Friday, 31 May 2019

Film Review: "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" (2019).

"Long Live The King" with Godzilla: King of the Monsters. This monster film directed by Michael Dougherty, co-written by Dougherty and Zach Shields, based on the franchise created by Toho Co., Ltd. It is a sequel to Godzilla (2014), the 35th film in the Godzilla franchise, and the third film in Legendary's MonsterVerse. The crypto-zoological agency Monarch face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-speciesthought to be mere mythsrise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity's very existence hanging in the balance.

The film stars Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O'Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, and Zhang Ziyi. Despite terrific performances, the human story only proved to be a minor improvement over the previous film.

In July 2014, after the successful release of Godzilla, Legendary confirmed, at San Diego Comic-Con, that they had acquired the rights to Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah from Toho. For the monsters, Dougherty wanted their designs to emit a godly presence and evoke a sense of worship. For Godzilla, Dougherty wanted to tweak the design by changing the dorsal plates to resemble more the maple leaf shape seen in the 1954 iteration onwards, as well as making the claws and feet bigger. He also had the sound design team expand on Godzilla's roar by making it sound closer to the roars of the 1954 incarnation. For Rodan, Dougherty wanted Rodan's design to resemble something that "Mother Nature could have created". The designers were instructed to not just look at Pteranodons but at various birds such as vultures, eagles, and hawks. In addition, elements of volcanic rock were added to the scales and skin color to make Rodan look capable of living inside of a volcano. For Mothra, Dougherty wanted to create something that was "beautiful, and feminine, and elegant, and looked like a true goddess, but also dangerous if she had to be". He attempted to remain faithful to the color palette and design of the original 1961 incarnation. Mothra was designed to resemble real moths and given longer legs in order to defend herself against other monsters. Dougherty found Mothra to be the most difficult to design because he wished to avoid making Mothra look like a blown up moth. For King Ghidorah, Dougherty wanted to create a "unique" design but worked closely with Toho to make sure the new design respected past incarnations. Each head was given its own personality, with the center being the alpha and the others beings its lackeys. He instructed the designers to look at various animals, specifically king cobras. In addition, he told the design team to maintain an Eastern dragon influence and to avoid any Western dragon influence.

Despite some basic incongruities and its occasionally silly tone, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is genuinely the best American-made Godzilla film thus far. In terms of full-on kaiju brawls, it just doesn't get any better than this.

Simon says Godzilla: King of the Monsters receives:

Also, see my reviews for Godzilla (2014) and Krampus.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Film Review: "Brightburn" (2019).

"Evil Has Found Its Superhero" in Brightburn. This superhero horror film directed by David Yarovesky and written by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn. The film poses a question: What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister?

In December 2017, under the title Untitled James Gunn Horror Project, the film was announced with James Gunn producing, his cousin Mark Gunn and brother Brian Gunn penning the screenplay, and David Yarovesky directing. The film was scheduled for a November 30th 2018 release date, before it was delayed to May 24th 2019. In March 2018, Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Meredith Hagner, Matt Jones, and Jackson A. Dunn were cast. Around the same time, principal photography commenced and wrapped in May, with filming taking place in Georgia. In early December, the first trailer was released to surprising reactions, being cited as an "Ultraman horror movie" due to its deconstructionist approach to the Superman mythos and the superhero genre.

The film stars Banks, Denman, Jones, Hagner, and Dunn. The cast gave solid performances with Banks, Denman, and Dunn giving unique interpretations of the Martha, Jonathan, and Clark Kent archetypes. Banks and Denman's portrayal of the loving and supportive human parents is touching and heartbreaking. Dunn's portrayal as the super-powered being is twisted and terrifying. Thanks to the cast's outlandishly tragic ambition, and a terrifying performance from Dunn, there are screams to be had, but it could have been a scarier tragedy.

Brightburn's intriguing premise and talented cast are drowned in a blood-red sea of graphic violence, jarring tonal shifts, and expendable characters. It's not that this type of movie shouldn't be made—this type of movie could be brilliant—but it plays like every first draft idea anyone had found its way to the screen because it made someone scared to death over a few drinks. Some really interesting ideas and the odd flash of awesomeness, but overall a misfire with some ill-judged nastiness. There's a great movie somewhere inside the film. It's an undeniably entertaining film. But there's something off about it. The film is a particularly dark tale, a twisted story, and occasionally a very good movie, just rarely at the same time. If you aren't too bothered by the sight of people getting killed with every inch of their lives, this idiosyncratic superhero horror film is for you. The film is an ingeniously nasty concoction that feeds the cult of superhero fandom back into itself. As a superhero horror film, it works reasonably well some of the time, with plenty of horror but not much superhero. Offers genuine sadism with the put-upon protagonist's journey for death and destruction, yet plays the bloody ramifications for nihilistic gloom. This movie is too pedestrian for horror, and too scattershot for a superhero film. It's difficult to tell if the filmmakers are really trying to play for screams, because so much of the horror is outlandish. The ingredients just don't mesh.

Simon says Brightburn receives:

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Film Review: "Aladdin" (2019).

"On May 24 comes a rags to wishes story" with Aladdin (2019). This musical fantasy film directed by Guy Ritchie, co-written by Ritchie and John August, and based on the 1992 Disney animated classic and the eponymous Middle Eastern folktale from One Thousand and One Nights. The lovable street urchin Aladdin meets Princess Jasmine, the beautiful daughter of the sultan of Agrabah. While visiting her exotic palace, Aladdin stumbles upon a magic oil lamp that unleashes a powerful, wisecracking, larger-than-life genie. As Aladdin and the genie start to become friends, they must soon embark on a dangerous mission to stop the evil sorcerer Jafar from overthrowing young Jasmine's kingdom.

In early October 2016, Disney announced that Ritchie would helm the "ambitious and nontraditional" live action remake. In February 2017, producer Dan Lin announced a worldwide and diverse casting call to find actors of the right ethnicity for the film, which commenced in March, with production set to begin in July. In early July, the production was delayed due to Disney having trouble finding the right people to play the roles. Ultimately, Will Smith was cast as Genie after Smith and Gabriel Iglesias were in talks. In addition, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott were cast as Aladdin and Jasmine, after Dev Patel, Avan Jogia, Riz Ahmed, George Kosturos, Jade Thirlwall, and Tara Sutaria were in talks and tasted. By early September, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, and Numan Acar rounded out the cast as Jafar, The Sultan, Dalia, and Hakim. At the same time, principal photography commenced and wrapped in late January 2018. Filming took place at Longcross Studios in Surrey, England, and Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan. The film was shot digitally with the Arrival Alexa camera with anamorphic Panavision lenses in the 2.39 : 1 aspect ratio. Production designer Gemma Jackson drew inspiration from Moroccan, Persian, and Turkish cultures, Victorian paintings, and Iznik ceramics for the design of Agrabah. Industrial Light & Magic, Hybride Technologies, DNEG, Nzviage, and Proof provided the film's visual effects under the supervision of Michael Mullholland, Daniele Bigi, and David Seager.

The film stars Smith, Massoud, Scott, Kenzari, Negahban, and Pedrad. The performances given by the cast vary. Smith gave an entertaining performance that honoured Robin Williams' original whilst putting his own spin on the character. Massoud gave a serviceable performance despite his interpretation of the titular character taking a back seat in the character development department. Scott gave an impressive rendition of the Disney princess with a much needed modern spirit. Finally, Kenzari gave an underwhelming interpretation of the classic villain who proved to be anything but terrifying.

With an outstanding cast, nostalgic songs, and a visually stunning eye, Aladdin is a lovingly crafted movie, and in some ways a good one, but before that it's an enraptured piece of old-is-new nostalgia. Sadly, there's certainly nothing much that's new about this version (well, except it isn't a cartoon anymore), but it's a good recreation of a classic animated film that should leave most die-hards satisfied.

Simon says Aladdin (2019) receives:

Also, see my reviews for Dumbo and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 90.

I’d be lying if I said my trip back home was completely stress and problem free, and that I wasn’t shitting myself. In the early afternoon of June 1st, I was about to go on one of the most nightmarish rides of my life. This was something that has never happened to me on all the times I have travelled, and never to an extent like this. Right now, I’m sitting down and relaxing, going over everything in my head, making sure that I had everything and that I was ready to go. I’m just about to enter the customs zone and just hope nothing goes wrong and hope for the best. What could go wrong?

In the last minute, I ate those words. It was the first time in my travels where something went horribly wrong. I’m standing at one of the customs ports, coming to the horrible realization that I have no ESTA visa. That’s how my nightmare began. I calmly and expeditiously tried to complete a new ESTA visa before my flight. But it couldn’t be approved in time for my flight; therefore I was forced to miss it, as it was made clear by the American officers "No ESTA, no entry." So I thus had to rebook for the next day and had to ask Rachel’s mother if I could stay with her for one night. Which she did, thankfully. Maybe the next day will turn out better.

This is it. There’s nothing after this. There isn’t even a back up plan. Why me? I can’t miss this flight! The flight can’t stop and wait for me. No matter what, things have got to work out and I’ve got to be on this flight. I face two possibilities today. On one hand, the unlikely scenario, I face the possibility that my ESTA will somehow not work and I will have to miss my flight again. On the other hand, the likely scenario, I face the possibility that my ESTA will work and I will get on my flight and will be on my way home. I guess it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the former happened and blew up in my face. I wouldn’t know what to do then, mind you, but if it doesn’t go according to plan, I’ll still be alive to figure something out. I’ll have to come up with a new contingency plan then. I’m hoping it won’t be as bad. My mind wouldn’t have the ability to comprehend the situation. I’d just collapse and die.

I still can’t quite believe that this is really it. I’m finally going home! This country had been my home for the last year and eleven months. I figured out how to survive on my own, at least for that amount of time, and I got to build my own life away from my family. My difficult struggle to making and maintaining my own life became somehow routine. Get up in the morning, eat breakfast or brunch, go to work or tend to my chores, hang out with my friends, watch YouTube videos, eat dinner, and go to bed. That was my life. Then, the next thing I knew, I was going back to be who I was back in New Zealand, just with a new perspective on life and new set of goals. I did a little bit of everything in Canada, because I didn’t have my family around to do it for me.

That’s all over now. I have no more chores to do, and no more friends to hang out with. I’ve had my last meal at Jin Dal Lae. I’ve slept in my room at Belinda’s house for the last time. I’ve got to meet up with and hang out with my friends. Even with Lucas, Porfy, Ken and Kaori at Storm Crow Manor. I’m leaving Canada today, one way or another. It’s about time I go back home.

Also, see Chapter 89 and Epilogue.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Film Review: "All Is True" (2018).

"In 1613 William Shakespeare Retired. He Still Had One Last Story To Tell - His Own." 
This is All Is True. This British fictional historical drama film directed by Kenneth Branagh, and written by Ben Elton. The year is 1613, and Shakespeare is acknowledged as the greatest writer of the age. But disaster strikes when his renowned Globe Theatre burns to the ground. Devastated, Shakespeare returns to Stratford, where he must face a troubled past and a neglected family. Haunted by the death of his only son, Hamnet, he struggles to mend the broken relationship with his wife and daughters. In so doing, he is ruthlessly forced to examine his own failings as a husband and father.

We all know Shakespeare, English poet, playwright, and actor. Widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He authored thirty-nine plays, one hundred and fifty four sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several epic poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith. Sometime between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. Around 1613, at age fourty-nine, he appeared to have retired to Stratford, where he died three years later. Shakespeare produced most of his known works between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were primarily comediesand histories and are regarded as some of the best work produced in these genres. Until about 1608, he wrote mainly tragedies, all considered to be among the finest works in the English language. In the last phase of his life, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. Many of Shakespeare's plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy in his lifetime. However, in 1623, two fellow actors and friends of Shakespeare's, John Heminges and Henry Condell, published a more definitive text known as the First Folio, a posthumous collected edition of Shakespeare's dramatic works that included all but two of his plays. The volume was prefaced with a poem by Ben Jonson, in which Jonson presciently hails Shakespeare in a now-famous quote as "not of an age, but for all time". Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, Shakespeare's works have been continually adapted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain popular and are studied, performed, and reinterpreted through various cultural and political contexts around the world.

The film stars Branagh, Dench and McKellen. Terrific performances were given thanks to the film's talented and charming cast.

Endlessly witty, visually rapturous, and sweetly romantic, All Is True is a delightful romantic comedy that succeeds on nearly every level.

Simon says All Is True receives:

Also, see my review for Murder on the Orient Express.

'Once Upon a Time in Canada' Chapter 89.

I’m joining my photography meet up group for one last time. It was more bittersweet than I had anticipated. Spending time with my photography friends has always been a source of pleasure during my time here. The problem with this one was that by the end, I had to say my goodbyes when I didn’t want to. I didn’t know if I had the strength to say goodbye to some of my dear friends. The time and place I spent with them didn’t make it any easier. The last time I had attended a meet up was at High Park on May 11th for the cherry blossoms. Obviously, that was a great time.

But this one, in some respect, was a more exciting meet up than the last one, or than the ones posted recently, which I couldn’t attend. Firstly, the meet up took place on a nice, sunny Sunday in the small town of Bowmanville, a quant, and picturesque town. Secondly, along with Niagara Falls, the trip proved to be another good opportunity to get out of Toronto, even if it was for only just a day. That why I went along with group, spent quality time with them, and made this my last meet up. Without this trip, I wouldn’t have been able to spend time with my photography friends and say my goodbyes to them before I left. The day consisted of us split into small groups taking photos of different areas of the town. It was pretty relaxing actually despite a lot of walking around.

Then, by the end of the day, we went off to the local pub and had some food and drinks. For myself, I just had a burger with fries, and it was a big ass burger. I spoke with as many members, old and new, as I could. After that was done, I caught a ride back with Kerrie and Mary. That’s how I came to Bowmanville, since Kerrie offered to take me in her car. Then I arrived back home after about an hour ride. I rested for the rest of the day, doing nothing but taking a shower, eating dinner, and lying down on my bed watching YouTube videos. Finally, I dozed off to sleep around ten o’clock.

Also, see Chapters 88 and 90.