Thursday, November 30, 2017

Films That I Saw: November 2017

Well, we’re a month away from the end of what’s been an insane year. A year that I’m sure where a lot of people felt they lost some of their intelligence and wonder how the fuck did things get so fucking stupid? Personally, it hasn’t been as bad as the year before but it was still pretty bad considering all of the political turmoil and shenanigans that is happening in the White House. A place that had a sense of prestige and importance has now become a home for shit. Of course, there’s people who would think otherwise that include people I’ve known for so many years who are close to my parents as I’ve pretty much want nothing to do with them as they’ve now become nonsensical and extremely defensive over this administration. Yet, I’m also sure they will claim that the whole thing involving Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore is fake news but it’s really part of a whole bigger picture.

The whole scandal involving sexual harassment in Hollywood as well as revelations about what some have done such as Kevin Spacey and NBC news reporter Matt Lauer have really shook up a world that is now more fucked up that is. I knew that people like Brett Ratner would do such a thing as I was really angry for outing Ellen Page as a lesbian during the making of X-Men III: The Last Stand yet I was shocked about Spacey as the list of those involved including John Lasseter at Pixar have really upset me. Lasseter for just being really stupid in giving out too many hugs as it proves that no one is safe and many have to answer for their actions if they want to redeem themselves. Harvey Weinstein and Brett Ratner are among some of those who don’t deserve any redemption because they’re scumbag as I hope they’re gone for good. 

In the month of November 2017, I saw a total of 33 films in 21 first-timers and 12 re-watches as it is slightly down from last month but I chose to take it easy and relax as I just passed watching 400 films in a year which is a major improvement over last year. One of the highlights this month has definitely been my Blind Spot assignment in How Green Was My Valley. Here are my top 10 first-timers that I saw for November 2017:

1. Rocco and His Brothers

2. Jackie

3. Le Cercle Rouge

4. You Can Count on Me

5. A Monster Calls

6. Thor: Ragnarok

7. Three Kings

8. After Hours

9. The Burmese Harp

10. T2 Trainspotting

Monthly Mini-Reviews

Nature Boy

The only special of the 30 for 30 series that I saw this month is one of the most anticipated specials that I wanted to see and it did live up to my expectations. Why? It’s because it’s about the Rolex-wearin’, diamond ring-wearin’, kiss-stealin’, wheelin’-dealin’, limousine-ridin’, jet-flying, son-of-a-gun, and he’s having a hard time holding on to these alligator shoes on his feet that cost more money than your fucking house. That’s right, the Nature Boy Ric Flair. One of the greatest professional wrestlers ever as the man himself through two different interviews talk about the highs and lows he’s endured and it’s amazing the man is still alive. Especially for the fact that he survived a plane crash that nearly left him paralyzed before he even became the wrestler that is loved and hated by many as well as drinking so much booze for nearly 30 years and having slept with about a lot of women that probably makes Wilt Chamberlain look small. Through all of the things he’s been through including the death of his son Reid a few years ago, it’s amazing that he’s survived and can still charm the fans.

A Cure for Wellness

From Gore Verbinski comes a film that is definitely unusual as it recall some of the films of Roman Polanski yet it is amazing that it even got made without any major star power and funded by a studio. With a cast that include some superb performances from Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth, and Celia Imrie that revolves around a young man trying to retrieve a corporate CEO from a mysterious spa in Switzerland. Then the young man becomes a patient in the spa due to an accident as it involves mysterious things. It’s a film with some flaws but still intriguing as it includes an incredible performance from Jason Isaacs.

Why Him?

This was actually a pretty fun comedy as the premise itself is fun. It’s about a guy who learns about his daughter’s new boyfriend who is this millionaire in creating apps as he tries to impress him and the rest of the family. Thus, shenanigans ensue as it features James Franco as the guy trying to impress everyone and be part of the family and Bryan Cranston as the father who is wondering why in the hell is his daughter with this guy? It’s a fun comedy that doesn’t take itself seriously although I’m not sure if I want a toilet that squirts back to clean your asshole.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Pan's Labyrinth

2. Arrival

3. Catch Me If You Can

4. Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007

5. Riley’s First Date?

6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

7. Batman

8. One Crazy Summer

9. Beverly Hills Ninja

10. The Lawnmower Man

Well, that is all for November. Next month will be very busy not just with a lot of theatrical releases such as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi as I hope I don’t get food poisoning again like it happened it last year. My final Blind Spot assignment in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life film series will come as well as some reviews of recent films that I’m trying to catch up on with help from my never-ending DVR list. Plus, I’m also going to make a formal announcement of what I plan to do for next year which will include the return of the Auteurs series and maybe a list of the Most Anticipated Films of 2018. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Three Kings

Written and directed by David O. Russell from a story by John Ridley, Three Kings is the story of four U.S. soldiers who plot a heist to steal gold from Saddam Hussein during the end of the 1991 Gulf War. The film is an unconventional war film in which four different men try to do something after the war in the hopes they can get home to better lives only to deal with all sorts of trouble that would also involve refugees in need of help. Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Nora Dunn, Judy Greer, Jamie Kennedy, Mykelti Williamson, Cliff Curtis, and Said Taghmaoui. Three Kings is a gripping yet exhilarating film from David O. Russell.

Set during the final days of the 1991 Gulf War and its aftermath, the film follows four U.S. soldiers who find a map in which they believe has Kuwaiti gold bullions in a bunker that belonged to Saddam Hussein as they plot to steal it to ensure a better life for themselves. It’s a film where these four men go on a mission by themselves without any kind of authority as they find the village with the gold bullions but they would also discover the village would feature some anti-Saddam dissidents who are asking for help as they would and try to deal with pro-Saddam forces despite the fact that a ceasefire had already happened. David O. Russell’s screenplay that is based on John Ridley’s original story where it explores these soldiers dealing with the aftermath of a war where there wasn’t a lot of action and coming home with not much is something the protagonists in the film are dealing with.

Leading the pack is Major Archie Gates (George Clooney) whose job is to escort TV reporter Adriana Cruz (Nora Dunn) as he is more interested in getting paid than do his job. He is joined by Staff Sgt. Chief Elgin (Ice Cube), Sgt. First Class Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), and Private First Class Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze) who all want to get the bullions as they would have a friend in Specialist Walter Wogeman (Jamie Kennedy) to drive Cruz and her cameraman to a false location. Though they would find the gold bullions, they hope not to do anything else but pleas from anti-Saddam dissidents where a woman is killed by Iraqi forces who want to hold these dissidents hostage force Gates and his men to take action. Yet, it would become a big problem when Barlow is taken by Iraqi soldiers after a scuffle forcing Gates, Elgin, and Vig to retrieve him but they would have to make a deal with the dissidents who would help them but be accompanied to the Iranian border in return.

Russell’s direction is definitely stylish for the way it captures life during the Gulf War as well as the sense of danger that was emerging during the period of ceasefire in the aftermath of the war. Shot on various locations in the deserts of Casa Grande, Arizona and parts of California and Mexico, Russell aims for something that is immediate in the way soldiers deal with boredom in their lack of action as the first scene has Barlow killing an Iraqi soldier not knowing he was trying to surrender. The shot would be repeated in a cartoonish fashion where Vig describes to other soldiers what Barlow did as it just adds this air of exaggeration that the soldiers crave for since they didn’t see much action in Iraq and Kuwait. Russell would use wide shots to capture the scope of the locations yet would focus more on using medium shots and close-ups to capture some of the action in the bunker or to get a reaction from a soldier dealing with some kind of violence whether its comic or dramatic. The former would play into the lives that Barlow, Vig, and Elgin have before the war as well as an encounter with a cow on the way to the bunker that add to the film’s dark humor.

Russell’s approach to the suspense and action is stylish as he would shoot it with some hand-held cameras as well as creating some offbeat compositions to play into some of the darker moments in the film. Most notably a torture scene with Barlow having to deal with the consequences of his service in the military where he is forced to visualize what happened if he was in the shoes of the man who is torturing him. There are also these somber and sentimental moments that Russell would create such as Vig’s fascination with Islamic burials which provides a major moment in his development from this redneck who constantly says idiotic things to being a man open towards a culture that is foreign to him. It would culminate with Gates and his men accompanying these refugees in the hope they can have a better future in Iran despite its history with Iraq while Gates is also aware of the trouble he’s caused with his superiors in interfering with things he’s not supposed to be involved in. Overall, Russell creates a riveting yet intense film about a group of soldiers whose planned heist forces them to help dissidents during the aftermath of the Gulf War.

Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel does amazing work with the film’s stylish cinematography with the usage of grainy film footage, desaturated film color stocks, and other stylish looks to play into the craziness of the action scenes as well as in the suspense and black humor. Editor Robert K. Lambert does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts, slow-motion cuts, and other stylish cuts to play into the chaos of war as well as some of the suspense and its dark humor. Production designer Catherine Hardwicke, with set decorator Gene Serdena plus art directors Jann K. Engel and Derek R. Hill, does excellent work with the look of the old castles, villages, and bunkers where some of the action occurred as well as the interiors of some of the rooms where Saddam’s soldiers are stationed at. Costume designer Kym Barrett does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly straightforward from the camouflage the soldiers wear to the ragged clothes of the dissidents.

Visual effects supervisor David Sosalla does terrific work with the visual effects for the look of body parts shown from the inside of how they would react to a bullet as well as some of the action scenes. Sound editors Bruce Fortune and John Leveque do fantastic work with the sound in capturing the chaos that goes on in battle as well as the eerie atmosphere of the desert. The film’s music by Carter Burwell is superb for its low-key score that play into the drama and suspense with its mixture of Arabian music textures and orchestral arrangements while music supervisor Ralph Sall provide an offbeat soundtrack that include music from Rare Earth, the Beach Boys, Public Enemy, Chicago, Eddie Murphy, Plastic Bertrand, Snap, Johann Sebastian Bach, and U2.

The casting by Anne McCarthy and Mary Vernieu is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Holt McCallany as Barlow’s superior officer Captain Doug Van Meter who despises Barlow and his antics, Liz Stauber as Troy’s wife, Marsha Horan as Amir’s wife, Judy Greer as a rival journalist trying to get the story while having a tryst with Gates, Alia Shawkat as Amir’s daughter, Said Taghmaoui as an Iraqi interrogator who tortures Barlow, and Mykelti Williamson as Gates’ superior Colonel Ron Horn who doesn’t like what Gates is doing as well as suspicious in what he’s doing. Jamie Kennedy is terrific as Specialist Walter Wogeman as a bumbling soldier who is asked to accompany Cruz on an assignment to distract her from what Gates is doing as he is the film’s comic relief.

Cliff Curtis is superb as Amir as an anti-Saddam dissident who is seen bound and gagged where he helps Gates in the hopes that he can get other dissidents including his daughter to the Iranian border. Nora Dunn is fantastic as Adriana Cruz as a news reporter trying to get a major story about the Gulf War where she finds herself in a different journey where she would also make some discoveries about what is happening during the ceasefire. Spike Jonze is excellent as Private First Class Conrad Vig as a redneck soldier who idolizes Barlow as he often says dumb things and gets way over his head while realizing the reality of his situations where finds a sense of salvation in Islamic culture and their approach to death which he finds to be extremely fascinating.

Mark Wahlberg is brilliant as Sgt. First Class Troy Barlow as a soldier that is eager to come home as he deals with the lack of real action he faced where he takes part in the heist only to be captured as he deals with realities of war. Ice Cube is amazing as Staff Sgt. Chief Elgin who is kind of the film’s conscience as a man who takes part in the heist knowing what he will gain as he also copes with the reality as it relates to the dissidents. Finally, there’s George Clooney in an incredible performance as Major Archie Gates as a special forces soldier who is about to retire from the service as he sees the heist for gold bullions as a way out of not showing much only to realize the severity of where he is prompting him to take action and help these dissidents out of Iraq.

Three Kings is a tremendous film from David O. Russell. Featuring a great ensemble cast, stylish visuals, an offbeat soundtrack, and a story that plays into the fallacy of war and the need to help those in danger during its aftermath. It’s a film that doesn’t play into the conventions of a war movie as it showcases what men will do to make up for their lack of encountering action only to see the reality of a world in turmoil in the aftermath of war. In the end, Three Kings is a spectacular film from David O. Russell.

David O. Russell Films: Spanking the MonkeyFlirting with DisasterI Heart HuckabeesThe Fighter - Silver Linings Playbook - American Hustle - Accidental Love - Joy (2015 film) - The Auteurs #70: David O. Russell

© thevoid99 2017

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

2018 Blind Spot Series Announcement

2017 is about come to an end as I'm about to embark on my final Blind Spot assignment in Pier Paolo Pasolini's Trilogy of Life film series as that will be the last one I will do for the year. Now it is time to look ahead for 2018 as this was a bit difficult to put together as I had to make some changes and take some films out of the list and then go to other sources such as the 1001 Films to See Before You Die book which every film buff must have. Having seen a lot of films over the years and realizing that there is so much to seek out. The choices I've made for the 2018 series reflects on not just wanting to explore films from different continents but also in different periods. Two of the choices in the series wanted me to explore more films directed by women as 2017 had been a major year for women directors as one of those films was released in the 21st Century with the rest of the films coming out in the 20th Century. I have chosen ten different movies for this list plus two companion films made by the same filmmaker and one film trilogy. Here are the Blind Spots I will watch for 2018 in chronological order:

All Quiet on the Western Front

The Best Years of Our Lives

Rebel Without a Cause

Black Girl

The Hero

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The Emigrants/The New Land

Don't Look Now

Swept Away

Wim Wenders' Road Trilogy (Alice in the Cities - Wrong Move - Kings of the Road)


& Fat Girl

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, November 27, 2017

Jackie (2016 film)

Directed by Pablo Larrain and written by Noah Oppenheim, Jackie is the story about Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis who deals with the death of her husband John F. Kennedy and the plans for his funeral while looking back at her time when she was the First Lady of the United States. The film is an unconventional bio-pic of sorts as it follows Onassis’ time as the First Lady and dealing with the shocking death of her husband as Natalie Portman plays Jacqueline Kennedy. Also starring Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Carroll Lynch, Richard E. Grant, Beth Grant, and John Hurt. Jackie is an evocative and rapturous film from Pablo Larrain.

The film revolves around Jacqueline Kennedy’s days following the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22, 1963 as she plans for the funeral and such while talking to a journalist (Billy Crudup) less than a month later after the funeral. Told in a non-linear narrative, Noah Oppenheim’s script follows Jackie as she talks about her time in the White House with brief glimpses of life as the First Lady as well as the events of the assassination and its aftermath. The interview with the un-named journalist, which is based partially on Theodore H. White’s article for Life magazine, has Kennedy talking about her work as First Lady that included restoring rooms at the White House that was filmed for a TV program. Yet, the bulk of the narrative has Jackie talking about the funeral procession and planning for her husband as she looks to historical events of the past for inspiration while dealing with the loss she’s carrying.

Pablo Larrain’s direction is stylish for the way it captures a period in time as it has a looseness in its approach to compositions and how it captures history. With many of the interiors shot in a studio in Paris, France with the funeral procession shot on location in Washington D.C., Larrain would aim for something simpler as he doesn’t go for a lot of wide shots with the exception of the funeral scenes. Much of his compositions aim for close-ups and medium shots while the film is shot largely on a 1:66:1 aspect ratio with the exception of Jackie’s TV special where she gives a tour of the White House which is shot in the 1:33:1 aspect ratio and in grainy black-and-white. Larrain’s approach to those scenes have him recreate the idea of what 1960s TV looked like with shots of Jackie being filmed by a crew as there is a tracking shot following her every move until it cuts to her in black-and-white. It’s among some of the stylistic choices in the film while there is also the scenes of the day of the assassination where Larrain shoots a medium shot of Jackie getting ready for the motorcade while there is a lot happening in the background.

Larrain’s direction also captures the events of the assassination and the bloody aftermath that is inter-cut with Jackie talking to the journalist about what she remembers and telling him what not to print. Even as Larrain would film scenes of Jackie’s meeting with a priest (John Hurt) where she deals with mortality and wonders why her husband had to die as it is among one of the finest sequences on film. There are also these intimate moments involving Jackie’s relationship with her brother-in-law Bobby (Peter Sarsgaard) and her personal secretary Nancy Tuckerman (Great Gerwig) that helps humanize Jackie who is coping with her grief as well as wanting to honor her husband in a way that leaders with big ideas would be honored. The film would culminate the funeral procession as it is a moment where all of the grief and trauma that Jackie faced. She maintains the sense of dignity that is needed in the role of First Lady. Overall, Larrain creates an intoxicating and riveting film about Jacqueline Kennedy’s time following the assassination of her husband.

Cinematographer Stephane Fontaine does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of naturalistic colors and lighting to play into many of the exteriors in the day along with some low-key lighting for some of the interiors as well as scenes set at night. Editor Sebastian Sepulveda does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and other stylized cuts to play into the film’s non-linear narrative and Jackie’s own reflection of the events. Production designer Jean Rabasse, with set decorator Veronique Melery plus art directors Halina Gebarowicz, Mathieu Junot, and Emmanuel Prevot, does amazing work with recreation of the interiors of the White House including some of the famous bedrooms and the exterior sets of where Kennedy was to be buried. Costume designer Madeline Fontaine does amazing work with the costumes from the famed pink coat and hat Jackie wore on the day of the assassination to some of the gowns and such she would wear at various events of the past.

Makeup designers Sarai Fiszel and Odile Fourquin, with key hairstylists Janice Kinigopoulos and Catherine Leblanc, do fantastic work with the look of the hairstyles that the women had including Jackie’s hairstyle. Visual effects supervisors Thomas Duval, Sebastian Rame, and Tomas Roca do terrific work with some of the visual effects as it is mainly set-dressing with some recreation of the funeral procession and the way Jackie’s TV special is presented in its grainy footage. Sound designer David Miranda does superb work with the sound in the way some of the quieter moments at the White House are presented to scenes at Arlington and Jackie’s meeting with the priest where it has a natural atmosphere in the sound. The film’s music by Mica Levi is phenomenal for its orchestral score with its eerie usage of string arrangements and low-key textures to play into the drama while music supervisor Bridget Samuels provides a soundtrack that consists of a few classical pieces and a cut from the musical Camelot which Jackie plays on a record player.

The casting by Lindsay Graham, Jessica Kelly, Mathilde Snodgrass, and Mary Vernieu is remarkable as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Sunnie Pelant as Caroline Kennedy, Brody and Aiden Weinberg as John F. Kennedy Jr., Julie Judd as Bobby’s wife Ethel, and Caspar Phillipson as President John F. Kennedy. John Carroll Lynch is terrific as Lyndon Johnson who would become the new President of the United States of America as he tries to give Jackie advice about the funeral while Beth Grant is wonderful as Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson who also wants to help as she also prepares for her new role as First Lady. Max Casella is superb as Jack Valienti who was Johnson’s assistant at the time where he also tries to organize the funeral service while Richard E. Grant is fantastic as William Walton who is Jackie’s collaborator in the White House restoration project as he helps her in the historical research for what she wanted for her husband’s funeral procession.

In one of his final film performances, John Hurt is excellent as the priest who meets Jackie to discuss faith as well as giving his views of what happened where it is this very restrained yet calm performance as it is one of Hurt’s finest performances. Billy Crudup is brilliant as the journalist who interviews Jackie at her home in Massachusetts as he tries to understand some of the answers Jackie is giving him as well as what he should tell the press. Greta Gerwig is amazing as Nancy Tuckerman as Jackie’s personal secretary who is Jackie’s director during the TV special for the White House restoration while also being a close confidant in being someone to talk to as it’s an understated yet touching performance from Gerwig. Peter Sarsgaard is marvelous as Bobby Kennedy as the then-Attorney General and Jackie’s brother-in-law who is trying to help Jackie with the funeral arrangements as well as doing his job and shielding her from any news that could upset her.

Finally, there’s Natalie Portman in what is definitely a performance for the ages as Jacqueline Kennedy. It’s a performance that is this fine mixture of radiance, restraint, anguish, and grace where Portman definitely disappears into the character where she captures many of the nuances and attributes of Jackie without deviating into an impersonation. Instead, Portman provides that air of dignity in Jackie in the way she copes with grief and the trauma of seeing her husband killed in front of her as well as the way she tries to maintain this role of regality that is needed in being a First Lady where it is definitely Portman in a career-defining performance.

Jackie is a tremendous film from Pablo Larrain that features an outstanding leading performance from Natalie Portman in the titular role. Along with its great supporting cast, inventive script by Noah Oppenheim, gorgeous visuals, top-notch technical work, and Mica Levi’s ravishing score. It’s a film that doesn’t play by the rules of a bio-pic by focusing on a specific time in the life of one of the great First Ladies in American history as she is aware of role in American history and how she tries to maintain that sense of dignity for herself and her husband. In the end, Jackie is a magnificent film from Pablo Larrain.

Pablo Larrain Films: (Fuga) – (Tony Manero) – (Post Mortem) – No (2012 film) - (The Club (2015 film)) – (Neruda)

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, November 26, 2017

T2 Trainspotting

Based on novels Trainspotting and Porno by Irvine Welsh, T2 Trainspotting is the sequel to the 1996 film in which a former heroin addict returns to Edinburgh, Scotland to meet with old friends as they deal with changing times and attitudes as well as things from the past. Directed by Danny Boyle and screenplay by John Hodge, the film is an unconventional sequel that follows four men dealing with the new world as Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, and Ewen Bremner return playing their roles from the previous films with special appearances from Shirley Henderson and Kelly MacDonald in their old roles. Also starring Anjela Nedyalkova. T2 Trainspotting is an enthralling and exhilarating film from Danny Boyle.

The film follows four different men who have each gone separate paths in life more than 20 years after a deal that was supposed to make them rich only for one of them to leave with the money and bring ruin to their lives. Yet, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Edinburgh after his long 20-year exile where not only does he want to make amends but also deal with the fact that he’s returned to a world that has changed with some things that hasn’t changed. John Lodge’s screenplay doesn’t just explore Renton’s return to Edinburgh but also the fates and fortunes of his friends Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller), Daniel “Spud” Murphy (Ewen Bremner), and Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Sick Boy runs a failing pub while tries to blackmail top Scottish officials by filming their sexual encounters with a prostitute named Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) who is also Sick Boy’s girlfriend. Spud’s life is in a freefall after a failed marriage to Gail (Shirley Henderson) and being an absentee father to his son Fergus forcing him to return to heroin. Begbie is serving a 25-year prison sentence where he would escape prison.

Renton’s fortunes also haven’t gone well since he exiled himself in Amsterdam where he would also endure a fail marriage, an accounting firm that is forcing him out, and a heart attack. His return to Edinburgh forces him to deal with the fact that he not only fucked over Sick Boy and Begbie but also realize what is happening to Spud. Sick Boy decides to get revenge on Renton, despite getting back the share of the money they stole 20 years ago, with Veronika’s help but eventually realizes that there’s still some love towards his old friend as they also help out Spud. Begbie meanwhile, has a huge grudge towards Renton upon his escape from prison where the script also reveal that he has a family and does care about them despite being so brutal into everything he’s done. Renton and Sick Boy would work together to create a brothel with the involvement of Veronika and Spud but the two would know something would give as they’re bound to betray each other.

Danny Boyle’s direction is definitely stylish as it owes a lot to not just the 1996 film in terms of its visual style but also in showcasing how much Edinburgh has changed as it is a character in the film. Boyle’s usage of wide shots would capture how much the city has changed where Sick Boy lives next to a dump of destroyed cars as if a new housing development is about to emerge. Even in the usage of slanted angles where Boyle would showcase that sense of direction of where the characters are going as if their destined to go up or down. At the same time, Boyle would create compositions and shots of certain locations to match it with images of the previous film as it would evoke elements of nostalgia which is a key theme of the film visually and literally. Notably in a sequence where Renton has dinner with Veronika where he talks about the downsides of conformity and modernism in a dizzying montage where he talks about the idea of “choose life” in the 21st Century as it showcases why he, Spud, and Sick Boy are more fond of simpler times.

The film also play into the sense of melancholia as it relate to their late friend Tommy (Kevin McKidd via archival footage) in the same area where Tommy was trying to get his friends to walk to the Scottish Highlands. It’s a moment where Renton would accept the fact that he was responsible for Tommy’s descent as he would force Sick Boy to face his own tragedy and faults. It would culminate with Spud finally coming to terms with his addiction as he would channel his energy into something new as well as face Begbie who would see what Spud has created where it is this rare glimpse of humanity that seems to be lost in Begbie. Still, it does play into four men facing their own sins of the past as well as try to create something that does harken to simpler times and a balance of the past and present. Overall, Boyle crafts an evocative yet wild film about four men coming to terms with the past and their encounter with their modern environment in their search for nostalgia.

Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle does brilliant work with the film’s colorful cinematography with its stylish approach to scenes set in the day with its lighting and how Edinburgh would look on a sunny day as well as the scenes set at night where it play into a stylish look to emphasize the manic ride the characters would embark on. Editor Jon Harris does excellent work with the editing as its usage of jump-cuts, montages, match cuts with the original film, and other stylized cuts play into the sense of nostalgia as well as the characters dealing with the past. Production designer Patrick Rolfe and Mark Tildesley, with set decorators Orlin Grozdanov and Veronique Melery, do fantastic work with the look of Sick Boy’s apartment and pub as well as the apartment that Spud lives in to play into their lack of stability. Costume designers Rachel Fleming and Steven Noble do terrific work with the costumes as it play into the look of the characters including some of the more youthful clothes that Veronika wears.

Hair/makeup designer Ivana Primorac does nice work with the look of the characters from Sick Boy’s hair to the look of Veronika. Visual effects supervisor Adam Gascoyne does amazing work with the visual effects as it play into the air of nostalgia in the way some of the footage that the characters talk about are shown on objects and such. Sound designers Glenn Freemantle and Niv Adiri do incredible work with the sound in creating an array of sounds to play into the chaos that the characters endure in their environment as well as some of the locations they would go to. The film’s phenomenal soundtrack is a mixture of hip-hop, new wave, alternative rock, Brit-pop, ambient, drum n’ bass, rock, punk, and other types of music that features contributions from the Clash, Blondie, Underworld, Queen, Wolf Alice, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Lou Reed, Brian Eno, Run-DMC vs. Jason Nevins, Fat White Family, Young Fathers, High Contrast, and Iggy Pop.

The casting by Gail Stevens is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Scot Greenan as Begbie’s son Frank Jr., Kyle Patrick as Spud’s teenage son Fergus, Charlie Hardie as the nine-year old Fergus, Pauline Turner as Begbie’s wife, Steve Robertson as a prison official who invokes Begbie’s wrath, Bradley Welsh as a rival brother owner in Doyle, Michael Shaw and Elijah Wolf in their respective roles as the 20-year old and nine-year old versions of Tommy, the trio of Christopher Mullen, Daniel Smith, and Daniel Jackson as younger versions of Begbie, James McElvar and Logan Gilles as the younger versions of Sick Boy, Aiden Haggarty and John Bell as the younger versions of Spud, the trio of Connor McIndoe, Ben Skelton, and Hamish Haggerty as the younger versions of Renton, and novelist Irvine Welsh reprising his role as Mikey Forrester who has become a black markets dealer. James Cosmo and Shirley Henderson are terrific in their brief appearances in their respective roles as Renton’s father and Spud’s former girlfriend Gail.

Kelly Macdonald is fantastic in her brief appearance as Renton’s former girlfriend Diane who has become a solicitor as she tries to help Renton and Veronika over Sick Boy’s legal and financial troubles while seeing what Renton had become. Anjela Nedyalkova is wonderful as Veronika as a Bulgarian prostitute who is Sick Boy’s girlfriend that becomes concerned with Sick Boy’s schemes while having an affair with Renton and befriending Spud whom she sees as someone that has a lot more to offer as a person in need of help. Robert Carlyle is brilliant as Francis Begbie as a psychopath who is hell-bent in getting out of prison to continue his life as a criminal where he also seeks revenge on Renton for putting him in prison where Carlyle also show a bit of vulnerability into the character as he would also briefly play a dual role as drunken man he met many years ago.

Ewan Bremner is amazing as Spud as a man who endured a lot of misfortune to the point that he’s hit bottom as he struggles to be clean and find a new outlet which he would eventually find as a way to come to terms with his faults and a new promise in his life. Jonny Lee Miller is remarkable as Sick Boy as a man who continuously schemes to get what he wants as well as deal with a cocaine addiction and his anger towards Renton where he tries to find a way to get even with him only to realize how much he needs Renton to get things done. Finally, there’s Ewan McGregor in an incredible performance as Mark Renton as a man who returns to Edinburgh following a 20-year exile where he deals with his own brush with death as he tries to figure out what to do with the remaining years of his life as well as make amends for his past sins in the hope he can redeem himself and find some idea of life he can live in.

T2 Trainspotting is a sensational film from Danny Boyle that features great performances from Ewan McGregor, Ewan Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, and Robert Carlyle. Along with its supporting cast, dazzling visuals, approach to nostalgia, and a killer soundtrack, it’s a film that manages to capture the spirit of its predecessor while not being afraid to use that film as a reference point in order to explore its characters who are still hung on to the past. In the end, T2 Trainspotting is a phenomenal film from Danny Boyle.

Danny Boyle Films: Shallow GraveTrainspotting - A Life Less Ordinary - The Beach - 28 Days Later - Millions - Sunshine (2007 film) - Slumdog Millionaire - 127 Hours - Trance (2013 film) - Steve Jobs (2015 film) - (Yesterday (2019 film)

Related: Trainspotting OST - Favorite Films #10: Trainspotting

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, November 24, 2017

2017 Blind Spot Series: How Green Was My Valley

Based on the novel by Richard Llewellyn, How Green Was My Valley is the story of a Welsh family dealing with hardship in the 19th Century where a mining town in Wales is going through hard times. Directed by John Ford and screenplay by Philip Dunne, the film is a look into the life of a family from the perspective of a young boy as he sees a family deal with changes and a way of life becoming obsolete. Starring Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowall, Sara Allgood, Barry Fitzgerald, Patric Knowles, John Loder, and narration by Irving Pichel. How Green Was My Valley is an evocatively rich and touching film from John Ford.

Told from the perspective of an old man recalling his time as a child in mid-19th Century Wales, the film revolves around a family in a small mining town where they deal with hardships and changing times that would affect their community. It’s a film that plays into a world that had a system and ideal that has worked with them for many years but little things would make some changes for this family and those they know as it would mark the end of innocence for a young boy. Philip Dunne’s screenplay follows the life of the young boy in Huw Morgan (Roddy McDowall) who sees the work that his father Gwilym (Donald Crisp) and his older brothers do as miners with his mother Beth (Sara Allgood) and older sister Angharad (Maureen O’Hara) do every day in making sure there’s soap and hot water available. It’s a system that’s worked as one of them in Ivor (Patric Knowles) would marry a young woman in Bronwyn (Anna Lee), whom Huw is fond of, who would do the same for Ivor. Yet when changes made over wages occur, the Morgan siblings hold a strike with Gwilym stepping back as he doesn’t want to cause trouble where he, Beth, Angharad, and Huw watch to see its outcome.

It would be in the town’s new pastor Mr. Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon) who would make sense of everything as it would create an uneasy compromise that would start the beginning of a sense of decline in the town. Even as certain things occur where Mr. Gruffydd’s time with the ailing Huw, following an accident that left him temporarily paralyzed, has him being around Angharad who is falling for him. Yet, Mr. Gruffydd is aware that being seen with Angharad is forbidden as he would also see some of the trouble among some of the town elders over some of the immorality where Angharad would end up marrying the mine owner’s son Iestyn Evans (Marten Lamont). It would add to this sense of change where there’s tragedy but also this reality that Gwilym is forced to accept while he realizes that Huw should look for a future away from the mines though Huw does want to follow in the footsteps of his father and brothers.

John Ford’s direction is quite vast in terms of the setting that he creates as well as showing a world that was very simple only to be changed by modernism and this growing sense of morality. Shot on location at the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu, California, Ford would use the landscape to recreate the world of 19th Century Wales at a time when the actual location was unavailable due the events of World War II. Nevertheless, Ford’s usage of the Santa Monica Mountains would allow him to capture life in a mining town where miners would sing traditional Welsh songs after work or for a ceremony as Ford would capture the vastness of this town and valleys with some gorgeous wide shots. Even in the moments of tragedy of how a town would react toward an emergency whistle to emphasize something has gone wrong while Ford would also capture a few wide shots to play into the moments such as the tense meetings at the church and Huw’s first day attending a national public school miles away from home.

Ford would also use close-ups and medium shots to get a look inside the Morgan family home as well as the way some of the characters interact. Notably the moments between Mr. Gruffydd and Angharad as they know their feelings for each other is forbidden with the former making a choice that he knows would protect him from some of the troubles he would endure from the elders. The film’s third act isn’t about Gwilyn facing reality as he becomes concerned for Huw’s future but also Huw making a decision to help the family where he learns about hypocrisy from some of the community as it relates to Angharad and Mr. Gruffydd. It would culminate with another moment of tragedy that would force the older Huw, via narration, to see what had been lost with Ford gazing into a moment in time where it was peaceful only to become corrupted by greed, deceit, and ideals that never did anything good. Overall, Ford crafts a somber yet rapturous film a boy coming of age in a small Welsh mining town in the 19th Century.

Cinematographer Arthur C. Miller does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography to capture the gorgeous beauty of the exteriors in the day along with some naturalistic lighting for some of the interior scenes set at night. Editor James B. Clark does excellent work as it is straightforward with a few dissolves and rhythmic cuts to play into the drama. Art directors Richard Day and Nathan Juran, along with set decorator Thomas Little, do amazing work with the look of the town including the mining tower and the chapel where many in the community meet on Sundays. Costume designer Gwen Wakeling does fantastic work with the costumes that is true to the period including the dresses that the women wear. The sound work of Eugene Grossman and Roger Heman Sr. do superb work in capturing the atmosphere of the mines as well as how they’re heard from the outside. The film’s music by Alfred Newman is wonderful for its sweeping orchestral score that is a mixture of soaring string arrangements as well as vocal choirs with some traditional Welsh music.

The film’s incredible cast feature some notable small roles from Clifford Severn as a school bully who goads Huw into fighting him, Lionel Pape as the mine owner Mr. Evans, Marten Lamont as Mr. Evans’ son Iestyn who would marry Angharad, Ethel Griffies as Angharad’s housekeeper at the Evans estate, Frederick Worlock as the town doctor, Arthur Shields as the local deacon Mr. Parry who is an ultra-conservative figure in the town, the trio of, Richard Fraser, Evan S. Evans, and James Monk in their respective roles as three of Huw’s older brothers in Davy, Gwilym Jr., and Owen, and Morton Lowry as Huw’s cruel schoolteacher Mr. Jonas who looks down at Huw for being Welsh and working class. Rhys Williams is terrific as the boxer Dai Bando who teaches Huw the art of boxing while confronting Mr. Jonas over his cruelty. Barry Fitzgerald is superb as Bando’s friend Cyfartha as a man who is often drunk but is always friendly to everyone.

John Loder and Patric Knowles are fantastic in their respective roles as the eldest Morgan brothers in Ianto and Ivor as two men who become aware of the changes in the mine as they try to fight for what is right. Anne Lee is wonderful as Ianto’s wife Bronwyn whom Huw has a crush on as she deals with life as a miner’s wife as well as dealing with some of the chaos as she is able to get help from Ianto’s family. Sara Allgood is excellent as Beth Morgan as the family matriarch who is a very old-school woman with old-school values as she is baffled by the idea of mathematics and geography though she eventually realizes about the bleak future that is to come. Donald Crisp is brilliant as Gwilym Morgan as the family patriarch who is a miner that is dealing with changing times as well as sensing the decline in the world of mining as he urges Huw to focus on a life outside of mining.

Roddy McDowall is marvelous as Huw as the youngest child of the Morgan family who looks up to his brother as well as he cope with the changes around him as well as new environments in his life. Maureen O’Hara is amazing as Angharad as the sole Morgan daughter who helps her mother run the house as she is in love with Mr. Gruffydd as she is torn in being with him but also not cause any sense of immorality. Finally, there’s Walter Pidgeon in a remarkable performance as Mr. Gruffydd as the town’s new pastor who arrives to the town with a sense of morality yet is torn in his devotion to God and his feelings for Angharad where he helps out the Morgan family and sees the growing hypocrisy in the town toward things they don’t understand.

How Green Was My Valley is a spectacular film from John Ford. Featuring a great cast, a compelling premise, gorgeous visuals, and a sumptuous music score. It’s a film that explores a boy seeing a way of life go into decline as well as coping with changes that would destroy everything that made a community he grew up on become obsolete. In the end, How Green Was My Valley is a sensational film from John Ford.

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Origin Films

For the fourth week of November 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We focus on origin movies as they’ve become very popular within blockbuster films as it allows audience to find out how this person would become a hero or someone famous. Here are my three picks as they’re all from the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

1. Iron Man

The film that started the MCU revolves around a billionaire who sees his creation of weapons be used for evil only to fight back by creating a suit that would make him rectify those errors. Starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, it’s a film that shows a man who need to do something that would change this legacy of being a man creating weapons into becoming one for the good of the world. It’s got humor, it’s got action, and helps introduce the world that Stark would later be a part of as it is one of the finest superhero films ever made.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

A true gem in every sense of the word comes a film about a gang of misfits who come together to be the saviors of the universe. The gang includes a half-human being raised by thieves who hooks up with a raccoon, his tree-like friend named Groot, a female warrior with a chip on her shoulder, and a big alien of a man wanting revenge for the death of his family. It is set in a galaxy that is diverse as it has some great action mixed in with some high-octane humor as well as a cool soundtrack.

3. Doctor Strange

A more recent entry in the MCU series as it involves a character that is still new to the MCU as it’s about this arrogant doctor who is humbled by an accident that would do damages to his hands where he would make a major discovery into the world of mystical arts. It’s a flawed film that doesn’t really do much to the origin storyline but it still manages to not take itself too seriously while creating some dazzling visuals as well a top-notch performance from Benedict Cumberbatch in the titular role.

© thevoid99 2017

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Eagle vs. Shark

Written and directed by Taika Waititi from a story by Waititi and Loren Horsley who also both do casting duties, Eagle vs. Shark is the story of a shy young woman who meets an eccentric oddball at a costume party as they connect over their insecurities and loneliness as she accompanies him back to his hometown to deal with issues including his family. The film is an exploration of two people who connect as they deal with their own issues with the world as well as wonder if there’s a place for them. Starring Loren Horsley, Jermaine Clement, Craig Hall, and Joel Tobeck. Eagle vs. Shark is a delightful and heartfelt film from Taika Waititi.

The film follows a fast-food worker who has a crush on a man who works at a video game store where they connect at a costume party as he invites her to his hometown to get revenge on a bully. It’s a film that revolves around these two oddballs who don’t exactly fit in with conventional society as they bond somewhat through video games, music, and other things. At the same time, they out of step with the people around them with a few exceptions such as their respective families. Taika Waititi’s screenplay that is based on a story he wrote with Loren Horsley is filled with this balance of tragedy and humor as it relates to a line of dialogue late in the film about the way life is. It’s an idea that Lily (Loren Horsley) has been carrying since her parents had died years ago where she shares a home with her brother Damon (Joel Tobeck) who is an eccentric himself yet has managed to find a suitable living as an animator. Lily works at a fast food restaurant where Jarrod (Jermaine Clement) would often go to as he works nearby as he doesn’t seem interested in Lily until she takes an invitation to a party that was meant for someone else.

Due to her skills in playing a fighting game, Lily wins over Jarrod but it’s not enough until he apologizes for not showing up to their date because of news relating to an old high school enemy coming back to his hometown. Lily would join Jarrod with Damon driving them from the city into the country as Jarrod’s family is an oddball bunch with his older sister Nancy (Rachel House) living in the house with her husband, son, and their father Jonah (Brian Sargent) who is very withdrawn from Jarrod. Especially as it relates to Jarrod’s older brother Gordon (Taika Waititi) who had died in an accident which Jarrod claims as he would also claim his mother died as well. There’s also the presence of Gordon’s former fiancée Tracy (Gentiane Lupi) whom Jarrod is trying to impress while he also reveals to Lily that he has a daughter in Vinny (Morag Hills). All of which has Lily trying to get to know Jarrod while being someone his family likes because she is willing to accept their oddball personalities.

Waititi’s direction is definitely stylish not just in its approach to comedy and drama but also setting it into a world that is definitely unique in its own way as it is shot on location in New Zealand with the first act in the city of Wellington and the rest of the film in Porirua. While Waititi would use wide shots to capture the scope of the locations, he would maintain something intimate in the way he would capture the lives of Lily and Jarrod. The former lives with her brother as she still lives in a room that she used to share with him where Waititi would have her in the left side of the room on her bed playing guitar with her brother sitting on the other side of what used to be his bed to establish the closeness of their relationship. The usage of medium shots and close-ups are key to Waititi and how he would capture the life of a family including where he would have them around the dinner table. Notably in a scene where it’s very quiet and tense until Lily breaks that tension by telling a joke that is lame but manages to work.

Waititi would also utilize some stop-motion animation with the aid of Guy Capper and Francis Salole of Another Planet Limited in creating abstract scenes that play into Jarrod’s need to find someone as he isn’t sure if Lily is the right person for him. Waititi’s approach to humor is offbeat in the way some of the characters are presented but it doesn’t go for cheap laughs where Waititi would know where to put the humor in the right moments. Even as it would play into elements of the tragedies of the film such as the climatic showdown between Jarrod and his childhood bully Eric (Dave Fane) as it would unveil some surprising revelations. Especially as it showcases Jarrod’s need to be accepted by his family and to move away from his brother’s shadow. Overall, Waititi creates an endearing and witty comedy about two oddballs who fall in love and cope with their own encounters with tragedy.

Cinematographer Adam Clark does excellent work with the cinematography as it is largely straightforward for the scenes set in the daytime while using some lights for the scenes set at night. Editor Jonathan Woodford-Robinson does brilliant work with the editing as its usage of jump-cuts and other stylish cut to play into the humor as well as some of the light-dramatic moments without being too playful. Production designer Joe Bleakley does fantastic work with the look of the home Lily shares with her brother as well as Jarrod’s apartment in Wellington and his family home. Costume designer Amanda Neale does nice work with the costumes from the homemade animal costumes that Lily and Jarrod wear at the party to the track suits created by Jarrod’s sister and her husband.

Hair/makeup designer Leanne “Frankie” Karena does terrific work with the look of Jarrod who kind sports a mini-mullet of sorts to play into his oddball look. Sound editor Dave Whitehead does superb work with the sound in capturing the natural sounds in some of the locations as well as the way music is presented in some scenes in the film. The film’s music by the Phoenix Foundation is wonderful for its folk-like sound that play into the film’s offbeat tone in creating bits of melancholia and humor while music supervisors Chris Gough and Julie Hodges provide a fun soundtrack that features pieces from Devendra Banhart, M. Ward, and the Stone Roses.

The film’s incredible cast that is assembled by Taika Waititi and Loren Horsley features some notable small roles from Waititi as Jarrod’s late older brother Gordon, Chelsie Preston Crayford as Lily’s co-worker Jenny whom Jarrod has a crush on, Gentiane Lupi as Gordon’s fiancée Tracy whom Jarrod is trying to woo, Morag Hills as Jarrod’s daughter Vinny who befriends Lily, Dave Fane as Jarrod’s nemesis Eric, Cohen Holloway as Jarrod’s hacker friend Mason, Bernard Stewart as Jarrod’s heavy metal-loving nephew Zane, and Craig Hall as Jarrod’s brother-in-law Doug. Rachel House is fantastic as Jarrod’s older sister Nancy who doesn’t think much about him but enjoys Lily’s company. Brian Sargent is superb as Jarrod’s father Jonah as a man who is still reeling from the loss of his son as he is very distant towards Jarrod where he manages to connect with Lily that would allow him to get to know his youngest son.

Joel Tobeck is excellent as Damon as Lily’s kind older brother who likes to do impressions and say funny things as a way to cheer people up where he is also liked by Jarrod’s family during his brief time with them. Finally, there’s the duo of Jermaine Clement and Loren Horsley in sensational performances in their respective roles as Jarrod and Lily. Clement’s performance as Jarrod is strange in the way he would deliver his dialogue and how he would threaten Eric as it play into someone that is trying to be tough and cool but it only hide the anguish and loss he is dealing with over his brother’s death. Horsley’s performance as Lily is more restrained as she does provide bits of physical comedy reaction but also has a lot of energy in the way she reacts to Jarrod’s coldness during the second act where she channels her energy to get to know his family as her charm would be key to the story and letting Jarrod find some happiness.

Eagle vs. Shark is a remarkable film from Taika Waititi. Featuring a great cast, a heartfelt story, a fun soundtrack, and gorgeous visuals. It’s a film that showcases how two people can fall in love despite their own quirkiness and coping with their own respective tragedies. In the end, Eagle vs. Shark is an incredible film from Taika Waititi.

Taika Waititi Films: Two Cars, One NightBoy (2010 film)What We Do in the Shadows - Hunt for the Wilderpeople - Thor: Ragnarok - Jojo Rabbit - Thor: Love and Thunder - Next Goal Wins (2023 film) - (Klara and the Sun) - Auteurs #64: Taika Waititi

© thevoid99 2017