Bladerunner 2049 (2017)

Director: Dennis Villeneuve Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright

Set 30 years after the original Bladerunner, Officer K is tasked with uncovering the mystery of a replicant that was able to give birth. His search uncovers some surprising clues and ultimately leads him to seek help from the retired bladerunner Deckard, who has been missing since the events of the previous film.

It’s safe to say- and I think plenty of people would agree- that this is the best film I’ve seen all year. As it’s a sequel I was understandably skeptical, however it really doesn’t feel like a sequel for the sake of a sequel (i.e. more money at the box office) but is simply a really solid film with a plot that pretty much stands on its own and is worthy of the hype by itself, and not because it’s attached to the original cult classic.

I went to see this in IMAX 3D and it was totally worth the exorbitant ticket price of £23 (ouch). I knew that I had wanted to see this in IMAX because the original is so well known for the visuals, and this one lives up to that- actually, I would say the visuals in Bladerunner 2049 are better thanks to improved technology today compared to the 1982 original. LA is suitably claustrophobic, and the deserted city where Deckard has been hiding is also done really well. You could happily watch this movie just for the cinematic experience alone, and it showcases perfectly what can be done with film from an artistic perspective.

Now, Bladerunner 2049 is a whopping 164 minutes long. However, I struggle to to think of a scene that wasn’t integral or relevant to the plot, and so the whole film absorbs your attention. It’s a slow burner for sure but it leaves the audience plenty of time to think about and ponder what’s going on. You get plenty of films nowadays that easily reach the two hour mark, but with this one I felt that it was made to be so long so that the viewer can really appreciate it as a film with a story to be told and considered, rather than just a blockbuster with action sequence after action sequence for modern audiences with short attention spans (The Avengers films spring to mind…). There are also a lot of characters, but again each one is important and adds something to the plot, even if it’s just to add characterisation for someone else. It’s refreshing to have a film made nowadays because someone truly wants to make a great film that can be appreciated as just that, not because they want easy money at the box office.

The one tiny, minuscule issue I did have was that the end kiiiiind of leaves it open for a sequel. Like I say, this is just a brilliant film on its own and it doesn’t need another one just for the sake of it. That said, this one is a sequel itself so by no means will another sequel be bad, but it’s been 35 years since the original so if another sequel were to come soon I wouldn’t be able to avoid the thought that they’re just cashing in on the success of Bladerunner 2049.

This is an excellent film and I absolutely recommend it to people who want something a bit different to the usual mindless blockbusters we get nowadays. Furthermore it’s just a beautiful film to look at, regardless of the plot. Fans of the original will obviously enjoy it, but I went with a friend who hadn’t seen it (and also isn’t really into sic-fi) and she loved it too. Basically, however you are, go and watch this film.

5 stars

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Pretty Woman (1990)

Director: Garry Marshall Cast: Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Jason Alexander, Laura San Giacomo, Ralph Bellamy

After a chance meeting when asking for directions, wealthy businessman Edward hires a prostitute, Vivian, for a week to attend events with him as his plus one. This being a Hollywood movie, they end up falling in love- but will it ever be able to work out between them?!

The answer to the above question is, of course, yes. Despite my cynicism though, Pretty Woman is an enjoyable and feel-good movie with a reliable formula to win over audiences. It’s definitely more rom than com and I could have done with a few more funny moments to improve it, but it’s not sickeningly romantic. Having a prostitute as the protagonist brings a different twist to the classic boy meets girl setup, and it’s refreshing to see her unashamedly flaunting her sexuality rather than the usual timid high-school nerd chasing the handsome sports star scenario. Plus, Vivian would have ended up fine on her own in the end if her and Edward hadn’t got together- she didn’t necessarily need the man to give the story a happy ending nor does she have to change herself to win him over (apart from buying some new clothes). Strong independent woman, amirite? Edward is also an appealing male protagonist: although he’s a successful businessman it’s no secret that he’s lonely and ultimately unfulfilled in his current lifestyle. It’s very easy to root for them as a couple.

Although the storyline is primarily about a man who hires a prostitute for a week it’s mostly a family friendly movie, and while it’s rated a 15 it would probably be suitable for kids slightly younger. In short, I would have no qualms with watching this with my parents so it can’t be that scandalous.

Easy plot, non-stressful storyline, classic 90s fashion, likeable characters- I’m going to hate myself for using this expression but it’s ideal for a “girls night in” (urgh). Plus there’s nothing like getting your own back on someone by buying a sassy new outfit- watch it just for the satisfaction of that classic shopping scene.

3.5 stars

All Eyez on Me (2017)

Director: Benny Boom Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr, Danai Gurira, Dominic Santana, Kat Graham, Annie Ilonzeh

Long time, no activity on ScreenSnap. Apologies for the hiatus- it’s been a hectic few months but what better way to ease back in than to review the biopic of one of my all time fave humans, Tupac Shakur. All Eyez on Me follows the story of the legendary rapper from his early childhood to his death in 1996, exploring the relationships and experiences that made him who he was.

As I’ve mentioned, I love 2pac and I was excited to see how his life would be represented on screen. On the whole, I was pretty pleased- people often underrate what a good writer and poet he actually was, (by tarring the whole hip-hop genre with one brush) and the movie did a good job of showing these aspects of his life, for example exploring his time at the Baltimore School of the Arts. For someone watching the film who didn’t know much about his life, I think this part would surprise them positively and I was glad they showed these more unknown bits.

Unfortunately though, the structure of the film made the whole thing a bit bitty and I felt like some scenes that could have gone somewhere were cut off, while other scenes lingered for too long. The first half of the film is structured mainly with flashbacks, with the present being an interview with Tupac while he’s in prison. Then once the flashbacks catch up with the present (prison), the rest of the film just follows a linear timeline. This felt a bit random- I felt it should have been one or the other, and it meant that the flashbacks were shorter and ended just as they were getting interesting, while the second half of the film felt like it went on and on. Consequently, some parts were missed and others were too over-the-top.

The stand-out character was Afeni, Tupac’s mother, and I was pleased that they did spend quite a bit of time exploring her story and their relationship, as this was essential to understanding the person that Tupac became. I was definitely most convinced by the performance of Danai Gurira (of The Walking Dead fame), who played Afeni. Following Straight Outta Compton, in which all the characters were cast superbly and the actors captured their characters almost flawlessly, All Eyez on Me wasn’t quite as good at this. The guy who played Tupac looked almost exactly like him and captured his mannerisms pretty well, but the others just weren’t quite as good. After watching Straight Outta Compton I came away amazed at how well they managed it, but this one didn’t have quite the same effect.

I would recommend this to people who already know a bit about Tupac and who are already fans, but generally if you’re not interested already it will probably be quite boring. As far as biopics go, I don’t think it would convince people to find out more about his life or music (whereas I thought the opposite about Straight Outta Compton). A solid effort but nothing outstanding. The soundtrack is pretty good though.

2.5 stars

ScreenSnap Goes Global: Universal Studios, LA

The Delorean from Back to the Future
The Delorean from Back to the Future

Following the raging success of my German Cinema Museum post, I thought I’d share some further experiences of my forays into international travel (film-related, of course). Universal Studios in LA is a theme park of sorts actually at the studios where they film Universal movies. Before going, I was under the impression that it was just a theme park with rides based on Universal films- while there are such rides, there’s so much more to see and I learnt a lot more about how they make movies there than I thought I would.

The absolute highlight is the studio tour, which involves hopping on a small bus with open sides, with a guide who takes you around the studio lot. On the tour you can see loads of real sets used for famous movies, such as Jaws, Psycho and Jurassic World. The guide tells you anecdotes about how they filmed it, and it’s amazing to learn about how what’s in front of you is transferred to the big screen. Just keep your wits about you when you go through the Jaws set.

Set from Jaws
Set from Jaws

As I mentioned there are also quite a few rides also based on movies, such as Transformers and The Mummy, which are not white-knuckle kind of rides but for the most part are family friendly. There’s also a small museum which houses the original Delorean from Back to the Future, among other props and objects.

If you love movies this is definitely a must-see if you’re in the area. It’s not nearly as niche as the German Cinema Museum and I would be shocked if there wasn’t a film that you’ve seen represented in some way at the Studios. It’s a little pricey once you’re in there for food and things, but the ticket itself isn’t bad and is worth it for just the studio tour alone.

Photos my own.