Movie review: Blade Runner 2049

Movie reviews

Hello!

The long-awaited (by some) sequel to another 1980s hit – Blade Runner 2049 – has reached theaters, so, let’s see whether it was worth the wait and all the hype.

IMDb summary: A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years.

The original Blade Runner has been a cult classic for years but I’ve never expected it to get a sequel 3 decades later because of the lack of mainstream success. Undoubtedly, it has aged well: the story is still solid and is open to as many different interpretations as there are versions of the film. The pacing is a bit slow but that can be seen as a feature of the time. The effects are great too even if you can tell that they have that particular 1980s futuristic style. Even though I did like the original film, I wouldn’t have been as excited about its sequel if they hadn’t gotten Dennis Villeneuve to direct it. His attachment to the project was the factor that immensely increased my interest the movie! Besides, the marketing shorts, which filled in the 30-year-old gap between the two feature films – the anime Black Out 2022, and the live action shorts 2036: Nexus Dawn and 2048: Nowhere to Run – have acted as great tasters for the sequel and doubled the hype as well!

SPOILER ALERT

Writing

Blade Runner 2049 was written by Hampton Fancher (the writer of the original) and Michael Green (the writer of Logan, Alien: Covenant, and the upcoming Murder on the Orient Express, the co-creator of American Gods). This duo of scriptwriters did an amazing job: they paid homage to the original (both the plot and the thematic concepts) and expanded upon it/them extremely successfully.

The first two acts of the sequel were structured as a mystery: a smart yet straightforward one man’s quest for answers. The third act upped the complexity: it had a tonne of exciting reveals and a bunch of sidelines converging with the main one. The writing for the lead character was just brilliant too. Every act of the film had some kind of twist relating to him: either the fact that he was a replicant at the beginning, a potential offspring of a replicant in the second act and just a decoy for the actual child in the end. It was amazing to see a character go from not knowing who he was to finding actual answers but quickly realizing that he was asking the wrong questions in the first place. He both found and lost an identity before our eyes in the time span of two hours. It was such a great and different character arc.

Two huge thematic concepts that 2049 introduced were the virtual/holographic humans and the procreation ability of the replicants. These two ideas pushed the question of ‘what is humanity ?’ so much farther than I ever dream it could go. I still can’t wrap my head around these two concepts.

Directing

Denis Villeneuve, who has quickly become one of the most critically acclaimed directors of our time with films like Prisoners, Sicario, and especially last year’s Arrival, directed the Blade Runner sequel and did a spectacular job. To begin with, he stayed faithful to the original with the pacing and the style of the visuals. Having said that, Villeneuve also built upon what was already there. 2049 was a really long and quite a slow film, however, it never dragged. It was always intense, intriguing, and exciting – way more than the original ever was.

When it comes to visuals, they were just breathtaking. The set design (by Alessandra Querzola + production design by Dennis Gassner), the costume design (by Renée April), the lighting and the cinematography (by Roger Deakins) – all these different departments just brought their A-game and created such a cohesive masterpiece. The scope was epic and awe-inspiring. The shots were composed so beautifully, you could just freeze them and frame every single image. The colors were so vibrant and just popped off the screen. The shots also lingered a lot (that’s why the movie was so long) but the combination of the visuals and the amazing score made them so impactful, powerful, and effective. In general, the soundtrack (by Benjamin Wallfisch and none other than Hans Zimmer) was so cool and that new instrumental theme was so heart wrenching.

A lot of films have tried to emulate a similar style but none of them have come close to Blade Runner 2049 (Ghost in the Shell looked good but wasted the visuals on an awful story). A few of noteworthy sequences in this picture were: 1. the interplay between the shadows and the light in the pyramid; 2. the memory-construction scene – such a brilliant example of storytelling within a bigger story; 3. the zoom/enhance effect carried over from the first film; 4. a very unique sex scene (not an adjective I’ve ever thought I’d use to describe a sex scene; and 5. an impeccable looking de-aging moment – that technology has never looked better.

Acting

Blade Runner 2049 had quite an extensive cast, full of fan-favorite actors in roles of varying sizes. At the centre of it was Ryan Gosling, who has lent his talents to a variety of genres throughout his career, including but not limited to musicals (La La Land), art films (Only God Forgives), indies with mainstream appeal (Drive), mainstream romantic dramas (The Notebook), arty romantic dramas (Blue Valentine), comedies (Crazy,Stupid,Love), political dramas (The Ides of March), action comedies (The Nice Guys), biopics (The Big Short), and crime dramas (Gangster Squad). Finally, he has added sci-fi to this extensive list with the lead role in Blade Runner 2049, which he was just absolutely brilliant in: powerful, vulnerable, dramatic, emotional. Totally marvelous.

Harrison Ford has come back to another role from his younger days. He has already retired Han Solo and will be back as Indiana Jones in 2020. In Blade Runner 2049, he only appeared in the third act but that was enough to make an impression.

The film also had quite a few female characters. Ana de Armas (War Dogs) was amazing as the virtual girlfriend, Sylvia Hoeks (Renegades) was wonderful as the warrior replicant, Robin Wright (Wonder Woman) was a badass police chief,
Mackenzie Davis (Black Mirror’s ‘San Junipero’ episode) had a fun appearance and, lastly, Carla Juri had a surprisingly important role. Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista appeared in a short but the most dramatically challenging role of his career so far, while Captain Phillips’s and Eye in the Sky’s Barkhad Abdi also had a cameo (wish he got more roles). Lastly, Jared Leto (Suicide Squad) played the main antagonist and, although his role was unsettling and quite creepy, it seemed quite normal by Leto’s standards. He was great in it, though.

In short, Blade Runner 2049 was one of those wow pictures that stays with you, long after you are done watching it. Gorgeously looking, carefully written, brilliantly acted sequel that is *gasp* better than the original.

Rate: 4.8/5

Trailer: Blade Runner 2049

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Movie review: The Lego Batman Movie

Movie reviews

Hi!

With the DCEU films being critical nightmares, which do not earn as much as they should do, Ben Affleck stepping out as director of the Batman solo movie and The Flash film being completely rewritten, the Warner Bros desperately needs a win concerning its DC properties. Might The Lego Batman Movie be the win? Let’s find out!

IMDb summary: Bruce Wayne must not only deal with the criminals of Gotham City but also the responsibility of raising a boy he adopted.

Writing

The Lego Batman Movie was written by Seth Grahame-Smith (who wrote Dark Shadows, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and the novel version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), Chris McKenna (a TV comedy writer), Erik Sommers (Spider-Man: Homecoming writer), Jared Stern (who provided additional story material for Wreck-It Ralph), and John Whittington (a newcomer writer who doesn’t have any significant credits on his IMDb page). The duo of writers/directors behind the uber-successful The Lego Movie – the film that started The Lego franchise – Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – helped to produce this spinoff flick as well. I, personally, absolutely loved the writing for this movie.

Let’s star with the on the nose humor as it was such a huge part of the picture. The Lego Batman was basically Deadpool for kids. Like Deadpool, this film didn’t waste its credits and began mocking the studios and the executives in the first few seconds of its runtime. It then moved on to making fun of the comic book movies cliches, such as ‘the unnecessarily complicated bombs’, ‘the villains who explain their plan aloud’ and other plot conveniences.  Plus, I laughed out loud several times when the characters would start making the shooting noise – ‘pew pew’. I also loved the funny inclusion of the comic book sound effect balloons which showed the origins of Batman. Lastly, the movie also poked fun at merchandise with that merch gun scene (I’m definitely guilty of owning some items myself – I was actually wearing my batman sweatshirt at the screening).

The narrative wise, The Lego Batman Movie didn’t bother with neither the setup nor the basic development and origins of the character and I’m actually really glad that they skipped all of that, cause everybody already knows Batman’s background. Nevertheless, the film still did some cool stuff with its main character, for example, portraying him more as an anti-hero and raising the questions of accountability and legitimacy (basically, Captain America: Civil War storyline). The movie also teased and parodied the Batman’s Rogues Gallery and also mocked his gadgets (while at the same time, showing them on screen just so that they could turn them into toys and merch, which they have also made fun of already).

In addition, this film attempted to do something with the Batman and Batgirl relationship, which was very similar to what The Killing Joke movie did. That development really angered the fans and The Killing Joke really suffered from that addition, so I was worried that this idea might damage The Lego Batman too. However, this film dragged the ship more than pushed it, so everything turned out fine in the end. On the other hand, I really liked the relationship that was created for Batman and The Joker. The were literally like an old married couple. The other little details, like Batman’s password (‘Iron Man sucks), the Hugh Hefner-like dressing gown, and his obsessions with romcoms (shout out to Jerry Maguire) were just amazing. I also loved the fact that they managed to include a Nightwing easter egg and actually used the fact that lego figurines can join together as a plot point in the film.

From the thematical standpoint, the movie explored relationships within a family and between friends as well as narcissism. It looked at the fear of human connection which arose from the possibility of being left alone. The final message of the film – that one has to let people in even if they might hurt you by leaving and disappearing – was a neat one.

Directing

Chris McKay, who worked as an animator and editor on The Lego Movie, directed The Lego Batman and did a spectacular job. I just loved the fact that he took the grimmest property from the dark and sophisticated DC and made it work as a comedy. The Lego Batman Movie was, truly, one of the best action comedies I’ve seen. It had the non-stop jokes and the fast action (the film was unbelievably energetic) but it still found time for quieter, more heartfelt moments (every animated movie needs ‘the feels’). The only few moments in the picture, which annoyed me a bit, were all the singing and rapping scenes. They juts seemed of a lower level of humor than all the wonderful meta-references and jokes.

Additionally, the animation was just striking. Every shot looked so densely animated and complex – you could just see how much work it has taken to bring this story to life in this format. The Lego Batman Movie was definitely a perfect match between the material and the format, cause I doubt that this narrative could have worked in live action. It would have just come across as stupid (mostly because of all the rapping), but now it blended the right amount of stupidity and cleverness and was, overall,  extremely fun and very enjoyable.

Speaking more about the visuals of the film, I loved seeing the recreations of all the previous Batman films in the lego form. I also really appreciated the lego versions of all the other DC and non-DC villains that cameoed in the film – crossover all the way! We got to see Voldemort, Sauron, King-Kong, The Wicked Witch, and Doctor Who’s Daleks – basically all properties that belong to WB.

I have also noticed, that the majority of DC films (both live-action and animated) are now team-ups. It also seems that one cannot have a Batman movie without Superman or the other Justice League members (that short scene was a neat surprise and maybe it was there to set-up a sort of solo Lego movies for other DC characters?).

Music

Lorne Balfe was responsible for the soundtrack and he picked some very appropriate, witty, and catchy songs for the film. While I didn’t really like the actual Batman song, I loved the updated version of ‘Man in the Mirror’ and felt that it was a more clever jab at Batman rather than the on the nose Batman song.

Voice Cast

The film had an amazing voice cast. Will Arnett (a long time voice actor and narrator) just killed it as Bruce Wayne / Batman, while Zach Galifianakis (who has also had some experience with voicing) was an equally amazing JokerMichael Cera (Sausage Party) brought a sense of innocence to Dick Grayson / Robin, while Rosario Dawson’s (who voices Wonder Woman in most of the direct to video JL films) voice really fit Barbara Gordon / Batgirl – she sounded as and actually was an efficient go-getter. Ralph Fiennes (Kubo and the Two Strings) oozed class as Alfred PennyworthJenny Slate (Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets) was the voice of Harley Quinn. It might be the Margot Robbie effect, but I wanted Harley to sound sassier.  The filmmakers also managed to get the big name talent – Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill –  to record a few lines as Superman and Green Lantern, respectively (they voiced these characters in The Lego Movie), while Adam DeVine joined them as The Flash.

In short, The Lego Batman Movie was both a successful spin-off of The Lego Movie as well as a great parody of all the comic book movies. Extremely funny and highly enjoyable!

Rate: 4.7/5

Trailer: The Lego Batman trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Batman: The Killing Joke

Movie reviews

Hello!

I have been reviewing movies for almost 3 years and, throughout that time, I tried to branch out as much as possible – I wrote about big blockbusters and small indie films, Hollywood flicks and foreign pictures. All of the movies had one thing in common – they all have been theatrical releases. Well, this time, I’m widening the spectrum and reviewing an animated movie that was released on streaming and had only a limited theatrical run – Batman: The Killing Joke.

IMDb summary: As Batman hunts for the escaped Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness.

  1. The Killing Joke is the newest addition to the DC Animated Universe. Lately, I have been watching a lot films of that franchise – I’m done with Justice League films and I’ve also checked out the Wonder Woman animated feature. All of the DC Animated films are beloved by the fans, so The Killing Joke was also highly anticipated. The original graphic novel was written by the genius Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland, so that’s also a few of the reasons why the nerds couldn’t wait for it. I haven’t read the original comic book  but really want to and will do in a near future.
  2. Writing: the comic book writer Brian Azzarello penned the script for the film and did quite a good job. However, the story did seem uneven. The first half an hour of original material, regarding Batgirl and her relationship with Batman, did not have any connections to the actual narrative of The Killing Joke, so the feature seemed like 2 different shorts in one. I understand why they wanted to add more backstory and development for Barbara, but I think they could have found a more cohesive way to do so. Nevertheless, I really liked the ending of her story – The Joker might have broken Batgirl, but Barbara survived and moved on to better (?) things. I also liked that they kept the ambiguous ending and that they also played fast and loose with The Joker’s backstory: even though the visual flashbacks told one story, the lines of dialogue sorta contradicted it.
  3. The theme of insanity and loneliness during madness was explored in the film. I have a weird interest in insanity as a concept for creative cinematic stories (that’s why I love Gotham’s Arkham Asylum episodes), even though I understand what a serious, awful, and important real-world issue it is. Nevertheless, the dark portrayal of insanity in The Killing Joke was respectful and sophisticated – the film wasn’t just dark and crazy for entertainment sake. I also really liked the deeper dive into Batman’ and Joker’s relationship and the similarities they share. The Joker has always been my and a lot of people’s favorite comic book villain and it is quite easy to see why. He is so iconic and well-rounded, both physically and psychologically: his distinct look is instantly recognizable, despite the plethora of variations throughout the years, and his emotional stance as a villain is amazing: he is frightening, yet humorous; efficient, relentless and threatening; unreliable yet still scarily charming.
  4. Sam Liu directed the picture – he has a lot of experience with animated comic book properties and didn’t disappoint this time either. The animation was good, it was done in the same style as the majority of DC Animated Universe films. I don’t know if would look good on the big screen but it definitively worked on a small one. The action scenes were also realized nicely and I appreciated the recreation of the comic book panels – even though I have yet to read the original material, its graphics are familiar to me due to how iconic they are.
  5. The voice cast did an amazing job, but it is no surprise when you see who actually voiced the characters. Kevin Conroy returned to voice Bruce Wayne / Batman and did a perfect job, as expected. Mark Hamill shined as The Joker once again. I just love that slight crack and the edge in Hamill’s voice – it is so appropriate for The Joker and I cannot imagine a different actor who could do this job. He performed the infamous memory monolog perfectly: it wasn’t too flashy but just the right amount of terror and intimidation. Tara Strong, who has plenty of voice work experience did a nice job bringing Barbara Gordon / Batgirl to life, while Ray Wise was also good Commissioner James Gordon, even though it is his only second voice role.

In short, Batman: The Killing Joke was a nice addition to the magnificent DC Animated Universe. It might not be the best feature of the franchise but it is definitely enjoyable. I would love to hear the thoughts of those who have read the comic – how does the film compare to it?

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Batman: The Killing Joke

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Movie review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation + a look back

Movie reviews

Hello!

The latest sequel of the beloved 90s franchise rolls into theaters this weekend, so I’ve decided to spend my Thursday re-watching the first four entries of the series, despite the fact that Mission: Impossible films aren’t known for being very connective to each other. The only things they have in common are the same main character and very subtle references to past events.

1996 ‘s Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible was the film that turned Tom Cruise into an action movie start. Although, the movie is a year older than me, it still holds up today. The suspense is mind blowing and the CIA infiltration scene is one of the best action movie scenes I have ever seen.

2000’s John Woo’s MI-2 is my least favorite film in the series. It turned careful and clever agent Ethan Hunt in cocky- carefree-James Bond wannabee. The action wasn’t that great either, because they exchanged the suspense of the first film into slow motion parkour extravaganza with guns.

In 2006, J.J.Abrams had his directorial debut on the big screen with MI-3 and injected much-needed suspense and energy into the franchise. The series was back on track. Even the, now infamous, lens flares worked really well. I am a huge Abrams fan (Star Trek and Star Wars, are you kidding me?), so I am really happy that he stayed as a producer on the later films. MI3 also had one of my favorite supporting casts. Philip Seymour Hoffman (may he rest in peace) played a great villain and I wish they would find a way to bring back Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s character. This film also introduced us to Simon Pegg’s Benji, but I’m going to talk more about him in the MI5’s review because he is back for the fifth entry.

Ving Rhames’s Luther is also back for the fifth entry, after sitting the 4th one out and only cameo-ing at the end. Can’t wait to see his and Simon Pegg’s character having a hacker dual.

2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is my favorite MI movie to date. Brad Bird did an amazing job (I’m really sad that I hated his last movie – Tomorrowland). MI4 also was the film that added Jeremy Renner into the cast. I was really happy about it, because I believe that Renner doesn’t get enough credit for his work. Plus, his character William Brandt was weaved into the series very organically. Anyway, I can’t wait to see him in Rogue Nation as well.

In short, although I’m not a huge fan of crime dramas or spy movies (or action movie that take place in the present day and urban setup in general), I’ve always made an exception for two franchises – Mission: Impossible being one of them (James Bond – the other). Moreover, I have always applauded the fact that MI films have a truly worldwide appeal because of their international setting and diverse cast. Lastly, I feel like Mission: Impossible films are actually getting better with each entry in the franchise (except maybe MI2). I hope that this trend continues and that MI franchise stays a rare exception of a series, whose quality goes upwards and not downwards.

My review of the latest entry in the franchise – Rogue Nation – is down bellow, should you choose to read it.

IMDb summary: Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.

Now, after finally seeing the film, I can assure you that the trend continues and Mission: Impossible movies show no signs of stopping.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Directing and Writing

Rogue Nation was directed by Christopher McQuarrie. This was only his 3rd time directing a motion picture but his 2nd time teaming up with Tom Cruise. They have previously worked on Jack Reacher together. McQuarrie was also one of the writers on the latest Cruise’s film – Edge of Tomorrow (review)Moreover, McQuarrie co-wrote Rogue Nation’s script with Drew Pearce, who was one of the writers on Iron Man 3. As you can see, all the people behind the camera are quite well acquainted with the summer blockbuster genre. And they definitely delivered.

The actions scenes looked amazing, especially the underwater one. It was extremely suspenseful. The car chase scene which turned into the motorcycle chase scene has also been done impeccability. Story-wise, this movie must have had a script consisting of a ton of pages, because a lot of things happen in the film. We have a variety of different locations, proving once more that MI is a global franchise. There is also a plethora of espionage and a bunch of spy gadgets, which, for me, are a few of the most interesting parts of any movie. Moreover, twist and turns did not disappoint. The usage of glass chambers and masks was also cool. The movie’s run time is quite long, but it never drags or slows down.

References and Product Placement

This movie calls back to previous MI films much more than other MI films have ever done. The rabbit’s foot had a nice cameo. The twist with the mission’s message was really cool too. The signature Mission: Impossible theme with a slight moderation was, of course, used in the film as well. Also, when they mentioned Great Britain’s MI6, all I could think about was that the meeting between James Bond and Ethan Hunt would be a-ma-zing! However, this film didn’t have a scene where Hunt is horizontally hanging from a rope. They had a few scenes involving ropes, but none of them were similar to the famous shot from the other 4 films. Nevertheless, the money shot – Cruise on a motorcycle – was in the Rogue Nation.

Now, moving on to my least favorite part of the film – the product placement. They must have tried out all of the models of BMW in this film. And not just BMW cars, but motorcycles as well. In addition, I’m looking for a new laptop to buy and the Rogue Nation really wants me to purchase a DELL computer.

Acting

  • Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt. There isn’t much to say about Cruise in this role. He has made it his own a long time ago and now he just proves everybody – the fans and the studio – that he is irreplaceable to this franchise (at one point, Fox wanted to fire Cruise from the project because of his personal life). The fact that he is 53 years old (!!!!) and still looks great and does his own stunts is mind boggling and deserves a standing ovation.
  • Jeremy Renner as William Brandt was also really great. As I have mentioned, I am really happy that Renner is a part of this franchise. His court scenes were amazing and the twist/betrayal was really good as well.
  • Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn was the scene stealer of the film. I was really happy that he had such a big role in Rogue Nation. His comedic timing was also perfect and a nice addition to the 5th installment.
  • Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust was the most bad-ass and my favorite leading lady of Mission: Impossible films. MI4’s Paula Patton was also a bad-ass, but Ferguson was even better in every aspect. I loved the fact that she didn’t have a romantic relationship with Ethan (where is his wife, BTW?). Also, her double or even triple agent story line made her into one of the most interesting characters in the whole film. I haven’t seen other movies she is in (except Hercules, but we all should forget that that film ever happened), but I really want to watch the TV show she starred in – The White Queen. I had that series on my radar for a long time because Max Irons is in it but still haven’t found time to check it out. Because of Ferguson’s performance in Rogue Nation, The White Queen definitely moved up a few places on my list of TV shows I want to watch.
  • Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell. It was really nice to see him back. And the way they handled Luther’s and Ethan’s friendship (Luther being his oldest friend) was perfect.
  • Sean Harris as Solomon Lane was quite a good villain. Not as good as Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Owen in MI3 but definitely better than most action movie villains of this summer in general. Actually, he kinda reminded me of a comic book character. His long coat and slightly crazy eyes added to comic book-y appearance.
  • Alec Baldwin as Alan Hunley was also a great addition to the cast. I am so happy that we will probably get to see more of him in the sixth film. Because I surely feel that they are going to make more of MI films.
  • Tom Hollander as the Prime Minister. He had a small role and I wasn’t expecting Hollander to be in the film. However, when he was introduced as a Prime Minister, I completely believed it, because I have this image in my mind of Hollander always being the politician or the leader of an organization. This image probably comes from my childhood/early teen years when Hollander played a chairman of East India Trading Company in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

To sum up, I really loved the film. The third and final 90s franchise didn’t disappoint. The story was interesting, the action – exciting and the acting – superb. I really really really want to see more Mission: Impossible films. They make me feel like I am a 9 year old once more.

Sadly (or luckily), this review will NOT self destruct in 5 seconds, so read it as many times as you want.

Rate: 4.9/5 (-0.1 for product placement)

Trailer: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation trailer

P.S. You can find the reviews of this summer’s sequels of the other 90s franchises here: Jurassic World review / Terminator Genisys review.