Thursday, October 29, 2015

"Poor Mother...."

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.

Crimson Peak previews

Jessica Chastain interview

Monday, October 26, 2015

Are You Divergent?

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.

Scene from Insurgent

Interview with Theo James and Shailene Woodley

The Force Awakens supercut trailer

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"Manners Maketh Man."

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.

Kingsman clip

Kingsman interview 

Rebels season 2 trailer

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"Welcome to Neverland!"

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 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.

Pan trailer

Pan clip

Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard