There has been a lot of hype and mystery in regards to Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (which I didn't get from the film why it is called that), so now that it has opened, is it worth all of the ardent chit chat has been given to it? Do not read any further if you have not seen the film and want to without it being dimmed or spoiled for you. Perhaps I will change my mind in time, but after my initial viewing of the film I want to strangle J.J. Abrams for what he did to it. Why, because it was like Star Trek with Star Wars elements in it as a general overview. First let me say what I liked the most; the characters. Rey played by Daisy Ridley was amazing; she was tough, funny, empathetic, smart, and just an amazing character played by a very talented woman ( iliked the British accent as well). Finn played by John Boyega was also great (probably had the worst dialog, and terrible implementation of his character, but he turned out alright). I liked the fact that he was a reluctant hero of sorts, like Han Solo from Episode IV, and he potentially has an interesting past which hopefully will be more explored in the future. Kylo Ren as Adam Driver was truly amazing, and possibly my favorite character from the film. He was brooding, powerful, but yet has empathy being Han and Leia's child that fell from the light to the dark. And yes I am always attracted to the darker characters. Poe Dameron played by Oscar Isaac was another favorite character of mine; great pilot, great actor, and a good agent; reminds me of Wedge Antilles and someone else all wrapped into a singular character. Obviously Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were great, as was Peter Mayhew and Anthony Daniels; Mark Hamill had about less than a minute of screen time so he doesn't count. I was disappointed with Gwendoline Christie's lack of role in the film as Captain Phasma, the cool looking Chrome Trooper. General Hux played by Domhnall Gleeson was also weaker as a character than I would have liked for a powerful....officer I suppose. I was thinking he was going to be like Tarkin in some way. Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke was....interesting, but I am uncertain where that could possibly go, but he did a good job, though it was unclear what he is exactly a supreme leader of.
Technically, the film was well done. Special effects were good, the cinematography was okay, sound design, costume design were also okay. I was particularly looking forward to John William's score....but I felt it was flat, definitely his weakest of the 7 scores. I heard a lot of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as well as some of his others scores, and there were no major themes, or grand, orchestral sweeping moments. I can't really remember any original musical cues that were composed specifically for this film. I will blame that on J.J. Abrams though, and the fact that George Lucas wasn't around to provide guidance. The action sequences were nothing new or dynamic really; all of it was basically taken from the original trilogy. This film was essentially an updated version of the old film, everything was reused; very little original plot points, designs or locations to name a few. It's difficult for me to articulate why I don't like this film that much; George Lucas had a very specific style that he did everything when he created and made Star Wars and anything that was a part of that universe since it all came from his imagination, he knew what worked and what didn't. Granted it was a good film and millions of people will love it, but it just isn't true Star Wars in my opinion because it is missing George Lucas' vision. Say what you want about the man, but when it comes to storylines, designs, cultures, ships, costumes, weapons, action sequences, and film technology that man knew what Star Wars was and not having him oversee anything I firmly believe ended the true Star Wars films. Oh, and the 3-D was boring, I don't recall anything really popping at all, and the lightsaber sequence while I'm at it, wow that was really unimpressive, not to mention very ridiculous. What was chosen to focus on as a story of all the things that could have been chosen and the approach to them that was taken, very disappointing and poor choices galore. And I will close on the terrible ending of the film, or rather boring, uneventful, and awkward as well a little. The film was entertaining, and interesting, but as a huge Star Wars fan I was not impressed. For me Star Wars just isn't about one trilogy or another, old versus the new, good action sequences or bad ones; it's about the mythology, the universe in which all of these stories are told, and I don't believe this story stayed true to the grand mythology that has become Star Wars.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens interviews
Independence Day Resurgence trailer (looks like it could be good)
Star Trek Beyond trailer (this looks good, but confusing)
"Happy Hunger Games....and may the odds be ever in your favor," will no longer be catch phrases in the dystopian society of Panem. I will not provide any specifics about part 2 of Mockingjay, but I will say that it all ends, although in my opinion rather anti-climatically. The Capital defends itself viciously against an encroaching rebel army in part 2, and we see how the downfall of President Snow occurs. Aside from that and typing up loose ends, that essentially sums up the film minus of course a few surprises that could shock many, but I wasn't surprised at all by them. I'll just come right out and say it, I didn't care for the film that much; I felt that it was lacking something that the other films possessed. I'm working on a theory that films that are split into 2 parts, the final part tends to be the weaker than the first. This I found true for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. MockingjayPart 2 I found to be the weakest of the four films, due to I think it lacking an overall story structure as the other films had, and poorer writing than all the other films. It didn't feel like the end to a climactic rebellion, and even the very end felt...hollow. There wasn't really any new cast members of significance, and all of the cast members from the previous films did great. Honestly, I wasn't impressed by anyone's performance, and nothing stood out at all like moments from the other films despite all of the crying and hardened looks that this film had. I'm actually trying to think, and really the only person's performance that I enjoyed was Donald Sutherland's as President Snow, which was small unfortunately. Oh wait, I forgot about Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, and he did fantastic, but it didn't seem like they gave him a lot of good material to work with. Liam Hemsworth as Gale was so flat; that man can't act, at least as a genuine, dynamic character. The action sequences were okay, but nothing really spectacular or interesting. Honestly, there wasn't anything remarkable about this film that I can recall, which is a real shame considering all of the films that came before it were very well done. It was an entertaining film, but honestly it's not something that I'd want to see again, or often. They should have just made one film rather than splitting it into 2 parts; they would have then had a stronger finale instead of merely stretching it out just to make more money, even though they will say it's to provide more details and a richer adaptation, which I don't believe is true. The film brings everything to a close, but not very well. I would only advise it to be seen just to finish off the series, but that's about it.
Mockingjay Part 2 interviews
Mockingjay Part 2 clip
Zootopia trailer (this made me laugh so much)
(came across this short film and found it quite fascinating; food for thought)
About a week ago I saw the latest James Bond Film Spectre and had a lot of high hopes and high expectations for the film, but my initial impression was of great disappointment and honestly I expected so much more. James Bond is hunting down a lead that "M" (Judi Dench "M") gave him before she died, and it leads him through a tidal wave of intrigue that circles all the way back to the events of Casino Royale. During this investigation he comes across the organization Spectre which seems to be at the center of many of his previous enemies and the cause of many deaths as well. There is no denying the excellence of Daniel Craig as James Bond, though not in my opinion his best of the four he has now done, though there was a lot of potential for it to be one of the finest. Actually now that I think about it, there wasn't anyone in the cast that really stood out in my opinion. Granted Christoph Waltz was the villain and he was good, but he didn't really have enough screen time to really stand out and define himself as an excellent character. Ralph Fiennes as the new "M" wasn't that impressive, but I think that had more to do with the writing, and Naomie Harris as Moneypenny was okay as was Ben Whishlaw as "Q". The Bond girls that Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux played were also okay, but nothing really interesting or special, although I wish that Ms. Bellucci's character would have had more depth and prominence as her character was far more interesting, but what can you do. Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) was a secondary villain, but didn't say a word; he was pretty useless. The remainder of the cast was good, but as I mentioned none of them really stood out.
Now Bond films are usually action films, and there was plenty of action in this film, but I think that it generally sucked across the board. There were a lot of foot chases and car chases sequences, as well as shooting sequences and running sequences, but I cannot recall any of them being dynamic or interesting all I was thinking of was..."oh goody, another car chase..." and then it was back to drama and dialog which were not written very well. All of this is what directs me to my perception of the film being mediocre at best after the initial viewing, but who knows perhaps I will grow to like it....possibly. Honestly, I just didn't really care for the direction that Sam Mendes (the director of this film and Skyfall) took in regards to the Bond franchise. Personally, I think Casino Royale is the finest of this series of Bond films; excellent dialog and characters, good writing, dynamic action sequences, original, and it retains that balance of new Bond with old Bond quite well. I may have to watch all of the Bond films again, but Casino Royale and Tomorrow Never Dies (first Bond film I ever saw) I think are the finest Bond films of the ones out there. Anywho. It was entertaining, and if you like action and James Bond then you'll love this, but if you don't see then don't worry you aren't missing a whole lot.
"Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot." -V
Good evening. Today once again is one of my favorite holidays, Guy Fawkes day. It is what I commonly like to consider as a reminder that any people can tear down their government and replace it with a new one if it becomes corrupt and no longer serves the majority of that population. All over the world more and more governments are clamping down little by little individual rights of its citizens in the name of greater freedom and security. China, North Korea, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Belarus, Myanmar, Syria, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Cuba, and Venezuela are what I would consider countries where human rights and civil rights are either severely curtailed or nonexistent. In these countries, dictators and iron fisted governments reign uncontested and unopposed without a measure of control or accountability irregardless of what they want people to think. Russia, Egypt, Turkey, and Indonesia are countries where civil liberties and human rights are really beginning, or have been, trampled on with more sure to follow. The United States is not immune to this either, as we have seen our civil liberties severely stomped on; NSA spying on citizens, the Federal Government dictating to the states, increased usage of presidential executive authority usurping authority from Congress, and a slow chipping away of free speech and the right to bear firearms (both of which are guarantees in the US constitution). What everyone should watch out for from their government is when they try to eliminate freedom of the people through use of fear of what could happen if the people do not surrender their rights. Governments that use fear to motivate and rule their people are dictators and places like Russia and China (i.e. China's now defunct population control plan). Governments should be protecting and empowering their citizens to govern themselves always, after all that was a large part of the American Revolution. Unfortunately, even when revolution happens people have trouble forming a new government (Iraq, Libya, Russia, China, and Iran) that functions properly and serves the people while retaining the revolutionary ideals. I won't get into what is necessary for rebuilding a country and it's form of government, but I will say that it takes work and everyone working together. As I always try to say, be watchful of your freedom as oftentimes it slips away slowly, bit by bit and then before you know it you are left with nothing. Good luck everyone and remember, "people should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.."
So there were a couple of standout items in the news this past week, one of which was China disregarding it's one child policy in favor of a two child policy due to their declining in age population and a smaller workforce unable to adequately meet the needs of the apparently booming Chinese economy. Which is probably too little too late with how many decades it will take their population to recover. The other bit of news is that President Obama is sending US soldiers to Syria to....well, I'm not really sure to do what, or if the general public really knows what either. I was never for that, and think that it is a grave tactical error currently as well. I'm not certain what the current solution should be to solve the mess of the crisis in the Middle East, but I doubt that it should be that; too little, too late. Speaking of crises, I watched the film Bridge of Spies today and received an interesting, if not pop cultured centered education in life during the early part of the Cold War thanks to the film directed by Steven Spielberg. Once again he showcased his talent as a fantastic director in all of the usual areas; I wouldn't say that this film stands out in any particular way, but it was definitely worth seeing and was well done. It is about an attorney who defends an accused Soviet spy and receives a lot of negative attention because of it, but then he becomes wrapped up in prisoner exchange involving an American pilot who gets captured. He then has to navigate the treacherous politics of Soviet tactics in East Berlin and carefully reach his objective without getting himself killed or anyone else. Tom Hanks who plays the main character, James Donovan, does masterfully. He comes off as genuine, competent, empathetic, yet has a sense of depth to his character as well; definitely not static. However, it wasn't that impressive of a character either; basically in his repertoire nothing that would really stand out. Mark Rylance, who played the spy Rudolf Abel, was a fun character that I would have liked to see more character development from, but he did really well with what was there. He and Tom Hanks together in scenes were awesome. Those two were really the main attraction of the film, but Alan Alda, Amy Ryan, and Dakin Matthews had some nice roles as well, none were very large but it added to the overall high quality of the cast present. The writing of the film was well done by Ethan and Joel Coen, as well as Matt Charman, but I'm not not entirely certain about the screenplay. It seemed fragmented; like a one man show, and I'm not certain how well that plays out as opposed to something that could have included more drama between a few more characters. The music by Thomas Newman was a huge surprise as I feel this is the first Steven Spielberg film in over forty years that he hasn't used John Williams, and that's all I can say about that as I have never cared for Thomas Newman's music. The cinematography was well done by Janusz Kaminski, but seemed like it lacked a certain edge to give it that dark, spy like feel. It was a good film, and a pleasant watch and it is something that I would definitely watch again.
After all of the years I have been writing about the civil war going on in Syria a major world power has finally gotten involved, but it is unfortunately the wrong world power and is helping the wrong side. Russian President Vladimir Putin is making certain that Assad remains in power by eliminating ISIS and any rebel factions that oppose the Assad, as Putin claims that these groups are also terrorists. Also when you throw Iran into the mix, who is also helping Assad, and Saudi Arabia which is fighting some proxy wars with Iran, and then what Turkey is doing to Iraqi Kurds, the Middle East has become a problem that I think is beyond any reasonable or rather hopeful/positive intervention, but all of that would have been possible back in 2011 when the whole civil war began and actually had momentum, now....who knows what could possibly happen. Leading from behind is obviously not working especially when there are people leading from the front. I still think we need to remember and pray for the Syrian people who are trapped in the middle of this tug of war for power and influence, and they are the people that are truly losing. So, the other day I watched the film Crimson Peak which was directed and written by Guillermo del Toro, who is one of my favorite directors (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth, Pacific Rim). I was really looking forward to the film, even though it would be classified as being in the horror genre which isn't my cup of tea, but it looked interesting and had a good cast. The four big leads all delivered so well. Mia Wasikowska as Edith, the main character about whom the story is about was excellent; she has really come into her own as an actress. She was tough, empathetic, and insightful for a character and it was lovely to watch her performance. Tom Hiddleston known for playing Loki, played a curious and complex man, Thomas Sharpe, who delivered on all the fine notes, but most of all being vulnerable; he is a fine actor. Charlie Hunnam unfortunately had to work with a static, and very boring character, Dr. McMichael, and even though he gave a good performance, he didn't have much to work with. Perhaps the finest performance of the film and one of the most interesting characters was played by Jessica Chastain, Lucille Sharpe, Thomas Sharpe's sister. She is an amazing actress, and her role in this film was chilling and she nailed it; so complex, so interesting, and by the end of the film they hadn't even begun to crack the tip of the iceberg of potential character exploration and development. She may be the singular reason why I go back and watch the film again.
Overall, I wasn't impressed with the film but rather disappointed; I expected more from Mr. Del Toro. Visually the film is spot on like Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy II, and the acting was great, the cinematography perfect, and even the screenplay was relatively good, but the story wasn't well conceived and then executed in the plot. When everything was revealed, I found it all rather anti-climactic and underwhelming; granted all of the loose ends were tied up, but I felt many aspects of the plot weren't strong enough in keeping with creepy nature of the film. Speaking of which, it was quite creepy, and a little gory, but not too bad. I was actually surprised that it wasn't scarier or creepier. Honestly, this film kind of fits into the "lukewarm" category; not bad, not really that good either. If you want to be creeped out and scared without having to worry about over the top gore and violence, than for this Halloween season, this film is for you.
Is it me or did Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Divergent all come out around the same time...ish, with similar plots? What are the statistical odds for that. Anyways. I watched both the first film (Divergent) and the second film (Insurgent) over this past weekend and found them both entertaining, but really lacking in direction, and good character development. I'm not sure if it was how the films were adapted from the books, or if it's just the books themselves, but to me there didn't really seem like what was going on made a whole lot of sense in regards to where the story line was going. Even the dystopian world that was created made little sense to me, and wasn't explored enough to provide a better grounding of this world I was being introduced to; all I had were more questions and then of course more confusion. Shailene Woodley is a phenomenal actress and I loved her in The Descendants and she was good in these two films....but I don't think the material gave her enough to work with, not to mention I didn't care for her character, Tris, very much either. She was tough, and strong willed for sure with an empathetic quality as well, but what was lacking was realistic, genuine emotion regarding what was going on; it often seemed wooden or forced...except when people died. Theo James, Four, was an interesting character that should have been explored a whole lot more, but sadly wasn't. He is a veteran of the action genre, due to his big role in Underworld: Evolution, which again had his character poorly grown. Those two were the main characters in the first two films that you really paid attention to.
Miles Teller played his rather confusingly static, and then not static character to irritating perfection. Ashley Judd was a breath of fresh air which didn't last long enough. Ray Stevenson was wasted in both films with a boring role which was pathetic and useless beyond a narrative point of view. Thank God for Kate Winslet as Jeanine, the villainess, who brought gravity and depth to a film otherwise filled with young, inexperienced actors and actresses and boring action for the most part. She can play a villain very well, and I found it rather interesting that she reminded me in many ways of a particular US politician; how ironic. Octavia Spencer was also a wasted talent, which is a dirty shame. Ansel Elgort as Caleb (Tris' brother) had potential, but once again there wasn't a lot of time spent on developing his character or the relationship of that character with his sister, which was a real shame as his character turned out to be quite interesting. Since I was rather confused about the entire point of what was going on in the film, I am definitely going to say that the writing and directing was poor; if one has to read the books to really understand what is going on, then that is the mark of a poor adaptation. In both films nothing really else stood out to me except for the costume design which was quite good. The action was even boring; in the first film they spend way too much time in training camp for the Tris character and not enough time developing other areas of the film. Basically, if you never watch these two film you will not be missing a thing; they are entertaining, but I was also bored a number of times throughout both films. Apparently there are two more films in the works and then hopefully the series will conclude.
I'm not certain how many of you watched the Democratic Presidential Nominee debate last night but it was very interesting and insightful. And while that was going on, President Vladimir Putin of Russia was and still is assisting President Assad remain in power in Syria by providing significant military aid. I was watching some WWII documentaries and noticed some parallels between Hitler and Putin in regards to their political machinations in conjunction with using armed forces as a negotiating tool. For Putin, Crimea was Hitler's Austria, Eastern Ukraine is becoming Hitler's Czechoslovakia, and Putin's aid to Assad is similar to Hitler's assistance to Franco in Spain's civil war. So my question and everyone else's question should be, what is going to be the move Putin does that is similar to Hitler's invasion of Poland, which is essentially what started WWII. Something for everyone to mull over as history does tend to repeat itself since as we can see people do not learn from past mistakes of themselves and others. So I recently watched a big blockbuster film from last year, Kingsman: The Secret Service. When it initially was released I thought it looked rather dreadful and ridiculous, but I was very wrong. The film was funny, witty, and had a fresh new take on the spy genre which is so often dominated by James Bond types. The film follows a secret group of elite men and women who fight in the shadows to protect the world from maniacal tyrants and terrorists. One man believes that in order to solve climate change a majority of the human population needs to be killed, and thus he begins his crusade to save the planet....even though he is personally averse to violence and blood. One of the main spies played by Colin Firth takes a young man under his wing, who is not of high status, and teaches him not only the ways of spy life, but also what makes a man and more specifically a gentleman. Colin Firth as Harry, was brilliant as he is already a remarkably talented actor. Not only could he pull off the spy routine, but he added a good amount of depth as well through what I would call as ordinary moments. Eggsy, the main character, was a surprise for me. I half expected some idiotic punk, but Taron Egerton pulled off the role quite splendidly, and his character did have some depth to it as well (for as much as a spy, action thriller can have I suppose). It was a great, fresh take on the James Bond type. Samuel Jackson was a fun villain as Valentine; that's all I can say, and I think that's all that needs to be said. Then of course there were roles by Mark Strong, Michael Caine, and Jack Davenport, and even though they were static characters they did phenomenal jobs. Mark Hamill had a fun little cameo as well. The main attraction of this film that director Mathew Vaughn forged was the action, and at times very stylistic action especially towards the end. I wouldn't necessarily say that it was mind blowing, but it was very violent which is unusual for a spy film, but I thought it was a nice touch. The story and characters were interesting, and my attention was held throughout the entire film. The screenplay was also written quite well too, and the cinematography was well done. It was a very enjoyable and fun film, and something worth watching again and recommending as well.
With the latest adaptation of the Peter Pan tale, Pan, I wasn't entirely certain that it was going to be good, and when I recently saw it, I was correct. The film is a prologue to the events of what becomes known as the original tale in which Blackbeard is attempting to attain immortality by searching for fairy dust which apparently has the ability to keep individuals younger or something of that nature....it was never fully explained (bad screenwriting). As a matter of fact I'm not even entirely certain what the general purpose of the story was. It seemed as if it was more of a discovery adventure for Peter and the audience was just along for the ride. The title character, Peter Pan, was played by newcomer Levi Miller, who was perfect at the role. He had that boyish charm, but also that rebel tendency and fearlessness but with a good deal of confidence. He could have done more with the role if it were written better. Blackbeard, the villain, played by Hugh Jackman was perfect; evil, humorous, menacing, and a good forebearer to Captain Hook. I have to say that Jackman's performance of this character was the best part of the entire film; he took a character and transformed it to an entirely different level. Garrett Hedlund as James Hook was very, very disappointing. This man cannot act, although he seemed to do well in Tron: Legacy but that was the only film I've seen him in where he felt comfortable....mostly. The character was boring, the performance painful, and I could not see how James Hook would transform into Captain Hook. Rooney Mara as Tiger Lilly was definitely a waste; she should have been Peter's mother, and someone Peter's age should have played the princess. Her talents would have been better suited elsewhere. What I was most shocked about was the director, Joe Wright, who is a phenomenal filmmaker with greats like Atonement, Pride & Prejudice, and Anna Karenina under his belt. This should have been an easy win for him, but it somehow spiraled away from his skillful control I must assume, otherwise...I cannot think of a more rational explanation. The screenwriting was plain awful, along with the story and plot. There was so much potential going into this project, but it wasn't taken and carefully put together to form something wonderful and cohesive. Another thing, it oftentimes came off as over the top, whimsical, and silly all at the same time....which I do not consider good film making. I remember when children's stories used to be more than just silly, action packed visual effect extravaganzas; there were deep undercurrents of darkness, moral values with virtuous lessons that children could take away from the characters. Now however, the films that are churned out appear more fluffy than ever before. In my opinion, the mini-series Neverland has been the best prologue to the Peter Pan story, and honestly the best Peter Pan adapted story for live action film. If you have kids, especially boys, they may like it, but I do not think it is really worth any time.
So Guy Ritchie has taken time off of making the new Sherlock Holmes film to direct The Man from U.N.C.L.E. This is based off of a 60's television show and stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, but Jared Harris and Hugh Grant make delightful appearances. So if you've never seen a Guy Ritchie film, this is a pretty good one to start out with. Henry Cavill (CIA agent) was amazing; I haven't seen a more competent, gentleman like spy with class, taste and confidence that was really good in a very long time (not even James Bond holds a candle to this guy). His character was a lot of fun and a good foil to Armie Hammer's character, the KJB agent, who came off very tough and intelligent like a Soviet agent, but had a character was very empathetic as well. These two men were the best part of the entire film, although the villainess was incredible. The love interest and third member of the party played by Alicia Vikander known as Gaby, was obnoxious most of the duration of the film, but she have a good ending for her character. The film is about a CIA and KJB agent who work together to stop a bunch of Nazi sympathizers from setting off a nuclear bomb. The plot was good, and had fairly good pace with an opening that put several James Bond intros to shame. It was shot dynamically with fairly good cinematography, but since it is a Guy Ritchie film that is to be expected, and the film definitely had his flair to it. By the way if you don't like the director, don't watch this film. The score was a lot of fun as well by Daniel Pemberton, and the music that was selected for the film as well; very good. The film was a lot of fun, and definitely a good date film; something I would recommend. My biggest complaint is that at times the screen split a few different ways which was kind of irritating as it was showing different angles all at once, but it is easily overlooked. The overall look of the film was great, and although it's not an Academy Award winning film, it was a whole lot of fun which is more than what I can say for most Oscar nominated films. Since I haven't written in such a long period of time, I am back in San Diego, California after many years so that has been delightful even though it has been ridiculously hot here lately. I will soon be beginning my new career and my new/old life with hopefully no hitches....or rather not very many.
I have never worked with or spoken with an individual who has Alzheimer's disease, although I did work with an elderly woman in the psychiatric hospital who had dementia and that was quite challenging. In Still Alice the audience starts out with an advantage over the main character, kind of like the Titanic; we already know what's coming. However it doesn't minimize the angst that one feels for this character, and seeing such an incredibly bright and talented woman lose nearly all her cognitive function is very heart wrenching. Julianne Moore did an excellent job with the character she was playing; you could see the decline slowly coming until she could barely utter a word. Her character, Alice, is a brilliant scientist who finds out she has early onset Alzheimer's disease at age 50, and the film explores how she and her family handle the disease and all of the problems that come along with it. Alec Baldwin was the husband and he did a good job with the character, albeit he was rather static, as were most of the other characters in the film. Kristen Stewart played one of Alice's daughters, and her character actually was the most interesting aside from Julianne Moore's character, which shocks me now that I consider it (I'm not a very huge Kristen Stewart fan). Kate Bosworth has a small role as another one of Alice's children, but her character was also kind of flat. If they had written and fleshed it out more she could have really shined; there was a lot of potential there. The film was.....okay I suppose; it wasn't bad, but it wasn't really that great either. Julianne Moore delivered a great performance, but I don't think she should have taken home the Oscar, which I believe should have gone to Rosamund Pike instead for her work in Gone Girl. The film was actually quite short too which surprised me at one hour and thirty minutes approximately. The ending, which was lame, happened so abruptly that I didn't even realize it until I saw the credits rolling, and I was thinking, "what in the world, I just looked down for a moment to text something on my phone really quick...," but there it went. So I would say that what would have tremendously helped this film be great was about a half hour more of film time, and some better writing of the secondary characters where they are fleshed out more, and also writing more of how they're dealing with Alice's drifting away from reality. A great idea for a film but not really executed the best; and there weren't any technical elements that stood out that well either in the film. Summarizing it as a whole, it was a very lukewarm picture; Julianne Moore's performance is the only reason to watch the film, aside from getting a beginner's grasp on what Alzheimer's may manifest like in people.
So...after watching the film Mortdecai I am still not sure what that phrase (title of the blog) means, but I do have a good idea or two. It was definitely not a typical role for Johnny Depp as the lead character who is a master art dealer in the seedy underworld, but quite a British eccentric to be sure and pulls of the dainty behavior and mindset quite well. Gwyneth Paltrow as the lovely wife of Mortdecai was perfect, and the two I thought had really good on-screen chemistry along with really good quips and dialog. Paul Bettany as Jock the loyal, British manservant was a good choice, and although his character was meant to be flat and a comedic pairing with Mr. Depp, I think they could have done better with his character. Ewan McGregor played an Mi5 inspector who has a crush on Ms. Paltrow's character and dislikes Mortdecai, but recruits his help for locating a missing painting could be worth far more than anyone knows. He of course was amazing as always, and that's about it; his character was rather flat. The rest of the casting was good, but there was a lovely cameo role done by Jeff Goldblum which was very delightful; a shame that wasn't expanded upon. So the film is a comedy and I laughed a number of times, but it wasn't really that great. It actually had the potential to be really amazing, but it was written and shot so poorly; it was only the amazing cast that was able to save any measure of the film to make it interesting or humorous. I thought all of the characters were great and relatively thought out well, but the direction the film was taken was just not that good, and the director really did the film a great disservice. Mortdecai reminded me of a Marx Brothers' movie called Animal Crackers and that's what the film I think may have been trying to be like, but I personally think they should have gone a more serious route than so obviously filled with stupid hilarity, but it could have been much worse. I think I could watch it again, it was funny and interesting, but not that great; so if you like funny you'll probably enjoy this film, and I think it would work as a really good date film since it doesn't take itself quite so seriously.
I can definitely state with absolute certainty that J.K. Simmons deserves the Academy Award that he won playing the character he did in Whiplash. Wow what a performance. He's come a long way since Spider-Man and Red Alert 3 (PC strategy game that I've played; very enjoyable). The story is about a young man who attends a music college as a drummer and ends up in the band of one of the leading and best instructors in the country. Okay, Miles Teller also deserves a huge nod for his performance as well; his character grows so much from the beginning of the film to the end of it. So this kid expects it to be the greatest opportunity ever, but very quickly he finds out this man isn't what he quite thought he was. The kid continues to push and push himself as his instructor also pushes and pushes the kid to become perfect. It comes to blood, sweat, personal sacrifices and tears but he pushes himself so far that he doesn't see his own self-destruction happening around him. It is a powerful story about strength of willpower and the tenacious drive for perfection in one's craft, not to mention testing and breaking one's limits. I always tell people to know their breaking point and be conscious of it; usually I did this when doing counseling in my previous mental health jobs, but it works pretty good in general life as well I have discovered. I don't believe I was bored during the entire film and it kept my attention constantly I have to say most of the time. It was well written with a good plot, good dialog, and good characters....but mostly J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller. And I have to say that there were a lot of twists and turns throughout the film that I didn't expect, and the ending was amazing, simply amazing. Who'd ever thought I would have loved a film about a drummer in a music band, but I did and highly recommend people to watch it. Now, it is not a nice, soft, fluffy film so it does take a fair amount of gumption to watch due to the psychological and verbal torment that is unleashed by Simmon's character on various individuals throughout the film. That said, it does have an interesting philosophy behind the harsh behavior towards the students, I believe Simmon's character states that..."there are no two words more harmful in the English language than 'good job.'" I don't know, combating mediocrity can be difficult so some pushing is necessary, but then at the same time one can always push too hard; I guess people have to decide what is more important in their lives.
The unfortunate thing about Jupiter Ascending was that I went into it with the predisposition that it was going to be a relatively dreadful film, but I had heard mixed reviews and thus was willing to at least give it a shot. Well....I came, I saw, I didn't quite enjoy. It wasn't a positively dreadful film, but it wasn't that great either; it was also incredibly trite and very un-original with it's writing, plot points, and action sequences. The only thing that seemed original were the visuals of the science fiction aspect of the film, which at times came off as a rather laughable at times so not quite a triumph there very much. I have to say the Wachowskis aren't faring very well as of late with their films; it seems almost that they'll only ever have The Matrix trilogy as a credit to their name. Right from the get go the Wachowskis made 2 mistakes; Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum (although he wasn't as bad as she was). I guarantee if these two individuals hadn't been in the film it would have been 25% better. She plays a Cinderalla/Snow White type character with a huge twist, but she eschews her royalty when she discovers it and would rather hang with the "bad boy" which is a spliced human being with something similar to a dog providing him with heightened senses and fighting prowess. Here Channing Tatum as the flying, gun toting bodyguard is able to defy all of the odds thrown at him and keep surviving inescapably insurmountable odds to kill him again, and again, and yet again.
I would try to provide an explanation of the film's story and plot line but it's heavily convoluted and wasn't explained that well in the film. Bascially, Jupiter (Mila Kunis) is a genetically reincarnated royal version of a woman who lived for 95,000 years and she inherits a lot of......planets and wealth of some sort, I think. Anyways, Earth is one of those planets, and due to its vast "resources" it is contested between 3 siblings who want the planet's wealth for themselves and will do anything to acquire it. Channing Tatum is there to at first bring Jupiter to one of the siblings, but then she and he end up falling for each other and he becomes her knight in shining armor several times. That's it. Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax (one of the siblings trying to kill Jupiter) stands out as the best part of the entire film, and one of the most interesting characters. It's hard to say if he was villain or just a person with a tragic like story, but he really made that film bearable, and it was a pity that they didn't do more with his character. And I'm going to make a major spoiler right here, Sean Bean played a character that didn't die! I kept waiting and wondering when he was going to die, but I was surprisingly delighted when he didn't, and then irritatingly enough his character vanished into the background like many others in the film left unresolved. As I mentioned already the story, writing, and plot were atrocious; how Eddie Redmayne made it work God only knows. The visual style of the world created by the Wachowskis was pretty good, and overall the idea was good but the execution of it was quite poor. Michael Giacchino did a relatively fine job with film composition, but it reminded me a lot of Star Trek and there were really no motifs that stood out, but his use of choral was divine even though disjointed at times with where it was utilized. Definitely not a film I would recommend people to watch, but it was mildly entertaining I suppose. Hope the Wachowski's film is better, and I have yet to see a film I enjoy Mila Kunis in.
Jupiter Ascending trailer
Jupiter Ascending interview
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. trailer (looks potentially good)
The other day I was trying to find something to watch and I came upon this French film Les choristes or The Chorus which was nominated for a couple of Oscars a number of years ago that I hadn't been able to see yet. However, I flipped a few buttons and there it was so I watched it. First of all let me say that the music my Bruno Coulais (also did the film score for Coraline) was amazing; I have been listening to it for years, and hearing it along with the action on the film was very cool. Basically, the story is about a man who in 1949 France goes to work at a type of boys reform school and in the midst of the struggles that he and staff are going through to mostly help the boys, he starts a choir and composes music for the boys to sing. As the film progresses and the boys begin to learn the music and harmonize together, the staff's attitude changes as does most of the young boys. Amazing and heart stirring performances by the cast, which of course are all French; Gerard Jugnot (Clement Mathieu), Francois Berleand (Rachin), and Jean-Baptiste Maunier (Pierre Morhange). It definitely is worth watching and it reminded me of what it was like working in such an environment with kids; the good and the bad when I was a staff at a long term residential facility for severely emotionally disturbed children. The film kept my attention the entire time, was relatively well paced, good characters, good writing and good character development, and even the ending was good without being trite surprisingly. I highly recommend the film, and yes please watch it in subtitles you'll not even notice them after getting absorbed into the film.
It's hard to believe that July is half over already. There are only 5 and a half months left of 2015; I swear I need to learn a trick that makes time go by slower. So I typically don't care for films that are about athletics in general; I find that they are on average trite and rather boring, not to mention very similar to each other in themes and plot. Foxcatcher was maybe not like a lot of athletic themed films I've seen, but I do have to say that I was bored for all 2 hours and 13 minutes of the film; no offense to the memories of the lives with which the film is based. Channing Tatum plays an Olympic wrestler, Mark Schultz, down a little on his luck who is picked up by a very wealthy philanthropist who takes him in and helps pay for his expenses and trains him as well....like a mentor figure. John du Pont, played by Steve Carell, is a man who knows what he wants and will do what he can to acquire it. Mark Ruffalo, Dave Schultz, as Mark's brother is essentially the man's moral compass and center of balance who helps him find it despite what is going on. So, now these three characters and actors were the main attractions to the film. All three of them gave wonderful performances, although I suppose that is rather ridiculous to state as I never met or seen the real people that this film and its characters are based off of, but it appeared as if they did quite good, especially Carell who typically takes on more comedic roles than serious ones, and he got this one perfectly. Compared to Ruffalo and Tatum there is constantly so much going on in Carell's performance, but that might be because his character has a lot more depth than the other two. Based on what I saw and then what I read up on concerning the real people, I have a few ideas concerning psychological difficulties and negative behavioral patterns and thoughts the real John du Pont might have experienced, but all I will say is that he probably despised his mother and had a lot of repressed sexual and violent tension stored up internally due to probably lack of parental relational intimacy and inability to form meaningful, healthy, long term relationships. That however has nothing to do with the film, I digress. Like I mentioned about, I was bored the entire time I was watching the film; the performances were great, but the characters themselves were not that interesting (once again, no offense to the real people that they are based off of). Based on all of that I don't really know what to say about the rest of the technical elements of the film since I considered it completely boring the whole time; I can't say that I would recommend people watch it, although Steve Carell's performance was something to see. In other news, the world still doesn't seem to be improving regarding war, death, violence, and loss of liberty; although apparently President Obama and his Cabinet worked to create an accord with Iran to prevent nuclear weapon advances for at least 15 years. I'm kind of curious though what happens after 15 years, and when Iran's current Supreme leader dies, which should be before that stretch of time. Anyways, much to think about hopefully everyone is staying informed and not using social media as their main source of news. Please use these sources for good news services: PBS Newshour, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, BBC, and Al Jazeera (Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN only care about ratings and are extremely biased which affects what news they show and how they present the facts).
I watched Edge of Tomorrow with very few expectations and not really understanding what the film was all about. Honestly, I am very uncertain what I think of the film. I didn't like the first part, but liked the second half of the film. I really found the concept of the film fascinating, but would argue that their delivery of it wasn't quite too successful. Tom Cruise starts out as a spineless officer pressed into combat, of which he has no experience against an alien invasion . Their plan is a major offensive (think D-day like WWII, and it is essentially the same place they're attacking; the beeches of France) after which the military is hoping to seize the day for victory. So, the attack in France ends up being a slaughter for humanity and Tom Cruise's character ends up dying but not before he kills one of the aliens which imparts to him the ability to restart the day to a certain point. This he continues to do as he dies learning more and more. Through the course of this, he finds a woman, played by Emily Blunt, who is one of the toughest soldiers and has shared a similar experience with him. Together they fight, train, and die, and die, and die, and die, and die, and die, and die until they reach the end goal. Tom Cruise's character dies a lot, and they did a great job making the audience feel the visceral stress of what he was going through time and time again as he was the only one who never forgot anything of what he experienced. The film pretty much revolves around those two characters, and both of them do a great job. The secondary characters are good; Brendan Gleeson makes a nice appearance as does Bill Paxton. The visual effects were pretty good, and the action wasn't half bad I suppose, although rather dull after you've seen it the tenth time, or some variation of it. The aliens were interesting with a fascinating concept, although it was never revealed what their intentions are for invading Earth, and if more of them would be coming in the future. Doug Liman who directed the film is no stranger to action films (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Jumper. He did a relatively good job at directing the film and what not, but I have to say what I think was the overall problem of the film was the story and the direction of the plot. The majority of the time of the film was spent on the plot mechanic, not exploring the characters or motivations of the villains. If the film was going to center on mainly just two characters it should have been written entirely differently and I think that's what ultimately led to it's rather tepid box office performance and critical reception. I also have to say that the ending was rather weak as well, but had the potential to be really good if they had played it differently. It definitely became an entertaining film once I got about 35-40 minutes into it, up until that point though I was very annoyed. In essence it was an okay film, and I love Emily Blunt, so I would watch it again just to see her performance; everything else I could live without. So bad news this weekend that was overshadowed; the radical terrorist group ISIS performed 3 terrorist attacks on three different continents and killed many people. Their ability to coordinate such a series of attacks is very disturbing, and I think what is more disturbing is that people don't seem to really care. The more time goes on, ISIS reminds me more and more of the Brotherhood of Nod (Google it), and even though it is fictional, to me the radical ideas won't go away, nor will the organization; it will only continue to grow and become stronger. I did experience some personal good news though; I turned in the last assignment for graduate school today. I am officially done with work on my Master's degree; a near lifetime goal has been realized finally.....next step years from now though is a Ph.D. but not for a long time; I am so over school.
Edge of Tomorrow trailer
Legend trailer (looks good for a British mafia film)
Phoenix trailer (looks amazing, but quite intense)
So every now and then I watch movies that I originally saw in the theatre to see if I really didn't like them. Sometimes I get lucky, I think that makes sense, and I turn out to like the movie, or what happens most of the time, I end up not liking it even more. The first Pirates of the Caribbean film, Inception, and The Prestige were all films that grew on me. I watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to see if I still didn't like it, and it turned out that I still don't like it, but it was better than the first time I believe. The screenplay could have been much, much better, but when it comes down to it, I think Marc Webb failed as a director, which I suppose happens; hey, even Martin Campbell fails (Green Lantern). Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield are very talented individuals, as are Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan, so I really don't think it was a reflection too much upon them, although some of them could have done a better job with delivering the lines. The scenes between Harry and Peter seemed awkward and forced, and then with Stacy and Peter it seemed too...sugary and like a joke; there was none of the drama from the other film that really permeated in an effective way. The parts with his aunt and parents just seemed like they were tossed in there, as were the villains as well, even though Jamie Foxx was awesome! I think he may be the best part of the entire film. There just seemed to be far too many things going on and nothing really brought it all together to forge something seamless, which does tend to weigh more on the director's shoulders. Wasn't a fan of the music still either, which was Hans Zimmer; James Horner did better with the score for the first film. So if you haven't seen it you aren't missing anything, but it is entertaining I suppose and not too painful, although there are some scenes that are just too much. Anyways it doesn't matter as they are apparently rebooting the franchise and killing the "Sinister Six" spin-off from what I understand. Poor Sony just can't catch a break (they own the film rights to Spider-Man, Fox owns the film rights to X-Men, and then I think Disney owns everything else Marvel). The era of comic book films continues....Ant Man, need I say anymore. Oh, I would like to briefly mention the death of James Horner, one of the finest film composers ever. He's up there with Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, and Alan Silvestri. Some of my favorite compositions are: The Wrath of Khan, Krull, Willow, The Mask of Zorro, The Amazing Spider-Man, Troy, and of course Titanic. He was a musical genius and was one of the few film composers that really knew how to compose themes and motifs that were always spot on. He may always be remembered for Titanic, but I will always remember all of the work he did with fantasy and science fiction films. May the Force be with him.
Something occurred to me this morning while I was finishing up season 5 of Game of Thrones; all of the Stark family members tend to die because they are betrayed and don't see their death coming until it is upon them. All of those who have died from that family, even before the series began (Ned Stark's elder brother and father) were stabbed in the back, and in season 5 it apparently stays true to form. I was surprised by all of the people who perished in this season and the fate of those left dangling. I think some real story and character progress was also made despite some still slow going on that front in some cases. At the same time there was some surprises this season as well including: child sacrifice (Greek King Agamemnon did this to gain favorable winds to reach Troy), death of one of the series' most popular characters (won't spoil it for those who do not wish), a vicious walk of shame during which the character was completely, and I mean completely naked, other things that I can't write due to spoilers, and of course the typically Game of Thrones garden variety violent sex and rape scenes as well. Apparently, according to a source I read George R.R. Martin thinks it's ridiculous that people complain about graphic, sexual deviancy being present and detailed in the books, but don't apparently care about the brutal and graphic violence that is also much more prevalent within the books and series as well. A very fascinating thought actually if you consider it. The writing continues to remain excellent, and I honestly believe the series has gotten better since the beginning of season 4, but was getting there in season 3. The action sequences were much better plotted and thought out; I like the one particularly when they fight a monstrous horde of dead people and white walkers in the frozen tundra. It was quite spectacular, especially the end of that sequence. The acting is of course brilliant with this season having new faces like: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jonathan Pryce, and Alexander Siddig to name a few. Notably absent though from this season oddly enough was Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead), which actually I find very odd considering how important his role seems to be based on season 4. It's weird, all of the characters keep saying that winter is coming and that it is going to be the hardest one in decades, but to me it seems as if we're finally getting though the "winter." I read somewhere that the writers and producers of the show want 7-8 seasons of the show, which mean there is only potentially 2 or 3 seasons remaining, which means hope is on the horizon. It's a writer's trick; rob the people of all hope and slowly chip away those characters that they care about, and then at the very end unleash a wellspring of goodness; it's that catharsis that everyone yearns for, and makes the ending, the characters remaining that much better. And honestly even in the show enough events were set in motion (lots of people dying has that effect) that I can see issues becoming resolved rather than deepening. It should be interesting to see how they do the next couple of seasons as there are no currently published books to direct them where to go, or people are uncertain of the path they will take; Mr. Martin might come out with the next book Winds of Winter in the spring of next year. Well, hate it or love it, this show has definitely changed the world of the small screen and the television series put on it forever.
Game of Thrones Season 5: Daenerys meets Tyrion
Game of Thrones meet the real villain of the series....I think.
So there is this series that I have been watching called Hollywood's Best Directors, and I was watching one episode on Ridley Scott and he talked a lot about making the film Alien and what all it took, so suddenly I had a hankering to watch the science fiction classic again. Granted as I watched the film, it looked incredibly dated to the 1970's, but there were a lot of elements that still looked quite great. The Alien eggs, the Alien.....thing that wraps around the mouth and head, and of course the gritty inside of the main ship, and lastly, the crashed Alien ship on the planet. Now, what is also interesting seeing it again after so many years is that I have seen Prometheus quite a few times and seeing what leads up is very cool even if all of it doesn't seem to really add up 100%. It was odd seeing Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, and Ian Holm looking so incredibly young and not quite yet at the top of their acting game. It was amazing as I watched the film that I still jumped and freaked out as many times as I did as some of it was classic horror and I should have known that it was coming. You know there is something about science fiction films from the 1980's (1979 was close enough) that are unlike science fiction from any other era and I'm not sure why. I guess it's why westerns from the sixties and fifties are perhaps the best as well; maybe each film genre is only good during a specific period of time for a while and then after that most are only mediocre. One thing that I was disappointed with supremely was the score by Jerry Goldsmith; there was nothing memorable about the score really, which is unusual for Mr. Goldsmith as he was one of the finest film composers in the business, and especially with this genre being what he seemed to excel at composing. I keep hearing that Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection aren't worth watching, but since my brother in-law got all four in a box I figure I might as well give it a shot. One more week left of graduate school and then I will be done. Wow! I have been waiting for this moment since I began college back in 2004, and now it all seems a little anti-climatic. Hopefully that all will change in the next couple of months.
Starting off with some good news, I was informed that my Master's project was accepted as is so that's it; the hardest part of my Master's degree is really finished. Now I just have to finish this one last class and then I don't have to worry about school again until I go back for my doctorate, which will be a long time from now. So I watched This is Where I Leave You which is a dark comedy film about a family that comes together for mourning after the father dies, but the catch is that they're bringing all of their crap along with them and they have to stay at their mother's home for 7 days (the Jewish morning period or something like that). Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Corey Stoll (House of Cards), and Adam Driver (Star Wars 7) play the 4 children and the mother. As you can imagine there was a lot of shouting, a lot of fighting, and a lot of crude language. The acting was great, the characters rather interesting, although Jason Bateman's character was the most interesting to me, but that was because I think I could identify with him the most. It was funny a lot, but it wasn't go happy lucky humor, or even that kind of a pace. There were quite a few deep dramatic moments, some that were quite touching. In that regard the writing was relatively good, not fantastic, but pretty good I have to say, and the film did a fairly good job of keeping up pace and holding my attention. It was also interesting to see Adam Driver play the type of character he did before I shall see him playing a villain in the new Star Wars film (Kylo Ren; the guy with the cross like lightsaber). Rose Byrne, Kathryn Hahn, Abigail Spencer, and Timothy Olyphant were really quite excellent in their supporting roles as well. All in all, it was a good story; I suppose what I like about it is the notion that a messed up family with all of their individual problems can come together and find a way to love and care about each other in a meaningful way. That catharsis is something I believe everyone deep down truly wants.....and a little humor helps it go down easier. This film could be hit or miss with most people; I would watch it again and I enjoyed it, but at the same time I could see how it would not be for everyone.
This is Where I Leave You trailer
Sicario trailer (looks like it has some good potential)
Until I heard of David Garrett (one of the top violinists in the world currently) and I didn't really know who Niccolo Paganini was. This man was a maverick of his time as a composer and violin virtuoso as he came to age in Napoleonic era Europe. I am uncertain about how accurate the film is to the man, but based on what I read, the particulars and the spirit was very much the same as the man truly might have been according to recollections. If you don't know who David Garrett is, then YouTube him; he is an amazing violinist from Germany, and an excellent performer. I went to one of his concerts in Chicago and it was amazing. His acting wasn't the best in the world, but when he played the violin as the character it was quite powerful; he appeared to look and act the part that he was playing, but not the best with dialog. I can forgive him of that since he is a musician first and foremost. Jared Harris played what could be considered his manager, but he was something much more than that. I am actually a little confused about the character, unless you take quite literally what happens during the course of the film, but he did a good job irregardless. Joely Richardson had a lovely supporting role as a London Times reporter, which was fun to see her in. The supporting cast was alright, but the main attraction was David Garrett and the music of course of Maestro Paganini, which did not disappoint. Technically the film was okay; nothing astounding, although there were some shots peppered throughout the entire film which were spectacular, especially the last sequence in the film. The music of the film is on Spotify if you'd care to sample the David Garrett adaptation of a musical genius, which I highly recommend as I am listening to it now. It was a very enjoyable film experience and I would definitely watch it again, but I have to warn you that it is very dramatic and doesn't have per se a happy ending, but follows the tragic end of typical creative geniuses before their time.
Scene from The Devil's Violinist
The Devil's Violinist trailer
Crimson Peak trailer
Knight of the Old Republic: Fallen Empire game trailer (It's very interesting for Star Wars).