Category Archives: adventure

TRUE GRIT (2010)

You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free, except the grace of God.

I am not a huge fan of Westerns, but I am a fan of the Coen Brothers. O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Intolerable Cruelty are amongst my all-time favourite films. Hmm… now when I think of it – both of them have George Clooney in them. Coincidence, I ask? I do like other Coen Brothers’ movies as well and that’s why I wanted to see True Grit – and because it was nominated for 10 Oscars. I started to watch the film with low expectations, but within minutes it won me over. It is a well-done movie, where everything works; there is no weak link.

                                 I always go backwards when I back up.

True Grit is a story of a tough 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), who sets to avenge her father’s murder. Mattie’s father was unfairly shot and robbed by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Mattie hires the toughest U.S. marshal she can find – Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) – the man with true grit, questionable character and a strong liking for booze. Against his wishes Mattie joins him and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) in tracking Chaney into hostile Indian Territory, where they encounter more questionable characters and finally Tom Chaney himself. Along the way a strong bond develops between Rooster Cogburn and Mattie.

Them men wanted a decent burial; they should have got themselves killed in summer.

The story itself is interesting. It is based on a book by Charles Portis, who is considered to be the greatest writer you have never heard of. The book paints a picture of moments of mundane reality. The Coen’s movie is closer to the original book than the 1969 John Wayne movie was. I love how the screenplay is told from a young girl’s perspective. There is no dull moment in this movie as the screenplay moves along with steady pace.

That didn’t pan out.

The cinematography by Roger Deakins is astounding. He uses the nature is such spectacular way that it provides the perfect emotional backdrop for the actors. The eeriest scene of the movie must be “the hanging man” scene, which was filmed in the middle of dead wintry cottonwoods. All the acting is stellar. Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld and Matt Damon all give fantastic performances.

  Johnny Cash – God’s Gonna Cut You Down

Once again the Coen Brothers have created a movie well worth of watching!

Time just gets away from us.

No. 12 THE SEARCHERS (1956)

Texican is nothing but a human man way out on a limb.

It is time to get back to the mission and who better to lead the way than the ultimate man’s man – John Wayne – in a movie that has been quoted as one of the most influential movies ever made. The Searchers is number twelve on the AFI’s list of the 100 best movies and it sure has earned its place there.

                                                         Lone Star

It tells the story of Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), who returns home from the Civil War to his brother’s ranch in Texas. There he hopes to find peace close to the woman – his brother’s wife – whom he is in love with. But peace is not in the cards for poor Ethan. While he is out riding with his 1/8 Native American nephew Martin, a Comanche raid kills most of his brother’s family. Only little Debbie “survives” and is kidnapped by the evil Chief Scar. From here begins a five-year mission for Ethan and Martin to find Debbie and bring her back or as Ethan puts it – most likely to kill her, if she has been “brainwashed” by the Indians.

                                                             Do you know what Ethan will do if he has a chance? He’ll put a bullet in her brain.

Some of the dialogue and subject matter makes you gasp for the same reasons as Mad Men. One of the movie’s best lines comes from Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter) when he and Uncle Ethan find Martin’s accidental Indian wife killed by the US soldiers: “What did them soldiers have to go and kill her for. She never done nobody any harm”. I suppose that was the time when you shot first and then asked questions. At the time most of the moviegoers missed that it’s hinted throughout the movie that Uncle Ethan might have had an affair with his brother’s wife. And who knew who really was Debbie’s (Natalie Wood) father.

 No words needed

An additional explanation for Ethan’s fury towards the Comanche is explained in the scene where he finds Debbie’s doll next to his own mother’s tombstone. On the tombstone it reads that Ethan’s own mother was killed by the Comanche.

The Searchers is an impressive Western. It was filmed in Monument Valley, Utah. As that time there were no roads there, the film crew built roads. They also built a whole town for the 250 odd crew and cast. As the closest town was 175 miles away, everything had to be brought in – water, electricity etc. What a hassle that must have been even before they got into filming, but the director, John Ford, was adamant to film at the home of the Navajo.

                                                      That’ll be the day

This movie is a cinematic portrayal of the hard life of the settlers. The screenplay is moving and the story is told with drops of humour mixed in with the dramatic story line. Acting is good all around. John Wayne is perfect as Uncle Ethan who is tortured by his own experiences, but who at the end reconnects with his humanity. The Monument Valley offers a spellbinding backdrop. I can see myself riding there in the Olden Days. Even though I don’t think my life would have been long at all – if it had not been childbirth that would have killed me, it would have probably been a suicide. Just look at the gravestones at an old graveyard in Tombstone, AZ – most of the women there were killed by either one of those.

The Searchers is a movie that does make you think about the fairness and unfairness of the treatment of Native Americans. It is well worth of watching. Even though Rio Bravo still remains as my favourite Western of all time.


Some day this country is gonna be a swell place to live in ~ Well said, my man!

No. 99 TOY STORY (1995)

That wasn’t flying – THAT was falling with style!

After a depressing and busy week at work (lack of posts this week explained) I thought why not to watch a feel-good movie. Toy Story (the original one) was produced by Pixar and distributed by Disney. Those Disney movies are all about feeling good at the end after you have learned a valuable lesson. The lesson in Toy Story is the value of friendship and working together. Woody and Buzz don’t get along in the beginning, but thru an unfortunate situation they learn to respect and even like each other.

                                                      You’ve got bingo arms

Toy Story was the first fully computer-animated full-length feature film. Wow, the speed that technology develops blows my mind. We did not even have computers when I was a child– wait; wait – I mean iPods…

I saw Toy Story back when it first hit the theatres, so now watching it all these years later it felt like a reunion with good old friends. I found myself cheering for Woody and Buzz to break free from that little monster Syd. And getting sad when Buzz realizes that he is a toy.

                                                             To Infinity and Beyond! No story about Toy Story would be complete without this…

Toy Story is about Andy’s favorite toy called Woody (voice of Tom Hanks), who like all the other toys comes alive when humans are not around. Woody has it good – he rules the roost as he has been Andy’s favorite toy for many years. But things change drastically when every toy’s worst nightmare happens – Andy gets a new and more exciting toy as a birthday present – Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen). Buzz is a shiny action figure who has all kinds of gadgets that none of the other toys have. He does not realize that he is a toy. He thinks his spaceship crashed and he is here to save the planet.

Breathing – optional

He shortly becomes Andy’s new favorite toy and all the other toys begin to look up to him. Woody is consumed with jealousy and tries to get rid of Buzz. Instead of succeeding in that both of them wind up lost. They now must work together to get back to Andy.

That ain’t no happy child

John Lasseter who directed Toy Story based Woody and Buzz on his own childhood toys. He went on to direct several other groundbreaking animated films such as A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2 and Cars. He also received a Special Achievement Oscar in 1995 for his inspired leadership of the Toy Story team.

Billy Crystal was originally offered the voiceover role of Buzz Lightyear, but he declined. Boy, did he come to regret that! Tim Allen as Buzz’ voice is perfectly arrogant. Tom Hanks as Woody is excellent. John Lasseter chose him because he thought that Hanks has the ability to take emotions and make them appealing. Woody did not start as a likeable character. The early draft was much darker and Woody looked like a jerk. This was because Disney kept on wanting edgier screenplay. Everybody thought it was really bad (yes, it is bad – it’s one of the bonus features on the Blu-ray released last year) and Pixar went on to make the movie they had set to make in the first place. The current Toy Story was born and it is the first animated film in history to be nominated for a Best Screenplay Academy Award – Adapted or Original.

I love the scene in the beginning of the movie when the toy soldier army is doing a recon mission to Andy’s birthday party. The animation team perfected the movement of the toy soldiers by gluing some sneakers to a sheet of wood and trying to walk around with them on. Also an interesting fact about the animation – whenever a character’s eyes blink, they never blink together, but one at a time.

I thoroughly enjoyed Toy Story way back in 1995 and also yesterday in 2011!

A good soldier never leaves a man behind

No. 66 RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)

We are simply passing thru history, but this – this is history

Who is the Greatest Adventurer of Them All? Who handles a bullwhip with confidence, wears a leather jacket and is recognizable all over the world by only his silhouette? No, it’s not E.T. – it’s Indiana (Indy) Jones. Steven Spielberg’s and George Lucas’ professor of archeology and obtainer of rare antiquities still lives on strong 30 years after the first movie. Funny that Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was meant to be a low-cost B-movie, went on to win four Oscars. It is still studied at film schools and has gone to influence such films as Romancing the Stone (1984), Jewel of the Nile (1985), The Mummy (1999) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001).

Some things are better left unopened

Steven Spielberg wanted to make a globetrotting adventure and action movie, which would have a James Bond like main character. A movie, which would give homage to the Saturday matinee movies he grew up watching. George Lucas wanted to make a movie, which he would like to watch himself. During the making of Star Wars Lucas had an idea of one globetrotting Indiana Smith. When these two masterminds came together, film history was made and Indiana Jones was born.

                                                          Fair Trade in Action

Tom Selleck was cast as Indiana Jones, but he pulled out to make a little known TV-series called Magnum P.I. Harrison Ford from the Star War movies was cast instead and to this day – even though he has done zillion other movies – Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones.

                                                                                         Whip it!

Fundamental part of this movie is its musical score by John Williams. The music is recognizable even today. You only have to hear a couple of beats and in your mind you can see Indiana Jones riding to catch the truck that’s carrying the ark or running away from a gigantic rolling rock.

Each scene in this movie is good. Unforgettable scenes include the opening sequence with a golden statue, and the underground Egyptian temple filled with snakes. Both are my favorites. You just cannot choose only one. The scene that stands out the most for Steven Spielberg is the “basket chase”. George Lucas on the other hand prefers the “truck chase” scene.

                                                     Giving new meaning to travelling in economy

At the time the special effects were groundbreaking, especially “the melting face”. Chris Wales, the special make up effects artist, says that still today he gets calls asking him how he did it as it had never been done before. With computer technology nowadays, you could make that special effect even more magnificent, even though the basic process would still be the same.

                                                         They thought they got stuck in an elevator with Charlie Sheen

It has been said that this movie has the best screenplay ever written. You cannot find any fault in it. Even though some lines might sound quite corny, they are delivered in such way that they are believable. Remember – this is a Saturday matinée B-movie! It is supposed to be fun and over-the-top.

Steven Spielberg’s direction is genius. The use of silhouettes and shadows is mind-blowing. It gives the movie depth. The tension build up in the “bad dates” scene is perfection. The fast-moving action sequences are chained together continuously. What else would you want from an entertaining movie?

                                                   They’re digging in the wrong place!

So; needless to say – I am a fan of the whole Indiana Jones series. I love them all – even the latest one with Shia LaBeouf as the “future Indy”, but my favorite will always be The Temple of Doom.

It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage

No. 83 TITANIC (1997)

When you got nothing – you got nothing to lose

After taking a week off from watching the movies on the AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies list I am back in action with Titanic, the $ 200 million James Cameron pre-Avatar movie which was expected to sink like the unsinkable ship of dreams. But instead it has been quoted as the most popular motion picture of all time. I have seen it a couple of times, so now when I began watching it again I was feeling quite blasé about it. It’s a movie I like, but not a movie I love. Then something happened when the images of the ship in all its glory started flowing onto the screen – I got once again sucked into the story.

You remember what I told you about the boats

Titanic is like two movies is one. One is about the unthinkable tragedy which saw more than 1,500 of the ships 2,200 passengers die, because the ship was thought to be indestructible. As said by James Cameron “The lesson of Titanic is, just don’t go so fast when you’re dealing with that much of power and energy. Give yourself time to turn, because that’s all they did wrong”.

The other movie is an epic love story between a girl who has everything except her freedom and a boy who has nothing except his freedom. The love story unfolds smoothly even though at times it’s overpowered by the story of Titanic sinking, which is probably why the screenplay was one of the few categories in which the movie was not nominated for an Oscar. Funnily when you really think about the screenplay, it is nothing new. Love story between two people who are separated by social class – has not that same story been told millions of times? But what makes this movie special is that everything works. The chemistry between the characters has been fine-tuned to perfection. Kate Winslet as Rose and Leonardo Di Caprio as Jack are perfect casting. I have to say that for me Victor Garber as the ship’s builder Thomas Andrews steals the show. He pretty much summons it up with lines like “She [Titanic] is made of iron, Sir – I assure you she can [sink] and she will”.

                                                         Flying without wings

James Cameron is like an all-in-one moviemaking machine – he wrote and directed the movie. He even drew all the sketches used in the movie as Jack’s drawings, including the most famous one of naked Rose wearing the Heart of the Ocean. Damn, if he could act he would have probably acted in it as well. But if you remember his acceptance speech at the Oscars in 1998, where Titanic scooped 11 golden statues, you can be sure it is a good idea for him not to act. “I am the King of the World” just did not have the same punch as said by Leonardo Di Caprio in the movie.

                                                                 I am the King of the World

But he sure made one cinematic masterpiece and proved all the doubtful people wrong. The recreation of the sinking of the Titanic is stunning. It makes chilling watching each time. I also found fascinating that footage of the actual Titanic is used in the film. Even though much of the underwater footage was filmed on set with miniature models and special effects. Inarguably the most visually stunning special effect scenes of the movie are the ones when the ship breaks up just before it plunges to the bottom of Atlantic. In the words of the unsinkable Molly Brown: “Now there is something you don’t see everyday”.

The level of detailing throughout the movie is also amazing. The sets representing the interior rooms of Titanic were reproduced exactly as originally built, using photographs and plans from the original builders who are still in business. Titanic must have really been something else. I wish I had been there – except for the sinking part; obviously.

I found the last scene of the movie the most touching – together at last on Titanic. A fitting ending to an epic story, which I am sure, will live on as one of the Greatest Movies ever made – also in my mind.

All life is a game of luck

No. 55 NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)

I never discuss love on an empty stomach

Neither should you – I think – as only bad things happen then. Half of your brain is thinking of food and not running on full power. You don’t necessarily make the most rational decisions then – at least I don’t. But that aside – the original line in the North by Northwest script was actually “I never make love on an empty stomach”, but that had to be edited as it was ahead of its time. Nowadays nobody would even bat an eyelid at that! How times have changed!

North by Northwest was filmed in 1959 – at a very different era. The cold war was a reality. Moviemaking was different back then – there were no computer made special effects. Somehow the movies filmed back then now look more glamorous even though we have much more sophisticated techniques now. The men looked like real men and the women looked like elegant temptresses. This movie is a bit slow-paced as one has gotten so used to the spectacular special effects and fast-paced action movies where things seem to happen at 100 miles per hour; but it still holds your attention all the way thru. And to be frank I actually enjoyed the slower pace as you have time to concentrate on the characters’ expressions and almost see the wheels turning when they think what to do next. It is actually quite relaxing. The movie is fantastically shot by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock whose attention to detail is amazing. Every scene has hidden meanings. I am sure I missed crucial elements that make this movie one of the Greatest Movies. Like the last scene in the movie when the train that is carrying Cary Grant’s and Eva Marie Saint’s characters shoots into a tunnel. Just before that you see them kissing on a bed. And no, I did not make the connection – I wish I would be that smart. Instead, I watched the Behind-the-Scenes documentary on the DVD!

North by Northwest is like Mad Men meets CIA. Cary Grant’s character Roger Thornhill looks like a tanned, suave ad man / gentleman spy; who likes to suit up. If this is ever remade – please, don’t – I could see George Clooney running towards the cornfield and smooth talking to a dangerous blonde on a train [I am sure now it would be some kind of a bullet-train]. In the movie CG’s character is mistaken for a government agent [who later in the film we learn does not really exist], while taking a business meeting in “Mad Men style” with some tasty looking Martinis. From this misunderstanding starts the chase thru the country by trains, planes and automobiles – from New York to Mount Rushmore. It seems that Roger Thornhill is being chased by everybody. Not to forget about the blond oh-so-dangerous-vixen, who does some different kind of chasing! And Roger Thornhill is ready for wife number 3. But not before some spellbinding twists and turns that are Alfred Hitchcock’s trademarks.

This film also features probably the most famous chase scene ever – Cary Grant’s character is being chased by a crop-duster plane in the middle of nowhere where there is nowhere to hide. Run, Boy, Run!

Would you buy a holiday from Alfred Hitchcock?

This is truly a movie where all the little things matter. Like the matchbook, that Cary Grant’s character tosses downstairs from the balcony towards the end of the movie. And how it ends up at the feet of one of the bad guys, who actually lifts it up without looking at it and not realizing that it has R.O.T (Roger O – O stands for nothing – Thornhill) on it. The whole time I found myself holding my breath – and grinning at the initials…

I also love that Cary Grant’s character is so self-conscious that in the first scene of the film he asks his secretary to put a note on his desk in the morning, which says “Think Thin!” How times have not changed that much!

This movie is worth watching as long as you pay attention to every little detail; that is where the cleverness of this movie lies. Not my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie, but enjoyable watching.

War is hell – even if it is a cold one.