Sunday, June 17, 2018

Incredibles 2/Bao




Written and directed by Brad Bird, Incredibles 2 is a sequel to the 2004 film about a family of superheroes who come out of hiding to fight supervillains as they deal with trying to win back the support of the public for past mistakes as well as deal with a secret supervillain. The film is an exploration of family dynamics as a family cope with trying to rehabilitate their image as well as maintain their life as a family. Featuring the voices of Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Sophia Bush, Brad Bird, Michael Bird, Huck Milner, Jonathan Banks, Phil LaMarr, and Isabella Rossellini. Incredibles 2 is a riveting and exciting film from Brad Bird.

Bao



Directed by Domee Shi, Bao is the story of a Chinese mother who deals with loneliness following the departure of her son to college as a dumpling she created comes to life. It’s a film with a simple premise that plays into a woman’s sense of loss and longing as it play into the idea of a child growing and what a mother would often expect. All of which is told in a simple yet calm manner through its rich animation as well as being accompanied by Teddy Chu’s understated yet rapturous score that rely on traditional Chinese string music and woodwinds. It is truly a spectacular short film that is moving as well as being engaging and funny.

Incredibles 2

The film picks up where the previous film left off where the Parr family find themselves fighting a supervillain in the Underminer (John Ratzenberger) as they succeed in saving the city but the damage that was created accidentally by the Incredibles left the family in trouble as superheroes are still forbidden by law. It’s a film that is about the Incredibles trying to get back in the game with the help of a telecommunications tycoon who wants to get superheroes back in the world seeing that they can still make the world safer. Yet, it would lead to a change in dynamics as Helen Parr/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) is chosen to be the representative to bring superheroes back into public eye while Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) stays at the family’s new home to watch over the kids as he deals with being a full-time father and not doing superhero work. Brad Bird’s screenplay doesn’t just play into Bob’s struggle with raising three children including the baby Jack-Jack who is starting to gain multiple superpowers. It’s also the fact that Helen was chosen instead of him as he’s forced to realize that he isn’t the right choice due to the damages he accidentally causes in trying to save everyone.

Bob’s arc is the most interesting aspect of the film where he is seen out of his comfort zone as he tries to help Dash (Huck Milner) with his math homework and to not get into trouble while Violet (Sarah Vowell) is dealing with growing pains as it would relate to the fact that her crush Tony Rydinger (Michael Bird) doesn’t know who she is due to the fact that his memory was erased over the Underminer incident. It’s where the kids realize how much they miss their mother as Helen is doing work for Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) who is willing to help the superheroes get their jobs back as he felt the superhero ban was unjust due to the fact that his father was killed by a robber. Helping Helen in her new work is Winston’s sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) who would create some new technology as she feels underappreciated for her work as she and Helen bond as the latter is trying to discover of the identity of this mysterious villain known as the Screenslaver. The Screenslaver is an unusual antagonist whose intent is to control everyone and is against superheroes wanting to return in order to stabilize the status quo.

Bird’s direction is definitely grand in terms of the world that the Parrs are in as it does start off with this battle with the Underminer as they’re aided by longtime family friend Lucius Best/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) in stopping his machine from wreaking havoc. It is a massive set piece that play into the strengths of the family but also for the fact that Dash and Violet are still new in the superhero game as they have to watch over Jack-Jack while their parents and Frozone stop the Underminer. Bird’s usage of the wide shots play into the scope of these action set pieces as it include this intense scene of Helen trying to stop a train from going out of control as its engineer was unknowingly controlled by the Screenslaver. It’s a sequence that play into Bird’s approach to action including this massive climax as it relates to the Screenslaver and its power on everyone which feature some unique hypnotic lighting where Bird and animation director Travis Hathaway use it as a way for Screenslaver’s desire for control.

Bird’s direction for Bob’s arc is more intimate with its medium shots and some close-ups as it play into his struggle in trying to keep up with Jack-Jack’s growing powers that include a comical sequence of Jack-Jack fighting with a raccoon. The sequence of Bob taking Jack-Jack to Edna Mode (Brad Bird) is also comical for how Edna reacts to Jack-Jack as someone she believes can inspire her to create better costumes while being upset that Helen is given a new one without her consent. Bird also knows when to create these small moments as it relates to Bob trying to understand Violet’s growing pains as well as finding his footing as a dad where he can be himself and Mr. Incredible. It all play into the idea of the family dynamic as Helen’s time away from her family has her needing them once she deals with the Screenslaver whose plans for control is at great risk prompting the Incredibles, Frozone, and other superheroes to go out there and fight for the good of the world. Overall, Bird crafts an exhilarating yet engrossing film about a family of superheroes trying to get back in the game as well as balance their lives as themselves.

Cinematographer Mahyar Abousaeedi does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography in creating moods and shading for many of the animated sequences as well as things look at night and in the day. Editor Stephen Schaffer does amazing work with the editing as it help play into the intensity and craziness of the action scenes through some fast cutting as well as slowing things down in straightforward cuts for the dramatic and comedic scenes. Production designer Ralph Eggleston and art director Josh Holtsclaw do fantastic work with the look of the city as well as the new home of the Parrs as well as the office building that the Deavors live in Sound designer Ren Klyce and co-sound editor Coya Elliott do superb work with the sound in creating some effects for some of the weapons, Jack-Jack’s voice based on archives from the previous film, and superpowers as well as the effects in Screenslaver’s images. The film’s music by Michael Giacchino is great for its jazzy score with elements of horns, strings, and percussions as it help play into the air of excitement as well as some smooth and heavy pieces for the suspenseful moments as it’s a highlight of the film.

The voice casting by Natalie Lyon and Kevin Reher is wonderful as it include some notable small roles from John Ratzenberger as the Underminer, Kimberly Adair Clark as Lucius’ wife Honey, Bill Wise as the mysterious Screenslaver, Paul Eiding as an aging superhero named Reflux, Phil LaMarr in dual roles as the superheroes Krushauser and Helectrix, Michael Bird as Violet’s crush Tony Rydinger, Jonathan Banks as the Parrs’ old government friend Rick Dicker who tries to help them while dealing with the loss of his job, and Sophia Bush as a young superheroine named Voyd who idolizes Elastigirl as she can get objects to disappear and reappear through different dimensional voids. Brad Bird is fantastic in the voice role of Edna Mode as the fashion designer who creates superhero costumes as she helps Bob deal with Jack-Jack whom she sees as a muse while creating a tracking device to anticipate his growing powers. Isabella Rossellini is terrific in a small but memorable voice role as the Ambassador as a foreign official who is eager to get them back in service while befriending Elastigirl.

Bob Odenkirk is superb as Winston Deavor as a telecommunications mogul who wants to help Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Frozone get back into the game in the hopes of bringing superheroes back into the world as he’s also a hardcore fan of the superheroes. Catherine Keener is brilliant as Evelyn Deavor as Winston’s older sister who is a tech genius and creates all of the gadgets yet feels underappreciated for her work while at least getting some compliments from Elastigirl. Huck Milner is excellent as Dash Parr as the boy with super-speed who is trying to be a good kid despite being a troublemaker as well as trying to solve math problems. Sarah Vowell is amazing as Violet Parr as a teenage girl who can turn invisible and create force-fields as she starts to deal with growing pains as well as uncertainty in wanting to be a superhero.

Samuel L. Jackson is remarkable as Lucius Best/Frozone as a superhero with the ability to create ice and freeze things who is first recruited Deavor into getting the superheroes back on the job while he also helps Bob deal with Jack-Jack’s growing powers. Craig T. Nelson is marvelous as Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible as a hero of great strength who deals with sitting at home to watch over the kids as he laments his own bruised ego and shortcomings as a father forcing him to find his balance. Finally, there’s Holly Hunter in a phenomenal performance as Helen Parr/Elastigirl as a heroine with the ability to stretch her body parts into anything as someone who is given the chance to bring heroes back into the public eye while dealing with the mysterious foe in the Screenslaver as she suspects that something isn’t right.

Incredibles 2 is a film that definitely lives up to its incredible namesake thanks in part to Brad Bird’s sprawling vision as well as a spectacular voice cast. Along with its gorgeous visuals, Michael Giacchino’s thrilling score, and a mixture of genres that blend together to create something entertaining and compelling. It’s a film that manages to provide so much in the idea of what a superhero film can be as well as showcase the life outside of a superhero that is trying to find that balance in being both a hero and a regular person. In the end, Incredibles 2 is a sensational film from Brad Bird and Pixar.

Pixar Films: Toy Story - A Bug's Life - Toy Story 2 - (Monsters Inc.) – (Finding Nemo) – The Incredibles - Cars - Ratatouille - WALL-E - Up - Toy Story 3 - Cars 2 - Brave - Monsters University - Inside Out - The Good Dinosaur - (Finding Dory) – (Cars 3) – (Coco) – (Toy Story 4)

© thevoid99 2018

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Broken Movie




Directed and shot by Peter Christopherson and written, co-starring, and scored by Trent Reznor, The Broken Movie is a twenty-minute short film in which a young man is kidnapped and tortured as he’s forced to watch videos. The film is a companion piece to the 1992 EP by Nine Inch Nails that is presented as a snuff film to play into many of Reznor’s dark vision of the record with help from Christopherson who would also direct a couple of the music videos in the film with the duo of Eric Goode and Serge Becker directing two of the videos and Jon Reiss directing a video. The result is a grisly, disgusting, and insane short film from Peter Christopher and Trent Reznor.

The film follows a young man who is taken by a mysterious man in a mask as he’s forced to watch four music videos while being tortured, sodomized, and all sorts of things as it is being filmed for a snuff film. That is pretty much the premise as it is presented in graphic detail by director Peter Christopherson who shoots it on a hand-held home video camera where this young man is being tortured into watching these five music videos. Two of the videos by Eric Goode and Serge Becker for the instrumentals Pinion and Help Me I Am in Hell show two ideas of torture as the former features what happens when a toilet flushes and where does it go while the latter involves a man eating steak in a room surrounded by flies that is inter-cut with him in S&M gear.

The video for Happiness in Slavery by Jon Reiss is a video of absolute extremes which features the late performance artist Bob Flanagan getting ready to sit on a torture device that is gruesome to watch in terms of what happens to Flanagan and its aftermath. The video for Wish by Christopherson that features NIN playing inside a cage with rabid fans wanting to kill them is the tamest of the five as a version of Gave Up is essentially a video of Reznor singing in black-and-white footage on a TV screen while the mysterious man unmasks and tortures his victim that is inter-cut with the aftermath that features then-NIN live guitarist/future co-founder of Filter in Richard Patrick as a police officer who goes into the scene of the crime. The film opens and ends with a man on his final walk before he is to be hanged as it play into the narrative over what had just happened.

The Broken Movie is a repulsive and diabolical promotional short film from Peter Christopherson but for all of the right reasons. It’s a film that is meant to be confrontational and controversial as an extremely dark vision from Trent Reznor over what a visual interpretation of his EP should be. It’s a film that is definitely not for everyone as well as being hard to find, unless you’re a NIN fan, which is often the case for a film that was never intended for a commercial release. In the end, The Broken Movie is a fucked-up yet incredible promotional short film from Peter Christopherson and Trent Reznor.

Nine Inch Nails: halos: halo 1 - halo 2 - halo 3 - halo 4 - halo 5 - halo 6 - (halo 7) – (halo 8) – (halo 9) – (halo 10) – (halo 11) – (halo 12) - (halo 13) – (halo 14) – (halo 15) – (halo 16) – (halo 17) - (halo 18) – (halo 19) – (halo 20) – (halo 21) – (halo 22) - (halo 23) – (halo 24) – (halo 25) – (halo 26) – (halo 27) - (halo 28) – (halo 29) – (halo 30) – (halo 31) – (halo 32)

seeds: (seed 1) – (seed 2) – (seed 3) – (seed 4) – (seed 5) – (seed 6) – (seed 7) – (seed 8)

Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross Film Soundtracks: null 1 - null 2 - (null 3) – (null 4) – (null 5) – (null 6)

Soundtracks/Miscellaneous: (Natural Born Killers OST) – (Quake OST) - (Lost Highway OST)

Live Shows: (NIN/Bauhaus/TV on the Radio-6/7/06 Atlanta, GA Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheater) – (NIN/Deerhunter-8/13/08 Duluth, GA Gwinnett Arena) - (Jane’s Addiction/NIN/Street Sweeper Social Club-5/10/09 Atlanta, GA Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheater) – NIN/Godspeed You! Black Emperor-10/24/13 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena - (NIN/Jesus & Mary Chain/Tobacco-9/27/18 Atlanta, GA Fox Theatre)

© thevoid99 2018

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Legends & Mythologies




For the 24th week of 2018 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer. The subject is on legend/mythology where stories are told countless of times that become some form of lore though they might not be true. Yet, John Ford says it best. If you’re ever choose to pick the truth or the legend, stick with the legend because it’s more interesting. Here are my three picks as they’re all films by Terry Gilliam:

1. Time Bandits



Terry Gilliam’s film about a boy who meets time-traveling dwarves where they encounter several mythological figures from Robin Hood to King Agamemnon. It’s an offbeat comedy filled with lots of imagination and ideas about legends and such while it never plays by the rules. It also presents some of these figures including Napoleon Bonaparte in ways that are unconventional as Robin Hood is somewhat of an idiot while Sean Connery’s performance as King Agamemnon is presented with a regality that isn’t seen often in films.

2. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen



Gilliam’s 1988 film about a legendary fantasist is truly the kind of film Federico Fellini would’ve made in his prime as Gilliam did work with several of Fellini’s collaborators for this film where the titular character deals with aging and reality. Featuring John Neville in a spectacular performance as the titular character, it has Munchausen encounter all sorts of mythological figures including Venus, the fire-god Vulcan, and Robin Williams as a delusional moon-king. It’s a film that is over-the-top but definitely play into the many tropes of legends and mythologies.

3. The Fisher King



Gilliam’s 1991 film set in New York City is this mix of grounded reality that collides with ideas of fantasy where a shock-jock tries to redeem himself by helping a man on a quest for the Holy Grail. Featuring Robin Williams in one of his career-defining performances as the ruined man and Jeff Bridges as the shock-jock in search of redemption. It’s a film that also doesn’t play by the rules yet it is one of Gilliam’s most accessible films in the way it plays into two men both going on a quest as it includes a well-deserving Oscar-award winning performance from Mercedes Ruehl as the video store owner Anne who prompts Bridges’ character to do what is right as she and Amanda Plummer also standout it is truly a film that does great work to play into the legend of the Holy Grail.

© thevoid99 2018

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Lady Macbeth



Based on the short story Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov, Lady Macbeth is the story of a woman in a loveless marriage as she begins an affair with a servant that eventually becomes toxic and dangerous. Directed by William Oldroyd and screenplay by Alice Birch, the film is an exploration of a woman coping with the role she played in mid-19th Century society as well as being in an affair where she would create a lot of trouble for the people around her. Starring Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, and Christopher Fairbank. Lady Macbeth is a rapturous and eerie film from William Oldroyd.

Set in 1865 in the English countryside, the film revolves around a young woman who had been sold into a loveless marriage to a man much older than her as she would later embark on an affair with a new servant that would eventually cause turmoil at the estate. It’s a film with a simple premise as it play into the idea of oppression and desire and how far a young woman will go to maintain a sense of freedom in her rich yet rigid environment. Alice Birch’s screenplay does take the three-act structure as it play into world that Katherine Lester (Florence Pugh) would encounter through her marriage to Alexander (Paul Hilton) as it was arranged so that his father Boris (Christopher Fairbank) could acquire her family’s land. The first act is about Katherine’s own isolation and boredom in her marriage when Alexander later leaves to deal with business as she has to deal with her father-in-law as the only other person at her home is a maid in Anna (Naomi Ackie).

Upon meeting the farmhand Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis) during a moment where he is humiliating Anna with other farmhands, she is entranced by him once Alexander is away where an affair ensues. The film’s second act revolves around the continuation of the affair but also the sense of unease from Anna’s perspective over events that occurred as she becomes mute. Yet, much of the film is about Katherine’s willingness to be in this affair and take direction of her own life but her actions would create chaos in her estate as well as the impact it would have in her relationship with Sebastian. Things would intensify upon the arrival of a woman named Agnes (Golda Rosheuvel) and a boy named Teddy (Anton Palmer) that would complicate everything for Katherine in maintaining her role as the woman of the estate as well as her affair with Sebastian.

William Oldroyd’s direction is ravishing for the way he creates this look of mid-19th Century Victorian Britain on various locations in the north of England to play into the life of this young woman in an oppressive estate. Much of the direction is shot with hand-held cameras where many of the scenes inside the home has a sense of precise composition in the way Katherine is framed as she’s sitting on a chair in a medium-wide shot to play into her loneliness. There is little camera movement in those scenes as there are these intricate compositions in the way Katherine is eating dinner with Alexander or Boris as well as where Anna is positioned to fetch a wine or something for Boris. The usage of the wide and medium shots play into the scope of the rooms as there’s also close-ups that capture the drama of how Boris reacts to Katherine during breakfast or dinner. The scenes outside of the estate is much looser where the hand-held cameras become more evident in shots where Katherine is walking on the fields or in the rainy grounds.

Oldroyd’s direction also play into the suspense where he does emphasize on natural sound as there are rare moments of the music score being played as it only appear in intense and dark moments that occur. These scenes aren’t just eerie but also contain an element of violence that is unexpected in a period drama as the drama intensifies in the third act with the arrival of Agnes and Teddy. Even as it all play into the decisions Katherine would make about holding on to her love for Sebastian as well as the social status she’s gained through her marriage to Alexander. It would come to these moments where Katherine would be the one to choose her fate and at great cost. Overall, Oldroyd crafts an intoxicating yet unsettling film about a woman’s deadly affair with a servant.

Cinematographer Ari Wegner does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it has this air of naturalism for much of the film’s exteriors including some daytime interior scenes at the estate as well as some low-key lighting for the scenes at night. Editor Nick Emerson does excellent work with the editing as it has elements of style in its usage of jump-cuts as well as rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and drama. Production designer Jacqueline Abrahams and art director Thalia Ecclestone do amazing work with the look of the house in many of its interiors including the furniture, the beds, and the stables as it’s a highlight of the film. Costume designer Holly Waddington does fantastic work with the costumes from the dresses that Katherine wears to play into her personality as well as the look of the clothes the servants, her husband, and father-in-law wear.

Hair/makeup designer Sian Wilson does nice work with the look of Katherine’s hairstyle as it play into the period of the times as well as expressing her emotions where there’s something dark whenever her hair is tied in a bun. Visual effects supervisor Daniel Nielsen does terrific work with the film’s minimal visual effects as it is mainly set dressing for some of the film’s exteriors. Sound designers Ben Baird and Dan Jones do incredible work with the sound as it is a highlight of the film with its approach to sparse sound textures and how objects would sound in its natural state while Jones would do the film’s score as it’s a wonderfully understated usage of music in its ambient setting as it only appear in three key moments in the film.

The casting by Shaheen Baig is superb as it feature some notable small roles from Cliff Burnett as Father Peter, Rebecca Manley as the maid Mary, Bill Fellows as Dr. Burdon, Ian Conningham as a detective, Golda Rosheuvel as Agnes as a woman who knows Alexander and Boris, and Anton Palmer in a terrific performance as the boy Teddy who appears in the third act as he would be a source of disruption for Katherine and Sebastian. Naomi Ackie is fantastic as the maid Anna as a young British-African woman who finds herself being aware of Katherine’s affair with Sebastian as she would become mute following a drastic event in the film’s first act. Christopher Fairbank is excellent as Boris Lester as Katherine’s father-in-law who wants to maintain a strict idea of the household as he becomes suspicious of Katherine’s activities outside the home.

Paul Hilton is brilliant as Katherine’s husband Alexander as a man who is trying to maintain his role as a husband and businessman while his interest in Katherine is having her be naked while he jacks off to her to please himself. Cosmo Jarvis is amazing as Sebastian as a farmhand who is new to the estate as he has a carnal interest in Katherine which leads to this tumultuous affair that becomes toxic as he later copes with some of the chaos that would ensue during the film’s third act. Finally, there’s Florence Pugh in a phenomenal performance as Katherine Lester as a young woman forced into a loveless marriage as it’s a performance with some restraint in the way she has to present herself as well as some liveliness in her affair with Sebastian as there’s also some great facial expressions that says a lot into what she’s feeling or what she’s planning to do as there’s an element of darkness in the performance which is a total breakthrough for Pugh.

Lady Macbeth is a sensational film from William Oldroyd that features an incredible performance from Florence Pugh. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, intoxicating sound design, and an eerie story of lust and deceit, it’s a film that explores a woman’s desperation to maintain an affair while being in a loveless marriage that would eventually lead to total chaos. In the end, Lady Macbeth is a spectacular film from William Oldroyd.

© thevoid99 2018

Sunday, June 10, 2018

How to Talk to Girls at Parties



Based on the short story by Neil Gaiman, How to Talk to Girls at Parties is the story of a teenage boy in the late 1970s who goes to party where he befriends a mysterious young woman who is revealed to be an alien. Directed by John Cameron Mitchell and screenplay by Mitchell and Philippa Goslett, the film is a genre-bending film that explores first love as well as identity during the age of punk in Great Britain. Starring Elle Fanning, Alex Sharp, Matt Lucas, Ruth Wilson, and Nicole Kidman as Queen Boadicea. How to Talk to Girls at Parties is an exhilarating and whimsical film from John Cameron Mitchell.

Set in 1977 Britain during the age of punk, the film revolves around a young man who goes to a party where he meets a young woman unaware that she might be an alien as he introduces her to the world of punk and love. It’s a film that takes a simple premise of first love and identity as it is told in a stylistic manner that is set during the summer of 1977 where the Queen Elizabeth II’s jubilee is happening as a young teen in Enn (Alex Sharp) is a young artist trying to contribute to the world of punk by creating a fanzine with a couple of his friends in Vic (Abraham Lewis) and John (Ethan Lawrence). The film’s screenplay by John Cameron Mitchell and Philippa Goslett does play into the tropes of the coming-of-age storyline as well as the ideas of first line but there’s also some odd sci-fi moments as it relates to the young woman Enn meets in Zan (Elle Fanning) who is part of a colony of strange people as she is frustrated with their ideals until she meets Enn and his friends at the party that her leaders are hosting.

Zan’s encounter with humanity such as meeting Enn’s mother (Joanna Scanlan), dancing to soul music, eating pancakes, and other things do have elements of humor and curiosity. Notably as Zan also finds herself talking to her master PT Waldo (Tom Brooke) who would inhabit the body of someone near her in warning her about what she’s embarking. Still, Zan wants to learn about so many things as she turns to the punk leader Queen Boadicea as she is kind of this wild maternal figure for all of the young punks where she would encourage Zan to express her own feelings with Enn’s help. This would eventually lead to a conflict with the group of people Zan was with as well as those she met including Enn whom she has fallen for. It would play into the idea of individuality and humanity with Zan in the middle of this conflict as there are those that want to maintain this idea of perfection and being with these ideals also carrying some flaws in the same way that Enn’s own ideals have their own flaws.

Mitchell’s direction is stylish in the way he portrays 1977 Great Britain as well as setting it in the suburbs rather than the cities as much of it is shot on various locations in England in towns like Sheffield and suburban areas in London. While Mitchell would include some wide shots of the locations as well as some moments inside the clubs and the house where Zan and the people she’s with early in the film live in. The film opens with these strange visuals of six symbols that would represent a different colony of these mysterious visitors as Zan is part of a colony whose color is yellow and it then cuts to Enn waking up. Much of Mitchell’s direction is straightforward in terms of compositions in the way he frames the actors in a close-up or in a medium shot while he would infuse stylistic slanted shots in some scenes as well as stylistic shots that play into the frenzy of the punk rock scene.

While the meshing of sci-fi ideas and this grounded sense of drama in the punk rock world isn’t totally successful in some parts of the film. Mitchell does play into these ideals and their flaws as it relates to the third act where the punks and the aliens collide in this approach to absurd humor. Even as it would include a key musical moment in the film where Zan and Enn would sing during the second act as it play into not just the former finding aspects of herself but also the both of them connecting in ways that is indescribable in a surreal sequence. It would lead to moments in the third act as it would play into Enn’s future and how his encounter with Zan and the world of aliens and punk rock would inspire him. Overall, Mitchell creates a wild yet endearing film about a young punk who falls for a mysterious young girl in 1977 Britain.

Cinematographer Frank G. DeMarco does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of low-key and naturalistic colors for many of the daytime exteriors and interiors in the scenes at Enn’s home and in the many surroundings through a more stylish look in the lighting for the scenes in the punk club and at the home of the aliens. Editor Brian A. Kates does brilliant work with the usage of rhythmic cuts to play into the drama as well as some stylish slow-motion cuts for scenes to play into the sense of joy in some of the characters. Production designer Helen Scott, with set decorator Hannah Spice and art director Caroline Barclay, does fantastic work with the look of the punk club that Queen Boadicea lives and runs as well as the odd apartment and rooms where the aliens live at. Costume designer Sandy Powell does amazing work with the costumes from the clothes that the different aliens wear in their bright colors to the look of the punks to play into how outrageous both groups are.

Hair/makeup designer Sian Grigg does incredible work with the look of the aliens in their hairstyles and makeup as well as the look of Queen Boadicea and some of the punks as it’s a highlight of the film. Special effects supervisor Scott MacIntyre and visual effects supervisor John Bair do terrific work with the visual effects as it play into the film’s opening sequence as well as the musical performance that include this weird yet entrancing sequence that play into Enn and Zan’s love for each other. Sound editors Benjamin Cheah and Gregg Swiatlowski do superb work with the sound in the way music sounds live as well as the way objects sounds including some of the sparse moments in the film. The film’s music by Nico Muhly and Jamie Stewart is wonderful for its mixture of somber ambient music pieces along with low-key electric-folk music to play into some of the film’s dramatic moments while music supervisor Michael Hill provides a fun soundtrack of the music that was playing in the times from acts/artists such as the Damned, the Silvertones, Dub Specialist, the Dischords, A.C. Newman, the Velvet Underground, and Jamie Stewart as well as some original songs co-written by John Cameron Mitchell.

The casting by Douglas Aibel, Henry Russell Bergstein, Emily Jacobs, and Karen Lindsay-Stewart is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Lara Peake as a six-fingered young girl named Wainswain, Jed Shardlow as a PT Stella male, Nansi Nsue as a member of the same colony that Zan is in, Jumayn Hunter as a DJ who plays music at Queen Boadicea’s home, Joey Ansah as PT named Bob, Stephen Campbell Moore as a record executive at a show early in the film, Alice Sanders as a pink-haired punk girl named Spinning Alice, and Edward Petherbridge as the alien cult leader PT First as this cult leader who is eager for all of his followers and other leaders to follow everything he believes in.

Joanna Scanlan is terrific as Enn’s mother as a kind woman who helps Zan out with the ideas of womanhood while Tom Brooke is superb as Zan’s mentor PT Waldo as an alien who is concerned about Zan’s departure and her encounter with humanity. Abraham Lewis and Ethan Lawrence are fantastic in their respective roles as Vic and John as Enn’s friends who both have different encounter with the aliens as the former becomes sexually confused while the latter is in awe of the music he hears. Matt Lucas is excellent as PT Wain as a colony leader who wants Zan out of the group believing she is a threat to what she has known as he tries to stir up trouble. Ruth Wilson is brilliant as PT Stella as a colony leader that is known for sexual stimulation as she is a being that wants to seduce humans to great pleasure.

Nicole Kidman is great in her role as Queen Boadicea as a punk leader who is trying to run a club and seek out the next big thing where she isn’t fond of a lot of people but is fascinated by Zan who she sees as someone unique as it’s Kidman at her best. Alex Sharp is remarkable as Enn as a young punk who aspires to be an artist as he befriends Zan and introduce her to punk while dealing with his own issues relating to his father and his own self-being. Finally, there’s Elle Fanning in an incredible performance as Zan as a young woman who arrives on Earth as an American teenager who would discover the world of punk and the ideas of humanity as it’s a performance filled with a sense of energy, natural comic timing, and being fierce once she starts to sing like a punk as it’s one of Fanning’s finest performances.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties is a marvelous film from John Cameron Mitchell that feature top-notch performances from Elle Fanning, Alex Sharp, and Nicole Kidman. Along with its offbeat premise, killer music soundtrack, and dazzling visuals, it’s a film that doesn’t play by the rules despite a few bumps in trying to mesh different genres. In the end, How to Talk to Girls at Parties is a remarkable film from John Cameron Mitchell.

John Cameron Mitchell Films: Hedwig & the Angry Inch - Shortbus - Rabbit Hole - (The Auteurs #66: John Cameron Mitchell)

© thevoid99 2018

Friday, June 08, 2018

The Great Wall



Directed by Zhang Yimou and screenplay by Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, and Tony Gilroy from a story by Max Brooks, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz, The Great Wall is the story of two European mercenaries who help a Chinese army fight off against a horde of mysterious alien monsters. The film is a monster movie of sorts where an army tries to fight off mysterious monsters as they get unexpected help from a couple of Europeans who travel to China to find gunpowder. Starring Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, and Willem Dafoe. The Great Wall is an enjoyable and adventurous film from Zhan Yimou.

The film is this story of two European mercenaries who encounter an alien monster and kill it where they’re later captured by a secret Chinese army at the Great Wall who are trying to stop the monsters from reaching civilization. It’s a film with a simple premise that involves two white European mercenaries who are in China to trade and steal as they reluctantly help the Chinese fight this horde of monsters that come from a meteor many centuries ago and things have gotten worse. The film’s screenplay doesn’t do much with the film’s story though a few characters are well-defined such as William Garin (Matt Damon) who is a mercenary that admits to fight for food and money as a means to survive as he is someone that is a great archer but never had a real reason to fight for something. His friend/partner Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal) is more concerned with trying to find gunpowder as a way to give Europe a sense of power yet is also a skilled warrior himself.

Yet, the monsters they encountered early in the film and brought to the attention of this army known as the Nameless Order become aware that the monsters are coming back as they’re led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Commander Lin Mae (Jing Tian) as the latter is known for her crane attack whose army attacks from the top of the wall and are pulled back after attacking the monster. Garin befriends Commander Mae and the company’s strategist Wang (Andy Lau) as they’re both impressed by Garin’s archery skill and his methods in trying to capture a monster in order to study it. Still, the script emphasizes more on action rather than development as Tovar isn’t as developed in the film as he’s more of a comic relief in some ways as he and another European in Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe) are concerned about taking the gunpowder to Europe than help the Nameless Order. Despite these shortcomings in some of the characters as well as scenes where it played into more time over story instead of action set pieces. The film does maintain its purpose in being this action-adventure film.

Zhang Yimou’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of his presentation of the action as well as creating something that is a grand spectacle with loads of extras and large set pieces. Shot on location in the Qingdao province in China, the film does play into this world that is grand with its deserts and mountains as well as fictionalized look of the Great Wall of China where it is set in this land where behind that wall is civilization and the city where its emperor lives in. Yimou’s usage of wide and medium shots does have a lot of scope and depth of field into the locations as well as what is at stake. Even in the latter as it relates to the interaction between characters as he does know when to break from the action and give time towards development on the characters and the situation they’re in. One notable scene involves General Shao and Commander Mae checking out a situation where it does have this air of suspense as it’s a key moment in the film into what is at stake.

While Yimou does establish a lot of what is happening and the stakes that the characters are dealing with. He is unable to get it all together where there’s so much action and fighting that is happening as he isn’t given enough time to slow things down. Notably in one scene where a monster is captured as Garin and Wang both want to do more study on the creature and figure out what to do next but an envoy to the Emperor would take the creature to the Emperor which would be a moment of stupidity that eventually leads to the film’s sprawling climax. The fact that Yimou is hampered by a script that is more about action than character development does hurt the film a bit though he is able to provide some key moment where the characters to play into the stakes and stop these monsters from wreaking havoc. Overall, Yimou creates a thrilling though messy film about two European mercenaries helping the Chinese fight off against mysterious alien monsters.

Cinematographers Stuart Dryburgh and Zhao Xiaoding do excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the colorful and naturalistic look of the scenes in the deserts to the usage of natural interior lighting for scenes inside the Great Wall and the very colorful sequence in the film’s climax. Editors Mary Jo Markey and Craig Wood do terrific work with the editing as it is stylish with its jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts to play into the action and suspense while not deviating into the idea of chaotic editing style. Production designer John Myhre, with set decorator Gordon Sim and supervising art director Helen Jarvis, does brilliant work with the look of the interiors of the Great Wall as well as some of its exteriors and its landscape around the wall. Costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo does fantastic work with the look of the different kinds of armors and the color of those armors to represent different parts of the army as it’s a highlight of the film.

Hair/makeup designer Paul Engelen does nice work with the look of Garin and Tovar early in the film before they’re captured to play into their ragged look. Visual effects supervisors Phil Brennan, Martin Hartle, Viktor Muller, Matt Russell, Sable Sanjiv, and Ben Snow do wonderful work with the design of the monsters though some of the effects are a bit wobbly in its movement though the look of some of the landscape and the crowd of people are a marvel to watch. Sound designer Kyrsten Mate and sound editor Gwendolyne Yates Whittle do superb work with the sound in the way the monsters sound as well as the weapons and the sense of atmosphere that occurs during a battle scene. The film’s music by Ramin Djawadi is incredible for its bombastic score that mixes traditional Chinese percussion and string music to play into the grand scale of the film and the sense of adventure while music supervisors Peter Afterman and Margaret Yen provide a couple of original songs in the film sung by Chinese pop artists.

The casting by John Papsidera and Victoria Thomas is marvelous as it include some notable small roles from Cheney Chen as the head of the Imperial Guard who brings the monster to the young Emperor, Karry Wang as the Emperor, the trio of Huang Xan, Eddie Peng, and Kenny Lin as commanders of different platoons of the army, and Lu Han in a terrific performance as the young soldier Peng Yong whom Garin befriends and sympathizes with over the horrors of war. Zhang Hanyu is terrific as General Shao as the leader of the entire army who is mistrustful towards Garin and Tovar for being outsiders but realizes their worth in their fighting skills. Willem Dafoe is superb as Sir Ballard as a European who had lived in the Great Wall for 25 years as he is eager to get out and bring gun powder to Europe while teaching the Chinese how to speak English and Latin.

Andy Lau is excellent as Wang as the army’s strategist who is one of the few who can speak English as he bonds with Garin in their interest for the monster as well as willing to see what it can do as knows that the monsters are far more intelligent than they realized as it’s an understated performance that could’ve been used in more scenes. Pedro Pascal is fantastic as Pedro Tovar as this mercenary who is more reluctant to help the Chinese in their battle against the monsters as he’s more interested in getting the gunpowder while he also has some of the film’s funniest lines. Jing Tian is brilliant as Commander Lin Mae as a young warrior who leads an army of women as she befriends Garin as she sees what he can do but also copes with the responsibility of her role as well as wondering if she can trust Garin. Finally, there’s Matt Damon in an amazing performance as William Garin as a mercenary who is also a skilled archer as someone that is reluctant to go into battle knowing he’s fought for other things where he later finds a big reason to fight as it’s a role where Damon plays it straight as well as be generous with the other actors he’s with.

The Great Wall is a stellar yet flawed film from Zhang Yimou. Despite the film’s shortcomings in its story in favor of bombastic action, the film does have some nice visuals, a killer score, and noteworthy performances from Matt Damon, Jian Tian, and Andy Lau. Even as it’s kind of a minor film from Yimou in his first English-language release but it is still a worthwhile and entertaining film. In the end, The Great Wall is a good film from Zhang Yimou.

Zhang Yimou Films: (Red Sorghum) – (Codename Cougar) – (Ju Dou) – (Raise the Red Lantern) – (The Story of Qui Ju) – (Keep Cool) – Not One Less - (The Road Home) – (Happy Times) – (Hero (2002 film)) – House of Flying Daggers - Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles - Curse of the Golden Flower - A Simple Noodle Story - (Under the Hawthorn Tree) – (The Flowers of War) – Coming Home (2014 film) - (Shadow (2018 film))

© thevoid99 2018

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Speeches, Soliloquies, & Monologues




For the 23rd week of 2018 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer. We focus on films with some form of soliloquy, speech, or a monologue. A moment in the film that could be inspiring or just downright silly. Here are my three picks:

1. Airplane!




From the trio of the Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams comes one of the great film parodies ever made about a flight that goes horribly wrong all because the pilot, the co-pilots, and some passengers choose to eat fish and the only person that can save them is a traumatized war pilot with a drinking problem. Once he’s driven by fear and lets the inflatable co-pilot do the job for him, it’s up to Leslie Nielsen as a doctor to give him this great inspirational speech which is a great rip off of the Notre Dame speech in Knute Rockne, All American.

2. Scent of a Woman




OK, this is a film that has become polarizing in some respects even though it did give Al Pacino his long-awaited Oscar though it would also make him parody by doing “hoo-ha” in some of the films he does. Yet, there is this great speech that his character does in defending this young man who refuses to snitch against a trio of classmates over a prank on a professor at this prep school. This is one of Pacino’s finest moments as it play into what this school would do to make this young man to try and do things a certain way.

3. On Deadly Ground




Undoubtedly one of the worst films ever made by a fat, tubby, wife-beating, traitorous bitch in Steven Seagal comes a film about a whistleblower who teams with some Alaskan natives to fight off a bunch of oilmen led by Michael Caine (phoning it in and taking a paycheck) over environmental issues. As an action film, it’s just stupid as fuck with people like R. Lee Emrey and Billy Bob Thornton be used as Caine’s minions. Yet, the film is bogged down by one of the worst film speeches ever made that is nothing more than a heavy-handed and preachy speech that never has any heart. All it did was inspire this hilarious moment in South Park:




© thevoid99 2018