Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner

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“Blade Runner 2049” is out and it might be even better than the old one…

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Ok, so first of all I’d like to say that I very much like the 1982 first “Blade Runner” by Ridley Scott. But I don’t think it’s flawless. Actually it was a very good attempt at mixing film noir and sci-fi, maybe the best example to date. But it had actual blank spots in some characters and plot wise it was nearly, but not completely perfect.

Having said this, I am really happy that a script like Blade Runner’s got a sequel and I must say – a rather good sequel. In fact I am very happy that again Denis Villeneuve has proven himself an able director and a true visionary with an own voice and soul, beautifully presented on the silver screen.

To be able to give you an idea of what a movie you should expect to see, when you go to “Blade Runner 2049”, I will tell you that maybe you must not think of the original as the thought provoking film many people think it is. At least not in the way I see it. To me this title is really a mixture of a perfect example of genre movie. A detective story, a sci-fi story, a humanistic story, an internal cosmos story.

Blade Runner was never about logical and consequential plot and it never feeds its themes to the viewers directly. But it is subtle. Subtle in its character development, it its relationships intricate details, in the way the story asks questions, but does not provide always answers. Story wise this new movie is minimalistic, and though it has its small problems in some side scenes and decisions seen in them, the film is a lesson in presentation and evolution of characters. I am personally touched by the way Villeneuve shows us the relationship between Joe and Joi. It is realistically unnatural how we humans can accept AI and its manifestations. And the human brain works on so many levels that it seems even we cannot absorb what is possible and not, what is real and what is not. These thin visual and mental lines are for me one of the life threads of this film. Actors playing (mainly Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford) do a stunningly good job. Almost all supporting actors and actresses fill this unreal world with life and rhythm. So overall I can say – the teams behind the script and the technological representation of ideas on the screen have done a magnificent job.

What it means to be human. What makes us happy. What puts meaning into our hearts and minds. All these questions are asked anew. The difference is this time, I feel much more connected to “K”, than I did before to Deckard. The lead character has a very hard path, but it is filled with wondrous happenings, which I believe come from very personal experiences behind the script. The connection between “K” and Joi, between Deckard and “K” are thought provoking and really a master class in cinema. I dare not say more about them, as I have to learn how these beautiful constructions work, so that I can dissect them and implement them in real life better. It is amazingly beautiful to witness such depictions of humanity in characters whose sole existence is so robotic and meaningless. I am truly astonished of the actors’ play, of the emotions behind the gestures and words. Genius!

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So, I better get to the other astonishing part of this movie – the futuristic look and sound of this film. Again the creators Roger Deakins (cinematography), Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch (music), David Doran, Bence Erdelyi, Lydia Fry (art direction) have done a perfect job. Also costumes, set decoration and makeup are on a very high level. One can feel the future when witnessing this movie. It is so real and ambient.

So I really appreciate this gift from Villeneuve and recommend it to anyone with a taste for cyberpunk, thrills and sci-fi. But most of all, I wish that we all could learn more about how important it is to do our work with passion and everlasting hunger for individual creation and love for freedom in expression. A tour de force!

10/10

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It is simply the truth

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The new “IT” screening gets pretty much everything right…

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From the shocking rip off of child’s arm to the true realization of what it means to grow up, the 2017 movie is true to the King’s novel and closer to the viewers’ hearts.

I’m not a big fan of horror movies and of King’s books, but went to see this film knowing that it will most probably scare me. And it did spectacularly.

First I will mention the only two problems which I have with this movie and why I rate it 8/10.
– too many jump scares. Too often frightening scenes follow one after another and this takes out a bit of the positive impression which those moments should create;
– horror movies are rarely perfect examples of cinematography. Of course there are some non-believable moments in the movie where some characters take some “stupid” decisions which are not logical. Also the bullying in the film goes way ahead of itself. But sometimes in reality children tormenting other children indeed is brutal.

Now to the more interesting themes of the movie and its execution.
First I’d like to mention that this film is shot beautifully creepy. I can’t think of any technical error or edgy 3D episode in it. Also, the music score is subtle and supporting, at times it takes the lead, but without leading the viewer too much above the actual feeling being presented on the screen.
The cast is great – from Bill Skarsgard to Sophia Lillis – all actors are great. The supporting characters, representing the children’s respective parents are also true embodiments of the certain problematic topics which usually ruin the psychology of a child.
The screenplay by Chase Palmer and Cary Fukunaga (True Detective anyone?) is respectfully following the book with only some scenes from the book missing (sewer scene between the teens!). So overall everything which compiles a good film is obviously here.

And most importantly – the film directly transmits to the viewers the deep message of fear overpowering, proper upbringing importance and teenage character development.
We see the exact moments when most of the main characters challenge their deep fears and fight them off. And step by step, as in real life, Bill, Ben, Beverly and the others become their own role models. Such growth is very harsh to the character of a minor, but it impacts influences his/her life more deeply and complete. Because once a person repeats the act and defiance against a deepest fear, the result is no longer what is desired, but also transforms into ambition, integrity and pure devotion. All virtues of a truly realized man or a woman.

And perhaps this is why Stephen King’s books are so popular – you can’t fake life, you can only represent it the best way you can. After all – human’s imagination is only a result of the perception of reality.

Better Call Saul season Finale

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I didn’t want to go with a distant title…and I want to be short.

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So, yeah. Season 3 ended. And I liked it much better than the previous two. Why? Because decisions had more consequences. And yes – Chuck’s character got more fleshed out, Gustavo Fring is back and our main character continues to break down.

But more importantly this show is certain that it doesn’t explicitly want to reach to everybody. I think that everybody must reach for a meaning in it. It entertains me with the facts which I find in it, which provoke in me compassion and understanding. I relate to Better Call Saul namely because it is lifelike. And this really is the only show consistently giving us reasons why our lives are normal and we must take a moment every now and then and consider the consequences of our actions and thoughts.

Excellent storytelling in the making here. Great characters, incredibly detailed situational storytelling. I can’t help but feel that when you create such an artwork, you put so much effort in it, but if you don’t have that talent part behind it, it will surely be dull. And Vince Gilligan and company are surely doing it with amazing skills. This show must surely get a 4th season coming soon!

Diagnosis Ambition

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I have been waiting 3 months to watch “A cure for wellness”. And it’s been worth it…to some extend.

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This movie is really an original story about 3 different topics – workaholism, egocentrism and family. Interestingly enough we follow those themes in three narratives – personal, professional and historic.

But before speaking about story and characters, I have to stress out how many other valuable sides this art piece has. First of all – the scenery, landscape and background of the events is majestic. The haunted spa/sanatorium among splendid nature views is the perfect set for this fantastic horror drama. Also you should know that some of the filming locations are also spooky in real life (example: Beelitz Sanatorium).
Also, the music is a nice addition to the moody feeling coming from this movie.
But mostly I was impressed by the cinematography. Almost every shot’s perspective and angle was perfect for me. We see the story through all kinds of visual points. And it makes more involved in the film overall. Excellent positioning of the takes and precise length of each movement of the camera. This for me is very important as we tend to see it less and less in modern cinema.

As for the actors and play – they were all splendid. From DeHaan’s first cocky and later frantic acts to each of  Volmer institute’s staff members who expressed precisely the radiation of fanatic followers – it was all unexpectedly beautiful and impressive. Mia Goth and Jason Isaacs of course are the other two main characters who provide an unsettling background to our main character. As a person who has some contact with German culture, I’d like to express how on point was the feel of weird perfection coming out of this supposed sanatorium.

Let’s now focus on the story. I had some feedback before the movie, so I expected a turn of events more in the direction of workaholism and modern societal anxiety. But I found out the movie to influence me more on a personal level. Although the “A cure for wellness” focuses mainly on the fantastic history of the place and people who own it, I was touched by the concrete stand this art piece took on the influence of professional competitiveness and ambition on the personal and family life of each individual.

Also I have to point out the perfect beginning scene in this film. It represents for me the whole idea behind this grinning movie. Although it’s an over 2 hour long piece, to me it doesn’t drag at all. I wanted to find answers all the way, all the time. Some of them were left unanswered by the end of it, but still it was a demanding and obsessive experience.

So, back to the story – a corporate hunt mingles with personal tragedy and historic fantastic elements. The body horror part of this movie I leave to the fans of such things. I just wanna say that it was bloody impressive and stressful. Which is a good thing for this genre. And although the film turns to the fantastic madcap performances towards the third act, I will remember it mostly for the iconic first and second parts.

The main character is an unscrupulous professional who’s only family turns out to be his work. I was deeply impressed when the staff at the sanatorium asked De Haan’s character for a personal contact and he referenced only his office (having lost both his father and mother). Not only that this is a great set up for his confrontation with the main villain in this story, but also connects with the audience through an subconscious level. I personally prefer to take in this film as a wink to the influence which hard work and painful ambition has on personal and family life. History knows not only real life creepy spas, but more importantly broken lives of many families. So Verbinski’s goal is clear here.

The movie is clearly entertaining and captivating on many levels and I truly recommend it to all drama and horror fans. But as always I try to take out as many personal and long term conclusions from a movie. And this art piece is rich with meaningful messages and great character examples. Visually stunning work which is irresistibly obsessive with its lovecraftian way of saying “keep your mind at work, but leave your heart always at home”.

The Shell is better than the Ghost

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The cinema is an incredible way of art, because it always relies on good storytelling first. And after that on visuals, sound, design, performance, etc. It is surely a mix of them all, but the essence is and will always be to relay an important set of messages through an impressive story. And this is the reason why improvisation will always be a milestone in creating good movies. Because repetitiveness is always going to go into oblivion.

For example “Ghost in the shell” – the anime movie from 1995 will always be this cornerstone in the lives of many young before and now not so young people. It is an essential part of my life too. And I can’t just pass on seeing what Rupert Sanders has done with these incredible set of characters, with this great set of ideas and story.

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You see, people get inspired by stories which tell them something new to them, which teach them something they don’t know about themselves and about the surrounding world. And at the same time these valuable fiction pieces show that we’ve had this valuable information in ourselves all the time. We just had to dig deep and find it. To acknowledge it. To accept its existence and then to use it in our lives. To be better people, to live a happier and more fulfilling life. This is the kind of art piece the original “Ghost in the shell” is. At least to me. So it’s important to stress out what a big task this director took.

Now, I want to say that I truly believe that cinema is an eternal form of creation because it refreshes itself by inspiring the film community within. This anime is a beautiful example for this. I cannot give a better example for film inspired by GitS than “The Matrix”. There we see a seamless transition of groundbreaking ideas from one form (mind) to another. This is the living tissue of cinema itself. Ideas about information flow, purpose of life in cybernetic society, gender identity and the future of the human soul flourish from anime to movie life the first breath of a new born baby! And this is exactly what I love.

So seeing the new Scarlett Johansson’s new movie was a test. An awaited test, but still a test. And it performed more or less as expected. The story was dummed down A LOT. I don’t even want to speak about it. It was interesting to see the script writers discussing a fresh look into Motoko Kusanagi’s origins, but this idea seemed not thought in details enough. The performances of the actors weren’t bad. But the characters are part of the flawed story. So yeah – it wasn’t a very good movie.

But it was a decent one, because…they did hire some of the best design, music and graphic artists available on the market. And the atmosphere, sound, costumes, CG were GREAT! It sure looks expensive, but it is for a reason. I really enjoyed what WETA did in this movie. These people put up so much effort into interpreting and creating from the original content, that I want to recommend watching the movie if not for something else, than just for their work. It is worthy of appraisal. And let’s not forget Hong Kong…the main landscape which inspired the original is seen in this movie as well. A future city it still is!

So overall I would like to ask you all – do you prefer to have a shiny shell or a thoughtful ghost? I personally prefer to have both!

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As real as it gets in Manchester

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I haven’t really watched such a realistic film in a veeery long time…

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Although, this movie will go in my records as not the best of the best films of 2016, it will surely keep its value over the years. Not only because of the two pivotal scenes (at least for me) in it – with Affleck in the Police station and with Affleck and Williams in the conversation from the screen which I post. But because of the overall feeling which this film piece relates to the viewer. This is reality, this is as close and as rough as it is.

I don’t necessary enjoyed every act of the performance of Casey Affleck, but he surely strikes us as a very believable “dead” living person. The story vehicle takes its time to reveal the cause of his miserable existence and we slowly dive into his “ashes”. I really liked all the supporting cast as well. Starting from his nephew, played by Lucas Hedges, going through Kyle Chandler (is the coincidence in the family names purposeful?) and all the other minor participants (Matthew Broderick and even the director – Kenneth Lonergan).

The background of the real Manchester town is reassuring that this whole story is happening where it should be. I cannot help but remember the great song by Billy Joel – “The Downeaster Alexa”:

“So I could own my Downeaster “Alexa”
And I go where the ocean is deep
There are giants out there in the canyons
And a good captain can’t fall asleep”

And yes – the musical coverage is great. We get the classical pieces at the right time, we feel the emotion overwhelming us at the right moments.

This movie is a slow ride, at times a bit dragging in the details. But we all forget where we park our cars and we have all been through the moments of choosing the right condom 🙂

Anyway, I wanted to emphasize on the two really meaningful moments for me which really grabbed me by the throat and made me remember this film – Lee Chandler’s breakdown at the police station and Randi’s remorse during their conversation towards the end of the film. I see them as emotional knots, culmination, nervous exit from a stalemate situation. And since we all reach such moments in our lives, when it’s all coming over the top, I feel that these two actors did their best. And they did it both subtly and extremely. The viewer correlates and empathizes in key moments with our main character. Kenneth Lonergan directs really well here and we see these actors strengths profoundly clear. What a wonderful lesson in cinema!

Of course I have to admit that Patrick’s character is really a separate center in this movie. You cannot help but feel sympathy for him throughout the whole film. His actions and words are thoughtfully adult amidst his uncle’s reserved and unresolved behavior. This is a film about losing and finding what is most precious in life. It is a movie about family, about time and about real life. It does not want to help you forget where you live and what you do in your every day routine. It stimulates you to do it better and not to lose your values and faith in good. It is a quiet story of ethereal meaning. The meaning of a lost and found reason to live.

Drive it along Sing street

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I thought that 2016 was dominated musically by “La La Land”, but then I saw “Sing street”…

Well, what can I say – music is everything sometimes. And just sometimes – movie making through music is what it takes to make everyone feel so much better.

Topics like family, growing up, friendship and love fill this movie with the necessary energy to carry you from beginning to end with joy and passion. I am truly inspired how the main characters start from the desire to be noticed and reach some of the highest peaks of originality in art. The 80’s background music, set and costumes are far too attractive to be missed. And for me – these are all hallmarks of great directorship and cinematography.

The desire to associate with, to give, to win, translates to the viewer the impression of youth’s vigor and love towards pushing down walls and changing habits. The young cast of this film reminds us to never let the important things run out of our lives, no matter how hard the situation is. And always to share every spark of creativity. The unique cultural-historical perspective of this movie shows again how music connects past and future, now and then.

Across cultures and distances we are interconnected by art, and in particular by good music. We can experience the passion to express ourselves all the way along our path of growing up and chasing our dreams. And to see once again how we must never lose grasp of our goals, no matter how hard it gets along the way.

This movie is an excellent example of how the family can influence any young kid in both a good and a bad way. Also – the importance of a good advice against the malice of poverty and ignorance is really obvious. “Sing Street”is the newest story of how love can actually save and dignify. But more than everything we see – how music can be a solution to all. And without any guaranteed success at the end, we enjoy this film as a really splendid creation of nostalgia, music and love.

I truly recommend this small treasure to you and your close ones. We can never have too much music and love in our lives!

Always beside you, never silent

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It took me some time to comment on my most anticipated film of the year – “Silence”, by Martin Scorsese, but it was worth it…

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The central notion of spirituality and human nature is the very essence of faith in this masterpiece by Mr. Scorsese.

We see two Jesuit priests (Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield) going on a journey in peril. The aim – to find their mentor – Father Ferreira, who has renounced his faith after being tortured in Japan.

St. Paul’s college in Macau is indeed a symbolical building to marvel at. It emphasizes on the transience of an era of devout, dogmatic Christianity. But still, its facade exhibits the magnificence of the human spirit. And how faith can travel and conquer, but also stay and change, transform any place in the world.

There is a really nice poem called “Footprints in the sand”. It speaks volumes of the Christian faith, and to that matter – volumes of any faith, which is righteous. It goes like this:

“One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

This is very much what to my account this movie is about. The hidden treasures of faith lie within our own understanding of life and its meaning. In “Silence” not all questions of father Rodrigues are answered, as nor do all of our delusions meet their end throughout our lives. But we all witness the pain and torture which the great ensemble of characters endure. Here, I must really praise the directorial work and all the actors’ incredible performances. We must emphasize that all characters – from the main one to the smallest and most episodic ones – are represented truly and faithfully.

We see Japan and the Japanese way of life as it is. Nothing is spared, nothing is hidden. Nature itself is a major character in this movie. It is no coincidence that “Silence” was nominated only for Cinematography for the annual Academy awards – perhaps this is the most incredible part of the film. I cannot explain enough how the visuals speak volumes of storytelling to the viewer. We are engulfed in the sounds and colors of this magical godly realm called Earth. You must truly experience this both beautiful and disturbing nature of the movie.

The screenplay twists and turns around us and our expectations. We feel our own doubts and remorse, we live the same life deeply within is and at the end of the journey we feel maybe a bit better about out choices in life. Not because the film gives a final solution, or because it pretends to be a parable. This monumental work from Mr. Scorsese about how the human spirituality works is a fine example of storytelling through introduction of a riveting internal dialogue within each and every viewer.

I myself feel the need to share this film with everybody that cares for cinema, spirituality and purpose in life. It is a shining example of a perfect movie experience and a carefully paved way to self discovery.

The energy of a Fantastic family

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“Captain Fantastic” is truly a unique movie experience which you must take in deep.

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Sure, this film is not that much perfect. Sure, the screenplay takes some questionable turns at some singular moments. But it is damn energetic and absolutely unapologetic!

In other words – I loved it! It seems that last year was a really god year for films after all. I am surprised by the variety of movies which surprised me, evoking the whole spectrum of emotions from the inner and outer cosmos.
And “Captain Fantastic” is the newest addition to this list of special experiences which make our lives richer. The film from Matt Ross is a beautiful nod both to a long gone social movement and to our newly found 21st Century new age way of life. I am really, really impressed by the cast. Wonderful performances from Viggo Mortensen and the whole ensemble of his “children” (watch out in the future again for: George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks and Charlie Shotwell). This “family” invigorates the viewer with fresh voices speaking of freedom, change and at the same time of social and family values which we all tend to forget on a daily basis.
Mortensen’s character is both arrogant and loving to everybody around him which makes him really a nicely developed controversial person. It is refreshing for every viewer see such qualities together. I myself felt questioning many of the choices which I make as a parent. Which is a wise nod from the director to us all. Close community living and modern life technologies clash in front of the hippie background.

The emotional connection is beautifully shot, using the metaphor of travel as the ultimate vessel for overpowering oneself. Any back to nature spirit will find something for itself in this movie. I think that this film is a carefully polished heartfelt jewel giving us a glimpse of what an emotional crisis looks like from a more subtle and graceful point of view.

What touches us in this comedic drama is the thought-provoking youth performance which resonates with our every day struggle to find all the right answers to the question: What it really means to be a parent…

The mundane life of a great poet

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Paterson is a nice little quiet movie which is, by the way, larger than life…

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Don’t let me misguide you – this is not a controversial movie, this is a slow paced film about the small things in life which make us happy. And which we miss all the time…

So, yes – Adam Driver – he is the movie, no doubt about that. Just check his non profit organization (http://www.aitaf.org) and you will see that he really was “the one” for this role. And his picture in the marine corp suit in the movie is a real one. This also leads us to get the impression that he (as a quiet poet, driving every day a bus in a smaller city named the same as his character) is the centerpiece on the film. Yes, but to some extent. I think that the real main character of this beautiful art piece is the mundane life itself. With every good and bad thing about it. I also need to favor the supporting cast – from Golshifteh Farahani (what a name!) to all the twins seen in this movie – everybody plays exceptionally well. I just didn’t get the Everett role – maybe because it seemed like a piece from a stage acting class done as a separate enclave in this movie. I understand the purpose of the whole Marie and Everett vehicle, but it still seemed a bit odd and off for me.
Other than that – the ensemble of actors is really great.

And the city of Paterson – I wonder if Jim Jarmush’s whole idea was to create this film as an ode to this city. Probably yes! And it sounds pretty romantic (given the circumstances) to a 30-year old male from Bulgaria, thousand of miles far away from this location. So the whole background story of the city itself clicks pretty well for the viewer I think.

The music is a bit strong at times but generally favors the situations and emotions and compliments them.

This is a very ordinary story and at the same time it creates extraordinary feelings in the viewer – that we must enjoy our lives as they are, not necessary as we want to think they are. Love, compassion, romanticism, calmness, diversity – every word fits well for this film. I enjoyed it quietly, calmly and respectfully. It is a movie for the lovebirds for the families, for the local communities, it is a movie for every one.

So, although it might seem slow and that nothing ever will happen in it – great things appear under the surface of this motion picture. Humanity itself is peeking out from Paterson’s character. Mundane, yet full of creative energy, ready to burst from the screen.

Please support this movie, so that others like it are made more often!