Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of books, movies, music, and maybe even games.

Blade Runner 2049

I watched the theatrical version of 1982’s Blade Runner on Friday morning to prep for a 12:30pm showing of Blade Runner 2049. I did this on a whim, but I’m very glad I did, because it made the parallels between the two films stand out, and not in a bad way.

It also meant I spent 5 hours in the Blade Runner universe, and that place weighs pretty heavily on the soul. Even the shiny parts of that future are unsettling, like blood on chrome, and the non-shiny parts are deeply bleak, like broken bones in sand.

But the parallels? Wow. Sure, there were plenty of obvious callbacks, like eyeball imagery, constant rain, and telling the computer to enhance images, but there were also thematic links in the camera angles, color palettes, and the pacing. Even the soundtrack, which was not the work of Vangelis, sounded to me like music which, under decades of environmental pressure, was driven to evolve from Vangelis¹. It’s different, but Vangelis is still there, like mitochondrial DNA.

I was amazed by the film, and I liked it, but Blade Runner 2049 still doesn’t clear my personal Threshold of Awesome. Mostly because I prefer to have a bit more fun at the movies. Setting that aside, however, it is an awesome film².


¹ My library contains several albums of Vangelis music, including at least one version of the original Blade Runner soundtrack. I suspect that Zimmer and Wallfisch spent many hours with a similar library before laying down anything in the studio.
²In the interest of letting moviegoers know what they’re in for: Blade Runner 2049 has more nudity and violence than the original film, and at two hours and 47 minutes it runs kind of long.

The Tick (2017)

 

UPDATE: this review stands, but scroll to the bottom for my second-viewing reactions. 


I wanted to love the new live-action series The Tick, but as of this writing I only kind of like it.

I’ll lead with this: the 2001 series, starring Patrick Warburton, is my definitive Tick. The sheer Warburtonlessness of the 2017 series is a hurdle that could only have been cleared if Peter Serafinowicz (playing The Tick) was allowed to go full Warburton in his delivery of the lines.

Clearly, my standard is not a fair one for judging this particular series, most especially because the creator of the characters, Ben Edlund, is involved in this project and wrote the first two episodes. Also, it’s completely unfair to ask an actor to be more like an actor who wouldn’t or couldn’t take the part.

2017’s The Tick, now streaming free on Amazon Prime, does give us a satisfying amount of superhero action. I like this much more than the 2001 Tick’s “noises off” gags where we can only hear the fight. And the fights are funny! Well done!

My biggest “fair” gripe, then, is Arthur. We spend six episodes—the entire first season—on what is essentially his origin story. It begins with Arthur as a very sad, broken, PTSD-suffering shell of a young man. To my eye it aims at dark comedy, and ends up joylessly gritty. As first episodes go, it’s not really “best foot forward.” By episode three we begin to pull out of that humorless place, but that’s an episode and a half too late.

(This is probably going to put me in a bad way with hard-core Tick fans, because the episodes I liked the least were the ones written by the man who created the characters to begin with.)

Episodes five and six pulled the whole shebang out of its slump, and I enjoyed them quite a bit. To me they feel like the true beginning of the series. They’re also the last two episodes of the currently available season, making them quite a bit less satisfying. The show stops just as it starts to get good.


Update: Second Viewing

So… I watched it a second time and it was *much* better. Arthur’s character arc became less miserable, The Tick’s characterization became fixed as the right one, and I no longer have any misgivings recommending it to people. Familiarity bleeds contempt? Dunno.

 

Atomic Blonde

This twisty, retro thriller is pretty amazing on a number of counts, but I’ll lead with this: The action is tight, with some through-composed fight scenes whose choreography runs across multiple blows and throws, and therefore requires the stars to be doing a lot of the fighting themselves. It feels real in a way many action movies don’t.

Atomic Blonde captures the look, feel, and soundscapes of 1989 quite faithfully, and creates a believable “untold story” in Berlin around the time the wall came down. The story’s plot twists run all the way to end, and are satisfying all the way through, which is difficult to pull off.

I enjoyed the film, but it wasn’t squarely “my thing,” so it doesn’t clear my Threshold of Awesome. If you loved John Wick (which I didn’t see in theaters,) you’ll probably love Atomic Blonde, too.

The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower took a little while deciding what kind of movie it wanted to be, but I enjoyed it. It’s not my favorite Idris Elba movie, and it’s not my favorite Stephen King movie, and it doesn’t clear my Threshold of Awesome, but I enjoyed it.

I don’t have much emotional attachment to the novels, so the film’s departures from the text didn’t bug me. I did have a burning desire to get out of my hotel room to see a movie, so that may have artificially inflated the film’s joy factor a bit.

The weakest aspect of the film surrounded the parts that were the coolest to watch: when the Gunslinger is doing supernaturally awesome things with his .45 revolvers it’s just eye candy. There’s no emotional connection between him and the viewer. The stakes are high, but it’s difficult to really care. Had I cared more, the film would have been more enjoyable. Probably not Threshold of Awesome enjoyable, but still better.