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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Into the Badlands (AMC): Season 2, Episode 2

NOTE: This review contains SPOILERS. New episodes will be airing Sundays (10PM EST) on AMC.

Episode 2: Force of Eagle’s Claw

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Daniel Wu as Sunny, Ivan Kostadinov as Mouse – Into the Badlands _ Season 2, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: Antony Platt/AMC

Sunny and Bajie (still chained together) have to fight their way out of the pit. That huge/tall warrior they’re forced to fight ends up defeated in a VERY bloody way. Body parts are flying… and this ep is about to get MORE bloody! 

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 Waldo (Stephen Lang) passes on his knowledge to Tilda (Ally Ioannides).

For people like us, there is no place that’s safe. -Waldo explains to Tilda, who is Regent to The Widow

Waldo, now dressed in blue, chides Tilda re: going after those Clippers in E1 (after The Widow let them go). Tilda says that she’s NOT a “mindless killer”- she was doing what she thought was right. Waldo explains that Sunny was the best Regent b/c he “boxed up his feelings.” We can see the respect that Waldo has for his former protege, Sunny, while he’s recounting this story. 

Tilda and The Widow are practice fighting; it looks like Tilda still has more to learn. After Tilda leaves, The Widow admits to Waldo that she’s NOT one for politics; he tells her that “politics is war by other means.” They speak of an upcoming “conclave”- meeting of Barons. The Widow wonders if she can kill them all, since they’ll be assembled in the same place. She and Waldo drink a toast. 

Killing is a privilege left only to the gods. -Lydia’s father tells her (w/ disapproval) after she defends herself and other Totemists from the Nomads

The Totemist community’s simple wedding reception in the woods is interrupted by two violent/murderous Nomads. The groom is speared through the chest; the bride is almost carried off my the Nomads. Nobody fights back (which was quite shocking), except Lydia. This lady knows how to fight- what a surprise! This segment of the ep reminded me of Braveheart and Game of Thrones. 

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Orla Brady as Lydia – Into the Badlands _ Season 2, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: Antony Platt/AMC

Half of your Cogs worship the same gods we do. -Lydia drops some truth on Ryder 

Did you see how badly Ryder treated his mother!? I felt VERY bad for Lydia, though we now know she’s a tough cookie. Even though Ryder is now dressed like Quinn, he’s NOT able to fill his father’s shoes (as many viewers have commented). The Nomads attacked b/c they knew that Quinn was out of the picture, so the Totemists were left unprotected. Lydia hoped that Ryder would help out her people, BUT he refused in such a nasty manner. He didn’t forgive her for what she said re: his ineffectiveness at the end of S1.

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MK (Aramis Knight) learns about a new part of his training from The Master (Chipo Chung).

Unless you master your past, you’ll always be a slave. -The Master explains to M.K. after his first vision in the room of mirrors 

The Master continues MK’s training, this time is a room filled w/ mirrors. The young man is pulled back into his past; he sees the bodies of the MANY people he killed on the ship. Suddenly, his alter ego appears (w/ black eyes) and tells him that he doesn’t belong there. MK is upset when The Master pulls him out of it.

I killed people- good people. -M.K. says w/ disgust

We all have. -Abby reveals 

Later on, M.K. has an intense fight w/ his alter ego in another vision. There is some cool choreography. Also, the body double for Aramis Knight looks/moves VERY much like him. It was shocking that the alter ego was winning, nearly choking MK to death! Hmmm… will MK be defeated by “the dark side” or learn to reign-in those destructive urges? I don’t think this will be easy work from the looks of concern on The Master’s face. 

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Quinn (Marton Csokas) training his (would-be) Clippers.

In West Avalon (a secluded/underground training area) Quinn is working w/ a group of Cogs who show promise in fighting. Inside a dusty room, Veil is breastfeeding her newborn son; a Clipper is watching her intently (creepily). The former Baron notices this and let’s him know it. 

Veil tells Quinn that the baby needs sunshine and fresh air. He says he’ll get her sun; after all, she’s the one who found him and patched him up. Quinn gives off some creepy vibes in his interactions w/ Veil, too, BUT I think she can handle him w/ her clever/calm personality. It turns out that there is a little room where one can look up and see the sun!

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Quinn (Marton Csokas) holds a baptism ceremony for Henry, the baby son of Sunny and Veil.

The Clipper who’d been eyeing Veil gets killed by Quinn before he baptizes Veil’s son (named Henry after her dead adopted father). There is a decorative bowl that Quinn drinks deer’s blood out of, then smears a bit of that blood on Henry’s forehead. This ritual reminded some viewers of the naming ceremony in The Lion King. Marton Csokas “just brings this intense gravitas,” as J.B. Zimmerman said on the Afterbuzz TV

Bajie is able to snag some food- a rather large rat. Sunny says he’s NOT going to eat that (LOL). It seems like Sunny is out of his element; he hasn’t had to survive outside the Badlands before. Bajie may turn out to be VERY helpful, since he was a wanderer who traveled to different places looking for “opportunity.” 

At the very end of the ep, they come upon a long, tall wall. (Donald Trump would probably call it “big” and “beautiful.”) This barrier separates them from the Badlands, but Bajie perks up and says there MUST be a way to get to the other side. This scenery is quite different than what we saw in S1; the filming of S2 is in Ireland.