Blade Runner 2049

A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Blade Runner 2049  (C).  First, a confession.  Although I know I have seen some scenes from the original Blade Runner, I’m not sure I have ever seen the whole movie from beginning to end.  But I know the gist of it: in a gritty, dystopian future, a cop (Harrison Ford, (The Force Awakens) has to track down and kill some dangerous rogue androids who are trying to pass as humans.  I’ve even read the Philip K. Dick novel on which the movie was loosely based.

In 2049, thirty years after the events of Blade Runner, the future is still gritty and dystopian, and there are still rogue androids (or replicants, as they’re called) needing to be “retired.”  The twist is that our protagonist, android hunter K (Ryan Gosling, La La Land), is a replicant himself–and he knows it.  The opening sequence has him accomplishing an ordinary mission, but further investigation uncovers a mystery that he spends the rest of the movie (a long 2 hours and 44 minutes) unraveling.  The visuals are impressive, the music is deafening, and although I didn’t totally follow the convoluted plot it still mostly held my interest.  I thought Robin Wright (Wonder Woman) was very good as the world-weary police chief that K reports to.  But I thought the most interesting part of the movie concerned K’s “home life,” so to speak.  As a replicant himself, does he have emotions?  It appears he has some emotional response, or tries to, to a holographic digital assistant called Joi (Ana de Armas, War Dogs), but flesh-and-blood human beings don’t seem to interest him.  His connection with Joi called other movies to mind, particularly her, Ex Machina, and even the recent Marjorie Prime.  And it didn’t hurt that Joi herself was stunningly beautiful.  Nevertheless, on the whole, the movie didn’t gel for me.  It’s too long, the final act isn’t great, and I didn’t think the ending made any sense.  And although there are quite a few important female characters, the movie has a misogynistic vibe.  So, there you have it.

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Atomic Blonde

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Atomic Blonde  (D).  So I was shooting the breeze with a couple of guys at work, and we were talking about movies.  Expecting no contradiction, I offered the opinion that Wonder Woman‘s Gal Gadot is probably the most beautiful movie star working today.  To my amazement, one of my colleagues demurred.  “Have you seen Atomic Blonde?” he asked.  Recalling that this was a poorly performing spy movie starring the admittedly gorgeous Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road), I resolved to check it out.

Theron is gorgeous, but the movie is a mess.  During the last few days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, a British super-spy-assassin (Theron) is sent to Berlin to find and recover a list of a bunch of spies from a KGB guy gone rogue.  Her connection there, the local British spy chief, is a squirrelly guy played by James McAvoy (Atonement).  A cute French spy played by Sophia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond) engages in some inappropriate spygames with Theron.  Oh, and the whole thing is told by Theron’s character in flashback, so we’re constantly getting yanked back into a boring room in London where she swaps supposedly hard-boiled dialogue with John Goodman (Kong: Skull Island) and Toby Jones (Morgan).  The highlights are the exquisitely choreographed fight scenes, and I must admit they are better filmed and more entertaining than the incomprehensibly cut gibberish you see in most action movies these days.  But I had problems even with the fight scenes.  I could suspend disbelief long enough to accept that Charlize Theron is such a supernaturally fast and agile fighter that she can defeat thugs two or three times her size simply because they can’t land a punch on her.  But I can’t accept that she can actually absorb full-on body-blows from the same thugs and still keep up the fight.  She may be a ninja, but come on, a supermodel-skinny woman is not going to get up after some of the punches she takes in this movie, no matter how much of a ninja she is.

Wind River

A new movie review by The Movie Snob.

Wind River  (B-).  Writer–director Taylor Sheridan wrote two recent movies I liked quite a bit (Hell or High Water and Sicario), so I had fairly high hopes for this one.  I didn’t like it as well as those two movies, but it’s not bad if you like crime stories (and have a strong stomach for pretty graphic violence).  Jeremy Renner (Arrival) plays Cory Lambert, a federal game & fish commission guy out in rural Wyoming.  He hunts wolves and mountain lions when they get out of hand, but then one day he discovers the body of a young Native American woman out in the snow.  This really hits Cory hard because his own teenage daughter died under mysterious circumstances some years before.  He teams up with Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen, Captain America: Civil War), the lone FBI agent sent out to work on the case.  They get into some tight spots.  There is an intense flashback that shows the crime they’re investigating.  The movie is rated R for “strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language.”  You’ve been warned!

The Circle

The Borg Queen stops by with a new review.

The Circle  (C-).  When this movie ended, I said to myself, “I thought it was just getting started.” The movie never takes off. It is based on a young woman named Mae (Emma Watson, Noah) getting a job at a big brother version of Facebook that basically records and monitors multiple aspects of a person’s life (and physiology) as well as in society. Tom Hanks (A Hologram for the King) channels his inner Steve Jobs as the leader of the technology and social-media giant, making presentations to his Circlers with a coffee cup in hand showing off his latest technology on a stage. You get the gist that he has some sinister plan, but it was never clear to me what exactly it was, but maybe I just got bored. John Boyega (The Force Awakens) plays Ty, who actually founded the Circle but managed to go “off line” and lurk around the Circle mothership without anyone noticing or even knowing who he is for the most part. Ty befriends Mae rather quickly, but the relationship storyline doesn’t really go anywhere for a long time. It appeared to me to be simply a tool used near end of the movie, and then the movie suddenly ends. Overall I found the movie unrealistic and trying way too hard to be cool and mysterious, relying upon its casting over its storyline. Bill Paxton (Aliens) makes an appearance as Mae’s father. This was apparently his last role before his unexpected death and I’ve read that there is a dedication to him at the end of the credits. This movie is supposedly based on a book. If you like reading, I’d suggest trying the book instead.

Gaslight

The Movie Snob checks in with a new review of an old movie.

Gaslight  (B+).  This 1942 classic stars the beauteous Ingrid Bergman (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) as Paula Alquist.  In the opening scene, we see a very young Paula being escorted away from the London townhome where she has just discovered the body of her murdered aunt (her guardian since birth).  Flash forward a few years, and Paula is living in Italy.  She has followed in her aunt’s footsteps by studying music and singing, but we learn she has just been swept off her feet by a debonair foreigner named Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer, Fanny).  Anton is strangely eager to move to London, and into the townhouse Paula inherited from her aunt.  And once they are ensconced there, Paula seems to start to lose her grip on her sanity, and Gregory becomes ever more controlling.  What is happening?  Straight-arrow Scotland Yard detective Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotten, The Third Man) senses something is amiss, but can he figure it out in time to help Paula?  I quite enjoyed this classic old noir.  Watch for a young Angela Lansbury (TV’s Murder, She Wrote) as a saucy housemaid.

Split

The Movie Snob is creeped out—but not in a good way.

Split  (F).  I had not seen an M. Night Shyamalan movie since Lady in the Water, but it sounded like many critics were hailing this as a return to form, or at least the director’s best work in a long while.  And I was curious to see good guy James “Professor Xavier” McAvoy (X-Men: Apocalypse) play the villain.  So I decided to give it a try.  I found that I agreed with the minority of critics who have criticized this movie as a nasty, icky, exploitative piece of work.  McAvoy plays a fellow with multiple-personality disorder.  At the beginning of the movie he kidnaps three teenaged girls and locks them up in some sort of industrial-looking subterranean labyrinth.  He takes some of their clothes.  He ominously warns them that they are going to become “sacred food” for “the beast.”  In short, the threat of sexual violence is omnipresent.  Making matters worse, child abuse and child sexual abuse are alluded to in some very unpleasant flashbacks.  I hope the young co-stars (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch; Haley Lu Richardson, The Edge of Seventeen; Jessica Sula, TV’s Recovery Road) find better movies to star in.  Much better.

P.S. I always like to make a note when I am the only person in the theater for a movie, and I think that was the case with this one.  It was a few days ago, though, so don’t quote me on that.

Nocturnal Animals

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Nocturnal Animals  (D).  I knew this movie was supposed to be dark, but it stars all-American girl next door Amy Adams (Arrival), so how dark could it really be?  Very dark, as it turns out, and disturbing as well.  The opening scene is grotesque and disturbing.  Then we dig into the real story–Susan Morrow (Adams) is a miserable Los Angeleno in a loveless marriage.  Then she gets a package from her long-ago ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal, End of Watch).  It’s the manuscript of his new novel, Nocturnal Animals, and we see the novel play out on the screen as Susan reads it.  In the novel (and on the screen), a mild-mannered husband (also Gyllenhaal) and his wife (Isla Fisher, The Great Gatsby) and daughter (Ellie Bamber, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) are terrorized by a trio of west Texas rednecks who run them off the road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.  After this sequence, which is suspenseful AND disturbing, the husband turns to a laconic lawman (an excellent Michael Shannon, Midnight Special) to help him get justice.  Is Susan’s ex-husband trying to tell her something with his novel?  I’m not usually very attuned to subtext in movies, but it seems like director Tom Ford is beating us over the head with one here.  Anyway, this movie was too dark and disturbing, and ultimately unconvincing, for me.  Rated R for violence, menace, graphic nudity, and language — and they mean it.