Friday, April 17, 2015

The Five Senses Blog-a-Thon




Nostra of My Film Views has created a new blog-a-thon which derives from a very simple concept which revolves around the ideas of the five senses. Taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. All of which based on films or anything related to film.

Sight



Terrence Malick is the master of sumptuous visuals as he does more than just make his films beautiful. His work with Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki is among the reasons why The Tree of Life is one of his best films. Just in terms of the naturalistic images they create as it looks like an idyllic vision of Heaven on Earth. Every attention to detail in what Malick creates for the film that is set in Texas feels like a world that can never be duplicated. It’s really a peak on terms of what Malick can convey visually as it’s cinema at the highest order.

Sound



Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 film The Conversation is one of the finest films ever made as it’s also a film where sound becomes a key component to the art of storytelling. The scene where Gene Hackman’s Harry Caul character tries to decipher a conversation he had recorded for a man becomes this moment that drives the story. Those words “he’d kill us if he had the chance” has Caul wondering if the man had hired him is going to kill this couple or is something else happening. This is where the concept sound design starts to emerge as it’s a must-see for the world of sound in film.

Taste



One of the finest films I saw in 2014 that my parents heard about as they would eventually see it in theaters and just fell in love with it. Chef is the kind of film that makes anyone want to be hungry as I found myself wanting to beignets and Cuban sandwiches. It’s the kind of film that just oozes with taste and it’s all about the food. When the film arrived in Texas in that section where meat has been cooked for hours. I just wanted to break into the screen and eat all of that. Sorry vegetarians and vegans.

Smell



I don’t care if watching a movie at home with perfect sound system and image is the future. There’s nothing like going to the cinema. Whether it’s a multiplex or an art-house cinema, there is something about that is distinctive in its smell. Not just the smell of popcorns or whatever they’re serving but it’s something more. It indescribable and certainly one of the reasons why I love going to the cinema.

Touch



The films of Wong Kar-Wai are among some of the most romantic films ever made as one of his themes revolve around love and the longing for someone. Many of his films revolve around that as it plays into the ideas of love and how things can be very complicated. Yet, those films have a beauty in their presentation with the characters to care about. Even if they’re flawed as it’s a reason into why he’s one of my favorite filmmakers.

© thevoid99 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Murmur of the Heart




Written and directed by Louis Malle, Le souffle au coeur (Murmur of the Heart) is the story of a boy coming of age in post-World War II France as he discovers the world of sex and the social life of his own mother. The film isn’t just an exploration into a boy’s awareness of sex as well as being in a bourgeois world that his mother is a part of. Starring Benoit Ferreux, Lea Massari, Daniel Gelin, Ave Ninchi, Gila von Weitershausen, and Michael Lonsdale. Le souffle au coeur is a witty yet intoxicating film from Louis Malle.

Set in 1954 France during the Indochina War, the film revolves around a young boy coming of age as he opposes the war yet becomes concerned with his interest in sex as well as his own relationship with his mother. All of which plays into the life of a 14-year old boy who becomes fascinated by the changes in his life as his older brothers are having parties with beautiful women while he starts to outgrow boyish things. Still, Laurent Chevalier (Benoit Ferreux) is still at a stage in his life where he is becoming an adult but is still a child at heart as he also copes with being unloved by his gynecologist father but adored by his mother Clara (Lea Massari). It is largely told from Laurent’s perspective as he deals with growing pains and the demands he has as a teenager where he is taught at a Catholic school while getting his first taste with girls and sex.

Louis Malle’s screenplay has a very unique structure where its first half is set in a small French town where Laurent is just a boy coming to terms with a world that is changing as he loves jazz music and all sorts of mischief with his older brothers. On a day he walks home from school with a friend, he would see his mother get into a car with another man as it would trigger a series of events where his brothers would take him to a brothel where he would lose his virginity. Yet, the encounter would only have him confused and ill with a heart murmur as the film’s second half is set in a hotel where Laurent is cared for as he’s accompanied by his mother. It’s in this sanatorium/hotel where Laurent not only increases his interest towards other girls but also learn more about the life of his mother as it adds to his growing awareness that everything in his family life isn’t exactly what it seems. Especially as the retreat has Laurent become more attached towards is mother.

Malle’s direction is very engaging for the way he portrays early 1950s France where television had just emerged in the country while there’s growing debate about the war in Indochina. It’s a film where Malle decides to create something that is intimate as some of it is based on his own upbringing where Malle would shoot the film in the small town of Dijon to play into an upper-middle class world. Using lots of medium shots and close-ups, Malle aims for something that is loose in terms of some of the film’s humor while going for something much more intimate in his framing as it relates to the drama and Laurent’s relationship with his mother. Things do get more intense though on a restrained level once the film is set in this retreat where Laurent not only becomes more interested in girls but also his own mother. Malle’s usage of hand-held cameras become more evident as it plays into some of the craziness that occurs in this retreat but also the tension that looms towards Laurent’s feelings for his mother. Overall, Malle creates a very engaging yet provocative film about a boy coming of age sexually in 1950s France.

Cinematographer Richard Aronovich does brilliant work with the film‘s lush and colorful cinematography to capture some of the low-key yet grimy look of the locations in Dijon along with the more evocative look at the retreat with its usage of natural lights. Editor Suzanne Baron does nice work with the editing as it‘s very stylish with its usage of jump-cuts to play into some of the humor and chaos that occurs in the film. Production designer Jean-Jacques Caziot does superb work with the look of the Chevalier family home as well as the hotel Laurent and his mother stay at.

The sound work of Jean-Claude Laureux does terrific work with the sound as it is raucous for some of the livelier moments with the crowd with sparse moments in the intimate scenes between Laurent and his mother. The film’s music consists of pieces by Sidney Bechet, Gaston Freche, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Henri Renaud as it’s a fantastic soundtrack that plays into Laurent’s own love for jazz and how it means to him in a complicated world.

The film’s amazing cast includes some notable small performances from Jacqueline Chauvaud and Corrine Kersten as a couple of young women Laurent meet at the retreat, Francois Werner as the snobbish rich kid Hubert that flirts with Laurent’s mother at the retreat, Henri Poirier and Micheline Bona in their respective roles as Uncle Leonce and Aunt Claudine, Gila von Weitershausen as the prostitute Laurent would lose his virginity to, and Ave Ninchi as the family maid Augusta who tries to keep things under control in the chaotic home of the Chevalier family. Marc Winocourt and Fabien Ferreux are terrific in their respective roles as Laurent’s older brothers Marc and Thomas who often get him into mischief as well as try to get him laid.

Michael Lonsdale is superb as Father Henri who tries to understand what Laurent is going through while being his teacher and ponder about Laurent’s sudden interest in things that sort of attack the Catholic church. Daniel Gelin is excellent as Laurent’s father Charles as this renowned gynecologist who is very distant with Laurent as he is always busy and wonders why he is so odd. Lea Massari is brilliant as Laurent’s mother Clara as this Italian woman who is so full of life and love as she also leads a secret life that eventually becomes troubling as she copes with her own faults as a wife and mother. Finally, there’s Benoit Ferreux in a marvelous performance as Laurent Chevalier as this young man coming of age in the mid-1950s as he learns about sex and all sorts of things while getting an understanding of the world from books and jazz music as he also deals with his own feelings towards his mother.

Le souffle au coeur is a remarkable film Louis Malle. Armed with great performances and a fantastic soundtrack, it’s a film that plays into a young boy’s life as well as his understanding about the world of sex in 1950s France. In the end, Le souffle au coeur is a dazzling and delightful from Louis Malle.

Louis Malle Films: (The Silent World) - Elevator to the Gallows - The Lovers (1958 film) - Zazie Dans le Metro - (A Very Private Affair) - (Vive Le Tour) - The Fire Within - (Bons baisers de Bangkok) - (Viva Maria!) - (The Thief of Paris) - Spirits of the Dead-William Wilson - (Phantom India) - (Calcutta) - (Humain, Trop Humain) - (Lacombe, Lucien) - (Place de la Republique) - (Black Moon) - (Close Up (1976 short) - (Dominique Sanda ou Le reve eveille) - (Pretty Baby) - (Atlantic City (1980 film)) - (My Dinner with Andre) - (Crackers) - (God’s Country (1985 film)) - (Alamo Bay) - (And the Pursuit of Happiness) - (Au Revoir Les Enfants) - (May Fools) - (Damage (1992 film)) - (Vanya on 42nd Street)

© thevoid99 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gattaca




Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, Gattaca is the story of a young man who hopes to travel to outer space despite dealing with prejudice as he hides his genetic imperfections in a futuristic world where science determines who can succeed or not. The film is a mixture of sci-fi with elements of drama and mystery as it also relates to this young man who pretends to be another as he becomes a murder suspect. Starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Loren Dean, Alan Arkin, Ernest Borgnine, Blair Underwood, Xander Berkley, Tony Shalhoub, Elias Koteas, and Gore Vidal. Gattaca is a riveting and evocative film from Andrew Niccol.

Set in a futuristic world where science determines one’s fate and when will that person die, the film revolves a young man who was conceived with genetic imperfections as he pretends to be another man in the hopes that he can travel to outer space. At the same time, he becomes a suspect over the death of mission control director as he learns that his younger brother is the detective leading the case. It’s a film that plays into this man who tries to prove that anything is possible in a world where one’s blood-type, urine sample, and such don’t determine one’s outcome. Yet, it is told from this man whose real name is Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) who would take the guise of another man in Jerome Morrow (Jude Law) who would aid Vincent in achieving his dream.

Andrew Niccol’s screenplay is told largely from Vincent’s perspective as it begins with him learning that is one week away from actually achieving his dream to go into outer space. Yet, a simple eyelash found during the murder of the mission control director would be the one thing that might stop him as its first act reveals not just Vincent’s conception but also how he was already determined by science into when he will die and what ailments he will have. Once his younger brother Anton (Loren Dean) is born and is promised all of the things that Vincent will never have because Anton was conceived through genetic selection instead of the natural conception that brought Vincent into the world. Yet, it would be a simple swimming game of chicken where Vincent realizes that anything is possible as he would meet the paralyzed Jerome who was once a swimming star and take on Jerome’s identity while the real Jerome would provide the urine and blood samples Vincent would need.

Once Vincent’s story into how he became Jerome takes up much of the film’s first act, the second act does have a shift in tone where it becomes a mystery as Vincent not only deals with being a suspect but also falls in love with a co-worker in Irene Cassini (Uma Thurman) who is a valid but is unable to travel due to her own heart issues. Yet, she would learn firsthand about who Vincent really is just as Anton suspects that his own brother is the killer due to the loose eyelash from Vincent though Anton isn’t sure since he believes his brother had already died. Especially as his partner Hugo (Alan Arkin) looks into other possibilities as it relates to the prejudices that is hinged upon society where even Jerome was affected by it as he had all of the potential in the world to succeed but failure only made him bitter and depressed. Even as he copes with the pressure that was put upon him making him and Vincent equal of sorts.

Niccol’s direction is truly mesmerizing in terms of not just the compositions but also in presenting a futuristic sci-fi film without the need to make it totally futuristic. Much of it has Niccol shooting on various locations in California through some amazing architectural designs that does give the film a somewhat futuristic look. Niccol’s rich compositions and the way he places some of the wide shots definitely add something that a look that sort of makes it futuristic while he also goes for these kind of intricate crowd shots of exactly what Vincent does when he’s at work as it sort of plays into something that feels bureaucratic in some respects. Especially as Vincent would get a glimpse of how those with perfect genes would live and how he as an invalid would have to live and work where he would start off cleaning windows and then find his way to be part of this space program.

Niccol’s approach to close-up and medium shots are also entrancing as it also includes a few handheld moments such as a chase scene involving Vincent, Irene, and Anton. It plays into not just some of the mystery but also the drama and romance as well as Niccol’s approach to framing the actors where the flashback scenes involving a young Vincent and Anton where Vincent is in the foreground while Anton and their parents are in the background. It establishes how disconnected Vincent is with his own family as well as the world he lives in as the third act showcases him not only trying to reveal some truth to those close to him. Especially as it revealed exactly how he managed to defy the odds in a world that prevents him from achieving his dreams. Overall, Niccol creates a compelling and ravishing film about a young man prejudiced in a futuristic world where science determines one’s fate.

Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak does phenomenal work with the film’s very colorful cinematography with its usage of filters and lighting schemes for some of the film’s interiors while maintaining something that is quite ethereal in its images as it’s among one of the film’s major highlights. Editor Lisa Zeno Churgin does excellent work with the editing as it is quite stylish with some of its rhythmic cuts and usage of dissolves to play into the drama and suspense. Production designer Jan Roefls, with set decorator Nancy Nye and art director Sarah Knowles, does amazing work with the set design from the look of Jerome‘s home as well as the building where Vincent would work as Jerome along with the nightclubs and such the two would go to. Costume designer Colleen Atwood does fantastic work with the costumes from the suits that Vincent and Jerome would wear as well as the trench coat/fedora look of Anton‘s partner Hugo and the dresses that Irene would wear.

Makeup supervisor Ve Neill and key hair stylist Bette Iverson do terrific work with the look of Vincent prior to meeting Jerome and how they would have the same haircut. Visual effects supervisor Jerry Pooler does nice work with some of the minimal visual effects as it relates to spaceship that Vincent wants to board into. Sound editor Richard King does superb work with the sound to play into some of the chaotic elements of the film along with some of the textures that Vincent would endure in his training. The film’s music by Michael Nyman is incredible for its lush orchestral score with elements of minimalist and soft piano textures as it plays into the drama

The casting by Francine Maisler is marvelous as it features notable small roles from Dean Norris as a beat cop, Ken Marino as a sequencing technician, Maya Rudolph as a delivery nurse, Gabrielle Reece as a trainer where Vincent works at, Vincent Nielson and William Lee Scott in respective versions of the adolescent and teenage Anton, Mason Gamble and Chad Christ in the respective version of the adolescent and teenage Vincent, Blair Underwood as a geneticist, Jayne Brook as Vincent and Anton’s mother who loves both sons as she ponders what Vincent will do, and Elias Koteas as Vincent and Anton’s father who seems to favor Anton more than Vincent as he wants his eldest to be more realistic in his dreams. Tony Shalhoub is terrific in a small role as a mysterious man who would help Vincent attain the look and genetics to be Vincent.

Ernest Borgnine is superb as an invalid named Caesar who leads the clean-up crew as he tells Vincent not to clean too well as he would later provide evidence into who might be the killer not knowing that Jerome is really Vincent. Gore Vidal is excellent as the mission flight director Josef who tries to deal with the murder in his building while aiding the detectives. Xander Berkley is amazing as Dr. Lamar who would interview Vincent for the job as he looks into many background checks as it’s a very low-key yet mesmerizing performance. Alan Arkin is fantastic as Detective Hugo as an old-school detective who aids Anton into finding the killer as he initially suspects the invalid Vincent while he goes into looking for other clues. Loren Dean is brilliant as Anton as Vincent’s younger brother who has become a detective as he realizes Vincent is a suspect while wondering if his brother is really alive when he was supposed to.

Jude Law is incredible as Jerome as a former swimming star who has become paralyzed as he aids Vincent in achieving his dream while revealing what happened when he became paralyzed as it showcased how much he and Vincent have in common. Uma Thurman is remarkable as Irene as a woman who works with Vincent as she falls for him unaware of who he really is as she would also make some major discoveries of her own while revealing her own flaws in her genes despite being valid. Finally, there’s Ethan Hawke in a phenomenal performance as Vincent Freeman as a man who was conceived naturally with genetic flaws as he is determined to buck an unjust system while coping with his own ailments as well as what he had to do to overcome them.

Gattaca is a spectacular from Andrew Niccol that features great performances from Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law. It’s a film that isn’t just a compelling and provocative sci-fi drama but also a film that explores the ideas of what happens if science determines one’s fate. In the end, Gattaca is an enchantingly rich and tremendous film from Andrew Niccol.

© thevoid99 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Laurence Anyways




Written, directed, and edited by Xavier Dolan, Laurence Anyways is the story about a relationship between a woman and a transgender woman that spans a decade through many trials and tribulations. The film is a love story that is unlike anything as it explores two women in which one of them is born a man as it strays from the conventions of many romantic films. Starring Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clement, Monia Chokri, Yves Jacques, David Savard, and Nathalie Baye. Laurence Anyways is a tremendous and exhilarating film from Xavier Dolan.

Set in the span of a decade till the end of the millennium, the film plays into a tumultuous relationship between a woman and a man who wants to become a woman. It’s a film that plays into this relationship where this man named Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) questions his own identity four years into a relationship with this woman named Fred (Suzanne Clement) as this decision would send everything into a freefall as Fred wonders how she can help him. There in this on-and-off period that spans of a decade, Laurence and Fred not only deal with each other but also themselves where Laurence wonders if he can become a woman while Fred ponders if she can accept Laurence as a woman. What Xavier Dolan does with this story is showcase this man’s desire to become a woman as he wonders if he will be happier as a woman and could do that with Fred.

Dolan’s screenplay is quite complex and grand since it’s a story that does span a decade though it has a very odd structure. Much of the film’s first half takes place from the fall of 1989 to the end of 1990 where Laurence not only deals with his own identity issues but also into how Fred would react and the response from their own families. Whereas Fred tries to help Laurence with becoming and acting like a woman by wearing a dress, earrings, and putting on makeup. Still, it’s an act that would have Laurence lose his job as a literature teacher as several things would lead to issues with Fred. Its second half would be set in 1995 and beyond where both Laurence and Fred lead different lives but still pine for each as Laurence would write a book of poems dedicated to her as they would get a glimpse of the life they would have if they ever get together for good.

Dolan’s direction is truly intoxicating not just in his approach to framing but in exactly how he manages to capture every attention to detail in his direction. While it is a film that largely emphasizes on style, Dolan’s approach to compositions and how he frames his actors into a scene are just hypnotic as well as his camera movements and how he places the camera for a scene. Dolan goes for moments that play into elements of dramatic tension or something has elements of fantasy in a world that is often quite troubling. Dolan’s approach to close-ups and medium shots are engaging along with some unique camera angles that play into some of the humor but mostly for dramatic effect to showcase the anguish between Fred and Laurence.

Also serving as the film’s editor, Dolan definitely maintains a sense of style in his approach as editor where he uses a lot of jump-cuts, slow-motion cuts, and other aspects of cutting styles to play into some of the dramatic tension as well as this entrancing opening sequence where people stare at this mysterious person. It’s among these moments where Dolan’s approach to editing and in his direction definitely showcase what he is going to do while his approach to the story is a slow burn to play into Fred and Laurence’s relationship with its many ups and downs. Much of is quite expansive in its storytelling as it plays into the decade in the life of a couple where Dolan knows that there’s a lot to be told as it’s a long film at 168 minutes yet he makes every moment and every frame worth telling. Overall, Dolan crafts a compelling yet visceral film about a relationship between a woman and a man who wants to become a woman.

Cinematographer Yves Belanger does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful and stylish photography with its use of color filters for interior scenes at night along with some unique lighting and vibrant colors for the scenes set in the snow. Production designer Anne Pritchard, along with art director Colombe Raby and set decorators Louis Dandonneau and Pascale Deschenes, does amazing work with the set design from the apartment Fred and Laurence lived in during the film‘s first half as well as the home of their parents to the posh home that Fred lived in during the film‘s second half as well as the party sequence that Fred goes to. Costume designers Xavier Dolan and Francois Barbeau do fantastic work with the clothes that Fred and Laurence wear as it’s full of style in its look and personality as it adds to the film’s evocative look.

Hair designers Michelle Cote and Martin Lapointe, with makeup designers Kathy Kelso and Colleen Quinton, do awesome work with the look of the characters as well as Laurence‘s look as a woman and the hairstyle of Fred throughout the years. Visual effects supervisor Jean-Francois Ferland does nice work with some of the minimal visual effects in the film that play into the sense of fantasy surrounding the characters. Sound editor Sylvain Brassard does superb work with the sound from some of the sparse textures of the sound in the locations to some of the crazy elements in the film. The film’s music by Noia is phenomenal as its electronic-ambient score is entrancing that plays into some of the melancholic elements of the film while its soundtrack features an array of music from classical pieces by Sergei Prokofiev, Antonio Vivaldi, Johannes Brahms, and Gustav Mahler to contemporary music from acts like Fever Ray, the Cure, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Visage, Kim Carnes, Celine Dion, and Craig Armstrong.

The casting by Helene Rousse is incredible as it features notable small roles from Yves Jacques as Laurence’s fellow teacher/mentor Lafortune, Monique Spaziani as another teacher in Francine, Mylene Jampanoi and Jacob Tierney as a couple Fred and Laurence meet late in the film, Vincent Plouffe as Fred’s son Leo, Sophie Faucher as Fred’s mother, Vincent Davy as Laurence’s father, and Susie Almgren as a journalist interviewing Laurence late in the film. In the roles of this family of drag queens that Laurence meets, there’s Catherine Begin, Emmanuel Schwartz, Jacques Lavallee, Perette Souplex, and Patricia Tulasne in very lively and funny roles as this family that would help guide Laurence into finding herself. Magalie Lepine Blondeau is terrific as Laurence’s mid-90s girlfriend Charlotte who knows about his feelings for Fred as she would stalk her from afar while David Savard is superb as Fred’s husband in the mid-90s that she would meet at a party as he tries to deal with her mood swings.

Monia Chokri is fantastic as Fred’s very cynical and biting sister Stefie who isn’t very fond of Laurence as well as she tries to see that Fred is thinking about as it’s a role filled with lots of humor. Nathalie Baye is brilliant as Laurence’s mother Julienne as a woman who doesn’t seem close to Laurence as she was in his childhood as she suddenly becomes closer to him once he decides to become a woman. Suzanne Clement is outstanding as Fred as this filmmaker that is trying to cope with her career but also the change in the man she loves as she tries to support him as she conveys the sense of anguish and rage that a woman goes through in her devotion to the one she loves. Finally, there’s Melvil Poupaud in a tremendous performance as Laurence as this man who becomes confused about his own identity as he becomes a woman as it’s a very engaging and transformative performance where Poupaud brings in that sense of anguish but also desire to find himself as a woman.

Laurence Anyways is a magnificent film from Xavier Dolan that features remarkable performances from Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clement. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to use style to tell a story about transgender relationships and other off-the-wall things while creating something is also very accessible and bold. Especially in ways that are visually entrancing with a soundtrack that is just absolutely to the point that plays into the emotional aspects of the film. In the end, Laurence Anyways is a sensational film from Xavier Dolan.

Xavier Dolan Films: I Killed My Mother - Heartbeats - (Tom at the Farm) - (Mommy) - (The Death and Life of John F. Donovan) - (The Auteurs #46: Xavier Dolan)

© thevoid99 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rookie of the Year




Directed by Daniel Stern and written by Sam Harper, Rookie of the Year is the story of a young boy who would pitch for the Chicago Cubs after getting his arm injured as it’s later healed with tightened tendons that gives him incredible pitching powers. It’s a film that plays into a boy wanting to be good in baseball where an injury would give his right arm something special as he would get to live his dream but also learn about the price of fame. Starring Thomas Ian Nicholas, Gary Busey, Amy Morton, Bruce Altman, Albert Hall, Dan Hedaya, Eddie Bracken, Daniel Stern, and John Candy. Rookie of the Year is a delightful film from Daniel Stern.

What happens to a boy when he gets injured during a little league game where his right arm is healed with tighten tendons that allows him to pitch at great speed where he would pitch for the Chicago Cubs? That is pretty much the premise of the film as it revolves around a 12-year old boy who just wants to be good at baseball but he’s never really had the chance to play until one day where he fills in and things go wrong when he slips on a ball and breaks his arm. Once his arm is healed, he learns that his tendons have tightened more than it should which allows him to exert great force where he would unknowingly throw a ball back from the outfield bleachers to home plate as he would get this attention from Cubs management. There, Henry Rowengartner (Thomas Ian Nicholas) would start out as a relief pitcher for the Cubs as he would be mentored by his hero in the aging starting pitcher Chet “Rocket” Steadman (Gary Busey) as he would also learn the dark side of being famous.

The film’s screenplay by Sam Harper doesn’t just showcase a boy living his dream to play in the major league but also be forced to grow up faster than he should when it comes to being used to sell things that he has no clue about. Especially when he’s being exploited by his mother’s boyfriend Jack Bradfield (Bruce Altman) as well as Cubs general manager Larry “Fish” Fisher (Dan Hedaya) as the latter is looking to take over the Cubs altogether from his uncle Bob Carson (Eddie Bracken). It is there that Henry learns about these things as it prevents him from being with his friends and just being a kid while Steadman, whose career is on the way out, tells him about not just his own bitterness about the game but also what happens when the gift that Henry is bestowed upon goes away. While there is an element of seriousness that plays into the world of baseball, Harper does at least maintain a sense of innocence as well as some humor into the world of baseball such as how Henry manages to enjoy the game.

Daniel Stern’s direction is quite simple as he shoots the film on location in Chicago and other nearby cities including Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park in Chicago as Dodger Stadium. Much of Stern’s compositions are simple as well as stylish that includes some low angle shots, close-ups, and medium shots to reveal what goes on in the field and at the dugout. Some of it is played for laughs as it involves Stern’s character Phil Brickma who is this eccentric pitching coach. Yet, Stern does maintain a balance of comedy and light-drama as it plays into a boy coming of age as a major league pitcher as he copes with not just fame but its demands where he would make a very adult decision. Stern’s approach to the story not only succeeds in making it accessible for a young audience but also in not talking them down with heavy-handed ideas about fame and money. All of which plays into the joy of playing baseball as its climax is set during a division playoff. Overall, Stern creates a very fun and engaging film about a young boy who lives the dream in pitching for the Chicago Cubs.

Cinematographer Jack N. Green does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it‘s very simple for the daytime exterior scenes while being straightforward for the interior scenes and some scenes set at night. Editors Donn Cambern and Raja Gosnell do nice work with the editing as it‘s straightforward with a few montages and some rhythmic cuts for the film‘s humor. Production designer Steven J. Jordan, with set decorator Leslie Bloom and art director William Arnold, does brilliant work with the home that Henry and his mom live in as well as the Cubs locker room.

Costume designer Jay Hurley does terrific work as most of the clothes are casual along with some design of the baseball uniforms. Visual effects supervisor Erik Henry does fine work with the minimal visual effects which often revolves around the fastball that Henry throws. Sound editor Stephen Hunter Flick does superb work with the sound from the sound of the crowd at the ball game to the sound effects of the fastball. The film’s music by Bill Conti is amazing for its orchestral score as it is filled with soaring string arrangements with elements of guitar wails to play into the thrill of sports as the soundtrack features elements of rock and pop music.

The casting by Linda Lowy is incredible as it features notable small roles from Colombe Jacobsen as Henry’s crush Becky, W. Earl Brown as the Cubs catcher Frick, Ross Lehman as Henry’s doctor, Tom Milanovich as the notorious Mets hitter Heddo, and cameo appearances from Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Pedro Guerrero as themselves. Patrick LaBrecque and Robert Hy Gorman are terrific in their respective roles as Henry’s friends George and Clark who try to cope with Henry’s sudden fame which George gets jealous of. Daniel Stern is hilarious as the pitching coach Phil Brickma as he often causes some trouble to others or to himself. Albert Hall is excellent as the Cubs manager Sal Martinella who always mispronounces Henry’s surname while Dan Hedaya is superb as the Cubs general manager Fisher who would exploit Henry in the hopes of making money and become the Cubs’ new owner.  Bruce Altman is fantastic as Mary’s boyfriend Jack who would become Henry’s manager and later try to get him all sorts of things to make money much to Henry’s disgust. 

John Candy is great in one of his final performances as Cubs announcer Cliff Murdoch as Candy brings a lot of funny comments throughout the film.  Amy Morton is amazing as Henry’s mom Mary as someone who makes sure that Henry doesn’t lose himself to the trappings of fame as she becomes suspicious of Jack’s work as she becomes close with Steadman. Gary Busey is brilliant as Chet Steadman as an aging pitcher who is asked to mentor Henry as he copes with not just his fading career but also the fact that he’s not as good as he once was as he tells Henry about what to expect when that gift is gone. Finally, there’s Thomas Ian Nicholas in a marvelous performance as Henry Rowengartner as a 12-year old kid who just wants to be good at baseball where an injury to his arm gives him unlikely throwing power as he copes with being in the major leagues and its demands as Nicholas adds a maturity to his role that makes the character very likeable.

Rookie of the Year is a remarkable film from Daniel Stern. Armed with a great cast and an engaging story about the idea of being in the major leagues, it’s a film that is very accessible for families as well as offer something compelling for baseball fans. In the end, Rookie of the Year is a fantastic film from Daniel Stern.

© thevoid99 2015

Sunday, April 12, 2015

It Follows



Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, It Follows is the story of a young woman who encounters a supernatural being following a sexual encounter with another man. The film plays into the idea of sex being something dangerous as that concept is being reinvented for a new world of horror. Starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, and Lili Sepe. It Follows is a chilling yet gripping film from David Robert Mitchell.

What happens when a young woman is passed on a mysterious sexually transmitted disease as she is stalked around dead people? That is pretty much the premise of the film which plays into not just some of the dangers of promiscuous sex. It’s also a film where sex is the basis for everything that is wrong yet writer/director David Robert Mitchell doesn’t go for anything heavy-handed about the wrongs of promiscuous sex. Instead, he takes on this idea and puts into a setting where a young woman is being stalked by the dead as they’re often seen following her where some of them are in the nude or just naked as they want to fuck that person to death. The film begins with a young woman running around in her underwear and heels in the morning as she is being chased as it plays to exactly the dangers of what is ahead.

Mitchell’s direction is definitely mesmerizing for the way he plays into a world where things seem normal in some aspects but one that is uneasy as it plays into a sense of innocence loss. It begins with this sequence of this young woman who is running around her neighborhood in her underwear and heels as it’s shot in one entire take that last for minutes. Mitchell’s approach to the direction is to keep things simple and to the point as he shoots on location in Detroit and nearby areas to play into a world where things that were simple aren’t what they seem to be. Mitchell’s compositions are very entrancing in his approach to close-ups and medium shots as well as some unique movements with the camera to play into the action.

Mitchell’s approach to suspense and horror not only play to traditional schematics but also in knowing when not go for the big scares as well as build it up for the big moments. Some of these moments not only produce some major scares but also in the idea that it doesn’t play by some of the rules of conventional horror. Mitchell also knows that the element of shock has to be big where it’s not going for the usual amount of gore or anything but in simpler ideas as it is very effective in its approach to horror. Most notably in the film’s climax where the characters confront the beings that is going after this young woman. Overall, Mitchell creates a very smart and terrifying film about a woman haunted by mysterious beings after gaining a strange sexually-transmitted disease.

Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography to play into the rich look of the locations in the day and night as well as some unique interior lighting to give the film a very dream-like look. Editor Julio C. Perez IV does fantastic work with the editing as it is quite straightforward while going for some offbeat rhythms to play into the suspense without the need to do any kind of conventional fast-cutting. Production designer Michael Perry and art director Joey Ostrander do excellent work with the look of the homes of the characters as well as the ruined homes they would stay in while they hide from the mysterious beings. Costume designer Kimberly Leitz-McCauley does nice work with the clothes as it‘s mostly casual with the exception of the pink dress and underwear that the Jay character wears.

Special effects makeup artist Tom Luhtala does amazing work with the look of the dead who stalk the characters in the film as they look like horny zombies who are out to kill. Visual effects supervisor Greg Strasz does terrific work with some of the visual effects which play into the horror as well as the sense of what these characters are encountering. Sound editor Christian Dwiggins does superb work with the sound to play into the suspense while using sparse sound textures to play up the horror without the need for something big. The film’s music by Rich Vreeland, in his Disasterpiece alias, is incredible as it’s eerie electronic score play into the sense of terror and suspense as it’s one of the film’s major highlights.

The casting by Mark Bennett and Carrie Ray is marvelous as it features notable small roles from Bailey Spry as the young woman being chased in the film’s opening sequence, Debbie Williams as Jay and Kelly’s mother, and as the strange dead, there’s Alexyss Spradlin, Mike Lanier, Ingrid Mortimer, and Don Hails as these scary beings. Jake Weary is terrific as Jay’s date Hugh who was the carrier of this mysterious disease as he later tells her and her friends exactly what they’re dealing with. Daniel Zovatto is excellent as Jay’s neighbor Greg whom she used to go out with as he helps her and her friends in dealing with this mysterious entity.

Olivia Luccardi is superb as the nerdy Yara who is a friend of Jay’s sister Kelly as she helps out with the chaos of what is happening. Lili Sepe is fantastic as Jay’s younger sister Kelly who is trying to comprehend the situation regarding her sister. Keir Gilchrist is brilliant as Jay’s longtime childhood friend Paul who is also trying to deal with the situation as well as his own feelings for Jay. Finally, there’s Maika Monroe in a remarkable performance as Jay as this young college student whose innocent night with a young man goes wrong as she copes with her situation and the fear that is surrounding her as she tries to survive and find someone to pass this disease to.

It Follows is a phenomenal film from David Robert Mitchell that features a break-out performance from Maika Monroe. The film isn’t just one of the smartest horror films in recent years but a film that manages to follow many of its schematics and find new ways to use them without the need of gore or multiple big scares that had hurt the genre. In the end, It Follows is a spectacular film from David Robert Mitchell.

© thevoid99 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Stone Roses: Made of Stone




Directed by Shane Meadows, The Stone Roses: Made of Stone is a documentary about one of Britain’s great bands in the late 1980s who redefined the music scene for a brief period of time as they would reunite in 2012 with a concert in their hometown of Manchester. The film follows the group’s rise as an indie band that brought a lot to the music scene and their fall in the mid-1990s and their eventual comeback. The result is a very exciting and enthralling film from Shane Meadows.

In 1989, the Stone Roses released their self-titled debut which came out of nowhere as they went from this cult band from Manchester to becoming the biggest band in Britain. Just as they were destined to rule the world, their momentum was halted by litigation and other legal issues that prevented the band from performing and recording as they would eventually make their return with a second album in late 1994 in which the music scene had change and the band would dissolve two years later. Then in 2012 after years of rumors, the Stone Roses decided to finally reunite for a tour and possibly to make new music as director Shane Meadows would film this reunion as well as cover the band’s history.

Meadows does maintain a unique narrative as it moves back and forth from the band’s history to the announcement of their reunion tour, rehearsals, and concerts in Europe including the climatic three-night performance at Manchester’s Heaton Park. All of which has Meadows showcase four guys trying to not only become friends again but also remember why they enjoyed playing with each other. Through the historical portion of the film, Meadows and editors Matthew Gray, Chris King, and Tobias Zaldua use rare footage including news interviews and such to play into the band’s history as well as their rise and fall. For the reunion section, Meadows and cinematographer Laurie Rose would shoot the portions in black-and-white digital and then into color for the European tour and its climatic show at Heaton Park.

With contributions from sound re-recording mixers John Rogerson and Johnathan Rush, Meadows doesn’t just make the film about the band but also what it meant to people. Especially the people in Manchester as more than a thousand would attend a secret free show as some of them would bring their kids to the show. While there are subtitles for what these people had to say, it is clear that there’s a special place for the Roses as they were one of the bands that really made Manchester one of the coolest places in the world. Meadows doesn’t just add that sense of personal touch as a Mancunian where he also gets Liam Gallagher of Oasis to comment on the band as he would attend their secret show. He also knows when not to film such as a key moment where a show in Amsterdam becomes a disaster as Meadows doesn’t interview the band what happened knowing that something did go wrong and he wanted to give them their space.

Meadows keeps much of the compositions to be simple and to the point in the concert scenes while capturing some of joy in the rehearsals. For the climatic concert in Heaton Park, it does become about Manchester as he would use helicopter aerial footage to capture the city coming alive. Especially as it plays to an event that many Mancunians think would never happen as the Roses deliver full-on.

The Stone Roses: Made of Stone is a phenomenal film from Shane Meadows. Not only is this film a must-see for fans of the Stone Roses but it’s also a film that anyone who loves British indie music should see. Especially as it plays to a band that were set to rule the world as they’re given another chance to do so. In the end, The Stone Roses: Made of Stone is a remarkable film from Shane Meadows.

Shane Meadows Films: (Small Time) - (Twenty Four Seven) - (A Room for Romeo Brass) - (Once Upon a Time in the Midlands) - (Dead Man’s Shoes) - This is England - (Somers Town) - (Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee)

© thevoid99 2015