Countdown to Prometheus: A Ridley Scott Retrospective

With this week’s release of Prometheus, Ridley Scott returns to his roots, revisiting the world of his second feature film for the first time in over thirty years. It seemed like a good time for us in the third row to look back over Sir Ridley’s career as a whole; with brief essays about selected films from throughout his filmography as well as a week-long tribute to Scott’s films and the Alien universe.

Scott’s background is in art and design, having studied at the West Hartlepool College of Art and London’s Royal College of Art in the 1960s. He directed one short film during his time at the RCA in 1965, but wouldn’t direct another film until 1977’s The Duellists. In between, he worked as a designer for the BBC and formed a company with his brother Tony to produce commercials. It’s unsurprising that with this background, his films are well-known for their visual style, with Alien and Blade Runner especially outstanding in the field of visual design (thanks not only to Scott but to concept artists like H.R. Giger, Jean “Moebius” Giraud and Syd Mead) and becoming extremely influential in the look and feel of later sci-fi films.

Later Scott films have not necessarily captured the long-term imagination of moviegoers to quite the same extent as those two, but his sense of visual style and narrative storytelling has never faltered, even when the stories he’s telling don’t quite live up to the flair with which he tells them. After trying on a number of different genres (romance, fantasy, crime drama, etc.), he settled into a string of highly acclaimed war films, from the pageantry of Ancient Rome in Gladiator to the modern grit of Black Hawk Down and the medieval scope of Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood. Yet the anticipation of Scott’s return to the world of Alien shows perhaps just how much his early work continues to enrapture viewers.

If there are two legacies that stand out in Scott’s career besides his fantastic visual sense, the first is likely his recurring strong female characters, most notably Ripley from the Alien series (who is among the first modern female action stars in cinema, and has become a cultural icon even apart from her role in the film), and the dual heroines in Thelma & Louise, who have become feminist cinema icons of the highest order. And Scott’s other legacy is his pioneering use of the Director’s Cut, which he has employed on most of his major releases, whether it was his idea to release a secondary version or the studio’s. Scott has declared himself happy with the original release of Alien, with the Director’s Cut being merely an alternate version. Blade Runner, on the other hand, marks one of the most significant Director’s Cuts in the history of cinema, and helped develop the film’s rabid fan-base after its initially poor response upon theatrical release in 1982. The Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven represents a return to Scott’s original vision after the theatrical release was overly influenced by preview screening reactions. Whatever the reason, Scott and his studios have seen fit to revisit these films and others, some more than once, but notably without ever destroying the theatrical cut in the process (yes, we’re looking at you, George Lucas).

Without further ado, let’s look at some selections from Scott’s filmography in greater detail.

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Review: Ironclad

 
[With all the talk on this weeks cinecast about Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins and its DVD release, it is fitting that Iron Clad is getting a theatrical bow in the US, as it is like the a very British take on the ‘small band vs. big army’ story. And it is really, really good. I caught the film at Actionfest a few months ago and my review is republished below.]
 

“What a tedious little man!” snarls Brian Cox after dealing-slash-politicking against Paul Giamatti for the hearts and minds of the British peasantry. Far from it, to enjoy Ironclad is to embrace one of the most ridiculous, yet delightful moments of over-the-top royalty since Graham Chapman and the Pythons (clearly a film that Ironclad is subtly nodding at while its plethora of arterial sprays and limb severings, even as it plays everything else decidedly straight.) Giamatti and Cox join a host of celebrated english Capital-A actors such as Charles Dance and Derek Jacobi along to occasionally bark at each other through its orgy of violence. The film is hilarious, yet deadly earnest, the type of bloody heroic wet dream of 14 year olds, with the type of posturing put forth by the WWE or Mel Gibson.

Without missing a beat, Johnathan English’s Ironclad picks up right where Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood left off. It is certainly not an official sequel, but golly, it could be the swaggering, slightly drunken, trashier sibling if you swap in a scowling James Purfoy for a scowling Russel Crowe. King John (Giamatti) has signed the Magna Carta, but at the behest of the Pope in Rome has declared the document invalid and is marching across the land with a small army of Danish mercenaries, killing all the Barons who signed it. In the meantime, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dance), orders one of the few remaining Barons (Cox) and the best Knight Templar (Purefoy) in the land and orders them to defend Rochester Castle at all costs. (As Rochester goes, so goes England). Failing to raise an army, only a few ragtag adventurers and scoundrels (from the Office’s Mackenzie Crook to the ubiquitous Jason Flemying who seems contractually obliged to be in all of these types of movies), they arrive at Rochester just as John and his army show up. Thus for well over half of the two hour duration, the film is an action packed castle siege film that pits about 20 men against several hundred, and bravery, blood and battle over anything resembling restraint or good taste.
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ActionFest Review: Ironclad

 

“What a tedious little man!” snarls Brian Cox after dealing-slash-politicking against Paul Giamatti for the hearts and minds of the British peasantry. Far from it, to enjoy Ironclad is to embrace one of the most ridiculous, yet delightful moments of over-the-top royalty since Graham Chapman and the Pythons (clearly a film that Ironclad is subtly nodding at while its plethora of arterial sprays and limb severings, even as it plays everything else decidedly straight.) Giamatti and Cox join a host of celebrated english Capital-A actors such as Charles Dance and Derek Jacobi along to occasionally bark at each other through its orgy of violence. The film is hilarious, yet deadly earnest, the type of bloody heroic wet dream of 14 year olds, with the type of posturing put forth by the WWE or Mel Gibson.

Without missing a beat, Johnathan English’s Ironclad picks up right where Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood left off. It is certainly not an official sequel, but golly, it could be the swaggering, slightly drunken, trashier sibling if you swap in a scowling James Purfoy for a scowling Russel Crowe. King John (Giamatti) has signed the Magna Carta, but at the behest of the Pope in Rome has declared the document invalid and is marching across the land with a small army of Danish mercenaries, killing all the Barons who signed it. In the meantime, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dance), orders one of the few remaining Baron Cox) and the best Knight Templar (Purefoy) in the land and orders them to defend Rochester Castle at all costs. (As Rochester goes, so goes England). Failing to raise an army, only a few ragtag adventurers and scoundrels (from the Office’s Mackenzie Crook to the ubiquitous Jason Flemying who seems contractually obliged to be in all of these types of movies), they arrive at Rochester just as John and his army show up. Thus for well over half of the two hour duration, the film is an action packed castle siege film that pits about 20 men against several hundred, and bravery, blood and battle over anything resembling restraint or good taste.
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Cinecast 168 – The Hacksaw Dilemma

 
Revenge is a dish best served cold. So claims an old Klingon proverb. While probably not technically accurate as to the origin of the phrase, it is apropos of this weeks cinecast. It would perhaps be even more appropriate to say that revenge is a dish served often, and in a versatile and diverse number of ways! Even though that does not exactly roll off the tongue – we present a couple of lists to prove it. Tying in with this weeks top ten is our full (and shockingly spoiler free!) review of the Michael Caine revenge drama, Harry Brown. Though there are only two of us to go back and forth this week, we still find some DVDs to discuss and maybe grump out a bit at dismal outlook on our near future at the multiplex.

As always, feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comment section below and thanks for listening!




To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_168.mp3

 
 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Cinecast Epsiode 167 – The Quick and The Head

 
Nottingham and its denizens are a changed place. For the better or worse is the question which our bickering board of bloggers hash out to vastly different conclusions. Fortunately the consensus for movie of the week is The Good, The Bad and the Weird; of which we all agree is awesome in a Big Trouble in Little China meets Raiders of the Lost Ark by way of the Leone Spaghetti Westerns. Andrew and Matt also got to catch a screening of Spike Jonze’ short, I’m Here on the big screen. DVD releases this week are slim pickings, so instead we take a little more time with the recent viewings segment including Gary King’s latest drama, as well as the 2009 Bill Kunsler documentary, a little tangent on animation and dubbing Miyazaki films, in particular Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and a minute or two on Zombieland… which still, more or less, sucks.

As always, feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!




To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_167.mp3

 
 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Bookmarks for May 17-19

  • Stephen Frears and ‘Tamara Drewe’ eschews English fixation on class system
    Stephen Frears banters and spars with the Cannes International Media: “Well, I’ll defend ambiguity til I die … and if I said I were in favor of telling the truth, I’d be lying.” And so the bantering went back and forth.
  • Ridley Me This: Why Isn’t Sir Scott as Great as You Tell Me He Is?
    “I saw Ridley Scott’s tired Robin Hood this past weekend and I was underwhelmed. It’s not a bad movie. Scott rarely makes bad films, just frequently uninspired ones.”
  • Top 10 Underrated Sci-Fi Stories Before 1864
    “The science fiction genre developed over the latter half of the 19th century with the works of Jules Verne and, subsequently, H.G. Wells. For the sake of a clear cut off date for this list, however, we shall say the cut off date for novels not to be influenced by these fathers of the genre is 1864, the year in which Verne published “A Journey to the Center of the Earth.” These are the classic science fiction novels that preceded the fathers of the genre that are commonly overlooked by modern audiences.”
  • The Secrets of Marienbad
    “Everyone is of course familiar with Alain Resnais’s cult film, written by Alain Robbe-Grillet and made just fifty years ago, L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad). It happened that a young actress named Françoise Spira was on the set during the shooting of the film. She didn’t play the lead role … She didn’t even have one of these real supporting roles that leave you with the memory of a few unforgettable scenes. But in any case, she was there from the beginning of the shoot to the end, with her Super 8 without sound, and she filmed the film, capturing its most magical instants — Resnais’s youthful laughter, Seyrig’s delightful caprices, the somber and childlike charm of Albertazzi. In short, off in her little corner and without shouting from the rooftops, she produced the “making of” of the most formal, glacial and, actually, unerring, unwavering film in the history of contemporary cinema. But Françoise Spira committed suicide. Her ‘making of’ was lost with her.”
  • A Roger Ebert Tribute
    “I guess the biggest criticism I have of Roger is that his reviews are often too easy on films, except for my films of course–he could never be too easy on them–but, the guy loves films so much that it’s almost contagious. He’s open, he’s smart, he’s thoughtful, he’s always very clear, and he’s got a really good heart and–like I said–he’s really funny, which is hard to do as a writer. He manages to make you think critically without making it seem like homework. God knows the world needs more people thinking critically these days about a lot of things. ”
  • Malick, Coppola could lead strong crop at Venice (or Toronto) for 2010
    Here is hoping for Tree of Life for Tiff, but ather potentials on the fall festival circuit include Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, Anton Corbijn’s The American, Julian Schnabel’s Miral, Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole, Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary, Robert Rodriguez’s Machete and Julie Taymor’s The Tempest. Screendaily mentions many, many more.

 

You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button in the upper right of the page. It looks remarkably similar to this:

Review: Robin Hood

Robin Hood Movie Poster

Director: Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven)
Writer: Brian Helgeland
Producers: Russell Crowe, Brian Grazer, Ridley Scott
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Mark Addy, Matthew Macfadyen, Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes, Alan Doyle
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 140 min.

 

NOTE: Due to a little bit of a scheduling snafu, more than one contributor here simultaneously wrote up thoughts on the film. Rather than delete either of these exquisitely written pieces, and in an effort to keep all discussion confined to one cozy location, we’ve decided to publish both posts into one for potentially conflicting and more interesting opinion as well as additional fodder to wallow in; all in the name of better discussion.


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Neil Marshall’s “Centurion” Trailer

A couple of days ago on the Cinecast, Kurt and I went over a bunch of movies that we’re really anticipating in the coming year. One of my later picks was Centurion by director Neil Marshall. While it sounds like the name of a movie I would normally avoid like anal probe, the Marshall name has my butt in the theater already.

Dog Soldiers and The Decent were fun movies in their own right, but the homage to the Mad Max films, Escape from New York and the 28… series in 2006 Doomsday (our R3view) just blew me away. It is still sitting comfortably in my top ten of 2008.

So here we are 2 years later and Marshall’s newest, Centurion, is right around the corner. I stumbled across the trailer this morning and while I’m not normally a fan of these epic, battleground pieces, this has got Marshall’s penchant for the dark, foreboding and ominously surreal dusted over the top of what might otherwise be pretty standard stuff.

And come on: you’ve got Michael Fassbender in here; along with the awesomeness of “The Wire’s” Dominic West and the fineness of Olga Kurylenko. What’s not to like? Over the “let’s reboot and just make it darker” version of Robin Hood or this, I’ll take the goofy fun of Neil Marshall and Centurion any day of the week.

trailer is under the seats…
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Robin Hood

Anyone interested in another Robin Hood? Will there be that silly accent hubbub that seemed to accompany the one from the early 1990s that is notable not because of its lead, but because of Alan Rickman as the enjoyably flabbergasted villain. Russel Crowe puts on the tights to follow the footsteps of Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Richard Greene, Frank Sinatra (albeit in pin-stripes), John Cleese, Kevin Costner, and a very underrated Patrick Bergin (who had Uma Thurman as his Maid Marian.) Ridley Scott is directing, and the while filming is currently underway, the film is more than a year away; yet we still may see this before The Road (just kidding).

crowerobin

(USA Today via Rope of Silicon)