Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Films That I Saw: April 2019

Another crazy and exhausting month April has been as it is what to expect when you have someone close to you dealing with cancer. Right now, my father is doing fine as the small tumor he has in his stomach is starting to dissolve after three chemotherapy sessions so far. It’s been rough as my father has been focusing on re-doing the entire backyard and all sorts of things while he is also demanding and hyperactive due to the medication. This is the kind of shit my mother and I are dealing with but we’re soldering on. I’m also helping them with other things and driving my mother to get certain foods he can eat. It’s exhausting but at least it serves a purpose. Yet, all of the schedules for the upcoming chemotherapy sessions for the next month is going to be demanding as there’s an hour/hour-and-a-half of tests and then five hours of chemotherapy. Then there will be one day where there will be another test as it’s going to take up much time.

All of this that is happening in my family has made me take a step back from what I love to do which is to write about films and such although I’ve been able to get certain things done even though I’ve barely started on my Auteurs piece on Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Of course usually around this time in late April/early May, I make an announcement for my annual Cannes Film Festival marathon. Well, there won’t be one this year. Mainly due to timing as I just don’t have the time and energy to do another one. Plus, I’ve been frustrated by the lack of older films that I wanted to see for the marathon as I felt it would be uneven so I’m going to cancel it for this year and try again for next year. Helping my family right now is more important as I also have some much bigger news to share in my family life. On April 12, 2019 at 1:21 AM, my nephew Nicholas Mateo Flores-Publicover has been born as I’ve got to see him about a week ago as he just looks adorable. My sister and her husband are doing fine as I’m just concerned about wanting to be there for this little kid.

In the month of April 2019, I saw a total of 26 films in 15 first-timers and 11 re-watches as it is the same number of films that I saw in the previous month. Three of the first-timers being directed or co-directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. One of the major highlights of the month has been my Blind Spot assignment in The Gleaners & I as it’s a film I think a lot of people should seek out. Here are my top 10 first-timers that I saw for April 2019:

1. Avengers: Endgame

2. Mississippi Grind

3. Magnet of Doom

4. The Passion of Anna

5. Ghost in the Shell

6. David Bowie: Finding Fame

7. Tully

8. Secrets of Women

9. Madeleine

10. Battle of the Sexes

Monthly Mini-Reviews

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

This film was a surprise as I liked the first film as I thought it was an enjoyable musical as I also enjoyed this though not as much as the predecessor. Thankfully, Pierce Brosnan didn’t do any real singing other than a few lines of S.O.S. quietly which I think suits him vocally. Yet, it’s Amanda Seyfried and Lily James that made the film a joy to watch with the latter playing a younger version of Meryl Streep’s character as she is just full of energy and charisma. The film would later be stolen by an appearance from Cher where something unexpected happen for me when she sings Fernando where I became very emotional. I love that song but Cher just took it to a new level where I started to cry and be wowed by how she just sang the song as if it was her own but also in tribute to ABBA.


One of two episodes of 30 for 30 that I saw this month is about the legendary linebacker who was widely considered one of the greatest players of the game is also one of the most tragic stories ever told in sports. Junior Seau was a one-of-a-kind player that is rarely seen as someone who can do things defensively as well as be a real leader to a team as his time with the San Diego Chargers is legendary. Yet, there’s also a sadness of a man trying to please his father and help out his many relatives who live off of him but also a much darker story as someone who had unknowingly gain the effects of CTE as it would shape his behavior and persona. His death in May 2, 2012 of a suicide is a wake-up call to what is happening with these football players suffering from CTE so something has to be done and not let the death of Seau and many others be forgotten.

Fifty Shades Freed

The third and thankfully, the final film of one of the worst trilogies out there finally comes to an end although it seems like it’s a film that ran out of ideas. The previous film was horrendous beyond belief yet this one is just lazy. Christian and Anastasia get married, have kinky sex, she gets upset, he buys her things to prove his love to her, they have sex, they get mad, he buys her something, they have sex, and blah, blah, blah. The acting is just lame and bland where I feel like the actors are phoning it in at times as it’s just a real downer.

The Prince of Pennsylvania

The second of two episodes from 30 to 30 is about Team Foxcatcher that would later be dramatized in the 2014 film Foxcatcher as it’s more about the formation by John du Pont and how he recruited Mark Schultz and his older brother Dave later on. It is more of a study of obsession as du Pont came from a wealthy family as he was trying to make a name for himself only to succeed but in the worst ways. It features interviews with Mark Schultz, his parents, and other wrestlers as it explore du Pont’s mental descent into madness as he would do the unthinkable.

Top 10 Re-watches

1. Days of Heaven

2. The Hunt for Red October

3. The Cooler

4. No Way Out

5. Tour de Pharmacy

6. About a Boy

7. It's Kind of a Funny Story

8. October Sky

9. Roll Bounce

10. 50 First Dates

Well, that is it for April as I am unsure of what I will do for May other than work on the Auteurs piece on Boden/Fleck and then start on Kelly Reichardt. I’m also unsure on what my next Blind Spot is though I have a few options for the time being. As far as new releases, that I’m also unsure about though I do have a lot to check out in my never-ending DVR list. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2019

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Avengers: Endgame

Based on the Marvel comics series by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Avengers: Endgame is the sequel to 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War in which members of the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and several others band together to battle Thanos following the events of the previous film. Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo and screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the film follows the troubling aftermath that forces the Avengers and their allies including new ones to make sense of what happened and get revenge towards Thanos. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Brie Larson, Paul Rudd, Don Cheadle, Karen Gillan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danai Gurira, Tessa Thompson, with the voice of Bradley Cooper, and Josh Brolin as Thanos. Avengers: Endgame is a grand and supremely epic film from Joe and Anthony Russo.

Following a battle against Thanos, remaining members of the Avengers and various allies deal with the troubling aftermath as they vow revenge and to find Thanos yet things become more complicated. It’s a film that does play into the fallacy of revenge but it’s more of a study of loss, failure, action, frustration, and the inability to change anything. Yet, there is also this story of hope and second chances as it relates to not just the six original members of the Avengers but also the allies who have survived. The film’s screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely opens with the whereabouts of Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) who had been absent in the Avengers’ conflict with Thanos as he gets a shocking glimpse into what Thanos had done. It would lead to an arc as someone consumed by grief and loss as he would become a rogue assassin until Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) finds him and takes him home. Romanoff would also deal with the fallout of Thanos’ victory as she is trying to keep the peace with members of the Avengers who are still dealing with issues relating to past events as she sees this schism as a family coming apart.

Much of the film’s narrative takes place years after the defeat from Thanos where the members of the Avengers struggle to move on with Barton going rogue and Romanoff feeling lost during its first act. Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) eventually finds peace in being both while Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) both living different lives. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) meanwhile would become a recluse troubled by his inability to save those he cared for as he is the most reluctant to re-join the Avengers following a re-appearance from Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) who had been stuck in the quantum realm for five hours (quantum realm time) as he believes there is a way for the Avengers to undo what Thanos did. With the help of Lt. Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), they would take this one chance to make things right as they would also revisit events from the past in key sequences during the second act. The third act does relate to Thanos and his mission from the previous film as well as why he felt the need to gather all six of these infinity stones as a way to bring balance to the universe by getting rid of half of its population. Due to the aftermath and the Avengers’ desire to undo all of that, Thanos would have a final confrontation with the Avengers realizing how stubborn they are in their refusal to accept defeat.

The direction of Joe and Anthony Russo is definitely gargantuan in the world that it sets though it starts off in a simple presentation with Barton teaching his daughter how to shoot a bow-and-arrow while his sons are playing catch and his wife Laura (Linda Cardellini) is preparing for the family picnic. It’s a moment that sets up the dark reality of what the Avengers are facing as its first act that would also involve Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) who is powerful enough to defeat Thanos by herself yet things become complicated as she along with Okoye (Danai Gurira) would briefly appear in the second act providing the Avengers news about the universe. Shot mainly in the Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Atlanta, the film is set in a grand universe though much of it is set on Earth in upstate New York at the Avengers compound as well as parts of the universe including a few other planets and the African country of Wakanda.

While it is a film with some heavy themes, the Russo brothers do know where to put moments of humor as it relate to Rocket and Banner traveling to Norway to meet with Thor as they would also meet Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) who has managed to survive with some Asgardian refugees. Other moments of humor play into the mission during the film’s second act with some references to past stories but also somber moments as it relates to loss for Thor, Stark, and Rogers. The usage of wide and medium shots doesn’t just play into the locations but also in getting all of the characters in a single shot including the film’s climatic showdown. There are also close-ups that help play into the emotional reaction of the characters and a few funny moments such as an exchange between Rhodes and Nebula during a mission as it relates to a character. The Russos also know how to maintain that need of awareness in ensuring that the audience is aware of what is happening, where, and when as it play into the mission at hand during its second act.

The film’s third act have the Russos take a page from the epic cinema of the past as it relates to the climatic showdown between Thanos and the Avengers. Yet, to call it epic would understate what the Russos have done for this gargantuan battle sequence as it all relate to Thanos’ biggest fear. The stakes are big as it relates to not just the infinity stones but also preventing Thanos from using it all over again where everyone play a part as it would also include a moment of how much all of these people whether they have superpowers, gifts, or other things can matter. The ending is about sacrifice and what some will do to make the universe a better and safer place. They are people, aliens, or beings from different worlds and planets who care more about those who can’t fight or don’t have any kind of power but refuse to bow down to some monster. It would be followed by what is probably one of the most touching and heartfelt endings captured on film that would be fitting to these characters who have done so much to make the universe in what it is no matter how flawed or how stubborn they can be. Overall, the Russos craft a tremendous and exhilarating film about a bunch of superheroes going one more round with some evil supervillain.

Cinematographer Trent Opaloch does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of lights and moods for the look of the film’s climatic battle scene as well as well as the exteriors in some of the planets as well as the interiors for scenes in the day and night. Editors Jeffrey Ford and Matthew Schmidt do excellent work with the editing as it help play into some of the film’s humor with some montage-style cuts as well as some rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense, action, and drama. Production designer Charles Wood, with set decorator Leslie Pope and supervising art director Ray Chan, does amazing work with the look of the Avengers compound as well as some of the sets that the Avengers go to in their big mission during its second act. Costume designer Judianna Mokovsky does fantastic work with the costumes in the suits that Avengers and Guardians wear as well as the quantum suits they would wear for the big mission.

Special makeup effects artists Carlton Coleman, Nancy Cummings, Tim J. Hays, Jonah Levy, Gaby Macias, Bart Mixon, Jon Moore, Christopher Allen Nelson, Taylor Schulte, and LuAndra Whitehurst, along with key hair stylist Michelle Diamantides do terrific work with the hairstyles of Romanoff, Danvers, and Thor including in some of the makeup that some of the characters would wear including Nebula. Special effects supervisor Daniel Sudick, along with visual effects supervisors Dan DeLeeuw, Philip Leonhardt, and Kelly Port, do incredible work with the visual effects from the look of Thanos and various characters to the aging of a few key characters from the past along with the look of some of the planets and places in the film. Sound designers David Farmer and Shannon Mills, with co-sound editor Daniel Laurie, do superb work with the sound in some of the sound effects that is created along with the sounds of objects and the atmosphere of certain locations including the array of sounds for the film’s climatic battle.

The film’s music by Alan Silvestri is marvelous for its bombastic orchestral score that is triumphant at times that include themes from previous films but also some low-key and somber themes that play into the drama and the sense of grief while music supervisor Dave Jordan creates a wonderful soundtrack that features a different array of music from the Rolling Stones, Traffic, Redbone, the Kinks, and Harry James with Kitty Kallen along with previously used score pieces from Richard Sherman, Michael Giacchino, Pinar Toprak, and Christophe Beck.

The casting by Sarah Finn is great as it feature some notable cameo appearances from Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, Marisa Tomei as May Parker, Jacob Batalon as Ned, Angela Bassett as Queen Mother Ramonda of Wakanda, Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, James D’Arcy as Edwin Jarvis, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, John Slattery as Howard Stark, Rene Russo as Frigga, Taika Waititi as Korg, Maximiliano Hernandez as Jasper Sitwell, Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow, Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Linda Cardellini as Laura Barton, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross, Ross Marquand as Red Skull, Kerry Condon as the voice of F.R.I.D.A.Y., Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym, Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Terry Notary as Black Order member Cull Obsidian, Tom Vaughn-Lawlor as Ebony Maw, Michael James Shaw as Corvus Glade, Monique Ganderton as Proxima Midnight, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

Other notable small roles include Emma Fuhrmann as the older Cassie Lang, Alexandra Rachael Rabe as a young girl named Morgan, Hiroyuki Sanada as Yakuza boss Barton is tailing after, Ken Jeong as a storage facility guard, Yvette Nicole Brown as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, director Joe Russo as a grieving man at a group meeting, and Stan Lee in one of his final film cameos as a man in the 1970s. The voice of Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Chris Pratt, Pom Klementieff, and Zoe Saldana are terrific in their respective roles as Guardians of the Galaxy members Groot, Drax the Destroyer, Peter Quill/Starlord, Mantis, and Gamora while Chadwick Boseman, Letitia Wright, and Winston Duke are superb in their respective roles as King T’Challa of Wakanda/Black Panther, Princess Shuri of Wakanda, and M’Baku. Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Elizabeth Olsen, Evangeline Lily, Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong, and Tom Holland are fantastic in their respective roles as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Hope van Dyne/Wasp, Dr. Steven Strange, Wong, and Peter Parker/Spider-Man as they all play a key role for the film’s climax.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Tessa Thompson are wonderful in their respective roles as Pepper Potts and Valkyrie with the former nursing Stark back to health and the latter watching over the remaining Asgardian refugees in Norway as both of them would play key roles in the final battle. Danai Gurira and Brie Larson are excellent in their respective roles as Okoye and Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel with the former as a Wakandan royal guard who is watching over the state of planet Earth and the latter as the powerful warrior who had been fighting in the galaxy as she would help the Avengers find Thanos as they would also take part in the final battle. Don Cheadle, the voice of Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan, and Paul Rudd are brilliant in their respective roles as Lt. Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Rocket Raccoon, the android Nebula, and Scott Lang/Ant-Man as allies who suffered major losses as they also want to make things right with Lang providing a key idea that could help everyone while Nebula deals with her own relationship with Thanos as well as other troubling aspects that she believes would cause trouble. Josh Brolin is incredible as Thanos as the alien despot whose quest to find the six infinity stones has him believing he’s succeeded only to later realize that his mission to defeat the Avengers is far from finished forcing himself to get back in the fight.

Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner are marvelous in their respective roles as the super-assassins Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Clint Barton/Hawkeye as two gifted mercenaries who both deal with loss as Johansson cope with the aftermath of war as she tries to get everyone together while Renner displays the mad grief and loss that Barton endures as someone who had everything only to lose it in the worst way. Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth are remarkable in their respective roles as Bruce Banner/the Hulk and Thor with the former as the scientist who becomes a monster when he’s angry as he finds a balance between the two as he tries to figure things out while the latter is a fragile Nordic god who believes he’s failed as he is afraid to fail again only for the Avengers to help him regain his confidence. Finally, there’s Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. in great performance in their respective roles as Steve Rogers/Captain America and Tony Stark/Iron Man as the two leaders of the Avengers who both endure an uneasy reunion only to later put aside their issues and fight with the former as a man letting go of his ideals and the latter trying to make peace with his own faults.

Avengers: Endgame is an outstanding film from Joe and Anthony Russo. Featuring a great ensemble cast, dazzling visual effects, an engrossing story of loss and redemption, gorgeous visuals, offbeat tones, and a bombastic music score. It’s a film that isn’t just this grand epic superhero film that does everything it needed to do but a true cinematic event that is willing to explore humanistic themes as well as those who are willing to fight for the helpless whether it’s on planet Earth or any other planet in the universe. In the end, Avengers: Endgame is a magnificent film from Joe and Anthony Russo.

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Infinity Saga: Phase One: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers

Phase Two: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Guardians of the Galaxy - The Avengers: Age of Ultron - Ant-Man

Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Thor: Ragnarok - Black Panther - Avengers: Infinity War - Ant-Man and the Wasp - Captain Marvel - Spider-Man: Far from Home

Post-Infinity Saga: Phase Four: Black Widow (2021 film) - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsEternalsSpider-Man: No Way HomeDoctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessThor: Love and ThunderWerewolf by Night - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Phase Five: Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania -Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3The Marvels – (Deadpool 3) - (Captain America: Brave New World)

Phase 6: (Thunderbolts) – (Blade (2024 film)) - (Fantastic Four (2024 film)) – (Avengers: The Kang Dynasty) – (Avengers: Secret Wars)

Related: MCU is Cinema: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3Pt. 4 – (Part 5) – (Part 6) – (Part 7) - The MCU: 10 Reasons Why It Rules the World

© thevoid99 2019

Friday, April 26, 2019

Mississippi Grind

Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Mississippi Grind is the story of two gamblers who meet at a poker game as they travel to New Orleans for a high stakes poker game as they bond through their love of gambling. The film is an exploration of gambling as two men in different paths come together in the hope to get a big score. Starring Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Robin Weigert, James Toback, and Alfre Woodard. Mississippi Grind is an exhilarating and engrossing film from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.

Two different gamblers in different directions of winning and losing meet at a poker game as they bond through their love of gambling as they travel from Iowa to New Orleans for a high stakes poker game hoping for a big score. It’s a film that is a road film of sorts but also a story of two men who live through gambling as they both have a love for it but also hope to get a lot of money for a better life. The film’s screenplay by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck follow the different paths of its protagonist as Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is a man that constantly loses and going through some financial issues as he owes money to a loan shark in Sam (Alfre Woodard) who is sympathetic to his issues but wants what he owes her. Gerry is also divorced and hasn’t seen his six-year old daughter in years where he knows he messed up and wants to do right but has a gambling addiction with a real estate job that isn’t going anywhere. It’s where he meets a young traveling gambler in Curtis Vonn (Ryan Reynolds) who is on a hot streak hoping to go to New Orleans for a score as he and Gerry meet up and share their stories of gambling and such.

Curtis agrees to take Gerry to New Orleans from Dubuque, Iowa as long as Gerry drives where they would make several stops to various cities down the Mississippi River and would make some money through greyhound races and card games along the way. During a stop in St. Louis, Curtis and Gerry meet a couple of prostitutes in Simone (Sienna Miller) and Vanessa (Analeigh Tipton) as Simone and Curtis have some history that Gerry notices. Gerry would reveal that he still has feelings for his ex-wife Dorothy (Robin Weigert) though his visit to her home at Little Rock, Arkansas would only bring trouble following a set-back for both Curtis and Gerry. The script does show that as flawed as both Gerry and Curtis are as men in their pursuit of gambling. They still carry some humanity and goodness as Curtis’ often talkative and energetic persona is a front for some of the pain he carries into his own life as he also has another reason to go to New Orleans.

The film’s direction from Boden and Fleck is largely intimate in its presentation as it is shot on various locations such as New Orleans, Little Rock, St. Louis, Memphis, and various parts around the Mississippi River. While there’s some wide shots in the direction, Boden and Fleck focus on this intimate friendship between Curtis and Gerry that slowly develops as the latter is someone that is in need of luck while the former is in need to find the next path in his life having traveled so much. The film would often feature Gerry listening to a self-help CD to be a better gambler as it would occur often during the course of the film. Boden and Fleck’s usage of close-ups and medium shots help play into the conversations between Curtis and Gerry in a car or what goes on during a poker game where Boden and Fleck would shoot something on a hand-held camera and focus on what one player is seeing in his head or how he’s reacting physically as it play into the things Gerry is listening to from the CD.

With Boden serving as the film’s editor, there is a fluid and rhythmic approach to the editing where the shots do last to get a sense of the location as well as the way the conversations are edited. The direction also play into these somber moments such as Gerry playing piano with Vanessa sitting beside him while Curtis and Simone listen in the other room. Boden and Fleck would also carry this somber mood into the third act as it relates to Gerry’s bad luck as well as Curtis’ own setbacks and his own insecurities once they reach New Orleans to play in this game that is run by a famed gambler that Curtis knows. It also play into two men who both aren’t sure when to quit but they have this need to win something no matter how much they lose. Overall, Boden and Fleck craft a riveting and compelling film about two gamblers working together to work to play a big game in New Orleans.

Cinematographer Andrij Pakeh does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of low-key and natural lights for many of the interior scenes at night including the casinos and bars while emphasizing on something realistic for the exterior scenes in the day and night. Production designer Jade Healy, with set decorator Selina van den Brink and art director James A. Gelarden, does excellent work with the look of the place where Simone and Vanessa work at as well as a few motel rooms and places where Gerry and Curtis play poker. Costume designer Abby O’Sullivan does nice work with the clothes from the stylish clothes that Simone and Vanessa would wear as well as stylish suits that Gerry and Curtis would wear at a riverboat casino.

Visual effects supervisor Luke DiTommaso does wonderful work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it mainly focuses on set dressing and a low-key dramatic scene during a simple conversation between Gerry and Curtis. Sound designer Abigail Savage does superb work with the sound as it play into the loud sounds of machines at a casino as well as the sounds of crowds at a casino or at a racetrack along with low-key moments in some of the different locations of the film. The film’s music by Scott Bomar is terrific for its blues-based score that help play into the atmosphere of the locations while music supervisor Jim Black provide a soundtrack that mainly focuses on blues, jazz, folk, and other traditional forms of music that play into the atmosphere of the Mississippi River and its many locations.

The casting by Cindy Tolan is fantastic as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from famed country-rock singer/songwriter Marshall Chapman as a club singer in New Orleans, Robin Weigert as Gerry’s ex-wife Dorothy who harbors some mistrust and issues with him, filmmaker James Toback as a revered poker player that Curtis claims to know, and Alfre Woodard in a superb performance as a friend of Gerry who loaned him money as she is sympathetic but also serious about wanting her money back. Analeigh Tipton is excellent as Vanessa as a young prostitute who befriends Gerry as a woman who has a lot more to offer than be pretty as she is still trying to figure things out for herself while finding some support from Gerry in what she wants to do.

Sienna Miller is amazing as Simone as a prostitute and on-off companion of Curtis as she is suspicious about Curtis’ intentions for Gerry while is also unsure about embarking on a serious relationship with Curtis. Finally, there’s the duo of Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds in incredible performances in their respective roles as Gerry and Curtis. Mendelsohn displays a physicality as someone who has been on a major losing streak as well as this humility where Mendelsohn sells his character’s insecurities as well as his determination to win. Reynolds’ performance as Curtis is showier in terms of its energy and being very talkative about anything and everything with a sense of charm yet also displays some vulnerability as someone that really wants a better life for himself. Mendelsohn and Reynolds together are a joy to watch as two men who both want to win but also realize their worth to each other as they have this natural chemistry and rapport where they both bring the best in each other.

Mississippi Grind is a sensational film from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck that features great performances from Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Fleck. Along with its supporting cast, gorgeous locations, themes of gambling and friendship, and a sumptuous music soundtrack. It’s a film that definitely explore two men who bond through gambling as well as not being afraid in showing how flawed they are as well as this sense of hope that gambling can bring for them. In the end, Mississippi Grind is a spectacular film from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.

Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck Films: Half Nelson - Sugar (2008 film) - It's Kind of a Funny Story - Captain Marvel - The Auteurs #71: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

© thevoid99 2019

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks (TV Edition): Music Shows/Musicals

For the 17th week of 2019 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We venture into the subject of television through music shows and musicals. Shows that celebrate the idea of music or a show that has actors singing and such. Here are my three picks of TV music/musical shows that… absolutely fucking sucked!!!!!

1. Cop Rock

From the late Steven Bochco comes a police drama mixed in with the musical as many wondered what the fuck was the man, who created and produced such shows as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Doogie Howser M.D., and would later create NYPD Blue, was thinking? I’ve seen clips of it and holy fuck it was horrendous. This bizarre mix of cops talking about dark shit and singing about it along with all of these musical numbers was just weird and cringe-inducing.

2. Viva Laughlin

One of the shows from the late 2000s that only aired two episodes in the U.S. is one of those baffling musical series that made me people wonder who the fuck green-lit this shit? It’s this weird show about a businessman trying to run a casino that’s still in construction where he seeks help from a rival casino owner who wants to buy it from him. Hugh Jackman appears in the show as the rival casino owner as it wants to be flashy and entertaining but it often ends up feeling awkward.

3. Glee

From 2009 to 2015 came a show on FOX that took the world by storm about a bunch of high school kids who compete as part of its glee club to compete with other schools as they sing contemporary songs and talk about the social issues of the day. Well, it’s one of those shows that went on for too long as it just features pathetic kids singing contemporary pop songs or old songs and appeal to dumb-ass millennial shitheads. It got popular for some fucking reason leading to a lame-ass concert movie as its mere existence really just made this idea of inclusivity feel forced and unearned. I agree with Channing Tatum’s sentiment in 21 Jump Street about that show. Fuck you Glee.

© thevoid99 2019

Monday, April 22, 2019

2019 Blind Spot Series: The Gleaners & I

(In Memory of Agnes Varda (1928-2019))

Written, directed, narrated, co-shot, and co-edited by Agnes Varda, Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaners & I) is the story of the life of gleaners who live outside the confines of traditional and modern society in France. The film follows Varda as she meets these individuals who don’t live by the rules of society while trying to survive in an increasingly modern world. The result is one of the engrossing and rapturous films about a group of people trying to keep the act gleaning alive before the turn of the millennium.

Shot from 1999 to May of 2000, the film has Agnes Varda explore the lives of gleaners who come to gardens, vineyards, and such after harvest gathering food that hadn’t been picked up. It’s a film that explore the idea of gleaning, salvaging, dumpster-diving, and such to gather food and material that is neglected and be of use to a world where waste is prevalent. The act of gleaning was something that was common during the 18th and 19th century where people would be able to gather leftovers that hadn’t been picked from gardens following the harvest period so that food would be salvaged as Varda would cite various paintings as a way of life that is now considered outdated before the turn of the millennium. During the course of the film as Varda would travel through France in various locations, she discovered that it’s not just the poor, outcasts, and foreigners that would continue to glean but also regular people and a few of the rich where some who own crops and gardens would allow people to take whatever is left for nothing.

Varda and her fellow cinematographers in Didier Doussin, Stephane Krausz, Didier Rouget, and Pascal Sautelet would shoot the film entirely on small hand-held digital cameras where the look had a crudeness yet it captures a realism that allow Varda to gather so much of what she could find in the spur of the moment. Notably as she would become a gleaner herself by not just picking up leftover food from greenhouses, crops, and gardens but also in objects she would find and salvage. At the same time, Varda would film herself where she would take great close-ups in her hands knowing that she is reaching old age but accepts it as if it’s an old friend. Varda’s direction has this looseness in the way she interviews various people including a chef, a wine owner, and a couple of lawyers who talk about the law of gleaning and the changes its being made before the arrival of the 21st Century.

Varda would talk to people who are keeping the art of gleaning alive despite the law as it also play into the world of poverty, economic and social imbalance, neglect, and greed. Varda would take a break from the main narrative to go into a case of a group of young homeless kids vandalizing a supermarket as she would get both sides of the story from the supermarket owner and the kids themselves with an attorney explaining what is to happen. There is also the story of a teacher named Alain who lives in a home with various immigrants from Africa where half of the people in the building are illiterate yet he teaches them how to read but is also someone who gleans because he can’t afford to buy food at a grocery store and he would often find food that is still in good condition.

With editors Jean-Baptiste Morin and Laurent Pineau, Varda would also play into a bit of style for some of the scenes on the road as she gaze fondly into big trucks where they would be some jump-cuts and montages including one glorious sequence of her filming her camera lens cap doing a little jazz dance. The sound work of Emmanuel Soland is superb in capturing the natural elements of the locations in how a piece of food would sound like as well as this threat of the modern world from stopping the ideas of gleaning. Music composers Isabelle Olivier and Joanna Bruzdowicz provide this incredible mix of music ranging from soothing electronic music, classical-based pieces, jazz, and some hip-hop as it play into the struggles of the gleaners but also their need to survive without compromise.

Les glaneurs et la glaneuse is a tremendous film from Agnes Varda. It’s a documentary film that explores the world of gleaning and people who are trying to keep it alive in an increasingly modern world. It’s a film that doesn’t exactly play by the rules of the documentary but also give voice to those who are often unable to say something and show a process that could still happen in times that are troubling. In the end, Les glaneurs et la glaneuse is a spectacular film from Agnes Varda.

Agnes Varda Films: Diary of a Pregnant Woman - Du cote de la cote - La Pointe Courte - Cleo from 5 to 7 - Le Bonheur - (Les Creatures) – (Far from Vietnam) – (Lions Love) – (Daguerreotypes) – One Sings, the Other Doesn’t – (Murals Murals) – (Documenteur) - Vagabond - (Jane B. by Agnes V.) – ((Le Petit Amour) – (Jacquot de Nantes) – (The Young Girls Turn 25) – (One Hundred and One Nights) – The World of Jacques Demy - (The Gleaners & I: Two Years Later) – (Cinevardaphoto) – (Some Windows of Noirmoutier) - (The Beaches of Agnes) – (Faces Places) – (Varda by Agnes)

© thevoid99 2019

Friday, April 19, 2019

Battle of the Sexes (2017 film)

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and written by Simon Beaufoy, Battle of the Sexes is about the legendary 1973 tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King that was televised and held at the Houston Astrodome. The film is a dramatic account of the events where the legendary Riggs challenges King, who was then the top champion in tennis, as a publicity stunt as a way to get women more respect in the world of sports with Steve Carell playing Riggs and Emma Stone as King. Also starring Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue, Austin Stowell, Bill Pullman, Natalie Morales, and Sarah Silverman. Battle of the Sexes is a compelling yet exhilarating film from Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

The film is a dramatic re-telling of the 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King from the events prior to the match as well as its set-up and outcome. It’s a film with a simple premise where King is the top tennis player of her time but feels that women aren’t being treated fairly in comparison to the men as she feels like women deserve equal pay or more money. Simon’s Beaufoy’s script opens with King’s sudden rise to fame in 1970 as a top tennis player but is upset that an upcoming tennis tour will have her and several other women players be paid much less than the men. This forces King and former tennis player/magazine publisher Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman) to create their own tournament with eight other players as they would gain a sponsor in Virginia Slim cigarettes though they would struggle early on to draw an audience despite being banned by legendary tennis player/promoter Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) from the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association.

The first act is about King and her attempt to get equal pay for herself and other players as well as establish what Riggs was doing at the time as a man who loves to gamble much to the dismay of his wife Priscilla Whelan (Elisabeth Shue) who would kick him out of their home. Riggs who plays tennis to win cars decides to challenge the women as a publicity stunt where he would immediately challenge King who would turn him down as Riggs would challenge Australian tennis champion Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) and defeat her prompting King to accept Riggs’ challenge. Beaufoy’s script also touch upon King’s affair with hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) despite the fact that King is married to a man named Larry (Austin Stowell) as it is a key part of the second act that would also play into King’s determination to beat Riggs unaware that he’s really playing a character for show.

The direction of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris does have its elements of style in recreating the world of the early 1970s as it is shot mainly in Los Angeles where much of the film is set. There are some wide shots in establishing the locations as well as in the film’s climatic tennis match set at the Houston Astrodome. Yet, much of Dayton and Faris’ direction is more on the characters and their situations as well as their need to win. Particularly in the usage of close-ups and medium shots that play into the drama and some of the humor where the latter relates mainly to Riggs and his life including the things he would do in playing tennis for money. The direction would show that for all Riggs’ faults as a man, the persona as this chauvinist was really for show as he was someone that was devoted to his family including his wife. Dayton and Faris’ direction also showcase the growing air of sexism towards women’s tennis not just from men but also women as Margaret Court is more of a traditionalist who would glance at King’s relationship with Barnett with disapproval.

The direction also play into this tension between King and tennis organizations who don’t want to succeed nor want any kind of change in the world of tennis unaware that women are paying to see women play tennis. The climatic match at the Astrodome is shown in a massive scope to play up into how large the event is as well as this air of showmanship before the match is to commence. There is this air of excitement but also dramatic tension as the stakes are high while its aftermath show a sense of relief but also realization that things are to change. Overall, Dayton and Faris create an exhilarating yet engaging film about the real-life tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs and the events preceding this landmark tennis match.

Cinematographer Linus Sandgren does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as its usage of colors for some of the exterior scenes as well as using grainy film stock to recreate the look of 1970s television coverage is a highlight of the film. Editor Pamela Martin does excellent work with the editing as it has bits of montages as well as some stylish moments that play into the energy of the tennis matches. Production designer Judy Becker, with set decorator Matthew Flood Ferguson and art director Alexander Wei, does amazing work with the look of the hotel/motel rooms the women players stayed in as well as the home of Riggs along with the look of the tennis court inside the Astrodome. Costume designer Mary Zophres does fantastic work with the design of the clothes of the 1970s including some of the uniforms the women tennis players chose to wear as well as some of the costumes that Riggs wear for his publicity tour.

Hair stylist Frioa S. Aradottir and makeup artist Torsten White do terrific work with the different hairstyles and looks of King and Riggs during that time as well as how they would evolve in those few years. Special effects supervisor Sam Dean and visual effects supervisor Cliff Welsh do superb work with the visual effects in some set dressing for the period as well as what footage looked like on TV. Sound designer Ai-Ling Lee does wonderful work with the sound in its creation of sound effects as well as how rackets sounded like back then and the massive layers of sounds for the film’s climatic game. The film’s music by Nicolas Britell is incredible for its rich and sumptuous music score with its lush piano and string arrangements that help play into the drama and sense of excitement into the climatic tennis match while music supervisor Steven Baker provides a soundtrack that played into the times as it includes music from Elton John, Bobbie Gentry, Ray Wills, Tommy James and the Shondells, Apollo 100, Norma Jenkins, George Harrison, and Hugh Masekala along with contemporary pieces from the Pretenders and Sara Bareilles.

The casting by Justine Arteta and Kim Davis-Wagner is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from John C. McGinley as a friend of Riggs, Matt Malloy as Riggs’ therapist, Eric Christian Olsen as Riggs’ friend/trainer Lornie Kuhle, Fred Armisen as Riggs’ nutritionist Rheo Blair, Lewis Pullman as Riggs’ eldest son Larry, and James MacKay as Court’s husband Barry. In the roles of the members of the Original 9 players, Martha MacIsaac, Mickey Sumner, Bridey Elliott, Lauren Kline, Ashley Weinhold, Fidan Manashirova, and Kaitlyn Christian play in their respective roles as the tennis players Jane “Peaches” Bartkowicz, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Julie Heldman, Nancy Richey, Kristy Pigeon, Judy Tegart Dalton, and Kerry Melville Reid while Christian also plays the tennis double of King with Vince Spadea as the tennis double of Riggs. Natalie Morales is terrific as an Original 9 tennis player in Rosie Casals as someone who is outspoken as well as be the one to provide commentary for the game.

Jessica McNamee is wonderful as Australian tennis champion Margaret Court as a tennis player who joins the women’s tour as she is someone that is conservative and would accept Riggs’ challenge. Austin Stowell is superb as King’s husband Larry as a man who is supportive of her while he is aware that she has feelings for someone else yet keeps to himself. Elisabeth Shue is fantastic as Riggs’ wife Priscilla as a wealthy woman who isn’t fond of her husband’s gambling as well as his pursuit to challenge women players only to realize what he’s really trying to do. Alan Cumming is excellent as costumer Cuthbert “Ted” Tinling as an openly-gay designer who supports the women in making clothes for them but also help King out in her relationship with Barnett. Bill Pullman is brilliant as famed tennis legend/organization leader Jack Kramer who doesn’t believe that the women would draw as he gains the ire of King for his sexist comments.

Sarah Silverman is amazing as legendary tennis player/publisher Gladys Heldman as a woman who doesn’t take shit from anyone where Silverman provides some humor but also some grit into someone who is championing this new generation of players. Andrea Riseborough is incredible as Marilyn Barnett as a hairdresser who falls for King as she accompanies her on the tour while becomes concerned whether or not she is a distraction to King. Finally, there’s the duo of Emma Stone and Steve Carell in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Stone brings a charm but also a seriousness as King as someone that is striving to be the best but is also deals with her sexuality as it relates to her relationship with Barnett which she wants to keep as a secret as homosexuality was still considered taboo. Carell brings this energy and wit as Riggs as someone who loves to gamble and have fun while knowing a good financial opportunity when he sees it while playing up this persona as a male chauvinist to help sell tickets. Stone and Carell have this chemistry in the way they deal with each other but also know there is an air of respect between the two tennis legends.

Battle of the Sexes is a marvelous film from Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris that feature great performances from Emma Stone and Steve Carell. Along with its ensemble cast, Simon Beaufoy’s engaging script, gorgeous cinematography, and Nicolas Britell’s rich score. It’s a film that manages to be exciting as a sports film but also provide some deep insights into the world of tennis during the 1970s and how one woman wanted to make things fair by playing against one of the sports’ great champions. In the end, Battle of the Sexes is a remarkable film from Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

Jonathan Dayton/Valerie Faris Films: Little Miss Sunshine - Ruby Sparks

© thevoid99 2019

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks: Interview

For the 16th week of 2019 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We focus on the subject of interviews as it play into characters telling stories to another as well as getting a chance to know or discover about something or one’s self. Here are my three picks:

1. Velvet Goldmine

Todd Haynes’ glam-rock story about the rise and fall of a glam rock icon and his eventual disappearance from the public eye as the film is mainly about a journalist dealing with his past as he interviews various people who knew this glam rock singer. There’s several flashbacks and nods to the world of 1970s glam rock with Christian Bale playing the journalist who was a young fan at that time as he later deals with what he saw and its aftermath. It’s a flawed film but certainly an entertaining one for those who loved the world of 1970s glam rock.

2. The Fog of War

Errol Morris’ 2003 film has him talking to former Secretary of Defense chief Robert S. McNamara who served that position under the presidency of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. It’s a film that has McNamara talking about the Vietnam War and the lessons that needed to be learn as it also play into many things that become much more prevalent about the dangers of war. McNamara isn’t afraid to say things that people wouldn’t want to hear but also showcases some of uneasy decisions one had to make as it is one of the finest documentary films of the 21st Century so far.

3. Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley’s personal film about her own family has talking to many people about her mother but also questions about who she is and the idea that the man who raised her might not be her biological father. It’s a film that is an unconventional documentary but a touching one as it has Polley questioning a lot about herself but also talk to siblings and longtime family friends about her late mother as it adds a lot into a woman discovering her identity as well as uncover some family secrets.

© thevoid99 2019