Tag Archives: Harrison Ford

Heroes (1977)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Adjusting to civilian life.

Jack (Henry Winkler) is a Vietnam Vet. still suffering from nightmares from his war time experiences. He has been in and out of the psyche ward at the veteran’s hospital, but has come up with an idea that he feels will makes both him and his buddies a lot of money. He wants to start a worm farm to be used as fisherman’s bait, but must board a bus to California to do. There he meets Carol (Sally Field) a woman who is engaged to be married and was a war protester during the 60’s. The two don’t get along at first, but eventually a relationship is made as she and his cousin Ken (Harrison Ford) help Jack fulfill his dream.

The movie is well filmed for the most part and even has a nicely shot and exciting foot chase down the busy streets of Manhattan, but the script by James Carabatsos, who was a Vietnam Vet. himself is too loosely structured and only glosses over the many issues that veterans face, which gives the whole thing a very shallow feeling. The only time we ever see any type of flashback’s to the experiences that Jack had while fighting in the war is at the end even though I felt the film would’ve been much stronger had this been shown throughout. The comical segments are misplaced and the story would’ve worked better had it just stuck to the drama.

The film also spends too much time with Jack and Carol’s budding romance, which for the most part comes off as forced. The cutesy ways that the two are shown constantly bumping into each other as their relationship ‘blossoms’ is contrived and having the two already as a boyfriend/girlfriend from the very start would’ve helped focus things more solely on Jack, which it doesn’t do enough of. I also felt that the segment where Carol pays for damages that Jack does at a café and then goes with him and his buddy Ken to an isolated location where she is promised to get paid back for it didn’t seem realistic. I realize this was the ‘70s where people were more relaxed about meeting strangers, but it still seemed dangerous and impractical for a lonely woman to be driving off with two men she had only met and were already acting peculiar to begin with.  A normal person would’ve simply sued him in small claims court to get back the money that they felt was owed.

Winkler does a terrific job in the lead and I felt it was a shame he hadn’t pursued his film career further instead of languishing away in television. Field is good as well as is Ford playing against type as a country hick. Character actor Stuart Margolin has a fun bit as a driver who picks the two up as they are hitchhiking and Val Avery is amusing as the bus driver who becomes increasingly annoyed at Jack’s antics.

The film has its share of pleasing moments, but on the whole it’s shallow and forgettable. There have been so many other better films on the subject that this one seems barley worth even mentioning.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: November 4, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 53Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jeremy Kagan

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Blade Runner (1982)

blade runner 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Where are the replicants?

The movie, based on the novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ by Phillip K. Dick, takes place in the year 2019 where human clones called replicants have been created and used basically as slave labor in off-world colonies. However, they create a mutiny and become a danger to the human race on Earth and are therefore banned from returning. If they do come back they are hunted down and killed by a special police force called Blade Runners. Rick Dekard (Harrison Ford) is one of those blade runners and is considered to be the best, but is burned out with his job. He is coaxed out of retirement when an especially dangerous group of replicants led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) escape and return to the planet.

On a visual level this film scores a bulls-eye and is nothing short of awe inspiring. You truly get the feeling that you have traveled to a whole different world. It’s a very complete and intricate vision that can make this movie enjoyable to watch in that area alone. Having it perpetually raining and gloomy helps add to the decayed nihilistic tone of the story. Although it takes place in futuristic city of Los Angeles one might actually think it is China due to the large number of Chinese ads on billboards and oriental people seen in the backdrop of scenes. I can only presume this was a Chinese neighborhood of the city, but I wasn’t sure why the action was placed there. Personally, I have no problem with it and it does help add an extra flavor to the proceedings, but I still felt it needed more of an explanation, which never came. Quite possibly this is something that is explained in the Dick novel, but for those that haven’t read it and are coming in brand new to it all it could prove just a bit confusing.

I really liked the story idea, but felt, like a lot of the critics did at the time, that the pacing is off. There is so much emphasis put on the style and atmosphere that at times it seems like the plot is almost forgotten. The scenes are stretched out much longer than in a typical action/sci-fi picture, which in some ways makes it interesting, but in another way it seems unnecessary. There really isn’t any action or excitement until almost an hour in and even then it goes by too quickly. Too much emphasis is put into Deckard’s relationship with Rachael (Sean Young) a replicant that doesn’t even know that she is one. There is no real chemistry between the two actors and the whole romantic angle came off as forced and contrived and bogged the whole thing down.

Ford is at his crusty best. Few people can play a sarcastic character like he does and still come off as engaging. I liked the ‘been there, done that’ attitude of the character, but found that his ability to handle the replicants seemed woefully lacking. They seem to be constantly taking him by surprise and then throwing him around like he is a ragdoll. Without the defense of his gun, which in one scene gets slapped out of his hand like it is nothing, he seems utterly even hopelessly ineffectual. There are several moments when he is about to be killed by them and is only saved when someone else comes to his rescue. You would think that if someone is as savvy and cocky as this character is portrayed and considered ‘the best’ by his superiors that he would have acquired some sort of fighting technique or better skill at handling them. Instead he looks like he is completely in over his head.

Having a typical gun as the only weapon seems pretty conventional and unimaginative. I would have thought in the future the technology in the weaponry department would be more advanced. A little more James Bond-like gadgetry would have made the fight scenes more interesting. Also, the technique at telling whether the person is human or a replicant is awfully archaic.

Hauer as the leader of the bad guys was a terrific casting choice. I can’t think of any other actor living or dead who was better suited for the part, but unfortunately he gets terribly underused in the process. He is seen only sporadically in the first hour and is not as menacing and terrifying as he should be. The final showdown between the two is good and makes great use of the moody lighting and Victorian-like background set, but ends up fizzling at the end.

I came away with mixed feelings on this one. On a technical end it verges on being brilliant, but in other areas it is lacking. The tension needed to be played up more, the confrontations needed more sizzle, and the hero needed to be more in control of the situation.

However, I really liked Daryl Hannah who has just the right blend of sexiness and evilness in her part. Brion James is good simply because he appears very benign, but then surprises the viewer with an unexpected and unannounced viciousness. You also got to love Joe Turkel and his very funky glasses.

blade runner 1

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 25, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 57Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ridley Scott

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, HDDVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966)

dead heat on a merry go round

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Robbery at an airport.

Eli Kotch (James Coburn) manages to con his way out of jail by playing on the affections of his pretty jailhouse psychiatrist (Marian McCargo). His plans are to rob the bank at the Los Angeles International Airport while they are hosting the arrival of a Soviet Premier, which he figures will sufficiently keep the security personal distracted. The blueprint for the bank will cost him a hefty sum, so to help finance it he travels across the country seducing rich women and making off with their expensive possessions and money. Once the blueprint is purchased he assembles his men and executes the daring and elaborate scheme.

The film, which was written and directed by Bernard Girard, is by all means slick although it goes a bit overboard. The first hour is hard to get into. The filmmakers seem intent to keep the viewer guessing about the Kotch’s motives and intricate plans as the rest of the characters. There is so much cutting back and forth between scenes in L.A. and Boston as well as all the lady victims that Kotch finds that it becomes confusing and off-putting. Everything comes off too easily for our protagonist. I suppose that is the intended charm, but a few hiccups here and there to their plans might have offered more tension and reality.

He also beds too many women almost like he is some sort of modern day Don Juan. Having even just one of them slap him across the face when he makes his advances instead of just robotically disrobing and hopping between the sheets with him would’ve been funny. If this film were to be remade the women characters would have to be updated as here they are simply caricatures of a bygone era.

Camilla Sparv’s character and the way Eli treats here was a particular problem with me. Sparv looks drop-dead gorgeous to the point of being breathtaking. Most men would feel blessed at having such a beautiful woman fall in-love with them, but Eli takes it all for granted. He callously lies to her and uses the genuine feelings she has for him to take advantage of her and use it for his own gain. It gets to the point where Eli starts to come off as a real cad and makes the viewer dislike him. There is a twist at the end involving the Sparv character, but it is not enough. I was really hoping that she would somehow manage to screw-up his plans whether intentional or not, but that doesn’t happen even though it should’ve.

Coburn’s toothy grin and deep laugh manages to carry it and probably no other leading man would’ve been able to pull off this type of part as well. The supporting cast is equally good. Rose Marie is fun in a brief part as an older woman that Eli cons. Severn Darden is effective as the nerdy and smart, but very nervous member of Eli’s group. Nina Wayne is funny as one of Eli’s first female victims, a ditzy blonde filled with very quirky philosophies on just about everything. Yet it is Robert Webber, a very under-rated character actor, who steals the show as the high-strung head of the airport security. You can also spot a young Harrison Ford in a brief bit as a bellhop.

The excellent on-location shooting gives the film an added flair. The shots of the Los Angeles International Airport are good especially the way it captures the iconic and modernistic Theme Building. Images of a wintry Boston during Eli’s jaunts to that city are quite scenic particularly all the tree branches covered with snow.

The film’s final half-hour is captivating and even intense. The editing is excellent and the sheer brazenness of the crime is amusing. There are certain things though that seemed implausible and whether such a plan could be pulled off in real-life is doubtful. Still, if you’re a fan of heist films this should offer two hours of suitably fluffy entertainment, but just don’t think about it too hard.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 12, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Bernard Girard

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video