Friday, 30 March 2018

Film Review: "The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling" (2018).

From the director of Knocked Up and Trainwreck comes The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling. This documentary film directed by Judd Apatow. When Garry Shandling passed away in 2016, he was widely remembered as a top stand-up comic and the star of two of the most innovative sitcoms in TV history. But to those who knew him, the "real" Garry Shandling was a far more complex person. Now, Apatow has created a remarkable portrait of this iconic comedian in the four-and-a-half-hour documentary. Epic in scope and intimate in detail, the film features conversations with more than 40 of Shandling’s family and friends and four decades’ worth of TV appearances, along with personal journals, private letters and candid home audio and video footage that reveal his brilliant mind and restless soul. "Give what you didn’t get," wrote Shandling in a journal late in his life, the mantra of a self-proclaimed "spiritual warrior" still challenging himself to transcend his own insecurities, despite achieving so much in the face of loss, betrayal and tragic twists of fate. From childhood tragedy to heartbreak, professional betrayal and unexpected physical trauma, to his emergence as a powerful teacher, friend and guiding spirit for a new generation of talent, Apatow’s documentary not only chronicles one man’s ability to survive the ups and downs of a life in show business, but also offers a profound investigation into the power of comedy to elevate the human spirit. Part two offers an extensive examination of The Larry Sanders Show, his landmark HBO comedy series. Colleagues remember the demands of producing material that met Shandling’s high standards, while his diaries reveal an ongoing struggle with complacency and search for authenticity. A successful gig hosting the Emmys, creating unique extras for the DVD release of The Larry Sanders Show and an appearance with his friend Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (where Shandling opined about death and mortality) hinted at some of the lessons he’d learned in his lifelong quest for peace.

In early February 2017, it was reported that Apatow was developing a documentary on his mentor and friend. A day later, Apatow made a public plea, via his official Twitter account, for anyone with photographs, videos, or information about Shandling to reach out to him. In early January 2018, it was announced at the annual Television Critics Association's winter press tour that cable network HBO had acquired the documentary and planned to premiere it in two parts on March 26 and 27, 2018.

The film confirms that Shandling's enduring popularity as the high priest of putdowns can be chalked up to an admirable national trait to not take ourselves too seriously. I kept thinking what Shandling would have thought of it. He probably would have been embarrassed and a bit shy about the whole thing. But he would have loved the attention. He would have smiled and laughed. And that's all that really matters. A wonderful, cathartic look back at the life of this unique man.

Simon says The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling receives:

Also, see my review for Trainwreck.

Film Review: "Ready Player One" (2018).

"A better reality awaits." Get ready for Ready Player One. This science fiction adventure film produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, and written by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, based on Cline's 2011 novel of the same name. In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place, and most of humanity spends their days in an immersive virtual universe called the OASIS. The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday, who left his immense fortune and total control of the Oasis to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir. When Wade Watts conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends-aka the High Five-are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS.

In June 2010, Warner Bros. and De Line Pictures acquired the adaptation rights to Cline's novel, before its publication. Cline stipulated two conditions in the agreement with the studio: he and Eric Eason get to write the first draft of the script, and Cline wanted Spielberg to direct. Spielberg and Penn were later hired direct and rewrite the script. Cline and Penn made several revisions that made significant changes from the novel, including the removal of almost all references to Spielberg and his filmography. In September 2015, Cooke was announced to have been cast in the role of Art3mis. In January 2016, Ben Mendelsohn joined the cast as Nolan Sorrento. In February 2016, Tye Sheridan was confirmed in the lead role of Parzival, after a lengthy nationwide casting call failed to produce an unknown for the part. In March 2016, Simon Pegg joined the cast as Ogden Morrow. In April 2016, Mark Rylance joined the cast as James Halliday, and by July 2016, T.J. Miller, Hannah John-Kamen, Win Morisaki, Philip Zhao, Lena Waithe, Ralph Ineson, McKenna Grace, and Letitia Wright were later announced to have joined the cast. Principal photography began in July 2016, and wrapped in September. Locations included Birmingham, England. Industrial Light & Magic was brought on to create the film's immense visual effects. Spielberg worked with ILM to oversee the film's visual effects. In an interview, Spielberg said this was the third most difficult movie he has made in his career, behind Jaws (1975) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). The film was originally scheduled to be released on December 15, 2017, but was pushed back to March 30, 2018, to avoid competition with Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017). The music score was originally going to be composed by longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams. However, due to working on another Spielberg film, The Post (2017), he left and Alan Silvestri took over. This was only the third film where Spielberg did not collaborate with Williams.

The film stars Sheridan, Cooke, Mendelsohn, Waithe, Pegg, John-Kamen, Morisaki, Zhao, Miller, and Rylance. The cast gave terrific performances that harken back to the archetypal Spielberg summer blockbuster performances.

Ready Player One is a dazzling movie from Steven Spielberg in which virtual reality have been used to help humanity live adventurous and fantastical lives. Here's a visually immersive show that is sensational, stylish, and fun.

Simon says Ready Player One receives:

Also, see my review for The Post.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Film Review: "Isle of Dogs" (2018).

"Atari Kobayashi, you heroically hijacked a Junior-Turbo Prop XJ750 and flew it to the island because of your dog..." This is at the heart of Isle of Dogs. This stop-motion animated comedy film written, produced and directed by Wes Anderson. When, by executive decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, 12-year-old Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.

In October 2015, after having previously directed the stop-motion animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Anderson announced that he would be returning to the genre with "a film about dogs." Making this his second stop-motion animated venture. "When we made Fantastic Mr. Fox... we shot in East London, a place called Bromley, and on the way there, there was a sign for the turnoff of the road to Isle of Dogs." Anderson explained. "Which is a sort of industrial island on the Thames now... I looked it up and it was supposedly the place where the king kept his hunting dogs and whatever in the 16th century... and that was the beginning of this movie..." Anderson then elaborated: "Then I went to Jason and Roman... and said 'I have this idea of five dogs, Chief, King, Duke, Boss, and Rex, on a garbage dump island..." Anderson said that the film was strongly influenced by the films of Akira Kurosawa, Hayao Miyazaki, as well as the stop-motion animated holiday specials made by Rankin/Bass Productions. " Anderson said: "Our first inspiration really was Japanese cinema... and for us it was Kurosawa and Miyazaki... but the other two masters are the woodblock print makers, Hiroshige and Hokusai..." Anderson further commented. "The Japanese setting came entirely because of Japanese cinema. We love Japan, and we wanted to do something that was really inspired by Japanese movies, so we ended up mixing the dog movie and Japan movie together." Like Fantastic Mr. Fox, the film was produced at 3 Mills Studio in East London, England. A total of 1,097 puppets were made for the film. These included ver 500 humans and 500 dogs puppets. Each hero puppet took roughly 16 weeks to make. Perfecting Nutmeg’s puppet alone took over six months. The human characters have up to 53 individually sculpted faces for their various expressions. Each also has up to 48 replacement mouth plugs for the different phonemes of dialogue. Each is individually sculpted and hand painted. Over 3,000 of these faces and mouth plugs were made throughout the film.

The film's ensemble voice cast includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance, Fisher Stevens, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Bob Balaban, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Frank Wood, Kunichi Nomura and Yoko Ono. The film contained focussed "performances" from the exquisitely detailed figurines that Anderson framed in images as precisely composed as those in his live-action work. As for the voice cast, each provide adept voice work that serves as the basis for some of the most inventive animated set pieces since Nick Park. However, both sides make this gorgeous and fanciful, with a glorious stop-motion animation style of its own.

Isle of Dogs is a delightfully funny feast for the eyes with multi-generational appeal – and it shows Wes Anderson has a real knack for animation. A self-consciously quirky movie that manages to be twee and ultra-hip at the same time, it qualifies as yet another wry, carefully composed bibelot in the cabinet of curios that defines the Anderson oeuvre. In some ways, this is Anderson's most fully realized and satisfying film. Having a quirky auteur like Anderson make a children’s film is a bit like David Byrne, of Talking Heads, recording an album of nursery rhymes produced by Brian Eno. Once you adjust to its stop-and-start rhythms and its scruffy looks, you can appreciate its wit, its beauty and the sly gravity of its emotional undercurrents. The work done by the animation director, Mark Gustafson, by the director of photography, Tristan Oliver, and by the production designers, Paul Harrod and Adam Stockhausen, shows amazing ingenuity and skill, and the music (by Alexandre Desplat, with the usual shuffle of well-chosen pop tunes, famous and obscure) is both eccentric and just right. In an age when everything seems digital, computer-driven and as fake as instant coffee, more and more artists are embracing the old ways of vinyl records, hand-drawn cartoons and painstaking stop-motion character movements. In the style and sensibility, this is really a Wes Anderson film, with little Kurosawa. Although it's missing the darker elements that characterise Kurosawa's films. There you find the whiff of something nihilistic: inexorable savage violence, Shakespearian tragedies, fragility of humanity, and individual redemption through personal responsibility. Gone, too, is any sense of danger. Even the antagonists, who are made to look a touch of corruption, don't seem capable of carrying it out to their most dishonourable. We never really feel the tension of watching the dogs facing real peril. The film certainly has Westernized Kurosawa's themes and aesthetics, and I don't mean the fact that the good animals have American accents. It offers yet another celebration of equality and a lesson on the importance of anti-discrimination and anti-racism. But it does leave you thinking: isn’t it time that children’s films put children first Nonetheless, it's both a delightful amusement and a distillation of the filmmaker's essential playfulness, and as if by magic, everything comes together in a super weird but completely functional story. Anderson injects such charm and wit, such personality and nostalgia — evident in the old-school animation, storybook settings and pitch-perfect use of Burl Ives — that it's easy to forgive his self-conscious touches. Adults will really appreciate oddball whole that Anderson serves up here. It's a one-of-a-kind animation classic.

Simon says Isle of Dogs receives:

Also, see my review for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Film Review: "Unsane" (2018).

"Is she or isn't she?" This is the question proposed in Unsane. This psychological horror film shot, edited, and directed by Steven Soderbergh, and written by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer. A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear--but is it real or a product of her delusion?

In July 2017, just before the release of Lucky Logan, it was announced that Steven Soderbergh had shot a film in secret, starring Claire Foy, Juno Temple, and Jay Pharoah. With a budget of $1.2 million, the film was shot in just ten days with a iPhone 7 Plus, in 4K, using the FiLMiC Pro app. Locations included Pomona, NY at the Summit Park Hospital that the production took over after it was recently closed.

The film stars Foy, Temple, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Aimee Mullins, and Amy Irving. The cast gave terrific performances despite some ham-fisted and conventional characteristics that are expected in a film of this genre.

Technically well-made and well-acted, Unsane is, unfortunately, a derivative and predictable story whose twists, turns, and frights have all been more effectively dealt before, and how it gives in to convention too often. It's all in good fun, really, though ninety-eight minutes may be less of this kind of fun than a mind can stand. The film sustains a creepy, gritty tension that draws you along without quite accelerating into outright terror. However, the terrors we see in the film are never as scary as they are tangible, but they are never so tangible as they are arbitrary. You might feel like you're in the company of a manic film student breathless showing you their graduate film with naive enthusiasm. You admire their enthusiasm, their creativity and technical ability, but in the end the experience is probably more satisfying for them than it is for you. The film undercuts its own authority by ham-fisting its protests into a banal plot structure and a totally undisciplined tonal register. Soderbergh's gritty and eerie new horror film, looks like something supreme horror master Jason Blum might have produced - if he'd applied the same mode of filmmaking he's applied to every single one of his productions. And that's meant as a compliment: This film is a demented riff on notable psychodrama and horror films like Shock Corridor (1963), and Changeling (2008). It's certainly the most deliriously deranged picture you're likely to see this year. It's psychodrama and horror as its most lurid and confrontational. An impressive pulp achievement. A pulpy potboiler of a jeremiad which aims to jangle as many nerves as possible in the shortest time available - subtlety be damned. While the film is about a woman who is not happy to remain removed from the world, not realizing that she, and others around her, are involved in something truly dreadful, many viewers will be all too willing to head for the exits. In the end, it's a fascinating low-budgeted film that screams for recognition.

Simon says Unsane receives:

Also, see my review for Logan Lucky.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Film Review: "Pacific Rim: Uprising" (2018).

"A new generation will rise up." This is Pacific Rim: Uprising. This science-fiction film directed by Steven S. DeKnight, in his feature-film directorial debut, and written by DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder and T.S. Nowlin. It is the sequel to the 2013 film Pacific Rim. The film centres on Jake Pentecost, a once-promising Jaeger pilot whose legendary father gave his life to secure humanity's victory against the monstrous Kaiju. Jake has since abandoned his training only to become caught up in a criminal underworld. But when an even more unstoppable threat is unleashed to tear through cities and bring the world to its knees, Jake is given one last chance by his estranged sister, Mako Mori, to live up to his father's legacy.

In June 2014, del Toro stated that he would direct the sequel, he had been working on a script with Zak Penn for several months, and it would be released by Universal Pictures, Legendary's new financing and distribution partner. In July 2015, it was reported that filming was expected to begin in November, until Universal indefinitely delayed the film. By October, till determined to have the film made, it was announced that del Toro had presented the studio with a script and a budget. In February 2016, the studio, and del Toro himself announced that he would no longer direct the sequel in order to direct The Shape of Water (2017). Instead DeKnight would take over directing duties, with a new script written by Jon Spaihts. Del Toro remained on the project as a producer. Ultimately, Derek Connolly, Carmichael, Snyder, Nowlin and DeKnight all contributed rewrites to Spaihts' script. By early November, John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Jing Tian, Adria Arjona and Zhang Jin were cast, with Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, and Burn Gorman returned to reprise their roles. Charlie Hunnam did not return for the film due to scheduling conflicts. At the same time, with a budget of $150 million, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in late March 2017. Filming took place throughout Australia, as well as in Qingdao, China and Seoul, South Korea. In December 14, 2016, the official title was revealed. In January 2018, it was announced that Lorne Balfe was hired to compose the film's score, replacing original composer John Paesano. Double Negative, Atomic Fiction, Blind LTD and Territory Studio provided the film's visual effects, supervised by Peter Chiang and Jim Berney. Initially intended for an April 7, 2017 release date, the film was delayed to August 4, 2017. It was again delayed to February 23, 2018, and once again delayed to March 23, 2018.

The film stars Boyega, Eastwood, Spaeny, Tian, Arjona and Zhang, with Kikuchi, Day, and Gorman reprising their roles. Despite their best efforts, the new cast were no match against the previous cast. As for the returning cast members, they were totally wasted.

The only reason you might watch Pacific Rim: Uprising is if you're a fan of the first movie. It's no surprise this is terrible, considering it's a step down from the original.

Simon says Pacific Rim: Uprising receives:

Also, see my review for Pacific Rim.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 37.

The first thing I did today was to prepare and have a filling brunch before I’d go off to work at 4pm. I went into the shower first to clean myself. My first priority is to get prepared and be work-ready. From there, I can get to work and do what I am obligated to do.

Work is normally mundane and exhausting at the same time, ‘encouraging’ people to take photos, taking their photos, editing their photos, printing their photos and selling their photos. The pressure is not tremendous, but nonetheless it’s there. I feel, without it, the workplace wouldn’t completely collapse or go to shit as my bitch-of-a-manager, Rhea, keeps telling us and making us think it would. I may not have been here long, but I believe I’ve got more than just a gist of the place. She’s just being a dictatorial bitch. I’ve had bad managers or bosses in the past, but never had I had a manager or boss like her so far.

After my shower, I had a filling brunch in omu-rice with kimchi and a nice, small bowl of hot miso soup. It’s cold and it’ll be a lot of work today, but I think I can make it after having a meal like that. Once I’m done, I’ll have to wash the dishes and get dressed. From there, I’ll make my way down and outside to get on my way to work.

I’m not too excited about any of that. I have a much bigger problem. Rhea is the manager on duty tonight. With that thought running through my head, all of my blood in my head started to boil. Also, even with the temperature now well below freezing, not even the cold can make my head cool down like that. Some of my co-workers, who I don’t mind, will be there. But that doesn’t really fix the problem or lessen it. I had gone through the shit Rhea throws at us with them. When Rhea throws shit as me, she throws shit at them for sure. Even when she doesn’t, the thought of working when she’s the manager on duty kills the glimmer of fun or hope when she’s not there. When she’s on duty, fun and hope is fucking extinct at CN Tower. So is the strength to do the best job I can. I’m not able to do what I need to do in my own way as long as she’s there.

I had it all planned out. My time at CN Tower would only last seven to ten months. That’s enough time for me to look and get a better job. But with a strong possibility, that plan could become history. The time I’ve been there so far hasn’t affected anything I’ve planned so far. I can’t say for sure how long my time there will actually last, until I find and get a better job. But I can estimate. But by the one year mark, I’ll be long gone.

Also, see Chapters 36 and 38.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Series Review: "Wild Wild Country" (2018).

"He created one hell of a utopia." This is Wild Wild Country. This documentary series directed by Maclain and Chapman Way. When a controversial cult leader builds a utopian city on the Oregon desert, conflict with the locals escalates into a national scandal.

Though the filmmakers may ask themselves whether enduring the personal nightmare of collecting footage for the series was worth it, it's certainly rewarding for an audience. A creepy but fascinating watch and a good addition to the ever-growing genre of "religious cult" films. If you're already fascinated by the world of religious fanaticism, the series will leave you captivated. The subject matter is so intoxicating, the footage unique and powerful, that even the flaws in this documentary can't erode the power of the stories and fascinating characters presented in the series. Even with admitted self-censorship, this intimate and often fascinating footage reveals a megalomaniac who genuinely inspired his early disciples. Rajneesh's gentle compassion for his fellow cult survivors is understandable, but is ultimately unsatisfying. Still, for fans of cult documentaries, the series is worth it for its insider footage alone. The series, raw and anguished, is not just a story about a terrible breach of trust, but one of loss, its creator mourning the relationships he had. Tries to get across the ambiance of a community under the sway of a weirdly magnetic figure, but inevitably it comes up short; nonetheless the taste that it provides is chilling. With unprecedented access to archival footage and former members of the Rajneeshpuram community, it's impossible to look away from the series. An uneven blend of news program, suspense narrative and toward the end, somewhat saccharine self-help exercise. What sets this film apart is the filmmakers' ability to deliver with integrity and sensitivity extremely intimate stories of optimism, faith, and painful disillusionment. Like watching a takedown of Hitler by a disillusioned Leni Reifenstahl, what emerges is one of the decade's strangest and most unsettling documentaries, especially given its as-yet-unwritten ending. Rajneesh has made an engrossing and tense documentary, though his insider knowledge is sometimes a hindrance. It's ham-fistedly structured to withhold information for maximum dramatic impact. But that impact, as predictable as it is, hits hard. The series is as much a self-reckoning as it is a cautionary tale for other spiritual seekers, and as such it offers invaluable insights into how cults -- and especially cults of personality -- function and grow.has an undeniable car-crash fascination, especially once the filmmakers reveals just how deeply this particular phony guru abused the trust of his faithfuls. Fascinating insider look at a crazy cult leader and the devotees who were blinded by fantasy and hope for Rajneesh. The revelations are fascinating, though one wishes the filmmakers had marshaled his material with more structure. There's an uplifting catharsis to the series, and rather than let the audience sit in judgment or mock the beliefs of those who participate, it lets us try to forge a bond with them instead.

Simon says Wild Wild Country receives:

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Film Review: "The Outsider" (2018).

From Netflix and the director of Land of Mine (Unter dem Sand) comes The Outsider. This Japanese-American crime drama thriller film directed by Martin Zandvliet and written by Andrew Baldwin. The film follows an American soldier imprisoned in postwar Japan who enters the dark world of the yakuza, adopting their way of life in repayment for his freedom.

The film's plot borrows heavily from Kinji Fukasaku 's The Yakuza PapersInitially, Michael Fassbender would star and Daniel Espinosa was hired to direct. Then Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike was slated to take over the director's chair from Espinosa, and Tom Hardy would replace Fassbender in the lead role. However, Hardy dropped out shortly thereafter. Miike also departed from the project due to a failed extensive search for a new lead, as well as his own commitments to other projects. In mid November 2016, Netflix entered negotiations with Bloom and AFM to acquire exclusive global rights to the film. In early April, Jared Leto was cast in the lead role. By late September, Kippei Shiina, Shiori Kutsuna, Tadanobu Asano, Nao Ōmori, Min Tanaka, and Emile Hirsch rounded out the films' cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in December. Filming took place in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan.

The film stars Jared Leto, Kippei Shiina, Shiori Kutsuna, Tadanobu Asano, Nao Ōmori, Min Tanaka, and Emile Hirsch. Despite their best efforts, the performances given by the cast were underwhelming and uninteresting, to say the least. Which isn't what you'd expect from Leto. Then again, we didn't expect Suicide Squad (2016). You would think that matching stoic Leto with a rugged Asano with other Japanese talents would be a piece of badass cinematic heaven. Unfortunately, it is not the case. In addition, you think Leto and Kutsuna would make a fine cinematic couple in a forbidden romance with some chemistry. This is, unfortunately, not the case either. However, seeing the actors, including Leto, playing katana-wielding yakuza gang members is particularly badasss here. Finally, there are not enough double-crosses to satisfy the most jaded fans of the genre.

The Outsider is a beautifully flawed film that nonetheless catches you off guard when you least expect it. The film is old-school in its delivery, the pacing is slow, but stay with it and you will be rewarded with a payoff that is both startling and touching. Zandvliet manifests as much mythic sense as a mill foreman. The film is unnerving as it is ultimately unsatisfying. A confused and diffused film which bites off more than it can artfully chew. A inferior gangster movie, but all the same, it's for audiences to grow accustomed to buckets of blood, and the swift but brutal yakuza style killings. Interesting and well-acted, if clumsy, American take on the Japanese gangster genre. However, the film is not your routine chop-'em-up gangster picture but an intricate weaving of people, conventions, and personal relationships. All one really expects out of a movie like this is a LOT of talking and killing.

Simon says The Outsider receives:

Also, see my review for Land of Mine (Unter dem Sand).

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Film Review: "Red Sparrow" (2018).

"Seductive. Deceptive. Deadly." These words describe Red Sparrow. This spy thriller film directed by Francis Lawrence and written by Justin Haythe, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Jason Matthews. After suffering a career-ending injury, ballerina and devoted daughter Dominika Egorova finds herself manipulated and recruited to 'Sparrow School', a secret Russian intelligence service where she is trained and forced to us her body and mind as a weapon. After enduring the perverse and sadistic training process, she emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow the program has ever produced. Her first mission is to target a C.I.A. agent, and threaten to unravel the security of both nations in order to protect her own life and everyone she cares about.

Before the publication of the novel, 20th Century Fox purchased the film rights for a seven figure sum. The project was then announced in 2013, Darren Aronofsky was in talks to direct. However, Aronofsky dropped out in 2014 and, in the same year, David Fincher and Rooney Mara were in talks to direct and star, respectively. In July 2015, it was reported that Francis Lawrence signed on to direct. In September 2015, Jennifer Lawrence was announced in the lead role. By December 2016, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeremy Irons, Ciarán Hinds, and Joely Richardson rounded out the cast. Principal photography began in January 2017, locations included Budapest, Dunaújváros, and Dég, Hungary; Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna, Austria; and London, England. For the role, Jennifer Lawrence did ballet and practiced a Russian accent for four months, spending three hours a day working with the Hollywood ballet instructor Kurt Froman. She said it was difficult because she had never wanted to dance ballet. During Post-Production, Jennifer Lawrence was offered the opportunity to view a cut of the film, by Francis Lawrence, in regards to the removal of any nude or sex scenes. Ultimately, she insisted that no cuts be made to the finished film. However, upon its release, the film was met with edits across the globe.

The film stars Lawrence, Edgerton, Schoenaerts, Rampling, Parker, Irons, Hinds, and Richardson. With a film of this genre and narrative, casting is a vital component in the edgy equation, and the cast, especially Jennifer Lawrence, make a picturesque and dramatically compelling one. Lawrence is hot, engaging, emotional, sincere and fundamentally looking at any slice of life through a sexual and deceptive lens.

Despite a stellar performance from Jennifer Lawrence, Red Sparrow is a slack, gratuitous and painfully-paced espionage film. The film asks us for some of our patience, but, by the end of it, our patience barely paid off. Like all other films of this nature, there is deception, suspicion, and self-delusion, but it all seems rendered at arm's length, despite the consummate artistry of the filmmakers. Though his direction is unsurprisingly beautiful, the settings lush and the performances stellar, no one apparently had the guts to insist Francis Lawrence streamline his rambling story. The film is ultimately lazy and razor-thin that you'll be bored.

Simon says Red Sparrow receives:

Also, see my review for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Film Review: "Mary and the Witch's Flower" ("メアリと魔女の花") (2017).

"From a single lie, everything will change" in Mary and the Witch's Flower (メアリと魔女の花). This Japanese animated fantasy film directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, adapted by Yonebayashi and Riko Sakaguchi, based on The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, and produced by Studio Ponoc. Young Mary follows a mysterious cat into the nearby forest and discovers an old broomstick and the strange Fly-by-Night flower, a rare plant that blossoms once every seven years. Together, the flower and the broomstick whisk Mary above the clouds, and far away to Endor College - a school of magic run by headmistress Madam Mumblechook and the brilliant Doctor Dee. But there are terrible things happening at the school, and when Mary tells a lie, she must risk her life to try and set things right.

In the early 1980s, Disney artist Mel Shaw pitched the idea of adapting Stewart's book as an animated movie, but the project never got beyond the planning stage and was shelved in favour of more ambitious projects. In mid December 2016, at a press conference held by Studio Ponoc founder and producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, the opening of Studio Ponoc was announced, as the film with Yonebayashi as director and writer. When Nishimura was asked about the establishment of the new studio he said, "When the Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki notified me about the dissolution of the Ghibli Production Department , I was stimulated by the oversea creators when I went to the Academy Awards venue with The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Remember that you received it." After announcing it was based on The Little Broomstick, Nisimura said "Marnie of Memories is a work that proved that Yonebayashi, who excels at dynamic painting, sealed his specialty and can draw trivial emotions. Bust as a producer, I want to see dynamic animation, so I decided to do a fantasy with a cheerful girl moving around."

The film stars the voice talents of Hana Sugisaki, Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Yûki Amami, Fumiyo Kohinata, Hikari Mitsushima, Jirô Satô, and Ken'ichi Endô. The talented voice cast, along with the talented animators, gently and warmly render the characters.

It's a delightful tale of a young witch coming of age, learning to recognize her own talents, and striving to serve her world. The film revitalizes conventional tropes, using elegant imagery to say something substantial about growing up, and he even subverts gender stereotypes along the way. Studio Ponoc's giddy, glorious seaside story about a budding young witch. A wonderful and enchanting animated film about a young girl's initiation into adulthood through her adventures in a strange world. The magic of the film s the girl's sense of wonder in her new world, whether it's her soaring flight among the migrating geese or a bicycle ride to see the dirigible. One of the sweetest, most enticing animated features ever made, the film's enchanting story and emotional core offer a perfect starting place for anyone keen to explore Studio Ponoc's future catalogue.

Simon says Mary and the Witch's Flower (メアリと魔女の花) receives:

Monday, 5 March 2018

Film Review: "Death Wish" (2018).

"They came for his family. Now he's coming for them." This is Death Wish (2018). This vigilante action thriller film directed by Eli Roth, written by Joe Carnahan, and based on the 1974 film of the same name, directed by Michael Winner, and the 1972 novel of the same name by Brian Garfield. Dr. Paul Kersey is a surgeon who only sees the aftermath of his city's violence as it's rushed into his ER -until his wife and college-age daughter are viciously attacked in their suburban home. With the police overloaded with crimes, Paul, burning for revenge, hunts for his family's assailants to deliver justice. As the anonymous slayings of criminals grabs the media's attention, the city wonders if this deadly avenger is a guardian angel...or a grim reaper.

In 2006, development of the film began with Sylvester Stallone to direct and star. However, in 2009, Stallone dropped out of the film due to creative differences. In late January 2012, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Joe Carnahan to write and direct, with Liam Neeson and Frank Grillo to star. However, in February 2013, Carnahan left the project due to creative differences. He was replaced with Gerardo Naranjo, who was interested in casting Benicio Del Toro in the lead role; this version also never came to fruition. In March 2016, Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced that Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado would direct. Russell Crowe, Matt Damon, Will Smith, and Brad Pitt were considered before Bruce Willis was cast. In May, Keshales and Papushado left the project after MGM declined to allow them to rewrite Carnahan's script, which had been approved by Willis. In June, Eli Roth signed on to direct, with Dean Georgaris, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski rewriting Carnahan's script. By late September, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, Jack Kesy, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Beau Knapp, and Camila Morrone rounded out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography began, and wrapped in late October. Filming took place in Chicago, Illinois and Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The film stars Willis, D'Onofrio, Shue, Norris, Elise, Kesy, Gene Blevins, Knapp, and Morrone. Despite the best efforts this solid cast could muster, they were wasted and the performances they gave were ultimately, and sadly, mediocre and cliched. As for Willis, We know he can be a tough guy, but not so much the mild-mannered guy; he seems to be trying to split the difference the whole time.

Death Wish is a despicable movie, one that raises complex questions in order to offer bigoted, frivolous, oversimplified answers. The violence is excessive and the plot predictable, although there is some style to director Roth's approach. Roth's recourse to caricature when dealing with police and thugs, and his virtually overt sympathies with the confused, violent Willis, make for uncritical, simplistic viewing. A poisonous incitement to do-it-yourself law enforcement is the vulgar exploitation hook on which the film is awkwardly hung. Nothing more than a stylishly lacklustre exploitation vigilante thriller.

Simon says Death Wish receives:

Also, see my review for The Green Inferno.

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 36.

Got a good night’s sleep and made real progress today. First thing I did was get my finances in order with my receipts and diary. Last time, I couldn’t get all the notes down; I’d only stapled the receipts on the pages.

But I still had a lot to jot down, but at least it doesn’t take as long as you would think. I’d spent most of time the other day with other stuff, but I had time today at least. Like I said, I was preoccupied the other day with other personal stuff. Time management was always a bit of a problem for me.

But with this much time, I was able to take advantage of the time I had today. Something I couldn’t ignore. The next item on the list is grocery shopping. The expected items to start off with are bacon, bananas, bread, eggs, onions, noodles, rice and tomatoes, as well as other stuff such as butter, jam and/or tuna. Stuff like that. It is a task that’s meant for once every two weeks. But, in certain cases, it becomes a task that needs to be done in less than the expected period of time. The food had started to run low already by this point, and it was obvious that the task needed to be done ASAP.

But, of course, grocery shopping is time consuming. So it was something that needed to be done before it becomes late. Now, with the finances and laundry out of the way, I knew what to do next. Off to either P.A.T. Central or H-Mart I go.

After that, and making sure that any personal stuff had been completed, I had a few moments to take a short break before I had to get dinner prepared. As much as I trusted my own abilities in the kitchen, I wanted to go out and eat. I got started in the kitchen. Tonight, without rushing, I was going to prepare something good to give me the strength and warmth to get through the cold winter night. Eating it, I was definitely fulfilled. After washing the dishes, I finally had some time to really relax for the evening. But I still had much to do. Tomorrow, I’ll take care of it.

Also, see Chapters 35 and 37.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 35.

I woke up last night to my mind racing. The disturbing thought ended as suddenly as it began. It was the only time where I had a thought like that on that kind of level. Nothing to get too worried about. Still, it’s a bit disconcerting to have that kind of thought running through your head, especially when you’re asleep to utter piece and silence.

What is it that’s on my mind you ask? I’m worried about my future here. If things don’t work out here, I’ll have to return home a failure. Logically, I shouldn’t worry. But the thought has been on my mind from time to time. A little bit of the thought won’t do any harm.

When I head out for work, I confess that it pops up every now and then before making my out to the snowy landscape to a day of annoying work. Yes, with each subsequent walk through the snow comes the inevitable thought, a sort of ritualistic act during the short but reluctant journey. It haunts me and I drown it out by putting on my headphones and just listen to music.

In other news, it’s low season at work, and I still haven’t realized of what I’ve gotten myself into. For starters, I need to realize how dead the CN Tower is during winter and how little I’m needed during this time. Also, I need to make another attempt to find a job, a better job in this case. Anyways, all that can be dealt with when I have the proper time. I had a full shift today. After I only have a short shift, I’ll have a chance to sit down and do what I need to do. I’d better get started.

Also, see Chapters 34 and 36.