Friday, June 30, 2017

Films That I Saw: June 2017

Summer has already started and usually it’s a time for summer vacations and such yet I haven’t had summer vacation in over 20 years and not likely to have one. In fact, I haven’t had a vacation in 14 years and not really interested as I’ve been reading a lot in what is going on in the world and it’s quite surprising what I learned which I will sort of reveal in next week’s Thursday Movie Picks. Still, it’s nothing to complain about as I’ve been scaling things back a bit as I choose to write less reviews and give more time to myself as there’s just days where I just want to play video games. Besides, we’re in a tumultuous period right now where there’s all sorts of chaos around the world such as the situation in Venezuela where friends of my parents are dealing with the craziness that is happening. Even here in the U.S. where it’s just one thing after another which isn’t surprising but the idea of another Watergate happening is kind of exciting. If there’s an impeachment trial coming, I hope to get a lawn chair and watch with glee to see our cunt of a president be fired for all of the bullshit he’s been spouting.

In the month of June, I saw a total of 42 films in 30 first-timers and 12 re-watches which is a bit up from last month which is kind of surprising. One of the highlights of the month has been my Blind Spot assignment in Ninotchka. Here are the top 10 First-Timers of June of 2017:

1. Wonder Woman

2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

3. Amy

4. Une chambre en ville

5. Sing Street

6. I Love You Phillip Morris

7. The Small Back Room

8. Indignation

9. Marley

10. Master of the House

Monthly Mini Reviews

Brian and the Boz

In the first of several episodes of the 30 for 30 series that I saw as this one is about the controversial Brian Bosworth who finally gets to tell his story as he was a star player for the Oklahoma Sooners. Bosworth talks about his own troubled relationship with his father as well as some of the dumb things he did which he owns up to but also some of the accomplishments he made in his time in Oklahoma though his brief NFL career is also discussed.

Nurse 3D

Part of the joys of insomnia is watching something that is just absolutely fucked up and this film definitely delivers in a lot of ways. It’s not a great film but dammit, it’s so fun to watch as it stars Paz de la Huerta as a nurse who guides a young novice into being a nurse while she does other things to kill men who have done women wrong. It’s not afraid to be off the wall and offend as it’s just a good old B-movie that just brings in the fun in a lot of ways.

Phi Slama Jama

The second of many 30 for 30 docs that I saw is about the legendary University of Houston basketball team in the 1980s. A team that was very dominant in college basketball despite not winning any NCAA championships. Yet, the players such as Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were quite powerful while the most gifted player was Benny Anders as part of the doc’s narrative involve former players trying to find the recluse who definitely fell off the face of the earth after his time in Houston.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

In one of the finest comedies to emerge from Britain comes its long-awaited film which is quite entertaining. Notably as it involves two old women who get in trouble after knocking Kate Moss into the Thames supposedly to her death while they hide in the South of France to find a rich man. It’s just a very funny film with some offbeat moments as well as not taking itself seriously while filled with some fun celebrity cameos.

When the Garden was Eden

Another 30 for 30 documentary comes from Michael Rapaport about the New York Knicks during the late 60s and early 1970s at a time when the team was in its golden period. Featuring interviews with many players of those teams, the film has Rapaport talk about the Knicks in their early years through and how they got into this golden period where they got a home that was Madison Square Garden. The Garden is also touched upon as it was a place where it a haven for all New Yorkers whether they were rich or poor to go into and cheer for the Knicks.

Pony Excess

Another documentary from 30 for 30 is about one of the most controversial moments in college football as it relates to the Southern Methodist University’s college football team which was funded by boosters as much of it came from rich guys in Dallas. Narrated by Patrick Duffy, the film follows the university’s rise and how it was popular in Dallas until the NCAA found out a lot of things that were going on illegally that lead to the ultimate punishment in which the college football team were not allowed to play for two years. It’s a very eerie segment from the series that show what happens when players get paid to play when they weren’t supposed to and how excess can ruin things.

The Beach Boys: Making Pet Sounds

For anyone that loves music certainly has heard of Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys as many considered the first pop album that was considered to be art. Told by the surviving members of the band as well as some of the session players who played on that album. It’s a fascinating documentary that explore the tracks that were made as well as what Brian Wilson was doing in order to create something where it is one singular thing rather than a product that was focused on giving people the hits.

Requiem for the Big East

In the world of college basketball, everyone knows about the Big Ten, the SEC, the ACC, and all of those conferences yet it is the Big East that was formed in the late 70s for many schools in the upper east coast that really made college basketball big business. The film is definitely one of the best entries in the 30 for 30 series as it explore the conference’s hey-day in the 1980s where it raised the bar for college basketball yet its downfall is due to college football wanting to be part of the conference as it sucked all the money dry on the basketball conference that eventually ended in the 2010s.

Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies

A trilogy of documentaries made for the 30 for 30 series is about the legendary rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers during the 1980s which many credit into reviving the fortunes of the NBA and making it the place to be. Narrated by Donnie Wahlberg and Ice Cube to provide different perspectives of the rivalry, the film feature interviews from the players, coaches, and many others who were part of this legendary rivalry as it is clear that even though there is an air of respect for the two teams. They still hate each other and prefer to be enemies rather than be friends.

The Birth of Big Air

Produced by Spike Jonze and Johnny Knoxville and directed by Jeff Tremaine of Jackass, this documentary piece from 30 for 30 is about the rise, fall, and sudden resurrection into BMX biking and one of its key figures in Mat Hoffman. Many credit Hoffman for trying resurrect the sport in the early 1990s after its sudden decline in 1989/1990 by doing these big air stunts that were quite extreme but also ahead of its time. It’s a film that is scary at times considering the things that Hoffman was doing but it is also thrilling to see what he was willing to do for the sake of the sport.

The 99ers

From the Nine for IX documentary series is a film about the legendary 1999 Women’s U.S. Soccer team as it’s mainly told through footage filmed by one of the team members during their journey in the 1999 FIFA World Cup. Along with interviews with some of the players, the film follow the live of these women as they talk about their need to win at home but also the struggle they had with fame which made them a bit uncomfortable as it is a great piece from ESPN.

Spring Broke

Another late night film that I saw is an interesting one about the rise and fall of the spring break culture in Florida. Much of it is about the period in the 1980s in Daytona Beach where it was not just the events at their most wild but also at their most profitable with MTV being involved as well. It feature interviews from many of the people that were part of this culture including a war between different hotels and club owners yet its downfall were in the hands of local old farts including the man who brought spring break into Florida in the first place as it is a sad end to period in time that was wild but also dangerous.

War Dogs

From Todd Phillips is a comedy that is actually pretty good and definitely the best thing he’s done since Road Trip. Yet, it is his darkest film to date as it’s a real-life story about two guys who became arms dealers during the Iraqi War in the mid-2000s as it’s a tale of greed and deception. Jonah Hill is definitely great in this as the guy who is there from the beginning who would bring Miles Teller into a dangerous situation while Bradley Cooper has a great supporting role as a legendary arms dealer who would help them a deal but at great cost. It’s a flawed film but certainly fascinating as it really does have some very insightful and truthful things about war and what it’s really about which is money.

The Anti-Mascot

The first of two 30 for 30 short films I saw late one night revolves around a much-hated mascot and the man who played this mascot during the San Francisco Giants’ disastrous 1984 season as the team were already going through one of the worst periods in sport. It’s a pretty funny short that explore all of the chaos that was happening and how it got people to go the game just to boo and do things to the mascot until it went too far.

Tommy and Frank

The second 30 for 30 short film revolves around a famous surgery that pitcher Tommy John had in the 1970s by Frank Jobe who would do something revolutionary that would help pitchers. It’s a fascinating short to see what was done in the surgery and how it would help other pitchers in the future where many would continue even more than expected while some just stopped pitching altogether.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

2. Rushmore

3. Toy Story 2

4. Step Brothers

5. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

6. Bend It Like Beckham

7. Speak

8. Crossfire Hurricane

9. Daft Punk Unchained

10. Penelope

Well, that is all for June of 2017. Next month, I hope to see the following theatrical releases in The Beguiled, Baby Driver, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Dunkirk while many of the films I will watch in July are mostly going to be westerns and American films from the likes of Robert Altman, Don Siegel, Billy Wilder, and Sidney Lumet. Most notably, I’m going to cover the entire Dirty Harry series and hopefully some recent releases I didn’t get to see and hopefully catch up with Twin Peaks as I lost my shit in seeing the Nine Inch Nails on the show. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Amy (2015 film)

Directed by Asif Kapadia, Amy is a documentary about the life and career of British singer Amy Winehouse who rose big during the mid-to-late 2000s only to die tragically at the age of 27 in July of 2011. The film follows her tumultuous career as well as her struggles with substance abuse and various issues as well as fame itself that would eventually take its toll as it is presented with existing footage from her life and career with commentary by the people who were close to her as well as those who worked with. The result is a harrowing yet intoxicating film from Asif Kapadia.

On October of 2006, Amy Winehouse releases her second album Back to Black which was a blend of jazz and soul that unexpected became one of the biggest albums of the 21st Century so far. Winehouse would become this major star all over the world but the fame would eventually prove too much as the singer had struggles in her personal life such as a tumultuous marriage to longtime boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil and her own battles with bulimia, alcoholism, and drug abuse that would ultimately claim her life on July 23, 2011 at the age of 27. The film is about Winehouse’s tragic life as it’s largely told through existing footage from home movies, concerts, recording sessions, and such throughout the course of her life as well as interviews from her own words during her lifetime as well as audio interviews from those who knew her.

With the aid of editor Chris King as well as sound editors Stephen Griffiths and Andy Shelley compiling many of the interviews with Winehouse’s friends, family, and collaborators during the course of the film. Asif Kapadia would use all of this footage to tell Amy’s story from this young girl who had lived largely with her mother after her parents divorced at the age of nine to her love for music when she was in her teens. Notably jazz as she was considered someone who knew every jazz record from front to back as her first album in 2003’s Frank showcased that love as her original aspirations were to just be a jazz singer playing small jazz clubs and succeed through that. Once she moved to the Camden area in North London during a thriving period in the music scene where a lot of indie bands such as the Kills and Babyshambles were playing at that time. Things suddenly changed when Winehouse met Fielder-Civil who would introduce her to drugs and all sorts of things.

Fielder-Civil isn’t a bad person as he really did love Winehouse but he was part of a scene that was quite destructive and it definitely snowballed into total chaos as they would marry in 2007 until he would be incarcerated for possession later that year. The person that is the film’s real villain is Winehouse’s father Mitchell who would be in Amy’s life around the time she would become famous and then use her for his own reality TV show that had him with a camera crew when all she wanted was her father. It’s among these moments in the film that is heartbreaking to watch as well as Winehouse’s big moment when she won Grammys including one for Record of the Year for the song Rehab where she was in Britain because she wasn’t well-enough to travel. Family and friends were at this event with her as it should’ve been a big moment but a friend of Winehouse recalled how sad it was because all Winehouse wanted was to get high to cope with not having her husband around and all of the bullshit that fame has brought her.

The final months of Winehouse’s life didn’t just show her trying to clean herself up and get ready to make a new album but it also showed the struggle she was going through that led to her final concert a month before her death in Belgrade, Serbia where the footage is just sad. Especially as she wasn’t mentally nor emotionally ready to perform in front of a large audience as it show how far she’s descended as the people in her band were concerned as are management and others in the industry which is quite surprising considering how cynical the music business is. With the aid of cinematographers Rafael Bettega, Jake Clennel, and Ernesto Herrmann in shooting aerial footage of some of the locations that were important in Winehouse’s life. Kapadia would also emphasize the importance of Winehouse’s music as lyrics would appear on some of the footage to express the pain of what she was singing to express parts of her life while there’s score music by Antonio Pinto, that is mainly ambient music with some orchestral piano pieces, that play into some of the darker moments in Winehouse’s tragic life.

Amy is a tremendous film from Asif Kapadia. It’s a film that isn’t just an artist that was gone too soon but also a troubled exploration of someone with a great gift but had trouble dealing with additional baggage that comes with being successful. In the end, Amy is a visceral yet astonishing film from Asif Kapadia.

Asif Kapadia Films: (The Sheep Thief) - (The Warrior (2001 film)) - (The Return (2006 film)) - (Far North (2007 film)) - Senna - (Ali and Nino)- Diego Maradona (2019 film)

© thevoid99 2017

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sing Street

Directed by John Carney and screenplay by Carney from a story by Carney and Simon Carmody, Sing Street is the story of a teenage boy who falls in love with a girl who is a few years older than her as he decides to impress by forming a band. The film is a coming-of-age film set in 1980s Dublin at a time when the indie music scene is thriving as a boy tries to win the heart of a girl through music. Starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jack Reynor, Kelly Thornton, and Aiden Gillen. Sing Street is a charming and entertaining film from John Carney.

Set in 1985 Dublin, the film follows a 15-year old boy who is transferred to a new school where he meets a 16-year old girl and falls for her by claiming he’s in a band which he would form to impress her. The film definitely play into a period in time where so much is happening with popular music in the 1980s as this young kid is trying to find his place in the world as he’s encouraged by his older brother to make music to win over this girl as well as find an outlet in this stifling environment through the school he’s forced to attend as well as dealing with his parents who are on the verge of splitting up. John Carney’s screenplay doesn’t just explore the situation that the protagonist Conor Lawlor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is in as it relates to financial issues within the family that forces him to attends a public school and deal with some of the way things are as well as his family life which is in disarray as his eldest brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) would introduce him to different kinds of music as well as comment about his own failures and observation about their parents.

When Conor meets this beautiful girl named Raphina (Lucy Boynton), he would lie to her about being in a band as he would meet a fellow student in Darren (Ben Carolan) who would introduce him a talented multi-instrumentalist in Eamon (Mark McKenna). Through Eamon, Conor would learn to write songs as they would get other students to be part of their band and Raphina, who is an aspiring model, would be their ingénue who would appear in their videos. Though Raphina has a boyfriend, she would begin a relationship with Conor as she would be his muse as well as give him a new name in Cosmo. It would play into Conor’s own development as well as revelations about why Brendan hasn’t gone through with his own aspirations into being a musician as he and Conor, along with their sister Ann (Kelly Thornton), are dealing with the growing split from their parents (Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy). The growing turmoil in Conor’s family life as well as his own growing pains would give Conor ideas for songs as he would ultimately get the chance to play these songs to the kids in Dublin.

Carney’s direction is quite straightforward as it does have a few wide shots yet Carney chooses to go for more simplistic compositions with the usage of close-ups and medium shots. Shot on location in Dublin with much of it set in the area near the Synge Street CBS high school, the film does play into this world of the 1980s where there is a clash between the old ways and the new ways in some respects. Especially as Carney makes it aware of Conor’s own alienation as he’s first seen wearing brown shoes as the requirement of the school is to wear black shoes as he gets into some trouble with its headmaster Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley). Carney also uses the 80s as inspiration for some of the visuals such as the music videos Conor and his band known as Sing Street would create as it is amateurish but also quite lively. Especially as there’s a great scene of Conor’s own imagination for a video to express what could’ve been but has to face with the realities of his own life as well as the fact that Raphina isn’t some perfect ingénue. Yet, Carney does make the film show what can be done in the face of adversity which can create great art if that person can express it and not be afraid to fail. Overall, Carney creates an engaging yet exhilarating film about a teenage boy creating music to win over a girl.

Cinematographer Yaron Orbach does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the natural look of the daytime exteriors to the usage of low-key lights for the scenes at night including the climatic school dance scene. Editors Andrew Marcus and Julian Ulrichs do nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward in terms of presenting the drama and some of the humor while finding the right rhythms for the film’s musical moments. Production designer Alan Macdonald and art director/set decorator Tamara Conboy do fantastic work with the look of the some of the interior of the schools as well as some of the cheap set design for some of the homemade music videos Sing Street would make. Costume designer Tiziana Corvisieri does brilliant work with the look of the costumes from the clothes the band would wear for the videos as well as the stylish clothing of Raphina.

Makeup artist Barbara Conway and hairstylist Sandra Kelly do terrific work with the look of the characters from the makeup the band would wear in the videos as well as Raphina’s unique look as well as the hairstyle of the mid-80s which was big. Visual effects supervisor Paddy Eason does some fine work with the visual effects as it’s mainly some bit of set-dressing including a key aspect of the film’s ending as well as some of the shoddy look of the homemade music videos. Sound editors Niall Brady and Michelle Fingleton do amazing work with the sound in the way the instruments are heard naturally as well as the presentation of music including the way it is mixed to drown out the loud argument Conor’s parents are having in some scenes. Original music by Gary Glarck and John Carney is wonderful for its mixture of folk and post-punk to play into the evolution of the music as it has elements of pop while the original songs they create that include contributions from Glen Hansard and Adam Levine that bring some liveliness and earnestness to those songs while music supervisor Becky Bentham provides a fun soundtrack that feature music from Genesis, A-ha, the Cure, the Clash, Spandau Ballet, the Jam, M, Duran, Hall & Oates, Joe Jackson, and Motorhead.

The casting by Louise Kiely is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Lydia McGuinness as the school’s very liberal art teacher, Ian Kenny as the school bully Barry, Conor Hamilton and Karl Rice in their respective roles as the rhythm section brothers of Larry and Garry, Percy Chamburuka as the African-Irish teen Ngig who is the band’s keyboardist, Kelly Thornton as Conor’s older sister Ann who is dealing with her college education and family struggles, and Don Wycherley in a terrific performance as the school’s headmaster Brother Baxter who watches over Conor as he would try to make the boy’s life hellish. Ben Carolan is superb as Darren as a young student who has the skills to get connections as he is eager to become a manager while Mark McKenna is fantastic as Eamon as a talented musician who would help Conor write some songs as well as encourage him to go into deeper places with the music.

Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy are excellent in their respective roles as Conor’s parents Robert and Penny Lawlor as a couple who are on the rocks with Gillen dealing with the financial trouble he’s put towards his family while Penny would work overtime creating suspicion over why she’s home late. Jack Reynor is brilliant as Conor’s older brother Brendan as a college dropout/stoner who would introduce Conor to all types of music and guide him on what music could do as a way to live through his younger brother and give him the chance that he never got. Lucy Boynton is amazing as Raphina as an aspiring model at the age of 16 with an older boyfriend who is eager to go to London as she becomes Conor’s muse as she also cope with wanting to make it as she also has to deal with some of the realities of the world. Finally, there’s Ferdia Walsh-Peelo in an incredible performance as Conor “Cosmo” Lawlor as a 15-year old kid who is trying to find himself as well as impress this girl where he would eventually find his own voice as well as take the opportunity to make something of himself as it’s very naturalistic and charming performance from Walsh-Peelo.

Sing Street is a sensational film from John Carney. Featuring a great ensemble cast, amazing music, a riveting story, and a colorful look. It’s a film that captures a moment in time where kids try to use music to express themselves with the aid of an older person trying to help them reach that dream. In the end, Sing Street is a remarkable film from John Carney.

John Carney Films: (On the Edge) - Once - (Zonad) – Begin Again

© thevoid99 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

X-Men: Apocalypse

Based on the Marvel Comics series, X-Men: Apocalypse is about a group of mutants who deal with an ancient being who has been awaken for many years wanting to wipe out civilization prompting members of the original X-Men to band together with new students. Directed by Bryan Singer and screenplay by Simon Kinberg from a screen story by Singer, Kinberg, Michael Dougherty, and Dan Harris, the film is a continuation of the origins story of the X-Men in which Charles Xavier/Professor X, Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, Raven Darkholme/Mystique, and old friends guide their newer students who would become part of the new generation of X-Men. Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Lucas Till, Evan Peters, Olivia Munn, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, and Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse. X-Men: Apocalypse is an extravagant though flawed film from Bryan Singer.

Set a decade after events where mutants would help save the world and prevent from the creation of sentinel robots, the film is about its aftermath where the founders of the X-Men each take on different paths once again only to unite by a new threat in a figure known as En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse is reawaken since the time of ancient Egypt where he had been betrayed by his followers. Upon his reawakening, Apocalypse sees what the world has become in 1983 as he decides to wipe out civilization and create a new one as he would take four powerful mutants including a grief-stricken Erik Lehnsherr as part of his new army. It’s a film that has a simple plot but with so much going on in Simon Kinberg’s screenplay where it is quite messy but does establish who the characters are and their part in this new adventure. Charles Xavier is still running with his school with friend Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) while Raven Darkholme has gone into hiding due to events of the past as she would eventually discover a young mutant who can teleport in Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) whom she would take him to Xavier’s school.

Kurt would be one of two new students arrive at the school as original X-Men Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) would bring in his younger brother Scott/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) who has just gotten his new powers of shooting optic beams from his eyes. The two would meet a young telepath/telekinetic student in Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) whom Scott falls for as well as Jubilee (Lana Candor) who can create psionic energy plasmoids. Yet, Raven’s arrival back to Xavier’s school isn’t just for Kurt but also about Erik who had been in hiding in Poland with a wife and daughter until an accident at work exposed him as things become tragic leading him to lose all hope and reluctantly join Apocalypse as part of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It is in CIA agent Moira Taggart is where Xavier learns about Apocalypse as she would join him in trying to stop Apocalypse and his army that would include Ororo Munroe/Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), and Psylocke (Olivia Munn). While Kinberg’s script would give some introduction to characters like Scott, Jean, Storm, and Wagner, they’re not given more to do as Storm is just an orphan who reluctantly becomes part of the Four Horseman once she meets Apocalypse who would enhance her powers.

It’s not just that the script feature so many characters, including Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who would reveal something about his own connection with Lehnsherr that makes the story hard to keep up with. It’s just that it tries to be so many things and have all of these subplots whether it’s Xavier reuniting with McTaggart who has no recollection of their previous meetings or Raven reluctantly wanting to get back home and be an idol to the students who look up to her as an inspiration. None of it are really fleshed out while the tone of the story often ranges from being very serious to comical at times where some of the humor feels forced.

Bryan Singer’s direction is quite extravagant as it’s expected to be as it opens with this sequence about Apocalypse and the betrayal that would put him into a long sleep for many centuries. Shot largely in Montreal, Canada, the film does play into this world of 1980s culture at the time when the Cold War was still raging and there is this obsession with pop culture for a scene where Scott, Jean, Kurt, and Jubilee go to the mall as it is Kurt’s introduction into American culture. Much of the direction is quite stylish at times in terms of some of the camera angles that Singer goes for in some of the action and dramatic sequence. Yet, he keep things very straightforward when it comes to focusing on the characters as he would use close-ups and medium shots for those scenes as well as some wide shots.

While there are moments in the film such as Quicksilver’s arrival to the school in this very spectacular and fun sequence as well as a few action scenes including an appearance from a legendary X-Men character. The rest of the film is an absolute mess as it’s about trying to do so many things with the results being very underwhelming. Notably the film’s climax which features a battle between the old and new members of the X-Men against the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse in this massive battle as it is over-the-top in terms of the visual effects and the attempts to make it extremely huge. Yet, it becomes a little too much as it has Xavier battle Apocalypse in a battle of the minds while the X-Men try to deal with Apocalypse and his minions in Cairo as it’s just a mess. Overall, Singer makes a worthwhile though very bloated film about a group of mutants who try to save the world once again and defeat an ancient being who claims to be their father.

Cinematographer Newton Thomas Siegel does excellent work with the cinematography from the colorful and sunnier look of the scenes in Westchester where Xavier’s mansion is to the very sunny world of Cairo and the usage of dark and colored lights for the scenes set in Eastern Europe. Editors John Ottman and Michael Louis Hill do some nice work with the editing as it is stylish in its usage of jump-cuts and other fast-cutting styles but also know when to slow down for the non-action scenes. Production designer Grant Major, with supervising art director Michele Laliberte plus set decorators Geoffroy Gosselin and Anne Kuljian, does fantastic work with the interior of Xavier’s home as well as his Cerebro machine plus the look of the pyramid where Apocalypse did some of his greatest work in the past. Costume designer Louise Mingenbach does terrific work with the costumes from the new X-Men suits that some of the students would wear as well as the clothes that Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen would wear.

The makeup work of Charles Carter, Rita Ciccozzi, and Rosalina Da Silva do brilliant work with the look of Nightcrawler as well as Raven’s look when she’s Mystique though it’s the look of Apocalypse that is just underwhelming. The visual effects work of John Dykstra, Tim Crosbie, and Dennis Jones is quite fine in the look of some of the powers of the characters including Quicksilver’s light-speed as well as the sequence where he arrives to Xavier’s school but the look of Apocalypse as well as the film’s climax is a bit clunky visually. Sound designers Craig Berkey, Lee Gilmore, and Chuck Michael, with sound editor John A. Larsen, do superb work with the sound in the way some of the machines and powers are presented by sound as well as some of the moments in the film’s climax. The film’s music by John Ottman is wonderful for its sense of orchestral bombast in some of the action and suspense while being low-key in the dramatic moments while the soundtrack feature a lot of the music of the 80s from acts such as the Eurythmics, Venom, and Metallica.

The casting by Roger Mussenden is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Zeljko Ivanek as a Pentagon scientist, Tomas Lemarquis as a mutant black markets dealer in Caliban, Ally Sheedy as Scott’s teacher before his powers emerged, Berdj Garabedian as the old Apocalypse before his attempt to transfer into another being, Carolina Bartczack as Erik’s wife Magda, T.J. McGibbon as their daughter Nina, Zehra Leverman as Quicksilver’s mother, Josh Helman as the evil military official Col. Stryker, and Lana Condor as one of Xavier’s students in Jubilee who befriends Kurt and gets him to fit in. Other noteworthy small roles include Lucas Till as Alex Summers who would take Scott to Xavier’s school in the hopes his younger brother finds a place to fit in while Ben Hardy is alright as Angel as a mutant with big wings who would join the Horsemen as he wants to go after Nightcrawler for nearly wounding him. Olivia Munn’s performance as Psylocke is bland where it’s not that she’s given much to do but she doesn’t really do anything to give a compelling performance other than say lines and wield a sword. Alexandra Shipp’s performance as Ororo Munroe/Storm is alright as someone who can control the weather though her African accent at times is quite spotty.

Kodi Smit-McPhee is superb as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler as a teleporting mutant who is the comic relief of the new students while Evan Peters is also funny as Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver as a young mutant who arrives to the school needing some answers as he would help out the team in dealing with Apocalypse. Sophie Turner is pretty good as the young Jean Grey as a telekinetic/telepathic student who is dealing with her powers as well as being afraid of them while Tye Sheridan is terrific as Scott Summer/Cyclops as a mutant who can shoot beams from his eyes as someone new to the school as he’s learning to control his powers as well as be a leader for the next generation of X-Men. Rose Byrne is wonderful as Moira McTaggert as a CIA agent who is an old ally of the original X-Men as she helps Xavier and McCoy in her discovery on Apocalypse. Nicholas Hoult is alright as Hank McCoy/Beast as one of the original X-Men who help run the school with Xavier as well as re-establish his friendship with Raven though he is kind of underwritten in his role.

Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as Raven Darkholme/Mystique as a shape-shifting mutant who is dealing with her role as a heroine as she reluctantly returns home only to take control when she and Xavier’s students become threatened. Oscar Isaac’s performance as En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse is definitely one of the film’s lowlights as Isaac definitely suffered through the lackluster material he’s given as well as be covered up by makeup and visual effects as it’s really a terrible performance from Isaac. Michael Fassbender is excellent as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto as a co-founder of the X-Men who tries to start over with a family only to succumb to tragedy as he becomes consume by grief and anger where he reluctantly helps out Apocalypse. Finally, there’s James McAvoy in a brilliant performance as Charles Xavier/Professor X as a powerful telepath who tries to run a school as well as deal with Apocalypse whom he sees as a false god that has done nothing but bring fear to the people prompting him to try and stop Apocalypse from taking over his body.

X-Men: Apocalypse is a good but very flawed film from Bryan Singer. While it does have an amazing cast and some exciting moments, it’s a film that falls short due to a bland antagonist as well as its over-emphasis on visual effects for the film’s very bloated climax. In the end, X-Men: Apocalypse is a fine but underwhelming film from Bryan Singer.

X-Men Films: X-Men - X2: X-Men United - X-Men 3: The Last Stand - X-Men Origins: Wolverine - X-Men: First Class - The Wolverine - X-Men: Days of Future Past - Deadpool - Logan (2017 film) - Deadpool 2 – (X-Men: Dark Phoenix) - (New Mutants)

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the story of a troubled young boy who is sent to foster care where he finds an unlikely father figure in a cantankerous man as they get into trouble by the authorities as they flee into bushes of New Zealand. Written for the screen and directed by Taika Waititi, the film is a genre bender of adventure and comedy where a boy and a man who initially wanted nothing to do with each other become this unlikely duo who don’t play by the rules. Starring Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rhys Darby, Rima Te Waita, and Rachel House. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a witty and heartfelt film from Taika Waititi.

The film is a simple story of a teenage boy who is sent to live with a foster family where things go wrong prompting the boy and his new-foster uncle to go on the run into the New Zealand bushes with their dogs as a manhunt ensues for the two. It’s a film that is an adventure story of sorts yet it is really about this boy and this cantankerous man who is reluctant to be the uncle for this kid yet realizes the boy’s worth and what he has to do help him. Taika Waititi’s screenplay, with contributions from Te Arepa Kahi, explores this unique family situation where Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) arrives to this farm ran by a woman named Bella (Rima Te Waita) and her husband Hector (Sam Neill). For Ricky, he had been in a bunch of foster families all over New Zealand as he’s been causing trouble in places as his arrival to his home has him expecting another bad situation. Yet, Bella would be this very positive and loving figure for Ricky as it gives him something he’s never had but it would all change when child welfare want Ricky back and take him to a juvenile prison which Ricky refuses to go.

Hector isn’t keen on taking care of Ricky but upon realizing that Ricky and his new dog Tupac is lost in the bushes, he would find him as more trouble ensues when it is believed that Hector kidnapped Ricky. It’s not just these authorities such as the police and a child welfare officer named Paula (Rachel House) that are after Hector and Ricky but also three hunters the two encountered earlier as there’s a bounty for the two. During the course of the story, Ricky and Hector would have this bond in not just surviving the bushes with their dogs but also in each other as Hector is a man that has a hard time fitting into the world as he is still dealing with things as well as why he was reluctant to have Ricky in his life. During the course of evading the authorities, the two would become heroes in and around New Zealand though there’s some that think of them as just bad people where Ricky would find himself confronting Paula in one scene as it’s very funny due to the pop culture references mentioned in the scene.

Waititi’s direction definitely has some gorgeous visuals as a lot of it is shot in the areas in the Central Plateau and Waitakere Ranges in New Zealand with some of it shot in small towns in the country. The bushes in the film are definitely a major character as it provide this sense of a world that is completely disconnected from society which seems fitting as both Ricky and Hector are kind of outcasts who don’t fit in with the conventions of society. While Waititi would use some wide shots for these locations, he favors more intimate compositions with the usage of medium shots and close-ups as he would create unique framing that play into the growing bond between Ricky and Hector. There are also these amazing shots in which Waititi would use a tripod to shoot around the surroundings as it is among some of the most beautiful shots in the film as it play into some of the humor but also moments that are quite serious.

Even in scenes that are quite chilling including an encounter with a wild boar and other moments that are quite adventurous show Waititi emphasizing on the scale of the manhunt for the two as it would give Ricky and Hector the chance to deal with these setbacks and such. There are also these moments that are quite offbeat which include a brief animated sequence directed by Caroline Ting as it relates to this manhunt led by Paula as well as a moment early in the film where Ricky is lost in the woods as he becomes hungry. It’s part of Waititi’s own brand of humor where it’s not forced in order to get a laugh but rather play into some of the absurdity that goes on throughout the film. Yet, Waititi doesn’t use any of that to get to the importance of the story as it feature a lot of heart as it relates to this very unlikely relationship between a man and a boy that don’t have anything in common other than just being outcasts. Overall, Waititi creates an exhilarating yet heartfelt film about a teenage boy and a man hiding out in the bushes of New Zealand from some very bad people.

Cinematographer Lachlan Milne does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of natural light for some of the film’s exterior scenes including some in the bushes as well as the interior lighting in a few scenes inside the home of a few characters Ricky and Hector would meet. Editors Luke Haigh, Tom Eagles, and Yana Gorskaya do excellent work for utilizing some stylish cuts such as jump-cuts and dissolves while creating a few inventive montages that add to the film’s unique tone. Production designer Neville Stevenson and art director Jon Lithgow do amazing work with the look of the farm Ricky lived in with Hector and Bella as well as the home of a family he encounters and ranger huts he and Hector would find. Costume designer Kristen Seth does fantastic work with the costumes from the hip-hop inspired clothing that Ricky wears to the more rugged look of Hector as much of it is casual.

Hair/makeup designer Dannielle Satherley does nice work with the look of a few characters including Hector and a reclusive man known as Psycho Sam. Visual effects supervisor Kevin Andrew Smith does terrific work with the look of a few moments of visual effects that include a hilarious scene of hallucination from Ricky as well as the eerie moment with the wild boar. Sound designer Dick Reade does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the bushes as well as the sound of gunfire and such that add to some of the chaos as well as moments of humor. The film’s music by Lukasz Buda, Samuel Scott, and Conrad Wedde is incredible for its mixture of low-key electronic music as well as some folk and piano-based music that give the film different flavors in the music to play into New Zealand’s diverse musical culture while music supervisor Natalie Wilson creates a fun soundtrack that features music from acts like Moniker, Bob Marley, the Alessi Brothers, and Leonard Cohen.

The casting by Stuart Turner is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Taika Waititi as a funny minister, Hamish Parkinson as a police official talking about a device that would help Paula, the trio of Cohen Halloway, Stan Walker, and Mike Minogue as hunters who meet Ricky and Hector only to hunt them down for the bounty later on, Troy Kingi as Maori man who is excited about Ricky in his house, and Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne as Maori girl named Kahu that Ricky falls for as she lets him stay at his house for a night. Oscar Kightley is terrific as a dim-witted officer named Andy who often accompanies Paula as he’s treated like an idiot though it is clear he’s not as dim as she thinks he is. Rhys Darby is superb as Psycho Sam as this recluse who would help Ricky and Hector in the third act as he has some issues toward the authority as well as the government. Rachel House is excellent as Paula as a child welfare official who is determined to bring Ricky to juvenile detention as she isn’t this conventional antagonist but rather someone who believes in this idea of not leaving any child behind as it’s a very funny performance to watch.

Rima Te Waita is brilliant as Bella as Hector’s wife who is this warm figure that would bring a positive world to Ricky as well as provide a sense of importance to Ricky and Hector. Finally, there’s the duo of Sam Neill and Julian Dennison in tremendous performances in their respective roles as Hector and Ricky. Dennison’s performance is so lively as well as being quite funny in some of the hip-hop slang he says as well as being a quick learner in surviving the bushes as it’s a very engaging performance for someone that could’ve been grating but his development into someone trying to survive as well as needing a father figure is key to Dennison’s winning performance. Neill’s performance as Hector is definitely complex as someone who starts off as quiet and cantankerous as someone who doesn’t want to deal with people but he does have this toughness into his performance as someone who did go to prison as well as weariness of someone who has been through a lot and is trying to help Ricky survive the bushes. Neill and Dennison together are a joy to watch in the way they build up the relationship with Dennison as the funny guy and Neill as the straight man as they’re a major highlight of the film.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a phenomenal film from Taika Waititi that feature sensational performances from Sam Neill and Julian Dennison. Along with a great supporting cast, gorgeous visuals, a touching yet witty story, and a fantastic music soundtrack. It’s a film that isn’t just this exciting and funny adventure film but also a film with a lot of heart as it play into the unlikely relationship between a man and a boy who are outcasts in modern society. In the end, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an outstanding film from Taika Waititi.

Taika Waititi Films: Two Cars, One Night - Eagle vs. Shark - Boy (2010 film) - What We Do in the Shadows - Thor: Ragnarok - Jojo Rabbit - Thor: Love and Thunder - Next Goal Wins (2023 film) - (Klara and the Sun) - Auteurs #64: Taika Waititi

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Small Back Room

Based on the novel by Nigel Balchin, The Small Back Room is the story of a research scientist who is asked to take part in a research involving a new German weapon during World War II. Written for the screen and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the film is an exploration of a man dealing with his role in the world as well as succumbing towards self-destructive behavior that would trouble his relationship with his secretary. Starring David Farrar, Kathleen Byron, Jack Hawkins, Robert Morley, Michael Gough, and Cyril Cusack. The Small Back Room is a gripping yet evocative film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

It’s 1943 during World War II as the film revolves a bomb expert/research scientist who is asked to do work for the government on a series of new bombs created by the Germans which had killed a few people including children. It’s a film that follows this man who is reluctant in doing the job as he finds himself dealing with military and government officials who don’t do enough to help him while he is becoming troubled by his dependence on alcohol which is troubling his own relationship with his secretary whom he’s in a romantic relationship with. The film’s screenplay by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger wouldn’t just follow the struggle that Sammy Rice (David Farrar) is coping with both at work and at home but also the expectations and demands from his bosses at work in trying to understand what this bomb has done. Rice’s secretary/girlfriend Susan (Kathleen Byron) is aware of the chaos that is looming upon him but also his lack of ambition to do more as he’s hampered by a bad leg as well as his growing alcoholism that would eventually take its toll.

The direction of Powell and Pressburger is visually entrancing not just for some of noir-like visual style but also in the fact that it’s a story that is grounded in reality. Shot largely at various sound stages in Britain with some of the exterior locations are shot in and around Britain including the famous site of Stonehenge. The direction for some of the exterior scenes are simple in terms of the few wide shots in the film as much of it have Powell and Pressburger utilize medium shots and close-ups for many of the film’s interior scenes including the scenes at Rice’s lab with his staff at it has this claustrophobic feel for how small it is compared to a conference room during the film’s second half. The scenes at a nightclub where Rice and Susan go to are quite spacious but also intimate where it also has these unique compositions in where the characters are in the frame as well as Rice’s view when he sees Susan dancing with another man.

The direction also include this very surreal sequence as it relates to the struggle that Rice has in his alcoholism where it involves this bottle of whiskey and a clock as it is this amazing sequence filled with unique camera angles and extravagant set designs. It’s a scene that help play into the drama that would intensify in its third act where Rice’s desperation and fragility come into play. The film’s climax which involves a bomb that Rice is researching is quite intense in terms of its suspense where Powell and Pressburger choose to present the whole thing in a restrained approach. It is a moment in the film that is quite chilling in what is going through Rice’s head as tries to figure out what the creator of the bomb would do as it would also force him to confront himself. Overall, Powell and Pressburger create a riveting and mesmerizing film about scientist’s struggle to maintain his sanity during World War II and battling alcoholism.

Cinematographer Christopher Challis does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its emphasis on stylish lighting and moods that play into the drama including Rice’s struggle with his sobriety as well as the soft lights for some of the close-ups. Editors Reginald Mills and Clifford Turner do excellent work with the editing as it is quite straightforward with some stylish shots for the nightmare sequence as well as some rhythmic cutting for some of the dramatic suspenseful moments. Production designer Hein Heckroth and art director John Hoesli do amazing work with the look of the lab and offices that Rice works at in how small it is as well as the look of Rice’s apartment home including the nightmare sequence which is a highlight of the film’s art direction.

Costume designer Josephine Boss does fantastic work with the design of the gowns and dresses that Susan wears at work as well as in the nightclub scenes. The sound work of Alan Allen is superb for some of the sound effects that play into the testing of weapons and such including the conference scene where sounds would pop up every now and then to play into some of the film’s intense moments including its climax where it is used sparingly. The film’s music by Brian Easdale is terrific for its mixture of bombastic orchestral music with some eerie textures with the usage of the theremin to play into some of the suspense and drama that looms throughout the film.

The casting by Madeleine Godar is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Bryan Forbes as a dying gunner who had a fatal encounter with a German bomb, Sid James as a bartender at the bar Rice frequents at, Milton Rosmer as a fellow professor, Renee Asherson as a corporal at the beach site for the film’s climax, Leslie Banks as a colonel who is trying to speed things up with the weapons test, and Robert Morley as a minister of war who is trying to use his position of power to get Rice to speed things up. Cyril Cusack is terrific as a stuttering soldier in Corporal Taylor who often guards the building that Rice works at as he is one of the few friends that Rice has. Michael Gough is excellent as Captain Dick Stuart as the person who goes to Rice for help about the bomb as he would take part in the research.

Jack Hawkins is brilliant as R.B. Waring as a military official who is trying to help Rice but also be aware of the many things that are happening behind the scenes. Kathleen Byron is incredible as Susan as a secretary who is also Rice’s girlfriend as it’s a radiant performance from Byron as a woman who is supportive but also not afraid to speak her mind about Rice’s lack of ambition as well as dependence on alcoholism. Finally, there’s David Farrar in a phenomenal performance as Sammy Rice as a bomb expert who is also a research scientist that is troubled by the demands from his bosses about the bomb as he also copes with his alcoholism where Farrar’s sense of anguish is riveting to watch.

The Small Back Room is a sensational film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger that features remarkable performances from David Farrar and Kathleen Byron. Featuring a compelling story, eerie visuals, and a great supporting cast, the film is definitely one of the finest war dramas made about World War II that doesn’t feature any combat as well as an exploration of man’s battle with substance abuse. In the end, The Small Back Room is a tremendous film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Powell-Pressburger Films: The Spy in Black - Contraband - (The Lion Has Wings) - (An Airman’s Letter to His Mother) - 49th Parallel - One of Our Aircraft is Missing - The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - (The Volunteer) – A Canterbury Tale - I Know Where I'm Going! - A Matter of Life and Death - Black Narcissus - The Red Shoes - (The Elusive Pimpernel) - (Gone to Earth) - The Tales of Hoffman - (Oh… Rosalinda!!!) - (The Battle of River Plate) – Ill Met by Moonlight - Peeping Tom - (They’re a Weird Mob) - (Age of Consent) - (The Boy Who Turned Yellow)

© thevoid99 2017