Blade Runner 2049 Is A True Sequel To Blade Runner, For Better Or Worse…

I was skeptical when it was announced that Alcon Entertainment, Warner Brothers and Sony were teaming up to make a new Blade Runner movie.  It seems like movies that are remade or get sequels decades after the original miss the mark more often than not, but Blade Runner 2049 stays true to the source material and delivers a sequel that feels much like the first movie from 1982.  Of course the flip side of that is if you found the first movie to be long, dark, pretentious and have issues with the male gaze, the same will be true of Blade Runner 2049, but if you love the first one like I do (or at least learned to love it later in life), you will probably love Blade Runner 2049.

I am not going to give away a lot of the plot, since for once the trailers don’t give too much away, but it is safe to say that K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner like Deckard (Harrison Ford) was in the original.  A Blade Runner is a police officer that hunts down and ‘retires’ rogue Replicants (genetically engineered/created slaves).  He also gets tasked with a case that takes him in way over his head.

Also like the original Blade Runner, in the grand scheme of things the plot is a pretty small story in the movie’s world.  Nothing really changes due to the events in this film.  I think 2049 may have a happier/more hopeful ending than Blade Runner, but not by much.  This is a still a future that is terrible, and no one is happy.  Especially not the Replicants who are treated like disposable garbage and are yet still resented for existing.

The performances are all muted in Blade Runner 2049.  It is like everyone is on valium.  This of course is by design.  We are not supposed to know if this is because they are Replicants or because they live in the worst future possible.  My guess is a bit of both.  Though that does add extra power to the scenes where characters do emote.  There is a reason the people in this film are breaking down.

Denis Villeneuve did a good job creating another great futuristic Film Noir Blade Runner movie.  You will either love it or hate, but I doubt you will forget it (though its long shots may put you to sleep).  In the end how you feel about Blade Runner 2049 will probably depend on how you feel about the original Blade Runner, since 2049 very much sticks to the formula that made the first one so good, or bad (though I am going with good).

LEGO Ninjago Was Just A Few Bricks Short…

When Warner Brothers and LEGO went looking for a third property to turn in to a feature film I am sure Ninjago made a lot of sense.  The sets are already very popular with kids (especially boys), and the TV show on Cartoon Network is still going strong after seven seasons.  The problem is that LEGO Ninjago still feels like something made for TV, and it doesn’t do a lot of the things that made the previous LEGO movies so good.

The main character Lloyd (Dave Franco) is the leader of the elite Secret Ninja Mech squad that fights off the evil Lord Garmadon’s (Justin Theroux) attacks.  However, Lloyd is also Lord Garmadon’s son, but since his identity is secret everyone hates him at school for being Garmadon’s son instead of being loved for saving the day … pretty much every day.

Teenage superhero kid with a rough home life is a pretty common theme, but it is played for some decent laughs in LEGO Ninjago.  Unfortunately the laughs don’t come often enough, and worse I am not sure the makers of this movie saw the other two movies.  Two of the fun selling points from The LEGO Movie and LEGO Batman are missing.  The integration of other sets, and the Master Builder mythos.  LEGO Ninjago is completely its own thing.  There is never a Batman, Voldemort or Eye of Sauron in sight, and the characters barely ever build anything.  This is 100% a Ninjago movie, except it changes a lot of things from the TV show, so that way hardcore fans of the series are confused too.

On the plus side the movie still looks great, and LEGO movies are still probably your best bet for a kid friendly action flicks.  The graphical engine they use to make these films continues to pump out on screen wonders.  Sadly, they just make me wish they were using them on another LEGO Movie or another LEGO Batman, or if they were going to do Ninjago, why not integrate it in to the existing world.

I have been kind of hard on LEGO Ninjago, but it was actually a fine movie.  It is just that fine after two home runs (well maybe a home run and a triple) is a little disappointing.  Though if my daughter is anything to go by, your kids will love it, and you will not hate your time watching it, so it is an okay family movie night choice, but the other two LEGO movies are better ones.

Shmee Visits Skull Island And Sees Kong!

It seems like every decade or so someone gets the bright idea to make another King Kong movie, but this time they decided that it would make sense to put Kong in the same universe as Godzilla.  While the King of the Apes doesn’t go head to head with the King of the Monsters in Kong: Skull Island it definitely plants the seeds for that epic mashup which happens May 2020 after the next Godzilla movie next year.  With all that crossover business behind us, the question becomes is Kong: Skull Island good by itself? Yup, it is a fine popcorn movie, but I doubt it will become your favorite movie.

Kong: Skull Island begins at the end of the Vietnam War when John Goodman convinces a Senator to let him take a helicopter squadron and a bunch of scientists to an uncharted island.  He hopes there will be monsters there.  Guess what? He is right, and they find Kong who isn’t happy to see them.

The story is fine, but it is pretty much an excuse to have a cool scene with a lot of helicopters fighting King Kong while blaring awesome 70’s music.  Which is something I can get behind!  It is a pretty epic fight, and then after that a bunch of monsters slowly reduce the survivors to a fraction of their original number.  I know it sounds like I am giving away spoilers, but this is what Legendary and Warner Brothers promised us with their marketing, and they delivered.

There are a ton of people in this movie, but for the most part just the pretty ones, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, and John C. Reilly matter.  On top of that only John C. Reilly seems to know he is in a cheesy monster movie.  Everyone else must have been told they were making the Kong version Apocalypse Now.  Reilly makes this flick better every time he is on the screen.  Other people mostly provide excitement when they get eaten or smashed.

Even if you haven’t seen the new Godzilla or care about yet other shared universe, Kong: Skull Island is a decent movie on its own.  If you do care about those things, it is fun to see all the Easter Eggs for future films littered around.  Kong: Skull Island should be hitting streaming services soon, and there are worse films to spend a couple of hours with.  I enjoyed myself.  Just make sure to forward your way through the credits for one final King Kong vs Godzilla teaser.

Life With Hulu With Live TV!

Since Comcast has continued to raise rates and give me nothing extra for my money, the wife and I have decided to give Hulu with Live TV a try, and it has been working pretty well, with some caveats.

First off what the service gets right.  You get a good selection live channels as well as Hulu’s already excellent selection of on demand shows.  You also get a feature called ‘Cloud DVR’ which allows you to record shows, but obviously as its name suggests it stores them on the internet.  Then the big seller for us, Hulu with Live TV has most of the local Seattle stations included as well.  Most of the other streaming cable services do not.  We have to be able to watch those Seahawks!  Then you get to take this all with you.  Visiting a friends house for the weekend and your show is on, but they don’t have cable TV?  Just take your Roku Stick with you, and you and your friends can watch it (provided your friend has internet), or you can find a corner and watch it on your phone.

All this is not without its flaws.  The new Hulu interface is not intuitive.  Little icons on the top row indicate were you are, and then massive pictures and bold print tell you the names of shows it wants you to watch, but it is hard to find something other than what they are promoting.  You get used to it, but there is a steep learning curve.  Also, it seems that right now the service is having a slight issue keeping up with demand.  While for the most part everything looks great, it isn’t uncommon for the picture to get a little blurry while the stream catches up.  This doesn’t appear to be due to my internet, since Netflix and Amazon don’t also have this issue.  Lastly, and maybe most importantly for a lot of people, Hulu with Live TV isn’t that much cheaper than cable.  Though you do save some extra green because there are no random fees or cable boxes.

If you are like me, and you just got sick of all the standard cable options and want to give something else a try, Hulu with Live TV is a good choice.  They need to work on their interface, and maybe add a few more live channels to the mix to justify their price, but I gain the flexibility of taking my TV anywhere I want, and more importantly, on whatever internet provider I want.  With the added bonus of sticking it to Comcast.  So far it has been worth it.  Who knows, I may go back to Comcast, but at least then I will be a ‘new’ subscriber again and get all the good rates.