Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Film Review: "Solo: A Star Wars Story" (2018).

"Never tell him the odds" in Solo: A Star Wars Story. This space opera Western film directed by Ron Howard, written by Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, based on the character Han Solo created by George Lucas. It is the second Star Wars anthology films following 2016's Rogue One. Young Han Solo finds adventure when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers, including a 196-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos, the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian, the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission - the Millennium Falcon.

Before Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, development on a young Han Solo film began in 2012 with George Lucas. Lucas hired Lawrence Kasdan to pen a script, and was later joined by his son, Jonathan just before he left to work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). Later, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were hired to helm the film. In January 2016, a shortlist of actors considered for the scruffy-looking nerfherder was revealed to include: Dave Franco, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Miles Teller, Nick Robinson, Leo Howard, Tony Oller, Chandler Riggs, Hunter Parrish, Rami Malek, Landon Liboiron, Ed Westwick, Tom Felton, Joshua Sasse, Logan Lerman, Ansel Elgort, Jack Reynor, Colton Haynes, Max Thieriot, Scott Eastwood, Chris Pratt, Emory Cohen, Taron Egerton, Jack O'Connell, Blake Jenner, and Alden Ehrenreich. Ultimately, Ehrenreich won the role. Lord and Miller said that while they liked a lot of the other actors they read with, they increasingly said, "The first guy we saw was the best for the part." By late July, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Thandie Newton, Joonas Suotamo, and Michael K. Williams rounded out the cast. In February 2017, Principal Photography began, locations included Pinewood Studios in London, England, the Dolomites, Veneto, Italy, and the Canary Islands. In June, shortly before filming was to be completed, Lord and Miller were fired by Lucasfilm due to "creative differences", and a new director was "to be announced soon." Shortly there after, Ron Howard was hired to take over the director's chair over Joe Johnston and Kasdan. In October 2017, production wrapped, and it was reported that Howard had re-shot more than 80% of the film, with Williams' role removed, and Paul Bettany was cast. With an estimated budget of at least $250 million, it is the most expensive Star Wars film ever made.

The film stars Ehrenreich, Harrelson, Clarke, Glover, Newton, Waller-Bridge, Suotamo, and Bettany. The cast gave terrific performances despite riddled with archetypal cliches and predictable character motivations associated with the genre.

Though the cast, including Alden Ehrenreich, give their all, they can't help Solo: A Star Wars Story overcome a cliche-ridden script and a horrendously compromised vision. It's a mediocre Star Wars movie that tells the early story of the titular smuggler and attempts to make it climax in a perfect coupling with the start of the known trilogy.

Simon says Solo: A Star Wars Story receives:

Also, see my reviews for Inferno and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Series Review: "Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia" (2016-18).

"From Emmy and Academy Award winning creator Guillermo del Toro comes" Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia. This computer-animated fantasy television series created by Guillermo del Toro, based on the novel of the same name by Del Toro and Daniel Kraus, and produced by DreamWorks Animation and Double Dare You Productions for Netflix. After uncovering a mysterious amulet, an average teen assumes an unlikely destiny and sets out to save two worlds.

Initially, del Toro envisioned the idea as a live-action television series; however this was deemed impractical due to budgetary concerns, and as a result he instead turned the idea into a book. DreamWorks then planned to turn the book into an animated feature film. The feature film was going to be directed by Guillermo del Toro and Rodrigo Blaas. Eventually DreamWorks decided to instead turn it into a TV series with Netflix. Rodrigo Blaas became an Executive Producer and Supervising Director on the series. Del Toro modeled the show's sensibilities after shows he grew up with such as Johnny Quest (1964-65). To this end, he sought to make the main character of Jim "in that '70s mold," and "really a very good boy" with del Toro noting that this was a constant struggle for him to express to both writers and actors. Eventually he came across Anton Yelchin, who embodied those qualities although by del Toro's estimate it still took him a few sessions to fully understand the character. When creating the show's narrative, del Toro noted that he wanted a "bittersweet journey" for the main character dealing with issues that most such "power fantasies" failed to address. The show was one of Yelchin's final projects as he died shortly after recording most of his character's dialogue. Del Toro refused to replace his recordings, which del Toro noted was a challenge for the show's recording engineers. Del Toro added that his experience as a father and Yelchin's young age were also factors that led to the decision. The first season was released worldwide on Netflix on December 23, 2016. The second season premiered on December 15, 2017, and the third and final season premiered on May 25, 2018.

The series features the voice talents of Anton Yelchin, Emile Hirsch, Jonathan Hyde, Kelsey Grammer, Ron Perlman, Steven Yeun, Clancy Brown, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Hamill, Anjelica Huston, Lena Headey, Tom Kenny, David Bradley, Tatiana Maslany, and Diego Luna. The show, thanks largely to its spectacular cast, has managed to do what so few children shows even today have: assemble a cast of characters that depicts the world as it is, with a range of identities and experiences. Which brings depth and believability.

Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia is a must-watch, it is an adventurous, exciting, and occasionally moving children's show. It's smartly-written, beautifully animated, engaging, well-thought-out, and meaningful. It's greatest asset is the show's emotional authenticity and how it exposed very young viewers to darker subject matter while giving them a framework for understanding these issues. One of the most well animated programs (children's or adult) in a long time.

Simon says Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia receives:

Also, see my review for The Strain.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 41.

Sigh… Just once I’d like something to go as planned, you know? Life keeps trying to screw me over. Well… life hasn’t always been fair. So I’ll amend that: I think life is trying to screw me over. Okay, enough self-pity. I’m not doomed. Things will never always go according to plan. All I have to do is just go with the flow and just hope for the best, sometimes. And I’ve still got a long way to go.

I worked my ass off the day before doing the SAME OLD S***, dealing with the SAME OLD SHITTY GUESTS. If I can’t have a good day at work, I’ll try to have a good day on my day off. But even on my days off, I’m vulnerable to have something go off the rails. For the time being, I’ve done all the chores I needed to do without any problems whatsoever. I didn’t anything unexpected or extra to happen without warning. I’m not exactly receptive to any kind of surprises, especially shitty ones at the worst of times, but that’s not entirely up to me. As I mentioned, things will never always go according to plan. I thus work around these bumps on the road. That works sometimes. I need it to.

Problem is, that kind of stuff happens when I least expect it most of the time. The evening, luckily, didn’t have any problems that interfere with the photo shoot of the fireworks. Well… that’s according to the photos I took.

See what I mean? All told, there were a lot of fireworks; most of them were really loud and pretty. There were short but explosive. The biggest and loudest one was saved for last. I had my camera ready to capture the moment. In the end, I didn’t as much as I would love to. But that’s okay, the small amount of shots were spectacular. That’s what happens on a photo shoot (even a film shoot). There I was reminded of that very important life lesson.

Also, see Chapters 40 and 42.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Film Review: "Deadpool 2" (2018).

"He's not coming alone" in Deadpool 2. This superhero film directed by David Leitch, written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is the eleventh installment in the X-Men film series, and a direct sequel to Deadpool (2016). After surviving a near fatal bovine attack, a disfigured cafeteria chef (Wade Wilson) struggles to fulfill his dream of becoming Mayberry's hottest bartender while also learning to cope with his lost sense of taste. Searching to regain his spice for life, as well as a flux capacitor, Wade must battle ninjas, the Yakuza, and a pack of sexually aggressive canines, as he journeys around the world to discover the importance of family, friendship, and flavor - finding a new taste for adventure and earning the coveted coffee mug title of World's Best Lover.

Plans for a sequel was announced 3 days before the film's release, and were confirmed in February 2016.  The original team of Reynolds, Reese, Wernick, and director Tim Miller were set to return for the sequel. However, in October 2016, Miller left the project due to creative differences with Reynolds. Miller later stated that he left the sequel because he "didn't want to make some stylized movie that was 3 times the budget", and wished to create the same kind of film that made the first one a success. After Miller's departure, Rupert Sanders, Drew Goddard, Magnus Martens, and Leitch were considered by the studio to replace Miller. Ultimately, Leitch was chosen to direct. In the same month, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Lizzy Caplan, Kerry Washington, Sienna Miller, Ruby Rose, Mackenzie Davis, Kelly Rohrbach, Eve Hewson, Sofia Boutella, Stephanie Sigman, Sylvia Hoeks, and Janelle MonĂ¡e were considered for the role of Domino. Zazie Beetz was ultimately cast, which was met with backlash from fans. In March 2017, an extensive casting search took place for the role of Cable that included Dolph Lundgren, Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell, Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stephen Lang, Ron Perlman, Pierce Brosnan, David Harbour, and Josh Brolin. Brolin was ultimately cast. Filming began in May and concluded in October, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The production wrapped on the same day that X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) wrapped it's production. Originally scheduled to be released on June 1 2018, the release date was pushed forward to May 18 2018.

The film stars Reynolds in the title role, alongside Brolin, Beetz, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, and Jack Kesy. The original cast gave another round of solidly entertaining performances that expands upon the first film, with Reynolds' being the strongest, comical, and surprisingly emotional. The new cast members are a welcome addition who injected new flavour into the already colourful ensemble.

Although the film itself succumbs to overly-outrageous cartoonish antics, Deadpool 2 is one superhero movie that manages to stay true to the original while expanding its universe. It features some larger-than-life action sequences, absurdly comical references and jokes, and new colourful characters.

Simon says Deadpool 2 receives:

Also, see my reviews for Deadpool and Logan.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 40.

I’m amped up. I’m amped up big-time. There’s another photography meetup today. I had a fun time that might stick with me. I started my day around 10am, same as always; I got into the shower and got my breakfast from Tim Hortons. It’s a nice breakfast once in a while, like I did today. After finishing my breakfast and washing the dishes, (hey, I can’t just leave it in the sink), I got on with whatever I had to do. It was the same as yesterday and the day before. It’s either work, blog and/or watch a movie, or two. Repeating the routine day-by-day until bedtime.

At 12, I got started with blogging. Back in the writing zone, which I enjoy and wrote for some couple of hours (I honestly can’t remember, I don’t keep track). Then I took a break for the day. At 4 my time to head out had finally come, I almost didn’t realize at the time. The worst moments in life are heralded by small errors. For example, the time you thought it was one thing is no longer the case. Coming to the realization that you might be late for whatever it is you have planned sucks. Anytime you do realize, it’s “oh shit!” For me, it was when I got too relaxed with my break, and looked at the time when it reached past 4. Only twenty minutes earlier, it would have been ok. I would even be a bit late. But I wasn’t too worried. Worst-case scenario; I would only be a couple of minutes late, and the group waits for about ten minutes. But when I got on the subway, and then bus, it was busy. The traffic wouldn’t even budge an inch. The amount of people on the subway and the amount of cars on the road meant it was that time of day. A quick glance through the window showed the traffic is during rush hour. So there was no real solutions or problems. I checked my phone, and sure enough, there was still some time left, not a lot of course. I guess the worrying was a little too much. No big deal. I got there just a couple of minutes past 6 and got to Edward Gardens. The location seemed great and I was ready for the photo-shoot.

Now, the subject of today’s meetup is a botanical garden located on the southwest corner of Leslie Street and Lawrence Avenue East. It is also the site of the Toronto Botanical Garden, a private not-for profit organization. It is a former estate garden that features annuals, roses and wildflowers. The garden is one of several parks located along Toronto’s ravines, many of which are connected to the shores of Lake Ontario. The park’s manicured lawns and flowerbeds make it a popular destination for parties and events, especially weddings.

All that stuff whilst getting there doesn’t like a big deal, right? I certainly didn’t think so after I got there. I finished my day at 9 after two hours of shooting and dinner at Leaside Pub. Better than yesterday, But I had some trouble in all honesty.

Also, see Chapters 39 and 41.

Monday, 7 May 2018

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 39.

Same old shit, different day at work. It’s Day eighty-one today (I’ve gone way past the three-month trial period at this point). I’m nearly there. This is getting really old and soul-crushing. But at least I’ll be having a fun time at my friend Cody’s birthday party. Awesome.

Anyways, I was having fun at the party. I guess that’s a good thing, nothing’s wrong with a little partying. So long there’s nothing too crazy going on, and if the physical and psychological labour of work is taking a toll on you. It’s good to unwind and let loose a little. It’s times like these that I miss having fun and letting myself loose a little. There was a lot of food and presents going around. No point was there not a single dish or gift wrapped item being passed around or to Cody. Having something to do, I interacted with various people, including Herwin and Michael, who attended the party. Amazingly, the people there came from all backgrounds and walks of life. The attendees were true and unique individuals who, sadly I’ve not seen since. It was pretty impressive, when you consider the type of person Cody is.

Our next stop was the Rec Room, the place in front of my workplace of all places, leaving me with a couple of other people to dip out. With the fact that I had work the next morning, I couldn’t really stay anyway. Life is both amazingly bittersweet. Oh well… nothing much we can do about that. Most of the time, we just have to go with the flow.

Also, see Chapters 38 and 40.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Film Review: "Avengers: Infinity War" (2018).

"Where will you be, when it all ends?" Hopefully watching Avengers: Infinity War. This superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team the Avengers, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and produced by Marvel Studios. It is the sequel to 2012's The Avengers and 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it is the nineteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). As the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, a new danger has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, his goal is to collect all six Infinity Stones, artifacts of unimaginable power, and use them to inflict his twisted will on all of reality. Everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment - the fate of Earth and existence itself has never been more uncertain.

In October 2014, Marvel announced a two-part sequel to Avengers: Age of Ultron, titled Avengers: Infinity War. Part 1 was scheduled to be released on May 4, 2018, with Part 2 scheduled for May 3, 2019. In April 2015, Marvel announced that Anthony and Joe Russo would direct both films, with back-to-back filming expected to begin in 2016. The same month, Kevin Feige said the films would be two, distinct films "because they [have] such shared elements, it felt appropriate... to [subtitle the films] like that. But I wouldn’t call it one story that's cut in half. I would say it's going to be two distinct movies." In addition, according to Feige, the Avengers are expected to have a "shakeup" in their team lineup between Avengers: Infinity War and the untitled Avengers sequel. By May 2015, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely had signed on to write the screenplays for both parts of the film, which draws inspiration from Jim Starlin's 1991 The Infinity Gauntlet comic and Jonathan Hickman's 2013 Infinity comic. In a NY Times interview, when asked about how the script was written to accommodate the large cast, McFeely said, "Not every scene can be 25 people in a room. You're going to have to make kickball teams and then have a tournament." Anthony Russo added the film was inspired by 1990s heist films, with Thanos "on a smash-and-grab [to acquire the Infinity Stones], and everybody’s trying to catch up the whole movie." In May 2016, the Russos revealed that they would retitle the two films, to further remove the misconception that they were one large film split in two, with Joe Russo stating, "The intention is we will change [the titles], we just haven’t come up with [them] yet." That July, Marvel revealed the film's title would be shortened to simply Avengers: Infinity War. Between April 2016 to January 2017, many actors from previous MCU films were confirmed to be reprising their roles in the films.

In late January 2017, Principal photography began, under the working title Mary Lou, at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayette County, Georgia as well as Downtown Atlanta. Additional locations included Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cumbernauld and the Scottish Highlands in Scotland, Durham, England, Queens, New York, and Ifugao, Philippines. IMAX stated that this film, along with the sequel, was entirely filmed with digital 2-D ARRI Alexa IMAX cameras, which are specially customized versions of ARRI Alexa 65 cameras with IMAX technology. Captain America: Civil War (2016) was the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film to incorporate the new cameras, but only for its airport sequence. This made Avengers: Infinity War the first non-documentary film to be shot entirely with IMAX cameras, although it did not use the traditional IMAX aspect ratio of 1.43:1 but rather the digital IMAX ratio of 1.90:1, which closely matches the 1.85:1 aspect ratio of The Avengers (2012) and Ant-Man (2015). In Early March 2018, Disney moved the release date to April 27 2018, releasing five days before the tenth anniversary of Iron Man (2008), to match the date in several international markets. In June 2016, Alan Silvestri, who composed the score for The Avengers, was revealed to be returning to score both Infinity War and its sequel. The visual effects for the film were created with the combined talents of Industrial Light & Magic, Framestore, Method Studios, Weta Digital, Double Negative, Cinesite, Digital Domain, Rise, Lola VFX, and Perception. With a running time of 156 minutes, this will make the film the longest Marvel film to date following Captain America: Civil War, which had a running time of 147 minutes. With an estimated budget between $300–400 million, the film would go on to become one of the most expensive films ever made.

The film features an ensemble cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, Chris Pratt, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, William Hurt, Winston Duke, Peter Dinklage, Terry Notary, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Carrie Coon, Michael James Shaw, and Josh Brolin. The cast gave spectacular performances that took their characters to whole other levels that we did not expect from the very first moment to the last.

Exuberant and eye-popping, Avengers: Infinity War serves as an overstuffed but mostly satisfying sequel. It succeeds in the top priority of creating a worthy opponent for its superheroes and giving the latter a few new things to do, and this time the action scenes and the stakes definitely measure up. It is a whole summer of fireworks packed into one movie. It doesn't just go to 11, it starts there. If this is what the apotheosis of branded, big-studio entertainment has come to look like in 2018, we could be doing much worse. Unlike other tentpole movies of its genre and scale, the film most definitely has emotional and gut-punching moments. The film redefines the scale we can expect from our superheroes.

Simon says Avengers: Infinity War receives:

Also, see my reviews for Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther.