Sunday, 31 March 2019

'A Tree in Water: My Journey From Aotearoa to The Great White North' Chapter 80.

I had the best day today, and I just had a ball. It started out pretty dreary. I had to sleep a little more since it was raining all night the night before. The bed won’t be as comfortable as I would like it to be every night. But I did get the bed for a cheap price, somewhat. I also can fold it up and use it as a couch. Anyways, suffice it to say, the sleep the night before was not a good one for a couple of reasons. But after an additional hour or two more of sleep, followed by a nice shower and a decent breakfast, I was feeling much better.

At first, I thought about not attending the 35mm screening of David Cronenberg’s Crash with a special Q&A with Viggo Mortensen. Instead, I thought about just job hunting and doing my other usual chores. Then I changed my mind. After having a good think about it, I came to the conclusion that I’d never to be able to have this kind of opportunity. I needed to go. So today was focused on getting to TIFF Bell Lightbox and get in to see the film and Mortensen himself. I brought my emergency bag with me, just in case, figuring I needed to be prepared. And along with my usual stuff, I brought my iPhone. Once I got there, I got in the rush line and stayed there. I didn’t want to move or get out of line so that I could do anything else such as going to the bathroom. So I just stood in line and sucked it up. Good thing, too. Because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten in. I got out my headphones and just listened to music whilst I was waiting. It’s the usual thing I do in times like this.

I removed my headphones and then answered a question from a person about the line, and then he jumped in after I did. Once he did, he kept talking to me until I got my ticket. I got a ticket that was refunded due to customer cancelling in the last minute, and then I made my way up to Cinema One. Then I waited for the guy to show up and we then made our way in and grabbed the best seats in the house. Now we were in the front, not too front though where my eyes could be damaged. We continued our talk until the show started. The person curating the event was none other than Cameron Bailey, the Artistic Director and the Co-Head at TIFF, who kicked things off. I only had one thing in mind when he was talking: When will Aragorn show up? I smiled when Bailey finally introduced Mortensen to the stage. Something went off in my body, and I didn’t know what that was, regardless my heart was pounding. The film finally started after Mortensen finished his introduction.




It only got better afterwards, kicking things up a notch when Mortensen invited a surprise guest to the stage. It was none other than the auteur himself, David Cronenberg. I was over the moon when he entered the stage, wanting to scream but holding it back within me. I smiled like the Cheshire Cat, grinning from ear to ear, and could just barely hold my excitement. I just couldn’t sit still. That was I during the entire time Cronenberg was on stage talking. Every person has their special memories that they will never forget so long as they live. Tonight, along with meeting Hans Zimmer, Guillermo del Toro, and Shinya Tsukamoto, and even when I discovered cinema for the first time in my life when I was just five, will be memories I will never forget so long as a live and breathe cinema.





Anyways, with the night over, it was time to go home. Problem is, I wanted to get a photo with the both of them. Remember, I’m a huge fan of both of them, I particular Mr. Cronenberg. In the end, I had gotten the most out of one day when I attended the screening. And this night will forever be in my memories. So the day really became one of the best days from my point of view. I just was on cloud nine by the end of it. And I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I hate for the day to be over, but there’s nothing much I can do about that except treasure it for the rest of my life. I figured it was the only thing I could do. It’s probably true. And hey, with that in mind, I got to see Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg in person. It’s not something I can say everyday in life for that matter.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Film Review: "Dumbo" (2019).


"In 2019, a beloved tale will take you to new heights." That beloved tale is Dumbo (2019). This fantasy adventure film directed by Tim Burton, adapted by Ehren Kruger, and based on the 1941 Disney animated classic and the novel of the same name by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl. Circus owner Max Medici enlists former star Holt Farrier and his children Milly and Joe to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere, who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant, until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.

In early July 2014, a live-action Dumbo film was announced with a screenplay by Kruger. In early March 2015, Burton was confirmed as director, marking Burton's second live-action adaptation of a Disney animated classic after Alice in Wonderland (2010). In mid July, Disney slated the film for a March 29 2019 release date, seven months before the original's 78th anniversary. In January 2017, Will Smith and Tom Hanks were approached for the protagonist and antagonist respectively. Smith was interested but backed out, where as Hanks turned it down. Ultimately, Colin Farrell and Michael Keaton were cast. By Summer 2017, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins, and Alan Arkin rounded out the film's cast. In July, principal photography began, and wrapped in November. Filming took place entirely at Pinewood Studios and Cardington Airfield in England, under the code name Big Ears. For the titular elephant, the filmmakers originally had a more photo realistic model, however this was eventually scrapped for a more expressive one. For the look of the film, Burton and production designer Rick Heinrichs cited the paintings of Edward Hopper as an inspiration, as well as period architecture and photographs from that era. Costume designer Colleen Atwood used 90% vintage outfits from that era. Vandermere's Dreamland was heavily inspired by Coney Island, World's Fair, and various Disneyland theme parks.

The film stars Farrell, Keaton, DeVito, Green, Parker, Hobbins, and Arkin. The cast gave fine performances despite very weak character development, especially with Farrell and Keaton. Genuine trauma evaded Farrell's protagonist, where as Keaton, in the end, was nothing more than a moustache-twirling villain.

Tim Burton's Dumbo sacrifices the original animated classic's stream-lined/minimalist narrative - and much of its heart - but it's an undeniable visual treat. It's the visual landscape that makes this iteration of Dumbo's story so wondrous, as technology has finally been able to catch up with Burton's endlessly fertile imagination. It has moments of delight, humor and bedazzlement. But it also becomes more ordinary as it goes along, building to a generic climax similar to any number of others in CGI-heavy movies of the past few years.

Simon says Dumbo (2019) receives:

Monday, 25 March 2019

Film Review: "Us" (2019).


"A new nightmare from the mind of Academy Award Winner Jordan Peele, writer/director of Get Out comes" Us. This horror film written and directed by Jordan Peele. Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them.

After being dismayed by the "genre confusion" of Get Out (2017), Peele opted to make a full-on horror film as his next project. Peele has said that an inspiration for Us was The Twilight Zone episode "Mirror Image" that was centered on a young woman and her evil doppelgänger. In early May 2018, the title for the film was announced as Us. In late July, principal photography began, and wrapped in early October under the pseudonym Deep Cuts. Prior to filming, Peele gave the cast ten horror films to watch so they would have "a shared language" when filming: Dead Again (1991), The Shining (1980), The Babadook (2014), It Follows (2014), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), The Birds (1963), Funny Games (1997), Martyrs (2008), Let the Right One In (2008), and The Sixth Sense (1999). Filming primarily took place throughout Los Angeles, especially in Pasadena and Santa Cruz, California, including the Santa Cruz Beach Broadwalk. For the Boardwalk, the filmmakers did not need to do much work on it, as many games and rides are originals going far back as the 1910's. Also, indeed there is an underground tunnel system under The Boardwalk, though it is mostly used for storage and as a shelter in case of any emergency. The hall of mirrors was specifically created for the film as one doesn't not actually exist on the beach. During filming, the rides were all filled with dummies, then CGI was used to create moving people. For Adelaide's doppelgänger's voice, Nyong'o based it on Robert F. Kennedy Jr and his spasmodic dysphonia. The visual effects are provided by Industrial Light & Magic. After scoring Peele's Get Out, Michael Abels was tapped to provide the film's score.

The film's core concept of doppelgängers (or the Tethered, in this case) has been likened to "urban legends" and "xenophobic paranoia about the Other" by numerous critics. This links to the definition of doppelgängers as a non-biologically related look-alike or double of a living person, sometimes portrayed as a ghostly or paranormal phenomenon and usually seen as a harbinger of bad luck. Other traditions and stories equate a doppelgänger with an evil twin. In modern times, the term "twin stranger" is occasionally used. The film contains references to Jeremiah 11:11, which reads: "Therefore this is what the Lord says: 'I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.'" In addition to Jeremiah 11:11 being seen written on a sign twice , the numbers 11:11 appear frequently throughout this film. When Gabe is watching a baseball game on TV, the announcer says that the game is tied 11-11. When Addie and Jason are talking in his room, the digital clock reads 11:11 pm. Also, a carnival worker in 1986 and one of the twins in the present day both wear a T-shirt for the band Black Flag, the logo of which consists of four vertical black bars that resemble the number 1111.

The film stars Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker. The cast gave terrifically nuanced and terrifying performances that convey strong character development throughout. The film belongs to Nyong'o and her traumatized and sombre filled portrayal of the matriarch of the Wilson family as they are thrusted in a terrifying scenario. The film's ace in the hole is the warmth and comedic appeal generated by Duke's happy-go-lucky patriarch, Gabe. Joseph and Alex's portrayal(s) is a perfect balancing act: Zora and Jason are your typical, average African-American kids, yet their doppelgängers are completely detached from humanity with the murders they commit; unemotional yet animalistic, as well as analytical, violent, patient, and savage.

Peele's Us is a brutal, relentlessly grimy shocker with taut performances, slick horror moments, and a haunting finale. The film has the most haunting finale since Rod Serling's original iteration of The Twilight Zone, which Peele is fittingly reviving for a new generation. The only thing missing is Serling's (or Peele's) opening and/or closing narration. For nearly every film with a Twilight Zone-esque scenario, some parts of the film recall the words of Serling, who may be the first man in mainstream media that dared us to wonder and question the reality we are in. The film stands as one of the most complex and disturbing entries in the horror genre since Hereditary (2018). The film is terrifying and bonkers in a good and entertaining way. The reason to see this film, which is decidedly not for the faint of stomach or mind, is not for the punishment of the fear of "the other", but the many virtues of Peele and company's contributions. The sunny and seemingly mundane background in Peele's terrifying shocker feels a little like the atmosphere Kubrick created in The Shining (1980), a real world with its seemingly normal, mundane and unsuspecting atmosphere with dark secrets and dread hiding in the shadows and/or underground, and that sure makes me think that the film is one of the foremost horror movies of modern times. The film is about the magnitudes of xenonphobic paranoia about the Other, how we are, and should be, afraid of the shadows when yet it is really our darker selves lurking in the shadows. Watching it in a cinema that day, I felt the fear of the dark and what could be hidden.

Simon says Us receives:



Also, see my review for Get Out.

Monday, 18 March 2019

'A Tree in Water: My Journey From Aotearoa to The Great White North' Chapter 79.

I spent the day at Toronto Comic Con and it wasn’t that great. Mind you, it wasn’t too bad either. I spent the day with Michael and his friend Jason. They were already there when I was making my way to Metro Convention Centre. They might have been there for only an hour or two before Michael called me up to ask if I wanted to come. Luckily they, more specifically Jason, were able to get me in. I’ve always waned to attend a convention and my opportunity came with this one. I brought my 6D (the battery life may not been as full as I wanted it to be, but it wasn’t completely low so I was able to shoot).

I tried getting as many shots of cosplayers as I could, but there weren’t a lot of them standing around. Other than getting the opportunity to attend my first convention, I didn’t feel as though I was really enjoying myself. Well, maybe that was because it just seemed pretty small for a convention here in Toronto, compared to a convention in San Diego. The San Diego Comic Con is the one that everybody has to attend. Unfortunately, given my current situation, I don’t have the money to spare for a trip to San Diego.

While I was there, I had only managed to capture less than twenty-five photos and that’s not an impressive number for an event such as this. Well, it’s better than nothing, right? So right at that moment, I didn’t have a big task to choose the final photos. Or at least edit the photos. Finally, I need to hope that the next convention I’m attending, Anime North, will be better than this one.
















Sunday, 17 March 2019

'A Tree in Water: My Journey From Aotearoa to The Great White North' Chapter 78.

Hmmm… Yeah… Interesting… The plays weren’t exactly what I imagined they would be. To give you some indication of how unusual the plays were; the first play was a supernatural thriller entitled Refraction. It followed a young woman who was packing up her life and in the process finds herself face-to-face with dangerous shadows she thought she has buried long ago. Think David Lynch. The piece incorporated various unusual and engaging forms of physicality layered with poetic text to immerse the audience in a vivid and unique theatrical experience. The live music and powerful visual effects created a fantastical story that put me in and made me rethink about my reality. I liked this one a lot, but that’s because I loved surrealistic, disturbing stories like this one. As soon as it harkened everything from German Expressionism to David Lynch, I smiled throughout and enjoyed myself. That’s the kind of stuff I want to see!

The second play was entitled After George, where we were invited to the 50th anniversary of Clifton Heights Secondary School. Clifton Capybaras old and new are encouraged to come back and reminisce about the time they had at school. We’re all connected in ways we may not expect, and we all handle grief in different ways and something as small as an event invitation can change the lives of friends and complete strangers. It was the unique movement vocabulary, immersive scents, or even a strange but compelling community that draws you into learning the stories of five former students and how they handle connection and isolation in this mysterious drama. Honestly, thinking about it at the end, I didn’t think it was anything special. The play, unlike the first one, just didn’t speak to me.

The third play was entitled Dead Skin, a physical theatre show that was dark, grotesque, and thrilling, in a world of otherness that embraced the beauty of the ugly. From alien-like to alienated, we were encouraged to investigate and uncover our own darkness within. Through a physical language that was harsh, jagged, and ultimately captivating, audiences wondered: where have these creatures come from? How did they get here? Where are they going? The play itself was good, not as good as the first one mind you, and the play communicated something interesting.

Finally, the last play was entitled #Filters by Transcendence Theatre, a repertoire founded by a group of friends who want to foster and encourage conversations, which challenge contemporary societal norms through the means of performance art. The play immersed us in the world of social media and beyond, and worked to explore the ways in which modern communication and interactions are impacted and shifted due to its social media’s prevalence in society. They want viewers to critically examine the content they produce, and in turn, they aim to create a discourse that challenges hegemonic norms of social networking behaviours, and encourages audiences to reflect on how they communicate and connect on a day-to-day basis. Speaking of which, the play itself was basically what if Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream was a dark, satirical comedy with social media addiction instead of drug addiction. Oh boy was it a show! By the end, I was really damn tired. About at that time, I made my way back home.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

'A Tree in Water: My Journey From Aotearoa to The Great White North' Chapter 77.

"I’ll be lining up at the entrance of Yunshang Bridge Rice Noodle restaurant for their grand opening tomorrow", I thought to myself the day before. Presuming nothing goes wrong before then, that is. But hey, everything else has gone smoothly during my time here, right? (That was sarcasm) Today, and for once, I won’t let that happen. As the day was going accordingly, I could taste the noodles. I guess it would taste delicious if I’m going to be standing in line for a long while, but that’s not the point. Of course, I wasn’t alone on this one. It involved Belinda, Kenny, Dennis, Kate, Lanny and her sister. Lanny and her sister came all the way up with me, but hot damn! We’re almost there! I think I can even see the noodles being prepared in the kitchen from North York Centre Station. It’s way the hell off in the distance and it might just be my hangry imagination. It’s four hundred metres away, so if I’m seeing the restaurant, I’m only just barely seeing it, or not at all.

Once we get to the restaurant, we’ll have to line up and remain there until it opens at six. We did some waiting, and when I mean waiting, I mean a lot of waiting, in the dreary weather no less. That made the waiting a lot more tedious and painful. No problem at all! (Again, that was sarcasm) For two hours, we waited and waited patiently as we protected ourselves from the cold wind and rain. It lasted until six, as it was the time that it finally opened. After that, Dennis, Kate, Lanny, her sister and I made our way in as the first five people in the line.

The restaurant itself was filled with the people, including ourselves, who were lining up, which was a lot of people. The restaurant became more and more crowded with amount of people that were coming in. As it got crowded, it got noisier and noisier. Eventually, the time came. The noodles finally made their way out of the kitchen and onto our tables. We no longer had to wait. The hunger lingered until the noodles reached our table, once it did our hunger seized and we just dug right in. The wait was finally over.

The noodles had all sorts of things that could be added into the boiling soup. Things such as hard-boiled eggs, baby mushrooms, cucumber, beef, oyster, prawns, lobster, scallop, crab, tofu, and ham. The tray itself was a work of art. The noodles did the job. It satisfied our hunger, even though it was a little too spicy even for our mouths. Each of the people at our table ate and finished at different rates. While we were almost finishing up our noodles, we were slowly getting full. On reaching the end, the trays were immediately removed from the table, and the table was immediately vacated for the next bunch of people to have their turn. The dreary terrain outside looked terrible, but it was no worse than typical winter terrain.



We made our way up to Finch Station and took shelter from the rain. We took our time with our walk up. We thought even though we had a rather large dinner and excluded the possibility of getting dessert. But it turned out, the noodles weren’t enough. Belinda and Kenny, while we were making our way up what it seemed like a long walk, suggested that we meet them at Soban Café. With still some room in our stomachs after a long, difficult walk up, there was no reason that we saw why couldn’t stop by and have dessert. The café, which was located on Yonge & Finch, was rather a disappointed. The food was plainly average and the service was absolute shit. The waiter who was taking our orders had gotten our orders wrong, not once, not twice, not thrice, but four fucking times! Belinda, Dennis, Kate, and Lanny were not so lucky with their orders. It thus ruined our evening, ruining whatever happy feeling or appetite we had left. After that, we made our way out and made our way home.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Film Review: "Captain Marvel" (2019).


"Everything begins with a (her)o" in Captain Marvel. This superhero film directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, written by Boden, Fleck and Geneva Robertson-Dworet, based on the Marvel Comics character, and produced by Marvel Studios. It is the twenty-first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Captain Marvel is an extraterrestrial Kree warrior who finds herself caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle between her people and the Skrulls. Living on Earth in 1995, she keeps having recurring memories of another life as U.S. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. With help from Nick Fury, Captain Marvel tries to uncover the secrets of her past while harnessing her special superpowers to end the war with the evil Skrulls.

As early as May 2013, development on the film began. In October 2014, the film was officially announced with a July 6, 2018 release date as part of their slate of films for Phase Three. The film marks Marvel Studios' first female-led superhero film. Executive producer Louis D'Esposito said the studio was interested in a female-driven superhero film and had plenty of "strong female characters." In February 2015, Marvel pushed the release date back to November 2, 2018. In April, Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve were hired to pen the script, submitting separate takes on the character. The story would centre on the Carol Danvers iteration, and would borrow elements from Roy Thomas's 1971 Kree–Skrull War comic book storyline. In October, Marvel changed the release date once again, moving it back to March 8, 2019. In April 2016, several were rumored for the title role before Brie Larson was confirmed at San Diego Comic-Con 2016. In the same month, Boden and Fleck were hired to helm the film after several prominent female directors were on the short list. In mid August, Robertson-Dworet was hired to take over scripting duties after LeFauve left the project. By late January 2018, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, and Jude Law rounded the cast. In mid March, principal photography began, and wrapped in early July. Locations included Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, and throughout California. In May, Pinar Toprak signed on to compose the film's score, making her the first woman to score an MCU film. Several visual effects houses created the film's visual effects, including Lola VFX who worked on the de-aging of Jackson and Gregg. Lola VFX used several of Jackson's films in the 90s as references for Jackson's de-aging. In September, the first trailer was released and received more than one hundred nine million global views in just twenty-four hours, making it the eleventh most viewed trailer ever.

Larson stars in the title role, with Jackson, Mendelsohn, Hounsou, Pace, Lynch, Chan, Bening, Gregg, and Law. The cast gave terrific performances with Larson gave a commanding performance as the titular heroine, despite moments of imperatives to eradicate any hint of bossiness or anger from her character.

Captain Marvel isn't groundbreaking in its execution, but its exhibition of strong female heroism makes another solid entry in the MCU.

Simon says Captain Marvel receives:



Also, see my review for Ant-Man and the Wasp and Mississippi Grind.