Monday, July 24, 2017

The Big Short

Based on the novel by Michael Lewis, The Big Short is about the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008 and how a small number of individuals knew it was coming and tried to salvage what they would be lost. Directed by Adam McKay and screenplay by McKay and Charles Randolph, the film is an unconventional take on the crisis with its mixture of humor, drama, and moments that break down the fourth wall. Starring Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Marisa Tomei, Rafe Spall, Finn Wittrock, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong, Melissa Leo, and Brad Pitt. The Big Short is a gripping and chilling film from Adam McKay.

Set in the mid-2000s just a few years before the world economy would collapse in such a massive way, the film follows the lives of a few different men who would make a discovery that would lead to its collapse. Told through three different narratives, the film follow the events of these men who wouldn’t just discover loans and bonds that would cause the housing market to become unstable but also do whatever they can to survive and profit from this upcoming financial collapse. The film’s screenplay by Adam McKay and Charles Randolph weaves through these multiple narratives as the storyline of the different individuals who would be part of this catastrophic event would all effect one’s narrative and such. Even as there’s moments where a character from one storyline is in the same place with other characters from that storyline but none of them really meet each other.

The character Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is this oddball hedge fund manager who is socially-inept as he would start the whole story going when he would look into numbers involving high-risk subprime loans as he decides to make a bet against market-based mortgage-based securities by using a credit default swap. Dr. Burry’s plans had bankers laughing thinking he would fail as his actions wouldn’t just get the unwanted attention of his mentor Lawrence Fields (Tracy Letts) but also the attention of a low-level salesman for Deutsche Banks in Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) who is the film’s narrator. He would learn about what Dr. Burry is planning where he joins forces with Front Point hedge fund manager Mark Baum (Steve Carell) after one of Baum’s employees called Vennett by accident as the two analyze what Dr. Burry has found. From a prospectus that Vennett created, two young investors in Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) would find that prospectus as they would take part in the plan to buy credit default swaps with the advice of a former securities trader in Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt).

The film’s narrative would cross-cut through all three different storylines as well as explore all of the traits of these characters as Vennett is a man that is vain and interested in getting the money from the fallout that is to come while Baum is a man just trying to make sense of the world he’s working for as he’s also dealing with his brother’s suicide. The duo of Geller and Shipley are just two guys that wanted to be rich as they get the help of Rickert as they would make a move that would be big but there comes a moral price over what had happened as it would be a discovery that would make Baum not just uneasy but also realizing the large scale of what is to come. Each act opens with a quote as it play into these men making a discovery and see what would happen and then realize the massive scale of the risk as almost everyone in the financial world is against them. Yet, it’s a risk that is would showcase not just the sense of arrogance and indifference of these people in finance but also those who would be seriously affected by this crash.

McKay’s direction is definitely quite engaging for the way it explores the world of finance in all of its complexities and finding a way to make it accessible for anyone who has no clue about bonds, stocks, securities, or anything in the world of finance. Shot largely in New Orleans with some of it shot on other locations such as New York City and Las Vegas. McKay would create something that is grand in some scenes but maintain some intimacy in his usage of close-ups and medium shots as it relates to the drama. Especially in the usage of hand-held camera for these scenes while giving each storyline a different tone as the Dr. Burry storyline is often set in an office building while the stories involving Venette/Baum and the trio of Geller, Shipley, and Rickert also have different presentations though there is that one scene where the two groups are in the same sequence through an intricate tracking shot.

Since the idea of finances and all of the things that go on are considered very complex to anyone that has no idea about these things. McKay would use a few celebrities like actress Margot Robbie, singer/actress Selena Gomez, famed chef Anthony Bourdain, and the economist Richard Thaler to provide some comical expositions to reveal what is a mortgage-based security, a subprime loan, a collateralized debt obligation, and a synthetic CDO. McKay would also showcase images and footage of what was the culture of the world was like in the mid-2000s as people are unaware of what is happening as its third act is quite dark. Notably in the sense of immorality that is happening in the financial world and the people who really lose it all which makes characters like Baum and Rickert uneasy. Especially as it once again play into this air of cynicism and what often happens in the financial world on who is saved and who is left in the dust. Overall, McKay creates a haunting yet evocative film about a group of individuals who would make a discovery that would shake up the financial world in the late 2000s.

Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of natural and low-key lights for the scenes at Dr. Burry’s office as well as the lighter look of the scenes at Baum’s office as well as some of the stylish yet low-key lights for some of the scenes in Las Vegas. Editor Hank Corwin does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts, freeze-frames and other stylish cuts to help find ways to create smooth transitions for the different storylines as well as using montages to play into the growing sense of time. Production designer Clayton Hartley, with set decorator Linda Lee Sutton and art director Elliott Glick, does fantastic work with the look of the different offices as well as the garage office that Geller and Shipley work at and the home of Rickert. Costume designer Susan Matheson does nice work with the costumes as it’s mostly casual with the suits that the men wear as well as shorts and t-shirt look of Dr. Burry.

Visual effects supervisor Paul Linden does terrific work with some of the film’s visual effects which is essentially set-dressing to play into the period of the mid-2000s. Sound editor Becky Sullivan does superb work with the sound as it play into the world of parties and meetings where it can be raucous but also quiet. The film’s music by Nicholas Britell is wonderful for its low-key electronic score that play into the drama while the soundtrack features an array of music from rock, hip-hop, and pop music.

The casting by Kathy Driscoll and Francine Maisler is incredible as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Rudy Eisenzopf as the mortgage-backed security creator Lewis Ranieri, Max Greenfield and Billy Magnussen as two young mortgage brokers who con people into getting bad loans, Byron Mann as a CDO manager Baum talks to in Vegas about synthetic CDOs, Karen Gillian as the ex-girlfriend of Shipley’s brother who meets Shipley in Vegas who dismisses him as she had just quit the SEC, Adepero Oduye as Baum’s colleague Kathy Tao, Tracy Letts as Dr. Burry’s mentor Lawrence Fields who is aghast over what Dr. Burry did, Melissa Leo as a Standard & Poor’s employee who make some revelations to Baum about some of the dark aspects of the financial industry, and Marisa Tomei in a terrific small role as Baum’s wife Cynthia who is trying to help him with his own revelations as well as the loss of his brother.

John Magaro and Finn Wittrock are superb in their respective roles as Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley as two young investors who discover Vennett’s prospectus as they try to take advantage of their discovery in the hopes they would get a chance to be part of the elite in finance. The trio of Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, and Hamish Linklater in their respective roles as Baum’s three employees in the optimist Danny Moses, the rash and impulsive Vinny Daniel, and the reserved Porter Collins as three men who help Baum in figuring out numbers as well as discovering how much would be lost. Brad Pitt is excellent as Ben Rickert as a retired securities trader who helps Geller and Shipley with their discovery as it’s a very low-key yet humorous role as a man who reluctantly returns to the world of finance but what he discovers would make him uneasy.

Christian Bale is brilliant as Dr. Michael Burry as a hedge fund manager who would discover the instability of mortgage loans as this oddball that loves to listen to heavy metal as a man who is great with numbers but awkward when it comes to people as he tries to profit everything and ensure the trust of his investors. Ryan Gosling is amazing as Jared Vennette as a low-level salesman for a powerful bank who would discover Dr. Burry’s report and take advantage of his discovery while teaming with Baum to make some money as Gosling’s performance is funny in display his air of arrogance. Finally, there’s Steve Carell in a marvelous performance as Mark Baum as a hedge fund manager for a financial company who would team up with Vennette in betting against the market as he would make a startling discovery of what is going to happen that consumes him with guilt as Carell has this air of energy and anger in his performance that is coupled with humility and sadness.

The Big Short is a spectacular film from Adam McKay. Featuring an inventive script, an incredible ensemble cast, and witty views of financing with stylish moments of exposition that prove to be helpful. It’s a film that explores a moment in time where the world’s finance industry was hit by their own stupidity and those who saw it coming and tried to warn them. In the end, The Big Short is a phenomenal film from Adam McKay.

Adam McKay Films: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy - Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby - Step Brothers - (The Other Guys) - Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017

99 Homes

Directed and edited by Ramin Bahrani and screenplay by Bahrani and Amir Naderi from a story by Bahrani and Bahareh Azimi, 99 Homes is the story of a young man who joins forces with the man who evicted him from his house by evicting other people from their houses so he, his mother, and son a chance to find a home again. The film follows the real-life situations of people losing their homes during periods of recession where a young man succumbs to greed in his desperation to survive. Starring Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, and Laura Dern. 99 Homes is an eerie yet harrowing film from Ramin Bahrani.

The film follows the life of a young man who had just lost another job as he is trying to save his home until he becomes evicted forcing him, his mother, and his son to live at a motel where he would later work with the man who evicted him. It’s a film that explores a man’s desperate need to survive as he is trying to do what is right for his mother and son. Yet, it would cause some moral implications as he would work with this real estate operator who makes a business in evicting people from their homes and then sell it off for more money. The film’s screenplay by Ramin Bahrani and Amir Naderi doesn’t just explore this growing world in which people don’t just lose their homes to the banks due to troubling economic circumstances but also what happens to those homes as a man who would lose his family home would take part in something that is considered greedy and immoral. The character of Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) is someone who’s worked in construction and can do repairs as he is struggling to find work while his mother Lynn (Laura Dern) works as a hairdresser as they can barely get by.

The loss of their home is humiliating as Dennis’ son Connor (Noah Lomax) is forced to witness everything as the hotel they temporarily live at is filled with people who had also lost their homes. When Dennis tries to find his tools where he believes had been stolen and confronts the man who he thinks is the thief. He gets the attention of the real estate operator Rick Carter (Michael Shannon) who likes Dennis’ determination as he gets him to do some work where Dennis learns more about what Carter does. Dennis would do the things that Carter does in evicting people and getting people money to sell their homes as he would struggle with what he’s doing. Yet, the money he would make gives him the chance to have his home back as he doesn’t tell his mother nor his son what he really does. The film’s script does have a structure as it play into Dennis’ need to make money as the third act would reveal the implication of his actions but also what gets lost in the things he does.

Bahrani’s direction is definitely mesmerizing for the way he explores this divide in America between social classes where the rich is living without any kind of problems while the poor and middle class struggle to get by as some no longer have homes. While it is set in Orlando, Florida where there are some wide establish shots of the city. It is shot mainly on location in New Orleans to play into the world of suburbia and urban areas where Dennis and his family are forced to live in as well as the houses that Carter is trying to sell as he would later find himself competing with another real estate company during its third act. Much of Bahrani’s direction throughout the film has him emphasizing on more intimate shots with medium shots and close-ups as well as use hand-held cameras to get a sense of realism throughout the film.

Also serving as the film’s editor, Bahrani would play into the drama as he goes for a straightforward approach to the editing as it helps build up the drama and some of the moments of suspense. Even in moments that are simple as it play into why Carter is doing what he does which show some very cynical ideas about the ways of the world and why those who work hard for what they don’t often don’t get what they want. There are some truths to what Carter is saying but what he puts Dennis into showcases that air of immorality and guilt that Dennis would deal with in the third act where he has a dramatic encounter with someone whose house he evicted. Even as it play into events that are quite chilling as well as what some will do to keep their house in every legal way only to be hit with something that is unexpected. Especially as Dennis is forced to see things up close and deal with the consequences of not just his actions but the deal he made to get back his home. Overall, Bahrani creates a riveting yet chilling film about a young man taking a job in helping a man evict people from their homes.

Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski does brilliant work with the film’s rich and colorful cinematography to capture many of the daytime exteriors along with some scenes at night to make it look like a Floridian summer of sorts. Production designer Alex Digerlando, with set decorator Monique Champagne and art director Christina Eunji Kim, does excellent work with the look of Dennis’ family home and the cramped look of the motel room he, his mother, and son are staying in as well as the more spacious and posh home of Carter. Costume designer Meghan Kasperlik does nice work with the clothes as it is mostly casual and ragged with a cleaner and somewhat posh look for Carter and later Dennis.

Sound editor Odin Benitez does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of some of the locations including a party scenes and things heard outside of Dennis’ motel room. The film’s music by Antony Partos and Matteo Zingales is fantastic as it’s mostly an ambient-based score filled with soothing synthesizers and electronic textures while music supervisor Michael Hill provides a soundtrack that is mostly low-key filled with hip-hop, rock, and pop as well as a classical piece from Richard Wagner.

The casting by Douglas Aibel and Tracy Kilpatrick is great as it feature some notable small roles from Nadiyah Skyy as Carter’s mistress, Nicole Barre as Carter’s wife, Javier Molina as a friend of Dennis who helps him uninstall air condition machines and pool pumps, Cynthia Santiago as the wife of a man who is trying to save their home, and Clancy Brown as a rich businessman that Carter is trying to make a deal with. Tim Guinee is terrific as a homeowner in Frank Greene who is trying to save his home every legal way as he knows Dennis because his son meets Connor early in the film as he is also caught stealing water and electricity from a home owned by Carter. Noah Lomax is fantastic as Dennis’ son Connor as a young kid dealing with the new situation he’s in as he’s hoping to go back home while being unaware of what his father is really doing.

Laura Dern is excellent as Dennis’ mother Lynn as a hairdresser who is kept in the dark about what her son is doing as she is aware of the reality of what is happening but has a harder time learning the truth about what Dennis is doing. Andrew Garfield is amazing as Dennis Nash as an unemployed single father who is trying to make money and do anything to get his house back only to put himself into a world of greed and guilt as Garfield displays that anguish and determination of a man trying to survive. Finally, there’s Michal Shannon in a brilliant performance as Rick Carter as a real estate operator that is quite shady but also determined to make money and bring Dennis into the fold as there’s a sense of charm in Shannon’s performance but also a role that is quite cunning that doesn’t make him into someone that is totally evil.

99 Homes is a phenomenal film from Ramin Bahrani that features incredible performances from Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, and Laura Dern. Along with its rapturous script, realistic locations, and a themes of greed, loss, and survival, it’s a film that definitely has a lot to say while showing a dark reality of America as its people lose their homes all because of a missed payment with no chance of getting it back. In the end, 99 Homes is a sensational film from Ramin Bahrani.

Ramin Bahrani Films: Man Push Cart - Chop Shop - Goodbye Solo - Plastic Bag - At Any Price - (Fahrenheit 451 (2018 film)) - The Auteurs #55: Ramin Bahrani

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, July 22, 2017

20th Century Women

Written and directed by Mike Mills, 20th Century Women is the story of a single mother with a teenage boy who seeks the help of a teenage neighbor, a young punk artist, and a bohemian handyman in raising her son during the late 1970s. Based on Mills’ own life, the film is an exploration of a young boy coming of age as he is introduced to new things while his mother is dealing with her own role in life. Starring Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann, and Billy Crudup. 20th Century Women is an evocative and enchanting film from Mike Mills.

Set in 1979 Santa Barbara, the film revolves around a middle-aged single mother who is having a hard time connecting with her son as she is filled with a very unconventional group of people who live or frequent at her home including a punk artist, a teenage neighbor, and a handyman. She turns to them for help while dealing with the growing changes in the modern world which she has a hard time understanding including the emergence of punk and the growing sense of turmoil in America. Mike Mills’ screenplay doesn’t just explore a mother and son dealing with growing pains but also the emergence of new cultures and new things around them with the former trying to make sense of everything while the latter is just trying to find himself. Even as both of them provide voiceover commentary and such to express not just what they’re dealing with but also what is ahead as Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening) would reveal her own fate through the narration.

Dorothea’s son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) is only 15 years old as he has no idea what he wants to do nor who he is as his only real friend is his neighbor Julie (Elle Fanning) who is two years older than him as she would often sneak around to sleep in his bed just to talk and sleep. Living with Dorothea and Jamie is the punk artist Abbie (Greta Gerwig) who is recovering from cervical cancer as she spends her time doing art photography and make her money as a photographer as she and Julie would help Dorothea guide Jamie into manhood. The only other man living in Dorothea’s home is the handyman William (Billy Crudup) who doesn’t have much to offer to Jamie but manages to bond with Dorothea and Abbie as he helps them in their own issues. Mills’ script doesn’t just explore these unique individuals as they’re all going through some form of existentialism but also wonder what has put them in this certain moment in their lives.

Abbie with her health and views on feminism which she introduces Jamie to while Julie copes with being sexually-active and not wanting to have sex with Jamie because she wants to be his friend. For Dorothea, she is introduced to the L.A. punk culture that Jamie and Abbie is interested in as she’s introduced to by the latter with William as well as some of things in the modern world where it’s baffling at times but also exciting such as a moment where she and William compare/contrast to the music of Black Flag and Talking Heads to see this growing division in the world of punk. There are also moments in the dialogue that play into Jamie’s growth and interest in female sexuality as it would make Dorothea uneasy. Even as she would start to know things in Jamie’s life as she ponders if she’s made the right decision in having two different women guiding him into his manhood.

Mills’ direction definitely has a flair for style in the way it uses still photographs, film clips, and other things to play into not just the many images and events of the 20th Century but also what was looming into the 21st Century as it relates to the things then-U.S. president Jimmy Carter was saying in his crisis of confidence speech as it appears during a pivotal moment in its third act. Shot mainly in Santa Barbara, California with some locations shot in Los Angeles and New York City, the film plays into this sense of change that is looming in the year of 1979 just before the arrival of Ronald Reagan, the end of punk, and the uncertainty of the Cold War. While these images and ideas are certainly prevalent throughout the film, Mills focus on the life of these five unique people who are part of this very unconventional family. Mills’ usage of the wide shots aren’t just to establish the locations but also the growing disconnect that looms throughout the film between Dorothea and Jamie as well as the former’s own detachment from the modern world.

Mills’ direction also has these very intimate moments with the close-ups and medium shots as it play into Jamie’s relationship with Julie as well as the scene of Dorothea and William listening to Abbie’s punk records. Mills’ compositions are quite precise in the way he would put the actors in a frame while having a looseness in some of the scenes involving the punk shows. There are also these entrancing moments of scenes set on the road or Jamie on his skateboard as it play into everyone trying to find their own paths in life. Mills would also infuse elements that are quite surreal in the road scenes as well as these touching moments that showcase Dorothea’s own sense of nostalgia for the 1940s as well as her own sense of hope for Jamie when he becomes an adult. Overall, Mills crafts a touching yet majestic film about a middle-aged single mother trying to find some help to guide her teenage son into manhood.

Cinematographer Sean Porter does brilliant work with the film’s beautiful and colorful cinematography to capture the natural look of the daytime exterior scenes to the usage of low-key lights for some of the interior scenes at night. Editor Leslie Jones does excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and montages that help play into the sense of time that the characters are dealing with. Production designer Christopher Jones, with set decorators Tracy Spadorica and Neil Wyzanowski, does fantastic work with the look of the house that Dorothea and Jamie live in as they’re trying to restore with William as well as their bedrooms that display their personalities. Costume designer Jennifer Johnson does nice work with the clothes as it is mostly casual to play into the look of the characters without deviating too much into certain styles that was so prominent in the late 1970s.

Visual effects supervisor Patrick Murphy does terrific work with a few of the film’s visual effects which is mainly for the driving scenes as it has this air of surrealism. Sound designer Frank Gaeta does superb work with the sound as it play into the way some of the music is presented as well as how certain sounds are captured naturally for some of the scenes at the house. The film’s music by Roger Neill is amazing as it is mainly this hypnotic ambient score that play into the sense of the unknown that the characters are embarking while music supervisor Howard Paar creates a mixture of music from the 40s such as big-band music from Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Fred Astaire, & Rudy Vallee as well as some of the music of the late 1970s from Devo, the Germs, Siouxsie & the Banshees, the Clash, David Bowie, Black Flag, Talking Heads, the Raincoats, the Buzzcocks, and Suicide.

The casting by Laura Rosenthal and Mark Bennett is great as it feature some notable small roles from Finn Roberts as a classmate of Jamie who despises Talking Heads, Allison Elliott as Julie’s mother, Thea Gill as Abby’s mother in a flashback, Waleed Zuaiter as a co-worker of Dorothea in Charlie, Darrell Britt-Gibson as the punk club bouncer Julian, and Alia Shawkat as a young woman Jamie meets at the punk club named Trish. Billy Crudup is brilliant as William as a bohemian handyman that is very good in making pots and fixing things as he talks frequently with Abbie and Dorothea about his failings with women while being a good listener for the two. Elle Fanning is amazing as Julie as a 17-year old high school student who is Jamie’s best friend as she copes with her growing pains and dealing with having sex as she doesn’t want sex to ruin her friendship with Jamie.

Greta Gerwig is excellent as Abbie as a punk photographer/artist who is trying to find herself as she also copes with the aftermath of her cervical cancer as well as introduce Jamie to ideas of feminism that causes some issues with Dorothea. Lucas Jade Zumann is fantastic as Jamie as a fifteen-year old kid dealing with growing pains and his own identity as well as try to understand his mother while exploring the world of punk rock and feminism in the hopes he can become a good man. Finally, there’s Annette Bening in an incredible performance as Dorothea Fields as a woman in her fifties that is dealing with a world that is ever-changing as she understands why she is disconnected from her son while wanting to explore the modern world as it’s a performance filled with humility but also some joy and realism as it’s one of Bening’s finest performances of her career.

20th Century Women is a phenomenal film from Mike Mills. Featuring a great ensemble cast, an incredible music score and soundtrack, gorgeous visuals, and a compelling story about family and growing up. It’s a film that explores life in the late 70s during a tumultuous yet exciting time where things are changing with an uncertainty all in the eyes of five different yet unique individuals. In the end, 20th Century Women is a spectacular film from Mike Mills.

Mike Mills Films: (Paperboys (2001 film)) - Thumbsucker - Beginners

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017

2017 Blind Spot Series: Rio Bravo

Based on the short story by B.H. McCampbell, Rio Bravo is the story of a town sheriff who finds himself facing off against a local rancher as he seeks the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter to deal with the rancher and his men. Directed by Howard Hawks and screenplay by Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett, the film is about a sheriff protecting his town as he angers a local rancher for arresting the man’s brother. Starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, John Russell, and Ward Bond. Rio Bravo is a compelling yet enthralling film from Howard Hawks.

Set in a small town of Texas known as Rio Bravo, the film revolves a sheriff who has arrested the brother of a local rancher for murder as the brother wants him back leading to a battle of wits and wills between the sheriff and rancher. It’s a film that is about a man trying to uphold the law and do good for this little town as he has two deputies to help him despite the fact that they’re both flawed as one of them is a drunk struggling with being sober while the other is an old man with a bum leg. They’re later joined by a young gunfighter who observes from afar after his boss had been killed by one of the men working for the rancher as it’s revealed he’s paying men to do his dirty work. The film’s screenplay by Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett doesn’t just explore the game of wits between this sheriff and rancher but also the life of a town that is just trying to live their lives in peace but the power of the rancher just causes problems after a man is killed at a bar by the rancher’s brother who had already killed numerous people in the past.

The town sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) is a no-nonsense man that is willing to listen but he has his job to do as he wants no one causing trouble. Yet, Joe Burdette (Claude Akins) would be the one to cause trouble and humiliate Chance’s deputy Dude (Dean Martin) who hasn’t had a drink of liquor in two years as he’s struggling to maintain his sobriety as he accidentally knocks out Chance. After Joe is arrested for killing a man at the saloon and be arrested at the saloon where Burdette’s men are, the trouble begins where Chance tries to smooth things down and not cause trouble despite the target on his head from the men who work for Nathan Burdette (John Russell). Chance, with Dude and the old man with a bum leg in Stumpy (Walter Brennan) who watches over the jailed Joe, as they all figure out what to do. Adding to the complication that Chance is dealing with is the arrival of a mysterious woman in Feathers (Angie Dickinson) who is suspected of being a cheating gambler while a young gunslinger named Colorado (Ricky Nelson) arrives wanting to help after a friend of Chance in Pat Wheeler (Ward Bond) is shot by one of Burdette’s hired guns.

The script also showcase Dude’s struggles as he was once a skilled gunslinger but years of alcoholism has made him feel diminished yet Chance keeps him on knowing he still has something left when he’s motivated. The script also play into Chance’s relationship with Feathers who is quite like him in the fact that she doesn’t take shit from him or anyone as she is asked to leave but she prefers to stay as it causes this unlikely attraction between the two. When Colorado joins Chance in stopping Burdette’s men, he is someone that is quite smart for someone that is young as well as very skilled as he’s also know where his place is as he immediately gains Chance’s respect. Especially in the film’s climatic showdown that involves a game of chance and wit with guns and dynamite.

Howard Hawks’ direction is definitely entrancing due to the visuals he creates while also emphasizing in simple compositions and moments to create a mood for the film. Notably the opening sequence as it doesn’t feature any dialogue for nearly several minutes as it involves Joe Burdette humiliating Dude and creating trouble where he is captured by Chance. Shot on location near Tucson, Arizona, the film does play into a time in the West where it was starting to get less rowdy and more civilized but there’s still some trouble as it involves Burdette who is still trying to rule the town as he owns the local ranch and a saloon where his men are free to do with whatever they want. While Hawks would use some wide shots to capture the locations as well as viewpoints of the men looking at Burdette’s saloon from the jailhouse. Much of Hawks’ direction would emphasize more on a sense of intimacy in the usage of close-ups and medium shots.

The direction would have moments that are intense but also very restrained as Hawks is more interesting in building up the suspense such as a scene where Chance and Dude try to find Ward’s assassin as it’s all about the little details. There are also these moments such as a confrontation between Chance and some of Burdette’s men who try to stop Chance as they’re forced to deal with Colorado who would find a way to outwit Burdette’s men with Feathers’ help. While Hawks would take a simple approach to the drama and suspense, he would also infuse bits of humor in the film courtesy of Stumpy as well as a moment for a sing-a-long involving Dude, Colorado, and Stumpy as it help defuse some of the tension and suspense as it show these three men as just human beings trying to have some fun and show what the world could be away from the greed and violence. Even if it means having to do something drastic to stop Burdette from ruining all of that all because he wants to free his brother who is likely to kill again without remorse. Overall, Hawks creates a thrilling and gripping film about a sheriff and his deputies going up against a greedy yet intelligent cattle rancher.

Cinematographer Russell Harlan does brilliant work with the film’s gorgeous Technicolor film stock to showcase some of the beauty of the clothes and locations as well as for the scenes set at night. Editor Folmar Blangsted does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward as well as using some methodical cutting to play into the suspense. Art director Leo K. Kuter and set decorator Ralph S. Hurst do amazing work with the look of the saloons, jailhouse, and the local hotel that Chance stays frequently as well as the exterior of Burdette’s ranch.

Costume designer Marjorie Best does fantastic work with the look of the clothes from the chaps, hats, and shirts to play into the personality of the characters as well as the stylish clothes of Feathers. The sound work of Robert B. Lee is terrific for capturing some of the natural elements as well as creating heightened sound effects for some of the gunfire. The film’s music by Dimitri Tiomkin is superb with its usage of lush orchestral flourishes and bombast as well as creating a few songs with lyricist Paul Francis Webster plus a traditional Mexican instrumental and a song by Ricky Nelson.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Joseph Shimada as the local undertaker Burt, Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez as the hotel manager Carlos, Estelita Rodriguez as Carlos’ wife Consuelo, Claude Akins as Nathan’s murderous brother Joe, and Ward Bond in a terrific small role as Chance’s old friend Pat Wheeler who arrives in town for business only to get himself into trouble with Burdette’s gang. John Russell is superb as Nathan Burdette as rancher who wants his brother free no matter what as he’s willing to do whatever it takes as well as hire killers and maintain his own sense of riches and sense of power. Angie Dickinson is amazing as Feathers as a woman who has been accused of being a cheat in gambling as she just stopped in the town for a few days only to stay as she becomes intrigued by Chance as it’s just a lively performance from Dickinson.

Walter Brennan is excellent as Stumpy as an old man with a bum-leg who is the film’s comic relief as he feels underappreciated while doing much of the work in watching Joe Burdette as he’s just an absolute joy to watch. Ricky Nelson is brilliant as Colorado as a young gunslinger who was working for Wheeler as he would later help Chance in dealing with Burdette and his gang as he is quite restrained but also very mature for his age as it's one of Nelson’s finest performances. Dean Martin is remarkable as Dude as a skilled gunslinger struggling to maintain his sobriety as well as the effects of alcohol as a man who feels like his time his done while trying to restore whatever dignity he has left. Finally, there’s John Wayne in a phenomenal performance as John T. Chance as the local sheriff who is trying to maintain law and order in this small town as he’s a man that just wants to do his job but also knows he has to be smarter than most men as there’s a gravitas to Wayne’s performance as well as someone that can take a few hits and still get back up as it is one of Wayne’s finest performances in his illustrious career.

Rio Bravo is an outstanding film from Howard Hawks featuring a tremendous performance from John Wayne. Along with its great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, gripping story, and a fantastic music soundtrack. The film isn’t just one of the finest films of the western genre but it’s also a film that is very witty but also engrossing for the way it explores a man trying to do what is right and needing to be smarter than those around him. In the end, Rio Bravo is a magnificent film from Howard Hawks.

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

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: The Chosen One

For the third week of July 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We focus on the concept of the chosen ones. The ones who are destined to either save the world or be the one to help us all. Here are my three picks:

1. The Golden Child

One of the quintessential 80s comedies to star Eddie Murphy during his golden period, this film directed by Michael Ritchie is probably his most underrated which has Murphy as a social worker that just wants to find people who are missing. It’s a very funny film that includes that hilarious line “I want the knife” but it’s a film that has heart as well as a touching story of a man just trying to find a Tibetan child with special powers. Even as it mixes martial arts with some action/adventure, fantasy, and lots of humor all courtesy to Eddie Murphy when he was the funniest man in the world.

2. The Matrix

From the Wachowskis comes the film that was a total game-changer as it revolves around a computer programmer who learns that he’s part of a reality that isn’t real only to become the one person who could stop it all. It is truly one of the finest films that features an iconic performance from Keanu Reeves as this man known as Neo who would defy the bad guys and save humanity from this reality that is proven to be totally false.

3. Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince

The sixth film of the Harry Potter series definitely takes a bit of time for Harry Potter to deal with the revelation that he’s the chosen one to stop Voldemort while learning more about Voldemort’s past. The Half-Blood Prince refers to a book Potter gets which doesn’t teach him some unique potion methods but also new spells as it is a fine take on the book which only sets up the journey Potter would go into in order to defeat Lord Voldemort for good.

And now… here is someone who claims to be the Chosen One but…. Never drew a dime…

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

Countdown (1968 film)

Based on the novel The Pilgrim Project by Hank Searls, Countdown is the story of two American astronauts competing with one another in a crash project to see who can become the first man to walk the moon during the space race against the Soviet Union. Directed by Robert Altman and screenplay by Loring Mandel, the film is an exploration into the real-life space race that was happening in the 1960s where two men do what it takes to make history. Starring James Caan, Robert Duvall, Joanna Moore, Barbara Baxley, Michael Murphy, and Ted Knight. Countdown is a by-the-numbers and dull film from Robert Altman.

The film revolves around the space race to see who can become the first man to walk on the moon as a veteran astronaut is forced to train a civilian after learning that the Soviets have put a civilian for their first mission to land on the moon. It’s a film with a simple story that follows what happens during a mission training where a man is given the chance to go on the moon despite his inexperience as an astronaut but has to endure a lot of pressure. While the plot itself is unique, it’s Loring Mandel’s script that unfortunately suffers as it doesn’t really do much to be engaging in terms of the story as it is quite predictable while not doing enough to play into the tension between the civilian Lee Stegler (James Caan) and the veteran astronaut Chiz (Robert Duvall) as the former feels bad that he’s taking Chiz’s spot. Adding to the drama are the politics behind the scenes at NASA as well as what his happening at home as Lee’s wife Mickey (Joanna Moore) wonders what could go wrong leading up the mission at hand.

Robert Altman’s direction is definitely very straightforward though it does bear a few elements that would be key to the style that Altman is known for. While the few stylistic moments such as a few close-ups and moments at a party where Altman would put in bits of over-lapping dialogue. Much of it has Altman just using a lot of wide and medium shots to capture some of the locations around Florida with the scenes on the moon shot at the Mojave Desert with some visual effects as it has moments that are gorgeous. The problem is that the script Altman is given doesn’t do anything to give the film any kind of looseness as it just feels by-the-book in what to do as Altman was fired during production of the film. It does feel like that a lot of the film was handled in post-production as it just goes for something that is straightforward yet doesn’t do enough to make it engaging which hurts the film and slows it down to the point that it becomes quite boring. Overall, Altman ends up making a film about astronauts trying to go into the moon into something that is dull to watch.

Cinematographer William W. Spencer does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the sunny look of the daytime exteriors to the usage of lighting and filters for some of the scenes on the moon. Editor Gene Milford does nice work with the editing as it has bits of slow-motion cuts as much of it is straightforward. Art director Jack Poplin and set decorator Ralph S. Hurst do fantastic work with the look of the crash station and simulators at NASA as well as the space capsule. The sound work of Everett A. Hughes is terrific as it play into the atmosphere at the simulators as well as the way rocket sounds from afar. The film’s music by Leonard Rosenman is good for its orchestral flourishes though there’s moment where it acts as a dramatic or a suspenseful crutch where it does become overwhelming.

The film’s brilliant cast include some notable small roles and appearances from Bobby Riha as Lee and Mickey’s son Stevie, Michael Murphy as a fellow astronaut in Rick, Steve Inhat as a NASA official in Ross, Barbara Baxley as Chiz’ wife Jean, Charles Aidman as a NASA director/doctor in Gus, and Ted Knight as the NASA press secretary/official Walter Larson. Joanna Moore is excellent as Lee’s wife Mickey as a woman who is dealing with some of the problems going on at NASA as she wonders if her husband will survive as well as the idea of things going severely wrong. Robert Duvall is brilliant as Chiz as an Air Force colonel-turned-astronaut who becomes reluctant in training Lee as he is filled with jealousy but is forced to swallow his pride to help Lee knowing that he might not have a chance to walk on the moon. Finally, there’s James Caan in an amazing performance as Lee Stegler as a civilian who has some training in being an astronaut as he endures the pressure of what he has to do while knowing the dangers he is facing as it’s a very reserved performance from Caan.

Despite solid performances from James Caan and Robert Duvall as well as some nice visuals, Countdown is just a terrible film from Robert Altman though it’s not really his fault. For a film about the space race of the 1960s, it’s very boring as it doesn’t really do anything new while it bear little touches of what Altman is known for as fans of his work will see this as just one of his bad films before he would become the great filmmaker that’s been lauded for so many years. Countdown is just a drab and uninteresting film from Robert Altman.

Robert Altman Films: (The Delinquents) – (The James Dean Story) – (That Cold Day in the Park) – M.A.S.H. - (Brewster McCloud) – McCabe & Mrs. Miller - (Images) – The Long Goodbye - (Thieves Like Us) – California Split - Nashville - (Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson) – 3 Women - (A Wedding) – (Quintet) – (A Perfect Couple) – (HealtH) – Popeye - (Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean) – (Streamers) – (Secret Honor) – (O.C. and Stiggs) – Fool for Love - (Beyond Therapy) – (Aria-Les Boreades) – (Tanner ’88) – (Vincent & Theo) – The Player - Short Cuts - Pret-a-Porter - (Kansas City) – (The Gingerbread Man) – Cookie's Fortune - Dr. T & the Women - Gosford Park - The Company (2003 film) - (Tanner on Tanner) – A Prairie Home Companion

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Baby Driver

Written and directed by Edgar Wright, Baby Driver is the story of a getaway driver who is being forced to work for a drug kingpin to do a job as things go wrong. The film is an ode to getaway driver film genre with elements of the musical as its protagonist has to listen to music during his job due to damages in his ear. Starring Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, and Kevin Spacey. Baby Driver is an exhilarating and majestic film from Edgar Wright.

The film revolves around a young man who is a getaway driver for robbers as he works under the service of a drug kingpin he owes a debt to as he’s close to finally paying off the debt until he’s given a dangerous job where things become intense. It’s a film with a simple story yet it plays into someone who likes to keep things simple as he listens to different kinds of music when he drives due to the fact that he’s got severe tinnitus in his ears due to a car accident when he was a kid that claimed the life of his parents. His job is to just be a getaway driver and get a small cut for his services and that is it while he lives with a deaf elderly he cares for as he also falls for a waitress at a local diner. Edgar Wright’s screenplay definitely owe a lot to crime and chase films but there’s elements of the musicals and fantasy in the film though it’s all set in this high-octane reality that the film’s titular character (Ansel Elgort) is living in.

Yet, Baby is someone that always carry around an iPod to listen to whatever music to display the mood or environment he’s in as his boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) would call him for an assignment as he would hire the people for the job and all Baby needs to do is drive and listen to the music. Though there would be people that Doc would hire constantly such as the couple Buddy and Darling (Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez, respectively) who like what Baby does. Things change when Doc hires the very psychotic Bats (Jamie Foxx) for a job with two other men with Baby as the getaway driver as it becomes very violent. It’s a chilling moment just as Baby was experiencing something new in his life as he befriends the waitress Debora (Lily James) as they bond through music. Unfortunately, Baby’s attempt to leave his life as a getaway driver has him dealing with Doc about a job that is even more dangerous as it includes the service of Bats who has made Baby very uneasy.

Wright’s direction is definitely stylish not just for its approach to action but also treating it as if it is this unconventional musical with the music from Baby’s iPod as its soundtrack. Shot on location in Atlanta as it is a character in the film, Wright creates a film that uses the city as this modern-day backdrop that is quite grimy yet has an air of excitement in its nightlife and mixture of different cultures in hip-hop, country, and rock. While Wright would use wide shots for not just establishing the locations but also in scenes that play into the world that Baby is in as he has a routine in what he does in the aftermath of a robbery as it’s told in an intricate tracking shot with careful choreography and movement with the help of choreographer Ryan Heffington. Wright’s direction favors more intimate moments in some of the locations in and around Atlanta as well as a few sets and what goes on inside a car which Baby is often behind the steering wheel choosing the right song for the chase. Wright’s approach to the music isn’t to use the music as a crutch to help tell the story but rather as some form of accompaniment to express whatever mood that Baby is in and what he needs to concentrate in his job due to his tinnitus.

Wright would also create moments that don’t involve music as it play into the meetings led by Doc about what to do with the job but also these eerie moments that play into the growing tension between Baby and Bats as the former is uneasy about the latter. Wright would create some entrancing compositions that has him put the actors in a certain position for the frame as it help add to some of the drama as well as bits of humor. There are also moments where Wright would inject bits of fantasy in a key scene that play into the sense of hope that Baby wants with Debora but it’s always clashing with this high-octane reality that is quite violent with lots of gunplay and chaos. All of it to the tune of something which feels right for the scene as it also has this offbeat approach to the musical. Overall, Wright creates a sensational and lively film about a getaway driver who uses music as an escape from his life of crime.

Cinematographer Bill Pope does excellent work with the film’s cinematography to capture the look of Atlanta in the daytime exteriors with its sunny and colorful look with some gorgeous lighting for some of the interiors including the scenes set at night. Editors Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss do incredible work with the editing with its usage of rhythms to help play into the music as well as using fast-cuts for some of the chases without deviating into the chaotic speed-editing of typical action films. Production designer Marcus Rowland, with art directors Nigel Churcher and Justin O’Neal Miller as well as set decorator Lance Totten, does fantastic work with the look of the apartment home that Baby shares with his deaf foster father Joseph as well the place where Doc does his meetings and the diner that Debora works at. Costume designer Courtney Hoffman does nice work with the clothes from the waitress dress that Debora wears to some of the stylish clothing of Darling and Bats.

Visual effects supervisor Shailendra Swarnkar does terrific work with some of the visual effects as it relates to some of the action and chase scenes where it definitely look real without having to do too much in order to make it feel real. Sound designer Julian Slater does amazing work with the sound as it is a highlight of the film in its approach to mixing and editing to hear Baby is hearing in total silence as well as the way sound is presented in certain moments of the film. The film’s music by Steven Price is wonderful for its mixture of low-key electronic music, hip-hop, and orchestral bombast to create a thriving score that help play into the suspense while music supervisor Kirsten Lane creates a phenomenal soundtrack that features an array of music from acts such as Queen, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the Damned, the Beach Boys, Beck, T-Rex, Simon & Garfunkel, Barry White, Young MC, Bob & Earl, Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers, Googie Rene, Carla Thomas, Dave Brubeck, Alexis Korner, The Incredible Bongo Band, Martha and the Vandellas, Blur, Focus, Sky Ferreira, the Commodores, Kid Koala, Danger Mouse with Run the Jewels and Big Boi, Sam & Dave, and Golden Earring.

The casting by Francine Maisler is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Killer Mike and Outkast’s Big Boi as a couple of patrons at a posh restaurant, Jon Spencer of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as a prison guard, filmmaker Walter Hill as a courtroom interpreter, Lance Palmer as Baby’s father in the flashbacks, Viviana Chavez as a diner waitress, Hal Whiteside as the diner cook, Brogan Hall as Doc’s nephew, Allison King as a mail teller, Andrea Frye as a woman Baby reluctantly carjacks, Hudson Meek as the young baby in the flashbacks, and Sky Ferreira as Baby’s mother in the flashbacks whom he adored. Other notable small yet memorable performances include Paul Williams as a notorious arms dealer known as the Butcher, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and Lanny Joon as a couple of robbers working with Bats, Jon Bernthal as a robber in the first heist in Griff who often questions Baby’s role in the robbery, and CJ Jones as Baby’s deaf foster-father Joseph whom Baby communicates with through sign language and music. Eiza Gonzalez is fantastic as Darling as a smooth-talking yet cool woman who can throw down as well as be quite scandalous as she is also Buddy’s wife.

Jon Hamm is excellent as Buddy as a man that loves to rob banks and get its rewards as he also loves his wife Darling where it shows what kind of man he is when he knows she’s been harmed. Kevin Spacey is brilliant as Doc as a drug kingpin who is Baby’s boss as a man who doesn’t bullshit as Spacey brings a dry-wit to his performance where he can be intimidating but also sympathetic. Lily James is amazing as Debora as this kind-hearted diner waitress who befriends Baby where they share an interest for music as well as wanting a life with no complications. Jamie Foxx is incredible as Bats as this very ruthless and psychotic criminal who has no qualms in killing people in order to get his money as he likes what Baby does but also despises Baby for his sense of morals. Finally, there’s Ansel Elgort in a remarkable performance as Baby as this getaway driver with severe tinnitus in his ears which he drowns out through music as he copes with being in the world of crime and his desire to get out to start a new life only to be put into a situation that is troubling as it’s a very restrained yet charismatic performance from Elgort.

Baby Driver is a spectacular film from Edgar Wright. Featuring a great cast, a phenomenal music soundtrack, a thrilling script, amazing locations, and top-notch work in the editing and sound. It’s a film that is very unconventional in its blend of action, suspense, humor, and music as it plays with all sorts of genre while being something that is totally of its own. In the end, Baby Driver is a tremendous film from Edgar Wright.

Edgar Wright Films: (A Fistful of Fingers) - Shaun of the Dead - Hot Fuzz - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - The World's End

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Defiant Ones (2017 film)

Directed by Allen Hughes and written by Hughes, Lasse Jarvi, and Doug Pray, The Defiant Ones is a documentary film about the unlikely partnership between music producer/Interscope Records co-founder Jimmy Iovine and rap superstar/producer Dr. Dre. The film follows the two men from their different backgrounds musically and culturally yet would bond due to their need to reinvent the music industry as it’s told in four parts. The result is a very fascinating and exciting film from Allen Hughes.

The film is a four-part story about the partnership that would change the industry as it begins with the news in 2014 when Apple bought the speakers/streaming service known as Beats for $3.2 billion that included the services of its founders in Andre “Dr. Dre” Young and Jimmy Iovine as it was considered a game-changer. It is a triumphant moment for the two who both came a long way as they both come from different backgrounds musically and culturally. The four-part documentary doesn’t follow Dre and Iovine in forming this landmark deal that made them billionaires but also their lives from the very beginning as two both made their mark as producers early on and then took on a much bigger role in the world of popular music.

Allen Hughes’ direction is quite grand as it feature a lot of visuals of different locations while many of the interviews with Dre, Iovine, and people who worked with them as well as colleagues and a few family/friends are all straightforward. Among them are Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, of Black Eyed Peas, Gwen Stefani, Trent Reznor, Bono of U2, Dre’s wife Andre Young, and several others including Iovine’s ex-wife Vicki McCarty. The film doesn’t just follow Dre and Iovine in their businesses and setting up plans to create a program at the University of South California but also their own individual projects as well as their lives early on. Notably in the different backgrounds of Dre and Iovine as the former lived in the ghettos of Compton near Los Angeles while the latter was from Brooklyn from an Italian family that had just moved to America.

With Dre being part of the influential gangsta-rap group N.W.A. with Ice Cube, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, MC Ren, and lyricist D.O.C. while Iovine would get his break mixing a record for John Lennon that would give him the chance to work with Bruce Springsteen and produce albums for Patti Smith, Tom Petty & the Heartbreaks, and Stevie Nicks. Yet, both men would endure some early tragedies in their lives where Dre lost his half-brother Tyree while on tour w/ N.W.A. while Iovine lost his fraternal grandparents and his father in the span of six weeks. The film’s second part ended with the two men at a crossroads with Dre officially leaving N.W.A. over financial issues that eventually tore the group apart while Iovine had become burned out by producing records as he was more interested in the world of business. The film’s third part is about the formation of Interscope Records with Ted Fields as a co-founder as Iovine tried to find the right acts as he would make a few major signings in getting Nine Inch Nails and its leader Trent Reznor to the label by buying out Reznor’s contract with TVT Records which include interviews with its smarmy founder Steve Gottlieb in all of his douchieness.

Dre meanwhile forms Death Row Records with Suge Knight and discover Snoop Dogg yet was still embroiled with legal issues until Iovine came into picture as he would hear Dre’s solo debut The Chronic and get Death Row be part of Interscope against the advice of many executives and corporate people. By 1994, Interscope was huge thanks in part to Dre, Snoop, NIN, and Tupac Shakur but also gain a lot of controversy over its lyrical content which lead to Time Warner getting into big trouble as they wanted Iovine to drop Death Row from Interscope in exchange for the label to be bought out for $150 million. Iovine refuses as he would move the company to MCA/Universal in 1996 where the label was thriving as there was a week where four albums from Interscope were securing the four top spots at the Billboard 200 album charts. Yet, it was bittersweet as 2Pac was gunned down a second time in September of 1996 and later died during the tumultuous Death Row-Bad Boy Records feud that would also claim the life of the Notorious B.I.G. seven months later.

Months before 2Pac’s death, Dre would leave Death Row due to the East coast-West coast feud as well as the violence that was happening in the label as he would form Aftermath Records which struggled to succeed until 1999 when Dre produced Eminem’s major-label debut as it became a major hit. The discovery of Eminem would start the fourth part as the film would also reveal why the album Detox that was supposed to be Dre’s third solo album was never released as he focused his time on creating the Beats headphones and speakers which he partnered with Iovine. The film, which is shot by cinematographer Charles Parish along with several others, have this gorgeous look to the locations as it follows Dre and Iovine in the course of two years. Editors and the film’s co-writers in Lasse Jarvi and Doug Pray would compile a lot of footage and such including rare performances and music interviews to help tell the story with sound editor Jay Nierenberg and sound designer Brent Findley providing a nice sequence in the way music sounds during a mix.

At the heart of the film is the music as it doesn’t just feature a lot of the music from the artists Dre and Iovine were involved with as well as those from Interscope. It also feature some ambient score music by Iovine’s in-laws in Atticus and Leopold Ross and Atticus’ wife Claudia Sarne.

The Defiant Ones is a marvelous film from Allen Hughes. While it is a bit flawed due to the fact that it’s kind of an advertisement for Beats headphones/speakers while it also have some very exaggerated stories. It is still an engrossing and entertaining film about a partnership that proves to be fruitful and profitable. In the end, The Defiant Ones is a remarkable film from Allen Hughes.

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Amusement Parks

For the second week of July 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We venture into films that are either set in amusement parks or feature amusement parks. Instead of going for the obvious, here are my three picks:

1. Big

The film does feature a few sequences at a theme park though the premise is about a boy wants to become big so he can ride this rollercoaster. Instead, he ends up being grown into a man in his mid-30s as he’s still a kid though he does eventually get to ride a roller coaster but it’s really more about this magic fortune teller he finds who would grant him his wish.

2. Encino Man

Though it’s more of a film about a caveman who wakes up in the 20th Century and be introduced to the eccentricities of the modern world. There is a great scene in which Brendan Fraser’s caveman character Link and Pauly Shore both to an amusement park and go nuts as they ride rollercoasters and beat up a guy in a costume. All in good fun.

3. 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain

We go from a classic and a cult film to one of the worst films ever made. The 3 Ninjas franchise had a good first film but its two follow-ups were pretty bad as it catered to the lowest common denominator when it comes to family films. Then there’s this one starring Hulk Hogan, Loni Anderson, and Jim Varney as it feature none of the original actors with the exception of Victor Wong (in his final performance) as their grandfather as it’s just an awful film where it has some horrific violence too silly for kids and parents and a lot of karate calls that is just fucking annoying. Plus, we have Hogan as some washed-up TV star who tries to spout positive bullshit that he never stood for like the real Hogan was in his time.

© thevoid99 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Dead Pool

Directed by Buddy Van Horn and screenplay by Steve Sharon from a story by Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw, The Dead Pool is the story of a police inspector who learns he’s part of a dead pool in which celebrities are targeted for murder as the man learns he’s also a target. The film is the fifth and final film of the Dirty Harry series that finds Harry Callahan become the target as he tries to protect others that is part of this dead pool as Callahan is once again played by Clint Eastwood. Also starring Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Jim Carrey, and Evan Kim. The Dead Pool is an exciting and dazzling film from Buddy Van Horn.

The film revolves around a death list created by a horror filmmaker as a joke to see what celebrities would be killed as the pool unfortunately turns real as Harry Callahan’s name is in the list as he’s already being targeted by mobsters for putting a mob boss in prison. It’s a film that has Callahan already being this unlikely public figure who is hounded by the press for an interview which he repeatedly declines though he would befriend a reporter in Samantha Walker (Patricia Clarkson) who would also receive this list as she realizes some of the fallacies of what she does. Steve Sharon’s screenplay starts off with Callahan being commended for his work in putting a mob boss to prison where it seems that he’s adapting to the ways that the San Francisco Police Department wants but trouble often follows him. Especially as there are those who think he’s next in this hit list created by the filmmaker Peter Swan (Liam Neeson) who is seen as a suspect as the murders were done in the same way he has characters killed in his films. Yet, Callahan doesn’t think it is Swan at all though he still doesn’t trust him while Callahan’s new partner Al Quan (Evan Kim) would make a discovery into who it might be.

Buddy Van Horn’s direction is quite simple in its approach to action and suspense while also playing into this growing culture of horror films and music videos as well as the increasing reliance of the news wanting to get exclusives. Shot on location in San Francisco, the film definitely go for something that is straightforward in its visuals as Van Horn would use wide shots for some of the locations but would use close-ups and medium shots for some of the suspense including the killing of a few victims. One sequence that is one of the most exciting involves Callahan and Quan in their car as they find themselves being chased by a remote-controlled car with a bomb as it is fun to watch. Though the film’s climax is predictable and a bit lacking in terms of high-octane action, it does have a payoff as it has Callahan be the badass despite the fact that the reveal of the film’s killer is disappointing. Overall, Van Horn creates a thrilling and fun film about a police inspector targeted as part of a death pool gone horrible wrong.

Cinematographer Jack N. Green does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is straightforward for many of the scenes set in the day with some lights for some of the interiors as well as scenes at night. Editors Ron Spang and Joel Cox do terrific work with the editing as it play into the action and suspense with some rhythmic cuts for the chase scenes. Production designer Edward C. Carfargno and set decorator Thomas L. Roysden do fantastic work with the look of the film sets that Swan is creating as well as the police station where Callahan works at. Sound editors Robert G. Henderson and Alan Robert Murray is superb for the sound effects that are created as well as the natural sound such as the gunfire and such that is captured. The film’s music by Lalo Schifrin is wonderful for its jazz-based score that feature some synthesizers and orchestral elements to play into the suspense and drama.

The casting by Phyllis Huffman is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from the rock band Guns N’ Roses as themselves, Bill Wattenberg as a victim of the killer who is killed by a bomb, Ronnie Claire Fisher as a local film critic who is on the death pool list, Michael Currie and Michael Goodwin in their respective roles as Callahan’s superiors in Captain Donnelly and Lt. Ackerman who are more concerned with the positive public image of the San Francisco Police Department rather than doing their job, Anthony Charnato as the mob boss Lou Janero that Callahan sends to prison as he is forced to make a vow for Callahan during his prison sentence, David Hunt as a troubled fan of Swan, and Jim Carrey in a terrific small role as a troubled rock star in Johnny Squares that is dealing with his drug addiction.

Evan Kim is fantastic as Al Quan as Callahan’s new partner as a Chinese-American who is a resourceful man that could kick some ass as he becomes the most stable partner that Callahan has while also being someone who knows how to stay alive. Liam Neeson is excellent as filmmaker Peter Swan as this arrogant horror filmmaker who created the list as a joke but suddenly goes wrong as he becomes a suspect as he tries to defuse the problem only to make things worse for himself. Patricia Clarkson is amazing as Samantha Walker as a local news reporter who is trying to do her work and get an exclusive interview with Callahan only to share in his views about the media. Finally, there’s Clint Eastwood in an incredible performance as Harry Callahan as the no-nonsense police inspector whose weapons are his wit and his .44 Magnum pistol as he copes with the sensationalism of the media coverage around him as well as the new and unknown enemy that is trying to kill him as it is Eastwood just playing it cool.

The Dead Pool is a remarkable film from Buddy Van Horn that features a winning performance from Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan. Along with strong supporting performances from Patricia Clarkson and Liam Neeson as well as some fun action scenes. It’s a film that does what it needs to do in being in a thrilling suspense-action film. In the end, The Dead Pool is a marvelous film from Buddy Van Horn.

Dirty Harry Films: Dirty Harry - Magnum Force - The Enforcer - Sudden Impact

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