There has been lots of buzz and anticipation surrounding the long-awaited "Blade Runner" sequel and the wait is finally over: "Blade Runner 2049" has arrived. But if that isn't your cup of tea, there are a few other films seeing wide release this weekend, including a big-screen adaptation of a popular novel and an animated film set to relaunch a popular childhood toy line.
Here are reviews for the new films opening in theaters on Friday, October 6, 2017:
"Blade Runner 2049"
Denis Villeneuve is no longer one of the best emerging directors in Hollywood...he has officially arrived. He helms the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 cult sci-fi hit, "Blade Runner," with the aptly named "Blade Runner 2049", a movie that not only is worthy of the original's unique dystopian vision, but one of the best films of this year thus far.
Many technological advances have been achieved since the time of the first film, which took place - in this timeline anyways - in the year 2019. At that time, most wealthy citizens have traveled "off-world," as Earth's resources had nearly been sucked dry. Left behind was scum, smut and ruin...a place so dark and forgotten that the sun barely seemed to shine there. The Tyrell Corporation had designed Replicants - human androids that were so legit that they could only be spotted by their lack of real human empathy and emotion, which was determined by asking them a series of questions to determine their origin. Hunter-Cops known as Blade Runners were sent out to "retire" Replicants that had gone rogue, and Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) was one of the best.
"Blade Runner 2049" gives us a future of that future. Replicants have come so far that they are totally obedient now, having been redesigned by the mysterious Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who had bought out the Tyrell Corporation. Replicants had become so trust-worthy, that they now employed them as Blade Runners, who they still used to hunt down older, outdated Replicant models. One such Blade Runner known as "K" (Ryan Gosling) discovers a mysterious skeleton while on a mission, and these old bones unlock a mystery that ties in beautifully with the first film, leading K to seek out Deckard himself.
To reveal more would be to spoil the fun. Villeneuve achieves greatness in that he perfectly matches the tone of the original, and builds nuances and depth into this lavish universe. Part of what made the original so...original...was that it dropped us into this sci-fi world without much explanation at all. We were never explicitly told what was going on in the world. That film also took its time...unlike the "Star Wars" films that had just came out a few years prior, "Blade Runner" was not interested in space-swashbuckling...it had its sights set on much deeper themes dealing with humanity and life itself. The slow pace is what prevented it from being a smash at the time...this was high-brow sci-fi, made for the intellectual mind.
"Blade Runner 2049" goes even deeper, and pulls back just a bit to uncover more of this post-apocalyptic hell on Earth. Surely there are fewer limitations now with special effects, which lends itself to going bigger. But the beauty of what Villeneuve achieves is that he doesn't choose to go louder as well. Sci-fi films such as "Blade Runner 2049" - heck, big action studio films in general - do not get made like this anymore. It's a stellar movie to look at (kudos to legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins), it doesn't offer easy answers and it confidently carries the legacy of "Blade Runner" into the future. This sequel might be a Replicant, but it has a soul all its own.
Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller, Mystery. Run Time: 2 hour 43 minutes.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve ("Arrival," "Sicario," "Enemy," "Prisoners").
"The Mountain Between Us"
Don't let this cheese-tastic title fool you. "The Mountain Between Us", may have double-meaning, considering that it is a love story about two people from different walks of life, who crash into the mountains, but strong turns from stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet prevent this one from crashing and burning.
Fate puts Elba and Winslet's characters on a small plane together, but the plane goes down. Miraculously, the two survive. There are only a handful of films that fit this plot description, but there have been enough of them where we know what to expect. This film goes through every last cliche, from the cell phone not working, to firing flare guns at passing planes that don't seem to see them, to having to fend off hungry wild animals. But somehow, someway, just as unlikely it is that these two survive the crash, the actors too come out surprisingly unscathed. Sure this one has TV Movie written all over it, but "The Mountain Between Us" works as a two-person acting clinic, from two actors who are miles above many of their peers.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama. Run Time: 1 hour 43 minutes.
Starring: Idris Elba, Kate Winslet, Beau Bridges, Dermot Mulroney.
Directed by Hany Abu-Assad ("The Idol," "The Courier," "Paradise Now").
All of these movies open locally on Friday, October 6, 2017.
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