Life in 2049 Once Again Falls Short

 DATELINE: Disappointing

 sean Young 2049

Sean Young with Body Double and Advanced CGI

If Blade Runner 2049 is any indication, Los Angeles is not going to improve any from the first Blade Runner. We believe it seems to snow much of the time.

If we are going back to the future, give us Looper. It looked like a place we’d like to visit, not this horror.

Last time we caught Ryan Gosling, he was singing and dancing in Los Angeles. This time around, he appears to be a replicant, or some derivative thereof. It’s hard to tell a Tyrell replicant robot from the latest bioengineered creatures.

Gosling is an unhappy, soulless creature. No time to sing and dance here.

There are still ‘blade runners’ hired to exterminate these illegal older versions by newer versions. What we have here is the revolutionary notion that these machines can procreate semi-humans. That inspires the new Tyrell model mogul, in Jared Leto’s odd performance.

It’s complicated.

It’s also a mess of a movie, running nearly three hours of unremitting Dickensian darkly future predictions.

You have a remarkable cast, including Robin Wright as the head cop—and appearance by Edward James Olmos in the retirement home, and Sean Young appears as her ever-young self in a cameo that must take CGI to the limits. She doesn’t look a day older than the 1982 movie. She’s now 58. Pee Wee Herman should be jealous.

Harrison Ford is around mostly for decoration because you don’t have a movie without him as Deckard, older than dirt.

If the movie doesn’t leave you comatose, you may be a replicant. If someone believed that this film would stand up to the frequent re-views like the original film did, you’d be deluded. This is not the classic, brilliant first movie. It’s a shake-your-money-maker mind-numbing sequel.

Fans of the first film paid homage by giving this one an Oscar for special effects.







Everywhere a Movie Set in La-La Land

DATELINE: Movie Myths in Song & Dance

lalla land


You may remember La La Land as the film that won the Oscar for five minutes. It was a mistake, for sure. We aren’t sure if the film is supposed to be a take off, or a throwback, or just to feel good old-fashioned musical. It may be much more.

La la Land is some mystic, mythic American place where gridlock results in a mile-long sing-along.  If this is your cup of tea, stay out of Starbucks. If you love movies, this has more movie references than a Mel Brooks comedy. Yet, this one is a romantic gem.

Director Damien Chazelle manages to squeeze everything from Fellini’s 8 & a Half to Rebel without a Cause into his film, while resonating Gene Kelly’s American in Paris.

Ryan Gosling’s character wants to single-handedly save jazz for a new generation—and Chazelle does too. We thought there must be a trick to Gosling’s piano performance, which is bravura at the least. He sings and dances too.

Emma Stone’s eyes may be reminiscent of Bette Davis, but she is show busy to the nth degree. Attention, movie fans, we have a movie here, right down to the fluorescent green drapes out of Vertigo.

Dreams in La-La Land may be achievable—but at great cost, though the journey is richly detailed in this hypnotic movie.

The last musical we enjoyed was A Chorus Line, which we saw a dozen times because our friend Jimmy Kirkwood wrote it. He loved show biz stories too, and this would have grabbed him.

Though this movie missed out on its big Oscar, it’s the sort that will live in legend and re-telling and re-viewing in the generations to come. You cannot miss this film and call yourself a fan of Hollywood, jazz, or creative impulse.

Showdown Between Genuine Star and Young Whelp











Fracture in 2007 pitted grand actor Anthony Hopkins in a battle of wits with young up-and-comer Ryan Gosling.  If you were expecting the torch of acting generations to be passed, you’d be torched in a different way.




The plot revolves around how a mysterious billionaire (Hopkins) on trial for shooting his wife makes mincemeat of a supercilious and arrogant assistant prosecutor (Gosling). We didn’t expect to see Frederic March and Spencer Tracy battling in Inherit the Wind, nor see Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole matching wits in Becket. We didn’t even see Gloria Swanson trump William Holden with a couple of bullets.




It’s no contest in the movie plot, and there is a lesser contest in the acting chops. The Hopkins character out-bests the Gosling character at every turn. It is even more pitiful in the thespian arena. The young star would have given Lee Strasberg a Method headache.




It would be unfair to call Gosling an empty suit. He fills his pants with amplitude. Yet, there is about him something of a blank page in personality. Whatever he plays on screen rings false. He’s a movie star, not a character actor.




Hopkins even in his youthful days opposite Peter O’Toole in Lion in Winter was a requisite character actor as Richard the Lion-Hearted. Here in his later career, Hopkins has to play off the script, which seems to take pleasure in making a laughingstock of the Hollywood leading men of today.




Too bad no one let Ryan Gosling in on the joke. He plays the role with everything in his arsenal and still seems outgunned. Alas, there are too many scenes with Gosling, and not enough with Hopkins.




The movie production plays the movie plot, and therein comes the insider pleasure. Fracture satisfies the audience in ways they may never have expected, but they used to do it better every week on the old Columbo shows.





You may sample other movie insights and reviews in MOVIES TO SEE –OR NOT TO SEE by William Russo. The book is available in both e-book and softcover on

Not Drive, He Said


Ryan Gosling seems to take on the aura of a mythic Hollywood anti-hero, emerging from his bland and catatonic usual roles into a new version of a bland and catatonic role.

Here he is nondescript, monosyllabic, and pedestrian as part of a mysterious persona. The man with no name and no past seems to be the essence of a sociopath with a conscience. It is a new era for a Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood resurrection.

Gosling seems to be the man for the job in this thriller and crime drama that shows that the true killer will not be bothered by gun control. He does in mobsters who double-cross his sense of honor and personal loyalty with a kind of hard-hearted creativity. No guns are needed by this hero.

We enjoyed seeing character actors like Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman as totally vicious evil crime lords. Only Rose (Brooks) meets Driver and realizes there is a fellow spirit fraught with danger and nemesis lurking beneath the bland surface.

Director Nicholas Winding Refn knows how to combine style, music, violence, and mythos, into a tale that has echoes of something more. We don’t see too many movies nowadays that take on the Western style of Jeremiah Johnson or The Outlaw Josey Wales, which are the most reminiscent of this crime film.

Stanley Kubrick did an early movie called The Killing that smacks of overtones that Refn also channels. Mystical mobsters seem to be the next phase.

This film make us eager to see what Refn will do with the new version of The Equalizer, a modern vigilante/CIA refugee story, based on the old TV show.

We found this curio intriguing, despite echoes of bygone spiritual ties in our real hero and avenging angel.