Episode 093: 2001: A Space Odyssey

This week we continue Kubrick Month by looking at the director’s science fiction masterpiece. Is 2001: A Space Odyssey just an artistic marvel or is it also a genuinely entertaining story? We discuss the possibilities while talking plenty about HAL-9000 and Kubrick’s deliberately ambiguous ending. Join us for this conversation and let us know what you think about the film, theories and all.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:16

(Aaron – Warrior, Phantom Thread)
(Patrick – 24-Hour Comic)

2001: A Space Odyssey Review – 0:14:28

The Connecting Point – 0:59:42

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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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Episode 081: The Thing

On this week’s episode we cover our first of three scary movies for this October. Patrick called out sick but the show must go on and the People’s Critic, Tim Hall, fills in admirably to talk about one of his favorite movies of all-time. The Thing is well known for its incredible special effects, but there is much more to explore in this paranoia-filled sci-fi horror.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:59

(Aaron – Only the Brave)
(Tim – The Snowman, Happy Death Day)

The Thing Review – 0:13:37

The Connecting Point – 0:57:02

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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Episode 079: Blade Runner 2049

For the second week in a row we’ve got replicant fever and are trying to answer that nagging question, “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” Blade Runner 2049 inspires us to honor its epic length with some extended conversation of our own. There is plenty to discuss in the incredible new film from Denis Villeneuve so join us for an in-depth journey as we explore the film’s emotional and philosophical impact on us.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:02:14

(Aaron – My Little Pony: The Movie)
(Patrick – Clue)

Blade Runner 2049 Review – 0:19:05

The Connecting Point – 1:34:45

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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MOVIE REVIEW: Blade Runner 2049

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)



GOING IN

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner holds a special place in my heart. Over countless viewings the film has continued to evoke emotional and intellectual responses from me, often times new and unexpected. It is the film that ushered in my love of a good artificial intelligence story, a sub-genre that today I consider my favorite. The ideas it brings forth and leads us to consider are hefty ones. It is brilliant in most every way and is firmly placed in my Top 5 favorite films of all-time. And now we have a sequel…

To be honest, I wasn’t excited when this film was announced. Part of what makes Blade Runner so fascinating is the ambiguity. Will a sequel ruin all of that, and could it even lower my enjoyment of the original? These are very real fears for me. Over time, though, I’ve grown more excited about this project. Director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins have the vision and style to make them a perfect artistic fit.  The casting of Ryan Gosling and Jared Leto entice me, as does the return of Harrison Ford. This film couldn’t be in better hands. But the skeptic in me remains, and Blade Runner 2049 meeting my expectations may prove a difficult task.



COMING OUT

For once, Hollywood got it right. The studios worked very hard to encourage no spoilers be released from early Blade Runner 2049 screenings and that decision will result in a much better experience for filmgoers. The story being told is intriguing and provocative, a believable next step in the evolution of replicants that continues the original film’s exploration of what it means to be alive. As it should be expected, the question of who is and isn’t human lingers and gives rise to doubt. The concept of love and what role it plays in having a soul is also examined. A particular relationship between characters, one of whom is a holographic A.I., was among my favorite parts of the film and provided an emotional center that resonated with me.

That same A.I. is one of several new technological advancements that the world has seen in its 30 years since the original Blade Runner took place. Police Department cruisers are considerably cooler and now have enhancements like a detachable drone and weaponry. Synthetic farming is briefly shown and looks fascinating. Other new tech includes things like a portable replicant scanner and what serves as an upgraded Voight-Kampff machine that helps humans keep replicants operating between the lines.

When it comes to visuals, Roger Deakins’ cinematography is incredible. This is not the hard-boiled Blade Runner of the past that was filmed almost entirely in darkness. Everything here is shiny and futuristic. It is a gorgeous film to behold and I’ll be extremely surprised if Deakins isn’t raising a golden Oscar statue at the 2018 Academy Awards. It’s clear that he and Villeueve have a passion for the material and their artistic genius is without question.

But…

Thought-provoking as it may be, I had an incredibly hard time connecting emotionally with the primary plot. The themes were not deepened in a way that moved me and the entire world felt very cold. Numerous recreations of moments from the original film seemed cheap and were distracting. This is a long film and it feels long. Many will likely be bored, and though I wouldn’t count myself among them, I definitely felt many scenes could have been shorter without losing any of their impact. When I saw Blade Runner 2049‘s running time I expected much more in-depth world-building than actually exists.

VERDICT

Admittedly, I had high expectations for Blade Runner 2049 and in some ways those were met. This is a visually stunning film and for a while it was nice exploring new, but familiar, themes in this universe. Harrison Ford’s return was wonderful and most of the performances were perfectly fine. But what I didn’t find Blade Runner 2049 to be is particularly inspired. Villeneuve shockingly plays it safe and doesn’t expand on the world in any meaningful ways. Sure, there may be some meaning for a few characters, but larger implications are left completely unexplored and some plot lines just dropped as suddenly as if the film had run out of reel and nothing could be added. While I find the original Blade Runner to be infinitely re-watchable, as of this writing I don’t see myself desiring to revisit the long slog of Blade Runner 2049 again. When graded against science fiction films in general, Blade Runner 2049 is an above average entry. But this feels now more than ever like a sequel that we didn’t need, and when graded against its compelling and great source material, it sadly falls very short.

Rating:


UPDATE

Having now seen the film a second time, I feel it is important to update this review. Upon repeat viewing, divorced from expectations of what I thought the sequel should be, I was able to enjoy the film completely for what it actually is. Instead of finding the film cold and emotionless, I experienced quite a few moments of deep connection to different characters. The unique thing about Blade Runner 2049 is that it will not draw your attention to these moments through the use of manipulative music or exposition. You have to be paying attention, and if you are, the payoff is a powerful and moving one. I also had far less problems with the thematic content of the film. The new direction that Villeneuve has chosen to take this series is a logical step forward and though questions are once again left unanswered, they made me crave and yearn for more details, not less. Yes, the runtime is exceptionally long and it’s understandable that some viewers were yawning in my theater, but I was entranced and could have easily lived inside this world for another hour plus.

Sometimes expectations can thoroughly derail a filmgoing experience and I believe that is what happened to me. Discussing both that topic and the many emotional/philosophical story beats of Blade Runner 2049 on our podcast helped me to realize just how much I appreciate and adore this film. I love it. I cannot wait to see it again, and again, and again. I want more from Villeneuve. I want resolutions and new characters and new mysteries. Blade Runner 2049 is an exceptional work of art and deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

New Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 078: Blade Runner

Few movies have had as profound an impact on our thoughts of what it means to be human as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. We welcome first time guest James Harleman, Blade Runner superfan, to the podcast and spend some time unpacking the film’s numerous themes and questions about identity.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:31

(Aaron – Battle of the Sexes)
(James – Jeepers Creepers 3)

Blade Runner Review – 0:18:00

The Connecting Point – 01:11:36

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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MOVIE REVIEW: Infinity Chamber

Infinity Chamber (2017)


Going In

A man trapped in an automated prison must outsmart a computer in order to escape and try and find his way back to the outside world that may already be wiped out.

Rarely does a cerebral science fiction film  slip beneath my radar. I have a deep love of contemplating the complexities of life, human emotion, and decision making while exploring realistic future  technologies. So when I learned of Infinity Chamber’s existence AFTER its release straight to VOD, I was a bit surprised. Granted, this is not a big studio picture with A-list actors. Formerly titled Somnio during a failed Kickstarter campaign, it is written and directed by Travis Milloy, who previously penned 2009’s space horror Pandorum (which I quite enjoy). Knowing that, and coupled with the incredibly intriguing synopsis above, I couldn’t miss seeing this one at the first opportunity.



COMING OUT

Imagine, if you will, that you wake up with a massive headache and a foggy memory. Before you is a talking eyeball who introduces himself as “Howard”, informs you that you are not being charged with a crime, but rather being “processed”, and says that his job is to keep you alive.

I don’t know about you, but that would definitely give me cause for concern, and Frank Learner is no different. This interaction sets forth in motion a very slow-burn, thought-provoking story. For those that have seen Duncan Jones’ fantastic film Moon, its inspiration is unmistakable. That’s not to say that Infinity Chamber can’t stand on its own. It can. But the feel is similar, so using that as a reference point may help in determining whether this is your kind of flick.

As the plot unfolds, Frank (Christopher Soren Kelly) tries to figure things out, all while working towards a solution for release… or escape. Kelly’s performance is very good and requires quite a bit of silent acting. Due to the film mostly taking place in a single location and clearly made on a very low budget, the heavy lifting falls on his ability to both physically and emotionally carry each scene. Other human actor performances are good, as well, but most of the movie is Frank interacting with “Howard,” and this is where the film doesn’t win me over quite as much.

In movies like Moon and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the artificial intelligence is as much a character (thoroughly developed) as the human actors, and I just didn’t get that feeling from “Howard.” Not that the voice work is particularly bad, it just wasn’t anything… special. I did not develop empathy or understanding in the way that I did for HAL or GERTY in the aforementioned films. Unfortunately, that was a detractor for me since the A.I. is one of the two main characters. My other complaints are mostly minor, with the other primary one being that some scenes became repetitive and added too much time to the film. The nature of the film almost demanded that we have these scenes, and it’s a fine line to balance, but the result was that the movie loses its thriller label midway through before picking it back up in the third act.

Verdict

Infinity Chamber is a smart, well-acted, and creative story that deals with themes of isolation and identity in interesting ways. Even “Howard” wrestles with what he is and can be, providing a fresh take on the evil A.I. trope. The film tackles questions about our relationship with technology that will give fans of this genre a lot to talk about with others who’ve seen it. As of this writing the film is available to rent on Amazon and iTunes and is definitely worth a watch.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 074: Jurassic Park

We kick off book-to-movie month with arguably the best summer blockbuster ever made. Jurassic Park is one of those special films that evokes such a sense of awe and wonder that it captures the imaginations of adults and children alike. We talk through some of the present themes and reminisce about our own experiences with this Steven Spielberg masterpiece.

What We’ve Been Up To 0:04:47

Jurassic Park Review – 0:20:32

The Connecting Point – 1:14:11

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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Episode 072: Waterworld

This week we’re joined by returning special guest Andrew Dyce of Screenrant.com to talk about mutants, mariners, drifters, smokers, and more. If you’re wondering how we came to be discussing a film as maligned as Waterworld it’s because Andrew wanted to… that’s how! So hop on this sailboat with us as we set out to sea and explore this unique sci-fi piece of film history.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:40

Waterworld Review – 0:20:07

The Connecting Point – 1:17:02

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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Episode 071: TRON: Legacy

We welcome back the boys from Retro Rewind Podcast this week to have a conversation about a movie that we all have great affection for. TRON: Legacy is undeniably one of the most visually incredible films ever made and has a score by Daft Punk that is universally loved. But is that all, or is there more to this unique story of AI and a humanized digital landscape? Join us as we talk about how this film made us feel and more.

TRON: Legacy Review – 0:02:43

The Connecting Point – 1:16:04

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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Minisode 25: Safety Not Guaranteed

July’s Donor Pick Episode is here and FF contributor Steve Clifton joins us to talk about a movie he loves. This quirky romantic time travel film offers us a chance to talk about how nostalgia affects our lives and much more. Our listeners picked a good one and we have a great conversation about it.

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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