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.

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.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Film Review: "Justice League" (2017).

"You can't save the world alone." But the Justice League can. This superhero film directed by Zack Snyder, written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, based on the DC Comics superhero team of the same name. The film is the fifth instalment in the DC Extended Universe. Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's selfless act, Bruce Wayne, with Diana Prince, must now face an even greater threat. Together, they work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes - it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

In April 2014, it was announced that Snyder would be directing the film with a script by David S. Goyer. In July, Warner Bros. was reportedly courting Terrio to rewrite the script, after having been impressed with his rewrite of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In October 2014, Warner Bros. originally announced that the film would be released in two parts, with Part One releasing on November 17, 2017, and Part Two on June 14, 2019. Snyder would direct both films. However, in June 2016, Snyder announced that both films would be two stand-alone stories. In July 2015, EW revealed that Terrio had completed the script for Justice League Part One. By June 2016, Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, and Amy Adams were all confirmed to reprise their roles. Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, and J. K. Simmons were all added to the cast. With a budget of $275 million, Principal photography commenced in April 2016 and ended in October 2016. Locations included Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden, England, as well as London, Scotland, Los Angeles and Djúpavík, Iceland. In May 2017, extensive reshoots took place in London and Los Angeles, with an additional budget of $25 million. Snyder hired Joss Whedon to write scenes for the reshoots. In the same month, Snyder left the project following the death of his daughter. Whedon then took over the reshoots and the remainder of post-production. Snyder received sole director credit for the film, with Whedon receiving a screenplay credit in post. In addition, Danny Elfman took over from Junkie XL to score the film. Due to the running time backlash of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Warner Bros. demanded the film come under 2 hours. The final running time for Justice League is 120 minutes. Making the film the shortest DCEU film to date.

It features an ensemble cast that includes Affleck, Cavill, Gadot, Miller, Momoa, Fisher, Irons, Adams, Lane, Simmons and Ciarán Hinds. Though the cast gave performances that would silicify as the definitive cinematic iterations of their comic-book counterparts, the lack of characterization failed to make the audience root for them when they're off saving the world.

After decades of buildup, Justice League has finally arrived and it is horrendously average. Even after its two hour running-time, audiences will leave the theatre unsatisfied. The film has unquestionably squandered the potential of its source material and cast.

Simon says Justice League receives:

Also, see my review for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Wonder Woman.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Film Review: "Murder on the Orient Express" (2017).

"Everybody is a suspect" in Murder on the Orient Express. This mystery drama film directed by Kenneth Branagh, adapted by Michael Green, based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie. A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man's race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.

Two stories on the legendary train partly inspired Agatha Christie's novel. The story was inspired partly by an incident in 1929 when the Orient Express was trapped in a blizzard in Çerkezköy, Turkey, where it was marooned for six days. Two years later Christie was involved in a similar scenario when she was travelling on the Orient Express and the train got stuck for a period of time due to heavy rainfall and flooding, which washed part of the track away. In real life there was one actual murder on The Orient Express. Maria Farcasanu was robbed and murdered by Karl Strasser, who pushed her out of the moving train, one year after Agatha Christie's book was published. However, the novel was mostly inspired by the Charles A. Lindbergh kidnapping case, in which Lindbergh's 20-month old son was taken and held for a $50,000 ransom. The ransom was paid, but unfortunately Lindbergh's son was found already dead.

In December 2013, 20th Century Fox announced a new film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. Michael Green was hired to write the screenplay. In June 2015, it was reported Fox was in talks with Kenneth Branagh to direct. It was finally confirmed that Branagh would direct and star as the Belgium detective Hercule Poirot. In the same month, it was reported that Angelina Jolie was in early talks to co-star in the film. However, in August, Variety reported that Stacey Snider, CEO of 20th Century Fox, broke off negotiations with Jolie after several months due to her insistence on significant script changes on what was a relatively small part. Charlize Theron was then courted, but ultimately, Michelle Pfeiffer was cast. By January 2016, the cast was rounded out. In the same month, it was revealed that Michael Peña had dropped out of the film and that Manuel Garcia-Rulfo had replaced him. Principal photography on the film began in November 2016, in the United Kingdom, and wrapped in May 2017. The film is Branagh's second movie to be shot on 65mm film. The first was Hamlet (1996). The film would receive a limited 70mm engagement, making it the fourth film of the decade to be shot on 65mm and projected in 70mm, following The Master (2012), The Hateful Eight (2015) and Dunkirk (2017).

The film features an ensemble cast that includes Branagh Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley. The cast gave unique and varied performances that carried the entire film. Without each and every one of them, the film would have faltered.

Kenneth Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express provides a good time, high style, a loving salute to an earlier period of epic filmmaking despite lacking any surprises and originality.

Simon says Murder on the Orient Express (2017) receives:

Also, see my review for Cinderella.