Blade Runner 2049 – Film Review

If reviving the Star Wars franchise seemed a near-Herculean task, spare a thought for Dennis Villeneuve. Revitalising the superlative space saga might’ve had its challenges, but at least its legion of fans were of one mind about their expectations. In creating this long-awaited follow-up to Blade Runner, Villeneuve faced a much tougher assignment, its diehard supporters having spend the past 35 years pouring over every iteration of the sci-fi classic, endlessly debating the plot’s myriad mysteries. While Villeneuve wisely steers clear of offering any definitive answers to those questions, there’s no doubt Blade Runner 2049 defies even the loftiest of expectations.

Scripted by Michael Green and Hampton Fancher – who also penned the original – 2049 unsurprisingly picks up three decades after the first film. The intervening years have not been kind to Earth: the climate has collapsed and the wealthiest citizens have abandoned ship for the off-world colonies, leaving only the poorest, who survive on synthetic gruel and the companionship of holographic call girls.

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The Tyrell Corporation has also fallen, bought out by the Jared Leto-led Wallace Corporation, who’ve created a brand new line of replicants, more compliant than the Nexus-6 models thanks to the eradication of troublesome features like emotions or free will. Ryan Gosling’s Agent K is one of the new breed, a blade runner tasked with hunting down and retiring older models. His latest mission leads K to an encounter with Dave Bautista’s protein farmer where he makes a startling discovery that causes him to question his own existence and the future of the human race.

To say anymore would be to spoil a bold, absorbing movie, who’s mysteries are best discovered as the story unfolds. What is certain is that 2049 is a much cleaner, easier watch than its predecessor. Whereas the original was deliberately, almost punishingly obtuse, Villeneuve’s update feels like a much brisker watch – despite being 45 minutes longer – and is more open about it’s intentions, rather than hiding everything behind a wall of portentous eulogising.

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Not that Blade Runner has become yet another commercialised blockbuster filled with city-pulverising, vertiginous actions sequences. 2049 remains a slow-burning, deeply ponderous detective story that gently muses on themes of isolation, identity and human connection in a way that feels like a natural progression to the first film. Any violence is brief but brutal and purposeful, acting as a sudden, devastating blow within a supremely satisfying, emotionally compelling narrative.

The defining elements of the original’s dark, twisted future world remain intact, too. Eyeballs are a prominent motif, fluorescent-hared denizens still munch on Asian street food and the Voight-Kampff test has become an even more distressing experience. In fact, so delicately has Villeneuve recreated the look and feel of the original, it’s almost to his detriment. Blade Runner was such a ground-breaking piece of work at least in part due to Ridley Scott’s impressively realised neon-drenched futurescape, which has been aped countless times over the intervening years. By contrast, 2049’s rain-soaked tower blocks and dust bowl necropolises feel like just another respectful copy – albeit a superbly crafted one.

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One area where 2049 undoubtedly excels is in the performances of its two leads. Gosling once again demonstrates his talent for imbuing deep pathos into handsomely passive characters, transforming the outwardly machine-like K into a thoughtful, engrossing presence. Harrison Ford is on similarly excellent form. Returning to yet another classic character, Ford’s skills are seriously tested in role that requires him to dig much deeper into Deckard’s emotional state than in his previous outing.

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Only Jared Leto, playing self-aggrandising, monologue-prone industrialist Niander Wallace, feels below his best. Though given he’s lumbered with an entirely superfluous character who exists solely to deliver drawn-out theological rants to Sylvia Hoecks’ super-humanly patient replicant enforcer, it’s perhaps no surprise that Leto would resort to biting huge chunks out of the gorgeous scenery.

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Without an engaging antagonist to match the Rutger Hauer’s tragic skinjob Roy and the unplanned poetic alchemy of his ‘Tears in rain’ soliloquy, 2049 misses some of the devastating emotional force of its predecessor. Yet that shouldn’t detract from what’s otherwise an extraordinary achievement by Villeneuve. Whether Blade Runner 2049 lives up to the expectations of its demanding fanbase will no doubt be debated for at least another 30 years, but there’s no denying Villeneuve has succeeded in crafting a smart, gripping and thought-provoking movie that immensley satisfying in its own right.

Runtime: 163 mins (approx.)
Director: Dennis Villeneuve
Screenwriters: Michael Green, Hampton Fancher
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoecks

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The first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is finally here

We’ve waited. And waited. And waited a little bit more… but the first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is finally upon us. And it’s certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Officially unveiled at today’s Last Jedi panel at Celebration Orlando, the new trailer offers our first glimpses into the continuation of Rey, Finn and Poe’s journey, picking up immediately after the events of The Force Awakens.
There’s a lot to take in here, even in the short snippets of footage we get to glimpse. There definitely appears to be dark times ahead for the Resistance. Their bases are under attack, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is on the warpath and what looks to be an almighty space battle looming on the horizon.
Daisy Ridley’s Rey, meanwhile, is continuing her Jedi training with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) – though Luke’s ominous words don’t hold much hope for the future of Force-weilding warriors. “I only know one truth,” he intones. “It’s time for the Jedi to end.” At least we finally know what the movie’s title is referring to.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is written and directed by Looper’s Rian Johnson and will be with us in December.

The Gears of War movie is still a thing

In the works since 2007, news of a Gears of War movie has been so thin on the ground of late, we assumed the project had been consumed by a Locust horde. But apparently Universal are still determined to bring the video game to the big screen.

Speaking at the official launch for Gears of War 4, Coalition boss Rod Ferguson confirmed the movie is still in development and even hinted that its plot may be completely different from that of the games, which follows gruff soldier Marucs Fenix in his battles against the Locusts.

“I think you have to let the movies be the movies,” Coalition boss Rod Fergusson hinted. “They’re two different mediums, and two different audiences in some cases, and I think some video game movies in the past have failed because they tried to make a movie for gamers.

“If you have this great IP with a deep backstory and lots of lore that you can make interesting stories out of it’s great, but if you just go after the gaming audience then it isn’t going to be a successful movie.”

No director or writer are in place yet, but producers Dylan Clark (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and Scott Stuber (Central Intelligence) have been tasked with finding a way to bring the franchise to life on the big screen.

Gears of War 4 is out on 11 October.

Female shortlist revealed for Han Solo Star Wars spinoff

So far, all we know about the young Han Solo Star Wars spinoff movie is that Alden Ehrenreich will be the one stepping into Harrison Ford’s shoes as the grumpy nerf herder. But now news arrives of the female actors looking to snag a lead role.
According to Variety, Tessa Thompson (Creed), Zoe – daughter of Lenny – Kravitz, and Naomi Scott (soon to be Pink Ranger in the upcoming Power Rangers reboot) have all screen tested for the mysterious role, which, given it’s set before a New Hope, is unlikely to be a young Princess Leia. Sorry, Star Wars fans.
In other casting news, Donald Glover is still the frontrunner to play Han’s buddy, and one-time Judas, Lando Calrissian, with a second round of tests set up in the film’s London production office before an official announcement is made.
Once all the main players are in place, filming is expected to begin early next year on the film – still pithily titled Untitled Hans Solo Star Wars Anthology Film – with Lego Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller at the helm.
It will be the second Star Wars spin-off movie following this year’s Rogue One, which is due out 16 December.
Whatever it ends up being called, the young Hans Solo movie is expected to arrive in theatres in May 2018.

Doctor Who’s Christmas special will feature it’s very own superhero

If the abundance of Marvel and DC properties on telly these days isn’t enough superhero action for you, you’re in luck. Apparently, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special will have it’s very own super-powered hero.
Justin Chatwin – he of Orphan Black, American Gothic and Shameless US fame – will join Peter Capaldi’s Doctor for the festive episode later this year.
The casting was announced by Capaldi and showrunner Steven Moffat when the pair appeared on CTV’s Your Morning in Canada to tease the first look at series 10 of the long-running sci-fi show.

“We’ve got a wonderful Canadian actor – Justin Chatwin – who’s in it,” Capaldi beamed on Canadian TV. “He told me if I mentioned his name I’d get a free drink!”

The Time Lord continued: “[Justin’s] in it, which is brilliant. We just finished filming it on Friday. It’s very festive. I don’t know quite what I can say about it!”

“Justin is a superhero – as all Canadians are,” Steven Moffat teased.

As you can see, the pair were pretty cagey on the details as to how or why Justin’s character will be involved in the story. Could he be the Doctor’s temporary companion, filling in for a one-off episode before Pearl Mackie arrives in series 10? Or will he be the dastardly foe looking to spoil the Doctor’s Christmas fun?

With the Christmas special expected to air on 25 December on BBC1, we only have a few short months to wait before we find out.

When will Humans series two arrive?

Least we forget that Westworld is not the only techno-fear thriller about sentient robots rising up to overthrow humanity, channel 4 has announced the second series of Humans will roll-out on Sunday, 30 October at 9pm.
The news was confirmed by Gemma Chan, who stars in the series as an amnesiac synth working as a maid for a human family, who tweeted a picture of the show’s poster on the London underground along with the air date.

Based on Swedish series Real Humans, the series explores the (mostly negative) impact the invention of life-like androids has on our culture and society. The first series focused on a band of synths who are bestowed with consciousness by their reclusive creator and set out to find the hidden code that will grant life to their fellow robot kind.

 All we know about the second run so far is that it will pick up a few months after the first series, which saw the synths going on the run from the authorities, and will see the synths more deeply entrenched in our society.
“Things are developing fast, as technology does in all areas,” writer Sam Vincent said. “There’s lots of new, society-wide effects which we’re going to tell stories in.”
The series also stars Colin Moran, Rebecca Font and Katherine Parkinson, with Carrie Ann Moss joining the second series as the show’s designated cool-american-actress-who-helps-sell-the-show-in-the-states.

Humans was Channel 4’s biggest drama hit in 20 years when its first series aired last year, so here’s hoping for more of the same when the second series arrives on Sunday, 30 October at 9pm.

Hugh Jackman says goodbye to Wolverine with gift for Bryan Singer

Playing Wolverine has made seen Jackman rise to one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, but as he prepares to wave goodbye to the hirsute X-Man in next year’s solo outing he’s shown he’s not too big to forget the man who gave him his start.
 
In a touching parting gift to Bryan Singer, who first cast him in the role for 2000’s X-Men after Irish actor Stuart Townsend dropped out at the last minute, Jackman sent the director a signed comic book mock up of the two as Wolverine and Charles Xavier.
 
Signed with the caption “Dear Bryan, it all started with you, Bub! 199-2016! From the bottom of my heart, thank you.” Singer posted a snap of the gift on Instagram.

 

 
Since being cast, Jackman has appeared in eight movies as Wolverine, a mutant with indestructible metal claws who posses the ability to heal himself, most recently as a cameo in this year’s Apocalypse.
 
His last appearance will be in the as-yet-untitled final Wolverine film, which is due for release in March next year. It is believed to be a sequel to this years’ X-Men: Apocalypse with diabolical villain Mr Sinister (teased in a post credits scene of Apocalypse) set to be Wolverine’s antagonist.