Ran (1985)

This loose re-telling of King Lear by Akira Kurosawa is a lengthy but gorgeous portrayal. Instead of daughters, they are sons who tear each other apart to take the throne.

The beautiful scenery is stunning on screen (thank you Netflix for  the Blu-ray!) and no one else but Kurosawa could make war look so terribly beautiful. The three armies are denoted by primary colors (yellow to the eldest, red to the second son and blue to the Cordelia son) and they pierce through the battle-desolated land. The kimonos and yukatas are all beautifully bright and highly detailed.

The performances are all spot-on – Hidetora (the Lear character, played by Tatsuya Nakadai) was an excellent fool (and those eyebrows are something to behold!)

The eyebrows!

I particularly liked the performance of Kaede (Mieko Harada) – the wife of the eldest brother – who wants revenge on the Ichimonji family who had ruined her life and killed her family. She started out cold and unassuming but became a force to be reckoned with, as the second son came to find out.

She's a bunny boiler!

So much happens in this film and it is hard to talk about how wonderful it actually is. It is completely worth seeing and it is very enjoyable. I loved it.


The Last Starfighter (1984)

This campy sci-fi adventure doesn’t seem like something that would belong on an “One Hundred Important Films” list, however it was one of those movies that many of my friends were surprised that I hadn’t even heard of. Exclamations of “You didn’t have a childhood!” and “We are watching this immediately!” were yelled in outrage as one of them pulled it out of his huge CD wallet. It was next to the original Star Wars trilogy.

“Okay, okay – put it on!” I said as we celebrated our day off from school.

I have to say, there were many times when the special effects made me cringe. I mean, it was made after the first Star Wars movie and George Lucas had nearly no budget – but he still made it look good (despite his best efforts to systematically destroy the originals after he touched the CGI button too many times – but that’s an entirely different argument).

The Last Starfighter tells the story of a young man, Alex, who lives in a trailer park and spends his days playing his favorite arcade game “Starfighter”. His girlfriend, who also lives in the trailer park, is afraid to leave despite Alex’s assertions that everything will be alright once he figures out a way to leave. He beats the high score on the machine – which everyone attends as if he just performed open heart surgery and saved a child’s life – and is recruited later that night by a man named Centauri who tells him he created the games. Before he knows it, he is whisked away to another world where open war is upon them and he is recruited to the Starfighter fleet to save an alien planet.

Play any arcade game and become a hero!

It’s the absolute dream of any video-game loving kid. I mean, I always wanted an audience when I beat Final Fantasy IX for the first time! So I understand the appeal of the film to people like, say, my friends. They spend hours playing Pokemon tourneys, play Risk-like board games, and hours of video games. Now, that’s not to say that I am not one of them – I have put my time into many an RPG and am currently in the middle of Half-Life. But the premise is a bit…

No. Okay! I loved it! It was so lame but it was soooo awesome. It is enjoyably bad – but not so bad as to make you want to throw things. The story was well told and fun. It isn’t anything to really make you think, but sometimes having a movie like that is important.

Worth it? If you like feel-good adventure films – you are in.

The Hit (1984)

Tim Roth in The Hit

I bought this film on a whim while browsing at a Barnes and Noble. I’m a fan of the Criterion Collection and when I saw that both Tim Roth and John Hurt were in this, I didn’t need any other pressure to buy it. I had never heard of it before and hardly has Criterion let me down.

Willie (Terence Stamp) is a gangster who sells out his pals in England for a free ride and a new life in a faraway village in Spain. He is nabbed by four Spanish boys who deliver him to two hit-men (Tim Roth and John Hurt) who are to bring him back for his destruction. Roth plays a brash punk that doesn’t really gel with the undercover nature of the mission and blows their cover every chance he seems to get. Hurt plays an unwilling leader who just wants to get the mission over with but gets into hang-ups because of Roth and the saucy Maggie (Laura Del Sol).

It is beautifully shot – arid deserts and long expanses of mountains, a raging waterfall and dirt roads. Music by Eric Clapton, Roger Waters and Paco de Lucia – a fantastic flamenco guitarist – and the beauty of the shots made me feel nostalgic for a place I have never been.

It was well worth the time – especially if you want to see Tim Roth in his early days (which, I will admit, was my first reaction). It’s also an early Stephen Frears film (High Fidelity, The Queen) so I was eager to see it.