Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Film Review: "Toy Story 4" (2019).

"Get Ready To Hit The Road" in Toy Story 4. This computer-animated comedy film directed by Josh Cooley, written by Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton, produced by Pixar Animation Studios. It is the fourth installment in the Toy Story series and the sequel to Toy Story 3 (2010). Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called "Forky" to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.

In 2010, after the release of Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich stated that Pixar was not planning a fourth film. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen signed on tentatively to reprise of Woody and Buzz. Lasseter has said that Pixar would only make a fourth film if it was just as good as or better than the previous three films. In early November 2014, Disney officially announced the film with John Lasseter directing. Rashida Jones and Will McCormack were then hired to pen the script after Lasseter saw Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012). In March 2015, the film was described by Pixar as a romantic comedy and stated it would not be a continuation of the third film. The same month, it was reported that Cooley was named co-director. In July 2017, at D23 Expo, Lasseter announced he was stepping down and leaving Cooley as sole director due to commitments running both Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Disneytoon Studios. Although he would still be involved in the film as executive producer, however he was uncredited as executive producer in the final film. In November 2017, Jones and McCormack withdrew from the film citing "philosophical differences." By January 2018, Stephany Folsom was brought on to rewrite Jones and McCormack's script. Due to rewrites, the film had its release date pushed back twice from June 16, 2017 to June 15, 2018 and, finally, to June 21, 2019. Thus the film had the longest production cycle of any Toy Story film to date. This film marked Lasseter's final involvement with Pixar Animation Studios before he exited the Disney company as chief creative officer due to sexual misconduct allegations. The film is dedicated to Don Rickles and animators Adam Burke and Bud Luckey.

Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, and Timothy Dalton gave another stellar round of performances as the beloved toys we all know and love. Moreover, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, and Lori Alan made fine additions as the new toys.

I never thought I wanted another film to the Toy Story series, but here we are and I'm happy it exists. And, for me, it wasn't as an emotional experience as the previous films. But Toy Story 4 got me—it made me smile.

Simon says Toy Story 4 receives:

Also, see my review for Incredibles 2.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Film Review: "Parasite" ("기생충") (2019).

In Parasite (기생충), "happiness is grown when it's shared." This South Korean dark comedy-drama film directed by Bong Joon-ho, written by Bong and Han Jin-won, and produced by Bong, Kwak Sin-ae and Jang Young-hwan. All unemployed, Ki-taek's family takes peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks for their livelihood until they get entangled in an unexpected incident.

After the release of Snowpiercer in early August, Bong, obsessed by the film's theme of the disparaging divide between the rich and the poor in an action science-fiction setting, wanted to continue the thematic exploration in a realistic setting. Bong commented: "So... with my film Snowpiercer, I had layers of this film in my head... But Snowpiercer was a science-fiction film in the realm of the imagination, but I wanted to tell this story of the rich and the poor in a realistic setting, a setting we can all relate to." In regards to how the two social classes would collide, Bong, whilst writing the script, finally settled on the character of Ki-woo having the job of a home tutor. Bong settled on this as he realised that the job was sadly the only way that the two families from two extremes of the class spectrum in modern day South Korea could cross paths convincingly. For the role of patriarch of the Kim family, Bong had Song Kang-ho in mind for the role long before the script was completed and the casting process began. The film ultimately became the fourth collaboration between the director and the actor after Memories of Murder (2003), The Host (2006), and Snowpiercer. When asked about their working relationship, Bong commented: "We've had a very long partnership of seventeen years, we've worked on four films together. We don't talk very much on set, we just look each other in the eye and we know what we're about. It's an easy process writing the script with him in mind because even though I write the most grotesque and the most outlandish scenes, I know that he has acting capability to pull off those scenes..." With a budget of KRW 13 billion (US $11 million), principal photography began on May 18, 2018 and wrapped seventy-seven days later, on September 19, 2018. As for the houses of the two families, no such houses actually exist and had to built entirely from scratch. Bong explained that "... I had already planned it in my head as I was writing the script because I had the plan for which the actors had to move. That was taken into consideration in the architectural process..." The film was shot in the 2:35:1 aspect ratio. This was chosen to accommodate the capture of large family group in a single frame. The film had its world premiere in the In Competition section at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, and received widespread acclaim. The film ultimately won the Palme D'or award, becoming the first Korean film to receive the award.

The film stars Song, Jang Hye-jin, Choi Woo-shik, and Park So-dam as the poor Kim family, and Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Jung Ji-so, and Jung Hyun-joon as the wealthy Park family. The cast gave incredible performances and presented a fascinating dichotomy between the unemployed yet opportunistic Kims and the glamorous yet clueless Parks in modern day South Korea. Through the course of the film, we're glued to our seats as we anxiously anticipate what will happen to both families and which one will come out on top.

A social satire, a dysfunctional family comedy, and a touching melodrama, Parasite is also one hell of a movie. How the hell does a film this tonally out there, with characters this complex and at times even terrifying and humorous, manage to be so indescribably moving? An involving and skillfully mounted film from Korean auteur Bong Joon-Ho that's probably his best film yet. A livid social satire, an absurd dark comedy and a surprisingly somber drama, the film is a convulsive, wild ride - simultaneously eliciting squirms and giggles by mashing up finger-pointing anger with legendary Korean director Kim Ki-young's wickedness. Bravely shifting tones from the horrific to the slapstick and back again, Bong has made a movie that's comprised almost equally of family sitcom, social indictment, and balls-to-the-walls movie delight. The film works brilliantly, the sum of extremely disparate parts that adds up to cinematic excellence. Don't miss it - this is enormously fun visionary filmmaking, with a witty script and a great Korean cast. He uses dark humour, incisive characterisations and social commentary to infuse its family tragic comedy with a distinctive flair. Serious, often absurd, but full of brilliant surprises, while Bong keeps the Kim family at the centre of the film. Bong directs writes sublimely, mostly focusing on the antithesis between the poor and the rich in South Korea, which is presented with intense humour, without depriving the film of its seriousness, though. He lets viewers fall into the Kims' frustrations, but this family is dogged, not downtrodden. The film shows their lives, however tragic and absurd. Bong's limber inventiveness keeps the film unpredictable for its entire two hours, which are filled with incident after incident, alternately terrifying, ridiculous, suspenseful and wry. Rarely plays out the way you expect, he is careful to deliver the promised twists and turns, but he is also willing to overlook plot formulas to explore his own interests. Bong not only has an eye for the realistic, but also for the absurd. What's singular in all this is the director's angle into the material, which is subtle, difficult to pin down, elusive. However, if the film has one element that never flags or falters, it's Song Kang-ho. Overall, a smartly made, highly entertaining ride, laced with a strange poignancy that makes it an all-around wonderful movie experience. This gripping tragic comedy remains one of the most unique releases of last decade. The film sucks you into its strange yet relatable world so completely, it leaves you with the all-too-rare sensation that you've just witnessed something you've never seen before ... and need to see again.

Simon says Parasite (기생충) receives:

Also, see my review for Okja.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Film Review: "Little Woods" (2018).

BGN Film called it "A stunning piece of cinematic artwork." This is Little Woods. This American-Australian crime thriller western film written and directed by Nia DaCosta, in her directorial debut. In North Dakota, two estranged sisters are driven to extremes when their mother dies, leaving them with one week to pay back her mortgage.

In January 2017, it was announced Tessa Thompson, Lily James, Luke Kirby, James Badge Dale and Lance Reddick joined the cast of the film, to be directed by DaCosta directing from her own screenplay, under the then working title Crossing the Line. The story was initially conceived as a modern retelling of Othello.

The film stars Thompson, James, Kirby, Badge Dale and Reddick. Thanks to the performances of Thompson and James, who steal your heart with their stubbornness and blunt comment, they enhance the moments of tension and drama in the story. Thompson and James have undeniable charisma anchors the film. Each of their performances contains several layers of depth. A range of fine performances, from the rest of the cast, elevate the film and are on fine form, and worth watching.

A strong yet enjoyable debut effort from DaCosta, Little Woods stubbornly retains its footing despite a few missteps on its occasionally unpredictable path. This soulful and deeply satisfying film—a fitting directorial debut, if ever there was one - makes a compelling argument that change is always possible, and that the path we're on is always more vast than we would like to think it is. It avoids any concession to cheap sentimentality, despite the fact that the story has many dramatic ingredients. Watching this movie is like checking the news after popping a Xanax. The world's going to hell in a handcart. But it's all good. It's a winningly soft-hearted tale of a hard-hearted world, though, and one that never takes itself too seriously. I think that there's a sweetness to some of the film. There is a certain self-criticism built into the role as it goes along. The film thrives in teasing ambiguity. Years from now, DaCosta will be one of the great interrogators of American social mores. DaCosta's minimalist direction keeps everything moving, but he seems thoroughly interested in the wider moral implications of his protagonist's actions. This movie is as much a document for a country that DaCosta sees as slowly crumbling as it is for the life Ollie and Deb did not choose to lead. The film is a sentimental look at unsuspecting criminals, driven by DaCosta's solid direction and Thompson and James' performances. The film is both surprisingly watchable and touchingly good, with DaCosta, Thompson and James on impressive forms, both behind and in front of the camera. Despite a few hiccups in the puttering pacing, the film is perfectly and gallops quite gracefully. But it's never going to get the blood racing. The film is complex in places but it's still a likeable crowd pleaser that showcases a great true story.

Simon says Little Woods receives:

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Piano Concert 2019 Part 2.

Syesha performing Franz Joseph Haydn's Andante in A and Walter Carroll's The Reef.

Laurence performing Isaac Albéniz's Cataluña (Curranda) Suite espagnole Op. 47.

Anna performing Johann Sebastian Bach's Musette in D BWV Ahn. II 126 and June Armstrong's Dusty Blue.

Cecilia performing C. W. Cluck's O Del Mio Dolce Ardor Aria and 
Roger Quilter's Autumn Evening from Four Songs Op. 14.

Angela performing Jacques Ibert's Rondo 3rd Movt. from Sonatina in G, Op. 88 No. 2 and Sérénde Sur Léau No. 10 from Petite Suite en 15 Images.

James performing T. Kirchner's Plauderei No. 1 from Plaudereien Op. 60 and John Siegler's Pokémon Theme Song.

Michelle performing Karol Szymanowski's Etude Op. 4 No. 3 and George Gershwin's I Got Rhythm.

Lorna performing Henryk Wieniawski's Scherzo - Tarantella Op. 16 for Violin & Piano.

Also, see Part 1 and Piano Concert 2015.