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Dystopia

Blade Runner 2049

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Blade Runner 2049

When the original Blade Runner was released in the summer of 1982, it did respectable business at the box office. It wasn’t a smash like Star Wars, but it wasn’t a complete disaster, either. Mostly, it left a lot of people (critics and general moviegoers alike) scratching their heads. This slow paced, philosophical movie was sold as an action/adventure. The production design was meticulous, with dazzling special effects that still look great 35 years later. As critics began praising the movie after repeated viewings, Blade Runner also found a sizable cult following through home video release (a relatively new phenomenon itself at the time).

Director Denis Villeneuve, a filmmaker who has listed Blade Runner as a major influence on his own work, is imagining this intoxicating world anew in the sequel, Blade Runner 2049. The question is, since its predecessor’s vision is now the rule rather than the exception, will it have the same impact as the original?

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The Lobster

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The Lobster

Do you know someone who insists that there’s no such thing as an original idea in movies anymore? It’s just the same six or so stories that they tell over and over, they say. If you do, look that person straight in the eye and tell them that they are dead wrong. Because The Lobster exists. This is a movie that almost defies explanation. The way it improbably blends romance, the blackest of comedy, and existential horror is spectacularly original. The Lobster is as haunting as it is unique, and it’s a film that won’t be easy for me to shake any time soon.

Set in either a dystopian future or simply a world wholly different from our own, the society in this story finds loneliness abhorrent. Anyone not in a committed relationship must check into a resort where they have 45 days to either find a partner or be turned into the animal of their choosing. It’s a delightfully absurd premise, which writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos sadistically uses to lull his audience into a false sense of security during the first act of the picture.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 can at times be as tedious as its title. The movie suffers from what can be described as Lord of the Rings Trilogy Ending Syndrome. After the dramatic climax is over, there are at least three separate dénouements, any of which could have served as a single ending on its own. Because the final book in the trilogy that this film franchise is based on was already split into two movies, the endless concluding is even more taxing than it might have been. It’s obvious money was the primary motivating factor. That’s a shocking revelation about Hollywood, I know. At the same time, Mockingjay, Part 2 is an effective action thriller that keeps things moving for most of its two hours and seventeen minutes.

The film picks up just moments after the events of Part 1, when Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is attacked by fellow Hunger Games survivor Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), who was just rescued from the clutches of the nefarious President Snow. The rebels discover that Snow (Donald Sutherland) used a combination of torture and brainwashing to program Peeta, making him believe that Katniss is evil and must be destroyed. While being held in the capital, Peeta was used as a weapon against the burgeoning rebellion by appearing in propaganda meant to convince the citizens of Panem that their totalitarian society must be upheld. Now Peeta is literally a weapon, sent to kill Katniss.

Just like Part 1, this movie deals with a couple important themes in interesting and thought-provoking ways. The use and purpose of propaganda, on both sides of a conflict, and the devastating effect of a constant state of war on those who have to live with it continue to be explored. The rebels, headed by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), think they can deprogram Peeta. Naturally, Coin wants to use Peeta for her own propaganda purposes. When Katniss decides to head to the capital against orders, Coin sends Peeta to join her so video footage can show he has switched sides, giving a morale boost to her soldiers.

But can Peeta be trusted not to hurt Katniss? Ultimately a politician, Coin’s motives are questioned by those close to Katniss, since the Mockingjay could be seen as a threat to Coin’s power in the event of the rebels’ victory. It’s this kind of Machiavellian intrigue that makes Mockingjay, Part 2 thematically rich. Instead of an unquestionably virtuous leader, President Coin is a figure who might or might not be as duplicitous as the despot President Snow. This dynamic kept me guessing right up until the tense climax, when Katniss herself is forced to decide what’s best for the people of Panem.

Katniss is our true hero, so it’s her decision to make.

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