Thursday, May 19, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks: Maze

 

For the 19th week of 2022 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the simple subject of maze as it’s a device that is featured in films whether it is to escape something or is part of some obstacle. Here are my three picks:

1. Labyrinth
From Jim Henson and screenwriter Terry Jones of Monty Python is a film that is about a young teenage girl who loves fantasy but couldn’t handle reality as she isn’t fond of having to take care of her baby brother where she makes a wish that she would regret. The film does have this character in Sarah, played with such charisma by Jennifer Connelly, going through a maze and other obstacles to get her brother back from this mysterious figure in Jareth the Goblin King played with such gusto by David Bowie. It is a film that is a lot of fun to watch with some awesome music from Bowie.

2. Cube
Vincenzo Natali’s 1997 cult film about a group of people inside a series of cube-shaped rooms as they have to escape this labyrinth of rooms. It is a film that is filled with a lot of suspense and a strong ensemble cast as it involves this small group of people trying to survive as they have no idea why they’re in this cube and how to escape the whole thing. It is a film that for anyone who was around in the 1990s that saw this would be aware of how inventive it was back then and why its cult has continue to grow as it would be followed by a sequel, a prequel, and a recent Japanese remake released last year.

3. Inception
From Christopher Nolan is one of the finest films of the 21st Century so far as it is about a man who is hired a businessman to enter the mind of a rival businessman to break apart his ailing father’s business so that they wouldn’t become another superpower. With a team involved, Leonardo DiCaprio leads this team to enter Cillian Murphy’s mind as they have to endure all sorts of obstacles as they also have to deal with the ghost of Marion Cotillard and imagine the weapons they create. It is a film that still holds up and anyone who loves that movie are still waiting for the sequel…. Inception 2: Electric Boogaloo.

© thevoid99 2022

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

2022 Cannes Marathon: Good Time

 

(Winner of the Cannes Soundtrack Award to Daniel Lopatin at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival)
Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie and written and edited by Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein, Good Time is the story of a robber whose mentally-disabled brother is arrested forcing him to find a way to get him out of jail. The film is a crime drama in which a young robber deals with a botched robbery as he does whatever he can to free his younger brother. Starring Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Buddy Duress, Taliah Lennice Webster, Barkhad Abdi, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Good Time is a gripping yet exhilarating film from Josh and Benny Safdie.

The film revolves around a robbery that gets botched where a mentally-disabled man is arrested and captured forcing his older brother to find ways to get him out of jail as he spends much of time getting money and such to get him out while being on the run himself. It is a film with a simple premise as it explore a criminal trying to do what he can to get his brother out of jail knowing that his brother is unable to deal with prison due to the fact that he’s mentally-disabled. The film’s screenplay Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein is largely straightforward as it follows Constantin “Connie” Nikas (Robert Pattinson) accompanying his younger yet mentally-disabled brother Nick (Buddy Safdie) for a bank robbery as the two wear masks and carry guns as they seemed to have succeed unaware that a dye pack is in the bag as it exploded leaving Connie and Nick on the run where the latter is arrested and later gets into a fight during his jail stay.

The rest of the film has Connie trying to get money to get his brother out as he asks his girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) for $10,000 to get him out of jail but things get complicated as a bail bondsman revealed that Nick has been sent to a hospital following a beating. Connie decides to take matter into his own hands and things start to get more troubling as it puts him into a series of misadventures that included a Sprite bottle filled with LSD and other things along the way with a number of individuals involved.

The direction of Josh and Benny Safdie is riveting in terms of its sense of realism as well as the fact that it is shot on location in New York City with the borough of Queens being the prominent location. While there are some wide shots including aerial shots of these locations, much of the direction from the Safdies is grounded as the first shot is presented with close-ups where Nick is in a session with a psychiatrist (Peter Verby). There is this element of cinema verite that the Safdies go for in the action in their usage of close-ups and medium shots such as the bank robbery scene where it is all about notes and wit as there is no violence that happens. There are also scenes set at the infamous New York prison Riker’s Island that does give the film a sense of realism as if it was shot at Riker’s Island where Nick gets into a fight and beaten up badly. The direction also this energy in the way Connie would do to get his brother out as the hospital scene in the second act in which he sneaks in to try and get Nick out is filled with suspense but there is also an encounter with a guy he meets in Ray (Buddy Duress) who would have this dizzying montage about his own day as it is filled with a lot of misadventure.

Since the film uses its locations as characters in the film such as a scene at night at the Adventureland amusement park in Long Island. The Safdies also create this air of tension in which Connie had to use his own street smarts to get out of a situation but also realize that he can’t trust certain people. Even as this small Sprite bottle filled with LSD that is worth money becomes something he needs to get his brother out but there are also these revelations in the third act of what Connie had done as he’s also a fugitive with TV news reporting about what he and Nick did. Still, the Safdies do explore this air of danger into the world of crime and what this man had to do to help his brother knowing that they screwed up as he felt responsible for what had happened. Overall, the Safdies craft an intense and high-octane film about a criminal trying to get his mentally-disabled brother out of jail.

Cinematographer Sean Price Williams does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of natural light for some exterior scenes in the day as well as available and bits of light for the exterior scenes at night as well as the usage of neon lights for the nighttime interior scenes. Editors Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein do amazing work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts as well as the montage sequence involving Ray as well as other cuts to help establish what is happening without going too long or too short. Production designer Sam Lisenco, with set decorator Audrey Turner and art director Patrick Duncan, does fantastic work with the look of some of the places that Connie goes to whether it’s a home from an old lady or a place where he stole some keys from someone. Costume designers Miyako Bellizzi and Mordechai Rubinstein do terrific work with the costumes from the coats that Connie and Nick wear as well as some of the casual street clothes they wear as it adds that sense of grittiness into their look.

Special makeup effects designer Toby Sells and hair/makeup artist Anouck Sullivan do excellent work with the look of a character while Sullivan does a lot of the look for Connie including his dyed blonde hair in the film’s second half. Visual effects supervisor Adam Teninbaum does nice work with a few of the film’s visual effects as it relates mainly to Ray’s montage sequence as well as bits of set dressing in some locations. Sound designer Ryan M. Price does superb work with the film’s sound in the way overlapping conversations sound in a prison as well as the way police sirens sound from afar as it helps add to the film’s suspense. The film’s music by Daniel Lopatin, in his Oneohtrix Point Never pseudonym, is incredible for its brooding and gripping electronic music score that often helps play up the sense of drama and suspense along with a few ambient bits while Lopatin also creates a closing song with Iggy Pop as well as cultivating the film’s soundtrack that includes pieces from Frankie Ruiz, Mosley & Johnson, and Nike Boi.

The casting by Jennifer Venditti is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Eric Paykert as a bails bondsman, Rose Gregorio as Corey’s mother who doesn’t like Connie, Saida Mansoor as Connie and Nick’s grandmother who believes Connie is a bad influence on Nick, Peter Verby as Nick’s psychiatrist, Ron “Necro” Braunstein as Ray’s friend Caliph, Barkhad Abdi as an Adventureland security guard in Dash, Buddy Duress as a recently-paroled man in Ray whom Connie would find himself involved in trying to get some money and a Sprite bottle full of LSD, Taliah Lennice Webster as a 16-year old girl named Crystal who helps Connie out following an incident in the hospital as she also helps him in trying to get a few things, and Jennifer Jason Leigh in an excellent small role as Connie’s older girlfriend Corey who tries to help him bail out Nick only to realize the financial trouble she’s in.

Benny Safdie is brilliant as Nick Nikas as a mentally-disabled young man who is slow but not an imbecile as he is someone that is confused at times while also has a hard time socializing which makes him an easy target for the police as he would put himself in trouble with other prisoners. Finally, there’s Robert Pattinson in a magnificent performance as Constantin “Connie” Nikas as Nick’s older brother who is also a street-smart criminal that knows what to do but feels guilty for his action where Pattinson definitely plays someone who is a flawed person that is unlikeable at times but is also someone that at least cares about his brother and is willing to do anything to get his brother out of jail and find ways to get what he wants.

Good Time is a phenomenal film from Josh and Benny Safdie that features a great leading performance from Robert Pattinson. Along with its supporting cast, stylish visuals, gripping story, and a hypnotic music score by Daniel Lopatin. It is a crime film that explore a young man who is trying to save his brother following a botched bank robbery as he endures a series of misadventures to get money to get his brother out. In the end, Good Time is a sensational film from Josh and Benny Safdie.

Safdie Brothers Films: (The Pleasure of Being Robbed) – (Daddy Longlegs) – (Lenny Cooke) – Heaven Knows What - (Uncut Gems)

© thevoid99 2022

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

2022 Cannes Marathon: Climax

 

(Winner of the Art Cinema Award at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival)
Written, directed, and co-edited by Gaspar Noe, Climax is the story of a dance troupe who hold a party following days of rehearsal as the party becomes chaotic due to a bowl of sangria laced with LSD. The film is a whimsical horror film set inside an abandoned building in 1996 where this dance troupe deal with the images of what they see as well as their reaction towards what they had taken. Starring Sophia Boutella, Kiddy Smile, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Claude Gajan Maull, Giselle Palmer, Taylor Kastle, and Thea Carla Schott. Climax is a rapturous yet terrifying film from Gaspar Noe.

Based on a real-life event in the 1990s where a dance troupe had an after-party where they all unknowingly drank sangria spiked with LSD, the film is about an event where this dance troupe are in a building having a party following a successful rehearsal where things do go wrong following their reaction over what they had drank. That is pretty much what the film is about as Gaspar Noe doesn’t aim for a traditional structure as the film opens with someone crawling out of the building into the snow bleeding and screaming as it then cuts to a bunch of dancers talking and showing who they are from an old VHS tape. Then the first half begins with the dancers doing their routine and finishing it leading to this party where everyone dances and talks to each other while they’re drinking sangria unaware that it’s laced with LSD. The second half is about its effects and all of the chaos that happens throughout as there’s not much plot that goes on where Noe just leave everything happening as it is which gives the story a sense of looseness.

Noe’s direction is definitely stylish as it is shot largely on location in an abandoned school in Paris in the span of 15 days where he utilizes a lot of long takes and intricate tracking shots. The film’s opening dance number is shot in the span of 12 minutes with five minutes of it in a single static wide-medium shot as it showcases the attention to detail in the dancing. With the help of choreographer Nina McNeely, Noe would know when to move the camera to capture the dancing whether it would be in a wide shot or in a medium shot as well as one moment where a dancer gets to have their moment as it is shot from above with the camera only spinning around to capture the dancing. It is among these moments in the first half of the film that also include these little moments and small conversations between some of the dancers that add to the sense of chaos into the film as it does feel energetic and lively.

During a scene where everyone is dancing in the middle of the film, credits appear for the cast and creators of the film as if one part of the film is over as it leads to the second half where things get darker. Notably as the camera movement gets more jarring and stylized where it follows everyone as they all get under the influence of what they have drunk with a few who haven’t drank the sangria becoming the suspects. Yet, Noe would keep things unbroken for a long time with some invisible cutting that he and co-editor Denis Bedlow would do to keep things on-going as it adds to this air of disarray. Even as there’s elements of violence where Noe and Bedlow would create some edits that are intense while continuing to be an unbroken shot while there are also elements that are shocking. The film’s finale is a somber one as it play into all of those involved but also some revelations about those who survived or those who had a bad trip. Overall, Noe crafts a gripping and unsettling film about a party that goes to hell because of spiked sangria.

Cinematographer Benoit Debie does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on colorful lighting as well as using low-key and available lighting in which much of the film is shot inside the building where he maintains a mood for scenes whether they’re dramatic or horrifying. Production designer Jean Rabasse, with set decorator Jessy Kupperman and art director Philippe Prat, does amazing work with the look of the dance hall in the building as well as the hallway and some of the rooms the characters go to dance or to act out in their drugged state. Costume designer Frederic Cambier does fantastic work with the costumes as it is largely casual with some style to represent many of the individuals involved in the film.

The visual effects work of Alexis Baillia, Rodolphe Chabrier, and Mac Guff Line do excellent work with the visual effects as it is largely set-dressing to create the invisible cuts for some of the long tracking shots. Sound editor Ken Yasumoto does superb work with the sound in the way music is heard from the speakers from afar or up close as well as how the dialogues are mixed as it is a highlight of the film. Music supervisors Steve Bouyer and Pascal Mayer create an incredible music soundtrack that features a wide mix of music from M/A/R/R/S, Gary Numan, Chris Carter, Marc Cerrone, Patrick Hernandez, Lil’ Louis, Dopplereffekt, Kiddy Smile with Crookers, Thomas Bangalter, Neon, Suburban Knights, Daft Punk, Aphex Twin, Soft Cell, Wild Planet, Cosey Fanni Tutti and CoH, and an instrumental version of the Rolling Stones’ Angie.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast largely feature mostly non-actors and real-life dancers with the exception of a few professional actors. Among the people in the film include Sarah Belala as the dancer Jennifer who often does cocaine and refuses to share it, Alexandre Moreau as crunk-dancer known as Cyborg, Vince Galliot Cumant as a young boy named Tito who is the son of a dancer in Emmanuelle, Claude Gajan Maull as the dancer Emmanuelle who is also the troupe manager that is accused of spiking the sangria, Adrien Sissoko as a teetotaler in Omar who gets accused of spiking the sangria, Lea Vlamos as Eva who deals with the chaos of the violence as it relates to someone who didn’t drink the sangria, Mounia Nassangar as the volatile Dom who would act violently towards someone due to the spiked sangria, Thea Carla Schott as the German dancer Psyche who would act erratic due to the spiked sangria, Giselle Palmer and Taylor Kastle in their respective roles as the siblings Gazelle and Taylor, Sharleen Temple as Ivana who sports an afro of sorts as she is troubled by the spiked sangria, and Kiddy Smile as the dee-jay Daddy who would also drink the sangria unaware of its effects.

Romain Guillermic is excellent as David as a boyfriend of Gazelle who is eager to have sex with anyone while also becomes a suspect. Souheila Yacoub is brilliant as Lou as a dancer who didn’t drink the sangria as she is in the early stages of her pregnancy which also makes her a suspect. Finally, there’s Sofia Boutella in an incredible performance as Selva as one of the lead dancers who also drinks the sangria as she deals with a lot of things while also expressing herself physically as it is definitely a top-tier performance from Boutella.

Climax is a spectacular film from Gaspar Noe. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a killer music soundtrack, dazzling visuals, and its unconventional take of a simple premise and turning it on its head. It is a film that might be Noe’s most accessible film in terms of playing with a genre yet it also this air of danger and provocation that Noe is known. In the end, Climax is a tremendous film from Gaspar Noe.

Gaspar Noe Films: Carne - I Stand Alone - Irreversible - Enter the Void - Love (2015 film) - (Lux Aeterna) – (Vortex (2021 film)) – The Auteurs #48: Gaspar Noe

© thevoid99 2022

Sunday, May 15, 2022

2022 Blind Spot Series: Westfront 1918

 

Based on the novel Vier von der Infanterie (Four Infantrymen on the Western Front) by Ernst Johanssen, Westfront 1918 is the story of four infantrymen in France trying to survive during the final months of World War I as well as the aftermath of what they’ve experienced. Directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst and screenplay by Ladislaus Vajda, the film is among one of the first war films to contain sound as well as one of the first anti-war films as it explore the lives of four German men and how they dealt with the aftermath of war. Starring Fritz Kampers, Gustav Diessl, Hans-Joachim Moebis, and Claus Clausen. Westfront 1918 is an evocative yet harrowing film from Georg Wilhelm Pabst.

Set during the final months of World War I in France, the film revolves around a group of German infantrymen as they deal with their surroundings as their attempts to maintain their trenches begin to fail upon realization that they’re being shot at by their own artillery. It is a film with a simple premise as it follows mainly two soldiers as they deal with their situation as well as the fact that their attempts to dig new trenches are troubling considering that their superiors are the ones making mistakes. Ladislaus Vajda’s screenplay is largely straightforward as it opens with a group of German soldiers just having some coffee and food while a soldier known as the Student (Hans-Joachim Moebis) is spending time with a French peasant girl in Yvette (Jackie Monnier). Yet, they’re called back to the front as they continue to dig trenches but also deal with explosives as a burly soldier known as the Bavarian (Fritz Kampers), a veteran named Karl (Gustav Diessl), and a young lieutenant (Claus Clausen) deal with the chaos as they learn they’re being shot at by their own artillery who are unaware of what they’re firing at.

It is among these events that revolve in the first act while its second act has Karl on leave where he returns home to find that his home life isn’t going well due to what his wife (Hanna Hoessrich) has been doing though his mother (Else Helle) is happy to see him. It would play into the idea of being at home but without its sense of comfort knowing that the war still isn’t over as he would return to the front. The third act doesn’t just play into the artillery rectifying their mistake but also the fact that they made another mistake in allowing the French to advance more causing more problems as it does play into the ideas of war and its many fallacies. Even as the discussion about heroism where the Bavarian says that they would already be heroes if the war was already finished.

G.W. Pabst’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of the compositions he creates and how he presents the film as he does a lot to capture a lot in the 1:19:1 aspect ratio. Shot on location in Germany, Pabst does play into this idea of ordinary men who are just trying to be of service to their country but also want to enjoy themselves as it opens with a group of men playing music, drinking coffee, and having food while the Student is dancing with Yvette. It does give the film this sense of life away from war as Pabst shoots everything in wide and medium shots with the ratio that was used in those times while knowing when to move the camera though much of it remain still. Once the film moves into the trenches, there is this sense of urgency in which these men have to survive such as a scene where the Bavarian and Karl are both under the tunnels as they’re trying to hold on to the boards. Even as they become aware that they’re being shot by their own artillery prompting the Student to volunteer to run and reach the officers for their mistake.

There are bits of humor in the film in a scene where the Student is eating food and hiding it from others so that he wouldn’t gain the envy of other soldiers along with a scene of soldiers watching a comedy performance performed by cabaret act. Yet, Pabst would keep things straight into the second act when Karl returns home only to find things at his home that is upsetting and troubling as if he doesn’t belong at home despite the gifts he brought for both his wife and mother. There is also the fact that he is suffering from PTSD as being at home for a few days isn’t helping where Pabst definitely uses close-ups to play into the sense of terror and discomfort. The scenes in the third act where there is this battle is intense as well as horrifying as Pabst definitely has this sense of dread as well as this air of uncertainty and chaos that these soldiers have to endure. Its ending is an anti-war message as it play into the fact that no one really wins in war with those who live but don’t really survive what they had encounter. Overall, Pabst crafts a riveting yet haunting film about four Germany infantrymen trying to survive in the trenches in the final months of World War I.

Cinematographers Fritz Arno Wagner and Charles Metain do amazing work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its usage of lighting for some of nighttime exteriors at the trenches to the usage of available light for some of the scenes in the tunnel as well as some daytime exterior scenes that are largely straightforward. Editor Jean Oser does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few dissolves and fade to picture cut for the transitions. Art director Erno Metzner does brilliant work with the look of the house where Yvette lives as well as the apartment that Karl and his family lived but also the design of the trenches and tunnel in their decayed presentation. Sound recordist Karl Brodmerkel and sound editor W.L. Bagier Jr. do superb work with the sound in the way artillery shells fly as well as sounds of gunfire and bombs. The film’s music by Alexander Laszlo does wonderful work with the film’s orchestral score that do play into the suspense and drama with its somber string arrangements as a lot of it is low-key in its presentation.

The film’s terrific ensemble cast include some notable small roles from Vladimir Sokoloff as a purser who is trying to bring messages from the officers to low-level superiors, Carl Ballhaus as a young butcher that Karl’s wife has been spending time with, Else Helle as Karl’s mother who is happy to see him yet doesn’t say anything about what his daughter-in-law is doing, Hanna Hoessrich as Karl’s wife who has been doing things that he doesn’t approve as it would raise questions about their marriage, and Jackie Monnier as the French peasant girl Yvette whom the Student has fallen for and hopes to bring her home to Germany. Claus Clausen is fantastic as a young lieutenant who deals with trying to get his troops to advance but also fix their trenches where he deals with the lack of support from his superiors.

Hans-Joachim Moebis is excellent as the Student as a young soldier who was also a student during the war as he is in love with a French peasant girl while also volunteers to be a runner to get information to his superiors as he deals with the chaos of war. Fritz Kampers is brilliant as the Bavarian as a veteran infantryman who has been in the war longer than anyone as he is also someone who brings a lot of joy to everyone whenever they’re not fighting while is also loyal to his fellow soldiers and does what he can to help them not get killed. Finally, there’s Gustav Diessl as Karl as a soldier who is also a veteran as he is given leave to return home for a small period only to find out that things in his home are troubling as he finds himself not fitting in where he feels more at home in the battlefield with his comrades.

Westfront 1918 is a phenomenal film from Georg Wilhelm Pabst. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, somber music score, and its exploration of war and the effects on soldiers. It is a war film that does explore life in the trenches as well as men dealing with things that do provide this anti-war message as it play into the many fallacies of war. In the end, Westfront 1918 is a sensational film from Georg Wilhlem Pabst.

G.W. Pabst Films: (The Treasure (1923 film)) – (Countess Donelli) – (Joyless Street) – (One Does Not Play with Love) – (The Love of Jeanne Ney) – (The Devious Path) – Pandora's Box - Diary of a Lost Girl - (The White Hell of Pitz Palu) – (Scandalous Eva) – (The Threepenny Opera) – (Kameradschaft) – (L’Atlantide) – (Adventures of Don Quixote) – (High and Low (1933 film)) – (A Modern Hero) – (Street of Shadows) – (The Shanghai Drama) – (Girls in Distress) – (The Comedians) – (Paracelsus) – (Der Fall Molander) – (The Trial (1948 film)) – (Mysterious Shadows) – (Call Over the Air) – (Voice of Silence) – (Cose da pazzi) – (The Confession of Ina Kahr) – (The Last Ten Days) – (Jackboot Mutiny) – (Ballerina (1956 film)) – (Through the Forests and Through the Trees)

© thevoid99 2022

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks: Actors Who Are Family Members in Real-Life Playing Similar Family Roles in Film

 

For the 18th week of 2022 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of actors who are real-life family members playing the same family roles in films. There are those who are part of acting dynasties who work together to play certain roles with one another as it either adds a natural sense of chemistry or no chemistry at all. Here are my three picks:

1. John and Joan Cusack-Say Anything…
In Cameron Crowe’s feature-film directorial debut about a high school valedictorian embarking on a relationship with a slacker schoolmate who doesn’t have any ambition. The film feature both John and Joan Cusack playing siblings like they do in real-life with the latter playing the slacker’s single-mom sister as she is concerned about him being in a relationship with this young woman whose father doesn’t approve of it. The chemistry between the Cusacks do feel real as it do play into the way siblings act but also how a young man goes to his older sister when he says “I gave her my heart and she gives me a pen”.

2. Jake & Maggie Gyllenhaal-Donnie Darko
Richard Kelly’s 2001 cult film didn’t just feature a break-out performance from Jake as the titular role but also featured his real-life sister Maggie, who was a year away from her own break-out moment in Secretary, as Donnie’s older sister Elizabeth. The two have an infamous exchange early in the film where the two say some profane things to each other in front of the family with Daveigh Chase as the youngest sister Rose who then asks “what’s a fuck-ass?”

3. Meryl Streep & Mamie Gummer-Ricki and the Flash
In Jonathan Demme’s final feature film before his death in 2017 has Meryl Streep play a middle-aged woman still chasing her dreams of rock stardom with her band the Flash until she gets a call from her ex-husband that their daughter attempted suicide following news that her own husband has been cheating on her and is divorcing her. Playing Ricki’s daughter is Streep’s own daughter Mamie where the mother-daughter dynamic is engaging as well as being full of heart and humor. Even with someone like Streep, who was known for being this revered and serious actress, manages to loosen up as well as allow Mamie to shine making the film a joy to watch.

© thevoid99 2022

Monday, May 09, 2022

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

 

Based on the Marvel comics series by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the story of the titular sorcerer who finds himself dealing with new threats from different universes as well as an old ally prompting him to seek help from Wanda Maximoff as she would encounter her own troubles in the multiverse. Directed by Sam Raimi and screenplay by Michael Waldron, the film is an exploration into the different universes where Doctor Strange has to deal with versions of himself and those he knew as well as other threats as Benedict Cumberbatch reprises the role of Doctor Steven Strange with Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. Also starring Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stuhlbarg, Julian Hilliard, Jett Klyne, and Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is an enthralling and terrifying film from Sam Raimi.

Following events relating to Spider-Man, Doctor Steven Strange encounters something from another universe who chases a young woman in America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) who is also from another universe as Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) learn that something is happening in the different multiverse relating to Chavez’s power where Strange asks Wanda Maximoff for help. It is a film that play into many multiple universes as it also relates to a book that is the opposite of a book that Maximoff has from her own previous adventure as it brings hope to the multiverse. Michael Waldron’s screenplay does manage to showcase what is at stake but doesn’t really do much in doing more with the motivation of some of the characters with Maximoff being a major reason as her possession of the Darkhold has her wanting to find her sons Billy and Tommy Maximoff (Julian Hillard and Jett Klyne, respectively) in the multiverse as she believes Chavez is key to finding them.

Maximoff becomes an obstacle for Strange, Wong, and Chavez where Strange and Chavez travel through the multiverse where they meet a variation of Strange’s former friend Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is part of a mysterious organization known as the Illuminati. Strange also meets a variation of his former flame in Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) who is a scientist who works for the Illuminati and isn’t fond of any version of Strange due to his own commitments to his work as a Master of the Mystic Arts. The different versions of characters is a key component of the film but it does get confusing and for audiences that aren’t aware of Maximoff’s own adventure in WandaVision do get lost. There’s a lot of exposition that Waldron creates that is overwhelming but also confusing when it comes to the concept of dream-walking where a character dreams about being in another world and uses that variation of that character to do things. It is among the elements of the film that does drag the story and make it nonsensical at times along with some stories relating to the multiverse including a version of Doctor Strange who was working with the Illuminati and what he did to kill their version of Thanos.

Sam Raimi’s direction definitely bear some of his own visual style in terms of the zooms he uses as well as these set pieces that are elaborate. Shot largely on location in Britain including the Longcross Studios at Longcross, Surrey, Raimi does create a film that showcases a world that has different versions as the version of New York City that Strange lives in is different from the New York City that he and Chavez would go to where they would learn that a variation of Strange had died. The world-building that Raimi does through the usage of wide and medium shots not only showcase the different universes the characters are in but also these worlds that are unique such as a montage where Strange and Chavez travel through different multiverses that include a 2D animation bit as it showcase these variations of worlds that are all unique. It is among these lavish sequences where Raimi does play into the adventure and action but also with elements of humor as it relates to Strange’s interaction with Chavez as well as the rules of the multiverse.

Then there’s Raimi’s approach to horror as it relates to Maximoff’s own desire to find her sons through the multiverse as she is intent on using the Darkhold book as it is a MacGuffin of sorts as well as the opposite book known as the Book of Vishanti that Chavez and a version of Doctor Strange are trying to get in the film’s first sequence that also involves a gigantic one-eyed monster known as Gargantos. Raimi also play into some of the gory elements in horror but not overtly gory as there are some major deaths as well as moments such as a scene where Strange, Chavez, and Palmer are running away from a version of Maximoff as it has all of these scary moments expected from horror. The film’s climax does involve Strange having to go into places that is against the rules imposed on other masters of the mystic arts yet it all has to do with Chavez and her own powers to travel through the universe even though she is unable to control it. Yet, it also shows exactly what Strange has learned and what he has to do to save the universe while also coming to terms with the sacrifices he’s made in his own life. Overall, Raimi crafts an exhilarating and chilling film about a sorcerer traveling through the multiverse to stop a threat from destroying his own universe.

Cinematographer John Mathieson does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography from the vibrancy of the alternate version of Earth as well as some stylish lighting for a few interiors including the usage of red for Maximoff’s own world, and the dark colors in the world that Strange would encounter. Editors Bob Murawski and Tia Nolan do excellent work with the editing with its stylish usage of montages, jump-cuts, and other cuts to play into the suspense and horror. Production designer Charles Wood, with set decorator John Bush and supervising art director Thomas Brown, does amazing work with the look of the Kamar-Taj base in Nepal where Strange and Wong do their training as well as the base of the Illuminati and a secret palace that holds a dark secret. Costume designer Graham Churchyard does fantastic work with the costumes from Wanda’s Scarlet Witch costume as well as the different costumes of the different variations of Strange including the Cloak of Levitation that has a mind of its own as well as the casual look of America Chavez with her denim jacket with a LGBTQ pride pin on it. Hair/makeup designer Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou, along with prosthetics makeup designer Barrie Gower, does terrific work with the look of the different variations of Doctor Strange as well as the two different looks of Maximoff in her different hairstyles as it all play into the many variations of the multiverse.

Special effects supervisor Alan Roberts and visual effects supervisor Janek Sirrs do incredible work with the visual effects from the design of Gargantos as well as other magical effects that Strange and Wong uses along with some of the massive set pieces as the effects work is a major highlight. Sound editors Addison Teague and Katy Wood do superb work with the sound in the way some of the creatures sound as well as the way objects sound including the atmosphere of a location. The film’s music by Danny Elfman is phenomenal for the bombastic music themes that are created with its usage of orchestral elements for its suspense and action along with themes that do intensify the sense of horror while music supervisor Dave Jordan cultivate a soundtrack that feature different themes from other films and TV shows from Marvel for some of the characters in their alternate variations.

The casting by Sarah Haley Finn is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Bruce Campbell in a hilarious cameo as a pizza vendor from an alternate universe, Ross Marquand in a voice role as Ultron drones who work for the Illuminati, Ako Mitchell as Palmer’s new husband Charlie, screenwriter Michael Waldron as a guest at Palmer’s wedding, Momo Yeung and Daniel Swain as two masters who respectively run the Hong Kong and London sanctums, Ruth Livier and Chess Lopez as Chavez’s mothers from her memory as a child, Sheila Atm as a Mystic arts master who works closely with Wong at Kamar-Taj, Adam Hugill as the minotaur Mystic arts master Rintrah, and Michael Stuhlbarg in a terrific small role as Strange’s former surgeon rival Dr. Nic West who laments over being killed during the Blip and returning back only to deal with loss of his own as he and Strange both feel uncomfortable at Palmer’s wedding.

In the roles of the members of the Illuminati, Patrick Stewart’s performance as an alternate version of Charles Xavier/Professor X as well as Hayley Atwell as Captain Carter, John Krasinski as Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, Lashana Lynch as an alternate version of Maria Rambeau/Captain Marvel, and Anson Mount as Blackagar Boltagon/Black Bolt are fun to watch although it is largely fan-service as they play into people who decide Strange’s fate as they also carry a secret about their own version of Doctor Strange. Julian Hillard and Jett Klyne are superb in their respective roles as Billy and Tommy Maximoff as the sons of Wanda Maximoff whom Wanda believes are alive as they’re just kids who already have a mother and are unaware of what Wanda is doing. Chiwetel Ejiofor is fantastic as an alternate version of Karl Mordo as a former colleague/mentor of Strange who is the Sorcerer Supreme in an alternate universe who believes Strange is dangerous and is up to no good.

Rachel McAdams is excellent as Christine Palmer as Doctor Strange’s former flame who gets married to another man while an alternate version of Palmer is a more stern scientist who isn’t willing to put up with Strange’s bullshit though she becomes protective of Chavez when it comes to a major threat as she is also far more capable of taking care of herself. Benedict Wong is brilliant as Wong as the Sorcerer Supreme who helps Strange in dealing with some of the chaos involved as he also has to contend with some dark forces as well as what Strange had to do to save everyone. Xochitl Gomez is amazing as America Chavez as a young teenage girl who has the power to travel through different multiverses but doesn’t know how to control her powers as she deals with being a source of power that people want as she is also someone who has a hard time trusting people for valid reasons.

Elizabeth Olsen is outstanding as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch as a woman with her own powers as she is convinced that her sons are in another universe while realizing another version of her is with her sons where Olsen brings a dark sense of humor and terror to her performance of a woman ravaged by loss and the need to control things. Finally, there’s Benedict Cumberbatch in a sensational performance as the titular character as a former surgeon turned sorcerer who is dealing with images from an alternate universe as he struggles with these revelations but also versions of himself and their faults with the need to not just save the world but also to help this young girl he’s grown to care for despite his own arrogance at times.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a marvelous film from Sam Raimi that features great performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, and a break-out performance from Xochitl Gomez. Despite the messy elements in the film’s screenplay and its emphasis on exposition that does drag the story, the film does succeed in its stake as well as the work from its supporting cast as well as its visuals, emphasis on suspense and horror, exploration of the multiverse, and Danny Elfman’s thrilling score. In the end, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a remarkable film from Sam Raimi.

Sam Raimi Films: (It’s Murder!) – (Clockwork) – (Within the Woods) – The Evil Dead - (Crimewave) – Evil Dead II - (Darkman) – Army of Darkness - (The Quick and the Dead) – (A Simple Plan) – (For the Love of the Game) – (The Gift (2000 film)) – Spider-Man - Spider-Man 2 - Spider-Man 3 (Drag Me to Hell) – (Oz, the Great and Powerful)

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Infinity Saga: Phase One: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers

Phase Two: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Guardians of the Galaxy - The Avengers: Age of Ultron - Ant-Man

Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Thor: Ragnarok - Black Panther - Avengers: Infinity War - Ant-Man and the Wasp - Captain Marvel - Avengers: Endgame

Phase Four: Black Widow (2021 film) - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - Eternals - Spider-Man: No Way Home - (Thor: Love and Thunder) – (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) - (Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania) - (The Marvels) - (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) – (Fantastic Four)

© thevoid99 2022

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks: Cinephiles in Movies

 

For the 17th week of 2022 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of cinephiles in movies as there are those who just love to watch movies and talk about films. Here are my three picks:

1. Cinema Paradiso
Giuseppe Tornatore’s touching story about a relationship between a young boy and a film projectionist at a small cinema in a small town in Sicily is truly one of the finest films ever made. Most notably for the fact that it showcases a boy’s love for the films and see what this projectionist would do as he would guide the boy to become a filmmaker who would be torn in reaching for his dreams or to seek another love. It is a film that still warms the heart as well as give audiences a good cry.

2. The Dreamers
Bernardo Bertolucci’s film set in the events of May of 1968 in Paris may be known more for its sexual content yet it is a film about two French siblings who meet an American student through their love of cinema as they also take part in what is happening in those times. Notably the closing of the Cinematheque Francaise is where they meet as they talk about films but also engage in sex as it does play into the different political ideals between this young American and these two French siblings. At the same time, they do things inspired by films as it also include an appearances from Jean-Pierre Leaud recreating his moment at the Cinematheque protest.

3. Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession
From Xan Cassavetes is a documentary about one of the very first pay-cable channels in America in Southern California that showcased films uncut, uncensored, and commercial-free and then a programmer in Jerry Harvey came in and made this channel something bigger. A channel that showed all sorts of foreign films, art films, do film festivals on certain themes or filmmakers, and would even hold events that gave films that had been re-cut by studios and be shown in their intended version. It is a documentary that is still a must see for anyone that loves cinema.

© thevoid99 2022

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Films That I Saw: April 2022

 

I am so glad I don’t live in Florida. I would hate it there. The fact that it is now a Fascist state at this point in banning LGBTQ ideas, certain textbooks, more laws to oppress minorities in election, and then going to war with Disney. Yeah, I’m so glad I live in Georgia no matter how fucked up it is. Plus, the best thing about living in Georgia is that I have sport teams I can root for such as the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta United FC, and the Georgia Bulldogs football team. Sure, they don’t win everything and I will always vent if the Braves lose to the fucking Marlins. Still, I will root for them. I grew up on the Braves and Hawks as a kid and I will die rooting for them.

Florida used to be a fun place in the 80s and 90s but things changed the last time I went in 2003 in one of the most unpleasant vacation experiences I had in boarding a cruise ship which I hope to never board on ever again. Why would I want to go into that shithole? There are very few things that came out of Florida that is any good such as AEW, orange juice, Burt Reynolds, Kelly Reichardt, Miami Sound Machine, Universal Studios, a Cuban restaurant in Orlando that my parents liked a long time ago, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Disney World, and the Miami Hurricanes. The rest can fuck off.





It’s among the things in the world that is just fucking insane as France almost went into the far-right during their most recent election and had Emmanuel Macron lost. Europe would be in deep shit as the last thing they need is France becoming allies to Vladimir Putin. I know things are still intense in the Ukraine yet I will applaud them for just keep fighting and I do hope this country at least put some effort and money into helping them. Otherwise, we’d look bad if we don’t help them as some European countries such as Denmark, Spain, and Germany are willing to help because they fucking hate Putin. It’s not just these leaders of the world that is willing to stand up for the Ukraine but also the arts as I never thought I would hear something new from Pink Floyd at all as I’m glad that they made a song out of support for the people of Ukraine.
In the month of April 2022, I saw a total of 25 films in 15 first-timers and 10 re-watches with only one film directed by a woman as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. An improvement over the previous month mainly due to the many first-timers that I saw as the highlight of the month is definitely my Blind Spot film in Army of Shadows. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for April 2022:

1. The Northman
2. The Velvet Underground
3. CODA
4. The French Dispatch
5. Mood Indigo
6. Shark: Greg Norman and the Collapse of ‘96
7. The Eyes of Tammy Faye
8. Heaven Knows What
9. Gente del Po
10. N.U.
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’m Watching

Gente del Po
One of three shorts by Michelangelo Antonioni that I saw this month as this short is currently available on YouTube for free. This short from 1948 does play into Antonioni’s recurring study of alienation as it play into a group of people who live in river barges and aren’t part of the society of the times. It is a documentary that do play into the world of Italian neorealism as it has Antonioni keep things simple to show a lifestyle that is struggling to keep up with the modern world in post-war Italy.

N.U.
Another documentary short film, like its predecessor, that is available as an extra for the Criterion DVD/Blu-Ray release for Red Desert focuses on street sweepers and garbage men in Rome. It is another neo-realist short that do play into how these individuals do what they can to keep Rome clean yet aren’t appreciated by the modern world at that time as it is something for fans of Antonioni need to see.

Gianna Nannini-Fotoromanza





A music video made in 1984 for the Italian pop artist Gianna Nannini is something of an anomaly from Antonioni as it is probably one of the rare times he would helm something like this. Let alone a music video as very few filmmakers at the time would take part in this. Yet, it manages to have sensibilities that do play into the song while also having some visual touches that are definitely Antonioni as it’s something that Antonioni fans also need to watch.

Tip-Top-Aline





Directed by Wes Anderson, the video for the song that is sung by Jarvis Cocker as Tip-Top is presented in hand-drawn animation similar to The Adventures of Tin-Tin. It is a hilarious video yet the song is incredible as it presented in a style that is definitely Wes Anderson. It is an incredible music video that just works as a nice accompaniment to The French Dispatch.

ASSEMBLED: The Making of Eternals
As part of the MCU documentary series from Disney+ is this documentary about what it took to make Chloe Zhao’s film. It does show a lot of what goes on and Zhao’s desire to have a sense of physicality and realism into the film. Even if it features insight from the cast as well as the art directors and visual effects team who do put in a lot of work into the visuals. It is definitely an amazing documentary even though the final film itself wasn’t that great.

Shark: Greg Norman and the Collapse of ‘96
From 30 to 30 is a new documentary from the ESPN doc series as it explore the career of famed Australian golfer Greg Norman. Norman is undoubtedly one of the greatest golfers in the game yet he is among those that never won the Masters and wear that green jacket. The documentary isn’t just about Norman’s career as well as his rivalry with Nick Faldo in the 1990s but also Norman’s own style and how managed to be successful despite lackluster attempts to win the Masters in the 1980s. Then came 1996 as it seemed like Norman was finally going to win it but the final round is where everything crashed as Norman himself observes exactly what went wrong yet it is how he accepted his defeat that makes him the revered player that everyone knows and love as it is a tremendous documentary from ESPN.

Manufraktur
A short film by Peter Tscherkassky that I saw on MUBI is a three-minute experimental short film that largely consists of found footage involving cars. With its dazzling edits, it is a short film that is intriguing to watch as it is one of the reasons why I’m enjoying MUBI right now.

Moon Knight (episodes 2-5)
With one more episode coming, it is clear that this show is definitely something of its own and it manages to be really incredible. Notably for the performance of Oscar Isaac in the roles of Steven Grant/Marc Spector as the most recent episode explore who this person is and why he has dis-associative identity disorder. The show also has Ethan Hawke in a great performance as the show’s antagonist Arthur Harlow while May Calamawy’s performance as Spector’s wife Layla is a real standout as she can kick ass but also be her own woman. The third episode featured a great appearance from Gaspard Ulliel in one of his final acting performances as he was awesome in that episode and I’m glad the show did a dedication to him. This is already becoming a great show as I await for what will happen next.

Wrestling Match of the Month: FTR vs. the Briscoe Brothers for the ROH World Tag Team Championship at Supercard of Honor XV





If there’s one tag team right now that is the hottest thing in professional wrestling, it’s FTR. Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler are a relic of the old school as they were the guys that were inspired by what Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard did in the NWA in the 1980s but also with a love of technical wrestling. They were one of the teams that were loved when they were in NXT for the late 2010s but when they got promoted into the main roster in WWE. They were treated like a joke as their arrival in AEW in 2020 gave them not just a new home but a place where they can be appreciated. While they arrived mainly as heels, the fact that these are two guys from North Carolina who don’t really do anything flashy nor play to the trends of other tag teams while also admitting to just being guys that wrestle to make money to feed their families somehow connected with the crowd.

This month alone has been FTR’s time as their match at the Supercard of Honor XV against the Briscoe Brothers for the ROH World Tag Team Championship is a match that is tag team wrestling at its most pure. You had a more unconventional and aggressive style the Briscoes are known for but FTR managed to find a way and win while also playing fair. It was a match that fans of tag team wrestling need to see while the match FTR had days later against the Young Bucks in which FTR would defend both the ROH and AAA tag titles showed exactly why they’re considered the best tag team working today. It’s no question that they should be next in line to win the AEW World Tag Team Championship for the 2nd time but why stop there? There’s a big AEW-New Japan Pro Wrestling show coming in June in Chicago at the United Center so why not go for the IWGP Tag Team Championships as well? FTR all the way baby!

Book to Read: Cimino: The Deer Hunter, Heaven’s Gate, and the Price of a Vision by Charles Elton
I don’t consider myself an avid book reader as I buy a book every now and then yet I heard about this book from both Indiewire and Criterion as I got it at Amazon since my mother likes to buy a few books at Amazon. It is a book about the controversial filmmaker Michael Cimino as it goes into a lot of details about his life as well as his career as a commercial filmmaker and how he got into Hollywood and being discovered by Clint Eastwood. It also play into the what went wrong during the production of Heaven’s Gate as there are some revelations into not just what Cimino did but also the fact that the executives at United Artists really should’ve taken responsibility for the production to become troubled. It is an incredible book that I think fans of the filmmaker should read as it also play into his struggles to recover from the failure of Heaven’s Gate and why he stopped making films after The Sunchaser.

Top 10 Re-Watches

1. The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
2. Doctor Strange
3. Fernando Nation
4. Four Days in October
5. Jordan Rides the Bus
6. Milk
7. Dog
8. Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor
9. Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven’s Gate
10. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Well, that is it for April. Next month from May 17 to 28, I will be doing the Cannes Festival Marathon but I will not announce any line-up as I decide to improvise instead where I will just watch whatever is available that did play at Cannes including a few DVD/Blu-Rays I have. Other than that, there will be my next Blind Spot as well as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as that’s all I have planned for next month. That is all I have planned including whatever is in my watchlist as I am now counting the final days of my time with cable TV as the most recent cable bill my mother and I received has us really upset and we’re taking serious consideration in getting rid of it for good and go full-on streaming. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2022