Blade Runner 2049 (2017): Beautifully Disappointing (Review)

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The long awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 sleeper hit “Blade Runner” is beautiful to look at and offers a ranging plot line but ultimately disappoints by the time the end credits run. Directed this time around by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival) Blade Runner 2049 has the same dogmatic and plodding feel that the original film featured but with a lot more scope and, for lack of a better word, space. 

While the first film relied much more on the excellent Phillip K. Dick book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” and a splendid cast that included Rutger Hauer as the lead replicant and a very young Daryl Hannah, this iteration moved forward in the verse to give us a different kind of “runner.”

K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner who is not human, he is a “new” replicant.  As he starts chasing down the remaining old replicants he finds a mysterious box after killing Dave Bautista’s Sapper Morgan. Inside the receptacle rests the bones of Rachel and evidence of childbirth. 

The film then follows K (or Joe as Joi – played with an aching poignancy by Ana de Armas – the computerized companion calls him) as he tries to find out who the child is. At one point we believe, as he does, that Decker (Harrison Ford) is his father, but later we learn more about this curious triangle. 

The performances in Blade Runner 2049 are top notch, with only Jared Leto letting the side down a bit with his take on Wallace.  De Armas manages to practically steal every scene she is in and it is nigh on impossible not to fall in love with this brilliant actress as she brings Joi to life.

Rutger Hauer may be missing from this tale but the Dutch are ably represented by the marvelous Sylvia Hoeks who manages to make her character suitably scary in all the right places.  Villeneuve does a good job recreating the verse that Scott initially brought to the screen but the film is over-long. Two hours and 43 minutes is a long time to sit and the slow pacing of the movie made this seem much longer at times. 

Like the first film the progress of the plot and story line plods along at a frustratingly pedestrian rate. Too much time is spent questioning something that the audience, if they have been paying attention, will have guessed  midway through the film.

Despite the film generating a overall feeling of mild disappointment, there are enough nods and winks to the original to keep fans interested and pleased. The origami sheep (made by Gaff – a clear nod to the Philip K. Dick book), the clear raincoat worn by Joi, the atmosphere of L.A. and the re-emergence of Rachel (Sean Young appearing in a clip and later as a CG creation that just was weird looking as the CG replication of the late Peter Cushing in Rogue One.

Blade Runner 2049 looks beautiful and feels like a logical carry on from the first. However, like Rutger Hauer has stated, the first film was almost sheer perfection. Any sequel, despite the love and care that went into it, was bound to fall short, as this does.

But…

This is a film that needs to be seen. It encompasses so much, while still falling that little bit short, that one must see it in the cinema to appreciate the sheer grandness of the world it presents. The sets, the costumes, the performances and the cinematography combine beautifully to take us into this gloomy downtrodden world.

The film manages to bring us into its tale of a miracle amidst so much decay and loneliness (which, ultimately, this sequel is all about) with a lot of care to detail and stunning visuals. Mild disappointment aside, Blade Runner 2049 is still one to watch on the big screen.

There is violence, not much in the way of nudity and very little foul language. While not as originally pleasing as Scott’s 1982 version, the film earns 4.5 stars in presentation alone. Similar to this year’s version of the Stephen King horror re-imagining “ItBlade Runner 2049 will deliver a potent punch for fans, while still managing to disappoint overall.

Castle: The G.D.S. – Total Recall and Blindspot have a Baby (Review)

2016 is the year for Total Recall homages, or at the very least borrowing the “message to yourself” plot device from the film. Castle: The G.D.S. uses the “pre-recorded message” scenario

NATHAN FILLION

2016 is the year for Total Recall homages, or at the very least borrowing the “message to yourself” plot device from the film. Castle: The G.D.S. uses the “pre-recorded message” scenario.  Blindspot has also used the device, something that was absent from the Philip K. Dick book that inspired both the 1990 and 2012 versions of “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale.” It does feel a little like Total Recall and Blindspot had a baby.

Sidenote: To be fair, at the end, just before the “message” part, Rick says that the whole Hayley/LA scenario feels like a Philip K. Dick story. 

While the main storyline of Castle this week is all about Rick trying to “find” his lost time in Los Angles, the serial killer plot line, which allowed one great cameo from Gerald McRaney who is rapidly becoming the face of Gravitas on television and a great guest spot for Summer Glau, Fillion’s former cast-mate from Firefly and Serenity.

Although in the intense of Rick Castle, his message may well contain the information that he has “done this to himself” (wiped his memories) but we find out the reason. (In Blindspot Jaimie Alexander’s character still has no idea why.)  Richard jettisoned his memories because he was investigating LokSat.

Before the revelation that Castle quite probably sentenced Kate’s investigative team to death because of his interference, he has to solve the murder of a deceased D.G.S. member.  The Greatest Detective Society, far from being the myth  that Hayley Vargas declares it to be, is real and its leader (McRaney) has offered Rick and San Francisco P.I. Kendall Frost (Glau) a chance to become members.

The catch is the they must compete to find the killer of former member Phillip Harris.  As Rick, with the assistance of Harley (Toks Olagundoye) investigate both the murder and Castle’s missing time. Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) is along for the ride and she also investigates her father’s  missing time.

Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) is missing from the proceedings, even when Javi and Ryan are called in to help with the investigation (There is a New York connection) the only other member of the 12th to be seen is Lanie (Tamala Jones).  In New York, the two detectives track down the East Coast serial killer in a pretty satisfying stand off with an impressive end. 

The two play a practical joke on Lanie that gets them both in trouble with the M.E. and in Los Angeles, Alexis makes a startling discovery about Hayley.  It turns out that Vargas is a lot more than she appears and that she and Rick have a previous connection.

A deadly one.

Despite the fact that the episode used the Total Recall “message in a video” device (sans wet towel) all the threads were neatly tied at the end. Revealing that, apart from appearances to the contrary, Vargas is a “good guy” and that she has her own reasons for working with Rick and Alexis.

At least according to Hayley she does…

There  is a clever twist  in the end where the Hollywood type who destroyed the Nikki Heat film turns out to be much more, and less, than a top notch studio head.  Interestingly, Castle’s father (played brilliantly by James Brolin, Josh Brolin’s father) is mentioned again in connection to the LokSat issue. Considering the amount of “verbal” airplay “Daddy Castle” has been getting lately it may not be too long before Brolin senior makes another appearance on the show.

After last week’s episode Castle: And Justice for All, where it looked like Alexis may be shoved to the side, Molly C. Quinn got quite a lot to do in this episode. At one point, it did look like Vargas might be a threat to her new chum, but that was soon sorted out.

It does still look like things may turn bleak, if not deadly, for Stana Katic’s character, especially if one reads between the lines and remembers that one year contract

The whole invitation to the “Society” as well as the competition between Glau’s character and Rick, with plenty of screen time for Toks Olagundoye’s character was entertaining and fun.  Any plot that enables the talented Toks to  show off her acting chops is a good one.

While the storyline of solving Harris’ murder was what drove most of the action,  it did allow time for Castle to search for his missing time. On a sidenote, the Lanie practical joke was funny.

Castle: The G.D.S. does two things very well. It ties Rick into the LokSat investigations solidly and implies that he inadvertently put Kate in danger. The plot also allows Fillion to drop the bumbling buffoon that his character has become in this season. A nice reminder that while Rick is not a “tough guy” he is capable of being serious and deadly.

Glancing at the upcoming titles on Castle, the season finale’s Dead Again, is a tad foreboding, but as it was Rick who was presumed dead before it may not indicate a grisly end for Kate Beckett as much as for the series.

Castle airs Mondays on ABC. Tune in and see if there are any clues as to whether Rick and Kate will return for another season.

 

Dark Matter: Episode 1.4 (recap/review)

Publicity shot for Dark Matter
At the beginning of Dark Matter, episode 1.4 One is contemplating a past relationship with Two. In his flashback after she suggests they get to know one another better, she then changes her mind. The crew are all in the break room talking and Five relays her wish list, which starts with goggles, and the rest of the crew all say what they want to buy at the space station.

Two comes in and burst’s everyone’s bubble stating that after repairs, refueling and docking fees, there is nothing left. “Not even enough for goggles?” Five is disappointed as are the rest of the crew. After One, Three and Four suggest cutting back on fuel or repairs, Two tells them that nothing will be done half measure and that they need to find some buyers for the rest of the gun shipment.

Before heading into the station both One and Three complain to Two her putting them together. Two tells each crew member the same thing separately, “I don’t trust him, can you keep an eye on him for me?” Both men answer in the affirmative. The two head to a bar where they ask about selling the weapons. The bartender says he will put out some feelers for a finders fee.

Six goes to the doctor’s office to wait for treatment and Two and Five sell the bits they scrounged from the ship. The two females watch a “shell game” and it turns out that Five may have a “gift” for winning. Two heads toward the casino with Five in tow.

One and Three discuss just why they do not trust each other and the bartender interrupts to tell them he has found a buyer. Four, who stayed behind on the ship, leaves to ask about the ring. He shows it to a dealer who assumes the jewelry is fake until finding a hallmark. It is an “Ishida” ring and the man says he wants nothing to do with it. “This,” he says, “is not something you find, it’s something you kill for.”

Six, sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, sees a commercial for Transfer Transit, a cool variation on the Philip K. Dick “Rekal” device in We Can Remember It For You Wholesale or Total Recall. Instead of implanting memories, a “traveler’s” personality, mind and so on are transferred to a manufactured clone of the individual who takes the trip and at the end of the vacation all the memories and experiences are transferred back to the “traveler” who never left his planet. Six is suitably impressed, although no one else in the waiting room is.

One and Three have been captured and tied up instead of meeting a potential buyer and the two try to cooperate so they can escape. Two and Five learn that the younger girls ability to win at the pea and shell game does not transfer over to cards at the casino. It does appear, however, that Two may have what it takes to win.

After amassing a huge amount of chips, casino security grab the two girls and take them away from the blackjack table. Accusing them of cheating, when things get heated, the casino manager hits Five and Two attacks the group of men, killing them all. Three is in shock and the two leave without their winnings.

Six finally sees the doctor and when a DNA analysis is taken for a skin graft treatment, the news that he is a wanted criminal comes up and the medic attempts to apprehend the crew member. In the meantime, One and Three learn that “One” is an imposter apparently and that the real Jace Corso; who ambushed the two and never got on the ship, has been looking for One for over a month. He takes the remaining guns and manages to fool The Android on the ship.

The doctor sets off an alarm causing all who remain at the station to flee back to the ship. As One and Three come on board, Two asks about the guns. One lies about the weapons and Three backs him up. Later Three tells One that he expects him to back everything that Three says or supports in future. Four learns that apparently he is the Emperor Ishida’s son, and murderer, and that the whole galaxy seems to be searching for him.

Five is uneasy around Two since the multiple murders in the casino and is not too overly comfortable around Six. He asks what is wrong and Two replies, “nothing, she’s normal; which is a problem on this ship.” Kudos to Jodelle Ferland for pulling off “normal” for a change, this young lady has been playing creepy kids for most of her career.

Dark Matter continues to move smoothly forward working as a mystery/thriller/science fiction series with an infinite path of possibilities. All the actors are hitting their stride and Zoie Palmer is a joy to watch as The Android. Her almost childlike approach to the crew and their issues is a delight. “You’ve done something to your hair…It suits you,” she calls out to the “other” One as he steals the remaining weapons.

The comedy element during the bonding, and bondage, of Three and One was excellent. The two men were a capable comic duo throughout their ambush and after. “I told you to shift and you tilted,” snaps One. Later in the room where the two are captive, One and Three have to then tilt, “on the count of three.” A lovely touch and quite funny.

The writing continues to be above par and the show still promises to be a brilliant new addiction on SyFy. The brilliant plot device, the variation on Rekal, seems to prove that “Jace Corso” is indeed a clone, but is also is a great nod and wink to Philip K. Dick or even the Arnold Schwarzenegger film The Sixth Day. Like Killjoys Dark Matter is another Canadian export, with a bigger budget, and one begins to wonder why we here south of the border cannot match this splendidly high level of entertainment. Dark Matter airs Fridays on SyFy.