ABC Film Challenge – Biopic – D – Wyatt Earp (1994)

This is fitting in with the D for ABC Film Challenge because of the involvement of Doc Holliday.

 

Director: Lawrence Kasdan

Writer: Dan Gordon, Lawrence Kasdan (Screenplay)

Starring: Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman, David Andrews, Linden Ashby, Jeff Fahey, Joanne Going, Mark Harmon, Bill Pullman, Tom Sizemore

 

Plot: The story of Wyatt Earp as he interacts and battles other famous figures of the Wild West era.


Tagline – The epic story of love and adventure in a lawless land.

Runtime: 3 Hours 11 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Epic Biopic

 

Story: Wyatt Earp starts as we meet young Wyatt who has been growing up in the shadow of his father Nicolas Earp (Hackman), he has been to war and doesn’t want his children to follow in his footsteps. Wyatt grows up to becomes a well-respected young man who wants to become a constable while finishing his education.

When his life is shattered after his wife dies of illness, Wyatt falls into the drink nearly losing his life in the process, saved, reformed, Wyatt becomes one of the most feared lawman in the land cleaning up the city of Dodge before meeting Doc Holliday (Quaid) as they look to take over the town of Tombstone.

 

Thoughts on Wyatt Earp

 

Characters – Wyatt Earp is one of the most iconic names in western history, we get to see how he went from lawman educating himself, to drunken mess, to skinner, feared lawman that most outlaws were scared off. His thinking was before the time of the wild west which showed with how he handled bringing down confrontation at the quickest possible chance. Doc Holliday is another lawman, he is dying which has made him disliked within his field with only Wyatt working with him. Nicolas Earp is the father of Wyatt who has shown him how to live his own life, he puts Wyatt back on his right path when he needs him most. We get to meet plenty of characters along the way here, be it the brothers of Wyatt, the men he takes under his wing, the wives and the outlaws causing the problems in the towns.

PerformancesKevin Costner is brilliant in the leading role, he had the epic long films down in the 90s, this shows just how he could pull of these films with ease. Dennis Quaid is great to watch to bring us a character that is larger than life. Gene Hackman might only have a small role, but he makes a big impact. We do have a wonderful cast that is filled with big name actors, everyone is great too.

StoryThe story here follows the life of Wyatt Earp as he rose up to become one of the most feared lawman in western history. We get 3 hours to learn the ups and downs he faced in life, from trying to become an educated man, to grieving man, to fearsome strict lawman. We see how he made friends and enemies along the way, how his methods were before the time with the no guns allowed in the towns and how he would shoot first. This is a story on epic level because of the scale of the years being followed and even at the 3-hour runtime, it doesn’t seem to get bogged down in anyway.

Adventure/Biopic/WesternThe adventure side of the film shows us just how Wyatt would travel to make a change in the towns he stepped into. We do follow Wyatt from childhood, to his time in Tombstone which will see him do things other lawmen couldn’t get done. For westerns this is easily one of the best you will see in the modern era, making you feel like you are part of the towns involved in the film.

SettingsThe film is set out in the wild west, with Dodge and Tombstone being the two main settings, they do show use the increased scale between the two and how they can become overrun by outlaws.


Scene of the Movie –
Tombstone shoot out.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It does have too many characters at times it is hard to remember who is who.

Final ThoughtsThis is an epic scaled western with great performances throughout, it does tell the life and times of one of the most famous lawmen and keeps the enormous length feeling like it is flying by.

 

Overall: Epically long western.

Rating

 

 

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Uncommon Valor (1983)

Director: Ted Kotcheff

Writer: Joe Gayton (Screenplay)

Starring: Gene Hackman, Robert Stack, Fred Ward, Reb Brown, Patrick Swayze, Harold Sylvester

 

Plot: Ten years after his son went M.I.A. in Vietnam, U.S. Marine retired Colonel Jason Rhodes assembles a private rescue team to find Americans held in P.O.W. camps in Laos.


Tagline – Seven men with one thing in common.

Runtime: 1 Hour 45 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Good War Movie

 

Story: Uncommon Valor starts when Col Jason Rhodes (Hackman) recruits for Vietnam soldiers Wilkes (Ward), Blaster (Brown), Sailor (Cobb), Johnson (Sylvester), Charts (Thomerson) and son of a mission in action soldier Kevin Scott (Swayze) to go on a mission in Laos, to free the soldiers in a prisoner of war camp believed to be controlled by the former Vietnamese soldiers.

First he must get them back into shape, before taking them on this mission which could break the bonds that are being rebuilt between the countries and go against the men’s wishes. This is a life or death mission that could be for the right reasons, but deadly for those involve.

 

Thoughts on Uncommon Valor

 

Characters – Col Jason Rhodes had to eave his son in Vietnam while escaping the enemy, never giving up hope of finding his son alive, her learns of a prisoner of war camp and puts together a team to rescue those prisoners and return them to his family, what is a broken man inside but a determined one on the outside we have a leader that will put this team together. Wilkes is the member of the team, still suffering from the nightmares of what happened to him, maybe the deadliest member of the unit, he will be the one to watch out for through the film, the rest of the unit have their strengths and weaknesses which helps bring them together to be the full unit.

PerformancesGene Hackman was always a brilliant choice in a leading role, this is no different because he can control the people well, while also being able to show of his strengths as an actor. Fred Ward shows us a great performance in his supporting role, while Patrick Swayze comes well in this film, he is the rookie character and working in this role we see his strengths too.

StoryThe story came out when people were still feeling the effects from the Vietnam war, American families were not complete and loved ones were still unaccounted for, this story shows us just how far soldiers would go for a loved one with the unit they were close to during the war. While the story is good it does play into what you will expect with an American group of soldiers being better than anyone else, which entertains throughout.

Action/WarThe action is mostly saved for the finally, which does feel safe with everything and is filled with war themed battle going on.

SettingsThe film keeps us in a couple of locations, first the training camp to prepare for the battle, then the mission to the location before the final battle, this works for the film, we don’t need to see more or less from the settings.


Scene of the Movie –
Final battle.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It is more of America to the rescue.

Final ThoughtsThis is a good war film that plays everything safe and makes us believe that the war wasn’t over on the first date believed, it was the prisoners of war that still needed rescuing from the impending fates.

 

Overall: War fans will enjoy this one.

Rating

 

 

Mississippi Burning (1988)

Director: Alan Parker

Writer: Chris Gerolmo (Screenplay)

Starring: Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R Lee Ermey, Gailard Sartain, Michael Rooker

 

Plot: Two FBI agents with wildly different styles arrive in Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of some civil rights activists.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Difficult to Watch but Brilliant Thriller

 

Story: Mississippi Burning starts by taking us to 1964 Mississippi where we see a group of civil rights activates executed on the road. Agent Rupert Anderson (Hackman) and Agent Alan Ward (Dafoe) get assigned to the case where they must work with local Sheriff Ray Stuckey (Sartain).

In the middle of the racial tension the colour divide is still strong here with the Ku Klux Klan ruling the neighbourhood, Agent Ward is open to anyone for information, race isn’t an issue for him, Agent Anderson is similar but also knows how to handle the tension by being more discreet. When the agents find themselves targeted the inexperience Ward calls for more agents starting a full task force in the town as they search for the missing civil rights activists.

The case becomes difficult to investigate for the agents as they find themselves being shunned by both races but also needing to investigate the law in the town as they look for the answers to this case.

 

Thoughts on Mississippi Burning

 

Characters/PerformanceAgent Rupert Anderson is an experienced FBI agent that knows how to deal with racial tension in towns and knows how to get people to talk. He gets frustrated having to work under Ward as he feels like he knows how to work this case better. Agent Alan Ward comes into this case with no experience in the field, he is used to everyone being treated equal and takes time to learn that his by the book methods aren’t going to get the answers required. He does learn from Anderson as the case continues and the two make a brilliant team. Mrs Pell is one of the most important witnesses in the case but it is whether she can be honest about her husband’s Deputy Pell’s where about. Nearly all of the white authority characters are suspects in this film, we literally just don’t know who is the leader but they are all single minded in their cause.

Performance wise, Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe are fantastic together in this film, you can see in their performances the difference in characters but not in motives. Frances McDormand is also great through the supporting role and the cast is filled with stars that show their skills.

StoryThe story is based on a real event that happened, so you would have to be sensitive when considering this story too much. The truth is shown to us what the biggest problem in American modern history, the failure of certain states to give up the racial divide. The story is driven by the racial tension which keeps the story on edge from start to finish which makes the story fly by.

Crime/History/MysteryThe crime side of this film is full of all the tension need as we know early on just what has happened but we are left to wonder just how long until the mystery if fully solved. It also shows us the history of these cases that show us just how backwards people’s mindsets were.

SettingsThe film is set in Mississippi which gives us a look at the locations the crimes would have taken place.

Final ThoughtsThis is difficult to watch in places but is also one of the tensest thrillers you will see.

 

Overall: This is a must watch for all thriller fans.

Rating

 

 

The Conversation (1974)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Writer: Francis Ford Coppola (Screenplay)

Starring: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Frederic Forrest, Cindy Williams, Michael Higgins, Elizabeth MacRae, Harrison Ford

 

Plot: A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will be murdered.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Strong Thriller

 

Story: The Conversation starts as surveillance expert Harry Caul (Hackman) and his team record their latest work surround a married couple, upon looking to receive his payment we learn about his paranoid mind set, living in secretive life with no phones, wanting his own lock for his apartment and his own secure mail box.

Once he collects his payment, Harry starts looking into the recordings, asking just what is so important about the conversation he has recorded. When his former employee Stan (Cazale) leaves him, Harry starts to believe he is being followed and it is his involvement in the last case causing this feeling, is he being followed or just losing his mind.

 

Thoughts on The Conversation

 

Characters/PerformanceHarry is an isolated man who works on the bugging world before it was a major factor, he is considered one of the best in the business but does have a paranoid side. He starts to question everything he has been doing putting his career on the line. The rest of the characters are people that work with, respect or are the people are being recorded, they all help with the outcome of the film.

Performance wise, Gene Hackman is brilliant in this leading role playing each part of the character exactly how you would expect him to be. We do have good performance from the supporting cast and always look out for young Harrison Ford.

StoryThe story has in places dated because technology has moved onto the next level and the idea of the surveillance idea has become a major problem in the world. We do get a mystery thriller that leads our leading man Harry into a moral dilemma into what is the right or wrong thing to do, this is the highlight of the film.

Mystery/ThrillerWe are left trying to piece together the mystery in this film about what is the importance of this conversation recorded and once Harry questions it all we are left wanting to know how it will unfold.

SettingsMost of the settings show us just how difficult it would be to trust your environment from becoming bugged and the consequences of being caught where you would know what it is like to be the victim.

Final ThoughtsThis is a thriller that has a brilliant pay off and twist even if it is slightly slow getting to that moment.

 

Overall: Good thriller that stands the suspense of time.

Rating

 

 

Superman (1978)

supermanDirector: Richard Donner

Writer: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton (Screenplay) Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster (Creator)

Starring: Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, New Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Margot Kidder

 

Plot: An alien orphan is sent from his dying planet to Earth, where he grows up to become his adoptive home’s first and greatest superhero.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Best Early Comic Book Film

 

Story: Superman starts when Jor-El (Brando) fears for this species future on Krypton goes against the wishes of the race and sends his baby son to Earth with preparation to understand the reasons in time. Just in time is appears as Krypton is destroyed.

Arriving on Earth the baby, named Clark is adopted by the Kent family who teach him how to hide his talents from the world, but a growing boy only wants to use his skills to impress. When his Earth father dies, Clark goes on his on quest to find himself only to learn the truth about his past.

Now a man Clark (Reeve) works as a journalist for Perry White (Cooper) where he meets Lois Lane (Kidder). With Clark finding his steps in his daily grind we also meet Lex Luthor (Hackman) living below the city planning his crime of the century and the police are not succeeding in stopping him.

By night Clark Kent becomes Superman keeping the city safe from criminals and accidents becomes a hero for the people. When Lex’s gets a strange a strong dislike towards Superman he targets him searching for the one weakness that will kill him so he can complete his master plan.

 

Thoughts on Superman

 

Characters/PerformanceClark Kent is the social awkward journalist but as soon as he becomes Superman he is strong, confident savoir of the American people. Lex Luthor is always considered one of the best villains in superhero films and having a smart human villain against a powered up hero always makes for interesting reading. Lois doesn’t get the full screen time you would like from her character, the support character add comedy to the film but otherwise not too important to the main story.

Performance wise the Reeve’s was really the best Superman we have had to date with Hackman enjoying the villainous role slightly too much. The rest of the performances are all good for the film we are seeing.stars

StoryWe have seen plenty of origin stories in the superhero genre and even though this one is very long, we don’t meet the actual Superman until about an hour into the film, it pulls you in to understand the conflict Clark must face to become the hero the word needs, he starts with the need to help only for his innocent good nature to become his biggest weakness against Lex Luthor. I do feel like this shows how to do an origin story and it should be looked at by all the directors out there who try too hard to make us want to cheer for their new heroes.

Action/Adventure/Sci-FiThe action is all fine through the film without being over the top with the biggest piece of action being through the final moments which is good, the adventure shows off the way Superman starts to learn about his destiny.

SettingsEach setting is good without being overused for any moment in the film, we get the traditional big city attempted destruction because we would all care slightly more if we knew what was getting destroyed.

Special EffectsIf you look at the special effects now they look bad but for what they were back then they would have been brilliant.genre

Final ThoughtsWhen you look at how many origin stories we get now, we rarely get to see any that meet this level.

 

Overall: Long but truly one of the best superhero films out there.

Ratingrating