Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Film Review: "The Happytime Murders" (2018).


"From the studio that was sued by Sesame Street" comes The Happytime Murders. This black comedy mystery crime film directed by Brian Henson, and written by Todd Berger. The film is a filthy comedy set in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles where puppets and humans coexist. Two clashing detectives with a shared secret, one human and one puppet, are forced to work together again to solve the brutal murders of the former cast of a beloved classic puppet television show.

In 2008, it was announced the film was in development, and would serve as The Jim Henson Company's first R-rated film. Two years later, the film was picked up by Lionsgate with a targeted January 2011 start date, and Cameron Diaz attached to star. However, Diaz dropped out of the project, and Katherine Heigl entered talks to replace Diaz. In July 2015, it was announced that Lionsgate had lost the rights, and that STX Entertainment had picked up the rights and put the film into active development with Erich and Jon Hoeber providing script revisions. In April 2016, Jamie Foxx entered negotiations to star. However, in May 2017, it was revealed that Melissa McCarthy had signed on to star instead, and contribute minor, uncredited rewrites. By early September 2017, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, Elizabeth Banks, Jimmy O. Yang, and Ben Falcone were cast. At the same time, with a budget of $40 million, principal photography commenced, and took place in Los Angeles, California. There were a total of a hundred and twenty-five puppets in the film with forty created specifically for it. To accommodate the puppeteers, all of the sets were built up so that the puppeteers could stand on the floor, since their optimum way to operate the puppets is if they are standing with straight arms. Because the floor of the sets came up in pieces, the human actors had a two-foot margin to stay on their path. The film was originally scheduled for a August 17, 2018 release date, but was pushed back to August 24.

The film stars McCarthy, Rudolph, McHale, Banks, Yang, and Falcone. Dark and vulgar, the film is a backstage comedy featuring puppets that offers proof of the film's taste for sheer outrageousness, even if it often lapses into pure juvenilia. The stories of these characters are told in a disgustingly graphic, obscenely offbeat, and caustically funny manner. The film is for those with a strong stomach and a seriously warped sense of humor. The film is so off the beaten track that it makes Monty Python seem mainstream.

A unique experiment, and one whose insights into human behavior aren't as important to it as its sense of curdled black humor. But we can't write it off as just a gonzo provocation. While I found parts of it diabolically clever and funny, I thought the setup was overlong and certain aspects of the production either didn't work or were needlessly overdone. More generous observers might cite the parallel with bad taste guru John Waters; but compared to this shallow crap, even the Baltimore Bard's offerings run deep.

Simon says The Happytime Murders receives:


Film Review: "BlacKkKlansman" (2018).


"Dis joint is based upon some fo' real, fo' real sh*t." This is the crazy, outrageous, incredible true story of BlacKkKlansman. This biographical comedy-drama joint directed by Spike Lee, adapted by Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Lee, based on the 2014 memoir Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth. In the midst of the 1970s civil rights movement, Ron Stallworth becomes the first black detective on the Colorado Springs Police Department. He sets out to prove his worth by infiltrating the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and convinces his Jewish colleague to go undercover as a white supremacist.

In July 2015, Stallworth's 2014 memoir about his successful infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan was discovered by Wachtel and Rabinowitz. Intrigued with its hooky high concept, the potential for both suspense and comedy, a compelling lead character, and political undertones, Wachtel and Rabinowitz interviewed Stallworth. After several phone interviews, they received his blessing. Soon after, they wrote a spec screenplay, which they then pitched to producers Shaun Redick and Ray Mansfield. In September 2016, with great enthusiasm, Redick and Mansfield then brought the project to QC Entertainment, which would go on to co-produce the successful 2017 social-horror film Get Out. In Summer 2017, QC once again teamed up with Jason Blum's company Blumhouse Productions, and Get Out's Jordan Peele's company Monkeypaw Productions, to produce the project. In September, Spike Lee signed on as director. In the same month, John David Washington, son of Lee's four-time collaborator, Denzel Washington, was in negotiations to star. Coincidentally, the younger Washington made his film debut as a six-year-old Harlem classroom student in Lee's Malcolm X (1992), starring his father. Stallworth had originally wanted Denzel to play him, but was ecstatic when he found out that John David got the role. By December, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Jasper Pääkkönen, Ryan Eggold, Paul Walter Hauser, Ashlie Atkinson, Corey Hawkins, and Topher Grace had joined the cast. With a budget of $15 million, filming began in October 2017. Ossining, New York stood in as Colorado Springs. This was the first Spike Lee film since Oldboy (2013) to be shot on film. Although the past three or four films of his were all digital, Lee expressed his passion for shooting on celluloid film.

The film stars Washington, Driver, Harrier, Pääkkönen, Eggold, Hauser, Atkinson, Hawkins, and Grace. Despite the serious subject matter, the cast gave terrifically entertaining performances, especially that of Washington, Driver, and Grace, who gave the performances of a lifetime. The three men gave insightful and well-rounded portraits of Stallworth, Zimmerman, and Duke. Their characters are often eccentric; their language is consistently unpleasant; and all have complicated views on race-related violence. Yet they are attractive and even beguiling in many ways, too, with large amounts of humour and intelligence. The film benefits from these lively performances that are thoughtful and insightful renderings that promises to educate generations about the real-life figures. In the leading man category, John David Washington managed to deliver one of the best performances of the decade. He commands the screen, and brings the legend to life. He becomes Ron Stallworth. He battled with race-relations the way we imagine Stallworth battled them.

Smart, vibrant and urgent without being didactic, BlacKkKlansman is one of Spike Lee’s most fully realized efforts – and one of the most important films of the decade. It is an exceptional film, a film that wisely deprives you of the cozy resolutions and epiphanies so often manufactured by Hollywood. The film is complex, bravura movie making. It is also hugely entertaining, since fortunately for us, Lee’s seditious method is to use humour to carry his biting message. The richest and most thorough cinematic exploration of racism and white supremacy I fear may eventually be the end of humanity. The film is Lee’s most complex, heartfelt and disturbing film to date, a drama about racism that is more shockingly outspoken than any I’ve seen since Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989). The film’s volatile nature has overshadowed the fact that it is quite funny and a technically superb picture that easily ranks among one of the best films Lee has made. It is as urgently topical and satisfyingly ambitious as it is wildly uneven – and it contains some of Lee’s smartest, sharpest, and all-around entertaining late-period work. Strong and powerful, the film dares us to be interested, dares us to never look away. It is refreshing to talk about a thoughtful film in a summer full of fluff. The film is confidently acted, brilliantly written and thoroughly provocative. Lee had succeeded again. Lee and company have performed a powerful service: they have brought Ron Stallworth’s story very much to life, and to the big screen. Visual and dramatic, Lee pulls out all the stops, but it’s Washington’s performance that really energizes the film, and he’s an exhilarating presence throughout. Lee returns to engaging enraged form with BlacKkKlansman, combining social commentary, anger, humour, dramatics, and over-the-top style in a spectacular mix that uses every trick necessary to put a spotlight on America’s poisonous affair with white supremacy. Lee’s film is worth seeing for its bombastic excess, and if you’re looking for a tactful visual response to the white supremacist Charlottesville rally and the American struggle on racism, this is it. The film is never subtle, always strident, and absolutely necessary. There’s always a moment where the film is alive. This is a deeply serious, biting picture that also has humour at the forefront. The story and language are eccentric but realistic. Even if you find this blunt imagery offensive, make no mistake; it creates a necessary and powerful message. BlacKkKlansman is an in-your-face explosion of anger and humour. Overall, the best thing one can say for Lee is that he takes risks, like all true artists. For unlike most of today’s filmmakers, he’s not afraid to really challenge a movie audience to some serious thinking. If you see only one movie in this season of blockbusters, make it BlacKkKlansman. You won't regret it.

Simon says BlacKkKlansman receives:



Also, see my review for Chi-Raq.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Film Review: "Crazy Rich Asians" (2018).


"The only thing crazier than love is family." This is Crazy Rich Asians. This romantic comedy-drama film directed by Jon M. Chu, adapted by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan. The story follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu as she accompanies her longtime boyfriend, Nick Young, to his best friend's wedding in Singapore, and meet his family.

Interest in a film adaptation began shortly after the publication of Kwan's comedic novel on June 11, 2013. In August, producer Nina Jacobson acquired the film rights. Initially one of the producers proposed to cast a Caucasian actress in the role of Rachel Chu, which prompted Kwan to option his novel for just $1 in exchange for a major role in the creative and development process. The producers' goal was to produce the film outside the studio system and to structure financing for development and production from Asia and other territories outside the United States. In 2014, the US-based Asian film investment group Ivanhoe Pictures partnered with Jacobson to finance and produce the film. Soon afterwards, Lim and Chiarelli were hired to adapt the novel. In May 2016, Chu entered negotiations to direct. He was hired soon afterwards after giving executives a visual presentation about his experience as a first-generation Asian-American. In October, Warner Bros. Pictures acquired the project after what Variety called a "heated" bidding war. Netflix reportedly fervently sought worldwide rights to the project, offering "artistic freedom, a greenlighted trilogy and huge, seven-figure-minimum paydays for each stakeholder, upfront." However, Chu and company wanted a wide theatrical release. Constance Wu, newcomer Henry Golding, legend Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Chris Pang, and Sonoya Mizuno rounded the film's cast. Making it the first Western-produced film with an exclusively Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club (1993). Principal photography began in late April 2017. The film was shot on location in Malaysia and Singapore.

The film stars Wu, Golding, Yeoh, Chan, Lu, Awkwafina, Jeong, Pang, and Mizuno. One of the film's illuminating elements is its cast, whom all gave elegant performances that will resonate with all ethnicities and generations. It presents images of Asians outside the narrow range of exotically oriental, subordinate, and submissive stock supporting / side characters.

Crazy Rich Asians is a superb achievement, thanks to director Jon M. Chu's impressive visual skills, and its emotionally heart-rending study of family. Making it a well-done propaganda for cultural diversity, and a well mounted adaptation of the best seller. It gives a refreshing, and poignant, dimension to Asian culture and society. The film covers primal issues of Asian culture, such as family, responsibility, love, and self-respect, that pounds you with pathos. Despite the cultural-specific nature of the story, there are a lot of overriding themes explored here that have a universal scope and appeal. Even if its meanings are limited or wanly inspirational at times. Overall, it is one of the most satisfying step forward for screen representation.

Simon says Crazy Rich Asians receives:



Also, see my review for Now You See Me 2.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Film Review: "Mile 22" (2018).


"90 minutes. 22 miles. Zero back up" in Mile 22. This espionage action thriller film directed by Peter Berg, and written by Lea Carpenter. CIA operative James Silva leads a small but lethal paramilitary team on an urgent and dangerous mission. They must transport a foreign intelligence asset from an American embassy in Southeast Asia to an airfield for extraction -- a distance of 22 miles. Silva and the soldiers soon find themselves in a race against time as the city's military, police and street gangs close in to reclaim the asset.

In early March 2015, it was announced that Ronda Rousey and Iko Uwais were set to star in the action-thriller film penned by Carpenter, with Berg initially attached as producer. In early July, Mark Wahlberg was cast to play the male lead role, and Berg was confirmed to direct. Carpenter had written the script with Wahlberg in mind. In late March 2017, at CinemaCon, Wahlberg and Berg announced that they were planning the film to become a trilogy, describing "an action series at STX Entertainment." By November, Lauren Cohan and John Malkovich rounded out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in December. Filming took place in Bogotá, Colombia and Atlanta, Georgia, under the working title Ground Branch Triple. The film was originally scheduled for an August 3, 2018 release date, but was pushed back two weeks to August 17.

The film stars Wahlberg, Cohan, Uwais, Malkovich, and Rousey. Watching Wahlberg and the rest of the cast, all grit and hungover charm, parachuted into the otherwise action-heavy plot felt something like watching a CGI character super-imposed into gritty destructive footage.

This easily could have been an unfocused mess, but is instead a gripping drama that never loses its footing. In fact, it seems to gain momentum with every passing moment. The film is not without its flaws, Berg, Wahlberg and the rest have done this story as much justice as they possibly could, even if it's not much. The film is as flawed as it is phenomenal, an interesting experience worth checking out not just for the cinematic experience it produces, but for the conversations it can spark. Berg's film packs a punch with its extravagantly directed action and gruelling tension, but it often feels empty as it fails to fully grasp its subject matter in the awkwardly written screenplay. When the film is working at its best it is an intense thriller, but too bad those moments of intensity are in service of an unsettling glorification of violence as retribution. With the film unfolding in its all-too-familiar multi-stranded way, we are left with the growing impression that the film has been cynically turned into a conventional commercial thriller. At a certain point, consideration becomes clinginess, and Berg holds on so tight to his emotional pandering, it comes at the expense of everything else. Simplistic to an extent, the good guys-versus-villainous 'others' narrative is further undermined by the occasional undercurrent of jingoism.

Simon says Mile 22 receives:



Also, see my review for Patriots Day.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Film Review: "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" (2018).


"The letters are out" in To All the Boys I've Loved Before. This teen romance film directed by Susan Johnson, adapted by Sofia Alvarez, and based on Jenny Han's 2014 novel of the same name. When her secret love letters somehow get mailed to each of her five crushes, Lara Jean finds her quiet high school existence turned upside down.

In June 2014, Will Smith and James Lassiter's production company Overbrook Entertainment optioned Han's New York Times Best Selling young adult romance novel, with writer Annie Neal hired to adapt the book for the screen. Han mentioned in an interview that loads of studios were interested in adapting the book into a feature film, with only one condition: change the race heritage of Lara Jean to Caucasian. Han, determined to keep Lara Jean's heritage as half Korean, half American, said only one studio agreed with her choice and cast an Asian actress as Lara Jean. However, Han did not insist any of the boys be cast as Asian. As a result, the cast of boys Lara loved consists of only four Whites, one Black, and none of the boys Lara loved are Asian. By early July 2017, Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Israel Broussard and John Corbett were cast. Susan Johnson was hired to direct and Sofia Alvarez was hired to pen the adaptation. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in early August. Filming took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. In March 2018, Netflix acquired distribution rights to the film for an August 17, 2018 release date.

The film stars Condor, Centineo, Parrish, Cathcart, Arthur, Baranac, Broussard and Corbett. Terrific performances were given by the cast. And anyone with a sense of movie history will be moved by the casting of Condor, who, unfortunately, didn't get the chance to shine in X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), as the beloved socially awkward but enduring heroine. Anyone, in this case, means anyone. This film includes us all.

With a terrific cast and a surprisingly heartwarming story, To All the Boys I've Loved Before takes a satisfying step forward for screen representation while deftly drawing inspiration from the classic - and still effective - teen romance formula. The film is bright, buoyant, and hilarious. The film is an escapist rom-com delight. It will more than satisfy the sweet tooth of romantic comedy fans everywhere who have lately despaired that the frothy, frolicsome genre they adore has been subsumed by raunch and various shades of gray"; she also compared the film's rom-com themes to John Hughes' films. To many in Hollywood, the film might look like a risky bet. It's the first modern story with Asian cast members; the last films do this were Crazy Rich Asians, which was released earlier this month. It's an earnest romantic comedy in a sea of action and superhero films. In fact, it seems destined to be a hit. It's simply great fun, a winsome romantic comedy and an occasionally down-to-earth romance that never flags.

Simon says To All the Boys I've Loved Before receives:


Thursday, 16 August 2018

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 49.

I’ve been thinking a lot about something. Yeah, I know. It’s a stupid thing to think about, but it’s been on my mind lately.

There’s this idea that’s been haunting me at work, when I’m relaxing at home, when I’m sleeping (or trying to sleep), and even I’m writing these words. And to exactly what that is, to those who are curious and eagerly wondering, it’s the thought of things not getting any better than how it is now. It’s the thought that my life here might not be elevated to a better status whether any time soon or further into the future. So that is what’s been wondering. Again, it’s stupid.

But I have to consider the possibility. After all, I am a foreigner in a nation with a major protectionist culture/mentality. Here’s the sad part: I will eventually have to pack up my bags and return with my tail between my legs if (and that’s a big IF) things don’t work out here. Which would be a royal shame since I have made significant efforts to build a new life here, and that I have made significant sacrifices, time-wise and money-wise. After all, with given a second chance like I have been given, why wouldn’t you?

But after a good long thought, I remember to not let that take control of me. Nor should it to anyone else in a similar position as me. I will continue to strive on despite these kinds of thoughts looming over me. That requires to remember the most important thing I person can think of. Hope.

Also, see Chapters 48 and 50.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Film Review: "The Meg" (2018).


The Meg is "opening wide." This science fiction thriller film directed by Jon Turteltaub, adapted by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, and Erich Hoeber, loosely based on the 1997 book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten. After escaping an attack by what he claims was a 70-foot megalodon shark, Jonas Taylor must confront his fears to save those trapped in a sunken submersible.

The film rights to the book were initially acquired by Disney's Hollywood Pictures in 1996, initially developing it as a George Clooney vehicle. Tom Wheeler was first hired to adapt the book, but was ultimately rejected by the studio. The studio then hired Jeffrey Boam to pen a new draft, which was also resulted in being rejected. By 1999, development on the project had stalled, and the rights reverted back to Alten, due to Disney getting caught cold feet about competing with Warner's 1999 killer shark pic Deep Blue Sea (1999). By 2005, frustrated at the lack of movement on the project, Alten wrote his own draft which he showed to Nick Nunziata and New Line Cinema. Nunziata and the studio in turn delivered the project to Guillermo del Toro. Which led del Toro to present the project to Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin, who then brought on director Jan De Bont to helm the film. Shane Salerno was then hired to pen a new script. However, due to budgetary concerns, the project was once again cancelled. The rights reverted to Alten again, and the film remained in development hell. In 2015, it was announced that the project was eventually greenlit by Warner Bros. with a new script by Dean Georgaris, and with Eli Roth as director. However, Roth left the project due to creative differences, and was replaced by Jon Turteltaub in early 2016. By September, Jason Statham, along with Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Cliff Curtis, Shuya Sophia Cai, and Masi Oka, rounded out the cast. In late October, Principal photography on the film began, and concluded in early January 2017. Locations included West Auckland, New Zealand, and Sanya City, Hainan, China.

The film stars Statham, Li, Wilson, Rose, Chao, Curtis, Cai, and Oka. Like other popcorn monster movies, the film is populated with dumb but fun caricatures of real people who were to face an absurd but extraordinary situation such as trying to hunt down and kill a megalodon. Statham is the cheesiest that he's ever been in the role of Taylor, delivering everything from the "tough-guy" attitude to the cheesy but awesome one-liners.

Aside from a few problems, The Meg is dumb but fun. It might not be Turteltaub's finest two hours, but he managed to build something that gives you great excitement every few minutes. The film is essentially one well-done action sequence after another. It knows its audience, and it knows how to use timing, suspense, and especially surprise to get them going. It's a great popcorn movie, and it's what summer at the cineplex is all about.

Simon says The Meg receives:



Also, see my review for Last Vegas.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 48.

I’m finally going to an event in a long while! The sad part was that I was still tired from work the day yesterday, and I was still hungry even though I had a decently sized brunch. Everything was just fine. I was excited. I haven’t been to an event like this in a while, and I haven’t been down to Exhibition Place.

First I had to meet up with Michael at his place. Then I had to withdraw money, as debit and/or credit cards were not accepted, only cash. Okay, off we go! Then we walked all the way to Exhibition Place in the typical Toronto heat. After than short but exhausting walk, we made it and caught up with the rest of the gang, consisting of Herwin, David, Kimmie, and Lena. The event itself was the Asian Food Festival, and it was PACKED. Problem: given the fact that there were that many people there, getting food was going to be a bitch, and lining up for food wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. But why complain about the kind of stuff I’m talking about? The clock was ticking, my stomach is grumbling, and the people are not going away any time soon. So… get in line! It did take a while to get some food. Getting food was no picnic, waiting-wise and money-wise. I wished it were a little bit cheaper. But when I got my hungry hands on them, it was worth it.











Especially the roasted Pork with rice. And I mean roasted pork; I mean a dead pig being roasted on a rotating cooker over a large roaring fire. The kind of cooking method found in a rural village or island nation. Why did I have to try this? Already asking that kind of question is stupid in of itself. The real question you should be asking is ‘why not?’ Consider the taste and flavour of the meat being cooked with that particular method. They’d have to have more than the Canadian army to stop me from getting my hungry hands on it. The meal itself was decently portioned. I fell in love with it when I made my first bite.

From that moment on, all I ever wanted for food was only that. But it didn’t last very long. I wasn’t too sad. At least, I got to try it before it was all gone. Plus, there were still other things to try out. But, by that point, I couldn’t afford to buy much. If I get another opportunity to go, I’ll have to try it again.




























Once I finished with food, the gang and I made our way around, looking around. We concluded our night with the game area. We made our way there when we finished looking around. We spent our time from then onwards playing every game there. During that time, Michael meanwhile was trying out vaping as the employees there were selling vapes and the types of flavours of vapes. Then we finally made it to the last game – the punching bag, and spent the last two hours or so taking turns to see who can punch the hardest and get the highest score. I couldn’t get higher than the rest of the guys, who were a lot more buff than I am. I tried a bunch of times, but of course, no luck and my arm was just getting more and more sore. Getting tired, I made my way home, and just crashed to sleep as soon as I got home.

Also, see Chapters 47 and 49.

Friday, 10 August 2018

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 47.

I am frowning a great frown. The frown of a man who has been fucked at work so many times that it is surprising that he hasn’t snapped yet. I spent yesterday working my ass off to serve customers who are the most stuck-up and inconsiderate bunch I have ever encountered since I worked at Disney. I am pretty damn pissed off about it, too. The more crap I had to deal with at work, the more anger and resentment there is in me, and the less I have, the better off I am. Unfortunately, quitting is not exactly an option for me at this point. So the least I can do is have some fun to minimize the pain. Luckily, it was Wednesday! Why is that important?

Firstly: the gang, consisting of Michael, Herwin, Cody, and Duncan, would hang out at The Pint for some chicken wings and drinks.

Secondly: thanks to Michael, we’ve all got Student Passes for The Pint, which means whatever drink we order, we would get wings for free. Well, that’s for the first batch. The subsequent batches will not be for free. I know, it’s sad. As for drinks, so long as it’s not water, anything will count. For the wings, there are a variety of flavours and sauces to choose from.

I then made my way to The Pint when the time came. The time to get there from my apartment takes ten minutes… unfortunately in this heat. It’ll be a not-so easy walk (depending on how much you like the heat), and in my case, it wasn’t. It was hell. However, it was nothing compared to early afternoon. It was just starting to cool down, but it wasn’t cooling down enough or fast enough. My body started to sweat as soon as I got out of my apartment building. It was typical whenever I went out.

The gang and I met up at the front, and thus made our way in. They’re all tired and hungry from work or whatever they were up to. Over the course of time we spent there, we just talked, ate and drank. Making ourselves, especially myself, happier with the fun conversation we were having. Yeah, it’s all what you’d expect, especially from guys such as ourselves. But, at least, we were having a blast, and that’s all that matters. I had a batch of Szechuan-flavoured wings with ginger beer. As long as it was eatable and tolerable, I couldn’t really care what it was. The hang out lasted from the early evening to late night.

With the time at The Pint coming to an end, we collected the bill and made our way out. Afterwards, we would just around, jumping from one place to another; until slowly one-by-one each of us would make our way back home. This may seem a little bit boring, but in fact, it wasn’t. Well, for me, at least. For once I could actually do something other than be a homebody. I was able to have a social life with social obligations. For almost everyday in a week.

Also, see Chapters 46 and 48.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Film Review: "The Darkest Minds" (2018).


"If you're one of us, come find us." This is The Darkest Minds. This dystopian science fiction thriller film directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, adapted by Chad Hodge, and based on Alexandra Bracken's young adult novel of the same name. When teens mysteriously develop powerful new abilities, they are declared a threat by the government and detained. Sixteen-year-old Ruby, one of the most powerful young people anyone has encountered, escapes her camp and joins a group of runaway teens seeking safe haven. Soon this newfound family realizes that, in a world in which the adults in power have betrayed them, running is not enough and they must wage a resistance, using their collective power to take back control of their future.

In mid September 2014, it was announced that 20th Century Fox had bought the film rights to Bracken's young adult novel, the first book in her The Darkest Minds series, with Hodge hired the adapt it. In mid July 2016, it was reported that animation director Jennifer Yuh Nelson had been hired to direct the film, and it would be her first live-action project. In late September, Amandla Stenberg was cast to play the lead role of Ruby Daly. By April 2017, Harris Dickinson, Mandy Moore, Bradley Whitford, Gwendoline Christie, Miya Cech, Skylan Brooks, and Patrick Gibson. Around the same time, principal photography commenced, and took place in Atlanta, Georgia.

The film stars Stenberg, Dickinson, Moore, Whitford, Christie, Cech, Brooks, and Gibson. The cast add personality and physicality to the limp script they're acting out. Sternberg makes for more than uncertain enough of a hero to add detail and meaning to the implosion of this world. There's little artifice to her performance, and the mundane honesty of her reactions create a believability that the world would otherwise lack. However, Sternberg's like a walking empathy battery, wide-open emotionally, easy to read and enormously appealing. Dickinson manages the considerable accomplishment of seeming like a real grown-up man. He makes the character's transformation from hardass to collaborator seem natural, if inevitable. Dickinson is incredibly natural onscreen. Ultimately, the cast tried valiantly to save the day, but the performances, like the film, is chock-full of holes at times.

Unlike the Harry Potter series' tangible, fully dimensional Hogwarts or The Hunger Games' colorfully variegated districts, The Darkest Minds' vision of an unknown dystopian future doesn't have much to distinguish it from a standard-issue post-apocalyptic pic. At least The Hunger Games spawned two terrific movies and a breakthrough star in Jennifer Lawrence. Onscreen, the film ignites only indifference. With an adherence to YA formula that undercuts its individualistic message, the film opens its planned trilogy in disappointingly predictable fashion. The film has great ideas and some terrific character work, but it's given such uneven attention, alternately languished upon and glossed over. The film is more interesting than the average bad movie precisely because it so gratuitously, and even thematically, fails to fit together. The film is simply a plodding and generic dystopian drama.

Simon says The Darkest Minds receives:



Also, see my review for Kung Fu Panda 3.