Tamara and Rebecca tackle the long-awaited sequel to the sci-fi/noir classic, “Blade Runner.”
Denis Villeneuve, I have a complicated love-hate relationship with you. Sometimes, you’re capable of making a movie in two hours or less, with complex characters and stunning visuals. I like those movies, specifically “Sicario” and “Arrival.” And then there was “Prisoners,” the 2½-hour lie of a thriller that I solved in the first 20 minutes and wished I had taken a nap during the rest of it. Where does “Blade Runner 2049” fall into these two extremes? Let’s say that if there’s a sequel, I’m taking a blankie.
“Blade Runner 2049” takes place 30 years from the original “Blade Runner” and 20 years after a blackout wiped out a system and made most of the old computer files wiped out. In the meantime, improved replicants have been created by the Wallace Corp., mostly to obey every command a real person will give them. A newer replicant K (Ryan Gosling) is a young blade runner who investigates a case that is linked to the earlier film. K uncovers a secret that will upset the natural but unstable order of the gloomy, lacking world that can’t even grow plants.
K answers to Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright), who doesn’t see any human qualities in her slave labor. He lives in a nondescriptive home where he has a nonemotional relationship with Joi (Ana de Armas), a Wallace Corp. hologram who becomes whatever its owner wants. K’s find pits two forces against each other – the humans represented by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Wallace Corp. with its head honcho Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his right-hand replicant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks).
What unfolds is K’s struggle to figure out where he belongs in this world. If he doesn’t have a soul, like Joshi says he doesn’t, then why does he have conflicting feelings? His relationship with Joi becomes more complex as K’s quest to figure out what his discovery means, and his mission becomes unnecessarily longer.
That’s right. If you’re one of those people who can solve a “Law & Order” episode just by reading the guest starring credits, this movie is not for you. K’s role in dark and gloomy Los Angeles is front and center as to what the secret is. If you watch carefully, even in the first two minutes, you will have an idea of what it is. “Blade Runner 2049” is very much Villeneuve’s vision – no hints of the film noir elements that made the first cut of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” one of my favorites. I don’t remember the exact minute I solved everything, but I remember that it was way, way before when the audience is reintroduced to former blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). By then, Deckard isn’t half interesting.
But what may keep people in the seats are the visuals. Cinematographer and Villeneuve collaborator Roger Deakins lenses bleak landscapes, a radioactive wasteland and a rainy Los Angeles without a flaw. Large, holographic women actually seem approachable as K interacts with all forms of Joi. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to keep an interest in a plot with such little pull and so much punchless acting. Leto’s performance – more like a fancy cameo – is stale and not authentic. His Niander is more of a robot than of a man. Speaking of androids, Gosling’s acting is close to that of Michael Fassbender’s takes in the recent “Alien” prequels. While his wooden performance is fitting for a corporate product, it can be painful to watch. Has Scott, who serves as an executive producer here, trying to destroy the two beloved vehicles for the sake of bloated movies and more money?
Just wait for 2049 to come if you want to see the future. By then “Blade Runner 2049” will actually end.
1.5 out of 5 stars
Ridley Scott’s visionary “Blade Runner” has achieved legendary status in the 35 years since its underwhelming release. Now its long-awaited follow-up, “Blade Runner 2049,” this time under the creative direction of Denis Villeneuve, tries to replicate its predecessor’s dystopian atmosphere and thematic depth. But the sequel only partially passes the test.
“Blade Runner 2049” is a feast for the senses, with spectacular visuals and dazzling cinematography. But the sci-fi sequel is not as deep or emotional as the original. Its long run time and plodding pace try the audience’s patience.
The sequel is set three decades after the events of “Blade Runner.” In a still-grimy Los Angeles, police officer K (Ryan Gosling) is a blade runner who hunts down replicants – genetically engineered androids that look just like humans. Newer, more obedient models of replicants can move around freely in society. But the older, harder-to-control models are targeted for “retirement,” or extermination.
When K uncovers a secret that threatens the world’s future, the blade runner finds himself in the middle of conflicting interests. His commanding officer, Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright), orders K to do whatever it takes to prevent the secret from getting out. Meanwhile, creepy genius Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), the head of the corporation that makes replicants, wants to get his hands on the secret.
As K himself becomes the hunted, he starts to question his existence as he knows it. His investigation leads him to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the hard-boiled blade runner from the original film.
“Blade Runner 2049” showcases breathtaking landscapes and stunning special effects. The film still utilizes the night-engulfed LA streetscapes, this time with colorful, virtual billboards that can reach out and touch you. But the sequel allows in the rays of daylight during K’s search for the truth, helping to lift the curtain on what’s real and what’s not. Roger Deakins’ cinematography expertly plays with shadows and light.
“Blade Runner 2049” continues to explore the themes of humanity, artificiality and identity established in the original. But while the 1982 film dives deep into questions such as what does it mean to be human, “Blade Runner 2049” doesn’t go deep enough. After a 35-year gap between films, “Blade Runner 2049” doesn’t incite new ideas like its influential predecessor as much as it rehashes ideas from properties that came after.
K’s virtual girlfriend, Joi (a terrific performance by Ana de Armas), drives an intriguing storyline about whether artificial intelligence can transcend its programming. But a love scene involving the two is too reminiscent of 2013’s AI romance “Her.” The potential of artificial creations to reach consciousness also sounds like the storyline in HBO’s hit series “Westworld.”
“Blade Runner 2049” features mostly great performances by its talented cast, but an uneven amount of screen time. As K, this is Gosling’s show. The sensitive Gosling gradually opens up as he strives to solve not only the case he’s assigned to work on, but his own origins. Ford looks right at home as the tough but vulnerable Deckard, but he’s not in the film long enough. When the two are onscreen together, they make a fun pair.
The sequel lacks complex villains like Rutger Hauer’s sympathetic replicant Roy Batty. The disappointing Leto shows up briefly to deliver mostly monologues, and nothing along the lines of the famous “tears in the rain” speech. His right-hand replicant, the ultra-violent Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), is the film’s closest thing to a villain, but she’s given little motivation.
At nearly three hours, there’s not enough substance in “Blade Runner 2049” to justify its run time. It plays more like a lumbering police procedural. While “Blade Runner” thrives on ambiguity, the sequel includes plot holes that detract from its story. A reveal in the final act may make audiences feel like the rug was pulled out from beneath them.
“Blade Runner 2049” is worth seeing for fans of the 1982 classic, but it doesn’t measure up to the original model.
3 out of 5 stars
Each Wednesday through the week of the 2018 Academy Award nominations on Jan. 23, Take 2 is handicapping the Oscar rush with The Award Chase.
Thirteen – that’s the number of times British cinematographer Roger Deakins has been nominated for an Academy Award. That’s 13 times his name has been read off a teleprompter, but it has never appeared in the envelope. In a two-decade span, Deakins has probably stayed seated in a cushy, velvet chair surrounded by the rest of Hollywood’s brightest when a presenter did not say his name. Will his luck change in March with his work in “Blade Runner 2049?”
Deakins makes plantless landscapes and a gloomy Los Angeles dazzle with his choices of light and color in the Denis Villeneuve sequel to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi, film noir epic. In a film where the world is on the blink of destroying itself for the umpteenth time, Deakins wrestles replicants and real being with dark and light, deserted landscapes with spectacular visualizations. It’s not like any of the other films he has lensed. Let’s take a look at some of his other nominated films:
Teaming with the Coen brothers
Deakins is like the brother from another mother with Bruce and Joel Coen, having worked with the American filmmakers starting with “Barton Fink” in 1991. Deakins was nominated for his work in five movies, the crime dramedy “Fargo,” the black-and-white, noirish drama “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” the Southern odyssey “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and westerns “No Country for Old Men” and “True Grit.” Whiskey-stained grounds and crisp portraits bring the stories to life. In 2008, Deakins competed against himself, for “No Country” and another title in the next segment, but he lost anyway. Many insiders thought he would get a nomination for the 2016 comedy “Hail, Caesar!” but it didn’t happen.
The mighty West
If a movie requires a wide shot, like most westerns, Deakins is the man to hire. In addition to “No Country” and “True Grit,” he was nominated for and competed against himself for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” While some critics were unkind to director Andrew Dominik’s take on the American outlaw, they spoke highly of its photography, as Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips described as “often breathtaking without settling for being pretty.”
Working with Villeneuve
Like his partnership with the Coen brothers, Deakins is crafting a beautiful working relationship with the Canadian filmmaker. He was nominated for the small-town kidnapping drama “Prisoners” and the drug-cartel thriller “Sicario.” For much of “Sicario” Deakins worked with natural light and required many to trust his vision for some of the darker shots. “Blade Runner 2049” is a bit of departure for the director and cinematographer with emphasis on holograms, weather and a dystopian world. On top of this, there is a 3-D version on the film, capturing depth and textures on top of everything. The Academy doesn’t seem to favor fantasy films and bloated movies that perform poorly at the box office, so Deakins’ chances for a nomination may be down a little. However, Deakins is well-respected and loved by his peers that he may even get a win this time.
- After two media exposés and dozens of women coming forward, the Academy censures Harvey Weinstein.
- The Gotham Awards, one of the season’s earliest ceremonies, has named its host.
- The Academy looks back at Latin cinema.
Imagine a superhero who looks like you, speaks in the words of your language and sports locks of hair like yours. If it’s easy for you to find a movie or a comic book that matches your description, chances are you are not a minority. For the Latinx community, only in recent years have there been characters that reflect their heritage. This is something that Alexis Sanchez knows too well. As the co-founder of Latinx Geeks, Sanchez has kept up with trends in comics as a fan and as an observer, from the panels to the big screen.
A few years ago, Sanchez saw no Latinx panels at New York Comic Con, a popular event for comic and sci-fi fans. Seeing what Jamie Broadnax of Black Girl Nerds has done to increase awareness of women of color in a genre that has mostly catered to white males, Sanchez formed Latinx Geeks to show that Latinx individuals are also an active community in the comic world.
Upon seeing what other groups have accomplished, “I was thinking, ‘You know what, I can do that,” Sanchez said in a Take 2 interview.
— E. Miranda-Rodriguez (@MrEdgardoNYC) October 10, 2017
While public events are opening up to more representation, comics have been slow to reflect it. Sanchez, who identifies with the gender-neutral term Latinx, got into the comics growing up with “X-Men: The Animated Series” from the 1990s. Receiving a copy of “The X-Men Encyclopedia” as a gift further increased her interest, and she picked up a few comics here and there over the years. However, the genre featured very few Latinx characters, and those who were included were littered with stereotypical and over-the-top features compared to their Anglo counterparts.
“In comic books, at least for Latinx, it’s been a long road,” she said. It wasn’t until about “five or six years ago were there characters who look like me,” Sanchez said.
That includes Miles Morales, the black Puerto Rican teen who debuted as Spider-Man in 2011, and America Chavez as Marvel’s Miss America. However, Sanchez said, comics must go further in having characters who are also Latinx in identity.
The same goes for film portrayals. While casting has become more diverse in Marvel and DC Comics movies, stereotypes still persist. Sanchez pointed out Michael Peña’s role as Luis in 2015’s “Ant-Man.” Peña, whose Hollywood career spans two decades, was still in a Latinx sidekick with one “immigration joke,” she said.
“That wasn’t the character I wanted to see,” Sanchez said. Latinx actors are sometimes limited to alien roles as well, she said.
Sanchez also points out the need for more representation behind the scenes to develop a fuller character.
“You can have (a Latinx) actor, but if the character reads white,” it doesn’t work, Sanchez said. “You need that culture identity.” A character who is fully developed is Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez, portrayed by Natalia Cordova-Buckley in the ABC series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
There is plenty of room in the comic book universe for Latinx characters, and Sanchez said there is one she would like to see on film – a superhero.
With influences from her Bolivian roots, Sanchez’s vision is of a hero with superpowers related to nature and the country’s silver mines. The moves and costumes are inspired by caporales – a traditional dance from Bolivia. Her hero’s mission is to deliver help where needed.
“I always that that it would be awesome on screen,” she said. “In my mind, it looks really cool.”
“It”: 4 stars out of five. In theaters.
Evil exists. It lives in the rage of bullies, the inaction of adults and in a clown’s blank expression.
“It” is a nightmare come to life. The disturbing and gripping film based on Stephen King’s best-selling horror novel blends a tale of terror with a coming-of-age story. A group of kids take on a shape-shifting demon whose evil has permeated their small town.
The biggest strength of “It” is its phenomenal cast of child actors, who form the Losers Club of misfits. The group of seven must deal with heavy subjects such as mourning, bullying, illness and victimization while being hunted by a malevolent force who feeds on their fears.
The standouts are Sophia Lillis as the brave and long-suffering Beverly, Jaeden Lieberher as the determined Billy, and Jeremy Ray Taylor as the sensitive Ben.
Unsettling camera angles, creepy imagery and justified jump scares ramp up the tension as the sinister clown Pennywise torments the town’s children. A menacing Bill Skarsgard taps into the otherness of Pennywise, a supernatural predator who relishes hunting his prey.
Each scare effectively builds up to the next, creating a palpable sense of dread throughout the film. A frightening scene involving a projector remains burned onto my consciousness.
“It” is not without its flaws. While some of the children are fleshed out, others are little more than bystanders. The film also shows too much of its monster right off the bat, generously revealing Pennywise’s true nature instead of doling it out throughout the film.
But the haunting quality of “It” is the realization that the real monsters are the adults. Parents are absent and neglectful, willfully turning a blind eye. Their inaction feeds Pennywise, perhaps even more than his chosen prey. That’s the true horror of “It.”
“It” is a new horror classic, certain to haunt your dreams long after the credits roll.
Each Wednesday through the week of the 2018 Academy Award nominations on Jan. 23, Take 2 is handicapping the Oscar rush with The Award Chase.
It’s hard to believe that this marks Take 2’s third edition of The Award Chase, and although it started a little later than usual, it’s still keeping an eye on what titles are gaining momentum during awards season.
In the closing weeks of fall film festival runs, the jury awards have been handed out and movie fans are taking note of performances to watch come January and February. However, more and more each year, award campaigning can begin at any moment. This holds true for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Starring Frances McDormand, the dramedy earned the People’s Choice Award at last month’s Toronto International Film Festival. Such an honor has served as a predictor for future awards, having worked for recent best picture winners “The Hurt Locker” and “Slumdog Millionaire.” Yet, “Three Billboards” could suffer the same fate as not-nominated musical “Where Do We Go Now?” Well, it has one factor going for it, and it has not nothing to do with the festival circuit.
Trailers for “Three Billboards” began to appear in March, including screenings for the sci-fi flop “Life.” It may not have been one of the most splashy trailer debuts of recent history, but the early drop gave movie audiences a chance to consider it. By the time it had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in early September, critics were paying attention McDormand’s performance as the tough-talking, grieving mother who wants justice for her murdered daughter. A few days later, Toronto audiences fell hard for this film. Look for its wide release Nov. 10.
While March may be an early campaign start, it pales in comparison to the Steven Spielberg-helmed thriller “The Post.” Starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, the film was already up for Oscars when the script topped the annual Black List for best unproduced screenplays in December 2016 and when production was announced in March. Much of the attention has been on the Academy Award-winning leads and director and the subject matter – the government versus the Washington Post. It hasn’t been to any film festivals, no trailer is out and less than five stills have been released. Perhaps it may debut this weekend with the release of “The Mountain Between Us” or later this month with “Thank You for Your Service.” “The Post” will have an Academy-qualifying run starting Dec. 22 and will open wider in January.
But nothing beats the earliest campaign start in recent memory. Without a trailer or a still, DreamWorks entered the awards race in 1999 when the previous year’s season was taking place. At the 1999 Golden Globes, actress Annette Bening was introduced to the audience as the star of “American Beauty.” The next year, the Sam Mendes-directed film would win three Golden Globes and five Oscars.
- The Academy is reviewing if Netflix will be eligible for the Oscar race.
Trailer Talk: New Lara Croft in “Tomb Raider,” new rules in “Jumanji,” new clues in “Orient Express”
“Trailer Talk” rounds up recently released trailers for upcoming and anticipated movies.
Alicia Vikander hurls herself into the role of fierce adventurer Lara Croft in this reboot based on the popular video game franchise. The Academy Award winner takes over the reins from Angelina Jolie, who starred in two “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” films in 2001 and 2003.
Like the 2013 game, “Tomb Raider” tracks the origins of Lara from an untested young woman to the brave heroine she is destined to become. In the action-packed trailer, Lara faces one danger after another on a mysterious island where her jet-setting father (Dominic West) disappeared. Known for her dramatic chops, Vikander displays her athletic prowess as she takes on nature, natives and villain Walton Goggins.
“Tomb Raider” embarks on a new adventure March 16, 2018.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”
The first trailer for the sequel to the 1995 kids’ adventure “Jumanji” revealed the game had changed – from a board game to a video game. The fun new trailer lets us in on the rules of the game.
When four teens get sucked into the jungle adventure, their avatars – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black – each have their own strengths and weaknesses, which they must rely on to finish the game.
The trailer introduces Nick Jonas’ character, Alex, the group’s mysterious guide. The new teaser also highlights the hilarious chemistry between the Rock and Hart, who scored a hit with last summer’s comedy “Central Intelligence.”
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” goes wild Dec. 20 in theaters.
“Isle of Dogs”
Director Wes Anderson returns to animation for the first time since 2009’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”
Set in the future in Japan, the stop-motion adventure follows a group of dogs quarantined on an island following an outbreak of dog flu. When a young boy crash-lands on the island looking for his missing dog, the talking canines set out to help him.
The stellar voice cast features Anderson regulars Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Jeff Goldblum, as well as Scarlett Johansson and Bryan Cranston.
“Isle of Dogs” starts sniffing March 23, 2018.
“Murder on the Orient Express”
The second trailer for star and director Kenneth Branaugh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic 1934 whodunit drops more clues about its star-studded cast.
As mustachioed detective Hercule Poirot, Branaugh is determined to solve a murder on a lavish train, and he considers everyone a suspect. Johnny Depp, who was left out of the suspect lineup in the first teaser, is revealed to be playing a gangster. Governess Daisy Ridley forcefully asserts she will be keeping a watchful eye on the train’s passengers.
Back from the first trailer, Imagine Dragons’ “Believer” is played to dramatic effect.
“Murder on the Orient Express” cracks the case Nov. 10 in theaters.
The seventh season of HBO’s fantasy epic “Game of Thrones” ended just a few weeks ago in spectacular fashion. But with the series’ eighth and final season possibly not returning to our TV sets until 2019, what are Westeros watchers to do in the meantime?
Fear not, for some of the Seven Kingdoms’ familiar faces will soon be appearing on the big screen. You could say winter – including film festival season – is here.
Peter Dinklage – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Nov. 10)
(Note: Due to crude language, trailer is NSFW.)
As Tyrion Lannister, Dinklage serves as the shrewd Hand to the Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen. This fall, he stars in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a dark comedy about a different kind of mother.
Justice-seeking Frances McDormand stands up to police after months go by without an arrest in the rape and murder of her daughter. Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell also star. The film made the rounds at the Venice and Toronto film festivals.
Gwendoline Christie – “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (Dec. 15)
Christie exudes bravery and honor as warrior Brienne of Tarth in Westeros. But she transforms into a villain in the new “Star Wars” trilogy.
In Episode XIII, she reprises her role as Captain Phasma of the First Order from “The Force Awakens.” Here’s hoping Christie gets more screen time as the mysterious captain in the next chapter of the Star Wars saga.
Nathalie Emmanuel – “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” (Jan. 26, 2018)
As Missandei, Emmanuel plays Daenerys Targaryen’s loyal follower and friend. She has also become a regular in the sci-fi “Maze Runner” franchise, based on the dystopian young adult novels.
Bonus: The third film in the series stars Thomas Brodi-Sangster, whose “Game of Thrones” character, Jojen Reed, was killed off at the end of season 4.
Maisie Williams – “Mary Shelley” (U.S. release date unknown)
Williams plays cunning assassin Arya Stark in the medieval-inspired fantasy series. In her next role, Williams fast-forwards to the 19th century as the friend of famed writer Mary Shelley (Elle Fanning). The drama explores the love affair between the “Frankenstein” author and Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth.) The film was screened at the Toronto Film Festival.
Bonus: Stephen Dillane, who played steely commander Stannis Baratheon on “Game of Thrones” for four seasons, also stars in the drama as William Godwin, Mary Shelley’s father.
ON DVD AND STREAMING
Nathalie Emmanuel and Kristofer Hivju – “The Fate of the Furious”
Emmanuel and Hivju, the red-haired actor who plays fan favorite Tormund Giantsbane, are on opposite sides when Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) turns on his family in the eighth film in the wildly popular “Fast and Furious” franchise. Emmanuel reprises her role as no-nonsense hacker Ramsey, while Hivju enters the fray as a henchman of cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron).
Aidan Gillen – “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”
For seven seasons, Gillen entertained us as the devious Peter “Littlefinger” Baelish. The actor also appears in Guy Ritchie’s stylish take on the medieval legend of King Arthur (Charlie Hunnam).
Iain Glen – “My Cousin Rachel”
As the loyal Jorah Mormont, Iain Glen returned to Daenerys Targaryen’s side this season. In the period drama based on Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Glen plays the godfather of a young Englishman (Sam Claflin) seeking revenge on his cousin’s beautiful but mysterious widow (Rachel Weisz).
Nikolaj Coster-Walau – “Shot Caller” (Streaming on Amazon and iTunes)
Coster-Walau has lost his honor, his hand and his children as embattled Jaime Lannister on “Game of Thrones.” In this crime thriller, he plays a man who goes to prison and is forced to join a gang to survive.
In Matt Damon news, the Academy Award winner dons eyeglasses in his new movie, “Suburbicon,” directed by his good friend George Clooney. For some reason, in order to play a regular, everyday man in weird or hostile situations, Damon’s characters must wear either horn-rimmed spectacles or browline models. For “Suburbicon,” Damon plays 1950s family man Gardner Lodge who plots to kill his wife so he can run off with her sister and collect the insurance money. The bloody, domestic satire features the ideal life in the suburbs and the ugly reality it hides. He dons the browline glasses for this one.
This look may remind movie-goers of a previous Damon role, as Edward Wilson in the 2006 dramatic thriller, “The Good Shepherd.” Based on the birth of the CIA, Damon plays a spy who is recruited to join the intelligence community while at Yale and would later become the director of the government agency. Sporting the browliners, Damon appears as a regular guy in the thick of confusing, difficult times as tensions with Germany, Russia and Cuba were high in the 1930s through the 1960s.
In their heyday, browliners were the most popular model of eyeglasses. Invented in 1947 by Jack Rohrbach, they were the top sellers in the 1950s. In history and pop culture, they were associated with football legend Vince Lombardi, civil rights icon Malcolm X and actor James Dean. One of the most cinematic turns for browliners comes from Michael Douglas as the anger-filled, laid-off worker who is having a really bad day in 1993’s “Falling Down.” With a crew cut, white button-down shirt and a briefcase, Douglas’ William Foster is a dangerous, four-eyed man. Damon has yet to make a memoable impression in browliners, but they seem to make him look more ordinary.
Another glasses-wearing role for Damon is of real-life mole Mark Whitacre in the 2009 comedy “The Informant!” Directed by another Damon collaborator Steven Soderbergh, Damon’s Whitacre informs the FBI of his higher-ups’ price-fixing schemes related to an animal feed additive. The wrongdoing involved many international companies, and Whitacre is tasked to record, note and detail anything that may be criminally related. Wacky and witty in execution with a 1970s feel, Damon’s performance as the highly unstable Whitacre, with a few bad bones of his own, is like watching the unpopular kid in town suddenly becoming a star. His glasses make him look like an idiot, an accessory commonly associated with nerdiness and intelligence. I remember seeing a large-scale advertisement during the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival featuring Damon’s goofy mug with horn-rimmed glasses surrounded in yellow and without knowing what the movie was about, I could tell that his character may not have all the marbles and is perhaps looking into a dark future with misguided optimism.
Damon is not the only superstar sporting glasses this fall season. Denzel Washington dons dark-rimmed, oversized spectacles in Dan Gilroy’s “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” Washington portrays the title character, a civil rights attorney whose lifelong work is at its end. Israel joins a larger law firm and his mission in life sways with the new environment he has taken. In the film’s first poster, instead of a front-facing Washington, who is one of the most handsome actors working today, viewers see a peek of his glasses and the back of his head full of dense coils. It’s a striking campaign and surprising move to only sell a movie by its star’s name alone.
Washington is not a stranger to glasses as he wore them in his Oscar-nominated role in 1992’s “Malcolm X.” To take on the weight of the historic figure, Washington donned browliners. Malcolm X was known to have several pairs of browliners, from wood-detailed to black-rimmed, and Washington mostly wore black frames in the role, from the line formation scene in front of police, his riveting speeches to his followers to his life-changing hajj to Mecca.
Washington also wears eyeglasses in the 2009 remake of “The Taking of Pelham 123,” directed by Tony Scott. Washington plays regular-guy Walter Garber, a New York subway dispatcher whose day is ruined as a hijacker (John Travolta) takes over a train. Garber faces character challenges along the way as he is placed in the unlikely role of being a hero.
“Suburbicon” will hit theaters Oct. 27, and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” will land Nov. 3.
Trailer Talk” rounds up recently released trailers for upcoming and anticipated movies.
“Fifty Shades Freed”
The new trailer for “Fifty Shades Freed,” the third film based on EL James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” erotic romance novels, teases marriage, sex and danger.
The teaser offers a peek at the glamorous wedding of tormented billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and adventurous book editor Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), as well as the kinky sex games they like to play. But the trailer takes a dark turn when Anastasia’s creepy former boss (Eric Johnson) reappears.
The teaser also reveals that a full trailer will drop in November. More trailers are using this promotional tactic (the teaser trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming horror film “mother!” that dropped in July announced the full trailer would arrive in August).
“Fifty Shades Freed” ties up theaters Feb. 9, 2018, right in time for Valentine’s Day.
“Daddy’s Home 2”
The sequel to the 2015 hit comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as “co-dads” looks like it could be funnier than the original.
The second trailer features Mel Gibson, the father of too-cool rebel Dusty, all too happy to pit his son against straight-laced Brad (Ferrell). Brad’s father (John Lithgow) joins in the holiday antics.
WWE wrestler John Cena also returns following a memorable cameo in the first film.
“Daddy’s Home 2” fathers laughs Nov. 10 in theaters.
“The Man Who Invented Christmas”
After having a banner year in movies and TV (“Beauty and the Beast” and “Legion”), Dan Stevens is playing beloved author Charles Dickens.
The imaginative drama mixes reality and fantasy to show how Dickens created the memorable characters of his classic tale, “A Christmas Carol.” Screen legend Christopher Plummer plays Ebenezer Scrooge.
“The Man Who Invented Christmas” ushers in the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future Nov. 22 in theaters.
“The Current War”
This biographic film stars some of Hollywood’s biggest names as competing inventors racing against one another to provide the world’s dominant electricity system.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Thomas Edison, Michael Shannon plays George Westinghouse, and Nicholas Hoult plays Nikola Tesla. The thrilling trailer focuses on the ambitions of the genius inventors going down to the wire.
Katherine Waterston and Tom Holland also star.
“The Current War” will electrify theaters Jan. 19, 2018.
On the heels of the massive debut of Stephen King’s “It” in theaters, another of the horror master’s novels is getting the film treatment. Netflix is hoping “Gerald’s Game” will ride the wave of the success of “It.”
A couple (Bruce Greenwood and Carla Gugino) head to a remote cabin to try and spice up their love life. But unlike “Fifty Shades of Grey,” things go horribly wrong when Greenwood dies, leaving Gugino tied up to a bed frame. Gugino must rely on her wits – and the voices in her head – to stay alive.
“Gerald’s Game” slaps on the handcuffs Sept. 29 on Netflix.
This summer season went out with a whimper with the final weekend box office total being the worst in 17 years, according to Box Office Mojo, and Entertainment Weekly reported that it was the worst overall summer haul since 2006. How could this be? In a season packed with Marvel and DC Comics offerings, larger-than-life Transformers, scary aliens and more Minions than there are bananas in the world, audiences weren’t feeling what the studios were offering them.
Maybe the pull of air conditioning and buttery popcorn was not enough to attract moviegoers to visit the cinema. Chances are, you may have seen only one blockbuster this summer and spent the rest of the season binge watching prestige TV or visiting Redbox. If so, you’re not alone. Movies weren’t generating social media buzz in quite the way “Game of Thrones,” “Insecure” or “Twin Peaks: The Return” have. If you feel like you missed anything worth watching this summer, here’s where to catch up.
What we watched: “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming”
What we missed: “Wind River”
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a train engine that doesn’t stop. Just about every character (unless it’s Black Widow) has his own outing and each summer, we’ve come to expect at least two offerings to hold us over until the fall release, followed by the winter/spring title. 2017 marked the third revival of Spider-Man, this time starring Tom Holland as the Queens, New York, teen who’s busy doing homework and fighting crime. With his debut in “Captain America: Civil War,” the stakes were high for this one, and with almost two months in the theaters, it has collected more than $325 million in the U.S. “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” also fared well, earning $389 million for the latest trip with Star Lord, Gamora, Baby Groot and the gang.
But what wasn’t in that range of bank was “Wind River.” The indie thriller stars Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner, known for their MCU roles as the Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye, as investigators in a murder/rape case on the Wind River Indian reservation in Wyoming. Red-hot screenwriter Taylor Sheridan directs the drama, which debuted in January at the Sundance Film Festival. Despite glowing reviews and being Certified Fresh by Rotten Tomatoes, “Wind River” has so far earned $20.3 million in four weeks.
What we talked about: Patty Jenkins and Sofia Coppola
What we didn’t talk about: Other female directors
Jenkins accomplished something that was a long time coming: be the first woman to direct a superhero movie and breaking the box-office record for a woman-directed live-action movie, collecting $409 million. Her work is not to be messed with. Coppola was at the center of controversy as her Civil War-set film “The Beguiled” excluded slavery from the narrative. Her answers to the omission seemed self-protective, and several think-pieces were crafted in response to her filmography’s lack of diversity. Nevertheless, she earned the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival, only the second woman to do so.
Lost in the discussions were other achievements and offerings by female directors this summer. This includes “Everything, Everything” director Stella Meghie, who is one of the few black female directors to helm a studio film. The adaptation of the popular teen novel pulled in $34 million. Other directors who made waves this summer included Sofia’s mother Eleanor Coppola with the comedy “Paris Can Wait” and Lucia Aniello, who debuted with the raunchy comedy ensemble “Rough Night” with Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz and Ilana Glazer.
What we avoided: “The Mummy” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”
What we also avoided: “Logan Lucky”
When will Hollywood stop making repeats, remakes, revivals and reekers? Has it learned from television that offering new stories is the way to go? TV stopped showing reruns in the summer and created a new season with good shows and limited series like “Big Little Lies” and “American Gods.” Maybe that would explain why there’s the reincarnation of the cursed being wrapped in bandages and another chance for Johnny Depp to collect Disney money. “The Mummy,” set to start Universal’s Dark Universe series, gained only $80 million domestically, but earned four times that in the global market. Tom Cruise is still an international draw, so it wasn’t a complete flop. The fifth “Pirates” installment also benefited from international audiences, earning $172 million domestically, and more than three times in other territories.
What wasn’t expected was the audience drop for a Steven Soderbergh caper. With the beloved director returning to film after a brief retirement and to the crime genre where he has had most of his success with the “Ocean’s” series, no one went to see “Logan Lucky.” With Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and a southern-fried Daniel Craig, critics gave it high praise, but it has only earned $22 million in three weeks.
What we wrote about: “Atomic Blonde”
What we ignored: “Girls Trip”
Overly saturated with its kinetic, neon trailer for months, Charlize Theron looked like she was offering moviegoers a fun, action-packed time with “Atomic Blonde.” There were previews after previews for nearly every movie that screened in the spring and early summer. It was to the point that the punches, kicks and killings Theron delivered as a British secret agent became old hat even before seeing the whole movie. Take a look on Google, and you will find more than 210,000 news articles about it, ranging from how good of an action movie it will be to how bad it is from a feminist standpoint. Yet, for so much fuss, it has earned $50.6 million in six weeks. The search for the female James Bond continues.
The laugh-out-loud comedy “Girls Trip,” with Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith, is a different story. In seven weeks, it has earned $112 million, despite opening in 800 fewer theaters than most of its competitors, including “Atomic Blonde.” It is on pace to surpass last year’s R-rated, female-led comedy “Bad Moms” in the domestic box office, and a sequel is in the works. Tiffany Haddish makes a star-turning performance as the outrageous Dina who manages to outdo veterans Latifah and Pinkett Smith.
Yet, Film Twitter was all but silent on this achievement. There are only 180,000 articles on Google, and only 2,700 Letterboxd users have logged in the film (compared to 5,000 users who logged “Good Time,” the Robert Pattinson crime thriller that has screened in 750 theaters in its widest release). Most of the talk has been what a surprise “this” film has been in its success, but there’s little about Haddish raised to the platform like Melissa McCarthy’s ascent from “Bridesmaids.” However, moviegoers have made “Girls Trip” an event of their own, with some theaters offering a VIP package with an open bar and luxury seating.