Thursday, May 31, 2018

Films That I Saw: May 2018



School shootings, stupid tweets from a dumbass dictator, celebrities whining, a TV star gets her show cancelled for being a stupid bitch, and all sorts of things. This is what happens in America and it’s starting to become the norm. It’s this element of de-evolution that is starting to run rampant and it’s not getting any better. The fact that our dictator seems to care more about football players who don’t stand during the national anthem rather than a bunch of kids being killed at a school in Texas just a few months after what happened in Florida is not really surprising. It’s become the Land of Idiots. I admit I say stupid things and do piss people off for the things I say though I don’t mean to and I’m sorry for that. Yet, I do know there’s a line of what can be said and what can’t be said. Unfortunately, there’s people that don’t seem to really care and claim they’re expressing their right to free speech. OK, then how come we’re being forced to listen to the ramblings of a moron who claims that everything that we hear about is just fake news?

This is among the type of shit that is being dealt with in America as I’m finding myself becoming more and more skeptical over the state of things. Even those whom I knew that were supporters of our dictator have finally come to their senses and realize he’s just ruining everything they believe in. At home, things are alright except for the fact that one of my cousins made some claims on her Facebook account claiming that my grandmother (from my father’s side) is in need of a new hearing aid and in need of money as my sister read it and wanted to help out. Minutes later, my father was calling one of his brothers and heard that my grandmother already got a new hearing aid as it was a scam that my cousin did. I for one was not surprised by this news as this is one of the reasons why I don’t have any contact with relatives from my father’s side of the family and don’t want to. They’re a bunch of inconsiderate scumbags who only care about themselves and whatever thing they want and flaunt it in people’s faces.

I maybe an asshole at times and I know that I’m imperfect but I don’t pull shit like this. If they ever try to con me or steal from me, I will destroy their lives in the worst possible way where I will make sure they will have nothing. Besides, I have other things to do as I’m about to embark on something big for me personally and that is going to see Nine Inch Nails for the fifth time in my lifetime in late September at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. I know people these days use their smartphones and such to purchase tickets or whatever as a way of convenience and to avoid lines. Well, I challenge any fan base of today’s popular music acts to do what myself and many other NIN fans did on May 19, 2018 on a Saturday. Now I may have arrived at the line at around 12 and waited more than three hours to get a ticket that I never got.


It wasn’t a waste of time as I got to talk to some people while the people at the Fox Theatre were cool as I was able to get my name and email on a waiting list as I got my tickets two days later. In the video below which I don’t appear in as I was in line hours later. I began at the corner at the video where on 3:23 which shows how far I was when I arrived and what was happening before I arrived. There were people who came from Alabama and South Carolina that were line and some who arrived around 8 in the morning never got their tickets either. Still, this prove how loyal the NIN fans and why we love this band.


This kind of loyalty is proof of what we fans will do as it also inspired me to go into my music blog and make this announcement for a marathon that I will do in the summer as it relates to the body of work by NIN including a few soundtracks. It’s been a long time coming as I had written so much about the band during my days at Epinions.com and I can do it again but from a more mature perspective. I know I haven’t written album reviews in a couple of years as I only went back to it to deal with my grief over David Bowie which was a long gap in writing music reviews. Yet, I feel the time is now to go back and do NIN justice from Down In It to their upcoming album Bad Witch.


In the month of May 2018, I saw a total of 37 films in 24 first-timers and 13 re-watches with five of the first-timers directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Slightly over from last month as one of the highlights of this month has been my Blind Spot for the month in All Quiet on the Western Front. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for May 2018:

1. Il Posto


2. I, Daniel Blake


3. The Salesman


4. The Tree of Wooden Clogs


5. Atomic Blonde


6. The Lobster


7. Paterson


8. Captain Fantastic


9. Personal Shopper


10. After the Storm


Monthly Mini-Reviews

Intent to Destroy: Death, Denial, & Depiction


From Joe Berlinger is a documentary film about the Armenian genocide that happened around and after World War I and Turkey’s continual denial of the event. It’s a documentary that showcases the Armenian culture that is cross-cut with filmmaker Terry George’s production of The Promise that centers on the Armenian genocide. It’s an uneven documentary that is part of a historical look into what happened in Armenia as well as the look into its 100th anniversary in 2015 as well as this making-of film documentary of a film that didn’t win a lot of people over. Still, it’s an interesting documentary for those interested in one of the most horrific atrocities of the 20th Century.

The Spy Next Door


Jackie Chan is a joy to watch no matter what kind of film he’s in though he’s best when he’s doing action and comedy. While this film isn’t original as it has Chan trying to protect his neighbor’s children and watch over them. It is still a fun little gem that has Chan being funny and full of excitement despite the fact that his partner is played by Billy Ray Cyrus who is just not cool.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie


The third film in the LEGO film franchise is definitely the weakest film so far as it revolves around a group of young ninjas trying to defeat an evil warrior. Jackie Chan also appears in the film as the young ninjas’ master and one of the ninjas’ uncle as well as in a live action sequence that opens and ends the film. It has some nice animation and action along with some funny moments. It’s just that it’s not very memorable with some lame jokes.

The Doors: Mr. Mojo Risin’ – The Story of L.A. Woman


The Doors is a band that I have a love-hate relationship with as there’s several songs of theirs that I do like but there’s also stuff about them that I didn’t like as I often feel the focus had been too much on vocalist Jim Morrison instead of the rest of the band. This documentary I saw on the band’s final album with Morrison before his death in July of 1971 is actually a very fascinating film that explore where the band was at a time when they were dealing with so much. Even as they endured Morrison’s own growing disdain towards stardom and the chaos around them as it would lead to the band creating some of their best music as I think this album along with Morrison Hotel and their self-titled debut album remains their finest work.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Paths of Glory


2. Aliens


3. Dunkirk


4. Warrior


5. How to Train Your Dragon


6. Avatar


7. The Men Who Stare at Goats


8. Snake Eyes


9. Mission: Impossible


10. Twin Dragons


Well, that is all for May 2018. Next month, I will begin my NIN marathon in my music blog that I mentioned earlier while in the world of film. I will focus mainly on the Auteurs piece on John Cameron Mitchell with a review of his newest film How to Talk to Girls at Parties. Along with films in my never-ending DVR list and my Blind Spot choice, I hope to watch The Incredibles II and whatever theatrical release that interests me. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off...

© thevoid99 2018

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Auteurs #65: Lucrecia Martel




Among one of the key figures of the New Argentine Cinema movement of the late 1990s/early 2000s, Lucrecia Martel is a figure who made films that explored the country’s growing social and economic turmoil that would usher in a new era for Argentina. Unlike many of her contemporaries such as the late Fabian Bielinsky and Juan Jose Campanella, Martel’s films focused on individuals living in the fringes of society as well as women finding their identity in their rural environments. While Martel, like several of her female contemporaries in cinema, doesn’t make films often due to their lack of commercial appeal. She has become one of the finest voices in cinema for her exploration of characters and their surroundings.

Born on December 14, 1966 in Salta, Argentina, Lucrecia Martel lived in a city that was far removed from the more modern world of Buenos Aires. Salta was a city that appealed to the middle and working class who live north of the country as it proved to be a sense of inspiration for Martel. Though she would go to Buenos Aires in the 1980s to attend the National Experimental Filmmaking School which would introduce her to many kind of films and ideas about filmmaking. It would shut down all of a sudden due to lack of funds forcing Martel to use what she learned and teach herself more about the ideas and craft of filmmaking. At the same time, she also noticed the films that were being made in her own country that didn’t exactly appeal to Argentines other than the wave of post-junta films that talked about the country’s troubled period where it was under martial law.

You Won’t Get Her, Bastard/La Otra


From 1989 to 1994, Martel would create several short films during that period that ranged from documentary to fiction-based shorts. Among them was a fictional two-minute short about a boy who is drawing pictures as he believes that a man who is stalking a woman is coming as he imagines killing the man. Though the short wouldn’t play into the themes that Martel would dwell into in later years, it did show that she had an eye for suspense and humor. Another short that was made in 1990 was a documentary short about drag queens in Argentina as Martel shot the doc on video as she filmed their methods into putting on makeup and why they chose the life of a drag queen. The short showcases what they do as performers as it gives them a sense of life while not wanting to become a sense of disturbance to anyone who would feel uncomfortable.


Rey Muerto


With her work in short films that would allow her to refine her craft, Martel was asked to take part in a film project called Historias Breves I (Brief Tales I) which would give filmmakers from Latin America a chance to create short films as a way to break into the world of films. Martel would contribute a piece of her own as it revolves around an alcoholic crime figure who is asking for his wife unaware that she’s leaving him after years of abuse. It is set in a rural deserted area of Argentina as Martel wanted to show a film that was miles away from Buenos Aires in order to focus on those living outside of modern culture. The short would showcase Martel’s interest in the world outside of the city as well as the surroundings as it would include images of nature and other moments that are surreal.

Among the moments are some of the visuals as Martel drew upon some of the visuals of the famed Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky who would be one of several influences into her filmmaking style. Notably in the way she presented this rural landscape as it added to the sense of despair for the wife and her children who are trying to leave where they’re confronted by her husband and all hell breaks loose. The short film would make its premiere in film festivals in 1995 where it won a short film prize at the 1995 Havana Film Festival in Cuba. The short’s success should’ve been the launching pad for Martel but the late 1990s would prove to be a tumultuous period for Argentina and its film industry. The economic depression of the country would lead to its film industry to make less films as its audiences started to dwindle where years of light entertainment and other stylish films became less interesting as it wouldn’t reflect the chaos that was happening in the country.

La Cienaga



Aware of what is happening in her home country, Martel would be part of a group of filmmakers who decided to make films about what is going on in the country rather than make the kind of films that is often expected from the mainstream. Martel decided to return to her hometown to make a film that would be part of an informal trilogy of films set entirely in the small town of Salta. Most notably as it would be inspired by Martel’s time with her family in rural parts of Salta as the film would be set in a remote family home where a family spend time in their country home as tension starts to simmer as it relates to relatives as well as the fact that they’re living in a decayed country home. The story would be told in the span of a weekend as it would explore the difference of social classes where a bourgeoisie family wants little to do with relatives who live in a poorer part of Salta.

Rather than go for established film stars or top-tier actors from the country, Martel wanted to go for something different yet she would receive the services of Graciela Borges in the lead role of Mecha as Borges is known for being the country’s finest actress. Along with key roles from Mercedes Moran as Mecha’s cousin Tali, Martin Adjemian as Mecha’s husband Gregorio, and Daniel Valenzuela as Tali’s husband Rafael. With collaborators such as cinematographer Hugo Colace, editor Santiago Ricci, set decorator Cristina Nigro, art director Graciela Oderigo, and a team of sound mixers and recorders to create some intricate sound design for the film. Most notably the film’s opening sequence where Mecha, Gregorio, and other people are drinking and dragging their chairs towards the pool to play into the natural sparseness of the sound.

Martel would also employ a sense of intimacy in her approach to the characters where Tali visits Mecha as the latter is injured which play into their differences where the former’s children are looking at this house that is unique but also messy and neglected with the inhabitants being bored. Even as Mecha’s kids are trying to find ways to kill their boredom as they live in a home that has a lot but want to venture into the forest for some form of adventure. Yet, they’re in conflict over returning to a home where their mother moans about the state of things and a father who is more concerned with retaining his youth as it play into Martel’s own fascination with characters wanting to be something else but are trapped in their environment.

The film made its premiere in February of 2001 where it won the Alfred Bauer Prize as it would play in various film festivals where it would make its U.S. debut later in October where it played at the New York Film Festival to great acclaim and a limited theatrical release a week later as it drew rave reviews. The film would garner several prizes from Argentina’s film critics association as well as being a favorite among film critics in Europe. South America, and North America. For Martel, the film would also help the Argentine film industry as it would create more films that reflected the troubling nature of Argentina.

The Holy Girl



The success of La Cienaga wouldn’t just give Martel attention in the world of film but also the chance to make another film as she got the attention of the famed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar and his producing brother Augustin. Along with the Almodovar’s longtime producing partner Esther Garcia, the trio decided to fund Martel’s next film as they had already succeeded in producing films for other filmmakers including Guillermo del Toro for 2001’s The Devil’s Backbone. Wanting to have her next film set in Salta but this time in the city rather than set it partially in the countryside, the film would revolve around a young girl who comes of age sexually and religiously as she meets a troubled doctor in the hopes that she can help him.

Reuniting with Mercedes Moran who would play a supporting role of sorts as the mother of the young girl Amalia who is played by then-newcomer Maria Alche. It would be set partially in a hotel that is struggling with Moran as its manager as she becomes attracted to this troubled doctor in Dr. Jano played by Carlos Belloso who arrives for a medical conference the hotel is hosting. When Dr. Jano watches a puppet show with Amalia whom he mistakes as a prostitute, things become complicated as Amalia’s time in religious school would have her believing that Dr. Jano is in trouble and can be saved. While Martel would retain many of collaborators from her previous film, she would get a different cinematographer in Felix Monti who would provide a low-key approach to the lighting for the hotel to play up its decayed and troubled state.

The film also played into some of the stranger elements about faith and sexuality as it relates to Amalia’s friend Josefina, who is played by Julieta Zylberberg, who is convinced that she saw a miracle when a man fell down from the home she lives in and had survived. Wanting to maintain a minimalist approach to the film, Martel chose to not use a lot of camera movements in order to create some precise compositions such as the film’s ending as it relates to Amalia and Josefina at the hotel swimming pool in a medium-wide shot. It would show Martel not just becoming more confident in her work as a filmmaker but also standing out from her Argentine contemporaries by creating films that don’t play by the rules as well as dwell into subject matters that many wouldn’t dare go to.

The film premiered in early May of 2004 in Argentina that was followed by an international premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in France a week later where it played in competition for the Palme d’Or. While the film didn’t receive the same kind of praise her previous film did, it still managed to be a hit with critics as well as in various film festivals all over the world as it would get a limited U.S. release in April of 2005. The film would garner a few accolades such as special mention at a film festival in Sao Paolo as well as gaining a following in Europe and with art-house audiences in America.

La Ciudad que Huye


During a break between films, Martel shot a five-minute documentary short about the gated communities in Argentina as it played into her fascination with those that don’t fit in with traditional society. Yet, the focus is on the social divide as it relates to one gated community with a square foot of nearly 5000 km as Martel and her crew tried to go in as she is turned away with rumors that the community is filled with golf courses, lavish housing, and everything that upper class citizens would have. The short was controversial yet Martel did reveal that the divide in the social class was a major contribution to the country’s economic crisis of the late 90s.

The Headless Woman



After a gap between films that included serving as a juror at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival for its main competition, Martel would once again turn to the Almodovars in funding the third and final film of her informal trilogy set in her home town of Salta. This time around, the film would revolve around a woman from a middle upper-class environment who would suffer a mental breakdown following a hit-and-run unsure of what she hit. Martel decided to go into this exploration of a woman coming undone as it play into the realization of her environment and her attempt to readjust to her normal life only for things to go wrong. For the lead role of the character Veronica, the famed Argentine actress Maria Onetto was cast in the lead role while the rest of the ensemble would be Argentine actors Martel hadn’t worked with.

With the exception of costume designer Julio Suarez, Martel would once again work with an entirely new crew that included the Uruguayan cinematographer Barbara Alvarez. The film would once again be shot in Salta where Martel would emphasize on a more upper class section of the city as filming began in 2007 where Martel shot on location as it would play into rural areas of the city near the canals where the incident takes place. It’s an area that play into Veronica’s disconnect with the world around her as she is often protected by family and friends who shield her from the truth of what she did which would add to her mental and emotional deterioration. Rather than let things happen in a conventional manner where Veronica’s unraveling becomes something big, Martel chooses slow down this breakdown piece by piece to play into Veronica’s confrontation with reality.

Martel would emphasize on minimalism to present this story as it played on long gazing shots and realistic surroundings as it harkens into the works of Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni. Notably as Martel had similarities to Antonioni’s themes of alienation as well as the exploration of social classes in relation to Antonioni’s work in the 1950s and early 1960s where the character of Veronica gets a glimpse into the world of the working class as she wants to help but is lured into the lifestyle that she has been surrounded by. Even as it add to this sense of despair and unsure if she can really contribute anything with all of her wealth. Martel would often shoot the character of Veronica on the edge of a frame to play into this sense of detachment with the world she’s in as it add to her descent.

The film made its premiere in May of 2008 at the Cannes Film Festival where it played in competition for the Palme d’Or. Though the film didn’t win any awards nor was it well-received by audiences in its premiere as the film was booed. The film was well-received by critics as it was later released in August in Argentina to great acclaim. Two months later at the Rio de Janeiro Film Festival, the film received the FIPRESCI prize while the film would get a limited North American release in 2009 where it was voted best foreign film from the film critics association in Vancouver, Canada. Despite its acclaim and success in Europe and South America, the film would Martel’s last film for some time as she embarked on getting a major film project developed that would end up going nowhere.

Nueva argiopolis/Pescados


In 2010 while attempting to adapt Hector German Oesterheld’s graphic novel The Eternal that would be developed for two years where it eventually got scrapped. Martel decided to make a couple of short films during this time as one of them is an experimental fragmented short revolving around a group of people living in a seaside town as it relates to a mysterious event in the sea. Notably as Martel would focus on these characters who live in poor, working class environment either trying to find work or learn something from YouTube as the short would play into Martel’s interest in individuals or a group of people who don’t exactly fit into society.


Another short film made in 2010 that Martel did was a four-minute piece relating to fishes as it another experimental short film that is drawn upon surrealism. The film mainly revolves around fishes singing as there would be these strange close-ups of catfishes and other fishes looking at the camera singing with brief images of cars driving on highways in the rain. The short would play into the absurdity of the world through look of fishes.

Mute


A year later, Martel was approached by Prada in making a short film for their Miu Miu label as part of their Women’s Tales series of short films that were all directed by women. With Zoe Cassavetes making the first one, Martel agreed to take part in the project for financial reasons as well as do something creatively. The six-minute short would reunite Martel with actress Maria Alche who plays one of eight women wearing Prada clothing as they’re walking around a yacht on the Amazon River in Paraguay. Martel never shows the faces of the women, even as a couple of them wear masks, as it adds to the surreal elements of the film as well as the idea that the boat only feature women as a man tries to get in but never makes it as he is also never seen. The short would be a hit for the Miu Miu label as it would help give Martel financial stability after plans to adapt The Eternal finally fell apart.

Zama



Following the failure of getting The Eternal made, Martel was able to find another project she wanted to develop in a novel by Antonio di Benedetto about a minor official in the colonial Spanish Empire who is in Paraguay during the late 18th Century where he is awaiting transfer orders to Buenos Aires. The book was considered a landmark novel in its 1956 release in Argentina as Martel would take years to adapt the novel into script while taking a break in 2015 to contribute a documentary short segment for the anthology film The Empty Classroom. The production finally began in 2016 where Martel would later struggle with a bout of cancer during post-production that would cause delays of the film that would star Spanish-Mexican actor Daniel Gimenez Cacho in the titular role. The film premiered in late August of 2017 at the Venice Film Festival where it drew rave reviews and became a festival hit as well as getting rave reviews upon its limited release in the U.S. and U.K. in early 2018.

While she doesn’t make films often as they also don’t appeal to a wide audience due to their difficult themes and explorations of characters living in the outside world. Lucrecia Martel does remain one of the finest storytellers in the 21st Century as well as be a leading figure for South American cinema. With only four films to her credit and several short films so far, Martel has managed to carve out her own legacy that will ensure her place as one of the best filmmakers working today and the hope that she can continue working in the years to come.

© thevoid99 2018

Monday, May 28, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story




Based on the characters created by George Lucas, Solo: A Star Wars Story is the story of the early life of Han Solo and his journey to become a smuggler and how he would meet those who would impact his life. Directed by Ron Howard and screenplay by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan, the film is an origin story of sorts on the man who would become this famed smuggler in his early years as he takes part in a major heist as the character is played by Alden Ehrenreich. Also starring Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, and Paul Bettany. Solo: A Star Wars Story is an exhilarating and adventurous film from Ron Howard.

The film is about a young man who is known for being a thief where he meets a smuggler and learns the trade where they all take part in a big job that will give him a big payday as well as a new way of life. It is simply an origin story of sorts of this man who would become the famous smuggler as he would later meet a Wookie named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) who would become his best friend as they would find a trade that would make the money as well as defy the Imperial Empire. The film’s screenplay by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan definitely play into Han Solo’s origin as he started out as a young thief living in a planet with his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) as they steal the extremely-valuable hyper fuel coaxium that is the source for hyperdrive speed for many ships. Solo is able to escape a gang and its boss for refusing to give the coaxium yet he is unable to help Qi’ra get out of the planet where he would sign up with the Imperial navy hoping to be a pilot.

Instead, he ends up on an infantry line three years later where he would meet the famed smuggler Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) posing as an Imperial officer as he and his team that include his wife Val (Thandie Newton) and an alien named Rio Durant (voice of Jon Favreau). Beckett would take in Solo in his team along with Chewbacca whom Solo meets at a prison as they would learn the art of smuggling as they also have to deal with a band of marauders known as the Cloud Riders. Solo would learn that Beckett works for a crime boss named Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) who is part of a famed crime syndicate known as Crimson Dawn where Solo also learns that Qi’ra is Vos’ lieutenant. With the help of another smuggler in Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) and his droid L3-37 (voice of Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Solo, Chewbacca, Qi’ra, and Beckett would take on a mission to retrieve a large shipment of unrefined coaxium in the mining planet of Kessel. There, Solo learns about not just the art of smuggling but also the lesson of not to trust anyone as well as what it means to survive.

Ron Howard’s direction is grand which is expected in a big space-operatic adventure as it play into a galaxy that is under the rule of the empire but also the emergence of a rebellion happening. Shot largely at Pinewood Studios in London, England along with additional locations in Italy and the Canary Islands, the film does play into this world that is dystopian and troubling where it begins with Han and Qi’ra both being thieves in an act of survival as they’re forced to work for a crime boss. Howard’s usage of wide shots capture the scope of the world that Han Solo is in as well as the rule of the Imperial Empire as it watches over so much of the galaxy. Howard’s usage of medium shots and close-ups play into some of the drama and humor as it relates to character interaction including the scene where Solo meets Chewbacca for the very first time as it is unveiled in a humorous manner. It’s among some of the scenes including the exchanges between Solo and Chewbacca that add to the many nuances that is expected in their growing friendship.

Some of the humor is likely from the film’s original filmmakers in Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who were later fired from production with Howard taking over and re-shooting much of the film. Still, Howard does maintain that air of humor throughout the film as well as a sense of adventure though the tone does change a bit in the third act as it relate to what is at stake. Largely due to the twists and turns as it relates to Solo learning about the art of smuggling and what he has to do to survive as there are lessons that had to be learned. The tonal shifts is awkward along with some major revelations of who is leading the Crimson Dawn syndicate as well as the fact that even smugglers and marauders both have to play a side in this major conflict between the Imperial Empire and the rebellion that is to emerge. Yet, it would show where Solo’s loyalties lie but also what he has to do to stay alive in this conflict that he doesn’t want to be a part of. Overall, Howard creates a fun and thrilling film about the early adventures of a young smuggler and his furry friend.

Cinematographer Bradford Young does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it play into the blue-grey look of some of the planets in the exteriors as well as some interior shading and the brightness in some scenes set in the snow or in a sandy island. Editor Pietro Scalia does terrific work with the editing as it is largely straightforward as it also include some rhythmic cuts to play into humor and action. Production designer Neil Lamont and senior art director Gary Tomkins do amazing work with the look of the spaceships and some of the places the characters go to including the mining colony and the interiors of the ship that would become the Millennium Falcon. Costume designers David Crossman and Glyn Dillon do fantastic work with the look of the costumes including the stylish and posh look of Qi’ra for her work with the Crimson Dawn as well as the capes that Lando wears.

Makeup designer Amanda Knight does brilliant work with the look of the characters such as Vos with his facial scars as well as the look of a few human characters while special creature make-up effects supervisor Neal Scanlan does incredible work with the look of the some of the aliens and creatures in the film. Special effects supervisor Dominic Tuohy and visual effects supervisor Rob Bredow do superb work with the special effects with its mixture of visual effects and old-school practical effects to create elements of realism into the world of space including a major sequence that would play into Solo’s legend. Sound designer Tim Nielsen and co-sound editor Matthew Wood do phenomenal work with the sound in creating sound effects in the ships and weapons as well as the atmosphere of the locations that the characters go to. The film’s music by John Powell is wonderful for its bombastic orchestral score that includes pieces by John Williams from the Star Wars films as it help play into the sense of adventure that the characters embark.

The casting by Nicole Abellera, Nina Gold, and Jeanne McCarthy do remarkable work with the casting as it include some notable small roles and performances from Anthony Daniels as a Wookie Chewbacca meets at the mining planet of Kessel, Clint Howard as a robot fight referee, Warwick Davis as a marauder, Linda Hunt as the voice of a known crime boss in Lady Proxima, Erin Kellyman as the marauders leader Enfys Nest, and Jon Favreau as the voice of Beckett’s alien pilot Rio Durant. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is terrific as the voice of Lando’s droid L3-37 as this droid that is very opinionated as well as being a skilled navigator while Joonas Suotamo is fantastic as the Wookie Chewbacca as this tall furry creature that would become Han Solo’s best friend as well as a creature of great strength. Thandie Newton is superb as Beckett’s wife Val as a smuggler who isn’t initially fond of Solo as she later realizes his value. Paul Bettany is excellent as Dryden Vos as crime lord who works for the Crimson Dawn syndicate that is in charge of the planned heist that Beckett is a part of as well as hoping to profit from this heist without doing much.

Donald Glover is brilliant as Lando Calrissian as Glover imbues many of the traits of the character as a smooth and charismatic smuggler that owns the Millennium Falcon as he also knows how to hustle and get things done. Emilia Clarke is wonderful as Qi’ra as Solo’s lover from the past as she has become Vos’ lieutenant as Clarke does some fine work though her character isn’t fully realized into her motivations as it’s one of the film’s weaker points. Woody Harrelson is amazing as Tobias Beckett as a famed smuggler who takes Solo into his team and show him the trade as well as what to do as a smuggler as it’s one of Harrelson’s finest performances as this grizzled man that has seen a lot but also reveals that the smuggling game is a devious game. Finally, there’s Alden Ehrenreich in an incredible performance as Han Solo as the younger version of the famed smuggler who learns the rope in being a smuggler as his motivation was to reunite with his lover as he later deals with the many attributes of survival while also being arrogant in what he can do where Ehrenreich imbues many of the qualities that the character is known for.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a marvelous film from Ron Howard that features top-notch performances from Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Joonas Suotamo, and Donald Glover. Along with its supporting cast, dazzling visuals, John Powell’s score, and moments that are exciting and thrilling. It’s a film that manages to provide enough ideas of being entertaining as well as provide some ideas about one of cinema’s most beloved characters was doing before he became this legendary figure that audiences love. In the end, Solo: A Star Wars Film is a remarkable film from Ron Howard.

Star Wars Films: Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back - Return of the Jedi - The Phantom Menace - Attack of the Clones - Revenge of the Sith - The Force Awakens - The Last Jedi - (Episode IX)

Anthology Series: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - (Untitled Star Wars Anthology Film)

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© thevoid99 2018

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Snake Eyes




Directed by Brian de Palma and screenplay by David Koepp from a story by de Palma and Koepp, Snake Eyes is the story of a police detective who attends a boxing match with a friend where an assassination takes place with everyone being a suspect. The film is a suspense-thriller that plays into a man dealing with his surroundings as well as wondering if what he claims to see really happened. Starring Nicolas Cage, Gary Sinise, Carla Gugino, John Heard, Stan Shaw, and Kevin Dunn. Snake Eyes is a complex and mesmerizing film from Brian de Palma.

Set in Atlantic City on a rainy night where a major boxing fight is to occur in a hotel/casino before it’s to be torn down, an assassination of a defense secretary happens where a corrupt police detective was sitting in front of the man as he notices something is off as he and a friend find out what’s going on. It’s a film that plays into conspiracy theories over this assassination and who is involved and why where this crooked detective in Rick Santoro (Nicolas Cage) is there just to see a fight only to suddenly having to work where he would realize that this wasn’t a typical assassination. David Koepp’s screenplay takes this simple premise of an investigation into this assassination where everyone is a suspect including this woman named Julia Costello (Carla Gugino) who was talking the defense secretary Charles Kirkland (Joel Fabiani) just as he was shot while she would also get a wound in her left arm.

With his friend Commander Kevin Dunne (Gary Sinise) also investigating as he was Kirkland’s bodyguard who had suspected a woman in red named Serena (Jayne Heitmeyer) for being there without a ticket to the fight. Santoro would notice little things that are suspicious such as the fight as well as some of the people watching it which play into his need to find truth. Though Santoro is a flawed individual as he admittedly takes bribes and always gamble as well as being despicable at times. Still, he is a man that is willing to do his job as he would later deal with the fact that something isn’t right as the script does reveal a key twist during its second act with everything coming ahead for its third as Koepp maintains a sense of intrigue but also motivations into why this defense secretary is killed.

Brian de Palma’s direction is definitely stylish with its intricate tracking shots, crane shots, and all sorts of things which is often expected from de Palma. Notably the way he opens the film with this 12-minute continuous tracking shot with some invisible cuts that play into Santoro and his wild persona as the first thing shown is a newscaster (Tamara Tunie) on TV reporting outside of the casino as a major storm is happening and it then the camera pans to another TV screen where another reporter in Lou Logan (Kevin Dunn) is covering the fight and then the camera pans to Logan being filmed with Santoro walking behind him. This intricate shot showcases so much in the wide and medium shots as well as de Palma establishing what is happening and where Santoro is going he is also talking on the phone to his wife and a mistress as well as other people before sitting with Commander Dunne who would leave to deal with the woman in red where Julia would take Dunne’s seat to talk to Kirkland with nothing on the fight shot during this 12-minute sequence. The film would then become this suspense-thriller that showcases the event of the assassination as well as what was happening in the fight as well what was Commander Dunne doing and what Julie was talking to Kirkland about before he died.

These different point-of-views happen early in the second act as well as the twist which definitely show that there is something going on as de Palma uses this reveal to show a much bigger picture. Even as Julia becomes a target as she knows who might’ve planned the assassination yet isn’t able to identify the person because she can’t really see anything without glasses. These little details that include this intricate crane-tracking shot of the hotel rooms from above is among some of de Palma’s finest moments in playing up the suspense. The film’s climax play into not just the reveal of who planned the assassination and why but also the fact that there’s many people involved that someone as corrupt and troubled as Santoro would be likely to take whatever money is offered to not get involved. Yet, de Palma knows that even those who aren’t perfect and corrupt couldn’t exactly walk away from doing the right thing no matter how bad things can be. Overall, de Palma creates a wild yet gripping film about a detective figuring out who killed a man at a boxing match.

Cinematographer Stephen H. Burum does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography in its usage of lights and soft focuses as well as create an atmosphere for many of the interiors including the hotel rooms, the casino, and the arena where the boxing match takes place. Editor Bill Pankow does excellent work with the editing with its usage of stylish invisible cuts, jump-cuts, split-screens, and fade-outs to play into the suspense that looms throughout the film. Production designer Anne Pritchard, with set decorator Daniel Carpentier plus art directors James Fox, Isabelle Guay, and Real Proulx, does amazing work with the look of the hotel rooms, the room of the boxer, and parts of the arena as well as some of the exteriors of the hotel/casino. Costume designer Odette Gadoury does terrific work with the costumes from the wild suit that Santoro wears for the fight to the stylish clothes some of the characters wear in the film.

Special effects supervisor Garry Elmendorf and visual effect supervisor Eric Brevig do fantastic work with some of the visual effects as it relates to the stormy weather for the film’s exterior including its climax. Sound editors Richard P. Cirincione and Maurice Schell do superb work with the sound in creating sound effects for the fight heard off screen as well as the chaos in the arena that relates to the crowd and gunfire. The film’s music by Ryuichi Sakamoto is wonderful for its orchestral score that play into the suspense with its string arrangements as well as bombastic pieces to play into the intensity of the reveals and other moments in the film.

The casting by Mary Colquhoun is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Adam C. Flores as the challenging boxer Jose Pacific Ruiz, Eric Hoziel as the shooter Tariq Rabat, James Whelan as the mayor of Atlantic City, Chip Chupika as the drunk in the audience, Jayne Heitmeyer as the woman in red named Serena, Chip Zien as Tyler’s manager, Michael Rispoli as Tyler’s agent, Tamara Tunie as the reporter Anthea, Peter McRobbie as a FBI official, Mike Starr as the casino security head Walt McGahn who helps Santoro, David Michael Higgins as a man Julia seduces into his hotel room so she can hide, and Luis Guzman as a friend of Tyler in Cyrus whom Santoro beats up over money which he uses to gamble.

Kevin Dunn is superb as the fight reporter Lou Logan as a friend of Santoro who is eager to get a break while would help Santoro reveal some things that Logan’s crew filmed. John Heard is fantastic as the hotel/casino owner Gilbert Powell who is believed to be part of the conspiracy as a way to get money for the new hotel he wants to create. Joel Fabiani is terrific as the defense secretary Charles Kirkland as the target of this assassination as a man who has the power to do something yet is unaware of what he will do as there are those that want him dead. Stan Shaw is excellent as the boxing champion Lincoln Tyler as a man who is believed to be part of the conspiracy as Santoro suspects his involvement where he is revealed to be a flawed man that is dealing with all sorts of problems.

Carla Gugino is brilliant as Julia Costello as a woman working in the defense department as she has uncovered some things that would harm a program as she also becomes a target forcing Santoro to protect her. Gary Sinise is amazing as Commander Kevin Dunne as Santoro’s best friend as a man that is assigned to protect Kirkland only to botch it as he copes with his shortcomings as well as become intent in uncovering the conspiracy. Finally, there’s Nicolas Cage in an incredible performance as Rick Santoro as a corrupt detective who attends the fight as a spectator only to see something is off as he does whatever he can to find out the truth only to cope with some major revelations as he becomes conflicted into doing what is right as well as loyalty.

Snake Eyes is a remarkable film from Brian de Palma that features a wild and fun performance from Nicolas Cage. Along with its supporting cast, complex twists and turns, dazzling visuals, and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s haunting score, it’s a film that bears a lot of the fun elements expected in a suspense thriller while also being this intriguing study of conspiracy and two men trying to uncover the truth with a woman being targeted for carrying the truth. In the end, Snake Eyes is a marvelous film from Brian de Palma.

Brian de Palma Films: (Murder a la Mod) – (Greetings) – (The Wedding Party) – (Dionysus in ’69) – (Hi, Mom!) – (Get to Know Your Rabbit) – Sisters - (Phantom of the Paradise) – (Obsession) – Carrie - The Fury - (Home Movies) – Dressed to Kill - Blow Out - Scarface (1983 film) - (Body Double) – (Wise Guys) – The Untouchables - Casualties of War - The Bonfire of the Vanities - Raising Cain - Carlito's Way - Mission: ImpossibleMission to Mars - (Femme Fatale) – The Black Dahlia - (Redacted) – Passion (2012 film) – (Domino (2018 film))

© thevoid99 2018

Friday, May 25, 2018

Il Posto




Written and directed by Ermanno Olmi, Il Posto is the story of a young man who travels to Milan from a nearby Italian suburb where he deals with his role working as a messenger for an Italian corporation unaware of his new surroundings and reality in the modern world. The film is an exploration into Italy’s post-war economic boom and it downsides as it relates to a young man from a rural background trying to find work only to deal with a reality that is unsettling and confusing. Starring Loredana Detto, Tullio Kezich, Sandro Panseri, and Mara Revel. Il Posto is a riveting and somber film from Ermanno Olmi.

The film follows a young man who attends a job interview and exam hoping to get a viable position for this corporation in Milan that would help his working-class family only to be given a menial job as a messenger. It’s a film that play into a man’s search for work that would help him as well as give him a sense of importance as he also wants to do good for his family. Along the way, he meets a young woman who is also vying for a job that he wants as they bond in their search for work. Ermanno Olmi’s screenplay which featured contributions from art director Ettore Lombardi explore not just the difficult and baffling experience of job interviews for a corporation but also the sense of dehumanization in the corporate landscape. The film also has this odd structure that occurs in the film as it relates to the journey that Domenico (Sandro Panseri) endures where the first half is about him being interviewed for the job and the exams he has to take that involve his intelligence and skill but also physical and psychological tests with bizarre questions.

During the first half of the film where Domenico would also meet Antoinetta (Loredana Detto) who is also trying to get work to help her family as they spend much of the day looking around the city of Milan as it’s this world that is starting to emerge as this epitome of modernism. Then the film’s second half has this shift in tone where Domenico gets his foot in the door in the hopes of being a clerk but he ends up being a messenger where he looks at this room full of clerks ranging from middle-aged to elderly. A glimpse into the lives of these characters is shown as it play into a future that Domenico might face.

Olmi’s direction is evocative in the way he captures this air of modernism in Milan in the way it looks with buildings being built as if a new world is emerging from this post-war economic boom. Shot on location in Milan as well as areas nearby, Olmi does present this other location as a world that is dirty and grimy where it’s not as developed from the years after World War II in comparison to the spacious yet exhilarating world of Milan. Olmi would use wide shots of these locations that play into Domenico’s own sense of alienation and confusion of his surroundings that include crowded cafes and shops where everything is expensive. Olmi would use the wide and medium shots to play into this disconnect of individualism and loneliness within the corporate world as he would emphasize on the latter for the scenes in the second half where these clerks are working where it feels oppressive and claustrophobic. Even as there is this sequence that glimpse the lives of these individuals who work hard but are oppressed with one of them aspiring to write as an outlet for his oppression.

Olmi’s usage of close-ups play into Domenico’s own confusion as well as a sadness into this world he’s about to venture into. Yet, there are these lively moments such as a scene in the third act during a New Year’s Eve party that Domenico would attend hoping to meet Antoinetta who got another job in the same corporation. It would be a moment where despite the prospect of becoming a clerk and maintaining his work as a messenger, there is still so much he can experience. That is then followed by this ending that does play into Domenico’s future as well as what he will endure if he does succeed in being a clerk for this corporation where he’s just another peg in a world that is indifferent to individualism or human emotion. Overall, Olmi crafts a rapturous and eerie film about a young man dealing with the expectations in a corporate environment in Milan.

Cinematographer Lamberto Caimi does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it play into look of Milan in all of its vibrancy in day and night as well as the way the office is lit including the desk of one clerk. Editor Carla Colombo does excellent work with the editing as it filled with stylish cuts as well as play into the drama with the jump cuts including the sequence of the clerks in their personal lives. Art director Ettore Lombardi does amazing work with the look of the offices as well as the home Domenico lives with his family.

The sound work of Giuseppe Donato is terrific for creating that sparse atmosphere at Domenico’s home and at the offices including the clerks’ office room with a more raucous sound for the scene at the cafe. The film’s music by Pier Emilio Bassi is wonderful for its music score that is largely a brass music piece that appears in the film’s opening credits and in another scene while much of the music soundtrack features some vibrant dancehall music that is played at the New Year’s Eve party scene.

The film’s superb cast feature a couple of small roles from Mara Revel as an older colleague that Domenico would work for and Tullio Kezich as a psychologist asking Domenico strange questions. Loredana Detto is incredible as Antoinetta as a young woman who is seeking to find a job at the same corporation that Domenico is seeking at as she would get work at a different place which only lead to this growing de-humanization process in the corporate world. Finally, there’s Sandro Panseri in a phenomenal performance as Domenico as a young man from a nearby suburb of Milan who travels to the city to get a job hoping he would work hard and rise up to help himself and his family only to see where he has started and the oppressive environment he would encounter.

Il Posto is a tremendous film from Ermanno Olmi. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, and haunting themes on modernism and the loss of individualism in the corporate world. It’s a film that showcases a young man entering into a world that is cruel and oppressive as he copes with the role he has to play. In the end, Il Posto is a sensational film from Ermanno Olmi.

Ermanno Olmi Films: The Fianc├ęs – (A Man Named John) – The Tree of Wooden Clogs - (Walking, Walking) – (The Legend of the Holy Drinker) – (The Secret of the Old Woods) – (Genesis: The Creation and the Flood) – (The Profession of Arms) – (Singing Behind Screens) – (Tickets-Section 1) – (One Hundred Nails) – (The Cardboard Village) – (Greenery Will Bloom Again)

© thevoid99 2018