“Blade Runner 2049”: Some Thoughts

Given my fascination with the original 1982 Ridley Scott sci-fi classic, I wanted to share my take on “Blade Runner 2014,” which we watched yesterday.

First, the bad:

  • So, yes: it’s long. Like, 2 hours and 43 minutes long. That’s…just too long. It is a fantastic film, but does any movie really need to be nearly twice the ninety-minute length that was commonplace not so long ago? Probably not.
  • I am deeply ambivalent about the cinematic use of 3-D technology. It provided this film with some stunning, memorable shots — one of my favorites showed Robin Wright’s character from outside her office building on a rainy night — but on the whole I found it distracting. I always wonder: Is the cool thing I’m seeing in here in service of the plot, or is added just to show off the sweet tech?

Now the good:

  • It is a story about what it means to be human and the nature of memories. It is deeply empathetic.
  • The audio is incredible. The eerie synthesizers in the initial “Blade Runner” are one of my favorite elements. Here, there are compelling uses of what seem to be monks chanting and other interesting stuff.
  • Ryan Gossling is excellent. He plays a replicant, so his emotions are often under the surface, but there are human rumblings throughout. Harrison Ford is also fantastic. As is Robin Wright.

Now: A warning for those seeing the movie in India and hoping for a pure cinematic experience:

Don’t get your hopes up.

Warning: somewhat crotchedy rant ahead:

We saw the film mid-day yesterday at the high-end PVR Director’s Cut theater, which has huge, comfy, reclining seats, food and drink service, and excellent sound and visuals.

The lobby is decked out in classic movie posters and the establishment seems to bill itself as a mecca for movie purists.

But at what felt like halfway through the film, at one of the most crucial parts — a quiet and contemplative scene — the movie suddenly shut off.

As the lights came on and the audience began murmuring, I thought: Jesus, has the projector broken?

Nope, it was an (unannounced) intermission. During which commercials were shown.

As people got up to go the bathroom and hit the concession stand, we were treated to perhaps ten minutes of blaring ads for items like pregnancy tests and window blinds.

Then the lights went down and it was back to the film, but about 5 seconds earlier, so we viewed a particularly emotional segment a second time.

“But, the movie isn’t supposed to have an intermission,” I said, during the break, to a guy outside the theater who seemed to be the manager.

He sympathized, saying it is common practice for films over two hours long to have such commercial-filled breaks in India.

Moreover, as apparently mandated in the country, every time a character was shown smoking during the movie, the phrase “smoking kills” appeared in the lower right portion of the screen.

I think a sex scene may also have been edited, but I’m not sure.

On the bright side, as I noted on Twitter, there was something oddly fitting about having a film about the apocalyptic future and powerful government controls broken up by crass commerical messages and mandated health warnings.



The 10* Most Beautiful Movies Ever Filmed

Embedded above and on YouTube here: “Top 10 Most Beautiful Movies of All Time,” by CineFix.

Interesting roundup. I will admit to not having seen number one. Will have to change that.

*Though many more than ten are featured.

(Via Kottke.)


New Trailer for George Clooney Sci-Fi Flick ‘Tomorrowland’

Embedded above and on YouTube here: a new trailer for “Tomorrowland,” a cool-looking film directed by Brad Bird and starring George Clooney. Due to be released May 22.


On ‘Interstellar’

2014 11 23 interstellar

The latest in a series of posts about sci-fi and post-apocalyptic movies, which I love:

I’m late in noting this, as it was released several weeks ago, but:

Go see “Interstellar.” While it’s in the theater. In IMAX,* if possible.

Gorgeous cinematography. Powerful music — and use of silence. Conceptually daring. Hugely ambitious in its storytelling scope. Thought provoking.

Not perfect, but a remarkable film.

*A and I saw it at Shaw Theaters Lido here in Singapore.


Trailer for ‘Chappie,’ New Film by ‘District 9’ Director

File under: posts about sci-fi thrillers

Here’s the trailer for “Short Circuit,”Chappie,” a movie due out in March by “District 9” director Neill Blomkamp.

Yes, it features Hugh Jackman with what appears to be a mullet haircut.

Yes, the film also features the members of Die Antwoord.


An Excellent New Post-Apocalypic Thriller: ‘Snowpiercer’

Snowpiercer” — a 2013 sci-fi film, directed by South Korean Bong Joon-ho, about people stuck aboard a train circling a frozen-over earth — is just as good as Kottke says.

Embedded above and on YouTube here: the trailer.

More from Grantland here.

If, like me, you enjoy post-apocalyptic thrillers, you should most certainly watch it.


Some favorite albums, books, TV shows, movies, and in-depth stories from 2013

Here’s a look back at some of my favorites from last year.


My pick: “Modern Vampires of the City,” by Vampire Weekend.

Here’s “Obvious Bicycle“:

And “Diane Young“:

Runner-up album:

Beta Love,” by Ra Ra Riot. Here’s the title track.

Honorable mentions: Sky Ferreira’s “Night Time, My Time,” Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories,” and Lorde’s “Pure Heroine.”


Of the books I read last year, two stand out, not least because they were written by pals.

First: Matt Gross’s “The Turk Who Loved Apples: And Other Tales of Losing My Way Around the World.”

2014 01 08 turk who loved apples

This may not come as a surprise, since I’ve written about Matt’s work before.

The New York Times called the book “a joyful meditation on the spontaneity and unpredictability of the traveling life,” and said:

Gross ruminates on the loneliness of the road, the evanescent friendships that occasionally blossom into something deeper, the pleasures of wandering through cities without a map. Now settled in Brooklyn with his wife and daughters, he leaves little doubt that all his years of near-constant travel have only whetted his appetite for more. “The world,” he writes, has become “a massively expanding network of tiny points where anything at all could happen, and within each point another infinite web of possibilities.”

Worth checking out.

And second: “The Accidental Playground: Brooklyn Waterfront Narratives of the Undesigned and Unplanned,” by Dan Campo.

2014 01 08 accidental playground

The Times included the book in a piece called “Suggested Reading for de Blasio,” and wrote:

Daniel Campo, a former New York City planner, considers the serendipitous development of Williamsburg and concludes: “In contrast to urban space produced through conventional planning and design, the accidental playground that evolved on the North Brooklyn waterfront generated vitality through immediate and largely unmeditated action. The waterfront was there for the claiming, and people went out and did just that without asking for permission, holding meetings or making plans.”

Indeed, it’s worth a read.

TV shows

2014 01 09 breaking bad

There can be only one.


I haven’t yet seen many of the year’s most talked-about films, but I liked “Gravity” and “This is the End.” 2013 films I still intend to watch: “12 Years a Slave,” “The Act of Killing,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and “Computer Chess.”


And finally, here are some in-depth stories, blog posts, reviews, and other pieces of writing I liked this year:


    Observations on “The Hangover Part II”

    Update: Bill Clinton is said to have visited the set, but apparently did not film a scene. So scratch the bit about that portion being edited out.

    2011 05 26 hangover2

    Just briefly, here are eight tweets I recently wrote containing a few observations about “The Hangover Part II,” which I saw last night. The film, as you may know, is set in Thailand. Start from the bottom…

    8. The Ebert review is worth checking out, as is this Atlantic run-down of the critical response so far:

    7. Final two thoughts (for now) on “Hangover 2.” Yes, it’s raunchy. But anyone who’s familiar with the first film shouldn’t be surprised.

    6. Lebua hotel features prominently. Chiang Mai is also referenced. Overall, a fun if silly jaunt. But there were plenty of laughs.

    5. Unlike many films set on Bangkok, this one gets beyond the street level, with plenty of shots of the river, the skyline, etc.

    4. While some may not appreciate the way Thailand is portrayed, nothing is beyond the pale.

    3. All the crazy stuff is there: drugs, foreign gangsters, a drug-dealing monkey, you name it.

    2. Various scenes with nudity are pixillated, and Bill Clinton scene was cut entirely.

    1. Saw “The Hangover 2” here in Bangkok tonight. A few thoughts: The version showing here appears edited…

    (Image via Wikipedia.)


    Around the Web: improving college rankings, Federer’s footwork, inventors killed by their own inventions, and more

    Some links that have caught my eye of late:


    Thai translations of Oscar-winning movie titles

    Thai 101 has an amusing collection of (mostly) literal Thai translations of 2008 Oscar-winning films:

    Thai titles for western films are sometimes corny, sometimes spoilery, and always entertaining. Especially when you translate them back into English. They have a style of their own. Most typically, a subtitle is added to give local viewers a better idea of the content.

    Here are a few that I like:

    The Reader
    เดอะ รีดเดอร์ ในอ้อมกอดรักไม่ลืมเลือน
    “The Reader: in the embrace of unforgotten love”

    The Dark Knight
    แบทแมน อัศวินรัตติกาล
    “Batman: knight of the night time”

    “Little robot whose heart saves the world”