A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Blade Runner 2049,” the survival flick “The Mountain Between Us” and the J.D. Salinger biopic “Rebel in the Rye.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the much anticipated “Blade Runner 2049,” the survival flick “The Mountain Between Us” and the J.D. Salinger biopic “Rebel in the Rye.”
Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve and I are talking about how technology impacts our lives, when technology impacts our interview. The phone goes dead.
“Sorry about that,” he says back on the line. “There was another call and I didn’t want it to be distracting but I pushed the wrong button. I was doing an interview with someone who was not understanding a word I was saying! Then I realized, I’m not talking to Richard anymore. I’m talking to an unknown person. That says a lot about where we are now.”
Villeneuve, the Oscar-nominated Trois-Rivières, Que.-born director, saw the original Blade Runner when he was 15 years old.
“It was a hybrid of film noir with sci-fi,” he says. “The world that was depicted in the first movie, it was the first time I felt like I had seen a serious vision of what could be our future. There was so much poetry involved in the characters. There is strength in the vision. It is very singular, very unique and at the time I was a science fiction addict and for me it became an instant classic.”
A self-described dreamer, Villeneuve says the movie lit his imagination on fire.
“In those years my strength was dreaming,” he recalls. “I spent the first years of my life more in dreams than in reality. There are a lot of dreams I had back then that are inspiring me today.”
Thematically the new film harkens back to Ridley Scott’s original but instead of being a reboot or a remake it grows organically out of the 1982 film. Like the original it is about discovering what is real and what it means to be human and how technology fits into that puzzle.
“I felt it had the potential to tell a very strong story about the human condition,” he says, “about our relationship with technology. These are timeless questions that were already present in the first movie but I thought it made sense to bring back those questions today, 30 years later when our relationship with technology has evolved so much. When Blade Runner was released it was the time when we were starting to see personal computers in homes. It was the very beginning of the electronic revolution and now it is a different world.
“When you make a science fiction movie it is a mirror of today. It is nothing else than that, an exploration of today.”
Blade Runner 2049 is a mix of old and new, of Scott’s classic vision and Villeneuve’s new ideas. A throwback to the first film comes in the form of Harrison Ford, who recreates his role of retired blade runner Rick Deckard. To find someone who could carry himself against the screen legend Villeneuve brought in fellow Canadian Ryan Gosling.
“I needed that taciturn quality; quiet and strong,” he says. “I needed someone with charisma, big enough to be in front of Harrison Ford and not melt. A real movie star. I knew at some point he would be face-to-face with one of the biggest stars of all time.”
Reinventing a beloved classic like Blade Runner takes guts. When I ask Villeneuve if he looked to Scott for guidance he laughs. “His advice was, ‘Don’t f-— it up.’”
BladeHeads hoping to learn intimate details about Denis Villeneuve’s continuation of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci fi detective masterwork will be disappointed by this review. I’m treating “Blade Runner 2049” like a high tech “Crying Game.” Remember that? “The movie everyone is talking about… But no one is giving away its secrets.” Spoilers for the flick will likely be available on twitter roughly 0.0001 nanoseconds after the film’s first public showing so check there. You won’t find them here.
I will say the new film is set thirty years after the events of Scott’s film. Ryan Gosling is Los Angeles Police Department’s Officer K, a blade runner who hunts down and eliminates rogue humanoid androids called replicants. When he makes a startling discovery in the field his supervisor Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) sends him to track down the only person who can help save humanity, retired blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). “You’re a cop. I did your job once. I was good at it,” he says.
I will also say that Jared Leto plays a replicant manufacturer named Niander Wallace, that David Bautista makes an appearance and that it rains a lot. But that’s it.
“Blade Runner 2049” is a beautiful looking movie, simultaneously lush but austere. Villeneuve’s frequent collaborator, cinematographer Roger Deakins, creates eye-catching tableaus that blend moody film noir, desaturated dystopia, vivid neon cityscapes and more. Each setting in every scene has its own unique palette that has echoes of the original film, but feels fresh. It’s a movie that visually doesn’t slavishly adhere to Scott’s vision but grows organically out of it.
Thematically it harkens back while creating a new story. Like the original it is still about discovering what is real, and what it means to be human but it expands on the search for self and the coming to grips with what you find, touching on real life issues like false memories and fear of progress.
Keeping it grounded are reverberations from our lives. A hologram that keeps K company is simply the logical extension of Siri, a comforting voice that tells you what you want to hear. Our brave new world of self-driving cars and machines that replace human interaction is simply the analogue “Blade Runner,” a prototype of the world we see on screen. Virtually everything we see is futuristic but not outside of the realm of possibility. These touchstones from our present lives and the primal search for self ensure the humanity of the story doesn’t get lost amid the technology.
Fans of the original will find much to like in “Blade Runner 2049.” It’s a skilfully made movie that works as a companion piece to Scott’s film and as a detective mystery. What it isn’t is easy. It’s a ponderous two-and-a-half hours long, grappling with ideas rather than simply allowing characters to physically grapple with one another. There is the odd combat scene but the real action here happens internally.
In Arrival, a new humanistic sci fi film from future Blade Runner director Denis Villeneuve, Amy Adams plays a woman who sees life on a fractured timeline, like a Tarantino movie where the beginning is the end and the end is the start.
She plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist recruited by the U.S. Military to communicate with giant alien heptapods—think Kang and Kodos from The Simpsons— who have landed in Montana and eleven other sites worldwide. Are the ETs scientists, tourists or warriors?
“Most science fiction movies are about a display of technology or weaponry,” says Villeneuve, “and Arrival is not that at all. It is an intimate story about a linguist who is confronted by a huge challenge. In a way Arrival has some elements of a sci fi movie but it is closer to a strange cultural exchange.”
War of the Worlds this is not. Based on the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, this is an alien invasion film with more in common with the heady sci fi of Andrei Tarkovsky and the crowd-pleasing emotionalism of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s more about the importance of communication—“Language is the first weapon drawn in conflict.”—than alien technology or Independence Day style Martian marauding.
The story is an exploration of the unknown, exactly the thing that sparked Villeneuve’s interest in the script and to the genre in general.
“The vertigo that is created by the unknown,” he says, “that is what attracted me to sci fi.”
The director, who is currently putting the finishing touches on Blade Runner 2049 starring Ryan Gosling, says he was a bit of a Walter Mitty type while growing up in Quebec.
“I was really a dreamer and was surrounded by science fiction coming out of Europe. There is a moment I remember vividly. At a very young age one of my aunts came home one night and she had brought two or three big cardboard boxes filled with magazines. Those magazines were all about sci fi. Those boxes changed my life because the amount of the poetry and creativity among the guys that were drawing those comic strips. They were very strong storytellers. They were all like mad scientists playing with our brains. They really influenced me big time as a youngster and then came the wave of sci fi movies coming out of the US that were so strong at the end of the seventies.”
He cites a Stanley Kubrick masterpiece as a potent example of the kind of sci fi that lit his imagination on fire.
“The biggest impact was 2001: A Space Odyssey,” he says. “The first time I saw it was on television. I remember vividly the vertigo that movie created. Even though I saw it on TV I still think it is one of the most significant cinematic experiences I have had.”
In Arrival Villeneuve takes a page from Kubrick’s playbook and by the time the end credits roll he presents the audience with a climax that is both spacey and grounded.
“It is a privilege when you can take a camera and ask people to sit for two hours in a theatre,” says Villeneuve. “It is nice if you take that privilege to explore something out of our reality, to bring some poetry to it.”
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are a trimmed down version of The Ten Commandments for androids. Simple, direct and to the point, Asimov declared, “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.”
Asimov’s rules have inspired short stories, video games, music and cartoons. Roland Charles Wagner’s short story gave them an erotic spin in Three Laws of Robotic Sexuality, while the game Portal 2 sees all military androids sharing one copy of the laws of robotics.
And in the Mega Man series by Archie Comics, automatons are almost defeated by an anti-robotic terrorist group because they must abide by the three laws.
This weekend, Baymax, the lovable inflatable robot at the heart of Big Hero Six, abides by the laws. “Hello,” he says. “I am Baymax, your personal health-care companion.”
The roly-poly inflatable bot can almost instantly diagnose and treat a variety of diseases but even when he is transformed into a crime-fighting warrior, he still plays by the rules.
Asimov’s stories have been turned into films like I, Robot and Bicentennial Man, where the robots follow the dictums. But not all movies stay true to the rules.
In Alien, the Hyperdyne Systems 120-A/2 cyborg character Bishop (Ian Holm) says, “It is impossible for me to harm, or, by omission of action, allow to be harmed, a human being,” but later tries to kill Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) by choking her with a rolled up porno magazine.
The 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still has both good and evil robots. When alien android Klaatu’s message of friendship to earthlings is met with a bullet from a sniper, his eight-foot metal robotic assistant Gort lets loose with a disintegration death ray.
Finally, worse than Blade Runner’s killer android Roy (Rutger Hauer) or the robot gunslinger from Westworld, is Maximilian, the silent-but-deadly android from The Black Hole.
Not only does he wordlessly do the bidding of the evil Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell), the blood-red bot later merges with his human creator to lord over the fire and brimstone of hell. Lawgiver Asimov surely would not approve.
Over the course of dozens of movies, Clint Eastwood has played everything from cops and criminals to journalists and radio announcers to cowboys and even an astronaut.
This weekend in Trouble with the Curve he’s playing a character he’s never tried before — sort of.
He’s a baseball scout who brings his daughter (Amy Adams) along as he recruits new players. It’s his first baseball movie, but it isn’t the first time he’s played this kind of role — a man on the proverbial one last job.
The person who comes out of retirement, or takes on one last gig before hanging up his or her spurs, is a common movie character.
Blade Runner, Gone in Sixty Seconds, The Usual Suspects and The Wild Bunch all feature people going in for one last kick at the can.
In Eastwood’s case it’s a case of real life paralleling art to an extent. After Gran Torino, Eastwood announced his retirement from acting, but was coaxed back for one last acting job by his long time collaborator Robert Lorenz, who makes his directing debut with this movie.
Eastwood’s most famous “one last job” film is Unforgiven. He plays William Munny, an aging gunman who tried unsuccessfully to go straight and lead a normal life. “I’m just a fella now,” he says. “I ain’t no different than anyone else no more.”
But when he finds himself broke he saddles up one more time, reluctantly bringing along his old partner Ned (Morgan Freeman) to gun down some bad guys for money. “Just ‘cause we’re goin’ on this killing, that don’t mean I’m gonna go back to bein’ the way I was. I just need the money, to get a new start for them youngsters.”
At the time Eastwood said this would be the last movie that he would both perform in and direct, but has gone on to act in and direct many more, including the “one last time” movie Space Cowboys.
In front of the camera Clint is Frank Corvin, a retired rocket pilot called back into service when NASA finds they have a problem that only he can solve.
He recruits his old compatriots — Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner — for one last journey into space.
NASA offered use of their “vomit comet” plane for the weightless scenes, but Eastwood said no, thinking the older actors couldn’t handle the physical stress of zero gravity.
The Umbrella Corporation is the largest and most powerful corporate entity in the world. At least, in the world of the Resident Evil movies it is.
Since R.E. first appeared on the big screen in 2002, the Umbrella Corp has been responsible for weapons research, the release of the mutating T-virus, experiments on humans, and the creation of biologically engineered supersoldiers.
In this weekend’s Resident Evil: Retribution Umbrella’s genetic experiments turn the global population into “legions of the flesh eating undead.”
Turning the world’s people into zombies is pretty dastardly stuff, but Umbrella isn’t the only cinematic corporation bending the rules and causing harm.
How about Blade Runner’s morally despicable Tyrell Corporation?
Led by a CEO with a God complex, the company genetically engineered organic robots called replicants for use as slaves on space colonies.
Visually indistinguishable from humans, they are banned from earth, and if found on the planet are killed immediately.
That plot inspired another popular sci-fi flick.
When writer Edward Neumeier was asked about the plot of Blade Runner he replied, “It’s about cop-hunting robots.”
Inspired, he created RoboCop’s story about megacorporation Omni Consumer Products who builds the title character, a superhuman cyborg law enforcer.
It’s likely that defense firm Cyberdyne Systems had nothing but good intentions when it developed Skynet, the Global Digital Defense Network that features at the center of all the Terminator movies.
The idea was to remove the possibility of human error when responding to military threats. Who knew the technology would one day eliminate the human race?
Elimination of humankind was not on the minds of Soylent Corporation, the entity running things in the sci-fi flick Soylent Green. Set in an overpopulated, polluted world they came up with an alternative food source, Soylent Red and Yellow made of “high-energy plankton.”
A third product, Soylent Green, becomes NYC’s most popular snack until a cop (Charlton Heston) discovers the green wafer’s main ingredient. “Soylent Green is people!”
I doubt even Mitt “Corporations are people!” Romney would approve of District 9’s Multi-National United. Despite their slogan, “Paving the way to unity,” they create alien apartheid in South Africa for the purpose of performing experiments on the hapless ET’s who landed in South Africa. Most of these cinematic corporations sound innocuous.
At least the name of the corporation in Mel Brooks’s Silent Movie was truthful about what they do — Engulf & Devour.