The Uptown Theater Washington DC

Stargate

Year: 1994
Directed By: Roland Emmerich
Written By: Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich

RYAN’S REVIEW

When I was 10 years old this was one of the movies playing at the Uptown theater when I went to visit my dad in Washington D.C.. That theater’s single giant screen was my babysitter in those days and I spent plenty of time sitting in front of it during those visits. No theater has ever come close to being quite as magical as the Uptown was to me as a 10 year old. I would sit on the first row of the balcony and watch whatever was playing over and over again. I’m partial to all the movies I saw on that screen but it really helps that this one is so cool.

I really like the idea behind this movie. They don’t make such original science fiction anymore, or at least I haven’t seen anything like it. I like that the military has been keeping this ancient technology under wraps for decades trying to figure it out. When they get it operational the adventure begins and some of Earth’s greatest mysteries are there to be discovered. It’s a portal to another world and the military is sending a team through it into the unknown. The blending of ancient Egyptian culture, the military, and aliens is just awesome. Really cool idea that was ahead of its time. Unfortunately it’s one of the many that are destined for the eventual reboot that will probably just sully the original.

I really hope a reboot never comes to fruition. They could never top this one, and why even try? Where the hell are they gonna find anyone who can rock a flat top and beret like Kurt freaking Russell? Can’t do it! It didn’t work when they rebooted Total Recall. It didn’t work when they rebooted RobocopThey keep trying to carry on The Terminator franchise to no avail. Alien keeps trying to hang on with new movies and clearly that isn’t working. There’s just no way they should even try to remake this movie because it’s a bad idea. This movie is fine the way it is and it left its mark in the science fiction genre. We need movies like this, but not this. Certainly there are still people out there coming up with interesting ideas, we need more original science fiction these days and more than simply reboots and sequels to older properties.

I think this is one of, if not the, best movies made by Roland Emmerich. He has almost become like a gimmick director at this point specializing in disaster films. While those movies have become redundant I still like him as a director. After all, those disaster flicks aren’t terrible, I’d easily say that were worth watching one time as a rental. Maybe none of those disaster flicks qualified for our collection but I have a couple of Emmerich’s movies on the shelf and I’m quite fond of them. Independence Day is a very popular film but I have always had problems with it and never watched the sequel.

I think the music in this movie is exceptional. The theme they use anytime Ra is on screen is particularly compelling with its sinister sound. I am not very familiar with the film’s compser David Arnold, but I really like what he came up with. Sometimes a musical score can make or break a film. I don’t think the score here did either but it greatly enhances the film.

As I am want to mention I grew up in an action movie fanatic household. So, naturally I think Kurt Russell is awesome and I really like him in this movie. He rocks the shit out of that beret Demolition Man style. Dressed all in black and wearing that beret he should have been called Colonel John Spartan in this movie but I’ll let it slide. Kurt Russell is just too likable delivering lines like “Give my regards to King Tut asshole.” I’ve never been a big James Spader fan but I liked him in this movie. He apparently thought the movie was going to be awful but took the part for the money. Spader wasn’t the only one not really invested in the film as the actor who portrayed Ra, Jaye Davidson was apparently very difficult to work with. As a matter of fact he never acted again after this. I thought he was good though, of course all his lines are dubbed with that badass voice and all he had to do was look really evil.

This has been a fairly influential film in a way I am generally unfamiliar with. It inspired a television series that has been around a long time, I guess. I don’t know very much about it but I understand there is some minor crossover between the film and show. I only bring it up because this movie also inspired something that I cherish. There was an awesome direct reference to the film in one of the South Park Imaginationland episodes:

 

This is the best scene I could find on YouTube but you can see the Stargate and hear Kurt Russell as he is attacked by the Woodland Critters. Earlier in the episode Kurt Russell asks why he is there with this military crew and the response is “because you were in that movie that was kind of like this.” Hilarious, if you haven’t seen Imaginationland you should seek it out, some of the funniest stuff South Park has ever done.

This movie is special to me because it gets me all nostalgic over magical childhood memories. It’s a good movie aside from that though and there are plenty of reasons to like it. It’s got a real Chariots of the Gods feel to it and people love those wild theories. If you are a fan of science fiction this is a must see and I think the movie is easily worth your time to see it.

NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Legends of the Fall

Year: 1994
Directed By: Edward Zwick
Written By: Susan Shilliday and William D. Wittliff (screenplay) and Jim Harrison (novella)

RYAN’S REVIEW

When this movie came out my dad was still manager of the Uptown in downtown D.C. and it was playing there on one of my trips to see him.  The Uptown only had one screen and I was stuck watching this movie over and over again while spending days at work with my dad.  I was ten years old at the time and in truth probably shouldn’t have been watching it at all but my dad was never one to pay attention to such things.  On my prior trip to see him in D.C. Jurassic Park was the film playing at the Uptown and this absolutely failed in comparison. I still thought Jurassic Park was the coolest thing I had ever seen and sitting through this was unbearable at my age.  I hated the movie then but one day found myself revisiting it at a much older age and liking it very much.  It’s an incredible story of love and loss made by a man who has a knack for making really emotionally deep films.

This is without doubt a deeply emotional movie too.  The story is told through the letters this family wrote back and forth to one another over a period of several years.  The letters came from a collection from all different members of the family that were kept by One Stab, a Native American warrior who was very loyal to Colonel Ludlow. The letters are full of raw emotion.  These people write about their pain and longing, they poured their hearts out in these letters and you can feel their emotions as if they were your own.  This was a well written story and it is very moving but I think the man behind camera has the most to do with how effective it is in invoking such an emotional response from the audience.  Edward Zwick has a knack for this kind of movie. I say that because I feel this movie so deeply.  It opens up my soul and brings all the emotion in there up to the surface.  I have a very similar feeling when I watch one of Zwick’s other films, The Last Samurai.  The guy makes very beautiful films and does a great job of getting his audience emotionally invested in his movies.  One of the things I love most about movies is when they get me like this, when they make me feel things right down to the core and get an emotional response from me.  I’m not an overly emotional person, but when it comes to movies my tears will fall.  This movie brings the tears out of me too; I feel the pain and loss of these people on such an emotional level that I love them for it.

I have always taken one specific lesson from this movie above all others.  Women can be so dangerous and destructive.  When Susannah Fincannon is brought to the Ludlow ranch she is just trouble waiting to happen, and as time goes on she single handedly tears this family apart.  She came engaged to Samuel, but the moment Alfred laid eyes on her he was in love with her, and in turn from the moment Susannah laid eyes on Tristan she was in love with him.  Samuel was a young and impressionable man, it was Susannah who encouraged him to be passionate about things and that is ultimately led him to join the fight in WWI. Samuel never really had a chance though, even if he hadn’t died in the war there is no telling what may have happened when he came home.  When Susannah met Isabel Two for the first time and the girl told her she is going to grow up and marry Tristan Susannah actually looked jealous, she already wanted him for herself despite who she was there with.  She couldn’t even wait till Samuel left for the war before falling into Tristan’s arms and nearly getting caught up in the moment.  Letting Alfred catch them together like that didn’t make things much better. That moment started the hate that would brew between those two brothers and Alfred is so dumbstruck in love he can’t see the writing on the wall.  He wasted no time after he returned from the war before snaking in on his brother’s woman, proposing to her at Samuel’s grave no less. A shameful and pathetic thing to do so soon after his death.  Despite his efforts he never had a chance; she wanted Tristan all along and wasted no time herself going after him when he came back. Making her move at the exact same grave site that Alfred made his pathetic attempt to marry her.  Tristan wasn’t right when he came back though and that was plain for everyone to see.  She ignores the obvious though and pursues her lust driven desires for a man who is clearly a little insane. When they are in that bath together she is blathering on and on about babies while he just stares off into space with the look of a man completely and utterly insane. Even after Tristan pulls a knife on her in bed and looks ready to kill her she still waits on him. What is it she even sees in this psycho anyway? When Tristan more or less tells her to get lost she finally settles for Alfred who is more than happy to continue being pathetic. Alfred was foolish though because for whatever reason she just can’t get over Tristan. Years later when she sees Tristan finally settled down with Isabel Two and living the life she wanted she nearly loses it.  After her last final effort to pursue Tristan fails she just can’t take it anymore and ends it all with a bullet to the head, but it is too late then.  The damage to the Ludlow family was already done.  Even if they sort of came back together in the end they will all still bear the scars from so much tragedy. Had Samuel came home alone their entire lives might have been different.  Maybe the three brothers don’t ride off to war, Samuel lives, Alfred and Tristan never grow to hate one another, and it goes on and on.  Women can be very dangerous, and men can be very stupid when they are around one like Susannah Vincannon.

I had an Uncle once who was a lot like Tristan and the character had always been more endeared to me because of him.  He was a really cool Uncle who always inspired love from everyone despite being the type of person that does selfish and inconsiderate things. Tristan could do no wrong in the eyes of certain family members and they were willing to forgive him every trespass.  My Uncle was also one to take off for long stretches of time with no consideration for those he left behind who loved him yet the love was always there when he returned no matter how long he was gone or for what reason. It’s an interesting character dynamic, sadly though the character in real life doesn’t always straighten himself out and the scars he can leave behind still run deep.  Tristan was an awesome character though and I still like him in this movie.  He goes completely crazy and never fully escapes the haunting feelings of failure over Samuel’s death.  The scene in which he cuts his brothers heart out is so intense; the anguish in his voice as he curses God is incredible.  It’s a testament to the acting ability Brad Pitt has.  I have always been a fan of Pitt but he has had his ups and downs over the years.  I had nearly written him off until he played the part of Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds, and I am interested to see his newest picture World War Z. I read the book and it was incredible, but I’m really not sure how it would work as a film because of how the story is set up.  Still it looks good and I can’t wait for the chance to see it.

This movie sports a great cast who most of which turned in very profound and incredible performances.  I have always been a big fan of Anthony Hopkins; he has had a long and distinguishing career.  To me growing up he always represented what a man should be in his later years, not in the role of Hannibal Lecture mind you but in plenty of his other work.  He carries himself with an air of dignity that simply demands respect in nearly every role that he played throughout the 90s.  In this movie he doesn’t play the most likable character yet I like him all the same because he seemed appropriate to me. Colonel Ludlow is a man who knows what he is talking about yet nobody will listen.  His sons are foolish in his eyes with the exception of Tristan, most of the time.  He knows what they are getting themselves into when they want to go to war but they don’t listen to him.  He knows what Alfred is getting himself into by running for office but Alfred is too proud to see it himself.  Colonel Ludlow is rough around the edges but he is a strong and powerful man just eaten up with disappointment.  He carries hatred in his heart from his days in the service, he has a wife that he loves but won’t stay with him, and he has three boys who he never quite knows what to make of.  I have always thought he was a great character and feel disappointed every time I see the film when he has that stroke.  It’s an awful thing to see such a man defeated by his body and forces out of his control.  Yet despite the disability he develops he is still a proud man and not afraid of doing what needs to be done in the end.

Another powerful performance in this film came from Aidan Quinn in the part of Alfred Ludlow.  Quinn has never had what anybody would call a significant career but he really brought it in this movie.  Alfred is such an interesting character even though he is the pathetic brother.  He is such a smart and capable man yet so foolish with his hopeless obsession with Susannah.  He may be misguided and thinking with the wrong head most of the time but you have to give the man props for having the balls to stand up to his father.  In the scene where Colonel Ludlow gets in his face I think people in the audience were likely to flinch at the anger coming off the man but Alfred didn’t. I also liked Henry Thomas in the part of the youngest brother Samuel.  Samuel was young and innocent, a part “EL-I-OT” pulls off very well.  In truth, from what I have seen it may be the only part the guy is capable of.  Even as a minor gangster in Gangs of New York he still came across as young and innocent. Outside of playing Guinevere in First Knight (another role in which she plays a really destructive woman) I have never seen Julia Ormond in another movie.  Despite what I think about the character she plays in this movie I still think she did a great job with the part.

In my youth this is a movie I never thought I would feel so strongly about but I grew to love it at an older age.  I always appreciate a movie more when it grows on me this way and this one did without doubt.  It’s such a gripping and powerful film that reaches right into my soul and pulls all kinds of emotions to the surface.  Some have made suggestions to me that this is a chick flick but I always dismiss them.  There is so much to this movie that raises it far above that category of film and those guys just can’t look deep enough to see it.  This is a great movie and all great movies are worth your time to see.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie will make you cry, and then ball, and then cry some more. I don’t care how many times I watch this film it makes me sad. I don’t even think you feel uplifted at the end either. It is all tragedy and sadness brought on my one single, slutty, horrible excuse for a woman. Brad Pitt looks gorgeous as always, and that might be the happiest part of this entire movie.

legends_of_the_fall_ver1

Oh c’mon people! This poster would be great if they would have just left out the damn floating heads. Guess what! Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins are famous enough that their names are all we need. And how much more intrigue would there be if they would have just let it fade to a dark color and let the image at the bottom speak for itself. You would probably be wondering a lot more about what this movie is actually about instead of who is in it. I like the typography. It fits together nicely and is positioned well, and I think it has almost become an iconic looking movie title. This is a mediocre poster that could have been great.

NEXT MOVIE: Les Miserables (2012)

Jurassic Park

Year: 1993
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Michael Crichton and David Koepp

RYAN’S REVIEW

I was nine years old when this movie came out in 1993.  At the time my father was the manager at the Uptown Theater in downtown Washington D.C. and I was there when this movie premiered there. The theater only had one huge screen with a large auditorium and a balcony. I sat on the first row of the balcony to watch the movie and for two hours and seven minutes my mind was blown.  It is still to this day the largest screen I ever watched a movie on and I don’t know that anything I had ever seen as a nine year old was more exciting than this movie about dinosaurs. I’ll never forget how I felt after seeing it for the first time, it was probably pivotal at my age in my development as a movie fan.  I was so exhilarated; I remember immediately thinking about how awesome the inevitable sequel would be.  I had suddenly discovered the coolest thing that had ever existed, the velociraptor, and here I had spent nine whole years thinking it was the T-Rex.

As I grew up I only came to love this movie more as I was able to understand more with my growing maturity.  Eventually I read the book and was at first disappointed by how different it was but by the end came to love it as well.  Michael Crichton is a good writer but he tends to wear me out as a reader sometimes.  His books are fascinating and always have exciting stories but they are just so nonstop with danger around every corner.  Things never cool down and the danger around every corner can sometimes be exhausting.  Crichton of course was already a very successful writer long before he conceived the idea for this story. So successful that when he approached movie studios with nothing more than the idea for the book he was immediately offered tons of money for film rights.  Four studios fought over the right to make the film, each with a director in mind to attach to the project. So Crichton had his pick of who would make his book into a film even before he wrote it.  He ultimately chose Universal Studios who had Steven Spielberg penciled in to direct and I think we can all agree he made the right choice.

Nobody captures excitement and adventure quite like Steven Spielberg and his people.  He brought along David Koepp to work on the script, John Williams to work up the musical score, and Kathleen Kennedy to produce.  This group of people can almost be likened to a mathematical equation that equals success because they have created it time and time again.  They know how to make great and long lasting movies and did that again when they got together for this one.  Spielberg even tapped one of his other resources for this film by bringing on George Lucas to finish direction when it came time for Spielberg to work on his next film, Schindler’s List. I mentioned in a previous post that Spielberg had a great knack for growing as a filmmaker and adapting to the times and new techniques.  He did that with this movie as the technology used to bring all the dinosaurs to life was very new at the time.

I have always liked the cast of this movie although none of the actors used were really big names.  Sam Neill has never been much of a leading man but I thought he was great in the part.  Most of the other films I have seen Neill in have been horror films and he is awesome in those. The number one that comes to mind is In the Mouth of Madness which I remember being particularly scary. Laura Dern was the female lead and she is another I would not call a leading actress.  Although she has starred in the lead of her own television show on HBO, EnlightenedAlthough the show has been cancelled after two seasons.  I haven’t seen much of it but Amber seemed really interested at one time.  Jeff Goldblum has a large enough role to almost be considered a lead and he probably had the most recognizable name among the cast. I have never been a fan of Goldblum but I think he fit the role of Ian Malcolm really well.  The only problem with him in the role was it required him to be the lead actor in the sequel. I think they could have been more prudent in choosing, but they didn’t know that at the time because the sequel hadn’t been written yet.  Of his two rounds playing the part I think we saw him do better in this film.

I think the strength of this cast lies in all the supporting roles because they had many good people filling in the smaller roles.  Samuel L. Jackson was relatively unknown when he was in this movie.  It wouldn’t be till the following year when he was in Pulp Fiction that his star really began to rise.  I thought he was great as the chain smoking park technician in this movie.  I also particularly like Wayne Knight’s role in the film.  This was probably the highest point in Knight’s career as he was starting to get plenty of face time on Seinfeld as Newman.  Long after Seinfeld Knight saw a dip in his career and as far as I know it is all but over now.  I read an article a few years back that he had lost A LOT of weight. So much so that he was barely recognizable as all his time in the public eye was as such a heavy man.  I read that he was having a hard time getting roles because of his weight loss but he was happier to be in shape and living a healthier life.  I think that is great for him and I hope Wayne Knight is still keeping it up and doing well, but I miss him in parts like this.  Richard Attenborough also brought a lot to the film in his role as the park’s creator.  Although his portrayal in the film is much different than it was in the book.  In the book John Hammond was a real ass and I think all readers were really pleased when he is eaten by some of the smaller dinosaurs in the park.  Of course in the film he lives and not only that but he has that great grandfatherly quality that Attenborough has himself so he is very likable. Joseph Mazzello also played a great part but he has had a hard time transitioning his success as a child into anything else.  He is still out there popping up here and there but hasn’t done much of any significance.

This movie will always be important to me for more reasons than how awesome it might have been.  I will never forget the premier of the film when I was there at the Uptown in 1993.  I don’t remember seeing them all specifically but Jeff Goldblum was there, both of the two child actors, Laura Dern maybe, and I did see Muhammad Ali who attended.  Although I didn’t see him I know that Vice President Al Gore was there as well because I met a Secret Service agent that was there to guard him.  While waiting for the movie to start the VP had taken over my father’s office and when I went there looking for my dad I found my father wasn’t in there but there was a man in a suit standing guard outside.  He was a really cool guy who humored my fascination in what he did with plenty of conversation.  I will never forget it for as long as I live because at nine years he was quite possibly the coolest guy I had ever met in my entire life.  He showed me his gun and even took the clip out to show me the bullets he used.  I doubt this was something he was supposed to or even allowed to do but he left such an impression on me.  I was quite lucky to meet one who was nice to me instead of being a hardass, as I imagine most Secret Service members are and should be.

I don’t have to tell you anything more about this movie because you most likely already have plenty of your own ideas about it.  This is one of those films that simply everybody saw at the time because it was that popular.  Both the film and the book are worth your time and I would suggest investing some in both of them.  Universal Studios is still trying to harness the bank-ability of this film franchise and there is always talk of a fourth film in the works.  Over the year I have heard all kind of ideas thrown out there, even one as wild as velociraptors equipped with laser technology that allows them to fight humans in battle.  I doubt a film like that will ever be made but I am sure we will eventually see a fourth film in the franchise.  Will it match up to this one? Of course not but that doesn’t mean that somebody else won’t pick up the torch and do something significant with it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This classic movie is a movie that everyone should have seen by now. Who doesn’t love a good story about dinosaurs? I really like this movie. I still don’t mind watching it when it comes on television. It’s a fun ride and a classic flick.

jurassicpark

I really think this is a successful poster. Who needs to show a poster filled with dinosaurs? I love that they decided to simply use the park logo as the focus for this poster. It tells you everything that you need to know. This logo is still iconic today, just as I said about the Ghostbusters logo. People automatically know what this is when they see it. Overall, I think this poster deserves a big kudos. It took a risk being so simplistic, but this works on so many levels. Love it.

NEXT MOVIE: The Lost World (1997)