Friday, 22 October 2021

Series Review: "The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea" (2021).

From Netflix comes The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea. This South Korean documentary series directed by John Choi and Rob Sixsmith. In the early 2000s, Yoo Young-chul hammered his victims to death and cast fear across Seoul. This docu-series recounts the hunt for a prolific killer.

From September to November 2003, the South Korean serial killer, sex offender, and self-confessed cannibal, Yoo Young-chul (유영철), killed several wealthy senior citizens by breaking into their houses and bludgeoning them with a hammer. To cover his tracks, Yoo made the scenes of his crime look like a robbery-homicide took place. However, no money was taken, which confused the police investigators. When the investigation started to intensify, Yoo switched to targeting female masseuses. From March 2004 onwards, Yoo called prostitutes to his residence in western Seoul and bludgeoned them after having sex with them. His prostitute victims were dismembered and mutilated to hinder their identification. They were buried in the mountains surrounding the city. Police recovered eleven bodies from the mountain behind Bongwon Temple after Yoo's arrest. On July 15, 2004, Yoo was taken into custody and confessed to murdering as many as nineteen people initially, specifically targeting affluent senior citizens and masseuses. On July 18, 2004, he admitted to an additional murder: the killing of a forty-four-year-old male street vendor. Yoo eventually confessed to killing twenty-six individuals the next day, several days after his arrest, although no details were given. The list of purported victims included several individuals that did not match his prior pattern of wealthy seniors or masseuses. Friends of two of the masseuse victims, whose bodies had been recovered, claimed they were not involved in massage therapy, meaning that Yoo could have other, unreported victims. Although the "Rainy Thursday" murderer was active contemporaneously starting in April 2004, stabbing multiple women late at night in southwest Seoul, police were unable to link Yoo to those murders. Several days later, Yoo also confessed to killing a young woman (a worker in a clothing store) on 6 February 2004 in Imun-dong after he suspected her of being a prostitute. Yoo had approached her for questioning by pretending to be a police officer. Approximately a month after his arrest, Yoo confessed to eating the flesh of his victims, although no evidence to prove this was available. After he admitted to the murders of multiple people, mostly prostitutes and wealthy old men, the Seoul Central District Court convicted him of twenty murders. One case was dismissed on a technicality: this case from Yimoon-dong was committed by another serial killer, Jeong Nam-gyu. Yoo burned three and mutilated at least eleven of his victims, and admitted that he ate the livers of some of them. Yoo is currently detained at the Seoul Detention Center.

Disturbing but not salacious, the series does a good job of showing how hard the Seoul Metropolitan Police went into finding Yoo Young-chul, whose methodology was all over the place, and thus more difficult to profile.

Simon says The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea receives:

Film Review: "Dune" (2021).

"Beyond fear, destiny awaits" in Dune (or titled onscreen as Dune: Part One) (2021). This epic science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve, adapted by Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth, and based on the 1965 novel of the same name by Frank Herbert. It is the first of a planned two-part adaptation, primarily covering the first half of the book. A mythic and emotionally charged hero's journey, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet's exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence-a commodity capable of unlocking humanity's greatest potential-only those who can conquer their fear will survive.

Since its publication in 1965, the rights to cinematically adapt Herbert's seminal science-fiction epic classic have been held by several producers. Multiple attempts to make such a film have been made, and it is considered to be "unfilmable", a difficult work to adapt to the screen owing to its breadth of content. Further, because of the book's status among passionate fans, any deviations from the original material without strong justification have the potential to harm the film's reputation. Famously, cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky had acquired the rights in the 1970s to make an extravagant fourteen-hour adaptation of the book, but the project fell apart. In 1984, David Lynch's Dune was released, but became a critical and commercial failure. In 2000, a live-action miniseries on the Sci Fi Channel was released and went on to become one of the three highest-rated programs ever to be broadcast on the Sci Fi Channel. Prospects to make a successful adaption of Dune came after critically-acclaimed adaptions of The Lord of the Rings film series and the Harry Potter film series, both which maintained most of the works' key characters and plots while managing the limited film time. In 2008, Paramount Pictures were developing a new feature film adaptation with Peter Berg set to direct. However, in October 2009, Berg left the project with director. In January 2010, Pierre Morel brought on to direct before Paramount dropped the project in March 2011 as they could not come to key agreements with their rights expiring back to Rubinstein.

In late November 2016, Legendary Entertainment acquired the film and TV rights for the book. In December 2016, Variety reported that Villeneuve was in talks with the studio to helm the film. Since September 2016, Villeneuve expressed his interest in the project. Adapting Dune for the big screen has been a lifelong dream of Villeneuve, ever since he learned about Lynch's Dune (1984) from the magazines Fantastic Films and Starlog, and read the novel when he was around twelve years old. He wanted to make a faithful adaptation, so he waited until he'd done sci-fi films Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017) first so that he would have sufficient experience in the genre before starting work on the film. By February 2017, Brian Herbert, son of Frank and author of later books in the Dune series, confirmed that Villeneuve would be directing the project. It was also confirmed that the film will be produced by Villeneuve, Mary Parent, and Cale Boyter, with Tanya Lapointe, Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt, Kim Herbert, Thomas Tull, Jon Spaihts, Richard P. Rubinstein, John Harrison and Herbert W. Gain serving as executive producers and Kevin J. Anderson as creative consultant. In March 2018, Villeneuve stated that his goal was to adapt the novel into a two-part film series. Villeneuve ultimately secured a two-movie deal with Warner Bros. Pictures, in the same style as the two-part adaptation of Stephen King's It. However, all subsequent dealings were to secure the production of the first film, and new production deals will need to be made to start production for the second film. Villeneuve to make it the Star Wars he never saw. In an interview, he explained that most of the main ideas of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) came from Dune so it will be a challenge to tackle this project. In April, Roth was hired to pen the adaptation with Villeneuve, and Spaihts was later confirmed to pen the adaptation with Roth and Villeneuve. In adapting the book written in the 1960s for the 21st century, Villeneuve wanted to reflect on realities that have happened related to overexploitation of the Earth. Other changes included altering some of the arcs of the female characters in the book. Lady Jessica was given an expanded role as a soldier as well as being part of the Bene Gesserit. The studio labelled this role a "warrior priestess", in contrast to the joking label of "space nun" that Villeneuve felt the book gave across. Villeneuve also wanted to move the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen from being a caricature as he was presented in the novel to a more complex antagonist. In May 2018, Villeneuve said that the first draft of the script had been finished. By July 2018, Brian Herbert confirmed that the latest draft of the screenplay covered "approximately half of the novel Dune." In April 2019, Legendary CEO Joshua Grode confirmed that they plan to make a sequel. Also, Game of Thrones language creator David Peterson was confirmed to be developing languages for the film.

By late March, Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem were cast. In July, it was reported that the film would "gender swap" the character Liet-Kynes by casting Duncan-Brewster in the role. According to Duncan-Brewster, Villeneuve felt it was necessary to capture the essence of the character from the book, but was not necessary to remain consistent with all other facets, and thus opted for this change. Also, this was to help expand the cast's diversity. By late March, principal photography commenced and wrapped in late July. Filming took place at the Origo Film Studios in Budapest, Hungary; Wadi Rum, Jordan; Stadlandet, Norway, and Liwa Oasis, United Arab Emirates. The film was shot for the IMAX format with an IMAX-certified Arri Alexa LF camera and an IMAX-certified Alexa Mini LF prototype, equipped with Panavision's large-format lenses in the Ultra Vista and H-series line-up. In March, it was confirmed that Hans Zimmer would be scoring the film near the start of its production. At the time, Zimmer had been approached by Christopher Nolan for composing Tenet (2020), but Zimmer opted for Dune—citing his personal love for the book as the reason. The film was originally scheduled for a November 20, 2020 release date, but was pushed back to December 18, 2020. However, the film was then delayed to October 1, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In early December 2020, it was announced the studio's entire 2021 film line-up, including Dune, would see a simultaneous theatrical release and a one-month limited release on the streaming service. Like all 2021 Warner Bros. films, the film will be streamed simultaneously on HBO Max for a period of one month. The film will then be removed from the service and follow the normal home media release schedule. Villeneuve was one of several directors, alongside movie theater chains and production companies (including Legendary Entertainment, which financed 75% of the film), who expressed disappointment and displeasure over the move. In late June 2021, Warner Bros. once again delayed the film's American release date again by three weeks to October 22, 2021, to avoid competition with No Time to Die (2021).

The cast, skilfully chosen and directed with intelligence, performed as a polished unit. Paul, as portrayed by Chalamet with a career-making and career-defining performance, is one of cinema's most fascinatingly complex characters. Whatever Paul is, he makes an intriguing subject for dramatization. In the role, Chalamet is most effective in conveying the many facets of the man's personality. Chalamet makes an effective Paul, his skills putting much shading into a many-sided and contradictory character, and his support from an impressive cast is uniformly excellent. The supporting cast can only be described as unbeatable. The performances given, by Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Isaac as Duke Leto, Brolin as Gurney Halleck, Skarsgård as Baron Harkonnen, Bautista as Glossu Rabban, Henderson as Thufir Hawat, Zendaya as Chai, Dastmalchian as Piter De Vries, Chen as Dr. Wellington Yueh, Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet-Kynes, Rampling as Gaius Helen Mohiam, Momoa as Duncan Idaho, and Bardem as Stilgar, are all outstanding pieces of acting.

Villeneuve does the impossible: he makes a faithful, magical, thrilling, and-most importantly-compelling film version of Herbert's seminal science-fiction epic classic. A grand old-fashioned entertainment and an undeniable technical achievement with its breath-taking scenery, epic score & gorgeous cinematography. All in all, I would definitely say that Villeneuve and his talented associates have done an incredible job with an almost impossible subject.

Simon says Dune (2021) receives:

Friday, 15 October 2021

Series Review: "What Happened, Brittany Murphy?" (2021).

"Her life beyond the headlines". This is What Happened, Brittany Murphy? This documentary series directed by Cynthia Hill. The series is an intimate, in-depth character portrait of the actress, going beyond the headlines to explore the mysterious circumstances surrounding her tragic death at thirty two years old. A captivating actor as effervescent on-screen as she was off, Murphy was a rising star whose movies helped define a generation. But in 2009, Murphy’s untimely passing ended her promising career, while the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death quickly became fodder for speculation and conspiracy theories. Featuring new archival footage and interviews with those closest to her, the series goes beyond the tabloid rumors to examine the impact of Hollywood’s sexism on her struggles, as well as lingering concerns about her relationship with husband Simon Monjack. Sensitive and nuanced, the docuseries explores the legacy of a unique talent.

On November 10, 1977, the American actress and singer was born. Since childhood, Murphy pursued a career in acting and ultimately moved to Los Angeles in her teens. Her breakthrough role was in Clueless (1995), followed by supporting roles in independent films such as Freeway (1996) and Bongwater (1998). She made her stage debut in a Broadway production of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge (1997) before appearing in Girl, Interrupted (1999) and in Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999). In the 2000s, Murphy appeared in Don't Say a Word (2001) and 8 Mile (2002), for which she gained critical recognition. Her later roles included Riding in Cars with Boys (2001), Spun (2002), Just Married (2003), Uptown Girls (2003), Sin City (2005), and Happy Feet (2006). Murphy also provided her voice talent on the animated television series King of the Hill (1997–2010). Her final film was Something Wicked (2014). On December 20, 2009, the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to "a medical request" at the Los Angeles home Murphy and her husband, Simon Monjack, shared. She had apparently collapsed in a bathroom. Firefighters attempted to resuscitate Murphy on the scene. She was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she died after going into cardiac arrest. An autopsy was performed the day after she died. In February 2010, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office issued a report that the manner of death was accidental and that the cause of death was pneumonia, with secondary factors of severe iron-deficiency anemia and multiple drug intoxication. In late December, Murphy was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills. Five months later, on May 23, Monjack was found dead at the same Hollywood Hills residence and his cause of death was eerily similar to Murphy's, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

The series is beautifully shot and structured so uniquely that it almost feels like an actual suspense/thriller movie rather than a documentary. Certainly interesting, but there are moments when it feels like the series is dangerously close to giving into sensationalism. The series fails to illuminate much about the circumstances around Murphy's death, even if the story itself may be familiar to many across the globe.

Simon says What Happened, Brittany Murphy? receives:

Film Review: "The Velvet Underground" (2021).

From the director of Far from Heaven and Dark Waters comes The Velvet Underground. This documentary film co-produced and directed by Todd Haynes. This hypnotic new documentary and the first major film to tell the band’s legendary story. The Velvet Underground created a new sound that changed the world of music, cementing its place as one of rock and roll’s most revered bands. This kaleidoscopic oral history combines exclusive interviews with dazzling archival footage.

In 1964, the American rock band, The Velvet Underground, was formed. Their integration of rock and the avant-garde achieved little commercial success during the group's existence, but they are now recognized as one of the most influential bands in rock, underground, experimental, and alternative music. The group's provocative subject matter, musical experiments, and often nihilistic attitudes also proved influential in the development of punk rock and new wave music. In 1965, the group settled on the name The Velvet Underground after they performed under a number of names. In 1966, pop artist Andy Warhol became their manager and they served as the house band at Warhol's "the Factory" and Warhol's traveling multimedia show, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. In 1967, their debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico was released to critical indifference and poor sales but has since drawn wide acclaim. They released three more albums in 1968, 1969 and 1970, with none performing up to the expectations of record labels or of Lou Reed, the band's leader. In the early 1970s, the group functionally disbanded as everyone except Doug Yule left the band. In 1973, an abortive UK tour with Yule as the band leader and with new musicians followed, and a final album released in the band's name, Squeeze (1973) marked the end of the band for some time. All of the members continued to collaborate on each other's solo work throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and a retrospective "rarities" album, VU, was released in 1985. In the early 1990s, a full reunion of the band came, and releasing a live album from the tour, Live MCMXCIII. In 1995, after Sterling Morrison's death, the remaining three members played together for a single performance at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1996, the last time the band performed together musically. In 2004, the Velvet Underground were ranked number 19 on Rolling Stone's list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". In 2017, a study of AllMusic's catalog indicated the group as the fifth most frequently cited artist influence in its database.

Haynes' sublime documentary serves as an awesome crash course on the underappreciated titular rock band and what made their music so revolutionary (at times, to the mainstream chagrin). This film is a gift for Velvet Underground fans. But while I like one or two of their songs, I couldn't take a whole album. The biographical sections and interviews with the members and others were engaging. It's the kind of film that makes us want to revisit all of the band's songs and just get lost in them all over again.

Simon says The Velvet Underground receives:

Also, see my review for Dark Waters.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Film Review: "The Boss Baby: Family Business" (2021).

"Playtime is over" in The Boss Baby: Family Business. This computer-animated comedy film directed by Tom McGrath, written by Michael McCullers, loosely based on the 2010 picture book The Boss Baby and its 2016 sequel The Bossier Baby by Marla Frazee, and produced by DreamWorks Animation. It is the sequel to The Boss Baby (2017) and the second installment in The Boss Baby franchise.

In late May 2017, Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Animation announced that a sequel was set with Alec Baldwin reprising his role. In mid May 2019, it was announced that McGrath would return as director. In mid September 17, 2020, James Marsden, Amy Sedaris, Jeff Goldblum and Eva Longoria rounded out the film's cast with Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow reprising their roles. Marsden would replace Tobey Maguire. Portions of production were done remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The film was originally scheduled for a March 26, 2021 release date, but was delayed to September 17, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, before moving to July 2, 2021.

The film stars the voice talents of Baldwin, Marsden, Sedaris, Goldblum and Longoria with Kimmel and Kudrow reprising their roles. The two leads are very good in their respective roles, especially Baldwin and Marsden, but it is the supporting characters that really make the film a cut above most family fare. The lovable characters remain, but they never do much of interest in a sequel that's safely above average but superfluous.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not sulking. I liked the film. Honest. Kids will like the film. Most mums and dads will like the film. My problem is this: I didn't like it the way I liked the first film. The animation by which it stands or falls is as brilliant as ever and, though it wouldn't really be right to call it totally anti-Disney, it certainly trumps that institution for sharpness of focus, notably as far as the screenplay is concerned. The characters are still charming, the animation really is spectacularly smooth and expressive, and the Looney Tunes-style humor and pop-culture in-jokes are as inventive and hilarious as before. If you weren't particularly enamored with the first one, chances are this isn't gonna change your opinion on the film's cast. What's missing is the wonderful weirdness that made the original film the strangest children's entertainment since H.R. Pufnstuf. Story wise, this one feels formulaic with less of an edge. There's just no heart, soul, or true purpose in this film; something generic and robotic about every aspect of its existence. Much of it is good, but other moments feel uninspired, as if Sleeping Beauty had a hand in writing the script. Perhaps this sequel no longer has the shock of the new, but the animation is stupendous, with breathtaking effects of light and detail, the gags come thick and fast and the musical numbers are uproarious. Definitely a step down from the first one, but you should not let that stop you from seeing a film with great humour and animation.

Simon says The Boss Baby: Family Business receives:

Film Review: "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" (2021).

"A Marvel legend will rise" in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. This superhero film directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, written by Cretton and Dave Callaham, based on the Marvel Comic character of the same name created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, and produced by Marvel Studios. It is the 25th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Shang-Chi must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.

According to Margaret Loesch, former president and CEO of Marvel Productions, Stan Lee discussed a potential film or television series based on the Marvel Comics character with actor Brandon Lee during the 1980s. In 2001, Stephen Norrington was hired to direct a Shang-Chi film entitled The Hands of Shang-Chi. By 2003, the film was in development at DreamWorks Pictures with Yuen Woo-Ping replacing Norrington as director and Bruce C. McKenna hired to pen the script. By 2004, the film did not materialize and the rights to the character reverted to Marvel. In September 2005, Marvel chairman and CEO Avi Arad announced Shang-Chi as one of ten properties being developed as films by the newly formed studio Marvel Studios. The Ten Rings were featured in the first Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film, Iron Man (2008), without the Mandarin. The Mandarin would eventually appear in Iron Man 3 (2013) portrayed by Ben Kingsley. However, Feige felt this Mandarin did not necessarily mean that a more faithful version of the character did not exist in the MCU. By December 2018, Marvel had fast-tracked development of a Shang-Chi film with the intent of making it their first film with an Asian lead. Marvel hired Callaham to pen the script. In March 2019, Marvel Studios hired Cretton to direct the film. In mid July, Simu Liu was officially cast in the title role and the film's full title, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, was announced at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con. By February 2020, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Tim Roth, Ben Kingsley and Ronny Chieng rounded out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced and wrapped in late October. Filming was temporarily put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In late July, filming resumed. Filming took place in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The film was originally scheduled for a February 12, 2021 release date before it was shifted to May 7, then to July 9 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2021, the film was then shifted once again to the September 2021.

The cast's, especially Liu's, performances are not only capable of fighting but is also a vessel for the film's study of the importance of legacy and identity in Asian culture.

A tentpole franchise film that broke the mold of what came before, reveling in a diversity and culture that had barely been touched on in past superhero films and that had certainly not been embraced as widely and emphatically before. However, it is just about the same as every other Marvel title.

Simon says Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings receives:

Also, see my reviews for Just Mercy and Black Widow.

Film Review: "Candyman" (2021).

"Dare to Say His Name." It's Candyman. This supernatural slasher film directed by Nia DaCosta, written by DaCosta, Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld and based on the characters created by Clive Barker. It is a direct sequel to the 1992 film of the same name and the fourth film in the Candyman film series. In the present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, a visual artist named Anthony McCoy and his girlfriend, an art gallery director named Brianna Cartwright, moved into a luxurious loft condo in Cabrini, now gentrified beyond recognition and inhabited by the upwardly mobile millennials. With Anthony's painting career on the brink of stalling, a chance encounter with a Cabrini Green old-timer exposes Anthony to the tragically horrific nature of the true story behind the Candyman. Anxious to maintain his status in the Chicago art world, Anthony begins to explore these macabre details in his studio as fresh grist for paintings, unknowingly opening a door to a complex past that unravels his own sanity and unleashes the terrifyingly viral wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with his destiny.

In September 2018, it was announced that Peele was in talks to produce a sequel of the 1992 film through his Monkeypaw Productions. In November, it was confirmed that Peele would produce the film with Universal and MGM and will partner with Rosenfeld to co-produce and co-write the film, while DaCosta was hired as director, and filming was due to commence in early 2019. In January 2019, it was reported that Lakeith Stanfield was considered to star in the film, but not as the main titular character rather as an older version of Anthony McCoy. However, in February 2019, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was cast to play McCoy, and, ultimately, it was announced that Tony Todd would reprise his role. By early August, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Vanessa Estelle rounded out the film's cast with Williams respiring her role. At the same time,. principal photography commenced and wrapped in late September. Filming took place in Chicago, Illinois under the working title Say My Name. The production was brought back to the Cabrini Green neighborhood. Though the high rises have long been demolished, the Rowhouses still exist. The film was originally scheduled for a June 12, 2020 release date, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was pushed to September 25, 2020, and then again to October 16, 2020, and then finally delayed to August 27, 2021

Thanks to the strong cast, the film is now a Black slasher flick for a new generation as the white characters, typical of the genre, have been dispatched. Now African-American characters are front and centre, and they will have to face the Boogeyman.

After two lacklustre sequels, the original Candyman is back and in a new form. Peele and DaCosta almost nail it despite a few weak decisions. But the Candyman mystique is back along with hellish surprises.

Simon says Candyman receives:

Also, see my review for Little Woods.