Sci-Fi Short: FTL (2017)

Here’s a YouTube link to a 15-minute sci-fi short, FTL, that won a few awards last year. It isn’t wholly convincing- its really more a tech demo, I think, a proof of ability on the part of the writer/director Adam Stern who has a visual effects background from some tv stuff like Almost Human and Childhood’s End. So inevitably it works more as a tech exercise than a dramatic one. It features Ty Olsson in the lead, a face you will likely remember from all sorts of tv stuff over the last few years. Sort of a cross between Gravity and Interstellar, maybe its something that might have been expanded into a movie if some studio saw sufficient promise in it. On the other hand, it just goes to demonstrate that fairly ambitious stuff like this is no longer the preserve of major studio blockbusters as it was back in the Original Trilogy days of Star Wars. Worth a look, anyway-

Cosmos series 2

Well here’s a surprise, some Comic-Con footage on YouTube this morning led me to the discovery that a second series of the Cosmos reboot from four (that long already?!) years ago is in the making and scheduled for airing in March 2019. While it had its faults, the Cosmos reboot was pretty good and a fitting successor to the Carl Sagan original from 1980. Here’s a teaser trailer for next year’s offering; looks like they have dropped the animated segments, or maybe they haven’t been completed as yet-

The Endless (2017)

endl1Actors/writers/directors Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson return to the setting of their earlier sci-fi/horror jewel Resolution with another finely crafted tale that perhaps doesn’t really benefit from its larger budget/scale and cast as much as one would think. The strength, for me, of the earlier Resolution was its enforced small-scale; its intimacy and almost claustrophobic sense of remote horror. The Endless opens things up and widens the original’s perimeters and to me it loses something along the way.

Others, though, may have been frustrated by the limitations of Resolution and in particular its ending, and therefore will find The Endless a much more rewarding experience. Certainly there’s a bigger scope, and more ambitious visuals.

Two brothers, Justin and Aaron (played by the film-makers themselves albeit exchanging names) are escapees from a UFO doomsday cult out in the desert- ten years have passed and while Justin has adjusted to living in the ‘normal’ outside world, Aaron has his doubts and is missing his extended family of cultist friends. When a videotape arrives from the cult, seemingly stating that a fabled ‘Ascension’ has either happened or is imminent, Aaron convinces his brother that they should return to the cult just for one day. Hoping what they find will finally make Aaron realise they are better off well away from the cult, and achieve some sense of closure, Justin agrees.

endl2What they find back at the camp where the cultists live on the Indian reservation is at first bewildering, almost comforting (for Aaron at least) but there is, always, a sense of unease (particularly for the doubtful Justin) at the apparent idyll and hints of something being terribly wrong.

The return of Michael (Peter Cilella) and Chris (Vinny Curran) from the earlier film is a very welcome surprise, albeit rather bittersweet. I must confess I always felt a deeper emotional connection with these two compared to the two brothers Justin and Aaron, and the return of the protagonists from Resolution for me only intensified some of my issues with The Endless, but it was certainly very welcome (if disturbing) to learn of their fate after the closing moments of the earlier film.

At any rate, whilst I’m not at all convinced that The Endless was as satisfying as Resolution, it remains an impressive and satisfying low-budget sci-fi/horror with much to recommend it. Arrow’s Blu-ray release that currently (in a limited edition) contains both films is a great package not to be missed, with multiple commentary tracks on both films and various featurettes/interviews that I have yet to delve into.

Resolution (2012)

res1.pngResolution, a low-budget indie sci-fi/horror film with allusions to Lovecraft and others, features as an ‘extra’ on Arrows excellent recent Blu-ray release of The Endless (2017). As the two films are linked by location/themes/characters I watched Resolution prior to the main feature.

Its quite true of the horror genre that low budgets can be a great asset- necessity, it is often said, is the mother of invention, and this film is a clear example of when film-makers make such a lot of so little. Structured rather like a play its mainly a character piece, with a limited cast (essentially just two actors dominate the whole thing) its a psychological horror which starts fairly normal but then slowly starts to suggest all sorts of strange and horrifying possibilities about the nature of reality. I’d take films like this over the standard Hollywood nonsense of horny teens caught in the woods being preyed upon some monster, any day of the week.

Set on a remote Indian reservation, Resolution tells the story of two old freinds, Michael (Peter Cilella) and Chris (Vinny Curran) who reunite in a remote half-completed lodge- Chris is a drug addict well on the way to killing himself and Michael is making one last try at getting Chris clean, taking the opportunity of their isolation to force him to go ‘cold turkey’ over a week. A UFO doomsday-cult nearby suggests that there may be weird things going on in the area, and Michael begins to stumble on strange discoveries and occurrences.  As Chris starts to become more lucid and free of his drugs influence they both begin to realise that they are being watched by something unseen that somehow communicates by offering them ‘found footage’ video etc from what appears to be their future- or indeed, alternate futures. As the mystery unfolds it becomes clear that their lodge, the cult and environs have a darker, stranger history than they can imagine.

To say any more would do the film a disservice, as its a great little movie with some big ideas and on the whole it is executed extremely well that belies its budget and scale. I guess you’d call this ‘intellectual horror’ rather than ‘graphic horror’, and it certainly reminds me of good old ghost stories that suggested more than they showed.

There is a great sense of the cosmic unknown of Lovecraft’s better work and the leads are just simply brilliant, frankly, really doing well with the material. There is a warmth and familiarity between the two leads that convinces of the bond from their shared past, and the strangeness of their isolated location is conveyed well. A few other minor characters make some telling impact, too, making it a rather perfect little horror movie. I liked it very much- it keeps the viewer guessing right to the end and is only slightly marred by a wtf ending that benefits, in hindsight, by having  the latter movie The Endless allow the story to follow on some years later with a largely new cast of characters and some kind of, pardon the pun, actual resolution.

One of the genuine surprises of the year.

Countdown to Dune

No, you won’t be seeing this in it.

A countdown to Dune. Well, why not? Lets have a series of posts to chart the countdown for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune to its release. It’ll be rather like my posts regards Blade Runner 2, and that ended well. So here’s hoping lightning strikes twice and we get a great movie. Or two great movies, anyway, as recent reports have it that Villeneuve intends to make Dune in two parts. Alas, there isn’t the funds to make both films at the same time, so he’ll have to make the first, hope it does well, and then get to shoot the second. Considering how fickle audiences are, that is possibly a braver move then going for it and making two films together, but we’ll just have to hope for the best.

So, anyway, what do we know? Well, its being directed by Denis Villeneuve, one of the hottest directors at work today who pulled of the impossible by making a great Blade Runner sequel. Which rather makes him an ideal choice for making Dune, the book of which is still considered unfilmable by many. Many film-makers have tried, and many have failed. I think we’ll get into that in a later post.

Anyway, its two movies, and word has it that Legendary Entertainment want the first movie out in 2020. Which seems ambitious to me*, but news that production is currently intended to commence next February, and that Villeneuve intends to shoot the film at  Orgio Film Studios in Budapest, Hungary, where he shot Blade Runner 2049, certainly bodes well regards quality and infers that 2020 is indeed a target. Casting has started; Timothée Chalamet is in talks to star as Paul Atreides- not an actor I know, but from images he looks right for the role, certainly young enough-looking. So yes, things are moving along and it does seem that the screenplay is pretty much ironed out and things moving forward.

Must confess, this film/s is probably my most anticipated film now. Dune is one of my favourite books and this project has me scared/excited in equal measure. I am confident that Villeneuve can manage something quite extraordinary and only hope he is given the freedom to work his magic. The news its being spread across two movies (its a big, dense book) is great news and certainly a step in the right direction.

I can hardly wait.

*I know, I’m likely betraying my age here, but I remember back when big sci-fi movies took several years to make; Star Wars movies used to take three years back in my day. Production schedules and pipelines have changed a great deal, especially in this digital age with traditional post-production taking place during (or even before) main live-action shooting and how things have been sped up in general. But Dune by 2020? With us nearly in August 2018 already? Wow.

Deadpool 4K

dead4kA few thoughts regards watching Deadpool on a 4K UHD disc. Long-time/frequent readers may recall my less than ecstatic cinema review of Deadpool from 2016. My reservations have cooled somewhat in the years since- its fine for what it is, but if someone really wants to see an anti-hero rip up genre conventions and subvert superhero films in general, you need to get some brave film-maker (and even braver studio with a hit squad of lawyers) to shoot a movie based on Pat Mills/Kevin O’Neil’s Marshall Law strip instead (I recently re-read my copy of the deluxe edition of Marshall Law and laughed myself silly whilst cringing in horror). But Deadpool is fine- pretty damn fine in fact, now that some of that hype has faded somewhat (I still prefer Watchmen though).

Thanks to the recent Amazon Prime Day sales, I’ve gotten hold of Deadpool on 4K and good grief, it looks pretty gorgeous. Now, here’s the funny thing about 4K- what likely hinders the format isn’t so much the debatable difference between standard HD and 4K- its there, but only on the very largest panels will anyone really notice without standing damn close to the screen (the difference between SD and standard HD, meanwhile, is quite another matter, particularly on larger screens, but as HD is always upscaled anyway by the panel, it just makes the difference between HD and native 4K harder to distinguish, particularly from a distance).

What really shows a big improvement is the WGC (wider colour gamut, i.e. more varied and subtler colours/shades) and, in particular, HDR,which ensures brighter, dynamic contrast range between very bright whites etc against very dark blacks. The trouble with HDR though is that it varies in performance pretty widely depending on the quality of your panel (aha, so there really is a reason why some panels are much more expensive than others), or even the source (are you watching it via streaming, and if so whats the compression like, or via a digital download or (preferably, but not exclusively so) via disc). There’s also some variety of HDR formats- the main two being  HDR10 and Dolby Vision, which can sometimes vary between formats even with the same title (BR2049 on disc is HDR10 but on digital its Dolby Vision) and not all panels or players are compatible with all the formats… really, you’d think the studios/tech boys would sort stuff out prior to launch.

So it may sound strange to read that my own biggest  ‘wow’ about watching Deadpool in 4K wasn’t more grisly detail in the violence and gore but rather the exterior daytime scenes and the gorgeously natural-looking lighting. Through the combination of a wider colour field and the depth afforded by the HDR, the sky suddenly blooms and the lighting feels more natural and authentic. The sky just glows, the clouds more vibrant and shades more varied, and the lighting of the overall scene just seems wholly natural. It just suddenly looks real, as if looking out of a window at a real scene. Its a funny thing and hard to explain, but somehow it looks more convincing- 3D was just a diversion, immersion-wise, the real deal is the wider range of colours and dynamic range.  I have a suspicion that if HDR was compatible with standard HD, then that would be so impressive many punters would delay upgrading to 4K at all… aha, those clever buggers at Sony/LG/Panasonic etc, I see what they did there…



Eddie (again)

P1080592 (2)Well, it’d be rude not to I guess. He does seem to have a knack for posing for photographs whilst enjoying this unusually sunny English summer. Perhaps he should get an agent, pose professionally and keep his owners in such a way as they are unaccustomed. Or at least pay for his own treats by endorsing the products he favours (his food, his treats, his toys, his harness, he’s not fussed, he”ll sell anything). Alternatively, he could just kick back and enjoy the summer and the garden.

The irony is, he’s not yet two, so he likely thinks every summer is like this one. Oh well. He can no doubt look forward to a new raincoat next summer.

Film Notes: Blade Runner 2049 Pt.2

br2049bldgBlade-Runner-2049-0093So K walks home in the snow, approaches his apartment building- we see holographic advertisements for Sony and Off World up in the sky (I must admit, I still rather miss the blimp) and the camera pulls down as K crosses the street to his building. Within the building he is forced to climb the stairs which are crowded with people in shots reminiscent of Soylent Green (a great callback to a 1970s classic, if deliberate, and who is to say it isn’t? In some ways, 1970s dystopian films such as Soylent Green are as much predecessors of  BR2049 as the original Blade Runner movie is).

Presumably, these are homeless people sheltering from the cold outside, hinting that overcrowding in this city is still a problem, or at least that, as the outside world has gone to ruin, a toxic wilderness or city outskirts with no power or sanitation, there is less space for those left who are unable to leave for Off World.

Blade-Runner-2049-0095There is also the suggestion of everything breaking down- the elevator isn’t working (the screenplay states he climbs eighty stories!).  A woman launches a tirade against K that is subtitled – is she using Cityspeak, another nod to the first film? It seems nobody likes Replicants- earlier when we saw K entering the police headquarters a cop threatened him (“fuck off, skinjob”) which, like this encounter here, doesn’t seem to overly bother K. He’s no doubt used to it, inured to it by constant harassment. He reaches his apartment and steps through the crowd to his door, unlocks it and steps inside. When he closes it behind him we can see the legend ‘Fuck Off Skinner‘ scrawled across the door. Really, even in a world graced by Wallace Corp, Replicants guaranteed to obey, humans still don’t like them- or at least, that part of humanity left on Earth that does not benefit from them.

Blade-Runner-2049-0099We see an exterior shot of K’s apartment, looking in through the window as he moves around inside. Shafts of light move across what seem to be supporting girders around the window, some lovely sound effects play over the soundtrack and falling snow is caught in the shifting light. Its one of my favourite shots in the movie- its quite unnecessary I suppose, its just a few seconds but it offers a real sense of place and atmosphere and mood. The fact that they choose to just throw shots like that in a film can only make you love it more, you know?

br2049apartmDetailing is exquisite. In a reverse shot a little later, we can see out of the window across to the building opposite, and in some of the lighted windows across there, figures can be seen, moving. Again, strictly speaking, stuff like this is superfluous, unnecessary, but I think all together they sort of accumulate into a hyper-reality, just as everything seemed to in the first film.

Blade-Runner-2049-0102K glues his cut arm, cleans up: takes a shower which a voice announces is a burst of “99.9% detoxified water.” For some reason the woman’s voice recalls that of the woman who voiced the prologue narration of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York. Again, the shot of the shower, the detail about the detoxified water… it all charts the environment, the proscenium, as Ridley was fond of describing it (at least I remember he did, I tried to find the quote, but failed. Must keep looking). But these are all hints, things for attentive viewers to discern and process- if God is in the details, then the genius of this film is in those same details, if you want to work at seeing and processing them.

(Imagine, for a moment, an alternate ‘Idiots version of BR2049‘: complete with a voice-over narration like the original theatrical version of Blade Runner. I suppose it would be able to explain everything we are seeing, from those disused solar fields or the weather or the baseline test or the crowded stairs. I think I might write one someday, it would probably be incredibly funny, listening to K describe everything in laconic Film Noir/bored Harrison Ford-like voiceover.)

Blade-Runner-2049-0104We see K preparing some food in his kitchen, another wonderful nod back to the production design of the first film. So many incidental details, so much fascinating production design to feast the eyes upon. And yet, none of this really seems to draw attention to itself for its own sake. There is a restraint throughout this film, as spectacular as it is at times, more about the visuals informing the story than simply wowing us as spectators. Clearly at odds with the traditional Hollywood blockbuster as such films exist today.

During this sequence, we have heard a woman’s voice, having a conversation with K. When we finally see her, it is obvious that she isn’t ‘real’: she is Joi, a computer AI/Hologram, or some technology off-shoot from holograms, ‘Hard-light’ or something? I must admit I was initially troubled by her- I always overthink things, like ‘where is her voice being broadcast from?’, ‘how can ‘she’ where everything is around her?’, ‘where is the circuitry for her AI?’ I guess we really need to recall the old quote by Arthur C Clarke that ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic‘; and just go with it- its 2049, an alternate 2049 at that, and while they are still using CRT screens they are way ahead in other things.  In any case, she is a digital companion, and clearly very important to K.

br2049joi1Blade-Runner-2049-0143.jpgOne more point to make here regards Joi- she is a remarkable combination of performance by Ana de Armas and the artistry of the visual effects team at Double Negative in Vancouver; a wonderfully subtle visual effect that doesn’t call for our attention but is simply there, throughout, in one form or another. Either when she glitches slightly or whenever a strong light sits behind her and is cast through her, some of it is hardly there, but it always is there. Its one of the very best visual effects that I can recall seeing in years, such a subtle manipulation of image that you could be forgiven, as a viewer, for not even realizing the fakery at work here (part of this, I’m sure, is the performance by Ana de Armas which is, like so many of the performances in the film, simply on another level). Its seems a relatively simple visual effect but I suspect it is far more complex than it appears.

br2049joi4K has used his bonus from hunting down Sapper Morton to buy Joi an Emanator. This is a device which will enable her to leave his apartment, having being ‘locked-down’ to a projector arm in his apartment ceiling (“I’m getting cabin fever” Joi joked to him a few minutes earlier).  Holographic text appears around Joi- a reminder that she is a program, a product, an extension of the Google assistants etc on our mobile devices of today. Another observation- no mobile phones or internet in this Blade Runner universe (I really want to live there).

Blade-Runner-2049-0177K takes Joi up to the roof. This is so beautifully shot, this sequence, with truly remarkable sound design that is woven so delicately though it. Its possibly my favourite sequence in the entire movie. The sound of the falling rain, rattling on metal, splashing in puddles, the sound of a distant spinner flying, the hum of machinery, a distant rumble of thunder, the soundtrack synths playing though it, the searchlights piercing through the night and the misty, damp air, the characters figures reduced to silhouettes.  The production design, the surrounding cityscape, the nearby advertisement featuring an Asian woman’s face. Its so timeless, like stepping back into that 2019 so imitated over the years and yet feeling so authentic here. So Blade Runner, so Pure Cinema! Every time I see this sequence I never want it to end.

br2049roof“I’m so happy when I’m with you!” Joi gushes. “You don’t have to say that,” K corrects her, fully aware that she is just following her programming. She is a companion, an AI construct designed to befriend, cheer, comfort its owner. A digital alternative to Replicant pleasure models. K seems quite aware of Joi’s limitations, even if Joi herself isn’t. Which does raise a pertinent question- is this Joi just like any other Joi sold to the public, or is she actually something more? In just the same way as, presumably, most Replicants simply exist, function and obey, and then one like K comes around which starts to (apparently) think for itself and push against its boundaries, is Joi doing the same? In just the same way as ‘life finds a way’, is it true that AI finds a way too, that it finds a way to achieve a sense of unique self, and soul?  How much is freewill, how much is code, for any of the characters in this world? Both Joi and K are AI. Or are they real? How does one even measure ‘real’ in cases such as this? Does ‘I think, therefore I am’ even cut it in this world?

Blade-Runner-2049-0183Blade-Runner-2049-0191Joi almost looks a ghost- here on the roof, and yet not here. Light seeps through her fragile-looking form. Her graphics software seems to adapt to the rain that falls through her body and simulates how it would splash and soak a real body instead. Artifice continues to try to become real. Joi and K attempt an awkward and impossible embrace that will press a later solution from a (frustrated?) Joi. But now Joi suddenly freezes. A message from Joshi overrides Joi’s programming; Joshi wants K back at the station.

Blade-Runner-2049-0198X-ray images of a footlocker, and bones within it. Wonderful sounds of clunky, noisy machinery (the sound design really is quite remarkable in this film).

br2049morgueWe are in the morgue. We are told that the footlocker belonged to Sapper Morton from his military days, and that soil samples indicate that it has been buried some thirty years. The bones belonged to a woman.

Personal observation here- it immediately occurred to me when first watching the film last October, that the bones are whats left of Rachel. Its inevitable really, just do the math- 2049 minus 30 years. I remember feeling a lead weight in my chest, a feeling of genuine loss. There is an interesting meta-reality at work here- I remember ‘seeing’ Rachel, as Sean Young looked in 1980/81, an image frozen in celluloid, videotape and disc for all the decades of revisiting Blade Runner so many times: Sean Young/Rachel frozen in time.  Now she was just bones, the long years since 1982 as real as those between 2019 and 2049.

The film caught up with my suspicions almost immediately- K examines sensory data and microscopic imaging and discovers that the bones are those of a Replicant, and the soundtrack plays the same music as played over the prologue text at the beginning of the film. The score for this film seems to serve a different function to that of the original film’s score by Vangelis, and yet still sounds very ‘Blade Runner‘. I will always wonder, though, as to what composer Johann Johannsson’s score sounded like before it was replaced. I suspect some of Johannsson’s score filtered through- the moody atmospherics of the Wallace sequences sound suspiciously like his music. The music reprising from the films beginning would seem to indicate a recurring theme, of the nature of Replicants and the central mystery of this film.

The revelation that this female Replicant had given birth to a child will have repercussions throughout the remainder of the movie, and is indeed the core of the film.

Blade-Runner-2049-0224Blade-Runner-2049-0226Cut to Joshi’s office. Again we see an exterior shot, looking through a window into her office, in just the same way as we earlier had an exterior shot looking into K’s apartment. This time though we also have a closer exterior view, allowing us to see the pouring rain distort Joshi’s face as she raises the ramifications of what a Replicant giving birth means. Is this distortion of her face representing the disruption/anarchy she fears will ensue as the present order of things collapses?

Blade-Runner-2049-0231So we now cut to the interior proper, and see the outside world through her window as real as it looked outside of K’s apartment. This is no green-screen/CGI shot; through miniatures/forced perspective, atmospheric haze and physical weather effects the film continues its subtle definition of reality, which is a beautiful subtext when one considers what the films subject is.

Blade-Runner-2049-0242Joshi is sending K on a special mission, off the books, one assumes- to track down the Replicant child and destroy all trace.  K, like the dutiful Replicant that he is, obeys, but noticeably hesitates, a concern for Joshi and perhaps an early indication his next baseline test won’t be as simple as the one we saw earlier: “I never retired anything that was born, I guess,” he states. “To be born is to have a soul.”

“Are you telling me no?” Joshi presses, stepping towards him. A little threatening, perhaps a little worried.

“I wasn’t aware that was an option, madam,” K replies.

“Attaboy,” Joshi breathes, relaxing. “Hey,” she calls over to him as K leaves. “You’ve been getting by fine without one.”

“What is that, madam?” K asks.

Blade-Runner-2049-0243“A soul,” she states, already at her desk, working at some paperwork, dismissing him.

Here we have the central thesis of he film laid bare. The film allows us to consider this, by lingering over a shot of K leaving the office and closing the door behind him, and through a window in the door watch him walking away. Its a subtle thing, but so few films would actually take a moment to pause like this- usually it would simply cut to K flying over to the Wallace building and the next section of the film. Instead, then, it allows a moment for the audience to dwell on what has just been said. Already the film has shown us K’s digital AI companion, Joi, and postulated that she may be more ‘real’ than initially intended as a product, or the possibility that Joi and K are having some kind of relationship beyond one as simply owner/product. Now, the film has thrown up the nature of ‘being’, of what is real, the supposition that having a soul is what makes us real. Its throwing all these ideas up in the air, and we will see where they land and develop as the film progresses, but already the film is letting us chew over them.

Blade-Runner-2049-0246Blade-Runner-2049-0247While we ourselves consider the possibilities, its interesting that the film now cuts to an exterior shot of the police station roof, and K’s spinner in the falling rain. K is sitting in the car deep in thought- perhaps, like us, reflecting on what has just been said in Joshi’s office, what it means.  Or is K ruminating himself, as a Replicant, of what it means that a Replicant child has been born? His first doubts, his first glimmerings of moral uncertainty, of individual thought? That black and white world of absolutes and certainties that he lived in at the start of the film already falling away?

We cut now to perhaps the single best effects shot in the entire film- one that takes my breath away every time, in the grandest tradition of the 1982 film. We are looking upwards at Peugeot and Coca Cola advertisements on buildings above us before the camera swings away and down, almost impossibly, to a vertigo-inducing concrete canyon looking on streets far below- a canyon ablaze in light from an Atari advertisement/logo, and K’s spinner racing through it.

Blade-Runner-2049-0248Blade-Runner-2049-0250Blade-Runner-2049-0251Blade-Runner-2049-0252Another reminder that we are in an alternate reality, with Atari yet still a major corporation in this world, and yes, a little more fan service from the first film. Its a beautiful moment, a lovely effects shot and yes, another fine reminder of the original film.

K is on his way to Wallace Corp headquarters, in order to investigate the identity of the Replicant whose bones were stored in Norton’s footlocker. He passes over the two Tyrell pyramids from the first film, now darkened and no doubt falling into ruin- its almost a pity that the Replicant records weren’t still stored there, it would have been an interesting place to revisit, with all the ghosts hanging around within its halls. The Wallace headquarters loom over both pyramids and city- a gigantic structure dark and mysterious, and yet, as we will soon see, incongruously full of light within, as if Wallace has control of sunlight itself. The exterior of the Wallace Headquarters is pure overkill, perhaps an indication of Wallace’s own ego- the size of this building almost appears an affront against the city below. There is a nice touch of the Pan-Am logo in a corner of the screen as we see the Wallace headquarters exterior, another reference to the first film and the alternate universe we are in- raising thoughts of the Pan-Am orbital clippers that we saw in 2001: A Space Odyssey, too.

Blade-Runner-2049-0258As K asks a Wallace filing clerk in the records library for details about the Replicant reference number he holds, and hands a piece of hair from the footlocker as corroborating DNA evidence, an alarm sounds in the earpiece belonging to Luv, somewhere else within the giant building. She has perhaps been waiting long years for this notification to alert her- a warning that someone has found a trace of Rachel. “Another prodigal serial number returns. A 30 year old open case finally closed is a curiosity and relief,” she will soon tell K, but she’s lying when she does- the open case is hardly closed, and its not a relief either. Rather, its more an opportunity for monstrous possibilities.

End of part two.





The Foreigner (2017)

foreigner1This is one of those films where you have to leave common-sense and reason at the door and just go along with the madness. If you do, there is actually much to enjoy here.

I was actually surprised to learn that the film is based on a 1992 thriller written by Stephen Leather titled The Chinaman (why the title change, I don’t know, as Jackie Chan is often referred to as ‘the Chinaman’ through the film). The film seems so indebted to films like Taken, First Blood, and Patriot Games that I really expected it was one of those ‘original’ screenplays cooked up over re-watching a DVD collection- it really does seem so formulaic at times (sequences of Chan being hunted down by Irish thugs in woods is almost a retread of First Blood, with the thugs suffering all sorts of traps and one-sided violence).

Mr Quan (Chan) is a London restaurant owner who is taking his beautiful young daughter shopping in the city and you just know the day is not going to go well- a bombing takes place which kills Mr Quan’s daughter and a group naming themselves the real IRA claims responsibility. First Mr Quan makes a nuisance of himself at Scotland Yard when he repeatedly wants to know how well the investigation is going and who is responsible for the atrocity. His attention then turns to Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan, a (misguided?) doppelganger for Gerry Adams here) who was once a member of the UDI/IRA but now rejects acts of violence and has no knowledge of who is responsible (but assures the British authorities he will try to find out).

Hennessy, naturally for this kind of film, isn’t quite as innocent as he claims although it is clear he not in control of what is clearly escalating- a second bomb goes off in London, killing civilians on a London bus. Quan travels to Northern Island to confront Hennessy and sets off a bomb himself as a warning that he wants names. Quan has a Special Forces background that belies his mild-mannered old-man exterior and proceeds to hound and threaten Hennessy to give up the names of his associates responsible for the bombings in London.

Deftly directed by none less than Martin Campbell of Casino Royale, Goldeneye and The Mask of Zorro, The Foreigner may be daft with pretty ill-informed politics but as an action thriller its great. Chan, has always, is warmly charismatic in his role as a grieving father and the fight scenes are very impressive- indeed it may be one of the most challenging roles of his career.  Now in his early sixties its a little bewildering (and scary) seeing him performing such physical stunts and fight routines, but its perhaps his dramatic work here as a grieving father that most impresses. The pace of the film is brisk and the tension well-maintained over a near-two hour running time. Pierce Brosnan shoulders one of the strangest Irish accents ever recorded on film but its his aforementioned likeness of Gerry Adams that perhaps makes the whole film a little too uncomfortable to watch considering its clearly a work of fiction.

At any rate, its a finely made thriller that delivers on all fronts even though liberties are clearly taken with the politics and the action sequences, well-staged as they may be, stretch credulity somewhat. Available on Netflix now here in the UK (another Netflix original?), its well worth a look.

In Search of Mrs Swan

IMG_20180718_105334722_HDR (3).jpgMaybe dog’s don’t have such a perfect sense of geography, and live in worlds even smaller than that of the average cat. Eddie read with considerable interest of Sydney & Elsie’s discovery of Mrs Swan and her five cygnets, and was convinced that when we took him for a walk to the pools today that this was the exact same place that Sydney & Elsie spotted Mrs Swan. Well he searched and searched but to no avail. I tried convincing him that Sydney & Elsie live on the other side of the country somewhere near some other big pool and canal but Eddie was not at all convinced. Its a big world out there, I told him. Eddie just barked at me for me being some sort of idiot, and carried on searching.