Blade Runner 2049 (R) ****
With terrific sound, stunning visuals and good actors at the top of their game, this film is still a huge puzzlement. First a note: Replicants come in two types, old replicants that are bad and new replicants (B-Types). Blade Runners are humans who go out to destroy the old replicants.
Who is a replicant and who isn’t are the questions that have been haunting Blade Runner fans since 1992 when the first version appeared, and they persist to this day. Harrison Ford (Deckard), the original Blade Runner, is the prey for K (Ryan Gosling), a member of the LAPD and the lead hunter for Ford, even though K is a robot. Robin Wright (Lt. Joshi) tells Gosling what to do and eventually tells him to find a mysterious child that was born to humans. His quest is impeded by Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), a ruthless android, and her boss, Wallace, a blind sadist (Jared Leto).
The western US is decimated by the long war between replicants and humans and LA is mostly a dump. Climate change has been settled: the last scenes in the movie are set in an LA flood followed by a blizzard! Females play a large part in life and in the film. Ana de Armas is a stunning Joi who wants to be human, Luv is a terror, and the mysterious and vague Dr. Stelline (Carla Juri), who makes memories, is a link that becomes clear at the end of the movie.
As said earlier, this is a complex movie that not all viewers will be able to follow. Scenically, it is brilliant—the images will stay with you for a long time. Aided by the thunderous score and sound effects, this movie certainly stirs the blood at one level and the brain at another. Does it stir the heart? I think not. It is too dystopian to stir your affections.
Those who saw the first Blade Runner in the ‘90s will undoubtedly welcome this new sequel. Newcomers may be more puzzled than I was, and I had seen the first version. Little kids won’t relate at all, and it’s rated R so let them skip it. Keep your eyes on the holograms; they are marvelous to see and something is always happening in them like Elvis performing and Marilyn strutting and Sinatra asking for “One More for the Road.”
The Mountain Between Us (PG-13) ****
It is easy to figure out that a film starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba is going to be good. The question is, can they make an airplane crash in the wilds of the Rockies become believable? The answer is yes.
The romance that slowly develops between them is also believable and somewhat inevitable. Two attractive people forced together for survival, both single for different reasons, it stands to reason that something will develop. One gets the distinct feeling, however, that until they both felt that death was inevitable, nothing was going to happen. Ben (Elba) is a widower and Alex (Winslet) was heading for her marriage before their plane crashed. Beau Bridges as their pilot, Walter, strokes out and the plane crashes in a storm.
Alex, Ben and dog strike out as best they can for civilization and face all sorts of tests: Alex is handicapped by a severe cut to her leg that Ben (a neurosurgeon) patches up so she at least can limp along; Ben almost falls off a cliff; a cougar attacks Alex and they are forced to eat cougar meat since there is very little left of the stores in the plane; Alex almost drowns; and Ben gets caught in a bear trap. You’ll be wondering, can nothing save this pair?
The necessary attraction that makes it possible to survive turns into physical attraction when they reach an abandoned cabin. From there on the only question is: Do they end up together? You’ll have to see the film for that answer.
Filmed in Columbia Valley and British Columbia, the mountain snow scenes are awesome and make survival seem impossible. Viewers will have to suspend disbelief and accept the coincidences and quirks of fate that allow Ben and Alex to survive.
Parts are scary. You might want to leave the youngest at home, but nothing truly offensive occurs. Enjoyable filmmaking with two great film actors!
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (R) ***
This is a very outré film about three people who are in love with each other. It seems perfectly normal—except to the citizens of small town Massachusetts in 1945. Prof. William Marston (the almost impossibly handsome Luke Evans) is teaching psychology to an all-female class at Wellesley, assisted by his feminist wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), and, eventually, Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). Marston has been proposing his DISC theory involving Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness. All this coalesces in what we now accept as Wonder Woman, thanks to M.C. Gaines (Oliver Platt) of All-American Publications.
Interwoven with the love affair that blooms between Bill, Elizabeth and Olive is the inquisition by Josette Frank (Connie Britton) and her committee from the Child Study Association of America, focusing on the lewd and lascivious implications of the strip. As it turns out, in her origins in Marston’s mind, Wonder Woman was a combination of the beauty and femininity of Olive and the fierce feminism of Elizabeth. Historically, the sexual implications and even Wonder Woman’s weapons were taken out of the comic strip. The weapons came back after some years, but the implications didn’t.
As portrayed in the film, Marston came by his concepts for Wonder Woman plots by putting Olive in bondage situations with Elizabeth and role-playing with both of them, often sexually oriented. The neighbors discover what they’re up to and all hell breaks loose in 1946.
That’s where one of the weaknesses of the film emerges: The children that come from the threesome are much too old too soon for belief. The psychological dialogue gets a little heavy now and then, and Marston’s fatal illness is predicted by a heavy cough early in the film. We are left to assume tuberculosis when it was actually skin cancer that got him. Marston, by the way, invented an early form of the lie detector, with the help of Elizabeth, so he wasn’t just a crackpot sex maniac.
The women’s identification was so strong that they lived together and raised their four children together after Marston’s death in 1947. Elizabeth died at 100 in 1993, Olive in 1985, aged 81. It’s an unlikely story but, in its way, rather lovely. Only for those who do not resent unusual sexuality.
The Florida Project (R) ***
This is a despairing story about childhood and the consequences of bad parenting. Newcomer Brooklyn Prince stars as Moonee, 6, who with her friends Jancey (Valeria Cotto) and Scooty (Christopher Rivera) for a while rampage around a motel near Disney World called “Magic Castle.” (“This is a hotel for gypsies!” says one prospective customer.) Scooty, after setting fire to an entire abandoned apartment complex, is forced to leave the group.
Willem Dafoe is the manager, Bobby, and he tries to rein in the effervescent Moonee with little luck. Moonee’s mother is the problem. Halley (Valeria Cotto) is much like a child herself. Her hair is green, her skin is disappearing beneath tattoos, and she is in many ways infantile. She loves pot, has little or no ambition, and survives at first by selling cheap perfume to tourists out of a plastic shopping bag. It is inevitable that she turns to prostitution. Her entry into that profession is marked by several scenes of Moonee taking long baths while her mother is earning her fee. This at least keeps them in the Magic Castle, though Bobby keeps threatening to toss them out.
Halley is also a con artist and a brazen one. She and Moonee walk into a pricey hotel and enjoy the buffet. “This is the life, man,” says Moonee, “better than a cruise!” Halley gives an at random room number and they walk. Meanwhile, Moonee gets to enjoy the vast, naked body of Gloria (Sandy Kane) at the pool, with wise guy comments. Moonee is the prime reason this is an R-rated film, even though she’s only 6.
This is a very sad movie because nobody in it shows much chance of escaping the circumstances they are in or improving their lives in any way. The kids just drift, even though it’s summer and they have no school. They have no roots, no real parenting, and they have to face reality far too soon. The performances, for virtual amateurs, are amazing and there is a certain charm to Moonee and Jancey and Scooty, but the knowledge of what they face as they grow up kills the edge of humor. The sound is very difficult since much of the dialogue is children in the distance and none of the characters are excellent at diction.
Happy Death Day (PG-13) **
Here’s an idea: Take a standard horror film format, hoke it up with a sort of love story and mix in the plot of “Groundhog Day.” You’ll get a sort of not-bad, not-good movie.
Jessica Rothe, a sometimes comely, sometimes ugly starlet, plays Tree. Tree is a snob and admittedly not a very good roommate. She wakes up in the dorm room of Carter (Israel Broussard), thinking she spent the night with him in carnal delights. She didn’t. She goes through a hasty “walk of shame” back to her sorority house and evades a pig-faced assailant, waking up to find herself back in Carter’s room, re-living Monday, the 18th.
She does this numerable times, always ending with the pig-faced person attacking her and killing her one way or another. There are red herrings sprinkled all over the lot and the pig-faced person is not who we are led to believe it is, so don’t bother trying to figure it out.
Keep your eye on the necklace, though. It is only one of several elements of plot that gets totally lost in this ramshackle attempt at college horror-humor. And remember: “We’re Kappas. We don’t eat cupcakes!”