Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Swallow (2019 film)

 

Written and directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis, Swallow is the story of a young woman who marries a wealthy man as she starts to swallow inedible objects as a way to cope with newfound marriage and stifling domestic life. The film is a character study of a woman coming apart in her new world as she becomes troubled by her surroundings as well as the expectations of being the wife of a wealthy man. Starring Haley Bennett, Austin Stowell, Elizabeth Marvel, David Rasche, and Denis O’Hare. Swallow is a haunting and compelling film from Carlo Mirabella-Davis.

The film is the simple story of a poor woman who is married to a man from a wealthy family as she becomes pregnant yet becomes suffocated by her new environment and the role that she is meant to play where she starts to swallow inedible objects to cope with her issues. It is a film with a simple premise yet it is a character study of a woman who marries into a family of wealth where their son is expected for great things as he demands that his wife be this object of perfection and beauty. Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ script has a straightforward narrative yet it focuses largely on its protagonist in Hunter Conrad (Haley Bennett) who spends much of her time at home cleaning and such as a way to make her husband Richie (Austin Stowell) happy but she becomes unhappy due to his neglect and the presence of his parents who want her to be this figure that they need for their image. Still, Hunter begins to unravel as her condition, known as pica, would worsen as Richie’s parents hire a family friend in Luay (Laith Nakli) to watch over her yet he starts to see that something isn’t right as does Hunter’s psychiatrist Alice (Zabryna Guevara) who manages to get something from Hunter realizing what is wrong.

Mirabella-Davis’ direction is stylish in its compositions as there are little movements in the camera yet much of it has the camera not moving in order to create these shots to play into Hunter’s disconnect with the world she’s in. Shot on various locations in Highland, New York near the Hudson River where Richie and Hunter’s home is as well as other locations in upstate New York. Mirabella-Davis plays up this world that Hunter is in as it is spacious and posh with the finest furniture and decorations yet it is also quite cold as the usage of wide and medium shots play into this growing disconnect that Hunter has in her home as well as the world around her. The usage of close-ups come in whenever Hunter would swallow an object such as a marble, a paper clip, and other things eventually swallowing something as dangerous as a thumbtack. It adds to this air of danger and disruption into Hunter’s marriage to Richie while the signs that not everything as it seems come early when Richie complains about a silk tie that’s been ironed.

Mirabella-Davis also play up into the psyche of Hunter as she would fall apart but then get better and then fall apart again such as a key shot in the second act where Richie is having a phone conversation while Hunter is planting flowers. It is a moment where Hunter’s own secrets about her life begins to play into her head as she would later hide in shame with Luay realizing that something isn’t right in that house despite the fact that he’s working for Richie’s parents to watch her. The third act does play into not just the air of extremes that is pushed for Hunter but also revelations about her marriage along with the need to understand on who she is. Overall, Mirabella-Davis crafts a mesmerizing yet unsettling film about a woman with a troubling condition in pica as a way to cope with her new marriage and suffocating environment.

Cinematographer Katelin Arizmendi does excellent work with the film’s cinematography to play up the bright look of the house interiors in the day along with some low-key lighting for some scenes at night including a party scene where a co-worker of Richie uses a stupid flirt trick. Editor Joe Murphy does terrific work with the editing as a lot of it is straightforward with some long shots that do linger for a bit to play into Hunter’s own growing isolation. Production designer Erin Magill and set decorator Frank Baran do amazing work with the look of the interior at Richie and Hunter’s home including the room for the baby as well as their bedroom as it play into the disconnect that Hunter is coping with. Costume designer Liene Dobraja does fantastic work with the costumes from the expensive clothes that Richie wears along with some of the posh dresses and such that Hunter wears as it play into the role that she has to play for Richie’s family and friends that eventually becomes stifling.

Special effects supervisor Pete Gerner and visual effects supervisor Alex Nobel do wonderful work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects in a few of the objects along with some set dressing in a few scenes. Sound editor Michael Kurihara does superb work with the film’s sound as the usage of natural sounds at the house add to the tense and troubling atmosphere in the film as it also amps up the drama. The film’s music by Nathan Halpern is brilliant for its orchestral score as it play into the drama as well as Hunter’s own isolation while music supervisor Joe Rudge provides a soundtrack that add to that isolation ranging from classical, jazz, dance, and new wave.

The casting by Allison Twardziak is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Babak Tafti as a co-worker of Richie that uses a pick-up line to win over women, Nicole Kang as a young girl named Bev, Lauren Velez as that girl’s mother Lucy, Zabryna Guevara as Hunter’s psychiatrist Alice who gets an understanding of what Hunter is dealing with, Laith Nakli as a family friend of Richie’s parents who watches over Hunter as he also has an understanding that Richie nor his parents are able to comprehend, and Denis O’Hare in a superb performance late in the film as a man that Hunter needed to meet as he would give her some answers. David Rasche and Elizabeth Marvel are excellent in their respective roles as Richie’s parents in Michael and Katherine Conrad with the former being a man of control as he is trying to make sure Hunter gets the best treatment but with motives of his own while the latter is also a person of control as she tries to get Hunter to read self-help books and such while also having a motive of her own.

Austin Stowell is brilliant as Richie Conrad as a wealthy man who is destined to take over his father’s business as he is someone that is also controlling while he has own reasons in wanting to marry Hunter. Finally, there’s Haley Bennett in a phenomenal performance as Hunter as this young woman from a poor background who marries this man thinking she’s got it made only to feel lost and suffocated in her new life. There is an element of restraint in Bennett’s performance as this woman that has no clue on the role she should play as her act of swallowing inedible objects is defiant as it play into the horrors of the role she is meant to play as it is a career-defining performance for Bennett.

Swallow is an incredible film from Carlo Mirabella-Davis that features a great leading performance from Haley Bennett. Along with its supporting cast, striking visuals, an unsettling tone, an offbeat music soundtrack, and its themes of identity and isolation. It is a psychological drama that doesn’t play by the rules as it explore a woman coping with her new life and how it leads to self-destruction along with revelations about the role she is meant to play for others. In the end, Swallow is a phenomenal film from Carlo Mirabella-Davis.

© thevoid99 2021

Monday, October 18, 2021

Cruella

 

Based on the character from the novel One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, Cruella is an origin story of a young woman whose aspirations to be a fashion designer has her going against a cruel fashion queen set in the backdrop of late 1970s Britain during the age of punk. Directed by Craig Gillespie and screenplay by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara from a story by Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis, the film is an offbeat take on the story of Cruella de Vil as a young woman who is trying to make her mark in the world of fashion as she is portrayed by Emma Stone. Also starring Emma Thompson, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Joel Fry, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, John McCrea, and Mark Strong. Cruella is an exhilarating and thrilling film from Craig Gillespie.

Set in late 1970s Britain against the backdrop of the punk rock movement, the film revolves around a young woman who works with thieves as she gets a job working for a revered yet cruel fashion queen known as Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) only to go into war against her following some revelations and such. It is a film that is an origin story of sorts of how this young woman who would become Cruella de Vil would wreak havoc in the world of fashion and also deal with the events that defined her life including the death of her mother Catherine (Emily Beecham) when she was a child. The film’s screenplay by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara does have a straightforward narrative as it is largely told from Cruella’s perspective from her birth to her defiance in the world of fashion. Cruella, then known as Estella, lives with a couple of thieves in Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) along a couple of dogs. Upon getting a job to work for the Liberty department store in London, Estella would realize the job is a low-level janitor job until she drunkenly creates a window display that gets the Baroness’ attention.

In working for the Baroness directly, it seemed like the dream job that Estella wanted as a way for herself and her friends to live a trouble-free life but also a chance to prove to her late mother that she’s finally becoming a good person. It is part of the development of Estella as someone who feels guilty when she witnessed her mother’s murder as she feels responsible for what happened as it lead to her going to London and meeting Jasper and Horace. The moment Estella sees the Baroness wearing a necklace that once belonged to Catherine is where things change while Estella gets to know more about this ambitious woman who thinks nothing but control and dominance. When Estella chooses to become Cruella as a way to rile up the Baroness and steal back the necklace. Revelations occur about the Baroness as it forces Estella to be Cruella in a series of schemes as she brings chaos while also unknowingly alienating those close to her.

Craig Gillespie’s direction is stylish as it definitely plays into this world of London in this clash of high couture fashion against the lower-class yet creative chaos in the world of punk rock in the late 1970s. Shot partially on location in London with much of it shot at Shepperton Studios in London, Gillespie does create a film that isn’t just this clash of cultures but also a young woman trying to find herself as he does create some unique compositions in the close-ups and medium shots to get a view of Estella/Cruella in the way she reacts to certain things or contemplating situations in her life. There are also some wide shots to get a scope into not just London and the Hellman Hall estate that the Baroness live in but also into the presentation that Cruella would create as the antithesis to the sophisticated and posh world of the Baroness. Gillespie would also use these intricate tracking shots that do go on for a few minutes as it play into these worlds in how Cruella would arrive at a gala held by the Baroness but also the world that Estella would encounter.

Gillespie would up the presentation of these fashion shows with the second act ending with a show that Cruella would have as it play into the spirit of punk rock at Regent Park. It would be followed by an example of how cruel the Baroness is but also some revelations about this woman and everything she would do to be successful to the point of murder and push anyone who gets in her way. While Cruella may have a mean streak of her own and would neglect her friends, there is that element of her that realizes that she is someone that does care as the third act is about her not just going after the Baroness. It’s also claiming her own identity but with the help of the people whom she refers to as her family as they would become part of something bigger that involves them. Overall, Gillespie crafts a wild and mesmerizing film about a young woman who creates an identity to upset a cruel fashion queen in the age of 1970s British punk rock.

Cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography in the usage of blue-grey colors for some of the exteriors in the day and night along with some stylish lighting to some of the interior scenes to help set the mood for the chaos that Cruella would bring. Editor Tatiana S. Riegel does excellent work with the editing as it has some stylish jump-cuts to play into the sense of anarchy that Cruella brings as well as some straightforward editing to play into the drama and suspense. Production designer Fiona Crombie, with set decorator Alice Felton and supervising art director Martin Foley, does amazing work with the look of Hellman Hall where the Baroness live as well as the flat that Cruella lives with Jasper and Horace plus the fashion shows that the two women create. Costume designer Jenny Beaven does incredible work with the costumes as it doesn’t just play into the different styles of fashion in 1970s but also in showcasing a lot of the personalities into the people who design them with Cruella creating fashion that is unique on its own.

Hair/makeup designer Nadia Stacey does tremendous work with the look of the hairstyles for both Cruella and the Baroness that both display their personalities and evolving look as the film progresses. Special effects supervisor Steve Warner and visual effects supervisor Max Wood do terrific work with the visual/special effects as it feature some unique action set pieces in some scenes along with some dressing in the visual effects. Sound designers Alan Rankin, Ann Scibelli, and Martyn Zub, with sound editor Mark P. Stoeckinger, do superb work with the sound from some of the sparse moments include the Baroness’ dog whistle to the way music sounds on a location.

The film’s music by Nicholas Britell is phenomenal for its mixture of bombastic and somber orchestral music that features elements of rock to play into the world of 70s music. Music supervisor Susan Jacobs creates a fun soundtrack that features pieces from the Rolling Stones, Ike and Tina Turner, the Bee Gees, the Doors, Supertramp, David Bowie, the Clash, Nina Simone, Ohio Players, Queen, Electric Light Orchestra, Georgia Gibbs, the Animals, Ken Dodd, Nancy Sinatra, the Zombies, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Suzi Quatro, a cover of the Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog by John McCrea, Doris Day, Tony Martin, Rose Royce, the J. Geils Band, Brigitte Fontaine, Judy Garland, and an original song by Florence and the Machine.

The casting by Lucy Beven and Mary Vernieu is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Andrew Leung as the Baroness’ assistant Jeffrey, Jamie Demetriou as Estella’s first boss at Liberty in Gerald, Kayvan Novak as the Baroness’ mistreated lawyer Roger Dearly who would later play a role for Cruella’s ascent, John McCrea as a vintage fashion shop owner in Artie who helps Cruella in creating some of her designs, Billie Gadsdon and Tipper Siefert-Cleveland in their respective roles as the five and 12-year old Estella, Florisa Kamara as the young Anita, Ziggy Gardner as the young Jasper, Joseph MacDonald as the young Horace, and Tom Turner in a brief role in a flashback sequence as the Baroness’ late husband. Emily Beecham is terrific as Estella’s mother Catherine as a woman who is trying to ensure that Estella has a normal childhood while also aware of her creativity. Kirby Howell-Baptiste is fantastic as Anita as a childhood friend of Estella/gossip columnist who often attends fashion shows as she is someone who praises Cruella while also being someone who keeps her identity a secret.

Mark Strong is excellent as the Baroness’ longtime valet/confidante John as a man who takes care of everything the Baroness wants as he’s also someone who knows a lot more than both the Baroness and Cruella realizes. Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser are brilliant in their respective roles as the thieves Jasper and Horace as the former is the smarter of the two thieves as someone who is careful but also someone with some morals as he is disturbed by Estella’s changing behavior while the latter is the funnier of the two as someone who is helpful but also does weird things in the scheme with Hauser sporting a gravelly British accent that is a tribute of sorts to the late Bob Hoskins. Emma Thompson is spectacular as Baroness von Hellman as a fashionista who is a control freak that demands perfection as she sees herself as the queen of haute couture where Thompson just eats up every moment she’s in while displaying a sense of charisma and melodrama at its most camp as it a performance for the ages. Finally, there’s Emma Stone in a career-defining performance as the titular character as this young woman with a creative mind for fashion as Stone brings up someone that wants to be good and do well only to take on a new persona as this wild fashionista from the world of punk where Stone just owns nearly every scene she’s in while having this great rapport with Thompson in their lone scenes together.

Cruella is a sensational film from Craig Gillespie that features an outstanding performance from Emma Stone along with a great supporting performance from Emma Thompson. Along with its supporting ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, Jenny Beaven’s dazzling costumes, and a kick-ass music soundtrack. It is a film that doesn’t just explore an origin story of one of the great villains in the world of Disney films but also a study of a young woman who finds her identity as a way to defy the world of a cruel woman who sees the world as hers. In the end, Cruella is a phenomenal film from Craig Gillespie.

Craig Gillespie Films: (Mr. Woodcock) – Lars and the Real Girl - (Fright Night (2011 film)) – (Million Dollar Arm) – (The Finest Hours) – I, Tonya

© thevoid99 2021

Friday, October 15, 2021

Locke

 

Written and directed by Steven Knight, Locke is the story of a man driving on his way home where he’s having phone conversations with other people as it lead to events that would threaten everything including his family. The film is a psychological drama that takes place entirely in a car where a man is dealing with these phone conversations as he’s trying to get home as the character of Ivan Locke is played by Tom Hardy. Featuring the voices of Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, Tom Holland, Ben Daniels, Bill Milner, and Olivia Colman. Locke is a gripping and mesmerizing film from Steven Knight.

Set almost entirely on a highway in a car where a man is coming home, the film revolves Ivan Locke as he talks with various people where his life starts to shatter by not just events around him but also things that would threaten his own career as a contractor. It is a film with a simple premise where a lot of it has Ivan Locke returning home from work as he talks to his wife, his two teenage sons, co-workers, and other people as things start to unravel during the course of an entire night as he is on a highway driving home. Even as he is on a highway driving where he also copes with the invisible ghost that is his father whom he’s had a tense relationship with as it adds to the drama. There are a lot of monologues and such that writer/director Steven Knight has written as well as a lot of dialogue that play into the dramatic tension as it adds to Ivan’s own plight.

Knight’s direction does have some style as it opens with Ivan overlooking a construction site, taking off his boots, and entering his car as it’s one of the rare shots of the film of Ivan outside of the car as his face isn’t shown. Shot on the M6 motorway from the middle of England to the borders of Scotland, Knight does use some wide shots to get a look into the locations yet much of the direction emphasizes on close-ups and medium shots to play into the action in and out of the car with cars passing by. Notably as there’s cameras in certain areas in and around the car that focuses on Ivan’s conversations on the phone as there is always a shot of a computer screen in the car’s dashboard. The car, that is the BMW X5, is a character in the film as it play into Ivan’s own sense of isolation as his life would unravel through each phone call whether it is his sons calling him about the football game, co-workers talking about an upcoming concrete pour, and other issues through the span of nearly the film’s 85-minute running time. Overall, Knight crafts a riveting and evocative film about a man coming home as he’s on the road having phone conversation as his life unravels.

Cinematographer Harris Zambarloukous does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as its usage of low-key lights for scenes in the car and available light from other cars add to the tense atmosphere of the film. Editor Justine Wright does amazing work with the editing with the stylish usage of superimposed dissolves and jump-cuts to play into the rhythm of the drive and the drama that unfolds in the car. Costume designer Nigel Egerton does terrific work with the costumes from the sweater and shirt that Ivan wears as it play into a man who is of great importance but also falling apart. Hair/makeup designer Audrey Doyle does nice work with the look of Ivan as he becomes disheveled during the course of the film as his life starts to unravel.

Visual effects supervisor James Devlin does fantastic work with the visual effects as it is largely minimal bits as backdrops and such for a few of the scenes on the road. Sound designer Ian Wilson does excellent work with the sound in capturing the sounds on the road as well as the way phone conversations are presented. The film’s music by Dickon Hinchliffe is superb for its dream-like guitar work and bits of ambient synthesizer to play into the intensity of the drama.

The casting by Shaheen Baig is wonderful as it features the voice work of Alice Lowe and Silas Carson as a couple of people working at a hospital, Kirsty Dillon as the wife of one of Ivan’s co-workers, Lee Ross as a police official, Danny Webb as a political official, Ben Daniels as a co-worker of Ivan in Gareth, and Andrew Scott as Ivan’s assistant Donal who is trying to help Ivan with all of the shit that needs to be sorted out. Tom Holland and Bill Milner are excellent in their respective roles as the voices of Ivan’s sons in Eddie and Sean who are calling their father over a football game as well as the family drama that is unfolding. Ruth Wilson is brilliant as the voice of Ivan’s wife Katrina who receives some horrific news that acts as a source of chaos between her and Ivan. Olivia Colman is amazing as the voice of Bethan as a woman Ivan knows as she has news of her own that would add to Ivan’s unraveling world.

Finally, there’s Tom Hardy in a phenomenal performance as Ivan Locke as a contractor who is driving home as he calls many on his car phone where Hardy is restrained in some parts as well as getting upset that include these invisible conversations with his late father. It is Hardy in one of his great performance as a man that is trying to deal with the chaos of his life as well as cope with his own faults as it is just intoxicating to watch.

Locke is a sensational film from Steven Knight that features an incredible performance from Tom Hardy. Along with its ensemble voice cast, ravishing visuals, an eerie music score, and a simple yet chilling premise. The film is definitely a mesmerizing suspense-drama that follows a man driving home as he deals with phone calls where he copes with events in his life as they would unravel in the span of an entire night. In the end, Locke is a phenomenal film from Steven Knight.

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks (Halloween Edition): Folk/Urban Legends

 

For the 41st week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks for its Halloween Edition. We go into the subject of folk and urban legends as it often play into these things that had happened long ago or something that is happening in that period. Here are my three picks:

1. Haxan
Benjamin Christensen’s silent from the 1920s is among one of the first horror films of its kind as well as a documentary of sorts that explores the world of witchcraft. Through dramatic re-creations of these folk tales about witches, Christensen would play this demonic figure as it would have a lot of these grand visuals that were quite innovative for the times. Still, it is a film that comments about the uproar of witchcraft and how women were treated back in the 15th Century to the hysteria that they were dealing with in the 1920s. It’s a film that is essential to horror fans.

2. Kwaidan
From Masaki Kobayashi is a horror film based on four different folk tales from Lafcadio Hearn that all play into these different ghost stories. Each story that features expressionist backdrops for the scene has Kobayashi explore people dealing with the choices they make and the ghosts they encounter. Featuring a cast that include some of Japan’s great actors in Takashi Shimura and Tatsuya Nakadai, it is a film that is filled with gorgeous visuals supported by these intense stories that says a lot about humanity.

3. The VVitch
Robert Eggers’ debut film set in the 17th Century about a family who leaves a plantation due to disagreements over faith as their lives are shattered by the disappearance of their newborn baby with the eldest child being accused of witchcraft. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy in her breakthrough performance, it is a film that follows a family coming apart with this young woman being the major suspect as she notices other things around her are off with her twin siblings becoming entranced by a black goat. It is a film that is intense as well as confrontational in the ideas of witchcraft.

© thevoid99 2021

Monday, October 11, 2021

Jason and the Argonauts

 

Based on the epic poem The Argonautica by Apollonius Rhodius, Jason and the Argonauts is the story of an explorer who returns home to claim his throne only to embark on a quest to find the Golden Fleece where he would fight all sorts of forces. Directed by Don Chaffey and screenplay by Beverley Cross and Jan Read, he film is a fantasy-adventure film that features the work of stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen as it plays into a man dealing with mysterious creatures in his quest to become king. Starring Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Honor Blackman, and Gary Raymond. Jason and the Argonauts is an exhilarating and exciting film from Don Chaffey and Ray Harryhausen.

The film is about a young man who is asked by a king to retrieve an object known as the Golden Fleece and in return would get revenge on the king who killed his mother many years ago due to a prophecy. It is a film that has this young man named Jason (Todd Armstrong) who saves this king from drowning unaware that he was the man who killed his mother based on a prophecy that would destroy him. The film’s screenplay by Beverley Cross and Jan Read is straightforward as it opens with Pelias (Douglas Wilmer) hearing about a prophecy that a child of a rival king would usurp him as he attacks that king’s palace where he kills one of the king’s daughters who prayed to Hera (Honor Blackman) who would protect the young Jason and warn Pelias that killing Jason would meet his doom. The film moves 20 years later where Pelias is saved by Jason from drowning as Jason has no idea who Pelias is and what he’s done as he agreed to get the Golden Fleece for Pelias.

After assembling of some of the best Greeks including Hercules (Nigel Green) and getting a ship created by Argus (Laurence Naismith), Jason and his crew go on this journey unaware that Pelias sent his son Acastus (Gary Raymond) to join the crew as a saboteur. Yet, Jason and his crew deal with monsters and such as well other things in the course of the film while they’re watched from above by Hera and Zeus (Niall MacGinnis) as observers with the former helping Jason out whenever he prays to her. Still, Jason deals with the challenges towards his destination as well as issues among the crew into this treacherous journey.

Don Chaffey’s direction is stylish in terms of its presentation in the world of fantasy and sword-and-sandal films with a lot of emphasis on visual effects to play into the former. Shot largely on various locations in Italy as Ancient Greece, Chaffey uses the locations to play into this vast world that Jason and his companions would embark on that would include ancient ruins, large statues, and other places where Chaffey would use wide and medium shots to get a scope of this world. Still, Chaffey knows when to move the story forward for non-action scenes as a way to showcase Jason’s development as a leader as he knows he might be way over his head where he does go to his crew for advice but also to the gods as Chaffey’s usage of close-ups and medium shots play into these moments. Through the visual effects work of stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen, Chaffey is able to create these extravagant action scenes that include a confrontation with a giant statue, flying creatures, a seven-headed monster, and skeletons in the film’s climax as they add to this world that Jason would encounter.

Chaffey and Harryhausen would create these sequences that are filled with suspense and adventure as there is something primitive to the effects yet there is also a charm to it. Especially in the film’s memorable climax with the skeleton soldiers where the mixture of live-action and stop-motion animation is strange yet there is a lot of imagination into what is created. Overall, Chaffey and Harryhausen craft a thrilling and offbeat adventure film of an explorer trying to retrieve an object that brings life.

Cinematographer Wilkie Cooper does excellent work with the film’s cinematography for many of the natural daytime exterior scenes along with some of the scenes at night in some of the interior/exterior settings for scenes in the third act. Editor Maurice Rootes does terrific work with the editing as it has some nice dissolves and rhythmic cuts to play into the action. Production designer Geoffrey Drake, with art directors Jack Maxsted, Antonio Sarzi-Braga, and Herbert Smith, does amazing work with the set design from the look of the statues and ruins to the palace of one of the kings in the third act. Sound editor Alfred Cox does superb work with the sound as its usage of sound effects and sparse sounds in some of the film’s locations add to the air of adventure and action. The film’s music by Bernard Herrmann is incredible for its bombastic orchestral score that help play into the sense of adventure and suspense along with some somber string-based pieces as it is a major highlight of the film.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast include some notable small roles from Patrick Troughton as the blind prophet Phineus who helps Jason find the land known as Colchis, John Cairney as a young Greek in Hylas whom Hercules is mentoring, Nigel Green as the legendary strongman Hercules who finds himself dealing with doubt and guilt, Doug Robinson as the strong swimmer Eupaemus, Andrew Faulds and Ferdinando Poggi in their respective roles as the swordsmen Phalerus and Castor, Michael Gwynn in the role of Pelias’ priest who reveals him this prophecy when he is really the god Hermes who allows Jason the chance to talk to the gods. Jack Gwillim is terrific as Colchis’ King Aeetes who takes Jason in after a mission where he saved his daughter only to learn of Jason’s motives at his home.

Honor Blackman and Niall MacGinnis are fantastic in their respective roles as Hera and Zeus with Blackman providing charm as the goddess who helps Jason and protects him while MacGinnis brings his own charm to the role of the famed god as he is someone not willing to interfere but knows he’s got plans for some of the characters involved. Douglas Wilmer is superb as Pelias as a king who learns that Jason is the young man who intends to usurp him while knowing that he can’t kill Jason where he tries to befriend him and send his son Acastus to sabotage Jason’s quest. Laurence Naismith is excellent as Argus as the man who created the boat for Jason’s quest as well as being someone who is wise and helps Jason with advice as he is someone the crew looks to for guidance.

Gary Raymond is brilliant as Acastus as Pelias’ son who takes on a different identity to join Jason’s quest in order to sabotage him as he would find himself sparring with Jason over ideas and decisions leading to a lot of tension. Nancy Kovack is amazing as Medea as the princess/high priestess of Colchis whom Jason saves when her ship was attacked as she falls for him while becoming aware of her father’s greed over the Golden Fleece as her voice is dubbed by Eva Haddon. Finally, there’s Todd Armstrong in an incredible performance as the titular character, as he is dubbed by Tim Turner, who is an explorer that is tasked to retrieve the Golden Fleece for its healing powers unaware that he’s giving it to the man who killed his mother where he deals with the journey as well as his own role as a leader where it is a charismatic performance from Armstrong.

Jason and the Argonauts is a phenomenal film from Don Chaffey and Ray Harryhausen. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, an incredible music score from Bernard Herrmann, and inventive visual effects that play up this air of fantasy in the film. It is a film that is filled with a lot of thrills and adventure as well as being this journey of a man trying to prove his worth to the world with the gods looking from above to see him reach that journey. In the end, Jason and the Argonauts is a sensational film from Don Chaffey and Ray Harryhausen.

© thevoid99 2021

Friday, October 08, 2021

The Final Girls

 

Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson and written by M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller, The Final Girls is the story of a young woman who is transported back in time to 1986 where she meets her late mother at a film set for a slasher film where they deal with a serial killer. The film is a comedy-horror film that sort of spoofs the slasher films while it also play into the clichés that are often expected as a young woman teams with her mother to break those rules. Starring Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Adam DeVine, Thomas Middleditch, Alia Shawkat, Alexander Ludwig, and Nina Dobrev. The Final Girls is a witty and inventive film from Todd Strauss-Schulson.

Three years after the death of her mother who was a film star of a famous slasher film in the 1980s, a young woman attends a screening of that film with her friends as a fire breaks out and they find themselves in the movie as they deal with the killer in the film but also other things as they become characters in that film. It is a film that is a spoof of sorts of slasher films where a group of people find themselves in a slasher movie with all of its bad dialogue, stereotypical characters, and everything that is expected as they find themselves being part of the film. The film’s screenplay by M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller is straightforward as it play into these five college students who attend a revival screening that goes wrong and then become part of the movie they’re supposed to watch. One of the students in Max Cartwright (Taissa Farmiga) is still dealing with the death of her mother Amanda (Malin Akerman) three years earlier in a car accident that Max had survived as she is reluctant to attend the screening of the film Camp Bloodbath as it was a film that Amanda was famous for but never did anything noteworthy afterwards.

Upon entering the film, Max and her friends including her best friend Gertie (Alia Shawkat), Gertie’s stepbrother Duncan (Thomas Middleditch) who is a horror fanatic, Chris (Alexander Ludwig), and Chris’ bitchy ex-girlfriend Vicki (Nina Dobrev), whom Max had been estranged from, all witness the events of the film as Duncan comments on what is happening as the character Amanda played in Nancy was someone who doesn’t survive in the film as the final girl is Paula (Chloe Bridges). Yet, things don’t go by the narrative due to the presence of Max and her friends as they all have to deal with the machete-wielding killer Billy Hopkins (Daniel Norris) as the script also feature exposition about why Hopkins kills people via flashback.

Todd Strauss-Schulson’s direction does have some style as it play into the style of 80s slasher films though it also maintains a straightforward visual style as it is shot on location in locations in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The film starts off with a young Max waiting for her mother returning from an audition as they deal with mounting bills leading to the accident that would kill Amanda as that scene and several others are presented in a straightforward manner in its compositions including some wide and medium shots as well as close-ups. The scene where the movie theater gets burned leaving Max and her friends to escape into the film screen is an inventive moment where Strauss-Schulson shows what happens and then the film changes. The moment where Max and her friends become part of Camp Bloodbath starts off as funny with its clichéd characters and setting as they then become part of the film. Even as they find themselves waiting for the van arrive and then it would arrive again 92 minutes later as it sets up the tone of the film.

Strauss-Schulson also maintains a certain visual style for the scenes of Camp Bloodbath and how Max and her friends would interact with those characters as it does play into these slasher film clichés with the flashback sequence presented in black-and-white. The approach to humor is offbeat as it play up the clichés including a scene where the hot counselor in Tina (Angela Trimbur) discovers Vicki’s pills and things go hilariously wrong. The film’s climax is typical of slasher films but there’s also these moments that do subvert expectation as it relates to Max and her connection with Nancy who becomes aware of the stereotype she plays. Yet, Strauss-Schulson also play up the idea of the final girl and adds something different to raise the stakes for everyone in the film within a film. Overall, Strauss-Schulson crafts a witty and exhilarating film about a young woman and her friends entering themselves into a 80s slasher movie starring that young woman’s mother.

Cinematographer Elie Smolkin does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it is more low-key and naturalistic for the scenes in Max’s world while the colors are more vibrant in the interior/exterior scenes in the day for Camp Bloodbath along with some stylish lighting for scenes at night. Editor Debbie Berman does excellent work with the editing as it has some style that play into rhythmic cuts for the suspenseful moments in the film as well as some stylized slow-motion as it adds humor to the film. Production designer Katie Byron, with set decorator Rachael Ferrera and art director Alexi Gomez, does amazing work with the look of the camp as well as some of the way the rooms are as it play into the 1980s aesthetics. Costume designer Lynette Meyer does fantastic work with the costumes that also play up to the look of the 1980s for the camp counselors as it isn’t afraid to look and be cheesy.

Special effects makeup artist Elvis Jones does terrific work with some of the design of the gore as well as it doesn’t just play to the conventions of horror but also for laughs. Visual effects supervisors David Lebensfeld, Grant Miller, and Matthew Poliquin do wonderful work with the visual effects whether it’s in some backdrops for scenes in a car or to create something that feels cheesy to play up the humor. Sound designer Lewis Goldstein does superb work with the sound in creating some unique sound effects that play to conventions of slasher films along with elements in how music sounds from a stereo and other sparse moments. The film’s music by Gregory James Jenkins is incredible for its 80s-inspired score with elements of eerie orchestral pieces and synthesizer-based music as the latter is something typical of 80s slasher films where there are these fun elements while music supervisor Susan Jacobs creates a fun soundtrack that features pieces from Warrant, Bananarama, Wang Chung, the Chordettes, the Cold Crush Brothers, Bleachers, Toni Basil, and Kim Carnes.

The casting by Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Lauren Gros as the hippie chick Mimi, Reginald Robinson as a hunky hiker Mimi hopes to have sex with, Eric Carney as the young Billy from the flashback, Tory N. Thompson as a camp counselor that Gertie flirts with, Chloe Bridges as the cool virgin in Paula who is the final girl in Camp Bloodbath, and Daniel Norris as the killer in Camp Bloodbath in Billy Murphy who wears a mask and wields a machete. Angela Trimbur is fantastic as the slutty camp counselor Tina who always wear skimpy clothing and becomes even more animated due to Vicki’s pills while Adam DeVine is superb as the douche-bag Kurt who claims to have a big dick and thinks he’s all that to the point that he annoys Chris for being a misogynistic douchebag.

Thomas Middleditch is excellent as the horror film fanatic Duncan who revels in being in the film as he comments on everything around him as he ends up annoying everyone. Alia Shawkat and Nina Dobrev are brilliant in their respective roles as Gertie and Vicki with the former being Duncan’s stepsister and a friend of Max as she is aware of what is going on while trying to be the sensible one of the group while the latter is a bitchy student who is possessive towards Chris as it adds to her estrangement from Max where Dobrev is also someone who is eager to get things done. Alexander Ludwig is amazing as Chris as a longtime friend of Max who also has feelings for her as he tries to help her while also doing what he can to ensure that he and his friends survive.

Taissa Farmiga is great as Max Cartwright as a young student still dealing with the death of her mother as she finds herself in her mother’s film as she copes with the presence of her mother’s character as well as the desire for both of them to survive which includes dealing with Billy Murphy. Finally, there’s Malin Akerman in an incredible performance as Amanda Cartwright/Nancy with the former being an actress struggling to find work despite her infamy for the film she’s famous for while being this upbeat counselor that is hoping to get laid and fit in only to learn that she doesn’t make it in the film where Akerman displays that sense of uncertainty but also a woman who realizes the choices she has to make.

The Final Girls is a remarkable film from Todd Strauss-Schulson that features great performances from Malin Akerman and Taissa Farmiga. Along with its ensemble cast, fun music soundtrack, and playing up the many clichés of slasher films with biting humor and offbeat suspense. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to be funny in making fun of slasher films but also with its heart as it has a group of people being part of a slasher film as they figure out how to survive but also change the rules. In the end, The Final Girls is a marvelous film from Todd Strauss-Schulson.

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: School (Halloween Edition)

 

For the 40th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. It is Halloween season as we go into the subject of school as it’s often a popular place where things go wrong and kids put themselves into stupid situations whenever they get killed and such. Here are my three picks:

1. Student Bodies
A spoof film from the early 80s that makes fun of slasher films is really this low-brow yet whimsical comedy about a young student who is trying to find out who is killing classmates and other people around her in school as she is the suspect. There’s always some guy breathing while there is also an actual body count and moments that just plays up the many clichés expected in horror films. Yet, the film features a major standout in Patrick Boone Varnell as the janitor as he’s just this hilarious physical presence who does these weird things as he is a total joy to watch.

2. The Faculty
From Robert Rodriguez and screenwriter Kevin Williamson is a take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers set in a high school where six high school kids notice that the school staff and other students are all acting weird and drinking water constantly. With an ensemble cast that includes Josh Hartnett, Jordana Brewster, Elijah Wood, Clea Duvall, Shawn Hatosy, and Laura Harris as the six students trying to figure out what is going on and Jon Stewart, Salma Hayek, Bebe Neuwirth, Famke Janssen, Robert Patrick, and Piper Laurie as the faculty who are acting odd is an inventive high school horror film that is smart and has engaging characters while taking shots and the many clichés expected in high school films.

3. Cooties
Elijah Wood is back on the list but this time as a substitute teacher who is part of the faculty with other teachers as they deal with a zombie outbreak where it’s the kids who are the zombies and trying to kill everyone. The outbreak begins because of a bunch of poorly-processed chicken nuggets one girl ate as she becomes a zombie and makes a bunch of other kids into zombies. It’s up to Wood and a group of teachers including Allison Pill, Jack McBrayer, co-writer Leigh Whannell, Nasim Perdad, and Rainn Wilson all try to fight these kids off with Jorge Garcia as a stoner who helps them. It’s a film that never takes itself seriously while finding an excuse to kill a bunch of zombie children.

© thevoid99 2021

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Titane

 

Written and directed by Julia Ducournau, Titane (Titanium) is the story of a young woman who becomes pregnant after having sex with a car as she pretends to be the missing son of a firefighter following a series of murders she committed. The film is a body horror film that explores a young woman meeting a lonely old man while dealing with the mess she’s created through killing people. Starring Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier, and Lais Salameh. Titane is a rapturous yet extremely fucked-up film from Julia Ducournau.

The film follows a showgirl for car shows whose sexual encounter with one of those cars leads to a pregnancy as she goes on the run following a series of murders she committed where she pretends to be a missing young man for a lonely firefighter. It’s a film that explores a young woman with an appetite for destruction and love for cars as it puts her into places where she went too far while also trying to find love which she didn’t receive from her parents as a child and as an adult. Julia Ducournau’s screenplay has a straightforward narrative yet it opens with a young Alexia (Adele Guigue) annoying her father in a car only for a car crash would lead to giving her a titanium plated filled on the right side of her head as she becomes fascinated with cars where she would become a showgirl for car shows as an adult (Agathe Rousselle). In these shows, she would dance provocatively in scantily-clad clothes where she is beloved by many but some go too far for her affection as it leads to death.

One notable murder at a party leads to trouble as she also learns she is pregnant after having sex with the car she was performing on at the show. With her family either unable or uninterested in helping her, she ends up going alone as there’s already a manhunt for her arrest for the murders. Upon seeing a poster for a missing person and how that man would age, Alexia would pretend to be that man including breaking her own nose where she would be picked up by this aging firefighter in Vincent (Vincent Lindon) as he is a captain who is still trying to keep up with the young firefighters he’s leading through steroids. Though Alexia as Adrien is more concerned with needing a place to crash, she starts to care for Vincent as she plays mute in order to keep him company while dealing with her growing belly.

Ducournau’s direction is definitely intense in terms of the approach to body horror as well as how she presents the film that is provocative but also uncompromising. While the opening scene of the young Alexia and how she got that titanium plate on her head including her scar behind her right ear just adds to offbeat presentation of the film. Shot on various locations in and around the South of France, Ducournau also plays into the world that Alexia is in as the scene of her arriving into the car show is shot in one entire tracking shot from the way she is walking to her dancing provocatively on a car where Ducournau just keeps the camera gazing through all sorts of shooting coverage whether it’s in a wide shot or in a close-up. The film also has Ducournau take on different styles of shots in wide and medium with the latter being in this scene of Alexia having sex with the car and then cuts to a wide shot of the car outside as it’s being part of this strange yet intense sex scene. Ducournau also doesn’t stray from the intensity of the film’s violence in which Alexia often kills her victims with a titanium hairpin she always wears where it’s often trigged by someone going too far as she either becomes defensive or react badly to something.

The film is also prominent with its sexual content as Alexia is often nude as it relates to her body changing due to her pregnancy with elements of titanium in her body as she desperately tries to conceal her true identity to Vincent. Even as she would shave her head to look more like a man yet there are those who know or around Vincent that are suspicious. Ducournau knows when to keep things simple while fire is often a recurring image in not just a key scene late in the first act but also in what Vincent faces quite often where he is a man that is also troubled by his own body which is why he uses steroids to maintain a physique that is becoming impossible to maintain. The third act isn’t just about these revelations of both Alexia and Vincent’s own physical issues but also this need of two people who are lonely and in need of each other with the former not really knowing what love is and the latter is someone who hasn’t been the same since his son’s disappearance as well as unable to accept the truth of what happened to him. Overall, Ducournau crafts a provocative yet intoxicatingly unsettling film about a serial killer who poses a man to be a companion for a lonely fireman as a way to avoid capture from the authorities.

Cinematographer Ruben Impens does incredible work with the film’s cinematography as its usage of stylish and colorful lights for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night are gorgeous to watch along with the usage of fire as well as aiming for something natural in the daytime scenes. Editor Jean-Christophe Bouzy does amazing work with the editing as it does have some jump-cuts in some scenes including a montage of Alexia transforming herself into a man in disguise. Production designers Laurie Colson and Lise Pesault, with set decorators Axelle Le Dauphin, Emmanuelle Olle, and Bruno Taddei, do brilliant work with the look of the car show as well as some of the places that Alexia goes including the fire station that Vincent lives in along with Adrien’s room.

Special effects makeup artists Olivier Alfonso, Amelie Grossier, and Celine Llerena do tremendous work with the film’s make-up effects from the look of Alexia’s scar as well as aspects of her body as it play into the idea of body horror as it is a highlight of the film. Visual effects supervisor Thibault Martegani does excellent work with the film’s minimal visual effects that include a few of the film’s violent moments as well as scenes involving the changes in Alexia’s body. The sound work of Severin Favriau, Fabrice Osinski, and Stephane Thiebaut is superb for its sound in the way the music at the car show is presented as well as other sound effects that range from these small sparse moments as well as some of the intense moments involving Alexia’s body. The film’s music by Jim Williams is phenomenal with its mixture of industrial, electronic music, ambient, orchestral, and vocal choir music as it adds to the drama and horror elements of the film while music supervisor Guillaume Baurez provide a soundtrack that features pieces by the Zombies, the Kills, Future Island, 16 Horsepower, Caterina Caselli, Johann Sebastian Bach, Lisa Abbott, and several others to play into the world that the characters are in.

The casting by Dorothee Auboiron, Christel Baras, Constance Demontoy, and Audrey Gatimel is remarkable as it feature some notable small roles from Thibault Cathalifaud as a fan who gets way too close to Alexia, Bertrand Bonello and Celine Carrere as Alexia’s distant parents, Dominique Frot as an old woman that Alexia as Adrien would save through CPR, Adele Guigue as the young Alexia, and Myriem Akheddiou as Vincent’s estranged ex-wife who meets Adrien with some suspicions of her own. Lais Salameh is fantastic as Vincent’s fellow young fireman Rayane who is suspicious about Adrien while chooses to keep things to himself knowing about Vincent’s fragile state. Garance Marillier is excellent as a showgirl named Justine that Alexia briefly has a relationship with as it later becomes problematic.

Vincent Lindon is incredible as Vincent as a middle-aged firefighter who is struggling to maintain a strong physique as he believes he has his son back as it plays into his own loneliness but also a tenderness into how patient he is with Adrien while dealing with the dangers of his own job as he clings to Adrien. Finally, there’s Agathe Rousselle in a phenomenal performance as Alexia as a showgirl who is also a serial killer as a woman that feels more connected through cars and violence as she copes with the lack of love until she meets Vincent where Rousselle maintains this stoic physicality around him where it is this eerie and intense performance from Rousselle.

Titane is an outstanding film from Julia Ducournau that features great performances from Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, an eerie music soundtrack, and its uncompromising presentation towards physical ideas as well as love and loneliness. The film is definitely not for the faint of heart as it is a film that intends to shock as well as so much more yet it is also a film that isn’t afraid to be disgusting and repulsive in its idea of body imagery and desires. In the end, Titane is a magnificent film from Julia Ducournau.

Julia Ducournau Films: (Mange) - Raw (2016 film)

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Films That I Saw: September 2021

 

Autumn has arrived and honestly, this is where the real heavy-duty film watching season truly begins as I’m a bit excited about it while still aware of some of the bullshit that is happening around the world. Even here in the U.S. as there’s still a bunch of stupid anti-vaxxers who really have no clue to the fact that the pandemic is not over and they’re the ones keeping it going. George Carlin was right, never underestimate a group of stupid people as they will just make things worse. I’m just glad I choose not to be around morons though I see them every now and then whenever I’m out to a restaurant or to get groceries as I’m always taking my mother somewhere as she is currently overseeing a new paint job for our house.

One of the things I’ve been able to enjoy aside from my time with my niece and nephew is professional wrestling as All Elite Wrestling didn’t just deliver one of the best pay-per-view events of the year but followed it up with a major event in New York City as they performed in front of more than 20,000 people at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens for an episode of AEW Dynamite and a taping of AEW Rampage as it featured one of the best matches I saw this year between Kenny Omega and Bryan Danielson that went into a 30-minute draw. The fact that AEW is making fans love pro wrestling again is proof that wrestling fans are now part of a newfound renaissance period and it’s not just in AEW. NWA, Impact, Ring of Honor, the hardcore GCW, AAA in Mexico, and New Japan Pro Wrestling have managed to provide that sense of joy again as well as bring in wrestling fans together instead of being forced to watch three hours of bad TV every Monday on the USA Network from 8 PM to past 11.
It’s not just that there’s so much going on in pro wrestling that is good but also in the actions of these companies as AEW has been doing a lot of incredible charitable work yet the biggest news in recent weeks involves their work with the Owen Hart Foundation. Now Bret Hart maybe in my top 5 all-time favorite wrestlers along with Stone Cold Steve Austin, Eddie Guerrero, CM Punk, and Randy Savage yet Owen was my favorite of the Hart family as I just enjoyed his ring work and exuberant personality as his tragic death in 1999 is something I still never got over. Yet the revelations about what happened on the night of his death were far more troubling as the years of anger towards his widow for not allowing WWE to honor his legacy subsided once the truth came out as I don’t blame her for not wanting to do anything with that shithole. The fact that she and AEW are working together in an act of charity and to honor Owen’s name made me elated while there will be an upcoming tournament named in his honor as it’s something I look forward to. It is proof that AEW is putting their money where their mouth is and bring some good in the world instead of using charity as a form of marketing like that shit-hole slop-shop at Stamford.
In the month of September, I saw a total of 25 films 14 first-timers and 11 re-watches with five of those first-timers directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Slightly down from last month yet it was a solid month as a major highlight of the month is my Blind Spot film in Pixote. Here are my top 5 first-timers that I saw for September 2021:

1. Annette

2. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings 

 


 3. Emma

4. Lisztomania 


 

 5. Just Mercy


 

Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’m Watching

Twenty Something

The first of two short films from SparkShorts series that I watched on Disney+ where the first short is from Aphton Corbin as it a simple short film about growing pains. It is about a woman turning 21 yet she is presented as three young kids in different ages and emotions as they deal with being this new age and becoming an adult. It is a touching and witty short film that is definitely spot about the fear of being an adult and letting go that aspect of childhood. It is an incredible short film that is full of humor but has a lot of heart.

Genesis: The Last Domino?
Genesis has just started what might be their last tour and it is really likely that it is their last largely due to Phil Collins’ health and the fact that he, guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford, and keyboardist Tony Banks are in or nearing their 70s. With longtime guitarist/bassist Daryl Stuermer playing, the live band consists of two backing vocalists in Daniel Pearce and Patrick Smyth who both contribute percussions with Phil’s son Nic playing drums solely this time around. The documentary about this upcoming tour that just began more than a week ago showcases Collins’ struggle to sound right for this tour as he is unable to move around except in sitting on a chair and sing. It also shows that a lot of the preparation for the tour has taken a mental toll on him due to his personal issues relating to his ex-wife with the band and his son being really helpful as it’s something for fans of Genesis as the recent shows have been well-received as the band have been playing a lot of songs from various periods including the songs that Peter Gabriel sang.

Pauline





One of two short films from Celine Sciamma that I saw as the first one (thanks to Brittani of Rambling Films for finding me this one) is a simple seven-minute short where the camera is still for a long time as a young woman talks about her sexual identity. Shot in one entire take, the film that was made for a government program to combat homophobia as Sciamma’s short allows Anais Demoustier to talk about her struggles and her desire to find happiness as it is really a gem of a short film that fans of Sciamma need to watch.

La Coupe Bernard Tapine
A two-minute documentary short film from Sciamma that is really a tribute to her favorite women’s football club in France. Though it is really short, it does say a lot about the culture of football in France as well as what it means to women who do have a league of their own even though it’s small in comparison to the big football league in France. Still, it is a short worth watching on the link above as it proves that Sciamma is a true visionary.

When Nirvana Came to Britain





Given that September 24 is the 30th anniversary of a bunch of landmark albums from 1991 such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Bloodsugarsexmagik, A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, Primal Scream’s Screamadelica (in the U.K.), Pixies’ Tromp Le Monde, and Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger. It is also the day Nirvana’s Nevermind came out as it would be the album that changed music culture as this documentary film from the BBC about the band’s relationship with Britain and how the country was able to discover them first before American audiences did. Featuring interviews with bassist Krist Novoselic, drummer Dave Grohl, radio deejays Jo Whiley and Steve Lamcq, Eugene Kelly of the Vaselines, Ana da Silva of the Raincoats, Biffy Clyro vocalist Simon Neil, the band’s U.K. touring dancer Antony “Tony” Hodgkinson, and many others.

The film showcases how the band first came to Britain in late 1989/early 1990 and the buzz they attracted during a time when British popular culture was trying to find a new identity in the decade. The film also showcases a lot of moments where vocalist/guitarist Kurt Cobain was quite happy as well as the fact that their legendary 1992 performance at the Reading Festival would be their last U.K. appearance as the band never played the U.K. following Cobain’s death 2 years later. It is not just something that fans of the band should see but also music fans as it showcased how this small band from Aberdeen, Washington would change the world for a bit as Grohl has managed to maintain relationships with those people that helped Nirvana become a big deal in the U.K. through his work as part of the Foo Fighters.

Nona
The second SparkShorts film that I watched on Disney+ is another touching and winning short film as it’s about an old woman wanting to watch a wrestling show when her granddaughter appears all of a sudden. Torn between two things that she loves, she eventually finds a way to bring them both together as it’s something that is a lot of fun while it also has a lot of heart as it’s a short that fans of pro wrestling can definitely enjoy but also relate to their own grandparents or their grandchildren.

Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James
While he’s known more lately for things he said on Dave Chappelle’s show through the stories from the late, great Charlie Murphy. There is no question that Rick James was one of the greatest artists that ever lived despite his troubles with drug addiction and such. Still, the documentary showcases his artistry with interviews from his widow, his eldest daughter from his first marriage, and various band members as they talk about the highs and lows along with his battles with MTV for not playing his videos. Even as he struggled with drugs as it is entertaining but also sobering of a man who was unable to cope with his demons.

What If…? (Episodes 4-8)
The next five episodes in the season so far definitely show some major highlights as the fourth episode about Doctor Strange dealing with loss as it features some of the show’s best animation. The fifth and sixth episode were also inventive as the fifth one is about the Avengers dealing with zombies while the sixth explore the possibility of what if Tony Stark was saved by Killmonger who would later conspire to create trouble for the Wakandans and SHIELD. The seventh episode about Thor being an only child is entertaining as it is filled with some hilarious moments including Loki presented as a Frost Giant as he and Thor have this mischievous relationship while Darcy marries Howard the Duck. The most recent episode about the idea of Ultron winning is the weakest so far yet it does showcase what happens if Ultron had access to the Infinity Stones and how it ends up creating trouble for the Watcher character. It is definitely an excellent show with one more episode coming to end the season.

Dark Side of the Ring (season 3-episodes 8 & 9)
Being a fan of pro wrestling and this series from VICE TV, I knew fans were about to get into some serious stories and the most recent episodes so far are intense. The eighth episode is about the infamous Plane Ride from Hell in which a bunch of WWE wrestlers are flying home from Britain to the U.S. where a bunch of bad shit happened including Curt Henning wrestling Brock Lesnar on a plane following a prank, a drunken Dustin Rhodes serenading his ex-wife Terri to great embarrassment, pranks involving Michael P.S. Hayes and JBL, a regrettable incident involving an intoxicated Scott Hall trying to make a pass towards a stewardess, and Ric Flair wearing nothing but his robe and flashing everyone while trying to flirt with that same stewardess. Henning and Hall were fired for their actions while Flair got a pass because of who he is as it really represented on a culture that never should be re-lived again as Flair has recently lost some commercial opportunities including a rumored spot in AEW as Andrade El Idolo’s manager.

The other episode on Chris Kanyon is a heartbreaking episode as it relates to a wrestler who didn’t get enough credit for his work in the ring yet he was a man that had a lot of personal issues including the fact that he was secretly gay. Featuring interviews with James Mitchell, Diamond Dallas Page, the Young Bucks, and Brian Cage, the episode revealed the man’s struggle and his anger as well as events that really destroyed his career including an unfortunate segment on WWE Smackdown in 2003 where he was dressed up as Boy George singing to the Undertaker only to be beaten horrifically with a steel chair. Years later, Kanyon would struggle with his demons as well as eventually coming out and sadly his own suicide in 2010 as he is someone that never got a fair treatment during a time when homosexuality was seen as taboo in professional wrestling as the industry has now changed for the better with a lot of openly-gay wrestlers being celebrated.

Top 10 Re-watches (that isn’t Lost in Translation)
1. Mirror
2. The Darjeeling Limited
3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
4. Big
5. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
7. The Mummy
8. I Love You, Man
9. The Mummy Returns
10. Major League II
Well, that is all for September 2021. Next month is October which is often the time to watch films relating to Halloween which means a lot of horror films as I’ve made a watchlist on the films I hope to watch for the month. A few of which will include theatrical releases such as Titane, Last Night in Soho, and Dune and hopefully No Time to Die as that’s a film I hope to watch with my mother as a tribute to my dad who was a big James Bond fan. One film in that list is a Blind Spot film as it will be Perfect Blue as it’s usually a fun time to watch scary movies as I hope to introduce my niece and nephew to some animated Halloween-based films that aren’t scary but fun. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2021

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Just Mercy

 

Based on the memoir Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy is the story of a young attorney who takes on an appeals case of a man accused of murder as he deals with the many injustices that this man has dealt with. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and screenplay by Cretton and Andrew Lanham, the film is based on the real life story of Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian who was falsely accused of murder in Alabama where his attorney in Bryan Stevenson tries to prove his innocence as Michael B. Jordan portrays Stevenson with Jamie Foxx as McMillian. Also starring Brie Larson, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, and Rafe Spall. Just Mercy is a riveting and heart-wrenching film from Destin Daniel Cretton.

Spanning from November of 1986 to March of 1993, the film follows the wrongful arrest and conviction of Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian over the murder of a young white woman in Ronda Morrison as he would be represented three years later by an idealist young attorney from Delaware in Bryan Stevenson who would do what he can to exonerate McMillian and prove his innocence. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it is more about a young man dealing with a world that he doesn’t know much of despite having to deal with the prejudices that he also faces as an African-American. The film’s screenplay by Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham is straightforward as it opens with McMillian’s arrest after a hard day’s work cutting trees as he’s accused of killing this young white woman as the film then pushes a couple of years later where Stevenson meets a young convict just before Stevenson is officially an attorney where it is a scene that establishes the idealism that follows him and his determination to make things right in the unforgiving environment that is the American South in Monroe County in Alabama.

The script also play into Stevenson not only focusing on McMillian and trying to gain his support as well as the support of his family but also look into the cases of others including a former war veteran in Herbert Richardson (Rob Morgan) who is suffering from PTSD as Stevenson tries to save him from execution. Aiding Stevenson in these cases include a local in Eva Ansley (Brie Larson) who helps him find the Equal Justice Initiative as she is disgusted by not just the racism in her home state but also the indifference of prosecutor Tommy Chapman (Rafe Spall) who declines to help Stevenson out in favor of protecting the state. While Stevenson was able to get an alibi from a family friend of McMillian who later backs out, the script shows Stevenson’s determination where he questions another prisoner in Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson) where some major revelations occur about why McMillian was convicted as it leads to major challenges for Stevenson to free McMillian.

Cretton’s direction is largely straightforward to play into its grounded presentation about a real-life story. While the film is set in Alabama and shot partially in Montgomery, much of it is shot on location in and around parts of Atlanta to play into the look and feel of late 1980s/early 1990s Alabama. Cretton does make the locations feel like a world of its own with prison cells also being characters as it is this place of fear where Stevenson has to endure some humiliation in his first visit in Alabama by stripping down where Cretton brings that sense of claustrophobia in the medium shots and close-ups. The usage of those shots add to the prison cell where McMillian is alone with Richardson next door to him on the left and another in Anthony Ray Hinton (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) who was also wrongly convicted. Cretton does use some wide shots to showcase some of the locations including images of trees during a scene where McMillian offer words of comfort to Richardson in one of his PTSD moments.

Cretton also play into this air of racism that is prominent in Alabama where Stevenson is an outsider of sorts as he does get a closer look of what it’s like being a black man in Alabama where a lot of the cops and local authorities are white. Cretton doesn’t paint them as typical villains as a young guard in Jeremy Doss (Hayes Mercure) becomes more sympathetic towards McMillian while the revelations about Myers showcase the similarities towards those who live below the poverty line as he too is a victim. The first act is about Stevenson’s idealism and his attempts to try and get McMillian a retrial while the second act is about these revelations and this retrial for McMillian. Yet, there’s this third act where Cretton goes into deep into the many injustices towards McMillian but also for black men as well as Chapman’s role who is someone disconnected from what is really going on as he has to deal with the status quo who are resistance towards change. Overall, Cretton crafts an engaging and evocative film about a young attorney who tries to free a wrongly-convicted man of murder in Alabama.

Cinematographer Brett Pawlak does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of low-key lights for many of the interior/exterior scenes at night as well as some understated colors for some of the daytime exterior scenes. Editor Nat Sanders does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few jump-cuts to play into some of the film’s intensely-dramatic moments. Production designer Sharon Seymour, with set decorator Maggie Martin and art director Peter Borck, does amazing work with the look of the house that Stevenson and Ansley bought as their headquarters as well as the look of the jail cells the prisoners live in and the court rooms. Costume designer Francine Jamison-Tanchuck does fantastic work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with some of the refined clothes of McMillian’s family during the trials and church scenes along with the expensive suits that Chapman wears. Makeup artist Bridgit Crider and hair stylist Crystal Woodford do terrific work with the look of McMillian early in the film as it played into the period of the times along with the look of Ansley in her ragged yet simple look.

Special effects supervisor Nicholas Coleman and visual effects supervisor Chris LeDoux do some fine work with the special effects as it is largely set-dressing for some of the film’s locations along with a few scenes in the prison. Sound editors Onnalee Blank and Katy Wood do superb work with the film’s sound as it help play into the tense atmosphere of the prisons as well as some of its sparse moments and scenes in some of the locations in the film. The film’s music by Joel P. West does wonderful work with the film’s music score as it features elements of orchestral music with some gospel to play into the world that is the American South while music supervisor Gabe Hilfer cultivate a soundtrack that largely features elements of soul, gospel, rock, and R&B as it features pieces from Martha and the Vandellas, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Alabama Shakes, Hilton Felton, Sister Emily Braum, The Mighty Indiana Travelers, Atlantic Starr, Ella Fitzgerald, and a few others.

The casting by Carmen Cuba and Tara Feldstein is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Rhoda Griffs as a judge late in the film, Norm Lewis as the voice of a newscaster, Hayes Mercure as the young prison guard Jeremy Doss who becomes sympathetic towards McMillian during the film as he realizes that McMillian is innocent, Dominic Bogart as Eva’s husband Doug, C.J. LeBlanc as McMillian’s son John, Karen Kendrick as McMillian’s wife Minnie, Darrell Britt-Gibson as a family friend in Darnell who has an alibi for McMillian only to be spooked by the authorities, and Michael Harding as the racist Sheriff Tate who doesn’t care if McMillian is innocent as he is someone trying to instill his authority. O’Shea Jackson Jr. is fantastic as Anthony Ray Hinton as a wrongfully-convicted man who is a cell-neighbor of McMillian as he believes that Stevenson is a man of hope as Stevenson also tries to help him with his own case.

Rafe Spall is superb as Tommy Chapman as a prosecutor who is unwilling to help Stevenson as he would be the opposition as a political figure who is trying to protect his own community while dealing with the fallout of his own actions. Tim Blake Nelson is excellent as the convict Ralph Myers as a white man who made the claim that he saw McMillian commit the murder as he makes some startling revelations where Nelson provides some chilling monologues and moments that showcases a man who had been used as a pawn for a cruel system. Rob Morgan is amazing as the convicted war veteran Herbert Richardson as a man who suffers from PTSD as he awaits his execution as he hopes to save as his performance is heartbreaking to watch as someone who is consumed with guilt while coping about his own fate. Brie Larson is brilliant as Eva Ansley as a local who becomes Stevenson’s right-hand woman as well as a mother who is aware that she is targeted while also doing what she can to help as well as give Stevenson an understanding of the cruelty that is Alabama and the American South.

Jamie Foxx is tremendous as Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian as a man who is wrongly accused of murder as he is skeptical of Stevenson’s intentions due to past attempts by others as he also copes with the many challenges in getting a retrial where Foxx is just understated in his performance as well as a man who clings on to hope knowing that truth can save him. Finally, there’s Michael B. Jordan in a phenomenal performance as Bryan Stevenson as a Harvard-graduate attorney from Delaware who moves to Alabama with ideas to change the world only to deal with some reality that is intense yet Jordan maintains that determination of someone who wants to do what is right as well as understand his own identity as a black man in the South who is just trying to make a small change to a cruel world as it is a career-defining performance for Jordan.

Just Mercy is a sensational film from Destin Daniel Cretton that features great performances from Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson. Along with its ensemble cast, understated presentation, an engaging music soundtrack, and its exploration of racism and injustice in the American South. It is a film that manages to explore a young man trying to save another man from injustice while also learning about what to do to combat hate in a world that is prejudice and resistant to change. In the end, Just Mercy is a phenomenal film from Destin Daniel Cretton.

Destin Daniel Cretton Films: (I Am Not a Hipster) – Short Term 12 - (The Glass Castle (2017 film)) – Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

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