Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Happy Homecoming?

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

Spider-Man: Homecoming clip

 Spider-Man: Homecoming interviews


Spider-Man 1994 series clip

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Two Worlds Colliding....What Survives?

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

Transformers: The Last Knight clip

Interview with Laura Haddock

Info on President Woodrow Wilson

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

Sunday, January 7, 2018

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

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

The Mummy preview

The Mummy behind the scenes

Saturday, January 6, 2018

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

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

Interview with Johnny Depp

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales trailer

Creating the Make-up for Dead Men Tell No Tales 

Monday, January 1, 2018

"Sight is Overrated."

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

The Defenders scene

Charlie Cox and Finn Jones interview

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

Sunday, December 31, 2017

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

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

The Last Jedi behind the scenes

The Last Jedi interviews

The Last Jedi trailer

Sunday, December 24, 2017

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

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

Interview with Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn

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

Avengers Infinity War trailer (looks good).

Friday, October 27, 2017

"Serve in Heaven, or Reign in Hell?"

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


Alien: Covenant interviews

Alien: Covenant scene

Abraham Lincoln

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 well....at 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