“Blade Runner: 2049”

I’ve now seen Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated film, Blade Runner: 2049 twice. That alone should tell you how I feel about the film.

Thirty years after Deckard (Harrison Ford) fled with Rachael (Sean Young), we’re introduced to a new blade runner named K (Ryan Gosling). K’s tasked uncovers a certain secret that’s connected to him and Deckard, and threatens what remains of order. That’s all you need to know.

Blade Runner: 2049 was my most anticipated film of 2017 and it lives up to the hype. This is a mesmerizing film that maintains its predecessor’s tone and aesthetics while acting as a stand alone film. It’s currently my favorite film of 2017.

A lot has changed between 2019 and 2049 in the Blade Runner universe. Replicants have evolved, computers have evolved, and the world is now overpopulated and decayed. LA isn’t just rainy; it’s snowy, foggy, and smoggy. There isn’t a single shot of sunshine, yet the film is still stunning.

From start to finish, Blade Runner: 2049 is eye candy. I was mesmerized between the aerial shots of K driving through the neon skyscrapers and the shots of him walking through dark hallways and smoggy landscapes. Cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall, The Shawshank Redemption, Prisoners, No Country for Old Men, Fargo) once again proves he’s the master of cinematography.

This isn’t a style over substance film by any means. Much like Ridley Scott’s masterful predecessor, Villeneuve’s sequel maintains the philosophical themes and ambiguous questions about life, death, and humanity. It also raises new ones about memory, miracles, evolution, and survival. 2049 isn’t at all a rehash of the first film.

2049 is 2 hours and 43 minutes long (roughly 44 minutes longer than the original) and is an epic in scale and tone. If you saw Villeneuve’s previous works Sicario and Prisoners, you know he has a knack for violent quick bursts of action. 2049 has enough to satisfy action lovers.

Everyone in the cast is perfect. Gosling delivers another cool, expressionistic performance as a troubled antihero. Ford portrays Deckard as a traumatized battle-torn veteran with grace. Robin Wright adds some humanity to her cold character Detective Joshi; she’s K’s superior and acts as a caring maternal figure. Even Jared Leto has a few golden moments as a god complex-ridden replicant manufacturer, Niander Wallace. Of all the performances, Sylvia Hoeks shines as Luv, Wallace’s replicant enforcer who wants to prove she’s the superior replicant.

Blade Runner was an acquired taste and 2049 isn’t any different. If you want an artistic epic that’s restrained in action but grandiose in themes, 2049 is for you. Villeneuve once again proves he’s one of the best working filmmakers to date.

Grade: A+

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Top 10 Hated Movies

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So, I learned recently that everyone was curious what my favorite hated movies were. Man, I had to think about this long and hard because I rarely find a movie that I hate. Let the comments and backlash begin because here are my top 10 favorite hated movies!

SOME SPOILERS REGARDING ENTRIES.

10) Pacific Rim (2013) – People were expecting more depth to Pacific Rim, given Guillermo Del Toro matched style with substance in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). They didn’t want cheese action movie one-liners or cliched voiceover narrations, but have they seen giant monster movies? Monster movies are meant to be cheesy and Del Toro embraces the cheese factor, delivering one badass and visually stunning monster movie. Seriously, why was The Lone Ranger (2013) nominated for visual effects and not this?

9) Funny People (2009) – With Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen acting alongside each other in a movie about stand-up comedy, there was hype. Audiences were ultimately disappointed when they got a drama about a cancer-diagnosed narcissist; the 2 1/12 hour-running time didn’t help either. This is Adam Sandler’s last good movie and one of his best. Yeah, there are times it feels like we’re watching Adam Sandler, but we’re mostly watching a guy who doesn’t know how to be a good person. Judd Apatow also wrote the script as a tribute to his and Sandler’s friendship, resulting in a very personal movie.

8) Licence to Kill (1989) – Back then, no one liked the gritty and realistic Bond movies because of how unconventional and hapless they were. Licence to Kill is no exception, as we follow the polarizing Timothy Dalton seeking revenge against a drug cartel for maiming his best friend. This is one of the best Bond movies because he doesn’t rely on gadgets or liaisons. He relies on his wit and charm, going undercover as an assassin for Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), the cartel leader. Also, that final showdown between the two shows how capably ruthless Bond is, which is the best kind of Bond.

7) Vanilla Sky (2001) – Everyone saw Vanilla Sky because it had Tom Cruise, but it left critics and audiences shrugging their shoulders. Guys, Vanilla Sky is fantastic. Cruise delivers one of his most convincing performances as a playboy who loses his mind, Cameron Diaz gives her best performance as Cruise’s stalker, and the surreal imagery, soundtrack, and Sci-Fi twist result in one crazy nightmarish experience.

6) Titan AE (2000) – Titan AE bombed in the box office and critics felt the story of an orphan searching for his lost father in the galaxy was too generic. Well, duh! Star Wars made that plot generic. But between the traditional animation blended with CG and the Dredge aliens’ design, it’s quite an experience. Plus this movie has a lot of heart, which is hard to find in genre movies these days.

5) Shutter Island (2010) – I remember posting my praise for Shutter Island on Facebook after seeing it in theaters and how everyone was telling me I was wrong. Either horror fans were disappointed in the slow-burn character study, or Scorsese fans felt it was too conventional and predictable for a Martin Scorsese picture. For me, it’s all about how you interpret the ending. If Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) was crazy all along, then yeah, that’s a let-down and cliched ending. But what if he was sane and the hospital staff manipulated him, then it’s quite a mind-trip.

4) The Cable Guy (1996) – I hope people still don’t think The Cable Guy killed Jim Carrey’s career. If anything, this movie showed Carrey had range! The Cable Guy was misunderstood due to its dark tone, mean-spirited nature, and Carrey playing a psycho stalker. The main issue was it was ahead of its time. Carrey is brilliantly creepy and darkly funny as the titular character, combining meta humor with pop culture references and physical comedy. Also, the satirical subplot with Ben Stiller as the celebrity accused of murdering his twin brother that everyone is watching on TV: genius.

3) The Fountain (2006) – Critics laughed at The Fountain, finding it pretentious. Audiences said aloud, “What the hell?” The Fountain is unrestrained at times (especially in its last twenty minutes), but the anthology of a man (Hugh Jackman) searching for immortality through three life spans kept me intrigued until the end. Especially with Present Jackman and Future Jackman’s stories because we get the impression they’re the same person. If you like hard sci-fi like I do, give The Fountain a shot.

2) Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom (1984) – I find it hard to believe people rank Crystal Skull over Temple of Doom. Yes, Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) is a terrible and sexist character, Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) is a caricature, but he’s still a badass sidekick, all things considered! Driving Indiana Jones out of gunfire? Saving him from possession? Also, Temple of Doom has a more grounded story than Crystal Skull and doesn’t feel like a cop-out in its revelation like Crystal Skull. Plus the tunnel chase and bridge showdown are still thrilling today as they were when I was six!

1)  Watchmen (2009) – Too violent? Too long? Too faithful to the comic? Well, Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel is a dark and epic tale that demands length and faithfulness in an on-screen adaptation. Zack Snyder reaches Kubrick levels of showmanship with his cinematography, fight scenes, and music choices. The opening credits is still one of the best opening credits sequences to date, and almost every cast choice (excluding Matthew Goode) was perfect, especially Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach.

Honorable mentions: Prometheus (2012), Tomorrowland (2015), Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990), Starship Troopers (1997).

I know you’re all wondering now what acclaimed movies I disliked. Well, stay tuned for my top ten overrated movies!

“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” (Spoiler Free)

I won’t fanboy over “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”. I won’t spoil anything whilst talking about “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”. I’ll say that it’s good to read, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” again.

“The Force Awakens” follows the Resistance over thirty years after the events of “Return of the Jedi”, and they’re now up against the First Order led by dark master Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson). They’re in pursuit of resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and his droid, BB-88 for mysterious reasons.

Thrown in the middle, are a rogue storm trooper named Finn (John Boyega) and a young scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) who become the franchise’s new heroes while aided by our classic heroes, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca.

I don’t want to spoil anything for the people who haven’t seen this movie, but this film is great. Director JJ Abrams has brought new life into the series while paying tribute to the classic trilogy.

Abrams doesn’t rely on CGI and lackluster camera tilts like prequels. He’s gone back to the original aesthetics with props, limited CGI, and innovative camera movements. He even restrained himself on lens flare, which was nice.

Abrams co-wrote the script with Michael Arndt (“Toy Story 3”) and Lawrence Kasdan (the original “Star Wars” trilogy) and they’ve crafted an exciting and beautiful story. There’s limited dialogue, but we get a sense of who Rey and Finn are through their expressions and possessions.

Rey is the star of “The Force Awakens” and Ridley brings great spirit to the character. She’s spunky, fearless, and destined for greatness. Finn is a vulnerable and redeemable character who isn’t afraid to take on any adversaries.

Kylo Ren is also a human villain, but perhaps a tad whiny (my biggest complaint with the movie), but his background and development make up for the whining he does later. I can’t wait to see more of him.

My favorite new character in the new trilogy is Poe. He’s cool and noble, and has a human-pet relationship with BB-88 that brings some charm to the film.

I’ll also say that it was great to see my favorite childhood characters Han and Chewy back together on the big screen, but I think I liked them more in this movie than the original ones. Han has more depth in his old age while maintaining the attitude that originally made him a badass.

That’s what’s great about this movie. For the first time, this is a “Star Wars” movie where there aren’t good guys and bad guys; there are flawed people.

Flaws? Well, sure, there are a few. The climactic setting isn’t as cool as it could have been, and the storm trooper Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) gets the Boba Fett treatment (NOT A SPOILER – she’s just hyped and has limited screen time). Good news is we still have two more movies to explore her character.

“Star Wars” will break box office records and it should. This is a film that I didn’t want originally (the prequels, you know?). I was skeptical of Abrams directing, but he left me smiling for a great two hours.

Grade: A