Friday, April 30, 2021

Films That I Saw: April 2021

 

Well, things are starting to get a bit normal again with more people going back to doing their thing although it still feels weird. Even though I got my first vaccination and will have my second on this coming Tuesday, I’m still trying to get myself back on track as I’m dealing with bits of insomnia and the need of just wanting to sleep. Things here in Atlanta are getting crazy including here in Smyrna where there was a shooting at Akers Mills nearby a restaurant all because of an argument at a parking lot and weeks earlier just around the corner a shooting in Cumberland Mall. Then about miles away at Buckhead at Lenox, a woman coming into her car is robbed as it’s become a regular thing as I haven’t been to Lenox Mall in nearly a year.

Fortunately, I am glad to just be at home and whenever Mateo and Adalina comes to the house. I have a good time as Mateo is two but full of energy and curiosity as he’s already starting to boss people around and such. Adalina is starting to notice me though she’s only more than a month old but seems to like me. That’s grounded me as I’m eager to get back to going to the movie theaters again while hopefully go to a Brave game as I hadn’t been to a game in a long time nor have I been to see an Atlanta United game as that’s something I hope to do as a way to pay tribute to my dad and show my nephew something he can be excited for.
In the month of April 2021, I saw a total of 20 films in 8 first-timers and 12 re-watches with four of those first-timers films/TV series directed by women as part of the 52 films by women pledge. One of those films proved to be the highlight of the month in my Blind Spot Series choice in Beau Travail. Here are my top 5 first-timers that I saw for April 2021:

1. The End of the Tour
2. Night Moves
3. First Cow
4. Zack Snyder's Justice League
5. TINA
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I Watched:

TINA
While this documentary from HBO that features a new interview Tina Turner shot a few years before this film’s release doesn’t really tell audiences anything new about the Queen of Rock N’ Roll. However, it is still a fascinating and compelling documentary that chronicles Turner’s time from being part of the Ike and Tina Revue with her abusive ex-husband Ike Turner to her illustrious solo career that has her being a megastar during the 1980s. While the film does feature some insight from the people who were with her including a few archival audio and interviews from Turner including her deceased ex-husband. It only scratches the surface as it should be noted that Turner did a lot more in the 1990s and beyond though the film was made so that Turner can tell her story for the final time as it’s a story she’s pretty much tired of telling at this point.

Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil (last 2 episodes)
The four-part YouTube documentary special about Demi Lovato has the singer in the second half of the series not only talk about her struggle with recovery but also her return to the music scene. The film does showcase a woman who admits to be full of contradictions as she still likes to drink and smoke weed but there are also people including Sir Elton John who tells her that drinking and smoking in moderation doesn’t work at all. Still, the documentary does show Lovato trying to get herself back on track and clean up but also use her music to help her find herself again.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (episodes 3-6)
Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige has once again delivered with this series as the subsequent episodes as it features not just career-defining performances for both Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in their respective works but also some amazing supporting work with its ensemble cast. Notably the appearances from Carl Lumbly as Isiah Bradley as his appearances as a super soldier that history chooses to neglect is heart-wrenching as director Kari Skogland and showrunner Malcolm Spellman create a show that does get people talking about racism, history, identity, globalization, and what it means to use power for the right reasons. The fifth episode is definitely the best one in the series where it wasn’t just about Sam Wilson wrestling with what to do with the shield but also in the role that he realizes he needs to play. Not just for himself but for the world as what chooses to do in the season finale is proof of why Steve Rogers chose him to be the next Captain America. While the season finale was a bit of a messy narrative with some major reveals that are a bit baffling as well as the motivations of Karli Morgenthau in the end. It does manage to at least provide a fitting end for many as well as make a big announcement for what is next which is going to be a fourth Captain America movie.
The show is a success not just because of its mixture of action, adventure, comedy, and drama but in also wanting to discuss major themes. Emily Van Camp and Wyatt Russell in their respective roles as Sharon Carter and John Walker are solid as is Erin Kellyman as Morgenthau. Yet, the real star of the supporting cast is Daniel Bruhl as Helmut Zemo where he’s just a villain that you just help but love. He’s charming, he’s got swag, and who knew he could dance. Plus, he’s humble enough to know when he’s out knowing he will fight another day. Bruhl and Lumbly both deserve some accolades yet the big cameo reveal in the fifth episode is the most unexpected casting ever. The casting directors for this show need to get a raise because how in the hell they got this person to appear not just the show but for the entire MCU. This is godlike casting and I love it.

Top 10 Re-watches:

1. The Godfather
2. The Godfather Part II
3. Kill Bill Vol. 1
4. Manny & Lo
5. Rudy
6. Lethal Weapon 2
7. Hellboy
8. The Fast and the Furious
9. The Bronze
10. Wanderlust
Well, that is all for April. Next month, I will finally re-start work on my Auteurs piece on Kelly Reichardt as well as watch many films in my never-ending DVR list. Notably the A24 and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet as well as my Blind Spot choice as I now have access to almost every film in my Blind Spot series for the year. Before I leave, I want to express my condolences towards the family and friends of a few major individuals who passed away recently in actress Helen McCrory, songwriter Jim Steinman, Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers, and the rapper DMX as this is proof that some of the greats are leaving but they will be remembered for the joys they have given us. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: TV Scores/Theme Songs

 

For the 17th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We return to the world of television in the TV scores and theme songs as it help makes a show with some songs being memorable with some not so much. Here are my three picks:

1. Married… with Children





If anyone here doesn’t think this is one of the best TV shows ever made. I will fucking destroy you. Honestly, I love this fucking show and who better to lead the show off than the Chairman of the Board in Frank Sinatra and the song Love and Marriage as it plays into the despair in the life of a lady shoe salesman in Al Bundy who is married to a lazy wife who wears tacky clothes and does nothing but watch Oprah and the home shopping network and takes all of his money with two kids who hates his guts as well as a neighbor with chicken legs who was married to a yuppie who later leaves her realizing the yuppie life sucks and then be replaced by an aging pretty-boy who joins Al in all sorts of shenanigans.

2. The Sopranos





The greatest TV show ever made. Featuring a theme song by Alabama 3 in Woke Up This Morning, it is a theme that plays into the dangerous life that Tony Soprano and his family live in as Tony is a mob boss from Jersey that is also dealing with issues of his own. He would talk about it through a therapist while also coping with his home life, his criminal life, and the people around him. Ran for six seasons yet it always delivered and remains one of the most beloved shows ever.

3. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier





If there’s one composer in film and television that has been delivering solid work as of late and is taking the next step into being a great. It’s Henry Jackman as he’s been consistent in the music he’s created as his work for this TV show is unique as it does borrow his own work in the 2 Captain America films he had scored yet he infuses it with blues and soul for some of the themes he created. Notably the Louisiana Hero theme as it plays into the identity of Sam Wilson who is known as the Falcon yet would take on a much bigger identity. Jackman’s score definitely brings a lot of thrills as well as knowing when to set a mood as it is a reason for the show’s success.

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Psychological Thrillers

 

For the 16th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of psychological thrillers. Films that play into the world of suspense as it delves into character studies as well as understanding about what is going on in their head. Here are my three picks:

1. Les Diaboliques
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s adaptation of an obscure novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac is definitely a suspense thriller that play into the idea of terror where a woman and her husband’s mistress conspire to kill that woman’s husband as things go wrong when the body suddenly disappears. It is this eerie film that has a woman dealing with the cruelty of her husband as she’s trying to run a children’s school while also having a heart condition that just adds to the chaos. It is an inventive film that has so many twists and turns as it showcases what a psychological thriller should be.

2. Manhunter
Though audiences are probably more familiar with Anthony Hopkins in the role of Dr. Hannibal Lector, what some probably don’t know is that Brian Cox did it first in Michael Mann’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel five years earlier which would be adapted in 2002 by Brett Ratner with Hopkins as Dr. Lector. Yet, this is the definitive version of the story as it plays into a man troubled by his encounter with Dr. Lector to the point that he goes to him for help in trying to find a serial killer. It is a thriller that is more about trying to find the clues and the killer itself as it’s told with such richness by Mann.

3. Cache`
Michael Haneke’s surveillance film revolves around a TV host and his publisher wife who receive mysterious video tapes as they learned they’re being filmed for some strange reason. It plays into a man’s hidden past as a boy and the actions he probably had unknowingly caused as it adds to this intrigue as the mystery peels slowly yet it each piece that is revealed just showcases a lot of revelations. It is a film that does demand re-watches yet it does get rewarding as it allows the audience to think more and more that includes its ending which remains one of the best twists in film.

© thevoid99 2021

Monday, April 19, 2021

2021 Blind Spot Series: Beau Travail

 

Based on the novella Billy Budd by Herman Melville, Beau Travail (Good Work) is the story of a French Foreign Legion officer who becomes obsessed with a new recruit at a post in Djibouti. Directed by Claire Denis and screenplay by Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau, the film is a study of obsession and code of honor in the military in a world where men deal with their surroundings as an officer becomes troubled by this new recruit. Starring Denis Lavant, Gregoire Colin, and Michel Subor. Beau Travail is a ravishing and evocative film from Claire Denis.

Set in the country of Djibouti, the film revolves around a group of French Foreign Legion soldiers as they welcome a new recruit who catches the eye of its one of its officer who is troubled by this man’s presence as he does what he can to stop him. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it is more of a character study as it’s told mainly by one of its protagonists in Adjudant-Chef Galoup (Denis Lavant) who is overseeing a group of young soldiers as he trains them and watches over them at night whenever they go into town and have some fun. It’s part of a routine that Galoup likes to maintain as he also spends his alone time writing a memoir or to see a local woman in Rahel (Marta Tafesse Kassa) he spends time with every now and then. Upon the arrival of Giles Sentain (Gregoire Colin), Galoup is upset in Sentain getting the attention of Galoup’s commander in Commandant Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor) who is fascinated by Sentain and his background but Galoup feels like something about Sentain is off as he’s also troubled by Sentain’s beauty and how well he was able to fit in with Galoup’s troops as it adds to the turmoil within Galoup.

Claire Denis’ direction is filled with intoxicating imagery as she creates some unique compositions in the surroundings as it is shot on location Dijbouti. The usage of wide and medium shots add to not just the scope of the locations in the country including its deserts and mountains but also the areas in the city as it play into this post-colonial world where all of these soldiers from different parts of the world are trying to be part of an elite group of soldiers. Yet, Denis does give the film some perspective from the locals as they see the Foreign Legion either with some disdain or curiosity as they’re seen training and doing these intense physical obstacles. Most notably these moments of exercising that is choreographed by Bernardo Monet to the music of Benjamin Britten’s opera for the Melville novella of the same name. There are some close-ups that Denis creates as it plays more into the sense of physicality in the training as well as some of the homoerotic tension that occurs in the way Galoup sees his commander towards Sentain as he is this object of beauty that is unlike anything.

Denis also play up to the tension by not showing anything that is typical of films that demand some kind of physicality in intense fight scenes. There’s only bits of it as it’s more of a study of wit but also repressed desire as it play into Galoup’s own issues as much of the film is told in a reflective narrative with scenes of him in Paris. It adds to this dream-like narrative where Denis also employ a lot of long shots where the camera gazes into a simple game of chess or a scene where Galoup is dealing with Sentain as if they want to fight. The film’s climax relates to what Galoup does to Sentain and its aftermath as it plays into this act of repression as well as this penultimate scene that has Galoup in Paris as it plays into something ambiguous about his identity and his actions that lead to his own downfall. Overall, Denis crafts a riveting and hypnotic film about a French Foreign Legion officer’s troubled obsession towards a new recruit.

Cinematographer Agnes Godard does phenomenal work with the film’s naturalistic yet mesmerizing cinematography as she shoots everything with natural lighting for many of the scenes in the day as well as using available lighting for the scenes set at night including the nightclubs. Editor Nelly Quettier does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts for the exercise scenes. Production designer Arnaud de Moleron does brilliant work with the look of the fort that the Legion lives in as well as some of the places in the city that they go to. Costume designer Judy Shewsbury does fantastic work with the costumes from the uniforms, underwear, and such that the Legion wears to the colorful clothing of the locals.

Sound editor Christophe Winding does superb work with the sound in capturing the atmosphere of the locations as well as a major sound effect for a key scene in the film as well as the atmosphere of a club. The film’s music by Eran Tzur and Charles Henri de Pierrefu is wonderful for its low-key orchestral score that is mainly driven by strings as it doesn’t go for bombast in favor of ambiance while the music soundtrack that include Benjamin Britten’s opera Billy Budd as well as music from Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Franky Vincent, Corona, Tarkan, Oliver N’Goma, and Abayazid Ali Dahablii.

The casting by Nicolas Lubin is terrific as it feature some notable small roles from Richard Courcet and Nicolas Duvauchelle as a couple of Legionnaire soldiers and Marta Tafesse Kassa as a local woman that Galoup sees every once in a while. Michel Subor is incredible as Commandant Bruno Forestier as a wearing commander who lives outside of the fort as he is someone that had seen a lot yet becomes fascinated towards Sentain. Gregoire Colin is remarkable as Gilles Sentain as a new recruit who joins the Foreign Legion as he is this object of beauty that manages to be someone kind-hearted and does what he can to help out everyone yet is troubled by Galoup’s presence. Finally, there’s Denis Lavant in a phenomenal performance as Adjudant-Chef Galoup as a Foreign Legion officer who runs a section as he devotes his life to the Legion and to his commanding officer as he becomes unhinged by Sentain’s presence as it plays into repressed homosexuality and desire to the point that he does what he can to break Sentain in any way as it is this quiet and reserved performance from Lavant.

Beau Travail is a tremendous film from Claire Denis that features great performances from Denis Lavant, Gregoire Colin, and Michel Subor. Along with its riveting music soundtrack, ravishing visuals, gorgeous location settings, and its themes of identity and devotion. It is a film that explores a lifestyle and a man being threatened by the presence of someone new to maintain his flawed ideals. In the end, Beau Travail is an outstanding film from Claire Denis.

Claire Denis Films: (Chocolat) – (No Fear, No Die) – (Jacques Rivette, le veilleur) – (Keep It for Yourself) – (I Can’t Sleep) – (Nenette and Boni) – (Trouble Every Day) – (Vendredi soir) – (The Intruder (2004 film)) – (35 Shots of Rum) – (White Material) – (Bastards) – (Let the Sunshine In) – (High Life) – (Fire (2022 film))

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Female Cinematographers

 

For the 15th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of female cinematographers based on a suggestion by Brittani as there’s been some incredible work by women behind the camera. Here are my three picks of female cinematographers working with female directors:

1. Babette Mangolte-Hotel Monterey
A frequent collaborator of Chantal Akerman, Babette Mangolte filmed much of Akerman’s work during the 1970s including this documentary film about Akerman’s time at a New York City hotel that has an array of people who live there that prove to be interesting. Shot in a grainy film stock, Mangolte brings that realism and a beauty to the look of the hotel room that Akerman lived in as well as other rooms while the location of the hotel itself is unique. Notably in a scene of what it’s like to be in an elevator at the hotel at the time while camera doesn’t move often during the film as it’s a testament to Mangolte’s work with Akerman.

2. Ellen Kuras-Personal Velocity: Three Portraits
A regular collaborator of Rebecca Miller, Ellen Kuras’ photography in Miller’s 2002 film that is based on Miller’s own novel is a definite look into the early ideas of digital video photography. There is a rawness to the way the camera looks including for some scenes set at night as well as how a daytime exterior looks. It’s a story of three different women living in the state of New York with one being a woman who was once a promiscuous woman who controlled her sexuality only to be married and be part of an abusive relationship with her husband. The second story set in New York City revolves a book editor who gets the chance to be successful and win her father’s approval but ponders if it brings her happiness. The third story is about a woman who befriends a young runaway just as she is dealing with changes in her own life as she’s trying to figure out her own life as Kuras’ photography just adds to the realism of these stories.

3. Barbara Alvarez-The Headless Woman
For Lucrecia Martel’s third film in this informal trilogy set in a regional area in Argentina that not many people outside of the area know about. The film revolves around the emotional breakdown of a woman following a hit-and-run as she is unsure of what she hit. Barbara Alvarez’s cinematography brings a lot of textures into the mind of Maria Onetto’s character who starts to unravel as her approach to natural lighting and colors says a lot about a woman that is falling apart. Even in the surrounds that adds to this social disconnect that Onetto’s character also starts to see in what she has but also the world where the accident happens as Alvarez’s work is a highlight of that film.

© thevoid99 2021

Monday, April 12, 2021

Night Moves (2013 film)

 

Directed and edited by Kelly Reichardt and written by Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond, Night Moves is the story of two radical environmentalists and a former marine who plan to blow up a dam as they deal with their planning as well as what would happen afterwards. The film is an exploration of political and social actions involving three people who believe in something as they later question what they’re doing as well as its aftermath. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Alia Shawkat, Katherine Waterston, Logan Miller, Kai Lennox, James LeGros, and Peter Saarsgard. Night Moves is a haunting and evocative film from Kelly Reichardt.

The film plays into two young environmentalists who are both radicalized by the movement as they turn to a former marine in creating a bomb to blow up a dam near a river in Oregon. Yet, it is the aftermath of the event that would trouble them as it play into the fallacies of not just the radicalism but also revelations about what happened. The film’s screenplay by Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond essentially has a two-act structure where the first half is about the planning and the event that lead to blowing up this dam while its second half is about the troubling aftermath. Yet, the script does explore these two young people who feel like the world is in trouble and believe that this act in blowing up a dam will be good for the environmental cause as they turn this former marine who also has a record as he knows what to do. While the character of Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) doesn’t entirely agree with their views, he does believe that both Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Dena (Dakota Fanning) have a point about the ways of the world which is why he helps them.

It’s the film’s second half that really play into this aftermath where something did go wrong as it relates to what happened and the fact that someone was at the dam when it blew up. Harmon tells both Josh and Dena that they should keep their mouths shut and not contact each other or say anything. Yet, things do go wrong with Dena becoming uneasy and Josh convinced Dena is going to say something. It adds to this struggle as well as the fact that Josh’s own livelihood is at risk since he works and live at a farm while Dena works at a spa. The narrative focuses more on Josh’s paranoia and Dena’s growing guilt as it relates to the second half of the film.

Reichardt’s direction is entrancing for much of the imagery that she creates as well as this air of realism that occurs into the world of radicalism. Shot on location at southern Oregon with the actual dam in the Galesville Reservoir at the Klamath Mountains, the film does play into a world that is bit disconnected from the world of the cities where Josh works in this farm that is bit of a community of its own with Dena working at a spa yet is someone that supposedly comes from a rich family. Much of Reichardt’s compositions are straightforward as it play into the planning of the first half of the film with its usage of medium shots and close-up to play into the characters interacting or dealing with some kind of crisis. There are some wide shots to establish some of the locations yet Reichardt prefers to focus on the characters as she play into the preparedness of their plan and how they try to isolate themselves and not look suspicious. The scene of planting the bomb is also tense in the three trying not to be seen as there’s a wide shot of a car stopping near the dam.

Also serving as the film’s editor, Reichardt doesn’t aim for style but does maintain a slow rhythm to play up the suspense without making it noticeable in order to get a reaction from a characters. Notably in its second half where it’s all about the drama and the aftermath of this bombing where something bad did happen as much of the film focuses on Josh who also believes that some of his fellow farmers might know what he has done. Reichardt’s compositions add to the sense of paranoia but also chooses to create scenes where audiences can get an idea of what is happening but not show anything. Notably in its climax that is followed by an aftermath that plays into uncertainty for a key character in the film but also a decision that forces that person to start a new life or continue to move without any direction. Overall, Reichardt crafts a mesmerizing and eerie film about two radical environmentalists and a former marine bombing a dam and then deal with its troubling aftermath.

Cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on low-key yet natural lighting, usage of available light for the scenes at night, and other lighting schemes to maintain air of realism into the look of the film. Production designer Elliott Hostetter, with set decorator Virginia Yount and art director Almitra Corey, does excellent work with the look of the boat that Dena and Josh bought as well as the house Josh lives in and the spa that Dena works at. Costume designer Vicki Farrell is terrific for the casual look of the characters that include winter hats, flannel, and jeans to play into the world they live in.

Sound editor Julia Shirar and sound designer Kent Sparling do amazing work with the sound as it help play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as how the characters sound from afar as well as some of the sparse aspects of the sound on a certain location. The film’s music by Jeff Grace is wonderful for its mixture of ambient, folk, and country that play into its suspense and its setting while music supervisors Lyle Hysen and Chris Swanson provide a soundtrack that features a mixture of folk, country, ambient, and indie rock from A Place to Bury Strangers, Coliseum, Sun Rai, and Bear in Heaven.

The casting by Mark Bennett and Laura Rosenthal is superb as it feature some notable small roles from James LeGros as a feed farm factory clerk, Kai Lennox as a hiking camper that annoys Harmon, Dena, and Josh, Katherine Waterston and Barry Del Sherman as the farm owners that Josh works for, Logan Miller as a young farmer who often says dumb things, and Alia Shawkat as a farmer named Surprise that Josh is friends with. The trio of Peter Sarsgaard, Dakota Fanning, and Jesse Eisenberg are incredible in their respective roles as Harmon, Dena, and Josh as they all maintain a low-key and reserved performances in their respective roles. Sarsgaard adds a weariness and gravitas to his role as a man that knows what to do but is also someone who is aware of the stakes. Fanning’s performance has this air of urgency as someone who is determined to do this mission but starts to unravel following the aftermath as she becomes consumed with guilt. Eisenberg’s performance is one of restraint as someone that is determined to do the deed but becomes paranoid following its aftermath as well as being unsure of what to do as he too is consumed with guilt.

Night Moves is a phenomenal film from Kelly Reichardt featuring great performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard. Along with its ensemble supporting cast, gorgeous visuals, and its restrained yet eerie tone, the film is a compelling look into a couple of young people who team with a former military officer in creating an act of radical terrorism only to deal with the troubling aftermath and the realities of their ideals. In the end, Night Moves is a sensational film from Kelly Reichardt.

Kelly Reichardt Films: River of Grass - Old Joy - Wendy & Lucy - Meek's Cutoff - Certain Women - First Cow – (Showing Up) - (The Auteurs #72: Kelly Reichardt)

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Amateur Sleuths

 

For the 14th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We venture into the world of amateur sleuths as people who aren’t certified detectives who take on a case and find out for themselves without the help of the law. Here are my three picks:

1. Brick
Rian Johnson’s feature-length debut film is this stylized noir film set in a high school where a young man discovers his girlfriend’s body as he tries to find out who killed her and why as it relates to drugs and social cliques. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a role as an outcast who tries to find out who killed his girlfriend, it’s a low-key performance that has everyone talking in a certain language as it is told with a sense of wit and intrigue that plays into the suspense. Notably as it has a richness that seems lacking in a lot of films set in high school as it is a standard of what feature-length debut film should be.

2. The Nice Guys
Shane Black’s 2016 film set in the late 1970s in the world of porn and disco as it relates to the death of a porn star and a young woman on the run and leading this case is a loser private detective with a young daughter helping and an enforcer who takes not shit from anyone. Starring Ryan Gosling as the loser detective and Russell Crowe as the enforcer, it’s an offbeat buddy-comedy detective film that manages to be entertaining while giving both Gosling and Crowe the chance to be funny as well as cool. Notably as Crowe, often playing serious roles, is given the chance to relax a bit and show that he’s a really funny motherfucker.

3. Pokemon Detective Pikachu
A worthwhile family comedy that revolves a young man who travels to a Pokemon version of Japan following the death of his father only to find a Pokemon in Pikachu, with the voice of Ryan Reynolds, as they try to figure out what is going on. It is a light-hearted and fun that does have witty suspense but also intrigue as it relates to a mysterious substance and why this young man’s father was killed. Even as it has some twists and turns but also some funny moments involving Pikachu who is just adorable to watch.

© thevoid99 2021

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

The End of the Tour

 

Based on the memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky, The End of the Tour is the story of Lipsky interviewing novelist David Foster Wallace in a five-day tour promoting Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest. Directed by James Ponsoldt and screenplay by Donald Marguiles, the film is a dramatic re-telling of Lipsky’s recordings with Wallace during this promotional trip as Lipsky gets to know the gifted but troubled novelist as he deals with newfound fame and expectations as Jesse Eisenberg plays Lipsky and Jason Segel as Wallace. Also starring Anna Chlumsky, Ron Livingston, Mamie Gummer, Mickey Sumner, and Joan Cusack. The End of the Tour is a compelling and somber film from James Ponsoldt.

Set almost entirely in the winter of 1996, the film revolves around a writer/journalist in David Lipsky as he is given an assignment to interview novelist David Foster Wallace during a five-day promotional tour for his best-selling novel Infinite Jest which has garnered loads of acclaim with Wallace being positioned as one of the greats. Yet, the film is really more about a man trying to get to know this novelist for a piece for Rolling Stone magazine yet both deal with their own issues in being lonely with Wallace struggling to deal with newfound fame as well as rumors about himself. Donald Marguiles’ screenplay is largely straightforward though it begins in 2008 where Lipsky gets the news of Wallace’s suicide as he goes over audio tapes that he recorded during their 1996 road trip as he reflects on that experience. The five-day tour that is a bit of a road trip with a flight from Bloomington-Normal, Illinois to Minneapolis where Lipsky and Wallace deal with the promotion as the former is trying to see if all of these claims of greatness towards the latter are really true.

James Ponsoldt’s direction is largely straightforward in terms of the compositions he creates as well as taking a simple story about a five-day promotional tour and turn it into this study of fame, expectations, and adulation. Shot largely on location in Michigan as well as additional locations in New York City and Minneapolis, the film plays into a moment in time where books were still big as well as pre-Internet media where both Lipsky and Wallace talk about its potential power. While there are some wide shots in some of the locations that the characters go to, much of the direction is intimate whether it’s in a car, a diner, a hotel room, or at a house through medium shots and close-ups. Notably as it play into two men just talking and trying to get to know each other as Lipsky is someone who had just released a book and wonders how Wallace had just achieved greatness. Yet, Wallace is this man who prefers the company of dogs at his home while he does have a couple of acquaintances he would meet in Minneapolis.

The scene where Lipsky chats with one of Wallace’s friends is a moment that showcase a few of the dark aspects of Wallace who believes Lipsky is flirting with her even though he has a girlfriend back in New York City. It adds to Lipsky’s intrigue towards Wallace as he is pressured from his editor to talk about these rumors about Wallace’s supposed heroin addiction when the reality is actually disappointing as it plays into Wallace’s persona as a man who wears regular clothing and a bandana as the theme of identity comes into play. Polsoldt plays up that tension as Lipsky is forced to have revelations about Wallace’s struggle with this newfound celebrity status as well as these expectations in relation to these great writers of the past. Notably in the third act towards the end of the tour as Lipsky wonders if everything Wallace is doing is an act but it turns out to be not as simple as he wishes it would be since great writers in the past played a persona that diverged from their true being. Yet, the reality shows a man just trying to hold on to a sense of self as well as destroy the façade of celebrity. Overall, Polsoldt crafts a riveting and evocative film about a writer/journalist reflecting on his five-day tour with David Foster Wallace.

Cinematographer Jakob Ihre does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it aims for a straightforward and natural approach with some lighting for some of the scenes set at night. Editor Darrin Navarro does nice work with the editing as it also play into being straightforward with some rhythmic cuts that play into reaction shots and conversations. Production designer Gerald Sullivan, with set decorator Yvette Granata and art director Sarah M. Pott, does fantastic work with the look of Wallace’s home and its lack of mystery as well as a bookstore in Minneapolis where he promotes the book. Costume designer Emma Potter does terrific work with the costumes as it is largely casual including the ragged look of Wallace as it plays into the fashion of the 1990s.

Hair stylist Stephanie Strowbridge does superb work with the look of Lipsky’s different hairstyle from a ragged look in 1996 to a more subdued hairstyle in 2008. Visual effects supervisor Matthew Bramante does wonderful work with the visual effects as it is mainly bits of set-dressing for some of the exteriors to play into the look of the 1990s. Sound editor Ryan Collins does amazing work with the sound as it plays into the atmosphere of some the locations including a scene at Mall of America. The film’s music by Danny Elfman is good for its low-key ambient score with music supervisor Tiffany Anders cultivating a brilliant soundtrack that features music from R.E.M., Wang Chung, Tindersticks, Brian Eno, Alanis Morrisette, Fun Boy Three, Felt, Pulp, the Association, Tracey Ullman, Nu Shooz, Pavement, Chaka Khan, and the Magnetic Fields.

The casting by Avy Kaufman is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Becky Ann Baker as a bookstore manager for one of Wallace’s signings, Anna Chlumsky as Lipsky’s girlfriend Sarah who is in awe of Wallace’s book, Mamie Gummer and Mickey Sumner as a couple of friends of Wallace in their respective roles in Julie and Betsy with the latter being a poet that Lipsky is interested in, Ron Livingston as Lipsky’s editor Bob Levin who reluctantly gives Lipsky the story to interview Wallace, and Joan Cusack as Wallace and Lipsky’s chaperone in Minneapolis in Patty Gunderson.

Finally, there’s the duo of Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel in tremendous performances in their respective roles as David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace. Eisenberg brings a reserved performance as a writer who is trying to understand who Wallace his as all of his romantic ideas of what he wants Wallace to be turns out to be false as he tries to figure out what makes Wallace great. Segel’s performance as Wallace is also reserved yet it has its quirks as someone who just wants to be a normal guy whose house is a mess and eats junk food as Segel plays it straight without being someone who wants to be pretentious or be this idea of a what great writer as he isn’t sure if he’s that great. Eisenberg and Segel had great rapport together as they just both look and feel relaxed while also showing some humor in their time together.

The End of the Tour is a phenomenal film from James Ponsoldt that features incredible performances from Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel. Featuring a great supporting ensemble cast, a compelling narrative, and a superb music soundtrack, the film is a fascinating story of a real-life interview between David Lipsky and the late David Foster Wallace just as the latter is ascending to fame despite his own issues with it that would haunt him for the rest of his life. In the end, The End of the Tour is a sensational film from James Ponsoldt.

James Ponsoldt Films: (Off the Black) – Smashed - The Spectacular Now - (The Circle 2017 film))

© thevoid99 2021

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Zack Snyder's Justice League

 

Based on characters from DC Comics, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an extended and revised version of the 2017 film that was originally directed by Zack Snyder until family tragedy forced him to leave during post-production in which Joss Whedon took over in creating new scenes and re-shoots that left the original 2017 film version to be considered a massive disappointment. Directed by Zack Snyder and screenplay by Chris Terrio from a story by Snyder, Terrio, and Will Beall, the film follows the same storyline of the original 2017 as it plays into Batman wanting to form a team with other heroes in the wake of a major threat following the death of Superman as the new story also revolve more on the players who would join the group as well as a far more dangerous villain in Darkseid. Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, Willem Dafoe, Diane Lane, Amber Heard, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Connie Nielsen, and J.K. Simmons. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a thrilling and compelling film from Zack Snyder.

Following events that lead to death of Superman (Henry Cavill), the film follows a group of superheroes who band together to retrieve a trio of powerful boxes before a godlike being gets it to bring in a much more menacing figure who plans on destroying the universe. It’s a story similar to the 2017 theatrical film version of the film but what screenwriter Chris Terrio and his co-writers in Zack Snyder and Will Beall presented isn’t just grander but also focuses on themes of loss, redemption, and identity. Notably as Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) feels guilty for not making peace with Superman sooner following their brief fight and their battle against Doomsday that lead to Superman’s death. That battle would have serious repercussions as it would awaken these three Mother boxes and also brought attention to dark forces that realize that the boxes are on Earth. Both Wayne and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) become aware that there are these forces are coming as they would recruit Barry Allen/the Flash (Ezra Miller), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to form a team.

What Terrio does with the story is flesh out more development in not just these individuals who would form the Justice League but also the motivations of its antagonist Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) who is also seeking redemption for his master/uncle in a god-like being known as Darkseid (Ray Porter) who had found an anti-life equation on Earth hoping to destroy the universe. The script is broken into six chapters plus an epilogue as it help play into the development of characters as well as explore the themes of grief and redemption. For Bruce Wayne, forming the Justice League is him trying to redeem himself as his attempt to recruit Curry in its first chapter yet Curry is reluctant having felt more like an outsider by his own people despite a later plea from his mentor Nuidis Vuklo (Willem Dafoe) to take up the mantle as King of Atlantis knowing that something wrong is about to happen. The script also does more to showcase who Barry Allen and Victor Stone are as the former is a young man trying to find a job as his power is running faster than the speed of light while channeling electricity as he says yes to Wayne’s offer. The latter is a once-promising football player/student who was nearly killed in a car accident that also killed his mother as his father Silas (Joe Morton) had tried to save his son only for Victor to feel resentful as it’s why he turned down Prince’s offer to join the team.

Terrio’s script does have some exposition as the second part reveals about what Wayne and Prince have to face in Steppenwolf and the bigger threat that is Darkseid as the first two parts serve as the first act while the second act play into the next two parts of the series where it does flesh out the characters but also play into their motivations to fight but also take the time to know each other as both Allen and Stone find common ground in their own lack of direction in life while Curry gets the chance to cope with his own identity and be part of a team. The third act is about not just resurrecting Superman but also dealing with the stakes of what they have to face in Steppenwolf and the looming presence of Darkseid.

Snyder’s direction definitely aims for something grander while he chooses to present the film in a completely different tone than the theatrical version which had a look that emphasized on something overly stylized in its desaturated color. Snyder chooses to pull a back a bit on the visuals while the entire film in seven parts and a four-hour running time is given a different aspect ratio presentation of 1:33:1 that does manage to showcase a broader look and feel that felt lost in theatrical cut. Snyder’s compositions are straightforward when it comes to the non-action scenes as he does take the time to let shots linger for a bit and know when not to cut while the action scenes do feel more fluid while allowing the shots to linger as a way for the audience to understand what is going on. There also moments in some of the slow-motion shots such as Allen saving the life of a young woman who nearly dies in a car accident as Snyder goes into great detail of what had happened as it is told largely from Allen’s perspective when he’s running fast. There are also scenes where Snyder allows Stone to be his old self in a hyper-digital world to figure out a location or a scenario that showcases a man who is struggling with new identity and his old one but is trying to find acceptance in this new role.

The added element of profanity and gore does give the film a bigger edge as it play into the stakes and what the Justice League has to face as Darkseid is someone that is absolutely uncompromising in what he wants to do as he is giving Steppenwolf the chance to redeem himself following their loss in the past when Atlanteans, Amazonians, humans, and other warriors defeated Darkseid. The stakes are bigger and the violence is more intense as it does play into the brutality of what the Justice League is dealing with as it would also concern one of the mother boxes that Victor’s father Silas (Joe Morton) had been hiding as he had figure out what to do in case it falls into the wrong hands. It would play into its third act while there are also these brief moments that allude to a vision that Wayne had as Stone would see it as well which would relate to the film’s epilogue. The film’s epilogue is a mixed-bag where it does feel overstuffed and overwritten as it relates to these dark visions that Wayne and Stone had about a possible future as it relates to Darkseid and the Anti-Life equation where Wayne, Stone, and Allen team-up with Mera (Amber Heard) and two unlikely figures.

Yet, the epilogue also include an appearance from a mysterious figure who visits Wayne as it plays into the idea of hope which does carry into the members of the Justice League. Though it is a big flaw in the film, it doesn’t overshadow the journey into what Snyder wanted as it plays into these heroes working together and taking the time to get to know each other. He makes the most of the near-four hour running time as it does play into this story of redemption, unity, identity, and hope that would emerge in the most trying of times. Overall, Snyder crafts an exhilarating and riveting film about a group of superheroes who come together to fight off a powerful being who wants to destroy everything and everyone.

Cinematographer Fabian Wagner does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as the desaturated look of the theatrical cut is given a cleaner look as well as do a bit more with the dark colors and the film’s look as it does have some vibrancy to emphasize some of the dramatic and action scenes in the film. Editors David Brenner, Carlos M. Castillon, and Dody Dorn do amazing work with the editing as it definitely has a more fluid tone in establishing much of the action and drama without the need to do any fast-cutting or jump-cuts in order to let shots linger on for a bit while it also has these stylized slow-motion shots that doesn’t just help add a lot to the action but also in establishing what Allen sees when he is running super-fast. Production designer Patrick Tatapoulos, with art directors Beauchamp Fontaine, Samuel Leake, and Andrew Palmer, does brilliant work with the look of the Wayne estate and his lab as well as the lab that Silas Stone works at. Costume designer Michael Wilkinson does fantastic work with the costumes that include the look of Superman’s black suit as it does have this menacing look as a hero who isn’t here to play.

Special effects supervisor Mark Holt and visual effects supervisors John “D.J.” Des Jardin do terrific work with the visual effects as the look of Steppenwolf is given a cleaner and more menacing look while Darkseid does have this look of a figure that is out only for destruction as much of the special and visual effects add to the film’s visual look as it does play more like a world that is coming apart by Darkseid with the Justice League going into war. Sound designer Scott Hecker does superb work with the film’s sound in creating sound effects of how the Parademons and their weapons sound as well as the atmosphere in some of the action scenes as it help play into the stakes. The film’s music by Tom Holkenborg is incredible with this mixture of orchestral bombast and somber music pieces that includes some work co-written with Hans Zimmer including a variation of Wonder Woman’s theme as it has this air of urgency and knows when to appear while the soundtrack features covers of songs by Leonard Cohen and Tim Buckley as well as pieces from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and a traditional Icelandic folk song sung during Wayne’s meeting with Curry.

The casting by Kristy Carlson, Lora Kennedy, and Kate Ringsell is tremendous as it feature cameo appearances from Marc McClure as a police officer Lois Lane often says hi to, Harry Lennix in a dual role as General Swanwick and a mysterious individual, Karen Bryson as Victor’s mother Elinor, Michael McElhatton and John Dagleish as a couple of terrorists Diana defeats early in the film, Sergi Constance as Zeus, David Thewlis as Ares, Robin Wright as Antiope, Billy Crudup as Barry’s father Henry, Kiersay Clemons as the young woman Barry saves in Iris West, Lisa Loven Kongsli as Diana’s aunt Menallipe, Ryan Zheng as a scientist in Ryan Choi who helps out Silas Stone, Jeremy Irons as Bruce Wayne’s longtime butler Alfred Pennyworth who helps out the Justice League, and the voice work of Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner in their respective roles as Jor-El and Jonathan Kent. The appearances of Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke, and Jared Leto as the Joker for the film’s epilogue are fun to watch with Leto at least given something to do in his brief appearance. Amber Heard’s performance as the Atlantean princess Mera is not very good largely as Heard often speaks in a weird accent as it never sounds right.

Willem Dafoe and J.K. Simmons are terrific in their brief appearances in their respective roles as Curry’s mentor Nuidis Vuklo and Gotham police chief James Gordon as the former tries to get Curry to fight despite Curry’s issues with the Atlanteans while the latter helps the Justice League in locating where the parademons have taken some of Silas Stone’s staff hostage. Peter Guinness is superb in his small role as Darkseid’s enforcer DeSaad as someone who is reluctant to have Steppenwolf back in the fold due to Steppenwolf’s past failings while Ray Porter is fantastic in his brief role as the evil god Darkseid as a being who is the intense force of destruction. Connie Nielsen is excellent as Diana’s mother Hippolyta who fights off Steppenwolf and later sends a warning to Diana as she copes with what is at stake while Joe Morton is brilliant as Victor’s scientist father Silas as a man who admits to being an absentee father as he tried to save his son’s life while dealing with the power that is in one of the Mother boxes. Ciaran Hinds is amazing as Steppenwolf as he is given more to do to flesh his character more than in the theatrical version as it showcases his own motivations for redemption as well as be this massive threat to the world.

Amy Adams and Diane Lane are incredible in their respective roles as Lois Lane and Martha Kent as two women both in mourning and dealing with loss with the former just unable to return to work and the latter having lost her home as they both would eventually regain their way. Jason Momoa and Gal Gadot are phenomenal in their respective roles as Arthur Curry/Aquaman and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman as two heroes with the former being a reluctant half-Atlantean who is aware of what is happening but doesn’t want to be involved as he also copes with the prejudice of the Atlanteans while the latter is an Amazonian warrior who is also trying to restore some faith in people while aware that the stakes of what their facing is much greater than everyone realizes.

Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill are remarkable in their respective roles as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman with the former being a man consumed with guilt as he decides to form a team and acting on faith and hope while the latter is the Kryptonian superhero who had died and then be resurrected as he copes with returning to the world and dealing with what is at stake. Finally, there’s the duo of Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher in sensational performance in their respective roles as Barry Allen/the Flash and Victor Stone/Cyborg as two young men with different powers as the former is someone trying to get his father out of prison and find his own role in the world while the latter is a man who was nearly killed in an accident and is given unlimited access to technology with Miller providing a bit of humor as Allen yet it is Fisher that is the heart and soul of the film as someone dealing with his identity and what he could do with the power he’s given.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a marvelous film that manages to live up to what a film about the Justice League superhero team needed to be. Thanks to its ensemble cast, bombastic music score, dazzling visuals, and its emphasis to explore themes of redemption, loss, and hope in a dark world. It is a film that doesn’t just have a lot of thrills and spectacular action scenes but it is also a film that also explore people trying to keep hope alive amidst a dark threat emerging. While it does have flaws with a four-hour running time that is demanding, it at least does give the audience time to invest in characters who are all trying to do good in a world that is facing impending doom. In the end, the director’s cut of Justice League is a remarkable film from Zack Snyder.

Zack Snyder Films: (Dawn of the Dead (2004 film)) – 300 - Watchmen - (Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole) – Sucker Punch - (Army of the Dead)

DC Extended Universe: Man of Steel - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Suicide Squad - Wonder Woman - Justice League - Aquaman - Shazam! - Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) - Wonder Woman 1984 - (The Suicide Squad)

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks: Best Supporting Actor & Actress Winners (Oscars Edition)

 

For the 13th week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We return to the Oscars in the subject of Best Supporting Actor/Actresses winners as it’s the role where it’s the supporting players that get the spotlight as some tend to be better than the leads themselves. Yet, there’s also those that tend to win mainly out of category fraud or in just bad taste. Here are my three picks of these wrong choices:

Best Supporting Actor

1. John Mills-Ryan's Daughter
John Mills without question is a great actor and certainly one of the finest to come out of Britain yet his performance as the mentally-challenged village idiot in David Lean’s romantic epic isn’t just a bad performance but serves no purpose to the film’s narrative about an Irish woman who marries an older man and then has an affair with a PTSD British officer that becomes scandal. All he does it witness and do some sort of pantomime as it’s kind of the definition of someone going full-retard. Chief Dan George’s performance in Little Big Man is way more interesting as he should’ve won as Mills’ win felt more like a win for his career achievement than his performance.

2. Melvyn Douglas-Being There
I have no issue with Melvyn Douglas’ performance as an ailing millionaire who is charmed by a simpleton gardener whom he believes is a man of great wisdom and such. It's a performance that has Douglas not really doing much at all but spend half of the film lying in bed and talking. The fact that he beat Robert Duvall for his performance in Apocalypse Now and Frederic Forrest for The Rose just feels wrong.

3. Cuba Gooding Jr.-Jerry Maguire
A performance that hasn’t aged well largely due to the fact that the character is nothing more than an underappreciated loudmouth who believes in his own hype and makes his agent lose all of his other clients to an asshole. Gooding is good in the film but he kind of overdoes it as he just spends much of the film acting like an entitled asshole. His win also doesn’t age well considering that he would later appear in some of the worst films ever made. Plus, the fact that his performance beat such better performances such as William H. Macy for Fargo and Edward Norton for Primal Fear is proof of how wrong the Oscars can be.

Best Supporting Actress

1. Jennifer Connelly-A Beautiful Mind
Jennifer Connelly is an amazing actress yet her win really feels more like an apology from the Oscars for not considering her work in a much better film in Requiem for a Dream. Plus, it’s a performance that is clichéd as the supporting wife of a mentally-ill mathematician as it really does nothing to break out of its conventions. Adding insult to the win is the fact that Connelly went up against better performances from both Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith from Gosford Park, Kate Winslet in Iris, and Marisa Tomei in In the Bedroom while other actresses that could’ve been nominated are Laura Elena Harring for Mulholland Dr. and Scarlett Johansson for either Ghost World or The Man Who Wasn’t There.

2. Renee Zellweger-Cold Mountain
A performance that is a definition of Oscar-bait though it really feels more like the Academy giving Zellweger her Oscar since she didn’t win the year before for Chicago. It’s not a bad performance as a country bumpkin who helps out Nicole Kidman but it tends to go into the realm of over-acting. Zellweger beat the likes of Shoreh Aghdashloo for House of Sand and Fog, Patricia Clarkson for Pieces of April, and Holly Hunter for Thirteen which weren’t just better performances but an example of women who just act and don’t try to be showy or vain in their performance.

3. Melissa Leo-The Fighter
A performance that is overblown, over-acted, and really loud to the point that when my dad watched the film, he hated it and said “she won the Oscar? She’s awful!” Adding to the stain of that win was an Oscar campaign that should never gotten a lot of attention as Leo didn’t just beat her fellow co-star and fellow nominee Amy Adams in the same film. The Oscar really should’ve gone to Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit, Helena Bonham Carter for The King’s Speech, or the real pick in Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom. Weaver’s performance is far more interesting as the mother of a crime family instead of a loudmouth mother who was a bad influence to her two sons and did nothing but hold them back.

© thevoid99 2021