Wednesday, 29 November 2017

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 28.

It’s over! Holy shit, it’s over! I have just found a job and will be starting on 28th November. The job is being a Sales Photographer for a New Zealand company called Magic Memories (ironic) at one of the most Canadian places in Canada – the CN Tower. The job came just in the nick of time when I was about to even remotely consider giving up, packing my bags, and heading back home. But I’m saved!

I don’t even know what to say. This is insane, and somehow I’m employed! I’m going to be very happy again. I spent months endlessly job-hunting like a maniac with no life and it’s finally over. Sure, I might lose this job and not last as long as I would hope. But I’m no longer unemployed.

The whole time after I had my interview and received the offer, I was celebrating. I imagined what this moment would be like. I figured I’d jump up and down for a bit, cheer and scream on the top of my lungs, maybe flip off the ground (or maybe not considering highly likely I’ll injure or kill myself), and that’s what happened. When I got the email, I jumped up and down a bit, cheered and screamed on the top of my lungs, but I didn’t flip off the ground because I didn’t want to injure or die before my new job. I did this for several minutes. I finally settled down and got down to preparing for the new job.

The day finally came. It occurred to me: Now that I might live, I have to be more careful about not losing my job as I did with Disney. How do I make sure I keep my job? There’s no simple answer… but then again, the answer is obviously just don’t do anything stupid. I’ve got some important things to keep in mind and to do when I finally start. Time to get to work!

Also, see Chapters 27 and 29.

Film Review: "Roman J. Israel, Esq." (2017).

"If you can't break the law, break the system." This is Roman J. Israel, Esq. This legal drama film written and directed by Dan Gilroy. Set in the underbelly of the overburdened Los Angeles criminal court system, Roman Israel, a driven, idealistic defense attorney who, through a tumultuous series of events, finds himself in a crisis that leads to extreme action. George Pierce, the monied, cutthroat lawyer, recruits Roman to his firm.

In late August 2016, after the critical and financial success of Nightcrawler, it was revealed that Gilroy's next directorial project was Inner City, a legal drama in the vein of The Verdict (1982). Gilroy was then courting Denzel Washington to star. By late April 2017, Washington was confirmed to star, with Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Shelley Hennig, and Amanda Warren rounding out the cast. At the same time, with a budget of $22 million, principal photography commenced, and took place in Los Angeles. The film shot on the Arri Alexa Mini, Arri Alexa XT, and Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2 cameras, with Panavision Super Speed MKII, Panavision Super Speed MKII, Panavision Primo, Super Speed MKII and Zeiss Macro Lenses, in the 1.85: 1 aspect ratio. In late June 2017, the film was renamed Roman J. Israel, Esq.

The film stars Washington, Farrell, Ejogo, Hennig, and Warren. Washington gives a brilliant performance in this powerful David and Goliath tale of a man's quest for justice in the face of a corrupt system. Washington has the role of his later career. He uses some of his charm, and sparingly smiles. He not only embodies Roman J. Israel, but that he IS Roman J. Israel, and you feel for him with every shot of every scene involving the legal system. He goes into court a hero and comes out a defeated man in this superb legal drama about a man finding justice. Gilroy was convinced that Washington was the perfect actor for the film; and he was completely right. This is realistic American film acting at its veristic/imaginative best. The acting is good, and it maintains your interest. But at certain times, the actors mechanically repeat a script that wasn't written with originality.

When a movie contains names as Washington and Gilroy, it is hard not to have high hopes. Yet Roman J. Israel, Esq. meets these aspirations, and in the process presents some of the best work by these three revered figures of American cinema. The film is the first courtroom drama in years to recapture the flawed nature of the legal system. The performances, the dialogue and the plot all work together like a rare machine. Gilroy directs effectively, keeping the tension strong, and unfolding his solid screenplay slowly but with maximum impact. Not an action flick by any means, the film is a slow burn from frame one to the end. Gilroy's script is a bit theatrical for courtroom drama, but it's his direction and Washington's nuanced performance, who uses silences and pauses as eloquently as dialogue, that distinguish the picture.

Simon says Roman J. Israel, Esq. receives:

Also, see my review for Nightcrawler.

Film Review: "Last Flag Flying" (2017).

"Their Last Mission Wasn't On The Battlefield" in Last Flag Flying. This drama film directed by Richard Linklater, adapted by Linklater and Darryl Ponicsan, and based upon the Ponicsan's 2005 novel of the same name. Thirty years after serving together in the Vietnam War, Larry "Doc" Shepherd, Sal Nealon and the Rev. Richard Mueller reunite for a different type of mission: to bury Doc's son, a young Marine killed in Iraq. Forgoing burial at Arlington National Cemetery, Doc and his old buddies take the casket on a bittersweet trip up the coast to New Hampshire. Along the way, the three men find themselves reminiscing and coming to terms with the shared memories of a war that continues to shape their lives.

In August 2016, it was announced that Amazon Studios would produce and distribute a cinematic adaptation of Ponicsan's novel with Linklater as director and adapted by Linklater and Ponicsan. Ponicsan's novel is a sequel to his 1970 novel The Last Detail, which covered the same characters earlier in their lives. However, Linklater, stated that the film is not a sequel to Hal Ashby's The Last Detail. Linklater first attempted to adapt Ponicsan's novel in 2006, but held off claiming "the timing wasn't right." By November, Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne were cast. Carell consulted with his father, a WWII veteran, to prepare for his role. Cranston was initially reluctant to accept the role of Sal, since his busy schedule had him juggling a TV series, multiple movies, a Broadway play, and a book tour. He was persuaded to take the part after being impressed by the story and the caliber of the cast. Sal was originally written as an Italian-American with a heavy Queens accent. Cranston suggested, with Linklater's blessing, to perform the character as half-Irish. Fishburne was the only actor Linklater had in mind for the role of Mueller. Linklater wanted actors who could not only handle the film's dramatic elements but also that could add a humorous touch for the more light-hearted moments. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and lasted for thirty-two days, Filming took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cold Spring, New York. Cinematographer Shane Kelly filmed the movie using a Panasonic VeriCam. He worked with Linklater to give bleaker and more somber tone compared to their previous collaborations with a darker hue and muted colors.

The film stars Carell, Cranston, and Fishburne. The trio's performances are enjoyable, but it never quite feels like the old trio from The Last Detail. Yet they are admirably dense in a manner that's satisfying rather than frustrating.

Of course it's no The Last Detail, but it is satisfyingly moody and atmospheric. The film feels a lot like a retread of the 1973 classic, only without the style and panache that Ashby brought to the table. The film may lack the subtlety and richness of Linklater's best work, but it remains an incredibly exhilarating film that will leave you with warm feelings of nostalgia.

Simon says Last Flag Flying receives:

Also, see my review for Everybody Wants Some!!.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Film Review: "Coco" (2017).

"The celebration of a lifetime" comes in Coco. This 3D computer-animated fantasy film co-directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, written by Molina and Matthew Aldrich, and produced by Pixar Animation Studios. Despite his family's baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector, and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel's family history.

In mid 2010, after the critical and financial success of Toy Story 3, Unkrich first pitched an idea for the film. Inspired by the Mexican holiday, Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), the Pixar team made several trips to Mexico to help define the characters and story. In 2013, Disney made a request to trademark the phrase "Día de los Muertos" for merchandising applications. This was met with criticism from the Mexican American community in the United States. Lalo Alcaraz, a Mexican-American cartoonist, drew a film poster titled Muerto Mouse, depicting a skeletal Godzilla-sized Mickey Mouse with the byline "It's coming to trademark your cultura." More than 21,000 people signed a petition on stating that the trademark was "cultural appropriation and exploitation at its worst". A week later, Disney canceled the attempt, with the official statement saying that the "trademark filing was intended to protect any title for our film and related activities. It has since been determined that the title of the film will change, and therefore we are withdrawing our trademark filing." In 2015, Pixar hired Alcaraz to consult on the film, joining playwright Octavio Solis and former CEO of the Mexican Heritage Corp. Marcela Davison Aviles, to form a cultural consultant group. Unkrich found the scriptwriting process "the toughest nut to crack". In mid April 2016, Unkrich announced that they had begun work on the animation. In late 2016, Molina, was promoted to co-director. Unkrich said that Pixar wanted "to have as much contrast between" the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead, and that many techniques were used to differentiate the worlds. Color was one: "Given the holiday and the iconography, [Pixar] knew the Land of the Dead had to be a visually vibrant and colorful place, so [they] deliberately designed Santa Cecilia to be more muted" said Unkrich.

The film features the voice talents of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguíaand Edward James Olmos. Terrific performances were given by the cast, adding authenticity to the world, even though it's a simplified, over-sentimentalised version for children.

Coco's is a visually stunning effort that makes up for its formulaic storyline with an enchanting atmosphere that sweeps you into its fantastical world. Repping a major step forward for Pixar, the beautifully rendered CG animation brings an unusually warm and heartfelt quality to the high-tech medium and emerges as the film's true calling card.

Simon says Coco receives:

Also, see my review for Cars 3.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 27.

I am just really hoping we’d capture some good photos of the Cavalcade of Lights Festival with my photography group despite the freezing climate. Why does that matter? Well, I’ll tell ya… If we didn’t get good, or even decent, pictures by the end of the night, then we suffered our freezing asses for nothing, especially when it was also raining. It’s kind of harder when it comes to capturing good images in the freezing and raining cold when it’s not exactly to capture a good image period. But that’s the main challenge for any photographer, whether amateur or professional.

The Cavalcade of Lights Festival was our, especially my, test to see whether or not we, especially I, can capture some good images whilst freezing my ass off. In the first hour, no action. Nothing. But there’s still hope. Any number of things could interfere with us achieving our goal. But a true photographer never gives up and does whatever it takes to get what we want. So we just need the right moments and conditions to give us the chance. Also, the rain was starting to wain down. Hopefully, it’ll stay that way for the rest of the night and make it easier for us to get some great shots. It’s already almost two hours at this point, so the time is drawing near. So… great!

The show finally gave us the chance when it began. And it was beautiful, vibrant and exciting colours filled the snowy night sky, with plenty of opportunities for us to capture some great shots. Maybe it’s one of the few times, as a photographer, where I just succeeded in getting what I want, and still with enough time to enjoy the show as a spectator. By the end of the show, we just packed up our stuff, and headed for the Duke of Richmond for some nice, warm meals and drinks.

Also, see Chapters 26 and 28.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Film Review: "Wonder" (2017).

"Who Gives You the Courage to Face the World?" This is Wonder. This comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Chbosky and written by Jack Thorne, Steven Conrad, and Chbosky, and based on the 2012 novel of the same name by R. J. Palacio. The film tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman. Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to discover their compassion and acceptance, Auggie's extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can't blend in when you were born to stand out.

In late November 2012, it was announced that Lionsgate was developing an adaptation of Palacio's debut novel, and were in talks with John August to pen the script. In early May 2013, Thorne was hired to rewrite August's script after his departure. In October 2014, John Krokidas was reported to be directing the film. However, in April 2015, Paul King was hired to direct instead, and Steven Conrad. However, King later dropped out in order to work on Paddington 2 (2017). In April 14, 2016, Jacob Tremblay was cast to play the lead role. In early May 2016, Stephen Chbosky was set as the film's director. By late July, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Mandy Patinkin, Daveed Diggs, Danielle Rose Russell, and Noah Jupe rounded out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in mid September. Filming took place in British Columbia, Canada, and Coney Island, New York. Tremblay's prosthetic makeup, designed and created by Arjen Tuiten, took an hour and a half to apply. It consisted of a skull cap with prosthetic ears attached, a facial prosthetic that covered Tremblay's face, and a wig to tie it all together.

The film stars Tremblay, Roberts, Wilson, Vidovic, Patinkin, Diggs, Rose Russell, and Jupe. The cast, especially primary trio of Tremblay, Roberts, and Wilson, delivered outstanding performances, starting with Tremblay, who steals the show as August, the boy with a facial disfigurement and a heart that yearns for acceptance. Roberts, who plays against her most recent performance, plays Isabel, August's loving and protective mother. Wilson, best known his collaboration with Wes Anderson, shines as Nate, a role that demands he be immediately likeable as August's equally loving and protective father.

Wonder is a heartfelt and sincere adaptation that's bolstered by strong lead performances. This film especially recognizes that even while middle school can be a battlefield of insecurity and bullying, you can find allies to help you through the struggle. It also shows that we all have a brighter future ahead if we let ourselves reach for it. The film is essentially a love letter for the outsiders, but a film I think everyone can relate to. All of my memories as an outsider still survive somewhere inside of me, and that version of myself would love this film.

Simon says Wonder receives:

Also, see my review for The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Film Review: "LBJ" (2016).

From the director of Stand by Me and A Few Good Men comes LBJ. This political drama film directed by Rob Reiner, and written by Joey Hartstone. Lyndon Johnson goes from being a powerful Senate majority leader to a powerless vice president before he becomes the president of the United States following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Hartstone's script was featured in the 2014 Blacklist; a list of the "most liked" unmade scripts of the year. In mid June 2015, Reiner signed to direct, and Woody Harrelson was cast to play the lead role of 36th President of the United States of America. Ironically, Reiner and Harrelson disliked Lyndon B. Johnson immensely, primarily due to his stance on Vietnam. It was only after they'd delved more deeply into his life that they began to see the softer and insecure side of the man. During an interview on Charlie Rose, Harrelson said he had been offered to play the part in another biopic on Johnson and turned down the part, but when Reiner offered him the role in this movie, he couldn't turn down an offer to work with Reiner, calling it a great honor to work with him. Additionally, in an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Harrelson said he called Bryan Cranston and asked for advice for the role. Bryan Cranston was also shooting his own Lyndon B. Johnson movie All the Way (2016) around the same time, and Cranston helped him by giving him advice and putting Harrelson in touch with people who knew Lyndon B. Johnson. By late September 2015, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Stahl-David, Richard Jenkins, Bill Pullman, and Jeffrey Donovan were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in December. Filming took place in Dallas, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Washington, District of Columbia. Harrelson had to undergo two hours of make-up application each morning, and one hour for removal in the evening. Makeup designer Arjen Tuiten said that transforming Harrelson into Lyndon B. Johnson was a difficult and frustrating experience, since Harrelson has a different shape of head compared to the former President. It therefore took hours each day to make Harrelson resemble LBJ, a process he didn't enjoy, and a result that Tuiten was not very happy with.

The film stars Harrelson, Leigh, Stahl-David, Jenkins, Pullman, and Donovan. The main characters aren't really explored and the supporting cast appear peripheral to the story. Harrelson's a joy to watch, as usual, although Leigh is given little to do as Ladybird Johnson, and Jenkins plays a stereotypical senator role best left in another decade. There's just not enough quality time invested in getting to know the characters for any of this to feel compelling.

I'm unsure who the film will really appeal to: It's a poor historical document; it's not nasty enough for people who hate Johnson and too nasty for the few still supporting him.  The real problem here is false consciousness. Hartstone's didactic, sermonizing screenplay is hardly any less fantastical than the lies it seeks to condemn.

Simon says LBJ receives:

Also, see my review for And So It Goes.