Thursday, January 31, 2019

Films That I Saw: January 2019

35 days of a government shutdown that began late last year all because Dumb-fuck wanted money for his stupid-ass wall and what happened in the end? Well, he got no money for his stupid wall and cost this country more money that was supposed to go for regular people who work for the government. Wow, we’re in some serious dark times as the New Year has already begun in an interesting way. So far, it hasn’t been boring but it’s still worrying considering the chaos that is happening in Britain over Brexit as well as the chaos that is already happening Venezuela now that the U.S. has chosen to support the opposition which is already making things worse. I know people that my parents are life-long friends with who are from the country but I doubt they’ve returned as they’ve been living here and we’ve been good to them as they have been to us. Plus, I don’t think the U.S. should get involved in this matter unless they want to repeat the sins of September 11, 1973 like they did in Chile all of those years ago.

It’s been a strange year so far as there’s been some notable deaths in Bob Einstein aka Super Dave Osborne, “Mean” Gene Okerlund, James Ingram and just yesterday, Dick Miller as it just feels like it’s going be one of those years again. Then of course, there’s a lot of things happening as I’m just trying to make sense of everything but also find things to distract me. Pro wrestling has been a constant distraction though I no longer watch Ring of Honor TV because it never comes on as schedule as I focus largely on New Japan Pro Wrestling and listen to podcasts and read websites about what is going on in WWE as this so-called “new era” that the Meekmahans have been touting in early December of last year is really just the same old bullshit that has been happening for years. The few bright spots in the company are Daniel Bryan, Becky Lynch, Andrade Cien Almas, and NXT but that’s not enough. The fact that news emerged about some wrestlers wanting out of the WWE and the announcement that Jon Moxley/Dean Ambrose and KENTA/Hideo Itami are both leaving the WWE is proof that WWE isn’t the place where everyone needs to be a success.

Thank goodness for the indies and a new company that is about to emerge and hopefully put WWE on its ass. That is All Elite Wrestling (AEW) that is funded by the Khan family who own the Jacksonville Jaguars and co-founded by Cody Rhodes and Matt and Nick Jackson/the Young Bucks as they already have a promising roster that includes Joey Janela, Jungle Boy, MJF, Hangman Page, So-Cal Uncensored (SCU!!!!), Pac, Dr. Britt Baker, Brandi Rhodes, Penelope Ford, Bea Priestley, and Chris Jericho as they want to bring change to professional wrestling. They want to make it interesting again and I really hope they succeed because I’m sick of WWE and their so-called sports entertainment bullshit as they’re concerned with making money and being a brand than putting on a good product.

In the month of January, I saw a total of 42 films so far in 18 first-timers and 24 re-watches with one first-timer being a film directed by a woman as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge as I’ve decided to take part in it again. One of the highlights this month is one of Blind Spot assignments in Gilda. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw in January 2019:

1. Roma

2. First Reformed

3. If Beale Street Could Talk

4. War for the Planet of the Apes

5. Thoroughbreds

6. Sin Nombre

7. Brigsby Bear

8. Mostly Martha

9. Passion

10. Baal

Monthly Mini-Reviews

Table 19

I thought this was a decent comedy-drama about a group of people who are put at the loser’s table at a wedding they were invited to including Anna Kendrick who was supposed to be a bridesmaid until her boyfriend left her for a closer friend of the bride. Also starring Stephen Merchant, Tony Revolori, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, and June Squibb as the people of table 19, it’s a film that is actually quite endearing as well as the fact that it play into people dealing with the shortcomings of life as well as wondering if they mean to anyone.


This was an OK film although it’s really a film that anyone should see if they’re interested in seeing Analeigh Tipton engage in some hot lesbian sex scenes. It’s a film about an erotic novelist going to Italy to promote her new book as she gets involved with another woman and a former lover as it play into cults and all sorts of things. It doesn’t have much of a plot which isn’t a bad thing but it never does enough to make things engaging except for the sex scenes.

Classic Albums-Stars

One of the best-selling albums in Britain in the early 1990s in the form of Simply Red’s fourth studio release as it one of the finer entries in the Classic Albums series. Featuring interviews with vocalist Mick Hucknall and various others who played and contributed the album as well as famed Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier. It showcases what Hucknall and his collaborators were willing to go into as they had been famous for being a soul-covers band of sorts as this was their first album of all-original material as it proved to be very popular to audiences who weren’t into the indie music scene in Britain at that time.


I like Eugenio Derbez, I think he’s pretty funny. I know there’s people that gets sniffy on remakes as do I but I thought this was pretty good. It actually did reference characters from the original film that starred Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn back in 1987. Yet, it has the genders switch places this time where Derbez plays a Mexican playboy who is the heir to a big-time company who insults Anna Faris who was trying to clean his yacht. Once he falls out of his yacht and loses his memory, she gets revenge and makes him think they’re married and hilarity ensues. It’s a film that has its heart in the right place while it also features John Hannah in a hilarious performance in the role that was played by Roddy McDowall in the original film. It never takes itself seriously while it also does what it needed to do as Derbez is someone my parents really enjoyed as they saw it in the theaters last year.

The Ritchie Blackmore Story

There’s no question that Ritchie Blackmore is one of the great guitar players in rock from his groundbreaking work in Deep Purple to his own band in Rainbow and later being part of a medieval folk duo with wife Candice Night in Blackmore’s Night. The documentary that was shown on AXS TV is about the man’s career as well as his difficult persona as someone that craves control but also is sort of resistant to fame. Featuring interviews with Blackmore, Night, and others including Brian May of Queen, Lars Ulrich of Metallica, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and former Purple bandmates in David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, and the late Jon Lord plus former Rainbow vocalists Graham Bonnet and Joe Lynn Turner. It’s a documentary that fans of Blackmore must watch as it play into the man and his journey through the kinds of music he made as well as someone who admits to not being an easy person to get along with at times.

Top 10 Re-watches

1. The Last of the Mohicans

2. Avengers: Infinity War

3 Thor: Ragnarok

4. Isle of Dogs

5. Iron Man

6. Toy Story 2

7. Femme Fatale

8. Spotlight

9. The Last Jedi

10. Identification of a Woman

Well, that is for January. Next month, I will watch several recent films although I’m not sure what new film I’ll see other than a few Oscar nominees such as The Favourite. Along with films in the never-ending DVR list as I hope to do some Eric Rohmer films that had been in the DVR for a long time. I’m also going to release my Auteurs piece on David O. Russell whom I had just started writing on. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2019

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

White Orchid (2018 film)

Written, edited, and directed by Steve Anderson, White Orchid is the story of a part-time social services investigator who takes on the identity of a dead woman to capture a serial killer who killed the woman. The film is a neo-noir film that has a woman help the police to catch a killer but becomes lost in the identity that she inhabits. Starring Olivia Thirlby, Jennifer Beals, John Carroll Lynch, Janina Gavankar, Raymond J. Barry, Brendan Sexton III, Rachael Taylor and Nichelle Nichols. White Orchid is an intriguing though underwhelming film from Steve Anderson.

Following the death of a woman who was beheaded and found naked on a beach, a part-time social services investigator is asked by local police officials to take part of the case as she would pretend to be the dead woman only to get way over her head. It’s a film with a simple premise as it play into a woman being asked to investigate a murder in a small town near San Francisco yet it is also a film about identity where this shy and reserved part-time social services investigator takes more than she bargains for. Steve Anderson’s screenplay largely revolves on the protagonist of Claire (Olivia Thirlby) who is asked by a district attorney in Vivian (Jennifer Beals) to investigate this case and give out any information to the local authority figure in Sheriff Martin (John Carroll Lynch).

While Claire would learn about this mysterious killer and its victim, she also learns about the latter and her vices where she would wear wigs and such as Claire would inhabit a different identity. The script does succeed in Claire’s fascination for this victim yet it has a lot of tonal issues in what it wants to be as a story while it doesn’t do much to build up the suspense. Even as it prefers to be something low key which doesn’t bring in a lot of surprises as it’s one of the weaker elements of the film.

Anderson’s direction is largely simple in its compositions as it is shot largely on location in the Bay Area in California with a few shots in San Francisco where it is obvious there is a homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo in one notable shot as well as a few references to the film in a few scenes. Yet, it’s among some of the issues the film has where it isn’t sure what it wants to be where it wants to be this suspense-drama but it also wants to be a film about identity. Anderson does know how to create intriguing compositions that include a scene of Claire trying out wigs in a stylish montage created by Anderson, who also serves as its editor, as well as moments that play into elements of eroticism. Despite the many tonal issues the film has, Anderson is able to create scenes that are intriguing that include this climatic meeting between Claire and the person she believes is the killer as it is a battle of wits. Overall, Anderson creates a messy yet worthwhile film about a young investigator trying to solve a murder mystery as she pretends to be its victim.

Cinematographer Patrick Meade Jones does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is straightforward with some stylish lighting for a few scenes at night including a club scene. Art director Erin Cochran, with set decorators Abra Brayman and Fernando Valdes, does fantastic work with the look of the home of its victim as well as the small motel room that Claire would stay in for all of the research of her case. Costume designer E.B. Brooks does nice work with the costumes as it has an element of style in the clothes that Claire would wear as the victim that is stylish and sexy as opposed to the more reserved look that she usually sports. Sound mixer David Beebe does terrific work with the sound as it is largely straightforward to play into its locations and in some of the places Claire goes to. The film’s music by Enis Rotthoff is wonderful for its score as it has heavy orchestral themes for its suspenseful moments along with low-key ambient pieces for the quieter moments in the film.

The casting by Rebecca Mangieri and Wendy Weidman is superb as it feature some notable small roles from Michael Rodrick as a famed surgeon Claire sees in San Francisco whom she believes is a suspect, Raymond J. Barry as the neighbor of the victim, Kelsey Sieper as a woman Claire meets as the victim at a bar, Rachael Taylor as a mysterious woman Claire meets late in the film, Brendan Sexton III as a motel owner that Claire knows in James who deals with a break-in, Janina Gavankar as a friend of Claire in the musician Tina that helps her gather the research for the investigation, and Nichelle Nichols in a fantastic performance as an elderly blind woman that the victim used to chat with as Claire would befriend her. Jennifer Beals is terrific in a small role as Claire’s boss in the district attorney Vivian who gives Claire the big case though Beals is severely underused in the film.

John Carroll Lynch is excellent as Sheriff Martin as the local sheriff who helps Claire with the case while he has some concerns knowing its severity and Claire’s inexperience. Finally, there’s Olivia Thirlby in an incredible performance as Claire as a part-time social services investigator who is given a major assignment in a murder mystery where Thirlby displays that confusion and determination in a woman knowing she is dealing with a serious case while trying to understand its victim to find the killer as it is an entrancing and radiant performance from Thirlby.

White Orchid is a good yet uneven film from Steve Anderson that features an amazing performance from Olivia Thirlby. While it’s a film that does have some nice moments and intrigue about identity and loss, it does suffer from being inconsistent in its tone as well as wanting to be all sorts of film without finding its center. In the end, White Orchid is an alright film from Steve Anderson.

© thevoid99 2019

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Spanking the Monkey

Written and directed by David O. Russell, Spanking the Monkey is the story of a medical student who is forced to stay home to take care of his injured mother as time spent with his mother lead to a troubling incest relationship. The film is an incest comedy of sorts of a young man who is trying to gain an internship as he is forced to return home by his father leading to all sorts of trouble. Starring Jeremy Davies, Alberta Watson, Carla Gallo, and Benjamin Hendrickson. Spanking the Monkey is a witty and offbeat film from David O. Russell.

The film revolves around a medical student whose plan to attend an internship in Washington is shattered when his mother is injured in an accident forcing him to take care of her for the summer while his father is away on business. The day-to-day routine of taking care of his mother and dog as well as doing household chores and lack of contact with others with the exception of a high school student lead to an unexpected incest relationship with his mother. David O. Russell’s screenplay explores the troubled summer of Raymond Aibelli (Jeremy Davies) whose chance to gain this important internship comes to question as he’s being forced to take care of his mother Susan (Alberta Watson) while his dad is away on business at the last minute.

Susan becomes needy not just because of her injury but also due to depression as it adds to Raymond’s frustration just as he met a young high school student in Toni Peck (Carla Gallo) who is interested in going to M.I.T. The chances to get his internship would be complicated by his father’s absence and mother’s neediness as it would lead to some events that Raymond wouldn’t expect as Russell would tell it in a darkly-comic presentation. Notably as the second half of the film is about the aftermath of this incest-driven affair and Raymond struggling with what had happened as it relates to his parents’ marriage which is becoming strained and filled with indifference.

Russell’s direction is largely simple in terms of its presentation as it is shot largely on location in Pawling, New York. While there’s some wide shots in the film, much of Russell’s direction is emphasized on close-ups and medium shots to get a look into the characters as well as using simple compositions to play into Raymond’s relationship with his mother as the close-ups also add to this sexual tension between the two as well as Raymond’s sexual attraction towards Toni. The approach to comedy is low-key as well as emphasizing on the awkward as it relates to the film’s second half in which Raymond discovers what he did with his mother and revelations about his relationship with his father. Even as he is forced to come to the fact that his father’s absence and selfishness has played a part in his mother’s emotional state and neediness that becomes too much for Raymond to handle who is in need to fend for himself and find his own path. Overall, Russell crafts a provocative and whimsical comedy about a medical student being forced to take care of his injured mother only to end up in a strange incest relationship.

Cinematographer Michael Mayers does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward in terms of its low-budget approach with some low-key lighting for some of the exterior scenes at night. Editor Pamela Martin does nice work with the editing as it include a few montages for some of the daily activities Raymond does as well as rhythmic cuts to play into its humor. Production designer Susan Block does fantastic work with the look of the home Raymond and his family live in as well as a few places he and his mother go to in the film’s second half.

Costume designer Carolyn Greco does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward without anything stylish. Sound editor Steve Visscher does superb work with some of the sparse moments of the sound in the locations as well as what is heard from a TV as well as some of the noises from the inside. The film’s music by David Carbonara is wonderful for its folk-based score that is largely driven by acoustic guitars to play up the film’s humor while music supervisor Bonnie Greenberg provides a fun soundtrack that largely consists of music by the alternative-jazz band Morphine from their 1993 album Cure for Pain.

The casting by Ellen Parks is brilliant as it feature some notable small roles from Nancy Fields as a doctor, the trio of Josh Philip Weinstein, Zak Orth, and Matthew Puckett as friends of Raymond, and Judette Jones as Aunt Helen who briefly helps Raymond taking care of his mother. Benjamin Hendrickson is superb as Raymond’s father Tom who is a traveling salesman that goes away on business for the last minute as he’s bossy and demanding while is also hiding things that he doesn’t want Raymond nor Susan to know. Carla Gallo is fantastic as Toni Peck as a high school student who is intrigued by the idea of college while falling for Raymond prompting an unexpected relationship.

Alberta Watson is excellent as Susan as a woman with an injured leg who is depressed and needy as it play into someone that feels lost and unimportant using Raymond as someone who can fulfill her emotional needs. Finally, there’s Jeremy Davies in an amazing performance as Raymond Aibelli as a medical student who is forced to skip an important internship to stay home where he deals with taking care of his mother as well as his own sexual frustrations as it include a gag of him masturbating in the bathroom only to be interrupted by the dog.

Spanking the Monkey is a marvelous film from David O. Russell. Featuring a great cast and a disturbing yet riveting story of incest, sexual frustration, and emotional neediness. It’s a film that approaches a taboo subject with some offbeat humor as it play into a young man having to be there for his troubled mother only to get more than he bargained for. In the end, Spanking the Monkey is a remarkable film from David O. Russell.

David O. Russell Films: Flirting with Disaster - Three Kings - I Heart Huckabees - The Fighter - Silver Linings Playbook - American Hustle - Accidental Love - Joy (2015 film) - The Auteurs #70: David O. Russell

© thevoid99 2019

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Last of the Mohicans (1992 film)

Based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper and the 1936 film by George B. Seitz and screenwriter Philip Dunne, The Last of the Mohicans is the story of two sisters who are accompanied by a major during the French and Indian War where they’re saved by a white Mohican warrior who accompanies them to a fort where their father is stationed at. Directed by Michael Mann and screenplay by Mann and Christopher Crowe from an adaptation by John L. Balderston, Paul Perez, and Daniel Moore, the film is a thrilling adventure film set during the French and Indian War in the Adirondack Mountains in the then-British colony of New York where a man tries to help two sisters reach their father while dealing with all sorts of foes. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Jodhi May, Russell Means, Wes Studi, Eric Schweig, and Steven Waddington. The Last of the Mohicans is an exhilarating and gripping film from Michael Mann.

It’s 1757 during the French and Indian War between the British and American colonials against the French and various Native American factions where a trio of Native Americans save a major and two women following an ambush by Huron warriors on their way to a fort that is the home of the women’s officer father. It’s a film that play into three men who live a life of peace and generosity as they decide to help these two women to be with their father yet things would get complicated once they arrive at their destination during this conflict that is happening. The film’s screenplay by Michael Mann and Christopher Crowe that was also based on Philip Dunne’s screenplay for the 1936 film by George B. Seitz does play into the world that its protagonist Nathaniel Poe/Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) lives in with his adopted father Chingachgook and adopted brother Uncas (Eric Schweig) as they live to hunt and be good company to other colonial settlers.

The first act is largely about Major Duncan Heyward (Steven Waddington) wanting to accompany his lover Cora Munro (Madeleine Stowe) and her younger sister Alice (Jodhi May) as their father Colonel Edmund Munro (Maurice Roeves) who is stationed at Fort William Henry. Major Heyward and his entourage is accompanied by the Huron warrior Magua (Wes Studi) unaware that he’s leading them an ambush by his own tribe as he has a hatred towards Colonel Munro over events from the past that related to his family. It would be Hawkeye and his family that would save the Munro sisters and Major Heyward where Cora isn’t sure about trusting Hawkeye yet realizes what is at stake. The film’s second act that takes place at Fort William Henry during a battle with the French army led by General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm (Patrice Chereau) where the Munro sisters learn that from their father that they weren’t supposed to come.

The screenplay wouldn’t just play into this developing relationship between Hawkeye and Cora but also revelations that would plant the seeds of what is to come in this shaky alliance between the British forces and the colonial militia. After witnessing what happened to a family that Hawkeye and his family knew and Colonel Munro’s dismissal over the incidents due to lack of evidence. Cora realizes that even someone like her father is more concerned with maintaining his position rather than have the militia return to defend their home and families. The film’s third act which has everyone leaving the fort is about survival as well as the ideas of war where one group of people want to do what is honorable but another has personal reasons to wage war.

Mann’s direction is definitely astonishing in terms of its visual presentation and intense approach to action. Shot on location largely on the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina as well as various locations in the state as upstate New York and the Adirondack Mountains. Mann would use the locations as characters in the film as it play into a world that is peaceful only to be ravaged by war as it opens with Hawkeye and his family hunting and bringing food to eat and share with a family. The simplicity in Mann’s direction is key to the relationship Hawkeye would have with Cora later in the film with its usage of close-ups and medium shots as well as the brief moments between Alice and Uncas with the latter being protective of her from danger. The usage of hand-held cameras would play into the action as well as Hawkeye and his entourage trying to get to the fort and later hide from Magua and his tribe.

Mann’s usage of the wide shots would play into the scope of the battle scenes as well as the attention to detail of the French digging trenches and getting closer to the fort as well as the distance of cannons firing toward their target. Mann’s usage of tracking and dolly shots add to the detail of the landscape and chaos of war while he would also aim for precise compositions to play into the suspense as it relates to Magua ambushing the British army. Mann knows when to break from the action and suspense as its climax where Hawkeye meets with the Huron sachem Ongewasgone (Dennis Banks) in a plea for peace and mercy despite Magua’s need for revenge. Mann would know when to keep things engaging but also play into the drama. Overall, Mann crafts a riveting and adventurous film about a white Mohican who help two British women and officer find safety during the French and Indian War.

Cinematographer Dante Spinotti does phenomenal work with the film’s cinematography with its natural approach to lighting for many of the daytime exterior scenes as well as some scenes at night including one beautiful scene in a cave with the waterfalls and the usage of fire as it is a major highlight of the film. Editors Dov Hoenig and Arthur Schmidt do brilliant work with the editing as it has elements of style with its usage of slow-motion and rhythmic cuts as well as some other stylistic moments that play into the action, suspense, and drama. Production designer Wolf Kroeger, with set decorators Jim Erickson and James V. Kent plus art directors Robert Guerra and Richard Holland, does excellent work with the look of the homes of some of the characters as well as the interior of the fort and tents as well as the design of the Huron tribe camp. Costume designer Elsa Zamparelli does fantastic work with the costumes from the rugged look of Hawkeye and his family as well as the militia to the period dresses that Cora and Alice wear as well as the uniforms of the soldiers and officers from both the French and British.

Special makeup effects/prosthetics designer Vincent J. Guastini does amazing work with the look of the Huron tribe through its makeup as well as their Mohawks and other hairstyles of the times. Sound designer Lon E. Bender does superb work with the sound in capturing the atmosphere of the locations as well as the sounds of guns and cannons that help play into the action and its impact. The film’s music by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman is incredible for its bombastic music score with its usage of heavy percussions, woodwind arrangements, and other instruments that play into the drama and suspense while music supervisor David Kershenbaum would use a traditional Scottish piece performed by Dougie MacLean as one of the film’s music themes along with a piece performed by Clannad as it’s a highlight of the film.

The casting by Bonnie Timmerman is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Jared Harris as British lieutenant early in the film talking with militia, Colm Meaney as an officer in Major Ambrose, Pete Postlethwaite as one of Colonel Munro’s officer in Captain Beams, Dennis Banks as the Huron sachem Ongewasgone, Tracey Ellis and Terry Kinney as a couple in the Camerons that Hawkeye and his family are friends with, and Patrice Cheraeau in a terrific performance as General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm as the French general who is a man of principle as he is also someone that cares about the rules of engagement and humanity as he tries to get Magua to honor these ideas of war.

Maurice Roeves is superb as Colonel Edmund Munro as a British officer who is the father of Cora and Alice as he is dealing with being trapped as well as trying to maintain his position only to be indifferent towards the situations that colonial militia are dealing with. Steven Waddington is fantastic as Major Duncan Heyward as an officer who is hoping to marry Cora as a man trying to protect them as well as maintain his own position in rank while dealing with the chaos of the ambush from the Huron. Russell Means and Eric Schweig are brilliant in their respective roles as the father-son duo of Chingachgook and Uncas as two Mohican warriors who are family to Hawkeye as they help the Munro sisters find safety with the former being a master warrior while the latter becomes a source of comfort for Alice. Jodhi May is excellent as Alice Munro as Cora’s younger sister who is dealing with the ambush and terror of war where she befriends Uncas whom she becomes close to.

Wes Studi is amazing as Magua as a Huron warrior who harbors deep hatred towards Colonel Munro as he is revealed to be a double-agent for the French where he is hoping to get his revenge and bring honor back to his tribe. Madeleine Stowe is incredible as Cora Munro as a woman who deals with the ambush and situation that she and her sister are encountering while getting an understanding about Hawkeye and what she sees as she would gain a completely different perspective from what her father sees about what is really happening in the war. Finally, there’s Daniel Day-Lewis in a phenomenal performance as Nathaniel Poe/Hawkeye as a white man raised by the Mohicans since he was a boy as he is someone that knows what is happening as he is doing what he can to protect the Munro sisters while falling for Cora as it’s a charismatic and thrilling performance from Day-Lewis who proves he can be tough and heroic.

The Last of the Mohicans is a tremendous film from Michael Mann that features a great performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. Along with its ensemble cast, Dante Spinotti’s gorgeous cinematography, its immense music score, beautiful locations, and themes of war and honor. It’s a film that play into a group of people caught up in a deadly conflict as well as see things that would complicate the ideas of war forcing them to survive and evade the horrors of war. In the end, The Last of the Mohicans is a magnificent film from Michael Mann.

Michael Mann Films: (The Jericho Mile) – Thief - The KeepManhunter – (L.A. Takedown) – Heat – (The Insider) – AliCollateralMiami VicePublic Enemies (2009 film)Blackhat - (Ferrari) - (The Auteurs #74: Michael Mann)

© thevoid99 2019

Friday, January 25, 2019

Sin Nombre

Written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, Sin Nombre (Nameless) is the story of a young Honduran woman trying to immigrate to America as she meets a gang member at the Mexican-Guatemalan border who is on the run after a botched robbery had gone wrong. The film is a dramatic-adventure film where a group of people from Central America trying to reach America amidst a trail of gang violence as they all try to reach a new beginning in a new world. Starring Edgar Flores, Kristyan Ferrer, and Paulina Gaitan. Sin Nombre is a riveting yet somber film from Cary Joji Fukunaga.

A young Honduran woman joins her father and uncle as they ride a train through Central America and Mexico hoping to reach America with many others where they encounter a young gang member who had just killed his own leader during a botched robbery as he’s being pursued by his former gang. It’s a film that play into a couple of young individuals reaching towards America in the hope they can start anew yet one of them is aware that there’s a price on his head as he’s just trying to survive and help this young woman reach America. Cary Joji Fukunaga’s script opens with the differing lives of its two main protagonists in the young gangster Willy aka El Casper (Edgar Flores) and the young Honduran woman Sayra (Paulina Gaitan) as the latter is a young woman who feels like she’s got nowhere to do in Tegucigalpa while the former is dealing with being part of a gang as questions about his loyalty come into question due to his love for a young woman in Martha Marlene (Diana Garcia).

The first act does play into Willy’s gangster life as he gets a young boy in Benito aka El Smiley (Kristyan Ferrer) to join the Mara Salvatrucha gang as their turf leader in Lil Mago (Tenoch Huerta Mejia) is starting question Willy’s loyalty as they cover the turf at the small town of Tapachula near the Mexican-Guatemalan border where many immigrants are at the train station waiting for the train to arrive. Due to Willy’s outside activities from the gang, he is ordered by Lil Mago to join him and El Smiley for a ride on the train to rob a few immigrants where it goes wrong due to Willy’s emotional state as it relates to actions by Lil Mago. El Smiley would return to Tapachula where he is given the task to hunt and kill Willy in order to prove himself where he would get help from other members of the Mara Salvatrucha in different parts of Mexico. While on the train, Willy befriends Sayra as she is hoping to go to New Jersey where her father’s family is living in as she copes with the travel but also sense of unknown that happens in the journey.

Fukunaga’s direction is mesmerizing for its approach to realism as well as creating a world where many are trying to reach America knowing that it is a journey is a long and arduous one. Shot largely on location in Mexico City as well as various locations in Mexico, the film does play into a world that is dangerous and with a lot of uncertainty with the locations showing what many from Central America will do to reach America as a place of hope. Fukunaga’s usage of the wide shots get a great look at the landscape, mountains, and valleys in Mexico as well as the rivers that play into its beauty with the usage of medium shots and close-ups to focus on the characters with Fukunaga using hand-held cameras. Fukunaga would shoot scenes on top of the train to get a scope of what these people have to do but also play into the sense of danger as they know when to step out and not be seen by border guards. There is also this air of prejudice in Mexico where a group of migrants are being pelted with rocks by young kids who despise immigrants.

Fukunaga also goes deep into the world of gangs such as the rivalry that goes on where it’s very violent and dangerous with the young El Smiley realizes what he must do where he would befriend another turf leader who is much kinder to him than the ones at his home turf. The suspense is low-key as it relates to the situation that Willy is in as he knows he’s being hunted as he has a few that can help him but only temporarily. Even as he does what he can to help Sayra to reach the border as it add to this uncertainty about what will happen as well as the fact that Willy is running out of time. Overall, Fukunaga crafts a gripping yet evocative film about a young gang member helping a young Honduran reach America amidst the violent gang culture of Mexico.

Cinematographer Adriano Goldman does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of natural lighting for many of the exteriors in the day and night as well as some stylish lights for some of the interior settings in the film. Editors Luis Carballar and Craig McKay do excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense. Production designer Claudio Contreras, with set decorator Aida Rodriguez and art director Carlos Benassini, does fantastic work with the look of some of the homes that the characters live in as well as the base of some of the gang members frequent at. Costume designer Leticia Palacios does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward including some of the baggy pants and t-shirts the gang members wear.

Makeup designer Alfredo Garcia and hair/makeup designer Carla Tinoco do amazing work with the look and design of the tattoos for many of the gang members to sport to show their allegiance to the gang they’re in. Sound editors Allan Fung, Mark Gingras, and John Laing do superb work with the sound as it showcase how a train sounds from afar as well as the sounds of gunfire and other sounds from a location. The film’s music by Marcelo Zarvos is wonderful for its low-key music score that features elements of folk and ambient music while music supervisor Lynn Fainchtein create a soundtrack that mixes score pieces by Clint Mansell and Nick Cave & Warren Ellis as well as a mixture of music ranging from hip-hop to traditional Mexican music.

The casting by Carla Hool and Alejandro Reza is terrific as it feature some notable small roles from Guillermo Villegas’ as Sayra’s uncle Orlando, Gerardo Taracena as Sayra’s father Horacio, Luis Fernando Pena as Lil Mago’s second-in-command El Sol, Hector Jiminez as a coyote named Leche, Diana Garcia as Willy’s girlfriend Martha Marlene who becomes concerned about Willy’s lifestyle in the gang world, and Tenoch Huerta Mejia as a turf gang leader in Lil Mago who starts to question Willy’s loyalty as well as be the cause for Willy to betray him. Kristyan Ferrer is excellent as Benito aka El Smiley as a young kid who joins the gang as he’s a friend of Willy where he is later tasked to hunt and kill him where he gets a closer look to the world of the gang lifestyle as he becomes determined to prove himself among his elders.

Paulina Gaitan is brilliant as Sayra as a young Honduran woman who is eager to go to America for a new life as she deals with the journey along with the world of violence and uncertainty where she would befriend Willy whom she becomes fascinated by. Finally, there’s Edgar Flores in an amazing performance as Willy aka El Casper as a young gang member who goes on the run following a botched robbery as he reluctantly helps Sayra as they evade other factions of his gang hunting for him where he also reveals what to expect in America in both the good and the bad.

Sin Nombre is a phenomenal film from Cary Joji Fukunaga. With its ensemble cast, realistic setting, gorgeous cinematography, and story of hope and violence. It’s a film that play into two people trying to reach America for a new beginning with one of them wanting to escape the world of gang violence that he had been a part of as well as being on the hunt for leaving that world behind. In the end, Sin Nombre is a sensational film from Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Cary Joji Fukunaga Films: Jane Eyre (2011 film) - (Beasts of No Nation) - No Time to Die

© thevoid99 2019

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies You've Walked Out on

For the fourth week of 2019 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We venture into the subject that is considered taboo amongst cinephiles which is essentially walking out on a film. However, there are films that are so extremely horrendous that one can’t help but walk out in disgust as it’s something that people have experienced. This was a tough subject to figure out as I admit to have seeing some horrendous films in theaters as I made a list about the worst films I had seen in theaters. Here are 3 films that I walked out on that includes one of the films on that list.

1. Big Momma’s House

Martin Lawrence is funny when he’s doing stand-up or in the TV show he was in the 1990s. In films, not so much. Having him dress-up as a big fat woman with blonde hair however is just excruciating. It was not funny and it didn’t make me laugh where I forced myself to laugh but it didn’t work. Knowing where it was going in the end, I just walked out because it was so horrendous and laborious to sit through. They made 2 more films with Lawrence as Big Momma as I’ll just quote what a young kid said at a critics screening in the U.K. when the third film came out. “This is rubbish”. That quote made all the U.K. critics laugh.

2. Alex & Emma

In late 2003, I went on a vacation cruise ship with my parents and sisters as we were all invited to go by longtime family friends. I didn’t really want to go on a cruise ship and as it ended, I never want to go there again. It was boring, it was full of endless buffets that is excessive and shows that were terrible. There was a movie theater in the ship where I did see a few films and some that were just horrible. Among them was Rob Reiner’s romantic-comedy about two novelist trying to create a book about a romance as it was awful. Starring Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson in dual roles as the writers and the characters in the book, it’s one of those boring failures of a film that makes you want to dive off a ship.

3. Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde

I do like Reese Witherspoon though I wish she made better choices as an actress and this film is just bad. Watching it on a cruise ship in a theater is even worse. The boat is rocking back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. Watching Witherspoon trying to save her dog’s mother and appealing to politicians over a bill that would kill animals with a cheerleader routine to follow. Add the boat rocking back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. I was about to throw up and I had to walk out of that awful film. This is why I haven’t done a vacation in more than 15 years.

© thevoid99 2019

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

War for the Planet of the Apes

Directed by Matt Reeves and screenplay by Reeves and Mark Bomback from characters by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver from a premise by Pierre Boulle, War for the Planet of the Apes is about a group of apes who are in conflict with humans over the control of planet Earth as the leader of the apes copes with loss and uncertainty. The third film in the reboot series that follows the character of Caesar who is trying find peace for both apes and humans while also dealing with a group of apes who want him dead as the character is once again played by Andy Serkis. Also starring Woody Harrelson and Steve Zahn. War for the Planet of the Apes is a gripping yet somber film from Matt Reeves.

Set two years after events that lead to the start of a bloody war between apes and humans, the film revolves around a group of apes trying to find a new hiding place from a rogue army of humans lead by an extremist military figure who would attack its leader Caesar that lead to the death of his family prompting Caesar to go on a journey to find the colonel (Woody Harrelson) and kill him. The film is a revenge story of sorts yet it is really the study of an ape who had helped try to find a home and idea for other apes to follow as he struggles with an-ongoing conflict with humans while dealing with apes who have sided with the humans in this war that is raging on. The film’s screenplay by Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback follows the journey that Caesar takes part in where he wants to go on this journey for revenge by himself but longtime allies in Rocket (Terry Notary), the gorilla Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), and the orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) join him to find this vicious colonel.

Along the way, Caesar and his team would travel to find a fortress as they would encounter a lot of things including an orphaned girl they would later call Nova (Amiah Miller) and a talking chimpanzee who calls himself Bad Ape (Steve Zahn). The encounter with the two as well as a meeting with this colonel following his own capture would cause some serious revelations for Caesar as memories of his former friend-turned-foe in Koba (Toby Kebbell) would come into play. Upon meeting this colonel, Caesar learns that humans are suffering from the effects of the virus that killed them many years ago where the colonel sees it as de-evolution forcing him to go rogue from other forces as it’s not just apes he wants to kills but also humans carrying the virus.

Reeves’ direction definitely has this feel of a war film in terms of the grand presentation he creates in his approach to the battles as well as how the film opens with a patrol of human soldiers trekking through the woods to try and find this secret base. Shot largely on location in the Lower Mainland section of Vancouver with additional locations at the Kananaskis mountain range, Reeves does use wide shots of the locations as it play into the area where war is raging yet there is this element of guerilla warfare with the usage of close-ups and medium shots that add to the suspense. Even in the non-action scenes as it play into the apes interacting with each other through sign language as they cope with not just loss but also survival once they meet Nova through accidental means when Caesar commits an act that add to his own descent into hate where he would later be haunted by his actions. Reeves would use the moment of silence and sign language as a way for the apes to get a look into their surroundings as well as lament over their situation and Caesar’s thirst for revenge.

Once Caesar reaches the base that the colonel is stationed in as he deals with not just his own actions but also would become this martyr for the apes as he would endure the punishments of everyone. The film does have Biblical imagery as well as compositions that Reeves create that play into this idea of the Messiah yet Caesar isn’t interested in being a messianic figure. Even as he has to deal with this colonel where Reeves has the camera follow this man where he gives this monologue that says a lot about what he’s about and why he’s managed to alienate so many people yet he sees what he’s doing as a mission for the good of mankind. The film’s climax as it play into Caesar making a decision where he thinks about not just the apes but also this young girl he’s grown to care for as it would be in the center of a battle between humans with nature also playing its part. Overall, Reeves crafts a gripping yet wondrous film about an ape’s thirst for revenge for his family’s death forces him to come to terms with everything he’s done and face his own faults.

Cinematographer Michael Seresin does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it has this gorgeous exterior look of the daytime exteriors with its usage of snow and grey skies as well as the usage of lights for some of the interior scenes at night as well as the exterior scenes in the prison. Editors William Hoy and Stan Salfas do excellent work with the editing with its usage of rhythmic cuts as well as not deviating to rapid fast-paced cuts in order to let shots linger for a few more seconds to establish the action. Production designer James Chinlund, with set decorator Amanda Moss Serino and supervising art director Maya Shimoguchi, does amazing work with the look of some of the shantytowns for some of the humans as well as the station that the colonel is living in. Costume designer Melissa Bruning does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual for the winter-time clothing that Nova wears as well as a vest that Bad Ape wears and the military clothing of the colonel and his men

Special effects supervisors Dan Cervin and Joel Whist, along with visual effects supervisors Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon, and Joe Letteri, do fantastic work with the visual effects including the motion-capture look of the apes as it is a highlight of the film. Sound designers Will Files and Douglas Murray do superb work with the sound in the way the apes would sound as well as the sounds of nature and other elements that help play into the action, suspense, and drama. The film’s music by Michael Giacchino is incredible for its rich orchestral score with its bombastic themes for the suspense and action as well as some low-key yet somber pieces for the dramatic moments while the only non-score piece played is a cover of the song Hey Joe performed by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

The casting by Debra Zane is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Judy Greer, Max Lloyd-Jones, Devyn Dalton, and Sara Canning in their respective roles as members of Caesar’s family in his wife Cornelia, sons Blue-Eyes and Cornelius, and Blue-Eyes’ wife Lake along with Gabriel Chavarria as a soldier named Preacher who was spared by Caesar early in the film only to side further with the colonel. Other notable small roles and appearances include Toby Kebbell as the ghost of Caesar’s old ally in Koba, Ty Olsson as the gorilla Red who works for the colonel, Michael Adamthwaite as the gorilla Luca who is an ally of Caesar, and Aleks Paunovic as the albino gorilla Winter who reluctantly betrays Caesar out of fear for the colonel. The fantastic performances of Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, and Amiah Miller in their respective roles as the chimpanzee Rocket, the orangutan Maurice, and the mute human girl Nova display that air of humanity and compassion that Caesar is struggling to hold on to with Maurice being the film’s conscience.

Steve Zahn is excellent as Bad Ape as a chimpanzee who can speak as he is someone that’s been in hiding for years as he helps Caesar and his entourage with the location of the colonel’s base as he also expresses his own fears due to the loss he’s faced. Woody Harrelson is brilliant as the colonel as the leader of a rogue human army that is trying to wipe out apes but also humans who are starting not to speak as a way to ensure humanity’s dominance over apes as it’s a chilling yet riveting performance from Harrelson. Finally, there’s Andy Serkis in a phenomenal performance as Caesar as a chimpanzee who had been trying to find the apes a peaceful sanctuary as he copes with loss as well as uncertainty about his journey for revenge as Serkis displays so much emotion and gravitas by doing so little in his performance.

War of the Planet of the Apes is a spectacular film from Matt Reeves that features great performances from Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson. Along with its ensemble cast, eerie visuals, top-notch visual effects, Michael Giacchino’s score, and its story of revenge and sacrifice. It’s a blockbuster film that offers a lot more than what big-budget action-adventure films offer as it provides a lot of commentary about loss, revenge, and survival as well as showing that love and compassion is the key to victory. In the end, War of the Planet of the Apes is a tremendous film from Matt Reeves.

Related: Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

© thevoid99 2019

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Mostly Martha

Written and directed by Sandra Nettelbeck, Bella Martha (Mostly Martha) is the story of a chef whose workaholic lifestyle is forced to change when she has to work with another chef as well as care for her niece. It’s a dramatic film of sorts that play into a woman who is good at what she does as she is forced to find a balance for her life as a chef and as a woman at home. Starring Martina Gedeck, Maxime Foerste, Ulrich Thomsen, and Sergio Castellitto. Bella Martha is a charming and heartfelt film from Sandra Nettelbeck.

Following the death of her sister in a car accident, the life of a workaholic chef is changed when she finds herself having to take care of her niece where she is force to adjust to the changes in life that include having to share the workload with an Italian chef hired to help her at this restaurant. It’s a film that has a woman whose life is about control and knowing how to cook and when a certain piece of food is well-cooked as the news about her sister’s death just halts everything she knows. Sandra Nettelbeck’s screenplay opens with the titular character of Martha Klein (Martina Gedeck) talking to a therapist (August Zirner) who is asked to examine Klein from the suggestion of her boss Frida (Sybille Canonica) because Klein is a perfectionist who only seems to live for cooking and cooking alone. All of that changes upon the news about her sister’s death in a car accident leaving her to care for her niece Lina (Maxime Foerste) who is shutting herself from anything while refuses to eat the gourmet food that Klein has created.

Adding to this change as the staff at her restaurant is dealing with the pregnancy of one of the cooks, Frida brings in the Italian sous-chef in Mario (Sergio Castellitto) who is not as disciplined nor seems to care about perfection. What he brings to the kitchen is something more carefree as well as a stereo that plays music to get everyone else in the staff feel relaxed and not worry as much on the job. Mario and Klein are two different people who have different ideas about running a kitchen yet the former knows when to step aside while he would creating food that Lina would eat which would make Klein’s life easier as she struggles with taking care and getting to know Lina while also trying to find Lina’s father who is Italian.

Nettelbeck’s direction is largely straightforward as it is largely shot on location in Hamburg, Germany where it play into the world of a gourmet restaurant with rich menus and food that only a few can get regularly. While there’s some wide shots of the locations, Nettelbeck’s direction is much more intimate in its usage of close-ups and medium shots where it does play into the intimacy of the kitchen. Notably as Nettelbeck uses the camera to see how people move in the kitchen as well as pay attention to the small things that they’re creating whether it’s a soup, a side dish, or the main course. Still, Nettelbeck does keep an interesting outlook into the story that include this relationship between Klein and Lina where would start to bond through cooking with Mario’s help as he would make a dinner for all three of them as a way for Klein to relax and connect with other people. Even as Nettelbeck would have these scenes between Klein and her therapist be approached with some low-key humor with the latter becoming interested in the meals she’s created. Still, there is this search for Lina’s father who is from Italy as Klein becomes unsure if Lina should be with her father or with her as she is forced to learn about the aspects of life and not having to follow the rules all the time. Overall, Nettelbeck crafts a touching and lively film about a workaholic chef dealing with the changes in her life.

Cinematographer Michael Bertl does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the daytime exterior wintery look of Hamburg to the usage of gorgeous lights at the restaurant to the more basic look of the kitchen in its interiors. Editor Mona Brauer does terrific work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few transitional fade-outs. Production designer Thomas Freudenthal and set decorator Sigrid Schroeder do fantastic work with the look of Klein’s home that includes a big kitchen as well as the kitchen at the restaurant as well as the restaurant itself.

Costume designer Bettina Helmi does nice work with the clothes as it is largely straightforward and casual with a more posh role for Klein’s boss Frida. Sound designer Martin Langenbach does superb work with the sound in creating an atmosphere of the kitchen as it play into the chaos as well as how music is presented from Mario’s stereo. The film’s music by Steven A. Reich is wonderful for its jazz-driven score with some pianos and brass while music consultant Manfred Eicher and music supervisor Michael Beckmann both create a soundtrack that features an array of jazz and pop music that Mario likes to listen to.

The casting by Heta Mantscheff is brilliant as it feature some notable small roles from Katja Studt as the pregnant sous-chef Lea, the trio of Antonio Wannek, Idil Uner, and Olivier Broumis as a trio of fellow cooks at the restaurant, Diego Ribon as an Italian man named Giuseppe Lorenzo, W.D. Sprenger as a noisy customer, and Ulrich Thomsen in a superb performance as Klein’s new neighbor Samuel Thalberg who helps Klein in dealing with Lina as well as being a friend. August Zirner is terrific as Klein’s therapist who is hired to analyze her where he becomes more concerned about her cooking recipes that makes eager to eat though he tries to maintain a sense of professionalism in his job. Sybille Canonica is fantastic as Klein’s boss and restaurant owner Frida who is concerned about Klein’s state of mind as well as trying to run a restaurant that remains popular despite some of the awful customers they get.

Maxime Foerste is excellent as Lina as an eight-year old girl who just lost her mother as she’s struggling with loss while doesn’t seem excited to eat what her aunt creates yet finds solace and comfort through the food that Mario creates which would allow her to bond with her aunt. Sergio Castellitto is amazing as Mario as an Italian sous-chef who is hired by Frida to help out where he brings a more laid-back and fun approach to cooking in the kitchen as well as help Lina cope with food as he also manages to woo Klein in a subtle way while his voice is largely dubbed by Frank Glaubrecht. Finally, there’s Martina Gedeck in an incredible performance as Martha Klein as a workaholic chef whose life has been defined by perfection and following the rule is shattered by the death of her sister forcing her to care for her niece where she copes with newfound responsibilities but also having to share duties with another chef as it would allow her to open up more as it’s a charming and heartfelt performance from Gedeck.

Bella Martha is a sensational film from Sandra Nettelbeck that features a great performance from Martina Gedeck. Along with its supporting cast, simplistic presentation, a lively music soundtrack, and its love for food and cooking. It’s a film that explores a woman’s grief and having to adjust to unexpected changes as well as learn to let go of control and share the joy of cooking with others. In the end, Bella Martha is a phenomenal film from Sandra Nettelbeck.

© thevoid99 2019