Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hour of the Wolf

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, Vargtimmen (Hour of the Wolf) is the story of an artist who goes on a retreat to an isolated island with his wife as he recalls around memories of his past. The film is a psychological horror-drama that explores life-long trauma and terror as it is set entirely in an isolated island. Starring Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Gertrud Fridh, Georg Rydeburg, Erland Josephson, and Ingrid Thulin. Vargtimmen is a chilling and intoxicating film from Ingmar Bergman.

Set in a remote island near Sweden, the film revolves around a man and his pregnant island on a retreat where the former starts to recall dark memories and strange images in his head as he becomes very distant. It’s a film that opens and ends with the wife Alma (Liv Ullmann) talking about what had happened during this holiday where things start off fine but then her husband Johan Borg (Max von Sydow) starts to unravel due to his insomnia and claims that he is seeing people who could be imaginary. Even as they’re invited to a party at a nearby castle by a baron where the events become very strange as it would lead to Johan unraveling even more. Ingmar Bergman’s screenplay starts off with a claim that the story is real as Bergman says he got the story from a diary given to him by Alma as it would be the basis for what is to be told. Though much of the narrative is told by Alma through flashbacks, it is layered as it relates to the memories and fears that Johan endures which includes the appearance of a former lover.

Bergman’s direction is quite intoxicating in its approach to compositions and framing as well as emphasizing on surrealism to help tell the story. Shot on location at the island of Baltrum in Sweden, the film does play into this world that is quite isolated where a man is desperate to get better and relax but he is slowly undone by his demons and bad memories. While there are some unique wide shots that has Bergman take stock in the location as well as putting actors into a frame for a wide shot. Much of it is very simple with its usage of medium shots and close-ups as it play into the drama as well as the moments of surrealism which includes one eerie sequence. A sequence involving Johan and a child that play into the dark past that Johan is dealing with while the scenes at the castle for the film’s climax are just as strange as it adds to this blur of reality and fiction. Especially as it involves Alma who would be forced to watch this blend come to life while trying to come terms with what she saw. Overall, Bergman creates a haunting yet visceral film about demons and dark pasts.

Cinematographer Sven Nykvist does incredible work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it is rich in its look as well as playing to its sense of atmosphere in the naturalistic daytime lighting as well as the interior scenes in day and night for its usage of shadows. Editor Ulla Ryghe does excellent work with the editing as it has some style with its usage of jump-cuts and some eerie montages which play into the drama and suspense. Production designer Marik Vos-Lundh does brilliant work with the look of the house that Johan and Alma live in as well as some of the interiors inside the castle as some of it is very scary. Costume designer Mago does nice work with the costumes as it is very quaint for the clothes that Johan and Alma wear at home in contrast to the more posh look of the people in the castle. The sound work of Lennart Engholm and Per-Olof Pettersson is terrific for the atmosphere it creates for the scenes inside the castle as well as in some of the film’s surreal moments. The film’s music by Lars Johan Werle is superb for its chilling score that play into the suspense including the horrifying sequence involving Johan and a child while the film also features classical music for a puppet show.

The film’s amazing cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Gertrud Fridh as the baron’s wife who flirts with Johan, Erland Josephson as the baron who invites Johan to his home with some strange intentions, and Ingrid Thulin in a radiant performance as a former lover of Johan who would haunt him in his dreams. Max von Sydow is remarkable as Johan Borg as an artist who is dealing with an illness as it worsens to the point that he starts to unravel and wonders if the reality he’s seeing is real which would haunt him. Finally, there’s Liv Ullman in a radiant performance as Alma as Johan’s pregnant wife who is trying to understand everything her husband is dealing with as well as reading his diary as she wonders if she really knows him at all.

Vargtimmen is a phenomenal film from Ingmar Bergman with great performances from Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman. It’s a film that explores madness and demons as it relates to Bergman’s exploration of the mind and what drive people to lose it. In the end, Vargtimmen is a spectacular film from Ingmar Bergman.

Ingmar Bergman Films: (Crisis) - (It Rains on Our Love) - (A Ship to India) - (Music of Darkness) - (Port of Call) - (Prison) - (Thirst (1949 film)) - (To Joy) - (This Can’t Happen Here) - (Summer Interlude) - (Secrets of Women) - Summer with Monika - Sawdust and Tinsel - A Lesson in Love - Dreams (1955 film) - Smiles of a Summer Night - The Seventh Seal - (Mr. Sleeman is Coming) – Wild Strawberries - (The Venetian) - (Brink of Life) - (Rabies) - The Magician (1958 film) - The Virgin Spring - The Devil's Eye - Through a Glass Darkly - Winter Light - The Silence (1963 film) - All These Women - Persona - (Stimulantia-Daniel) - (Shame (1968 film)) - (The Rite) - (The Passion of Anna) - (The Touch) – Cries & Whispers - Scenes from a Marriage - (The Magic Flute) - (Face to Face) - (The Serpent’s Egg) – Autumn Sonata - From the Life of the Marionettes - Fanny & Alexander - (After the Rehearsal) - (The Blessed Ones) - (In the Presence of a Clown) - (The Image Makers) – Saraband

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, April 24, 2017

Cherish (2002 film)

Written and directed by Finn Taylor, Cherish is the story of an eccentric young woman who is a major suspect in a hit-and-run manslaughter case as she is on house arrest while wondering where her stalker is as he was the one that put her in the situation. The film is a genre-bending film as it mixes suspense, romance, and comedy as it revolves around a woman trying to find the real killer as she gets help from a parole officer. Starring Robin Tunney, Tim Blake Nelson, Lindsay Crouse, Liz Phair, Brad Hunt, Nora Dunn, and Jason Priestley. Cherish is a charming and delightful film from Finn Taylor.

The film revolves around this shy and quirky woman who goes out one night only to be held hostage by a mysterious stalker in which she kills a cop in a hit-and-run as she is put on house arrest. It’s a film with a simple premise yet the character of Zoe Adler (Robin Tunney) is an odd protagonist as she is this computer animator with a lack of confidence as she is unaware that she is being stalked by a mysterious man who would later put her in trouble. Even as she is someone that escapes through music of the 70s and 80s where it would help her cope with being in house arrest as she would befriend this deputy named Bill (Tim Blake Nelson) who comes in occasionally to check on her bracelet where he would eventually help her. Finn Taylor’s screenplay doesn’t just explore Zoe’s eccentric behavior but also having her be determined to find the stalker who ruined her life. Even as she also copes with loneliness where she is also able to befriend neighbors and other people in the apartment she is forced to stay in.

Taylor’s direction definitely has some elements of style such as an intricately-filmed opening credits sequence at the building that Zoe works at with its usage of crane shots. Still, Taylor opts for something more simplistic to play into Zoe’s quirky personality with playful shots as well as compositions to showcase her sense of isolation and the need to connect. There are some usages of close-ups and medium shots to play into Zoe’s sense of intimacy while there are also some creative wide shots to play into the scope of the apartment she’s living in as well as the locations as a lot of it shot in San Francisco and places in the Bay Area. The film’s third act would change in tone where it does become a suspense film but it adds to a sense of growth to Zoe in her quest to find the man who ruined her life. Yet, Taylor would create a climax that is quite engaging as it play into everything that Zoe had been through and her determination to prove her innocence. Overall, Taylor creates an exhilarating yet lively film about a woman coping with isolation as she tries to find the stalker that ruined her.

Cinematographer Barry Stone does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward with some grainy film stock for some of the fantasy scenes shown from the stalker’s perspective. Editor Rick LeCompte does brilliant work with the editing as it emphasizes a lot on style from jump-cuts, montages, and other moments that play into its humor and suspense. Production designer Don Day, with set decorator Lisa Clark and art director Guy Harrington, does fantastic work with the look of the condo Zoe had early in the film to the apartment she is forced to stay at. Costume designer Amy Brownson does nice work with the costumes from the quirky clothes that Zoe wears to the more straight-laced look of Bill.

The visual effects work of Adrian Dimond is terrific for some of the minimal moments such as a few time-lapse sequences and some of the fantasy scenes involving the stalker. Sound editor David Nelson does superb work with the sound in the way it’s mixed and how music is presented as well as other moments that play into the world that Zoe is in. The film’s music by Mark De Gil Antoni is wonderful for its mixture of jazz and electronic music that play into the suspense and humor while music supervisor Charles Raggio an incredible soundtrack that features an array of music from the late 1960s to the early 1980s from acts such as the Association, Hall & Oates, Terry Jacks, Human League, Modern English, Soft Cell, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, America, 10cc, Maze, the Turtles, Togetherness, the Style Council, the Flamingos, the Impressions, and the Climax Blues Band plus more contemporary music from Noe Venable.

The casting by Joseph Middleton is remarkable as it feature some notable small roles from Ricardo Gil as a paralyzed-dwarf neighbor named Max, Kenny Kwong as a teen Zoe befriends in Yung, Kelvin Han Yee as an officer who often accompanies Bill, Nina Pescheke-Koedt and Daniel DeShara as Eastern European neighbors living above Zoe, Phil LeMarr as a yoga instructor, and Lindsay Crouse as Zoe’s therapist early in the film who analyzes Zoe’s own loneliness. Nora Dunn is terrific as Zoe’s attorney who tries to get Zoe a reduced sentence while Liz Phair is superb as Zoe’s very bitchy boss who doesn’t really care about her. Jason Priestley is excellent as Andrew as a hunky co-worker of sorts that Zoe meets at a bar and dances with on the night her life would go to shit.

Brad Hunt is brilliant as the voice of a DJ that Zoe listens to in retro music that he plays. Tim Blake Nelson is amazing as Bill Daly as a deputy who puts bracelets on criminals as he sympathizes and befriends Zoe where he would help as well as put some joy into his very mundane life. Finally, there’s Robin Tunney in a phenomenal performance as Zoe Adler as a shy and eccentric woman whose life changes by a fatal hit-and-run she was unfortunately involved in as she copes with her loneliness by looking at the world around her and try to find her stalker as it’s a very charming performance from Tunney.

Cherish is an incredible film from Finn Taylor that features a mesmerizing performance from Robin Tunney. Along with a strong supporting cast, an intriguing premise, and a fun soundtrack, the film is definitely a fascinating portrait of loneliness as well a woman’s determination to reclaim her life. In the end, Cherish is a marvelous film from Finn Taylor.

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Le Plaisir

Based on the short stories of Guy de Maupassant, Le Plaisir is a film that tell three different stories of life in late 19th Century France involving ballrooms, a painter’s studio, a countryside retreat, and bordellos. Directed by Max Ophuls and screenplay by Ophuls and Jacques Natanson, the film revolves around the world of 19th Century France in all of its trials and tribulations. Starring Jean Gabin, Simone Simon, Danielle Darrieux, Daniel Gelin, Claude Dauphin, Gaby Morlay, Madeleine Renaud, Ginette Leclerc, Pierre Brasseur, and Jean Servais as the voice of Guy de Maupassant. Le Plaisir is an evocative and exuberant film from Max Ophuls.

Set in the late 19th Century just years before the 20th Century, the film tell three different stories all based on the theme of pleasure in all of its fallacies. While it is presented as an anthology film, they all play into that theme with the middle section in Le Maison Tellier being the most dominant of the three while the opening story Le Masque and the closing story Le Modele both are given smaller time yet manage to provide enough to play into its theme. Le Masque is set in the world of ballrooms where a man in a mask (Jean Galland) arrives to dance with a young woman (Gaby Bruyere) only to pass out as a doctor (Claude Dauphin) makes a discovery and wonders why this man wears a mask. Le Maison Tellier revolves around a bordello madam (Madeleine Renaud) who takes her fellow prostitutes to the country where her niece is having her first communion while her brother (Jean Gabin) falls for one of the prostitutes in Rosa (Danielle Darreiux). In Le Modele, an artist (Daniel Gelin) falls for a model (Simone Simon) who would be his muse as their relationship starts off as idyllic only to turn into total chaos.

Max Ophuls’ direction is definitely exquisite not just for the setting that he creates but also in the intricate camera work that approaches for all of the stories. The scenes in Le Maison starts off as very extravagant with everyone going into the ballroom but once the man in the mask faints and falls ill. The tone of the story changes where it becomes more intimate with Ophuls maintains an intimacy in the medium shots and close-ups as opposed to the more lavish scenes in the ballroom where Ophuls would use tracking shots and some crane shots to play into the grandness of the ballroom. For Le Maison Tellier, the segment starts off at night in the city where it’s raucous while the scenes in the country are quainter and peaceful which makes the madam and her prostitutes a little uneasy as well as the sense of purity during the community scene as it is too much for Rosa to bear.

Ophuls’ approach to the scenes are more intimate but also has a mixture of long tracking shots as well as some slanted camera angles. In Le Modele, Ophuls would return to broader compositions as it relates to the world of art but it also has some style as it relates to the world of the artist and the model as they’re at odds with each other. Ophuls’ usage of slanted angles and some wide shots play into the tension while the rest of the film would feature moments that are somber. Notably in Le Maison Tellier where bordello regulars learn that the bordello is closed for a small period of time as the men are in a park trying to figure out what to do or what to talk about. It’s a moment that is presented with a simplicity as Ophuls isn’t aiming for style except in the film’s narration by the voice of Guy de Maupassant who would voice his thoughts on the story from time to time. Overall, Ophuls creates a majestic yet compelling film about the lives of different people and their encounter with pleasure.

Cinematographers Christian Matras and Philippe Agostini do brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography with the latter shooting many of footage for Le Modele while the former would create some extravagant lighting for the ballroom scenes in Le Masque and the more naturalistic daytime exteriors in Le Maison Tellier. Editor Leonide Azar does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward where it doesn’t go for any kind of style with the exception of a few rhythmic cuts here and there. Production designer Jean d’Eaubonne and set decorator Robert Christides do fantastic work with the design of the ballroom as well as the bordello and the artist’s studio to play into the world of extravagance.

Costume designer Georges Annenkov does amazing work with the design of the costumes from the dresses that the women wear to the costume of the masked man. The sound work of Louis Haller is terrific for its simplicity as it plays to the raucous world of the ballrooms and bordello to the calm atmosphere of the church during the communion scene. The film’s music by Joe Hayos is wonderful for its orchestral-based score that is largely based on the music of the times including the music that people danced too at the time.

The film’s incredible ensemble cast an array of noteworthy performances with Jean Servais in a superb performance as the voice of Guy de Maupassant. From the Le Masque, the performances of Jean Galland as the masked man, Claude Dauphin as the doctor, Gaby Bruyere as the masked man's dance partner, and Gaby Morlay as an old woman taking care of the masked man are all great in displaying the anguish of youth and aging. From Le Modele, the performances of Daniel Gelin and Simone Simon in their respective roles as the artist and the model are remarkable in displaying a love affair that starts out right only to become tumultuous. Much of the film’s ensemble that appears in Le Maison Tellier are fantastic with the small performances from Jocelyne Jany as the madam’s niece, Antoine Balpetre as a patron at the bordello, Rene Blancard as a mayor who is also a regular patron at the bordello, and Henri Cremieux as another rich patron of the bordello.

In the role of some of the prostitutes, there’s Mathilde Casadesus, Ginette Leclerc, Mila Parely in wonderful performances as a trio of prostitutes who have a hard time with the air of silence during the night during their country stay. Pierre Brasseur is very funny as a traveling salesman who tries to sell garments to the prostitutes where he does something very wrong. Jean Gabin is brilliant as the madam’s brother who falls for a young prostitute as he tries to deal with getting his daughter’s first communion to go well. Danielle Darrieux is sublime as Madame Rosa as a young prostitute who is in love with her boss’ brother as she becomes moved by the communion procession as well as the sense of purity in the country. Finally, there’s Madeleine Renaud in a radiant performance as Julia Tellier as a brothel madam who goes to the country to see her niece’s first communion as she doesn’t just cope with life in the country but also how her prostitutes react to a very different environment.

Le Plaisir is a sensational film from Max Ophuls. Featuring a great ensemble cast, amazing camerawork, dazzling art direction, and captivating stories on life’s pleasures and their flaws. It’s an intriguing film that tell three different stories of late 19th Century life and the many complexities of what people will do to find happiness. In the end, Le Plaisir is an incredible film from Max Ophuls.

Max Ophuls Films: (The Bartered Bride) - (The Merry Heirs) - (Liebelei) - (A Love Story (1933 film)) - (Everybody’s Woman) - (The Tender Enemy) - (The Trouble with Money) - (Yoshiwara) - (The Novel of Werther) - (Sarajevo (1940 film)) - (The Exile) - (Letter from an Unknown Woman) - (Caught (1949 film)) - (The Reckless Moment) - La Ronde - The Earrings of Madame de... - (Lola Montes) - (The Lovers of Montparnasse)

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Suicide Squad

Based on the DC comic series by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru, Suicide Squad is the story of a group of supervillains who are tasked to stop a major threat to the world in exchange for reduced prison sentences. Written for the screen and directed by David Ayer, the film is an unconventional superhero film of sorts where it is focused on the bad guys who are given the chance to do good while dealing with their own faults as individuals. Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Adam Beach, Karen Fukuhara, Scott Eastwood, Ike Barinholtz, Jim Parrack, and Viola Davis. Suicide Squad is an intriguing but extremely messy film from David Ayer.

Following some catastrophic events around the world, the film revolves around an intelligence officer who wants to create a task force filled with supervillains to stop any major threat available as they would team up with a military officer to kill an evil witch-goddess known as the Enchantress who has inhabited the body of an archeologist named Dr. June Moone (Cara Delevingne). It’s a film that has some of worst of the worst that include a hitman, a pyromaniac, a mutant, a bank robber, and a former psychiatrist who later became the girlfriend of the Joker (Jared Leto). They’re given the chance to do good and save the world in exchange for a reduced prison sentence as they reluctantly do the job with Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) leading the team. It’s a concept that has a nice idea but writer/director David Ayer unfortunately doesn’t go all the way with its execution.

While he does manage to establish who are the members of this team known as the Suicide Squad in Floyd Lawton/Deadshot (Will Smith), Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), George “Digger” Harkness/Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Chato Santana/El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and Waylon Jones/Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Some of these characters are either underwritten or under-utilized while the script falters very highly as Ayer tried to cram so much into the story but never finds a way to create a balance for everyone involved. Even the stakes in trying to stop the Enchantress and her brother Incubus (Alain Chanonine) doesn’t have much weight or motivation for the Suicide Squad to stop other than death if they don’t do the job. The character of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is a mysterious individual who holds the fate of the entire squad as she is an antihero that is unique as she is one of the most interesting characters in the film.

The story about Harley Quinn’s relationship with the Joker is definitely not given more to be engaged into as it’s really one of several subplots in the film as the character of the Joker is someone who isn’t really used for the main plot other than to try and retrieve Harley back into his life. It’s a storyline that could’ve been fleshed out more but it’s often seen in flashbacks where there is little of the Joker in the main storyline. Another issue in the film revolves another member of the Suicide Squad in Christopher Weiss/Slipknot (Adam Beach) where he’s only in the film for a few minutes and doesn’t really do anything.

Ayer’s direction is where the film really suffers as it not only tries to cram so much into a two-hour film but also do it with some constraints to appeal to a wide audience. While Ayer would create some exciting sequences that does help tell the story and is filled with a lot of action. It tries too hard to be all things where it does have moments that are funny and moments that are exciting but it never finds that balance to bend all type of genres where it is very messy. Though there’s some good compositions that Ayer makes in the medium and wide shots to establish the locations as well as some close-ups. It is all very stylized and sometimes it would be style over substance where Ayer is doing whatever he can to try and make it enthralling. Yet, the emphasis largely on visual effects and wanting to create something big tends to overwhelm the story as it kind of loses of focus on what it wanted to be. Another aspect of the film that is problematic is that underneath all of these storylines, sprawling action scenes, and comedy is that there is a good film somewhere.

It’s obvious that given that this is a studio film that Ayer must have consulted with the executives at Warner Brothers in giving them what they want. Yet, this interference from people who aren’t involved in the process of filmmaking are the last group of people who understand what an audience wants. Sometimes, it’s best to not give them what they want as this film unfortunately tries to do so many things but giving the character of the Joker a small amount of time in the film as well as not providing a backstory for Killer Croc and a volunteer in Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana (Karen Fukuhara) definitely would baffle the audience. The climax is also kind of lacking in something bigger as it ends up being very conventional as it never really has the chance to become something of its own in favor of trying to be like every other superhero film. Overall, Ayer creates a decent but extremely inconsistent and underwhelming film about a group of bad guys teaming up to save the world.

Cinematographer Roman Vasyanov does some nice work with the cinematography with its array of colors and lighting schemes for much of the scenes set at night as well as the usage of desaturated colors for some of the daytime scenes. Editor John Gilroy does some fine work with the editing as it is very stylized where it relies a lot on fast-cuts but does provide enough footage to establish what is going on despite the constraints of what the film would suffer in its final cut. Production designer Oliver Scholl, with set decorators Beauchamp Fontaine and Shane Vieau as well as supervising art directors Brandt Gordon and Brad Ricker, does excellent work with the set design from the prison cells of the members of the Suicide Squad as well as the look of some of the cities and buildings they go into. Costume designer Kate Hawley does superb work with the costumes from the clothes some of the members of the Suicide Squad wear as well as the stylish clothing of Harley Quinn.

Hair/makeup designer Alessandro Bertolazzi and creature/effects designer Steve Newburn do brilliant work with the look of some of the characters such as El Diablo, Harley, Killer Croc, and the Joker where they’re given distinctive looks. Visual effects supervisor Jerome Chen does some good work with the visual effects in creating some mystical effects relating to the Enchantress though it does get overwhelming at times as the design of her army is kind of weak. Sound editor Richard King does fantastic work with the sound in creating some sound effects and in some of the broad moments in the action sequences. The film’s score by Steven Price is wonderful as it’s mainly a mixture of orchestral music with some electronics as much of the music that is assembled by music supervisors Gabe Hilfer and Season Kent that features an array of music from the likes of AC/DC, Rick James, Eminem, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Lesley Gore, the White Stripes, Black Sabbath, Kanye West, K7, Norman Greenbaum, the Rolling Stones, and the Animals.

The casting by Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu is brilliant despite some of the issues involved due to the interference of studio executives as it feature some notable small appearances from Jim Parrack and Common as a couple of the Joker’s henchmen, Alain Chanonine as the Enchantress’ brother Incubus, Ike Barinholtz as a prison guard, Scott Eastwood as Col. Flag’s right-hand man GQ Edwards, David Harbour as a government official, Shailyn Pierre-Dixon as Deadshot’s daughter, Grace Santana as El Diablo’s wife in flashbacks, and Adam Beach in a very wasted performance as Slipknot. Karen Fukuhara is fantastic as Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana as a volunteer who is deadly with a samurai sword as she helps the Suicide Squad while Cara Delevingne is alright as Dr. June Moone in displaying her fears and vulnerability but isn’t very good as the Enchantress who is just this lame villain.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is terrific as Waylon Jones/Killer Croc as a reptilian-like mutant who can do things underwater and kick ass though he is very underutilized and underwritten. Joel Kinnaman is superb as Col. Rick Flag as a Special Forces officer who leads the Suicide Squad into battle while trying to hide the fact that he is personally invested in this mission to stop the Enchantress. Jay Hernandez is excellent as Chato Santana/El Diablo as a pyromaniac who is reluctant to help out as he is afraid of unleashing his powers knowing how bad it can become. Jai Courtney is fun as George “Digger” Harkness/Captain Boomerang as a bank robber with a deadly boomerang who is quite tough but also has some weird fetishes.

Jared Leto’s performance as the Joker is a mixed bag where not only is it a very small role where he’s not given much to do for the story while his performance is funny at times but also over-the-top for the wrong reasons. Viola Davis is brilliant as Amanda Waller as an intelligence officer creating a plan to help the world in the face of a threat as this is a no-nonsense character that is quite ruthless but also very determined to do whatever it takes to save the world. Will Smith is amazing as Floyd Lawton/Deadshot as a hitman/assassin that is good at what he does yet is also complex as he’s got morals despite the fact that he’s a bad guy as Smith brings some charm but also some weight as a man who knows what is at stake. Finally, there’s Margot Robbie in a phenomenal performance as Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn as a former psychiatrist who goes insane and falls for the Joker as she is this odd yet insane woman often speaks her mind and does crazy things as it’s the real standout performance in the film.

Suicide Squad is a decent but uneven film from David Ayer. Despite some action sequences, intriguing premise, and a great ensemble cast, it’s a film that suffers from trying to do so much only to bring in so little. In the end, Suicide Squad is just a very disappointing and underwhelming film from David Ayer.

David Ayer Films: (Harsh Times) – (Street Kings) – (End of Watch) – (Sabotage (2014 film)) – (Fury (2014 film)) – (Bright (2017 film))

DC Extended Universe: Man of Steel - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - (Wonder Woman) – (Justice League)

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

La Ronde (1950 film)

Based on the play by Arthur Schnitzler, La Ronde is a collection of stories involving infidelity where one person meets this person and that person meets another person. Directed by Max Ophuls and screenplay by Ophuls and Jacques Natanson, the film is an exploration into what makes people fall in love and commit adultery in the most whimsical of ways. Starring Anton Walbrook, Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani, Simone Simon, Daniel Gelin, Danielle Darrieux, Fernand Gravey, Odette Joyeux, Jean-Louis Barrault, Isa Miranda, and Gerard Philipe. La Ronde is a witty and delightful film from Max Ophuls.

Set in 1900 Vienna, the film follows a series of infidelities where a man meets a woman and that woman meets another man who would be with this woman who would be with this man and so on. It’s a film with a simple premise as it’s largely told by a narrator (Anton Walbrook) from the modern world who would tell these stories involving people falling in love. Among them is a soldier who meets a prostitute as he would later fall for this chambermaid who falls for the son of the people she’s working for as he would have an affair with a married woman. That is the narrative in a nutshell as it is largely told by this narrator who would often break down the fourth wall or appear in a story as a supporting character. It’s a very unique approach to the narrative as it covers one affair after the other as the characters that are in this merry-go-round of love affairs prove to be very interesting and why people would fall in love with this person or that person.

Max Ophuls’ direction is definitely intoxicating to watch from the way he recreates 1900 Vienna as well as not be afraid to break the fourth wall. Shot largely in a soundstage as Vienna, Ophuls would use the setting to create some intricate camerawork with the tracking shots and some crane shots where it would often last for minutes rather than shoot something for less than a minute. Ophuls’ usage of close-ups and medium shots would maintain an intimacy for much of the film while he would also use some slanted camera angles for stylish reasons to play into a character that is in a transition from one lover to another. There are some wide shots in the film as it’s more about the romances and relationships while the narrator would often be seen driving a merry-go-round or do something that relates to the story where he would hold a reel of film and cut it out and back to a certain part of the story. Overall, Ophuls creates a whimsical yet splendid about people falling in love with this person and that person.

Cinematographer Christian Matras does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its usage of shades and shadows for some of the interiors along with some unique lighting for some of the exterior scenes set at night. Editor Leonide Azar does excellent work by creating some unique cutting styles including a few transitional wipes and some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the comedy and conversations. Production designer Jean d’Eaubonne does fantastic work with the set design from the different homes of some of the characters to the design of the merry-go-round. The costumes of Georges Annenkov are wonderful for its stylish look in the dresses the women wear as well as the suits that the men wear. The sound work of Pierre-Louis Calvet is superb for the natural elements of the sound as it doesn’t try to go for anything artificial. The film’s music by Oscar Strauss is amazing as it is this very lively orchestral score that play into the humor and romance with some songs sung by the narrator.

The film’s incredible ensemble cast feature performance that are just fun to watch starting with Anton Walbrook as the film’s narrator/game master who leads the audience to the story and break the fourth wall at times while taking on small supporting roles as an outsider as he’s a joy to watch. From the side of the men, we have Gerard Philipe in a superb performance as a young count who is in love with the actress while he would lament over his own love affairs. Jean-Louis Barrault is terrific as a poet who is in love with a young grisette named Anna as well as the actress while Daniel Gelin is excellent as a young man who would have an affair with a maid and a married woman. In the role of the young soldier, Serge Reggiani is fantastic as the soldier who would start things off in his tryst with a prostitute and later the maid. Fernand Gravey is excellent as the husband of the cheating wife who is having a relationship with a young grisette as he laments over his marriage.

From the women, we have Isa Miranda in a wonderful performance as a stage actress who is having an affair with a poet and a young count while Odette Joyeux is brilliant as a young grisette who spends her time with this married man but is in love with this poet. Danielle Darrieux is amazing as this married woman who is in love with this young man that she’s having an affair with yet still has love for her husband despite their passionless marriage. Simone Simon is radiant as a young maid who is dating this young soldier yet manages to fall for this man whose parents she works for while Simone Signoret is great as a prostitute who starts the entire story with her brief liaison with a soldier as she would start a chain of affairs for everyone involved.

La Ronde is a phenomenal film from Max Ophuls. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a witty story about infidelity, and an unconventional approach to its narrative. It’s a film that manages to be something fun as well as provide some unique ideas about infidelity in a humorous way. In the end, La Ronde is a spectacular film from Max Ophuls.

Max Ophuls Films: (The Bartered Bride) - (The Merry Heirs) - (Liebelei) - (A Love Story (1933 film)) - (Everybody’s Woman) - (The Tender Enemy) - (The Trouble with Money) - (Yoshiwara) - (The Novel of Werther) - (Sarajevo (1940 film)) - (The Exile) - (Letter from an Unknown Woman) - (Caught (1949 film)) - (The Reckless Moment) - Le Plaisir - The Earrings of Madame de... - (Lola Montes) - (The Lovers of Montparnasse)

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Disappearances

For the third week of April of 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We focus on the subject of disappearances where people are trying to find someone who has either disappeared or has been taken away by someone. It’s a very unique subject as here are three films that definitely fit the bill.

1. Missing

From Costa-Garvas is one of the finest political dramas about one of the darkest periods in world history set during the 1973 coup d’etat in Chile as it’s about a man and his daughter-in-law trying to find his son who had been taken by the authorities. It’s a very unique film that feature incredible performances from Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek as well as a startling commentary about this infamous event that included involvement from the U.S. in overthrowing Salvador Allende in favor of the more brutal regime of Augusto Pinochet. It’s a film many should see which includes a very heartbreaking moment inside a stadium filled with many people where Lemmon’s character talks on the microphone trying to find his son and expresses his own feelings of wanting him home.

2. The Vanishing

From George Sluzier comes one of the most chilling suspense thrillers ever about a man who tries to find his girlfriend after she had mysteriously disappeared. Based on the novel The Golden Egg by Tim Krabbe, the film isn’t just about this disappearance but also a study of humanity in its darkest ways. It’s a film that is most notable for learning about the man who kidnapped this young woman and why he abducted her as it ends up being something so fascinating that it is hard to root against him. It is truly a film that is just frightening to watch as it’s best to avoid the 1993 remake with Kiefer Sutherland, Jeff Bridges, and Sandra Bullock which is also made by Sluzier but with a lame ending.

3. Under the Sand

From Francois Ozon comes a film that is really one of his finest films of his career so far as well as the film that definitely introduced Charlotte Rampling to a new generation of filmgoers. It’s a film about a woman and her husband who go on a holiday where the husband goes swimming and doesn’t return. For the wife, she has no idea what happened as she returns home thinking he is still around but still wonders if he’s dead or alive. It’s just this very entrancing and evocative film that doesn’t just explore loss but also living alone and trying to move on as it is a film many people should see.

© thevoid99 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2017 Blind Spot Series: Akira

Based on the manga series by Katsuhrio Otomo, Akira is the story of a group of men who try to stop a teenage biker in futuristic Tokyo from releasing a powerful psychic. Directed by Otomo and screenplay by Otomo and Izo Hashimoto, the film is a sci-fi anime film set in the dystopian future as it plays into the cyberpunk culture. Featuring the voices of Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taro Ishida, Mizuhu Suzuki, and Tetsusho Genda. Akira is a sprawling and immensely gripping film from Katsuhiro Otomo.

The film revolves around a young teenage biker whose encounter with a mysterious psychic individual where he eventually gains psychic powers and becomes a dangerous liability for many as a military colonel and a biker gang leader try to stop him. It’s a film set 21 years after World War III where Tokyo was mysteriously destroyed as it would later be called Neo Tokyo where it’s a city of complete unrest due to riots, gang violence, and tension between the government and its people. The film’s screenplay does have a simple storyline that play into these events and how a gang of bikers are just trying to deal with the chaos as they fight another gang where a young biker named Tetsuo (voice of Nozomu Sasaki) meets this strange child-like old man where he suddenly get these psychic powers as Tetsuo and this little man are eventually retrieved by Colonel Shikishima (Taro Ishida) who is just trying to prevent from these psychic events from unleashing in Japan while contending with corrupt politicians and businessmen who refuse to believe that Tetsuo’s growing powers would unleash the end of the world.

With the help of Dr. Onishi (Mizuhu Suzuki), Col. Shikishima tries to find Tetsuo and stop him as well as protect three aging psychic children from unleashing their own powers into absolute destruction. Also trying to find Tetsuo is his best friend Kaneda (Mitsuo Iwata) who is the leader of their biker gang where he gets the help of a young woman named Kei (Mami Koyama) who is part of a rebellious group that wants to free Tetsuo and other psychic beings believing that they’re key to the emergence of a new world. Yet, Kaneda realizes that Tetsuo is no longer becoming himself while Kei realizes that he must stopped or else the world would end as there is a lot at stake. Even as someone like Col. Shikishima who is seen as a villain at first is really someone who knows what evil can do and is more concerned about setting the world right rather than be in control.

Katsuhiro Otomo’s direction is quite grand for the way it opens with this sequence that establishes the events that would lead to the film’s main plot set in 2019 Neo Tokyo which shows Tokyo being destroyed by something reminiscent of an atomic bomb. With the help of animation director Yoshio Takeuchi, Otomo’s direction would draw upon not just rich and gripping imagery in its hand-drawn animated style but also in the sense of macabre and terror some of the creatures and such would look. The film also makes no qualms that it is a violent picture as some of the violent sequences are quite graphic and bloody where there is also a rape scene in which Tetsuo’s girlfriend Kaori (Yuriko Fuchizaki) is involved in. Otomo’s vision of dystopian society isn’t exactly far off as it play into a future that hasn’t evolved much in terms of its technology while many of the buildings still look modern with something that feels like a city that looks uneasy thanks in part to the work of production designers Kazuo Ebisawa, Yuji Ikehata, and Koji Ono, with art director Toshiharu Mizutani, in fleshing out the look of Neo Tokyo.

With the help of cinematographer Katsuji Misawa in terms of creating a visual look and lighting style for the animation, Otomo would also create scenes that are unsettling but also dream-like as it play into Tetsuo’s own discovery over his newfound powers. Otomo would create some unique compositions and images to play into the world of psychic powers as it relates to Kei and her own encounter with one of the psychic children. Even as the film’s climax involving Kaneda, Col. Shikishima, the three psychic children, and Tetsuo is definitely grand in not just the stakes but also in trying to have Tetsuo to reconnect with his humanity. Overall, Otomo creates a dazzling yet visceral film about a dystopian future in the hands of a young biker with psychic powers.

Editor Takeshi Seyama does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to play into the action and suspense. The sound work of Tetsuo Segawa does amazing work with the sound in creating some sound effects and other textures to play into the action and some of the drama. The film’s music by Tsutomu Ohashi is incredible as it feature a mix of orchestral with some pulsating electronic music that play into the dystopian world as it is one of the film’s major highlights.

The film’s phenomenal voice cast include some notable small work from Takeshi Kusao as one of Kaneda’s friends Kaisuke, Masaaki Okura as another friend of Kaisuke and Tetsuo in Yamagata, Yuriko Fuchizaki as Tetsuo’s girlfriend Kaori, and the trio of Fukue Ito, Tatsuhiko Nakamura, and Kazuhiro Kamifuji as the three elderly-looking psychic children who deal with the powers they accidentally give to Tetsuo. Tessho Genda is terrific as the rebel leader Ryu while Mizuho Suzuki is superb as Dr. Onishi who is trying to understand the psychic powers that Tetsuo has gained. Taro Ishida is excellent as Col. Shikishima as a military leader trying to stop from Tetsuo from destroying everything and protect the psychic children while Mami Koyama is brilliant as the voice of Kei as a young rebel who would have a connection with one of the psychic children in attempting to save the world. Nozomu Sasaki is amazing as the voice of Tetsuo as a teenage biker who was once bullied as he is given strange psychic powers as he reacts with an air of angst and anguish. Finally, there’s Mitsuo Iwata in a great performance as Kaneda as a biker gang leader with a cool, red motorcycle who tries to save Tetsuo as he also falls for Kei where they try to figure out what to do to save the world.

Akira is a magnificent film from Katsuhiro Otomo. Featuring a great voice cast, rapturous animation, a compelling story, and a killer soundtrack, it’s a film that is definitely a powerful sci-fi film but also a tremendous introduction to the world of anime. In the end, Akira is an outstanding film from Katsuhiro Otomo.

Katsuhrio Otomo Films: (Neo Tokyo) - (Robot Carnival) - (World Apartment Horror) - (Cannon Fodder) - (Steamboy) - (Mushishi) - (Combustible (2013 film))

© thevoid99 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Wings (1966 film)

Directed by Larisa Sheptiko and written by Valentin Yezhov and Natalya Ryazantseva, Wings is the story of a once heroic fighter pilot who copes with living an ordinary yet dreary life as a school headmistress. The film follows a woman trying to deal with the role she is living as well as the life she used to have. Starring Maya Bulgakova, Zhanna Bolotova, Pantelemion Krymov, Vladimir Gorelov, Yury Medvedev, and Nikolay Grabbe. Wings is a rapturous and evocative film from Larisa Sheptiko.

The film is a character study about a World War II pilot who was once seen as a hero as she copes with peacetime just 20 years after World War II where she is a school headmistress and a member of the city council. It is an exploration of different generations and the struggle for a woman to connect with not just her students but also her daughter who has gotten married. Much of it is told in a straightforward narrative with some flashbacks as the film’s screenplay follows the character of Nadezhda Petrukhina (Maya Bulgakova) who is trying to run a trade school that is in the middle of construction as she deals with the expulsion of a student at the school but also the new marriage of her daughter Tanya (Zhanna Bolotova) whom she hasn’t seen much as their relationship is quite strained. Especially as Nadezhda becomes miserable as she often thinks of her past where her life meant something.

Larisa Sheptiko’s direction is quite intoxicating to watch not just for some of the aerial scenes but also for much of the dramatic moments including the flashbacks. Shot in a city in the Soviet Union, Sheptiko does use some wide shots to establish some of the locations but prefers to aim for medium shots and close-ups to play into the intimacy that is Nadezhda’s story. The film follows Nadezhda in the way she works as she tries to run a school where she would fill in for an anguished student during a stage performance as well as deal with a student’s expulsion as she tries to get him to apologize to the girl he hit. Sheptiko’s direction is very restrained in the way it plays with Nadezhda’s frustrations with her life as the scenes involving Tanya show not just this tension but also a sadness as it play into some unresolved issues as well as Nadezhda’s own sense of loss dating back to the war. The film’s climax isn’t just about her making some decisions in her life but also reflecting on what she lost in the aftermath of war. Overall, Sheptiko creates a ravishing yet somber film about a war pilot dealing with the dreary life in peacetime.

Cinematographer Igor Slabnevich does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its usage of soft lighting and textures to create a dream-like feel in some scenes with some unique lighting for the play scene. Editor L. Lysenkova does excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts as well as some stylish cuts to play into the drama. Art director Ivan Plastinkin does fantastic work with the look of the school as it is being constructed as well as Tanya’s apartment and a museum that Nadezhda visits late in the film. Costume designer A. Dokuchayeva does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual in its uniform look as well as the stage clothes worn for the play. The film’s music by Roman Ledenev is amazing for its somber orchestral score that play into the drama as well as the sense of loss and longing that Nadezhda has.

The film’s incredible cast feature some notable small roles from Nikolay Grabbe as the troubled student Kostya Shuvalov, Yury Medvedev as a teacher/administrator at the school, Vladimir Gorelov as Tanya’s much-older husband Igor, Leonid Dyachkov as Nadezhda’s lover Mitya from the flashbacks, and Pantelemion Krymov as Nadezhda’s current lover and professor Pavel Gavrilovich whom Nadezhda is in a loveless relationship with. Zhanna Bolotova is wonderful as Nadezhda’s daughter Tanya as a young woman trying to create her own life as she is reluctant to let her mother into her life as also gives some advice about Nadezhda’s unhappiness. Finally, there’s Maya Bulgakova in a phenomenal performance as Nadezhda Petrukhina as a woman who was revered as a World War II fighter pilot who copes with the role she is in during peacetime as she tries to move on and deal with life as a school headmistress as she yearns for her youth and to feel that moment where she mattered as it’s a performance filled with radiance and elegance.

Wings is a tremendous film from Larisa Sheptiko. Featuring a mesmerizing performance from Maya Bulgakova as well as gorgeous images and captivating themes of identity and youth. It’s a film that is just ravishing to watch as well as providing a unique character story into a woman unsatisfied with the way her life has turned out and the need to do something about it. In the end, Wings is an outstanding film from Larisa Sheptiko.

Larisa Sheptiko Films: (13 PM) - (You and I (1971 film) - The Ascent

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

Play It Again, Sam

Directed by Herbert Ross and written and starring Woody Allen which is based on his own play, Play It Again, Sam is the story of a recently-divorced man who is urged by his friends to start dating again as he gets advice from the ghost of Humphrey Bogart. The film is an unusual romantic comedy where a man tries to find love in this strange mixture of fantasy and reality. Also starring Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts. Play It Again, Sam is a witty and delightful film from Herbert Ross.

The film follows a film critic whose wife had just left him as he reluctantly returns to the dating scene by his friends where he finds himself lost as he seeks the advice from the ghost of Humphrey Bogart. It’s a film with a simple story that mixes elements of fantasy as it’s largely set in a real world where this man has trouble wondering why his wife left him and how he’s unable to connect with other women with the exception of his friend Linda (Diane Keaton). Woody Allen’s screenplay explores the conundrum that Allan Felix (Woody Allen) is going through as he isn’t sure about trying to find a new live as Linda and her husband Dick Christie (Tony Roberts) do whatever they can as they try to set him up with other women as many of the results are disastrous. With the workaholic Dick often away, Felix and Linda bond where it is obvious where the script is going yet Allen plays that build very slowly as there is also a sense of conflict in Felix as it relates to Dick who is his best friend.

Herbert Ross’ direction is very straightforward as it is shot largely on location in San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area in California as it play into this culture of film and art. Ross does put in references to some of the films that Humphrey Bogart is in with Casablanca being the most notable as it is Allan’s favorite film. Much of the compositions in the wide and medium shots are simple where Ross knows where to place the actors in a frame as well as know where to put in the comedic moments and make it feel natural. Though there’s a few wide shots to establish some of the locations, Ross uses it to create a fantasy version of sorts of San Francisco as it kind of plays into this idea of what Allan is looking for once he finds who his soul mate is. The ending is a take on the ending of Casablanca but it has a nice twist to it as it play to everything Allan is looking for. Overall, Ross creates a whimsical yet exhilarating comedy about a divorced man trying to get back into the dating scene with the help of Humphrey Bogart’s ghost.

Cinematographer Owen Roizman does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on natural and colorful looks for the daytime interior/exterior scenes along with some artificial touches for scenes set at night. Editor Marion Rothman does nice work with the editing as it is mainly straightforward with some jump-cuts and a few montage-style cuts. Production designer Ed Wittstein and set decorator Doug von Koss do fantastic work with the look of Allan’s home as well as the country home of the Christies’ home. Costume designer Anna Hill Johnstone does terrific work with the costumes from the stylish clothes that Linda wears to the more casual look of the men. The sound work of David Dockendorf and Richard Reitschmann is superb as it is very straightforward that includes a very funny scene involving a record and the record player. The film’s music by Billy Goldenberg is wonderful as its mixture of jazz and classical music play into the comedy and some of the drama that occurs in the film.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Jennifer Salt as a woman Linda sets Allan up for a date that doesn’t go well, Joy Bang as a colleague of Dick that goes out with Allan that also bombs, Susanne Zenor as a girl dancing at a club Allan tries to flirt with, Viva as a woman the Christies that Allan introduces to as it doesn’t go well, Diana Davalia as a woman Allan meets in the museum with some very morbid comments, and Jerry Lacy in a terrific performance as the ghost of Humphrey Bogart. Susan Anspach is wonderful as Allan’s ex-wife Nancy who leaves Allan as she believes he isn’t exciting nor can satisfy her in every way as she is someone wanting adventure.

Tony Roberts is excellent as Dick Christie as a workaholic who is trying to help Allan but has a hard time trying to be with Linda due to the demands of his job. Diane Keaton is amazing as Linda Christie as a woman who is concerned for Allan as she tries to help him find a new love only to cope with her own feelings for him. Finally, there’s Woody Allen in a brilliant performance as Allan Felix as a neurotic film critic who is despondent over his divorce as he tries to move forward as it’s a very comical performance from Allen who tries to act and be cool but also do it in the most awkward and funniest of ways.

Play It Again, Sam is a remarkable film from Herbert Ross and writer Woody Allen. It’s a film that isn’t just a witty romantic comedy that plays upon the expectations of fantasy and wanting to live the fantasy but also deal with the realities of falling in love. In the end, Play It Again, Sam is an incredible film from Herbert Ross.

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Directed by Nicholas Stoller and screenplay by Stoller, Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Evan Goldberg, and Seth Rogen from characters created by Cohen and O’Brien, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is the sequel to the 2014 film in which a couple tries to sell their home only to deal with a newly-formed sorority, who had moved next door, where they seek the help from an old nemesis. The film isn’t just a study of adulthood but also sexism as it showcases what sororities could and couldn’t do. Starring Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein, Selena Gomez, and Lisa Kudrow. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is a witty yet wild film from Nicholas Stoller.

Set two years after the events of the first film, the film follows Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) who are expecting another child as they’re hoping to sell their house with their two-year old daughter Stella (Elise and Zoey Vargas) as they learn that a sorority has moved in next door which makes their attempts to sell the house very difficult. Even as they try to get rid of this sorority, they would get the help from their old nemesis Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) who is going through an existential crisis where he helps form the sorority only to be kicked out because he’s kind of an adult. It’s a film that explores not just a couple wanting to go into the next step as parents and adults but also question their own worth as parents where they not only have another child coming but also dealing with people younger than them. For Teddy, he’s someone that isn’t sure what to do with his life as his friends are already moving on into adulthood as his attempts to be part of the fraternity/sorority lifestyle was really him just stuck until he decides to help Mac and Kelly who would kind of be a parent for him.

The film’s screenplay doesn’t just explore adulthood and the fear of becoming an adult but it also explores sexism as it relates to this newly-formed sorority in Kappa Nu. Led by Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), Kappa Nu’s mission is to have young women have fun and party while not giving into the pressure of being sexualized or treated as objects by men. Shelby, Beth (Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) would by the house that Teddy’s old fraternity used to live in as Teddy is shocked that sororities aren’t allowed to throw parties. While Mac and Kelly are sympathetic with Kappa Nu’s need to find their identity and independence, they do feel that the sorority has gone out of control as they do whatever to raise money for the rent and all sorts of shit. Even as Teddy tries to help Mac and Kelly in bringing them down once the feud escalates as it also shows how far these girls would go.

Nicholas Stoller’s direction is very straightforward where he doesn’t really try and do anything new except in showing what kind of hijinks women would do. Shot largely on location around Los Angeles and parts of Southern California, the film plays into the world of suburbia and college life where Mac and Kelly are eager to move into a new home and hopefully sell their home to a couple that is interested in buying it. Many of the compositions that Stoller create are straightforward as it also has some elements of style as it relates to the film’s tailgate party sequence and some of the themed-parties that Kappa Nu holds. Even as some of the parties prove to be very funny as well as other moments such as a little subplot in which one of Teddy’s old frat buddies reveal what he does for a living while there are also elements that will push the boundaries.

Notably a moment in which the girls would throw something at Mac and Teddy’s home that prove how disgusting women can be. Still, Stoller does find a way to balance the two storylines and multiple characters as well as provide a nice focus on the themes without the raunchy comedy overwhelming it. Especially as it play into the themes of growing pains in not just growing up to be a responsible adult but also trying to maintain that excitement of youth. Overall, Stoller creates a very funny and exciting comedy about a couple and a former fraternity president going to battle against a sorority.

Cinematographer Brandon Trost does excellent work with the cinematography as it is very straightforward for many of the scenes set in the day while it has a nice usage of neon lights for some of the parties at night. Editors Zene Baker, Peck Prior, and Michael A. Webber do fantastic work with the editing as it is stylized with some fast-cutting montages and other stylish cuts to play into the energy while not deviating too much to establish what is going on. Production designer Theresa Guleserian, with set decorator Ryan Watson and art directors Cate Bangs and Erika Toth, does brilliant work with the design of the homes of the Randers as well as Kappa Nu and the places they often go to. Costume designers Leesa Evans and Emily Gunshor does terrific work with the costumes from the casual clothes of the Randers as well as the more youthful and stylish clothes of Kappa Nu including a feminist-themed costume party.

Visual effects supervisor Mark LeDoux does some fine work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects for some key stunt scenes as well as a scene involving a major prank. Sound editor Michael Babcock does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the parties as well as some of the quieter moments in the film. The film’s music by Michael Andrews is wonderful as it’s very low-key in its mixture of jazz and electronics while much of the music soundtrack that is assembled by music supervisors Manish Raval and Tom Wolfe feature an array of music ranging from hip-hop, electronic dance music, and pop from acts such as Kanye West, the Beastie Boys, Eric Carmen, Joan Jett, and many others.

The casting by Francine Maisler is remarkable as it feature some appearances and notable small roles from Kelsey Grammer as Shelby’s father, Brian Husky as Mac and Jimmy’s boss, Billy Eichner as the real estate agent who gives the Kappa Nu girls their house, Liz Cackowski as the Randers’ real estate agent, Sam Richardson and Abbi Jacobson as the couple that is interested in buying the Randers’ home, Hannibal Burress as a local policeman teaching Garfield how to be a cop, John Early as Pete’s boyfriend Darren, Elise and Zoey Vargas as Mac and Kelly’s daughter Stella, and Lisa Kudrow in a very funny one-scene appearance as Dean Gladstone who tell the Randers that she can’t do anything about Kappa Nu due to their independent affiliation.

Other noteworthy small roles and appearances include Selena Gomez as Phi Lambda president Madison, Jerrod Carmichael and Christopher Mintz-Plasse in their respective roles as former Delta Psi Beta brothers Garfield and Scoonie, Carla Mamet and Nora “Awkwafina” Lum in their respective roles as Kappa Nu members Maranda and Christine, and Dave Franco as former Delta Psi Beta vice-president Pete who reveals to Teddy that he’s gay. Kiersay Clemons and Beanie Feldstein are fantastic in their respective roles as Beth and Nora as Kappa Nu co-founders trying to create a sorority where they can fit in with Feldstein as the funnier of the two girls. Ike Barinowitz and Carla Gallo are superb in their respective roles as Jimmy and Paula Faldt-Bevins as the Randers’ remarried friends who are also expecting a child as they try to help them deal with Kappa Nu.

Chloe Grace Moretz is excellent as Shelby as a college freshman who is frustrated by the rules set for sororities as she decides to make her own sorority with friends so she can smoke pot, party, and let the women have fun while dealing with the Randers. Zac Efron is brilliant as Teddy Sanders as a former fraternity president who is coping with growing pains as he is unsure what to do where he helps Kappa Nu be formed only to get kicked out as he turns to the Randers for help where Efron is just very funny as someone scared of being an adult. Finally, there’s Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne in amazing performances in their respective roles as Mac and Kelly Rander as the couple trying to sell their house with Rogen being the buffoon of sorts who helps Teddy in becoming an adult while Byrne is the straight-woman who would have some funny moments as she tries to do what is right for her daughter and growing family.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is a marvelous film from Nicholas Stoller. Featuring a great cast and a funny take on themes such as sexism, adulthood, and growing up, it’s a film that manages to provide enough laughs while being very smart in what it wants to say. In the end, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is a sensational film from Nicholas Stoller.

Nicholas Stoller Films: Forgetting Sarah Marshall - (Get Him to the Greek) – (The Five-Year Engagement) – Neighbors (2014 film) - (Storks (2016 film))

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The 47 Ronin (1941 film)

Based on the play by Seika Mayama, The 47 Ronin is a two-part film about a samurai faction who go on a quest for vengeance for their slain master during the 18th Century. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi and screenplay by Kenichiro Hara and Yoshikata Yoda, the film is an exploration of honor and devotion where 47 men cope with the loss of their leader and the need to avenge his death. Starring Daisuke Kato, Chojuro Kawarasaki, Kanemon Nakamura, Isamu Kosugi, Masao Shimizu, Utaemon Ichikawa, and Kunitaro Kawarasaki. The 47 Ronin is an engaging yet flawed film from Kenji Mizoguchi.

The film revolves a samurai clan who decided to go rogue after their master is forced to kill himself following an assassination attempt against another clan lord. It is based on a real-life incident where a group of men decide to avenge their master against the man he tried to kill as well as those who supported that lord. Told in two parts, the film follows the incident in which Asano Naganori (Yoshizaburo Arashi) tried to assassinate Lord Kira (Mantoyo Mimasu) over a grudge as Asano would receive punishment but Kira would receive no punishment. For the people working for Asano, they see this as unfair as Asano is forced to commit hara-kiri with his land and homes confiscated by other lords. The film’s script is divided in two parts with the first half focusing on the assassination and the planning to avenge Asano led by his retainer Oishi Kuranosuke (Chojuro Kawarasaki) while the second part is about an attempt on Lord Kira and the actual attack on Lord Kira and its aftermath. All of which takes place in a year yet it emphasizes more on drama rather than action.

Kejji Mizoguchi’s direction is entrancing at times as much of the film consists of some long takes where it has this theatrical tone to the drama. Much of the film features scenes with a lot of dialogue as well as scenes that feature no dialogue at all as some of these moments would drag the film immensely. The lack of action with the exception of a lone scene where one of Asano’s men tries to kill someone in a costume for a performance for Lord Kira is the only moment where there is any kind of action. Much of it is all about setting up the revenge but also discussions from all sorts from the men who served under Asano to even the women who were part of the house or wives of some of Asano’s men. Many of these scenes go for on for a long time as there’s moments where the scenes tend to overwhelm itself and be overdrawn including its ending. The sluggish is what hinders the film as Mizoguchi could’ve trimmed things down despite some of the beautiful compositions and camera movements he creates in the film. Overall, Mizoguchi creates a compelling but sluggish film about a group of men trying to avenge their master’s death.

Cinematographer Kohei Sugiyama does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography to the natural look of the exteriors as well as some unique lighting and shades for some of the interior scenes. Editor Takako Kuji does some fine work with the editing as it is straightforward despite some of the film’s very long scenes. Production designer Hiroshi Mizutani, with set decorators Dai Arakama, Atsuo Matsuoka, and Hisako Oozawa, does amazing work with the set design from the interiors of some of the homes of the clan lords as well as some of the exteriors of the castles and homes.

Costume designers Ryuzo Kawada and Yoshisaburo Okumara do excellent work with the design of the robes that the men and women wear including the costumes for the Noh theater scene. Sound mixer Seiichi Harada does terrific work with the sound to play into the quiet and calm atmosphere of some of the drama including the opening sequence where Asano tries to kill Lord Kira. The film’s music by Shiro Fukai is wonderful as it’s mainly a low-key orchestral score that play into the drama.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles and appearances from Mantoyo Mimasu as Lord Kira, Meiko Takamine as the fiancĂ©e of one of the ronin warriors, Mitsuko Miura as Lord Asano’s wife, Yoshizaburo Arashi as Lord Asano, Masao Shimizu as a member of Lord Asano’s clan, Daisuke Kato as a lieutenant of Asano, Kunitaro Kawarazaki as a young ronin warrior, and Kanemon Nakamura as a senior advisor of the Asano clan. Finally, there’s Chojuro Kawarazaki in a brilliant performance as Lord Asano’s retainer Oishi Kuranosuke as the man leading the plan for revenge as he is meticulously trying to see how can make sure nothing can go wrong.

The 47 Ronin is a stellar but immensely flawed film from Kenji Mizoguchi. It’s a film that explores a legendary story of revenge though it is hampered by its sluggish pacing where for a two-part film running at nearly four hours. It is a film that isn’t very easy to watch. In the end, The 47 Ronin is a good but challenging film.

Kenji Mizoguchi Films: (Tokyo March) - (The Water Magician) - (Aizo Toge) - (The Downfall of Ozen) - Osaka Elegy - (Sisters of the Gion) - (The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums) - (Utamaro and his Five Women) - (The Love of the Actress Sumako) - (Portrait of Madame Yuki) - (Miss Oyu) - (The Lady of Musashino) - The Life of Oharu - Ugetsu - (A Geisha) - Sansho the Bailiff - (The Woman in the Rumor) - (The Crucified Lovers) - (Princess Yang Kwei-Fei) - (Tales of Taira Clan) - (Street of Shame)

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