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Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 poster

Nostalgia is a funny thing. With rose-colored glasses, it’s easy to see Blade Runner as a potentially hot piece of intellectual property, but the irony is strong with this one. Ridley Scott’s 1982 movie didn’t fare particularly well at the box office and divided critics upon initial release. It is revered today, but that lofty status has been decades in the making. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Blade Runner 2049 is a somewhat unlikely sequel. Apparently, 35 years is about how long it takes to forget that a prickly, unaccommodating R-rated sci-fi noir isn’t exactly the safest way to invest the kind of money that typically funds summer blockbusters. I’m glad they forgot, because Blade Runner 2049 is wonderful.

Denis Villeneuve’s take on the replicant universe offers much of the same for those familiar with it. Replicants are physically identical to humans but were engineered as a labor source. Replicants are so lifelike that they even have memory implants. The problem with this level of verisimilitude is that humanoid androids with memories and nascent emotional capacities eventually begin to think of themselves as fully human. The occasional rogue android necessitates enforcers known as blade runners.

So, what is Blade Runner 2049? It’s a sequel, to be sure, though it doesn’t really pick up any of the obvious story threads from Blade Runner. Instead, 2049 inserts the audience into a vaguely post-apocalyptic version of L.A, this time using K (Ryan Gosling) as the point of entry. It’s more a detective procedural thriller than a glitzy sci-fi action flick. Also, at 163 minutes, a word like “ponderous” hardly even begins to explain this one. 2049 is very similar to the original, in that it gives you so much to chew on and yet doesn’t seem too interested in being easily digestible. It’s just the latest in a long line of defiantly singular science-fiction films including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stalker, and more recent fare like A.I. and Under The Skin. Read more…

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Movie Round Up: Kingsman 2; The Duke Of Burgundy; Pootie Tang

In order to publish words here a little more frequently, and with a little less personal pressure, I’m going to start posting shorter reviews in random combinations. I watch all kinds of movies from a variety of sources so each batch should be an eclectic mix.

Kingsman: The Golden Cricle; The Duke of Burgundy; Pootie Tang

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

I’ve always been attracted to spy movies. Bombastic 007 entries, understated John La Carre adaptations, modern reinventions like the Jason Bourne movies, etc., it really doesn’t matter. I found Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) to be just as grand and action-packed as the best Bond movie, and every bit as fun as the best of the Austin Powers flicks. In short, it was a breath of fresh air. For better and worse, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is more of the same. Read more…

Dead Ringers

dead ringers surgery red

Twins. Red surgical capes. Fiendish homemade medical implements. This is a brief look at the David Cronenberg classic, ‘Dead Ringers.’

dead ringers poster

In 1988, David Cronenberg, one of the most accomplished purveyors of horror and shock cinema at the time, unleashed a beast of a different kind. The film is Dead Ringers. It is a chilling, fictionalized account of the story of Stewart and Cyril Marcus, twin gynecologists who died together under mysterious circumstances in 1975. Ringers is based on the lives of the Marcus twins as well as the novel Twinsby Bari Wood.

In Cronenberg’s film, the identical twin doctors are Elliot and Beverly Mantle (both played by Jeremy Irons), and their unique brotherly connection causes them to share their personal and professional lives in more ways than one. Practically indistinguishable from one-another, they even trade roles without bothering to make others aware of their substitution. Read more…

Just How “HARD TO BE A GOD” Is It?

A spoiler-free appreciation of the great Russian film, ‘Hard To Be A God,’ by late writer/director Aleksei German (that’s Grr-men, with a hard “G”) released in 2014.

Ironically, myth has always been a fertile source for science-fiction. A culture’s collective mythology is a set of impossible-to-prove stories intended to explain why things are the way they are. At first glance, science fiction doesn’t seem like it works backward in that way. What can a tale of futuristic advancement explain about our origins? Like I said, it’s a little ironic.

Hard To Be A God Russia 2014

Movies and myth have always been a perfect match for one another. Just think about how many times the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral has been made into a movie (nearly two-dozen if you count TV). Why has that story been retold over and over? Primarily, because the official historical record is imperfect. No retelling can be proven wholly accurate, allowing different storytellers to riff on the story in their own way.

When you expand your gaze from the myths of the Old West to the myths of creation, now you are onto something. The exploration of a culture’s own creation mythology is also a relatively popular topic in SF circles (Prometheus comes readily to mind). Space exploration and the search of a higher power or life-form both brush up against mythology (think Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Tarkovsky’s Stalker) as well. Sometimes, good fiction is able to take an entirely novel approach to the mythical constructs we are familiar with.

Hard To Be A God is one such film. Released several months after the death of writer/director Aleksei German in 2013, Hard To Be A God examines what life might have been like had the Italian Renaissance never brought an end to the Dark Ages. A team of scientists has been observing life on another planet identical to Earth, with a dominant species identical to humans. This society, which has mirrored the development of humans on Earth, currently lags behind that of the scientists by about 800 years. That puts them, you guessed it, smack in the middle of their own Dark Ages period. Only thing is, this version of humanity has violently suppressed its greatest artists and thinkers, causing itself to unknowingly regress into a doomed societal state. Read more…

ALIEN: COVENANT

Alien: Covenant Review

In my time as a fan of the ALIEN films and all things xenomorphic, a dichotomy among fans has become apparent (mostly friendly… mostly). In any group of said fans, there will be a fairly even divide between those who prefer Alien and those who prefer Aliens (with considerably less love for Alien³, Alien: Resurrection and Prometheus). While I have bounced back and forth between camps, these days I generally find myself stumping for the original over its almost equally tremendous sequel. Even the later installments in the franchise tend to be categorized by which of the two they adhere to the closest. With Alien: Covenant, director Sir Ridley Scott has carefully tiptoed that line in ways that are both deft and frustrating.

Scott’s own Alien (1979) was a science-fiction suspenser of the highest order and one of a handful of films to adopt the slasher-film structure before the full-on deluge of the 1980s. Aliens (1986) on the other hand, was James Cameron’s run-and-gun actioner. It remains a roller coaster ride with a great story. Covenant, meanwhile plays somewhat like a mixtape of the franchise. It holds to the slasher formula (for better and worse), it delivers action-packed shootouts, a coterie of alien beasts, and even furthers the philosophical bent of Prometheus. The result is interesting, but overstuffed and not as singular in its vision as either of the first two films. As a sequel to Prometheus (2012), Covenant reaches higher highs and also stumbles to lower lows, creating an entertaining if uneven experience likely to divide fans in much the same way. Read more…

‘MIRACLE MILE’ And The Taste Of Fear

Miracle Mile is a small but remarkable film from 1988, written and directed by Steve de Jarnatt. The story begins with a meet-cute romance between Harry and Julie, played by Anthony Edwards (Top Gun, Zodiac) and Mare Winningham (St. Elmo’s Fire). Miracle Mile moves at such a brisk pace, that the relationship is established by end of the opening credits, with hardly a line of dialogue. The sweetness of these two actors carries through to the end, and helps the film to retain its emotional core as the tension rises.

(Minor spoilers follow, but I won’t give away the ending)

Miracle Mile 1988 Harry Julie

Harry and Julie spend time getting to know each other after meeting at the La Brea Tar Pits. They make plans to go on an official first date after Julie gets off work at midnight. Harry oversleeps and heads to the rendezvous point at Johnie’s Diner three-and-a-half hours late, unsure of what else to do (by the way, how did we ever get by before cell phones?). Read more…