Thursday, 31 January 2013

Film Review: "Lincoln" (2012).

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." A passage from President Lincoln’s second inaugural speech sums up the essence and theme of Lincoln. This American historical drama film directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography of Lincoln, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and is set during the American Civil War and President Lincoln's tumultuous final months in office and his life. The country is divided by the war and, as the carnage on the battlefields continues, the president focuses his efforts on a course of action designed to end the fighting. At the same time, he is on a collision course with many members of his own cabinet in his bid to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and abolish slavery by the United States House of Representatives. He needs the courage and determination to push through with his plans at a critical moment in American history that will change the course forever in January 1865

Lincoln features an ensemble cast of Daniel Day-Lewis as President Abraham Lincoln, Sally Field as First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, Gloria Reuben as Elizabeth Keckley, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln, David Strathairn as Secretary of State William H. Seward, Bruce McGill as Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, Tommy Lee Jones as Radical Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens, Hal Holbrook as Francis Preston Blair, Michael Stuhlbarg as Kentucky Democratic Congressman George Yeaman, James Spader as Republican Party operative William N. Bilbo, Tim Blake Nelson as lobbyist Richard Schell, Jackie Earle Haley as Confederate States Vice President Alexander H. Stephens and Jared Harris as Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. Day-Lewis' performance was phenomenal, the hallmark of the man, performed so powerfully by Day-Lewis is calm, self-confidence, patience and a willingness to play politics in a realistic way. Lincoln's concern about his wife's emotional instability and the strains of a wartime presidency... produce a portrait that is intimate but also decorous, drawn with extraordinary sensitivity and insight and focused, above all, on Lincoln's character as a politician. Doris Kearns Goodwin described Lincoln in his final months as a leader with "the rare wisdom of a temperament that consistently displayed an uncommon magnanimity to those who opposed him". Producer Kathleen Kennedy described Day-Lewis's performance as "remarkable" after 75% of the filming had been completed, and said, "Every day you get the chills thinking that Lincoln is sitting there right in front of you."

Lincoln is one of Spielberg’s best film since Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. It’s brilliantly acted, written, directed and shot. The film will take its place in cultural history and remain there for all time. Due to it’s narrative boldness, visual audacity, and emotional directness. One of the best films of the year!

Simon says Lincoln receives:

Also, see my review for War Horse.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Film Review: "The Impossible" (2012).

"In 2004, a devastating tsunami hit Southeast Asia. This is one family's true story of survival. Nothing is more powerful than the human spirit." This is the story of The Impossible. This disaster drama film directed by J. A. Bayona, written by Sergio G. Sánchez, and based on the experience of María Belón and her family in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. In December 2004, close-knit family Maria, Henry, and their three sons begin their winter vacation in Thailand. But the day after Christmas, the idyllic holiday turns into an incomprehensible nightmare when a terrifying roar rises from the depths of the sea, followed by a wall of black water that devours everything in its path. Though Maria and her family face their darkest hour, unexpected displays of kindness and courage ameliorate their terror.

By mid August 2010, Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast, and Geraldine Chaplin were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in late February 2011. Filming took place in Phang Nga, Thailand, and at Ciudad de la Luz studios (City of Light studios) in Alicante, Spain. The tsunami was recreated with a mixture of digital effects and real water surges filmed in slow motion created in a water tank in Spain using miniatures that were destroyed by a huge wave. Bayona committed to working with real water rather than a computer-generated wave because he wanted the story to be authentic. This meant Watts and Holland spent five weeks filming physically and psychologically demanding scenes in a massive water tank. Holland later described it as a "scary environment ...You can imagine how tiring and brutal that was." Watts was strapped in a rotating chair. While filming, Watts couldn't hold her breath any longer and she gave the 'stop' sign. Instead of stopping, the chair started spinning the other way around. Later it was revealed that it was a technical error and Watts stated that she felt very scared and hated the chair for that reason. The crew filmed partially on location at the actual resort where the Belon family was vacationing when the tsunami hit. For the tsunami destruction scenes, a scaled model of the resort was used. The scene could only be filmed once. It would have cost too much money to rebuild the set. It took a year to put together the ten-minute sequence, a recreation of the moment the wave came crashing down on the luxury hotel in Khao Lak. The actual family served as consultants and were present during the whole shooting process. Many of the extras were actual survivors of the tsunami.

The cast deliver great performances that traps the viewers attention, making a film that revisits the tropes of the genre seen many times in blockbuster films, but with all the elements of independent cinema.

Well-acted and blessed with a refreshingly humanistic focus, The Impossible is a disaster film that makes uncommonly smart use of disaster film clichés.

Simon says The Impossible receives:

Friday, 25 January 2013

Film Review: "Django Unchained" (2012).

"'How do you like the bounty hunting business?' 'Kill white people and get paid for it? What's not to like?'" Which is what this outrageous film called Django Unchained is all about! This American epic western film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Set in the antebellum era of the Deep South and Old West, the film follows a freed slave, Django, who is trained and treks across the United States with a bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz, on a mission to rescue his wife from a cruel and charismatic plantation owner, Calvin Candie.

The title Django Unchained alludes to the titles of the aforementioned 1966 Corbucci film Django, as well to Hercules Unchained – the American title for the 1959 Italian epic fantasy film Ercole e la regina di Lidia, which deals with the a mythical hero’s escape from enslavement to a wicked master – and to Angel Unchained – the 1970 American biker film that deals with a biker exacting revenge on a large group ofrednecks. Django Unchained is the third feature film in cinema history to use the title convention of a proper noun followed by the expression, "unchained".

In 2007, Quentin Tarantino, speaking with The Daily Telegraph, discussed an idea for a form of spaghetti western set in America's pre-Civil War Deep South which he called "a southern", stating that he wanted "to do movies that deal with America's horrible past with slavery and stuff but do them like spaghetti westerns, not like big issue movies. I want to do them like they're genre films, but they deal with everything that America has never dealt with because it's ashamed of it, and other countries don't really deal with because they don't feel they have the right to." Tarantino later explained the genesis of the idea: "I was writing a book about Sergio Corbucci when I came up with a way to tell the story. One of the things that's fun when you write about subtextual criticism ... you don't have to be right. It doesn't have to be what the director was thinking. It's what you're gathering from it. You're making a case. I was writing about how his movies have this evil Wild West, a horrible Wild West. It was surreal, it dealt a lot with fascism. So I'm writing this whole piece on this, and I'm thinking: 'I don't really know if Sergio was thinking [this] while he was doing this. But I know I'm thinking it now. And I can do it!" Tarantino finished the script on April 26, 2011, and handed in the final draft to The Weinstein Company. In October 2012, frequent Tarantino collaborator RZA said that he and Tarantino had intended to crossover Django Unchained with RZA's Tarantino-presented martial-arts film The Man with the Iron Fists. The crossover would have seen a younger version of RZA's blacksmith character appear as a slave in an auction. However, scheduling conflicts prevented RZA's participation. One inspiration for the film is Sergio Corbucci's 1966 spaghetti western Django, whose star Franco Nero has a cameo in Django Unchained. Another inspiration is the 1975 film Mandingo, about a slave trained to fight other slaves. Tarantino included scenes in the snow as an homage to The Great Silence. "Silenzio takes place in the snow. I liked the action in the snow so much, Django Unchained has a big snow section in the middle", Tarantino said in an interview with The Guardian.

The film stars Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson. The performances in this film were all spectacularly and outrageously enjoyable. Jamie Foxx as the film's title character gave an incredible performance as the freed African slave turned bounty hunter hellbent to rescue his wife. He owned the screen all the way. Christoph Waltz gave an outrageously humorous performance as former dentist, bounty hunter with a devilish attitude. Definitely worth the Golden Globe award! Leonardo DiCaprio was an outstanding and ruthless villain as Calvin Candie. He hadn't blown me out my chair with a villainous performance since his 1998 film The Man with the Iron Mask. Especially when gives the monologue about old Ben. He’d never been more terrifying. Kerry Washington gave an incredible performance as the film's damsel-in-distress, Broomhilda. Which was amazing for a newcomer to the screen, to my knowledge. And lastly Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen, the film's other villain, was amazing even after four Tarantino collaborations, he is 'good!' It is as though their collaboration are a match made in film heaven. I cannot wait to see more future collaborations between these two.

Leone explained for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) that "the killings in my films are exaggerated because I wanted to make a tongue-in-cheek satire on run-of-the-mill westerns... The west was made by violent, uncomplicated men, and it is this strength and simplicity that I try to recapture in my pictures." Which is exactly what Tarantino has done for this bold, bloody and stylistically daring masterpiece, Django Unchained. A classic Tarantino genre-blending thrill ride, the film is violent, unrestrained, and thoroughly entertaining. It is one of the greatest Western films ever made and it is Tarantino’s finest accomplishment as a filmmaker. As he has proven that Spaghetti Western can still exist in modern cinema, as well as proving that the genre can still be art. Tarantino has made his best movie since Pulp Fiction (1994), and it is one hell of a ride. It is a big, bold, audacious western movie that will annoy some, startle others and demonstrate once again that he's the real thing, a director of quixotic delights. The film contains marvellous sense of detail and spectacular set pieces. To conclude, I liked what I saw, and I wanted more!

Simon says Django Unchained receives:

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Film Review: "Gangster Squad" (2013).

"Every man carries a badge. Some symbol of his allegiance. His were the scars of a boxer who'd used his fists to climb the social ladder of the mob. A Jew who'd gained the respect of wops through a homicidal lust. He'd sworn an oath of violence. And his master? His own insatiable will to power. He wanted to own this town. His name was Mickey Cohen." This is the premise of Gangster Squad. This crime film directed by Ruben Fleischer, from a screenplay written by Will Beall based on the novel Tales from the Gangster Squad by Paul Lieberman. Based on the story of LAPD officers and detectives forming a secret group called the "Gangster Squad unit", led by two determined sergeants work together, who attempt to keep Los Angeles safe from Mickey Cohen, who runs the city, and his gang during 1949.

The first trailer for Gangster Squad was released on May 9, 2012. In the wake of the mass shooting at a theater in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, the trailer was pulled from most theaters running before films and airing on television, and removed from Apple's trailer site and YouTube due to a scene in which characters shoot submachine guns at moviegoers through the screen of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. It was later reported that the theater scene from the film would be either removed, or placed in a different setting since it is a crucial part of the film, and the film would undergo additional re-shoots of several scenes to accommodate these changes. This resulted in the release of Gangster Squad being delayed. About a week after the shootings in Aurora, Warner officially confirmed that the film would be released on January 11, 2013, bumped from the original September 7, 2012 release date. Two weeks later, on August 22, the cast reunited in Los Angeles to completely re-shoot the main action sequence of the film. The new scene was set in Chinatown where the Gangster Squad comes into open conflict with the gangsters as they strike back.

The film stars an ensemble cast that includes Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, and Sean Penn. The performances in this film well generally mixed. The cast gave terrific performances but ultimately the characters were terribly under-developed and forgettable. The two talented actors that disappointed me the most were Emma Stone and Sean Penn. Stone's performance was disappointing because of her under-developed "damsel-in-distress" character had seemed to lack confidence and nostalgia, and I thought that Stone and Gosling had a much better chemistry in Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) but in this film it curdles into lukewarm mush. Penn's performance was just as laughable as his silly looking make up.

Gangster Squad goes about its business without a trace of finesse. The film fails in the end. The best of the old noir crime dramas had lively pacing and crisp tough-guy dialogue. This movie seems at times like an exercise in slow motion and in dull, cumbersome writing.

Simon says Gangster Squad receives:

Film Review: "The Master" (2012).

From the director of There Will Be Blood comes The Master. This psychological drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The film centres on Freddie, a World War II veteran, who is unable to deal with the post-war society. However, when he comes across a religious movement known as The Cause, he finds solace in it.

In December 2009, it was first reported that Anderson has been working on a script about the founder of a new religious organization (based on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology). According to an associate of Anderson stated that the idea for the film had been in Anderson's head for about twelve years. The idea for the film came to him after reading a quote that periods after wars are productive times for spiritual movements to start. Unsure of the direction the script would take, Anderson began writing it as a collection of disparate scenes, rather than one coherent outline. He combined unused scenes from early drafts of There Will Be Blood (2007), John Huston's Let There Be Light (1946), elements from the life stories of John Steinbeck and from Thomas Pynchon's novel V., and stories Jason Robards had told him on the set of Magnolia (1999) about his drinking days in the U.S. Navy during World War II (including the draining of ethanol from a torpedo). Anderson conducted research about Dianetics and its early followers. Anderson has stated that he wanted Hoffman to play Lancaster Dodd from the film's inception, and that he also had Joaquin Phoenix in mind for the part of Freddie Quell. While writing, Anderson sought Hoffman's feedback on the script, with Hoffman suggesting the film focus more on Freddie's story than Lancaster's. After the film was dropped by Universal and failed to pick up a distributor, Anderson did several months of rewrites. By early June 2011, Phoenix and Hoffman were confirmed to star with Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Ambyr Childers, Rami Malek, and Jesse Plemons rounding out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in early September. Filming took place throughout California and in O'ahu, Hawaii. The film was shot on 65 mm film using the Panavision System 65 camera in the 1.85: 1 aspect ratio. It was the first fiction film to be shot in 65mm since Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996).

The film stars Phoenix, Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Ambyr Childers, Rami Malek, and Jesse Plemons. The performances by the cast, especially by Phoenix and Hoffman, are a mesmerizing meditation on the American spirit in all its maddening ambiguities: mean and noble, angry and secretive, hypocritical and more than a little insane in its aspirations.

Widely touted as a masterpiece, this sparse and sprawling epic about the underhanded 'heroes' of faith boasts incredible performances by leads Phoenix and Hoffman, and is director Paul Thomas Anderson's best work to date. It is one of the most wholly original American movies ever made. The film was so good that it's making me rethink those last four PTA features.

Simon says The Master receives:

Monday, 21 January 2013

Film Review: "ParaNorman" (2012).

"It's all fun and games until someone raises the dead" in Paranorman. This stop-motion animated dark fantasy comedy horror film directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler, written by Butler, and produced by Laika. Norman Babcock never asked to see the ghosts of dead people in his daily life, but his strange inherited talent is now the only thing standing between the cursed town of Blithe Hollow and an all-out zombie apocalypse.

The idea of the film came from Butler, who, realizing that zombie films often contained a degree of social commentary, thought making such a movie for kids could help express the challenges kids face growing up. Rather than using traditional 3D format cameras, the film utilised sixty Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR cameras film the movie. The film was the first stop-motion film to utilise a 3D colour printer to create replacement faces for its puppets in a process called "Rapid Prototyping." Over thirty-one thousand individuals face parts were printed for the production. Replacement faces were used on puppets to allow a wider range of expressions for each character. Over two hundred and fifty unique faces were utilised for one character to create a single shot that lasted only twenty seven seconds on screen. Each replacement face was built from hundreds of layers of fine white powder in a 3D printer, a process that took about five or six hours to become ready to use on-set. Printing the faces took four 3D printers a combined total of five hundred and seventy two days of straight print time. It took at least three to four months to craft a new puppet from start to finish, not including design or testing time. Sixty puppet makers created sixty one characters made up of a hundred and seventy eight individual puppets, including twenty eight individual full body puppets for Norman alone. Norman had about eight thousand replacement faces with a range of individual brow and mouth pieces, giving Norman a range of approximately 1.5 million possible facial expressions. The biggest number of unique faces used in a single shot was five hundred and forty five, spread across seven different characters. The shot, near the end of the film, is 42.7 seconds (one thousand and twenty four frames) long and took over a month to shoot. On average, each animator shot about 4.38 seconds of film per day, which means it took an entire week of production to complete 12.78 minutes of footage.

The film features the voice talents of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Ferland, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein, and John Goodman. Solid performances were given by the talented cast that gave this unusual kids film a surprising twist.

With its vivid stop-motion animation combined with an imaginative story, ParaNorman is a film that's both visually stunning and wondrously entertaining. The film consistently lingers in an atmosphere that is creepy, wonderfully strange and full of feeling.

Simon says ParaNorman receives:

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Film Review: "Les Misérables" (2013).

The tagline of the film reads "Fight. Dream. Hope. Love." Which is the essence of this screen adaption of Les Misérables. This British musical drama film based on the musical of the same name by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg which is in turn based on Les Misérables, the 1862 French novel by Victor Hugo. The film is directed by Tom Hooper, adapted by William Nicholson, Boublil, Schönberg and Herbert Kretzmer. The film tells the story of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who becomes mayor of a town in France. Soon exposed, Valjean agrees to take care of Cosette, the illegitimate daughter of a dying Fantine, but as a fugitive must also avoid being captured again by police inspector Javert. The plot spans 17 years and is set against a backdrop of political turmoil, which in the film culminates in the June Rebellion of France.

My feelings for the performances in this film were somewhat mixed, there were satisfactory performances. The satisfactory performances being; Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Eddie Redmayne as Marius Pontmercy, Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thénardier, Sacha Baron Cohen as Thénardier and Samantha Barks as Éponine. They were all general favorable performances were able to keep me from total boredom throughout the entire film. But the main two, Jackman and Hathaway, were the best because either they could sing magnificently or had, at least, one 'good' song in the entire film. Such as Jackman's performance, the charisma had been stripped to the bone, and it was a thrilling confirmation of the other kind of star Jackman is. He brought depth to Valjean's tale of offense and grace, of taking responsibility for a child and then letting go, and his rendition of Bring Him Home had emotional heft. Hathaway's performance of I Dream a Dream, she gave it everything she had, beginning in quiet sorrow before building to a woebegone climax: she gasps, she weeps, she coughs. If you are blown away by the scene—as many will be. The centerpiece of a movie composed entirely of centerpieces belongs to Anne Hathaway, who as the tragic heroine Fantine sang another of the memorable numbers. Her performance was angelic which made it superb as the tragic Fantine. The film is only worth seeing for Hathaway alone. And there were dissatisfying and disappointing performances. Unfortunately that was none other than Russell Crowe as Javert, who was the only rotten apple who was spoiling the whole barrel. His performance and his singing was just down-right boring, miserable and unenthusiastic. The only question I can ask is 'why on earth cast Russell Crowe in this film? His performance highlights, for me, one of the major flaws in this film.

Les Misérables, the popular musical, is rather histrionic, boring, and lacking in both romance and danger. But one cannot criticize the sheer spectacle of the film. Teen romance and constant singing replaces the vital elements familiar to fans of the musical and the novel, and director Tom Hooper obscures any remnants of classy stage spectacle with the same overkill that Joel Schumacher brought to Phantom of the Opera (2004).

Simon says Les Misérables receives:

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Film Review: "Jack Reacher" (2012).

"The law has limits. He does not" in Jack Reacher. This action thriller film adapted and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, based on Lee Child's 2005 novel One Shot. The film follows a homicide investigator who digs deeper into a case involving a trained military sniper who shot five random victims.

Since the character's debut in Killing Floor in 1997, attempts have been made to adapt Child's Jack Reacher novel series. In 2005, after being optioned with no success to PolyGram and later New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures and Cruise/Wagner Productions acquired the film rights. Josh Olson was then hired to pen the adaptation of Child's then-most recent novel. In July 2010, McQuarrie, who previously collaborated with Cruise/Wagner Productions on the 2008 film Valkyrie, signed on to rework Olson's script and ultimately direct the film. Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp, Cary Elwes, Colin Farrell, Harrison Ford, Jamie Foxx, Mel Gibson, Stephen Lang, Dolph Lundgren, Edward Norton, Ron Perlman, Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Vince Vaughn, Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, Hugh Jackman, Will Smith, and Dwayne Johnson were considered for the title role. However, in July 2011, Tom Cruise was ultimately cast. Some fans of the novel series became vocal over the casting of Cruise due to the actor's height not matching the description of Reacher in the novels. Reacher is described as 6'5" tall and weighing between two hundred ten and two hundred fifty pounds. Whereas Cruise is only 5'7" tall. Explaining the casting decision, author Child said that it would be impossible to find a suitable actor to play the giant Reacher and to recreate the feel of the book onscreen, and that Cruise had the talent to make an effective Reacher. By early October, Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo, Richard Jenkins, Jai Courtney, Werner Herzog, and Robert Duvall rounded out the film's cast. Hayley Atwell, Brit Marling, and Alexa Davalos were considered for the female lead. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in mid January 2012. Filming took place throughout Pennsylvania and New York. Cruise performed all of his own driving stunts during the film's signature car chase sequence. In July 2012, Kraemer, who previously scored McQuarrie's The Way of the Gun (2000), was hired as composer. The film was set for a December 15, 2012 release date, however, it was pushed to December 21 due to Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings on December 14.

Solid performances were given by the cast, especially Cruise who gave, probably, his best performance so far, tense, tough, full of implicit identification with his character. There's an incredible pleasure in watching Cruise do what he does, and he does it so well.

Jack Reacher is a high-style film with lowbrow appeal, a movie after which you may dislike yourself for liking it as much as you do. But, what makes the film worth watching no matter how dumb the story, is McQuarrie's superb sense of the city as a theater for action.

Simon says Jack Reacher receives:

Film Review: "Rise of the Guardians" (2013).

"It is our job to protect the children of the world. For as long as they believe in us, we will guard them with our lives..." This sums up the premise of Rise of the Guardians. This 3D computer-animated fantasy-adventure film based on William Joyce's The Guardians of Childhood book series. Directed by Peter Ramsey and produced by DreamWorks Animation. The film tells a story about the Guardians (North or Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Bunnymund or the Easter Bunny, and the Sandman), who enlist Jack Frost to stop Pitch from launching an assault on the world in darkness and protect the innocence of children all around the world.

 Although the film is based on the Joyce's book series, it contains differences from the books. The book series, begun in 2011, explains the origins of the characters, while the film takes place about 200 years after the books, and shows how the characters function in present time. Joyce explained, "Because I don't want people to read the book and then go see the movie and go, 'Oh, I like the book better,' and I also didn't want them to know what happens in the movie. And I also knew that during the progress of film production, a lot of things can change. So I wanted to have a sort of distance, so we were able to invoke the books and use them to help us figure out the world of the movie, but I didn't want them to be openly competitive to each other." The idea for the Guardians came from Joyce's daughter, who asked him "if he thought Santa Claus had ever met the Easter Bunny."

The film features the voices of Chris Pine as Jack Frost, Alec Baldwin as Santa Claus, Hugh Jackman as The Easter Bunny, Isla Fisher as The Tooth Fairy and Jude Law as Pitch. The performances in this film were all superb and deserve merits in their own ways. Pine's performance was superb in a kids film of this kind as he able to bring a care-free, devil-may-care attitude to the film. But as well as deep emotion and dark adult tone. Baldwin's performance was a surprising and impressive as he able to make himself unidentifiable and unrecognizable to me. He was able to master an accent perfectly for this role. Jackman's performance was enjoyable and humorous, and so in touch with his 'Aussie' side which made the character ever more memorable. Fisher's performance was a great one as she able to project beauty, kindness and warmth to the role. Lastly Law's performance was not only dark and moody (in a good way), but also menacing as the film's villain.

Like a superior, state-of-the-art model built from the imagination, DreamWorks’ buoyant, witty and robustly entertaining fantasy smash-up, Rise of the Guardians, is pure escapism for children and adults, boasting rich animation while it reserves humor that offset the potentially lumbering and unavoidably formulaic aspects of this two-hour team-origin story.

Simon says Rise of the Guardians receives:

Film Review: "Seven Psychopaths" (2012).

"They Won't Take Any Shih Tzu" in Seven Psychopaths. This dark comedy crime film written and directed by Martin McDonagh. The film centres on Marty Faranan, an aspiring screenwriter working on a screenplay, who unwillingly gets involved in underworld crime when his strange friends abduct a dangerous gangster's pet.

The screenplay was featured in the 2006 Blacklist; a list of the "most liked" unmade scripts of the year. In early May 2011, the first casting announcements were made. Mickey Rourke dropped out of The Expendables 2 (2012) to co-star in the film. He later dropped out of the film after having disagreements with McDonagh, calling him a "jerk-off." He was ultimately replaced with Woody Harrelson. Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Pitt, and Michael Stuhlbarg rounded out the film's cast. Principal photography took place throughout Los Angeles and Twentynine Palms, California, and wrapped in late 2011.

The film stars Farrell, Rockwell, Harrelson, Walken, Stanton, Waits, Cornish, Kurylenko, Pitt, and Stuhlbarg. All the leads are perfectly cast, and they help turn a light farce with thriller overtones into something deeper and sweeter. The acting is top-notch. Farrell, who seems to be gravitating increasingly toward smaller films, effectively channels his manic energy. He's not a matinee idol, and he's not a suave or heroic leading man. He's a terrific character actor, and he can go to low places that suave heroes can't risk, like anguish, self-hatred, embarrassment, utter confusion and buffoonery. He, Rockwell, and Walken display chemistry in the Odd Trio vein, occasionally giving rise to instances of humor. Harrelson plays one of the most twisted roles of his career.

Featuring witty dialogue and deft performances, In Bruges is an effective mix of dark comedy and crime thriller elements. This sophomore effort by the theater writer and director Martin McDonagh is an endlessly surprising, very dark, human comedy, with a plot that cannot be foreseen but only relished. When it's funny, it's hilarious; when it's serious, it's powerful; and either way, it's an endless pleasant surprise. The film is sharply written, superbly acted, funny and even occasionally touching. Those who know McDonagh's work know a vein of darkness will run deeply through the comedy. It has seldom been darker. Or funnier. He has made a hit-man movie in which you don't know what will happen and can't wait to find out. Every movie should be so cliched. A jolly mess of a film that is overplotted, choppy, and contrived, it nonetheless has a curious vitality that makes you wonder where McDonagh will go next. He's a specialist in constructing satisfying, live-wire dramas of violence that crash up against despair, in upending his characters' miseries with moments of twisted humor, and in sustaining a writing voice that roars with a particularly Irish robustness of obscenity. It may be the film's rather too-long-running joke, but Farrell's shaggy brow is easily the most entertaining thing in Irish playwright Martin McDonagh's first foray into the crime caper.

Simon says Seven Psychopaths receives:

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Film Review: "Life of Pi" (2012).

"Mr. Patel's is an astounding story, courage and endurance unparalleled in the history of ship-wrecks. Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger." This is the premise of this amazing movie, Life of Pi. This adventure drama film based on Yann Martel's 2001 novel of the same name. Directed by Ang Lee, the film is adapted by David Magee. The film is about a 16-year old boy named Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel is the son of a zookeeper who lives with his family in Pondicherry, India. The family decides to move to Canada, due to political turmoil, by traveling on a huge freighter, with some animals from the zoo. There he suffers a shipwreck in which his family dies, and is adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

The project had numerous directors and writers attached, and the Los Angeles Times credited Fox 2000 Pictures executive Elizabeth Gabler with keeping the project active. Gabler in February 2003 had acquired the project to adapt Life of Pi into a film. She hired the screenwriter Dean Georgaris to write an adapted screenplay. In the following October, Fox 2000 announced a partnership with M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense (1999)) to direct the film. Shyamalan was attracted to the novel particularly because its protagonist also comes from Pondicherry in India. The partners anticipated for Shyamalan to direct the film adaptation after completing The Village (2004). Shyamalan also replaced Georgaris as the screenwriter, writing a new screenplay for the film. Ultimately, Shyamalan chose to film Lady in the Water (2006) instead, and Fox 2000 Pictures decided to find another director. In March 2005, they entered talks with Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2003)) to become the director. Cuarón decided to direct Children of Men (2007) instead, and in October 2005, Fox 2000 Pictures hired Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amiele (2001)) to direct the film. Jeunet began writing the adapted screenplay with Guillaume Laurant, and filming was scheduled to begin in mid-2006, partially in India. Jeunet eventually left the project, and in February 2009, Fox 2000 Pictures hired Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001)) to direct the film. In May 2010, Lee and the producer Gil Netter proposed a reported budget of $70 million, at which the studio balked, placing the project's development on hold for a short time. David Magee was hired to write the screenplay, as Lee began to spend several months looking for someone to cast as Pi. After 3,000 men auditioned for the film's lead, in October 2010 Lee chose to cast Suraj Sharma, a 17-year-old student and an acting newcomer. Upon receiving the role, Sharma underwent extensive training in ocean survival, as well as in yoga and meditation practices to prepare for the part. Two months after Sharma was cast, it was announced that Irrfan Khan would play the adult Pi. Principal photography for the film began on January 18, 2011 in Pondicherry, India until January 31 and moved to other parts of India, as well as Taiwan. The crew filmed in Taiwan for five and a half months in Taipei Zoo, an airport in Taichung, and Kenting National Park, located in Pingtung County where Lee was born. Over there, the ocean scenes of the film were shot at a giant wave tank built by the crew in an abandoned airport. The tank is known as the world’s largest self-generating wave tank, with a capacity of 1.7 million gallons. After photography was completed in Taiwan, production moved back to India and concluded in Montreal, Canada.

The film stars Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Gérard Depardieu, Tabu, and Adil Hussain. The performances were all perfect. But I would to praise the two characters who portrayed Pi; Suraj Sharma as Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, age 16 and Irrfan Khan as adult Pi. Both of them together brought 'a tour de force' peformances as they were able to accomplish what any actor wants and longs to accomplish - realism of the human condition, with going over-the-top. And they have accomplish that goal beautifully and masterfully (totally Oscar-worthy performances). For the film's animalistic star, Richard Parker, the element of realism also made his performance in the film terrifying and yet mesmerizing. But not the kind of realism found in the real world, the kind you would find only in the computer. With the power of CGI. The lead visual effects company for Life of Pi is Rhythm & Hues Studios ((R&H) The Chronicles of Narnia Series (2005-10) which has its corporate headquarters in El Segundo, California. 3D effects for the film were created by a team of artists from all of the R&H divisions, including locations in Mumbai and Hyderabad (India), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Vancouver (Canada), and Kaohsiung (Taiwan). Artist Abdul Rahman in the Malaysian branch underscored the global nature of the effects process, saying that "the special thing about Life Of Pi is that it was the first time we did something called remote rendering, where we engaged our cloud infrastructure in Taiwan called CAVE (Cloud Animation and Visual Effects)." The R&H Visual Effects Supervisor Bill Westenhofer said that discussions of the project began with Ang Lee in August 2009. hythm & Hues spent a year on research and development, "building upon its already vast knowledge of CG animation" to develop the tiger. Life of Pi can be seen as the film Rhythm & Hues has been building up to all these years, by taking things they learned from each production from Cats & Dogs (2001) to Yogi Bear (2009), integrating their animals in different situations and environments, pushing them to do more, and understanding how all of this can succeed both visually and dramatically.

Ang Lee's Life of Pi is an beautiful, tense adventure survival drama that's masterfully directed and visually stunning. The film restores a sense of wonder, terror and possibility to the big screen that should inspire awe among audiences and critics alike.

Simon says Life of Pi receives:

Film Review: "Sightseers" (2012).

"Killers have never been so average." This is Sightseers. This British horror comedy directed by Ben Wheatley, and written by Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. An innocent tour of Britain's countryside turns into a disturbing odyssey when Chris whisks his girlfriend away on a cross-country road trip.

The film and characters were inspired by a stage experience with Lowe and Oram appearing as innocent campers who slowly revealed they were serial killers seven years prior. A short film was later produced and was sent to several production companies, however despite being found to be funny, the pitch kept getting turned down for being too dark. They put the short online, and it generated some buzz, and Lowe sent the link to Edgar Wright, with whom she had worked on Hot Fuzz (2007). Wright saw potential for a feature and put them in touch with a production company, Big Talk, who, with Wright on board as an executive producer, greenlit the project. Lowe and Oram did research into horror literature and even took a caravanning holiday, in character and with a cameraman, to the locations that would go on to be featured in the film. Lowe and Oram were influenced by Withnail and I (1987).

The film stars Oram, Lowe, and Eileen Davies. It's tightly performed with some knowing, throwaway dialogue and it must have demanded some very physical performances from its quirky characters.

Sightseers aims squarely for genre thrills, and hits its target repeatedly and with great gusto—albeit with something less than pure cinematic grace. The film effectively has the banter, fun factor, cast and style, but its lack of story makes it difficult to be taken seriously as a thriller. Everything else is competent, diverting enough, but pretty forgettable. Like a good cheeseburger, its nutritional value is questionable, but it's satisfying enough that it's difficult to care. A golden eight-five minutes, if a slightly tarnished one. The many wisecracks fire as fast as the bullets in this enjoyable and stylish gangland romp, though it's curiously unengaging and I never cared who would win. The film is Wheatley's most accessible film that entertains with its wonderful cast, the witty, quotable script and confident direction. It may not hit a bullseye with perfect accuracy, but unlike the characters, it's certainly ain't a bad shot. Wheatley brings a bit of style to everything, with a couple of clever set pieces that give the film a boost in some spots. Unfortunately, the film starts to drag about midway through and it starts to feel like it is stuck in neutral. The film is a down and dirty piece of action filmmaking with a darkly comic streak that runs through its violent exterior. Wheatley's film is an energetic piece of high-octane cinematic acid jazz. It's a tightly scripted, smartly executed, perfectly cast actioner that's as witty as it is violent. The problem with the film is that it just doesn't have much more going on in outside of what you see in the trailer.

Simon says Sightseers receives: