Blade Runner 2049 (2017) starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, & Jared Leto

SPOILERS: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from this movie (now playing widely in theaters).

“For me it’s very exciting… It’s just so inspiring, I’m so inspired. I’ve been dreaming to do sci-fi since I was 10 years old, and I said ‘no’ to a lot of sequels. I couldn’t say ‘no’ to Blade Runner 2049. I love it too much, so I said, ‘Alright, I will do it and give everything I have to make it great.'” -Denis Villenueve (director) on his love of the original film

Denis Villenueve (originally from a small town in French Canada) has already been hailed as one of the best directors working today; he helmed Sicario (need to check this out on Amazon), Prisoners, and the Oscar-nominated Arrival. Roger Deakins (an Englishman) is the Director of Photography; he is a veteran who has worked on some iconic films (incl. The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, and No Country for Old Men). Deakins also collaborated w/ Villanueve on Prisoners and Sicario

[1] Whether or not you find yourself enjoying your experience, the visuals alone should have you applauding, due to their incredibly detailed nature. I personally found the overall film to be magnificent, but when certain scenes were dialogue-free and asking you to gasp at the imagery, that’s exactly what I was doing, as I feel many audiences members will. 

[2] There are certain scenes where the movie wants you to really drink in the environment, but they could have edited it a little tighter. 

[3] …over time, this too will get more and more appreciation with age (and wisdom) for those who truly appreciate the art of film-making. It’s not perfect, no movie ever will ever to everybody, will it? But it is an amazing achievement and I look forward to my next viewing with different eyes, taking in what I may have missed because there is so much to see and overlook.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews 

I studied Blade Runner in a film appreciation class in college, BUT wasn’t that impressed. Two film majors  (one male, one female) who sat next to me were enthralled, esp. by Sean Young. She was then only 23, yet hers is a quite mature performance. I saw the film two times over the years; its themes are VERY interesting if you delve down into it. 

Ford (Deckard), Edward James Olmos (Gaff) and Young (Rachael) are the only actors to reprise their roles from the original Blade Runner. From the start, this film lets you know that main character K (Ryan Gosling) is indeed a replicant. He’s a blade runner for the LAPD (as Rick Deckard was in the original) who is growing dissatisfied w/ his job “retiring” (killing) the earlier generation of replicants. His human boss Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) clearly depends on and trusts him; of course, he can’t say “no” to her orders. Most of the humans who can afford to have moved “off-world” (to live a better life), but we are confined mainly to the cityscape of a dystopian, futuristic version of LA. 

You’ve never seen a miracle. -Sapper Morton says to K

The World is built in a wall that separates kind. Tell either side there’s no wall… You bought a war. -Lt. Joshi

We eventually learn that a replicant female gave birth via C-section (WHOA)! Lt. Joshi explains to K that this news MUST be hidden ASAP. In The Bible (Genesis), Jacob’s wife Rachael gives birth to Joseph, who is sold into slavery, and later becomes a patriarch of Israel. “Joe” is the name that K’s virtual girlfriend, Joi (Cuban actress Ana de Armas), suggests for K. 

When K goes to gather info from Wallace’s corporation, he meets Luv (Dutch actress Silvia Hoeks), who becomes a formidable foe. Luv shows K info re: Rachael, the replicant who gave birth. We even hear voices of Deckard and Rachael from the earlier film. I really liked Hoeks’ acting (as did MANY critics); she stole many of scenes (creating a compelling villain). Luv, who is right-hand to Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), also shows emotion in certain scenes in the story. 

[1] K did NOT want that archetypal woman. SHE thought he did. He told her not to fuss. He wanted her to share his life with him, hence the emanator. 

[2] Though Gosling’s K appears robotic in his movements at times, in his relationships, especially that with virtual intelligence Joi (the lovely Ana De Armas), we witness how human he truly is, their romance been as inventive as it is beautiful. 

-Viewers’ thoughts on the relationship between Joi and K

Joi is one of the most interesting aspects of this film (as MANY critics noted); she is more than a mere computer, BUT less than a replicant. She wants to be more than she has been programmed to be. Perhaps Joi wants to get closer to humanity (like Data from ST: TNG)? To get closer to K, she invites streetwalker Mariette (Canadian actress Mackenzie Davis from Black Mirror S3) to join w/ her one night. 

K begins to think that he could be the child born to Rachael! K feels compelled to return to the place of his childhood (an orphanage inside an industrial plant). The best creator of memories, Dr. Ana Stelline (Swiss actress Carla Juri) tells K that his memory (of being beaten by a group of boys who wanted to steal his beloved wooden horse toy) really happened. I wanted to see more of her; she made an impact in her few scenes. 

“To be very honest with you, Harrison was part of the project before I arrived. He was attached to it right from the start with Ridley [Scott]. I met him and he’s honestly one of the nicest human beings I’ve met and is one of my favorite actors of all time, so for me it’s a lot of pleasure.” -Villenueve on actor Harrison Ford 

Sometimes to love someone, you got to be a stranger. -Deckard explains to K

Ford’s fans MAY be a BIT disappointed b/c Deckard doesn’t appear until half way through the movie. He is angry, bitter, disappointed, and living in an abandoned Vegas casino (complete w/ holograms of Elvis and Sinatra). Ford is in great shape here (note the fight scenes); he also does a terrific job w/ the dialogue! Wallace sends Luv, along w/ and a group of imposing men, to kidnap Deckard. Luv breaks the emanator, thus also destroying Joi. 

Mariette turns out to be a member of a resistance group headed by the mysterious Freysa (veteran Isreali-Palestinian actress Hiam Abbas). As one astute viewer noted. she  removed her right eye (w/ a serial number). Freysa reveals that Deckard and Rachael’s child was a girl (K is VERY disappointed). In order to protect that woman’s life, Freysa wants K to kill Deckard (before he reveals anything under torture).  

The big final fight of the movie MAY be tough to handle for more sensitive viewers. K and Luv have a rather long/brutal fight. As one critic said: “She wants to be the best replicant.” K’s purpose turns out to be rescuing Deckard, then taking him to reunite w/ his daughter, Ana. As the snow falls around him, K lies down on the steps outside the lab, his body relaxed and his face peaceful. 

 

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Star Trek: Discovery (Episodes 1 & 2)

SPOILERS: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from the first two episodes of this new Star Trek series (available on CBS All Access).

The Importance of the Star Trek Universe  

I recently learned that inventor of the cell phone was inspired by the communicators used by Kirk (William Shatner) and his Enterprise crew on Star Trek (the original series- TOS). MANY young people (incl. scientists) were inspired by creator Gene Rodenberry’s imaginative writing, characters, etc. The Vulcan nerve pinch was invented by Leonard Nimoy (who played the iconic Spock); Shatner went along w/ it and ad-libbed the fainting effect. Roddenberry loved it, so it became part of the canon. Though the newer J.J. Abrams films operate on the alternative (Kelvin) timeline, they build on earlier works. The power and influence of the Star Trek universe (starting in TV, then branching off into movies) is comparable perhaps ONLY to Star Wars.

As some of you (who follow me on Twitter) know, I’m a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), which I caught towards its later seasons, then went back to watch. I saw a bunch of eps w/ my younger sibs and (sometimes) my parents. FYI: My favorite captain is Picard (Patrick Stewart). I was a BIT disappointed that Picard and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) never became more than friends; the actors had such great chemistry together. Riker (Jonathan Frakes- who directed some Discovery eps) was one of the few men who looked better w/ a beard. And who could forget the friendship between engineers- LaForge (LeVar Burton) and Data (Brent Spiner)? I saw Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) when it originally aired, though I haven’t seen the final season. I was excited when Alexander Siddig’s name (he’s British of Anglo  and Algerian heritage) popped up in the opening credits; I loved his character, too. Sisko (Avery Brooks) was NOT only a strong captain, he was a widower and loving single father to Jake. It was refreshing to see a different side of Worf from TNG (Michael Dorn) during his romance w/ Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) on DS9. My favorite romance  was the slow-burn relationship that developed between long-time co-workers and friends, Kira (Nana Visitor) and Odo (Rene Auberjonois). The bromance between Dr. Bashir and O’Brien (Colm Meaney) was one of the rare male friendships on TV (at that time). Unlike TNG, there were a FEW supporting characters on DS9 that operated in shades of gray. This show was NOT afraid to delve into controversial issues, primarily military occupation and religion (incl. types of worship and the existence of gods). 

My Initial Impressions of Star Trek: Discovery 

Some people were hating on Star Trek: Discovery (set 10 yrs before TOS) even before it aired; they feared that Star Trek’s legacy would be ruined (whatever that means). The main character is an African-American woman w/ a male name, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who starts off as “Number One” (First Officer) to Capt. Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh- internationally known, primarily in martial arts films) aboard the Shinzou, a ship of exploration at the edge of Federation space. They have served together for 7 yrs, so are NOT only co-workers, BUT share an almost mother-daughter relationship. I liked the chemistry between these two characters. 

The main antagonists in this show will be the Klingons, BUT they don’t look anything like Worf (or even those on TOS). The Klingons we meet here have no hair, different skin tones, and a LOT of ridges on their bodies (or just clothing). I think their costumes are unique, BUT it’s tough to see the actors’ expressions through so much prosthetic (which takes about 3 hrs. to apply). We hear a LOT of the Klingon language; this could put-off those who are new to Star Trek. Some critics compared these rogue/fundamentalist-type of Klingons to ISIS; others thought that their ideologies were similar to white nationalists. 

Michael’s birth parents were killed by Klingons during a battle. Now here is where some fans take issue: she was raised mostly on Vulcan by Sarek (played by one of my fave Brits- James Frain), who is also the father of Spock. Michael still adheres to the Vulcan way of thinking, though she has also has emotions that can’t always be suppressed. The banter between Michael and science officer, Saru (Doug Jones), was pretty interesting; Martin-Green said in an interview that these two characters were BOTH ambitious, so were competing to please their captain. Critics are saying that Jones is one of the strongest aspects of the show so far; he is of a (new) species that “can detect the presence of death.” Speaking of positive aspects, the special effects are VERY good (“like a movie,” as some viewers noted).

TV critic Matt Mira asked (in After Trek, the after-show following E2): “Where is the Discovery?” Well, you won’t see that spaceship until E3, as these first 2 eps were more like a prologue (as a few critics noted). We will meet more of the regular cast in E3, including Capt. Lorca (Jason Isaacs); the British actor got heat for his tweets re: Trump supporters. I saw on IMDB that there will be three South Asian actors (WOW)- one American (Maulik Pancholy, noted for Weeds, but also a theater actor), one Canadian (Rekha Sharma from Battlestar Galactica), and one Brit (Shazad Latif from The Second Best Marigold Hotel and The Man Who Knew Infinity). 

One of the main issues is that this series is behind a pay wall ($5.99/mo. w/ commercials is the plan I chose). As one critic (on Collider) commented, a Star Trek series should be accessible to ALL (free). Is the show taking advantage of its (already existing) fan base? Will it find an audience among those who are NOT “trekkies” (or “trekkers,” if you prefer)? The TV shows and movies on CBS All Access may NOT be appealing to everyone, BUT I was glad to see that The Good Wife was available.

Are you planning on watching this show? Please share your thoughts in the comments below! 

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Viceroy’s House (2017) starring Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Simon Callow, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, & Huma Qureshi

SPOILERS: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from this movie (now showing in wide release in the US).

[1] If you saw something similar in a high school world history class it would be interesting and effective. As a theatrical movie it misses the mark.

[2] ...as history, it is inevitably selective. Most glaring is the benign portrait of a compassionate departing colonial power.

[3] It’s interesting to see, but it’s by no means a cinematic masterclass.

[4] What could have been an epic, ends up being too pedestrian. It is this failure in character development which pulls the film down harder than all the other negative factors combined.

[5] A special mention needs to go to Gillian Anderson. Her performance as Lady Mountbatten is wonderful. The received pronunciation was perfect. Her character adds heart, she adds a moral core, to both Lord Mountbatten, and in my eyes, to the film in general.

-Excerpts from reviews on IMDB

I saw this movie (ONLY available in SD- ugh) last night on FIOS On Demand. I had been anticipating it for almost 3 mos, so was VERY excited. (American actor Manish Dayal was posting bits about it on his social media.) I was a big fan of Bend it Like Beckham, British director Gurinder Chadha’s breakout indie hit. I thought her Thanksgiving-themed film (What’s Cooking?) was pretty good. The posters didn’t appeal to me- TOO slick and stereotypical of a historical drama. I liked the trailers that I saw; the high production value was evident (which viewers expect from this caliber of film).

Sadly, Viceroy’s House was NOT what I expected. After it ended, I wondered: “There MUST have been MORE to this film!” It seems edited down (to a mere 1 hr 46 mins); however, it seems longer b/c of it’s plodding nature (at least in the first half). Maybe it needs to be seen on the big screen (for its sheer scope and spectacle)? Or maybe it would’ve been better as a miniseries or movie on HBO (where directors and writers have more creative control)? MANY critics/viewers felt that Hugh Bonneville was miscast as Lord Louis Mountbatten. Hmmm… maybe it’s TOO close to his role as head of Downton Abbey? Gillian Anderson (who plays Lady Edwina) is given some of the best lines in the movie; she does well w/ in her role. (You should check Anderson out in British work, incl. The Fall on Netflix.)

The veteran actors who play Nehru (Tanveer Ghani), Jinnah (Denzil Smith), and Gandhi (Neeraj Kabi) do what they can w/ what they are given. Basically, they sit around and debate w/ the Brits on if and how to divide India and the new Muslim majority nation- Pakistan. Some of you know that Gandhi didn’t want India divided; he imagined a land where ALL religions live together in peace (as before the Brits arrived and used their “divide and conquer” strategy to rule). Some Pakistanis were NOT pleased w/ the portrayal of Jinnah, who comes off as duplicitous.

Michael Gambon plays Gen. Ismay, a cold/intimidating man who doesn’t care what happens to the Indian people. He wants to get the boundaries created ASAP and get back to England. Simon Callow ‘s overwhelmed character, Radcliffe, says that it’s impossible to make these decisions in such a short time frame. Ismay finally shows him a plan from 1945 which already lays out exactly how India and Pakistan should be divided (NOT sure how accurate this is in reality)!

The recently deceased international Indian actor, Om Puri, has a small, yet effective/touching role. (He played Dayal’s father in The Hundred-Foot Journey). In this film, Puri plays Ali Rahim Noor, the blind/elderly father of Aalia (Pakistani actress Huma Qureshi), the Muslim woman who has captured the heart of Dayal’s character, Jeet Kumar. Ali Rahim was a political prisoner in the jail where Jeet worked for 2 yrs as a guard. Now, Jeet is a manservant (alongside his Sikh friend, Duleep Singh) for Mountbatten. As Dayal has said, Jeet represents the Hindu perspective in the film. He is an earnest/optimistic young man who feels that his destiny is to marry Aalia.

One of the servants (among 500+ in the viceroy’s household) who stirs up trouble is Mohsin (Samrat Chakraborti, an American actor/musician whose career I’ve been following since 2005). He also has a crucial role in Midnight’s Children (check Netflix to see if it’s still available). Another pleasant surprise is the original music by A.R. Rahman, an internationally recognized composer. I thought he did a esp. fine job in the last section of the film, when we see large crowds of refugees streaming into the palatial estate.

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Two (differing) reviews of the film

BBC interview w/ Chadha (12:16)

BUILD Series interview w/ Chadha & Ghani (34:29)