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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Legend Reborn......Yet Again.

Perhaps the greatest fantasy myth of all western literary traditions is that of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table, and Merlin. So of course every filmmaker has been attempting to bring this epic story to the big screen, and although there has been moderate successes attempting to thus, there has never been a resoundingly epic success. Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ranks among the least of the least of these attempts. I am a fan of a lot Mr. Ritchie's work, but what he tried to do was blend what he did in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (which I didn't like) into a fantasy, gritty blend of fantasy mythological extraordinaire adventure. Needless to say, it didn't work quite all...whatsoever. The story doesn't really follow the traditional "Sword and the Stone" version that Disney created based off The Once and Future King, but rather follows a very loose telling of the original ancient myth, with many, many poor changes. Basically, Arthur's father, Uther defeats the evil wizard Mordred, and then his brother Vortigern overthrows and kills him and attempts to kill Arthur who gets away. Then Arthur grows up in the streets, learns to survive and fight, and then by accident comes to pull excalibur out of the stone and is hunted born as "the born king" thus pitting him against Vortigern. Charlie Hunnam plays Arthur and does a fine job, although he really lacks any finesse or depth really in his portrayal, but that could be due to the direction and style that Director Ritchie wanted to go. Jude Law played the villain Vortigern, and he had the look down, and I suppose he was exactly what Mr. Ritchie desired and especially how he played the character, but I wasn't really that enthralled or impressed, or even that interested. Djimon Hounsou played a knight by the name of Bedivere who served Uther and then helped Arthur. Eric Bana played Uther, but that was a rather static character so there wasn't much for him to explore there whatsoever. Aiden Gillen had a small, but amusing role as a knight known as Bill I guess (not a lot of thinking went into his character I guess). Astrid Berges-Frisbey played "The Mage" which I guess was supposed to be some sort of Merlin (oh yes, Merlin did not appear in this film at all). She was odd and interesting at times, but fairly static and not much was done to grow what should have been quite a pivotal character. And those are most of the big name players. The casting in this film wasn't done quite that well for the characters being played. Not to mention there was just too many of them. Ritchie should have stuck with a handful of key players and went from there, rather than starting out with such a large cast. It turned out to be a costly mistake on his part.
As writer and director, Guy Ritchie could probably single handedly be blamed for the outcome of the film, but writers Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram also share some of that blame too. So the writing was relatively atrocious, but what was actually worse than that was how the film was shot; it reminded me of one of his gangster thief films, which didn't mesh with the fantasy genre very well. The film editing by Jamed Herbert was so poor that I believe it was a major participating factor to the poor quality of the end product. The music by Daniel Pemberton was pretty good, although I am struggling to recall it amongst the agonizing two hour length of the film. The cinematography by John Mathieson, was perhaps the only real bright spot of the film; it was dark, beautiful at times, and yet was for the most part able to capture the grittiness of dark age Britain, but I don't think he quite captured anything quite evoking a fantastical environment. The action was fairly boring, the special effects were fine, but honestly I was bored out of my mind for almost the entire length of the film, which I didn't like at all. Do not waste your time watching this film; it is terrible. If you want to watch the myth of King Arthur done well, watch the BBC series Merlin, or The Mists of Avalon, or The Sword in the Stone. Don't bother with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. I'd chat briefly about the news, but I think everyone one the world is cognizant that there isn't much good news at all from any part of the globe. May the Force be with us all; we're sure gonna need it.

 King Arthur: Legend of the Sword trailer

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword scene

Peter Rabbit trailer (looks somewhat amusing)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

"Not Much has Changed in 6,000 Years."

I grew up watching the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" back in the early 1990's; I actually remember the first episode I ever watched. I believe one of my sisters was home sick, and I stayed home to help take care of her, together we stumbled onto the Power Rangers where a giant toad was terrorizing the Rangers. And that's how it all started for me. I kept pretty close track of the series until 1999 or so, and then the show just went down from there and in my opinion never recovered. That may be due to my growing maturity and therefore disinterest in the corny show, but also from the snippets I came across where the production was lackluster as was the stories. Since I grew up with the show it had always been my desire to one day see a good film adaptation of it done, and I honestly would love to have written the screenplay and story. Luckily for me I may yet still get the opportunity one day. When I heard that a big screen adaptation of the Power Rangers was going to be done I was interested to see what was going to happen, and eventually after the trailer and other parts came out I knew it was going to be quite dreadful. After watching Power Rangers the other day, I have to say it was most likely a huge waste of my time. Honestly, the film really isn't worth reviewing in depth. The only good part was the prologue at the beginning of the film which was fascinating, but didn't last long, everything else was simply bad. Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa was perhaps the only good part, and Bill Hader as Alpha 5 made me laugh on occasion, and Bryan Cranston as Zordon could have been amazing but fell flat. What the creators did was attempt a direct adaptation to the screen based on the original source material, which they did a horrendous job with even that, and in the end that approach just doesn't work. They need to do the George Lucas or Christopher Nolan approach, which is you take the essence of something and breath new and creative life that is completely different from the original into it thereby creating something entirely new. In order for this franchise to ever be successful this is what needs to be done, but unfortunately there is a severe shortage of good writers and idea makers in Hollywood at the time. As to why that is.....well, one could only speculate. If you never heard of the Power Rangers, don't watch this film, and if you have, go be nostalgic and watch the original on Netflix, but do not waste your time on this film whatsoever.
Now onto something far more interesting, I just finished reading the biography on former U.S. President John Quincy Adams who served as the 6th president of the United States of America. Wow! What a fascinating man Mr. J. Q. Adams was. He served under George Washington and with Abraham Lincoln; he met and knew Benjamin Franklin, Marquis de Lafayette, and the Duke of Wellington; he had lunch and was good friends with the Russian Czar Alexander I; met and worked with individuals such as Napoleon, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Marshall, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, King George III, Charles Dickens. He was foreign minister to at least 6 different countries, served 8 years as Secretary of State for James Monroe; negotiated the peace treaty for the war of 1812, freed the African prisoners on the ship Amistad, and served sixteen years in the U.S. House of Representatives after serving one term as U.S. President. He was fierce abolitionist and fought and died on the House floor fighting for the equal rights for all men and women in the United States of America. He spoke several language fluently, and could write in several of them as well. For fun he would translate Cicero from Greek into French. He read the ancient Greek philosophers to pass the time. He was a brilliant man, and perhaps the finest U.S. Secretary of State to have ever served. On paper, he seemed like he would have been an amazing president, but his inability to connect with the average American is what doomed his presidency, not to mention his aloofness to politics. In many ways he was ahead of his time, but simultaneously his political thinking was trapped in the times of George Washington and the country was changing drastically. Basically, a fantastic parallel is Hillary Clinton and President Trump where Clinton is John Quincy Adams (minus the president bit) and Trump is Jackson. Trump and Jackson are very similar in temperament and personality, and the same somewhat for Clinton and Adams, although he was a very upstanding and moral man with unquestionable integrity and the same could not probably be said for Ms. Clinton. However just like Clinton, Adams could not connect with the average American which is why he only served one presidential terms, but he went on to the House of Representatives after that and became a great statesman and fought with such zeal and passion that he died on that very floor fighting against slavery.  There is so much about this incredible President that I could write about, but in Harlow Giles Unger's biography of John Quincy Adams you should read it for yourself. It was a very well written biography; short and sweet to the point covering all of the pertinent details without waffling on about everyone in his life needlessly. So now I move onto my next U.S. President; Abraham Lincoln. Five down, thirty-nine more to go. I really encourage everyone to read biographies on U.S. Presidents as it's a great way to learn U.S. history, and the individuals and issues that shaped it.

Power Rangers opening scene

U.S. President John Quincy Adams documentary

Star Trek Discovery feature

Sunday, September 3, 2017

"You're a Dragon....Be a Dragon!"

Another year, another season of Game of Thrones passes us by. Even though there are only 7 episodes in season 7 (I wonder if that's ironically coincidental), there is a lot that happens in this season. Of course several prominent characters are killed off, so do not read any further if you wish to remain happily aloof if you aren't caught up with all the goings on in the show. So in this season Daenerys Targaryen returns to Dragonstone and Westeros, Queen Cersei begins to cement her control over the 7 kingdoms, Jon Snow begins to confront the approach of winter and the Night King, and everyone else decides who they're going to fight for. Rather than go episode by episode, I'm going to simply evaluate the characters. Obviously Emilia Clarke as Daenerys has been building up to this moment ever since the end of season 1, and boy has she come a long way. Her dragons are huge and brimming with fire and strength, she has two powerful armies of Unsullied and Dothraki, and many allies within Westeros (Dorne, Highgarden, Winterfell). She grows more in this season as she struggles to balance "Fire and Blood" with wisdom and justice, and then there is the attraction to Jon Snow which at first surprises both. Some of her finest moments are in scenes with Olenna Tyrell, Tyrion, and Jon Snow, but perhaps her finest was in the dragon pit with Queen Cersei. This is perhaps Jon Snow's finest season yet with this character; he shows strength, sympathy, and of course remains the show's moral compass despite pressure all around to be other than that. His relationship with Daenerys grows and the two finish the season becoming lovers, and aside for a rather huge detail, it kind of works very well. Cersei is as clever as ever, perhaps even so than her father Tywin, but her refusal to see the bigger picture will end up costing her dearly. Between her and her brother Jaime, both seem rather unstoppable at the beginning of the season, and rather carefree if the true nature of their relationship is discovered. Lena Headey is brilliant as Cersei, and pulls off a remarkable feat of being just as unlikable as Joffrey, and Jaime is right there with her, although he is more conflicted than she, and actually has a sense of honor, and a kind of rickety moral compass; played wonderfully by Nickolaj Coster-Waldau. My personal favorite, Tyrion, really came off as rather weak in this season unfortunately where I expected him to really shine. Peter Dinklage was fantastic, especially when he was on scene with his fictional sister, but there is something that his character has been missing since season 2, and it has kind of really bummed me. Sansa and Arya Stark have both grown to the point where they are no longer mere girls, but powerful grown women with such skills that could withstand their older counterparts. Arya is as lethal as ever, and Sansa is becoming more and more like Littlefinger; so when the two of them reunite at Winterfell, there's joy, but also that suspicion of what the other has been up to for the past six seasons. The two of them have some of the best scenes together in the season; very well done by Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams. Then we have individuals like Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), Bran Stark (Isaac Wright), Bronn (Jerome Flynn), The Hound (Rory McCann), Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), and Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg).
Now, all of those individuals I mentioned had smaller roles, but nonetheless helped make the season what it was. I was actually happily surprised with how The Hound's role took shape in this season after wondering why the writers kept him around, and now I know. Varys is ever the spider, although his role felt quite diminished in this season unfortunately, but he was still amazing. Ser Davos was a lot of fun in this season, and I have to say that I've really ended up enjoying his character when I thought I never would. Littlefinger is of course up to his old tricks and skillful as ever with his intrigues, but this season he finally met his match in Sansa, a woman he created with all of his plotting. It was a very satisfying moment. Bronn is still as awesome and humorous as ever; he brings that down to earth no nonsense realism to everything, which is great. And Olenna Tyrell, I love that woman and that character so much. There were several other characters that appeared which I didn't mention, but I didn't really feel like their presence in this season was really felt. Obviously, the big surprises of the season were when Casterly Rock was taken by the Unsullied, and then equally surprising was Jaime Lannister taking Highgarden and the death of Olenna Tyrell along with the Tyrell family name to a degree I'm assuming. That was a great bummer for me; I am a huge Tyrell House fan, and to see it all taken away by the Lannisters was very irritating. The death of one of Daenerys' dragons was quite shocking, although what the Night King did afterwards was just as troubling when he raised it from the dead and then used it to bring down the great wall. The death of Littlefinger by Arya's own hand at the command of Sansa was definitely something I was not anticipating, but it was a lovely touch for a man that caused so much chaos. Jaime leaving Cersei and King's Landing, that was definitely a surprise. Then of course the bombshell everyone anticipated was Jon Snow is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, but the part not everyone expected was that he was actually their legitimate son as Rhaegar had his previous marriage annulled and then married Lyanna. His name isn't really even Jon Snow, it's Aegon Targaryen. So yeah, Jon Snow son of Rhaegar and Lyanna Targaryen ended up becoming the lover of his aunt Daenerys Targaryen, the sister of his father. Should be interesting to see where all of this goes, but honestly it can't be anywhere good.
The technical elements of season 7 were very good. The cinematography was breathtaking especially one of the final scenes as Jaime Lannister is leaving King's Landing and it begins to snow signifying that winter has indeed come, it was eerily beautiful. And when Daenerys lands on Dragonstone, that was really well shot, but that goes then entire season. The action was pretty great, especially when it involved the dragons and their first engagement with the Lannister armies. There were a lot of great scenes/sequences in this season, but none so good as the Dragon Pit scene in the season finale; that was par excellence. This was a great season, and it definitely leaves a lot of possibilities for season 8 and how the writers will approach it, because there's no lack of material for sure, and hopefully Geroge R.R. Martin will actually publish The Winds of Winter considering his last book was released in 2011. One complaint I had in this season was that everything felt a little rushed, whereas before in earlier seasons they seemed to drag everything on and on to the point where it was beginning to feel like a soap opera with how slowly everything was moving. Now it seems everything is moving so fast; I'm not certain why the writers want it all to move at a breakneck pace, but I do know that everyone would have like three more episodes rather than just seven. Oh well. My favorite moment of the season would probably be when Daenerys leads her dragon Drogon into battle to toast the Lannister armies after they sacked Highgarden; that was awesome. Biggest bummer moment has to be when Highgarden fell and Olenna Tyrell died, that really bummed me out. Well, looking forward to season 8, that is if the world is still around.

Game of Thrones Season 7 "The Wall Comes Down"

Behind the Scenes Clip "The Dragon Pit"

Game of Thrones Season 7 "Daenerys Arrives at the Dragon Pit"

Star Wars Rebels Season 4 trailer

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Tale Not Quite as Old as Time.

A long time ago.....back in 1991 when I was getting ready to go into kindergarten, Disney released one of its finest, if not best, animated feature films of all time Beauty and the Beast. It had such beautiful music, fantastic lyrics, amazing voice talent, enchanting and exquisite animation, moving storytelling, and soaring vocal talent for the songs. It's no wonder that it was and has so far been the only animated feature film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. And then we fast forward to 2017 to Disney's live action version of the same tale and it....doesn't quite live up to the previous animated film's splendor. The story and plot of the film is essentially the same as the animated version, although there is a lot of backstory and some additional songs added as well. So the star of the live action version is Emma Watson as Belle, and she is a rather talented actress and did a good job of playing Belle....but then she opened her mouth to sing and I was cringing. That woman cannot sing whatsoever, and I may not be a music person, but she sounded so incredibly flat each time she sang. Paige O'Hara who voiced and sang for Belle back in 1991 was perfection and had such a charming voice, and thus after hearing that then having to listen to Emma Watson it was very painful. I did like some of the additional dimensions Ms. Watson gave the character, but I think it kind of weighed down the beautiful magic of the original. Dan Stevens played the Beast and was primarily the voice, and he wasn't too bad although they could have chosen someone who could sing. In the original Robby Benson only sang a few notes so it didn't really matter, but in this he sang much more. I did like how they gave the Beast more character depth, and he did a very good job with the character and the voice, but once again not the vocals. Luke Evans played Gaston, and although he is very talented and I like a good bit of what he's done, I didn't care for his performance of the character whatsoever. Of course Mr. Evans couldn't really sing either and Richard White, who was the voice and sang for Gaston in the animated version had such a powerful and booming voice. So, Mr. Evan's vocals were rather dreadful, not to mention the writers made Gaston less villainous, dumber, weaker, and super cheesy; it was character catastrophe. Josh Gad as LeFou was also a disaster. I don't know what the writers and director were thinking, but his whole relationship with Gaston was odd and awkward. Unlike the first film where LeFou was Gaston's top henchman, in this version he was like that boy on the playground that keeps trying to be the friend of the biggest bully. Kevin Kline as Maurice was perfect, although no singing would have been better for him. One of the most iconic roles went to Ewan McGregor to bring alive; Lumiere. Granted, he did an excellent job, but no one can ever replace Jerry Orbach who gave the character eternal life. Ian McKellen played Cogsworth, and he tried so hard, but I wasn't really a fan of his performance. David Ogden Stiers is Cosgworth, with his perfect vocal capture of the character, and both he and Jerry Orbach had this amazing chemistry that McGregor and McKellen just didn't have. I love Emma Thompson, but Angela Lansbury will always be Mrs. Potts; no one else can pull off that character or sing that song quite like she did, and try as Ms. Thompson might, it just wasn't the same. Basically the live action version was almost entirely miscast in my opinion.
The director, Bill Condon, has actually directed a number of excellent films that I enjoyed, and granted he did a fine job of bringing the animated classic to life, but I think he tried too hard to make it more intensely dramatic and it lost that fairy tale magic. Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos wrote the screenplay and I have to say that considering all they did was essentially copy from the original, they didn't really add anything good to the story or characters at all, and just weighed the narrative down with useless backstory and weaker characters. Alan Menken wrote the score for the new film just as he did the old one, except he didn't have his secret weapon; Howard Ashman. Never in Disney's history has there been a pair like these two men, save for the Sherman brothers who were their predecessors. The score really lacked the same magic as the animated classic, and the newer songs certainly didn't have the same elegance or timelessness. Perhaps the best part of the entire film was the cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler who definitely deserves an Academy Award nomination at least for his visually stunning work. That was the one thing that this adaptation of the animated class got perfectly right; it was visually stunning, elegant and beautiful just like the original. I know that I am in the minority, but I didn't care for this adaptation of Beauty and the Beast whatsoever, and if you really enjoy the story and music then I suggest you watch the animated classic. This live action version of the film does not improve on the original, and it lacks so much that made the 1991 version magical; and yes I know I keep using that word, but truly that is what the animated film possesses which is what makes it so good and timeless like many of the other classic animated Disney films. So please don't waste your time on this version of the film, go back and watch the 1991 animated film, and how the Walt Disney story of Beauty and the Beast was meant to be seen.

  Beauty and the Beast clip

Beauty and the Beast clip

Beauty and the Beast interviews

1991 Beauty and the Beast intro

Monday, August 14, 2017

A "Non-Zero Sum Game."

Science fiction is one of my favorite genres to watch and especially to write as one's limitations are only exceeded by one's imagination. When I first heard of Arrival and saw the trailer I wasn't really that interested in the film, and although it looked interesting there wasn't much that seem to differentiate it from other alien invasion films. The story is basically about a woman who is a linguist expert and how she and another man are able to eventually create a language to communicate with a group of alien beings who have landed in various locations throughout the earth. There is another underlying story that parallels that one, but honestly I'm still kind of confused when I think about it. Amy Adams played the lead character as Louise Banks very capably and perfectly; conflicted, flawed, passionate, and real. Ms. Adams really did well with her character, and honestly she was really the only interesting character in the entire film aside from the alien beings. Jeremy Renner played Ian Donnelly who was an expert physicist; he was humorous at times, but his character really didn't have a whole lot of depth and came off as rather flat. I'm not certain if it was his performance or how the character was written. Forest Whitaker played Colonel Weber who seemed to be head of operations for what was going on. He did a good job, but his character was completely boring. Aside from the alien beings, those were the dominant cast members. In general the casting was good, and wasn't the problem with the film.
Denis Villeneuve directed the film, and I actually loved his work on Sicario (even though I still believe the lead was miscast) but he captured the mood and what it would feel like to have something like actually occur on our planet so good for him. He even attained an Academy Award for Best Director, although I don't know if that was really warranted; his work on Sicario was far superior. Eric Heisserer wrote the screenplay which was oddly nominated for an Academy Award, because I believe that it was poorly written and caused the film to be one-dimensional and very confusing at the same time. In my opinion it was this poor writing that kept the film from being as good as it could have been. Again oddly enough, the film was also nominated for Best Picture, and I'm not certain why because for example, it isn't even of similar caliber to something like Hidden Figures. I think the Academy has a serious problem with their nominating process that needs to be fixed. Apparently the story of the film is based on something a Ted Chiang wrote, so maybe the story is to blame rather than the adaptation of it. The cinematography by Bradford Young was actually quite good and deserved the Academy Award nomination; there was something very ethereal and gripping that he captured so very being on the edge of a great battle and the silence that ensues. Jóhann Jóhannsson composed the music and I can't really recall any good themes or motifs, or even any good musical sequences, so I guess that speaks for itself. The film was nominated for a few other Academy Awards for sound mixing, editing, production design, and won an Academy Award for Best Sound Design. I didn't care for this film. It was occasionally interesting when I wasn't confused about what was going on. Which by the way a key plot point in this film had appeared in Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Interstellar, and Farscape so I wasn't wowed or shocked about the ending as I was already anticipating it. The designing a language bit for the alien beings was perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the entire film, but other than that it came off rather boring and flat. It's almost as if they were trying so hard to come up with something earth-shattering and different that it backfired. If you don't see this film you certainly aren't missing anything. The ending wasn't satisfying, and I was still quite confused about everything. This is definitely a film that I really don't have any interest to see again.

Arrival trailer

Arrival interviews with Amy Adams & Jeremy Renner

The Death of Stalin trailer (looks absolutely hilarious!)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

1,000 Reasons to Bring on the Beach.

I find oftentimes it's good to approach new ideas and new things with a neutral perspective, but frequently that doesn't seem to help change the outcome that you had going into shall we say a particular film. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets had several fascinating and remarkable elements in it, but it wasn't really able to overcome several fatal flaws. The story follows two individuals who seem to be intergalactic FBI agents of a sort and they go on several missions, leading up to eventually going to this place where species from over a 1,000 worlds live on this space station to stop some crazed aliens from wiping out all life on that station. So think Aliens meets Avatar except not anywhere near as good as Aliens or as groundbreaking as Avatar. Dane DeHaan plays the main character Major Valerian, and he does....okay, but honestly I'm not really partial to any of his work except for what he did in the HBO series In Treatment; more often than not he comes across rather bland, which is unfortunate because I believe he has a lot of talent. Perhaps the best part of the entire film and the best character is played by Cara Delevingne, Sergeant Laureline, who brought humor and an element of seriousness to the film that for the most part didn't come off as corny or over the top unlike what Mr. DeHaan brought to the film. I think she is an up and coming talent, and hopefully this film doesn't dash any of her potential future. Clive Owen played a snake like commander of some sort of military force, but his character was bland, static, and not very interesting at all. Ethan Hawke played the owner of what I'm assuming was a whorehouse, and had a very short yet flashy role, but it was a part of the film that seemed out of place and completely irrelevant. Herbie Hancock (yes the musician) played the Defence Minister of some faction that the two main characters were employed by; it was not a very interesting role, and I'm uncertain why he was given it. Lastly, perhaps the most useless and out of place character was played by Rihanna called Bubble, who was a shape shifter of sorts. It seemed like the creators of the film put her in the film just to say that they put "Rihanna" in the film. The woman can dance, but that's about the extent of her talent. I suppose the rest of the cast was good, but nobody really stood out, or any other character really.
The director, Luc Bessson, also wrote the screenplay and he has some good screen credit to his talent (The Fifth Element) but he didn't really do himself any favors with this film. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets suffered from a number of flaws which impacted its quality, but one of the most fatal flaws was its similarity to Avatar. The story and some of the core aliens really resembled the Na' Vi and their culture from that world. Also, the screenplay was poorly written; it was kind of like a weird blend of sci-fi, suspense, who-done-it, and action-adventure. The majority of the dialogue was corny and just oddly worded creating for some awkward scenes, especially with the two main characters. Apparently the film is based off a series of comic books, which seem to be relatively good source material, but nothing was done to make it soar off the pages. There was so much potential for this film to be great, but the writing was just awful; if that would have been improved, and the story changed, then the film would have been light years better. Of course one of my least favorite film composers created the music; Alexandre Desplat. I cannot really recall anything the least bit good or remarkable about the film score, which I'm not certain if it's because the film was dreadful or he's just a mediocre film composer. The cinematography by Thierry Arbogast was okay, but considering the scope with which he had to work with, I was expecting something far better. The costume design by Olivier Beriot was pretty good; a lot of creativity, but nothing really breathless or cool that stuck out. The action for the film was kind of blah too, although there was one sequence which was absolutely breathtaking, cool and absolutely dynamic; it involved Major Valerian trying to track down the aliens abducting a hostage. Other than that though, the action was fairly mediocre....kind of like the film overall. At times the film came across as rather preachy about certain social issues in today's culture. Essentially there was a lot of potential with this film, but it really came out as flat. It was entertaining enough, and interesting; but it wouldn't bother me to never watch it ever again, and unless you really enjoy science-fiction then you might as well skip this film.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets clip

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets interview

The Defenders trailer

Thursday, August 3, 2017

"She Was Always There..."

I had been wanting to see the Danish Girl for quite some time, and I just got around to seeing it the other day. Granted, there is much about the topic of this film that is politically charged, or even in dispute within the world of psychology and psychiatry, but I am only going to discuss the film itself not the politics of it. This movie is based on apparently the true life story of a Danish man who wanted to become a woman in all sense of the meaning, and he pursued this goal to the end result where he no longer considered himself a man but a woman. That's basically the story of the film. Eddie Redmayne plays Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe. If this film does anything, it shows beyond a shadow of doubt how talented Mr. Redmayne is. There isn't really an effective way for me to explain it in English what he did, or what he captured with his performance other than to say it was indeed profound. I don't know anything about the real life man this film is based off of, but by the end of the film one can truly believe that Mr. Redmayne is the character; that's how good he was. Alicia Vikander played the wife and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work, and it was well deserved (although she should have won Best Actress since she had a major role in the film; dumb Oscar politics). The audience could agonize and empathize with her and she also agonized and empathized with her husband as he descended from heterosexuality to transsexualism, and what that experience was like for her. It was a brilliant performance and she earned that Oscar for sure. Honestly, these two were the movie, and although there were many cast members, none of them really stood out at all aside from these two; Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne are the reasons, and only reasons anyone would watch this film.
Tom Hooper (Les Miserables and The King's Speech) was an excellent director, and he knows historic subject matter very, very well. I really have no complaints with his direction whatsoever, aside from a few moments here and there where I found myself bored, but I was quite engaged the majority of the film. Lucinda Coxon wrote the screenplay and I have to say that she delivered remarkably well. Such elegant language so beautifully written, which really made the two main characters really come alive; it definitely should have been nominated for an Oscar (once again, dumb Oscar politics). Alexandre Desplat composed the music, and big surprise I didn't really care for it, and also it wasn't that good. It came off as really tinkly and pretty; there wasn't any heartwarming themes or motifs, or soaring melodies that were as compelling as the characters. It was a fairly simplistic score. Danny Cohen who did the cinematography was breathtaking; the way the camera captured so many of the scenes and the action happening on the set was exquisite; it reminded me of art, like one of Degas' paintings of the dancing girls. Overall it was a remarkably well made film, and beautifully acted. However, the film is very heavy and difficult to watch. It's not a lucky go happy film at all, even though it really starts out that way, it doesn't end that way at all. It's kind of like The Hours in that regard; extraordinarily well done, but really depressing to watch. That's where I feel The Danish Girl fits in, and so while I may watch it again one day, it's not something I would watch very often. This film isn't everybody's cup of tea, but I do appreciate what that it makes people think and consider something different than their own perspective. And it does so not in a preachy way, but in a personal way. So if you like all of that stuff then I recommend you watch it, and if not, then perhaps you should watch it and just think; this is not a pure entertainment film, it makes one think, and that's what I liked about it.
So I just recently finished reading the biography of former U.S. President Andrew Jackson written by H.W. Brands. All I have to say is wow! I am surprised that man lived as long as he did considering what he survived. Both of his parents died when he was a young boy, and thus he forged his own way and destiny in life, and he fought (literally) tooth and nail to get to be President of the United States of America as the country's seventh president. There was a lot I found remarkable about the man, and I was actually surprised that I ended up liking him more than I ever used to. I would definitely rank him as one of the greatest U.S. presidents ever. Honestly there is so much to say about the man; the duels he fought in the name of honor, how he looked out for the men under his command, the beautiful love and devotion he had for his wife, his fierce determination, and perhaps what struck me the most was his relentless and never-ending defense of the union of the United States of America. If there was anything that stuck with me, it was how fervent he was of the U.S. always remaining together united under one flag despite all of the differences the states had with each other, especially in those days with slavery being legal. He almost went to war with South Carolina for whispers of succession from the union. He was not hesitant at all to attack Britain, Spain or France to protect the U.S., or even the Native Americans. Granted, like every U.S. presidents he had faults and made mistakes but he created a powerful legacy by championing and empowering the rural and average Americans. His election was truly the first time real every day, ordinary Americans got to vote and choose their president rather than the elites of the country doing the choosing for them, and this radical change from Republicanism to Democracy is still the tradition in today's voting. Actually, Jackson proposed an amendment to the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College and just have a straight popular vote, but that didn't go anywhere much to many people's irritation today. So next, I'm moving onto Jackson's nemesis; John Quincy Adams. I would urge all Americans to read and study up on the U.S. Presidents; knowledge is power, and in these days the more one is armed with accurate knowledge, the more protected all Americans are from what former U.S. President J.Q. Adams described as the chaotic forces of democracy. God be with us all.

The Danish Girl scene

Alicia Vikander interview

Goodbye Christopher Robin trailer

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Daring Rescue.

I have been watching war themed films since I was nine years of age. Some my favorites usually were the WWII sub films like Run Silent, Run Deep or Destination Tokyo. Honestly, Dunkirk did not pass muster for me. The film is about the actual historical events surrounding the evacuation of the British Army from the coast of France as the German Army was encircling it to destroy it. Prime Minister Churchill galvanized his people together to go out and rescue as many of the British soldiers as they could with whatever they could use to transport them safely across the English channel. So, there wasn't really a star or set of stars really in this film; the story itself seemed like the lead actor in the narrative while the actual human actors were just there to follow it as it unfolded. The cast was mainly unknown, but there were a few recognizable individuals. Mark Rylance played a British man who took his boat to rescue the soldiers with his son, and a friend of his son's (I think). Well played, and done well, albeit the character was rather static and had little quality screen time. Tom Hardy played an RAF pilot who protected the ships from the air, although you couldn't really see his face, and he didn't really speak much besides pilot jibber-jabber; it was kind of a waste of his talent unfortunately. Kenneth Branagh played a British navy commander who appeared to be overseeing the evacuation, and he had perhaps the broadest range regarding time and performance; his last line and scene in the film was probably one of the best in the film. Cillian Murphy played some random soldier suffering from PTSD essentially, and it was a terrible waste of his talent. The cast in general performed admirably, but it wasn't an incredibly dialog heavy film at all, so it's very difficult to judge performances when all they do is really react to their environment without speaking much.
I've seen all but one of Christopher Nolan's films, and this regardless of what critics and people are saying current is not his best film to date. I would say that Inception is his finest with Memento coming in at a close second. With Dunkirk it's not that it was directed poorly, because it was shot exquisitely. Actually the cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema should win an award or be nominated for one at least. The opening sequence of this film was shot perfectly; capturing the mood and environment with such intense accurate the calm before the storm. As a matter of fact, it was the cinematography that I found was the best part of this entire film...perhaps the only good part. Christopher Nolan also wrote the screenplay for the film and needless to say it wasn't all that amazing. The film to me was very similar to The Revenant with how it was shot, written and produced; a big budget documentary film. This perspective is of course due to the very little dialog and major emphasis on cinematography and having the actors react to the environment more physically than verbally. Now there isn't anything wrong with this per se, but for one it isn't really my taste, and two kind of makes for a boring couple of hours. Hans Zimmer unfortunately didn't really come up with any astounding or compelling music aside from a few notes that played throughout the entire film. It sounded similar to Interstellar and Inception, but now that I think of it, I don't really recall that much music in the film, or it was so tertiary that it just came through as white noise. Dunkirk wasn't a horrible film, but it wasn't really all that interesting or compelling. Not to mention there were quite a few moments with chronology and verbiage that were incredibly confusing, so bad marks for editing. I would have gone an entirely different direction with the film, and if he would have focused the story more than I think he would have had something really incredible. As it is, as the years pass, this film will be mostly forgotten unlike Saving Private Ryan, Bridge over the River Kwai, Patton, A Bridge Too Far, and Tora! Tora! Tora!. Yes I found Dunkirk rather boring, and if you never see it, you will not be missing anything whatsoever, which is real shame because this actual historical story deserved a far better treatment than what Christopher Nolan gave it.

Christopher Nolan interview on Dunkirk

Star Trek Discovery trailer for series (looks interesting)

Dunkirk trailer

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Hidden No More.

It seems these days I review more mediocre and bad films than anything else, but every now and then I come across something that is truly well done and good, and I mean that in the truest nature of the word. In a world of film and television that is becoming increasingly filled with anti-heroes and dark, morally questionable characters, it's a breath of fresh air to have truly good characters with a moral compass that point north. Hidden Figures (based on a book) is populated with such people, although given the times the story takes place during there are also a fair share of dunderheads which I suppose could be labeled as the antagonists. The film is about the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States of America and the individuals who made it possible for the U.S. to launch a man in space and bring him safely back. Specifically about three black colored women who rise from their status against all odds to see the space program succeed and excel not just during the space race but beyond that as well. If it isn't obvious yet, I really enjoyed and loved this film. Taraji P. Henson plays Katherine G. Johnson the main character of the film, and she does so with energy, confidence, and such serene humility where it doesn't come off cheesy or with an air of predictability. Somehow she wasn't nominated for an Academy Award, which irks me to no end, as her performance was far more deserving than Emma Stone's. Octavia Spencer plays another of the three women, Dorothy Vaughan, and my goodness she is such a talented woman to watch perform (although her performance and character in the Insurgent series was not so good). She was able to pull off being humorous and serious with such credible deftness that it increased the depth of the performance of her character. Lastly, Janelle Monae played the character Mary Jackson who was fearless and bold, but not preachy and obnoxious about how she went about it; such an amazing character and great performance. Definitely deserved an Oscar nomination like Octavia Spencer, but I think her work speaks for itself. Kevin Costner played Al Harrison the chief of either the space program or NASA, I can't recall which, or maybe it was neither. He was great, although he possessed a rather static character most of the time. The same thing goes for Jim Parsons (Paul Stafford), Kirsten Dunst (Vivian Mitchell), and Mahershala Ali (Colonel Jim Johnson). All three of those individuals did great, but their characters were rather static and definitely not the main attraction. I would like to give a shout out to Glen Powell who played John Glenn; I'm not certain if that was how the man was really like, but he gave an amazing, although rather brief, performance of a great American hero. Olek Krupa played Karl Zielinski, an apparently brilliant scientist who was working on the design of the space craft; he had another brief but fantastic role. Overall the entire cast was great, but those three women are the main attraction for sure.
The director who also helped write the film, Theodore Melfi, is fairly unknown, but he did quite an amazing job with this film, which should have gotten more acclaim and attention than it did. That man man can certainly be proud for decades to come of his work on this film, because as summer blockbusters come and go, films like this will remain timeless. Allison Schroeder who also helped write the screenplay deserves a lot of the credit for shaping what I think could be called the heartbeat of a film. It was nominated for an Academy Award for best Adapted Screenplay but lost to Moonlight for some odd reason, considering the writing in that film was nowhere near on the same level as Hidden Figures. Apparently three people were responsible for the music in this film: Benjamin Wallfisch, Pharrell Williams, and Hans Zimmer. I honestly cannot recall anything from the score, other than that it wasn't terrible, but definitely forgettable. The cinematography by Mandy Walker was incredibly linear and boring; it wasn't bad, but there was nothing exceptional about it. All in all it was an incredible film, and I definitely suggest it for everyone to watch, I definitely will be watching it again and again in the future, which I personally is one of the best measures of a great or good much people re-watch it. I would like to take this opportunity to say something about the Academy Awards. I used to think that they were amazing, and were the one televised event that I looked forward to watching each year, but not anymore. I skipped this year's ceremony and spent time with my family instead which was far better. One thing that I seem to be more aware of with each passing year is that the Academy Awards do not award the best and finest in the categories, but rather for political and personal reasons. It seems to be a case of "it's not what you know, it's who you know." Therefore, I believe the Academy Awards are irrelevant and no longer necessary to define how artistically successful or brilliant those who work on films are. I would encourage everyone else to consider with great introspection that same notion. The same goes for most other awards shows as well: Golden Globes, SAG's, or Emmy's. Because it's like one of my former supervisors said about a program director where I was previously working at, how she was able to keep her job as she performed so poorly; she was sleeping with the CEO. Same philosophy probably is true here in getting jobs and awards in Hollywood land; nothing or very little to do with actual talent or skill.

Hidden Figures trailer

Hidden Figures clip

A Wrinkle in Time trailer (looks somewhat interesting, but we shall see).

Friday, July 14, 2017

"My Turn......"

Five seasons later House of Cards is still around....somehow. Clearly there is at least going to be a season six, but beyond that who knows. I'm just going to come right out and say it; after season two, the series has been in a steady decline with season three being the lowest point of the show's five season run thus far. I have a sneaking suspicion their reason for delaying the show's premiere to May from typically when seasons 1-4 were released in February was because they wanted to re-shoot, or change certain things to reflect President Trump's election. I don't like it when daily national politics gets mixed into my entertainment; I like them to be separate as one is a form of escapism while another one is sometimes a cold reminder of harsh realities. Regardless. Frank and Claire were hanging onto an election where it seemed likely they were bound to lose and season 5 picks up towards the end of the campaign, then the election happens and because no candidate wins an electoral victory the election goes to Congress for a while and then....well, I won't reveal the plot point, but the show gets a little convoluted at this point. Eventually the Underwoods become President and Vice-President, and then Congress begins investigating certain aspects of the Underwood administration, leaks are coming from the administration (sound familiar yet), and then it all comes to a head with.....well, I suppose I won't give that away, but let's just say that I was surprised. Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood was great, although I have to say that his performance in season two was the finest, and season one pulling in second place. In season five I did not like where the character was going or what was happening to him. Robin Wright as Claire is of course brilliant, but I haven't cared for where her character has been going since season three. In season five the viewers got a couple of good surprises from her which was great, but that was all. I didn't like her relationship with the character Tom Yates (played by Paul Sparks), mainly because I thought it weakened her and I didn't care for his character whatsoever; he came off as obnoxious. Michael Kelly as Doug Stamper was boring and uneventful; honestly I never cared for his character and was majorly bummed when he didn't die at the end of season two. Jayne Atkinson as Catherine Durant (Secretary of State) is a delight, but she was not put to good use in season 5 unfortunately after four seasons of absolute brilliance. Neve Campbell as Leann Harvey was awesome; such a great character that I thought would be going to great heights in the show....but then the writers completely messed it up. There were three new faces in season five that added some great stuff to the show. Campbell Scott as Mark Usher playing a political strategist was awesome; truly well written, fantastically acted, and was a breath of fresh air for what the show used to be like in seasons 1-2; filled with indomitable characters. Patricia Clarkson as Jane Davis is another one of those indomitable political characters that popped in season five, and I'm still not certain what her function is, or what she wants, but she's a smart, crafty woman who knows what she wants. Those two were the best parts of this season. Korey Jackson as Sean Jeffries (a reporter) played another one of those characters that knows what he wants and went after it; he did a great job, and I think he's going to be even bigger in season six, just like the other two aforementioned individuals. That's about it for the cast.
Season Five was....tolerable and in some spots very good, but overall definitely pales in comparison to seasons 1-2. Claire and Frank were at their finest when they were working together in concert to bring their enemies down, which they always did with utter ruthless pragmatism. Ever since Season Three though, their characters have been floundering and seemingly always at odds with each other irritatingly enough. This I believe completely and utterly weakens the characters, and thus the core of the show, which is why the series has been in a downward spiral since Season Three. Honestly, the writers need to be dragged out into the proverbial streets and beaten with rods for destroying such an amazing show. I'm certain that the producers and directors also share some of the blame as well; as everyone has a thought about what they want to see have happen to the progression of the show and its characters and plot. One of the several things that made the first two seasons so great was that Claire and Frank were indomitable, and then they were made weak and constantly playing defense instead of offense. Also, what didn't help was insertion of mediocre characters like Tom Yates, and mediocre side stories like Doug Stamper's. Honestly, if you haven't started watching the show, just watch seasons 1-2 and then read about the rest of the seasons. It would be better to end on a high note than a low one, which is where I feel this show is going. In other news and events; North Korea is acquiring better missile technology, China is enabling North Korea, the Syrian civil war continues to rage on, Venezuela is unraveling and burning towards utter destruction with each passing day, and DAESH continues to threaten the world with its terrorist activities. The good news seems to be that Iraq has pretty much taken the majority of its territory back from DAESH, so now it just has to govern effectively to preventing something similar from happening again. I really wish there was simply more good news in the world, or that the media would try to report more on the good news. Take care everyone.

House of Cards Season 5 interviews

Dunkirk trailer (looks pretty good)

Friday, July 7, 2017

La, La, La, La, La.

Actually if you substitute some letters in the title, it would more accurately describe my opinion of the film (blah, blah, blah, blah, blah). I guess that gives it way that I did not care for this film, La La Land, whatsoever. I went in believing that it was going to be quite good, but as soon as the opening number started I began to dislike it and my dislike of the film only increased as it progressed. The story is actually quite boring and pretty standard for Hollywood; a young struggling actress is trying to make it in L.A. as well as a young struggling musician who loves jazz. I'm not certain why this film plot seems to familiar, but since it is used a lot I would be surprised if it didn't seem somewhat familiar. Emma Stone plays Mia, the struggling actress, and Ryan Gosling plays Sebastian, the struggling musician. Basically they meet and begin to fall in love, and after they fall in love they continue to try and pursue their dreams. And that's about it. Oh, and there's music along the way, which I will get into later since being a musical the lyrics and music play a huge part in the film. Emma Stone is a very talented actress and her performance in this film as Mia was done very, very well, and thus she earned an Oscar for her hard work. Ryan Gosling likewise is very talented and his performance of Sebastian was good, but not entirely different from some other roles I've seen him in, but he was nominated at least for an Oscar. And that's about it, the entire film almost featured these two alone most of the time. John Legend had a very small role as a musical producer and band leader of sorts, but I didn't care for him at all. There isn't much one can really say about the supporting cast because they didn't do much but speak here and there and do singing and dancing in large numbers.
Damien Chazelle won the Oscar for Best Director (youngest ever apparently) and was nominated for Best Original Screenplay; he did a good job with the visual direction of the film, and how he directed Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, but that's about where the good things in the film disappear for me. Altogether the film was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won 6: Best Director, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Original Song and Best Production Design. Needless to say I heavily disagreed with the Academy this year on many things, and their showering this film accolades was one of them. The screenplay by Mr. Chazelle was okay, but honestly nothing overly groundbreaking, interesting or thought provoking; for example, consider the screenplay of Lincoln or The Help those two screenplays were truly award deserving, La La Land was not. Linus Sandgren won the Oscar for Cinematography, and I have to say that was the one excellent element of the film that really stood out to me; this film was beautifully filmed, and I remember thinking that as I watched the movie. David Wasco and his production design won an Oscar as well, and I have to say it was quite stunning and well done most of the time, if not entirely. Now, Justin Hurwitz composed the music and won an Oscar for it as was as the Oscar for Best Original Song. He's a fairly new film composer with Whiplash being the only major feature under his belt (the music from that film was also jazz). The music for this film was boring, and poorly composed; his inexperience radiated on every song and nearly every note. There wasn't any complexity to the music or depth; it was very simplistic in how it was arranged and composed. There were really no notable motifs (which is a must in great musicals) or even notable songs for that matter. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling can act, but they cannot sing, and the dreadful songs were made even more dreadful by their vocal performances. I have nothing good to say about the music whatsoever; hands down it was bad, and this was a terrible musical. So there you have it, I did not like this film at all and I was actually bored essentially the entire time I was watching it. I wouldn't encourage anyone to watch it; trust me you aren't missing anything. Oh, let's not also forget that for a few moments La La Land won the Oscar for Best Picture before people realized their mistake that it was actually Moonlight. A nice humorous moment. So this film was a big disappointment, but I guess I'm not surprised; Hollywood does like making and awarding films about itself.

La La Land trailer

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling interview

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Wonderful.....Wonder?

It seems like either Hollywood is a giant snowball going down a mountain gathering speed and mass with comic book based films with each one that is released and then scheduled to be released and eventually it will crash, or it will just go on successfully forever; not certain how that analogy will end. Or, maybe this golden age of comic book films will only get better and never end. Who knows. Until then, the movies are being released non-stop. Wonder Woman was honestly one of those comic book characters that I thought would never ever work well on-screen, and I thought an entire film about the character would be disastrous. Once again I am proved quite capably wrong. It's hard to nail down specifically why the film was so good and well done; I would point to a number of factors rather than just one singular point. The movie follows the character of Diana of the Amazons or later it is discovered she is something else entirely. She rescues a pilot during WWI and together they return to Europe to fight the Germans and end the war, although she is seeking to find and destroy Aries, the god of war whom she believes is responsible for all the evils of mankind. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince was perfect; it's hard to gauge how good of an actress she is as I've only seen her in this, and a bit here and there in Batman vs. Superman, but she was confident, interesting, dynamic, and the audience could empathize with her. Chris Pine plays Captain Steve Trevor (very ironic how even the DC universe has a Captain Steve like Marvel's Captain Steve who is Captain America). Mr. Pine plays himself; the difference between his character in this film and Captain Kirk in Star Trek are merely the setting and the individual differences. He was good in the film, but nothing remarkable. Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta the Amazon Queen was perfection; that woman can act (she had a very notable role in Gladiator). Robin Wright played Antiope the best Amazon warrior who trained Diana, and she was awesome; I wish her role had been larger, and the same as Connie Nielsen. Then there were the sidekicks: Sameer (Said Taghmaoui), Charlie (Ewen Bremner), and The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock). All three men performed fantastically, but I especially liked the characters Sameer and Charlie, both of whom had the most depth and likability. Danny Huston cast as German General Ludendorff was horribly miscast, and that character wasn't very well written either; seemed to be more of an afterthought than anything. Elena Anaya played Dr. Maru the "mad scientist" and she performed brilliantly and should have been more of the central villain rather than an afterthought as well. David Thewlis played a small role as a British politician, Sir Patrick, but he was utterly and horribly miscast as well; once you've seen the film, you'll totally understand why I think that. Overall the casting wasn't too bad, but like Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, you watch this movie to see Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.
Patty Jenkins directed the film and was perhaps one of the big reasons it was well done and has been quite successful and well received. She did a fine job on her first big film Monster, and I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future. Allan Heinberg wrote the screenplay and I have to say that he did a rather good job with the material he had; I think a few changes and tweaks here and there would have enhanced it even more, but you can never have least most of the time. I would also like to point out again as I did in Suicide Squad the current U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin was an executive producer. Rupert Gregson-Williams composed the music for the film, and was okay, but the only thing I remember well enough is her theme which wasn't even composed by him. Why are so many film composers writing blah music for films; it's very frustrating, especially for someone who enjoys that kind of music. The cinematography by Matthew Jensen was pretty good for a comic book film, and costume design by Lindy Hemming wasn't too bad either. The action in the film was okay; there were times when it worked really well, and times when it didn't. One big complaint I have was with the slow motion; there was too much of it and it was in random places, and the fight choreography wasn't consistently good either. Did I like it? Yes I did; Wonder Woman was a good film and I'd watch it again. It was definitely entertaining and had some good ideas and thoughts in it, but it wasn't great. I honestly would rather watch Batman vs. Superman as I really like Zack Snyder. There were at times during the film moments that seemed too....naive and trite, and that bothers me. But, it was very well put together, although I was not a fan of the last action sequence whatsoever. Wonder Woman was a good entertaining summer diversion, so if that's all you want, then this movie is perfect for you. Lord knows we're all in need of that.

Wonder Woman documentary

Wonder Woman preview

Justice League trailer

Valerian trailer (It looks interesting at least)