Please sir, may I have five more?
Blade Runner 2049
Producing a follow-up to the classic film is an ambitious goal; for one thing, there are many variations of the original, all with their own partisans: Ridley Scott seems to be competing with George Lucas when it comes to re-cutting and re-interpreting his own work, and if that doesn’t sound like a compliment, it isn’t; Scott is a man who seems to struggle to understand what it is that the fans of his work find important about it, if his public pronouncements are anything to go by.
There are many ways for the follow up to such an influential film to go wrong, especially when it is not the sleeper that the original was: Villeneuve is battling not just the original film as such, but the decades of influence and mythos that it has accreted since then, and the opinions of Ford and Scott. That’s quite a goal, but in the case of Blade Runner one of the largest complaints about the theatrical release was the ending; most fans of the film prefer versions which leave ambiguity for the viewer: who are the replicants? Do Decker and Rachel get away?
So a sequel which collapses down the answers to those questions into certainty is really setting itself up for rejection; personally, I ended up feeling that was an overall satisfying addition to the original. Much like it’s predecessor it is visually remarkable, but it also leaves wiggle room for the viewer: sure, we get some definitive answers about Deckard and Rachel, but it then in turn opens up more qustions that it doesn’t close.
Dave Bautista gets to do an atypical turn; Robin Wright’s role was a small delight; Ryan Gosling is… well, he’s playing that same character that he plays in Drive. And Jared Leto is as creepy and fucked up as he apparently is in real life so good casting I guess?
When Marnie Was There
One of Studio Ghibli’s adaptations, rather than an original, a beautifully made film. I’ve not read the book that it’s based on, so I can’t say how closely it hews to the source material, but it is in and of itself a very satisfying movie. While it does present with a little mystery, I think most viewers will guess the answer well before the film itself tells you, but it’s a film where the characters’ journey is more important than the twist, and that part is very satisfying.
Kristen Stewart gets a chance to be Ripley, except underwater. It’s a solid horror film, albeit not really making good use of what Stewart is capable of; it also rather falls into cliches: yes, the black character dies first, and so on and so forth.
Against that, it does a good job of ratcheting up tension, has some decent jump scares, and the setting is immaculately realised. Is it as well-done or original as Alien? Of course not. Is it good fun? Yes. And, you know, if I were a well-off star whose early popular films made me rich enough to work on whatever I wanted, and someone gave me a script and said “do you want to be Ellen Ripley?”, I’d break the sound barrier signing.
Mae West: Dirty Blonde
A fascinating hour and a half covering the broad sweep of West’s incredible life; I knew that she was an author, with a copy of She Done Him Wrong sat on a bookshelf, but I did not realise that - for example - that she did not begin in Hollywood until she was middle-aged; the movie studio was so desperate for her star power, after her years courting controversy on the New York stage, that she named her price as “one dollar more” than the then-studio head, or that her final film featured Pierce Brosnan as her character’s sixth husband, nor had I been aware the degree to which the Hayes’ Code and the enforcement thereof was targeted specifically at her.
A really well-done and interesting documentary.
This is one of those animated films that is a joy for those who have spent money on the alphabet soup of audio and video gadgets; the colour and soundtrack are a stunning workout if you’ve got a nice home theatre setup. That’s not the point of the film, of course, but it is a function of the story that Encanto is telling, because here the film is drawing on the culture of Colombia in particular. Rich, bright colours are a key part of that, and the film is visually stunning.
Disney have leaned fully into the trend that they’ve been exploring since Frozen of not having an orthodox villain, embracing it fully here; there are genuine bad guys, but they appear only in flashbacks, and it is only the fear of them rather than their presence that contributes to the tensions of the story line; it’s become a real strength in their films. The songs - in particular We Don’t Talk About Bruno land well, and it’s a really solid film.