Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"...That's Not a Song, That's Propaganda."

The classic Walt Disney animated film The Jungle Book was the last film Walt was involved in before his unfortunate death which left the studio's animated film legacy with chaotic void which wouldn't be filled again until The Little Mermaid. Now this live action film of the same story from this year deviates ever so slightly from the animated tale here and there, but the heart of it stays true to the original story. So Mowgli grows up with the wolves in the jungle, and Shere Khan the tiger desires nothing more than to kill the little "man cub." Thus he decides to leave the wolves, and Bagheera helps him find his way towards the man village, although there are stops along the way. Neel Sethi played Mowgli and did a very good job with a rather static character who is very young, and breathed some character growth into the role he played. Ben Kingsley as Bagheera was absolutely perfect; he sounded firm but with such calm and cool ageless wisdom as one would think a panther would possess. Bill Murray as Baloo was also perfect, such a great performance where he was funny, serious, intelligent, and of course humorous again. I almost wish he had been in the original, but that Baloo was perfect for that film. Idris Elba can play heroes, villains, adventurers, deep dramatic roles; this man is truly a talented individual with great depth in regards to his craft, and so of course his take on Shere Khan was fantastic! Lupita Nyong'o as Rakasha (Mowgli's wolf mother) was good, albeit rather static, but that wasn't really her fault. Scarlett Johansson as Kaa was surprisingly good despite the fact that originally it was a male character, but there is something extraordinarily hypnotic about her vocal performance which captured the character right on; definitely a good casting decision (even though I'm certain my sisters would disagree with me). Which leaves the great Christopher Walken as King Louie, and that of course needs no further elaboration. A most excellent cast was assembled, but let's not forget that these individuals were only half of the performance; the rest of performance needs to be credited to all of the extraordinarily talented special effects and animation experts who worked tirelessly to create such realistic and exceptional performances of all the characters these actors and actresses voiced. I take my hat off to them, for without their skills and talents this film would not have been possible.
Yes I very much enjoyed the film, and it was quite brilliant. Not only was director Jon Favreau able to capture the fun and enjoyment of the original animated classic, but he was also able to sweep up the beauty and deep mystical nature of Rudyard Kipling's writings. Justin Marks wrote the screenplay, and while the story and characters were further elaborated on and changed here and there, it was done tastefully and skillfully which is no easy task especially in Hollywood these days (as excellent writing seems more scarce than bountiful). But perhaps the star of the entire film was the exquisite cinematography by Bill Pope. All I have to really say is wow! The film was shot and it came out so stunning and breathtaking with all of the vistas, intimate shadows, and the darkest moments of the story. This is was definitely brought the film to such vivid life. John Debney composed the music, and he did a fair job at adapting the original score and then adding his own, and it wasn't too bad, but it wasn't that good either. My favorite part of the music was played during the credits with Scarlet Johannson singing "Trust In Me." I wasn't particularly fond of Bill Murray and Christopher Walken singing, but it seemed to work well in the film and the characters as well. I highly recommend this film, and the beautiful thing is you can watch it as a family, as a date film, with your parents and grandparents, and friends; Jon Favreau really did an impressive job breathing new life into this classic Disney story, although I'm not quite certain if he'll be able to duplicate his success with the apparent planned sequel. Disney and their sequel mania, it is quite ridiculous. Oh, by the way I will take this opportunity to state that freedom for people in Cuba and around the world scored a huge victory with the death of dictator Fidel Castro of Cuba. He was a brutal man, who ruled with an iron fist and was responsible for killing thousands and destroying the lives of millions over a span of 57 years. He will not be missed, and I have very little doubt that he will be paying for his butchery for the remainder of eternity. You see, finally some good news to report. :)

The Jungle Book intro to Shere Khan

The Jungle Book Cast Feature

Emerald City television show trailer (looks.....interesting maybe?)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Is the Apocalypse of Comic Book Films Coming?

I'm not a comic book fan, but from what I understand there are a lot of them published with several heroes, villains, sidekicks and secondary characters alike. Are all of them eventually going to get transformed into films or television shows? Where will it stop, or rather when will it hit a wall? Now, X-Men: Days of Future Past was a very good comic book film, and perhaps the best of the X-Men films thus far. X-Men: Apocalypse was okay; not really bad, but not really that good either. Too much honestly was going on so that the story wasn't focused enough, and none of the characters really had chances to develop because the film was literally going here, there and everywhere. So the plot is easy, the super-mutant (the original) Apocalypse comes back to life and seeks four partners to help him eradicate human existence to rebuild it with him commanding it all, and of course the "X-Men" are there to stop him as he does it, and they also have their own story lines and drama going on along the way. James McAvoy as Professor X was fine; nothing really new with him, although we see apparently why he goes bald in this film. Michael Fassbender as Magneto in this film was definitely a much more different approach than I had thought, and I'm not certain if I like where they went with his character, but he felt like an afterthought in the film as a character. Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique was good, although I found her a little too preachy at times, and she also felt like an afterthought. Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy was fantastic of course, but they didn't really do much with his character unfortunately. Perhaps the best performance and most interesting character of the entire film was Apocalypse portrayed by the very talented Oscar Isaac. Subtle things here and there in his performance, and he was very strong in his presentation. Rose Byrne came back as Moira Mactaggert, which was nice because she is an excellent character and actress, but her character was fairly useless so I don't know why she was inserted into the story. Perhaps the newer additions of Sophie Turner as Jean Grey and Tye Sheridan as Cyclops were some of the other really good casting bright spots, although it would have been great to see their characters developed a lot more than they were. Then there were the characters: Evan Peters as Quicksilver, Lucas Till as Havok, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler, Ben Hardy as Angel, Alexandra Shipp as Storm, Josh Helman as Col. Stryker, and Olivia Muun as Psylocke. With 15 characters all vying for a chunk of screentime, many of whom are major characters, this was the primary cause of the weakness of the film.
Bryan Singer is one of my favorite directors, and he is actually quite skilled at what he does most of the time, and granted where he went with this film and how me directed it wasn't atrocious, but it did lack a cohesive fluidity to it, which is unusual for him. Simon Kinberg, the skilled screenwriter, story writer, and producer that he is this film was definitely not up to his usual par. John Ottman as both film editor and music composer excelled with the music and didn't do so well with the editing of the film, which was really choppy in how it was cut together. The music was really good, especially at the beginning; definitely memorable. The action was pretty dynamic and exhilarating most of the time, although I don't think they used everyone's powers to their fullest extent. All in the all the film was entertaining, and I'd watch it again. The beginning of the film which shows what happened to Apocalypse and his four followers was perhaps the best sequence of the entire film, with maybe the climactic end battle being a close second. If there had been a sharper screenplay, and a more focused story with fewer, or a narrower cast then the film would have been so much better. Better luck next time I guess, at least according to the end credits scene. It's a fun film to watch, but you aren't missing out if you never see it. I hope everyone has an excellent Thanksgiving holiday! Despite all of the dreadful and horrifying things that occur daily in life, there will always be much to be thankful for.

X-Men: Apocalypse cast interviews

X-Men: Apocalypse scene

X-Men: Apocalypse scene

Friday, November 18, 2016

Can Star Trek Go Beyond?

Okay, I prefer Star Wars over Star Trek anytime, but I did grow up with it since my father liked it, and I enjoy it too. I have seen all of the films and series (except all of the original show), and I have to say overall that J.J. Abrams strategy of breathing new life into the franchise isn't going all that well in my opinion. And yes I did not like Star Trek Beyond. Honestly, the entire film was completely bland. So the crew of the Enterprise has been in deep space doing...whatever they do, exploring I suppose, and I guess it's really bothering them, or Captain Kirk, it wasn't really that clear. Then the film becomes even more spotty as they take the starship on a supposed rescue mission and get completely annihilated in the progress by some sort of hive culture that's after a specific object. After crash landing on the planet the crew then has to survive and get back to....well, I think it was the Federation, or more specifically one of their starbases. That's the plot in a quick summary. So, Chris Pine as Captain Kirk was pretty flat and static in this film, although it seemed like they were attempting to grow his character, but it didn't work out that well. Zachary Quinto as Spock also came across as flat and static despite attempts to grow his character as well; Kirk and Spock's friendship has nowhere the same or even similar chemistry that Nimoy and Shatner had with the same characters. Karl Urban as Bones was the same as it had been in the first two films; he does a good job, but he seems a little too angry all of the time, and it's kind of getting annoying. Zoe Saldana as Uhura was similarly bland and static despite attempts to also grow her character, which was probably at its best in the first film in her first couple of scenes. This was actually I thought Simon Pegg's best film as Scotty thus far; he really has adapted himself to the character very well, though his character is rather static. John Cho as Sulu seemed older and wiser; perhaps that has something to do with him being married with a child. But his character unfortunately didn't have much done with it. Anton Yelchin as Checkov was fine in his last performance of the character since his death will be preventing him from any future role with this character; I don't know if they will replace him or simply kill off the character. Since it is an alternative universe, why not; should be interesting to see what kind of ripples it creates. The two new major additions to the film were Idris Elba as the villain Krall, and Sofia Boutella as Jaylah both of whom are very talented. Idris Elba as the villain could have been amazing, but honestly he sucked as a villain, but they tried very hard to give him a plausible backstory so that the audience would feel some empathy for him, I think it backfired though. Jaylah could have been a great character, but it seemed as if she was tossed in just for the sake of a new character with no real idea of what to do with her; a lot of potential, but really fell flat.
So this ranks as one of the worst Star Trek films ever up there with Nemesis, The Final Frontier, and The Motion Picture. Justin Lin as the director was not a good choice whatsoever, and having Simon Pegg and Doug Jung writing the screenplay were also bad ideas. Those three choices were most likely why the film was quite bad. There also seems to be in the newer Star Trek films this slapstick, silly kind of comedy that seems to permeate every moment, which was never in any of the previous films in such an obvious manner. The films don't take themselves seriously and hence neither do the people who watch them. The other thing is that there has never been a single Star Trek film that has been a box-office smash; Into Darkness is the one Star Trek film that has made the most money, and it didn't even break $500 million in total box-office receipts. So I'm curious to see if this franchise can ever soar like Star Wars or comic book based films. Also it would be nice to see a full out war involving the Klingons, Romulans, Federation, and perhaps Tholians, Gorn, or something new. Anyways. Special effects were good, and the cinematography okay, as was the costume design, although truth be told they have been wearing essentially the same costumes for three films. The action sequences were mostly boring with a few good moments here and there. Michael Giacchino had a rather disappointing score as it sounded very similar to the last two in so many ways; no really good new themes or motifs. All in all, it was just a bland film, not terrible, but not really that good either. Don't fret if you never see it, or never see it again; you really won't be missing anything.

Star Trek scene Scotty & Jaylah meet

Simon Pegg on writing Star Trek Beyond

A Series of Unfortunate Events preview (looks great!)

Beauty and the Beast trailer (should be good).

Sunday, November 13, 2016

"With the Strength of Ra!"

Sorry, I couldn't help myself by quoting an old line from a kids animated show I grew up with back in the late 1990's, The Mummies Alive. Anywho. So last night I sat down to watch Gods of Egypt, which when I first saw the preview a while back I thought that it had a lot of potential, but did seem a little over the top with perhaps not the best casting decisions. However, aside from all of that it was a rather entertaining film that wasn't all that bad. Granted, it's not Oscar award winning (except perhaps for the special effects and costume design), but it wasn't as bad as some "critically acclaimed" films that I've seen recently. It also might have something to do with the fact that I find Egyptian antiquity extraordinarily fascinating along with their mythology, and I don't think a film has ever delved into their gods and goddesses like the Greeks, so it was something fresh. The film basically follows the god Horus as he gets revenge on Set for killing his father, taking his eyes, and then his crown as king of Egypt. A human mortal, Bek, assists Horus against Set so he can free his beloved from the afterlife and on they go. Aside from the dialog, and some of how the characters were written, I didn't have a huge problem with the writing, but the casting certainly wasn't ideal. Brenten Thwaites as Bek was pretty good....even though he didn't sound or really look Egyptian, which in a film about gods and demons may not be exactly necessary, but it would have given the film a better edge I think personally. He was funny, interesting, and had some good potential for deeper character development, but that specific arc was given to Horus. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Horus (plays Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones) did a good job with the character he was given, and aside from some bad dialog he did fine. I however, don't think that a man born in Denmark should have played one of the most powerful gods of ancient Egypt; there was something that just didn't seem to fit. But it wasn't atrocious. Perhaps the worst casting decision was Gerard Butler as Set; that just didn't work for me. His look, his voice, and although he tried his best to hide his Scottish accent I could just hear it constantly every time he spoke, and he played the character a little too playfully. Elodie Yung as Hathor the love interest of Horus, was a good decision, although I would have liked to have seen her character explored much more as she was one of the more interesting characters. Chadwick Boseman (played the Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War) as Thoth could have been good, as the man is very talented, but I didn't like how they made the character sound especially which was very British like, and he came off a little too Victorian like with manners, gestures, and his overall presentation of himself. Geoffrey Rush as Ra was very cool, and although I'm certain the Egyptians probably didn't imagine him as presented as a British actor, his time in the film was very cool and very well done....I do have to say that I am very biased towards this man though. The remainder of the cast was okay, but very British heavy; some more actors and actresses native to Africa would have enriched the experience of the film so much more.
So as I mentioned above, the film wasn't great, but it was good; I definitely would watch it again, and the more I think of it, the movie was really fun. The writing wasn't the best, but it wasn't dreadful; the plot however was very well done, how they progressed that along. If they had worked a little bit more on the casting and writing this would have been a phenomenal film. There is a lot of cool action in this film, at least I thought there was. There were times when some of the action was a little much, and things could have been slower paced, but I don't think that's what the films' creators were going for. Marco Beltrami did the music and I actually like him a lot as a film composer, and this score was pretty good but nothing stands out musically except some choral pieces during some of the fight sequences. The special effects for the most part were pretty good, and I think they'll probably be nominated for an Oscar at least. The art direction was also an excellent technical element within the film, and the ancient setting gave that a rich background, along with the cinematography. And then of course the costume design was pretty amazing, although what Osiris and Horus wore as kings wasn't very kingly looking in my opinion. All in all a very enjoyable film, and although it bombed miserably at the box office in the USA, it did fairly well overseas, and yes I liked and enjoyed it enough to watch it again. Some good old fantasy is what this world needs right now to distract itself from its problems. So switching gears a little bit. Last week depending on your perspective was either a good newsweek or a very bad newsweek. Donald Trump will be the 45 President of the United States of America, and the first US president with that first name. Did you know that "James" is the most used Presidential name with 6 US presidents with that name, more than any other singular name. I think John, William, Franklin and George were the other names that popped up multiple times for US presidents. Regardless, should be interesting to see where it all goes. I shall quote some Shakespeare, who as Klingon General Chang stated was one of Earth's greatest warrior poets....

"What's past is prologue...." and "...Security is mortal's chiefest enemy..."

Gods of Egypt trailer

Gods of Egypt interviews

The Animaniacs on the US presidents (such a great show, and humor is good for the soul. It's on Netflix FYI).

Saturday, November 5, 2016

"....Government's Should be Afraid of Their People."

"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

Yes indeed it is that time of year again; Guy Fawkes Day. The time of year when I watch the film V for Vendetta and remember that it is the people of a democracy that hold the ultimate control and fate of their country, not the elected government. It's interesting to consider that in a true modern democracy people surrender their power and control to a group of individuals, and then hope or naively expect that power to never be used against them. The more I consider that, it almost seems rather ludicrous; no wonder, at least in the United States of America, trust in the federal government is at an all time low. Three days from today, the people of the USA will choose a new president, and decide their representatives and other government leaders for the next couple of years. I believe one key philosophic idea that everyone should take away despite who wins and loses is to remember ultimately that it is the people not the government that have the true power in an elected democracy. And in this very unusual election cycle in the USA , I believe we have seen what the power of the people can accomplish, especially when they are incited, motivated, and angry. Whatever happens, it will definitely be quite an interesting day, and the days that will follow will be even more interesting. One thing that I would like to see are more countries, more people being allowed the possibilities of electing and shaping their own government and civilization freely. Countries such as: China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt, Turkey, Venezuela, Belarus, Syria, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam that are either outright repressive or are slowly eliminating their people's civil liberties. Granted, in several if not most of the countries I named, democracy is a foreign concept unfortunately as men with power like to keep their power and oftentimes do whatever it takes to keep it from falling into the hands of the "masses." I don't know how in some countries sparks of rebellion and freedom spread to oust the established status quo and a stable democracy forms, and then there are times when the rebellions are absolutely crushed such as in China and Iran and it seems the spirit of democracy withers away. Perhaps what V for Vendetta gives me is hope; hope that if a day should come when the US government becomes tyrannical that I have the courage and the strength to stand up to it, or any other government that lords over their citizens in an egregious way. I always like to remind people that a politician's favorite kind of people are dumb, uneducated, clueless, and selfish. So, please stay aware of what is going on around you, your country, and in the world and people will be less likely to pull any wool over your eyes.

V's Speech to the People

Series of Unfortunate Evens teaser (looks very good)