Saturday, June 9, 2018

"To be a Getty is an Extraordinary Thing...."

Before I watched All the Money in the World I didn't know much about the Getty family other than that they were quite wealthy and influential. I'm not entirely certain how accurate the film is to what really happened to John Paul Getty III back in 1973, or to the nature of the senior Getty, but I have a feeling the essence of the film is true. The film is about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III who is then held for the ransom of $17 million of which his grandfather refuses to pay. His mother, Gail Harris/Mrs. Getty (married to John Paul Getty II) then does what she can to get the money to pay her sons' kidnappers. So the film is this hybrid suspense/drama, which actually works quite well. I will say this briefly, I watched some video of the real John Paul Getty, and its a shame that Ridley Scott replaced Kevin Spacey; he would have been perfect, as the appearance was quite similar. I would like to say that the star of the show was Christopher Plummer as the elder Mr. Getty, but it was actually Michelle Williams as Gail Harris who stole the show. There was something about her role that she made seem so easy that she slipped right into it effortlessly, and did so with all of the strength, vigor and passion that any mother would have if one of her children were kidnapped. She definitely deserved an Oscar nomination for her performance. Christopher Plummer is one of those actors that should be in more films and sadly isn't (like Christopher Lee), but his performance was amazing, and he actually did receive an Oscar nomination, but he should have had a larger role in the film; that would have sent it over the edge in a great way. I think he captured the wealthy billionaire fantastically, but I do think that Kevin Spacey would have done a finer job. Mark Wahlberg played essentially the elder Mr. Getty's fix-it man. It is a type of role that he has played on numerous occasions, and there was nothing really interesting or compelling about his character. Charlie Plummer played John Paul Getty III and I have to say he had the weakest performance of any person in the entire film, which is a great shame. I think his mediocre performance was one of the only blights of the film. The rest of the cast was good, but you watch this film for the suspense of the story, and for Michelle Williams' performance as well as Christopher Plummer's.
Ridley Scott directed the film, and he did quite a good job with it, but there wasn't anything really remarkable about the film. David Scarpa wrote the screenplay which was based off the book written by John Pearson. The plot and the story moved along well with very few distractions or slow moments, but nothing once again was remarkable. Daniel Pemberton's film score was surprisingly good; most of it is rather forgetful, but there is one motif that I will dub the Getty theme that is brilliant. It rings of something old and powerful, yet romantic and rich with years of something more than meets the eye. I'd definitely keep this man on your radar if you care for film composers (Ridley Scott has a knack for finding and using rarely known/new film composers in his films to great success). The cinematography by Dariusz Wolski was good, although as I keep say about the film overall, was nothing remarkable, as were the other technical elements of the film. Now, I write all of this not to say that the film is mediocre, but rather it is nothing exceptional; it is a good, solid movie and one that I enjoyed with fairly solid performances. Fifteen years from now though, this film will be forgotten and I'm sure it will be remade or its subject matter revisited as Hollywood has no good, original creative thinking left in it. If you enjoy solid dramas or true life crime stories, then this film is for you; there was only one scene that made me squeamish and that I didn't watch. If none of that is your forte than you had better stick with films like Thor: Ragnarok. On a different note relating to the film All the Money in the World it is curious that some people for their entire lives pursue wealth and the trappings that accompany it, yet when they die all of it gets left behind. Despite having all of the money in the world, a person cannot cheat or overcome death, so perhaps people should invest in the only thing that lives on after death; people. Lately in the news there have been several high profile celebrity suicides, and also there was a report in the Wall Street Journal indicating that suicide rates are rising across all 50 states in the United States. When an individual cares more about fame, wealth, power, influence, career success, or anything more than people the odds are not only will it hurt that individual, but the people around him or her. My suggestion to avoid all of this is to invest in people, and I'm not talking about fiscal means alone, but also care, personal sacrifice, and emotional support. A person can find more joy and satisfaction in life the more one helps and gives to others. Just something to think about.

All the Money in the World  trailer

All the Money in the World clip

John Paul Getty Interview

Sicario: Day of the Soldado trailer (could be good?)

Monday, June 4, 2018

An Atomic Bomb.

I don't know about all of you, but lately Hollywood and the film industry in general has been releasing very dark films lately, with a lot of anti-hero types in leading roles. I am going to make some parallels where this has happened before in history; where film became the manifestation of the grim reality occurring in the world. This happened before in days of the Weimar Republic before the rise of Nazism and during the 1970's in the United States. During both periods of time strife and crises abounded and everything appeared rather hopeless and dark really. Now clearly, Germany really did experience severe moral decline under Nazi leadership, although their military and economy flourished, whereas in the U.S. to many people I think they believed life to be more truly darker than it was, but by the 1980's that malaise was beginning to disappear. Seriously look at the different kinds of films released during the 1970's in the U.S. and the 1920's in Germany; it's quite interesting. Atomic Blonde definitely ranks in the grisly and dark, even though it is depicted during 1989 as the Berlin Wall is in the process of coming down. I had actually watched Blade Runner 2049 recently, but disliked it so much and considered far worse than its predecessor that I won't even bother reviewing it. Atomic Blonde is about an MI6 agent who goes to East Berlin to find a "list" containing secret information about contacts and agents of all the major world players (sound slightly familiar). Anyways, she runs into some difficulty and gets all James Bond like with some Jason Bourne in there. Charlize Theron plays the protagonist; Lorraine Broughton, and you couldn't have asked for a more perfect individual with which to play the tough British agent who is both lovely and lethal. As a character, she plays herself very difficult to read, which is good, but she does have some empathy and passion, but buried quite deep. James McAvoy plays her spy compatriot, David Percival, who is the station chief for East Berlin. I found him obnoxious, annoying, useless, and essentially nothing likable as a character. Actually most of the films he is in I don't care for save for the X-Men films. John Goodman plays a top dog with the CIA helping out the British with their operation, and as always delivers a solid performance; it would have been great to see him have a larger role. Sofia Boutella plays a young French agent who caught in the middle of essentially a spy war, and although I didn't care for her role she did provide this naive, youthful perspective against the worn veterans and order of things. Bill Skarsgard played a contact of some sort for Charlize Theron's character, and he did quite well, but once again he was relegated to a very small role which was a shame. Basically, this is truly a one woman show; you watch it to Charlize Theron in action, and that's about it.
Now, this film was quite terrible. David Leitch (directed Deadpool 2) had a very interesting idea about the setting and style of the film, but the narrative just came out as this formless, confusing and utterly boring plot. Kurt Johnstad wrote the screenplay based off the graphic novel series, and it needed a lot of help (this is an understatement). As a point of comparison, what makes Game of Thrones such an incredibly successful and well liked series; the writing. This one facet of the filmmaking process is what is sorely and nearly consistently lacking in films currently being released. Tyler Bates composed the film score, but it wasn't anything remotely memorable. The cinematography by Jonathan Sela had potential, but it was too rough around the edges, and not really that dynamic. The costume design by Cindy Evans was amazing; Charlize Theron looked incredible all of the time with that gritty elegance of the 1980's. There were basically only three things I liked about the film: Charlize Theron, it had a great soundtrack of 1980's music that worked so well with what was happening on-screen, and lastly the ending was quite good I have to say. I was definitely surprised. There was decent action, and the last action sequence was really, really intense and one of the better spy action bits that I have seen on screen that comes off as very realistic; makes me not want to be a secret agent or spy. This isn't a fun, or thoughtful film; in succinct terms it fulfills Freud's two basic drives: sex and violence. And that's it. If that is your cup of tea, then by all means have at it, if not then I'd stick to something with substance in it aside from dark, gritty violence and hyper-sexualized, destructive human carnage.
On a higher note, I just recently completed reading the biography on former U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant written by Jean Edward Smith called "Grant". He was the 18th President of the United States of America. He was president from 1869-1877, he was proceeded by Andrew Johnson and followed by Rutherford B. Hayes. He was also the finest Union General during the U.S. Civil War, and the equal of Robert E. Lee. Without Grant, it is most likely that there would be two separate countries rather than just one. Grant was an astounding man, but he was only successful in life when he was in the military or president; every other time he ended up destitute due to making really poor choices. The lowest was right before the war when he was selling firewood in Georgia I believe to make ends meet; it was actually future Confederate General Longstreet who gave him money to help him out. These two men were good friends before the war, gentlemen to each other during the war, and good friends after the war. Grant's strategy was a lot like Patton's; advancing constantly, never giving the enemy a chance to retreat, dig in and defend. It is very untrue and unfortunate that he often depicted as a drunkard and a strategic incompetent who won merely because of the sake of numbers. He was a tactical genius, understood the nature of war and more importantly how to effectively lead a large organization (something that is sorely lacking these days). Him and Abraham Lincoln were the bulwark that held the nation together at that dark time, and were the ones that pushed so fervently for African American freedom and full equal rights. There is so much to write about this great man, but here are some things that stood out to me. During the Mexican-American war is where the officers of the Civil War learned war, but all fought on the same side and were good friends; this never ended even during that harsh conflict many years later. They were gentlemen to each other during and after; it was a breath of fresh air to read about, that even though enemies, there was not vicious enmity after the war or even during. It's a shame politicians cannot behave this way; life would be more pleasant if it was. Grant also gave everything he had to protect African Americans during Reconstruction and advance their rights to the same as everyone else in the country. Until I read this book, I didn't have a clue how poorly African Americans were treated immediately after the war, and how the Union Amy had to step in and stop the carnage on numerous occasions. Frequent problem states were Louisiana and South Carolina, and the Democrats did everything they could to stop Grant and Republicans from expanding the rights of African Americans, or the "Freedmen" as they were called. It was quite disgusting, but the most disgusting thing was that towards the end of his term, Grant was alone trying to stop the Democrats from rolling back rights and liberties of African Americans; Republicans and northern U.S. voters didn't care anymore; that was a wartime issue to most. Thus the Democrats were able to trample over African Americans and inserted the "separate but equal" philosophy. I cannot think of a greater champion, defender and advocate of African Americans in American history that was president than Ulysses S. Grant. He listened to all people intently and respectfully and then made his decisions, and he was always cool under fire and pressure; never giving the appearance but that everything was always under control and going as planned. He is definitely one of the greatest U.S. Presidents of all time. Eight down thirty-seven more to go; started reading the biography of former U.S. President John Adams. Until then take care, and try reading instead of watching Netflix or playing on a gaming platform.

Charlize Theron interview

Atomic Blonde clip

Documentary clip on Ulysses S. Grant

Saturday, May 26, 2018

"The Law is what Powerful Men Say it Shall Be...."

The War of the Roses was a British civil war that lasted approximately from 1455 A.D. to 1485 A.D. between the houses of Lancaster and York ending with the death of Richard III. Shakespeare documented this in a number of his works, as well as many British monarchs, but The White Queen takes a different look at the historical events. It is based off a series of books written by Phillipa Gregory, and tells the historical events primarily through the eyes of the women in the saga. It is heavily fictional, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, it is where George R. Martin acquired his inspiration for Game of Thrones (the actual historical events, not the books), so while waiting for the final season to come out, this is a really good time filler. The show begins with Edward IV being triumphant over the Lancaster forces of King Henry VI and now king; the land is divided between those who follow York and those that still harbor good feelings towards Lancaster. Elizabeth Rivers, who's husband fought and died for House Lancaster, now does what she can to woo the young king and get him to be merciful and bountiful to her and her family. Eventually the two develop a close relationship and become married thus setting up a fiery match of tug of war between those in the royal court, their new queen and the young king Edward with the country still on the edge of continued bloodshed. Rebecca Ferguson plays Elizabeth Rivers does so masterfully. I do not know much about the actual historical figure, but her performance is strong, emotional, and unyielding. Through everything this character experiences it is amazing how she is able to survive, and this is done fantastically with Ms. Ferguson. Her performance is definitely a highlight. Max Irons plays King Edward IV and does an able job; the chemistry between him and Ms. Ferguson is nigh perfect up to the very end. Of all the characters in the series, he is perhaps the most static and uninteresting though. Janet McTeer played Elizabeth Waters' mother Jacquetta Woodville, and her character and performance was the one that I found the most enjoyable and interesting of all. She is brilliant actress that brought a brilliant character to life. As Elizabeth was going through life and all of her struggles it was her mother that was the rock that helped her through it. She was plainspoken, practical, intelligent, kind, elegant yet fearless; traits one has difficulty finding all within a singular individual these days. Another standout character was played by Aneurin Barnard (Richard Duke of Gloucester) who changed so much from the beginning as Edward's youngest idealistic brother to become Richard III eventually. It was perhaps the most tragic part of the entire story, and Mr. Barnard does such a splendid and powerful job with the role. Last but not least, Amanda Hale played Lady Margaret Beaufort who essentially becomes King Henry the VII mother and thereby King Henry VIII grandmother. She starts out as fierce Lancastrian loyalist, but then as the tides turn she sees another path and believes her son will one day sit on the throne. She is a single-minded woman with extraordinary grit and determination, and Ms. Hale brought so much to this character and added so much depth to her. There are many more great performances, but it would take too much time to write them out, but those that I mentioned are the big names.
Now, I did mention that the series is heavily fictionalized and this can be both a good and bad thing depending on your perspective. I thought that the fictional elements didn't detract from the historical events. One of those elements is magic. Now, there were rumors that Elizabeth Rivers and her family were witches and used magic, but those were most likely targeted rumors to cast dispersion upon the family members to discredit and destroy them. Calling people witches back at that period of time was an easy way to eliminate or discredit rivals; people still use the same idea today, they simply aren't accused of witchcraft but other things. All of the technical elements were good, although the battle sequences were pretty lame honestly, but fortunately there were not a lot of them; this is a character and dialog driven series. I thoroughly enjoyed this series, and it was unfortunate that it only received one season, but what they did was quite good. It was fascinating to me to see the parallels between the historical events, the show, and then what happened on Game of Thrones. This show is an excellent depiction of human behavior and the human condition; our nature which is so terribly warped. What will people do to hold on to power, their wealth, prestige and legacy; what are people really, truly like when the chips are down. So if you like historical dramas, then this is for you, but it is pretty graphic and intense, so this is not for the faint of heart. It isn't fluffy like a fairy tale, but gritty like reality. If that isn't your distinct cup of tea, and I'd move on. The odd are though, if you enjoy Game of Thrones then you'll enjoy this series. Well take care everyone, and may the Force continue to be with us all.

The White Queen clip

The White Queen trailer

Sunday, May 20, 2018

"Dread it. Run From it. Destiny Still Arrives...."

I'm not entirely certain how long this film has been planned, or how they evolved the other Marvel films and shows around it, but Avengers: Infinity Wars has arrived after many, many years of anticipation and earnestness. After subtle and not so subtle attempts and hints, Thanos finally makes his play for the infinity stones and bring about literally universal balance. The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy along with other superheroes do what they can to stop him. The film begins pretty much where Thor: Ragnarok ended. This is perhaps Marvel's darkest film ever produced, and Thanos is perhaps the most powerfully menacing villain they have ever put on-screen. Despite not really having a physical presence on the film, Josh Brolin's vocal performance (and most likely motion capture performance as well) as Thanos was perfect. This character is not around to endlessly talk, or fruitlessly pummel his enemies to death; he gets to the point, which is refreshing for a villain, and people die when they get in his way. Creating this connection to mortality and the audience suddenly realizes that the heroes aren't immortal, which really ups the ante. His henchmen were also superb and were similar to their master, not bumbling morons who talked a big fight and weren't able to deliver. The villains in this movie are some of the finest I've seen in a while, but we shall see how all of this plays out going forward. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man is about the same in this film as he usually is; excellent performance, cool gadgetry but he has someone with just about the same size of ego to contend with unlike before. Dr. Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch was quite superb like his previous performance, and when Dr. Strange and Tony Stark had scenes together, they were some of the best. Chris Hemsworth redeemed himself as Thor for me. He gave a much more heroic and intense performance of the hero, who is now essentially an Asgardian king. I could have done without Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, but there is no denying his dynamic added to the film. Tom Holland reprised his role as Spider-Man, and he was more tolerable this time around, but he was more distraction than good for the film. Zoe Saldana as Gamorra had one of the more interesting and complex parts of the film as the daughter of Thanos, and she played it very well. Her sister Nebula, played by Karen Gillan, had a small but pivotal role in the film, but she did well and has come a long way. Tom Hiddleston as the god of mischief Loki also had a small but pivotal role in the film; his presence has diminished greatly since the first Avengers film. Paul Bettany as Vision and Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch were amazing together; complex, interesting, and this ethereal nature of their relationship was such a delight. Chris Evans as Captain America, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Anthony Mackie as Falcon, Idris Elba as Heimdall, Sebastian Stan as Bucky, Benedict Wong as Wong, Dave Bautista as Drax, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, and Pom Klementieff as Mantis all had presences in the film, but nothing really substantial aside from some narrative dialog and mostly action. Peter Dinklage had a lovely part as an important kind of blacksmith, and of course I cannot forget Stan Lee's usual cameo appearance which is always fantastic. As you can see the cast was great, but since there were so many, substantial screen time was a premium, which was perhaps the films biggest flaw, but also having so many potent characters and stars made it also its greatest strength.
Anthony and Joe Russo directed the film and did a great job, and considering both men are veterans of the Marvel cinematic universe, they definitely have a handle on where everything is going, so props to them. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely wrote the screenplay and did for the most part an excellent job, although there were some moments with the dialog that could have used a little more polish. Alan Silvestri composed the music, and although he is becoming the define composer for the Marvel universe, I really wish they found someone with a little more talent. There just aren't really any memorable themes or motifs from the film, except perhaps the Avenger theme (which was composed several films ago) and something that might be Thanos' theme/motif. The cinematography was good, and considering all of the special effects, I think Trent Opaloch did a fine job. The two people who deserve a great deal of credit for the finished product are the film editors Jeffrey Ford and Matthew Schmidt. These two individuals took a film of epic proportion with over twenty big name stars, massive action sequences, essentially three to four storylines and weaved together a cohesive film that wasn't boring, too over the top, and balanced the important characters with what the story was all about. Not an easy feat. I really enjoyed the film, and it probably had something to do with the villains and the tone of the film being quite dark. What I didn't care about a lot for in the film were the Guardians of the Galaxy characters, except Gamorra and Groot; everyone else, especially Rocket and Quill were obnoxious, especially Quill. I don't know why a comic book hero has to be depicted as such a vain, insecure, silly person but he met his match with Thanos, and Tony Stark (which ironically are two very self-confident characters, aside from Captain America). The action was very well done, and the special effects were excellent and the pace was almost perfectly timed. One of the things I really enjoyed about the film was the ending. However, I have a feeling I know what is going to happen in the next Avengers film, so not everything may stay as it is thought it is. This would be a real shame, but there are plenty of Marvel films to come so they can't make too many changes in this film which honestly really cheapens the heroism of the characters. But that's film marketing for you. Filmmakers who want to make excellent villains need to take notes from this film, because Thanos and his henchmen were perfection; they were my favorite part of the film, aside from Dr. Strange and Iron Man.

Avengers: Infinity War interviews

Avengers: Infinity War clip

Avengers: Infinity War trailer

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Two Dark Hours Indeed.

I'm not certain why Americans tend to be mesmerized and borderline obsessed with British historical figures and actors/actresses. Not that it is a negative thing, but rather just a curious phenomenon. In the film Darkest Hour rather than a biographical take on the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the writers focused on the period of time when Neville Chamberlain stepped aside and Churchill ascended to power. Much to my surprise it was not a smooth transition; I had no idea British politics of the time were fraught with so much intrigue and backstabbing. Nothing has changed in 70 plus years, nor do I think it will in the foreseeable future. It was a fascinating idea just taking a snapshot of his life and filing that, but I believe it could have been conveyed much more effectively. In the film politicians complain that Churchill is a brute, a drunk, and incapable of truly leading the government because of his reckless behavior and there is a "plot" of sorts to unseat him (does any of that sound recently familiar) and get someone much more "suitable" to lead the British government. Gary Oldman, who is my favorite actor, plays Churchill flawlessly; although I know very little about the man's personality, habits, and life, it seems rather consensual that he brought to life a very comparable performance mirroring the real man. He was tough, vulnerable, humorous, and plain spoken; Gary Oldman was great and definitely deserved the Academy Award for Best Actor. Like so many of his past roles, he becomes the character, and perhaps one of his greatest was his take on Ludwig van Beethoven in Immortal Beloved (which also happens to be most likely my favorite film of all time that isn't related to Star Wars). Honestly, his performance is why you'd want to see the film but he wasn't the only talented individual bringing life to past figures of history. Ben Mendelsohn played played King George VI perfectly; he looked like him, acted like him, and sounded like him a little bit. It was a fine addition to the cast. Lily James played Churchill's secretary Elizabeth Layton, and for the most part her character was unfortunately quite bland, but she was a foil to Churchill and brought out more of his more "humane" qualities. Ronald Pickup played that spineless fool Neville Chamberlain perfectly, and now I know why history has largely forgotten him. Stephen Dillane known for his role as Stannis Baratheon played Viscount Halifax, who essentially was the would be Prime Minister in waiting and pushed all he could to have Churchill removed in as politically calculating a way as he was able. A truly despicable and stupid man, but he was played brilliantly. Kristin Scott Thomas played Clemmie the wife of Winston Churchill, and she did tend to light the screen up whenever she was in a scene for the most part, but it would have been nice to see more of her.
Joe Wright directed the film, and although he is a very talented director, he tends to be hit or miss with what he comes out with. Atonement and Pan and The Soloist were not quite so good, even though they were visually quite sumptuous, and even Anna Karenina would meet that same criteria. His best film in my opinion would be Pride and Prejudice from 2005. He did a fair job of directing this film, but it was really slow, and it depicted Churchill at his weakest as Prime Minister, which I didn't relish. One of the things that made the film challenging to watch for me was literally understanding what Gary Oldman was saying; I feel like I often hadn't a clue what he was saying as the character would mumble. Even if this was how the man spoke, it may have been indulged a little too much for the screen; it's one way to talk like that in real life, but it's entirely different matter if you're trying to watch a film and make sense of what is going on. All of this ties in with the writing of course done by Anthony McCarten, and this is where I substantially disagree with the direction of the film; I don't think it should have been a snapshot but rather the scope of his term as Prime Minister, or they should have chosen a moment later on in the war. The only really enjoyable, or interesting character was Winston Churchill in the entire film, which I do not believe is a telling sign of a well written film if all your eggs are in one basket. The successful opposite of this of course would be Steven Spielberg's film Lincoln which aside from Schindler's List is his greatest film. Dario Marianelli did the music, and he is an amazing film composer, but nothing really stood out for this film which is all too entirely disappointing for a man of his talent. I do not know how historically accurate this film was, and how much the filmmakers indulged in fantasy in order to arrive at the finished product, but for the most part it seemed right on the nose. Overall it was a good film, but nothing spectacular like it truly could have been; it didn't capture the larger than life man or the powerful and forceful genius that he was. It also suffered from being dull and slow periodically, which usually doesn't bother me provided everything else is good, but in this case there was a shortage of that. I might see it again, but if you're not a history person or drama person, I don't think you'd like or enjoy this film. For now, the film Lincoln would be a good bet as a perfect example of a great man brought to life on screen with just simply a snapshot of his time.

Gary Oldman on being Winston Churchill

Darkest Hour film clip

Ordeal by Innocence trailer (looks like a good cast at least).

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Shapelessness of Water.

I have often raved about the director of this film, Guillermo del Toro, who is one of my favorite film directors. However, when it comes to The Shape of Water, I have to say that I was incredibly disappointed with his work. For me, the premise of a sea creature and a human falling in love is classic del Toro and I didn't have a problem with that, I just thought his execution of the story was poorly done. So it's the 1960's in the United States at the height of the Cold War between the U.S.S.R. and U.S., and in the backdrop of that is an intimate story about a mute cleaning woman in Baltimore that works at a top secret U.S. facility. She falls in love with a captive, underwater sea creature, and together they try to survive and navigate Russian agents, and an American CIA operative with an insatiable blood lust. The main character Elisa, played by Sally Hawkins, did a splendid job and gave quite a performance. She was convincing and interesting, although I would have written her character a little differently so that the audience could have more ably connected with her. Michael Shannon played the villainous agent and did a very good job, although his character was incredibly odd and confusing regarding motivation for his anti-social behavior. Didn't care for the character or his performance, and I especially didn't care for what it represented either. Richard Jenkins played Elisa's good friend Giles, who was a closeted homosexual and of course stereotypically a struggling artist. I didn't care for his character either, and I didn't really understand the point of it either. Octavia Spencer played Elisa's other friend, Zelda, who was a sharp tongued cleaning lady; in other words, she played herself. She is an amazing actress, but wasn't given anything to really work with; she was a huge waste in this film. Last but not least, Doug Jones played the sea creature, and of course performed spectacularly given that his character had no audible lines but relied mainly on body language to communicate. A great cast, that was unfortunately put to poor use.
Guillermo del Toro's best film ever is Pan's Labyrinth and The Shape of Water doesn't hold even a shadow to that film's wonder and splendor. I am going to count this as one of the director's poor films, despite winning him an Oscar for Best Director and Best Picture along with nine other nominations and two other wins. The writing was perhaps the most atrocious of all the elements of the film and was the main reason why I didn't care for the film at all. First of all is the pointless sexual content, which was gratuitous to the point of being gross and distasteful; nobody want's to see anyone masturbate in a feature film woman or man. It is awkward and detracts from the story, along with all sexual content. And yes this happened throughout the film, so that was unpleasant. Also, the social justice themes that were present at every part of the film as well also distracted from the narrative of the story. What I didn't care was that the United States, the military, the U.S. government, and those that protect it were depicted in such a ruthless manner; I believe this representation was purposeful and deliberate and something I don't want to see in a world where I am trying escape reality. This film was a politically correct, social justice poster child which is most likely why it won Best Picture and Best Director. It was so unlike anything else Guillermo del Toro had written or directed, and regardless of what the Academy Awards believes, I think it was some of his poorest writing and therefore poorest film thus far that I have seen. Surprisingly the best part, and only redeeming element of the entire film was the musical score by Alexandre Desplat, who I usually do not care for. However, in this film his music was breathtaking and beautiful; it was original, elegant, alien yet familiar. He created something truly memorable in the world of musical scores, and especially his theme for this film was incredible. I highly recommend the music of this film, and only that; everything else can be discarded (the soundtrack is on Spotify). There were snippets of the cinematography, by Dan Laustsen, that were quite good, but nothing near as good as Pan's Labyrinth. I didn't care for this film whatsoever and was completely disappointed with it. It is a shame, because it could have been so much better, but it was clouded with political correctness and social justice politics to the point where the fantastical, simple story was lost. Hopefully he doesn't kill Pinocchio when he directs it in the coming years

 The Shape of Water trailer

The Shape of Water interviews

Venom trailer (not sure about this one).

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Apocalypse, But Not the End......

I will probably be once again in the minority when I state that I did not care for Thor: Ragnarok. How far the franchise has....changed since Kenneth Branagh back in 2011; that was seven years ago. Although I won't write what happened in this latest, and perhaps last Thor film, it was stylistically closer to Guardians of the Galaxy than the original Thor film, which for me was not a positive. So Thor is looking for his father and happens across Hela, the goddess of death, who then attempts to kill him and Loki and during the scuffle destroys his hammer. During their escape Thor gets lost and gets stuck on a world where he must fight a gladiatorial match against the Hulk. Eventually they escape and attempt to stop Hela from annihilating all of Asgard. That's it basically. So Chris Hemsworth, who knows if the man really possesses any good acting talent, reprises his role as Thor yet again. Unlike the first inception where he grows and changes, in this film he is deprecating, stupidly sarcastic, and not the noble god that he originally was in the first film. His character attempts to emulate the successes of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark and Chris Pratt as Star Lord/Peter Quill as the sarcastic, self-deprecating, humorous, witty super hero.....although it came across as forced and unlike his character. Tom Hiddleston as Loki was equally, if not worse with his character, Loki. Not threatening whatsoever; in this film he is merely a comic foil to Thor, and that's it. I don't know what's up with his character, but it is a far cry from what happened in The Avengers film or even the second Thor film. Of course Cate Blanchett as Hela was perfection; there were times when she went a little over the top with the dialog, but for the most part she meant business as a villain, and she wasn't afraid to kill scores of people and characters to meet her end. Unfortunately, her character was typically static and there was no exploration of what was indeed a rich backstory. Perhaps one of the best parts of the entire film was Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster; he was amazing with his lines and how he treated the character. He will definitely be long remembered for his role as time and people forget Chris Hemsworth as Thor. Tessa Thompson plays Valkyrie, who is a washed up drunken warrior with a lot of talent and an intensely dark secret. She did a good job, but for the most part I found her character quite boring; she after all was playing a story stereotype, so there was nothing incredibly interesting about her. Karl Urban, who is a very talented actor, somehow got stuck with an obnoxious, and useless character, called Skurge. I am not certain what the writers were thinking, but they failed extraordinarily. Mark Ruffalo played the Hulk/Bruce Banner; and that was it. Nothing new and nothing different. Anthony Hopkins as Odin was more than useless in this film; unlike the two previous films, he had lost all of his physical authority and power as king, so it really damaged his character. Definitely a poor writing choice. Even Idris Elba as Heimdall was a complete waste unfortunately. But what Marvel film would be complete without a Stan Lee cameo, and somehow everyone keeps finding a place for him in all the films, and it always comes across brilliantly. Hopefully he can remain alive long enough to keep it all coming.
The director, Taika Waititi, did a great job bringing his vision alive on-screen; I just happened to disagree with that vision, but film itself wasn't dreadful, and I suppose could be construed as "good entertainment." As I mentioned above Kenneth Branagh who directed the first Thor film and this gentleman had a much different perspective on the character and series. I guess you could think of it almost in a kind of era; the first Thor film was more romantic and akin to Feudal Europe; Thor: Ragnarok was self-deprecating and like the 70's or 80's here in the United States of America. This self-deprecating, not taking the material or characters seriously has become very popular and not just in comic book based films (Marvel & DC alike) but other films as well, such as the new Star Wars films, and especially the atrocious The Last Jedi film. In American culture at least, there is very little sense of true honor and nobility left; everything must be mocked and taken down by verbal insult. It is very sad. I suppose for that reason I shouldn't be surprised that this is occurring in popular film media, but at the same time that doesn't mean I have to like it. Obviously in my opinion the writing was poor, not dreadful, but definitely poor. The story lacked gravitas and banked on cheap shots with their humor and characters who mocked themselves and others; Saturday Night Live does a much better job with this. As for the technical elements of the film, the music by Mark Mothersbaugh was less than.....well something good. I suppose I am a fan of John Williams orchestral themes and grand, moving film scores than a jazzed up pop soundtrack. The cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe wasn't terrible, but the overall look of the film and color saturation reminded me of Easter candy; very smooth, pastel color palette, and that superficial look. The costume design by Mayes C. Rubeo was I have to say pretty good; Hela and the Grandmaster being the standouts of course. The action was....well, it was okay. But senseless bashing of the bodies doesn't really interest me after seeing probably well over a hundred action films where they all do some variant of that. It wasn't very dynamic, and Hela's abiltiy to throw very sharp speared objects was kind of lame honestly, despite its effectiveness. So I didn't care for Thor: Ragnarok and although it wasn't a dreadful film, I really have no desire to see it again....except the parts that have Jeff Goldblum in it, and maybe Cate Blanchett. It wasn't a bad movie, I simply didn't care for it for the aforementioned reasons. And once again, all of these comic book films are really starting to mirror each other very similarly, and for me that isn't very entertaining or interesting. But for those of whom enjoy it, please do.

Thor: Ragnarok clip

Thor: Ragnarok documentary

 Robin Hood trailer (looks positively dreadful)

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).