Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

blade-runner-2049-vox

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

Advertisements

2017 Summer Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Wonder-Woman-No-Mans-Land-screenrant.jpg

Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) springs into action in Patty Jenkins’ origin story of the Amazon princess. (Source: Screen Rant)

Wonder Woman has been around since World War II. Not only has the heroine been appreciated by women, but also men. A lot of you might remember the campy show from 1975 starring Lynda Carter, as she saves the world from the Nazis. While Wonder Woman has been featured in a couple of feature-length films (e.g. The LEGO Movie, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice), and straight-to-video animated films, there has never been a live-action standalone film starring her. Until now.

The DC Extended Universe is off to a rocky start. While Man of Steel provided a more twisted take on Superman, it hardly managed to stick with the nature of who he really is. Last year’s Batman vs. Superman had potential to make up for its predecessor’s flaws (including Superman seeing humanity wipe away from his eyes as opposed to saving it). While it did for the first thirty minutes, it resulted in being an absolute disgrace to both Batman and Superman. Suicide Squad, which also came out last year, also became a wasted opportunity featuring a talented cast, clunky action, and horrible exposition. This time, director Patty Jenkins (Monster) and her crew save the day by providing an origin story with heart, humor, badassery, emotion, and bursting with color.

Welcome to the Amazonian island of Themiscyra! Where it’s populated only immortal women, and men aren’t allowed due to war. Diana (Gal Gadot) wants to become a warrior just like everyone else including her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright). While her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) does not allow this to happen, Antiope secretly trains her anyway. One day, Diana discovers a plane crash landing in the water. She finds out the pilot is a man. His name is Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American working as a spy for the British. Diana learns about the Great War, and thinking Ares, the god of war, might be responsible. With her body armor, lasso of truth, among other weapons, Diana and Steve go to London to save the world from German general Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his minion Isabel Maru (Elena Anaya), also known as Dr. Poison.

Prior to its release, the Alamo Drafthouse decided to hold women-only screenings for Wonder Woman. Not surprisingly, this caused outrage among everyone. While the theater chain never had screenings where men are only allowed for any superhero movie, it’s just a blow to the head in terms of gender equality. The demographic among movies based on comic books are intended for everyone. Wonder Woman is a prime example of being a symbol of gender equality. This movie is no exception. She works alongside men and cares for those around her. Given the movie is set during World War I, Jenkins intended to have the movie set during the height of the suffragette movement in Great Britain and the United States. With its traditional three-act structure, they each have an exhilarating, sleekly-edited action set piece. The scene where Wonder Woman walks through No Man’s Land is one of the best you will see all summer.

From being Miss Israel to starring in Fast and Furious, Gadot has certainly come a long way. She proves that she can be more than just a pretty face. She is charismatic, naïve, and simply kicks ass! Seriously! How can you not get pumped when the electric guitar music starts playing in the background once Wonder Woman heads into action!? (The score is another great one to add into Rupert Gregson-Williams’ repertoire).

Pine’s Steve Trevor provides the film’s deadpan sense of humor as he tries to understand about Diana’s nature, and eventually working with her and his buddies. His motivation serves the movie well, given its gender-neutral state. The supporting characters also have motivations of their own, particularly Ewen Bremner (Spud from Trainspotting) as the Scottish sharpshooter Charlie, who suffers from PTSD.

If the villains had a little more depth, Wonder Woman would have been a perfect movie. This is the first film from the DCEU that I’ll watch over and over again. Bring on the Justice League!

3.5/4

Movie Review: Everest

A group of climbers encounter some fierce weather in "Everest"

A group of climbers encounter some fierce weather in “Everest”

For a movie about one of the expeditions at Mt. Everest sounds like one intense flick. Baltasar Kormákur’s (2 Guns) vision of the 1996 expedition is a mixed bag. There is a plenty to feast on the eyes and when the bad weather arrives it gets excited. However, with an exceptional cast, they had very little to do with the limited character development. With the 121-minute running time, Everest is a quite a bore until the real stuff happens. The big star here is Mt. Everest.

2/4

“Forrest Gump”: A Search For One Man’s Destiny

Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump"

Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump”

"Run, Forrest! Run!"

“Run, Forrest! Run!”

One summer night in 2007, I never knew movies can have the power to providing meaning. I thought movies could only allow people to be entertained. I began flipping through channels on my television. Then, I proved myself wrong when I had come across Tom Hanks sitting on a bench talking to strangers about his spiritual journey. The movie was Forrest Gump, which immediately introduced to the world of movies. I knew I wanted to watch it again and again after watching it for the first time. After watching it dozens of times, I would always learn something new. Whether it has to do with American history or life lessons.

When it came out twenty years ago on this day, some people didn’t necessarily cared for its sentimental message. However, a lot of people loved it so much it became the most successful film of 1994, and ended up taking home six Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Everybody knows the story. Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks, in a performance of a lifetime), a man sitting on a bench in Savannah, Georgia. When strangers sit next to him, he begins to ponder about his past. He’s a person with an I.Q. of 75 who learns about life from his mother (Sally Field). She expects him to have “the same opportunities as everyone else”. On his first day of school, Forrest sits next to a girl named Jenny (Robin Wright) on the bus. Jenny asks, “Are you stupid or something?” Forrest says, “Mama says, ‘Stupid is as stupid does.'” They begin forming a bond (“We was like peas and carrots”); Jenny teaches him to run away from the bullies. When he becomes an adult, he becomes a part of many historic events including the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.

Robert Zemeckis captures this journey with a lot of heart and passion when Forrest is finding his true destiny. In one scene, Forrest asks ‘mama’ what his destiny is. She leaves it all to him to find it for himself. “Life is a like a box of chocolates,” says Mama. “You never what you’re going to get.” She uses it as a metaphor of how everyone has no idea where their future would lead to. We learn that he really wants to marry his childhood sweetheart, but he comes across plenty of encounters. He went to the University of Alabama to receive a scholarship from head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. After college, he goes into the military and befriends Bubba (Mykelti Williamson), a man with a passion for shrimp. He makes a pact with Bubba to be a part of a shrimping business. Bubba tells him there are tons of ways to cook shrimp.

However, in Vietnam, Forrest is saving his troop in combat after it rained for months. When he saves Bubba, he dies and leaves it all to Forrest to start the business without him. Who else would

"I must of drank me about fifteen Dr. Peppers."

“I must of drank me about fifteen Dr. Peppers.”

be a part of the shrimping business other than Lieutenant Dan Taylor (Gary Sinise)? He felt cheated that Forrest rescued him rather than dying with honor. Because of this, he had a destiny to die in Vietnam like his ancestors “who fought and died in every single American war”. This causes Lt. Dan to have his legs amputated. This is where CGI comes in handy for Zemeckis. He captures the CGI as if you don’t even recognize it at all. During one of the film’s funniest scenes in which Forrest tells JFK he has to pee, it looks he is actually talking to him. I digress.

When he makes his shrimping boat, Forrest accepts Lt. Dan as his first mate. Later, he acknowledges Forrest for saving his life in Vietnam. Without him, Lt. Dan would be helpless.

After winning a Medal of Honor for saving his troop, Forrest becomes an influence to people. When he’s a guest on The Dick Cavett Show, alongside John Lennon, he talks about his experience being a part of the All-American ping-pong team in China. His discussion inspires Lennon to write his famous solo hit, Imagine.

Forrest: “In the land of China, people hardly got nothing at all.”
Lennon: “No possessions?”
Forrest: “And in China, they never go to church.”
Lennon: “No religion, too?”
Dick Cavett: “Hard to imagine”
Lennon: “Well it’s easy if you try, Dick.”

"Sometimes, I guess there just aren't enough rocks."

“Sometimes, I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.”

While on his life-long journey (becoming rich and famous), he always thinks about living a terrific life with Jenny. It shows flashbacks of her living the American dream, which leads her to becoming a drug addict and a part of the “hippies”. She has a destiny of “flying far; far far away” from all of the crap she had to endure as a child, especially when she always gets sexually abused by his father. There is this sense of “flight” that becomes symbolic throughout the film. Zemeckis opens up the movie with a white feather floating in the breeze with Alan Silvestri’s masterful score playing in the background. The feather lands on Forrest’s sneaker, and he puts it in his copy of his favorite children’s book Curious George. The feather blowing in the wind represents the way Forrest goes through his life journey. The iconic image shows up again at the end. This time, emphasizing that Forrest is at the right place at the right time. He married Jenny who would later die from an unknown disease (assumingly from HIV/AIDS). Forrest places his grave underneath the tree where they like to hang out at (symbolizing the innocence of life). He leaves her grave after explaining how his life has been. Suddenly, birds fly overhead notifying Jenny has found her destiny.

Not only did this movie made me appreciate movies but it made me appreciate Tom Hanks as an actor. I think no one else can play Forrest better than Hanks himself. He leads a phenomenal cast as a role so natural that it seems like I am watching a real person with the low I.Q. albeit big heart seeing history right from his own eyes. Whenever he’s funny, I laugh. Whenever he’s sad, I choke up. Whenever he rescues people, I root for him. I love his enthusiasm that he brings to the screen. This is what makes his performance unforgettable. This movie will be with me until I die.