Cage the Elephant EP review

Cage the elephant are back with a four track EP following the release of their new single ‘Ready to Let Go’.

The Kentucky band last released an album in 2015, but will be returning to the road with new album ‘Social Cues’ due for release on April 19th.

The EP starts with ‘Goodbye’, a track so far from what you would expect from the Southern State chaos rockers, that you’ll check whether you put the wrong song on.

It’s a powerful start none the less.

All my life I read between the lines

Held on too tight, you know I tried

But in the end it left me paralyzed

It’s alright, goodbye, goodbye

Seems like yesterday, I was a child

Just a ripple in the folds of time

I wish you well, I want to see you smile

It’s alright, goodbye

Goodbye

It’s the sort of song you can’t help but stop and pay attention to, there is no working on a spreadsheet or scheduling social media posts, you just listen.

There’s a swell of orchestral strings throughout and its a stirring piece of music which pulls you back into your own memory of when said goodbye to someone for the last time.

‘Ready to Let Go’ is a return to what most would expect from Cage;

Don’t you worry, baby, no sense trying to change it

I’ma strike these matches, never had control

I’m ready to let go, no, was I fooling myself?

I’ma spread these ashes, never had control

I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready to let go

It’s an immediate response to ‘Goodbye’, as if to say, ‘I’m over it’

‘Night Running’ is instantly reminiscent of The Specials and ‘Ghost Town’ while ‘House of Glass’ is one of the tracks which will get people throwing themselves around and their beers everywhere during live shows, as typical screeching guitars return for another quintessential body blowing three minutes. 

It’s a promising collection of tracks which work well together, hopefully the full album still has some heavy hitters left in the tank. 

Listen to the full EP on Spotify by clicking here, which will open the App automatically.

The Favourite: A Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Yes, that is the name of a Kanye West album and yes it is the most fitting summary of this tragicomedy film set 300 years ago, bristling with outstanding performances and razor sharp writing.

Olivia Coleman, playing Queen Anne, has already picked up a Golden Globe for her portrayal of the disease-ridden, depressed, overweight and childlike monarch, while Emma Stone and Rachael Weisz have also enjoyed lavish praise for their own performances.

The film shows Stone and Weisz, contest for the favour of the mentally and physically fragile Queen, something which starts out as a game that the Monarch seems to enjoy, but quickly becomes much more sinister and damaging.

Rachael Weisz in the Favourite

That’s not to say that the film forgets to be funny halfway through, it simply combines its humor with the steady increase of suffering felt by Queen Anne.

As these moments arrive, the Queen’s erratic and sorrowful behaviour makes more sense, changing the perception of her as a spoilt child, to somebody who is tragically damaged, isolated and in need of real support.

Unfortunately, it never comes.

Olivia Coleman in The Favourite

Instead, she is seen as something to be toyed with and used the younger and more bloodthirsty women circling below.

Yorgos Lanthimos, Director of the weirdly wonderful ‘The Lobster’ and ‘Dogtooth’, toys with his audience, making you want to back the schemes of Abigail (Stone), while hating the imperialistic dominatrix, Lady Sarah (Weisz), until the tables turn and sympathies switch three quarters into the film.

The music employed is similar to the otherworldly and sinister score from ‘Under the Skin’, ramping up the dreamlike quality of the film while building tension with scratching violin and slow drum beats throughout.

Rachael Weisz and Olivia Coleman in The Favourite

The camera work also delivers a feeling of surrealism as it swings and flips in ways that simply don’t feel natural for a ‘costume drama’.

There are several lingering extreme close-ups on Abigail, Anne and Lady Sarah at key points which draws the audience even closer into their tangled world of lies and deception.

The Favourite is sure to enjoy a strong run over the next few weeks and it deserves to enjoy all of the success and coverage that it is currently receiving.

Many of the articles and stories are revolving around the performance of Olivia Coleman, but the performances of Emma Stone and Rachael Weisz are equally outstanding and it’s likely that most people will have different opinions on who is best, something that couldn’t be better for the success of a film.

Anna Calvi Live Review

There isn’t a lot left to be said about Anna Calvi, her new album ‘Hunter’ or her live performances, because almost every single online and print music publication in the country has lost their collective shit over how good the new material and shows are.

There isn’t a lot left to be said about Anna Calvi, her new album ‘Hunter’ or her live performances, because almost every single online and print music publication in the country has lost their collective shit over how good the new material and shows are.

The Manchester Ritz played host on Monday evening and despite the show taking place on the second most unsociable night of the week, the venue was full when Calvi appeared out of the red mist on stage.

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Opening with Rider To the Sea, the first track on her debut album, Calvi demonstrated her outrageous skills as a guitarist as her fingers moved at lightning speed, ripping into the strings without missing a beat.

No lyrics, no other instruments used, just raw ability.

‘Here I am.’

The rest of the set included tracks from all three albums, all of which were delivered with astonishingly big vocals from such a diminutive individual.

The depth and range of Calvi’s thunderously powerful voice can only be appreciated when seeing her live, though it comes through in all of her albums, it’s hard to grasp how formidable and soft it really is.

Something which became more and more obvious as the show went on, was that Calvi is a natural born superstar, and there is no glass ceiling she won’t obliterate as her sound evolves.

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All of the top music outlets were all over the release of ‘Hunter’ and her European tour, which concludes in four months, highlights the popularity and demand for Calvi.

In Manchester, her performance was full of swagger, purpose and dripped with electric energy, commanding every second of her time on stage. It’s no wonder every major city for hundreds and hundreds of miles around wants her.

(Aside)

The only observation I have about the evening outside of the music, was the makeup of the crowd.

Standing right at the front and a few feet from stage, I was expecting to be shoulder with a load of  fiery Mancunians in their mid-20’s, being pushed and shoved left, right, forwards and back, I was expecting to have a full pint poured all over my white shirt and my feet stamped all over by inexplicably tall people who only ever seem to exist at gigs.

But none of that happened, it was awful.

90% of the people at the show were my dad’s age, which isn’t a problem because I literally bought a ticket for my dad and went with him, I was just expecting a few more young people throwing their weight around and I think Calvi would too, so get yourself along to one of her shows if you’re still eligible for a young persons rail card.

Listen to Hunter on Spotify here.

See Anna Calvi Tour Dates here.

Maniac Review

The brand new Netflix Original series Maniac, came out a couple of days ago and as I’ve spent a large portion of those days indoor and horribly hungover, I managed to get through the entire series….

The brand new Netflix Original series Maniac, came out a couple of days ago and as I’ve spent a large portion of those days indoor and horribly hungover, I managed to get through the entire series….

The infallible Emma Stone and always entertaining Jonah Hill play Annie Landsberg and Owen Milgrim, two lost souls who are barely able to exist as functional adults in the real world (I think a lot of us 20 somethings will relate…)

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The first couple of episodes introduce the audience to the pair as their failings as members of society are laid bare as well as their unstable mental health. For different reasons, Annie and Owen find themselves entering into a clinical trial which promises to change the patients lives forever.

Over the course of the next eight episodes, the world is turned upside down and shaken around thoroughly. Annie takes on the form of a half-elf / half-human drunkard for an entire episode while Owen is transformed into the son of a drill wielding criminal for another.

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The supporting cast are also thrown into their own cascading version of reality as the supercomputer which is used as part of the clinical trial, begins to act in ways which we all know any supercomputer tends to, when thrown into the mix.

Maniac is a real treat for film and TV geeks as there are so many influences and subtle nods to others who have tread upon similar ground in the past.

There is a literal reference to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, as patient’s who don’t survive the trial are said to ‘McMurphy’ the name of the main character in the 1975 film featuring Jack Nicolson.

There is also a healthy dose of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich when it comes to exploring trauma, the power of the unconscious and the surreal nature of the minds ‘Blind Spots’.

MV5BMjM2Mzc2ODc4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDMzMzMzNjM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_The real world that the characters live in, is a slightly brighter version the one created by Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049. Neon adverts are everywhere, promising a better life off world, away from the existence the characters already have.

The similarity to Stanley Kubrics 2001 a Space Odyssey is clearly apparent when looking at the characterisation of the artificial intelligence inside the supercomputer narrated by the outstanding Sally Field.

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There is also a huge amount of Wes Anderson here.

The movement of the camera alone would make you think you’re watching an Anderson flick while the quirky characters, humour, death, colours and absurdity of it all, furthers the similarities.

Finally, Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise seems to have left an impression on the makers of Maniac as the towering and intimidating architecture of the pharmaceutical giant’s headquarters are extremely close to the tower block which features in the 2015 art house film.

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But all of that does not mean that Maniac is unoriginal.

The series brought its own humor to themes which have been explored for years, while also offering a plethora of well-developed and sympathetic characters which are fantastically played.

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There are genuinely funny moments in every episode which are delivered to perfection by Stone and Hill who clearly had a huge amount of fun creating this series, however, the moments of impact are genuine and heartfelt, making this one of the best original series Netflix has produced.

Arcade Fire Live Review

The lights went down and Wembley was plunged into darkness as a mixture of Vangelis and Beethoven filled the compact arena until all went silent and the voice of a boxing commentator boomed through the PA system;

Annnnnnnnnnddddd in the red cornerrrrrr’

‘All the way from Montreal, Canada, Arrrrcaaadddeeeee Fireeeeeeeeeee’

The stadium-sized screens were suddenly filled with images of the group moving through thousands of standing fans akin to a prize boxer entering a title fight.

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The spectacle was about to begin.

Climbing through the ropes which surrounded the stage / boxing ring, instruments were hoisted and ‘Everything Now’ introduced London to Arcade Fire for the third and final time in a week.

The stage was in fact styled as a boxing ring, complete with a rotating centerpiece on which two drum kits sat, allowing a pure 360 performance.

The following show was nothing short of spectacular as the stage, completely encircled by standing fans, exploded with life, dance moves and a stunning light show.

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For a band to perform so many songs about death, desperation, creature comforts and attempted suicide, it can be surreal experience to watch live, as it is almost impossible not to dance and belt out choruses, but that is what makes Arcade Fire such a phenomenal group.

It’s serious stuff that they tackle; consumerism, the need for affirmation, depression, apathy as well as intensely personal issues;

“Assisted suicide
She dreams about dying all the time
She told me she came so close
Filled up the bathtub and put on our first record”

…..

“Saying God, make me famous
If you can’t just make it painless
Just make it painless
It’s not painless
She was a friend of mine, a friend of mine
And we’re not nameless, oh”

These lines come from ‘Creature Comfort’, a track on the ‘Everything Now’ album and if you hadn’t heard the song, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a sobering song but in fact, it is one of the catchiest  Arcade Fire have released.

Wes Anderson shares the alchamistic quality in dealing with dark subject matter in his films which are joyful, endlessly fun, colourful and funny, but beneath it all, the theme of death is consistently referred to and explored through suicidal characters and others who lose their lives.

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Art is created in response to pain, love, hate and every nuanced human emotion there is.

It’s a therapeutic method of approaching the hardest things to approach, but Arcade Fire, like Anderson, turn it into something else, something for people to actually enjoy while simultaneously connecting with the material emotionally. 

“So can you understand

Why I want a daughter while I’m still young?

I want to hold her hand

And show her some beauty before this

damage is done”

Personally, this is what sets Arcade Fire apart.

Approaching personal conflicts as well as wider societal issues with songs that can get thousands bouncing.

As a spectacle, there are few who can put on a better show than Arcade Fire.

From start to finish, their performance on Friday was stupendous and their final song, ‘Wake Up’, lit up Wembely just as it has consistently capped off their performances for the past 15 years.

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Featuring guest appearances from Florence and the Machine as well as Boy George, who performed ‘Chameleon’, the night took on a celebratory atmosphere for the final act and it would have been hard to find a single person who wasn’t smiling and laughing at the pure joy of it all.

Arcade Fire, they make the people happy.

Gorillaz Live Review

It took me ten hours to get to Birmingham from London on Saturday to see Gorillaz but despite the travel trouble, it was worth the wait.

The show was an overload of audio-visual splendour as ‘M1 A1’ kicked off proceedings and set the tone for the rest of the night at the Birmingham Arena.

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A combination of songs from the entire Gorillaz discography whipped the midlands up as ‘19-2000’, ‘Superfast Jellyfish’, ‘On Melancholy Hill’ and ‘Dirty Harry’ brought the party to town.

De La Soul, Vince Staples and the incredibly talented Bootie Brown, joined Alburn on stage to deliver some serious party punch to the night and as ‘Punk’, ‘Stylo’ and ‘Feel Good Inc’ closed out the set, delirious fever pitch was reached. Otherworldly animations flew around on the overwhelming digital screens behind the performers throughout, combining with the music to deliver a one of a kind show.

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It is easy for a performance to get lost in a large arena but nothing could be further from the truth for Gorillaz, who filled the space with pure energy, light and power from start to finish.

‘Hong Kong’, ‘Kids with Guns’, ‘Clint Eastwood’, ‘Don’t get lost in Heaven’ and Demon Days’ made up the encore and completed a phenomenal show which will live long in the memory.

Nova Twins Live Review

 

Nova Twins are a three piece afro punk band made up of lead guitarist/vocalist Amy Love, bassist Georgia South and drummer Tim Nugent, who I was invited to watch during their first ever London headline show.

Stepping out onto stage at Camden Assembly on Thursday night, it was immediately clear that I was in for one hell of a ride. Love appeared completely possessed and belted through a riotous set without giving anyone a moments rest, not that anyone wanted one anyway.

‘Hitlist’, ‘Bassline Bitch’, ‘Drums’, ‘Wave’ and ‘Twitch’ are all songs featured on the 2017 EP and were all hammered into the North London rabble who soaked up every scream and screeching riff with joy.

This was loud, fast, fuck you music, which dragged me right into the middle of the thrashing crowd and didn’t let go until I had been thoroughly used. Not that I have ever seen Lauren Hill perform but I was reminded of her watching Love and South deliver so much aggression on stage. Thier particular brand of punk is alchemistic in its infusion with rap and electronica as highlighted by the robotronic vocals delivered through one of the two microphones used by Amy Love.

The final song of the night arrived after a fire infused 45, Love unleashed, jumping off stage and throwing herself into the pit before being hoisted into the air with yours truly going full Patrick Swayze.

And then it was over and the exorcism was complete, the devil had been released and the floor was finally given a second to rest after a thorough pummelling by the none stop bouncing crowd.

Raucous thanks were given by the Assembly and returned by the Twins whos snarling faces turned to smiles as friends grabbed them from one side of the stage to pass on their jubilation.

Two days after Nova Twins, I’m going to see Gorillaz perform their millionth headline show at the Birmingham Arena for thousands. I’m sure it will be excellent, but will I have as much fun as I did in Camden? Will I be able to hoist Damon Alburn six feet into the air while he screams pure punk into a fire filled cauldron of unbound energy?

Unlikely….And this is the point that I’m trying to make;

At a certain point, a barrier is put in between a crowd and a band and very slowly, the gap gets bigger until it turns into a 5-meter space filled with miserable looking beef heads.

So go and see Nova Twins while you can still have beer spat all over you from Amy Love, go and see them while all of their friends are still at the side of the stage to grab them when they’re finished, go and see them while they are still mingling with everyone before and after their show, because it might not be long before the stage is much bigger and you have a serious fight on your hands to party with the Nova Twins.

Sofar Sounds Live Review

Sofar Sounds is an international organisation set up by two east London lads a few years ago. The premise is simple, use peoples houses and flats as the venue and invite artists to perform for a small group of 40ish people who don’t know who the performers are until they start playing.

The mystery is undoubtedly part of the appeal as you really can get anything and I have plenty of friends who have come back with positive reviews.

On Friday, I went along to the newly opened Poplar Union, in the heart of East London, to find out if it was worth going to a gig without knowing if any of the acts would actually be any good…

The Union was comfortable and dressed appropriately for an intimate gig though the lack of seating meant that the audience had to sit on the hard wooden floor for the duration, something I avoided by grabbing a chair from which I could lord over everyone like a primary school teacher at school assembly.

Anyway, first up was LISKA an Irish vocalist accompanied by a keyboard player.

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The bleach blonde bobbed girl had a great voice and caught me off guard with how well she hit each note as her velvety songs, which sounded like they could have been heard from the back of a New Orleans blues bar in 1957, filled the room.

The only complaint I would have about LISKA is that it didn’t feel like she ever moved out of second gear and the songs she performed were restricting. It would have been nice to hear something quicker, something a little more upbeat than the 5-6 tunes about lost love and longing.

Next up was a London based poet named of Jack Miguel.

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Miguel addressed the small gathering and talked about the context of his work before launching into his performance.

Personally, I think this is a must for a poet delivering on stage. The trouble with poetry is that you need to fully understand the ideas, thoughts and motivations of the creator to really grasp what they are talking about, there is no music to enjoy if you don’t get the lyrics, all of the focus is on the meaning of what is being said so if you have no idea what that is, you miss out on the good stuff.

Miguel introduced his work as having a strong focus on masculinity and went on to deliver several thought provoking pieces which I could enjoy thanks to his intro.

Listening to poetry of this nature, with the incandescing lights of Canary Warf blazing in the windows behind the performer, was interesting to say the least as that particular part of London is inexorably linked to macho culture and masculinity which undoubtedly added an interesting slant of the whole scene.

Jacob and Goliath were the final performers of the night and the stinker that I had been afraid of finally arrived…

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Hailing from West London, one on acoustic guitar and one on a box (literally). The pair opened with a dead ringer for a Mumford and Sons song and I was immediately annoyed.

Another 5 country songs of this ilk followed and continued to irritate, as a sound which died a definite death 4 years ago, was forced into my objecting ears.

I’m all for giving it a go and chasing the dream, but seriously, if you don’t have an understanding of where music is right now and what the trends are, you’re not going to get far. Music evolves just like fashion, film, art, TV, business, social media, bloody everything, and if you don’t offer something new, you’re going nowhere. That isn’t me being harsh, it’s the truth.

As a whole though, I enjoyed the evening. The tickets were also free and I was allowed to bring my own beers to drink while the evening played out so I would definitely recommend going to a Sofar gig as long as you understand that you’ll probably get one bad egg in three….

Nick Mulvey Live Review

I was meant to meet with my brother, sister and a mutual friend for a couple of drinks and a meal. Instead, a couple of match going, battle-hardened Scousers joined me and the party for a sloshing 7-8 pints and a live performance from Nick Mulvey at Shepards Bush Empire. On a fucking Tuesday night.

I was just about to go home for a sensible night in when my brother asked me to come to the gig and despite the fact that Nick Mulvey isn’t the type of musician I would usually go and watch, he has a few solid tunes to his name and a gig is a gig at the end of the day.

Mulvey is a London lad himself but spent time in Cuba studying music and art before immersing himself in different West and Central African styles.

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There wasn’t a beat missed all night as fan favourites, ‘Unconditional’, ‘Myela’ and ‘Fever to the Form’ were joined by ‘Infinite Trees’, ‘Transform your Game’ and ‘Mountain to Move’, all solid crowd pleasers.

However, the best moment of the night didn’t actually come from the stage. It came from a lad standing about 3 people behind me…

After finishing a song, Mulvey looked into the audience, wearing his beanie and a puppy dog look on his face that hadn’t shifted from kick off….

“Listen guys” he started, “There is some really bad stuff going on in the world right now and we just need to look after each other, we need to care, we need to love. Peace is what we need and that is what this next song is all about, I want you to feel that.”

The crowd went silent for the briefest of moments when, clear as a fog horn, a hero shrouded in darkness, projected across the whole room;

“I don’t know anything about that type of thing, I just work in the Asda and like beer.”

The none-stop Instagram Live streaming crowd didn’t like that, but I think they got even more wound up as I was almost screaming in laughter.

I literally got told to “Shut up” by some dead-eyed 20-year-old girl which only made it funnier…

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Anyway, I enjoyed the music and we kept drinking for another hour or so before I decided to head home for the night, tired, drunk and in no shape for the rest of the week.

 

Blade Runner 2049: Review and Analysis

Visually stunning and with reliably powerful performances from Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto and Harrison Ford, Blade Runner 2049 is easily one of the best films of 2017 so far.

But first, a little exposition…

10 years ago, on my 15th birthday, I was given the newly released Final Cut version of Blade Runner and from that day on, it became my favourite film. I didn’t necessarily know why but I was hooked. Like every kid on the planet, I had grown up watching Star Wars, so seeing Harrison Ford play Rick Deckard in the nightmarish dystopian landscape of 2019 LA, hit me hard.

There wasn’t a blonde kid with magic powers hopping around with a lightsabre and the robots in Blade Runner were a long way from R2D2 and C-3PO. They were murderous, philosophical, attractive, terrifying, tragic…

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This was a universe which was dark, dangerous and provocative.

Six years after seeing the film for the first time, I wrote my dissertation on how the novel, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, was adapted into the 1982 film.

So you can imagine my anxiety, excitement, fear and dread when a sequel was announced a few years ago. They don’t have the best track record.

Fortunately for me and everyone else who feared the worst, the decision to bring Denis Villeneuve on as director has proven to be a masterstroke.

The visuals and sound design are stunning as the mix of special effects and real life were inseparable. There was one intimate scene between Gosling and two women, which proved this point with immaculate detail. When you see the film, you will know what I am talking about.

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The beauty of the film aside, questions about identity, memory, creation and the creator are all raised. Allegorical references and nods to fairytales are aplenty as echoes of Pinocchio whistle through the dialogue, “I always knew you were special, now you are a real boy…”

This is the perfect universe for Villeneuve to play with an audience. His pervious film, Arrival, is a stunning piece of work and is easily one of the best films from the past few years. He toys with the audiences preconceptions and ideas of what memory really is, flipping it around and showing us just how unreliable it is. 

Blade Runner 2049 is no different as the story highlights our reliance upon memory for defining our actions and the people we are. 

The visual focus on eyes is carried over from the first film as 2049 begins with an extreme close up of a bright green eye opening. It fills the entire screen and is distinctly unnatural in how brilliant the colour of the iris is.

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(One of the opening shots of Blade Runner 2049)

I personally believe that the decision to open with an identical shot in both films is a direct reference to the ‘Watchmaker Analogy’, which cites the human eye as proof of a grand designer in the shape of God.

The argument from creationists goes; ‘How can something as complex and perfect as the human eye, come from evolution? If you were walking along in a field and stumbled upon a pocket watch and opened it up to look at all of the tiny mechanisms, then you would know that somebody had built and designed it as it was so much more complex than rocks and trees dirt.’

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(One of the opening shots from the original Blade Runner)

This is where the term ‘Intelligent design’ comes from and the continuous focus on the windows to the soul in both Blade Runner films, highlights the relationship between man, machine and God.

I could write another 500 words on this film but I would be surprised if anyone has made it this far so I will leave it at this.

Blade Runner 2049 is a film which has succeeded in doing what most thought was impossible by improving on the original film. It is majestically mesmeric and is rightly being lauded critically. Go and watch it, you won’t be sorry.