor as much as I did though. While I think it could have started a bit more quickly, once things turned sour (for the characters) I was right there and loved where it took me. Diaz has never been better while Pitt plays it cool and Bardem hams up the screen. To me it was as fine a black comedy as I've seen this year. Definitely don't get why it's being kicked around as much as it is (despite being a slow burner), but regardless, you and I are on the same page here.
    I think I'm probably one of the few who actually regards White Squall among this man's best films though lol. I heard it was dubbed as "Drowned Poet's Society" which I get, but that one really got me. Not as great as Alien or Thelma & Louise or even Bladerunner, but it's one that I love to death.
    Once again, a great list Alex! Absolutely love these things!

    1. Oh wow, not a Black Hawk Down fan, huh? That is pretty interesting. But hey, we like what we like. I agree that, perhaps, he juggled a few too many narratives in that one.

      I'm going to post my full review of The Counselor tomorrow, but I'm also really glad you dug that one. I think people expected No Country greatness. Oh well, it worked for me!

      White Squall is a really solid flick. But in my opinion, the movie is more or less done when the ship sinks. Cut to the court scene and be done with it. It just drags a tad, which is fine I suppose.

      Thanks man, really appreciate you reading/commenting!

  3. I like the idea of science fiction horror, so of course I enjoyed Alien a lot. You're right about the slow burn approach to the story,it definitely makes it better. I wish I'd seen the film in 1979 as a man of the times so I can be shocked by it completely.

    I recently watched Blade Runner and I loved it. I like the dark mood, dark sci-fi setting, just the atmosphere does it for me. But I find the story a bit weak. I still love the film. I have also seen the Final Cut. I heard the original version has a voice over narration by Deckard. Also, there's a happy ending with Deckard and Rachel together in a car which you can find on youtube.

    Gladiator is one of the first films I remember seeing. My brother loved it, but I never found it fascinating. It's the film and its execution that bothers me, but it's also because I'm not a big fan of films set in that time. Same thing about Kingdom of Heaven.

    I hated A Good Year. I can't believe the guy who made Alien and Blade Runner directed this stupid film. Southern France looked great though.
    Robin Hood didn't do much for me either but I didn't hate it. Weird approach to the story though.
    Prometheus was a bit of a let down but I didn't hate it. Probably because I say Alien after Prometheus. But still, it's a decent film. What bothered me was the characters' stupidity.
    Sadly, I haven't seen Thelma and Louise yet, that looks like a good one. I can't wait to see The Counselor. The reception didn't affect me that much. I am shocked that it failed at the box office seeing how great the cast is. I wonder what was the problem. It couldn't have been the critics' reviews. Or could they?

    1. It seems like we agree completely on the works of Ridley Scott, which is pretty cool.

      I've always felt the exact same way about Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven. I can appreciate their scope, but they do nothing for me.

      Critics certainly haven't helped The Counselor, but that is simply not a film for a mainstream audience. It's far too "out there" to be a hit. I think I'm one of the very few people who quite enjoyed it.

      You MUST see Thelma & Louise. It is perfect. Love that film.

  4. "I began my DVD, I read the back cover and realized I owned the 1992 Director’s Cut. I’ve never even seen the damn 1982 version." I can just imagine your reaction to the discovery.. it makes me laugh but in a good way.

    BTW, Matchstick Men seems like a very underrated movie and I remember it being one of the first movies I loved to bits.. I even have its poster!

    1. It WAS funny. I was like, "Wait, the the hell?" Who knew? Ha.

      I love the hell out of Matchstick Men. One of my favorite films of its kind. Pretty much perfect.

  5. Wow, such an up-and-down filmography. When Ridley Scott is "on" he's great. When he's not, he delivers some flat movies. Glad to see some love for G.I. Jane, though. I was beginning to think I was the only person who likes that movie. To flip it around, I might be the only one who dislikes Blade Runner. It's gorgeous to look at (still), includes some great themes, and the idea of a sci-fi noir is marvelous. The pacing just kills it for me. It's just so-o-o-o-o-o-o suh-low getting through it was a major chore. Alien was slow also, but it is building tension as it goes. Blade Runner just feels like its lurching forward one step at a time down a never ending corridor. I recognize it's place in movie history, but it doesn't float my boat.

    1. Dude I LOVE G.I. Jane, such a fun little flick.

      I have a complicated relationship with Blade Runner. As I mentioned, I've never even seen the damn original version. So, if that was the only version I had ever (which, by most all accounts, is a substandard version), would I give the film a grade A? Maybe not. The Final Cut version is what sold me. When I watched it recently, I thought, "Yeah, I dig this flick." But I can completely understand why you don't. It isn't an easy sell. I definitely agree that Blade Runner is slow as shit. Most people fail to mention that.

  6. He's a hit-miss director for me who can make some great films but also some bad ones though I much prefer his brother. Here's how I would rank his films in this list.

    1. Yeah I agree, hit or miss all the way. Really dug your list. We're more or less in line.

  7. I just got out of The Counselor and I loved it. For me, it's Ridley's best film in over a decade and so rich with interesting characters and punchy dialogue. The structure is also a breath of fresh air. This is a thriller that cuts through all the familiar scenes that audiences have come to expect from the genre--it's not difficult to follow at all even if all the mechanics of the plot aren't spelled out for you. A lot of that obviously has to do with McCarthy, but this makes me want to see Ridley's long-discussed Blood Meridian adaptation even more. What's most interesting is that while the Coens took McCarthy's world and melded it with their own style, it feels as though Ridley synched his direction to McCarthy's unique linguistic and narrative rhythm. Again, loved it.

    Not as high on latter day Ridley Scott. Prometheus, in particular, struck me as a hollow variation on a tired, broken-down theme. Fassbender was wonderful, turning in the best male supporting performance of last year, but the film around him had a distinct odor coming off of it. Even the visual effects were a bit uneven and, for all its high ideas, the film devolved into dumb spectacle pretty quickly.

    I really did enjoy American Gangster, particularly the music and Dee and Denzel's performances. However, the film--like a lot of Ridley's works--suffered a serious bloat problem. As demonstrated by his constantly revised "director's cuts," I think the guy doesn't know how to pare a film down to its essential parts. Not every subplot needs to be in the picture; and if it's so important, you really need to not leave it dangling by the end.

    Semi-rant over, here's how I'd rank what I've seen:

    1. Blade Runner (10/10, classic)
    2. Alien (10/10, ditto)
    3. Black Hawk Down (9/10)
    4. The Counselor (8 or 9/10, need to let it marinate for a bit)
    5. Thelma & Louise (8/10)
    6. Matchstick Men (8/10, agreed, his last great film)
    7. American Gangster (6/10)
    8. Hannibal (6/10)
    9. Gladiator (6/10, with you on this one, curse of the Ridley bloat)
    10. Body of Lies (5/10)
    11. Legend (4/10)
    12. Kingdom of Heaven (4/10, the most bloated of the bloated)
    13. Black Rain (4/10)
    14. Prometheus (3/10)
    15. Robin Hood (3/10)
    16. 1492 (2/10, biased because of my feelings toward the subject, but still an awful film)

    1. Hey man, thanks for such the great comment here. My full review of The Counselor will be up tomorrow, but I am so glad to hear your praise for it. I thought it was a refreshingly done film for its kind. I suppose I can understand some backlash, but not the shitstorm that has befallen it. Did you see that Salon review? Jesus man, get a grip.

      Anyway, it looks like with the exception of Prometheus (a film I'm not going to bend over backwards defending because, you know, who cares...?) we're pretty much right in line here. I figured 1492 was going to be a slow one, but my god, so boring.

      I'm curious, what's your favorite version of Blade Runner?

    2. The Salon review had some entertaining put-downs, but beyond that I couldn't decipher any coherent arguments against the film. Every now and then, reviewers sharpen their knives for a film that doesn't really merit the vitriol. I find it hard to believe that Bad Grandpa or Escape Plan are substantially better films, but then again I never plan to find out. I could be missing some real masterpieces... :)

      As for Blade Runner, the first Director's Cut is the best of the three major versions. The constant re-releases of that film seem like blatant commercial opportunism. No one needs a suitcase dedicated to one film unless that film is 16 hours long, like Berlin Alexanderplatz (which, coincidentally, is how long 1492 felt).

    3. Yeah, we're in full agreement about some film criticism. You said it beautifully.

      Escape Plan was actually perfectly decent for the film it wanted to be. A won't be writing about it, because the 2 hours I spent watching it are all the time I choose to dedicate toward it. But you know... not so bad.

      Okay cool, I'm glad to hear I own the best cut of Blade Runner. Yes, 1492 was excruciating. I actually think I may have been too kind to it.

  8. There is a lot I haven't seen and most of what I have is in serious need of re-watch but he has been hit-or-miss for me too and unfortunately, more miss than hit.

    I will say I like the Black Hawk Down almost as much as you did. Gladiator - it definitely drops substantially after those couple of bouts in arena but I think I can watch it. Not a great defense but I am not sure if I would want to. Similarly, A Good Year. Not a great film definitely but I can watch it.

    As for Blade Runner, I am with Wendell. I like certain aspects of it such as its look and noir references in it. But Story doesn't do much for me. I don't know which version I saw but it definitely did not impress me. Alien is one of those I seriously need to re-watch. I was unimpressed when I saw it first but I think I will see it in a different light now. I do mean to watch it again soon.

    Thelma and Louise is the one I haven't seen yet. Looks like I need to get on it.

    1. I'll be curious to hear if Alien has grown on you. And Thelma & Louise... man, such a classic. I love that damn flick.

      I had only seen Blade Runner twice (I think) before this post. But I did enjoy those new cuts I watched. But, like Wendell, I can completely understand your qualms with it.

  9. It's great to see all of the flicks that Ridley has done laid out, what diversity. That said, he is the king of missteps in my book, a strong and confident visual director who rarely delivers on the story aspect of filmmaking. I've never seen Ridley to be the story hardliner that his late brother was, case in point his jaw dropping, desaturated short films for Prada in which Ridley gives you what makes him who he is, beauty centered firmly in reality.

    But oh man, I won't gripe, when he hits, he hits huge. Ridley Scott's victories; Alien, Blade Runner, Matchstick Men, Thelma & Louise among others, truly great cinema. My favorite Ridley film being The Duelists, I truly love that movie, it embodies everything New Hollywood stood for in my eyes, very self contained, very character centered.

    I'm eager to see The Counselor given my love of McCarthy, my guy crush on Fassbender and to see some Ridley in action. His use of color in what I've seen of it is truly blowing my mind, he's giving Wes a run for his money haha. I'm surprised to see how fair you are in your overview of Prometheus, a film so rooted in the gargantuan shadow of Scott and O'Bannon's sci-fi masterpiece Alien, to separate the two, to look at the filmic strengths and weaknesses of Prometheus is all you can do. It can't measure up to perfection. I found Noomi to be outstanding in that film, so sweaty, popping pills, trying not to fall over after receiving a clumsy C-section. Damon Lindeloff is the worst fucking writer on Earth though, I mean fuck, I wish Prometheus had a better script, could have been a masterpiece.

    1. I LOVE hearing this praise for The Duellists. That is a film far too undervalued in my opinion. Keitel was such a beast in that flick. And that final showdown was epic.

      I did quite enjoy Prometheus. But perhaps it's important to note that outside of musicals, sci-fi is my least favorite genre. So when I see a sci-fi flick, I literally have no expectations whatsoever. Sure, it was a bit long. Sure, some things were off about it. But I enjoyed the time I spent with it. It could've had a better script, I agree.

  10. Excellent work here, man. There are still so many of Scott's films I need to see, though at least I have been able to check off most of the essentials/greats you listed. Gonna have to make an effort to catch Thelma & Louise sometime soon though.

    1. Thanks buddy! Thelma & Louise is a must. Trust me. A great, great film!

  11. Robin Hood really is very bad. I saw the director's cut, which usually adds a lot to Scott's films but man, that was so boring and ridiculous. That said you should give Kingdom of Heaven DC a shot - I maintain Green should sue Scott for screwing her over - she is good in theatrical cut but she has many more scenes in DC and she is just sensational there. The movie also went from 6,5 to 8 when it comes to DC. A shame that lately Scott's theatrical versions seem like a prelude to a good movie we will see sometime in the future in DC version. i really hope Prometheus gets one one day, I love this film but the deleted scenes alone added so much.

    1. Your recommendation is enough of a selling point for me, so I'll track down the DC of Kingdom of Heaven as soon as I can. Your comments about Green are really interesting. I'd love to see her expanded part.

  12. Glad to see Alien at the top. Surprised you consider Black Hawk Down masterful, but I dig it. Admittedly, I love A Good Year. It's a perfect guilty pleasure - that cast, the cinematography, and I adore Marc Streitenfeld's score.

    I'd currently rank the ones I've seen like this:

    1. Blade Runner
    2. Alien
    3. American Gangster
    4. Gladiator
    5. Black Hawk Down
    6. Thelma & Louise
    7. Prometheus
    8. A Good Year
    9. Matchstick Men
    10. The Counselor
    11. Body of Lies
    12. Kingdom of Heaven
    13. G.I. Jane
    14. Robin Hood
    15. Hannibal

    1. I really enjoy Black Hawk Down. I think war movies of such power are few and far between post-SPR/Thin Red Line.

      Not a Hannibal fan, huh? Fair enough, that one is insane.

    2. Oh, I don't dislike Hannibal. 11-15 are probably B-'s. ;)

    3. Ahh gotcha. B- for Robin Hood?! Ha, well, we like what we like.

  13. Great post! Scott may be inconsistent, but when he's good - he's good. Ridley Scott is an almost peerless director of visuals, but he’s made it clear he has no interest or ability when it comes to directing actors (sometimes). It’s no coincidence that Scott’s best films are those with the most capable casts, such as Alien and Blade Runner; actors capable of effectively directing themselves. Scott’s other films are visually beautiful messes, Prometheus being a recent example.

    I think my favourite films of his are Gladiator and Thelma & Louise.

    1. Thanks! I've heard him remark about his purposeful lack of direction for actors as well (though I forgot about it until you mentioned it). Very interesting thought there. Glad we agree on Thelma & Louise, Alien and Blade Runner. Three instances of Scott at his best.

  14. A list about films with two parallel stories like American Gangster and Crimes and Misdemeanors.

    1. Hmmm, an interesting thought. I'd have to think hard about that one. The Woody Allen plot line in Crimes and Misdemeanors is so unnecessary.

      My new film WAIT, has two parallel story lines. Maybe I could include that one! Haha, just kidding.

  15. What do you think about Exodus? Will be better than Noah?

    1. Sadly, I don't think that movie looks good at all. Early reviews are pretty bad too.