*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* 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

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR REVIEW

sin-city-art

I loved Sin City. It’s visceral hard boiled pulp story lines. The noir characters. The beautifully animated graphic underworld that literally lifts off the pages of Miller’s comic books. It was always going to be tough for a sequel. This time round, it’s a mixed bag. A violent, sexy one but mixed.

The animation is fantastic. The 3D? Well what 3D? Not an investment. (Yet again). The film launches you straight into the madness with an incredibly unhinged Marv going on yet another killing spree in the dark underbelly of Basin City. Rourke is brilliant but I couldn’t help but feel Marv’s irrational behaviour was ridiculous, bordering on overkill. His revenge spree in the first film had some warped justification. This time, not so much. I mean Marv is in a much more volatile state with blackouts and confusion galore. The littlest glance or grunt throwing him into a merciless rage.

Now I must advise you to watch the first movie. I hadn’t seen it in ages. And remember it has been NINE years. That’s right. Nine years since its release. This is very much a prequel/sequel of sorts. This will be made clear with Marv when a certain character appears. I was baffled and confused until I went back to the original. Scratching my head as to how he survived the electric . . . Oh wait. The same can be said for Dwight. Brolin takes over the helm from Clive Owen. Brolin’s drawl voice and grimacing face pulling are spot on. His delivery of Miller’s lines are sublime. A true noir actor. His storyline involving the dame to kill for (and I would kill for her) Eva Green reeked of the stories of old. The ultimate femme fatale. It may come off a little pastiche and predictable but it’s great to see a re-visiting of the classics.

Eva Green was born for the role. Conniving but attractive on the eye. Her beauty a trap for any foolish man. The reason why Dwight had to change his face. Miller seemed to cut the amount and reduce the length of story lines. There was two main stories with two little subplots (new stories for the movie) running along aside them. The new story lines involve Nancy (Alba) and Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt). JGL was to be expected charismatic and perfect for the part. He has proven that he can do the noir protagonist after Brick. He rolls off Miller’s lines like he was born in that world. He boosts the film and to be honest I wanted to see more of his story line.

However, for all it’s potential, it ends all rather abruptly. His speech at the poker table would be something that QT would love. A lesson in power if ever there was one but disappointing after such a suspenseful build up. But it is a typical noir ending as his cocky ambition gets the best of him as he takes on Rourke (Powers Boothe) in a game of poker.

Powers Boothe was deliciously sinister with his shark toothed grin, lapping up every moment of it. A perfectly cast villain, composing all his past bad guys role into one nasty piece of work. The one aspect of Sin City that I felt pushed this glossy colourful seedy crime saga over its ridiculously violent edge was the inhabitants of Old Town. Too much time spent on it in the first film. Miller must have realised this and only brings in Gail (Rosario Dawson) and samurai wielding assassin Miho (The alluring Jamie Chung now replacing Devon Aoki) to assist Dwight. And they are actually taken out of Old Town.

Dawson was less irritating this time round for me and Chung did as well as she could playing a silent killer. Of course, there was ridiculous sword play and white blood spread across the screen, along with various body parts. Dennis Haysbert was relentless as Manute (taking over the reins from the late Michael Clarke Duncan). He will always be David Palmer but it made a change to see him play the thug. It also made some of the references in the first film make so much more sense.

I never felt so dirty watching a film. Jessica Alba manages to outdo her infamous strip tease dance number. In fact, she delivers one every time one of the characters enters Kadie’s Club Pecos. To be honest, I wondered whether Nancy was only brought in to be the eye candy. Beautiful Miss Alba may be; I wanted to see some resolution following her story line after Hartigan’s sacrifice. Bruce Willis does make a return as Hartigan. It’s pretty clear from the trailers. But to what capacity? Well . . .  “POSSIBLE SPOILER” Don’t panic! He is very much dead. Even in death, you can’t escape Sin City.

The idea of Hartigan watching Nancy, seeing her deteriorate into a pool of grief and misery was a good angle. But at the same time, Willis does nothing else. He is merely a cameo that appears to say two little speeches and then bugger off. Might as well have not bothered turning up at all. It doesn’t help that for some reason in all it’s ridiculousness, he cannot talk to Nancy. But yet Benicio Del Toro’s Jackie could talk to Clive Owen’s Dwight? Strange. The switching back and forth from past to present did cause some confusion.

The cast were perfect, the animation always impressed me and the story lines were good but much more predictable. I felt that the film lacked something. I mean the characters were good but I wanted more of the memorable cult characters. The Yellow Bastard, Elijah Wood’s crazy cannibal Kevin, Rutger Hauer’s messed up priest. We only really got that in Stacey Keach’s Jabba-esque mob boss Wallenquist and Christopher Lloyd’s demented street doc Kroenig (Believe me, Doc Brown would be screaming more than Great Scott!). The pace lulled in parts for me. Story lines seemed to build up and end abruptly. However, I still want more and it was still very watchable.

Not as good as the first but still worth a go for fans and anyone with a little blood lust. 3.5/5 for me