Del reviews ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Image courtesy of Warner Brothers.

“Blade Runner 2049” Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright and Sylvia Hoeks. Directed by Dennis Villeneuve. 2 hours, 44 minutes. Rated R.

Del’s take

As I purchased my ticket for “Blade Runner 2049” the ticket taker said, “It’s entirely possible you will be the only person in the theater.”

He was almost right.

Initially I was the only person in the theater. I frantically texted my movie-going crony, Dusty. “Please hurry. I am the only one in the theater. It’s creepy.”

By the time the movie started there were 13 other individuals with us, not an auspicious showing for a much-ballyhooed sequel to a movie legend.

The original “Blade Runner” didn’t do much at the box office, pulling in a little over $32 million domestically over its lifetime. “2049” seems headed to a similar fate. The film has so far grossed $60 million and may never earn back its $155-plus million expenses.

That’s too bad because it’s a worthy successor to the original Ridley Scott classic, despite the fact that audiences don’t seem to care.

I suspect “2049’s” major problem is that contemporary moviegoers are too lazy to enjoy a movie that builds its tension slowly and requires audiences to think. Why should audiences think when they can coast along in a state of lobotomy-like bliss, voting for Donald Trump and watching crap like the upcoming “Geo Storm”?

 In “2049” Ryan Gosling is Officer K, a replicant hunter who belongs to a new generation of the genetically engineered lifeforms himself, compliant slaves who do what they are told. When he is ordered to investigate a possible older-generation replicant hiding in the environmental wasteland that Southern California has become, he tumbles onto a larger mystery that promises to “break the world,” as Lieutenant Joshi (Wright) puts it.

What follows is a journey across the hellscape of Los Angeles and beyond in search of the truth, which eventually leads K to Deckard (Ford) and a confrontation with agents of the Wallace Corporation, manufacturer of the new, compliant replicants. Wallace is headed by the cool-handed Neander Wallace (Leto), who is looking for a way to make replicants faster. Does K hold the solution to that problem?

“2049” is a replicant itself, duplicating the mood and pacing of the original “Blade Runner.” The score evokes the original Tangerine Dream soundtrack yet diverges in strange and interesting ways. The noir ingredients are still there – endless rain, sometimes interrupted by snow. Neon signs with gigantic holograms confronting pedestrians about their shopping choices. Retro technology and clothing styles. At any moment I expected to see Daryl Hannah back-handspringing into the fray.

Gosling measures up to Ford’s original performance, offering the same world-weary yet hopeful emotional resonance to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there is more to his manufactured life than even his makers were aware of. His exchanges with his holographic lover Joi (Anna de Armas) are simultaneously touching and heartbreaking. To know that these two artificial entities – one grown in a vat, the other digital – constitute all that is good about this world damns the future with sadness and futility.

The movie is long, almost three hours, and therein lies its flaw. The pacing is glacial – not the post global warming “glacial” of  retreat, but the inch-a-year growth of ice before mankind dumped his pollution and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. At times director Villeneuve seems to love his creation so madly he dwells on unimportant details, unwilling to slay his darlings as it were. It feels every bit as much as a three-hour movie.

Still, it’s three hours of arresting visuals, soaring music, and tantalizing questions: Who else might be a replicant? Will these new replicants throw off their designed constraints and launch a revolution? How will mankind survive without its slave labor force?

Fans of the original should catch “2049” in a movie theater to enjoy its visuals in their native habitat. Newcomers should probably watch the 1982 original before venturing to the theater.

Watch it now, because if “2049” doesn’t start making money soon, it may be another 35 years before we see Part 3.

Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.

Image courtesy of Disney Studios.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Harrison Ford. Directed by J.J. Abrams. 135 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Del’s take

I’ve told this story before but I’ll tell it again.

My friend Sandy was feeling blue. Her husband was TDY in Korea and her teenaged kids were doing their thing. One day she decided to remedy her malaise by throwing a cookout for the kids. She took a pound of ground beef and shaped it into several thick patties. She toasted hamburger buns on the grill as the burgers sizzled. She gathered all the trimmings and condiments – tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, mustard, mayo, and ketchup.

When the kids looked at those fat, juicy, steaming burgers, they turned up their noses and sniffed, “We wanted REAL hamburgers, like McDonalds.”

Moviegoers have watched the cinematic equivalent of fast food for so long they have no idea what the real thing looks like. To them, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is an actual movie, and a good movie at that. But those of us who know what a real hamburger looks and tastes like know this latest installment of the Star Wars canon is little more than a dime-sized beef-like patty sandwiched between two white-bread buns topped with a pickle and a miserly squirt of watered down mustard and ketchup.

And it’s not even CREATIVE fast food. Instead, it’s a brazen, in-your-face, do-something-about-it rip-off of the first movie. Call it “The Force Awakens a New Hope” because that’s precisely what it is … a splashy, high-resolution rehash.

Here’s the plot: A droid is carrying a map that will help the rebellion find Luke Skywalker, who holds the key to … something. I think it was the revival of the Jedi, but I’m not sure. I wish it were lower popcorn prices.

Special effects are light years superior to the first movie and John Boyega does a good job as Finn. Even Harrison Ford seems to enjoy his outing as Han Solo.

But some of the performances are terrible. Domhall Gleeson’s portrayal of General Hux is comically overwrought, and Carrie Fisher reads her lines as if she were sucking to keep dentures in her mouth. Through no fault of Adam Driver, the Kylo Ren character fails to equal the ominous and imposing Darth Vader; instead, he’s a damaged little boy with daddy issues.

The movie itself seems to lurch from one adventure to the next without much in the way of connective tissue, making it one vast, pointless coincidence.

I went into “The Force Awakens” with the expectation I would see a competent if not creative re-establishment of the Star Wars franchise, much like my experience last summer with “Jurassic World.” I came out offended that J.J. Abrams has no more respect for the moviegoer than to plagiarize “A New Hope.”

The fact that this movie will become the biggest grossing film of all time leads me to believe I am forever condemned to watching the cinematic equivalent of fast food burgers. Oh well, at least it isn’t Soylent Green. Or is it?

By all means, go see “The Force Awakens a New Hope” in a movie theater, because that is where all movies should be seen. Skip the popcorn; you’ll want fries with that.

And a year from now, don’t buy the DVD. You already own it.

Mladen’s take

I want my money back. The money I paid for my “Stars Wars: The Force Awakens” ticket and the money I paid for Del’s “The Force Awakens” movie ticket.

And, I want the money back for all my friends – and the rest of the globe – who have yet to realize that the film is 1) mediocre at best and 2) saved barely by Daisy Ridley’s performance as Rey with assistance from John Boyega as Finn.

I’m also filing a claim with the Better Business Bureau against Disney for false advertising. “The Force Awakens” is not a continuation of the Star Wars saga. It is a remake of the first Star Wars movie released some four decades ago.

The more I think about the movie, the more I become frustrated.

TFA offer nothing compellingly original. A Death Planet, rather than a Death Star. Really, director JJ Abrams?

TFA is laced with weakling bad guys and improbable coincidences that keep the movie moving sideways. As Del noted during our conversation amid a round of disc golf, the movie has no plot, so it’s impossible for it to move forward. It’s worse than the least good of the three original films, “Return of the Jedi,” but better than the prequels. Of course, Jackass 4 is better than Sith tales I, II, and III.

Because I felt little for the characters, barring Rey, I paid attention to what TFA did have to offer, a solid soundtrack and terrific sound effects.

TFA is a distraction. By playing it safe and formulaic to bamboozle all the poor Star Wars fans out there hoping for something to break the disappointment of the franchise’s three most recent efforts, Disney committed a different error. The one called profit motive.

Now I understand the reason for Disney’s hyper hyperbolic marketing campaign, particular using dumbass social media. The Mickey Mouse company had to earn more box office than a heavily marketed, equally unsatisfying blockbuster of six years ago, “Avatar.” Moviegoers were used then and moviegoers have been used today. The lesson that was reinforced by the Star Wars juggernaut? Sell a movie hard enough, build expectations that touch Jakku in a galaxy far, far away, and no one will recognize the difference between a provocative, high-quality, and stimulating experience and cookiecutter entertainment packed with razzle dazzle empty calories.

I hope that this movie doesn’t sink Ridley’s and Boyega’s careers. If they’re forever typecast as Rey- and Finn-like characters, their solid acting skills will never see the light of a good film.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Lance H. Bates under the auspices of a Creative Commons license.

A number of people called, e-mailed, faxed, or contacted me via the Intergalactic Council to let me know what a rube I am for suggesting flying saucers are a figment of the collective unconscious.

One person even admonished me to put away my Bible (I nearly choked with laughter over that!) and asserted people like me actually hinder the exploration of space by dissing poor little E.T.

I’m not sure what to think about all this. It’s a comfort knowing that skepticism lives in this day of McDonaldized Mass Mind thinking. But at the same time, how spooky to see that this skepticism is fueled by utter nonsense.

Tell you what: I’ll eat my words if somebody can produce a real, live flying saucer, demonstrably from outer space. Until then, you guys keep shaking your hoodoo sticks and baying at the moon.

I’ll wait for the real scientists to give us our answers.

Look for their names on the silver screen! It was bad enough that I nearly sprained my back and gave myself leg cramps trying to help Harrison Ford crawl back into the airplane in “Air Force One.” But then I had to wait in agony until the end of the credits to see the acknowledgments for Eglin and Hurlburt.

But it was time well spent for about 20 of us who remained in the theater as the movie ended Sunday afternoon. When the names of our local bases rolled across the screen, everybody clapped and cheered.

“Air Force One” is one darned exciting movie – probably the best of the action-movie crop this summer. Check it out – and watch those credits roll.

Let it rain: Saturday’s deluge prompted a very strange reaction among some of us around town.

It was such a thunderous downpour – typical for Florida – that people I talked to didn’t even try to go out and about. They stayed at home and watched NASCAR, the Brickyard 400.

I’m not a big NASCAR fan, but like those other people, I was glued to the TV, rooting for all the old-timers, drivers like Bill Elliot (who is the husband of former Daily News photographer Cindy Poole) and casting hexes on young showoffs like Jeff Gordon.

Next thing you know we’ll be packing up the Winnebago and caravanning to Talladega.

Who won the race?

Somebody named Tide.

This week’s wire weirdness: DAKAR, Senegal (AP) – Vigilante mobs convinced that foreign sorcerers can shrink a man’s genitals with a mere handshake have killed eight people in Senegal in the past week.

Attackers killed five people at Ziguinghor in southern Senegal after a man accused one of them of making his penis shrink, newspapers reported Friday. At least three other people were killed in the West African nation’s capital, Dakar.

Headlines that didn’t work: Miners Refuse to Work after Death.

Strange but true: A man in Johannesburg, South Africa, shot his 49-year-old friend in the face, seriously wounding him, while the two practiced shooting beer cans off each other’s heads.

About the author:

Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”

Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.

As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.

Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at .