“Witness” movie review

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When Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis), a young widow, and her young son, Samuel (Lucas Haas) take a trip to Philadelphia, their lives are forever changed. After Samuel witnesses a murder scene, he must help Detective John Book (Harrison Ford) find the man.

After Book becomes wounded during a confrontation, he must stay with Rachel and Samuel’s Amish family while recovering and remain hidden to keep the boy safe. During their time together, John and Rachel fall in love.

“Witness” is a 1985 film starring Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Danny Glover and Patti LuPone. Among it’s many nominations and wins, it was nominated for eight Oscars and won two for “Best Original Screenplay” and “Best Film Editing.”

Despite it’s high praise and becoming a hit at the box office after it’s fifth week in theaters, it was not a favorite among the Amish community due inaccuracy and fear of bringing in more tourists to their location. The movie was boycotted upon its release, which caused Pennsylvania governor, Dick Thornburgh, to make an agreement to never promote Amish communities in the future.

This was Harrison Ford’s big break out of the sci-fi/fantasy genre and he was nominated for his first and only Academy Award. At the time this was a new territory for him and fans who knew him as Han Solo and/or Indiana Jones. Many people on social media have said this to be some of his best acting.

The film has some humorous moments, such as when Harrison Ford was in an Amish outfit and the first time his character milked a cow. There were more funny moments, but these are the two that stood out. It helped that Ford made hilarious facial expressions when the situation called for it.

While the movie is filled with suspense, action and romance, it shows not only what it is like to be an outsider in a community different than your own, but also when two different worlds come together. One man is an independent detective from Philadelphia who brings in and carries a gun. The other is a non-violent and VERY religious group of people who live away from the big city, do not use modern technology and work together.

As a Christian who has learned about different denominations, it was nice to see John Book’s character development. At the beginning of the movie he looks baffled and awkward the first time he sees Rachel and Samuel pray over a meal and then at the film’s climax he appears to have an understanding of the religion.

It does not take long for John and Rachel to fall for each other, however, it is forbidden because of her belief and customs. Despite their differences, they have some very cute moments. My favorite part in particular is the dancing scene, it is very sweet and shows John’s fun side. Harrison Ford can sing a bit too. Who knew?

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There was one moment in the film that crossed a line for me. It was a rather intimate scene between John and Rachel as he watched her through a window while he was outside and their eyes meet. As powerful as it was meant to be, it made him look like a stalker.

The acting was phenomenal and and the story had a great buildup with powerful moments. I loved seeing Patti Lupone (original “Les Misérables” London cast) in the film almost as much as I enjoyed watching a young Harrison Ford in what is known as one of his best performances.

The ending was not what I expected, and I am usually pretty good at predicting those. It was more realistic compared to most Hollywood romance films. I would highly recommend it if you are a fan of thrillers, romance or just Harrison Ford movies in general. Catch it on Netflix while you can.

“Phantom of the Opera” 2004 v.s. 25th Anniversary

“The Phantom of the Opera” is a story about love, seduction and mystery. Over the years there have been countless film versions, including the 2004 movie based off the 1986 musical adaption. For the 25th anniversary of the stage show, the London performance was filmed at the Royal Albert Hall and released on DVD months later.

The movie is now considered below par among most “Phans” who love the stage show. Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson starred in it and Joel Schumacher directed it.

Watching the film now, I have noticed a few things I did not a few years ago. The leads are not as impressive as I thought previously, and a few things do not make sense, one of them is the “Point of No Return” scene. It looks as if Christine is plotting her own plan, rather than being scared like in the stage show.

After years of the 2004 movie being the only source to view the musical when it was not on tour, it was a surprise when the “Phantom” team announced the 25th anniversary of the stage show would be recorded and released on DVD in 2011 for the U.K. and 2012 for the U.S.

The 25th anniversary starred Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess and Hadley Fraser as the lead roles. Karimloo and Boggess had been in different productions of “Phantom” and co-stared in the “Phantom” sequel, “Love Never Dies.” Fraser was the only actor of the three who had no experience with the show.

Butler and Karimloo played the Phantom differently, however, Karimloo portrayed the role on West End and had more experience. He made the role his own and has a fantastic voice.

Butler is more of an actor than a singer, which is not good considering the role is vocally demanding and the Phantom is meant to have an angelic voice. Schumacher chose Butler because of his looks, rather than his voice and told him to “make it sexy” during filming.

The Phantom is not meant to be a physically handsome man. The character’s voice and skills as a musician are what make him beautiful. His desire for love and to have an undeformed face are what make him human and depending on who portrays the Phantom, he can be a bit childlike. While these are traits that make the audience love him, he is meant to be insane, angry and murderous, which is why people in the show fear him.

Boggess and Rossum are very different in their portrayals of Christine. Like Karimloo, Boggess had previously played her role and is considered a fan favorite. She has an incredible soprano voice and put a lot of emotion into the character.

Rossum was 16 years old at the time of filming for the 2004 movie and while she is a good actress, there was not a lot of emotion in her voice, which is an important aspect of the show. Her version of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is mediocre and I did not hear the sadness or desperation that the song requires when I last watched the film.

Christine is vocally and physically demanding role. The character has the most stage time; she is a ballet dancer and hits the highest note in the musical (E6). Throughout the show the audience can see her character development, as she goes from being shy and innocent to a woman who is not afraid to stand up for herself.

Stage actors, Fraser and Wilson are very different in their portrayals of Raoul. Fraser’s Raoul tended to come off as rude, angry and a bit unemotional. He is not my favorite and it did not help he was playing Javert in the stage version of “Les Misérables” at the time. However, he had the right look and he has a great voice. He would make a fantastic Phantom if he ever decided to portray the role.

Originally, Wilson auditioned for the Phantom, but was given the role of Raoul. He did a great job with the character and had a good voice to match. Unfortunately, his long and distracting wig often overshadows this.

Raoul is the anti-Phantom. He is handsome, young and his love for Christine is pure. He will risk his own life for the woman he loves and is not intimidated by the Phantom. Depending on who plays the role, Raoul is either likable or hated. It all comes down to the actor.

The biggest hit or miss for any “Phantom” film is the deformity. Why is this important?

  • It is a part of the Phantom’s appearance
  • It is part of the reason why the Phantom is bitter and angry at the world
  • It is the reason why the Phantom is insecure
  • It gives Christine a reason to fear him in the first act
  • It is a mystery to the audience until nearly the end of the musical
  • It shows the makeup artist’s talent

A “Phan’s” definition of a good deformity means the Phantom’s face has to look hideous and he must have very little hair. We saw it in the anniversary; unfortunately, we received the exact opposite in the 2004 film. The Phantom had a head full of blonde hair and the deformity looked like a sunburn.

The sets in both films are different. The movie has a more realistic set design, including a few ideas from the novel, which I love. The look for the opera house was very well done, especially for the stage. I liked the underground lair and the Phantom’s organ.

The 25th anniversary included props from the original stage show. Unfortunately, some of them had to be left out, but the cast was able to work around it. Personally, I prefer this set because it gives the audience the magic of the musical.

I grew up with the 2004 version of “Phantom,” but the 25th anniversary is my favorite. It introduced me to actors I did not know of in 2012 and it gave me a higher appreciation for people involved in theater. It is fantastic and is a must have for any fan of the stage show or movie.