Blade Runner 2049

October 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Harrison Ford
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”)
Written by: Hampton Fancher (“Blade Runner”) and Michael Green (“Logan”)

Depending on how invested you are in filmmaker Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi/film noir classic “Blade Runner,” its sequel, “Blade Runner 2049” by Oscar-nominated director Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”), will either surpass your expectations or be, at least, a worthy companion piece that adds to the original’s expanding mythos.

Clocked at a hefty 163 minutes, “2049” revisits a dystopian world where androids known as “replicants” are hunted down and destroyed by cops known as blade runners. Two-time Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”) stars as “K,” a blade runner who is searching for the original blade runner Deckard (Harrison Ford) to get some answers he needs to solve a case. Jarred Leto slightly hams up the screen as a corporate villain who wants to create more replicants to do as he pleases.

First, Villeneuve, along with 13-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins, who should pick up his first win ever this year if the Academy feels he has suffered long enough, creates a futuristic setting brimming with brilliance and style. Visually speaking, this is Villeneuve’s best work, which speaks volumes since every one of his prior films is memorable for the tone and look he gives the picture.

With “2049,” Villeneuve has more storytelling devices and tools at his disposal and the extra resources are evident in the way he and Deakins layer each scene to perfection through color and structure. This is especially true with the technology featured. While many of the ideas don’t necessarily feel groundbreaking (Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report” felt more ahead of its time when it was released in 2002), Villeneuve’s vision is one of the filmmaker’s best assets.

Gosling’s laid-back demeanor can, at times, feel a bit canned, but when the script allows him to show some range, he owns his leading-man status fairly seamlessly, especially when playing opposite his hologram domestic partner Joi (Ana de Armas), whose AI-inspired character is breathtaking to behold. The love scene between Joi and K is depicted beautifully.

Still, despite its flawless atmosphere, “2049” doesn’t tighten up its convoluted script enough to make the storytelling as intriguing as it is picturesque. Questions arise about what makes someone human – emotions, memories, an actual body – but there is little room for an in-depth exploration of these interesting themes. If you consider the original film the mold from which every other sci-fi movie since has blossomed from, “2049” will have you hooked from the start. For everyone else, it’ll probably be an improvement from the first but still too familiar to leave the same kind of lasting impression the original has earned over the years.

Wonder Woman

June 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright
Directed by: Patty Jenkins (“Monster”)
Written by: Allan Heinberg (debut)

It took 76 years for Hollywood to come around to producing and releasing a full-length live-action motion picture featuring DC Comics’ Wonder Woman, easily the most famous female superhero of all—and one that recognizably stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Superman, Batman, and cross-company rival Spider-Man in the “everyone on planet Earth knows who this character is” pantheon.

So what the hell took so long? We’re up to six Spider-Man movies, eight Superman movies, and nine Batman movies since Wonder Woman first his comic books—not to mention the one Supergirl and one Catwoman film no one was asking for. Blame it on good old fashioned sexism or misogyny if you like, or waiting for the right cultural or financial climate or whatever other baloney studios use to justify not doing something, but after the entirety of Bob Dylan’s lifetime we finally have “Wonder Woman,” and the film manages to be both worth the wait and the redemption the critically-maligned DC Extended Universe so desperately needs.

Set after the events of 2016’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” we catch up with Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) as she receives a delivery in her office at the Louvre in Paris: a briefcase containing a vintage photograph of Diana and a team of soldiers which she was seeking in “BvS.” Bruce Wayne tracked it down and returned it to her, triggering a flashback to Diana’s youth on the mystical, all-female island of Themyscira. There she trains to be a warrior under Antiope (Robin Wright) after protestations from her mother, Queen Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). When a WWI-era German plane breaches the island’s protective force field, Diana swims out to sea to save the pilot and British intelligence spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). His rescue, however, brings German soldiers—and the war—to the island. When told of the Great War by Trevor, Diana is convinced Ares, the god of war, is behind it all, and demands Trevor take her to the front to fight—and fulfill her destiny to destroy Ares and bring peace to the world.

Minus a junky, CGI-heavy final battle far too reminiscent of the worst qualities of DCEU steward Zack Snyder, “Wonder Woman” is a refreshingly smaller scale superhero origin story that doesn’t get bogged down in the typical traps of that very specific slice of the genre. Director Patty Jenkins coaxes a winning, badass performance out of Gadot, who wasn’t given much to do except save Batman’s ass in the character’s abridged big-screen debut last year. Diana is strong, sincere, and funny as the fish out of water in the modern world (well, the modern world of 100 years ago). Chris Pine also shines as Steve Trevor, a career soldier and sometimes smartass that’s ready to fall in step when he realizes Diana can more than take care of herself—and everyone around her.

“Wonder Woman” isn’t a perfect movie, but it hopefully marks the righting of the DC ship—and with it already angering dipshit men upset at women’s only screenings, consider me in love with this kick-ass Amazonian princess.

Adore

September 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel
Directed by: Anne Fontaine (“Coco Before Chanel”)
Written by: Christopher Hampton (“A Dangerous Method”)

In what plays out like an awkward and erotic coming-of-age film where none of the central characters are written as more than vessels brimming with hormones, actresses Naomi Watts and Robin Wright star as two mothers who begin illicit affairs with each other’s sons in director Anne Fontaine’s self-absorbed drama “Adore.” It’s an emotionally complex albeit not very believable melodrama that teeters between hokey romance and incestuous nonsense, much like the miserable 2007 Julianne Moore vehicle “Savage Grace.”

Based on Doris Lessing’s novel of the same name, “Adore” introduces us to the foursome of the film: Lil (Watts) and her lifelong best friend Roz (Wright) and Lil’s son Ian (Xavier Samuel) and Roz’s son Harold (Ben Mendelsohn). For the first 45 minutes or so, Fontaine keeps us in the dark with the relationships of the characters. Not knowing who is who quickly spins the familial dynamic in a bizarre way, especially with the flirtatious tone that hovers over every scene.

When we finally become aware of which son belongs to which mother (or the fact that there are even two sons and two mothers), it’s already time to get the couples into bed without building on any kind of stable connection between parties. It might just be sex at first when Roz and Ian start fooling around, but Ian predictably ends up falling in love with her. For Harold, it almost seems like he only wants to see how far he can get with Lil when he finds out his mother and his best friend have been playing between the sheets.

All the bed hopping makes for a whole bunch of drivel as the couples spend their time running around on the Australian beach in hopes of finding something tangible in their relationship. They also manage to devote time staring deep into the ocean and contemplating the lack of morality of their sexual escapades.

Fontaine and screenwriter Christopher Hampton (“A Dangerous Method”) leave a lot of unanswered questions for audiences to decipher, but not many of them are interesting enough to want to discover with much assurance. For example, are the two people who desire each other in this scenario really Lil and Roz? Are they living vicariously through their sons to get to one another physically? Or maybe it’s the sons who want more out of their friendship. They sure do spend a lot of time  with each other shirtless in the water.

In all seriousness, “Adore” presents some contentious ideas that will probably make mainstream moviegoers wriggle in their seats uncomfortably, but art-house film devotees might not find much to keep them focused either. Without a grasp on any of the characters’ real intentions or thoughts, “Adore” is about as shallow as they come.