Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Film Review: "All the Money in the World" (2017).

"J. Paul Getty had a fortune. Everyone else paid the price." This is All the Money in the World. This crime thriller film directed by Ridley Scott, written by David Scarpa, and adapted from John Pearson's 1995 book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty. It is the story of the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother to convince his billionaire grandfather Jean Paul Getty to pay the ransom.

In March 2017, it was reported that Ridley Scott would direct the film. In the same month, it was reported that Michelle Williams and Kevin Spacey were considered for the role of Gail Harris and J. Paul Getty, while Mark Wahlberg was in talks for an unspecified role. Initially, Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman, Jack Nicholson, Gary Oldman, and Christopher Plummer were considered for the lead roles. By June, Timothy Hutton, and Charlie Plummer joined the cast. In the same month, with a budget of $40 million, filming began. Locations included Elveden, Suffolk, England, and Morocco. Filming concluded in August. 

Beginning in late October, numerous sexual allegations were made against Spacey. This resulted in the film's planned premiere at the AFI Fest being cancelled, as well as the film's Oscar campaign being reworked. In November, Sony and the film's production team unanimously opted to replace Spacey with Plummer. The decision was made just over a month prior to the December 22nd wide release. The decision to reshoot meant that 22 scenes had to be reshot. It also meant that Wahlberg and Williams had to return to Rome during the Thanksgiving holiday. The reshoots needed began on November 20 and ended on the 29th, and took eight days to film at a cost of $10 million. Plummer claimed he was prepared to replace Spacey on short notice because he had previously been considered for the role and had read the script. He had less than two weeks to memorize his lines, but did have the advantage of researching Getty. After Plummer signed on, Scott decided not to show Plummer any footage of Spacey in character, or even tell him how Spacey played the scenes. When finished, Scott found both performances to be quite different and equally effective in their own particular styles. Scott said that one interesting aspect was that Spacey played J. Paul Getty as a more explicitly cold and unfeeling character, while Plummer's take on the role showed both a warmer side to the billionaire and the same unflinching refusal to simply pay off his son's kidnappers.

The film stars Williams, Christopher Plummer, Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer, Andrew Buchan, and Hutton. The cast gave terrific performances, especially that of Williams, Plummer and Wahlberg. Who each gave charismatic performances that commanded the screen whenever they were present.

While not a masterpiece on par with Scott's best works, All the Money in the World is a fine example of his craft, and further proof that defines Scott as one of the greatest directors working today. The superb crime thriller paints its world with a wholeness and complexity you rarely see in film.

Simon says All the Money in the World receives:

Also, see my review for Alien: Covenant.

Film Review: "Bright" (2017).

From the director of Suicide Squad and End of Watch, and Netflix comes Bright. This urban fantasy crime film directed by David Ayer and written by Max Landis. In an LA rife with interspecies tensions, a human cop and his orc partner stumble on a powerful object and become embroiled in a prophesied turf war.

The film was first revealed during a live recording of Kumail Nanjiani's video game podcast The Indoor Kids while Landis promoted American Ultra (2015). Landis described the film as "a contemporary cop thriller, but with fantastical elements", as well as being his Star Wars (1977). The script was then  auctioned for acquisition where PalmStar Media, Warner Bros. and MGM all made offers. Ultimately, Netflix emerged as the highest bidder. Landis stated that he sold the script, for one million dollars less, to Netflix on the condition that Ayer would direct. Landis even compared the movie to Ayer's End of Watch (2012). Ultimately, Netflix agreed and Landis sold the script for three-million-five-hundred-thousand dollars. Netflix officially announced the film with a ninety million dollar deal (making it the most expensive Netflix film at that time) with Ayer in the director's chair, Will Smith and Joel Edgerton in the lead roles, and with filming expected to begin in September 2016. In May 2016, Noomi Rapace entered talks to join the cast. In mid October, Lucy Fry was added to the cast. In early November, Édgar Ramírez and Ike Barinholtz were confirmed to be added to the cast. Principal photography officially began in November 2016 and wrapped in early February 2017.

The film stars Smith, Edgerton, Rapace, Fry, Ramírez, and Barinholtz. The cast gave terrific performances. Smith and Edgerton so completely reinvent themselves in-character. Instead of wearing the roles like costumes or uniforms, they let the job seep into their skin. As good as Edgerton is in this, Smith, as always, nearly steals the show. Ayer and his cast appear to have so convincingly nailed the way these characters talk and act that you might not even notice the film slipping from workaday grit into out-and-out myth.

Bright has the energy, devotion to characters, and charismatic performances to overcome the familiar pitfalls of its genre and handheld format. It's one of the best police movies in recent years, a virtuoso fusion of performances and often startling action. It's satisfying and thematically potent. It's a good, gritty drama of the sort that seems increasingly rare within the action genre. As expected, Ayer brings his trademark grit and authenticity. The fantasy element borders on the ludicrous as the tactic fatally substitutes photo realism for fauxto realism. Though the fantasy element is inconsistent, it's used to deepen its main characters and lends the film a lively intimacy. Almost all of the crimes were committed by non-humans as just as crimes in other films are committed by black and mainly brown people. Though it's a collection of cop-movie clichés, it's presented with sufficient flair and strong performances that the ride is enough, even if it's on rails.

Simon says Bright receives:

Also, see my review for Suicide Squad.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Film Review: "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" (2017).

"This is not going to go the way you think!" This is definitely true with Star Wars: The Last Jedi (or Star Wars Episode VIII - The Last Jedi). This epic space opera film written and directed by Rian Johnson. It is the second film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.

In June 2014, director Rian Johnson was reported to be in talks to write and direct Episode VIII, and to write a treatment for the third film, Episode IX. Johnson was originally considered to direct The Force Awakens. In August, Johnson confirmed that he would direct Episode VIII. According to Johnson, the story begins immediately after the last scene of The Force Awakens. Initially, The Force Awakens co-writer Lawrence Kasdan wrote a story outline for the film. However, when Johnson signed on as director, he requested to be allowed to scrap Kasdan's story and write his own script from scratch, which the producers consented to, as Kasdan's outline no longer matched up with the finished storyline of the previous film. For inspiration, Johnson was influenced by films such as Gunga Din (1939), Letter Never Sent (1960), Sahara (1943), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Three Outlaw Samurai (1964), and Twelve O'Clock High (1949) while developing ideas, and he even arranged for screenings for the crew prior to filming. In September 2015, Disney shortlisted the female cast members to Gina Rodriguez, Tatiana Maslany, and Olivia Cooke. Later that month, Benicio Del Toro was announced to be playing a villain in the film. Originally, Joaquin Phoenix was considered for the role. In addition, Mark Hamill was confirmed to reprise his role as Luke Skywalker. Ironically, after reading the script for the film, Hamill told director Johnson, "I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you've made for this character [Luke Skywalker]. Now, having said that, I have gotten it off my chest, and my job now is to take what you've created and do my best to realize your vision." In October, Gugu Mbatha-Raw was rumored to have been cast in the film. In November, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy announced at the London premiere for The Force Awakens that the entire cast, including Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, and Gwendoline Christie, would return for Episode VIII, along with "a handful" of new cast members. In February 2016, at the start of filming, it was confirmed that Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran had been cast in unspecified roles. 

In September 2015, Second unit photography began during pre-production at Skellig Michael in Ireland. But due to poor weather and rough conditions, the first day of filming was canceled and lasted four days. In the same month, del Toro revealed that principal photography would begin in March 2016. However, Kennedy later stated that filming would begin in January 2016. Production on the film began in November. In January 2016, due to script rewrites and an upcoming strike between the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television and the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union, the production was delayed until February 2016. Due to this, and the successful release of The Force Awakens, the original release date of May 26, 2017 was rescheduled for December 15, 2017. In February, principal photography finally began, under the working title Space Bear. In addition to Skellig Michael in Ireland locations also included Pinewood Studios in England, and Dubrovnik, Croatia. During production, Prince William and Prince Harry visited the set, they were escorted on a VIP tour of Pinewood Studios by Daisy Ridley. Principal photography wrapped in July 2016. In August, Star Wars composer John Williams confirmed that he was scheduled to start scoring Episode VIII. Williams said he would begin recording the score "off and on" in December 2016 until March or April 2017. In December 2016, Carrie Fisher unexpectedly passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest. Marking this film as her last film. After her death, None of Fisher's scenes in the movie were cut. Prior to her death, Fisher had been expected to appear in Episode IX. Though Fisher's family granted the rights to use recent footage of Fisher for Star Wars: Episode IX, Fisher will not appear in the film and Lucasfilm will not digitally generate new footage of her. In January 2017, the title for the film was revealed. In February, it was confirmed that recording was underway, with Williams conducting. In March, footage of the film was shown to Disney shareholders, which was met with overwhelmingly positive reactions. In April, the first teaser trailer was released.

The film stars Hamill, Fisher, Driver, Ridley, Boyega, Isaac, Serkis, Nyong'o, Gleeson, Daniels, and Christie, with Marie Tran, Dern, and Del Toro. Both recurring and new cast members gave confident performances that took their characters in surprising directions that no one would expect.

Darker, and ultimately even more surprising than The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi defies viewer expectations, and takes the series to heightened emotional levels and unexpected directions. The film is a richly imaginative, engrossing and spectacular motion picture from Rian Johnson. A marvellous space fantasy full of dazzling spectacle, exciting adventure, strange creatures and the mythic clash between good and evil. Unlike its predecessor, it is no bland derivative. It has all the freshness and exuberance of an original. It is a confident piece of work that carries the new Star Wars tradition forward. The film is an immense amount of fun - big and splashy and breathtaking in its display of cinematic genius by a huge group of marvellously talented people. However, the film is not without its drawbacks. The film may not top either The Empire Strikes Back (1980) or A New Hope (1977), but it certainly makes one curious to whatever new surprises Disney and Lucasfilm can conjure up for us.

Simon says Star Wars: The Last Jedi receives:

Also, see my reviews for Looper and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 30.

Now that I have a job, I don’t have as much time as I used to. So when I get the opportunity like I would get with my photography meetup, it’s an absolute relief to have something that will take my mind off of work. It’s awesome to spend time with friends, especially around Christmas time. I mostly spend my spare time with my photography group. I don’t really do anything else, other than watching movies in the theatre or at home. But I’m fine with that.

The next meetup: St. Lawrence Market! Just like the last meetup, it was freezing cold. Of course it was. What else would it be? But it was especially cold this time round since we were not shooting indoors. But with a mind concentrating on anything other than the cold, it’s not the worst feeling. I distracted myself with getting shots, and talking with both old and new members. One of them is new and is from Australia. Welcome, shit brother! But I mean it in that in the nicest way possible. Maybe. It’s exactly what you’d expect when a Kiwi and an Aussie come across each other. Thank God he wasn’t North Korean, I’ll leave it at that. I spoke to him for about fifteen minutes straight. Admittedly, we both got eventually occupied with getting our shots.

We trudged from St. Lawrence Market to Gooderham Building through the thick snow and icy concrete paths. Finally, we reached Berczy Park, where spent the most time. Once we got there, we had to be careful of trudging through the somewhat thick layer of snow on the small hills, which most people found it fun as we slid down them and made snow angels. Then we got some great imagery of the park in the snow, some akin to a scene from Blade Runner 2049. How cool is that?

In the end, we wrapped up, earlier than usual, for the night, and made our way across the street to Jack Astor’s. Why? Because it’s a Monday night, so most of us have the Monday blues, and almost all of us have work tomorrow. If my new job craps out, I’ll be looking elsewhere, which isn’t exactly the best idea. Then again, they do pay me, but it won’t be good enough for long. Why? Because making minimum wage won’t get you anywhere in the future, and there’s definitely plenty of better jobs out there waiting for me to seize the opportunity. It’s pretty early for me to say, I know. Hopefully, things will work out.

Also, see Chapters 29 and 31.

Film Review: "Darkest Hour" (2017).

"A man with the heart of a nation." This is Darkest Hour. This British war drama film directed by Joe Wright, and written by Anthony McCarten. Set within the days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation. As the unstoppable Nazi forces roll across Western Europe and the threat of invasion is imminent, and with an unprepared public, a skeptical King, and his own party plotting against him, Churchill must withstand his darkest hour, rally a nation, and attempt to change the course of world history.

In February 2015, it was announced that Working Title Films had acquired Darkest Hour, a speculative screenplay and passion project by The Theory of Everything screenwriter Anthony McCarten. In March 2016, it was reported that Joe Wright was in talks to direct the film. In April 2016, Gary Oldman was reported to be in talks to play Churchill. In September 2016, it was announced that Focus Features would release the film in the United States on 24 November 2017, while Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, and Stephen Dillane joined the cast as King George VI, Clementine Churchill, Elizabeth Layton, and Edward Wood, 3rd Viscount Halifax respectively. In November 2016, principal photography began. For his role as Churchill, Oldman spent over 200 hours having make-up applied, and smoked over 400 cigars, roughly £50 each (more than $20,000 USD), during filming. At the end of filming, he had nicotine poisoning and spent a holiday getting a colonoscopy. The film marks the final screen credits of Benjamin Whitrow (28th September 2017), Robert Hardy (August 3rd, 2017), and John Hurt (25th January 2017), who all died before the film's release. By a sad irony, Hurt was ill with cancer when he was initially set to portray British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, who himself was dying of cancer in 1940. According to Oldman, Hurt was undergoing treatment for being so ill, therefore was unable to attend the read-throughs and never got to film a scene. Ronald Pickup assumed the role of Chamberlain instead, and Hurt died from cancer in January 2017. The movie was still dedicated to Hurt, as it would have been his final film.

The film stars Oldman as Churchill, with Mendelsohn, Thomas, James, Dillane, and Pickup. The cast gave terrific performances, none more so than Oldman himself. Oldman has found the man within the caricature. Only an actor of Oldman's stature could possibly capture Churchill's essence and bring it to the screen. It's a performance of towering proportions that sets a new benchmark for acting. It is impossible not to be disturbed by Oldman's depiction of the legendary British prime minister.

Gary Oldman's performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour is reliably perfect, but it's mired in standard, self-important storytelling. Awards should be coming Oldman's way; yet his brilliance rather overshadows the film itself.

Simon says Darkest Hour receives:

Also, see my review for Pan.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 29.

We have to be especially careful with the camera this time of year when it’s out in the freezing cold. It’s about zero degrees or below. So we decided this time round to head inside the financial district for our photography meetup. That should keep us warm. None of us really want to outside anytime soon, so we thought this was the perfect place to avoid the cold.

The inside of the lobby and its chandelier is something to take in when you first enter the building. Now when looking back at it, I was impressed with its concrete and metallic architecture. Today, I got up earlier than usual. It was a freezing cold morning! I could hardly go back to sleep. So I got up and had breakfast, had a warm shower, and did some stuff for the day. Finally the time came.

It took me some time to get to the rendezvous point for the meetup. But it was great seeing everybody that showed up. If we had waited any longer for the people who showed up late, or never at all, we’d probably be frozen solid. Our organizers Adam and Kurt said, Okay, we’ve waited long enough. Let’s go. Not sure why we had to wait for that long, but I figured better late than never. We went ahead after fifteen minutes of waiting around and shivering to the point where I could my nose drippings as chopsticks. I found myself to be in the coldest state that I’ve ever been in my entire life, not even my 2005 Christmas holiday in South Korea was this bad.

Then we after we were finished shooting inside, we commenced heading out towards Dundas Square. Slowly and carefully, of course. At around five minutes into our walk, I nearly fell on my back due to the icy sidewalk. Jesus H. Christ! They stopped and helped me remained balanced, then we continued forward, taking photos along the way. Until we came across the park outside the TD Bank building, then Kurt pulled out a little glass ball. Pretty cool. We went back and forth with the ball for our own shots. Then I got my turn. Usually, I’d plan out what I was going to do or what shot I wanted. But on this occasion, I just improvised. I had a fun time with the ball, which gave me a lot of cool shots. Thanks to Kurt. Now I want one.

After, for some reason, we continued on for the night, going up and around the rest of the financial district until we reached Dundas Square. Not sure why. After experimenting with the crystal ball, I didn’t see how you could top that. Even if there were still some things we could shoot. Still, it’s what we did. In the end, we wrapped up by going to the Duke of Richmond for some drinks.

Also, see Chapters 28 and 30.