Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Films That I Saw: August 2016

The summer is coming to an end and thank goodness because in all honesty, I didn’t think it was very good. Not just because of all of the chaos that is going on around the world as well as all of these deaths as I’m pretty bummed about the passing of Gene Wilder. It’s also for the fact that I found the whole summer blockbuster season to be very underwhelming and I only saw one film in the theaters this summer as I’m just frustrated by the films that I want to see come out and then be gone the next week. Another problem is that a film I want to see is at a theater 20-30 minutes from where I live but I can’t go because my parents always have to go somewhere as it just really sucked. While I did manage to see a lot of films at home, it’s just been frustrating that a lot of good movies are being overshadowed by a lot of bullshit.

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was OK. I thought the opening and closing ceremonies were alright though my favorite thing in the latter was about what the Japanese will do for 2020 in Tokyo as it involved Super Mario. I liked some of the events that happened as it relates to the gymnastics, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and the fact that Honduras made it to the semi-finals in soccer. Yet, I was disgusted by Ryan Lochte did as the guy is a world-class moron who should be punished and be sent to prison for bullshitting everyone. I was also uneasy about the fact that there’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes as I saw Bryant Gumbel’s report on HBO about the International Olympic Committee and what they’re doing as it is corruption of the worst kind. While all of us were all dazzled by a lot of what is happening, there is a downside to all of this as anyone who knows what happened to Greece in 2004 as well as what countries will do to create the perfect event will see what the Olympics are really all about.

In the month of August, I saw a total of 35 films in 24 first-timers and 11 re-watches. Slightly down from last month not surprisingly as there hadn’t been a lot of old films on TV that I’ve already seen. One of the big highlights of the month was my Blind Spot assignment in A Brief History of Time. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for August 2016:

1. Like Someone in Love

2. Breaking Away

3. Touki Bouki

4. Son of Saul

5. Hitchcock/Truffaut

6. Shotgun Stories

7. Youth

8. Trances

9. Straight Outta Compton

10. The Street Fighter

Monthly Mini-Reviews


I’m sure many who follow the NFL are aware of the fact that there’s so many great players who are gone or are fading away considering the dangers of what happen when they play. This is a film that had its right place in its heart and was willing to say something but its execution is rather poorly. Despite the supporting performances of Albert Brooks and Alec Baldwin, the film doesn’t do enough nor was it willing to go all the way to really go into deep about the damage of concussions in football. Another aspect of the film that is troubling is Will Smith’s performance where it’s really him not really selling the drama while putting on a bad accent. It’s also a shame that Gugu Mbatha-Raw is given the thankless role as Smith’s love-interest where she is given very little to do.

Vixens from Venus

I like softcore porn films. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I grew up on softcore porn films though I will admit that a lot of the films of the genre haven’t been very good. This one in particular however is an exception. Three hot alien chicks from Venus arrive on Earth where they’re observed by scientists as there’s a lot of hot sex that goes on. It does have some substance about the fallacy of being overly-intelligent while also exploring the idea that not everything can be explained in a rational way. It’s just good fun with a lot of hot ladies.


The short that won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film is definitely a gem that anyone who loves animation must see. It’s a simple story about a stray dog who is picked by a man and gets involved into the man’s love life while having a lust for food. All of it told in the span of a few minutes where it has so much to say with so little time as it is a real gem from Disney Animation Studios.

Team Thor

With all of the chaos happening in the DC Comics Cinematic Universe, it is clear that Marvel is pretty much winning and having a good time. Plus, they’re not taking themselves so seriously where it is obvious the people involved have an idea of what to do. This recently-released mockumentary short film reveals where was Thor during the events of Captain America: Civil War as it is just down-right hilarious. It’s Chris Hemsworth making Thor be funny while it features a great cameo from Bruce Banner who is just taking it easy.

Top 10 Re-watches:

1. Ratatouille

2. Casino Royale

3. The Red Balloon

4. Spaceballs

5. Straw Dogs

6. Never Say Never Again

7. Bloodsport

8. Fernando Nation

9. June 17th, 1994

10. Double Impact

Well, that is all for August and the summer. In September, I will be watching a lot of films that is in my never-ending DVR list as well as films by the remaining subjects of my Auteurs series. Most notably Alejandro Jodorowsky as he is the next filmmaker I will discuss in my Auteurs series as well as the next film in my Blind Spot Series. In the world of music, I will be attending a concert for the legendary electronic group Kraftwerk in which I will post a review of the show in my music blog. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016


Written and directed by Jessica Edwards, Mavis! is a documentary film about the life of legendary soul/gospel singer Mavis Staples as she embarks on another tour while talking about her life with the Staple Singers that featured her siblings and their father Pops Staples as well as her solo work. The film follows Mavis as she goes through a revival while showcasing footage of her work as a vocalist where she still manages to play to an audience wanting to hear her music. The result is a fascinating and joyful film from Jessica Edwards.

From the late 1950s to the 1970s, the Staple Singers were considered the definitive soundtrack for many in the Civil Rights movement as it consisted vocalist/guitarist Pops Staples and a revolving door of his children who would sing in the group with the exception of its lead vocalist in Mavis Staples. Shot largely from 2012 to 2014, the film follows Mavis Staples as she goes on the road touring and playing shows while also talking about her life in the group as she’s accompanied by her sister Yvonne who sings backup for Mavis in the solo tour while also handling some of the business aspects for Mavis. The film’s narrative moves back and forth into Mavis’ life as a popular soul/gospel singer and going on the road while remaining humble about her status as an icon.

The film also play into the group’s history as well as Mavis’ own solo career which had some moderate success as she was more interested being with the family. Mavis talks about a lot of the music she and her family made as well as being accepted into the world of the folk music scene in the 1960s where they gave their own interpretation of folk songs including the ones written by Bob Dylan who appears in the film through archival footage. Along with interviews from music critic Greg Kot, Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy, country music artist Marty Stuart, Bonnie Raitt, Chuck D of Public Enemy, and people in Mavis’ band, the film play into the world that Mavis lives in as well as the world of gospel music and why the Staple Singers were considered influential.

Jessica Edwards’ direction is straightforward where she manages to balance the film’s back-and-forth narrative while providing some insight into moments where Mavis performs live to an audience whether it’s at a music hall or in a festival. Even as she would capture a rare moment with Levon Helm of the Band during a visit before his death in 2012 where Mavis talks highly about the song she sang with them in The Weight in the 1978 film The Last Waltz. With the aid of cinematographer Keith Walker in shooting the interviews and concerts as well as editor Amy Foote compiling all of the footage of the many appearances of the Staple Singers on TV as well as a rare clip of Mavis working with Prince in the late 1980s. Sound editor Brian Bracken and sound designer Lou Teti do nice work in capturing the sound of the music as well as presenting some of the rare recordings including an album Pops Staples was making before his death in 2000 which was finished by Mavis and Jeff Tweedy.

Mavis! is an extraordinary film from Jessica Edwards that explores the life and career of Mavis Staples. It’s a film that isn’t just fun to watch but also engaging for the way it explores a woman’s life and her love of music where she manages to maintain that sense of spirit in an age where all forms of music are being compromised for the masses. In the end, Mavis! is a marvelous film from Jessica Edwards.

© thevoid99 2016

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Youth (2015 film)

Written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, Youth is the story of two old men who travel to a holiday spa in Switzerland as they reflect on their life as they also cope with aging and their longing to be youthful as they meet other people young and old. The film is a study on the ideas of youth, aging, and the struggle about what to do with the time that is left in one’s life. Starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, and Jane Fonda. Youth is a ravishing yet evocative film from Paolo Sorrentino.

Set in Swiss Alps in a holiday spa, the film follows two men who are vacationing there as they cope with what is ahead as one of them is a famed composer trying to enjoy retirement while his friend is a filmmaker eager to make one more film and get a big-time actress to star in it. During their time, the two discuss things they can and can’t remember as well as the fact that they’re in their final years unsure of when death will arrive. Especially as the two also have children who are married to each other where something unexpected happens as they would also meet various characters in the course of their vacation. Paolo Sorrentino’s screenplay doesn’t just explore the ideas of youth, aging, life, and death but also the struggle for identity and meaning in the world. Even as these two men try to see if they still matter or have already contributed to the world and be forced to realize they have nothing to prove anymore.

The composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and the filmmaker Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) both try to deal with their roles in life as the former copes with the task of performing a concert for Queen Elizabeth II and her husband for the latter’s birthday while the latter is trying to make a film which he believes will be his greatest work. During the course of their stay, they befriend an actor named Jimmy (Paul Dano) who is doing research for a role while Fred is accompanied by his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) who just went through a life-changing event making her stay at the spa much longer. Around the same time, Fred and Mick also encounter many eccentrics during their stay as they also comment on their past as well as their own faults as men where Fred admits to not being a good father to Lena as well as the fact that he wasn’t faithful to his wife where he copes with the fact that he couldn’t do his greatest piece without her.

Sorrentino’s direction is gorgeous for the way he presents this world of tranquility and peace that is like paradise. Shot largely on location in Flims, Switzerland at the Waldhaus Flims hotel with some shots at the Hotel Schatzalp in Davos and additional scenes set in Rome and Venice. Sorrentino creates some unique compositions to play into something that is idyllic in terms of where the elderly would go to relax as well as the fact that it’s a place for those in their prime as well as the young. Sorrentino’s usage of wide shots play into the look as well as some of the intimate moments that involve many of the residents at the spa where they’re shot in groups. The intimacy would also be used in the close-ups and medium shots as Sorrentino knows where to frame the actors or create something that is adds a lot to this air of tranquility and calm as these residents are given the chance to relax but also do some activities and listen to music.

The direction also has moments that are quite surreal as it play into this air of fantasy that some of the characters embark on. These sequences not only are dream-like but also play into some of the fear some of the characters endure but also moments that play into their sense of desire. Even as they are these odd moments that do make sense as well as showcase that feeling of existence where it would be overshadowed by the harshness of reality. Notably in a sequence in the third act which relates to the lives of Fred and Mick as the former is still carrying some form of grief and regret while the latter would face heartbreak of the worst kind. All of which these two men would be forced to carry for the remainder of their lives. Overall, Sorrentino creates an enchanting yet rapturous film about two old friends going on a holiday in the Swiss Alps coping with the remaining moments of their lives.

Cinematographer Luca Bigazzi does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of its natural and colorful look for many of its daytime exteriors the usage of lights and moods for many of the scenes set at night. Editor Cristiano Travaglioli does nice work with the editing as it has some stylish rhythmic cuts to play into the offbeat moments while much of it is straightforward. Production designer Ludovica Ferrario, with set decorator Noel Godfrey and art directors Daniel Newton and Marion Schramm, does amazing work with the look of the rooms the residents live in as well as some of the design of the rooms and places they would go to. Costume designer Carlo Poggioli does excellent work with the different array of clothes of the many residents who are at the spa as well as the look of the actress that Mick wants to work with.

Hair/wig designer Aldo Signoretti and makeup designer Maurizio Silvi do fantastic work with the look of the actress that Mick wants to work with in her diva-esque persona as well as the look for Mick‘s own surreal moment. Visual effects supervisor Andrew Morley does terrific work with some of the visual effects as it play into the elements of surrealism that the characters would encounter or dream about. Sound editor Dario Calvari does superb work with the sound in playing up that sense of tranquility as well as the layer of sounds that Fred would hear in a surrealistic moment. The film’s music by David Lang is wonderful for its mixture of somber folk with elements of orchestral flourishes that play into the serenity of the locations as it would also feature additional contributions by Mark Kozelek who appears in the film as himself in creating some songs that are performed including Fred‘s famed composition that is sung in the final credits by the soprano singer Sumi Jo.

The casting by Shaheen Baig, Laura Rosenthal, and Anna Maria Sambucco is great as it feature some notable small roles from the British pop vocalist Paloma Faith as herself, Ed Stoppard as Lena‘s husband/Mick‘s son, Alex MacQueen as an emissary for Queen Elizabeth II, Ian Keir Attard as the emissary‘s assistant, Madalina Diana Ghena as Miss Universe, and Roly Serrano as an overweight and ailing version of the famed futbol icon Diego Maradona. In the roles of the screenwriters who work with Mick on his story, there’s Tom Lipinski, Chloe Pirrie, Alex Beckett, Nate Dern, and Mark Gessner as these different writers who provide Mick different ideas as well as try to come up with the ending as they‘re all fun to watch. Luna Mijovic is wonderful as a young masseuse that Fred befriends while Robert Seethaler is superb as a mountain climbing instruction that Lena takes interest in. In a small but crucial role as the diva-esque actress Brenda Morel, Jane Fonda is incredible as this longtime collaborator of Mick who makes this appearance as she represents some of the harshness of reality that Mick faces where she just owns that scene.

Paul Dano is excellent as Jimmy Tree as a young actor who befriends Fred and Mick where he shares their frustration with their work as he’s famously known for playing a robot where he hopes to find a role that could give him more. Rachel Weisz is amazing as Lena as Fred’s daughter who is also his assistant as she makes an unexpected return to the retreat where she copes with some of the bitter aspects of her relationship with her father. Harvey Keitel is phenomenal as Mick Boyle as a filmmaker eager to try and create one final film that would define his legacy while dealing with aspects of his life along with his friendship with Fred. Finally, there’s Michael Caine in a remarkable performance as Fred Ballinger as this music composer trying to retire as he is dealing with the demands of his former career in doing a concert for Queen Elizabeth II and write a memoir while dealing with his own faults as a man, a father, and as a husband where he also recalls things he can and can’t remember.

Youth is a spectacular film from Paolo Sorrentino that features brilliant performances from Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, and Jane Fonda. Along with memorable performances from the rest of its ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, strong themes on life and death, and superb music. It’s a film that explores many of the ideas about getting old as well as the idea of capturing some element of youth in an old age. In the end, Youth is a tremendous film from Paolo Sorrentino.

Paolo Sorrentino Films: (One Man Up) - (The Consequences of Love) - (The Family Friend) - (Il Divo) - (This Must Be the Place) - (The Great Beauty)

© thevoid99 2016

Friday, August 26, 2016

Son of Saul

Directed by Laszlo Nemes and written by Nemes and Clara Royer, Saul fia (Son of Saul) is the story about the thirty-six hours in the life of a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando unit who works at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. The film is a study of a man who is tasked to do a lot of the clean-up as he copes with finding the body of a young boy where he goes on a search for a rabbi to give the boy a proper burial. Starring Geza Rohrig, Levente Molnar, and Urs Rechin. Saul fia is a gripping and intense film from Laszlo Nemes.

Set in 1944 at the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, the film is about the life of a Jewish-Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando unit who finds the body of a boy at a gas chamber as he decides to give him a proper burial. It’s a film told in the span of thirty-six hours where this man is tasked to do a lot of clean-up work and make sure the gas chamber is clean for the next group of people killed. When he finds that a young boy has survived being in the gas chamber and later die in the infirmary, he is consumed with grief as he tries to do what is right. Yet, the journey to find a rabbi as well as maintain his job becomes a risky one as Saul Auslander (Geza Rohrig) is trying to keep himself in check and not get killed. The film’s screenplay doesn’t really have much of a structure as it is more about Saul trying to do whatever he can in his journey to do what is right as he has to contend with other members of the Sonderkommando as well as the Germans running the camp.

Laszlo Nemes’ direction is very entrancing for the fact that it is shot largely inside the camps as there aren’t a lot of exterior shots in the film as it’s shot on location in the small town of Budafok near Budapest, Hungary. Shot in the Academy aspect ratio of 1:37:1, the film has this presentation that is very narrow and claustrophobic as it play into the sense of realism that occurs inside the camps as well as a look into the gas chambers and where these men had to sleep at. That sense of intimacy in the direction as well as not using a lot of wide shots play into a world that is quite dangerous and everything has to be up and running. The usage of the medium shots and close-ups add to that claustrophobic tone while much of the film is shot with hand-held cameras to play into that urgency and immediacy inside the camp including the ovens.

Nemes also goes for these long and intricate tracking shots as it play into a lot of what goes on where Nemes knows when not to cut for dramatic effect while just letting these scenes play out. Even towards its third act where Saul does whatever to find a rabbi as it include this intense sequence of him going into the woods where Jews are being executed. The film’s climax doesn’t just involve Saul’s chance but also a realization of what is happening as it play into the danger that is the life of a Jew inside this concentration camp. Overall, Nemes crafts a very visceral and riveting film about a man trying to bury a boy at Auschwitz.

Cinematographer Matyas Erdely does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography as it has this air of realism in its look while using some light for much of the interiors while emphasizing on natural lighting for the exterior scenes in the film. Editor Matthieu Taponier does nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward as it doesn‘t play into any kind of stylish rhythms while using cut-to-black for the opening sequence. Production designer Laszlo Rajk, with art director Hedvig Kiraly and set decorators Dorka Kiss and Judit Varga, does amazing work with the look of the infirmary, ovens, and gas chambers of what play into this intense world of the concentration camp.

Costume designer Edit Szucs does terrific work with the costumes as it has this sense of de-colorization as well as not going for any style other than the uniforms of the Nazis. Sound designer Tamas Zanyi and sound editor Tamas Szekely do excellent work with the sound in playing up the atmosphere of the camps in and outside as well the sounds of the gas chambers and the people screaming from the inside heard by those outside of the chambers. The film’s music by Laszlo Melis is wonderful as it is mainly played during the final credits as it’s really just somber string music that play into the tragic events that occur in the film.

The casting by Eva Zabezsinszkij is superb as it feature some notable small roles from Juli Jakab as prisoner named Ella who would give Saul a package used to buy things, Todd Charmont as a French rabbi Saul would find late in the film, Kamil Dobrowolski as a section captain, Jerzy Walczak as a rabbi who refuses to help, Uwe Lauer as a commandant, and Christian Harting as another commandant who watches over the men dig ashes into the river. Sandor Zsoter is excellent as Dr. Miklos Nyiszli as the camp doctor who helps Saul hide the boy’s body as well as try to do whatever he can to keep it a secret from the Nazis.

Urs Rechn is brilliant as section captain who tries to maintain some order while secretly trying to plan a revolt against the camp. Levente Molnar is fantastic as Abraham as a Sonderkommando worker who also tries to stage a revolt as well as maintain a low profile. Finally, there’s Geza Rohrig in an incredible performance as Saul Auslander as this Sonderkommando member who finds a boy in the gas chamber as he tries to do what is right while coping with the danger of his personal task along with the presence of the Nazi.

Saul fia is a phenomenal film from Laszlo Nemes. Featuring a great cast, a discerning tone, an eerie soundtrack, and intoxicating visuals. It’s a film that doesn’t just showcase some of the darkest aspects of the Holocaust but what a man tries to do to try and do something good in a very dark world. In the end, Saul fia is a tremendous film from Laszlo Nemes.

© thevoid99 2016

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Based on the book by Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock/Truffaut is a documentary film about the interview with filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock by Truffaut where the two talked about Hitchcock’s own films during this eight-day interview that Truffaut would make into a book. Directed by Kent Jones and screenplay by Jones and Serge Toubiana, the film is about the meeting that took place that offices of Universal Studios in 1962 where several contemporary filmmakers talk about that meeting and what it meant for the world of cinema. The result is a mesmerizing film from Kent Jones.

In 1962, French filmmaker Francois Truffaut went to Hollywood with a translator to meet the famed British filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock following a series of corresponding letters where Truffaut praised the works of Hitchcock. The meeting that took eight days in the offices of Universal Studios where Truffaut would talk to Hitchcock about all of his films that would later become a book about Hitchcock and his work as a filmmaker. The film isn’t just about the meeting between the two filmmakers but also the book itself as it would be seen as something very influential to other filmmakers who would view cinema as a serious form of art and present Hitchcock as one of the great artists of the 20th Century.

The documentary would inter-cut not just footage from the many films of Hitchcock with some by Truffaut but also pictures of the meeting and interviews of filmmakers who were influenced by the book. From old-school masters such as Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, and Peter Bogdanovich to contemporary filmmakers like David Fincher, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, Arnaud Desplachin, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the filmmakers talk about the importance of Truffaut and several other French New Wave filmmakers who didn’t just cite Hitchcock as an influence but also talk about the depth of his work as a filmmaker as they felt audiences didn’t take his craft very seriously and only saw them as just suspenseful entertainment.

The film also features many audio tidbits of the meeting between Hitchcock and Truffaut as well as stories of a friendship that built where the two gave advice to each other about what to do with their respective films. Kent Jones also play into the different periods of Hitchcock’s career and how his work in silent films would do a lot for the films he would make in the emergence of sound. With the aid of editor Rachel Reichman in assembling some of the film footage and some rare footage of Hitchcock working on a film set. Kent showcases the artistry of what Hitchcock was doing with the filmmakers commenting on some of the things he was doing as well as provide discussions on some of his great films like Psycho and Vertigo.

With the aid of cinematographers Nick Bentgen, Daniel Cowen, Eric Gautier, Mihai Malaimare Jr., Lisa Rinzler, and Genta Tamaki as well as a team of sound mixers, many of the interviews are straightforward as it allows the filmmakers to showcase not just their love for Hitchcock and Truffaut but also delve into their reason into Hitchcock’s stature as a prominent artist. The American release features narration by Bob Balaban to discuss many of the aspects of the meeting between Hitchcock and Truffaut while the French release is narrated by Mathieu Almaric. The film’s music by Jeremiah Bornfield is superb for its mixture of orchestral music that play into the events of the meetings while music of the music soundtrack comes from the various films by Hitchcock and Truffaut.

Hitchcock/Truffaut is a remarkable film from Kent Jones. Not only is this a film that fans of cinema would want to see but it also displays something for casual audiences about the power of cinema and how a filmmaker wants to celebrate the work of another by showing the world of that man’s brilliance. In the end, Hitchcock/Truffaut is an incredible film from Kent Jones.

© thevoid99 2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: A Brief History of Time

Based on the book by Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time is a film about the life of Stephen Hawking and his views on the universe. Directed by Errol Morris, the film is a documentary on the man with interviews with Hawkings as well as various family members and colleagues. All of which told in a very stylistic manner in a mixture of straightforward interviews, archival photos, and recreated dramatic images to support Hawking’s theories on time and space. The result is a compelling and riveting film about the life and mind of Stephen Hawking.

The film is a documentary on the life of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking as well as his views on the subject of cosmology as he reveals many theories on the universe and the idea about time. Told through interviews as well as archival footage and some dramatic creations based on Hawking’s theories, the film also explores many of the ideas about how the universe was created and the idea about whether or not there is a God. While the film moves back and forth into aspects about Hawking’s life told by his mother Isobel and sister Mary as well as various friend and colleagues. It also features footage of Hawking talking through a voice synthesizer about himself and views on the world as it relates to his increasing study on the universe.

Errol Morris’ direction is quite straightforward when it comes to the interviews as they’re shot largely in medium shots with a few stylish angles and close-ups as it relates to the way Morris presents Hawking. The scenes where Morris creates these visual tricks using diagrams and drawings based on Hawking’s theories do have some unique visual tricks as well as the way he presents simple objects to support his theories. With the aid of cinematographer John Bailey with additional work from Stefan Czapsky, the interviews and the dramatic recreations definitely have a unique look that is also aided by production designer Ted Bafaloukos and art director David Lee in creating sets for the interviews as well as a scene of a teacup falling into the floor.

With contributions from editor Brad Fuller along with sound editors Eliza Paley and Ira Spiegel, Morris‘ usage of stock footage as well as film footage from the sci-fi film The Black Hole is intriguing as it play into the mystique of the black hole with Paley and Spiegel providing a few sound effects in those dramatic recreation sequences. The film’s music by Philip Glass is amazing for its eerie yet soothing electronic score that play into that sense of drama but also with moments that are low-key as it play into the pieces that relates to Hawking’s family life.

The 2014 Region 1/Region A dual DVD/Blu-Ray release presents the film in a newly remastered 4k digital transfer supervised by Errol Morris and cinematographer John Bailey. Presented in the 1:85:1 aspect ratio with 5.1 Surround Sound with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack for the Blu-Ray. The special features include a 34-minute interview with Errol Morris who talks about the film as well as working with Stephen Hawking. Morris also talks about his approach as well as being someone who didn’t follow the rules of conventional filmmaking as it relates to the documentary. Along with tidbits on its visual presentation, Morris also talked about his time with Hawking around the time the film was made which occurred during a crucial period in Hawking’s own personal life as he was going through a separation with his first wife Jane Wilde as Morris revealed he was unsuccessful in getting Wilde to be in the film because of his poor cello playing.

The 12-minute interview with cinematographer John Bailey has the cinematographer talking about his collaboration with Morris on the film as well as his approach to lighting. Especially as he reveals how different it was in terms of shooting something for a dramatic feature and what Morris wants to say visually. Bailey also talks about some paintings that inspired him for some of the lighting in the interviews while revealed that he and Morris had to work with Hawking for a few days in shooting him for his own scenes as it’s a very fascinating piece about what a cinematographer’s role in the documentary. The dual-disc release features two additional texts that doesn’t appear in the DVD as it includes a chapter from Hawking’s 2013 memoir and an excerpt from the titular book the film was named after.

The third piece of text that appears in the dual-disc release and solely on the DVD release is an essay by film/book critic David Sterritt entitled Macrobiography. Sterritt’s essay talks about Hawking’s status as an unlikely celebrity as well as the fact that his work is seen as this guide to the ideas of the universe. On the film, Sterritt talks about how accessible the film is on a subject matter this is often very complex to the average person as well as Morris’ visual treatment of Hawking and his theories. The essay also talks about how the film relates to a lot of the work of Morris as a filmmaker as it all play into this fascination with humanity while often trying to find ways to reinvent the idea of nonfiction filmmaking as it’s a wonderful read to a great film.

A Brief History of Time is a phenomenal film from Errol Morris. Featuring dazzling visuals, a hypnotic score by Philip Glass, and fascinating interviews with colleagues and family who know Stephen Hawking as well as tidbits from the man himself. It’s a film that doesn’t just defy the idea of what a documentary is but also creates a portrait to one of the most riveting human beings on the face of the Earth. In the end, A Brief History of Time is an incredible film from Errol Morris.

Related: The Theory of Everything

Errol Morris Films: (Gates of Heaven) - (Vernon, Florida) - The Thin Blue Line - (The Dark Wind) - Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control - (Mr. Death) - (The Fog of War) - (Standard Operating Procedure) - Tabloid (2010 film) - (The Unknown Known)

© thevoid99 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Return of the Street Fighter

Directed by Shigehiro Ozawa and written by Hajime Koiwa with English dialogue by Steve Autry, Return of the Street Fighter is the sequel to the 1974 film The Street Fighter in which Takuma “Terry” Tsurugi goes on a war against the Yakuza for stealing money from charities. The film has Tsurugi trying to be the hero despite his anti-hero persona as he is once again played by Sonny Chiba. Also starring Yoko Ichiji and Masashi “Milton” Ishibashi. Return of the Street Fighter is a wild and stylish film from Shigehiro Ozawa.

The film is the story of this mercenary in Takuma “Terry” Tsurugi who continues to do work for money where he finds himself targeted by the Yakuza after refusing to kill a master who is suspicious of the organization taking money away from charities. It’s a film with a simple plot as it play into this man who is once again set up after refusing to kill someone he actually admires as well as the fact that he is also on the run from the police for killing two men he was hired to kill. Even as it plays into the world of corruption where a Yakuza boss is trying to embezzle money for a martial arts institute in Tokyo for Asia which was really a front for his organization. When the karate master Kendo Masaoka (Masafumi Suzuki) discovers his name being forged, he starts to question things and nearly gets killed prompting Tsurugi to do what is right as he would also go against an old foe.

Shigehiro Ozawa’s direction is quite simple while it is also very stylized in his compositions and the way he presents the action sequences. Shot largely in Tokyo, Ozawa’s direction has this immediacy in the opening sequence as it relates to the job that Tsurugi is being asked as it play into that sense of frenetic action and chaos. Even as it isn’t afraid to play into its low-budget aesthetics where there are moments where the violence is silly and fake blood is shown. Even at one point, there’s a moment that is quite graphic but also ridiculous where Ozawa isn’t afraid to display that humor. Ozawa would use footage from the previous film as flashbacks to establish some of the back story and characters from the previous films. All of which play into the motivation for Tsurugi to go out there and kick ass in a climax that is just over-the-top but also filled with thrills. Overall, Ozawa creates an exhilarating and crazy film about a mercenary taking names and kicking some fuckin’ ass.

Cinematographer Sadaji Yoshida does excellent work with the film‘s grainy cinematography from the usage of black-and-white for the flashbacks as well creating some lighting and moods for some of the fight scenes including its climax. Editor Kozo Horiike does nice work with the editing with its usage of a few fast-cuts as well as other rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and action. Art director Norimichi Igawa does fantastic work with the look of the home base of the Yakuza boss as well as the dojo run by Masaoka. The film’s music by Toshiaki Tsushima is wonderful for its mixture of orchestral music and rock as it play into the air of excitement into the fights as well as in some of the moments of suspense.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Claude Gagnon as a mysterious mute man, Hiroshi Tanaka as a Yakuza boss in Otaguro, Naoki Shima as a police investigator named Yamagami trying to help Masaoka, and Masahashi “Milton” Ishibashi as an old foe of Tsurugi in Junjo. Masafumi Suzuki is superb as the karate master Masaoka whom Tsurugi has great respect for as he refuses to kill him for Otaguro and the Mafia. Yoko Ichiji is alright as Kitty as a young woman who aids Tsurugi as she is really a double working for the Mafia where she eventually falls for Tsurugi despite her nerdy appearance. Finally, there’s Sonny Chiba in a remarkable performance as Takuma “Terry” Tsurugi as this mercenary who isn’t afraid to kill or beat anyone up who threatens him as Chiba just maintains that sense that restraint when he isn’t fighting and then just go full-on badass in taking names and kicking some ass.

Return of the Street Fighter is a phenomenal film from Shigehiro Ozawa that features an incredible performance from Sonny Chiba. While it is a film that more of the same in comparison to its predecessor. It is still a film that is a lot of fun while not being afraid of being ridiculous not matter how silly some of the violence is. In the end, Return of the Street Fighter is a sensational film from Shigehiro Ozawa.

Related: The Street Fighter - (The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge)

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