Classic Review – Blade Runner 1982

Visually breathtaking, even 35 years later, Blade Runner rightly remains a science fiction classic.

Michael Philp 

The year is 2019, and smokestacks spout fire above Los Angeles. Below, the streets are bursting with life. Neon stalls and crowded markets suffer through rain and smog, flying cars purge themselves in filthy alleyways, and the all-seeing eye of an advertising blimp glides between the buildings. Towering above it all is the Tyrell Corporation’s ziggurat – a monument to the god of this new world, Dr Eldon Tyrell, the creator of more-human-than-human replicants.

These are the first images of Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece, Blade Runner, and they are stunning. Better yet, over the next two hours, you get to witness imagery even more sumptuous and intriguing, while connecting with some of the richest characters in science fiction. We will follow grizzled Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), as he tracks down and “retires” four escaped replicants – banned bioengineered androids. We will sympathise with those replicants and their search for life beyond their creator’s intentions. And ultimately, we will sympathise with Deckard as he struggles with a brutal system that cares little for the lives within it.

Visually speaking, Scott never stops pushing his film. From those first flaming stacks to Roy Batty’s (Rutger Hauer) final monologue, near every frame of the movie is a feast for the eyes. The contrasted lighting helps immensely in this, setting a noirish mood that reflects the film’s oppressively dark and dirty world. An early bathroom scene particularly stands out, with a fluorescent tube gorgeously backlighting Deckard. Compare that shot to any number in Drive, and it’s clear that film-makers are still openly copying Blade Runner 35 years later – it’s just that cool.

Aside from the lighting, Scott is constantly filling the frame with detail and symbolism. Look out for numerous instances of eye imagery – a visual metaphor that suggests surveillance, humanity, and knowledge. Or perhaps you’d prefer something more subtle, like the fact that they modelled Eldon Tyrell’s bedroom on the Pope’s – something that immediately highlights the film’s religious themes. These little details all build upon one another, creating a rich tapestry of meaning. All of a sudden, Tyrell’s pet owl – also a bioengineered creation – becomes not only a symbol of his wealth, but also his knowledge and divine aspirations. These are the details that make Blade Runner such a beloved film. Repeat viewings are virtually mandatory for a film with this much depth.

The visuals would be empty though without talented actors backing them up, which is why it’s such a blessing that Blade Runner has one of the best performances of the 80’s in Hauer’s Batty. Larger than life, Batty is a magnificently complex creature. Deeply aware of his looming mortality and disposableness, Batty initially attempts to bargain with his creator, before finally rising above a system that considers him worthless. His bemused resignation at the end – a slight smile as he reminisces about the wonders he has seen – is one of the film’s crowning achievements, humanising him to an incredible degree. The life behind Hauer’s performance is awe-inspiring, particularly when taking into account the fact that Batty has had to fight for its recognition. The world sees him as nothing more than an off-world slave, making it even more powerful to watch Batty shed himself of those chains.

Blade Runner is a behemoth of science fiction, and rightly so. It’s an incredibly rich film that takes science fiction concepts dating back to the original Frankenstein and depicts them with nuance and humanity. What right does anyone have to dictate who is and is not human? What right do we have to create life and then dictate its purpose? These questions are at the core of Blade Runner and are served well by some of the best visuals of Ridley Scott’s career. As we approach the release date of Blade Runner 2049, it’s amazing that the original film can still hold its weight. Here’s to hoping that its moments won’t all be lost in time.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

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Still Kicking – Aging Actors

With so many incredible talents now hitting their twilight years, it’s no wonder there’s more films offering roles to mature aged actors… but is that the only reason for the rise in films centred around older characters?

Josip Knezevic

Last Vegas, Dirty Grandpa, Grudge Match

These films are a clear reminder that Robert De Niro will happily do any script put in front of him, regardless of how terrible. At this point, it’s safe to say he probably doesn’t even have an agent anymore, because how could someone allow him to make so many questionable choices?

Nevertheless, De Niro isn’t the only veteran actor still churning out films these days. Actors such as Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Michael Caine and the ever-magical Maggie Smith don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon thanks to a rise in films centred around, well… old characters. But why is that? Is it purely to appeal to an older demographic? Or do these actors feel the need to keep continually adding to their already extensive filmographies? The answer is more complicated than you’d think.

Inevitably, it comes down to the film in question. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel boasts an ensemble cast featuring the likes of Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson, who are all over the age of 60 and are esteemed actors in their own right. The film follows a group of pensioners moving to a retirement hotel in India… and that’s it. No really, that’s it. Clearly this isn’t going to attract your average millennial, but baby boomers can relate to not only the actors, but also the situations they experience.

A more recent addition is the Zach Braff directed remake Going in Style, starring Freeman, Arkin and Caine. The film is centred around this trio of retirees who plan to rob a bank after their pensions are cancelled. Unlike Marigold Hotel, this film has a much wider scope. By playing on the well-known heist format and the action comedy genre, it’s able to appeal to a broader audience. It’s obviously not going to win any Academy Awards, but it’s a crowd-pleasing film that’s a good excuse for these actors to keep working.

Speaking of which, there’s also an increased number of award-winning films, or at least very well-crafted ones, offering up meaty roles for older actors. Nebraska and Blade Runner 2049 immediately spring to mind, featuring Bruce Dern and Harrison Ford respectively. While Blade Runner 2049 is set for release near the end of the year, Dern’s performance in Nebraska earned him an Oscar nomination. Though it’s unlikely Ford will be offered the same honour, this big budget blockbuster still has the potential to reach the heights of the classic prequel.

At the end of the day, the movie making business is only concerned with entertainment and profitability. In many cases, only the latter is considered. It seems veteran actors are less fixated on the box office takings of their films because there’s no need for them to be concerned anymore. When you’ve had an impressive career spanning decades, nothing can erase your legacy, no matter how many horrendous pieces of shit you make (looking at you De Niro…). For these more experienced actors, making films is about working in an industry they’ve loved their entire life and not slowing down while they still have energy in their legs. Sometimes these films work out. Sometimes they don’t.

Image courtesy of Going In Style, Roadshow Films

Does winning an Oscar actually matter?

Winning an Oscar is great and all, but is it really all that it’s cracked up to be?

 Rhys Graeme-Drury 

The annual awards circus is upon us once again. Numerous red carpets are being rolled out to receive reams of bedazzled famous faces, all of whom are hoping to drive home with a gilded statuette resting on their laps.

We place a lot of value on those who have walked away a winner on Oscar night – just ask Leonardo DiCaprio. For years the Internet yearned for Leo to finally nab one – and then he did in 2016 so we all collectively rejoiced and laid the dank memes to rest.

Apparently, an actor or filmmaker can’t claim to have truly arrived until they score an Oscar statue of some kind. Right? Eh, not exactly.

Even though it’s all very exciting and generates a lot of gossip, the Oscars aren’t actually good for all that much (and this is coming from someone who gets invested every year and is genuinely still upset that Eddie Redmayne beat Michael Keaton back in 2015).

Across its history, the Academy Awards have made a habit of routinely shunning some of the best and brightest talents and minds of the era – which sort of defeats the purpose of rewarding those who produce the best films, surely?

Filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, Brian De Palma and Alfred Hitchcock have famously never won anything for their directorial efforts, with the latter losing out in the Best Director category on five separate occasions. Kubrick’s entire catalogue only took home a single Oscar win; 2001: A Space Odyssey won Best Visual Effects in 1969. For those of you playing along at home, that’s the same number of Oscars as Tim Burton’s 2010 remake of Alice in Wonderland and Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbour. So it’s not like the Academy is a great barometer of quality and lasting legacy, huh?

The same could be said for actors; Bill Murray has never won an Oscar, but do we view his filmography with any less reverence? The same can be said for umpteen actors and actresses from across the decades. For many people, Harrison Ford is the literal embodiment of sharp and sophisticated Hollywood stars. He is Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan in the flesh – we don’t need the Academy to tell us Ford is a living legend, he has crafted that legacy without their adulation.

The same goes for Gary Oldman, Edward Norton or Joaquin Phoenix; they’re back catalogues speak for themselves. Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Annette Benning and Sigourney Weaver have all been denied Hollywood’s highest honour – but that hasn’t hindered their standing as some of the most talented actresses to grace our screens.

Some may think that winning an Oscar is also guaranteed to usher in a string of professional riches for the lucky winners, but too often that isn’t the case. Hunger Games sensation Jennifer Lawrence has racked up a surprising number of nominations (four) and one win at the tender age of 26 but it wasn’t until recently with Passengers that she was given a bigger slice of the pie than her male co-stars, financially speaking.

You only have to glance at the list of the highest paid actors across the industry today to see that those raking in the most cash aren’t necessarily those who took home the most awards. Robert Downey Jnr routinely makes in excess of $50 million for each Avengers performance whilst Johnny Depp is still throwing on funny hats and making bank despite never winning an Oscar. Meanwhile I don’t see Disney or Marvel throwing $10 million at Mark Rylance or JK Simmons, the two most recent winners in the Best Supporting Actors category.

Essentially, what I’m trying to say is, it doesn’t matter whether La La Land scored four, fourteen or zero nominations; what matters is how it is making audiences feel. The same goes for Moonlight or Manchester by the Sea or any of the other films nominated this year.  After the cameras inside the Dolby Theatre have gone out on February 26 and all the very famous people have gone home, regardless of who won or not, these films will continue to captivate and enthral audiences long afterward.

Films like Sing Street, The Witch, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Midnight Special all characterised my cinema experiences in 2016 but didn’t get a look in at the Oscars. Should I feel any less moved by their characters or narratives because they can’t claim to have been ‘Oscar nominated?’ No, of course not. Films mean so much more than just handing out trophies and racking up stats; we can leave that sort of thing to sports thank you very much.

Rather than taking a snub personally, just brush it off with a shrug. So what Amy Adams didn’t get nominated for Arrival? That doesn’t change how moving and powerful her performance was. Who cares that Sing Street didn’t get any love for Best Original Song? It doesn’t mean I don’t still love that soundtrack to pieces.

Don’t get me wrong; awards season is a lot of fun. But it’s also a lot of meaningless and banal bullshit that ultimately shouldn’t change how we view art or place value on what something made us think or feel.

Enjoy the Oscars, lap up the glamour and laugh at all the gaffes – but don’t forget that there is a whole myriad of wonderful films out there whose enduring qualities don’t change regardless of who wins or loses on the night.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 

Movie Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is indeed the follow-up fans have been eagerly anticipating. It is just as goofy as George Lucas’ original; just as loud, just as ridiculous, and just as brilliant.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a triumph of science-fiction in this new age. In a decade where movies like Man Of Steel (2013) and San Andreas (2015) exploit character and computer graphics to erase hope from the world, The Force Awakens is a cheerful reminder that not every adventure has to witness buildings crumbling over uninteresting people.

Overall, The Force Awakens is a marvellous movie that returns respectfully to the pure space opera of George Lucas’ first three pictures. At their best, the Star Wars movies are simple, clearly defined adventures in which the forces of good desperately try to one-up the Dark Side. At their worst, they embroil themselves in petty, directionless trade negotiations and border disputes. Luckily, The Force Awakens has awoken within itself the wits to avoid banality.

In its broadest sense, it echoes very loudly the plot of Star Wars (1977), where a plucky band of rebels must gather their cunning to destroy a giant orbiting globe that contains enough destructive power to obliterate planets. Some have complained about this similarity. But think about it – when you’re an evil intergalactic organisation in the far reaches of space (this time called the First Order), what else is there to do to pass the time other than clear up some real estate?

We follow the plights of young Rey (Daisy Ridley), a bold scavenger meant for greater things; Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper down with a bout of identity crisis; and Poe (Oscar Isaac), the best resistance pilot in the galaxy. They represent the trinity of heroes, as did Luke (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Han (Harrison Ford) before them.

What surprised me more, though, was the introduction of perhaps the most compelling Star Wars villain since Darth Vader. Adorned with the unusual moniker, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), is the fallen Jedi; robed in black and concealed behind a mask of menace, he arrives at the movie already buried under pounds of personal crisis. He is petulant, impatient, but strong in the Force, and Driver is wonderful at capturing both his sordid cruelty as well as his inexperience. His surprising link to the senior cast of characters is a touch of genius, as is his misguided adulation of Vader. Never has a such a splendidly complex bad guy started a Star Wars story.

This is precisely what tips The Force Awakens over the edge into greatness. Its mammoth plot is secondary; its likeable characters come to the fore. They are immensely interesting individuals who share on-screen chemistry, and have set up personal stories that are more than capable of going the distance of a trilogy. We get the sense that director J.J. Abrams has established his movie in the same grand universe that made the earlier pictures so spellbinding. There is action here; comedy; the chance for romance; startling revelations; intriguing secrets; awesome battles; and deep, resounding emotional cues.

For years fans have been left disappointed by Lucas’ lesser efforts. The Force Awakens is a Star Wars movie for the fans, by fans. It unites the old and new so seamlessly as to inspire ecstasy. Indeed, my heart raced as I sat there, so taken by Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo that the very idea of having to wait another year or so to see where their stories have taken them has already worn down my patience. This is one of the year’s most gorgeously satisfying movies.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is available in Australian cinemas from December 17th

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Luminous Beings Are We: Star Wars Episodes III & IV

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Of the three comparatively appalling Star Wars prequel films, Revenge Of The Sith tells the most interesting, cohesive tragedy.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Revenge of the Sith sees the once promising Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) forego all sense of loyalty in order to pursue misguided righteousness. It is a move so blind he does not foresee its consequences, particularly those surrounding his beloved Padmé (Natalie Portman). The sequence in which both husband and wife are simultaneously suffering on parallel gurneys has a kind of ingenuity about it.

Yes, Revenge Of The Sith has many plot threads to carefully weave together, but Anakin’s irrevocable descent into madness and hatred weaves the largest, darkest tapestry. It is wonderful to see Emperor Palpatine exercise more than just his vocal cords, and the obliteration of the mighty Jedi is heartbreaking, yet the overdrawn, sometimes ridiculous swordfight between Anakin and his master Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) carries the most weight, as we watch with melancholic interest the demise of a strong, albeit stilted partnership.

What Revenge lacks, however, is the presence of a master, the Alec Guinness mentor figure to elevate it from a mindless blockbuster. As it stands, the whole film seems rather goofy, as if a child scribbled over the final print, and cheekily sent it off to be published. The droids this time round sound like cheap wind-up action figures. General Grievous borders on the absurd. The overall quality of acting, even from Portman, lacks a convincing depth. I’ve said before that George Lucas writes good science-fiction and bad romance. He also manages to bring the worst out of his actors. Nevertheless, Revenge does its job without looking back.


Episode IV: A New Hope 

It’s no secret! Episode IV: A New Hope is still the ultimate Star Wars film. Search your feelings; you know it to be true!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Kit Morris 

As a 90’s baby, it is impossible for me to comprehend a world without the film that spearheaded one of the most successful franchises in cinema history. Envisioned by the Dark Lord of the Sith (George Lucas) as a Flash Gordon-esque B-movie space opera serial for the masses, Star Warsimpact on popular culture was and is phenomenal. It’s packed with more iconic characters, lines and scenes than you can swing a lightsaber at.

The powerful imagination of an independent filmmaker eventually overcame major setbacks: monetary limitations, disastrous location shooting and actors (*cough-Alec Guiness-cough*) who wondered why on Aldaraan they were making a film in which a farmer meets a hermit, a homosexual robot and a dog-bear, then goes to rescue a princess from an artificial moon capable of destroying planets.

Mr. Guinness’s all-knowing Obi-Wan Kenobi has always been a personal highlight for me. As a well-established thespian, his portrayal of the world-weary Jedi added credence to a film that could have otherwise flopped like a dead Ewok.

That is not to underestimate just how great Star Wars as a film is – a melding of John Williams’ genius as a composer, ground-breaking special effects, the eclectic melting pot that seamlessly merged soap opera, fairy tale and sci-fi, and the then-fresh talents Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher owning their roles entirely. If all of these elements had not been in place, however, the movie could have crashed and burned like the charred corpses of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox & Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures 

Quick Picks – The Age of Adaline, The Room & The Gunman

Movie Review – The Age of Adaline

Less Benjamin Button and more Nicholas Sparks; The Age of Adaline fails to deliver on its high concept, but is successful enough as an oestrogen fuelled, wish fulfilment romance.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Corey Hogan

Michiel Huisman and Blake Lively in The Age of Adaline

The Age of Adaline’s premise is an intriguing one, ripe with potential; a young woman (Blake Lively) becomes immune to the power of age in the early 20th century, and continues to live with the appearance of a 29 year old to this day. It is a shame then, that such an interesting concept is wasted on a fairly daft love story. Minutes into the film, director Lee Toland Krieger (Celeste & Jesse Forever) asks a large suspension of disbelief from his audience, as narration explains the agelessness, a result of Adaline being struck by lightning in a car accident. Setting quite a ridiculous tone for the events to come, we fast forward to present day, where Adaline is seduced by rugged Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman, tip-toeing the line between hopeless romantic and borderline stalker) and finally considers settling down after decades of identity change in fear of becoming a science experiment.

Things improve a great deal once Harrison Ford enters as Ellis’ father, who recognises Adaline as a former lover from the 60’s. This twist comes far too late in the film though, and is gold not mined nearly as much as it needs to be; Ford winding up submerged as the focus shifts back to the dull romantic leads. Perhaps I am simply the wrong audience for such a film – surrounding me were women of all ages gasping and sighing, clearly immersed in this wish-fulfilment fantasy. Undeniably classy, this at least boasts some fine performances from Lively, Ford and Ellen Burstyn (as another daughter reaching old age before her parent after Interstellar), but is too vanilla to earn the status of romantic epic.

The Age of Adaline is in Australian cinemas as of Thursday April 16th
Images courtesy of EntertainmentOne

 


 

Movie Review – The Room

It’s difficult to believe a film can be so intrinsically terrible, on so many levels, that it can bury itself (one plastic spoon-full at a time) into the world’s collective consciousness. Alas, The Room exists.

½
Review by Stephanie McGann

Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero in The Room

For the past twelve years The Room has been consistently selling out screenings, captivating hoards of cult film buffs, and unsuspecting punters alike. Perhaps you have that one friend who keeps banging on about how you really need to see it; meanwhile, your frustrated eye-rolling grows more and more exaggerated. Well, I’m channeling that friend right now, because it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re into; you need to see this train wreck at least once. And bring along a barrage of plastic spoons. They’re necessary – trust me.

Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) is a successful banker who lives in San Francisco with his fiancé Lisa (Juliette Danielle). The two are quite happily together; as evidenced by their rampant and decidedly un-sexy love making, until, for no apparent reason, Lisa seduces Johnny’s best friend Mark (Greg Sestero). Incomplete subplots involving the main characters’ family and friends flail about aimlessly, and serve no other purpose than to throw the audience off the true crux of the movie; that a group of guys wearing tuxedos can toss a football about if they like.

You really are doing yourself a disservice if you see The Room anywhere other than the cinema. It is made bearable for the audience through a deep sense of camaraderie, as punters are encouraged to call out, jeer, and throw spoons at the screen. You don’t need to be a film aficionado to appreciate the extent to which cinematography, scriptwriting, plot consistency are treated as mere trivialities by Wiseau, who also wrote, directed, and produced the film. The Room is so obliviously bad, it’s good. And as such, I rate it with a triumphant half star.

The Room screened at Luna Cinemas this past weekend, and will most likely be featured again in a few month’s time
Images courtesy of Wiseau-Films

 


 

Movie Review – The Gunman

Three strikes and you’re out; Sean Penn spreads himself far too thin as producer, cowriter and leading man in this predictable action film.

Sean Penn in The Gunman

⭐ ⭐
Review by Cherie Wheeler

Eight years on from participating in a covert operation to assassinate the Minister for Mining in the Congo, mercenary turned humanitarian Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) finds himself at the top of a hit list that aims to eradicate every man who was involved in the mission.

Although Penn delivers a rock solid performance as the aging, ex-soldier who struggles with a form of early onset Alzheimers, his on-screen work pales into insignificance alongside the convoluted, and at times, utterly preposterous script. Its most glaring weakness lies in the construction of the character of Felix (Javier Bardem) whose unhealthy obsession with Terrier’s lover (Jasmine Trinca) sets the main conflict of the film in motion. Whilst Bardem strives to engage his inner psychopath for yet another villainous role, his efforts are completely wasted on this sham of a character whose actions and motivations are completely lacking in credibility.

As Terrier’s friend and mentor, the foul-mouthed Stanley, Ray Winstone nails it (as always), managing to turn even the most woefully written dialogue into gold, and Trinca is also satisfying as the feisty love interest. Thankfully, there are some well-shot, tightly choreographed action sequences that offer respite from the Hollywood clichés and paper thin plot.

In the end, if you imagine The Bourne Identity (2002), crossed with a less comedic version of Red (2010), you essentially have The Gunman; a film that treads over what is now well-worn territory, and will only please those loyal to the genre.

The Gunman is in Australian cinemas as of Thursday April 16th
Images courtesy of Studiocanal

Top 5 Ashley Judd Films

Ashley Judd has had a varied career and has never really reached the heights of critical acclaim, but she has certainly been involved in some fantastic films.

In celebration of Ashley Judd’s birthday on April 19, and the recent release of Divergent, in which she plays a supporting role, I have decided to compile a list of her top 5 films. Audiences will most likely know Ashley Judd for her recent television series Missing and probably remember her for romantic comedies and political thrillers in the 90s, but she got her start on Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1991. Ms Judd has had a varied career and has never really reached the heights of critical acclaim, but she has certainly been involved in some fantastic films. If you haven’t already seen these films, you have to check them out!

1. Heat.
1995. Written and Directed by Michael Mann.
Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Danny Trejo and Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd - Heat

Ashley Judd plays a powerful, supporting role as Charlene Shiherlis, the headstrong wife of professional criminal Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer). As you would expect from this all-star cast, this film is sensational. Thrilling to the end, this action/crime drama is one of my all-time favourite films. The performances are absolutely captivating and the writing is outstanding. This is one of Ashley Judd’s earliest films and it is a definite MUST SEE.

 

2. Crossing Over
2009. Written and Directed by Wayne Kramer
Starring: Harrison Ford, Cliff Curtis, Jim Sturgess, Ashley Judd and Ray Liotta

Ashley Judd - Crossing Over

A confronting and extremely eye-opening film, Crossing Over tells the story of several immigrants who are all striving toward a common goal; to achieve legal status in Los Angeles. Through a variety of perspectives and interconnected storylines the film reveals the shocking flaws in the US immigration system. Ashley Judd plays a lawyer who represents a teenage girl from Bangladesh after she is accused of being a terrorist. This film is filled with emotionally raw performances from both the major stars and the lesser-known talents. Harrison Ford is particularly impressive, as is New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis. South African director Wayne Kramer previously made a 50 minute version of this film in 1996, so this subject matter must be very close to his heart. You need to make sure you are in the right mood to watch this film as it is very intense and deals with highly sensitive issues, but it is a film that everyone needs to see.

 

3. A Time To Kill
1996. Directed by Joel Schumaker
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L Jackson, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, Keifer Sutherland and Ashley Judd.

Ashley Judd - A Time to Kill

Based on the novel by John Grisham, A Time To Kill follows Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L Jackson), an African American man seeking justice for the rape of his 10 year old daughter in Mississippi. The film focuses on Mr Hailey’s trial after he murders the two white men responsible for harming his daughter. A very young Matthew McConaughey defends Hailey in court and Ashley Judd plays McConaughey’s wife.

Sometimes an impressive ensemble cast such as this can backfire against expectations and produce a disappointing result. That is most certainly not the case with this film. Yes, the film is extremely dated; the score in particular is very 90s. The script is also a little staggered at times (we have Akiva Goldsman to thank for that. The man who adapted Winter’s Tale), but looking past that, this is an excellent film. Every single performance is outstanding and the film takes you on an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. It is truly the modern day To Kill A Mockingbird.

 

4. Double Jeopardy
1999. Directed by Bruce Beresford
Starring: Ashley Judd, Tommy Lee Jones and Bruce Greenwood

Ashley Judd - Double Jeopardy

This crime thriller is based around the legal concept of “double jeopardy” which states that no one can serve time for the same crime more than once. So when Libby (Ashley Judd) is framed for the murder of her husband (Bruce Greenwood) and spends several years in prison only to discover that her man is actually alive and well, there is nothing that can stop her from hunting him down and killing him. Well, except for maybe her parole officer (Tommy Lee Jones). You may think this is tired subject matter; a woman on a quest for revenge, but I assure you, this film is riveting. The dynamic between Judd and Jones is fantastic to watch, as is the fierce determination shown by Ashley Judd as Libby.

 

5. Frida
2002. Directed by Julie Taymor
Starring: Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Ashley Judd, Antonio Banderas, Edward Norton and Geoffrey Rush

Ashley Judd - Frida

Nominated for 6 Academy Awards, this is the heart-breaking true story of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek), her lover Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) and their experiences with revolutionaries, infidelity and Frida’s crippling injuries. Ashley Judd, Antonio Banderas, Edward Norton and Geoffrey Rush all play relatively small roles in the film, but Ashley Judd must be commended on her impeccable Spanish accent. The music and the production design in this film is stunning, but at times it is difficult to watch Salma Hayek as she sports a thick, ugly mono brow. Unfortunately this was the signature look for the real artist. Despite her unattractive look, Salma Hayek is very convincing in this film.

Another biopic featuring Ashley Judd is De-Lovely in which she stars opposite Kevin Kline. The film takes a unique approach to expressing the lives of Cole and Linda Porter, although I’m not sure that I personally liked this style. It is sort of similar to the latest version of Anna Karenina where it blurs the lines between film and theatre, but oddly enough I really liked this technique in Anna Karenina. Overall the film is a lovely tribute to the lives of the Porter’s and their music.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros, Miramax, Paramount Pictures & The Weinstein Company