Tag Archives: Ana de Armas

Blade Runner 2049 (IMAX 3D)

Director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners) said he decided to take on Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited sequel to the classic 1982 sci-fi hit, because he didn’t anyone else to “f#$% it up.” In the end, not only did he not f#$% it up, he might have made one of the best sci-fi sequels of all time.

It’s visually breathtaking, deeply atmospheric, thought-provoking and narratively satisfying. The scale is epic and yet the story is deeply personal. An instant classic that has shot right to the top of my 2017 list. For me, the most frustrating thing about Blade Runner 2049 is that I have to wait another week before I can see it again (and that’s because of a family vacation)!

I actually didn’t really know what to expect going into this one. I saw the original Blade Runner by Ridley Scott when I was in my late teens and didn’t find it particularly memorable apart from the visuals. What made me watch the movie in the first place was the Blade Runner PC game (released in 1997), which was a pretty shitty game in terms of gameplay but captivated me because of the bleak, rainy, neon-filled futuristic world it depicted. That awe-inspiring vision and atmosphere from the original film and the game (set in 2019) has been transferred to perfection and updated in the sequel (now set in 2049). The world is bleak

That awe-inspiring vision and atmosphere from the original film and the game (set in 2019) has been transferred to perfection and updated in the sequel (now set in 2049). The world still has those same elements but is now as bleak as ever, filled with desolate landscapes of metal and sand. The cities provide a stark contrast with their constant rain, seediness, neon lights and glowing hologram advertisements.

Ryan Gosling plays the central protagonist, a “blade runner” who tracks down old replicants (human clones) and “retires” them, just as Harrison Ford’s character Deckard did in the 1982 film. I don’t want to get into the plot much more than that, but suffice it to say that you don’t need to have seen the original to watch this movie.

There are some fantastic action sequences throughout Blade Runner 2049, but don’t expect an action movie — this is not the Star Trek reboot or Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It’s a true sci-fi film that explores big questions about the human condition, about who we are and what we are, about cloning and nature, about raw feelings and emotions and memories and how all of these things shape us and our reality.

Visually, Blade Runner 2049 is one of the most captivating and jaw-dropping films of the last decade along with Inception and Mad Max: Fury Road. If nothing else, this is the type of movie where you can just sit back and enjoy the visual feast. It’s not just the seamless special effects but also the fabulous set designs, costumes, and cinematography of the amazing Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption and Fargo, two of my favourite movies all time, as well as Sicario, Unbroke, No Country for Old Men, Skyfall, Prisoners, etc.) I saw it IMAX 3D — I like IMAX but hate 3D (it’s a shame they lump the two together to jack up ticket prices) — and will watch it in 2D next time. You really don’t notice the 3D beyond the first 15 minutes or so anyway, but having the massive IMAX screen was definitely a plus.

The film is a confident 2 hours and 43 minutes but doesn’t feel overlong or exhausting. It unfolds at its own pace — with a near-perfect rhythm that gives audiences time to breathe and think. While the storyline itself is unexceptional, the film is a joy to watch largely because of Villeneuve’s sublime vision and direction, well-crafted and thought-provoking ambiguities, gorgeous visuals and world-building, wonderful performances, and its simple yet blaring soundtrack.

There are layers of mysteries, some built upon the first film and some newly created. The script by Hampton Fancher (who co-wrote the original film) and Michael Green (Logan and the upcoming Murder on the Orient Express) keeps many things intentionally vague and open to interpretation. Amazingly, it manages to expand on the same world and deliver a fresh story while preserving some of the most intriguing elements from the first film.  It trusts that viewers are intelligent enough to follow the film and make up their own minds. It’s the kind of movie that can be seen multiple times to spot more clues and be discussed and debated between friends and movie-lovers alike.

As for the performances, Ryan Gosling is absolutely superb, as good as anything he has been in. Harrison Ford is integral to the story but his top billing on the promotional material is a little misleading. The same can be said for Jared Leto, whose role is surprisingly small. The standouts for me are Dutch actress Silvia Hoeks as Luv and Cuban actress Ana de Armas as Joi, who both deliver a lot of power to the film but in different ways. Robin Wright and Dave Bautista also have relatively minor roles. Everyone is really good.

In all, Blade Runner 2049 is a masterclass in filmmaking from Villeneuve. We’ve seen plenty of sequels that come decades after the original in recent years, and pretty much all of them have failed. This is not just a rare exception — it’s arguably better than the original (not sure if it will be revered as much but time will tell) and certainly one of the best sequels and sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen. I’m going to check out the Final Cut version of the orginal and check out the three short films made for the release of the sequel (see below) — and then see it again.

5 stars out of 5

Knock Knock (2015)

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Knock Knock
Who’s there?
Keanu
Keanu who?
Keanu, who still can’t act!

Lame jokes aside, I was actually quite looking forward to Knock Knock, Keanu Reeves’ first film since the highly rated action flick John Wick. The two films could not be more different, however, as Knock Knock is more like John Dick.

Keanu plays Evan Webber, a happily married architect with a beautiful artist wife and two kids. On Father’s Day weekend, he is left all alone in their swanky house, and on a rainy evening two young and sexy girls (played by Lorenza Izzo, and Ana de Armas) knock on his door seeking assistance.

Given that this is Spoiler-Free Reviews, I won’t divulge more than that, though if you’ve seen the trailer or know that it’s directed and co-written by torture porn master Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever, and more recently The Green Inferno, also with Izzo), you’ll probably already know what happens next.

Eli Roth movies never really have much plot or twists to spoil. They always have a fairly simply premise and then just loads of carnage, blood and guts. They can be terrifying, nauseating, or just plain annoying. Definitely an acquired taste, and I’m definitely not the target audience.

Knock Knock has a little more substance than his pure torture porn movies because the premise is such a intriguing one. To what extent can a man resist temptation? And how much should he pay for it? Roth develops it quite well too, with the early scenes setting up the dynamics of the happy family and laying the foundations of what is to come.

My main problem with the movie is that it’s just not scary at all. Hostel was a scarring visceral experience for me, but this one is very tame by comparison. I suppose you could call it “satirical” horror/thrille or a black comedyr, though I didn’t find it particularly funny either. And if you’re looking forward to seeing some sexy time, don’t get your hopes up too much as there’s not a whole lot to see. Despite interesting progressions and an overall sense of uneasiness, I just didn’t feel anything for the characters or their predicaments. The gaps in logic and the stupid responses of the characters didn’t help either.

And I love Keanu — he’s truly the best — but even after all these years he still…can’t act. I’m sorry but it’s true. In the right roles, he can blend into the story; in Knock Knock, where he needs to show real emotion and spew out impactful dialogue, he’s still too “whoa”. He’s too much of a dude. He’s still Ted “Theodore” Logan. If the intention was to make me laugh, it succeeded.

The result is an erotic satirical thriller/horror that’s more campy than scary or funny or sexy. There is also a little too much repetition in the scenarios and tactics to keep the plot rolling along smoothly. And yet, there is something about Knock Knock that makes it a strangely alluring and watchable movie, pushing it in the direction of the “guilty pleasure” category. It might be the sleazy premise, or the outrageous insanity of it all. Or maybe it’s just Keanu. Whatever it is, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained.

3 stars out of 5