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Review Blade Runner 2049 by Jonathan Evans

4 Stars4 / 5

 

The images and themes of Blade Runner are some of the most iconic in movie and even pop-culture history. They have influences and been ripped off so many times and yet there’s still nothing quite like the original. Whether a sequel was necessary or wanted is now irrelevant, it’s here and the story now continues.

I have to confess that I’ve never been a fan of the original movie. I ‘ve seen it three times, I like hearing analysis of it and talking about it and it is undeniably influential and amazing to look at, but frankly actually sitting down and seeing the movie play-out has never given me a thrill.

We get a black screen where writing comes up informing us of the essential information we need to know going into the movie. Replicants are synthetically grown humans that developed their own humanity, they rebelled but a new company has emerged which makes Replicants that obey absolutely, the old models are still running around Earth so there are still agents that hunt them, which are still called Blade Runners. The  first shot, as the original, is with the opening of an eye. Who eye? It does not matter. We then see a flying car hover above a grey landscape, where eventually there’s some kind of farming land. The car lands and a man gets out, he enters the house and waits for it’s owner (Dave Bautista), through a series of questions it’s obvious that he is a Blade Runner here to “retire” this runaway Replicant.

The Replicant fights back, slamming him through a wall but he is stronger than him. Yes this Blade Runner is a Replicant. The Replicants name is K (Ryan Gosling). Before he heads back he finds a buried box under a dead tree and number carved into them that have meaning for K.

Being that he’s not human most of his emotions are subdued, for a large portion of the movie Gosling is rather stone-faced throughout it. That’s fine because there are other  more expressive characters that keep the energy alive, his real effort goes into his body movement, being sleek and efficient. However you can still see the glimmers of the thoughts that are going on under the surface that come out in little eye movements or furrowing of his brow. Plus there is a scene in which he comes to a realisation about himself and without going over the top delivers an amazing reaction. For this, I believe it is one of his best performances.

Something I applaud this movie for is it’s very little amount of action. There are hand-to-hand sequences and a shootout scene or two but this movie really relies on creating images, atmosphere and provoking deeper questions. Science Fiction isn’t supposed to simply entertain you with things going bang and flashing lights, its meant to give you ideas.

Blade Runner has never been a typical science fiction movie. It was more like an existential Film Noir set in the future. It had a lonely man wandering the streets of a dark city and asked questions about what makes us human. This is still that movie.

In the directors chair is not Ridley Scott but Denis Villeneuve. He made Arrival last year which really impressed me so I had no objections to him taking the realms on another science fiction movie. He has clearly done his research for what this world is like. He and cinematographer Roger Daekins have created the same dark, rainy world lit with headlights and advertisements, as well as a few other images that will most likely become classic. Whats striking is the way many scenes are composed with the minimal amount of detail and only a few shapes to help fill in what they are. Take a shot where its mostly black but a few coloured lights help us register that there is a car behind the character.

Someone else that’s taking over is Hans Zimmer and Benjamine Wallfisch on the music where it was previously handled by Vangelis. They have a frame to work within and I believe to sounds like the original. For the big city shots it’s your traditional piece you would expect to hear but there are other moments where the characters dwell on other things and it becomes a deep meditation. They use electronic instruments but create an organic sound with them.

I have no idea how well this movie will be received by the public or by other critics. I also cannot guess how successful it will do at the box-office or with the fans of the original. But I do admire the visuals and the technical achievements put into this movie. I remember some of the shots very clearly and the feeling of the atmosphere it created. It shows a world far off in the future where technology is capable of so many things but the greatest question man faces is within themselves.

 

Review Snatched by Jonathan Evans

 

2 Stars2 / 5

 

Watching a movie like Snatched isn’t the hardest thing in the world. There are groaners to sit through but then there are others where you get to laugh, so in the end you come out of it unscathed. But how to handle that as a reviewer and need to let people know if it’s worth their time?

Emily (Amy Shumer) is bragging to a costumer that her career will lead her places and her successful boyfriend’s in a band and they’ll be going on a vacation. This is of course not very acceptable and is then fired, what does she care with her boyfriend? Unfortunately when she goes to meet him he breaks-up with her, she’s is boyfriend and job less. So her life sucks now, it’s not helped by the fact that the person that takes the greatest interest in her life is her mother Linda (Goldie Hawn) a woman that has no real life so obsesses over her children and snuggles in her home, never leaving. The vacation is non-refundable and being that none of Emily’s friends wanna go with her it’s a mother and daughter trip.

While staying at the hotel there’s plenty of tension between mother and daughter, they just don’t click, but she meets a man at the bar and he genuinely seems interested in her. He takes her out of the hotel area and experience the culture, the next day Emily insists to her mother that she come along on a drive he has planned. During the drive a van slams into them, they then wake up in  a dingy prison with people telling them what do and where to go. Now they have to get out of their situation alive.

The comedy is mainly focused on the incompetence of this duo being placed in an environment completely beyond their control or some cringe moments. They are a mixed bag, some jokes genuinely do land while others are far too forced and fall really hard. Take one moment where Emily is stumbling drunk back to her hotel lobby after a night-out with the guy she met at the bar, the big punchline is pretty-much as low-bar as it can get. There is though another time when they meet someone to help them navigate their situation and what they do with this character is funny. As a whole though it has more hits than misses.

The weakest moments are when Shumer tries to be the high-point of the scene. These aren’t generous moments and she’s trying way too hard to be ridiculous, she’s not afraid to look foolish but in her efforts that all she does, look foolish.

The most consistently funny character is the brother Jeffery (Ike Barinholtz) and his interactions with a middle management Morgan (Bashir Salahuddin). They have a dynamic that is is snappy and instantly satisfying. So much so that a movie based around these two would probably have been better.

What we have is a movie paring two funny women together and at times gives them material which will get a laugh out of you. Other times it goes too far and becomes obvious and you just have to sit there until the scenes over. This wont go down as an endearing comedies, nor the high-point of Jonathan Levine’s career. But it is not dreadful either.

Review Smurfs: The Lost Village by Jonathan Evans

 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

Smurfs: The Lost Village is an adventure story told so simply and with so much enthusiasm that it will definitely satisfy the younglins and more than likely break down the defences of adults.

The story opens on a recap of what Smurfs village is and the origins of Smurfette (Demi Lovato). Smurf Village is a little village where the houses are Toadstools and little blue creatures live called Smurfs, they are named after their defining characteristic i.e. Grumpy, Nosey, Baker. Smurfs can also be used as a source of raw magic if digested which is why they are hunted by the evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson), one day he created Smurfette to bring him the Smurfs, but the goodness of Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin) turned her good and now she lives among the others. Only weird thing though, all the other Smurfs are male. For reasons Smurfette isn’t able to find her one characteristic and is always an outsider (not just because she’s the only female). One day her and her friends Hefty (Joe Manganiello), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) and Brainy (Danny Pudi) are wondering around and then come across another Smurf they don’t know, Gargamel also learns of this other source of Smurfs, so now the race is on for who can get there first.

The animation is loaded with energy, having the characters jump and bounce all around the screen. The character designs are an elegant translation of the old Hannah-Barbera cartoon, with minimal, but bold and expressive lines. All the Smurfs essentially look the same but they use the technique of adding something so that they instantly become recognisable i.e. glasses or a specific expression i.e. sly, grumpy and body language so that you know who’s onscreen and talking at any time.

The colour pallet is also immensely appealing. Using bright, luscious various colours to create a glowing screen. They also use blacks for more threatening moments and add contrast. Usually movies that seek to adapt a kids cartoon for a movie either make it dark in an attempt to make it appealing to older audiences, or over-saturate it with colour. This movie knows that the subject matter is by no means dark but that black, when used wisely can bring out the colour even more.

Along with all of this are some pretty neat, creative visuals. Flowers and insects that are both cute but have the right level of being threatening and the environments are sharply realised with many different textures simultaneous rendered to create a fully realised world.

One of the great strengths of the movie is a simple one to have and yet so many animated movies lack it and that is no modern-day references. Putting in modern references to any kind of social media or slang just dates the movie terribly and is nearly always forced. This movie has none of that and wont be dated because of it.

This is an adventure movie that tells it story well and with more than the necessary effort and skill gone into it. It would be something I would be more than happy to put on for my children and wouldn’t mind sitting with them for the viewing too.