The Hitcher (1986)

Starring Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jeffrey DeMunn, John M. Jackson, Billy Green Bush, Jack Thibeau, Armin Shimerman, Gene Davis

Directed by Robert Harmon

Expectations: High.


Calling The Hitcher a horror film is a stretch, but as it mostly trades in tension and suspense, and it features an ample amount of gore FX, I think it’s horrific enough to qualify. And let’s not forget all the wonderful explosions and car crashes, of which there are many. Yeah, The Hitcher is just as dope as everyone has led me to believe. Some stupid story elements hold it back from being pure gold, but these moments were never enough to quiet my love for the film. It’s a tense ride, and my predominant reaction to the film was, “Oh shit!” Seriously, every time I thought the main character was getting the upper hand there would come a glorious “Oh shit!” moment, and then Rutger Hauer would assert himself as the true badass of the film.

C. Thomas Howell is driving down a desert road late at night and is finding it hard to stay awake. Thinking it will help him remain conscious, he picks up a hitchhiker (Rutger Hauer) who quickly goes from nice to sadistic asshole. When Howell finds an opportunity to ditch Hauer, he takes it, and it starts a movie-long feud between the two that lasts until the bitter end. Hitchhiking fell out of favor a while ago, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this film had something to do with that, much like Jaws deterred people from the ocean waters.

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Batman Begins (2005)

Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Rade Serbedzija, Rutger Hauer, Tom Wilkinson, Ken Watanabe, Mark Boone Junior, Morgan Freeman, Larry Holden

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Expectations: High. This is the third time around with this one.


When I first saw Batman Begins in 2005, I thought it was pretty good. I was impressed by it for sure, and I thought that Christopher Nolan was definitely the right man for the job. I had become a fan of his with Memento, so I was excited to see him ascend to the big leagues of cinema. I re-watched Batman Begins in 2008, right before seeing The Dark Knight in the theater, and found it to be better than I remembered. Re-watching it now, a couple of weeks after the release of the third and final Nolan Batman film, I am absolutely floored by how great it is. Batman Begins is a brilliant piece of work, expertly taking the Batman franchise and elevating it far beyond anything that Burton or Schumacher could have ever dreamed of doing. Nolan did the impossible: he made a Batman film that walks the line between realism and comic book thrills, without ever crossing the line into the schmaltz that categorized every film in the 1989-1997 series.

Batman Begins is exactly what the title suggests, an origin film for Batman. Instead of wasting half the runtime on setting up a villain that will only be vanquished by the end of the film, Batman Begins focuses on what makes Bruce Wayne and Batman tick. Batman doesn’t appear until an hour into the movie, but the story is so thrilling and well told that it doesn’t matter. I know I said in my review of Batman that I loved how they ditched the origin and got straight to the Batman, and I do, but the character setup on display here is flawlessly pulled off. It succeeds in making Batman a psychotic, tortured man with toys, but one that we care deeply about. His arc over the course of the film never lets up, keeping Bruce/Batman always at the forefront of our thoughts. And to have three villains, all of them largely unknown to the public at large, and then to not provide any of them with origins proves definitively that the current superhero movie formula that everyone else uses is null and void. Seriously, have any other filmmakers seen this movie?

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Surviving the Game (1994)

Starring Ice T, Rutger Hauer, Charles S. Dutton, Gary Busey, F. Murray Abraham, John C. McGinley, William McNamara, Jeff Corey

Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson

Expectations: High. If I don’t love this, the pillars of Earth will shake.


In high school, teachers give you a lot of dumb shit to read. Every once in a while, though, there’d be a gem. One of these gems was Richard Connell’s short story, The Most Dangerous Game. I loved it, not just because of the interesting premise, but also because it reminded me of this amazing movie I saw at my grandparent’s house one summer, The Naked Prey, where a dude runs from hunters in Africa with barely any dialogue holding the film together. So when I sat down with Surviving the Game, I expected it to give me a great early ’90s action take on the tale that I love so well. Surviving the Game does not disappoint in the slightest, delivering thrills, excitement and some of the most badass/ridiculous survival shit you’ll ever see in a movie.

Ice T is a homeless man who is at the end of his rope. Without any way out of his current situation and nothing to live for, he just wants it all over and done with. The kindhearted Charles S. Dutton sees a fire within Ice and offers him a job as a survivalist guide, but as you can probably guess, his intentions are more disingenuous than they appear at first glance. Even though we know the storyline and it takes a little while to get to the action-meat of the film, the setup is worthy and necessary. Without it we’d have no connection to Ice’s character in this film, and thankfully this introductory phase flies by thanks to fast-paced writing that is never giving us shit we don’t need. Like a man packing into the backwoods, Surviving the Game only takes exactly what it needs, and when the shit goes down you best believe it knows how to use every motherfuckin’ thing in that pack.

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Blade Runner (1982)

Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong

Directed by Ridley Scott

Expectations: High. This is my third time through, so I expect to like it more.


Blade Runner is not a film that I get overjoyed with while watching. I don’t even think it’s all that good. But it is unique, and it is well made, and I do like it quite a bit. I don’t expect that to make sense to anyone but me, but that’s just the way it is. I have tons of issues with this film, but regardless I continue to come back to it. If I say nothing more, that alone should tell you that Blade Runner is an interesting piece of cinema. For the record, I watched the 2007 Final Cut this time. I first saw the film about fifteen years ago when I watched a VHS of the International Cut. Roughly seven or eight years later, I watched the 1992 Director’s Cut on DVD.

After three viewings over the last fifteen years and reading the book around the second time I watched it, I still have a hard time following this movie. That could be interpreted as the movie and I just not connecting, or you could take it as the movie being poorly paced and just not telling its story very well. I’m willing to admit my fault when it’s due, but I have to be honest: I think it’s the movie’s fault this time. No amount of tinkering or re-editing can change it, Blade Runner is just a damn slow movie. I like it immensely more now than I did upon first seeing it, but I still think it’s wildly overrated.

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Quick Takes: Hobo With A Shotgun, The Night Before, No Strings Attached

Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)

Starring Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Robb Wells, Nick Bateman, Peter Simas
Directed by Jason Eisener

Webster’s gonna have to put out a new dictionary, because they need to add a picture of Rutger Hauer from Hobo With A Shotgun to the entry for “trash”. Hobo With A Shotgun is the ultimate trash movie, filled with a seemingly non-stop orgy of bloody splatters and disembowelments. They try for some substance but there’s none, which is to expected, but it’s not nearly as fun as it should be. It’s enjoyable for gorehounds, but it seems more like someone trying to make a movie like the ones they love instead of focusing on the whole and making something of quality. I’m impressed that they made it though and that they got Rutger Hauer! Nice colors throughout too, and not just the reds of blood.

The Night Before (1988)

Starring Keanu Reeves, Lori Loughlin, Theresa Saldana, Trinidad Silva, Suzanne Snyder, Morgan Lofting, Gwil Richards, Chris Hebert, Michael Greene, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, George Clinton
Directed by Thom Eberhardt

Great in concept, but a little lackluster in execution, The Night Before tells the wild and crazy tale of how Keanu Reeves meant to take Lori Loughlin to the prom but ended up on the wrong side of the tracks in East LA. This begins a series of fuckups too numerous to list here. The interesting thing about this one is that it’s mostly told through inventive flashbacks as Reeves stumbles through alleyways trying to piece together what happened to him just a few hours ago. It gets tiring as it goes on, but it’s still a fun movie overall. Strangely enough, I saw this movie on TV a couple of times but I could never remember its name until recently when I happened upon it while doing some IMDB searching. If only I had retraced my steps like Keanu, my search wouldn’t have taken twenty years.

No Strings Attached (2011)

Starring Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Greta Gerwig, Jake M. Johnson, Cary Elwes, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Kline, Chris Bridges, Olivia Thirlby, Lake Bell, Ophelia Lovibond, Talia Balsam, Guy Branum
Directed by Ivan Reitman

No Strings Attached is an enjoyable romantic comedy, but like all romantic comedies it’s wildly predictable and its success lies completely in the hands of its leads. Thankfully both Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher perform their duties well and paint a good picture of a shallow relationship. Directed by Ivan Reitman(!) with little to no flair or style, the film fits perfectly into that tired mainstream studio mold that seems to endlessly churn out the same film over and over. It’s not as funny as it should be, nor is it as touching as it thinks it is, but it was a fun night off for my brain.

Uncle Jasper reviews: Blind Fury (1989)

Blind Fury (1989)

Starring Rutger Hauer, Terry O’Quinn, Brandon Call, Noble Willingham, Lisa Blount, Nick Cassavetes, Rick Overton, Randall “Tex” Cobb, Meg Foster, Sho Kosugi

Directed By Phillip Noyce


 

Sometimes you just have to roll with your intuition. No matter how silly and bizarre your idea initially looks on paper you just gotta go on with that gut feeling, confident that there is something about it that just feels “right”. I would imagine that’s how director Phillip Noyce and writer Charles Robert Carner felt as they sat down gingerly, committing this unique slice of 80s action to celluloid.

Blind Fury is a film that once again proves just how versatile and universal the Japanese samurai film was. After the Italians made Yojimbo into a western, and George Lucas threw a little bit of The Hidden Fortress into Star Wars, I guess it was only a matter of time before we had Rutger Hauer combing American highways as a Vietnam veteran incarnation of Zatoichi, taking on the mob almost single-handedly with his walking cane which housed a razor-sharp samurai sword.

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