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Movie Review: ‘Blade Runner 2049’ Is an Immersive, Challenging Sci-fi Masterpiece

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Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here was a strange sensation as I exited the theater. It was that rare feeling when you don’t feel as though you’ve left the theater, but left a world. Blade Runner 2049 is not just a return to the familiar and atmospheric world of a dark and gritty future, but a deeper dive into another world within another world.

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

And we’re back!

As with all Denis Villeneuve directed films, this is a sci-fi world of ideas and philosophies as towering as the skyscrapers within the futuristic Los Angeles. He doesn’t waste our time and he doesn’t hold our hand. Villeneuve is a strong enough director to stand back and let Blade Runner’s style and philosophy wash over us.

There’s a challenge with this review. Before the screening began, we were presented with a statement from director Denis Villeneuve to not spoil much of the movie. After the film, we were given specifics on what we were not allowed to spoil, including the very premise of the characters. The long list inspired some laughter out of the press for the spoiler laundry list and how restricting it was. But I respect Villeneuve as a director and will comply with his wishes to keep this review free of the major reveals.

So what can I talk about if I can’t describe much of the plot? Plenty.

The world of Blade Runner appears larger and more developed than before without drastically redefining the wheel. There are now holograms, including giant depictions of prostitute holograms that stroll around buildings and single out potential customers for companionship. Holograms have advanced to the point of being artificial intelligence that can be used as living companions. Ethical questions are raised with such a concept, but there can’t be too much ethics left if brothels can advertise active sex from store windows of frosted glass.

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

How much is too much?

The building interiors cover a wide range of styles, from the grimy look of urban apartments to the tranquil beauty of designer industrial offices. One of my favorite sets from the original was Tyrell’s meeting room of light reflecting off of water against the evening sun. That same aesthetic is present again, but in much different styles this time that make the film more inspired than repetitive. Other amazing and original locations include a junkyard region with child labor and a radiated city where statues of vice stand tall, broken and dusty.

Related: Movie Review: ‘Battle of the Sexes’ Is a Mixed Victory

Replicants are still present in 2049, this time developed by the evil industrialist Wallace (Jared Leto). He has taken over where Doctor Elden Tyrell left off, still breeding the synthetic beings to be perfect creations to serve man. As seen in the promotional short film, Wallace has promised he’ll do the Replicants right this time, ensuring there will be no problems with rogue thoughts and better believability. He’s made great strides for his Replicant producing company that seems to occupy even larger towers than Tyrell’s, but still isn’t satisfied until he’s made those last few stepping stones to godhood.

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Jared Leto in ‘Blade Runner 2049.’

Not much can be said about Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford or the rest of the cast without revealing some major spoilers, some of which occur within the first few minutes of the film. What can be said is that Gosling does a stellar job playing the detective that slowly pulls back the clues and finds himself bitterly frustrated when confronted with what he finds. Ford brings his usual grit to the table as an aged man good with his fists, still capable of as much bite as his bark. He reprises the role of Deckard as a man more intelligent and uneasy and rendered vulnerable by the past.

Read more for the rest of the Blade Runner 2049 movie review:

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.

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