blade runner

Blade Runner radio, tonight!

edit: I cannot attend this show due to illness.

 

LIVE at 12:00 AM (ET) Saturday morning!  It’s Robert Daniels and Jason Drury on VISIONS IN SOUND with music from BLADE RUNNER!  Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR.  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning java!

As to my own involvement, I’ve come down with a mystery cold-like illness.  Whether I can make it to the station or not remains a question mark at this point in time.  I’d certainly like to.  Even if I’m “well enough” to go, I can’t risk passing this on to anyone else.  But you should still listen, if I’m there or not!  Rob and Jason always do an entertaining show with great music.

I’d love to share my own stories of this movie.  Seeing the comic book in a convenience store.  Thinking the title was cool if ambiguous.  But wishing Harrison Ford would get back to playing Han Solo or Indiana Jones already!  (As kids, we really did think it was that simple.)  I didn’t see the movie for many years later, when it was showing on one of the new pay TV channels.  Family friends the Lazbys were over, and it didn’t make sense to anybody!  The thing I remember the most about that viewing was the guy selling eyeballs.  I think that’s the moment all of us pretty much gave up trying to enjoy it.

But times and perspectives change.

Blade Runner’s visual impact came later.  The first and most obvious example was Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time album.  The front and back cover art are smorgasbords of Blade Runner visuals.  Numerous films have attempted to rip off Ridley Scott’s remarkable cityscapes, notably George Lucas in Attack of the Clones.

Listen in THIS Saturday 12:00-2:00am (ET).

DVD REVIEW: Blade Runner (1982) – Tribute to Rutger Hauer by Holen MaGroin

Guest review by Holen MaGroin


BLADE RUNNER (1982, 2007 Ultimate DVD edition, Warner Bros.)

Directed by Ridley Scott

The first time I saw Blade Runner, I was unimpressed. I didn’t believe it to be a bad film, but it inspired nothing inside me. However, something about it burrowed into my mind. It could have been the inspirational aesthetic, the cryptic atmosphere, or something operating deeper in my subconscious. Something I couldn’t place my finger on. Whatever it was, I had an undeniable desire to see the film again. When I acted upon that impulse, I fell in love with it. All the emotion and humanity that had eluded me on the initial viewing became elucidated the second time around. Since then, I’ve viewed the film many times. Each of my viewings reveals more secrets and offers new interpretations to this alluringly ambiguous picture.

I’m not entirely certain why Blade Runner went over my head the first time. If I had to speculate, I’d guess that my mind was so overwhelmed by the sheer visual spectacle, that I had a difficult time focusing on the movie behind it. After becoming accustomed to the astonishing world in which the story resides, it became clear to me that much more than just the design was awe-inspiring. Underneath the electronic digital exterior was a human pulse, one that beat the strongest in the characters that weren’t even human. It poses the existential question of the definition of life, and makes us wonder who should have the authority to define it.

The events take place in the future world of November 2019. Earth has become an overcrowded, polluted, and commercialized urban environment. The Tyrell Corporation manufactures synthetic human beings known as replicants. They are just as intelligent as their creators, while also possessing superior physical abilities. They’re used off-world for slave labor, and are forbidden on Earth. Deckard is a blade runner, the best there’s ever been. His job is to take out stray replicants, a process described by the euphemism ‘retiring’.

 

When we’re introduced to Deckard, it’s clear we’re observing a broken man. He lacks purpose, and hides his feelings of worthlessness behind alcohol and a bitter attitude. Having quit his job as a blade runner, he drifts around going through the motions. He’s living a very shallow existence, numbed by whiskey, afraid to feel, and terrified of self-reflection. He’s called in to do one last job, and does so only after being threatened by his old boss, Bryant. Six replicants escaped an off-world colony, and four made it to Earth with their lives. They’ve travelled to Earth in an attempt to extend their lives, which have been set to approximately four years. Their leader is the tactical and ruthless Roy Batty, an imposing figure played by the recently departed Rutger Hauer (R.I.P.). Deckard’s job is to retire them, as they are considered a threat to the public.

Despite being artificial, these four replicants are the most compelling characters in the film. They possess real emotions, and you can’t help but empathize with their plight for life. Their methods may be cutthroat, but understandable given the abhorrent treatment they’ve received at the hands of humans. Not excusable, but understandable. Roy is the most viscous, yet he is also the one we learn to care for the most. The other three want more life only because of their fear of death. Unlike his companions, Roy is a pensive philosopher that questions the nature of his existence, and sees the artificial manipulation of his life expectancy as an injustice perpetrated by Tyrell, his creator.

Contrarily, Deckard is a classic noir archetype inserted into a science fiction world as a way of contrasting him with his supposedly ‘less than human’ targets. He has no raison d’être, no philosophy, he simply exists. The very machines he’s been commissioned to destroy contain more human characteristics than he does. He has learned to detach himself from his emotions because somewhere inside he knows that his job is immoral. As the film progresses, it’s a truth that he finds harder and harder to deny.

His path to realization begins when he visits Tyrell at the onset of his case. While there he meets the beautiful replicant Rachel and is immediately captivated by her. Rachel isn’t initially aware that she is a replicant, as she is part of a new generation that has been fitted with memory implants. She’s rather sterile and distant at first, but ironically becomes more emotional as she comes to accept the fact that she is indeed a synthetic human being. This coincides with Deckard’s own increased feelings of guilt and empathy towards these machines as he approaches the completion of his job. Both characters struggle with the concept of humanity in a dehumanizing urban environment, falling in love as they relate to each other’s fear and uncertainty.

Meanwhile, Roy and the seductive Pris manipulate genetic designer J.F. Sebastian into leading them to Tyrell. Sebastian is afflicted with a disease that accelerates aging, allowing him to relate to and take pity on the replicants and their limited lifespan. Roy and Sebastian visit Tyrell during the dead of night, under the pretense of a chess game. Roy’s patience has been rewarded. He is finally able to face his creator. His resentment towards Tyrell for manipulating his lifespan culminates in the line “I want more life, fucker.” The profanity underscores the pent up rage. It’s an emotional slip for the previously silver-tongued devil, and a subtle hint for his surprising climactic decision at the end of the film. When Tyrell informs Roy that there is no way to extend his lifespan, he disposes of his creator and Sebastian.

Deckard learns of the deaths of Tyrell and Sebastian on his radio, and decides to check out Sebastian’s place. What follows is the infamous final confrontation between Deckard and Roy. Deckard offers absolutely no challenge to Roy. Roy’s methodical killings of before are replaced by a sadistic playfulness. Driven past the point of caring upon the realization of his inevitable mortality, he plays cat and mouse with Deckard. In the middle of their game Roy’s hand begins to seize up; his time has come. Deckard attempts to jump from one building to the next to escape, but doesn’t go the distance, grasping the edge hanging precariously high above the ground. Roy catches up to him and easily makes the jump to the next building, standing above Deckard as his fingers slip. But just as Deckard’s grip fails, Roy grasps Deckard’s arm and hoists him up onto the building, saving his life.

In this moment Roy realizes that the most human gesture he can make before death is forgiveness. Saving Deckard even after he killed all his companions was an act of mercy and forgiveness that made his final deed a human one. Roy has reached the stage of acceptance, and ponders in his death soliloquy that once someone dies, all of their memories are lost. All their experience is gone forever. As he puts it, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain.” An immortal line written by Rutger Hauer himself, it fixes an image to the human fear that we won’t have a legacy, and that all we’ve learned and experienced will be lost forever. Roy believes that with the loss of his experiences, humans will remain ignorant of the nature of replicant life, and that humans will continue to view them as objects to be used instead of living creatures. As he dies peacefully, a dove ascends out of the oppressive city. The shot seems to suggest that Roy does have a soul, and the dove symbolizes something pure and innocent. Roy has redeemed himself by saving Deckard, and his purified spirit ascends to heaven.

Blade Runner is a pensive film. It takes its time unravelling to give the viewer a chance to think along with it. It’s about a man that learns to embrace his humanity from the very machines he’s expected to kill. He even falls in love with one. It makes us wonder what truly constitutes life, and what value a life has after it’s gone and forgotten. Blade Runner is moody, stylized, and very open to interpretation. It’s certainly not a film for everyone, but for the people that enjoy when movies offer more questions than answers, there are few that have done it better.

5/5 replicants

Version Guide

There are five distinct cuts of Blade Runner available on Blu-ray, so I figured I’d do a quick version guide and offer my opinion on the best version of the film (it’s not the Final Cut).

  • Work print (1982) – The original work print shown to test audiences. It is a few minutes shorter than the other cuts, which are practically all the same length. It contains different opening credits, and one instance of voice over narration during Roy’s death scene different than the one heard in the theatrical cuts.
  • U.S. Theatrical Cut (1982) – Voice over narration was added that elaborates on certain plot points and offers background information. This version also contains a happier ending.
  • International Theatrical Cut (1982) – Identical to the U.S. Theatrical cut, only it has a few instances of unedited violence.
  • Director’s Cut (1992) – This version removes all voice over narration, and the happier ending. It also inserts a unicorn dream that heavily suggests that Deckard is a replicant. This version doesn’t contain the extra violence.
  • The Final Cut (2007) – Everything in this cut is cleaned up. The visuals, the sound, etc. Visible wires were removed from the flying cars, and an obvious stunt double’s face was digitally replaced with the actress’s face. Includes a longer unicorn dream, no narration, Roy apologizing to Sebastian before killing him, a different background for the dove shot, the violence from the international cut, and green color grading. Roy also says “I want more life, father.” This is the only version besides the work print where he says father instead of fucker.

My favorite (short version): The director’s cut.

My favorite (long version): The green color grading of The Final Cut is awful. It buries the spectacular world and neon colors in a gross green. Using CGI to replace a face and cover up wires is also a bit too revisionist for my tastes as well. I also think the assertion that Deckard is a replicant ruins the theme of the movie. Therefore, I don’t like the unicorn dream. I also don’t like Roy apologizing to Sebastian, it’s out of character. And father just isn’t as powerful as fucker, even with the God complex connotations. As for the theatrical cuts, the narration isn’t all that awful in my eyes (it’s performed pretty badly), but it is a better film without it. It has some interesting background information, but it ruins some of the ambiguity. I do like that the theatrical cut doesn’t push the idea that Deckard is a replicant, because it’s missing the unicorn dream. The happy ending is inconsistent with the movie’s tone though. So my ideal version would be the international theatrical cut without the narration, and without the happy ending. But since we don’t have that cut, my preferred version is the director’s cut, with the international cut coming in a very close second. You should watch both of those cuts just to get the full experience. I switch back and forth depending on my mood.

This review is dedicated to Rutger Hauer. Thanks for the films, man. We’ll miss you.

 

Gallery: Christmas Comes Early

IMG_00001667_edit

The “A” is for Aaron!  Thanks man!  This parcel wasn’t a total surprise but the contents inside sure were!  I’m really excited about many of these items.  (The Olivia Munn film looks great…)  I’m so overwhelmed I don’t even know where to begin.

Ahh hell.  Yes I do.  Let’s start with Pearl Jam!

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REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Somewhere In Time (1986, 1996 bonus CD)

Part 9 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Somewhere In Time (1986, 1996 bonus CD)

After the yearlong World Slavery Tour, to hear it told by Steve Harris, lead singer Bruce Dickinson had “lost the plot”.  Bruce on the other hand felt that the next album should be a game changer:  their Physical Graffiti.  But burned out from the road, all he brought to the table were some acoustic tunes which were all rejected. According Steve Harris, it wasn’t so much that the songs were acoustic.  It was because they weren’t very good.  This was the first time Bruce didn’t get a writing credit since The Number of the Beast!  And instead of Physical Graffiti, Bruce said that they “just made another Iron Maiden album.”

Bruce and Janick Gers acoustic, 1990

In spite of the lack of Bruce songs,  Steve, Adrian Smith and even Dave Murray came in with enough songs for an album.  They also came in with synthesizers for the first time.   All three were credited with guitar or bass synth on Somewhere In Time, a sound that threw some of us for a loop.  Also for the first time, Adrian would take sole writing credits on several Maiden songs (lyrics, music and all) which lent his more melodic bent to the resulting album.

The production, again by Martin Birch, was paradoxically both cold, and warm.  It’s a chilly sounding album, but the synths actually bring some warmth back to it.  Unfortunately there isn’t as much guitar grit as before, everything sounding smoothed out.

“Caught Somewhere In Time”, the excellent opener, starts right off the bat with synth; Maiden were laying their cards on the table.  The gallop is still there and Steve still drives the Beast forward withi his bass.  The synth doesn’t really detract from it.  It is plenty riffy, and Bruce’s voice soars with the excellent chorus.  This is a Maiden rocker to sing along to.

Adrian contributed the first of the two singles:  “Wasted Years”.  This classic song was my introduction to the new Maiden sound, since it came out a bit before the album was available.  Not only was the video great (black and white footage of the band rehearsing with collages of Eddies and tour photos) but the song was also great.  This is definitely hard rock Maiden, the kind of thing that made good Maiden singles, like “Flight of Icarus”.  The lyrics, also by Adrian, are clearly about the road life and I’m sure Bruce could pour his heart into the words.

Two lacklustre songs follow:  “Sea Of Madness” and “Heaven Can Wait”.  Neither song have ever really blown me away, but at the same time “Heaven Can Wait” turned into a tour classic for many years so what do I know?  It was the traditional concert spot for the crowd to sing along.  Smith contributed “Sea of Madness”, while Steve wrote “Heaven Can Wait”.  I do like the slow part in the middle of “Sea of Madness”, with its nice solo.

That ended side one.  Side two started with “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”, one of Steve’s longer songs.  It was based on a short story of the same name, and I have to admit that lyrically it’s not one of those Maiden songs that really has me waiting to sing the next line.  The choruses are pretty straightforward:  “Run, on and on.  Ru-uu-un, on and on.  The loneliness of the long distance runner.”  The synth in this song is effective although the song is arguably filler.

(Of note:  The intro portion of this song would really serve as a blueprint for many many Maiden songs to come.  You know the kind:  Steve’s rinky-dinky-rink bass, backing a mellow guitar melody, with mild synth in the background.  “Fear of the Dark”, starting 30 seconds in, is similar.  “Mother Russia”, 30 seconds in.  Most of  The X Factor.  And so on.)

The excellent “Stranger In A Strange Land” follows, the third of Adrian’s writing contributions.  This was the second single, and a good choice it was.  A catchy mid-tempo song, it took advantage of the textures of the new synths effectively.  I’ve read in the past that it’s based on Stranger In A Strange Land by Heinlein, but I fail to see the connection.  I always felt it may as well be about the 1984 film, Iceman.  The lyrics fit.

“Stranger” was also host to another excellent Adrian guitar solo.  It was around this time that I bought a white guitar simply because Adrian played one in the video!  And yes, the video was an excellent summation of their stage show, with giant inflatable Eddie coming out of the stage!

Steve and Davey’s “Deja-Vu” is up next, and I have always loved this one.  It’s the only song under five minutes, and it has a furiously fast pace.  The synths take a bit of the edge off, but this one is irresistible

But alas, we are now at the end:  The 8th and final song is yet another Steve Harris epic album closer.  This time the topic he chose was “Alexander the Great”.  Another historical topic for me to devour!  I later majored in history.  I wonder how much of that was due to my two greatest influences?  My dad, and Iron Maiden?

“Alexander the Great” has been criticized by some as being a lesser epic.  I really don’t know.  At this point you’re into splitting hairs.  Who cares?  It’s still awesome.  Maybe you don’t like it as much as “Ancient Mariner”; maybe you prefer “Fear Of the Dark”.  It doesn’t matter:  It’s a Steve epic and that means fast parts, slow parts, different tempos and riffs.  And through it all Bruce manages to spit out the tricky lyrics:

A Phrygian king had bound a chariot yoke
And Alexander cut the ‘Gordian Knot’
And the legend said that who untied the knot
He would become the master of Asia

The choruses are awesome, and I consider this to be one of Maiden’s lesser-known triumphs.

And what about that album cover?  Absolutely my favourite Maiden cover of all time, look for all kinds of hidden messages.  What time is it again?  Oh yeah…

I imagined that after Eddie’s resurrection on Live After Death, he had emerged some time in the future (around the time period of Blade Runner, it appears) and gotten himself some cybernetic enhancements.  The cover is, in essence, an updated take on Killers.  Emerging from his Spinner, Eddie’s traded in his hatchet for a laser.  On the back, you can see the members of Maiden themselves witnessing Eddie’s deed.  Notice Nicko’s goggles?  He’d just got his pilot’s license!

The artwork for the singles were equally awesome:  On “Wasted Years”, we see Eddie travelling back in time to 1986…chasing the T.A.R.D.I.S.?  Its B-sides were excellent!  As far as B-side material goes, these were two of the best.  “Reach Out” was a rare thing:  A song written by an outside writer, Adrian’s buddy Dave “Bucket” Colwell who would later end up in Bad Company.  Perhaps even more astonishing was the lead vocalist:  Adrian Smith!  Martin Birch compared it to Bryan Adams-type rock, but fear not! Bruce shows up by chorus-time to blow you away with his wail, as he answers Adrian’s lines.  Pure awesome in a nice sweet hard rock package.

Then there was “The Sheriff of Huddersfield”, a not-very-complimentary roast of Maiden manager Rod Smallwood!  “‘Rufus the Red’ has a crane by his bed, to wrench himself up in morn’, but if you dare to tread at the foot of his bed, you’ll wish you’d never been born!”  Not a great song, it’s still pretty damn funny.  Rodney, it seems, had fallen for the L.A. lifestyle and the band were not beyond giving him a hard time about it!

The “Stranger In A Strange Land” single had even cooler artwork:  Eddie entering a space bar full of space-scum and villainy!  Looking like a cross between Harrison Ford’s Deckard, and Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name”, Eddie ignores their stares.  This might be my favourite Maiden single art of all time.  (Of ALL time, Kanye!)

Its B-sides were two covers:  “That Girl” (FM) and “Juanita” (Marshall Fury).  “That Girl” is a pretty good hard rock song, very much in line with a song like “Reach Out”.  I never liked “Juanita” much though.

Don’t worry – Maiden’s arrangement is nothing like this!  Makes you wonder why they covered it though.

I have a real soft spot in my metal heart for Somewhere In Time.   Although it sags a bit in the middle, and it’s toned-down Maiden, this is still one of my personal favourites.  It came out when I first started high school, and you can’t compete with nostalgia.  Although today many consider inferior to the albums that came before and the album that came after, I have to rate it pretty high.

4/5 stars