Blade Runner 2049 – Denis Villeneuve

Blade Runner 2049 starring Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Harrison Ford, and Robin Wright.
Photo Credit: Stephen Vaughan/Warner Bros Pictures

When the executive producer of a movie openly admits the movie is too long, and that executive producer is also a director notorious for making movies with 150 min runtimes, you have to believe him when he says it. Blade Runner 2049 is many things: visually stunning, intriguing, artistic, and, as Ridley Scott so delicately put it, “f***ing way too long“. Even if it takes more than one sitting, even if you need a couple bathroom breaks in the 2hrs and 44mins; if you’re a fan of quality sci-fi drama (think Arrival), Blade Runner 2049 is a must-see.

Just like the original Blade Runner (directed by Ridley Scott 35 years ago), it’s not for everyone. If you have no patience for slow films and for scenes that are easily 2 minutes longer than they have to be, avoid this sequel like the plague. If you are the DC/Marvel type who needs humour and constant action, avoid this movie like the plague. If you are the other type of movie watcher, sit back and get completely sucked into a new (or not so new) world.

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Prisoners, Sicario) took a 35-year-old movie and made it fresh and relevant. A very serious Ryan Gosling plays “K”, a young “blade runner” for the L.A. Police Department. Blade runners are tasked with hunting down and retiring old Replicant models, a type of bioengineered android that looks identical to a human. Apparently older Replicants rose up against humans at some point, but that’s not really important. The important thing to know is that Replicants look and act like humans; older models are not wanted and are hunted and killed; and there is a giant, powerful corporation that is experimenting with new models and new features that make it even more difficult to tell the difference. During a routine stop, K stumbles on something strange that requires further investigation. His boss (Robin Wright) tasks him with getting to the bottom of the strange events surrounding the death of an old model, all while trying to stay ahead of the CEO of the corporation (Jared Leto), who wants answers for a very different reason. The story is fairly complex, and although it doesn’t require one to see the original, it probably helps one understand the world a little better.

Lucky for fans of the original film, K’s investigation leads him to former blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). It’s been 30 years and he’s a little older, but there’s still a lot of fight (and heartache) left in his character, not to mention Mr. Ford himself (see video ‘Ryan Gosling Nearly Knocked Out by Harrison Ford‘).

The main features of the movie are the cinematography, production design, and the music/sound – all things that Blade Runner 2049 has been nominated for. The dusty, dirty, futuristic dystopia is breathtaking in almost every scene. If camera work and set design are not things you typically notice in a film, you will surely notice them in this one. They make the ugly future strangely beautiful. The score is eerily similar to Arrival, so much so that it is hard to believe that Jóhann Jóhannsson had no part in it; in fact, he was replaced by Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk, Interstellar, Inception) and Benjamin Wallfisch (IT) shortly into filming. For a film with fairly limited dialogue, the music is quite noticeable and gives the sweeping landscapes more “oomph”.

To sum up, although Blade Runner 2049 is an acquired taste just like the original, it will surely satisfy those who enjoy a science fiction drama with spectacular visuals. Denis Villeneuve brings his typical darker style to the film as well as his talent for perfect endings.

Blade Runner 2049 brought in just under $260M worldwide and has been nominated for five Oscars at the upcoming 90th Academy Awards, including:
Best Achievement in Cinematography
Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Best Achievement in Production Design

Watch the official Warner Bros. trailer here:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – J.J. Abrams

Star Wars: The Force Awakens starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Harrison Ford.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Harrison Ford.

The force of nostalgia is strong with this one. It could possibly be the one time parents and grandparents appreciate a sci-fi film more than the kids; because it’s not just about the action, it’s about the feeling you get from seeing old friends again after spending more than 30 years apart. Although it’s true that Star Wars never really went away (since the 70’s it’s been an almost constant thing in our lives – the merchandise, the toys, the digital remastering, the re-releases, and of course the prequels), this new movie feels like a real homecoming.

People will be, and have been, flocking to Star Wars: The Force Awakens in droves since it was released in theatres on December 18, 2015. It’s everything that fans, both young and old, were waiting for. We can finally let go of Episodes I, II, and III and pretend they never happened at all; they have been replaced with a reboot that we all deserved and waited so long to see. All it took was a new director, producer, writer, a (mostly) new cast, better technology, and a couple hundred million dollars.

The newcomers to the series need to be applauded because they essentially carry the movie. Their lead roles in the film were kept secret (even from their parents) and the end result was pleasantly surprising. Both Daisy Ridley (Rey) and John Boyega (Finn) had not done anything of consequence up until this point and are well on their way to becoming stars. Their acting abilities are so far beyond anything that had been seen in Star Wars previously and it’s certainly a breath of very fresh air for the series that struggled in that department in the past. Other supporting actors like Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Domhnall Gleeson (About Time), and Adam Driver (This Is Where I Leave You) are all slightly more recognizable and accomplished actors and played their parts perfectly, especially the two villains. Oh, and you’ll fall in love with the new droid BB-8; it doesn’t say anything but it’s amazing how much can be conveyed with a few beeps and bops and a slight tilt of the head. Bringing back R2-D2, C-3PO, Chewbacca, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) was icing on the cake and probably the best thing that J.J Abrams was able to accomplish early on with Episode VII.

The plot of the film isn’t overly complicated and thankfully doesn’t involve any council meetings or a senate. It is focused on finding the location of Luke Skywalker and defeating the evil Empire (once again) who have created yet another planet-destroying weapon. There are a few other side-plots where it helps to have seen Episodes IV to VI, but it remains something that can still be enjoyed by strangers to the galaxy.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the reason why people watch movies: entertainment, entertainment, entertainment. It simply doesn’t stop! At the end of the 135 minute runtime, you’ll likely find you didn’t want it to end at all. Lucky for you though, the next movie is already filming.

With all the terrible things going on in the world today and with tragic headlines only a click away, Star Wars: The Force Awakens offers the chance to escape to a galaxy far, far away. It won’t change anything, but it’ll help you forget as you’re immersed in a world where evil is literally black and white and the good guys always win.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now playing in theatres everywhere.

Watch the official trailer here:

The Age of Adaline – Lee Toland Krieger

The Age of Adaline starring Blake Lively, Ellen Burstyn, and Harrison Ford.

The Age of Adaline starring Blake Lively, Ellen Burstyn, and Harrison Ford.

While many of us strive to stop the aging process (particularly after the age of 29), the repercussions of succeeding are just something no one thinks about. The Age of Adaline, shows audiences what it would be like, and the precautions one would have to take, if that wrinkle-reducing face cream actually started working. Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) was born in 1908 and after a freak accident at the age of 29, she simply stopped aging. A widow and mother of a young girl, Adaline tries to live a normal life but is soon faced with some unique challenges on account of her remaining 29. So she runs, and continues running – which brings us to the year 2014.

The main story takes place in the present, so after doing some math one can deduce that she is well over 100 years young when she meets handsome Ellis and is forced to re-evaluate how she had planned to live out her seemingly endless days. Being unable to tell anyone about her condition, Adaline had vowed to move and change identities every decade in order to avoid suspicion – meeting Ellis makes her think twice. She had only fallen in love once before, and the movie leaves enough breadcrumbs here and there to help the audience piece together her whole story.

While not ideal, the key events and backstory are relayed to the audience through a narrator whose sole purpose is to explain the science behind Adaline’s condition. This was likely done to dismiss the questions that would inevitably arise in one’s mind and ultimately take away from the movie. It proves a little clumsy and contrived, but it succeeds in the end. Instead of questioning how the heck this is all possible, you are able lose yourself in the movie and the romance relatively guilt-free. While it sometimes seems like it could have been adapted from a Nicholas Sparks book, thankfully the story comes across as more genuine and the acting is significantly better than what is typically seen in those movies (The Notebook is the only exception).

The charming Ellis is played by Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones, Nashville, Wild) and he immediately wins the hearts of female audience members as he pursues Adaline and refuses to take “No” for an answer. The smaller roles, but the ones that ultimately give The Age of Adaline some clout, are played by Ellen Burstyn and Harrison Ford. Sometimes it can be hard to appreciate Ford’s acting abilities, but he is responsible for some of the more emotional scenes in this movie and his commanding screen presence is undeniable. This type of performance hasn’t been seen from him in quite some time so it is really refreshing to watch.

We’re likely all guilty of thinking that Blake Lively (Gossip Girl, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants) could never hold her own as the female lead on the big screen, let alone alongside the likes of Ellen Burstyn and Harrison Ford. Well, we were wrong. Her performance is subtle but there is nothing to suggest that she doesn’t belong there; and there are a couple scenes in particular that prove she is not going anywhere either.

It’s a beautifully shot and moderately sappy love story with a unique twist that will be enjoyed by most women and tolerated by some men. It’s a good mother-daughter movie and perfectly acceptable for a pre-teen girl’s night. You would never know it was written for the screen by two unknown middle-aged men.

The Age of Adaline is now playing in theatres.

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