Sunday, October 31, 2021

Films That I Saw: October 2021

 

We’re now 2 months away from the end of another year and things are still insane as far as the fact that we’re not out of this pandemic but there are people who have now become imbeciles. Anti-vaxxers are now a big problem and if anyone is going to threaten my own safety and the safety of my family. They better take a step back as I am in no mood to hear that bullshit. It’s bad enough that people like Eric Clapton, Ian Brown of the Stone Roses, and Van Morrison have become stupid but now someone like Ice Cube is now in that dumbass club along with Nicki Minaj and, not surprisingly, Chris Brown in this anti-vaccination rhetoric. I am really tired of people arguing over stupid things as I’m also not a fan of cancel culture as I think this was created by a generation of people who choose to spend their time making other people just as miserable as they are.

They think they’re in the right and feel the need to call out others for their own fuck-ups. I am glad my father isn’t alive to see this as it would’ve just pissed him off and only make him sicker than he was when he was seriously ill. This is just all a fucking witch hunt by a group of people who have nothing better to do with their lives than just bitch about everything. I admit to being a pessimist knowing that there’s so many things wrong with the world but I often keep forgetting that there’s also good things that I want to hold on to and all of these people want to get rid of it because it offends them in certain ways. If I want to be miserable, I’d rather do it on myself and not hurt anyone else as I am tired of seeing everyone trying to make everyone else feel like shit. I don’t like being labeled and I don’t want to be put into some group. I am just me.



Thank goodness for the world of cinema, TV, music, and professional wrestling for giving me joy. It hasn’t just been this sense of escape that I needed from the bullshit of the world but also allow me to connect with others as professional wrestling in general is on the upswing as I’ve now been trying to compile a list of the year’s best matches. So far, much of them have been from AEW with one exception from the NWA in a NWA Women’s World Championship match between Kamille against AEW’s Leyla Hirsch from the NWA Empowerr show this past month. This along with this past Wednesday’s match in the AEW TBS Championship eliminator tournament match between Serena Deeb and Hikaru Shida is proof of what women’s professional wrestling should be instead of lazy-ass 2-3 minute matches from Meekmahan-land’s stupid Queen’s Crown tournament.



If there’s one person that I could say is the wrestler of the year in 2021 so far… It’s the Tribal Chief…. No. Not the Big Dog and he’s not the even the real Tribal Chief. That belongs to the Bunny who managed to draw a similar rating than him and Brock Lesnar so I acknowledge her as the Head of the Table and as my Tribal Chief. OK, the real contender for Wrestler of the Year is Bryan Danielson. Headlining the 2nd night of WrestleMania in a triple-threat match against Edge and Roman Reigns for the Universal Title to his arrival in AEW on All Out this past Labor Day weekend lead to not just some of the best matches of the year. He also did different things with different opponents from insane brawls with the likes of Eddie Kingston and Minoru Suzuki to some technical-based matches with Bobby Fish and Aaron Solow. It’s not his time to be the AEW World Champion but no one could touch at this point. He is definitely reminding me of what Bret Hart was doing in the 1990s as I grew up a fan of Hart as he always found different ways to win but also create these matches that were high above what everyone else was doing. I hope to go to an AEW show next year as it has made me love pro wrestling all over again.
In the month of October 2021, I saw a total of 20 films in 10 first-timers and 10 re-watches which I think is decent as I only saw one film as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge as I had hope to watch more. One of the highlights of the month has been my Blind Spot in Perfect Blue. Here are my top 5 first-timers that I saw for October 2021:

1. Titane
2. Dune-Part One
3. Swallow
4. Cruella
5. Nightmare Alley
Monthly Mini-Review/What Else I’ve Been Watching

Luca
This is a favorite of my nephew as he just loves the visuals, the humor, and the setting of it as it was a much better film than I thought it would be. Set in 1959 in a small Italian port town, the film definitely owes a lot to the films of Italian cinema of the times including Federico Fellini as well as some of the colors of Hayao Miyazaki. Yet, there is a touching story to be told as it relates a young sea monster who turns human when he arrives on dry land as he befriends another sea monster where they help a young girl win a competition that a local bully always win. The ensemble voice cast that includes Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Maya Rudolph, and Jim Gaffigan plus an un-credited voice appearance from Sacha Baron Cohen add a lot to the film’s charm but there is also a lot of heart as it’s film that I liked a lot more than I thought as my mother also enjoyed the film as it made her want to go to Italy.

Dark Side of the Ring (season 3-episodes 10-14)
The last five episodes of this season definitely tackle some serious subjects such as the complicated and troubled life of Luna Vachon who is probably one of the most underrated wrestlers and personalities in the business who suffered from bipolar and other issues. It was an episode that was heartbreaking to watch as how she was mistreated in WWE as they didn’t use her properly like other companies including ECW. One of my favorites is about Atsushi Onita and FMW as it was this balls-to-the-wall death-match promotion in the 1990s that was hot as Onita was a god who did exploding barbed wire death matches with Terry Funk as it rose high and fell hard when Onita left the company in the mid-90s. The episode on Rob Black and XPW was a fascinating one as it was this west coast version of ECW but with emphasis on porn as it also played into Black’s paranoia and his issues with the government over his pornographic material as a lot of it is disgusting.

The episode of Johnny K-9 as a renegade wrestler who also got himself in biker gangs and later into some serious trouble is one I didn’t know about but it was the one that I really got me intrigued into a man who loved wrestling but also wanted to make a lot of money only to put himself and his family in trouble. The season finale on the WWF steroid scandal of the early 1990s and the 1994 trial was a fitting close to the season as it play into how Meekmahan won with the help of longtime attorney Jerry McDevitt as it was a fun episode despite the fact that McDevitt is a smug piece of shit but a smart motherfucker while New York Post journalist Phil Mushnik is still a piece of shit.

Acapulco (season 1-episodes 1-5)
One of two shows from Apple TV+ that I am watching right now and a show that my mother is also watching is a follow-up of sorts of the 2017 film How to Be a Latin Lover that starred Eugenio Derbez and Raphael Alejandro as their reprise their roles where the former tells a story to the latter about his early life working at a luxurious hotel in Acapulco during the 1980s. Five episodes in so far and it is a show full of charm, humor, and heart as well as mixing the languages of English and Spanish in a way that isn’t distracting. The ensemble cast is just incredible as they all have a lot of heart as well as breaking certain stereotypes as well as displaying ideas of culture clash, ageism, and identity. It is a show that is starting to get some views and it is a show that is needed in these troubled times.

Ted Lasso
The other show from Apple TV+ that I saw is one I had kept hearing about and wow… not only did it live up to everything people had been saying but it is a show that I just fell in love with. It is a show about an American college football team who goes to Britain with his buddy to coach a football team unaware that its owner wants the team to fail as a way to spite her ex-husband. However, the titular character’s optimistic persona wins over everyone including the owner, a grouchy veteran, a cocky star player, a model who later becomes the PR official, and others. The first season did a lot in not just establishing the characters and the game itself but also the culture of British football clubs as Jason Sudeikis’ performance as the titular character is just someone full of charm and good will as you can’t help but root for him. Hannah Waddington’s performance as new owner of AC Richmond in Rebecca Welton is also a joy as someone who went from trying to destroy her team to becoming a supporter of Lasso’s vision and the team itself as well as trying to get out of the shadows of her douchebag ex-husband Rupert.

The second season is just as incredible as it focuses more on AC Richmond trying to get back in the Premier League with a few recurring characters given more to do in the season while also introducing a new character in Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, played with such delight by Sarah Niles, who is this pessimist challenge to the optimistic Lasso who does confess his own issues for the first time. Yet, the character of Nate who starts off in the first season as a kit manager and then a coach is the one who gets the biggest development as someone that gets some attention but it all goes to his head as his actions in the end of the second season sets the stage for what is to come. It is a phenomenal show that definitely deserves the praise and accolades it is getting in not just being funny but also having a lot of heart.

Top 10 Re-Watches

1. Cronos
2. Stripes
3. Demolition Man
4. It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
5. Toy Story of Terror
6. Happy Gilmore
7. Party Central
8. Partysaurus Rex
9. Rio
10. Little Man
Well, that is it for October as the next two months will be intense in terms of film-watching as I have a ticket for Eternals in the coming week while I hope to see Last Night in Soho, The French Dispatch, and hopefully No Time to Die along with films available on Netflix, Apple TV+, and Disney+ including Get Back. Other films from my never-ending DVR list as well as some DVD/Blu-Rays I have are going to be in the mix as my next Blind Spot will be focused on Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s BRD trilogy as I still haven’t made a final choice of the films for next year’s Blind Spot Series. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off and hoping that everyone has a Happy Halloween and Go Braves!

© thevoid99 2021

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Nightmare Alley (1947 film)

 

Based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham, Nightmare Alley is the story of a small-time carny who finds himself part of a carnival where he falls for a performer as he schemes his way out of the world as well as showcase his ambitions that would lead to his downfall. Directed by Edmund Goulding and screenplay by Jules Furthman, the film is a stylish suspense-drama set in the world of the circus as it plays into a man trying to charm his way to fame and success only to embark on a nightmare of his own. Starring Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray, and Helen Walker. Nightmare Alley is a riveting and enchanting film from Edmund Goulding.

The film revolves around a carny who joins a carnival where he learns about a performance where he can know things as he falls for another performer where they create an act that gets the attention of a psychiatrist who would play into his downfall. It is a film that explores a man wanting to scheme his way into getting riches through the world of carnivals where he would play a part in helping a performer following an unfortunate event while falling for another performer whom he would help. Jules Furthman’s screenplay is straightforward in its narrative yet it is more about the schemes and journey of its protagonist Stanton “Stan” Carlisle (Tyrone Power) who is first seen as a carnival barker as he looks around where he notices an act performed by Zeena (Joan Blondell) who has the mental ability to know what is on that person’s mind as it is an act that she perfected with her alcoholic husband Pete (Ian Keith).

Stan befriends and woos Zeena but also notices that Pete is becoming unreliable where Stan would take over for Pete as he would use Zeena’s code and methods for his own show with another carnival performer in Molly (Coleen Gray). Upon taking his act with Molly to the cities and the big time, Stan becomes successful but he also gets the attention of the renowned psychiatrist in Lilith Ritter (Helen Walker) who decides to work with Stan based on recordings of her sessions as part of a bigger scheme that Molly doesn’t approve of. Even as it would play into the idea of faith and those who are ravaged in grief where the script play into the morals of trying to manipulate people with knowledge as it would play into Stan’s own downfall.

Edmund Goulding’s direction does have some style in some of the imagery and compositions that he creates from the craziness of the carnival circuits to the lavish world of the cities. Shot largely on location in California with a few bits in Chicago, Goulding creates a film that play into the contrasting world of the carnivals and the more high-class shows that Stan would play to a posh crowd. There are wide shots to play into the locations and places that the characters are where Goulding knows where to place the camera to get a look into what someone in the audience is seeing or an incident that Stan is witnessing. There are also medium shots and close-ups that play into some of the conversations including moments of Stan trying to flirt with a woman or moments that are dramatic as it play into some of the suspense in how Stan deals with his schemes and trying to manipulate people claiming he knows something about them as much of it is a guess. Goulding’s direction also play up this air of style in the way he play into presentation of the circus for some of the scenes at night such as the scene where Stan bullshits a local sheriff who was about to arrest Molly for indecent exposure.

Goulding’s direction would become stylized when Stan meets Lilith as she would take part in a scheme as a way to make money but also push Stan to his limits. Notably in a scene involving a man in a skeptic in Ezra Grindle (Taylor Holmes) following a performance where Molly is reluctantly involved as it is a key moment that begins the film’s third act. It would push the limits of what is moral and immoral as Stan is an immoral figure of sorts but even he would have his limits as he definitely found a match in Lilith who proves to be far more immoral as well as someone who is smarter than Stan in this idea of human nature. Overall, Goulding crafts an intoxicating yet eerie film about a carny who schemes is way to stardom and success only to meet his match in a devilish shrink.

Cinematographer Lee Garmes does incredible work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography with its stylish usage of shadows and light for some of the exterior scenes at night in the circus along with some vibrant lighting for the interior scenes in some of the posh shows that Stan and Molly perform at. Editor Barbara MacLean does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some rhythmic cuts for some of the film’s dramatic and suspenseful moments. Art directors J. Russell Spencer and Lyle Wheeler, with set decorator Thomas Little, do amazing work with the look of the circus sets as well as the posh places and such that Stan and Molly would be in along with Lilith’s home apartment.

Costume designer Bonnie Cashin does fantastic work with the design of the costumes in the clothes that Zeena and Molly wear in their performances along with the stylish clothes of Lilith as well as the tuxedo that Stan wears in his performances. The sound work of Roger Heman Sr. and E. Clayton Ward do superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the carnivals with its crowd and such to the eerie and quiet moment during the scene where Stan tries to scheme Grindle. The film’s music by Cyril Mockridge is wonderful for its orchestral score that ranges from soaring and intense to play into the suspense as well as some somber pieces for the dramatic moments.

The film’s marvelous ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Julia Dean as an old woman who is enchanted by Stan, James Burke as a sheriff, and Roy Roberts as a carnival owner late in the film. Ian Keith is terrific as Zeena’s alcoholic husband Pete as a man who helped perfect Zeena’s act but is burned out while Mike Mazurki is superb as Bruno as a carnival performer who is protective of everyone as he doesn’t trust Stan. Taylor Holmes is fantastic as Ezra Grindle as a posh friend of Lilith who is skeptical of Stan’s gifts while is also someone who is still dealing with his own crises of faith. Helen Walker is excellent as Lilith Ritter as a psychiatrist who is intrigued by Stan’s performances as she decides to take part in his scheme where Blondell displays a lot of charm to a woman who is truly a cunning and devious figure who is smarter than Stan.

Coleen Gray is brilliant as Molly as a young performer who joins Stan in his act while she is someone who is also a moral compass as she becomes troubled by his schemes as she felt that their act owes a lot to what Zeena has done. Joan Blondell is amazing as Zeena as a performer who has mastered the gift of manipulation in knowing people’s secrets while is also protective of her craft while lamenting over her husband’s issues. Finally, there’s Tyrone Power in a phenomenal performance as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle as a carny who is eager to make some big cash and do more as he charms his way to get what he wants as well as create the ultimate show only to later cope with guilt and the fact that he has gone too far in his schemes as it is a dark yet charismatic performance from Power in one of his career-defining performances.

Nightmare Alley is a sensational film from Edmund Goulding that features a great leading performance from Tyrone Power. Along with its ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, themes of morality and the power of knowledge to manipulate, and its sumptuous music score. It is a film noir suspense-drama that play into the fallacies of ambition as well as a man trying to manipulate those only to meet his match in someone far more immoral. In the end, Nightmare Alley is a spectacular film from Edmund Goulding.

Related: (Nightmare Alley 2021 film))

Edmund Goulding Films: (Sun-Up) – (Sally, Irene and Mary) – (Paris (1926 film)) – (Women Love Diamonds) – (Love (1927 film)) – (The Trespasser) – (The Devil’s Holiday) – (Reaching for the Moon) – (Grand Hotel) – (Blondie of the Follies) – (Riptide) – (The Flame Within) – (That Certain Woman) – (White Banners) – (The Dawn Patrol) – (Dark Victory) – (The Old Maid) – (We Are Not Alone (1939 film)) – (‘Til We Meet Again) – (The Great Lie) – (Forever and a Day) – (The Constant Nymph) – (Claudia (1943 film)) – (Of Human Bondage) – (The Razor’s Edge (1946 film)) – (Everybody Does It) – (Mister 880) – (We’re Not Married!) – (Down Among the Sheltering Palms) – (Teenage Rebel) – (Mardi Gras)

© thevoid99 2021

Friday, October 29, 2021

2021 Blind Spot Series: Perfect Blue

 

Based on the novel Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, Perfect Blue is the story of a young singer from pop idol group who leaves music to pursue acting only be stalked by a mysterious person leading to some gruesome murders. Directed by Satoshi Kon and screenplay by Sadayuki Murai, the film is an exploration of a young woman’s desire to do other things as she deals with her fans but also a growing disconnect with reality. Featuring the voices of Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shiho Niiyama, Masaaki Okura, Shinpachi Tsuji, and Emiko Furukawa. Perfect Blue is a rapturous yet eerie film from Satoshi Kon.

The film follows a young woman who chooses to leave a pop group to pursue acting where a series of murders had occurred on people around her as she also deals with a mysterious stalker who had created a website claiming to be her. It is a film that is about a young woman trying her hand in another form but also to grow out of the role of an innocent teen idol to work in television. Sadayuki Murai’s screenplay blur the line of what is real and what is fiction in the world that the film’s protagonist Mima Kirigoe (Junko Iwao) who wants to move on from being a teen pop idol and try her hand in acting where she gets a small role in a TV show as she managed to impress producers and others. Yet, there is someone who isn’t fond of her leaving her pop group as a mysterious figure stalks her while Mima would notice that a website with a diary she had written is making claims about her time as an actress where Mima believes that her old teen idol persona is wreaking havoc as she copes with the growing deaths and chaos that looms around her.

Satoshi Kon’s direction is definitely stylish in not just his approach to blurring the idea of reality and fiction but also play up into this new world of the internet and social media. With the help of animation director/character designer Hideki Hamazu, Kon creates a film that explores a young woman trying to make a change with her life as it play into the world of TV shows with some violent imagery as it is this different change to the world that Mima was previously was in that involved singing to teenagers as part of a pop trio. Kon’s compositions are largely intimate in the usage of close-ups and medium shots where he focuses a lot on the characters with some wide shots on their surroundings that include scenes where Mima is looking out at her apartment wondering who is stalking her. Kon also plays up into some of the sexuality as it relates to Mima emerging into adulthood as well as taking on provocative things such as a rape scene for the show where she plays a stripper or posing nude for a photographer.

It adds to this conflict about growing into adulthood away from the world of adolescent as Mima is often dealing her previous persona as a teen idol as the nudity that Kon presents is often seen innocently except in moments of violence. The violence is filled with blood gushing out as well and in slow motion at times where characters are killed or attacked in brutal manners. Kon’s approach to blurring the lines of fantasy and reality is a crucial as it play into Mima’s own mental state where she deals with the guilt over the people who have been killed. Even in the presentation of the show that Mima is in adds to this blur of reality and fiction where it does play into Mima coping with who she is but also what she used to be. The film’s climax is intense but it also play into the idea of identity as it relates to Mima as well as those around her in what they want her to be instead of who she wants to be. Overall, Kon crafts an evocative yet harrowing film about a young woman dealing with a stalker and a series of murders relating to her ascent as an actress.

Cinematographer Hisao Shirai does excellent work with the cinematography in maintaining some lighting textures for some of the scenes at night along with some of the interiors. Editor Harutoshi Ogata does brilliant work with the editing as it play into the suspense and drama with some of its jump-cuts and other stylish cuts. Art director Nobutaka Ike does amazing work with the look for some of the backgrounds in the places that Mima goes to along with her apartment and the TV studio set. Sound designer Shizuo Kurahashi does superb work with the sound in not just some of the sound effects that are created but also in the atmosphere to play into the world that Mima is in. The film’s music by Masahiro Ikumi is incredible for its orchestral score that also feature elements of electronic and pop music with the latter being something that Mima was a part of as it play into the world she used to be in.

The film’s wonderful ensemble voice cast feature some notable small roles from Masashi Ebara as a photographer who would photograph Mima in some provocative photos, Kiyoyuki Yanada as the show’s director, Emi Shinohara as the revered TV star Eri Ochiai, and Masaaki Okura as the creepy stalker known as Me-Mania who wears a gray uniform and is always lurking on set. Shinpachi Tsuji is excellent as Mima’s agent Tadokoro who is trying to get Mima some legitimate work as well as knowing that she wants to do more adult material. Rica Masumoto is amazing as Mima’s longtime manager Rumi who introduces Mima to the internet while dealing with the challenges Mima is facing as she expresses concern that Mima is going too far as Rumi was once a teen pop idol singer. Finally, there’s Junko Iwao in a brilliant voice performance as Mima Kirigoe as a former singer for a teen pop group who decides to try her hand at acting where Iwao displays a lot of the anguish and uncertainty of a young woman wanting to do something new as well as provide this disturbing take of a young pop idol trying to return to that role.

Perfect Blue is a spectacular film from Satoshi Kon. Featuring an ensemble voice cast, dazzling visuals, its theme of identity and adulthood, its hypnotic score, and its stylized presentation of sex and violence. It is a film that explores a young woman dealing with not just a series of murders and a stalker but also demons relating to who she once was and who she is trying to be. In the end, Perfect Blue is a phenomenal film from Satoshi Kon.

Satoshi Kon Films: (Millennium Actress) – (Tokyo Godfathers) – (Paranoia Agent) – (Paprika (2006 film))

© thevoid99 2021

Monday, October 25, 2021

Dune-Part One (2021 film)

 

Based on the novel by Frank Herbert, Dune-Part One is the story set in the future where a noble family arrives on a planet to watch over the control of a secret mélange where a young man is thrust into a war between colonials and an evil group of invaders. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and screenplay by Villeneuve, Eric Roth, and Jon Spaihts, the film covers the first half a story of a young man who takes part in a conflict where he would lead a group of colonials in a futuristic planet carrying a mélange that changes the universe. Starring Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Charlotte Rampling, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Javier Bardem, and Stellan Skarsgard. Dune-Part One is a majestic and grand film from Denis Villeneuve.

Set in a futuristic universe in the year 10,191, the film revolves around a noble family who is asked by an emperor to watch over the harvesting of a mysterious mélange on a planet unaware that they’re being set-up by a rivaling house who had been waging war on the planet’s inhabitants. It is a film that may have a simple premise on paper but it is filled with layers on its themes on power, idealism, colonialism, and politics. The film’s screenplay by Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth, and Jon Spaihts definitely play into a lot of the conflicts that goes on where the actions of the House of Harkkonen led by its baron (Stellan Skarskard) in going to war with the inhabitants of the planet of Arrakis in the Fremen forces its emperor to end the conflict by having the Harkkonens leave the planet and ask the House of Atrides led by Duke Leto Atrides (Oscar Isaac) to watch over the planet and its production of its resource in this mélange that makes interstellar traveling possible.

Traveling with his concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and their son Paul (Timothee Chalamet) along with several officials, Duke Atrides hopes to make peace with the Fremen and continue production of the spice yet Paul, the weapons master Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), and sword master Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) believe something is off. Especially as Idaho had been learning about the Fremen as he was able to get its chieftain in Stilgar (Javier Bardem) to have discussions with Duke Leto leading to the first steps of a peaceful resolution while planetologist Dr. Liet-Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) reveal much about the planet as she is aware that Paul is having dreams and visions that is increased by his contact with mélange. Even as Paul had been taught in the teachings of his mother who is a disciple of the Bene Gessirit sisterhood, who are powerful in both they’re physical and mental abilities, as her mentor in Gaius Helen Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) realizes that Paul is a threat as she asks Baron Harkkonen to spare Paul and Jessica which he agrees to unaware that he plans on killing them all.

The screenplay does a lot in not just fleshing out these characters but also play into the stakes of what the House of Atrides is dealing with as they begin to ask questions about why they’re in Arrakis. Even as Paul becomes a target with some believing he is a prophet that will help the Fremen rebel against the emperor though Paul himself is unsure while a lot of the dreams he has features a young woman he would meet in Chani (Zendaya). There are also a lot of political maneuvering in the hand of the Harkkonens as they are intent on having control of the mélange in an act of greed and domination as they treat the Fremen as vermin. There is a structure to the script as it does play into the development of Paul Atrides but also in this journey of the role he has to play as he has to cope with loss as well as things he has to do for the greater good.

Villeneuve’s direction is definitely vast in its presentation as it plays into the different worlds of the universe as it has a physicality that isn’t seen often in sci-fi films. Shot on various locations in the Liwa Oasis at United Arab Emirates as parts of Arrakis along with the deserts of Jordan and Stadlandet as the House of Atrides’ home planet of Caladan plus studios in Budapest for some of the interiors including the home planet of the Harkkonens. Villeneuve maintains a world that grand where the future is this massive universe and Arrakis is at the center where Villeneuve uses a lot of wide and medium shots to capture the look of this desert world with the sand being this mélange that has mystical quality that does more than provide a resource for interstellar traveling during a scene where Duke Atrides, Paul, Gurney, and Dr. Liet-Kynes are saving harvesters where Paul gets close into contact with the mélange.

Villeneuve also uses close-ups to play into Paul’s interaction with the mélange as well as the dreams he have that often feature Chani as well as images possibly relating to future events and such. There is a physicality to Villeneuve’s presentation in the dragonfly-planes that the House of Atrides uses as well as other spaceships along with some of the designs of the sandworms who move around the desert. Villeneuve emphasizes more on this air of physicality as well as the presentation of other planets including a planet where the emperor’s soldiers as it this desolate and rainy world while the Harkkonens’ home planet is just as dark in comparison to the desert beauty of Arrakis. Even in the film’s second act where Paul and Lady Jessica hide from the Harkkonens and the emperor’s army with the aid of Dr. Liet-Kynes and Idaho, there is this air of realism into the locations and places where Villeneuve’s usage of tracking shots play into the suspense.

Villeneuve also play up into this world of politics such as scene of Duke Atrides being confronted by Baron Harkkonen as the compositions that Villeneuve create is filled with this dramatic tension while the third act plays into the aftermath of the threat that is Paul Atrides. Notably as Atrides and Lady Jessica deal with the world they’re in but also revelations about why their house was sent to Arrakis. The final moments of the film is more of setting up of what is to come since the film basically sets up a lot of what happens in the first half of the book. Yet, Villeneuve is able to do more than just establish the world and these characters but also the stakes itself in what Paul has to do for Arrakis and the universe itself. Overall, Villeneuve crafts a ravishing yet intoxicating film about a young man taking his steps into finding himself amidst a troubling intergalactic conflict on a repressed planet.

Cinematographer Greig Fraser does incredible work with the film’s cinematography in its emphasis on natural lighting for many of the daytime exterior scenes on Arrakis along with some of its interior scenes in the caves and tunnels along with the usage of low-key lighting for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night as it is a highlight of the film. Editor Joe Walker does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the action and drama while also knowing when to have shots linger for a bit to play up the suspense. Production designer Patrice Vermette, with supervising art director Tom Brown and senior art director Karl Probert plus set decorators Richard Roberts and Zsuzsanna Sipos, does phenomenal work with the look of the city and spice refinery on Arrakis as well as the space ships and the way the home of the Harkkonens look as it play into their personality. Costume designers Bob Morgan and Jacqueline West do amazing work with the design of the refined suits of the House of Atrides as well as the gowns of the Bene Gessirit and the clothes of the Harkkonens.

Hair/makeup/prosthetics makeup designer Donald Mowat does brilliant work with some of the prosthetics that include some of the makeup of the characters such as Gaius Helen Mohiam and some of the Harkkonens including Baron Harkkonen in his obese yet larger-than-life persona. Special effects supervisor Gerd Nefzer and visual effects supervisor Paul Lambert do superb work with the effects from the usage of prosthetics in the look of some of the space ships along with digital effects into the look of the giant sand worms including the detail in its mouth. Sound editors Theo Green and Mark A. Mangini do tremendous work with the sound as it adds to the film’s atmosphere in the way the sand worms emerge along with the thumpers to attract their attention as well as the way the space ships and such sound as it is a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Hans Zimmer is sensational for its bombastic score that features elements of bass-heavy electronics and orchestral bits along with vocal choirs and such, with vocal contributions from Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, to play into the scale of the film as it is a highlight while music supervisors Peter Afterman and Alison Litton cultivate a soundtrack that features some folk-like pieces and other electronic pieces to play into the world that the characters are in.

The casting by Jina Jay and Francine Maisler is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Roger Yuan as Gurney’s right-hand man Lt. Lanville, Golda Rosheuvel as the Fremen maid Shadout Mapes who assists Lady Jessica in Arrakis, Benjamin Clementine as an imperial delegate who brings an order to Duke Atrides early in the film, Babs Olusanmokun as a Fremen in Jamis who challenges Paul’s allegiance late in the film, Chang Chen as Suk physician Dr. Wellington Yueh who works for the House of Atrides as he is a man dealing with conflict of his own, David Dastmalchian as the Harkkonen official who aids in political dealings and matters of torture, Stephen McKinley Henderson as the House of Atrides’ official Thufir Hawat who also deals in political matters and the handling of security, and Zendaya in a fantastic small role as the Fremen Chani who appears in Paul’s dreams as a symbol of hope as well as someone who is part of a rebellion against the Harkkonens and the emperor. Dave Bautista is superb as Baron Harkkonen’s brutish nephew Glossu Rabban as a figure who kills people and does whatever his uncle asks him to while also realizing the big threat this is Paul Atrides.

Javier Bardem is terrific as the Fremen chieftain Stilgar as a man who is suspicious of the House of Atrides’ arrival only to realize their motives as he would play a bigger role late in the film. Sharon Brewster-Duncan is excellent as Dr. Liet-Kynes in a role that was originally as a man where Brewster-Duncan brings a lot of gravitas and charisma to the role as a planetologist who works for the emperor yet realizes that something isn’t right where she would help out the House of Atrides as she knows a lot about life on Arrakis. Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin are amazing in their respective roles as Paul’s mentors in the sword master Duncan Idaho and the weapons master Gurney Halleck as two men who teach Paul on the ideas of combat with Momoa as someone who got to know the Fremen as he is also aware that something is off while Brolin’s performance as Gurney is more reserved as someone who isn’t as trusting as Idaho but is loyal to the House of Atrides. Charlotte Rampling is brilliant in her small role as Gaius Helen Mohiam as the Bene Gessirit Reverend Mother who tests Paul on his skills and realizes that he is powerful where she sees him as a threat.

Stellan Skarsgard is incredible as Baron Vladimir Harkkonen as this evil and greedy figure who is obese and creepy in his look while displays a chilling tone to his character as someone that wants it all and to destroy everyone in his path. Oscar Isaac is remarkable as Duke Leto Atrides as the head of House of Atrides who is hoping to bring peace and prosperity to Arrakis while learning that he’s become a political target where he copes with not just the expectations for his son but also the fate of his family. Rebecca Ferguson is phenomenal as Lady Jessica as Duke Atrides’ concubine and a Bene Gessirit priestess who taught Paul special vocal powers as she deals with her role as a Bene Gessirit but also the big role that Paul might have to play. Finally, there’s Timothee Chalamet in a tremendous performance as Paul Atrides as the son of Duke Atrides who is a young man trying to learn about the universe as he has visions that could be about the future while dealing with the role he has to play where Chalamet brings a lot of that air of uncertainty but also someone who knows he has to grow as it is a career-defining performance for Chalamet.

Dune-Part One is a magnificent film from Denis Villeneuve. Featuring an incredible ensemble cast, rapturous visuals, astonishing set pieces, its emphasis on themes of politics and colonialism, and Hans Zimmer’s phenomenal score. The film is definitely a grand piece of art that doesn’t just live up to the vision of Frank Herbert but also be a sci-fi film that does a lot more than just be action in favor of characters, motivations, and the stakes. In the end, Dune-Part One is an outstanding film from Denis Villeneuve.

Denis Villeneuve Films: August 32nd on Earth - Maelstrom - Polytechnique - Incendies - Prisoners (2013 film) - Enemy (2013 film) - Sicario - Arrival (2016 film) - Blade Runner 2049

Related: Dune (1984 film) - Jodorowsky's Dune - The Auteurs #68: Denis Villeneuve

© thevoid99 2021

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks (Halloween Edition): Horror Comedies

 

For the 42nd week of 2021 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks for its Halloween Edition. We go into the subject of horror comedies as horror often takes themselves seriously sometimes yet there are films that refuse to take themselves seriously and play for laughs as there’s been a recent number of horror comedies that have managed to bring new life to the genre. Here are my three picks as they’re all sequels:

1. Addams Family Values
Barry Sonnenfeld’s sequel to the 1991 film is a rare sequel that outdoes its predecessor as it involves the newest addition to the Addams Family with Wednesday and Pugsley not happy about it until a new nanny arrives and suggests that the kids go to camp while she pursues Uncle Fester. It is an incredible film that is also educational about the ideas of conformity and not wanting to do things that everyone else does. Having seen this film in the theaters at the age of 12, it taught me a lot about the fallacies of society where kids who don’t look a certain way or fit in are often treated like shit. That is why you don’t fuck with Wednesday Addams as she manages to bring in some truth that needed to be said and also do the things that needed to be done. Yet, it still pains me and my younger sister back then that we never saw someone actually get burned but there’s always that fantasy.

2. Scary Movie 2
While it is a spoof film that makes fun of horror films and in crude ways, the sequel from Keenan Ivory Wayans features what might be one of the great opening sequences to a film in a parody of The Exorcist with James Woods in a small role as that priest as it was meant to be played by Marlon Brando. Nevertheless, Woods doesn’t just kill it in that sequence but it is the funniest moment in the film as everything doesn’t live up to it. Still, it does showcase a lot of the things in horror about how black people often die in films as the African-American characters do what they can to survive as there’s a bunch of silly shit including the always-horrible Tori Spelling having sex with an invisible ghost who realizes made a mistake.

3. Happy Death Day 2U
Christopher B. Landon’s sequel to the 2017 horror comedy is just as creative as its predecessor in not just exploring time-loops but also alternate timelines as it brings in much of the film’s original cast plus a few new players in this mystery of who is trying to kill Tree again and such. Jessica Rothe doesn’t just deliver in the role of Tree but also manages to do more funny things including a sequence where she would kill herself in creative ways so she can get the right algorithm to get back home. It is a funnier film but also knows when to play up its suspense as well as do more with its ensemble cast including Rachel Matthews as frenemy Danielle who gets to have her moments to shine.

© thevoid99 2021

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