Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

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Officer K (Ryan Gosling) is on the search for some answers in Blade Runner 2049. (Source: Vox)

In 1982, Ridley Scott introduced a world unlike any other. From its imaginative sets and thoughtful allegory on life, Blade Runner is one of the best sci-fi films imaginable. It features Harrison Ford playing a quiet hero (as opposed to Indiana Jones or Han Solo) where he must get rid of a group of bioengineered people from the Earth. Since its release, people have been debating whether Deckard is a replicant or not. There’s no real answer to the debate; other than it’s up to the viewer.

Today, Scott returns to his futuristic world as producer, while Denis Villeneuve–whose Arrival has returned to the traditional, thought-provoking science-fiction–is in the director’s chair. Blade Runner 2049 is certainly up his alley!

30 years after the events of Blade Runner, newer replicant models are now becoming a part of society. Officer K (Ryan Gosling) works as the new “blade runner” for the LAPD. He is assigned to take down (or “retire”) older replicants. One day, he sees the remains of an adult replicant and their child. Preventing a possible war against humans and replicants, K begins to investigate the murder, which might connect to Officer Deckard (Harrison Ford), who went missing all these years.

What I love about Villeneuve’s direction is he never wastes anyone’s time relying on mindless action or manipulative emotion. With Blade Runner 2049, it keeps the similar tone and themes of the original while giving a fresh take on the futuristic world. Roger Deakins’ cinematography feels like a painting coming to life. From the 3D holograms to the impressive architecture to the scene where K walks through the ruins of erotic statues, this contains some of the most visually stunning visuals I’ve ever seen (Deakins has a good chance of winning an Oscar).

While the movie can be quite brutal at times, the movie contains the theme of nostalgia. It asks the important question: Are memories artificial memories implanted in our heads? Or is it the exact opposite? As a replicant, this is what K tries to figure out. In one particular scene, he explains his only childhood memory involves getting bullied as he plays with a toy horse.

Gosling is familiar playing characters who can be violent yet have subtle emotions (i.e. Drive). He and Harrison Ford lead a marvelous cast including Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Barkhad Abdi, and Jared Leto. Let’s hope Villeneuve crafts more original sci-fi films in the near future. Not only is Blade Runner 2049 one of the best sequels in recent memory, it surpasses the original by a slight margin.

4/4

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2017 Summer Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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The Guardians are back to save the galaxy in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. (Source: IMDb)

Oh—it’s great to see these band of misfits back together!

2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy became a surprise hit among general audiences. It featured the most unusual groups of heroes. Ranging from a man from Earth raised by aliens, a green-skinned alien assassin, a superhuman warrior, a humanoid tree whose vocabulary is limited to “I am Groot”, to a trash-talking raccoon. Seeing it three times in theaters, I had an awesome time seeing these characters interact with one another while saving the galaxy and the planet Xandar from Ronan the Accuser. The movie had a lot of laughs, thrills, sharp character development, and visual wonder. So far, I think it’s my favorite in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s already a contemporary classic.

Three years later, writer/director James Gunn returns with the same main cast to do the sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. With Vol. 3 now in development, I’m actually looking forward to see more adventures of the Guardians rather than the Avengers. As far as sequels go, Vol. 2 is easily one of the better ones.

With a new kick-ass mixtape given to by his mother, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his team of Guardians—Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel); now reincarnated to a size of a tree bark, and Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper)—travel through the galaxy, in search of something good and bad. They are assigned to protect the Sovereign, a gold-skinned alien race led by Heiress Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), and their precious batteries from various enemies. When Rocket is accused of stealing the batteries, their spacecraft crash lands on a deserted planet until being saved by a man known as Ego (Kurt Russell), who happens to be Peter’s father (no surprise there). He, along with Mantis (Pom Klementieff), brings them to his colorful planet while a lot of stuff happens.

If I go on about the plot, it would lead to many spoilers.

With the first movie, Gunn introduces the characters getting together to form as a family. Here—they are an assembled group of outlaws. He also brings forth the father-son dynamic into the MCU. While Pratt is the ideal choice to play Star-Lord, there would not have been a better choice for Kurt Russell to play his dad. Or, in this case, a celestial who falls in love with a human on Earth and eventually creates his own beautiful world. For years, Quill always wants to know his true heritage. With the characters we have come to know and love, we get to know more about them, particularly Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gilan) with scenes with Rocket and Yondu (Michael Rooker) bonding with each other. And also, Drax gives more of an emotional weight, who explains more about getting revenge on Thanos after witnessing the death of his family. He begins to ponder more about his simple past on his home planet. He may be tough on the outside, but he is also soft on the inside. Oh—and his laugh is just legendary!

Speaking of laughter, Vol. 2 is a nonstop laugh riot! One of the reasons why Vol. 1 is not just the splendid visuals and action set pieces, but the irreverent sense of humor. Vol. 2 is no exception. Drax, Rocket, and Groot steal the show here. As I described him before in my review for Vol. 1, Rocket is the Joe Pesci of the MCU. He has a filthy mouth (but not too filthy) and he is unpredictably crazy. “They told me you people were conceded douchebags,” he says to the Sovereign (who make pretty bland villains, despite Debicki’s massive stature–standing at a whopping 6’3″). “But that isn’t true at all.” The wink he gives to Quill cracks me up so much. Almost just as much as him making fun of Taserface (Chris Sullivan), which had the audience rolling in the aisles.

Vol. 2 cannot be complete without an awesome soundtrack—cleverly titled Awesome Mix Vol. 2. What the predecessor did with Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love”, you know you are in for a treat if the movie opens up with ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky”. It’s nearly impossible not to grin while watching it. Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” serves as an appropriate theme for the Guardians. This line sums it up right here, “If you don’t love me now / You will never love me again / I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain.” Bring on, Vol. 3!

3.5/4

Movie Review: Spectre

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) go on a mission to find out the origins of the evil organization in

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) go on a mission to find out the origins of the evil organization in “Spectre”

Spectre is the 24th entry in the long-running 007 franchise, which started in 1962 and made Sean Connery get his biggest break of his acting career. Five other actors decide to step in with their gadgets and tuxedos and save the day with style. Daniel Craig was first introduced in 2006 with Casino Royale. He became the new sex symbol. With his tough physique and quick wit, he has hit it out of the park as Bond. The movie, under the direction of Martin Campbell, had brisk-paced action (which the series is known for), a menacing villain, a nail-biting game of poker, and featuring one of the most intense torture scenes ever. Following Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace didn’t quite live up to what its predecessor succeeded. The choppy editing and the minimal charm it had made it such a disappointment. With Skyfall, however, it was such a breath of fresh air to have nonstop thrills and Bond showing up face-to-face with one of the most menacing villains in the franchise, brilliantly played by Javier Bardem. Sam Mendes made one gorgeous entry.

Craig recently said Spectre will be his last outing as everyone’s favorite agent. But the franchise will never die.

The movie opens up in Mexico City. The Day of the Dead parade is in full motion. James Bond (Daniel Craig), wearing a skull mask, is on a mission to assassinate two men planning to blow up a stadium. He fights one of the men in a helicopter hovering in the middle of the parade (action at its finest). He suddenly sees a ring with an octopus symbol on it. Suffering from a midlife crisis, he returns to the MI6 in London. The new M (Ralph Fiennes) is facing a new enemy, Max Deinbigh–which Bond refers to as “C” (Andrew Scott), decides to reshape the organization.

Bond goes to Rome to meet Lucia (Monica Bellucci, who looks amazing at 51). She states her husband was part of an evil organization. This leads him to go to Austria to meet Madeleine Swann (the lovely Léa Seydoux), a French doctor working in a private medical clinic in the Alps. They have a relationship together, and comes to the conclusion that the symbol resembles SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). They embark on a mission to trace the origins of the organization which connects to Bond’s past and eventually encounter the mysterious Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).

Mendes brings the beauty and thrills that made Skyfall such a massive hit. He also brings the traditional 007 roots back. For instance, the gun barrel sequence starting the movie off with a bang (pun intended) and Bond preferring to have a vodka martini (shaken, not stirred). There is one scene involving a fight between Bond and Oberhauser’s mute henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy) reminiscent to From Russia with Love. The Aston Martin makes its way back to the franchise with its high-tech gadgetry (i.e. seat ejector, machine guns) set up by no other than quartermaster Q (Ben Whishaw). Waltz’ Oberhauser has subtle menace that makes him a mystery. Without spoiling too much, those who are familiar with the Connery era, there would be little surprises once the movie begins wraps up.

2015 has been a year for strong, independent women. Seydoux gives a fresh take on the Bond girl. Compared to Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, Swann is more of a real person. She’s more than a pretty face. She’s strong, independent and smart who prefers not to live in a world of espionage. If this is Craig’s last film, he gives a one hell of a send-off. If Tom Hardy doesn’t take his place, I don’t know who will.

3.5/4

2014 Summer Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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Chris Pratt and his group of A-holes team up to save the galaxy in “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Finally! A comic book movie with a new group of heroes!

Guardians of the Galaxy has been one of my most anticipated movies of the year. After spending six years of releasing movies featuring the members of “The Avengers”, it’s about time for MARVEL to give fans something they haven’t seen before. A group of outlaws featuring a talking tree and a talking raccoon…it couldn’t get any more awesome than that. Sure, it might seem an unlikely group, but indie director James Gunn brings enough wit and charm into these memorable characters to make us become emotionally connected to them. He makes our inner child burst with satisfaction.

After the death of his mother, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) gets on a spaceship to leave Earth. Years later, he’s adopted by an alien race called the Ravagers, and grows up to be a bounty hunter taking the alias of Star-Lord. While discovering his home on the planet Morag, Quill finds an orb in an abandoned building (cleverly paying homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark). He steals the orb, brings to the planet Xandar to sell it for a good amount of units, and gets arrested for stealing it from Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

After hearing the news of Ronan using the orb to destroy the entire galaxy, Quill teams up with four other companions. They are:

  • Gamora (Zoe Saldana, using green makeup rather than motion capture), an alien assassin trained by Ronan.
  • Drax the Destoryer (Dave Bautista), a maniacal warrior with tattoos seeking vengeance after his family tragically died.
  • Groot (Vin Diesel), a tree humanoid with very limited vocabulary. The only words he says are “I am Groot.”
  • Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a foul-mouthed, genetically engineered raccoon who is a bounty hunter invested with weapons.

Together, they come up with a plan to save the galaxy.

There have been several movies this year in which I would have a blast seeing them in the theater. However, there isn’t a movie quite like Guardians of the Galaxy. It made me feel like a kid watching perhaps the best movie in the world. Gunn provides some of the year’s most stunning visuals and exhilarating action sequences. What makes the movie fun, however, is the characters and their interactions with each other. When Pratt’s Quill puts a mix tape containing popular songs from the ’70s (including Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”) in his Walkman and starts dancing to the beat, it gives a reminder that the audience is in for a treat.

Peter Quill is like the brother Han Solo never had; he’s handsome, witty, charismatic, and bit of a wiseass. It’s impossible not to get a kick out of him when he uses his charm as the only way to get out of a certain situation. Whenever he interacts with the computer-generated characters, I feel as if he is actually interacting with them. Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon is like the Joe Pesci from Goodfellas. Not only is he funny, he’s also insane. The supporting cast including John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro couldn’t get any better. With an ending leading up to a sequel, I think it’s safe to that Guardians of the Galaxy is the best MARVEL movie since The Avengers.

4/4