Thursday, 29 March 2018

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:



See my review for The Post at http://ss-film.blogspot.com/2018/01/film-review-post-2017.html

Tuesday, 27 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:

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:

Wednesday, 7 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:



See my review for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 at http://ss-film.blogspot.com/2015/11/film-review-hunger-games-mockingjay.html