Monday, 31 October 2016

Film Review: "The Age of Shadows" ("밀정") (2016).

"Infiltrate and deceive"
and "Suspect and disrupt" are key to The Age of Shadows (밀정) (2016). This South Korean action thriller film directed by Kim Jee-woon and written by Lee Ji-min and Park Jong-dae. Set in the late 1920s, the film follows the cat-and-mouse game that unfolds between a group of resistance fighters trying to bring in explosives from Shanghai to destroy key Japanese facilities in Seoul, and Japanese agents trying to stop them. A talented Korean-born Japanese police officer, who was previously in the independence movement himself, is thrown into a dilemma between the demands of his reality and the instinct to support a greater cause.

In August 2015, Warner Bros. announced that it would finance and distribute its first ever Korean-language film. With a budget of US$8.62 million would be co-produced by Grimm Pictures, Warner Bros. Korea and Harbin Films. The project was developed under the three companies; the script was developed by Lee Ji-min and Park Jong-dae; Kim Jee-woon (A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), A Bittersweet Life (2005) and I Saw the Devil (2010)), was attached to direct and the cast would consist of Song Kang-ho, Gong Yoo, Han Ji-min, Shingo Tsurumi and Lee Byung-hun. The film was selected as the South Korean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the 89th Academy Awards.

The film stars Song Kang-ho, Gong Yoo, Han Ji-min, Shingo Tsurumi and Lee Byung-hun. The cast gave terrific performances, though one can not help but notice the poor, thin and "hollywoodized" characterisations that are often associated with big budget historical productions involving a group of resistance fighters fighting against the tyrannical empire.

With The Age of Shadows, audiences will be delighted to find the kind of overstuffed historical mega-production that Hollywood doesn't make anymore. Here Hollywood meets Korean cinema with palate-tingling results. It is a fusion that draws shamelessly on its historical epic forebears but remains utterly, bracingly Korean. Here director Kim Jee-woon shows his exceptional direction once again and confidently handles the film's action sequences. The action sequences are a tour de force of action style and Korean ultra-violence that will have genre fans nailed to their seats. It's hard not to admire the film's entertainment and high production value. Guns, explosions and quirky humor have been added to the mix. As vigorously staged as it all is - sometimes confusingly, occasionally with camera-torqueing flair and impressive stuntwork - the urge to thrill grows wearisome at times. Were audience members to be included as a co-conspiritor as well, they'd be in the age of boredom. The story’s many advances and reversals, with the additions of too many characters and the film's tedious running time, can be hard to follow at times. But this isn’t really a movie where plot is paramount. Everything boils down to the action, and what that action means. A confusing and complicated narrative and lacklustre ending detract from an otherwise joyous Eastern historical action flick. In the end, it may not be exactly the rediscovery of form or revelation that Korean cinema has been waiting for or deserves, but it comes close enough.

Simon says The Age of Shadows (밀정) receives:

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Film Review: "I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House" (2016).

From the director of The Blackcoat's Daughter comes I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House. This gothic supernatural horror film written and directed by Osgood Perkins. A nervous nurse who scares easily finds herself caring for an ailing horror novelist while living in a house with hidden secrets.

Perkins originally intended for the story to be about the daughter of a male horror novelist, but he said that "one day, it just changed". Casting became easier once the film was financed; Perkins cited Wilson's talent and excitement for the project as two of the reasons she was chosen to play Lily. It had been reported that Debbie Harry was initially attached to play Iris Blum, though the role ultimately went to Paula Prentiss. However, Perkins has stated that the role was always thought for Prentiss, who worked with his father, Anthony Perkins, in Catch-22 (1970) and remained friends since, as well as her husband Richard Benjamin. Harry was indeed cast first, but dropped out a few weeks before filming began. Principal photography took place in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

The film stars Ruth Wilson, Paula Prentiss, Bob Balaban, and Lucy Boynton. The cast are all uniformly excellent, but they're stuck in a film that doesn't seem to know what to do with them, at times.

Slow-building and atmospheric, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House resists girls-in-peril clichés in a supernatural thriller that serves as a strong sophomore effort for writer-director Oz Perkins. It is one of the most original, and strongly female-led horror film of the year thus far. It's Hitchcockian in style, however, the thrills are doused in dread to create a surprisingly effective horror movie. This methodical possession riff further establishes Perkins as one of the few horror filmmakers whose every work will have my attention, as the film is a beautiful way to get the jitters. Deserves to be studied in terms of its visuals and learned from by those who write and want to learn how to tell a story with minimal, haunting dialogue. But beyond its compositional breadth, what Perkins conveys in the film lends itself a more feminine persuasion, one that addresses a set of impossible social responsibilities exclusive to women. The film is a cold descent into madness in then hands of a director that manages to capture the very essence of evil in uncommon places. The film is a haunting tale that breaths new life into the idea of possession and the loss of innocence. By the time the credits rolled I felt stunned and awestruck. It will stick with you for days (or even weeks) after you see it. I can't get the damn thing out of my head. The film takes its time slowly setting its pieces into place, and some expecting a more full-throttled horror experience might get a little restless waiting for the jolts to come. The film layers on the dread until it's almost physically challenging to keep watching as shadows grow ever more oppressive and the school ever less welcoming. Something wicked this way comes, indeed.

Simon says I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House receives:

Friday, 28 October 2016

Film Review: "Into the Inferno" (2016).

"What we worship can destroy us." This is Into the Inferno. This documentary film directed by Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer. They shape Earth’s topography. For some who live in their shadow, volcanos also shape beliefs in gods and demons. Herzog explores active volcanos from around the world, Mount Sinabung, Laki, Baekdu Mountain and Erta Ale, and the people who live near them. Herzog follows Oppenheimer, also a volcanologist, who hopes to minimize the volcanoes’ destructive impact.

Sinabung's last known eruption occurred in 1600. In 1912, Solfataric activities (cracks where steam, gas, and lava are emitted) were last observed at the summit. In late August 2010, as well as September and November 2013, and January, February and October 2014, eruptions were documented. In May 2016, a pyroclastic flow killed seven people. Between 2013 and 2014, the alert for a major event was increased with no significant activity. In early June 2015, the alert was again increased, and on 26 June 2015, at least 10,000 people were evacuated, fearing a major eruption. The long eruption of Mount Sinabung is similar to that of Mount Unzen in Japan, which erupted for five years after lying dormant for 200 years. Laki is part of a volcanic system centered on the volcano Grímsvötn and including the volcano Thordarhyrna. It lies between the glaciers of Mýrdalsjökull and Vatnajökull, in an area of fissures that run in a southwest to northeast direction. Between June 1783 and February 1784, the system erupted violently over an eight-month period from the Laki fissure and the adjoining volcano Grímsvötn, pouring out an estimated 42 billion tons or 14 km3 (3.4 cu mi) of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous hydrofluoric acid and sulfur dioxide compounds that contaminated the soil, leading to the death of over 50% of Iceland's livestock population, and the destruction of the vast majority of all crops. This led to a famine which then killed approximately 25% of the island's human population. The lava flows also destroyed 20 villages. The Laki eruption and its aftermath caused a drop in global temperatures, as 120 million tons of sulfur dioxide was spewed into the Northern Hemisphere. This caused crop failures in Europe and may have caused droughts in North Africa and India. 

In the last five-thousand years, Baekdu had one of the largest and most violent eruptions (alongside the Minoan eruption, the Hatepe eruption of Lake Taupo in around AD 180, the 1257 eruption of Mount Samalas near Mount Rinjani, and the 1815 eruption of Tambora). In late September 2005, there was a major eruption at Erta Ale, which killed two-hundred-and-fifty head of livestock and forced thousands of nearby residents to flee. In August 2007, there was further lava flow that forced the evacuation of hundreds and leaving two missing. In early November 2008, an eruption was reported by scientists at Addis Ababa University. In January 2017, another eruption was reported.

Into the Inferno offers a poignant study of the human psyche amid haunting landscapes. But where is the dark spark of Herzog magic?

Simon says Into the Inferno receives:

Monday, 24 October 2016

Film Review: "Ouija: Origin of Evil" (2016)

"When you talk to the other side, you never know who will be listening." This is Ouija: Origin of Evil. This supernatural horror film directed by Mike Flanagan, written by Flanagan and Jeff Howard, and based on the infamous Hasbro board game of the same name and characters created by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White. It is a prequel to the 2014 film Ouija. In 1967 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her daughters add a new stunt to bolster their seance scam business by inviting an evil presence into their home, not realizing how dangerous it is.

After the lukewarm reception of Ouija, producer Jason Blum wanted to make a film that was significantly different than the original. This appealed to Flanagan who stated in an interview that he has "allergy to sequels" Blum let Flanagan work on the type of horror film he wanted which was a period piece that dealt with a family dynamic. There was some talk from the beginning about whether or not the film should have any connections at all to the original, but Flanagan himself was opposed to this, and instead opted to make references to the original subtle to welcome new viewers while also entertaining fans of the original. The Changeling (1980) was a major influence on the film, with Flanagan screening the film with his director of photography "like ten times" while also watching other classics such as The Exorcist (1973) and The Watcher in the Woods (1980). It was then that the pair hit off the idea to film the movie as if it were the 1970s, using only technology that would only have been available in that era. By September 2015, Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson, Henry Thomas, Kate Siegel, and Doug Jones were cast. Around the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in late October. Filming took place in Los Angeles and was shot on the Arri Alexa XT Plus cameras. Flanagan said he wanted to shoot the film as if it were to be shot in 1971. Some techniques included antique lenses, scene fades, and camera zooms instead of steadicams. Other simulated techniques: dust on the negative, subtle warping of the audio track, reel jumps and split-diopter, where both the foreground and background are in focus. Flanagan then added elements in post-production in order to add a retro feel to the film and to give the appearance of a movie shot on film. The film was cut down to ninety minutes from a hundred and thirty minutes.

This tale of a family and a haunted object pulls all the wearingly familiar tricks, including ghostly figures appearing in the shadows, but there are a couple of well executed jump-out-your seat moments, some nice touches of humor. This is thanks to the solid performances given by the cast.

Ouija: Origin of Evil is a massive step-up from Ouija. With great performances by the cast, and some excellent scare sequences, Origin of Evil has more than enough to keep you up at night.

Simon says Ouija: Origin of Evil receives:

Friday, 21 October 2016

Film Review: "Shin Godzilla" ("シン・ゴジラ") (2016).

The film's tagline reads "A god incarnate. A city doomed." Which is what is about to go down in Shin Godzilla. This Japanese kaiju film featuring the titular King of the Monsters, co-directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi and written by Anno. It is the 29th Godzilla film produced by Toho, and Toho's third reboot of the franchise. An unknown accident occurs in Tokyo Bay's Aqua Line, which causes an emergency cabinet to assemble. All of the sudden, a giant creature immediately appears, destroying town after town with its landing reaching the capital. This plunges Japan into chaos. This mysterious giant monster is named "Godzilla". The reimagines Godzilla's origins, where he emerges in modern Japan for the first time.

In 1954, a terrifying and formidable creature emerged from the depths of Tokyo Bay, and terrorized movie screens all over the world. The film was Gojira, and it went on to become one of the biggest franchises in movie history that spawned a genre of its own. But ever since Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), the character and franchise laid dormant. Until in December 2014, Toho announced plans for a new domestic Godzilla film for a slated 2016 release, stating "This is very good timing after the success of the American version this year: if not now, then when?" Making this film the first Toho-produced Godzilla film in 12 years. The film's writer and chief director Hideaki Anno was offered the director's chair for the film. He reportedly refused Toho's initial offer in order to work on the fourth Evangelion movie but was convinced to join the project after his longtime friend Shinji Higuchi signed on to direct. In March 2015, Both Anno and Higuchi were announced as the film's directors. Both Anno  and Higuchi are longtime friends and collaborators, and are both well-known for their work on the popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995). They were selected by Toho to work on this film in part due to their work on the series. Like the original for its nuclear allegory, the film was inspired by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. This is the first Japanese Godzilla movie to be a full reboot, meaning that it shows what would happen if Godzilla attacked for the first time in modern day, and there had been no previous records of him. Although Toho has "rebooted" Godzilla a few times each previous film acknowledged the original 1954 movie as canon and just ignored all previous sequels. In September 2015, Toho revealed the film's official title as Shin Gojira and that the film will star Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, and Satomi Ishihara. Producer Akihiro Yamauchi stated that the title was chosen for the film due to the variety of meanings the syllable "shin" could convey, such as "new", "true", and "god".

Principal photography began in September and concluded in October 2015, with the special effects work following in November that year. According to sources close to the production, Godzilla's design in the film will be mostly based on his design from the original film, and is intended to appear very frightening. This film's Godzilla stands 118.5 m (388 ft) tall, surpassing Legendary Pictures' Godzilla, which stood 355 ft/108 m tall thus making it the largest version of Godzilla to appear on film. Higuchi revealed that Godzilla in this film will be brought to life using a hybrid combination of computer generated imagery and traditional practical tokusatsu effects techniques. Higuchi utilized this same hybrid strategy for the live-action Attack on Titan films. Higuchi, has previous experience working on special effects in multiple kaiju films by Toho. He previously worked as a special effects assistant for Godzilla 1985 (1984) and then was in charge of special effects for Shûsuke Kaneko's Gamera trilogy in the late 1990's. Higuchi also worked on the special effects in one scene for Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001). Godzilla was portrayed in motion capture by Mansai Nomura, a Kyogen (traditional Japanese comic theatre) actor. To realize Godzilla's slow movements, a 10-kilo weight was strapped behind him, and he incorporated the technique of the traditional Japanese dance into his performance. The film was released in Japan on July 29, 2016 to critical acclaim from Japanese critics and was a box office success, becoming the highest grossing live-action Japanese film for 2016 and the highest grossing Japanese-produced Godzilla film in the franchise.

The film features an ensemble that includes Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara, Kengo Kora, Akira Emoto, Jun Kunimura, Mikako Ichikawa, Pierre Taki and Shinya Tsukamoto. All of the 328 actors in this film gave terrific performances of people who ultimately save the day despite being tedious in a few areas due to their bureaucratic nature.

Shin Godzilla is a refreshing approach to the franchise and the genre, even when revisiting it a decade later, in an era inundated with Hollywood movies where each tries to better the last's visual effects budget. Both Anno and Higuchi have taken Godzilla back to his roots. They both get the titular monster right. If there is one Godzilla film anyone should see, this is it. It's a kaiju film with a dark, serious political tone that's very well-written with nothing but incredible actors involved. The film is moody and visually stimulating, it sees the King of the Monsters finally giving the treatment and respect he deserves, in what can only be described as one of the greatest re-vamps given to an enduring character. It can be thought of as 'what if either Stanley Kubrick or Christopher Nolan directed a Godzilla film.' It may be a bit adult for younger children, but for everyone else the film is just about the perfect kaiju movie. Drained of its silliness, the franchise rediscovered its valor, landing Godzilla his finest motion picture effort to date. An impressive cinematic renaissance for the franchise, and a blockbuster with more intelligence than most. An utterly amazing and riveting start to a brand new beginning. A blast of energy that reinvents Godzilla for a new generation of film-goers, which the 2014 film failed to accomplish. Take note Gareth Edwards, this is what a Godzilla film should be. And the last shot? Oh, that last shot.

Simon says Shin Godzilla receives:

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Film Review: "Inferno" (2016).

"There is a switch, if you throw it, half the people on earth will die. But if you don't, the human race will be extinct in a hundred years. What would you do?" This is the fundamental question looming in Inferno. This mystery thriller film directed by Ron Howard, written by David Koepp, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Dan Brown. The film is the sequel to The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009), and is the third installment in the Robert Langdon film series. Famous symbologist on a trail of clues tied to the great Dante himself. When Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Sienna Brooks, a doctor he hopes will help him recover his memories. Together, they race across Europe and against the clock to stop a madman from unleashing a global virus that would wipe out half of the world's population.

Following the release of Angels & Demons, Sony moved forward with adapting The Lost Symbol, but the production suffered "development hell" as both Howard and Hanks were hesitant to return to the series. Ultimately, the novel Inferno was released in 2013, and Sony decided to forward with adapting Inferno instead with a set December 18 2015 release date. In late August 2014, Sony had finalized the deal to have Howard, Koepp, and Hanks to direct, write, and reprise his role of the famous symbologist, and set production for a April start date in Italy. By mid February 2015, Sony announced the cast for the film that included Felicity Jones as Dr. Sienna Brooks, Omar Sy as Christoph Bruder, Irrfan Khan as Harry "The Provost" Sims, Sidse Babett Knudsen as Elizabeth Sinskey, head of the World Health Organization, and Ben Foster as an unspecified villain, which later revealed to be the role of Bertrand Zobrist. Filming began in late April, and wrapped in late July, with a budget of $75 million, and under the codename Headache. Locations included Venice and Florence, Italy, and Korda Studios in Budapest, Hungary. In early 2016, the release date for the film was moved to October 28 2016 to avoid clashing with Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). The release marks a decade after the release of The Da Vinci Code, and the first film in the series to be released in the Fall instead of Summer.

The film stars Hanks, reprising his role, alongside Jones, Sy, Knudsen, Foster, and Khan. The cast gave compelling performances even though it bordered on complete silliness and absurdity. At times, every supporting character acts like an unhelpful idiot to keep the plot stirring, while yet again a seemingly all-powerful conspiracy seems to consist of a few evil people.

Inferno is a fast-paced thrill ride, and an improvement on the last Dan Brown adaptation, Angels & Demons, but the storyline too often wavers between implausible and ridiculous, and does not translate effectively to the big screen.

Simon says Inferno receives:

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Film Review: "Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids" (2016).

From Netflix and the director of The Silence of the Lambs and Ricki and the Flash comes Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids. This concert film directed by Jonathan Damme, and starring Timberlake. On the final nights of a world tour, Demme captures what makes the show soar: gifted musicians, deft dancers and a magnetic star.

Demme and Timberlake first met when the director wanted to work with him after watching his work in The Social Network (2010); in the meeting they discussed Talking Heads' concert film Stop Making Sense (1984), directed by Demme and an influence for the singer in his live performances. Filming took place on the final night of the 20/20 Experience World Tour at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. For the film, Demme used 14 operated cameras that Declan Quinn, the director of photography, and he deployed over many pre-filming engagements, two other free-floating cameras in the audience and one cameraman onstage with Timberlake. Several songs from the concert do not appear in the movie, including TKO, Summer Love, Cry Me a River, Señorita, Heartbreak Hotel, That Girl, Tunnel Vision, and Murder.

The special nicely showcases Timberlake's artistry and deconstructs his self-created mythology even as it ultimately doesn't reveal as much about the man's own flaws and fears as it appears to in the moment. However, it is Timberlake the showman - in a more rueful and reflective mode than his usual brand of stage banter - that is the principal focus of this Netflix concert special. At one and-a-half-hours, it ought to drag; instead it builds with poetic flourishes and self-examination. Not for the supremely self-aware and exacting Timberlake the routine fare of the jukebox musical or the gaudy biopic. The special distills everything that makes Timberlake one of America's greatest modern singer-songwriter star such a formidable, genial, and inviting personalities into a single, visual volume. Like many of the all-time great concert films, this is no substitute for being in the room, but it's power transcends any perceived limitations. Timberlake's attempts to conjure up an experience, while they probably worked on the stage, are constantly shattered by Demme's cuts and disengaged zooms. Nonetheless, Timberlake has mastered the dynamics needed to keep a mostly singing show riveting for a running time that's epic by monologists' standards, if not his own. Not only does it work on its own as a Netflix special, it gives you all the same feels seeing the show live at the Walter Kerr Theater brought out. It is as much a self-made monument to its artist's vision and hurricane-force ambition as it is to his life and career, and it bears the mark of a self-made man who’ll write his own history. A master class in pacing, dynamics, modulation of volume and tone, and the film brings you right up onstage with Timberlake, giving you a more intimate view of his technique - understated, seemingly casual but absolutely controlled. Timberlake turns a massive venue into a private pop fest, delivering new songs and old favorites to a singing, dancing, screaming audience that obviously adores him.

Simon says Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids receives:

Also, see my review for Ricki and the Flash.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Film Review: "Deepwater Horizon" (2016).

"When faced with our darkest hour, hope is not a tactic." This is Deepwater Horizon. This biographical disaster film directed by Peter Berg, written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand, and The New York Times article Deepwater Horizon's Final Hours by David Barstow, David Rohde, and Stephanie Saul. On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, igniting a massive fireball that kills several crew members. Chief electronics technician Mike Williams and his colleagues find themselves fighting for survival as the heat and the flames become stifling and overwhelming. Banding together, the co-workers must use their wits to make it out alive amid all the chaos.

In early March 2011, it was announced that Summit Entertainment, Participant Media, and Image Nation had acquired the film rights to The New York Times' article published on December 25, 2010, about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill. Sand was set to pen the script, while Lorenzo di Bonaventura was in talks to produce the film under his Di Bonaventura Pictures banner. In late July 2012, Ric Roman Waugh was in talks with the studios to direct the film. However, in early July 2014, it was announced that J. C. Chandor had been hired to direct the film, with Carnahan hired for a rewrite. In late January 2015, it was reported that Berg had replaced Chandor. Chandor exited due to creative differences. A large majority of the oilfield workers in the Gulf of Mexico were against the making of the film, because they felt that it could dishonour the men who died during the actual event. However, Mike Williams (one of the survivors) was all in for the film, and worked on it with the crew, along with another survivor of the event. He felt it was a good way of showing people the circumstances that the crew members went through, and that the goal of the film crew was to make it look as real as possible. By late April, Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O'Brien, Kate Hudson, and Ethan Suplee were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and took place throughout Louisiana. An oil rig was built just for this film, this rig is located in Chalmette, Louisiana where filming mostly took place. Berg claimed it was one of the largest practical sets ever built.

The film stars Wahlberg, Russell, Malkovich, Rodriguez, O'Brien, Hudson, and Suplee. Surprisingly, what makes this story hit home is the acting. The cast bring a quiet realism to their roles-the less they think of themselves as heroes, the more we do.

A true account of the drilling rig disaster off the Gulf of Mexico and survival, Deepwater Horizon wields enough visceral power to mitigate its heavy-handed jingoism. The film never makes a grand statement about whether or not the drilling rig disaster is, per se, a mistake, but it does portray the disaster itself as a disgusting folly.

Simon says Deepwater Horizon receives:

Also, see my review for Lone Survivor.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Film Review: "The Girl on the Train" (2016).

"What you can see can hurt you" in The Girl on the Train. This mystery thriller drama film directed by Tate Taylor, adapted by Erin Cressida Wilson, and based on British author Paula Hawkins' popular 2015 debut novel of the same name. The film follows Commuter Rachel Watson, who catches daily glimpses of a seemingly perfect couple, Scott and Megan, from the window of her train. One day, Watson witnesses something shocking unfold in the backyard of the strangers' home. Rachel tells the authorities what she thinks she saw after learning that Megan is now missing and feared dead. Unable to trust her own memory, the troubled woman begins her own investigation, while police suspect that Rachel may have crossed a dangerous line.

In March 2014, DreamWorks Pictures acquired the film rights to Hawkins' novel and an adaptation was planned for production. In early 2015, Wilson and Taylor were hired to pen and direct the adaptation. Hawkins revealed that the film's setting would be moved from London to Westchester, New York. In June, Emily Blunt was offered the title role. Hawkins had Michelle Williams in mind for the role of Rachel. The casting of Blunt garnered controversy as she was that she was too attractive for the role of a broken and chronic alcoholic. The makeup artists got around this by extensively studying the skin of actual alcoholics and applying makeup to make her look more exhausted and washed out with dark circles under her eyes and puffy cheeks. The fact that Blunt was pregnant during filming helped with the effect. In August, Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson were cast to play Megan and Anna. Kate Mara and Margot Robbie were considered for the role of Megan. Jared Leto and Chris Evans were in talks to join the film, where Evans would play Tom, and Leto would play Scott. However, Evans and Leto left the film due to scheduling issues, Justin Theroux and Luke Evans ultimately replaced them. By early November, Allison Janney, Édgar Ramírez, Lisa Kudrow, and Laura Prepon rounded out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in late January 2016. Filming took place throughout New York.

The film stars Blunt, Ferguson, Bennett, Theroux, Evans, Janney, Ramírez, Kudrow, and Prepon. Despite the talented cast, the film is not quite the rare character-focused drama that can make audiences gasp audibly - and laugh, and cringe. Though, the cast seemed to relish each delicious twist and turn their characters took. They were extremely entertaining to watch at times.

The Girl on the Train aims to be the film Hawkins fans hoped for and set Blunt up for a worthy Oscar nomination but the film disappoints in failing to improve upon the already-brilliant book. The film promised to be an unnerving portrait of recollection and distrust as ruin, but then it opts for madness and implausibility. Unlike David Fincher's Gone Girl, another missing persons movie that unearths its horrors with far greater feeling, the film lingers on the surface.

Simon says The Girl on the Train receives:

Also, see my review for Get on Up.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Film Review: "13th" (2016).

"From slave to criminal with one amendment." This is 13th. This documentary by director Ava DuVernay. In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.

The film explores the "intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States;" it is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1865, which abolished slavery throughout the United States and ended involuntary servitude except as a punishment for conviction of a crime. DuVernay contends that slavery has been perpetuated since the end of the American Civil War through criminalizing behavior and enabling police to arrest poor freedmen and force them to work for the state under convict leasing; suppression of African Americans by disenfranchisement, lynchings and Jim Crow; politicians declaring a war on drugs that weigh more heavily on minority communities and, by the late 20th century, mass incarceration of people of color in the United States. She examines the prison-industrial complex and the emerging detention-industrial complex, discussing how much money is being made by corporations from such incarcerations.

Fueled by a gripping testimonies, 13th draws inspiration and dramatic power from the lives and deaths of many African-Americans – but doesn't ignore how far we remain from the ideals their fights embodied. The film is an important history lesson that never feels like a lecture. Once school is back in session, every junior high school class in America should take a field trip to see this movie. At its best, DuVernay's biographical film honors those who fought for equal rights and were oppressed by documenting the racist brutality that spurred many African-Americans to action. Even if you think you know what's coming, the film hums with suspense and surprise. Packed with incident and overflowing with fascinating characters, it is a triumph of efficient, emphatic cinematic storytelling. In bringing together the personal, the political, and the historic, DuVernay has crafted a film that will be remembered and studied for years to come. The film offers not only a superbly-realized presentation of a particular series of events, but also a sense of what it meant to live through the historical period in question. As director, DuVernay employs a style of storytelling that makes it possible for audiences to find the film engrossing, entertaining, and educational. In a time where dedicated activists are speaking their own truths to leaders who are often even less responsive, movies such as Selma feel more essential than ever. The film's cultural significance is critical and will inevitably permeate all conversations about the film. As a reviewer, I must stress that its cinematic value speaks for itself, even when you swipe away the context of today's struggles. The film serves as a pointed and poignant riposte to our current historical moment. It's an important film about an important story. It deserves to be seen, shared, discussed, and, like the events it depicts, never forgotten. With 13th, director DuVernay has created a stirring, often thrilling, uncannily timely drama that works on several levels at once.

Simon says 13th receives:

Also, see my review for Selma.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Film Review: "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" (2016).

"Stay peculiar", which is what Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children encourages. This dark fantasy adventure film directed by Tim Burton and written by Jane Goldman, based on the novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs. When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that spans different worlds and times, he finds a magical place known as Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers... and their powerful enemies. Ultimately, Jacob discovers that only his own special "peculiarity" can save his new friends.

In May 2011, the film rights to the 2011 novel were sold to 20th Century Fox. Chernin Entertainment also signed on to produce the film. In November, reported that Tim Burton was in talks to direct the film. In December, Jane Goldman was reportedly hired to adapt the story as a screenplay for the film, while Burton was not confirmed yet. In July 2014, Eva Green was set to play the title role. In September 2014, it was announced that Asa Butterfield was being eyed for the lead role. In November 2014, Ella Purnell was in final talks to join the film. In February 2015, Samuel L. Jackson was added to the cast to play Barron, a character made for the film. By March 2015, Terence Stamp, Chris O'Dowd, Rupert Everett, Kim Dickens, and Judi Dench were announced as being in the cast. Filming was initially set to begin in August 2014 in London. In February 2015, Principal photography began in the Tampa Bay Area. Tampa Bay Times revealed that some parts of the film were being shot in London. Filming lasted for two weeks in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, in the Florida area. It is the second Tim Burton film to be shot in the Tampa Bay area, the first being Edward Scissorhands in 1989. Production of the film later moved to Cornwalland, Blackpool in the UK, and Brasschaat, a municipality close to Antwerpen (Antwerp), Belgium. The movie was originally scheduled to be released on March 4 2016, but it was changed to Christmas 2016, then changed once again to September 30 2016.

The film stars Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O'Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson. The cast gave peculiar performances, and maybe Burton's best cast in years. Kudos goes to Green, O'Dowd, Janney, Everett, Stamp, Dench and Jackson who gave solid performances. Butterfield, Purnell and the other children gave unique performances, even though, at times, had dry moments.

Darker to most family movie fair, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is for people who like their family fair visually appealing and dark. The film is a clever, smart fantasy that targets the outsider inside every one of us. It's Burton's richly entertaining adaptation is one of his best films in years. A film that is just as comic, beautiful and haunting as its source material.

Simon says Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children receives:

Also, see my review for Big Eyes.