Hammerle on… “Victoria and Abul,” “Blade Runner 2049”

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bob hammerle movie reviews“Victoria and Abdul”

Stephen Frears is an enormously talented director as demonstrated over the years with such memorable films as “My Beautiful Launderette” (1985), “The Grifters” (1990), “High Fidelity” (2000), “The Queen” (2006), “Philomena” (2013) and last year’s “Florence Foster Jenkins.” With “Victoria and Abdul,” he adds another enjoyable film to his treasure trove of accomplishments.

hammerle-victoria-rating.gifTaking place at the end of the 19th century, Judi Dench gives a remarkable performance as an aging Queen of England who is fighting both boredom and depression. Helped out of bed every morning by a bevy of female attendants, she faces a male-dominated world where one of her greatest pleasures is eating rapidly at daily state sponsored dinners.

Based on a true story, things change for Queen Victoria and her country when a young Indian clerk and a colleague are selected to travel to England to give the Queen a medal commemorating her Golden Jubilee. The Indian’s name is Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), and the British government soon becomes astounded when an unexpected friendship grows between a sovereign and a Muslim lad from another country under British rule.

Though Dench dominates the screen as expected, it is matched by Fazal’s performance as Abdul. While he brings a warmth to the Queen’s life that had long been missing, it is astonishing that he has no hidden agenda. In effect, he becomes her teacher, helping her learn the Koran as well as write and speak in his native language.

I must also mention the comic performance of Adeel Akhtar, who plays Mohammed, Abdul’s friend. This is a talented, funny actor who previously demonstrated his acting skill in this year’s hidden gem, “The Big Sick.”

However, led by her alienated son Bertie (Eddie Izzard), the Queen’s staff wants this young Muslim out of London and sent home. A confrontation grows, creating a drama that will hold your attention throughout the film. In a sense, it is a reminder of how President Trump and his supporters are treating Muslims to this very day.

Above all else, this film brings a warmth and emotional feel that left some in the audience wiping tears away as the movie ended. While Victoria, the longest-serving monarch in the history of Britain, saw death approaching, she also knew that she had to say goodbye to a close friend since she alone could protect him from retribution.

This is a film that you simply shouldn’t miss.

“Blade Runner 2049”

Why is it that so many critics frequently praise films that the public finds to be profoundly lackluster? Isn’t it strange that they find artistic tedium to be a cinematic treasure?

hammerle-bladerunner2049-rating.gifAs was the case with his recently over-hyped release “Arrival,” director Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049” is confusing beyond any rational explanation. Repeating their call made with this year’s monstrous disaster “Mother!,” some critics are urging viewers to see this film a second time so that you can grasp its meaning. Given that this movie is 2 hours and 44 minutes long, I can only suggest that you spare yourself the trouble.

To be frank, though it stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, it is the performance of three women that save the film from total collapse. Gosling plays K, a Blade Runner with the Los Angeles Police Department whose responsibility is to kill aging androids still living in isolation. After he wipes out one known as Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) at the beginning of the movie, he discovers secrets that send him on a quest where he risks his own destruction.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Gosling is little more than a one-trick pony in that he spends the entire film with a frown on his face. In the process, most of the audience was left as emotionally dysfunctional as K, and you were left wishing that Warner Brothers had installed “The Tingler” (1959) in each seat.

Though Harrison Ford makes a brief appearance during the last 30 minutes of the film as Rick Deckard, his character from the first “Blade Runner” film (1982), he and Gosling do little more than fight one another as the two join in a quest to unravel Gosling’s secret.

As noted, this film is saved from oblivion by the performances of Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks and Robin Wright. De Armas plays Joi, K’s artificially created girlfriend who can appear or disappear by simply flipping a switch. It is clear they have fallen in love with each other, and she simply seeks a way to bring some happiness and fulfillment to a guy devoid of both.

Wright plays Lieutenant Joshi, K’s human boss. Clearly devoted to him, she has a nasty attitude that imperils her own survival as she sees K going from a hunter to one of the hunted.

However, it is not an exaggeration to say that this movie belongs to Hoeks, ironically known as Luv. She is an assassin working for Niander Wallace (a wasted, small role for Jared Leto), the designer of a new generation of androids, and she may be one of the most devastatingly enchanting female killers to have graced the big screen. Special recognition should go to her and Julianne Moore for her role in the recent “Kingsman” film.

See this film at your own risk. Laced with loud music and special effects showing naked women projected against large buildings in downtown L.A., it may help you kick an opioid addiction.•

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• Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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