Saturday, August 31, 2019
Summer is coming to an end and it’s been a tough one as I’m now recovering from a cold I had received more than a week ago while helping my mother adjust to this new chapter in our lives that we’re living. This new adjustment meant not having to be active as much in watching or writing about films for a while and I’m actually OK with it. It’s not easy finding the time to watch a film that I haven’t seen before while trying to care of a four-and-a-half month old baby but I’m kind of content with it. It’s something I’m trying to do as I’ve been thinking a lot about scaling things back for the next year while I’m also trying to get back on resuming projects I planned this year though I’ve decided to push Michael Mann to next year as he and David Lean are going to be the only Auteurs subjects I will do next year as I just want the time to not do a lot of things. For now and for the rest of the year, I just want to concentrate on my Blind Spots, whatever films I can watch and review, get back to resuming on my Auteurs pieces for Kelly Reichardt and later work on J.C. Chandor, a retrospective on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a work-in-progress project about the films that my father loved.
While I’m still just trying to adjust to changes and coping, I have been aware of what’s been going on around me as there’s no question that things are getting fucked up as El Pendejo is just making things worse while new little buddy Boris Johnson is also fucking things up in Britain. Wildfires at the Amazon, protests in Hong Kong, and everything else that’s been happening makes it feel very bleak and things here in America aren’t any better as the recent news that military families are now being affected with those who either weren’t born in America or are married to someone from another country. It is proof that things are just fucked up and not getting better. There are ways to escape from it but also being aware of what is going on with popular culture, it doesn’t feel like it would get better as I’ve already accepted in being not in tune with today’s music culture as I can’t relate to it and I don’t want to. I’ll just stick to being the old guy that prefers to listen to the music of the past though I am excited for the new album from Tool that is to come out.
Film is often a place I can turn to as I’m excited for what Disney and Marvel are doing as well as the upcoming fall festival season though I’m not happy with the way Sony and Disney have doing in regards to Spider-Man as I do think Spider-Man needs to be in Marvel/Disney due to Sony’s spotty history with the character. I do hope a deal would be made so that Spider-Man can stay in the MCU. Then there’s the world of professional wrestling as things are getting really hot right now. WWE’s time of dominance is definitely coming to an end as it is clear that as much money as they’re making through branding and all sorts of shit. Fan interest has been declining because the product is shit, the booking is inconsistent and messy, and no one cares anymore. Even the NXT brand is now in danger as it’s going to be shown on the USA network with Smackdown Live! being moved to FOX later this year. It’s a good thing that there are alternatives to WWE such as MLW who have been picking up steam despite being in an obscure cable channel though other promotions such as Impact Wrestling (formerly known as TNA) and Ring of Honor are struggling. Then there’s AEW as they’re going to have their next pay-per-view event in All Out later tonight as they’re going to be on TV in October on TNT.
Yet, none of these promotions have created the waves that New Japan Pro Wrestling has done this summer in regards to the G1 Climax tournament that saw Kota Ibushi finally winning the tournament defeating Bullet Club’s Jay White in the finals. It was also in this same night at the Budokan in Tokyo where a historical event occurred earlier that night in what I believe is the greatest heel turn since Hulk Hogan turning on WCW to from the nWo at Bash at the Beach in July of 1996. I’ve been watching this clip numerous times and the impact of it is just incredible not just for the person who turned heel but it’s also for its aftermath just mere minutes after what happened.
For anyone that isn’t familiar with this story or the players involved, I’ll try to explain it the best as I can. Kenta Kobyashi aka KENTA from 2000-2014 was a wrestler working for another Japanese promotion in Pro Wrestling Noah where in the mid-2000s was part of a tag-team called the Takeover with Katsuyori Shibata as they were quite successful for a while. The two were close friends as Shibata would make a return to New Japan in 2012 where he would be a big star while KENTA would be Noah’s ace while appearances at Ring of Honor from 2005 to 2009 made him a cult star among fans and wrestlers such as CM Punk and Bryan Danielson who both took some of KENTA’s moves as part of their move sets. In 2014, KENTA signed with WWE as part of their NXT brand in an attempt to try something new as despite the endorsement of Hulk Hogan and Triple H. KENTA’s tenure as Hideo Itami in WWE from 2015 to 2019 has been a disappointing one due to injuries, setbacks, and any attempts for him to be in the main roster were dismissed in favor of being part of WWE’s cruiserweight division in 205 Live as he left in 2019.
Shibata who had unfortunately retired in 2017 due to a match with then IWGP-champion Kazuchika Okada on April 9 of that year where Shibata’s punishing style that included head butts got the best of him as he collapsed after the match and was rushed to the hospital where he suffered a subdural hematoma as he nearly died that day. After an appearance later that August at that year’s G1 Climax tournament, Shibata told the fans that he’s still alive though it is believed he might not wrestle ever again as he’s currently a coach for New Japan’s dojo in Los Angeles. Through his friendship with Shibata, KENTA arrived to New Japan in June this year with Shibata accompanying him as his arrival to New Japan is a big surprise but not everyone in New Japan was willing to embrace KENTA mainly because he’s a Noah guy as there is a rivalry between New Japan and Noah fans. KENTA’s time at this year’s G1 started off well with successful matches against Lance Archer, Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Evil but still didn’t get the acceptance of fans from New Japan despite some praise from his appearance in Dallas early in July during his match against Ibushi. After losing to Okada, a losing streak emerged and eventually lost the A Block altogether winning only 8 points.
Then comes the night of the finals at the Budokan where he was part of a six-man tag team with Yoshi-Hashi and Tomorhiro Ishii of the Chaos faction against Bullet Club’s Bad Luck Fale and the Guerillas of Destiny in Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa where Tonga made a tweet the night before that the Bullet Club had recruited a high-caliber athlete to the Bullet Club as it created some buzz. Especially since the Bullet Club had lost some buzz and momentum due to the departure of Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks, Marty Scurll, Cody Rhodes, and Hangman Page in late 2018 due to their formation of AEW minus Scurll who remains under contract with ROH. It is in this match where KENTA did the unthinkable as he hit the running knee on the often-intimidating Ishii and then the Go to Sleep finisher allowing Tonga to pin Ishii as he is revealed to be the newest member of the Bullet Club where he aided them in attacking Yoshi-Hashi and members of the L.A. dojo.
In Japan, boos aren’t heard very often as Japanese wrestling fans are more reserved yet will display some emotion whether it’s to cheer for their favorites or quietly display their disdain for the heel. KENTA who is a polarizing for fans of New Japan suddenly got some of the loudest boos ever heard inside the legendary Budokan yet he was relishing the hate yet it was nothing compared to what was to happen next as if a miracle occurred. Katsuyori Shibata arrived to the ring and attacked KENTA as everyone in the Budokan lost their shit as they saw Shibata give forearm strikes to the G.O.D. and a kick in the head to Fale while doing this beautiful flying corner dropkick to KENTA where it was as if he hadn’t left wrestling at all. Of course, the number games got to Shibata thanks in part to Jado and his Singapore cane as KENTA would then display the ultimate act of disrespect by sitting Indian style on Shibata as he is now officially part of the Bullet Club.
Honestly, I couldn’t be more excited to be a wrestling fan at this moment though I’m also concerned about Shibata as it has been revealed he is cleared to get physical but to wrestle is not likely to happen. It should be noted that no one in the Bullet Club including KENTA touched his head which is a relief as well as to maintain the art of storytelling. I’m convinced that this is the hottest story right now in wrestling as it has to come to some sort of confrontation for WrestleKingdom 14 this coming January. Part of me wants to see Shibata beat the shit out of KENTA but there’s a side of me that doesn’t want him in the ring and further risk his health as I hope he can get someone to fight for him and his honor.
In the month of August 2019, I saw a total of 21 films in 7 first-timers and 14 re-watches which is likely to become the norm unless I’m able to watch new films soon though none of them are by women this month. The highlight of the month has definitely been my Blind Spot assignment in Marketa Lazarova. Here are my top 5 first-timers that I saw in August 2019:
1. Branded to Kill
2. Spider-Man: Far from Home
3. Sweet Virginia
5. Descendants 3
The third and final film of Disney Channel’s trilogy of films about the children of famous Disney villains is definitely the best one of the series so far from its director Kenny Ortega but it’s also the most bittersweet as it’s the last film that Cameron Boyce has completed as he sadly passed away last month at the age of 20 due to a seizure which is a shame as he’s always came across as a genuine kid with a lot of promise. The film itself is actually more daring than it needed to be as it really says a lot about the current political climate of the time as it play into the idea of outside threats where Maleficent’s daughter Mal agrees to close the barrier between the land of Auradon and the Isle of the Lost to protect the people of the former unaware that its threat is from within the land of Auradon in Princess Aurora’s daughter Audrey who turns evil out of a jealousy towards Mal for marrying Belle and Beast’s son Ben. The performances of Dove Cameron, Sofia Carson, and China Anne McClain are the real standouts with Cheyenne Jackson stealing the show as the famed villain Hades who is revealed to be Mal’s father. It’s a film that manages to be better than it should’ve been as well as do more to appeal than just its target audience of families, teens, tweens, and kids. It’s actually a much smarter film that manages to present a message of tolerance and unity in the right way while also being entertaining.
The Water Slide
From the Atlantic comes a documentary short film about the creation and unmaking of the world’s tallest water slide in Kansas that started off as a crazy idea and eventually turned tragic when a 10-year old boy was decapitated by the netting above the slide. It’s a short that started off interesting about its creation and then falls apart following the tragedy as it left too many questions into why this boy went to the slide as well as the fact that he didn’t even want to go on the slide. The information that wasn’t presented in this documentary short just makes it proof that it never goes all the way and never brings a satisfying conclusion.
Top 10 Re-Watches:
1. The Shining
2. Back to the Future
4. Police Story
6. The Lost Boys
7. The Muppets
8. 13 Going on 30
9. My Best Friend’s Wedding
10. White Chicks
That is it for August. I’m not really sure what new films I’m going to watch or whatever theatrical releases I’m doing other than films on my never-ending DVR list and what’s been on TV lately. I’m also thinking about doing a retrospective on the band Tool to celebrate the release of their new album Fear Inoculum by covering their body of work in my music blog as they’re one of my all-time favorite bands. I’ll just be spending much of my time watching over my nephew and catch up on film festival coverage as well as what is happening in AEW and New Japan. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…
© thevoid99 2019
Monday, August 26, 2019
Based on the novel by Vladislav Vancura, Marketa Lazarova is the story of a lord’s daughter who had been kidnapped by knights from a different clan leading to an intense feud between the two factions during medieval times. Directed by Frantisek Vlacil and screenplay by Vlacil and Frantisek Pavlicek, the film is an exploration of a young woman caught up in the middle of a war where she’s become the pawn of this bloody conflict with Magda Vasaryova starring in the titular role and narration by Zdenek Stepanek. Also starring Josef Kemr, Frantisek Velecky, Nad’a Hejna, and Jaroslav Moucka. Marketa Lazarova is an entrancing and evocative film from Frantisek Vlacil.
Set in medieval times, the film revolves around a conflict between two different factions in the Germany/Czechoslovakia border as a lord’s daughter finds herself in the middle of this conflict as it would complicate things during the course of the conflict. It’s a film that doesn’t have much of a plot in favor of exploring a period in time in which conflict was part of the norm but also the way they live their life as a way to survive regardless of how they treat other people. The film’s screenplay by Frantisek Vlacil and Frantisek Pavlicek is loose in its story though it’s mainly a two-part story about this conflict and how this young woman in Marketa Lazarova is caught in the middle where she is part of one faction and then be part of another although she is mainly a supporting character in a large ensemble filled with thieves, knights, killers, and con artists. Even the captives that include the son of a bishop becomes troubled by this conflict as he had fallen for a young woman who is part of another faction. It all play into this idea of bargaining and survival as this young woman who is dealing with all of this chaos as she turns to God for answers while Zdenek Stepanek’s narration adds some clarity into some of the loose tone of the plot which does meander at times.
Vlacil’s direction is definitely intoxicating in its imagery as it is shot on various locations in Czechoslovakia in the course of nearly 2 years as it play into the harsh conditions of wintery forests and desolate swamps. Yet, it does add a unique atmosphere into the look and tone of the film where Vlacil aims for an element of realism in these settings. The usage of the wide shots do allow Vlacil to get a lot of coverage and depth of field into the locations it would play into a world that is tranquil and serene but can also be unsettling and unforgiving at times. The locations also play into some of the battles where Vlacil uses some hand-held camera for some scenes in the film along with some long shots that goes on for a few minutes with stark imagery that often include shots of wolves getting ready to attack. It does play into moments of symbolism into what these men are dealing with a world that is about survival and keeping what they have.
Vlacil’s direction also play into religious symbolism where there’s Marketa’s father Lord Lazar (Michal Kozuch with the voice of Martin Ruzek) has his hands nailed to a door or Marketa at a Catholic convent where her father tried to enter her there for safety only to not have enough money. The religious symbolism would come to play towards the film’s ending with its usage of close-ups and medium shots while Vlacil would use these shots to play into interaction with the characters or in some surreal dream sequences that would have Marketa walking on a field naked or another female character in Alexandra (Pavla Polaskova with the voice of Karolina Sluneckova) who is the object of affection to the bishop’s son Kristian (Vlastimil Harapes with the voice of Klaus-Peter-Thiele). It would all play into this desire of leading a pure life but the atmosphere of greed and deception would still emerge with Marketa being this idea of purity as she eventually comes to term with her role but also accept a different role that would allow her to create a better future. Overall, Vlacil crafts a mesmerizing and ravishing film about a feud between factions in medieval times at the Czechoslovakian-German border with a young woman caught in the middle.
Cinematographer Bedrich Bat’ka does amazing work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its usage of natural lighting for some of the interiors as well as the usage of available light for some of the exterior shots as it is a highlight of the film. Editor Miroslav Hajek does excellent work with the editing as it has elements of jump-cuts to play into some of the action while much of the editing is straightforward. Art director Oldrich Okac, with set decorators Josef Pavlik and Vladislav Rada, does brilliant work with the look of the ruined castles and forts as well as some of the places that the characters go to.
Costume designer Theodor Pistek does fantastic work with the costumes with its ragged look of some of the knights and thieves as well as the lavish robes of some of the lords and bishops. The sound work of Frantisek Fabian is superb for its intricate approach to sound in capturing the natural elements of sound and mixing it with some sound collage to play into some of the surreal moments of the film. The film’s music by Zdenek Liska is great for its usage of Gregorian-like vocal choir chants, layers of string and percussion arrangements, and its broad orchestral sound to play into the period of the times as it is a highlight of the film.
The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles from Karla Chadimova as the Abbess Priory who considers taking Marketa into her convent, Na’da Hejna as Kozlik’s wife Katerina with Antoine Hegerlikova as the voice actress for the part, Zdenek Rehor as Captain Pivo’s second-in-command in Sovicka who is attracted to Marketa, Zdenek Kryzanek as Captain Pivo who is tasked to rescue the bishop’s son, Harry Studt as the bishop whose son had been captured, and Vladimir Mensik in a terrific performance as the wandering monk Bernard who is a witness to everything as he serves as a Greek chorus of sorts to the audience while observing everything that is happening as well as provide some guidance to the characters in the film. Vlastimil Harapes, with the voice of Klaus-Peter-Thiele, is superb as the bishop’s son Kristian as a young man captured by Kozlik’s men as he would fall for Kozlik’s daughter Alexandra as he becomes confused by whom he should be loyalty to. Ivan Puluch, with the voice of Ladislav Trojan, is fantastic as Kozlik’s one-armed son Adam who is known for having an incestuous relationship with Alexandra as he’s also one of Kozlik’s fiercest knights only to deal with the turmoil of Alexandra’s relationship with Kristian.
Josef Kemr and Michael Kozuch, with the voice Martin Rusek for the latter, are excellent in their respective roles as the faction leaders Kozlik and Lazar with the former as a leader of knights who rebels against the royals while the latter is a lord loyal to the royal family who also head a gang of bandits. Pavla Polaskova, with the voice of Karolina Sluneckova, is amazing as Alexandra as Kozlik’s daughter who is a mysterious woman known for her dark look yet becomes fond of Kristian as she would see him as a beacon of hope in her dark surroundings. Frantisek Velecky, with the voice of Petr Kostka, is brilliant as Mikolas as one of Kozlik’s sons who would capture Marketa and would torture and rape only to later be protective of her as he would also question his loyalty towards his own father and their rebellion. Finally, there’s Magda Vasaryova, with the voice of Gabriela Vranova, in an incredible performance as the titular character as the daughter of a lord loyal to the royal family who finds herself used as she is sent from one faction to another as bait or bargaining as she questions her own being as well as seeking answers from God to help those she grows to care for.
Marketa Lazarova is a tremendous film from Frantisek Vlacil. Featuring a great ensemble cast, ravishing visuals, an eerie music soundtrack, stark depiction of medieval life, and naturalistic sound design. It’s a film that explores a moment in time that was brutal as it showcases how similar it is to some of the conflicts of the present day while it is told in an unconventional presentation that isn’t for everyone due to the looseness of the plot. In the end, Marketa Lazarova is a spectacular film from Frantisek Vlacil.
© thevoid99 2019
Saturday, August 24, 2019
Directed by Seijun Suzuki and written by Hachiro Guryu, Koroshi no raikun (Branded to Kill) is the story of a yakuza hitman whose attempt to kill a target goes horribly wrong forcing him to fend off against other assassins gunning for his position as a top hitman. It’s a film that plays into a man whose meeting with a woman who asks him to do something where he deals with his mistakes and letting his guard down. Starring Joe Shishido, Koji Nanbara, Isao Tamagawa, Annu Mari, Mariko Ogawa, and Hiroshi Minami. Koroshi no raikun is a gripping and audacious film from Seijun Suzuki.
The film revolves a highly-revered yakuza hitman who is among the top ranked assassins in the business but due to a botched hit that went horribly wrong because of an act of nature. He becomes the hunted while he finds himself falling for the woman hired to kill the target that didn’t go well as he also goes on a search to find out who is the number one hitman in all of Japan. Hachiro Guryu’s screenplay explores the life and work of Goro Hanada (Joe Shishido) who has arrived to Tokyo with his new wife Mami (Mariko Ogawa) where Hanada aids a former hitman for an assignment as it would be a success despite the body count and encounters with other rival hitmen. Upon encountering the mysterious Misako (Annu Mari), Hanada’s world starts to unravel as he becomes infatuated by Misako despite having an intense sexual relationship with Mami as he becomes paranoid about who is trying to kill him while trying to discover the identity of this mysterious hitman known as Number 1 (Koji Nanbara). Hanada would succumb to madness but also obsession in trying to find Number 1 but also deal with the fact that he can’t trust anyone.
Seijun Suzuki’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of its look and compositions as it play into this underworld that is shot and set in and around Tokyo that is vibrant and dangerous. Even in the nightclubs, forest-like locations in some parts of the film and other scenes that play into this world of violence where assassins try to kill one another to be in the top spot but also try to find Number 1 and kill him or else they get killed as he is known for his trademark kills. Suzuki’s compositions definitely bear elements of style in terms of the way he would put his characters in a frame or in the setting they’re in. The usage of wide and medium shots add to the world that Hanada lives in as it include scenes in his apartment where he chases around Mami who is often seen naked in their apartment with the exception of her genitals covered due restriction codes in Japan. The sex scenes do add this strange yet crazed sense of energy as it help play into the film’s offbeat tone.
The film also has these grand visuals that play into many themes as it relates to Hanada’s fascination with Misako who collects dead things around her apartment home. The way Suzuki would create these compositions to play into this attraction between these two people as well as this world they live in that is dark and chaotic. Even in the film’s climax where Hanada has to fend off various assassins as Suzuki’s compositions are striking where he would shoot a scene under a car and would keep moving as it would be displayed in a long take. The usage of long takes add to the visual splendor of the film that include these offbeat compositions as it relates to Hanada’s growing paranoia and obsession towards Misako. Even in the third act as his obsession turns to the mysterious Number 1 who would unveil himself where their meeting is more of a meeting of the minds rather than kill one another. The film’s finale is told in a stylish manner but it also play into the fallacy of life in the underworld as well as the obsession to be the top dog in the world of the yakuza. Overall, Suzuki crafts a visually-dazzling and riveting film about a yakuza hitman fending off other assassins following for a botched job for a woman he would fall for.
Cinematographer Kazue Nagatsuka does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it’s a highlight of the film with its vibrant usage of shades and shadows for some of the interior scenes at the apartment as well as lights for the exterior scenes set at night. Editor Matsuo Tanji does excellent work with the editing for its stylish usage of jump-cuts and transition wipes to help play into the suspense and drama. Production designer Sukezo Kawahara does amazing work with the look of the apartments and places the characters go to including Misako’s apartment that is filled with dead birds and insects on her walls. The sound work of Yoshinobu Akino is fantastic for its sound effects that help play into the suspense as well as Hanada’s growing paranoia including the way gunshots are presented. The film’s music by Naozumi Yamamoto is incredible for its jazz-inspired music score with some playful pianos and string instruments that add to the energy of the film as well as its moments of suspense as it’s a major highlight of the film.
The film’s superb cast feature a couple of small roles from Hiroshi Minami as a former hitman in Gihei Kasuga who asks for Hanada’s help in an assignment and Isao Tamagawa as the yakuza boss Michiko Yabuhara as a man who gives Hanada jobs but also would flirt with Mami and later give the order for Hanada’s death. Mariko Ogawa is terrific as Hanada’s new wife Mami as a young woman that enjoys walking around naked at her apartment and engage in strange sexual exploits with her husband but would start to unravel when things don’t go well for Hanada.
Annu Mari is fantastic as Misako as a mysterious woman who hires Hanada for an assignment only things to go wrong as she is this odd figure with an obsession for death as she would eventually be infatuated with Hanada. Koji Nanbara is excellent in a small yet intriguing performance as the mysterious assassin known as Number 1 as this man who is an expert in being a hitman but is also someone that is an expert in mystique and being unidentified. Finally, there’s Joe Shishido in an amazing performance as Goro Hanada as the third-ranked hitman in Tokyo as he deals with a botched assignment and his growing paranoia in being hunted as well as the anguish he endures over his marriage and obsession towards Misako as it’s a performance that has Shishido acting cool and then becoming crazy and dangerous.
Koroshi no raikun is a spectacular film from Seijun Suzuki. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a hypnotic and searing tone, a gripping exploration of obsession and paranoia, and a killer music soundtrack. It’s a film that explores a hitman dealing with failure and being hunted while dealing with his role as a killer for hire that would lead to his own descent. In the end, Koroshi no raikun is a tremendous film from Seijun Suzuki.
Seijun Suzuki Films: (Victory is Mine) – (Eight Hours of Terror) – (The Naked Woman and the Gun) – (Underworld Beauty) – (Young Breasts) – (Voice Without a Shadow) – (Take Aim at the Police Van) – (Everything Goes Wrong) – (Go to Hell, Hoodlums!) – (Man with a Shotgun) – (Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!) – (Youth of the Beast) – (The Bastard (1963 film)) – (Kanto Wanderer) – (The Flower and the Angry Waves) – (Gate of Flesh) – (Our Blood Will Not Forgive) – (Story of a Prostitute) – (Story of Bastards: Born Under a Bad Star) – (Tattooed Life) – (Carmen from Kawachi) – Tokyo Drifter - (Fighting Elegy) – (A Tale of Sorrow and Sadness) – (Zigeunerweisen) – (Kagero-za) – (Capone Cries a Lot) – (Legend of the Gold of Babylon) – (Yumeji) – (Pistol Opera) – (Princess Raccoon)
© thevoid99 2019
Friday, August 23, 2019
It’s time once again for the annual tradition that is the Against the Crowd Blog-a-Thon which has become this annual tradition every August hosted by Wendell of Dell on Movies. Having been an active contributor to the blog-a-thon in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. I decided to participate once again as here are the rules:
1. Pick one movie “everyone” loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have score of 75% or more on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you hate it.
2. Pick one movie that “everyone” hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of 35% or less on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you love it.
3. Include the tomato meter scores of both movies.
4. Use one of the banners in this post, or feel free to create your own (just include all the pertinent details).
5. Let us know what two movies you intend on writing about in one of the following ways: Comment on this or any ACB 2019 post on this site, Tweet me @w_ott3, E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Publish your post on any day from Friday, August 23 through Sunday, August 25, 2019 (tighter schedule this year), and include a link to this announcement. If you’re a podcaster or YouTuber that is interested in participating just talk about your chosen movies during your closest podcast and/or video to those dates and mention that you are taking part in this blogathon. You could also just tweet about it!
By the way, should a movie you select not have a grade on rottentomatoes.com, use a score of at least 7.5 on imdb.com for ones you hate and less than 4.0 for ones you love.
On Monday, the 26th, I will publish a wrap-up post which will include a link to all entries. Now go find some movies to disagree with us on!
Let’s take Goodfellas out of the conversation for a discussion about this film as let’s talk about the other films that were nominated for Best Picture. Awakenings was a damn good drama that never was Oscar-bait driven as it was a more low-key drama that featured high-caliber performances from Robin Williams and Robert de Niro. Ghost is a supernatural romantic drama that still holds up as a tearjerker as well as being a film that explores grief and making peace with it. The Godfather Part III was definitely flawed in a few bits of the narrative as well as the casting that includes Sofia Coppola as Mary Corleone though let’s be happy that she’s chosen a better profession in the world of film as a writer/director. If Goodfellas wasn’t going to win and would’ve lost to either Awakenings or Ghost, I wouldn’t have a problem with it at all. Then there’s the film that did win the Oscar for Best Picture… ugh…
I first saw the film on TV either when I was 11 or 12 as I found myself bored by it and I felt the title was totally misleading at the time as I wanted to see Kevin Costner dancing with wolves and he never does. Years later as I grasped upon more knowledge on films and had an understanding of storytelling. I found myself baffled more about why this film beat fucking Goodfellas. It’s got nice visuals and some soaring music by John Barry but I found the story to be uninspiring while Costner’s direction doesn’t really do much to make it more compelling. I found myself not really caring for the main character and his changes while there are also elements in the narrative that doesn’t do much to establish the cavalry and their own motivations. It’s a film that is mainly style over substance and I’m also bothered by the fact that the film is considered a western which isn’t exactly true since there aren’t many cowboys nor are there any kind of conflicts involving outsiders or those who are affiliated with the law. It’s a film that hasn’t aged any better and one I still have no desire to revisit as it’s just a total bore.
While Ernest R. Dickerson is known mainly for his work as a cinematographer for Spike Lee during the late 80s/early 1990s, he has made a solid career as a filmmaker starting with 1992’s Juice. His sophomore feature in this 1994 thriller about a homeless man who is saved by a mysterious man during a suicide attempt as gives the man a job as a hunting guide. Yet, what the homeless doesn’t realize is that he’s the prey and all of these rich men including a rich man’s son are tasked to hunt him for their own sick game of pleasure. It’s an exhilarating thriller that never takes itself seriously while the premise itself should never work but it does. Plus, to have Ice-T as the prey who has to fend off the likes of Rutger Hauer, Gary Busey, John C. McGinley, Charles S. Dutton, and F. Murray Abraham. What more could you ask? Oh, and there’s William McNamara as Abraham’s pussy son as he’s the one person that is oddly miscast.
It’s a film that doesn’t get a lot of love but it’s so fucking cool. Plus, it has these cool moments with Rutger Hauer leading the charge while Gary Busey does this nice monologue about hunting and in one entire take. A lesser filmmaker would try to cut it and maintain that sense of rhythm but Dickerson is much smarter than that as he knows that if Busey is doing a monologue. Just shoot it in one entire fucking take.
© thevoid99 2019
Thursday, August 22, 2019
For the 34th week of 2019 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We venture into the subject of actors in multiple film roles. It is a device where an actor can take on multiple roles either for laughs or for something dramatic. Here are my three picks as it all relates to the brilliance of Eddie Murphy:
1. Coming to America
The second and best collaboration between Eddie Murphy and John Landis also one of the most quotable films of the 20th Century. It follows Murphy as an African prince traveling to America with his friend to find his bride where Murphy and Arsenio Hall both take on multiple roles. With Murphy and Hall respectively playing Prince Akeem and servant Semmii, the other roles they play in the film with the help of makeup artist Rick Baker has them do so much. Murphy also plays a barber, a Jewish man, and a singer named Mr. Randy Watson while Hall plays a barber, a preacher, and an ugly-ass woman. “I hope you don’t mind me coming over and sitting down but I’ve been watching you all evening and I want to tear you apart! And yo’ friend too!”
2. The Nutty Professor
The remake of the legendary 1960s comedy starring Jerry Lewis has Murphy play Sherman Klump who is a fat college professor trying to be thin yet he has a family that is also fat as they’re all (except for a young boy) played by Murphy while Murphy would also play Klump’s alter-ego Buddy Love and a parody of Richard Simmons. Murphy definitely brings a lot of laughs as the loudmouth love yet he is a riot as Klump’s parents and grandmother who says a lot of nasty shit.
One of the most underrated comedies of the 1990s comes a film that marks the rare pairing of Murphy and Steve Martin as well as probably one of the last great films they ever did. It’s a film that has Martin as a failed filmmaker trying to get a film made with Murphy as a big-time movie star with a lot of problems as Murphy plays the role of the movie star and a nerdy look-a-like. It is proof of Murphy’s talents as an actor and what happens when he’s working with the right people as well as people such as Frank Oz who at least cares about quality rather than cheap laughs. Even as I close this piece with a classic clip from Saturday Night Live which proves why Murphy was a comic genius and why he might prove once again why he was so awesome:
© thevoid99 2019
Friday, August 16, 2019
Directed by Jamie M. Dagg and written by Benjamin and Paul China, Sweet Virginia is the story of a motel manager who befriends a mysterious visitor who may be involved in a wave of violence nearby. The film is a neo-noir thriller that explores unlikely friendship between two men as well as a small town coming undone by this wave of violence. Starring Jon Bernthal, Christopher Abbott, Imogen Poots, Rosemarie DeWitt, Odessa Young, and Jared Abrahamson. Sweet Virginia is a haunting yet gripping film from Jamie M. Dagg.
Following a murder at a restaurant/bar in a small Alaskan town, the film revolves in an unlikely friendship between a former rodeo champion who manages a motel and a mysterious drifter who has stopped by as the former isn’t aware that the latter is a hitman. It’s a film that play into a small town that is shaken by this act of violence while they try to move on as a few people deal with the tragedy as well as the motivations of why three men were killed inside a bar. The film’s screenplay by Benjamin and Paul China open with three men at a bar/restaurant getting ready to play a card game when this mysterious drifter in Elwood (Christopher Abbott) arrives wanting a late breakfast as he is refused only to gun down the three men. The film’s narrative follows the lives of Elwood and the motel manager Sam Rossi (Jon Bernthal) who runs the Sweet Virginia motel for his late brother while is an on-off affair with Bernadette Barrett (Rosemarie DeWitt) whose husband Tom (Joseph Lyle Taylor) was one of the three men killed by Elwood.
The script also play into why Elwood is in town as he had been hired to kill one of the men but ends up doing much more which only complicates things for one of the men’s wives in Lila (Imogen Poots) who thought she would inherit money only to learn that her husband was in some serious debt. Elwood’s stay in the town is extended as he would befriend Sam whom he had heard about through Sam’s time as a rodeo cowboy until he retired due to injury. Sam is a man that is someone who was poised for so much only to lose a lot as he’s divorced with a child who barely sees him as he spends his time with his niece Maggie (Odessa Young) whenever he’s not with Bernadette. There’s not much plot to the story as it’s more about characters living their lives but the drama and suspense do pick up toward its third act.
Jamie M. Dagg’s direction is largely straightforward although he doesn’t really go for anything stylistic other than some lingering long shots in parts of the film. Shot largely on locations in British Columbia in Canada including parts of Vancouver, Dagg’s direction does use some wide shots to establish the location but also in some eerie moments as it play into Elwood haunting certain characters or where he is about to go as there are also some medium shots from afar that show him talking on the phone and then beat up a couple of guys. There aren’t a lot of close-ups in Dagg’s direction except in some intimate moments as well as a chilling confrontation between Elwood and Lila late in the film. The film’s opening scene starts off slow while the violence is quite intense but not overtly-bloody and graphic where Dagg is more concerned with a town that is trying to understand what had happened and why as well as these two men ravaged by their past with Elwood also being someone who is extremely troubled. Even in the third act as it is about the money Elwood is owed for his services as the suspense is approached in a low-key manner that would also be followed by Elwood being confronted for his actions. Overall, Dagg crafts a riveting yet eerie film about a motel manager and his encounter with a mysterious yet troubled drifter.
Cinematographer Jessica Lee Gagne does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it maintains a naturalistic look for scenes in the day and at night with its usage of available light as well as using some low-key lights for some interior scenes at night. Editor Duff Smith does nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts to play into some of the conversations. Production designer Danny Vermette, with set decorator Robin Tilby and art director Justin Ludwig, does fantastic work with the look of Bernadette’s home in the interior as well as the bar/restaurant in the film’s opening scene and the motel that Sam runs.
Costume designer Mia Fiddis does terrific work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward that includes the ragged look of Elwood including some of the shirts he wears. The sound work of Brody Ratsoy is amazing for its low-key approach to the sound as it maintains something that feels natural but also help to play up the suspenseful moments of the film. The film’s music by Brooke and Will Blair is wonderful for its low-key ambient score that play sparingly into parts of the film as it add to drama and sense of loss that occur throughout the film while music supervisor Natasha Duprey provide a soundtrack of music that is played on location as it include a couple of pieces from the Butthole Surfers and Rolla Olak.
The casting by Kate Caldwell, Kara Eide, Melissa Kostenbauer, and Kris Woz is superb as it feature some notable small roles from Garry Chalk as one of the victims in the film’s opening sequence, Gabrielle Rose as an old woman living at the motel, Jonathan Tucker as Elwood’s intended target in Lila’s husband Mitchell, Joseph Lyle Taylor as Bernadette’s husband Tom, and Jared Abrahamson as a young mechanic named Paul who is asked by Elwood to help him retrieve the money he’s owed. Odessa Young is terrific as Sam’s niece Maggie as a teenage girl who helps him with the motel while pondering about her dad as well as her uncle’s own issues with the world in general. Rosemarie DeWitt is fantastic as Bernadette Barrett as a woman who had just lost her husband although she doesn’t feel anything about his passing leaning back to an on-again, off-again affair with Sam while dealing with some truths about her own marriage and how it fell apart.
Imogen Poots is excellent as Lila McCabe as a young woman who hired Elwood for a job only for things to get complicated as it relates to money as she deals with what she’s done prompting her to try and avoid Elwood anyway she can. Christopher Abbott is brilliant as Elwood as a hitman drifting from town to town for a job as he starts to unravel over his lack of payment as he displays a creepiness and an instability that makes him a dangerous person to encounter. Finally, there’s Jon Bernthal in an amazing performance as Sam Rossi as a former rodeo champion who has retired due to injury to run his late brother’s motel as he tries to keep things to himself and engage in his relationship with Bernadette where he later befriends Elwood unaware of who Elwood really is as he later becomes troubled by some of the violence that is happening in his town.
Sweet Virginia is a marvelous film from Jamie M. Dagg. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, an eerie music score, and a chilling premise that play into loss and mental illness. It’s a neo-noir film that doesn’t play by the rules while doesn’t emphasize a lot on plot in favor of character study. In the end, Sweet Virginia is a remarkable film from Jamie M. Dagg.
© thevoid99 2019
Thursday, August 15, 2019
For the 33rd week of 2019 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We focus on the subject of witness as it relates to witnessing an event or a murder. All of which play into some kind of suspense or something else to have happened. Here are my three picks:
1. Some Like It Hot
From Billy Wilder is a remake of an obscure French film that takes place on the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of the 1920s in Chicago. Two musicians trying to find work would unknowingly witness a murder and had to hide from the gangsters but how? Well, they would dress up like women and join a women’s band featuring Marilyn Monroe and go down to Florida where Tony Curtis tries to woo Marilyn while Jack Lemmon realizes the upside of being married to another man.
From Barry Levinson is one of the 1990s most overlooked films of the decade as it play into the life of four young boys in the 1960s whose prank had unfortunately killed someone as they spend their time in a brutal juvenile hall where they endure abuse of the worst kind. Yet, the witness in hand revolves around the events of the second act where two of the boys kill one of their abusers at a bar/restaurant although the witness wasn’t there but had a moral dilemma into what he had to do for two of the boys as one of the boys is also the prosecutor. It is an incredible film that continuously gets better with every re-watch.
3. Inherent Vice
Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon’s noir-based novel set in 1970 is definitely one of the weirdest films that a major Hollywood studio would ever produce. Yet, it is definitely a film that has all of the qualities of a cult favorite as it follows Joaquin Phoenix as a hippie private detective who is asked to find a few people including an undercover agent who is unable to get out of assignment as he’s also a witness to the events that is happening around Los Angeles. It’s a film that gets better with each viewing as well as maintain its sense of ambiguity.
© thevoid99 2019
Monday, August 12, 2019
Based on the Marvel comics series by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Spider-Man: Far from Home is the sequel to the 2017 film Spider-Man: Homecoming in which Peter Parker/Spider-Man deals with the aftermath of the Infinity Wars as he struggles with expectations of being a superhero while wanting to be a normal teenager who goes to Europe with his friends as they encounter mysterious beings known as Elementals. Directed by Jon Watts and screenplay by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, the film is the final film of the Infinity Saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Parker copes with its aftermath as he teams up with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Quentin Beck/Mysterio to face off against the Elementals in Europe as Tom Holland reprises his role as Peter Parker/Spider-Man with Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck/Mysterio. Also starring Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Tony Revolori, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, J.B. Smoove, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Spider-Man: Far from Home is an adventurous and riveting film from Jon Watts.
Five years after the events where people had disappeared only to reappear suddenly five years later known as the Blip, Peter Parker goes to Europe for a school trip with friends as he is hoping to woo a classmate yet they would all encounter mysterious beings known as Elemental as Parker is aided by S.H.I.E.L.D. and a hero named Quentin Beck/Mysterio who claims to be from an alternate version of Earth. It’s a film that play into events where Parker has to once again put on the suit and other variations of the suit to fight against these mysterious beings yet is overwhelmed with his duties as he just wants to be a normal teenager. The film’s screenplay by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers follow the events of the Blip where kids who didn’t die of the Blip would deal with those who survived the Blip as they have age better as well as be more mature. It’s a new reality that some of Parker’s classmates such as Ned (Jacob Batalon), MJ (Zendaya), Betty (Angourie Rice), and Flash (Tony Revolori) are dealing with as Parker’s attempts to woo MJ is being challenged by another classmate in Brad Davis (Remy Hii).
The first act isn’t just about this new reality and Parker’s trip to Europe but also the overwhelming expectation of taking on the mantle as the new Iron Man as Parker isn’t sure if he wants to follow in Tony Stark’s footsteps. Upon arriving in Venice, Italy after blocking phone calls from Nick Fury, Parker finally meets with Fury after an incident involving a water Elemental where Parker would also meet Mysterio. The script does play into Parker’s resistance to help out as well as Fury’s increasing paranoia over what is happening while Beck acts as a mediator of the two while helping Parker dealing with growing pains. Beck is a fascinating figure as someone who has these mysterious powers to fly while wearing a fishbowl helmet to help unleash his powers against the Elementals. There is also some intrigue about Beck during the second act in why he’s so powerful as he and Parker work with each other during a mission in Prague as it would also involve a few of Parker’s classmates including MJ who would make a major discovery about the Elementals. The film’s second half doesn’t just play into some revelations over what MJ found but also a pair of glasses called E.D.I.T.H. (voice of Dawn Michelle King) Parker would inherit from Tony Stark that reveals a lot of information including some insight about the Elementals. The script doesn’t just play up the stakes of what Parker is facing but also so much more that would alter his own reality.
Jon Watts’ direction does have some elements of style but much of its compositions and setting are grounded in reality and remains straightforward. Shot on various locations in Prague, London, Berlin, Croatia, and parts of New York City and Newark, New Jersey, the film does showcase Spider-Man being part of a world that is bigger where Watts allows Parker to feel overwhelmed by his surroundings as he just wants to be the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man from Queens New York. The new surroundings that Parker encounters does allow him to find new ways to face off foes as well as save people as he is aware of his role but the monumental power of the Elementals isn’t enough for him to save people which is why Beck is there to help him. Watts’ direction has a looseness in terms of what Parker and his friends are doing in Europe including some moments of humor that includes a subplot of Ned and Betty being a couple as well as one of the chaperones in Julius Dell (J.B. Smoove) believing that all of these Elementals appearing are from some source of witchcraft.
Watts’ usage of wide and medium shots manage to get great coverage of the locations and its sense of geography of where the Elementals would pop up but there are also some close-ups and moments that is more about characters interacting as well as developing relationships such as the one between Parker and MJ. The film’s third act with its grand set pieces and revelations about who is the mastermind of the Elementals as well as that person’s motivations does add a lot of intrigue as well as these moments that are thrilling and exciting. Even as it add to the stakes of what Parker is facing as well as what he would have to endure in the aftermath as it play into what is to come for Parker and other allies along with a few twists of those Parker would encounter. The film also has Watts relying on past films that add to the dramatic revelations in the third act as it all play into Parker trying to live up to someone’s legacy when he just needs to be himself. Overall, Watts craft an exhilarating and evocative film about a young superhero dealing with mysterious forces as well as expectations to be the next big superhero.
Cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward to play into the different colors of the cities that the characters go to including some of the neon lights at night for the carnival at Prague. Editors Dan Lebental and Leigh Folsom-Boyd do excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some stylish cuts for the action including moments where let shots linger on to establish what is happening. Production designer Claude Pare`, with supervising art directors Grant Armstrong and Jann K. Engel plus set decorators Tina Jones and Delia Picirilli, does amazing work with the look of some of the places the characters go to including the dilapidated hotel in Venice, the opera house in Prague, and a few other places in and around Europe. Costume designer Anna B. Sheppard does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with the exception of Mysterio’s costume and the variation of Spider-Man’s suits.
Hair/makeup designer Peter Swords King does fantastic work with the look of Beck as well as the new beard that Happy Hogan has. Special effects supervisors Roy K. Cancino, Pasquale Catalano, and Andy Williams, with visual effects supervisor Janek Sirrs, do incredible work with the film’s visual and special effects with the design of Mysterio when he’s flying as well as the Elementals and a sequence that play into the idea of reality and fantasy. Sound designers Chris Diebold, Andy Sisul, and Steven Ticknor, with co-sound editor/re-recording mixer Tony Lamberti, do superb work with the sound as it play into the effects of how the Elementals sound as well as some gadgets and how music is presented on a location or at the carnival in Prague. The film’s music by Michael Giacchino is great as it features some flourishing orchestral themes and some somber pieces as it help play into the drama and sense of adventure Parker would endure while music supervisor Dave Jordan creates a fun music soundtrack that feature an array of music from Whitney Houston, Umberto Tozzi, the Go-Gos, the Jam, the Specials, Caterina Valente with Werner Muller and his Orchestra, Mina, Marcela Laiferova, Flipbois, the Matadors, AC/DC, and the Ramones.
The casting by Sarah Finn, Jina Jay, and Maya Kvetny is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Numan Acar and model Toni Garrn as a couple of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, the quintet of Zach Barack, Zoha Rahman, Yasmin Mwanza, Joshua Sinclair-Evans, and Tyler Luke Cunningham as classmates of Parker’s who are part of the European trip, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Betty’s fellow school newscaster Jason Ionello, Peter Billingsley as a former Stark tech employee in William Ginter Riva, Dawn Michelle King as the voice of the A.I. glasses tech E.D.I.T.H., and Remy Hii as Parker’s rival for MJ’s affections in Brad Davis as a kid who survived the Blip to go from nerd to hunk as he would endure some funny moments. Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove are terrific in their respective roles as the school chaperones in the academic decathlon teacher Mr. Harrington and Mr. Dell as the former is baffled by the upgrades he received while the latter believes these events are from some form of witchcraft.
Tony Revolori and Angourie Rice are superb in their respective roles as Flash Thompson and Betty Brant as two of Parker’s classmates as the former is hilarious in his attempts to film everything for his vlog while the latter finds herself in a European romance with Ned that provides some sweet and funny moments. Jacob Batalon is fantastic as Ned as Parker’s best friend who finds himself in a romance with Betty while being one of the few to know Parker’s true identity as Spider-Man. Marisa Tomei and Cobie Smulders are excellent in their respective roles as Aunt May Parker and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill as the former is helping others who were killed by the Blip and later revived find new homes while the latter helps out Fury with the growing threat as well as be a voice of reason.
Jon Favreau is brilliant as Happy Hogan as Tony Stark’s bodyguard/Parker’s aide who watches over him as he understands what Parker is dealing with while he has a funny subplot as it relates to a possible relationship with Aunt May. Zendaya is amazing as Michelle “MJ” Jones as Parker’s classmate who is often filled with sarcasm and witty humor which is a disguise of sorts for her own shyness while being someone who gets to know Parker as well as make key discoveries over the Elementals and where they come from. Samuel L. Jackson is marvelous as Nick Fury as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. who is asking for Parker’s help as other members of the Avengers and fellow allies are unavailable as he is asking a lot from Parker while also acting more paranoid than usual.
Jake Gyllenhaal is incredible as Quentin Beck/Mysterio as this man from an alternate version of Earth who is battling the Elementals as he has powers but is also trying to help Parker with growing pains as there’s also many layers to what Gyllenhaal brings to the character that makes him a total standout in the film. Finally, there’s Tom Holland in a remarkable performance as Peter Parker/Spider-Man as someone that is trying to retain his youth and wanting a break from being a superhero as he copes with not just loss and responsibility but also the need to be someone he’s not as Holland brings that grounded realism to the performance but also a youthful exuberance that is Peter Parker and showcase who Spider-Man really is as someone that understands his role and what he needs to be for himself.
Spider-Man: Far from Home is a sensational film from Jon Watts that features top-notch performances from Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, and Zendaya. Along with its ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, amazing visual effects, a soaring music score, a fun music soundtrack, and a story about expectations and responsibility. The film isn’t just another winning entry in the Spider-Man story but it also serves as a fitting touchstone for the Infinity Saga storyline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as set up for new adventures to come. Even as the film manages to be a lot of things but also so much more than just a typical superhero film but also a film about growing pains and responsibility. In the end, Spider-Man: Far from Home is an incredible film from Jon Watts.
Jon Watts Films: (Clown (2014 film)) – Cop Car
Spider-Man Films: Spider-Man - Spider-Man 2 - Spider-Man 3 - The Amazing Spider-Man - The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse
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 - Avengers: Endgame
Post-Infinity Saga: Phase Four: (Black Widow (2020 film)) – (Eternals (2020 film)) – (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) – (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) – (Thor: Love and Thunder)
© thevoid99 2019