Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Film Review: "Ford v Ferrari" (2019).

"They took the american dream for a ride." This is Ford v Ferrari. This sports drama film directed by James Mangold, and written by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller. Based on the remarkable true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby and the fearless British-born driver Ken Miles, who together battled corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.

A film based on the rivalry between Ford and Ferrari had lingered in development hell at 20th Century Fox. Initially, under the working title Go Like Hell, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt were set to star  with a script by Keller and Joseph Kosinski set to direct. But the project fell apart. At the same time, Michael Mann was developing a Enzo Ferrari biopic with Christian Bale originally set to play Ferrari. But Bale dropped out to due concerns he had regarding gaining the proper weight in time. The project was ultimately shelved. In early February 2018, it was announced that Mangold had been brought on board to direct the film after the success of Logan (2017). The Butterworths were hired to provide rewrites. In March 2018, Christian Bale and Matt Damon were eyed for the lead roles. Damon said the number one reason he wanted to do the film was to work with Bale. In preparation for his role, Bale took race driving lessons at the Bondurant High Performance Driving School founded by the friend of Miles. By early July, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone, and Ray McKinnon rounded out the film's cast. At the same time, with a budget of $100 million, principal photography commenced, and took place in Savannah, Georgia, and Los Angeles, California. In order to recreate the 1960s Le Mans circuit, the scenes had to be shot in five different locations. This proved a challenge in terms of continuity as not only the cars had to be correctly placed for each shot but the weather had to be consistent as well. VFX was critical in fixing a variety of continuity errors some of which were as simple as adjusting clocks to the right time. In North America, the film is marketed as Ford v Ferrari, whilst, in most other countries, it was marketed as Le Mans 66.

The film stars Damon, Bale, Bernthal, Balfe, Letts, Lucas, Jupe, Girone, and McKinnon. Strong performances were given by the cast, especially from Damon and Bale. Even if occasionally it stalls because of its sometimes heavy-handed treatment of Ford and Ferrari's rivalry. Also if its two protagonists were behaving like little more than boys with very fast toys.

A sleek, slick, well-oiled machine, Ford v Ferrari is a finely crafted sports drama with exhilarating race sequences and strong performances from Damon and Bale.

Simon says Ford v Ferrari receives:

Also, see my review for Logan.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Film Review: "Last Christmas" (2019).

"Sometimes you've just gotta have faith." This is Last Christmas. This British romantic comedy film directed by Paul Feig, and written by Bryony Kimmings and Emma Thompson. Kate is a young woman subscribed to bad decisions. Her last date with disaster? That of having accepted to work as Santa's elf for a department store. However, she meets Tom there. Her life takes a new turn. For Kate, it seems too good to be true.

In 2010, Thompson, Kimmings, and Greg Wise first started working on a romantic comedy script set in London during Christmas. In September 2018, it was reported that Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding would star, with Paul Feig was announced to direct. Feig was originally not interested in doing another Holiday-comedy, after his previous entry, Unaccompanied Minors (2006), was a critical and commercial failure. However, after reading the script, personally sent to him by Thompson, he was convinced. In October, it was announced that Thompson would be starring, and that the film would feature the music of the late singer George Michael, including Last Christmas and previously unreleased tracks. By late November, Michelle Yeoh and Peter Serafinowicz were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in February 2019. In late October, Thompson and Wise published a collection of personal essays about the meaning of Christmas in a book also called Last Christmas. Contributors include Andy Serkis, Caitlin Moran, Olivia Colman and Emily Watson. The proceeds from the book went to two charities, Crisis and The Refugee Council.

The film stars Clarke, Golding, Yeoh, Thompson, and Serafinowicz. The film contains a toasty, star-packed cast that's going to make a lot of holiday romantics feel very, very good; watching it; I felt a little cozy and charmed myself. Although, it is disturbing to see Clarke's range and subtlety so shamelessly trashed, and to see Thompson's intelligence similarly abused.

Last Christmas is a sugary tale overstuffed with too many cliches. Still, the cast charms. The film is a roundly entertaining romantic comedy, a doggedly cheery confection, and a package that feels as luxuriously appointed and expertly tooled as a Rolls-Royce. Its cheeky wit, impossibly attractive cast, and sure-handed professionalism, along with its all-encompassing romanticism should make this a highly popular early holiday attraction for loners anywhere. The film loves British style, handicapped slightly by corny circumstance and populated by colorful neurotics. The film is a belly-flop into the sea of romantic comedy. It's only flaw is also a virtue: It's jammed with cliches, warmth and laughs, until at times Feig, Kimmings, and Thompson seem to be working from a checklist of obligatory movie love situations and doesn't want to leave anything out. It feels a little like a gourmet meal that turns into a hot-dog eating contest. Feig's cake of comedy, slathered in eye-candy icing and set mostly during Christmas, serves sundry slices of love - sad, sweet and silly—in all of their messy, often surprising, glory. A vibrant romantic comedy that's warm, bittersweet and hilarious. Prepare to be smitten.

Simon says Last Christmas receives:

Also, see my review for A Simple Favor.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Film Review: "Doctor Sleep" (2019).

"The next chapter in The Shining story." This is Doctor Sleep. This horror film adapted and directed by Mike Flanagan, and based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Stephen King. It is a sequel to King's 1977 novel The Shining, and to Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film of the same name. Still irrevocably scarred by the trauma he endured as a child at the Overlook, Dan Torrance has fought to find some semblance of peace. But that peace is shattered when he encounters Abra, a courageous teenager with her own powerful extrasensory gift, known as the "shine." Instinctively recognizing that Dan shares her power, Abra has sought him out, desperate for his help against the merciless Rose the Hat and her followers, The True Knot, who feed off the shine of innocents in their quest for immortality. Forming an unlikely alliance, Dan and Abra engage in a brutal life-or-death battle with Rose. Abra's innocence and fearless embrace of her shine compel Dan to call upon his own powers as never before—at once facing his fears and reawakening the ghosts of the past.

In late 2013, shortly after its publication, Warner Bros. began developing a film adaptation of King's 2013 novel of the same name. In 2016, writer-producer Akiva Goldsman was hired to pen the script. In late 2017, after the release and box-office success of It, another King adaptation, led the studio to fast-track production of the film. In January 2018, Flanagan was hired to rewrite Goldsman's script and direct. Flanagan said that the film would try and reconcile the differences between King's novel and Kubrick's film. Flanagan had to convince King that, despite his own distaste for Kubrick's film, audiences were more familiar with that version, and largely preferred it to King's 1997 mini-series. As such, this film had to be a sequel to Kubrick's film and include some direct references to it. Flanagan ultimately received King's blessing. By September, Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Cliff Curtis, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Bruce Greenwood, Jacob Tremblay, Alex Essoe, Henry Thomas, and Kyliegh Curran were cast. Dan Stevens, Chris Evans, Matt Smith, Jeremy Renner, and John Cusack were considered for the role of Danny Torrance, and have met with the director for the lead role. McGregor was ultimately cast with King's blessing. At the same name, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in December. Filming took place in Atlanta, Georgia. Flanagan painstakingly recreated the sets of the Overlook hotel from blueprints acquired from Kubrick's estate.

Like the film itself, the cast gave terrific performances that paid great tribute/homages to both King's novel and Kubrick's film. McGregor made a terrific older Danny, and Ferguson was the perfect terrifying adversary.

Doctor Sleep struggles to escape from the shadow of Kubrick's horror masterpiece, but offers a terrifying adventure in a more straightforward voyage to the Overlook. It may not match the poetry and the mystery of Kubrick's film, but it does continue the story, and it offers sound, pragmatic explanations for many of the strange and visionary things in King's novel.

Simon says Doctor Sleep receives:

Also, see my reviews for Gerald's Game and The Shining: Extended Cut.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Film Review: "Terminator: Dark Fate" (2019).

"Welcome to the Day after Judgment Day." Welcome to Terminator: Dark Fate. This science fiction action film directed by Tim Miller, and written by David Goyer, Justin Rhodes, and Billy Ray. It is the sixth installment in the Terminator franchise and a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). More than two decades have passed since Sarah Connor prevented Judgment Day, changed the future, and re-wrote the fate of the human race. Dani Ramos is living a simple life in Mexico City with her brother and father when a highly advanced and deadly new Terminator - a Rev-9 - travels back through time to hunt and kill her. Dani's survival depends on her joining forces with two warriors: Grace, an enhanced super-soldier from the future, and a battle-hardened Sarah Connor. As the Rev-9 ruthlessly destroys everything and everyone in its path on the hunt for Dani, the three are led to a T-800 from Sarah's past that may be their last best hope.

In July 2015, Genisys was eventually released to a disappointing box-office performance. The development of a planned trilogy was ultimately cancelled. Ellison then recruited Cameron to produce a subsequent film with him in hopes of creating a better film. Cameron was intrigued by Ellison's proposal to make the film a direct sequel to Judgment Day, ignoring the events of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), Terminator Salvation (2009) and Genisys. Cameron agreed to produce the film on the condition that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton be involved in it. As producer, Cameron was involved in pre-production and script work. In October 2016, Miller was hired as director. In July, Cameron said that he was working with Ellison to set up a trilogy of films and supervise it. In mid September, Skydance Media confirmed that the film was scheduled for a July 26, 2019 release date. In addition, Schwarzenegger and Hamilton were confirmed to reprise their roles. Miller, Cameron, and Ellison conceived the story with Charles H. Eglee, Josh Friedman, Goyer and Rhodes, whist Goyer and Rhodes were hired to pen the script. In November, Ray was hired to rewrite Goyer's script. By early June 2018, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, and Gabriel Luna were cast. At the same time, with a budget of $185 million, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in mid November, under the working title Terminator 6: Phoenix. Filming took place at Origo Film Studios in Budapest, Hungary; Almería, Madrid and Murcia, Spain; Chicago, Illinois; and Los Angeles, California. Cameron was heavily involved during post-production. The film was cut down from two hours and 50 minutes to two hours and eight minutes, based on Cameron's notes. In March 2019, the film's title was announced.

Hamilton and Schwarzenegger reprised their iconic roles beautifully. Schwarzenegger's role was his best since T2. Hamilton made a long overdue and spectacular return. Davis, Reyes, and Luna made fine new additions.

Dark Fate strikes all the right chords, emotionally and narrative-wise, even though it may be extremely derivative of the first two films.

Simon says Terminator: Dark Fate receives:

Also, see my review for Deadpool and Terminator: Genisys.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

"The True Da Vinci Code" Lecture.

The Embassy of Italy in Wellington in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute in Sydney and the University of Auckland was pleased to present a lecture by the Italian mathematician, logician, writer and expert of the history of science, Piergiorgio Odifreddi. The lecture took place at the University of Auckland, at the Owen G. Glenn Building.

The word polymath comes to minds when the name Leonardo da Vinci is mentioned. He is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time to come out of the Renaissance period, known for The Mona Lisa (the most famous of his works and the most popular portrait ever made), The Last Supper (the most reproduced religious painting of all time), and his Vitruvian Man drawing (regarded as a cultural icon). His paintings and preparatory drawings—together with his notebooks, which contain sketches, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting—compose a contribution to later generations of artists rivalled only by that of his contemporary Michelangelo. Although he had no formal academic training, many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the "Universal Genius" or "Renaissance Man", an individual of "unquenchable curiosity" and "feverishly inventive imagination." He is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived. Revered for his technological ingenuity, Da Vinci conceptualized flying machines, a type of armoured fighting vehicle, concentrated solar power, an adding machine, and the double hull. He is also sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter, and tank. He made substantial discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, geology, optics, and hydrodynamics, but he did not publish his findings and they had little to no direct influence on subsequent science.

On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo Da Vinci’s death, the lecture explored the theme of The true Da Vinci Code. The 2003 Dan Brown novel, The Da Vinci Code, is just the last chapter of the secular path which led to the association of the figure of Leonardo to words like 'genius', 'superlative intellect' and 'visionary': a journey celebrated around the world this year on the occasion of the five hundredth anniversary of his death.

Like with any journey, we must go back to the beginning. Da Vinci was born on either 14 or 15 April 1452 in Vinci, Republic of Florence (present-day Italy) as Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci. Odifreddi then remarked a quote from the Russian literary giant, Vladimir Nabokov, in which he said "There are three ways of looking at a painting, a reading a book or a theorem. The fist is the infantile; the way a boy or a girl would look at a painting or reading a book in which they are struck by the story of the painting or the book... Then there's the adolescent; the way a mature viewer or reader is intrigued by the message of the painting or book when viewing them in order to understand how the mind of the creator works.." Odifreddi used Da Vinci's Annunciation and The Last Supper as examples, two pieces of art in which one can notice, when viewing with the adolescent eyes, intentional lines which are organised to create a one-point perspective. This is known as Linear Perspective, a method in Renaissance art that was coined by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1415. This exemplified not only his artistic eye but also his mathematical mind. However, Da Vinci would prove unsuccessful with the former example due to a lack of rudimentary mathematical knowledge, as well as of the Divine Proportion/Golden Ratio. Since he lacked formal education in mathematics, contemporary scholars mostly ignored Leonardo the scientist. In the 1490s he studied mathematics under Luca Pacioli and prepared a series of drawings of regular solids in a skeletal form to be engraved as plates for Pacioli's book Divina proportione, published in 1509. Da Vinci completed over sixty drawings for Pacioli. Da Vinci spent the last four years of his life in Amboise, Kingdom of France (present-day France), until his death on 2 May, 1519. Today, the house now serves a museum where his works are preserved for display.

All the qualities that Da Vinci possessed, and was celebrated for, can be said for Odifreddi. Born on 13 July, 1950 in Cuneo, he is an Italian mathematician, logician, and aficionado of the history of science, as well as being extremely active also as a popular science writer and essayist, especially in a perspective of philosophical atheism as a member of the Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics. In addition, he is philosophically and politically near to Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky. Indicated in his writings, he has repeatedly manifested his opposition to US policies, in particular against that of George W. Bush and Israel. In 1973, Odifreddi received his Laurea cum laude in mathematics in Turin; he then specialized in the United States, at the University of Illinois and UCLA, and in the Soviet Union, at Novosibirsk State University. He taught Logic at the University of Turin and Cornell University. In 2011 he won the Galileo Award for Scientific Dissemination.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

"Marcha Familiar por Chile en Queen Street Auckland" Protest.

"Un pueblo sin memoria es un pueblo sin futuro" - Lecciones chilenas de Memoria Histórica.