Friday, 22 March 2013

Film Review: "Jack the Giant Slayer" (2013).




The tagline of the film is "If you think you know the story, you don't know Jack." Which is what you're in for with Jack the Giant Slayer. This fantasy adventure film directed by Bryan Singer and was based on the fairy tales, Jack the Giant Killer and Jack and the Beanstalk. The film tells the story of Jack, a young farmhand who must rescue a princess and stop the ancient reignited war between humans and a race of giants after inadvertently opening a gateway between the two worlds.

The film's two main inspirations were Joseph Jacob's The History of Jack the Giant Killer, which was an English folklore that was published in 1711. However Jack and the Beanstalk, which was published in print in 1807, is the most popular version of the story. But Jacob's story was regarded as being the most accurate as it lacks the moralizing that appeared in some versions of the tale.

Development of Jack the Giant Slayer began in 2005, when Lemke first pitched the idea to New Line Cinemas. D. J. Caruso was hired to direct the film in January 2009 but in September of that year, Caruso was replaced by Singer, who hired McQuarrie (his frequent writing collaborator) to rewrite the script. Casting took place between February and March 2011, and Principal Photography began in April 2011 in England with locations in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Norfolk. Release of the film was moved back, (by nine months) from June 15th 2012 to March 22nd 2013, in Post Production to allow more time for special effects and marketing.

The film stared Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy and Ewan McGregor. Even though the performances were excellent, they somehow seemed to be unoriginal, typical and ultimately predictable. Hoult's performance, as good as it was, I felt as though I have already seen that kind of character and can be compared to Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars saga. This also applied to Tomlinson's performance whose character was also predictable as she was the 'damsel-in-distress' and happens to be the hero's love interest and fall in love with him, not even halfway through the film. Tucci - as brilliantly he played this role, I felt that I was seeing the same Stanley Tucci role over and over again. Most of Tucci's roles that I am aware of is that he always plays the villain bent on world domination. McShane's performance was also brilliant, but predictable and typical in this kind of story. Nighy played the antagonist role excellently, but I felt as though his presence and character was not strong enough throughout the film. That he was just a villain for film showmanship. Lastly, McGregor's performance was brilliantly portrayed with a moments of humor, but also predictable and, at the same time, weak.

While Jack the Giant Slayer looks terrific and delivers its share of fantasy thrills. However, it also suffers from uneven pacing and occasionally incomprehensible plotting and cliché characterization.

Simon says Jack the Giant Slayer receives:


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Film Review: "Mama" (2013).



"A mother's love is forever." This is Mama. This supernatural horror film directed and co-written by Andy Muschietti and based on his 2008 Argentine short film Mamá. The film deals with the story of two young girls abandoned in a forest cabin, fostered by an unknown entity that they fondly call "Mama", which eventually follows them to their new suburban home after their uncle retrieves them.

Mama is the twisted creation of Muschietti and his writing & producing partner/sister, Barbara. The 2008 short film caught the attention of executive producer Guillermo del Toro, who immediately wanted to help Muschietti turn it into a feature-length film. Jessica Chastain was the first and only choice for the role of Annabel. After Chastain was officially cast, she took guitar lessons since her character was a bass player. For the title role, Javier Botet was cast due to possessing a genetic disorder called Marfan syndrome. The symptoms of the disease is what gives him his slender body and long fingers. For the make-up process, it took 4 hours every day to get Botet into make-up, and another 2 to remove it. The character of Mama required very little CGI. Botet was able to provide the disturbing and unsettling movements physically, since he possessed well-above-average range of motion in his joints. CGI was only applied to Mama's hair. Mama's appearance was inspired by a painting by Amedeo Modigliani, owned by the director. Production on the film began in October 2011, in Toronto, Ontario at the Pinewood Toronto Studios, and ended in December 2011. Parts of the film were also shot in Quebec City, Quebec. The film was initially scheduled for release in October 2012, but was later rescheduled for January 2013 to avoid competing with Paranormal Activity 4. Its success at that later date has, among with other dump months horror films, convinced studios to start opening horror movies year-round.

The film stars Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse, Daniel Kash, Jane Moffat, and Javier Botet. The performances given by the cast were confidently portrayed. With Chastain giving an unusual performance that completely works amongst her performances in her body of work.

Andy Muschietti's Mama is a really cool ghost story with an extraordinary human and fairy-tale dimension. Muschietti's elegant pacing and gothic touches imbue the proceedings with a cool mystery. The film augments its abundant creepiness with an equally powerful poignancy. An entertaining and atmospheric love story. What Muschietti provides is the recognition that love exists beyond the most routine of circumstances. That a mother's love is as old as humanity's belief in the fantastic, and just as powerful. Although spooky and poignant, the film becomes weighed down by perhaps one too many cliqué tropes of the genre. But you may find that images from this movie clamber back into your memory weeks after you see it, and give your spine a chill. It's a horror fantasy flick, and a creepily good one, that also functions as an allegory for motherly love.

Simon says Mama (2013) receives:


Thursday, 7 March 2013

Film Review: "Oz the Great and Powerful" (2013).




One of the taglines of the film is "The land you know. The story you don't." Which is what Oz the Great and Powerful is all about. This fantasy adventure film directed by Sam Raimi. When a tornado transports magician Oscar "Oz" Diggs from Kansas to the Land of Oz, he is identified as the prophesied "Wizard of Oz" by three witches, Glinda, Evanora and Theodora, who attempt to persuade Oscar to restore order in Oz from a power-hungry Wicked Witch. The film is a spiritual prequel to L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Wizard of Oz (1939).

The first signs of life began after the successful release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, Walt Disney planned to produce an animated film based on the first of L. Frank Baum's Oz books. In 1954, when the film rights to Baum's remaining thirteen Oz books were made available, Walt Disney Productions acquired them for use in Walt Disney's television series Disneyland and the live-action film Rainbow Road to Oz (1957), which was abandoned and never completed. Disney's history with the Oz series continued with Return to Oz (1985), which was presented as an unofficial sequel to, or variant of, the 1939 film. The film was both a critically and commercially failure, but since developed a cult status. The Walt Disney Studios first commissioned Oz the Great and Powerful in 2009 under the tenure of then studio chairman Dick Cook, who was succeeded by Rich Ross and later Alan Horn, a unique trait for a major studio release. Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire were hired to write the screenplay and Joe Roth serving as producer. Roth initially sought out Robert Downey Jr. for the titular role of the Wizard in April 2010. By summer of that year, Sam Raimi was hired to direct the film. In January 2011, Raimi attempted to revive discussions with Downey, but became aware that the actor was uninterested. The film was without a lead until February when James Franco entered final negotiations to star in the film, only five months before filming was scheduled to begin. Franco and Raimi had previously worked together on the Spider-Man trilogy (2002-7). Because Warner Bros. (via Turner Entertainment) owns the rights to iconic elements of the 1939 MGM film, including the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland, Disney was unable to use them nor any character likenesses from that particular film.

The film stars James Franco as Oscar Diggs, Mila Kunis as Theodora, Rachel Weisz as Evanora and Michelle Williams as Glinda. Franco gave a great performance, Franco in particular hams it up and is often playing to the balcony. Mila Kunis gets a thumbs up for her performance as she demonstrated excellence in the art of bewitchery and emotional drama. Weisz gave a riveting performance. Lastly, Williams gave an amazing performance.

Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful sacrifices the Baum's fantastical spirit and much of its heart. But it's an undeniable visual treat.

Simon says Oz the Great and Powerful receives: