Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Films That I Saw: April 2014

The summer film season is approaching as all of the big movies are coming yet I’m more of the kind of person who just want to watch films that don’t have a niche audience. The films I’m looking forward to are Boyhood, Only Lovers Left Alive, and anything that offers something different from the big comedies and blockbusters though there are films like X-Men: Days of Future Past that I am eager to see. At least the summer will give me the time to watch something else as one of the things I enjoy doing is organizing things and figure out what to watch.

Last month, I admitted my own sense of being overwhelmed in watching films as it does get tiring. I had films that I was supposed to see this month but there were other things that got in the way that I ended up not seeing anything. Sometimes, I tend to push myself to watch something and it ends up being more of a job which is something that I don’t want to do. Thankfully, I found the time to chill out and just make sure I can enjoy myself and do other things.

In the month of April, I saw a total of 43 films. 25-first-timers including one pay-per view event and 18 re-watches including one pay-per-view event. Slightly up from last month thanks in part to some of the films I re-watched which helped things in some respects. Especially as the highlight of month was in my Blind Spot film in Stop Making Sense. Here are the top 10 first-timers for April 2014:

1. Under the Skin

2. The Raid 2: Berandal

3. Day for Night

4. Daisies

5. Zero de conduite

6. Joe

7. The Hustler

8. The Remains of the Day

9. No

10. Young and Beautiful

Monthly Mini-Reviews

The Lone Ranger

It’s not the great disaster that many people say it is yet it is still a bloated mess. It’s all over the place while Johnny Depp’s weirdo shtick has now worn thin. It’s a role that is just uninspiring to watch while I felt a bit sorry for Armie Hammer who tried to do something as the titular role but he is often a foil for Tonto. A lot of the visual effects and some of the action scenes were too much as it ranged from being very silly to just outrageous.

George & AJ

A Pixar short that I caught on YouTube as it relates to two minor characters in Up, this one was pretty damn funny. Sure, there were some continuity issues as it relates to the film but it was still a wonderful short as it plays to a lot of the silliness these two men encounter.

30 for 30: Judging Jewell

With the World Cup coming, I decided to watch a few 30 for 30 shorts and films in the hopes to do a future project based on the series. While this may have nothing to do with futbol (or soccer), this was still a fascinating short film about Richard Jewell who was suspected of the bombings at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Though Jewell would prove to be innocent, there is a tragedy over what happened to him as he never got the credit for saving people’s lives and finding the bomb as his name should be in that wall at the Olympic park.

30 for 30: Maradona ‘86

One of the greatest players of futbol, Diego Maradona is a controversial figure. Especially in Britain who still hates him for his supposed handball that helped Argentina beat England at the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals. Yet, it’s a film that I wished was longer as I had a great time watching it because I like Maradona and his sense of grace and footwork is one of the reasons why he’s one of my favorites. Sure, the guy cheated but he got away with it and gave Argentina a World Cup victory.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

I’m not a fan of these new young adult adaptations as this film was pretty bad. Not only in the fact that I see people like Jared Harris, Lena Headey, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers be wasted with such bad material. It’s a film that is just extremely silly and takes itself way too seriously. I haven’t seen a lot of things Lily Collins has done but she’s not very good in this yet the worst thing in that film is that Jamie Campbell Bowers who is just so bland to watch.

30 for 30: The Opposition

Another short relating to futbol but a much more grim film, the short talks about the coup d’etat in Chile as it relates to the national team trying to get a spot in the World Cup. It was a strange short to watch considering as I had recently watched No that was also about Augusto Pinochet as it showcased the horror of what the players and coach had to deal with as well as the farce they were forced to play by FIFA as some who had survived that period are still haunted by what happened at the National Stadium. It’s a short that I widely recommend for those who are fans of futbol.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. The Godfather Pt. II

2. Badlands

3. The Shining

4. Before Midnight

5. The 40-Year-Old Virgin

6. The Ten Commandments

7. Batman

8. Pacific Rim

9. Pitch Perfect

10. In Her Shoes

That is it for April. Coming in May is the Cannes Film Festival Marathon where I will make a special announcement probably later today or tomorrow about the films that I plan to watch for the marathon. New releases that I expect to review next month are Only Lovers Left Alive, Neighbors, and maybe Godzilla. Other films I plan to do are Auteurs-related subjects of films by Steven Soderbergh, Pedro Almodovar, Francois Truffaut, Terry Gilliam, and Leos Carax as well as the Auteurs piece on Carlos Reygadas. Other films I’m definitely going to do in May are a trio of films by Samuel Fuller.

Before I close this piece, there has been some sad news today as one of Britain’s great actors in Bob Hoskins sadly passed away today of pneumonia at the age of 71. He’s one of those actors that I grew up watching as I loved him in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as I would later discover some of his iconic performances in films like Brazil, The Long Good Friday, and one of my Blind Spots from last year in Mona Lisa. There will never be another actor like him who can bring that sense of toughness with a mix of sensitivity and humor as he is the quintessential British actor. Thank you Bob for your work. We will miss you.

© thevoid99 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Sunchaser

Directed by Michael Cimino and written by Charles Leavitt, The Sunchaser is the story of a 16-year old juvenile delinquent, who is suffering from abdominal cancer as he kidnaps a rich doctor and takes him to the Navajo region in the hopes to cure him. The film is an exploration into a man dealing with his lifestyle as he struggles with the role he plays in helping this young man. Starring Woody Harrelson, Jon Seda, Talisa Soto, Alexandra Tydings, and Anne Bancroft. The Sunchaser is a visually-striking but messy film from Michael Cimino.

The film revolves two different men at different points in their life where they go into a journey to the Navajo Nation in the American Southwest. During this journey, a self-absorbed doctor and an angry 16-year old criminal go through changes in the journey as the former is taken hostage by the latter who believes that there’s a sacred mountain that can cure him of the abdominal cancer he’s suffering from as he has very little time to live. While the film does have some very interesting insight into the world of the Navajo and what this young half-Navajo man believes as he takes this rich doctor to the Navajo world. It’s a film that has an interesting concept but doesn’t really do enough to flesh out the characters nor bring any weight to what is at stake.

Charles Leavitt’s script does create some moments in the lead characters in Dr. Michael Reynolds (Woody Harrelson) and Brandon “Blue” Monroe (Jon Seda) where the two eventually bond. The way their relationship starts off from antagonistic to more friendly isn’t as developed where Dr. Reynolds is often more concerned with his reputation as he’s about to get a prestigious job offer so he can buy his wife their dream home. Yet, he would eventually care for Blue despite Blue’s constant threats and antagonism as he also carries a gun. In the course of the narrative as the two become more friendly with one another, Dr. Reynolds reveals into why he’s been so hesitant to be very helpful as it relates to a traumatic experience he had as a kid as Blue would remind him of his brother. The way some of the narrative and character development shift does have some earnest moments but it often feels too rushed or to clumsily scripted.

The direction of Michael Cimino has a lot of the attributes that he’s known in terms of vast visuals with the way he shoots the American Southwest in its canyons, mountains, and deserts. Many of which are just powerful yet he isn’t able to get the story to be more engaging as some of the drama that occurs gets repetitive at times in the way Dr. Reynolds and Blue often spar over their differences. Some of it would feel awkward such as a pivotal scene where Blue tells Dr. Reynolds the story of the Sunchaser while holding a gun to his head as Dr. Reynolds would have these flashbacks about his traumatic moment with his brother. It’s a scene that showcased some of the messiness of the film as there’s scenes where Cimino tries to inject some humor and drama as the latter show scenes of Dr. Reynolds’ wife waiting for word on her husband.

While Cimino is much more free in shooting in the deserts and mountains, it is clear that he wants to infuse a lot of mysticism as it concerns the world of the Navajo. Yet, he is unable to balance that with the drama where he wants to do so much with the story and make it feel personal and important. Even in its third act where the two men reach their destination as the mixture of beautiful imagery and mythology seems to play this idea of Americana that Cimino felt was lost. Yet, it’s a moment in the film that showcases not just what Cimino wasn’t able to do make the story feel whole but also in the fact that it’s a film that struggles with its identity in what it wants to be. Overall, Cimino creates an uneven film that isn’t sure what it wanted to say about two men going into a mystical journey.

Cinematographer Douglas Milsome does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the look of some of the interiors such as the bar Dr. Reynolds and Blue stop at to many of the beautiful images of the canyons and mountains they encounter. Editor Joe d’Augustine does nice work with the editing from the usage of stylish cuts as well as the flashback montages and rhythmic cutting for the action. Production designer Victoria Paul, with art directors Lee Mayman and Edward L. Rubin and set decorator Jackie Carr, does terrific work with the look of the bars and hospitals Dr. Reynolds and Blue go into as well as the posh home of Dr. Reynolds.

Costume designer Christine Peters does some fine work with the costumes from the street clothes of Blue to the look of the Navajo people he and Dr. Reynolds encounter. Sound designer Brian Best does superb work with the sound from the layers of sounds in the way helicopters and highway patrol officers try to find the two men as well as some of stuff that occurs in some of the film‘s locations. The film’s music by Maurice Jarre is good for some of the serene orchestral moments yet some of its bombast tends to drown out some of the drama as some of the placement of the music doesn’t work while the soundtrack includes some hip-hop, R&B, rock, and gospel.

The casting by Terry Liebing is wonderful for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable appearances from Andrea Roth as a head nurse, Carmen Dell’Orefice as Dr. Reynolds’ mother, Brooke Ashley as his young daughter, Christopher Kennedy Masterson as his brother in the flashback, John Christian Graas as the young Dr. Reynolds, Victor Aaron as the mysterious medicine man Webster Skyhorse, and Talisa Soto as his granddaughter. Alexandra Tydings is pretty good as Dr. Reynolds’ wife Victoria while Matt Mulhern is alright as Dr. Reynolds’ colleague who often has him wanting to advance his career. Anne Bancroft is fantastic as the eccentric Dr. Renata Baumbauer as a free-spirited woman Dr. Reynolds and Blue meets as she would convey a lot of strange ideas that would frustrate the former and amaze the latter.

Jon Seda is superb as Blue despite the fact that he was too old to play a 16-year old yet he manages to convey the sense of anger and determination of a dying young man who believes in this mystical mountain that he wants to go to. Finally, there’s Woody Harrelson in an excellent performance as Dr. Michael Reynolds as a man who is kidnapped by Blue as he comes to term with his own loss as well as the position he’s in as he tries to help Blue and also regain the courage and care that he has as a doctor and as a man.

The Sunchaser is a very troubled and disappointing film from Michael Cimino. Despite some majestic scenes and the performances of Woody Harrelson and Jon Seda, it’s a film that falls very short due to its script and inconsistency with what it wanted to be. In the end, The Sunchaser is a lukewarm and underwhelming film from Michael Cimino.

Michael Cimino Films: Thunderbolt & Lightfoot - The Deer Hunter - Heaven‘s Gate - Year of the Dragon - The Sicilian - Desperate Hours (1990 film) - To Each His Own Cinema-No Translation Needed - The Auteurs #35: Michael Cimino

© thevoid99 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

No (2012 film)

Based on the unpublished play El Plebiscito by Antonio Skarmeta, No is the story about an advertising man in late 1980s Chile who is asked to create a campaign to vote against Augusto Pinochet in the 1988 national plebiscite. Directed by Pablo Larrain and screenplay by Pedro Peirano, the film is a look into a man who would help end Pinochet’s dictatorship as it’s the third film of Larrain’s trilogy about Pinochet. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Nestor Cantillana. No is a captivating film from Pablo Larrain.

The film is a simple story about the NO campaign in the 1988 national plebiscite where the people of Chile had to vote whether to keep Augusto Pinochet for eight more years as this vote is being seen all over the world as Pinochet would be forced to see what the people will vote for. Leading this NO campaign is a young advertising executive who is asked by a Socialist friend of his to create ideas for the campaign while his boss would eventually take charge of the YES campaign. It’s a film that explores one young man’s attempt to create something that is for the sake of his country as well as the future of his young son in the hopes that he wouldn’t have to see his son endure the pain and terror of Pinochet’s dictatorship.

Pedro Peirano’s screenplay plays into the life of Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal) who starts out as a man who creates commercials for an advertising company as it’s a life he’s content with despite the fact that he and his wife Veronica (Antonia Zegers) are separated. When being approached by his Socialist friend Jose Tomas Urrutia (Luis Gnecco) to take part in the NO campaign, Rene says no at first as he didn’t want to interfere with his job or jeopardize his friendship with his boss Lucho (Alfredo Castro). Yet, he couldn’t turn down the idea of overthrowing Pinochet and bring a bright future to Chile for his son. Much of the script explores the ideas for a campaign where Saavedra realizes that if they have to get votes from young and old voters, they would have to do something different and radical.

While the script plays into a lot of the history of Pinochet’s reign, it also takes it time to explore what Saavedra and the people he’s working are struggling with as they knew that showing images of what Pinochet has done wouldn’t work. By going for something that was hopeful, it would create some tension not just among some of the people in the NO campaign but also cause trouble with the people running the YES campaign as they’re unsure of what to do to counter the NO campaign. Lucho tries to offer Saavedra a very prestigious offer after the election only to be turned down as Lucho does whatever to keep the YES campaign going only to realize that everything he’s doing for his bosses aren’t working.

Pablo Larrain’s direction is very mesmerizing not just for the intimacy he created but in the visual look of the film that is really striking. Shot in a full-frame aspect ratio and on video-like film format known as U-matic to play into that period, it’s a film that is about a moment in time where Chile was at a critical point in time where they’re not sure if Pinochet would still rule as the whole world is watching. The look and its intimacy has this nostalgic feel while the video footage of the campaigns definitely look like what Latin American television looked like at that time. Much of the NO campaign commercials do have a sense of cheesiness yet it does have a point in not just the future of Chile but also what might happen. Some of it is very funny and light-hearted while some of it is also sobering as opposed to the more propaganda-based approach of the YES campaign.

There’s also some moments of suspense in the direction in the way it portrays some of the chaos that goes on in Chile as it’s shot on location in the country and the city of Santiago. Even as Larrain was able to recreate some of the protests and marches that went on during the 27-day campaign period as well as incorporate archival footage of these events that include testimonials from Jane Fonda, Richard Dreyfuss, and the late Christopher Reeve. While its outcome would be known, it’s more about what Saavedra would feel about in his role as well as the impact it have. The film’s final credits would reveal footage of the people who were part of this campaign as they meet the actors who would play them. Overall, Larrain crafts a very stylish yet riveting film about the NO campaign that would end Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile.

Cinematographer Sergio Armstrong does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography with its grainy yet rich look in its video-like form as it plays to something that has an air of nostalgia but also some style that features additional work from visual effects supervisor/colorist Ismael Cabrera to play with the look of the film as well as the TV footage. Editor Andrea Chignoli does excellent work with the editing from the stylized approach of the adds as well as montages for some of the historical footage and jump-cuts for some of the film‘s drama. Art director Estefania Larrain and set decorator Maria Eugenia Hederra do fantastic work with the set pieces from the offices that Saavedra works at as well as his house and the studio where he looks into the filming of the ads.

Costume designer Francisca Roman does nice work with the costumes as it plays to the look of the late 80s for most of the characters while many of the government officials wear suits and uniforms. Sound designer Miguel Hormazabal does superb work with the sound from the way TV sounded back then to the sounds of crowds gathering for marches and such. The film’s music by Carlos Cabezas is terrific as it doesn’t appear much in the film as it’s mostly an orchestral-based score that is very low-key as it plays to some of the drama that occurs.

The film’s wonderful cast includes some notable small roles from Jaime Vadell as a government minister, Marcial Tagle as Saavedra’s friend Alberto who aids him in the campaign, Elsa Poblete as Saavedra’s maid Carmen, and Pascal Montero as Saavedra’s young son Simon who watches everything that happens. Nestor Cantillana is excellent as the video director Fernando who often spars with Saavedra on a creative and political level as they reluctantly work together while Antonia Zegers is fantastic as Saavedra’s estranged wife Veronica whose work in protests and such has her returning to the life of her son as she contemplates about returning to Saavedra for a less complicated life. Luis Gnecco is brilliant as Saavedra’s Socialist friend Urrutia who brings him to the NO campaign while hoping that the campaign will do some good.

Alfredo Castro is amazing as Saavedra’s conservative boss Lucho who runs the YES campaign as he deals with Saavedra’s newfound affiliation while still being a friend as he also deals with the limited resources he had to use for the YES campaign. Finally, there’s Gael Garcia Bernal in a remarkable performance as Rene Saavedra as a young advertising executive who runs the NO campaign as he deals with the possibilities of the campaign as well as its unorthodox approach as it’s a performance that has Bernal be somewhat restrained but also show a determination as a man who would play a small part in changing Chile’s political identity.

No is an incredible film from Pablo Larrain that features a marvelous performance from Gael Garcia Bernal. The film doesn’t just offer something for history buffs about the end of Augusto Pinochet’s reign but it’s also a unique portrait of a period in time where thing was about to change told with such style. In the end, No is a phenomenal film from Pablo Larrain.

Pablo Larrain Films: (Fuga) - (Tony Manero) - (Post Mortem) - (The Club (2015 film)) - (Neruda) - Jackie (2016 film)

© thevoid99 2014

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Grey Gardens

Directed by Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer, Grey Gardens is a documentary film about the everyday lives of duo of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie as they live in a ravaged mansion known as Grey Gardens in East Hampton, New York. The film is a look into the lives of these two women as they are the relatives of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. With the Maysles brothers shooting the film while Hovde and Meyer co-edit the film with producer Susan Froemke. The result is a fascinating yet off-the-wall film from the Maysles Brothers.

Shot in the course of a year from the fall of 1971, the film explore the lives of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie who live in the Grey Gardens mansion in East Hampton, New York as the home is in absolute ruins and a complete mess filled with cats and raccoons where the latter live in the attic eating sandwich bread and dry cat food. It’s a film that showcases the lives of these two women where Edie is 56 years old during the production of the film while Edith was near her 80s at the time of filming. What prompts the Maysles Brothers and their collaborators to take part in this documentary when news emerged about the awful condition of the Grey Gardens mansion as it’s not up to code forcing their cousin Jacqueline Kennnedy Onassis to come in and clean the place while providing funds so the two can live in the house under a more stable condition while having food and such delivered.

Throughout the course of the film, the two women talk about their lives and what drove them to live in such squalor and seclusion as they’re surrounded by cats as the few people they have contact with includes a handyman and some old friends of Edith. Much of the film has this very direct approach in telling the story where the two women talk about their past and each other as Edie is often conflicted about leaving yet she feels the need to take care of her mother no matter how annoying she can be. Edie also wants to recapture a part of her youth through singing and dancing despite being in her 50s as she is still able to dance and sing. Edie would often annoy her mother through her singing and dancing as Edith would talk about all of the opportunities Edie had and squandered causing tension between the two women.

The film has the Maysles Brothers and their collaborators go for something simple as they would follow the two women around and even talk to the handyman Jerry at times as he often has conversations with Edith. Some of the things that the Maysles Brothers capture is truly startling from not just the home but also the things that happen inside. There’s moments where the craziness that occurs do get overwhelming at times yet it plays true to the eccentric work the ladies are in as it’s edited with such style and precision by co-directors Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer along with producer Susan Froemke. There’s even moments where the Maysles Brothers appear on camera with soundman Lee Dichter as the women are talking to them.

Grey Gardens is a bizarre yet engaging documentary film from the Maysles Brothers, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer. It’s a film that isn’t just this strange portrait of a mother-daughter duo but also a film that explores the art of documentary in its evolution as it’s very direct and to the point no matter how bad things can be. In the end, Grey Gardens is an extraordinary film from the Maysles Brothers, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer.

© thevoid99 2014

Saturday, April 26, 2014

2014 Blind Spot Series: Stop Making Sense

Directed by Jonathan Demme, Stop Making Sense is a concert film based on the Talking Heads’ 1983 tour to promote their fifth studio release Speaking in Tongues. Shot in three nights at the Hollywood Pantages Theater, the concert film showcases the band playing songs from the album and other songs from previous albums as it’s presented in a unique fashion. The result is a concert film that not only becomes the show but something much more with its music and stage presentation.

The film is a presentation of the show the post-punk/new wave band the Talking Heads did in 1983 for their fifth album Speaking in Tongues as they were a band that brought in a unique mix of art-rock, funk, African world beats, post-punk, and soul music that made them quite popular in the 1980s. Leading the band is vocalist/guitarist David Byrne as the group would also consist of guitarist/keyboardist Jerry Harrison, bassist/guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Tina Weymouth, and drummer/vocalist Chris Franz. Serving as additional musicians to the band is percussionist Steve Scales, the Brothers Johnson guitarist Alex Weir, and the legendary Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell as they’re also joined by Lynn Mabry and Edna Holt on backing vocals.

It’s not just the music that features such classics as Once in a Lifetime, Burning Down the House, Life During Wartime, Psycho Killer, and many other songs including Genius of Love by the side project Tom Tom Club and a cover of Al Green’s Take Me to the River that makes the concert so unique. It’s the stage presentation that takes the concert to another level as it defies all of the rules of how a concert is presented. The film begins with David Byrne walking to the stage with an acoustic guitar and a boom box where he plays the boom box which plays some recorded music as he sings Psycho Killer. The first set would have the main members of the band come in one-by-one for each song while the platforms for the drums, keyboards, and percussion bases are being set-up.

Usually at a concert, the stage and the presentation of the show would be already set-up as the concert begins. What the Talking Heads did is break the rules as the presentation which would include screens in the back and all sorts of lighting presentation where shadows are shown on the back wall just adds something that is very different. Especially as stage crew members would be part of the show in setting up the platforms and carrying lights to help create this presentation that is so off-the-wall. Adding to that eccentricity of the show is David Byrne who would wear this gigantic suit late in the show as well as having a lamp during one of the songs.

Jonathan Demme’s direction is truly mesmerizing in not just the way he captures the concert but also the energy as he gets some shots of the audiences watching the show. With the help of cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, Demme goes for a look that is entrancing with its use of lights while going for compositions that are unorthodox by shooting right at the stage from the viewpoint of the audience to see what the stage presentation would look like with the entire band. There’s also some close-up and camera shots that showcases some of the craziness that goes on in the performance. Editor Lisa Day helps play to that sense of unconventional approach by not delving into the MTV-editing style of the time in favor of something more precise so that the audience can be engaged by the performance that included a near-one take performance of Once in a Lifetime for most of the song. With the sound work of Rick Coberly, Stan Horine, and Charles Butch Watson playing to the way the music sounds, the film definitely has more than just a feel of a concert where the sound of the audience just makes it more special.

Stop Making Sense is a spectacular film from Jonathan Demme that features the amazing music of the Talking Heads. This film is truly one of the finest concert films ever made in terms of its sense of energy, stage presence, charisma, the presentation of the show, and the music. It’s a film that’s not afraid to break the rules while giving the audience something that is off-the-wall and more. In the end, Stop Making Sense is a phenomenal film from Jonathan Demme.

Jonathan Demme Films: (Caged Heat) - (Crazy Mama) - (Fighting Mad) - (Handle with Care) - (Last Embrace) - (Melvin & Howard) - (Who Am I This Time?) - (Swing Shift) - (Something Wild) - (Swimming to Cambodia) - (Married to the Mob) - (The Silence of the Lambs) - (Cousin Bobby) - (Philadelphia) - (Storefront Hitchcock) - (Beloved) - (The Truth About Charlie) - (The Agronomist) - (The Manchurian Candidate (2004 film)) - (Neil Young: Heart of Gold) - (Man from Plains) - Rachel Getting Married - (Neil Young Trunk Show) - (Neil Young Journeys) - (A Master Builder) - Ricki and the Flash

© thevoid99 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

Daisies (1966 film)

Directed by Vera Chytilova and screenplay by Chytilova, Pavel Juracek, and Ester Krumbachova from a story by Chytilova, Sedmikrasky (Daisies) is the story of two young ladies who share the same name as they embark on a series of misadventures through pranks in their belief that nothing in the world should be taken seriously. Considered to be one of the key films of the Czech New Wave of the 1960s, the film is a look into the life of two young woman who want to rebel against society through means of anarchist antics. Starring Jitka Cerhova, Ivana Karbanova, Jan Klusak, Marie Ceskova, Jirina Myskova, and Julius Albert. Sedmikrasky is an odd yet exhilarating film from Vera Chytilova.

The film is a simple story of two women both named Marie who engage into a series of crazy antics as they let rich men dine for them and all sorts of things. It’s a film that doesn’t have any real sense of plot but rather a continuous journey of the misadventures these two young women embark on. Especially as these two women just want to have fun and enjoy life as they want to be spoiled just like the rich and engage in all sorts of antics, eat the finest food, drink the best wine, and have fun. Throughout the film, the two women talk discuss existential ideas while pondering about their life of anarchy and decadence as it would lead to a crazy climax that would up their sense of misadventure.

Vera Chytilova’s direction is definitely filled with style as it recalls not just silent cinema of the early 20th Century but also the vibrancy of what was happening in Europe in the 1960s. The sense of chaos with some gorgeous compositions and imagery is definitely prevalent throughout the film where it feels loose and offbeat. Even in the antics of the two women becomes more outlandish as it includes moments of them eating food with such gluttony and glee as it would include moments that are just even crazier. Chytilova would shoot the film with such style as it would be shot in different array of formats from black-and-white to color along with some dizzying sequences to play into these young women and their thirst for anarchy. Overall, Chytilova creates a very fascinating and whimsical film about two young ladies creating chaos to deal with their bored lives.

Cinematographer Jaroslav Kucera does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the different filters and colors schemes he creates for some of the scenes as well as the imagery as much of it is beautiful and lively. Editor Miroslav Hajek does fantastic work with the editing as it is very stylized with some dizzying montages and jump-cuts to play into the film‘s humor and sense of anarchy. Production designer Karel Lier and set decorator Frantisek Straka do amazing work with the set pieces from the apartment the girls live in with its own sense of quirks to some of the places they go to such as the posh restaurant and the banquet in the film’s climax.

Costume designer Ester Krumbachova does nice work with the costumes as it has a sense of style as it plays to the whimsical nature of the girls. The sound work of Ladislav Hausdorf is excellent for the array of sound effects created as well as the layers of chaotic sound . The film’s music by Jiri Sust and Jiri Slitr is superb for its mixture of jazz, rock, pop, and classical to play into the sense of chaos and decadence that is prevalent throughout the film.

The film’s cast includes some notable small roles from Marie Ceskova and Jirina Myskova as a couple of women the girls meet in the bathroom along with Jan Klusak and Julius Albert as the two different men the girls woo. Finally, there’s Jitka Cerhova and Ivana Karbanova in spectacular performances as the two Maries as they’re just two women who want to have fun and live a life of absolute freedom and be spoiled by men and all sorts of stuff as they are the heart and soul of the film.

Sedmikrasky is a phenomenal film from Vera Chytilova. It’s a film that is just extremely out there with its offbeat humor and sense of decadence as it features two remarkable performances from Jitka Cerhova and Ivana Karbanova. For anyone interested in the films of the Czech New Wave, this film is definitely the best place to start. In the end, Sedmikrasky is a wondrous and intoxicating film from Vera Chytilova.

© thevoid99 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Batman Forever

Based on the DC Comics by Bob Kane, Batman Forever is the story of Batman facing new foes as he also deals with his own traumas and identity while taking in a young man who would become his new partner in Robin. Directed by Joel Schumacher with a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, Lee Batchler, and Janet Scott-Batchler from a story by the Batchlers, the film is the third film of the franchise that began with the 1989 film as Val Kilmer plays the role of the Caped Crusader and Bruce Wayne with Chris O’Donnell in the role of Dick Grayson/Robin while the villains in Harvey “Two-Face” Dent and Edward Nygma/the Riddler are respectively played by Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey. Also starring Nicole Kidman, Pat Hingle, Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar, and Michael Gough. Batman Forever is an entertaining but messy film from Joel Schumacher.

The film is about Batman facing two new villains as he tries to cope his role as Bruce Wayne and Batman where he also deals with his parents’ death just as a young man named Dick Grayson just lost his parents. While Batman deals with the maniacal Harvey “Two-Face” Dent, who was Gotham’s district attorney until an incident left the left-part of his face scarred as Batman was blamed for it, and a former Wayne Enterprise employee in Edward Nygma who becomes the Riddler. Adding to Wayne’s complicated life is the presence of a psychiatrist Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) who is obsessed with Batman as Wayne goes to her over his own identity issues. In taking the young Grayson, Wayne eventually realizes that he’ll need Grayson to stop Two-Face and the Riddler as Grayson would become Batman’s new sidekick Robin.

The film’s screenplay does create some nice reference to the origin stories of Robin, Two-Face, and the Riddler as they are interesting characters. Yet, the script is much-more lighthearted in its approach to action by infusing some humor into the film as it relates to the Riddler who creates an invention that would extract information from other people’s minds as he would be the one to discover Wayne’s secrets. They’re among some of the elements of the film’s script that works yet there’s some things that don’t work as the characterization of Dr. Meridian is she is this woman whose obsession for Batman makes her somewhat unprofessional as a psychiatrist. Plus, she becomes this damsel-in-distress later on as the writing doesn’t really give her more to do while some of the re-hashing of Bruce Wayne’s past is definitely uninspiring since it’s stuff that audiences already know.

Joel Schumacher’s direction does have some nice moments as the presentation of the film is far more colorful than its predecessors that were helmed by Tim Burton. Even as Schumacher was able to keep things lively in some of the film’s humor and action sequences with some dazzling compositions and moments that are very entertaining. Yet, there’s some moments in Schumacher’s direction that doesn’t work as there is a bit of cheese in some of the dialogue and action sequences where it’s clear that Schumacher wants to create something that is fun but there’s things that feels off since Batman is really a very dark character. One aspect of the direction that is very annoying are the slanted camera angles which are overdone as it makes not sense to some of the visuals in the film. While the film does have an amazing climax, it does get over-the-top at times where it would play into Batman finally accepting his two identities though some of the presentation comes off as very silly. Overall, Schumacher crafts an exciting but dizzying film about Batman and Robin fighting Two-Face and the Riddler.

Cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt does nice work with some of the film‘s extravagant lighting for the look of Gotham as well as creating some shadows and lighting schemes to play into some of the darker moments of the film. Editors Dennis Virkler and Mark Stevens do terrific work with the editing with its use of flashback montages and rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s action scenes. Production designer Barbara Ling, with art directors Christopher Burian-Mohr and Joseph P. Lucky and set decorator Cricket Rowland, does excellent work with the set pieces from the look of Gotham as well as the secret lair of Two-Face. Costume designers Bob Ringwood and Ingrid Ferrin do some good work with the clothes that Two-Face and the Riddler wear though the look of the Batsuit with nipples and codpieces are just ridiculously bad.

Special makeup designer Rick Baker does amazing work with the look of Two-Face where his left face is badly scarred to play into his unstable personality. Visual effects supervisors Andrew Adamson, Eric Durst, Boyd Shermis, and David Stump do some wonderful work with the miniatures of Gotham and some of the CGI look in some of its action sequences. Sound editors John Levesque and Bruce Stambler, along with sound designers Frank Kniest and Roland N. Thai, do some superb work with the sound from the way Riddler‘s machine extracts information from other people‘s minds to the layering of sounds in the action scenes. The film’s music by Elliot Goldenthal is pretty decent for its orchestral bombast with some triumphant moments but also some humorous pieces while music supervisor Jolene Cherry brings in an eclectic soundtrack that features song by the Flaming Lips, U2, the Offspring, Brandy, and Seal.

The casting by Mali Finn is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable appearances from Don “The Dragon” Wilson as a gang leader Grayson encounters, Jon Faverau as a Wayne Enterprise assistant, Rene Auberjonois as the doctor from Arkham Asylum, Joe Grifasi as a bank security guard that Batman saves early in the film, and Ed Begley Jr. as Nygma’s boss who is later killed by Nygma. One small role that isn’t very good is the Gossip Gertie character performed by Bob Kane’s wife Elizabeth Sanders as it’s a very annoying character that serves no purpose to the film. Michael Gough and Pat Hingle are terrific in their respective roles as Alfred Pennyworth and Commissioner Gordon as Gough serves as a father-figure to Grayson while Hingle has Gordon be the man who would bring Grayson to Bruce Wayne.

Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazar are both fun to watch in their respective roles as Two-Face’s assistants Sugar and Spice. Nicole Kidman is alright as Dr. Meridian Chase as this woman who has some charm and sexiness but the writing doesn’t really do any favors for Kidman as her character turns out to be very obsessed with Batman. Chris O’Donnell is excellent as Dick Grayson/Robin as a lost young man wanting vengeance on Two-Face while asking for help from Batman. Tommy Lee Jones is fantastic as Two-Face as this maniacal man who uses a coin to make decisions while wanting to kill Batman at any cost.

Jim Carrey is great as the Riddler as this former Waynes Enterprise employee who wants to get rid of Batman for not accepting his invention and become even richer than Batman as Carrey is just fun to watch. Finally, there’s Val Kilmer in a pretty good performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman as Kilmer does maintain that brooding persona of Batman but doesn’t really make Wayne very interesting while some of the characterization of Batman is off as it includes a shot of Batman smiling. Batman is not supposed to smile.

Batman Forever is a solid film from Joel Schumacher. Thanks to the lively performances of Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones as the villains, it’s a film that is very entertaining but loses a lot of the dark aspects of the Batman character in favor of being more accessible to a younger audience. Especially as Schumacher’s colorful presentation is a bit overwhelming at times where it allows the film and Batman to lose its edge. In the end, Batman Forever is a good but troubling film from Joel Schumacher.

Batman Films: (Batman (1966 film)) - Batman (1989 film) - Batman Returns - Batman & Robin - Batman Begins - The Dark Knight - The Dark Knight Rises - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - The Lego Batman Movie - The Batman (2022 film)

© thevoid99 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Man of Steel

Based on the comic Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Man of Steel is an origin story in which Kal-El struggles with his identity as a man from another planet while also being known as Clark Kent where he later becomes Superman and fight the enemies from his former planet of Krypton. Directed by Zack Snyder and screenplay by David S. Goyer with a story by Goyer and Christopher Nolan. The film is a reinterpretation of the Superman origin story where it reveals Clark Kent/Kal-El’s struggle with his upbringing and where he really came from before he finally embraces his role. Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Russell Crowe as Jor-El. Man of Steel is a thrilling yet flawed film from Zack Snyder.

The film is about the young man who would become Superman (Henry Cavill) as he struggles with who he is and what he needed to be as he would eventually find the answers from his late father Jor-El. Yet, Kal-El/Clark Kent also struggles with keeping his powers and identity secret as his late adoptive father Jonathan (Kevin Costner) knows of that struggle as he tries to show him that not everyone can be saved. While a journalist in Lois Lane (Amy Adams) tries to uncover the secrets of Superman through her early encounters, an exiled general and his people from the planet Krypton in Zod (Michael Shannon) tries to find him in the hopes he can create a new Krypton in Earth and exterminate the human race. This would prompt Superman to save Earth and the human race and to see that Zod wouldn’t make the same mistakes his father and the Kryptonians had made many years ago that led to the planet’s destruction.

David S. Goyer’s screenplay does pay true to many of the origins of Superman and where he came from along with the destruction of Krypton. Yet, there’s aspects of the film’s screenplay that isn’t successful as there’s a lot of exposition into an object known as the codex that Jor-El would put into his son as he was the first natural newborn in many centuries for the planet since Jor-El and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) wanted their son to have the choice in being an individual unlike the other people of the planet. Upon meeting the shadow of his late father, Kal-El wouldn’t just learn about what happened to Krypton and who he is as it would play into the struggle that he would have. Some parts of the script has Clark reflect on his childhood with his father and mother Martha (Diane Lane) as he would live a nomadic lifestyle to find himself as an adult before he realizes the role he has to play.

While the Kents, Jor-El, Zod, and Lane are characters that are quite complex, some of the minor characters that is part of Superman’s world get shafted by the wayside once the film’s second half becomes more about Superman dealing with Zod and his army. Especially in how Zod and his army were able to leave the Phantom Zone due to explosion of Krypton as it leads to more exposition which does get tiresome. Yet, the Zod character is a complex antagonist for the fact that he had been born and raised to save the planet and its people but he becomes lost in his desire to create a new planet as he is making the same mistakes that led to Krypton’s demise.

Zack Snyder’s direction is quite interesting in the way he portrays Superman and his struggle with his identity where the scenes set in Smallville when Kent is a child definitely has this Malickian look to the film is quite entrancing. Yet, there’s also a griminess to some of the action scenes where the scenes set in Krypton as it’s collapsing are very big and unsettling. Snyder does know how to slow things down and establish some key aspects to the story yet the two different tones he wanted to present in the film is uneven at times. Especially as the scenes set in Smallville and other worldly locations are beautiful but the scenes filled with the chaotic reminders of Krypton is quite ugly. Even as Snyder would create some scenes of Lois Lane often getting into trouble only to be saved by Superman as it kind of becomes a running gag.

There are some great compositions and set pieces that occur that includes its climax but at times, it gets overwhelming as all of the destruction Superman and the Kryptonians have created. Even as it involves lot of visual effects where some of it isn’t that great as some of the direction gets into overdrive in terms of the action and destruction of buildings. Another aspect of the film that is very annoying is the presence of lens flares that isn’t really necessary and doesn’t say anything for the film on a visual level. Despite the flaws that the film carries, Snyder does manage to create an exciting and engaging film about the Man of Steel.

Cinematographer Amir Mokri does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the evocative look of the scenes set in Smallville with its use of darkened colors along with some of its shadows and lighting for some of the film‘s interior scenes and material set in Krypton. Editor David Brenner does nice work with the editing in some of the montages that is created as well as some of the action scenes though some of it moves a bit too fast at times. Production designer Alex McDowell, with set decorator Anne Kuljian and supervising art director Helen Jarvis, does fantastic work with the look of Krypton and its ships along with the look of Metropolis and Smallville as it‘s the two world that Clark Kent lives in. Costume designers James Acheson and Michael Wilkinson do terrific work with the costumes from the look of Superman‘s suit to the suits and armor of the Kryptonians.

Hair/makeup supervisor Victoria Down does wonderful work with some of the makeup work for Martha Kent as in her aging look. Visual effects supervisors John “D.J.” Des Jardin and Ged Wright do some superb work with the visual effects in the look of Krypton and some of its machines though at times they look wobbly such as the weapons from its ships. Sound designer Eric A. Norris and co-sound editor Scott Hecker do brilliant work with the sound work from the sound of lasers as well as some of the natural moments presented on location. The film’s music by Hans Zimmer is pretty good for its bombastic orchestral themes and soaring string pieces to play into the drama and sense of adventure that occurs in the film.

The casting by Kristy Carlson, Lora Kennedy, and Claire Simon is amazing for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Richard Schiff as the scientist Dr. Emil Hamilton, Michael Kelly as Lane’s colleague from the Daily Planet, Christopher Meloni as Col. Hardy, Harry Lennix as Lt. General Swanwick, and Antje Traue as Zod’s sub-commander Faora. Ayelet Zurer is pretty good as Kal-El’s mother Lara while Laurence Fishburne is terrific though somewhat wasted as Lane’s boss Perry White as he doesn’t get more to do other than boss Lane around and save a few employees from the destruction of Metropolis. Cooper Timberline and Dylan Sprayberry are solid in their respective roles as the 11 and 13-year old Clark who struggles with his identity and powers. Diane Lane is wonderful as Clark’s mother Martha who brings a great sense of warmth and wisdom to Clark while Kevin Costner is superb as Jonathan Kent as he would help the young Clark deal with his identity and gifts.

Russell Crowe is excellent as Kal’s father Jor-El as a man who is aware of the destruction that Krypton has created for itself as he would later guide his son into discovering his identity. Michael Shannon is great as General Zod as this mad general who is eager to save Krypton at any cost while wanting to rebuild the planet on Earth and hope to bring a new civilization to this new version of Krypton. Amy Adams is brilliant as Lois Lane as a reporter for the Daily Planet who tries to uncover the mystery of Superman as she falls for him as Adams has a lot of energy and charisma to her role despite getting herself into lots of trouble. Finally, there’s Henry Cavill in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as a man struggling with who he is and how he would later accept that role as Cavill has the look and determination to play Superman as well as the humility of Clark Kent.

While it does have its flaws in terms of presentation, Man of Steel is still a worthwhile and fun film from Zack Snyder. With a great leading performance from Henry Cavill along with strong supporting performances from Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Michael Shannon. It’s a film that will satisfy fans of Superman though it pales to the brilliance of the 1978 film that introduced him to cinephiles. In the end, Man of Steel is a pretty good film from Zack Snyder.

Zack Snyder Films: (Dawn of the Dead (2004 film)) - 300 - Watchmen - (Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole) - Sucker Punch - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice -

DC Extended Universe: Suicide Squad - Wonder Woman - Justice League - Aquaman - Shazam! - Birds of Prey - Wonder Woman 1984 - Zack Snyder's Justice League - The Suicide Squad (2021 film) - (Black Adam) – (Shazam! Fury of the Gods) – (Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom) – (The Flash) – (Blue Beetle) – (Batgirl)

Superman Films: (Superman) - (Superman II) - (Superman III) - (Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) - (Superman Returns) - (Superman II: The Richard Donner’s Cut)

© thevoid99 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Young and Beautiful

Written and directed by Francois Ozon, Jeune & Jolie (Young and Beautiful) is the story of a young woman who becomes a teenage prostitute following the loss of virginity during a summer vacation in Germany. The film is an exploration of a young woman coming to terms with her sexuality while keeping her new profession secret from her mother. Starring Marine Vacth, Geraldine Pailhas, Frederic Pierrot, and Charlotte Rampling. Jeune & Jolie is a ravishing yet haunting film from Francois Ozon.

The film is about a young woman exploring her sexuality as she had just turned 17 where she secretly becomes a prostitute. After some trouble and the eventual discovery by her mother, Isabelle (Marine Vacth) copes with her encounters as she becomes confused about the role she took and her own beauty. It’s a film that is about this young woman who loses her virginity to a German boy during a summer vacation in the country as the film is told through four seasons in the life of this young woman. The script has a very unique yet odd narrative structure where much of the first half is very straightforward from Isabelle’s time in the summer to becoming a prostitute to men who are older than her in various places in Paris during after school hours.

The film’s second half not only has her reveal, through flashbacks, into what drove into prostitution and why she didn’t stop immediately as it causes tension between herself and her mother Sylvie (Geraldine Pailhas). Especially as Isabelle accuses Sylvie of straying from her marriage to Isabelle’s stepfather Patrick (Frederic Pierrot). Isabelle’s confusion and her unwillingness to open up to her family and her friends adds to her melancholic state as she would later talk to a psychiatrist about her work and the moment that forced to quit for good. All of which would lead to a third act where Isabelle not only confronts her actions but also deal with the incident that drove her to stop becoming a prostitute.

Francois Ozon’s direction is very mesmerizing for the way he explores a young woman coming of age as she discovers her sexuality as much of the film is set in France while the first scenes in the summer are shot in Germany where Isabelle would lose her virginity. Ozon’s compositions in some of the wide and medium shots in Germany have a sense of beauty as it would shift once the film moves to France where it’s not as colorful as it would play to the melancholia of Isabelle as she lives this double-life as a 17-year old girl going to school and hang out with friends while she would have this other life sleeping with men who are older than her as she claims to be 20 year old.

Ozon’s use of close-ups on Isabelle are entrancing not just for her beauty but in how men are willing to fall for her as Ozon’s presentation of the sex is very seductive and not graphic. Even as some of it plays for laughs as it relates to Isabelle’s younger brother Victor (Fantin Ravat) and their stepfather as the latter is baffled by his stepchildren’s fascination with sex. Yet, Ozon keeps it simple and restrained in his approach to humor and drama where it would lead to a climax where Isabelle confronts her fears. Overall, Ozon crafts a very evocative and chilling film about a young woman coming to her terms with her sexuality.

Cinematographer Pascal Marti does excellent work with the film‘s very colorful and lush cinematography for the German beach scenes to the low-key lighting and mood for the hotel interior scenes in Paris. Editor Laure Gardette does wonderful work with the editing with its stylish cuts that includes a montage of Isabelle and her classmates talking about a poem by Arthur Rimbaud as well as some straightforward cuts to play into the drama. Production designer Katia Wyszkop does brilliant work with the apartment that Isabelle and her family lives to the look of the hotel rooms and hallways that she goes to as a prostitute.

Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne does terrific work with the clothes from the casual look that Isabelle wears at home and around her friends to the more adult-like clothing she wears as a prostitute. Sound editor Benoit Gargonne does nice work with the sound from the quiet atmosphere of the hotels to the array of sounds of a party that Isabelle attends with her friends. The film’s music by Philippe Rombi is superb for its somber and melancholic score that plays into moods that Isabelle goes through while its film soundtrack includes some electronic pieces by M83 and Crystal Castles at a party scene plus songs by Francoise Hardy that plays to Isabelle’s evolution as a person.

The casting by Sarah Teper is amazing for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Djedje Apali and Nathalie Richard as friends of Sylvie and Patrick, Laurent Delbecque as a classmate of Isabelle, Jeanne Ruff as Isabelle’s best friend Claire, Serge Hefez as Isabelle’s psychiatrist in the film’s second half, Akela Sari as the family maid Mouna, and Lucas Prisor as the German boy that Isabelle loses her virginity to. Johan Leysen is terrific as one of Isabelle’s aging clients as a man who treats her very well while Fantin Ravat is wonderful as Isabelle’s younger brother Victor who is intrigued by the world of sex as he is also coming of age.

Frederic Pierrot is excellent as Isabelle’s stepfather Patrick who brings some humor to the film as he tries to deal with the boundaries while being baffled by his stepchildren’s discovery of sex as he also tries to help out Sylvie with her problems. Geraldine Pailhas is fantastic as Isabelle’s mother Sylvie as a woman who eventually learns what her daughter does as she tries to cope with the news and her own failings as a mother. In a cameo performance of sorts, Charlotte Rampling is remarkable in small yet radiant performance as a woman Isabelle meets late in the film as it’s one that is really unforgettable. Finally, there’s Marine Vacth in a brilliant performance as Isabelle as this young woman who becomes fascinated by sex as she becomes a prostitute where she deals with her beauty and sensuality as well as coming to terms with her identity as it’s a real breakthrough for the young actress.

Jeune & Jolie is a sensational film from Francois Ozon that features a dazzling performance from newcomer Marine Vacth. It’s a film that is told with such sensitivity and curiosity in the way a young woman explores her sexuality and the power of sex while dealing with the consequences of her actions which would later lead to her becoming a woman. In the end, Jeune & Jolie is a marvelous film from Francois Ozon.

Francois Ozon Films: Sea the Sea - Sitcom - Criminal Lovers - Water Drops on Burning Rocks - Under the Sand - 8 Women - Swimming Pool - 5x2 - Time to Leave - Angel (2007 film) - Ricky - Le Refuge - Potiche - In the House - (The New Girlfriend) - (Frantz (2016 film)) - (Double Lover) - (By the Grace of God) - Summer of 85 - (Everything Went Fine) - (Peter von Kant) - The Auteurs #33: Francois Ozon

© thevoid99 2014