Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters – AGO Toronto – October 5, 2017 – Part 2

From the fantastic to the frightful, don’t miss this rare glimpse into the world of renowned filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and his cabinet of curiosities. Taking inspiration from del Toro’s extraordinary imagination, At Home with Monsters reveals his creative process through his personal collection of art, artefacts, books, and props, all culled from Bleak House, del Toro’s creative haven located in Los Angeles.
“To find beauty in the profane. To elevate the banal. To be moved by genre. These things are vital for my storytelling,” says Guillermo del Toro. “This exhibition presents a small fraction of the things that have moved me, inspired me, and consoled me as I transit through life.”
This unique exhibition explores the creative mind behind one of the most inventive filmmakers of our generation revealing his influences, from the Medieval era to contemporary culture, and his particular obsession with horror, fantasy and the rich heritage of the Victorian era. At Home with Monsters is organized thematically, beginning with visions of childhood and innocence and the Victorian era; continuing through explorations of death and the afterlife, magic, occultism, alchemy, Frankenstein and horror, monsters; and concluding with a celebration of comics, movies and popular culture.

Website: https://ago.ca/exhibitions/guillermo-…

Follow Me:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/A_G_Ferguson
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/andrew_g_fe

 

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Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters – AGO Toronto – Part 1

 

From the fantastic to the frightful, don’t miss this rare glimpse into the world of renowned filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and his cabinet of curiosities. Taking inspiration from del Toro’s extraordinary imagination, At Home with Monsters reveals his creative process through his personal collection of art, artefacts, books, and props, all culled from Bleak House, del Toro’s creative haven located in Los Angeles.
“To find beauty in the profane. To elevate the banal. To be moved by genre. These things are vital for my storytelling,” says Guillermo del Toro. “This exhibition presents a small fraction of the things that have moved me, inspired me, and consoled me as I transit through life.”
This unique exhibition explores the creative mind behind one of the most inventive filmmakers of our generation revealing his influences, from the Medieval era to contemporary culture, and his particular obsession with horror, fantasy and the rich heritage of the Victorian era. At Home with Monsters is organized thematically, beginning with visions of childhood and innocence and the Victorian era; continuing through explorations of death and the afterlife, magic, occultism, alchemy, Frankenstein and horror, monsters; and concluding with a celebration of comics, movies and popular culture.

Website: https://ago.ca/exhibitions/guillermo-…

Follow Me:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/A_G_Ferguson
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/andrew_g_fe

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Spider-Man 2 (2004) – Movie Review

spider-man 2004

This is why they invented movies. It’s a dazzling story of love, loss, adventure, courage, heartbreak, tough choices, and tender feelings with a rescue from a burning building, a runaway train, a world-class villain, and a really great kiss. It is smart and funny and touching and exhilaratingly entertaining. Spider-Man 2 has sensational special effects integrated with a first-rate script and outstanding performances to illuminate the characters and tell the story — and to show us something about ourselves. But most of all, this is why they invented movies because director Sam Raimi knows how to make things MOVE.

Few movies have so mastered motion. Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) swoops through the skyscrapers. A train hurtles across a track that just abruptly stops. A car flies through the air. Raimi is all but re-inventing cinematic story-telling before our delighted eyes.

In the first movie, we saw Peter Parker’s joy in the powers he developed after being bitten by a radio-active spider. When his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) was killed because he failed to stop a thief, he resolved to devote his life to help people. And that meant no close attachments because anyone he cared about would be vulnerable to attack by bad guys who wanted to pressure him.

As this movie opens, things are not going well for Peter. Even his Spidey powers can’t get those pizzas delivered by the 30-minute deadline when there are people to save along the way. Aunt May’s application for a loan to save her mortgage from being foreclosed has been turned down. He is having trouble in school because he doesn’t have time to do the work. His best friend Harry (James Franco) is still angry because Peter won’t tell him what really happened the night Spider-Man killed his father. Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), the girl he loves, is giving up on him because he can’t tell her who he really is or how he really feels. He can’t even do a load of laundry without making things worse. That Spider-man suit chafes. Spidey can’t even sling those webs the way he used to. The last hors d’oeuvre at the party is always snatched away just as he reaches for it. Maybe it’s time to quit.

Harry introduces Peter to the brilliant scientist, Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), whose devotions to his wife and his work are inspiring. Harry is financing the doctor’s experiments with fusion energy, so complex and dangerous that they must be conducted with tentacle-like mechanical arms that are controlled by artificial intelligence. But in the grand hubris tradition of myths and comic books, the experiment goes terribly, tragically wrong and the doctor’s wife is killed. The four artificial arms are fused to Octavius’ spine. Devastated by the loss and overtaken by the arms which move like serpents in the garden of Eden, he becomes a villain known as Doc Ock, stealing what he needs to resume his experiments.

But Harry controls one of those ingredients, and he says he will give it to Doc Ock in exchange for Spider-Man. Molina is brilliant in both incarnations. His kind Doctor Octavius has a glimmer of benign madness. And his Doc Ock shows us the tortured soul that cannot help being thrilled by power. The weakest part of the first movie was the villain, with his dopey mask and over-the-top monologue. But Molina’s Doc Ock is a villain for the ages, a man who shows us his real face so we can feel the struggle for his soul.

The comic book elements are all here, with spectacular fight scenes and teen-friendly existential themes. Peter has to struggle with feelings of isolation and not being understood or appreciated. He is aware of the irony of his working for justice for others when his own life is filled with people who judge him unfairly.

One of the screenwriters was Michael Chabon, who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about comic book creators called The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and his rich appreciation for the mythic appeal of the comic book tradition brings depth to the story. Spider-Man and Doc Ock have many parallels. Both were granted extraordinary powers through mutations caused by accidents in scientific experiments. Both struggle with their alternate identities, represented in visual terms by frequent use of reflections. Both struggle with devastating losses. In a nice moment that gently underlines and broadens what is going on with the characters, Peter watches Mary Jane perform in a production of The Importance of Being Earnest in a scene where Cecily talks to Algernon about his pretending to be someone he is not. And a street musician sings the Spider-Man song, at first a little tentatively and off-key but then, as Spidey re-discovers who he is, with more assurance, hitting the right notes.

This is a sumptuous summer treat that succeeds on many levels. It is that rarest of treats, a popcorn pleasure with heart, soul, and insight.

 

9 out of 10 stars

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The Artist Project – Toronto – February 22, 2018 – Part 3

From collectors and curators, to gallerists and designers, visitors can explore and discover works of art from over 250 top contemporary artists from Canada and abroad. This is a unique opportunity to meet and buy art directly from artists at Toronto’s favourite art fair.

Website: http://www.theartistproject.com/

Location: Better Living Center, Exhibition Place, Toronto

Follow Me:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/A_G_Ferguson

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/andrew_g_fe

 

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Spider-Man (2002) – Movie Review

spider-man 2002

By default, Comic Books are the perfect Pre-Viz for movies based on them. And as a long-time Spidey fan, I was able to see the panels of this comic book come to striking life, sometimes reproduced with magnificent exactness in comparison to the way the books have been drawn and colored.

As far as this initial offering goes, the choices of Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe and James Franco allowed for an almost precise match to how the characters they each portray looked in the books. The casting of Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris as Uncle Ben and Aunt Mae, and J.K. Simmons as J Jonah Jameson: But it was not just the casting of actors who very closely resemble the characters of the Spider-man Universe, it was clearly Sam Raimi’s direction in concert with the script by David Koepp based very closely on Stan Lee’s “Spidey” Origin Story, which made these people come alive and pop out of the comic book frames, almost into real life.

Compared to some of the other comic book adaptations, this one was done with the most amount of care and respect for the series. Just to reproduce the postures of the flying web-slinger, using some of the most famous frames from the comics, was an astounding accomplishment.

From his humble beginnings in “Evil Dead” Sam Raimi has been a clever filmmaker, especially in his ability to make splendid visual effects. Combine that with a huge budget along with Visual Effects god John Dykstra, who designed effects for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the original Star Wars. Connect the dots with a fantastic Production Designer and Costume Designer, and it all just worked.

One of the tests of how well Digital Effects have been done are in the viewing of these films on lower-resolution mediums, like smart phone screens and Old Cathode-Ray Tube TV’s. I’ve viewed this film in each of those, and when Spidey is crawling up a wall in an obvious CGI shot, it makes you wonder if it really was CGI: In films like Daredevil, it is easy to spot the transition frames; here, it is impossible to find it.

Comparatively, the work on Captain America showing Steve Rogers as a skinny kid is very clever. Here, the same tech is used in a smaller degree to show Parker as a wimpy, skinny nerd. This is highly effective so that when Parker sees himself buffed out with his shirt off, you believe a change has occurred.

Where this film excels is in the rapidity of which it gets into the Spider-Man story, which is within the first ten minutes. As much as I do like the new Marc Webb “Amazing Spider Man” (2012) – It takes much too long to get into it, although the character development in that film is very good.

In this film however, the character development continues through the film and is incorporated even into action sequences, Continuing up to the very last frame of the film.

Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Dan Hicks (Of Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks) are all inserted as cameo properly as with any Raimi film. It is Campbell himself who “names” Spider-man – Saying “The Human Spider? That Sucks!”

My few complaints revolve around the character of Peter Parker, who is fairly unlucky in the books, here he is a walking disaster area. He is the antithesis of “The Competent Man” and even when given extraordinary ability, he is still a wimp in his personality, especially in his dealing with Mary Jane Watson. Also, Peter Parker’s first Love interest was Gwen Stacy, and it was she, not MJ who The Green Goblin captured and gave Spidey the choice: Save these kids in the Cable-Car, or Save Gwen. It was a choice, and one or the other only could have been saved. Here, Gwen is completely absent, and he saves MJ with a feat even impossible for the comic- book rendition of Spidey.

But I suppose adding Gwen to the mix would have muddied up the water too much. And even though I did not like the distortion of that original classic story, they did reproduce it visually with astounding correctness, as they did with the images of Spider-Man flying through NYC. Animating several classic Steve Ditko Spidey Postures, and at the end of the film we get to see many of these animated fantastically.

But the main message: ‘With Great power, comes Great Responsibility” – As told by Uncle Ben to Peter right before his death, survives, and when coupled with Danny Elfman’s fantastic score, makes this a powerful, meaningful film.

 

8 out of 10 stars

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The Artist Project – Toronto – February 22, 2018 – Part 2

From collectors and curators, to gallerists and designers, visitors can explore and discover works of art from over 250 top contemporary artists from Canada and abroad. This is a unique opportunity to meet and buy art directly from artists at Toronto’s favourite art fair.

Website: http://www.theartistproject.com/

Location: Better Living Center, Exhibition Place, Toronto

 

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X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006) – Movie Review

x-men the last stand

A departed fanboy director. A widely reported rush production. And Brett Ratner as replacement director. Things weren’t looking good for the third installment of our X-Heroes. Cynics crossed their arms in haughty resignation, while comic geeks vented their outrage in a fittingly Phoenix-inspired display. And yet despite the odds here it is, tipped as the last stand, and the fears of those expecting the worst were perhaps unjustified.

Promising more emotional grounding in his instalment, director Ratner managed to pacify the blood-braying fanboys (and girls) still reeling from the sudden departure of fan favourite Singer. A snazzy trailer helped, showcasing some saliva-inducing imagery, and confirming that Ratner was faithfully sticking to Singer’s staunch visual style. The question remained, however; could he follow through and create an X adventure worthy of its highly acclaimed predecessors? The surprising answer is yes. And no. Well, sort of. X-Men: The Last Stand is a leaner, more streamlined entry excelling in slick sets, breathtaking action, and top-notch special effects. This is a summer blockbuster to the core, and damn proud of it.

Ratner’s presence behind the camera is unmistakable, and it is undeniably his crowd-pleasing instincts that steer X3 through the pitfalls of studio money-spinning agendas that surrounded the production. Unleashed on his audience is an infectious enthusiasm for visual spectacle that generates satisfyingly outrageous cinematic results. Not only are we are afforded a spectacular face-off at the Grey residence, but also the stunning sight of the Golden Gate Bridge being magnificently relocated, and a striking finale in which the world is literally turned upside down in an emotional confrontation.

This, however, is a film creaking with franchise baggage. The events of not one, but two previous X films bear down on Ratner’s film like the fists of Colossus, giving it a somewhat schizophrenic ambiance. The thrill-seeking director clearly struggles to compose X3 as both a sequel and a stand-alone adventure. As a consequence, few actors are given much to work with save the key players, who do what they can with a script that appears in a bit of a hurry. Famke Janssen stands heads above the rest: nothing short of brilliant as the returned Jean Grey (or Dark Phoenix), she portrays just the right amount of inner turmoil, vulnerability and downright creepy-ness to really hit the right notes. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are again the glue that holds everything together, both skilfully communicating the subtle nuances of their characters’ complex relationship. Others, like Kelsey Grammar’s Beast, and even James Marsden’s Cyclops come across as something of an after thought. There’s simply too much cast spread much too thinly.

The sacrifices extend throughout the rest of the film, too. Those little moments that imbued the other X films with heart and gravity are glaringly absent here; characters rush through expositional speeches, barely pausing for breath before the next explosive encounter. So while the pow-pow-pow approach ensures X3 a vigorous pace that effectively gathers momentum, its resultant whirlwind can tend to sweep over the rest of the film to its own detriment.

And when the final credits roll, just how has Ratner done with his last minute leap into the world of X? It’s difficult to judge how much tighter his X3 could have been if more time and creative control had been offered to him. The studio leash tightens noticeably as the running time accumulates: the three plot lines each struggle for exposure but none reach an entirely satisfactory conclusion. In the end, Ratner must be commended for crafting a film in a decidedly dubious climate, a film that is not only watchable, but entertaining too. X3 has its shortcomings, but there’s more than enough bang for your buck. And of course things are nicely left open for another installment. Now, where to find a fanboy director to fill those Singer-sized shoes?

 

7 out of 10 stars

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