I’m not convinced there needed to be a Blade Runner sequel, but if commercial concerns demanded one, this was probably as good as it was gonna get. You’ve got action, Harrison Ford, lots of references to the first movie but also new explorations of memory and authenticity, artificial intelligence and humanity.

New replicant-cop-who-is-himself-a-replicant Ryan Gosling, working for Robin Wright (also cool in Wonder Woman this year), kills Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) and finds Rachael’s bones. New boss of the new replicant organization is Jared Leto, who sends his enforcer Luv (Dutch Sylvia Hoeks) to steal information from the weak government. Mackenzie Davis (San Junipero) is a prostitute who follows Gosling and tries to seduce him, but unsuccessfully since his true love is a Her-like hologram named Joi (Ana de Armas of Knock Knock). Gosling dives deep within the conspiracy, finds Harrison Ford and leads him to his lost daughter, false-memory-creator Carla Juri. Also appearing: Barkhad Abdi, the security guard in Good Time. Everyone in this is great, except Leto, who acts like a magician. The music sucked, was all bwaaaamp sounds, and Geostorm was playing next door, so when my seat rumbled I could barely tell if it was my own movie or if a geostorm was hitting.


Blade Runner 2048: Nowhere to Run (Luke Scott)

A series of Blade Runner sequel/prequel shorts, introduced by Villeneuve. In this one, Dave Bautista goes to the city to sell some bottled snakes and give a girl a book, utterly destroys a street gang and accidentally attracts police attention.


Blade Runner 2036: Nexus Dawn (Luke Scott)

Magician Jared Leto faces off against government agent Benedict Wong (Black Mirror: Hated in the Nation) in a dimly-lit, delapidated office, displays the suicidal obediance of his new replicants in order to get the laws changed. Luke “son of Ridley” Scott also made the Prometheus shorts, the Alien: Covenant shorts and an episode of The Hunger TV series, and I’m sensing a pattern.


Blade Runner 2022: Black Out (Shinichiro Watanabe)

Anime short from the director of Cowboy Bebop, the one I was looking forward to, and therefore the most disappointing. Prequel shorts that fill in story gaps between major stories are fully unnecessary, and this one’s got some style (and briefly Edward James Olmos) but not enough to redeem the bad dialogue. Kung-fu replicants whup the asses of a Star Wars-helmeted security team, conspiring to cause the blackout mentioned in the sequel film. Lead girl Luci Christian has voiced a million movies and shows, including the Fullmetal Alchemist series.

Cool impressionist war sequence:

“It’s not an easy thing to meet your maker.”

I remembered noir detective Harrison Ford tracking rogue artificial humans Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah through a future city, but did not remember the replicants convincing childlike inventor/toymaker William Sanderson to bring them to their maker Terrell (Joe Turkel wearing stop-sign glasses). First time watching the “final cut” edition on blu-ray, and it was glorious.

I was pleasantly surprised by this – not the hyper-masculine grimy 1970’s picture I’d imagined (since it gets lumped in with Deer Hunter and Godfather and Saturday Night Fever and Deliverance in the “New Hollywood” category), but the Dazed and Confused of its time, an early-1960’s-set ensemble drama following a group of boys (and grudgingly some girls, but they don’t get prominence in the storylines or credits) between high school and college.

Wikipedia says all the guys are based on Lucas, in personality fragments, so people who knew him well must’ve seen this as a sort of George Lucas Multiplicity. Cowriters Huyck and Katz made Messiah of Evil around the same time, later worked with Lucas on Temple of Doom and Radioland Murders. Lucas was a producer on the mid-60’s-set sequel with the same cast minus Dreyfuss.

Curt = Richard Dreyfuss just two years before Jaws but looking ten years younger (based on my admittedly fuzzy memory of Jaws and the admittedly fuzzy picture of this movie on the Railyard screen). He’s got a scholarship but is thinking he’ll skip college. After a wild night getting roped into a local gang and trying to track down his dream girl, he changes his mind and heads off to school.

John = tough-guy racer Paul Le Mat (Melvin and Howard, Handle With Care, Puppet Master), who gets stuck with a young girl (Carol: TV’s Mackenzie Phillips) in his car, and is being hunted by street-race enthusiast Harrison Ford.

Steve = college-bound Ron Howard, who spends all night breaking up with his girlfriend Laurie (Cindy Williams of Laverne & Shirley), then reconsiders both college and the breakup.

Terry = nerdy Charles Smith (De Palma’s Untouchables, director of Air Bud), who somehow picks up an out-of-his-league blonde named Debbie (Candy Clark of Q: The Winged Serpent, The Blob) and keeps trying to impress her.

IMDB trivia: Harrison Ford is driving the Two-Lane Blacktop car!

Can’t tell if this was named after the acclaimed Sufjan Stevens album because I never listened to that. Good movie, as far as time-travel romances go, easily beating About Time and Safety Not Guaranteed.

Adz (Blake Lively, Renner’s police-informant sister in The Town) loses her husband to an accident, then loses her ability to age to another accident. This is seen mostly as a burden, since she doesn’t want to get close to guys anymore, and keeps having to change her identity so the FBI won’t kidnap and dissect her. One day decades later, her daughter has grown into Ellen Burstyn, and Adz meets a hot, very rich, and extremely persistent Michael Huisman (Treme, Black Book), who turns out to be the son of Harrison Ford (turning in his first decent performance since Air Force One), an ex-boyfriend who recognizes her and wants answers. This is where Katy gets creeped out, not Huisman dating a hundred-year-old, but dating someone his dad once wanted to marry. Anyway, she gets into another accident, starts aging normally again, ends up happy with Huisman.

Camille: “Can I come during the day, from 5 to 7?”
Marcello: “The magic hour for lovers.”

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Simon Cinema (Michel Piccoli) isn’t doing too well, confined to his mansion-museum with his butler (Truffaut/Duras vet Henri Garcin) and best friend Marcello Mastroianni (as himself, sort of). Film student Camille (Julie Gayet, the girl with the giant gag vase in My Best Friend) is hired to talk with Simon about movies for 101 nights, and her boyfriend (Mathieu Demy) takes advantage of her position to cast the legendary Mr. Cinema in his student film.

Michel and Marcello:
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Garcin and Gayet:
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But the plot is just an excuse for some fun. Every star of French cinema shows up, major films are mentioned (nothing is discussed in any depth – no time). Anouk “Lola” Aimée, Catherine Deneuve and Robert De Niro take a boat ride. Sandrine Bonnaire appears as both her Vagabond self and Joan of Arc. Piccoli drops the Simon shtick and the white wig for a minute and compares cinematic death scenes with Gérard Depardieu (“that old devil Demy!”) before a poster of their co-starring Seven Deaths film…

Gerard and Michel:
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Sandrine d’Arc:
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Hanna Schygulla (Fassbinder films, Passion) and Jeanne Moreau (Jules and Jim, The Lovers) play Simon’s ex-wives. There are seven dwarfs. There’s a conspiciously Bonheur-looking sunflower shot. Alain Delon arrives by helicopter (reminiscent, though it maybe shouldn’t be, of the out-of-place helicopter in Donkey Skin).

Gayet with Alain Delon:
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Jeanne and Hanna:
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It’s all very light and playful. I’m sure I missed a thousand references, but it keeps many of them obvious enough to remain accessible (if you didn’t catch the meaning when a bicycle is stolen outside the mansion, someone cries “italian neorealism strikes again!”).

Mathieu Demy meets Fanny Ardant:
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The credits list how many seconds and frames were used from each featured film – impressive – and also all the stolen music cues.

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tour bus guy: “Glad to see you on form.”
Simon: “Form of what?”
“Why, you seem content.”
“Form and content, a debate even older than I am.”

At Cannes:
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NY Times: “While covering so many bases, Ms. Varda never makes more than a glancing allusion to anything, and at times the film is such an overloaded grab bag that it grows exasperating. Or even baffling; for unknown reasons, Stephen Dorff turns up in a pantheon of great Hollywood stars.”

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LA Times: “Michel Piccoli plays Monsieur Cinema, who embodies the history and spirit of film, and in particular, that Fabulous Invalid, the French motion picture industry itself. (Since Varda is such a playful director, Piccoli is sometimes simply himself.) Monsieur Cinema may have been inspired by the director of the landmark Napoleon, the late Abel Gance, whom Piccoli resembles when he puts on a long silver-white wig.”

Lumiere brothers:
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Doctor Belmondo and Jack Nance:
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There have been many films about aliens made by Steven Spielberg (E.T., Close Encounters, Men in Black, War of the Worlds) and George Lucas (Howard The Duck, Captain EO, The Ewok Adventure) but never have they made a film about aliens TOGETHER… until now. Of course the trailer misleadingly doesn’t tell us it’s about aliens, and it isn’t really, until it goes all M. Night on us towards the end, thanks to a story by Jeff Nathanson (Speed 2: Cruise Control) and screenplay by David Koepp (Death Becomes Her, Zathura).

Solid cinematography by Spielberg’s usual guy Janusz Kaminski (who also shot Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Cool As Ice). Editing by Michael Kahn, Spielberg’s main man for the last thirty years. These two along with S.S. give the movie its only interesting quality, the occasional feeling that this is good ol’ classic filmmaking, not a 2008 Hollywood blockbuster but something produced back when complicated shots couldn’t be corrected digitally in post, and when scenes were edited for clarity and not for “energy”. Of course, the scene of Shia The Beouf swinging on jungle vines with commie-hatin’ digital monkeys spoils that, but it’s a nice feeling while it lasts.

The story is a bunch of silliness… Indiana is kidnapped by commies and forced to lead ’em to the titular skull, which is an actual alien skull, one of thirteen from the peruvian lost city of gold. Skull is returned, lost city turns into a spaceship and flies off. Oh and Shia The Beouf is Indy’s son, which I saw coming as far back as the trailer.

Better than following the story is to follow the touchstones… the pointed references to history and past Indy movies. I haven’t seen a movie more desperate to establish its setting (1950’s America! 1950’s America!) since the Spielberg-produced Back to the Future. From little things like college-town diner gang rumbles between The Wild One-attired Beouf and some preppie kids, and comments on how large and thick refrigerators used to be (also done in BTTF 3) to big boys like nuclear bomb testing and anti-communist blacklists. Then we’ve got the presence (and child and climactic marriage) of Marion from Raiders and loving tributes to dead former collaborators Dr. Brody (Denholm Elliott, actually dead) and Henry Jones Sr. (Sean Connery, alive but retired), that theme music, Wilhelm screams, references to Indy hating snakes, nazi-like villains (hot chick-in-uniform Cate Blanchett) getting their faces melted Raiders-style by supernaturally powerful artifacts, the actual Ark of the Covenant in a comic cameo, and so much more. This, not the story, is the true reason the movie was made… to make us remember how much we loved Raiders in an attempt to make us love this one by association. Too much association!

H. Ford lacks some of his former charm and either his speech is slowing or he’s overplaying the old-man angle. The Beouf, a decent leading man, is really going places after this and Transformers. Nice to see Cate B., Ray Winstone from Sexy Beast, and Karen Allen who was apparently in In The Bedroom. Ringers Jim Broadbent and John Hurt (best of the bunch) round out a cast overqualified for an action flick, but not for a Spielberg action flick.