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Posts Tagged ‘Robin Wright’

Ana de Armas, Ryan Gosling

“BLADE RUNNER 2049”  My rating: B 

163 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Making a sequel that will satisfy three generations of “Blade Runner”-obsessed geeks isn’t easy.

What’s surprising is how close director Denis Villeneuve and his screenwriters (Hampton Fancher, Michael Green) have come to pulling it off.

Of course this pronouncement is coming from a guy who admired the original 1982 “Blade Runner” (great film technology and a brilliant evocation of a dystopian future) but didn’t actually like it (one of Harrison Ford’s clumsiest performances…plus the movie should have been about Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty, a vastly more interesting character).

“Blade Runner 2049” finds me reversing my original evaluation — I like it but don’t exactly admire it.

Explaining one’s reactions to this eye-popping, ear-shredding futurist epic (the running time is nearly three hours) is made considerably more difficult by Villeneuve’s request  — read to critics at advance screenings — that we not discuss the new film’s plot in our reviews.

Well, that’s kind of limiting.

But here goes.

Once again we have a film about the conflict between replicants — artificially engineered humanoid slaves who are born as adults with phony memories of childhood — and their human creators.

The film centers on “K” (it refers to the first letters of his serial number), a replicant played by Ryan Gosling. K, like Ford’s Deckard in the first film, is a blade runner who hunts down renegade replicants. (The character’s name may also refer to Josef K., the existentially-challenged hero of Kafka’s The Trial. Allegorical names are big here; the principal female characters are called Joi and Luv.)

In the  years since the events of the original film there have been major societal upheavals:  A “great blackout” that destroyed most digital records; the bankruptcy of the Tyrell Corporation which invented replicants; and the rise of mad scientist Niander Wallace (Jared Leto, as irritatingly weird as ever), who has perfected technology to ensure that his new generation of replicants obey their human masters.

But there are still some aging Tyrell-era replicants hiding out in Earth’s less-hospitable neighborhoods, and it is K’s job to track them down and eliminate them.

In his off hours the silently suffering K takes much abuse from his human neighbors, who contemptuously refer to him as a “skin job.”  At least he has a wife at home…well, sort of.  What he is has is Joi (Ana de Armas), a computer-generated hologram who can change her clothing and hair instantaneously to match K’s mood.  She loves him; sexual congress,  though, seems beyond her technology.

No wonder K seems so sad.

Running throughout Fancher and Green’s screenplay are hints that man’s inventions — holograms, replicants — are at least as “human” as their creators, struggling against their programming to express emotional needs and intellectual curiosity.

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Robin Wright

Robin Wright

“THE CONGRESS” My rating: B- (Opening Sept. 5 at the Alamo Drafthouse)

122 minutes | No MPAA rating

Masterful and maddening, spectacularly original and hugely frustrating, Ari Folman’s “The Congress” is unlike any other film I can name.  Though it dabbles with elements explored by fantasy epics like “The Matrix,” it has its own distinct personality.

Some of us are going to love it. Some will be irritated by it.  And some — like me — will experience both emotions.

Folman’s film (he was the creator of “Waltz With Bashir,” the brilliant animated effort about PTS among former Israeli soldiers) opens on the aging but still-beautiful face of actress Robin Wright.

Wright is playing herself here — or rather an alternative universe version of herself — and she’s reduced to tears as her long-time agent (Harvey Keitel) tells her that at age 44 her acting career is all but kaput.

She’s made too many bad choices in men, movies, and friends, he says. She’s thrown up too many obstacles about the kind of work she’ll do (no science fiction, no porn, no Holocaust movies) and she has earned a rep for not showing up on the set. Yes, yes, usually it’s because she has to deal with yet another emergency involving her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is slowly going both blind and deaf. But that excuse has gotten old.

A meeting with a bullish exec (Danny Huston) at Miramount Pictures provides a last-ditch solution.

The movie biz has been so changed by digital technology, the desk jockey explains, that  actors are obsolete. Most stars have allowed their faces, bodies, voices and emotions to be scanned into a computer where they can be reanimated by skilled CG artists.

The avatar actors thus created can be made younger or older, fatter or thinner. They’re never late. They make no demands or complaints. They never throw tantrums — unless the script calls for it.

“I need Buttercup from ‘The Princess Bride’,” the exec says. “I don’t need you.”

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