Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

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Well cor blimey, this film looks delicious up on the big screen. The visuals aren’t the only delights though; storytelling, acting, music and cinematography are all excellent features of this sci-fi sequel that in my tiny insignificant opinion may be just as good if not better than the original.

Possibly a first here as I won’t go into a usual plot summary paragraph because I feel that any info on what the story serves could be, if not a spoiler at least something that ruins the element of intrigue that you should enter this movie with. Suffice to say it’s 30 years after the setting of the first one and we follow K (Ryan Gosling) in dystopian LA following a case after discovering something potentially world changing at a farm.

Even though I hadn’t seen the 1982 movie at the time, once this film was announced with details of Denis Villeneuve attached I did squeal a little. This incredible visual and smart director gave me cause for excitement and he does indeed pull off an incredibly visual and smart film again. It’s a very intelligent movie with cause for thought and the whole dystopian set up like in the first one gives amazing room for creative space and design. Villeneuve keeps the tone similar but that doesn’t stop him from expanding on ideas and updating them to fit in the mould of what 2049 could bring.

A strong theme within both movies is the notion of identity. In a way I feel this thread is felt even more within this release thanks to the character of K and the freedom movement he is tracking. What makes us human and what does that mean are two powerful questions and they course throughout the film with constant but not overbearing presence. The whole hero idea is another one played with and K is an interesting character because he’s not exactly all out nice guy but that moral code sits within him. A film is always good or great I say when it leaves you thinking about what you’ve seen and immersing yourself into that world to think on possible answers.

Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch have conducted a wonderful score that trickles along in the background adding suitable futuristic sounds and as Zimmer does best the rises and boom of music at times creates the tension within certain scenes. Better than the music though is the sublime work from director of photography Roger Deakins who deserves to finally win an Academy Award with the sheer beauty he gifted this movie. The lines and forms are stunning all the way through, for example the yellow shifting light and frames captured within Wallace’s headquarters are mesmerising.

I have to comment on the newer technological ideas implanted in the movie too; such as the memory maker aspect which was visually pleasing and a very neat idea. The ‘Her’ like sexual encounter with K and his girlfriend with help from someone else was another case of something visually different. A fight with the background holographic accompaniment of Elvis and some showgirls further boosts the creative visual flair.

This film may be a little long and at times the pacing, like in the original, feels at odds and can be a tad slow but the detective story-line and the stunning future world presented on a big screen makes this a science fiction movie to stand up on its own and not just as a follow up to the Ridley Scott outing. In fact because I got to see this in the cinema unlike the first one, that is possibly the reason I like this more, the atmosphere and scale of seeing it on the big screen is necessary for this movie.

7.5/10

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The Little Prince (2016)

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Thank goodness for Netflix, because otherwise I doubt I and many other people would have seen this glorious and gorgeous animation. Mixing computer animated scenes with the true art of stop-motion sequences, this French-Canadian movie is colourful, stirring and magical.

Single Mother (Rachel McAdams) is a busy worker and wants her daughter to follow suit by attending the prestigious Werth Academy. However The Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy) befriends the much talked about nutty man next door leading her down a more adventurous fun path. The Aviator (Jeff Bridges) has stories to tell and interests the girl with a tale about a Little Prince (Riley Osborne) who he met in the Sahara Desert.

In a way, the 3D graphics of the animated world featuring the girl and her older neighbour reminded me of the look ‘The Incredibles’ provided. The shape of people and their faces harking to that sort of visual. The way this grey and busy landscape is seen is brilliant, just the times we zoom out to see ant sized cars all leaving on the dot for work shows how professional and disengaged to a more fun life these adults are.

The special moments are in the papery looking but also wooden style design of the stop-motion characters. I’ve always said that the whole process of stop-motion animation is something admirable and rewarding and I stick by it ever more so due to this beautiful exploration of the medium. There’s a great charm in seeing The Little Prince stories come into the fold during this film and it gives the story an extra fancy touch.

Having never read the source material myself, I couldn’t comment on what the treatment of the novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is like. They me quite faithful or changed a lot but I enjoyed the story presented here a lot. His tale is moulded nicely and Irena Brignull and Bob Persichetti create a lovely screenplay that fits for all ages, centred around the idea of growing up and forgetting childhood. At times, this theme gets dealt an emotional hand and I felt a little tingly at the ideas being put across.

Only one portion of this movie kind of felt off and that’s annoyingly the third act as the Little Girl decides to take action and flies off in the hope of seeing the much talked about prince. It could be viewed as an act that loses people because it gets off track from the better grounded narrative scenes that come before, which is exactly how I see it. I guess you could say that at the time the girl falls, what comes after can be interpreted how you like which makes more sense but still doesn’t stop the last act being slightly iffy.

The music gives you chills, with a wonderful score from Hans Zimmer accompanying the on screen action with suitable bounce and heart. Camille provides lush vocals during the film, in a way that echoes of the enchanting yet haunting sounds from ‘Coraline’. Another positive is the light comedy that hits well, the sad notes of loss and looking to the stars for laughter provides a lovely notion and the pairing of the girl and aviator are fun to watch.

All I can really say is, it’s a massive shame this won’t be up for an Academy Best Animated Feature award due to it not being theatrically released. If it was it’d certainly give Disney and Pixar a severe run for their money because it’s stunning, emotional and special.

8.5/10

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

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I don’t think a huge blockbuster film of this calibre on top of being the first time in cinema to see two DC heroes square up to each other was meant to be this boring, but Holy Smokes it is. It’s just written poorly or not all it feels like as we jump from moment to moment, these pillars of good in their own rights are completely tarnished by effects, Zack Snyder and a laughable villain.

After the death of his parents and huge damage to Metropolis; killing his friend and toppling his building, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) becomes Batman in order to try and battle the God-like powers of Superman (Henry Cavill). Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) also wants to stop the alien in red and blue and with the assistance of some discovered Kryptonite, he may be able to set Supes versus Bat with ease, leaving him to…make more money and um live in a totally destroyed city.

That’s the thing, the story in this film is near non existent that Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer were probably just putting their feet up and thinking that having these two massive comic book characters fighting would be enough. Well hey, that’s been filling the trailers and selling tickets so however bad this film is, it’s making a heck of a lot of money so I doubt they’re caring that their screenplay is so devoid of intelligence, suspense or power.

For this yawn-inducing 151 minute movie, we hardly see any real action between the heavy weights. Instead we get lots of Affleck as Wayne, Lois Lane subjected to tedious journalism and an awful turn from Eisenberg as a mop-haired Luthor that seems to have aspirations to be a Batman baddie instead of Superman’s adversary. There’s a lot they’re trying to slot into this film but most of it is headaches from the amount of CGI that gets thrown into the mix. Instead of what could have been an interesting look at the idea of justice and man vs. God, that gets smoked over by more than Batman’s smoke grenade. I’ve never switched off in action movies and yet somehow in this film, I found my mind wandering as uninspiring sequences played out.

Zack Snyder directs this film like he’s trying to bring the Christopher Nolan touch to his movie. There’s a somewhat dark and broody level to this movie but it becomes too much and with that is Snyder’s typical directorial influence as we drift into ‘Watchmen’ visuals that feel so out of place and stretch this movie’s runtime ever further. I mean, that whole desert Batman scene, with winged creatures and then the vengeful laser shooting Superman was so stupid and added nothing. There’s no consistency with this film, like Snyder is trialling different ideas to keep us entertained but actually making everything unbalanced, which on top of the less than ordered screenplay equals a mess of a film.

The whole special effects over use is mind-boggling, for why they ever needed to include such a horrendous visual of a genetically enhanced character is beyond me. It looked hideous, filled the IMAX screen with too much CGI and enforced my opinion that this movie is over the top. I may as well be Brick Tamland shouting LOUD NOISES to try and rival the constant barrage of smashes and crashes this movie is overloaded with. If the effects weren’t drowning you with noise then you could be sure that Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s score would. I mean, together they had their moments in making some dramatic music but it swelled way too much and smothered the scenes. Oh and that operatic hilarity of the score for when Luthor goes to the ship felt so off kilter.

I said it from the outset that the DC Universe are behind and trying to keep up with the well mapped out plans from Marvel. The fact that we only had ‘Man of Steel’ and then they bring in Batman to try and keep appeal shows that they’re rushing to set up the Justice League and no longer be stragglers. Hey, who cares, straggle away, make another Superman movie, introduce Affleck in a standalone Batman film, have Wonder Woman first before shoe-horning them all in together with flashes of the Flash and cameos from Aquaman and Cyborg too. This film is way too bloated because they’ve shoved everything in instead of focusing on setting them all up properly and then uniting the Justice League. It’s sad that this film felt more like a tiring ordeal to sit through than an exciting event.

Ben Affleck, to his credit does good in his role which will now quell that dire turn as Daredevil. He brings a suited stiffness and arrogance as Wayne and a hard bulky combat ready look as Batman. Henry Cavill is still bland as Superman, providing little more than a muscled body and a vague stern look from time to time. Jesse Eisenberg was announced and gave me hope and intrigue to see what he’d bring but however good he is at playing the villain, I can’t shake how ridiculous he is. Eisenberg makes Lex Luthor sound and act like a pantomime villain dreaming to be like the Joker as he gallivants around like a neurotic and excitable puppy. Amy Adams tries her best in a dull role as Lois Lane, getting into possible strong moments only to become the damsel in distress. Gal Gadot for me was the only positive I could find, the music with her arrival as Wonder Woman helped make her seem like the character we all wanted. Gadot played Diana Prince with a seductive Selina Kyle grace and convinced me as the warrior with a lasso of truth.

Batman v. Superman just doesn’t work, being a festival of a lot going on but nothing to prevent the onset of boredom, unless you’re a die-hard fan that looks past obvious faults. It’s not as massively bad as I expected from the reviews and friend responses but…it is bad.

4.5/10

Interstellar (2014)

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Christopher Nolan returns after his ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy duties, with probably the grandest big screen event release this year. It might be a slight pushy to compare it as this movie calendar’s ‘Gravity’ but it certainly fits in that realm. Stunning sci-fi, outstanding performances and the long dark quiet of space to shock you into awe. At nearly three hours long, it can certainly be said that this is an epic tale, there are moments that lull or stretch scientific imagination a tad far but it’s great to see something so bold be conveyed on the screen it deserves to live on.

Living in a bleak and dusty future is widowed Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his children Tom and Murph (Timothee Chalamet & Mackenzie Foy). Crops are dying and the only profession left to aspire to is being a farmer to try and save humanity. Though after stumbling on a secret building Cooper realises to try and help Earth he must leave it. A wormhole has opened up leading to the chance of interstellar travel and the hope to find a planet habitable for the world’s population.

That’s as far as I can really go in terms of detail, that’s the bare bones without spoiling more of the inner workings of the plot and the science backdrop. Sufficed to say, on the whole this script by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan is filled with gorgeous sci-fi material, it’s very intelligent in places too and can definitely be classed as one of the cleverer blockbusters to be released in a long while. Saying that, some of the terminology may lose audiences and non fans of sci-fi may not enjoy the film. It also loses itself in places just because the movie length is long, moments yawn out too much and one significant twist to do with dimensions feels drawn out and glossed over in reasoning of how. There’s know how there but it will 100% lose quite a lot of people.

As with all of Nolan’s recent films, you can go in expecting glorious spectacle. The landscapes they discover are beautiful and worrying. The feel of the craft spinning or just floating in space leaves you watching with a powerful sense of wonder. After quite a non-impactful opening set up of character and location, the true art of Nolan’s mastery is revealed up in the inky magic of space. Icy sheets, wave ridden worlds and rippled wormhole delights truly engage you, the IMAX is the best way of seeing these images. The 70mm photography is majestic and though it probably looks alright on a standard screen, IMAX is Nolan’s area, picture and sound quality are amplified to perfection and truly immerse you into this crisp new solar system.

In keeping with the sound, Hans Zimmer conjures up a brilliant score to accompany the visuals of this film. Striking out with more tense ridden dramatic sounds that pile on pressure and suspense in relation to docking on a ship or lovingly crafting more slowed down eerily filled blurs of guitar and strings that encapsulate the amazement yet hollow scariness of space. There’s no ‘Inception’-esque big drums to shudder the seats, the more relaxed score works better than that, lovingly contributing to this brave new world.

All performances are unshakable in this film. Matthew and McConaissance are still in great flow with his leading role sticking more in the calm side of things yet he excels in his grand moments of teary scenes and panicked uncertainty. A scene featuring Matthew McConaughey will no doubt bring some audience members to tears as it nearly did with me, it’s a stunningly real scene, no CGI or sweeping visuals needed. Family and love thrive throughout and he truly shows that in this scene. Anne Hathaway gets more in touch with emotions of the human heart and her interactions with McConaughey are greatly acted, she’s a counter balance to Cooper’s sturdier relaxed manner yet she has moments to shine in realising where they should go. Michael Caine is the man to explain integral parts of the plot, as he so often does and throughout this film he expands on the broken mentality of scientific exploration, becoming even more fragile and weary than his Alfred was in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Other cast members play just as important roles in the film, Mackenzie Foy is an actress with superb emotional weight and one performer to keep an eye on. Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain get differing moments to tell their stories but both are solid actors and Chastain really shines. This isn’t even mentioning the splendour of Jon Lithgow, David Gyasi and some humourous work from robot voices Bill Irwin and Josh Stewart. A magnificent cast to match the magnificence of the film’s visual dazzle and one nicely masked guest spot works fantastically in the story and wow moment.

A very thought provoking drama that serves as a love story more than the clearly obvious science fiction setting. Family, togetherness and instincts of the heart keep cropping up and they make this film more than an average space journey. Even if some of the story tries going places it maybe shouldn’t have and can sometimes feel slightly stuffed with bewildering talk, the majority of Christopher Nolan’s directing feat works rather than not.

‘Interstellar’ will probably only be hugely loved by Nolan or sci-fi fans but I think others can and will like or appreciate that the daring aspects of the adventure are worth it and it scratches ever so near to being a flat out masterpiece.

8/10