Film Review: CHILD’S PLAY (USA 2019) ***1/2

Child's Play Poster
Trailer

A mother gives her 13-year-old son a toy doll for his birthday, unaware of its more sinister nature.

Director:

Lars Klevberg

Writers:

Tyler Burton Smith (screenplay by), Don Mancini (based on characters created by)

After a number of sequels, the original 1988 horror classic CHILD’S PLAY gets a reboot with the same title following a high tech doll that rejects its programming and becomes self aware. 

Director Lars Olevberg and the script by Tyler Burton Smith play it smart by combining the elements of camp and horror in what turns out to be a fast-moving totally entertaining reboot.  The film proves tat camp and scares can work extremely well together.  CHILD’S PLAY delivers what is expected and more.

The film opens in Kaslan Industry’s Vietnam factory that makes these big tech dolls.  A Vietnamese worker goofs off and is slapped awake by his supervisor.  Angrily, he removes all the doll’s control inhibition functions on the chip before inserting it into the doll.  It is comical to see see and hear Vietnamese in a horror film done tongue-in-cheek and it works.  The doll is eventually sold in the States but the customer returns this defective doll to a Zed-Mart worker, who is a single mother (Aubrey Plaza).  Instead of returning the doll to the factory gives, she gives it as a birthday person to her son, Andy.  This is when the trouble starts.  Chucky, the doll starts having a life of his own and in his desperation of keeping Andy as a friend, does away with those that annoy Andy beginning with the family cat.

Director Olevberg does not skimp on the blood and gore as in the lawnmower scene.  But the segment can be taken tongue-in-cheek as in the one whee the kids are laughing out loud as bodies are being dismembered, while watching THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE on the television.  There is a hidden message here in how Americans, typically American kids have been dis-sanitized from violence in films.

More camp comes in the form of the excellent ‘Buddi’ theme song, which is also played for laughs during the film’s closing credits.  Chucky also has dialogue “Are we having fun yet?” or “Is it time to play again?” to creep audiences out.

Aubrey Plaza is one of the funniest actresses around who frequently inhabits roles of loose women as evident in THE NUNS and BAD GRANDPA.  In CHILD’S PLAY, she plays a young single mother (who in he own words had a fertile sweet sixteen) has a kid who also catches her making out when entering the apartment one day.  Gabriel Bateman is also excellent as Andy Barclay the son, but one would think they would have got a younger actor to play the part.  This Andy looks too old to be receiving a toy doll for his birthday, though it may be argued that this one has all the modern controls to turn on the stereo etc.

It is coincidental that TOY STORY 4 also opens this week both with the boy also called Andy.  These are two films about toys – one for family and the other for horror fans, which make the perfect counter-programming market strategy.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeHNLikDiVw

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Film Review: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (USA 2017) ***1/2

Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.

Director:

Rian Johnson

Writers:

Rian JohnsonGeorge Lucas (based on characters created by)

When the film begins, the titles are clear to remind the audience that it is Episode VIII that they are watching.  It is also the second in the Star Wars sequel trilogy after THE FORCE AWAKENS.  Long time again a galaxy far away….. read the lines in normal word setting from right to left, then humorously followed by an introduction to the story in the normal STAR WARS type set from bottom to top of the screen.

At the press screening, the Disney representative begged those attending not to reveal any plot points or twists so as not to spoil the entertainment of those yet to see the film.  That, of course, will be respected in this review, but it is safe to say that there are quite a few of these twists to keep audiences on their toes.  But the main story is very simple and basically told in words at the film’s start.

The First Order reigns.  The rebels are planning their escape.  Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is evacuating the rebel base while they are under attack.  It appears wherever the rebels go, they can be tracked.  So the aim is to board the Order ship that contains the tracker and destroy it.  Rey (Daisy Ridley) is recruited to get Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) out of his self-imposed exile on the planet Ahch-To (which looks a lot like Ireland because it was shot there) to help.  That is all one needs to know about the plot.  Of course, there are the villains, pretty good ones who can come across as quite funny or nasty as in the case of Ben Solo (Adam Driver).  And not to forget, there is the Supreme Leader (Andy Serkis), whose title seems to invoke laughter, just from the name of how it sounds.

All of what is expected in a Star Wars epic is there.  Fans should not be disappointed.  Original characters like Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are there as are the old characters like Rey, Ben Solo, General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), the Supreme Leader, Finn (John Boyega) , Poe (Oscar Isaac) together with c3p0, Chewbacca and r2d2.  The are lots of well executed fight scenes with exploding star ships and bases, light sabre fighting, pyro-technics  and CGI.  Fond sayings like “May the Force be with You,” or “May the Force be with Us” and a few new ones are there to prod the audience on the good fight alongside the Rebellion.  A few new creatures are added like the puffin-looking birds and icy type canines.  The film also has an eclectic cast which shows that all races work well in the Rebellion for a good Galaxy of beings.

THE LAST JEDI is marked with humour with some very funny lines.  This is what distinguishes this episode from the rest – it is the funniest.  The humour works as the film knows how to keep it both funny and smart with the film still serious in the fight against the First Order.

The film’s best line appears at the end credits.  The film is dedicated to our Princess Carrie Fisher.  THE LAST JEDI is a worthy tribute to the princess, for sure, being her final film before she passed away in 2016.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYRy5bCsWF8

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1977 Movie Review: STAR WARS, 1977

STAR WARS, 1977
Movie Review
Directed by George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford
Review by Andrew Kosarko

SYNOPSIS:

As the adventure begins, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), an impulsive but goodhearted young man who lives on the dusty planet of Tatooine with his aunt and uncle, longs for the exciting life of a Rebel soldier. The Rebels, led by the headstrong Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), are fighting against the evil Empire, which has set about destroying planets inhabited by innocent citizens with the Death Star, a fearsome planetlike craft commanded by Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and the eternally frightful Darth Vader (David Prowse, with the voice of James Earl Jones). When Luke’s aunt and uncle are murdered by the Empire’s imperial stormtroopers and he mysteriously finds a distress message from Princess Leia in one of his androids, R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), he must set out to find Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), a mysterious old hermit with incredible powers. On his journey, Luke is aided by the roguish, sarcastic mercenary Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his towering furry sidekick Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) as they run into a host of perilous situations while trying to rescue the princess–and the entire galaxy.

REVIEW:

A long time ago, in a Hollywood far, far away…..George Lucas was an innovative film maker. Well, I’m a little shocked. I can’t believe this film series has been reviewed yet. So I’m doing it before anyone else beats me to the punch. I also think it’s kind of interesting seeing as I’m one of the few people to “review the first Star Wars Film” after the prequels have come out. So lets get into it, shall we?

The Story: The perfect depiction of “the heroes’ journey.” Anyone who has an interest in storytelling should study this film along with the ideals of the Heroes’ Journey. The structure is perfect. There’s never a boring moment, the story is always pushing forward and revealing more and more about our characters. Those characters are also, near perfect with defining attributes that you would never question their purpose of involvement. Luke Skywalker is at the start of his journey under the guidance of Obi-wan Kenobi. Accompanied by our outside eyes and ears, the druids of C3PO and R2D2, they join forced with the rugged pirate Han Solo and his furry side kick, Chewbacca. Not only does Lucas have excellent stories to tell, but he tells it in a masterful of ways. Chewbacca never speaks a word of English, nor has subtitles and yet we understand everything he’s saying by others’ retorts. Same with R2D2. Obi-wan is wise and mysterious, teaching without teaching. Han Solo, well, one of my favorite words in my reviews is “badass.” And there is no other word that can describe him. And last but not least, we have our strong heroin who is just as tough, if not stronger, than her farm boy brother. The real strength in this film is the story. Luke progresses from farm boy, to new adventurer to growing hero, to a savior of the rebellion. And of course, no one can forget the greatest villain of all time, Darth Vader. It just doesn’t get more evil and sinister than him.

Acting: In the documentary, “Empire of Dreams” which I would suggest to anyone after they’ve seen the Original Trilogy, Carrie Fisher speaks of George Lucas’ dialogue; “You can write this stuff but you can’t speak it.” Which is why the acting is so extraordinary in this film. It’s the same dialogue in the new prequels, but notice how it’s not hard to listen to when Luke or Leia speak it, opposed to Hayden Christianson.

Mark Hamill / Luke Skywalker – Now, Star Wars, in a sense, is “before my time.” I know absolutely nothing of Mark Hamill’s early work. All I know is he did a Christmas episode with the muppets and later went on to portray the voice of the Joker on Batman the animated series. Nevertheless, Hamill is the perfect casting for the young farm boy with a heart of gold and the naïve courage to march into a detention center.

Carrie Fisher / Princess Leia Organa – Now I wasn’t around during the feminist era, but I’m sure this was a product or lightning rod of it. Fisher plays the role strong and intelligent. She’s a damsel in distress, but she fights back instead of waiting for the hero to come save her. She is the personification of the Rebellion.

Harrison Ford / Han Solo – I know this role has lead to so many other things for Ford, but I don’t think he’s had a better role. Blade Runner comes close, but still. Han Solo is his defining role. He’s smart, charming, clever, bold, head strong and selfish. I can’t think of a more enjoyable role to play without being a bad guy.

Alec Guinness / Obi Wan Kenobi – The man delivers every line like it’s Shakespeare, and it was just what was needed seeing as these films are the closest we’ve gotten since Billy-Bob Shakespeare put his pen down. Guinness is strikes us as honorable, wise and trustworthy from the second he shows up. Although, to this day I still wonder how he made that weird ass whistling noise to scare off the sand people.

Directing: “Faster and more intense” was Lucas’ main direction to his cast. Which I wish he could have resurrected that phrase when directing the slow prequels. He’s at his best here with the limitations that he had to deal with. This was hard, dirty, gritty rough hands work. Which is one of the strengths of the film. It’s realism in it’s production design and even in the visual and special effects. Lucas did the best he could with what he had.

Cinematography: Old school 70’s cinematography. While there isn’t any really ground breaking shots or techniques in the realistic shots, it’s still well covered.

Production Design: Very strong. It’s futuristic, er, well, in this case, historic. Well, it’s far more advanced than what we ever, at the time of it’s release, thought possible. Or even dreamed. Yet it has a slightly gritty look to it. Not a Bladerunner look per say, but still, not sterile either. It really helps establish the world(s) that we’re playing in as believable.

Editing: For the most part it’s sufficient for what it does. I still don’t know how the shot of the storm trooper bumping his head on the door when they bust in and find C3PO and R2D2 was left in, but ok, whatever. Where I do have to give it some credit is covering the lightsaber duel between Vader and Kenobi. Guinness being his age and only instructed in proper swordsman ship was limited in what he could do (Check out some of the special features and the footage from it all). The edit makes it look like he still has some fight in him.

STAR WARS IMAGESScore: One of the truly remarkable aspects of the entire film. It lifts the material from the scale of amazing to epic. John Williams hit two big scores (no pun intended) in this era with both Star Wars and Jaws. He establishes himself as one who doesn’t resort to gimmicks and remains with the classical approach to music writing, while keeping in tune with the emotional context of the story.

Special Effects: Now this is what’s groundbreaking. There’s a great collaboration between the production team and the visual effects team. The ships combined with the green screens and compilations of layers create some of the most realistic and invigorating elements in the film. The shots and editing can’t really be complimented, seeing as most of them are ripped off from old stock footage of dog fights.

In closing: The beginning of great film making starts here, and ends in the same place. George Lucas both created the most amazing aspects of the film world and then bastardized them by abusing them too much. Letting them spew out into other films and basically demolishing the “aww factor” in movies. The work done in this film was earned and hard done. Lately the cinema business has become lazy and cheaper with the same mind set. Sadly, it takes all the fun out of the movies. Regardless of it’s lasting effects in movies, this film still stands the test of time. It’s engaging, entertaining, interesting and fun. And it’s got a little bit, ok, a LOT of moral lesson whipped into it. But it’s neither preachy nor too subtle. Star Wars is the movie of our century. It still effects film making today, and will remain to for many years to come.

star wars

Film Review: BRIGSBY BEAR (USA 2017)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

BRIGSBY BEARAfter being freed from the kidnappers he thought were his parents, a man sets out to make a movie of the only TV show he has ever known.

Director: Dave McCary
Writers: Kevin Costello, Kyle Mooney
Stars: Mark Hamill, Claire Danes, Kyle Mooney

Review by Gilbert Seah

Who is BRIGSBY BEAR? The name indicated a TV cartoon show for kids. That is exactly what Brigsby Bear is, but why has no one heard of this bear? The answer is that Brigsby Bear is a children’s show character totally concocted and made by kidnapper parents to keep the child occupied.

When the film opens, we seen the now adult still kidnapped James Pope (Kyle Mooney) watching an episode of Brigsby Bear on television through VCR cassette tapes. James is shown having dinner with his parents, Ted (STAR WARS’ Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams) who practice odd rituals. It is soon revealed that James Pope was kidnapped from a hospital as a baby and since childhood all the way to adulthood has known nothing about the world except Brigsby Bear, a children’s show character fabricated by his kidnapper parents. One day, James is rescued and brought out into the real world where he learns that Brigsby Bear is not a real children’s show. Confused and baffled by these turn of events, James sets out to make a Brigsby Bear movie to show the world what he has learned.

The main flaw of the film is the film’s credibility. The credibility factor is sacrificed for the film’s charm. Director McCary goes all out to show that there is no badness in every character of his story. The kidnappers are revealed to be good hearted people whose only sin is wanting to love their own child. They even admit to knowing their abduction of James being wrong, yet they are desperate to love. For all the trouble that James creates in the environment around him, everyone is forgiving from his family (his sister initially shown as an independent no-nonsense sibling; his doting parents) to all his new friends. Everyone also aids James to make his Brigsby film. The title of his finished film, comically called “BRIGSBY BEAR, the film my friend help me make” tells the whole story.

It is difficult to figure out the intentions of BRIGSBY BEAR. Perhaps the message is that there is goodness in everyone, even if you have kidnapped a baby and kept it for your own for a full twenty years.

The most enjoyable bits of the film are the BRIGSBY BEAR episodes. The cartoon bear costume and his adventures saving the world from the evil Sunsnatcher are nothing short of hilarious – with lots of corniness thrown in for good measure. The special effects are crayon drawn but colourful enough.

BRIGSBY BEAR proves that corny can be funny! The good intentioned film over emphasizes the point of how good intentions triumphs over evil. The film ends up entertaining enough if one can stomach the over saccharine sweetness.

Small indie films like this one and previous successes like NAPOLEON DYNAMITE featuring geeky protagonists have a niche audience which somehow do reasonably well at the box-office. The well-intentioned BRIGSBY BEAR should do likewise.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFUvQi2TVOE

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Happy Birthday: Mark Hamill

markhamill.jpgMark Hamill

Born: September 25, 1951 in Oakland, California, USA

Married to: (17 December 1978 – present) (3 children)

I’ve learned that the movies [Star Wars] will never finally end. It just goes on and on and on and on. I mean, it’s going to be in 3D, then it’s going to be smellivision, then it’s going to be a ride in an amusement park, then they’ll come to your house and perform it with puppets on your lawn … it’ll never end! I accepted that a long time ago.

STAR WARSStar Wars
1977
dir. by George Lucas
starring
Harrison Ford
Hamill
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACKThe Empire Strikes Back
1980
dir. Irvin Kershner
Starring
Carrie Fisher
Billy Dee Williams
Return of the Jedi
1983
dir. Richard Marquand
Starring
Hamill
Harrison Ford
Laputa - Castle in the SkyLaputa – Castle in the Sky
1986
dir. Hayao Miyazaki
Voices by
Anna Paquin
Batman Beyond: Return of the JokerBatman Beyond: Return of the Joker
dir. Curt Geda
Stars:
Will Friedle
Kevin Conroy
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
1993
dir. by Eric Radomski
Bruce W. Timm
voices by:
Kevin Conroy
JUSTICE LEAGUE CRISIS ON TWO EARTHSJustice League: Crisis on Two Earths
2010
dir. Lauren Montgomery
Sam Liu
Voices
Mark Harmon
Alyssa Milano
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Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

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star_wars_posterSTAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
(USA 2015) Top 10 *****
Directed by J.J. Abrams

Review by Gilbert Seah

The film world has finally gone crazy. Disney and Lucasfilm has enforced a world embargo on film reviews at 3.01 (yes, to the very second) on Wednesday December 16th. The film premiered Monday evening in Hollywood and for press, which includes this fortunate reviewer, Tuesday morning. No one had any idea of the venues for Monday’s screenings (3 separate theatres) till the last minute. Sales on Amazon of the old STAR WARS films rocketed 400%. Pre-sales of tickets have not seen numbers like this since the beginning of time, in a galaxy far, far away!

The hype on TV and anticipation have been great. The studios made press hush up on spoilers. And after seeing the film, one will respect those wishes. But there are a lot of surprises and twists in the plot, none that make little sense, and revealing them will would definitely spoil the film’s entertainment value.

The story is short and that does not mean much as the film is more character and action driven. It is set approximately 30 years after the events of RETURN OF THE JEDI where the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire have become the Resistance and the First Order, respectively, and follows new heroes Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) alongside characters returning from previous Star Wars film. Rey, a scavenger finds a droid who holds a map that has the key to finding Luke Skywalker. The dark side wishes to bring down the resistance and thus goes all out to capture the droid and thus the map. Lots of exciting battles result culminating with a climatic sabre to sabre combat between the heroes and villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

The film succeeds in all departments from acting, to the grand music, scored again by maestro John Williams to the costumes, creature and robot designs to sets, spectacle and cinematography. Iceland and Abu Dhabi, where the film was shot add to the grandeur from the desert to the icy mountain landscapes. Rey’s outfit is perfectly designed, a greyish fabric that flows so that she looks elegant while fighting or tracking in the desert. The sets of the dark force, in red and black, looks (humorously) like something taken of of a North Korean dictatorship rally.

Director Abrams, best known for the STAR TREK reboot takes over the reins from George Lucas, who admitted the series needed new blood. Abrams is smart enoguh to put in lots of new blood in the form of new characters like Rey the main female protagonist, Finn an ex-trooper who moves to the good side because it is the right thing to do and Poe while not forgetting the importance of legends like Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) and of course, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). New ‘robots’ like the droid also meet old time favourites R2D2 and C3PO. Abrams knows how to work the audience. When Princess Leia and Hans Solo reunite and hug, the scene will bring tears to the audience’s eyes. And there are no embarrassing kissing scenes but lots of hugs that get the same message across.

If one wants spectacle there are lots of it. The blowing up of a star fighter that eventually sinks in quicksand, the flight/fight segment between the freighter commandeered by Rey and Finn and the star fighters and the shootouts are just a few examples. And it is one well-orchestrated action segment after another. Abrams knows how to pull back his camera to show the full action spectacle while also engaging in the closeups of the characters’ faces. Lots of smart dialogue as well, with too many quotable lines to include in this review.

The hype and wait are worth it. Abrams’ film is as amazing as you will hear. And it is definitely the best action film of the year, best to be seen in 3D and IMAX.

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Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com