Harper

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The Plot

  • A true  forgotten gem and a classic gumshoe flick that in the backdrop of 1960s Los Angeles that includes kidnapping, double crossing, bizarre cults and at it’s heart, love and lust.
  • A charming actor that exemplified suave on screen, Paul Newman starred in a 1966 mystery film Harper, based Ross McDonald’s novel The Moving Target.
  • Newman plays the role of private investigator Lew Harper who is hired by a woman named Elaine Sampson (played by the great Lauren Bacall) to locate her husband Ralph Sampson after he suddenly disappeared while flying back to LA from Las Vegas.
  • The on-screen dynamics between of former femme fetale Lauren Bacall and Newman is special, for it sets the pace for the rest of the film. Take a look

  • The case was brought to him district attorney and personal friend Albert Graves (Arthur Hill) who also informs Harper of Ralph’s egocentric personality and unfaithful acts he’s committed against his wife.
  • On this journey of collusion and treason, Harper soon discovers that those close to the situation cannot be trusted either. Everyone becomes a suspect and Harper could find himself in deep waters if he doesn’t keep his cool and play his cards right.

What I Liked

  • What makes Harper great was the nostalgic elements Harper incorporated into its theme.
  • This film was one of the first homages to the “Film Noirs” of the early 40s that captured the cynical nature of people and was one of the first private investigation films that gave us a close look into deceptive glamour of Los Angeles.
  • Newman showed the same commanding control that Bogart portrayed in The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep but with his own boyish affability. He was always in control without having to flex his muscle or show too rugged emotion.
  • The dialogue as well was witty and engaging, especially between Newman and his co-star Pamela Tiffin.

What I Disliked

  • I feel Harper could have been portrayed more as an antihero, or essentially a protagonist that has character attributes that give us reason to question why we are rooting for them. Paul Newman gave a fine performance adding in his casual and flirtatious style, but I would have liked to see him get dirtier in the trenches.

Should You See It?

  • I would recommend seeing this picture. It’s reminiscent of the classic that you forget your watching a classic. If you’re a mystery fan or better yet a Paul Newman fan, then this movie is for you .

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Blow Out

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Known for his slick dance moves in Saturday Night Fever and his passion for the culture of Amsterdam in Pulp Fiction, John Travolta was the star of the 1981 Brian De Palma paranoia hinged film Blow Out.

The Plot

  • Playing the role of Jack Terri, a soundman for films who catches the sound of a car accident while working, Jack is able to save a woman named Sally (Nancy Allen) from the passenger seat, while a presidential candidate is left to drown.
  • After Jack is persuaded by the candidate’s assistant to forget she was in the car, he grows suspicions and listens to the tapes and suspects this was a successful assassination attempt, leading him down a more sinister conspiracy than he wants to be a part of.

What I Liked

  • Blow Out is as cerebral of a film as you will find in cinema. It immerses the audience into the process by which a man uses his craft to find answers to a complex problem. The decent of Jack Terri’s sanity as he increasingly becomes obsessed with bureaucratic corruption shows Travolta’s contrast as an original actor that excels as a character study.
  • To match with De Palma’s unorthodox camera angels and masterful pan shots, Blow Out is a film that deserves much more accolades than other thrillers from that era.

What I Disliked

  • I’m hard pressed to find something about the picture that I disliked. It carried a suspenseful ambiance that is reminiscent of Hitchcock and gives an ending that is uncompromising. So on this rare occasion, I see nothing wrong with the picture.

Should You See It?

No question about it. It’s a thriller that keeps you engaged throughout the whole story and give you anxiety as it reaches it’s boiling point. Take a look at he trailer below to see if it peaks your interest.

If your interested in reading a more in depth analysis of the film from the development to post production, here is a great article to check out from filmmaker magazine.com

“BLOW OUT”

 

Less Than Zero

The Plot

  • Loosely based off the 1985 controversial novel by Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero tells the story of Clay Easton’s return to his hometown of Los Angeles for Christmas break.  His trip back is far from graceful, for he sees first hand how his friends have fallen into a downward spiral of drugs, prostitution and broken dreams since he left for college in New York only six months prior.
  • As he begins to hang out with his ex-girlfriend turned model, Blair, she informs him that Julian, a close friend of theirs from high school, is now an addict and cannot control himself anymore, constantly under the influence of cocaine.  She asks Clay to speak with him, much to Clay’s cynicism that see’s no purpose in trying to rekindle a friendship with Julian.
  • As the film progresses, Clay begins to witness the self destructive lifestyles of his peers, with Julian owing $50,000 to Rip, his sleazy yet patient drug dealer that has been loaning out drugs to him and watching Blair becoming a shell of her formal self, leaving Clay to challenge the morals of his friends, his city and himself.

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What I Liked

  • The film brought about an eye popping portrayal of how addiction robs a person of their humanity. Robert Downey Jr. playing Julian was truly a remarkable performance that acted as the nucleus of the story. He was authentic, acted with passion and was sincere in his dialogue.

What I Disliked

  • After familiarizing myself with the movie and now just recently started the book, I’m partially dissatisfied that the film alienated away from the original plot of Ellis’s novel. While addiction is a theme in the novel, it isn’t the centerpiece.
  • The book’s goal was to chronicle how the “MTV Generation” had divorced themselves from their morals, rotting away in the hot, shiny California sun. The film isn’t as explicit as the novel, detracting from its “lost souls” narrative, which would have been a much more intriguing character study.

Should you see it?

  • If you are a literary enthusiast and an admirer of Ellis’s work, then you’ll be dissatisfied with this movie. Personally, I liked the movie. Some of the acting was offbeat, perhaps more melodramatic than it had to be, but I was hooked in as I watched a group of young people go down a dangerous path in life. If you’re the type who stares at a train wreck, this movie is for you.

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If you guys want to know what author Brett Easton Ellis thought about the adaption of his novel, check out the link below!

Bret Easton Ellis on Less Than Zero, Its Adaptation, and Its Sequel Imperial Bedrooms