*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* STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS REVIEW *NEW*

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Was the force strong with this one? Was this the sequel I was looking for?

In a nutshell, hype help it did NOT.

It was always going to be tough to follow on from such an iconic trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI) BUT it was still an enthralling and promising effort from J.J. Abrams. After the successful Star Trek reboot, I had full confidence in the director to continue George Lucas’ legacy.

As soon as those infamous credits came up, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .” and that iconic John Williams score boomed through the surround sound speaker system, this film nerd bellowed a Wookie cry in rejoice.

It was hard NOT to get that buzz and excitement as the plot scrolled up the screen into nothingness. Thankfully, there was no dense mumbo jumbo about taxation. *Cough* Phantom Menace *Cough*

Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

Don’t worry. I will do my utmost NOT to spoil anything. Promise.

I always went out of my way to avoid getting into the Star Wars films. BUT the force was too strong. I couldn’t resist the score, the characters, the very world that Lucas capitulated.

The humour, the action, the corny exchanges. Thankfully they were all still there. It probably helped that Abrams teamed up with Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back/The Return of the Jedi. Ugh. Those Ewoks. Man oh man).

The first hour I was hooked. Engrossed. Fantastic special effects. Frenetic energy. Great characters. SOLD.

The introduction of several new faces spiced up the mix. John Boyega (Attack the Block) and Daisy Ridley (Mr Selfridge) were worthy additions and certainly held their own.

Oscar Isaac’s (Ex Machina) Poe wasn’t in this enough. His quick witted one liners reminded me of a young Han Solo. BUT after making an impressionable introduction, he was largely absent. Shame.

Ridley was superb. It was a breath of fresh air to see a female heroine after following Luke and Anakin. She carried the film and was a likeable protagonist. Boyega was very good as troubled trooper Finn. Come a long way from Attack The Block.

We also had a new villain in the form of the mysterious Kylo Ren. Channelling his inner Vader. I was transfixed. That was until the chap took off his helmet. Sorry, Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You). I can see why that Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account exists. His isolated conversation with Vader’s broken helmet was haunting.

Domnhall Gleeson (About Time) also delivered an underrated performance as General Hux. By the end, I was more entranced with him than Ren. Rivalling Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin as the creepy underling. His unsettling Hitler-esque speech made the hairs stand on the back of my neck.

However, the biggest scene stealer was the adorable android BB-8. Hilarious. I’m sure a lot of people will be wanting to buy one of these little bots. I know I want one.

 

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Of course, the heavily flogged trailers revealed the return of some old faces. It was great to see Han Solo and ol’ Chewie. They were fantastic and haven’t changed a bit. Perfect. Harrison Ford was on fine form. Showing the newbies how it’s done.

Believe it or not, this really will be down to how much of a Star Wars fan you are. Go figure. If you’re anything like me, you would have already had your Star Wars marathon. The Good (Episode V), The Bad (Episode II) and the Ugly (Episode I).

If you haven’t then I would highly recommend that you don’t. As much as Abrams and Kasdan changed a few things, introduced new faces and brought back the old ones, there was only so much you could do with the story arc.

The closing act felt like one enormous retread of Episode IV: A New Hope. Different characters doing the exact same thing with the same end result. Predictable and frankly a little disappointing.

It didn’t help that the pace got increasingly patchy as the film carried on. A drawn out bar sequence with Maz Kanata (voiced brilliantly by Lupita Nyong’o) certainly didn’t help matters. The force waffle went on too long and I couldn’t help but think of Madge from Benidorm while Kanata spoke. Anybody else see it? Nope?

 

Maz_Kanata_VD

 

I knew that Episode VII was going to be a continuation BUT I was still expecting more. Maybe it was a case of hype being a hindrance after setting the bar so high. Don’t get me wrong, it was a vast improvement from Episodes I and II. I know some of you will say, “Well, that wouldn’t take much”.

BUT as much as Abrams and Kasdan tried to create a little mystery around the old faces as we wondered what had happened in 30 years, it was pretty easy to piece together.

Carrie Fisher was wasted in her role as Leia. Gutted. I couldn’t make head or tail of what Andy Serkis’ (The Lord of the Rings) Supreme Leader Snoke was supposed to be.

The pace tested. The plot was disappointing. BUT I was still happy to be taken back to that crazy universe and once I saw a particular piece of space junk take flight, I was beaming from ear to ear.

An enjoyable enough romp and a welcome return for a franchise. BUT if there is to be more, retread old ground we must NOT.

3.5/5 (Just)

THE AGE OF ADALINE REVIEW

adaline

Lively and Huisman excel in an easygoing and endearing love story. Even if you may have seen it all before.

A young woman (Blake Lively), born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man (Michiel Huisman) who complicates the eternal life she has settled into.

The concept is Forever (The recently cancelled immortal drama with Ioan Gruffudd). A freak accident and suddenly a young girl is unable to age. Predictable and a little corny BUT with an enigmatic cast and characters I actually cared about, I was happy to indulge.

Lively (Gossip Girl) delivered a sterling performance and wasn’t too bad on the eye either. What? Come on, ladies. You have Huisman’s torso to look at.

The film goes at an easygoing pace as we flick back and forth through the life of Adaline. The narration by Hugh Ross was okay to begin with. Filling in the blanks as we flash through the early years. Straight to the point and easy character building.

However, the ongoing commentary in every other scene soon got really annoying and a little unnecessary. His detailed explanation of how the lightning strike activated Adaline’s immortality just made the whole thing sound even more ridiculous. Some waffle about a scientific theory in 2035 proving this probability really didn’t help its case. Anyhoo . . .

It wasn’t long before people suspect something’s not right when Adaline hasn’t aged a day at 45. A simple traffic infraction with a local officer soon puts her on the run for the next 60 years! It was good how they tied in Adaline running from the law with the Communist witch hunt that consumed America in the 50s.

The paranoia, the questions, the reason why she stays living a life of secrecy but never truly living. She still has to make secret rendezvouses with her own daughter who has to pretend to be her grandmother. Yes, just like Forever. Ellen Burstyn (Interstellar) and Lively worked well together. To be honest, I would have been happy to see more of their relationship. Not enough of Burstyn.

We join Adaline as she is preparing herself another identity and a quiet peaceful life. That is until Ellis Jones arrives on the scene.

Huisman and Lively have fantastic chemistry and make the inevitable luvvy duvvy stuff that much more bearable. Huisman (Game of Thrones) was charismatic and made some of the cornier chunks of dialogue that bit more bearable. I don’t mind watching a couple inevitably get together as long as it isn’t too OTT and the characters are not irritating. So well done to the pair of them as we see Adaline desperately trying to turn down the advances of a man who is transfixed.

The courting ensues while the chemistry bubbles. Adaline finally lowering her guard. That is until (Not again!) she meets Ellis’ father, William. An old flame from her past.

Harrison Ford was brilliant. A return to form for Solo. He played the melancholic moper well. It certainly spiced things up as William refuses to accept that Adaline is a mere relation. The flashback sequences with younger William and Adaline melded with the present worked well.

Anthony Ingruber. I couldn’t believe how much he looked like Harrison Ford. It was uncanny. Did they have a good make up artist? CGI? If Lucas was considering bringing back the Indiana Jones franchise than look no further.

Amanda Crew (Sex Drive) was the only actress that I was disappointed with. But that was because her role was so unmemorable. If anything, her character wasn’t really needed. Other than to be another player in a family game of Trivial Pursuit. A shame.

Everything comes to a head and ends oh so predictably. BUT it was endearing, highly watchable and wasn’t the worst way to kill a couple of hours. Just don’t think too much into the not ageing thing because the explanations just made the plot hole even worse.

A great cast and great chemistry makes this one to give a go.

3/5

THE EXPENDABLES 3 REVIEW

Third time’s the charm?

They’re back. The Dad’s Army of movie action heroes return for another round of ridiculous mayhem, OTT action and cheesy banter.

It is what is. Big dumb fun. If you don’t know that by the third outing then why are you here?

I’m not going to lie. I didn’t rate the first Expendables. I was baffled when it was green-lit for another.

I remember reluctantly sitting through the second and being pleasantly surprised for what it was. Van Damme and Chuck Norris the saving graces!

So here we are. Yet another and the verdict? Not bad.

The only downfall was Stallone’s feeble attempt at injecting new faces to prolong a franchise no one really wanted. Especially when the newbies in question were so bland and cliched.

The opening prison train sequence got straight to business. The return of Wesley Snipes and Mel Gibson to the big screen was a sight to see. Despite their previous misdemeanours, both showed why they still know how to steal the show.

Snipes’ introduction into the mix was brilliant. When asked what he is in for, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be good if he made a tax joke” and before I knew it, bam! Tax evasion.

The banter and quick witted insults really livened up the hammy dialogue. I lost count of the speech digs at Stallone. Even being so bold as to pop a stroke gag. All in reasonably good taste.

Snipes seemed to take over Terry Crews’ role, which I found highly strange. Can’t there be two black guys? Apparently we’re only allowed one.

Crews had one moment to shine with a chain gun before swiftly picking up a weak injury and disappearing into the background. The real reason being a contractual issue BUT a missed presence nonetheless.

The first hour was surprisingly watchable and pacy. The camaraderie among the Expendables was decent. All the old boys having a laugh and not giving a sh- blind bit of notice. And why should they?

However, the middle act tested with lifeless exchanges, generic plot lines and clichéd one liners. Seriously, the story line was so predictable as Barney (Stallone) confronted an old foe and former Expendable in the form of William Wallace.

Cue a self-deprecating suicide mission with our hero pushing away the old gang and recruiting a new one (in the form of ex-MMA fighting champion Ronda Rousey and that dude from Twilight, Kellan Lutz).

It took a while for Gibson to shine. An initial ‘shout-off’ with Stallone didn’t build high hopes. It was laughable for all the wrong reasons. Stallone’s inaudible screeching. Yikes. I couldn’t understand a word that man was saying (More so than usual). BUT thankfully ol’ Blue Eyes managed to deliver some malice to the stale role.

The Stath’s acting was surprisingly wooden (I know. Shock horror!). Disappointing. While Antonio Banderas pretty much did a live action impersonation of Puss in Boots. His intro said it all with Stallone and Grammer an unsuspecting Shrek and Donkey.

Lundgren, Ford, Schwarzenegger, Snipes, Li and . . . Kelsey Grammer?!

Really? Frasier “I’m listening” Crane. What he’s going to do? Step on a rake and mutter away like Sideshow Bob? Anyway, I digress. In all fairness, Grammer was actually pretty good in his small cameo. Providing “valuable Intel” for Rocky as he selected the new recruits.

And that was the problem. The oldies were the appeal. They may lack the vigour and pace of their younger counterparts (I mean, give them a break, they’re in their SIXTIES) but their acting and charisma proved why they’re still the big dogs and these young pups still have a lot to learn.

Rousey and co may have looked tough and done their own stunts BUT when it comes to (I can’t believe I’m writing this) acting? Generic face pulling wasn’t enough.

The inevitable “out with the old, in with the new” spiel was unnecessary and so predictable. You were just counting down the minutes before the old crew returned.

Swarnie wasn’t in this enough. While Harrison Ford showed he still has a sense of humour. Playing the hard ass role to perfection even if his lines didn’t make any sense. Seriously, there was a clunky exchange about somebody messing up and him wearing it that had me scratching my head.

I can’t believe this script was penned by an Oscar winner.

The action pieces were entertaining enough BUT there were moments where the erratic camera work struggled to keep up. An issue I had with the first Expendables.

The finale got more ridiculous as it reached its explosive conclusion BUT with The Terminator bellowing endless “GET TO THE CHOPPER” quotes to my heart’s content, I was happy to oblige.

A guilty pleasure. Say no more. It wasn’t the best one of the bunch BUT it didn’t have that much to compare to.

If you’re looking for an action packed time filler with some of your favourite 80s/90s action heroes then give it a go.

Otherwise, move along folks!

2.5/5

*JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT REVIEWED AND REVISITED*

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New recruit. Same problems. Hardly the best Ryan outing but it wasn’t a complete misfire.

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.

Jack Ryan has been brought back numerous times and always (shamefully) fails to stick around as a continuing franchise, much like the Alex Cross series. There have been some great installments with Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck taking the helm. Clear and Present Danger being a personal favourite.

Pine (Star Trek) was an engaging and very likeable Ryan. His charisma carried the film when the pace slackened. Something that happened far too often.

We flashed through Ryan’s origins (A nice change) as he became a “shadow recruit”. Working for the CIA on an unofficial capacity (In a nutshell). Harrowing images of 9/11 spurring our protagonist to drop his economics degree and join the Marines.

You could argue that it wasn’t needed as Ryan’s commitment and patriotism were established early on BUT it did present a post 9/11 reboot of the travelled Clancy icon.

All the training montages zipped along nicely and breezed through the usual cliches. BUT that was soon thrown out of the window when Ryan fell for his doctor in training, the beautiful Keira Knightley (who delivered a convincing American accent).

Kevin Costner’s (The Untouchables) mysterious Colonel Harper was heavily underused. Not nearly in it enough. It took a good half hour before the film really picked up as we drudged through economic gobbledygook as Ryan gathered Intel at Wall Street.

I didn’t need a retread of The Big Short. All that complicated jargon to explain that a bunch of Russian terrorists were funding their next attack through their corporations. I had to laugh at the irony when said attack was on the US economy.

Thankfully as soon as Ryan reached Russia, I got a bit more of what I expected. A bizarre hotel ambush fight sequence was a much needed catalyst and my griping soon subsided.

Kenneth Branagh (Valkyrie) was perfect as the maniacal Viktor Cherevin. Tattooed up and looking bad ass. Every time he shared the screen with Pine, there was suspense and tension. The pair worked brilliantly together.

A nail biting sequence in which Ryan infiltrated Cherevin’s office had me on tenterhooks. Tragically, it was bogged down with hammy dialogue and more of Knightley (Pirates of The Caribbean) and Pine’s cheesy romance.

As much as the couple had good chemistry; it was the same old guff. Juggling ‘the girl over the job nonsense’ with Knightley inevitably roped into the chaos.

It was a little disappointing as the plot suggested something darker with sleeper terrorists hiding in the US but that was soon cast aside with a predictable twist and endless punch ups and explosions.

Don’t get me wrong. It was fast and furious with an all out frenzy of a finale. All be it a rushed one BUT Branagh wasn’t even in it. Ryan ended up fighting a generic underling in a rapid city chase. Disappointed, to say the least.

A mixed bag. Watchable if flawed to bits. I mean these actioners are supposed to be good fun but this was adapted from a Tom Clancy novel. Novels that could deliver action as well as engaging suspense-filled political story lines.

This felt like a taster of things to come. It set out some good groundwork BUT why didn’t it hit the ground running? A little more effort, a meatier story line and a super villain that could actually be involved in the finale would certainly make for a decent sequel BUT, as things stand, I don’t think that will be happening any time soon.

Pine was a solid lead BUT the plot, tone and pace made this a missed opportunity to reboot a character that should be on the silver screen. Maybe a TV outing have been better?

Don’t get me wrong, it killed the time and was a fun enough ride. Just not one that you’ll remember long after.

3/5 (just)