Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

January 3, 2018 at 1:55 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , ,

Having seen Karen Gillan while binge watching Dr Who, when I recognised her in a trailer for Jumanji 2, I thought that I give it a go.

I was not disappointed. Gillan plays Martha – a shy teenage girl – temporarily put into the body (and clothes) of a tomb-raider-like persona. The basis of the film is that four not quite high school friends are drawn into a video game. The students are cast as characters well out of their comfort zones – into personas and bodies very different to their own. I thought Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black gave two amazing performances. Johnson overcame his strong muscular build to completely sell ‘Spencer’ – a thin nerdy X-Box gamer. Black played ‘Bethany’ – a self absorbed wannabe It girl – perfectly.

The four must overcome their insecurities and work together to win the game. If they don’t win the game they are stuck in the game forever. A further impediment is that the characters only have three lives in the game.

Worth a go: Johnson channeling a thin nerdy who lacks confidence is a revelation; Black as a teenage girl is hilarious and his genitalia jokes had the whole theatre laughing; and Black/Bethany instructing Gillan/Martha on how to flirt also had the theatre laughing.

Advertisements

English Royal Ballet – Nutcracker (2017) – the film

December 24, 2017 at 4:25 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Concert Review, Dance Review, Film Review | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I went to see the Royal Ballet’s annual production of the Nutcracker – captured on film and shown at the Light House Cuba cinema. Darcy Bussell was one of the commentators: one of the difference between a live production and a production designed to be webcast and filmed. Bussell and her co-commentator interviewed, some of the young dancers from the Company’s dance school, and Peter wright – the guest ballet master for this production. Most of the principal dancers were also interviewed – pictured as they worked with Wright. The interval was shown in its full length (the main curtain counting down the minutes).

This production has been performed every year since 1984, when Peter Wright first ‘put it together’. What I liked about this production is that the party is a substantial segment; in some productions, the party is much foreshortened, serving only to convey the nutcracker to Clara. I also liked that Drosselmeyer (Gary Avis) has such a substantive part – and played with a wonderful Rothbart-like feel at times.

Francesca Hayward and Alexander Campbell dance the parts of Clara and the Nutcracker respectively. Hayward was superb as a young girl growing into womanhood. Campbell is strong yet youthful. A lovely touch that the nutcracker is also Drosselmeyer’s son / nephew (?).

Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae dance the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Prince. Lamb was beautiful; McRae soared. The various Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince pas des deuxs are often overshadowed by those from Swan Lake.

This production of Nutcracker really celebrates the Rose Fairy; ‘her’ dance is an extended piece of technical and dramatic substance. The Arabian dance was a very tidily choreography piece – technically demanding of the genie (?) and her three companions. the principle companion has to hold her aloft with straight arms, when he carries her on an off the stage.

The shrinking Clara – tree expanding – sequence was superb. Though, I did find the lighting and setting for the Snowflakes a little too bright; they looked to me like icicles.

I am pleased that I went to see this. It is unlikely that i will get to see such a show in person.

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

December 23, 2017 at 4:58 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I  went to see The Last Jedi – in 2D. I am sure there are many reviews that talk about the film’s plot elements, so I will just jump into my lists.

What I liked:

  • The on-again-off-again thing between Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey (Daisy Ridley), as to who would go to the dark-side and the light-side.
  • Finding out how Kylo Ren turned away from his uncle/Luke (Mark Hamill), and cleverly showing the event from both sides.
  • There wasn’t a death star.
  • Captain Phasma returned. Other than being a fan, and so will go to a movie entitled Star Wars – Paint Drying, I went to Episode Eight, because wanted to see more of Captain Phasma.
  • The film stayed faithful to the aesthetic of the earlier films.

What I didn’t like:

  • The opening sequence where the Rebels destroyed a First Order dreadnought (a wannabe death star). It made no sense: why did the Rebels use the equivalent of strategic bombers instead of dive bombers or torpedo bombers? Why didn’t the First Order have a standing Tie-Fighter screen. When the dreadnought lost its last close quarter guns, why no get the surround star destroyers to bombard the dreadnought with their secondary or tertiary weapons. This is what a troop of shermans did in Korea when they got swarmed by grenade welding infantry – they resorted to machine gunning each other. Or the dreadnought just rams the bombers!
  • The constant switching between the points of action. It broke up the flow of the movie.
  • Repeating the structure of past films; e.g. the movable mini death star, having to decouple yet another machine.
  • Captain Phasma being on screen for ‘2 seconds’. Many of the characters are 2 dimensional and serve as cogs in a karma driven plot machine. But Phasma is interesting: what sort of lives do middle managers lead in the First Order? How did she get her rank? What is the significance of the silver armour?
  • The length; 154 minutes is too much.
  • Was it necessary to have Luke milk an alien?

Still a movie that is worth seeing – fan or not 🙂

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

September 17, 2017 at 11:32 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

With some anticipation and trepidation, I went to this the other day: what would Luc Besson (director and screenplay) and the writers (Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières) do to characters from my ‘graphic novel’ days?

Warning: Plot discussed.

It is an action movie, built around a ‘road trip’ framework. Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and his partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne) go on a journey to solve a mystery and so rescue their superior Commander Arun Filitt (Clive Owen). Valerian and Laureline, jointly, and individually encounter a number of ‘physical challenges’ and ‘chase sequences’ to the inevitable climax and resolution. It is a bit ‘James Bond’ like: well choreographed hand-to-hand and gun fights; high speed chases; even an ending sequence that owes much to the end from  “The Spy Who Loved me”.

The CGI work is fantastic. The film could not have been made in its released form without it. Weta Digital has done another excellent piece of work. I deliberately watched the 2-D version.

I found Laureline much more heroic and responsible than Valerian. Cara Delevingue has a great screen presence, and carry’s off the passionately competent Laureline very well. I did not like the interplay between Valerian and Laureline – it felt dated.

Still some nice action sequences and great CGI; so worth seeing in a movie theater.

And was I disappointed? a little bit. The small print advertising is careful to say “based on the comic book series “Valerian and Laureline””. This gives the creative team licence to change things – and change they do. Even though, the original creators were given writting credit, it was Luc Besson who wrote the screenplay. The plot is closest to “Ambassador of the Shadows” (1975), with Luc Besson altering the originals of Central Point; the premise of the movie and the final sequence. In my graphic novels: Central Point was created in deep space – perhaps having it originate in earth orbit makes the film more attractive for people who have not read the comic; there is no cover up of a genocide; and Valerian and Laureline do not need to end up sleeping together. Why add a genocide? Why put the main characters in bed? This just renders the Laureline character into a companion rather than as an partner.

Wonder Woman

June 5, 2017 at 9:33 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I went to see Wonder Woman in the weekend. Having seen tGal Gado in Keeping Up with the Jones, I knew it wasn’t going to be kitsch.

Warning: Plot elements discussed.

The film presented the director and producers a number of challenges:

  • Telling the back story of Diana to people who were knew it and who did not – how much of the film’s running time to use? what formative events to show?
  • Keeping the character strong despite the amazons wearing ‘scanty’ amount of armour.
  • Telling a creditable main story.

The film is long, it has to be to satisfy the above. I did not notice the passing of time; I only realised the length of the film, when I looked at my watch afterwards.

Director, Patty Jenkins, and editor, Martin Walsh, opted to not tell Wonder Woman’s story in flashback. Wonder Woman’s early life is better told in one go – the audience is spared going backwards in time and holding the story line in their heads. It also sets the norm for what Amazons wear, and how it does not affect their combat effectiveness. No one complains too much when a male actor like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson appears in The Scorpion King wearing a leather apron / skirt.

The Amazon training sequences would have been at home in any action movie; after a while, that absence of men, stopped being noticeable.

No sooner has Diana finished her training, with a final gauntlet, than Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) turns up in German uniform. This was the biggest moment of confusion – in my universe Steve Trevor should appear in an American uniform – circa World War II; not be a German aviator – circa World War I. Diana is fascinated – finally a male specimen to examine, after second hand stories and book learning. For quite a while, Steve Trevor and his world are something to be examined, and it strange foibles to be commented on. at least, it is until, she can kill Ares – the god of war.

Somehow, Diana and Trevor take one night to sail from the Aegean Sea to London in one night. This caused me more confusion. But, I was soon distracted by a restrained comic commentary on women’s fashion – it lack if armour and contraining cut (“how do you fight in this’).

The main story is how Diana comes to connect with the people outside of he magically isolated island, and how she looses he per-conceived ideas. Despite Steve’s doubts, Ares is real, he is manipulating both sides to escalate and prolong the war. There is a dual climax – Steve must put pay to the attempted escalation, while Diana must deal with Ares – with many twists and surprise.

There are some great fight scenes: Wonder Woman’s classical arts of war training makes her unbeatable in the confined space of urban warfare. Just as the shield works for Captain America, Diana’s shield (supplemented by forearm guards, grieves, and armoured headband) works for her – proof against gun fire and small caliber shells.

One scene that I found improbable was the Amazons choosing to close with the german troopers. Their first flight of arrows showed that the troopers had no armour and no shields. Why not just keep it up? Instead, they charge and give up the advantage – the troopers’ rifles give them the advantage outside of sword range.

Once the Amazons were out of the picture, Diana is one of the few women in the story arc. Steve Trevor’s secretary is there almost there for historical contrast. The only other woman is Dr Maru (Elena Anaya) – the chemical genius making chemical weapons for the Germans. There is a glimpse of a Women PC in London – the Women PCs were sworn in during WWI to police the factories employing women, while the men were in the Army.

Marvel has created the beginning of a series of films set in the extended Marvel universe – if they (and Gadot) wish. Wonder Woman will be appearing in Justice League; the question is will she get anymore appearances? Perhaps they could team her up with the Black Widow?

Oh there is some restrained chemistry between Diana Prince and Steve Trevor. At first Trevor is confused ans Diana is not like any woman he has meet before. Then there is a bit of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ ,until she warms to him. Trevor is the more demonstrative one; Diana is the aloof one; a nice reversal of the man focused on duty and the women attracted to him.

Anyway, a film worth seeing.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

May 1, 2017 at 7:11 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I went to the sequel of Guardians of the Galaxy – I wanted to know what was on the second Phillips cassette tape!

Warning: plot elements discussed.

This is both a light, and serious movie: at any moment there is wise cracking and humour; but overall there are some big issues examined. There is: nurture over nature; honour; family; and the meaning of life. All interleaved with some great music.

Peter Quill, aka Star Lord, played by Chris Pratt meets his father. Go see the movie to see how complex such an encounter can be. Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana, is reunited with her sister – Nebula (played by Karen Gillan). Kurt Russell makes an appearance as a god named Ego.

There some great action sequences and even a giant pac man.

A must see; and stay to the end of the credits – there are all sorts of ‘easter eggs’. As every Rocket and Groot are the best characters.

Ghost in the Shell

April 27, 2017 at 8:56 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I saw this the other day: being a Wellingtonian, I was curious to see if any of my city was recognisable; I wondered about the story; and having heard about whitewashing complaints, I wanted to see for myself whether if it was justified.

Warning: plot elements discussed.

Firstly, parts of Wellington were still recognisable, under the post-production CGI. Parts of the Central Police Station and nearby carpark were recognisable, despite a whole lot of ‘matt-ed in’ Japanese architecture.

Based loosely on the manga comics, of the same name, we see Scarlett Johansson in the lead role – Major Motoko Kusanagi. I say loosely, because the plot doesn’t really follow the comics. The film explores the origins of the Major, and how she came to be a cyborg – the first. Or is she?

The Major and her squad work for Section 9 – a paramilitary force reporting to the Prime Minister. Such a concept may work in Japan, but it does not really work outside of Asia. In the end, the company who made her body, turns out to be the villain. It was good to see Juliette Binoche, of The English Patient fame, again. She plays the cyborg scientist, Dr. Ouelet, who’s concern for her patient leads the Major to a final showdown.

The film breaks the manga esthetic: the cast is not Japanese, nor are their faces in a manga way. It made the use of Japanese, and references to Japanese companies (not zaibatsu),  a bit strange.The mixture of spoken English and spoken Japanese was quite disconcerting. There are English subtitles for the Japanese, but no Japanese subtitles for the English.  I thought that Scarlett Johansson fitted the manga esthetic quite well; much better than most  of the cast. Perhaps some things are better left as comics or full animations.

There is some blatant product placement. It would not be manga without a motorcycle, and I wonder how much Honda paid for the privilege of supplying the motorcycles :-).

 

Le Ride

January 17, 2017 at 7:48 am | Posted in Film Review, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I went to see this film of  Philip Keoghan‘s documentary of his recreation of the 1928 Tour de France. The film tells two stories: the remarkable Australasian team who rode in 1928; and Keoghan’s ride of the ‘same’ route in 2013.

Keoghan is inspired by the 1928 ride of New Zealander Harry Watson and three Australians (Hubert Opperman, Percy Osborn, and Ernest Bainbridge) who competed in that year’s Tour de France. This was in a time when teams normally numbered 10 riders; the Australasians would have to work three times as hard on comparatively primitive bikes – they weighed twice model road bikes and the derailleur gears were still two years away.

Keoghan was so inspired that he decides to ride on the original route, to the same timetable – that is 28 days. Keoghan and his friend, Ben Cornell, procure original 1928 bicycles via the Internet, recondition them, spend at least a year scouting their eventual route, training, getting sponsorship, assembling a team of friends and family, and then doing the ride.

Keoghan and Cornell faced a number of significant challenges: the pair are significantly older than cycling professionals, they can’t train at the intensity and manner that professionals can, because they have day jobs; their bikes for all intents and purposes do not have gears; and there are only two of them, so they cannot rest at the back of a team.

The duo must cycle an average of 150 miles a day, if they are to complete the ‘course’ in the target time; some days they will cycle 200 miles; some days they will cycle for 23 hours. The 1928 route was a circumnavigation of the France’s borders, but starting and stopping in Paris.This includes a stage through the Pyrenees mountains and another through the French Alps! The duo did not take rest days!! they can’t ride the original route, because much of it has been turned into motorways; and despite scouting, getting lost seemed a constant threat. The duo are able to utilise the original start and finish lines. Along the way, local riders ride occasionally ride with them and guide them.

The 1928 era bikes weighed twice as much as the modern bikes that our dynamic duo are use to. The greatest physical challenge is that while the bikes have gears, to change gear requires the rider to stop, get off, detach and re-attach the chain on a different cog!

It is an amazing feat: two middle aged men of above fitness ride 3,400 miles in 28 days. Over some of the most physically challenging terrain for cycling.

It is a great feel good movie: a lighthearted documentary about the duo’s adventure; and a fitting celebration of the original team of four Australasians.

Rogue One

January 2, 2017 at 1:10 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , ,

I went to see Rogue One, or as I like to think of it: Star Wars III.IX (3.9), the other night.

Warning: plot elements discussed.

The overwhelming question in my mind was: “How many will survive?” Pre-release trailers show a small group of rebels stealing the plans to the Death Star – the plans ‘stolen at great cost’ delivered in Episode IV to the Rebel Alliance. The mission is a suicide mission -a forlorn hope.

Rogue One is a difficult film to make: it must fit within the canon of the existing seven films, and not constrain (nor contradict) the two remaining films. It cannot be a re-boot: so the clothes and technology must be exactly the same as Episode IV, V, and VI. This means that the the storm trooper’s armour is useless as ever: it offers no protection against blaster fire, offers no protection against blunt force, and offers no protection against fragments. Also, the storm trooper’s marksmanship is deplorable as ever.

Since Rogue One leads directly into Episode IV, some characters from IV need to appear in this movie – some of the original cast are still alive, and some are there is spirit through CGI. One day, not too far away, CGI will be so good, that once an actor has created a sufficiently large body of work – provided enough samples for the computer – the actor can appear in films forever.

It is not quite ‘The Seven Samurai’, ‘The Guns of the Magnificent Seven’, nor ‘Ice Pirates’, but it is close. A bunch of misfits lead by Jyn Erso (played ably by Felicity Jones), another misfit, leads a bigger band of misfits against the might of the empire – albeit composed mainly of inept storm troopers. The tie-fighter pilots are pretty good though. Despite loosely following a classic plot line, Rogue One makes a refreshing change from the cyclic repetition of episode III, IV, and V; and I, II and III.

So Rogue One  is the back story of how the plans for the Death Star were stolen; the back story of why Jyn Erso is the best operative to steal the plans is the real story of Rogue One. We see the forces unleashed at the end of Episode III continue to fracture the republic. The Death Star is intended to re-unite the republic and bring peace to the galaxy. The rebels disagree!

We see Jyn rescued from an imperial prison colony; a band forms around her; and then a one-way mission to a library archive! It is an information manager’s heaven – the rebellion can only be saved by ‘getting out the right book out’.

The are the obligatory gun fights and space battles; but there are many of the same elements as Episode IV: a switch, trapped in a passage with no other way out, fighter bomber runs on a heavily defended target, trust in the force, a talkative droid, Darth Vader walking through blaster fire (the Force works for him too). It is a prologue for Episode IV.

Felicity Jones is no longer the ‘chalet girl’, but she still wears a helmet, and she still has that determined look – just before the last run down the hill and about to enter the heart of the imperial archive.

As to how many of the little band make it out the other side: go see the film.

Suicide Squad v Ghostbusters(2016)

August 15, 2016 at 9:32 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I m comparing these two movies – a comic cast made real and a remake of a classic because I realised the only thing I want to talk about is  Dr Harleen Quinzel  and Dr. Erin Gilbert.

Dr Harleen Quinzel is better known as Harley Quinn – the Joker’s crazier girlfriend. Dr Quinzel appears for less than a minute, but she is the Joker’s psychiatrist, who after some serious mis-treatment, casts aside her lab coat, dons skimpy tight bright clothes, develops a fondness for blunt instruments, and joins ‘the darkside’. Margo Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn absolutely steals the film (Suicide Squad); in an ensemble movie that is quite a job. But Harley Quinn is the most interesting character; and Robbie, assisted by a rumoured rigorous pre-filming workout regime, and fishnet tights and skimpy sequin shorts, is a nerd fantasy come to life. Harley Quinn is crazy and zany and sexy and … and … and; the audience is hangs onto her every move and word –  wondering what she will do next. The romance between Harley Quinn and the Joker provides the bedrock of the film – Sid-and-Nancy meet Bonnie-and-Clyde.

There is something deeply disturbing when the glammed up abused white girl with violent tendencies character makes such an impact.

Dr Gilbert is Dr. Raymond Stantz from the original Ghostbusters re-written as a women. Kristen Wiig plays a dedicated women physicist struggling in a man’s world to make tenure. Erin, to her friends, eventually breaks out, when passed over, casting aside her tweeds for overalls, develops a reluctant fondness for proton packs, forms the Ghostbusters with her friend Abby Yates, and wrangles ghosts. Kristen Wiig has to compete for mind-share and screen time with Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth; its tough going. McKinnon’s character – Jillian Holtzmann –  is the more interesting gadget genius on steroids – looking like Scarlett Johansson meets Tank Girl.

Erin is much closer to the reality for many professional women. It is good to see her have some fun, and turn the tables a little on the men. She is much more PC.

Go see both films: if you don’t like chicks with attitude, Suicide Squad, has lots of bullets, violence and a killer sound track; unless you can’t stand the idea that a woman can do as good a job as a man, the Ghostbusters re-make provides a modern perspective on an old story, plus many of the original cast make cameo appearances. [I thought that they overdid this, and it made it hard for the older members of the audience to let go.]

 

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.