Blade Runner 2049: Movie Review


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Someone needs to get Ridley Scott in check.  His recent Alien movie was awful and overindulgent.  This is far from awful but it has his stamp all over it and at two and a half hours long is really quite indulgent.

Ryan Gosling may also need to go to some acting classes because his one trick pony is wearing rather thin now.

Having said that, the bad stuff, there’s a lot to like about this movie.

Roger Deakins is in fine form with a simply gorgeous cinematographic experience.  The yellow city and the green biodome actually take your breath away.

The CGI is universally excellent.  The opening aerial sequence draws your breath and there’s a love scene in which a hologram juxtaposes the body of a replicant hooker that is one of the most imaginative things I’ve ever seen in the cinema.

Indeed this movie is RAMMED with great creative ideas.

I mostly didn’t mind how slow it is until perhaps the third act when, even with the excellent introduction of Harrison Ford, it began to outstay its welcome.

Clearly it’s a little Marmite as I’ve rarely seen so many of an audience leave, and its length certainly tested many a bladder.  Not mine thankfully.

The plot has its challenges and I’m not going to go there as it would be too easy to spoil for you, but it’s interesting and quite clever.

The score by Hans Zimmer is simply brilliant.  All booming, crashing percussive synth punctuated by little moments of Vangelis (echoing the original).  He’s on fire just now, what with Dunkirk under his belt.  He’ll have more than one soundtrack Oscar nomination come February.

I liked the way director Denis Villeneuve dwells on scenes, allowing you take in the mastery of Deakins’ and the technical team’s work but when he dwells lingeringly on Gosling again and again and again you do wish it would push on a bit.

So, overall, a good, but not great, movie.  I wouldn’t want to see it again actually given its drawn out editing.  But I liked it much more than I didn’t.

 

Cockpit. The Lyceum’s latest smash.


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Photo credit:  Production photo by Mihaela Bodlovic

In 1948 the young Bridget Boland (I know nothing of her) wrote this site specific play.  And it IS site specific even though it is presented in the Lyceum Theatre because she sets her play, about a holding centre for displaced persons in the aftermath of WWII, in 1948, in a theatre.

Actual genius.

This gives her the opportunity to introduce some great theatrical gags; most memorably the line spat out in complete contempt by the theatre’s stage manager for Front of House personnel.  A laugh out loud moment.  One of several.  Although this is no comedy.

The concept is that in this Displaced Persons’ (DP) ‘camp’, a sort of Calais ‘Jungle’ of 1948, in an unnamed German city, two British military personnel (the latter day peacekeeping force) are trying to organise the transport of 1,000 DP’s to their homelands.

It’s a Tower of Babel with many languages spoken and, more importantly, many short and long term differences of opinion and prejudices.  Of course, the Jews fare worst of all because the Jews were no less persecuted by the Nazis than many other nations and creeds.  That comes across strongly.

But Latvians and Lithuanians, Yugoslavs (Bosnians, Croatians, Serbian et al), Poles and Russians, French sympathisers and resistance all harbour deep grudges and these constantly flare up in an electrifying first act until a moment of humanity transforms the situation. It would be a spoiler to reveal this so you’ll have to see the show to find out how politics can be transcended by human nature.

It’s an absolute cauldron of infighting that shows partly how ridiculous political belief and dogma is (religion gets a right kicking too) but also how complex it is.  That scene from Life of Brian about the Judean Liberation Front is a great touchpoint, although it is treated far more seriously here.

The cast is drawn from a number of European nationalities which could have led to a dreadful ‘Allo Allo’ mood overall.  But how director Wils Wilson overcomes this is one of the many directorial sleights of hand that really impressed this audience member and means we have a truly international feel, but an all English script.  I have to say Wils Wilson has a masterful touch throughout.

It opens with a full ensemble Ukranian folk song that is brilliantly performed (and composed by the inimitable Aly Macrae – you may recall him from the The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart where he is a lead character) before resolving into the show itself.  I’d have liked to have seen even more musical pieces as they are all highlights. None more so than a few moments of operatic spinetinglingness that draws the breath away (I’ll not spoil it for you by describing what, where or when, but I guarantee you will be spellbound).

An actual real life showstopper.

It’s sort of Brechtian in places I suppose.  And resonates strongly with Caucasian Chalk Circle.  If you liked the Lyceums CCC you will like this.

Universally the ensemble acting is strong – really it’s as impressive a cast as I’ve ever seen at the Lyceum – but Peter Hannah as the fresh-faced and easily overwhelmed ‘Man in Charge’, Captain Ridley, is outstanding and is ably abetted by his more experienced and world weary underling; Deka Walmsley as Sergeant Barnes.

The design is a considerable feat and splurges out into stairwells, bars and the foyer, further enhancing the site-specificnesss of the production. The sound design and musical underscoring combine to create a sense of place, an air of menace and frankly an utter joy when it erupts into full blown musical scoring.

But, really, what most enraptured me was the script.  How anyone could conjure up such a politically accurate and insightful overview of the aftermath of WWII at a time when surely obfuscation, fake news and propaganda must have been rife amazes me.  What’s even more remarkable is that its relevance today (yes I know that’s such a weary phrase) is simply dizzying.

“The trouble with the British is they just don’t understand Europe.”  I kid you not.  Bridget Boland wrote those words in 1948. (I probably paraphrased.)

I rest my case m’lud.

 

 

 

 

The funniest letter ever written?


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Steve Martin (The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Man with two Brains) was, at one time, the funniest man on the planet.  Sadly that’s no longer the case but, at the top of his game he was killer funny – just watch any of the above movies if you need proof of that.

Or read the letter below to a fan.  He’d long passed the stage where he could write personal responses to fan mail but he could sign them and so crafted this absolute corker  in 1979, the year The Jerk was released.

P.S.  The P.S. kills me.

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Detroit: Movie Review. Kathryn Bigelow just keeps on delivering.


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It’s fair to say that Kathryn Bigelow is on a roll.

Her last three movies (Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty and now Detroit) have been gut busting horror shows about the human condition.

I love that Kathryn Bigelow sits in the ‘male’ directors’ chair.  I love hat she must be and should be a feminist icon, because she does the sort of movies that she makes much better than most men make them.

Kathryn Bigelow likes an explosion, a gun, a death.  But her female perspective on this raises it from guts and gory/glory into something higher.  Something more profound.

Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker both took on war as the subject matter.  This does too, but it’s the war of the races.  The war of oppression by white men upon black in the Summer of Love.

Ironic, because this is a film about hate.  Racism. Supremacy.

It opens with a short animation that perfectly encapsulates America’s fundamental tic.  The thing that won’t go away.  The displacement of race.  From the displacement of American Indians to the displacement of Africans to the slave plantations of  the Deep South and latterly their displacement into the Northern industrial cities like Detroit.

This displacement, in fact, displaces the white ruling class into the suburbs and that’s the start of deep tension and resentment.

We have witnessed this in the UK too, as gentrification of once unfashionable districts has displaced both black and white working classes into modern day ghettos.  And it aint stopping any day soon.

What Bigelow achieves with this movie is a political calling cry to any liberal minded decent human being, regardless of colour or creed.  It vilifies the atrocious white police force of late sixties Detroit  (Yet, I don’t think Detroit itself was much different from other places – there were riots in Harlem for instance and we all know about 1980’s LA).

She creates an almost documentary feel that is more 4D than any of the 4D Sh!t you’ll see in multiplexes.  Because this is for real.

Apart from the relatively well known John Botega (brilliant thank you) her massive ensemble cast is star-free.  That’s kinda how she rolls.

But each and every one of the 20 or so leads (yes 20) will have had life-affirming, and early career defining, roles in this epic.

But one stands out above all else in this majestic movie.

Will Poulter.

The actual devil incarnate.

Were he real, not an actor, he should rot in hell.  But he’s only an actor and his performance is surely Oscar worthy. You simply despise this evil racist bastard.  And he is unflinching in his evilness.  The smirk at the end of the movie almost gets you out of your seat.

This is a truly great movie.  A movie that should be syllabus material on any High School history course.

Kathryn Bigelow and her team (especially writer Mark Boal) deserve all the awards that this movie will hopefully receive.

Mother!: Movie Review. Will have film students hard at work for years.


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Darren Aronofsky has followed up his biblical epic, Noah, with another biblical horror story starring Jennifer Lawrence (his partner in real life) and Javier Bardem.

Whilst advance publicity had suggested this might be heavily inspired by Rosemary’s Baby this is not in fact the case.  Far from it.  Rosemary’s Baby is about the birth of Satan. This is not.

I found it helpful to know in advance what the premise of this film was and there is  a brilliant deconstruction of the plot in this article in the Telegraph.  You may not want to know before you see it, but it’s a great read after the fact and confirmed most of my assumptions about the heavy allegory and metaphor used in the movie.

To make two consecutive biblical films is surprising because Aronofsky has declared his atheism but presumably the source material is such brilliant storytelling that he simply could’t resist.

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What results in mother! is a film of such epic proportions, such horror, such artistry that at times your jaw actually drops.  Aronofsky stops at nothing.  There are no sacred beliefs that he cannot explore or visualise.  What he does not do is ridicule them.  This is a representative telling of Genesis, the New Testament,  earth science theory and sustainability all wrapped in one great gothic whole.

And it’s gorgeous, sumptuous and creepy.

The performances by Bardem and Lawrence are electrifying, albeit their togetherness as man and wife seems unlikely, but as the plot unravels it’s obvious why.

The appearance of a married couple in the shape of Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer (both extraordinary performances) into their lives is startling in its aloofness and cruelty.  One feels Lawrence’s panic bubbling over as the idyll she is trying to create in an island home is about to gradually unwind.

And unwind it does; in increasingly spectacular fashion.

I’m not going to go into spoiler territory (read the Telegraph article for that (after you’ve seen the movie) so I’ll stop here.

Suffice it to say that although this won’t appeal to many; for those that it does this is a truly great movie.

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