Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2017) – A long-buried secret leads K to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who has been missing for thirty years.
A plodding pace for thin plotting tempers enjoyment of what is otherwise a thematic marvel, with visuals made for the cinematic experience.
Just two years from the future that Blade Runner predicted thirty years ago, and we are still steps away from emotive replicants, hover cars, and instant showers. What has however exceeded 20th century expectations, is digital imagery. Film has since seen brilliant advances in simulating realistic holography and futuristic landscapes. It is hence no surprise that Blade Runner 2049 would be a visual masterwork.
What about its narrative then? Years have left the ambitious sequel at a disadvantage, asking questions that have already been asked before. Its predecessor Blade Runner had been made in 1982, when novel ideas such as singularity were rife with unknowns. The source material Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick goes further back to 1968, at a time when A.I. had been but an abstract concept.
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Lucid Dream (dir. Kim Joon-sung, 2017) – After the abduction of his son, Dae-ho attempts lucid dreaming, an experimental psychiatric therapy that enables patients to access lost memories.
Better enjoyed as a dramatic thriller than science fiction, Lucid Dream owes more to its excellent cast than the jerry-built plotting.
When an elusive memory is all you have to find your missing child, what wouldn’t you give to relive it for a glimpse of a clue? That is what drives Dae-ho (Soo Go) to revisit the day of his son’s abduction over and over again. Assisted by neurologist So-hyun (Kang Hye-jeong), he repeatedly reconstructs the scene in hopes of uncovering forgotten details, even if the experimental therapy comes at a cost.
Entering the dream world is nothing new but a rehashed concept, which The Cell and Inception have put forth on a grander scale. Lucid Dream sets itself up for inevitable comparisons to its spiritual predecessors, but makes a lesser mark in terms of stunning visuals or layered storytelling.
Continue reading “Review: Lucid Dream / Lusideu deulim (2017)”
Alien: Covenant (dir. Ridley Scott, 2017) – The crew of a colony ship decides to abandon route in favour of an uncharted planet, where they encounter a fatal parasitic threat.
Alien: Covenant strikes a neat balance between Alien’s horror entertainment and Prometheus’ conceptual ambitions.
Fifteen years after Alien: Resurrection ended the well-loved franchise, Ridley Scott took a bold chance. With Prometheus, he reinvented his familiar story with provocative revelations, complicating a slash-and-dice formula with layered, philosophical mythology.
This alienated some fans, who baulked at reduced body horror and potential answers to the unknown. Mysticism is after all, what had made Alien terrifying in the first place. Others find joy in dissecting theological implications, savouring consequent food for thought.
For a fan who stands in the middle, Alien: Covenant feels like a satisfying compromise. Harmony is attained between the best of both worlds, as the original’s blood fest is dished up with the prequel’s intellectual fodder on the side. An elegant opening plays to the latter, reiterating the complex dynamics between man and machine.
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Let’s Be Evil (dir. Martin Owen, 2016) – Three chaperones are hired to supervise some gifted children, who live and learn through augmented reality glasses in an underground controlled facility.
An inventive concept starts off strong but ultimately proves embryonic, delivering neither satire nor thrills.
It is not difficult to believe the future that Let’s Be Evil envisions. After all, the new generation already spends most days wired up to their devices, preferring the screen glare to the sun. Then, it is not difficult to imagine either, the power that big tech corporations wield over youths. It is a scary thought. Google was even once impelled to assure us of their corporate morals in their motto, Don’t Be Evil.
A play on that very slogan, Let’s Be Evil sees these fears realised, as technology is used to cultivate youths into obedient learning machines. In what is known as the Posterity Program, gifted children are raised in a high-tech facility, where their worldview is controlled through artificial intelligence and augmented reality. Automation fully manages their strict regime of study, sleep, repeat.
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Time Sweep / Tiempo muerto (dir. Victor Postiglione, 2016) – After the death of his wife Julia, Franco finds a dangerous way to bring her back.
An understated and evocative drama, on life after death in more ways than one.
Franco (Guillermo Pfening) has just lost his wife Julia (Maria Nela Sinisterra) to a sudden accident. The heartbroken widower will do anything to bring her back. In Julia’s diary, he finds an unorthodox way in the mysterious phenomenon, “tiempo muerto”. Known as a dead moment, this is when he gets to meet his love for the last time – in a memory of the past.
From Argentinian director Victor Postiglione, Tiempo muerto is a lean and well-paced independent drama with minimal excess. Sans the usual time travel theatrics, the taut thriller relies in verism and leaves fantasy to the fringes. The result is a character-driven dramatic core, veracity cemented by brilliant central performances.
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Residue (dir. Alex-Garcia Lopez, 2015) – After a massive explosion in the city centre, photographer Jennifer Preston uncovers a massive government conspiracy and unexpectedly, the paranormal.
Don’t expect a fast-paced thriller with a perfect resolution. Residue is a slow-burning but promising pilot, made to build anticipation for what is to come.
Residue is excessively drawn out, and maddeningly inconclusive. That doesn’t mean it is not worth a watch. Set in a dystopian near-future, the aspiring Black Mirror episode is a plodding yet assured pilot that promises things will only get better from here.
Intrigue lies in the gripping premise of this sci-fi/horror mystery thriller, where a massive explosion on New Year’s Eve leaves the city centre in quarantine. The measure is ostensibly in place due to contamination from a bio-weapon facility. But any X-Files aficionado will be loath to take the official word for it.
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