Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Blade Runner 2049 achieves the impossible. It’s a sequel to a film that never needed one, which manages not only to live up to its predecessor but in some ways improve on it.

Harrison Ford reprises his role as Deckard, with Ryan Gosling stepping into the lead role as new Blade Runner, K. Gosling is impressive as always and Ford manages his best performance since about 1997 or whenever it was Six Days, Seven Nights came out. Erstwhile Joker, Jared Leto puts in a solid turn as Niander Wallace, nefarious science guy, however the milky eyes and Japanese clothing showing Leto’s grasp of subtlety is still not quite there. The women in the film are all essentially plot devices, which I’m sure is a socio-politcal commentary on post apocalyptic sexism but just comes across as a bit lazy I suppose. That said, Robin Wright is bad ass, Mackenzie Davis is really good and Ana De Armas is INCREDIBLE as Joi. 

Cards on the table here. If you didn’t like Blade Runner, you’re not gonna like 2049. I was worried initially that a mega budget sequel to a niche movie (that initially flopped) would be a terrible idea. I love Blade Runner, the original, well the director’s cut. Or is that the Final Cut? Anyway. It’s a phenomenonal piece of work, but it’s the cinematic equivalent of a tone poem. It’s not a full of snappy dialogue or cool scenes. It’s sparse, dark and miserable and 2049 is exactly  the same but longer.  

Directed by Denis Villeneuve hot off the one-two punch of Sicario and Arrival, 2049 is an epic dystopian sci-fi tackling once again the themes of life, creation and death. I don’t think 2049 is as deep as it thinks it is, but it’s certainly a very good movie, especially complemented by Roger Deakins amazing cinematography. 

I’m going to completely avoid any story details, knowing as little as possible is definitely the best way to approach. Granted this makes it harder to explain why you should see the movie, but Blade Runner 2049 is an experience that shouldn’t be ruined. Especially for fans of the original, I can’t stress that enough. 

The score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is well suited, big droning synths creating  powerful walls of sound, I’m disappointed in myself for not seeing it in IMAX, where I’m sure I’d have been obliterated by the sheer volume. There was another composer working on the film, Villeneuve’s regular collaborator Johann Johannson, who left because the director wanted something closer to Vangelis’ score from the first film. I’d be very interested in hearing the discarded score, fingers crossed for a John Murphy style bootleg  release down the line!

 I can’t really drag this out without ruining scenes, performances or Easter eggs. If you like Blade Runner, this is going to be your jam. If you don’t, well Kingsman 2 and IT are still out and they’re both great too. For me, Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best films of the year, something nostalgic yet blazing it’s own trail into the future. I’m excited for Blade Runner 2079 already.
9/10





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Alien Covenant (2017)

It’s worth noting that Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein was originally titled, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus” 

 

Crashing into the cinema, like an out of control landing vehicle, Ridley Scott returns with a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus. Furthering the story of the origins of the Xenomorphs, David and the engineers. 

Covenant, written by John Logan and Dante Harper from a story by Michael  Green and Jack Paglen ,  sets it’s tone immediately and opens with a short prologue, where we see Guy Pearce’s Peter Weyland, much younger and minus the old man makeup, igniting the life in the synthetic human, David, (the returning Michael Fassbender). Further pushing the themes of creation and purpose of life that drove the last film. It’s hard to talk about Covenant as an Alien film when so much of it’s story relates directly back to Prometheus

The film then picks up with our rag-tag crew of colonists heading for a planet, with 2000 sleeping passengers and a lab full of frozen human embryos. While recharging the ship’s batteries, a solar storm damages the craft, killing the captain. On carrying out repairs they receive a signal from a mysterious local planet, capable of sustaining life, yet unknown to us.  

Newly promoted Captain Oram (Billy Crudup) makes the decision to alter the mission and things take a fairly predictable turn for the worse, because it’s an Alien movie and that’s how this works.
I enjoyed Alien Covenant. It’s a dark, gory, suspenseful sequel that does indeed answer some of Prometheus’ questions, yet leaves enough dangling threads of its own, to be answered in the sequel, with filming  currently set for a 2018 start date. 

The cast, while not being quite as star studded as before, certainly manages to more than hold it’s own, with Danny McBride and Katherine Waterston filling the Hicks and Ripley archetypes. McBride in particular, while seemingly an odd choice, is phenomenonal in the role and I look forward to seeing him in more films like this. 

The creature design was, as always unsettling and visceral, though the CGI looks obvious and less affecting than the Giger designed, original, practical Xenomorphs did. The albino neomorph was a nice addition to the lore, coming across less devious and more animalistic than we’re used to. Similar to the dogburster from Alien 3 in some ways. 

I’d like to talk about something that maybe considered spoiler territory, but I’ll keep it vague. If you want to remain fresh, skip to the last paragraph! The return of David midway through the film was an unexpected delight for me. I had no idea he would be so integral to the plot. Fassbender playing two different versions of an synthetic was great. Laid back and caring Walter and evil British Villain David.  

Spending 10 years alone on the engineer homeworld, David becomes isolated and obsessed with creation. Complete with his own fortress castle, barricaded away from the nightmare creatures he caused to exist, David became an engineer himself. A quick flashback shows what he’s done and then his new plans kick in. Scott uses Fassbender perfectly and seeing a Synthetic human become the main character really reinforces the film’s message. 

A slow burning, somewhat Gothic science fiction horror movie disguised as an entry in the Alien franchise, Alien Covenant is Prometheus 2 in every way possible. For me, that’s certainly not a bad thing.

8/10

For Fans Of:

Alien

Prometheus 

Frankenstein (1931)

Blade Runner 

Life (2017)

Daniel Espinosa’s Sci Fi thriller Life is going to end up as one of those films most people catch on TV and wonder why they missed it at the cinema. A victim of Alien Covenant‘s schedule change, this exciting, tense ensemble picture was taken from May and dropped into the most crowded March ever. I’m pretty sure it’s going to underperform hugely, which is a shame, as this is a film very much worth watching. 

The story of scientists on the International Space Station experimenting on soil samples retrieved from Mars and unleashing a creature, there’s nothing hugely original here, but the film really works. 

Life’s small cast of Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, an oddly wooden Jake Gyllenhaal, Ariyon Bakare, Hiroyuki Sanada who seems to be playing the same character he did in 2007’s Sunshine and Olga Dihovicnaya gel well together and the chemistry between them does sell the isolation and enforced close proximity of people who have to both get on and be professional. Especially in the company of an increasingly hostile and deadly alien organism. 

Coming across like a somewhat realistic take on Ridley Scott’s original Alien, Life puts it’s diverse ensemble cast in danger of being killed by a rapidly growing and evolving creature, named Calvin by school children when the crew announces it’s discovery to Earth. I’m not going to pretend it’s a brand new concept, but Daniel Espinosa  really does make  Life into a fresh feeling experience. I think the fact that the emphasis on realism and relatability to real life science lulls the audience into suspending disbelief enough that when Calvin evolves from single cell to his final monstrous design, you buy it and don’t question anything. 

Chock full of tension, gore and some gorgeous cinematography,  Life  is a solid, Sci-Fi thriller from the writers of Zombieland and Deadpool and comes highly recommended from me. Walking the line between realism and horror, believable enough to scare you, far fetched enough to not give you nightmares. 

7/10, Life is in Cinemas now .

FOR FANS OF :

Alien 

Sunshine

The Thing

Gravity 

Event Horizon 

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (MGM, 1984)





Directed by: W.D Richter 

Written by: Earl Mac Rauch 

Starring: Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Clancy Brown, Christopher Lloyd. 

Trying to describe The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (from here on, I’m calling it Buckaroo Banzai) is no easy thing. It’s sort of like being dropped into the middle of a series of films and not having the continuity explained. That is in no way a bad thing. 

Peter Weller plays Buckaroo Banzai, a brain surgeon, secret agent, rock star scientist,  who leaves the operating theatre to attempt to break some kind of record in rocket car. He then travels into the 8th Dimension, attracting the attention of the evil Red Lectoids. The rest of the movie is largely a B movie style action adventure, but very knowingly so. 

Peter Weller plays Banzai as a totally cool, unflappable almost superhero character. Sort of Tony Stark but less of a dick. As well as being a science genius, Banzai is also a badass rock star, playing in a band with his the rest of his crew, called the Hong Kong Cavaliers, who all have rad names like Perfect Tommy, New Jersey and Rawhide. It’s far fetched but good lord is it cool!

I think its fair to say Buckaroo Banzai is sort of a pastiche of and tribute to Flash Gordon and other Sci Fi serials.  All of these characters are fully developed before the film starts, as if you’d dropped in on a long running series. The only real origin story is John Lithgow’s villain character, Lord John Whorfin. All of the Alien villains are called John for some reason including Christopher Lloyd’s hilariously named John BigbootĂ© (IT’S BIG-BOO-TAY)

I instantly fell in love with this movie. It’s daft, it’s quirky and it’s very much of its time, but it is a total blast and sometimes that’s all a movie needs to be. The cast is stocked with fantastic 80’s stars, Peter Weller in his prime, a young Jeff Goldblum and Clancy Brown looking pretty hunky in an overly 80’s way. Added to that, an over the top bad guy played by the eternally brilliant John Lithgow, turns by Christopher Lloyd and Vincent Schiavelli as evil minions and the gorgeous Ellen Barkin as Buckaroo’s potential love interest, mean the acting is nothing less than stellar. 

The sad fact, is that Buckaroo Banzai didn’t connect with audiences at the time. It became a VHS cult classic, the story later continued in comic books. Kevin Smith recently tried to launch Buckaroo as a TV series but rights issues put an end to that. After the movie ends, we’re told that Buckaroo and the Hong Kong Cavaliers will return in Buckaroo Banzai vs The World Crime League, in a movie we never got. 

Oh, this film has probably the BEST end credits I’ve ever seen too. The music is incredible. 

That this film was directed by the writer behind John Carpenter’s classic Big Trouble In Little China gives you enough insight into the vibe the film has. Back when films didn’t treat their audience like idiots, heavy continuity and mythology could be a good thing. Not too many films do this these days, Mad Max Fury Road being a notable exception. 
Arrow Video did a great blu ray version of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension not long ago, so I recommend you check it out!

For Fans Of:

Escape from New York 

Big Trouble In Little China 

The Goonies

Highlander 

Anchorman