Category Archives: Sci-fi

“Thor: Ragnarok” Movie Review

So this must be what it looks like when the entire board of head bosses at Marvel starts tripping on acid. If this is the result, then I’ve gotta have a taste of it. Released on November 3rd of 2017, this sci-fi superhero comedy has thus far earned over $833 million at the box office worldwide. The 17th(!) overall entry in the most unexpectedly successful franchise ever to hit theaters, it also serves as the final film starring the God of Thunder in the leading role. The film serves as the first blockbuster for director Taika Waiti, who previously found success from indie comedies like What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Set two years after the events of Age of Ultron, Thor finds himself in a new battle with Hela the Goddess of Death. After a freak accident, he is deserted on a distant alien planet where he’s forced to fight to the death, Gladiator style. With the help of Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk, who’s also imprisoned as a fighter, he must find a way to get back home in time to prevent Ragnarok, the prophesied ending of Asgard. I have an odd history with the Thor franchise. Even though I liked the first one by Kenneth Branagh, it just didn’t hold up upon repeat viewings. And the second one The Dark World was… one of Marvel’s worst films to date and one I never saw again after leaving the theater. So you can imagine my reaction when plans were announced for a third installment. But I suddenly became more excited when I heard that Taika Waititi was at the helm for it. What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople are 2 of my favorite comedies in recent years, and seeing the little New Zealander moving into blockbuster territory was what ultimately got me to give in my ticket. And he has delivered to us not just the best Thor movie by a country mile, but the first straight-up superhero comedy in the MCU. The film is by far the most distinguished from the rest of its siblings by infusing every frame with a flaring personality. Jokes were cracked and gags were unleashed almost every other line. Waititi himself scored huge bits of stomach-hurting laughter as the voice of a CGI rock creature called Korg. On more than one occasion, a dramatic monologue would be interupted by a sudden physical gag. At times, it felt like there were too many jokes being crammed in at once. One thing’s for sure, though. The director 100% doesn’t care what you think of his movie. In an age where stories of clashes between studio profit and artistic vision are regular, it’s refreshing to see a filmmaker being allowed to let loose onscreen. At least, to a point. Having been one of the most boring characters in the MCU up til now, Chris Hemsworth is finally given the chance to be cheeky yet vulnerable as the titular protagonist. Stripped of his hair and hammer, he shows off great skills of improvisation and surprisingly on-point timing. However, for the third time in a row, Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba steal the show from right under him as Loki and Heimdall, respectively. Whereas Heimdall is a world-weary warrior coming down to his last stand, Loki is as deceptive as ever, yet there is a sense of genuine concern for his home and adopted brother. Jeff Goldblum shines as a pitch-perfect alien caricature of himself, while Mark Ruffalo gets one of the few quiet moments with Thor. Tessa Thompson may seem like a generic drunkard-turned well-intended badass, but Cate Blanchett is more so as a dime-dozen all-powerful villain. She does what she can, but she falls into the same lame archetype we’ve seen countless times already. However, whatever Thor: Ragnarok falters in for its story or characters is completely made up for by its technicality. Bright, saturated colors fill up the picture in every scene. By far the most visually interesting movie of the series, Waititi’s quirkiness seemingly never ends to shine throughout the 130-minute runtime. There are spare moments when the action starts to get super cut-up by Joel Negron and Zene Baker, as they try to keep everything as slick as possible. The way that Javier Aguirresarobe moves the camera from moment to moment keeps the audience immersed in a tale that never takes itself too seriously. I’m telling you, it was borderline psychedelic at times. Composer Mark Mothersbaugh moves from T.V. to film to give us one of Marvel’s most memorable scores to date. (That’s not saying much) The forgettable sweeping orchestras are replaced here with pulsating synthesizers and fitting electronic music. It matched the idiosyncratic space adventure unfolding before our eyes. The movie opens with an action scene using Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song,” which fits incredibly well and sets the offbeat tone to follow. That was immediately followed by a surprise celebrity cameo that had my entire theater roaring. This, along with the gorgeous color palette, makes it feel as though they were going for a vibe throwing back to the 1980’s, the golden age of cheesy adventures. And thank God they do. However, try as he did, Taika Waititi is still confined to the regular formula of the other Marvel movies. The film is at its best when it’s silly and weird, mostly on the alien planet. But when we cut back to Asgard, it’s moody and rather predictable. Now that’s not to say that the ending turned out how I expected it to be. In fact, without spoiling anything, it signals a huge shift for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. But up until then, nearly everything outside of the alien planet is uninteresting and nothing more than Hela giving extended monologues about why it’s her duty to rule the Nine Realms. But Waititi does his best, and that’s good enough in this case. Thor: Ragnarok lays endless jokes and appealing visuals on top of a patented superhero formula. Although not quite my favorite of the MCU, it’s leaps and bounds better than the previous Thor movies.

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“Upstream Color” Movie Review

This film has been on my mind way too much for me to not write a full-length review of it. I’ll try my best, but I doubt I’ll get anywhere on the right track. Premiering as part of the U.S. Dramatic Competition section at the Sundance Film Festival, this experimental science-fiction drama was released on April 5th, 2013. Made for just the mere budget of $50,000, it went on to earn back over 11 times that amount during its theatrical run. This is the second feature film from writer-director/everything else Shane Carruth, 9 years after his debut Primer. The story follows a young woman played by Amy Seimetz who is trapped in a cycle by a complex parasite. During her torment, she meets and subsequently falls in love with a man in a similar condition, played by Carruth himself. As they try to put together the fragments of their past lives, they also try to find where it all started and break free. To say anything further would ruin the surprises of the story. It’s not like the movie lives or dies off of these twists and turns, but it goes in some very unexpected directions. And for that, I will remain silent. It has been a long time since I was unable to form a real opinion on a film after the first viewing, but that’s just the case with Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color. In fact, it’s so different and organic that I feel like calling it a “film” or a “movie” would do it an injustice. This was an experience. Now to let you know off the bat, I have not seen his debut feature Primer. For some reason, that one has been unavailable to me through the resources at my disposal. So as my first time with Carruth, I approached this one with a completely open mind because the synopsis was extremely vague and the trailer even more so. None of the reviews would tell me a single thing about it, and I’m glad they didn’t. Going into it cold without much prior knowledge was probably the best way for me to absorb this movie. That being said, I do feel like I should watch this movie a few more times to truly absorb everything that they were trying to say here. The film feels like a 96 minute-long metaphysical poem about the tests of love and dedication. At its most basic, Upstream Color is a romance story with characters who have been emotionally fractured and are trying to put the pieces back together. Even the parasite was replaced with something else like, say, a prescribed medicine, the message would still make sense. But this approach allows the story to become far more universal and abstract. It’s also a gorgeous movie to look at. Carruth is one of those “one-man-show” types of filmmakers, as he completed virtually every aspect of production himself. In a way, that allows his own unique voice to resonate with all departments of the filmmaking process. This includes cinematographer, where he crushes many different colors under a hazy palette. The bokeh-like photography is enhanced by David Lowery’s editing techniques alongside Carruth which cut away with many shots. There isn’t a single shot in the movie that feels misplaced. Every frame has a purpose for the story or its message. Carruth also tries his hand at composing the musical score, which feels right out of a film from the 80’s. Primarily made up of droning synthesizers with different sounds it helped add an ambiance and atmosphere that felt appropriate to the surprisingly melancholic mood. There’s one track, in particular, played near the end, that I keep looping on YouTube as a way of keeping me calm and relaxed. It doesn’t swell with big horns and strings. It just keeps the emotional undercurrent flowing throughout the runtime. However, this film is not made for everyone. I feel like I should inform you of that right now. It breaks many different conventions of storytelling and standard structure. The way the arcs unfold over the course of the movie don’t feel forced or contrived. It takes its time to show (and rarely tell) these two’s story go about. It demands the audience to remain completely engaged. Otherwise, not everything will make sense to them. I had to watch this film twice (back-to-back viewings, in fact) in one day to get a better understanding of it all. This isn’t your typical romantic drama or science-fiction movie. Upstream Color is a wholly original and challenging film that represents the power of singular filmmaking. Shane Carruth is a newfound treasure of American cinema and we shouldn’t lose him anytime soon. At the very least, I want to see what he can come up with in The Modern Ocean.

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“The Dark Tower” Movie Review

Well, isn’t this just the year of Stephen King adaptations? Unfortunately, not all of them can be a hit. This science fantasy western from director Nikolaj Arcel was released worldwide on August 4th, 2017, earning back less than half of its $60 million budget. The film was in development hell for many years, with directors like J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard attached as director at one point in time. Howard stayed on as a producer, while Arcel was hired to take his spot. Then the cast was officially announced in March of 2016, and the product was finally moving forward. Based on the titular series of novels, the 95-minute story follows a young kid from New York named Jake Chambers, played by Tom Taylor. He dreams of another world other than this one where an order of peacekeepers called the Gunslingers are trying to protect a mythical Dark Tower and is accidentally brought into it. Becoming the apprentice of the last Gunslinger Roland Deschain, played by Idris Elba, the boy and Roland must trek across Mid-World to protect the center of the multiverse, the Dark Tower, from the evil Man in Black. Look, I fully know about the depths of crap this movie has been dragged through over the course of the last year. Before the marketing campaign even started, it already went through a laundry list of production problems and setbacks. The trailers were pretty bad, there wasn’t a huge leadup to the release, and King himself oscillated between supporting the film and maligning it. But, as a big fan of the books, essentially the series that got me into the author in the first place, I remained ever the optimist. Now to start out, The Dark Tower is not as awful as some critics would lead you to believe. There are some moments that are genuinely entertaining. And I was actually okay with the announcement that this would be a sequel to the first novel rather than a full-on adaptation. The book is so massive and complex that adapting it is virtually impossible. But it also took elements from the third and fourth novels and threw them in an hour-and-a-half blender. And the resulting product we’ve been given is barely coherent at all and hardly does justice to King’s source material. Former Luther star Idris Elba plays Roland Deschain and does pretty well on his part. He’s not in the film as much as you might think, but he turns out to be a badass shooter. A training scene where he recites his order’s Creed is rather inspiring. The real star is newcomer Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers, who honestly carries the film on his back. You can actually care for his problems and pulls off some real emotion during some scenes. He comes off as annoying sometimes, but he’s not the problem. The problem lies with Matthew McConaughey’s performance as the Man in Black. A recurring villain in most of the author’s work, he is supposed to be this frightening yet charismatic trickster who’s wholly unpredictable. In this movie, he’s been reduced to an omnipotent wizard acting like Grand Moff Tarkin. I honestly can’t tell if McConaughey didn’t care about his character or if he got bad direction from Arcel. And while Arcel is clearly a great director of dramas given his filmography, he needs to learn how to film action scenes better. The editing job from Dan Zimmerman and Alan Edward Bell is very choppy, even during some of the tamest scenes. Sometimes, it seemed like it was trying to hide the bad CGI. Other times, it looked like they were under pressure from the studio to keep it at a PG-13 rating. It also doesn’t help that the cinematography by Rasmus Videbæk is too washed-out and murky to appreciate the fascinating world on display here. There are endless landscapes in this place, but they look so dull that you’d never want to see it again. The musical score by Tom Holkenborg A.K.A. Junkie XL, is a decent but ultimately forgettable one. And similar to a few other movies released in 2017, The Dark Tower is desperate to launch a shared-universe franchise. For those unfamiliar with Stephen King, virtually all of his stories take place in the same universe with little Easter Eggs hidden in them. This movie tries to take advantage of that but forcefully shoves in references to The Shining and IT. That is, of course, when things are actually happeningA story like this deserves a serious treatment with a runtime of at least 2 hours and 15 minutes. Instead, Columbia Pictures took what’s essentially The Lord of the Rings set in the brutal Wild West and turned it into a half-baked action movie served cold for the slump of August. While there are some nice moments, The Dark Tower wastes a powerful story in favor of incomprehensible action and bloated franchise-building. It’s too incoherent for newcomers and it’s too simplistically far-off for established fans. Here’s hoping that someone can actually take this failure away and do the books justice in the future. Now that’s a reboot I’d pay to see. But until then, any man (or woman) who defiles this series has forgotten the face of their father.

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“Stranger Things” Season 2 T.V. Show Review

*Fair warning: This review contains some spoilers from the end of the first season.  Please catch up so I don’t have to be the asshole who ruins it for you.

Since the creators of this show are treating this second season as more of a sequel rather than a straight-up continuation of the series, I will approach it in a similar fashion. With as much objectivity as a reviewer that I can muster, of course. The second season of this science-fiction coming-of-age horror series premiered all 9 of its episodes on October 27th, 2017, generating high ratings and a feverish anticipation. Following the surprisingly massive success of the first season from last year, the creators, the Duffer Brothers, stated that writing a followup was the hardest thing of their dual career. Set about a year after the first season wrapped up, we pick back up with the characters in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. Will Byers has escaped the Upside Down, but still is affected deeply by the experience, as are his friends and family. New faces come into town, and the gang tries to return to normalcy in time for Halloween of 1984. But there might be a brand new threat waiting for them in both the Upside Down and the government laboratory. Following up an impressive first season is difficult enough. But when that first season is for a show that has so gradually gained a rabid fanbase like Stranger Things, that’s even more difficult because you have to live up to the expectations of your fans. But the Duffer Brothers said this season acts more like a blockbuster sequel than a continuation of a television series. And that’s completely apparent because almost everything this time around is bigger and, in some ways, better than the first season. What I appreciated most about this season is that it dared to try different things than last time. The most obvious of these is the highly controversial 7th episode, which sees one of the characters take a detour away from the main action. Many fans hated it, saying it was unnecessary and pure filler. Personally, I thought it was delivering vital information and character development needed for that person, and in a way shows that there is a bigger picture outside of Hawkins. Could it have been done better? For sure. But the fact that they were willing to do the episode suggests new territory for them to travel through in the coming seasons. They tried something new and original, and for that alone, they deserve praise. By this point in time, all of the regular cast members have grown comfortable in their roles. Noah Schnapp is especially impressive as Will, always looking over his shoulder to make sure that the Demagorgon is never behind him. His personal arc is one of overcoming trauma and the repercussions of growing up afterward. David Harbour is great once again as Chief Hopper, this time more world-weary and cautious of his actions. He arguably has the best dynamic with most of the characters, particularly when he cares for Joyce Byers and a preteen Eleven, to whom he’s a close father figure. Some of the new characters were a mixed bag. 80’s stars Paul Reiser and Sean Astin were great additions, but Max and Billy felt a little out of place. Sadie Sink played Max well enough, but the way she was written felt like a typical young girl with unusual angst. Dacre Montgomery’s portrayal of Billy bordered on the edge of parody with a seemingly stereotypical high school bully. But the show-stealers this season have undoubtedly been Joe Keery and Gaten Matarazzo as Steve and Dustin. Their bromance was awesome and by far the most watchable part of the season. Meanwhile, this show continues to be a technical marvel. The steady camerawork by Tim Ives and Tod Campbell emulates films made by John Carpenter from the 1980’s. Not one single aspect of any scene is left unfocused or obscured by a shaky cam. Instead, it sustains a heavy and consistent atmosphere that this series has built so well. Also, the visual effects have been upgraded quite a bit. With the expansion of the world and the benefit of a larger budget, the Duffer Brothers got to be more creative. Some constraints are still noticeable, (This is a T.V. show after all) but the design for the new villain is utterly fascinating. Like if the ghost of H.P. Lovecraft had inhabited the mind and body of Stephen King and wrote a screenplay centered on a new monster in his universe. As with last time, the musical score for all 9 episodes is composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, also going by the band Survive. They continue to eschew the cliches of big boisterous orchestras in favor of synthesized melodies and beats. When it comes to the action scenes, they’re heightened and intense. But in the slower character-driven moments, it’s more emotional and subtle. At all times though, it feels like the unofficial soundtrack for a horror movie. Guys, it’s the same thing as last time. Stranger Things 2 is a worthy sophomore outing with an intriguing story and likable characters. Although I ultimately like the first season a little more, this followup is definitely worth a marathon or two on Netflix. I’m eagerly awaiting where this series goes in the future.

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“The Discovery” Movie Review

Oh yeah, we’ve got even more reviews of Netflix films are coming to you all this week. Trying to cram in some last minute spots as the year begins to come to a close. Just wish it was a better movie that I started out with. Released on the streaming giant on March 31st, 2017, this dystopian science-fiction romance premiered out of competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival- one of many purchases made by Netflix this year. The film marks the second feature film of writer-director Charlie McDowell, who had previously made the sci-fi thriller The One I Love. With this film, it could be argued that McDowell is creating a sustained filmography of high concept futuristic dystopias-that all goe to video-on-demand, that is. The story is set in the near-future where a scientist named Thomas Harbor, played by Robert Redford, has made a breakthrough that proves the existence of the afterlife. This unintentionally leads to an all-time high rate of suicides around the world, which causes his son Will, played by Jason Segel, to alienate himself from the family. After he meets a mysterious woman named Isla, they both set out to find out more about Harbor’s discovery and the implications it could have for the world. From the description I just gave you, you could go one of two ways. First, one might think that The Discovery is one of the more original and cerebral science-fiction pictures of recent years. But another, then, might retort that it is an unofficial feature-length episode of the British anthology series Black Mirror. (Which itself has feature-length episodes) I’d be willing to entertain both arguments because the premise is quite fascinating. And it opens up on a promising note with a rather brilliant prologue that teases something truly unique and special. But when the movie ends, that’s all it apparently reveals itself as: a 102 minute-long tease. The movie evidently tries to infuse some religious themes into the narrative every now and then. Being about the afterlife, this makes sense. Science vs religion isn’t really a new topic in the genre, but in the case of this movie, they really do try to put in some thought and time to it. “What kind of atheist talks to God?” a cynical Will Harbor says as some characters take part in a group prayer. This is a decently powerful question that doesn’t seem to get much of a payoff. When it comes to the acting department, it’s a really mixed bag. Jason Segel is a very funny and warm actor, but he feels miscast as a severely unhappy man. He spends the majority of his screentime moping around this dreary future just like everyone else seems to be doing. In contrast, Robert Redford and Jesse Plemons do fine work as his father and brother, respectively. They both really feel like a father and son duo with a sense of uncertainty and distrust among them, despite their charismatic outward appearances. Rooney Mara rounds out the main cast as the primary love interest Isla. She’s okay, but her chemistry with Segel falls flat in every scene they’re together. Technically speaking, The Discovery is rather singular. Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s cinematography evokes something that David Fincher might have directed, with steady shots of characters in almost every scenario. Nearly every shot is dark or toned down to look even bleaker. The color palette, meanwhile, is absolutely grey and cold like it belongs in the winter. Textures are muted, too, all to contribute to a seemingly grim and hopeless future our world will inevitably lead to. The musical score also deserves some commentary. Composed by Danny Bansi and Saunder Juriaans, most of the soundtrack consists of mellow piano melodies and low strings like cellos. They are most prominent in scenes of major emotional pull but are usually put in the background. It helped further enhance the melancholy mood of the overall story, never once over-intensifying for manipulation. The film also ends with the song “Arrival in Nara” by the band alt-J which felt appropriate for the gloomy feeling that permeates throughout. I can’t imagine myself rushing out to iTunes to pick up the soundtrack, but I enjoyed it as it went on in the moment. But where the film falters most is its story. Like I said, the opening prologue is very well-crafted and set up the rest of the movie to be a potentially interesting commentary on desires. Yet it felt like Charlie McDowell and co-writer Justin Lader came up with a really great concept but didn’t quite know where to take it. That’s because the film ends in unsatisfyingly familiar territory that feels like a disservice to what it began as. Maybe that’s because the characters aren’t really worth rooting for. They’re hard to connect with and none of them are really compelling enough to get invested in. All the setup early on seems like their arcs are going somewhere and they just don’t. As the end credits rolled, I sat on my couch feeling unsatisfied by their journey and wished something more could have been done. That’s what The Discovery is. The beautiful aesthetic and concept are bogged down by a meager script and detached character interactions. It starts out promising but ends up becoming a frustration in the lack of interest in its own story. It could have been so much more and wound up being a hollow and uninspired mess. Not necessarily bad. Just a wasted opportunity.

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“The Thing” Movie Review

First of all, yes; I’m fully aware of how late this review is as October has ended. Secondly, we made it! I finally get to talk about this movie. This sci-fi horror classic was released on June 25h, 1982 by Universal Studios, only barely making back its $15 million budget. The film later became a cult hit on VHS and DVD and, like most of director John Carpenter’s work became revered only with time. A remake of The Thing From Another World by Christian Nyby, which itself was an adaptation of the story Who Goes There? by John Campbell Jr., the film was put through several different drafts, including one supposedly written by Tobe Hooper. And not only is this Carpenter’s 8th movie overall, but his first to be distributed by a major studio. Set in a frigid research facility in Antarctica, the story follows a group of scientists whose expedition is interrupted by a surprise visit by a Norwegian team. Shortly afterward, they discover that a monster, possibly from outer space, has invaded their outpost and can imitate a person down to their biological structure. With a blizzard rolling in and contact with the outside world cut off, the men must decipher which one of them is the creature before it kills them all. I’ve been asked for about a year or so what my favorite movie of certain genres are. Sometimes, they ask for action, other times for comedy, and even occasionally romance. But not horror. I guess they’re afraid to know what truly scares me at night. They might even be afraid to tell me what their favorites are. I’m here to say that I have absolutely no problem or hesitation when I tell you that John Carpenter’s The Thing is my favorite horror movie of ALL TIME. Which is odd, considering that most people didn’t really know what to think of this movie upon release. Much like his original Halloween, many critics were dismissive of it at first, calling it too gross and violent. The director of the original movie flat-out distanced himself from the remake entirely. This isn’t uncommon for Carpenter, as most of his movies came into recognition years after their release. Now, this is celebrated as a classic. It is honestly a product of a time when movies, especially horror movies, were made perfectly and studios should never remake them. There is a bit of leniency with the 2011 prequel, but the day that the film itself is rebooted for a shared universe franchise is the day I give up on cinema. Although not often regarded for its acting department, regular Kurt Russell carries the entire movie with his frozen beard alone. Despite regularly collaborating with Carpenter in films like Escape From New York and Big Trouble in Little China, I dare say that this the best performance of his career. In opposition, he tells a comrade, “If it takes us over, then it has no enemies, nobody left to kill it. And then it’s won.” Everyone else, especially Donald Moffat and Keith David, does a great job in their limited roles. Like this year’s Dunkirk, we’re not given much backstory for their characters, but the bizarre and unimaginable terror they face causes us to root for them the whole. And the film contains, hands down, the greatest dog performance in any motion picture. Apparently, the canine Jed had wolf blood in it, which allowed it to ravage uncontrollably in the first half of the movie. And yeah, since this is a John Carpenter movie, you know this film is going to look gorgeous. Making full use of its 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen, every bit of action is captured by cinematographer Dean Cundey. It’s all captured using Steadicam, just the way Carpenter likes it. And of course, it also uses minimal lighting, which is perfect for the bleak and almost monochrome setting. Nothing is obscured by shaky cam sequences or hyperactively edited moments of action or even by being overlit or too dark. Each scene is perfectly rendered for the screen. But unlike almost all his other movies, Carpenter himself did not compose the musical score for The Thing. Rather, it was done by Ennio Morricone, and man did he deliver. It sounds just like if the director would do the soundtrack himself. Although the film itself does share similar characteristics with Westerns, the score is much different than anything Morricone has composed before or since. Most of the tracks are these droning low-note rhythms that perfectly capture the grim mood of the film. Mostly playing in the background, it racks up the nerve and tension to crazy heights. And during some of the more action-filled sequences, the synthesizers truly come out. And last but not least, I have to touch on the groundbreaking effects. Most horror movies from this period were incredibly cheap to produce and have aged horribly in the modern era. The Thing has some of the best practical and makeup special effects ever put to a feature film. Several of the cast and crew members have actually gone on record saying that they became physically sick because it looked so real. Brought to disturbing life by master Stan Winston, it still looks better than most CGI affair released today. It also enhanced the ever-present feeling of terror and dread because this monster could be anyone. There are two particular scenes that always get me every time I watch the film. Unlike Halloween, this film is practically driven by the gore and violence, but only as a way of telling the story. Dripping in aesthetic and haunted by master craftsmanship behind the camera, John Carpenter’s The Thing is an ageless cage-rattling exercise in paranoia and sheer terror. Even 35 years after its initial release,v it still holds up amazingly well today and keeps me coming back each Halloween season. P.S. it’s also my favorite movie remake. I’m very curious to know what your favorite horror film of all time is. Please share and do keep the love for this movie flowing.

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“Blade Runner 2049” Movie Review

I have been sitting at my desktop for the past two hours trying to come up with the words to describe my feelings toward this film. This sci-fi noir thriller from director Denis Villeneuve opened on October 6th, 2017. Budgeted at about $155 million, the movie has thus far only made back around $82 million in its opening weekend worldwide. Rumors of a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic original circled around Hollywood as far back as 1999. In 2015, after Scott stepped down from the directing chair to the position of a producer, it was officially announced that Villeneuve was in charge of directing duties with the new cast filled out soon after. So much like the new Star Wars trilogy, a 35-year-old dream has become a reality. Set 30 years after the events of the original film, a new blade runner named LAPD Officer K, played by Ryan Gosling, discovers a secret that could potentially destroy the remains of human and replicant society. His journey takes him on a path that eventually leads to Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, the star of the original film. When this film came out, press screenings received personal notes from Villeneuve himself to keep spoilers out of their reviews. That is so refreshing to hear in a major studio production. Even though there are some characters and plot points I don’t consider to be spoiler-y, out of respect for the director, I will not discuss the story any further. Instead, I will discuss how genuinely excited yet cautious I was with this sequel. I loved the original by Ridley Scott, especially the Final Cut version. But decades-later follow-ups rarely pay off well, especially for a film that’s so beloved as Blade Runner. But Denis Villeneuve delivered us Arrival, my favorite film from last year and one of the best science-fiction films in recent memory. This 2017 film is even better than that. Starting with the performances, Ryan Gosling once again proves his leading man status as a tormented protagonist. Caught in something of a crossfire, his journey is one of self-discovery as he learns more about the world around him and we get to learn more about his past. Jared Leto and Sylvia Hoeks play the primary antagonists this time around and are both great. Leto is a creepy weirdo like he usually is and Hoeks was a downright menacing Terminator-esque hit-woman. Robyn Wright, Lennie James, Ana de Armas, Dave Bautista, Mackenzie Davis, Barkhad Abdi, and Hiam Abbass fill out the supporting cast. The film does a great job at fleshing out everyone who is pertinent to the story, making them all feel like tangible individuals rather than archetypes. Harrison Ford returns to play Rick Deckard after 35 years, and much like his performance in The Force Awakens slips back into the role with ease. A major concern many people had was whether this sequel would ruin the mystery of if he is a human being or not. But thankfully, screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green opt for strong implications rather than overt explanations, allowing us to pick this character back up after decades of absence. Technically speaking, this is the most complete motion picture of the year. Nominated 13 times but never taking home a trophy, the inimitable cinematographer Roger Deakins has crafted his best shot yet at the Oscars. Most of it is taken on-camera and contrasts gorgeous colors with harsh, controlled lighting. Even if it was on a sound stage, it looked incredibly real. And the beautiful, elongated direction of Villeneuve made it all the more compelling, especially with the (sparse) CGI surrounding the sets and characters. I saw this movie in IMAX and I implore you to see this movie on the biggest screen with the loudest speakers possible. The sound design and particularly the musical score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallifisch are glorious to the ears. Replacing Vangelis for the soundtrack, the two of them crafted their own beast while not losing sight of what made the original literally sound great. At least on par with their work on this year’s Dunkirk, the incredible synthesizers mixed with orchestral beats creates an eery, uncertain atmosphere perfect for the world. During some action scenes or moments of intense emotion, the score would practically drown out every other sound. I will definitely be picking this soundtrack up on disc as soon as I can, even for some of the more ambient tracks of introspection. But notice how I said “some” action scenes. Much like the original film, Blade Runner 2049 is much more investigative and concerned with meditating on ideas than putting out scene after scene of nonstop action. That could have been so easy for the studio to do, but this movie takes its time to tell the fascinating story. It’s running at 2 hours and 45 minutes long, and at times, I thought it was something of an epic. The film is definitely slow and deliberate in its pacing, but it’s never once boring. With every frame a painting and such craftsmanship on display, I don’t see how one could hate this movie. And whereas the original had very broad themes to share, this sequel has very specific ideas on its mind. In regards to identity and how prejudice can shape that for you and the consequences of keeping a society in order, it’s all quite relevant with everything happening recently. Wright’s character points out, “The world is built on a wall that separates kind. Tell either side there’s no wall you bought a war… or a slaughter.” Arguably better than its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 is everything that science-fiction should be, with arresting photography and thoughtful introspection. Everything about it reminds me why I love movies and why I want to someday make one. With this film, Denis Villeneuve has become arguably the best living director of this generation. And I’m excited to see more of his work to come.

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