“Blade Runner 2049”: The 30-year reset; can synthetic people attract souls?

The original “Blade Runner” (1982), directed by Ridley Scott, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?”, had an interesting premise, that ranged far and due to happen soon, om 2019;  a blade runner would track down slave replicants who had stolen a space ship and “illegally” (Trump-like) returned to Earth to look for their creator.  I saw the original film at Northpark in Dallas.

The newer film “Blade Runner 2049”, directed by French Canadian Denis Villeneuve, was necessary to reset the calendar.  It starts out by showing up an eyeball, and then a huge array of solar panels in a very smoggy California desert, before a vigorous young LAPD detective named “K” (Ryan Gosling) tracks down rogue replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) and winds the hand-to-hand battle, tearing out walls in a remote desert house, before finding human remains.

The movie seem sets up is premise, which is geographically limiting. The older replicants were to be retired and eliminated, and the newer ones are integrated into society.  But soon K gets information on a missing veteran replicant Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), and discovers that replicants can actually reproduce.  K’s adventures lead him to a particular ogre, Nilander Wallace (Jared Leto), who sets up a demonstration of a holographic pregnancy surrounded by disembodied black crawling eyes as if they were partial creature remnants themselves.  (There was a horror film “The Crawling Eye” on “Chiller” in the early 60.s).  There is curious terminology that calls the new replicants “angels”.

K moves between the city, modern LA, and a work farm out in the Mojave Desert, where kids (“proles”) are trained in a massive work farm, to burned out Las Vegas (“Cibola” from Stephen King’s “The Stand”). There is a critical scene with the Luxor (where I stayed in 1997) in the distance), which is ironically across the street from the rampage on Oct. 1.  Coincidence?

Some of the scenes, with bizarre alien structures laid across the desert, are impressive, but most of the time in this film, you don’t really know where you are going. But it is the psychological composition of the people that gets interesting.  First of all, K has gradually come to realize that he is a replicant himself. He is told he has no soul by a supervisor (Robin Wright), and that some of his childhood memories were implanted digitally.

Yet, K seems psychologically intact.  He may have mild Asperger’s, but he is really quite likeable and self-aware, and seems to have a certain intellectual integrity that doesn’t require close involvement with other people. It’s almost like he is a kind of Alan Turning, or maybe “The Good Doctor”. He could be fine as your best friend.  Relationships with women turn out to be fantasy pieces with holograms, but why not.  He doesn’t seem inclined to reproduce, but has discovered that maybe he is supposed to. It’s not hard to imagine how this kind of film could have used a gay subplot.

The movie would beg the question, what really gives someone an identity?  If your memories could be transferred (like by a virus) to someone else’s brain, could you wake up perceiving yourself in that person’s body.  It would be a good way for a 70 year old to become 21 again.  With a finite list of souls, no one dies, and there is no need for reproduction.  But then you don’t do your part dealing with the entropy of the universe.  Inevitability of death is tied to life.

I saw the film at Tyson’s AMC in 3-D, having left Friday’s just before the Washington Nationals came up with their winning home run rally in the game I was watching on a plasma screen during dinner.

The film was produced by Columbia Pictures (and Alcon, and Scott-Free) and has plenty of references to Sony products. It is distributed by Warner Brothers.  The introduction dispensed with the trademark music and went right into the Hans Zimmer’s bizarre musical world of sliding scales (more dissonant than the 1982 score by Vangelis).   The music score often quotes Prokofiev’s March from “The Love of Three Oranges”

Previewers of the film were required to sign unusual non-disclosure agreements of certain spoilers, but they probably don’t matter much now.

Name:  “Blade Runner 2049
Director, writer:  Denis Villeneuve, DGC
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1, Imax, 3D
When and how viewed:  AMC Tysons 2017-10-7, evening, ample crowd
Length:  165
Rating:  R
Companies:  Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, Alcon, Scott-Free
Link:  WB

(Posted: Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017 at 4:30 PM EDT)

“Bokeh”: An appealing young couple finds themselves “Leftovers” in Iceland while on honeymoon

Bokeh” (referring to the way a lens brings together out-of-focus points of light, the kind the first George Bush liked) is a challenging science fiction film by Geffrey Orthwein and Andrew Sullivan (a different person from the well-known gay conservative writer, who ought to make a film).

We’re presented with an attractive young couple on an apparent honeymoon in Iceland.  That is Riley (Matt O’Leary) and Jenai (Maika Monroe).  Riley is particularly attractive visually.

Seven minutes into the film, Monroe gets up at the 3 AM dawn.  Suddenly there is a huge explosion on the horizon.  A Gamma-ray burst would be invisible.  More likely a comet or asteroid crash, at first. I wonder if a huge coronal mass ejection could cause this.

The next morning, at 10 AM, the couple finds that there is no one at the hotel front desk or in the continental breakfast room.  (How often have I made waffles at Comfort Inns when on the road?)  They go outside, and in ten minutes or so they realize something is very wrong.  Riley speculates about aliens; Maika about the Rapture.

They try the Internet, and find it up but news stopped flowing at 3 AM.  They try to call people on their smart phones.  Even for newlyweds, friends matter.  No one answers or calls back.  It’s interesting that (geothermal or hydro-driven) electricity, water, and Internet all work, so a solar event of EMP is ruled out.  Later, there will be a scene where Riley almost gets stuck for all eternity on an elevator.

They wander in a high-tech wilderness where they can break into stores and find food.  They visit a hot spring near a volcano that will set up the movie climax.  About an hour into the 90-minute film, they encounter a stray cat, who I think could have come along and been written into the script. Then they find one other survivor, an old man (Arnarr Jonsson) in his cabin, dying of pneumonia.  He has only a religious explanation.  The film does move toward further tragedy without explanation.

The movie reminds me of musical works like Vaughn Williams’s Sixth Symphony, or Bartok’s last string quartet.  Neither is used, but the chamber score by Keegan DeWitt is atmospheric enough.

I can bring to mind other films or series:  your dome-wall movies (Stephen King’s “The Dome” on CBS; “The Wall” (a Swiss film); or your Rapture-based movies, like “The Rapture” itself (1991) or the HBO series “The Leftovers”.  But his film turns out to be nothing more than beautiful desolation.

Here are some landscapes from Iceland (wiki).

Name:  “Bokeh”
Director, writer:  Geffrey Orthwein, Andrew Sullivan
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon instant ($4.99 HD rental)
Length:  92
Rating:  R (some nudity, tastefully done)
Companies:  Screen Media, Cinedigm, Zealous Films
Link:  official, Ebert

(Posted: Saturday, September 2, 2017, 1 PM EDT; the picture is mine, 2016, from Grandfather Mountain, NC).

“Logan” does his Run, in a comics film that, after the fact, pans the alt-right

After reading the (libertarian) Foundation for Economic Education op-ed “’Logan’ eviscerates War and Demographic Planning” by Dan Sanchez, I “gave in” and saw a late show of the Marvel film last night. Yes, even Anderson Cooper like the “X-men” franchise.

Sanchez summarizes the plot pretty well, and I’m not sure all of his parallels hold.  But it’s true, that the “corporate state” (Transigen) had created the mutants as weapons and now regards them as threats the way the all-right views both Hispanic and Muslim migrants.

Hugh Jackman(now 48) looks grizzled, and maybe ready to return from exile or retirement.  The plot of this 135-minute bash concerns Logan’s road trip to rescue his 12-year-old daughter Laura (Dafne Keen) with Wolverine-like powers.

Structurally, the film is a bit like my “Tribunal and Rapture” manuscript, a long road trip (finally leading to planetary evacuation on a spaceship) by a retired FBI agent, who finds he has some subtle powers of his own – I finally decided that this sort of story works better for me when told through the eyes of the younger heroes, whose “powers” aren’t usually obvious and whose appearance is wholesome (even if that idea betrays my own erotic prejudices).

The film journeys into Oklahoma, then sidetracks to Reno (I wanted to see Taylor Wilson make a cameo and pitch his plans to save the power grids), before getting to North Dakota, with some scenery that resembles the Teddy Roosevelt badlands – but actually a lot of the film is shot in New Mexico, with mountains in the background.  The mixture of old and new technologies is interesting (like the winch and pulley in the North Dakota scene.  The mutants, by blowing liquid nitrogen breath, can freeze opponents’ limbs and break then off.  So heads, arms and legs roll in this film. (In Dallas, Joe Bob would have said “check it out.”)

To appreciate the film, you have to know some of the pre-history, of characters like Trask, with their pre-occupation with the alt-right notion of “demographic winter” and the idea that “majority” people don’t have enough kids now.  (That’s why Vladimir Putin allows the persecution of gays.)  I’m reminded of Representative Steve King’s (T-IA) doubled-down comments that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” (story).

Patrick Stewart seems to impersonate me (as he usually does) as Charles, and Boyd Holbrook is notable as Pierce.

I’m reminded of another escapist adventure, “Logan’s Run” (1976), set around the Zale Building on Stemmons Freeway in Dallas, a building in which I worked in the 1980s, where you wonder how the twenty year-olds know think they can eliminate the thirties without facing the same fate themselves soon.

I guess that “Logan”, directed by James Mangold with story by him, was largely developed before Donald Trump won the election, but it seems well conceived as a response to the growing appearance of the alt-right during the 2016 campaigns.  The distributor, Fox, is probably closer to Ayn Rand-style conservatism.

The show opens with a “short film” (“Deadpool: No Good Deed“) about a Logan-like man challenged by a nearby mugging and a telephone booth, in the City.  I’m reminded of Joel Schulmacher’s “Phone Booth” (2002), and even of Timo Descamps and his “Phone Call” or even “Like It Rough” videos.  the 20 Century Fix fanfare then follows, along with TSG and Marvel, before the “feature” starts.  This sort of reminds me also of Dimension Films’s “Grindhouse” in 2007 (embedded double feature and connecting short).  The two short stories in my “Do Ask Do Tell III” book (2014) could be presented this way in film.

Name:  “Logan
Director, writer: James Mangold
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1 and Imax
When and how viewed:  2017/3/14 Regal Ballston Quarter, late, low crowd after snowstorm
Length:  137 including short
Rating:  R
Companies:  20th Century Fox, Marvel, TSG
Link:  official

(Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 11 AM)

“Sausage Party”: Freedom of speech includes films by Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, even when animated

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Name: Sausage Party
Director, writer:  Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon; many writers, including Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1  3-D available
When and how viewed:  2016/8/31, AMC Shirlington, light audience
Length 89
Rating R
Companies: Sony-Columbia, Annapurna
Link: official

Last Friday morning, while on a trip, I actually ate a sausage McMuffin for breakfast at a McDonald’s on US 60 near my Red Roof Inn room in Huntington W Va.

I rarely eat pork, although I’ve not gone to Bill Clinton’s vegan diet – which really tastes good when you can find a vegan restaurant.  Reid Ewing has recently been advocating vegan, too, out of moral grounds, but also as a way to stay biologically 20-something forever.

Nevertheless, I took in “Sausage Party” tonight because Richard Harmon talked about it a lot on Twitter, having a real party, I guess in Toronto.

I had expected a movie like “Babe” (1995), where a piglet only gradually becomes aware of his future fate of being eaten, and transcends it by becoming an animal soldier.  But here, the processed foods in a “Shopwell” (there is a Shop Rite in New Jersey) become the characters, to voices like Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Ed Norton.  The drug addict who brings the to life acts to the voice of James Franco, who in real life looks fine, but here plays a pear-shaped thin man with a pot belly and balding legs, ruined by drugs and cigarettes.  But he turns the foods into real live things in his mind.

The innards of the grocery store are made to look like a fantasy city, and the “foods” are promised a Gray Beyond, as they only gradually figure out they will be eaten.  A few non-perishables (“Grits”) think they are immortal, like angels.

Of course, the best way to deal with impending death is to “eat drink and be merry” and have object-oriented sex, all in java libraries.

There’s a great line, “you’re different, so you burden the group.” So the story must prove otherwise.

The film is directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, and the story is a concoction from Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Evan Goldberg.

There are some wonderful, Broadway-like songs (“I Can Be”, which wants to become Ram Dass and “Be Here Now”).

The “premise” of the film reminds me of the sci-fi film “The Giver” (2014).

(Published: Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, 11:45 PM)

“Jackrabbit”: a dystopian world centered around Texas after the “Reset”

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Name: Jackrabbit
Director, writer:  Carleton Raney
Released:  2015
Format:  digital video 16:9
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play 2016-7-26
Length 100
Rating NA (PG-13?)
Companies: Vopo, Gravitas Ventures:
Link: official site

Jackrabbit” (2015), by Carleton Raney, depicts another account of what could happen to “us” if our technology fails us, because of solar storm or EMP.

Sometime a couple decades from now, after “The Reset”., people in “City” of Section 6 believe they are the only people on the planet left with technology, but they stay in an enclave and are told to stay indoors most of the time to avoid pollution.

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When Eric (Ryan Dailey) is found dead in a bathtub, Simon (Josh Caras) a nerdy computer technician from the one remaining tech company, Vopo,  and his rebellious friend Max (Ian Christopher Noel) hack the hard drive and circuit board he left behind to figure out what is going on in the “outside” world. It’s a world of 80s-looking CRT’s and keyboards, and ancient computer games.  It’s hard to explain how a “reset” would have taken them back three decades.  The duo visits a compound in the desert that seems like a Maoist reeducation colony.

Caras was the super-attractive and naive teen kid “Ben” in the cult horror classic “Bugcrush” (2006). (That film could be remade as feature-length, or maybe have a sequel to tell us what really “happened” to Ben!)  He may have gained a little weight and looks just a little flush here. There’s a great line where his boss and mentor (Reed Birney) asks him “Did you lose anything during the Reset?”  He may be too young to know. Yes, you need to have something to lose to care.

The film was shot around Austin, TX, as well as in the Hill Country and possibly the Big Bend country farther west.  It’s dry, and barren, with mesquite, all rather November-like.

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The video has a technical issue with the miking of the voices, which are often very low volume and hard to hear at any distance from the speakers, compared to music and sound effects.

(Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 10 PM EDT)