Sunday, April 15, 2018

Have you Tried Running Lately?

So I after many years finally watched Blade Runner (although it was the Director's Cut) which was directed by Ridley Scott and released in 1982. Usually I refer to Ridley Scott as two things: master of science fiction and master of epic period films, but Blade Runner is perhaps the worst of all his films I've seen (and I've actually almost seen all of them). The reasons I primarily watched it was so I could watch the latest reincarnation of the film and be up to speed. Not certain if that was a great idea or not. The film takes place in the future (2019) where cybernetic beings that resemble humans are hunted down because of some issues earlier versions caused. It is a very grim look of the future (or rather of next year since it is right around the corner). Rick Deckard played by Harrison Ford is one of the best hunters, or Blade Runners as their commonly known, to locate these cybernetic beings. So four of these beings escaped prison and are now on the run hiding and trying to get away to live their own lives. All the meanwhile there is this undercurrent of what it means to be human, to be alive and sentient. Harrison Ford as the rough around the edges/beat cop works well in this film, although he wasn't given much to work with whatsoever as the screenplay was atrocious beyond words, as was the plot. Most of the cast other than him are virtually unknown, at least now; perhaps back in the 80's they were something, but pretty much nothing as of 2018. And actually the casting was pretty poor, but I will throw the talent a bone and write that the direction they were given wasn't all that impressive or good, or even useful.
From what I've seen thus far of Ridley Scott's film repertoire, this is his worst film by a long shot. I actually had to fight to stay awake nigh the entire two hours of the film rather than just shutting my eyes fifteen minutes in and going to sleep. Honestly, if I had done that, I wouldn't have missed much. I don't know what he was thinking, but it was if he learned nothing from Alien at all, which I love. The acting was poor in this film, the dialog, the screenplay, the plot; the whole thing was a bunch of nonsense honestly, because I am still confused about what was even going on in the film. Two things however did positively stick out for me; the visuals (at least in the Director's Cut, or The Final Cut or whatever they ended up calling it) and the music score by Vangelis. Together the two worked beyond perfectly! There is something about science fiction films from that era that just feel and look more real than a lot of the same that are released in digital age despite all of the special effects. Not sure what it is, but this film especially had that going for it. If there would have been a decent screenplay and the actors directed effectively, than the movie would have been a smash hit, but instead it was quite the opposite. Honestly, that's all I have to say on that film. Do not watch it, unless you want to be put to sleep, and even if you want to watch it before you see the new one, don't waste your time; and besides, you'll probably be more confused than if you hadn't seen it.

 Ridley Scott on Blade Runner

Blade Runner clip

Blade Runner: 2049 clip

Saturday, April 14, 2018

In a League all by Themselves....

Because Hollywood is a place no originality any longer, everyone is trying to be like Marvel Studios, especially in regard to The Avengers and how it combines several major film characters. DC and Warner Brothers for some odd reason have been having the most doggone time trying to get their characters off the ground, with the exception of Wonder-Woman. I'm not certain what Zack Snyder is thinking, but Justice League really struggled with a direction, and given that he's very talented and one of my favorite, it was a big disappointment. So the film pretty much takes place right after Batman vs. Superman. Some big bad dude called Steppenwolf wants to obtain 3 crates filled with dark power so that he can transform earth into a fiery realm much like his own after being stopped before in millenia past...or so. So to stop him, Batman and Wonder-Woman recruit extraordinary individuals: Cyborg Man, The Flash, and Aquaman and of course Superman. That's pretty much the story in a nutshell. Now, I was one of those people that enjoyed and liked Batman vs. Superman, however for Justice wasn't quite the same reaction. Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman just didn't work in this film. He was dull, flat, boring and completely uninteresting. That's it. Gal Gadot as Wonder-Woman was surprisingly equally dull, flat, boring and completely uninteresting. That's it for her too. The same goes for Henry Cavil when he shows up as Superman. The most interesting character of the "Justice League" was Cyborg played Ray Fisher. There was something compelling about him and his character, as well as a super cool factor too. Hopefully (if they do a good job on the writing) they make a stand alone film with him; I think it could work quite well. The Flash played by Ezra Miller did excellent and came across in a positive light I thought. Humor, but also with some flaws, but it would have been great to see his character come across more seriously than where he ended up, but I am sure that is to come. Jason Mamoa as Aquaman was okay, but his character probably received the least amount of attention in the film of all the good guys, but there is a good deal of potential to work with, if done correctly, although given the performance of this previous film I doubt if they will be able to pull it off. Ciarin Hinds was the voice of the villain Steppenwolf, who was a very lame villain. He was boring, not very menacing, and totally ineffective in regards to creating a desperate situation for the heroes to overcome. Jeremy Irons was good as Alfred, or what little of him there was. J.K. Simmons only had a brief role as Commissioner Gordon, but that was a nice little cameo. Diane Lane as Martha Kent was nice to see her reprise her role, and Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta as well. A great cast was assembled for this film, but it was not utilized effectively.
As I mentioned previously, Zack Snyder is a brilliant director and one of my favorite, but for some reason in this film he really fell completely flat stylistically, and even the story and plot were simplistic and not dynamic at all. Even the action and cinematography were relatively uninteresting and boring. Of all his films I've seen, this is perhaps his worst and biggest dud in my opinion, and hopefully he only improves moving forward. Better writers are needed for the next set of films, and ironically one of the writers was Joss Whedon. What killed this film ultimately was bad writing, although I will put a lot of the blame also on poor directing too. The writing was so aimless and the characters so poorly written it adversely affected the film in such a powerful way. Danny Elfman composed the score for the film, and now that I think of it that fact really stuns me as there is nothing memorable or good from the music score whatsoever. No grand themes, no sweeping or interesting motifs; just really flat, kind of like the entire film. As he is one of my favorite film composers, this was also very disappointing. Wow this film is just racking up the disappointment points. As I mentioned earlier as well the cinematography was pretty lame, and the editing was atrocious; the choppy flow really ruined what good story or plot lines there were. The action sequences in this film were also blah, and considering what they had to work with, I don't know why Zack Snyder struggled coming up with something really cool and amazing. Overall this film was terrible, awful, or horrible; it was simply flat and blah. Entertaining enough, but I really expected a whole lot more, so the next time around they better make some great improvements.

Justice League clip

Justice League interviews

Ocean's 8 trailer (looks like it could be good)

Friday, March 30, 2018

Time for a Drive......

Heist films typically are safe bets, provided they are relatively well done and cast, the Ocean films and The Italian Job are fine examples this genre. Baby Driver wasn't something that I was really looking forward to seeing because the previews made it look ridiculous, or really just another obnoxious heist film, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. The film is about a young man who is essentially an expert driver and uses those skills as the getaway driver for a criminal group of people. He (known as Baby) is working towards getting out of the criminal business and moving on to something else. And of course along the way he meets a beautiful woman. His world however, is shaped by the music he listens to; he carefully selects what he listens to before he drives the criminals away, as he drives the criminals away from the authorities, in victory, and then in every day life. It is the music that drives his life. Even though he doesn't necessarily talk much, Ansel Elgort as Baby does a terrific job of getting across a wide range of emotions, thoughts and feelings to the viewer. He is humorous, empathetic, and possesses this genuine nature that makes you want to connect with his character. This of course is an indicator of two things: good writing and good acting. Jon Hamm as Buddy plays essentially this smooth go-lucky criminal who is lighthearted about the criminal activities they are undertaking. You like him and you hate him; villain and scoundrel. Personally I don't care much for this actor, but he did well in this film. Eiza Gonzalez plays Darling, essentially the other half of Jon Hamm's character; they're like Bonnie and Clyde, except more psychotic. Static characters, but they add a necessary dimension to the film. Lilly James as Deborah adds some much needed air into at times a very dark and violent film (hence the R rating). As the love interest of Baby, the two of them together have great chemistry on-screen, and a good deal of delight and empathy as a couple. She once again shows that she has a good deal of talent. Regardless of what people think or say, Kevin Spacey is a phenomenal actor, and that will never change regardless of the allegations made against him. He plays Doc, essentially the ringleader of this merry band of bandits; he is smart, cutthroat, shrewd, and has this laid back sense of humor. There is also this almost mentor kind of relationship with Baby that just works despite how he treats the young man. The last major cast member was Jamie Foxx, and if this film were to have a traditional villain, then he would have been it. He is a fine and talented actor, and he played his role so well that I couldn't stand him in this film at all. This has nothing to do with his performance, but rather his character was just so unlikable. So note to everyone; Jamie Foxx makes an excellent villain.
Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz) wrote and directed the film, and I have to say he did an excellent job with it all. Not only is the story well done and written, but the execution of it was quite good too. Lately in Hollywood a lot of films have good potential but due to poor writing tend to be quite dreadful; fortunately the opposite was true in this case. The action for the most part was quite dynamic and fantastic, with only some of the action towards the ends of the film bordering on the ridiculous or overwhelming. Perhaps what people will remember most from this film will be the music in conjunction with the action sequences. I'm not quite certain how the music was selected, but it worked very well with what was going on-screen. Which was why it was nominated for three Academy Awards in the technical elements categories. The cinematography by Bill Pope was excellent and should have been nominated for an Academy Award. There was this gravitas to the shots and camera angles that along with the music made the film come across as....smooth is the best descriptor. Now this isn't entirely light and fluffy like The Italian Job, but it does have that element peppered throughout the entire film. I was very delighted to find that I ended up very much enjoying the film and I highly recommend it for everyone, unless you prefer your movies 100% fluffy, then this will not be for you.

Baby Driver opening scene

Baby Driver interview

Into the Badlands season 3 trailer

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Golden Sequel....?

The first Kingsman film was actually quite good for the most part. This was due to it's fresh take on the British action, spy genre and because of the director's vision of the film. Also there was a good cast and good writing. However, with Kingsman: The Golden Circle I wouldn't really state that lightning struck twice. What made the film originally good and unique ended up becoming an albatross for this sequel unfortunately. So Eggsy (not sure why the character doesn't really have a proper name yet) is now a full fledged "Kingsman" chasing down the bad guys and what not, except the hunters now become the hunted. A new criminal organization known as "The Golden Circle" destroy the entire Kingsman organization and thus the few remanining agents (Merlin and Eggsy) go to the United States in order to recruit the assistance of "The Statesman"; the American equivalent of the Kingsman. Together they partner to deal with this new deadly threat and save the world, encountering a few surprises along the way. Taron Egerton as Eggsy does a brilliant job of blending gentleman spy with modern British punk hipster; and I believe the young man has a great future of acting ahead of him. He's humorous, serious and get's to the point; there are some trite romantic moments, but nothing too ridiculous. Mark Strong as Merlin was good, but they tried to give him more depth, and I don't think it worked quite so well. Not to mention I didn't care for where the character ended up eventually. Julianne Moore played the villainess Poppy, and she was plenty evil and what not, but it was way over the top in a very obnoxious/outlandish way. Samuel Jackson was a much better and far more interesting villain. Channing Tatum played Tequila, an American Statesman, who was incredibly obnoxious and useless in the story. I don't know if I've ever really seen a movie that I liked this gentleman in. Jeff Bridges had a very small role, unfortunately, as the leader of the Statesman, but he did a good job. Pedro Pascal (played Oberon Martell in Game of Thrones) was agent Whiskey for the Statesman and their best agent apparently. He had a fairly complex storyline, but I still found him obnoxious. Surprisingly, Halle Berry (as Ginger) was not obnoxious whatsoever, and was perhaps the most pleasant of the American counterparts in Statesman; she essentially did what Merlin did, and she did it quite well. It would have been better to grow her character and eliminate Channing Tatum completely. Elton John had a role playing himself which was perhaps the most ridiculous part of the entire film, and completely unnecessary; it was for me what killed the film in the end.
I'm not certain what Matthew Vaughn was thinking when he wrote the screenplay and directed the film. He had so much he could have done with the film, and for some odd reason he took the project in the dumbest direction imaginable. I didn't care for the film, although I did like several parts of it. The direction of the story was the biggest problem with the film. The villain, Poppy, was too much; and her dream of selling her drugs legally or killing millions of people was not really interesting. The notion that all of the "Statesmen" are country western cowboys that are trigger happy lushes, didn't really thrill me that the United States was painted in such a light. And for the most part the action wasn't really that good. Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson composed the original music, but it was about as good and memorable as the film itself. The cinematography by George Richmond was good and sometimes very impressive, but without a good story or good direction it became lost amongst the obnoxiousness of everything else that was going on. Colin Firth may have been the best part of the whole film; although I did like Mark Strong and Taron Egerton a good deal, but they were not enough to make this film likable for me. It was entertaining, but I keep going back to Elton John and that just ruins it all. I don't really encourage anyone to see this film; it would be a waste of your time, especially when there are far better films to watch and divert oneself with. I don't know why Hollywood in general can't really create good sequels to good films; it's like an unbreakable curse for the most part. Exceptions to this curse are rare; George Lucas and Christopher Nolan are really the only directors/creators who made multiple sequels that were just as good if not sometimes better than the original.

  Colin Firth and Taron Egerton interview

Kingsman: The Golden Circle trailer

Monday, February 26, 2018

Hostility at its Finest.

I didn’t know too much about this film other than that it was depicting a story in the “old west” period of American history (actually it’s 1892 the period the film takes places in, but they marketed as the “old west”). I don’t know how many of you have attempted to watch modern westerns of all kinds, but for the most part they all stink pretty bad. This was on my mind as I saw down to watch it, but I suppose I still had an open mind. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the film and how well done it was. The story is about two characters really; a woman who survives her family being massacred, and a soldier with a huge chip on his shoulder about Native Americans. Both of them cross paths and help each other journey from Arizona to Montana to bring a Cheyenne chief home so that he may die with his people. The film stars Christian Bale as Captain Joseph Blocker; he comes off as very sympathetic and understandable, even though he is carrying this huge burden and all of this bitterness inside from day long past. Christian Bale, ever the master of brooding, wounded men played this fantastically. Not only did the character come off as genuine, but he also became the character as well, despite being somewhat one dimensional. Rosamund Pike as Rosalie Quaid was perfection; she is one of the finest actresses of the age, and she plays the difficult roles to prove it. She plays a grieving mother and wife that has lost everything, and Ms. Pike plays this character with such raw passion and believability that it’s almost as if she has become that woman at times because of the extraordinary performance. The only other performance that really stood out was that of Jonathan Majors as Corporal Henry Woodsen. He and Christian Bale had a number of scenes together and they were great, in a good way. He unfortunately didn’t grow as a character, which was a detriment to the film overall. Rory Cochrane played Master Sergeant Thomas Metz, who was a very troubled soldier that couldn’t come to terms with his past actions. I actually didn’t care for this character at all; unlikable, and not really thought out that well. He was just an emotional mess and that’s it’ nothing was really written well for this character. Everyone else did a fine job, but make no mistake Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike were and are the reasons to watch this film.
Scott Cooper wrote and directed the film (he also directed Black Mass) and I think he did a fairly good job. The film was realistic, had a good story and plot with many complex underlying themes and issues at stake without coming off too preachy. There were some social justice angles, but it wasn’t overwhelming to the point of nausea. For the most part the writing was fairly well done, but the film did drag here and there, and some of the characters weren’t written that well, and the ending wasn’t that great, but overall it was good. Max Richter composed the music and I don’t recall it being anything overly notable, which doesn’t mean it was bad only that it wasn’t good enough to be memorable. The cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi was breathtaking, and perhaps the finest technical element of the film. I’ve actually noticed that a lot of filmmakers in recent years are becoming very adept at showcasing astounding cinematography. Remaining technical elements were well done, but nothing really stood out aside from the one. The action in the film was typical of what you’d find in a gritty shoot’em up western, so nothing really dynamic, but this film is not for the faint of heart; the beginning of the film is quite violently disturbing. Hostiles is a good film, not great, but Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike are why you’d want to see this film. If you’re not into performance driven films that are dark than you may want to watch something else. Speaking of things that are dark, I was just teaching about Rome and how dictators can spring up from democracies; China just eliminated term limits on presidents, so Xi Xinping could become president for life like Mao Zedong once was. I’m sure Russia won’t be far behind on making a similar decision. Now these kinds of things are what make me uneasy, along with the mass butchery of people and inaction from those that know it is occurring. I really hope the future gets brighter. May the Force be with us all.

Rosamund Pike interview on Hostiles

Hostiles scene

Jessica Jones season 2 trailer

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Happy Homecoming?

As a young boy I grew up with Spider-Man on television in perhaps the finest adaptation of the comic book character thus far; the 1994 series on Fox Kids that lasted for 5 seasons. So whenever I think of Spider-Man I compare it to how it stands up against this series. Spider-Man: Homecoming I believe suffers from the same mistake that all three series of the films have followed; all of the series start off with Peter Parker in high school rather than college, and for some reason, other than Andrew Garfield, the character was depicted as a short, nerdy, obnoxious young man. Not sure why. And there is no mystery really to the character either; he comes off as a best pal to the city of New York, rather than fighting crime and then retreating to the shadows, or rooftops. So the film starts off with Spider-Man aka. Peter Parker as a huge fanboy of the Avengers while also fighting them in Captain America: Civil War. Then it switches to after that part and how difficult it is for him to adjust without the action in his life, and then he goes looking for it without realizing the danger that is involved. He runs into "The Vulture" also known as Adrian Toomes played brilliantly by Michael Keaton, who ends up being more than the young super-hero can handle and thus Iron Man/Tony Stark gets involved. Honestly, watching a film about obnoxious teenagers during the throes of high school isn't really that interesting to me. Tom Holland I suppose is the exact kind of Spider-Man that the producers wanted, so in that regard the young actor did a fine job with his performance; I just didn't care for his representation, or the fact that he was some short, nerdy kid. Is there a reason he couldn't have been taller, and had a deeper voice. Michael Keaton as the vulture was the best character and really the best part of the entire film. He was interesting and compelling, yet also sympathetic, and he also had the great villainous attitude, not to mention his character was design was pretty cool when he was in costume as "The Vulture". Robert Downey Jr. played Tony Stark as he always does, except he came across as preachy, so he was really more of a distraction than a benefit to the film; the character needs to be able to stand on its own without being propped up by other major characters from the franchise. Marisa Tomei as Aunt May is definitely a new take on the traditionally older character, and it works alright, but she seemed more like an afterthought than anything. Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan who acts as Spider-Man's handler came across as pointless; just another character from the Marvel universe to add in just because they can. The rest of the cast was okay, although Peter's high school friends and compatriots were more than a little annoying.
Jon Watts directed the film, and all I have to say is that hopefully he will improve on the sequel. Apparently the more writers a film has does not necessarily equal a better screenplay; Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers all had a hand in writing the screenplay. The story was good, but as I mentioned before Peter should have been in night college and doing his freelance photographing work at the Daily Bugle. Another problem I had with the screenplay was the humor; for some reason acting stupid and then trying to pretend like you're all cool is supposed to be funny. It's been appearing in a lot of films as a humor style and it really needs to go away, and it was unfortunately quite prevalent in this film. The music by Michael Giacchino wasn't really that inspiring either, which is a huge bummer because he usually is an excellent film composer, and it just didn't come across this time. The cinematography by Salvatore Totino wasn't that great, and considering the darkness of "The Vulture" character it should have been, not to mention with the acrobatics of Spider-Man should have added a whole new dynamic to the film.....and it didn't. The action sequences between "The Vulture" and Spider-Man were okay, but felt kind of like "same old-same old" type that you have seen in all of the Marvel films that have been released thus far. This should be combated by having new and fresh approaches to these films, and for some reason original thinking is experiencing repression in Hollywood currently much to their average box-office profits. There wasn't much that I liked or enjoyed about this film, and it was only Michael Keaton's incredible acting talent that saved me from turning the screen off. If you're a comic book fangirl or fanboy then you'll probably eat this film up. If not, don't waste your time on it. Watch the 1994 Spider-Man television series; it was on Netflix for a while, and for me thus far that remains the definitive Spider-Man.

Spider-Man: Homecoming clip

 Spider-Man: Homecoming interviews

Spider-Man 1994 series clip

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Two Worlds Colliding....What Survives?

Now on the 5th installment of the Transformers film series, Transformers: The Last Knight, and it seems as if there is no original thinking remaining because the creators felt that they had to pilfer from the Arthurian legend and they didn't even do a good job of pilfering and adapting. So the story now after five films in is why are the Transformers coming to earth; not sure why it took so long to ask that question, but someone finally did. So the story is that Optimus Prime does return to Cybertron and finds his creator a being by the name of Quintessa, and she tells him that the key to the survival and rejuvenation of their home is on earth. Apparently some sort of staff was taken from her long ago by the some Transformers and was brought to earth. Apparently Merlin came across this group of Transformers and with their help defeated the bad guys that threatened Arthur's kingdom. At that point there became a brotherhood or secret organization that kept this secret safe for over a thousand years. Fast forward to the current time and any and all Transformers are outlaws and will be destroyed on sight, along with any who help them. Now, Mark Wahlberg reprises his role as Cade Yeager and does a fine job, and honestly there was nothing wrong with his performance and I was just thankful that Shia LeBouf is gone. However, what was written for him just wasn't all that great. Anthony Hopkins played a cool role as the last descendant of this secret organization, Sir Edmund Burton, and was okay but not that interesting. Josh Duhamel came back and reprised his role from the earlier films, and was boring and preachy unfortunately, but he did have some grey hair so that was a nice touch. Laura Haddock, who is a brilliant actress, played Vivian Wembley who is essentially a key part to the whole secret organization, and if they had focused more on her character and Mr. Wahlberg's then the film would have been much better. Santiago Cabrera played a human enforcer antagonist, and although he was a static character, it was nice to see him after watching him do so well in Merlin the BBC series as Lancelot. For some odd reason, Michael Bay wanted a child character and Isabela Moner played this individual who was entirely obnoxious and pointless, and very preachy as well. Jerrod Carmichael apparently was supposed to be some sort of comic relief, but that failed miserably. Stanley Tucci played a stupid, drunk Merlin because heaven forbid people from long were actually decent and honorable. It was not a good representation of the myth. The voices of the Transformers were good, although none of the robotic characters generated any interest for me, and it was vexing that Hugo Weaving did not voice Megatron. The remainder of the cast was okay, but there was nothing quite that excellent about this film.
I do not know what is wrong with Michael Bay. Somehow he made a bundle of cash on the 4th Transformers film which was extraordinarily terrible, and although this film made good money, it didn't make anywhere near as much the previous ones. He should have stopped after the 3rd film and moved onto other projects. He's a brilliant science fiction director, but has allowed himself to get stuck in this franchise and really do nothing else. Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, and Ken Nolan wrote the screenplay and the story with some help from Akiva Goldsman and this was probably a huge part of the problem here. The screenplay was simply not good so therefore neither was the film. The series veteran composer Steve Jablonsky composed the music, but there was nothing that really stood out at all. The first film was his best, and the same with Michael Bay. Cinematography by Jonathan Sela wasn't remarkable at all, and considering the scope of the film it really should have been. The action in this film was boring, overkill, and honestly really stupid most of the time. None of it was really cool or wowing; just quite dull. The movie could have been quite good if they had just had a whole lot less, a lot less. Too much was going on and there were too many characters, that there wasn't any focus and it all floundered. If you don't watch this movie you might thank yourself, but if you do perhaps you'll be entertained.
I just recently finished my next U.S. Presidential Biography on Woodrow Wilson. He was a very fascinating man; very educated and thoughtful. Had his doctorate, taught at Princeton and became its president as well for a time before becoming governor of New Jersey and then U.S. President. He was an excellent politician and worked relatively well with the other members of congress and played state and educational politics equally well. Even though he appears to be quite the stern professor type, he was actually quite the jolly man and liked a good romp as any other man. He preferred parliamentary system of governance rather than what the U.S. system was. The first time he ran, he only received about forty some odd percent of the popular vote, and if Theodore Roosevelt hadn't had to worry about Taft, Wilson would have lost. He was fortunate to have Democratic majorities in congress for his initial years in office so he could really get what he wanted, it was only afterward when Republicans controlled the Senate and House that he found it increasingly difficult. The book I read was "Woodrow Wilson: A biography" by John Milton Cooper Jr. Unfortunately it was written in a very, very boring manner. There was such excruciatingly painful detail that it bogged down the narrative of the book, which was why it took me so long to finish reading. A good deal of the book was spent on WWI and creating the League of Nations; I found out more concerning the peace process than I ever wanted to. Wilson was a good president there is no doubt, but I believe his ridiculous hesitancy to get involved in the war earlier on prolonged the conflict, and his poor diplomatic skills did little to deter the conflict from happening either. He only entered the war reluctantly, and almost by force of public and political persuasion. He had a tendency to believe that his way was the morally right way and that he had to convince others of it as well, and a huge part of that was his religious affiliation. Interestingly enough after he had a debilitating stroke which almost resulted in his death, his wife and secretary handled the majority of presidential affairs and his cabinet secretaries handled their own departments with little interference. So many have said that was when the U.S. had its first female president; second of course was during the Clinton administration. Wilson died in 1924 and even though the League of Nations never came to fruition, I think he would have been happy to see the United Nations come about, although I don't know if he would be proud or disappointed to see what it has become. If you look at both him and President Obama in a parallel fashion, you see many similarities in personality, approach to leadership, dislike of getting involved in conflicts, and a fondness for international agreements to name a few. He was a good statesman though and loved this country, and I think he would be deeply disturbed at the current state of U.S. politics and culture of the U.S. Next up is U.S. President Grant who helped Lincoln keep the Union together.

Transformers: The Last Knight clip

Interview with Laura Haddock

Info on President Woodrow Wilson

Mortal Engines trailer (not sure, but it could be interesting at least).

Sunday, January 7, 2018

"Death is but the Doorway to New Life...."

This is one tale that has seen many incarnations since Boris Karloff took up the mantle back in 1932, which was an amazing adaptation of The Mummy, and although I enjoyed Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing's version in 1959, the one starring Brendan Frasier and Rachel Weisz in 1999 was the best. It should have been left that way, but of course big studio companies never leave a franchise alone just in case it could produce a big cash-in. Which brings us to The Mummy 2017 and apparently when Universal Studios is going to usher in their "Dark Universe" which is the equivalent of Disney's Marvel The Avengers and Warner Brother's The Justice League.  In this universe that they hope to create they're going to bring in the Wolfman, Dracula, Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll, the Mummy and perhaps the Phantom of the Opera and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Unfortunately The Mummy didn't put the potential series on the right track and seriously under-performed. So the film is about you guessed it, a mummy. This time though a woman plays the ancient villain who is came back to life so that she could bring Set, the Egyptian god of death, into the world. Tom Cruise as a U.S. army soldier finds the burial site and sets the chain of events in motion. However, there is a secret organization led by Dr. Jekyll who do what they can to contain such evil and work to stop the mummy. So Tom Cruise plays the....young, dashing hero (Nick Morton)? Young and dashing he is not, so I'm really confused as to why they used him; he looked really old, as if he should be sitting out of the action rather than being in the thick of it. He really needs to throw in the towel with being an action star. I actually do not really care of him as an actor either; he suffers from acting as himself predominantly, and it really showed in this film. Annabelle Wallis who plays the love interest and an archaeologist, Jenny Halsey, did a fairly good job, but still had that whole dumb blonde factor going on unfortunately. The way her character was written, it was difficult to take her seriously. Perhaps the best part of the entire film was Russell Crowe who played Dr. Jekyll. He was a sympathetic character, mysterious, and well written and acted....actually, that might have been the only part of the film that was well done. Sofia Boutella played the mummy Ahmanet, and did a fine job with the character; what didn't help her cause was that her opposite was Tom Cruise. Honestly that was perhaps the worst part of the film was the miscasting of him. Courtney B. Vance played a very small role unfortunately as an American colonel, which was a real waste of his talent, and time honestly. Overall the casting in general wasn't bad, but their decision to have Tom Cruise rather than someone else was a huge mistake.
The director, Alex Kurtzman, should stick to producing and leave the directing to individuals that are better suited for the task. David Koepp, who is a prolific screenwriter, definitely failed here, but as you look through his credits you kind of see that as a big trend in his career. Aside from the casting of Tom Cruise, the writing was the biggest flaw for the film; there was bland dialog, and a fairly bland story line and plot. Although this could have been quite an intricately crafted film with the whole Dark Universe take on the these classic characters, and Russell Crowe could have really shined, it all just fell rather flat unfortunately. Brian Tyler who is a fairly decent composer, didn't come even close to Jerry Goldsmith's amazing score or even Alan Silvestri's score for the previous mummy films. The music was simply okay....kind of like the film. It's funny how similar threads run through the various parts of a film. The cinematography by Ben Seresin was actually quite good, even though the directing really wasn't, but this gentleman was lucky to have one of the better technical elements of the film in his favor. There was something about how he captured the shadows, and low light areas that I found quite thrilling. The action in this film was terrible. There wasn't anything even remotely cool that was happening between any characters. Granted if that was the case the film's creators really should have gone the other direction and did more exploration and creepiness, rather than blustery, pathetic action. I guess they live and hopefully least for their next entry into this franchise; The Invisible Man starring Johnny Depp. Overall the film wasn't that great, and Tom Cruise was annoying, but I really did thoroughly enjoy Russell Crowe and the direction that they could be taking these characters. Hopefully though Tom Cruise will have no significant future in any of these films. Meanwhile, the world goes on; apparently ISIS is defeated, North Korea wants to have "talks" and Iran's people are protesting. So some good news perhaps?

The Mummy preview

The Mummy behind the scenes

Saturday, January 6, 2018

"Death Will Come Straight for Him...."

Ever since 2003 when Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was released to theaters to a resounding success and then with the follow up of The Dead Man's Chest the series has been a huge financial and merchandise asset for Walt Disney Studios. Even though the 4th installment made a good meal of money from overseas, it was not widely considered very good, and the 5th installment was even less inclined to be considered good theater going fare. I do have to say that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was much better than On Stranger Tides. The film follows the adventures of Will and Elizabeth Turner's son Henry as he tries to set his father free from the curse of the Flying Dutchman. Along the way he runs into a woman who is trying to fulfill her father's work, even though she never knew him. Of course Jack Sparrow makes an appearance along the way and he is trying to run from yet again another...individual who desires him dead; Captain Salazar, who turns out to be the villain. Ironically though, he hunts down pirates because they murdered his family, and only kills technically he isn't really villainous unless you're a pirate apparently. Oh, and he and his men suffer from a curse which keeps them dead like zombies or something like that. All of these players, plus more, end up looking guessed it, Poseidon's Trident, because what else would a bunch of seafaring people look for that could end all curses, and help one dominate the sea. Of course at the forefront of all of this is Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. I'm not certain if he is beginning to lose his edge, or if the character is becoming to predictable, or the writing is just poorer than ever, but this is perhaps his worst performance of the character of all five films, or I should say weakest. His finest performance of course was the first film, which was of course the finest film as well. Javier Bardem played the villain Captain Salazar, and did so quite well, although he should have had more prominence in the film than he did; this was due to an overcrowded field of villains and minor characters. Geoffrey Rush played Captain Barbossa who grew a little bit more as a character in this film, and was perhaps his second best performance of the character, although I won't give away the key plot point that is tied to this. Brenton Thwaites played Henry Turner, and actually did quite well. I by far enjoyed his character far more than Orlando Bloom's Will Turner. He was compelling, humorous, empathetic, and not as preachy or obnoxious as Will Turner. Kaya Scodelario played Carina Smyth, who turned out to be the love interest for Henry, and the token Elizabeth Swann character. It's a shame they didn't spend a little more time developing her character and her story line as there was really great potential there. David Wenham played the typical British officer antagonist, but was more background than anything useful to forward the story and/or plot. The supporting cast was good, but definitely nobody stood out aside from the headlining cast.
For some odd reason it took two directors to helm this film; Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, and they did a decent job but nothing quite inventive or remarkable about their style; very linear and straightforward. Perhaps where this film erred the most was the writing by Jeff Nathanson, although the story by Terry Rossio was pretty good, but it was the screenplay that desperately needed some help. Geoff Zanelli composed the music, and aside from his work on this film I've never heard of him before, or rather the music I've watched of his on previous films wasn't profound enough for me to remember him or the music. I suppose that says enough. His work on Dead Men Tell No Tales wasn't dreadful, but there wasn't anything really memorable or electrifying about the score. Paul Cameron did the cinematography which was like the directing, very linear and plain; not that it was poor or bad, but it wasn't much else. The action sequences in this film were.....a little over the top, but mostly boring and not very dynamic; The Curse of the Black Pearl had the best action. Visual effects were okay, and I have to admit that I really liked what was done with Captain Salazar and his crew; they appeared as if they were in this constant state of death of when exactly they all died. It was quite impressive and perhaps the best idea of the film. Overall it was an entertaining film and that's about it. I would watch it again, but it wasn't amazing I have to point out. Hopefully Walt Disney will stop making these films as it seems Johnny Depp appears worn out by the character as he didn't have much to offer in this last film. See it, don't see it; either or won't make much of a difference. Moving away from the 5th Pirates film, I visited Los Angeles, CA with some family last week and we visited the legendary "Hollywood Walk of Fame" and I was disappointed to discover that two very important individuals to the movie making business do not have a "star" and they are John Williams and George Lucas. One man is the finest film composer of all time, and the other man changed movies forever and how people watched them. Not that I care much for Hollywood these days as any kind of an institution, but they should really do something for these men while they yet live. However, I'm certain they will not, which would explain my continuing disdain for Hollywood and all of its various guilds. The tend to love and adore figures like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey (who unfortunately is really a phenomenal actor) and shun talented innovators like George Lucas. Should be interesting to see how the Golden Globes go over tomorrow in light of everything that has been going on. Well, as I've possibly written before; films are primarily for entertainment, although they can be considered art and used for teaching lessons, and actors and actresses are merely entertainers and nothing more and should be treated and addressed as such. It is indeed a sad state of affairs when entertainers are paid more and exulted more than those who are protectors such as soldiers and first responders. Something to consider.

Interview with Johnny Depp

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales trailer

Creating the Make-up for Dead Men Tell No Tales 

Monday, January 1, 2018

"Sight is Overrated."

Well Happy New Years to all! I have a feeling that 2018 will be quite a memorable year, although 2017 will go down in American history as being very, very memorable so I don't know if 2018 will top 2017, but I'm sure it will surprise everyone. So not too long ago I finished watching Netflix's The Defenders season 1 (and before I watched that I saw Iron Fist season 1 but I didn't think it was worth mentioning considering how much I didn't like it). Aside from the fact that I am getting all comic-booked out, sometimes it is interesting to see where all of these characters are being taken and the direction the stories will go. I didn't care for Luke Cage so I just avoided that show and learned about his storyline as The Defenders unfolded. So this season....or show, culminates in Jessica Jones, the Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil all battling The Hand and its five originating members, two of which audiences are familiar with, the other three are new. Anyways, The Hand wants the Iron Fist, although the reason why isn't mentioned until almost the end, and they also unleash a powerful "weapon" to try and capture him and eliminate the other heroes. So while that is going on the four heroes, reluctant heroes that is, are trying to bond enough so that they can help each other defeat The Hand. This is no easy task, with Jessica Jones being the most resistant of the group of course. I'm going to start with the interesting characters they are few. Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones is perhaps my favorite to watch of the group as she isn't preachy, or overly obnoxious. She's down to earth, no frills, and doesn't abide by some idealistic code of honor or ethics. This is refreshing and hopefully the writers do not end up destroying her character. Charlie Cox as Daredevil can be quite preachy at times and was so in Daredevil season 2, but in this series he seems to have shed that a little thankfully. He like Jessica Jones is a very complex character, which of course makes him very interesting, and somehow the writers miraculously utilized it well in this season of the show. I like his character a lot and I'm hoping as he progresses that he'll have a little bit more Jessica Jones tossed into his character, as well as more polish as a superhero. Scott Glenn as Stick was a genius move whoever decided to cast him in that role. He is rather static, but some of the crap he pulls nobody saw coming. This gives his character great depth and of course makes him fascinating....if only they could explore it more. For me the best part of this entire show was Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra Reid, the leader of The Hand. At first I didn't have a clue who she was, but slowly it was revealed. One of my favorite scenes is her listening to a private concert of a piece of music written by Brahms, and afterwards she and the director are chatting about the music, and she talks as if she personally knew Brahms when he wrote that specific piece. At that moment, for me, you knew she was not a woman to be trifled with. Her elegance, finesses, and power radiated confidently and strongly. It was very, very well done on her part and the writer's part. One of my other favorite characters was Madame Gao, also a prominent member of The Hand. There was something always so powerful and mysterious about her, and she is played by Wai Ching Ho so flawlessly and effortlessly. Her cool calculating and wisdom are profound. The scenes with her and Ms. Weaver were some of my most favorite.
Mike Colter as Luke Cage and Finn Jones as The Iron Fist (Danny Rand) were perhaps some of the most annoying and obnoxious characters in the show. Luke Cage's preachy crusader mentality drove me nuts, and Danny Rand and his neverending crusade against the evil of The Hand and protecting K'un-Lun and humanity just wore on me. The performances of the actors were great, but I just didn't care for their characters. Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing (the Iron Fist's girlfriend and sidekick) was for the most part obnoxious as she is a similar version of the Iron Fist, and she also has this desperate urge to prove that she's a big girl warrior. Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple I go back and forth on; sometimes she's fine, and other times she just gets in the way because despite not being any kind of hero or having any super skills, she was really in the middle and heat of the action. She was better as a supporting character on the sidelines, not in the thick of it. But she did an awesome job, and she's a very talented woman. The rest of the cast was good, but nothing really stand out from the rest of the group. I did leave out one very specific and important character, but I didn't want to spoil anything. This person was quite a pleasant surprise, and worked out pretty well all things considering. Overall the action for the show was okay; there was a lot of punching and kicking en masse, so not a lot of dynamic style, or interesting fight sequences as there could have or should have been. Also, some of the "big bad guys" came off as really weak to me unfortunately rather than as powerful as they should have been. The writing was okay, but I would have gone in a little different of a direction, considering several things didn't make much sense how key plot points were written out. The show was entertaining and gripping enough though, and unlike the Iron Fist I wasn't waiting for the season to finish because I was getting annoyed with it. If there wouldn't have been the Iron Fist or Luke Cage, the show would have been so much better, but what can you do. Music, costume design, and even writing....nothing really stood out. It wasn't bad, and if you enjoy comic book television or film themed shows then this is for you. It should be interesting over the course of the next couple of years to see how Marvel and Disney take all of this, possibly even away from Netflix. God be with us all, and especially now with the brave people protesting the oppressive dictatorial regime in Iran. It takes a lot of guts and bravery to stand up to people who could kill you with impunity.

The Defenders scene

Charlie Cox and Finn Jones interview

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms trailer (possibilities, but will probably be atrocious).

Sunday, December 31, 2017

It's Time for Star Wars to End....

I never thought the words would ever come out of my mouth, or be typed by my own hands, but yes after watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I believe that Star Wars needs to be done with in regards to feature films at least, and possibly everything needs to stop. As you can tell I am one of the very few that didn't care for the new Star Wars film whatsoever. There will be spoilers, so if you haven't watched the film yet perhaps it would be wise to do so first, but it is up to you. So apparently the 8th film takes place immediately right after the 7th film if I am understanding the chronology correctly, if not then it is all very confusing. So essentially the entire film is one long chase where the First Order is trying to destroy the Resistance in their powerful mega battleships as the faster Resistance ships try to outrun them; it becomes a battle of attrition eventually. Meanwhile, Rey and Luke....well...I wouldn't call it training, but they're together and Luke isn't the bright eyed, idealistic man he was in Return of the Jedi and he refuses to train Rey, or have anything really to do with her. So there is a lot of back and forth between them about what should or shouldn't be done. And aside from deviations from those two plots, that is essentially the film. So we obviously have Daisy Ridley as Rey, and I suppose she grew as a character. She had perhaps the most interesting character, aside from Luke Skywalker, and therefore it was interesting to see the two of them have scenes together. Although it's hard to say how much she grew by the end of the film. Luke Skywalker played by Mark Hamill was well done on his part, although like him I did not agree with the direction the character went; much too dark, and too bitter. It is definitely never something George Lucas would have done. Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa was okay, but nothing really astounding, and I thought they were actually going to kill her off; I was quite surprised when they didn't. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren was a little more conflicted this time around, but he was definitely better in the previous film; he came across as more backdrop than anything until a few key moments. It would have been great to see him grow, but the crowded screen of characters made that very difficult to do. John Boyega as Finn had much smaller role in this film than previously, therefore he didn't really grow much at all as a character, which is a real shame. I was actually hoping he was going to die because his character got really annoying in this film. Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron saw his role grow substantially quite larger in this film, which was okay but he came off as rather obnoxious throughout the film. His arrogant stupidity seemed like it belonged more in Top Gun than in Star Wars. Andy Serkis finally got his opportunity to shine as Supreme Leader Snoke and he did fantastic.....until he died rather anti-climatically, leaving disappointment and lots of questions behind. More on that later. Lupita Nyongo had a very brief appearance as Maz Kanata for some odd reason. General Hux played by Domhnall Gleeson came off more stupid and pathetic in this film than he had been in the previous film for some odd reason. Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma had a very brief and pointless appearance in this film and then of course died. For new characters there was Rose Tico played by Kelly Marie Tran, who is a Resistance engineer of sorts who gets involved in one of the side plots of the film. She is a preachy, obnoxious character that has complete irrelevance to the entire story; I am at a complete loss why the filmmakers thought her character was needed unless Disney was pushing to have more central female characters in the film. Laura Dern played Vice Admiral Holdo, and did so brilliantly and I really wish she would have lived to fight another day, but alas she also died. Benicio Del Toro had a small role as a slicer DJ, and he had the potential to be a really cool character, but I don't think they put his incredible talent to much use unfortunately. Honestly a great cast, but their characters weren't written that well.
Okay, Rian Johnson I thought would be an improvement over J.J. Abrams, but I was more than incredibly wrong. The Last Jedi came across more like a Star Trek film than a Star Wars film, and yes there are monumental differences between the 2 film franchises. Star Wars isn't preachy, Star Trek is; Star Trek has bad action sequences that aren't dynamic or new and refreshing, Star Wars has some of the best, dynamic action sequences in cinematic history; Star Trek focuses on social issues, Star Wars focuses on the story and characters; Star Trek sticks with the cinematic status quo, Star Wars always pushes what is cinematically possible; Star Trek films are each different from each other, Star Wars films are all connected thematically to each other by motifs and themes that consistently appear in each film; lastly, Star Trek doesn't have consistent cinematic music, Star Wars has the finest music scores of any film and will outlast the franchise's popularity. The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have come across to me more as Star Trek films than Star Wars because those motifs that are present in all 6 Star Wars films are not in the 7th and especially the 8th film. Honestly, George Lucas made Star Wars and without him or his guidance/influence nothing can be. Both Abrams and Johnson have done everything they can to eliminate Lucas' presence from the new films. They did this by switching to practical effects, puppets, animatronics, and realistic characters and places (just like Star Trek). While George was always pushing the envelope, the two directors pushed it back with a vengeance. In The Last Jedi the ship design was crap; nothing really new and original that actually looked good. I love John Williams and he is the best film composer in the world, but this score was quite boring and nowhere anywhere near as good as the previous 6 films or even film 7. World design was crap; an island, space, a desert mineral world, and a world that looked like it came from the Caribbean. Costume design was okay, but the only thing that looked fantastic was Carrie Fisher's outfit and Snoke's Praetorian Guard. Once again there was no climatic or amazing lightsaber battle, which was incredibly disappointing considering Luke was in this film as a major Jedi Master. There was also throughout the film a severe lack of seriousness to the characters with what was going on; it almost came off as a ridiculous joke. Also another once again; the writers killed off the wrong character in Luke, as Carrie Fisher died in real life; so now none of these actors or characters will ever be able to ever interact with each other ever again. Nice job Disney, Abrams and Johnson. As for Snoke dying in such a ridiculous manner, what a let down; he went from being an all-powerful villain that was mysterious and shrouded in secrecy, to cut in half by sheer luck halfway through the second act. And
Luke Skywalker also died in a very anti-climactic nonsensical manner.
As you can tell there was pretty much nothing about this film I enjoyed, and the Yoda puppet was the cherry on top. The ending of the film was also very, very odd; I don't know why they chose to end it on an unknown character, but it was so ridiculous and not like Star Wars at all. My perspective is of the vein that Star Wars Episodes 1-6 form a seamless saga bound together by music, a common visual and cinematic vision, a singular story, various motifs that consistently appear to connect each film to each other, and the imagination and creative restraint and guidance of George Lucas. Without these elements present nothing can truly be Star Wars. Although I incredibly dislike The Last Jedi it was not necessarily a bad film, for me it just isn't Star Wars for the above mentioned reasons. What will happen is that Disney and it's directors they choose to helm each film will try to remain in the past with the Star Wars films from the 1980's rather than pushing the envelope ahead in the area of technology, design and storytelling. It will be this inability to change, adapt and grow that overtime will dull the franchise and eventually lead to its inevitable destruction. That may sound rather apocalyptic and over the top, and I will admit that it is very pessimistic, but consider that Star Wars, i.e. George Lucas, changed Hollywood forever and how movies were made, what have Rian Johnson, J.J. Abrams and Disney done with newest films? All they're interested in doing is making lots and lots of money, re-making Star Wars in their own image rather than sticking with what worked successfully with the other 6 films, and they will bleed the franchise dry of every drop they can get out of it. Yes, it is time for Star Wars to end.

The Last Jedi behind the scenes

The Last Jedi interviews

The Last Jedi trailer

Sunday, December 24, 2017

"You'll have to Think Like an American..."

Lately it seems as if I have been coming across a lot of films that haven't been particularly good, but I was recently delightfully surprised when I watched this film Brooklyn. I wasn't actually thinking that it was going to be any good going into it, but I was quite wrong. The film is about a young Irish woman in the 1950's, Ellis, who immigrates to the United States to New York City, and starts a new life. She has some difficulty settling in, but then she meets a young Italian man, Tony, and together they begin a romance. However, unexpected disaster has her return to Ireland, and then she isn't certain if she wants to return to New York City. The film is based on the book written by Colm Toibin, who is an Irish writer. The lead role, Ellis, is played fantastically by Saoirse Ronan. She is such a talented actress, and really delved deeply into her character in such a remarkable way. From the beginning to the end of the film her character when through a dynamic change, and it was gradual, so it came off as genuine rather than forced or rush. Emory Cohen played Tony, the romance interest, and although his character was really static, he proved to be an anchor for her character which resulted in a balance to the two characters. Jim Broadbent had a small role as an Irish Priest who sponsored Ellis to come to the United States, which is always a great addition to have him in any film. Domnhall Gleeson played Jim Farrell, who turns out to be an Irish version of Tony that Ellis finds on her return to Ireland. Although he does a delightful job with his role, it is honestly quite static, which as it does with the role of Tony, works wonderfully in the film with the other characters. The majority of the cast doesn't really have any other big names, but all of them gave spectacular performances that without the film wouldn't have been anywhere near as good. The biggest attraction to this film is of course Ms. Ronan, who as an actress has really stepped up her game, and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance of Ellis.
The Director, John Crowley, who is from Ireland did a fantastic job bringing this film together and really giving it heart, as trite as that may sound, but true it very much is. And credit has to go to the screenwriter Nick Hornby, who's pen created elegant and powerful dialog and different scene set-ups. The music by Michael Brook was unfortunately not memorable, but it at least didn't detract from the quality of the film. The cinematography by Yves Belanger was quite good; there was something very crisp and fresh about how the film was shot, especially with the scenes in Ireland, but then there was something antiquated almost with how the New York scenes were filmed. The end result was something very lovely. Now for most films that are set in the modern period, I don't really mention that much about the costume design, but there was something very exquisite about the style and design of the clothes. Odile Dicks-Mireaux was the costume designer and this individual I really do have to say did an excellent job of capturing the essence of the characters of the film. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I laughed a whole lot, and even teared up a little bit at the end. It is a quality film that I highly recommend for other people to watch. Since it is Christmas, I do want to wish everyone in the whole world a very merry Christmas and a great New Year! Some good news for me personally is that I am teaching college level classes and enjoying it, with the foreseeable future of that being my current career. If the trend continues, it will be a miraculous finish to quite a dreadful year. As Tiny Tim said it best, "God bless us, everyone."

Interview with Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn

Ocean's 8 trailer (who knows if this will be any good, but at least it has a good cast).

Avengers Infinity War trailer (looks good).

Friday, October 27, 2017

"Serve in Heaven, or Reign in Hell?"

I have seen all but two of the Alien franchise films (Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection). I wasn't certain what I was going to think about Alien: Covenant and honestly the trailer didn't look that good, but I was willing to give it a try. So the film takes place pretty much right after Prometheus (which I absolutely loved) where you have a crew of human colonists on their way to colonize a planet. Along the way they run into a bit of trouble that damages their craft and kills a few people. During repairs they receive a transmission from a nearby habitable planet and go and investigate it. Needless to say they find more than they ever wanted to, and relatively quickly people begin dropping like flies and things of course follow the same general direction of most Alien films, although I did really enjoy the ending to this film. Michael Fassbender played two roles as Walter and David; essentially different types of artificial robots, and he does a great job as David, although the Walter version of the robot was designed to be less human, so he pulled that off pretty good. Katherine Waterson played the next lead as Daniels (apparently nobody has a first name), and she did a good job with her character, although she wasn't given enough screen time to really flesh out her character like Sigourney Weaver was able to in Alien, but still it was a good performance. Billy Crudup played a notable character too (Oram), but I didn't really care for his character. Jussie Smollett played Ricks, and had unfortunately a very small role in the film, but you won't forget him that's for certain because of one of the scenes he's in is quite memorable. Guy Pearce and Noomi Rapace briefly reprise their roles from Prometheus which was a nice touch. For some odd reason James Franco had a role so small it was essentially useless and pointless, so I'm not certain why he was even there. The cast was okay, but honestly Michael Fassbender is the only real stand out, although science fiction horror isn't really known for its phenomenal cast performances.
Director Ridley Scott once again proves he the master of pure science fiction; not the fluffy, popish cinematic slop for the masses, but real dark, gritty science fiction. In many ways this film is better than Prometheus, but there is something less grand about this film than its direct predecessor, although Alien: Covenant has a fascinating story line that is fast paced with a villain beyond the villain. I really enjoyed the Cinematography by Dariusz Wolski; he may not have captured the grandeur that was in Prometheus, but he was able to capture a darker, more intimate environment with such creepy, mystical wonder. Adding to that creepy, mystical feeling was the music of Jed Kurzel, who before this film I had never heard of before. There was something about the music he composed which was perfect for the film and reminded me so much of the earlier films that James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith composed (both men are now sadly dead). It blends perfectly with the film and portions of it can be listened to on their own, which for some reason has been rare these days in film compositions. The action and special effects were good, and although there was some original thinking regarding how this film was presented, I could definitely see the parallels between it and some of the other films. For its genre it was a pretty solid and good film, and definitely something I would enjoy watching again, and if this science fiction horror genre is your cup of tea then you'll really enjoy this film.
Today I finished reading my next U.S. Presidential biography: President Abraham Lincoln the sixteenth president of the United States of America. What a man. Edwin Stanton, Lincoln's Secretary of War said it best right after he died, "Now, he belongs to the ages." President Lincoln made himself successful despite coming from very poor beginnings. Educated himself, taught himself law, worked hard to earn his keep wherever he was, and was a good husband and a great father. He suffered great tragedy, and went through a very stressful ordeal as president during the only U.S. civil war. Some interesting facts about Lincoln was that he never wanted to initially ban slavery in all states, he just didn't want it to expand into any new territories. He believed that the U.S. Constitution did not give the federal government the authority to dictate to the states whether or not they could have slaves. It wasn't until a few years later that he changed his mind and issued the Emancipation Proclamation using his presidential war powers to justify it to bring a swifter end to the war. He also had a dickens of a time finding competent military leadership before settling on Grant and Sherman. He was harangued constantly by the press and Democrats called him a tyrant amongst other things. His own party and him didn't always get along and he faced a primary challenger in his re-election bid, and one of his former generals ran against him as his democratic opponent. He was a humble, kind man who always asked questions and never thought himself above learning anything from anyone, and he worked with enemies and allies alike. He is no doubt the second greatest U.S. President thus yet of the 45, with of course George Washington being number one, Teddy Roosevelt being number 3. The biography I read was A. Lincoln: A Biography written by Ronald C. White who did an excellent job with the narrative and bringing all the information together, although I wish he would have spent more time writing about Lincoln's role in the amendment abolishing slavery. If you watch Steven Spielberg's film Lincoln what you see in Daniel Day-Lewis' performance is Lincoln, or as close as we may ever get. We need more great men and women like President Abraham Lincoln just in our society in general, but especially in politics. I think these words epitomize him perfectly, "...We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies." From his first inaugural address. And then, "....With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves." Which was from his last inaugural address. What a man. Thank God for him.

Alien: Covenant interviews

Alien: Covenant scene

Abraham Lincoln