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Blade Runner

Given the pop-culture gravitas of this film, there are hundreds of sites on which to find a Blade Runner 2049 synopsis, cast list or trailer. Google is your friend and I have lots of ground to cover. If you’re a fan of 1982’s both revered and oft-underestimated Blade Runner, however, this review is for you.

“Because you’ve never seen a miracle”sapper
Actually, Sapper, I think I just did. At a theater near Fenway Park, no less. To write an objective review about the unlikely and ridiculously far removed sequel to your favorite movie of all time, 3.5 decades later, is a fool’s errand on the brightest of dystopic Los Angeles days. While I’m quite sure he eventually got paid, Director Denis Villeneuve’s obvious labor of love has made it almost too easy for me to extoll the virtues (and maybe a disappointment or two) of Blade Runner 2049. Short version: This is a fantastic film, for which you do not need a deep knowledge of the original to enjoy. Get a sitter. Go see it. And now, for the long version…

“Memories. You’re talking about memories”
Walking out of Monday’s press screening in Boston, I was unprepared for the clipboard-toting PR person waiting for me outside. “What did you think?” she asked. “F*cking awesome!” with two physical thumbs up, was my unrehearsed and regrettable blurt. Not especially quotable, but she recorded it anyway while appearing happy and (maybe) just slightly relieved. That was my first review. Replying “Yes!” when asked today if I wanted to see it again this weekend was my second. What follows is my third. First, though, a nostalgic vignette to set the stage:

INTERIOR – VW BUG – NIGHT – Summer, 1982:  Somewhere in French-speaking Canada, a 9-year-old boy and his father pull in to a dimly lit, backwoods drive-in. The elder, who has previously refused to let his son read a weathered nightstand copy of Philip K. Dick’s source novel (because it’s too violent, David) hooks a speaker onto the red VW Bug’s half-rolled down driver’s side window and settles in for 164 minutes of the film his offspring will keep embarrassingly front of mind for the next 35 years. On the journey back to the summer cottage where absolutely nobody speaks French, and riding a recounted tide of rusty nails shoved through hands, eyeballs crushed by thumbs and women executed on the street for no reason apparent to the passerby – permission to read “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” is begrudgingly given.

We will come back to Quebec later (spoiler).

joi-billboard“Everything you want to see…”
At two key points during the movie, Gosling’s “Officer K” encounters billboards which repeat revenue-inducing quips related to what consumers want to “see”, “hear” and “be”. They also look a lot like the beloved and advanced Amazon Echo back at his apartment. It’s deeper than that, I assure you, but here be no spoilers.

Right before the screening in Boston began, a studio PR rep had to read out a message from Denis V. himself. The respectful jist was, “It’s tough to review movies, and I get that, just please don’t ruin the film for everyone else. Zut alors!” While I’m paraphrasing, the lockdown and security surrounding key plot points, I was told, is like nothing anyone in the press corps have seen to date.

What is everything we want to see then? 2049 blows the Blade Runner world straight out – in all directions. Other than the legendary original opening sequence, with L.A.’s towers of fire spouting off whilst accompanied by Vangelis’ intoxicating first notes, and apart from an establishing shot of a Spinner landing or two, there’s precious little shown that isn’t closed-set-sound-stage claustrophobic. The sequel shows us oceans, and deserts, and snow – effectively bringing forward the larger world we’d all imagined as kids (or maybe that was just me). Regardless, it is simply gorgeous.

2049 also takes CGI to new levels, particularly apparent towards the end where insufferable long-time fans will see something that may simultaneously induce laughter, sobbing… and possibly sharting. Bring towelettes – you’ve been warned. It’s that heavy.

We also see that the technology in Blade Runner’s universe has evolved since the first film, not surprisingly, as 35 years have passed. Where Deckard once used commands like “stop”, “enhance” and “track right” to investigate Leon’s photographs – we now see the main replicant baddy, (not to be confused with Batty) “Luv”, using those same commands to direct artillery fire. Garbage trucks hover efficiently while sorting filth, smartphones now have a convenient Voight-Kampff app, the Runners get a crazy test called “Baseline” after every shift, Spinners can now dogfight… I should stop there.

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“Everything you want to hear…”
A reviewer, whose name I struggle to recall, once referred to the soundtrack of 2008’s There Will be Blood as an “additional character in the film.” Throughout that monumental movie, the music never, ever, ends until the last second of the final credits. It was tailored to the story like nothing we’d ever seen before.

2049’s score is almost as equally engulfing and tailored. Hans Zimmer picked up the heavy task of scoring the film, in Vangelis’ brilliant Grecian shadow, after Johann Johannsson left the project. This left many clammy-handed BR devotees up in arms, but the result was worth the nerdy turmoil. Most noteworthy are the deep (very deep) notes used in transitional shots while Spinners are flying past. This happens a few times, and after the first instance I was immediately hoping there’d be another location change so I could feel that rush one more time.

The better news is, Vangelis’ original score is strategically woven in at key moments, and the final scene sees Zimmer’s work completely stripped away in favor of those hot, hot bars from 1982 many of us know so well. Like the hovering Spinner barking orders at Officer K, that unmistakable noise an old Tyrell Corp terminal makes while booting up, voiceovers recounting the mystery’s clues during flight time, heavy leather overcoats and whiskey – 2049’s soundscape glances over its shoulder several times to acknowledge its older sibling. There are more examples. Many more. But, you know… spoilers.

“Everything you want to be…”
The humans in 2049 know their history. The replicants only hope they do. The conundrum of implanted memories is a major theme carried over from the original. Only now, Officer K has access to historical replicant POV recordings – dampening the disbelief required to connect the two flicks and still sleep at night. Callbacks to human history which the characters must be aware of are in no short supply. Baby Goose’s (Gosling, anyone?) cell phone links to a lovely 2049 version of an Amazon Alexa back at home, named “Joi”, and plays the opening strands of “Peter and the Wolf” each time it rings. Took me a while to place the tune, and after more time passes I’m sure I’ll appreciate the reference. Hasn’t occurred to me just yet (So… if Luv is the wolf, does that make Deckard and K the sheep? Are the resistance the larger flock? Are all of the sheep androids?) Enough. Joi is the love of K’s life, one lost manufactured soul protecting another, and her presence in the film provides what little insight we get into K’s character.

We all saw Sinatra’s hologram in the second trailer, and should also know by now that Deckard is hiding out in Las Vegas. A favorite scene of mine involves Baby Goose and Ford trading blows while the ghost of Deckard’s casino plays intermittent holograms of the strip’s past in the background. “You know what BR2 needs? More Liberace!” Another thoroughly enjoyable clue that the past is still present in this crazy world.

Also noticeable is a nod to Treasure Island, but far more fascinating are two (that I counted) subtle references to the story of Pinocchio. At one intimate point, Joi informs Officer K that, “A real boy needs a real name”. No accidental dialogue there, and I guess that makes Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace… Gepetto? Pinocchio allegories have been thrown around in BR forum threads for years, and now there’s a direct reference. Only instead of strings, replicants have a 4-year life span. Anyone?

“I want to see a negative before I provide you with a positive”
At the risk of otherwise coming off as a garden-variety fan boy, It must be said – I did take issue in one  respect. While Sylvia Hoek’s “Luv” is more menacing than I ever thought the actor was capable of – in the narrative she’s just an agent. A stooge driven only by Niander Wallace’s orders. She knows what she is, and couldn’t care less.

You’ll find yourself longing for the tortured warrior-poet, Roy Batty, regardless of whether or not you wanted him or Deckard to prevail on that rainy rooftop in 1982. If this movie needed anything, and that is an admitted stretch because it’s simply a sci-fi milestone, it would be “better-developed and scarier villains”.

I have just one more gripe, related to casting. Now, the lineup is almost impeccable: Olmos, Bautista, Wright, Baby Goose, Abdi, Hoeks, Leto, etc. My dismay is due to the underuse of one Mackenzie Davis. When charging through the crowd in that first trailer – she was terrifying. I’d hoped she’d turn out to be at least the equivalent of “Pris” from the original. Similar style, similar hair, similar foreboding sense of “would she date me?” Ultimately, she is almost tragically absent for the rest of the movie, bar one fleeting group shot and a virtual sex scene for the ages.

“Many is the night I dream of cheese”
It’s great fun to imagine that, while my 9-year old adolescent pea-brain was being rocked for all time by Ridley Scott in a shoddy Quebec drive-in, a 15-yr old Villeneuve may have been right close by. It’s a sizeable province, but let me have my moment. Maybe he was just one town over, equally as impressed, but with a destiny tied directly to Blade Runner’s unique and astounding universe.

The Godfather did it, as did Jaws and Aliens. Specifically, those franchises saw an eventual sequel which surpassed, or at least lived up to, the original. Blade Runner 2049 will likely be remembered as a sci-fi classic, and I could not be more relieved. In closing: Denis, nous sommes fiers de vous.

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Repo Men: Uber-Violent Sci-Fi Smorgasbord

by Dave on March 30, 2010

in Movies

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"For a price, any organ in your body can be replaced. But it can also be repossessed."

I’m starting to like Jude Law more and more these days, and it’s not because I’m taking a cue from yesterday’s announcement by Ricky Martin. Maybe it was his hilarious turn on Saturday Night Live earlier this month. Might have been my recent re-appreciation for Cold Mountain. Could be his breathtaking buttocks – I’m not sure. Where was I… Jude, Forrest Whitaker and Liev Schreiber lead the cast of Repo Men – a decent sci-fi action flick unapologetically cobbled together from memories of far superior works.

I’ll clarify that statement in a way which the most distinguished of laymen will appreciate: If the reanimated corpse of Phillip K. Dick somehow managed to impregnate itself using a turkey baster found in James Cameron’s curbside trashcan, the resulting butt-baby would be Repo Men’s second cousin. It’s like Blade Runner, Children of Men and The Harvest were dropped in a blender with a cow liver repossessed from a failing Denny’s. You know what… I’m going to stop right there before this gets silly.

“The Union” is a company which manufactures artificial organs and other body parts which are then sold to the everyman at extortionate prices. “You owe it to your family. You owe it to yourself” is a popular sales phrase. If you fall more than 90 days behind in your payments, said organ is usually repossessed by Union employees (ex-soldiers, tough guys and general scumbags) who come to your house in the middle of the night and literally cut it out of you. If the part was vital – say a heart – you’re left on the floor to die. This is all, apparently, perfectly legal in this vision of the future. The head Repossessor, Remy (Jude Law), leads the charge and from the number of pink slips (commissions) he and his partner, Jake (Whitaker), collect you’d think them both very wealthy men in no danger of disillusionment.

“Hey Jude. Don’t be afraid. Ever seen The Crying Game?”

Inevitably it all goes kidney-shaped as these plots tend to do and square-jawed Jude ends up on the wrong side of the scalpel. Despite several offers from his employers he seems intent on changing his ways and, in doing so, getting himself into a whole heap of trouble. Is it for love? Conviction? Because he read Who Moved my Cheese? To be honest I have no bloody idea. And, on the subject of bloody, you might as well throw a laserdisc copy of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre into the aforementioned blender too – because this flick makes Tobe Hooper look like Hans Christian Anderson.

Law’s motivation for throwing off the Union’s yolk, hanging up his taser and risking life and limb for his fellow debtors isn’t very clear unless you’re paying close attention. He makes a fast 180 – from repo/killing machine into blubbering sissy who can’t even make the first incision – in seconds. Potential spoiler: did the electric shock whack his morals back into place or is he raging against the Union because not only did they force one of their hearts into him, it was their faulty equipment that made the transplant necessary in the first place? The defibrillator-related plot twist at the end doesn’t help because it’s new information that couldn’t have affected his earlier motives. Actually, maybe simply paying attention isn’t going to help you here.

judelaw_repomen“What’s my motivation?” Deleted scenes shouldn’t always be so.

I also wasn’t on board with the speed in which he went from being the company’s #1 Repo Man to just another “job”. It’s literally minutes. He’s the employee to which all others aspire and then suddenly, in the space of a few edits, he’s suddenly broke, almost 90 days behind in his heart payments and about to be rubbed out by all of his best friends. I expect this movie was edited for time and momentum because it felt like necessary narrative progression was skipped –  I doubt you could even see the cutting room floor.

The romance is also rushed. One fleeting glance in a crowded bar leads to Law undertaking a multiple-day detox on a less-than-pretty woman who looks like she was just shat out of an elephant. Maybe I should wrap this review up, because the more I think about the film’s drawbacks the less I’m liking it. Still, despite its potholed plot and unsubtle influences I enjoyed Repo Men – just understand what you’re in for. It’s going to make a lot more sense if you wait to see it on DVD with what I am assuming are about 157 deleted scenes. And if you accidentally rent or Netflix Repo Man instead… you’re probably better off. I give it 2.5 repossessed spleens out of a possible 5.

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It’s my favorite day of the week again, kids, and your live Quizzlet questions are once again required. Off to a bit of a late start today due to a drywall delivery – but it’s time to get this thing started. Please leave your inquiries in the comments and I’ll answer them as I get them. Update: Got what I needed. Some of you should seek help immediately.

Appetizer: What, in your opinion, is the most quotable movie of all time?Jennie SMASH

First of all, great to have you back, Ms. SMASH. Or is it MISS? We all have our favorites, and for me it’s a toss up between Blade Runner and Goodfellas. Quoteable movies are contextual for me though, in that the flicks I ape depend heavily on the people I’m with. One of my favorites from Blade Runner is the entire soliloquy from Roy’s death scene. Although this guy almost did it better. Almost.


Time… to die.

Goodfellas is full of them, but I think my favorite scene is when they stop off at Tommy’s mother’s house, with ‘whackee’ Billy Batts in their trunk, because they need a butcher knife to finish the job. Not only does Momma (Scorcese’s real Mother) refuse to let them leave without feeding them, but she insists on showing Jimmy and Henry her latest painting.


One dog is going East and the other one is goin’ West. So what?

“Looks like somebody we know” says Jimmy as he notices the man in the painting’s uncanny resemblance to Batts. Kills me every time.

Soup: What would you do now if you could have any job ? – Dana G.

I would have loved to have been a professional actor, and I think I could have been if I’d had the drive when I was much younger. Stand-up comedian is also high on the list. Back down on Earth where reality reigns, the answer is undoubtedly: Homicide Detective. Intrinsically I have always hated watching people commit and get away with horrible crimes and I know that bringing peace to families that have lost a loved one must provide a satisfaction unseen in any other profession. Or maybe I just read too many Encyclopedia Brown books as a child. Granted, there’s a big difference between the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers and a triple home invasion gang blackout suicide pact.

Salad: Are there, apart from 7&7 and crown & ginger, any Canadian cocktails? – Joanna A.

It’s technically a shooter but my University days are littered with memories of the infamous, and very Canadian, Prarie Fire. There are several variations but the one you see up there is a normal sized shot of tequila adorned with several dashes of Tabasco. The amount of hot drops you get usually depends on who ordered it for you, how they feel about you on that given evening and whether or not it’s your birthday. If you’ve been a dick to someone recently, it’s your birthday, and that person is headed up to the bar for a round of shots – kiss your ring goodbye. Figuratively and literally. I hear that’s actually possible if you’re heavily into yoga. Also look into Swish. And then immediately wish you hadn’t.

Main Course: What is the most heart-wrenching song ever recorded? – Lauren N.

That is easy. I made the mistake of having my iPod on shuffle and subsequently hearing “The Drugs Don’t Work” by the Verve. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal, but my Mother had been dead for less than two hours and I was driving back from the hospital. I had always thought that tune was incredibly sad, but let’s just say I’m lucky I was able to keep the car on the road that morning.

Dessert: What is the best tech advancement of the last 10 years? And where are my keys? – Scott W.

The continued evolution and societal importance of the internet, hands down. As for the keys, they’re in a brown grocery bag under your sink. You dropped them in there because you needed a free hand for a box of cat litter, and then stored the bag without removing them. You’re welcome.

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doves-kingdomofrustOne of my favorite bands of all time write a song dedicated to my favorite movie of all time. How could I not take 5 minutes out of my busiest week in years to comment on this?

Being fans of the Vangelis film score, Blade Runner, we always wanted to write an imaginary song for the closing credits on Ridley Scott’s classic… It’s called Jetstream… Cheers.

If you’re a fan of The Doves you can download “Jetstream” as an MP3 for free off their official website – right this instant. The forthcoming album is titled “Kingdom of Rust and will be available in early April.

And obviously the Kingdom of Nerds couldn’t contain themselves long before actually setting the new song over the flick’s end titles and uploading it to YouTube. Well, sorta. From the YouTube page:

Blade Runner closing images don’t last long enough to enjoy the whole song. So there it is: Doves’ Jetstream song combined with the (fake) Blade Runner end titles reconstructed… using shots from The Shining, Koyaanisqatsi, Mar Adentro & other movies.

I knew that in 1981 Ridley Scott contacted Stanley Kubrick and asked him for extra footage that was originally filmed for The Shining when asked by the studio to make Blade Runner’s ending more upbeat. The scenes in question consisted of forests filmed from a helicopter which I assume were originally slated for helping create the Overlook Hotel’s sense of isolation.


“I’ve seen things you Mancurians wouldn’t believe.”

Does the tune work when played over this cobbled-together series of Runner-esque clips? Regardless, I think it’s a cool premise to admit to on the eve of your first album release in four years. I have high hopes for the record but I highly doubt Jetstream will end up being my favorite track. Having a new Doves record right around the corner, however, makes me happier than a Nexus 6 with no incept date.

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When men hit their mid-50s they usually buy a convertible sports car. When men hit their mid-30s (and are secretly huge movie nerds) they usually combine and display action figures on shelves. And then die alone for all of their troubles. I’ll be turning the big 3-5 this Pearl Harbor Day (that’s December 7th and yes I do have an Amazon Wish List, thank you for asking) so when I began getting urges to do the latter I simply accepted it. I went with it. It’s who I am. Dave Pye – the font of useless pop culture knowledge who will watch the same movie over and over until his eyes bleed – and it’s usually Blade Runner.

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Shall I pull my pants down and show you the jewels… of my personal collection? Super then. Top shelf Indy, bottom shelf Star Wars. Let’s start with the Indiana Jones conglomerate, left to right. First we have a genuine leather satchel, designed to look like the one Indy wears, with the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull logo burned into the lower right corner. Spielberg had them made by the Canadian company Roots (more details) as gifts for all of the cast and crew. I found it on eBay last month when I was looking for additions to my Halloween costume and couldn’t help myself. In the background we have an electronic whip, a Spalko action figure and three lego sets – all from the newest movie. Next we have four prop replicas – a Sankara Stone from Temple of Doom, the Hovitos Fertility Idol and Staff of Ra Headpiece from Raiders of the Lost ark and a bullwhip.

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Ladies, all of this could be yours. Form a line to the left.

The Star Wars shelf contains a couple of items that are actually worth quite a bit of money on the open dork market. On the far left we have a modern little Chewbacca beanie baby. Behind that is a stuffed R2D2 doll with a little red button that squeaks that I got for Christmas in 1977. In front of that is a remote control R2, the controller long since lost, which I believe I got in 1981 when Empire Strikes Back came out. Next up is an original Han Solo Blaster, with no chips, the sticker intact and it still works.

Beside the blaster is a Canadian-version, bi-lingual copy Han Solo figure. The packaging is in pristine condition and I found the little guy whilst cleaning out one of my grandmother’s closets last summer. She must have bought it for me for Christmas in ’77 and hidden it from my 4-year-old self in said closet – where it became lost for three decades. As I was cleaning out her home due to the fact that she is now in a long term care facility out of her mind and near death, the discovery choked me up. It was like a last gift from her to my inner-child. Nerd or not – you have to admit that’s pretty gosh darn cool. Thanks for everything, Claire. You did an excellent job with Janet and I.

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“Pardon-et-moi? C’est la Guerre des E’toiles, cocksackeer!”

Next up is a rubber Yoda puppet in decent condition, still with all of his white yarny hair, which was given to me in 1981 and then finally bookended with another modern beanie baby version of the same little green Jedi master. All told and in retrospect a decent little collection of movie paraphernalia. Which begs the question – guys and gals: what are your most treasured trinkets from childhood? More Star Wars stuff? A little G.I. Joe or Rainbow Bright, perhaps? Maybe it’s just me, but I sincerely doubt it. Don’t leave me hanging here, folks.

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