Friday, January 24, 2020

Shazam!




Based on the DC Comics series by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck, Shazam! is the story of a teenage boy who meets a wizard who grants him powers to become a superhero to deal with a man who is also given the powers featuring the 7 Deadly Sins. Directed by David F. Sandberg and screenplay by Henry Gayden from a story by Gayden and Darren Lemke, the film is a superhero/coming-of-age film of sorts where a boy says a word that would turn him into a superhero as he deals with not just who he is but also the idea of family as he gets adopted into a kind-loving home with five different adopted siblings. Starring Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Djimon Hounsou as the Wizard/Shazam. Shazam! is a witty and heartwarming film from David F. Sandberg.

The film revolves around a teenage kid looking for his birth mother as an encounter with bullies lead him to meet a mysterious wizard who gives him the power to become a superhero by saying a magic word in the hopes he can defeat another man who has gained entry into the Rock of Eternity as he is accompanied by the forces known as the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man. It’s a film that has a simple premise yet it is really about a man and a boy who both encountered magic as they’re also lost due to the fact that they never had a family. Henry Gayden’s screenplay opens with a sequence set in 1974 where a young boy named Thaddeus Sivana (Ethan Pugiotto) would encounter the mysterious wizard known as Shazam who offers the boy the chance to become a hero yet the young Thaddeus is tempted by the Eye of Sin making him unworthy of the powers. The event would later cause a car accident that would paralyze his father as the older Thaddeus (Mark Strong) becomes obsessed with finding entry to the Rock of Eternity as he would eventually gain the Eye of Sin and defeat the Wizard unleashing monsters of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Around the time the older Thaddeus gains the Eye of Sin and its monsters, a teenage boy named Billy Baston (Asher Angel) is a foster-child in Philadelphia searching for his biological mother as he’s taken to another foster home run by Victor and Rosa Vasquez (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans, respectively) where he shares the home with five other foster children in the college-bound Mary Bromfield (Grace Fulton), the obsessive gaming/tech enthusiast Eugene Choi (Ian Chen), the shy and sensitive Pedro Pena (Jovan Armand), the youngest in Darla Dudley (Faithe Herman), and the superhero enthusiast Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) who walks with a crutch as he’s often the target for bullies. It is Billy defending Freddy from the bullies and an ensuing chase that would get him to meet the Wizard who gives him the powers to become the hero mainly for the goodness in Billy’s heart as well as hoping to defend the honor of the siblings that the Wizard lost many years ago due to Eye of Sin.

One of the strengths of the script isn’t just this duality between Sivana and Baston in their encounters with the wizard but what they are able to do with the powers they’re given. Though Baston admits to the Wizard that he’s not pure of heart, his willingness to at least stand up for his adopted family as well as at least wanting to reunite with his mother at least show someone who is a good person. Sivana’s motivations is someone who never felt love from his father and older brother as his obsession for magic makes him wanting to lash out at his family but also crave power with the help of the monsters of the Seven Deadly Sins. The script also shows that when Baston becomes Shazam, he is given these powers but he uses it for money and mischief until he gets Sivana’s attention as he deals with the fact that he has to face off with someone who is powerful and wanting to kill him and anyone else trying to protect him.

David F. Sandberg’s direction is definitely full of exuberance in its tone while also bringing in some dark material as it relates to Sivana and his powers. Though the film is set largely in Philadelphia during the Christmas holidays, it is shot largely on location in Toronto as Philadelphia where it play into the misadventures of Baston but also a boy just trying to find a home. Sandberg does use some wide and medium shots to establish the locations but he also create some unique compositions that do have an air of simplicity into how Baston copes with his situation or how he interact with his adopted siblings. Even as there’s these bits of drama that showcases each of his siblings and who they are as well as Shazam would interact with a few of them such as Darla who immediately discovers Shazam’s true identity once he turns back to Baston. Sandberg also maintains a light-hearted tone such as a montage of Shazam learning what kind of powers he has as there is also an air of innocence for the fact that Shazam is really a young teenager who wants to know what it’s like to drink beers and go to strip clubs.

Sandberg doesn’t just play into this innocence but also the selfishness that teenagers go through as Shazam isn’t aware of the fact that just because he has superpowers doesn’t mean he can just show them off. He also has to take responsibility once he meets Sivana as it would lead to the third act where Baston has some revelations about what happened to him as a child as it relates to his mother and what happened the day he got lost from his mother. It would be a moment where Baston has to learn the true idea of family but also show exactly what kind of man Sivana is as someone who may have powers and the monsters of the Seven Deadly Sins. The film’s climax that has Shazam vs. Sivana and his army as it has this mixture of action, adventure, and humor. Most notably in who Shazam gets to help him fight as there are these small bits of innocence that occur but also moments that make fun of typical clichés expected in superhero films. Overall, Sandberg crafts an exhilarating yet enchanting film about a kid who becomes a superhero by saying a magic word. Cinematographer Maxime Alexandre does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography the low-key and dark colors of the Rock of Eternity lair that the Wizard lives in as well as the world that Sivana is surrounded by to the more colorful look and wintery lighting of Baston and his family. Editor Michel Aller does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward in some parts while knowing when not to deviate into chaotic editing style for the action as it does let shots linger on as well as bring in some style in a montage sequence where Shazam tests his powers. Production designer Jennifer Spence, with set decorator Shane Vieau plus art directors Brandt Gordon and Colin Woods, does amazing work with the look of the Rock of Eternity as well as the home Baston and his adopted siblings live in. Costume designer Leah Butler does fantastic work with the clothes that Sivana wears as well as the clothes of Baston and his siblings and the suit he wears when he’s Shazam.

Prosthetics makeup designer Steve Newburn does terrific work with the look of Sivana with his eye as well as the look of the Wizard. Special effects supervisors Mark Lawton and Cameron Waldbauer, with visual effects supervisors Mike Wassel, Carey Villegas, and Kelvin McIlwain, do incredible work with the visual effects from the design of the monsters as well as in the special effects to play into Shazam’s powers. Sound designers Bill R. Dean and Erick Ocampo do superb work with the sound as it play into the powers both Shazam and Sivana have as well as some of the places the characters go to. The film’s music by Benjamin Wallfisch is marvelous for its bombastic orchestral score with themes that soar into the sense of adventure and humor while music supervisor Season Kent provides a fun soundtrack of music that feature pieces from Queen, Natalie Cole, Warrant, the Ramones, Bing Crosby, Calvin Harris with Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, & Big Sean, Bruno Mars, Cheap Shot, Dean Martin, Survivor, Twenty One Pilots, Niall Horan, and Naughty by Nature.

The casting by Rich Delia is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from the voices of Steve Blum, Darin De Paul, and Fred Tatasciore as the monsters of the Seven Deadly Sins, Andi Ohso as a social worker in Emma Glover, Lotta Lotsen as Sivana’s researcher Dr. Lynn Crosby, Wayne Ward and Landon Doak in their respective roles as the adult and teenage version of Sivana’s older brother Sid, Carson MacCormac and Evan Marsh in their respective roles as the school bullies in Brett and Burke Breyer, Caroline Palmer as Billy’s mother Marilyn in a flashback scene and in a key scene in the third act, David Kohlsmith as the four-year old Billy Baston, Ethan Pugiotto as the young Thaddeus Sivana, and John Glover as Sivana’s cruel father who treats him like shit in the film’s opening sequence as well as being cold to him in a sequence where Sivana confronts him. Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans are terrific in their respective roles as Victor and Rosa Vasquez as foster parents who are good people trying to give Billy and his adopted siblings a good home as well as being really kind people.

Ian Chen and Jovan Armand are superb in their respective roles as Billy’s foster brothers in Eugene Choi and Pedro Pena with the former as gamer and tech enthusiast who is also a skilled hacker while the latter is a shy and sensitive kid having a hard time opening up as he doesn’t say much but is always helpful. Faithe Herman is fantastic as the youngest foster sibling in Darla Dudley as a sweet young girl who likes to cook while is also someone that is full of innocence and sees the good in people. Grace Fulton is excellent as Mary Bromfield as the oldest foster sibling who is bound for college yet is devoted to her family as she is willing to protect them. Jack Dylan Grazer is brilliant as Freddy Freeman as Billy’s foster sibling who is a superhero enthusiast as he helps Shazam understand his powers while trying to deal with his own disabilities and desire to have what Billy has as Shazam.

Djimon Hounsou is amazing as the Wizard who is called Shazam as a man of great power and magic who gives Billy his powers in the hopes that Billy can defeat Sivana and bring hope to the world. Mark Strong is remarkable as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana as a man obsessed with his encounter with the Wizard as a kid where he finally gains access where he aligns himself with the monsters of the Seven Deadly Sins in the hope he can get Shazam’s powers to rule everything and everyone. Asher Angel is incredible as Billy Baston as a teenage kid trying to find his mother but is also reluctant to be part of a family only to realize what the Vasquez and his adopted siblings could give him. Finally, there’s Zachary Levi in a phenomenal performance as Shazam as Billy’s adult alter-ego who is a ball of energy and enthusiasm as someone trying to understand his powers but also what it means to be powerful and use them for good as Levi provides that air of innocence and exuberance that the character is about.

Shazam! is a tremendous film from David F. Sandberg. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a witty and lighthearted tone, a dazzling music score, and colorful visuals. It is a superhero film that doesn’t take itself seriously while showcasing some strong themes on family, power, and the idea of being a hero. In the end, Shazam! is a spectacular film from David F. Sandberg.

DC Extended Universe: Man of Steel - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Suicide Squad - Wonder Woman - Justice League - Aquaman - (Birds of Prey) – (Wonder Woman 1984)

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks: Unforgettable Film Scores




In the fourth week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We delve into the subject of unforgettable film scores suggested by Brittani of Rambling Films. Anyone who watches films can remember music moments that stick out from a film score as they all play an important part in film. My three picks are based on three groundbreaking electronic-based scores that stood out to me as they’re all three films from the 1970s:

1. Walter (Wendy) Carlos-A Clockwork Orange




While the soundtrack largely features classical music pieces by Beethoven, Gioachino Rossini, and Edward Elgar, it is Wendy Carlos’ score that added a sci-fi tone to the music. Its early usage of synthesizers including in some of the music including into some of the classical pieces as there is something offbeat into what Carlos does. Yet, it fits with what Stanley Kubrick wanted for the film as it played into this study of human nature as a young man whose love of sex, violence, and Beethoven suddenly turns against him through an experiment that eventually went bad. The score is quite ahead of its time as it showcases what can be done with electronic music.

2. Eduard Artemyev-Solaris




Another composer that put a unique spin on classical pieces, Eduard Artemyev’s score for Andrei Tarkovsky’s sci-fi feature not just some original pieces but also some eerie takes on some of the classical pieces that Artemyev has interpreted. Most notably Johann Sebastian Bach’s Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesus Christ (BWV 639) as the film’s theme with its usage of organs and swooning synthesizers as it plays into the film’s sense of loss and uncertainty that its protagonist Kris Kelvin embarks on. Artmeyev’s score adds a mood to the film in terms of its intrigue that is this nearby planet that Kelvin, other cosmonauts, and the ghostly figure of his late wife Hari encounter. It’s not an easy film to watch due to its slow pacing and lack of plot but it is truly one of the finest films ever made as Artmeyev’s score definitely adds to its legend.

3. John Carpenter-Assault on Precinct 13




Before he ventured into the world of horror and become one of the genre’s masters, John Carpenter’s second film is this eerie crime thriller about a gang wreaking havoc outside a police station with people trapped as they’re trying to survive the standoff. What makes the film such a joy is Carpenter’s own score which sounds so ahead of its time in its tone and presentation. Its usage of bass and drum machines as well as the layers of synthesizers just give the film that menacing tone as it is proof of what kind of master Carpenter is as well as the groundwork he would lay for other composers in the years to come.

© thevoid99 2020

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

2020 Blind Spot Series: Louisiana Story



Directed by Robert J. Flaherty and written by Robert J. Flaherty and Frances H. Flaherty, Louisiana Story is the story of a Cajun boy and his pet raccoon as their idyllic life is disrupted by oil well drilling near their home. The film is a mixture of documentary and fiction as it was commissioned by the Standard Oil Company to promote oil drilling in the bayous as Flaherty explores a boy’s encounter with this new world that is oil. Starring Joseph Bordeaux, Lionel Le Blanc, E. Bienvenu, Frank Hardy, and Oscar J Yarborough. Louisiana Story is a rapturous and compelling film from Robert J. Flaherty.

The film revolves around a 12-year old boy living in the bayou as an oil rig has arrived nearby for oil drilling as the boy is fascinated by this new phenomenon. It’s a film with a simple premise that explore the emergence of oil drilling in the Louisiana bayou with a boy living nearby as his father agreed to have this oil company drill near his home. While there isn’t much plot in the film as the script by Robert J. and Frances H. Flaherty blur the lines between this narrative involving this young boy and his family and the reality that is happening with an oil well happening nearby. It does play into this emergence of two different worlds in the idyllic bayou with its natural surroundings and this modern world that is the oil business as the oil workers are fascinated by the young boy in the catfish he catches as well as other things he finds. The boy himself would be intrigued by what is going on in the oil well though his father prefers to stay away from the oil business knowing that he’ll make money if they succeed.

Robert J. Flaherty’s direction is largely simplistic as it aims for a documentary approach for much of the film that include scenes images of nature and scenes of what goes on inside the oil well. Shot on location at the bayous of Louisiana, Flaherty’s approach to the story of the boy with his pet raccoon is straightforward with some shots towards the animals in the bayou including alligators, birds, and other creatures with some wide and medium shots to get a scope of the locations. Flaherty also captures what goes inside the oil well as well as the drilling as it play into this emergence of a modern world that is imposing its well on the natural world. Yet, Flaherty chooses to show the oilmen as just ordinary people who take a liking to the boy as they’re just men who work hard and try to get oil at a time when the country needed it.

Flaherty also play up this air of trying to create something natural in his depiction of nature as it include a scene where the boy is going after an animal while his pet raccoon is trying to run away from an alligator. Flaherty also showcases the dangers of what could happen at an oil well as it adds to this boy’s curiosity as he has no real connection with the modern world but is still intrigued by it. Even as its third act is about this unexpected harmony between nature and industry as it showcased a moment in time when there wasn’t any resistance but rather compromise and sensibility during a new period in America. Overall, Flaherty crafts a riveting and engaging film about a Cajun boy’s encounter with an oil well in the Louisiana bayou.

Cinematographer Richard Leacock does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it captures the beauty of the locations and its surroundings with its emphasis on shadows for some of the scenes in the bayou and swamps. Editor Helen van Dongen does excellent work with the editing as it has bits of style in its transition wipes and rhythmic cuts to play into some of the dramatic reaction as well as the sense of wonderment in the locations. Sound recordist Benjamin Doniger does fantastic work with the sound in capturing the way oil wells sound from afar and up close as well as the sounds of nature in their natural setting. The film’s music by Virgil Thomson is amazing for its upbeat orchestral score that play into the boy’s curiosity as well as the surroundings of the bayou as it’s a highlight of the film.

The film’s wonderful cast mainly feature non-actors that include Oscar J. Yarborough as the oil company lessor, Frank Hardy as the oil driller, C.P. Guerdy as the boilerman, and the duo of Lionel Le Blanc and E. Bienvenu as the boy’s parents as they all at least bring a realism to their performances as good-hearted people. Finally, there’s Joseph Bordeaux in a superb performance as the boy who encounters the oil well and its workers while spending much of his life on his boat with his pet raccoon and catching fish as it’s just a natural and low-key performance from Bordeaux.

Louisiana Story is an incredible film from Robert J. Flaherty. Through its mixture of documentary and narrative-based filmmaker, it’s a film that explores life in the Louisiana bayous at a time when the oil industry would arrive with a boy’s fascination into this emergence of the modern world. Even as it’s a film that blur the lines of what is real and what is fiction as it manages to blend the two into something unique in the art of storytelling. In the end, Louisiana Story is a sensational film from Robert J. Flaherty.

Related: Nanook of the North

© thevoid99 2020

Monday, January 20, 2020

Scent of a Woman (1974 film)



Based on the story Il buio e il miele by Giovanni Arpino, Profumo di donna (Scent of a Woman) is the story of a blind army captain who is accompanied by a young man on a road trip from Turin to Naples to meet an old friend. Directed by Dino Risi and screenplay by Risi and Ruggero Maccari, the film is a road movie of sorts that follows a blind captain and his young aide as they go on a journey with the latter getting some life lessons. Starring Vittorio Gassman, Alessandro Momo, and Agostina Belli. Profumu di donna is a majestic and haunting film from Dino Risi.

A military cadet is tasked to accompany a blind army captain from Turin to Naples for a trip through Italy as the captain wants to meet an old friend to fulfill a pact while the young cadet gets life lessons along the way. It’s a film with a simple premise though it is more of a study of a young man accompanying a blind man who has lived a fascinating life yet is also cruel at times as well as selfish. However, his greatest gift is capturing the scent of a woman as he is always fascinated by them. The film’s screenplay by Dino Risi and Ruggero Maccari follows Giovanni Bertazzi (Alessandro Momo) who is tasked to accompany Captain Fausto Consolo (Vittorio Gassman) for this trip as Captain Consolo is a man that is trying to have some fun as well as women as he can smell them where Giovanni is baffled by this Cpt. Consolo’s way with women but also how he treats others where he can be cruel or indifferent. The film’s third act set in Naples does reveal why he’s there but also some complications in the form of a young woman Cpt. Consolo knew in Sara (Agostina Belli).

Risi’s direction is definitely full of energy as it play into the journey that these two men take via train and stopping from town to town as it is shot on many locations in Italy such as Turin, Rome, Genoa, and Naples. While Risi would use a lot of wide shots of the locations, much of Risi’s direction is intimate as it play into the relationship between Giovanni and Cpt. Consolo as he uses close-ups and medium shots to play into their companionship. Especially as Giovanni is eager to go to Rome to meet his girlfriend yet is often dragged into other things in Cpt. Consolo as he finds himself in situations that are comical as well as filled with some drama. By the time the film reaches its third act in Naples, Risi does play into some of the tension of Cpt. Consolo’s intention for going to Naples as it relates to another blind officer in Vincenzo (Torindo Bernardi) as they reminisce and have dinner while the presence of Sara complicates things as she knew him when she was a young woman.

Risi also play into Giovanni’s reaction as he becomes smitten by Sara whom Cpt. Consolo was fond of as he was hoping to be the love of his life. There is a flashback scene told by Sara as it play to how youthful Cpt. Consolo was but the accident did leave him a mental scar that he doesn’t want Sara to see. Yet, he would treat her cruelly during his time in Naples while focusing his attention on other women prompting Sara to go to Giovanni just to talk. A party happens in Cpt. Consolo’s honor as it really brings up a lot of things as well as his true intentions for his trip to Naples that is later followed by a troubled aftermath about who he is and how Giovanni sees him. Overall, Risi crafts a mesmerizing yet somber film about a young man’s journey in accompanying a troubled and blind army captain through Italy.

Cinematographer Claudio Cirillo does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography in capturing the daytime beauty of the exterior locations with all of its vibrant colors as well as capturing some of the low-key yet naturalistic look for a few scenes set at night including a stylish dream sequence that Giovanni has. Editor Alberto Gallitti does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few sequences presented as montage including the flashback scenes. Production designer Lorenzo Baraldi does fantastic work with the home that Cpt. Consolo lives in early in the film as well as the hotel rooms he and Giovanni go to and the home of Vincenzo.

Costume designer Benito Persico does nice work with the costumes from the stylish suits that Cpt. Consolo and Giovanni wears to the summer dresses Sara and her friends wear. The sound work of Vittorio Massi is terrific for its natural sound as well as the atmosphere of the locations and a nightclub that Cpt. Consolo and Giovanni go to. The film’s music by Armando Trovajoli is incredible for its rich and lush orchestral score with heavy piano and string arrangements that soar throughout the film as it also include some somber and plaintive pieces that play into the melodrama while its music soundtrack also include an array of classical and pop music pieces of the time.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles from the trio of Elena Veronese, Stefania Spugnini, and Marisa Volonnino as Sara’s friends who enjoy Cpt. Consolo’s flirtations, Alvaro Vitali as a soldier who helps Vincenzo, Moira Orfei as a prostitute that Cpt. Consolo and Giovanni meet in Genoa, and Torindo Bernardi as Cpt. Consolo’s old military friend Vincenzo who is also blind due to an accident that also blinded Cpt. Consolo. Agostina Belli is amazing as Sara as a woman who was the object of affection for Cpt. Consolo years ago before he became blind as she is troubled by his behavior as well as the way he treats her prompting her to tell Giovanni about what happened. Alessandro Momo is brilliant as Giovanni Bertazzi aka Ciccio (kiddo) as this young military cadet who is tasked to accompany Cpt. Consolo as he deals with the task at hand but also getting some life lessons along the way where he also understands what he has to do as a man. Finally, there’s Vittorio Gassman in a phenomenal performance as Captain Fausto Consolo as this man who has a great sense of smell for women as he charms and flirts with them as well as be cruel to people as it is a performance for the ages as Gassman provides that mixture of cruelty and wit as it also hides the great pain that his character is carrying about what happened to him.

Profumo di donna is an incredible film from Dino Risi that features a tremendous performance from Vittorio Gassman. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous settings, compelling story of life and loss, and a riveting score by Armando Trovajoli. It’s a film that explores two men on a journey through Italy as they both embark on some life lessons and other things as well as learn about themselves. In the end, Profumo di donna is a sensational film from Dino Risi.

Related: Il sorpasso - (Scent of a Woman (1992 film))

© thevoid99 2020

Friday, January 17, 2020

Ceddo




Written and directed by Ousmane Sembene, Ceddo (The Outsiders) is the story of a group of commoners who kidnap a king’s princess following his decision to side with Muslims and have his people convert to Islam against their will. The film is a study of forced conversion and a group of people who are willing to defy the authority in the hopes to preserve their own traditions. Starring Tabata Ndiaye and Moustapha Yade. Ceddo is a riveting and evocative film from Ousmane Sembene.

The film revolves a conflict involving commoners who worship idols and carry on traditions that has happened for thousands of years while allowing a Christian pastor live nearby as they are dealing with a king’s new decision to convert his people into Islam. The result becomes troubling when a young man kidnaps the princess and holds her hostage escalating things further when attempts to rescue the princess falter as old tribe leaders ponder what to do while becoming angrier towards the imam (Omar Gueye) whose influence on the king has become troubling. Ousmane Sembene’s screenplay opens with a young kidnapper (Ismalia Diagne) and his aide taking Princess Dior (Tabata Ndiaye) as they hold her hostage while he scouts around for anyone to rescue her as he would kill those who attempt to with his bow and arrow. The script also play into what some will do to gain leverage as some trade people for weapons with others using bargaining and manipulation as some choose to go into exile with others either joining along or fight.

Sembene’s direction is full of dazzling imagery in terms of the simplicity he creates as well as the setting as it is set in a desert-like village with one scene set in a park during a funeral procession for the Christian pastor. While there are some wide shots to establish certain locations including this area where Princess Dior is living in a tent of sorts with her kidnapper nearby hiding. Sembene’s usage of medium shots and close-ups play more into the interaction and meeting between characters as it also play into this growing tension and civil unrest that is looming between the commoners and the Muslims. Even in the scenes that play into this imagery of idols that these commoners worship and the first meeting with the king (Matoura Dia), Prince Biram (Mamadou Dioume), the prince’s cousin, a warrior in Saxewar (Nar Modou), and a mediator in Madir Fatim Fall (Moustapha Yade) try to discuss what to do with the princess with the imam stirring the pot. Sembene showcases this massive meeting as it is the crux of an implosion that is coming with the king not really doing anything at all as it is clear he’s become a puppet for the imam.

Sembene also play into this air of frustration among the commoners and their leaders as one of them in Diogomay (Ousmane Camara) makes his own decision knowing what is to come as he doesn’t want part of it. Even as there’s people within the king’s council become frustrated as well as realize that things have become troubled since the imam’s arrival as he continues to spout his own ideas and manipulate those into his ways. The third act has Sembene not only play into the chaos that is happening but also the princess coming to terms with what is happening as the film’s ending is about what she would see to her people as they’re forced to take on new identities, new names, and a new way of life that is so foreign to them. Overall, Sembene crafts a compelling yet eerie film about a conflict between commoners and its king over the latter’s decision to have his people to convert to Islam against their will.

Cinematographer Georges Cristian does brilliant work for its colorful cinematography with the usage of low-key blue filters for one major sequence at night along with the vibrancy of colors in the daytime including the clothes that the people wear in the film. Editor Florence Eymon does excellent work with the editing as it largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the action and a few of the film’s surreal moments. The film’s music by Manu Dibango is incredible for its mixture of percussive-based music with marimbas and other percussions to play into the dramatic tension as well as bits of jazz and funk that are mixed in with some of the soundtrack music also featuring Christian and gospel hymns.

The film’s wonderful cast feature a cameo appearance from writer/director Ousmane Sembene as a commoner who has his name changed along with small roles from Ousmane Camara as the tribe leader Diogomay who makes his own decision about the king’s new demands, Nar Modou as a renowned warrior in Saxemar, Mamadou Dioume as Prince Biram, and Matoura Dia as the king who rarely says anything as it is suggested that he’s become a puppet for the imam. Moustapha Yade is fantastic as Madir Fatim Fall as a mediator between the commoners and the king as he becomes frustrated with the situation as his search for a solution becomes impossible.

Omar Gueye is excellent as the imam Jaraaf as this Islamic leader who is trying to instill his ideals and beliefs into people thinking it would be good for them yet has a motive for what he’s trying to do. Ismalia Diagne is superb as the kidnapper who takes the princess as he is trying to keep her at bay yet is also concerned for her as the rescue attempts intensify following some major news in the third act. Finally, there’s Tabata Ndiaye in an amazing performance as Princess Dior Yacine as a royal figure who becomes a pawn in this conflict as she eventually grows fond of her captor while becoming aware of what is happening questioning her father’s actions as well as the power of the imam.

Ceddo is a phenomenal film from Ousmane Sembene. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, themes of forced religious conversion against old traditions, and an incredible score by Manu Dibango. It’s a film that explores a king’s decision to change the ways of his people in an act of venturing into a world that his people are either reluctant to join or refuse to be a part of. In the end, Ceddo is a sensational film from Ousmane Sembene.

Ousmane Sembene Films: Black Girl - (Mandabi) – Emitai - (Xala) – (Camp de Thiaroye) – (Guelwaar) – (Faat Kine) – (Moolade)

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks: 2019 Releases




In the third week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of 2019 releases as there’s plenty of films that not everyone got to see as there’s so many other movies that people missed out either because they came and went after a week or were shown at a very limited release platform. Then there’s those films that are just total shit as my focus on 2019 releases that I hope to never see in my life unless I have some sick desire to harm myself in the worst ways. Here are my three picks of 2019 releases I hope to never see:

1. The Fanatic



It seems that ever since Battlefield Earth, a good or a decent film from John Travolta has been rare has he’s been making a lot of bad movies as the past decade has him in 13 films that I’m sure not many people have seen and nearly all of them are bad which include this film directed by one of the worst people to ever exist in Fred Durst. It’s a film that has Travolta star as a guy who is a fanatic for a movie star until he gets rejected by the star and terrorizes his home and all sorts of stupid shit that has Travolta try to be autistic or something only to make himself be idiotic. In the hands of someone like Durst, it tries to be serious only to include some stupid material that include a scene of the movie star trying to get his son to enjoy the music that is Durst’s band Limp Bizkit. They were shit then and they’re still shit now as NIN fans will always take a shit on them for life after what Durst said about Trent Reznor many years ago. Plus, we NIN fans are still happy for the fact that Reznor gets praise and accolades as NIN still gets to a large audience while Limp Bizkit have become a wet far.

2. 6 Underground



Since Armageddon, there has been no filmmaker who has gained my ire and loathing better than Michael Bay as he has continually gotten worse with each passing film to the point that I haven’t seen anything he’s done since the third Transformers film. His newest film revolves an American billionaire who forms a vigilante group with five other people to fight off terrorists and such that governments wouldn’t touch. Yet, with Bay comes his lifeless spectacles of explosions, car crashes, five-second shots, nonsensical editing, presenting women as objects than people, and all sorts of ugly shit he’s known for. Many says the film is Bay at his most decadent which doesn’t come as a surprise considering how awful his films are and who he is as a person as well.

3. Cats



I’m sure for anyone that is still alive ever since the first trailer was released wanted to avoid the film and probably did it because they actually value their lives no matter how bad things can be. The fact that the film flopped big time is proof that not every Broadway musical can be adapted into the big screen. They could’ve made it an animated film but no, Tom Hooper wanted it to be outrageous. Well, he got that right for all of the wrong reasons with the digital cat fur and all sorts of ugly shit but also having to get the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellan, Judi Dench, and Idris Elba to share the film with no-talent fuck-wads like Jason Derulo and Taylor Swift. It wasn’t the presentation of it and some of the people involved that made me not want to see it but given the fact that I’m still dealing with the flu as the description of dancing cockroaches and later the leaked footage of those cockroaches alone made me throw up big time. Let’s hope all three of these films get some recognition from the Razzies.

© thevoid99 2020

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald



Directed by David Yates and written by J.K. Rowling that is based on her fictional guide book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the sequel to the 2016 film that follows various wizards trying to find the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald who is rumored to be forging an alliance to destroy Muggles prompting a young wizard to seek the help of Albus Dumbledore. The film is set a year after the events of the previous film as it explore loyalties and the emergence of a much darker conflict that would possibly shape the wizarding world with Johnny Depp playing the role of Grindelwald and Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore. Also starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoe Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, Kevin Guthrie, William Nadylam, and Brontis Jodorowsky as Nicholas Flamel. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a bloated and nonsensical film from David Yates and writer J.K. Rowling.

Set a year after events in New York City, the film revolves the escape of Gellert Grindelwald following a prison transfer as he has returned to Europe to wreak havoc prompting a young wizard to find and stop Grindelwald. It’s a premise that could be told in a simple fashion where it play into characters dealing with this antagonist as loyalties come into question yet its execution in the story ends up being more about spectacle rather than focusing on the story. J.K. Rowling’s screenplay is the biggest crime of the film as it’s a script that starts off with this exhilarating escape only to fall down hard into an overblown and over-explained first act that reintroduce characters from the previous film and don’t do much to introduce new characters. At the same time, the story goes all over the place where part of the narrative takes place in Britain while much of it is in Paris and there is so much that is happening that it’s hard to keep up.

There are also these twists and turns that starts to occur late in the film as it involves the identity of Creedence (Ezra Miller) as it ends up being filled with a lot of confusion while there are also these subplots involving individual characters with Queenie (Alison Sudol) going to Grindelwald thinking he can help change the law about wizards/witches marrying muggles/no-majs. The lack of a structure is also what hinders the script as much of it is all about exposition and an overdrawn first act that rely on exposition leading to a third act and skipping over a second act to unveil this climax that is underwhelming and incoherent in its execution.

David Yates’ direction is definitely undercooked largely due to the many shortcomings of the film’s screenplay. Shot mainly at a studio lot in Leavesden in Britain with additional shots in London, Paris, and parts of Switzerland, Yates establishes a world that is vast with much of the emphasis set on Europe as well as being in transition. It mainly serves as set dressing where it tries to distract the viewers with these vast spectacle of a magical world that has a lot to offer. Yet, Yates never really does more to establish the world nor make it feel special while the brief scenes set at Hogwarts has that yet it is only brief that also include a strange flashback scene involving a young Newt Scamander (Joshua Shea) and Leta Lestrange (Thea Lamb). Scenes involving Newt (Eddie Redmayne) and the no-maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) has Yates creating compositions that are quite typical but it often tries to play it for laughs or suspense yet it doesn’t deliver in neither department. Even moments where Newt meets Queenie’s sister Tina (Katherine Waterston) feels tacked on as they never get a chance to really re-establish their own relationship.

Yates’ direction does establish the locations and where the characters are but its approach to suspense is underwhelming as it tries to put in awkward moments of humor while whatever dramatic rhythms it tried to put on feels flat. Even in the lead-up to its climax feels clunky and tacked on at times where it comes to these revelations about Creedence’s identity as it creates confusion that is followed by Grindelwald’s plans for an upcoming war as he asks wizards and witches to join him. Instead, it feels like an overblown set piece with lots of visual effects and ends up being anticlimactic that is then followed by another big revelation that isn’t just ridiculous but it raises questions into what Rowling is trying to say and set up for the next story nearly to the point of frustration. Overall, Yates and Rowling create a film that tries to do a lot only to end up being a hollow and lifeless spectacle about a wizard trying to stop an evil wizard from wreaking havoc on the world.

Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot does fine work in creating unique look for the visuals though it never does anything to standout due in part to what Yates try to do on a visual scale. Editor Mark Day does terrible work with the editing mainly due to the many subplots and expository scenes as it aims for too many quick cuts where at times it becomes nonsensical in what is going on. Production designer Stuart Craig, with set decorator Anna Pinnock and supervising art director Martin Foley, does nice work with the look of Hogwarts and the British and French Ministry of Magic buildings though other sets don’t have this air of intrigue that the characters go into. Costume designer Colleen Atwood does OK work with the costumes as it play into the style of the late 1920s to play into the refined look of Leta Lestrange and the more ragged look of Newt Scamander.

Hair/makeup designer Fae Hammond does good work with the hairstyles that the women wore at those time though the look of Grindelwald is just dumb. Special effects supervisor David Watkins, along with visual effects supervisors Tim Burke, Andy Kind, and Christian Manz, do some decent work with the visual effects to play into the world of magic yet it tries too hard to be big for the film’s climax as it just falls very short. Sound designers Niv Adiri, Ben Barker, and Glenn Freemantle do some terrific work with the sound to establish the locations and the kinds of power that the wizards/witches uses in the spells they create. The film’s music by James Newton Howard has its moments in soaring orchestral score yet nothing really stands out as tries too hard to help set a tone for the drama and humor as it ends up not being memorable at all.

The casting by Fiona Weir also has its moments though many of the actors involved are practically wasted due to the poor material they’re given. Performances from Joshua Shea as the young Newt, Thea Lamb and Ruby Woolfenden as the young versions of Leta Lestrange, Fiona Glascott as a young version of Minerva McGonagall, Poppy Corby-Teuch as Grindelwald’s right-hand woman Vinda Rosier, Victoria Yeates as Newt’s assistant Bunty, Kevin Guthrie as Tina’s former supervisor Abernathy who is a follower of Grindelwald, and Brontis Jodorowsky in a very under-used appearance as the famed alchemist Nicolas Flamel who helps out in the film’s climax. William Nadylman and Claudia Kim are wasted in their respective roles as French-Senegalese wizard Yusuf Kama and the circus performer Nagini as they’re not given much to do with the narrative as the former spends his time trying to catch Creedence as it relates to his own family while the latter is someone who befriends Creedence while dealing with a blood curse that eventually would make her a snake permanently. Callum Turner’s performance as Newt’s older brother Theseus is also underused as he’s not given much to do other than give Newt advice as well as be Leta’s fiancé.

Zoe Kravitz’s performance as Leta Lestrange as a childhood friend of Newt and later Theseus’ fiancée is a mixed bag mainly due to the material where it is a character that is definitely tormented and troubled but is unable to really be fleshed out as she ends up being a form of exposition about a story that relates to Kama. Alison Sudol’s performance as Queenie Goldstein as this witch gifted in Legilimens has become this desperate and almost psychotic character who wants to marry a no-maj as this character who was sweet and kind has now become insane as Sudol’s performance is just bad. Katherine Waterston is OK as Queenie’s older sister Tina as the American auror who is trying to find Creedence as she is badly written as someone who isn’t given much to do other than be upset at Newt over something she misinterpreted as well as be involved in awkward moments. Dan Fogler is bland as Jacob Kowalski as Queenie’s no-maj lover who is first seen under an enchantment spell as he is often confused while is also badly written as someone with no real sense of direction or motivation.

Ezra Miller is terrible as Creedence as there isn’t given any logical explanation into how he’s alive as he’s first seen in a circus while is also someone with a lack of direction about who he is as Miller is unable to flesh out his character. Eddie Redmayne is horrendous as Newt Scamander as whatever charm he had in the previous film that he carried is washed away in favor of him being quirky and awkward to the point where Redmayne just overdoes it as he tries to be funny and serious only to accomplish in neither. Johnny Depp’s performance as Gellert Grindelwald is horrible mainly because Depp never really fleshes out Grindelwald other than be someone with dark intentions and give this big speech as it’s just Depp being weird and menacing yet with no substance as it’s just a lazy performance. Finally, there’s Jude Law who gives an excellent performance as a younger version of Albus Dumbledore where Law manages to bring in some nuances and charm into the character despite the shortcomings of the script as his brief appearances in the film do have some gravitas as he’s the only thing in the film that is worthwhile.

Despite Jude Law’s appearance as Albus Dumbledore, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a horrendous film from David Yates and writer J.K. Rowling. Largely due to its uninspired direction, overblown spectacle, badly-written characters, lame twists, and a messy and incoherent screenplay that is expository rather than take its time to build up its suspense. It is a film that wants to be a lot of things as well as set things up for the next film and instead end up becoming demanding and overblown to the point of indifference and frustration. In the end, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an atrocious film from David Yates and J.K. Rowling.

Harry Potter Universe Films: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone - Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets - Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban - Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire - Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix - Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 - Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them - (Fantastic Beasts Pt. 3) – (Pt. 4) – (Pt. 5)

© thevoid99 2020