Thursday, March 31, 2016
Spring is here and of course, so is the pollen. I really hate spring more than any other season as the weather here in Georgia has been nuts as of late where it would be warm and then it would be cold again. It’s that climate change shit and I hate it. There’s just a lot of things right now that is just not making me very happy such as the political circus that is going around where it’s become a bunch of he said this and he said that kind of bullshit. No one really says anything with the exception of sorts in Bernie Sanders. Then there’s this big argument over Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice where fan boys get upset over if the film is good or is it bad. This is among the reasons why I haven’t seen it and will wait for it when it comes on HBO.
One world that I’m now thinking about completely disconnecting myself with for good is professional wrestling as what I‘m about to rant about will be ugly and not for everyone‘s ears and eyes and if anyone is offended, tough. While Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling are great alternatives, it is unfortunately overshadowed by the machine of the WWE as having to read many wrestling sites about this and that about the WWE and how bad it’s become has just added to my growing dreary mood as of late. With WrestleMania coming this weekend, it is clear that not many wrestling fans are excited about it and who can blame them? It’s not just the lack of strong build for these matches that are happening but it’s the fact that fans are becoming indifferent. I think this past Monday’s episode of Monday Night RAW was an example of that as it is clear about many things. Nothing has really changed for anyone to care at all as at the end of the day. It’s really what Vince McMahon wants and how he wants his fans to eat up his bullshit and like it.
I’ve known about that for quite a few years but that Monday, I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m getting tired of reading the same old shit and reading comments by morons about this and that. I’m in my mid-30s and I think it’s time for me to say “fuck it, I can’t do this anymore”. I’m not going to bother reading about WWE saying Roman Reigns is the guy and you should accept that. Why would I want to accept some Samoan fuck-head who can’t talk on the mic, can’t do matches for more than 30 minutes without being gassed up, not selling a serious hold as something dangerous like the Kimura lock, and calling his detractors “haters who just hate themselves?” You know what? Fuck him. The only reason he is in the spot that many have been working hard for is because he has a look that Vince has a hard-on for and believes could sell t-shirts and all sorts of bullshit while being the Rock’s cousin. As if that wasn’t enough to piss me off, why don’t we have that red-headed cum-dumpster who can’t learn to kick out of a fuckin’ pinfall be part of a pre-show ten-women tag team match so that she can get attention for some bullshit reality TV show?
I can’t do this anymore as I’m now seriously thinking of just deleting the wrestling blog that has been inactive for a long time as it’s just not fun anymore. I probably know that I’m not alone in my frustrations but I just can’t be optimistic as I know things aren’t going to be better when Vince finally fucking croaks. After all, CM Punk was right. Once he’s gone along with that buck-tooth bitch of his in Kevin Dunn and that racist old fuck in Michael “P.S.” Hayes are out of the picture. There’s still going to be problems as the WWE focus will still be on the McMahons as it’s likely that his son Shane might not stay very long as he’s making money somewhere else knowing that he had been driven out by his old man. The WWE still has to deal with Vince’s stupid cunt of a daughter in Stephanie and his dufus, egotistical son-in-law who only got over because of who his friends are while not putting someone like Sting over last year as he had to have the help of his friends including Shawn Michaels who should stay retired and not help his bitch get over instead of someone who needed the win more than that big-nose fuck.
Oh, let’s not forget the lies they create about those charities such as the Tribute to the Troops bullshit which is nothing more than a celebration of American Imperialist bullshit where good people die and serve their country for nothing along with that association with the Susan G. Komen Foundation in the research for breast cancer which anyone with a brain knows the foundation is a fucking scam. What about the anti-bullying campaign they created known as Be a Star? Who the fuck would take that shit seriously when it is from a company whose chairman is one of the biggest bullies in the world? This is kind of shit that is just fucking me up in the head and I want to get rid of it for good and probably will happen this weekend. I’m not watching WrestleMania and it’s been almost a year since I last watched RAW. If nothing big or surprising happens, then it’s all over and I’m fucking out for good.
In the month of March, I saw a total of 28 films in 17 first-timers and 11 re-watches. A bit more than last month but still a good haul as one of the highlights of the month that I saw was my Blind Spot assignment in News from Home. Here are the top 10 First-Timers for March 2016:
1. Les Rendez-vous d'Anna
2. Spring Breakers
4. Knight of Cups
5. Watership Down
6. Hotel Monterey
7. John Wick
8. La Chambre
9. No Regrets for Our Youth
10. Pitch Perfect 2
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Pt. 2
With the recent chaos of what is happening in DC Films over the polarizing reaction for Batman v. Superman, its animation department at least is able to make films that are actually decent and engaging. The second part of this film is about Bruce Wayne’s return to playing Batman where he faces down old foes but also gets in trouble with Gotham’s new police commissioner while Superman is also trying to stop him. It’s a film that features a fight between the two superheroes where it has a very powerful outcome as it relates to what is at stake and more.
The Fall of the Shah
The BBC has always made interesting documentaries as someone like myself who is into history has always been fascinated about a lot of things such as the Iranian Revolution. Seen on YouTube, the documentary about the rise and fall of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi who is an interesting figure but also a man that was very polarizing. While there are a few including his wife that tried to defend the man for his actions and intentions for the country. It also revealed exactly what led to the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and Ayatollah Khomeini’s return from exile as it is a look into a man that tried to make Iran be like a superpower only to break away from its roots and traditions in favor of excess and decadence that led to his own exile. It’s a fascinating documentary that many with an interest in history should watch as it says a lot into why Iran’s relationship with America has become very icy and not likely to change.
Top 10 Re-Watches:
1. The Big Lebowski
2. Carlito's Way
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
4. Raising Arizona
5. The Birdcage
6. Up in the Air
7. Bad Santa
10. Club Paradise
Well, that is all for March 2016 as I would also like to post a new monthly piece on what new music I’ve been listening to. Aside from such new releases as Captain America: Civil War, I also hope to review other new releases like Everybody Wants Some, The Boss, and Midnight Special along with films by Spike Jonze and Rahmin Bahrani in conjunction with their upcoming Auteurs pieces on them as well as the films I hope to see from this list. Before I go, I want to post a little video clip in honor of Ronnie Corbett who had just passed recently as there is no question that this man is one of the funniest men that ever lived as I will end the post with this clip:
© thevoid99 2016
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Based on the novel by Richard Adams, Watership Down is the story of community of rabbits who are being threatened by modern forces in a dystopian world. Written for the screen and directed by Martin Rosen, the film is a look into the concept of the Apocalypse from the viewpoints of rabbits as the film is narrated by Michael Horndern. Featuring the voices of John Hurt, Richard Briers, Denholm Elliott, Ralph Richardson, Simon Cadell, Michael Graham Cox, Harry Andrews, and Zero Mostel. Watership Down is a gripping and mesmerizing film from Martin Rosen.
Set in a modern world, the film revolves a group of rabbits who are forced to flee their home and find a new one after one of them has an apocalyptic vision. Along the way, they contend with the harsh world of nature as well as other creatures and a community of rabbits who represent a totalitarian view of the world. It’s a film that is sort of a dystopian film but it’s also a film about survival as these rabbits not only cope with the reality of man destroying their land for themselves but also realize what they have to do to ensure their own survival as it relates to female rabbits. Martin Rosen’s script doesn’t just emphasize a lot on survival but also the idea of a community that is free and doesn’t want to adhere to rules that are suppressive. It also opens with a fable about the species of the rabbit and why they’re considered prey in the animal food chain which does add a lot into their quest for survival.
Rosen’s direction is quite intoxicating in not just the way he creates these dazzling images set against the backdrop of the English countryside. It also has this sense of style in the animation that is very engaging with an air of realism that makes it more ravishing in its look. With the aid of animation director Tony Guy and supervisor Philip Duncan, the look of the two-dimensional, hand-drawn animation does bring a lot of life to not just the look of the characters but also in the way these rabbits deal with their situations including some very dark moments involving violence. The fact that it’s an animated film that has this very realistic and gripping take on violence with images of blood does manage to bring a lot of weight into the film as well as the theme of survival. The film opens with a sequence that was helmed by the film’s original director John Hubley (who died during production) which is presented in a more innocent fashion as it relates to the fable of the rabbits including its main figurehead who would create that sense of tension between rabbit and other animals.
The direction also create these intense imagery that play into the idea of death and terror thanks in part to some dazzling sequences created by Luciana Arrighi for moments that do play into what one of the rabbits see. With the aid of layour artists Gordon Harrison, Peter See, and Ted Pettengell, the film maintains that look of the countryside as well as the look of the rabbit holes to play into where the rabbits want to seek shelter. It also would add to the film’s climax as it relates to the group of totalitarian rabbits led by half-blind general battling against a rabbit who briefly joined the group as a spy in the hope he can get the group of female rabbits to join his community and feel free. Rosen would also maintain a sense of atmosphere that plays a lot into the drama as the animation would feature these gorgeous images of rain as if they look real but in some of the intense moments as it relates to its climax. Overall, Rosen creates an evocative and riveting film about a community of rabbits trying to survive in finding their new home.
Editor Terry Rawlings does brilliant work with the editing as it is very straightforward in terms of some of the rhythmic cutting that plays out in the film‘s suspenseful and dramatic moments. Sound effects mixer Ray Mervin does excellent work with the film‘s sound effects in the way thunderstorm sounds as well as the way machines sound in some scenes. The film’s music by Angela Morley and Malcolm Williamson is amazing for its orchestral-based score that adds a lot to the dramatic and suspenseful moments of the film with additional work by music director Marcus Dods in supervising the soundtrack that includes the song Bright Eyes by Mike Batt and sung by Art Garfunkel for one of the film’s mesmerizing moments.
The film’s incredible ensemble voice cast features contributions from narrator Michael Hordern in one of the runaway rabbits in Frith, Joss Ackland as the mysterious grim reaper-like character in the Black Rabbit, Hannah Gordon as a female rabbit who is enslaved by the totalitarian group in Hyzenthlay, Denholm Elliott as a rabbit leader the group meets in Cowslip, and Harry Andrews as the evil leader of the totalitarian rabbits in Woundwort. Zero Mostel is fantastic as a wounded gull named Kehaar who would be an ally to the group of rabbits while Ralph Richardson is superb as the group’s old chief who doesn’t believe in one of the visions that a rabbit claims to see.
John Bennett is excellent as an aging rabbit who was an associate of the chief who later joins the group after his own dangerous encounter. Richard Briers is brilliant as Fiver as the one who sees these strange visions as he gets help from his brother in aiding the escape. Michael Graham Cox is amazing as Bigwig as the toughest rabbit who was close to their leader as he aids the community in many ways. Finally, there’s John Hurt in a phenomenal role as Hazel as Fiver’s big brother who helps his brother in the escape while being the unlikely leader as well as the one that is willing to rally everyone and provide the plans to escape and such.
Watership Down is a sensational film from Martin Rosen. Featuring a great voice cast, gorgeous visuals, top-notch animation, and a fantastic score, the film isn’t just a gripping animation film that appeals to more than just children but also offers a glimpse into the world of totalitarianism and dystopia into a setting that is simple and to the point. In the end, Watership Down is a tremendous film from Martin Rosen.
© thevoid99 2016
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Written and directed by Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers is the story of four college girls who embark into a world of crime where they later meet a drug dealer who takes them in as part of his gang where it leads to all sorts of trouble. The film is a look into the world of spring break celebrations in college as well as the subculture of drugs and crime where four girls decide to be part of this world that is filled with chaos and terror. Starring James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine, and Gucci Mane. Spring Breakers is a riveting and evocative film from Harmony Korine.
The film is the simple story of a group of college girls who want to go to South Florida to do spring break where they venture into the world of crime and later meet up with a drug dealer who become part of his gang in a world full of debauchery and terror. While it is a film that does have a traditional narrative structure, it is more about the myth of spring break parties for college students and young people going there in need of a break from education and being at home where they want to get drunk, do drugs, and have a good time. It also explores what some are willing to go through to enjoy themselves where three of the four girls would venture into crime and later associate themselves with this charismatic drug dealer named Alien (James Franco) who offers them a chance at this life of drugs, money, guns, booze, and all sorts of crazy shit. Korine would also explore that sense of intrigue in the young women as two of them in Brit (Ashley Benson) and Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) are fascinated by that sense of danger as it is this break from the monotony of college.
Korine’s direction is definitely mesmerizing not just in the way he captures that air of decadence that goes on in these spring break parties but also in that sense of danger that occurs throughout the film. Shot largely on location in St. Petersburg, Florida and other parts of South Florida, the film does have this sense of a world that is unique where it is about the beaches, speedboats, sunny hotels/motels, the strip clubs, and all of these places that makes part of the American South so vibrant and exciting. Yet, there is also the world of the college campuses that are quite typical as it represents the opposite of what these girls want to go through but there is also a spiritual element in the film as it relates to the character Faith (Selena Gomez) who is first seen at a Bible study as she’s confused about going on the trip as she’s kind of the film’s conscience. Her character drink and smoke in the debauchery but when she and her friends are sent to jail, the reality starts to seep in where it would be overwhelming.
The direction is filled with some dazzling compositions in the usage of close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots as well as go for different types of film and digital stock including the old video camera for some of the party scenes. It says a lot to the decadence but it also displays elements that might seem as sexist where there are moments where young women expose themselves in many ways while Korine would do a tracking shot where the camera is following a couple of girls by focusing on their butts. It does add to the idea of the male fantasy in the idea of bikini girls with machine guns is something a guy would want to see but he does it in a visual style that is quite entrancing while emphasizing on repeated images that play into the joy of spring break parties. Korine would also create compositions that would help say a lot by doing very little as it does express that sense that spring break is fleeting though the girls wish it would be forever. Especially as the third act does go into very dark territory filled with violence and decadence with elements of non-linear narrative that either provides a sense of foreshadowing or the aftermath of what these girls would encounter. Overall, Korine crafts a ravishing and gripping film about four girls going to spring break and meet a charming drug dealer.
Cinematographer Benoit Debie does phenomenal work with the film‘s cinematography with its array of colors and lighting to play into the scenes set at night while the usage of neon lights in the way bikinis look or what a room looks like at night are just among some of the most gorgeous images captured on film as it is a major highlight of the film. Editor Douglas Crise does brilliant work with the editing with its stylish usage of montages, jump-cuts, slow-motion cuts, and non-linear editing as it does a lot to flesh out the story. Production designer Elliott Hostetter, with set decorator Adam Willis and art director Almitra Corey, does excellent work with the look of Alien‘s home with all of its guns, drugs, and other things that is typical of what dealers and gangsters are but yet it also sort of makes fun of the idea of the modern gangster. Costume designer Heidi Bivens does fantastic work with the costumes from the bikinis and shorts the girls wear to the lavish clothes of Alien.
Hair/makeup artist Nana Fischer does terrific work with the look of Alien from his dreadlocks to the tattoos in his body as well as his metallic teeth. Visual effects supervisor Chris Woods does nice work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects for some of the scenes shot on digital video as it plays into the surreal textures in the camera work. Sound designer Adam Glascock and co-sound editor Byron Wilson do superb work with the sound with its mixing in the way the parties sound in and out of the room as well as the editing as it relates to some of the voiceover work of the characters in the film. The film’s music of Skrillex and Cliff Martinez do incredible work with the music with the former providing some rhythmic electronic music with his dubstep sound and some fuzzy electronics while the latter would bring some ambient textures into the score. Music supervisors Randall Poster and Brandon Thompson do wonderful work with the film’s music soundtrack that includes a range of music from pop, hip-hop, and electronic music by Britney Spears, Birdy Nam Nam, Waka Flocka Flame, Gucci Mane, and Ellie Goulding.
The casting by Laray Mayfield is excellent for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small performances from professional wrestler Jeff Jarrett as a preacher in a Bible study meeting, Sidney and Thurman Sewell as themselves as they’re called the ATL Twins, and Gucci Mane as Alien’s former friend/mentor and now rival Big Arch. Rachel Korine is fantastic as Cotty as one of the four girls who joins in the adventure as she helps Brit and Candy in their schemes while getting her own taste of debauchery. Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens are amazing in their respective roles as Brit and Candy as the two girls who love to drink and do drugs as their wildest of the two who become Alien’s lovers as well as their most dangerous confidants. Selena Gomez is brilliant as Faith as the youngest of the four girls as someone who joins the girl in the fun until she is arrested with her friends as well as her own encounter with Alien makes her very uncomfortable where she displays that sense of the conscience into the film. Finally, there’s James Franco in a phenomenal performance as the drug dealer Alien where Franco goes all out in the role where he displays a sense of charm and dark comic wit as it is a performance of the ages for Franco.
Spring Breakers is a spectacular film from Harmony Korine. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous cinematography by Benoit Debie, a killer soundtrack, and some dazzling technical work. The film is definitely a provocative look into the world of spring break culture and what young women are willing to do to be part of that world along with the subculture of crime. In the end, Spring Breakers is a rapturous film from Harmony Korine.
Harmony Korine Films: Gummo - Dogme #6-Julien-Donkey Boy - (Mister Lonely) - (Trash Humpers) - (The Trap (2016 film))
© thevoid99 2016
Sunday, March 27, 2016
Written and directed by Chantal Akerman, Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (The Meetings of Anna) is the story of a filmmaker traveling through Europe to promote her film as she meets various people during her journey. The film is a character study in which a woman doesn’t just deal with being on the road but also the encounters she has in her travels as she copes with isolation from her surroundings. Starring Aurore Clement, Helmut Griem, Magali Noel, Hans Zischler, Lea Massari, and Jean-Pierre Cassel. Les Rendez-vous d’Anna is a mesmerizing and provocative film from Chantal Akerman.
Told in nearly the span of 72 hours from Cologne to Paris, the film revolves around the travels of a filmmaker who is promoting her film as she copes with the growing detachment of her surroundings as well as the people she meets along the way. It’s a film that explores a woman dealing with the role she is in as she ponders about the world she left behind she makes a brief visit to Brussels to see her mother and then return home. Along the way, she meets a family friend, a stranger on a train, and two men whom she would sleep with as it adds to this growing sense of detachment towards the people around her.
Chantal Akerman’s script does have a traditional structure as the first act is set in Cologne, West Germany while the second act is set partially on the train as well as its train stops including one at Brussels, and the third set in Paris. Yet, it is more about the study of its protagonist Anna Silver (Aurore Clement) who deals with traveling constantly and the demands to show her film to the world where she feels lost in her travels. Though the script features a lot of monologues from characters that Anna meets, it is largely minimalist in terms of its settings and refusal to dwell into conventional plot-points in favor of dwelling on Anna’s actions and her reaction to the news along with her recollections in her travels.
Akerman’s direction is very intoxicating for the way she doesn’t just capture that sense of detachment between a woman and her surroundings but also in the way she creates these gorgeous compositions to play that sense of detachment. Since the film features very little close-ups in favor of wide and medium shots, Akerman finds way to compose these images with something that feels ordinary but has something that feels very engaging. Even in the way she would put her actors into a frame whether they’re looking outside of a hotel room or have a conversation outside of one’s house. It says so much by doing so little into exploring Anna’s detachment as it would include these wide shots of the train stop interiors where she would meet her mother (Lea Massari) and a family friend in Ida (Magali Noel). Akerman does go for a few dolly-tracking shot for some of the movements that occur in the film though much of it straightforward where it’s not about camera pans or angles.
Instead, Akerman is just about that that direct image into the way she creates these compositions as the wide shots are lined-up in the middle of train stop staircase or a ticket booth in a train station. It has this air of simplicity into the direction while proving that these scenes just need sound and a visual without the usage of heavy dialogue as these quieter moments in the film are just as entrancing as the ones that features lots of dialogues and monologues. The scenes set in the train showcase that growing sense of isolation and detachment where Anna would walk through train compartments where one compartment is cramped with a lot of people forcing her to go back to another where it seems like she’s reluctant to even want to connect with a bunch of people but rather this one person on his way to Paris. It has something that does feel very European not just visually but also in its tone where it is a world that is changing but in ways that has Anna feel detached from as it relates to her own sense of loneliness. Overall, Akerman creates an evocative and captivating film about a woman’s journey through Europe.
Cinematographer Jean Penzer does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the low-key yet colorful look of many of the daytime exteriors to the naturalistic lighting for scenes set at night including the stylish lights in the train stops and inside the train. Editor Francine Sandberg does excellent work with the editing where it is quite straightforward with some jump-cuts in some parts while letting scenes play out in their long takes. Production designer Philippe Graf does fantastic work with the look of the hotel rooms that Anna would stay in throughout her journey. The sound work of Henri Morelle is amazing for how natural it sounds as well as capturing everything that is heard including whatever music is playing in the radios.
The film’s small yet superb cast includes Hans Zischler as a man Anna converses with on the train to Brussels and Jean-Pierre Cassel as her Parisian lover Daniel who copes with the unhappiness of his work. Magali Noel is wonderful as a family friend in Ida whom Anna is fond of as Ida tells her that her son is the right person for her despite Anna’s own uncertainty while Lea Massari is fantastic as Anna’s mother who reveals into a lot of things that is happening in Brussels as well as things involving the family. Helmut Greim is excellent as Heinrich as a German Anna meets early in the film as he sleeps with her and later invites her to his home where he frets over the changes of the world. Finally, there’s Aurore Clement in an incredible performance as Anna Silver as this filmmaker who is going on a road trip to promote her film as she deals with her growing isolation and detachment in her surroundings and encounter with people where it’s a very restrained performance for much of the film with one key moment she sings a song to Daniel.
As part of the 2010 Eclipse box set series of Chantal Akerman’s work in the 1970s from the Criterion Collection, the film features an essay about the film entitled Meetings with Chantal by essayist Michael Koresky. The essay discusses not just the period of where Akerman was when she was making the film but also the backlash she received from feminists for working with a male crew though Akerman never claimed to be a feminist. What Akerman wanted to do was play into that sense of longing and loneliness into the character of Anna while the film did sort of serve as the antithesis of sorts to her previous feature film in Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles which she claimed was never meant to be a political nor a feminist film. Instead, the film would reflect on a period in her career where she would become nomadic in her travels while still longing to return home to her native Belgium as it’s a fascinating essay by Koresky.
Les Rendez-vous d’Anna is a phenomenal film from Chantal Akerman that features a magnificent performance from Aurore Clement. Not only is the film a compelling character study with these evocative themes of isolation and detachment. It’s also a film that explores the travels of a woman and her need to wanting to connect but feel lost in her surroundings. In the end, Les Rendez-vous d’Anna is a spectacular film from Chantal Akerman.
Chantal Akerman Films: La Chambre - Hotel Monterey - Je Tu Il Elle - Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles - News from Home - (American Stories, Food, Family and Philosophy) - (Night and Day (1991 film)) - (A Couch in New York) - (La Captive) - (Tomorrow We Move) - (Almayer’s Folly) - (No Home Movie)
© thevoid99 2016
Saturday, March 26, 2016
Directed by Elizabeth Banks and written by Kay Cannon, Pitch Perfect 2 is the sequel to the 2012 film where a group of female a capella singers try to enter a global a capella competition in the hopes to save their sorority following a national scandal. The film is another tale about a group of young women who find themselves in a new world as some try to cope with life after college along with the fact they’re being scrutinized over something that was an accident. Starring Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee, Skylar Astin, Ester Dean, Anna Camp, Adam Devine, Ben Platt, John Michael Higgins, Katey Sagal, Flula Borg, Brigitte Hjort Sorenson, and Elizabeth Banks. Pitch Perfect 2 is a delightful and witty comedy from Elizabeth Banks.
Set three years after the events of the first films, the Barden Bellas become a national treasure in the world of a capella singing until a concert in front of the American president becomes a scandal where the group is faced with suspension and not being able to perform or bring in new members. This sets the course for what happens in this film where they find a loophole that would allow them to compete in a global a capella singing competition though their chances of winning is very long. Along the way, the group takes in a new member whose mother was a Bella while the group’s co-leader in Becca (Anna Kendrick) becomes an intern for an egocentric music producer. It’s a film that isn’t just about these ladies wanting to redeem themselves but also face with the prospects of growing up and dealing with life after college as it’s something Bella co-leader Chloe (Brittany Snow) isn’t ready to cope with as she had purposely flunked classes to remain a Bella.
Kay Cannon’s script doesn’t just play into the growing conflicts and struggles the group face from within but also in the fact that they’re considered pariahs over the scandal caused by Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) when she accidentally exposes herself in front of President Obama during a birthday concert. Adding to their struggle is the fact that they’re being replaced by a super-German a capella group known as Das Sound Machine who provide a lot of things that overwhelm the Bellas in their attempt to redeem themselves. While Cannon provides some funny one-liners and some structure to the story, the story does feel a bit familiar but it has some unique subplots such as the group taking in freshman Emily Junk (Hailee Steinfeld) who is a legacy as she wants to write songs. Another subplot involves Fat Amy’s own attraction towards former Treblemaker leader Bumper (Adam Devine) who is now the university’s security chief.
Elizabeth Banks’ direction is quite straightforward in terms of the compositions that are created while maintaining that lively sense of humor that made the first film so special in the first place. Though much of what happens is quite conventional, Banks does make sure many of the moments of the film are engaging while having that sense of feeling improvised to make it feel more natural. Banks’ usage of medium shots and close-ups help maintain that sense of intimacy as well as the importance of sisterhood among the young women while using a few wide shots for some of the performances including an attempted comeback performance in the second act where the Bellas try too hard to outdo the Das Sound Machine. Shot largely in Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the film doesn’t just play into something that is vibrant as well as modern while using some of its older streets for the film’s climatic showdown at Copenhagen. Even as Banks knows that the film’s heart is in the music and singing a capella where it manages to do a lot in its performance and a whole lot more. Overall, Banks creates a fun and exhilarating film about a group of young ladies trying to win back their respect in an a capella competition.
Cinematographer Jim Denault does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its naturalistic yet colorful look for many of the daytime scenes set at the college campuses to the usage of lights for some of the musical performances and scenes set at night. Editor Craig Alpert does nice work with the editing as a lot of it is straightforward with some stylish usages of jump-cuts and montages for some of the livelier moments of the film including musical performances. Production designer Toby Corbett, with set decorator Monique Champagne and art director Nate Jones, does fantastic work with the look of the Bellas‘ house as well as the studio Becca would intern at along with the retreat camp the girls would go following a humiliating performance. Costume designer Salvador Perez Jr. does wonderful work with the clothes from the casual yet stylish look of the clothes to the array of stylish costumes the Bellas would wear as well as the clothes of Das Sound Machine.
Key hairstylist Meagan Herrera and key makeup artist Judy Yonemoto do terrific work with the look of the characters in the way they would present themselves during a musical performance. Visual effects supervisor Steve Parish does superb work with some of the film‘s visual effects as much of it is set dressing for the scenes set in Copenhagen. Sound editor Erin Oakely and sound designer Jack Whittaker do amazing work with the sound in capturing the naturalistic sound of a capella singing in all of its layers as well as the raucous sounds of the crowds and parties. The film’s music by Mark Mothersbaugh is brilliant for its mixture of electronics, dance and orchestral music as well as providing that same mix for the sound of a capella music while music supervisors Sarah Webster and Angela Leus would create a soundtrack filled with contemporary pop tunes and hip-hop into some of the songs as well as what is playing in the background.
The casting by Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee is incredible as it features appearances from Clay Matthews, David Bakhtiari, Don Barclay, Josh Sitton, and T.J. Lang as real-life players of the Green Bay Packers who do sing a capella, David Cross as a riff-off host, Keegan-Michael Key as a music producer Becca is interning for, Shawn Carter Peterson as the producer’s hipster yet dim-witted nephew, Snoop Dogg as himself, and as members of the Tone Hangers group, Reggie Watts, Joe Lo Truglio, Jason Jones, and John Hodgman. Other notable small roles include Kelly Jakle and Shelley Regner in their respective roles as senior Bellas Jessica and Ashley, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen and Flula Borg as leaders of Das Sound Machine, Ben Platt as Treblemakers co-leader Benji who has a crush on Emily, Skylar Astin as Treblemakers co-leader/Becca’s boyfriend Jesse, Anna Camp as former Bellas leader Aubrey who runs a retreat camp as she would help the team get back up, and Katey Sagal as Emily’s mother Katherine who is considered a legend among the Bellas. Hana Mae Lee is a total delight as the very quiet yet creepy Lilly who is the group’s beat-boxer as she always says some very funny things.
Ester Dean is excellent as the soulful lesbian Cynthia with top-notch rhyming skills while Alexis Knapp is wonderful as sensual Stacie who often uses her sex appeal to get ahead. Adam DeVine is hilarious as the former Treblemakers leader Bumper as the college’s new security chief that is trying to get himself back into the world of singing. Chrissie Fit is fantastic as the Guatemalan exchange student who joined the Bellas a year after the events of the first films as she provides some very funny comments about everything that is foreign to her. Hailee Steinfeld is amazing as Emily Junk as a freshman who is accepted by the Bellas because of her mother as she copes with her new surroundings as well as wanting to create original songs. Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins are incredible in their respective roles as a capella broadcasters Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberger and John Smith as they provide some funny commentary with the latter being very misogynistic.
Brittany Snow is brilliant as Chloe as a super-senior Bella who is obsessed with trying to win as it is really a cover for the fact that she’s not ready to leave college and the Bellas while being very funny. Rebel Wilson is phenomenal as Fat Amy as the Australian in the group whose accidental actions has given the Bellas a lot of trouble as she tries to set things right while dealing with her own feelings for Bumper. Finally, there’s Anna Kendrick in a remarkable role as Becca as the group’s co-leader who is trying to help the Bellas redeem themselves from scandal but also deal with her own future where she learns what it really takes to become a record producer where she finds inspiration and help from a Bella.
Pitch Perfect 2 is a delightful and entertaining film from Elizabeth Banks. Led by a great cast, some very funny moments, and wonderful musical performances, the film is definitely something that has a lot to offer while providing enough substance and characters for audiences to care about. In the end, Pitch Perfect 2 is a sensational film from Elizabeth Banks.
© thevoid99 2016
Friday, March 25, 2016
Directed and edited by Akira Kurosawa and screenplay by Eijiro Hisaita with additional work from Kurosawa and Keiji Matsuzaki, Waga seishun ni kuinashi (No Regrets for Our Youth) is the story of a professor’s daughter who copes with the many changes in her home country following her father‘s dismissal from a university over his views against Fascism. Based on the Takigawa Incident in 1933, the film is a look into the events that would shape the growth of Imperial Japan before World War II where a woman opposes the changes in her country. Starring Setsuko Hara, Susumu Fujita, Denjiro Okochi, and Takashi Shimura. Waga seishun ni kuinashi is a rich and captivating film from Akira Kurosawa.
Told in the span of twelve years from 1933 to the end of World War II in 1945, the film revolves the journey of a young woman from being a college professor’s daughter to becoming a suspect of espionage due to her husband’s activities to stop Japan from entering World War II. It plays into this young woman trying to find herself amidst these changes as she struggles to find an identity throughout the years in Japan’s history. The film’s screenplay does have a unique structure as the first act is set from 1933 to 1938 where Yukie Yagihara (Setsuko Hara) is this idealized professor’s daughter who looks into the many changes that is happening including student rallies and events that would force her to do things for herself.
The film’s second act is set largely in 1941 Tokyo where she tries to find independence on her own yet she meets an old friend and student of her father named Noge (Susumu Fujita) whom she always had fallen for. The film’s third isn’t about Noge’s actions to stop Japan from entering World War II but also its aftermath which has Yukie venturing into a more personal journey as it relates to Noge’s family. A family that she realizes hasn’t seen their son in years while having to endure the ridicule of their fellow villagers over their son’s actions. Yet, she would find a way to win them over where she would take great personal risk to get their approval as well as not be ashamed for what their son had done.
Akira Kurosawa’s direction is very intoxicating in not just the way he captures pre-war and war-era Japan where it is shot largely in Tokyo, Kyoto, and parts of rural Japan. While there are some wide shots of these locations, Kurosawa maintains that sense of intimacy into the film with the usage of close-ups and medium shots. Notably in scenes that involve Yukie and her parents along with being this object of affection for Noge and another friend in Itokawa (Akitake Kono) as the former is very passionate in his beliefs while the other is shy until he becomes a more serious individual in the film’s second act as a prosecutor. The direction also display that sense of melodrama as it relates to Yukie’s own confusion about what she wants to do as well as her time with Noge where she goes into mood swings yet it adds to her journey into finding herself.
Also serving as editor, Kurosawa would create some stylish dissolve montages to play into Yukie’s anguish as well as some rhythmic cuts for much of the film’s third act where Yukie tries to win over Noge’s parents. It would play into bits of melodrama but also showcase that sense of the unknown as it relates to what Yukie wants to do. It also has a bit of commentary on social classes where Yukie is from a bourgeoisie background of sorts while Noge comes from the world of farms and rice paddies. Yukie’s encounter to that world would be crucial to her development as well as providing some revelations about herself where Kurosawa would have the camera display these tight close-ups to showcase that sense of struggle but also an unlikely sense of fulfillment. Overall, Kurosawa creates an engaging and riveting drama about a woman trying to find herself during one of Japan’s most tumultuous periods in the 20th Century.
Cinematographer Asakazu Nakai does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography for much of the film‘s naturalistic look with many of the exteriors including that sense of murkiness for the scenes in the third act where Yukie tries to create rice paddies. Production designer Keiji Kitagawa does fantastic work with the look of Yukie‘s family home with its spacious rooms and countless books to the more decayed look of the home where Noge‘s parents live. The sound work of Isamu Suzuki does nice work with the sound as it play into the tranquility of the woods in Kyoto to more raucous sounds of Tokyo. The film’s music by Tadashi Hattori does amazing work with the sound with its approach to orchestral music that ranges from somber to playful while the soundtrack would also feature some classical pieces and piano sonatas.
The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from Kokuten Kodo and Haruko Sugimura as Noge’s parents, Hisako Hara as Itokawa’s mother, Masao Shimizu as a fellow professor in Hakokazi, and Takashi Shimura in a superb role as a corrupt police commissioner working for the government. Eiko Miyoshi is wonderful as Yukie’s mother who copes with seeing her daughter moving out while being aware that of Yukie’s feelings for Noge. Akitake Kono is excellent as Itokawa as a friend and admirer of Yukie who was also one of her father’s pupils as he would try to help them out later on only to deal with his own faults. Denjiro Okochi is fantastic as Yukie’s father Professor Yagihara as an idealistic professor who is dismissed from his post due to his anti-Fascist/anti-war views as he tries to do whatever he can to help his students as well as his daughter in her journey for independence.
Susumu Fujita is brilliant as Ryuichi Noge as a student of Yagihara who always had feelings for Yukie while being passionate about not wanting to go to war where he tries to do things illegally only to get caught just as his relationship with Yukie was starting to blossom. Finally, there’s Setsuko Hara in a phenomenal performance as Yukie Yagihara as this young woman has been defined as a good-hearted woman that helps people while pondering about her own future forcing her to go into her own quest for her identity in life along with revelations that would be the catalyst into find herself as it’s one of Hara’s finest performances.
Waga seishun ni kuinashi is a remarkable film from Akira Kurosawa that features a radiant performance from Setsuko Hara. The film isn’t just a unique character study of sorts of a woman trying to find herself during one of Japan’s most tumultuous periods. It’s also a film that showcases the great lengths that she would do in this journey. In the end, Waga seishun ni kuinashi is a rapturous film from Akira Kurosawa.
Akira Kurosawa Films: (Sanshiro Sugata) - (The Most Beautiful) - (Sanshiro Sugata Pt. 2) - (The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail) - (Those Who Make Tomorrow) - (One Wonderful Sunday) - Drunken Angel - (The Quiet Duel) - Stray Dog - Scandal - Rashomon - The Idiot - Ikiru - The Seven Samurai - (I Live in Fear) - Throne of Blood - (The Lower Depths (1957 film)) - The Hidden Fortress - The Bad Sleep Well - Yojimbo - Sanjuro - High and Low - Red Beard - Dodesukaden - Dersu Uzala - Kagemusha - Ran - (Dreams) - (Rhapsody in August) - (Madadayo)
© thevoid99 2016
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Written, directed, and starring Chantal Akerman, News from Home is the story about Akerman’s life in New York City as she reads corresponding letters from her mother about her time in the city in the early 1970s. While it is largely a documentary feature of sorts, the film is a look into the world of New York City from the view of a European who reflects on her time to the city that she had visited years earlier. The result is a fascinating and evocative film from Chantal Akerman.
The film is a simple documentary of sorts about a woman reading letters from her mother during her time in New York City. Shot in 1976, the film plays into lingering image of New York City from shots of the streets, the subways, and many other images in day and night at time where it was in a sense of decay but also filled with that sense of adventure. Yet, it features narration by Chantal Akerman reading the many letters that her mother wrote from the early 70s as it has this sense of longing and reflection where Akerman’s voice display that sense of longing and feeling homesick in the letters she reads. The letters would reveal stories about relatives, family illnesses, break-ups, and other things but also that sense of longing where Akerman’s mother talks about how much she misses her and wonders why Akerman hasn’t written any letters for two weeks to a month.
With the aid of cinematographers Babette Mangolte and Jim Asbell, Akerman creates a look that is quite grainy and realistic with a lot of static shots with few moments of the camera moving around. Most notably a 360-degree panning of a subway galleria under Times Square as it plays into a sense of vibrancy that is New York City in the mid-1970s. Much of the shooting would involve some long takes while there would be moments where the takes would have these unexpected jump-cuts from editor Francine Sandberg who would provide something that felt unpredictable yet adds to that sense of knowing when not to cut. It’s the sound work of Dominique Dalmasso and Larry Haas that adds a lot to the film as it records much of Akerman’s narration in reading the letters mixed in with the sounds of the city itself though there are moments where the sound of the city drowns Akerman’s narration. However, it does add that sense of longing in Akerman’s voice as she reads the letters from her mother against the backdrop of many images in the city.
From the 2010 box set of films by Chantal Akerman made in the 1970s that is released by the Criterion Collection through its Eclipse series. The film is featured in one of three DVD discs as the film, along with La Chambre and Hotel Monterey, is part of the film’s first disc. The disc also features an essay by essayist Michael Koresky entitled A Belgian in New York. The essay doesn’t just discuss that period in Akerman’s life and career but also the time she spent in New York City as this foreigner who had found herself in the city’s avant-garde film scene. Koresky also talked about Akerman’s technique while revealing that Hotel Monterey was shot in a span of fifteen hours. Koresky also talks about the approach in News from Home as it had something that was considered avant-garde but it had something that was really personal as the essays a lot about the trilogy of films from New York and Akerman herself.
News from Home is an enchanting film from Chantal Akerman. It’s a film that takes an idea that is very simple and create something that feels very personal as well as bring insight from a foreigner’s point of view in a city as she reads letters from her own mother. In the end, News from Home is a rapturous film from Chantal Akerman.
Chantal Akerman Films: La Chambre - Hotel Monterey - Je Tu Il Elle - Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles - Les Rendez-vous d’Anna - (American Stories, Food, Family and Philosophy) - (Night and Day (1991 film)) - (A Couch in New York) - (La Captive) - (Tomorrow We Move) - (Almayer’s Folly) - (No Home Movie)
© thevoid99 2016
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Written and directed by Terrence Malick, Knight of Cups is the story of the troubled life of a Hollywood screenwriter who goes on a personal journey to find live and self-discovery during his trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Rumored to be part of an informal trilogy with The Tree of Life and To the Wonder as the films are semi-biographical stories on Malick’s own life. The film is partially inspired by the Christian allegory The Pilgrim’s Process and the passages Hymn of the Pearl and Acts of Thomas as they’re featured in a film that plays into a man trying to find his own existence in a decadent world. Starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Wes Bentley, Imogen Poots, Antonio Banderas, Isabel Lucas, Freida Pinto, Teresa Palmer, Brian Dennehy, and the voice of Ben Kingsley. Knight of Cups is a rapturous and exhilarating film from Terrence Malick.
Surrounding himself in Los Angeles and the world of Hollywood, the film revolves around a screenwriter coping with himself and struggles as he surrounds himself with different women while dealing with issues in his family including his father. It’s a film that doesn’t really have much of a plot nor a traditional narrative structure as it is largely loose in its storytelling structure where it’s largely based on the Knight of Cups tarot cards as each card represents a part of the journey that film’s protagonist Rick (Christian Bale) takes. Along the way, he deals with loss but also regret into things in his past while being aware of the environment he’s in that is filled with temptation, immorality, and decadence. In the course of the film, there are a lot of voice-over narration not just from Rick but also the many characters who are part of his life either temporarily or permanently while there is also this mysterious voice by an unseen character (Ben Kingsley) who recites passages and texts that relate to these tarot cards.
The lack of a conventional screenplay does allow its writer/director Terrence Malick to not just take on some major risks of what he would do as a storyteller. He would also go very deep into a world that might seem disconnected from the real world but also display that sense of disconnect as it relates to the reality that is encountered. Shot largely in Los Angeles as well as some scenes shot in Las Vegas, the Californian/Nevada deserts, and other parts of the American Midwest including St. Louis. It is a film that showcases that sense of conflict in a man who is embarking on this journey of self-discovery where he ventures into all sorts of things with different kinds of people. Among them are representations in the themes of the tarot cards in the form of Rick’s many different lovers in Della (Imogen Poot), a model named Helen (Freida Pinto), a spirited stripper named Karen (Teresa Palmer), a mysterious young woman named Isabel (Isabel Lucas), his ex-wife Nancy (Cate Blanchett), and a former lover in Elizabeth (Natalie Portman).
The usage of wide and medium shots for many of the film’s locations as well as close-ups for some of the intimate moments are very potent in their imagery while Malick’s usage of hand-held cameras in its mixture of 35mm film and digital just add to the sense of beauty of these images. Yet, there is so much more as it play into something that is very off-kilter as it relates to Rick’s own sense of uncertainty, loss, and self-discovery where the camera sort of acts as this unknown being watching over him. Plus, the narration acts as that sense of internal conflict within Rick who is yearning for some meaning in his life but is tempted by things such as money, beautiful women, and all of these things. The scenes involving Rick’s brother Barry (Wes Bentley) and their father Joseph (Brian Dennehy) show that sense of conflict that looms over Rick as well as loss where the narration reveal that they’re all suffering with Barry venturing into a self-destructive path that claimed the life of his brother.
Malick’s usage of handheld cameras do have this very evocative feel to the way everything is filmed while he also plays with time-lapse imagery. While it largely a style that is very experimental and certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It plays into something that does feel very personal where Malick is showing a world that he was a part of but one that showcases that struggle from having it all but also leaving a world where things were simpler. Adding to that air of simplicity is specter of spirituality as it relates to the character of Isabel, some of Helen’s private activities, and what Malick shows in Los Angeles and Las Vegas as it play into something is calling into Rick in his own personal journey and in the words of this unseen narrator. Overall, Malick creates an intoxicating yet enchanting film about a man’s personal journey of self-discovery through the chaotic world of Hollywood.
Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki does spectacular work with the film‘s very naturalistic cinematography to play with the many looks of the locations in the day as well as the scenes set at the home of this amoral millionaire along with some dazzling images of scenes set at night including a strip-club and the scenes set in Las Vegas which is so gorgeous to look at as it‘s one of the highlights of the film. Editors Mark Yoshikawa, Geoffrey Richman, Keith Fraase, and A.J. Edwards do brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and disparate cutting montages to play into sense of wonderment that occurs throughout the film as well as some abrupt cuts to help structuralize the film. Production designer Jack Fisk, with set decorator Beauchamp Fontaine and art director Ruth De Jong, does amazing work with the some of the interiors in the homes that Rick encounters including a mansion in its dining room along with the look of the strip club with its neon lights.
Costume designer Jacqueline West does excellent work with the clothes that many of the characters wear including the Armani suits that Rick wears and some of the stylish dresses that many of the women in the film wear. Visual effects supervisor Jamison Scott Goei does fantastic work with the film‘s lone visual effects sequence as it relates into the mysterious elements of the universe described in one of Rick‘s voice-over narrations. Sound designers Joel Dougherty and Will Patterson do incredible work with the sound in the way much of the voice-over narrations as well as the sounds of the cities and locations mix without overwhelming each other along with some textures into the parties and such as it add so much to the world that Rick is being tempted by. The film’s music by Hanan Townshend is superb for its classical-based score with its serene string arrangements and low-key percussions while music supervisor Lauren Marie Mikus creates a soundtrack filled with classical pieces as well as contemporary music where the latter play into the parties scenes and what is playing on Rick’s car.
The casting by Francine Maisler and Lauren Grey is phenomenal as it features appearances from Joe Manganiello, Ryan O’Neal, Fabio, Danny Strong, Beau Garrett, Nick Kroll, Nicky Whelan, Jelly Howie, and Katia Winter as themselves appearing in Hollywood parties. Other notable small appearances include Thomas Lennon, Joe Lo Truglio, Jason Clarke, Joel Kinnaman, Peter Matthiesson, and Clifton Collins Jr. as colleagues of Rick who are part of that world as well as appearances from Nick Offerman, Michael Wincott, and Shea Whigham in small roles as Hollywood business personalities, Dane DeHaan as a tarot reader’s son, Jamie Harris and Lawrence Jackson as a couple of burglars, Patrick Whitesell and Rick Hess as a couple of agents, Cherry Jones as a relative of Rick’s, and Armin Mueller-Stahl as a priest who provides Rick some guidance into his own sense of doubt. The voice of Ben Kingsley as this unseen figure is superb for the sense of mystique that looms over the film as well as providing a sense of spiritual context into Rick’s journey.
Imogen Poots is fantastic as this rebellious fling of Rick’s in Della who asks Rick questions about his faithfulness and direction in life while Teresa Palmer is excellent as this stripper named Karen who entrances Rick as she accompanies him to Las Vegas. Freida Pinto is wonderful as the model Helen that Rick meets at a party as he briefly goes out with her while being intrigued by what she does at her home while Isabel Lucas is terrific as this innocent and playful young woman who is interpreted as this angelic figure that helps him find his way home. Wes Bentley is brilliant as Rick’s brother Barry as a man accompanying Rick throughout Los Angeles as he copes with his own issues as well as those relating to their father. Brian Dennehy is amazing as Rick and Barry’s father Joseph who deals with aging and being phased out while providing some somber narration as it relates to much of the text and legends of the tarot cards that would help guide Rick in his journey.
Antonio Banderas is incredible as a Hollywood playboy named Tonio as a man that represents all forms of temptation and immorality as someone that has a lust for life, excess, and women as he is sort of a comical figure in the film but also that representation of what Rick could be. Natalie Portman is radiant as Elizabeth as a former lover of Rick whom he loved dearly as she is seen as someone that could help find redemption for him as well as provide a link into what he could have if he chose the right path. Cate Blanchett is remarkable as Nancy as Rick’s former wife who devotes her time helping people as a physician as she copes with the love they had lost as well as the fact that there’s still feelings for one another as she is a representation of what he had and later gave up. Finally, there’s Christian Bale in a tremendous performance as Rick as a Hollywood screenwriter lost in the world of decadence and temptation as he copes with loss, guilt, and uncertainty where Bale doesn’t say a lot in the film but say a lot in his voice-over work where he would display that anguish and conflict of a man trying to find himself in his own personal journey of self-discovery.
Knight of Cups is a phenomenal film from Terrence Malick. Largely in part to its ensemble cast, a compelling premise, gorgeous visuals, and intoxicating music. It’s a film that is definitely challenging while not being something for everyone due to the fact that is told in a very unconventional form. Even as it displays some big questions about the world of temptation, loss, and life itself in ways that is very personal in the hands of its creator. In the end, Knight of Cups is a sensational film from Terrence Malick.
Terrence Malick Films: Badlands - Days of Heaven - The Thin Red Line - The New World - Tree of Life - To the Wonder - (Weightless) - (Voyage of Time)
© thevoid99 2016