Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Films That I Saw: November 2013




The year is set to close to in a month as the Oscar film season is starting to heat up. Especially as there’s a bunch of films coming and some to arrive early next year though they’ll be in New York City and Los Angeles in late December. Of course, the holidays for me is about getting whatever Criterion DVDs I can get before the sale ends. In the meantime, I’m also doing things to get ready for the next year as I’ve officially announced my list for the 2014 Blind Spot Series which was not easy to come up with yet I have managed to pick out films that I want to see. Especially in wanting to do something that is different and challenging.

Another thing that I’m taking serious consideration into is starting another blog. This time, it will focus on the world of professional wrestling as I have a lot of things to say about the state of World Wrestling Entertainment and my feelings as a longtime fan of pro wrestling. I’m having trouble coming up with a name for the blog but it will definitely becoming as I have plans for what to do for the next year as the 30th WrestleMania is going to come next year though I’m also very worried considering the state of how WWE is doing things.

In the month of November, I saw a total of 37 films, 26 first-timers and 11 re-watches. Definitely down from last month but still pretty good as I decided to take a breather during the Thanksgiving holidays. Of course, one of the highlights of the month is my Blind Spot assignment in Sunset Boulevard yet it wasn’t the highlight as here is the top first-timers that I saw for November 2013:



1. The Apartment



2. Mystery Train



3. Blue is the Warmest Color



4. Ace in the Hole



5. Belle de Jour



6. Late Spring




7. Wreck-It-Ralph



8. Double Indemnity



9. The Perks of Being a Wildflower





10. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire



Monthly Mini-Reviews

nWo: The Revolution



I enjoyed watching the New World Order during that period of the Monday Night Wars as they were just cool bad guys running amok in World Championship Wrestling. The documentary the WWE created definitely told a pretty good story with interviews from members like Kevin Nash, Sean Waltman, and the Big Show along comments from Cody Rhodes and Booker T about its impact as well as why it fell apart when the faction split into two and how their 1999 reunion turned out to be a flop. Though there’s some parts of the doc that was skimmed over, it is still something that fans of the nWo will enjoy.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Chungking Express



2. Some Like It Hot



3. The Parent Trap



4. Ray



5. Cloud Atlas



6. Year of the Horse



7. Original Gangstas



8. The Banger Sisters



9. Fools Rush In



10. Best of the Best 2



That is it for November. In December, I will be doing a few films by Yasujiro Ozu and Sergei Eisenstein where the latter will be in relation to the last Blind Spot assignment in Battleship Pontemkin. Along with films by Wong Kar-Wai to accompany the Auteurs piece on him at Cinema Axis, I will also review some new films like Nebraska, Her, The Wolf of Wall Street, and whatever is available. There will also be some more film reviews that is going to be related to subjects for next year’s Auteurs subjects where after I finish the Auteurs piece on Wong Kar-Wai and my Blind Spot. I will make a formal announcement on what filmmakers I will profile for the next year as well as some plans for 2014 as I'm also going to make my list of the Most Anticipated Films of 2014. I also hope to end the year with the first of many variation on what I think are the 100 Greatest Films ever made. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth




Directed by Spike Lee, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth is a presentation of Mike Tyson’s Broadway one-man show as he talks about his life from the triumphs he had as the world heavyweight champion in boxing to all of the scandals and troubles he went through in his life. The result is a fascinating yet entertaining one-man show captured by Spike Lee.

The film is a presentation of Mike Tyson’s one-man Broadway show called Undisputed Truth as he tells his life story from the way he remembers it while commenting on things in his life that he isn’t proud of but also things he cherishes. Notably as he talks about his early life and his family as he admits to having no idea who his father is while finding a family and mentor in his trainer Cus d’Amato. Tyson also talks about various incidents in his life such as the 1991 rape accusation where he revealed a lot that went wrong in his defense due to Don King as well as why one of his early trainers Teddy Atlas left over the fact that Tyson did have sex with his 12-year old sister-in-law when he was only 15 which Tyson admitted was true but also downplayed some things.

Tyson proves to be a very engaging presence in the way he tells his story where he admits that he tends to ramble at times but manages to maintains his composure and be courteous to his audience. Their reaction definitely adds power to his performance where he reveals his pain in some of the most funny ways but also in some of the darker moments where it looked like he could breakdown but manages to keep his composure. Some of the funnier moments involves not just Tyson’s ill-fated marriage to Robin Givens where he shows clips from the infamous interview with Barbara Walters. He also made some revelations about what happened during the split where they were still having sex until he found out that she was sleeping with another actor who turned out to be a now-major film star.

Another funny moment that Tyson reveals that is one of the most comical moments of the show as well as one of the most sobering moments is his feud with boxer Mitch Green where Tyson got into a street fight with the guy. Through Spike Lee’s very simple direction, Tyson is able to create things with the help of movie screens in the back to help tell his story. Even as Lee uses some close-ups and medium shots to have Tyson tell his story with the help of cinematographer Matthew Libatique and sound editor Philip Stockton as well as editor Barry Alexander Brown to help capture the energy of Tyson’s performance.

The show opens with one of the most touching moments where Tyson is sitting on a stool all alone with just one light above him as Nat King Cole’s Nature Boy plays which showcases the vulnerability of Tyson where music supervisor Janet Lopez helps provide music from Nina Simone and other artists as well as opening music by DJ Clark Kent before the show begins to help set the mood. Overall, Lee creates a very lively and touching stage performance from the Baddest Man on the Planet making Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth one of Spike Lee’s superb gems as well a key addition to his revered work in the documentary platform.

Spike Lee Films: (She’s Gotta Have It) - (School Daze) - Do the Right Thing - Mo' Better Blues - Jungle Fever - (Malcolm X) - Crooklyn - (Clockers) - (Girl 6) - (Get on the Bus) - 4 Little Girls - (He Got Game) - Freak - Summer of Sam - (The Kings of Comedy) - (Bamboozled) - (A Huey P. Newton Story) - 25th Hour - (Jim Brown: All-American) - (She Hate Me) - (Inside Man) - (When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts) - (Miracle at St. Anna) - (Kobe Doin’ Work) - (Passing Strange) - (If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise) - (Red Hook Summer) - Bad 25 - (Oldboy (2013 film)) - (Da Blood of Jesus) - (Chi Raq) - Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall

© thevoid99 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I Was Born, But...




Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and written by Ozu and Akira Fushimi, I Was Born, But… is the story of two boys whose love for his father is shaken when they learn of the way he treats himself to his boss. The film is an exploration of boys dealing with the role of their father and how their ideas of him are shattered by reality. Starring Tatsuo Saito, Tomio Aoki, and Hideo Sugawara. I Was Born, But… is an enchanting yet engrossing film from Yasujiro Ozu.

The film is essentially the story of a family moving to the suburbs where the father gets a very important job while his two sons adjust to their newfound home as they have to deal with bullies and such. Yet, they also have to learn about what their father does as they’re forced to face the realities of what he has to do for his boss. It’s a simple story that might seem like a mundane idea yet Yasujiro Ozu and co-writer Akira Fushimi create something that manages to quite captivating. Especially as its first half is about Keiji (Tomio Aoki) and his older brother Ryoichi (Hideo Sugawara) being the new kids as they’re bullied and feel lonely. Yet, they’ve managed to find ways to adjust to their situation where they befriend Taro (Seiichi Kato) whose father (Takeshi Sakamoto) is the boss of Keiji and Ryoichi’s father Chichi (Tatsuo Saito). The second half is about the boys learning about what their father does and what he had to do which is something that becomes uneasy to deal with.

Ozu’s direction is very simplistic in the way he creates compositions to capture the life of a family. Yet, it contains many of the visual attributes that he would do in his later films though he would utilize a lot of dolly shots for the scenes where the kids are walking on the road or to capture the atmosphere of the office that Chichi works at. Still, Ozu find ways to capture the intimacy of this family while keeping things naturalistic in the way children interact and such as well as showcasing the kind of mischief they do. Even as it would play to somber moments where the boys argue who has the better dad where it would play into Keiji and Ryoichi’s realization about their father. Overall, Ozu creates a very mesmerizing yet powerful comedy-drama about two boys’ relationship with their father.

Cinematographer/editor Hideo Shigehara does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to play into the suburban world the kids live in while maintaining a straightforward approach to the editing with the exception of the home movie Chichi‘s boss was showing. Art director Takashi Kono, with set decorators Yoshiro Kimura and Takejiro Tsunoda, does excellent work with the set pieces such as the home of Chichi and his family as well as some of the surroundings they live in. The film’s music by Donald Sosin is terrific for its piano-based score that is largely comical at times but also somber in the more dramatic moments as it is something that is typical with the silent films of the early 20th Century.

The film’s cast is brilliant as it includes some notable small roles from Shoichi Kofujita as the kind delivery boy, Seiji Nishimura as the boys’ teacher, Takeshi Sakamoto as Chichi’s boss Iwasaki, and Seiichi Kato as Iwasaki’s eccentric son Taro. Mitsuko Yoshikawa is wonderful as Ryoichi and Keiji’s mother who tries to get everyone to calm down and make sense of everything that is happening. Tomio Aoki and Hideo Sugawara are excellent in their respective roles as Keiji and Ryoichi as two boys trying to deal with their new home as well as what they would learn about their father. Finally, there’s Tatsuo Saito in a superb performance as Chichi as a man trying to do right for his family and keep his sons in check while dealing with the fact that the things he does for his boss has him questioning his worth for his sons.

I Was Born, But… is a marvelous film from Yasujiro Ozu. The film is a very touching yet intimate portrait about the ideas of father and what they mean to their boys as well as the reality that they have to face. Even as it is told with such care that it is engaging to audiences of all ages. In the end, I Was Born, But… is a fantastic film from Yasujiro Ozu.

Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) - (Days of Youth) - Tokyo Chorus - (Dragnet Girl) - (Passing Fancy) - (A Mother Should Be Loved) - A Story of Floating Weeds - (An Inn in Tokyo) - (The Only Son) - (What Did the Lady Forget?) - (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) - (There Was a Father) - Record of a Tenement Gentleman - (A Hen in the Wind) - Late Spring - Early Summer - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) - Tokyo Story - Early Spring - Tokyo Twilight - (Equinox Flower) - Good Morning - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - (The End of Summer) - (An Autumn Afternoon)

© thevoid99 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hello I Must Be Going




Directed by Todd Luiso and written by Susan Koskoff, Hello I Must Be Going is about a woman who moves back home with her parents following her divorce where she finds herself falling for a younger man. The film is an exploration of a woman trying to start over as she deals with divorce and failure. Starring Melanie Lynskey, Blythe Danner, John Rubenstein, Christopher Abbott, and Dan Futterman. Hello I Must Be Going is an extraordinary film from Todd Luiso.

The film is the simple story of a woman in her mid-30s who moves back home with her parents as she’s dealing with a divorce as she has no idea what to do as she’s in a state of depression. During a dinner party with her parents, her brother, her sister-in-law and a client of her father who brought his 19 year-old son, the woman engages into an affair with the young man where they’re both dealing with issues in their lives as the woman also feels being slighted by her mother who is hoping to go on a trip and retire. The film is essentially a character study of this woman named Amy (Melanie Lynskey) who spends her time at home moping as she is reluctant to get back into the world as she is trying to figure out why did she get divorced.

Susan Koskoff’s screenplay takes it time to explore Amy’s life as this new-divorcee who is angry over the fact that her ex-husband David (Dan Futterman) cheated on her and ended their marriage. She’s back at home not sure what to do and she annoys her mother Ruth (Blythe Danner) who is overlooking the renovation of the house while her father Stan (John Rubenstein) is doing one final job before he can retire. Upon meeting Jeremy (Christopher Abbott) at a dinner party where they have a secret affair, the two vent on their frustrations in life as Jeremy wants to stop acting while his parents think he’s gay. Amy’s affair with Jeremy would later cause some very strange moments where they’re nearly found out but it would also make Amy face her own faults but also try to figure out what went wrong in her marriage as she feels like her mother is blaming her for ruining her own life.

Todd Luiso’s direction is very understated in its simplicity where he uses a lot of close-ups and some medium shots to explore a woman dealing with the state of her life. Much of it includes some hand-held shots and some intimate moments such as a few scenes where Amy and Jeremy would have sex in the car and then talk about their frustrations in life. Shot largely in Westport, Connecticut, the film has a look and feel that seems like it could be anywhere yet it does maintain something that is low-key while Luiso also finds way to have some of the film’s humorous moments be played out naturally such as a scene of Amy coming out of the pool naked singing the Canadian anthem only to be caught by Jeremy’s mother. It’s among these moments that play into Amy’s growth and understanding as a woman as well as trying to find herself. Overall, Luiso crafts a very solid yet mesmerizing film about a woman trying to figure out the next stage in her life.

Cinematographer Julie Kirkwood does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the low-key use of lights for the scenes at night as well as the use of colors for some of the daytime scenes. Editor Tom McArdle does terrific work with the editing as it‘s very understated while using a few rhythmic cuts to play out some of the humor. Production designer Russell Barnes and set decorator Daniel R. Kersting do amazing work with the look of the home that Amy’s parents live as well as the house that Jeremy lives in with his parents.

Costume designer Bobby Frederick Tilley does nice work with the costumes from the casual look of the main characters to some of the dresses that Amy wears for dinner dates and such. Sound mixer Christopher J. Leone does fantastic work with some of the film‘s sound to convey some of the atmosphere of the locations as well as some of the mix of sounds in the party scenes. The film’s music by Laura Veirs is wonderful as it is a largely folk-based score with arpeggio guitars along with some original songs by Veirs while music supervisor Holly Adams creates a similar soundtrack that includes contributions from other lesser-known artists with the exception of a song from Billy Squier.

The casting by Kerry Barden, Allison Estrin, and Paul Schnee is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it features some appearances from Meera Simhan as an old high school classmate of Amy’s, Tori Feinstein as Amy’s niece Caley, Daniel Eric Gold and Sara Chase in their respective roles of Amy’s brother Noah and his wife Missy, Jimmi Simpson as a guy Amy went on a blind date with, Damian Young as Jeremy’s stepfather, and Julie White in a very funny performance as Jeremy’s mother who tries to figure him out as she’s also a therapist. Dan Futterman is terrific in a one-scene performance as Amy’s ex-husband David who meets with Amy where they just try to settle things as he wonders about the things he did.

Christopher Abbott is excellent as Jeremy as a young 19-year old actor who is frustrated with his choice of profession as well as the fact that he is trying to figure out what to do as he falls for Amy. John Rubenstein is superb as Amy’s father Stan as someone who is always caring and making sure she is okay while dealing with the fact that he is set to retire. Blythe Danner is amazing as Amy’s mother Ruth as a woman just obsessed with renovating her house and making sure she will enjoy her husband’s retirement while being a bit snippy towards Amy and her situation. Finally, there’s Melanie Lynskey in a remarkable performance as Amy as this woman in her mid-30s dealing with divorce where Lynskey brings this nice mix of understated drama and humor to the performance that makes Amy a very unique and relatable woman.

Hello I Must Be Going is a phenomenal film from Todd Luiso that features an incredible performance from Melanie Lynskey. Along with strong supporting work from Blythe Danner, John Rubenstein, and Christopher Abbott, the film is a very witty yet engaging portrait of a woman dealing with divorce and failure as she tries to get herself back up. In the end, Hello I Must Be Going is a delightful film from Todd Luiso.

© thevoid99 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tristana




Based on the novel by Benito Perez Galdos, Tristana is the story of a young woman raised by a don as her adopted daughter and later his wife as she seeks to find her own voice upon meeting a young artist. Directed by Luis Bunuel and screenplay by Bunuel and Julio Alejandro, the film is an exploration into the life of a woman who tries to find her identity as an adult as she is played by Catherine Deneuve. Also starring Fernando Rey, Franco Nero, and Lola Gaos. Tristana is a chilling yet evocative film from Luis Bunuel.

The film is a simple story about a woman who is raised by a nobleman after the death of her mother as she grows to be his adopted daughter and later his wife. Yet, Tristana finds her life with Don Lope Garrido (Fernando Rey) suffocating as she seeks to find her own voice while Don Lope is unaware of a world that is changing where Tristana falls for the artist Horacio (Franco Nero) who would show her a world outside of the don yet she still needs him where she becomes ill some years later. It’s a film that explores a woman’s identity and her search to find herself. The film’s screenplay by Luis Bunuel and Julio Alejandro does have a unique structure where its first half is about Tristana as a woman in this relationship as she also is surrounded by the maid Saturna (Lola Gaos) and her deaf-mute son Saturno (Jesus Fernandez) as the latter has a crush on her.

Upon her meeting with Horacio, there’s something in the second half that seems to get lost in terms of its narrative where the second time Tristana and Horacio meet, they’re already having their affair. It’s obvious there’s some details that Bunuel and Alejandro cut out from the book to the script as well as the fact that there’s a lot of time-jumping which sort of confuses the story though it is set largely in 1920s Spain. The narrative does pick up steam in the third act where Horacio and Don Lope meet again where they’re careful around each other for Tristana but complications would emerge as it all plays to what Tristana wants to do. Especially as she’s a woman who had been pulled in many directions where she finds herself back in square one all over again.

The direction of Luis Bunuel does have an element of style but is also very intimate for the way he portrays life of a woman in 1920s Spain. Notably as he is always has his camera fixed on Tristana as she is someone who feels lost as she needed Don Lope as he always been a father to her. The compositions are quite simple in the way Bunuel showcases Tristana’s world where there’s not a lot of colors in her world where it’s a mixture of dark colors with white as there’s very little vibrancy in the film’s look. Even as Bunuel would create some strange dream sequences to play into whatever fate Tristana has for her as there’s some melodrama that occurs as well as some eerie suspense towards the end as it plays to everything Tristana went through in her journey to find herself. Overall, Bunuel creates an extraordinary film about a woman’s search for her identity.

Cinematographer Jose F. Aguayo does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography to display the palette that Bunuel wants while using some low-key lights for the scenes set at night. Editor Pedro del Rey does amazing work with the editing with its sense of style that includes some montages for Tristana‘s nightmares. Production designer Enrique Alarcon and set decorators Luis Arguello and Rafael Borque do superb work with the set pieces to play into the period of locations and homes while Arguello and co-costume designer Rosa Garcia do wonderful work with the period costumes that include the dresses that Tristana wears. The sound work of Bernardo Fronzetti is terrific for some of the sound effects that occur in the film as well as some of the moments that play out on location.

The film’s brilliant cast include some notable small roles from Fernando Cebrian as Dr. Misquis, Antonio Casas as Don Lope’s friend Don Cosme, and Jesus Fernandez as Saturna’s deaf-mute, trouble-making son Saturno who always like to do crazy things. Lola Gaos is excellent as Don Lope’s maid Saturna who is this conscience of sorts in the film despite her frustrations toward her son as she also oversee everything that Tristana and Don Lope do. Franco Nero is terrific as Horacio as a young artist who falls for Tristana as he tries to give her a different life only to deal with Don Lope’s power. Fernando Rey is fantastic as Don Lope as this nobleman who loves and cares for Tristana but also has a sense of control for her as he needs her but also knows how much she needs him. Finally, there’s Catherine Deneuve in a sensational performance as the titular character as a young woman trying to find her identity while being pulled left and right over what to do while becoming disillusioned and lost over the decisions she’s made in her life.

Tristana is a marvelous film from Luis Bunuel that features a radiantly mesmerizing performance from Catherine Deneuve. Along with notable supporting work from Fernando Rey, Franco Nero, and Lola Gaos, it’s a film that explores the world of womanhood as well as a woman finding her identity. Though it is flawed, it is still an engaging film that features some of Bunuel’s surreal trademarks to display a woman trying to find herself. In the end, Tristana is a majestically rich film from Luis Bunuel.

Luis Bunuel Films: Un Chien Andalou - L’Age d’Or - Land Without Bread - (Gran Casino) - (The Great Madcap) - Los Olvidados - (Susana) - (La hija de engano) - (Mexican Bus Ride) - (A Woman Without Love) - (El Bruto) - (El) - (Illusion Travels by Streetcar) - (Wuthering Heights (1954 film)) - Robinson Crusoe (1954 film) - (The Criminal Lives of Archibaldo de la Cruz) - (El rio y la muerte) - (Cela S’apelle l’Aurore) - (Death in the Garden) - (Nazarin) - (La Fievre a El Pasao) - (The Young One) - Viridiana - The Exterminating Angel - Diary of a Chambermaid - Simon of the Desert - Belle de Jour - (The Milky Way) - The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie - (The Phantom of Liberty) - (That Obscure Object of Desire)

© thevoid99 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

2014 Blind Spot Series




After finally making the decision to participate in The Blind Spot Series for 2013, I knew it was going to be a very daunting task. Especially in selecting 12 films that I had never seen before as well as to try and do something new. With 2013 set to close as I've now seen 11 and w/ the last one in Battleship Potemkin being the final for one for the year. I must say that I really enjoyed the films I chose to see for the year as I will do a ranking on the blind spots by the end of the year or early next year. After all, this is fun to do and I think anyone who is a cinephile or a film buff should participate in the series. Notably to scratch off anything where as the year ends, you can tell that person "yeah, I saw that film". Still, there are plenty of films to see as it's time to get ready for 2014.

For the films that I want to see 2014, I want do something different in not just the films that I haven't seen but also in taking some major risks on all sorts of things. Many of which involve films and filmmakers whose work I had never seen before and had been meaning to do so but never had the time to. The films I chose reflect on not just the evolution of cinema but how cinema was able to transform from something that is daring to also find new avenues of storytelling. Some of the films I chosen are definitely ones that are controversial but there are also those that are in no need to shock. So, here are the 12 Blind Spots I will be seeing for 2014:

The Birth of a Nation

Pandora's Box

Duck Soup

The Maltese Falcon

Imitation of Life

Playtime

El Topo

Salo, the 120 Days of Sodom

Stop Making Sense

A Room with a View

Satantango

Spirited Away

© thevoid99 2013

Thor: The Dark World




Based on the comics by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Larry Lieber, Thor: The Dark World is the story about Thor facing an ancient enemy who threatens to destroy his home planet of Asgard following a chilling discovery from Jane Foster that would threaten everything. Directed by Alan Taylor and screenplay by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeeley from a screen story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat. The film is a sequel to 2011’s Thor where the titular character deals with new enemies and the responsibility of taking over the throne of Asgard from his father Odin as Chris Hemsworth reprises the role of Thor. Also starring Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Rene Russo, Idris Elba, Jaimie Alexander, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Chris O’Dowd, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, and Anthony Hopkins as Odin. Thor: The Dark World is a sensational yet entertaining film from Alan Taylor.

The film is about an ancient enemy known as Dark Elves who suddenly find themselves returning after Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) discovered some portals that led her to a world where a dark mystical power was seeped into her. When Thor learns about what Jane discovered, he takes her back to Asgard so that his father King Odin can see if he can help only to realize that the Dark Elves led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) is only keen on destroying the universe after being nearly wiped away by Odin’s father Bor (Tony Curran). What the film does is have Thor take risks in not just saving his planet and Jane but also the universe where he realizes that he has to do things that his father wouldn’t do that would include getting the help from his estranged adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

The film’s screenplay does take its time to showcase Thor’s growth into this warrior who definitely seems more grounded in the previous film as he becomes a much more mature individual who is also quite witty but still longs for Jane. When Heimdall (Idris Elba) tells Thor that he couldn’t see Jane, it has Thor trying to figure what is happening to her while there’s something far more sinister that is happening just as all nine realms are to line up for this event known as the Convergence where all portals from the nine realms are to open. With Malekith re-awaken, he decides to use this moment as well as Jane’s discovery of the dark power known as Aether to rebuild the world of the Dark Elves and regain darkness back to the universe. While the script does have a lot of exposition that occurs in order to make sense of the film’s plot. The script does manage to showcase a lot of the other characters such as Thor’s mother Frigga (Rene Russo) who is an important link to Thor’s relationship with Loki.

There’s also some comical moments that occur that includes Jane’s mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) going crazy as he’s still recovering from the events that occurred in The Avengers prompting Jane’s intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Darcy’s intern Ian (Jonathan Howard) to get Selvig who makes a discovery about the Convergence. It would lead to some very intense moments that mixes action and humor where there’s a showdown between Thor and Malekith in London that also involves the Dark Elves and portals. Notably as it’s Thor trying to do whatever he can to just save the world and realizes the kind of attributes that he needs to succeed his father as King of Asgard.

Alan Taylor’s direction is definitely sprawling in terms of the set pieces that is created as it is a film that is big but also some intimate moments. Notably as Taylor makes sure that many of the visual effects and large set pieces don’t overwhelm the story. Even as Taylor does create some intimate moments that takes place in London where Jane tries to deal with her feelings for Thor as well as the scientific discovery that she and Darcy make that would lead to Jane being teleported into another world that has her discovering the Aether. The scenes in London are very simple with Taylor going for something straightforward but also add some comedy into the mix.

The scenes set in the Dark Elves’ planet as well as other places outside of Asgard is shot in Iceland where it has this very desolate world that is a total representation that Malekith wants. Especially that is sharp contrast to the more sprawling and regal world that is Asgard that Thor wants to protect as he isn’t just concerned for its people that he cares for but also everything his father and grandfather had fought for. Even as he has to get Loki to help him in the hopes as Thor can re-forge the bond that he had with the man whom he had called brother. Most notably as it leads to this massive climax where Taylor knows how to mix humor and action into the mix. Overall, Taylor creates a very extravagant yet exciting film about a hero taking more risks in what to do to save the world.

Cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the straightforward look for the scenes in London to some of the more eerie lighting schemes for the scenes set at the Dark Elves‘ old home planet. Editors Dan Lebental and Wyatt Smith do terrific work with the editing by using some fast, rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s action and humor while slowing down for the dramatic moments. Production designer Charles Wood, with supervising art director Ray Chan and set decorators Gueni Lindal Benediktsson and John Bush, does fantastic work with the set pieces from the look of Asgard as well as the design of the Dark Elves ship that would bring terror to Earth and Asgard.

Costume designer Wendy Partridge does amazing work with a lot of the costumes for the scenes set in Asgard as it has this mixture of old medieval look that Thor and his people wear. Makeup designer Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou does brilliant work with some of the makeup including the look of Malekith. Visual effects supervisor Mark Breakspear does nice work with the visual effects for some of scenes set in space as well as some of the exteriors of Asgard. Sound designer Will Files and Shannon Mills do superb work with the sound to create some unique sound effects as well as play into some of the chaos that goes in the fight scenes. The film’s music by Brian Tyler is wonderful for its orchestral bombast to play into some of the film’s action and suspense as well in some of the more somber pieces for the dramatic moments.

The casting by Sarah Finn does marvelous work with the casting as it includes some notable small roles from Tony Curran in a prologue scene as Odin’s father Bor, Alice Krige as an Asgardian physician, Chris O’Dowd as a man Jane meets early in the film for a lunch date, Jonathan Howard as Darcy’s intern Ian, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Malekith’s lieutenant Algrim who causes havoc in Asgard. The casting also features some pretty funny cameos such as Stan Lee as a mental ward patient and Chris Evans as Loki pretending to be Captain America. As the members of the Warrior Three, Ray Winstone, Tadanobu Asano, and Zachary Levi are all terrific in their respective roles as Volstagg, Hogun, and Fandral with Winstone and Levi providing some humor. Jaimie Alexander is wonderful as Thor’s friend Sif who aids Thor while dealing with the presence of Jane Foster as she also has feelings for Thor.

Rene Russo is fantastic as Frigga as Thor’s mother who ensures that Loki stays alive following his actions in The Avengers as she becomes a key crucial point in the film for Thor and Loki as she also proves to be a total badass. Stellan Skarsgard is excellent as Dr. Erik Selvig who is still trying to deal with the post-traumatic stress of the events in The Avengers where he makes a big discovery while doing some funny things that involve him not wearing pants. Kat Dennings is hilarious as Jane’s intern Darcy as she not only has some of the film’s funny one-liners but also does things to help ensure that Thor’s plan to stop Malekith would work in some funny results. Idris Elba is incredible as Heimdall as the watcher of the Nine Realms who realizes the magnitude of the situation as he helps Thor out in defeating the Dark Elves. Christopher Eccleston is amazing as Malekith as this very dark individual who seeks revenge for what happened to him and his people as he does whatever it takes to take Thor down.

Anthony Hopkins is great as Odin where he’s still a bit of a cantankerous old man but also tones it down a bit as he still struggles to balance his role as king and father while aware of what Thor is trying to do. Tom Hiddleston is awesome as Loki as Thor’s adopted brother as a man who is slimy but fun as he helps Thor out in dealing with Malekith as well as trying to find something that he can gain. Natalie Portman is superb as Jane Foster as she does more than in the previous film as young woman who makes a chilling discovery while trying to deal with all of the chaos as well as finding ways to help save the world. Finally, there’s Chris Hemsworth in a remarkable performance as Thor as Hemsworth brings some humor to the role that is quite low-key but also a humility as a man who still questions his worth to become a king as it helps make Thor more engaging proving that Hemsworth is right for the part.

Thor: The Dark World is an excellent film from Alan Taylor that features brilliant performances from Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, and Tom Hiddleston. The film isn’t just a much looser and more entertaining film than its predecessor but allows the audience to be engaged by its protagonist as well as find ways that makes him relatable. In the end, Thor: The Dark World is a extraordinarily broad yet stellar film from Alan Taylor.

Marvel Phase One Films: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers

Marvel Phase Two Films: Iron Man 3 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Guardians of the Galaxy - The Avengers: Age of Ultron - Ant-Man

Marvel Phase Three Films: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Thor: Ragnarok - (Black Panther) - (The Avengers: Infinity War Pt. 1) - (Ant-Man & the Wasp) - (Captain Marvel) - (The Avengers: Infinity War Pt. 2)


© thevoid99 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire



Based on The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the follow-up to the 2012 film where Katinss Everdeen becomes a political target as a rebellion is emerging where she and Peeta Mellark are forced to play the next Hunger Games against previous winners. Directed by Francis Lawrence and screenplay by Michael Arndt and Simon Beaufoy, the film is an exploration of a young woman trying to comprehend her feelings while dealing with a target in her back as Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss with Josh Hutcherson as Peeta. Also starring Donald Sutherland, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, Jena Malone, Sam Claflin, Toby Jones, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a rapturous yet chilling film from Francis Lawrence.

In the second part of the trilogy where Katniss Everdeen becomes this unlikely beacon of hope for a futuristic, dystopian America. The second part is about Katniss becoming a political target against leader President Snow (Donald Sutherland) who tries to get Katniss to be in his side in order to quiet down this emerging rebellion. Instead, Katniss and Peeta’s plans to pretend to be this couple as a distraction doesn’t work until the new game maker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) makes a plan to get all surviving victors of previous Hunger Games to take part in the 75th game where the rules are much more different as is the competition. With Peeta volunteering in place of his mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), the two agree to protect each other during the game with the help of a few allies. It’s a film that plays into a world where things become more chaotic as this young woman is becoming a symbol of hope but she is overwhelmed by memories of the past games as well as her feelings for Peeta and her longtime beau Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth).

The screenplay by Michael Arndt and Simon Beaufoy definitely has a much broader structure where the first act is about Katniss and Peeta going on a tour on several districts in order to quiet down this rebellion and pretend to be a couple for the cameras. Yet, it becomes far more troubling when the rebellion starts to grow forcing President Snow and Heavensbee to make plans about how to quiet things down. The second act is about the planning of the 75th Hunger Games as tributes from previous game have to play and kill each other bringing more trouble for Katniss and her family. The third act is the game itself where Katniss and Peeta have to find allies in order to survive as there’s something far more that is happening. Even as Katniss is unsure of who to trust with the exception of Peeta as it gets more complicated.

Katniss is much more troubled in this film than in the first one as nightmares, confused feelings for both Gale and Peeta, and the need to protect her family has overwhelmed her. Even as the game itself becomes far more brutal not just physically but mentally as well where Peeta has to ground her as he also wants to protect her though he is also falling for Katniss. It’s not just Katniss and Peeta that are given more to do as their team that includes Haymitch and their publicist Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) are more fleshed out as the latter starts to show more emotion as it becomes clear on how much she cares for both Katniss and Peeta. Then there’s some of the other tributes the two have to face as it ranges from all sorts of individuals where many of them are very strange that includes the very smart and eccentric duo Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and Wiress (Amanda Plummer), the very charming and powerful Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), and the very unpredictable yet vicious Johanna Mason (Jena Malone). Yet, they know what this game is about Katniss and Peeta are reluctant to team with them since they all agree that the real enemy is President Snow.

The direction of Francis Lawrence is really spectacular in not just the world that he creates but also in fleshing out the story. Especially as he maintains some simple and some stylistic compositions for the scenes at the Victors village where Peeta and Katniss live with Katniss’ family but also the other districts that is seeped in this dystopia where a rebellion is emerging. The use of wide shots and medium shots for the locations set in parts of the American South including Atlanta plays into a world that is quite troubling and chaotic. Even in contrast to the world where President Snow and the rich live where it’s extravagant and quite artificial. The scenes where the pre-show games showcase a sense of disconnect between the rich and the tributes that are to play the game as Lawrence maintains something that is simple and to the point.

For the film’s third act in the games, Lawrence definitely goes for something that is far more sprawling in the way the games are. Especially as he aims for something that is more controlled as opposed to the shaky-cam approach of the first film. While there are some intense moments of danger, it is presented with some crane and steadicam shots in order to get an idea of what is out there where the camera work is much tighter. Even as there is an air of unpredictability about what is happening where the film ends on a somewhat abrupt note. Yet, it plays to what is to come for Katniss who is a key part of a growing rebellion that is emerging. Overall, Lawrence creates very sensational and engaging film about a young woman dealing with her role as a beacon of hope.

Cinematographer Jo Willems does fantastic work with the film‘s photography from some of the naturalistic look of some of the exterior scenes in the forests and at the dome of the game but also some stylish lights for the interior scenes including the parties and games presentation. Editor Alan Edward Bell does excellent work with the editing by maintaining a steady yet stylistic approach to the cutting with some rhythmic cuts for the film‘s action while slowing things down in its dramatic moments. Production designer Philip Messina, with set decorator Larry Dias and supervising art director John Collins, does amazing work with the set pieces from the look of the Victors‘ village as well as the game dome where everyone else has to kill each other.

Costume designer Trish Sommerville does brilliant work with the costumes from the lavish costumes the tributes have to wear in the pre-game shows as well as the suits they have to wear during the game. Visual effects supervisors Janek Sirrs and Mark Varisco do terrific work with some of the visual effects such as the creatures the characters have to deal with in the game as well as some of the exteriors of the Capital. Sound designer Jeremy Peirson does superb work with the sound from the way gunfire is heard to some of the moments that occur in the games with its mixture of intimate forest scenes and sounds of cannons. The film’s music by James Newton Howard is incredible for its sense of orchestral bombast that plays out in much of the film as well as some serene moments for some of the dramatic moments in the film.

The casting by Debra Zane is just outstanding for the ensemble that is created for the film as it includes some small but notable appearances from recurring characters such as Toby Jones as the Hunger Games reporter, Paula Malcolmson as Katniss’ mom, Willow Shields as Katniss’ sister Prim, Stanley Tucci as the Hunger Games broadcaster Caesar Flickerman, and Lenny Kravitz as Katniss’ dress designer Cinna. Other notable small roles as previous winners include Meta Golding as the teeth-baring Enobaria, Bruno Gunn as the massive Brutus, Alan Ritchson and Stephanie Leigh Schlund as the skillful siblings Gloss and Cashmere, Stef Dawson as Finnick’s wife Annie who was supposed to compete but only to be spared by Mags and Lynn Cohen as the aging yet silent winner Mags whom Finnick cares as she was his mentor and friend. Amanda Plummer is terrific as the very eccentric but smart Wiress while Jeffrey Wright is superb as the brainy Beetee who tries to find a way to beat the game.

Woody Harrelson is amazing as Katniss and Peeta’s mentor Haymitch Abernathy as he tries to get them ready for the games while Elizabeth Banks is delightful as Effie Trinket as their publicist who becomes aware of the reality that is occurring as she grows more fonder of Katniss and Peeta. Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent as the game maker Plutarch Heavensbee as a man who is eager to ensure that the games will go smoothly as planned as he concocted the idea of doing something radical for the games. Donald Sutherland is brilliant as President Snow as this slimy individual who wants to suppress this rebellion while trying to force Katniss into doing things so that he wouldn’t kill her and her family. Sam Claflin is fantastic as the very charming and skillful Finnick Odair who raises suspicions from Katniss yet proves to be a formidable ally who is aware that something bigger is happening.

Jena Malone is just astounding as Johanna Mason as this very sarcastic and vicious loner who is very unpredictable and cunning yet becomes this unlikely wildcard ally that Katniss needs as Malone just steals the film from everyone. Liam Hemsworth is pretty good as Gale Hawthorne as Katniss’ beau who tries to deal with Katniss’ relationship with Peeta while dealing with the chaos that is happening where he gets beaten by authorities only to be saved by Katniss, Haymitch, and Peeta. Josh Hutcherson is excellent as Peeta who decides to participate in the games for Haymitch despite his chances as he also tries to ensure that Katniss stays alive while deal with his feelings for her. Finally, there’s Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen where Lawrence is just phenomenal in displaying Katniss’ internal conflicts and her confusion for both Peeta and Gale as she also deals with nightmares as well as the fact that she is this symbol of hope against President Snow where Lawrence just adds that weight to make Katniss one of the great characters in film.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a marvelous film from Francis Lawrence that features a truly exquisite leading performance from Jennifer Lawrence. Along with some notable supporting performances from Josh Hutcherson, Jena Malone, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks, and Donald Sutherland. The film is definitely something much more than just the typical young-adults blockbuster as it takes time to explore rebellion and a young woman dealing with the role that she has to take. In the end, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an extraordinary film from Francis Lawrence.

The Hunger Games Films: The Hunger Games - (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1) - (The Hunger Games Mockingjay Pt. 2)

Francis Lawrence Films: (Constantine) - (I Am Legend) - (Water for Elephants)

© thevoid99 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

2013 Blind Spot Series: Sunset Boulevard




Directed by Billy Wilder and written by Wilder, Charles Brackett, and D.M. Marshman, Jr., Sunset Boulevard is the story of a lowly screenwriter who tries to write a script for a fading silent star actress in the hope to revive her career. The film is an exploration into the world of Hollywood and how it treats those whose time have come and gone as it’s told in a film-noir style. Starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, and Nancy Olson. Sunset Boulevard is a spectacular film from Billy Wilder.

The film is the story about a debt-ridden B-movie screenwriter who finds himself at the home of a fading silent star actress who is convinced that she will return as she hires the man to help her shape her script and become her lover while her loyal butler watches closely. It’s a film that explores the world of Hollywood and how fickle it can be as times have changed as there’s a man trying to make a break as a screenwriter though he has ideas that aren’t so great. There’s an aging actress who hadn’t been in the films for years yet is convinced that she is still a movie star that gets fan letters all the time. All of it is told by the screenwriter named Joe Gillis (William Holden) who is first seen lying dead on a swimming pool as he narrates the entire story trying to figure out what he got himself into.

The film’s screenplay has this unique narrative that is told by its protagonist who is found dead at the beginning of the film as it’s a narration that is sort of reflective but told in a noir-like language to give a sense of style where Gillis definitely has some regrets over the way he handled things and as well as the mess he got himself into. It starts off as someone who is full of ideas but not a lot of them that Hollywood wants as he owes money where he tries to hide from repossession men where he finds himself in a mysterious mansion that turns out to be the home of the once great silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Desmond is convinced that she will make a grand return to the big screen as she has created a project that will put her back on top despite not having been in the films since the emergence of sound in films. Still, she is still convinced that she is a star as she also waits for a phone call from Cecil B. DeMille whom she had worked with.

Another person that is crucial to the story is Desmond’s loyal butler/driver Max (Erich von Stroheim) who is also Norma’s great protector as he shields her from the reality that she’s unaware of. Especially as knows a lot more than one wants to think as Gillis is suspicious about Max as he finds himself trapped in Desmond’s home yet has no choice but to be with her. Still, he finds it suffocating an encounter with a script-reader named Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson) leads to a script collaboration between the two that makes Desmond very suspicious about Gillis’ frequent departure from the house. All of it would lead to some conflict over what is really going on around Desmond and how out of touch she is.

The direction of Billy Wilder is truly stylish from the way he opens the film that includes the shot of Gillis’ body lying face down in the swimming pool as he’s narrating the film. While some of the compositions are quite simple and to the point, there is that element of style that Wilder wants in terms of close-ups and slow zooms as well as some extravagant crane shots. Much of it is to display a world in Hollywood that is changing where a lot is happening where there are those that have no clue of the past though there are some who do recognize Desmond despite the fact that she hasn’t been around for years. There’s also some cameos that appear in the film to play up into a world that Desmond wants such as a bridge game with other silent film stars who don’t say anything yet there’s an element of meta-acting in their appearances.

There is also some satire that explores the way Hollywood is and such as Wilder showcases a place that Desmond doesn’t recognize yet is convinced that people know who she is. Even as the big scene where she arrives at Paramount studios showcases that sense of disconnect that she is unaware of where she meets Cecil B. DeMille who is surprised by her arrival as he is someone who doesn’t have the heart to disappoint her. Things do get darker in the third act when Desmond learns about Schaefer and Gillis where it all plays to something that is wild and melodramatic that would one of the most unforgettable endings in film. Overall, Wilder creates a very sensational yet dark film about the fickleness of Hollywood and a woman’s loss with reality.

Cinematographer John F. Seitz does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from the bright look of its daytime exteriors to some of the stylish lights for the scenes at night including the scenes outside of the house to showcase a world that seems long and gone. Editors Doane Harrison and Arthur Schmidt do excellent work with the editing by going in a straightforward approach with the editing though infusing the film with some style in its transitional dissolves and montages. Art director Hans Dreier and John Meehan, along with set decorators Sam Comer and Ray Moyer, do fantastic work with the home of Norma Desmond with its old-school look and a room full of her photos to showcase the sense of disconnect in her life.

Costume designer Edith Head does wonderful work with the costumes from the suits that Max and Gillis wears to the lavish dresses that Desmond wears throughout the entirety of the film. Sound recorders John Cope and Harry Lindgren do superb work with the sound to play into the tense atmosphere of the Desmond home as well as the raucous nature of some of the party scenes and such in the film. The film’s music by Franz Waxman is amazing for its bombastic yet thrilling orchestral score to play out some of the suspense and melodrama that just adds a lot of power to the film.

The film’s cast is incredible as it features some appearances from Cecil B. DeMille as himself as well as silent film stars Buster Keaton, Anna Q. Nilsson, and H.B. Warner as bridge players, and famed gossip writer Hedda Hopper as herself in the film’s final scene. Fred Clark is terrific as Paramount producer Sheldrake while Jack Webb is excellent as Schaefer’s fiancĂ©e in assistant director Artie Green. Nancy Olson is wonderful as Betty Schaefer as script-reader who wants to write her own scripts where her strong opinions as her teaming up with Gillis where she finds herself falling for him. Erich von Stroheim is marvelous as Norma’s longtime assistant Max as a man who is her great protector as well as a man who knows more about her than anyone as there’s a lot more to him that makes von Stroheim’s performance far more entrancing.

William Holden is amazing as Joe Gillis as this lowly and unlucky screenwriter who arrives into the Desmond home by accident as he is someone that is just trying to catch a break only to become Desmond’s new companion for better or worse as he also drives the story to unveil all of the mistakes and such that he’s made. Finally, there’s Gloria Swanson in an astounding performance as Norma Desmond. Swanson brings a sense of terror and melodrama to the role as someone who believes she is bigger than life as well as someone who has lost touch with reality. It’s a truly tour-de-force performance that is really unlike anything or anyone as it’s definitely one that no one will forget.

Sunset Boulevard is a magnificent film from Billy Wilder that features phenomenal performances from Gloria Swanson, William Holden, and Erich von Stroheim. It’s a film that explores the dark side of Hollywood and how one so desperately craves to be in the spotlight again no matter how much things have changed. It’s also one of Wilder’s most entrancing films for its striking visuals and witty satire on Hollywood’s fickleness. In the end, Sunset Boulevard is a triumphant film from Billy Wilder.

Billy Wilder Films: (Mauvaise Graine) - (The Major and the Minor) - (Five Graves to Cairo) - Double Indemnity - The Lost Weekend - (The Emperor Waltz) - (A Foreign Affair) - Ace in the Hole - Stalag 17 - (Sabrina) - (The Seven Year Itch) - (The Spirit of St. Louis) - (Love in the Afternoon) - (Witness for the Prosecution) - Some Like It Hot - The Apartment - (One, Two, Three) - (Irma La Douce) - (Kiss Me, Stupid) - (The Fortune Cookie) - (The Private Lives of Sherlock Holmes) - (Avanti!) - (The Front Page) - (Fedora) - (Buddy Buddy)

© thevoid99 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mystery Train




Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, Mystery Train is a trilogy of stories set in Memphis, Tennessee that involve different visitors arriving into the city where they encounter all sorts of things in the city. One story entitled Far from Yokohama revolves around two Japanese tourists going on a pilgrimage to learn about the American blues. The second entitled A Ghost is about an Italian widow who stays at a hotel overnight. The third and final story called Lost in Space is about the adventures of an Englishman and his two friends. Starring Youki Kudoh, Masatoshi Nagase, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Cinque Lee, Nicoletta Braschi, Elizabeth Bracco, Rick Aviles, Steve Buscemi, and Joe Strummer. Mystery Train is an extraordinary film from Jim Jarmusch.

The film is essentially about different strangers who find themselves in the city of Memphis, Tennessee where they would all later stay at a hotel all in the course of one strange day. The first of which involves a young Japanese couple in Mitsuko (Youki Kudoh) and Jun (Masatoshi Nagase) who arrive to the city on a pilgrimage on the American blues where they arrive to Memphis earlier than they expected where they argue over who was better, Elvis Presley or Carl Perkins. The second story involves an Italian widow named Luisa (Nicoletta Braschi) who reluctantly stays in the city overnight where she shares a hotel room with a woman named Dee Dee (Elizabeth Bracco) who just left her boyfriend. The third story involves an angry Englishman named Johnny (Joe Strummer) who decides to go into a drunken adventure with his friends Will Robinson (Rick Aviles) and Charlie (Steve Buscemi) that gets bad. All of which has these characters staying in different rooms at a hotel run by the clerk (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) and a bellboy (Cinque Lee).

Jim Jarmusch’s screenplay has these three very different stories all take place in a very simple narrative yet there’s moments where the three stories connect as characters from one story briefly interact with another and so on. Yet, these are all characters who feel sort of entranced but also lost in this strange city of Memphis as it is a character in the film. Mitsuko and Jun are these two young Japanese tourists who want to see Sun Studios and Graceland where Mitsuko is very upbeat but Jun is more reserved about everything as he doesn’t smile. Luisa is this Italian who finds herself having to stay to Memphis where she is conned into buying magazines and such as well as meeting a strange man (Tom Noonan) who claims to have met the ghost of Elvis where the most normal person she meets is Dee Dee who is just upset over her boyfriend getting laid off.

Mitsuko, Jun, and Luisa are these people who are fascinated by their surroundings where they’re just visitors in this strange land that is a bit decayed and sort of wild. Yet, they’re only staying there for one night as they know how chaotic the place is as the only other foreigner that is roaming around Memphis is Johnny who is just lamenting that he just got dumped. Drowning his sorrows in booze and carrying a loaded pistol, it’s obvious that this character is trouble but he’s sort of this charming character who feels bad over what he did as he has no clue on what is to do where he ends up causing more trouble for himself and his friends. All of these characters would stay in different hotel rooms where the clerk and the bellboy would meet these different characters and often make a few comments about what is going on and such where they would also listen to Elvis Presley’s cover of Blue Moon at certain points in the film as it plays on the radio.

Jarmusch’s direction is quite simple for much of the film while he does create some amazing compositions in the way he presents Memphis as well as the hotel the characters stay in. Memphis acts like this strange ghost town of sorts where some of places are abandoned or decaying while there’s also something vibrant that goes on in the city. It’s a true reflection of Americana that its foreign characters can seem overwhelmed by as Mitsuko and Jun are always staring though neither of them speak much English. There’s a lot of humor in the way these characters react to their surroundings where Mitsuko and Jun have a hard time listening to the Sun Studios tour guide who talks very fast in English. That is among some of the humorous moments as well as the scene of Luisa being conned to buy all of these magazines where it showcases that sense of alienation that can be quite funny.

There are also moments that include the hotel room scenes as there’s always a different painting of Elvis Presley in that hotel room. A lot of which showcases a man who represents everything that is an icon where Mitsuko and Jun are fascinated by how influential he is while Luisa is also transfixed by his presence. Johnny however, isn’t enthused about Elvis as he’s also called by Elvis by some of the locals. His story is definitely one of the darker moments of the film as well as one that is also quite mysterious as Johnny is someone who is connected to a character in another story as it all plays to these characters dealing with the strangeness of the city all in the span of one entire day. Overall, Jarmusch creates a very mesmerizing yet sensational film about people looking for something in the city of Memphis.

Cinematographer Robby Muller does amazing work with the film‘s very colorful and exotic photography from the look of Memphis in the daytime with the use of lights and such to play into the scenes set at night. Editor Melody London does excellent work with the editing by going for a straightforward approach while using some rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s humorous moments. Production designer Dan Bishop and set decorator Dianna Freas do wonderful work with the look of the hotel rooms the characters stay in that features a different painting of Elvis Presley in each room.

Costume designer Carol Wood does terrific work with the clothes from the youthful look of Mitsuko and Jun to the more old-fashioned look of Luisa. Sound editor Robert Hein does superb work with the sound to convey the atmosphere of the locations as well as moments to link the other stories as a whole piece such as the music and a gunshot that is heard in the morning. The film’s music by John Lurie is fantastic for its low-key yet blues-based score to play into the world of Memphis while its soundtrack features an array of music from soul and rockabilly that includes music by Elvis Presley to play into the mysticism that is Memphis.

The film’s incredible cast includes some notable small roles from people like Sara Driver as an airport clerk, Sy Richardson as a magazine clerk, famed Memphis musician Rufus Thomas as a man who greets the Mitsuko and Jun at the Memphis train station, Rockets Redglare as a liquor store clerk, Tom Noonan as a mysterious man Luisa meets at a diner, and Tom Waits as the voice of a local radio DJ who plays the music that appears in the film. Cinque Lee is very funny as the young bellboy while the late yet legendary Screamin’ Jay Hawkins is superb as the hotel night clerk who dazzles in his red suit. Youki Kudoh and Masatoshi Nagase are fantastic as the young Japanese couple Mitsuko and Jun with Kudoh as the more upbeat and quirky Mitsuko while Nagase displays a low-key melancholia to his rule as Jun.

Nicoletta Braschi is amazing as Italian widow Luisa who is bewildered by her surroundings as she has no idea what is going on while being fascinated by the presence of Elvis Presley. Elizabeth Bracco is excellent as Dee Dee as this woman who just left her boyfriend as she is a very talkative person who is just upset over her day. Rick Aviles is terrific as Johnny’s friend Will Robinson who is frustrated over Johnny’s antics as well as the fact that he is named after a character in the TV show Lost in Space. Steve Buscemi is brilliant as Johnny’s friend Charlie who reluctantly helps Will out to sort out Johnny while trying to deal with the chaos of the night. Finally, there’s the late Joe Strummer in a marvelous performance as Johnny as this troubled Englishman who is upset over losing his job and his girl as he just wants to lash out at whatever is around him as he’s just got this presence that is unforgettable.

Mystery Train is a magnificent film from Jim Jarmusch. Armed with a remarkable ensemble cast as well as an intoxicating sense of mysticism. The film is an entrancing look into the world of alienation as well as a look into a world that is changing but also in decay where many of its traditions try to stay on. Notably in a city that is vibrant as Memphis, Tennessee that is full of culture and mystery that is still exciting to watch. In the end, Mystery Train is a phenomenal film from Jim Jarmusch.

Jim Jarmusch Films: Permanent Vacation - Stranger Than Paradise - Down by Law - Night on Earth - Dead Man - Year of the Horse - Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai - Coffee & Cigarettes - Broken Flowers - The Limits of Control - Only Lovers Left Alive - The Auteurs #27: Jim Jarmusch

© thevoid99 2013