*NEW* BLADE RUNNER 2049 REVIEW *NEW*

Blade Runner 2049 minutezzz long

If we are lucky enough to get a director’s cut; I’d like to see the running length CUT.

A young blade runner’s (Ryan Gosling) discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who’s been missing for thirty years.

Now I wasn’t the biggest BR fan. I remember watching it for the first time, and thinking, “Is that it?!”. It was only through numerous re-watches (Thank you BA Film Studies) that I grew to love the 1982 cult classic. Not the first to say that, I’m sure.

Essentially, BR was a generic cyber noir about a disillusioned cop tracking down some killer robots. BUT what stood out and made BR so much more was the question of self and identity. Who were the real monsters? The replicants or their creators?

Hampton Fincher’s brooding social commentary on corporate capitalism (Again thank you BA Film Studies) spoke volumes BUT it also asked the biggest (and most important) question of all: was Deckard a replicant?!

Now 35 years on (What?!) . . . And Ridley Scott decides to make another sequel to another one of his movies.

To be honest, the opening had me from the get go. The Nexus 6 prologue, that opening shot of the burning flames in the iris of an eye, and that iconic Vangelis theme (teased meticulously by Wallfisch and Zimmer) blaring through those 17 Dolby Super Screen speakers. Goosebumps.

Roger Deakin’s breath-taking cinematography (You could do an essay on that alone and I’m sure people have).

Needless to say, the BR nerd in me was hook, line and sinker!

I remember watching Only God Forgives and denouncing Gosling. Screaming to the movie gods, demanding why this guy kept getting big Hollywood movies. BUT after stellar turns in La La Land and The Nice Guys, I was intrigued to see what he would do.

And he did not disappoint. A charismatic performance. He carried the film for me. Sorry Deckard. I was transfixed and happy to soak up the slow burning tension.

I will dispense a warning. There may be spoilers. So read ahead at your peril.

The character ‘K’ (Gosling) was a welcome addition to the BR universe. The fact he was openly a replicant changed the whole dynamic of the piece. He almost made the story his own.

The romantic subplot with Joi (The beautiful Ana de Armas) was a nice touch and I actually felt for them. A forbidden romance restricted in the cyber and the real world. Do androids dream of electric sheep? Can a robot fall in love with an erotic hologram?

All the little nods were there. Those origami unicorns, Edward James Olmos! The old faces working well with the new.

For the first hour or so, I was content. But then I realised there was another 100 minutes left.

This was where things went wrong for me. And as much as it pains me to say after praising Deakins’ amazing cinematography and set design. A feast for the eyes. Nice shots does not a good movie make.

If you’re looking for answers, you won’t find any. Now the question mark around Deckard was always the fun debate. The ambiguous ending a talking point for years to come. I didn’t care about getting an answer on that old chestnut (Do you? I’m not saying)

Some questions are better left unanswered. One of the appealing and infuriating messages of this film. A double edged sword.

BUT what disappointed me the most was what our hero Deckard was doing for 35 years. All that build up and promise. A welcome return for Harrison Ford. All the theories and questions about what the cyber-sleuth had been doing and the answer . . . Sweet nothing apparently.

Ford’s reactions reflected much of mine during the film. He really didn’t know what was going on or why people were seeking him?

The pace dragged and I found myself struggling to stay interested.

Robin Wright had potential as K’s superior officer Lieutenant Joshi BUT never really got the chance or the screen time. The same can be said for Dave Bautista. That guy continues to impress. Even in such a minute role.

Sylvia Hoeks was impressive as the resilient adversary Luv. A mercenary replicant on the heels of K’s quest for answers.

Despite the best efforts of the supporting characters, it lacked something.

Rutger Hauer was outstanding as Roy Batty. A charismatic and engaging turn that made this seemingly cyber punk android so much more. His “Time to die” speech left goosebumps. I felt more for the replicant than the protagonist.

Jared Leto? What the hell was he on? His performance as blind tycoon Niander Wallace was dreadful. His mind numbing monologues nearly put me into a mini-coma.

He fell short of Joe Turkel’s Tyrell (Bishop to King 7!) by a country mile. I mean, those glasses were iconic enough. Instead we get ol’ White eyes whispering and dithering away. If it wasn’t for one unexpected twist in the final act, I would have deemed him unnecessary.

It seemed like 2049 set things up for another and tried to tease that ambiguity that made the original so appealing but it didn’t work for me.

I just wasn’t as engrossed. It delivered all the nods and tried to make it on its own but it felt like a pale (albeit beautifully and bolder) imitation of the original.

Despite my nitpicking and disappointment, I do want to watch it again but somehow I don’t think I’ll fall for it as much as I did the original. I went in not expecting much and was rewarded with a mixed bag. No character of Batty’s calibre? No somersaulting Daryl Hannah (What?)

I could take the existential angst and themes of identity but it just wasn’t enough. In a way if Deckard wasn’t thrown into the mix, this might have fared better with just K.

Watchable by all means. It’s just a shame that a breathtaking opening first half was dragged down by poor pacing and a dithering plot line.

2.5/5

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*NEW* VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS REVIEW *NEW*

Dull-Erian.

Trust me, that pun was as clever and witty as the dialogue and plot.

Sheesh. What has happened to Luc Besson? The man who gave us The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional, Taken, The Transporter.

Okay, yes. He also made Taken 2, Taken 3, Lucy, Transporter 2, Transporter 3 – you get the idea. To say his recent endeavours have been poor would be an understatement.

I really hoped this mega blockbuster would be a return to form but alas it was not to be.

A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevigne) must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha but the future of the universe.

The iconic French comic book series that spanned over 40 years and influenced Star Wars and Besson’s very own Fifth Element. A series that inspired Besson to personally fund and crowd source one of the most expensive independent films in Europe.

The iconic comic book series . . . that I hadn’t even heard of until this movie. I won’t be seeking it out after watching this. Fo’ sure.

It wasn’t all bad. In fact, Valerian was actually quite watchable.

Cara Delevigne was very good. The high browed model has done it again. She had already won me over in Paper Towns. The less we say about Suicide Squad the better. I can still picture that weird dance.

Anyway, contrary to reviews that I’d read, I thought there was good chemistry between the pair. What didn’t help was the dreadfully corny exchanges and flat lines.

Dane DeHaan really has been getting a bad wrap. He didn’t do a bad job. It just didn’t help that his Keanu-esque delivery managed to make the flat lines sound even flatter. I think he took the airhead persona a little too literal. Only Wick himself would have made that work.

A shame. His lacklustre charisma made Valerian such an unlikeable (Well, I say unlikeable) and uninteresting character. A bit bad considering he’s the main man.

One thing I couldn’t fault was Thierry Arbogast’s stunning cinematography and the visual effects. Stunning.

That gif doesn’t do it justice BUT you get the idea.

The colours, the detail. The immersive galaxies and numerous planets. A feast for the eyes. I just wish some of that detail could have been spent on the script.

The action set pieces were entertaining enough. BUT I wasn’t invested in the people.

All the jumping from interstellar galaxies and dimension guff was cool and an interstellar street market chase kept my grumbling at bay for a good 15 minutes. BUT that was only because I hadn’t got a clue what was going on.

The pace was as long as the ridiculous title. It dipped in and out and was far too sporadic. Ridiculously complicated one second, then dull and predictable the next. No consistency.

It didn’t help that the story was hampered by boring and pointless exchanges with flashbacks that highlighted stuff we already knew about. For example (NO SPOILERS);

CHARACTER: “I was following orders!”

*Cue a FLASHBACK of said character saying, “Follow my orders”.

Really? There were no real twists and turns. It was all too disjointed. And the “unravelling” made more plot holes by the frantic finale. BUT by the end, I didn’t care.

The sci-fi references and nods were a nice touch. The Millennium Falcon-esque ship, the Tron style hologram suits, the Battlestar Galactica Cylon style droids, the Blade Runner cityscapes. I knew Besson would excel in that field.

The supporting cast were disappointingly hit and miss with various cameos from unexpected actors popping up in this mad mess. I won’t spoil any. There were two I didn’t expect.

It was great to see Clive Owen back on the big screen. I just wish he wasn’t in this movie.

He did his best with the part BUT he was oh so laughable and old. My God. He didn’t need those silver patches on his sideburns (Ageing his character for a pointless flashback that had no relevance).

Rihanna was a welcome addition. And no, not just for the striptease with her numerous wardrobe changes (that will please any teen fanboy).

She was fun and entertaining as the changeling Bubble. I was more interested in her origin story than anybody else. And NO, not just because of that sequence! Naughty. A tragically small role.

And that’s what was missing.

We needed somebody like this guy;

Valerian took itself far too seriously for its own good. A bit of cheese and humour would have improved this by a country mile.

Besson tried to offer comic relief with some of the crazy and wonderfully animated characters. My personal favourite being the demented gargoyle hybrids of Huey, Dewey and Louie Duck.

Prepared to share information for a price, of course.

BUT it just wasn’t enough. It was watchable guff BUT enjoyable?

Meh. It just about killed the time BUT all I wanted to do when I got home . . . was find my DVD of The Fifth Element and stick that on.

Nothing to shout home about for me.

2.5/5

*NEW* GHOST IN THE SHELL REVIEW *NEW*

Like the protagonist, beautiful to look at BUT no heart or soul. Shame.

In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

It was always going to be a big ask to expect Hollywood to successfully remake a cult Japanese anime. I’ll admit. I haven’t seen the original BUT this effort has killed any interest to seek it out.

I could be doing a huge injustice by saying that BUT for all its moments, this sci-fi yawnfest failed to keep my attention.

The slow opener didn’t give me high hopes, despite the wonderful visual effects, as we watched Major’s ‘shell’ being freshly made off the assembly line.

ScarJo played the emotionless Major brilliantly. BUT her subplot was bland to boot. Suffering from ‘glitches’ (flashes/images of old memories), Major soon questions her origins. Wondering if the story of her “creation” was even true.

The only problem was that the truth had been revealed to the audience early on. So the puzzle solving was dull and formulaic as we waited for Major to reach the conclusion we already knew. A product. A military weapon. Nothing more.

Although . . . what a weapon. Her strangely alluring naked camo suit flagged mixed reactions. Especially when Major first stripped to reveal it. I’m sure that scene pleased the teenage fanboys.

The 12A rating restricted the little action that there was. Sacrificing bold visceral violence and the gritty neo-noir undertones for a wider market release. Tut tut tut.

Pilou Asbaek (BBC Four’s Borgen) was the only memorable supporting character as Batou. He worked well with ScarJo BUT the pair spent too much time apart. He bossed the military punk get up and funky Rutger Hauer look.

Jess Hall’s cinematography was incredible. The cityscape was a beautiful mish-mash of virtual avatars, skyscrapers and crazy neon colours. This could have easily fit into the Blade Runner universe.

It was great to see Takeshi Kitano in this. BUT after vowing to never make another American movie after his disappointment with Brother; I was surprised that this was the film to draw him back. Albeit, in an acting role.

A waste of a talented actor/filmmaker. His character nothing more than a zombified desk clerk.

And then in the closing minutes, the crew suddenly remembered that they had Zatoichi in their ranks and allowed him to dispatch some swift justice with an old revolver.

Where was that for the rest of the movie?

The cast sleepwalked through the generic murder mystery. The pace was agonizing. It felt a lot longer than 90-odd minutes.

How could a neo-noir murder mystery that tackled cyber terrorism, personal identity and corporate espionage be so god damn boring?

For all the fitting nods to Blade Runner, did they actually bother to watch the damn film? Come on.

Director Rupert Sanders featured a cast of virtually unknown/small time TV stars. Now that wasn’t a problem because this could have been the perfect platform for them to shine.

BUT with such weak and wafer thin characters at their disposal, it was never going to work.

Peter Ferdinando’s dreadful pantomime villainy did nothing to muster any spark in this cold and lifeless thriller.

If he hadn’t popped up in a giant spider tank (No, not a tank of spiders. An actual tank shaped like a spider) in the fiery finale, I would have forgotten about his character altogether.

I even felt the “surrogate mother” relationship between ScarJo and Juliette Binoche’s (The English Patient) Dr Ouelet was cold and forced.

There was potential BUT it never really got going and failed to make a lasting impression. Fans of the original may feel differently.

BUT disappointing is my final summary on the matter.

2/5

*NEW* ARRIVAL REVIEW *NEW*

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The next Interstellar. Brilliant . . . if you liked that movie.

Unfortunately, I didn’t. You can see where I’m heading with this.

A linguist (Amy Adams) is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

The endless Twitter trends, the crazy hype train. I was actually excited to see what the man who brought us Prisoners could deliver.

I’m not going to lie. By the time the credits rolled, I was left feeling a little disappointed.

An emotionally charged opening sequence (that rivalled Up) plucked on the heartstrings as we followed Louise’s (Adams – Nocturnal Animals) relationship with her daughter over the blossoming years. Right up to her swift and tragic illness.

Bleak, heartbreaking and we hadn’t even got to the aliens yet. The pace was left to simmer away and I was happy to allow the bubbling tension and theorising develop as Louise was recruited by Weber (Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland) after 12 strange objects descended from the sky.

Adams was superb and delivered a sterling turn. She really carried the film for me.

I wish more was made out of the supporting cast. Whitaker disappeared into the background far too much and Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire) was completely wasted in his role as the shady Agent Halpern. Just another generic government agent.

The only other actor to make a memorable impression was Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker). His quips and chemistry with Adams was a much needed presence as the pair worked together to assess whether our new visitors were friend or foe.

I was actually quite impressed by how writers Eric Heisserer and Ted Chiang thought up such a situation. It was almost believable in a way if a superior race were to suddenly appear and try to communicate in an indecipherable and unknown language.

The special effects and CGI on the strange tentacly guests were fantastic. The motion capture methods to create their movements was impressive. They reminded me a little of the jellyfish things from Monsters.

The cryptography and puzzle solving as Louise and co. tried to form a dialogue was intriguing enough BUT by the 60 minute marker, I could feel my patience wading. My interest lost. I didn’t even mind that we hadn’t received any answers or real questions to ask the sinister looking squid things.

BUT the pace really did drag and it was like pulling teeth out to get anywhere. The constant flashbacks to Louise’s daughter and bizarre dream sequences (at first haunting and hypnotic) soon irritated and numbed me into a mini-coma.

Thankfully as the growing tension and civil unrest across the world forced the UN to make a (predictable) decision, I was soon pulled back in.

The paranoia and suspense finally going somewhere with the military desperate to scratch those itchy trigger fingers.

The rising insurgence among the ranks. The hidden agendas from the international compatriots. The world in arrears. If anything, this was all too realistic with China and Russia refusing to share information and desperate to cut ties and eradicate this unknown presence.

All spurned on from one word (Finally deciphered) as “WEAPON”. A reference? A threat? A simple misinterpretation from the linguistic team?

The final 20 minutes was frantic, thrilling and . . . unexpected BUT rewarding?

I won’t say too much about the ending. BUT I will admit that I’m NOT the biggest sci-fi fan. Blade Runner, Alien, Twelve Monkeys, Looper; sign me up. Anything else . . . meh. Once I heard the phrase, “non-linear time difference”, the wind had been knocked out of my sails.

Like Interstellar, Arrival delivered a cleverly woven ending with time paradoxes and hidden meanings galore.

I was afraid that I missed something. I checked the forums and discussed theories and realised I had it sussed the first time. BUT for all the hype and twists and turns, it just didn’t grab me. I wasn’t caught up in it as much as I hoped.

It was good BUT . . . a defining science fiction film? 5/5? Film of the year? I don’t think I’ll remember this by next month.

Maybe it was a case of hype hindering rather than helping. I felt the same for Sicario. Wondering if people had never seen a movie about the underbelly of the Mexican border before.

If Adams wasn’t at the helm, I don’t think my interest would have been grabbed at all. I felt for her character, shared in her grief and frustration as the ever-impending deadline pressed on.

I didn’t hate it. There were genuine moments of suspense and tension. I don’t know how Bradford Young’s grainy cinematography could make a scene look so bleak and beautiful at the same time.

Johann Johannsson’s musical score was sublime. It was perfectly composed and really heightened the mood and emotion of the scenes. Especially in the closing moments.

A clever, well acted, if muddled and drawn out affair for me. It certainly left for food for thought BUT one to remember?

I’ll leave that to you.

3/5

INTERSTELLAR REVIEW

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STELLAR casting and special effects. Shame, I just wasn’t INTER it.

I know. Not my best. BUT here we are. Well, certainly hyped. BUT did that hype help or hinder? There’s only one way to find out.

Christopher Nolan tackles the sci-fi genre in one of his most ambitious projects to date and . . . to mixed results for me.

Now for the record. I am a Nolan fan. Memento is still up there in my top movies list. Inception left me in awe. The Prestige was a well crafted thriller. I loved what he did with the Dark Knight franchise and Insomnia was an underrated crime thriller with the late great Robin Williams.

So it pains me to say that his latest offering left me unfulfilled.

I mean, science fiction isn’t my favourite genre but I love Twelve Monkeys, Blade Runner, etc.

In a nutshell, Interstellar is about a team of explorers who travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

BUT this is Christopher Nolan. And as we know, it’s never going to be that easy . . . or that simple.

He chose a perfect leading man in Matthew McConaughey. Great to see him fully resurrected from the movie scrapheap.

I will do my utmost NOT to divulge too much spoilerific information. So consider this a warning.

The opening hour was slow burning but had the slightest feel of a dystopian Signs. Thankfully without the CGI aliens allergic to water.

The idea that crop farming is a crucial asset as food and supplies are vastly running low was a scary and all too realistic premise.

I loved the satire in which the children have been re-educated into learning that man did not land on the moon, just to focus on their agricultural studies. Crazy. Delusions of grandeur no longer an option (Regardless of what conspiracy nuts think of the Moon landing).

John Lithgow was wasted in his role. He was somewhat passive and frankly unnecessary. Merely the guardian to Cooper’s kids.

Mackenzie Foy was brilliant as Murph. She worked well with McConaughey and made their fractious father/daughter relationship that much more endearing and engaging.

Murph’s fascination with a ghost in Cooper’s den made this feel more like a rural supernatural drama than a sci-fi flick.

However after an hour and some cryptic puzzle solving (keeping that as vague as I can), Cooper is soon initiated into NASA for a life-saving and utterly bonkers mission.

That did annoy me a little bit. We had all this build up for an hour or so AND THEN SUDDENLY BOOM! LIFT OFF! We’re in space.

Such a quick transition after some mind-numbing exposition about wormholes and coma-induced hyper-sleep by regular Nolan stalwart and screen icon, Michael Caine. All this scientific mumbo jumbo and not even a training montage?

Cooper is an engineer. That’s good enough for us. Chuck him on the ship. Okay . . .

Michael Caine isn’t very good at accents (AND a lot of people know that) BUT he still makes a memorable impression in his rather subdued science guy supporting role.

The cinematography of Hoyte Van Hoytema (that’s a real name) was breathtaking. A visual tour-de-force for the eyes alone. Even the desolate planet that is essentially made up of crashing waves looked stunning. This certainly rivals Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey on looks.

The second half of the film was tense, strange but hypnotic as tempers rose and theories pondered. A lot of bloody theories. Although I was intrigued by how staying on one planet for one hour would equate to 7 Earth years!  Mental!

The film score by the legendary composer Hans Zimmer complimented the atmospheric tension perfectly.

I don’t know whether it was me or the the cinema surround system BUT it was incredibly loud. So much so that it drowned out several of the characters and the scene stealers that were TARS and CASE. Seriously by the end, I wanted Zimmer to SHUT UP! I couldn’t hear what they were saying!

TARS and CASE? What the – What’s an interstellar journey across time and space without some robotic companions?!

The visual effects brought the robots to life. Their rapid wheel movements made the geek in me EEP a little. Voiced brilliantly by Bill Irwin (How The Grinch Stole Christmas) and Josh Stewart (Criminal Minds).

Irwin’s deadpan delivery made for some top notch banter between the robotic comedian and Cooper. Reducing his humour functions. I wish I could do that on a few people.

Anne Hathaway was very good as Brand. Her speech debating the ethics of love should have come off a little pretentious and long winded BUT her delivery made it highly engaging philosophical guff.

The cast was a fantastic selection BUT I felt that a few faces just blended into the background; William Devane, David Oyelowo, Casey Affleck and Wes Bentley (Oh dear!).

David Gyasi delivered a good turn as Romilly while Jessica Chastain was excellent which was crucial as the film drew to it’s mind boggling conclusion.

The quest for habitable planets did have some surprises along the way and made for some tense and exhilarating moments. A race against time as supplies and resources are running thin for our crew. Don’t worry, my lips are sealed. I ain’t saying nothing. BUT of course, there is a twist.

The twist! It’s the Nolans. Of course, there is a twist. Now, I saw it coming a mile away (Don’t mean to brag or anything). But the how? Woah. Not so much.

The explanation is crazy! Timey-wimey wormhole guff involving God knows what. Jonathan Nolan certainly put his theory of relativity into practice. BUT I felt that the deciphering and explanation went on far too long and then where I thought I had figured it out, I then didn’t and so on.

Inception had me actually stunned. This left me baffled and as I asked my colleagues what happened? I realised I did know what was going on BUT found plot holes. The scientific stuff might have been accurate but the decision making and events leading up to said twist were NOT so clear.

It didn’t help that as I went to tweet my 140 character review; the #InterstellarPlotHoles had already started trending.

The mix should have been heaven for me but it’s just didn’t deliver for me. I felt numb and had a head ache. I’m not stupid BUT this made me feel a little.

I respect the Nolans for bringing brains back to the blockbuster. It is very clever and brilliantly shot. The effects are to die for. BUT the story and pace dragged on too long for me and the final result wasn’t all it cracked up to be for me.

It’s hard not divulging plot points to quarrel elements. I mean the drone? What up with that?

It is certainly worth seeing and did something that not many films do these days. Get you thinking and talking. BUT for the right reasons? We shall see.

Timey wimey and hardcore sci-fi fans will love this. Others may feel a little bored and a little baffled. Best film of 2014? Sorry, that falls short. Different and diverse BUT also dense and difficult at times for me.

Alright, alright, alright for me.

3.5/5