Sunday, March 09, 2014
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki from his manga, Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) is a fictionalized bio-pic about the life of Jiro Horikoshi as he was the man that designed the Mitsubishi A5M and its successor A6M Zero that played a key part in World War II. The film is a more dream-like portrait about Horikoshi’s life with some dramatic embellishments while not deviating too much from the real-life story. For the American-dubbed version of the film that is supervised by Gary Rydstrom, the voice cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, William H. Macy, Elijah Wood, Stanley Tucci, Mae Whitman, Mandy Patinkin, Jennifer Grey, and Werner Herzog. Kaze Tachinu is a mesmerizing film from Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki.
The film is fictionalized bio-pic about the life of Jiro Horikoshi that is presented in a dream-like fashion where it goes from Horikoshi as a young boy to becoming the man who would design the Mitsubishi A5M and its successor the A6M Zero that would become the key planes used in World War II. With a mixture of reality and a dream-like world, the film plays into Horikoshi’s desire to create the ultimate airplane that can endure wind resistance and not be intimidated by the advanced technology of other countries. Even as Horikishi (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) seeks the advice of the famed Italian plane designer Giovanni Battista Caproni (Stanley Tucci) in his dreams. Through Hayao Miyazaki’s screenplay, the film does have a conventional narrative in terms of structure that plays to Horikoshi’s life but he infuses with bits of surrealism and dreamy textures to make it much more interesting.
Notably as the film plays into key events that would mark Horikoshi’s development from his encounter at the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake as well as his trip to Germany to see how the Germans created their airplanes. These moments would drive Horikoshi to see if he can create a war plane for Japan that would define them as they endure the Great Depression and such. While there would be some failures along the way, Hirokoshi would eventually find more inspiration when he re-meets Naoko (Emily Blunt) whom he had met years ago during a train ride with her sister where they encountered the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. His relationship with Naoko would prove to be a major catalyst to Horikoshi’s development as a man and as an engineer where he would try to balance both roles and later deal with his what he’s achieved.
Miyazaki’s direction is definitely dazzling in the way he creates Japan in the early half of the 20th Century as it’s a world that is trying to catch up with the modern world. Especially as he infuses bits of surrealism into the dream sequences that Horikoshi would have as it features some vast scenes of planes flying around and all sorts of things. Notably in the designs of the planes and how imaginative they look as it plays to what Horikoshi would want to create. The look of Japan from its different backgrounds of mountains, forests, and cities are presented with such great detail as there’s aspects in the background that are just as mesmerizing to look at. Even in the design of the characters which have all of the quintessential elements that is expected in Miyazaki’s work as an animator.
With the aid of cinematographer Atsushi Okui to help in the lighting where much of the animation is in 2-D hand drawn animated style with some computer-based animation for some of the backgrounds. Miyazaki creates something that is truly rich in scope but also infuse it with such artistry in the way the planes are flown as well as the way nature is presented as if it has the feel of a live-action film. Even in some of the compositions and camera work where it has a sense of action but also some drama and humor that just adds to the beauty of the film. Overall, Miyazki creates a truly evocative and sensational film about a dreamer who would create one of the greatest designs for a plane despite the fact that it’s being used as an instrument of war
Editor Takeshi Seyama does amazing work with the film‘s editing in its approach to rhythm for some of its action scenes as well as the dream sequences as it features lots of jump-cuts and disjointed rhythmic cuts to play into that sense of surrealism. Sound designer Koji Kasamatsu and sound editor Gwendolyn Yates Whittle (for its English version) do fantastic work with the sound in creating some of the sound effects used in the film with Whittle providing some low sound textures for some of the English dialogue as background textures. The film’s music by Joe Hisaishi is brilliant for its mixture of lush orchestral pieces with some playful and offbeat music driven by accordions and string instruments.
For the film’s English-language version, the cast includes some contributions from Elijah Wood as a co-worker of Horikoshi, Jennifer Grey as Mrs. Kurokawa, Darren Criss as another worker in Katayama, Mandy Patinkin as one of Horikoshi’s top bosses, Mae Whitman as Horikoshi’s sister Kayo, Zach Callison as the young Horikoshi, William H. Macy as Naoko’s father, Edie Merman as Horikoshi’s mother, and Werner Herzog in a superb voice performance as a German tourist Horikoshi meets in a retreat in the famed Magic Mountains in Japan. Martin Short is very funny as the comical boss Mr. Kurokawa who provides some humor as well as some guidance for Horikoshi while Stanley Tucci is brilliant as the famed Italian plane designer Giovanni Battista Caproni as Tucci sports an Italian accent as he displays warmth and humor into the role of the man who would guide Horikoshi.
John Krasinski is excellent as the voice of Horikoshi’s close colleague Kiro Honjo who aids Horikoshi in some of the designs as he would create his own planes that would also revolutionize planes in Japan. Emily Blunt is wonderful as Naoko as this woman who Horikoshi would meet early on as a young girl and later as a woman who would provide an inspiration and drive for Horikoshi after some of the failures he had to deal with. Finally, there’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt doing fantastic voice work as Jiro Horikoshi as this young man who dreams of designing an airplane that would define Japan in all of its glory though he is aware of what they’re being used for as he hopes they can provide some meaning into his life.
Kaze Tachinu is a remarkable film from Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. It’s a film that is filled with rich images and a captivating story that manages to be wondrous as well as somber for what Jiro Horikoshi wanted to make. While it has some dark elements, it is balanced by the themes of being a dreamer which makes the story far more engaging. If this film is to become Miyazaki’s final contribution to cinema, he at least goes out with a winner. In the end, Kaze Tachinu is a phenomenal film from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.
Hayao Miyazaki Films: (The Castle of Cagliostro) - (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) - (Castle in the Sky) - (My Neighbor Totoro) - (Kiki’s Delivery Service) - (Porco Rosso) - (Princess Mononoke) - (Spirited Away) - (Howl’s Moving Castle) - (Ponyo)
© thevoid99 2014
Saturday, March 08, 2014
Directed by Rob Reiner and written by William Goldman from his own novel, The Princess Bride is the story about a young woman who is devastated by the loss of a stable boy she fell in love with as she is set to marry a prince only to be kidnapped and later meets a mysterious pirate. While the main narrative is set in medieval times in a fictional country called Florin, the film is largely told in present time as it’s a story read by a man to his flu-ridden grandson. Starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Fred Savage, and Peter Falk as the grandfather. The Princess Bride is a remarkable film from Rob Reiner.
The film is a genre-bender where it has adventure, comedy, drama, and romance which revolves around a soon-to-be princess and the stable boy she loved who was later supposedly killed by a notorious pirate. Upon being kidnapped by criminals who are hired to start a war for the prince she’s to marry, she later encounters the notorious pirate who supposedly had killed her true love. It’s a film that has a simple and unique premise but with characters that subvert the idea of caricatures as many of them aren’t exactly what they seem they are. All of which is told by a man reading a book to his grandson (Fred Savage) who is bed-ridden with an illness.
What makes the story so unique is the way William Goldman creates a script with characters and dialogue that doesn’t play into the conventions of a typical romantic-adventure. Especially as the protagonists in Buttercup (Robin Wright) and Westley (Cary Elwes) are atypical of what is expected in the roles of a damsel-in-distress/love interest and hero, respectively. What Westley and Buttercup have is true love that is shattered when Westley seeks to find fortune on a ship only to have that ship attacked by the infamous pirate known as the Dread Pirate Roberts. For Buttercup, Westley’s supposed death was the end for her as she reluctantly gets engaged to Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) who only wants her for his royal stature and later use her as a pawn to start a war with a rivaling country with the help of a trio of criminals.
The trio themselves deviate from what is expected in an adventure story as the master swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) is a kind man who is seeking for a six-fingered man who killed his father many years ago. The other two is a gentle and strong giant named Fezzik (Andre the Giant) with a gift for rhyming and a Sicilian mastermind named Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) who is a cruel taskmaster that constantly insults Inigo and Fezzik. Add the presence of Prince Humperdinck and his second-in-command Count Rugen (Christopher Guest), they become the kind of forces that Westley and Buttercup have to deal with as the grandfather tells his grandson this unique story where the grandson deals with the constant details about kissing as well as what he might thinks happen in the story. Instead, Goldman’s script has this sense of language and narrative that is very engaging but also that is very funny. Even in some of the dialogue that is playful and also very witty over the situations that occur.
Rob Reiner’s direction is very simple and understated at times but also full of whimsy that adds to the unconventional presentation of the story. Much of the film is shot in locations in Britain and Ireland in the countryside and castles where Reiner uses a lot of wide shots to play into the beauty of those locations along with some amazing shots of Westley and Buttercup kissing against the sunlight. There’s also some great use of medium shots and close-ups to play into the sense of drama and humor in the film as Reiner. Especially in the latter where it is very offbeat in the presentation that includes an albino (Mel Smith) who doesn’t play to the conventions of an assistant torturer and a clergyman (Peter Cook) who can’t pronounce “R”s and “L”s.
The sense of adventure includes an amazing sword duel between the mysterious Dread Pirate Roberts and Inigo where there’s an air of respect in the duel between the two which is different between the eventual duel that Inigo would have with the man who killed his father. There’s also moments of suspense such as the duel between Vizzini and Roberts where it’s a battle of wits. Much of the compositions that Reiner creates for these scenes and in the scenes between the grandfather and grandson are quite simple as he is going more for performances rather than gimmicks and such. Overall, Reiner crafts a very sensational and lively film about true love, sword fighting, and thrills told from a grandfather to his grandson.
Cinematographer Adrian Biddle does excellent work with the film‘s gorgeous look for many of its daytime exterior scenes to display a natural look while using some lighting schemes for some of the interior scenes. Editor Robert Leighton does superb work with the editing where it is straightforward while using some rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s action and suspenseful moments. Production designer Norman Garwood, with set decorator Maggie Gray and supervising art director Keith Pain, does brilliant work with the set pieces from the look of the castle interiors as well as the look of the Cliffs of Insanity.
Costume designer Phyllis Dalton does wonderful work with the costumes from the dresses that Buttercup wears as well as the clothes of Count Rugen and Prince Humperdinck. Makeup designer Peter Montagna does great work with the look of a couple of characters Fezzik and Inigo meets to help aid them for the climax. Sound editor Lon Bender does terrific work with the sound in some of the film‘s sound effects as well as some of the tone of the locations. The film’s music by Mark Knopfler is fantastic for its enchanting and touching score that features a lot of plaintive guitars and a mixture of playful orchestral music with old-school folk music while the song Storybook Love is a lovely song co-written by Knopfler and its singer Willy DeVille.
The casting by Janet Hirsheson and Jane Jenkins is incredible as it features some notable small role from Betsy Brantley as the boy’s mother, Willoughby Gray and Anne Dyson as the king and queen of Florin, Margery Mason as an ancient booer, Mel Smith as the quirky albino, Peter Cook in a hilarious performance as the clergyman, Billy Crystal as the miracle man Miracle Max, Carol Kane as Max’s wife Valerie, Fred Savage in a terrific performance as the grandson, and Peter Falk in a brilliant performance as the grandfather reading the story. Christopher Guest is excellent as the very dark yet calm Count Rugen who is proven to be a master of torturer with a machine that sucks life out of a person. Chris Sarandon is superb as Prince Humperdinck as this cowardice prince who tries to create plans to start a war against a rival country while not being able to fool Buttercup. Wallace Shawn is amazing as the very cunning and intelligent Vizzini who masterminds the kidnapping as he constantly says “inconceivable” whenever some things he planned don’t work.
Andre the Giant is fantastic as the gentle giant Fezzik as he has some of the best lines while proving that he’s a giant with a nice heart. Mandy Patinkin is brilliant as Inigo Montoya as a master swordsman who is trying to find the man that killed his father many years ago while being a key player into storming the castle in the film’s climax. In her film debut, Robin Wright is great as Buttercup as this young woman who reluctantly becomes engaged to a cruel prince as she deals with lost love as she proves to be someone that defies the convention of a princess. Finally, there’s Cary Elwes in a marvelous performance as Westley as this man of such kindness and generosity who truly loves Buttercup while also being a man of great skill as well as bringing in some witty banter.
The Princess Bride is a phenomenal film from Rob Reiner. Thanks to a top-notch ensemble cast, William Goldman’s witty screenplay, and Mark Knopfler’s lush score. It’s a film that has something for everyone and more. Especially as it bends genres and make it something of its own. In the end, The Princess Bride is an outstanding film from Rob Reiner.
Rob Reiner Films: This is Spinal Tap - (The Sure Thing) - (Stand By Me) - (When Harry Met Sally) - (Misery) - (A Few Good Men) - North - (The American President) - (Ghosts of Mississippi) - (The Story of Us) - (Alex & Emma) - (Rumor Has It…) - (The Bucket List) - (Flipped) - (The Magic of Belle Isle)
© thevoid99 2014
Friday, March 07, 2014
Based on the novel by Henri-Pierre Roche, Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent (Two English Girls) is the story of a love-triangle between a Frenchman and two English sisters in the course of twenty-years during the early 20th Century. Directed by Francois Truffaut and screenplay by Truffaut and Jean Grualt, the film is a very complex love story that explores a man and his relationship with two sisters. Starring Jean-Pierre Leaud, Kika Markham, Stacey Tendeter, and Sylvia Marriott. Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent is a ravishing and evocative film from Francois Truffaut.
The film is a simple love-triangle story involving a young Frenchman and two English sisters during the early 20th Century as it would be a relationship filled with anguish, confusion, and longing. Yet, there is a love that is undeniable as it is largely told by the trio as they would correspond through letters and all sorts of things as they ponder if they really love each other. Much of it is told from the perspective of Claude Roc (Jean-Pierre Leaud) who meets one of the sisters early on in Ann Brown (Kika Markham) during her trip to France. Smitten by her, he travels to her home in Wales where he meets her mother (Sylvia Marriott) and Ann’s younger sister Muriel (Stacey Tendeter). Claude not only falls for Muriel but he is also in love with Ann where his feelings for the two sisters would shift from one to the other in the course of 20 years. Especially as he would have a hard time juggling both of them while the sisters themselves try to Claude to fall for the other.
The film’s screenplay would feature Truffaut as an unseen narrator filling bits of exposition as well as unheard conversations and such to help move the story forward. Especially as Truffaut would incorporate voice-overs from the three principle characters to play into their anguish over this love triangle where Claude is in love with two sisters who are both similar in some respects but also very different. Ann is a very refined person who is very kind and not confrontational at times. Muriel is a more aggressive and moody young woman who suffers from blindness at times. The different personalities are probably reasons for Claude’s aloof attraction to both women where he would shift back and forth between the two for several years. Much of the film’s first half is set in Wales which plays to the innocence of the relationship.
Then a year-long separation between Claude and Muriel occur based on the suggestion of their respective mothers which would create problems where Claude finds himself in London not sure if he would see her. This would prompt Ann to see if Claude had been with other women only to for the two to have an affair of their own where there is a major conflict over whether to tell Muriel what is really happening or continue with this affair. Things would get more complicated as the often-demure Ann would start venturing into her own to find herself which would prompt to re-start his long-distance relationship with Muriel as this back-and-forth would happen for 20 years.
Truffaut’s direction is truly exquisite in not just the way he presents this love triangle set in the early 20th Century but also in the sense of restraint that it’s told. Notably as much of the film’s first half would be set in a French peninsula as Wales where it is a world that is free and natural. Truffaut would use a lot of wide shots but also some slow and gazing pans to display the beauty and the innocence of this love-triangle. The usage of close-ups would also have a feel that is entrancing where the actors talking at the camera to play into what they’re feeling and how the reader is seeing that person recite these letters. The film is also shot in other parts of France to play into the sense of the times as it also helps further the development of the characters.
The use of the closing iris and other stylistic shots do add a sense of energy to the film where it has an unconventional sense of pacing. Yet, it manages to help make the film not as long as it should be where Truffaut takes his time to not only develop the love triangle but also carefully develop Claude going from one sister to another through a series of small events. Even as the film’s third act would have Claude make some moves of his own to see what he can do to not just ensure his own happiness but the happiness of the sisters. Yet, it would be followed by things that would not only play into the sense of long he would have for those sisters but also the idea that the past can never be replicated. Overall, Truffaut creates a very sensitive yet rapturous film about a Frenchman who falls for two English sisters.
The cinematography of Nestor Almendros is truly a highlight of the film as his approach to interior and exterior lighting adds a sense of beauty to every image of the film while emphasizing on something that is very natural as opposed to going for filters and other stylistic shots. Almendros‘ work is just ravishing in every frame that he puts in along with the shots of the French peninsula location and the river home where Claude and Ann would have their affair. Editors Yann Dedet and Martine Barreque do excellent work with the editing where its usage of jump-cuts, dissolves, and fade-outs would have this air of style while playing to the film‘s unique approach to pacing. Production designer Michel de Broin does amazing work with the look of the country home the Brown sisters live in as well as the places that Claude lived and worked at along with the art studios he goes to.
Costume designer Gitt Magrini does wonderful work with the costumes from the clothes that Claude wears to the stylish dresses that the women wear that is completed by the lavish hair styles of the time that is created by Simone Knapp. The sound work of Rene Levert is terrific for the calmness of some of the locations as well as playing to the sounds of nature and parts of the cities that the characters encounter. The film’s music by Georges Delerue is just astounding for its lush and enchanting orchestral score that features some somber yet brooding string pieces to some majestic cuts to play into the sense of romance and longing as it’s one of Delerue’s best scores.
The film’s brilliant cast features some appearances from composer Georges Delerue as Claude’s business agent, Irene Tuc as an artist Claude meets, Mark Petersen as the Browns’ neighbor Mr. Flint, and David Markham as a palm reader the sisters meet later in the film. Other notable small roles include Sylvia Marriott as Ann and Muriel’s mother who is concerned about the way the love triangle is happening as well as Marie Mansart as Claude’s mother who also has her suspicions about the relationship. Philippe Leonard is terrific as an art publisher named Diurka whom Ann would fall for as he would later become a friend to Claude.
Stacey Tendeter is fantastic as the very moody and anguished Muriel as the younger of the two sisters who is stricken by blindness as she rarely goes anywhere as she tries to deal with Claude being away as well as her own sins. Kika Markham is amazing as Ann as this more prim and sophisticated woman who later finds herself as an artist as she tries to deal with her newfound sense of adventure while wanting to maintain her love for Claude. Finally, there’s Jean-Pierre Leaud in a remarkable performance as Claude as this young man who finds himself torn between two women whom he loves while being aloof over his situation. The three performances together are just fun to watch in not only for their love for each other but also for the fact that it’s a relationship that was very unconventional for its time.
Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent is a magnificent film from Francois Truffaut that features outstanding performances from Jean-Pierre Leaud, Kika Markham, and Stacey Tendeter. Armed with a sensational story, exquisite detail to the period, Georges Delerue’s rapturous score, and the enchanting cinematography of Nestor Almendros. The film is truly one of Truffaut’s finest films in the way it explores love and all of its complexities. In the end, Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent is a spectacular film from Francois Truffaut.
Francois Truffaut Films: The 400 Blows - Shoot the Piano Player - Jules & Jim - Antoine & Colette - The Soft Skin - (Fahrenheit 451) - The Bride Wore Black - Stolen Kisses - Mississippi Mermaid - The Wild Child - Bed and Board - (Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me) - (Day for Night) - (The Story of Adele H.) - (Small Change) - (The Man Who Loved Women) - (The Green Room) - Love on the Run - The Last Metro - (The Woman Next Door) - (Confidentially Yours)
The Auteur #40: Francois Truffaut (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2)
© thevoid99 2014
Thursday, March 06, 2014
Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 9/26/07 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.
Directed by Mike Judge and written by Judge and Etan Cohen, Idiocracy tells the story of an Army serviceman and a prostitute who both take part in an army experiment where more than 500 years later, they arrive to see that their world has become dumber as the man finds himself to be the smartest person alive. A satire about culture and the de-evolution of the world, Judge's sophomore feature film shows his knack for humor as well as the wittiness of his debut feature. Starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, Terry Crews, Justin Long, and featuring appearances from Judge associates Stephen Root and David Herman. Idiocracy is a witty satire on the world that is ravaged by stupidity.
The film is a satirical comedy set 500 years from the present time where the world has gone completely stupid where an Army serviceman named Joe (Luke Wilson) and a hooker named Rita (Maya Rudolph) are both awaken from a top-secret Army experiment where they supposed to be frozen for a year inside two pods. Instead, a series of unfortunate circumstances has Joe and Rita be the smartest people on Earth as the English language has deteriorated into a mixture of hillbilly, slang, valley girl, and grunts while the world drinks a drink known as Brawndo that claims to have electrolytes. For Joe, he must use his average knowledge to save the world from further stupidity where he would encounter things such as TV shows like Ow! My Balls!, a film called Ass, all brought to you by Carl Jr.'s, Buttfuckers with its big-ass fries, and all sorts of dumb shit.
Mike Judge's concept of the world gone stupid is definitely an ambitious one in comparison to his debut film Office Space. Yet, the story about an average man finding himself in a world where he's the smartest man alive is definitely one that is both downright hilarious and shocking at the same time. The comedy that includes some extremely funny, lowbrow dialogue where people would say "I like money", "Shut up! I'm 'batin", 'You talk like a fag", and "I like money" in a drawl that can be described in a hybrid of Hillbilly, Valley Girl, inner-city slang, and grunts. Another factor that is funny is how corporations are handled where a Costco would end up taking an entire city or Starbucks offering hand-jobs along with other places. Plus, Carl's Jr. would have a slogan that says "Fuck you, I'm eating" and Fuddruckers' had its named changed to Buttfuckers.
The result is a highly original yet funny vision of the future. What's more shocking is that it's also true in some ways. The script that Judge and Etan Cohen creates is filled with hilarious scenes and such yet underneath it is some social commentary on pop culture and people's obsession with it. Now, there's nothing necessarily wrong with watching a guy getting kicked in the nuts or watching a bare-naked ass farting. The problem is that it gets old after a few minutes. Not to the people in this film where the #1 grossing movie for the past few years that also one several Oscars is a movie called Ass. 90 minutes of a bare-naked butt farting maybe funny to some but for someone that has intelligence might find it funny for a while but not for the rest of the film.
Judge's direction of dystopian with CGI-imagery of a town gone horribly bad. Architecture looking very messed up, mountains of trash, and the Washington monument looking very slanted. His vision of the future is actually horrifying to watch because it might actually come true. What happen to the scientists in that film? Well, they end up looking for the cure of hair loss and such. The idea of de-evolution through Judge's camera is very haunting as is the narration by Earl Mann is to remind the audience of how dumb the world has become. Even mentioning that Brawndo has ended up replacing all the food groups and such.
Despite the film's high concept and commentary, it is flawed due to a few pacing issues when things aren't being funny. Plus, some of the humor isn't as good as Office Space but what Judge does is truly original. Especially since his dystopian vision is starting to come true unfortunately. Even with pop culture. Today, people have no idea who Ingmar Bergman, Marcel Marceau, Robert Altman, Andy Warhol, or even Afrikka Bambatta (he's still alive as of 2014) are or what have they done. Hell, it's amazing that ten years ago, some movies have gotten dumber by the minute.
Instead of people going to see a movie like Grindhouse or maybe something intellectual as Talk to Me, they go see something as dumb as Wild Hogs or Are We Done Yet? Plus, how have we gone from Smells Like Teen Spirit to My Humps? There's a line that Rita says about Albert Einstein, "Do you think Einstein thought the whole world was full of dumb shits?" Joe replies, "Maybe that's why he build the atomic bomb". This is what Judge seems to say about intellectuals and their stance on the world and sadly, it's starting to come true.
Cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt brings a grainy yet saturated look to the film's cinematography to convey the bleakness of the film with its dark, shady colors and sepia imagery. Production designer Darren Gilford and art director William Ladd Skinner do amazing work in some of the film's set designs with dirty-looking buildings and places covered in trash. Costume designer Debra McGuire's futuristic clothing is inspiring and also cheesy with everyone wearing shiny-like t-shirts and baggy pants where the future has also lost it sense of fashion. Editor David Rennie brings a nice, intense look to the film including some of the dramatic reactions to the film's dystopian tone. Sound editor Michael J. Benavente also plays to the atmosphere in bringing noise of explosions and grunts that work very well. Visual effects supervisor Kent Johnson's look of the future is amazing, even a shot of a bridge that's already broken and such. Composer Theodore Shapiro brings a score that's dominated by country-like acoustic guitar to play up the film's humor as well as a mix of music featuring metal and reggae.
The film's cast is unique in playing up to the film's comedy. Small appearances from director Mike Judge as the Army officer Collins, Bottle Rocket's Robert Musgrave as an Army sergeant, rapper Scarface as Rita's pimp Upgrayed, Sara Rue as a bimbo attorney general, Danny Cochran as the idiotic Secretary of Education, and in the roles of the unfortunate yuppie couple in the film's intro, Darlene Hunt and Patrick Fischler are funny. Cameo appearances from Stephen Root, David Herman, Thomas Haden Church, and Justin Long are very funny along with Luke's older brother Andrew in a great cameo as the flame-throwing gladiator Beef Supreme. In the role of the U.S. president, Terry Crews gives a hilarious, energetic performance as President Camacho with his long, heavy-metal wig and exuberance that makes him one of the most overlooked comedy actors.
Dax Shepard is extremely funny as the dim-witted lawyer Frito Pendejo. His last name in Spanish means stupid, which is even funnier. With his hillbilly accent, Shepard makes every moment worth laughing about in how he responds to situations, talk, and all sorts of hijinks. He along with Crews are some of the film's best supporting performances. Maya Rudolph is also funny in her role as Rita, a hooker who finds her old job becoming too easy while becoming aware that she too, is smarter than everyone except Joe. Rudolph does great supporting work as she becomes the only person that Joe can really talk to. Luke Wilson is great in his role as Joe, an average guy who is thrust into a situation as he ends up being the smartest man alive. Wilson's mix of subtle humor and drama proved to be the right tone as his remains one of the most overlooked performances of 2006.
While not as strong or as funny as Mike Judge's debut film Office Space, Idiocracy is still one of the funniest and smartest comedies of 2006 thanks to some great performances from Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, and Terry Crews along with Judge's high-concept. Fans of Judge's work will no doubt enjoy the film's humor and satire but for a general audience. It might seem too much or rather from their point of view, "very pompous & faggy". Intellectuals might think the film isn't serious enough or rather way too serious yet it's a film that is a mirror in the ways of how people have been dumbed down lately by pop culture such. In the end, Idiocracy is a must-see for anyone who wants smart satire that is also downright hilarious.
Mike Judge Films: (Beavis & Butt-Head Do America) - (Office Space) - (Extract)
© thevoid99 2014
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Written and directed by Rama Burshtein, Fill the Void is the story about an 18-year old girl who is pressured by her family in the Haredi Jewish community in Tel Aviv, Israel to marry her late sister’s husband following the death of her sister through childbirth. The film explores the life of a young woman in a strict community as she finds herself with very little options about what to do with her life. Starring Hadas Yaron, Chaim Sharir, Ido Samuel, Irit Sheleg, Yiftach Klein, and Hila Feldman. Fill the Void is a compelling and touching film from Rama Burshtein.
The film is a simple story about a young woman who is asked by her family to marry her brother-in-law following the death of her sister through childbirth. Much of it set in the Haredi Jewish community in Tel Aviv as this 18-year old woman is a pawn in an arrangement by her family who are hoping that Yochay (Yiftach Klein) would stay in Tel Aviv with his newborn son Mordechai as he’s been given a prospect to marry a woman in Belgium which the family doesn’t want. Much of the story is told through the perspective of Shira (Hadas Yaron) who had been taking care of Mordechai as she also deals with other future prospects for a husband but isn’t sure if she wants to get married. Though she likes Yochay, she isn’t sure about marrying him as well as she had no idea what to do while her family doesn’t want to put too much pressure.
Rama Burshtein’s screenplay not only explores the pressure that Shira has to deal with as well as the role that Yochay has to play. It is largely a family drama where Shira’s parents are aware of the obligations they have in their community as they’re still grieving over the death of their eldest daughter Esther (Renana Raz). At the same time, they realize that forcing Shira to marry Yochay would have some serious repercussions on both of them as they turn to an un-married friend of Esther in Freida (Hila Feldman) who is apprehensive about getting married though she thinks Yochay is a good man. It all plays to the sense of drama as a family deals with loss as well as losing the one thing they had left in the life of their late daughter.
Burshtein’s direction is very intimate in the way she portrays the life of a Haredi Jewish family filled with a lot of religious images in the background. Even as Burshtein uses a lot of close-ups and medium shots to go for something that isn’t stylized but rather a very simple portrait of a family and a young woman being pressured to fill the role that her older sister was supposed to play. The compositions that Burshtein creates are very entrancing in her close-ups as well as how she would fit two or three characters into a frame while playing to the intensity of the drama without the need to embellish or get heavy into melodrama. Overall, Burshtein creates a very evocative and touching film about a young woman finding herself to fill a role for her family.
Cinematographer Asaf Sudry does excellent work with the film‘s very understated cinematography from the way it plays to the film‘s intimate setting with its use of interior lights and such as well as a few exterior shots. Editor Sharon Elovic does nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward to play into the intensity of the drama as well as a few rhythmic cuts for some of the lighter moments of the film. Art director Uri Aminov does fantastic work with the look of the home that Shira lives in as well as some of the places in the community she and her family are in.
Costume designer Hani Gurevitch does amazing work with the costumes from the look of the hats and clothes that the men and women wear in part of the world they live in. Sound designer Aviv Aldema does superb work with the sound to play into the calm atmosphere of the film as well as some of the moments in the ceremonies that is held in the community. The film’s music by Yitzhak Azulay is wonderful for its mixture of orchestral music mixed in with traditional Jewish music to play into that world which includes some usage of the accordion.
The casting by Michel Koren is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it features notable small roles from Melech Thal as a head rabbi, Michael David Weigl as the family friend Shtreicher, Ido Samuel as the relative Yossi Mendelman, Yael Tal as one of Shira and Esther’s friends in Shiffi, and Renana Raz as Shira’s older sister Esther. Razia Israeli is terrific as Aunt Hanna who tries to press the family to get Shira to marry while Hila Feldman is wonderful as family friend Freida who becomes unsure about wanting to get married as she is unattached to anyone.
Chaim Sharir and Irit Sheleg are superb as Shira’s parents who become concerned for the fate of their grandson while wondering if Shira should take on the role that Esther was supposed to play. Yiftach Klein is excellent as Yochay Goldberg as Shira’s brother-in-law who grieves over the loss of his wife while trying to figure out what to do next for himself and his newborn son. Finally, there’s Hadas Yaron in a radiant performance as Shira Mendelman as a young 18-year old woman who finds herself in the middle of a family drama as she deals with the role that she might have to play as well as the decisions she has to make to ensure the future of her newborn nephew and the family dynamics.
Fill the Void is a marvelous film from Rama Burshtein. Armed with a great cast led by Hadas Yaron, it’s a film that is very touching and engaging for the way it explores a family and community trying to deal with death and a family’s future. Especially in a world such as a traditional Jewish community where there’s certain rules and expectations as a young woman is caught in this very intense world. In the end, Fill the Void is a rapturous and mesmerizing film from Rama Burshtein.
© thevoid99 2014
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 11/2/08 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.
Directed by Clint Eastwood and written by J. Michael Straczynski, Changeling is the story of a woman in late 1920s Los Angeles whose son is kidnapped only for the police to claim they found her son as the boy turns out not to be her son. Based on a true story, the film is about a woman whose search for her kidnapped child leads her to team with a pastor to fight against the corruption of the LAPD amid accusations that she's unfit while one detective makes a grim discovery about what might've happened to the boy. Starring Angelina Jolie, Jeffrey Donovan, Jason Butler Harner, Michael Kelly, Geoff Pierson, Colm Feore, Amy Ryan, and John Malkovich. Changeling is a harrowing yet powerful drama from Clint Eastwood and company.
The film takes place in 1928 Los Angeles where Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) is a single mother who raises her 9-year-old son Walter (Gattlin Griffith) while working as a phone-line supervisor. When he doesn't return home one day as she believes he's kidnapped, she reports the incident to the LAPD where a five-month search for the boy had the LAPD claim they found the boy yet it's not Walter as Christine reluctantly takes the boy as she starts to question the LAPD. Turning to the Reverend Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich) who had been critical of the LAPD, Christine finds herself in trouble as she is taken to a psychiatric ward while a detective named Lester Ybarra makes a chilling discovery during an assignment to deport a 15-year old boy back to Canada. Through Ybarra's discovery and Reverend Briegleb's help, Christine would go on a mission to fight the LAPD and to try and find her son who was supposedly kidnapped by a psychotic named Gordon Northcott (Jason Butler Harner).
The film is about, in its simplest terms, a mother just wanting to know where her son is. Yet, when the people she is relying on doesn't help her out at all and challenges their authority. She turns to people in her community where she fights against corruption in seeking out the truth, even if the conclusion is something horrible. J. Michael Straczynski's script is definitely brilliant in its study of character and corruption while revealing some ugly truth into some gruesome murders that might not just affect Christine Collins. Though it's not perfect due to the aftermath of the trials with a lot of set-ups for the ending where it's overdrawn. The script does work in unveiling how a woman just wants to fight for what's right with help from a religious leader who just wants the same thing.
A film like this could've been told conventionally in the hands of a director who wants to presents something that could be sappy or very drawn out. In the hands of someone like Clint Eastwood, it becomes something far more interesting with characters to root for and themes that audiences can understand. Eastwood's direction is truly superb in its nuance for the period as it's shot mostly in California while presenting an idea of what it was like then. Eastwood and ends the film with the look shot in black-and-white to give it an old time feel. Yet, his angles and compositions in presenting a scene are told in a modern style while paying homage to older film styles. For some of the film's dramatic, emotional scenes, Eastwood prefers to let the drama unfold without any forced manipulation as he's often been accused of with some of his films.
Eastwood's reputation in directing his actors or lack-thereof really bring the performances of his actors to have a sense of freedom and authenticity. The approach works very well in his staging of the drama while allowing the camera to capture every moment. Even when showing that even characters like Christine and Reverend Briegleb to be flawed as well yet have the audience still root for them. Then, there's parts of the ending that suggests Eastwood's political leanings might come off as a little conservative for some audiences. Yet, in what wanted to say about that specific scene in relation to what goes in the film. Whether you agree with him or not, he does have some points. Then there's the film's ending which can be described as ambiguous but the result does leave something that's open but also with a glimmer of hope. Overall, Eastwood does create a drama that is captivating as the man is still in the top of his game as a director.
Cinematographer Tom Stern does excellent work in the usual tinted, greenish look of the film with some amazing shading in some of the film's interior settings as it brings a sense of atmosphere for its dramatic moments. Stern's camera work in the exteriors in some of the LA shots in the rain are done with a wonderful shade of blue-green while the scenes in the desert is gorgeous with its light-colored look. Editors Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach do excellent work in the smoothness of the film's cutting along with opening and closing dissolve shots from black-and-white to color and vice versa. The editing for some of the film's more heightened dramatic sequences has some swift, transitional cuts and jump cuts as the editing is excellent overall.
Production designer James J. Murakami with set decorator Gary Fettis and Patrick M. Sullivan Jr., do great work in the film's interior designs of Christine's home, the look of the church and police departments. The film also had an exterior design on a restaurant shack where the false boy was found where the shack is named Bummy's after Eastwood's late production designer Henry Bumstead. Visual effects supervisor Michael Owens do some great work in some of the redesign on some of the film's exterior LA settings to change it from today's Los Angeles to late 1920s-1930s LA. Costume designer Deborah Hopper does amazing work in the film's costumes, notably the look of the women's clothes with the hats, dresses, shoes, and such. There's a real authenticity to the film's look and style as Hopper's work is truly superb.
Sound editor Alan Robert Murray does great work in the sound in the way the trolleys sound along with objects and other things. Murray's work is excellent for the atmosphere it brings in each scene. For the film's score written by Clint Eastwood with arrangements by his son Kyle and Michael Eastman, the music is mostly orchestral with low, sweeping arrangement to underscore the drama. Yet, with mostly a piano and an acoustic guitar accompaniment. The music mostly leans towards jazz music with a trumpet to pay homage to the 1920s.
The cast assembled by Ellen Chenoweth, is superb with memorable appearances from Jeffrey Hutchinson and Lily Knight as parents of a missing child, Riki Lindhome as an examination nurse, Michelle Martin as phone operator, Peter Geraty as a doctor examining the fake boy, Pamela Dunlap as Walter's teacher, John Harrington Bland as a dentist, Reed Birney as the LA mayor, and a cameo from Clint's daughter Morgan as a neighborhood girl. Eddie Alderson is very good as Sanford, the boy who confesses to what he and his cousin did that would break a huge case that might involve Walter's disappearance. Frank Wood is also good as Ben Harris, Christine's supervisor at the phone service office who sympathizes with her situation as he also helps her. Devon Conti is very good as the fake boy who claims to be Walter with a smarmy attitude until he makes his confession. Gattlin Griffith is excellent in his small role as the real Walter Collins, a good kid who ends up getting captured while early in the film. He has a great scene with Jolie about fighting that would be the rallying call for the entire film.
Denis O'Hare is very good as the corruptive doctor at the mental ward who tries to make Christine sign something that she knows would discredit her. Jason Butler Harner is great as Gordon Northcott, the man who is revealed to be the murderer of many children as he's a guy with a smarmy smile that might reveal the fate of Walter Collins. Colm Feore is good as the chief of police who is trying to use the law for his own gain only to be faced with embarrassment. Amy Ryan is great as Carol Dexter, a prostitute who befriends Christine at a mental ward as she gives her lessons on how to survive the ward while proving that she can be pretty tough. Michael Kelly is great as Detective Ybarra, the good cop who uncovers a gruesome case and becomes one of the few allies in the LAPD for Christine.
Jeffrey Donovan is excellent as Captain Jones, the man who would set the course for Christine's fight against corruption as a police officer who is more about showing off his authority than doing the right thing. John Malkovich is superb as Reverend Gustav Briegleb, a local pastor with a radio broadcast who is set out to do the right thing for his community. While like many preachers, he might be a bit preachy, but Malkovich does bring a sense of comfort and an unrelenting presence to his performance as it stands out as one of his best. It's an amazing performance from Malkovich who should be singled out as a community leader wanting to do what's right for his community and its people.
Finally, there's Angelina Jolie in an amazing performance as Christine Collins. Following her knockout, dramatic performance in Michael Winterbottom's 2007 film A Mighty Heart, Jolie returns to what she does best as she plays a character that she can relate to being that she is a mother. Jolie goes for restraint than melodrama in most of what she does in her performance as she proves that she can be tough while when it comes to her son. Her restraint in the emotions is powerful as it's definitely a performance that reminds audiences in why she's a really good actress instead of the high-profile star that she's often known for.
Changeling is a powerful and intense film from Clint Eastwood. Thanks to the great performances from Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich, it's a film that really shows the power of what people can do when they're faced with injustice. Fans of Eastwood's film will no doubt enjoy in what the director can despite a few flaws in the film. In the end, Changeling is a film that is worth seeing for its performances, 1920s period look, and the understated, atmospheric direction of Clint Eastwood.
Clint Eastwood Films: (Play Misty for Me) - High Plains Drifter - (Breezy) - (The Eiger Sanction) - (The Outlaw Josey Wales) - (The Gauntlet) - (Bronco Billy) - (Firefox) - (Honkytonk Man) - (Sudden Impact) - (Pale Rider) - (Heartbreak Ridge) - (Bird) - (White Hunter Black Heart) - (The Rookie) - (Unforgiven) - (A Perfect World) - (The Bridges of Madison County) - (Absolute Power) - (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) - (True Crime) - (Space Cowboys) - (Blood Work) - (Mystic River) - (Million Dollar Baby) - (Flags of Our Fathers) - (Letters from Iwo Jima) - (Gran Torino) - (Invictus) - (Hereafter) - (J. Edgar) - (Jersey Boys)
© thevoid99 2014
Monday, March 03, 2014
Directed by Dan Scanlon and written by Scanlon, Daniel Gerson, and Robert L. Baird, Monsters University is a prequel film to 2001’s Monsters Inc. in which Mike Wazowski meets Sulley at Monsters University where they start out as rivals and later become friends. It’s a film that explores two different monsters trying to find themselves in college and hope to make it into the big leagues as Billy Crystal and John Goodman respectively reprise their roles as Mike and Sulley as does Steve Buscemi as Randall. Also featuring the voices of Joel Murray, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Peter Sohn, Nathan Fillion, Charlie Day, Aubrey Plaza, Tyler Labine, Alfred Molina, and Helen Mirren as Dean Abigail Hardscrabble. Monsters University is a witty and enjoyable film from Dan Scanlon and Pixar Animation Studios.
The film is about how Mike Wazowski and James “Sulley” Sullivan became friends as they first met as freshmen college students at the prestigious Monsters University where they started out as rivals. Especially as Wazowski’s roommate was none other than future nemesis in Randall Boggs where they were friends at first. Yet, it’s a film where both Mike and Sulley not only become friends through a series of unfortunate events as they try to major the Scare program at the university. It’s also in how they try to get back into the program by being part of the annual Scare Games where they reluctantly team up with a fraternity full of outcasts to compete with other fraternities and sororities. During that process, the two would become friends but also realize how much they need each other to make it in the big leagues.
The film’s screenplay definitely explore a lot of the motivations and complexities of the two characters as Mike had always wanted to be a scarer since he was a kid during a school field trip as he studied hard to get to Monsters University. Despite his knowledge and determination to be a scarer in the Scare program, what he lacks is the look to really be scary. While Sulley has that look and the skills to be a scarer as he comes from a family of scarers, he doesn’t have the patience to learn which makes him arrogant and foolish. Due to an incident in a final program, the two are kicked out of the program where they reluctantly become part of this fraternity full of oddballs that don’t look or act scary. With Mike’s determination and Sulley’s natural ability, the two would make Oozma Kappa not just the surprise underdogs but also find a brotherhood that Mike and Sulley would later cherish.
Dan Scanlon’s direction is definitely filled with a lot of the ideas that is expected in a college film with frat parties and such. Much of it is full of humor and hijinks while it is balanced by drama and moments that help shape the characters and the story. Much of it involves images that play into the building friendship between Mike and Sulley while adding a few references of things to come in Monsters Inc. that would include the seeds of the eventual rivalry between Sulley and Randall. With the help of animation directors Andrew Gordon and Robert H. Huss, the look of the animation is definitely lively as it’s definitely what is expected from the animation team at Pixar with Scanlon providing lots of interesting framing and such to play into the humor and drama. Overall, Scanlon creates a very solid and entertaining film about two different monsters who become best friends in college.
Cinematographers Matt Aspbury and Jean-Claude Kalache do amazing work with some of the lighting schemes for some of the film‘s interior settings to add to the visual flair of the film. Editor Greg Synder does fantastic work with the editing in terms of creating a few montages and rhythmic cuts to play into the film‘s humor and party atmosphere. Production designer Ricky Nievra does brilliant work with the look of the University where it has this Ivy League look but also a world that is like a party and an institution to learn.
Sound designer Tom Myers does superb work with the film‘s sound to play into the sound effects that occur in some of the games as well as the places the monsters go to. The film’s music by Randy Newman is excellent for its mixture of low-key and suspenseful orchestral music to a lot of the playful drumline music of colleges as the soundtrack includes a mix of pop, electronic music, and metal music from the band Mastodon.
The voice casting by Natalie Lyon and Kevin Reher is incredible as it features an amazing ensemble that features voice appearances from Pixar regulars John Ratzenberger as the Yeti, Bonnie Hunt as young Mike’s schoolteacher, and Bob Peterson as Roz. Other notable small voice roles include Bobby Moynihan as the Roar Omega Roar member Chet, Beth Behrs as the Python Nu Kappa sorority girls, John Krasinski as a top-scarer that the young Mike meets, Tyler Labine and Aubrey Plaza as the Greek Council leaders hosting the Scare Games, Noah Johnston as the young Mike, Bill Hader as a slug student trying to get to class, and Julia Sweeney as Squishy’s sweet mother Sherri who loves to clean and listen to Mastodon. Nathan Fillion is terrific as the Roar Kappa Roar fraternity leader who is arrogant as the quintessential jock while Steve Buscemi is excellent in reprising his role as the slick and skillful Randy who starts out as a nerd to a member of the Roar Omega Roar fraternity.
Alfred Molina is superb as scare professor Derek Knight who looks at what kind of skills that Mike and Sulley have early on and see if it can elevate them. Helen Mirren is amazing as Dean Hardscrabble as this no-nonsense monster who knows who has what it takes to be a scarer as she watches over what Mike and Sulley can do to see if they can prove her wrong. In the roles of the Oozma Kappa fraternity members, there’s Joel Murray as the middle-aged octopus ex-salesman Don Carlton, Sean Hayes and Dave Foley as the two-headed twin brother monster Terri and Terry Perry, Charlie Day as the wild and furry Art, and Peter Sohn as the very unconventional Squishy as they’re all fantastic in their roles. Finally, there’s Billy Crystal and John Goodman in brilliant performances in their respective roles as Mike Wazowski and James “Sulley” Sullivan as they bring that sense of fun and complexity that makes them so endearing to watch as a reminder into why they were a great duo in Monsters Inc.
Monsters University is an excellent film from Dan Scanlon and Pixar Animation Studios. While it may not reach the heights as its predecessor or other films of Pixar, it is still an entertaining and heartfelt film that has all of the tropes that made Pixar one of the best animation studios ever. Even as it’s a film that just wants to give its audience something to enjoy and have characters to root for. In the end, Monsters University is a superb film from Dan Scanlon and Pixar.
Pixar Films: Toy Story - A Bug's Life - Toy Story 2 - (Monsters Inc.) - (Finding Nemo) - The Incredibles - Cars - Ratatouille - WALL-E - Up - Toy Story 3 - Cars 2 - Brave - (Inside Out) - (The Good Dinosaur) - (Finding Dory)
© thevoid99 2014