Francis Ford Coppola in Conversational Mode

DATELINE: Eavesdroppers

  Pouty Harrison Takes on Hackman

In 1974 between his Godfather epics, Coppola tackled the high-tech tale of a wire-tapper who is tapped out. He wrote and directed this intriguing suspense drama. You know the Coppola tag will build this to a daunting climax.

The Conversation seems a throwaway but may be a perfect metaphor for the upcoming technological invasion of privacy that the 21stcentury and Internet will dump on us.

Gene Hackman is a suffering paranoid who seems to enjoy eavesdropping less and less each day. When he discovers that his work may be even dirtier than usual with murder in mind, he seems to be struck with a conscience.

When you subtract all the outmoded surveillance equipment from the movie, you have something so quaint as to be primitive by today’s digital standards. You may rightfully worry that things are a lot worse nowadays.

You may laugh at the spooling tapes and wonder how they could do any job effectively.

As a film, the story is microscopic as befits the nosy nature of small-time detective work. Yet, nothing transcends the basic fright of murder under your nose.

The Coppola cast is more than right: he has collected some of his favorite people and found others right before they made it big on TV/and movies. You will see a baby-faced Harrison Ford, a young girlish Teri Garr, a pretty victim in Cindi Williams without Laverne. Frederic Forrest is a callow-looking adulterer. Slippery John Cazale is always a Coppola staple and acts as a supporting, underappreciated wiretapper here too.

One of Coppola’s favorite actors makes a cameo as the corporate villain.

They are all secondary to the mid-life crisis that cannot be better epitomized than Gene Hackman at the pinnacle of his Everyman person.

The business means that you cannot trust anyone, professionally or personally. And, there is good reason to be suspicious when large amounts of money is paid for information.




Air Force One is One Fat Half-Wit

DATELINE: Ford Trumps Lincoln

 Prez Ford Shoots from Hip

Can it be that Trump thinks he is Harrison Ford in the hilarious presidential/terrorist movie called Air Force One?

Delusion takes many forms: for a fat old man to see himself as an idealized President Harrison Ford may not be a stretch for Mr. Trump. Here’s a president who goes off script in public speeches, much to the shock of his aides.

Ford’s president is no Gerald and no Lincoln. He orders outrageous tactical attacks on the Ukraine in conjunction with the Russian president! In 1997’s now sentient movie about the future of the American presidency should give everyone a nightmare.

Gary Oldman shows up with a suspicious crew in Moscow who plan to board Air Force One and do mayhem. Back at the White House, Vice President Glenn Close and Secretary of Defense Dean Stockwell are at loggerheads. The U.S. government is run by buffoons. Most of the movie takes place in mid-air: They are on a jet flying around, but there is not even the hum of an engine in this aircraft.

Within a matter of moments, the terror team has fairly much wiped out the highly trained and highly touted Secret Service aboard the aircraft. Hmmm. This is not a high recommendation for American protection service. We suppose most people tell themselves that it’s only a movie meant to give Harrison Ford some heroic moments.

Since this film takes place in the years right before 9-11, there is something creepy about a stolen plane filled with hostages about to fly into some kind of explosive crash.

Of course, the POTUS here is a Medal of Honor winner who was a hero in Vietnam: no, it’s not John McCain, but it isn’t exactly Trump. However, the President is surrounded by a bunch of cowering bureaucrats or power-grabbing traitors.

In one ridiculous moment, the President must cross fuel line wires to dump fuel: we figure this is realistic because Trump crosses wires daily. As a stable genius, we presume Trump can also fly Air Force One.

It is a cynical view of entertainment.



Fugitive 25 Years Later

DATELINE:  TV Classic Into Movie Classic

Taken in

A recent homage to the Harrison Ford/Tommy Lee Jones thriller, The Fugitive, never mentioned that it was based on the David Janssen, Quinn/Martin tv series.

Janssen died before age 50 in 1990, shortly before this big-screen version.

If this high-flying, high octaine movie had been a tv show, it would likely have been a two-parter on the small screen.

The film has big written all over it. Big effects and big budget.

We were most amused to see limping Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble jumping around like a superhero with super-strength, instead of a cardiologist in middle age. His jump off a dam would kill most, or break every bone. Not for Harrison Ford, he just limps away (actually having torn ligaments).

It seems there wasn’t a water hazard the producers and director Andrew Davis couldn’t let pass. Throw Ford into it. And, then, they looked for every staircase in Chicago and make Tommy Lee Jones run up and down.

Apart from that unusual quality, the film also features only three run-ins between the stars: Jones is a US Marshall (again and again in movies) who is relentless in chasing Ford. Their first encounter is 40 minutes into the movie in which Gerard (Jones) admits he does not care whether Dr. Kimble (Ford) is innocent.

These are two arrogant, type A personalities who will let nothing stop them, and therein is a hilarious adventure thriller. Billed nowadays as a thinking man’s version of Deathwish or Taken or even any Bruce Willis adventure, this lives up to its excitement.

Why Dr. Kimble returns to familiar haunts, like his hospital, to find the one-armed killer is beyond sanity. Filmed in Chicago and its St. Patrick’s Day Parade, it is atmospheric of the Windy City.

Everyone admits Dr. Kimble is smarter than the police, but not smarter than Tommy Lee’s laconic character with his snippy attitude.

Twenty-five years have not dampened this movie. It holds up on every level. It is worth your attention, with Big Pharma still the villain.

Life in 2049 Once Again Falls Short

 DATELINE: Disappointing

 sean Young 2049

Sean Young with Body Double and Advanced CGI

If Blade Runner 2049 is any indication, Los Angeles is not going to improve any from the first Blade Runner. We believe it seems to snow much of the time.

If we are going back to the future, give us Looper. It looked like a place we’d like to visit, not this horror.

Last time we caught Ryan Gosling, he was singing and dancing in Los Angeles. This time around, he appears to be a replicant, or some derivative thereof. It’s hard to tell a Tyrell replicant robot from the latest bioengineered creatures.

Gosling is an unhappy, soulless creature. No time to sing and dance here.

There are still ‘blade runners’ hired to exterminate these illegal older versions by newer versions. What we have here is the revolutionary notion that these machines can procreate semi-humans. That inspires the new Tyrell model mogul, in Jared Leto’s odd performance.

It’s complicated.

It’s also a mess of a movie, running nearly three hours of unremitting Dickensian darkly future predictions.

You have a remarkable cast, including Robin Wright as the head cop—and appearance by Edward James Olmos in the retirement home, and Sean Young appears as her ever-young self in a cameo that must take CGI to the limits. She doesn’t look a day older than the 1982 movie. She’s now 58. Pee Wee Herman should be jealous.

Harrison Ford is around mostly for decoration because you don’t have a movie without him as Deckard, older than dirt.

If the movie doesn’t leave you comatose, you may be a replicant. If someone believed that this film would stand up to the frequent re-views like the original film did, you’d be deluded. This is not the classic, brilliant first movie. It’s a shake-your-money-maker mind-numbing sequel.

Fans of the first film paid homage by giving this one an Oscar for special effects.






Blade Runner: the Unkindest Cut of All


sean young


Like Walt Whitman who revised Leaves of Grass until he reached the last page on his deathbed, Ridley Scott has been tinkering with his classic Blade Runner.

After various “Director’s Cuts,” Scott has gone the butcher shop by coming up with chopped liver and Salisbury steaks. He has swept up the bits from the cutting room floor and installed them in the butcher’s window.

We finally got around to seeing the 2007 Blade Runner: The Final Cut.

If we settle upon this one as the cut above the rest, we’d be rejecting all those versions that made 1982’s Blade Runner one of the most mind-boggling and influential movies of its time.

Two movies changed the sci-fi landscape forever: Mad Max and Blade Runner. They made the future ugly and dirty, crowded and unpleasant. Throw in Alien (also by Scott) and you have a futuristic mess.

No, Ridley has not cleaned up the set. He now revels in the messiness. Gone is the wonderful narrative voice of Harrison Ford, explaining to us what was going on. It’s not necessary because we’ve all seen the film before.

Adding a few moments amplifies the characters without a narrative megaphone. The film is striking—especially from Sean Young’s Joan Crawford look to the smoky offices in the skyscrapers, and we still love Ford’s fey impersonation that loses nothing on Bogart’s fey impersonator scene in The Big Sleep.

This 1940s detective film set in the 21st century lacks only Dooley Wilson, leaving Ridley Scott to play it again and again.

We wanted to see again if Deckard is really another ‘replicant’ sent to retire other replicants. We have wondered about this for 30 years.

The Final Cut is brilliant. It’s hard to do more than polish a diamond, even if you want to cut it into smaller segments to add more jewel facets.

In the meantime we wait for Ridley’s deathbed version.


It’s Not Paranoia If You’re Obsessive-Compulsive


This curio movie stars a generic leading man in a tale about businessmen with no scruples. It seems like a story we have seen on screen before. Robert Luketic directs Paranoia, but it’s more like a bad case of OCD and worse case of scriptwriting.

Liam Helmsworth is handsome and winsome. He is also vapid and canned. His New Yorker mover and shaker wants the big time, but he believes old men of today are ruthless and hold back the younger generation. Channing Tatum would have played it more convincingly with an edge.

With his killer looks and GQ body, Liam Helmsworth is a likely corporate boy-toy. He is groomed and blackmailed by one old man to be a corporate James Bond against another. We suspect he would have been singled out as a paid companion before any thought of making him an espionage agent.

The old men are the really interesting part of the movie.

Gary Oldman has about him a dangerous and smarmy quality well suited to be the corporate Henry Higgins making over his boy spy to take on the aging archenemy played by Harrison Ford in slouch mode.

These brilliant old stars have gone from being red giants to white dwarfs. It’s not like they are taking any port in a storm or any role in a movie to remain relevant, but we are still glad to see them flash their stuff. Liam Helmsworth looks like a pretty and empty Brooks Brothers gray flannel suit next to them.

Of course, someone in central casting decided to let Richard Dreyfuss play the broken down father of Helmsworth (he’s Thor’s younger brother by the way). Only in Hollywood fantasy could anyone think pipsqueak Dreyfuss could sire a Playgirl centerfold.

Put aside any thoughts of classic business tales like Executive Suite or Patterns. In fact, this is not even up to the quality of Wall Street or The Social Network. Excess in style, realism, verisimilitude, and taste, has become the new yardstick of making a movie relevant to anyone under 25.

No wonder the new generation thinks the great stars are best suited to playing doddering amoral old men.  The end of this pip is a groaner of the up-teenth magnitude.

Read more movie insights from William Russo in MOVIE MASHUP and ALFRED HITCHCOCK FRESHLY SHOWERED. All books are available at in softcover.

42 Makes Jackie Robinson ‘Relevant’



Movies have always been used to teach history, and movies never know history, preferring to make it. 42 is the latest movie to be treated like gospel and dogma rolled into one.

After seeing the anachronisms in Baz Luhrmann’s version of dancing through the Lost Generation in The Great Gatsby, we took on baseball beanball with 42.

Truth takes a ball to the noggin and is awarded first base and home plate. The film is produced by Legendary Films and announces suspiciously at the start: “based on a true story.” Of course, we prefer the 1949 movie that starred Robinson himself: low budget and earnest with Ruby Dee.

As for the new movie, we haven’t seen such revisionist falsehoods since Theodore Roosevelt was reportedly the first president in a wheelchair, and Franklin Roosevelt charged up his credit card at a San Juan department store.

Stanley Kubrick never made a sports movie, though he was obsessed with the number 42 as a motif in his movies. Maybe during his youth in New York City, he was at Ebbetts Field to take in the Jackie Robinson story, or at least watched Jackie play himself in the movie biography. The film features Harrison Ford, now doing his spin in featured roles, this time as Branch Rickey. Next stop as his career winds down will be a television series.

Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Audie Murphy all played themselves in movies to great effect, but were limited by their own good taste and reluctance to show their anal warts.

This biographical movie of Jackie Robinson lacks only the scene where his ghostly apparition walks out of a cornfield and goes the distance.

Doc Rivers when coach of the Celtics took his team to see this movie to teach them about teammates and Ubuntu. Moviegoers and sports fans under 40 have no idea about that retired number 42 hanging from every stadium wall in baseball.

This movie will provide the background to mythology. We’d recommend Ken Burns’ documentary on baseball as the final word on accuracy.

MLB preferred this movie, but the Oscars did not.