Geek Cred -4: Blade Runner 2049 +.5

Geek Cred -4: Blade Runner 2049 +.5

Let’s get this out of the way up front:

I’ve never seen Blade Runner all the way through. I was nine in 1982 and it wouldn’t have been my thing. (My thing that year was probably Grease 2 or Annie. I was taken to see E.T. and I didn’t like it much.)

Nor have I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  because the 1968 Philip K. Dick novel was not in my parent’s SF collection. That’s it. If my parents had a copy, I read it. If they didn’t, I missed out.

Despite a lack of access to the original source materials, I entered the theater on this Cheap Movie Night Tuesday with all kinds of geek cultural associations and expectations in my head. The book is an SF classic, and the movie was a “cult classic.” I’ve seen at least a dozen “critical scenes.”

I knew Harrison Ford was the good guy, kind-of…maybe not…and had a confused identity. There was something about a twist ending where he’s an android too. The movie is bloody and violent, and poor Darryl Hannah has disaster makeup the whole time. Etienne Navarre, one of my favorite characters from Ladyhawke, was scary in it. (Sorry Rutger Hauer, but you were nobody to me until you worked with Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Broderick. NOTE: SEE GREASE 2 ABOVE)

We had an hour between when we finished our burgers and the lights went down, so my husband filled me in on the basics. A policeman is supposed to hunt down androids and “retire” them, but falls in love with one and finds out he is one himself. Okay, that’s cool.

Turns out the first thing the film itself did was catch-me-up on the premise. In just three paragraphs, the prior film and story were summarized. Helpful!

After that, the film was pretty much a moving art gallery. An interesting art gallery. An art gallery with really cool stuff in it, that tried very hard to evoke emotional responses in me. But just a gallery of images, alluding to possible stories, possible relationships, but no strong, thorough threads of meaning.

If you want to get a coherent story from Bladerunner 2049, you are going to have to take everything thrown up on a screen in front of you and make one yourself. Use your own imagination. An enjoyable exercise. I just don’t want you to expect a movie. The entertainment value will be up to you, and you alone. (Or read the synopsis)

I liked what I will call the “tree” mystery. As a genre reader (if not a hardcore one), the flying car landing in the desolate landscape, near a dead tree clearly kept upright with cables was immediately relevant to me. “I wonder why that tree is kept standing?” I thought.

Officer K, the hero, played by Ryan Gosling, saunters past. Hey, what about the tree?Then comes back to the tree before leaving. And then scans the tree. Because: MYSTERY TREE!

Thus begins a pretty simplistic search for a mythological “born” android, a plot device that makes no sense from the first. Even after it is “resolved,” it makes just as little sense at the end.

The good guys and the bad guys are very clear-cut in this movie. Some of the 2 hours and 43 minutes of scenery you will watch as a moviegoer will give you small character arcs, themes, and threads of action. There are killings, births, and action sequences, but there’s really nothing movie plot-like to resolve. The hero goes places. Stuff happens.

I don’t do drugs, but I bet this movie would be good on drugs. Try not to think too hard. Let it just flow over you. Oh, the scenery! The meaningful…yet thematically unclear…yellow, watery lighting! Was it supposed to evoke the evil lair as amniotic sac? As a bladder, cleansing 2049 society of humankind in favor of androids once and for all? Or simply “golden” because the big evil guy is driven solely by gold? You decide!







The casual evil in the name of…well, I’m not sure why all the evil guys were evil, but there was EVIL! Surrounded by yellow!






Sometimes evil wore white and had its nails done (while spying on the hero of course). Sometimes the “good” A.I. heroine even wore yellow, just to remind us that it was possible she couldn’t be trusted.







I did find it touching that the android, Officer K, didn’t like “real” girls. The stereotype would have been for him to be all drooly over “the other,” so I’m glad the film didn’t go there. Better to stick with your own kind. (Stick pun completely intended for those who have seen the film.)

Gosling is set up as an android capable of a normal range of emotions and desires, though of course, being an officer, he has to keep his feelings shunted away to do his job. Because he is Ryan Gosling. Can’t waste that kind of I’m secretly tortured and deep sex-symbol on a movie where he doesn’t get a sexy scene or three.

So Officer K gets sexy with his A.I. girlfriend, and later with his A.I. girlfriend holographing over a willing, double-agent, sex worker. And I felt like his boss, played by the amazing Robin Wright, was even considering the ethics of getting sexy with her android employee. Instead, she got drunk and asked him about his childhood. In a sexy way. Whatever you need in order to blow off some steam, honey.

Officer K soon becomes “Joe” to the A.I. who loves him, and thinks he deserves a real name. It’s sweet! And because this movie has to make sense to the current generation, several lines refer to the fact that the androids all have a Pinocchio complex: wanting to be “real” boys and girls. Hoping against hope that they might be the one true “born” android. Because hope is what makes them human. Or not. That’s ambiguous. Maybe memories make you human? Again, not clear. But the point is that though any message or outcome of this film is unclear, that shouldn’t matter, because it was PRETTY.

The art design and production values were stunning. I believed that these characters were running around in a completely morally ambiguous world, living their emotionally ambiguous lives. The ones who had an agenda were believably committed. Much of the scenery was so beautiful that I totally wanted to GO to all those 2049 places. Briefly. For a visit. And with a unit of disposable stormtroopers, so I could be assured of escape. Rough place, 2049.





The New Dirk Gently Series!

I’m super excited that this weekend Mark and I are going to watch the new Dirk Gently Series! Of all of Douglas Adams’ books, the ones about Dirk were my favorites.

Stay tuned to read a full review. Click here to watch along with us!


UPDATE: Ugh. I can’t recommend this series unless you have a strong stomach and really liked the movies Memento and Pulp Fiction. But if that’s you, watch away.

It has So. Much. Gore. Everyone gets kidnapped, shot, stabbed, electrocuted, or punched. The only characters who remain clean and unblooded are the corgi and the kitten.

Let’s start out superficial because the series does have that going for it; the actors are nice to look at if you can take your sexy liberally smeared with blood. Samuel Barnett, who plays Dirk, is very serious eye candy if your type is clean cut, nerdy boys with soulful eyes and streaky red highlights. Similarly,  Jade Eshete, who plays Farah, is so divinely gorgeous that I half expected her to be the daughter of Bowie and Iman (she’s not). And who doesn’t love the pathetic suffering of Elijah Wood, even filthy, depressed, and with patchy facial hair. The fact that the corgi and kitten are adorable goes without saying, right?

The main idea of the series–the fundamental interconnectedness of all things–gets repeated over and over, but fails to hang together. Several of the central conceits are not believable, and all the character relationships are over-the-top reacting to each other with heavy-handed drama.

As a devotee of the novels, I feel like someone read through the Dirk books and wrote down every awesome thing that happened; one thing on each of a hundred 3×5 cards.  Then they threw them up in the air. The way they landed was the order they had to be used to construct the plot, with the addition of a government cover-up, a made up disease, and body swapping. Complexity beyond the edge of nonsense. Unbelievable to the point of uninteresting to try to follow.

The acting is absolutely top-notch. Amazing, considering that the writing goes from occasionally funny and clever all the way to broken nose. You know broken nose; that’s what happens when you’re on-the-nose moralizing like a brick in the face through a plate glass window.

For this fan of the books, it is the worst combination of recognizing every awesome idea Douglas Adams wrote, dissected and re-attached to create a monstrous, unrelated story. It is an ugly show, barely lurching around, and I fear it will die a horrible death, unloved.

Tragic really, since it came from such noble, comedic origins.



“A euphemism for a state of being out of touch with reality”

“A euphemism for a state of being out of touch with reality”

If you think you’re going to get everything you want, you’re living in La La Land.
Especially if you dream of being a movie star that has it all, the guy who single-handedly saves Jazz, or a completely charmed modern movie goer.

Because modern movies just aren’t into that. Especially La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle. Skip this movie to retain your dreams. Go see it to feel them shatter, albeit in an interesting way.

I heard a lot of buzz about this film, not all good. About how the lead actors had no “chemistry.” Huh. I wonder what movie THEY were watching. Because there was perfect chemistry…between two people who don’t belong together. I think Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone did amazing work given that they were portraying people on the paths we humans tend to take when we are not ready – when we are too afraid to actually get what we want.

From relationships to dreams, the movie is a study in disappointment for the characters. They make bad choices, not the least of which is to be together and then ignore each other.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone


Almost constant downers make the film not much fun for the audience, except for the Pretty! costumes and the Dance! numbers and the Music! playing.

The film relies on the novelty of retro style to balance the moodiness of the plot, rendering it watchable, despite the unhappiness. The production and art direction sleight-of-hand almost works; When you’re looking at dazzling costumes in elaborate musical sequences, you start to believe everything will turn out okay.

We go to the movies wanting to be fooled. La La Land is beautifully wrapped, like a seductive white elephant box under a Christmas tree. But when you open it, the exciting rattling noise is old Bic razors, a used toothbrush, and a nearly empty tube of toothpaste.

Two weeks into the current Republican Administration and I was emotionally wrecked to have this movie, billed as “in the style” of glorious, lighthearted old Hollywood classics, deliver a devastating message: “Get your head out of the clouds. You can’t have everything you want. You’ll make mistakes that have real, lasting consequences. And while you might turn out okay in the end, life is gonna mess you up.”

I’m pretty sure, at my age, I already knew that. Thanks for nothin’.


Marvelling at a host of great characters, oh, and that Dr. Strange guy too.

This may be harsh, but my favorite character in Dr. Strange was the Cloak of Levitation. It was decisive, powerful, loyal, and silly. Basically, the writers gave the Doctor a wearable guard dog to lighten him up. One of my closest friends is a surgeon, so I’ve seen a dog-surgeon relationship first hand: the dog is the light of my friend’s life.

The dog balances the intensity of his job and his generalized frustration with all that annoying human relationship messiness. In real life and on screen, this is a perfect pairing, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out in future movies.

My second favorite character was the Ancient One. Tilda Swinton brought a joyful lightness and a sense of love to every line she spoke. I totally bought her as enlightened in an Eastern philosophy way. She took the defense of the world seriously, with great composure, but she didn’t allow her responsibilities to weigh her down. She managed her choices, dark ones, and moved beyond them. I loved how fundamentally healthy this character seemed. She absolutely glowed and smiled often, something I don’t usually associate with knowledge and power. I loved her portrayal of a deep sense of wonder. We know she knows more than anyone about all that exists in infinite dimensions, yet her character helped me see that it is possible to prevent the weight of the world from getting me down.

Christine Palmer makes my top three because she is a much-needed portrayal of a caretaking woman who takes care of herself as well as others. She is the epitome of a friend: There when needed, trusting and loyal, but she knows when to cut Strange loose to protect herself. She is smart, she is competent, and she is strong enough to let the tough love kick in.

Next on the list is Wong, because he does his job with a sense of humor. Wong is the ideal human in my book because he is in balance: He loves learning and is intellectual as the librarian (though I do wish there had been at least one sequence where he quizzed the Doctor before letting him “check out” any more books). He is a competent fighter. His enlightened spirituality allows him to belly laugh and crack jokes just as much as it allows him to use powerful magic.

The title character barely makes the top 5, I’m afraid. I just didn’t LIKE Dr. Strange, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Which isn’t to say that I think there was anything wrong with the portrayal as written. I’m not a Cumberbitch, but I am a fan of Mr. Cumberbatch’s work. I was happy to see a favorite actor, spreading his cloak and joining the blockbuster ranks – it means I get to see him in more movies.

But whether it was the editing or the writing, I couldn’t really CARE about Dr. Strange. His American accent sounded wrong in my ears (possibly because of the uncountable hours I’ve heard that voice just be British).

The bouncing between personas that occurred in the movie never gave me time to empathize with him. His surgeon persona was great. Dedicated to challenging and interesting problems while simultaneously doing exacting work with hands,  body, and focus of mind. So focused in fact that he has extra brain power for trivia and humor.

But for me, that did not jive with the materialism and playboy persona. The whole “bond” sequence didn’t sit well with me. The custom closet drawer full of watches. The sportscar. The watches I understand – an obsession with time and with gadgets is foreshadowing, and it allows for the glimpse into the nature of his relationship with Dr. Palmer. It was calculated for plot, which may be why it didn’t really sit well with me in terms of character.

Strange wants to think of himself as funny, and I loved it when his humor was turned back on him. He wants to see himself as brilliant, accomplished, yet he seriously screws up getting into the car accident, an utterly preventable injury.

It does say something that in reviewing the film I decided to talk mostly about the characters. I wasn’t in it for the kung fu fighting, the explosions, the fancy astral projection sequences. They were fine, but man, there were a lot of them.

What there wasn’t a lot of, was consequences. Dr. Strange doesn’t suffer long for being an arrogant egomaniac; the Ancient One teaches him anyway. No consequences for sneaking forbidden books from the library, stealing artifacts, or any of his other failings. Ultimately, Dr. Strange goes to Tibet, learns the mystic arts, plays with time, saves the world, and learns, “I can break the rules whenever I want.” That message is frustrating and unappealing.

I hope they do more in future films to humanize and limit him than leaning on his Hippocratic oath. If his only limitation is that he won’t fight to kill, Dr. Strange is going to be a massively overutilized in the most boring way possible:

Let’s talk this through!




Let’s talk this through differently!





I have seen Groundhog Day (and Dr. Strange’s version as well), and there’s only so many iterations the attention span can handle. When they pick a new direction, I will happily watch any or all of the characters from this film saving the world and finding out who they are in the process.


Ramen Up For Tampopo, Cowboys!

Ramen Up For Tampopo, Cowboys!

Tampopo is a ten-course meal of visual intensity. Watching it was like being at a feast table with a wide variety of friends and relatives. Some tell funny stories and some tell scary stories. A few are boring and others are disgusting. And ten courses goes on, and on, and on. Too much for me to fully take in, I left feeling astonished, grateful, and a little bit sick.

Directed by  Juzo Itami, this cinematic feast is an homage to master film “chefs” who have come before him, including (I insist) Frederico Fellini. My initial reaction was that the film felt like a mashup of Juliet of The Spirits and Pulp Fiction. Given that Tampopo came out in 1985, Quentin Tarantino was likely influenced by Itami not the other way around, but I can’t help conflating them in my mind.

From Fellini, Itami borrows the spice of absurdity and confusion to create Tampopo. Some rough-and-tumble truckers stop at a widow’s ramen shop and get bad food. That should be the end of it. Instead, Itami, who also wrote the screenplay, begins to introduce a crazy variety of characters:

  • The handsome, powerful Man in The White Suit
  • The band of filthy, homeless foodies (before there was any such thing as a “foodie”)
  • The oddly competent, drunkard contractor Pisken
  • The chauffeur and noodle specialist
  • The disabled, embarrassing junior businessman who knows precisely how to order French food
  • The spaghetti slurping fat, white, businessman

Itami starts threading together a dozen, if not more, almost completely disconnected stories. The only link between them is that they involve an obsession-level preoccupation with food, and as a compulsory side effect, sex and violence.


The widow, Tampopo, and her quest to make the perfect ramen is the central story.  Surrounding her various non-linear forays to learn the secret of the perfect ramen come other stories and characters that never touch hers. She is shepherded into the world of perfect ramen by Gorō, the older trucker with a rough cowboy exterior, and a huge set of bull’s horns adorning his rig. He leads Tampopo on the quest to borrow a ramen Sensei, steal the perfect broth recipe, and trick the perfect noodles out from under the nose of their maker.

Just when it seems like it’s getting boring, something completely unexpected happens and you have to laugh.

Then, in opposition to the simple, failing ramen shop, there is the world of the fancy restaurant. Here, polished young Japanese women are instructed to eat spaghetti silently and carefully. Unfortunately, across the open courtyard, a fat white man sucks it down noisily. Guess which method they end up choosing?

Upstairs in a private dining room, the most-awkward-ever ordering scene is played out. In yet another scene jump, a man on a train whose mouth is so painful that he can’t eat receives a delivery of three delicious containers of dim sum from a lovely young girl. The speeding train footage is played at high speed, representing a journey that can’t come too soon but seems to take forever because of the pain. His trip takes him towards a dental extraction sequence that my husband (thankfully) shielded my eyes from.

Meanwhile, the lovers, Man in White Suit and his girlfriend, appear throughout the film but not in any narrative sequence. Sometimes they are watching a movie attended by flunkies, bullying other movie goers not to be noisy and interrupt by eating potato chips. In other scenes, they have holed up in a hotel room doing repulsive things to each other with food (I’m going to cringe every time I ever see giant shrimp again). They are in the film to represent the lust for life…and just plain lust…associated with food.

For this prudish girl with a vanilla sexuality and unadventurous food tendencies, the movie bordered on horror. There were a lot of spitting angry men shouting at the camera. People constantly ate things they shouldn’t, or didn’t eat things they should. For example, the movie includes the preparation of a live soft-shelled turtle. It is killed on screen. Ugh. The erotic passing of an egg yolk from mouth-to-mouth by the lovers. And a two-men-beating-the-crap-out-of-each-other-in-the-tall-summer-grass sequence that feels like it will never end.

Despite the gross-outs, the annoyingly noisy lady behind us had a good point when she loudly whispered, “Just when it seems like it’s getting boring, something completely unexpected happens and you have to laugh.”  She was right. I also laughed a lot. And it wasn’t all of the UNCOMFORTABLE. MUST. LAUGH variety either.

I know I’m not recommending the film by starting with the shock-value parts of it, but there is a lot of that. I believe the movie intends to surprise and disturb the viewer with both the constant story-switching format and the content. What’s being offered is a feast, yes, but not the wine-and-food-pairing variety. Much more pot luck, with entrees and side dishes arriving with latecomers.

What I loved about the film was that though it was shocking-surprising, it could also be gentle-surprising, sweet-surprising, heroic-surprising. One of my favorite scenes is when a band of local boys arrives at Tampopo’s ramen shop with an enormously oversized toolbox. It opens to reveal makeup brushes and enough products to give a Macy’s cosmetic counter performance anxiety. Our hero has developed warm-fuzzy feelings for the widow, Tampopo, and they pull him away from the shop while they give her a makeover.

I had a sinking feeling, imagining her natural beauty and fresh face becoming the mask of a drag queen. However, when the moment for the big reveal comes: Tampopo is unchanged. A little extra eyeliner and that quintessentially 80’s soft filter leave her materially the same – in Gorō’s eyes. In the reality depicted a few moments later, we see that her hair is a bit spunky and her lipstick is definitely a darker red. It goes with her black-with-red-polka-dotted, shoulder-padded dress.

As a kid of the 80’s, I laughed at the fashion of the film. Hot pink eye shadow, lace, and bows to make you cringe! Oh, the shoulder pads! My, the weird perms! There’s much to enjoy here in terms of filmmaking, story, and character, but most of all there is the continual return to a heretical humor about food, like the sign on this little boy in the park, which reads:

There’s much to enjoy here in terms of filmmaking, story, and character, but most of all there is the continual return to a heretical humor about food, like the scene of this little boy in the park, which reads:

I only eat natural food, don’t give me sweets or snacks.




The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker

The lights came up, the credits began to roll, and my husband turned to me and said, “I’d watch that again. Right now.” Which made us both laugh out loud. But we were used to that by then.

Watching the final hour of The Dressmaker was a well-matched emotional tug-of-war, with regular intervals alternating between genuine, joyful, laughing and horrified, suspenseful, gasping aloud. Very rarely have I made so much noise watching a film. At one point I was helpless to stop myself from covering my mouth in dread anticipation of what the lovesick Teddy would do to prove Tilly wasn’t cursed. Semi-Spoiler: She really, really was.

Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, and starring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, and Liam Hemsworth, this film has everything going for it. For starters, it is extreme in every way, starting with extremely beautiful cinematography, costume, and art direction.


At the other extreme, it is full of gory deaths, blunt scenes of vicious child abuse, and ultimate revenge.

Tilly's Revenge

Everything I know about Australian Cinema I learned from the likes of Strictly Ballroom (1992) and Muriel’s Wedding (1994). Did I mention extreme? Pretty much synonymous with “Australian.” This film is the rougher, tougher, just-got-out-of-jail big sister to those films. An accurate representation of how the world has changed in the intervening 22 years.

This “big sister” is leaving incarceration fully jaded about the horrors of life and a woman’s need to do what needs to be done. Kate Winslet’s Tilly is the focal point of the movie, and it’s super hero. Her wise, resilient, ass-kicking, and utterly feminine character is reviled by all, and yet never flinches, nor asks permission for anything.

This film pulls no punches and yet manages as many laughs as breathless despair. It does this by presenting an entire spectrum of small town life, and in particular, bizarre yet compelling love stories. The romance between our plucky heroine and the man who hopes to be her hero exists, yes, but it pales in comparison with the friendship between the town madwoman and her best friend, and the small town sheriff and his feather boa.

Seargent Farrat

It was a delight to see Hugo Weaving in a role NOT Elrond nor Agent Smith. His Seargent Farrat was the film’s endearing and rational balance to the rampant corruption and insanity of the other inhabitants.

Sometimes when “the big mystery” is solved well before the end of the second act it can mean bad writing or terrible editing, resulting in a let down. Not this film. The final act is so well written, acted, and directed that the more time you spend thinking about it, the more subtle and delicious the story and the characters appear. Every aspect; the plot twists, the surprises (good and bad), the costumes, the rivalries inside and outside the town…they are deeper and richer with focused study.



Elect Melissa McCarthy Queen of Everything Already

Elect Melissa McCarthy Queen of Everything Already

As a part of the run up to the new Netflix Season Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, here’s my paltry addition to the accolades being showered on Melissa McCarthy (rightfully so!). She was so amazing as Sookie St. James that she instantly became one of those actors where I shout “I LOVE her!” when she’s in a movie trailer or on a poster. She’s a reason to see any film or TV series. Clearly, a lot of people feel that way, and with her recent string of FANTASTIC movies, I’m just so happy we have her to watch!

I haven’t seen everything she’s been in (shame on me!), but that just gives me things to look forward to. In the meantime, here’s my “reaction rundown” of her last three films:

Spy, 2015
Spy is the best spy/action movie I’ve ever seen. Funnier than any bond film and action on par with the original Die Hard. Best pacing of any action movie I can recall, with the right mix of funny, feelie, and fucking up bad guys! Lather, rinse, repeat. As soon as it was over I wanted to stay in the theater and watch it AGAIN. My husband and I are STILL quoting lines and laughing…an hour later…and I’m sure I will be tomorrow as well. Do not miss this on the big screen: massive amounts of whoop-ass with heart and soul.

The Boss, 2016
Everything I always hated in crass, superficial, buddy movies, given a total makeover. Somehow it retained the stupidity, the physical humor, and yet was the belle of the ball. Absolutely fun.

Ghostbusters, 2016
Emphasis on Fan.
This fan is happy.
This movie was made for me.
Us, really.


Gay Cowboys

Gay Cowboys
Brokeback Mountain
Brokeback Mountain

I saw Brokeback Mountain last night (yes, yes, – the last person on the planet to see it), and as the hours pass, it becomes increasingly obvious why the film was up for best picture.

Initial reactions keep washing over me…and I assume they will for days…because what is portrayed in the film is done so exquisitely that there is never a moment of fiction – of disbelief – of being taken “out” of the film.

There are few things that I reacted most strongly too – the things I feel actually made the movie:

1) The eye contact – the whole movie was about having it, or not. The entire story was literally expressed through who was able to look at whom and when. There is no experience like sitting and looking into a person’s eyes. The way the main characters’ eyes connected by physically holding each others’ heads, and forcing that bonding to occur, was a testament to how badly they both wanted – and wanted to escape – the emotion overwhelming them.

2) The physical contact – my sexuality does not include violence beyond the standard grab, clench and hold. The brutality of the sex portrayed in the movie, and the masculinity – the literal fight of self and other those characters go through to be able to give in to physical intimacy…and then again, the physical pain, the inside-out beating the two men took from their longing to be together. These were in such stark contrast to the softness, and carefullness expressed in the sex scenes with women. It makes perfect sense to me that either kind of intimacy could be a turn on – and that having a partner who could hold their own – give and take the brutality in equal measure with tenderness…well, that is a need which was eloquently portrayed.

3) Lastly, we are so lucky to live where and WHEN we do. Yes, gays are beaten and hated in my lifetime. But not that I’ve faced personally. I’ve felt the fear of marching in a Pride Parade, but I’ve only ever marched with thousands of others around me, strength in numbers, to face down the people at the edges of the crowds, taunting and hating. The intense loneliness of the place and time and society was really the star of the movie.