Film Review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Release Date: October 3rd, 2017 (Dolby Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Based on: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Music by: Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto, David Dastmalchian, Edward James Olmos, Sean Young

Alcon Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, Scott Free Productions, Torridon Films, 16:14 Entertainment, Thunderbird Entertainment, Warner Bros., 163 Minutes  

Review:

“Replicants are like any other machine – they are either a benefit or a hazard. If they are a benefit, it’s not my problem.” – Rick Deckard

Here we go, I’ve been waiting for this movie since Ridley Scott first mentioned that he had an idea for a followup. This is the film I have most anticipated in 2017. So how did this sequel, thirty-five years after the original, pan out?

Well, it is mostly pretty damn good. It is also a very different film than its predecessor.

While Ridley Scott produced and was originally set to direct this, he gave the job to Denis Villeneuve, a guy who is really making a name for himself as one of the best directors in Hollywood. Between ArrivalSicario and now this, the 50 year-old director has found his stride and may be blossoming into an auteur for the current generation.

From a visual standpoint, while Villeneuve had a hand in it, the credit really has to go to cinematographer Roger Deakins. He’s a veteran of cinema that has worked on some true classics, including twelve collaborations with the Coen brothers, three with Sam Mendes and now three with Villeneuve. Blade Runner 2049 is something Deakins should truly be proud of and it may be his magnum opus as a cinematographer. His work and vision is a clear homage to the original Blade Runner while updating it and moving it into the future. It is still a neo-noir dreamscape with a cyberpunk aesthetic. It employs the same lighting techniques as classic film-noir, as did the 1982 Blade Runner, and it brings in vibrant and breathtaking colors. This is one of the best looking films to come out of Hollywood in quite some time.

The screenplay was handled by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. Fancher co-wrote the original movie and was partly responsible for giving life to these characters and their world. While the original Blade Runner conveys emotion in a more subtle way, by the time you see the character of Deckard in this film, thirty years later in the story, he clearly wears his emotions on his sleeve, which is a pretty welcome and refreshing change.

We also get little cameos by Edward James Olmos and Sean Young. With Olmos, we see how he has evolved and he gives insight into Deckard. Sean Young appears in order to get a reaction out of Deckard from a narrative standpoint.

Now the star of the picture is Ryan Gosling. Harrison Ford doesn’t really show up until the third act of the film. Regardless, Gosling really knocks it out of the park in this. He is one of the best actors working today and he gives a performance that is very well-balanced. Where Ford gave a pretty understated performance in the 1982 film, Gosling feels more like a real person, which is funny, considering that you know he is actually a Replicant in the beginning of the film.

The cast is rounded out by three great females: Robin Wright, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks. Wright plays Gosling’s tough as nails commanding officer. De Armas plays Gosling’s right hand, a digital maid, companion and quite possibly the real love of his life. Hoeks plays the villainous Replicant who works for the story’s main villain and is sent into the field to fulfill his hidden agenda.

The film also features small but pivotal parts for Jared Leto and Dave Bautista. Leto plays the villain of the story and is the man who bought out the Tyrell Corporation and has made an even larger company that makes a ton of products but primarily focuses on further developing Replicant technology. Bautista plays the Replicant that Gosling is looking for in the very beginning; he has major ties to the film’s overarching plot.

One thing that makes the film so alluring, apart from the visuals, is the score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. It is a departure from the style Zimmer usually employs. While it still has his touch, it is a score that is truly an artistic extension of Vangelis’ work on the original Blade Runner. It has those Zimmer flourishes in it but very much matches up with the audible essence of the first picture.

Everything about this film is pretty close to perfect, except for one thing: the pacing. While there isn’t really a dull moment in the film, it does seem to drag on longer than it needs to. Some of the details could have been whittled down. The thing I love about the first film is that it just sort of moves. While a lot doesn’t happen in it overall, it still flows, things happen and it isn’t over saturated with lots of details or plot developments. Compared to the first, this film feels over complicated. Plus, it is just so long. Maybe I’m getting old but I just don’t want to sit in a theater for three hours, unless it’s some grindhouse double feature. But I also sat through the first Blade Runner before this, as I caught this on a special double feature bill. I could have just been antsy after being in my seat for over five hours with just a quick intermission.

Blade Runner 2049 is very much its own film. It works as a sequel but it also works as a sole body of work. The fact that it doesn’t simply retread the same story as the first and instead expands on it quite a bit, is what makes this a picture that can justify its own existence. Was this sequel necessary? We were fine for thirty-five years without it. But it proved that it is more than just a Hollywood cash grab because of its brand recognition.

Few films these days are truly art; at least films from the major studios. Blade Runner 2049 is a solid piece of cinematic art. While not perfect, it’s about as close as modern Hollywood gets these days.

Rating: 8.75/10

TV Review: Halt And Catch Fire (2014-2017)

Original Run: June 1st, 2014 – current
Created by: Christopher Cantwell, Christopher C. Rogers
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Paul Haslinger, Trentemøller
Cast: Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, Kerry Bishé, Toby Huss, Aleksa Palladino, Annette O’Toole, Graham Beckell, James Cromwell, Annabeth Gish, Matthew Lillard, Anna Chlumsky

AMC, Lockjaw Productions, Gran Via Productions, 30 Episodes (so far), 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

AMC’s Halt And Catch Fire is one hell of a show. In fact, while people are mourning over the loss of Mad Men, this show can easily fill that void and is, in some way, AMC’s spiritual successor to that great long running show. I also think AMC knows that, as despite having abysmal ratings its first season, Halt And Catch Fire was renewed to many people’s surprise.

In the beginning of their runs Mad Men and Breaking Bad weren’t ratings hits but AMC stuck with them and both shows took off to become two of the biggest shows of their generation. Halt And Catch Fire could and deserves to follow suit.

The show follows a cutthroat business man in the early 1980’s computer industry and his quest to imprint his mark on the world. He is backed by his savvy, his ruthless approach and his burning desire to usurp the evil IBM. Employing a dream team of geniuses who have either failed at greatness or who are misfits, the journey from creation to completion in the first season is pretty remarkable.

Now having just started its second season, the show has already proven that it isn’t going to just stick to one formula, as it has veered off into unseen directions due to how the first season concluded. There really is no way to know where this show is going to go, how it is going to explore this interesting industry during its most interesting time and how this will all eventually wrap up, assuming it makes a lengthy run. I hope it does.

The acting is superb, once the ball gets rolling, and the casting just seems perfect. The actors are more than comfortable in their shoes and each character plays off of one another brilliantly. There is a natural dynamic between all of the characters on this show and the scenes just flow organically.

Like Mad Men before it, this show captures the essence of the time with great music selections, whether they are songs from that specific era or more modern tunes that assist in bringing the world of Halt And Catch Fire alive. This show has a distinct vibe and the music plays a big part in that, as does the attention to detail whether it be the culture of the time, the look of the era and the knowledge of the writers in regards to such complex subject matter.

Sure, the biggest tech head could find issue with things in this show but then again, a 1960’s advertising executive probably found discrepancies with Mad Men. Hell, as realistic as Breaking Bad felt, the chemistry wasn’t always on point. This is television and the narrative is the point, as is bringing the viewer into a believable world. Halt And Catch Fire succeeds in that and then some.

There aren’t a lot of shows that I am really enthused about. Halt And Catch Fire is one of those shows, however.

Rating: 10/10