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Julian Arwen: Top 10 favourite movies

Julian Arwen’s favourite flicks.




As my co-critic and friend Nicholas Seles suggested, it is important for the readers of The Avro Post to get know ourselves better.

To help with that endeavour, I have followed suit with his idea and created my own top 10 list of my personal favourite films. (Keep in mind that the placement of the listed films are only indicative of how much I have personally enjoyed them.)

10. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

Indeed, this a recent movie, so perhaps time will tell wether or not it stays here. Maybe it’s because the bar is so low for video game movies in general, or maybe its because it’s legitimately well crafted, putting in care and attention to detail into every nook and cranny into the world the filmmakers have created. The lead performances by Ryan Reynolds and Justice Smith are exemplary, serving a story thats as bonkers as a Pokémon movie should be, with just enough edginess and truly great jokes in the script for a truly all ages product that should entertain people of all ages, regardless if they are a Pokémon fan, like yours truly.

© Legendary Pictures

9. Captain Blood

A classic swashbuckler of the 30’s, Captain Blood truly is the quintessential pirate movie: adventure, romance, dastardly villains, ship battles and flashy sword fights. The charisma of the lead star Errol Flynn, is the stuff of legend, with a performance that he would carry throughout his career. The entire cast in fact, deserves praise, with great performances up and down the board. Add a sharp script with very memorable moments, excellent direction and impeccable craft on the model ships, and you have a pirate film that easily puts Disney’s own series of films to shame.

© Cosmopolitan Productions

8. War for the Planet of the Apes

The entire trilogy (thus far) of the reboot Planet of the Apes series is a fantastic menagerie of filmmaking, but the pinnacle of it truly is the stellar War for the Planet of the Apes. Matt Reeves heads the production once more with a gravitas style and feel, lending a sense of realism that drips from every scene. His vision for the film carries it to new heights, with just enough awareness to not get too carried away. What truly makes the movie is of course, Andy Serkis’s Oscar worthy performance as Caesar, who’s lack of said Oscar is truly mystifying. Without him, the trilogy wouldn’t be half of what it is today and I am truly thankful to have seen his arc completed to its fullest.

© Chernin Entertainment

7. Mad Max: Fury Road

If you want to find out what an action movie can truly be at its peak, then look no further than Mad Max Fury Road, A beautiful operatic masterpiece of violence that shows how it’s done. Veteran director/writer George Miller returns to his franchise with vigor, with modern techniques to assist him that shows how he is a master of the craft. With gorgeous cinematography, great performances by Charlize Theron as Furiosa and Tom Hardy (replacing Mel Gibson) as Max, an organic feeling script and truly spectacular stunt work, Mad Max Fury Road shows what can be accomplished with a genre that some deride as juvenile or without nuance.

© Warner Bros. Pictures

6. Ratatouille

Pixar puts out classic after classic (most of the time) and this one is a work of art. Pixar’s animation is always a sight to behold, wether the film is good or not, but theres an attention to detail in Ratatouille that truly makes it beautiful. The warm colour palette, memorable characters, great direction by Brad Bird and an intelligent story about change, artistry and truly caring for what you put your passion into, created an animated film that puts all the ingredients together (no pun intended) to create an instant classic.

© Walt Disney Studios

5. Pacific Rim

Guillermo Del Toro does monsters like no one else in the film industry, so it would only be natural that he would create one about the giant variety. With the Japanese inspiration apparent throughout, this movie unleashes a storm of glorious popcorn entertainment that only Del Toro can bring. The characters are as simple or complex as they need to be, with major highlights going to Mako Mori played by actress Rinko Kikuchi. Each Kaiju (giant monster in Japanese) and giant robot are realized with the best that visual effects have to offer, designed with resorting to the realism that can plague films like this. Sometimes, it’s alright to be cartoony in live action.

© Legendary Pictures

4. Hugo

A film that celebrates filmmaking itself, Hugo is one of the few book to screen adaptations that is superior to the work it is based on. Every character is given more depth and nuance, and that is not hyperbole. Even the villain, who was a simple cruel man in book, is given layers and a backstory, making him more of a character, adding much needed depth. Performances by every actor within are fantastic, especially Ben Kingsley, who plays the legendary Georges Méliès near perfectly. Scorsese once again shows his experience in the art, by making it all look almost effortless with his direction.

© GK Films

3. Gojira

The true grandaddy of all Giant monster movies, Gojira shows why Godzilla truly is the king of the monsters. Above all of the destruction, performed on Toho Studios’ meticulously made city sets, is a grim and somber tone that reflects Japans relationship with nuclear energy in a way they can only express. For a film of the genre, it’s very subtle, building up the titular kaiju for a good portion of the film until his full reveal. Director Ishiro Honda understands these creatures are both forces of nature and characters in and of themselves. With an appropriately restrained story (though not without its “of the time” quirks) and great direction, Gojira is absolutely phenomenal.

© Toho Pictures

2. Shin Godzilla

If Gojira is master, then Shin Godzilla is a worthy successor. An allegorical movie about the Tohoku Earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear meltdown, Shin Godzilla takes the main star back to his roots in way that truly captures his frightening essence from his first cinematic appearance. This time however, added to the mix by writer and co-director Hideki Anno, known for his Neon Genesis Evangelion anime, is a healthy does of political satire. Showing how strict adherence to protocol and rules prevented any real work from being done. Realized in a terrifying visage not seen for years, Godzilla himself is realized in perhaps his most appropriately bizarre manner yet as he changes and shifts form, the scene that reveals his “atmoic breath” power being a particular stand out moment that cannot be missed.

© Toho Pictures

1. Mary & Max

Despite my love for the fantastical in most features, it’s this seemingly mundane yet thoroughly captivating animated tale about sending letters that is my absolute favourite film. This stop motion animated classic by Adam Elliot has some of the best character writing in an animated film. It’s able to get the character of man with certain disabilities in way that made the movie extremely personal. Narrated in the style of a childrens book, this movie is not made for children at all. It is dark in both the comedic sense and the more somber sense. Appropriately stylized, well animated and well written with a stellar performance by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mary & Max is my favourite film of all time (so far).

© Melodrama Picture

Honourable mentions: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Robocop, Star Trek Beyond, Disney Pixar’s Up, Toy Story 3 ■

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Movie corner: ‘Shin Godzilla’

A look back at ‘Shin Godzilla’.




This is a very special month for a very special Giant Movie Monster. This month is the 65th anniversary of the worlds biggest movie star (literally) and King of the monsters, Godzilla.

At 65 years, his is the longest running movie franchise ever, with 35 movies (counting the American productions) under the titanic creature’s belt, spanning all the way back to 1954. And that number will only continue to grow in the coming years, with Godzilla vs Kong set to debut next year in March and Toho Studios, Godzillas owner, set to take its own steps into the cinematic universe ring with their own kaiju (the word for giant monster in Japanese).

In the (late) spirit of celebration, we could perhaps look back on his homeward bound endeavours and talk about one of the reasons why he’s so beloved. In particular, let’s talk about one of his movies. And what better than one where the titular monster is a symbol of ruin, death and destruction brought forth from atomic energy, where, as the song goes, “History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.”

By that description, it would appear I’m talking about Godzilla’s first cinematic opus from 1954. In actuality, I’m referring to the more recent live action film that just so happens to take “The big G” back to his traditionally villainous roots from the first film. Lets talk about… Shin Godzilla.

Shin Godzilla is a 2016 Japanese giant monster movie that, as previously stated, goes back to it’s grim roots created by the 1954 original classic “Godzilla.” It elects to once again make the mutated prehistoric reptile of unknown origin an unstoppable force of destruction and terror.

The design of the creature even borrows the “keloid scars” from the original look with a more gruesome update. But thats not the only thing that has updated with this version of the king of the monsters. Not only is it an allegory for a particular disaster (the Tohoku tsunami, earthquake and nuclear meltdown in this case) but it is also a political satire!

The film wastes no time in starting, as a massive steam geyser erupts from Tokyo bay and a weird blood like liquid begins to flood the tunnels after a boat of a Japanese scientist is discovered without him on board. From there, the Japanese government holds various meetings on how to handle the situation while pandemonium continues to unfold. When one of the politicians, our protagonist Rando Yaguchi, played by Hiroki Hasegawa, states during a meeting that the eruption might be caused by a large creature, based on the videos posted by onlookers and survivors, he’s lambasted for the idea and told not make a mockery of the political system… before a news report reveals a massive creature in the bay that’s headed for the city. 

This results in postponing the meeting for… another meeting, as they discuss what the creature is and its abilities, resulting in more havoc. As more details and abilities are revealed about the creature revealed and international interests for said creature, dubbed Godzilla by the missing scientists papers, the race is on for Yaguchi and his team of “misfits and weirdos” to come up with a breakthrough before Godzilla causes more chaos.

What is truly noteworthy about Shin Godzilla is just how bold and daring it is compared to other Godzilla movies, despite clearly taking notes from the original movie. This film was penned and co-directed by Hideki Anno, and if you know the name, you might be familiar with the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, of which Anno created, wrote and directed.

The series is known for its wildly gorgeous visuals, symbolism, allegorical messages, and just how bizarre the show and the concept actually is. Shin Godzilla is no different. Instead of appearing as his normal reptilian self when he shows up surprisingly early for one of his own movies, he is instead this bizarre cross of terrifying and adorable, looking more akin to an eel with dinosaur legs with massive unblinking eyes and bleeding gills.

Despite being barely able to walk, he still causes much destruction and death before seemingly and randomly stopping to reveal Anno’s next radical idea regarding Godzilla: he instantly “evolves” into something slightly closer to his traditional appearance to better walk on land. In other words, when Godzilla is faced with a difficult challenge, his body radically transforms to deal with it. It’s even brought up that, if need be, he can sprout wings and fly. 

This leads to the point where he finally becomes something that looks like a “traditional” Godzilla design and later the scene where he finally uses his atomic breath for the first time. The scene itself is both beautiful and very haunting. It is probably Godzilla’s most frightening use of his atomic breath to date, and it is the first time on film that Godzilla breaths actual fire for a bit (That idea was a concept invented by the Americans while importing the movies, he actually breaths an “emission of radiation” or just a straight up laser).

This is the first time in a Japanese Godzilla movie that Godzilla would be fully portrayed by CGI for all scenes (a few films had a few shots where the monster was entirely computer generated). Harkening back to the original design, Godzilla’s 4th and final “look” (his first is unseen) brings back the ugly and horrific keloid radiation scarring that the first version of the monster evoked. Using some impressive CGI the monster is shown in incredible detail, exposed glowing red tissue and a horrific mangled jaw that has teeth protruding outside of his lips being just the tip of the dorsal plate.

To emphasize his presence is a beautiful score. Most of it composed by regular Hideki Anno collaborator Shiro Sagisu, the score he creates offers a unique mix of tracks,  with some deliberately using a more action movie vibe when actual work and progress is being made on how to stop Godzilla. Some are more appropriately haunting, such as “Who Will Know,” a tragic and somber piece used for Godzilla’s first thermonuclear breath. The song itself can be seen from Godzilla’s perspective, as it elements about its survival.

The film has more the just the monster, surprisingly. As previously stated, Hideki Anno is known for his less than subtle allegorical messages and symbolism and Shin Godzilla has this in spades. Throughout the picture, the Japanese government goes to meeting after meeting after meeting before arriving at anything helpful to help people or try to halt Godzilla’s progress. Indeed when the film opens, adherence to protocol is strict, to the point where it actually hinders and slows the effort to stop Godzilla.

During a military effort to crush the creature, the prime minister is relaid information by his superiors about the attack. In order to get to him, it has to travel down the line of command before reaching a member of the cabinet who only can respond to his superior, despite the sitting at the same table as the prime minister, and then said superior, can talk to the prime minister. Now some of this is already natural for many governments with similar structures, but Anno directs the scene in such a way as to highlight how utterly absurd this process is. 

No movie is perfect, including Shin Godzilla, which does have noticeable faults. Despite being a Japan centric picture, there are some scenes with english dialogue. When some Japanese characters speak english dialogue, it’s fine. They give it a good effort and it comes off convincingly. However, sometimes it comes off as awkward and stilted, as some actors struggle speak the language. Unusually, the ones who come off as the most awkward are the few english speaking actors. Some of the lines they perform are oddly worded, with the occasional awkward performance to back it up.

Thankfully, the fault is not entirely distracting, as the film knows where its main focus is, and it payed off. With high praise across the board in its home country and an estimated US$15 million budget, it made back US$77 million, making it the most financially successful Japanese Godzilla movie. At the Japanese academy awards, it was able to acquire many wins for itself, including best picture, a first for a Godzilla movie.

In the end, your taste in monster movies may vary, but if this spikes anyone’s interest, the film is available on dvd, Blu-ray and digital, though there are 2 versions of the digital version, one english dubbed and one in Japanese (The Japanese dub is superior). It may not be the goofy monster destroying action you may heard about, but it is still very enjoyable and serves as a reminder as to why Godzilla was made in the first place.

Hail to the king. ■

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‘The Mandalorian’: Chapter 1 review

A new bounty is assigned.



© Lucasfilm

Debuting as a launch title for Disney+, the new Star Wars series follows a Mandalorian bounty hunter following the collapse of the Empire.

Spoiler free

Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau have teamed up to bring us the first live-action Star Wars series in the form of The Mandalorian, starring Pedro Pascal as the titular bounty hunter.

What this pilot episode does incredibly well is capture the tone of the galaxy that was established in the original trilogy. The planets and creatures are a mix of CG and practical effects save for a few specific characters, but when CG characters are on screen, like Taika Waititi’s IG-11, a bounty droid, they are very well designed and incredibly smooth.

The story presents an interesting concept in the sense that this bounty hunter does not possess the same morals that we’ve come to know from previous characters like Boba Fett or his father, Jango. This character is not as cold-blooded as the others which opens up the possibilities for new character interactions.

The cinematography is absolutely beautiful for the premiere episode and truly shows off the budget of a Disney-funded show. There are times that you’ll forget this is not a feature length film as opposed to a mini series on a streaming service.

Pedro Pascal plays the lead bounty hunter who is not yet named, and brings about an air of mystery to him. His voice sounds good under the helmet and does bring a familiar calm and cool attitude that Boba and Jango possessed.

All in all – an incredibly strong start to Star Wars’ live action series on Disney+. Episode 2 of The Mandalorian will be available on Friday, November 15. ■

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‘Joker’ becomes most profitable comic book movie

Todd Phillips delivers a winner.



© Warner Bros.

After five weeks at the box office here in North America, Joker has gone on to become the most profitable comic book movie of all time.

There is a distinct difference between profitable and highest-grossing, however. The latter still belongs to Disney and Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame, but most profitable now belongs to Todd Phillips’ Joker.

On a budget of $62.5 million, Joker has gone on to make $953 million globally, which means it has made back over 15 times its budget.

The film had initially received skepticism as being an unnecessary story, with people not seeing the value in a Joker origin story. When the first teaser trailer released, it had won over some fans for its darker style and variation from the other DC properties Warner Bros. was producing (Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Shazam! most recently).

Leading up to the film’s release, however, criticism grew over the potential idea that the film would inspire violence, which of course, turned out to be a false claim. If anything, the film inspired people to seek out the iconic staircase from the film and pose in similar fashion to Joker’s dance.

Joker is still playing some theatres, but is currently on its way out and will be preparing for a blu-ray release for either late December/early January. ■

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