Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Film Review: "It Follows" (2014).

"It doesn't think. It doesn't feel. It doesn't give up" in It Follows. This supernatural horror film written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. After a strange sexual encounter, a teenager finds herself haunted by nightmarish visions and the inescapable sense that something is after her.

Mitchell conceived the film based on recurring dreams he had in his youth about being followed. The role that sexual transmission plays came later, from Mitchell's desire for something that could transfer between people. In 2011, Mitchell started writing the script, while working on a separate film he intended to be his second feature film; however, Mitchell struggled with this would-be second feature and made the project as his next film instead. Mitchell realized that the concept he was working on was tough to describe and thus refused to discuss the plot when asked what he was working on. By September 2013, Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary and Olivia Luccardi were cast. At the same time, with a budget of $1.3 million, principal photography commenced and took place in Berkley, Clawson, Detroit, Northville, Sterling Heights and Troy, Michigan. Mitchell used wide-angle lenses when filming to give the film an expansive look, and cited the works of George Romero and John Carpenter as influences on the film's compositions and visual aesthetic. The film's monster, shot composition and overall aesthetic were influenced by the work of contemporary photographer Gregory Crewdson.

The film stars Monroe, Gilchrist, Zovatto, Weary and Luccardi. Monroe is excellent both as the unwilling victim of a killer sexually-transmitted disease and the final girl ever present beneath her earnest veneer.

A dark, entertaining thriller that's familiar but still inventive in all the right places. If nothing else, it shows Monroe should be a huge horror star. The film is a throwback to 1970s and 1980s slashers and thrillers but instead of copying their plots it has some fun. If the film were a colour it would be the neon blue of its title card: a little bit show-off, a little bit retro, but it'll definitely brighten your night. With a sexy soundtrack and callbacks to 1980s films like Halloween (1978) and, other John Carpenter scores, this overlooked gem is worth checking out. The film is more about exploring the nightmarish consequences of sexually-transmitted diseases than getting into pre-marital sex. Even though fueled entirely on Monroe's charisma and its synth score, the film starts out intriguing until you realise the film and its protagonist are utterly vacant. It's not a particularly brilliant conceit, but, not unlike Monroe's beautifully one-note performance, it's evocative nevertheless -- lending the whole movie an aura of pop inevitability, turning its blunt predictability into something of a virtue. Still, the screenplay knows just when to create more menace and move on, and it escalates the craziness right up to the breaking point. I will be keeping an eye out for more films directed by Mitchell. From what I have seen of his work Mitchell perfectly blends horror, suspense, a new kind of threat, amazing music, and a strong female character.

Simon says It Follows receives:

Disney Diary - Week 11

For the past four weeks that have flown by me quietly, I have not written a single word on my weekly adventures here. This is because the only thing that went on was work and, to quote from a great character from a classic film, it was basically "Same old shit, different day". To my disappointed readers, I apologize for the long dormant silence. Luckily, I finally found the time to write about my Week 11 story.

It was on the first day of the week, from my days off, that I was exposed to another event in good old Downtown Disney. Little did I know when working in to work on Wednesday 25th March that it was the 40th anniversary of the opening of Downtown Disney. So to commemorate this historical event, Disney set up a large buffet and party behind the Cast Services building. Of course being told that it was a party and that I would get free food, I immediately signed up to go. So my leader and my coordinators signed me up to have a couple of other people and myself escorted to the party. Ultimately, even though I enjoyed the party atmosphere and the free full-course meal, the only thing that bothered me was that I had to sacrifice my second entitled break and have only one one-hour break earlier than I wanted. Thus I had to work for four or five hours after my hour break for my seven-hour shift that day.

Rather than having me ramble on and on about the party and the food, I'll let the photos below speak for themselves.

Overall, the food was good and all but, honestly, it was nothing too special.

See Week 14 at http://ss-film.blogspot.ca/2015/04/simons-disney-diary-week-14.html

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Film Review: "Home" (2015).

"Worlds Collide" in Home. This computer-animated science-fiction comedy film directed by Tim Johnson, adapted by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember, loosely based on Adam Rex's 2007 children's book The True Meaning of Smekday, and produced by DreamWorks Animation. When Oh, a loveable misfit from another planet, lands on Earth and finds himself on the run from his own people, he forms an unlikely friendship with an adventurous girl named Tip who is on a quest of her own. Through a series of comic adventures with Tip, Oh comes to understand that being different and making mistakes is all part of being human.

In 2008, DreamWorks Animation optioned the right to adapt Rex's book into an animated feature film. In 2011, on his blog, Rex announced that DreamWorks renewed the option. In late June 2012, Jim Parsons and Rihanna would star in the then titled Happy Smekday! In September, 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation announced a November 26, 2014 release date for the film. In June 2013, the film was retitled to Home. In early October, it was announced that Steve Martin and Jennifer Lopez had joined the cast. In 2014, Variety reported that, in addition to her voice role, Rihanna created a concept album for the film which will be released on March 17, 2015. In late May, the film's release date was pushed back to March 27, 2015, switching places with DreamWorks Animation's film Penguins of Madagascar (2014). DreamWorks Animation's CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg, reasoned that Penguins, coming from one of DWA's most successful franchises, would more easily stand out during Thanksgiving time, while Home would try to take advantage of the less competitive spring release window, and repeat successful spring launches of some of DWA's original films, including The Croods (2013) and How to Train Your Dragon (2010). In anticipation of the film's release, a prequel short film, Almost Home (2014), was shown prior to theatrical screenings of Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014) and Rio 2 (2014).

The film stars the voice talents of Parsons, Rihanna, Martin, Lopez, and Jones. Although the voices were well-chosen, and they have, without doubt, their particular charm, the characters in general leave a lot to be desired.

Though it doesn't approach the depth of the best animated films, Home has enough humor and special effects to entertain moviegoers of all ages. Though the film is raucous and undemanding flat entertainment, no doubt. With films such as this one, DreamWorks still has a lot to learn about the superior powers of immersion exerted by a well-told story. Films such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and WALL-E (2008) had more charm, more soul, more everything. But there's enough merry mischief here to satisfy, even if you’re way past puberty. However, there's good fun to be had with the film, and it carries a worthwhile message about how every person of worth, no matter what planet they're originally from, has a place to call home.

Simon says Home receives:

Also, see my review for Penguins of Madagascar.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Film Review: "The Cobbler" (2014).

"Saving the neighborhood one sole at a time." This is The Cobbler. This magic realism comedy-drama film directed by Tom McCarthy, and written by McCarthy and Paul Sado. The film centres on a frustrated shoemaker finds a magical sewing machine that allows him to see the world in a new way by stepping into the lives of his customers.

In late September 2013, Adam Sandler was in talks to star in McCarthy's The Cobbler. By early November, Dan Stevens, Dustin Hoffman, Steve Buscemi, Melonie Diaz, Ellen Barkin, Dascha Polanco, Lynn Cohen, and Fritz Weaver. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and took place in New York City.

The film stars Sandler, Stevens, Hoffman, Buscemi, Diaz, Barkin, Polanco, Cohen, and Weaver.
Sandler continues to be one of our worst leading men, one who falls and couldn't be able to steal a single scene if his career depended on it. Even though aided by a fantastic cast, featuring the reliable Buscemi and the wonderfully strong Hoffman, Sandler and McCarthy are suffering from lack of humour, warmth and pathos. Broad and poorly constructed, it's a lose-lose situation.

Not only is The Cobbler not a morality play; it's also just not a really good story. But it does deal with an issue that couldn't be more poignant: If not we could see the world through the eyes of the people who are somehow connected with, but yet we don't know entirely at all? However, the film is a comedy-drama that tries to be warm-hearted and compassionate and enjoyable without, alas, even trying in being especially remarkable or original, which is a bit of a blow. I thought I could get over it, but, alas, I just couldn't. The film is a flawed effort, without McCarthy being able to pin us down effortlessly, proving there's nothing more to life than trying to connect with complete, random strangers. This latest Adam Sandler vehicle borrows shamelessly from other films that did it much better, and fails to produce the necessary laughs that would forgive such imitation. As a moral fable, the film holds no surprises as a Sandler comedy. It's anything but touching and funny. The typical and, often, tragic nature of a film such as this one is that all of its characters are a caricature, all of its plot points a blatant play for tears or laughs, all of its appeal based on some mythical lowest common denominator. The film is, probably, the slightest, and sappiest, film I have ever witnessed and that might have graced the silver screen. All and all, it's anything but a joy. For all its witty observations on the trials of modern city life, it never strays out of its blinkered cosmopolitan comfort zone. It's anything but honest, insightful, warm, witty, and a delight. While all this may sound a bit contrived, we weren't won over by the simplicity of the characters and of their world. In a divisive career, as well as a young career, the film is already one of the worst for both Sandler and McCarthy.

Simon says The Cobbler receives:

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Film Review: "Run All Night" (2015).

"No sin goes unpunished" in Run All Night. This action thriller film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and written by Brad Ingelsby. Brooklyn mobster and prolific hit man Jimmy Conlon, once known as The Gravedigger, has seen better days. Longtime best friend of mob boss Shawn Maguire, Jimmy, now fifty-five, is haunted by the sins of his past—as well as a dogged police detective who’s been one step behind Jimmy for thirty years. Lately, it seems Jimmy’s only solace can be found at the bottom of a whiskey glass. But when Jimmy’s estranged son, Mike, becomes a target, Jimmy must make a choice between the crime family he chose and the real family he abandoned long ago. With Mike on the run, Jimmy’s only penance for his past mistakes may be to keep his son from the same fate Jimmy is certain he’ll face himself…at the wrong end of a gun. Now, with nowhere safe to turn, Jimmy just has one night to figure out exactly where his loyalties lie and to see if he can finally make things right.

In January 2012, Warner Bros. acquired Ingelsby's script The All-Nighter for a six-figure sum. In November, Collet-Serra was hired to direct and the title was changed to Run All Night. By early October 2013, Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Vincent D'Onofrio, Joel Kinnaman, Common, Boyd Holbrook, Bruce McGill, Genesis Rodriguez and Holt McCallany were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced and took place throughout New York.

The film stars Neeson, Harris, D'Onofrio, Kinnaman, Common, Holbrook, McGill, Rodriguez and McCallany. Casting Neeson as a heavy is no mistake here, and though the gamble is not entirely successful it's a fine experiment. It's Harris who really stands out. The man still has remarkable presence. Neeson and Harris are the personification of anguish and torn loyalty in a gripping, violent film that is part character study and part cat-and-mouse chase with classic western embellishments.

Gangsters. Fathers. Sons. Honor. The film is all this and more, perhaps too perfect or too calculated, but with great cinema in it. So is the film still a must-see? No question. But it's tough to fuss about it much when a picture is this fussy. What makes the movie pay off is moving pictures of real action and of intimate scenes between father and son that are all the more moving for being understated. The film is so jumbled and poseurish that you're less likely to wonder, How did the creators of Unknown and Non-Stop sink this low? The film is a self-regarding, humorless film smitten with its own gravitas. It's so motionless it becomes a slide show about how to shoot a gangster film. For all its hard-boiled pretensions, The film becomes a cloying look at father-son relations in modern New York. The story, so alive and idiosyncratic in its characterizations and periphery, is all hollow and cautious at the center. Collet-Serra's washed-up gangster yarn is filled with overused, pretentious attempts at style and immature notions of death, fatherhood, and humanity.

Simon says Run All Night receives:

Also, see my review for Non-Stop.

Film Review: "Cinderella" (2015).

"Wherever there is goodness, there is kindness, and wherever there is kindness, there is magic." This quote is at the essence of this retelling of Cinderella. This romantic fantasy film directed by Kenneth Branagh, written by Chris Weitz, based on the classic fairy tale of the same name by Charles Perrault and Disney's 1950 animated musical film. Produced by Walt Disney Pictures, the film is a live-action retelling of the classic fairytale about a servant step daughter who is abused by her jealous stepmother and stepsisters after her father had died, for she was forced to be a servant in her own house yet through it all she did not let anything or anyone crush her spirit as she meets a dashing stranger in the woods.

There are numerous ancient myths and stories containing Cinderella motifs, dating as far back as an Egyptian tale from the first century BC. The modern version of Cinderella was created by French author Charles Perrault, whose fairy tale was first published in 1697. It has since been the basis of and inspiration behind innumerable operas, ballet, plays and films. The first film version was seven-minutes long, directed by George Méliès in France in 1899. The first Hollywood adaptation was Paramount Pictures' 1914 silent film, starring Mary Pickford in the title role. Disney's classic animated version of Cinderella was released in 1950. It was a major box office success, and in 2008 was named the ninth-greatest animated film of all time by the American Film Institute. Other modern films based on the Cinderella concept include The Slipper and the Rose (1976), Ever After (1998) and A Cinderella Story (2004). While approaching the project with a deep understanding of the fairy tale's history, Kenneth Branagh said: "It is impossible to think of Cinderella without thinking of Disney, and the timeless images we've all grown up watching. And those classic moments are irresistible to a filmmaker."

The film stars Lily James in the title role as Ella ("Cinderella") with Richard Madden as Prince Charming, Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine (the Wicked Stepmother), Sophie McShera as Drizella, Holliday Grainger as Anastasia and Helena Bonham Carter as The Fairy Godmother. As well as Stellan Skarsgård as The Grand Duke, Derek Jacobi as The King, Hayley Atwell as Cinderella's Mother and Ben Chaplin as Cinderella's Father. The cast, despite giving their best efforts under the direction of Branagh, brought nothing really new in terms of characterization and expanding upon the characters from the 1950 classic. All was brought was why was Cinderella kind, what drives Lady Tremaine to do the wicked and cruel things to Cinderella and where the Fairy Godmother came from. Nonetheless, they were performances wasted in vain. I think we're going to see James in bigger and better films to come.

Kenneth Branagh's magnetic and stunning visuals outshines Cinderella's cast and spirit; unfortunately, the story and characters fail to bring anything new to the table and justify all that impressive effort. However, it surprises me not for its Disney vision of a colorful, lavish world enlivened by magic and a shining castle, but rather for the Shakespearean touch of its story and characters thanks to director Branagh. To conclude, long live the feminist revisionist backstory.

Simon says Cinderella receives:

Also, see my review for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Film Review: "Chappie" (2015).

From the first trailer, the last lines uttered "I'm consciousness. I'm alive. I'm Chappie" is what Chappie presents in this science fiction film directed by Neill Blomkamp, written by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell and based on Blomkamp's 2004 short film Tetra Vaal. The film is set in the near future, where crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.

The creation of Chappie began when Blomkamp along with his wife Terri Tatchell, who also co-wrote District 9 (2009) wrote the screenplay during the Post Production phase of Elysium (2013). Filming began at the end of October 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa and was completed in February 2014. Re-shoots took place in British Columbia, Canada in April 2014. The name of the weapons company in the film - Tetravaal - is a reference to Blomkamp's 2004 short film of the same name, which centers on a police robot in Johannesburg with a similar design to Chappie. Blomkamp has said that Chappie is "basically based" on Tetra Vaal. Blomkamp also employed a robot with a similar design in his 2005 short Tempbot, and both Tempbot and his 2006 short/advertisement Yellow deal with a thinking and learning robot which tries to assimilate into society.

The film stars Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman, and Watkin Tudor Jones and Yolandi Visser of the South African hip-hop group Die Antwoord. The cast gave strong performances though some lacked likability with their respective characters and lacked development and screen time. The first goes to the film's unlikely actors Ninja and Yolandi, though they gave a stable first performances, they however played characters that hogged the spotlight from the rest of the cast and were just ultimately not relatable nor likable. The controversial South African rap-rave duo were both cast due to Blomkamp being a fan of their work and the duo are both fans of Blomkamp's work. Ninja has a District 9 tattoo on his inner lip. Ninja purportedly behaved very poorly on the set, allegedly leading to a complete breakdown of his relationship with the director. The second point goes to Jackman and Weaver, whose characters had so much potential but ultimately suffered because of underdevelopment and lack of screen time. Jackman, in particular, delivered a terrific performance as the film's antagonist. Lastly, who can forget the performance given by Copley as the film's title character. He delivered his best performance yet and rivals Andy Serkis' mo-cap performances.

After the heady sci-fi thrills of District 9, Chappie, along with Elysium, is a bit of a comedown for director Neill Blomkamp. The film suffers from a misguiding cast and a ridiculous story that only a child-like machine could conjure up. But on its own terms, it delivers just enough Blomkamp-esque visuals to satisfy.

Simon says Chappie receives:

Also, see my review for Elysium.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Disney Diary - Week 7

I apologize for the long vacant silence from myself; Weeks 7 had been very busy indeed. As Spring Break has commenced now I am in for a world of pain and hectic hours for work at Goofy's Candy Co. The amount of visitors passing by through my workplace is slowly growing by the dozen. The immediate sense I'm getting is "I ain’t seen nothing yet".

For Week 7, I saw another cast member go. Carolina Crelier, another Brazilian employee at Goofy's had left us on Friday 27th February. Wednesday 25th was her last day at work, and we all celebrated by taking her out to a dinner party at Applebee’s. Fellow cast members Danielle Tracy, Jennifer Nguyen, Jessica Schow and Kristen Jones came along for the party at 2am in the morning of Thursday after we had got off of work at 1am. Like the two Brazilian cast members that had come before her, she was as fun, interesting and unique, and will be missed by us very much. Have a safe trip home, Carol.

So far, I must say, after having two dinner parties late at night with the same group of girls, I must confess that they are unlike any other girls I have encountered. The women back home are neither as approachable nor as open towards myself as these girls. It seems as though my brother's words of wisdom may be true - American women are different.

See Week 11 at http://ss-film.blogspot.ca/2015/03/simons-disney-diary-week-11.html