Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Review Blade Runner 2049

Many people were expecting an opening closer to $45 -$55 million domestically, and it fell far short of that at $36 million. Did the length scare people off? It has received overwhelmingly good reviews from critics and movie reviewers and fans alike. I don’t get it.

Go see this movie before it leaves the theater! You will thank me later. It is maybe the best sequel ever made. The cinematography alone will make the visit worthwhile. Roger Deakins will finally win the Oscar for this film.

It is long, longer than most any movie made these days and the editing is a throwback to another era, when we could actual spend a little time with a scene or a character to absorb what is going on. And with this film I wanted to spend that time. It isn’t edited like a James Bond movie, and I appreciated that. The movie is not pure homage, either. It is subtle. There is complexity to the characters and Gosling’s low-key approach make his emotional outbursts all the more powerful. It didn’t feel too long when I was watching it and I could have gone another hour easily. Director Denis Villeneuve gave each scene room to breathe and there is so much obvious care to stay true to the original vision of Ridley Scott. He takes all the things that worked and made the original so iconic and improved upon them. The city scape is dark and eerie and amazing. Meticulous details, like PAN AM, RCA, Cuisinart, and ATARI still being viable companies in this fictional alternate universe, and references to the Soviet Union with product advertisements, like Soviet Happy, which seems like an oxymoron, but fits perfectly with the ambience of city life in San Angeles. The technology is cool and convincing, and just different enough, and yet real enough to be completely plausible.

The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer is almost another character. It plays around with Vangelis’ original score and it works perfectly.

And the story stays with the same themes of what it means to be human and to have empathy are examined from every side and often turned inside out. It is a noir detective story that doesn’t just dabble in psychology; it goes all in. The heartbreaking love story between K, the protagonist played by Ryan Gosling, and Joi, brilliantly played by Ana De Armas, is layered and smart and nuanced. There are some emotionally powerful scenes between them, and it adds juice to other themes of injustice and bigotry.

I love that they brought back Detective Gaff. I just wish he still spoke in the city dialect. While being interviewed by K, Gaff’s origami skills are on display, as he creates a small sheep, a not so subtle nod to the seed book by Phillip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Writing this sentence makes me wonder if the character’s name is not another nod to Dick.

Watch the three short films before you go see this if you can, and you can, they are all over YouTube. They will explain what happened in the interim, between the two movies. They are not required to enjoy the film, but they will enrich the experience. The story is better in this sequel and has an actual character arc for K, a replicant cop that struggles with his own humanity. Dave Bautista is brilliant in the third short film and the movie, and I would love to see more of his character in this film. I’ve read other reviews that say the characters are thin. Perhaps the subtlety is missed by some, but I thought most of the main characters had depth.

I missed having Sean Young attached to this movie. She was amazing in the original, haunting and beautiful and perfect for the role. The character she played is a centerpiece in the story and I wish they could have found a way to include Young in the PR campaign. 

To be completely honest I didn’t love the ending. I won’t spoil it for you, and it seems unfair to even say that, because it earns the ending and it really works.

I want Ryan Gosling’s coat. It will be on my Christmas list. Heh.

There are so many cool parts to this film, from the set pieces, to the new technology, to the fight scenes. I rarely want to see a film more than once. I can count on one hand movies that make this list. It joins Star Wars: A New Hope, Twister, and the original Blade Runner. I will definitely watch this more than twice. This film is a masterpiece in every way and deserves to clean up at the Academy Awards. I am dumfounded why more people haven’t seen it, yet, but I implore you not to let the length of the film keep you away.

I hope this movie has long legs and earns out the $150 million plus price tag, because there is talk now that more movies could be made in this universe, and that can only be a good thing.

 Go see it and let me know what you think.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Book Review - Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati

Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A brilliantly written masterpiece in every way! If you like historical fiction Into the Wilderness is a hallmark example of how to do it right. As a young man, the stories by James Fenimore Cooper captured my imagination, The Leatherstocking Tales: Deerslayer, Last of the Mohicans, The Pathfinder and more. They are set during the French and Indian War, in and around the New York frontier. The writing style can be a bit hard to get into since it is quite old, but the stories are excellent. Into the Wilderness starts a series of books by Sara Donati that follow the offspring of Hawkeye from the original stories and carries us through the decades following the war, through the War of 1812 up to the Battle of New Orleans. Donati has changed the surname of the family but the rest is true to the originals. However, the prose is light years beyond the originals.

This first installment sets the tone and introduces the characters. A well-educated young woman from England, Elizabeth Middleton, has been brought by her father to the small wilderness village on the western edge of the New York frontier, where Hawkeye lives with his extended family of Mohican Indians. His son, Nathanial Bonner is a prominent figure in the region, known for his hunting skill, and his wilderness prowess, which he inherited from his father. To call it a romance story would not be wrong, but it would short shrift the complexity and nuance of this story. It weaves unconventional love with the fate of the Mohawk. This book has everything you could ask for in a story: brilliant prose, colorful characters, exciting setting, intriguing plot, wild adventure, love, sex, betrayal and so much more. It touched me emotionally as I got invested in all the characters. All of them are complex and well-developed and each has their own voice and motives. It is a wonderful example of a character-driven story.

The person behind the pseudonym, Rosina Lippi, is a college professor in her other life and the historical aspects of this book are extraordinarily well-researched. I learned things about slavery and how women and people of color were treated in the era that were never covered in my history lessons.

I’m so glad my wife turned me on to Sara Donati. I’ve read and loved every book in the series and look forward to her next series. There is even a short crossover with Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon for fans of that series.

I listened to this on audiobook and the reading by Kate Reading (Jennifer Mendenhall) is amazing. This story and the ones that follow fell right into her wheelhouse, with many different accents and languages. Kate can do Scots, French and English with equal appeal. With this series, she has risen to be my favorite audiobook reader.

The stories that follow this are all fantastic, but this one is special and will remain one of my favorite novels of all-time.

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