Daily Streaming Guide: April 2nd Edition

For today’s streaming guide, I focus on what I consider Steven Spielberg’s best picture of the 21st century:

Minority Report was released in 2002 and it’s new to Netflix as of yesterday. Set in 2054, the sci-fi action thriller casts Tom Cruise as the head of a police force that determines “precrimes” – allowing law enforcement the ability to arrest perps before they commit murder. This system turns its head on Cruise when he becomes subject to such an investigation. Costarring Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, and Max Von Sydow, Report is a visual feast with a highly intelligent screenplay. The pic is based on a short story from famed author Philip K. Dick. Such features as Blade Runner and Total Recall have also been based on his works.

While it was a hit upon release, I’ve always felt this doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. I consider it to be the #1 movie of 2002 and the kind of relentless entertainment that its director is celebrated for. If you haven’t caught it (or need a reminder of its quality), I can’t recommend it enough.

That’s all for now, folks! Until next time…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 20th Edition

For today’s Daily Streaming Guide, let’s call this one the “in-between” movies. Three pictures that arrived at midpoints between career highlights for certain huge directors and stars. And all three are recommendable watches that stand on their own.

HBO Streaming

The sci-fi tale The Abyss hit theaters in 1989 from director James Cameron. Its release came in-between two acclaimed sequels from the filmmaker: 1986’s Aliens and 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Cameron had two massive blockbusters in a row with the first Terminator and Aliens. This represented more of a gamble and the aquatic thriller divided critics and audiences. While it isn’t a classic like some of the director’s other efforts, The Abyss is well worth viewing (deservedly winning an Oscar for Best Visual Effects). Even South Park ended up parodying one of its memorable near death scenes in their landmark trilogy “Imaginationland”.

Netflix

1981’s Nighthawks is a gritty NYC crime thriller that arrived in-between the creation of Sylvester Stallone’s two iconic characters. It came five years after Rocky and its first sequel and one year prior to First Blood (aka Rambo). It also features Billy Dee Williams (in-between stints as Lando in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) with Rutger Hauer as the main baddie (a year prior to his more famed villainous turn in Blade Runner). As far as watching Stallone in non Rocky and Rambo material, this is on the higher end of material.

Amazon Prime

1974’s The Conversation was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture. Yet it’s also the movie in-between Francis Ford Coppola’s two masterpieces: The Godfather and its sequel. Gene Hackman is featured in one of his best roles as a surveillance expert caught up in a government conspiracy. In multiple ways, The Conversation is a film ahead of its time. In an era rich with great pictures, this is an often overlooked gem.

That’s all for now, folks! Until next time…

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

1982’s Blade Runner has been reworked and remastered more in the past three decades plus than most classic albums. Along with Alien, director Ridley Scott created a one two punch of science fiction classics in a span of just three years. While the former spawned a series of sequels and offshoots, it’s not until 35 years later that a proper Blade Runner sequel has arrived.

Mr. Scott serves as executive producer because he was busy making the mediocre Alien: Covenant. So it’s Denis Villeneuve handling behind the camera duties one year after his highly rewarding alien pic Arrival. He proves himself as a natural choice to revisit this dystopian future that’s been an incredible influence on many sci-fi experiences that followed.

That influence has mostly been in its bleak look and astonishing production design. 2049, as the title tells us, takes place 30 years after what we saw in the early 1980s. Our central character is K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant who serves the LAPD like Deckard (Harrison Ford) in the original. These days, K’s kind are programmed to be more obedient and their primary function is in slave labor. K’s day job involves hunting down old school replicants. In the ultra stylish night, he invents a relationship with the gorgeous holograph Joi (Ana de Armas).

One of K’s assignments leads to a startling discovery that suggests replicants have the ability to procreate. The existence of a being of that ilk is troubling to K’s boss (Robin Wright), fearing a war will break out between humans and replicants. The revelation also intrigues Wallace (Jared Leto), the blind owner of the corporation that manufactures the product. He envisions this as a considerable financial opportunity and tasks his chief enforcer (Sylvia Hoeks) to find the now grown child.

This all eventually leads back to Deckard, with Ford completing a trifecta of revisiting signature late seventies and early eighties roles. It also involves his romantic interest Sean Young from the original. She returns in the archival footage manner. 2049 expands the Blade Runner universe and also expands the running time, clocking in nearly 45 minutes longer than part 1. In that respect, the sequel takes a bit longer to get its motor running.

Luckily for us, the visuals that were so special 35 years ago are remarkable here as well. There are sequences that are bleakly beautiful. Those expecting a full update on Deckard’s dealings may be surprised to find he doesn’t appear until about two-thirds through the proceedings. This is Gosling’s picture to carry most of the way and he does so with a quiet intensity.

Like Villeneuve’s Arrival, this is a sci-fi venture more steeped in its themes than action sequences. Violence comes in short and sudden bursts and that’s in line with two of the filmmaker’s other efforts Prisoners and Sicario. It’s no accident that I’m comparing 2049 just as much to those three movies as I am with the Scott original. Villeneuve succeeds in making this long gestating follow-up his own while clearly valuing an adoration of the first. That doesn’t happen too often as even Scott has fallen short with his return to Alien world. The legions of admirers of what came 35 years ago should be pleased.

***1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Blade Runner 2049

24 hours can change the dynamic considerably at this time in the Oscar season. When I made my weekly Oscar predictions yesterday, Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying was ranked 8th in my Best Picture possibilities with Blade Runner 2049 outside at #13.

Yesterday, support for Flag wavered a bit with a mixed critical reaction stemming from the New York Film Festival. On the other hand, Blade has sharpened its chances with reviews coming out this morning. Denis Villeneuve’s continuation of Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi pic from 35 years ago is drawing raves (it’s at 97% currently on Rotten Tomatoes). The word “masterpiece” has been thrown around by some critics.

Bottom line: its chances for a Best Picture nomination have risen dramatically. Just last year, Villeneuve’s Arrival scored eight nominations, including Picture and Director. That could happen here again. While I doubt any of the actors (including Ryan Gosling and the return of Harrison Ford in the role of Deckard) will hear their names called, there are other races in play. This includes Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, Editing, both Sound categories, and Visual Effects (where it will almost certainly be named).

And then there’s Cinematography. Again, a nomination for its cinematographer Roger Deakins seems virtually assured. If so, it will mark his 14th nomination. The list of films he was nominated for? The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Kundun, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn’t There, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country for Old Men, The Reader, True Grit, Skyfall, Prisoners, Unbroken and Sicario. Number of wins? 0. There’s definitely a feeling that Mr. Deakins is long overdue for his gold statue and the 14th time could be the charm.

When I made my box office prediction for 2049 earlier this week, I compared my $44.1 opening weekend estimate to Mad Max: Fury Road from two years ago. As of this morning, I’m thinking the opportunity is there for it to come close to Fury‘s 10 Oscar nominations too.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Blade Runner 2049 Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (10/04/17): I have revised my estimate up from $44.1 million to $52.1 million

Arriving 35 years after Ridley Scott’s now classic science fiction work, Blade Runner 2049 hits theaters next weekend. The sequel has been in development for pretty much the entire 21st century. The reported $185 million production is headlined by Ryan Gosling as an LAPD officer in a dystopian future who ends up teaming with original Blade Runner Deckard, played by Harrison Ford. Denis Villeneuve, hot off his Oscar nominated hit Arrival, handles directorial duties with Mr. Scott executive producing. Costars include Jared Leto, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, and Dave Bautista. 

Fans of the 1982 original are many as Blade Runner has become a beloved genre pic. One legitimate question: are younger audiences familiar enough with the source material? It may not matter much as early word-of-mouth for 2049 is very encouraging. Official reviews won’t be out until next week, but screenings have indicated this is a satisfying visual feast like its predecessor.

So how high can this open? The current October opening record belongs to Gravity at $55 million. Even with the positive buzz, I don’t see 2049 running that high. Tracking has indicated $40-$45 million and that sounds about right. In fact, a $45 million opening would match the debut of 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, another entry in a franchise that was dormant for decades and made a rousing return.

I’ll put this just under that mark for what should be a solid opening for Columbia Pictures, as it’s likely to perform well overseas too.

Blade Runner 2049 opening weekend prediction: $44.1 million

For my The Mountain Between Us prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/09/27/the-mountain-between-us-box-office-prediction/

For my My Little Pony: The Movie prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/09/28/my-little-pony-the-movie-box-office-prediction/