Bladerunner 2049 Review

As a sequel to perhaps the greatest science-fiction film of all time, “Blade Runner 2049” has a lot to live up to. And, surprisingly, it does, in one of the year’s best films. Ryan Gosling plays Agent K, a replicant blade runner who is assigned to track down and kill Deckard (Harrison Ford, returning from the original). He soon discovers that, through Deckard, he may hold the key to a secret that could change history forever.

This film cost $150 million and looks it. Society on Earth is barely surviving an environmental onslaught, but it is still recognizably a “Blade Runner” world. There is a big Sony presence in the future, and a gigantic hologram of a naked woman (which must look great in 3D). The line between human and androids has further blurred.

Harrison Ford is much better in this film than he was in the first one, exuding warmth, humanity, and purpose. I also really liked Jared Leto as the sinister, blind android manufacturer, and Robin Wright as K’s understanding superior. Besides being excellent science fiction, the film is also a mystery and a film noir. As with the first one, the ending is surprisingly moving and provides a real emotional catharsis. Hans Zimmer’s score (with an assist from Vangelis) is his best in years.

If I have a complaint, it is that the film, photographed by Roger Deakins, is not as aesthetically pleasing as the original. That’s a small gripe, though, for a film that accomplishes so much. “Blade Runner 2049” is a must-see.

Heinlein’s Technological Messiah

Robert A. Heinlein’s masterpiece the Sixth Column, written in the 1950’s regards a future eerily similar to the reality of events in the world today. In the future the US and the rest of the free world has fallen to Pan-Asian Red Dawn style invasion. A corrupt regime based on graft and bribery takes over, and the population is enslaved to work camps. A few ex-military dudes are holed up in a mountainside. They develop new technologies – body armor force-fields and cutting edge laser weapons. They also develop an electronic halo, which they use for religious significance. They start calling the rebel leader Lord Mota. He has an Obi-Wan type quality to him.

Basically these guys use their technologies to convince many of the enslaved people to follow them. The Pan-Asian guards are bribed with gold. Also the guards do not report the strange technology because they don’t want to get in trouble with their bosses. So they always report every thing as status quo, so as not to draw attention to themselves. Meanwhile, the halo ex military dudes build up this giant following. It gets to where they are too big for the enemy government to really handle. The religious group is finally rounded up in a public park for execution. However, the rebel dudes depose the Prince using the technology. Finally, they impose their own military dictatorship based on reason and science. This is done under the premise of preserving the union , though in reality it is opposed to restoring the democratic republic.

“It seems obvious. We have here a unique opportunity to break with the stupidities of the past and substitute a truly scientific rule, headed by a man chosen for his intelligence and scientific training rather than for his skill in catering to the preferences of the mob.” (page 222)

Some of the strange things in this book I should mention are the author’s use of Mormons to effect the religious rebellion. The mention of a church massacre in Charleston, SC is a weird coincidence. Also the church strongholds in the story occur in Salt Lake City and Denver, often considered by conspiracy theorists to be centers of FBI and Illuminati, respectively. The use of a gigantic religious hologram by the rebels to cause rebellion also mirrors some newer technologies which we have discussed on the site before.

The Girl Factory: Futuristic Vestige

Another far out book from the 70’s that I found at a used book store recently is called The Girl Factory. “Any shape! Any size! The sexiest and deadliest agents in the world are made in…” yadda yadda yadda. What trips me out about it is that its basically about sexbot assassins. This book was way ahead of its time and was somewhat visionary, albeit very low brow and short attention spanned. Its 45 years since this book got published. Alas! Sexbot assassins are in the news, as experts think they could get hacked to do harm. http://nypost.com/2017/09/11/hackers-could-program-sex-robots-to-kill/

However, how about the scenario in the book, where one was created so close to human (from actual human DNA cloning) for that one could not tell the difference? And then (what if) the intelligence agencies were to use them for clandestine activities?

Here is the plot: A really hot Asian chick, named Sun-Lin, who was trained her whole life in the erotic arts (and stuff like that) gets her DNA cloned by an intelligence agency. The agent is some funny Hawaiian dude. Her clone gets targeted assassination assignments. What makes the book so unique is that Sun-Lin gets aroused while fighting her opponents, and often makes love to them in the middle of the fight, and then kills them inevitably at the climax. It gets really sleazy. She judges their manhood and so forth. Think Kill Bill crossed with Blood Rayne and Cherry 2000! One crazy part is where she applies a poison onto her vagina and then gets eaten out, which kills the target she is seducing.

The plot doesn’t progress a whole lot. Its mostly killing and lovemaking, with a few lesbo sexbot romps to fill any voids. There is also a women in prison component towards the end of the book, which is a nice touch. Some of the racial stuff is outdated by now. Who cares though. This remains a very intriguing and fast paced pocket sized novel that you can take on your lunch break, I highly recommend this futuristically retro and obscure book.

Looker is Overlooked

Although best known today as the creator of “E.R.” and the author of “Jurassic Park,” Michael Crichton was also an overlooked sci-fi auteur whose films included the classic original “Westworld,” the chilling “Coma,” and the Tom Selleck-Gene Simmons cult film “Runaway.” His most overlooked film, however, is the ahead-of-it’s-time “Looker” from 1981 starring Albert Finney as a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon whose clients are dropping off like flies. All of the models who are dying work for sinister James Coburn and have recently had very minor surgery done to make them “perfect.” Together with Susan Dey, who is working for Coburn and wants to know what’s going on, Finney uncovers a plot to take real models, kill them, and turn them into computerized images. These images will then be used in the worst advertisements ever, both political and for products, and will turn the audience into virtual zombies. Only Finney can stop the madness, by killing the people responsible in scenes that resemble “They Live” and “Videodrome.” If that’s not cool enough already, there’s nudity and an awesome ray gun that zaps you out of consciousness so you’re one step closer to being a victim of computerization.

 

This film has both a relatively believable and very scary plot along with a ton of action. Director Chrichton correctly guessed that computers would be taking over for actors on the future, and that audiences would be seduced into watching terrible advertisements. He also guessed correctly about plastic surgery becoming popular. This film becomes one of the best 1980’s sci-fi films because it is plausible, scary, sexy, and fun. Available in a widescreen DVD with the trailer and commentary by Crichton, this film is not to be missed by any serious sci-fi fan!

Thoughts on Close Encounters

They have for some reason rereleased the Steven Spielberg classic Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind theatrically. It is competing against such other classics as Nut Job 2. Rather than doing a traditional review, I am going to bring up some questions which came to mind while watching this on the big screen 40 years after the original release.

  1. The first thing which is striking about this film by today’s standards is the extent to which Spielberg trashes the middle class traditional family. The husband is being accosted by his spoiled brat kids, who will not compromise with him regarding family outings and such. The kids and wife are always bugging and nagging him about little things and don’t allow Dreyfuss to realize his full potential as a human being.
  2. The husband leaves the wife (Terri Garr) for Melina Dillon, whose child he saves. He does this to feel like a man and to be a hero. Does Spielberg feel that men should leave their wives in pursuit of adventure and for a higher purpose? The way Dreyfuss leaves with the aliens is not unlike how Jesus’s Apostles were called upon and left everything behind, including their wives and children.
  3. Which brings us to the next point, why was Dreyfuss chosen by the aliens as the sole human to be allowed entry to the spacecraft? The aliens swarm around him in with his arms extended wide (in a messianic fashion). Is Spielberg saying that Dreyfuss becomes the messiah as the aliens decided to share advanced technology or thought with him. Am thinking this has to do something with the telekinesis he has in terms of having been sent the idea to meet the aliens at Devil’s Canyon. Perhaps telekinesis would allow the aliens to speed up the communication with humans to a great extent.
  4. An interesting side-note is that the only other character the aliens choose to interact with in the film is the French scientist played by Trauffaut, a great French director. He does the hand signs that correlate to the notes. Why did the aliens choose him to speak to? Because of his intellectual curiosity??
  5. At the press conference the older cowboy dude discredits the UFO siting by bringing up his Bigfoot experience. Was this guy a nut, genuine, or a government spook who was planted at the news conference in order to discredit the eyewitnesses? Does Spielberg believe in Bigfoot? Poltergeist, A.I., and Close Encounters were the only screenplays he actually wrote by the way. So he was into far out stuff.
  6. The cow mutilations in the film. What’s up with that? The one dude with the glasses does get gassed by the black helicopter. However, the other people take their masks off when they are by the military. Were the cows gassed or precision slayed like in real life? Was the government testing the cows for radiation?
  7. Also , the aliens in the film do have the tall skinny ones, and then the short stubby ones , like in Whitley Strieber’s Communion. Does Spielberg believe this is what aliens really look like and that aliens exist?
  8. Spielberg has been quoted as saying that NASA originally sent him a 20 page letter telling him to not make the film. That making this film would be too dangerous for the general public. What’s up with that???

Traci Lords – B Movie Honoree

An uplifting story in B-movie cinema is Traci Lord’s ascendance from exploited porno actress to legit B and even A-movie star. For example, “Not of this Earth” is a wonderful 1988 cheeseball remake of Roger Corman’s “classic.” It rules. She bares her breasts but also shows strong comedic skills as a nurse who unknowingly works for a space alien who is stealing the “life force” from nubile women. To borrow a quote from a video store I used to frequent in Berkeley in the 1990’s this film is the    “Showgirls” of sci-fi.

The film is so sexy and funny it doesn’t matter that it’s cheap. Jim Wynorski, who also made “Chopping Mall” and “The Return of Swamp Thing,” is an excellent sleazemaster whose films are very entertaining, The film, despite being made for less money than the original, turned out well and received a theatrical release and some decent reviews, leading to a role for Lords in the classic “Cry-Baby” and Stephen King’s “The Tommyknockers.” The 2010 widescreen DVD from Shout! Factory is very good and has commentary by Lords and Wynorski and an interview with Lords.

Another good B-movie starring Lords is “Shock ‘Em Dead,,” a 1990 horror comedy recently released to Blu-ray. It is about a hopeless loser geek who sells his sole to Satan so he can become a metal God. He gets his wish, but discovers he has to kill in order to continue his hedonistic lifestyle. Lords plays the “pure woman” who likes him whom he must seduce to end the curse. Although the film is cheesy, it has a decent plot and the songs are hilarious and pretty good. No longer required to shed her clothes, Lords is appealing in this obscure but underrated gem. Check it out!

Traci Lords is a reminder that a girl can rise from inglorious beginnings and become a movie star and decent actress. These two films are a must for any B-movie fan’s library! Thanks, Traci!

Cherry 2000 Is the Future

One of the best films about androids is one that flew in under the radar, 1987’s “Cherry 2000.” This unheralded gem is about a man (David Andrews) who loves his devoted android girlfriend, a Cherry 2000 (played by the stunning Pamela Gidley). When she is accidentally destroyed due to exposure to water, he will stop at nothing to seek out another one. The newer models of droids, you see, are inferior, and sex between humans is a litigious mess (as Larry Fishburne shows us in a cameo as a lawyer). He ends up having to cross a desert wasteland to find one, with the help of sexy tracker-bounty hunter Melanie Griffith, and doing battle with such desert vagrants as GROIN Hall of Famers Tim Thomerson and Brion James. Will he find a Cherry 2000? Will he get it on with Melanie Griffith? Tune in and find out!

This film has a lot of things going for it. First of all, the director, Steve DeJarnett, is a visionary who co-wrote “Strange Brew” and wrote and directed the 1989 Anthony Edwards classic “Miracle Mile.” Secondly, the score by Basil Poledouris ranks as one of his best. Thirdly, there is a ton of action and some PG-13 sex. Fourth, Pamela Gidley and Melanie Griffith are very sexy and deliver good performances. Lastly, the plot seems to genuinely reflect the way things are going in the future. This film, unbelievably, went straight-to-VHS but quickly acquired a cult following when HBO showed it 24-7. It made a big impact on this reviewer as a child, and I like it even more today. Perhaps a remake is in order. In the meantime, I recommend you pick this flick up on DVD or Blu-ray, because it’s a great one!

Alien 3 : Underrated

“Alien: Covenant” inspired me to re-watch the third and fourth “Alien” films. “Alien Resurrection,” the fourth one, did nothing for me but I really love “Alien 3.” As a stand-alone film, it is one of the most frightening and despairing films I have ever seen. The first film by the great director David Fincher (“Seven,” “Fight Club”), it finds Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) crashed into a prison planet, with her friends Newt and Hicks (from “Aliens”) dead. There was an egg on her ship, and now the Alien is haunting the prison planet. Can she stop the alien and save humanity? Is this the bleakest film ever made? I’d vote for the most underrated.

The script’s decision to make vile prisoners protagonists caused much audience derision, but it makes for a fascinating film. Also interesting is the film’s cinematography and production design, which create images that will singe their way into your brain. The music by Elliot Goldenthal is highly memorable and marked his big break as a composer of blockbusters. Finally, Groin Hall of Famer Charles Dance gives a great performance as Clemons, as does Charles S. Dutton as the most complex of the convicts. Whether you’re watching the Theatrical Cut or the extended, more coherent 2003 Assembly Cut, “Alien 3” is a powerful, ambitious film that is far better than it is given credit for. David Fincher, take another look at your film: it’s great! (He disowned it.) Much better than “Gone Girl”!

Sci-Fi Roundup

This movie is not the Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence jail comedy. Its about a crew fighting a killer amoeba. Although the overall quality of films the last five or ten years has spiked downward, sci-fi has spiked upward in quality with some wonderful films that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve. The current film “Life,” for example, is a very interesting “Alien” knockoff about what would happen if we discovered alien life on Mars. The answer: nothing good. We think we’re getting “E.T.” and instead we’re getting something worse than The Thing. This film has interesting characters, some believable science, and is a tremendously inspired production. The director uses long, painstakingly crafted sequences to draw us in and (hopefully) make us forget we’re watching a movie. The performances of Jake Gylllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds draw us in, and, although the film is similar to “Alien,” it scares us.

The new film “Phoenix Forgotten,” produced by Ridley Scott, is a found-footage film in the style of “The Blair Witch Project” about the Phoenix Lights UFO incident from 1997. A group of teens witness the event and decide to investigate further and film what they find. Bad idea. It turns out that the incident is much more sinister in nature than they thought. Will they survive? Maybe not, but their quest proves somewhat compelling as all of us are curious about UFO’s. The film is well-made, acted, and scored and delivers some terror on a low budget. It’s not great, but you could do worse.

Ghost in the Shell is Deep

I thought I knew what to expect from “Ghost in the Shell.” I assumed it would have great visuals and a mindless plot. I was right about the visuals. Although the futuristic city portrayed in the film looks a little too close to “Blade Runner,” overall the film is convincing and occasionally mind-blowing in terms of its visual impact. The surprise about the new film is that director Rupert Sanders has a story to tell, and tells it well. What would it be like to be an android (or, actually, a cyborg) with no body to call your own and memories you can’t trust? This film tells you.

I was very impressed with the cast that this film put together. It is true that Scarlett Johannson is rather miscast as the heroine, but this is only because her character is supposed to be Asian. She should have asked for rewrites to tailor the part more to her. However, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano (the Japanese action star), Juliette Binoche, and Michael Pitt are excellent in their roles.

The film is getting a lot of flack for supposedly “whitewashing” Japanese material. On the contrary, the film is very respectful to the magna and anime series, and to such a degree that I’m rather stunned. The scenes where the protagonist discovers the truth about herself are rather affecting. This film succeeds in capturing the essence of the film series, and I would not mind a sequel to this film. If you like science fiction and especially if you like anime, check it out! – CoolAC