Blade Runner 2049
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Run time: 164 minutes
The Lowdown: There really are no good words to describe the achievement that is Blade Runner 2049. This should be required viewing in every film school in every Fine Arts curriculum across the country.
To have a sequel not only match, but exceed its original source material, and to have that sequel arrive 35 years after the first film debuted, is a rare feat, the kind of ‘I discovered a unicorn in the wild’ type of moment that just isn’t common in Hollywood.
But to have the follow-up be as intelligent, as brilliantly conceived and as thoroughly immersive a viewing experience as its predecessor is a testament to the artistic prowess of director Denis Villeneuve and the imagination of screenwriter Hampton Fancher, who doesn’t miss a beat in continuing the story of Rick Deckard, and the advance of replicants throughout our society.
Blade Runner 2049 should be vying for Best Picture at the 2018 Academy Awards. It is the perfect blend of world-building-and-expanding, pop culture and heady social issues. It gracefully acknowledges its past with wonderfully constructed moments, such as Ryan Gosling’s ‘K’ going to meet Gaff (Edward James Olmos) in an assisted living facility. And, best of all, it gives Harrison Ford his best screen performance in years. Forget Indiana Jones and aliens or even Han Solo confronting his son, it’s clear how much Ford connects with the character of Deckard, and he brings his absolute best to the role.
It’s criminal that Blade Runner 2049 didn’t receive a more gracious reception at the box office, but I think that’s in part due to the depth and complexity of this story. This isn’t a big-budget tent-pole blockbuster. This is smarter-than-you science fiction mixed with an intoxicating brew of religious allegory, social politics, human nature and hope.
Do yourself a favor and buy this on 4K Ultra. It’s the reason why the enhanced high-definition format exists. The visuals crackle with life and the dark hues pulse with tiny details that other formats simply can’t capture.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Yes.
Gore – No.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Jared Leto seems to relish playing the Big Bad; thankfully, he's great in those kinds of roles.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Happy Death Day (Universal, 96 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): I’m happy to report that Happy Death Day, one of the most pleasant genre surprises of 2017, holds up upon repeat viewings. It’s a confident, savagely funny dissertation on the pitfalls of collegiate hubris, the superficial underpinnings of sorority cliques and the need to forgive oneself in order to become a better human. Just don’t go into this expecting a gory slasher. That’s not on the syllabus, and BVB, for one, is glad. Read our full review on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay right here.
The Snowman (Universal, 119 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): There’s a reason films like The Snowman exist, and that is to remind us when we do come across a top-notch serial-killer-thriller just how difficult it is to make a film in that genre seem fresh and thrilling. The Snowman is neither fresh nor thrilling. It’s actually one of the worst movies of its kind to be released in probably the last 10 years, if not longer. Read our full review on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay right here.
Macon County Line
Not to be Overlooked:
Nails (MPI, 85 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Nails, the night terrors/supernatural debut feature from writer-director Dennis Bartok has one thing going for it – Shauna Macdonald, the genre actress best known for The Descent and The Descent: Part 2.
Macdonald plays Dana Milgrom, a loving mother and wife, who is critically injured one day while biking. Dana is taken to a local hospital that is clearly on the low-end of funding priorities.
The hospital has deep, dark secrets – it was once home to an orderly named Eric Nilsson who fancied himself as an angel of mercy, which is why he quietly put several children out of their misery, but not before collecting a prize, their nail clippings. Nilsson supposedly took his own life years before.
Dana has her own secrets. She stole her husband Steve, a coach, away from his first wife, and when she finally awakes from a coma, she realizes that she may never again be the woman that Steve believed he was getting from their tryst.
Bartok doesn’t shy away from painting Steve as a snake. He flaunts his burgeoning relationship with a new athlete protégé.
Dana has bigger issues than trying to catch her husband cheating. Every night, after lights out, she feels a presence in her room, something or someone evil, creeping in through a wardrobe that hides a secret passage deeper into the hospital’s bowels.
The presence is Nilsson, or his evil spirit manifested as a ghoul, and Dana must try to rally her diminished strength to keep herself safe, even as no one else believes her.
Nails is an OK horror film. It’s frustrating in its easy paint-by-numbers presentation of its key players. You know who is good, who is bad and who may reveal themselves as an ally or a threat, long before that true nature is revealed.
Bartok’s ambition is admirable, but he needs to work more on character development and become more creative in the sequences he devises to rattle viewer nerves. Nails will do, for now, but it doesn’t register enough of an impact to make you excited to see what Bartok does next.