Creed (2015)

creed.jpgI had a curious thought watching this boxing drama/fantasy- the way in which it respected its forebears, particularly the Rocky franchise from which this film originates, brought to mind the way BR2049 clearly demonstrated its own respect for the original Blade Runner and its creators.  To my surprise, Creed was clearly no cash-grab, and it was wonderful to see Sylvester Stallone return to his perhaps most famous character and see it treated so respectfully. Sure, these things are only movies and the importance and artistic value of the Rocky franchise is purely subjective really, but it’s nice to see someone making a film like this and it not feeling like a cynical enterprise.

In a curious way, there is the stuff of modern myth about Creed and how it furthers the story of Rocky. Bringing an ageing Rocky back to the screen to reflect on “Everything I got has moved on,” as he recalls his dead wife and freinds, and the old distant glories of his boxing career, Stallone reminds us he can be a great actor with the right material. “And I’m here,” he states, cooly, facing his own mortality and illness. Suddenly, in just the same way that BR2049 informed and improved its original film, Creed does the same for Rocky. Watching the original Rocky films, with the fresh knowledge of this film now existing decades later, and its own story, must surely add something.

It turns out Creed isn’t just a movie. Its something else, and it’s something to do with this myth-making and the parts of movies that linger within us after they have ended. Films aren’t just films, not always. They are time passing and life moving on and changing. I was never a huge fan of the Rocky films (they seemed to descend into self-parody and one of them – the 2006 Rocky Balboa– passed me by entirely) but I can imagine that for fans who first watched Rocky back in 1976 and grew old alongside Stallone over the decades since and several further Rocky films, something like Creed can be quite moving. Cathartic even.  Who doesn’t get a tingle from hearing Bill Conti’s Rocky theme when it returns? I believe Creed is the seventh film of the Rocky franchise and the start of a saga of its own (Creed II being released this month, and the impetus for me to finally catch up with this film (yeah, I said I’m not a big Rocky fan)) and it’s clear that here business becomes art and perhaps, yes, more even than that- modern American myth-making.

So yes, I really was quite taken aback by Creed and had I watched it back in 2015, I’m sure I would have done so hoping that BR2049 could follow suit with its respect for the past (and thank goodness it did). Sequels, remakes and reboots don’t have to be a bad thing after all. And I really now need to rewatch Rocky sometime. Here’s hoping the Beeb schedule it over Christmas…

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Vangelis Nocturne Update

Well, here’s a pleasant surprise- Nocturne, the recently teased new album from Vangelis, will be a piano album. This is a great news. I appreciate some fans may be a little disappointed or confused, as they may prefer another electronic work typical of the Greek maestro, but I think it’s really exciting. Its actually something I’ve been hoping that Vangelis would release for years. Some of the best tracks on Vangelis’ albums have been those featuring solo piano- really emotional pieces that demonstrate Vangelis’ gift for playing with genuine feeling. Tracks like Dream in an Open Place from Voices, or the Tenth Movement from El Greco, Memories of Blue from Oceanic, or Piano in an Empty Room from his Blade Runner Trilogy album. Seriously, this could be his best album in many years, and it almost feels as though Vangelis has been listening to me somehow. Time to manage my hopes/expectations, then.

nocturneInterestingly (or inevitably, as the cynic in me would suggest it’s a great marketing ploy) the tracklist includes amongst several new pieces, piano versions of old favourites- the Love Theme from Blade Runner, the track Longing that appeared on the Blade Runner trilogy album, Chariots of Fire’s Main Theme and Conquest of Paradise and a few others. It will be interesting, for example, to hear the piano version of Movement Nine from Mythodea.

Even more tantalising, advance pre-orders on European websites (jumping the gun a bit, as they aren’t supposed to be up until Dec 7th) suggest a release date of January 29th or -drum roll- February 15th, which is my birthday. Hey, a Vangelis piano album on my birthday? How cool is that? If it’s January I’ll take it but Feb 15th… oh man, I need a drink and a cold flannel to cool me down, a Vangelis album on my birthday is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of deal.

Blade Runner Anniversary

Blade-Runner-2049-0302Here’s a curio- today is the one-year anniversary of me seeing BR2049 on its opening night at my local cinema. I booked the tickets when on holiday in Scotland the week before and it led to a pretty exciting/scary week running up to the Thursday evening of October 5th. While watching Blade Runner back in 1982 remains the most intense cinematic experience of my life, watching BR2049 will likely always be the most bizarre. It was almost an out-of-body experience, watching it in a sort of detached way, as if none of it was real. Looking back on it, its clear I was really nervous after so many years of Blade Runner being an important part of my life and watching an impossible sequel that turned out to be impossibly brilliant. The experience was doubly weird as I went with my mate Andy who had seen the original with me back in September 1982- it was a little like a Twilight Zone episode or something.

I watched it twice more at the cinema (three trips to see the same movie? Frankly unheard of in this day and age) and must have seen it a dozen times since on Blu-ray and now UHD. Its still a fantastic, powerful movie and yes, likely my second-favourite all-time movie now- what a strange world we are living in. I keep re-watching it every month or so expecting the shine to wear off but it actually just seems to get better, and more impossible, every time I see it. The more I watch it, the more remarkable it seems that someone actually made a film so intelligent, slow, beautiful, so worthy of the original. Its funny, while I buy and watch so many movies these days, I seldom actually re-watch films quite as much as I used to years ago, but something about BR2049 keeps on pulling me back. And this one-year anniversary is just another excuse to watch it again…

Rachael art too

rach2Here’s another painting,  most likely from the same photographic source that the painting I posted yesterday was based upon (which for reference, I include below). This artwork has a more traditional approach but is none the worse for that- superb likeness again. There’s some really lovely Blade Runner-inspired artwork online. I used to draw and paint Blade Runner stuff years ago in my youth, but it was never as good as much of this stuff, although in my defense, back in 1982/1983, good reference material was exceedingly hard to come by.

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Rachael art

rachInteresting image this, of Sean Young’s Rachael from Blade Runner.  Beautifully drawn, I like the fragmentation which  the artist has given it- adds a nice touch and gives it a feeling seperate from the usual Noir feel that such ‘art inspired by Blade Runner’ usually seems to have. In any case, its another reminder just how iconic the ‘look’ of this character remains so many years later.

Blade Runner 4K UHD

br4kAutumn. Its the perfect time of year to watch Blade Runner. Summer? Horrible. All that sun and heat, its just the wrong time to sink into the rain-soaked neon of LA2019.

Which is my way of excusing the long delay from buying my 4K set-up (and my Blade Runner 4K edition) and actually sitting down to watch it. Anyway, I’m right of course- if only the studio execs who mistakenly thought Blade Runner was a summer blockbuster back in 1982 had thought to actually watch the film and realise it was not a summer movie, the film might have gotten a bigger audience with a release put back to the Fall of 1982. Might have given Ridley a bit more time to get the edit right too, and saved us decades of tinkering (even though the tech of 2007 ensured we got a better film in the long run).

So anyway. I watched the disc last night with the lights down and the cool damp Autumn night gathering outside the window. How was it? Well, rest assured, Blade Runner has never looked better.

The subtlety is the thing that struck me. Sure, the film is sharper, details more pronounced, and most of the visual effects actually more convincing than ever.  I wouldn’t have thought that last bit was even possible, but it is, which only increases my admiration for the effects guys behind the film and their achievement. The shot of the blimp hovering over the Bradbury roof as Deckard looks up, the lights piercing through the metal frames of the skylights, is really suddenly quite extraordinary and an utterly perfect effects shot. This is partly enabled by the HDR, which adds depth to the visual field, making lights and the neon signage really  ‘pop’ (the opening with Deckard sitting reading his paper with the screens behind him really does startle).

br4kcBut the real improvement, as I’ve noted, is the subtlety. Thanks partly to that HDR but more due to the WCG, the film has an added beauty from the play of light, the added colour range and gradient of tone. Every shot of Blade Runner looked like a painting on DVD and Blu-ray, but now we just see more of that painting. And, naturally, yes, we do see more details, in clothing fabrics and props and decor. The craft this film demonstrates is just breathtaking, even for a seasoned fan like myself. At one point I just had to stop looking and just enjoy the movie for what it is, and leave some of that detail-noting and visual exploration for subsequent viewing.

Some of the visuals won’t please everybody. There is a lot of grain, which is mostly down to the nature of the photography, but also the film-stock used too. Some shots are indeed problematic. Deckard’s reverie of the unicorn in the woods is pretty ugly, some of the grain buzzing like static, and his examination on the Esper machine has a few moments with issues. But any fan of the film from the VHS days will be used to stuff like that and on the whole it is what the film is. Any noise from grain is countered by the terrific gains in detail and depth from the wide colour field.

br4krachSo away from the 4K bells and whistles, a note about the film itself. This is, afterall, the first time i have watched the whole film since the release of BR2049 and I have to say its an interesting experience. Knowing what lay ahead for Rachel and Deckard can’t help but inform the experience of the film, and really does make Rachel a more tragic character. Knowing that Tyrell has tinkered with her to perfect the final Frankenstein-like goal of authentic biological reproduction makes him all the more of a monster (who ironically never learns of his final success).  And of course, Batty’s death and his very human act of saving Deckard mirrors the actions of Officer K in the sequel. Deckard is saved in both films and both experiences seem to transform him.

How exciting, then, that after all these many years, Blade Runner both looks better than ever and benefits by being informed by its miraculously faithful sequel. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought any of this would be possible, but here it is, and so close to the ‘real’ 2019 too.

I can only add that I really cannot wait to rewatch this film again- nothing new there really, as I’ve always loved it, but still, its pretty exciting.

And yes, it is definitely an Autumn film. No way is this a film  for the summer.

BR2049 Recording Sessions artwork

BR2049 rec sessionsSo they save the best BR2049 poster for an amateur-sourced work for the cover of a soundtrack bootleg? Go figure.

I suppose BR2049, like the original Blade Runner, is a tough nut to crack regards poster artwork. Back when BR2049 came out on DVD in January, a friend of mine passed it by in the shop, not realising the DVD was indeed BR2049 as he initially mistook it for a Marvel movie. It does indeed look like a Marvel movie, which, sure, might help sell the film to some but hardly declares what kind of film it really is. Alienates the arthouse crowd who might give it a try and pisses off the superhero junkie who buys the film and ends up with a long, slow, thought-provoking work of art. But clearly the marketing boys for BR2049 suffered in just the same way as they did with the 1982 original. Just how do you sell a film like Blade Runner or its sequel?

Anyway, I quite like this image used for this boot.  Isn’t perfect but I quite like the black surround that lends it a darker mood and recalls the original Blade Runner painting by John Alvin. The poster is probably a final, and while it does look like a tonal study in preparation for a final render, its not a bad effort.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is all the amateur poster artwork designs for Blade Runner, some of them bad, some of them frankly amazing, that surfaced. The film is clearly a visionary inspiration for many artists. I like the ones that reflect the mood of the film; a difficult thing to capture. Since last Autumn, those Blade Runner designs have been joined by lots and lots of designs for BR2049. Its been fun looking at them. There’s a great artbook that will never happen, containing the best paintings inspired by the two films.

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