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Tag Archive: Vera Farmiga


Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the benefits of behind-the-scenes and making of/art books for major studio movies is that anyone diving into the production process for the first time can usually learn plenty about the stages of filmmaking from pre-production to final product.  Just pick a film you like and jump right in.  Abbie Bernstein′s The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is no exception, but it will be particularly fun for anyone who is a fan of concept art and mega-monsters.  It’s also weighted toward pre-production and the pre-visualization process.  Readers wouldn’t expect a film with giant creatures to be filmed with practical sets, but with a modern studio Godzilla movie filmed in the U.S., you automatically expect a predominantly CGI movie.  The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is filled with trial pieces from artists showcasing the process of turning the classic Japanese kaiju characters into something new and different.

Fans of Scott Chambliss will want to read what guided him to make the choices and decisions for the look of the film.  Chambliss has his own style, and when watching the film my reaction was how many sets, and specifically the color and lighting choices, felt like Star Trek 2009, a film in which Chambliss also served as production designer.  Chambliss discusses the visual tricks he used to make Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorra appear to have immense scale, but also appear real.  Several effects companies worked on components of this film, each trying to make their creations the best of the pack without competing against each other–the goal being to create the best final product they could.  Some artists worked on familiar software programs, combining photographs and 3D imaging of locations like San Francisco’s Union Square to combine with actors in Atlanta.   Others made sculptures of each creature–in a variety of materials–and then those sculptures were scanned and manipulated into what the audience sees on screen by others, after even more creators contributed their colors, texture, lighting, and other touches.

The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a great companion book to Mark Cotta Vaz’s Godzilla: The Art of Destruction, the behind the scenes look at Gareth Edward’s 2014 Godzilla film that was the starting point for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Simon Ward’s The Art of Kong: Skull IslandAll of these massive monsters will come together soon in Godzilla vs. King, so it’s a good time to be a fan of kaiju.  For fans of the new Legendary Pictures movie, it’s a good opportunity to understand the characters better from those who created them, and learn more from actors about their experiences on set, including Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Elizabeth Ludlow, Thomas Middleditch, Anthony Ramos, and Bradley Whitford.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When you have made as many movies as have been in the Godzilla franchise (31, more than James Bond movies), you run the risk of making a sequel or reboot that ends up like Independence Day: Resurgence, or Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, or Man of Steel, or Alien: Covenant.  For some moviegoers, a quick fix with lots of CGI in one of their favorite universes is good enough.  Godzilla: King of the Monsters has many things in common with these movies, without quite being as good as any of them, or Godzillas of the past.  Inasmuch as moviegoers will see the great effort taken to be faithful to its predecessors, by bringing more than just Godzilla to the picture, by bringing in a significant number of character actors that will be familiar to audiences, and by trying to create more spectacular visuals than came before, the latest Godzilla movie, opening today, doesn’t match either the monster mayhem or the humor of its 20th century predecessors.

Stuffed with every over-used creature and action trope, some used repeatedly, Godzilla: King of the Monsters suffers from taking itself too seriously.  Its single attempt at levity is Get Out’s Bradley Whitford as a wise-cracking scientist who seems to be channeling Brent Spiner in the Independence Day movies.  But beyond that, this is a family drama, more talk and human family in-fighting than Godzilla screen-time, between Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown as Madison and her separated parents played by Kyle Chandler (Super 8) and Vera Farmiga (The Commuter) (in that way it suffers the flaws of the 2014 Godzilla).  For some credibility we get Oscar-nominated actor Ken Watanabe (Isle of Dogs, The Last Samurai, Batman Begins) to remind us of the creature’s 65 years as a Japanese kaijū icon.  Other than that, the production skipped Japanese actors for this installment.  The best character and performance comes from Charles Dance (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Bleak House, Gosford Park), who plays a terrorist.  His character is the lone voice who speaks sense in a film that only makes sense if you also believe ocean drillers are the best choice to pilot a space shuttle to save the world from an oncoming asteroid.  Armageddon, War of the Worlds, Cloverfield, The Day After Tomorrow, Pacific Rim and every other disaster movie is rolled up into a single package here.  Direction and decisions are all over the place.  Even in a crazy, kooky, over-the-top monster movie, audiences deserve a plot with a foundation with a smidge of reality, especially if the talking heads scenes get equal time with the clashing creatures.  So if you decide to see Godzilla: King of the Monsters in the theater, you’ll need to throw all logic and reason aside and try to enjoy the ride.

Although this wasn’t clear in the trailers, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is more than another franchise installment, it’s a direct sequel to Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla movie.  Five years later the world is learning how to live as 17 titans (monsters like Godzilla) surface across the globe.  Watanabe joins other returning cast members, including Oscar-nominated actress Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water, Blue Jasmine, Layer Cake), Oscar-nominated actor David Strathairn (Sneakers, The Firm, Eight Men Out, Memphis Belle), as they attempt to cause the titans to join forces in support of Godzilla instead of his three-headed dragon competition Ghidorah.  The best of the encounters finds the flying Rodan taking on a convoy of jet fighters, in a sweeping, well-choreographed scene that you’d expect from a Godzilla movie, although this scene and the rest of the monster scenes are mostly fuzzy and don’t make the most of high-definition camera capabilities or CGI.

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Merry Christmas!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2019.  Are you going to see them all?  Heck no.  These are the genre films we think borg readers will want to know about to make their own checklists for the coming year–and they are only the films we know about so far.  We pulled 78 of the hundreds of films that have been finalized or are in varying stages of final production, slated for next year’s movie calendar.

What looks to top the list for most fanboys and fangirls?  The last of the nine films in the Star Wars saga.  Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home.  Shazam! is DC’s contribution.  Quentin Tarentino returns to movies to direct Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Martin Scorsese is back with an all-star cast in The Irishman (on Netflix).  M. Night Shyamalan finishes his dark superhero trilogy with GlassArnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton return in TerminatorJordan Peele is back with another horror film with Us.

Do you like sequels?  This is your year.  Another Men in Black, X-Men, Shaft, Happy Death Day, Lego Movie, Hellboy, John Wick, Kingsman, Jumanji, The Secret Life of Pets, How to Train Your Dragon, Fast and the Furious, Zombieland, Addams Family, Charlie’s Angels, Godzilla, Shaun the Sheep, Annabelle,and Stephen King’s It and Pet SemataryDisney is trying to get you to move into your local theater with another Toy Story, Aladdin, Dumbo, Frozen, and Lion King–all in one year.  Yep, lots and lots of sequels are coming.

Some films don’t have locked-in release dates yet.  Amazon Prime and Netflix haven’t revealed dates for these 2019 releases:

  • Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman, a film about Jimmy Hoffa starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, and Bobby Cannavale (Netflix)
  • The Kid, a Western biopic with Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, and Vincent D’Onofrio (Netflix)
  • The Man Who Killed Hitler Then Bigfoot, starring Sam Elliott (Netflix)
  • 6 Underground, a Michael Bay film starring Ryan Reynolds, Ben Hardy, Dave Franco, and Mélanie Laurent (Netflix)
  • The Last Thing He Wanted, Dee Rees directs Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, and Toby Jones; journalist quits newspaper job to become an arms dealer for a covert government agency (Netflix)
  • The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh directs Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, James Cromwell, about the Pentagon Papers (Netflix)
  • Radioactive, Rosamund Pike plays Marie Curie, with Anya Taylor-Joy (Amazon)

Some of these films will have revised release dates, or get pushed to 2020.

So grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2019 (and many you might not):

January

Glass – Superhero, M. Night Shyamalan trilogy part 3, stars Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy; continues where Unbreakable and Split left off – January 18.

Serenity – Mystery/Thriller, stars Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong, Diane Lane; sorry, no relation to Firefly – January 25.

King of Thieves – Heist Comedy, stars Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Charlie Cox, Michael Gambon, and Ray Winstone – January 25.

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Warner Brothers released a great new trailer for the next Godzilla movie this week–Godzilla: King of the Monsters–and followed up with posters featuring clear images of Godzilla’s three gigantic foes–the “Titans.”  Directed by Michael Dougherty (X-Men 2, Superman Returns, X-Men: Apocalypse), the film stars Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Sally Hawkins, CCH Pounder, David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, Bradley Whitford, and Ziyi Zhang.

The new story follows a secret agency called Monarch as humanity faces off against the classic monster foes of Godzilla’s past–myths in the new story, which come to life, meaning certain doom for humanity.  Godzilla will face Titans Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.  These are monsters that first saw the screen in Japanese films more than 50 years ago.

Who will win?

  

All of the original monsters can be seen beginning Saturday, December 22, on the El Rey Network’s Kaiju Christmas Marathon, screening 13 classic films including all four of these Titans.

Take a look at the new posters and these trailers for the film Godzilla: King of the Monsters:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

By the time of his death in 1982, science fiction writer and future visionary Philip K. Dick wrote some 44 novels and 121 short stories.  A master storyteller, Dick’s short story writing was often simple and straightforward, but it was packed with amazing worlds, prescient technologies (and glimpses at what would be real problems resulting from those technologies), plus truly unique and inspiring ideas and ideals.  The real genius of Dick can be found in these quick stories.  The 2017 British and American co-production Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams is a science fiction series of ten episodes inspired by ten of his short stories, available now in the U.S. for the first time via Amazon Video.  If you find you’re not a fan of the series, don’t hold it against Philip K. Dick–the episodes are only very, very loosely based on his short stories, opting instead to expand on the stories and update most of the settings and plots, including swapping new technologies for those he wrote about.  Ideally those new to Dick’s works will be inspired by the ideas in the series to delve into his written works and experience his creations for themselves.

Written and directed by a variety of filmmakers, Electric Dreams is a hodgepodge of styles, storytelling, and continuity. Surprisingly the writers opted against sticking with the magic of Dick’s stories, deleting key memorable scenes, and choosing to add extra subplots with a few stories barely recognizable from their source material.  Most of the updates detract from the underlying story.  Three episodes fare the best–coincidentally or not, these are episodes that stay the truest to Dick’s own work.  The rest are less compelling, but each has its high points, either via surprisingly good special effects and production values for TV, or the choice of and performances by the actors (including Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel, Source Code), Anna Paquin (X-Men series), Timothy Spall (Harry Potter series), Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs, Fargo), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Total Recall), Jacob Vargas (Luke Cage), Terrence Howard (Wayward Pines), and Anne Reid (Hot Fuzz, Doctor Who, Marchlands).  Based on one of the best of all Dick’s stories, Impossible Planet follows the original story to create the best episode of the series, taking viewers on a final voyage home accompanying an old (more than 300 years old) woman played by Geraldine Chaplin (even this episode cuts the most powerful scene from the short story).  The Father Thing takes its time getting to the story, but once there it keeps the guts and spirit of the original story.  Loyal to the source material, it also has a great John Carpenter-esque soundtrack and Greg Kinnear is perfectly cast as the father.  For a person who was not remembered as a family man, Dick’s stories involving children are among his best and “The Father Thing” is no different.  Ideas furthered in a story familiar to most sci-fi fans, “The Minority Report,” are examined in The Hood Maker, complete with precognitive telepaths and the concept of pre-crime.  The episode follows the original story, and its “buddy cop” duo would make a great spin-off series.

The remainder of the series offers concepts that will be familiar to fans of Dick’s works, particularly those short stories previously committed to film, including “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” adapted into two Total Recall films, Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, John Woo’s Paycheck, The Adjustment Bureau, and Next (from “The Golden Man”), among others.  Many Dick full-length novels have made it to the big screen, too, most notably Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? released as Blade Runner, and although it does not credit Dick, The Truman Show is obviously sourced in Dick’s novel Time Out of Joint.  In addition, recently Dick’s award-winning novel The Man From the High Castle made it to home video as another Amazon series.

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Of this Fall’s onslaught of movie trailers accompanying holiday releases, one of the better previews is for a new action film starring Liam Neeson called The Commuter.  At first look it has multiple reasons you may want to check it out.  Foremost is Liam Neeson as the film’s star, if you haven’t already had your fill of his edgy character in the Taken hostage films.  Despite the perception Neeson’s performances aren’t always the same, yet he always brings authority to his characters.  The Commuter looks like it could be a sequel to Source Code, but it’s not.  It co-stars Source Code star Vera Farmiga, and the setting is also a train and a man being tasked with a life-or-death challenge during the train ride.  Source Code was a brilliant science fiction movie (which also starred Jake Gyllenhaal), but this one is straight-up action/mystery.

This type of popcorn movie distraction/escape is often all that you need–think in terms of films like Unstoppable and this year’s surprise hit The Foreigner.  The film comes from Orphan (which starred Farmiga) and Unknown (which starred Neeson) director Jaume Collet-Serra.

The Commuter also features a solid supporting cast, with Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Phantom of the Opera), Elizabeth McGovern (The Scarlet Pimpernel, Kick-Ass), and Sam Neill (Jurassic Park).

Here is the first trailer for The Commuter:

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Bates Motel neon

The new prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, A&E’s new series Bates Motel, is all sorts of unsettling, creepy and jarring.  First of all it has you cheering for Norman.  And you can’t help feel a little wrong about that.  We come to the re-introduction of the Bates Motel and that house–the original old house used to film Psycho–and its odd inhabitants, and recall that this was the first of the film villains that didn’t look like a traditional villain, making Psycho that much scarier.

Bates Motel, the series, is jarring in many ways.  Film actress Vera Farmiga (The Departed, The Manchurian Candidate, Source Code) with a bit of Psycho’s 1960 Vera Miles look, has an incredible role here to make her own as Norman’s mother Norma Bates.  In episode one “Nice Town You Picked, Norma,” Farmiga really dives right in.  One minute she’s a great, doting mom, happy and gleeful.  The next she is very dark and cold, spinning guilt trips onto her son at his every move.  Norma and son Norman–what is in a name?  There’s something at the core of their relationship the writers apparently haven’t scratched the surface with yet–they’re a little too close.  Viewers get some glimpses at a Mommie Dearest character in the making.  A school populated only by pretty girls who keep flocking around the nerdy Norman seems like a set-up for Norman as Stephen King’s Carrie.

Norman and Norma at soon to be Bates Motel Continue reading