Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Films That I Saw: July 2019



I don’t really know how to start this as I know that for anyone, the death of a parent is to be expected and it can be sudden. I just didn’t expect to happen sooner as I’m still trying to cope and accept everything that had happened. I’m just more worried about my mother as she had a harder time dealing with it as I’m just with her all the time mainly because I don’t want to leave her alone for too long. I’m grateful for the fact that we have longtime family friends to be there for us as well as relatives from her side of the family. My sister has also been here as I’m just glad she and her husband live a few minutes from our house as we also have my nephew Mateo and their dog Chester to keep us company. She has been handling a lot of the business stuff and arrangements including the funeral service that happened on the 20th at the church of Christ the King on Peachtree as well as give the eulogy.

It’s been hard as I’ve spent days just not really sleeping or just not wanting to get out of bed. It’s still kind of tough to deal with as the past few months have been a blur including the last month just as my mother and I thought things were going to be fine. My father was doing better as one of my uncles took him and my mother to Destin, Florida earlier in June just for a small vacation and it looked like things were about to go well before the surgery. It was the surgery that I think really did it for him as I’m not angry or putting blame on the doctors and surgeons as they did whatever they could. It was just something unfortunate as the tumor had spread not just into my dad’s stomach but also part of the pancreas as they had to get rid of the stomach and part of that pancreas. The surgery was fine but looking back, I felt my dad should’ve stayed in the hospital much longer for the recovery as he went home a week after the surgery.

The time he was home after the surgery sucked. It really fucking sucked as my mom and I struggled to get a fucking feeding machine to work as there would be a tube attached to his stomach. We had used feeding machines before with my younger sister a long time ago because she was born premature yet she managed to live for 23 years. With my dad, he’s the kind of person that doesn’t like to sit still for too long as he also hated the fact that he would be attached to something if he’s sleeping. Plus, I would have to turn the fucking feeding machine on whenever it would beep to continue the feeding. It was awful and then there was that awful day we had to send him back to the hospital because he was feeling sick and couldn’t breathe. I probably drove faster than I had expected as I was also glad to turn off the oven before I left as I was about to eat a frozen pizza for dinner. We arrived at Emory at around 8 and he was immediately sent into surgery. What happened was a staple that was in the intestines got loose and all of the milk that we were feeding him spread into his lungs or something. The doctor didn’t know what was going on.

My sister, a friend of my sister, a few friends of the family were there for us as we waited as I wanted to sleep but found myself unable to as I really had a hard time seeing him in a helpless state as the idea of him going to die came into my mind as I kissed his forehead with the possibility that he was going away. At 5:59 AM on June 30, 2019, he was gone. My mother was just beyond devastated as a couple of relatives who had been there for us took us home as I just went to bed and slept. Later that day, two of my cunt aunts from my father’s side of the family arrived and I saw them and just stayed in my room as my sister and my brother-in-law were not happy to see them. Even Mateo didn’t like them as he cried around them as a longtime family friend went to my room to talk as she didn’t even like those bitches. There’s people in my father’s side of the family in not just his sisters but their children that are just the worst. My cousins didn’t even show up at the service which didn’t totally surprise me but the people who did show up did see my cunt aunts and their loser husbands there as they saw them for who they really are.

There was an upside to them showing up as many of those who knew and loved my dad as some of them visited him while he was in the hospital and even called him and such. The fact that his sisters, nieces, and nephews didn’t bother to see him at the hospital or contact him during these past few years is proof of how full of shit they are and they can no longer hurt me. As far as I’m concerned, they’re not family. They never gave a fuck about me, my mother, and my sisters so in truth. We don’t give a fuck about them anymore as we have people such as my mother’s cousins, other relatives, a few of my uncles from my dad’s side who were sad over his passing, longtime family friends including those who came from Florida and Tennessee despite their own illnesses showed up at the service on the 20th of this month. That is my family and if anyone fucks with them. I will fuck those people up even worse.

Given the severity of what I’m going through, I haven’t been seeing a lot of films this month mainly because I just didn’t want to as I tried to get myself back in the game but realized I’m not exactly ready. I don’t know when I’ll be on board full time as I’ve already decided to postpone a few projects such as my Auteurs piece on David Lean as I’m going to push it again for next year. I will focus on finishing up on Kelly Reichardt and then do J.C. Chandor while I’m unsure if I want to finish the year with Michael Mann. I will still do my Blind Spots as I’ve been able to get a few DVDs with the exception of one film that I’ve been unable to get but hopefully I will by the end of the year. There is still a project relating to the MCU that I still want to do for the end of the year but I’m just going to take it slow for a while as it’s been harder to try and watch a new film on TV as I was trying to watch Harlan Country U.S.A. only to be bored and fall asleep as I decided to watch it some other time in the future.


In the month of July, I saw a total of 24 films in 10 first-timers and 14 re-watches with one film directed by a woman as part of the 52 films by Women pledge. Due to the lack of first-timers that I saw as one of the highlights has been my Blind Spot in Gone with the Wind and a big highlight in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood. I won’t post a top 10 list as some of the other films I saw I didn’t bother wanting to write reviews for.

Monthly Mini-Reviews

The Good, the Bad, the Hungry


One of three 30 for 30 documentaries that I saw this month is the only film that I saw is directed by a woman as it explores the rivalry between Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut in eating contests with the most notable rivalry being the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest every 4th of July. The film examines the rivalry as well as the reason why Kobayashi hasn’t competed due to political and financial reasons between the people who check on eating contests and such. It’s a fun piece from the ESPN series as I saw around the time Chestnut would win the contest again.

Rise of a Texas Bluesman: Stevie Ray Vaughn 1954-1983


From AXS TV is a documentary about the early life of Stevie Ray Vaughn from his birth and days playing for countless bands as a teenager to finally getting a break at the 1982 Montreaux Jazz Festival with his band Double Trouble. Through interviews from journalists, musicians, and those that knew Vaughn, the film doesn’t do enough to show more footage of Vaughn of the early days but it does manage to play into his rise and how he got discovered by Jackson Browne and David Bowie as the latter would have Vaughn play lead guitar in his 1983 album Let’s Dance.

The Cure in Orange


The 1987 concert film that was filmed at an old French amphitheater the year before by longtime Cure collaborator Tim Pope was something I had been watching on YouTube during this time of grief. It’s a look into a band that was on the rise into their commercial zenith in the late 80s/early 90s as well as playing music from their 1985 album The Head on the Door while vocalist/guitarist Robert Smith displays a new haircut which was considered shocking among his fans as he was known for his big hair. It’s a show filled with a lot of highlights as well as the sound of a band that was becoming tighter and more confident in their playing despite the changes that would emerge in the years as its proof of how great the Cure were and still is.

Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau


The second 30 for 30 documentary that I saw is about the surfer Eddie Aikau as he was a native Hawaiian who was from a large family as he would become a surfing legend yet it is more about his role as a Hawaiian. Especially in bringing back a culture that was seemed to be forgotten after the U.S. acquired the territory through nefarious means and stripped away some of the legendary aspects of the Hawaiians until Aikau would show what surfing meant to native Hawaiians dating back to the 18th Century. In 1978, Aikau and a crew of people attempted to follow an ancient route from Hawaii to Tahiti as a way to recreate the Polynesian way of traveling that unfortunately lead to Aikau’s disappearance during his attempt to find help following a storm that destroyed part of its ship. It’s a piece that fans of surfing must see but also for insight into the history of Hawaii.

Descendants


I saw this film on Disney Channel sporadically though I kind of knew what it was about as I watched it during a marathon of the two films in anticipation for the third and final film of the series. As a musical, it’s got some catchy songs but it’s also got some amazing choreography courtesy of director/co-choreographer Kenny Ortega as it is about the offspring of classic Disney villains who are sent to boarding school in a land that is the home of Disney fairy tale heroes and their offspring in an attempt to steal the Fairy Godmother’s wand for Maleficent. Yet, Maleficent’s daughter Mal and her friends find themselves wanting to be part of something bigger while they also sing and dance with Mal falling for the son of Belle and the Beast.

Slaying the Badger


The third and final 30 for 30 documentary that I saw is about the friendship/rivalry of American cyclist Greg Lemond and French cyclist Bernard Hinault as they were teammates where the former helped the latter win his fifth Tour de France. A year later, Hinault promised Lemond that he would help him win the Tour de France yet backstage politics and other issues relating to those running the team wanted Hinault to win but Lemond would eventually win. It play into the world of cycling and the Tour de France and what it took to win before the big emergence of doping and Lance Armstrong as Lemond is still considered to be the only American to have won the Tour de France while Hinault remains the last Frenchman to win the Tour de France.

Heaven’s Gate (149-minute version)


While this isn’t really a first-timer nor is it a re-watch, the shortened version of Michael Cimino’s 1980 film in its newly remastered print based on the 2012 restoration version of the film is quite odd to watch. Since it was Cimino who supervised the re-editing for its 1981 general release in the hope to have the film seen by a wide audience. It was strange in what got cut as well as where certain sequences have been shifted into one part of the film while Kris Kristofferson’s voice-over narration which was added for this version never really got me invested. I would suggest just watching the 2012 216-minute restoration version as it is the definitive version of Cimino’s film whether people liked it or not.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. From the Earth to the Moon


2. Midnight in Paris


3. Goldfinger


4. The Spy Who Loved Me


5. Follow That Bird


6. Wingspan


7. The Rocker


8. The Winning Season


9. Beverly Hills Ninja


10. Beerfest


That is it for July as the only theatrical release that I want to see is Spider-Man: Far from Home while I am unsure on what else to see. Other than films that is available on my never-ending DVR list and through some DVDs I recently bought. I also managed to acquire Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services from my sister as something for myself and mother to check out although we’re still unsure about what to do with it. Until then, this thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2019

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood


For Dad


Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is the story of an aging TV actor and his stunt double trying to make a name for themselves in Hollywood during the final years of Hollywood’s golden age before the emergence of New Hollywood. The film is a fictional look into the world of 1960s American cinema at a time when it was transitioning from big-budget spectacles in favor of more personal filmmaking as well as a look at what some saw as the end of a period of innocence following the murders committed the Charles Manson family. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Dakota Fanning, Austin Butler, Bruce Dern, and Al Pacino. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is a rapturous and evocative film from Quentin Tarantino.

It’s 1969 as the film follows the parallel journeys of an aging TV actor known for TV westerns and his next door neighbor in rising film star Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). It play into two actors who live next door yet haven’t met each other due to the trajectories of their careers yet the TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is coping with a career that is fading as he’s bringing along his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) who has now become Dalton’s driver/assistant due to his own reputation that prevented him from doing stunt work. Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay doesn’t just the explore of these paralleling career trajectories but also this emergence of something much darker that is happening in the background as it relates to the Charles Manson family as some say marked the end of a period of innocence for the 1960s and Hollywood before the emergence of the much-more personal filmmaking world of New Hollywood.

Tarantino’s script has a unique structure where its first two acts takes place during a weekend in Hollywood as the first act relates to Dalton’s career woes and the lack of options he has in his career as he’s also succumb to alcoholism with Booth helping him out anyway he can. The script would also show flashbacks into how Booth received notoriety not just for what he did in his personal life but also how he would lose his job due to a friendly tussle with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). The first act also has Dalton meet with producer/agent Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) who knows that Dalton still has some juice left but is also aware of the limited options he has as he would offer him work in Italy for some Spaghetti Westerns which Dalton is unsure about as he’s doing work on TV guest appearances for money.

The second act is about Dalton doing a TV show as he struggles to remember his lines while Booth does some repairs at Dalton’s home where he would later encounter a young hippie in Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) who had been flirting with him from afar as he gives her a ride home only to realize where she lives as it’s also the home of a man whom Booth and Dalton worked at a TV show the latter starred in George Spahn (Bruce Dern). The first and second act also showcase the life that Tate was having as she is someone on the rise and married to filmmaker Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) as she would go to parties with Polanski and her longtime friend Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch) and on the next day would watch herself in one of her films in The Wrecking Crew with an audience as they praise her while she would earlier receive a copy of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. The film’s third act takes place six months after the events of the first two act on August of 1969 where Tate, Sebring, and others would be killed by the Manson family. Yet, it’s more about the direction that Dalton has taken with his career as well as this end of an era for himself and Booth with this sense of change in Hollywood.

Tarantino’s direction definitely bears a lot of visual styles that play into this world of 1969 Los Angeles/Hollywood where it is shot on location in the city as it also serves as a character of the film itself. While there are some wide shots of the city including in some locations and this atmosphere of what it was like back in 1969 in this transition from the 1960s to the 1970s. Tarantino also maintains an intimacy but also this romanticism of a craftsmanship of what it was like working in Hollywood on studio lots and sound stages during those times. Notably in TV westerns that Dalton starred in as he would work on a western while reveal what goes on behind the scenes as it does showcase the struggles of an actor and what some will do to pass the time such as Booth’s tussle with Bruce Lee. Tarantino’s usage of high crane shots to get a look into the locations including the city itself as well as tracking shots for parts of the film showcase a filmmaker definitely taking everything he’s done and refining it to showcase a world that was rich and exciting.

Tarantino’s usage of close-ups and medium shots are important as it play into conversations between characters including one key moment where Dalton is on set shooting for a TV pilot where he converses with a young actress named Trudi Fraser (Julia Butters) who takes her work seriously yet understands what it means to be an actor even though she’s only 8 years old. It’s a small little scene in the film that does play into Dalton’s own insecurities and the realization that he’s on his way out but this young girl would give him a sense of hope into who he is and why he still matters despite the changing times. The film does feature some off-screen narration by a stunt coordinator in Randy (Kurt Russell) who only appears in one sequence of the film but his narration does play into the narrative as it relate to the different paths that Dalton and Tate would embark on. Even in the film’s third act as it relates to the infamous night of the Tate-LaBianca murders on August as there is this sense of something that is coming to an end. Yet, Tarantino builds up the drama and suspense slowly to play into the climax but with an added sense of mania and terror in the most unexpected way. Overall, Tarantino crafts a riveting and exhilarating film about a fading TV actor and his stunt double trying to survive the final days of Hollywood’s Golden Age just as a young starlet is on the rise against the backdrop of the Charles Manson family.

Cinematographer Robert Richardson does incredible work with the film’s cinematography from the way the interiors of a western set is lit in the daytime as well as the usage of low-key lights for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night as it’s a highlight of the film. Editor Fred Raskin does amazing work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts, freeze-frames, and other stylish cuts to play into some of the film’s humor and drama as well as these abrupt cuts for some of the flashback sequences. Production designer Barbara Ling, with set decorator Nancy Haigh and supervising art director Richard L. Johnson, does brilliant work with the film’s set design including the home that Dalton lives in as well as the trailer that Booth lives in with his pitbull Brandy and some of the sets that Dalton works at as an actor.

Costume designer Arianne Phillips does excellent work with the costumes from the stylish clothes that Tate wore including the go-go boots and some of the clothes of the men including the leather jacket that Dalton wears. Prosthetic makeup artist Stephen Bettles does fantastic work with the makeup in the look that Dalton would sport for the TV appearance he would be in as well as the look he would have later on in its third act. Special effects supervisor Jeremy Hays and visual effects designer John Dykstra do terrific work with the special effects with Hays providing some effects in some of the weapons Dalton uses on set including a flamethrower for a World War II film he made while Dykstra creates some visual effects that include a shot of Dalton doing a scene in The Great Escape as well as the look of TV shows during that time.

Sound editor Wylie Stateman does superb work with the sound in creating an atmosphere into some of the settings including the party at the Playboy Mansion as well as in some of the locations including the sparse texture of Booth’s encounter with the hippies at an old ranch. Music supervisor Mary Ramos does wonderful work with the film’s music soundtrack as it features an array of music ranging from a score piece by Maurice Jarre to the music of the times from the likes of Deep Purple, Neil Diamond, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Jose Feliciano, Vanilla Fudge, Los Bravos, Dee Clark, Chad & Jeremy, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Seger, the Box Tops, Mitch Ryder, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and the Buchanan Brothers.

The casting by Victoria Thomas is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen, Dreama Walker as Connie Stevens, Rebecca Rittenhouse as Michelle Phillips, Rachel Redleaf as Cass Elliot, Damon Herriman as Charles Manson, Rumer Willis as Tate’s friend Joanna Pettet, Samantha Robinson and Costa Ronin in their respective roles as Tate’s friends Abigail Folger and Wojciech Frykowski, Rafal Zawierucha as Tate’s husband in filmmaker Roman Polanski, Ramon Franco as a movie theater manager, Clu Gulager as a book store owner, Nicholas Hammond as American actor/director Sam Wanamaker, Kate Berlant as a movie ticket booth attendant, and Spencer Garrett as TV personality Allen Kincaid. In the roles as hippies and members of the Manson family include Sydney Sweeney as Snake, Harley Quinn Smith as Froggie, Kansas Bowling as Sandra Good, Danielle Harris, James Landry Herbert as Steve Grogan, Victoria Pedretti as Leslie Van Houten, Lena Dunham as Catherine Share, and as the trio of women who would take part in the murders in Madisen Beaty as Patricia Krenwinkel, Mikey Madisen as Susan “Sadie” Atkins, and Maya Hawke as a reluctant Linda Kasabian.

Other film appearances and cameos include Michael Madsen as a sheriff on Dalton’s hit TV show Bounty Law, Martin Kove and James Remar as villains in Bounty Law, Marco Rodriguez as a bartender in the show Dalton is appearing as a guest in Lancer, Scoot McNairy as a gunslinger in Lancer, Clifton Collins Jr. as a cowboy in Lancer, Rebecca Gayheart as Booth’s wife in a flashback scene, Lorenza Izzo as an Italian actress Dalton meets in the third act, Zoe Bell as Randy’s stunt coordinator wife Janet, Mike Moh as the kung fu legend Bruce Lee, and Luke Perry in a terrific appearance in one of his final performances as the famed Canadian actor Wayne Maunder who also makes an appearance on the show Lancer. Bruce Dern is superb in his brief role as ranch owner George Spahn whom Booth knew a long time ago and wanted to say hi with Dern playing someone unaware of whom he’s renting his land to while Dakota Fanning is fantastic as Manson family follower Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme who sort of runs the land for Manson.

Austin Butler is terrific in his role as Manson family follower Charles “Tex” Watson who is considered Manson’s enforcer as he leads the killings on that dark August night. Julia Butters is excellent as Trudi Fraser as a child actress that Dalton meets on the set of Lancer as she is a young method actor who is committed to her craft while giving Dalton some confidence. Emile Hirsch is brilliant as Jay Sebring as Tate’s former fiancée who has become a revered hairstylist as well as a close friend of Tate and Polanski as someone who is enjoying the ride of Tate’s rising fame while Margaret Qualley is amazing as Pussycat as a young hippie who flirts and befriends Dalton while would introduce him to the people from the Manson family. Timothy Olyphant is marvelous in his small role as TV star James Stacy who is the lead in the show Lancer as he wants to help Dalton by giving him a guest spot on the show as a way to pay him back. Kurt Russell is great as the stunt coordinator/off-screen narrator Randy as a guy who is aware of Booth’s reputation but is also someone that isn’t afraid to call out on other people’s bullshit. Al Pacino is remarkable as Marvin Schwarz as an agent/producer who wants to help Dalton out but also remind him of the small prospects he has left as he knows what might help and save his career for a while even if Dalton wouldn’t like it.

Margot Robbie is incredible as Sharon Tate as this actress on the rise who is a woman of innocence as she is enjoying her life and growing fame but is also someone that is also kind and gracious to others where Robbie just exudes all of those qualities that Tate was known for. Finally, there’s the duo of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. Pitt’s performance as Booth is full of charisma but also someone who definitely is more of a real cowboy than the characters that Dalton play as he is also someone who doesn’t live lavishly but is more grounded as well as be supportive for Dalton anyway he can while carrying his pitbull Brandy who gets to steal parts of the film herself. DiCaprio’s performance as Dalton is someone filled with charm and good looks, that was typical of actors from the late 50s/early 60s, yet is dealing with alcoholism and a fading career as he struggles to figure out what to do next as it’s truly one of DiCaprio’s great performances while his scenes with Pitt are just magical to watch.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is a magnificent film from Quentin Tarantino. Featuring a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, a compelling and insightful script, throwbacks to the late 1960s, exploration of Hollywood innocence and its Golden Age, and a rocking music soundtrack. The film is definitely an entertaining as well as a beautiful portrait of a moment in time when Hollywood was more than just a city for the stars but a place where dreams can come true. In the end, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is an outstanding film from Quentin Tarantino.

Quentin Tarantino Films: Reservoir Dogs - Pulp Fiction - Four Rooms-The Man from Hollywood - Jackie Brown - Kill Bill - Grindhouse-Death Proof - Inglourious Basterds - Django Unchained - The Hateful Eight

Related: The Auteurs #17: Quentin Tarantino - Growing Up with Quentin Tarantino

© thevoid99 2019

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Love, Simon



Based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon is the story of a closeted high schooler who is trying to find the identity of a classmate who has fallen in love with him while trying to come out to his family and friends and deal with someone threatening to reveal his secret. Directed by Greg Berlanti and screenplay by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, the film is an exploration of a young man trying to discover himself during a time in his life as he questions what those close to him would think about him being possibly gay. Starring Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Logan Miller, Tony Hale, Josh Duhamel, and Jennifer Garner. Love, Simon is a heartwarming and riveting film from Greg Berlanti.

A high school senior who seems to have it all finds himself confused about his identity after reading a post about a classmate who is struggling to come out of the closet prompting him to find out that person’s identity as well as wonder when to come out to friends and family. It’s a film about a young man trying to discover more about himself as well as falling for another young man who has chosen to remain anonymous as they both cope with idea of coming out. The film’s screenplay by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger follows the young life of Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) who is just a typical kid that has friends and a nice family but is dealing with the fact that he might be gay through this blog post where a classmate is struggling to come out. For Simon, he tries to figure out that person’s identity yet another classmate in Martin (Logan Miller) accidentally reads one of Simon’s emails and blackmails him so that he can get a chance to go out with one of Simon’s friends in Abby (Alexandra Shipp) whom Simon had met just six months ago.

The script also play into the anxieties of Simon wanting to tell family and friends as the first person he comes out to is Abby who agrees to keep it a secret but has no clue about Martin’s presence. Adding to the chaos is the search for the identity of this classmate known as Blue as Simon would have a few suspicions but he would eventually keep himself away from his friends unintentionally adding to the emotional turmoil he would endure.

Greg Berlanti’s direction is straightforward in terms of its visuals while also playing with the ideas expected in romantic films as well as teen comedies. Shot and set on various locations in and near Atlanta, Berlanti doesn’t try to aim for anything stylish in the visuals or create any sequences that are big to showcase the life of a teenager struggling to come out. While there’s some wide shots that Berlanti uses including for a fantasy musical sequence of Simon imagining having already being out and in college where the whole world is gay. Much of Berlanti’s compositions rely on close-ups and medium shots as well as using some real locations such as a Waffle House for a scene involving Simon, Abby, and Martin as well as a waiter who might be Blue. Even as he would use blue filters to play into the idea of who Blue is as whenever he’s typing things on his laptop. Berlanti also knows how to create that moment of drama as it relates to Simon having to come out and its aftermath where there are some revelations from the people who knew him but also from others who knew him from afar. Yet, Berlanti does instill some heart as it relates to Simon’s discovery about himself without trying to play too much into the typical elements expected in LGBT films and romantic comedies. Overall, Berlanti crafts a riveting and heartfelt film about a high school senior coping with his identity and the mystery of the person who is also struggling to come out.

Cinematographer John Guleserian does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward in its lighting and emphasis on natural colors for the daytime exterior scenes along with its usage of bluish filters for the idea of who Blue might be. Editor Harry Jierjian does nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward including some rhythmic cuts for some key dramatic moments in the film. Production designer Aaron Osborne and set decorator Tasha Clarkson do fantastic work with the interiors of Simon’s family home as well as the school and a few places the characters go to.

Costume designer Eric Daman does terrific work with the Halloween costumes some of the characters wear including the clothes worn for a high school musical performance of Cabaret. Sound editor Donald Sylvester does superb work with the film’s sound in maintaining the raucous atmosphere of high school and in some of the parties as well as quieter scenes in some of the film’s dramatic moments. The film’s music by Rob Simonsen is wonderful for its synthesizer-driven music that harkens to the style of the 1980s as well as contemporary music while music supervisor Season Kent create a soundtrack that consists a mixture of modern pop/electro-pop music as well as older music from the Kinks, Warrant, Jackson 5, Whitney Houston, Bobby Pickett, Brenton Woods, and Violent Femmes.

The casting by Denise Chaiman, Tara Feldstein, and Chase Paris is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Nye Reynolds and Bryson Pitts in their respective roles as the 5 and 10-year old versions of Simon, Skye Mowbray as the younger version of Simon’s younger sister Nora, Natasha Rothwell as the drama teacher Ms. Albright, Clark Moore as the openly-gay student Ethan, Miles Heizer as a drama student whom Simon might think is Blue, Joey Pollari as a Waffle House waiter whom Simon also thinks could be Blue, and Keiyan Lonsdale as the school jock Abraham “Bram” Greenfeld whom Simon befriends as he would think Bram’s real identity is Blue. Tony Hale is terrific as Simon’s vice Principal Mr. Worth as a man who is liked by many for not being too strict yet expresses concern for Simon including a scene where Simon and Ethan are mocked as he lectures the students who mock them showing that he means business. Talitha Bateman is fantastic as Simon’s younger sister Nora who aspires to be a cook as she becomes concerned for her brother as well as knowing more about him than he already knows.

Logan Miller is superb as Martin Addison as a student who blackmails Simon in the hopes of hooking up with Abby where even though he’s a well-meaning person despite holding on to Simon’s secret. Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. are excellent in their respective roles in Abby and Nick as a couple of Simon’s friends who are dealing with the chaos of high school as the former is among the first to learn about Simon’s secret. Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel are brilliant in their respective roles as Emily and Jack Spier as Simon and Nora’s parents who notice odd things about Simon while they also cope with the news of his secret with both of them coping with the news. Katherine Langford is amazing as Leah Burke as Simon’s longtime childhood friend who is trying to understand what Simon is dealing with while carrying a secret of her own as it would impact their friendship as well as so much more. Finally, there’s Nick Robinson in a remarkable performance as Simon Spier as a high school senior troubled by his growing sexual identity as he also tries to figure out the identity of a person named Blue as it’s calm and touching performance from Robinson who manages to capture the excitement and fear of coming out.

Love, Simon is a marvelous film from Greg Berlanti that features an incredible leading performance from Nick Robinson. Along with its supporting cast, study of homosexuality and coming out, and its exploration of young love. It’s a film that manages to be engaging as well as be daring at times to showcase the struggles of a young man trying to come out. In the end, Love, Simon is a splendid film from Greg Berlanti.

© thevoid99 2019

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

2019 Blind Spot Series: Gone with the Wind



Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind is the story of a plantation owner’s daughter and her pursuit towards a man only to be pursued by another gentleman who tries to get her to see things differently. Produced by David O. Selznick, directed by Victor Fleming, with additional directing by George Cukor and Sam Wood, and screenplay by Sidney Howard. The film is an epic romantic drama that play into a woman coping with her romantic feelings while dealing with the chaos of the American Civil War. Starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Haviland, Leslie Howard, and Hattie McDaniel. Gone with the Wind is a sprawling and monumental film from producer David O. Selznick.

Told in the span of 12 years during the American Civil War and its aftermath, the film follows the life of the daughter of a plantation owner whose infatuation for a man leads her to being pursued by another man as she deals with her own desires and passion amidst the chaos and turmoil of the American Civil War. It’s a film that explore the journey of a woman who has known a life of comfort and luxury in the American South just days before the Civil War began as she would later endure all sorts of trials and tribulations yet would also embark on relationships either for social or financial gain as a way to fill the void for her heart’s desire as she would attract the attention of a man who admires her spirit. Even as she would get a lot of things in her life but her love for this other man who would be married to another woman who would also become a dear friend to her would also play into her undoing.

The film’s screenplay by Sidney Howard, with un-credited contributions from Ben Hecht, Jo Swerling, Oliver H.P. Garrett, and John Van Druten, play into the journey that Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) would embark on in her pursuit of longtime family friend Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) hoping to be married to him. However, Wilkes is engaged to his cousin Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Haviland) which upsets O’Hara as she would continuously pine for Wilkes as well as get the attention of a guest in Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) who is intrigued by O’Hara. The first act is about the events before and during the war as O’Hara tries to pursue Wilkes yet would later engage into a couple of marriages that would be doomed with the first marriage to Melanie’s younger brother Charles (Rand Brooks) and then to his sister’s fiancé Frank Kennedy (Carroll Nye) in the film’s second act. It has a unique structure with its first half being about the early years of the war but also Sherman’s march through Georgia that would destroy nearly everything as well as the life that O’Hara and the people that she knew would be gone.

It’s not just in the structure of the script that is crucial to the film with its second half playing into the aftermath of the Civil War and the Reconstruction period but also into some of the development of the characters. While O’Hara would be humbled by the sense of loss she endured including around her family home of Tara, there is still this foolish pursuit of Wilkes who admits to having feelings for her but is still in love with Melanie. Melanie turns out to be a far more interesting character in terms of her gracefulness as well as being a person of reason where she seems to know more of what is going on rather than be oblivious. Then there’s Butler who is a man of charm but also someone who understands what is important as he does whatever he can to help out other people where he would really come into play in the film’s third act as someone who puts duty and family over everything else rather than O’Hara who is concerned with trying to live a lifestyle and pine for Wilkes.

The film’s direction by Victor Fleming is definitely sprawling in terms of its setting and grand visuals. Shot largely on studio and locations in Southern California including the studios in Los Angeles and Ventura County, the film does recreate this world of the American South that is lavish and full of ideals with a thriving economy and such despite the fact that they enjoyed the idea of slavery even though O’Hara and her family actually treat their slaves kinder than others in the maid Mammy (Hattie McDaniel) who would often put O’Hara in her place as well as run the house. With some contributions from George Cukor and Sam Wood during parts of the production, Fleming is able to maintain this atmosphere for much of the film’s early parts of the first act as this serene world yet there is something about that feels false due to the imagery of slavery where it is painted romantically which is far from what really did happen. When the horrors of war would emerge, the fantasy that O’Hara and her fellow Southerners had been living in burned right in front of their faces.

The usage of the wide shots including the grand detail in the crane shots that Fleming uses in a scene where O’Hara tries to find a doctor for Melanie as it’s presented in a small wide shot and then this vast crane to show all of these dead and wounded soldiers. The usage of tracking and dolly shots along with some of the presentation of the action including the scenes of the burning of Atlanta are among some of the finest usage of scenery during the first half of the film. The second act which is about the aftermath and O’Hara’s desire to return to Tara with an ailing Melanie and her baby in tow along with the maid Prissy (Butterfly McQueen). The second half begins with the rebuilding of Tara but also the arrival of the carpetbaggers as it would play into O’Hara trying to create a life similar to what she had despite having to live in Atlanta and at a smaller home. Due to her desire to make more money, she would eventually encounter a shantytown and trouble leading to an incident where it would be Butler that would help her out once again leading to their marriage and the film’s third act.

The third act is definitely the most dramatic as it play into Butler and O’Hara’s marriage and family life as well as what Butler is trying to create in this post-Civil War lifestyle that is sort of similar to the past but with some major differences. The usage of the close-ups and medium shots help play into the drama with some striking compositions as well as moments that are ambiguous. Notably in a scene where Butler would take O’Hara up to their room where even though it’s presented in a romantic tone, it does raises question into the idea of marital rape although Butler is later appalled by his actions. There is that ambiguity as it all play into O’Hara’s foolish pursuit towards Wilkes with Butler feeling spurned by what is happening as he thinks about their daughter as well as Melanie whom he cares for as a friend. Its ending is about not just this air of foolishness for both Butler and O’Hara but also in some serious revelations for both of them. Overall, producer David O. Selznick and director Victor Fleming create a spectacularly rich and majestic film about a Southern gentleman wooing a spoiled plantation daughter during the backdrop of the American Civil War and its aftermath.

Cinematographers Ernest Haller, Lee Garmes, and Ray Rennahan do amazing work with the film’s gorgeous Technicolor cinematography with its usage of colors for some scenes in the sunlight along with its usage of shadows as well as the grand detail into how vibrant the exteriors are in times when it was rich as well as how harrowing it looks following the events of the Civil War. Editors Hal C. Kern and James E. Newcom do excellent work with the editing with its usage of rhythmic cuts to play into the action and drama as well as letting shots play on for some of the film’s big moments. Production designer William Cameron Menzies, with set decorator Howard Bristol and art director Lyle Wheeler, does amazing work with the look of the mansion and land that is Tara along with some of the lavish homes of the Wilkes and many others as well as some of the ruined places and Atlanta post-Civil War. Costume designer Walter Plunkett does fantastic work with the costumes from the lavish design of the dresses and hats the women wear along with the suits and uniforms the men wore.

The visual effects work of Jack Cosgrove, Fred Albin, and Arthur Johns is terrific for some of the backdrops that is created including the scenes during the Fall of Atlanta with its images of fire. Sound recordist Thomas T. Moulton and sound editor Gordon Sawyer do superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the parties as well as the sounds of war. The film’s music by Max Steiner is incredible for its soaring and majestic orchestral score with its sweeping string arrangements and lush orchestral themes along with its take on traditional music of the times including Dixie.

The casting by Charles Richards and Fred Schuessler is marvelous for the massive ensemble that is assembled for the film as it feature some notable small roles from Cammie King Conlon as Rhett and Scarlett’s daughter Bonnie, Mickey Kuhn as Ashley and Melanie’s son Beau, Louis Jean Heydt as a Confederate soldier holding the baby Beau, Olin Howland as a carpetbagger businessman, Ward Bond as a Yankee captain trying to find suspects over a shantytown attack, Leona Roberts as Mrs. Meade, Harry Davenport as Dr. Meade, Laura Hopes Crew as Melanie’s Aunt Pittypat Hamilton, Everett Brown as the O’Hara’s field foreman Big Sam who would later save Scarlett at the shantytown, Victor Jory as the field overseer Jonas, Butterfly McQueen as the house servant Prissy who helps Scarlett with Melanie, Paul Hurst as a Yankee deserter trying to rob Tara, Howard Hickman as Ashley’s father John, George Reeves and Fred Crane in their respective roles as Scarlett’s brothers Stuart and Brent, and Ona Munson in a fantastic performance as the brothel madam Belle Watling as a woman who is known for a certain reputation yet is someone far more intriguing as she is a friend of Butler as well as someone Melanie admires.

Rand Brooks and Carroll Nye are terrific in their respective roles as Melanie’s brother Charles and Frank Kennedy as two men who would marry Scarlett in different periods in Scarlett’s life only to be unaware that she doesn’t love either of them. Evelyn Keyes and Ann Rutherford are wonderful in their respective roles as Scarlett’s sisters in Suellen and Carreen with the former as the younger of the two who really hates Scarlett for being bossy. Thomas Mitchell and Barbara O’Neal are superb in their respective roles as Scarlett’s parents in Gerald and Ellen O’Hara with the former being an Irishman trying to hold on to his land and ideals during the dark days of the war. Leslie Howard is excellent as Ashley Wilkes as the object of desire for Scarlett as a gentleman who joins the Confederacy as an officer as he deals with the realities of war while is torn for his love for Melanie but also his own feelings for Scarlett although he’s someone with not much personality.

Hattie McDaniel is brilliant as the housemaid Mammy as a woman who always says what is on her mind and doesn’t take shit from anyone while also running the house as she is sort of the film’s conscience despite being a sort of typical and subservient figure for the O’Hara family. Olivia de Haviland is amazing as Melanie Wilkes as Ashley’s cousin/wife who is a woman of grace and understanding as well as being the smartest person out there as it relates to Scarlett’s feelings for Ashley but also is someone who can bring the best in someone as well as be a sense of warmth for those feeling sad. 

Vivien Leigh is remarkable as Scarlett O’Hara as this spoiled daughter of a plantation owner whose pursuit of Ashley would put her into foolish situations or moments by chance as it is a wild and over-the-top performance of a woman that is so intent on winning Ashley while at times being humbled and forced to swallow her pride. Finally, there’s Clark Gable in a tremendous performance as Rhett Butler as a Southern gentleman from Charleston who charms his way into any situations while being fascinated by Scarlett and her passion as well as being someone that is willing to humble her as well as cope with his own shortcomings including how he’s been unable to try and win over her due to her feelings for Ashley.

Gone with the Wind is an astonishingly rich and sensational film from Victor Fleming and producer David O. Selznick. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a soaring music score, top-notch production values, and a story of love and pursuit during the era of the American Civil War and its aftermath. It’s a film that is grand in its visuals and tone despite some of romanticism towards the time of the American South and its ideas of slavery. In the end, Gone with the Wind is a spectacular film from Victor Fleming and producer David O. Selznick.

© thevoid99 2019

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Super Troopers 2




Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar and written and starring the Broken Lizard troupe of Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske, Super Troopers 2 is a sequel to the 2001 film that has a group of highway state troopers getting back in the game to deal with a border dispute with Canada over a piece of land. The film is a comedy that follows the five troublemakers who now deal with new problems as well as being out of the job for some time. Also starring Marisa Coughlan, Rob Lowe, Emmanuelle Chirqui, Tyler Labine, Will Sasso, Paul Walter Hauser, Lynda Carter, and Brian Cox returning as Captain John O’Hagen. Super Troopers 2 is an entertaining and wild film from Broken Lizard.

Several years after events from the first film that also involved a tragic incident involving actor Fred Savage, the film follow a group of former highway state troopers who are asked to get back on board to watch over a section of land in Canada that is to be transferred back to the U.S. much to the dismay of the locals. It’s a film that play into five guys who get their old jobs back but have to complete a task to keep the job yet they have to deal with a trio of Canadian Mounties who don’t want to lose their jobs as well as all sorts of shit. The film’s screenplay by the Broken Lizard troupe explore the five men trying to get back on board but also maintain their sense of shenanigans and pranks as they also reunite with Captain John O’Hagen who is leading the task despite issues with the Canadians in this small Quebecois town who really don’t want to become Americans. Adding to the turmoil for the troopers is the discovery of some of narcotics, firearms, and other things where they’re aided by a cultural attaché in Genevieve Aubois (Emmanuelle Chirqui) as well as deal with the town’s mayor Guy Le Franc (Rob Lowe).

Jay Chandrasekhar’s direction is largely straightforward though it opens with this fantasy sequence of the troopers as a rock band on tour and pulling a prank on a couple of troopers. Shot on location in Ware, Massachusetts, Chandrasekhar’s direction play into this area that doesn’t share much difference between America and Canada but there is still this air of culture clash in the post-Barack Obama era of America. While many of Chandrasekhar’s compositions are simple in the wide and medium shots along with some close-ups, Chandrasekhar does maintain a sense of energy into the humor while creating moments that are surreal as it relate to the adventures of the troopers with Farva (Kevin Heffernan) trying to cause trouble and Thorny (Jay Chandrasekhar) trying to keep things under control despite his growing addiction to one of the drugs he’s found that’s made him super-sensitive. While the film has a subplot in which Rabbit (Erik Stolhanske) trying to start a relationship with Aubois, Chandrasekhar does maintain a focus on the narrative of the troopers and its eventual climax involving the Mounties as it involves this smuggling ring and the intention of the smugglers. Overall, Chandrasekhar crafts a witty and exciting film about state troopers trying to watch over a land transfer from Canada to America.

Cinematographer Joe Collins does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward with some low-key lighting for some of the interiors set at night including a bordello scene in the film. Editor Spencer Houck does nice work with the editing as it has some stylish cuts including a few montage sequences and some rhythmic cuts to play into the humor. Production designer Cabot McMullen, with set decorator Sophie Carlhian and art director Lawrence Sampson, does fantastic work with the building the troopers station themselves in as well as the interior of the bordello and a restaurant they go to late in the film. Costume designer Debra McGuire does terrific work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward including the uniforms the troopers wear.

Special effects makeup artist Rob Fitz does brilliant work with some of the fake gore used in the film’s opening fantasy sequence as well as a surreal sequence involving drugs. Visual effects supervisors Brian Kubovcik and Jason Piccioni do amazing work for a few visual effects scenes that involve drugs including a commercial involving a women’s prescription drug. Sound designer Lawrence Zipf does superb work with the sound as it help play into the atmosphere of the bars and some of the film’s exterior locations. The film’s music by Eagles of Death Metal is wonderful for its mixture of blues and rock as it play into the film’s humor while music supervisor Ann Kline create a soundtrack that is mainly focused on rock, folk, and country music with a few songs from Eagles of Death Metal.

The casting by Venus Kanani and Mary Vernieu is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Fred Savage as himself, Seann William Scott and Damon Wayans Jr. as a couple of troopers, Clifton Collins Jr. as a tour bus driver, Bruce McCullough as a Canadian border officer, and Jim Gaffigan reprising his role as a passenger from the first film who endures the antics of the troopers. Other notable small roles include Paul Walter Hauser as Aubois’ obnoxious boss, Marisa Coughlan as the Spurburry police chief/Foster’s girlfriend Ursula, and Lynda Carter as Governor Jessman who gives the troopers a chance to get their jobs back. The trio of Tyler Labine, Hayes MacArthur, and Will Sasso are terrific in their respective roles as the Canadian Mounties in Sgt. Christopher Bellefuille, Staff Sgt. Major Henri Podigen, and Sgt. Major Roger Archambault who both have legit grudges towards the troopers for taking their jobs as they played a few pranks on the troopers yet aren’t really bad guys because they’re losing their jobs.

Rob Lowe is superb as the mayor/Montreal Canadiens hockey legend Guy “The Halifax Explosion” Le Franc as a man who is trying to show the troopers the town he lives in as well as the fact that the locals don’t like the troopers where he does whatever he can to not help them with the transfer. Emmanuelle Chirqui is fantastic as Genevieve Aubois as a cultural attaché trying to smooth over the transition while having feelings for Rabbit. Brian Cox is excellent as Captain O’Hagan as the troopers’ former chief who is tasked with running the troopers and ensuring that no trouble occur while he would engage in his own idea of shenanigans following a prank from the Mounties.

Finally, there’s the Broken Lizard troupe in brilliant performance with Paul Soter as the reserved yet playful Carl Foster who is trying to work and maintain his relationship with Ursula while Steve Lemme’s performance as the more playful MacIntyre “Mac” Womack is full of energy as someone that likes to play pranks. Erik Stolhanske’s performance as Robbie “Rabbit” Roto as the long-standing rookie of the gang who enjoys pranks while finding himself falling for Aubois. Kevin Heffernan’s performance as Rodney “Rod” Farva is hilarious as this obnoxious, foul-mouth, ill-tempered, and idiotic trooper who gets into a lot of trouble as well as bring trouble to the troopers. Finally, there’s Jay Chandrasekhar as Arcot “Thorny” Ramathorn as the senior trooper who is trying to keep things at bay while becoming addicted to feminine-sensitivity prescriptions.

Super Troopers 2 is a remarkable film from Jay Chandrasekhar and the Broken Lizard troupe. Featuring a great cast, lots of bawdy humor, and themes of political relations between countries and their cultural differences. It’s a film that doesn’t take itself seriously while providing some commentary on U.S. foreign relations post-Barack Obama. In the end, Super Troopers 2 is a marvelous film from Jay Chandrasekhar and Broken Lizard.

Broken Lizard Films: (Puddle Cruiser) – Super Troopers - Club Dread - Beerfest - (The Slammin’ Salmon) – (Broken Lizard Stands Up) – (Freeloaders (2012 film))

© thevoid99 2019

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Toy Story 4




Directed by Josh Cooley and screenplay by Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton from a story by Cooley, Folsom, Stanton, John Lasseter, Rashida Jones, Will McCormack, Valerie LaPointe, and Martin Hynes, Toy Story 4 is the fourth film of the Toy Story film series in which Woody, Buzz, and the old gang adjust to life under their new owner Bonnie who created a new toy out of a plastic spork she named Forky who deals with his being created and being a toy. The film is an unusual road movie of sorts that has Woody trying to help Forky with his new role in which the film deals with existentialism as well as the other lives of toys including Bo Peep who has lived a new life in the world of carnivals. Featuring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Bonnie Hunt, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Blake Clark, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Timothy Dalton, Kristen Schaal, Jeff Carlin, Estelle Harris, and Don Rickles in a posthumous voice appearance as Mr. Potato Head. Toy Story 4 is a majestic and heartwarming film from Josh Cooley and Pixar.

The film is about a group of toys trying to help a newly-created toy made out of a plastic spork named Forky (Tony Hale) adjust to his new role though he considers himself to be trash only for Woody (Tom Hanks) to try and show him the importance of his role to their owner Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw). It’s a film that explores the idea of being a toy where Woody is aware that he’s being phased out unintentionally as he knows that Bonnie is having a hard time adjusting to growing up and going to kindergarten. The film’s screenplay by Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton explores not just Woody’s anxiety to make sure that Bonnie will be fine through this toy she made in Forky but also to see a world where toys can do so much more. Notably as Woody and the gang go on a road trip with Bonnie and her parents (Jay Hernandez and Lori Alan) where Woody notices Forky’s attempt to kill himself as he still thinks he’s trash. When Forky does escape from the RV and Woody tries to save him, they walk down to the nearest town where Woody discovers an old lamp at an antique store that his previous owner’s sister used to have.

It is in this town he reunites with Bo Peep (Annie Potts) whom he hadn’t seen in nine years after being given away to a new owner along with her three sheep as she has made a comfortable life traveling with a carnival of toys including the Canadian stunt toy Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), a couple of plush toys in Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele), and a pocket toy cop named Giggle McDimples (Ally Maki) who would help Woody retrieve Forky with Buzz joining to find Woody at the carnival as Forky meets a doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) who seems like an evil toy but is really an anti-hero as someone who never had a proper voice box nor was ever really played with. Caboom is a toy that believed to have failed his previous owner due to his inability to perform the stunts the commercial claimed the toy could do. It all play into this idea of existence which is quite bold for a film whose target audience is mainly children yet knows how to approach it without being too heavy-handed or complicated.

Josh Cooley’s direction opens with a flashback scene set nine years before the events of the main narrative is when Bo Peep and her sheep along with its lamp is being taken away where Woody has a conversation with Bo before her departure after saving R.C. from being swept down a drain storm. It then shifts into the journey that Woody, Buzz, Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr. Potato Head, Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris), Slinky the Dog (Blake Clark), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), the Pizza Planet aliens (Jeff Pidgeon), and Rex (Wallace Shawn) had taken as they would become part of a new family with Dolly (Bonnie Hunt), Trixie (Kristen Schaal), Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), and Buttercup (Jeff Garlin) with Bonnie as their owner. With the aid of animation director Aaron J. Hartline, Cooley does broaden the scale more as it relates to the world that Woody and the gang embark on in this road trip while they’re keeping watch on Forky who is convinced he is trash where Cooley’s direction would maintain some intimate compositions in the close-ups and medium shots for conversations between Woody and Forky.

Cooley’s usage of the wide shots play into the scope of the world that Woody and the gang go to which is a traveling carnival along with a nearby antique store where Gabby Gabby and her army of ventriloquist dummies in the Bensons live in. With the aid of cinematographers Patrick Lin and Jean-Claude Kalache, Cooley would maintain a visual atmosphere inside the store including a few places that Bo knows where to go and hide while the exteriors of the carnival at night are among some of the great visual elements of the film. It add to the drama that Woody has to endure upon in his attempt to retrieve Forky where he also has to come to terms with the fact about all toys when they’re being phased out where Bo offers him a world that proves to be just as lively. Even as he would get Forky to understand his role and Buzz to take on a bigger role for Bonnie as it all play into the importance of toys in a child’s development but also what toys can do without their owners and help other toys. Overall, Cooley crafts a touching yet intoxicating film about toys dealing with their roles while helping a hand-crafted toy understand about his identity.

Editor Axel Gedde does excellent work with the editing as it play into some of the humor and drama with its usage of rhythmic cuts as well as a montage of Forky trying to destroy himself. Production designer Bob Pauley and art director Laura Phillips do amazing work with the look of the interior of the antique store as well as the design of the carnival and its rides as it add to the visual splendor of the film. Sound designer Ren Klyce and co-supervising sound editor Coya Elliott do fantastic work with the sound in some of the sound effects that are created as well as the layers of sound in the carnival scenes along with the broken voice box of Gabby Gabby. The film’s music by Randy Newman is brilliant for its mixture of lush orchestral music with a French-inspired theme for Caboom in his flashback and bits of country including a few original songs by Newman where one of them is performed by Chris Stapleton.

The casting by Natalie Lyon and Kevin Reher is incredible as it feature voice appearances from Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea as a Duke Caboom commercial announcer, Bill Hader as a carny named Axel, Alan Oppenheimer as a clock known as Old Timer, Mel Brooks as dusty old elephant in Melephant Brooks, Patricia Arquette as the mother of a young girl named Harmony, Carl Reiner as a dusty rhino in Carl Reineroceros, Carol Burnett as a dusty chair named Chairol Burnett, Betty White as a toy named Bitey White, Lila Sage Bromley as a young girl named Harmony, Melissa Villasenor as Bonnie’s kindergarten teacher Karen Beverly, Ricky Henderson as a bobblehead figure of himself, John Morris and Jack McGraw in their respective roles as the older and younger version of Andy, and Laurie Metcalf as Andy’s mom in the flashback scene.

Other noteworthy appearances in voice roles include Jay Hernandez and Lori Alan as Bonnie’s parents, Carl Weathers as miniature versions of the toy Combat Carl, June Squibb as the antiques owner, Emily Davis as the trio of Bo Peep’s sheep, and Steve Purcell as the ventriloquist dummies in the Benson Dummies. Reprising their roles from previous entries, the voice performances of Jeff Garlin as the unicorn Buttercup, Bonnie Hunt as the doll Dolly, Kristen Schaal as the triceratops Trixie, Timothy Dalton as the hedgehog Mr. Pricklepants, Wallace Shawn as the T-rex Rex, Blake Clark as the slinky toy-dog Slinky, John Ratzenberger as the piggy bank Hamm, Joan Cusack as cow-girl Jessie with her horse Bulls-eye, Estelle Harris, as Mrs. Potato Head, and Don Rickles via archival material as Mr. Potato Head as they’re all fantastic with Cusack as the standout as Jessie rallying the toys with Rickles being one of two individuals that includes animator Adam Burke whom the film is dedicated to.

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are excellent in their respective roles as the stuffed plush toys Ducky and Bunny as they both provide some great comic relief as two toys who have never been played with as they cause a lot of mayhem. Christina Hendricks is brilliant as the doll Gabby Gabby as a toy who had never been played with due to a faulty talk box as she is eager to have Woody’s talk box in the hope of being played with. Keanu Reeves is incredible as Duke Caboom as a Canadian daredevil toy that is known for his poses but is also filled with doubt as it relates to his inability to live up to expectations for his old owner. Madeleine McGraw is wonderful as Bonnie as a young girl who is dealing with growing pains as she becomes attached to her creation in Forky while becoming worried about his whereabouts. Ally Maki is amazing as the tiny pocket toy Giggle McDimples as a toy who is known for her giggles yet is also Bo Peep’s side kick of sorts as she is funny as well as being cool.

Tony Hale is marvelous as Forky as a spork turned into a toy by Bonnie as he copes with his anxieties and being about being a toy as all he’s known for is trash where he later understands the role of being a toy and his importance in Bonnie’s development as a person. Annie Potts is remarkable as Bo Peep as an old toy of Andy’s who has lived a new life traveling in the world of carnivals where she has found a new purpose to help out toys but also see the world. Tim Allen is sensational as Buzz Lightyear as the space toy who is Woody’s best friend as he deals with his own identity as someone that needs to be a leader and help Bonnie out in her development as he also copes his own identity as a toy. Finally, there’s Tom Hanks in a phenomenal performance as Woody as this cowboy toy who starts to realize that he is being phased out as he tries to help out Forky with his identity as he also tries to maintain his importance only to realize that there is so much out there as it is a great performance from Hanks.

Toy Story 4 is a tremendous film from Josh Cooley and Pixar. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a sumptuous music score, and touching themes on existentialism and growing up. It’s a film that definitely does a lot to explore how much toys mean to children as well as the idea of being a toy in a touching and somber way. In the end, Toy Story 4 is a spectacular film from Josh Cooley and Pixar.

Pixar Films: Toy Story - A Bug's Life - Toy Story 2 - (Monsters Inc.) – (Finding Nemo) – The Incredibles - Cars - Ratatouille - WALL-E - Up - Toy Story 3 - Cars 2 - Brave - Monsters University - Inside Out - The Good Dinosaur - (Finding Dory) – (Cars 3) – Coco - The Incredibles 2 - (Onward) – (Soul (2020 film))

© thevoid99 2019