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Movies – Blade Runner 2049

8 Oct

Blade Runner 2049 is the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 science fiction classic. The new movie takes place 30 years after the original and stars Ryan Gosling as “K”, a new-model replicant (a.k.a. android) Blade Runner — a police officer tasked with hunting down and “retiring” older model replicants. The movie also features Robin Wright as K’s boss, Jared Leto as industrialist Niander Wallace, Sylvia Hoeks as Wallace’s right-hand woman, Luv, and Ana de Armas as K’s girlfriend. The main cast is rounded out by Dave Bautista as a replicant who puts the main action of the movie in motion, and Edward James Olmos and, of course, Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, returning from the original movie.

I haven’t seen Blade Runner for years, but I remember it as an action sci-fi movie with some “what does it mean to be human” philosophy mixed in. This one…isn’t. It’s a visually beautiful, slow, talky movie with a few action scenes tossed in.

Ryan Gosling is good as a downtrodden cop trying to do his duty while battling his own personal questions. Screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green almost immediately take away one major (unresolved) subplot of the original movie, Deckard’s “is he human or replicant?” by immediately identifying K as a replicant, but that adds a new level of explicit questioning in terms of K hunting his own. De Armas as Joi, the one bright spot in K’s life, is beautiful and effective, and Wright bookends the summer with another strong woman warrior role (following her turn in Wonder Woman). Harrison Ford is…well, Harrison Ford, and dominates the relatively small portion of the movie he’s in. Jared Leto delivers a strange, Jared Leto-ish performance.

The visuals are stunning, both digital and practical effects. The neon-and-video-lit streets of Los Angeles from the original movie reappear in fleeting glimpses, though the city is mainly glimpsed from on high, from the rain-slicked windscreens of flying cars.

I really want to like this movie based on the visuals and a number of nice touches, including some callbacks to the original, but it feels much more like a Denis Villeneuve movie that shares some DNA with Blade Runner than a straightforward sequel, even though it hits a lot of the plot points you’d look for in a sequel. In the end, I think the movie succeeds in creating a vast visual pallet and a couple of interesting characters, but falls short due to a too-dense plot and muddled motivations.

I give Blade Runner 2049 6 Cheeseburgers.

 

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Movies — MOTHER!

17 Sep
I saw Mother! today. It’s not the movie the trailers make it seem like (the second movie this year to be radically different than its trailer, after It Comes At Night), but I’m not sure how it could have been promoted more accurately.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a May-December couple who live in an enormous house in the middle of a clearing in the woods.  He is a poet struggling with writer’s block and she is an artistic type who is absorbed with restoring the house. Their solitude is disrupted one evening when a doctor (Ed Harris) appears at their front door. He is, he claims, a doctor at a nearby hospital, and has been told that their home is a bed-and-breakfast where he might find a room. The situation becomes even stranger the next morning when his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives. To say much more would be to give away the twists and turns of the first half of the movie.
It’s an unusual movie, an extended metaphor or allegory. 
 
Lawrence is very good throughout, channeling the viewers utter confusion at everything that happens around her. Bardem, Pfeiffer, and Harris are also good at doing what they’re asked to do.
I think its problem, though, is that it can’t decide which allegory or metaphor it is. There are a bunch of different things thrown in together, and the movie takes an abrupt left turn a little past halfway through. At one part during the extremely chaotic second half, I wondered if it was trying to be a viciously funny satire but wasn’t landing its humor, but it was being played so straight that I don’t think that was it.
I think the problem starts with Darren Aronofsky’s script and ends with his direction. He gets points for going bold in the middle of the movie, going way off the rails in a way that doesn’t make sense given what’s come before it, and doesn’t really follow from anything that has come before it. I don’t doubt that he knew what he was trying to do. But I think he fell short of communicating that to the audience. And when he did, explicitly, at the end of the movie, my reaction was “But that wasn’t one of the multiple metaphors I considered while I was watching the $*(%*%$ thing.”
I’ll give Mother! 6 Cheeseburgers for audacity
5 Cheeseburgers for the first half
and 2CB overall.

Movies – Marcus (formerly Wehrenberg) Theaters Sunday Movie Pass

4 Sep

Marcus Theaters is offering a Sunday Movie Pass: $25 for 5 movies, one per week, any time on Sunday between 9/3 and 11/12. I took a look, and there looks like there’s a new movie that I want to see (or at least that I wouldn’t mind seeing) every week during that span except this weekend. In fact, the only week between 9/8 and the end of the year without something I want to see is 12/1.

I actually got my pass today, and was finally able to see The Big Sick, a wonderful autobiographical sort-of-romcom from comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani. It also includes 20% off on all concessions on Sundays. The pass takes the form of a kind of bulky folded cardboard pamphlet (for lack of a better description), but the savings are quite real.

My want-to-see movies for the rest of the year:

9/8 – IT
9/15 – Mother! / All I See is You
9/22 – Kingsman: The Golden Circle
9/29 – Flatliners / American Made
10/6 – Blade Runner 2049
10/13 – The Foreigner
10/20 – The Snowman
10/27 – Suburbicon
11/3 – Thor: Ragnarok
11/10 – Murder on the Orient Express
11/17 – Justice League
11/22 – Molly’s Game
12/1 – <nothing>
12/8 – The Disaster Artist or The Shape of Water
12/15 – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
12/20 – Jumanji
12/22 – Pitch Perfect 3
12/25 – The Greatest Showman

The Jungle Book

15 Apr

the_jungle_book_poster_key_artRudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is back in a live action version directed by Jon Favreau.  I must admit, I was a little apprehensive going in as the animated version is my favorite Disney classic.  Don’t get me wrong, I was looking forward to seeing it but terrified they would botch it.  If you are in the same boat, rest assured, they did a fantastic job!!!

To start with, the film is visually stunning.  The CGI and scenery are top rate.  If you have a chance to see it in IMAX 3D, don’t miss out.  The live action blends very well with CGI animals and environments to draw you in to Mowgli’s (Neel Sethi) world.

The story has the basics from the original, Mowgli the man cub is abandoned in the jungle, discovered by Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) and delivered to the wolves to be raised as one of their own by Raksha (voiced by Lupita Nyong) his overly protective mother wolf.  Of course along comes the evil tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba who does a wonderful job) to  deliver an ultimatum.  Turn over the man cub or face the consequences.  Thus begins the adventure.  It’s decided that in order to save him from the tiger, Bagheera must take Mowgli to the man village where he’ll be safe from Shere Khan.

jungle-book-2016-posters-mowgli-baloo

Along the way they are separated and Mowgli comes in contact with the usual characters, including the python Kaa, seductively voiced by Scarlett Johansson, who hypnotizes him and tries to eat him.  He then meets the rather lazy but spirited bear Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray) who helps him to decide that the jungle is WAY more fun than any old man village.  Finally the monkeys come along and kidnap him and carry him off to see their smooth talking King Louie (voiced by Christopher Walken) who tries to convince Mowgli to teach him the secret of man’s red flower, fire.

jungle-book-airbnb-has-treehouses-at-the-ready

The story has a few wrinkles and twists off of the original but is well told and, as mentioned earlier, visually delightful.  The cast does a fantastic job and will keep you engaged from beginning to end.

I give the film 9 Cheeseburgers

9CB

Why are you still reading?  Go see this movie!!!

By Duane McClinton

Oscar Preview – Best Actress/Best Supporting Actress

28 Feb

A rundown of the distaff nominees. I’ll post some general observations/witticisms tomorrow before the ceremony.

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett (Carol)

One of the premier actresses working, this nomination may be one of those “I didn’t see the movie, but Cate Blanchett is always great” nominations that have been discussed recently, in light of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Blanchett is good as the society woman torn between the conventions of propriety and her sexual inclinations, but she’s always so good that this didn’t strike me as anything special. Still, I don’t have a particular problem with the nomination.

Brie Larson (Room)

If Leonardo DiCaprio is this year’s surest bet, Brie Larson is probably a close #2. With a turn-on-a-dime performance as a woman who is well and truly a victim but who is trying to make the best of things for her son, Larson’s performance should elevate her to the first ranks of young actresses.

Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)

Same evaluation as Cate Blanchett above, although I have more of a problem with this nomination. I just wasn’t overly impressed by either Joy the movie or Joy the character, as embodied by Jennifer Lawrence. A meh performance in a meh movie.

Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)

Rampling is a veteran actress giving an understated performance in a little-seen movie. It didn’t do much for me. I would have been happy with Charlize Theron for Mad Max, even though I didn’t care much for the movie.

Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

I actually liked Ronan’s performance better than Brie Larson’s. Her Eilis was quieter and less showy than Larson’s Ma, but went through a wider range of emotions. Of course, the flatness was a part of Larson’s character’s circumstance, but I was just drawn more to Eilis. Like Larson, Ronan will be a name we’ll be seeing quite often in nomination lists.

My Pick: Saoirse Ronan (Seer-sha, for those pronouncing at home)

My Prediction: Brie Larson

Best Supporting Actress

JENNIFER JASON LEIGH (The Hateful Eight)

IMO, the worst nomination of the 20 actors. Leigh’s Domergue served primarily as the recipient of a whole lot of cartoon violence and a whole lot of misogyny, and I didn’t see the performance particularly rise above it. This nomination should have gone to Tessa Thompson for Creed.

ROONEY MARA (Carol)

Category Fraud, case 1: Carol is a lesbian romance, and Rooney Mara’s Therese is an equal partner to Cate Blanchett’s Carol. But someone figured that nominating both as leads would split votes, so the non-title character is considered supporting. Regardless, Mara does fine work as a 1950s shopgirl exploring a new aspect to her sexuality.

RACHEL MCADAMS (Spotlight)

The temptation is to say that as the only woman in a cast full of guys, McAdams holds her own with the big boys. That sounds sexist, but it’s kind of true. McAdams does just fine here, but honestly, this nomination and Mark Ruffalo’s on the male side seem almost like “Well, if Spotlight is a Best Picture nominee, there have to be some actors nominated”. This could have gone to someone else pretty easily.

ALICIA VIKANDER (The Danish Girl)

Right nomination, wrong movie. Category Fraud, case 2: Vikander was the female lead in The Danish Girl. In fact, technically, she is the Danish Girl. At least, she’s the one being referred to when the phrase is spoken in the film. She should have been nominated for Ex Machina where, again, the role was the female lead, but the case could be made that the two leads were the male characters and she was support. She’s having a really good year (despite The Man from UNCLE tanking), and I think she’ll win.

KATE WINSLET (Steve Jobs)

Another “Actor x is in a movie I haven’t seen, but they’re always good” nomination. Kate Winslet was the best thing about the movie, but that’s not saying a whole lot.

My Pick: Alicia Vikander for Ex Machina

My Prediction: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl

Oscar Preview – Best Actor/Best Supporting Actor

28 Feb

I’m going to run through the actors in slightly less detail than I did the Best Pictures, so I’ll combine the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor in one post, and the Best Actress/Supporting Actress in another. In the spirit of #OscarSoWhite, I’m also going to offer a couple of suggestions for worthy alternate nominees who aren’t white guys.

Best Actor

BRYAN CRANSTON (Trumbo)

A good performance by (IMO) one of our greatest actors, but fairly one-note. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of growth or development of the character, a Hollywood writer who was part of the anti-Communist blacklist of the mid-20th Century.

MATT DAMON (The Martian)

Damon’s charm and wit as stranded astronaut Mark Watney carries the film, and in any year that didn’t have him up against Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, he might have a chance of winning. (Note: In my Best Picture writeup for The Martian, I said that Damon was robbed of a nomination. Obviously, his inclusion on this list means that he wasn’t.)

LEONARDO DICAPRIO (The Revenant)

A gutsy performance and a “he’s due” sentiment make DiCaprio the prohibitive favorite in this race. There’s not a lot of character development, and the dialogue is sparse, so this may turn out to be the Best Actor winning performance with the largest amount of grunting and groaning in Oscar history.

MICHAEL FASSBENDER (Steve Jobs)

An interesting actor in a not-so-interesting performance. This slot should have gone to Michael B. Jordan for Creed.

EDDIE REDMAYNE (The Danish Girl)

See above. Interesting actor in an almost caricature  performance. This slot could easily gone to someone like Domnhall Gleason (who had a huge year) for Ex Machina. (Okay, he’s a white guy. But I couldn’t decide which Compton guy was a lead, and wasn’t all that impressed with Samuel L. Jackson in The Hateful Eight.)

My Choice: Leo

Prediction: Leo

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale (The Big Short)

Bale’s performance as one part of what was really an ensemble cast did very little for me. The character was quirky, but outside the fake glass eye and the unconventional-for-an-investment-genius wardrobe, there really wasn’t much there. I would have had less trouble with Brad Pitt being nominated for the same movie, as his role was more against type. This spot could have gone to Oscar Isaac for Ex Machina.

Tom Hardy (The Revenant)

A brash and rough-hewn turn, almost the opposite of the laconic Max Rockatansky (who he also played), Hardy’s Fitzgerald provided a worthy adversary for DiCaprio’s nigh-on-indestructable mountain man. My favorite of the nominated performances in this category.

Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)

See my evaluation of Christian Bale, above. Ruffalo was part of a really outstanding ensemble, but I didn’t find much to distinguish him from the rest except for volume. This could have gone to someone else, maybe Corey Hawkins for Straight Outta Compton.

Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

As a stoic Soviet spy with a Scottish (or was it Irish) brogue, Rylance brought quiet dignity to a role that could easily have been cartoonish.

Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

The sentimental choice, and probably an Oscar record for an actor being nominated for playing the same character the most years apart. There’s nothing wrong with Stallone’s performance, and this could well be viewed as sort of a “lifetime achievement award” for an actor who, while known primarily as an action star, turned in some really great performances over the course of his career.

My choice: Tom Hardy

My prediction: Sylvester Stallone

Oscar Preview – Best Picture

28 Feb

A quick look at the Best Picture nominees for 2016, in the order they were shown at AMC Theatres’ Best Picture Showcase. February 20 and 27.

Bridge of Spies

What is it?  A Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks movie set in the 1940s. In other words, Oscar Bait.

Who’s it by? Steven Spielberg, based on true events

Who’s in it?  Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance (Best Supporting Actor Nominee)

What’s it About? During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an accused Soviet spy in court. Following the crash of the American U2 spy plane, he is asked to go to the newly-divided Berlin to arrange a prisoner trade.

How is it? Good in an Oscar-baity, historical drama sort of way. Hanks does his Hanks thing, and Spielberg evokes the time period and expertly plucks at the heart strings.

Will it Win? No. It’s the most traditional of the Best Picture nominees, but in a diverse field (#OscarsSoWhite notwithstanding), it doesn’t really stand a chance.

 

Room

What is it?  A wrenching drama about the relationship between a young mother and her son.

Who’s it by? Irish director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Emma Donoghue, based on her novel

Who’s in it? Brie Larson (Best Actress Nominee), Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H Macy

What’s it About? A young mother, the victim of a kidnapping and repeated abuse, lives in a single room with her son, the product of her repeated rapes. Saying much more gives away things that probably shouldn’t be given away.

How is it? Very good. A harrowing drama, with some lighter, hopeful moments (unlike certain other nominated movies…see below). Larson is the odds-on favorite to win Best Actress (although my choice would be another young actress…see my Best Actress post, coming soon). This film ties for the hardest sell for viewers (“Hey, do you want to see a movie about a girl who gets kidnapped, imprisoned, and impregnated, or one about a guy who gets mortally wounded and drags himself across the wilderness?”), but for viewers who choose it, it’s well worth the time.

Mad Max: Fury Road

What is it?  A post apocalyptic chase across a desert featuring a one-armed woman warrior, a laconic cop, and a bunch of pregnant girls on the run.

Who’s it by? George Miller (Best Director Nominee), creator of the original Mad Max movies way back when

Who’s in it? Tom Hardy (Best Supporting Actor nominee, but not for this movie), Charlize Theron

What’s it About? In the desolate future of the Mad Max movies, the kick-ass Imperator Furiosa (Theron) is tasked by tyrannical ruler Immortan Joe to drive a tanker truck from the Citabdel he rules to Fuel City for (you guessed it) fuel to power Joe’s tricked out vehicles. She has another idea, however, and absconds with Joe’s favored wives, to deliver them to the idyllic Green  Place she was stolen from as a youth. Joe sends his forces after them, and a massive desert chase ensues.

How is it? This is the only one of the Best Picture nominees I had seen before, and I was less impressed by it the first time than the vast majority of critics. I went in to this viewing determined to see what the rest (and more than one of my Facebook friends) saw in it, and what I saw was this: An outstanding action/chase movie with impressive practical effects (i.e. stunts and effects that are done physically rather than using computer effects), but not much more than that. Judging by the smattering of boos when the theater manager asked “How did we like that movie?” following the marathon airing, I’m not necessarily alone in that judgement. I’m not judging or criticizing those who loved the movie — and there were enough that it got a freakin’ BP Nom, but I’m just not one of them.

The Big Short

What is it?  The story of the financial crisis of 2006-7, told through the eyes of four diverse investors who foresaw the crash and dared to bet against the housing market.

Who’s it by? Director Adam McKay (Best Director Nominee), previously known as the director of a whole bunch of Will Ferrell movies

Who’s in it?  Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale (Best Supporting Actor Nominee)

What’s it About? Eccentric investor Michael Burry (Bale) comes to believe that the US housing market is unstable and convinces major banks (who think he’s nuts) to create investment vehicles for him to bet against the banks, and a few other forward-thinking investors jump on board to ride out the coming financial crisis.

How is it? Very funny. McKay and co-writer Charles Randolph have come up with a clever way of explaining complex financial concepts, and the actors all inhabit their characters well, despite the fact that we all know how the situation they’re profiting off of turns out. I wasn’t as impressed with Bale’s performance as the Oscar voters appear to have been, though this may be one of many instances this year where an actor’s reputation carried them to a nomination rather than the actual on-screen result (see: Bridge of Spies, Jennifer Lawrence)

Brooklyn

What is it?  A young Irish woman emigrates to America and discovers love in the 1950s.

Who’s it by? Director John Crowley from a script by Nick Hornby (About a Boy), from Colm Toibin’s novel

Who’s in it?  Saoirse Ronan (Best Actress Nominee), Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters

What’s it About? A young Irish woman leaves her insular home town to live in Brooklyn, New York. She battles homesickness, discovers love, and is forced to choose between her past and her future when a family crisis causes her to return to Ireland for a temporary (?) visit.

How is it? Outstanding. My favorite movie of the BP Nominations, and Saoirse (pronounce it “Seer-sha” in your head) Ronan gives my favorite performance of any actor. Neither of which mean I think she or the movie will win; the movie’s too “small”  to be a Best Picture winner, and Ronan’s up against odds-on favorite Larson. Still, Ronan would be a wonderful upset winner, and I’d love to see the first Oscar tie in an acting category since 1968.

Spotlight

What is it?  All the attention that’s been focused on Clergy abuse around the world? This is what started it all.

Who’s it by? Director Tom McCarthy (Best Director Nominee) and screenwriters McCarthy and Josh Singer (Best Original Screenplay nominees)

Who’s in it?  Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Brian D’Arcy James, Mark Ruffalo (Best Supporting Actor nominee)

What’s it About? What it’s not about: The child abuse scandal plaguing the Catholic Church. What it’s actually about is the reporting that led to the breaking of the story of the child abuse scandal plaguing the Catholic Church.

How is it? Very good. An engrossing drama that depicts the growing horror on the part of the reporting team as their investigation into a couple of abusive priests leads them to the realization of just how wide the abuse — and its cover-up — spread. Again, Ruffalo’s performance was good, but not great, but he did stand out ever so slightly from a really great ensemble cast.

The Martian

What is it?  An astronaut is left for dead on Mars and has to find a way to survive and let the world know he’s still alive.

Who’s it by? Director Ridley Scott, screenwriter Drew Goddard (Best Adapted Screenplay nominee), from Andy Weir’s book

Who’s in it?  Matt Damon (edit: Best Actor nominee), Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena

What’s it About? An astronaut specializing in botany is stranded on Mars following an accident during a storm. While he tries to figure out how to survive, NASA has to juggle resources, publicity, and science to figure out how best to save him — or if they even should.

How is it? Very good. Damon was robbed of a Best Actor nomination (edit: no he wasn’t. it’s late, and I’ve been watching movies all day), and the movie relies heavily on his nature and personality. The effects are good, the philosophical debates are pertinent and realistic, and science rules!

The Revenant

What is it?  A wilderness guide is left for dead in the 1800s and must find a way to survive his injuries, the elements, and hostile Indians as he claws his way across the landscape.

Who’s it by? Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Best Director nominee)

Who’s in it?  Leonardo DiCaprio (Best Actor nominee), Tom Hardy (Best Supporting Actor nominee)

What’s it About? Wilderness guide Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) and his half-Indian son are leading a fur-trapping team when it’s attacked by Indians. Decimated, the group debate on the best way to get back to their fort base. When Glass is mortally wounded, he is forced to battle nature and betrayal to find his way to aid and vengeance.

How is it? Beautiful and grueling. This is a lush movie which features the two best male acting performances of the year (DiCaprio is considered a lock for Best Actor, while Hardy is the longest of long shots). It’s also one of those movies that I’m glad I saw, because that means I don’t have to see it again. It’s the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture.

My favorite movies of the bunch: Brooklyn, The Big Short, The Martian

My choice for Best Picture: Spotlight or The Big Short

My prediction to win Best Picture: The Revenant