Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Films That I Saw: April 2015

Well, the summer film season is going to start as I’m already making plans for the summer film season as it will relate to a few things that I won’t divulge on until the end of May. This month was kind of tough financially though I was able to see a couple of films theatrically while spending most of my time at home. Largely due to the fact due to a few things going on at home as I would spend my time watching films but it’s been kind of a struggle lately. I think it’s a bit of burn out as it does become a chore at times to watch films which is why I suddenly I decided to work on re-watches and documentaries for a while just to pass the time and not overwhelm myself. It’s managed to be helpful as I needed to turn my brain off every once in a while and relax.

One of the projects I plan on doing for the summer relates to a recent event in the world of cinema as it involved the teaser trailer for one of the new films that is going to come out this year. While there’s a lot of other trailers coming for other summer releases this year and next year, there was one that brought out the fan boy in me. Once I heard those words…. “Chewie… we’re home” as it showed Han Solo and Chewbacca inside the Millennium Falcon. I bounced out of my chair and screamed like a girl while I was in tears. I was glad to know that I wasn’t the only one based on the many reaction trailers that I saw. I grew up on Star Wars although I’m not a hardcore fan. I was a casual devotee who also hated the prequels and what George Lucas did to the original films. Seeing that new teaser made realize that the Force is coming back to the light side after a period of darkness.

In the month of April, I saw a total of 39 films in 23 first-timers and 16 re-watches. Slightly down from last month but still not a bad turn-out as one of the highlights of the month was my Blind Spot assignment in Sullivan's Travels. Here are the top 10 First-Timers that I saw for April 2015:

1. Laurence Anyways

2. Mother

3. La Belle et la Bete

4. It Follows

5. Clouds of Sils Maria

6. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

7. Joy Division

8. Lacombe, Lucien

9. Barking Dogs Never Bite

10. Edge of Tomorrow

Monthly Mini-Reviews


I do like Melissa McCarthy and I think she’s a much better actress than what she’s been doing lately as this film is an example of how her big slob persona is really a detriment to her worth as an actress. It’s a film that isn’t very funny at all where McCarthy plays a character that is just endlessly pathetic as she doesn’t give a reason to root for her while Susan Sarandon is sort of wasted in the role as her grandmother. It’s a film with a lot of talent but a poor script and hi-jinks that is never funny. It is really fucking awful.

Grudge Match

This wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be as it turned out to be pretty good. Robert de Niro was pretty funny as a selfish old fart while Sylvester Stallone is actually excellent as the more humble fighter. It’s got a good cast and a worthwhile premise though the one thing the film didn’t need is Kevin Hart. He’s not funny. My dad doesn’t think he’s funny at all either. We think of as nothing more than a whiny little child who got famous for screaming like a child. Thank goodness for Alan Arkin who provides some of the funniest one-liners while I also got a kick in seeing de Niro make LL Cool J his bitch which is appropriate since LL is a bitch.

Dean Smith: A Portrait of Greatness

For anyone that has followed North Carolina’s college basketball program knows how special Dean Smith is not just for the college and its state but also for the game itself. He was a man that really not only brought a lot of class and unconventional strategy to the game but he would also be a key figure that also helped desegregate basketball in North Carolina during the era of the Civil Rights movement. If it wasn’t for this man, the world wouldn’t know about this young kid from Wilmington, North Carolina named Mike who appears in the film along with rival in Duke’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski. It’s a must-see for anyone that loves college basketball as well as sports.

Frank Sinatra: All or Nothing at All

The second documentary this year that is directed by Alex Gibney is something that music fans must see as it plays into the life and career of Frank Sinatra through some of his best songs. It’s a film that features a lot of footage of Sinatra’s career as it’s told in two parts as it relates to his first retirement concert in the early 1970s. The first part is his beginnings and rise to stardom as well as his decline and comeback when he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for From Here to Eternity. The second part plays into the period with the Rat Pack and the final years of his life as both parts of the film features various audio interviews with those who knew him from the past and present as it’s a very rich documentary film.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. American Splendor

2. 21 Grams

3. Working Girl

4. Gattaca

5. X-Men: Days of Future Past

6. Murmur of the Heart

7. 22 Jump Street

8. Wishful Drinking

9. Rookie of the Year

10. Tough Guys

Well, that is all for April. Tomorrow, I will make an official announcement about my upcoming Cannes Film Festival marathon which will occur from May 13 to the 24th. Along with Auteurs pieces on Bong Joon-ho and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, there will be reviews of theatrical releases like Ex-Machina, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Mad Max: Fury Road as well as some other films. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off.

© thevoid99 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Atlantic City (1980 film)

Directed by Louis Malle and written by John Guare, Atlantic City is the story of a former gangster who protects a young courier after her husband had stolen some money as they’re both on the run from the mob. The film is an unlikely love story where an old man falls for a younger woman as they deal with chaos over stolen money in the middle of Atlantic City. Starring Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon, Kate Reid, Robert Joy, Hollis McLaren, Al Waxman, and Michel Piccoli. Atlantic City is a thrilling yet enchanting film from Louis Malle.

The film revolves a former gangster who befriends and falls for a young woman whose estranged husband had stolen some drugs from mobsters as he does whatever it takes to protect her. It plays into a man trying to cope with aging as he is struggling to get by as he is caring for an old woman as well as make money for the poor as his neighbor is a casino waitress training to be a courier. The two come together when Lou Pascal (Burt Lancaster) tries to help out this young drug dealer named Dave Matthews (Robert Joy) try to score a deal in which Lou will get a cut but things go wrong when the drugs that Dave stole belonged to a mob.

The film’s screenplay explores this old man trying to find meaning again as he falls for this young woman named Sally (Susan Sarandon) who wants a new life as she copes with her husband’s bad deals and how it would affect her chance for a brighter future. Even as Sally has to endure her ex-husband and her pregnant sister Chrissie (Hollis McLaren) as they would stay at her apartment while Lou spends his time taking care of a mob-boss widow named Grace (Kate Reid) where he doesn’t feel appreciated. All of which play into Sally and Lou coming together and make a new life for themselves.

Louis Malle’s direction is quite simple as there aren’t a lot of very stylistic shots yet it does play into a period in time where Atlantic City is moving away from its roots into something more modern and less glamorous. While it is a largely intimate film, there are some wide shots as it plays the decline of the old Atlantic City where its hotels and buildings are either destroyed or in ruins in favor of cheaper and more modern-day casinos. Malle does make the city a character as it is mostly shot on the actual city while he goes for close-ups and medium shots to play into some of the drama and suspense that looms throughout the film. Especially as there’s moments where Lou and Sally are in the same room but the latter isn’t aware of the former’s presence until the film’s second half. Malle’s direction does keep thing engaging as it includes some intense moments into the suspense as well as bits of humor as it play into Lou’s desire to reclaim his sense of youth and his attraction towards Sally. Overall, Malle creates a very engaging yet fun film about an ex-gangster protecting a young woman from the mob.

Cinematographer Richard Ciupka does excellent work with the film‘s very soft yet lush cinematography to capture the sense of griminess and bleak colors of the locations along with some unique lighting schemes to play into some of the romantic textures of the film. Editor Suzanne Baron does terrific work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward to play into the drama and suspense. Production designer Ann Pritchard and set decorator Gretchen Rau do amazing work with the look of the apartments of the key characters as well as some of the places they go to including the casinos.

Costume designer Francois Barbeau does nice work with the costumes from the suits that Lou would wear to the waitress/casual clothes that Sally wears to play into the ideas of the old and new world. The sound work of Jean-Claude Laureux is superb for its sound effects from the way music is heard on locations to the atmosphere in the casinos. The film’s music by Michel Legrand is wonderful though it is very sparse as it is mostly an ambient soundtrack while much of the soundtrack consists of different array of music from soul, rock, pop, classical, jazz, and opera music.

The film’s brilliant cast includes an appearance from the singer Robert Goulet as himself as well as notable small roles from Al Waxman as a dealer Lou knows, Wallace Shawn as a restaurant waiter, Hollis McLaren as Sally’s spiritual yet pregnant sister Chrissie, and Robert Joy as Sally’s estranged husband Dave who would try to create deals only to get himself into serious trouble. Michel Piccoli is superb in a small role as a courier teacher who tries to teach Sally the ropes in dealing while Kate Reid is fantastic as the aging mob widow Grace who orders Lou around while lamenting over the loss of the old Atlantic City. Susan Sarandon is amazing as Sally Matthews as this woman eager to make it as a courier while working part time as a waitress as she copes with her husband’s troubles and the protection of Lou. Finally, there’s Burt Lancaster in a phenomenal performance as Lou Pascal as this former gangster who was a top numbers man back in the old days as he copes with aging and the thirst to feel young again as Lancaster brings a sense of charm and energy into his performance.

Atlantic City is a remarkable film from Louis Malle that features top-notch performances from Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon. It’s a film that manages to transcend all genres while being very exciting with characters that are engaging and lively as it’s also one of Malle’s most accessible films. In the end, Atlantic City is a sensational film from Louis Malle.

Louis Malle Films: (The Silent World) - Elevator to the Gallows - The Lovers (1958 film) - Zazie dans le metro - (A Very Private Affair) - (Vive Le Tour) - The Fire Within - (Bons baisers de Bangkok) - (Viva Maria!) - (The Thief of Paris) - Spirits of the Dead-William Wilson - (Phantom India) - (Calcutta) - Murmur of the Heart - (Humain, Trop Humain) - Place de la Republique - Lacombe, Lucien - Black Moon - (Close Up (1976 short) - (Dominique Sanda ou Le reve eveille) - Pretty Baby - (My Dinner with Andre) - Crackers - God’s Country (1985 film) - (Alamo Bay) - (And the Pursuit of Happiness) - Au Revoir Les Enfants - (May Fools) - (Damage (1992 film)) - (Vanya on 42nd Street)

© thevoid99 2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

21 Grams

Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and written by Guillermo Arriaga, 21 Grams is the story of three people who are each connected by the death of a person as they each cope with loss and faith. The second part of a trilogy that explores death, the film is a multi-layered story that plays into the lives of three people who don’t know each other but become connected by tragedy. Starring Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Benicio del Toro, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Melissa Leo, Danny Huston, Clea Duvall, Denis O’Hare, and Eddie Marsan. 21 Grams is an ominous yet exhilarating film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

When a hit-and-run claimed the lives of a man and two little girls, the lives of three different people are affected in drastic ways as the film is about tragedy and its after effects. Much of it involves the life of a critically-ill mathematician who is need of a heart transplant, a grieving widow who also lost her daughters in this tragedy, and a born-again ex-convict whose faith is tested over what had happened. Through Guillermo Arriaga’s complex and multi-layered screenplay, it is told in a non-linear fashion as it plays into not just the tragedy but also the search for meaning as one man tries to find redemption, another man is trying to find answers into why he’s alive, and a woman is caught in the middle over what she had lost. All of which plays into those dealing with mistakes and such as well as several other things where everyone tries to find answers.

For the mathematician Paul Rivers (Sean Penn), he is given a second chance to live but his own marriage to Mary (Charlotte Gainsbourg) starts to fall apart as he becomes obsessed with the identity of the heart he had received which would lead him to Cristina (Naomi Watts). Cristina would learn about Paul and what he has to do with the death of her family as it has the two come together to track the man who was responsible for changing their lives in the ex-convict Jack Jordan (Benicio del Toro). Yet, there are elements into both Cristina and Jack that are interesting as the former was a former drug addict who was saved by her husband as she found a reason to live as that loss drove her back to drugs and alcohol.

In the latter, here is someone who is trying to redeem himself as he devotes himself towards Christianity and swear off drugs and alcohol but his involvement in this tragedy forces him to question his own faith and being as he has no clue what to do as he carries the guilt. All of which forces all three characters to converge into a heavy confrontation about loss as it is, once again, told in a non-linear fashion. There’s moments that play into the drama where all three have to work together as it becomes clear that none of them have anything to gain in this tragedy that their connected by. Even as they all know that there is nowhere else to go as some try to find redemption while others seek an answer.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s direction is very entrancing not just for how dreary he presents the drama but also into the many layers that the story takes. Much of it is presented with a sense of intimacy as Inarritu’s approach to close-ups and medium shots play into the anguish that occurs throughout the film. Even in scenes where Jack eats dinner with his family as he is trying to be a good father but his approach might seem harsh as it relates to his own children. Much of Inarritu’s approach is shot with hand-held cameras but it’s never overly shaky as he maintains something that is very steady and to the point. Notably as Inarritu would create scenes to tease various storylines coming together such as Mary waiting for Paul as he does surgery as she gets a glimpse of Cristina walking out of the hospital with her family.

Since it is a film told in a non-linear narrative, Inarritu is able to create moments in the film where it allows a scene to be told in very different ways. Even as he would shift moments that is supposed to be in the third act back into the first or second act as it plays into the drama. There’s also moments in the film where things do intensify on an emotional level as it relates to Cristina’s grief and Jack’s own guilt such as the scene of him returning home as he reveals to his wife what he had done. Inarritu’s approach to the compositions in how he frames his actors are also intense such as its climax in the third act as it is about who is where in the frame and such. Overall, Inarritu creates a very brooding yet somber film about death, faith, and understanding.

Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto does amazing work with the film‘s grainy and colorful cinematography where it adds to the very grimy sense of despair that looms in the film with its gritty approach to daytime exteriors to its usage of low-key lights and dark shades for the interior scenes whether it‘s day or night. Editor Stephen Mirrone does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to play into the drama and its offbeat, non-linear narrative. Production designer Brigitte Broch, with set decorator Meg Everist and art director Deborah Riley, does excellent work with the look of the different homes of the three characters to showcase who they are as well as some of the places they go to including the swimming pool center that Cristina goes to.

Costume designer Marlene Stewart does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual for the look of the characters to play into their sense of loss. Sound designers Martin Hernandez and Roland N. Thai do fantastic work with the sound to capture the intensity of the emotions as well as some of the chaotic moments of violence and drama that occurs in the film. The film’s music by Gustavo Santaolalla is superb for its very ominous and eerie score with its emphasis on folk guitars and somber electric guitars to play into the drama while music supervisor Lynn Fainchtein brings in a nice soundtrack that features different kinds of music from acts like War, Ozomatli, Ann Sexton, and Dave Matthews.

The casting by Francine Maisler is remarkable as it features notable small roles from Carly Nahon and Claire Pakis as Cristina’s daughters, Paul Calderon as a friend of Jack in Brown who tries to get him work, Denis O’Hare as Paul’s heart surgeon, John Rubenstein as Mary’s gynecologist who tries to help her chances to be pregnant, Clea Duvall as Cristina’s friend Claudia, Danny Huston as Cristina’s husband Michael, and Eddie Marsan as Reverend John who tries to help Jack following the tragedy. Melissa Leo is excellent as Jack’s wife Marianne who tries to cope with what Jack had done as she tries to help him. Charlotte Gainsbourg is superb as Paul’s wife who is eager to start over with him after a separation period as well as taking care of him as she copes with the changes in their life after his surgery.

Benicio del Toro is brilliant as Jack Jordan as a former convict turned born-again Christian who becomes the catalyst for the tragedy that is shaped in the film as he spends much of the film questioning his faith and ponders if he can be redeemed. Naomi Watts is amazing as Cristina Peck as a recovering addict who falls back into her addition following the loss of her family as Watts display the sense of anguish that looms over her as she searches for answers and satisfaction. Finally, there’s Sean Penn in a marvelous performance as Paul River as a mathematician who was dying until he received a new heart as he ponders whose heart does he have as he tries to find answers while coping with his own mortality and existence.

21 Grams is a phenomenal film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu that features very strong performances from Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and Benicio del Toro. It’s a film that doesn’t explore the severity of death and tragedy but also plays into the world of existence and faith. It’s also a film that doesn’t play by the rules of conventional narrative thanks in part to Guillermo Arriaga’s inventive screenplay. In the end, 21 Grams is a tremendous film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu Films: Amores Perros - The Hire-Powder Keg - 11' 9' 01 September 11-Mexico - Babel - To Each His Own Cinema - Biutiful - Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - The Revenant - The Auteurs #45: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

© thevoid99 2014

Monday, April 27, 2015

Lacombe, Lucien

Directed by Louis Malle and written by Malle and Patrick Modiano, Lacombe, Lucien is the story of a teenage boy dealing with life under German occupation of France in World War II. The film plays into a period of time when France was under severe control as a teenage boy would play a crucial part in France‘s war against Germany but on the wrong side after being rejected by the French Resistance. Starring Pierre Blaise, Aurore Clement, Holger Lowenalder, Therese Giehse, and Stephane Bouy. Lacombe, Lucien is a riveting coming-of-age film from Louis Malle.

Set in the summer of 1944 during Germany’s occupation of France in World War II, the film revolves an 17-year old boy who joins a Gestapo group after being rejected to join the French Resistance. Upon joining this band of French fighters who work with the Nazis, Lucien Lacombe (Pierre Blaise) feels like he belongs somewhere after being forced out of his family farm and having nowhere else to go. During his time working with the Gestapo, he befriends a Jewish tailor as he falls for the tailor’s daughter as he tries to help her family escape France as things intensify once the Allies start to gain ground and kick the Nazis out of France.

It’s a film that plays into a young man trying to find a place in the world as he becomes comfortable working with the Gestapo but eventually realizes he’s on the losing side as he is forced to do things to help those he care about while knowing he is a target. The film’s screenplay is very simple as it plays into Lucien’s desire to find meaning as he becomes seduced with power but realizes how dangerous things are once the Gestapo is being taken out by the Resistance. It’s in the third act where Lucien does find redemption but also knows that it will be short-lived as he becomes more concerned about saving those he care about rather than himself.

Louis Malle’s direction is very engaging for the way he portrays 1944 France during a tense summer as it shot on location in a rural, small town in the middle of France. Much of it is presented with images and compositions that are very intimate with elements of naturalism in its look. While there’s lots of close-ups and medium shots in the film, Malle’s approach to wide shots are entrancing to play into the location. Malle would also use hand-held camera shots to play into something that feels naturalistic as well as creating shots to play into some of the dramatic tension as it involves Lucien and this Jewish tailor named Albert Horn (Holger Lowenalder) since Horn is kept alive due to his work as Lucien would fall for Horn’s daughter named France (Aurore Clement). Malle would also create moments that are violent but he never really shows anything as it becomes evident in its third act once it becomes clear that Lucien is now in danger where it would set the path for his own redemption. Overall, Malle creates a very compelling yet intoxicating coming-of-age film about a young man in Nazi-occupied France.

Cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli does incredible work with the film‘s cinematography with its sunny and colorful daytime exterior scenes that has an air of naturalism with some unique lighting schemes for some scenes set at night at the home where the Gestapo runs their operation. Editor Suzanne Baron does excellent work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the drama and suspense. Production designer Ghislain Uhry and set decorator Henri Vergnes do amazing work with the set pieces from the home of the Gestapo to the messy apartment that Albert Horn and his family live in.

Costume designer Corrine Jorry does nice work with the costumes as it plays into that period in time from the dresses as well as some of the uniforms the Nazis wear. Sound mixer Nara Kollery does terrific work with the sound to capture some of the drama and moments of violence that definitely amps up the drama. The film’s music consists of pieces by Charles Gronoud and Django Reinhardt as it plays into the sense of youth in Lucien as well as some of the drama that occurs in the film.

The casting by Catherine Vernoux is brilliant as it features notable small roles from Jacques Rispal as the farm proprietor who dislikes Lucien, Gilberte Rivet as Lucien’s mother, Pierre Saintons as the collaborator Hippolyte, Cecile Ricard as the hotel maid who would seduce Lucien early in the film, Jacques Rougerie as the German police chief that would take charge of the local Gestapo, Loumi Iacobesco as an once-famous film star who works with the Gestapo, and Stephane Bouy as a top collaborator who would show Lucien the ropes into displaying power. Therese Giehse is fantastic in a small yet enchanting role as Albert’s mother Bella as she is mostly silent as she is merely an observer of what goes on as she has some distrust towards Lucien.

Holger Lowenadler is excellent as Albert Horn as a Jewish tailor who lives as a recluse as he is under secret protection for his work as he befriends Lucien as well as suspicious for his intentions for his daughter. Aurore Clement is amazing as Albert’s daughter France as she is the embodiment of innocence as she is also suspicious of Lucien’s intentions as she becomes aware of what the Germans will do to her family. Finally, there’s Pierre Blaise in a phenomenal performance as Lucien Lacombe as this 17-year old boy lost in the world as his attempts to be part of the French Resistance forces him to go into the other side by accident as he becomes seduced by power but also lost in a world where he knows he’s on the wrong side and is going to be killed for his actions.

Lacombe, Lucien is a sensational film from Louis Malle that features a stunning performance from Pierre Blaise. Armed with a great ensemble, a fantastic soundtrack, and a gorgeous cinematography from Tonino Delli Colli, the is definitely an intriguing coming-of-age film set in Nazi-occupied France during World War II as it is told from the other side. In the end, Lacombe, Lucien is a marvelous film from Louis Malle.

Louis Malle Films: (The Silent World) - Elevator to the Gallows - The Lovers (1958 film) - Zazie dans le metro - (A Very Private Affair) - (Vive Le Tour) - The Fire Within - (Bons baisers de Bangkok) - (Viva Maria!) - (The Thief of Paris) - Spirits of the Dead-William Wilson - (Phantom India) - (Calcutta) - Murmur of the Heart - (Humain, Trop Humain) - Place de la Republique - Black Moon - (Close Up (1976 short) - (Dominique Sanda ou Le reve eveille) - Pretty Baby - Atlantic City (1980 film) - (My Dinner with Andre) - Crackers - God’s Country (1985 film) - (Alamo Bay) - (And the Pursuit of Happiness) - Au Revoir Les Enfants - (May Fools) - (Damage (1992 film)) - (Vanya on 42nd Street)

© thevoid99 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pink Floyd: The Final Cut

Directed by Willie Christie and written by Roger Waters that is based on the 1983 album by Pink Floyd, The Final Cut is a 19-minute short film that revolves a man watching images about war as he yearns for the post-war dream. The film features four tracks from the band’s album which all play into Waters’ response to the 1982 Falkland Island war between Britain and Argentina as well as criticism towards Margaret Thatcher. Starring Alex McAvoy and Roger Waters. The Final Cut is a somber yet entrancing film by Willie Christie.

The film revolves around a man who watches television one day as he sees images about war as he copes with his son fighting a war as he ponders the idea of the post-war dream through a series of videos by Pink Floyd. Much of which play into a man haunted by the horror of war and the demands of his government as it is an anti-war short film told through four songs by Pink Floyd including its title track. The videos serve to reflect the ideas of not just the concept of the post-war dream in its title track but also that sense of loss through Margaret Thatcher. Even as songs like The Gunner’s Dream and Not Now John play into not just the sense of loss but also that sense of demand for war in the latter as its clip is presented with surreal imagery with women as geishas tempting men building war machines.

Willie Christie’s direction is very intriguing with its opening scene where this old man is driving on a highway to an unknown location where he stops to see a veteran standing on a bridge. Christie’s direction for the title track features Roger Waters sitting on a couch during a psychiatric session as he sings the song behind the shadows to various stock footage of the post-war life. Christie’s compositions often range towards medium and wide shots that include some very sobering scenes involving the old man watching images about war as he looks towards a picture of his own as the old man is played touchingly by Alex McAvoy. Especially as Christie also provide satires by having actors play such figures as Winston Churchill, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, Augusto Pinochet, and Margaret Thatcher as representation of power. Overall, Christie creates a visually-haunting yet eerie film about a man’s desire for the post-war dream.

The Final Cut is a superb film from Willie Christie. While it’s a film that will appeal to Pink Floyd fans who liked the album, it is still an intriguing short film that also serves as an anti-war film. In the end, The Final Cut is a superb film from Willie Christie and Pink Floyd.

Pink Floyd Films: (London ‘66-‘67) - Live at Pompeii - Pink Floyd: The Wall - (Delicate Sound of Thunder) - (Pulse)

© thevoid99 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Clouds of Sils Maria

Written and directed by Olivier Assayas, Clouds of Sils Maria is the story of a famous film actress who is asked to star in the play that launched her career but in a different role as she copes with aging and the death of an old mentor. The film is an exploration of a woman who tries to figure out the ways of a new world as she contends with a young actress who is known for being notorious while is accompanied by a loyal assistant who tries to help her. Starring Juliette Binoche, Kirsten Stewart, and Chloe Grace Moretz. Clouds of Sils Maria is a compelling yet mesmerizing film from Olivier Assayas.

The film revolves around a famous film actress who goes to Switzerland to pay tribute to her mentor as she learns he had just died as the play that launched her career is being remade by a new director who asks her to play the older woman. It’s a film that isn’t just about the art of acting but also the world of aging as the actress Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is playing the role of a character that she has no relations to as she also learns that the character that she played many years ago is being played by a talented but troubled young actress. Aiding Enders into preparing the role is her loyal assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) where the two stay at the home of Maria’s late mentor as the lines begin to blur into the role that Maria is trying to play with Valentine reading lines as the character that made Maria famous.

Olivier Assayas’ screenplay doesn’t just explore Maria’s resistance into playing the role of the older woman Helena who falls in love and becomes destroyed by this young woman named Sigrid. It’s also in the fact that Maria once played Sigrid which was written by her mentor and it was the role that gave her the big break when she was just 18. Still mourning over the loss of the man who gave her the break and the offer to play Helena in that play doesn’t just put Maria in emotional and mental turmoil as she is aghast that the young actress Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloe Grace Moretz) is to play Sigrid. While Valentine finds Jo-Ann to be very interesting, Maria isn’t so sure as she and Valentine spend much of their time in the Alps hiking and reciting lines for play where Valentine offers her own interpretation of the play as things do intensify. Notably as Maria ponders about who she is and is she becoming Helena.

Assayas’ direction is very simple in terms of its compositions as he shoots the film largely in Switzerland where much of the story takes place in Sils Maria near the Alps. Assayas definitely makes Sils Maria and other locations in Switzerland and places in Germany characters in the film yet it does play into the wonder that is Sils Maria. Assayas does go for a lot of great wide shots of those locations while he keeps things very intimate with its usage of close-ups and medium shots as it relates to the relationship between Maria and Valentine. Assayas does bring in elements of humor as it relates to Maria’s own reaction towards Jo-Ann and her films while there’s also some commentary that these young starlets aren’t exactly what they seem. Even when Maria and Valentine eventually meet Jo-Ann in the third act as Assayas’ camera becomes more intimate with its dolly-tracking shots as it reveals the different kind of youth that Jo-Ann is. It does play into the world of aging but also reasons into why Maria has trouble relating to the character she is to play which adds a complexity to her relationship with Valentine. Overall, Assayas crafts a very intriguing yet evocative film about an actress dealing with death and aging.

Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography with its low-key yet stylish look for the scenes set at night to the more naturalistic look of the daytime exterior scenes including some of the moments at the Alps. Editor Marion Monnier does brilliant work with the editing with its stylish use of dissolves and jump-cuts to play into the drama along with some inspired use of transitional fade-outs. Production designer Francois-Renaud Labarthe, with set decorator Gabriele Wolff and art director Gabriella Ausonio, does fantastic work with the hotels that Maria and Valentine would stay in along with the home of Maria‘s mentor.

Costume designer Jurgen Doering does nice work with the costumes as it features mostly casual clothing with the exception of the Chanel dresses that Maria would wear early in the film. Visual effects supervisor Mikael Tanguy does terrific work for some of the minimal visual effects that involve the mysterious clouds that loom over the Alps. Sound editor Nicholas Moreau does superb work with the sound as it’s very sparse in its intimate setting along with low-key moments for the locations in the Alps near Sils Maria. The film’s music soundtrack largely features classical pieces by Georg Friedrich Handel and Johann Pachelbel as well as a brooding electro-rock piece from Primal Scream.

The casting by Antoinette Boulat and Anja Dihrberg is wonderful as it features notable small roles from Brady Corbet as a young filmmaker wanting to work with Maria, Benoit Peverelli as a publicist for Maria in Zurich, Caroline de Maigret as a Chanel press agent, Nora von Waldstatten as Jo-Ann’s co-star in a sci-fi movie, and Angela Winkler as the widow of Maria’s mentor who would reveal to her about the home and what happened to her husband. Hanns Zischler is terrific as an actor Maria worked with in the past whom she disliked as he tries to flirt with her upon their reunion to pay tribute to their mentor. Johnny Flynn is excellent as a famous figure whom Jo-Ann is dating in the film’s third act as it would cause some trouble into their lives. Lars Eidinger is superb as the director Klaus Diesterweg as a famous theater director who wants to remake the play that Maria was famous for as he wanted Maria to play the role of the older woman Helena.

Chloe Grace Moretz is fantastic as Jo-Ann Ellis as this young actress who is a magnet for trouble as she is asked to play the role that Maria was famous for as she copes with her fame and ideas of the play where Moretz brings that young naiveté to her performance as well as someone who is actually more aware of her dysfunction as a person and as a celebrity. Kristen Stewart is amazing as Valentine as Maria’s personal assistant who accompanies her to Switzerland and helps her with the play as Stewart brings some humor to the role as well as someone who isn’t afraid to say things as it’s a very reserved and engaging performance from Stewart who does get to provide some scene-stealing moments. Finally, there’s Juliette Binoche in a remarkable performance as Maria Enders as this famous film star coping with the loss of her mentor and aging as she has trouble trying to play a role that was the opposite of the character that made her famous as it’s a performance where Binoche brings some anguish and humility as well as elements of humor as it’s one of her finest performances to date.

Clouds of Sils Maria is a phenomenal film from Olivier Assayas that features incredible performances from Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, and Chloe Grace Moretz. It’s a film that explores the world of art as well as an actress coming to terms with getting older and be forced to face realizations about herself. In the end, Clouds of Sils Maria is a sensational film from Olivier Assayas.

Olivier Assayas Film: (Disorder) - (Winter’s Child) - (Paris Awakens) - (A New Life) - (Cold Water) - (Irma Vep) - (Late August, Early September) - (Sentimental Destinies) - (Demonlover) - Clean - (Boarding Gate) - Summer Hours - Carlos - (Something in the Air) - Personal Shopper

© thevoid99 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015

Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (Director's Cut)

Directed by Adrian Meben, Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii is a concert/documentary film in which the British progressive rock band plays live inside the ruins of Pompeii. The film is an unusual concert film as the band plays inside an abandoned amphitheatre with no audience as the material covers tracks the band did in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The film would also be inter-cut with footage of the band recording their 1973 breakthrough album Dark Side of the Moon. The result is a visually hypnotic and mesmerizing film from Adrian Meben.

The film is simply a concert performance of Pink Floyd playing a few songs in an empty amphitheatre in Pompeii as they would also walk around its surroundings while doing a few performances in a studio in Paris inter-cut with images of Pompeii as well as breaks into the recording of Dark Side of the Moon. It’s a film that showcases the art rock band at a crucial period in time where they would break away from being this cult art-rock band that were previously famous for bringing their own take of British psychedelia in the late 1960s to becoming the world-famous stadium rock band of the 1970s and beyond. The performances at Pompeii features images of the locations with its volcanoes and ruined landmarks as director Adrian Meben brings a visual interpretation of these songs.

Half of the cuts are from the band’s 1971 release Meddle where the 23-minute track Echoes opens and closes the film as it’s split into two parts while two of the tracks are from the band’s second album A Saucerful of Secrets with a famous B-side in Careful with That Axe, Eugene that is performed. Many of which plays into the band’s approach to art and progressive music where Meben would inter-cut with images of Pompeii and nearby locations as well as images of space. Though some of the results that are unveiled in Maben’s 2003’s cut of the film which does expand the original 1972 one-hour cut and its 1974 expanded 80-minute cut. The space images does sort of take away the elements of the band’s performance and the images of Pompeii despite the nice visual effects work of Michel Francois and Michel Y Gouf in the backdrops for the band in their performances.

The film also features footage of the band in various recording sessions in Paris and in London at Abbey Road Studio as the former showcases them doing recordings on the track Echoes with interviews from the band during that time as much of the Paris interviews are shot in black-and-white. The scenes in Abbey Road showcase the band recording tracks for their 1973 breakthrough album as well as outtakes of what they were doing at the time. With the aid of cinematographers Willy Kurant and Gabor Pogany, Maben captures not just the band at work but also in its performances with nice wide shots and lingering, naturalistic images of Pompeii.

With the aid of editor Jose Pinheiro, with Nino DiFonzi for its 2003 director‘s cut, Meben brings in some stylish editing to the performances such as stylish montages and jump-cuts. The sound work of Charles Rauchet and Peter Watts, with additional work from Philippe Carrere for its 2003 director’s cut, add to the power of these performances as well as capturing some of the moments that occur in the locations in Pompeii. Even in some of its smoky areas as it help add various textures to some of the songs the band does.

Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii is a marvelous film from Adrian Meben. Fans of the band will definitely see this as essential though some of the new material Meben adds for its 2003 cut isn’t that great. It’s a film that captures the band at a moment where they were adventurous and fearless before they would become the icons of rock. In the end, Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii is extraordinary film from Adrian Meben.

Pink Floyd Films: (London ‘66-‘67) - Pink Floyd: The Wall - The Final Cut - (Delicate Sound of Thunder) - (Pulse)

© thevoid99 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Edge of Tomorrow

Based on the light novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow is the story of a public relations officer who is forced to take part in a war against aliens on Earth as he finds himself in a time loop whenever he dies. Directed by Doug Liman and screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, the film is a sci-fi thriller where a man is being trained numerous times following his death to kill aliens with the help of a soldier. Starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Noah Taylor, and Brendan Gleeson. Edge of Tomorrow is a thrilling and exciting film from Doug Liman.

Set in a futuristic world where Europe is ravaged by an alien invasion, the film revolved around a military publicist who is forced to go into combat to fight the aliens where an encounter with one has him in a time loop as he teams with a soldier who knows what is happening to him. It’s a film that does feature a lot of exposition that plays into the world of time travel where this man finds himself getting killed several times and then come back to live where he encounters the same thing every day as he and this top soldier try to change things for the future. It is a film where two people become aware of what is happening and what they’re facing a planned invasion against aliens proved to be fatal prompting this officer and soldier to try and change things before the invasion ever begins.

The film’s screenplay does carry some expositions about the idea of time loops but it manages to pay off since it does help drive the story and the development of its central characters. Notably the character of Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) who had never been in combat as his job is to spread the good news about the war against these aliens when he is really just lying to the public. When he refuses to cover an invasion out of fear, he ends up being sent against his will as a soldier forced to fight with others where he would meet the super-soldier Sgt. Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) during the battle as she would train him after times he would die as she knows that he is in a time loop as it had happened to her in a previous battle where she helped the humans beat the aliens in that battle. Since she is unable to know what will happen, she trains Cage as they both try to find this mysterious alien object and destroy it or else humanity gets wiped out.

Doug Liman’s direction is very intense as it plays into not just the chaos of war but also play into a world where humanity might not have a tomorrow. While it is a film that has a lot of heavy drama and sci-fi context, Liman does balance it with elements of humor as it relates to Cage dying over and over again. The sense of repetition manages to not only amp up the humor but also showcase the humility in Cage as he is forced to deal with the reality of his situation and what he could do with it. Liman’s compositions are quite stylish in terms of angles but also in re-creating the same scenes to play into the repetition where there will always be different results as Liman’s approach to wide and medium shots often set up what will happen but also how some images manage to repeat themselves. Even in moments where Cage would die once again as he would meet Rita telling her what they did wrong as they would also confer with a mechanic named Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor) who was a government scientist that knows a lot about these aliens.

Liman’s approach to repetition not only allows the audience to understand what is happening and the characters that Cage is fighting with but also in what he and Rita could do to set things right. Most notably in the third act where Liman takes great advantage of the locations in Britain where the film is set to play into a world that is now gone as it adds to the stakes of what they’re doing. Even as their encounters with the aliens would have severe consequences about the power that Cage has in order to reset time as he copes with what had happened as Rita is also figuring out how to avoid the chaos in battle. Especially as its climax revolves around this being which they need to stop before anyone would get destroyed in this invasion that would eventually be a slaughter. Overall, Liman creates a very engaging yet entertaining film about a man who keeps getting killed and finds himself in a time loop to find ways to save the world.

Cinematographer Dion Bebe does excellent work with the cinematography from its low-key approach to color with its exterior and interior lighting schemes along with some very dark and colorful lights for the scenes set at night. Editors James Herbert and Laura Jennings do amazing work with the editing to capture some of the chaos that goes on in battle with its fast-paced cutting while slowing things down for its element of suspense and humor. Production designer Oliver Schon, with supervising art director Neil Lamont and set decorators Elli Griff, Gena Vasquez, and 3D drafter Chris “Flimsy“ Howes, does brilliant work with the design of the ships and base where the military does its job as well as the look of certain locations in their ruined state. Costume designer Kate Hawley does terrific work with the costumes from the look of the uniforms to the design of the armored suits the soldiers wear in battle.

Hair/makeup designer Sarah Monzani does nice work with some of the makeup such as a scar on Rita‘s head and other marks for the soldiers to showcase their experience in battle. Visual effects supervisor Nick Davis does fantastic work with the look of the monsters as well as some of the look of the cities to play into its sense of dread and terror that looms in the film. Sound designer James Boyle and sound editor Dominic Gibbs do superb work with the sound from creating some sound effects for the aliens as well as capturing many of the elements in the battle scenes. The film’s music by Christophe Beck is wonderful for its bombastic orchestral score that also features more low-key and somber elements that play into the drama as well as pieces for its humorous moments while music supervisor Julianne Jordan brings in a decent soundtrack of pop and rock songs.

The casting by Lucinda Syson is great as it features notable small roles from Charlotte Riley, Jonas Armstrong, Kick Gurry, Dragomir Mrsic, Franz Drameh, Tony Way, and Masayoshi Haneda as a squadron Cage would work with every day as they’re unaware of what is happening to them as they would later be useful for the film’s climax. Noah Taylor is excellent as a former government scientist who understands how the aliens work as he knows what Rita went through as he also tries to help Cage out in how to defeat the aliens. Bill Paxton is superb as Master Sgt. Farell who is the leader of the squadron that Cage would work with as he makes sure everyone is on their feet for the mission as he is unaware of what will happen. Brendan Gleeson is fantastic as General Brigham as the military leader who runs the whole operation as he would put Cage into combat to make sure things go well.

Tom Cruise is brilliant as Major William Cage as this military publicist who is inexperienced in battle as he gets killed many times but finds himself in the same situation when he arrives at base through a time loop as Cruise manages to bring in some humility and humor in his role. Finally, there’s Emily Blunt in an incredible performance as Sgt. Rita Vrataski as Blunt manages to be the total scene-stealer as a woman that is a supreme badass who had been through everything Cage went through as she guides him while being quite distant which gives her the unfortunate nickname as Full Metal Bitch as Blunt brings a lot of nuance and depth as it is one of Blunt’s finest performances.

Edge of Tomorrow is a remarkable film from Doug Liman that features top-notch performances from Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise. The film is more than just a typical sci-fi action-thriller but one that has a sense of humor while not being afraid of not taking itself so seriously. In the end, Edge of Tomorrow is a phenomenal film from Doug Liman.

Doug Liman Films: (Getting In) - (Swingers) - (Go (1999 film)) - (The Bourne Identity) - (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) - (Jumper) - (Fair Game (2010 film)) - (Mena)

© thevoid99 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2015 Blind Spot Series: Sullivan's Travels

Written and directed by Preston Sturges, Sullivan’s Travels is the story of a Hollywood filmmaker who decides to make films about the real world as he pretends to be a hobo as he struggles with what story he wants to tell. The film is an exploration into the world of artistic freedom as it’s told with a lot of humor as it revolves a man who is known for making comedies as he wants to do something serious. Starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. Sullivan’s Travels is a witty yet whimsical film from Preston Sturges.

Set in the final years of the Great Depression, a comedy filmmaker wants to make a film about the poor as he pretends to be poor only to get into some bad situations that forces him to crawl back to his life of comfort. It’s a film that plays into a man who wants to see if he can make something very serious as he decides to dress up like a hobo and endure the same suffering as the poor. Yet, things don’t go well for John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) as he endures a series of humiliating moments until he is aided by a wannabe actress (Veronica Lake) who would join him in his quest to pretend to be poor. Still, Sullivan and this young woman would cope with not just the strange realities of being poor and having to ride trains illegally but also elements that end up being very comical.

Preston Sturges’ screenplay is very witty about the not just Sullivan’s struggles to feel the reality of the poor but also the disconnect that he has since he is someone that is known for making escapist comedies. Part of Sullivan’s motivations to do this adaptation of O Brother, Where Art Thou? revolves around the unhappiness of his own life as he’s in a loveless marriage while feeling unfulfilled creatively. By pretending to be a hobo for research purposes, things don’t go as its planned as the studio hires various people on a bus to follow him where a lot of hi-jinks ensue prompting Sullivan to make a brief retreat to Hollywood after meeting this young woman who would join him in another attempt to understand the poor. The woman’s motivation isn’t just wanting to become an actress but also not return home as a failure as she finds Sullivan as her chance of success and hope.

Part of the success for their relationship isn’t just two people dealing with loneliness but also the dialogue that Sturges creates which is very stylish and rhythmic. The monologues that Sturges creates for these characters including the smaller ones are very to-the-point as well as showcase a sense of frustration and determination into what they want. There’s also some humor that play into the dialogue as it adds to Sturges’ own approach of timing and in fleshing out the characters. Especially in moments when there’s no dialogue as it plays into what Sullivan wants to do and what he wants to say for the people living in such hard times.

Sturges’ direction is very engaging for not just capturing the world of Hollywood but also its emphasis to provide people something that is escapist which Sullivan want to stray away from. While much of the compositions that Sturges creates are simple, he does manage to infuse some style into his direction such as long takes in a scene where Sullivan talks to his bosses about what to do as it is told in one entire take in a medium-wide shot. Sturges’ approach to directing actors and knowing where to place them in the frame not only add to the sense of wanting to capture something real but also combat with Hollywood’s own artificiality in a very funny way. Most notably a sequence where the bus full of reporters and studio people following Sullivan are forced to chase him as it’s among these moments that are just crazy. It’s among some of the hilarity that Sturges wants to create while many of the scenes involving the poor and how they live are taken very seriously.

The direction also has elements where Sturges knows when to just keep things simple which include the scenes between Sullivan and the young woman who joins him as there’s bits of comedy but it’s mostly very low-key. Sturges doesn’t go for a lot of close-ups as he wanted to showcase more of what Sullivan and the woman are doing in their surroundings. It’s in these locations where it helps tell the story of where they are as they would endure moments that are quite grim but also show that there is still elements of life. Even in the film’s third act where Sullivan would endure a journey of his own as it plays into the harsh realities of those who are suffering where he would have his own epiphany about himself and his role as a filmmaker. Overall, Sturges creates a very entertaining and exuberant film about a filmmaker trying to understand the struggles of the poor by becoming poor himself.

Cinematographer John Seitz does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to play into some of the stark look of the scenes where the poor lived with its unique approach to lighting that feels entrancing as opposed to the more simplistic yet lively approach to the world of Hollywood. Editor Stuart Gilmore does excellent work with the editing with its stylish use of rhythmic cuts, montages, and dissolves to play into the humor as well as some of the stranger elements that Sullivan would endure in its third act. Art directors Hans Dreier and Earl Hedrick do fantastic work with the set design from the bus the studio people and journalists would use during Sullivan’s journey as well as the design of his home and the drab places he would go to.

The costumes by Edith Head does brilliant work with the costumes from the dresses that the young woman would wear as well as the hobo clothes she and Sullivan would wear. The sound work of Harry D. Mills and Walter Oberst is terrific for the sound that is captured on location as well as some of the effects that play into the film‘s humor. The film’s music by Leo Shuken and Charles Bradshaw is superb for its orchestral score that ranges from playful for its humorous moments to some somber pieces for its drama and sense of despair.

The casting by Robert Mayo is great as it features notable small roles from Georges Renavent as an old tramp Sullivan would encounter, Margaret Hayes as one of the studio bosses’ secretary, Robert Harwick and William Demarest as the studio bosses, Robert Grieg as Sullivan’s butler, and Eric Blore as Sullivan’s valet as Grieg and Blore both give very funny performances. Finally, there’s the duo of Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea in phenomenal performances. Lake brings a sense of beauty but also humility and humor as a young woman who joins Sullivan on his journey as she helps him try to survive being broke. McCrea brings some grit and humility to his role as John L. Sullivan as this filmmaker wanting to find some realism as he later endures the harshness of reality. Lake and McCrea as a duo have this very lively chemistry that has both of them be funny but also serious as they allow themselves to be characters to root for.

Sullivan’s Travels is a spectacular film from Preston Sturges that features exhilarating performances from Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. Not only is it is comical road film but also an engaging one that explores the world of the Great Depression from the view of an outsider. Especially as it is presented with elements of somber reality mixed in with elements of comedy that does more than just entertain. In the end, Sullivan’s Travels is an exquisite yet incredible film from Preston Sturges.

Preston Sturges Films: (The Great McGinty) - (Christmas in July) - The Lady Eve - (The Palm Beach Story) - (The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek) - (Hail the Conquering Hero) - (The Great Moment) - (The Sin of Harold Diddlebock) - (Unfaithfully Yours) - (The Beautiful Blond of Bashful Head) - (Vendetta (1950 film)) - (The French, They Are a Funny Race)

© thevoid99 2015