Friday, July 31, 2020

Films That I Saw: July 2020

It’s been a fucked up year so far yet things are starting to get normal in other places around the world as South Korea and Japan are having events but with a small capacity while there was a picture at a rugby game in New Zealand where the stadium is packed. Countries in Europe are on the verge of re-opening and trying to get things back to normal. Yet, there’s other places such as India that is struggling while they’re in a conflict with China that could be troubling. Brazil has become a really fucked up place due to the fact that their leader is a fucking idiot. Then there’s the U.S. and for a country that is supposed to be the greatest country in the world. How come there’s more than 4.5 million cases with a death toll of over 150,000 people? Here in Georgia, we have more than 178,000 cases with a death toll of more than 3,600 people while Florida has become the big hot spot with more than 450,000 cases and a death toll of more than 24,000.

I’m not entirely surprised by the amount of stupidity that is happening in this country as I found out that the 80s glam metal band Great White who were known for killing a bunch of people because of their stupid pyro at a nightclub in Rhode Island back in 2003 did a show in North Dakota where no one was six-feet apart from one another and not wearing masks. Nice job assholes. I also read recently that Twenty One Pilots did a show in the Hamptons with a bunch of people in a similar situation and the governor of New York Andrew Cuomo was pissed that an event like that was allowed to happen. Fortunately, some businesses chose to do the right thing as a favorite local Mexican restaurant that my mother and I like to go to had re-opened weeks ago but closed again as they only do take-out. Going to Publix and other stories while wearing masks for us just seemed like the right thing to do and anyone not wearing a mask should fuck off.

It’s just so stressful to see that this country has gone to the shitter as protestors are now being assaulted by federal forces as if they’re the Gestapo and now there’s voter suppression happening including here in Georgia which isn’t surprising. Our governor is a fucking idiot and is now fighting with the mayor of Atlanta. It’s just another typical thing happening as my mother and I haven’t gone out much though I admit that the pandemic has stifled my joy of watching films as I would watch things and maybe not finish or get bored. I want to go out and see a movie in the theaters but that’s not likely to happen until sometime next year or longer if things get worse.

In the month of July 2020, I saw a total of 38 films in 20 first-timers and 18 re-watches with one first-timer directed by a woman as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. This is actually surprising considering that I didn’t do a lot of writing as the big highlight of the month is my Blind Spot choice in The Grapes of Wrath. Here are my top 10 first-timers that I saw for July 2020:

1. John Wick: Chapter 3-Parabellum

2. Forty Guns

3. Blindspotting

4. Hardcore

5. The Crimson Kimono

6. Long Shot

7. House of Bamboo

8. Showbiz Kids

9. The Fall

10. Ball of Bees #1

Monthly Mini-Reviews

The Adventures of Alan R.

One of a slew of shorts by David Lynch that premiered on his YouTube channel David Lynch Theater that also include daily weather reports that are a joy to watch. This 90-second animated short is about the thoughts and desires of a severed head. It is a fun little piece as it is proof that Lynch has used his time in this pandemic to be creative.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

This film is a lot of fun as even though it’s not original nor is it trying to be. It is still a hilarious comedy about two Icelandic musicians/singers trying to compete to be in Eurovision. Will Ferrell in recent years hasn’t been in a lot of good film since they tend to play into his man-child shtick but this film does manage to restrain him a bit. Dan Stevens is hilarious as the Russian singer while Pierce Brosnan and Demi Lovato are hilarious in their small roles. Yet, the film belongs to Rachel McAdams who is just a joy to watch as not only does she get to be funny that includes scenes involving elves but also be the heart of the film as she should definitely be in consideration for a Best Actress Oscar nod as well as another nomination for the song Ja Ja Ding-Dong.

Always for Pleasure

A documentary short by Les Blank about Mardi Gras in the late 1970s in New Orleans is this vibrant film that explores the culture of that city and what Mardi Gras means. It also showcases all sorts of traditions as well as a look into the people at the neighborhood. The short also features how crawfish is cooked and how to properly eat a crawfish as it’s a film that people need to seek out from the late, great Les Blank.

Jumanji: The Next Level

This was actually better than I thought it would be as well as the fact that it’s just a fun and exciting film. Notably as it did more with some of the characters as it play into ideas of existentialism as the four kids from the previous films go back but with a couple of more people in Danny Devito and Danny Glover who would both end up in the game being different versions of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, respectively. Johnson and Hart do show that they have range while Jack Black and Karen Gillan also manage to showcase their comedic range while the newest addition in Awkwafina is also a joy to watch as a game-playing character who is a thief. It’s not perfect but still entertaining while it also sets up for what might happen in the next film which I will go for.

I Have a Radio

The second short film from David Lynch is really just a music video for one of his songs as it is an animated short of two people dancing to the song as it is one of the strangest shorts that Lynch has created. It really plays into his eccentric mind but it’s also one that is full of wit proving that the man is indeed an artist.

Charlie’s Angels

I admit that I never got into the TV series nor the horrendous film versions by McG as it was all flash and no substance that tried to be funny and everything but it was just dull. This reboot however is a major surprise and it’s a shame that it didn’t do well at the box office as I would’ve been on board for the sequel as long as it’s being directed by Elizabeth Banks who did an amazing job. Banks appears in the film in a supporting role as a version of Bosley while Kristen Stewart and Ella Balinska play two of the Angels with Naomi Scott as a new recruit as they deal with a new mysterious force. Under Banks’ vision, the film feels like it isn’t trying to take itself seriously but also put a new feminist spin on it without being too overtly feminist with Stewart, Balinska, and Scott really putting out some incredible work in the lead roles.

How Was Your Day Honey?

Originally a 20-second animated short film that is later expanded into a two minute loop of a man floating around asking a simple question is definitely an offbeat short from David Lynch that is all about the simplicities of life.

Ball of Bees #1

If David Lynch decides to spend the remaining years of his life making shorts about nature, then it’s a noble way to go out as this short is a lot of fun. All it is the exploration of a ball of bees and what they do in absolute extreme close-ups. It doesn’t have any narration as Lynch just let the bees do the talking themselves as the title suggest that there might be a sequel.

The Fall

From Jonathan Glazer is a short film he made last year that is a stop-gap of sorts for whatever new film he is planning to do as this short is quite disturbing. It revolves around a group of masked individuals going after one of their own over something and then hang him as it is really about what happens during the hanging. It is visually-stunning but also chilling as it is proof that Glazer is one of the best filmmakers working today.

The Prodigy: World’s on Fire

A concert DVD from 2011/2012 from the famed electronic group the Prodigy at a show live at the Milton Keyes Bowl in Britain is a showcase of why they were not just one of the great electronic acts ever but also a live act that had to be seen. Shown on their own YouTube page for a brief period of time, it is a concert film that is wild and full of excitement and energy with Liam Howlett in control of the music with a guitarist and a drummer to add extra power to the songs while vocalist Maxim Reality and the late, great Keith Flint just kick ass and get the audience going.

Showbiz Kids

From HBO and filmmaker Alex Winter of Bill and Ted fame comes a really sobering documentary film about child stardom and its many ups and downs. Featuring interviews with Evan Rachel Wood, Henry Thomas, Jada Pinkett Smith, Milla Jovovich, Wil Wheaton, Mara Wilson, Todd Bridges, and Cameron Boyce in one of his final interviews before his shocking death last year at the age of 20. The film does have these actors talk about a lot of things they dealt with but also reveal that not everything was great as Wood admitted to be more of a tomboy in her teens while discovering her own sexuality while Jovovich also talked about having to be more adult in her look when she just wanted to be a kid. Wilson talked about why she left the business as the film also reveals the path of two young child actors trying to make it. It is a sobering documentary as it is good to know that some of these people have managed to be well-adjusted adults while it is tragic that Boyce died so young at a time when he was about to emerge into adulthood but also be a nice person in a push and horrific industry.

The Spider and the Bee

The last short from David Lynch he released this month has him going Werner Herzog in its depiction on the cruelties of Mother Nature. It shows what happens when a bee is stuck in a dusty cob web and encounters a spider. It is an intense battle of survival as it is shown in just a simple static shot that doesn’t require any editing while it features some impromptu score music by longtime Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti. Once again, David Lynch delivers. Top 10 Re-Watches

1. Coco (a favorite of Mateo's)

2. Room

3. The Shining

4. Natural Born Killers

5. School of Rock (Mateo loves this film!)

6. Hellboy II: The Golden Army

7. The Lion King

8. An American Werewolf in London

9. Animal House

10. Rudy (Dad's favorite film)

Well, that is it for July. I do plan on finishing Da 5 Bloods while I also hope to watch some films by Kelly Reichardt in the hopes to re-start my Auteurs piece on her as I’m putting my MCU project on hold for the time being. Other than that, there’s films on my never-ending DVR list that includes several releases from the A24 studio that I’ve been wanting to see as well as films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Pedro Almodovar, Jacques Demy, and whatever is on HBO, Showtime, and Starz. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off and please, wash your hands and wear masks. Let’s be safe.

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks: TV Series Based on Movies

In the 31st week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the world of TV by showcasing shows that are based on films as it’s become a thing as of late with shows based on movies and so on. Here are my three picks:

1. Spartacus

From 2010 to 2013 on Starz is a TV series that is more of a violent and sexually-driven take than the 1960 film by Stanley Kubrick. Instead, it’s about the titular character who is taken into slavery and becomes a gladiator only to lead a rebellion. For four seasons, it was an intense show that had lots of gratuitous sex and violence for all of the right reasons with characters that you get to know and care about. Even the women get to be involved in some killing with Lucy Lawless appearing in three seasons as the wife of a master. Andy Whitfield played the titular role in the first season but sadly died of cancer leading a prequel-season made focused on the character of Gannicus played by Dustin Clare. Liam McIntyre would replace Whitfield in the third season as he and Gannicus would become allies to fight against the Romans as it’s just an incredible show where it really finally came together in its third season.

2. Westworld

While the third season of the series based on the Michael Crichton novel and the 1973 film is a mixed bag, it is still a fascinating TV show that played into people wanting to create a fantasy world with androids being used as objects of fantasy or violence. Yet, it is the androids that start to rebel and create chaos. The first two seasons are incredible as it play into these androids trying to get a control of the world though the third season started to lose me despite the incredible performances from its main cast in Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, and Tessa Thompson.

3. Cobra Kai

A show created for YouTube Red by the trio of Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg that is based on The Karate Kid film series. It is an impressive show that is about the film’s antagonist John Lawrence trying to redeem himself and rebuild his old dojo by teaching socially-outcast kids not just to stand up for themselves but also become better people and in the process, Lawrence becomes a better person. While his old rival Daniel LaRusso isn’t happy about Cobra Kai’s return, he does realize that Lawrence isn’t a bad guy as the second season has the return of Lawrence’s old sensei John Kreese where things definitely get intense for both Cobra Kai and the rival Miyagi-Do karate with both LaRusso and Lawrence feeling guilty over what happened and Kreese being the one to stir the pot. It is a great show with a third season coming on Netflix as it might bring the return of Elisabeth Shue as LaRusso and Lawrence’s former flame Allie.

© thevoid99 2020

Monday, July 27, 2020


Directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada and written and co-starring Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, Blindspotting is the story of a parolee with three days left of his sentence as his freedom is suddenly threatened when he witnesses a police shooting. The film is an exploration of a man who is trying to stay out of trouble as he finds himself witnessing something he shouldn’t have seen. Also starring Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cepha Jones, Ethan Embry, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Wayne Knight. Blindspotting is an offbeat yet compelling film from Carlos Lopez Estrada.

Set in Oakland, the film revolves around a young man who is three days away from finishing up his probation sentence as he had witnessed a police shooting as he spends the next three days trying to stay out of trouble despite the presence of his reckless best friend. It’s a film that plays into a few days in the life of an African-American man who went to prison after assaulting someone outside a bar as he was in prison for 2 months and spent a year living in a halfway house as probation as he’s just 3 days away from finishing his sentence. Then one night as he’s returning to the halfway house, he witnesses a policeman chasing a young African-American and shoots him as it leads to not just terror but also paranoia leaving him uneasy for the next two days of his sentence. The film's screenplay by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal doesn’t just explore a friendship between this African-American felon and his reckless white friend but also how this incident involving a police shooting would threaten their friendship.

Collin Hoskins (Daveed Diggs) is trying his best to stay out of trouble while working as a mover with his best friend Miles Turner (Rafael Casal) who has a wife and child but still likes to do reckless activities including purchasing a handgun. Hoskins is also trying to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend/boss Val (Janina Gavankar) who believes that Turner is becoming erratic not just because of his wild behavior but also in the growing gentrification of Oakland with more upper-middle class people emerging that includes changing the ingredients of his favorite fast food burger. Yet, Hoskins becomes more uneasy as he has bad dreams and hallucinations about what he had seen as the days of his probation ending starts to get him unsure.

Carlos Lopez Estrada’s direction does have elements of style yet also captures some realism as it relates to this growing gentrification of Oakland as it is shot on location in the city to showcase a loss of identity and changing times. Estrada does use a lot of wide and medium shots to establish the location as well as in some of the conversations in the latter where Estrada also showcase this ever-changing world where two men are struggling to hold on to their own identity but also deal with an incident that one of them had seen as he is wondering if he’s next to die in the hands of the police. Estrada also uses some close-ups to play into a few moments in the conversations as well as these moments that play up this growing tension that would agitate Turner such as a party held by a hipster where an African-American guest accost Turner for acting black unaware that Turner is who he is because he’s been living in the inner city for many years as the confrontation becomes violent. Estrada also play into Hoskins’ own guilt and fear as it would be unveiled in some strange and surreal dream sequences and hallucinations that include a daily routine of Hoskins as he wakes up at 6:25 AM, jogs into the same cemetery street, and then go to work.

Estrada does employ some humor in the way Turner tries to make some extra money but also in the way he reacts towards gentrification and some of the people Turner and Hoskins meet whose things they have to bring for the move. There is also this darkly-comic scene as it relates to how Hoskins got in trouble as it’s told by someone who recognized Hoskins from that incident as it is told in a humorous offbeat manner. Yet, it is a reminder of what Hoskins is dealing with as the film’s climax does relate to the incident he saw as the composition of the shooting is unique as the victim is shown from the perspective of the moving van’s side mirror with Hoskins on the driver seat seeing everything including the officer who shot this man. It also play into not just what Hoskins had been dealing with in the past few days but also an aftermath where he could mistreated unfairly by the police with Turner starting to get a dose of reality of what his best friend is facing with. Overall, Estrada crafts a riveting and evocative film about a man’s probation sentence coming to an end as he deals with a troubling police shooting he witnessed and his best friend’s erratic behavior.

Cinematographer Robby Baumgartner does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it does have some style in the way some of the interiors and exteriors at night are lit including a few bars and a car of one of the friends of Turner and Hoskins while a lot of the daytime scenes are straightforward. Editor Gabriel Fleming does terrific work with the editing as it does have some element of style in the rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and humor as well as its usage of montages. Production designer Tom Hammock, with set decorator Alex Brandenburg and art director Susan Alegria, does fantastic work with the look of some of the places Hoskins and Turner go to as well as the home of the latter and the bodega they often go to every morning. Costume designer Emily Batson does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with the exception of some of the more stylish clothing from the hipsters that Hoskins and Turner encounter.

Special effects supervisor Matt Heron and visual effects supervisor Takashi Takeoka do amazing work with some of the visual effects as it relates to the incident that got Hoskins arrested as well as bits of set-dressing in some parts of the city. Sound editor Andy Hay and sound designer Jeffrey A. Pitts do superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations including a few parties as well as some of the sound effects that occur in Hoskins’ nightmares. The film’s music by Michael Yezerski creates a brilliant music soundtrack that largely consists of hip-hop inspired beats and electronic textures while music supervisor Jonathan McHugh create a soundtrack that play into the world that is Oakland that largely consists of hip-hop music from Mac Dre, Moe Green, Damey, Clyde Carson featuring the Team, J. Stalin, Kehlani, Max Schneider, Maxwell D, Mistah F.A.B., the Federation, Jenneh Bell, Thompson Davin Do D.A.T., Krazy Bone, D-Lo, and Fantastic Negrito along with pieces by Tower of Power, Anthony Hamilton, and Giuseppe Verdi.

The casting by Kimberly Hardin and Nina Henninger is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Wayne Knight as an art photographer, Tisha Campbell-Martin as a salon owner who is suspicious of what Turner is selling, Leland Orser as the judge at the film’s opening scene, Justin Chu Cary as a guy picking up something at the moving building, Ziggy Baitinger as Turner’s son Sean, Travis Parker as the young man shot down by the police, and Utkarsh Ambudkar as a moving customer who had witnessed Hoskins beating up someone outside a bar as he tells it in a comical manner. Ethan Embry is superb as the police officer who shot the young man during a chase as he brings a chilling presence in his brief appearance that would include the film’s climax.

Jasmine Cepha Jones is fantastic as Turner’s wife Ashley as a young woman who is trying to be a good mom despite putting up with her husband’s antics as she has a great scene that involves a handgun that Turner bought as it play into how reckless Turner is. Janina Gavankar is excellent as Val as Hoskins’ former girlfriend/boss who is reluctant to reconnect with him due to Turner whom she feels is going to get him in serious trouble while is hoping that Hoskins gets out of probation. Rafael Casal is brilliant as Miles Turner as a white man trying to do his job and provide for his family yet becomes uneasy by this growing gentrification of his town as he acts out while trying to make money despite the fact that he can be irresponsible at times though he does have some morals. Finally, there’s Daveed Diggs in an amazing performance as Collin Hoskins as a man trying to finish his probation sentence as he becomes troubled by a police shooting he witnessed as well as events in his past and his best friend’s erratic behavior as it is an understated performance that also has moments of rage and anger that showcase Diggs at his finest.

Blindspotting is a phenomenal film from Carlos Lopez Estrada that features two great performances from its writers Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. Along with its supporting cast, its study of racial identity in the inner city, its look on gentrification, a cool music soundtrack, and gorgeous visuals. It’s a film that explores a man trying to finish his probation as he copes with uncertainty in the inner city about himself but also his best friend who often puts him and himself into trouble amidst the gentrification of their home. In the end, Blindspotting is an incredible film from Carlos Lopez Estrada.

© thevoid99 2020

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Forty Guns

Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, Forty Guns is the story of a rancher with 40 men as her posse as her rule of a county is Arizona is threatened by the arrival of a new marshal whom she falls for despite the fact that he’s hunting for one of her men. The film is a western that play into a conflict that might occur as a woman is torn for the man she’s battling against and protecting one of her own. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, Gene Barry, Dean Jagger, and John Ericson. Forty Guns is a riveting and rich film from Samuel Fuller.

The arrival of three brothers at a small county in Arizona brings some order following a series of incidents by a posse of 40 men who all work for a woman rancher as she is someone with power but would fall for the eldest brother who becomes the town’s lead marshal. It’s a film that play into this era of the Wild West that comes to an end largely as there’s a man working for the Attorney General’s office in the state of Arizona who arrives to bring some needed order but also allow this rancher to maintain some control due to the unruly actions of her younger brother. Samuel Fuller’s screenplay is largely straightforward in its narrative while exploring two people who are both at major transitions in their life. For the rancher Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck), she has all of the power to rule this small town and its county yet becomes uneased by the actions of some of the people in her 40-man posse including her brother Brockie (John Ericson) who has brought chaos and destruction to the small town of Tombstone.

The arrival of Griff Bonell (Barry Sullivan) would be a challenge to Brockie as their first confrontation would have Griff beat up Brockie but have him return home as a way to not escalate the conflict despite the fact that one of Drummond’s men in Howard Swain (Chuck Roberson) has been charged for mail robbery prompting Tombstone’s sheriff Ned Logan (Dean Jagger) to handle the situation and create more trouble. Yet, Bonell would get to know Drummond as an encounter with a tornado would bring them closer that only furthers the tension between Bonell and Drummond’s posse who sees him as a threat to their lifestyle.

Fuller’s direction is immense in its presentation as it is shot on location at various deserts in Arizona to play into the look of the Wild West that is dominated by this woman and her posse of 40 men as they can do whatever they want but haven’t made anyone’s life any easier including its leader. Fuller uses the wide and medium shots to get a scope of the locations as well as these long tracking-dolly shots that goes on for more than a minute in scenes where Bonell is talking to someone whether it’s his brother Wes (Gene Barry) or some of the people at the town. There are also some unique compositions that do play into the growing relationship between Drummond and Bonell as Fuller’s usage of close-ups and medium shots help add to the intimacy while taking great advantage of some of the interior locations to get a scope that includes an intense conversation involving Sheriff Logan, Drummond, and Bonell with Bonell being the subject of the discussion. It also play into some of the drama as it relates to Drummond’s conflict about her future as well as the fact that her own empire is crumbling.

Fuller also play into this air of disobedience as it relates to Sheriff Logan, Brockie, and a few others who feel threatened by Bonell yet some are aware of Bonell’s past as a gunslinger as his first confrontation with Brockie would be more of a battle of wits than skill. Fuller also displays some unique imagery as it relates to some stylish compositions such as the blurry vision of the previous marshal John Chisholm (Hank Worden) as well as other bits that help play into the chaos that is happening early in the film. Fuller also plays into the suspense as it relates to Bonell being a target as Fuller uses certain locations in the town as well as point-of-view shots of what might happen. The film’s climax is about a town trying to reclaim some order but also deal with the problem at hand with Bonell having to do what he feels is necessary for himself and for Drummond. Overall, Fuller crafts a majestic yet riveting film about a woman landowner/rancher falling for the new marshal as she copes the unruliness of her posse.

Cinematographer Joseph Biroc does incredible work with the film’s black-and-white photography in the Cinemascope film stock with its usage of natural light and shadows for scenes in the day as well as some unique lighting for some of the interior scenes set at night. Editor Gene Fowler Jr. does brilliant work with the editing in the way it allow shots to linger for more than a minute while using rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and drama. Art director John Mansbridge, with set decorators Walter M. Scott and Chester Bayhi, does amazing work with the look of the Drummond estate in its interior setting as well as the shack on her land and the town that Bonell watches out for.

Costume designers Charles LeMaire and Leah Rhodes do fantastic work with the clothes from the suits that Bonell and his brothers wear as marshals to the gowns and black clothing that Drummond wears. The special effects of Norman Breedlove does terrific work with some of the film’s minimal effects such as the point-of-view shots of Chisholm in his deteriorating eyesight to the tornado sequence in the film. Sound editor Bert Schoenfeld does superb work with the sound as it help play into the atmosphere of the film including the sounds of gunfire and other objects that play into the suspense. The film’s music by Harry Sukman is excellent for its score that has elements of somber string orchestral pieces as well as some country-western inspired music with a song co-written by Sukman with lyricist Harold Adamson in High Ridin’ Woman and another Adamson composition with Victor Young in God Has His Arm Around Me as they’re both sung by Jidge Carroll.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast features notable small roles and appearances from Sandra Wirth as a beautiful woman eyeing the youngest Bonell brother Chico, Gerald Milton as the arms seller Shotgun Spanger, Eve Brent as Spanger’s daughter Louvenia whom Wes falls for, Chuck Roberson as a member of Drummond’s posse in Swain, Chuck Hayward as a posse member in the skilled gunfighter Charlie Savage, Hank Worden as the visually-impaired marshal John Chisum, Ziva Rodann as Brockie’s girlfriend Rio, Paul Dubov as the local judge Macy, Neyle Morrow as Sheriff Logan’s lackey Wiley, and Jidge Carroll as the bathhouse owner Barney Cashman who is often friendly towards Bonell. Robert Dix is terrific as the youngest Bonell brother in Chico as a young man who is eager to help his brothers despite not being strong enough to drink yet finds a way to show his worth to his brothers.

Gene Barry is fantastic as the middle Bonell brother Wes as a man who is skilled with a rifle as he also thinks about wanting a decent life upon falling for Louvenia Spanger. John Ericson is excellent as Drummond’s younger brother Brockie as a bully and a drunk who thinks he can do whatever he wants yet finds himself being the source of all of the trouble as he is someone who doesn’t understand his limits or what he’s doing to his sister’s rule. Dean Jagger is brilliant as Sheriff Ned Logan as a man who is reluctant to work with Bonell as he’s more loyal to Drummond and her posse as he sees Bonell as a threat to Drummond’s power prompting him to try and help Brockie.

Barry Sullivan is amazing as Griff Bonell as the eldest of the three brothers and a former gunslinger who wants to maintain law and order in the small town of Tombstone as he also deals with his past and feelings for Drummond. Finally, there’s Barbara Stanwyck in a phenomenal performance as Jessica Drummond as a landowner/rancher with a 40-man posse as she deals with not just the unruliness among those in her posse as well as changing times while she starts to fall for Bonell as it is one of her most radiant performances of her illustrious career.

Forty Guns is a tremendous film from Samuel Fuller that features incredible performances from Barbara Stanwyck and Barry Sullivan. Along with its supporting ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, themes of authority and disorder, and a majestic music soundtrack. It’s a western that carries a lot of its tropes but also with some exploration of gender roles as well as a man and woman trying to maintain some order and balance in the Wild West. In the end, Forty Guns is a spectacular film from Samuel Fuller.

Samuel Fuller Films: I Shot Jesse James - The Baron of Arizona - The Steel Helmet - Fixed Bayonets! - Park Row - Pickup on South Street - (Hell and High Water) – House of Bamboo - (China Gate) - Run of the Arrow - Verboten! - The Crimson Kimono - Underworld U.S.A. - Merrill's Marauders - Shock Corridor - The Naked Kiss - (Shark!) - (Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street) – The Big Red One - White Dog - (Thieves After Dark) - (Street of No Return) - (The Madonna and the Dragon)

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks: Secret Doorways/Worlds

In the 30th week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of secret doorways/worlds as it involves characters going into the world of fantasy and such that is unique. It’s often a popular idea in the world of fantasy films as it help play into a world that is sort of removed from reality. Here are my three picks:

1. The Phantom Tollbooth

From 1970 in a film that mixed live-action and animation which was ahead of its time is this story of a bored boy who is given a present and it’s a tollbooth as he enters into a hand-drawn animated world. It’s an unusual film yet it is an imaginative one that has this boy meet all of these creatures and such while learning the value of imagination.

2. Labyrinth

From Jim Henson and screenwriter Terry Jones of Monty Python fame is a beloved 80s fantasy film about a teenage girl who wishes to be rid of her infant half-brother only for the wish to come true and not in a good way. The girl would enter this labyrinth to reclaim her brother while meeting all sorts of creatures and Jareth, the Goblin King portrayed by the legendary David Bowie. It’s an incredibly rich film with lots of amazing puppets, gorgeous art direction, a spellbinding performance from Jennifer Connelly, and songs by Bowie.

3. The Secret Garden

Agnieszka Holland’s 1993 adaptation of the film is probably one of the most underrated films of the 1990s as well as a children’s film that needs to be seen more for children. Shot by Roger Deakins and featuring Maggie Smith as Mrs. Medlock, it is this rich film about a young girl who finds a mysterious garden that is full of beauty and wonder. There, she takes her sickly spoiled cousin and another boy to the garden as it brings a new sense of hope and understanding as it’s a film that audiences need to see more.

© thevoid99 2020

Sunday, July 19, 2020

2020 Blind Spot Series: The Grapes of Wrath

Based on the novel by John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath is the story of a family who deal with the loss of their farm during the Great Depression as they move to California to become migrant workers as they deal with the new reality of their lives. Directed by John Ford and screenplay by Nunnally Johnson, the film is an exploration of a family dealing with a loss that is bigger than themselves as they struggle to adapt to their new reality as they also learn they’re not alone in what had been lost. Starring Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Dorris Bowdon, John Qualen, and Eddie Quillan. The Grapes of Wrath is a haunting yet majestic film from John Ford.

The film revolves around a farming family who had lost their land due to the circumstances of the Great Depression as they move from their home in Oklahoma to California to become migrant workers as they deal with not just the harsh reality of their situation but also the fact in how mistreated they are as well as many others who are going through similar situations. It’s a film that follows this family as they deal with not just losing their land that they lived for many years but also trying to start a new life that has little to offer as they’re forced to go on the road. Nunnally Johnson’s screenplay is largely straightforward as it is told largely through the perspective of Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) as a man who had just been paroled from prison after a four-year stint for killing a man in a fight as he returns to his family home to realize it had been abandoned with his parents living at his uncle’s home with the rest of the family. The first act is about the Joad family and Tom’s discovery of what is happening as old family friend Muley Graves (John Qualen) reveals what happened to him as his family had already left for California and why the Joad family has decided to move to California.

The trip from Oklahoma to California would be one of loss, revelation, and adversity as the Joad family would also learn that a lot of people as far as Arkansas have been making the journey to California and have suffered the same trials and tribulations the Joad had endured. Joining the Joad in this road trip is the former preacher Jim Casy (John Carradine) who would have his own revelations of his own in what he sees as it relates to the injustices migrant workers have to face such as wages being decreased and not having a lot of say in what they can do. There are also these moments where there are characters who have to do things they’re not proud of for money as it play into Tom’s own awareness of what is happening as he would go into his own revelations in the film’s third act upon the moment he and his family would go to work camps as it is more about the quality of life and the needs of those who want to work and have a good life.

John Ford’s direction doesn’t aim for anything glossy nor wanting to romanticize the period of the Great Depression as he just goes full-tilt into the harshness of the Dust Bowl and life in the American Midwest and in California during these tough times. Shot on various locations in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and California and on the legendary Route 66 which is a major character in the film. Ford uses the wide shots to get a scope of these locations but also in this idea that California is this land of promise though Grandma Joad (Zeffie Tilbury) has a different opinion. Ford also play into this optimism that is carried in the film but it does get replaced with an air of cynicism until he finds a balance between the two as it would play into Tom’s development. Even as he is someone that already has a criminal record and can be short-tempered who is trying to maintain control but starts to seethe in rage over the injustices that is happening around him.

Ford’s usage of the medium shots and close-ups also play into a lot of the drama including a conversation with a former migrant worker who left California as he reveals what the Joads would face as the reality of their surroundings and these camps are in terrible condition. Ford would often have scenes on the road as well as a shot of the Joads driving through these camps as it has this stark tone that feels real as opposed to something extravagant that would expected in a Hollywood film. The direction also has Ford play into this idea of communism but it’s only briefly hinted as it is more about Tom and what he sees as well as the need for not wanting any more trouble. Still, he can’t un-see all of the injustice he suffers as the film does have bleak elements but Ford provides these touching moments that are defiant in the human spirit. Overall, Ford crafts a visceral yet rapturous film about a farming family moving to California to find a new life during the Great Depression.

Cinematographer Greg Toland does incredible work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it play into this stark naturalism of some of the scenes in the camps as well as its usage of available and low-key light as well as shadows for some of the interior/exterior scenes set at night as it is a major highlight of the film. Editor Robert L. Simpson does amazing work with the editing as it is largely straightforward yet it allows shots to play into some of the drama and suspense while maintaining a rhythm to help heighten up some intense moments. Art directors Richard Day and Mark-Lee Kirk, with set decorator Thomas Little, do brilliant work with the look of the camps as well as the homes of the Joad as well as the agriculture camp in the third act

Costume designer Gwen Wakeling does fantastic work with the costumes as it play into the ragged look of the characters as well as a refined look for some of the people in authority. The sound work of Roger Heman Sr., Edmund H. Hansen, and George Leverett do superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as sounds of trains and gunfire as it help play into the suspense. The film’s music by Alfred Newman is terrific for its usage of folk-inspired instruments as much of the score is based on the traditional song Red River Valley with the accordion and harmonium as the basis for the score while its music soundtrack largely consists of folk songs of the time with consultation from the folk music legend Woody Guthrie.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast as it feature some notable small roles from Ward Bond as a policeman, Selmer Jackson as an inspection officer, Joseph Sawyer as a ranch foreman, John Arledge as a young man who drives a caterpillar tractor to destroy Graves’ home because he needs the money, Daryl Hickman and Shirley Mills in their respective roles as the young Joad children in Winfield and Ruthie, Frank Darien as Uncle John Joad, Frank Sully as John’s son Noah, Zeffie Tilbury and Charley Grapewin in their respective roles as Grandma and Grandpa Joad, Eddie Quillan as Rose’s husband Connie, and O.Z. Whitehead as Tom’s younger brother Al. John Qualen is superb as family neighbor Muley Graves as a man who had lost his home and had been hiding at the old Joad home as he deals with what he lost and why he has no interest in going to California. Russell Simpson is superb as Pa Joad as a man who is filled with hope and optimism about going to California as he is forced to deal with reality while trying to maintain some hope for everyone else in the family.

Dorris Bowdon is fantastic as Rose of Sharon as Tom’s cousin who is hoping to start a new life as she struggles with her pregnancy but also hopelessness. John Carradine is brilliant as Jim Casy as a former preacher who joins the Joads on the road as he does what he can to help them while also coming to terms with the many injustices he sees in his journey. Jane Darwell is phenomenal as Ma Joad as Tom’s mother who tries to comprehend everything that is happening around her while being this glue to the family as well as a moral compass as there’s a radiance to her performance that includes the film’s final monologue as it just this touching yet powerful moment in the film. Finally, there’s Henry Fonda in a tremendous performance as Tom Joad as a man who had just been paroled as he tries to stay away from trouble as well as help his family any way he can while dealing with a lot of the prejudice and injustice that he sees as he feels compelled to wanting to do something not for himself but for those who are suffering as it is an iconic performance from Fonda.

The Grapes of Wrath is a magnificent film from John Ford that features great performances from Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, and John Carradine. Along with its supporting ensemble cast, Greg Toland’s ravishing cinematography, emphasis on realism, and its study of inhumanity during the Great Depression. It is a film that explore a period in time when people are trying to find work and survive only to realize that they’re not alone in this endless cycle of movement and having to find work while realizing that they have the power to make their own decisions during those dark times. In the end, The Grapes of Wrath is an outstanding film by John Ford.

© thevoid99 2020

Friday, July 17, 2020

Long Shot (2019 film)

Directed by Jonathan Levine and screenplay by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah from a story by Sterling, Long Shot is the story of a journalist who accompanies his former babysitter who is now the U.S. Secretary of State as she is mulling a possible run for the U.S. presidency. The film is an offbeat romantic-comedy where a journalist rekindles his friendship with his former babysitter as they also deal with their own feelings for one another just as she is about to step into the spotlight. Starring Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, Alexander Skarsgard, O’Shea Jackson Jr., June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, and Andy Serkis. Long Shot is a witty and heartfelt film from Jonathan Levine.

The film revolves around a controversial yet unemployed journalist who attends a fundraiser where he meets his former babysitter, now U.S. Secretary of State, as they reconnect as he accompanies her on a world tour to push an environmental initiative that she hopes would mean something as she is also thinking about running for the U.S. presidency. It’s a film that has an idealistic journalist who just lost his job after the company he works for had been bought by a media conglomerate as he helps this U.S. government official trying to get many countries to go on board this environmental initiative that she hopes would help the world. The film’s screenplay by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah explore these two people who knew each other as teens as they’re both at crucial points in their lives where they want to accomplish something but also have to deal with compromises.

For the journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), he doesn’t believe in compromise as he lives to expose hypocrisies and such where he is first seen infiltrating a white supremacist group. Then he loses his job when he refuses to compromise and work for the immoral media mogul Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis) who buys the publication Flarsky works for. Flarsky’s former babysitter in Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) is someone trying to make things happen and other duties expected in her job as she learns that U.S. President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk) is not seeking re-election as the former TV actor wants to go into films. Upon meeting Flarsky at a fundraiser whom she remembered as a teenager, she decides to hire him as her speechwriter despite the advice of her chief of staff Maggie (June Diane Raphael) who thinks that Flarsky is a slob. Yet, Flarsky would inspire Field to push her initiative as well as loosen up a bit while Flarsky learns that life is full of compromises and be less judgmental just as the two are to reach a crucial point in their lives.

Jonathan Levine’s direction is largely straightforward as it play into this whirlwind journey of two people who knew each other as teens as well as to try and do some good in the world. Shot largely in Montreal and Cartagena, Colombia with some shots in New York City, Levine doesn’t go for a lot of style in order to tell this simple story while also playing into some of the things that Flarsky would do as a journalist starting with his infiltration at a white supremacist group. While there are some wide and medium shots to establish some of the locations, Levine does create some unique compositions as it play into some of the humor such as Flarsky being humiliated in wearing a traditional Swedish suit suggested by Maggie as he is outside of a palace smoking a cigarette and not feeling happy. There are also moments that are stylized such as a terrorist attack that also plays for laughs including a scene of Field, high on the influence of drugs, negotiating with a world leader over the release of a hostage.

Levine also does some satire as it relates to the Wembley character as he also runs a fake news channel similar to Fox News as he is someone that would play a key role in trying to influence Field in its third act. It play into this dark world of politics as it does go into conventional territory but also some character-revelatory moments for both Field and Flarsky. The latter of which has often been clouded by his own morals and idealism as he has to realize what Field had to do to not just succeed but also to make serious changes for the world. Levine does manage to play with the conventions but also find ways to create a resolution that allow both Field and Flarsky to find a common ground to be together on all-levels without compromising their own beliefs and feelings for one another. Overall, Levine crafts a funny yet endearing film about an unemployed journalist who reconnects with his former babysitter as she deals with possibility of becoming the next U.S. president.

Cinematographer Yves Belanger does excellent work with the cinematography as its usage of low-key lighting for some of the scenes at night give the film a unique tone in its look while being straightforward for the daytime interior/exterior scenes. Editors Melissa Bretherton and Evan Henke do terrific work with the editing as it has a few stylish moments in a montage sequence and a slow-motion part of the film as much of it is straightforward. Production designer Kalina Ivanov, with set decorator Manon Lemay plus art directors Sharon Davis, Donna Noonan, and Zoe Sakellaropoulo, does fantastic work with the look of some of the places that Flarsky and Field stay at around the world as well as Flarsky’s messy apartment and Field’s clean home. Costume designer Mary E. Vogt does nice work with the clothes that the characters wear including some of casual look of Field when she goes out clubbing with Flarsky.

Special effects makeup artists Bruno Gatien and Jonathan Lavallee do amazing work with the look of the Wembley character in the way he looks like certain political figures in the conservative world. Special effects supervisor Mario Dumont and visual effects supervisor Dan Schrecker do brilliant work with the terrorist attack sequence as well as some bits of set dressing for some of the locations. Sound designer Ando Johnson and sound editor Branden Spencer do superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as quiet moments in the film that add to some of low-key comical moments that occur in the film. The film’s music by Marco Beltrami and Miles Hankins is wonderful for its usage of strings and electronics to play into some of the humor and drama while music supervisor Gabe Hilfer creates a fun soundtrack that features music from Boyz II Men, the Cure, Roxette, Thunderfist, Sonny Rollins, DMX, Cameo, Blondie, Big Thief, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Ocean, Robyn, the Crystals, Aretha Franklin, Big Boi with Troze, and the Tango Project.

The film’s marvelous ensemble cast feature some notable small roles and cameo appearances from Boyz II Men as themselves, Lisa Kudrow as a polling expert, Lil’ Yachty as himself, Randall Park as Flarsky’s boss early in the film, the trio of Kurt Braunohler, Paul Scheer, and Claudia O’Doherty as Wembley News reporters, Ivan Smith as the Indian prime minister who has issues with the U.S., Aviva Mongillo as the young Charlotte, Braxton Herda as the young Fred, Tristan D. Lalla as Field’s bodyguard Agent M who is among the first to witness Flarsky and Field’s romance, Ravi Patel as one of Field’s key staffer in Tom who is close to Field as he also serves as a mediator between her and Flarsky, and Alexander Skarsgard in a hilarious performance as Canadian prime minister James Steward whom Field is romantically-linked to despite the fact they don’t have any chemistry as Skarsgard plays him for laughs while sporting an incredibly bad Canadian accent.

Bob Odenkirk is terrific as the U.S. President Chambers as a former TV star who played the President on TV as he decides to go into movies yet becomes troubled by Field’s initiative as it threatens his own career prospects. Andy Serkis is fantastic as Parker Wembley as this media mogul who likes to push his own ultra-conservative views to the point that he buys Flarsky’s publication and gets him fired while trying to do whatever he can to stop Field and her initiative. O’Shea Jackson Jr. is excellent as Flarsky’s friend Lance as someone who is trying to help but also give him advice while bringing some revelations about himself that would surprise Flarsky and his own faults. June Diane Raphael is brilliant as Maggie Millikins as Field’s right-hand woman who doesn’t like Flarsky much but does realize his value as she sees how it would inspire Field prompting her to be more concerned for Field’s happiness than ambition.

Finally, there’s the duo of Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Fred Flarsky and Charlotte Field. Rogen brings a laid-back approach to his character but also someone who is an idealist that doesn’t like to compromise and wants to do good things but is often unhappy until he reconnects with Field as he begins to think about a future that isn’t cynical. Theron brings a realism to her character as someone that is hoping to do something that matters but often has to compromise to get what she wants until reconnecting with Flarsky gets her to loosen up and not be compromised. Rogen and Theron do have this chemistry that is endearing but also allow both of them to be funny as well as having Rogen be straight and Theron being the funny one during a scene she’s high on drugs as she’s negotiating with a foreign minister.

Long Shot is an incredible film from Jonathan Levine that features two great performances from Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron. Along with its supporting cast, offbeat take on the romantic-comedy genre, and its exploration of politics and compromising one’s ideals. It is a film that manages to bring in lots of laughs but also a lot of heart and wit that have audiences be engaged by characters wanting to make the world a better place. In the end, Long Shot is a remarkable film from Jonathan Levine.

Jonathan Levine Films: (All the Boys Love Mandy Lane) – (The Wackness) – 50/50 - Warm Bodies - The Night Before (2015 film) - (Snatched)

© thevoid99 2020