Saturday, October 31, 2020

Films That I Saw: October 2020

 

Two more months left in this horrific year and I wish it would end right now. It’s bad enough that Eddie Van Halen died of cancer as he was one of my first idols growing up in the age of MTV (when it played music). Now this fucking election between two old farts I could care less about as everyone is saying “vote for this guy” or “vote for that guy”. Having been through two awful experiences in 2000 and 2016, not only have I made the decision to not vote again and sit out for good. I realize that the two party system is a fucking joke. It’s really just choosing two evils and why would I want to vote for the lesser of the two? Especially in light of the fact that more than 220,000 have already died here in America with this pandemic. I have people from my mother’s family to say not vote for Joe Biden because he would make the country a communist state. I’m like “are you fucking serious?” This shit is giving me a headache already as it just makes me want this year to fucking end.

In the year of October 2020, I saw a total of 16 films in 11 first-timers and 5 re-watches with one first-timer being a film directed by a woman as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Underwhelming though this is expected when you’re dealing with an 18-month old nephew who is already drawing things around the house and keeps pulling my DVD copy of Apocalypse Now and throw it on the ground. The highlight of the month for me is my Blind Spot pick in Phantom of the Paradise. Here are my top five first-timers that I saw for October 2020: 

 1. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons

2. Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell
3. The Invisible Man
4. Ready or Not
5. Creature from the Black Lagoon
Monthly Mini-Reviews

South Park: The Pandemic Special
I’ve been a fan of the show since it first aired on Comedy Central back in the fall of 1997 and I’ve seen every episode but I will admit the last few seasons have been a mixed bag. At times, there’s some funny episodes but other times. Their approach to satire has been underwhelming. The last season was definitely the weakest as I began to get tired of the Randy Marsh character. I liked him in small doses but him being front and center made me not enjoy the show as this special relating to his stupid weed sale and the fact that he might’ve caused the pandemic all because he fucked some animal in China is just fucking stupid. I don’t know if it will lead to a new season though I really wish they get rid of the satire, a lot of the discussions of political correctness, and other things as it’s just not the same show that I loved back in the 90s and 2000s.

Oasis: Return to Rockfield



The 29-minute documentary short film about the making of Oasis’ landmark sophomore album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? in celebration of its 25th anniversary that has the band’s songwriter Noel Gallagher return to the studio where the album is made. Featuring interviews with Gallagher as well as those who worked on the album, the film showcases the process of making the record as the contributions from the band members at the time with Gallagher having praise for them including his estranged younger brother in vocalist Liam. It’s something fans of the band need to see while Gallagher talks about the album’s legacy as well as the fallacy of critical acclaim in which he admits to not giving a fuck about what they had to say.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
From Marina Zanovich is this documentary about the life of Robin Williams who remains one of the most beloved entertainers that ever lived. Featuring interviews with those that knew him including comedians Billy Crystal, Bobcat Goldwait, Whoopi Goldberg, and many others. The film does show a man who just made people laugh and smile any way he could but underneath that lively personality was a man in pain. Even as it features commentary from his first ex-wife, kids, and sibling as they all reveal the struggles he had with addiction and sobriety while he would also cope with depression later in his life that sadly lead to his suicide in 2014. It is an entertaining but also somber film about a man who made everyone bring joy but was unable to do that for himself.

537 Votes

From HBO Films and in perfect timing considering what Americans are going through right now is this documentary film about the disaster that was the 2000 U.S. presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore which I remembered as that was the first time I voted and well, that was a shit show. Yet, the documentary is more about Florida including Miami-Dade County and how it fucked everything up for everyone as it all relates to those 537 votes between Bush and Gore. It also play into the events prior such as the Elian Gonzalez incident and how it was used as a political tool for the Republicans that was supported by the Cuban-American community in which they made their then-mayor look more spineless than he was. It is at times entertaining but also shocking in what happens with some of the people who worked for the Bush campaign admitting to what they did but I at least appreciated their honesty unlike Roger Stone who appears in the film as he’s so full of shit that even those who worked in the Republican party admit they don’t like him and know he’s full of shit.

Top 5 Re-Watches 

 1. Blue Velvet

2. Somewhere
3. The Others
4. The Waterboy
5. Spider-Man 3
Well, that is it for October. Coming next month will be a return to normal film-watching with an anything goes approach that include films from my never-ending DVR list. I’m also going to catch up on some 2020 releases for films like On the Rocks, First Cow, and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm though I remain unsure if I’m going to get back on track on working on my Auteurs piece for Kelly Reichardt as I think it’s likely I’ll push it to early next year. Along with my Blind Spot choice, I will make an announcement for the films that will be part of the 2021 Blind Spot Series as I’m close to making a final decision.
On a final note, I’m sure many heard the news on the passing of Sean Connery at the age of 90. This one hurts just as much as anything as for anyone that watched the James Bond film series know how big of a deal he was. I would say he’s my favorite James Bond though it changes all the time but he was my dad’s favorite James Bond. He loved that film series more than anything and it saddens me that he would never see No Time to Die in person as it’s a film that my mother and I hope to see in the theaters when it’s safe again. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off and god speed 007…

© thevoid99 2020

Friday, October 30, 2020

Creature from the Black Lagoon

 

Directed by Jack Arnold and screenplay by Harry Essex and Arthur Ross from a story by Maurice Zimm and an idea from producer William Alland, Creature from the Black Lagoon is the story of a scientific expedition where scientists find and encounter a mysterious prehistoric creature only for things to go wrong when the creature breaks free. The film is a monster horror film that involves this titular creature who lurks in a lagoon in the Amazon as he goes after those who threaten him. Starring Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno, Nestor Paiva, Whit Bissell, Ben Chapman, and Ricou Browning. Creature from the Black Lagoon is a thrilling and adventurous film from Jack Arnold.

Set in the Amazon River in South America, the film revolves around a group of scientists who trek through the Amazon where they would encounter a prehistoric creature that is lurking on the river and is attacking them. It’s a film with a simple premise where a geologist finds a fossil shaped like hand as he returns to a marine biology institute as he returns to his camp to find two of his assistants killed leading to this exploration through the Amazon. The film’s screenplay by Harry Essex and Arthur Ross is straightforward as it revolve around these group of scientists and divers who go to the Amazon to find some fossils to get an understanding of the world they live but this big humanoid monster called Gill-man (Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning) who would attack as well as gaze upon those whom he would encounter and later attack. Even as these scientists make some chilling discoveries as well as how to go against this monster.

Jack Arnold’s direction is largely straightforward in terms of its presentation as it is shot mainly on Universal City, California with the underwater scenes that is directed by James Curtis Havens shot at Rice Creek near Palatka, Florida. There are some wide shots of the locations that include a recreation of the Amazon River with some stock footage to help create the look yet Arnold maintains this air of suspense into what these people are facing. Havens’ work in the underwater sequences have this air of beauty of life underwater but there is this dread whenever Gill-man appears as he swims and sees a couple of divers but also has interest in the lone woman in the group in Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams).

Arnold’s usage of close-ups and medium shots add to the suspense in the way characters interact with the monster as Arnold creates that sense of intrigue as well as tension between Kay’s boyfriend in ichthyologist Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson) and his boss Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning). While the film does have some creative suspense, it usually has the native assistants who aren’t white that are usually the ones killed off first as that is the one aspect of the film that is dated. The film’s climax that involves the Gill-man play into not just his home in the lagoon but also survival for Dr. Reed, Kay, and their entourage as the mixture of suspense and action come into play. Even as it forces the scientists to do some thinking in how to trap and kill the creature who has been causing them trouble. Overall, Arnold crafts a riveting and exhilarating film about a mysterious creature confronting scientists in his lagoon.

Cinematographer William E. Snyder does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography with the usage of low-key lighting for some of the scenes at night including shadows for the cave scenes where Gill-man lives in. Editor Ted J. Kent does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play up the suspense. Art directors Hilyard M. Brown and Bernard Herzbrun, with set decorators Russell A. Gausman and Ray Jeffers, do fantastic work with the look of the boat that the scientists live in as well as the look of the marine biology institute. Makeup designer Milicent Patrick does incredible work with some of the design of Gill-man as the way it looked and the design of the costume itself is a major highlight of the film.

The sound work of Leslie I. Carey and Joe Lapis do terrific work with the sound in the way the spear-gun sounds underwater as well as the sounds of the Gill-man. The film’s music by Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, and Herman Stein is wonderful for its soaring orchestral score as it help play into the suspense and adventure including themes that play into the presence of Gill-man.

The film’s superb cast feature some notable small roles from Henry Escalante and Bernie Gozier as a couple of Dr. Maia’s assistants, Whit Bissel as the scientist Dr. Edwin Thompson, and the duo of Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning as Gill-man with the former doing much of the work on land and the latter performing much of the action underwater. Nestor Paiva is fantastic as the boat captain Lucas as a man who knows the area but is also aware of the legend as he tends to be the smartest person on the boat. Antonio Moreno is excellent as Dr. Carl Maia as the man who finds the fossil and brings everyone to his findings while trying to make sense of the monster that is attacking them.

Richard Denning is brilliant as Dr. Mark Williams as the man financing the whole expedition as well as someone who wants to kill the monster but also do things that risks the lives of everyone. Julie Adams is amazing as Kay Lawrence as Dr. Reed’s girlfriend who joins in the expedition to help everyone while unknowingly becomes the center of attention for Gill-man. Finally, there’s Richard Carlson in a marvelous performance as Dr. David Reed as an ichthyologist who wants to gather samples but becomes aware of the dangers as he tries to help everyone he can in spite of the issues he has with Dr. Williams.

Creature from the Black Lagoon is an incredible film from Jack Arnold. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a simple yet effective premise, a mesmerizing music score, and an unforgettable titular character that would be a key figure in horror. It’s a monster movie that does create an air of intrigue but also knows what it is and doesn’t try to be anything else. In the end, Creature from the Black Lagoon is a phenomenal film from Jack Arnold.

© thevoid99 2020

Sunday, October 25, 2020

2020 Blind Spot Series: Phantom of the Paradise

 

Written and directed by Brian de Palma, Phantom of the Paradise is the story of a disfigured composer whose music he had written had been stolen by a record producer for his own palace prompting the composer to take on a new identity in an act of revenge. The film is a genre-bending film that mixes horror, comedy, suspense, and the musical where a musician who is trying to win over the woman he’s in love with his music suddenly finds his creation be taken away for someone else’s gain. Starring Paul Williams, William Finley, and Jessica Harper. Phantom of the Paradise is a stylish and exhilarating film from Brian de Palma.

The film revolves around a music composer whose music he wrote was stolen by a producer as an incident left the composer’s face disfigured where he creates a new identity but also makes an uneasy deal with the producer to get his music made while they fight over a woman who wants to become a singing star. It’s a film that is inspired by all sorts material such as Phantom of the Opera, Faust, and The Picture of Dorian Grey but set in a world where a music is eager to latch on to anything and create his rock n’ roll palace where he would get all the talent of the world and make money off of them. The film’s screenplay by Brian de Palma, that features uncredited contributions from Louisa Rose, is largely straightforward as it play into this musician named Winslow Leach (William Finley) who plays at this club during an intermission as he catches the attention of the music producer known as Swan (Paul Williams).

Swan believes that Leach has the right music for his new music palace as he gets his right-hand man Arnold Philbin (George Memmoli) to steal Leach’s music while Leach’s attempts to reach Swan fail as he is sent to prison for a false drug possession charge where Leach breaks out of prison after a rendition of one of his songs being played. During the chase, he becomes disfigured where he adopts a new identity as he’s discovered by Swan who offers him a deal that would become troubling. It all play into these elements of deals with the devil but also the stakes as Leach is someone who just wants to create music but Swan is the one who can bring it to everyone while there is also something mysterious about who Swan is.

The film’s direction by de Palma definitely evokes a lot of style as a lot of it is shot largely on location in New York City while it plays into this world of music and clubs where people go out and see what is considered cool. The film has de Palma create this world that is outlandish as it represents a world of nostalgia, decadence, and wondrous as if it’s a fantasy for anyone that wants to be a star in the world of music. The usage of wide shots add to the scope of this world that Swan has created yet much of de Palma’s compositions emphasizes on close-ups and medium shots as it play into the conversations between Leach and Swan as well as in some of the film’s musical performances. With the help of choreographer Peter Elbling, the performances has this air of camp as it play into Swan’s vision and his take on Leach’s music as it is presented in different styles ranging from 1950s doo-wop rock, 1960s surf music, and the glam rock of the 1970s. It also play into this world that allows Swan to thrive as it adds intrigue into what kind of deal Leach made with him. Even as a young singer named Phoenix (Jessica Harper) comes in as Leach has feelings for her but Swan wants something else for her leading to this lavish climax that relates to ambition and identity. Overall, de Palma crafts a majestic yet chilling film about a songwriter’s uneasy deal with a producer as he would later seek revenge on him.

Cinematographer Larry Pizer does excellent work with its usage of stylish lights for the performances as well as in the usage of low-key lights for some of the exterior/interior scenes at night. Editor Paul Hirsch does brilliant work with the editing as it has some stylish jump-cuts that help play into the humor and musical performances as well as montages that play into Leach and Swan at work. Production designer Jack Fisk does amazing work with the look of the sets including the sets for the stage performances that are lavish and over-the-top as it include some additional set dressing from Fisk’s wife in actress Sissy Spacek. Costume designer Rosanna Norton does fantastic work with the costumes from the look of Leach’s clothes when he becomes the Phantom as well as the lavish clothes of the musical performers including Phoenix and the clothes of Swan.

Makeup designers John Chambers and Thomas R. Burman do terrific work with the look of the disfigured Leach as well as some of the glam makeup for some of the musical performers. The special effects work of Greg Auer is wonderful for a few of the effects that play into some of the musical performances and presentation. The sound work of James M. Tanenbaum is superb for some of the sound effects as well as how instruments sound in a live setting as well as the sounds of crowds. The film’s music by Paul Williams is phenomenal as it is a major highlight of the film for its mixture of piano ballads, stylish rock songs, pop, and all sorts of songs as it help tells the story as Williams also does a lot of Leach’s own singing while music supervisors Michael Arciaga and Jules Chaikin help provide various people to sing those songs that include Raymond Louis Kennedy as the voice for the glam vocalist Beef.

The casting by Sylvia Fay, Geno Havens, and Peggy Taylor is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Rod Serling as the film’s unseen narrator in its opening minutes, Janus Blythe as a groupie, the trio of Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor, and Peter Elbling as a trio of vocalists who moonlight as a trio of acts in the 50s nostalgia act the Juicy Fruits, the surf-rock tribute band the Beach Bums, and a modern band in the Undead, Gerrit Graham as the glam-rock singer Beef who is Swan’s original choice until he is confronted by Leach, and George Memmoli as Swan’s right-hand man Arnold Philbin as a handler who looks like a 1950s greaser as he also manages some of Swan’s businesses. Jessica Harper is brilliant as Phoenix as a woman wanting to sing as she meets Leach at an audition as he believes she is the right singer where she would succeed but used as a tool for Swan to get what he wants.

Paul Williams is incredible as Swan as this mysterious producer who wants to create the ultimate music palace while maintaining this ambiguity about his importance as Williams brings this devilish charm to his role that is a joy to watch. Finally, there’s William Finley in an amazing performance as Winslow Leach and the titular character as a singer-songwriter wanting to create music that he believes has something to say only to go through obstacles and later become a disfigured artist who watches from afar as his music is played but also copes with the troubling deal he made with Swan.

Phantom of the Paradise is a spectacular film from Brian de Palma. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous set designs, dazzling visuals, and a rapturous music soundtrack from Paul Williams. The film is an outlandish yet whirlwind genre-bender that doesn’t play by the rules nor hide its influences to create a story set to the world of rock n’ roll. In the end, Phantom of the Paradise is a sensational film from Brian de Palma.

Brian de Palma Films: (Murder a la Mod) – (Greetings) – (The Wedding Party) – (Dionysus in ’69) – (Hi, Mom!) – (Get to Know Your Rabbit) – Sisters (1973 film) - (Obsession) – Carrie - The Fury - (Home Movies) – Dressed to Kill - Blow Out - Scarface - (Body Double) – (Wise Guys) – The Untouchables - Casualties of War - The Bonfire of the Vanities - Raising Cain - Carlito's Way - Mission: Impossible - Snake Eys - Mission to Mars - Femme Fatale - The Black Dahlia - (Redacted) – Passion (2012 film) - (Domino (2019 film))

© thevoid99 2020

Friday, October 23, 2020

The Invisible Man (2020 film)

 

Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man is the story of a woman who believes that her former abusive boyfriend has faked his suicide to become invisible as he stalks her prompting whether she’s crazy or something is really happening to her. Written for the screen and directed by Leigh Whannell, the film is a modern-day version of the Wells story that had been adapted several times for Universal Studios as they bring the character back but in a darker presentation. Starring Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen. The Invisible Man is a gripping and eerie film from Leigh Whannell.

The film follows a woman who escapes the clutches of her abusive boyfriend, who is an optics genius, as she learned that he killed himself only to suspect that he faked his death by becoming invisible and stalking her. It’s a film that has a simple premise that play more into a woman who had been a troubled and abusive relationship with this rich yet unstable optics inventor as she stays at the home of a longtime friend and his daughter to hide out. Leigh Whannell’s screenplay doesn’t just play into this woman attempting to start a new life but is disrupted by someone that she believes had faked his suicide and is trying to stalk her as well as go after those she care about. Even as those who care about her question her mental state as it play into the idea of whether this man is really there or is she really crazy though Whannell does reveal little by little that this man is stalking her after all.

Whannell’s direction has elements of style in its presentation while he does maintain something straightforward in terms of the compositions he creates. Shot largely on location in Sydney, Australia as San Francisco with additional shots in Toronto, Whannell play into this world where this man is rich and powerful but also narcissistic and controlling where his girlfriend Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) wants out. Whannell’s usage of wide shots don’t just play into the locations but also this idea that Cecilia is being watched by her former boyfriend in Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Whannell’s wide and medium shots doesn’t just allow the scope of the room but allows the camera to see from Adrian’s point of view as if he’s really stalking her. There are also shots that’s shown from Cecilia’s perspective as if she is aware of his presence as it adds to the intrigue and suspense.

Since the film is about an invisible man stalking his ex-girlfriend, Whannell does manage to maintain that illusion in the way his actors move on set as if they are being pulled by some invisible force. The usage of the wide and medium shots as well as shooting some of these moments in one entire take in a few long shots add to the suspense and terror where Whannell knows what to show and what not to show. Even as it would intensify in its third act during a sequence where Cecilia tries to trap Adrian and reveals what she had recently discovered. Even as its climax is filled with twists and turns yet it also play into how much Cecilia knows Adrian and what he can do to make her life a living hell. Even in trying to destroy the relationships with the people she care about as they’re involved in the climax as well as what Cecilia has to do with the stakes raised even more by Adrian’s actions. Overall, Whannell crafts a riveting and compelling film about a woman dealing with her ex-boyfriend who fakes his death to be invisible.

Cinematographer Stefan Duscio, with additional work from Daniel Grant, does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as its usage of low-key lighting for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night as it help maintain the eerie atmosphere of the film. Editor Andy Canny does excellent work with the editing as it does have some style in its approach to suspense but knows when not to cut in order to play into the horror as it relates to Adrian. Production designer Alex Holmes, with set decorators Katie Sharrock and Ken Sinclair plus art directors Darshankumar Joshi and Alice Lanagan, does fantastic work with the look of the home of one of Cecilia’s friend as well as the mansion that Adrian lived in. Costume designers Adam Johansen, Damian Martin, and Emily Seresin do fantastic work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward in some of the casual look of the cast with a few designer dresses that Cecilia wear yet it is the design of the invisible suit that is a highlight of the film.

Hair/makeup designer Angela Conte do terrific work with look of the characters as it is largely straightforward with the exception in some of the look of Adrian when he’s invisible whenever something drops on him. Special effects supervisor Dan Oliver and visual effects supervisor Jonathan Dearing do incredible work with the effects in the way the suit is presented at times as well as in some of the stunt work that occurs in the film. Sound editors Will Files and P.K. Hooker, along with co-sound designer Chris Terhune, do superb work with the sound as it help play with the atmosphere in some of the places that Cecilia goes including some sparse texture that add to eerie atmosphere of the film. The film’s music by Benjamin Wallfisch is marvelous for its mixture of low-key orchestral flourishes with some electronic pieces to help set the mood but also to appear when the time is right as it is a highlight of the film.

The casting by Nikki Barrett, Sarah Doemier Lindo, and Terri Taylor is wonderful as it features some notable small roles and appearances from Benedict Hardie as an architect interviewing Cecilia for a job, Anthony Brandon Wong as a man injured in a car accident, Nash Edgerton as a security guard, and Sam Smith as a detective interrogating Cecilia following a troubling event. Michael Dorman is superb as Adrian’s younger brother Tom as an attorney who handles his brother’s estate but is aware that Adrian is a control freak but also questions Cecilia about her mental state. Harriet Dyer is fantastic as Cecilia’s older sister Emily who is protective towards Cecilia but also begins to question her sister following some troubling emails. Storm Reid is fantastic as James’ teenage daughter Sydney as a young woman that Cecilia cares about and is willing to spend her inheritance for Sydney who also is aware that something isn’t right relating to who might be in the house.

Aldis Hodge is excellent as James Lanier as a longtime friend of Cecilia who lets her live in his home as he’s also a detective as he wonders about what is going and eventually realizes that Cecilia might be telling the truth about Adrian. Oliver Jackson-Cohen is brilliant in his brief role as Adrian Griffin as this unstable and controlling tech genius who is trying to keep Cecilia in his life though he maintains this ambiguity whether or not he is the invisible man. Finally, there’s Elisabeth Moss in a phenomenal performance as Cecilia Kass as a woman who is troubled by her relationship with Adrian as she tries to move on as she believes she is being stalked while is doing what she can to discover the truth where Moss brings that emotional anguish of a woman in a troubled relationship but also in the physicality in which she has to face him off in that invisible suit he possibly created.

The Invisible Man is an incredible film from Leigh Whannell that features a tremendous leading performance from Elisabeth Moss. Along with its ensemble cast, inventive approach to suspense, crafty visual effects, and its eerie in its direction. The film is definitely a rapturous take on the H.G. Wells novel but also adding new elements that gives the story a new edge. In the end, The Invisible Man is a sensational film from Leigh Whannell.

Related: The Invisible Man (1933 film)

Leigh Whannell Films: (Insidious Chapter 3) – Upgrade

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks (Halloween Edition): Holiday Horror

 

In the 43rd week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks as part of this month’s Halloween Edition. We go into the subject of holiday horror as it’s usually based on horror films set during the Christmas season but it also happens on other days. So here are my three picks:

1. Halloween
John Carpenter’s landmark horror film about a madman who escapes from a mental hospital who then terrorizes a bunch of people and kills a few along the way on Halloween. It is a true horror classic as it play into the idea of Halloween just being a big nightmare for a bunch of people as authorities try to capture the man that is Michael Myers while a young woman in Laurie Strode would end up being the ultimate final girl as she would await to meet-up with Myers all over again 40 years later in the definitive sequel to the original film.

2. Gremlins
Set during the Christmas holidays, the film is about an inventor who returns home and gives his son a mysterious pet where he has to follow three rules. Don’t pour water on, don’t feed him at midnight, and have him stay away from bright light and sun light. Unfortunately, someone else didn’t listen to those rules and a whole lot of shit goes on where a bunch of creatures come in and destroy the small town and terrorize a bunch of people. Yet, they’re not actually bad creatures. They like junk food, they want to have a good time. They like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Plus, they did the town a favor by killing off that old bitch Mrs. Deagle.

3. Knock Knock
Set during Father’s Day weekend, Eli Roth’s remake of an obscure late 70s thriller revolves around a guy who let in a couple of young women during a rainy night for some shelter while his family is away. Instead, they seduce him and all sorts of bad shit occur. Even as they ruin his life for the entire weekend and also rape him while one of them wears his daughter’s clothes. Keanu Reeves is great in the film as Lorenza Izzo yet the film’s real discover is Ana de Armas as one of the two women who just causes trouble as she’s just so fun to watch.

© thevoid99 2020

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Ready or Not


Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and written by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy, Ready or Not is the story of a newlywed bride whose wedding night ends up being a hunting game where she is being pursued by her new spouse’s family for a satanic ritual. The film is a horror-comedy where a young woman who is supposed to celebrate her nuptials as she forces to defend herself against her new family who are eager to kill her. Starring Samara Weaving, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, and Andie MacDowell. Ready or Not is a thrilling yet whimsical film from Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett.

The film revolves around the aftermath of a wedding ceremony where the bride meets with her new in-laws as they play a game of hide-and-seek where the bride realizes that she’s the target for a satanic ritual where their survival is at stake. It’s a film with a simple premise where a woman marries a man who hadn’t seen or been with his family for years but is forced to watch his new bride being chased by his family in this twisted game of hide and seek. The film’s screenplay by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy play into this ritual of this family that is famous for creating board games that has given them an empire. Yet, they made a deal with a mysterious figure named Le Bail as it play into people who would enter this family as the bride Grace (Samara Weaving) picks a mysterious card where the game she and her new family will play is hide and seek. What she didn’t expect that it would be a deadly game that the family had been waiting for to fulfill a debt to Le Bail.

The film’s direction by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett does have moments of style yet much of the film takes place in one entire location which is this family’s estate and is told in the span of more than 12 hours where much of it is set at night. Shot on location around areas near Toronto, the film does maintain this air of intrigue of what is at stake for this family as Grace tries to hide from her new family while her husband Alex (Mark O’Brien) does what he can to help her hide but he’s already in trouble due to him being away from the family for years. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett do have some unique compositions they create in terms of their approach to suspense and dark humor as there’s some wide shots to establish some of the locations and rooms inside the mansion while much of the direction emphasizes on close-ups and medium shots for reactions and conversations between characters.

The direction also this element of dark humor as it relates to the body count where there are maids and staff at the house who are killed comically often by Alex’s cocaine-addicted sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) while there’s a scene where her dim-witted husband Fitch (Kristian Bruun) is watching from his phone in learning how to use a crossbow. It’s among these quirks that keep the film going while also maintaining in what is at stake as well as the fact that there’s already discord among the family as Alex’s older brother Daniel (Adam Brody) would bump into Grace as he’s become jaded by what he has to do as it relates to the film’s opening scene that has him witnessing the same event when he was a kid. The film’s climax relates to the ceremony and Grace’s own discovery of what will happen to her as she knows she has to fight back but also realize that it’s all about the stakes for her new family and the role that she has to play. Overall, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett craft an exhilarating and whimsical film about a bride participating in a deadly game of hide-and-seek with her new family who are eager to kill her.

Cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it emphasizes largely on low-key lighting and candle-lights for many of the interior scenes in the mansion as well as the exterior scenes as the usage of stylish low-lighting and flash lights add to the film’s atmosphere. Editor Terel Gibson does excellent work with the editing as it has some style in its rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and dramas while keeping everything else straightforward. Production designer Andrew M. Stearn and set decorator Mike Leandro do amazing work with the look of the interiors of the rooms and hallways that play into this eerie and odd atmosphere that is the house. Costume designer Avery Plewes does fantastic work with the costumes with everyone wearing suits and glamourous dresses including the bridal gown that Grace wears.

Makeup artist Claudia Gedge and hair stylist Nathan Rival, along with prosthetics effects designer Steve Newburn, do superb work with the look of some of the bodies as well as the wounds that are shown throughout the film. Special effects supervisor Daniel Betti and visual effects supervisor Rickey Verma do terrific work with the effects in some of the action and stunt work with Verma providing a few touches for set-dressing and gore design. Sound designer Adam Stein does incredible work with the sound as it help play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as some of the sparse sounds inside the house. The film’s music by Brian Tyler is wonderful for its low-key orchestral score that help play into the suspense with heavy string arrangements as well as a few upbeat places for its darkly comic tone while its music soundtrack feature some classical music from Richard Wagner, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Ludwig Van Beethoven as well as offbeat pieces ranging from old standards to strange renditions of Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender.

The casting by John Buchan, Jason Knight, and Yesi Ramirez is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from the trio of Hanneke Talbot, Celine Tsai, and Daniela Barbosa as the maids who wear skinny black dresses, Andrew Anthony as a man killed early in the film, Liam McDonald and Ethan Tavares in their respective roles as Fitch and Emilie’s sons in Georgie and Gabe, John Ralston as the family’s opera-loving butler Stevens, Elana Dunkleman as the young Helene, Kate Ziegler as the young Becky, and Nicky Guadagni as Aunt Helene as the one family member that is eager to kill Grace as she wants to do the task to stay alive by any means necessary. Kristian Bruun is superb as Emilie’s dim-witted husband Fitch who is a bit reluctant to take part in the game but knows what is at stake. Melanie Scrofano is fantastic as Emilie as Daniel and Alex’s sister and Fitch’s wife who is addicted to cocaine as she tries to hunt Grace but often fails by killing someone else in a comical manner. Elyse Levesque is excellent as Daniel’s cold wife Charity who is eager to kill Grace as well as she is someone who really doesn’t give a shit as she just wants to live and be part of the family for money. Henry Czerny is brilliant as the family patriarch Tony Le Domas as the man who organizes the game as well as trying to ensure that everyone follows the rule for their own survival.

Andie MacDowell is amazing as Becky Le Domas as Tony’s wife who is aware of what is at stake though she is sympathetic to what Daniel and Alex are feeling as she does like Grace as there’s a warmth to her character but also a dark sense of humor that makes MacDowell a joy to watch. Mark O’Brien is remarkable as Alex as second eldest brother of the Le Domas family who marries Grace as he tries to protect her while is forced to deal with questions on why he left the family as his father claims that he to carry on the role since his brother is unlikely to do so. Adam Brody is incredible as Daniel as the eldest son as he is someone that is the most reluctant to take part in the game owing to trauma he encountered as a child while being the only other person to help Grace anyway he can. Finally, there’s Samara Weaving in a phenomenal performance as Grace as a new bride who takes part in a game of hide-and-seek unaware that she’s playing the role of a sacrificial lamb where Weaving brings a lot of wit to her role but also someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to survive as it is top-notch performance from her.

Ready or Not is an incredible film from Matt Bettenelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a witty premise, a nice mixture of laughs and terror, and an atmospheric yet eerie setting. The film is a horror-comedy that manages to make a simple game of hide-and-seek and turn into something deadly yet fun. In the end, Ready or Not is a phenomenal film from Matt Bettenelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett.

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks (Halloween Edition): Snow/Winter Horror

 

In the 42nd week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks as part of this month’s Halloween Edition. We go into the subject of winter/snow horror as it’s a simple subject of horror movies set in the snow or during the winter time. Here are my three picks:

1. Kwaidan
Masaki Kobayashi’s adaptation of folk tales by Lafcadio Hearn is a collection of ghost stories set in different periods in Japan. Kobayashi brings a rich presentation to these four different stories that include a man leaving his poor wife for a governor’s daughter, a woodcutter’s apprentice making a vow to a ghost who killed his master, a blind monk singing to ghosts about a great war, and the film’s narrator having an encounter with a samurai warrior and a ghost while writing these stories. It’s a film that more people need to see not just for its ghost stories but also because of Kobayashi who is known with such praise by film buffs but doesn’t get enough love in comparison to masters like Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu.

2. The Thing
John Carpenter’s horror film set in Antarctica that is based on John W. Campbell Jr.’s novella Who Goes There? is a film that remains probably one of the great horror films ever made. The setting itself is a character while it is all about this mysterious thing that arrives at this station that mutates and then kills everyone where no one knows who to trust. With an ensemble cast that includes Carpenter regulars Kurt Russell and Keith David as well as Wilford Brimley, the film is an intense and mysterious film where no one is sure who to trust and what to do. Especially as they have no idea what this mysterious thing really looks like.

3. Let the Right One In
Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of the John Ajvide Lindqvist novel about a young boy who meets a vampire in early 1980s Sweden is definitely one of the best horror films of the 21st Century so far. Yet, it’s really a love story of sorts between this boy and a young vampire who protects him from his bullies but also has to feed herself. It’s an unconventional vampire movie yet its setting in the winter adds to the visual splendor of the film as well as some of the attacks that occur where there is this air of satisfaction that is needed in the film. It’s a film that anyone who loves vampires need to see.

© thevoid99 2020

Monday, October 12, 2020

Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell

 

Based on the manga series by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell is the sixth and final film of the series that follows the titular father-son duo as they travel towards Hell as they endure new forces wanting to take them out for good. Directed by Yoshiyuki Kuroda and screenplay by Tsutomu Nakamura, the film marks the end of the film series where the duo of Ogami Itto and his son Daigoro travel through a deadly winter as they’re reprised respectively by Tomisaburo Wakayama and Akihiro Tomikawa. Also starring Junko Hitomi and Goro Mutsumi. Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell is a somber yet eerie film from Yoshiyuki Kuroda.

The film follows the duo of Ogami Itto and his son Daigoro as they’re known respectively as Lone Wolf and Cub as they continue their trek towards Hell while Lord Retsudo (Minoru Ohki) is eager to finish them off once and for all after a series of losses that forces him to take extreme measures. That is the film’s entire plot as it play into a father-son duo continuing their journey while taking assassination jobs to make a living yet they’re threatened by forces including a clan whose leader is revealed to be the illegitimate son of Lord Retsudo in Hyouei (Isao Kimura) who has other motives to go after Ogami. Even as he has an army of his own as well as a trio of men who are skilled killers who uses tricks and such to bring fear to Ogami and Daigoro as they become aware of the new challenge they have to face.

Yoshiyuki Kuroda’s direction is largely straightforward as it emphasize less on style and more on the visuals while retaining the film series’ approach to gratuitous violence. Shot on various locations in rural and snowy areas in North Japan, the film does play into a man and his son trekking through Japan where they even stop briefly to visit the grave of his late wife as they stop a failed ambush from a group of samurai warriors. There are also these elements of surrealism as it relates to Lord Retsudo’s meeting with Hyouei who had been living in the mountains in isolation except in building his own army and clan that include this trio of men who are known for their magic but also their uncompromising approach to killing the innocent as a way to haunt Ogami. The usage of the wide and medium shots not only are used to get a scope of the locations but also into what Ogami is facing with the latter being used to play into some of the duels he would take part including a battle with Lord Retsudo’s daughter Kaori (Junko Hitomi) as there’s a richness to the duels thanks in part to the work of fight choreographer Eiichi Kusumoto.

Kuroda would also use close-ups to play into some of the moments of dread and suspense that would become more prevalent in the third act as it relates to Lord Retsudo’s determination to kill Ogami. Most notably as he deals with failure and the fact that not everyone including Hyouei’s men are loyal to Lord Retsudo as they prefer to deal with Ogami on their own terms. The film’s climax is set in a snowy mountain where skis and sleds are used with Lord Retsudo having a cart-sled of his own as it is this grand and wild climax filled with lavish stunt work and fights. It is all about Lord Retsudo having his vengeance yet it is about Ogami also getting justice for his late wife. The choreography and action is intense as it play into Ogami facing off against an entire army while its aftermath is more about Ogami and Daigoro dealing with the carnage of what they had to face but also the journey they still have to continue. Especially as the film has this nice conclusion but it ends the entire series in an abrupt manner due to issues involving studio politics and the desire to create a TV series which did run from 1973 to 1976 in Japan. Overall, Kuroda crafts a riveting and gripping film about a father-son assassin duo facing off against new enemies led by their old foe.

Cinematographer Chikasi Makiura does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography in capturing the bright white colors of the snow with Hiroshi Mina providing some lighting including a key scene in the snowy mountain at night. Editor Toshio Taniguchi does excellent work with the editing as it has some stylish cuts including a few jump-cuts to play into the action and suspense. Production designer Akira Naito does amazing work with the design of the igloo that Ogami and Daigoro stayed in during the snowy mountain showdown as well as the cart and sled that Lord Retsudo would ride in. Costume designer Yasunao Inui does fantastic work with the look of the robes that some of the characters wear including the clothing of Hyouei and his men.

Makeup designers Hideo Yumoto and Toshio Tanaka do terrific work with the look of a few characters including Lord Retsudo and his new one-eyed look as well as the look of Hyouei with his big hair. The sound work of Tsuchitaro Hayashi, along with sound effects by Toru Kurashima, is superb for the atmosphere that is created for some of the action and suspense as well as the effects that play into the action. The film’s music by Kunihiko Murai is incredible for its mixture of funk, jazz, and traditional Japanese music with some orchestral touches as it help play into the drama and the action.

The film’s wonderful cast features some notable small roles from the trio of Daigo Kusano, Jiro Miyaguchi, and Renji Ishibashi as Hyouei’s three main assassins, Goro Mutsumi as Lord Retsudo’s aide who gives him news about everything, Junko Hitomi as Lord Retsudo’s daughter Kaori who is eager to avenge the death of her brothers and challenge Ogami, and Minoru Ohki as Lord Retsudo as the man who killed Ogami’s wife as he finds himself being challenged by what Ogami has done and is eager to kill him no matter what. Isao Kimura is incredible as Hyouei as Lord Retsudo’s illegitimate son who had been living in seclusion in the mountains where he created his own army and clan as he hopes to be the one to defeat Ogami while retaining an air of respect and honor as a way to carry something his father isn’t able to do.

Finally, there’s the duo of Tomisaburo Wakayama and Akihiro Tomikawa in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Ogami Itto and Daigoro. Tomikawa remains this somewhat silent presence as a kid who observes everything around him while would often be someone to lure others into a trap while he would show fear for the first time in the form of Hyouei’s assassins. Wakayama remains this stoic figure who will strike whenever he’s threatened as he too becomes fearful of Hyouei’s assassins due to their tricks and actions yet is determined to outsmart them anyway he can while dealing with the journey in hand as well as Lord Retsudo whom he knows is after him as he is willing to confront him.

Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell is a tremendous film from Yoshiyuki Kuroda. Featuring a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, a riveting music score, dazzling action sequences, and a simple yet effective story of vengeance. The film is an intense samurai film as it play into a man continuing his journey towards Hell with his son as they finally get into a confrontation with the man who wronged them. In the end, Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell is a spectacular film from Yoshiyuki Kuroda.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance - Baby Cart at the River Styx - Baby Cart to Hades - Baby Cart in Peril - Baby Cart in the Land of Demons

© thevoid99 2020

Saturday, October 10, 2020

It Chapter Two

 

Based on the novel by Stephen King, It Chapter Two is the sequel to the 2017 film that follows the seven kids who had confronted the mysterious clown back in 1989 as they reunite 27 years later to confront him again in the hope that they get rid of him. Directed by Andy Muschietti and screenplay by Gary Dauberman, the film follow these seven kids who return as adults as they deal with their own issues as adults as well as their own demons in the form of the clown known as Pennywise as he is once again played by Bill Skarsgard. Starring James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Xavier Dolan, Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff. It Chapter Two is a chilling though messy film from Andy Muschietti.

The film revolves around events in Derry, Maine where the group of seven kids, who confronted the clown Pennywise, known as the Losers have returned 27 years later following events involving mysterious murders in the town committed by Pennywise. It’s a film that has these adults not only fulfill an oath to return to Derry to defeat Pennywise once and for all but also to confront some demons. Gary Dauberman’s screenplay opens with the beating of a gay couple as one of them would be killed by Pennywise as it leads to Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs as a teenager/Isaiah Mustafa as an adult) to call the rest of the Losers. Dauberman’s script does a lot to establish the stakes and what the Losers must do but some of the execution and plot-pointing unfortunately leads to a messy narrative. Notably in a few flashbacks where some of the losers deal with moments from their past but also blur the idea of whether it’s a memory or a fantasy recreated as their younger selves. It gets confusing while some of the back story about Pennywise’s origins are confusing as well with Hanlon being the one to research everything in how to kill him once and for all.

Muschietti’s direction does have some style in its compositions and approach to suspense while also play into the idea of memory and nightmares. Shot on location at the Manitoba province in Canada with some of it shot in Toronto as Maine and New York City. Muschietti also dwell into the events that these characters have to cope with as he uses wide shots to get a scope of the locations including some of the nightmares they all have to deal with. The medium shots and close-ups that Muschietti uses to play into the interaction with the characters such as their reunion scene at a Chinese restaurant where it starts off fun but then becomes scary. This approach to wanting to be funny, dramatic, and serious is where the film does have tonal issues where Muschietti wants the film to be a lot of things but it never gets a balanced tone while there are other things in the film that never gets fully explained. Notably the character of Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton/Teach Grant) who is aided by the dead body of his friend Patrick (Owen Teague) as that is never fully explained.

Despite the messy elements in the film’s second act where it is bogged down by lots of exposition, Muschietti does manage to get things going for its third act with the climatic showdown between the Losers and Pennywise. It is a grand sequence that has a lot at stake but also forcing people to relieve their nightmares as well as confront their own guilt from the past as children. It is a sequence that has a lot going on while its aftermath does go a bit overlong at times though it’s quaint in comparison to some of the events in the second act. Overall, Muschietti crafts a riveting though flawed film about a group of adults who reunite to destroy a mysterious clown who terrorized them as kids 27 years ago.

Cinematographer Checco Varese does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of low-key lights for many of the interior/exterior scenes set at night to help maintain the eerie mood of the film. Editor Jason Ballantine does terrific work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few stylish cuts to play into the suspense and horror. Production designer Paul D. Austerberry, with set decorators Crystal North and Shane Vieau plus art director Nigel Churcher, does amazing work in not just the look of Derry but also the places the Losers go to as it play into their nightmares. Costume designer Luis Sequeira does fantastic work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with the Losers wearing casual clothing.

Hair designer Stephanie Ingram, along with makeup designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., does brilliant work with the look of a few of the adult characters as well as the look of Pennywise. Special effects supervisor Kristy Hollidge and visual effect supervisor Nicholas Brooks do superb work with the visual effects from the look of Pennywise in his different incarnations to the design of some of the demons the Losers face. Sound designers Erick Ocampo, Randy Torres, and Bill R. Dean, with sound editor Nancy Nugent, do incredible work with the sound as it help play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as sound effects to create some suspense. The film’s music by Benjamin Wallfisch is wonderful for its eerie orchestral score that helps build up some of the film’s suspense and drama while its music soundtrack features pieces from Juice Newton, Cameo, and New Kids on the Block.

The casting by Rich Delia is marvelous as it feature notable small roles and appearances from Stephen King as a pawn shop owner, filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich as himself, Jess Weixler as Bill’s actress wife Audra, Juno Rinaldi and Megan Charpentier in respective roles as the older and younger version of Gretta, Will Beinbrick as Bev’s abusive husband Tom Rogan, Martha Girvin as Stan’s wife Patty, Xavier Dolan and Taylor Frey as a gay couple who are attacked by a gang early in the film with the former being a victim of Pennywise, Molly Atkinson in a dual role as Eddie’s mother and his wife, Luke Roesseler as a young boy Bill encountered in the second act, Ryan Keira Armstrong as a young girl with a strange birthmark on her face, Owen Teague as the dead corpse of Bowers’ friend Patrick, Jackson Robert Scott as Bill’s late younger brother George, and Teach Grant and Nicholas Hamilton in their respective roles as the older and younger version of the bully Henry Bowers with the former being a total psychopath hell bent on revenge towards the Losers. Bill Skarsgard is fantastic as Pennywise as the clown who terrorizes kids though he is hampered by the fact that he’s underused and not much information about who he really is emerges.

Andy Bean and Wyatt Oleff are terrific in their respective roles as the older and younger version of Stan Uris as the former appears briefly as the adult version who is the one person who doesn’t return mainly because he has a plan that would help the Losers with the former being the nerdy Jewish kid who starts to find his own path. James Ransone and Jack Dylan Grazer are superb in their respective versions of the adult and younger version of Eddie Kaspbrak as hypochondriac who still has issues but also comes to terms that he must face Pennywise while also finding a sense of humor. Jay Ryan and Jeremy Ray Taylor are excellent in their respective roles as the adult and younger version of Ben Hanscom as the latter is the fat yet resourceful kid with a crush on Bev while the former is a fit adult who still pines for Bev despite his success as an architect as he is eager to fight Pennywise. Isaiah Mustafa and Chosen Jacobs are brilliant in their respective role as Mike Hanlon as the one person who stayed in Derry to study on Pennywise and how to defeat as he would bring everyone together while figuring out how it could be done.

Bill Hader and Finn Wolfhard are amazing in their respective versions of Richie Tozier with Hader being the comedian who is reluctant to return as he copes with his own issues while he’s still a foul-mouthed and witty person like Wolfhard’s role as the young Tozier. James McAvoy and Jaeden Martell are incredible in their respective versions as the older and younger Bill Denbrough as the former is now a successful author who still has creative issues as he is eager to stop Pennywise while dealing with other issues that he still has as the latter. Finally, there’s Jessica Chastain and Sophia Lillis in a phenomenal performances as their respective versions of the adult and younger version of Bev Marsh with the latter being in a troubled marriage as well as admitting that she has some strange visions that she attained as the former.

It Chapter Two is a stellar film from Andy Muschietti. Despite its messy script, 169-minute running time, and inconsistent tone, the film is still a fascinating horror film thanks in parts to its ensemble cast and study of fear. In the end, It Chapter Two is a fine film from Andy Muschietti.

It Chapter One

© thevoid99 2020

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks (Halloween Edition): Based on a True Story

 

In the 41st week of 2020 for Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks as a continuation of the Halloween Edition. We go into horror movies based on a true story as there are films that are based on real-life stories or based on legends. Here are my three picks:

1. Memories of Murder
From Bong Joon-ho is a film that for anyone who had followed his work might consider this to be his best film and it is truly the work of a filmmaker coming into his own. Especially as it is loosely based on a series of real life murders in South Korea from 1986 to 1991 as it revolves around two different detectives trying to uncover the mystery. It is a film that is rich in its approach to suspense as well as moments that are scary. Most notably a scene that involves a female detective wearing specific clothing in the rain and a song appears which is when the moment is where the killer would strike his victim as it is one of the most eerie scenes captured on film.

2. Zodiac
David Fincher’s suspense film about the search for the Zodiac killer is definitely one of his most overlooked films largely due to the fact that it had a hard time reaching an audience. It is an intensely brooding film that explore two detectives, a journalist, and a cartoonist who all go on this long search to find the identity of the Zodiac killer. It is multilayered in its narrative to explore how some go into descent in their search while others basically just cope with the severity of its cast it does feature some top-notch work from Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo.

3. The Lighthouse
Though it shares its title from an unfinished Edgar Allen Poe short story, it is based mainly on a real-life story of two lighthouse keepers who both go insane in Robert Eggers’ sophomore film that explore terror in a strange setting. Shot in black-and-white, the film revolves around these two men who live and tend to a lighthouse that feature some mysterious powers as it also play into the lighthouse and its surroundings. Featuring top-notch performances from Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, it is a film that is gorgeous in its presentation yet it is also a discomforting film to watch as it show two men go absolutely insane.

© thevoid99 2020

Monday, October 05, 2020

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons

  Based on the manga series by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is the fifth film of the series where the father-son duo continue their deadly trek through Japan as they face off against five skilled assassins each carrying information as well a fifth of the fee. Directed by Kenji Misumi and screenplay by Kazuo Koike and Tsutomu Nakamura, the film explore the father/son duo as they each encounter five different challenges as it play into their spiritual journey as it eventually lead to their final path for vengeance as Ogami Itto and Daigoro are once again portrayed respectively by Tomisaburo Wakayama and Akihiro Tomikawa. Also starring Michio Okusu and Shingo Yamashiro. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is an eerie yet evocative film from Kenji Misumi.


The film follows a father-son duo who continue their trek towards Hell through rural Japan as they’re approached by five skilled assassins who each offer information as well as a fee for the man to kill an abbot with an important letter relating to their clan leader. It’s a film with a simple premise with its screenplay having an odd structure where the first act has Ogami facing off against five different assassins who carry a fifth of the fee that Ogami is given to kill someone but also information of his task. The second act has Ogami learning of what is at stake and who the abbot is delivering to which only complicates this mission he has to take part in. The script also has Daigoro go into an adventure of his own where he encounters a pickpocket (Tomomi Sato) and manages to help her as it play into his own bravery while the third act is about the mission but also revelations about the contents of the letter.

Kenji Misumi’s direction is definitely full of wondrous visuals as well as action set pieces that are intense and riveting. Shot on various locations in rural Japan as well as beaches and deserts, Misumi plays into this ongoing journey that Ogami and Daigoro have continue to embark on where they deal with these five different assassins who each provide a different skill but also carry a message and beaded necklaces for Ogami to wear after each confrontation. Misumi’s compositions do have some style in the wide and medium shots where it’s not just for the locations but also in the setting as it includes a world that is thriving but also with a sense of chaos. Notably in Daigoro’s encounter with a pickpocket where Daigoro gets himself in trouble but the authority is moved by his bravery as does the pickpocket. Misumi’s usage of the close-ups add to some of the suspense and drama as well as the stakes of what Ogami has to deal with.

With the aid of fight choreographer Eiichi Kusumoto, Misumi does maintain that sense of energy in the action and fights while there is that sense of honor and pride that Ogami carries as well as some of the assassins he faces who are all aware of Ogami’s reputation. Even as they warn Ogami of the forces he’s dealing with that include the forces that are protecting the abbot but also those who are counting on him to succeed in killing him. The third act is about the task and what is at stake as it would involve those going after Ogami but also the clan that Ogami is working for where it is clear that not everything is black-and-white. Especially with the latter into what is at stake as well as the presence of a woman who claims to be the mistress of the clan lord as she knows what is at stake as it relates to thins that the clan lord doesn’t want the world to know. Overall, Misumi crafts a gripping and intoxicating film about an assassin and his son trekking through Japan as they carry out an assassination mission with huge implications.

Cinematographer Fujio Morita does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of natural lighting to capture some of the lush colors of the locations with some low-key lighting, courtesy of Hiroshi Mima, for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Toshio Taniguchi does excellent work with the editing as it has some style in the action as well as some straightforward cuts to play into the suspense. Production designer Shigenori Shimoishizaka does fantastic work with the look of the clan leader’s palace as well as the design of the boat’s interiors that the abbot is in. The makeup work of Hideo Yumoto and Toshio Tanaka is terrific for the look of some of the characters including the women such as the pickpocket and the mistress. The sound work of Tsuchitaro Hayashi, with sound effects by Toru Kurashima, is amazing for its sound work to play into the action as well as some of the sparse sounds of drama and suspense. The film’s music by Hideaki Sakurai is incredible for its mixture of jazz and traditional Japanese percussion music that help play into the suspense and action.

The film’s superb ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Minoru Ohki as Ogami’s nemesis Lord Retsudo who is intent on trying to finish him once and for all, Shingo Yamashiro as Lord Kuroda Narikata as the lord these assassins are trying to help, Koji Fujiyama as the pickpocket’s assistant, Bin Amatsu as a village investigator trying to nab the pickpocket, Eiji Okada as Lord Narikata’s adviser, Tomomi Sato as the pickpocket “Quick-Change” O-Yo, and Hideji Otaki as Abbot Jikei who is the assassination target that Ogami must kill as well as in another role as one of the messengers that Ogami confronts. In the roles of the four other assassins, Akira Yamauchi, Taketoshi Naito, Fujio Suga, and Rokko Toura are fantastic as men who each provide a certain skill as well as a message to Ogami. Michiyo Okusu is excellent as Shiranui as Lord Narikata’s mistress who is instrumental in the mission at hand while she also is carrying a secret relating to what is at stake where she is willing to help Ogami.

Finally, there’s the duo of Tomisaburo Wakayama and Akihiro Tomikawa in their phenomenal respective roles as Ogami Itto and Daigoro. Tomikawa’s performance remains this air of innocence and wit as a young boy who is aware of the journey he and his father are venturing while he dabbles into a moment of misunderstanding for himself where he shows his bravery. Wakayama’s performance maintains that air of understated emotion as a man who continues this trek through Japan on his way to Hell as he copes with loss but also eager to do what he can in his journey where he also learns that not everything is black-and-white in his current mission.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is a sensational film from Kenji Misumi that features a great cast, dazzling visuals, a hypnotic music score, a suspenseful story, and killer action. It’s a film that isn’t just this compelling samurai film but also a man whose encounter with tragedy as he and his son continue in this journey to Hell. In the end, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is a spectacular film from Kenji Misumi.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance - Baby Cart at the River Styx - Baby Cart to Hades - Baby Cart in Peril - White Heaven in Hell

© thevoid99 2020

Friday, October 02, 2020

2020 Blind Spot Series: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?


Based on the novel by Horace McCoy, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is the story of a people trying to win a dance marathon during the Great Depression with a power-hungry emcee urging them to continue. Directed by Sydney Pollock and screenplay by Robert E. Thompson and James Poe, the film is a study of people who are desperate to win this dance marathon in the hope of winning $1,500 during a troubled time where people are clinging to hope. Starring Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Susannah York, Bruce Dern, Bonnie Bedelia, Red Buttons, and Gig Young. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is a harrowing and evocative film from Sydney Pollock.

The film revolves around a dance marathon during the Great Depression where a group of people attend the marathon in the hopes of winning $1,500 and a better life as they also hope to win the audience. Yet, it’s a marathon that goes on for days and days where it becomes a troubling image of exploitation where people try to stay away and move just to win money. The film’s screenplay by Robert E. Thompson and James Poe has this narrative that features what could be flashbacks or something as it relates to the character Robert Syverton (Michael Sarrazin) who walks into the La Monica Ballroom on the Santa Monica Pier accidentally where this marathon is to begin. Syverton is chosen to partner up with the cynical Gloria Beatty (Jane Fonda) whose original partner is unable to participate due to bronchitis. Other participants including an elderly sailor named Harry Kline (Red Buttons) who is joined by his partner Shirl (Allyn Ann McLerie), the aspiring actress from London in Alice (Susannah York) with her partner in another struggling actor in Joel (Robert Fields), and a farming couple in James (Bruce Dern) and his pregnant wife Ruby (Bonnie Bedelia).

The first act is about the marathon and everything that happens as it is overseen by its emcee Rocky Gravo (Gig Young) who is hoping to make money out of this marathon as the dancers would get sponsorship to keep on dancing hoping they would win. Yet, Gravo has something sinister in making people attend everything and to see who drops out and who stays on that would also include breaks but also the terrifying race around the dancefloor for a period of time where the last three couples are eliminated. It adds to the drama with Beatty wondering why some of these people are there including the pregnant Ruby as she would often question herself. Syverton, who is a reluctant participant, observes everything that is happening as he would also have flashbacks on his childhood while getting some unwanted attention from Alice.

Sydney Pollock’s direction does bear a lot of style as it is shot largely in a soundstage with a few of the exteriors shot at the Santa Monica Pier as much of the film is set in this ballroom. Pollock’s usage of wide and medium shots to get a scope of the entire ballroom is immense yet it is his usage in the latter and close-ups that add to the drama that occur. Notably as much of the action occur is in the ballroom with a few breaks in these rooms where the contestants rest for a where some of the drama occur with Beatty looking around the other women with an air of disdain. Pollock maintains something straightforward in those scenes while including a few strange recurring images of fields as it relates to Syverton as he is seen being interrogated. The behind-the-scenes moments involving Gravo showcase a man who is doing whatever he can to make money and to make the show more interesting so that the people attending this marathon can watch people suffer.

The two scenes involving the race around the dancefloor is definitely the most intense where Pollock doesn’t show the craziness of this moment but also this growing idea of inhumanity as these people are trying to walk around an entire lap and make sure they’re not eliminated. The ones who drop on the floor showcase the horror of these races while the moment they’re dancing and could barely move also add to this inhumanity. Most notably in the third act where Beatty and Syverton briefly break-up and be with other partners as it adds to the growing chaos where they both learn that there’s a lot more at stake. Even as Gravo continues to stir the pot and hope that there’s a winner yet it adds to this growing cynicism that Beatty has as well as revelations for Syverton about the world in general. Overall, Pollock crafts a riveting yet chilling film about a group of people trying to win a dance marathon during the Great Depression.

Cinematographer Philip H. Lathrop does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with the usage of sepia-like color for a few stylish shots in the flashbacks as well as gorgeous approach to lighting for many of the interiors including low-key natural light for the scenes where the contestants rest. Editor Fredric Steinkamp does amazing work with the editing where it knows when to be straightforward in the dramatic moments while the racing scenes has this air of chaos in its fast cuts as well as bits of slow-motion for dramatic effect. Production designer Harry Horner and set decorator Frank R. McKelvy do excellent work with the look of the dancehall and its many interiors as well as the way the floor is re-painted for the racing scenes. Costume designer Donfeld does fantastic work with the costumes as it play into the period of the times as it includes the gorgeous gown that Alice wears that later goes into ruins to the sweats some of the people wear during the racing scene.

Makeup artist Frank McCoy, along with hair stylists Sydney Guilaroff and Ina Claire, does terrific work with the look of the characters as they sweat and become sleep-deprived while Guilaroff does the look of Beatty and Claire doing the look of Alice. The sound work of Tom Overton is superb for the atmosphere it maintains in the way the crowd sounds as well as how music is presented from afar as well as the sounds of the sea heard from the outside of the building. The film’s music is a wonderful mixture of standards of those times as it adds to the atmosphere while being a major highlight of the film.

The casting by Lyn Stalmaster, James Martell, and Jack Roberts is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Art Metrano as a dancer who collapses during the first race, Madge Kennedy as an old lady who sponsors Beatty and Syverton, Allyn Ann McLerie as Harry’s partner Shirl, Robert Fields as Alice’s partner in aspiring actor Joel, Al Lewis as Gravo’s right-hand man Turkey, and Michael Conrad as one of the event’s organizers in Rollo. Bruce Dern and Bonnie Bedelia are fantastic in their respective roles as the traveling couple James and Ruby Bates who have done dance marathons before but they’re facing a bigger challenge with the latter being pregnant as the former tries to be supportive but also defensive towards Beatty’s cynical remarks. Red Buttons is excellent as the sailor Harry Kline as an old war veteran eager to win some money as he befriends some of the dancers while dealing with the intense challenges of staying up as well as the race itself.

Susannah York is brilliant as Alice LeBlanc as an actress from London eager to get some attention from talent scouts to appear at the marathon only to deal with stolen items, envy, and other issues as she starts to become fragile. Gig Young is amazing as Rocky Gravo as the organizer and emcee of the marathon who does whatever he can to sell tickets and make money while also playing a devious game of torturing people in the hope he can make some money as it’s a charming yet devilish performance. Michael Sarrazin is incredible as Robert Syverton as a man who accidentally walks into the ballroom where he reluctantly becomes Beatty’s partner as he deals with the chaos around him while in some strange images recounts some things in his life as it’s an understated performance from Sarrazin. Finally, there’s Jane Fonda in a phenomenal performances as Gloria Beatty as a woman eager to win by any means necessary while dealing with the physical, emotional, and mental torment of her desire to win hoping it’s one last chance at doing something where Fonda brings that biting cynicism to play a woman that has lost a lot of hope and is clinging to that last semblance of hope as it is one of Fonda’s quintessential performances.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is a tremendous film from Sydney Pollock that features a great performance from Jane Fonda. Along with its supporting cast, eerie setting, study of human nature and exploitation, and gorgeous visuals. The film is definitely an engaging period drama set during the Great Depression that explore what people are willing to do win money during a dark time in history as well as the lows they have to endure with some trying to milk it for all of its worth. In the end, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is a spectacular film from Sydney Pollock.

Sydney Pollock Films: (The Slender Thread) – (This Property is Condemned) – (The Scalphunters) – (Castle Keep) – (Jeremiah Johnson) – (The Way We Were) – (The Yakuza) – (Three Days of the Condor) – (Bobby Deerfield) – (The Electric Horseman) – (Absence of Malice) – Tootsie - (Out of Africa) – (Havana) – (The Firm) – (Sabrina (1995 film)) – (Random Hearts) – (The Interpreter) – (Sketches of Frank Gehry) – (Amazing Grace (2018 film))

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