Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Take a Glance into the Looking Glass.....

I suppose a lot of people feel like Alice right now....tumbling down the rabbit hole, or more befitting taking a stroll through the looking glass. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland was visually stunning beyond imagination, and utilized 3-D perfectly, but didn't care much for a lot of the story, but the characters were amazing. And of course Alice Through the Looking Glass continues that tradition, and many of the others as well. So Alice is starting her career as an adventurer, which many don't approve of especially her mother, so she is struggling with that and other social norms that she is not conforming to. However, she gets called to Underland to help the Mad Hatter get better, and in order to do this she has to change the past so she steals time essentially from...time I suppose. A rather fascinating notion actually. Mia Wasikowska as Alice was much better this time around in my opinion, but there wasn't really anything new and dynamic to her character really, although they tried, but she had a good performance. Johnny Depp was as funny and clever as the Mad Hatter, and they got a little deeper with his character, but not really much to stand out. Still as always he was the main draw to the film. Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen was of course amazing as always; such a talented actress. Sacha Baron Cohen played time, and he was a little over the top of a character at times, but I actually really enjoyed his character and performance overall. Then there were of course the minor roles/cameos and talented actors and actresses such as: Rhys Ifans (played the Hatter's father), Matt Lucas (Tweedledee & Tweedledum), Lindsay Duncan (Alice's Mother), Leo Bill (Hamish), Andrew Scott, Richard Armitage, Ed Speelers, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Stephen Fry, and Michael Sheen. The film had an excellent cast, although a lot of them could have been utilized more effectively.
The director, James Bobin, did an okay job directing, which considering how much was going on in this film must not have been an easy task; in a blockbuster style film like this there are a lot of moving parts. Perhaps where I find a lot of fault in this film is the writing by Linda Woolverton; the dialog, story, and plot were all interesting ideas but the entire film had a rather scatterbrained feel to it. And yes I know Through the Looking Glass, the book, is rather like that as I have tried to read it on several occasions, but it is so doggone confusing to read. But there can be a certain appeal to something being scatterbrained, that is if it is crafted corrected.....which this film was not. Granted I found it quite entertaining and enjoyable most of the time, but it was also quite ridiculous and senseless as well frequently. There were relatively good special effects, and I didn't see it in 3-D but I imagine it was comparable to the first film. Danny Elfman did the music and it was good, but the music for the first film was quite better. The production design by Dan Hennah was very impressive; all of the sets looked so cool and very interesting. All in all the film was good and enjoyable, but if you miss it then you miss it; it's not one for the record books or enduring time vault. It does provide a most excellent escape from reality though, and judging bu people's moods as of late in the United States and the world, it might be just what the doctor ordered. Although, it was the last film Alan Rickman participated in before his death, so that might help it go down in history for something.

Alice Through the Looking Glass clip

Alice Through the Looking Glass trailer

Helena Bonham-Carter interview

Friday, January 20, 2017

Hail to the New Chief.

So one of the disadvantages sometimes of living on the West Coast is that things are on earlier if they are scheduled early on the East Coast, like the Presidential Inauguration. So I got up bright and early at 7am and began watching the coverage of the 2017 U.S. Presidential Inauguration. As everything unfolded and led up to the swearing in ceremony, it was very cool to see previous presidents, former House Speakers, the Supreme Court Justices, and other political figures from the past gather to celebrate this fantastic democratic civil ceremony. This entire peaceful and pleasant transfer of power is why our democracy works and continues to do so and has done so since George Washington handed power to John Adams down to G.W. Bush Handing power to Barack Obama. The festivities went off without a hitch, there was a little rain but nothing too much, and everyone looked pretty spectacular. My sister, brother in-law, and nephew were there as my nephew was part of some sort of leadership summit for the STEM program that he participated in this past summer. I am so proud of him and his accomplishments at only almost 11 years of age. Him and his fellow students are going to put a proposal together dealing with technology that is going to go before Congress and President Trump. He's a smart and talented kid. It was very surreal for them, but a very cool experience to participate in. I got to watching everything from home which was great, but it would have been something to be there in person. One day I'll make it to an inauguration ceremony. Well, God bless President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence and their families, and I hope that they are successful and bring about a greater America in the next four years. Now, back in 2013 for President Obama's last inauguration I wrote a little blurb about it and made some predictions of the future for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. It goes without saying my predictions were quite wrong, but not all of them. I predicted that Marco Rubio and Chris Christie would run for the GOP ticket, and they did, they just didn't acquire the nomination. I suggested that Joe Biden would run, but he didn't. So for the Presidential Inauguration of 2021 I predict that Donald Trump will run for office again, and that the Democrats will pony up at least Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Joaquin Castro as presidential contenders. Now I predict, barring anything disastrous from occurring, that Donald Trump will indeed win a second term. It should be fascinating to see how things tee up in the fall/summer of 2019 though as the candidates prepare to announce their candidacies. Well, you may not like the president, but I think we can all agree that the ceremony is what was important regardless of the outcome, and that hopefully there will be another 45 peaceful and cooperative transitions of power to come and more beyond even that. May God continue to bless and watch over the United States of America.

The Transfer of Power Complete

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Little Too Peculiar Perhaps?

I have to say first and foremost that I am a fan of Tim Burton, and that I do like and prefer darker films, so my expectations were pretty much in line with all of that when I watched Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. It is not light subject matter in regards to the story I have to say, but I rather enjoyed the idea overall along with the characters. The basic premise is there are "peculiar" children in the world with unique peculiarities, talents, or powers; think mutants from X-Men, but less action oriented. These children live in protective environments guarded by certain individuals who can manipulate time, and they live there to protect themselves from humans, and also from people who are hunting them down for something that they possess. The main character, Jake, has a unique peculiarity which is greatly helpful for the group of children that he meets after his grandfather dies. With Miss Peregrine's guidance he explores a side of himself that he never knew existed. Asa Butterfield plays Jake the main character, and he did an excellent job and has grown up so much since being young Mordred in the British series Merlin. He was exceptional with his young, albeit rather flat character. Eva Green as Miss Peregrine was in my opinion the best part of the entire film, but I have to admit that I am highly biased when it comes to her. Her character was mysterious, fascinating, cool and highly complex; like there is something more to her than meets the eye, and I wish that they would have spent more time focusing on her and developing her character more. Ella Purnell who played Emma Bloom was essentially Mr. Butterfield's "love interest" did a lovely job, but her character was also rather flat, but pleasant and enjoyable. Samuel L. Jackson plays the villain of the film, Barron, and for some odd reason they chose him rather than somebody else who might have been a far better fit. A lot of directors do that with Sam Jackson; they just have him in the film to....well....have him in the film even if it doesn't necessarily make sense. For some odd reason Judi Dench had a rather highly irrelevant role which I wouldn't classify as a cameo, but it really felt that way; not certain why a woman of her caliber would take such a role, but I'm certain she has her reasons. Terrence Stamp had a lovely role as Jake's grandfather, and Rupert Everett had a delightful cameo role as well, along with Allison Janney. The individuals who made up the cast of the children were also quite good, and it was really awesome to see Milo Parker from Mr. Holmes as one of the young actors. All in all a pretty decent cast.
There may be some disagreement about Tm Burton's directing abilities considering the film was not much of a success, at least based on how much money it made in comparison to how much it cost to create and market. I believe he did a fairly good job, although things did come across as a little scatterbrained at times and not necessarily quite fluid considering the subject matter of the story and plot. Apparently the screenplay written by Jane Goldman is based upon a book by Ransom Riggs, which is a very fascinating concept and I think that I shall get around to reading the books. The music by Michael Higham and Matthew Margeson was good from what I can remember but nothing really extraordinarily good or memorable. Special effects were relatively good as was the action, even though this is more of an adventure story than action film. The cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel was quite good, and the set design was especially good; something that Tim Burton always seems to nail. And of course Colleen Atwood did the costume design which was marvelous as always; she is quite incredible at her job. I have to say that I really enjoyed the film. It wasn't amazing, and at times was rather disgusting and disturbing, but I liked it a lot and will definitely end up watching again in the future. It's more of a family film for older children not so much younger children, and it is dark, but still good like all of the great Gothic fairy tale stories. Definitely recommend this one. Well in regards to world events and news, this weekend in the United States of America is going to be one to remember no matter what you're perspective. Hopefully everything anyone says or does will be done in a respectful and safe manner in the spirit of democratic freedom and courteous, polite attitudes. If not...well....things will definitely get interesting. May the Force be with us all.

The Peculiar Children

Eva Green on Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Split trailer 
(looks interesting despite the fact that they got the psychiatry totally wrong)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Is it Fantastic?

I find myself finally catching up with all of the writing and film reviews that should have been completed last month; perhaps it is the cold weather? Fantastic Beasts: And Where to Find Them is a new way for Warner Brothers' studio to keep the Harry Potter franchise relevant to keep bringing in the cash, of which it was rather successful. It was a fairly entertaining film with a lot of magic, so perfect for families and younger audiences, and tolerable for those who are older. It was okay, but honestly it came off rather weak for me. Ironically it suffered from a similar problem, in my opinion, that Rogue One suffered from. I think there is something that big "blockbuster" filmmakers are forgetting, and that is it was simplicity and small/focus that made a lot of blockbuster films very successful and enduring (Alien, Star Wars, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Terminator, and The Fellowship of the Ring).
So the story of this film is basically this wizard, Newt Scamander, is traveling through New York City to deliver a specific animal to Arizona when the several of the creatures in his suitcase menagerie get loose and he has to round them up. Add to that a side story of anti-magic sentiment in the US (probably mirroring something akin to racism that was actually happening; J.K. Rowling is losing her subtlety regarding how she conveys her themes, messages and topics. This film was rather preachy), with some sort of "creature" running around killing people and causing a wreck of the city. Voila! Eddie Redmayne as always was perfect; the man can act like no other, and he brought to life Newt Scamander in a heartwarming and charming manner, but also brought humor to the role as well. Dan Fogler as Mr. Kowalski was a muggle or "nomage" (how they describe a non-magic person in America apparently) and he was also charming and funny, but his character came off as more of a prop used by Newt and his magical associates than being able to stand on his own as a unique purposeful character. Katherine Waterston who played Tina and was the other lead to the film came off as wooden, boring, preachy, and had extraordinarily poor chemistry with Mr. Redmayne. Perhaps it was her character, perhaps it was the writing, or perhaps she just delivered a fairly bad performance; all are equally possible, and quite possibly all are probable. Alison Sudol who played her sister, Queenie, suffered from the same problem, although I'm not even certain what the point of her character was except that she romantically falls for Mr. Kowalski. Those four are the main actors on screen. Colin Farrell plays a small but significant role as Mr. Graves, who is some big shot at the local ministry of magical law enforcement and does fine, boring character but it works out in the end. Jon Voight has a small role as a media mogul and is atypical of that time period. Ron Perlman has a small role as a goblin gangster, which was odd seeing a goblin speak with a Brooklyn accent and smoking a cigar, and I'm still not certain if it worked. And then Johnny Depp had a brief appearance as Gellert Grindelwald, of which he will return in the series and I'm assuming Dumbledore will also appear at some point. What was missing from this film which was present in all of the original Harry Potter films was the stellar British acting talent, but I guess you can't have everything.
David Yates directed the film, and he directed Harry Potter films: 5, 6, 7 pt.1, & 7 pt.2. From what I hear he's going to direct all remaining four Fantastic Beasts films, but we'll see how that goes even though he is off to a successful start (at least fiscally). I think they needed someone fresh to the world to give it a new feel and look, like Guillermo del Toro, or bring back Alfonso Cuaron, but they've stuck with him for some odd reason. J.K. Rowling should stick to writing books, and leave screenplays alone; it wasn't an atrocious screenplay, but it wasn't nearly as good as any of the previous Harry Potter franchise films. James Newton Howard composed the music, and it wasn't half bad, but it doesn't compare to the work John Williams did with The Sorcerer's Stone or Prisoner of Azkaban, or what Patrick Doyle did with The Goblet of Fire, or what Nicholas Hooper did with The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince. If anything he's on par, perhaps even better with what Alexandre Desplat did on The Deathly Hallows 1 & 2. I wasn't impressed with the cinematography or costume design at all really. The action sequences were negligible also, so the technical elements of the film weren't even that impressive. Aside from Eddie Redmayne, his cast of magical creatures were perhaps the best parts of the film; they were empathetic, funny, dark, and quite complex for CGI.
I felt the film was essentially flat; not really that good, and not really that bad. It was entertaining enough, but suffered from a slight problem of having too much going on all at once. The story should have been more focused on Newt and his newfound friends, but then the film would follow this other story line of a tortured boy and his family preaching the evils of magic. Also, unlike in Harry Potter where audiences were slowly shown how cool magic can be to being dazzled by the end of series, right off the start in this film people are bombarded by magic, so it quickly looses its "coolness" factor and becomes commonplace unfortunately. So Warner Brothers Studio threw money at David Yates and the production and they went all out and I think that is what nailed them, in my opinion. If you think back to the original Harry Potter film, it was far more simpler than this film, and I think that made it much more enjoyable. I will probably watch it again and all of the future films, and I'm sure they'll all be entertaining. I doubt however if any of them will possess that magical sparkle that fired an entire generation's imagination with the original Harry Potter franchise.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them trailer

 Fantastic Beasts Cast Interviews

Voltron Legendary Defender season 2 trailer

Monday, January 16, 2017

Going Rogue.

Well, Happy New Years everyone....albeit 16 days late. So I did see Rogue One back in Late December with my family while visiting for Christmas, and yes I might be in the minority once again with my perspective on Star Wars films post George Lucas, but I did enjoy and like the film better than The Force Awakens. So I had high expectations going into this film, and perhaps that was not a good thing, as I didn't think it was a great Star Wars film.
The plot is about how the Rebels steal the death star plans to the first Imperial battle station, and all of the various characters that were a part of that endeavor. Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, the main character of the film. She is the daughter of one of the designers of the Death Star, and has sort of sailed the galaxy causing trouble after she was removed from her parents. Ms. Jones does a pretty good job with the character most of the time, but she ran into a problem that most of the characters ran into, Diego Luna played Cassian Andor, a very interesting and fascinating character that was a rebel commando captain of sorts from what I could gather. He was one character that more depth or focus on would have been great. Alan Tudyk played a droid K-2SO, and was single handedly the one of the best parts of the film. Humorous, clever, and interesting; he had all of the elements of a great character, but once again suffered a flaw. Donnie Yen played the blind man who was a Jedi wannabe, and Wen Jiang played Baze Malbus who protected him. Both were completely irrelevant and shouldn't have even been in the film at all. Ben Mendelsohn played Director Orson Krennic, and he was indeed my favorite character. He had the look, the command, relatively good dialog and story, but he should have been the primary and only villain. Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin crowded him out of the top spot, and his ending wasn't really that great. Forest Whitaker as Saw Garrera was another pointless character that shouldn't have been in the film, although they could have re-worked his character to make it better. Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook (the defecting Imperial pilot) was another pointless character unfortunately. Mads Mikkelsen (Galen Erso), Jimmy Smits (Bail Organa), and Genevieve O'Reilly (Mon Mothma) were all fantastic to see in the film and did amazing jobs, although it would have been nice to see more of them, and perhaps see the Imperial Senate at work rather than just hear about it.
The major problem of this film was it had too many characters at the forefront all vying for screen time which made it all come across rather weak and pointless at times. It was all entertaining, but not necessarily put together the best possible way. Gareth Edwards did great as a director with Godzilla (2014 version) and I thought he would knock it out of the park with this film, but not really. The screenplay was mediocre at best, which was written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy; it could have been much better. Michael Giacchino disappointed me greatly with his score for the film. I thought he would be a perfect fit and channel the creative might of John Williams, but the score for the most part is just a cacophony of brass with no really notable themes or motifs, which is an insult to Star Wars as a great score is highly important for any film in the franchise. The cinematography by Greig Fraser was pretty good at capturing the grittiness of the young rebellion, and the imperiousness of the Galactic Empire. The costume design was amazing, and I have to say that the Death Troopers and Director Krennic's outfits took home the gold for me, which were done by David Crossman and Glyn Dillon. The special effects by Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) were incredibly impressive, and notably bringing Governor Tarkin and a young Princess Leia to life will forever be burnished in people's memories. The 3-D was negligible, I don't even remember anything impressive about the fact that it was in that format. The action of the film was mediocre; nothing really overly cool or exciting really, or even new and dynamic, aside from seeing Darth Vader brandishing his lightsaber.
In essence, Rogue One was a commercial success for Disney, and thus many more films relating to Star Wars will be made until they have sucked the very life out of it. Oh, by the way, the ending of the film sucked; I'm not a fan of everyone dying, literally. It was like watching the Titanic sink. Once again, I will be in the minority when I write this, but I believe the single element that is missing that would have made this film and The Force Awakens great is George Lucas. Now maybe not at the director's helm, but definitely as executive producer and story writer and have someone else direct but have it be his vision. He created Star Wars, and thus he is the only person who knows what characterizes the franchise and what does not, although there might be one other individual who has that ability as he was trained by George (Dave Filoni). It should be interesting to see how the next 2 "saga" films are like and then the subsequent "anthology" films. In regards to news and what not happening in the world currently, I think everyone should gird themselves and prepare for a very interesting year. If there is one thing an enemy loves seeing in it's foe, it is chaos and seeing them divided rather than unified; and I assure you that is something that will be taken advantage of unless the citizens of the United States of America come together and push on as one. God protect us all.

How Tarkin and Princess Leia were created for Rogue One

Rogue One trailer

Interviews with Mads Mikkelsen & Ben Mendelsohn