Blade Runner (The Final Cut): A retired replicant hunter (aka a Blade Runner) must return to track down four fugitive android impostors in 2019 Los Angeles. It’s unbelievable to think that this was released in 1982 as everything about it looks and feels like a ‘modern’ movie: it’s still breathtaking, brimming with scenes and imagery that are nothing short of pure spectacle. Almost every shot is striking; and the scale/intricacy of the sets & worldbuilding is unbelievable. Despite all of this, Ridley isn’t above some tremendously naff product placement: Coca Cola billboards, Budweiser signage, Atari holograms, and a final fight illuminated by a humongous neon TDK sign… classy! There’s also a questionable sex scene and dubious mis-use of midget actors – to give the film a little edge and distraction. If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery; you know that Blade Runner is a top-drawer sci-fi, as the future-metropolis aesthetics and theme of ‘what makes us human’ are echo through pretty much every subsequent Sci-Fi classic: Ghost in the Shell, The Fifth Element, Minority Report, The Matrix, Dark City, Total Recall, Brazil, Looper, Akira, Ex Machina… the list is endless. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the starting point for the movie (Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dear of Electric Sheep?” is a SF masterpiece). Overall, Blade Runner is a parodically boilerplate pulp/noir story; yet the world created & proto “cinema du look” style paired with the outstanding source material & sci-fi twists, propel this film into classic territory.
Blackhat: when a Chinese powerplant is hacked (and blown up) using parts of his old code a l33t h4x0r (‘elite hacker’ to you and I) is released from prison to help the FBI hunt down the threat. Q: how do you sex up a computer attack at the hardware level? A: lots of flashy and swooshy CGI of bits, bytes, circuits, electricity, keyboards, transistors – obviously. Unfortunately, none of the actors really shine, because none of the characters feel developed beyond their required contribution to the story line. Even parts of the plot don’t really work, like the weird romance angle, which feels like it’s just in there to broaden the film’s appeal: strangers becoming sacrificial lovers in a couple of days, just because the film required it. Pushing that stuff aside, you still get a solid Michael Mann film with two big shootouts (a decent one at an airport, and a fucking great one in a shipyard) and a very realistic crime scenario: from the IT Security stuff and hackers evading surveillance, through to the inter-departmental squabbling and larger China-US relations – it all feels authentic. You can see how this film could flop – it’s about hacking / security / information, non of which are popular movie subjects – but I fail to understand the hate/backlash for Mann: he’s one of the few directors that could shoot a dumpster and make it look fantastic; he is pure cinema – abusing colours, locations, and an always-moving camera. Blackhat uses a somewhat wooden story to ask bigger questions about technology and global security – and with all of the slick visuals you’d expect from a world-class director.
Enter The Void: follows the final hours, afterlife, and reincarnation of a low-level drug pusher in neon-drenched Tokyo. If you’re unfamiliar with Gaspar Noe, you’ll learn pretty quickly that his film’s aren’t merely ‘movies’ or ‘stories’, but full-on immersive experiences – unique, ambitious, and experimental. The first, and second, minutes feel like 12-rounds with Tyson – click to see for yourself. if you can’t handle that, don’t go anywhere near Enter The Void. Everything ‘Noe’ is in here – long takes, disorienting audio and visuals, brutal and challenging scenes & stories, non-linear storytelling; not to mention explicit / sensational / controversial subject matter. Halfway through the runtime we get a recap of the beginning, and from then on the film seems to lose its way – filling the time with elongated CGI trips and floaty filler, overstaying its welcome, and pushing the viewers further and further from the story, until the final ten minutes, which is just gratuitous shagging, blowjobs, and cunni for no real reason (it did explain why I could only get this as a German import – classic Germany), topping out with a POV (Point-of-Vagina!) money shot. I don’t say this often, but there were waaaaay more nudity than required in this!! Technically it’s jaw-dropping and mind-boggling: the camera glides in / through / over any objects so fluidly – yet these astonishing feats are countered by overlong sequences of trippy, psychedelic, CGI visuals – one thing’s for sure, there’s no faulting Noe’s commitment to his vision. At just under three hours, this is simply far too long – there’s a stunning 80-100 minute film in here. Enter The Void is both immersive and repulsive: a well-realised idea, centred around an average story, with a divisive final hour, and trainwreck final 10 minutes… all told through an exciting, cinematic, and truly unique out-of-body experience that no other director would even dare to take on. I’m split right down the middle.
Danger 5 (Season 2): the team of global super spies are re-united, this time in the 1980s, to stop another of Hitler’s quests for world domination. It’s soon apparent that this is – paradoxically – undeniably Danger 5, but also quite different to the previous season. The writers tampered with the cocktail recipe a little too much; Pierre has totally changed for no explained reason, another lead was swapped out for a ridiculous brat-character, most of the established running jokes dropped, and 80s throwback has been done to death lately – giving it a less cool / kitsch feel than the 1960s format. On the other hand the show manages to remain funny, wacky, surreal, psychedelic, and a celebration of satire (there’s an episode called “Back to the Führer” – come on!). I hate using the word ‘random’, but the ‘randomness’, madness and surrealism of the gags is the main thing that raises Danger 5 and sets it apart from the mediocrity that you expect of most modern comedies. All of the changes add up to fewer laughs per episode, but despite this Danger 5 Season 2 is still a great show, that is equally bonkers – but has a significantly different look and feel.