Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Review

     These type of sequels aren’t supposed to be this good. You know the ones I mean; the ones that took decades to write direct and produce, especially if the original is a masterpiece of its genre. Blade Runner 2049 is an exception that should become the norm. A sequel that expands and compliments the original instead of negating it completely. 

     Its Los Angeles 2049, artificial humans called Replicants are now outlawed except for use as officers called Blade Runners, who hunt down older replicants. One such Blade Runner named K (Ryan Gosling) soon uncovers a secret tied to an old Blade Runner from 30 years ago named Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) that could change all of humanity. 

     Even though I gave a bare bones plot summary, I feel like I gave away too much. While Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel, make no mistake, but this comes off more like a story that took place in the same universe. This time though, the story is much more of an odyssey than the standard sci fi fare; its still a noir story except we’ve actually met the person he’s searching for. 

     I can’t remember the last time I saw an actor in a performance and thought that no one else could’ve played it, but it happened here with Gosling as K. He anchors his performance with wide eyed silence that almost comes off childlike. He’s discriminated against, by both his peers and the people he’s sworn to protect; its easy to sympathize with him, even though that’s not how he plays it. The presence that Gosling has is just completely mesmerizing. His relationship with a Siri-like application is equal parts sweet, and sad and it came off as believable. He anchors the entire film and gives it its emotional weight. 

     Director Denis Villenuve has crafted his greatest film so far; the man was wise enough to know that the reason that the original is a science fiction influence is to keep the effects as practical as possible. This feels like a world that was built and lived in for decades. It is just one of the most gorgeous films I’ve looked upon in God knows how long. Love and care went into this, and it’s there on the screen. 

     Even though Blade Runner 2049 is very much its own story, people who haven’t seen the original might have a hard time following some visual and audio clues that key us into not just into the action but the emotions as well. I do apologize if I seem to be all over the place with this review, but there’s so much to take in on a story and visual level. Like the first film, Blade Runner 2049 begs repeated viewings and analysis. Like the best films are wont to do. 

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Cult of Chucky (2017) Review

     We’re seven films in, and 29 years later, into a franchise that many folks have all but forgotten. Chucky has always been a part of my childhood, and lead me to an intense distrust of dolls, that through the highs and lows I always stuck by him. Friends till the end, right?

     Following the events of the previous movie Curse of Chucky, this new installment titled Cult of Chucky, sees Nica (Fiona Dourif) locked up in a mental institution having been framed for murders that Chucky (Brad Dourif) committed. With the doll making his way through the asylum, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) makes his way to put a stop to Chucky’s reign of terror. 

     Seven films. Seven fucking films into a horror franchise about a homicidal doll should be this fucking unique and refreshing. I know a lot of you wrote the series off by now, but this goes into some uncharted territory. It plays up the mystery angle again, like the first one and Curse to be fair, and it creates some tension. Again, this is part 7! It absolutely works! Somehow it made it work!

     The film can’t help but falls into some standard clichés that are trapping of the genre, like you know who’s going to die, or who’s a villainous character, all that stuff. But the film is smart enough to realize that, and just embraces its trappings instead of being embarrassed by them. 

     The smartest thing Cult manages to pull off that the humor of the film has to come from Chucky himself, not the other characters. Rather the cheesy humor that put a lot of people off of entries like Bride of Chucky. It juxtaposes itself incredibly against the unbelievable amount of gore. Its been awhile since I saw a horror movie just love its buckets of blood. 

     The genius part of the movie comes in the third act that I can’t bare to reveal because I don’t want to rob you guys of the sheer lunacy that it has. But if you put thought into what the film shows you, then holy shit is it ever terrifying (while also laughing my ass off, not going to lie). If you’re at all a fan of Chucky, then you owe it to yourself to see this one. I know I already can’t wait for the next one. 

     

It (2017) Review

     I was only in 7th grade when I read It by Stephen King. At over a thousand pages, it became the novel that brought me of age, much like the Losers Club in the novel. Even though this film adaptation only covers roughly half the novel (omitting everything from when they’re adult) it manages to cover the sheer terror of growing up, and no matter the time period, you’ll notice nothing has changed. 

     The film starts in 1988 and goes into the summer of 1989. Children have gone missing and there have been sightings of a mysterious clown known as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) that may be linked to these disappearances. A group of 7 children known as The Losers Club band together to bring an end to Pennywise’s terror which occurs every 27 years. 

     Adapting Stephen King is no easy feat. As much as the 3 hour miniseries got the basic gist of the story, so much of the harsher themes, history of the characters, and disturbing violence had to be cut out (though to be fair to the miniseries, it was on network tv. In 1990). With the novel being the cinder block that it is, i can understand the first half being about the Losers Club as children. 

     The performances of all 7 kids hit the right notes, and I felt I was seeing my friends again. Like Finn Wolfhard as Richie was spot on.  He was always the smart ass and he did make me laugh which helps to ease the tension in some scene. Even Jaeden Lieberher’s Bill captured the sutter that will play a part in the next chapter of the story. I only truly feel that Chosen Jacobs’s Mike was the only that got short shifted the most. He’s a crucial character in the next part. Sophia Lillis is Beverly Marsh. Her storyline in the movie can be very uncomfortable, well if you see the flick you’ll know why, and Lillis plays it with a strength and confidence that made me notice she’s the heart of the group. Just as she was in the novel. 

     I know every single one of you is wondering about Skarsgard’s Pennywise. The man is no Tim Curry, but he isn’t trying to be. At times he comes off like a playful kitten, one that will devour your soul (like a real kitten). The key to Skarsgard performance, and what makes it so fucking unsettling, are his eyes. I came to find out he can actually move his eyes independently from each other, and nope! Fuck you. 

     But if I had to gripe about anything really is that knowing the story fully, the movie suffers from having only adapted the first half or not shooting both parts simultaneously. The real thematic meat of the story comes from the Losers Club as adults, and the underlying theme of coping and facing your childhood trauma. Saying that though, I didn’t feel cheated going to see this version. It actually manages to tell a complete story with a three act structure. 

     It left me thinking from the second the film ended, and it captured so many wonderful moments, and some seriously graphic violence. If the opening with Georgie and his sail boat doesn’t leave you in shock or cringe in horror, then you’re worst than Pennywise. Fucking monster. 

      

Don’t Be Upset That Twin Peaks Ended, Be Joyous That It Happened. 

     On September 3rd, Twin Peaks: The Return ended its run with a two part finale. I’m still reeling from so I will do my best to keep some sort of sanity in my thoughts. I sense that a lot of people royally pissed off over how it all transpired; the events, the use of the characters, the explicitly unanswered questions, just take your pick, its all valid. 

     If you find yourself upset, ask yourself this: 

     Do you even know David Lynch?

     The last two episodes (especially the second one) come off as some sort of fever dream that quickly spiraled into a nightmare. This is Lynch at his purest, most surrealist that he’s been in years. From the likes of Lost Highway to Inland Empire this is what the fimmmaker has always done; the dropped plot points, the strayed characterizations, I mean this is pretty common. 

     The final episode, to get back on track here, is a surrealist masterpiece. Based on that one viewing, I legitimately have no idea where to start to make sense. No matter though, when it comes to David Lynch I have come to learn that if you don’t know how to feel, just go with the music and the images. The use of negative space, think of the car scene at its climax, along with the lingering shots, create such a sense of unease, almost as of we’re descending into Hell. I feel a sense of loss, but I can’t even begin to tell you why. The ending just feels sad and open ended and that has always been Lynch’s style. 

     I do have a theory about what it could mean, but that requires some spoilers. 
     Based on the last few episodes, I believe that the events of this series of Twin Peaks all transpire in Audrey’s coma. I am fairly confident that in one of the early episodes it was mentioned that she was in a coma, but in a throwaway line. And then with her dance at the Roadhouse it became pretty apparent. But again that’s my immediate reaction. 

     What does it all mean, this new Twin Peaks? I believe it’s about the fact that you can never go home again. It just isn’t the same. And when you do go back, be prepared to face the demons you left behind. If not then all you’ll experience is the bleakest void imaginable. 

     This ending is going to stay with me for awhile. I knew that since the beginning. 

Death Note (2017) Review

     The anime Death Note is one of the most thrilling, shocking television series that has ever been released. With its densely layered plot, complex characters it leaves an impact unlike most television nowadays. Now we have a 2017 American adaptation that does manage to capture some of the themes and complexities of the characters. While it comes up short compared to the anime, the film manages to be fascinating, and grips you from the start. 

     Light Turner (Nat Wolff) is a smart kid in Seattle, Washington who is constantly being bullied at school. One day while minding his own business, he comes across a ledger called a Death Note. A mystical demon named Ryuk (Willam Defoe) tells him that he can write a name, imagine them, they’ll die. Now with a sense of power, Light starts to kill criminals which catches the attention of the authorities and a master detective only known as L (Keith Stanfield).

     This only covers the surface of the story. I think of this as a bit of a cliff notes version, but it is a damn good one. The performances are all spot on, especially Stanfield as L. He manages to bring an eccentricity to the character that actually comes off as endearing instead of off putting. He has a vulnerability that counterbalances his seemingly supernatural ability to keep up with Light. Wolff as Light had the embodiment of righteousness down, but due to cultural differences with Japan, he comes off as more of a victim than a lauded student. It works well for this version, and gives the film its own sense of identity. 

     Unlike this year’s Ghost in the Shell, director Adam Wingard (You’re Next) has a clear love for the material. Subtle nods and ingenious explanations for using elements that were clearly Japanese but moving them over to America which somehow managed to work. The film doesn’t shy away from the horror elements of the material, and along with the music, has a distinctive 1980s vibe that took me by surprise on how well that worked. 

     While in the grand scheme of things I do prefer the series over the film, that version shook me up pretty bad with its twists, the film exists as its own beast and exists as further evidence that apparently Netflix is where you’ll get some thrilling, just damn good movies. Few movies this year left an impact on me, but this one sure did, and I hope everyone sees this movie, and then check out the series. 

Note: I chose not to dive into the whitewashing controversy because I wanted to focus the films on its own merits and its source material only. 

The Defenders (2017) Miniseries Review

     The Defenders has that Avengers vibe going for it, and that’s a great thing. Here we have four distinct characters, all with their own style, so forgive the skepticism when I came into this, um, miniseries? Yeah, I’m going to call it that. 

     When the series picks up, Daredevil (Charlie Cox) is on his own, Jessica Jones (Kristin Ritter) takes up a case that gets her arrested, Luke Cage (Mike Coulter) is just getting out of prison, and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) is coming back to New York to face The Hand which is run apparently by Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver). After meeting in a brawl, they begrudgingly team up to take down The Hand once and for all. 

     The greatest things about this series is that the interactions between the four leads is just so much fun. The way in that they team up feels natural and no one acts out of character. Think about it, all four of them are lone wolves so having to trust strangers is just not going to be easy. 

     But easily the happiest part for me was the chemistry and banter between Luke Cage and Iron Fist. As a comic book nerd growing up, even I know the chance of seeing those two on a screen was going to be damn near impossible. These are the Heroes for Hire, man!!! What an age we live in. See the two of them laugh, starting to look out for one another just bleeds the comics. I already want their spin off series. 

     Marvel/Netflix keeps up their tally of having villains that are so much better than their big screen compatriots. Weaver just reminds you that no one can be so evil, yet calm, like she can. She actually has an arc, a motive, even an understanding of why The Hand needs to destroy New York. She holds your attention every damn step of the way. 

     At a brisk eight episode, the show doesn’t have time for filler, but it does drag on occation. But I have to say that while Finn Jones has gotten better in the role of Iron Fist, but Jesus Christ, does he have a way to go. He’s great opposite Luke Cage, hell with any of the other Defenders, but when he has to act tough or serious, he sucks. I actually yelled at my screen at him to lighten the fuck up, it just doesn’t come off natural, and you’re full of shit if that’s because of how the character is supposed to be. No. He sucks. Luke Cage needs to be in every scene with him so he can stop sucking so damn much. 

     Stupid Iron Fist moments aside, the show is just a lot of fun if you enjoyed any of the previous Marvel/Netflix series. I was truly apprehensive about The Hand being the antagonists, they were among the shittier things in Daredevil Season 2, and Iron Fist, but this actually made them compelling. The motives are now so clear and defined to put it lightly. It was great to see these characters again (except Iron Fist) and I already can’t wait for what comes next. 
     

The Dark Tower (2017) Review

     Author Stephen King has written many an epic tale, but none more so than The Dark Tower series of books. Imagine if Lord of the Rings were to meet a Spaghetti Western. Yeah, its weird but because King is fucking insane he makes it work. To adapt that as a film you need to be just as crazy as him or as passionate about the Gunslinger and his quest. The filmmakers got one of those right. 

     On Mid-World, The Gunslinger (Idris Elba) has been on a quest for vengeance against The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) for years, who has a goal of destroying the Dark Tower which holds together all of existence. If left in ruins all of reality with cease to exist as we know it. But a little boy named Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) could hold the key to either its salvation or annihilation. 

     This verson of The Dark Tower is not the book series. Yeah it has the basic ingredients that do make it the series, but ita truly not. The books were more meditative, more about the existential pursuit of something that gives your life meaning and purpose. The movie is more action and conflict oriented because you need to get to the point when it comes to cinema. 

     A key missing ingredient in the film is the spaghetti western element from the books. The lingering shots of the landscape, the unspeakable violence and especially the music. This is more of a 21st century film problem, musical scores are just bland. Think of the score from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and that is the Gunslinger’s music. Drive around with that music playing and you’ll feel like a badass. 

     The best thing about the flick, hands down, is the casting of Elba and McConaughey in the lead roles. The presence that they both carry just commands your attention. Elba manages to embody Roland’s stoic yet vulnerable nature of a man who has essentially become ronin. McConaughey, fuck, I haven’t seen an actor have this much fun playing a villain in years. The guy chews up scenery like he ran out of bubble gum. There is no greater joy than seeing an actor just have fun being evil. These two guys alone are worth the price of admission alone. 

     Putting aside my love of The Dark Tower books, it works on its own even if the plot is flimsy at times. Fans of Stephen King should have a lot fun spotting the easter eggs from his other stories, and the flick just ain’t bad at all. I mean, once you see Maximum Overdrive you can only really go up when it comes to Stephen King film adaptations. It says so little, but it truly says a lot. 

Ka.