Tuesday, 31 October 2017

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 24.

On Wednesday night, Peter was back in town because he had business, as usual, that day. Once we both got our stuff out of the way. It was at Barque Smokehouse at Roncesvalles Avenue. Maybe a place in the GTA would have sufficed. Nonetheless, it was a nice place to enjoy a barbeque dinner.

We were set on having the Smoker’s Choice, which consisted a feature salad, smoked wings, twelve-hour brisket, BBQ chicken, pommery pulled pork, and baby back ribs, seasonal sides, and pastry chef’s daily dessert. The feast began with a dish of the dry rub smoked wings (weighing at 1 pound), followed by the Barque Caesar salad. The BBQ chicken and the four Oz pommery pulled pork then came after, which then preceded by the sweet heat baby back ribs. The twelve Oz twelve-hour brisket finally arrived before the feast concluded with Pecan Pie.

We both cleaned our plates by the end of the night, even if we were trying not to let our stomachs split open. Peter, who was kind enough to do so considering my current situation, paid for the whole meal. On the condition that the next time we meet up and if I have a job by then, I’ll get the next bill.

Today was all about hanging out with Porfy and Lucas. The three of us met up at Spadina. Once we met up at the rendezvous spot, we made our first stop at The Beguiling. It is one of the best comic book stores in town. Maybe one of the top five. Nonetheless, it was a great place for guys like us to hang out in. Porfy and I spent some time going through each shelf. Ultimately, Porfy ended up buying two graphic novels, Valerian & Laureline and Saga.

We then set off to get lunch, and settled on going to Ramen Isshin. The place serves authentic ramen. I figured that I try it out based on Porfy’s recommendation, and the fact that it served authentic ramen got me interested. We both cleaned our entire bowls by the end, even though they were hot and spicy. The ramen I had was a miso soup based bowl. But boy was it hot. I mean it was freezing cold outside, and I was wearing layers of clothes, but by the time we headed out the doors, I did not want to put on my thick coat back on. Then after a while I did eventually put it back on as the heat in my body finally subdued gradually as time went by.

On most days, the temperature would drop to somewhere between minus ten to minus thirty degrees, and when it goes down, there’s no way you can go outside without a coat period. I couldn’t just go outside without one, as well as a facemask, scarf, and gloves. So having these things is definitely helpful, duh. Well… that’s Canada. Over time, I’ll just have to get used to the freezing Canadian winters. The winter brings colder temperatures and less daylight. This all combines into a big "f*** you" to my entire body. Eventually, it takes more energy to keep warm than it does to keep cool. Once the sun goes down, the air gets too cold to be exposed to, especially if you’re a homeless person. It’s a cause for concern during this time of year. And I’m sure it’ll be the death of me if I’m not too careful.

The guys and I then caught the 506 streetcar. Then we walked down McCaul Street, and then to Elm Street. Being outside for some time was enough for us to head indoors. In this case; their place. Just being outside almost the whole time was torture. We got inside and started to play some games, Mortal Kombat in particular. Playing the game wasn’t too hard for, considering I’ve never really played a game in my life. Which kind of explains my gaming experience if you ever see me gaming. It’s pretty simple if you know which buttons to press and when. The guys made sure of this, and that I was having fun at the same time. I pressed the buttons when I needed to. I kept my eyes on my character and the screen, and sure enough… I was dying. I can stress this fact enough; I suck at video games. But I knew that already. Compared to what I imagined in my mind, I have to say that it could have been worse. I managed to score a couple of points. It only took me thirty minutes to call time out, then Lucas took over and when at it for about an hour. Then there was the conversation on comic books to animation that took place for the next two hours. We then had to call it a day, and I made my way back home.

Also, see Chapters 23 and 25.

Film Review: "All I See Is You" (2016).

"An Obsessive Love Story." This is All I See Is You. This psychological romantic drama film directed by Marc Forster, and written by Forster and Sean Conway. Gina is a beautiful young woman who's still haunted by the accident that took her sight years earlier. Living in Bangkok with her husband, James, she undergoes a cutting-edge operation that restores the vision to her right eye. Now that Gina can see again, she slowly starts to realize that her newfound independence makes James feel jealous, threatened and insecure.

By early June 2015, Blake Lively, Jason Clarke, Ahna O'Reilly, Yvonne Strahovski, Wes Chatham, and Danny Huston were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and took place throughout Bangkok, Thailand, and Barcelona, Spain.

The film stars Lively, Clarke, O'Reilly, Strahovski, Chatham, and Huston. The film subdued performances from the cast, especially from Lively and Clarke that somehow contributes mightily to its serious, dramatic affect. With Lively's stunning performance at the centre, the film packs a strong wallop. Lively's performances was less glamours, and was more grounded and intimate.

All I See Is You is a dark, serious tale about a woman who regains her sight and independence, and her jealous and insecure husband. Despite some fine performances, the film was just shy of the dramatic impact that was needed for the film on the big screen. Perhaps Forester might have been tougher but that might have rendered the film less digestible. However, the film serves as a reminder that jealousy, insecurity, and obsessive love are universal; that, regardless of our cultural differences, humanity will always find common ground in devastation. Such an uncommonly unnerving film does not often get made, which requires us to enter the lives of these specifically quiet and mundane people. A riveting that chronicles a woman who regains her sight, but also tests her marriage, the film lacks sharp narrative but has emotional immediacy and intensity and displays the voice of a gifted director. It aims for genuine discomfort, and it hits the mark with effective drama and intimacy. The subject matter is queasy, but Lively and Clarke's performances are pitch perfect. Despite an evocatively serious-toned atmosphere, the film is too responsible to erupt into the kind of restrained obsessive romantic drama it keeps threatening the audience with. Instead of finishing with a bang it peters out, but this existential yarn is still fresh and dramatic enough to justify taking an hour and fifty minutes out of your life. The actors and the filmmakers all take a more restrained approach than you might expect, keeping the drama and conflict as bare minimum as Clarke's character keeping his jealousy and insecurity bottled within. The film takes a couple of curious turns that you will either applaud or hiss at, depending on the type of film you are looking for. This serious drama is heavy; it won't interest most people. While pockmarked by some flaws and blemishes, it remains an intriguing effort, continuing to mark the directorial stamp of Forester.

Simon says All I See Is You receives:

Also, see my review for World War Z.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Film Review: "Breathe" (2017).

"With Her Love, He Lived." This is Breathe. This biographical drama film directed by Andy Serkis in his directorial debut, and written by William Nicholson. When Robin is struck down by polio at the age of twenty-eight, he is confined to a hospital bed and given only a few months to live. With the help of Diana's twin brothers and the groundbreaking ideas of inventor Teddy Hall, Robin and Diana dare to escape the hospital ward to seek out a full and passionate life together - raising their young son, traveling and devoting their lives to helping other polio patients.

Robin Cavendish's son, Jonathan, who runs Imaginarium Productions production company with Serkis, commissioned Nicholson to write the film's screenplay. Serkis has stated that this film was a labor of love in that the story depicts the real-life odyssey of Robin and Diana. During filming, Garfield had to remain immobile as Cavendish was depicted being tended to with everyday tasks such as bathing. Garfield characterized Diana as more than just a soul mate. This influenced Garfield's own relationship with Claire Foy, who portrays Diana. Garfield explained that he spent time with the real-life Diana, Jonathan and their friends and family, which allowed him to absorb something of Robin's personality, and "glimpse the man inside the respirator". Garfield stayed in character in between takes. Foy would even scratch his itches. Regarding her portrayal of Diana, Foy stated, "The most important thing to get was their love for each other. I didn’t want to over-sentimentalise her; and she definitely doesn't want to be seen as a saint, or an angel, or incredible sort of nurse. It was just actually love." According to Jonathan, his father's first thought after being struck down by polio was to "turn off the machine", reasoning that Diana was only 25, and telling her, "You can start again." Touching upon Diana's rejection of this notion, Foy states, "She wasn't going anywhere. That's the thing I found the easiest to understand: she loved him! She was going through it with him. There was no cutting and running, as far as she was concerned. That wasn't ever going to be an option." The real Diana Cavendish was present during much of the filming. She was eighty-three at the time and traveled to all the filming locations with the production.

The film stars Garfield, Foy, Hugh Bonneville, Tom Hollander, Ed Speleers and Dean-Charles Chapman. Superb performances were given by the cast, especially from Garfield and Foy. Garfield and Foy are fantastic, and it's wonderful to see a biopic that includes the woman next to the famous man, but there's no there to their relationship, or their family, which grows with seemingly no parenting effort whatsoever.

Part biopic, part love story, Breathe rises on Serkis' polished direction and the strength of its two leads. A stirring and bittersweet love story, inflected with tasteful good humour.  A solid, duly moving account of their complicated relationship, spanning roughly thirty-six years, and made with impeccable professional polish. The film is tremendously moving and inspirational.

Simon says Breathe receives:

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Film Review: "The Snowman" (2017).

"Soon the first snow will come, and then he will kill again." This is The Snowman. This psychological crime horror thriller film directed by Tomas Alfredson, adapted by Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan and Søren Sveistrup, and based on the novel of the same name by Jo Nesbø. The film follows Harry Hole who is investigating the disappearance of a woman on the first snow of winter when he realises that the case may be related to a Snowman.

According to Variety and Screen Rant, with the initial hope of creating a series in the vein of the Alex Cross film adaptations and the success of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), the adaptation went into development. At various points, Martin Scorsese, Morten Tyldum, Baltasar Kormákur were attached to direct, but Alfredson was ultimately hired to direct in 2014. By late January 2016, Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, J. K. Simmons, Toby Jones, Chloë Sevigny, James D'Arcy, Genevieve O'Reilly, Jamie Clayton, and David Dencik were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in early April. Filming took place throughout Norway. Reshoots and additional filming took place during the spring of 2017. According to Alfredson, the film suffered from a problematic production, from a heavily-condensed pre-production to a rushed filming schedule, in which 10% to 15% of the screenplay remained unfilmed. This led to narrative problems when editing commenced: "Our shoot time in Norway was way too short, we didn't get the whole story with us and when we started cutting we discovered that a lot was missing. It's like when you're making a big jigsaw puzzle and a few pieces are missing so you don't see the whole picture." Alfredson also stated that he had a lack of time to prepare the film properly: "It happened very abruptly, suddenly we got notice that we had the money and could start the shoot in London." In addition, Kilmer suffered from an enlarged tongue during filming due to recent treatment for throat cancer. As such, many of his scenes were filmed without the actor visibly speaking as so to allow easier dubbing during post-production. To that end, all of Kilmer's dialogue is dubbed. Moreover, Jonny Greenwood was hired to create the score that was ultimately unused.

The film stars Fassbender, Ferguson, Gainsbourg, Kilmer, Simmons, Jones, Sevigny, D'Arcy, O'Reilly, Clayton, and Dencik. Despite a talent cast, the performances given did anything but justice to their literary counterparts. Fassbender and Ferguson did their best, but they're trampled by Alfredson's frustrating direction and a tasteless, lazily written screenplay. What a waste of talent indeed.

Detective Harry Hole makes his inauspicious cinematic debut in The Snowman, a clunky thriller that offers few surprises. The film is cut from the same cloth as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but the piece of material it uses has the uneven shape and dangling threads of a discarded remnant. It begins promisingly, then loses its direction as the demand for accelerated action overtakes narrative logic.

Simon says The Snowman receives:

Also, see my review for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Film Review: "Only the Brave" (2017).

In Only the Brave, "It's not what stands in front of you, it's who stands beside you." This biographical drama film directed by Joseph Kosinski, written by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, and based on the GQ article No Exit by Sean Flynn. Based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite firefighters who risk everything to protect a town from a historic wildfire.

In the official accident report released by the Arizona State Forestry Division, investigators noted a "culture of engagement" that, while ruled out as a direct contributing factor to the accident, was highlighted as the likely reason the Granite Mountain IHC chose to leave "the black". As noted, Hotshots are recognized as experts within the wildland firefighting community, whose persistence and improvisational ability makes them uniquely suited to the unusual challenges of wildfire engagement. It was concluded by investigators (and hinted at in the movie) that the Granite Mountain IHC was reluctant to sit by and do nothing, instead choosing to leave the black- presumably desiring to reengage the fire or assist in evacuation of Yarnell. While this decision was not sanctioned by the supervising authority, investigators determined the Granite Mountain IHC would not have perceived any risk associated with the move, since it was not yet known the fire would later shift directions. As a result, it was ruled out as a contributing factor but highlighted as a learning opportunity for wildland firefighters.

By early June 2016, Josh Brolin, James Badge Dale, Jeff Bridges, Miles Teller, Alex Russell, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Hardy, Thad Luckinbill, Geoff Stults, Scott Haze, Andie MacDowell, and Jennifer Connelly were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and took place throughout New Mexico, under the working title Granite Mountain. Initially, Lionsgate (under its Summit Entertainment label) was going to distribute this film in the United States, but a disagreement between them and Black Label Media made the distribution rights change from Lionsgate to Columbia Pictures. Lionsgate will retain international rights in select countries. In late July 2017, the film was retitled with the debut of the trailer.

The film stars Brolin, Badge Dale, Bridges, Teller, Russell, Kitsch, Hardy, Luckinbill, Stults, Haze, MacDowell, and Connelly. The film is a spectacle worth observing, thanks large part to the performances given by the cast. It may also generate a little more respect for firemen, everyday heroes who don't need the movies to polish their image.

It's not particularly deep, but Only the Brave is a strong action movie with exceptional special effects. The film has some of the raw filmmaking excitement that has been missing from Kosinki's work. The fire sequences are stunning, and the build-up to them, complete with blaring sirens and bellowed conversations, has an aggressive immediacy. The film is a top-notch drama/thriller trapped within a poorly-paced and needlessly bloated piece of work. Kosinki's film is one of smoke-eaters, crispers, and torches, and it bestows a renewed respect on a profession all too often taken for granted.

Simon says Only the Brave receives:

Also, see my review for Oblivion.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Film Review: "Brawl in Cell Block 99" (2017).

From the writer / director of Bone Tomahawk comes Brawl in Cell Block 99. This neo-noir prison thriller film written, directed and scored by S. Craig Zahler. A former boxer loses his job as an auto mechanic, and his troubled marriage is about to expire. At this crossroads in his life, he feels that he has no better option than to work as a drug courier. He soon finds himself in a gunfight between police officers and his own ruthless allies. When the smoke clears, Bradley is badly hurt and thrown in prison, where his enemies force him to commit acts of violence that turn the place into a savage battleground.

Zahler wrote the screenplay prior to Bone Tomahawk (2015). By mid August 2016, Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson, Udo Kier, and Marc Blucas were cast. Vaughn put on fifteen pounds of muscle and trained as a boxer for three months prior to filming. He stated that this made the fight choreography much easier to learn. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in mid October, Filming took place in New York City.

The film stars Vaughn, Carpenter, Johnson, Kier, and Blucas. The cast is outstanding, starting with Vaughn as Bradley Thomas, the former boxer who returns to the life of crime. The cast makes its characters shine through a smart script, staying away from the traditional and often used formula.

For a hundred and thirty-two minutes or so, Brawl in Cell Block 99 plays out as a clever and truly enjoyable crime drama and then the film turns all kinds of nasty. The film finds its gold in the razor-sharp screenwriting and direction of Zahler, honing ace performances all-around. Zahler's film is never arduous and sports a completely fine-tuned package of superb visuals and increasingly ominous score. It doesn't so much revise the crime dramas as bifurcates it with a genre mash of dark, gruesome and bloody originality. What's really intriguing and commendable about the film is that it has big ambitions that it sticks with all the way through. However, violence aside the humour's wonderfully thick and dark like molasses will have you chuckling throughout. The characters are well drawn including the female character which is a welcome trend in modern crime dramas. What gives Zahler's brutal, bloody, and just plain bizarre film a lot of its oomph is the dialogue, by turns lyrical, absurd, odd, and inventive. Like many esteemed classics of the genre, it is an exploitation movie at heart, but has the courage of its convictions to treat its material as a gory grindhouse feature, albeit one made with love and effort. However, if you're a fan of genre cinema or in the mood for something different then try catch it in cinemas. There'll be few visceral and awe moments like it on the big screen this year. The film makes its characters shine through a smart script, staying away from the traditional and often used formula.

Simon says Brawl in Cell Block 99 receives:

Film Review: "The Mountain Between Us" (2017).

"What if your life depended on a stranger?" This is The Mountain Between Us. This drama film directed by Hany Abu-Assad, adapted by Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe, and based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Charles Martin. Stranded after a tragic plane crash, two strangers must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow covered mountain. When they realize help is not coming, they embark on a perilous journey across hundreds of miles of wilderness, pushing one another to endure and discovering strength they never knew possible.

In January 2012, development on the film began with Gerardo Naranjo and J. Mills Goodloe hired to direct and pen the script. Several actors were attached to star. In March, it was announced that Michael Fassbender was cast. In August, Scott Frank was hired to re-write Goodloe's script. In September 2014, Fassbender dropped out due to scheduling conflicts, and was replaced with Charlie Hunnam. Additionally, Margot Robbie was cast. However, by November, Naranjo and Goodloe left the project and were replaced with Abu-Assad and Weitz, who were hired to direct and pen a version of the script. In addition, Robbie dropped out and was replaced with Rosamund Pike. However, in December 2015, both Hunnam and Pike dropped out. In February 2016, Idris Elba was ultimately cast. In June, Kate Winslet was ultimately cast. By early December, Dermot Mulroney, and Beau Bridges were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in late February 2017. Filming took place in Invermere and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Abu-Assad has described the locations as having very cold temperatures, and tough and harsh filming conditions. Many scenes were shot on a mountaintop, and he and the crew had to drive 40 minutes before reaching the film's base camp. When the weather was okay, they could board the helicopter to reach their destination along with their supplies.

The film stars Elba, Winslet, Mulroney, and Bridges. Thanks to the great performances given by the cast, especially Elba and Winslet, the film is a well-crafted one with convincing effects that brings home a powerful story of survival and connection. Ultimately highlights the power of one's hope and will to survive, with Elba and Winslet's failing to weaken at any moment; these are powerful, dedicated performances - one that stands as an enactment so strong, it's worth the price of admission alone. Elba has an easy-going lovable charm and Winslet really impresses.

The film is a solid, midrange picture of the type that is increasingly rare. It's star-driven, suspenseful, and just plain gorgeous to look at. The production could have fallen into the trap of being another run-of-the-mill feature about a love story. But, Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad shook things up a bit with more of an indie art-house style. A stirring tale, well told with two lead performances that carry the audience through the narrative ebbs and flows. The connection development is just OK for me, but the actual disaster grabs your attention.

Simon says The Mountain Between Us receives:

Also, see my review for The Idol.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 23.

I was particularly excited on Friday No more did I have to wait for the sequel to one of my favourite movies of all time – Blade Runner 2049. I’ll be going to the biggest screen tonight! Even if I have no job, and will have to sacrifice a really good meal. I can finally go see this movie, and I can walk to the cinema from my place. I don’t know if I mentioned before how much the original Blade Runner means to me as a filmmaker, but I LOVE that movie, and it’s such a major influence on me. I’ve watched it so many times that I’ve lost count. Of all of the movies I wished still had with me is Blade Runner. Though I no longer had access to my DVD collection back home, why should that get me down when I had a place like TIFF Bell Lightbox playing classic and modern films from all around the world. God, I wish Auckland had a place like that. Then I wouldn’t have stayed home all the time and would be less socially inept. At this point, it no longer mattered, and I didn’t care as I was going out more anyway.

Prior and during the movie, I couldn’t stop thinking "Oh my God" throughout the entire time. To drill it out of my head, I just had to focus immensely on the movie. Most people, I bet, probably were having the same thought in their heads as well. It was like that for most of the time. I mean we were just really excited for this movie because "it is probably the most anticipated movie of the year other than Star Wars: The Last Jedi." And oh man, was it. Absolutely it was.

Happy Thanksgiving Day! Today I write this entry having just celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving. The first thing I did when I got up in the morning was wave my arms while I was in bed. Felt good! I was in my apartment enjoying my morning like the bohemian that I am. I’ll thinking about where I should go to celebrate and how am I going to afford it, but that’s something to think about later on, as always.

After a few hours of relaxation, it was time to get out of the apartment. First, I spent many hours of the day going around the city with my camera taking shots of a life in a day. Naturally, after a couple of exhausting hours in the sun, I went back home to rest and have a nice lunch. Then I kind of napped and lounged around for a while. I wanted to spend the rest of the day relaxing, but I had more to do.

After resting up, I went out again and headed towards Eaton Centre. There I hung out at Indigo, spending time reading film magazines and books that caught my eye. Then I went to the Apple store and purchased myself a new USB cable and a portable battery charger since my old USB cable’s rubber had ripped and started messing with the inner wiring, as well as the fact that the battery charger my mother had given me had stopped working entirely.

After that, I made my way back home again. Along the way back, I saw nothing but people either carrying big bags of groceries or people dressed in nice clothing going to high-end restaurants. Speaking of dinner, it was time that I’d get dinner to celebrate today. It then came to me, I would go and have dinner at a Korean BBQ restaurant, and have myself a nice plate of Korean pork belly. Which I did, and I enjoyed it. How could I not? It’s only my favourite meal in the world. If there’s one food I wish I could eat all the time, it would be pork belly. As unhealthy as that sounds. It could actually kill me.

I decided to eat as much as I could, and I was served with two plates full, and I was happy as I could be. I walked back home afterwards to lose off the weight. I’ll have to continue job hunting tomorrow as usual. But in the moment, enjoy resting for the rest of the evening, and eventually enjoy a good night sleep. With the knowledge that when I wake, my morning will be spent in the toilet for some time.

Also, see Chapters 22 and 24.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Film Review: "Blade Runner 2049" (2017).

"The key to the future is finally unearthed..." Here comes Blade Runner 2049. This neo-noir science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve, and written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. The film is the sequel to Blade Runner (1982). Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. K's discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard, a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years. 

Original Blade Runner director Ridley Scott considered developing a sequel, and stated his interest while attending San Diego Comic Con in 2007. In June 2009, The New York Times reported that Scott and his brother, director Tony Scott, were working on a Blade Runner prequel set in 2019. However, in February 2010, it was announced that production on the prequel had ceased, due to rights and funding problems. In August 2011, it was announced that Scott would lead the production of a new Blade Runner film, although work would not begin until at least 2013. Producer Andrew A. Kosove suggested that Harrison Ford, the star of the original film, was unlikely to be involved. Scott said that the film was "liable to be a sequel" but without the previous cast, and that he was close to finding a writer that "might be able to help [him] deliver". Scott said in November 2014 that he would not direct the film and would instead produce; that filming would begin in late 2014 or 2015, and that Ford's character would only appear in "the third act" of the sequel. 

In February 2015, the sequel was confirmed, with Denis Villeneuve as director. Ford was confirmed to be return; as well as original writer Hampton Fancher. The film was expected to enter production in mid-2016. Initially, Villeneuve was against the concept of a sequel, as he felt it could violate the original. But after reading the script, he ultimately commited to the project, "because I feel that I can do it." Villeneuve noted that he's fully aware of the immense pressure he's under: "… I'm aware of that and I respect that, and it's okay with me because it's art. Art is risk, and I have to take risks. It's gonna be the biggest risk of my life.. For me it's very exciting... I've been dreaming to do sci-fi since I was 10 years old, and I said 'no' to a lot of sequels. I couldn't say 'no'. I love it too much, so I said, 'Alright, I will do it and give everything I have to make it great.'" With various versions of Blade Runner over the years, it is fair to ask which version would be considered "canon" going into the sequel. Villeneuve replied: "The movie will be autonomous and at the same time there will be some link..." Ever since the original hit theaters, there has been a divide among its fans about whether or not Ford's Rick Deckard is a human or a replicant. It's a question that the film leaves up to the viewer, though director Scott, Ford, and everyone else has chimed in with their own thoughts on the subject. With the sequel, there will certainly be more fuel on the fire of Deckard's true identity. Villeneuve did go on to say that the mystery will be something they address in the film and that re-contextualizing the original film with any answers they present in the sequel is a concern of his: "The thing I must say is that I love mystery. I love shadows. I love doubts. I would just want to say to the fans that we will take care of that mystery. I will take care of it."

In April 2015, Ryan Gosling first entered negotiations, and was confirmed in November 2015. Principal photography was set to begin in July, with Warner Bros. distributing the film domestically, and Sony Pictures Releasing distributing internationally. In February 2016, an official release date of January 12, 2018 was announced. In March 2016, Robin Wright entered negotiations, and in April, Dave Bautista posted a picture of himself with an origami unicorn, hinting at a role in the film. Bautista and Wright were both confirmed in April, and a filming start date of July was established. In late April 2016, the film's release date was moved up to October 6, 2017, as well as Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks being added to the cast. Carla Juri was cast in May 2016. In June, Mackenzie Davis and Barkhad Abdi were cast, with David Dastmalchian, Hiam Abbass and Lennie James joining in July. Jared Leto was cast in the film in August. In March 2017, Edward James Olmos confirmed to return. Principal photography took place between July and November 2016 in Budapest, Hungary. In early October 2016, Warner Bros. announced that the film would be titled Blade Runner 2049. Post-Production commenced in December in Los Angeles. Jóhann Jóhannsson, Villeneuve’s regular composer, was announced to score the film. However, in July 2017, Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch replaced Jóhannsson.

The film stars Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista and Jared Leto with Harrison Ford and Edward James Olmos, both reprising their roles as Rick Deckard and Gaff. The cast were outstanding, with Gosling and Ford giving the best performances of their careers, de Armas and Hoeks giving break-out performances, and Leto and Olmos giving a memorable performances despite minimal screen time.

Packed with gorgeous visuals and populated by both familiar faces and fresh energy, Blade Runner 2049 successfully recalls the original's revolutionary world while injecting it with a new spirit. Like the original, the film is a visually remarkable, achingly human sci-fi masterpiece. It is an extraordinary rarity, not just one of the best films of the year but also one of the best sequels ever made, period.

Simon says Blade Runner 2049 receives:

Also, see my review for Arrival.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Film Review: "American Made" (2017).

"The CIA. The White House. Pablo Escobar. One Man Played Them All." This is American Made. This action crime film directed by Doug Liman, and written by Gary Spinelli. Inspired by the life of Barry Seal, a commercial airline pilot, who gets involved in drugs and arms smuggling while working for the CIA. Later, he turns into a government informant in order to escape his jail time.

In the summer of 2013, Spinelli was looking for a project that was based on real events. He came across the Mena story. He conducted extensive research on the CIA's involvement in Mena, and ultimately discovered Seal. Once he found his subject, he was then inspired to write a Goodfellas-styled screenplay based on the story. The film was originally titled Mena and was first featured on The Black List, a website showcasing the best unproduced screenplays, in 2014. By late May 2015, Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Alejandro Edda, Mauricio Mejía, Caleb Landry Jones, and Jesse Plemons were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in early September. Filming took place in Cherokee, Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Morganand Pickens, Gerogia, as well as Medellin, Colombia, and Santa Marta. Cruise is a qualified pilot. He did all of his own flying scenes during filming. In early September 2015, a plane crash occurred on the set in Colombia killed two people and caused serious injuries to another member of the crew. The plane (a twin-engine Piper Aerostar), which was carrying crew members (three American pilots), was returning to Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport in Medellín when it ran into bad weather and the crash occurred. The dead were identified as Carlos Berl and Alan Purwin, who was the founder and president of Helinet Aviation, a company which provides aerial surveillance technology to government agencies and law enforcement, and a film pilot who had worked in top films. American pilot Jimmy Lee Garland was seriously injured and rushed to a local hospital. Reshoots took place in early February 2016, and January 2017.

The film stars Cruise, Gleeson, Wright, Edda, Mejía, Landry Jones, and Plemons. All of the performances are first-rate; Cruise and Gleeson stand out, though, with their seemingly unscripted charm and manner. More than any earlier Liman film, it is memorable for the ensemble nature of the performances. The film has been beautifully cast from the leading roles to the bits.

Hard-hitting and stylish, American Made will be, and is, a crime classic—and arguably the high point of Doug Liman's career. The film is easily one of the year's best films. There is flash also in some of Mr. Liman's directorial choices, including freeze frames, fast cutting and the occasional long tracking shot. None of it is superfluous. The film is a whopping good time. Every crisp minute of this long, teeming movie vibrates with outlaw energy. Big, rich, powerful and explosive. One of Liman's best films! The film is great entertainment. So it is Liman's triumph that the film offers the fastest, sharpest 115 minutes ride in recent film history.

Simon says American Made receives:

Also, see my review for Edge of Tomorrow.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Film Review: "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" (2017).

From the creators of Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service comes Kingsman: The Golden Circle. This action spy comedy film produced and directed by Matthew Vaughn, written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, and based on the comic book series Kingsman, created by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar. It is a sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014). When the Kingsman headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, their journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US called Statesman, dating back to the day they were both founded. In a new adventure that tests their agents' strength and wits to the limit, these two elite secret organizations band together to defeat a ruthless common enemy, in order to save the world, something that's becoming a bit of a habit for Eggsy.

Prior the release of Kingsman: The Secret Service, Millar and Vaughn stated that a sequel would be possible if the first film was to perform well at the box office, and Vaughn expressed interest in returning to direct. Vaughn also noted that he had hoped to have Firth back in the sequel. In late April 2015, Fox announced that a sequel was in production, but that it was unclear if Vaughn would return due to his interest in directing a Flash Gordon film. In early June 2015, Vaughn told Yahoo that he had begun writing the script for the sequel, and that he could return to direct. In September 2015, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Egerton would not return for the sequel due to his commitment with a new Robin Hood film. However, in mid-October, it was confirmed that scheduling issues had been settled between both films. Thus insured Egerton's return. By mid May 2016, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Edward Holcroft, Hanna Alström, and Sophie Cookson returned to reprise their roles, with Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, and Elton John as newcomers. At the same time, principal photography commenced, wrapped in early September. Filming took place in Leavesden and Birmingham, England, as well as Italy and Sri Lanka. The original cut of the movie had a total run-time of three hours and forty minutes. The movie had so many added scenes during production that FOX even asked Vaughn if he wanted to split the film into two separate movies. Vaughn shot down that idea and cut the film to two hours and twenty-one minutes.

The film stars Firth, Egerton, Strong, Holcroft, Alström, and Cookson, who reprise their roles, with Moore, Berry, Pascal, Tatum, Bridges, and John. The performances, given by the old and new cast, have entered the charisma-free zone. Egerton's Eggsy dealing with a normal relationship with Hanna Alström' Tilde would have been more interesting, than film trying to be a spy film, if the story hadn't been marred by bad jokes about bodily sex.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle falls short in its attempt to emulate the original's unique blend of ultra-violence and ironic humour.

Simon says Kingsman: The Golden Circle receives:

Also, see my review for Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Monday, 2 October 2017

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 22.

I got a couple of minutes to meet one of my idols, and then it was over. But it’s not the worst thing. I’ve had my time for that day. I must be one of the luckiest people in the world to be in the situation right now; it’s a kind of a miracle as a matter of fact. In my free time, I just get by; go around places, go to the cinema, do groceries, all that jazz.

On one of my days I hung out with good friend Ishkhan and his gang for one whole adventurous night during Nuit Blanche. For those of you who don’t know what it is, Nuit Blnache (or White Night) is an annual all-night or night time arts festival. A Nuit Blanche will typically have museums and/or private and public art galleries, and other cultural institutions open and free of charge, with the centre of the city itself being turned into a de facto art gallery, providing space for art installations, performances (music, film, dance, performance art), themed gatherings, and other activities.

For Toronto, it was exactly that. The entire downtown area was transformed into one gigantic art gallery with multiple exhibitions scattered everywhere from one end of the city to the other. And when I say exhibitions, I mean all kinds, ranging from high art to the down right bizarre. And, yes, of course there was entertainment. There was music booming through the air, there were films of all lengths and kinds playing in almost half of the exhibitions, dancers roaming through the streets performing everything from ballet to hip pop, with performance art occupying the same space as them. And everything about it was… amazing. The highlight was the Red Forest exhibition, the last one. It was a Netflix-inspired exhibition that took inspirations from Stranger Things (mostly), and the upcoming movie Bright. For this one, we had to wear special costumes, containment suits (like the ones in Stranger Things), to in order to explore the Upside Down world of the show. The entire piece itself was eerily beautiful and hypnotising, and much more colourful than the world in the show. They did a terrific job of capturing the essence of the show.

So far, I’m having as much fun as I can despite my current predicament. It’s not perfect. But then again, nothing is, and I’m making the most of it while I can.

Also, see Chapters 21 and 23.