Friday, July 29, 2016

Shane




Based on the novel by Jack Schaefer, Shane is the story of a man who comes to the aid of a farming family to deal with a gunman who is threatening their lives. Directed by George Stevens and screenplay by A.B. Guthrie Jr., the film is the story of a man just trying to help a family as he also tries to move away from his violent past. Starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon deWilde, Emile Meyer, Elisha Cook Jr., Ben Johnson, and Jack Palance. Shane is a rapturous and evocative film from George Stevens.

Set in the mid-1800s years after the American Civil War, the film revolves a farming family who take in a mysterious gunslinger who helps them deal with cattle barons wanting their land. It’s a film with a simple story that plays into a baron trying to drive homesteaders away from their land yet it is more about this man who would stand up to this baron and his men where a farmer’s son would idolize this man. The film’s screenplay by A.B. Guthrie Jr., with additional dialogue written by Jack Sher, doesn’t just explore a family trying to maintain their homestead but also in taking in this mysterious man who is trying to move away from his violent past. The titular character (Alan Ladd) is just a man wanting to do something other than go into gunplay where he would help out this family and do some farming.

He understands the struggle the homesteaders are dealing with against this baron under the Homestead Act as he would also spark some ire on the baron Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer). Shane would also deal with the attention of a farmer’s son in Joey (Brandon deWilde) who sees him as some iconic figure as he’s reluctant to show him how to draw a gun much to the dismay of the boy’s mother Marian Starrett (Jean Arthur). Shane would help Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) in not just deal with Ryker but also bring some hope to other homesteaders who are being driven by Ryker’s men as it would include the infamous gunslinger Jack Wilson (Jack Palance) who would kill someone during a confrontation. That confrontation would be key in the third act where Starrett tries to make a stand against Ryker but Shane realizes what is at stake where he would have to make a decision for himself and the Starrett family.

George Stevens’ direction is truly stunning not just for the gorgeous visuals and setting of the film but also in playing something that is a bit larger-than-life but also grounded in realism. Shot on location in Jackson, Wyoming with some shooting on sets in Hollywood, the film plays into this growing emergence of the American West where people are trying to make a home in open land growing crops and work hard for themselves and the community. Much of Stevens’ direction uses a lot of wide and medium shots to capture the scope of the locations where the Rocky Mountains are always present in the background as it help display some of the beauty of the West. Even in the way life was in the West as it was hard but at least it’s better than working for someone yet not everything is great as it relates to Ryker and his rule.

Stevens also uses some close-ups in scenes set at home along with a few medium shots for the intimacy as it would include a barroom brawl involving Ryker’s men against Shane and Joe Starrett. When the character of Jack Wilson emerges, there is something that is chilling as the scene where he kills a man is one of the most startling moments in the film and the way the man is killed just shows the dark reality that is emerging. There are some little moments Stevens would put in the film as it would help say a lot by doing so little as it eventually play into what is to come. All of which has Shane not only be back down to Earth but reveal a lot of who he is and what he needs to do to help this family. Overall, Stevens creates an intoxicating and touching film about a gunslinger trying to help a family deal with a cattle baron.

Cinematographer Loyal Griggs does amazing work with the film‘s beautiful Technicolor film stock to capture the beauty of the locations and that attention to detail in the skyline and the Rocky Mountains as well as some of the interiors with the usage of available and artificial light for those scenes. Editors William Hornbeck and Tom McAdoo do excellent work with the editing as it has some unique rhythmic cuts for the action and drama as well as some stylish usage of dissolves to create some superimposed images in the film. Art directors Hal Pereira and Walter H. Tyler, with set decorator Emile Kuri, do brilliant work with the look of the small town that the characters live nearby at as well as the home of the Starrett family.

Costume designer Edith Head does nice work with the costumes from the look of the dresses that the women wear as well as the clothes of the men including the different looks of Shane and Wilson. Sound recorders Gene Garvin and Harry Lindgren do terrific work with the sound to play into some of the chaos as well as the sound of gunfire to create something that is natural. The film’s music by Victor Young is fantastic for its orchestral-based score as it include elements of country-western music as well as some themes that play for certain characters as it is one of the film’s major highlights.

The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from Leonard Wright as a homesteader who would leave because of Ryker, Douglas Spencer and Edith Evanson as a couple of Swedish homesteaders who are friends of the Starretts, Paul McVey as the local trading post/bar owner in the town, John Miller as the bartender, Edgar Buchanan as the homesteader Fred Lewis, and John Dierkes as Ryker’s son who helps his father handle things. Elisha Cook Jr. is terrific as a former Confederate turned homesteader in Frank “Stonewall” Torrey who tries to confront Ryker and Wilson during a chilling scene at the bar only to later get into some serious trouble. Ben Johnson is superb as Chris Calloway as a member of Ryker’s gang who would get into a tussle with Shane as he tries to provoke him only to get a serious ass-kicking. Emile Meyer is excellent as Rufus Ryker as a cattle baron that is trying to maintain rule into the land he claims is his as he does whatever he can to get people to work for him or else kick them out of their home.

Brandon deWilde is wonderful as Joey Starrett as a young boy who sees Shane as some larger-than-life figure as he would idolize the man unaware of the realism and what Shane has to do to survive. Jean Arthur is brilliant as Marian Starrett as Joe Starrett’s wife as a woman who is trying to maintain some control as well as dealing with the danger of what is happening as she becomes concerned for her son’s fascination with guns. Jack Palance is phenomenal in his small but eerie role as the gunslinger Jack Wilson as this sadistic and scary man that brings fear and is also one of the fiercest killers in the West. Van Heflin is amazing as Joe Starrett as a farmer/homesteader trying to save his land as well as do whatever it takes to keep where he would also succumb to his own sense of pride. Finally, there’s Alan Ladd in a magnificent performance as the titular character as this laconic gunslinger that is trying to find a life away from violence as he does whatever he can to avoid conflict as it is this towering performance that is also grounded in reality as it is Ladd at his most iconic.

Shane is a tremendous film from George Stevens that features great performances from Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, Jean Arthur, and Jack Palance. Featuring a compelling script, gorgeous visuals, and a powerful music score, the film isn’t just one of the defining films of the western genre but it is also a film that is about a man trying to do what is right in a troubled world during the West. In the end, Shane is an outstanding film from George Stevens.

George Stevens Films: (The Cohens and the Kellys in Trouble) - (Kentucky Kernals) - (Bachelor Bait) - (Laddie) - (The Nitwits) - (Alice Adams) - (Annie Oakley) - (Swing Time) - (Quality Street) - (A Damsel in Distress (1937 film)) - (Vivacious Lady) - (Gunga Din) - (Vigil in the Night) - (Penny Serenade) - (Woman of the Year) - (The Talk of the Town (1942 film)) - (The More the Merrier) - (That Justice Be Done) - (On Our Merry Way) - (I Remember Mama) - (A Place in the Sun) - (Something to Live For) - (Giant (1956 film)) - (The Diary of Anne Frank) - (The Greatest Story Ever Told) - (The Only Game in Town)

© thevoid99 2016

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Red River




Based on the story Blazing Guns on the Chisholm Trail by Borden Chase for the Saturday Evening Post, Red River is the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Kansas where a rancher finds himself sparring with his independent-minded adopted son. Directed by Howard Hawks and screenplay by Borden Chase and Charles Schnee, the film is a fictional account about the very first cattle drive along the Chisholm trail as it also explores the dynamic between two men on the cattle drive. Starring John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan, Joanne Dru, Coleen Gray, John Ireland, Harry Carey, Harry Carey Jr., Hank Worden, Noah Beery Jr., and Paul Fix. Red River is a mesmerizing and riveting film from Howard Hawks.

Set during the aftermath of the American Civil War where the country is going through an economic depression, the film revolves around a rancher who spent 14 years creating a ranch in Texas as he decides to take the cattle to Missouri and hope to make some money. Joining him is adopted son, his longtime trail hand, and several other men trekking more than a thousand miles yet things go wrong prompting some tension between father and son as the latter realizes that going to a small town in Kansas is the way to go as it also has a railroad. It’s a film that explores a cattle drive as well as two men finding themselves at odds over what to do as a series of small incidents would drive them further. Even as many of the men who signed up for the trail find themselves dealing with the journey and how rough it’s become as they begin to rebel.

The film’s screenplay by Borden Chase and Charles Schnee doesn’t just explore the dynamic between Thomas Dunson (John Wayne) and his adopted son Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift) but also the former’s stubborn demeanor trying to get the cattle to Missouri thinking he will be well-paid there. The script opens with a prologue of sorts as it relates to how Dunson found the land and met Garth when he was a kid. It displays the drive and ambition that Dunson has where he is eager to make a name for himself following a moment of tragedy in an earlier cattle drive. When he spends years building the ranch with Garth and longtime friend Groot (Walter Brennan), he would succeed but becomes broke due to the aftermath of the Civil War where he makes the decision to do the cattle drive. When they’re joined by several men including a gunslinger named Cherry Valance (John Ireland), the journey from Texas to Missouri would be an arduous one.

Garth doesn’t try to argue or go against Dunson but eventually realizes that Dunson’s ideals start to get the better of him as even Groot start to question what is going on. The film’s second half isn’t just about a breakdown between Dunson and Garth but also what the latter would try to do after some men left the drive in protest. Even as some of the men would make a discovery of what they would find that would lead them to Kansas much to Dunson’s protest. For Dunson, it’s a moment where he’s humiliated as he would retaliate in such a way as Garth would anticipate it leading to a very chilling climax.

Howard Hawks’ direction is truly intoxicating in terms of the presentation he creates where he does maintain a feel of the American West where it plays into a world that is changing but also with a sense of hope. Shot in various locations around Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, California, and parts of Mexico, the film does play into this growing expansion of the West where Hawks would use a lot of wide shots for the scenery as well as in some medium shots to capture the intimacy of the group. With the aid of co-director Arthur Rosson in shooting some of the cattle drive and action sequences in the film, Hawks maintains that sense of being in the journey while knowing how rough it is as it would include a stampede scene and later a sequence involving Indians trying to go after a group of travelers. There is an element of thrill in those sequences while Hawks would also find ways to create scenes of dialogue and drama that is really key to the film in the course of the story.

Many of the scenes during the stops in the journey are very intimate where Hawks uses some close-ups and medium shots to play into the growing tension between Dunson and Garth. Even in moments where Dunson would do some very serious things to those who caused harm or tried to leave the drive as it would be some of the darkest moments in the film. Once the film goes into the third act where Garth would take control of the drive and move it towards Kansas. The eventual showdown between Dunson and Garth isn’t a traditional showdown where guns are drawn as it is more about ownership and ideals. Overall, Hawks creates a rapturous yet intense film about a cattle drive that becomes a troubling journey for a rancher and his adopted son.

Cinematographer Russell Harlan does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from the look of the daytime exterior scenes as well as the look of the scenes set at night as it would also include some additional work from Allan Thompson in some of the special effects for the action sequences. Editor Christian Nyby does excellent work with the editing as it includes some stylish rhythmic cuts for some of the action scenes along with some straightforward cuts for the drama as well in some of the chilling moments in the film. Art director John Datu Arensma does fantastic work with the look of some of the buildings in the film as well as the town for the film‘s climax.

The sound work of Richard Deweese is superb for the way the cattle sounds during a stampede as well as the little moments in the film as it plays into the intimacy and suspense. The film’s music by Dimitri Tiomkin is wonderful for its orchestral-based score that is filled with lush string arrangements and some bombastic percussions where it plays into some the action in the latter as it would include a song written by Tiomkin that is in the vein of country-western music.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Slim Pickens as a cowboy late in the film, Shelly Winters as a dancehall girl in the wagon, Mickey Kuhn as the young Garth, William Self as a wounded wrangler from another drive that Dunson and Garth meet, Ivan Parry as a sugar-addicted wrangler named Kenneally, and Chief Yowlachie as an Indian wrangler named Two Jaw Quo. Other noteworthy roles as wrangler’s in Dunson’s cattle drive include Wally Wales, Hank Worden, and Paul Fix as a trio of men who become frustrated with Dunson’s rules while Harry Carey Jr. is terrific as a young wrangler eager to make it and bring money home to his family. Noah Beery Jr. is superb as the wrangler Buster McGee who would help Garth in rebelling against Dunson while making a key discovery in their destination.

Coleen Gray is wonderful as Fen as the love of Dunson’s life early in the film who wanted to join him on the land he had just discovered. Harry Carey Sr. is excellent as Mr. Melville in a trading company leader who would give Garth the offer of a lifetime as his small but brief appearance late in the film is fun to watch. Joanne Dru is amazing as Tess Millay as a woman Garth meets in the third act as he saves her from an Indian attack where she is this fascinating woman that is intrigued by Garth but also fascinated by who Dunson is. John Ireland is brilliant as Cherry Valance as a gunslinger who joins Dunson and Garth as he befriends the latter over their skills as he is also someone that knows more about what is out there.

Walter Brennan is incredible as Groot as a old trail hand who has been Dunson’s longtime friend as he is also the film’s conscience of sorts where he observes a lot that is happening as he becomes frustrated with Dunson’s stubbornness. Montgomery Clift is phenomenal as Matthew Garth as Dunson’s loyal stepson who does whatever he can to help his stepfather in driving the cattle to Missouri as he begins to realize what needs to be done as it’s more of an act of taking control instead of disrespecting the man who raised him. Finally, there’s John Wayne in a tremendous performance as Thomas Dunson as this man who would build and create a cattle ranch from very little as he does whatever he can to get the cattle to Missouri as it’s Wayne being a man that is quite un-likeable at times but is filled with a lot of determination no matter how foolish it is as it’s one of Wayne’s great performances.

Red River is a magnificent film from Howard Hawks that features great performances from John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. Featuring an amazing supporting cast, dazzling visuals, and a gripping story, the film isn’t just one of the finest westerns ever made but it’s also a unique study into the fallacy of ambition but also what some will do to salvage morale in an ever-changing world. In the end, Red River is an outstanding film from Howard Hawks.

Howard Hawks Films: (The Road to Glory) - (Fig Leaves) - (Cradle Snatchers) - (Paid to Love) - (A Girl in Every Port (1928 film)) - (Fazil) - (The Air Circus) - (Trent’s Last Case (1929 film)) - (The Dawn Patrol (1930)) - (The Criminal Code) - Scarface (1932 film) - (The Crowd Roars (1932 film)) - (Tiger Shark) - (Today We Live) - (The Prizefighter and the Lady) - (Viva Villa!) - (Twentieth Century) - (Barbary Coast) - (Ceiling Zero) - (The Road to Glory) - (Come and Get It) - (Bringing Up Baby) - (Only Angels Have Wings) - (His Girl Friday) - (Sergeant York) - (Ball of Fire) - (Air Force) - (To Have and Have Not) - (The Big Sleep (1946 film)) - (The Outlaw) - (A Song is Born) - (I Was a Male War Bride) - (The Big Sky) - (Monkey Business) - (O Henry’s Full House) - (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) - (Land of the Pharaohs) - (Rio Bravo) - (Hatari!) - (Man’s Favorite Sport?) - (Red Line 7000) - (El Dorado) - (Rio Lobo)

© thevoid99 2016

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

21 Years: Richard Linklater




Written and directed by Michael Dunaway and Tara Wood, 21 Years: Richard Linklater is a documentary film about the career of filmmaker Richard Linklater from his 1990 breakthrough release Slacker to the impending release of his 2014 film Boyhood told through interviews with many of the actors who had worked with him as well as animated segments where the actors describe Linklater’s approach through filmmaking. The result is an enjoyable and witty film from Michael Dunaway and Tara Wood.

Since the release of his 1990 film Slacker, Richard Linklater was considered one of the forefathers of new wave of American Independent Cinema in the 1990s yet he would continuously evolve through many films through the 2000s and beyond whether it would be experimental films, Hollywood studio films, sci-fi, period films, or whatever. All of which were films that had unique touches as the documentary film features interviews with not just the many actors he collaborated but also filmmakers such as Kevin Smith and Jason Reitman who both see him as a major influence in their work. Actors such as Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Parker Posey, Jack Black, Anthony Rapp, Nicky Katt, Billy Bob Thornton, Zac Efron, Keanu Reeves, and several others talk about Linklater’s approach to improv and make things feel natural.

With the aid of animation directors Adam Conarroe, Megan Kluck, and Shane Minshew, many of the stories the actors talk about in their experience with Linklater is told through animation where Hawke and Delpy talk about the writing process for Before Sunset and Before Midnight where much of it had the two of them laughing a lot in the writing with Linklater. Black talks about Linklater’s approach to make things feel genuine in order to get the story feel real to an audience as Black is proud of the work he’s done with Linklater as does McConaughey who would put in his own family into the films such as one of his brothers in an appearance in The Newton Boys and his mother in Bernie. Much of the direction that Michael Dunaway and Tara Wood does is straightforward in terms of the way the interviews are presented as well as delving a lot into Linklater’s work with the Austin Film Society that had become an important society for the city of Austin.

The film does have flaws as not all of Linklater’s films are discussed heavily like Waking Life, Tape, Fast Food Nation, and subUrbia while there is no mention of his first film It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books. It still cover a lot of what Linklater does as many of the interviews are shot in a straightforward manner with the aid of cinematographer Aaron Brown. Editor Jeremy Ward and sound editor Evan Dunivan do excellent work in compiling the footage as well as putting the audio interview excerpts from the actors over the film. The film’s music by Graham Reynolds is pretty good as it is a mixture of rock and jazz to play into the different flavors of all of Linklater’s films.

21 Years: Richard Linklater is a pretty good film from Michael Dunaway and Tara Wood. While fans of Linklater’s work will enjoy the interviews, they would definitely feel like the film deserves more to say as well as talk about all of other films he did as well as comments from the man himself. In the end, 21 Years: Richard Linklater is a stellar film from Michael Dunaway and Tara Wood.

© thevoid99 2016

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Everybody Want Some!!



Written and directed by Richard Linklater, Everybody Want Some!! is the story of a young baseball pitcher who goes to a college in Texas as he deals with the world of debauchery as well as trying to make it in the college leagues as it is told in the span of a weekend before the first day of college. The film is considered a spiritual sequel to 1993’s Dazed and Confused as it’s set in 1980 where a young man deals with being in college as well as looking at what is ahead for his life. Starring Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch, Will Brittain, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Glen Powell, and Wyatt Russell. Everybody Want Some!! is a wild yet sensational film from Richard Linklater.

Set in the span of an entire weekend before the first day of college, a young baseball pitcher arrives at his new home where he deals with his new surroundings as well as his teammates that include three other freshmen and two new transfers as they party and do all sorts of crazy shit. It is a film with a simple story as this freshman pitcher not only adjusts to his new surroundings but also realize what he has to do to survive and live up to the expectations of being part of the team. Richard Linklater’s screenplay doesn’t carry much of a plot but it does have characters that are all very interesting in their own unique way. Sure, they drink beer and smoke some weed while going to clubs and meet women yet they’re not the typical jocks. They really care about playing baseball and do good while being aware that not everyone will go to the majors. At the same time, they’re just trying to have fun and live the moment though not everything is great as there’s a few that would try to ruin things.

Linklater’s direction is quite simple in terms of the compositions he creates while re-creating a period in time that feels new but also bear elements of the previous decade. Shot largely in various locations in Texas including Austin and Weimar, the film does have a feel that plays into the many different world that the state offers where the guys would go to a disco one day and then a country bar the next day. There’s also an encounter with the punk subculture as well as the world of the theater kids. Linklater’s usage of the wide and medium shots doesn’t just play into this diverse environment but also in the way they deal with baseball practice and training. Linklater also maintains an intimacy as it relates to the guys just hanging out and playing games where the usage of close-ups and medium shots show something that is just extraordinary in how ordinary things can be. Even as it maintains something lively in the parties and in the game while taking the first steps into the world that is college. Overall, Linklater creates a sensational yet fun film about a freshman and his first weekend of college life.

Cinematographer Shane F. Kelly does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of lights and moods for much of the film‘s interiors and some of the nighttime scenes as well as the naturalistic look for the scenes set in the day. Editor Sandra Adair does amazing work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts as well as an inspired usage of the split-screen format. Production designer Bruce Curtis, with set decorator Gabriella Villarreal and art director Rodney Becker, does fantastic work with the look of the homes the team lives in as well as the clubs they go to all over Texas to play into the diverse world of the state. Costume designer Kari Perkins does nice work with the costumes as it plays into that transition from 70s to 80s in terms of style as well the different kind of looks and clothes the characters would wear for the different subcultures they would encounter.

Visual effects artist Chas Naylor does terrific work with some of the minimal visual effects as it‘s mainly bits of set-dressing as well as key moment in how a baseball is split in two by an axe. Sound editor Tom Hammond does superb work with the sound as it captures the raucous nature of the parties as well as some of the quieter moments to play into some of the natural sounds. Music supervisors Meghan Currier and Randall Poster create a phenomenal soundtrack that plays into the world of 70s/early 80s music from acts like Blondie, the Cars, the Knack, Gary Numan, Kool and the Gang, Van Halen, Joe Walsh, ZZ Top, Brian Eno, Pink Floyd, the Sugarhill Gang, John Stewart with Stevie Nicks, Parliament, Peaches & Herb, Frank Zappa, Donna Summer, Queen, Hot Chocolate, Stiff Little Fingers, Patti Smith, Pat Benatar, Devo, Eddie Money, M, and Foreigner.

The casting by Justine Arteta, Vicky Boone, and Kim Davis-Wagner is great as it features some notable small roles from Jonathan Breck as the baseball coach, Michael Monsour as a former teammate of Jake in Justin who has become a punk, Forrest Vickery as a big teammate in Coma, Austin Amelio as a risk-taking teammate in Nesbit, Tanner Kalina as a freshman player who tries to find his footing in Alex Brumley, Temple Baker as another freshman in Tyrone Plummer who befriends Jake, J. Quinton Johnson as the African-American player Dale Douglas who helps the new guys what to do, and Juston Street as a new transfer from Detroit named Jay Niles who has a lot of attitude and is very selfish. Will Brittain is superb as a freshman pitcher in Billy “Beuter” Autrey who gets a nickname because of his accent as he would also look like a cowboy.

Ryan Guzman is terrific as the ladies man Kenny who does whatever he can to look good and be with the chicks as well as be a very loyal player. Tyler Hoechlin is excellent as the team leader Glen McReynolds as a veteran player who doesn’t like the freshmen as a way for them to gain his respect yet is someone that is willing to help them in their importance of teamwork. Wyatt Russell is fantastic as the stoner player Charlie Willoughby as this eccentric guy that everyone likes as well as be a guy who has a great obsession with The Twilight Zone. Zoey Deutch is amazing as Beverly as a performance arts student who befriends Jake as she is wary of what he is but realizes that he is just a nice guy. Blake Jenner is brilliant as Jake as the freshman pitcher who arrives at the school as he tries to find his footing while embracing some of the things that had to be done as it’s just a laid-back performance. Finally, there’s Glen Powell in an incredible performance as Finnegan as this veteran player who is the coolest and funniest motherfucker of the team while trying to help the new guys in how to flirt with chicks as he’s just a guy that is cool as well as be open to anything that he encounters.

Everybody Wants Some!! is a remarkable film from Richard Linklater. Featuring a great cast, a compelling premise, and an awesome soundtrack as it’s a film about guys having a good time while living in the moment before they become adults. Even as it doesn’t take itself seriously while daring to ask some questions about life and the world of baseball. In the end, Everybody Wants Some!! is a phenomenal film from Richard Linklater.

Richard Linklater Films: It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books - Slacker - Dazed and Confused - Before Sunrise - subUrbia - The Newton Boys - Waking Life - Tape - School of Rock - Before Sunset - Bad News Bears (2005 film - A Scanner Darkly - Fast Food Nation - Me and Orson Welles - Bernie - Before Midnight - Boyhood - The Auteurs #57: Richard Linklater (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2)

© thevoid99 2016

Sunday, July 24, 2016

3 Godfathers



Based on the short novelette by Peter B. Kyne, 3 Godfathers is the story of three outlaws who find themselves taking care of a baby as they try to bring it to civilization in an act of goodwill. Directed by John Ford and screenplay by Frank S. Nugent and Laurence Stallings, the film is a dramatic tale in which three men find themselves in a situation as well as trying to do some good in a world that is often chaotic. Starring John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, Harry Carey Jr., Ward Bond, Mae Marsh, and Ben Johnson. 3 Godfathers is a riveting and compelling film from John Ford.

Following a robbery that left one of three criminals wounded and forced to hide in the desert with very little water, three criminals find a covered wagon in the middle of the desert where a dying woman is giving birth as they made a promise to take care of her baby. It’s a film with a simple story yet it bears a lot of spiritual elements while balancing with it elements of the western genre as it manages to be a lot more. The film’s screenplay by Frank S. Nugent and Laurence Stallings start off with these three men wanting to rob a bank as it would be successful except one of the men gets wounded and they also lose their water supply. It becomes cat-and-mouse game between these criminals and a sheriff who is accompanied by a posse of deputies where it is a game of wits. Once the three men find this woman and help her give birth, they realize that they need to get this baby to shelter as it’s no longer about them anymore. Even as they also struggle to do the right thing amidst their lack of water and trekking through the treacherous desert.

John Ford’s direction is definitely rapturous in terms of its visuals as a lot of the film would be shot in and around Death Valley, California as Arizona and parts of Utah. The locations would give Ford a canvas to work with as his usage of the wide shots would play into the beauty of the American West and the Rocky Mountains where he would create images that are just gorgeous to watch. Especially in the attention to detail in how he would frame his actors for a shot while he would also use medium shots to create some intimacy but also moments where it plays into some suspense and drama. The film is set during the Christmas holidays which does add to the air of spirituality in the journey the three criminals would take as it has biblical references while giving the men something more noble than what they were doing. All of which play into doing what is right for a child and bring him into a world where no matter how bad things can be. There is a sense of good that can come in and with people who will do the right thing. Overall, Ford creates a fascinating yet powerful film about three criminals trying to make a vow for a dying woman to take care of her baby.

Cinematographer Winton C. Hoch does amazing work with the film‘s gorgeous and colorful cinematography with the usage of the Technicolor film stock as it captures a lot of the beauty of the Death Valley desert as well as the Rocky Mountains along with some unique yet naturalistic lighting for the scenes set at night. Editor Jack Murray does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some rhythmic cuts for some of the action and a few dissolves for transitions. Art director Jack Basevi and set decorator Joseph Kish do amazing work with the look of the town that the criminals encounter early in the film as well as the water tank stops on the railroad. The sound work of Joseph I. Kane and Frank Moran is terrific as it plays into the sound of train whistles and gunfire as well as other naturalistic elements in the sound. The film’s music by Richard Hageman is fantastic for its orchestral-based music with its string arrangements that range from bombastic to somber as it plays into the many moods in the film as it would also include traditional songs of the times.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Charles Halton as the bank manager, Dorothy Ford as the bank manager’s niece, Guy Kibbee as the local judge, Jane Darwell as a train stop manager in Miss Florie, Ben Johnson as a member of the deputy posse, Hank Worden as a sheriff’s deputy in Curley, Mae Marsh as the sheriff’s wife, and Mildred Natwick as the dying mother the criminals find in the desert as they help deliver her baby. Ward Bond is fantastic as Sheriff Buck Sweet as a man who is going after the three criminals while admiring their strategy in how to evade capture. In the titular roles as the three criminals are its leads in Harry Carey Jr., Pedro Armendariz, and John Wayne in great performances. In the role of the youngest in William Kearney aka the Abilene Kid, Carey provides that sense of youth but also a spirituality as someone that is well-versed in the Bible while dealing with a gunshot wound on his shoulder.

Pedro Armendariz’s performance as Pete “Pedro” Fuerte is just fun to watch as someone that randomly speaks Spanish as he’s a Mexican bandit yet knows a lot about raising children while also being a man that knows a lot about the story of the three wise men where he sees it as a call to God. John Wayne’s performance as Robert Marmaduke Hightower is really Wayne in one of his best roles as this aging bandit that has seen a lot and knows what to do. Yet, he becomes this unlikely father for this baby while he is determined to do the right thing.

3 Godfathers is a phenomenal film from John Ford that features incredible performances from John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, Harry Carey Jr., and Ward Bond. It’s a film that isn’t just a western that breaks away from some of its conventions but also give it a sense of spirituality in what three men try to do for a baby. In the end, 3 Godfathers is a spectacular film from John Ford.

© thevoid99 2016

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Jem and the Holograms




Based on the Hasbro Animated Series created by Christy Marx, Jem and the Holograms is the story of a young teenage girl who sings a song on YouTube wearing a wig where she, her sister, and their two adoptive singers become pop stars while trying to solve some mystery relating to a robot called Synergy. Directed by Jon M. Chu and screenplay by Ryan Landels, the film is a story of stardom and how they get discovered in the world of the Internet and social media as it is really about a modern world gone horribly wrong. Starring Aubrey Peebles, Aurora Perrineau, Stefanie Scott, Hayley Kiyoko, Ryan Guzman, Molly Ringwald, and Juliette Lewis. Jem and the Holograms is a blasphemous and atrocious film from Jon M. Chu.

Lamenting over her aunt’s financial troubles and overcomes her shyness to sing by wearing a wig and sing a song to a webcam where it would uploaded on YouTube. A young girl becomes a star as she’s joined by her sister and their two adoptive sisters to become a pop band, become big, break-up, the girl goes solo against her will, deal with evils of the music industry, falls for the boss’ son, gets back together, and go a scavenger hunt to find missing pieces for a robot called Synergy who is carrying a mysterious message. That is pretty much the film in a nutshell as it is told in a blandly reflective narrative by its protagonist Jerrica “Jem” Benton (Aubrey Peebles) who would tell her story through a webcam. Ryan Landels’ script doesn’t just feature a narrative that is so predictable but also doesn’t do anything new to the rags-to-riches scenario nor does it create characters that are engaging or interesting. With Jerrica being the only one with some development, it is handled poorly as she mopes and then gets happy, mopes, gets happy, mopes, gets happy, and etc.

Jon M. Chu’s direction isn’t just stylistically bad but it really doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. It wants to be a rags-to-riches film about stardom but it also wants to be a scavenger hunt film and it wants to be a heist movie as well as all kinds of shit. What happens is that Chu never really finds a balance nor does he really try to create something that is genre-bending as it becomes nonsensical. Shot largely in Los Angeles with some of it set in Southern California, many of the compositions either look or feel like a music video or never really do anything to tell the story. Adding to the nonsensical tone of the film is the barrage of YouTube clips that would appear very often in the film as if it plays to the idea that if Jem could be a star, so can the average moron. It’s really an ad for YouTube while the usage of Google Earth and other social media devices make the film feel distracting where it plays into this overly-consumerist world of social media as if it’s the idea to succeed.

It’s not just that the usage of these devices make the film so jarring to watch but it’s also in the YouTube videos as they’re presented in very poor quality. The musical performances presented in the film doesn’t just look and feel like a music video but its attempt to be authentic only makes it more embarrassing as the music isn’t any good. Even the message of what the film wants to be feels very tacked on as if it will make anyone create some form of bullshit and be rich of it which is false. Another aspect of the film that is really an insult to fans of the show who posted videos for their love of the cartoon show is having them express their devotion to the Jem character in the film as it is just a major slap in the fucking face to those fans and the cartoon itself showing how obscene this film is. Overall, Chu creates a film that isn’t just idiotic but it’s really a film that explores the false notion of stardom and in the disguised of an ad for YouTube and other social media devices.

Cinematographer Alice Brooks does some very awful work with the film‘s photography as it‘s overly-stylized with its polished look along with the usage of hand-held phone cameras and low-quality SVHS video footage as it‘s just shit. Editors Jillian Twigger Moul and Michael Trent do horrible work with the editing as it‘s got a lot of fast-cuts, lots of montages, and doesn‘t try to slow things down. Production designer Kevin Bird, with set decorator Lori Mazeur and art director Jennifer Moller, does a bad job with the look of the sets as it‘s just looks expensive or use places to create something authentic which is the opposite. Costume designer Soyon An creates some shitty clothing that looks like bad 80s costumes with awful wigs and all sorts of ugly shit.

Visual effects supervisor James David Hattin does some idiotic work with the visual effects in the way some of the holograms that Synergy produces looks and feels cheesy as well as the big reveal which is just ugh…. Sound editor Kunal Rajan does a bad job as if the sound is meant to be something big such as a performance where the power goes off yet people can still hear Jem sing which is one of those unprofessional moments for a sound editor. The film’s music by Nathan Lanier is just a low-key score of electronics with bits of bad jazz that is just unmemorable yet it is the work of music supervisor Olivia Zaro that really shows why this film is an abomination as a lot of the music Jem and the Holograms sing are just bad pop music that sounds like everything else as it’s not authentic at all.

The casting by Terri Taylor is horrific where it has some talented people given nothing to do but look stupid as well as use some very unnecessary cameos from Alicia Keys, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Pratt, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sing the praises of Jem while the cameo appearances of the show’s creator Christy Marx as a journalist, Jem’s original singing voice as Britta Phillips as a stage manager, and Jem’s original cartoon voice in Samantha Newmark as a hairstylist are just there for no reason. In the role of the Misfits who appear in the mid-credits sequence, Ke$ha, Hana Mae Lee, Katie Findlay, and Eiza Gonzalez are there as it should’ve been the highlight but being relegated in the mid-credits after the film is just an insult. The small roles of Nathan Moore as the bodyguard Zipper, Isabella Rice as the young Jerrica, and Barnaby Carpenter as Jerrica and Kimber’s father are just there for no real fucking reason with Carpenter being the one to give out a lame message that the film doesn’t represent at all.

Molly Ringwald is pretty wasted in the role of Aunt Bailey as a woman struggling with her finances to save her house as she tries to be a source of wisdom for Jem and the girls where she isn’t given anything substantial to do. Juliette Lewis as Erica Raymond is a performance that tries to be a strong antagonist but is never given any real depth as she’s just a bad villain. Ryan Guzman is bland as Erica’s son Rio as the guy who is there to watch the girls and become Jerrica’s boyfriend. Hayley Kiyoko and Aurora Perrineau are dull in their respective roles as Aja and Shana where they’re the adopted sisters of Jerrica and Kimber as they’re just there to look cool and bitch about everything while Stefanie Scott as Jerrica’s younger sister is just this overly-excited and Internet-obsessed sister who is bad to watch. Finally, there’s Aubrey Peebles as Jerrica “Jem” Benton as this shy girl who becomes a star and deals with all of its trapping as she is someone that is never given any depth where the performance is just horrible to watch.

Jem and the Holograms is a horrific film from Jon M. Chu. Not only is it a bad and bland film that exploits many of the awful aspects of modern pop music as well as the world of social media at its worst. It’s a film that is essentially a veiled ad for social media outlets including YouTube, Twitter, and Google Earth. A lot of it that goes overboard while it insults fans of the cartoon series as well as the source material where it takes itself way too seriously. In the end, Jem and the Holograms is just a fucking horrible film from Jon M. Chu that is just a fucking insult to Christy Marx and the cartoon series that she created.

© thevoid99 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: Rio Grande



Based on the short story Mission with No Record for the Saturday Evening Post magazine by James Warner Bellah, Rio Grande is the story of a cavalry unit who are trying to control an Indian uprising near the Mexican border. Directed by John Ford and screenplay by James Kevin McGuinness, the film is the third and final film of a trilogy of films devoted to the cavalry as it would revolve around a cavalry officer torn between his duty and the family he‘s become estranged with. Starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Claude Jarman Jr., Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Chill Wills, Victor McLaglen, and Grant Withers. Rio Grande is a compelling yet exciting film from John Ford.

Set in 1879, the film revolves an officer who is trying to run a fort and protect his settlers from the Apache who are trying to create chaos near the Mexican border in Texas. Even as he finds himself dealing with the arrival of his estranged wife and their son who had just enlisted in the cavalry after failing at West Point where he struggles to be a soldier as well as a good man. It’s a film that plays into a man trying to keep everything together as he is aware that the Apache are nearby the border where he hopes to stop them yet is uneasy by issues he has in his past relating to his family. James Kevin McGuinness’ script is structured to play into Lt. Colonel Kirby Yorke (John Wayne) as he tries to balance between family and duty as the first act is him dealing with his son Jeff (Claude Jarman Jr.) being enlisted as he doesn’t give him any special treatment as well as the arrival of his estranged wife Kathleen (Maureen O’Hara) whom he’s still in love with.

The second act revolves around Lt. Colonel Yorke’s attempt to balance duty and family while going on a small mission to the Rio Grande to meet with Mexican officers as Kathleen gets some unneeded reminders of her old home in the form of Major Sgt. Quincannon (Victor McLaglen) who is a friend of Lt. Col. Yorke. There’s a subplot involving a recruit named Tyree (Ben Johnson) who is rumored to be a fugitive as he tries to hide from a marshal as he would help Jeff go through training. The film’s third act revolves around a mission about getting the settlers to a fort where a lot happens but it also shows what kind of man Lt. Col. Yorke does as well as how his son is willing to prove himself to his father.

John Ford’s direction is definitely evocative for its usage of the wide and medium shots to capture much of the film’s location set in Monument Valley in Utah for many of the scenes set in the deserts along with some locations set in the town of Moab, Utah and areas near the Colorado River. Many of it play into the expansion of the West but also the unrest that is looming where Lt. Col. Yorke has to try and keep things civilized. The direction also has Ford creating a lot of these gorgeous images with the mountains and such as beautiful backdrops while he would create some intimate moments in the scenes at the fort involving Lt. Col. Yorke and his wife with some medium shots but also some close-ups. There are also moments where there are musical performances including a scene where musicians play for Kathleen as well as a general visiting the fort as well as a few comedic moments provided by Major Sgt. Quincannon. The climatic raid in the third act is definitely thrilling not just for Ford’s usage of dolly and tracking shots to capture the chase but also in creating a sense of urgency into the action. There is some suspense as it relates to what is needed to do but also a sense of what is happening where Ford knows how to shoot the action and make it mean something. Overall, Ford creates a fascinating and gripping film about a cavalry officer’s attempt to find balance in his role as a soldier and as a man.

Cinematographer Bert Glennon does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from its usage of low-key lights and shadows for some of the film‘s nighttime interior/exterior scenes to the gorgeous look of the daytime exteriors to capture some of the film‘s locations. Editor Jack Murray does excellent work with the editing as a lot of it is straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the action. Art director Frank Hotaling, with set decorators John McCarthy Jr. and Charles S. Thompson, does fantastic work with the look of the fort as well as the tents and wagons used in the film.

Costume designer Adele Palmer does nice work with the look of some of the uniforms as well as the dresses that Kathleen wears. The sound work of Earl Crain Sr. and Howard Wilson is superb for its naturalistic approach to the sound in the locations as well as in the music as well as some sound effects for the gunfire and arrows. The film’s music by Victor Young is wonderful for its orchestral score that can be serene for the dramatic moments to bombastic with its action scenes as the music also includes traditional songs performed by Sons of the Pioneers who appear in the film as regimental singers.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Karolyn Grimes as a young girl Major Sgt. Quincannon is fond of, Peter Ortiz and Steve Pendleton as a couple of captains aiding Lt. Col. Yorke, and Grant Withers as a marshal trying to find Tyree. J. Carrol Naish is terrific as General Philip Sheridan who makes a visit in the film’s second half as he would give Lt. Col. Yorke a major assignment while Chill Wills is fantastic as Dr. Wilkins who is the regiment’s surgeon that often provides some wise ideas. Victor McLaglen is excellent as Major Sgt. Quincannon as the film’s comic relief of sorts who likes to drink but also try to deal with what he did years ago that has gained him the ire of Kathleen Yorke.

Claude Jarman Jr. is superb as Lt. Col. Yorke’s son Jeff as a young recruit who tries to find his role in the military as well as trying to be himself without the need to impress his father whom he never saw for 15 years. Harry Carey Jr. is brilliant as Daniel “Sandy” Boone as a trooper who helps Jeff in learning the ropes while being a bit comical himself while Ben Johnson is amazing as the trooper Tyree as someone that is good with horses yet is hiding a secret as he is pursued by a marshal. Maureen O’Hara is great as Kathleen Yorke as Lt. Col. Yorke’s estranged wife who arrives to the fort to pull Jeff out only to find herself falling for her husband all over again but struggle with his duty as a soldier as it’s one of O’Hara’s finest performances. Finally, there’s John Wayne in a phenomenal performance as Lt. Colonel Kirby Yorke as this cavalry officer trying to do his job while becoming uneasy about having his son enlist as a cavalry trooper and becoming more uneasy with the presence of his wife where finds himself trying to balance being a soldier and be a good man as it’s Wayne in one of his defining roles.

Rio Grande is a remarkable film from John Ford that features amazing performances from John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. The film isn’t just a unique look into the world of the cavalry but also a look into a man trying to find balance in his role as a soldier and as a man. In the end, Rio Grande is a sublimely rich film from John Ford.

© thevoid99 2016