Thursday, 17 January 2019

Film Review: "Glass" (2019).

"The World of Superheroes will be Shattered" in Glass. This superhero thriller film written, produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. It is the sequel to Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016), cumulatively forming the Eastrail 177 Trilogy. The film finds David Dunn pursuing Kevin Wendell Crumb’s superhuman figure of The Beast in a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of Elijah Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.

After the middling commercial success of Unbreakable, Touchstone Pictures, the studio owned by The Walt Disney Company, decided not to move forward with a sequel. In the original script for Unbreakable, Kevin was included as an emerging villain for David to face against, but Shyamalan removed the character due to balancing issues. Thus Shyamalan set out to write Split, which would focus solely on Kevin. Shyamalan realized that he had the opportunity to create a trilogy, and establish Split as a film within the Unbreakable narrative. This resulted in securing the rights to use Willis' Unbreakable character from Disney in the ending, with the promise of including Disney within the production and distribution of the third film alongside Universal Pictures should it be made. After the release and success of Split, in mid April 2017, the film was announced by Shyamalan entitled Glass with a January 18 2019 release date. Universal would distribute the film in the United States and Disney would distribute the film internationally through its Buena Vista International label. According to Shyamalan, the film would be "the first truly grounded comic book movie." Shyamalan drew inspiration from the following comic books: Saga, Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire, Sand Castle, Paper Girls, Daytripper, and Last Look. In early October 2017, principal photography commenced, and lasted 39 days throughout Philadelphia. Locations included Allentown State Hospital and the Bryn Mawr College Athletic Centre. It was revealed that the original cut of the film ran nearly three and a half hours long. It was also revealed that the film would incorporate unseen footage from Unbreakable, as well as James Newton Howard's Unbreakable theme.

The film stars Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard (whom reprise their Unbreakable roles), James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy (whom reprise their Split roles), and Sarah Paulson. Willis gave his best performance after years. After years of brainless action roles, for Willis, and years of playing crucial, but nonetheless, supporting roles, for Jackson, both men shine in their respective roles when they were given the spotlight. Though under-utilized, both Willis and Jackson gave their best performances. McAvoy gives another tour-de-force performance as he gets to further explore his character(s). Like Willis and Jackson, Clark, Woodard, Taylor-Joy, and Paulson gave spectacular performances even though they were under-utilized.

With a risky ending, Glass is not a masterpiece like Unbreakable. However, it is a quietly suspenseful film that intrigues and engages, taking the audience through unpredictable twists and turns along the way.

Simon says Glass receives:

Also, see my review for Split.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Film Review: "Godzilla: The Planet Eater" ("ゴジラ: 星を喰う者") (2019).

"This <Gold> will burn even <Despair>" This is Godzilla: The Planet Eater. This Japanese computer-animated science fiction kaiju film co-directed by Kōbun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita, written by Gen Urobuchi, and produced by Toho Animation and animated by Polygon Pictures. This is the 34th film in the Godzilla franchise, the 32nd Godzilla film produced by Toho, and the third and final entry in the anime trilogy. It is a sequel to Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle. With the earth alliance weakened, Haruo weighs siding with the Exif, whose death cult is summoning a monster that can destroy the world.

In May 2018, after the Japanese release of Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle, a teaser poster revealed the film's title, release date, and potential appearance of King Ghidorah. This film features a radical new re-imagining of King Ghidorah, a three-headed golden dragon widely considered to be Godzilla's arch-enemy and one of his most popular monster co-stars. King Ghidorah made his debut in Monster of Monsters: Ghidorah (1964) and most recently appeared (ironically in a heroic role) in Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001). The character is also set to appear in the upcoming Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), the sequel to Godzilla (2014). Like the previous instalments, composer Takayuki Hattori returned to create the score, marking it his fifth Godzilla film score. XAI also returned to perform the film's theme song Live and Die. In July, the film's first teaser trailer was released. In September, the film's theatrical poster was released. In October, the full trailer was released. On November 3, 2018, the film premiered as the closing film at the Tokyo International Film Festival, and was given a theatrical release in Japan on November 9.

With its impressive 3-D animation and action sequences, Planet of the MonstersCity on the Edge of Battle, and, ultimately, The Planet Eater has the makings of something interesting. It is a thrilling film [trilogy] that lives up to the reputation of the franchise and delivers on its science fiction premise. The film is just so damn gorgeous to look at, and such a complete departure from what you usually expect from this world, that you should just take it all in and enjoy the surprises, but the writing is sadly not strong enough to even work on its own terms. With a more polished script, the film and its predecessors, might've been something of a modern classic. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in future entries. It’s not a perfect picture, neither were the first two, but it was a powerful proof of concept: Godzilla works as an anime. Even skeptics will admit the 3-D version of the king of the monsters looks pretty darn cool. Which is an anime version of Godzilla is surprisingly effective and frightening. This is possibly an easy film to recommend to either casual fans or to battle-hardened kaiju otaku.

Simon says Godzilla: The Planet Eater (ゴジラ: 星を喰う者) receives:

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Film Review: "The Mule" (2018).

"Inspired by a true story." This is The Mule. This crime film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, written by Nick Schenk, based on The New York Times article The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule by Sam Dolnick. Broke, alone and facing foreclosure on his business, 90-year-old horticulturist Earl Stone takes a job as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. His immediate success leads to easy money and a larger shipment that soon draws the attention of hard-charging DEA agent Colin Bates. When Earl's past mistakes start to weigh heavily on his conscience, he must decide whether to right those wrongs before law enforcement and cartel thugs catch up to him.

In 2011, DEA Special Agent Jeff Moore was interviewed by The New York Times journalist Sam Dolnick in regards to the investigation and arrest of 87-year-old Leo Sharp, the world's oldest and most prolific drug mule for the Sinaloa Cartel. The story was ultimately published as an article entitled The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule. In 2014, Imperative Entertainment bought the film rights to the article, and hired Ruben Fleischer to produce and direct. In February 2015, Nick Schenk was hired to adapt the article into a screenplay. In January 2018, it was revealed that the film would be titled The Mule, and that Clint Eastwood would ultimately direct the film instead, as well as produce and star, for Warner Bros. Pictures and Imperative. This marks the eighth time Eastwood directed two features in a single year, with The 15:17 to Paris (2018), as well as Eastwood's first acting role since Trouble with the Curve (2012). By early June, Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, Andy García, Alison Eastwood, Taissa Farmiga, and Clifton Collins Jr. rounded out the cast. Around the same time, principal photography began. Locations included Atlanta, Rome, and Augusta, Georgia, and Las Cruces, New Mexico. The production marks the first time where Tom Stern did not serve as Eastwood's cinematographer. Instead that duty went to Yves Bélanger.

The film stars Eastwood, Cooper, Fishburne, Peña, Wiest, García, Eastwood, Farmiga, and Collins Jr. The cast gave terrific performances, especially that of Mr. Eastwood himself. This is a film that is impossible to imagine without the actor in the lead role. The notion of a 88-year-old action hero may sound like a contradiction in terms, but Eastwood brings it off, even if his toughness is as much verbal as physical. Even at 88, Eastwood can make 'For what it's worth, I'm sorry for everything' sound as if he means it.

Though a minor entry in Eastwood's body of work, The Mule is nevertheless a humorous, touching, and intriguing old-school parable. The film is about an innocent, desperate man's tragic downfall It's about America's war on drugs is growing, and how it's spreading more and, ultimately, corrupting its innocence. That's the commercial hook of this film. As it is a meditation on the war on drugs wrapped in the disguise of a movie with an old but tough Clint Eastwood and his old pick-up truck.

Simon says The Mule receives:

Also, see my review for The 15:17 to Paris.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Film Review: "Vice" (2018).

"The Untold True Story That Changed the Course of History." This is Vice. This biographical comedy-drama film written and directed by Adam McKay. The film tells the story of Dick Cheney, an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.

In late November 2016, it was announced that Paramount Pictures had come on board to handle the rights to a drama about Dick Cheney, who moved from Halliburton chief executive to become reputedly the most powerful Vice President in American history, with McKay, attached to write and direct. In April 2017, Bale signed on to play Cheney, and gained 45 pounds for the role, shaved his head, bleached his eyebrows and exercised to thicken his neck for his role as Cheney. Bale said he achieved his hefty physique for the film by eating a lot of pies. Due to the improvisational directing style of McKay, Bale had to do more research for this film than any other film he's done. In order to ad-lib in character, Bale not only needed to have Dick Cheney's mannerisms and vernacular down, but he also had to know which policies, their instances, and abbreviations the Vice President would be aware of at any given moment in his life. Bale was McKay's only choice to play Dick Cheney. Having worked together on The Big Short (2015), McKay was impressed by Bale's ability to psychologically break a character apart and put them together again. McKay said, "The second I thought of doing the movie, I knew right away, the most exciting person to play him is Christian." In late August, the title of Backseat was announced. By late September, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Alison Pill, Lily Rabe, Tyler Perry, LisaGay Hamilton, Eddie Marsan, Shea Whigham, and Jesse Plemons had rounded the cast. Bill Pullman was attached to play Nelson Rockefeller, but his scenes were cut from the final film. In the same month, Principal photography commenced. A musical sequence was filmed, but it was cut in editing after McKay decided to shift to a more serious tone.

The film stars Bale as Dick Cheney, Adams as Lynne Cheney, Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, Rockwell as George W. Bush, Pill as Mary Cheney, Rabe as Liz Cheney, Perry as Colin Powell, Hamilton as Condoleezza Rice, Marsan as Paul Wolfowitz, Whigham as Wayne Vincent, and Plemons as the narrator. The cast didn't necessarily stay completely accurate to their real-life counterparts. But the success of this film is due to the work they have given with their characters.

Vice approaches a serious, complicated subject with an impressive attention to detail – and manages to deliver a well-acted, scathingly funny indictment of its real-life villain at the centre. It's funny because it's true. And it's tragic and frightening for the same reason. The film manages to be as enlightening as it is entertaining. But its ominous revelations linger long after it's over.

Simon says Vice receives:

Also, see my review for The Big Short.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Film Review: "Bumblebee" (2018).

"Every Hero Has a Beginning." This is Bumblebee. This science fiction action film directed by Travis Knight, written by Christina Hodson, based Transformers character of the same name. It is the sixth installment of the live-action Transformers film series, and is the first live-action Transformers film not to be directed by Michael Bay. On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie, on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.

In mid February 2016, it was announced that the sixth film in the Transformers series would be released on June 8, 2018, which was later revealed to be an untitled spin-off, featuring Bumblebee. However the release date was moved to December 21, 2018. In mid November, Deadline reported that Paramount Pictures was moving forward with the project with a script penned by Christina Hodson, one of the female writers Paramount and Michael Bay hired in the "writers room". In early March 2017, Deadline reported that Travis Knight would be making his live-action directorial debut. Beating out Chris McKay, Seth Gordon, Jaume Collet-Serra, Rick Famuyiwa and the Nee Brothers for the director's chair. In May, it was announced that it would be titled as Transformers Universe: Bumblebee, and it would be set in the 1980s. By late July, Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, and Pamela Adlon, with Dylan O'Brien, Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux, and Peter Cullen had rounded out the cast. In the same month, with a budget of $128 million, principal photography on the film began. Filming took place in Los Angeles and San Francisco, California, under the working title Brighton Falls. In early November, filming wrapped 6 days ahead of schedule. In the same month, the film was revealed to have changed its title to Bumblebee: The Movie.

The film stars Steinfeld, Cena, Lendeborg Jr., Ortiz, Drucker, and Adlon, with O'Brien, Bassett, Theroux, and Cullen in voice roles. The cast proved to be a refreshing and major improvement over the cast in previous installments in the series.

While a perfect Transformers film is hard to come by, Bumblebee proves to be a refreshing and exhilarating addition to the Transformers series. It is the best film in the series so far, mostly because, unlike the previous films, it's undeniably a whole lot of fun. Unlike Bay, director Knight gives the robots a believably rendered scale and intimacy. It has a real sense of wonder, one of the things that's missing from so much of the big CGI lightshows released these days. It's a big, cool, non-stop action powerhouse that's a lot of fun. It's also shorter by an hour and it left my ears unaffected. The film gives you pretty much exactly what you always wanted from a Transformers movie. Finally! It's about time!

Simon says Bumblebee receives:

Also, see my review for Kubo and the Two Strings and Transformers: The Last Knight.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Film Review: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" (2018).

"Enter a universe where more than one wears the mask" with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This computer-animated superhero film directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, written by Phil Lord and Rothman, based on the Marvel Comics character Miles Morales / Spider-Man. It is the first animated feature film in the Spider-Man franchise, and is set in a shared multiverse called the "Spider-Verse", which has alternate universes. The film centres on Brooklyn teen Miles Morales, and the limitless possibilities of the Spider-Verse, where more than one can wear the mask.

During the 2014 Sony hack, emails between Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal and president Doug Belgrad revealed plans for an animated Spider-Man film to be developed by Lord and Christopher Miller. In April 2015, it was officially announced, by new Sony Pictures chairman Tom Rothman, with a July 20, 2018 release date. In December, Sony moved the film's release date to December 21, 2018. In June 2016, Lord had completed the script, and Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey were chosen to direct. Lord and Miller wanted the film to have its own unique style, combining Sony Pictures Imageworks' computer animation pipeline with traditional hand-drawn comic book techniques inspired by the work of Sara Pichelli. In April 2017, the film's release date was pushed up one week from December 21, 2018, to December 14, 2018. In December, Lord and Miller announced that the film was titled Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and revealed that multiple Spider-Men would appear in the film, with the character of Miles Morales at the centre. It was also revealed that Rodney Rothman became co-director. In July 2018, Daniel Pemberton was announced as the film's composer. By November, it was revealed that Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Nicolas Cage, and Liev Schreiber had rounded out the cast. This film is dedicated in memory of Spider-Man co-creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, who died on November 12, 2018 and July 6, 2018. It was revealed that Lee had recorded a cameo for the film and that it would be his final voice-acting role.

Lord and Miller wanted the film to feel like "you walked inside a comic book", and were excited to tell the story in a way that the live-action films could not. Persichetti concurred, feeling that animation was the best medium with which to honor the style of the comics, allowing the production team to adapt 70-year-old techniques seen in comic artwork into the film's visual language. One of the many ways the animation team has paid tribute to old comic books through the visual style is to imitate the imperfections of offset printing. Completing the animation for the film required up to 140 animators, the largest crew ever used by Sony Pictures Animation for a film.

Boasting spectacular animation, an amazing voice cast, laugh-a-minute gags, and a surprisingly thoughtful story, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is fun for all Spider-Man fans, old and new.

Simon says Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse receives:

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Film Review: "If Beale Street Could Talk" (2018).

"Trust Love All the Way" This is If Beale Street Could Talk. This romantic drama film adapted directed by Barry Jenkins, based on James Baldwin's novel of the same name. The film follows Tish, a newly engaged Harlem woman who races against the clock to prove her lover's innocence while carrying their first born child. It's a celebration of love told through the story of a young couple, their families, and their lives.

In early July 2017, it was announced that Barry Jenkins would direct an adaptation of the James Baldwin novel If Beale Street Could Talk. Jenkins wrote the screenplay during the summer of 2013, writing in conjunction with Moonlight. By September, Stephan James, KiKi Layne, and Teyonah Parris had joined the cast. In mid October 2017, it was reported that principal photography on the film began in New York City. By December, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Brian Tyree Henry, Dave Franco, Ed Skrein, Michael Beach, Finn Wittrock, Aunjanue Ellis, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal and Emily Rios had rounded out the film's cast.

The film stars Layne, James, Domingo, Parris, Beach, Franco, Wittrock, Ellis, Luna, Pascal, Skrein, Tyree Henry, Rios, and King. All the performances given by the entire cast throughout the film were true and quietly heart-rending.

If Beale Street Could Talk uses multiple point-of-views to tell a woman's story that offers a remarkable and brilliantly crafted look at lives too rarely seen in cinema. It's without a doubt, the reason we go to the movies: to understand, to come closer, to ache, hopefully with another. It is an intimate and haunting drama that is achingly romantic and uncommonly wise. Although Jenkins' film is indeed about the struggles and difficulties of a person of colour struggling against the system for the sake of love, the story is universal in scope and intent. The film is both a disarmingly, at times almost unbearably personal film and an urgent social document, a hard look at American reality and a poem written in light, music and vivid human faces. Jenkin's exceptional romantic drama stays firmly planted in your mind by challenging the stilted ways of the past, causing you to look inward and reflect. It's a moving, unshakable piece of cinema that is not to be missed. Never think of the film as a Black story, just a human one. Jenkins still fuels his small, yet piercing exposition, with a cemented conviction that fortifies the serene rage and manages to instill a convincing dose of sympathy for the troubled players in New York's hidden haven of a hellhole. The film could never fully live up to the widespread acclaim and hype of Moonlight - but the fact it manages to get close to cinematic perfection is a true testament to how strong the film is. Even though so much of the film feels old-hat, what does make it to the screen is unforgettable. Basking in this, If Beale Street Could Talk is one of the cinematic joys of the year.

Simon says If Beale Street Could Talk receives:

Also, see my review for Moonlight.