Tag Archives: jared leto

Blade Runner 2049 – Review

18 Oct

One of the most influential films of all time is Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner based off of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. This movie is a masterwork of visual effects, cinematography, setting, and ideas. It has the classic Philip K. Dick paranoia that made his works seminal in the realm of science fiction. What Blade Runner doesn’t achieve in is narrative. The plot is threadbare and glazes over a lot of information that could have been a handy tool in building more suspense. I think Blade Runner is an excellent film and deserves to be heralded as a masterpiece, but I can’t say it’s the best science fiction film ever made. I was concerned when I heard it was getting a sequel so many years later, and I really had no excitement whatsoever leading up to the release of Blade Runner 2049. After seeing it, it’s far and away one of the strongest sci fi films to come out in years and may even have a leg up on its predecessor.

30 years after the events of the original Blade Runner, newer replicant models have been reworked and used as servants and loyal employees. K (Ryan Gosling) is one of these newer models, and also works as a blade runner for the LAPD. His sole job is to hunt down the older, more dangerous replicants and “retire” them. After retiring a replicant named Sapper (Dave Bautista) who was running a farm in the middle of nowhere, new evidence comes to light of a child that was born from a replicant. With this knowledge posing a dangerous new way of thinking, K’s boss Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) orders him to hunt down and destroy all evidence of this, including the child, now an adult, who was born from this replicant. As K follows the trail of evidence, he finds danger around every corner, especially from the founder of the Wallace Corporation, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), and his enforcer Luv (Sylvia Hoeks). K also begins getting flashes of memories he thought were false, which brings his own existence into question, which ultimately leads him on the trail of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who may be the connection that links the entire mystery together.

The original Blade Runner is a marvel of special effects and world building. While the story may not be there 100%, I dare anyone not to lose themselves in the world that Ridley Scott and his team created. The same can also be said about Blade Runner 2049, which matches Scott’s creativity in design. This is a feat I was not expecting from this movie. There’s a scene towards the beginning when K is flying through the city and the advertisements, buildings, and other structures are all larger than life, but it’s a city that seems like it lives and breathes. There are other areas that are more desolate, but that just shows the variety of the world the characters live in, especially after the “black out” that is constantly references in throughout the story. One setting that took my breath away was the interior of the Wallace building. Not only was it just great to look at, but it also helped define Niander as a character. Denis Villeneuve has shown his skill with visuals with his films before, but this takes it to a new level. I also can’t leave out the importance of Hans Zimmer’s booming score. It’s one of the coolest original scores of the year, and I listened to it immediately in the car ride home from the theater.

Blade Runner 2049 is a science fiction epic in every sense of the word. It features a world of androids, flying cars, and evil technology corporations whose goals threaten the existence that we have come to know. It’s a world that is recognizable, but still seems fresh. I love that about this movie, and again, it’s something I wasn’t really expecting. Where this film really got me though was its strong sense of mystery. This story is essentially a hard boiled mystery tale wrapped in a world of science fiction. The best part about it all is that it had me guessing until the very end, and when the ending finally showed, my mouth was agape. Philip K. Dick is no stranger to paranoia and twisted stories, and while this may not be an original of his, it still has the spirit. Is K a trustworthy protagonist? Who is Deckard really? What is the Wallace Corporation hiding? These are only some of the questions this movie poses, and watching it all unfold at a steady, yet slow pace is extremely gratifying. It’s hard for movies that are almost 3 hours long to grip audiences so  strongly, but Villeneuve’s strong direction makes it no problem.

It was hard for me to think of anyone else being a lead character in a Blade Runner movie that wasn’t Harrison Ford, but the fact that it was Ryan Gosling should have put my mind at ease. He is the hard boiled “detective” of the story and has all the makings of a traditional character. He’s quiet, but has an edge to him with undertones of understanding, and all of the elements make up his complicated character very well. Jared Leto unfortunately in the movie a lot, but his portrayal of Niander Wallace is menacing to say the least. Speaking of menace, Sylvia Hoeks is a character that I loved to hate, which is always the sign of an excellent villain. There’s also a surprisingly heavy performance from Ana de Armas who plays Joi, K’s holographic love interest. I know how that sounds, but they actually made it work.

Blade Runner 2049 surprised the hell out of me. I was feeling like it was an unnecessary sequel which kind of impeded me looking forward to it. Maybe it is an unnecessary sequel, but it’s a damn great one nevertheless. The slow pace of the narrative pulled me into the world that it was creating and the mystery of the whole thing locked me in tighter than many movies can. This is an amazingly shot film with gorgeous special effects, an awesome score, and a story that never lets up. I loved Blade Runner 2049.

Final Grade: A+

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Suicide Squad – Review

9 Aug

This is a review I’ve been looking forward to writing for a long time since Suicide Squad has been one of my most anticipated movies of 2016. A lot of my hopes for a really good modern DC live action movie was almost completely destroyed after seeing Batman v. Superman earlier this year. It was a muddled mess of a movie that was far too long and didn’t have enough in the ways of story or entertainment. Based on the large majority of reviews I’ve seen about Suicide Squad, I was ready to accept that this was going to be another stinker. Fortunately, and despite what seems to be the popular opinion, I had a really good time with this movie even with all of its glaring, painfully obvious flaws.

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With supernatural beings and metahumans becoming more known, government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) creates a special ops unit called Task Force X, aka the Suicide Squad, to complete missions that are to sensitive and controversial for official branches to handle. This squad is made up of expert assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), the beautifully dangerous psychopath Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the mutated Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Australian thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), former gangster El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), martial artist Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and loyal soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnamen). While hosting a plethora of differences in opinion, technique, and beliefs, this unlikely crew must band together to stop the overwhelmingly powerful abilities of the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), whose main goal is to once again have the human race fear her, while also keeping the anarchic doings of the Joker (Jared Leto) in check.

I want to get the obvious problems with this movie out of the way, because while I liked this movie overall, there are some pretty large mistakes that were made. For one thing, some of the dialogue is beyond stupid. We all understand that the Suicide Squad is made up of villains. The characters didn’t have to refer to themselves as “the bad guys” multiple times throughout the movie. If they did it once, that would’ve been fine, but they said it over and over again. That’s just one example of the writing. A lot of the characters are also extremely underutilized. The little bits we got of Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, and Katana were all really cool, but they never actually end up doing much of anything in the movie, which is very disappointing. How can you make a movie about an entire squad of characters and not give every member their time to shine? Enchantress also doesn’t work too great as a villain, and my main reasoning for this is that she doesn’t really interact with any of the members of the Suicide Squad until the very end. I like a villain that has a very known and active presence, and Enchantress just didn’t command the screen like she should have.

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Now that all that gross stuff is out of the way, I can talk about what made Suicide Squad as fun as it was. The characters that do get attention all knock it out of the park. Viola Davis is menacing as Amanda Waller, and was easily one of the most interesting characters in the entire movie. Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Joel Kinnamen also are spot on with their roles, and I was surprised that these characters actually develop very well individually and also in their relationships with one another. Character development was something Batman v Superman really lacked, so luckily this movie picked up the attention to detail a little bit. Jay Hernandez was surprisingly a really great character and might actually be the most fulfilling character, rivaled only by Smith’s story arc. Finally, everyone was curious what Leto was going to do with the Joker, and I’m relieved to say that he has taken the character and really made it his own. This is a Joker that’s taken lessons from cartel members, while also making Arkham Asylum his getaway of choice. He stole every scene he was in and I can’t wait to see more of him.

One of the most important things a movie can be to me is entertaining. It’s great if a movie looks beautiful, has deep themes and strong characters, but if it fails to draw me into it what’ the point of even watching? More than any of the flaws Suicide Squad had, it had me entertained for most of the run time. There was plenty of action, more humor than the DCEU has yet to see, and an overabundance of energy that kept me into the story and the action. I hate to keep referring back to Batman v Superman, but indulge me. That movie had action and energy at moments, but there was so much muddy stuff to get through that by the time things were starting to pick up that were relevant to the story, I was already tired of it. Suicide Squad was a much more compact movie and every scene had a place and significance. While the middle of the movie got a little slow and drawn out, it soon found its way again and the flow of the plot resumed normally. If a movie can hook me, it’s already done a very important job.

I can see why a lot of people may not like this movie considering it has a lot of obvious problems with the writing and some of the characters. That being said, I can’t really understand all of the hate that being thrown at it. Suicide Squad isn’t a perfect movie, but, to me, it was a whole lot of fun. There’s plenty of action, good humor, and a strong sense of style. Comparing it to Man of Steel and Batman v SupermanSuicide Squad might be my favorite entry in the DCEU to date. If the characters were written better and the story was tweaked a little bit, this movie could have been something great. As it stands, it’s an entertaining summer movie that I’d love to see again.

Panic Room – Review

28 Jul

I have quite a love/hate relationship with movies that are labeled as “thrillers.” It’s not an easy genre, that’s for sure, since it relies on suspense and intensity rather than cheap scares or action and violence. Panic Room falls very nicely into that category, and luckily director David Fincher and writer David Koepp have proven themselves to be proficient at pretty much every genre put on the screen. Moving at a brisk pace and featuring a lot of surprises throughout the length of its run time, Panic Room is not only just an entertaining thriller, it’s one that will leave you thinking about all of its twists, turns, characters, and subtext.

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Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) is a recently divorced single mother looking for a new house in the Upper West Side of New York City. She soon finds the perfect house, and moves in with her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart). On the night they move in, however, their house is broken into by three robbers: Burnham (Forest Whitaker), Junior (Jared Leto), and Raoul (Dwight Yoakam), who all expected the house to be empty. Luckily for Meg and her daughter, their new house has a super secure panic room which they run into for safety while they think of a plan to get the intruders out of the house. While their options become limited, the terror only increases when it is revealed that what the three robbers are looking for is buried in the floor of the panic room.

So, like I said before, an essential element of thrillers is to feature something that is inherently fearful. That’s why there’s different kinds of thrillers. Psychological thrillers explore strange horrors of the mind, political thrillers show the paranoia and dangers of politics, but I’m not sure where exactly to place Panic Room. It’s a movie that explores something that I think is the most frightening thing of all, and that is something or someone getting into your house to cause harm to you or anything in your life. That’s why movies like The Strangers and Funny Games stick with me so much. This is another one that can go hand in hand with those movies, even though I’d say this one is a bit more Hollywood and more entertaining. It still relies on intense elements of suspense and basic human fears that I think we can all relate to.

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Another really strong point of this movie, and surprisingly for me I think, is how incredible each and every character is. I thought that it was just going to be Meg and Sarah vs a trio of generic bad guys, but that isn’t true at all. Everyone in Panic Room is their own character and don’t resemble or come close to another. I can credit this not only to Koepp’s writing, but also to Fincher’s directing and all of the actors, who performed their parts very well. Possibly the only negative I can see in the performances is that Leto kind of became a cartoon at points, but I still had the most fun with his character because of that. So can it really be a negative if I still enjoyed myself? We may never know.

This is also one of those movies that can be enjoyed at its surface, but I dare say it’s even more fun to dive into the subtext and try to pick it apart. You may be surprised with what you find in Panic Room. I’ve seen analyses of the film that say it’s a story of feminism, technology, and/or modern medicine. I can definitely see all three, but I have to say that this is a movie about feminism more than anything else. Foster’s Meg Altman, with no help from anyone else, takes on the people that invaded her home possibly threatens the life of her and her child. It takes a smart approach with its stances on its themes, which makes it even more of a respectable film.

Panic Room is yet another success in both David Fincher’s and David Koepp’s ever growing body of work. It works as a horror film, a psychological thriller, and a film that explores deeper themes that may be expected. Everyone gives incredible performances, all with the aid of Fincher’s expert direction and Koepp’s lean and taut screenplay. For any fans of the thriller genre, or really movies in general, Panic Room is a must see.

Dallas Buyers Club – Review

20 Jan

I feel like everyone in the world would agree with me that the mere thought of AIDS is enough to make your heart race a little faster. It’s a terrifying disease with horrible bodily effects which is really just slowly hammering nails into your coffin. In Dallas Buyers Club, I had the opportunity to see a character face this head on and instead of backing down and accepting his own death, he opts to survive. I have seen other films with AIDS as a plot point, but none were as powerful and moving than Dallas Buyers Club.

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Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is an electrician and cowboy, who is known amongst his friends as being outwardly homophobic and intolerant. His life is spent drinking, indulging in cocaine, and have lots and lots of sex. This fun and easy life style is shattered when he gets blood work done revealing that he has AIDS. Woodroof is automatically outcasted by his friends and coworkers, with only a sympathetic transgender Rayon (Jared Leto) to give him any support. Rayon is also suffering from AIDS and an addiction to drugs, so he begins working with Woodroof to smuggle medicine and vitamins unapproved by the FDA from Mexico and other countries to open a buyers club for AIDS victims. The FDA and local hospitals get wind of this and do what they can to stop Woodroof and promote their own drug, AZT, which despite saving a lot of lives, can have devastating side effects.

This movie is heavy. Like, really heavy. By the time the credits began to roll, I had a hell of a lot to think about. First of all, Dallas Buyers Club is one of those movies that makes you reflect on your own life and how it is you’re living it. In the beginning of the movie, the doctors only give Woodroof 30 days to live. Just getting that laid on you out of the blue would, to me, be too much to handle. I had a lot of “What would I do?” thoughts while I was watching this movie. I feel like that’s the backbone of this movie. The performances are great and the story itself is moving, but the real weight of the movie comes from putting the real life situations of these characters, and relating them to your own life and a very scary possibility that everyone has to be very mindful of.

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The themes in this movie stretch across more than just the AIDS epidemic, and I was really surprised about that. I haven’t seen any trailers for Dallas Buyers Club, so I really had no idea what this movie was even about other than a story about AIDS. The whole plot of the FDA and hospitals making it next to impossible for the people who are slowly dying to get the medical treatment that they want is despicable. Now, some of this movie did take dramatic license, so I’m not sure how biased it was in real life. The story of Woodroof and Rayon is also really great. Woodroof’s character arc through the entirety of the movie is huge and we actually see different points in his life where he takes another step forward towards change. It’s a slow evolution that you see over the period of time that this movie takes. He’s a very well written character.

Even though a character is well written doesn’t necessarily mean that the character is going to be any good, and that’s where Matthew McConaughey comes in. It’s rare to see a career change so drastically in the course of a few years. McConaughey went from films like Sahara and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past to films like Killer JoeMud, and now his best role yet in Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey lost a total of 47 pounds for this movie and he handles the change of his character so fluidly and believably. He’s one of the best actors alive right now. Oh yeah… Jared Leto. Wow. I never really had much to say, and only really saw what he was capable of in Requiem for a Dream, but this role is unbelievable. He is unrecognizable as Rayon and you can see the commitment that he put into this character. It’s seriously unreal. Both actors deserve Oscars for their performances. This is going to be an interesting year for the awards.

All in all, Dallas Buyers Club is one of the best movies of the year. McConaughey and Leto show major acting chops here and further establish themselves as forces to be reckoned with. The directing and writing are just fine, but the real interesting scenes go to the actors. Thematically, this is a really heavy movie and may be upsetting to some people, but it is a very worthwhile movie that’s almost medicinal. It’ll help you think about your own life and how you view the lives of other. Now that’s some powerful stuff.